Elf Boy's Friends - III
"Sir Willet, I hate to bother you this late in the afternoon when you are getting ready to leave the institute, but there is a boy in the outer office whom you really should meet. It looks like he has the gift of wizardry. First off he has those wizards' eyes…
"Yes, yes, Axel," the war wizard replied, impatient with the importuning of his young aide. "You know perfectly well that many whose eyes are of different colors never manifest the wizardly gift. That is an all too common misconception."
"Anyway, how did this boy get past the guards? People cannot just walk into the Institute of Wizardry. And why has he presented himself here, at our office door?"
"This boy has a letter of introduction from your protege, that cute fetcher Drew Altair."
"Ah, the fellow red-head who caught your fancy. And has this new boy done so as well?"
At only seventeen, short, fair, with hair the color of copper, and extremely boyish looking, Axel was young for his job as an aide to a war wizard of the Commonwealth, but Sir Willet Hanford wanted someone with the energy of youth to keep up with him when they went out in the field, both for training or on a mission.
Thanks to his own magically enhanced vitality, Sir Willet could look forward to five or six centuries of health and vigor, the only sign of his first five decades some laugh lines around the eyes and a touch of grey at the temples in his otherwise dark brown hair. With Axel still in his teens, his new aide would be around for a good long while.
"That's just it sir. This boy's eyes shine with the silver light of the moon-glow."
"I see. In that case you were correct to insist that I meet him. By all means, Axel, send the boy in and thank you."
The visitor entered and introduced himself as Liam, a native of the Western Plains, until recently a driver of a mail coach out of Flensborg, the capital of New Varangia. He handed the wizard Drew Altair's letter. Sir Willet read it then studied his visitor.
Liam was dressed in a green sarong, sandals, and a buckskin vest nearly the color of his sun bronzed skin. Small and lacking buttons or ties, the vest was more an accessory than a garment, barely covering his pectorals and leaving his midriff bare. Yet somehow the outfit managed to look both classy and sexy at the same time.
Liam was a well-set up lad with a fine healthy body. Just under medium height and on the slender side but with a strong upper storey, he had wide shoulders and muscled arms from handling teams of four for a living.
He was blessed with good looks too. Liam was a real raven-haired beauty though you would describe him as pretty rather than handsome. His fine-boned features were accented by a light sprinkling of freckles. His was one of those open and honest faces seemingly without guile. And yes, his left eye was blue and the right one brown, and there was no doubt about the moon-glow. All in all the boy made a very good impression on the wizard.
"I sense great possibilities in you, young man, though only time will tell how far you go. You come well recommended. Drew Altair is a leader in the community of the gifted. His newsletter has generated great interest in magical gifts."
"The Institute of Wizardry advances the magical arts through teaching, research, and publications. As a senior war wizard I am in a position to offer you a student internship here, working for and studying under me. The job involves occasional travel and comes with a decent stipend of a hundred silvers a month. What do you say?"
"I accept most willingly, Sir Willet. My gift has just started to manifest, and I am afraid I know little about magic save what everyone knows: that most people on Haven have one or two magical gifts though most are modest like Calling Light or a Green Thumb."
"Wizards are sometimes described as having many gifts, but what we really have is a single strong and versatile gift, one which lets us work many kinds of magic. It just looks like multiple gifts. I myself could be considered a Firecaster and Fetcher and a Water Wizard all rolled into one, plus a measure of both Weather magic and Earth magic as well, enough to teach you anyway. As with all wizards, the moon-glow gives us the ability to see in the dark, or rather in dim light like a cat."
"In addition to the gifts that manifest by themselves in our youth, there are magical abilities which we wizards can acquire through study and mental disciplines such as Concealment, our so-called Missile Shield, and white fire, which is quite distinct from regular firecasting."
"You have already met my aide Axel Wilde. You will be working with both of us so try to get to know him. Axel is helpful and personable."
He too has several gifts, all modest but quite useful. Like many persons Axel can Call Light, but his balls of illumination persist for hours without his attention and will hover where he sets them even when he moves away. Thanks to his gift of Unerring Direction Axel is also the perfect guide. Show him a destination on a map, and he can lead you straight there. He never loses his way."
"I don't have that particular gift sir, but living the life of a nomad I learned to find my way in the wilds. And as a coach driver I learned to use the Commonwealth's maps."
"Excellent. Between the two of you, I won't have to worry about getting lost in the field, which can be embarrassing to a war wizard, believe me. I can read a map all right, but only for planning purposes. I find it hard to relate what is on the map to actual terrain. All of which makes me terrible at what the Army grandly calls the Art of Land Navigation."
"I should add that Axel is blessed with a type of eidetic memory. He never forgets anything he has read or written down and retains almost total recall of the spoken word too, for long enough to transcribe what he has heard. This gift is tied to language. It does not extend to events."
