Elf Boy's Friends - Volume XIII

by George Gauthier

Chapter 2

Why

"Sir Willet, Sir Rikkard, if you will join the rest of us in the conference room." Axel Wilde asked the two senior war wizards.

"Right, we'd better not keep your harem waiting, Will."

Sir Rikkard liked to tease his good friend Sir Willet Hanford about the comely male proteges he had collected around him, though of course they were chosen for their skills and talents and character not for their looks or sex appeal. The joshing was all in good fun. Rikkard knew very well that Sir Willet Hanford was a thorough-going ladies' man, one who consorted exclusively with the female half of the species.

The two senior war wizards nodded, rose, and followed the pretty red-haired youth from Sir Willet's office to the conference room. Pads and pencils were laid out in front of each conferree along with a copy of the agenda and supporting documents. In the center were glasses and a carafe of chilled water. The blackboard on the wall had been washed clean, chalks and erasers lined up on the ledge at the bottom.

Sir Rikkard's kidding aside, the young males seated around the table would have made a fabulous harem for any potentate who fancied pretty boys. Likewise an operator of a boy brothel would be ecstatic to have them in his stable of rent boys.

The conferees included the senior wizards' much younger colleague the raven-haired Sir Liam who looked very military dressed in navy blues cut to flatter his slender physique with its strong upper storey.

Going around the table clockwise, the next pair was nearly always described as "the famous twins Jemsen and Karel". The next two were a pair of journalists: one an impossibly cute twink with spiky auburn hair, the second a cute blond youth -- Drew Altair and Corwin Klarendes.

Seated next to Corwin was his first cousin Artor Klarendes, first born son of count Taitos Klarendes, Count of the Eastern March. Artor was a good looking lad seemingly still in his early twenties thanks to a generous admixture of elven blood in his family. He stood above medium height and was blessed with the deeply tanned athletic build of a swimmer: narrow hips, strong shoulders, and large hands. Beside Artor sat the naval architect, inventor, and technical wizard Karl Eike Thyssen.

Then came Rikkard's long-serving aide Evan, and elf. Like Drew Altair, Evan was a powerful fetcher, but stood a full foot taller at six feet even. He had the typical willowy physique and delicate features of his race. Although Evan seemed as young as the others he was more than three times their chronological age with commensurate life experience, hence his participation.

Anyone who did not know them would have taken them for teenagers, thanks to magically enhanced constitutions whether from their ancestral heritage or druidical healing magic. Giants, elves, and those with a strong admixture of elven blond like the Klarendes clan had life spans measure in centuries rather than decades. They could all forward to half a millennium or more of life and perpetual youth, never really aging till near the end.

The shortest participant was the well-regarded war wizard Sir Krekor. The dwarf was known for his imperturbability on a battlefield when all hell was breaking loose around him. He was also one of Sir Willet's collaborators on research into their specialty of Concealment. Like all dwarves Krekor stood four feet tall but was big boned and powerfully built, as befits a physique originally designed for high gravity planets during the days of the Galactic Empire of yore.

The most powerful physique belonged to the Frost Giant Sir Finn Ragnarson who stood eight feet tall and weighed six hundred pounds. At his belt hung his great war hammer Mjolnir. He was at the meeting not only as one of Axel's circle of friends but also in his capacity as a Dread Hand of the Commonwealth.

The two senior war wizards took their seats, and Sir Willet began by saying:

"Thank you all for coming. I should mention that Evan is attending as a full participant rather than just as Sir Rikkard's aide. He brings another perspective to the discussion — that of decades as a wizard's aide. It is true that Axel serves as my own aide, but he is much younger and is also a war mage in his own right by virtue of his gift of teleportation."

"I only wish Derry, that is Derrionydd, Corwin and Axel's new boyfriend were here to provide the perspective of a shapeshifting unicorn, but Derrionydd is currently roaming the New Forest with the colony of Snow Elves. Our friend the elf-lord Dahlderon could not make it to this meeting, but I can report that the druid agreed that his order would participate in our upcoming naval expedition in the Southern Ocean. It will certain enhance our chance for success to have one of the most powerful magic wielders on the planet along."

"Anyway thanks to Axel's organizational and administrative talents my office is once running smoothly, as you can judge for yourselves from the excellent arrangements for today's conference. I was at my wits' end during his many weeks away from the capital with the second Corps of Discovery."

"During our discussion Axel will be taking written and mental notes of what we say then write it all up afterwards, relying on his gift of eidetic memory. You will get copies and have the chance to add to or amend your remarks."

Sir Rikkard had noticed that the agenda and supporting documents were bound together by a wire loop of sorts and interrupted his colleague to ask:

"Er... Axel, what is this clever thingamajig which is holding these sheets of paper together?

Axel smiled.

"It's something brand new, a recent invention by the very same fellow who invented the machinery to mass produce graphite pencils. Kross is his name. You might recall that my family and I gave him crucial early backing at a time when no one else would. Our investment paid off big time for all of us."

