There came a rattling of metal from the kitchen, and a food trolley emerged from the kitchen, followed by a merrish worker with her long, black hair pulled back in two loose braids.
“Good morning, Marka,” said Simon. “Where are you off to?”
Marka’s catlike green eyes glinted in the torchlight as they swiveled downward to find the two of them on the floor. “I take the food to solitary.”
“Would you like company?”
“I don’t say no to this,” the elf replied. “But why you are not working today?”
“It’s Friday. Seoc worked out an arrangement.”
Seoc, who had been reaching into the cart to snatch a roll of bread, extracted his hand hastily and cringed under Marka’s cold, green stare. “Ah, yes, that.”
“You must be careful in arranging, Sock,” she said. “Or you get in bad troubles.”
“My name isn’t Sock.” Looking her in the eyes, he stuck his hand back into the trolley and took out the bread he had been after. “It’s Seoc. Shh…oh…ck.”
Seoc hissed quietly and shoved the stolen bread into his mouth.
“You are coming with me?” Marka asked. “We go now.”
They set off along the corridor. The elf had longer legs than either of them, so they had to had to jog to keep up with her pace. Simon couldn’t help but admire the elegance of her silhouette. She had a peculiar sort of beauty—not particularly pretty by human conventions, but still…
“So, uh, how are you, Marka?”
“Not well,” she said. “I am with child.”
“Oh. Well, you, uh…you don’t look it.”
The look that Seoc gave him could have fried an egg in the winter.
Marka slowed her gait and looked up at the ceiling. “But I feel it. I hope only if soon this one dies, like the last one. I am in bad way for being mother.”
“Oh,” said Simon. “I’m sorry.”
Seoc commandeered another roll from the cart. “And what’ll you do if it lives?”
“I give it for humans to raise.”
“Why humans?” Seoc asked. “Why not your own kind?”
“Not many Aechyed in Waelyngar.” She nodded upwards, to the thick layer of rock and dirt that separated them from the city in question. “And the sea is far away for walking.”
“But humans?” Seoc seemed incredulous. “You see everyday how we treat our own species. You’d trust us with your baby?”
“There are good humans.”
“Of course there are. But it’s quite the risk.”
She smiled. “Joke—”
“I think I actually prefer Sock to Joke, if you may,” Seoc grumbled.
“All right, Sock. But I say that I am not stupid. I give my baby brother to humans when I was child. Now he lives better than me. He has human name, he speaks human words like humans do. He knows not me, or his name our parents gave. It is better this way.”