by David McLeod
Paul and Larry have accepted that they are on a new world. However, their surprise at meeting an elf is about to be trumped.
The senior had agreed that Brother Sebastian might take Paul and Larry back to the place where they had been found. After lunch, Artie and the Elven boy Alan brought them boots, trousers, and shirts.
"We wear robes and slippers inside. It's custom. But they're not any good for tramping through the forest," Alan said.
Paul and Larry had not put on their small clothes, and Larry blushed when he removed his robe to don the outdoor clothes. No one noticed except Alan.
Everyone blinked and Artie sneezed when they left the building and stood in the bright afternoon sun. Artie, Alan, and Brother Sebastian waited patiently while Paul and Larry looked around. They stood in a courtyard surrounded by stone walls, perhaps 50 feet high. The walls were crenelated, and there was a walkway several feet below the notches, or crenels.
This is a place that can be defended, Paul thought, and wondered why that would be. It was one more puzzle in a long list of puzzles, beginning with where are we? This is clearly not our world, but is it even our reality? Can elves exist in our reality? Can we be moved from winter to summer, and can we learn without understanding a new language? Are the laws of nature here the same as in our world? How long would it take for elves to evolve from human stock—or humans from . . . Paul's thoughts were interrupted when the others began walking across the courtyard.
Besides the building they'd just left, others buildings, one- and two-stories tall, lined the walls. An open shed was clearly a smithy: the clang of the smith's hammer broke the quiet. A boy led a horse from one of the largest buildings, across the courtyard, to the smithy.
Brother Sebastian led the boys toward a gate flanked by stout wooden doors. As they passed through the short tunnel that ran through the wall, Paul looked up to see the points of a portcullis. Seriously defended, he thought.
He looked closely, but saw no guards nor, for that matter, anyone who was armed. On the other hand, they appear to be at peace.
Outside the gate were gardens. Paul and Larry recognized tomato plants, beans, broccoli, and squash. Beyond the gardens were pastures where sheep and goats grazed, and farther away, fields of corn and other crops Paul and Larry did not recognize. Farther still were rows of trees too regular to be natural. Orchards, Paul thought.
Boys and men were working in the gardens, herding the sheep and goats, and tending the trees of the orchards. Some of the boys called to Artie and Alan, and teased them about having found a way to escape toil. The boys are not unhappy, nor are they serious in their jesting, Paul realized. It is gentle teasing, such as friends might do.
The gardens, fields, and orchards gave way to a forest, which grew thicker the farther they walked. After less than an hour, Brother Sebastian stopped. "This is where we found you," he said. He pointed to a place where the scant undergrowth had been pressed down and trampled.
Using that place as the center, Paul and Larry began a spiral search pattern. Sebastian and the boys quickly understood, and joined them. Only a few minutes later and after only a few circuits, Paul called a halt. "There's nothing here," he said. "If anything came through with us, it would be closer than this, but I do not believe any thing else came through."
"What else might have come through," Artie asked. "And why do you believe there wasn't anything else?"
"It's logical," Paul said. "We came here through a wormhole, a quantum tunnel, or something similar. It could not have been very big. Bigger would almost certainly mean that it would require more energy. Bigger also would likely mean that more than just two boys in their underwear would have been pulled through. The outer clothes we were wearing didn't come with us. That means whoever created the wormhole was very selective about this process. If we weren't allowed to keep our clothes, it is unlikely we'd be allowed to keep other things that were farther away and not firmly attached to us. That is my hypothesis."
"You've used that word, before," Alan said. "Hypothesis. What does it mean?"
"A conjecture—" Paul began. He saw Alan's green eyebrows raise in question. "Don't know that one, either?
"A notion? No, that's no good. Let me try this. A hypothesis is a set of statements, like the ones I just made, that seem to explain something that needs explaining. They give me a place to start examining and investigating the facts.
"Hmm. That's about the best I can do, for now. I'll work on it, and try to come up with a better definition."
"And wormhole? It's a kind of tunnel, right? It must be a big worm! Will you explain that, too?" Artie asked.
"That will take a lot more thought," Paul said. "But I will try. Will that be all right?"
Artie grinned, and nodded with Alan.
"This will be your room." Artie had led Paul and Larry back to the room in which they'd wakened. Larry walked to the window and opened the wooden shutters, letting in the soft breeze of the summer afternoon.
