Elf Boy's Friends - Volume XIII

by George Gauthier

Chapter 3


"Now the original impulse toward non-lethal weapons and tactics came from our policy during the last Corps of Discovery. We need to expand of that initiative, devise similar tactics and then train all our wizards and mages in their use. Now I know you will want time to reflect, but since we are all here I would to you to share your first thoughts. I shall start off by relating the policy adopted by the second Corps of Discovery."

"Despite heading into the unknown we did not carry our airguns at the ready. The locals would never have seen airguns, but they would recognize them as weapons and would take our carrying them at the ready as a threat. Instead We kept our air guns slung over our shoulders with bayonets fixed but still in their scabbards."

"Our policy was that if trouble loomed we would try to talk our way out or withdraw. If trouble did break out, we would first try non-lethal force -- everything from fists to clubbing with the butts of the air guns or poking with blunted bayonets to martial arts. Our fetchers might yank weapons out of the hands of troublesome folks or use soporific darts. We avoided battle with the hidden orcs despite provocation because Corwin Klarendes used his ball lightning as a shield not as a sword. He intercepted a hostile levin bolt but did not retaliate, just stalemated the threat."

"Our healers were prepared to use healing magic to inflict headaches and ear aches, terrible itching, vertigo, incontinence, etc rather than blindness, heart attacks and so forth. Similarly earth magic would do no more than create a quagmire under the enemy's feet to hold them fast while air wizardry would harden air into a shield rather than a monomolecular blade. Then were the various kinds of missile shields via telekinesis, magnetic deflection, or disintegration of the shafts of arrows. We discussed tactics over among yourselves and devised signals or code words to help coordinate our actions."

"Now let's go around the table, starting with Sir Liam most of whose service has been with our Navy."

Liam nodded then said: "What comes to mind immediately is our use of steel disks in ship to ship combat."

The disks were the size and shape of a discus but with keen edges. Their original purpose was deliberately non-lethal: to cut apart lines, sheets, shrouds, hawsers, and cables thereby rendering enemy ships inoperable, just immobilized hulks which could be dealt with later. In time the flyers in the Army adopted them to serve in the anti-personnel role against both enemy fliers and ground troops. Many a fetcher like Drew himself carried a disk into combat to supplement his pair of steel spheres. The disks were blades for cutting while the spheres were for smashing enemy personnel, mounts, or equipment.

Liam continued.

"In naval combat Nathan Lathrop used electrum sparks as a force multiplier to help his sailors in boarding operations or in repelling boarders. The burn and the jolt from a spark cannot be ignored and can distract a foe at the worst possible moment for him in a clash of arms. Sparks alone could dissuade or discourage hostiles and send them running to get away from their intolerable touch."

"With the trolls we dropped boulders to sink their long ships. A single hole through the hull of open-decked vessel like a long ship could fill it with water and send it to the bottom taking all hands with it, their own armor dragging them into the depths. In the future we will likely face opponents with larger more conventional vessels, fully decked ships with water-tight compartments. To spare lives we might throw rocks just at the bow of a ship to open it to the sea but only as far the first bulkhead. That would reduce its speed and maneuverability without sinking it or killing anyone."

"Those are exactly the kinds of ideas we are looking for Liam. Uh Artor, you look like you want to say something."

"Yes, as a firecaster I control not just fire but also heat. Here is a tactic I have tried a few times though only for practice, never for real. It's a way to stop or seriously hamper the movement of a calvary column on paved roads and streets. As we all know it takes just a little bit of rain to make pavement slick and even dangerous, forcing riders to rein in. And that is with water in its liquid form. My idea is to freeze the slick and turn it into glare ice. Try riding atop that! Or apply the same trick to the deck of an opposing ship, slick either from rain or spray. Now salt spray on the ocean takes a little more effort to freeze, but the effect is the same. The crew can hardly get about on deck."

"And if you team up with a water or weather wizard, you can do it any time you care to, not just during or just after a rain. Or a war wizard like Sir Willet who is both a firecaster and a weather wizard could do the job all by himself."

"I will definitely add your innovative technique to my own bag of tricks." Sir Willet acknowledged adding:

"Another trick with heat rather than fire is to lower the temperature in an enclosed space. Your father Count Klarendes and I used that technique in the secret tunnel through the mountains, to block the passage of a vanguard of several hundred barbarian warriors. With their body temperatures lowered by twenty or thirty degrees, the enemy first lost coordination and then consciousness and finally their lives. No reason though that in future confrontations we cannot drop the temperature just low enough and long enough to render the enemy unconscious or maybe woozy and uncoordinated. That will let us send our own troops among them to disarm them before they can throw off the effects. Once warmed up again they will be good as new but with their fangs and claws pulled, as it were."

Everyone agreed that these ideas were all well and good. So far they had heard what air wizards, fetchers and firecasters might do. What of other gifts? Axel spoke next.

"Unicorns have a sonic weapon a so-called killer neigh which is an effective non-lethal weapon. Really an intolerable screech, it does not kill but it startles, pains, and distracts the unicorn's foes, and either drives them off or makes them vulnerable to the equine's natural weapons: horn, hoofs, and teeth. Too bad our new friend Derry isn't here to demonstrate, but he is sojourning in the New Forest with the colony of Snow Elves we installed there not long ago."

