Elf-Boy and Friends
Chapter 32. Flower Boy
When his real interrogation began, Dahl had his story ready for the red-headed bitch.
Dahl spun her a tale, which actually had large elements of truth, the better to buttress its essential falsehood. He was quite candid about the ash trees and their connection with the Emerald Ash Borer. Knowing that bit of information would not give the Amazons any leverage with the world beyond their borders. The Ashokan Arcipelago was an insignificant state with no military potential at all and population of less than one-hundred thousand.
He said nothing about being a druid. No, this visit was simply a favor he was doing for a large shipping firm in exchange for free transport to this land. Their motivation? The shipping firm did not want to witness the destruction of the Ashokans or the abandonment of their conveniently situated ports. That would be bad for business.
"All right, that was their reason for sending you here, but what was yours for agreeing to come. What were you doing in this Ashokan Archipelago in the first place? What were you looking for?"
Here is where Dahl's tale departed sharply from reality. It seemed that Dahl was the scion of a family long established in the floral trade. They were plant breeders and horticulturalists who sold to nurseries and governments and to large collections of botanical specimens. His job, the job of every generation of sons who reached his age, was to go off on a two year voyage of exploration, both geographical and personal, to sow his wild oats, and to bring back exotic specimens as seeds, bulbs, or cuttings that they could propagate and sell profitably. Here was where Dahl's knowledge of plants and horticulture came in handy. Along with his green thumb as he demonstrated later on in the garden out back.
"We have no interest in the retail end of the trade, which is too dispersed for ease of control, too capital and land intensive, and with too many people problems.
His story worked. The Amazons changed tactics. Instead of ever crueler tortures, they switched to a charm offensive. Not as good as starting out nice in the first place, with the threat of worse as the next resort, but the tactic was worth a try. Anyway, that was what the new lady in charge wanted.
To start the new regime of kindness, they cleaned the boy up, nursed his hurts, and provided him with light and airy quarters including a soft feather bed. Large window openings let in the perfume of sweet smelling blossoms from the private garden out back. With three good meals a day and a daily swim in the creek out back, Dahl was soon restored to health, faster than his captors had expected. They did not realize that druidical magic was at work helping the process along as much as the young druid could risk without discovery.
That took care of food and shelter. Obviously clothing wasn't an option. He would remain nude, though they spared him the genital rings. That was how he had arrived, hadn't he, stark naked, dick swinging freely, quite against the dictates of modesty in the Land of the Amazons. Anyway young elves went about nude or "skin clad" for their first hundred years. Many did so all their lives, in that respect not so different from her own land or indeed most societies around the globe. Public nudity for male youth was the rule rather than the exception almost everywhere.
His new interrogator, Lady Seerah, Councilor Seerah to give her her proper title, reasoned that the way her red-headed daughter had started out so hard and heavy-handed had been the wrong tactic. The rule was first try nice. You could always get nasty later, if need be. Seerah could be hard when necessary but had no use for the wanton cruelty of her daughter. Either way they would find out the truth soon enough. The boy's story was plausible enough, but only time would prove whether it were true.
Anyway it seemed that this captive boy was no threat himself, maybe not even the harbinger of a threat, but he did have to be questioned. The land of the Amazons was so isolated, they knew little about the lands beyond the reeds. Debriefing this traveler was an obvious way of filling in some of the gaps in their knowledge. As for the boy himself, he was an enigma that needed unravelling, for the security of the state.
Seerah finally interviewed Dahl in his quarters.
"You don't know me, young outlander, but I am responsible for your change of fortune. My name is Seerah. I am one of the five Councilors who rule this land."
"Your face looks familiar, Lady Seerah."
"You must be thinking of my second daughter, Rentah, your original interrogator."
"Aah, yes, the young lady who likes to apply a riding crop to a helpless boy's bound balls."
At least the councilor had the grace to flush as she glanced down at the organs in question.
