Elf Boy's Friends - III

by George Gauthier

Chapter 21

The Cookout

"All right, Finn," McFarden conceded. "I'll admit that you Frost Giants were right and I was wrong to be skeptical. Cold beer is not a foolish notion after all. It does go very well with food. Even by itself it really hits the spot on a hot day, which is every day in these parts."

"And this is how we like to drink our beer in good weather," Finn replied, gesturing at their surroundings, "in beer gardens attached to taverns. You can take food and drink at a table or just quaff your favorite brew in comfortable wooden chairs. Proprietors supply free nibbles like small pretzels and shelled salted nuts. The salt makes you thirsty so you will order refills."

"How do you chill the beer? Do you set a keg in a barrel and pack ice around it?"

"Not at all. We chill the beer as it flows toward the tap. Let me show you."

Finn took the industrialist behind the bar and pointed to a keg of beer hooked up to a hose which disappeared into a large wooden box. Flipping the box open, McFarden saw that the hose connected to metal piping that ran all the way around the box in a sort of square spiral connecting to another hose at the top which in turn connected with the tap lever. The box was filled with a mixture of ice and freezing water.

"The beer takes the chill as it flows through the pipe. You want some ice water in the box so the coldness reaches every part of the piping, though you have to drain some meltwater off from time to time to put in more ice."

"You don't just let the meltwater drain away do you?" Aodh asked.

"Of course. What else would we do with it?"

Aodh shook his head.

"I used to make my living as a minstrel so I have seen the inside of more taverns than you would believe. Ask yourself. What are all the patrons doing besides drinking?"

His interlocutors shook their heads, a baffled look on their faces, unable to fathom what the cute wir boy was getting at.

"Give up? They are sweating. That is what they are all doing."

"So don't throw out the ice-water. Use it for cold wipes and compresses. Believe me that is an amenity the patrons of any tavern or beer garden will appreciate."

"Oh, and be sure to supply a clean fresh cloths for every customer. Keep them handy and pile them next to a basin or small tub of ice water and send the used ones to the laundry."

"Hmm, I like the way you think, Aodh. Like a businessman." McFarden said.

"But I am also interested in your shapeshifting powers. I know Aodh that your other form is a black panther but I have never seen either you or any other wir transform into one. Would you care to demonstrate?"

"That is something I too would like to see." Liam added.

Aodh shrugged. Why not.

It was not like in the old days back in his homeland where the wirs kept their power to shift shapes a secret, telling the rare travelers who ventured into their secluded land that their country was protected by animal guardians they could call upon with magic. Everyone in the country of the wirs practiced martial arts, the better to defend themselves without giving away the ace up their sleeves.

But in the capital of the Commonwealth Aodh was among friends. There was no need for the traditional secrecy of his folk. Aodh whipped off his sarong and strode onto the grass.

Aodh's form blurred, his innate magic taking only seconds to transform the pretty boy-toy into a sleek black panther. Aodh ran around for a bit then reared up on his hind legs and slashed the air with his claws, snarling to look fierce. Then he morphed back into the Aodh they all knew. He didn't bother getting dressed again, preferring to remain nude and let the sweat dry on him.

"Wow! I had no idea you could change so fast, or that the change was like you were melting from human to cat and back again. And that was quite a horizontal leap you made a moment ago."

"Indeed, Liam. The legs of a panther are proportionally the longest of the big cats. Even your normal tawny panther can jump say forty feet (12 m) horizontally and nearly half that vertically. With my magically enhanced strength I can do much better than that."

"In fact, that was how I took out a Frost Giant during a raid on Elysion years ago. A pair of them snuck up on Taitos while he was busy killing centaurs. I don't know if they even saw me in panther form crouched at his feet atop the watch tower. From the way the one in front looked over at his companion with a predatory grin, the giants must have thought they could take Taitos unawares."

"I took advantage of that moment of inattention to launch myself across the gap and attacked. I ripped his face off and slashed his throat open before he threw me against a wall breaking some of my ribs, which I fixed easily enough by transforming to human form. He would have bled out if Taitos had not cut him in half with white fire."

"Now you know why I don't carry a weapon." Aodh told Axel and Liam, smiling slyly as he held up his left hand, and let it morph into the paw of a cat, claws fully extended.

"My weapons are always to hand. I am expert in two styles of martial arts, so I can fight effectively unarmed in human form without having to change to a panther. Also, as a lefty, I baffle most opponents with my stance and defensive moves. Either way I can hold my own in a scrape. It helps that I am twice as strong as I should be for my size. Even so, I still fall short of many foes in brute strength, but my extra power makes me uncannily quick and let's me surprise them.

"As you would expect, in my panther form I am a master of stealth. I can track by sight and scent or take to the trees and travel considerable distances leaving no trail of the ground for anyone to follow. And if anyone does try to track or chase me, I can lie in wait up a tree and pounce on him as he passes by all unknowing below me, using my weight and momentum to knock him down. One slash of my claws to the neck, and I bound out of reach of his weapons, for even a dying man can be dangerous. Then it is just a matter of waiting for him to bleed to death."

"And yes, I will admit that I have sometimes changed back to my human form so I could taunt my foe. I make no excuse for that other than to say it stems from the feline side of my nature."

"Gods!" Axel breathed. "Is everyone around here a killer?"

"Don't worry, Axel," Karel assured him. "We're the good guys."

Afterwards the twins, Drew, and the Klarendes, father and son, talked about developments in the Far West. Neither the count nor the Hand knew anything about what the Young Peacemakers Four had really accomplished during their mission to those regions.

