Elf Boy's Friends - Volume XIII

by George Gauthier

Chapter 16

The Land of the Elephants

The next day, the boys picnicked and frolicked on the beach. Even Nathan got shore leave so he could join them. Stripping off to reveal their hard bodies and sculpted physiques the nude boys plunged into the warm water and swam to shore to meet up with the ship's boat which the three natural philosophers had rowed ashore carrying the picnic supplies plus their own equipment.

The boys engaged in swimming and the grab ass water sports of which young males were so fond but later turned to more intimate pleasures. Disporting themselves in pairs or in a three way they made love joyfully in a passionate celebration of life, youth, and beauty. The twins double-teamed the elf-boy, spitting him at both ends, while the naval officer paired off with his war wizard boyfriend and the auburn-haired journalist with the exotic shape shifter.

A rousing good time was had by all.

Meanwhile the three natural philosophers headed into the open forest with their collecting equipment in hand, looking for geological, zoological, and botanical specimens. They thought they should be safe enough without any escort. All three went armed with airguns. Besides the geologist Johan Klutz was a strong fetcher while his zoologist colleague Evander Blok could hurl lightning bolts.

Professor Scolari could scarcely contain his delight as he dug up two entirely new species of fungi including some of their underground mycelia (the vegetative part of the fungus made of fine white filaments) and wrapped them in paper. These would be the type specimens for the fungarium, which was the technical name for a collection of preserved fungi, just as a collection of dried plants was called an herbarium.

"I daresay these represent not just two new species or genera but two whole families of fungi."

Blok had got ahead of the other two who were engrossed in examining specimens in their respective disciplines. As luck would have it, he came face to face with an elephant. It stood eight feet tall at the shoulder and weighed four tons so it looked like an adult, only it wasn't.

Now elephants can be touchy and even aggressive. Unprovoked attacks on buffalo or rhino are not unknown. Whatever the reason, this particular specimen took umbrage at Blok's presence and trumpeted an angry challenge. The zoologist back pedaled, not daring to turn his back on the threat, hoping that putting some distance between them would mollify the irritated pachyderm. He knew that it was impossible to outrun an elephant. Too heavy to gallop, their charge was more like a fast shuffle, a very fast shuffle indeed, given their long legs.

As the beast reached for Blok with its trunk, Blok tried to drive it off with a very weak levin bolt, his equivalent of electrum sparks, directed at the beast's tender trunk with all of its many nerve endings. The animal came to a halt and let out a wail which carried to its mother. She poked her head through the tree line.

Blok's eyes widened as he realized that the specimen he had thought to be an adult was really just a calf of an enormous beast fifteen feet high at the shoulder. Sensing her calf was in danger the mother trumpeted her challenge which was echoed by the others in the herd, mostly females and a few sub-adult males. Their charge shook the earth.

Blok looked around for a tree to climb, but none looked strong enough to withstand a determined attacked by the angry herd. Fortunately Johan Klutz was wearing a flying yoke so he invoked his telekinesis and flew to Blok's side then flew him back to the beach, levitating Scolari too as he passed his position.

"Wow, that was a close call." Blok allowed. "Thanks for getting us out of a tight spot, Johan."

"You're not out of danger yet," the druid observed. "The herd you roused is still coming. The elephants saw which way you flew and anyway we are upwind of the herd, so they can follow you by scent alone."

"Maybe all of us should pile into my gig and let Liam propel it telekinetically back to the ship." Nathan offered.

"Why should we let a bunch of wild animals drive us away?" Drew asked. "Surely they are no match for our powers and our weapons. Let's have the Arctic Tern lob a few incendiary shells a bit in front of the herd to scare them and make them turn away."

"There is no time for that." Nathan told him. "It takes several minutes for the ship to go to general quarters and to begin a fire mission."

"Maybe I can help," Karel offered." I know we don't really want to hurt the animals so maybe I should call up a land spout and direct it at the herd, making them confront a foe larger than themselves for the first time in their lives. I dare say they would not care much for the noise and the sting of its whirling sands."

"That isn't a bad idea Karel, but it's too late for such a tactic. Look here they come, practically on top of us."

"Quick Jemsen, dig a trench just beyond the beach," Aodh urged the senior twin, "but slant the outer wall so the elephants don't fall in and break their legs. It's how we kept brontotheres away from our croplands back home."

<Another good idea, Aodh, but I've got this,> the druid broadcast confidently via Mind Speech. <I'll chase the elephants away with a swarm of bees. I'd like your assistance Liam with the concealment component of this trick. You are better at Concealment than I am.>

Gesturing to aid his concentration the young druid invoked his psychic control over animals, but did not simply command them to stop. Instead he put into their minds the notion and the sound of a swarm of angry bees. To this aural stimulus Liam added a visual one, a concealment which created the appearance of a bee swarm rising from the nest in the ground just in front of the herd.

That brought the charge to an abrupt halt. Trumpeting their fear, the panicked elephants turned and ran off as fast as they could to get away from the imaginary bees.

Resuming sonic speech, the druid told the others:

"I went for finesse instead of raw magical power so I didn't have to seize full control of their minds, which is a courtesy I extend to the more intelligent animals like elephants. Once I had their attention, all I had to do was convince them that they were running toward a swarm of bees. My psychic gift put the idea in their heads and made them hear the buzzing, and Liam's concealment let them see the swarm with their own eyes, so to speak."

"Glad I could help, but why do elephants fear bees so much?" Liam asked. "Surely their thick skins are proof against bee stings."

