Elf-Boy and Friends
Chapter 10. Quiet Time
At the port city of Asheron the good ship Isobel reached the terminus of her run down the upper river. There the travelers had to transfer to a larger riverboat to navigate the lower river. Balan booked passage on a vessel sailing in three days' time. The layover gave them all a chance stretch their legs on dry land and to visit the picturesque town.
For the unicorn and his elf-boy the first thing on their agenda was a long overdue run in the countryside. The pair ran in the open country beyond the boundary stones that marked the limits of the urban area. Town law kept the countryside open and unbuilt over, reserving it for truck farms, dairy operations, feedlots, horse farms, woodlots, and the like. Well-maintained farm-to-market roads crisscrossed the rural lands. Many stretches were lined with shade trees.
Equines and humans alike are natural runners, each admirably adapted to run long distances, whether on four legs or two. The elongated limbs of equines leverage the power of their shoulder muscles and haunches. In humans and related races, the S curve of the spine allows for a fully upright posture, placing the trunk and center of gravity directly over the hips and legs. Unlike in quadrupeds, the shoulders of bipeds are wider than their hips so that the swinging or pumping of the arms counterbalances the torque that the legs apply to the torso, keeping the body moving forward in a straight line.
Also both species perspired freely to cope with the heat produced by prolonged exertion. In addition, Dahl had reached such a level of fitness that his body could shed heat by vasodilation, the expansion of the blood vessels under the skin, which transferred heat directly to the air flowing past him, lessening his need to sweat, and protecting him from dehydration.
Since both their species had evolved for running, it was no surprise how much both the elf-boy and the unicorn loved a good long run, each in its own way. Equines traditionally run to escape predators. Running meant survival and freedom from fear. That was true for early humans and elves too, but only up to a point. Humans are hunters and predators much more than they were ever prey, so for them running evokes the thrill of the hunt. Elves shared the evolutionary history of humans before wizards intervened to create that race.
Running gave Dahl the chance to test his limits, to exult in his youthful strength and stamina, and to assert his masculinity and physicality. Anyway he loved running for its own sake, His strides would take up the hypnotic rhythm of the long distance runner, scissoring metronomically as they carried him along, accompanied by the steady beat of his feet as they slapped the earth, eventually inducing that state of day dreaming and euphoria that moderns call the runners' high. Very therapeutic for one's mental equilibrium.
He also ran for the sheer physical pleasure of it, taking in great lungfuls of air with the expansion and contraction of his rib cage, pumping his arms to maintain balance, pushing off with the rear leg hard enough that he actually flew through the air very briefly before his front foot touched the ground. Dahl was light on his feet. He could run with his soles making only a light slapping sound as they virtually kissed the ground. That was certainly not true of Merry. When the unicorn run, there was no mistaking the drumbeat of his hooves or even the clop of a slow walk.
The elf-boy loved the way the wind whipped his mane about, framing his face and brushing his shoulders. It made him feel wild and wanton like a filly in heat out for a mating run with her stallion. Then there was the heat of the sun on his back and bare bum, which reminded him how very naked he was, a nude boy totally on display for anyone to see and to admire and hopefully lust after, like those cute farm lads who had waved to him as he ran past. Dahl was honest enough with himself to recognize his own vanity and exhibitionism. He liked any excuse to show off his trim athletic body with its lines flowing cleanly from shoulder to hip to ankle without the visual interruption of garments.
Their mind speech allowed the two runners to carry on a conversation without wasting breath. Given their different physical capabilities the elf-boy didn't even try to keep up the stallion. Instead Merry looped the boy, racing ahead a ways only to stop, turn around then run back completely past him only to spin around once more and catch the boy up. Merry loved to watch the boy running all out. His trim little body was never so alive, except during sex, with his arms pumping away, shoulder blades sliding back and forth, slender legs scissoring, not to mention the twitching and dimpling of his adorable butt cheeks. Merry claimed that running behind Dahl let him draft the front runner. Dahl just snorted at the notion that his own small body could create much of a draft for his much larger companion. Still it was better when Merry ran behind or to the side, sparing him from eating the unicorn's dust.
