Elf-Boy and Friends
Chapter 6. The Minstrel
The districts the travelers passed through were drier than those they had crossed before. In those regions the rains were infrequent and fitful, often tapering off disappointingly soon after a brief shower. Hence the lush farms and fields, vineyards and woodlots of their early journey gave way to ranches and pastures dotted with patches of scrub and gallery forest along the streams. Finally the paved trade road came to its terminus at a turning circle in the town of Zeebring. It seemed a good place to rest up for a few days before striking out across the grasslands.
The travelers engaged two rooms in one of the best inns in town. With their finances in good shape, Dahl and the twins got a break from their jobs as rent boys. They could luxuriate for two whole nights in soft beds in which to sleep and enjoy each other's sexy bodies. The whole troop (minus Merry) settled around a table in the common room, eating, quaffing moderately, talking, and watching the flames dance in the hearth. In the warmth of a summer's eve, only a single hardwood log was set to burning to let patrons watch the flickering flames. The firelight illuminated the naked bodies of the younglings, creating intriguing patterns of light and shadow that accentuated their physical charms.
The youngsters were the center of interest and speculation by their other travelers and by locals who had stopped by for a drink or two. Who were these young beauties?. What were they doing traveling in the company of a giant and a unicorn? Were they available for coin?
The near unanimous conclusion of the onlookers was that the three younglings were rent boys trolling for custom with the giant as their pimp and protector. A reasonable enough conclusion when three naked beauties put themselves on public display as they did, prancing around in a thin film of sweat and absolutely nothing else. And none of them had a feather on them anywhere on their delectable bodies, another mark of a professional rent boy though many other young males liked the smooth look too.
Inevitably the bolder among the onlookers tried conversational gambits to get their attention. Some tried physical advances, laying a calloused hand on the bare shoulder of one or ruffling the blond thatches of the twin or Dahl's raven locks. Without being rude or overly standoffish about it the boys firmly but politely discouraged such attentions and pointedly declined all offers of silver for sex. Balan told potential suitors that his boys were taking a few nights off.
Banging his bung tapper on the counter for attention, the innkeeper introduced the evening's entertainment: music and song provided by a wandering minstrel just starting his engagement at the establishment. On cue the minstrel stepped into the lamplight, drawing appreciative murmurs from the audience.
Clad only in a low-slung sarong the minstrel was a vision of youthful male pulchritude. Dark haired, short and skinny, he stood about an inch below Dahl's height, so five foot even and weighed 102 pounds (45 kg). He looked very young, like a barely legal street urchin, maybe fifteen or sixteen, an epicene gamin. His petite physique was a visual delight. Taut skin covered a hard body though the boy's musculature was smooth rather than defined. He had a good bone structure with narrow shoulders, slender torso, and sharp bladed hip bones. On his flat chest a well-defined midline separated small pectorals accented by tiny nipples. The swale of his lower back lead to a pert rump, the small tight buns jutting out just enough to provide a potential lover a good grab.
The youth's complexion was very fair, with skin pale and pearly white and as smooth as any milk maid's and entirely without body hair. Large green eyes dominated the stunning face of the androgynous youth which tapered from a wide brow down a pert nose to a narrow chin. Adding to his fey look, the minstrel was sloe-eyed, his orbs shaped like almonds and slanted faintly upward above prominent cheekbones. From there the planes of his face tapered to a small mouth with pouty lips just begging to be kissed and a sharp chin. His eyebrows bent in a angle rather than a round arch. The boy wore his hair in a shaggy cut with bangs and tapering sideburns that framed a face as cute as a kitten.
It wasn't only the minstrel's androgynous beauty and fine-boned features that suggested that maybe more than human blood flowed in his veins. He moved with the feline grace of jaguar or panther. For his performance he was clothed in a silk sarong wrapped low on his narrow hips, displaying his torso to advantage.
