(Return to Elf Biology.)
- 1 Recognition: Facts, Limitations, "Rules"
- 2 Denial of Recognition
- 3 Lifemates, or not?
- 4 When and how often does Recognition happen?
- 5 Breeding outside of Recognition
- 6 Note about menstruation/ovulation, and sperm-count
- 7 Gestation period; miscarriage
- 8 Elvish "Trimesters"
- 9 When do the parents know a child's soul-name?
Recognition: Facts, Limitations, "Rules"
Like all elves, the wolfriders of River Twine Holt mainly breed through Recognition. This is an involuntary process by which two genetically compatible individuals "Recognize" each other when their eyes meet; this triggers an intense mating impulse as well as deep soul-knowledge of each other.
Recognition still involves a great deal of mystery for the elves. They cannot be sure what factors might trigger it; they only know that it is never "wrong", and that it will result in strong, healthy offspring born at the best possible time. Recognition will never strike an elf who is incapable of breeding (therefore, it will never happen before the age of sexual maturity and ability to bear a child), and it avoids a very close degree of shared blood (it will never happen between a parent and child; between full or half siblings; between grandparent and grandchild; or between aunt/uncle and niece/nephew).
When two elves Recognize, their soul-names become known to each other immediately, and they thus known each other on a deeper level than common elf interaction. This usually helps to enhance the very strong mating urge that accompanies Recognition. Elves who resist that urge to mate will find that they feel pain, and become weak and ill.
Denial of Recognition
Denial of Recognition is actually extremely rare. The mating urge is just that -- a strong impulse causing the elves involved to *want* to mate. Furthermore, the culture of the wolfriders considers the creation of children to be one of the most important things a tribemember can do. The relationship created by Recognition is not always perfect and smooth, but Recognition itself is usually considered desireable, and a great honor.
Elves believe strongly that the sickness of Recognition denied can lead to the death of both elves. Actually, no one has ever tested this, so the elves do not have proof of it. The mechanism of Recognition is not meant to kill elves, however. If disaster should happen and one of the elves should be killed before Recognition can be consummated, the remaining elf will not die, but will eventually recover (just like any elf who loses their lifemate). The elves' belief in the danger of denying Recognition is extremely strong, though, and they are not willing to risk death just to prove a point.
Lifemates, or not?
A pair of elves who Recognize may decide to become lifemates. The sharing of soul-names often has this effect -- but, not always. The two elves involved usually always share a closeness and fondness for each other, but what type of family unit they create may vary due to other factors. Some already have a relationship with a lovemate, and do not wish to end it. Some do not feel suited to a permanent mating with anyone. Some decide to form three-matings with their Recognized mate and previous lovemates. Some choose to mate for the duration of the child's upbringing, and then amicably part again afterwards. The River Twine tribe has no default expectation for what Recognition may mean to the elves involved, except that it will result in a child. The tribe will wait for the couple to indicate their preferences, rather than make assumptions.
The same pair of elves may Recognize multiple times. On average, it appears that an elf has a higher chance of having a second Recognition with their first partner, than another Recognition with a new partner -- but that is only an average (in the case of some individuals, the opposite appears to be true). Even an elf who has Recognized the same partner multiple times may still Recognize yet again with another.
When and how often does Recognition happen?
To the elves, Recognition appears to happen completely by chance. There is no way of telling when it will strike. It may happen to an elf for the first time when they are very young; or, not until they are several centuries old. They might Recognize twice or even three times in relatively short succession; or they may go hundreds of years between Recognitions. Generally, the elves know not to assume much about the likelihood of an individual Recognizing. Elves who live for several centuries without Recognizing may be viewed as somewhat "overdue" to do so, but the odds of them finally Recognizing do not increase with age.
Breeding outside of Recognition
On rare occasion, it is possible for breeding to happen outside of Recognition. While some individuals may show a greater propensity for this than others, the truth is that the elves don't really understand what causes this to happen. It appears to them to be a completely random phenomenon. In the 1st and 2nd generations, it did happen slightly more frequently than it does now. So, it may have something to do with stronger wolfblood -- but, that is only a guess, and of the current living members of the tribe, no one has firsthand memories of the 1st and 2nd generations. It may also be theorized that the strong, pureblooded Healers of the earlier generations were able to assist with "sparking" Recognitions, or making females more fertile for non-Recognition breeding.
Note about menstruation/ovulation, and sperm-count
Female elves do not have a regular menstrual cycle, like human women do. Recognition more resembles a period of "heat" such as female wolves experience, but it is not entirely like that, either; and Recognition is a mechanism that comes from the elf blood, not the wolf blood. 99.99% of the time, Recognition is what causes ovulation in female elves. It may also greatly increase the sperm-count in the male elf (or perhaps release viable sperm into the male elf's semen; but there is likely always some viable sperm to be found in male elf ejaculate). As mentioned, on very rare occasions, a female elf's body may release an egg without the trigger of Recognition; it requires further luck for her to have joined with a male elf and for some of the lower percentage of his sperm to have survived to fertilize the egg.
Gestation period; miscarriage
Once a female elf conceives, the term of her pregancy will be 24 months (in contrast to a human's 9 months). It will take until the end of the first 12 months before she really begins to physically show signs of the pregnancy, and while her appetite increases, she will not put on as much extra weight as a pregnant human woman would. Pregnant elves are generally able to remain active up until the last few months of their pregnancy. Elves are not very susceptible to miscarriage, unless they suffer massive trauma.
1st "Trimester" = 12 months
2nd "Trimester" = 8 months
3rd "Trimester" = 4 months
These estimates are meant, roughly, to give players/writers the ability to map human pregnancy experiences onto the elf experience. First stage: before it even shows on the mother. Second stage: she starts to show, but the child is still developing and could not survive if "born". Third stage: child has done most of its development, might survive if born (with substantial intervention, in the earlier part of the trimester).
When do the parents know a child's soul-name?
At 21 months, an unborn elf child will begin to exhibit signs of awareness. At that time, the mother will be able to hear the child's soul-name (even though children are not always born knowing their own soul-name) and thus determine the child's gender. The mother generally shares this knowledge with the child's father. (It's up to the parents whether they share the information with the rest of the tribe or not.) The parents can't really tell anything else about the child prior to birth (no way to tell what hair color or eye color the child will have). 21 months is considered to be the minimum age for a child's survival if born prematurely. (Due, for example, to trauma or illness on the part of the mother; or even due to the death of the mother and the tribe's rescue of the unborn child.)
(Return to Elf Biology.)