Elf Boy's Friends - V

by George Gauthier

Chapter 14

The Capital Intelligencer

"You know Drew, when the paper took me on more than a year ago, I loved to be called a 'cub reporter', but I like it a lot less these days. I think that by now I have proved myself enough for our editor to drop the cub part. After all, I am eighteen and a winner of the Writers' Prize for my book on the Lightning War. If that doesn't make me a full-fledged reporter, what can?"

"Believe me Corwin I feel your pain. I myself stayed a cub reporter for a year after my first Writers' Prize and the war against the centaurs in what is now New Varangia. I was only seventeen when sent out as a war correspondent, but I didn't get that plum job from favoritism, just because my editor and publisher were my brother and father. They both knew that any correspondent they sent to a war zone had to be able to protect himself. And as a fetcher powerful enough to lift a brontothere into the sky, I could do just that."

"You always put it that way, Drew, but have you ever actually lifted a brontothere into the sky?"

"Yes, I have, Corwin. Several times in fact — as the twins, Sir Willet, Axel and many others could bear witness."

"Hmm. You won't mind then if I ask Axel about it when he comes by to pick me up after work? We are heading over to Twinkle Town for some fun and frolic.

"Go ahead. Just don't do anything I wouldn't do."

"Merely following in your footsteps. You took up with Axel long before I ever came on the scene."

"He's a great kid, isn't he?"

"Anyway do you think you could talk with your brother Heflin, ask him to see things my way. He brushed me off when I tried to raise the issue with him."

"I'd like to help you, Corwin, and I really do agree with your position, but this is one battle you are going to have to fight by yourself. Our boss is not only our editor, he is my older brother. That makes me a younger brother with all the subordinate status that implies. Heflin keeps his own counsel on personnel matters and even his star reporter gets no say. And before you ask, no I cannot go over his head to our father the publisher. Sorry."

"I understand about family dynamics, so no hard feelings, Drew. I guess I will just have to be patient. Or maybe bring him such a terrific scoop he finally see things my way. The trouble is that he keeps rotating me through various humdrum assignments: the crime beat, obituaries, public events, municipal affairs, even the shipping news, so I have not developed my authorial voice."

"You can develop your voice in books just as I have done in mine. Heflin wants the Intelligencer to speak with a single reportorial voice and I don't mean his own. The Voice of Reason and Common Sense is what he calls it. As a journalistic ideal that isn't so bad, is it? And despite your misgivings about those prosaic beats they are helping you learn the news-paper business from the ground up. That foundation will serve you well in your later career."

"So don't worry about Heflin. I happen to know that he thinks highly of your work, even if he doesn't come right out and say so."

"If he doesn't say so then how do you know?"

"Simple. How much blue pencil does he take to your copy?"

"Uh, these days not very much, not like during my first six months on staff."

"Exactly!"

"I see what you mean. Thanks Drew."

Corwin Klarendes was the "cub" reporter on the staff of the Capital Intelligencer, living his dream of becoming a journalist for one of the big city papers. He had made his name with his scoop on the Lightning War published by his first news-paper, the Dalnot Ledger.

Corwin had himself served in the militia in that latest war on the Eastern Plains wielding ball lightning against the eastern barbarians trying to seize the strategic tunnel through the mountains. For his courage in rescuing a platoon of cavalrymen he had been awarded the Military Cross for Valor. His exploits lead to his scoop and later his prize winning book and eventually an offer of a job at the Intelligencer.

Blond, short, and slight of build Corwin's clean limbed frame stood maybe four inches over five feet. Blond, exceedingly cute, and with fine-boned features that evidenced a considerable admixture of elfin blood in his ancestry, Corwin was the nephew of Count Taitos Klarendes, Count of the Eastern March. His mother and Klarendes' late wife had been sisters. Though born ten years apart they looked enough alike to be twins. Which was why Corwin himself looked so very much like Taitos' younger son Eborn.

A while later their editor signaled Drew to come into their father's office. Both men had strange looks on their faces. His father started off saying:

"You must have heard that Lord Zaldor and Marshall Urqaart have been recalled to the capital, having handed over their duties to a new team of proconsuls out west. Zaldor, Urqaart, the First Despot of Dzungaria Twm Glyn Dwr [pronounced Tom Glen Dower] and their General Ifans are being hailed across the continent as the Peacemakers Four."

"Today they spoke to the chief editors and publishers here in the capital. They revealed that it was your mission Drew years ago to the Far West which changed the course of history, and very much for the better. Zaldor and Urqaart revealed that they seized on an opportunity you and your friends presented which made their great accomplishments possible. You four, Finn Ragnarson, the twins, and you Drew were the catalysts for the secret deal with the Despotate which put the old elites out there in a squeeze play to bring about the profound reforms of recent years."