"Speaking of sonic weapons," Jemsen added. "don't forget Aodh's weapon which is even more effective since it is highly directional, strong in a conical zone in front but negligible to the sides or behind."

Jemsen described Aodh's sonic weapon as an intolerable screech or better a snarl much like the sound of fingernails scraping on a slate only far worse. The sound could rupture eardrums and induce pain, temporary deafness, and dizziness. As the enemy staggered about with hands over their ears friendly forces could close with them to disarm and bind them.

"We could thus spare the lives of soldiers who were only doing their duty, and who as likely as not were as decent a lot of fellows as our own citizens."

The twins pointed out that even the deadly power of sun mirrors could be used to spare lives rather than take them.

Sun mirrors were sheets of dense air with surfaces as shiny as mirages. They could be formed in the sky or even at ground level and in any shape. Guided by his gift of unerring direction, Karel could angle one or two flat mirrors to bounce the sun's rays into a parabolic mirror focussed on a target, creating a powerful heat beam.

This was a truly devastating weapon, whether as an incendiary or in the "anti-personnel role" as army terminology chillingly put it. Actually sun mirrors most often were used indirectly for their incendiary effect to set wildfires in grasslands and forests to block enemy troop movements or to destroy supply dumps or wooden bridges. Used against troop concentrations sun mirrors were devastatingly effective as Karel had shown in Amazonia against troll horse archers.

"But there are ways to use sun mirrors such as in aid of a Concealment as I did during our peace mission to the orcs of the Eastern Mountains. The most remarkable non-lethal use was years ago when a Commonwealth air wizard won the thanks of both sides for refusing to direct a heat ray at enemy troops as his commander had ordered him to. The commander wanted to spare the lives of his own men who would otherwise have had to make a frontal assault on an entrenched position."

"Instead the wizard drove the enemy out of their field fortifications by boiling the water in a nearby pond then called a jet of wind to push the cloud of superheated steam toward the enemy entrenchments, forcing the troops stationed there to withdraw lest they be scalded."

"Caught out in the open, the troops were vulnerable to Commonwealth cavalry, but the commander held his men back realizing that the retreat of the enemy forces had opened the supply route they had been blocking. With his own men now in control of the entrenchments, a fight no longer had any purpose. Instead he offered the enemy generous terms to prevent a useless effusion of blood on both sides. The opposing troops were granted full military honors and allowed to march to their own borders, under arms, banners flying, heads held high, on their parole not to participate in hostilities for the remainder of the war."

"The wizard's merciful tactic won a victory as decisive as a battle of annihilation but without bloodshed. Moreover the Commonwealth's forbearance in sparing the lives of the enemy troops and letting them keep their dignity lead to peace feelers which quickly ended a war that would never have started in the first place but for misunderstandings and a failure of diplomacy, not to mention misdirected ambitions on the part of the enemy elites."

Then the dwarf Sir Krekor spoke up.

"Don't overlook the possibilities of using maneuver as a non-lethal tactic. In the right circumstances, maneuver can make actual fighting unnecessary by blocking the enemy or by threatening his lines of communication, supply, and reinforcement. With our space portals we can move whole bodies of troops suddenly and in total secrecy, perhaps aided by a concealment then have them form up in position to make enemy dispositions untenable. A foe might then be more inclined to parley and try talking his way out of trouble."

Finn nodded:

"Thank you Sir Krekor. Using maneuver and concealment to prevent a battle from breaking out in the first place is the surest way to prevent casualties, both fatalities and injuries. Now Eike, you look like you have something to add."

"My own magical gifts do not lend themselves to combat, but as an inventor I have equipped our armed forces with new weapons including airguns, magnetic cannon, autogyros, and torpedoes. One area I would like to explore is the use of irritants and incapacitating agents to take the fight out of an enemy without inflicting real harm."

"I am thinking of things like itching powder which could be delivered by slingers with fire globes, dropped by flyers or autogyros in our Army Air Corps, or perhaps even shot out of magnetic cannon. Itching powders can have either an alchemical effect or just a mechanical one. The seed pods of velvet beans are covered with loose orange hairs. In contact with skin, a chemical in the hairs causes a severe itch. Ground-up rose hips rely on a purely mechanical effect. The fine hairs inside rose hips make an excellent itching powder."

"A pepper spray can be prepared from hot chilis. Its inflammatory effect causes the eyes to water and close, depriving your foe of vision making it easy to bind and restrain him or simply give your own forces time to withdraw. Pepper spray is already in wide use for policing, crowd control, and personal self-defense, and can also defend against overly aggressive dogs, as any delivery agent could testify."

At that point the participants ran out of ideas. They adjourned to let Axel write up his account of the conference and distribute copies. They group agreed to reconvene in a week, giving them time to read and to reflect. After which Drew would publish their ideas in his newsletter "Magic" for his readership to think on and write in with suggestions.

In this way the Commonwealth was preparing itself to face outward and explore the wider world, armed with tactics and weapons that would spare lives in the event of misunderstandings with the peoples their explorers would encounter.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead