Elf Boy's Friends - V
After more than a week of this regime Axel was ready to give in to despair, but on the ninth night of his captivity he heard a voice in his head. It was the elf-boy cum druid Dahlderon reaching him with Mind Speech over the link established when the young druid had transformed the wizard's aide's constitution.
Dahl assured him that every effort was being made in his behalf. He himself had traveled from Elysion through a portal to reach the scene quickly and help with the search.
<How can you locate me, Dahl? I have no idea where I am though I believe that I am still in the capital. I am being held underground in a stone-built structure which must be of considerable size. I have been told that tomorrow I will put on a show for the members of this evil brotherhood in a small arena located elsewhere in the building.>
<Good, then we will be able catch all of them at once.>
<From what I have overhead, more than a few have strong magical gifts. They won't go quietly, Dahl.>
<That won't matter. We will crush any attempt at resistance with the powers of a druid, two war wizards, an air wizard, an earth wizard, a powerful fetcher, and an avatar of a thunder god. Oh and Corwin's ball lightning. Nathan Lathrop's delving powers will reveal the layout of the underground dungeon they are holding you in.>
<The Klarendes would have joined us, but they are scattered to the winds. Aodh is with the rangers tracking down poachers who kill brontotheres and cut off their horns for their supposed priapic properties. Artor is on assignment in the north while Taitos is out of touch traveling the road between the capital and Elysion.>
Dahl went on to explain that the twins had thought of a way to locate him. In the morning Liam, Sir Willet, and Finn would go to separate locations around the city and create thunderclaps in the sky. Dahl would cue Axel before each clash. Invoking his gift of Unerring Direction, Axel would tell Dahl the azimuth to the thunder. On a map the twins would plot the back azimuths from the locations of the thunderclaps to triangulate his location. It would likely take several tries to refine the triangle of intersection to a small enough area to search.
<It would be the twins who came up with that approach capitalizing on the gift we all share.> Axel pointed out. <Bless them.>
<Hang in there, Axel. Help is on the way.>
Axel would still have to endure another night in captivity and on the morrow submit to being mounted by a dog in front of an audience, but now he had hope. Rescue was at hand.
Things went as planned. Triangulation with the first set of thunderclaps narrowed his location down to a district west of the river. After the second set, it was down to a particular neighborhood, and finally down to a single block. For the fourth and final round of thunderclaps, Dahl asked for both a horizontal azimuth and an angle of elevation. That pinpointed Axel's location precisely in a single large warehouse and below ground level. The constabulary cordoned off the area as Axel's friends converged to lend their powers to the rescue effort.
With Axel a captive inside the warehouse and perhaps others as well the rescuers couldn't invoke their full powers and simply destroy the lair of this evil brotherhood, something easily within the ability of most of them. Jemsen or Dahl could use earth magic to undermine or liquify the subsoil under the foundations and bring the whole structure crashing down. Sir Willet could raze the building with white fire. Drew could bombard it with huge stones while Karel could send jets of wind whistling through the building to scour its corridors and rooms of those lurking within. No the rescuers would have to exercise restraint and fight it out at close quarters, something for which their abilities were well suited.
The first obstacle was the rear gate of the warehouse which opened onto a loading area. Corwin Klarendes made short work of the lock and the steel bolts that held it shut, melting them into molten puddles with his ball lightning.
The four guards in the loading area were not a problem either. Liam and Drew Lifted them and hurled them down the street, dropping them none too gently at the feet of the waiting constabulary who took the guards into custody.
At the rear door an officious man tried to block their entry declaring that this was private property and that the notion of an underground dungeon in the structure was ridiculous. His claims fell on deaf ears because Nathan Lathrop's delving power had already revealed the underground layout including the hidden stairway to the arena. Finn hit the man with a left hook, which broke his jaw and laid him out. Then he kicked in the hidden door, and they all went down the stairs.
