Elf Boy's Friends - III

by George Gauthier

Chapter 17

The Waif

The landing party made its way down a low hill onto a sandy beach and came upon a naked blond youth who was cooking a fish spitted on a greenstick and set above a smokeless fire. Small in stature and deeply tanned all over, he sat facing the sea, which was why the boy was taken unawares by the visitors. He sprang to his feet a long knife held at the ready in his hand.

Nude and skinny from his recent growth spurt, the youth looked healthy enough though a little underfed. He was wary of the armed men who had him virtually surrounded though much less alarmed than if they had been trolls. Nathan waved his men back, giving the boy his space. He did not want to provoke either fight or flight from the youngster.

Looking to be no more than fifteen, the youth was slender and smooth muscled with the tawny skin of someone who habitually went about in the nude. Slight of build and with a face far prettier than any boy's rightly ought to be, he had a flawless complexion and fine boned features. His face was preternaturally lovely with a broad brow, high cheekbones, straight nose, and chiseled jaw line. Slightly pointed ears and chin gave him an elfin appearance and his large green eyes were set wide apart under finely arched brows, their lashes too long to have ever have been meant for a male.

Conspicuously handing the scabbard with his cutlass to Bosun Ward, Nathan ordered his men back twenty paces then held up his hands to show they were empty. The boy slipped his knife into its scabbard and set it aside.

Nathan nodded then in an even voice he asked the boy who he was.

My name is Karl-Eike Thyssen but my folks always called me Eike."

Nathan held out his hand in friendship. Somewhat awkwardly the lad took it and shook Nathan's hand, though that was the extent of his social graces. Nathan offered Eike some of the huckleberries they had collected which the boy accepted readily enough, flashing his first genuine smile.

Under gentle questioning Nathan got the boy's story out of him. He parents were family retainers of a ship owner whose fortunes had crashed after a string of bad luck at sea which claimed three of his four ships. Faced with the sale of his assets to pay off his debts, the man made off with a small hoard of gold coins, seed money for a fresh start, plus his most prized possessions including five small cherry wood sculptures and a considerable personal library.

His remaining ship had dropped a party of four off on Huckleberry Island: the shipper himself, Eike's parents and young Eike himself, then only six. Eike's father was the man's gardner, gifted with a Green Thumb. The four of them planted a garden and fished in the local waters and gathered fruits and vegetable from overgrown gardens in abandoned homesteads. Their life was simple, easy, and pleasant and was intended to last only a couple of years, long enough for the man's creditors to give up on looking for him. The proprietor had arranged to return to the mainland and start over in a new town with a new identity, but no ship ever came for them. Meanwhile illnesses and an accident with a hatchet carried off all three adults by the time Eike was ten.

Over the next five years with his few garments rotted away, Eike lived as a wild child of nature. For a time it was a good life for a boy despite his loneliness. Then the trolls showed up forcing the boy into hiding. Since then he had been skulking around Huckleberry Island, having little trouble avoiding the occasional troll foraging parties on ground he was intimately familiar with.

"That is quite a story, Eike. You must have been incredibly lonely."

"Yes, I was. At first it was liberating being a boy with no grownups to tell him what to do, what chores to attend to, but soon I missed not only my folks but other people generally. I am pretty self-reliant, but I wanted friends too. Talking to yourself makes for a very one-sided conversation."

"At least I had my books. The collection was strong on history and natural philosophy. That is all the education I ever really had. My folks did make sure I had my letters, and I can figure well enough. Still I think it is past time I returned to the wider world of which I know so little save what I read in books. Can you take me off the island?"

"Of course we can. In fact it is our duty to do so. These islands are a war zone now. The Navy has to evacuate civilians like yourself to a place of safety."

"Where would I go? How will I live? I'll need a job won't I, if not right away then soon."

"Good questions, Eike, but leave those answers for another day. Meanwhile since you are familiar with the island, could you show us around?

With Eike in the lead the sailors tramped all over the island, including the empty beach the trolls sometimes landed on. On their way back they packed up Eike's books and sculptures to be picked up later by a boat that would sail around the island to a landing point nearby. Afterwards they all returned to the ship.

Captain Dahlgren called a council on what to do with the young castaway. Ensign Lathrop reported on what had been done so far.

"For now Eike will bunk with the sailing master, purser, and surgeon, taking Warrant Officer Liam's vacant bunk. I have had Bosun Ward speak with the men and put out the word that this boy is not to be touched. With him it is strictly hands off. Eike is a total innocent and knows nothing of the world, of society, and certainly nothing about sex."

