Elf Boy's Friends - X
Springing the Trap
The boys chose a a party of four as their stalking horse. It consisted of a mercer named Martin Kalm, one of his grown sons, and two teamsters cum guards. It seems that the mercer had missed his connection with a convoy earlier in the week and wanted to push on ahead with his two wagons to get his silks to market early. All four elves were armed with carbines instead of their more usual long bows.
As they set out they were trailed by Corwin and his companions, all on foot and in uniform in the case of Axel and Corwin. Melody had been left in her stall. The boys had not warned the four intended victims about the bandits who intended to ambush them a couple of miles ahead at a stream crossing. Their preoccupation with getting their wagons across the rocky ford without throwing a wheel would serve the bandits well as a distraction.
A half mile or so before the mercer's party came within sight of the bandits' lookout, Axel teleported the four to their location with Derry already in his unicorn form, visual reassurance that they were the good guys
<Peace travelers. We are friends. You are in great danger. The bandits lie in wait half a mile ahead.>
"What? You are talking in my head! And what is this you are saying about bandits?" the mercer asked, momentarily befuddled by surprise.
Derry explained the situation and offered them a chance to return safely to the inn or to proceed as if nothing was untoward, just the four of them in their two wagons. When the highwaymen struck, Corwin and his friends would instantly teleport into their midst to defend them and to capture the outlaws.
Now all four in the mercer's party were in the militia. Moreover Kalm's son Viktor and one of the teamsters had seen combat in Amazonia. So he and his men were willing to take their chances.
Once linked up, they would number eight good guys against maybe nine or ten bandits, so pretty good odds with six carbines among them. Also they and not the bandits would have the element of surprise. Then there were the powerful magical gifts of a fetcher, a unicorn, a jumper, and a wielder of ball lightning. Even in his capacity as a healer Corwin might give a foe a heart attack if it came to that. And three of their eight could call light to englobe the head of a foe and scramble his brains.
So they agreed to play the unsuspecting victims and also to try to capture the bandits rather than kill them. The highwaymen had themselves not killed wantonly, only twice in what they likely considered to be self-defense, regardless that it was during the commission of their crimes.
Besides who could doubt a promise of protection from a unicorn, a magical species who were known to be scrupulously honest. And two of the four in Corwin's part sported military decorations which showed that the blond and the red-head were a whole lot more than a pair of pretty boys. Moreover one was a giant-friend and the other an orc-friend which also inspired confidence. Besides the mercer considered himself a good judge of character. So Kalm put his trust in Corwin and his friends.
It was not misplaced.
Along a stretch of road with low brush to either side the bandits sprung their trap. Two of them stepped into the roadway and leveled their carbines at the wagons. The rest rose from a crouch and stepped fully into view along the edge of the road. It was a textbook L-shaped ambush.
"Surrender your goods, and your lives will be spared!" their leader, a tough looking giant, called out.
Derry had been listening telepathically. At his nod Axel teleported their party to the wagons.
"The tables are turned." Corwin announced. "It is you who have fallen into a trap. Surrender and we will spare your lives."
"Now why should we do that youngling?" the frost giant asked. "The odds are pretty even and while we are spread out you guys are all bunched up, making an easy target.
Corwin shook his head. "Your airguns and crossbows are no threat to us. Our fetcher is holding a missile shield to protect us."
"We'll see about that."
The bandits cut loose but their lead bullets and crossbow quarrels could not get past Loren's missile shield. Still Loren's gestures had made it obvious that he was their fetcher. The frost giant turned to one of his men and ordered:
"Jarl, take him out. Let's see his missile shield stop a lightning bolt." he said with a sneer.
A human of middle years and with a predatory grin on his face gestured dramatically as he hurled a tremendous bolt at Loren. Corwin blocked it with a sphere of ball lightning which hummed louder and flashed blue as it absorbed the bolt. The crackling ball then zipped forward and engulfed the lightning caster, turning him into a crispy critter, soldier slang for a burnt corpse.
Having made his point Corwin contented himself with holding three balls of lightning in a defensive formation. He again invited the bandits to surrender, but their chief shouted to the bandits to get in close and attack with cold steel. A fight at close quarters would neutralize Corwin's ball lightning which would be as much a threat to friend as to foe in a hand to hand brawl.
That was when Derry transformed into a unicorn and cut loose with his killer neigh, Really an intolerable screech, it did not kill but startled, pained, and distracted its foes, and either drove them off or made them vulnerable to the unicorn's natural weapons: horn, hoofs, and teeth.
