Elf Boy's Friends - IX
Three weeks later when Axel Wilde reported for work, his mentor Sir Willet Hanford told him about their new orders. They were to return to Amazonia after all, this time not to fight but to help establish the peace. A peace conference would designate the borders of the orcs' new homeland and reach or rather impose a territorial settlement on the weak states surrounding Amazonia, some of which had designs on the vast lands which the Commonwealth had liberated.
"Why us in particular."
"Actually it's you they really want, Axel. Your status as a Peacemaker and Orc-Friend will is indicative of the Commonwealth's good intentions. The orc leader Janne Saari thinks very highly of you, as you well know. It was your idea that the orcs should end their war against the Commonwealth and join us in liberating Amazonia, thereby acquiring a new land of their own. Your presence at the conference augurs well for its success."
"So who will be there besides Janne Saari?"
"General Juhan Enno, the commander of the orc Expeditionary Corps, a couple of members of the orc council, General Urqaart, and four members of our own High Council, one from each of the major races in the Commonwealth: a human, an elf, a giant, and a dwarf. Their names are listed on our orders. We will also be meeting envoys from the regional states. Furthermore at Urqaart's invitation Lord Zaldor will participate as the general's personal advisor. Urqaart trusts Zaldor's political nous more than his own, blunt soldier that he is."
"Or claims to be. We both know that he is much more than that. From what Drew and Finn and the twins told me he is an able diplomat in his own right."
"True, but Urqaart would like to have two voices on his side at the conference. That way they can double-team those who are of a different mind."
Axel nodded. "That sounds like the clever strategist and tactician we know him to be."
"Actually there will be four of you at the conference with the title of Peacemaker. Drew Altair will cover the denouement of the war against the trolls for the Capital Intelligencer. Young Corwin Klarendes is too traumatized, I don't think that is too strong a word for it, to go back to Amazonia any time soon."
"We leave tomorrow. First you and I and Zaldor plus the four delegates will meet with the High Council so we will understand what they expect. Then I shall open a portal from the conference room to General Urqaart's headquarters — the old HQ we visited in the past. The conference will meet there."
Urqaart received the delegation in his office, greeting them by name and sitting them down at the long conference table which filled much of the room. Next he introduced Seerah, the Queen of the Amazons, the ally of the Commonwealth in the successful eastern campaign. Urqaart then pointed to the young officer standing by the map board at the end of the room and said:.
"That is my intelligence chief Colonel Dentzer who will be briefing us shortly. You remember him, don't you Drew?"
Drew grinned and said "Definitely, sir." but left it at that for the moment.
Dentzer winked at Drew then assumed a serious demeanor as he awaited the moment to start his briefing.
Ian Dentzer was a full-blooded elf, darkly handsome and graced with the exotic looks, slender physique, and killer cheekbones characteristic of his race. He looked far too young for his rank thanks to his elven blood which made him seem like a youth in his late teens.
The young colonel looked impressive in a crisp uniform which sported not only a badge for being Mentioned in Dispatches but also two wound stripes. No doubt about it. Here was a blooded soldier.
The first order of business was a briefing from Urquhart's intelligence chief which summarized what the allies had found from their initial aerial survey of the conquered lands. More than a few towns had been put to the torch but most were intact. So were farms and standing crops which stood ready for harvest. Considerable damage had been inflicted on infrastructure such as river ports, bridges, ferries, and such but not so much that it would block reoccupation and resettlement. That news came as a relief to the orcs who expected to move in first.
He also explained that scouts and autogyros were quartering the entire region for holdouts and deadeners though only a handful had been found. It was too soon to try to round up livestock like saddle and draft horses, but the scouts did make sure that the animals would be able to graze, opening stable doors and gates in corrals to let the animals run free.
Dentzer handed out maps to all the participants and asked the orcs in particular to study them overnight and to select the territories which looked most suitable to their needs.
The most promising region was in the northeast quadrant of Amazonia, an area of mountains and intermountain plateaux measuring a quarter of a million square miles. The region was not in the basin of the Amazon River proper but to the north, three hundred miles up another major river which ran roughly parallel to the Amazon. The orcs were not interested in the steaming jungle terrain along the lower reaches of the river though they insisted on freedom of navigation the whole length of the river to allow for trade via the Great Inland Freshwater Sea.
