Elf Boy's Friends - Volume XII

by George Gauthier

Chapter 10

Making Friends

The Corps of Discovery settled in for a stay of some weeks while everything was being sorted out. Sir Willet reopened the portal briefly for resupply, and the Corps settled down in some empty but still sound farm buildings, no longer in use since a neighbor bought the acreage from the former owner. Money was no problem. The orcs did not live by barter but used coins minted from silver and copper making it easy to assign a value to the Commonwealth's coinage.

With the mission on hold, the circle of friends mingled with the orcs and tried to help out where they could. Except for Finn and Dahl they set aside their official looking uniforms and expeditionary outfits in exchange for their fashionable square-cut low-rise short shorts which flattered and revealed their scrumptious physiques. Only Finn carried a weapon, but then Mjolnir was as much a badge of office as a weapon of war.

The elf-boy cum druid Dahlderon used life magic to counter a blight and help the orcs bring in a record crop of earth apples or potatoes, their staple which was interplanted with breadfruit trees. They also grew vegetables and greens and herbs including garlic plus tree crops like walnuts and apples. Their farmers and gardeners used a stone mulch made from volcanic rocks to reduce water loss from the soil and to suppress the growth of weeds.

Corwin and Axel volunteered their services at the local infirmary. Both were trained combat medics and Corwin was also a magical healer. Not every village had a magical healer of its own and Soren's village of Mount Alder was one such. The sick and injured relied on bonesetters, herbalists, and midwifes who practiced natural medicine. Magical healers were sent for when only magic would work.

It helped that most medical problems were straight-forward: injuries from falls, kicks from balky cows or mules, accidents in the kitchen or workshop or smithy, contaminated or spoiled food, dog bites, and the very occasional case of foul play.

Fortunately insanity, dementia, and the hereditary diseases which had plagued the inhabitants of Old Urth had long since been edited out the human genome. Insect vectors of disease did not trouble them either. Humans and the other races simply smelled wrong to piercing and biting creatures which might otherwise feed on their blood or flesh. One did have to be careful around bees and wasps, scorpions, and fire ants which used their armaments and venoms not for food but for self-defense.

The Corps of Discovery needed a translator to talk with the orcs and since Axel was on hand and was very much a persona grata among the orcs he got the job. Sir Willet would just have to do without his aide for the time being. From that point on, with Axel now a member of the Corps of Discovery, he would teleport their copy to the capital.

The twins had long been comfortable in elvish, a language which shared ancestry with the orc tongue, and they had picked up a fair amount of the dwarven language too. After all not only were the twins elf-friends but also dwarf-friends twice over. With their gift for languages they set out to acquire at least a facility with basic orc and engaged a tutor.

Corwin and Drew shared the same tutor who worked with the four of them two hours a day. The young journalists had spent a lot of time among frost giants who used what was arguably a dialect of the common tongue rather than a separate language, though not in the giants' own estimation. As Finn once told them:

"The difference between a language and a mere dialect is whether it is used as the official means of communication for a state, an army, and a system of law courts. We giants have two homelands, a home army and our Fyrd in the Commonwealth, and our own set of laws and courts. So ours is no mere dialect."

"As to any difficulties of intercommunication, it's hardly our fault if others sometimes find it difficult to follow what we say. They should get the wax out of their ears."

His attitude was perhaps a faint echo of the attitude of those frost giants who, for all the racial harmony in the Commonwealth, looked down on the other races in more ways than one.

Finn had started out as a blacksmith and was happy to lend a hand at the local smithy which was shorthanded, one of their two journeymen having left to set up his own shop in another village and take a bride. Finn worked with borrowed tools. Mjolnir was not meant for bashing metal. It was a war hammer.

Meanwhile army transports flew the twins out to continue the aerial survey of the mountains. They flew to a radius of a hundred miles west and two hundred north south, about the limit for a single day's flight. They saw signs of settlement: villages, fields, dirt roads, and pack trains, but avoided contact. The locals must have wondered at the autogyro overhead, which would have looked to them like a very large and very strange sort of dragonfly.

After a week in Mount Alder, Chief Borden raised the issue of fraternization with Finn. He had already asked the general's opinion on the matter so both men sought Finn out and put it to him. It was all well and good for Evan and Hugh Loring to pair off, but aside from a second pair of elves the rest of the scouts very much preferred the society of females. Could the ban be relaxed at least temporarily since there are so many females living close by?

"It's your good luck gentlemen that Soren himself has already raised that very issue. I had expected him to insist on guarantees that none of our men would seek out their women, but he surprised me. He told me that the orcs had no objection to our scouts 'stepping out,' as he called it, with orc females. Fresh blood would be welcome as a way to prevent in-breeding. That is why their own young males were encouraged to take brides from a village other than their own. Now the orcs had not mixed their blood with humans or elves since their isolation, but they had certainly done so in the past. No stigma is attached to hybrid origins."

"Understand, any liaisons with orc females must be consensual. You should remind your young bucks that with the leverage which their gangly proportions gives them, even a female orc is about as strong as a human male. And if that does not deter over eager swains, tell them that anyone forcing themselves on an orc female will face severe punishment. Corwin's magic can do more than heal, it can render a male permanently limp, if you take my meaning."

Meanwhile Evan and Hugh Loring had sparked the interest of a number of orc youths, who like them, preferred their own gender. After Chief Borden told them about the relaxation of the ban on fraternization, the young couple sounded out Axel about orcs as lovers. Evan had trouble articulating just what troubled him.

"Sir Axel, I am not sure how to put this, but I understand that you have taken orcs as lovers. So I am wondering about, well, about their er … manly attributes… "

Hugh Loring rolled eyes and said candidly.

"What my shy friend is trying to ask is whether orcs are as 'gangly' in their manly parts as in their limbs."

Poor Evan's ears burned.

Axel grinned.

"Well, far be it from me to spoil the surprise, Evan, so let's just say that you will not be disappointed."

With that he and the others chortled. Evan was more relieved than embarrassed and soon he joined in, though with a somewhat forced laugh.

"So that you won't be going in blind, let me educate you on the orc libido." Axel continued.

"A strong physical attraction is not uncommon between orcs and elves despite or perhaps because of the physical differences. Orcs are tall and gangly and their faces are all planes and angles. Now that's a lot different from your own willowy physique and fine-boned features. Your orc lover will expect to take the lead. They like to dominate, though without any rough stuff, but they don't want a complete submissive for a partner. That turns them off. They like their boys with a bit of fight in them. Got it?"

"Got it! And thanks!"

Axel himself was not interested in liaisons with the locals. Sure he liked orcs well enough when he visited their homeland alone. Here among the members of the Corps of Discovery Axel was very much not alone. In fact he had the very best of lovers to choose from: a pair of identical twins, a cute blond boy with a strong admixture of elven blood, an auburn haired scamp, a lovely elf-boy cum druid, and a frost giant cum avatar of a thunder god. Lovers didn't come any better than that.

Not that the orcs didn't warm up to Axel and his mates socially. Practically overnight he and his circle of friends had become celebrities. Besides the orcs who had actually read Corwin's and Drew's books many others had attended group readings and heard them read aloud. Their accomplishments spoke for themselves. Here were a group of admirable young males who had not only distinguished themselves in war but had served as peacemakers and been among the pioneers of flight, and had rescued or healed victims of disaster.

A Commonwealth which produced citizens of their caliber was indeed worthy of friendship.

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