Elf Boy's Friends - I
"Say, isn't that the druid Dahlderon waiting with Count Klarendes at the gate of the manor?" Drew Altair asked, somewhat perplexed. "I thought he was on assignment to the continent of Karelia."
"Shh! That's a state secret, Drew." Artor admonished. "Don't repeat it anywhere, not even among friends. No till Dahl, Owen, and Merry get back."
"Get back? Then that isn't really Dahl with Klarendes yet that fellow looks like his identical twin. I mean I met Dahl only once. We spent three days together when the druids boosted my vitality with their healing magic. And anyway, where is Aodh? I am as much surprised not to find the little shapeshifter at the count's side."
"And thereby hangs a tale." Artor intoned cryptically.
Drew shot him a questioning look but realized he would get nothing out of Artor who wasn't a Dread Hand of the Commonwealth for nothing. Among the many qualities the Commonwealth's troubleshooters were known for was their close-mouthedness.
Klarendes greeted his son and heir Artor and his guest, the young journalist Drew Altair whom he had met twice before during interviews the count had granted some months earlier. Klarendes was also familiar with the Drew's reporting in the Capital Intelligencer.
In addition he had read Drew's new book with great interest. It was an extended account, illustrated with Drew's own sketches, of the recent war with the centaurs. Drew himself and Artor had fought heroically in two pitched battles against the creatures.
The account began with Finn Ragnarson's diplomatic approach to Klarendes, the peace talks with Lord Zaldor in the far North, the Long March of the Frost Giants across the Hot Lands and the Western Plains, the war of the Commonwealth and the Frost Giants allied against the centaurs which led to the latter's utter extermination, the emigration of thousands of Frost Giants from the Commonwealth to the newly conquered land they called New Varangia, and finally their early efforts to establish civilization in what had always been a hunting preserve for the carnivorous centaurs.
"No need to stand on ceremony with us, young Altair. Just set your kit in your room, make yourself comfortable, and come down for refreshments on the veranda."
That was an indirect way of saying that when Drew rejoined his host he would not be amiss showing up in the nude or skin-clad like the young druid or the count's spouse, the missing shapeshifter Aodh, or, by now, the young heir as well. When not professionally engaged Drew usually practiced total public nudity and not just during exercise or athletics. Whenever he was not on assignment Drew pranced around the capital with nary a stitch, not a breechclout, not even one of those genital pouches that he was now old enough to wear. Though eighteen, Drew looked a year or two younger because of his small stature and delicate features.
Casual public nudity was the usual thing among the youth and young men of the Commonwealth and most other lands and especially among male elves in their secluded vales. After a month in uniform, Drew was more than ready for an extended period of casual living, which was one reason why he had taken up his friend Artor's invitation to the spring festival in Elysion.
Another reason was his longing for the young shapeshifter. When they had met before, Drew was visiting Elysion in a professional capacity, so he refrained from making advances to Aodh. The fact is that Drew was strongly attracted to the exotic youth, spouse of the nobleman, sometime minstrel, and a wir or shapeshifter whose alternate form was that of a black panther. Nor did Aodh did seem indifferent to Drew's evident interest in him.
In his human form Aodh was so beautiful he took your breath away. Impossibly pretty, he was a melding of the innocent and the wanton, the epitome of a boy in the full bloom of his youth. Large green eyes dominated the stunning face of the androgynous youth which tapered from a wide brow down a pert nose to a narrow chin. Adding to his fey look, the wir was sloe-eyed, his orbs shaped like almonds and slanted faintly upward above prominent cheekbones. From there the planes of his face tapered to a small mouth with pouty lips just begging to be kissed and a sharp chin. Aodh's eyebrows bent in a angle rather than a round arch. The boy wore his hair in a shaggy cut with bangs and tapering sideburns that framed a face as cute as a kitten.
Small, skinny, and smooth muscled, standing five foot zero and only two pounds over a hundredweight, with a skin like porcelain, he looked utterly fragile and vulnerable. Actually, thanks to his magical nature, the epicene youth was twice as strong as he looked well as being a master of the martial arts.