Having made a tentative choice, the orcs asked for a quick look around. Sir Willet would take them there via a portal but return immediately while Axel would spend the day with them and then teleport them back. That would allow the war wizard to confer with Urqaart on the demobilization of the volunteer war mages who had been made warrant officers on a hostilities-only basis.
Sir Willet flew high into the air lifting himself by the wooden yoke built into his leather cuirass and opened a portal to a far away landmark. After doing that twice more he arrived at the region in question. Opening a portal for the inspection party, he let them step through then returned to Urqaart's headquarters letting the portal close behind him.
Besides Axel and Jaane Saari the inspectors included a member of the orc council, an aide plus a couple of body guards armed with air guns. Mountains forested to their crests embraced a well-watered plateau. Rich topsoil nourished a ground cover of grasses, sedges, and flowering plants and gave promise of high agricultural yields. Axel jumped the group to half a dozen locations in the regions: to the top of the mountain ranges north and south, to the channel of the main river draining the region, and to several locations on the intermountain plateau.
"This is perfect for us." Saari declared. "These cool uplands are very much like where we lived in the Eastern Mountains, and the mountains on three sides are well-timbered, enough not only for our own needs but for a sustainable export business."
"The fact that the area was hardly settled in the past means that we can start with a clean slate. No one wants to live in towns which the trolls turned into charnel houses during their conquest and again during their demise.
"Now it will take several years to get our normal crops of breadfruit trees and earth apples established. That is why I have had farmers follow behind our army to gather the wherewithal to establish the system of companion planting that characterizes agriculture in the Amazon basin."
"Companion planting?" Axel asked.
Saari smiled. "I wouldn't expect a city boy like you Axel to be familiar with the system. In a sense we orcs already practice it with breadfruit trees and earth apples. In Amazonia farmers plant three main food crops: maize, squash, and climbing beans in flat topped mounds of soil each about a foot high and half a yard on a side. When the maize grows to six inches, beans and squash are planted around the maize alternately."
"The three crops grow well together. Reaching for the sun the beans climb the growing cornstalks, which eliminats the need for poles; the beans renew the fertility of the soil; while the squash spreads along the ground which blocks and keeps weeds down. We can also plant a fourth species though not as a food crop but simply to attract bees for pollination."
"Of course not all orcs will be settling here. You can expect to see more of my countrymen in the capital and elsewhere now that the difficulties of yesteryear have been put behind us."
"I hope some of them open up restaurants featuring your national cuisine." Axel enthused. "I have developed a real taste for it. And meeting orcs regularly will help me keep up my hard won proficiency in your language."
"Excellent! You Axel Wilde are a bridge between our cultures. I hope more citizens of the Commonwealth give our kind a second chance. Seeing the way the Commonwealth is fighting this war against the trolls shows better than anything else how idiotic our war hawks were to start a preemptive war instead of negotiating over our grievances."
After hours of looking around Axel brought the party back to Urqaart's headquarters. The return journey was quick since it was to a spot Axel had earlier reached via a space portal, which meant he could get there in a single jump. The inspection trip had taken the whole day and worn Axel out. He felt like a jack-in-the-box whose spring had sprung.
The conference resumed after a two day break only this time it was a plenary session presided over by the most senior of the four councillors the long-serving foreign minister Baroness Lerna Munray, a giantess with a commanding air. An old ally of Zaldor's and Urqaart's she was content to let them carry the ball reserving the role of referee for herself.
Pointing to the maps hang on the walls of the conference room, Jaane Saari indicated the area of highlands and plateaux which they had chosen for their new homeland.
Axel suggested that the orcs annex a port at the mouth of the river as an exclave and entrepôt within their tariff zone. Traders could transship exports and imports between river boats to sailing ships and vice versa. Saari accepted the suggestion.
