Elf Boy's Friends - IV
"So Liam how are things going with your Frost Giants?" Nathan asked his friend one evening.
"They are coming along fairly well. Since I got back to Alster three months ago, the Navy has trained two regiments recruited mostly from among Frost Giants living in the Commonwealth proper. Few had any experience with boats, but they can handle the longships pretty well now. It helps that human sailors are aboard to steer and set the sail. So much for the basics."
"So what is next?"
"Shock tactics. How to combine their strength and numbers with magical support. In my own case, I will be teaching them about the discipline necessary to work under Concealment. How to march and stand to without giving themselves away by talk or weapons clatter. Magic can do only so much to keep a formation hidden."
"Later the regiments will practice sailing in formation escorted by fighting ships like the Petrel. As you know their longships are merely transports not naval combatants."
A few weeks later, a regiment of Frost Giants put out to sea in sixty-three longships and sailed to the Scilly Isles, the southernmost territory claimed by the Commonwealth. Commodore Dekker's squadron escorted them the whole way, always keeping the weather gage on their charges so as to be able to respond to threats from any direction.
Not that anyone really thought large numbers of trolls were so close. Still it was known that the enemy was keeping an eye on the High Seas Fleet with fast scouts and spy ships posing as merchantmen with enslaved humans as deck crew. Several had been pursued and sunk. It was just possible that their commanders would try a spoiling attack, to catch a whole regiment of Frost Giants when they were most vulnerable. Hence the escort.
At the Scilly Isles the regiment practiced making amphibious landings on contested beaches and seizing forts and ports against army troops playing the role of the opposing force. These war games were preparation for the upcoming seizure of the Ashokan Archipelago which would severely curtail the ability of the trolls to operate on the waters of the Great Inland Freshwater Sea and later provide a forward base for the invasion of Amazonia.
"Since you came aboard we have had calm seas and fair winds, Warrant Officer Liam." Captain Dahrlgren said one morning. "You really are the Petrel's lucky charm."
"Or maybe our lucky charm is that pair of petrels that have been shadowing our progress all the while. Look at them soaring effortlessly to windward. Just twitching the tips of their wings now and then. When they spot a school of fish swimming just below the surface they tuck their wings in and dive into the water and snatch their prey. You know petrels stay at sea almost their whole lives returning to land only to breed."
"It's a wonder they don't tire themselves from endless flying and just fall into the sea from sheer exhaustion. I know from my flight from the capital just how tiring flying can be." Liam said
"That's because you don't have wings that let you soar." Nathan said with a smile, but then he fell silent, lost in thought, a far away look on his face till he blurted out.
"That's it! Of course." Shaking his head he added: "It's so obvious now. Why didn't we see it sooner?"
"What are you babbling about Nathan?"
"Wings! Artificial wings. It's the next step in flight. Wings for flying long distances."
"Wings? How could that work? Humans are simply not strong enough to flap artificial wings. We don't have the flight muscles birds have nor keels to anchors the muscles, nor hollow skeletons nor lightweight bodies. Everyone knows that. It's why those cultic depictions of men with wings growing out of their backs or flying horses are so impossibly dumb."
"No, forget about flapping a pair of wings. I envision a single rigid wing which would let a human flyer soar without engaging his fetching powers at all or very much less. He would use magic only to move forward. Don't you see, Liam? This way naval flyers could stay aloft for long periods, thereby extending the range of their scouting beyond the horizon."
Nathan's inspiration came from the realization that the wings of petrels supported the birds in the air without any effort on their part. Petrels could even gain altitude by taking advantage of rising thermals or winds deflected upward by ridges and cliffs. No reason a human flyer could not do the same.
"So wings would replace the yokes we use now?"
"No, not at all. Rigid wings are a third way to fly. Wings would allow scouts to go long distances and to loiter aloft. Flyers would still use yokes to carry ordnance for scouting and close support of ground and naval forces. And you wizards will always need those short yokes built into your armor to whisk you out of harm's way. And levitation via sandals will always be a handy way to get over or past obstacles or to take to the rooftops or the trees to get out of the way of a cavalry charge."
"So how would you build a rigid wing, Nathan?"
"That is the hard part. We are in uncharted waters here. We cannot just take a bird's wing as a model. Ours will be a single rigid wing that only supports a flyer. Birds are quite different; they have two folding wings which both support and propel them. A rigid wing would be a single unit made of wood and fabric, not an array of feathers. Birds flap their wings, while a rigid wing will not move save as it flexes under load."
"Also the wingspan of a soaring bird is very long in relation to its body length, but for practical reasons the span of our wing should not be much more than say thirty feet. Otherwise it would be be unwieldy on deck or on land. The wings of soaring birds are narrow but I don't see why we cannot make ours three or four feet wide for greater lift."