"As for his non-magical gifts, Axel writes with the clearest hand I have ever seen. Thanks to his abilities, I can dictate a letter which he transcribes flawlessly and with perfect legibility. Or I dictate a draft of an article for our journal then edit his transcription — not for any errors on his part, you understand — but for changes or additions that occur to me as I look it over. My old mentor once told me that there is no such thing as good writing, only good re-writing."
"In the five short months he has worked here Alex has become indispensable. I wonder now how I ever got along without him.
"Now we will have to find you a place to live."
"Actually I already have one."
Liam explained that he had just that morning settled into the guest room of the suite leased by the twins Jemsen and Karel in a residential hotel not far off. The arrangement included housekeeping and meals at no cost to him.
"Excellent. How is it that you know the famous twins? I only know of them myself, but I have heard great things about them from my protege Drew Altair. And how did you meet Drew anyway?"
"We were boyfriends in New Varangia, though for only the week I drove their coach from Flensborg to the border with the Flatlands."
"So that is where he went off to. No wonder I could not get in touch with him just recently. His parents could only tell me that he had been called up again for a mission they themselves knew nothing about."
"Nor do I."
"No matter. Let's have Axel back in now. I'll have him show you around the institute. I think you will like it here."
As the boys toured the building and facilities Axel briefed Liam on the routine while also sounding the new boy out.
"Sarongs are perfectly acceptable for daily wear around here. As you can see a sarong is what I wear myself, though never with a top like yours."
"It's a look that flatters you Axel, a simple dark sheath wrapped low around you leaving your slender torso bare to the hips. Uh, and what are those things on you feet?"
"They are called moccasins. They're like slippers but intended for outdoors. Hunters wear them. They are comfortable even on hard ground or stone floors and very quiet."
"As an intern you will be issued several sets of the green silk uniforms including both boots and moccasins. What you saw Sir Willet wearing is the garrison uniform with half sleeves. The field uniform covers the arms and comes with a steel helmet and leather breastplate reinforced with studs. Nothing fancy which would mark you as a target to an enemy."
"Besides our jobs, all of us younger guys are required to exercise regularly to keep ourselves fit for field duty. At close of business three times a week we report to the training ground where we do some stretching, running, wrestling as well as practice hand to hand combat, sword practice, that sort of thing."
"Oh, I need to ask Liam, have you trained with the blade?"
"Indeed, I have. As you might expect of horsemen, we nomads favor the saber. I'm no master swordsman, but I can handle myself."
"Good, that is one less thing to worry about. You can concentrate on physical conditioning. I can see you have a strong upper storey, but I'll bet you don't have the kind of stamina that comes from running and swimming."
"I never had the time for it before, but I will now. Let me guess. We train in the nude."
"Which brings me to two of Sir Willet's colleagues you should be wary of. First there is Sir Ahndray who is not a bad sort really, but he likes to watch us boys train. His sits on a bench and ogles our sweaty naked boy flesh. He likes the wrestling best of all, no doubt for the way wrestlers grapple and twist and mount each other suggestively. Sometimes we react to all that bodily contact too. Involuntary erections in a clinch are not unknown."
"Sir Ahndray has some skill as artist and pays pretty boys to pose for him. He says he wants to immortalize us, to capture us on canvas just as we are in the full bloom of our youth before it fades. I once modeled for him myself. He pays well; I'll give him that, though he likes to touch his models as he helps them assume there poses. Sometimes he wants more and is prepared to pay for it too. Just say no. He'll be disappointed but won't hold it against you. He is not a bad sort really."
"Then there is Sir Janus. He is just the opposite. I could say that he is morose, quick tempered, and a snob, but that is just for starters. The man scares me. Avoid him, and never ever let yourself be alone with him. Otherwise, the folks around the institute are regular sorts."
"Anyway, is it true Liam that you are seventeen years old just like me?"
"Yes, that's right."
"I do hope we will become good friends, since we will be together so much. You will find that most folks at the institute are cordial but largely self-absorbed. The study of magic is everything to them. It is why even Sir Willet, fine man though he is, lost his wife to divorce. I heard that she publicly chided him for being married more to his work than to his spouse.
"You'll like working for him as much as I do. He sets you a task and then lets you do it. As long as you finish promptly he does not look over your shoulder or pester you for progress reports. And he shows his appreciation by word and deed. For instance, I didn't much like where I first put up, so he found me new digs which were ever so much better, especially the food. I now have a sunny room in a boarding house not far from here. It's quiet at night too, thanks to thick walls."
"Is that a hint?"
"Yes, it is. I hope I am not being too forward."
"Not at all, and I can tell you frankly that I like what I see, but first let's get to know one another as colleagues then see where that takes us."
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