Fantasy Fiction posted March 4, 2017


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Alone -- Y.A. Fantasy

The Piper, part 13

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. A wolf attack leaves Piper and his friend Rupert separated from the musicians and rescued by the Fae.



End of Previous Chapter
Redd-Leif started forward, then paused and turned to look at Piper. "If you feel threatened or hear odd noises in the forest, play your flute. I recommend either the tune you played at your grandfather's grave or the one you played the night of Braun's ceremony."

"Why those?"

"Those tunes have deeper magic. One day you will understand their power. For now, use them to your advantage."

Piper looked down at the flute in his hand, and was about to ask another question, but when he looked up, Redd-Leif had disappeared into the night.



Chapter 13
Pacing back and forth didn't help. Stoking the fire every five or six minutes didn't help. Sitting at the mouth of the cave and staring past the fire into the darkness wondering what time it was didn't help.

With a heavy sigh, Piper rose to his feet. Being alone was harder than he had anticipated. No, that wasn't true. Neither darkness nor solitude had ever bothered him. What was difficult was not knowing, the sense that there was nothing he could do but wait. Had Redd-Leif reached the Elven settlement? Did he outrace the storm? Did the sling they created for Rupert hold and protect him as Redd-Leif ran? Would the Elves help Rupert once they got there? Piper paced a few more strides then stopped.What if Redd-Leif doesn't come back? The Fair Folk are notorious for playing cruel tricks on humans. But Redd-Leif saved my life, didn't he? And he is trying to save Rupert, isn't he?

Piper looked toward the cave entrance again. The sun had set a few minutes ago. If everything had gone as planned, Redd-Leif should be back any time now.

To stave off a sudden chill, Piper placed his hands on his arms and rubbed them up and down vigorously, then pulled the hood of his cloak up to cover his head. Not a single ray of sunshine had broken through the clouds all day, leaving it colder than it should be for a day in late spring. The fire helped some, but not enough. He glanced over at the blanket that made up his bedroll. Sleep eluded him last night and probably would tonight as well no matter how tired he was or how hard he tried to drift off.

During the day he'd wandered outside the cave a few times to relieve himself, look around a bit, and gather more wood. He thought about eating and had even pulled out a pot to cook some porridge, but he wasn't certain how to do it. Besides, he didn't want to risk damaging Redd-Leif's favorite pan, or so he told himself. The truth was he was too nervous to eat anything except a few pieces of dried fruit and meat.

He paced some more. Waiting was exhausting, but rest was impossible. What to do in the meantime? Unconsciously, he put his hand on the flute hanging at his side.

A smile crept into his lips. Of course, the obvious. There was no truer companion than his flute. They had grown up together. It understood his moods, his needs. It knew how to console, soothe, heal, inspire. It knew how to transport him beyond time and place.

He lifted the instrument from his side, placing his fingers deftly over the familiar holes. The coolness of the mouthpiece against his lips caused Piper to suck in his breath sharply. He licked the mouthpiece to prepare it for playing, savoring the taste of the rosewood on his tongue. To test the timbre of the wood, he coaxed a few tentative notes from the flute with short, warm breaths. The tone seemed a bit sharp. Take it slowly. As Grandfather always said, let the instrument warm at its own pace.

A gentle melody, the first tune his grandfather had taught him, flowed into the cave. The acoustics of the small, enclosed space enhanced the essence of each tender note. Piper's smile grew. At first, he played the tune simply, then picked up the pace, adding flourishes and variations. Another tune his grandfather had taught him followed, then another and another. Lost in the joy of the music, he swayed and danced to the rhythms. His thoughts drifted to his sixth birthday.



"Come, Piper," his grandfather had called. "Hurry. I have a surprise for you."

Piper's eyes grew wide when he saw the package. "For me?" He couldn't get the wrappings off fast enough. Then he stared at the flute for a full minute before looking up at his parents and his grandfather, too dumbfounded to say a word. It was so beautiful.

A moment later, wonder turned to alarm when he saw the concerned look on his mother's face. His frightened heart skipped a beat when she said, "Father, what are you thinking? A rosewood flute of such quality is too grand a gift for a child. It belongs in the hands of a master musician, or a troubadour at very least. He's not even old enough to be an apprentice."

Six-year-old Piper bit his lip and held his breath. Would she take it from him before he even had a chance to play a note? He picked up the flute and wrapped both hands around it, prepared to cling to it, but not too tightly. It was too precious to risk damaging it.

"Nonsense," his grandfather said. "You'll thank me later, my dear. A cheap instrument produces inferior sound. The shrill notes and squeaks as he experiments with the music would drive you all mad and discourage his talent." Grandfather then put a hand on Piper's back and looked down at the worried six-year-old. "The tone of this one will make you all joyful when Piper plays it. Besides, he is going to take good care of it." Grandfather winked at him. "Aren't you, Piper?"

Piper nodded his head a dozen times in response as he continued to stare wide-eyed at the flute in his hands. Then he placed the instrument to his lips, took a breath and blew into it.

The flute responded with vibrations tingling beneath his fingers. Shivers raced from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. His toy reed and bone pipes had never responded with such wonderful sensations. They had never come to life. Yes, he would take very, very good care of this flute.

Piper's father had laughed. "We are in trouble now. See the look of delight in his eyes?" Then his voice grew stern. "Piper, remember your chores come first. Music is a nice diversion, but a hard way to make a living. Not everyone can be a master musician like your grandfather."

"Come now," Grandfather had said, and winked at Piper again. "He's a natural. Music runs in his blood. It's his birthright even more than it is mine."



A piece of wood in the fire popped loudly, jolting Piper's thoughts back to the small cave now serving as his shelter. He looked over at the fire which had diminished to glowing embers licked by a few flickers of flames. He must have played longer than he realized. Memories may warm my thoughts, but I should keep the fire going.

The flute fell back to its place at his side and he went to retrieve fuel from the wood pile. He was careful to arrange the logs for efficient burning as he added them to the fire. Though there was enough wood for a week or more, there was no sense wasting it. Squatting on his heels, he stoked the fire so it would blaze for a while without being tended. Once he was satisfied, he glanced into the darkness.

Two eyes glowed back at him.

Piper gulped. What...? Who...? He stood up and stomped his feet, thinking the action would startle an animal and drive it away.

The two eyes continued to stare at him.

Piper put the flute to his lips again. I hope you are right about the power of music to keep the animals at bay, Redd-Leif.

After a quick six note trill, the tune Piper had played at Master Braun's ceremony floated into the night air. He varied the tempo, volume and rhythm every few measures. The glowing eyes blinked and moved slightly a few times, but otherwise remained in the same position. You said this tune had deeper magic and would protect me. Piper stopped playing and stared back at the glowing eyes.

"What a nice melody," a serene feminine voice said from the darkness.

To control the quivering he felt rising in his throat, Piper took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Who's out there?"

A moment later, a large gray wolf stepped into the light just the other side of the fire. "You play well," she said. Then she moved past the fire and into the cave.




~~~


Recognized


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.

Fair Folk = Refers to non-human races sometimes considered magic such as elves, Fae, brownies, sprites, gnomes, dwarfs, etc. Also called elementals.


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


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Artwork by GaliaG at FanArtReview.com

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