"Yes, as to that, I am sorry for what happened to you at first. My second daughter is headstrong and prefers, shall we say, direct methods."
"Whereas you prefer indirect ones."
"I hope that is not a sign of habitual impertinence on your part, young man. Things can change pretty quick around here!" she warned, eyes flashing.
"You are right, I was impertinent just now, and I should not have been. I apologize. Don't worry, habitual impertinence is not my department. Now with my friend Randell, that is a different story… "
"Very well. I hope you understand that had I known what was happening, I would have brought your… your… "
"Ordeal? Is that the word you are groping for."
"No. Ordeal is such an unpleasant word. Let's just say I would acted sooner to end your recent tribulations, that is a better word."
"Anyway, had I myself not been away on a tour upriver, well, I would have become cognizant of your situation much sooner."
In Dahl's mind that was so much diplomatic speak for "We tried nasty. Now we are trying nice, so at least pretend to believe me."
At Dahl's nod of polite acceptance of her transparent falsehood, she started to question him. Who was he, where was he from, why was he here? What was with the ash trees anyway?.
He told her, sticking to his prepared story about the flower trade and all. She recognized a slick sell when she heard it, but did not take offense. She decided that their verbal sparring might be fun. Here was someone she could fence with rhetorically, to talk to almost as with an equal. And he was a male, if you could believe it. Actually Rentah's father was the only other male she had ever respected. A good man, a fever had carried him off much too soon.
No, she would use her charm and her charms to get what she could from this pretty boy. Looking at him, she could hardly wait to take him to bed, but decided to hold off till they got better acquainted. That way, their tryst would seem less like a command performance than a joining of healthy bodies attracted to one another. Seerah was past mistress at this game.
Later, if the boy proved harmless, she would send him safely on his way, no hard feelings and with a bit of gold for his trouble. Seerah promised herself she would not let this engaging boy fall back into the clutches of her daughter. Even if Dahl proved to be a spy, she would have him killed suddenly, without warning, without fear or pain. He had had quite enough of that already, regardless. Seerah could be ruthless enough when she had to be, but she was never wantonly cruel. That was a weakness. Rentah's weakness in fact.
Rentah did not understand the difference between ruthlessness and outright cruelty. A ruthless person did bad things for a sane purpose such as to protect the state or loved ones. Cruel people did bad things for their own sake. They enjoyed the pain of others. That was both sick and wrongheaded. Thank the goddess that Rentah was only her second daughter. She made a mental note to warn her oldest Lavven to employ a second taster.
She would even set her people looking into this problem with the Emerald Ash Borer. Why not help a little country with their backs to the wall? From what the captive boy said, it could only help their foreign commerce.
As Dahl's dalliance with Seerah lengthened into many weeks, they grew quite fond of each other, regardless of the roles they had to play. The only serious difficulty was over sex, but even that was overcome.
The Amazon quickly discovered that Dahl not only was disinclined toward females, he simply could not perform normally with a woman, instantly wilting under pressure, as it were. Astoundingly, the strongest aphrodisiacs in their pharmacopeia had no effect whatever. Dahl simply used his magic to block their action and then purge his system of the drugs.
Seerarh was not interested fucking the sexy elf-boy with a strap-on cock. Instead Seerah used her captive for oral sex, taking her pleasure of the impossibly cute elf-boy with the exciting little body. Dahl responded strongly to her oral stimulation, erecting strongly and ejaculating copious amounts of semen, some of which the woman captured for artificial impregnation. It seemed he might soon engender sons and daughters in the Land of the Amazons. All the more reason then to overturn this unnatural system.
Under escort Dahl visited public gardens and nearby rural lands, supposedly in search of flowery biological specimens. He made a pretense of botanizing, carefully transcribing notes about locale and soil type and moisture, shade and sunlight and such. This was all part of his cover story. He gave no trouble to his guards. These enforcers were easy-going with their councillor's "flower boy" as they called him.
