Fantasy Fiction posted January 8, 2017


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Piper on the road --YA fantasy

The Piper, part 10

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. Captain Burkehart searches for the Fae in vain. The Fae (Redd-Leif Summerstorm) uses stealth and secret passageways to travel through the castle. He attends the festivities celebrating Braun's promotion to a master musician. To Summerstorm's delight, Piper performs at the occasion.



End of Previous Chapter
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.




Chapter 10

"We'll make camp here," Master Braun called out so the entire company could hear. He looked up at the sky and added, "Put up some tents as a precaution. It doesn't look like we will be sleeping under the stars tonight."

Packs fell to the ground and everyone set to work. After a week of traveling together, each person knew his assigned tasks.

Rupert found a fallen log and sat down to shake debris out of his boot. He reached down to rub his foot. "Ahh."

Piper came to sit next to him. "So, you still happy your parents relented and let you come?"

"Of course. A blister or two is a small price to pay for a chance to travel with Master Braun." Rupert punched Piper on the arm. "And with you, of course."

"Thanks." Piper smiled. "Say, did you ever find out what Braun said to your mother to get her to agree?"

"Not all of it." Rupert shook his boot one more time then put it back on. "I did get that Master Braun promised her I would be one of his first apprentices, and he will teach me more on this trip than I could learn in a year at the castle. Basically, I think he charmed her into believing this was the chance of a lifetime." Exaggerated voice and arm movements accompanied his next statement. "It will enhance my musical career beyond anything she could imagine."

Piper laughed. "Whatever he said, I am glad you are here."

"And so am I," Braun said from behind them.

"Master Braun." Piper rose to his feet. "We were just about to go fetch the water."

"Calm down, Piper. I actually want to switch up your assignments this evening. Part of becoming a troubadour is knowing how to take care of yourself on the road. Sometimes you can attach yourself to a group traveling in the same direction. A few people are content to let you 'sing for your supper,' but it is rare. You'll have to pitch in and help along the way. Sometimes you will be on your own and have to do everything yourself. I am afraid the mundane tasks are just as important as the glamorous ones." Braun put his hands on his hips. "So, either one of you boys know how to pitch a tent?"

"My father and I go hunting sometimes," Rupert said. "I've helped pitch the tents then."

"Excellent, Rupert. Since you've had experience, I have another assignment for you." He turned to survey the area. "Captain Burkehart?"

Burkehart looked over from where he was instructing one of his men. "Yes, Master Braun?"

"Could Rupert go with your men to gather firewood? With the clouds hovering the way they are, we want as much dry wood as we can get."

Burkehart nodded. "Of course." He called to one of the guards, "Axel, take our young apprentice Rupert with you to gather wood. Keep him safe."

"Yes, sir." Axel smiled at Rupert. "Come on, lad. We want a hot supper before the rain starts tonight and plenty of dry wood will assure that."

Braun pointed to a bundle a few feet away. "Piper, come with me. It's time for you to pitch your first tent."

After Piper made several attempts with Braun instructing, a lopsided tent was standing. Braun shook his head and laughed. "If it didn't look like rain, I'd knock it down and make you do it again. It's far from perfect, but this should do for you and Rupert tonight. Maybe, Rupert can show you how he pitches a tent tomorrow night." Braun looked over to see Axel stacking wood into an organized wood pile. Another soldier was getting a fire started and several other members of the company were preparing dinner.

"Where's Rupert?" Braun asked.

Axel looked over his shoulder before answering. "He was right behind me, Master Braun. I'm sure he will appear at any moment."

"I'll go find him, just in case he needs some help," Piper offered. "Sometimes he tries to carry too much so he can make fewer trips."

"Thanks, Piper." Braun turned back to directing the preparations for the evening's camp.

Piper picked up his flute, admired its new traveling case for a moment, then lifted the strap over his head so that it crossed his chest. He arranged his satchel on his opposite shoulder so that the straps crossed perfectly over his chest. After he was satisfied that everything was in order, he headed for the tree line at an easy jog, slowing to a fast walk as the ground grew steeper near the forest's edge. He stepped into the trees and paused. The air was several degrees cooler in the shade. He took a deep breath, smiling at the coolness as it flowed past his teeth, and then let it out slowly through his mouth.

"Rupert?" he called. When there was no answer, he headed deeper into the trees. Up ahead he spotted a figure who appeared to be looking in his direction. Piper weaved his way through the trees and undergrowth toward him. "Rupert?" he called again. Still no answer. Piper drew closer to the individual, wondering at the lack of response. Was he mistaken? Wasn't that Rupert? It looked like him. Piper stopped behind a tree to study the person a few feet in front of him.

Clutching the wood he had gathered to his chest, Rupert stood still as a statue.

Piper stepped forward a few more paces and stopped. "Hey, Rupert, what are you doing? We can't start dinner without the firewood."

As if the sound of his voice were a cue, wolves slunk forward to form a barrier between and around the two boys. Hackles rose with each stealthy step the animals took. Low growls, which were so soft that they were felt more than heard, sent a shiver down Piper's spine.

"Piper?" Rupert whispered, a terrified look on his face.

"I ..." A wide-eyed Piper looked from Rupert to the crouching wolves, then shouted with as much force as he could, "Wolves! Help!"

A snarling wolf sprang from the bush at Piper's right, lunging toward Rupert. Rupert threw up his arms to protect his face, screaming as fangs sank into his arm. Firewood clunked and clanked as it dropped to the ground.

Piper staggered backward and lost his footing on the soft earth. Struggling to regain his balance, arms flailing as he slipped backwards, his feet caught in the tangled vines of the forest floor, and he tumbled toward a fallen log. The last thing Piper saw before his head hit the bark was a blur of dark wolf fur and a person with white hair meeting mid-air a few feet from him.


Story of the Month contest entry

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Thank you to GailaG for the use of the artwork "Music abstract"
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by GaliaG at FanArtReview.com

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