Elf Boy's Friends - V
Earth and Air
Some days later much the same group gathered for a midday meal under the pergola in the ornamental garden of the manor.
"Roof leaking, Taitos? Madden asked looking up at the gently sloped roof three stories above their heads where men were at work.
"Not yet. This is preventive maintenance rather than a repair job. The roofers are re-laying the tiles in that section. Some have cracked and others have worked their way loose."
Just as Karel walked out to the garden to join the rest of the group the pile of loose tiles the roofers were replacing slid down the sloping roof and started to fall on him.
"Karel look out!" Jemsen yelled pointing.
Karel spun around and looked upward, reflexively throwing an arm up to shield himself from the falling tiles. Even with his enhanced speed and reflexes he could not jump clear. But the heavy tiles never hit Karel. Instead they encountered an invisible shield and slid to the side before shattering on the ground."
"What just happened?" Karel asked, bewildered. Jemsen answered:
"It looked like the air above you turned solid though still transparent. From the refraction of the light we could just make out a shield of air shaped like a lens. That is why you are still standing instead of stretched out on the flagstones broken or dead. Please don't give me another fright like that, Karel. I couldn't bear losing you."
The two brothers embraced, physically reassuring each other of their continued well-being. Everyone knew how terribly close the twins were.
"It must be a second magical gift manifesting itself." Sir Willet offered.
"I agree." Dahl said. "And I think I know both why and why now. Magic has been getting stronger over the centuries. We always say that people have a single magical gift but quite a few these days have two or ever three gifts. Your aide Axel is a good example: Unerring Direction, Calling Light, and Eidetic Memory. Now Karel's second gift would have manifested itself eventually and likely rather soon, but I believe his enhancement years ago with druidic magic has speeded up the process and the emergency brought it on a little early. I suspect that in time all those whom we druids have enhanced will manifest other gifts."
"So what is my new gift exactly?" Karel asked.
"You are an air wizard." Sir Willet told him authoritatively.
"Is that like a weather wizard?"
"The two gifts are related but not the same. You won't be able to command the elements like rain or hail or fog or frost. Nor can you summon a thunderstorm the way Sir Rikkard did up north and use its torrential rains and lightning against an army or launch a tornado against a foe."
"An air wizard controls the atmosphere but not the weather. For starters that means you will be able to communicate the way we do with infrasound since that involves direct manipulation of the air column. I can teach you how myself. We use an aural version of the heliograph code you already know."
"As we saw just now you can harden air to form an impenetrable shield. Air wizards can also create a bridge of air solid enough to walk on to let you cross rivers and ravines or to go from roof to roof though you cannot hold it long enough to march troops across."
"Full-fledged tornados are beyond you, since they are part of a weather system, but air wizards can call up dust devils which form on the ground not up in the clouds. A dust devil can be used tactically to toss dust or sand in the faces of an enemy archers or to disrupt the flight of their arrows. You can also call up a stronger type of whirlwind called a land spout which is not associated with a thunderstorm and has a characteristic tubular shape rather than the funnel of the tornado."
"Yours is quite a rare gift with many uses most of which do not readily come to mind. It has been ages since I read anything on the subject. You really need to consult the records on air wizardry in our library at the Institute. Axel can guide you."
"I'll check out the library then, but what about a second gift for Jemsen?"
"I suspect it won't be long in coming." Dahl assured him. "You got yours a little early because of the accident. So for a while, you will be one up on him."
"But I don't want to be one up on Jemsen. We aren't rivals. The notion of sibling rivalry just doesn't apply to us. We are partners and teammates. Not to mention lovers, comrades in arms, life partners, soul mates and each other's best friend."
Just be patient, the both of you." Dahl soothed.
"That's good advice, Karel." Jemsen assured his brother, ruffling his hair, then impulsively kissing him. "There, is that settled?"
Karel nodded and smiled.
In the end, it was only a few weeks later that Jemsen came into his gift. It started out in a small way when the twins were flinging the Zinger around in a nearby park. A more aerodynamic version of the pie tin with which the sport originated, the Gemini Zinger had been a runaway commercial success since its introduction some years earlier. Profits from its sale contributed significantly to the twins' growing fortune.
