Fantasy Fiction posted June 4, 2023 Chapters:  ...47 48 -49- 50... 

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Saving Sheba

A chapter in the book The Piper

The Piper, part 49

by w.j.debi

see Author Notes for synopsis of the story so far
Chapter 49
Piper dropped to his knees next to Sheba. The grass was damp and blood-stained from a deep slash near her stomach. Her eyes were half closed; breathing came in short shallow pants. Jasmine and Peck flew back and forth, spreading faerie dust from the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail. The flute chirped nervously.

Perhaps, it was the pounding in his ears from running down the plateau or the fact he was concentrating so hard on Sheba, but Master Raven’s voice gave Piper a start.

“What happened here?” The hunting master knelt across from Piper, immediately pressing cloth into Sheba’s wound. “Piper?”

“Sorry, sir.” He took a few breaths, looked around to see he was surrounded by elven hunters, then blurted out, “Captain Burkehart tried to kill us. Redd-Leif fell over the ledge, but is safe. Sheba came to help.” Piper looked from Sheba to Master Raven. “She saved my life. They all did.”

“It’s alright, lad. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.” Master Raven looked around the group. “Lynx, give your brother your water skin.”

After Piper had taken a couple of gulps and set the waterskin down, Master Raven asked, “This captain you spoke of, where is he? Does he still present a danger?”

“Wasps have him contained against the canyon wall at the top of the plateau.”

Master Raven looked puzzled but didn’t press further. He nodded at two hunters who sprinted toward the trail leading away from the plateau. A glance had three additional hunters heading the same direction. A tilt of his head sent two others running for the top of the plateau. Six hunters grouped next to Lynx. The rest formed a protective circle around Sheba, Piper, and Master Raven. Piper had heard that hunters used silent signals so they would not alert their prey, but he marveled at its effectiveness.
Master Raven continued to work on Sheba while communicating discrete instructions to his hunters. “Piper, you said Lord Summerstorm is safe. Where is he exactly?”

Peck flew over to hover in front of Piper. “I can show them. Jasmine will stay with you.”

Piper nodded.
Lynx said, “The faerie says he can show us.”
“Thank you. I would prefer Piper to stay here. Lynx, since you speak faerie, go see what help your father needs.”
“Yes, sir.” Lynx turned to follow Peck, obviously pleased to accompany the faerie. More silent communication must have occurred because six hunters went with him.

Sheba whimpered. Jasmine hovered near her head. More cloth appeared from the hands of other hunters and Master Raven did his best to stanch the bleeding.

Piper bit his lip as he watched the cloth and Raven’s hands turn red. “Will Sheba be alright?”

“The healers are on their way.”

That isn’t really an answer. I wonder… “Will music help?”

Master Raven gave a weak smile. “It couldn’t hurt.”

“Not entirely true, Master Raven. In Piper’s hands, music has much more power than you might imagine.”

Piper looked up to see Master Crescendo. Melodica, his sister Serein, and several other elves were with the music master.

“What are your intentions with the music, Piper?” asked Master Crescendo.

“Calm her. Maybe see if I could help heal her.”

Crescendo exhaled slowly. “Those are good intentions, Piper, but you could do more harm than good.” In a gentle tone, he added, “Even if you did know how to cure a wolf, Sheba is not a wolf. She is an enchanted creature. Whatever you do to mend her wolf body, you have no idea what it will do to her true self. We need to wait for the healers trained in treating enchanted beings.”

“Maybe he could do as he said and play some calming music,” Melodica said. “It might benefit us all.”

Piper gave the music master an imploring look. “Sheba saved my life. I want to help.”

Crescendo nodded. “Be careful to limit your thoughts to soothing music.”

Another voice said, I can help Sheba.

Piper looked around. “Who said that?”

Questioning looks shot around the group.

You know my voice, Piper.

He held his breath. The Mage Flute?


Piper looked up at Melodica and Master Crescendo. “I don’t understand, but the Mage Flute says it can help.” He bit his lower lip. “I thought it was locked up safely at home.”

