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

Chapter 15: Bidding Adieu

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The cadence of a meadowlark’s song pierced the predawn hush, its melodies drifting through the cottage window like a song from the fey realm itself. Ellie stirred beneath her patchwork quilt, the avian’s lilting trills rousing her from slumber. She turned over, blinking groggily as her eyes adjusted to the shadowy contours of her bedroom.

Though the sun had yet to breach the horizon, soft washes of violet tinged the eastern sky visible through the glass panes, heralding the imminent arrival of dawn’s radiant glow. For a fleeting moment, Ellie simply drank in the familiar sights and smells—the scuffed hardwood floors bearing the grooves of countless footsteps, the delicate lace curtains her mother had so lovingly hand-stitched, the overflowing bookshelf brimming with adventure tales and childhood keepsakes. Even the air carried the scent of smoldering fireplace embers.

Today marked the beginning of her perilous quest into the heart of the Thornveil Wilds. If she failed to locate the Dragonscale Moss, or worse, fell prey to the forest’s insidious perils, she may never again wake to the comforting sights and scents of home.

Ellie shoved such morbid notions away. Aside from selling the compass to greedy Gavin, she had no choice but to begin the journey, for the sake of Grandpa Joe.

Slipping from beneath the covers, her bare feet found the cool wooden planks as she reached to the nightstand. With a strike of a match, she touched the flickering flame to the tallow candle’s wick, and a warm, reassuring glow bloomed in the small space. Ellie quickly dressed, lacing up her boots and securing the laces with a firm tug.

One by one, she checked her meager provisions. The Seafarer’s Sigil rested securely in her jacket’s inner pocket. In her pants pocket lay the single silver Thornveil piece—a modest sum, yet one that could prove vital should the need for supplies arise.

Her fingers brushed over the slender glass vial tucked alongside the coin, confirming the scant remnants of Dragonscale Moss that Dr. Bennett had let her borrow. With this precious sample, the sigil should be able to discern the path toward a larger cache.

Finally, Ellie lifted the carved dragon pendant from where it rested against her chest, the ruby-hued essence within the glass bubble. Grandpa had always spoken of this necklace’s draconic connection in hushed tones. Perhaps its link to that primordial lineage would aid her along the way.

Ellie sat back on the bed and opened the old map from the trunk. She studied the paths—there was more than one—remembering her grandpa had said to follow the path marked by the ancient Drakken runes. The map was complicated with lines, various markings, unknown symbols, and drawings of strange creatures, including the dragon, Aurathorn. Hopefully she did not need to know all the map’s details, and the runes would get her there, avoiding the dragon’s lair. She refolded the map, placing it into the back pocket of her jeans.

Finally, Ellie’s thumb brushed over the simple silver band adorning her finger—Tyler’s ring, a promise he would return. The love she felt for him now stretched thin by the cruel reach of war.

Ellie looked around her bedroom one final time, searching for any last essentials she may have overlooked. She wanted to travel light and swift through the Thornveil Wilds, hoping to complete her quest for the moss within a couple of days. A candle had briefly crossed her mind, but the wind would surely extinguish any open flame. No, the Seafarer’s Sigil’s ethereal glow would have to guide her way once night fell.

Her eyes settled on the rucksack sitting in the corner, a canvas satchel she often used for gathering wildflowers and shells along the lakeshore. It would serve well for collecting whatever quantity of moss she could locate.

Satisfied she had all she needed, Ellie blew out the flickering candle, plunging the room into predawn shadows once more. She crept toward the door, her steps feather light as she fought to keep the old wooden floors from betraying her departure with a creak or groan.

Out in the hallway, Ellie paused, holding her breath as she strained to detect any sounds of the cottage’s other occupants stirring. But the hushed stillness remained unbroken, save for the cadence of her mother’s soft snores. She continued down the stairs, taking each step with exaggerated care.

As she reached the ground floor, Grandpa Joe’s bedroom door came into view, standing slightly ajar. Part of Ellie ached to slip inside, to bid him farewell. But the faint, rasping whistle of his breathing told her he still slumbered, and she couldn’t bear to disturb what little rest he could find.

Ellie’s steps carried her into the kitchen, where the first pale rays of dawn filtered through the window. There, on the scrubbed wooden table, sat her mother’s shopping list—a meticulously itemized record of supplies needed for restocking the pantry.

Snatching up a stubby pencil, Ellie quickly scribbled a brief note on the parchment’s margin: Gone to find the moss. Will return soon. I love you both.

The words seemed woefully inadequate to convey the gravity of her mission, but Ellie knew any lengthy explanation would only invite more objections and pleas to reconsider. This way, at least her family would know her intentions and that she hadn’t simply run off.

Ellie was about to push through the kitchen door and begin her quest when a raspy voice rang out from the hallway.

“Ellie? That you, lass?”

Startled, Grandpa Joe’s tremulous call reached her ears. So much for slipping away unnoticed. With a steadying inhalation, Ellie retraced her steps until she stood in the doorway of her grandfather’s bedroom.

The old sailor lay propped up against a mound of pillows, as another coughing fit seized him. Ellie hovered uncertainly until the spasms finally subsided. He wiped a trickle of spittle from his lips.

“Are you okay, grandpa?”

“Aye, lass.” His voice was little more than a papery rasp. “I know that look. You’re fixin’ to go chasing that blasted moss, aren’t you?”

Ellie felt her cheeks flush with shame at being caught. “Yes, Grandpa.”

The old man shook his head wearily. “You don’t have to do this thing, child. I’ll be just fine, one way or another.”

“That’s not what Dr. Bennett says,” Ellie said, crossing the room to perch on the edge of the bed. “He said without the Elixiron, your condition will only worsen.”

Grandpa’s hand found hers, his calloused palm against her skin. “I’ve lived a long, fulfilling life, Ellie girl. Watched the tides ebb and flow more times than I can rightly recall.” His gaze drifted toward the window, where the first golden fingers of sunlight began creeping over the horizon. “Everyone walks the final path eventually, lass. Even old salts like me.”

“But the doctor said you should have more years ahead,” Ellie insisted. “You’re not supposed to . . . you can’t . . .” Tears blurred her vision.

“Come here, child.” Grandpa Joe’s arms enfolded her in a fierce embrace, and Ellie clung to him as though he might simply drift away on the next outgoing tide. The old sailor stroked her hair, his touch tender. “I would be devastated, and so would your mother, if anything happened to you.”

Ellie managed a small nod against his shoulder. She knew it was true, knew her grandfather spoke wisdom as he always did. Yet she couldn’t bring herself to abandon her quest, not when the possibility of his survival dangled so tantalizingly close.

“Nothing’s going to happen to me,” she said at last, not totally believing her own words.

Grandpa Joe pulled away just far enough to meet her gaze. “I love you, Ellie dear. More than all the stars in the heavens. But the way of our people has always been to embrace what the tides bring, be they calm seas or raging storms.” His thumb brushed away a stray tear from her cheek. “We Shorlings face our fates with open eyes and unbowed heads, as befits those born to the rolling waves and misty shores.”

“I’ll be back soon.” Ellie gave his hand one final squeeze.

“Fair winds and following seas, Ellie girl. The tides will bear you home again.”

With those parting words, Ellie turned and strode from the cottage, leaving the warm, familiar realm of home behind as she set out alone into the great unknown.

Grandpa Joe
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