The trio stopped at wooden door at the end of a particularly long passageway. Elma explained that at one point, the caverns and the tunnels that they were standing in now had been carved by the ebb and flow of the ocean over the course of centuries.
Since the tunnel system seemed particularly large, and that they had passed many doors, Anna wondered aloud if there were other creatures like Elma and Shireen living here.
"There were many of us once," Elma said sadly. "These tunnels brimmed with my folk going too and fro, socializing and conducting business."
"What happened to them?" Anna asked.
"We live a long time, much longer than you humans. Imagine seeing the same people, day after day, year after year, decade after decade. Sounds a little boring doesn't it?"
"I think I can relate...." Anna trailed off. She had lived in that isolated fishing village all her life, seeing the same people day after day, hearing the same gossip time and time again. She had only lived there 16 years and had been excited to head into the city to become a nurse. A new place, with new faces - a fresh start.
"People left in dribs and drabs. Looking for something new, something different. Sometimes they'd return. They'd stop by for a chat and talk about the wonderful things they've encountered. But when they are here, their mind is elsewhere, looking for that next adventure, that next shipwreck to explore. They never stay long."
"Why are you still here?"
"The world is a big and exciting place, but also dangerous. This cave system is the safest place we know of. We always return here to raise our young."
"Shireen. You're here because of Shireen?"
Elma nodded, "And not much longer. Shireen is now of age and it is time for her to leave the nest." she paused a moment. "She's going with you."