Elf Boy's Friends - X

by George Gauthier

Chapter 6

The Last Centaur War

Within two weeks of the hunters' return to Flensborg the Fyrd, the militia of the Frost Giants, had organized a military expedition to clear the mountains and to hold them for civilization. The forces deployed were enough for a small war: two battalions of Frost Giants, a battalion of human cavalry, and battalions of infantry raised by the dwarves and the elves.

Followup forces were alerted for call-up in the unlikely event they were needed.

Nearly all the militia were armed with the deadly airguns and bayonets. Though they served as infantry the dwarves carried the smaller carbine version originally designed for cavalry. Half the companies of elves stuck with their traditional longbows. Archers could recover and reuse spent arrows. And archery offered the advantages of plunging fire and visual intimidation. Lead bullets were deadly, but you couldn't see them.

There was no need for artillery, not against the the small number of centaurs they expected to face. The ground forces fielded no ballistas, catapults, magnetic cannon, or swivel guns. Likewise the autogyros of the air corps did not carry incendiary kegs nor did the giants take along their own incendiary weapon, the fire globes delivered by sling, invented by Aodh of Elysion.

Giants and autogyros did carry caltrops which would restrict the movements of their quarry. Caltrops were spiked metal devices with four pointed formed in the shape of a tetrahedron. No matter how they were thrown or fell, they always landed with three points braced on the ground and the fourth vertical, poised to impale of hoof or a foot.

The fetchers who flew the autogyros and those who flew with their wooden yokes were also armed with the same steel discs that Hugh and Jules had wielded during their hunt.

Meanwhile the Commonwealth's professional Army sent two companies of regulars, mounted infantry armed with carbines. Besides backing the militia, their main job was to guard the battalion of engineers charged with building all weather military roads and bridges into the mountains. In time settlers would follow those roads to bring those territories fully and firmly under the control of the authorities at Flensborg.

The professionals were supported by a flight of autogyros, i.e. six aerocraft, from the Army Air Corps. Their job was reconnaissance. With their quarry thinly spread over a considerable territory, the aerocraft would be vital to the success of the campaign.

The Army also sent a powerful war wizard and and his young aide who was a war mage in his own right: Sir Willet Hanford and Sir Axel Wilde. Years earlier, they had traveled to New Varangia and fought at the side of Frost Giants. Their job in this new campaign was to organize the local magic wielders into a team which included Donnar and Otho plus Hugh and Jules. The cousins took an instant liking to Axel and he to them.

All told the forces committed to the campaign numbered nearly three thousand, which was really overkill. The allied army that conquered New Varangia had had a strength of five thousand giants and humans. It had fought a series of pitched battles against maybe ten or twelve thousand centaurs. How many centaurs could now be hiding in the mountains? Surely no more than a few hundred.

That was why no one doubted the outcome of this new war, which they were already calling the Last Centaur War. The centaurs had no magic. The allies not only had magic, they had numbers, organization, training, experience, and technology. This war would end with the definitive extinction of the centaurs and the incorporation of this wilderness into the settled lands of the Commonwealth.

The first move in the campaign was to deploy the battalion of dwarven infantry along the northern boundary of the territory claimed by the Commonwealth. Their mission was to block the escape of any centaurs or manticores from the forested lands to the uninhabited badlands to the north. Sir Willet opened a space portal for the dwarves and their supply train. Once in place the dwarves moved south to station observation posts on commanding heights previously identified by an aerial survey of the entire border region.

Once that was done, Sir Willet joined the mages who would travel with the command group ready to respond to any emergency. Between the autogyro Sir Willet could propel and his space portals, and Axel's ability to teleport himself and others, the mages were in a position to respond to any emergency or opportunity which might emerge as the soldiers pressed forward.

Corwin's stint as a feature writer had come to an abrupt end as he resumed his all too familiar job as a war correspondent. He attached himself to the Sir Willet's group of magic wielders, knowing that they would be in the thick of the fight.

The cavalry was the main strike force, the only ground combat arm that could keep up with the swift moving centaurs and manticores. The job of the infantry was to block their movements and to hold territory cleared by the cavalry.

As it happened the Last Centaur War was a walkover. The centaurs had no idea that fetchers in yokes or autogyros could overfly their camps and report their locations to the troops. Nor could the scattered bands of centaurs armed with javelins and sabers stand up to the modern army that hunted them. Time and again they and their hunting beasts the manticores were shot to pieces by cavalrymen or infantry armed with airguns. It was the most one sided war in history with only three serious casualties, two of them riding accidents.