As lovely as they all were, the four youths in that common room were distinctly different in looks. Each was the epitome of his type. The elf-boy Dahl was the raven maned filly of the bunch and preternaturally lovely. The human twins were a pair of palomino colts with rangy builds. Boisterous and rambunctious they exuded good health and sex appeal. As for the newcomer, with the sleek and smooth physique of a dancer and an impossibly cute face, the minstrel was the playful kitten of the bunch and the only left hander. You just wanted to reach out to pet and stroke that small lithe body and maybe undo that tuck at the side and slide that sarong off those narrow hips.
The minstrel bowed to his audience and strummed a few preliminary chords on his mandolin then introduced himself as Aodh of Llangollen [Aodh is pronounced "ay" like the two vowels in "vein"]. He promised something for everyone: ballads, love lyrics, and bawdy drinking songs. He then paused and inclined his head to the four travelers, nodding respectfully to the giant, then flashed a smile and a lascivious wink to the twins and the elf-boy, who all grinned back cheerily. Who knew where this evening might lead!
"That is so unfair!" complained a rough voice from the back of the room. "All four of them walking wet dreams, but they have eyes only for each other!"
The crowd rumbled its assent. Another voice called out.
"Only too true, but I'd be happy just to watch them get it on together. How about it you three. You're not shy are you? I mean how could you be prancing around in the rude nude like that. As for the musician, he is half naked already."
"So, let's make him entirely naked,like the other kids" someone suggested. An instant later, rough hands reached toward Aodh and yanked the sarong off his hips and whisked it away. The garment disappeared into the crowd to general appropriation and thunderous applause.
The innkeeper banged the tapper once again and called the raucous crowd to order.
"For the benefit of the newcomers among us, know that ours is a respectable inn and drinking establishment. We provide food, drink, and lodging at reasonable prices and that is all. If you want a girl or a boy for your bed or to watch a show then visit a brothel. A list is posted by the door. And another thing, whoever snatched the boy's wrap had better restore it after his performance." He warned.
Caught by surprise and already stripped bare ass, Aodh could only shake his head, recognizing the futility of demanding his sarong back from the rambunctious audience. He would just have to charm his clothes back with his musical performance. He felt terribly naughty, standing there starkers more like a houri boy on stage in a house of joy than an honest minstrel singing for his supper. Naked as he was, how many in the audience would really be listening to his music rather than ogling his buns and the deep cleavage between them, fantasizing about making love to him. No one knew better than he how distracting his comely face and supremely sexy body could be.
For all that, Aodh realized that his sex appeal was a very real part of his act. He knew that many in his exclusively male audience fancied him for a shag. Sexual titillation was one of the emotions he manipulated with his songs and music and dance steps. Which was why he pranced around showing off so much of his sexy body. The close fitting sheath of the sarong did more to accent his lines than to conceal. And the simple tuck at the side was an invitation for some bold onlooker to strip the sarong off his hips with a simple tug and render him naked, as had just happened. Aodh was not the least bit body shy, nor was this the first time he found himself constrained to perform naked thanks to an overenthusiastic clientele.
Anyway shape shifter that he was Aodh had no regard for nudity taboos of any sort, no more than the lovely elf-boy across the room. He had wondered about the twins, but then had spotted the tattoos that marked them as elf-friends. Obviously the blonds had been seduced into the lifestyle of their elven friends and had given up clothing for the duration. More power to them. The last thing pretty boys like them needed was clothing.
Aodh launched into his program with a pair of short lyrics about young love, followed by several popular ballads, exciting tales of chivalry and derring-do. Later he lead the crowd in bawdy drinking songs, playing instrumental accompaniment when they rang in with the chorus. In short, a good time was had by all.
After a final song, still without his sarong which were now in safekeeping with the innkeeper, he joined the sexy travelers at their table, seating himself on a stool at the corner between the twins. Karel and Jemsen smiled and laid their arms companionably across his shoulders and made much of him, complimenting him on how well he projected his light tenor voice to all corners of the big common room. They also had kinds words about the minstrel's skill with the mandolin. All the while, with Aodh so close to hand, the twins boldly felt him up, petting and caressing his silken skin.
"You don't mind our roaming hands, do you Aodh." Karel asked as he stroked the minstrel's chest and abs and toyed with his nipples till they erected. His other hand traced the spinal bumps of the minstrel's back.
