Elf-Boy and Friends
Chapter 15. The Twins
"Since when has the Army taken to robbing the cradle, Chief? Surely that pair of wet-nosed kids heading our way cannot be the new recruits HQ is sending over?"
The grizzled Chief of Scouts gave his sergeant his most lugubrious look. "Sadly, my friend, that would seem to be the case. We have been tasked to turn these younglings into trained scouts, as unpromising as the raw material seems to be on first impression."
"Well, if nothing else, those two cuties can warm our beds at night." the corporal chuckled. "We won't even have to strip the clothes off 'em. They're already naked."
"None of that now, Borden. You know the rules. No fraternization between superior and subordinate. It has been deemed by the highest authorities to be prejudicial to good order and discipline."
"And a good rule it was for the Army, Chief, but these days we are civilian scouts, just like those twin visions of youthful male pulchritude walking toward us. Here there come now, in all their glory."
The older man appreciated his subordinate's point of view, but he intended all his scouts to follow what he thought was an eminently sensible rule. So the two blond boys would be off limits to both senior scouts. The Chief turned his full attention to the recruits as Jemsen and Karel stopped a little short of his position, stood to attention, and executed inept salutes.
"Recruits Jemsen and Karel reporting for duty, sir."
"At ease! I am Chief of Scouts Wroclaw. That's W-R-O-C-L-A-W. This is Sergeant Borden who will have charge of your training."
"Sergeant Borden, mark down proper saluting as the first thing these recruits have to learn. Now, let's see what else there is."
"Boys, it says here in your orders that you are expert archers, hunters, and trackers, and were trained with both quarterstaff and kukri. All well and good, though we will test you on those skills. Now can either of you ride a horse?"
The twins shook their heads.
"Too bad. The Army of the Plains is mostly cavalry and we scouts need to ride to keep ahead of it, though in forest or mountains, you would dismount and scout on foot."
"On foot, we could handle that already. Been doing it for years over all sorts of terrain." Jemsen assured him.
Wroclaw questioned them further, learning that they could read and write and figure and knew enough geometry and trigonometry to draw maps. The boys showed him the maps they had made of their journey across the continent based on Karel's journal notes. The maps and journal themselves were going with Aodh to Klarendes' library at Elysion for safekeeping.
Impressed despite himself, the Chief was even happier when they told him that their magical gift was absolute direction. It was quite a rare gift though usually of little value in most trades and professions. For a military scout it was a perfect match. That left the Chief feeling quite pleased, which showed on his face enough to put his new recruits at their ease.
"Quite the talented fellows, eh Borden?" the Chief said benignly. The sergeant nodded then put a question of his own to the twins.
"Right, Chief. Uh, kids, You must have heard that we don't prescribe uniforms in the scouts. But I do have to ask, is there any particular reason you kids are running around starkers?"
For answer the twins showed them the tattoos marking them as elf-friends. The Chief tsk-tsked.
"Ah yes, elves. Not much use for clothing with that bunch of pretty boys, that's for sure. Take it from an old campaigner, it's okay to ride bare-ass and bareback a little ways to water your horse or to bathe him. On long rides you will soon find yourself wishing for something between your skin and the saddle or the stiff hair on the back on your horse if you are bareback. Nothing like a pair of silk trews to prevent chaffing the skin off your butt and your thighs. And what about a cloak when you are on foot?"
"What for? We have no problem getting wet when it rains. It just cools us off." Jemsen said, speaking for both twins."
"Maybe so, but if you have to push through a thorn-brake or a briar patch or a swath of saw grass, you're gonna wish you had something between your skin and all those sharp points and edges. Now a silk cloak is light as a feather, folds into a small packet, and is as good as leather armor against thorns and burrs and thistles and such. With your blond hair, you will find the hood useful too when you are trying to sneak around. Nothing stands out against the green of forest and field like a flash of yellow. It's also useful as a ground sheet."
"I see you are skeptical. Well, let me tell you a story…"
As the veteran scout prepared to launch into what must be an oft-told tale, his sergeant looked over at the boys and rolled his eyes.
"I knew a fella once. He always wore loose silk trews like mine. Took an arrow in the thigh, a war arrow with barbs so we didn't want to yank it back out lest we tear the wound even worse. We didn't try to push the arrow through for fear the edges would cut a main artery. Instead we gathered the silk fabric of his trews and slowly drew the arrow back out. With that tough silk all around it, the barbs on the arrowhead could not snag on his flesh on the way back out. So we got the arrow out of him slick as you please."
"And this man, he lived?"
"Well, no." Wroclaw admitted, frowning. "Just his bad luck that the arrowhead had cut the artery going in but then held the blood vessel closed by pressing it against the bone. Ironically that was the only thing keeping him alive. Once we removed the arrow, the man bled out in a blink before a chirurgeon could do anything for him. The point of the story is not the man's untimely demise but that silk acts like armor against points. Which is why I wear both silk trews and shirt."
"I see. Then what is that coat of mail for, sir" Karel asked pointedly.
"Harrumph. It so happens, youngster, that mail protects against slashes just like silk does against thrusts and points. You see, the long edge of the blade falls across several overlapping metal scales distributing its force. A point may strike and penetrate a single scale, hence the silk next to my skin under the scale armor. Understand?" he said rather huffily.
This from both twins.
With a nod to his sergeant to carry on, Chief Wroclaw turned and headed over to headquarters.
"Young whippersnappers!" the grizzled veteran grumbled on the way there. Meanwhile the sergeant spoke to the twins clapping Karel on the shoulder companionably.
"Thanks, kid. The Chief is a good man and you can learn a lot from him. Still, he tells that lame story to every recruit. You're the first to ever get the better of him. About time, I'd say, but don't quote me."
