Elf Boy's Friends - II
"Pardon me, Sir Giant. Could you direct me to the Wayfarers' Inn?"
The huge townsman peered quizzically at his diminutive interlocutor.
"Hmm, I did hear that Old Arn had a notion to hire another human wine boy to serve drinks and to entertain his customers upstairs. I suppose you might be him, small though you are."
"What makes you think I'm a wine boy?"
"Well, for one thing, here you are running around town stark naked. Not that I object, mind you, quite the contrary. You are a cute little thing for sure, but while casual public nudity is common practice for youths in the Commonwealth proper, out here on the frontier and in a town inhabited mostly by Frost Giants it is not. And even dusty and sweaty as you are, I can see that your sexy little body is bronzed everywhere from the constant kiss of the sun, as such bare-assed boys are wont to be from almost constant exposure."
"In both senses of that word." he added smiling.
"Also your skin is utterly smooth -- with nary a feather anywhere -- not even at the fork of your legs, no doubt thanks to application of a depilatory compounded by elven alchemists. Throw in that impossibly cute face of yours with its fine-boned features and the sum of it is that you are likely a rent boy and a supremely desirable one at that. You certainly appeal to me. What do you say that once you get settled in, I call on you at Arn's place? Uh, and if I have jumped to the wrong conclusion about you, no offense pretty one."
"None taken, Sir Giant. Actually I get that a lot from strangers, so it's hardly a surprise anymore. I am acutely aware that with my slight build, androgynous look, and glabrous skin, I fall considerably short of normal male standards in height, muscular development, and secondary sexual characteristics like beard, body hair, and voice register. And that goes double around Frost Giants."
"But no, I am not a rent boy, nor even a boy anymore, not really. Despite appearances I am of age and as fully grown as I will ever be. I realize that I look to be no more than sixteen, but I am actually in my early twenties. And though at home I am entitled to wear a genital pouch or even a breechclout, I prefer total nudity day in and day out, except when on a work assignment."
"A work assignment, eh. What sort of work would that be, young one? From my years in the Commonwealth, I know that most young humans strip before sweaty work if they aren't already naked to begin with. They don't dress up for work."
"That is true, but in my case I work with my head not my hands. I am a journalist and war correspondent for the Capital Intelligencer, the most prominent news-paper in the Commonwealth, My byline is Drew Altair and my beat is national news and special features. When on assignment as a journalist, I always don a tunic for interviews and public events. Sober garb helps me be taken by my interlocutors as a serious journalist rather than be dismissed as a nosy bare-assed kid who asks too many questions."
"And for your information, I arrived in town just this afternoon, which is why I am all hot and sweaty and dusty and in the nude. You see, I made the entire journey on foot, alternately running, loping, trotting, and walking the whole way, leading a pony with my gear."
"That must have taken weeks. All that exertion explains the sculpted musculature on your wiry physique. Your stamina must be well above normal too."
"I expect it is. Anyway all my gear is back at the stable on the outskirts of town where I left my pony. You giants won't allow beasts of burden within the town's walls."
"Right you are about that. As you know, we giants are not equestrians. Our bodies are too large and heavy for a horse or mule. No, in town all hauling must be done with the ubiquitous hand carts you see around you, something easy enough for us giants, given our size and strength. Plus there is no mess or smell from animal droppings. Much better that way."
"I agree completely. I am quite impressed that you have already paved the streets with well-set flat stones even though your town of Flensborg is less than five years old."
The giant nodded.
"The paving lets carts roll freely, and they never get stuck in mud. They don't make much noise either with those new-fangled rubber tires on the wheels. We Frost Giants are a neat and orderly people, a trait we share with you humans of the Commonwealth and also the elves."
"Yes, I can see that. And the way to Old Arn's, if I may remind you, sir?"
"Yes, well his place lies just down the street and around the corner. I am heading that way myself so you can tag along with me, but I have to warn you that his inn caters to Frost Giants. The rooms and furniture are sized for patrons eight or nine feet tall, not for an undersized human boy. Why you can't stand more than five feet (152 cm), and I doubt you carry more than a hundred pounds on your slight frame."
"You have a keen eye and have my measure exactly. But no problem. Old Arn has set up a room sized for humans. You see, Arn is expecting me. We are old friends and comrades in arms during the recent war. I am proud to say that I fought at the Battle of the Ravine and stood with Old Arn and Young Finn in the Breach."
Wiping dust away, Drew turned his left shoulder to display the small blue tattoo which marked him as a Giant Friend, one to whom all giants would automatically extend their hospitality and protection. He had earned it helping Arn and Finn hold the breach against the centaurs till others rallied to them.
"Of course! You would be that Brave Little Fetcher who fought with us giants during the war against the centaurs. Your exploits at the Battle of the Ravine have been immortalized in paintings at Arn's inn which show you wielding those small steel spheres of yours against the centaurs, smashing their heads and splashing their brains all around."
Fetchers were those blessed with the magical gift of telekinesis and were able to move things by thought alone. Strong Fetchers like Drew could Lift or even Throw a man-high boulder without strain. In combat Drew wielded a pair of steel spheres about the size of a peach, sending them careening at and often right through his foes. Since they were so light, he could keep it up for hours.
