The Fenjitza chewed thoughtfully on the end of her pen, feeling the tap of the clip against the bottom of her silver mask. At first it had been one or two letters from maskers up in the mountains, concerned about a consistent problem in the area, that of infertility. The stack of letters on her desk showed a pattern that followed the river down to Arko itself. Not consistently. It had been a problem intermittently for at least a generation, among the miners in the mountains.
Now... now there seemed to be an explosion of the problem and it had hit the city itself, despite Risae’s Protocols for cleaning the water. Could it be an illness in the water? That made no sense given the variability of the spread. The Fessas goddess’s protocols for cleaning the water were both thorough and quite exacting.
The midwives in the city... across the city... were now reporting that there were no pregnancies for them to monitor. None. From the Imperatrix whom she was advising, down to the lowest oka.
“Narilla?” It was the Fenjitzas at her door. It stood open so that she could hear the choir in the main Temple hall and should anyone need her attention. “Do you have a moment?”
“Of course, Radas.”
He came in, as she rose for him and they both settled down on cushions to one side of her tiny desk. She poured kaf for them both from the pot that an acolyte had just brought her. “I have a problem that I think only the Goddesses might have an answer to,” he said without preamble. “I’ve had reports from my priests and dekinases that there are a lot of newly married men who are...” he paused, as if searching for a way of saying something delicately enough.
“... concerned that they are potent? Because they and their wives don’t have children on the way yet?”
He looked concerned, “Ah. Yes. Exactly.”
“The midwives in the city are reporting that they have no one to tend. There are no young women looking to have a midwife attend on her before her birthing time.”
“But perhaps they don’t feel the need?”
“I wish, Radas. Let me tell you. When a woman is bearing she finds a midwife who can be with her, early.”
“I’ve had a number of Arkan medics come to me,” he said somberly.
“Have you spoken to any of the Haians in the city?”
“We need to report this to the Imperator. Aside from this possibly affecting him and the Imperatrix, it’s an Empire’s problem.”
“Do you have any reports from elsewhere in the Empire? I don’t.”
“Only from a trail of small mining villages from upriver.”
“Let me gather my notes,” he said, setting his kaf cup down.
“I’ll meet you at the portico.”