Elf Boy's Friends - IX

by George Gauthier

Chapter 7


On this trip to the Sign of the Bow Axel and Corwin had made sure to bring along their combat medic kits. The equipment and their training would enable them to stabilize the injured till they could be taken to an infirmary. With downed aerocraft there were sure to be injuries and possibly deaths.

As before Axel rode in the passenger seat of Drew's red speedster, far-viewer tube in hand while Corwin shared the enclosed passenger compartment of Liam's transport with Nathan, Eike, and Nathan who all looked out the portholes. Finn and the twins flew in the Frost Giant's steel framed autogyro.

The pilots split the search area into three, one for each team of pilot and observers. They hoped the druids would be able to relay better information gathered by the constabulary from questioning the resort staff.

On the ground the Klarendes family split into two teams led by father and son each with half the hounds which moved on parallel axes. The count and the hounds advanced on foot while Aodh transformed into a black panther. He stayed close to his spouse but took to the trees for a better view. The limbs of many of the forest giants interlocked forming an aerial highway easily navigable by a nimble panther. Even when branches were not close, Aodh simply jumped the gap, digging his claws into the bark of the trunk of the next tree till he climbed back into the sub-canopy to resume his progress.

Madden Sexton and Dylan stayed together. The animals under Dylan's control gave them an wide search range. Dylan did not set the critters to actively searching. He simply asked if any of them had seen something unusual, especially a big bright yellow something, though the color did not mean anything to the many creatures which were color blind. Still the forest rangers could be sure that they would not pass by the crash site all unbeknownst especially since Dylan also scanned the ground through the eyes of soaring eagles or hawks, whichever was handy.

In the end it was the Snow Elves who found the downed autogyro. Leon and Brand had climbed up into the trees in their alternate form as spotted leopards. Now these felines were heavier and less nimble than Aodh as a black panther, but they still could climb pretty well. For their aerial perch they spotted the tail assembly of the down aerocraft. It had been ripped off in the crash and got hung up in a tree. Over their mental link the Kodiaks had directed the wirs to converge on the scene. Below them lay a heavily wooded vertiginous canyon which split the eastern face of the mountains. The wreck lay near the bottom.

Moments later when Merry contacted the Snow Elves via the Kodiaks for an hourly check they reported that they had found the crash site. That was the good news. The bad news was that the Snow Elves could not tell Merry precisely where they were or where to send the medical help they were sure to need.

<Surely you don't mean that you guys are lost?> Merry asked in surprise, directing his question to all of them but especially Lobo, their leader. <You elves all have the gift of Unerring Direction.>

<Yes we do which is why we can always find our way to any place we have ever been. As nomads we roam freely always confident that we can backtrack to known territory if we have to. Map coordinates are something else entirely. Where we are is where we are. Just because we cannot point to our position on a map is not the same as being lost. Anyway the maps of the New Forest are so sketchy as to be useless.>

Jemsen and Karel were listening in and got an idea. They asked a shrewd question.

<You must know your azimuth to Elysion. That is a place you have been to, and it IS on the map. So what is it?>

<Er… Elysion lies SSE on a bearing of 157 degrees from where we are.>

<So far so good.> Jemsen said. <Now is there any other locale you can take a bearing on?>

<Sorry, but we don't know any other locales or landmarks in this part of the continent. Remember we got to Elysion via a space portal, bypassing all the territory in between.>

<That means that we cannot triangulate their location.> Jemsen concluded. <All right, the only thing to do is follow that line till the flyers reach their location.>

On their maps the aerial observers in the three autogyros drew a back azimuth of 203 degrees from Elysion. The Snow Elves had to be somewhere along that line. Adjusting the search pattern accordingly they all flew on with more hope than they had had before.

Dylan had an idea too. The next time the druids networked him with the others via Mind Speech he proposed it:

<You wir wolves can Call Light, right? So you should stay high up on the rim of that canyon and raise globes of light above the tree tops. It is starting to get dark with the sun already behind the mountains so the globes should be visible for a hundred miles.>

While the wirs Gulo, Leon, Brand and the Kodiaks Bjorn and Bjarni climbed down to the wrecked autogyro, Lobo, Lupo, and Volf raised three great glowing globes of light above the forest canopy which were spotted by the observers in the aerocraft. Since they were following the back azimuth from Elysion, the location was dead ahead. Now they knew how far they had to fly along that line.

Liam set down in a treeless rocky area nearby, and they all piled out. Corwin got his medic kit and made his way to the crash site with the others coming behind with tools like an axe and a pry bar. Axel could see the lights too, but he did not wait till Drew flew closer and set his autogyro on the ground next to the transport. Instead Axel Jumped to just above the lights then jumped to the ground next to the broken aerocraft.

The passengers had been trapped inside the wreck, but the powerful Kodiaks had simply torn the fuselage apart to free them and to give the rescuers access. The two combat medics went to work.

