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Nearly anyone could join the Council of Elders, though not everyone will agree. If, like in the first book, all the Elders are gone, emergency meetings are held to elect a new Council. The Grand Mage is the one who decides the other Elders. The community elects a Grand Mage who then elects his or her Elders. You do not have to be descended from past Elders to be part of a Council.