Elf-Boy and Friends
Chapter 24. Apprentice Druids
After ten months of training, Dahl was finally making real progress in strengthening his powers both physical and magical. His physical strength was more than three times what he started with back home. If he thought his stamina was good before, it was nothing like the level he had now attained thanks to expanded lung capacity and greater efficiency in what natural philosophers would call gas exchange in the pockets of the lungs.
The elf-boy's senses had become incredibly acute. He eyesight was as keen as an eagle and he could see as well in the dark as a cat. The frequency range and sensitivity of his hearing was also at the level of a feline. It didn't hurt that he could cock his ears toward a sound much like a cat. Then there were his super-fast reflexes.
Training in unarmed combat and and with weapons using drills and repetition to engrave the basics in the apprentice druids' muscle memory. In times to come first decades and then centuries of training and practice and combat experience would hone their skills to levels far beyond anything mortals could attain in their few years of health and fitness. Now this practice effect was something Dahl had no trouble relating to. Once you thought about things, it was inevitable. Giants aside, senior druids were the most physically formidable bipeds on the planet, quite aside from their magic.
On the magical front, Dahl had finally internalized all that airy-fairy philosophy the druids had plied him with. Druids could tap into the base energy of the universe and turn it into free magical energy. As druids, they had a psychic bond with the living world. Druids could commune with all the higher animals, anything above slugs and snails and most insects, which could only be reached as a collectivity, an entire hive, for instance or a swarm of bees or a nest of ants. Also with complex plants, fungi as well as green plants. Lichens and mosses sedges and such were beyond their reach.
Druids could command many of the higher animals to do anything within their nature, which meant, for instance, that they couldn't make an antelope jump off a cliff and try to fly. Green plants responded to them readily. Owain had related further war stories in which he commanded vines, creepers, bamboo, brush and trees to great effect. The biggest surprise was that the Great Southern Forest was not just a collection of trees but a sentient entity itself, psychically alive and self-aware. Like a patron goddess, she protected the druids' home base deep in its interior.
"The story goes that in ages past a tyrant sent an army brandishing flaming torches to burn the forest to the ground. The trees lets them march in, laying about with their torches, igniting brush and younger trees. When it was too late to retreat, the forest called a rainstorm which darkened the sky and loosed a deluge to put out the flames. Of that army of more than four thousand men, not a single soldier made it back out alive."
"Wow!" Dahl and Xebrek breathed.
Besides the druids and their retainers, the forest was the home of small colonies of sprites, and sylphs who shunned crowds. The forest tolerated limited human intrusions at the margins but subtlety misdirected those who sought to penetrate further. Theses intrepid explorers always got lost and found themselves completely turned around heading back the way they had come.
Both trainees could now stimulate the growth of plants though Dahl was better at it. He could raise a pretty good barrier of thorn brake, though with considerable effort. He liked working with vines, using them to snare the unwary four footed denizens of the forest who were his test subjects. Needless to say, he always released them unharmed albeit unhappy about the interruption to their day. It was easy to make amends with herbivores, simply growing them with a snack of their favorite foodstuff, whether sweet alfalfa or tangy melon.
Xebrek excelled in controlling animals, which did not include unicorns, as Merry reminded him with a head butt one day when he was feeling his oats, tried it, and got a rebound headache for his trouble. The dwarf made a special effort at melding with cats and birds so as to perceive through their acute senses. Not that his own were not equally acute, but he could not be in two places at once, see out of the back of his head, or go aloft for a bird's eye view of things.
The apprentice druids, for by now they were reckoned to be such, also continued with their physical training. The elf-boy and the dwarf acquitted themselves well against other opponents. The one used his speed and agility, the second relied on sheer strength and a low center of gravity that baffled most opponents. Neither cared to be matched against each other.
"So Dahl, you find yourself confronting a bad guy, a dwarf much like Xebrek here. You are armed with quarterstaff. He carries shield and maul. What do you do?
"Throw the staff at him as a distraction then take to my heels and head for the hills. I am faster since I don't have all that muscle and bone to lug around."