They all smiled.
Now boys, either of you ever fly in a kite?"
"Did you say fly IN a kite, Sergeant?"
"Yes, I did. You see, we strap scouts to big box kites and send them aloft for a better view of the country. Sorta like sending a sailor up the the mast to the crow's nest. Of course, it's not just anyone we send up. It has to be the lightweight slender sort such as yourselves."
"Er, how high are we talking about, Sergeant."
"Oh, one or two hundred man heights, that's all," he remarked ever so casually, though exaggerating by a factor of three.
The twins exchanged pained looks.
"Don't worry, lads." he assured them expansively. "The Chief and I will soon have you riding the winds like hawks, soaring above earthbound mortals, masters of all you survey."
Borden then took the twins around the camp to show them the barracks, the mess hall, the training grounds and ranges, baths, jakes, etc. They stopped off at the sutlers's so the twins could outfit themselves with silk trews and cloaks. Sergeant Borden had convinced the twins that the advice of the Chief of Scouts was sound. Their new kit was ultra-lightweight and fit easily into the small packs hung from the hooks at the end of their quarterstaffs.
At the barracks area the sergeant introduced the twins to the veteran scouts. Their keen memories helped there, letting them put names to faces after only the one meeting. For their part, the twins got that skeptical looking over which experienced men always give to newcomers. The twins knew they would have to prove themselves to these tough men before being accepted as one of them. It didn't help that, besides the normal reservations anyone would have toward a newcomer they also had to overcome the disdain that many men have for young males blessed with pretty boy good looks. Young as they were, just eighteen, slight in build, naked and glabrous, without a stitch or a feather on them anywhere, not even at the fork of the legs, and looking entirely too comely for a proper male, the twins had their work cut out for them. The fact is they looked entirely too much like rent boys and entirely too little like men of action.
The sergeant asked the twins to step over to the archery range to show what they could do with bow and arrow. Every scout in camp went along to watch. That gave the twins a chance to show their mettle. Practiced with the long bow since they were little kids, and with their magical gift, the twins put arrow after arrow into the black center of the target even at the longest range.
The sergeant also had them show what they could do with their staffs, first sparring with each other, then with the veteran scouts wielding a variety of practice or blunted weapons. Jemsen and Karel acquitted themselves well. They had had a good teacher in Balan. Months of practice under his tutelage plus real combat experience had honed their skills to a respectable level. Based on what he had seen, the sergeant devised a training schedule for the new recruits emphasizing horse riding, codes and cyphers, and military customs and organization. Kite flying would come later, much to the relief of the new recruits.
Afterwards, as they all sat around a cook fire to get better acquainted, the twins talked about how, as hunters, they had shot dire wolves and brown bears, and even the occasional jaguar though they mostly sought deer and elk for their meat and hides. Karel mentioned how they had used silvered arrows against the pack of Trackers, though it took the giant and the unicorn to finally put the beasts down. No reflection on the lads. Everyone knew that the minions of evil like Trackers were very hard to kill. The twins also described their ambush of the black riders on the Western Plains, winning the respect of the other scouts These lads had been in a real fight and had slain human foes. No shrinking violets here.
From their fellow scouts, the twins learned that real trouble was brewing in the east. This time the barbarians might not be content with hit and run raids. Their next push might be an all-out invasion followed by the settlement of large numbers barbarians on the plains. That was why the scouts would soon move forward to give early warning of any incursions. The army did not want to wait for smoke from burning ranches and towns to know that the enemy was on the loose.
Mindful of what they said and careful to make a good first impression, the twins dialed back their normal ebullience, trying to come across to the older scouts as level-headed and respectful of their experience and long service. They did not want a reputation as callow know-it-alls. Instead they asked intelligent questions that showed that they were eager to learn from those who knew the score.
The veteran scouts were impressed by their good attitude though they would learn soon enough what chatterboxes the twins could be and how their curiosity would lead the twins to plague those around them with endless questions. But good questions.
The barracks were little more than a double canopy of cloth stretched over a rectangular frame. Its bamboo walls rose only halfway to the roof. That let breezes in, but there was no privacy. Each of them had a footlocker for his gear. Not that theft was much of a concern. Military justice came down hard on thieves.
It was obvious from their hungry looks that more than a few of the scouts fancied the twins, so totally on display before them. Others had slaked their lusts earlier. The second street beyond the main gate was lined with houses of joy with offerings for all persuasions. (The first street was all drinking establishments.)
The twins occupied two sturdy cots which they had pushed together. They politely but firmly discouraged any notion of fraternization, saying that the two of them preferred to keep themselves to themselves.
Left unsaid was that the twins were spoiled for the very best in male sex. Their usual bedmates were a giant, a lovely elf-boy, an exotic wir-panther, and each other. In simple terms, these rough looking scouts were just too plain and too ordinary to interest the twins. When your normal fare was meat and potatoes, why would you settle for gruel?
The older scouts had to content themselves with looking on as the twins went at it of an evening, uninhibited by their impromptu audiences who were treated nightly to a joining of slender tanned bodies, limbs entwined in every possible position of male lovemaking, throbbing organs seeking welcoming holes, and the essence of the male spurting from turgid members.
Yet somehow, afterwards, the twins looked so innocent, lying together in sleep, their pretty features relaxed in slumber, two supremely lovely exemplars of youthful male beauty.
Before retiring Karel took the time to update his new journal with his impressions of their first day. Inevitably he grumbled about the spelling of the chief scout's name.
"Can you believe that, Jemsen. The Chief pronounces his name something like Vrotswaf but spells it Wroclaw. Isn't the point of an alphabet to let people write things down exactly as they speak?"
An old story to Jemsen. Karel's brother just shook his head.
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