"My brother has the truth of it," Jemsen added. "Please forgive us if we seem overly forward, brazenly petting you like this, but the truth is we cannot resist temptation, not with you sitting here between us, so very near, so very sexy, and so very naked."
As answer, the lovely minstrel boy spread his legs to give them better access to his body, holding still even when exploring hands brushed his manly parts. Heat rushed to his belly. As his member grew longer and thicker and the glans emerged from its hood. Karel used his thumb to spread the dew that seeped from the slit over the knob.
Dahl was chagrined that, sitting across the table as he was, the minstrel was out of reach. If not for the crowd, he might have slipped under the table and settled himself between the minstrel's legs to pleasure him. Instead he had to watch as, pleased by the twins' attentions, the minstrel's had erected fully.
"No I don't mind what you are doing at all." Aodh said. "In fact I rather like it, as you can plainly see from my physical reaction, but the professional entertainer in me tells me never to perform in public for free. So let's take this upstairs, shall we?"
"As semi-professional rent boys, the three of us could hardly disagree." Dahl quipped mischievously while Balan nodded his agreement.
They adjourned and went to their rooms upstairs, the twins joining the young minstrel in his bed. After a fun-filled session with the minstrel, the twins left and the elf-boy took their place. Balan slept alone that night, content to let the youngsters have their fun. This was their time for the expression of unbridled teenage lust, sexy kids sparking off other cute guys their own age, romping, stomping, and rocking, their surging hormones rising to an explosion of eroticism and spunk.
Not that Balan was immune to the minstrel's charms. The boy was devastatingly attractive even to a centuries old giant, an adventurer and lover of boys who had seen it all. What a trim and sexy body and such an exotic face this boy had, like a cat or in his case a kitten.
In the morning, Balan let everyone sleep late since they were staying over for a couple of days at the inn. At mid-morning they all got together for a late breakfast with Dahl, the blond youths and even the minstrel, showing up naked.
"You too?" Balan asked, eying the minstrel's nudity. What happened to your sarong?"
The young minstrel shrugged and answered:
"That is just a costume I wear when performing. My people are not body shy, so public nudity is quite usual for males though our women habitually do wear a sarong."
A meal together was a good time to get to know each other. The twins sounded Aodh out about his background. The minstrel explained that he hailed from a secluded valley far to the east, beyond nearly impassable mountains and jungles. His was a comely people small in stature, all dark haired and sharing his fair complexion and almond eyes. An unwarlike people, they were relied for protection on their isolation and on their animal guardians whom they could summon with magic.
"Guardians?" Dahl asked.
<He means wirs like himself,> Merry chimed in, mind-speaking to all at once.
"And who is that speaking mind to mind?" Aodh asked surprised.
Whereupon Merry stuck his head thru a window opening by way of introducing himself. The minstrel nodded to acknowledge him and said:
"I hope you won't let anyone else know about me and my magical nature. To outsiders we always speak of animal guardians instead of announcing that we are actually wirs. Also I prefer to keep my ability to change forms an unpleasant surprise for potential enemies. Then there is the sad truth that some folks are actively hostile to wirs."
The minstrel pronounced the first letter with the sound of a 'v' rather than a 'w'.
"So why do you pronounce 'wir' like that instead of how we do, how everyone else does?"
"Why shouldn't we? Our country has the greatest concentration of wirs in the world. Why should we let outlanders tell us what we should call ourselves?"
"You know, I've always wondered", Balan began ruminatively, are wirs essentially humans who can take the shapes of animals or vice versa.
"Most definitely the former." Aodh responded. "We have only legends of course, but the story goes that wizards and warlocks created us wirs by magic ages ago. Since then, we reproduce naturally, but our women always conceive and give birth in human form. That is how we know for sure that we are human first."
"Make sense" Balan acknowledged.
"You know, in the sunlight streaming in that window the pupils of your eyes have contracted to slits. From that and your looks and physique I'd guess that you would be a wir-cat.
"A wir-panther, to be exact. I favor a black coat for the stylish look though many wirs prefer spots for camouflage."