Owain chuckled. "Taking off is exactly what you should do in most cases. But what if you couldn't run?"
Dahl shook his head. "Sorry, but I just don't see any way I can take him. He is just too strong."
"Normally you couldn't. So you have to use cunning. Here let me show you. I am your size, though admittedly twice your strength. But what I am going to show you, you could do yourself."
"No fair strangling me with a vine." Xebrek warned. "Or tripping me up."
"Wouldn't think of it." the senior druid replied with a predatory grin.
Taking Dahl's staff he told Xebrek to guard himself then charged straight at him. The dwarf crouched and set himself, thinking this would be easy. The druid had made the mistake of playing to all the dwarf's strengths. A step or so short of the immobile dwarf, the druid planted the end of the staff and vaulted right over him, landing lightly, whirled, then cracked Xebrek's thick skull with a thrust of the staff, though only hard enough to make his point. He could have laid Xebrek out or bashed his skull in entirely.
"Impressive," the dwarf admitted, "but what if I were expecting that move and turned even as you went over. I could block with my shield, then smash with my maul."
"Good thinking, but my avian sentinels would warn me to maintain my forward motion and put some distance between us."
Xebrek scowled and grumbled. "We agreed, no powers."
"But I didn't use my powers, not against you, not directly. Maintaining situational awareness is another thing entirely. I always have allies covering my back. By now it is second nature."
"Eyes in the back of your head." Dahl nodded his understanding.
Xebrek had to be satisfied with that.
He made a mental note to recruit standing allies of his own. Probably not birds though, not as sentinels. Cats were useful as secret agents but slept or roamed around too much to be reliable sentinels. He asked Dahl about it, who joked that the dwarf should look to moles to watch his back. Very funny.
What Xebrek needed was ground dwellers he felt an affinity for, creatures of the sun yet who made their burrows or warrens in the earth. Preferably a wide flung species. Ferrets were much like cats, cute and friendly enough but crepuscular in their habits, active only at dawn and dusk. Gophers were active by day and had the helpful habit of stationing sentries at the entrances to their burrows. Xebrek was sure he could work with that. Another good possibility was ground squirrels such as chipmunks and their relatives. The animals were ubiquitous and watched the skies as well as the ground.
The apprentice druids spent the evening quietly digesting supper, reading, and catching up on their correspondence. The Commonwealth mail service did not run all the way out to the Forest, but there were always travelers and merchants willing to carry letters to the next postal office on their itinerary. The twins and Aodh had written three times now, keeping the elf-boy posted on what was happening in their lives.
Dahl was proud of the part his friends had played in the recent war. He was half-ashamed he himself had sat that one out. This new kid Ran sounded like a fine lad, personable, hardworking, and sexy. Dahl would very much like to meet his fellow elf. Ran and the twins were back with their regiment, but all was quiet along the border. Aodh reported that he had never been happier. He made Dahl chortle recounting the antics and misadventures of his fellow feline, Esmeralda, the real mistress of the manor, if the truth were known.
All this was good news, but Dahl realized it was just the calm before the next storm.
Meanwhile Owain decided that Dahl needed some tutoring in the male love. With his decades of experience he quickly realized that, for all his enthusiasm and recent experience, the elf-boy was untutored in the amatory arts. Any boy, no matter how well self-taught, needed a grounding in anatomy, the psychology of attraction, and love-making technique to really get the most out of sex and to give as much back to his partner. The druid was just the teacher Dahl had not been looking for but really needed. The cute elf-boy had such potential. It was a shame the way simple ignorance was holding him back.
First came lessons about the anatomy of the male body especially below the waist. Dahl studied charts then tried simple exercises to increase his awareness of each of the muscles and organs in his nether regions. Most males never think about the specific muscles that control say urination, but you can sense them if you try. Voluntary control of their musculature down there was a first step in becoming a better lover.
As for the psychology of attraction, that was as much about flirtation and courting as about physical appearance, important as good looks were. Technique included both foreplay and post-coital behavior. Most males were really poor at the latter, often just dozing off right away.
