Awaiting the Ship (Part 4)

This evening as the sun was setting Selkirk arrived in the little garden in Havre d’Anges the same as he had every evening to meet with Marla. Both were well advanced in age and were fine examples of what became of dark elves that managed to cheat death to make it to this point. Marla was all but completely crippled with age, her legs and feet withered almost completely, and her arms and hands scarcely able to function. Prior to arriving in Havre d’Anges she had almost fully given up speaking as it required too much effort. Now she looked forward to the nights in the garden because she had rediscovered her voice and it was largely because of Selkirk.

Selkirk for his part was in reasonably good physical shape. It was his mind that had been most severely impacted by his centuries living in the surface world amid the power hungry and avaricious people that had either contributed to or profited from his magical prowess. He and Marla had quite different upbringings and their lives had been dramatically disparate. And yet both had known and engaged in violence that had itself created turmoil in their lives and in the lives of those around them. For almost two years now Selkirk had been convalescing here in Havre d’Anges allowing the magic of this holy place to restore his sanity and calm his darkest impulses. Marla had been the only dark elf to enter this place that had wished to visit him more than once. Most dark elves were so focused on the journey to Arborea and all that entailed to have found more than polite conversation irritating. After such small talk Selkirk would grow bored of them and wander off to find somebody else to talk to. Many elves had gathered here in Havre d’Anges over the last few days, some of them dark elves, to take the ship to Arborea and their excitement at the prospect of this final journey was palpable.

Marla wasn’t boring at all. Her whole life had been spent in the underdark and Selkirk found her enthralling. He had lived the majority of his life sundered and among surface folk, so she was enchanted by his stories and observations. Selkirk had begun sharing with Marla his love of bread and each evening he brought along a different kind to share. Tonight, he had also brought along a bottle of wine and a pair of ceramic mugs that clattered softly together in his large cloth bag that he held in his right hand. He waved to Marla who was already in the garden, mostly curled up among the soft pillows of her large round basket that served as a portable bed. She was carried around by the attendants of Havre d’Ange who were well trained and accustomed to such duties. But Selkirk used magic to move the basket around as needed in order to afford Marla better views of the sea that could be seen just over and far below the garden wall.

Marla smiled and waved back. Her ability to control her arms and hands had improved because the magic of Havre d’Anges was renowned for its restorative qualities. This was indeed a holy place, almost as if it was a portion of Arborea itself placed among the lands and lives of mortal people. “Good evening, Selkirk.” she said with a slight grin. Facial expressions of joy were not something Marla was used to employing, but now it was a regular occurrence.

Selkirk reached into the bag as he sat on the stone garden bench next to her bed and pulled out this evening’s bread selection. “I think you’ll like this one, Marla. It has a fruity sort of flavor. And I’ve brought along some wine, too. The elves here swear by it. I don’t know much about pairing wine with food, though. I do know what I like. And I like this bread, I like this wine, and I like sharing my evenings with you.”

He grinned as he tore the bread in half and handed Marla her share. Then he uncorked the wine with a magical gesture and poured it into the two little cups. Selkirk said softly, “Most people use glass vessels to drink from if it is wine. That can be quite expensive. After enough wine you might break your glass, and then you are having to drink from the bottle and are out the investment on the vessel. So, I usually drink straight from the bottle. But that is rather uncivilized, isn’t it? I found these cups here in one of the rooms, so I brought them.”

Marla managed to scoot herself up into more of a sitting position and took the cup of wine. She sniffed at it and wrinkled her nose in reaction. “Is this supposed to smell like this?” she asked inquisitively.

Selkirk sniffed his cup as well, and replied, “I believe so. There is some sort of ritual of snorting the odor and sipping it that the elves do but it never made a damn bit of sense to me. Try a bite of bread and then a sip of wine.” He took a bite of the bread and then a sip from the cup. He looked at Marla as he chewed thoughtfully.

Marla did the same and was pleasantly surprised by the taste combination. “What a lovely thing, this!” she exclaimed. The two of them chuckled in shared delight and ate their bread with sips of wine. After finishing the bread and a few cups of wine, Marla asked Selkirk, “Did you ever take a wife, Selkirk?”

Selkirk reached into the sleeve of his robe and produced another loaf of bread, which he tore and shared with Marla. He laughed a little and pulled another bottle of wine from the bag at his feet. “I did, actually. I took several. None of them were mine, though.”

The two of them shared an evil laugh and Marla said, “Seriously now. Did you ever marry?”

Selkirk shook his head. “No, I never did. He looked over the garden wall at the sea. I never had the pleasure of disappointing a woman. But then I never had the joy of having unwanted children, or the sheer delight of abandoning a family to pursue my own selfish interests. Being a wizard requires a person to be focused on the pursuit of knowledge and learning how to manipulate magical energy. That isn’t something that lends itself to developing real relationships with people.”

The two of them ate and drank in silence for a while. Marla looked at Selkirk again, and said, “You don’t seem like that kind of a person. A selfish person wouldn’t bring bread and wine to somebody else.” Her voice was much softer than it had been when she had arrived in Havre d’Anges. More elven it sounded now, and not as dry and hoarse.

Selkirk smiled at Marla. “Ah, but it is selfish. I choose the bread I think you might like, and I savor sharing it because doing so makes me feel good. I’ll admit to not being obsessed with obtaining magical power anymore. But that’s how it is, isn’t it? Things change. My selfishness has a different ring to it, but I still do whatever I want because it pleases me to do so.”

Marla cocked her head and asked, “What is it that changed? Why do you not pursue magical power anymore?”

Selkirk chuckled and poured another cup of wine for Marla and himself. “There wasn’t any more power to be found. I got it all. And now I am focused on more engaging activities. There are many more types of bread to try, and I’ll have to share them with you.”

Marla laughed louder than she had in many decades, perhaps even centuries. “You are ludicrous, Selkirk. Completely mad. I don’t think this place has cured your mind at all.” She took a long drink of the wine and finished her bread. “Have you more bread up your sleeve?”

Selkirk reached into his sleeve and asked, “What would you like? More of the same or something different?”

Marla smiled and said, “More of the same, please. It is surprisingly sweet. Much like you, you old bother. Telling me stories and conjuring baked goods out of your clothing.”

Selkirk laughed and pulled another loaf of this evening’s bread out of his sleeve. He tore it and handed half to Marla. Looking at her, Selkirk asked, “And what of your life? How many husbands did you take for yourself? I’ve heard that dark elves tend to negotiate such things as they would any other deal.”

Eating her bread while she considered the question, Marla replied, “It is true, we do. Life in the underdark is probably different than it is under the stars. I had twelve husbands of my own, a few that didn’t belong to me, and some that never ended up belonging to anyone. Life is not as precious in the depths of the earth.” Marla took another sip of wine and left the thought dangling there.

Selkirk nodded his head slowly and said quietly, “We’ve both been quite naughty, haven’t we? I should think the last place we expected to wind up is here waiting got the ship to take us to Arborea.”

Marla smiled sadly and looked at Selkirk. “That is so true, Selkirk. I had no idea this was even a possibility.” The two of them returned their attention to the night sky far off to the west. Just at that moment there was a distant flash in the sky, brief but vibrant.

Selkirk said, “That is the ship now, Marla. It’ll be here in a few hours. It will probably take you and the others waiting here. I don’t know yet if I am ready. But you are. It is going to be wonderful.” With that he took a hold of Marla’s hand and squeezed it.

Marla smiled and said, “If they do call my name, I’ll need bread for the trip.”

Selkirk nodded his head. “I’ve got you covered, Marla. Never fear.”