And then Dahl encountered his first brontothere, a huge beast that was happily raiding a truck garden on the outskirts of a town. Distraught male farm laborers were trying to drive it off with horns and trumpets and the banging of iron pots. The beast was magnificent in its disdain for the efforts of the puny humans even those who got quite close. The guards explained that though the beasts were hard to dissuade, they never got mean with humans nor attacked them unless someone tried to stick them with a spear, a fool's errand given their armored skins.
Which was when the Druid made a real contribution to the prosperity of the Amazons by relating what he had been told about how farmers in other countries built ditches around their farmlands to keep the beasts out of their fields and gardens. No fool she, Seerah immediately saw the wisdom of the practice and set her engineers to drawing up plans for a system of ditches and canals to keep the pesky brontotheres at bay without hurting or angering them. Bothersome though the beasts could be they kept the land blessedly free of large carnivores.
Dahl used his green thumb to improve the garden out back in every way. He wanted to leave Seerah something personal she would remember him by. He asked that the slops boy Paval be allowed to work with him in the garden. Once released from the gloom of the prison, the one-time slops boy bloomed. Good food and plenty of it, sunshine, fresh air, cheerful surroundings worked wonders on the physique and psyche of one who formerly languished in the dark but now flourished in the light of day. His skin went from pasty white to nut brown in a few weeks. Most of all, the boy had hope for the future. He was in no doubt whom he owed the nearly miraculous transformation of his life and his prospects.
Which was why Paval was so happy to spend so much of his time around his savior, the still mysterious figure who came from knew where. He never really bought Dahl's story, responding only with a non-committal "If you say so." anytime Dahl mentioned something about his supposed past. Illiterate and unsophisticated the boy might be but no dummy.
Naturally he never challenged Dahl on a story he considered preposterous. Not only from gratitude and love, but from caution, to protect his benefactor. Their quarters were in a large house adjacent to the palace whose walls no doubt were honeycombed with secret passages or listening tubes. He even found a couple of "secret passages", though Dahl told him they were just runs for the servants to come and go unobtrusively. Still it all went to prove that the walls had ears.
The two youths could be found many an afternoon working in the garden, just two bare-assed youths kneeling on the ground, browned cheeks resting on bare feet, lithe torsos bent over, genitals dangling between slender thighs, ribs and spinal bumps prominent as, trowel or short handled hoe in hand, they bent to their mundane tasks, firm muscles playing under their skin. The duo simply exuded vitality, two fine specimens of the human animal, bare and bronzed.
At fifteen Paval was a little young for Dahl, but he yearned for it so badly, the elf-boy took him to bed, teaching him as much as he could, handicapped as the local boy was by the cruel genital rings. Paval had learned to give head and enjoy it. Dahl returned the favor as much as he could, using his magic to slip his rings off the boy's imprisoned erection, bringing him to orgasm with something like normal pleasure. And Paval took to sucking and riding cock like he was born for it. He looked so happy these days. Dahl promised himself he would take the boy with him when he left and set him free. He hated having to reinstall the rings on the teenager after a night of pleasure.
Seerah turned out to be surprisingly well informed about the outside world. The rapids at the mouth of the Amazon had prevented large scale trade, not traders in small boats, books, wanderers and persons who were simply lost. She knew about the Commonwealth but knew it was no threat, nor did she harbor territorial ambitions for her own state. No, the four to five millions in the Land of the Amazons were all that its institutions could manage. She hoped to pass on to her daughters and their daughters the happy situation she had inherited from her ancestors, and so on, in perpetuity.
Unfortunately this was not to happen. Dahl had pieced the story together from the slanted histories in the palace libraries and from communications intercepts, as it were, from his animal agents. The situation in the Land of the Amazons was not natural. Nor was it of magical origin. It was a biological control. Certain herbs, taken together during pregnancy, ensured the birth of large females and small males. All else followed from that. Take that prop away, and the Amazons were in for a biological, social, and political revolution. Slow but inevitable. Give it three generations and all would be changed.