"Now our company is venturing into a new segment of the market for stationary and office supplies. Kross has invented what he calls the paper clip. The easy part was the design which can be made with hand tools though only one at a time. The clever part was to devise a machine that could do the job at high speed and turn out thousands of these things in a day. The machine cuts lengths of steel wire and bends them into a precise shape -- a shape which uses the torsion and elasticity of the wire and friction between wire and paper to hold loose sheets of paper together and in their proper order."

"What will they think up next!"

"I do realize that that was a rhetorical question, Sir Rikkard, but I am actually going to answer it since I am in a position to tell you exactly what will come next. It is a device called a stapler which I have been trying out at my desk for a couple of weeks now. Here is what it looks like."

"Now this is a hand operated tool and might not look like much, but the stapler provides a way to fasten papers together more permanently and more securely than with paper clips. It uses very short lengths of a much thinner steel wire shaped like the big staples which carpenters use to tack or fasten things together. Just as a carpenter uses a hammer to drive staples straight into wood this swing arm presses the points of these small staples through the sheets against an anvil in the base which bends and clinches the legs together to secure the sheets, like so.... It's quite ingenious really and will be on the market very soon."

The conferees shook their heads in admiration of Axel's business savvy. Having already made one fortune with his street lighting business and another with graphite pencils, here he was about to launch two sure-to-be-successful products onto the market. More power to him.

Sir Willet picked up where he had left off.

"Now to outline why we are all here I shall call upon the estimable Finn Ragnarson to explain how and why he and his friends came up with the idea of developing non-lethal weapons and tactics. Finn, you're on."

"Thank you Sir Willet. First let's go over some background."

"We are living in a time of peace and prosperity. The great wars of recent decades against the eastern barbarians, the centaurs, and the trolls are safely in the past. We can look forward to a long era with the Commonwealth of the Long River as the unchallenged hegemon of the continent of Valentia, which is now at its greatest territorial extent ever. We can be gratified that none of our recent annexations were the result of any aggressive or expansionary design but were entirely voluntary or defensive in nature."

"In the first instance we conquered the land of the centaurs, a carnivorous species of hunters who viewed all other sentients on the planets as so many meat animals to be hunted down and eaten. We would have left them in peace in their isolated land save that they allied themselves with the eastern barbarians in an attempted conquest of the Eastern Plains. They started a war of conquest, but what they got was a war of annihilation."

"In the second instance, our expansion into the Far West was intended to forestall the development of a military peer and potential challenger on our continent. We headed off a costly and bloody military confrontation by forming a secret but informal alliance with the revolutionaries of Dzungaria to undermine and overturn the unjust social, political, and economic order of our own allies and force them to adopt the reforms which produced good governance, peace, and prosperity throughout that vast region. In time all of the countries of the Far West petitioned for annexation to the Commonwealth."

"More recently we fought the greatest war in our history to reclaim both the Barren Lands and then Amazonia from the fanatical and genocidal trolls. In Amazonia our own settlers have made great strides there in rehabilitating that vast territory. So have our allies the orcs in their new homeland there."

"I should also point to our success in linking the Northlands into our Greater North Valentia Co-Prosperity Sphere which is not a formal alliance but a loose group of independent but friendly states linked by communications, trade, investment, travel and tourism, and cultural exchange. These states have no designs on each other's territory or independence but only wish to live in peace with each other and with us which ensures that we have no problem neighbors to the North."

"All well and true, Sir Finn, but you are telling us what we already know. Am I the only one around this table wondering where this is going?" asked Rikkard's aide Evan.

"That is a fair question, Evan. Here is the answer. Until recently the Commonwealth has always looked inward toward the heart of the continent. We have spread our aegis to the West, the North, and the Southeast. At the end of the war in Amazonia we secured a foothold on the South coast of the continent and established a naval base on the southern ocean."

"Now we are poised to push outward, not to conquer and annex but to explore and to open up trade routes to the mutual advantage of lands of which we are only dimly aware or even entirely unknown. Who knows what dangers we might encounter or what kind of trouble might be brewing out there? Remember that until the trolls invaded Valentia we knew nothing about their long war of conquest and extermination in the oceanic archipelago of their origin."

"The peoples we encounter upon might not be friendly to strangers arriving from across the sea. They might fear us as potential pirates or slavers, or invaders come to push them out of their ancestral lands. So our initial encounters might not always be peaceful. Yet even if forced to defend ourselves we should minimize bloodshed and destruction in the hope of eventual reconciliation, once we clear up such misunderstandings and prove our good intentions and bona fides."

Evan nodded. "I see. If that happens we very well might want to have non-lethal weapons and tactics in our bag of tricks so we could defend ourselves with minimal damage to inadvertent foes who we hope could eventually become our friends, allies, or trading partners."

"That's it exactly"

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