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

Chapter 18: CROSSING THE THRESHOLD

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"I'll do it. I'll make the sacrifice.”

Bram regarded her with a solemn nod. "Very well." He turned and retrieved a long, slender hunting knife from a weapons rack, removing it from its leather sheath. He then replaced the knife and handed it to Ellie. "Take this. It may prove useful on your journey ahead."

Ellie accepted the knife and secured it to her belt, ensuring it was within easy reach.

"And here," Bram said, handing her a small, dense loaf of hearty bread. "This should provide some sustenance for the journey ahead."

Ellie carefully tucked the bread into her pack.

Bram led Ellie toward the ancient drawbridge, it creaked and groaned as it lowered to span the deep ravine.

Ellie pulled the map from her pocket. "Do these paths have the Drakken rune stones to guide the way?"

"No, I'm afraid this particular route has no such markers. It divides and branches, meant to confuse and disorient even the most seasoned traveler." He fixed Ellie with a stern gaze. "You'll have to rely on the Seafarer's Sigil and your own keen wits to navigate the treacherous path toward Aurathorn's lair."

"I understand," Ellie said, though she wasn't entirely sure she possessed the keen wits required.

"Then go, Eloise Harper, and may the Seafarer's Sigil guide your path," Bram said, placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "I will be here, awaiting your return."

Ellie stepped out onto the drawbridge, pausing momentarily to glance back at Bram, who watched her intently. She turned and pressed onward, carefully avoiding looking down at the swirling waters below.

As she reached the far side of the bridge, Ellie turned to see Bram raising the drawbridge behind her. The old gears and pulleys screeched as the heavy structure slowly lifted, the chains rattling and the wood planks clattering. There was no turning back now.

The path ahead was obscured by a thick mist. The towering trees and gnarled undergrowth cast ominous shadows that danced around Ellie as she walked. The air was heavy with the earthy scent of decaying leaves, and Ellie could feel the chill of the damp seeping through to her insides. But she was determined to press on."

With the Seafarer's Sigil clutched tightly in her hand, Ellie carefully navigated the winding trail, the mystical compass guiding her along the path. The sigil's arrow pointed the way, illuminating the path forward and reassuring her that she was still on the right track.

Suddenly, Ellie paused, her senses heightened. She could feel the weight of unseen eyes upon her. Gripping the hilt of the hunting knife at her belt, she scanned the surrounding foliage, but saw nothing but the shifting shadows.

Ellie continued on, her footsteps crunching on the dried twigs and undergrowth. Ahead, the forest opened up to reveal a breathtaking vista—a towering mountain range, its jagged peaks piercing the clouds. Ellie paused, awed by the majestic sight that stretched out before her.

Finding a fallen log, Ellie sat down to catch her breath and take a few bites of the hard bread Bram had provided. As she chewed, she felt as if something unseen was nearby. Ellie leapt to her feet, knife at the ready, her eyes darting around the clearing. But there was nothing there.

Ellie put the bread back into her pack, cutting her rest short, and continued her trek through the open expanse. The knee-high grasses and delicate wildflowers brushed against her pant legs. The serene landscape was a stark contrast to the ominous forest she had left behind. Despite the tranquil setting, Ellie couldn't shake the feeling that she was still being watched.

A swarm of tiny insects began to buzz around her face, their high-pitched whine grating on her nerves. Ellie swatted at them, but they persisted, their tiny bodies seemingly drawn to the warmth of her skin. She quickened her pace, desperate to escape the relentless nuisance.

Glancing down at the Seafarer's Sigil, Ellie saw the arrow pointing steadily toward the towering mountain range in the distance.

Ellie paused, taking a moment to catch her breath and survey the open expanse. The bear in the distance paid her no mind, its attention focused on foraging in the tall grass. Ellie continued her trek toward the mountain.

As she walked, Ellie couldn't help but marvel at the beauty of her surroundings. The wildflowers that dotted the landscape were a riot of unnatural colors, their petals swaying unnaturally. The air was thick with the almost sickly-sweet scent of the flowers, and the chirping of the birds had a discordant, unsettling quality that set Ellie's nerves on edge.

But Ellie knew that this tranquil scene was merely a facade. The Thornveil Wilds were a dangerous realm, and she couldn't afford to let her guard down. The Seafarer's Sigil continued to guide her forward.

As Ellie drew closer to the tree line, she spotted a path that seemed to stretch on endlessly, up the side of the mountain. She knew that it would take her longer than she had anticipated to reach the dragon's lair.

Ellie felt a sense of reassurance upon spotting the recognizable Drakken rune stones lining the path before her. She pressed onward as the atmosphere grew cooler and more humid. She ascended the incline, the trail snaking its way up the colossal mountain's flank. She could feel the clammy moisture permeating her garments, adding to her unease.

Ellie's legs ached from the constant walking, and she knew she needed to rest. Spotting a rune stone along the path, she sank down onto it, setting her pack on the ground beside her. Her throat felt parched, and she longed for a refreshing drink of water. But she had none, and there was no sign of a stream or spring nearby.

The sun was still high in the sky, and she needed to make as much progress as possible before nightfall.

Ellie opened her pack, searching for the bread, but it was nowhere to be found. She couldn't fathom how it could have simply vanished. Panic began to set in as she realized she was now without sustenance in this treacherous wilderness.

Ellie's head snapped up at the sound of movement behind her, the faint tinkling of a bell. She leapt to her feet, drawing the knife from her belt and whirling around to face the unseen threat.

"Who's there?" Her eyes scanned the shifting shadows, but she could see nothing.

A quick, high-pitched whistle pierced the air, and Ellie tightened her grip on the knife's hilt. "Come out where I can see you!"

The shadows seemed to shift and dance, but no figure emerged.

Ellie tried to make sense of what was happening. Had someone or something taken the bread from her pack? And now, was she being watched by an unseen predator?

Slowly, Ellie began to back away, her eyes darting from one shadowy corner to the next. She couldn't shake the feeling that she was being toyed with, that whatever was out there was biding its time, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

Thornveil Wilds
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