"We should build a frame from bamboo and cover it with tightly woven fabric varnished or shellacked to make it stiff and impermeable to the wind."
"Not varnish, Nathan. Something non-inflammable. You don't want flyers shot down with fire arrows."
Captain Dahlgren joined in the conversation noting that his brother Haldane owned a ship chandlery in Alster which could supply the necessary materials. As for the cost, as a journeyman wizard Liam could tap the funds of the Institute of Wizardry and Magic which had an annex at Alster. When the Petrel returned to Alster Nathan and Liam got permission to drop everything and get right to work on developing a flying wing.
One of the helpers they recruited for the project was a cute blond boy named Karl-Eike Thyssen, who worked at the chandlery. Eike, as he preferred to be called, was the former castaway Nathan and the Petrel had rescued from Huckleberry Island in the Scillies. Haldane had taken him in and provided him a home and a job while Eike figured out what he wanted to do in life. He also caught up on his schooling.
"Eike is a good lad," Haldane told them. "A good worker too though I know his heart is not in the chandlery business. My two sons also work for me, so we can spare Eike for your project, Don't worry about his job; it will be here waiting for him afterwards, if he still wants it. He has talked about going to sea. Not the Navy but cargo ships engaged in coastal commerce."
Eike was happy to be able to work on something new, something more interesting than his humdrum duties in the chandlery. The assignment would let him work with his hands to build things, which was something he was good at. He only wished his magical gift would manifest itself and perhaps give him a direction in life.
The best part of the job was that he got to work with Nathan Lathrop the naval officer who had rescued him from exile then taken him under his wing, as it were.
Nathan had sheltered the young castaway from the kinds of sexual advances a boy with his looks would be expected to draw. Growing up on the island alone from age of ten to fifteen, Eike had been sexually innocent. Nathan ensured that Eike got a chance to develop at his own pace and to make his own choices.
And over the last year and a half Eike had done just that. No longer a virgin with either girls and boys he had discovered that he preferred the hard bodies of the latter. There was one youth in particular who had caught his fancy, his friend and protector Nathan Lathrop. Without coming right out with it, Eike dropped some not so subtle hints to the would-be object of his affections.
The young ensign was quick on the uptake. He just hoped that the boy wasn't flirting with him out of gratitude or mere curiosity. Then there was Liam to consider, but the young wizard was totally supportive.
"Go for it Nathan," Liam told him one night after they had made love. "Eike is a great kid and if he is sweet on you, where is the harm?"
"You wouldn't mind then, Liam?"
"Of course not. As a wise man once put it: a lover who insists on fidelity and exclusivity is just being selfish. And after all, don't I have other lovers myself: Drew, Axel, and Finn? And I am often away from the Alster and the Petrel. I think it would be a great idea for you to take up with Eike."
A couple of days later, just after supper and a couple of rounds of cheer at a local watering hole, Nathan did just that. He took Eike aside and propositioned him directly. Poor Eike blushed furiously. Unable to speak he simply nodded. When Nathan kissed the boy on the lips Eike melted into his arms. The press of their bodies left no doubt about their ardor.
Nathan led Eike back to his quarters. Touching his index finger to his lips to silence him, Nathan slowly stripped the trembling youth. Sixteen going on seventeen, Eike was slight of build and smooth muscled with a face far prettier than any boy's rightly ought to be. Blessed with a flawless complexion and fine boned features Eike had a broad brow, high cheekbones, straight nose, and a chiseled jaw line. Slightly pointed ears and a sharp 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.
Eike was still very new to male sex, the next thing to a virgin really. He blushed as Nathan removed his clothing and touched him in all his private places. Nathan kissed and stroked the lovely young body standing before him then led Eike over to the bed.
"Making love is about more than simple animal rut, as you will learn. You start with foreplay and explore each other's bodies. Find out where your lover likes to be touched and how. But be careful you don't spoil the mood. Did you know that some boys are so ticklish that it can trigger giggling at absolutely the wrong possible moment, if you take my meaning. I hope you are not one such."
"No Nathan, I am not ticklish. Your touch provokes a rush of heat to the belly, and makes me feel tingly all over. I am so very happy we are finally getting together, Nathan you and me. I have wanted you ever since I realized that I did like boys, but as my mentor I knew you would never take advantage of your protege. You gave me the chance to explore my sexuality on my own. But now I am sure that I want you."
Encouraged Nathan resolved to give Eike the best sex of his young life so far. Nathan laid a trail of kisses from lips to nipples to chest and belly and down to his manly parts. Now Nathan was well practiced in pleasuring a boy with oral service. Eike's cock was already engorged and rigid, cantilevered over his flat belly. Nath tongued the head and the shaft and then the balls before returning his attentions to the glans. He licked the head and poked the tiny slip with the tip of his tongue.