The commanding general even remarked that he felt more like a game warden than a soldier as his army cleared the country of the invasive species which infested it. Still the war gave the Fyrd the opportunity for full-scale field maneuvers under battlefield conditions. It tested officers and sergeants in leadership and tactical skills.

Paradoxically it also built morale.

Sure the militia grumbled about being mobilized and taken away from their homes and their normal pursuits, but they soon came to welcome the campaign as a change of pace, a chance to spend time in the great outdoors with fresh air and sunshine and stout comrades. And at the end, the fighting forces would march back home, heads held high, banners waving and bugles sounding. All hail the conquering heroes!

The military engineers soon were at work building all-weather roads and bridges to open the country for settlement. There were rewards for all the races: townsites and timberlands and sites for overshot water wheels to power sawmills for the Frost giants, mines and limestone caverns for the dwarves, and fertile vales for the elves. Humans laid out routes for stagecoach and freight lines and locations for airfields for autogyros.

"Too bad all that fallen rock is blocking this passage." an army engineer remarked to the mages including Donnar who had explained about the battle there. "This wind gap would otherwise be the perfect route to the open country beyond this range of low mountains."

"Sorry about that major. At the time we we weren't thinking about transportation routes," Donnar told him dryly. "We were just trying to stay alive."

"Understandably."

"Here, let me clear the blockage." Sir Willet told them. "I'll blast the fallen rock to nothingness with white fire."

That was a reference to the subatomic plasma in the heart of stars. Nothing could withstand white fire since it did not burn in the ordinary since nor blast things apart mechanically. Instead the plasma flux disintegrated whatever it touched by tearing it apart on an atomic level. The intense heat made the cloud of subatomic particles lighter than air so it was carried aloft to disperse harmlessly in the atmosphere leaving the floor of the passage scoured flat down to bed rock.

"Now you can build your road, Major." Sir Willet told the officer.

"That will open up this entire region. Never doubt that we are doing important work here Sir Willet, extending the frontiers of settlement."

"I could not agree more. I like to think that despite all the destructive power we war wizards and war mages wield that we are constructive agents of civilization. As are our military who are the chief defenders of that civilization."

"Er, pardon me for interrupting your mutual admiration society," began the lieutenant in charge of their escort, but we really need to look to setting up camp. Does anyone know of a stream which we can draw water from?"

Major Tolbart shrugged. "Speaking as a topographical engineer, I could hazard a guess that since a river once flowed through this wind gap its captured headwaters must be over there in the marginally higher ground to the northwest."

Sure enough less than a mile away scouts found a good sized brook, almost large enough to be called a river. The engineers and their escort of mounted infantry set up camp. Early the next day the engineers went to work on the road, hauling gravel to fill in the low spots, digging ditches, and leaving the surface of the road with a camber to help rainwater drain off to the sides and out the lower end of the passage.

"Our job here is pretty much over", Corwin pointed out. "So why don't we four go for a swim in the creek?"

Sir Willet cautioned the four to keep their weapons with them, though two fetchers, a jumper, and a boy who wielded ball lightning were weapons in themselves even empty handed and naked. The discs the fetchers wielded were close at hand and subject to their telekinetic control, and they could always hurl attackers away from them or lift them high into the air and then let them fall to their deaths. For that matter, even without yokes they could always Lift each other into the air and fly. Corwin's ball lightning served as both shield and sword. It killed by both burning and electrocution. As a jumper Axel could simply teleport himself out of danger or teleport his attacker to a position high above the ground and let him drop.

At a wide spot in the brook the boys set their mounts free to graze then laid their gear down, stripped off their uniforms, and plunged in. The water was invitingly cool thanks to the inflow from a spring upstream. At first they were content to relax and float lazily, chatting and joking and enjoying the shade of the gallery forest which lined the brook. Soon enough though relaxation gave way to the grab ass games nude youths were all too likely to engage in while ostensibly swimming, which lead to foreplay, which lead to more intimate forms of interaction.

Hugh and Jules had already come to like Corwin a whole lot with his exotic mixed heritage, both human and elf, and now Axel had joined them, an extremely boyish-looking copper-topped lad with heart-melting dimples who had friendly personality. The cousins soon took a shine to the engaging wizard's aide. Smart, cute, and with a truly gentle soul, there was a lot to like about Axel besides his physical beauty. Which was why the cousins paired off with Corwin and Axel as much as they did with each other.

Their four hard tanned bodies intertwined in all the ways athletic and acrobatic youths were capable of when consummating their physical passions including the time the cousins double-teamed Axel, plugging him at both ends. Axel was delirious with passion, impaled on the cocks of two randy teenagers. It was a long time before they were all spent and lapsed into a pleasant post-coital lassitude.

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