Elf Boy's Friends - Volume XIV

by George Gauthier

Chapter 8

Defying Gravity

At the Army proving grounds on the outskirts of the capital Sir Willet Hanford watched as the three druids Dahlderon, Meirionnydd, and Owain demonstrate their mastery of the new gravitational flying technique which his own protege Axel Wilde had inspired and the twins had demonstrated as practical.

Those gifted with earth magic, both druids and earth wizards, could levitate by gravitational repulsion, though that took them mostly up and down or on a slight diagonal at best. To move fast or to cover ground they needed a push from a favorable wind or a jet of air.

A team like Jemsen and Karel with one an earth wizard and the other an air wizard would use their powers in concert. As an earth wizard Jemsen levitated both himself and his brother. His twin Karel invoked his gift to generate a swift jet of air to propel them along.

Druids had both abilities: earth magic to levitate and weather magic to call a wind rather than just a jet of air. When flying as a trio, the druids each lifted his own body while a single druid provided the push, keeping themselves coordinated with the strong Mind Speech for which druids (and unicorns) were known.

The youthful druids hardly looked liked three of the most powerful wielders of magic on the planet of Haven. Short and slightly built pretty boys with the sculpted musculature of athletes, dancers, or acrobats, they could easily pass for a trio of high class rent boys on a lark.

Druidical life magic kept them perpetually young, teenagers in all ways except chronological. Dahlderon was the youngest, a raven hair elf-boy who looked to be sweet sixteen going on seventeen. Owain was a diminutive strawberry-blond human who might look no more than eighteen but was past the two century mark. Merry or rather his consciousness was over a thousand years old in what was his third incarnation and his second as an elf-boy. In between he had lived as a unicorn till his transformation back into an elf-boy retaining snow white hair as a memento of that period.

The druids wore modified Army flight suits, that is without a cuirass or flying yoke. A safety helmet with visor and stout boots completed their ensemble.

"You have clearly mastered the basics of gravitic flying, boys," Sir Willet told them, "which is quite different from flying telekinetically, the way our army flyers do it. Nevertheless, in case you find yourself operating with them you need to become familiar with the standard maneuvers which army flyers use for scouting, surveillance, ground attack, and air to air combat. Study the flyers' training manual and standard operating procedures. It wouldn't hurt for you to visit the flight school and train with them. I can arrange that if you like."

"We would, definitely." Owain assured him. "This is a great day for the druidical order. From now on gravitic flying will be in every druid's bag of tricks. And just in time too. Humanity has recently developed half a dozen ways to fly. It makes us look bad that we druids could only levitate. Now levitation is useful enough to escape a charge or a stampede or a wildfire or to scale a wall or a cliff, but it does not really get you anywhere."

"That is so right," Merry agreed. "Sure we can scout by looking through the eyes of an eagle or a wolf but only if one is within the range of our psychic perception. And the eyes of animals don't see the same way we do. Some animals are color blind and see only in black and white. Others cannot register particular colors, or their night vision is poor."

Dahl nodded. "Portals or rifts are great for traversing great distances, but you miss everything which lies between. With this new technique we druids can overfly an area or a route and see things for ourselves. We can linger over an area enjoying a bird's eye view of the landscape or zip along either passively by rising to the proper altitude for a wind going in the right direction or actively by calling up a wind with weather magic."

Sir Willet pointed out that a vantage point in the sky was the best way to keep from getting lost. The land below looked just like a map only in full color allowing someone like him to relate map to territory. Then he thought of another consideration.

"As with war wizards and fetchers, flight makes aviators vulnerable to attack from the ground such as from levin bolts, streams of flame, or telekinetically driven weaponry such as the edged discus. Up in the sky a flyer is a target with nowhere to hide, no natural cover or concealment except sheer distance or maybe a bank of clouds."

"Ever since we war wizards took to the sky we have had to work out ways to reduce our vulnerability to ground fire, firstly by simply simply dodging the attack, relying on quick reflexes, speed, and maneuverability. Alternatively a magical concealment deprives your foe of his target entirely. Teamwork helps too, as when a wingman such as a wielder of ball lightning like young Corwin blocks a levin bolt aimed at his partner."