Held face down and flung with either a forward or back hand motion, the disc would sail gracefully over to another player who had to snatch it out of the air and return it or pass it on to a third or fourth. The game required a lot of running, jumping, reaching, and stretching as well as speed and coordination, so it was good exercise as well as a lot of fun and a terrific way to display the youthful male body in motion.
Passersby stopped to marvel at the twins's physical beauty. Of fully human stock, the brothers were slender hard-bodied youths of medium height, with cute fine-boned features their heads crowned with close-cropped cornsilk blond hair. They were quite a sight the two of them, their delectable bodies nude, glabrous, and all shiny and slippery with sweat, as they ran and jumped and strained and tumbled to the grass in an athletic and inevitably erotic display of the young male body.
At one point Karel called to one of the onlookers asking whether he cared to join the game.
"I only wish I could, my friend, but I can spare only a few minutes right now to watch since I have to catch a street car to get to an appointment. Another time."
"You know those blond boys?" the man standing next to him asked.
"Not only do I know them, I have known them, if you take my meaning."
"You lucky dog! They are exquisite, the both of them, whoever they are."
"You mean you don't recognize them?"
"I'm new in town."
"Well even if you don't know them, you must have heard of them. Those are the famous twins Jemsen and Karel."
"In the flesh! If you had looked more closely you would have seen the three small blue tattoos on their left shoulders which marked them as elf-friends, dwarf-friends, and giant-friends, the only living humans to be so honored."
"Actually I was paying more attention to those pert rumps of theirs with their firm round cheeks and the deep cleavages that promise so much delight. Anyway how did you meet them, at this Twinkle Town I have heard of?"
"Not at all. It was at a public lecture by an eminent natural philosopher, a certain botanist whom friends of theirs had once run into, who was expatiating on the geographic extent of the various plant kingdoms on the planet."
"Plants have kingdoms?"
"Kingdom is a term meaning regions where the types of plants are distinctly different from those in other regions. Some are as large as half a continent. You see, with the twins you get brains as well as beauty. I count myself lucky to be in their circle of acquaintance, though I cannot claim to be a close friend."
The men settled down to watch the action. The twins executed some fancy moves like reaching behind the back to catch the Zinger or sailing it between the legs. Their tosses were pitched off to one side or downrange forcing the next player to fade back or run over to where the disc was headed, stretching to reach it or even jumping to snatch it in midair. Naturally all this action was accompanied by jokes and smiles and laughter. Boys will be boys, especially exuberant ones like Jemsen and Karel.
Jemsen flipped the aerodynamic disc off to one side forcing Karel to scramble to snatch it out of the air before it touched the ground. Karel tried his best but realized that he couldn't quite get to it. So he invoked his gift and called a gust of wind that lifted the Zinger just enough for him to grab it in midair.
"Hey! No powers!" Jemsen complained. His brother just laughed.
A little while later while Karel was running across the grass to intercept the Zinger, Jemsen said fervently under his breath, "Trip. Just this once dear brother be clumsy and trip."
To his surprise Karel's rear foot hit an ridge of turf that suddenly reared up a few inches, just enough to trip him and send him rolling to the grass only to bounce back up unhurt.
"No powers, yourself!" Karel shot back.
"What made you say that?" Jemsen asked.
"As if you don't know! It's your new gift, silly. You must have felt the surge of magic when you made the earth shift just enough to trip me. There see. Now why don't you flatten it down before someone else trips over it?"
Jemsen's face screwed up in concentration as he willed the earth to subside. Smoothly and without fuss the lawn shifted once again and lay perfectly flat.
"Does this mean that I am an earth wizard?" Jemsen asked.
"Let's ask Sir Willet."
The war wizard took them into the laboratory and then onto the practice field and ran Jemsen through a set of tests. No doubt about it. Jemsen was an earth wizard all right.
"So what can I do with earth magic?" Jemsen asked.
"Lots of things, not necessarily connected to military operations, though with the coming war in Amazonia that will be where you are most likely to use your gift. It takes some training which we can give you here at the institute, but the first trick an earth wizard masters is to create a shield out of a short wall or column of earth to protect him from enemy arrows or lead bullets."
"In the Barren Lands we all saw Dahl use earth magic to create a quagmire to entrap the trolls. They sank knee deep then were held fast when Dahl drained the water away, leaving the lower limbs of the trolls caught fast in hard clay. You need to learn how to sense the water table and the different types of soil much like a delver."
"Another trick it to raise earth berms about chest high to shelter troops from missiles or to create defenses for a marching camp. Berms are also useful in civilian life as fire breaks or levees against floods and even to divert lava flows from erupting volcanos. You need open ground like plains, meadows, and fields for berms. It is much harder raising berms in woodlands. First the roots of the trees hold things together. Then what you get is less a berm, an earthen wall, than a dreadful tangle of trunks and limbs and leaves, rather like a windfall caused by a storm."
"Still you can undermine and topple single trees across roads to block cavalry and supply trains. The last thing that comes to mind is that you can pepper a field with gopher holes to disrupt a cavalry charge much as caltrops do. Or if you really want to go all out, call up a minor earthquake but be careful, the shock might do unintended collateral damage or harm innocent folks. You could easily do more harm than good."
"So you see yours is a powerful gift which complements your brother's gift of air magic nicely. In war you two are a double threat with air and earth magic, In peace you are powerful assets for the civil authorities during natural disasters. Just think how a jet of air could blow a wildfire away from a town or a dike could redirect flood waters. Looking back on your careers and what you did with only the modest gift of Unerring Direction, I expect great things from you as elemental wizards."
"At least now we can hold our own when our friends are called to the colors or go off on other adventures. I mean Drew is a fetcher powerful enough to lift a brontothere into the sky, Liam is a genuine war wizard, Finn is the avatar of a thunder god, and now Aodh has his killer screech and poison claws and a body stronger than ever. Well, we two were very much the also-rans in the power department. Not that anyone ever said so."
"I should hope not. Your accomplishments speak for themselves."
Under Sir Willet's tutelage, the twins explored the use of their newfound powers. It was unusual for a single war wizard to train three wizardly proteges at once, especially since Willet also had two non-wizards as proteges as well, Drew Altair and his own aide Axel Wilde.
Willet's friend Sir Rikkard kidded him about the "harem" he had collected around him, five sexy youths who went about "skin clad" as often as not. The teasing was all in good fun. Rikkard knew that Sir Willet Hanford was a thorough-going ladies' man, one who consorted exclusively with the female half of the species.
Yet the five youths were a harem of sorts, at least with each other. All were involved with one another. Drew, Liam, and Axel shared a suite of rooms in a residential hotel not far from the Institute. Just down the hall from them the twins had a suite of their own. Also Finn Ragnarson and Nathan Lathrop stayed with them when they were in town.
Willet had a fond regard for all of them, looking on them as favorite nephews whose charm, intelligence, and cheery personalities brightened a life never blessed with sons of his own. Long before his divorce his wife had publicly chided him for being married more to his work than to his spouse, which was true enough. A consuming fascination with magic was something of an occupational hazard for wizards like Sir Willet.
With Axel's help, Karel's research in the library paid off when he read of a particularly powerful application of air magic: the use of sun mirrors as weapons. Sun mirrors were sheets of dense air with surfaces as shiny as mirages. They could be formed in the sky or even at ground level and in any shape. Guided by his gift of unerring direction, Karel could angle one or two flat mirrors to bounce the sun's rays into a parabolic mirror focussed on a target, creating a powerful heat beam.
This was a truly devastating weapon, whether as an incendiary or in the "anti-personnel role" as army terminology chillingly put it. Unlike white fire though, it only worked on a clear day when the sun was at least an hour above the horizon. One drawback was that an air wizard on the other side could deflect the heat beam away from his own forces with a flat sun mirror of his own. This was why sun mirrors were often used indirectly for their incendiary effect to set wildfires in grasslands and forests to block enemy troop movements or to destroy supply dumps.
In one particularly notable incident, a Commonwealth air wizard won the thanks of both sides for refusing to direct a heat ray at enemy troops as his commander asked him to. The commander was anxious to spare the lives of his own men who would otherwise have had to make a frontal assault on a entrenched position. Instead the wizard drove the enemy out of their field fortifications by boiling the water in a nearby pond. He then call a wind to push the cloud of superheated steam toward the enemy entrenchments, forcing the troops stationed there to withdraw lest they be scalded.
