Elf Boy's Friends - X

by George Gauthier

Chapter 1

Skimmers

"Can I be of assistance, sir?" Corwin Klarendes asked of the city watchman at the accident scene.

On a day off Corwin had been returning from an early morning run to the rooms he shared with his friends, looking forward to a cool shower and a late breakfast. An onlooker had told him that a teenage boy traveling too fast on his skimmer board had collied with a lady in her thirties. She had gone down hard. The boy had fallen too, but his injuries looked to be nothing more than the scrapes and bruises he had picked up rolling along the pavement till he had fetched up against a hitching post. The woman was unconscious and perhaps seriously injured. For starters she had a nasty forearm fracture with the ends of the bones visibly protruding from the skin, and she was losing blood.

"Who are you, youngster, and what makes you think you might be able to help?" the watchman asked Corwin dismissively, seeing the comely blond youth as just another bare-ass pretty-boy, little different from the nude youth who had recklessly ridden the lady down except his fine-boned features indicated that this newcomer's ancestry was as much elven as it was human.

"Let me see what I can do to stabilize her condition. I am both a combat medic and a magical Healer."

"You'd better be able to prove that you are what you claim to be," the man warned Corwin. "What's your name anyway? For the record."

"It's Corwin, Lord Klarendes of Dalnot." he said, invoking his seldom-used title of nobility."

"Ah, you would be that journalist and author."

"Yes, I am, and if I were dressed professionally I would be wearing the armbands certifying me as both combat medic and Healer. "

"I had no idea you had such credentials. By all means proceed."

Taking a knee beside the stricken lady, Corwin first checked for head injuries. It was as he feared, the woman was in serious trouble, maybe enough to kill her if the bleeding in her brain was not stopped, certainly enough to cripple her. Corwin's gift confirmed that her other injuries were survivable so he first tackled the brain injury.

As Corwin summoned his magic a pearly effulgence engulfed both him and the casualty. Its color cycled from pale white to light green and back three times before dying away. Corwin's magic had stopped the hemorrhaging in her brain, repaired the damage to the brain tissue, and also realigned her arm bones, stopped the bleeding, and closed the flesh around the break, cleansing it to prevent infection.

"When she wakens, which will be soon enough, but see that she is taken to an infirmary. The bones of her arm are knit but only weakly. A bonesetter will have to put a cast on her arm to help it knit fully, but her body's own recuperative powers will soon have her as good as new."

"Thank you young sir, or rather My Lord." the watchman said respectfully acknowledging his status.

"Could you check on this young miscreant as well?" he asked hauling the boy to his feet which caused him to yelp and clutch at his shoulder.

Corwin frowned. "Hold on a minute, sir. His shoulder looks dislocated. Here let me pop the joint back into place." Corwin told him. Gripping the boy's elbow he gave it a practiced yank which reset the joint.

"Yikes! That really hurt, and what about my scrapes and bruises?," the boy asked plaintively. "Look I'm even bleeding some."

Corwin shrugged. "Slow seepage like that actually keeps the wounds clean until you wash them with soap and water then apply an astringent to prevent infection. Anyway your injuries are nothing which time and nature cannot set right. I won't waste magical healing on any of them."

"We'll clean him up down at the station." the lawman promised as he took the youth into custody, telling him:

"Let your injuries be a reminder of the hazards of racing along crowded city streets on a skimmer board."

Skimmer boards were all the rage especially among the younger set. Both a toy and a means of short-range transportation, they were the latest of Karl-Eike Thyssen's inventions and were a best seller for his toy company.

Essentially a smaller terrestrial version of the paddle boards of the Medkari, the narrow boards were about two and a half feet long and ran on four small wheels attached to the board by a steel shank on the underside.

Most riders would scoot them forward with a sandaled foot letting their momentum carry them along, steering by shifting their weight. Alternatively some riders kept both feet on the board and propelled themselves by the strength of their arms, pushing off with a light pole which had a rubber tip at the bottom for better contact with the pavement.

Skimmers really came into their own with riders who were fetchers or masters of magnetism. Their telekinetic or magnetic gift let them propel the skimmer at dizzying speed, which is what made them exciting to teenage boys and inspired impromptu races and daredevil antics.

Youths just coming into their powers and heedless of the consequences of excess speed had caused any number of accidents, though this would have been the first fatality. Some dangerous speedsters had been dealt with by passers-by whose gifts had brought the headlong careening of the reckless youths to a sudden halt, in some cases none too gently.

One boy had been Lifted telekinetically by a fetcher of middle years and tossed onto a tussock of sword grass. The one thing fetchers cannot move telekinetically is their own selves. Once lifted off his skimmer into the air he was helpless. He yelped as the sharp blades cut his skin.

"Damn you, old man. My father is a district magistrate." the outraged boy shouted. "He will make you pay for this."

The man shook his head.

"I think not." then raised his right hand and triggered the small magic that made it glow, the unmistakable credentials of the Dread Hands of the Commonwealth, the government's chief troubleshooters who were endowed with plenipotentiary powers.

Another reckless youth got double-teamed by a fetcher and a firecaster as wizards whose tutelary element was fire were known. The former dropped the bare-assed boy into an ornamental pond which the latter had chilled halfway to freezing.

Corwin resolved to write a short article for the Capitol Intelligencer about the hazards of excess speed. He was back to working full-time now that he had completed his medical training. The newly licensed magical healer also volunteered four half-days a month at a local infirmary. There were never enough magical healers to meet the need, which was why the medical system in the Commonwealth incorporated the abilities of the allied health professions of nurses, bonesetters, midwives, herbalists, chirurgeons, and doctors of natural medicine, spreading best practices across the entire health care sector.