Two days later, after their final run, their stay ashore over, Merry and Dahl made their way up the gangway aboard the riverboat Myrrh, a vessel more than twice the size of the Isabel. When Dahl rejoined his friends on the promenade he found the giant Balan patiently answering yet another of an endless series of questions from those twin chatterboxes Jemsen and Karel. Not that the giant minded. Nothing gave Balan more pleasure than an excuse to launch into professorial mode. One of the chief delights of the twins was their intelligence. They were not just a pair of pretty faces.
"Balan, you seem to know everything." Jemsen asked. "Why are all the cities on the river sited just north of a swamp? Every single one. That cannot be accidental."
"It is not. Those swamps are artificial wetlands, built as part of their sanitary systems. Sewers in cities and towns never drain directly into the river, lest, in time, the river itself become one big sewer itself. Only storm drains carrying clean runoff feed into the river directly. To deal with sewerage each city selects a low lying area to its south or constructs one if necessary, then plants suitable grasses and sedges. Once the greenery is well along engineers flood the tract to create a self-sustaining wetland to which the city pipes its sanitary effluent. The wetland acts as a natural waste treatment facility. Dirty water flows almost imperceptibly down the gentle grade southwards, threading the reeds and grasses. Along the way natural processes purify and sweeten it. Collection canals then shunt the cleaned water back into the river. All done by gravity without pumps and with minimal human intervention."
"And all of it accomplished not with magic but with the knowledge and skills of the natural philosophers and engineers who devised the system in the first place, centuries ago. That and good governance that saw to the maintenance of the system over time."
His lecture finished, Balan left in search of a cool lager.
Aodh picked up the news sheet that the giant had left behind on his seat and caught up with events in the two weeks since the last issue. The latest innovation, these news sheets were woodblock texts printed on a single sheet of the cheapest paper, using the same technique employed to print playing cards and wallpaper. Drawing on two inventions, block printing and cheap paper made from wood pulp, news sheets had met with immediate public acceptance. No more having to stand in a crowd in the town square to crane a look at the single handwritten newsletter posted for public consumption or listen to someone reciting the text aloud, not necessarily that of a story you were interested in. News sheets had a circulation much larger than the number of copies sold. Each copy was passed from hand to hand till it fell apart. Already there was talk of expanding them to four pages in a folio format, with advertisements for extra revenue.
From what Aodh read, it seems the eastern barbarians were troublesome once again, raiding, killing, stealing livestock and carrying off every kind of portable wealth including captives destined for slavery. Speculation had it that the Commonwealth army would soon send out a punitive expedition, a reminder to the truculent tribes to keep to their side of the border.
"Bastards." the wir-boy couldn't help saying aloud.
"Who you talking about?" Jemsen asked.
"The eastern barbarians. More raids over the border to seize farm animals, harvests, and valuables from honest folk. They kill the men and rape the women, and leave their children to starve. It is a rite of passage for them, taking a head is a proof of manhood. Some farmer goes out to the fields in the morning; his wife or his kid later finds him dead, minus his head. Ghastly."
Just then Luxor. the ship's cat, clambered onto Aodh's lap then settled herself around his shoulders while he continued to read the next article about the latest political scandal. A svelte shorthair three years old, Luxor seldom paid attention to any of the passengers she encountered on her voyages, but here was one worth seeking out. Though the young wir never transformed while aboard ship, Luxor knew him for a kindred soul and sought his company, even sleeping in his bed at night, her light body draped across his ankles or snuggled up on his pillow. Ignoring ship's rules, the young minstrel smuggled choice bits from the dinner table to set out for his whiskered friend before retiring.
Meanwhile, the blond twins slid their deck chairs under a gauze canopy which gave just enough shade to blunt the fierce blaze of the sun. That and the steady head wind made the oppressive tropical heat bearable, though not enough to stop their sweating. Jemsen chatted desultorily with his brother till he realized that Karel had nodded off, making for a very one-sided conversation. After unsuccessfully trying to doze himself, he settled for watching the ever changing shapes of the puffy white clouds above, all the while stealing glances at the beautiful body lying next to him.
And such a lovely human body it was, the twin of his own: tanned, toned, taut -- all sculpted musculature: strong shoulders, well defined abdominal muscles, and narrow hips. No hair interrupted the flow of its faultless lines.
