Elf Boy's Friends - XI
In a clearing in the forest three lovely nude elf-boys disported themselves in a pond. One swam back and forth. The other two simply floated lazily on their backs sculling their arms and legs to keep afloat. Their hard athletic bodies were slightly denser than fresh water and would sink without a little help though salt water was dense enough to let them afloat effortlessly.
The youths were Snow Elves as the shape shifters born of elven-kind were called, not for where they lived, but because of their glabrous alabaster skin, shoulder-length ash-blond hair, and icy grey eyes. Standing an inch or so under six feet, they had the willow physiques, fine-boned features, slightly pointed ears, and killer cheekbones typical of their race.
This trio was a set of identical triplets named Lobo, Lupo, and Volf. As their names implied the triplets could transform into dire wolves which had the normal coloration of that species differing from natural dire wolves only in a much larger skull to house their brains. Shape shifters always kept their intellect when they transformed.
"Let's cook whatever we take during today's hunt and consume it in our elven forms." Lupo urged. "I am getting tired of eating raw deer or antelope day after day which we have to consume in our lupine forms because elven dentition is not up to the challenge."
"We could always go fowling." Volf suggested. "Bustards are tasty and carry a lot of meat on their bones. After all they are the very largest of the flying birds. Or we could try for pheasant which are easier to bag since they spend so much time on the ground."
"True," Lupo conceded. "Whose turn is it to pluck the feathers?"
"It would be." Lupo allowed glumly.
Lupo would have to pluck the feathers by hand then form a paw with an especially long claw to gut it since they had no knives with them. Unlike natural wolves the shape shifting triplets could form their blunt claws into weapons and tools. Sharpened by morphing to give them an edge and driven by powerful muscles in a fight their claws could inflict damage much as a cat's claws might: lacerating flesh, causing hemorrhaging, and inflicting pain, distracting their prey with pain while blood loss would weaken it.
"How about a change of pace from both red meat and fowl?" Lobo ventured. "Fish cooks fast and the flesh is tasty and easy to chew."
"Fish are hard to catch without gear." Lupo pointed out. "Except for salmon, but there are no annual salmon runs up here in the Eastern Mountains so far from the ocean."
"All our fishing gear is with our protectors. We left it behind when we went off by ourselves on this long hunt. We won't see our gear again till we rendezvous with them and our feline and wolverine brethren."
"Say, how about gathering birds eggs?" Lupo proposed. To cook them we dig a pit and put the eggs in then heat rocks in a fire and roll them with sticks into the pit to get the water boiling. In a few minutes we'd have hard boiled eggs."
"That could work," Lobo allowed. "Plus we could gather other foods like starchy tubers and cook them the same way."
"Your idea for hard boiled eggs is a good one. Now if we only had salt. Can't hardly eat hard boiled eggs without salt."
"You got that right." Lobo agreed. "You could say the same for corn on the cob."
The boys would have no problem starting a cook fire. They had long since mastered the small magic to kindle a camp or cook fire. This bit of magic was quite minor compared to their brother Gulo's full-fledged gift of kindling fire at a distance. He could set fire to anything combustible within a considerable range, farther than he could throw a stone. The difference was that Gulo's gift was a weapon, the magic trick for kindling a campfire was only a tool.
Not everyone could get the hang of the magic trick, but the knack came more easily to those like the triplets who already had the magical gift of Calling Light. Wizards were still trying to figure out why. After all the blue white globes of light which those with the gift could summon were not hot. They cast light not heat.
Nevertheless the globes could be used as a weapon. Englobing a foe's head would scramble his brain circuits and kill him. That gave the triplets a stand-off weapon for self-defense. They did not have to rely solely on their physical prowess which would put themselves at risk during close combat, though as shape shifters they would survive any injury that did not kill them. All it took to mend their hurts was morphing into their alternate forms.
In any event, the two magics were the reason their nighttime camps always had a cheery fire going for cooking plus one or two globes of light hovering overhead. Together they kept them safe, letting them see what was out there in the surrounding darkness, and warning off predators. Not that three dire wolves had much to fear from the denizens of the forest. Even a slash bear would hesitate to attack a wolf pack. Dire wolves were tough so even in victory a bear might get seriously injured. No, better to pass them by and seek easier prey.
In the end, they gathered eggs and other foods and cooked them just as Lupo suggested, which got him out of the wearisome task of plucking feathers, though it would still be his turn the next time they went fowling. Supper came early that day, so it was only dusk when they finished their repast and leaned back against the trunk of a fallen forest giant and relaxed in post prandial lassitude. As full dark came upon them and the stars came out they talked animatedly, emphasizing their points with gestures and facial expressions. Despite their fully elven faces their delicate features somehow hinted at their lupine nature.
The trio were chatty and outgoing with personalities more ebullient than those of their feline counterparts, the cousins Leon and Brand. For the lupine triplets leisure was a chance for games, wrestling, horsing around, rough housing, and telling stories of adventure and derring-do. They couldn't carry books around with them but had long since memorized long narrative poems and ballads. Meter and rhyme aided memorization and recitation. Sometimes the narrator would get to his feet and pantomime the dramatic action he was describing.
As identical triplets it was hard for almost everyone to tell them apart. Their brethren and protectors had no such problem thanks to long familiarity, but others were stumped. And going around sky clad as they did meant no color coded garments to clue others in. Even their voices were unhelpfully the same.
Aside from scent about the only ways for ordinary folks to distinguish one from the other were personality and demeanor. Lobo was the oldest by just minutes and was a bit more serious than his younger siblings. Lupo was the jokester in the group, while Volf was the incurable romantic.
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