Elf Boy's Friends - III
The next day a council of war met to settle roles and responsibilities. It was agreed that for the time being a single battalion of cavalry would remain in Flensborg and occupy the old fort and barracks. The High Command promised that in time the Commonwealth would raise a battalion of frost giants, professional soldiers, not militia, and station it permanently in Flensborg.
"And we could use some of your Frost Giants in our naval infantry as well." Van Zant pointed out to the council.
"I don't know," Oddr Branson ventured. "There is not much space between decks on your ships, certainly not enough for a giant to stand up in."
"These would be special transports built to accommodate their dimensions." Van Zant assured him.
"Drew!" Finn cried happily as he embraced the diminutive red-head who had played so valiant a part in their victory. "I am so happy to find you still in one piece."
"If I still am it is entirely thanks to Arn here and to his men who protected me. The battle was so furious, I devoted all my energy to offense and did not raise my Missile Shield, which wouldn't have done me much good anyway fighting as I was at close quarters against trolls armed with axes. Arn and his men kept me alive."
"You should have seen our young friend out there. The smallest fighter on the field of battle but the one with the greatest heart." Arn assured Finn.
Ever the inquisitive journalist, Drew said:
"So I gotta ask, Finn, what happened to you? How did you become the avatar of a thunder god?"
"Obviously I am not an avatar of a god, much as I like the sound of that. No, I am still Finn Ragnarson. I woke up this morning with a full realization of my transformation. My powers arise from a magical gift manifesting in an unusual way. The magic drew on my memories of the old tales of the Aesir, the gods of the Norse. Hence my powers are a weird variation on gifts like magnetism and throwing lightning bolts or maybe weather magic and my strength is doubled from energy drawn from the sky. I may not be the biggest of the Frost Giants, but I am now the strongest."
"How did you work those tricks with the hammer?"
"Well the throw itself is fairly normal. I fling the hammer by main strength with an assist from the leverage of the haft, so it carries farther than a crossbow quarrel and nearly as far as a bowshot. To some extent I can guide it using the magnetic field of the planet. Now I cannot send my hammer whirling in all directions like you do your spheres. I just make its path deviate a little left or right or over or short, so I don't miss. I also make sure it rotates just right to hit the target business end first. Retrieving Mjolnir is straight-forward enough. Magnetism attracts iron and steel and I can concentrate the effect on a single object."
"Now when I call lightning bolts they don't flash from me to the target as with those who throw lightning bolts, but I can call a strike from the clouds or even from a clear sky. I don't really need the hammer for that. I raise it to the sky for dramatic effect."
"The upshot is that I am endowed with a facsimile of the powers of a mythic hero from our past."
"Wow! What a story! What a scoop! Bestseller and third Writers' Prize here I come."
"We meet again Liam." Finn noted. "Last time we saw each other you were an inoffensive coach-boy whom I befriended. Yet you have repaid me by alienating the affections of my boyfriend Drew Altair. You and another boy, this Axel Wilde, the third member of a threesome openly share rooms as lovers in the capital."
"Unfortunately for you, Liam, I am very much the jealous type." Finn growled. "You are courting your doom, foolish mortal."
"Ah, but Finn or Thor or whatever you call yourself. Thanks to druidical healing magic I am no longer mortal in the ordinary sense of that word. Nor am I any more foolish than you for falling in love with Drew Altair, a splendid boy who is certainly worthy of more than one lover. What I am is a powerful war wizard of the Commonwealth. Which is why I won't be meeting my doom any time soon."
"So you can drop the histrionics, my large friend." Liam added. "I know perfectly well that with you feigned jealousy is a very old joke and a regular part of your schtick."
"Damn! He has unmasked me, Drew. What now?"
"As one of the heroes of Flensborg as well as the battle at sea, Liam bears the tattoo of a Giant-Friend. What choice do we have, Finn, but to offer him hospitality and welcome him to our bed?"
"Sounds like a plan", the Frost Giant cum Thunder God agreed.
"There is another message for you sir." Liam said to Dekker. "It also came over the Army heliograph."
"I hope it is more good news."
The last message from the Admiralty earlier in the day had reported a successful fleet action against a force of trolls twice as large as the one that had been crushed at Flensborg. The First Sea Lord said they could not be sure whether this force was a second wave directed at New Varangia or was headed for some other target.
The fleet had deployed a reinforced squadron to leeward of the longships hidden behind a Concealment that made them look like a clutch of helpless fishing boats. The trolls took the bait only to find themselves trapped between the squadron and the main body which had the weather gage on them. The capital ships ran many of them down, ramming and sailing right over them.
Each of the capital ships of the fleet was armed with four ballistas, two on the foredeck and two aft plus catapults to lob clusters of fire globes in a high arc to fall on the enemy. These were particularly useful against the cargo ships the trolls had seized to carry provisions and supplies. By ship action alone they devastated the enemy fleet. Then came the turn of the mages.
