Fantasy Fiction posted March 18, 2017


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Sheba -- Y.A. Fantasy

The Piper, part 14

by w.j.debi


Previously
Piper is a young musician whose grandfather has passed away, leaving Piper an orphan to be raised by the music guild where he is an apprentice. 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
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.



Chapter 14
The wolf crept into the cave with smooth silent steps, its jade green eyes fixed on Piper. The light gray color of its fur contrasted sharply against the darkness surrounding it, enhancing the bristling hackles along its back. As it moved past the fire, its shadow grew and loomed across the cave to envelop Piper.

Piper backed up until he was against the cave wall. He gulped, not daring to look away from the creature or reach up to brush away a bead of sweat forming on his forehead despite the chill in the air. "Wolves are supposed to be afraid of fire," Piper whispered. "And the music ..."

"... was lovely," the serene feminine voice said. "And, I am not a wolf."

"But ..."

"I know, dear boy." She stopped next to the bedroll and sat down. "But looks can be deceiving." The wolf yawned, letting her tongue stretch out and curve back to touch her front teeth--such large white teeth--before relaxing and making several smacking sounds with her lips. She looked over at Piper. "Besides, how many wolves do you know who can talk?"

Piper drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. His eyes darted to the wood pile, then back at the large gray creature. He slid his foot a few inches in the direction of the wood pile and shifted his weight to follow. "I've never had the opportunity to talk to a wolf before."

A sound resembling something between a laugh and a growl, followed by a snort, came from the wolf. "Silly boy. You know wolves can't talk."

"If you're not a wolf, then what are you?" He slid his other foot next to the first.

"It's a long story." She glanced over at the wood pile, then returned her gaze to Piper. If a wolf could smirk, she did. "The short answer is, I made a sorcerer angry. Obviously, not advisable." She lowered herself to the ground, and crossed her paws in front of her. "You must be Piper."

"How ...?" Piper leaned forward. "Who are you?"

"I am Sheba. Summerstorm sent me."

"Summerstorm?"

"You know, tall guy, white hair, carrying your friend Rupert to safety. Oh, by the way, you neglected to ask, but the password is 'Rupert.'"

"You saw them?" Piper took a step toward Sheba. "Have they reached the Elven settlement yet? Is Rupert alright?"

"I imagine they have reached the settlement by now. When I saw them early this morning, Summerstorm estimated they would be there in an hour or so."

"You mean Redd-Leif?"

"Redd-Leif?" She cocked her head to one side. "He lets you call him Redd-Leif? Hmm."

"That's what he told me to call him."

Sheba snorted again. "Summerstorm, or if you prefer, Redd-Leif did say you were prone to impatience. Most likely your youth, I suppose." She began licking her paw.

"Is Rupert alright?"

She looked up. "I'm no healer, but Rupert was conscious and complaining his arm hurt when I saw them. That's generally a good sign." Sheba studied Piper for a moment. "I don't know if it will help, but I suppose I should tell you what I know." She tilted her head toward the bedroll. "Come, sit down. Or better still, lie down. You will be warmer wrapped in the blankets and you should get some sleep. I'll talk to you while you doze off."

Piper stayed where he was. "How do I know you won't eat me?"

Sheba licked her lips and snapped her teeth in Piper's direction.

He gasped and jumped back.

She laughed. "Oh, you do have an active imagination, don't you?" With an amused tone, she continued, "You would taste awful. Besides, I promised Summerstorm, ah, pardon me, Redd-Leif, that I would watch over you until he can return."

Piper glanced toward the mouth of the cave. Nothing but darkness was visible now the sun was fully set. The cloud cover made the air heavy. A knot settled in his stomach and his throat tightened. Out of habit, Piper's hand went to the flute at his side, as it often did when he sought reassurance. "Redd-Leif should be back soon."

"Yes, soon. Later tonight or early tomorrow, I would guess." Sheba continued with a more comforting tone. "You know, Redd-Leif is incredibly fit, but even a Fae needs rest. He'll be here as soon as he can." When Piper didn't move, she got up and went over to the fire. "I think I'll keep watch for him while you get some sleep."

Still as a statue, Piper remained where he was. "You promised to tell me about Rupert."

"So I did." Sheba glanced in Piper's direction and sighed. "At least wrap the blanket around you or get closer to the fire. Your chattering teeth are driving me crazy."

"Oh, sorry. I didn't realize ..." Piper moved over to the bedroll, keeping a wary eye on Sheba as he bent down and reached for his pack. "I need to clean my flute."

"Well, at least it's a start."

A start to what? I'm trapped in a cave with a wolf that isn't a wolf, too afraid to sleep and too tired to stay awake.



A little before dawn, the regulated breathing indicative of deep sleep filled the cave with a soothing rhythm. Sheba glanced over at Piper. Thank goodness the boy had finally drifted off. He was exhausted, but he also clutched the blanket close as if he couldn't get warm. Perhaps she should go lie next to him now that he was fast asleep. Being raised in a castle, he probably slept in a bed with several other boys and was used to their shared bodily warmth. She could move away from him if he showed signs of waking. Or maybe she should just put some more wood on the fire. There was plenty.

A faint sound in the distance caught her attention. Sheba rose to her feet and moved into the dim morning twilight just beyond the mouth of the cave. Voices in the distance were calling, "Piper! Rupert!" She hurried back into the cave.

Working as quickly as she could and using all four paws, Sheba threw dirt onto the fire to quell the flames. Smoke floated into the pre-dawn air. She sniffed the remains of the fire. Then as a precaution, she pushed more dirt onto the smoldering wood with one paw. When she was convinced the last ember was covered, she turned to look at the sleeping Piper. "Sorry, dear boy, but I have a promise to keep." Then she melted into the shadows outside the cave.

~~~~~~



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

Sheba = an enchanted creature in wolf form

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"
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by GaliaG at FanArtReview.com

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