Artie and Paul stood near the door. Artie took Paul's hand. "Please do not think me too bold," he said. "But I like you. I like that you think in different ways, and that you have offered to teach me." He paused and then blushed. "I also think you're cute. Will you share yourself with me?"
Cute? Share? "Artie? What does it mean, to share?" Paul asked.
"Oh, another new word," Artie sounded excited although his voice was still pitched for Paul's ears, only. "It means to have sex . . . to give and receive—to share a boy's magic."
At that instant, Paul's mind reeled. Concepts, ideas, and rules flooded his brain, and he grabbed the doorframe to keep from falling. Magic. It's a field, like electromagnetic radiation, he thought. It's quite logical, really.
Artie sensed that Paul was in distress. "What? Am I too bold? I know we've only known you for a few hours, but . . ."
"Oh, no," Paul said. He shook his head. "You're not too bold. It's just, well, Larry and I . . ."
Artie sighed. His relief at Paul's explanation—although misunderstood—was obvious in the smile on his face. "Oh, you're promised for now," he said. "That's okay. Perhaps tomorrow. And besides, Alan wants to share with Larry."
Artie whispered, "Alan told me he thinks Larry is cute." The boy stood on his toes and pressed a brief kiss onto Paul's cheek.
"Alan and I will come later to bring you to supper," he said. Then he was gone.
Larry turned from the window. "Rule One," he said, completely unaware of what had transpired between Paul and Artie.
Larry laughed as he remembered the first meeting of the J'ville LGBT Alliance. "Rule one is that we can't make any assumptions—and I think we already have."
"Probably a lot more than one," Paul replied, happy to see his friend laugh. It was the first time Larry had done so since they had wakened. "And there's one thing we missed that explains a lot of things."
"What would that be?"
"Do you remember somebody saying that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic?"
"Well, yes," Larry said. He hesitated. "But what's that got to do with anything?"
"Artie just offered to have sex with me, and said Alan wanted to have sex with you. Only he said that sex included sharing another boy's magic. Say that word, magic."
"What have you done with Paul?" Larry asked, only half in jest. "What happened to Mr. Logic?"
"Just do it, please?"
"Magic, magic, mag . . . ho . . . holy crap," Larry said. He stood, motionless, for several minutes. Paul watched as Larry's eyes flickered back and forth, as if he were speed-reading.
"Pretty overwhelming, isn't it?" Paul asked, when Larry's eyes stopped moving, and he was able to take a breath. "I almost passed out when Artie first said the word. I gather that the same thing happened to you?"
Larry gasped again. "Magic."
"And sharing?" Paul asked.
The kiss with which Larry answered that question sent a jolt of electricity through Paul. The boys had put on robes upon their return, and fumbled while pulling them over their heads. They stood apart for a moment, looking at one another. "Artie's right," Larry said, "you are cute."
Paul blushed. His erection seemed to become even harder. "Alan's right, too. You are cute." The boys moved closer and wrapped their arms around one another. Paul's hands slid down Larry's back, grasped his buttocks, and pulled them together.
Larry tilted his head up for another kiss. Tongues battled while erections pressed tummy-to-tummy. Slowly, without breaking their contact, Paul pulled them down onto one of the beds. Larry opened his legs, and wrapped them around Paul's back in invitation.
"What other assumptions do we need to look at," Paul asked. He and Larry lay side-by-side on one of the two beds in the room, surfeited after the most incredible sex they had ever enjoyed.
"Assumptions? First, and most important, that these monks, who aren't really monks, may not have a tradition of offering hospitality and sanctuary."
"You're right, of course," Paul said. "Tomorrow we'll broach the subject of how to pay our way, before they bring that up."
"You're making another assumption," Larry said. "That we should stay here."
"It is the most logical option at the moment," Paul said. "We know little about this world, its geography, its politics, its climate, or what dangers we might face. We do not want to leave the place nearest where we appeared until we know much more. Besides, I don't want to leave here with nothing but the small clothes in which we seem to have arrived—and I'm not sure I want to be traveling in these robes and sandals."
Larry nodded. He kissed Paul. "I'm glad that Mr. Logic is still here. I think we're going to need him."
