By Isaiah Silkwood
You lean back against the wall, your favorite scotch in your wrinkled hand. It has been changed over the years, as everything in your favorite tavern has. The floor doesn’t squeak as loudly as it used to. The twisted wall panels are covered with fancy wallpaper. Even the patrons have changed. No longer is this the loud tavern that you used to sweep of broken glass at night. Now this place is filled with the low murmur of the rich. It is for vendors to sate their thirst or to drown their sorrows in the truth of their not so opulent realities. So is life. It all has a way of changing. You take another sip–you used to take swallows–of the cool scotch. Carbonated. That’s the word the barkeep had used. He’d said he was just trying it out to see if the patrons liked it. You chuckle. Bad scotch needs disguising.
An elf bursts through the doors from the busy venue, covered in dark billowing garments befitting the Grand Vizier himself. He’s young. At least, he looks and walks young as he treads confidently over to the bar. You’ve never been good with guessing the ages of elves. They live so long that your ninety years would put one still in his puberty. Another sip and you set your scotch down on the bar to watch. You’re intrigued with young aristocrats.
With a raise of his finger the elf has his usual in hand. Yes he’s been here before, but never noticed you. Once a week he can be heard outside plying the cause of his favorite not-for-profit.
The elf catches your eye and makes his way toward you at end of the busy bar. He must have noticed you when he came in because he smiles at you. You run your fingers through your thin hair and return the smile. He was hocking the name of ELDER: Enlist to Love, Donate to Enrich, and Revitalize. He probably thinks you’re one of the “poor unfortunates” who needs saving.
“Pardon me wise one, might I share a drink with you?”
He’s certainly a patronizer. You nod. “Sit and visit if you’re so inclined. My name’s ______.”
He does, taking the stool next to yours. “I’m Dartaa. Student at Grand-Visage Academia.” He takes a measured swallow from his glass.
“Pleasure. What brings you here sonny. To talk with an elder of wisdom?” You raise your scotch.
“Actually, I bring wisdom for you. If you’ll hear it from one as young as I.”
“Of course. We never stop learning do we my boy?”
He raises his eyebrows, taking another swallow from his glass. “May I ask how you fare financially?”
“Oh. Trying to get coin out of me or to give it to me then?” Dartaa is taken aback by your frankness. You reel in the snark a bit. “Tell me son. How much do you know about ELDER?”
Dartaa smiles genuinely. “They give their resources to construct homes for the homeless elderly. A noble cause. Even if you are not in need of such accommodations. Do you like your home in the tavern?”
You grin and take more scotch. “Why change perfection? Tell me more about ELDER. Why request coin from everyone yet spend so much on advertising?”
Dartaa lifts his eyebrows as if your statement is elementary. “They cannot provide the services they do without sufficient funds. You’d be surprised how much more they are able to win for the disadvantaged with advertisements. Why do you think I am here? Certainly not to get paid championing their worthy cause. In fact, I am one of their most generous benefactors. I volunteer my time to raise funds. You must certainly see, _______ that there is worth to ELDER.”
You feel bad for the young elf. Do you really want to break his ideals? You take a breath and straighten up. “Come nigh my boy.”
Dartaa leans closer.
“Who heads up ELDER?” You ask honestly.
“Elacious Stonf. A more generous dwarf is not to be found…”
You nod. “Yes, your right. But would you believe me if I told you that I’ve seen Elacious as drunk as a gnome on Triport’s Day?”
Dartaa shrugs, “Every being has their release.”
You speak sincerely, “Elacious said himself, to my ears, in the truth of the spirits he’d been drinking, that his organization receives so many donations that he needs spend only one-fifth on the actual homes built. He said another two-fifths go to employees and advertising.” You pause and lean closer still, smelling the liquor on Dartaa’s breath. “Elacious whispered to me, ‘I pocket the other two-fifths, geezer.’ With that he slipped me this.” You hold up a small god bar.
Dartaa draws back slowly, his eyes swimming with something you can’t quite make out. Anger? Disbelief? You’ve never seen an elf cry in public. Most elves ardently claim they never cry. But there is something brimming Dartaa’s deep eyes. Finally he locks onto the gold. “If it weren’t for that bar, old one, I would not have believed you. Yet, I gave that very bar, to ELDER. I know because I had Edinor Veren engraved as an anniversary to my 100th year as a benefactor.”
You don’t know what to say. The boy is a fool to give to something for a century without knowing everything about it. But saying that won’t ease the pain in the face before you. “I’m sorry son.” You manage. Without knowing why, you slip the gold bar into his breast pocket.
Dartaa manages to hold it together. He places a firm hand on your shoulder and looks you in the face. “______, you taught me something I will never forget. I will never disregard the gray headed again. Le hannon. Na-den pedim ad.”
Dartaa rises to leave. You watch the elf. A solemn taste in the back of your throat. Yes all things change. Even the longliving young. You lean back against the wall.