Nathan's oral ministrations soon had the boy at the brink of release. The trigger was when Nathan swallowed the cock to the root. Nathan nearly swooned as he felt his member engulfed in the wet warmth of Nathan's mouth and throat. Raising his head a little Nathan sucked and pumped the cock for a bit then poked a finger into Eike's nether hole to stroke his joy knot which triggered Eike's eruption. Even after Eike's cock started to soften Nathan kept it in his mouth tonguing the sweet spot and making the boy shudder with painful pleasure.
"And here you said you weren't ticklish, Eike."
"That's not the same thing, Nathan, and you know it."
After a break for Eike to catch his breath, Nathan mounted him face to face with the boy's calves thrown over his shoulders. His rhythmic thrusts quickly brought both of them to orgasm. It was often that way with boys their age, not taking long to reach climax and ready sooner than you might think for seconds and thirds.
Eike wasn't just good in bed. On the project he showed that he was as good with his hands as his boss had made him out to be. More than anyone else, it was he who built the scale models of the rigid wing conceived by Nathan. The team tried different configurations and proportions each of which Liam put to the test in the air. His fetching power not only propelled the scale models through the air, it actually let him gauge the degree of lifting power each model wing developed and its stability in flight.
After much trial and error they discovered that the best design was a cambered wing about a foot thick near the rounded front which tapered toward the trailing edge. The wind spanned thirty feet and was four feet front to back. A tail boom with horizontal winglets in back helped to keep the wing from pitching up or down.
The flyer did not simply strap himself into this contraption. Instead he sat on a saddle provided with foot rests, a control bar, and a back support. The seat was held in place by a triangle of braces, two slanting up to the wing and one to the rear boom. The rigid structure provided the flyer with a seat of the pants feel for the motion of the wing and helped greatly in controlling it. The saddle was also much more restful than simply hanging in straps which was all right for short tactical flights.
The first full-size trials showed that with only a moderate forward speed the wing developed so much lift that the fetcher flying it no longer had to hold himself aloft, just push himself along, expending only a fraction of the energy required to fly with a yoke.
Impressed by early reports Admiral Van Zant came down to Alster for the formal trials. All the Pioneers of Flight were there as official guests: Drew Altair, the twins Jemsen and Karel, Sir Axel Wilde, and Sir Willet Hanford. Drew was there in a dual capacity, on assignment for the Capital Intelligencer.
Captain Dahlgren briefed the observers on the construction of the flying wings using diagrams and a pointer. Then he outlined the maneuvers that Liam, Drew, and Sir Willet would perform to demonstrate its capabilities. He reported something that the day's trials could not show, that a flyer could stay aloft almost indefinitely. The chief restrictions on flight times were biological and weather-related not technical in nature.
The ground crew demonstrated how easy it was to take the components of a wing from storage and snap them together. The rear boom and tail attached to the main wing with three bolts. Then the saddle and its braces were latched in place. In less than two minutes a wing went from an assemblage of parts to a craft capable of flight.
Liam made the first trial, flying out over the bay at a low altitude toward the rugged peninsula that closed the bay off to the west. When the prevailing on-shore winds hit the ridge line they created a powerful updraft. Liam rode it several hundred feet then soared across the bay and back. Drew took his wing low over the water to Black Isle. Its dark volcanic sands created a thermal updraft which Drew rode to a thousand feet. He then showed how maneuverable the wing was. He could change direction aerodynamically pulling or pushing the control bar or by shifting his weight in the saddle or invoke his powers to reorient it directly.
For the finale, the trio of flyers rose to two thousand feet, tipped over into a steep dive directed straight at the onlookers only to pull out at the last second. Some of the audience actually ducked.
"All right, you have made me a believer, Admiral Van Zant admitted. "Congratulations Ensign Lathrop on your marvelous invention. Your wings will give the navy the capability it sorely needs for long range scouting. Flyers will fan out from picket ships stationed on the horizon to give the fleet a full day's warning of the approach of any hostile force."
Liam pointed out that once again it was someone without the fetching power himself who had conceived the latest breakthrough in manned flight. And much of the actual construction was due to the talents of the former castaway Karl-Eike Thyssen.
On the spot Van Zant offered Eike a civilian job in the local naval shipyard. If he had the talent for it, he might eventually apprentice to the naval architects, the elite of the Navy's Bureau of Ships. Eike jumped at the chance.
In a ceremony held only ten days later Nathan was promoted to lieutenant, and like his fellow Pioneer of Flight Axel Wilde Nathan was granted a knighthood by letters patent. He could now style himself Lieutenant Sir Nathan Lathrop. It was too bad that with such short notice no one from Nathan's old Army family was on hand.