Dahl had already set things in motion, setting a slow acting blight upon the two rarer herbs in the birth control cocktail. By now it was unstoppable. He had learned that, for security reasons, only three gardens around the capital grew the herbs, which were quite different from their wild ancestors. Kill the herbs, kill Amazon society. Meanwhile he kept up his friendship with Seerah, one that was not entirely feigned. He genuinely liked the vivacious and intelligent woman.
Which made Dahl feel guilty even though he knew that what he was doing was right. No society should keep half its populace in a state of virtual slavery both physical and sexual. Whether it was women over men or men over women, like in some of the backward desert countries he had read about.
One day, came the good news he had been looking for. Seerah lead the elf-boy into the private garden and told him that the mystery of the Ash Borer was solved, and he was looking straight at the solution. She grinned as he puzzled over the ash trees in the garden, seeing nothing unusual. But then, there wouldn't be. The control species would be a natural part of the environment.
"Give up?" she giggled
"Yes, Seerah, I do. The suspense is painful. Tell me, please."
Delighted to help her friend she pointed to an epiphytic vine growing on the ash trees. It was not a parasite at all, deriving only physical support from the tree, which lifted its leaves into the sunlight. For the rest, the epiphyte derived nutrients from rain and the air. It seems that long ago, these plants, which always grew in association with trees like the ash, had developed a defense against borers of all kinds, and one the insects could not avoid by not eating the plants themselves. Tiny barbed thorns covered the stems and leaves. Borers crawling on the ash could not help coming into contact with the barbs of the epiphyte and be held fast till they died of dehydration. So an infestation never got out of hand.
"You are welcome to all the biological samples you can carry when you leave, sweet Dahlderon. I would have you remember me fondly."
That earned her a long kiss, one that would have turned romantic with other principals involved. Still she did love the press of his hard body to hers, even if the most important part was not hard at all, darn it.
Finally Dahl set out on his return journey with Paval, money, and his bogus notes and biological samples, both seed and cuttings. He reluctantly threw those over the side lest he somehow introduce another invasive species to the countries around the Inland Sea though he did save several botanical discoveries that would please the druids. The samples he really cared about were those of the epiphytic control species. He was confident that his cuttings should last long enough to arrive in the islands still viable. Indeed as a druid, he could guarantee it. As for the former slops boy, he had asked that Paval be released to him permanently and allowed to make a new life beyond the reeds. Title to the boy was in his hands the next day.
As his party emerged from the reeds and took passage on a barge down river Dahl handed Paval an important looking document. His companion was illiterate, but Dahl told him that the writing made him over as Dahl's property. The big red stamp and slanted writing at the bottom of the document set him free, forever. That included the boy's genitals, from which Dahl carefully removed the rings. Through tears of joy, the boy swore life-long gratitude and devotion.
Unfortunately, a second document reached its intended recipient rather sooner than planned. It was Dahl's confession to Seerah of what he had done, of what his moral sense had compelled him to do. He explained that he had carried out what he saw as his duty as a druid, despite the hurt he was inflicting on Seerah at a personal level.
She was devastated, both for herself and for her people. Devastated though not vengeful. That was Rentah's department.
Rentah sprang into action, organizing a pursuit force of several hundred of their best warriors. Her war boats quickly overtook the slow timber barge the fugitive travelled on. Seeing pursuers closing in, Dahl had the captain pull up to shore so Dahl could debark and draw them off. He unwisely left Paval aboard the barge thinking Rentah would ignore the barge and chase after him, Dahlderon the betrayer. He had not counted on her cruelty. In full view of the fleeing druid, she pulled up the the barge and took everyone aboard captive. Her first atrocity was to castrate Paval let him bleed a while before she gutted him and finally cut his head off. Then her soldiers slaughtered the crew.