"We hadn't realized that when the three of us originally asked you to teach us magical Concealment, Sir Willet," Owain noted, "but it was just as well that we did."

Sir Willet continued:

"In combat the element of surprise will work for your enemy. Which means that sometimes all you can do is absorb or counter the first blow then counterattack as hard as you can, slugging it out while doing your utmost to destroy your foe. Now in my case a telekinetically or magnetically driven attack directed at me merely hands me a weapon I can turn against my foe. With my missile shield, I can seize control of an edged discus flung at me and send it right back at my foe."

"Now with us war wizards the focus of our powers is the inanimate world; for you druids it is the biosphere. So you will have to develop some countermeasures of your own. You druids have an advantage in Mind Speech or telepathy which lets you read the thoughts of your foes once they engage you. So you can anticipate an attacker's subsequent moves even if initially caught by surprise, -- as you did that time in your confrontation with my former colleague, the late and entirely unlamented Sir Janus, the Disgraced."

"You have given us a lot to think about, Sir Willet," Owain told him. "We shall definitely work on countermeasures to 'ground fire' as you call it."

"Now that that is settled, I'd like to raise another matter, namely the psychic link between the twins which gives them an intuitive understanding of what the other boy is thinking. Could you druids find a way to strengthen that link and make them fully telepathic? They are halfway there already aren't they? More than once I have heard them express a wish that they could communicate telepathically. And I cannot think of anyone worthier of this gift."

"Hmm, identical twins have been know to manifest the telepathic gift. Now the gift is innate in all unicorns. We druids have it too, but with us it is as much a learned skill as a manifestation of our magical gift, an ability we acquire or rather develop through training. As to the twins, we all love those boys dearly, so we will find a way if it is at all possible. Uh, Merry, why the dubious look? You don't think we can help the twins?"

"Actually I think we can, but I have to wonder if there is more behind this than just Sir Willet's quite genuine concern for the twins. Sir Willet, were you hoping we might do the same for war wizards as well?"

The war wizard nodded:

"I admit that that such a hope was in the back of my mind. I understand that in the early days of the Commonwealth a few war wizards did have mind speech, though with a fairly limited range, say twenty miles. Even with that limitation, two wizards became legendary for using telepathy to coordinate converging columns of soldiers which brought a quick victory by making the enemy positions untenable — a maneuver which minimized casualties on both sides. I would love to be able to hear an opponent's thoughts and anticipate his moves."

"Understandably, but don't get your hopes up. What we might be able do for a pair of identical twins who already have a rudimentary psychic link might not be applicable to others."

Dahl, Merry, and Owain consulted treatises on the theory of magic at the Institute and consulted senior druids at the order's stronghold in the Great Southern Forest. When they felt ready they invited to the twins to travel through a rift to Elysion where the trio of druids would try to enhance their psychic link into true telepathic communication.

Jemsen and Karel arrived at the manor at midday dressed in the low rise square cut short shorts they had made fashionable among the youth of the Commonwealth. Moccasins and gold neck chains completed their ensemble . They arrived just in time for dinner, always the most substantial meal of the day among country folk whose name for the evening meal was supper -- typically a light meal of cold meats, cheese, sliced bread, and fresh or dried fruit. The twins and the druids took their meal with their host Count Klarendes whose spouse Aodh was away on walkabout in the New Forest.

"I am afraid it's just us for dinner," the count observed. "Aodh is out and about with the Snow Elves while the forest rangers are on patrol. That includes your boyfriend Dylan who will be sorry to hear that he missed you."

Sir Dylan of Reading was an elf-boy cum forest ranger cum beast master who had shared the twins' bed as well as several adventures. He and the other rangers often operated out of the ranger station at Elysion.

Jemsen shrugged. "We are not here for fun and frolic but to work."

"And to strengthen the bond between the two of us," Karel added. "The presence of a third party, however welcome his company otherwise, would be a distraction."

"That's the right attitude," Dahl observed. "Not that you don't look utterly scrumptious in those short shorts which flatter and highlight your clean limbed physiques."

