"There must be something we can do," the elven Queen looked around the room at her assembled councillors and, at this special solstice assembly, their councillors. "What is it?"
"Your Majesty," Roharin of the Tall Waters, an elf of so many years everyone had lost count of them, "we suggest nothing. The problem is one of age. Our entire population has managed to mature out of the reproductive cycle without having youthful descendants to continue our lineages. Despite what some have said, it isn't a female problem as it might be with some of the shorter-lived races. Experimentation, without going into the details, has shown that even the youngest of us can no longer sire a child on a willing human or troll."
"We distinctly recall issuing royal orders directing all of our subjects capable of doing so to produce a child no less than once every decade," remarked the Queen. "Do I need to call up the original decree?"
"Your Majesty, if I may," the Chief Archivist, who was part of the retinue of the Court Bard, raised his hand.
"Linolan, isn't it?" The Archivist nodded, "You may address us."
"Perusal of the records, Your Majesty, shows that many of the putative children were repeat adoptions of the same child by many parents. If the records are accurate, the actual birth numbers were approximately one twentieth of the children recorded. Unfortunately, it seems many of those actual individuals either sailed with Findarin on his journey to the north or fell at the Battle of the Lurin Sands." Archivist Linolan went quiet, waiting for whatever might befall him. Her Majesty was known to be firm, if capricious.
"Lord Findarn's expedition may yet return," observed Her Majesty, "but we hold out no hope of it. The dead are dead and deserve their rest. Are there no young folk of pure blood left anywhere within Our Realm? I see that there is no-one here to represent the folk of the Black Marshes. Is there any news from them?"
The Chancellor stood and bowed. "Lady Berind sent word by messenger bird, Your Majesty. The Marshes are being drained by humans and her people are reduced to subterfuge. All roads and passes are cut, and she sends her apologies."
"That would never have happened when we were at our prime," observed the Queen. "Does Lady Berind report anyone among her people who remains capable of reproduction?"
"She says not," the Chancellor bowed. "Her letter does contain what I can only consider to be veiled promises of punishment against certain members of her population who either lied to her about the situation or did not safeguard their young people. I am not clear of which."
The Queen's mouth twitched. "That leaves with the half and part elven of various types. Apparently, none of those have been produced recently, but are there sufficient of them of enough elven blood to make trying to breed true elves from them a possibility?"
"No-one has had contact with them since Your Majesty's late husband expelled all part elves from our lands," replied the Chancellor apologetically. "Enquiries can be made, but given the circumstances of the expulsions, we cannot expect them to be co-operative. Any of them."
"Yet some of you have had sufficient congress with humans and trolls recently to attempt to produce children with them," pointed out the Queen.
"None of those experiments were attempted with part elves, Your Majesty," replied Roharin.
"If you will allow me, Your Majesty," the Court Bard spoke up and received a royal nod of permission, "Naharin the Red did approach a young lady of part elven descent while he was passing through the Black Woods. While he was recovering he spoke appreciatively of her knife work."
"If a talent such as he cannot persuade the part elven to co-operate," observed Her Majesty acidly, "either the resentments run deep, or your skills are slipping, gentlemen. However, if there are still discernible part elves among the humans and the trolls we should endeavour to see what can be achieved by encouraging them to reproduce among themselves. A viable population might be created if we help them along. Cordhu and Venonril have the greatest access to humans and trolls, so the rest of you will lend Lord Glimerang and Lady Relinghar resources so they can report back to me on potential candidates for a breeding program at the next equinox." She looked around the unsettled room. "My lords and ladies, we can no longer afford to work in decades. The shorter-lived races have a limited period in which their individuals will be useful to us; we must work far more quickly on this than is our wont."
She let them sit and absorb that for a moment. "This may not work, my lords and ladies, but it is our only chance of a future. Go forth and make it so. You are dismissed from my presence. Immediately."
The room emptied, and the Queen was left alone with the echoes of all her people's past mistakes.
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