Elf-Boy and Friends
Chapter 41. Travels
The next morning the chief topic of conversation around the breakfast table was the Duel of the Titles, as the incident the previous evening would be called in local legend.
Aodh promised to compose a satirical ditty about the Duel and debut it at the summer festival. He also mentioned how gratified he was with his own modest title. As the legal spouse of a count, he already bore the courtesy title of Sir and thanked Balan for nominating him for one of the Commonwealth's orders of chivalry, as a reward for leading the spy mission. Once conferred by letters patent, Aodh's title of knighthood would become official.
"Sir Aodh!" I rather like the sound of that." [as always, he pronounced his name like the vowels in vein.]
"Oh, I don't know." Karel ventured. "I rather like the sound of Sir B or Sir C."
"Seriously though," Karel continued, "from what I heard yesterday it sounds like Dahl and Count Klarendes have considerable judicial powers. What exactly does all that mean, the High, the Middle, and the Low Justice?"
"Well Karel," began the nobleman. "It is like this. As Chief District Magistrate I sit in judgement on civil matters and on minor crimes and misdemeanors, which carry penalties of no more than a moderate fine, a year in jail, or equivalent public service. Anything beyond that, including capital crimes, constitutes the High Justice. Now my authority comes from the state, that is the government of the Commonwealth. In addition, by the laws of every realm, Druids like our friend Dahl have concurrent plenipotentiary authority across the globe. Should he choose to, a druid can bypass the local authorities and courts entirely. He can make his own judgments about guilt and innocence and impose penalties including capital punishment. Just look what Dahl did to that army of Amazons and to their entire society for that matter."
Balandur continued the explanation.
"As a Hand, I have unrestricted discretion too, but I am answerable to the Chief of the Hands and to the Ruling Council. We Hands always report our actions and decisions. I cannot remember the last time a Hand exceeded his authority and was disowned by his superiors. Not even when, as happened last year, one of us provoked two corrupt battalion commanders to attack him, which allowedim to settle the issue without all the bothersome procedures."
"You mean he killed them." Aodh stated flatly. Balan nodded.
"Lopped their heads off is what he did. In legitimate self-defense, I should add. Had the miscreants surrendered, they would have have had their day in court. Having said that, we Hands do sometimes commit murder to avoid nasty political consequences or to rectify miscarriages of justice. It comes with the job. None of us is a bloodthirsty sort. For one thing, we cannot afford to be. We need the willing cooperation of the civil and military officers of the state. These men and women cooperate with us readily -- not out of fear but because we can solve problems they themselves could not resolve with regular measures."
"Many is a time our investigations have cleared men and women who were unjustly accused or convicted. You would be surprised how often officers of the law make snap judgments, then stop trying to find out what really happened. Because they were sure they knew what had transpired and by whose hand the evil deed was done, they bent their efforts to building a case against the hapless accused. That meant putting the worst possible interpretation on ambiguous or incomplete evidence, ignoring other possible suspects and investigative leads, over-reliance on informants with axes to grind, and so forth."
"Very often such miscarriages of justice are the fault of local officials, demagogues really, clamoring for a quick arrest. Now a quick arrest is easy enough -- if you don't care about guilt and innocence. Just pick some plausible scapegoat and chivvy him down the road to a conviction."
"It falls to the Hands then to investigate miscarriages of justice and recommend commutation of sentence or pardons with compensation. That is one of my most satisfying duties. In one case I was sure of my facts but could not prove in a court of law that the local authorities were perfectly well aware that a man serving a long prison sentence was really innocent. The investigators in the constabulary and the local magistrate had taken bribes to convict him and to protect the guilty party, an influential landowner. I granted the convict a commutation of sentence and made him a financial settlement. The corrupt officials and the actual culprit later met with unfortunate accidents. I am quite good at arranging accidents, even if I do say so myself."
"Wow!" the youngsters breathed.
A year went by, pleasantly and largely uneventfully.