Caught out in the open, the troops were vulnerable to Commonwealth cavalry. Also their retreat had opened the supply route they had been blocking, so a fight no longer had any purpose. Instead the enemy sought terms to prevent a useless effusion of blood on both sides. They were granted full military honors and allowed to march to their own borders, under arms, banners flying, heads held high, on their parole not to participate in hostilities for the remainder of the war.
The wizard's clever tactic won a victory as decisive as a battle of annihilation but without bloodshed. Moreover the Commonwealth's forbearance in sparing the lives of the enemy troops and letting them keep their dignity lead to peace feelers which quickly ended a war that would never have started in the first place but for misunderstandings and a failure of diplomacy, not to mention misdirected ambitions on the part of the enemy elites.
Using sun mirrors air wizards could set forts on fire unless the other side had a firecaster who would put the fires out. Even without sun mirrors they could attack almost any kind of building, even those with storm shutters over the windows and stout doors. All buildings had openings for ventilation which would be all an air wizard needed to thread his influence inside and batter doors and shutters open from the inside out. Once air was circulating freely jets of wind would fling loose objects around like shrapnel at those cowering inside.
Back from the wars himself Drew happily resumed his love life with the twins. That first night Karel won the toss and joined Drew in his bed chamber. What Drew liked most about male love was that boys have hard bodies, all firm muscle and bone and sinew, not soft and yielding like those of the opposite gender. Nothing was better than to wrestle a boy in bed, grappling with his strong body, so much like your own, to join with him in a passionate embrace, filling his holes or letting him fill yours, thrusting and pumping till you both climaxed in an orgasm of epic proportions.
Drew never had to work to arouse either of the twins. With him as a lover their cocks sprang up hard even as the young auburn-haired beauty sank to his knees. Boys know cock better than any female ever could. Drew in particular always looked so damn cute when he knelt before one of the twins, the very picture of submission, hands along his flanks, using just his tongue and his lips on the cock of the boy whose maleness he was worshiping. Or vice-versa; the twins were versatile and did not mind switching roles.
Drew always started with a kiss on the head of the cock he was servicing, a light peck at first, then a smooch. Then his tongue went to work, twirling around the glans, poking the tip into the slit, tapping the knob with little flicks with the tip of his own tongue, targeting the sweet spot. Karel liked him to open his mouth and take in just the head and let it soak there for a minute, to let it get used to the sensations of moisture and warmth, to let the shaft feel his pouty lips close around it possessively, proprietarily. Jemsen liked to slip further back sooner than his twin, but he never forced the pace out of consideration for his lover.
Afterwards the boys would lie quietly in post-coitial lassitude, half way to true sleep which came to them soon enough. They looked like sleeping angels spooned together.
Early one morning Jemsen found his brother strapping himself into a flying yoke, a pair of goggles pushed up on his forehead.
"What's with that flying yoke and goggles, Karel?" Jemsen asked his brother. "You're no fetcher."
"Maybe not but I got to thinking that I might be able to fly anyway by calling a whirlwind to support me by pushing against these batwing extensions the Air Corps has added recently. See how these struts fold out and lock in place with the fabric stretched taut between them?"
"Don't worry Jemsen," Drew assured him. "I'll be standing by to catch Karel if he falls. The tricky part is that unlike the other flyers, Karel will be balanced atop a whirling column of air on take off and then move forward on a jet of wind from behind."
"Wish me luck brother," Karel said as he adjusted his goggles then concentrated and invoked his gift to call a dust devil which filled his wings then lifted him off the ground. Once he got up a hundred feet he channeled the winds aloft into a jet to support and propel him.
Karel flew high enough to give himself time to recover if he slipped up and fell. After a shaky start climbing to altitude, the flight went reasonably well. No fancy maneuvers but the flight proved that air wizards could fly using the batwing extensions to the yokes.
Their flight capabilities were limited compared to those of fetchers. An air wizard could not get airborne with a load of fire globes or caltrops. Nor could he carry a passenger in a tandem rig. Also any wingmen would be advised to stay well clear of the jet of wind that propelled the air wizard and kept him aloft.
In recognition of Karel's accomplishment, a squadron leader pinned silver wings to the breast of Karel's uniform, informally enrolling him as a member of the Army Air Corps. He might not be able to drop bombs, but aerial scouting was definitely within his capabilities. Two days later, orders made it official.