Axel also pointed out that merchant traffic on a river running through unclaimed or at least unsettled lands might attract river pirates and asked Urqaart to offer the orcs surplus vessels from the Commonwealth's riverine forces plus training in their maintenance and use. These were fast narrow craft propelled by oars or a fetcher. They were equipped with two compact catapults and either two ballistas or two of the new swivel guns which were smaller versions of Eike's magnetic cannon. They sat atop pintle mounts and were operated by a crew of two, a loader and a gunner, a master of magnetism, who traversed and elevated the barrel manually.
The general agreed though Zaldor wanted it understood that the river would be an international waterway open to peaceful navigation by all nations.
"Why not throw in aviation assets as well?" Drew asked. "We could turn over surplus autogyros to get provide aviation services in the land of the orcs just like we are doing in the Northlands? The orcs could use autogyros not just to support their military but also to carry the mail, for scouting, search and rescue, and for passenger and freight service."
One of the envoys of the coastal states bristled objecting to the military advantage these measures would give to their soon-to-be neighbors.
"Why make them a present of a river navy and an air force? Anyway what would pretty boys like those two know about navies and aviation much less weighty matters of war and peace?"
Zaldor grinned, happy that the fool had fallen into his trap.
"The two young men of whom you speak are national heroes acclaimed by our High Council which named them both Pioneers of Flight and Peacemakers Who better then to advise on such weighty matters? As to why we would make the orcs a present of a modest river navy and an air force, it's simple enough. They fought as our allies and earned it with their sweat, their blood, their courage, and their loyalty."
Urqaart agreed to provide the river craft and the aerocraft, though he pointed out that future deliveries of autogyros and tools and replacement parts would be through commercial contracts with the manufactories. Janne Saari was pleased with this evidence of the Commonwealth's continuing good will and gratefully accepted the generous offers.
Saari pledged that the orcs would stay engaged with the wider world, the modern world which the Commonwealth was ushering in via its industrial revolution, trade, communications, aviation, and cultural exchange.
His military counterpart General Juhan Enno pointed out that most of the Expeditionary Corps would be released from the ranks and enlisted in the militia. In the future the orcs would maintain only a small permanent military establishment since they had no real enemies on their borders. That was why they did not ask for the large magnetic cannons. The Commonwealth arsenals would continue to produce them but only to reequip its own forces with the new weapon system.
On the issue of demobilization of the Expeditionary Corps, it was agreed that the Commonwealth would continue to pay the orc soldiers for three more months to smooth the transition to civilian life as farmers and artisans and tradesmen. In the years ahead more orcs would likely move from the Eastern Mountains to their new homeland which was also open to immigration by orcs from anywhere on the continent.
The amicable settlement with the orcs stood in stark contrast with the wrangles with the neighboring states who had expansionary designs on the vacant country which they viewed as a power vacuum. With the chairwoman's connivance Urqaart and Zaldor put them in their place.
Zaldor dealt with the territorial claims. Pointing to the maps he traced the purple line that ran from the borders of the new homeland of the orcs south to the divide or watershed between the coastal lands and Amazonia. He also pointed to two areas in the east, the land of the Amazons and the neighboring brontothere reserve just west of it across the sea of reeds. All three were guaranteed their territorial integrity. The Commonwealth claimed all the rest by right of conquest and was prepared to back it up with military might if it had to.
"In that connection," Urqaart noted, "I must tell you that there will leave no power vacuum behind such as you imagine. We intend to retain two full field armies in Amazonia backed by a riverine flotilla plus naval infantry to deal with contingencies. Any and all contingencies. Have I made myself clear?"
He had. The envoys didn't like it, but the Commonwealth was not well-disposed toward the craven coastal states which had stood aside as the trolls invaded Valentia and slaughtered the population of Amazonia but had not even sent warning.
"One more thing." Zaldor announced after getting the nod from the foreign minister.
"The Commonwealth will also annex a corridor along the line of rivers and canals which the trolls used to gain access from the coast to the Great Inland Freshwater Sea. In time we will expand the canals to allow full sized ships to navigate to the southern coast of Valentia where our Navy will establish a base for a new salt water fleet to guard the continent from any further incursions from the Southern Ocean."
