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

Chapter 9: The Artifact's Keeper

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Ellie held out her hand. “I’m sorry, Mr. Brooks, but I don’t think I can let you take the artifact, even temporarily.”

Disappointment crossed Gavin’s features before he smoothed them into an amiable expression. “I understand your hesitation. But consider this—I’ll pay you two hundred and fifty gleaming silver Thornveil pieces for it. Isn’t that what the first-place winnings were?”

Ellie caught visions of her grandfather’s recovery, yet something stayed her from immediately agreeing. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but there was a sense of wrongness about relinquishing the Seafarer’s Sigil.

“Thank you for the generous offer,” she said. “But I think I need to investigate this artifact further myself before making any decisions about its future.”

Gavin inclined his head, his smile now looking slightly strained. “Of course, of course. I didn’t mean to pressure you.” He placed the relic back into Ellie’s palm.

Mayor Wright leaned forward. “This artifact could be quite significant for Crystal Shores, Eloise. I trust you’ll keep me informed about what you learn regarding its nature and origins?”

Ellie read the unspoken demand in the mayor’s taut posture. “O—Of course, Mayor Wright. I’ll share whatever I discover.”

The mayor gave a curt nod of approval. “Speaking of discoveries, I trust there won’t be any further incidents like the one at the art competition?”

Ellie slid the Seafarer’s Sigil back into her pocket. “No, ma’am. I learned my lesson. It won’t happen again.”

“See that it doesn’t.” Mayor Wright’s tone softened slightly. “However, I do understand you’re a good kid who made a mistake. If you want to start repairing the damage to your reputation in town, you might consider donating this artifact to Tidelore Hall once you’ve concluded your studies on it.”

Ellie pictured the museum with its turrets and galleries dedicated to Crystal Shores’ rich history and lore. Donating the Seafarer’s Sigil there would be seen as an immense act of goodwill and repentance.

“I’ll . . . keep that in mind,” she said, her mind already weighing the merits of such an action. “Thank you for the advice, Mayor Wright.”

The mayor gave a regal tilt of her head. “You’re quite welcome, Eloise. I have faith you’ll make the wise decision.”

Ellie and Tyler exited the town hall. The cool lake breeze ruffled Ellie’s hair as she took in a deep breath of freshwater air.

“You did the right thing back there,” Tyler said, falling into step beside her. “Not letting Brooks take the compass, even if he promised to return it.”

Ellie nodded. “Yeah, my gut told me not to trust him with it. Especially since the mayor seems interested too.”

“Must be pretty valuable if she wants to get her hands on it.” Tyler arched an eyebrow. “What did you think about her suggestion to donate it to Tidelore Hall eventually?”

Ellie mulled over the idea. On one level, it made sense—displaying such a rare artifact in the town museum would be an act of goodwill after her misstep at the art competition. But something instinctive resisted the idea of simply handing it over.

“I don’t know,” she said finally. “It sounded reasonable, but . . .” She trailed off with a helpless shrug.

“Have you asked your grandpa any more about this thing?” Tyler prompted as they turned onto Chantey Street, the air thick with the aroma of fresh fish.

Ellie shook her head, copper curls swaying. “Not yet. I wanted to, but . . . well, you know how frail he’s been lately.”

“You’ll get a chance,” Tyler said. “So where to now? Back home to fill him in?”

“Actually, I was thinking we could stop by the Scholaring Building first. They’ve got to have some books or scholars there who can tell us more about this compass.”

The Scholaring Building came into view up ahead, a sturdy edifice of stone and stained glass, dwarfed only by the clocktower of the town hall.

Ellie and Tyler ascended the broad steps, entering through the heavy wooden doors to reveal a spacious foyer. Students in tailored blazers milled about the corridors, some lounging on benches while others hurried from class to class, books and scrolls tucked under their arms.

An older gentleman in a tweed jacket approached them. “Why, if it isn’t Eloise Harper! How’s that grandfather of yours doing today?”

“Not too well, Professor Angstrom. We’re still trying to find something that can help him.”

