Some studies have shown that humans are capable of learning two to three times faster than elves. The sources of these studies are often disreputable, but consider for a moment if this were true.
Given the best medical treatment and healthy living amenities, the average human lives for 70-80 years. The average lifespan of a healthy elf approaches 800 years (though some, as you well know, have well-exceeded 1,000!).
It would seem, then, that the best-educated human, at the end of his life, can retain less knowledge than your average 300-year-old elf, and the elf has many centuries more to go!
So which do you think is the better investment? The answer is obvious.
-Excerpt from an elementary Societal Studies textbook.
When you receive a summons from Senor Patch you don’t keep him waiting. Mar put down her pen and left the library immediately, her notes and books still spread out on the library’s table. She smoothed out her wrinkles in her scholar’s robes and straightened her Lagrim’s Sash as best she could as she practically jogged toward the Senor’s office.
Senor Patch’s secretary spoke volumes of the elf. She was a human, answering the line and typing at the terminal as well as any elf Mar had seen. She was even given a formal robe to wear, fitting for the position but borderline blasphemy on a human. Mar beamed with pride for her organization, knowing that no other group had the guts to treat humans this equally.
The secretary opened the enormous double doors to the Senor’s office with the push of a button, and Mar walked in with all the steady grace she could muster. The office was a wonder: huge and opulent, with a vaulted ceiling and a wall of books stretching nearly to the top. Statues of humans and elves and gnomes living together in harmony stood in the corners, and the windows opened out to a balcony that overlooked Melaloriel, the capital of civilization itself (and all the more civilized for the existence of this office no doubt, thought Mar). Of course, the windows were closed and fortified, just in case. There were a few backwards radical groups that violently opposed the work of the Lady’s Guaranteed Right Movement, and the possibility of assassination couldn’t be written off.
Senor Patch sat behind a large desk at the other end of the room. He continued to do his work, patiently waiting for Mar to reach his desk. He looked up right as she reached the line of chairs in front of the desk.
“Miss Sala’Mariellani, correct?”
He recognizes me! was Mar’s first thought, but then she remembered that he was the one who summoned her. Of course he knew her name, even if he’s not familiar with her face. But still, the honor of being addressed by-
“Oh! Yes, she’s me. I’m her. I mean, that’s right, sir.” Mar bowed and felt her face burning.
“Yes, of course. Have a seat, Miss Sala’Mariellani.” The Senor waved a hand and Mar sat down in one of the chairs.
“So, Miss Sala’Mariellani. You are the daughter of Sala’Chorbiani, correct? Of the Desbiente County Salas?”
“Yes, sir. The weapons traders.” Is this about my family? thought Mar. What would Lagrim need with firearms? Unless…
“Yes, I gathered as much. Miss Sala’Mariellani, I have an assignment for you. It may be a long assignment, and it may be a dangerous assignment. Are you up for it?”
What? “Well, uh, sir. I’ve got a few projects-”
“Nothing that can’t wait or be passed on to someone else. I’ll ask again: are you up for it?”
“W-well, I…” An assignment? For me? “I-I guess, I…” Something important enough to put aside my other projects, all of them. “I mean, I don’t know if I”m really…” Ready? This is it, this is your chance to prove yourself and do some real good!
“I’ll do it. What’s the assignment?” Mar looked the Senor straight in the eyes. He returned the stare and the hint of a smile touched his lips.
“Good. Our sources tell us that the military has discovered a cave of some sort during their latest project to cross the ocean.”
Crossing the ocean? Mar never understood this goal of theirs. The winds and maelstroms that made crossing the sea so difficult were obviously the Lady’s way of telling us that we’re not supposed to cross, so why do we keep trying?
The Senor continued: “A man and an elf fell into the cave together a few days ago and rescue efforts have been… difficult. Instead of simply rescuing the two from the cave, the military has decided to send more people in to further explore the cave, to see where it leads. The exploration team includes the two who fell in first, some additional military, and a small group of humans.”
At this the Senor leaned forward, bringing his hands together in front of him as he leaned onto the desk. He looked at Mar expectantly.
“So,” she began, slowly understanding what this all had to do with her, “you want me to join them and make certain that they don’t mistreat the humans, correct?”
Senor Patch nodded and leaned back again. “Yes, that’s your job. But that’s only part of it. We don’t know what’s down there, and neither do they. Yes, I want you to make certain that they don’t send any humans to their deaths while testing out each new path to make certain it’s safe or anything like that, but also keep your eyes open for any other life that might be intelligent.”
“Other sentient species?” Mar’s mind reeled at the idea. I not only get to be first contact, but also get to be the first to stand up for their rights?
“Yes. You’ve heard the legends of underground civilizations, like dark-skinned elves and mole-creatures. They may be just that—legends and tales. They probably are, in fact, since we’ve never found real proof of creatures living beneath our feet. But just in case, I want you to be there, representing the Lady’s Guaranteed Rights Movement.”
At this, Senor Patch stood up and rose his right fist to eye-level. “For the sake of the Lady, our patron and Mother.”
Mar stood and raised her fist as well, continuing the pledge of the Lagrim. “For all Her children, that they may rise as one.”
The rest they said in unison: “For every race we know and every one we will meet—for them shall we fight, for them shall we speak, and for them shall we serve.”
Senor Patch nodded to Mar. Go and pack your things. You depart tonight. You are dismissed.”