Fantasy Fiction posted July 6, 2017


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Elven - Y.A. Fantasy

The Piper, part 18

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 in the hands of the Fae.



End of previous chapter

"Dear boy." Sheba's serene voice made him jump. "If that's all Burkehart told you, then you only have a small portion of the story. The fact is ..."

"It's alright, Sheba," Redd-Leif interrupted. He looked over to meet Piper's gaze. "So Piper, you're curious; you have questions."

"Yes, sir."

Redd-Leif nodded. "And I have much I've been wanting to tell you. Let me finish preparing the stew, and then we will talk."



Chapter 18

Redd-Leif braced his arm against the cave wall, leaning into it as he paused to look out into the storm. Strange, I thought I was so well prepared. I've imagined so many scenarios, so many ways of approaching this moment. Yet, I never imagined it like this. Where ... how do I begin?

More to buy himself time than to complete necessary tasks, Redd-Leif retrieved a pot of rain water from just outside the cave entrance and walked over to empty it into the water skin. Out of the corner of his eye he watched Piper stifle a sigh and let his breath out slowly. All the while, the young apprentice continued polishing his flute. Every finger hole and slat of that flute has to be cleaner than it has ever been. I wish he would play something. A good tune right now would be welcome.
 
After returning the pot outside the cave to collect more rain water, Redd-Leif sat down across from Piper, the fire flickering between them. Redd-Leif tasted the stew, added a few more herbs, and stirred the pots. At last, he set down the spoon. "Piper?"

Piper looked over at him. "Yes, sir?"

"So, what is it you want to know, my boy?"

"Well, when we first met you said you were looking for me. May I ask why?"

"Ah, straight to the point as usual. I should have expected that." Redd-Leif smiled. At least he is making it easy to begin. "You deserve a straight answer. To begin with, your grandfather and I made a promise to your mother."

"You knew my mother?" Piper's face lit up. "How?"

"Yes, I know your mother." Redd-Leif leaned forward. "She sent me to get you. She is anxious to see you."

"What?" Piper's brow furrowed. "No. No, you're mistaken. My parents died from the fever when I was nine. That's how I came to live with Grandfather Acker."

Redd-Leif looked over at Sheba. The wolf gave him an encouraging nod. He took a breath and turned back to Piper. "Eric and Annelise Strauss were good parents, weren't they?"

"They were the best parents. My mother and father loved me very much."

"Yes, they did. For that I am grateful." A piece of burning wood popped, and Redd-Leif reached over to stoke the fire. In a gentle tone he said, "They did everything good parents do for their children. No one could have loved you more." Redd-Leif hesitated a moment then added, "But they were not the parents who gave you life."

Piper unconsciously tightened his grip on the polishing cloth in his hand. "I'm not sure I understand." He bit his lip. "Are you telling me, I was adopted?"

Redd-Leif nodded. "I suppose, I am."

"But ... mother ... father ... they never said."

"I'm not certain they knew."

"How could they not know?"

Shifting slightly, Redd-Leif gazed out into the rain for a moment, then back at Piper. "It's a bit complicated. That's why we wanted to wait until you were older to tell you. Your mother insisted you know the truth by the time you were fifteen. Personally, I had hoped Master Acker had already told you, or at least prepared you by giving you some hints of your origin. I was on my way to meet with him so we could fulfill our promise when I heard of his death."

At the mention of his grandfather, Piper looked down at his flute and rubbed it gently with the polishing cloth. A moment passed in silence, then he lifted his eyes to meet the Fae's gaze. "So, Grandfather knew?"

"Yes. In a way, it was his idea. May I try to explain how it happened?"

Piper nodded. "I'll listen."

"That's all I can ask." Redd-Leif gazed over Piper's head as if looking into the distance although there was only the cave wall in his sight. "Let me start with the day it happened. We were a small group. You were just a babe in arms. My brother Blew-Gale, his human friend Garrin, your mother Melodica, and I were traveling from a fair in Frieburg to a village in the Black Forest."

"Melodica?" Piper looked thoughtful. "It's a lovely name."

Redd-Leif smiled. "Yes, and she is as lovely as it sounds." He paused to look Piper in the eye. "You look a lot like her, my boy."

A smile tugged at the corners of Piper's mouth, but he resisted it. A moment later he frowned. "'Melodica' doesn't sound like a human name."

"You are perceptive. Melodica is Elven."

"What?" Piper's eyes grew wide. "I'm half-Elven?"

"As a matter of fact, you are."

Piper rose to his feet and took a step forward, a bewildered look on his face. "I've heard stories like this, where the Fair Folk try to trick humans into believing they are actually faerie-born, and then the person disappears to never be seen again."

"Perhaps, dear boy," Sheba said with a slight edge to her serene voice, "before you continue this train of thought, it would be wise to consider where you are and who you are with."

Piper stared at Sheba. Jade-green eyes gleamed back at him. He took a step back.

Redd-Leif sighed. "Sheba ..."

She looked over at him. "Summerstorm, I realize you have every reason to be understanding and patient with the boy, but there is no reason for him to be rude. Master Acker would not have allowed it if he were here. He was part Elven himself."

"It can't be true," Piper said. "Grandfather would have told me."

"I wish he had."

The words were so gentle Piper couldn't help looking at Redd-Leif. He stared at the Fae for a long moment.

"Look, Piper, I know it's a lot to take in, and this information would have been better coming from your grandfather. You loved and trusted him. You hardly know me. All I ask is that you listen."

Sheba shot Piper a look. "You did say you would listen."

Piper retreated to his seat near the fire. "Yes, I did. And I will." He reached up with his free hand and touched the top of his ear. More to himself than anyone else he said, "I don't have pointed ears."

Redd-Leif let a slight smile play across his lips. Could it be, he will listen? Could it be, he will consider the possibility? "No, your ears have not changed yet. That happens later as you mature. Somtimes it happens at puberty, which is one reason Melodica was anxious for you to know about your family. She wanted you to be prepared. Sometimes it happens years or even decades later. Fair Folk mature at different rates, especially when bloods are mixed."

"I see." Piper placed his flute in his lap and began to polish it again. Without looking up he said, "You say my mother is alive and wants to see me. Let's say I believe you. Why did she give me up in the first place?"

A pained expression crossed Redd-Leif's face. "She didn't want to leave you. It nearly broke her heart." He took a deep breath. "But it was necessary in order to save your life and hers. Believe me, she has worried about you every day since you were separated."

Redd-Leif wasn't sure how long he stared into the fire, but when he looked up Piper was watching him as if waiting for a response. Kindness entered the Fae's eyes and a gentle smile formed on his lips. "There is one thing I know for certain, Piper. Your mother loves you dearly."

~~~~~~


Story of the Month contest entry

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Cast of Characters

Piper = A musical apprentice, just turned age 15.

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

Melodica = an Elven female

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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