"So do I call you Dahl or what?" Drew asked the young druid who wasn't one. "And am I right is guessing that you are really Aodh wearing someone else's form?"
"Correct, but you must call me Dahl to maintain the masquerade. My job is to give the impression that the druid Dahlderon is here in residence, working with the old manuscripts in the library and also regaining his mental equilibrium after a trying mission to the lands of the eastern barbarians. In a month or so, 'Dahl' will set forth on a mission and return next year for another visit."
"As to why the masquerade, the absence of three of the strongest druids on this continent might be seen as weakness. True there are now a score of druids all told, but most won't come into their full power for a century."
"I never knew you wirs could assume another human form!"
"That ability is not something we talk about much. We like to keep that trick up our sleeve, so to speak. The fewer who know about it, the more likely an impersonation will succeed. It might be the only way to escape from danger. Promise me I won't read anything about this in your newsletter for the Confraternities of the Gifted."
"Sure thing. My lips are sealed."
"I should explain that we wirs find it very difficult to master an extra form. The subject must be someone we know well, preferably intimately. And it has to be someone of the same mass. I could never impersonate the twins for instance since I cannot trade bulk for height."
"Right. Short and skinny as you are it has to be someone your own size. Someone our size really."
"With your permission, I hope to use you as a template too. Of course, I don't know you that well, Drew, not yet anyway, and certainly not intimately."
"We could remedy that, Aodh. If that is all right with you and Count Klarendes."
"Don't let any concern for me stop you," Klarendes said. My spouse is his own man and makes his own choices. I know that I am secure in his affections. I also know that we males crave variety. I can hardly expect a boy as highly sexed as Aodh is to be content with only a single partner for the centuries we can expect to share our lives. Besides, Aodh sees how much you fancy him, Drew. Your tongue practically hangs out whenever he's around."
"Am I really that obvious?" Drew asked.
"I'll take that for a rhetorical question." the count observed blandly. "So don't be surprised when Aodh slips into your room over the next few nights."
"I am looking forward to it." Drew declared fervently.
Just then Klarendes' other feline companion, the personable ginger cat Esmeralda, padded onto the veranda. Instead of going over to Klarendes she sniffed at the visitor and remembered his scent from his previous visits. Esmeralda jumped into Drew's lap, stood up on her hind legs, and rubbed the side of her face against his, marking him as one of her humans. Drew smiled and stroked her glossy coat.
In a stage whisper, and with a quick glance at Aodh, Artor said to him: "Let that be a lesson to you. Cats like to be petted."
Drew winked to show that he got the message.
That evening, as arranged, Drew made a production of being fatigued and went up to his room early. He stripped the bed of all but the bottom sheet and lay down. A half hour later Aodh slipped into the room, his nude body gleaming in the moonlight that streamed through the window.
"Aodh, tell me why you are sneaking around. It's not like our assignation is a secret.
"It's the feline in me. Prowling around at night is what we do."
"OK, just so long as you don't yowl like a feline when you make love."
Drew smiled as the beautiful boy settled beside him. Not giving Aodh a chance to take the lead, Drew rolled onto his side and laid a light kiss on he raven-haired boy's pouty lips then moved on to his chin and then his cheeks. Drew's right hand roamed over the exquisite body lying next to him, petting, and rubbing, and stroking, starting at the shoulders, then fingering the chevron of his ribs. Drew's thumb traced the depths of Aodh's navel, the blade of his left hip, and squeezed his butt cheek lightly. Aodh wriggled closer, his arms held loose at his sides to give Drew total access to his torso.
Drew's kisses migrated lower, first to the tiny red nipples which he licked and nibbled tantalizingly. Then his tongue explored Aodh's deep navel. The effect on the young wir was all too obvious as his cock swelled and turned red, engorged with blood. Drew touched the back of his hand to the sensitive area of the wir's inner thighs, drawing an intake of breath from the younger male as his legs spread involuntarily, opening himself for penetration.
Aodh's ball sac drew up tight to his body, the swollen cock cantilevered over his flat belly as Drew's tongue traced the vein of his cock from the balls up the shaft, lingering to flutter the tip at Drew's sweet spot. Meanwhile, Drew's fingers were probing Aodh's sweet hole, their entry eased by the sweet oil the boy had applied as a lubricant.