"Now before we get down to particulars I'd like to start by talking about psychic consciousness in general. Many magical gifts involve some kind of psychic consciousness if not actual verbal communication. For example a fetcher like Drew or a wielder of ball lightning like Corwin always knows the location of the things under his control, even in the dark or when hidden by intervening objects or terrain. The ability of druids and beast masters to send part of our consciousness into the minds of animal and to see with their eyes is another example."

"On the other hand, some gifts commonly deemed wholly psychic are partly or even largely physical in origin. Your own gift of Unerring Direction relies largely on the physical sense called magneto-perception, which is the ability to detect the planetary magnetic field, a sense actually quite common across the animal world. The magical element lies in not needing to consult a compass to know the azimuth or bearing of the heading you are on as you travel. Also you can always sense the bearing to any place you have been to before."

Jemsen nodded.

"So this magneto-perception could be likened to the sense by which electric eels detect prey or enemies whose very presence distorts the weak electrical field which the eels generate around themselves."

"That is it exactly. That sense in eels is called electro-perception. Now tell us about your psychic link. How does it manifest in practice?"

With eyes closed the better to sense their link Jemsen described it thus:

"First, as one aspect of our gift of Unerring Direction, even when out of sight of each other we always know the azimuth to our twin's location and a rough estimate of the range. That was why, as kids, it was pointless for us to play hide-and-seek against each other. We would always team up against the other kids."

"Second you have seen how often we finish each other's sentences and how we anticipate and sometime even poach a joke, a quip, or a punch line the other has set up. Also, our coordination in combat is instinctual and automatic; we never get in each other's way or leave an avenue of approach or a field of fire unobserved or uncovered."

"Third we share dreams which are so vivid that when we wake up, we can remember not just the 'plot' but also our verbal exchanges. Finally in our lovemaking our sensitivity to each other's emotions is practically empathic."

"That is a good foundation to build on, boys."

Over the next four days the druids worked with the twins in relays to better understand the depth and nature of their psychic bond. Their telepathic probes verified that the twins were indeed cuing each other just below the level of conscious thought. Dahl monitored them telepathically as one or the other of the boys tried to hide from his twin, an effort at which they were totally unsuccessful even when one ducked behind trees, terrain, or a magical Concealment. The twins really did know where to look for their hidden counterpart.

Owain engaged them in mock fights with quarterstaffs two against one to gauge the twins' instinctually coordinated fighting style. Their enhanced physiques and reflexes tested even his druidic speed and reaction time. Sure he was faster and stronger, but there were two of them; they could come at him from two sides at once, and they had a longer reach. Owain couldn't feint or fake out one of them long enough to knock the other out of the fight. In the end he won on points but not by a knockout. Now even though Owain pulled his blows the twins did get thumped, but druidical healing magic fixed their minor hurts.

Merry took the night watch, eavesdropping on the twins' dreams. He was able to confirm that the twins actually did share dreams. They even spoke to each other in a rudimentary and halting version of Mind Speech, but the ability was available to them only when their conscious minds were asleep and not actively engaged with the world around them.

The trio of druids put their heads together for ideas about how to awaken the twins' dormant telepathy. Their chosen tactic was to separate the twins and make them anxious and even desperate to reconnect.

"You want to separate us? We don't like the sound of that at all. Karel and I have never been beyond earshot of each other. Not ever. I mean like not in our whole lives."

"Which may well be why your psychic link never blossomed into full telepathy. You were always within earshot so did not need it.

"I see your point. Er how far apart are we talking about?"

"As far as it takes to make you desperate to reconnect. "

"Desperate, eh? That's sounds like drastic medicine, but all right , we'll try it but bring us back together if we start to lose it."

Owain had the count's autogyro take Karel across to the other side of the valley, a distance or about six miles. During the flight he had Jemsen run about a mile to one side. That would test their ability to orient on each other from a real distance. The boys passed the test repeatedly with no difficulty.

Next time both boys passed through rifts to the opposite ends of the bowl of Elysion. It was as the druids has hoped: passing through the rift had disrupted their psychic link. The twins felt abandoned, cut off from each other for the first time ever, with no directional clues whatever.

"Karel?" Jemsen called out anxiously. "Where are you? Talk to me, brother."

