In this scene, Chalice is trying to get to know Elmo better. He's a very minor character, but his backstory is interesting, just not necessary to the plot. Elmo's coffee shop used to be a pub in the early days, but he had problems when his fae customers got drunk. That's when he switched to just serving coffee instead.
Waking up to find a half-man, half-goat rummaging in your trash would have the neighborhood police checking family medicine cabinets for drugs. The psychiatric community must have made a killing that year. "I take it you've known Aydin a long time?"
"A hundred and fifty years, give or take."
My expression must have looked surprised because Elmo added, "Elves live a long time. Not nearly as long as Aydin, but at least four times longer than an ordinary human."
"Did the two of you first meet in Denver?"
He nodded. "Soon after gold was found in the South Platte River, the summer of 1858. Colorado wasn't even a U.S. territory yet."
It was no wonder the two of them had become close after so many years of friendship. Unaware how an elf aged, I was curious about the circumstances of their meeting. "Were you an adult, or still a kid when you met Aydin?"
Elmo laughed. "I was about twenty six or twenty seven, which would be like a preschooler in human years. He found me unconscious in a ditch after my parents were taken by the Vyantara."
The poor man. It had to have been devastating to lose parents at such a young age. Though I knew what it was like to be an orphan, I'd never known my parents so I never really knew what I was missing. I feared the answer before I asked the question. "Did you get your parents back?"
His eyes clouded with an unpleasant memory. He stared down at the table. "No."
I didn't ask what had happened to them. Did I really need to know? From his expression I knew the fate of his folks hadn't been good. I thought of the summoning room back at the Fatherhouse, the splashes of red that stained the concrete floor. There was a good chance Elmo's parents had been used in a ritual that required fae blood, something hard to find on the mortal plane.
"What was your family doing on this side of the veil?" I asked.
"I think it had to do with the gold recently discovered in the mountains. It's a precious commodity for the fae. My parents crossed through in the same place the veil is now, right here in this basement."
"So that's why you had a house built here."
"Aydin had it built for me after he found the veil. It took a few years for him to learn what had brought my family here in the first place." He shook his head. "They never should have come."
"But they accepted someone's invitation." That's the only way anything from beyond the veils could cross to this side.
"They were tempted by one of the Vyantara sorcerers who knew the veil was here when this property was still an empty lot. He used it to lure my parents across. He hadn't expected them to bring along a worthless elf child."
Lucky for Elmo. "Weren't you afraid the Vyantara would find you here someday?"
He shrugged and took a quick sip of his coffee. "Not really. The secret died with the sorcerer who first discovered this spot."
And I immediately knew who had been responsible for that sorcerer's death. Aydin protected the people he cared about. He had taken Elmo under his wing and raised him as his own.
"Elmo, why did you stay on this side? You must still have family beyond the green veil. Don't you miss your home?"
Palm down, he waggled his open hand like the wings of an airplane. "You can't miss something you never knew to begin with. Besides, I have plenty of fae friends who visit me all the time. I've held the invitation open to them for decades. And I've crossed over to their side a time or two, but I'm not comfortable there. It's very backward. And there's no coffee."
That made me smile. "I'm amazed Aydin was able to keep you and your shop a secret all these years."
"He's been a good friend." Elmo's eyes glazed over as he stared into the distance, looking wistful. "We've helped each other a lot over the years. We make a good team."
"I bet you do." Elmo's Coffee Shop had been Aydin's port in the storm, and now it was mine. And Quin's. "I'd like to know more about the fae. And about white magic. Would you teach me?"
His grin split his face from ear to ear, his cheeks bulging like two ripe plums when he smiled. It was nice to see him without his usual bitter beer face. He was an attractive old elf. More on the ancient side, but still handsome.