Melodica pulled a case from the satchel at her side. “I wasn’t sure why, but I felt compelled to bring it.” She opened the case, stepping forward to offer the Mage Flute to Piper.
He stared at it. A chill went down his spine. The Mage Flute… The last time he played it… Well, he didn’t exactly play it, did he? Musicians should control their instruments, not the other way around. He looked at Sheba. Would she last until the healers came? He had no choice.

I don’t know what to play.

Breathe life into me and I will lead your fingers.

Piper hesitated. His own flute trilled, sending a vibration up his arm.

“Can I hold your flute?” Serein asked.

The flute chirped.

Piper nodded. “She says, ‘Yes.’”

Serein beamed as she took the instrument which cooed softly in her hands. “She approves of me.”

Melodica leaned closer to Piper. He stood and reached for the Mage Flute.

We should begin, Piper. Sheba does not have much time.

He licked his lips and raised the instrument to his mouth.

Open your eyes, Piper. I need to see what is happening. Concentrate on Sheba. Let me do the rest. Come. Breathe life into me.

Mysterious, magical tones reached through the Mage Flute, coursed through Piper, and reached out to embrace Sheba. The music was unearthly, lyrical, hypnotic. Piper felt transported to another plane of existence. Flashes of pulsing, throbbing, stretching, contracting, entwining images flooded his vision. Piper gasped and removed the Mage Flute from his mouth.

A hand squeezed his shoulder. He looked over expecting to see Master Crescendo. Instead, it was Melodica’s tender gaze that met his.

“Steady, Piper. My father often found playing the Mage Flute overwhelming. He said he concentrated on his breathing. Follow the phrasing in the music like you would for a performance.”

Piper nodded. “I like performing.”

Melodica smiled.

With a deep breath, Piper put the Mage Flute back to his lips. Sorry, he communicated to the instrument.

I understand. This is powerful magic. I’m sorry we did not have time to build up to it, but this is an emergency. Sheba is one of my favorites. Breathe life into me so I can give it to her.
Sheba came to save me.

Now, you can save her. You have always trusted there was magic in music. Trust it now. Stop trying to analyze it. Succumb to the charm in it. The music will do its own work.

He relaxed into the rhythm, allowing the melody to progress on its own. A refrain beyond his skill to perform flowed beneath his fingers. It exuded healing, life. Piper watched Sheba’s breathing ease. The bleeding slow. The wound knit together.

Sheba opened her eyes. “Piper?” Her voice was weak, but it gave him a thrill to hear it.

He smiled at her, but kept playing. Sheba seemed to gain strength with each note. Then the music abruptly stopped. He blew harder, but no sound came from the Mage Flute.

I am tired, Piper. The healers have arrived. They can help Sheba from here. Put me back in my case.

Shouldn’t I clean and polish you first?

Later. I need to rest now.

Piper removed the instrument from his lips. A squeeze at his shoulder let him know his mother had remained with him the entire time. He looked over at her. “The Mage Flute says it needs to rest.”

Melodica presented the open case and Piper placed the Mage Flute inside. Her emerald eyes twinkled. “You did well. I am proud of you, Piper.” She pulled him into an embrace then led him back a few steps to allow the healers to begin working on Sheba.

“Very well done,” said Master Crescendo. He appraised Piper for a moment. “You look exhausted, but your work is not done, my boy. The hunters say there is a man trapped by wasps as the top of the plateau.” He raised his eyebrows. “Your doing, I assume.”

Piper scowled at the remark. “Captain Burkehart. He tried to kill us.” He looked over at the healers working on the wolf. “You see what he did to Sheba.”

Crescendo smiled in the knowing way of a wise master. “You misunderstand me, Piper. I’m not worried about this captain. Rather, it’s what you’ve done to the wasps that concerns me.”

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. While saving Piper, Summerstorm falls over the ridge. Piper uses his flute to make plants grow to save Summerstorm, and entice wasps to protect him from Burkehart.

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.
Mage Flute = also known as the Black Forest Fife. Made from the heart of the last Mage Tree from the Black Forest. It chooses who can play it.

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