"So now everyone in our circle is a knight or a nobleman except poor Liam and Drew who, sad to say, remain a pair of untitled nobodies and a major disappointment to their families." Karel teased, shaking his head with mock regret.
"Oh yeah?" Drew challenged, Lifting the blond youth thirty feet into the air and swinging him back and forth in a dizzying arc he pointed and shouted: "That's Mister Nobody to you!"
"Drew!" Jemsen chided.
"I have a good mind to chuck Karel into the bay and let him swim back."
Picking up his cue and shaking his fist as if in anger Liam shouted: "It would be just what the miscreant deserves!"
But Drew just set Karel on the ground, none the worse for wear though a little unsteady on his feet.
In a stern voice, Liam told him:
"Let this be a lesson to you Karel. Don't provoke nobodies gifted with powerful magic." then added:
"Though, on second thought, Drew, I have to concede that Karel did have a point about you. I myself can count on a knighthood when I rise from journeyman to full wizard. Sadly, you yourself have no such prospects."
Sir Willet smiled at their banter and pointed out that Drew's prospects for knighthood were actually excellent.
"With all his rescue work and the way Drew charges off to one adventure after another, a knighthood is only a matter of time." be predicted.
"Unless he gets himself killed first." Karel pointed out, getting in the last word.
One more honor was reserved for Nathan, but he was told that before the druids and healers enhanced his vitality, he had to get himself ready by adding muscle mass in both his upper storey and his legs. Though perplexed at the requirement Nathan duly increased his exercise regimen. It helped that he was still assigned to shore duty. He ran everyday for greater stamina, climbed ropes and trees to strengthen his arms and shoulders, ultimately adding about six pounds to his slender frame.
Then came the day for his transformation at the hands of the druid Dahlderon and three Healers, Sisters Margie, Anne, and Irene who wore the traditional healer's robes of yellow silk. One was a blonde and the other two were brunettes. All were pretty, as lady Healers must be. Pleasing features were a sign of good health, and who should be healthier than Healers?
They asked the young officer to remove his prosthesis, disrobe and recline on a couch. Healing magic required hands-on contact with bare flesh. Except for having one leg shorter than the other, Nathan had a beautiful body: smooth muscled and glabrous with the willowy build of an elf though he was fully human. Still only nineteen, the boyishly cute freckle-faced carrot-topped youngster looked much too young to be an officer in the Navy of the Commonwealth.
Eike drank in the loveliness of Nathan's body, his gaze lingering significantly at the fork of Nathan's legs. He licked his lips and winked naughtily, which brought a grin to the young sailor's face.
Dahl told Nathan what to expect. To keep him still the Healers would inhibit his ability to move his limbs. He would not feel numb, for this was not true paralysis. He would be able to move his head and breathe normally. As the magic penetrated his body it would feel like he was being stuck with a thousand needles. Then would come alternating sensations of heat and cold as the magic engaged his own body's healing and generative faculties before climaxing in an intense orgasm only to subside into a dreamy euphoric state of well-being.
Linking hands, the four magic wielders invoked their powers generating a pearly effulgence which engulfed the boy as they directed their magic toward him. The glow of their healing magic pulsed from pearly white to light green and back again several times, lingering longest at his lower left leg. After it faded the healers nodded with satisfaction. All had gone well, and better than Nathan had been lead to expect. Instead of a stump his left leg ended in a fully formed ankle and foot.
Nathan sat up embarrassed at first by the copious ejaculate on his chest and belly. His folks were watching after all. He forgot all about that when he saw that he had been made whole and drew his foot toward him, feeling it with both hands. He flexed his toes and turned his foot left and right as Dahl explained.
"That's right Nathan, our healing magic had made you whole again. Now you know why we asked you to bulk up some before the procedure. We repurposed the extra bone and muscle to regrow your ankle and foot."
Nathan friends and lovers rushed forward to embrace him. The twins picked him up and put him on their shoulders and paraded him around like a conquering hero then set him down. Before he accepted his family's congratulations Nathan cleaned up with a hot towel handed him by a healer then put his uniform back on.
"You look very smart in your Navy blues, son" his father said. "I'll admit now that you made the right choice going into the Navy. You are the man I always knew you would grow up to be."
Father and son embraced warmly. Even Nathan's crusty great-uncle, retired colonel Tomas Lathrop was affable and even congenial, patting his back and telling Nathan he had made the whole family proud of him. And if any future scions of the Lathrop clan wanted a career in the Navy instead of the Army, well more power to them. In other words no more black sheep treatment. Coming from the colonel that was saying a lot.
Eike graciously conceded to Liam the right to try out the new Nathan first. Which he did that very evening. The next night it was Eike's turn to take Nathan to bed.
Everyone was happy for him. Lieutenant Sir Nathan Lathrop could now look forward to centuries of unflagging youth and vitality with a body made whole again just as it was before his wounding.
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