Meanwhile poor Axel was being bred by a gigantic Molossian hound to the delight of the audience of eighty or so. The boy was on all fours with his rump presented for service in bondage with his wrists in cuffs and his ankles held apart by spreader bars.
The hound sniffed at the boy's anus which had been spritzed with the juices of bitches. His dew claws scrapped Axel's back as he climb up and positioned his heavy body atop his much smaller human mate. Then he thrust into the boy's hole. The hound worked away at Axel for a while till he gave a final shove, his knot nearly ripping Axel's anal ring, and knotted the boy like a bitch.
Axel flushed with shame as he realized that his own body had betrayed him with a painfully strong erection. Axel thought nothing could be more humiliating than being mounted and bred by a dog, but worse was yet to come. It happened when the Molossian lifted a rear leg over the boy's back and turned around to the face the other way, so they stood rump to rump, still knotted together, the hound's hot seed squirting into his innards. Dogs often hold that position for twenty minutes.
For Axel his humiliation was complete when Dolan whistled and the dog trotted over to his master dragging the hapless boy by the knot up his ass, his limbs scrabbling ineffectively for purchase on the smooth floor.
It was onto this horrendous scene that the rescuers burst in.
"Hold!" Finn cried, his powerful voice filling the cavernous room. "Let that boy go."
The brotherhood were all men of wealth and power and position, and some had deadly magical gifts, and they numbered eighty against fewer than a dozen intruders so they were more angry than alarmed by this interruption.
"You have no authority here," one of the brotherhood challenged, flashing a badge. "I am the captain of the district watch. This is my territory, and I do not answer to you."
With that he motioned for the eight guards to confront the intruders.
Triggering the small magic which made his hand glow, Finn told him coldly:
"Captain, everyone answers to a Hand of the Commonwealth. You are all under arrest. Don't think you can get away. The premises are surrounded."
That was when the brotherhood knew they had lost everything as a group though individuals might fight their way into the clear and get away. Those with strong magical gifts fought the intruders; others pulled weapons, while some turned to flee.
One of the evildoers threw lightning at the intruders bunched up at the bottom of the stairs, but Finn drew the bolts to his war hammer Mjolnir and sent them right back at his attacker along the electrically charged channel he himself had opened up. The bolts of lightning turned the man into a "crispy critter", soldier slang for a burnt corpse.
"Foolish mortal!" Finn sneered in a deprecating voice that carried throughout the room, "Imagine, throwing lightning bolts at the avatar of a thunder god."
Standing eight feet tall and weighing six hundred pounds of bone and muscle, and with twice his natural strength, Finn did indeed seem the embodiment of Thor, thunder god of the Norse. Electricity crackled about his armor, numbing anyone who came in contact, and he was armed with his great war hammer Mjolnir, the Mountain Crusher. Thrown, it would return to his grasp when he called it back.
"I have to wonder my large friend" Sir Willet ventured, "if you aren't starting to take this avatar business too seriously."
"Not to worry, Will. My pose is purely tactical. An attack by a thunder god is about shock and awe. That's Thor all right: shock and awe!" he assured the war wizard, brandishing his war hammer for emphasis.
"If you say so, Finn… or should I call you Thor?" Sir Willet asked.
Finn grinned and gave him a broad wink
Humor was a way soldiers coped with the stress of combat and its grisly results.
A firecaster lobbed clinging balls of fire which Sir Willet snuffed out in mid-air. Instead of responding in kind the wizard gathered the heat from the dispersed fireballs and concentrated it in the firecaster's body, flash boiling the man's bodily fluids and making him explode messily, and very satisfactorily too as far as the war wizard was concerned. Sir Willet was furious at what these evil men had done to a boy he who had become a surrogate son to him.
The war wizard shook his head disdainfully.
"Amateurs! They always resort to fire because it is flashy and dramatic. They never think to call on their control of heat."