"Marshall Urqaart called you the Young Peacemakers Four saying that Finn took the lead in the negotiations with the Despotate. The twins had an insight into the longstanding problem of low agricultural yields which lead to perpetual class struggle between feudal landlords and the serfs and tenant farmers they exploited mercilessly. You yourself saw that the way to increase yields and take pressure off the farmers was to construct iron roads to ship the phosphate rock from the drylands of the Despotate to river ports and from there throughout the West. That tied them together economically and gave them all a stake in a general peace, which lead to the profound social political and economic changes of recent years."

"The four of you broke the vicious cycle of poverty, low productivity, class warfare, and oppression, and thereby averted bloody insurrections and ruinous wars between the revolutionaries of the Despotate of Dzungaria and our allies out west, which threatened destruction and loss of life on a scale I don't even want to think about."

"Now we have long been proud of you for your work not just as a journalist and author but also as a soldier in the wars against the centaurs and the trolls and for your rescue work during natural disasters. When I heard what Lord Zaldor has to say about you and the twins and Finn Ragnarson I thought I would just burst with pride."

"Well father, that is very gratifying but we four were just the catalysts for the changes. Zaldor and the others were the statesman who had the courage to stick their necks out and blaze a path to peace and prosperity for all their peoples. They are very great men indeed, and I admire them unreservedly."

"Well don't think your role will be overlooked. Zaldor tells me that you four are being put in for recognition as Stalwarts of the Commonwealth. It the greatest civil honor the state can bestow."

"Wow! I guess we all expected a medal of some sort when our part in all this came out but not that."

"There is just one thing, son, and here I must put on my publisher hat and talk to you as your boss. It pains me to realize that you have been sitting on a blockbuster story for years now, the story about what really happened during your reconnaissance of the Flatlands a decade ago and all that has come of it. So now that the secret is out, why did you not tell us earlier?"

"The explanation is simple enough. What we did out there wasn't just a military secret, it was a state secret. So I kept my mouth shut."

"Even from us?" Heflin asked.

"Especially from you two." Drew said then added stubbornly: "If you are looking for an apology, you won't get it from me. I was doing my duty as a soldier and a citizen."

Heflin turned to his father and asked:

"We raised him right, didn't we Father?"

"Indeed we did."

Drew had to blink tears away. The respect of his father and older brother meant a lot to him. After composing himself he went on to say:

"Now as to the details of what happened, Helfin you always say that you can read faster than I can talk. So you will be happy to learn that I have written everything down in a series of articles on the coming of peace to the Far West. I was only waiting for the right moment to hand them over to you. That moment is now."

"I have also written a short book on our roles as peacemakers. It will be a relief to finally send it in for publication. I have kept both the series of articles and a copy of my manuscript in a safe place and can retrieve them and have them on your desk within the hour."

"Now that's more like it!" the father said "We'll scoop the continent with the secret story of peace in our time."

And so they did. Needless to say Drew's book about the coming of peace to the Far West was another best seller and eventual winner of his fifth Writers' Prize.

The revelation that for years the looming conflict out west had been so much shadow boxing, no more real than exhibition wrestling, was a news sensation. And no news-paper had a better handle on the story than the Capital Intelligencer thanks to its star reporter, Drew Altair one of the key participants in the historic events.

Everyone talked about how fortuitous it had been that those four young men had been at the right place at the right time with the insight into and a solution for the long standing problems of oppression, poverty, class struggles, and internecine warfare in those lands. Thanks in good part to what they set in motion both the Confederation and the Despotate had been admitted as associated states of the Commonwealth.

In a solemn ceremony with the highest personages in the land in attendance, the Young Peacemakers Four were designated as Stalwarts of the Commonwealth. Lord Zaldor himself pinned the medals on their army uniforms.

The award came with an official pass authorizing them to travel by public means for their own private purposes anytime anywhere and as often as they liked. That meant by naval vessels, riverboats, transports, iron roads, and mail coaches. Of course they always traveled at public expense while on official duty as a Dread Hand of the Commonwealth in Finn's case or when their reserve commissions in the Army were activated in the case of Drew and the twins.

For Finn, the twins, and Drew, regardless of recognition or perquisites, bringing peace to the West was the proudest achievement of their lives. They had been instrumental in heading off ruinous wars and lifting millions of people out of poverty, people who were now their fellow citizens of the Commonwealth. And soon the West would throw its weight into the struggle to liberate Amazonia and all of Valentia from the genocidal trolls.

As they talked about it afterwards, the young Stalwarts recalled that the Far West was not their only venture in peace making. For hadn't they helped make friends with the brontotheres in the Barren Lands and just recently with the Medkari in the Hot Lands? This might be their true calling, to act as catalysts for the resolution of conflicting interests and the easing of enmity between feuding peoples.

Which did not mean that the four of them would not rally to the colors when called upon to fight foes like centaurs and trolls who simply could not be reasoned with and who could not or would not even talk with you.

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