Fantasy Fiction posted January 28, 2017


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Searching -- YA Fantasy

The Piper, part 11

by w.j.debi


Previously
Piper is a young musician whose grandfather has passed away. After the funeral, Piper returns alone to play his flute at his grandfather's grave, and a Fae appears--a creature considered swift, strong and deadly--and compliments Piper's flute playing. Captain Burkehart comes to the rescue and escorts Piper back to the castle. 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 by a vigilant Captain Burkehart. Meanwhile, Piper continues his musical education under the direction of the popular performer Master Braun, including traveling with a performing troupe.



End of Previous Chapter
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.



Chapter 11

"Wolves! Help!"

"What the ..." Master Braun froze.

Everyone in camp turned in the direction of the nearby forest. Shrieks, the sounds of branches breaking, yelps and growls rent the air. Then silence.

Master Braun grabbed his staff and ran toward the trees. "Piper! Rupert!"

"Guards!" bellowed Captain Burkehart although his orders were unnecessary. Trained soldiers had instinctively drawn their weapons and were dashing toward possible conflict. The two soldiers on guard duty stayed behind to protect the rest of the company and gather its members into more defensible positions.

Upon reaching the attack site in the trees, Master Braun paused to assess the area, his eyes darting from one place to another:  A patch of blood on the leaves at his feet. A dead wolf. More patches of blood at his right. More blood here. And more over there. Scattered leaves. Churned soil. Freshly broken branches. To his left a pile of wood looked as if it had been gathered and then dropped. A lump formed in Braun's throat. Where were his apprentices?

"Piper! Rupert!" he shouted. He held his breath. Seconds ticked by. Braun shouted again, "Piper! Rupert!" A twig snapped. He jerked toward the sound, every muscle taut as he strained to see, smell or hear something, anything. Please answer. He began searching the ground. There had to be footprints indicating which way the boys may have run in search of safety.

Meanwhile, guards scattered in various directions, looking for signs and shouting the boys' names. Captain Burkehart remained at the attack site with Braun to search for clues. "Piper! Rupert!" Braun continued to call every minute or so.

After several minutes, two guards came crashing through the underbrush, running up to Burkehart. "Captain," one of them said between breaths, "there were at least ten or twelve wolves, although it could have been more." He pointed as he spoke. "Some went that way, others that way. There is blood in both directions. There is no obvious reason to indicate why the pack separated and ran off."

"Thank you, men. Continue the search."

Burkehart moved over to the wolf lying on the ground. He prodded it with his sword, then with his foot. When it didn't move, he bent down to examine it more closely, moving his hands through its fur. He lifted its head, then let it drop back to the ground. "There is no blood on this wolf. Someone broke its neck. A nice clean kill."

"Someone?" Braun asked.

"One of the Fair Folk, perhaps. I don't know any humans who are strong or quick enough to dispatch a wolf so efficiently. Elves are common in these parts. A Fae has been hovering around Castle Welf. We could have been followed, or they could have happened by." Burkehart stood up and continued searching for clues.

"Elves. Fae." Braun walked over to the wolf, but he barely glanced at it. He let out a sigh. "Then there is hope. Some of the Fair Folk may have rescued the boys and taken them to safety or to care for them if they are wounded."

Burkehart was silent a moment before answering. "Frankly, it would be better for the boys if they were carried off by the wolves. Wolves would offer a quick death. Their suffering would be short."

Braun's jaw dropped. "We have no proof either of them is dead. Wounded, perhaps, but we don't even know if the blood is theirs."

"Be realistic, Master Braun," Burkehart said as he continued searching the ground for clues. "It is likely at least one, if not both of them, is dead or mortally wounded." Burkehart looked up at the sky. "It will be dark soon and the wolves may return. We need to secure the camp."

"I disagree. There is every reason to hope they are both alive, and their best chance is for us to continue the search and find them as quickly as possible."

"It's too dangerous in the dark." Burkehart looked at the sky again. "Those clouds are going to make the night even darker than usual. We will have to wait until morning. Pray it doesn't rain and destroy any trail they may have left."

The knuckles of Braun's hands turned white as he gripped his staff to steady himself. In a low controlled voice he said, "Are you giving up on finding them before we even start a search, Captain?"

"No." Burkehart bent down to examine a patch of blood, pausing a moment to examine the position of the leaves and to turn over some twigs. He didn't bother to look up at Braun when he continued. "No. I have not given up, Master Braun, but I am realistic. There is always a chance the boys escaped, however, it is slight. If the wolves have them, they are dead. And I hold little hope they are safe if they are in the hands of the Fair Folk."

"You're a bit hard on the Fair Folk, aren't you?"

"Have you ever faced one of them in battle?"

"No."

"No, you would be too young to remember the wars. So you have no idea what they do to their captives, do you, Master Braun?"

"Do you, Captain?"

Burkehart turned his gaze on Braun, an angry glint in his eyes. "Unfortunately, yes."

~~~~~


Recognized


Thank you to GaliaG for the use of the artwork, "Music Abstract."



Cast of Characters

Piper = A musical apprentice, just turned age15.

Rupert = A musical apprentice. Piper's friend, age 14.

Grand Master Raymond Acker = Head of the music guild. Piper's grandfather. Recently deceased leaving Piper an orphan under the care of the music guild.

Captain Burkehart = Captain of the Guard at Castle Welf

Redd-Leif Summerstorm = A Fae

Master Braun = Troubadour recently promoted to the rank of Master in the music guild at Castle Welf.
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Artwork by GaliaG at FanArtReview.com

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