"And you are the guardians of your people. No offense, but wouldn't wir-jaguars make better guardians?"
Yes, and some few of us can transform into a jaguar, but I am far too small for that. A wir can morph only into something of the same weight or mass. That said, as a panther I am faster, more agile, and more stealthy than brother jaguar. I can take to the trees and go a good ways leaving no spoor, unlike my heavier brethren who mostly keep to the ground."
[On Haven jaguars were a felid species native to the planet. The spots and rosettes on their tawny coats lead to their being named after the powerful feline from humanity's original planet, but the so-called jaguars on Haven were nearly the size of Terran lions.]
"And remember, we keep our human intelligence in both forms, which makes us doubly dangerous."
"So tell me this. If I had to escape from a real jaguar or panther shouldn't I jump into a lake or river and swim for it. I know cats don't like the water. Wouldn't that work with a wir as well?" Jemsen ventured
"Your stratagem would be totally useless in either situation, my friend." Aodh replied shaking his head. "It is true enough that house cats hate getting wet but not true of the big cats like the jaguar or panther. They, I really should say we, love the water. Big cats go swimming not only cool off but to romp and to play. Jaguars and panthers also hunt and fish in the rivers and lakes."
"Hunt, how?" Jemsen asked, appalled at the uselessness of his proposed tactic.
With a smile at the blond's ignorance, the young wir-cat answered.
"Sometimes big game like antelope or deer jump into the water to get away. Now antelope can swim after a fashion but their legs are skinny things, so they cannot propel themselves very fast. A jaguar's big paws make good paddles. So when their prey tries to swim to safety, brother jaguar just splashes in after them, catches up and climbs onto their backs, then goes for their spine or throat or even a skull bite. With big fish, the cat simply smacks it to stun it or even bats it right out of the water."
"Well, that is gruesome enough but I guess it is nothing worse than what we do as hunters," Jemsen allowed. "We kill at need. Like animals, we never kill for sport."
"Thanks for the charitable thought, but cats of all sizes habitually do kill for the thrill of killing. Surely you have watched housecoats play with their prey. Any cat may slay wantonly on occasion, even the most placid house cat. No, my naive friend, felines definitely have a cruel streak."
"Only in our feline forms. In either shape we retain our human intelligence and personality, but we do have to work at controlling our instinctual behavior as felines. Sometimes the best thing to do is to give free rein to our hunting instincts. It makes for a healthier partnership with our feline form. So stay clear of black panthers on the prowl at night when we are at our most nightmarish."
The twinks shuddered at this frank admission.
Balan had picked up on hints from the minstrel that he was looking for company and might like to join them on their journey.
"Aside from the obvious sex appeal of the three twinks, why would you want to travel with us?" Balan asked shrewdly.
"For one thing, I am tired of traveling alone. I weary of a solitary existence without any real friends. And then last last night, we all hit it off so well, it got me thinking. I really like the kids, and I respect you too Balandur. This morning I realized that the best way for me to carry out my own mission would be to tag along on yours and see what develops. And don't bother to deny you are on a secret mission. That much is obvious."
"Are we really that transparent, Aodh?"
"Please! When an elf-boy, two human youths, a giant, and a unicorn travel together thick as thieves, what else could they be up to? I mean, that is the roster for a band of heroes off on a quest in many a ballad I've sung. All you need to round out your company is a dwarf or maybe a thief.
"Or maybe a minstrel. Suppose we tell you what we are doing. Can you keep our secret?" Balan asked.
"Yes, and you can count on me to keep it, regardless of whether we go on together from here."
<I sense nothing but truth in this youth.> Merry said, vouching for the young wir-cat.
In a few sentences, the giant revealed their mission and ultimate destination.
"All right. Your turn, minstrel."
"I am on a long range scout for my people. Our spirit walkers sensed the growth of a dark power, doubtless the same one you seek to counter. A half dozen of us set out in as many directions to learn what that threat might be. I wound up here."
"Sounds like we are all working towards a common goal. You are welcome to travel with us as an ally." Balan concluded, extending his hand."
And that was how Aodh, the minstrel, became a member of their company of adventurers.
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