The professor’s expression sobered. “I’m very sorry to hear that. Joe’s one of the good ones—Crystal Shores needs more like him around.” He placed a comforting hand on Ellie’s shoulder. “You let me know if there’s anything I can do, all right?”

Ellie nodded gratefully, then reached into her pocket and carefully withdrew the Seafarer’s Sigil. “Actually, sir, I was hoping you might be able to point me toward someone who could help me with this.”

Professor Angstrom leaned closer. “Well, I’ll be . . . Where in the tides did you come across that beauty?”

“It’s kind of a long story,” Ellie said. “Do you know anyone here who might recognize it or could tell us more?”

The professor stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Can’t say I’ve seen its like before, but Mara Jenkins would be your best bet—she’s our resident expert on all things arcane and historical. I was just headed to her office now for a faculty meeting—that I’m late for. But you’re welcome to join me.”

“We’d really appreciate that,” Tyler chimed in.

Professor Angstrom motioned for them to follow and set off down a side corridor at an unhurried pace. “Mara’s forgotten more about Crystal Shores’ past than most of us scholarings combined,” he said over his shoulder. “If anyone can shine some light on that artifact, it’ll be her.”

They turned a corner, and Ellie could see the partially open door to what must be Mara Jenkins’ office. Muffled voices filtered out, indicating the faculty meeting was already underway.

Professor Angstrom rapped his knuckles against the wood. “Mara? Sorry to interrupt, but I’ve got a couple of students here who could use your expertise.”

The door swung wider to reveal an attractive young woman. Her gaze moved from the professor to Ellie and Tyler.

“Mara, sorry to interrupt the proceedings, but I’d like you to meet Eloise Harper and . . .” Angstrom gestured vaguely at Tyler.

“Tyler Green,” he supplied with an easy grin.

“Yes, yes, of course. Apologies, young man.” The professor waved a hand. “These two have come into possession of a rather unique artifact that could use your discerning eye.”

Mara’s eyebrows arched almost imperceptibly at the sight of the pulsating relic as Ellie handed it to her. “Now what do you have here?”

Ellie opened her mouth, but Professor Angstrom spoke first. “That’s what we were hoping you could enlighten us about, Mara. Do you recognize this object?”

Meeting members gathered around them. Mara Jenkins regarded the compass for a long moment, her expression inscrutable. Finally, she lifted her eyes to meet Ellie’s. “As the tides flow in, so too must they recede. But heed their ebb and surge with wisdom, lest the waters sweep you under.”

Ellie looked confused by Mara’s cryptic proverb.

“Forgive me, I sometimes get carried away with the old sailor’s proverbs.” She smiled apologetically. “What I mean is that the artifact you’ve uncovered looks like a Seafarer’s Sigil. It must be handled with great care and wisdom.”

Ellie watched Mara examine the relic the same way Gavin had done earlier. “You know what it does?”

“I do. This compass—if it is a Seafarer’s Sigil—is imbued with ancient magics, tied to the very forces that govern our lake and its denizens. The stories say it was forged by the seafaring Drakken Lords of old to help them navigate treacherous waters and locate hidden lairs.”

Professor Angstrom looked at Ellie. “Where did you find it? Was it one of your grandpa Joe’s belongings.”

“I recently found it in an iceberg—I saw it glowing.”

Mara’s gaze fixed on Ellie. “You’ve been entrusted as its new keeper, whether by chance or design. The question is . . . what path will you follow? The Seafarer’s Sigil is more than just a compass, you see—it’s also a key of sorts, able to pinpoint and even access hidden places of immense power. Which is why it must be kept safe and out of the wrong hands.”

“With Ellie, it’s in good hands,” Tyler said moving closer to her.

Mara let out a slow breath and handed the compass back to Ellie. “Well. It would seem the Seafarer’s Sigil has awoken to your presence, Eloise. For good or ill, its destiny is now bound to yours.”

The glow of the sigil intensified with her touch. “What destiny? I’m just an old sailor’s granddaughter. And my dad died at sea when I was young. I am no one special.”

Mara Jenkins (environmentalist)
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