The fleet had only one war wizard with the flagship but its capital ships bore teams comprised of at least three mages drawn from weather wizards, water wizards, firecasters and fetchers, a variation on the teams with each field army. The job of the weather wizard was infrasound communications, weather predictions, and stand-off combat by raising a waterspout. The firecaster burnt the enemy vessels. As for the fetcher, he dropped ballast stones from a height or flung them in a flat trajectory at the hull of the enemy vessel, aiming at the water line. Two or three such holes would sink the largest vessel.
Water wizards raised waves in pairs against groups of longships, catching them in the trough between converging waves which crested and broke over the enemy vessels driving them to the bottom.
Very few longships had escaped. The rest of the creatures had been killed or had gone down with their vessels with modest losses to the High Seas Fleet. The trolls had swarmed aboard two frigates and slain their crews to a man. In revenge the firecasters on the capital ships set them ablaze as a funeral pyre for their heroic dead.
Commodore Van Zant's squadron had been ordered to return to base at Alster to replace its losses in sailors and naval infantry.
"I am afraid the Admiralty requires an acknowledgment before you read this one, sir."
"Really? That is highly irregular."
Mildly puzzled, Dekker shrugged then said:
"Very well, Liam. If the Admiralty wants an acknowledgement on receipt, so be it. Make to Admiralty from CS Petrel, Captain-Lieutenant Jan Dekker, commanding'"
"I'm sorry sir," Liam interrupted, "but that's wrong."
"What is wrong?"
"What you said just now."
"I don't understand. I am Captain-Lieutenant Jan Dekker, am I not?"
"No sir, you are not. You are Commodore Sir Jan Dekker, Knight Commander of the Inland Sea, and Sword of the Commonwealth. That's what is says right here in this dispatch," Liam said, handing it to Dekker to read.
"Congratulations, sir!" Lieutenant Dahlgren enthused. The others seconded the motion with "Hear, hear."
Crawley nodded, then said as an aside:
"A two jump promotion, a title, and the top medal. I think that is about right. Though they really should have made him a peer while they were at it."
He spoke just loud enough for Dekker to hear but not so loud that the senior officer couldn't pretend he hadn't. The two of them had come up together, since the day a newly commissioned midshipman Dekker had reported for duty aboard the brig Aurora.
"And sir," Liam added, "If I may presume to give a superior officer a word of advice. When the time comes for the award ceremony, just thank the Admiral and be sure to laugh at his jokes."
Dekker started to smile at his own line being handed back to him then set his features in a frown.
"You know Liam, I have read this dispatch twice now, but I don't see where it said I had to acknowledge receipt before I even looked at it."
"Actually sir, I made that part up," Liam admitted, "to set up my little joke just now."
"Harrumph!" Dekker growled in largely feigned umbrage. Pointing an admonitory finger he said:
"We'll let it go' this time!"
His eyes twinkled as he said it, but the steel in his voice let Liam know he must never again take liberties with Dekker's communications.
"Uh, sir if I may, you once expressed a hope that my friend Drew Altair would help the Navy get some good press."
"Hasn't that already happened with those dispatches he sent to the Capital Intelligencer? And I know the Admiralty will have already have released my report of our earlier battle at sea, so the story is already in the papers."
"Yes sir, but Drew's reports on the Battle of Flensborg are only the beginning. Drew has another bestseller in the works, an entire book about the campaign against the trolls, at sea as well as on land. He intends to interview all who took part. He'll do Ensign Lathrop's interview when he returns to the capital then travel to Alster to get the story from those in the High Seas Fleet."
"Naturally his account will give due credit to the Fyrd of New Varangia and to its human allies and to the Army, but the Navy's part here was just as significant if not more so, your own role especially, if I may say so, sir."
"That is something of an exaggeration, isn't it Liam? As captain of the Petrel I can fairly claim credit for our first victory at sea. It was a spectacularly successful single ship action against an enemy flotilla, but I did sit out the land battle."
"Yes sir, but it was you who made our victory in that battle possible. You saved New Varangia!"
"You were the one who put it all together, the man who brought all our forces together. You remembered a casual remark I made on the flagship about how the local paper in Flensborg had a weather wizard on its staff. Then you got the idea to pool the strength of all six water wizards in the squadron to reach that man with infrasound and warn the Frost Giants and the Army."
"I should have seen it myself, weather wizard that I am, but the fact is that I didn't. Thanks to you the Frost Giants and the Army mobilized in time to unite with our naval force in the climactic battle. The way I see, you were the indispensable man and the real hero. And I am sure Drew will portray it that way too."
"You aren't trying to flatter me, are you Warrant Officer Liam?"
"No sir. Not at all. Everything I just said you yourself know to be true. But I am trying to extend an olive branch, as it were, for my lapse just now."
Dekker nodded and said:
"Olive branch accepted."
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