In his latest scoop Drew wrote a report for the Capital Intelligencer describing this latest accomplishment by one of the Pioneers of Flight. He also wrote wrote a short article about it for his professional journal "Magic".
Now the batwings were a terrific idea, but Karel knew that he wouldn't always have a yoke with batwings handy. It wasn't like with wizards like Sir Willet who had a short yoke incorporated into his leather armor. They could take off any time they cared to. So for Karel, flight might be useful on future adventures but only rarely.
Then Jemsen had an idea.
"You know that expression folks use to describe a really fast runner? They say he runs like the wind. That got me thinking. Why don't you try calling a jet of wind at ground level to push you from behind? I'll bet you could run really fast. And with your enhanced strength and fast reflexes you could manage to stay on your feet, actually running not just getting pushed along."
"Better wear something to protect your feet and your army greens and goggles as well to protect you from the sand and gravel your wind will kick up as well as the grass or brush you will be running through. Maybe even wear a helmet."
Karel did suit up for the tests as his brother had suggested including the helmet and went out to the track early, when he would be alone. His first couple of runs proved the concept at speeds double his normal pace. Then he picked up the pace testing how fast he could run safely. It was a lot like running downhill full tilt, where a runner's legs could hardly keep up with his body. It took the fast reflexes of a magically enhanced physique to keep coordinated and not let the jet wind bowl him over.
Now when humans run at a fast pace, like horses in a gallop they are actually airborne very briefly, just after they push off with the rear foot and before their front foot touches the ground. It was this principle that let Karel almost literally fly along the road with five yard strides.
After several cautious trial runs Karel tried to see how fast he could go if he really pushed it, reaching a pace of a mile a minute, one he felt he could keep up for half an hour or more.
Speed like that could be used not only to get someplace fast but as a combat multiplier. The runner could capitalize on his momentum to quadruple the power of a slash with his kukri as he rushed past his target. There was little a foe could do to counter such a fast attack especially if the runner called a crosswind to jink to one side or to spin his foe around.
At a mile a minute, Karel knew he had better not run into an obstacle like a tree or he would break every bone in his body. He soon realized though that he could use a jet of wind as a brake or to turn him aside to avoid a collision.
Karel actually liked running with the wind better than flying with batwings. Sure you got a terrific view from above, but basically you were just hanging there while the winds did all the work. On the ground, Karel's speed owed just as much to his physical powers as to magically called winds. And talk about a runner's high!
Best of all, Karel realized that there was no reason why Jemsen could not join him and match him stride for stride with Karel providing the push for both of them. He could visualize how effective the pair of them could be, launching spoiling attacks by rushing from ambush or behind a Concealment to lop off the heads or arms of enemy officers or to slash open their bellies. Same with quick slashes at their necks of cavalry mounts forming for a charge. Then the Army's main attack would fall on the enemy before they could recover from the surprise.
After practice at slower speeds, the twins were soon running shoulder to shoulder down the track at a mile a minute, faster than anything else on two legs. Or on four legs, for that matter. If they cared to, the twins could run down the fastest horse. Now that was a game changer, as all their friends agreed when Karel told them of his new found ability.
The twins' psychic link and their gift of unerring direction had always told them where they were in relation to each other. Since the twins had never been any real distance apart, usually within sight or at least shouting distance, they were not sure how far the link might work, but it did allow Karel to propel both twins while running separately, say on converging courses to hit a foe from both sides at once.
Sir Willet was impressed. He pointed out that though other air wizards and perhaps some weather wizards might copy Karel's flying technique with batwings on yokes, they would not be able to run with the wind at their backs as he and Jemsen could. Only a few war wizards could control a jet of wind and also had druidically enhanced vitality for the strength, stamina, and reflexes such running required. Karel nodded then got to wondering about enhanced beings like Aodh and Axel and even Nathan, persons who were not war wizards. Maybe they could pair up with an air wizard and practice coordinating their running. It would take a lot of training for those without the twins' psychic link.
Drew got another scoop for his news-paper, much to the chagrin of the Capital Intelligencer's increasingly frustrated competitors who were starting to wonder whether Drew's true gift wasn't to be on the scene whenever big news broke.
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