That was a simple enough power, but surprisingly effective in battle for both defense and offense. Armed foes could not handle their own weapons effectively. They put their hands to their ears, making them easy to dispose of or to run away from.
As soon as the screech stopped Axel jumped behind one bandit after another, nicking each with his push knife, the one with diluted venom on its blade. That pretty much ended the fight except for their leader who had stood outside the cone of sound Derry had projected. Enraged beyond all measure he shouted:
"Cowards! You hide behind magical defenses. Otherwise I could kill every one of you pretty boys, one on one."
<Try me.> Derry projected.
Taking that as acceptance of a personal challenge, the giant brandished a fearsome looking longsword, but Derry was ready for that. His forthright charge caught the giant by surprise. The unicorn was upon his foe before he could bring his sword into play. As with the life leech, the unicorn's horn with it monomolecular point transfixed the giant's central heart. He bled out even as his auxiliary hearts worked to circulate his blood but all they did was pump his blood out of the grievous wound in his chest.
Afterwards Derry explained that he had delved the giant's mind and realized that he was the other killer in this band of highwayman. So Derry provoked him into an attack, which allowed Derry, in the exercise his legal right of self-defense, to kill the miscreant.
The rest of the bandits were unable to offer resistance as they were bound securely. After everyone returned to the village the constable locked his prisoners into the storeroom and sent a messenger to the county seat. The shire reeve arrived and took charge of the prisoners. The trial was held two days later back at the county seat.
The outcome was a forgone conclusion. All seven survivors were sentenced to work on a road gang for the next four years. It wasn't just punishment at hard labor. They would be trained to that exacting work and might be offered paid employment after serving their sentences. Either way they would end up in much better health thanks to a long stretch of strenuous outdoor work and decent food. The prisoners of the Commonwealth were fed as well as its soldiers.
"Well you boys saved our property and perhaps our lives. I am not sure that in the heat of the moment would would not have resisted rather than surrender to the bandits. It cost us a delay of three days, so now it is past time to push on. We will forever be grateful for what you have done for us."
The authorities were prompt to pay the reward. Derry put his share into his pack, gratified to be flush for the first time in his life. Loren hefted his sack of golds and wondered just what he should do with his new found wealth.
"I have a suggestion for what you can do with the reward money." Axel ventured.
"Buy an autogyro. As a fetcher you can propel and pilot it yourself, and you have enough mechanical ability to maintain it and keep it in good repair. With an autogyro there is no feed bill, and the machines are never headstrong nor temperamental."
Loren nodded. "And the ride is more comfortable than even atop a mount with an ambling gait, right Axel?"
To celebrate, Loren took Axel to bed and proved, as if anyone would ever doubt it, that elves were born for male sex. Loren was enthusiastic and inventive as a lover. As a fetcher he could make love in ways that defied gravity, something Axel was well-experienced in thanks to Drew Altair and Liam.
The next day Axel jumped them all to Flensborg where Loren would find a good selection of new and used aerocraft.
"The airfield serves both civil and military aviation. It is the headquarters of the air arm of the Fyrd. It is also used by air taxis and postal, passenger, and freight autogyros. At least two firms refurbish and sell surplus military autogyros. You can get a good price there and also train with the mechanics at the repair hangers."
"Sounds good to me." Loren allowed.
In Flensborg Loren was initially tempted to buy a sleek two seat speedster but settled for a transport aerocraft. A more practical choice the larger autogyro would serve him not only for personal transportation but also a source of income. He might hire out as an air taxi for travelers in a hurry or carry airfreight under charter.
"And the next time I swing by the vale of my birth, I can prove to my folks that I am not a banjo strumming wastrel, as my father once put it, but a professional pilot and successful businessman."
"And anytime you get to the capital be sure to look us up." Axel told him. "We will be happy to show you around. I know that you'll just love Twinkle Town."
Axel smiled. "It's an neighborhood named for the cute twinks who are its prime denizens, of whom we are all prime exemplars. Twinkle Town is a district or rather a cluster of dining, drinking, and dancing establishments favored by males who fancy pretty boys and by pretty boys who favor being fancied."
Axel too got new transportation at Flensborg. With a pang of regret he sold faithful Melody to easy service at a riding school and bought a mount trained to the amble. It was a sorrel gelding which was named Blaze after the white streak on its forehead. The animal would carry him tirelessly and comfortably over the long miles ahead.
Corwin wrote off an article about their latest exploits for the Capital Intelligencer and sent it off via air mail. It wasn't so time sensitive that it had to go via heliograph.
After saying their farewells Axel jumped Corwin, Derry, himself, and Blaze back to the village where they resumed their interrupted journey.
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