The Shepherds and the Maw.
We are being inducted into the civilian milita. The Captain, a dour faced elven man, waves his hand over the floor and mutters an incantation. A portal opens, beneath which sits the Maw, an entity that was found in the catacombs beneath the castle. Like a magical garbage disposal, it utterly annihilates anything dropped into it. We are instructed to each drop something precious into it, to prove our devotion to the city. One by one we drop in books, trinkets, pictures of loved ones, etc.
He does not inquire or suggest, merely states “Only you will know the worth of your sacrifice.” When we have done so, he welcomes us, “Congratulations, you are now Shepherds of the People”, and hands us the traditional Shepherd’s Staves, not crooked like a real sheep-herder’s would be, but straight, with holes carved in one end to form a flute, used to communicate over distances and to blow piercing alarms. He waves his hand over the portal again and dismisses it, and we all relax slightly now that the Maw is no longer gnashing away at our feet.
It occurs to me to wonder how this man, one of maybe a hundred remaining elves, attained a position of such responsibility. Most elves are bitter, their ancestral forests having been leveled to build human cities, their magic enslaved to human ends, their people driven across the sea to strange lands. He has access to the Maw, and anything he wishes to make disappear will be gone forever. As Captain of the Shepherds, the protection of the city is his duty, but why should he want to protect us?