Fantasy Fiction posted December 15, 2016


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Young Adult Fantasy

The Piper, part 9

by w.j.debi


Previously
Piper, a young musician, risks leaving the protection of the castle and the city gates one evening, and spends the night playing his flute at his grandfather's grave. A Fae appears--a creature considered swift, strong and deadly--and compliments Piper's flute playing. As the Fae approaches Piper, a city guard comes to the rescue and the Fae disappears. During the next few weeks the Fae approaches Piper on several occasions and says he has some secrets he needs to share, but each time they are interrupted. One evening while Piper is packing to go on tour with Master Braun, the Fae shows up disguised as a troubadour. Just as the Fae is about to say why he wants to talk to Piper, Captain Burkehart appears at the door. Burkehart excuses himself to make his rounds and takes the Fae (Summerstorm) with him, warning the Fae to not attempt anything. As they walk down the corridor, fans of Master Braun mistake the Fae for Braun and race toward the two.  


End of Previous Chapter
A moment later a crowd of enthusiastic Braun admirers mobbed them. Burkehart made a futile attempt to grab Summerstorm's arm, but the crowd quickly came between them. Pinned against the wall, Burkehart was helpless to do anything except watch Summerstorm being swept away by the crowd. Summerstorm looked over his shoulder and smirked at Burkehart one last time before he disappeared from sight.

Burkehart cursed. Red faced, he turned toward the archway where his two men were posted. "Guards!"



Chapter 9
"Leave off the search and return to your posts. We need to be in place before the ceremony begins." Burkehart's strict tone was meant to sound professional, but his men knew that the gruffness masked his frustration.

"Yes, sir," the two guards said in unison, heading for their assigned posts without hesitation.

With a heavy stride, Burkehart withdrew in the opposite direction. When he passed the chambers of the Grand Master of the Music Guild, he gritted his teeth. The figures carved in the door panels seemed more eerie than usual. Flickering light from the wall sconces cast moving shadows which brought the figures to life, and tonight they were taunting him with their dancing and playing. He could almost hear their laughter mixed with that of the Fae's.

The next archway brought him into an alcove across from the chambers of the Music Guild apprentices. Burkehart strode to the window and looked down at the ground. He shook his head and let out a deep sigh. "Blast it, Summerstorm, how can you disappear so easily, and in a crowd of people? So many stories." He gestured with his hands. "You were seen here; you were seen there. One person even claimed you disappeared through this window." He paused to look down at the ground again. "Even you couldn't have jumped from this height without killing yourself. Not unless you used faerie dust or grew wings." Burkehart slammed his gloved fist against the stone wall, then groaned and shook out the pain in his hand. Through gritted teeth he growled, "Where are you?" He stomped away, heading to the dining hall where the ceremony for Braun was being held.

~~~~
An hour later the corridors were deserted near the chambers of the Music Guild. A figure dropped from the rafters and went to the window where he leaned out to look down at the ground. "Whew. That is a ways down." He drew himself back in and relaxed against the wall to gaze up at the stars. "Faerie dust? Hmm. You have quite an imagination, Captain."

Redd-Leif Summerstorm chuckled as he headed down the corridor and through the archway into the next alcove. He stopped across from the chambers of the Grand Master of the Music Guild and paused to admire the door with the figures that appeared to move in the flickering light. "Enchanting," he said. "Such amazing workmanship."

But there was not time to dally. He paused a moment more, concentrating to hear, see, or smell anything that would indicate an intruder approached, or anyone lurked in wait for him. Convinced of his solitude, Redd-Leif moved to a certain dark corner against the opposite wall. Once more, he paused to listen before he put his hand on the stone wall and began to feel around. Now, where is that stone you showed me, Raymond? Ah, here it is. The scraping noise of stone on stone echoed in the empty alcove as a hidden door slid open. Quickly, Redd-Leif stepped into the secret passageway and pressed another stone to close the door. Once the scraping stopped and the wall settled back in to place, he put his back against the door and held his breath for several moments. Had anyone heard the noise? If so, would they come to investigate? Only the sounds of the flames flickering in the sconces came from the alcove. He let out a sigh of relief.

Faint starlight trickling through ventilation slits high up in the outer wall provided enough light for Redd-Leif to see. The passageway was deserted except for a few spiders who made their webs near the ventilation slits. Not even rats seemed to know this place existed. Black marks high on the stone walls were evidence that humans needed torches to see where they were going, but the marks looked old. No one had used a torch in this space in some time. Looking down the passageway, Redd-Leif wondered why they bothered with torches at all. The walls were close, with space barely wide enough for him to walk through without brushing the walls on both sides. If you couldn't see, you could feel your way along.

A swift walk brought Redd-Leif to the other end of the passage in a few minutes. Laughter, chattering voices, and music confirmed that the dining hall was on the other side of the wall. If he remembered correctly, a huge tapestry draped the wall, and he could easily slip out of the passageway without being noticed. If he were wrong or things had been rearranged, he was in danger of being seen and revealing the secret door.

The music ended. Cheers and clapping followed. Braun's voice called, "All the apprentices are invited to join us in this next piece. Piper, Rupert, the rest of you, come on up."

I don't want to miss this. Redd-Leif found the rock-switch and the door opened. Either it was quieter than the entry at the other end of the passageway, or the noise from the festivities was loud enough to cover the scraping of stone on stone. Either way, Redd-Leif barely heard the noise of the door opening himself.

To his relief, a dark blue drape was in place when the secret door slid open. Peeking from behind the curtain, Redd-Leif scanned the room. The few guards that were in the room were paying attention to the entertainment, with an occasional glance around the room so they would appear alert. Burkehart was leaning against a wall and watching the stage.

Redd-Leif smiled. He should blend in easily. Several troubadours wore hats and clothes similar to his, and one of them had just left a nearby table. Redd-Leif moved into the spot, certain that Burkehart would mistake him for the troubadour that had recently sat there. He reached for bread, cheese, and meat, more to blend in than to feed his hunger, although the food was welcome to his empty stomach.

The musicians played several songs, joking and teasing with the audience and each other as they performed. Then there was a slight break as the performers conferred. One of the masters stepped forward and announced, "Next up is Piper." He waved toward Piper. "The stage is yours, young man."

Piper stepped to center stage and bowed. "Thank you, Master Kort." Turning to the audience, Piper said, "This piece is one that my grandfather, Grand Master Acker, wrote. It was one of his favorites. I dedicate this performance tonight to his memory."

A hush fell over the audience as the first notes flowed from Piper's flute and embraced the emotions of those in the hall.

Tears welled in the eyes of a few; soft smiles and thoughtful gazes graced the faces of others. Dreamy looks that hinted of being transported to enchanted, far away places graced even more. Other than a hand here and there reaching up to dab away a tear, nothing stirred. Except the music.

Delight crept into Redd-Leif's eyes, and a grin enveloped his face as he observed the reactions of the audience. Oh, Piper, my boy. This ... this is pure magic.

~~~~~


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Thank you to GaliaG for the use of the beautiful artwork "Music abstract"
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Artwork by GaliaG at FanArtReview.com

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