The next day Corwin testified at the young miscreant's hearing, describing the extent of the woman's injuries. The boy whose name was Poul Lander seemed genuinely sorry that his heedlessness might have cost the life of a nice lady who was a wife and mother of three. At Corwin's suggestion, the magistrate sentenced him to a month of community service at the infirmary where Corwin worked. It was often called upon to help with injuries ranging from falls from ladders to mishaps with kitchen knives to crime victims, mostly stab wounds or slashes or blunt force trauma.

Some weeks later, as Corwin got back from the infirmary Drew Altair jokingly asked:

"How is that new boyfriend of yours getting along?"

"Poul is hardly my boyfriend, just a spirited kid who made a mistake and got carried away with the thrill of speed. Fortunately I came upon the scene of his accident in time to keep him from having to face a charge of unintended homicide."

"He's been doing quite well at the infirmary. He is cheerful and conscientious and not at all resentful of his sentence which he acknowledges is no more than his just deserts. At our infirmary we mostly treat accidental injuries rather than disease. So Poul has seen for himself the damage that carelessness can produce. He'll soon be finished with his community service. In my estimation, he has learned his lesson. More power to him."

"Does he still race along the streets on his skimmer board?"

"Not like before. When he travels by skimmer, he not only moderates his speed he also wears a bicycle crash helmet and the wrist braces which Thyssen Toys recommends.

"No clothes though, right?"

"Of course not. What is the point of having a fine young body if you cannot show it off?"

And indeed with nudity taboos for males virtually non-existent in the Commonwealth of the Long River, except for dwarves and Frost Giants, young human and elven males almost never wore clothing for exercise or for any kind of dirty or sweaty work, not in that tropical climate. And if their state of undress gave potential suitors a look see, well what could be wrong with that?

Of course many riders who commuted to work on their skimmer board did dress in sober tunics or trews and shirts. Some of the younger workers preferred to wear the newly fashionable square-cut low-rise short-shorts which let them show off their fine bodies in public then change into more appropriate garb at the shop, manufactory, or bureau where they worked.

"So you really don't fancy this young fellow for yourself, do you?" Drew wondered.

"Hardly. Oh, Poul is a nice looking kid, but he is only fifteen going on sixteen. Besides he already has a special friend more his own age, a person of the female persuasion."

"Oh, I see!"

"See what?" Eike asked as he breezed into the room.

Eike was a slightly built, slender, and smooth muscled blond boy. Though in his twenties he looked to be no more than sixteen and would stay that way for centuries thanks to druidical healing magic. Far prettier than any boy rightly ought to be, he had a flawless complexion and fine boned features including a broad brow that hinted at his intellect, high cheekbones, a straight nose, plus subtly pointed ears and chin which gave him an elfin appearance, His large green eyes were set wide apart under finely arched brows, their lashes too long to have ever have been meant for a male.

In answer to Eike's question Drew explained:

"I just now realized why Poul wasn't Corwin's boyfriend after all."

"I never thought he was. That was just a notion in your own perfervid imagination. You saw the boy only once and then very briefly. Anyway it was obvious to me that this Poul wasn't interested in boys."

"Oh?"

Eike shrugged. "Just from the way he looked at me or rather did not look at me, if you take my meaning."

"Come to think of it you're right. I should have picked up on that, social butterfly that I am."

"How is the toy business?" Corwin asked, to change the subject.

"Better than ever, and now we are selling skimmers as fast as the manufactory can make them. Plus we offer accessories like push poles, crash helmets, wrist guards, and even sandals with tough soles which really grip the pavement. You see I held off on offering skimmers till I had developed a line of accessories to go with them. No point giving competitors an uncontested opportunity at the aftermarket."

"You have become quite the shrewd man of affairs, Eike." Drew told him.

"I had a good mentor. Lennart is a great teacher as well as the outstanding business innovator of the Commonwealth. He has midwifed more new companies and industries than anyone else. And yes, as he predicted, my inventions have made me rich beyond the dreams of avarice. Not that I really need the money. I mean, what would I spend it on. Clothes?"

Corwin and Drew chuckled. Eike had nearly as little use for clothing as elves did, going back to Karl-Eike Thyssen's five years as a castaway in the Scilly Isles. Once his clothes rotted away he spent the whole time on the island stark naked until he was rescued at the age of fifteen by Nathan Lathrop and the crew of the Commonwealth frigate Petrel. Most days, if he wore anything, it was only a skimpy breechclout and moccasins while on duty as a a naval architect at the naval shipyard where he worked.

All of Eike's friends had become wealthy one way or another. Their comfortable but modest life styles meant that most of their income was plowed into long term investments, especially in new industries like iron roads, street cars, refrigeration, aviation, bicycles, and even pencils, though not the toy company of which Eike was the sole proprietor.

Ticking off the major inventions with his fingers, Drew said:

"Rigid wings for soaring, wire wheels, bicycles and tricycles, autogyros, airguns, magnetic cannon, torpedoes, toys, skimmers. What's next, Eike?"

"That's the fun part. I won't know until the moment of inspiration, and then I'll get carried away by the frenzy of design and innovation while turning my original notion into physical reality. It's the greatest feeling in the world. Well, the second greatest," he finished with a wink. Then as Nathan and Liam arrived, he added:

"Speaking of which…"

"Save it for after supper!"

The trio of the inventor, the naval officer, and the war wizard shared a bond nearly as strong as that between the twins Jemsen and Karel. For that matter, the trio of Liam, Drew, and Axel Wilde were also close. The nine young males including Corwin and Finn Ragnarson, who lived in the expanded suite at their residential hotel shared not just rooms and bodies, but the lives, their loves, their hopes, and their ambitions for a better future for each other, their friends, and for their country, the Commonwealth of the Long River of which they were proud to be citizens.

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