Surgeon Durban nodded.

"I took the boy aside and explained why he must be careful of men who would use a comely lad like himself to gratify their lusts. At first the boy could not understand what I was getting at. Then he was incredulous that anyone would want to do any such thing with his body or theirs, for that matter. Nor could he see the connection with the occasional nocturnal discharges he found on his belly when he woke up some mornings or the pleasure he found when he started stroking himself"

"When I went on to explain about how babies were made, how he himself was conceived, he was astonished and more than a little disgusted, exclaiming: 'Eeyew! My folks would never have done anything like that!' and shook his head in denial. He is someone we must protect from others and from his own naïveté and innocence."

"Now as to his assets." Warrant Officer Wyckham the purser ventured. "Since the Scilly Isles are under the jurisdiction of the Navy, I don't see why Commodore Dekker cannot declare that small box of gold coins and the statuettes and books to be a treasure trove. That would make them lawfully the property of their finder, Karl-Eike Thyssen. The former owner's creditors could never successfully challenge the commodore's ruling."

"Excellent suggestion!" Dahlgren declared then added:

"Now, Ensign Lathrop, I'd like you to take the boy under your wing and bring him along. More than anything else our young castaway needs a friend. And only a friend. Understood?"

"Yes sir. I would never take advantage of him that way. I'll treat him like the kid brother I never had. Anyway I am sure his own feelings at meeting people are much too mixed for him to recognize whether he is attracted to boys or girls. Perhaps when we reach land and he spots a couple of pretty girls on the street, he will suddenly realize that maybe, just maybe, there is something to be said for sex after all."

His interlocutors grinned and nodded.

In the days that followed, Nathan and Bosun Ward introduced Eike to the routine of the ship. As a civilian they did not put him to work but Ward literally showed him the ropes and taught him some basic knots and nautical terms.

"I never realized there were so many ways to tie things together, Bosun Ward. And some of these knots are really intricate."

"Just call me Bosun, Eike. My rank is still recent enough that I enjoy hearing people address me that way. Like many in the crew I stepped up a rank after our losses against the trolls. I stood with Ensign Lathrop on the foredeck as he lead us against the trolls who had boarded the Petrel. I even have a manly scar to prove it," Ward said pointing to a thin white line on his forearm.

"As for knots, you haven't seen anything yet, son. Wait till I teach you the difference between a slipped buntline hitch and a regular buntline hitch. It's really tricky," he added with a wink to Ensign Lathrop who had once demonstrated to Ward just how easy it was to mix them up.

The sailing master showed Eike how they navigated the ship while Nathan filled Eike in on the situation in the war against the trolls. Eike already knew them for enemies. He had seen for himself how human captives were butchered for the pot. Eike was also full of questions about life on the mainland amid so many hundreds and thousands of people. His own memories of life in the small port his folks hailed from were hazy. Nathan also described his relationship with Liam, the instant overwhelming attraction between them, their friendship, and the perils they had shared. That gave the young castaway an understanding of what a close relationship with another boy could be.

Since Eike wasn't in the Navy he saw no reason to wear a uniform of navy blues or any other clothing for that matter. He had gone about naked for years and he didn't see any reason he should start in with clothes again, especially since quite a few of the crew went about their duties naked themselves. With Eike nudity was not a tease. He just felt comfortable that way.

In their relationship with Eike the crew were on their best behavior. Here was a boy who had lost his folks and lived through a sailor's nightmare: being stranded and castaway on a deserted island. The sailors came accept the personable youngster as an unofficial ship's mascot, someone they all felt protective of. For Eike the crew and their company was a good reintroduction to the society of other people.

A couple of weeks later the Petrel was sent back to base at Alster with the data from the soundings so that cartographers could get to work on a set of charts of the Scilly Isles.

Captain Dahlgren's brother Heflin owned a ship chandlery in Alster. He agreed to take Eike into his household and employ. Heflin and his wife had two sons about Eike's age, so the waif would fit right in. The local school made an exception, taking in a boy past the age of fourteen, the usual age for leaving school. From his reading Eike passed tests in several subjects, needing remedial work mainly in mathematics and the fundamentals of natural philosophy.

Meanwhile Eike's nest egg was safely invested for when he came fully of age and had an better idea of his interests and what he wanted to do in life.

In the security and company of a new family the former castaway waif flourished. And wouldn't you know he discovered that sex was not so odd after all and that he, the once solitary Karl-Eike Thyssen, liked both boys and girls rather a lot.

In time a magical gift might manifest in Eike, providing him with new opportunities. But that is another story.

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