Man alone knows that he must die; but that very knowledge raises him, in a sense, above mortality, by making him a sharer in the vision of eternal truth. – George Santayana
It seemed to Sarah that Conclaves were getting closer and closer together, but she knew that was just an illusion of age; as one grows older it’s inevitable that the years seem to fly by more and more quickly. All she had to do to remind herself that they were still as far apart as they had always been was to remember contemporary events: when the last conclave was held the humans were plunging headlong into the madness of their First World War, and the time before that they were congratulating themselves on having got rid of that would-be Caesar from Corsica, unaware that he was about to stage a comeback. And the time before that…Sarah sighed as she realized that she couldn’t remember. Though the Elders had far longer lives than the humans they so closely resembled, their brains were no better; a humanoid brain can only hold so much information, and Elders above eight hundred or so began to find that older memories which hadn’t been accessed in a while were often quietly and unceremoniously dumped in order to make room for newer ones. Of course, that only applied to healthy brains; the very old often went the opposite way, losing the ability to form new memories entirely and existing only in a twilight rooted in the experiences of centuries past.
Still, she wasn’t that old yet, and might never get there; medicines developed by human doctors worked just as well on their Elder cousins, and they were making great strides in the treatment of senile dementia. By the next Conclave they’d probably have it licked. And Sarah was aging well; a human making a quick appraisal might’ve taken her for 40, and one who took the time to look at her hands and count her grey hairs would’ve called her a young-looking fifty. Either one would have laughed at someone who told them she had been born at least one human generation before William the Conqueror. Of course, not all of them aged so well; Aaron, for example, was almost four hundred years younger than she was, yet looked older than she did. That was because his paternal grandmother had been human; his father aged more quickly still, and had passed away several Conclaves ago. But what the halfbloods lacked in longevity, they made up for in virility; Aaron had at least seven siblings that Sarah knew of, and had himself sired three besides her daughter Deborah. By contrast, her own brother Jacob had but one son to his credit, and she had never heard of any pure Elder, male or female, with more than three (and even that many was such a rarity it was occasion for the largest kind of celebration outside of the Conclaves).
Virility wasn’t the only reason halfbloods had no trouble finding partners, though; there was also that incredible human passion that no pureblood could match. Sarah had often thought that perhaps all humanoids had only one measure of passion, which had to last the Elders for over a millennium but could be spent by humans in mere decades. When Aaron had first seen her upon arriving at the meeting-place this morning, it was as though they had only parted as lovers three years ago rather than nearly three hundred; she had not been kissed so thoroughly since before his human kin had harnessed the power of steam, and though she knew his insistence that she was still the most beautiful woman he had ever known was a sweet lie intended to get her back into bed, it was more than convincing enough to win her consent. Enoch had moved out to go over to America after becoming fascinated with their Space Program, and Deborah had been encouraging her to take a new lover for a few years now; wouldn’t she be confused if her father moved back in again, at least for a little while? Sarah knew that was unlikely, though; Aaron seemed to be making the most of his remaining years, and rarely lived with his women any more.
She decided that after the Conclave, she’d go to visit her own father, whom she hadn’t seen since Deborah’s coming of age; he had never really liked Conclaves, and after the last one had declared them a “waste of time”, resolving never to go to one again. It appeared he was as good as his word, because he would surely have sought her out if he was at this one. But Sarah knew the real reason he wasn’t there: he was a genealogist, and recognized better than most how their people were dwindling. Every Conclave had smaller attendance than the one before, and every time the attendees were older. While the ranks of the Younger Race burgeoned, the Elders couldn’t even replace themselves, and increasing numbers of halfbloods were choosing to live among and mate with humans, their bloodlines lost to the Elders forever. In time, they would cease to exist as a separate race entirely, and they would be remembered only in human legends. Though most of the Elders never thought about it, their wisest had understood and discussed it since soon after their short-lived kin had begun to build cities. Since humans could never hope to see the future themselves, they strove all the harder to create things which would outlast them. Since they could not live long enough to grow tired of life, they never lost their zeal for living. And since they reproduced and came of age so much more quickly than their longer-lived kin, they had changed the face of the Earth more in the ten Elder generations since they had invented writing than the Elders had managed in all the eons before. As in so many legends, the younger sibling had received a blessing that had allowed him to usurp the birthright of the elder; no power of Sarah’s people could possibly compare to the humans’ precious gift of mortality.