The following evening Marla was brought out into the garden by the attendants a little earlier so that the aged dark elven lady could see her first sunset. She hadn’t been disappointed by the spectacle, either. The rich variety of colors splashed across the sky and then as if by magic unseen began to darken and fade into the inky bluish black of full night. Marla couldn’t bring herself to look away from it as it slowly unfolded.
As the moon began to rise Marla became aware of another presence in the little garden with her. She looked around as far as her feeble and withered frame would allow and spotted the same elderly dark elven man who had visited her here the previous night. She gave her best smile and said, “Good evening, Selkirk. How nice to see you again.”
The drow gentleman smiled and bowed slightly as he approached. “You must have asked somebody who I was.” he said softly. “I am afraid I was so caught up in the evening that I must admit that I failed to properly introduce myself. But then I did the same thing and asked who you were.” He took a seat on the stone bench next to her round basket bed with the huge pillows. “Good evening to you, Marla. I brought bread. Would you like some?”
Marla’s eyebrows raised all on their own as her surprise and curiosity rushed forward in her mind. “What is bread?” she asked.
Selkirk pulled a large, long loaf of bread out of his cloth bag and showed it to Marla. It was still warm and smelled like it had just come out of the oven. “Surface dwellers make this out of grains they grow. They produce all sorts of delicious things that aren’t easily replicated in the underdark. I think you will like this.” With that he tore the loaf in half and handed half of it to Marla.
Marla reached out weakly, her ancient and gnarled hand and arm scarcely able to function and took hold of the bread that was offered. She hadn’t the strength she needed to do even the most basic of things anymore and it vexed her greatly. Old age didn’t suit any elf, but it was especially true of dark elves. Their society was so chaotic and violent that old age was rarer than hen’s teeth. Having lived this long Marla had long ago wished that somebody had just killed her and spared her this miserable, withered existence.
Taking a bite of the bread Marla chewed it with trepidation which turned to delight. She grinned at Selkirk and said, “This is delightful!”
Selkirk nodded in agreement and took a bite of bread. As he chewed, he looked around at the evening landscape. Swallowing he said softly, “They eat bread with most every meal. They dip it in soups, cover it in butter, or put slices of meat on it. Not everyone eats it all by itself like this. I do, though. It is so simple and easy. I like food that doesn’t sidetrack my mind with wondering what I need to do with it.”
The two of them ate in silence while the moon began to creep into the sky. There were clouds high in the sky, but the view of the sea was completely unobstructed. Selkirk broke the silence and asked, “Can you see the ocean, Marla?”
Marla shook her head. “No, but I can hear it.”
Selkirk stood up and walked over to the low garden wall. He gazed out over the sea. From this location, high up on the side of the citadel, it was possible to see for miles across the waves. He turned and looked at Marla as he asked, “Would you like to see it?”
Marla nodded her head. “Would you mind finding the attendants?”
Selkirk shook his head. “No need for them, my friend. This place fairly hums with magical energy. All one has to do is tap into it.” With that he began to wriggle his fingers and softly intone a low, barely audible chant.
As her basket bed began to rise in the air, Marla let out a little gasp. It was as smooth as a soft breeze and just as gentle. The bed tilted slightly and rested in the air as if held in place by gigantic invisible stone pillars. Marla looked across the expanse of the sea and clapped her bony hands together with girlish glee. She kept her eyes on the view as she asked, “Is this where the transports come from?”
Selkirk answered, “The ships, yes. There is a flash in the sky, as if a star is being lit like a torch, and then you’ll see a vessel on the water with great sails gliding towards Havre d’Anges. That means some of the elves here are being taken across to the realms beyond.”
Marla looked at Selkirk. “Why haven’t you been taken yet?” she asked.
Selkirk looked at Marla, then back to the sea. His voice was even softer than normal when he replied, “They say my mind was too unsettled to make the journey. I guess it happens sometimes. Time does terrible things to elves when they stop paying attention. I had allowed myself to be consumed with magical pursuits and dreadful vindictiveness. It took its toll on my mind. So I have to wait until I am more properly grounded.”
Squinting at Selkirk, Marla said quietly, “You seem alright to me. You are calmer and more composed than most any other drow elf I have ever known.”
Chuckling, Selkirk said, “I have been here for over a year now. They constantly keep me in check and make sure I am behaving. The peacefulness of this place has a profound effect on me, to be sure. I am content to wait my turn. In the meanwhile, I will enjoy the bread.”
“Have you any more of it?” asked Marla.
Selkirk reached into the sleeve of his robe, pulled out another loaf of fresh bread, and said with a soft laugh, “I always have bread. This place is alive with magic.”