Most members of intelligent races on the planet of Haven had one or two magical gifts such as Calling Light, Healing, a Green Thumb, or an Unerring Directional Sense. Other gifts such as Mind Speech, Fetching, and Firecasting were less common. The rarest gift of all was ability to wield many sorts of magic. That was the gift shared by war wizards and druids alike, despite their very different approaches to the magical arts.
The giant added:
"Understand, I myself didn't arrive here till the year after the conquest of New Varangia. Still everyone has heard the stories and seen the paintings at Arn's place. Welcome then young Drew Altair. Anything you need, just call on me. My name is Ragnar Svenson, I run a shipping line on the river from premises down by the docks. My place is easy to find. Just ask anyone down that way."
The oddly matched pair walked the few blocks to Arn's place of business, the Wayfarers' Inn, which was located on a sunny square with a public fountain in the middle. Awnings and newly-planted trees shaded the entrances to the shops and taverns that lined the square including the two-storey building with a sign proclaiming it the Wayfarers' Inn.
"There's your destination, young Altair. My own business takes me farther down this street. Good day to you."
"And to you Ragnar Svenson."
When Drew entered the Wayfarers' Inn through the wide open double doors, the buzz of conversation faltered as all eyes turned toward the newcomer. The common room was full of giants, all of them in a genial mood and plainly dressed in linen or silk trews and shirts. The faces of the patrons were friendly enough though most registered surprise at the appearance of a small, nude, and impossibly comely human youth in their favorite tavern. Others leered at him, obviously taking him for the new wine boy they had heard about.
"I'd pay a whole silver for a tumble with this new lad," one giant bragged to his drinking companions. "I've never seen a prettier youth."
"Yes you have, Donnar," Arn's deep voice growled as he walked up to the front. "Actually you've admired his image often enough," the proprietor added pointing up to the dramatic paintings hung on the walls.
The series of paintings portrayed the Battle at the Ravine between the Frost Giants and the centaurs, carnivorous alien monsters with six limbs that resembled a cross between an insect and a reptile, if such a thing can be imagined. During the battle, the press of the centaur attack opened a breach in the shield wall of the Frost Giants. Had they broken through in strength, their horde would have turned both flanks of the line held by the giants and rolled it up.
At that crucial moment Arn and his protege Finn Ragnarson surged forward using their shields and bodies to block the centaurs. Wielding their twelve foot spears they stabbed and slashed at their enemies for all they were worth. The pair held the breach long enough for others to rally to them. Their stand went down in history as that of "Old Arn and Young Finn in the Breach".
A series of three dramatic paintings portrayed the action. In the first picture, giants and centaurs in the front line go down in a tangle of flailing limbs and weapons, opening the breach. In the second picture Arn and Finn fight alone in the breach, holding back the centaurs by sheer courage and ferocity. The blades of their spears decapitate and eviscerate their enemies as a reserve force of giants rallies to them.
Drew has taken a position directly behind Arn and Finn and stands in the path of the centaur breakthrough. He wields his steel spheres with an unusual up and down or 'pile driver' motion to prevent potential fratricide among his allies. The motions of his fists help him concentrate as he smashes the death-dealing spheres through the bodies of the centaurs and into the ground only to raise them high again for the next strike.
Just behind the end of the shield wall and up the slope of the ravine, two splendid human youths send arrow after arrow over the shield wall to pick off the unit commanders of the centaurs, identifiable by the insignia painted on their chitinous armor, throwing their attack into confusion.
In the final picture, Drew goes back to controlling the flight of his spheres with his trademark 'shadow boxing' technique, sending them whirling through the heads and upper torsos of the foul creatures.
"Now that you mention it Arn, I can't see how I failed to recognize the lad. How many times have I sat here practically drooling as I fantasized about making love to that exquisite boy whom the artist, sensible of his audience, portrayed in the nude, historically inaccurate though it is. Uh, sorry Sir Drew Altair for my boorishness just now."
"Don't mention it. If anything I am flattered by your devotion, if I may call it that," Drew replied with a wink, drawing a chuckle from the Frost Giants. "And I am no knight but merely a lowly reserve ensign in Army of the Commonwealth of the Long River."
Old Arn smiled and drew the boy into a warm embrace then set him atop a table, then formally introduced him to his customers. Pointing to Drew's tattoo, he reminded the giants that, for his heroism, Drew had been declared a Giant Friend, a very rare honor indeed.
Picking up on that cue, Drew observed that the reason it was such a rare honor was that Frost Giants were so big and strong and tough that they could usually take care of themselves and seldom needed anyone else's help. That drew nods and murmurs of 'Hear, Hear' from Arn's clientele.
"I've sent for Finn. He's at work over at his lumber yard down by the docks." Arn told his young friend. "It's a new venture since you were last in New Varangia. He and his brother also own a sawmill and timber lands upriver which supply the cut lumber. Finn is doing quite well for himself these days."
"You must be doing all right yourself, Arn. This is quite a place you have here with a large taproom, a restaurant for sit-down dining, plus lodgings for travelers through a connecting door."
"And a brewery over by the river." Arn added.
"I hear your wine boys entertain guests upstairs. I mention it only because twice now I have been taken for your new wine boy."
"Which is only natural given that pretty face of yours and that trim and taut body which you habitually put totally on display. You are a vision of youthful male pulchritude, if I may wax poetic. Of course, the Wayfarers' Inn is a full-service sort of place. So naturally we offer cute boys of both races. And though we ourselves don't offer female companionship, we do point the way to establishments across the square where girls are available."
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