Nothing could be done for the pilot. He had died in the crash. Of the others a teenage boy was by far the worst off. The fifteen year old had been impaled on a broken strut and was bleeding both internally and externally. His legs were entangled in the cabling that maneuvered the control surfaces in the tail and he had a scalp wound in his blond hair. While Axel untangled the cables Corwin used a hacksaw to cut off the head of the strut then lifted the boy off it. Laying him on the tilted floor of the cabin, Corwin tried to control the bleeding, but the boy was too far gone. A soft sigh marked his passing.

His mother cried out the boy's name: "Colin!"

"What?" the young medic asked, startled to hear a name so similar to his own.

"That's his name. That WAS his name." she corrected, then burst into tears.

The boy's death got to Corwin. Similar name, same blond good looks. It was impossible not to identify with the victim. Tears filled Corwin's eyes, but he had to push past his emotions if he was to help the others. Pulling himself together, he set splints to broken limbs, stitched and bandaged lacerations, and put seat cushions under the heads of the two passengers who looked concussed.

The survivors had a variety of injuries: broken bones, concussions, cuts and abrasions some quite serious. As the medics worked on them a survivors related how it was a bird strike that had caused the autogyro to go down. A bustard had flown through the windshield and into the pilot's face. That knocked him out and maybe snapped his neck — either that or the crash itself did it.

"The damn bird came out of nowhere, and it must have weighed thirty pounds. So it is entirely possible that the impact alone was fatal to the pilot."

"So why didn't the autogyro autorotate safely to the ground?" Eike asked the surviving adults.

"It did at first but as it descended the rotor hit the cliff face and snapped in two. That made the autogyro tumble. And since we were flying above this canyon at the time we plunged a lot farther than we might have otherwise. Fortunately the trees we hit on the way down slowed our tumble and cushioned the impact"

"We should evacuate those with head injuries first." Axel suggested. Corwin shook his head.

"Normally that would be true Axel but look here at this girl's thigh. It got pinned between her seat and a rock. What you see might not be just a bad bruise, it might be a deadly crush injury. I learned about this recently during my training as a combat medic, though they told us that such injuries were rare among soldiers and sailors."

"You may well be right, Corwin."

"What is a crush injury?" Eike asked, but it was Drew who answered.

"Something I myself have seen when rescuing people from buildings collapsed by earthquakes. What looks like a very bad bruise is flesh that has been crushed to death. Give it a couple of days and it will suppurate from within and fatally poison a person's system."

Axel nodded. "Okay so I'd better jump her out first. Now as to which hospital…"

"Dalnot!" Her father told him. "We come from Dalnot — all of us. The hospital there is one of the finest."

"Dalnot it is, then."

Axel teleported father and daughter to the Army town on the Eastern Plains. It took strong magical healing to save the girl's limb and life. She would return to normal within a month as her body restored itself and replaced the dead tissue which had been dissolved safely and passed through pores in the skin. Meanwhile Axel came back for the other four survivors. For most the attentions of practitioners of natural medicine and bone setting were all they needed — that and time for their bodies' own recuperative powers to restore their wellbeing.

Meanwhile the Klarendes family and their hounds turned about and headed to Elysion on foot. In the gathering gloom on the forest floor, Aodh lead the way thanks to night vision as good as any feline's. But then he was a feline.

The two smaller autogyros flew directly to Elysion, while Liam opened a portal to Elysion for the Snow Elves and the Kodiak bears then flew the transport on an intercept course to pick up the forest rangers who had taken an azimuth on the lights.

Hours later they all gathered in the dining room for a very late supper and reviewed the events of the day. The Kodiak bears poked their heads through an open window and joined the discussion via their short-range version of Mind Speech. Though the others used sonic speech, the bears had no trouble picking up the thoughts behind their words.

Klarendes addressed the druids:

"Although we ourselves did not get anywhere close to the crash site, I cannot fault our search strategy. With a wide search area, most searchers are destined to come up empty, which is no reflection on anyone or on the basic strategy of covering all the bases."

"Besides, my Molossian hounds were happy for a chance to run free in the woods. It was they who brought down that deer which the cooks will turn into venison for tomorrow's dinner. Luckily we were practically in sight of the valley at the time so we did not have to carry the weighty carcass too far."

"We?" Aodh teased. "May I point out that all the aforementioned weighty carrying was done by your son and myself."

<For which we Kodiaks at least are grateful, as we are to our host for providing us a with a haunch for our evening meal. As carnivores we can dispense with the formalities which those who walk on two legs are so fond of: cooking and table manners."

"Don't discount the value of cooking." Maddon Sexton cautioned.

"In my animal form I am as much a carnivore as you two, but cooking in its broadest sense of food preparation was the most important invention in human history. It multiplied the types of foods which humans could chew and digest. Humans even found ways to turn a poisonous starchy tuber of the tropics into a staple which today feeds half the continent of Karelia."