Of course, theory and book learning could take you only so far. There was nothing like practical exercise to really master a subject. And Dahl had the good fortune to have a past master of the subject as his personal instructor. The senior druid drilled the boy repeatedly in every possible position (pun intended).
Dahl threw himself into his studies enthusiastically. Whether on his knees, on his back, on all fours, or straddling the druid's hips, he went at it with a will. He loved wrestling and grappling with the druid's sweaty body as they made love. For his part, Owain knew all of Dahl's erogenous zones. He knew just where and how to touch the elf-boy to get him aroused. He made it so that both participants enjoyed the ride. They made a fine looking couple, they did, human druid and elf-boy apprentice.
Still with so few druids available, Dahl's mentor was always being called away to deal with crises. Perhaps it was just as well that the two youthful lovers spent some time apart. It gave them breathing room. They spent so much time together as master and apprentice, teacher and student. In compensation Owain's absences left Dahl with more time to spend with the friends he had made locally, especially Xebrek.
It was strange how well the two of them had hit it off, given how different their backgrounds were. Elves live in sunlight, naked, in the warmth, in the bosom of nature, tending to green things. Dwarves live underground, in a cool even chilly environment, a dimly lit world of stone and went about clothed. At forty, the dwarf was twice Dahl's age. Once he got past Xebrek's natural reserve, Dahl realized that the dwarf had a good heart but was cautious in extending friendship to those not of his race.
Dwarves, or dwarrows as they called themselves in their own tongue, knew that many of those who dwelt in the sun were jealous of the riches his folk drew from the earth under territories they themselves claimed, on the surface at least. These surface folk convinced themselves that those riches rightfully belonged to themselves. Dwarves were supposed by the credulous to have hoards of gold, silver, orichalcum, and precious gems hidden away in their chthonian depths.
No one ever explained why these same hardworking dwarves, shrewd bargainers and businessmen, did not spend some of that wealth to improve their often hardscrabble lives. The truth is, any wealth the dwarves had came from their own hard work and ingenuity, not from some treasure trove. Why would dwarves hoard rare metals and precious gems, which were of little practical use, and not exchange them for things of real value with any surface dwellers foolish enough to prize such baubles?
Dahl also saw a good deal of Merry, at least when the unicorn wasn't away on a mission. Then when he got back from whatever it was he was doing, he was just as close-mouthed as the druid. Something was cooking, but what? Dahl had heard snippets of conversation about a project to construct or rather to grow a defensive barrier north of the Forest, but whatever was going one was all very hush-hush.
He was gratified with the development of his own physical powers. Thanks to his increased strength and stamina, Dahl found he could keep up with the unicorn on their distance runs, as long as his single-horned friend kept the pace down to a canter. With a gallop, forget about it.
The frequent assignations of the elf-boy and his unicorn friend took place in a specially constructed stall, sited off by itself amid plantings of sweet smelling flowering shrubs. The elf-boy laid himself down on a padded "filly rack" which ensured his comfort and safety during sexual congress with a species so different from his own in body form. The rack supported his weight on his hip bones and his arms and shoulders, allowing him to breathe freely while being covered by his equine lover. Hand grips and footrests provided a way not only to hang on, but to better control the positioning of his body as the unicorn thrust into him. The floor of the stall was padded in one corner to spare the elf-boy's knees when giving oral service.
Dahl thoroughly enjoyed sex with the unicorn. Merry's body was so large and so much stronger than his own puny elf-boy physique. That appealed to the elf-boy's need to submit, to being the passive partner, to allow himself to be penetrated by a male member of larger than usual proportions, which stimulated him to his own orgasm even as the equine filled the boy with his magical juices. For their part, the equine loved the special bond that only elf-boys can forge with a unicorn. Just the sight of his buttocks proffered as the boy lay stretched out on the filly rack aroused his lust. Those firm round buns and the delightful crevice between drew him, aroused him, and inspired him.
It was the best sex imaginable for the unicorn, once an elf-boy himself, to make it with a pretty little elf-boy like Dahlderon.
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