"Ah, but their thick skins do not protect their eyes, the back of their ears, or the tips of their trunks which are vulnerable and quite sensitive. Elephants know this and avoid angry bees at all costs, as you have just seen."

"Just as well," Jemsen observed. "Those were real monsters, bigger than any elephant I've ever heard of. Air guns would have been useless against them. I doubt a bullet could penetrate their skulls or reach the hearts buried so deep in their massive bodies."

Blok supplied the answer:

"Those were straight-tusked elephants, the largest species of all, in fact the largest land mammal known to science. Males have been known to stand eighteen feet at the shoulder, making even mammoths seem puny."

"I am just glad you were able to turn the threat away without harming the animals," Blok told them. "Just like with the Kraken."

Naturally the twins had any number of questions for the zoologist who was happy to have students eager to learn from him. Afterwards Karel expressed his regret:

"Too bad we didn't get a close look at them. So we could sketch them, I mean."

"To my way of thinking we got entirely too close a look, Karel. Not to worry, you'll get your chance later, though not with this particular herd, which will steer clear of us."

The twins had to be satisfied with that.

"Wait a minute," the druid warned abruptly. "I sense that the elephants are in trouble; one of anyway. In its haste to get away from the bees it got stuck in quicksand. Let's help, shall we?"

"These are the same elephants who just tried to trample us?" Nathan asked skeptically.

"That was partly our own fault for intruding into their territory. And then our friend Blok went and zapped one of them."

"Hey! He was coming right at me. And all I gave him was a little jolt, not much stronger than a handful of electrum sparks when I might have blasted his skull and splashed his brains around. How was I to know that he wasn't full-grown but only a calf with a protective mother close by?"

"Your restraint does credit to your profession, Tutor Blok."

"Excuse me," Aodh began, "as you druids acknowledge, protecting the biosphere does not mean saving every single animal. Nature is red in tooth and claw, isn't it? So should we not let nature take her course."

"Only it wasn't Nature that drove the elephant into the quicksand. It was us. The question remains are we willing to help?"

With some grumbling the others conceded Dahl's point and agreed to help the trapped elephant. The three fetchers levitated the whole company and flew them to the scene of the trouble. The hitch was that only Blok had a flying harness. Liam and Drew were in the nude, so they could not levitate themselves, but they could levitate each other and the rest of the party.

The poor beast, a full-grown female, was stuck fast almost up to her knees. She was breathing heavily, clearly exhausted from her struggles, As least she was not sinking any deeper. Contrary to legend a body will not sink all the way into quicksand, but it can be very hard for an animal to extricate itself from the clinging mud.

After the humans landed nearby, the druid used his psychic powers to calm the herd and to explain that the two legs were there to help. One nearly grown male was having none of it and charged.

"Halt!" the druid commanded imperiously, pointing straight at the beast, which came to a sudden stop, quivering with rage at its own helplessness. "Sorry, big fella, but you would only get in the way."

The rest of the herd watched anxiously as the three fetchers and the druid advanced to the edge of the quicksand pit and sized up the situation. Drew took the lead.

"We cannot just yank it out of the quicksand, not the way it is sunk so deep up to its knees and with the mud having so strong a grip on the animal's legs. Now we two are the strongest, Liam and I," Drew told Blok, "so we will do the heavy lifting. Your task Johan is to rock the body side to side to work its legs free from the grip of the quicksand. When Liam and I sense that you have succeeded, we will lift the poor beast out of the trap."

"Are you guys sure you can lift so great a weight?" Klutz asked.

"Please!" Drew assured him. "All by myself I can lift two brontotheres into the air so one overgrown elephant should be no problem. With Liam's help, I won't even have to exert myself to do it. Let's make this happen."

"I'll be glad to let you take the lead, Drew. It is all I can do to lift a single brontothere."

"You're getting there Liam. At one time you could barely lift a pony."

Actually Drew was pretty sure he could lift three or four brontotheres at once, thanks to years of practice with the concentration and visualization techniques pioneered by Angus McFarden, whom Drew had dubbed King of the Iron Roads early on. Still there was no sense mentioning his power level unless it became tactically necessary. Liam had made plenty of progress himself with the same techniques.

Things went just as Drew had laid out. The pair lifted the elephant just enough to ease the pressure of its weight on the quicksand while Blok rocked it gently. All the while Dahl kept the stranded animal calm. It was intelligent enough to realize that the strange two-legged creatures were trying to help.

It took a while but eventually, with an assist from Jemsen's earth magic, the quicksand softened and loosened its grip and the two stronger fetchers lifted her onto firm ground, never letting her get higher than two feet so as not to alarm the animal. She chuffed a couple of times then slowly approached the four humans. Dahl assured the others of her peaceful intent. The trunk reached toward them drawing in the scent of the strange creatures who had helped her get free.

"She is memorizing our scent and appearance." Dahl explained.

Raising its trunk the grateful elephant trumpeted her thanks, which were echoed by the rest of the herd, even by the aggressive male whose charge Dahl had stopped.

The elephants then turned away and went back to what they had been doing before all the excitement began, namely feeding peaceably. The humans returned to the beach and talked things over.

"Such was our good deed for the day." Drew observed.

"Nay, it was our second good deed," Dahl told him. "Our first was halting their charge without hurting any of them."

"Amen," Drew agreed then added. "This episode will be yet another exciting adventure for my forthcoming book on our expedition."

"Don't you mean our book?" Karel teased. "After all, we twins do the illustrations, maps, and terrain sketches."

"For which you always get full credit, not just in the acknowledgements but on the title page as well."

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