"So the trolls have struck there too. I cannot really say I am surprised," the elder Klarendes said then continued with:

"They nearly succeeded in seizing Jenova, the more northerly of the maritime republics for its port and access upriver, but the trolls were thwarted at sea by the republic's new flotilla of warships which included the ship donated by the Commonwealth with a war wizard aboard plus three longships with fetchers and firecasters. Their landing force was left stranded and ultimately fell to Alliance military forces sent by Marshall Urqaart. The outcome validated Admiral Van Zant's strategy of equipping the smaller navies with the means to defend themselves."

"Even so their attempted invasion had a tremendous political impact. There is nothing like an external threat to concentrate minds."

"The elites in the old regimes know that they now have three enemies: the revolutionaries in the Despotate of Dzungaria, their own oppressed populations, and the trolls. They are moving to confederate their states and delegate military and foreign affairs to a central authority. For its part, the Commonwealth has made it known that it would like to replace its alliance with the individual states with an alliance with this emerging confederation."

"Lord Zaldor and Marshall Urqaart were clever to wait for them to broach the idea of a confederation. The best way to make people do what you want them to do is to make them think it was their idea in the first place." Drew said approvingly.

"Tsk, tsk. A cynic already and only twenty-three years old." Karel said sardonically.

"I prefer to think of myself as a realist," Drew gave back.

"And what is this I have heard about shipping minerals along an iron road to fertilize the sour soils of the Far West?" the elder Klarendes asked.

"My firm is just doing a preliminary study." McFarden said. "No one is going to invest so much capital without a guarantee of peace and access to markets."

"And the notion of tripling yields has also concentrated minds on the political, social, and economic reforms that would resolve the structural problems of the Far West that made endless class warfare inevitable." Drew noted.

That was as far as he would go. He wasn't about to reveal that the Commonwealth and the Despotate had actually formed a secret alliance against the corrupt elites of the states seeking to confederate. It was ultimately for their own good for the changes both sides wanted would bring peace and prosperity to everyone. The elites would have to give up their political power as a class, but they would retain their wealth and social position.

"Can I ask you something Artor?" Axel asked privately. "I don't want to give the impression that guys like me who like other guys are always on the prowl for new partners, but sometimes you just run into someone you find irresistible. Now Liam said that was OK with him; he is glad I am taking him up on his advice that I widen my circle of acquaintance. So here goes:"

"Do you think I have a chance with Aodh? I mean I don't want to come across as a home wrecker, but Aodh is so hot. Just look at how cute and sexy he is standing there in the nude, his body gleaming in the sun from the sweat he worked up just now."

"Actually from the way he has been looking over at you, Axel, I think he would welcome an advance. And don't worry about his spouse. My father knows that he is secure in Aodh's affections."

"Er, just one thing, Artor. Does Aodh ever lose control of his form while, er, in the throes of passion? I mean with those sharp claws and all…"

Artor grinned as he visualized the scene of the young wizard's aide trying to make love to an Aodh whose paws were busy kneading away at his belly. Shaking his head he said: "No, Aodh never loses control of his form. No claws."

Smiling wickedly at the thought of a panther giving oral serviced, Artor pointedly glanced down at Axel's groin and assured him: "No fangs either!"

Artor added that this was not the first time he had been asked that very question. Finn had done so on his very first visit to Elysion. Artor and Axel shared a chuckle at the coincidence.

Axel did ask Aodh for a tryst, and the young wir jumped at the chance to bed the boyishly cute wizard's aide. That night, with the count's blessing, Aodh went back with Axel to his hotel and spent the night in his room.

They made a lovely and lively couple. Still only eighteen Axel was short, fair, with hair the color of copper, and extremely boyish looking, his pretty face dominated by large green eyes over heart-melting dimples.

The wir youth was just the right size for Axel. Much like Axel Aodh short and slight of stature -- even petite, a physique some might call skinny but which Axel preferred to call fine-boned, svelte and sleek. With his delicate features Aodh was cute as a button, soft and cuddly but wild and wanton and loud when aroused. Like any young feline, the wir-boy was frisky, playful, and delightfully naughty, challenging Axel's more conventional notions of lovemaking.

As Artor had told Axel, his father once said of his shapeshifter lover that Aodh was like a kitten: so much friskiness in one tiny body.

What Artor had told Axel was true enough. Aodh never lost control. While in the throes of passion he never unintentionally shifted his shape, but that didn't mean he couldn't change intentionally.

Only a little change of course. No point trying to prong a boy while in his full panther form. Of course Aodh would not claw or bite Axel, but no human would willingly endure penetration or rather withdrawal by a cat's member which had a band of over a hundred tiny backwards-pointing penile spines which were supposed to rake the walls of his mate's vagina, to trigger ovulation.

No, Aodh had something else in mind. something he knew from experience that boys really craved without even knowing about it. Eating out a boy's ass was always such a surprise to a virgin in that department. So it proved to be with Axel, doubly so because Aodh allowed his form to morph just enough to equip himself with the long pink raspy tongue of a feline.

He used his tongue to tease Axel's anal pucker, sending shivers up and down Axel's spine. His body reacted something like it did listening to the scrape of fingernails on a slate, though not unpleasantly. Far from it. It was then that Axel learned that his lover Liam was not the only one who could be inventive about his lovemaking.

Aodh had a quiet side too. He loved it when this new boy stroked and petted him, running his strong hands along the chevron of his ribs, fingering the sharp hip bones, sliding down the smooth skin of his thighs then back up to fondle his buttocks. The cat in Aodh loved the attention and the petting. His supple body was meant to be touched and stroked. Even in human form, Aodh could purr softly when contented, as after sex or a good meal. It was one of his most endearing characteristics.

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