General Fiction posted May 21, 2023 Chapters:  ...46 47 -48- 49... 

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Power of the Flute

A chapter in the book The Piper

The Piper, Part 48

by w.j.debi

see author notes for synopsis of the story so far

Chapter 48
Piper’s thoughts raced faster than his pounding heart. No time to focus. Only time to run. The plateau was small, but the trail to safety seemed an unreachable distance away. How close was Captain Burkehart with that sword? He didn’t dare turn to look.

When he was half-way across the plateau, a large gray wolf crested the top of the trail. Bounding at an incredible speed, she headed straight for Piper. Sheba didn’t break stride as she knocked him down, dropping something at his side. The growl that erupted from her as she passed gave Piper goosebumps.

He rolled to his feet, instinctively clutching the flute Sheba had dropped. Snarling and cursing drew Piper’s attention to the attack. He froze. Blade and fangs grappled just a hundred paces away as Sheba fought with Burkehart.

Two faeries darted into Piper’s direct line of vision. Tiny, tinkling voices shouted in unison, “Play the flute, Piper!”
“Oh.” Piper put the flute to his lips.
Well, it’s about time, Piper. You haven’t played a note since I came alive. I have a lengthy scolding to give you. But first we must save Redd-Leif.
Redd-Leif is alive? Wait. You speak?
Later. Follow the faeries!
Peck zipped away. Jasmine hovered for a moment. “Hurry, Piper. Lord Summerstorm can’t hold on much longer.”
“Redd-Leif is alive.”  A new sense of determination energized Piper as he raced toward the rim of the plateau. The flute sent vibrations up his arm as it chirped its encouragement.
At the edge of the plateau, Piper peered down the steep slope. Redd-Leif clung one-handed from a sapling. His feet appeared to be touching the ground, but didn’t seem to have purchase. He was struggling to get a grasp with his other hand. The sapling looked as if it could be uprooted at any moment, if it didn’t snap first. Lower down, there was a line of bushes. They were too small and widespread to catch Redd-Leif if he fell. Below that, the rushing river thundered toward Hidden Falls.
Faerie dust sparkled in the sun as the two faeries flew circle-eights around Redd-Leif and the sapling. One of the faeries broke from the pattern. A trail of faerie dust headed for Piper.
Jasmine stopped an inch from his nose. “Hurry, Piper. That sapling can’t last much longer. It’s roots aren’t deep enough.”
Not knowing what else to do, Piper put the flute to his lips. He closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, he began playing the tune his grandfather had taught him. Redd-Leif once told him this tune held deeper magic. Focus. That was the instruction Master Crescendo often gave. Piper concentrated on the sapling. It wanted to help, but it was weakening. Grow. Its trunk thickened slightly. Roots searched for soil to dig into.
It isn’t working, Piper, the flute said. Too much rock, too many stones. Nowhere for the roots to go.
Thank you, little sapling. You've been very brave. Piper turned his attention to the bushes. They were eager to respond. Boughs began thickening, lengthening, reaching to entwine with neighboring bushes. Roots tunneled deeper into rich soil. Leaves sprouted, unfurling into lush foliage. The line of bushes returned a sense of welcoming, a sense of purpose, a joy for life.
Piper paused playing for a moment. “Jasmine, please tell my father to slide down the slope. The bushes will catch him. He can rest there until help comes.”
“On my way.” She zipped downward. 
Piper watched her reach Redd-Leif. He wished he could hear Jasmine’s tinkling voice, but the river was too loud. He started playing again. There was a slight hitch in the tune as he watched Redd-Leif release his grip on the sapling and slide down the slope. He bounced once upon hitting the bushes but they held. Redd-Leif waved, indicating he was alright. The faeries circled him. The bushes seemed pleased with themselves. Piper smiled. Thank you for your help.  
Pained yelping pulled Piper’s attention back down the plateau.
Sheba? the flute questioned.
Sounds like she is in trouble. Piper took the flute from his lips. He hurried over to a spot where he could see into the plateau. Burkehart stood over a prone Sheba, his blade glinting in the sun. 
Whoosh! A faerie buzzed past. Glittering dust trailed to the conflict below. 
“Jasmine! What are you doing?” Piper took several steps forward then paused.
Jasmine zipped, dodged, looped, and swirled around Burkehart. The captain turned his attention from Sheba to swipe at the faerie with his free hand. When he found he was too slow to hit the faerie, he lifted his sword and started batting at her. Frustrated, he roared. Then he locked eyes on Piper. Ignoring the faerie, Burkehart growled, “This is your doing, elfling.” The captain started upward.
Panicked, Piper realized Burkehart was between him and the trail. He looked around for a tree or a plant he could use to stop the captain. Vines to entangle him? Thickets to create a barrier? What could he get to grow fast enough? Then Piper spotted the nest. Wasps.
Piper put the flute to his lips. He played the tune Master Crescendo had taught him when he called the wasps previously. 
Good plan, the flute responded.
A few wasps buzzed past. He wouldn’t need the entire swarm, just a few wasps to distract the captain. They will need direction. Focus. Visualize. What do I want them to do? Distract. Block.
“What?” Burkehart bellowed as he tromped forward. “Do you intend to force me to dance to your little tune? It won’t work. Your flute is no match for my sword. You’re the one that will be doing the dancing.”
Come on wasps. Where are you? True, the wasps had taken time to respond when he had called them before, but he hadn’t wanted to call them then. He’d considered Master Crescendo crazy for requiring him to do it. Now, he was desperate for them to respond.
Hurry, Piper. He’s getting closer.
Piper increased the tempo of the music. A small circle of wasp began forming directly in front of the captain, slowing his progress as he moved to avoid them. Piper increased the pace of the rhythm again. More wasps joined the swarm. Stay between me and Burkehart. 
The captain continued to move up the plateau. Wasps darted and buzzed. Individual buzzing took on a group hum that pulsed in time to the rhythm of Piper’s tune. 
When he was only a dozen paces away, Burkehart paused to glare at Piper. “You can’t play forever, elfling. You’ll run out of breath sooner or later.”
Piper didn’t dare remove the flute from his lips to give a retort. He modulated the melody to a minor key. The wasps buzzed wildly. A few wasps broke from the group and stung Burkehart on the hand. He dropped his sword. When he bent to pick it up, the swarm blocked him, forcing him to back away. Protect me. Piper took the opportunity to move past the captain so that he had access to the plateau. Now, Burkehart was the one cut off from escape.
The captain clenched his teeth, glaring at Piper. “Once I get loose, I’m going to whittle that flute into pieces too small for kindling.”
Stay between me and Burkehart. Piper moved toward Burkehart. The swarm moved in front of him, forcing Burkehart to back away one step at at time until his back was against the canyon wall. 
Don’t let him escape. Keep him here. The swarm hummed in time to the rhythm of Piper’s music. 
Piper stopped playing. He waited a moment to make certain the swarm was still concentrating on their captive. 
Then he looked down the plateau to locate the gray wolf. He could just make out Sheba’s form in the grass below. She didn’t stir. He looked up to see Jasmine and Peck hovering in front of him. “Sheba?”
Jasmine looked worried. “Sheba is alive, but she is hurt bad.”
Piper nodded at the faeries “Let’s go.”
The flute trilled agreement.
With Jasmine and Peck flanking him on each side, Piper raced toward Sheba.