Paul returned Larry's kiss, and then asked, "About this sharing thing. Are you—"
"Up for more?" Larry said, and laughed again. "You bet."
Artie and Alan arrived well before sunset to bring Paul and Larry to supper. Artie chattered as he escorted his new friends through the hallway. "I'm an apprentice," he said. "Which means I get to do a lot of the drudge work. I don't mind much though, 'cause I'm also learning a lot of things.
"Alan is a journeyman, 'cause he's so smart and has been here for so long."
Paul felt Artie's pride in his friend Alan, but wondered at that statement. Alan appeared to be younger than Artie. Artie's chatter caused that thought to be lost.
"I'm an orphan, from Carter. The people here, they're my family, now, and Alan is my boyfriend. Paul said you two were boyfriends, at least I think that's what he meant. I think it's nice that Alan and I who are boyfriends can share with you two, who are boyfriends—"
Artie's words were interrupted when they reached a table and an older boy, at the head of the table, gestured them to sit and raised his finger to his lips in the universal signal to shush.
After the room grew silent, the senior stood, and spoke. His words were not in the language Paul and Larry were expecting. Nevertheless, they understood some of them. Church Latin? Paul thought for a moment, but the words were too few for him to be sure, and the noise that began when the senior sat overwhelmed his question.
Food in large bowls and platters was passed around the table. At first, Paul was hesitant to take much from the common dishes, but Artie urged him and, when Paul demurred, used the ladles and forks to serve Paul's plate, himself. "There's plenty of food," Artie said. "If we need more, one of us will go to the kitchen for it."
Paul saw that Alan was serving Larry's plate just as Artie was serving Paul's, and remembered what Artie had said about Alan thinking Larry was cute and what he'd just said about boyfriends sharing with others, and wondered. Are they polyandrous? It certainly seems that way. How can we respond to that? How must we respond to that?
"Alan?" Paul began with an easier question. "You said you were from Urbis Romana. I believe that means the city of Rome. Is that correct? What language is that? Where is your home? How far away is it?"
Alan nodded. "Yes, that is correct. I am from the elven city of Rome, which is many days away—perhaps three months travel or more, depending on the weather. The language in which I named the city? It's just Elvish—and it's the same language in which the senior offered his blessing before the meal. Elvish is often used in spells and magic, including blessings.
"I have been sent here to study."
"The language we are speaking," Larry interjected. "What is its name?"
Alan looked puzzled. Artie answered. "It's just the language commonly spoken by people in Arcadia and Carter," he said. "I don't think it has a name."
"You said you were an orphan," Paul said to Artie. "And that you are from Carter, which I remember someone saying was east of us. How is it that you are here?"
Artie looked down at his plate, and seemed reluctant to answer. Paul felt fear, shame, and something more. "Artie, I am sorry. If the question raises bad memories, please forgive me, and please do not feel that you have to answer."
Artie smiled a tiny smile. "It's all right, Paul. I told you I thought you were cute and that I wanted to share magic with you. I am happy, therefore, to share my story with you, too. And Alan knows it, already.
"My father was arrested and taken before the Duke of Carter because he was accused of hoarding corn. I knew that he had hidden seed corn from the Duke's tax collectors, but only because we would need it to plant next year's crop. Neither the Duke nor his tax collectors seemed to understand that. If we didn't have seeds, we couldn't plant; if we couldn't plant, there would be nothing for them, or for us.
"When the soldiers dragged him from our hut, Mother tried to stop them. One of the soldiers hit her with the butt of his dagger, and killed her. We never saw Father again, but later someone told us that his head decorated the Duke's gate."
By the time he'd finished his story, Artie's eyes were shining with tears. Paul put his arm around the boy and hugged him close. He felt the boy's sobs, and then felt them subside. Unseen by the apprentice and journeymen mages, a glow moved from Paul to Artie. One of the men at the senior's table saw, and gestured to the others. The senior saw, and nodded.
Unaware of what had happened, Paul whispered to Artie. "Sometimes," he said, "sometimes, it seems that bad things have to happen so that good things can happen. I'm sorry about your mother and your father, but the evil that was done to them brought you here. It brought you to me, and I am glad for that. Will you be glad with me?"
Artie snuggled into Paul's side, and whispered his assent.
"What happened between you and Artie?" Larry whispered to Paul. "It was something. The men at the senior's table were looking at you."