"Actually we often share cooked food with our Kodiak protectors." Lobo pointed out. "I have yet to see them turn their noses up at anything on offer."

<Naturally, lad. We are omnivores. We eat practically everything.>

"Oh? How do you feel about garlic?" Axel asked provocatively, which brought a rumble of amusement from the bruins.

Eike focussed on the mishap itself.

"There is going to be an investigation, as there is nowadays after every crash. It's not to apportion blame but to find out what went wrong and how to prevent that particular problem in the future. As the inventor of the autogyro and one who was on the scene and interviewed witnesses I am sure to be called to testify."

"No doubt your recommendations will carry great weight." Klarendes observed. "Any first impressions?"

"Actually the bird strike problem has an obvious solution: a grill to protect the windscreen. Narrow steel bars maybe three or four inches apart will fend off the large birds which are the real problem. Small birds could not break the safety glass. The bars would not really impair the pilot's view out the cockpit. I'll work up a proposal to present to the board of inquiry."

As one of the two medics on the scene Axel's remarks centered on the victims.

"We got lucky finding them so soon, only thirty hours after their autogyro went down. That girl in particular. Good pickup there Corwin on her crush injury."

"Thanks but the death of that boy really got to me. I felt so helpless watching his young life drain away. And it happened in front of his mother. I feel just awful."

Speaking for the druids Owain told Corwin:

"It was not your fault. You did everything you could. Only Healing Magic might have saved him."

"That's the problem. Our problem really."

"What do you mean Corwin?"

"What I mean is that all nine of us who live together in the capital have magical powers. The forest rangers too, but one sort of magic is missing from our repertoire: healing magic."

"Look at how we are always heading into danger, whether from misadventure, foul play, or in combat. Medics like me and Axel can do only so much. Yes, Axel can Jump a victim to a hospital or infirmary, and Liam can open a portal, but they are not always with us, not all the time nor we with them. We have redundancy now in lighting don't we. Why not with healing."

"What are you getting at?"

"We need a magical Healer on our team, and I don't mean you druids who do come along on our adventures but only infrequently. A regular member of the team."

"But who and how?"

"That I don't know." Corwin admitted.

"Can the New Forest do anything about this?" Madden Sexton asked. "It did enhance our physiques and even gave some of us new powers. True it was easier with wirs whose own transformative magic could be enlisted in the change, but what about someone like Corwin, a human with a strong admixture of elven blood?"

"Maybe. Do you want to become a Healer yourself Corwin?"

"Why yes. Is that really possible?"

"It just might be with all three of us druids joining our powers with those of the New Forest. It's worth a try."

"Are there risks?"

"Possibly. We just don't know."

"I'd like to try."

"All right Corwin. Give us a day to check with our colleagues in the Great Southern Forest. If they give us the go-ahead, we will give it a try."

Two days later Corwin and the three druids visited a glade in the New Forest which housed one of the three semi-crystalline living matrices which had carried the essence of the Great Southern Forest to what was to become its first exclave, the New Forest. In this locale its magic was strongest.

Corwin disrobed then lay atop a bed of moss. The druids joined hands and invoked their healing magic, which manifested as a pearly white nimbus which engulfed the nude boy lying in front of them. The crystal matrix extended a nimbus of its own, only bright green, the color of growing things, which settled over Corwin. A wild riot of plant life grew up around the supine boy and covered him completely, wrapping shoots and runners around his limbs and even penetrating his orifices: nostrils, mouth, ears, and even those of his nether regions.

The air crackle with electricity as the nimbus of the forest mixed with that of the druids, pulsating and cycling through all the colors of the visible spectrum plus some in the infrared or ultraviolet ranges which only druids could see. After ten minutes the magic faded away, the plant life withdrew from Corwin's body then withered and crumbled into dust.

Dahl helped Corwin sit up and asked him how he felt.

"Fine. No ill effects at all. If anything I feel energized."

"Yes that would be your healing magic working on your own body."

"So I now have healing powers?"

"Yes. We can sense the healing magic in you though you must not try to use it till you complete your medical studies at the Healer's collegium where you will study anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and other medical subjects. Such knowledge will let you use your powers effectively. A healer has to be distinguish between ills which can be dealt with by herbalists, chirurgeons, midwives, and other specialists in natural medicine. Magical healing is for when ordinary methods won't work."

"Can I study part time. I don't want to quit my day job at the Capital Intelligencer."

"I am sure that can be arranged."

"Can you still wield ball lightning?" Owain wondered.

Corwin tried and found that his original powers were undiminished.

"It is good that I can now heal as well as fight in a good cause."

"No offense, Corwin" Merry joked, "but you should have seen yourself just now. You must be the first boy in the history of the world ever to get fucked by a plant."

"How very droll." Corwin gave back dryly.

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