<He cannot hear you Jemsen, not with his ears,> Owain told him. <Reach out with your mind and with your feelings. Try to recapture the feeling of knowing your twin's location. It's not that much different from how it feels when we druids link you boys into telepathic communication. Once that sinks in, make it happen on your own.>

Meanwhile, coached by Owain, Karel was engaged in his own desperate effort to reestablish their psychic link. Barely holding back a rising panic, he strove to reach out to his twin brother with his mind, trying to push through the mental fog which separated them. There — the fog seemed to be lifting a bit in one direction at least for a while but then closed in. Driven to desperation Karel reached out with his entire being then suddenly made contact. The familiar sense of togetherness which had always linked the twins light up his mind then blossomed into true telepathy. Karel could actually hear his brother's thoughts. Tears of relief streamed down his cheeks as he called out to his brother mentally:

<Jem, it's me. I'm this way. Over here! Your thoughts are coming through over our psychic link. It's like when we share dreams, only we're wide awake now. Surely you can hear me too.>

<Yes! Yese I can! We did it Karel! Now we'll never ever be alone, no matter what!>

Their initial breakthrough was only the beginning of developing their new ability. Tests showed that their range was quite respectable: a couple of hundred miles at least. The twins soon learned to reconnect instantly after stepping through rifts. The next phase was to Mind Speak with druids, then with empaths, then with persons who were not themselves telepathic or empathic. Later the twins learned to shield their thoughts from other telepaths and, somewhat less successfully, their emotions from empaths like their friends Dylan and Madden Sexton.

"How much of a disadvantage is it really if an empath can read our emotions?" Jemsen wondered.

"It might give an adversary the edge in a confrontation or negotiation." Sir Willet pointed out. "And then there are the rare projective empaths who can induce fear or terror in others."

"Wouldn't we recognize such an attack for what it is and counter it with an act of will?"

"You two might well do so, given how strong your minds are, but beware of subtle attacks such as when a projective empath induces uncertainty and hesitation.

The twins worked hard for over a month at mastering their new talent. Then came a celebratory dinner, this time with all their friends present: the Klarendes clan, their roommates, Sir Willet, the rangers, and the Snow Elves and white Kodiak bears.

<So what is your range?> Bjorn asked telepathically. <Ours is about four miles.>

<With each other and with druids and those gifted with psychic senses including empaths like Lord Sexton, beast masters like Dylan, or magical healers, our range is about three hundred miles, with others about half that.>

<That would be tremendously useful for explorers such as yourselves. Also tactically of course and for rescue work too.>

"Hey you guys weren't broadcasting just now." Drew complained. "Care to tell the rest of us what we missed?"

Showing off a bit, Karel linked everyone in a telepathic broadcast and explained how far they could reach with their new ability. He also disclosed a side benefit of their telepathic link.

<Jemsen can now extend his field of gravitational repulsion to include me. I no longer have to climb on his back or even touch or hold his hand. It's just great and makes flying together even easier. He lifts us up and I push us forward.>

The twins stayed over for five days for some quality time with Dylan whose bond with the twins was based on far more than their strong physical attraction. The three of them were so much the same sort of people, being hunters, trackers, rangers, and adventurers and all round good company. All three were vivacious, intelligent, and great conversationalists. When he got going, Dylan could even outtalk the twins, which was saying rather a lot — er, no pun intended.

The trio went for morning runs together and swam and dived at the lake not only for exercise but also for the chance to show off the fine strong bodies which nature had graced them with. The twins had a runner's build with a strong upper storey, while Dylan had the willowy physique typical of his race. Raven-haired and blessed with the vivid green eyes and killer cheekbones characteristic of the Sylvan Elves, Dylan was no slouch in the looks department either, holding his own against the blond good looks of the human twins.

The trio often took lunch at the resort but sat for dinner at the manor house. As often as the fancy took them, they made love either alfresco and in Dylan's airy bedchamber. The three just couldn't get enough of each other.

Alas, their idyll was all too brief, for Dylan had to leave and go on patrol in the New Forest. The twins returned to their lives in the capital, wondering when, where, and what their next adventure together might be.

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