It wasn't long before the stimulation of cock and prostate had its predicable effect Aodh's seed spurted onto his chest and belly to the vocal accompaniment of oohs and has, moans and groans though Drew's ears were spared a genuine feline yowl. As the wir lay back in post-coital lassitude, Drew gently thumbed his deflating cock, rubbing the sweet spot with his thumb, making the boy shudder in erotic torment.
"Ooh, ooh, ah."
"Hurt too much? Do you want me to stop?"
"No. It's a good hurt. I only wish these feelings could last longer."
"I know exactly what you mean. This is why sex with another male is so satisfying. We know each other's bodies. I am so glad the count was willing to share you with me. He is quite the understanding spouse, Count Klarendes is."
"As am I, if you take my meaning, my pretty red-head."
"What? You don't mean the count actually fancies me?"
"And why should he not? We are much the same type aren't we: short and skinny and smooth and impossibly cute."
"I prefer to think of myself as lithe or gracile rather than skinny."
"Have it your way, Drew. Uh, I have to ask, does Taitos have a chance with you, Drew?"
"Now that you ask, I would have to say yes. His handsome face suggests both strength and warmth of character, and his body is strongly built. All that clean country living. Anyway, let's leave him for the future. Now is our time together, hopefully not just once like your brief tryst with Finn."
"Not to worry. I just had to try it out, having sex with a Frost Giant. At seventeen, Finn stood only six inches over six feet, so small enough for me to handle. Now someone the size of Old Arn, more than two foot taller, well forget about it. Besides, I fancy you at least as much as you fancy me. And it's not just looks. Personality and brains count too with both of us. In the brains department we complement each other, me more with maths and you more with words."
"And the twins are strong in both areas."
"Fine, but that is enough talk about other boys. Come here, you."
As Drew straddled him and impaled himself on Aodh's manhood, Aodh braced his legs and thrust away for all he was worth. Drew raised and lowered himself onto the rampant cock, shuddering and shivering with lust and delight. In the fullness of time, both lovers reached climax with Drew spurting his seed on the young wir's belly and chest. Afterwards, they lay together, their sweaty bodies glued together by his ejaculate as they lovers kissed sweetly and sighed their contentment.
The next morning, as he woke up next to the lovely boy he had frolicked with so happily the night before, Drew asked:
"So, Aodh, now that you have known me intimately are you ready to become my double?
Aodh shook his head and explained that imprinting the template of another human takes time. Even then, after the new form is learned, the transformation itself takes longer than usual and is more difficult. Also Aodh could not transform from that new form directly into a panther but must take on his true human form first. Two steps then instead of one to bring out the beast in him.
As for a true impersonation, one good enough to fool people who knew the model for the template, magic could do only so much. It took observation and mimicry to copy the walk, body language, voice, speech patterns, and mannerisms of another person. Still good enough to fool strangers was usually enough to slip through a dragnet that was looking for someone else entirely.
Over the next ten days, the young lovers were inseparable. The pair traipsed around around the valley often hand in hand, obviously young lovers who had just found each other. Both boys were visions of youthful male pulchritude blessed with exquisite fine-boned faces and trim and taut physiques which they put totally on display as neither bothered with clothing.
Aodh took Drew on the grand tour of Elysion. The secluded valley was shaped like a bowl about eight miles across, ringed by mountains and closed off to the east by vertiginous cliffs through which the river that drained these lands flowed through a deep ravine to the Eastern Plains beyond.
The dark green of the forested slopes was broken here and there by cleared areas cut for timber. Sheep meadows and vineyards on the lower slopes gave way to flatlands with pastures, orchards, grain fields, kitchen gardens, and other works of man.
Everything within the mountain ring was Klarendes property save the village in the center and the arable lands immediately around it: fields, orchards, pastures, and hay fields. Farmers were yeomen freeholders, owning their acres. The other villagers were free men who worked in shops or smithies or taverns or were in the direct employ of the domain itself at fair wages. Most owned their own homes though some rented rooms.
All of which explained the obvious harmony and prosperity Drew saw all around in the cheerful faces of children off to school and the cleanliness, vigor, and robust good health of the yeoman and artisans, and women folk.
The counts of Elysion no longer exacted feudal dues and hadn't for centuries. Their income came from exploiting the lands they personally owned which lay beyond the farms and included the timberlands and sheepfolds in the mountains, the well-tended vineyards on the hilly slopes, a small silver mine, and the scenic waterfall, site of a popular resort. The count also drew an income from his considerable real estate interests in nearby towns as well as other investments farther afield.
Like everyone else the counts paid local taxes levied by a council of elders for the upkeep of roads and bridges, for the provision of public services such as the school and the infirmary, and the maintenance of the fortifications at the head of the gorge that lead to the outside world.
"If only every place were as peaceful and prosperous as Elysion. The people here are very lucky."
"Well they work hard for it Drew. It doesn't just happen. Yes we have peace but war has come to these lands before and might do so again, hence the fortified gate at the cliffs which we call the Stone Castle. The barracks are empty but stand ready to house the Army of the Plains in case it needs Elysion as a redoubt. A warehouse stocks enough rations to feed ten thousand men for a hundred days."
"Speaking of war, I should tell you that I am researching another book, this one about the recent wars with the eastern barbarians. I got a lot of information from the twins and I hope to get more insights from both you and Count Klarendes while I am here. As for the druid you are impersonating, I interviewed Dahl and Merry about their adventures and took notes during our three days together. Lord Zaldor has graciously arranged for my free access to the state archives in the capital."
"So you are both a journalist and an historian, not to mention your recent turn at soldiering as 'the Fighting Fetcher of the Centaur War'."
"Please! I am trying to lived down the silly sobriquet which my publisher used to publicize my book, much to my chagrin."
"Your publisher. That would be your father."
After breakfast Aodh took Drew by the kennels to see Klarendes' gigantic Molossian hunting hounds. The kennels proper opened onto a area some five acres in extent entirely enclosed by bamboo to keep the rambunctious animals from running loose without supervision. Aodh led Drew through the gate and explained that the Molossian were friends with him even in his panther form. As if on cue, a couple of the hounds bounded over and licked his face. Aodh wrestled a bit with them, and, after a moment of hesitation, Drew joined in the genial rough-housing. Fierce as they could be in the hunt, Molossians had a reputation for being good with people and kids.
As they left the enclosure Drew reminded Aodh that he had never seen him transform so he asked Aodh to demonstrate. Aodh nodded.
His figure blurred as his outlines flowed and assumed new proportions. Within seconds, the pretty boy-toy whom Drew had bedded turned into a sleek black panther. Aodh leaped and ran around a bit then reared up and slashed the air with his claws, snarling to look fierce. Then he dropped down and morphed back into the Aodh Drew knew.
Affecting a supercilious attitude, Drew noted: "I expected a full-throated roar from you not just a snarl."
Aodh patiently explained that panthers simply could not roar. Their throats were not shaped for it.
"I'll bet if I hooked my claws into you, you would roar, all right!" the pretty wir teased.
"Hmm. I liked you better last night when you purred. Actually I was amazed that you could do it in your human form as well."
"Purring is one of our most endearing characteristics. We cats rely on our charm as much as our hunting skills to prosper among humans."
"Speaking of transformations, how do you juggle which form to wear, Dahl's or your own?"
"Folks are used to seeing me run off in my panther form on a hunting trip that might last several days. It is easy enough to slip back into the manor house at night with no one the wiser. The next morning, the druid 'Dahlderon' comes down to breakfast and sits on the veranda showing his face in public."
"It's not like we have genuine spies in our midst. We just want word to get out that a druid is in residence here. We have even planted stories in the local paper to that effect. Remember the Commonwealth's hegemony does not go unchallenged along the periphery of our sphere of influence. The eastern barbarians are always restless and dangerous in the successor states that have arisen from the ruins of the military-industrial nexus built by the life-leech Urloch. Then too there is that militaristic state in the far west which occupies Lord Zaldor's attention. Actually I am not up on the geopolitical challenges the Commonwealth faces. If you need to know more, talk with Taitos. He is the strategist in the family."
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