"I comforted him, and said the evil that had been done was what brought him here, and that I was glad for that.
"He wants to share . . ."
"So does Alan," Larry said. "I don't know what to do."
"I have put that off, at least for tonight," Paul said. "Tomorrow, however, we will have to make a decision."
After supper, Alan and Artie walked with us to our room. I asked Alan why he'd come all the way from Urbis Romana to Carter.
Alan blushed. "I told Artie that I thought Larry was cute, and that I wanted to share with him. Artie shared his story; I am happy, too, to share mine.
"I was an embarrassment to my father. I had been enrolled in the Temple School—and was dismissed for not paying attention to my teachers. I was then enrolled in the College of Magic—and was dismissed for—well, it was a prank that went awry.
"No one was hurt," he hastened to add. "I was then enrolled in a sala de armas, but was dismissed because I was too clumsy. It suited my father to send me here, where my failures would not cause him so much consternation—and embarrassment."
"How did you come to be here?" Alan asked. "I heard what you said, about wormholes, but it didn't make any sense. I heard what you said about someone bringing you here, but that didn't make sense, either."
Larry and Paul exchanged glances. "You're Mr. Logic," Larry said. "You get to start. Besides, you're older than I am."
"Only when you need me to be," Paul said, and grinned. He remembered that it was he who had first initiated sex when the two boys were young teens. He remembered that it was he who had first gotten a drivers license and had first gotten a private pilot's license. But he also remembered that it was Larry who had convinced him that J'Ville needed an LGBT club, and that it was Larry who had stood up and conducted the first meeting of that club. He also remembered that it was Larry who had nearly died from the beating he received at the hands of a group of homophobic Christian fundamentalists.
Paul shook his head as if to drive these memories back to a different world, where they belonged. "You know that Larry and I are from another world, one that revolves around another sun. You know, or should know, that we spoke a different language and learned different things than what you learned, here. You should know, also, that there was no place for magic in our world.
"There were people—people who claimed to have knowledge that others did not have—people who claimed that there was magic, and that it came from a mysterious person who they called a god. They claimed that people had to follow certain rules—their rules—otherwise they would suffer eternally after death.
"Larry and I did not believe this. We believed that the world was what we could see, touch, feel, experience, and that there was no place and no need for magic or magical beings.
"We have, in only a few hours, learned that there is in this world a place for magic. We do not, however, believe that there are gods that are worthy of worship, but that there are people—human or elf—who have found a way to reach out to power that we do not understand.
"But how did you get here?" Artie demanded.
"We were flying a search and rescue mission," Paul said, "when we became unconscious. We woke to find ourselves here. We do not know how, or why, or who brought us."
"Flying?" Alan asked. "How were you flying? Was it on a dragon or on a giant bird?"
It took a while to understand that Alan was serious in his question. He had asked us how we had gotten to the place we were found. He seemed fascinated by it, and eager to work through the rather poor explanations Larry and I were able to offer. Larry and I tried to tell him about our aerial search mission and the plane, but Alan didn't seem to understand. He thought we had been flying on the back of a giant bird or on a dragon, but he couldn't grasp the notion of a man-made flying device.
More important, Larry and I had difficulty explaining it to him. Further, we couldn't accept the idea of a giant bird or a dragon. Finally, Alan admitted that the bird was probably fantasy, but he was adamant that dragons were real, and that they lived in the mountains of Elvenholt. After all that we had seen, I was inclined to believe him. Larry, however, was skeptical, yet I was supposed to be the logical one! I guessed my desire to fly, and to find a way home, was coloring my understanding, and resolved to set that aside.
Somehow, Artie had wormed his way between Paul and me, and Alan had snuggled into my side. During a lull in the conversation, I caught Paul's eye and raised my eyebrows. Paul raised his. Actually, he raised only the right one: the Spock trademark gesture. I nodded. Paul nodded. We both knew what we meant. We'd been boyfriends and lovers for more than five years and could almost read each other's minds.
Alan wants to have sex with you, Paul's look telegraphed to me. And Artie wants to have sex with me. It's okay.
The decision we thought we'd be able to put off until another day was made, and much more easily than we'd thought.
Sex with Alan was absolutely incredible and, if I am right about the sounds that came from Paul's bed, so was his sex with Artie.