Two men ran toward a hallway leading away from the arena only to hit an invisible shield of hardened air. Though momentarily staggered, the man in the lead recovered quickly and threw lightning bolts at the shield which simply passed through it. It seemed that the shield did not stop lightnings. Unfortunately his attack also did not weaken the shield which was still blocking his escape. Only one thing to do. Kill whoever had raised the shield.
He spun around and spotted Karel gesturing at second shield he has created to block the exit on the other side of the arena. Grinning at catching his enemy off-guard the man threw a bolt at Karel, knowing it would kill him even with a shield of hardened air around him.
Corwin blocked the bolt with a sphere of ball lightning which hummed louder and flashed blue as it absorbed the bolt. The crackling ball then zipped over and engulfed the lightning caster, creating another crispy critter.
"Lightning bolts are all offense and no defense, whereas ball lightning is both shield and sword," he explained to Finn, who nodded approvingly.
"Corwin, you are a boy after my own heart."
The only disadvantage with ball lightning was that its spheres were at least three feet wide so, to prevent fratricide, Corwin had to keep them away from the melee and pick off enemies on the fringes of the fight.
A fetcher hurled a bunch of nails at the rescuers, but these were blocked by the Missile Shields held by Sir Willet, Liam, and Drew. Not waiting for them to sort out which one of the three would throw the nails back at the fetcher, Finn took matters into his own hands.
Mjolnir flew across the room and took the man's head off, leaving his headless body to stagger about for a moment, blood spraying out the torn arteries of his neck. Mjolnir embedded itself in a stone wall very briefly until Finn drew it back into his grasp with his control of the planetary magnetic field. The sight of the hammer flying back to the giant's hand dismayed his foes. They weren't safe from him even clear across the arena.
Still, to prevent fratricide in all the confusion, Finn soon had to leave off throwing Mjolnir and simply bash away at anyone within reach. The electricity crackling over his armor and buckler could numb anyone who got near enough for a jolt to jump the gap between them, and their swords and knives made excellent conductors.
A master of magnetism tried to yank Mjolnir from Finn's grasp, but Finn countered with both his physical strength and by locking the magnetic field of his war hammer to the planetary field. The man's gift might have been strong enough to drag Mjolnir or perhaps even Finn toward him but not the entire planet. And since magnetic attraction works both ways, the man found himself yanked toward the Frost Giant. When he got close enough, Finn caved his head in with the edge of his buckler.
Three men worked a lever to open a trap door and scrambled down a ladder to an escape tunnel, but Jemsen collapsed it in on them with his earth magic. The tunnel became their tomb.
Meanwhile the guards and more than forty of the brotherhood without strong gifts had drawn personal weapons and closed with the intruders in a melee, thinking to overwhelm them, but those they attacked were not helpless drugged youths but trained soldiers and combat veterans with double their normal strength and twice normal speed and reflexes, something which came as a nasty surprise to their foes. Their kukris made short work of them.
The twins had left their bows behind for what they knew would be a fight at close quarters, but, as students of Balandur, they were just as deadly with their kukris, using bucklers on their left arms to fend off enemy blades. In close quarters their doubled strength and speed gave them an advantage as did their stamina. Fighting with hand held weapons was exhausting.
Lieutenant Nathan "Sparky" Lathrop cut down no less than seven foes with his naval cutlass. A scion of a military family, the young naval officer had grown up with a blade in his hand. Healing magic had regrown the portion of his left leg he had lost in combat to a troll axe, so his footwork was as good as ever. Sparky was the pet name Liam had given Nathan who could snap electrum sparks by the handful at his opponents distracting them with the nasty burns and jolts the sparks of static electricity delivered. He also used them to help his allies.
With their fetching powers Drew and Liam did not need bucklers for protection. They could just yank the blades out of the hands of their enemies and send them back point first. A favorite tactic was to wait for a foe to posture with a brandished blade then yank him forward onto the kukris they held out at arm's length. Its bent blade allowed for a straight arm thrust without a bend in the wrist putting more power into the blow. Before their foe could quite comprehend what had happened, the kukri had slashed downward spilling his guts on the ground. Or, if an ally was pressed by two foes at once, the fetchers could even the odds by yanking one of them backwards onto their blades.