Although all the young males added a chronological year to their official ages, none of them aged physically thanks to the various magics which maintained their youth. Dahl and Aodh looked seventeen and sixteen respectively, the impish Ran fifteen or sixteen, the twins about eighteen, as did Owain. And all of them would stay that way for centuries. Thanks to his elven heritage Klarendes was unchanged as well. So were the long-lived giant, though he, like the count, looked like a man rather than a boy.
Dahl visited Elysion for a month. Klarendes graciously shared his boy with the young elven druid. The two younger males had been lovers before Aodh ever met the count, who was wise enough to see that Aodh's love for Dahl in no way diminished his bond with Klarendes. The two youths went swimming and canoeing at the lake, visited the scenic waterfall for which Elysion was famous, and even lent a hand when scholars examining the ancient henge of standing stones took ink rubbings of the carvings and dug exploratory trenches in search of artifacts. Quite a few of the local males took a fancy to these two nude youths of surpassing beauty and wished fervently they could bed one or both of them. Regardless of sexual fantasies, everyone thought they made a cute couple.
After that pleasant interlude, Dahl left to see how his friends the brontotheres were getting along. The young ones had matured and started to mate though there were no births as yet, given their long gestation period. The beasts were keeping to the transition zone between the mountains and the open plains. But then they liked to both graze and browse. The treeless grasslands where the sun beat down incessantly held little attraction for them. The ranchers were welcome to them. No signs either of incursions by Frost Giants or centaurs nor did he expect any for some years to come.
Dahl returned to the Commonwealth proper via the tunnel through the mountains connecting with riverboats sailing south to the mouth of the Long River and across the Great Inland Fresh Water Sea to check on his success in controlling an invasive species in the Ashokan Archipelago. Two years earlier Dahl had imported an epiphytic vine to control the Emerald Ash Borer which was destroying the forest cover and watersheds on the islands.
The twins and Ran, the so-called three twins, went on walkabout, visiting the lands around the Great Inland Fresh Water Sea before an extended visit with the druids of the Great Southern Forest. The Commonwealth financed their travels during which they were charged to update the very poor maps that existed of those regions. The small states along its shores had never let a survey team into their territory. The twins relied on their sense of direction and their magically enhanced skill at dead reckoning to establish reference points. They took detailed notes and drew sketch maps. From these they would later construct professional maps.
Their travels also took them to an enchanted vale inhabited by forest elves who dwelt in tree houses raised high off the ground to catch cooling breezes. Many of the trees and shrubs bore blossoms in season or at least were adorned with ornamental bracts or leaves. Babbling brooks threaded the whole area, supplying fresh water for gardens and for domestic use. A hot spring fed both baths and cooking basins. Ran introduced his game with the pie tin to the local youths who adopted it enthusiastically, both for the sport itself and for the chance it gave to show off the svelte and lissome bodies elven youths were noted for.
Later the trio visited the caverns of the dwarves of the Limestone Basin. Clever in business dealings, they had opened a portion of their scenic caves to visitors, creating a profitable tourist industry that offered tours, lodging, food and drink, and souvenirs like geodes and other mineral specimens and crystals as well as trinkets and memorabilia the dwarves themselves manufactured.
The dwarves feted the three dwarf-friends as visiting dignitaries. Of course, cordial as their welcome was, there was no spark between the boys and their hosts the dwarves. Things were quite different with the elves. The social calendars of all three visitors were full during their sojourn in the vale of the elves. The local boys and adult elves could not believe their luck. Three blonds at once had come calling! They buzzed around the trio like bees around honey.
The only sour note was that sounded upon their arrival in the vale. The fastidious elves insisted that human visitors undergo a thorough purging and cleansing, inside and out. The twins had undergone this once before, but had assumed that, as they were now elf-friends, that rule no longer applied to them. Unfortunately it did. Nothing personal of course. Willy nilly, the twins had to comply.
