“Now we have a better understanding of the magics available to us and we shall make the best use of them in service of the empire.” Eioth rose and went to stand beside the North West chair. Halidan nodded to acknowledge his arrival then came to her feet.
“The other resource we must utilize is the special knowledge of the mortals.” She paused while exclamations of surprise and rejection came from almost all sides of the room. She waited patiently until they subsided. “Oh come now, no more protests. You have had time to accept this reality. Mortal cooking fires now prepare your meals. Mortal braziers, distant cousins to that one made of Light, warm your rooms. And, which is more, mortal healers prepare potions to take away the worst of your headaches and other ills. You may think if you pay no attention to this fact, that if you close your eyes and your minds, you can believe that somewhere in this House hidden and secret Elemental magic still serves, but it is not true and such willful blindness will not serve the Empire.”
“It is therefore necessary,” said Eioth, smoothly, “for you to acquire mortal advisers. My lady Halidan may assist you there as she has already reached out to the educated persons of her acquaintance nearby. They can advise you on the preservation of food without use of magic, of engineering, of road building, of house building and other matters that are vitally important for the rebuilding of the empire and the transport of goods and food to those displaced by the floods.”
“But snow,” interrupted Trevan. “What is to be done with the snow? Mere Mortal engineers cannot mend the ruined roads to the north. There is no way that mere light, which has no heat, can bring food to my people and rescue them from the blizzards.”
“Be patient, I beg you,” said Eioth.
“You have all walked through mortal villages,” said Halidan, raising her voice slightly to be heard over the growing mutter. “Past mortal homes built not with magic but with hands and wood and skill and not for one moment wondered how they live. In your arrogance and preoccupation you thought they lived as you do, obtaining magic to fill the needs of their homes. But magic is expensive and must be horded against greater need.”
“Wait,” said Eioth, when Trevan rose from his seat to signal his wish to be heard. “She is correct as you will acknowledge if you only listen.”
“Indeed, there is some information the mortals possess that might aid you,” said Halidan. “According to my reading, there are persons within the True North demesne who have beasts of burden who can walk over snow while carrying heavy loads. Their hooves, apparently, are flat and broad and hairy both above and below so they do not break through the snow crust. Mortals use them to carry supplies during the depths of winter to the furtherest reaches of the mountains.”
Trevan stared at her. “Yes, I know of them. I have seen them from time to time. Nomads. Traders. They are useful enough and…” he paused and considered. “They do travel off the roads to distant communities in the darker months. I pay them little heed as their numbers are small.”
“Do you know how to contact them?” asked Eioth.
“I… I, myself, no. I do not know. They come to trading fairs and then return to their own business. I shall inquire of my entourage to see if any have that knowledge.”
“And I will send out inquires amongst the displaced. The mortal refugees,” said Halidan. ”There may be some from the north with better knowledge.”
“Good.” Eioth nodded. “Know this. Our mortal citizens survive each day, each year, with the bare minimum of magical interventions. Recruit from the refugees. There are certain to be skilled persons coming here seeking guidance and supplies to survive and rebuild. With them as your advisers…”
He was interrupted by a voice from the corner where two archivists were inscribing the proceedings.
“I realize it is not the archivist’s role to interfere,” said the young elf, “but I must wonder, High King, why you make such a production of the matter.”
They all turned to stare at the small table. The taller rose to face the Synod.
“Mortals?” the archivist continued. “What little they possess by way of primitive knowledge does exist, I must admit, but I cannot see the need for the effort you describe. We need the Elements to return. That should be the direction of your thoughts. Only that.”
“At this moment,” replied Halidan, calmly, “We need clean water to drink, a safe place for refugees to live and a way to keep them alive until the first harvest can be brought in next year - which might not be for six to eight moons.”
“We shall do well that enough without mortal knowledge,”said the young archivist. “Our Empire will endure if resources are apportioned to those whose survival best serves the Empire.”
“Are you suggesting that only those of elvan blood should be given food?” demanded Haldian as she took one step down from her dias.
Eioth caught her arm. “That one is not so foolish as to make that suggestion,” he frowned across the chamber. “Are you?”
A faint head shake was the only response.
“Do you know how to prevent Winter Red Fever?” interrupted Lenneth in a hard voice.
“I am an elf,” was the proud response. “I do not get Winter Red Fever.”
Both Halidan and Eioth turned to the Water Priest Lenneth.
The priest bowed and stepped forward.
“That is,” said Lenneth, “because as with all who can arrange to be present, you take part in the Dark Of The Year Turning Ritual each year. It is then that the Water Priest healers cast the protections against those illnesses that lurk in the coldest time of the year. Since we shall not be able to summon the Elements this Turning, I cannot predict the effect upon general health - mortal or elvish. It may be that you will still bear the protections from last year, but, I admit, I cannot promise you that is the truth. Never have we faced this problem. I do not possess the connection to Water to test the matter.”
The High Lords and their attendants exchanged startled and worried looks while the healer continued.
“You take for granted the protections granted you by the Water Priesthood,
continued Lenneth. “We cast protections in the spring against foot diseases gained from muddy fields that, if untreated, will rot the skin from your feet, and against the small parasites that dwell in closed and airless storage sheds that would fill your lungs and end your lives. In the summer we protect against fungus that rises in the fields. We bless the fields and crops and cattle and all who work in them. Your surprise is shameful. You are instructed before each healing cast what benefits you shall receive but it is obvious to me you have not listened.”
“There are foot diseases?” marveled one attendant. “What foot diseases?”
“Mortal farmers are diligent in attending certain rituals so as to gain that protection,” said Halidan. “But as you, yourself, do not go out onto the fields which supply your food you do not know what is needed. Your ignorance is not malicious unless you fail to take this warning and seek the mortal healers who can tell you about the herbal concoctions that serve the same purpose.”
There were some muttering but Eioth ignored them.
“Heed me,” he said. “I do not make these recommendations lightly. For our people to survive we must put aside a preference for magical aid and accept mundane means for necessary tasks. Mortals will have this knowledge.”