In combat no stigma was attached to backstabbing. If the tactic worked, then fine.
Another nasty trick of the fetchers was to yank a foe's eyeballs right out of their sockets. A blinded foe was easy to dispatch.
Endowed with quadruple the strength one might expect from his size Dahl was deadly with a quarterstaff. Its long reach easily countered the blades of the brotherhood while the ironwood caps at the ends crushed skulls and broke limbs. His uncanny speed and reflexes made him a virtual whirlwind of destruction. Those who came within its orbit died or were broken.
With all the rescuers else engaged with other foes Dolan saw his chance. Invoking his projective empathy he made the Molossian hound let go of Axel and dragged the boy onto his feet putting a blade to his neck threatening to kill his hostage if the rescuers did not back off and let him and his brothers go free.
Axel offered no resistance as he might have done with Dolan standing next to him even with his own hands bound, but Axel was in too much pain, too battered, exhausted, ashamed, and emotionally and magically cowed for anything like that.
"Your magics cannot touch me." Dolan crowed. "My amulet shields me."
Dolan however had not taken Dahl physical abilities into consideration. The young druid's quadrupled strength and fast reflexes may have had magical origins, but they were now simply a natural part of his body. With a sidearm motion he flung a throwing knife which buried itself to the hilt in Dolan's skull. The man went down like a marionette with its strings cut.
Dolan's death took the fight out of the brotherhood as they saw their last hope vanish. They threw down their weapons and surrendered, preferring to face the consequences later rather than right away.
Finn ran over and raised his hammer to kill the dog, but Axel held his hand up to stop him.
"No, Finn. This was not his fault. He was just doing what he was trained to do. As I was being trained," he added miserably then sobbed from the shame of it all.
Finn relented and spared the hound. Then he knelt down and comforted Axel, a massive arm thrown protectively over his friend's shoulders.
"Good throw, Dahl." Sir Willet said. "My instinct was to cut the fiend in half with white fire, but that would not have worked against his protective amulet."
"Wasn't he standing too close to Axel anyway?"
"I would have used a vertical cut." Sir Willet explained. "Anyway I thought you druids could not use steel blades. Your muscles would cramp up or some such thing." Sir Willet asked.
"That is correct, Will, but that blade is made of ironwood. It's as hard as steel but organic."
"You druids are just full of tricks, aren't you?"
"I killed Dolan at that critical moment in a dramatic way to dishearten the others. I wanted them to surrender before any of us got hurt."
"I see. Anyway, enough shop talk. Let's check on Axel."
Sir Willet was dismayed at Axel's physical and psychological state. His boy had been through hell.
"Seeing what they did to Axel I really wish Sir Aodh had been here with us." Sir Willet said.
"I don't know about that, Will. Sure Aodh could have helped, but we didn't really need him."
"True, but right now I'd like to be standing here watching a dozen of these bastards writhing on the ground screaming themselves hoarse from the effects of Aodh's poison claws."
The poison Aodh delivered with his front paws was as potent as that in the spines of the dreaded stone fish and would induce the worst pain a living being could endure without dropping dead from shock. When it came to protecting those he loved, Sir Willet was fierce. No surprise there. He was, after all, a war wizard, not an aesthete, a healer, or a priest.
Meanwhile Jemsen invoked his earth magic to turn the iron of Axel's shackles to powder, freeing his limbs. A Healer was brought to the arena to attend to Axel. She mended his hurts, his physical ones anyway. Corwin and the Healer helped Axel to the jakes where his innards were flushed of the seed the dog had planted in him.
Axel was past embarrassment at a woman attending to his most intimate bodily parts and functions. Soap and scrub brushes removed all trace of the doggy sweat and smell he had picked up from their contact. Axel did not want the dog killed, but he did not want to smell like him either.