They were handed over to four bath attendants who looked to be in their mid-teens, though with elves age was hard to tell. All four were cute lads whose eyes sparkled with more than a hint of mischief, a predilection that was borne out by the enthusiasm with which they carried out their duties. First they had the twins kneel with a bucket set in front of each. The attendants tickled the inside of the twins' throats to make them upchuck the contents of their stomachs. Then they had to swallow a purgative which ensured that their stomachs were entirely empty. A draught of cool spring cleansed their palates and settled their stomachs. After that, the attendants twice filled the the boys' bottoms with a warm enema which made them evacuate their bowels explosively. After this rather unpleasant episode came a bath which featured a good deal of hard scrubbing with soap and pumice stones.
A much more pleasant phase followed. The boyish bath attendants rubbed sweet smelling oils into their skin, taking care not to miss any nooks or crannies. Their attentions to the twins' manly parts produced a predictable reaction. Actually that part was a lot of fun. The bath boys helped the young humans out, relieving their arousals with their oral ministrations. All four attendants were cute kids, but then they were elves, weren't they.
Lastly the twins' heads were clipped extra short. True, the boys normally went about close-cropped, but this was ridiculous. Ran pointed at the hapless pair then laughed and laughed, holding his ribs.
"You should see yourselves, my friends, your skin are practically glowing red from the abrasive action of the pumice ,and you have little more than fuzz on your skulls. How fortunate it is, that I, as an elf, am exempt from such indignities."
"Isn't that because our hosts didn't realize that you were one-quarter human? Now since you thought to tease us in our time of tribulation, I am thinking we ought to correct that particular oversight. Bath boys, seize him!"
Poor Ran struggled uselessly, his tiny body snatched up by the four attendants, gleeful to have another victim to work on. Since he wore his dark blond locks a bit longer than the twins, he looked that much more forlorn afterwards, his shorn locks littering the floor. After which he suffered one personal indignity after another just like the twins had till he too was glowing with oils and good health.
That aside, their sojourn with the elves was a lot of fun. The ate well, slept late, and frolicked with the lively elves. Though the twins also got serious studying maps the elves kept in their libraries, that left plenty of time for fun and frolic in congenial surroundings. Virtually everyone offered hospitality to them as elf-friends. Singly or together, the twins and Ran had some of the best sex ever.
Finally the trio traveled to the stronghold of the druids and settled in for a long stay.
"You mean the Forest would not mind if we brought a deer down with our bows" Jemsen asked Owain at breakfast one morning.
"Not at all, as long as it was for food and not merely for sport. The Forest holds sentient species like ours to a higher standard that the animals. Nature is red in tooth and claw. Cats and shrews and wolverines often kill wantonly, but then they do not know any better, being driven by their instincts. Only sentient species are morally responsible for wanton killing."
The twins took the opportunity to improve their field craft under the tutelage of the druids. No one could track like a druid or knew the use of medicinal plants whether growing wild or in herb gardens. They also knew which ones were poisonous, and the best remedies to counter them.
Since the boys were now as long lived as their friends, the druids shared some of their philosophy and practical wisdom for living on when others you have befriended start dying on you. In time the twins expected those losses would include their friend Arik and the twins' kin in their native village. The twins resolved to make at least one more trip there before their own unchanging youth was noticed and provoked jealousy. Even a level-headed sort like their uncle might wonder why them and not himself. It was only human nature.
Jemsen, Karel and Ran were socially popular among the druids. Their sexy bodies and cute faces and outgoing personalities made for a welcome change of pace. The stronghold of the druids was a cheery place during the visit, though by the end, some of the older druids were glad to see or rather hear the end of the twins' endless questions. Didn't those two kids ever shut up?
Ran, scamp that he was, kept a running total of the druids he bedded, announcing at the end of their visit that only seven of twenty has escaped his net, three of whom were away on various missions. The other four preferred to consort exclusively with females. Their loss really, in Ran's not so humble estimation.
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