Dragontide's Daughter by Strewnpapers | World Anvil Manuscripts | World Anvil

Chapter 13: The Drillmaster's Call

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Ellie watched as the Seafarer’s Sigil’s arrow continued pointing toward the forbidden forest.

Tyler shifted uncomfortably. “Ellie, I don’t like where this is headed. You can’t seriously be thinking of going in there alone? I won’t be here to go with you.”

Ellie knew it was a bad idea to go into the Wilds alone, but it seemed to be the right thing to do.

Dr. Bennett looked at the compass with amazement. “Extraordinary. I’ve never witnessed such an artifact in action before.” He looked up at Ellie. “You say this relic is guiding you toward a source of Dragonscale Moss?”

“That’s what it feels like, at least.” She gave a tentative shrug. “How long would it take you to gather the other ingredients needed for Elixiron? The dew, powders, herbs and such?”

Dr. Bennett tapped his fingers on the desk. “With some diligent gathering from various suppliers and making the rounds, I could likely procure everything except the moss within a few days’ time.”

“So if I can get the Dragonscale Moss . . .” Ellie said slowly.

“Then I could have a full batch of Elixiron ready soon after,” Bennett finished with an approving nod.

Ellie reached into her pocket and extracted one of the silver pieces that Tobias had given her. She extended it toward the doctor. “Would you use this to purchase any remaining components you need?”

Bennett accepted the coin, giving it an appraising look. “Of course, my dear. Consider it done.”

As they exited the physician’s office, Tyler said, “You know I have to ship out at first light, and I don’t know when I’ll return. Nonetheless, you should wait until I get back so that I can go with you . . . even though I’m totally against you going into the Wilds.”

Ellie felt a pang, the reality of their impending separation hitting her once more. “Don’t worry, I’m not about to run off halfcocked into danger. Let’s just grab a bite at the Wavecrest first and I’ll figure out a plan.”

Tyler arched an eyebrow skeptically but didn’t argue as they made their way toward the village’s beloved seaside eatery.

Ellie and Tyler approached the quaint facade of Wavecrest. Tyler reached out and opened the door, gesturing for Ellie to enter first as the little bell jingled merrily overhead. The aroma of fresh-baked bread and simmering seafood stew filled the air. Sunlight filtered through the large windows, casting a warm glow over the cozy interior. Polished wooden tables dotted the space, each adorned with a small vase of wildflowers. Against one wall, a long counter displayed an array of mouthwatering pastries behind a glass case.

As they stepped inside, Ellie’s gaze landed on a group seated near the back—Brienne, the stern judge from the competition, along with a few other familiar Shorling faces who had witnessed her indiscretion with the Moon Flower.

“Well, well, if it isn’t the little cheat herself,” Brienne said, loud enough for the entire cafe to hear. “I’d have thought you’d be too ashamed to show your face around here after that stunt.”

The other Shorlings at the table snickered derisively. One called out, “Maybe she’s looking to steal someone else’s meal since she can’t make her own!”

Heat crept up Ellie’s neck as the cruel jibes continued. She fought the urge to snap back a retort that would only make matters worse.

Tyler leaned in close to Ellie. “Let’s get out of here, El. These losers aren’t worth the breath.”

Ellie gave a small nod. As far as she was concerned, the farther away from these Shorlings, the better off she would be.

Ellie tried not to let the cruel taunts get to her. “Let’s just get our food to go. We can eat it at the beach instead.”

Tyler gave a curt nod of agreement. They approached the counter, where a smiling woman in an apron greeted them. “What can I get for you two today?”

“Two sandwiches to go, please,” Ellie replied. “I’ll have the crab cake sandwich on a croissant roll.”

“Excellent choice,” the woman said. “And for you, sir?”

“The blackened salmon sandwich looks good,” Tyler said. “With a side of those seasoned fries.”

The woman jotted down their order. “And to drink?”

“Just waters for us,” Ellie said.

As they waited for their meal, one of the Shorlings from Brienne’s table called out, “Don’t choke on that sandwich, Moonglow! We all know you can’t make anything for yourself!”