Book of the Month contest entry

Piper is a young apprentice and prodigy in the music guild of Castle Welf. With the death of his grandfather, the Grand Master of the guild, Piper is assigned to a new music master. Master Braun takes Piper on his first traveling tour. During their travels, a wolf attack separates Piper and his friend Rupert from the traveling troupe. Redd-Leif Summerstorm, a powerful Fae, and Sheba, an enchanted wolf, rescue the boys and take them to the faerie realm.The flute that he has had since he was six comes to life and frightens off three elven youths who were teasing him. Piper wonders about his trusty flute and what the changes mean. Captain Burkehart has made his way to the Faerie Realm and has been hiding. He reveals himself to Piper, tries to poison him, and Piper is saved by the timely arrival of Summerstorm. Burkehart and Summerstorm confront each other. Summerstorm saves Piper, falling over the ridge. Piper runs for his life.

Free stock photo. Artist = StuartMiles

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
*Master Raven = Elf; master hunter
*Lynx = Ten-year-old son of Redd-Leif and Melodica Summerstorm
*Serein = Six-year-old daughter of Redd-Leif and Melodica Summerstorm
*Master Crescendo = Elven High Mage, First Sage of Music and Song
*Lady Spring = Wife of Master Crescendo
*Falcon, Blue Jay, and Robin = Teen-age elven hunters, nearly always together, slightly older than Piper at ages of 16 and 17 years-old
*Jasmine and Peck = guardian faeries of Piper and his flute

Elementals, also called Fair Folk by humans
*Fae = Oldest of the elemental races. Known as strong, swift and deadly by their enemies. Characterized by white hair and skin that shimmers silver-blue in direct moonlight. Usually taller than humans and muscular.
*Elf = Most numerous of the elementals. Often slightly taller and more slender than humans.
*Pixie = In their normal form they are six inches tall with wings, but they can change size to as large as humans or as small as a faerie.
*Faerie = Vary in height from one to three inches. Wings vary and can appear to be like those of dragonflies or butterflies.

Fair Folk = Name given to faerie races (elementals) by humans. Refers to elves, Fae, faeries, brownies, sprites, gnomes, dwarfs, etc.
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