Jemsen was gratified that Karel's genitals (and his own) didn't have that shriveled look so many guys had. His cock was smooth not all gnarly with twisting veins. His genital organs were reasonably sized though he wouldn't be scaring the horses. It took both of his small hands to cover an erection, but only one when it was soft. That was just fine for a boy given to running across the countryside bare ass naked with his dangly bits jouncing about.
From his chair beside Karel Jemsen watched droplets of sweat form on the smooth tanned skin, each drop glistening in the sunlight like a tiny diamond. Growing larger, the droplets broke the surface tension that had held them in place and slid downhill, merging and collecting in rivulets in the channel between the pectorals and at the bottom of the hollow between his rib cage and hips.
The [very slightly] older twin sat up and swung himself around to face his sibling, reaching out to play with the sweat pooling in his twin's navel, tracing a circle with his index finger on that flat belly, finally bringing a taste of the salty fluid to his tongue. Next he pressed a spot on one side of Karel's belly to let the pool of sweat drain down his hip, only to watch the hollow slowly fill up again. This time he did not spill any of the salty fluid but lapped it up from his brother-lover's navel then kissed away beads of sweat on forehead, cheeks, and the tip of the nose, ending with a light kiss to each of Karel's nipples.
Dahl's cock tingled as he watched the languorous foreplay. He resisted the urge to reach down and stroke himself. He wished the other twin would wake up, but Karel dozed on oblivious of his brother's homage to his sex appeal. Dahl looked fondly at the twins. Is there anything more beautiful than a seventeen year old boy in the bloom of youth? And here there were two of them, identical twins. Jemsen and Karel were not only brothers, but also lovers, comrades in arms, and each other's best friend. He only hoped they both survived the dangers that undoubtedly lay ahead. They were so close, he didn't see how either twin could live on after the loss of the other.
That got the elf-boy thinking about mortality. He cast his unspoken thoughts to Merry. Dahl could now initiate contact, though as yet only with the unicorn.
<Listen, Merry, I was thinking. What a shame it is about the other boys. Magical creatures likes us: elves, unicorns, and giants, we have such long lives. Or will, assuming we win our fight against the Darkness. The twins don't have that to look forward to. Here they are, so very young, just starting out in life really, youthful and vital. Yet all too soon Aodh and the twins will age, lose their physical beauty, as they decline into old age and death. Surely they deserve better than that, considering the risks they all have undertaken to save the world.>
<Don't be concerned for Aodh, Dahl. He too is a magical creature and is effectively immortal and eternally youthful. In his case it works this way. When a being with a dual nature morphs from one shape to another his innate magic heals all wounds and cures any sickness, using the wir's own mental template of his physical state and health at a particular point in his life. Each transformation brings him back to that point, that particular age and state of well-being. So his transformations restore his youth, health, and beauty. Aodh will live indefinitely, staying forever young, until something drastic happens to him.>
<All right, I get it. Aodh and I will look sixteen indefinitely, but the twins will age from boys a few months short of eighteen, as they are now, to arthritic grey beards.>
<Perhaps not. When you come into your full powers as a druid, you may be able to extend their youth and their lives. Don't mention that to them though and raise false hopes. Also do not speak of it to the senior druids till you have proven yourself. Time then to call in favors.>
Their silent colloquy was interrupted by a rain shower. This time the downpour was cool rather than cold and fell without hail. The four twinks got to their feet, smiling at the welcome interruption. They raised their faces and their arms to nature's cleansing and cooling rains, letting the rain drum on their heads and chests. The refreshing waters flowing down their sides and their bellies, dividing around the prows of their proud cocks, sluicing down their cleavages. The youths joined hands and circled clockwise as if in a dance, all the while looked up at the rain clouds, blinking away the drops that fell onto their faces and plastered the hair to their heads.
For that moment they were just four happy youngsters without a care in the world or even the sense to come in out of the rain, like naughty boys taking perverse delight in deliberately stomping their way through a puddle rather than going around it, much to their mothers' consternation and dismay. Well mothers may grumble but isn't a certain degree of obstreperousness a boy's birthright?
Demure is for girls.
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