"But those lands rightfully belong to us!" two envoys protested.
Zaldor was implacable. He shook his head and said: "You lost those lands to the trolls. We took them. Now they are ours."
With all political and military matters settled, Drew and Ian Dentzer had the time to renew their friendship.
Drew Altair explained to the others that he and Ian had met more than a decade earlier during his mission to the Far West with Finn and the twins. At the time Dentzer was the chief cartographer for the Army of the West and had just won his captaincy on the strength of a new technique which made the contours lines invented by the twins ever more useful.
Dentzer's innovation was a graphical method for determining which parts of a landscape, when viewed from a given vantage point, were masked from observation by intervening terrain features. It involved drawing a terrain profile to scale along a particular azimuth.
The technique not only helped scouts select the best vantage points but also showed a commander where he might conceal his own approach or reserves from enemy observation. It was a tremendous tool for an army, at least in an area that has been fully surveyed and mapped. And you did not don't need a magical gift to use this technique. A compass worked just as well as Unerring Direction for determining an azimuth.
Ian also explained that he had won his colonelcy with a program he devised to crack the written language of the trolls by having captives interrogated via Mind Speech. It took both clever questioning and telepathy. An interrogator would show a captive a picture or a word in the troll language and peek at the image it brought to his surface thoughts. Gradually that brought an understanding of their written language, making it possible to read their documents. The trolls never used encryption, thinking their unknown language was barrier enough.
Like all elves Ian was a really good-looking young male, with the willowy physique, dark hair dark, fine-boned features, and green eyes typical of his race. A six footer he stood a full foot taller than the diminutive journalist. Thanks to regular sparring and swimming and field duty in the war he was quite fit — not soft and out of shape as you might expect a staff officer to be. But then he was an elf.
For Ian this little auburn-haired beauty was just his type: short and slightly built, impossibly cute, trim and fit, and with a strong streak of exhibitionism. Ian had no use for clothes horses. Rather he liked a boy who didn't care overly much for clothing, a boy who sought any excuse to take his clothes off, or even better, not to climb into his clothes in the first place. Pretty boys really owed it to the world to share their loveliness with males who appreciated the fine lines on a young colt like Drew.
In bed Ian was a versatile lover, experienced in both roles, top or bottom, thanks to growing up in a largely human city rather than one of the secluded elven vales where he would have been expected to bottom for older males for decades at least.
In Ian Drew found an enthusiastic partner whose favorite position was seated on a sturdy chair while his partner straddled him, then sat on his lap facing him, and slipped Ian's cock up his quim. The rider then did all the work, posting up and down as if riding a trotting pony. That let the young lovers gaze into each other's eyes, to kiss, and to touch the other boy in all his erogenous zones.
To Ian's mind, the hard body of a boy was so much sexier than the soft and yielding form of the female. Boys' bodies were all sculpted muscle and bone and sinew, making for physiques that were strong and athletic and acrobatic. A girl was all take and no give, but a boy could give as well as take and even do both at the same time as when they lay head to toe and sucked each other's cocks.
To hold his own with a boy it took another male. No none but another male could know the male body better, especially the manly parts. That was why boys were ever so much better at oral sex and manual manipulation. Boys knew what to do with a cock and what they wanted done with theirs too.
A celebratory dinner marked the success of the conference though a couple of the envoys were so disgruntled they had left early and did not attend. They were not missed in the least.
The first course was an antipasto of cheeses, cold meats, and olives. Next came a tossed salad followed by onion soup. The first substantial course was spinach pasta with white sauce followed by a main course of roasts of beef and lamb garnished with roast potatoes and carrots. Dessert was a fine peach cobbler. Aside from a single celebratory glass of sparkling wine, the diners stuck to chilled soft cider or cold beer.
Most of those at the table declined the garlicky side dishes which the orcs were so fond of, but Axel rather liked garlic and dug right in. It was one of the characteristics which had endeared him to the orcs in the first place. He even got Sir Willet to try orc style cuisine.
"Not as bad as I expected." Sir Willet admitted, which drew wry smiles from the orcs.
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