Another healer tended the wounds of the rescuers, none of which were serious. Jemsen had a scalp wound which bled freely as such wounds will, and Nathan had taken a nasty cut to the ribs which required stitches, while Karel had caught one of the fetcher's nails in his thigh. Pulling on the fabric of his silk trews let them extract it without further damage to the muscle. The healer let it bleed freely for a short while to flush the wound then disinfected it with fiery spirits and bound it up.
After the constabulary arrested the survivors a search of the premises turned up records of the organization and its chapters in three other cities plus a charnel house with the bones of earlier victims. A trophy room held souvenirs including sketches of their victims made before the brotherhood started working on them. The sketches showed the faces and bodies of young innocents as they looked the very day they had fallen into the clutches of the brutes who would go on to use them in appalling ways to gratify their bestial and perverted lusts.
Finn wrapped Axel in a sheet and carried him out to a patient transport cart, a modification of the pushcarts which Frost Giants had pioneered in Flensborg and which were more recently adapted to transport ice to subscribers' domestic ice-boxes. Axel reached for Corwin's and Drew's hands and held on the whole way home where he was left in the care of his roommates and friends who included not only Corwin but also the twins, Drew, Liam, Nathan, and also Eike, the former castaway Nathan had befriended who now worked as an apprentice naval architect at the Bureau of Ships.
Two other boys were freed from the dungeon. Broken in mind and body, they had to be put into custodial care. It would be a good long while before they could rejoin society even with the help of empathic healing.
The entire brotherhood including those in the other cities was charged with capital crimes. To avoid making a public spectacle of the executions, the condemned were taken out after dark, weighted down with heavy chains, then pushed off a barge into the Long River and not fished back out till they were good and dead. It was a quicker death than they deserved.
The Capital Intelligencer published a memorial volume with the sketches and remembrances of the young victims. It was priced at cost.
The wealth of the members of the brotherhood was confiscated except for a portion that their families was allowed to keep to maintain themselves, though in much reduced circumstances. The proceeds were put to public purposes including compensation to the families of the victims and a memorial park dedicated to the youth of the Commonwealth.
Axel got a share himself, and the Institute itself received a handsome addition to its endowment in recognition of its role in uncovering and thwarting the cabal. The remainder of the funds went to the public works department for maintenance of infrastructure.
Axel's friends made sure at least one of them was always with him at all times, physical reassurance that he was free, safe, and secure. He never slept alone though initially that was for companionship and reassurance. It was over a month before Axel would trust himself with actual sex, afraid that Dolan had so warped his libido that he would not enjoy normal healthy sex. At least Axel now understood that it was Dolan's projective empathy that had created the dark cravings in his mind which allowed him to take pleasure in helplessness, pain, and his own degradation.
Axel took a good while to come around, but eventually he responded to the love and care of his family and friends plus good food, sunshine, exercise, sports, and a resumption of what he always called the life of the mind, a dedication to serious intellectual pursuits, something he shared with close friends like Jemsen and Karel and Drew.
Axel would never be the same, never quite the gentle innocent he was before, but in his case his character was tempered by adversity, not twisted into something unwholesome. Axel came of good stock.
Two months later when Axel finally reported for duty he found all of his friends gathered at the institute. Sir Willet spoke for them.
"We all agree that you should have the protective amulet taken from the man you knew as Dolan. You earned it not just by your ordeal but by how well you have coped with it since."
Axel looked around at the faces of his friends, people he knew he could count on no matter what. Getting a grip on his emotions, he smiled and said simply:
"Thanks everyone. This ensorcelled amulet will do more than protect just me. It will let me protect all of you against enemies with magical gifts. And with my other abilities including doubled strength and the speed Karel can confer on me as we run with the wind, I can do that much more to protect the Commonwealth and the good people who live in it."
"Well put, Axel."
Sir Willet had never been prouder of his young protege.
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