Dahl turned into the jungle looking for a place to make a stand, knowing Rentah would pursue him. Unluckily an arrow caught him in his left thigh and another shaft gouged a furrow along his ribs but did not penetrate the chest cavity. He continued into the tangle of green, not trying to get away. He wanted the female warriors to surround him on open ground. The heedless Amazons came on implacably, hard at his heels, only to be brought up short when they found he was no longer running but calmly standing atop a low rise of ground, having taken the time to heal himself enough to stop bleeding.
Sure of their numbers, the women advanced, brandishing their weapons, shouting their hatred, confident that, with odds of four hundred to one and that one a small youth, wounded, naked, and unarmed except for a staff in his hand, the issue was a foregone conclusion. Suddenly they found themselves held in place, as vines came alive and motile runners and creepers wove their way around their lower limbs. This was a variation on the very trick Owain had used so long ago against the Frost Giants. With his victims fixed in place, the young druid went off in search of what he needed to carry out the second part of his plan for vengeance. For justice really, as he saw it.
Soon enough, he found just what he needed, a herd of thirty brontotheres grazing and browsing contentedly. Dahl addressed them politely and apologetically, asking for their help, making them understand that he was enlisting them reluctantly. He hoped none of them would take serious injury executing the task he was setting them. Vaulting aboard the herd leader Dahl straddled her neck and walked the herd toward the immobile Amazons who screamed in fear as they watched their doom approach. Dahl called out in a voice amplified by magic:
"Know then that I am Lord Dalderon, Dwarf-Friend and Journeyman Druid of the Exalted Order of the Druids of Haven, Envoy of the Druidic Council, and Dispenser of Justice: the High, the Middle, and the Low. For your crimes of wanton murder and cruelty, I sentence you to death."
Addressing his beasts, he raised his staff high and called out: "Charge!" He followed it with what he fancied was a fearsome war cry. The brontotheres did theirs much better, bellowing their challenge in with what sounded like a roar combined with the bell tones of a trumpet.
Now the charge of a herd of brontotheres is not done at a gallop. The best these ponderous beasts can manage is a fast shuffle. Still, the animals came on quickly and unstoppably, not bothering to fight the Amazons, just ramming their horns into them and stomping them into the earth. Dahl directed his beast at the red-haired leader of the Amazon army and had the satisfaction of seeing her gored by his mount then trampled underfoot, her corpse nearly unrecognizable as human as other brontotheres followed in his path.
It took several passes for the herd to get at the entire Amazon force but the whole battle, if it can be called that, was over in minutes. The druid thanked his new friends and released them to go about their business unscathed.
Dahl got the feeling that the animals had rather enjoyed the fight. One of the advantages of being over eight foot tall at the shoulder and weighing close to ten tons is that you got to stomp all over anyone you cared to, anytime you cared to try. Especially when you were in a herd and could gang up on foes. Brontotheres were not aggressive but they did like to have things their own way. There was something very heady about being the juggernauts of the jungle. So everyone else should just pick up and get out of their way, if you please -- or if you don't.
Besides the great beasts did not like the idea of armed humans ranging over country the brontotheres claimed as their own. Why next thing you knew, the pesky two legs would be moving in, building settlements, and there goes the neighborhood.
As for Dahl, in retrospect, despite the murders of Paval and the sailors on the barge, he retained one fond memory of that otherwise dreadful day as the first occasion he had bonded with brontotheres, the species which would, in time, become his totemic beast.
As for Owain, once he heard the tale, he was satisfied that Dahl was already a senior druid. Had he not met two challenges, first the ash borers, the second the unnatural social order among the Amazons. These successes proved that the elf-boy had not only the power and the grit needed for the role, but the moral fiber as well.
That is what it took to endure torture when you could have slain your tormentor with a thought with his bad belly-ache technique or a heart attack. Dahl's power level might not be up there with Owain's own and would not be for decades, but even though oriented to plants he had controlled a herd of brontotheres. And healed himself well enough to get back for professional attention.
Which was why the senior druid had asked Dahl to return to the Forest for advanced training in druidical powers even before his third formal challenge.
But that is another story.
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