Ellie tensed, but Tyler placed a hand on her arm in a calming gesture. When their order was ready, he paid and gathered the paper-wrapped parcels, steering Ellie toward the exit without acknowledging the jeer.

Once outside, Tyler let out a frustrated sigh. “I’m really sorry you had to deal with that, El. Those people are absolute jerks.”

They began walking along the shoreline, the gentle waves lapping at the sandy beach. Ellie shook her head. “I hope everyone in Crystal Shores doesn’t feel that way about me.”

“Of course they don’t,” Tyler said. “There are plenty of good folks here who don’t care about that whole mess. No one at the Scholaring Building said anything. We should just try to forget it and enjoy our meal, okay? As the old saying goes, ‘The tide washes away the troubles of yesterday.’”

Ellie and Tyler found a weathered wooden bench overlooking the shoreline. Despite the chill in the air, they settled onto the damp slats and began unwrapping their meals. The clean scent of the freshwater sea breeze mingled with the aroma of their sandwiches.

In the distance, Ellie could see the Oceanriders’ longships being prepared for departure. Deckhands scurried about, securing supplies and hoisting sails. The towering masts creaked as the massive canvas unfurled, ready to catch the wind. Ellie’s sandwich remained untouched in her lap as she watched the flurry of activity, her heart heavy with dread.

She turned to Tyler. “I don’t want you to leave.”

“I know. Believe me, if I had any choice in the matter . . .” He trailed off with a pained look.

“But how will I know if you’re okay? What if you get hurt out there?”

“Don’t worry, they have a way of sending messages,” Tyler said. “They use trained Tidewing gulls to carry messages between ships and the shore. If anything happens, they’ll send word that way.”

“Then I can send messages to you the same way?”

“I don’t think so, at least not easily. But you don’t need to fret, I’ll be fine.” He forced a confident smile.

Ellie leaned against him, resting her head on his shoulder as she fought back tears. She wanted to etch this moment into her memory—the way his arm draped around her, the solidity of his embrace, the cadence of his heartbeat. She knew their time was slipping away like grains of sand.

The breeze carried the distant sounds of activity from the docks—shouts of orders, creaking ropes, and the rhythmic slap of waves against wooden hulls. A group of young Shorlings, all around Tyler’s age, approached along the beach. Ellie recognized several of the familiar faces from their classes, even Tobias walked among them, his usual swagger somewhat subdued.

At the front strode an imposing figure Ellie didn’t recognize—a grizzled, barrel-chested man with a thick beard streaked with gray. He carried himself with an air of quiet authority, his heavy boots leaving deep impressions in the damp sand.

As the group neared, Ellie’s grip on Tyler tightened instinctively. She could sense the reason for their approach.

The bearded man came to a halt before them, his gaze falling on Tyler. “Green, I’m Drillmaster Thorfin Ravenlock, tasked with training and preparing the new recruits for war. We’re shoving off sooner than planned. You need to report to the Wavecrest immediately.”

“But sir, I wasn’t expecting to leave until morning. My things aren’t even—“

“Won’t need to worry about that,” the man cut him off. “We’ll issue you what you need aboard ship.”

The drillmaster looked toward Ellie for the briefest moment. “I’m afraid there’s no time for long goodbyes. We make sail within the hour.”

Ellie’s lower lip trembled as she fought back tears.

Tyler turned to her. “El, I . . . I have to go. Now. Can you let my parents know? I didn’t get the chance to . . .”

“I will Ty, I’ll go there right away.”

Tyler wiped away the tears streaming down Ellie’s cheeks, then kissed her on the lips. “I’ll be back; I promise.”

With obvious reluctance, Tyler released her and joined the line of Shorlings heading toward the docks and the waiting longships.

Ellie remained rooted to the spot, watching until Tyler’s form disappeared from view. An eerie screech of a Tidewing gull cried out overhead, as if the very sea itself sensed the darkness looming on the horizon.

Young Shorlings heading off to war.
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