General Fiction posted June 25, 2023 Chapters:  ...49 50 -51- 52 

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Music Masters

A chapter in the book The Piper

The Piper, part 51

by w.j.debi

see author notes for synopsis of the story so far
Serein held Piper’s hand as they walked toward Hidden Falls. In the other hand, she held Piper’s flute which cooed and trilled. She smiled up at Piper. “The flute likes me.”

He smiled back. “Yes, I know.” It was at least the tenth time she’d said it. Piper glanced over his shoulder. Master Crescendo and Rupert were sauntering down the path behind him. Deep in conversation about music for the upcoming concert, they stopped walking as they discussed some point more thoroughly. Come on you two. Master Braun will be here any minute. Even Serein is moving faster than you are.

Around the next bend, Piper’s eyes lit up. Up ahead, Lynx was talking in an animated voice to Master Braun.

Serein shook her head. “Lynx is not in hunting mode. That’s what Papa says when Lynx is talking loud and fast. When he is hunting, Lynx is very quiet, but when he isn’t, he is very noisy.”

Piper suppressed a laugh then did his best to hear what Lynx was saying as they drew closer.

“They’ll turn him into stone for certain.”

“Then what will they do with him?” Braun asked.

“Hard to say. Trolls like to build things. Papa says they’re master masons. So, Burkehart could end up as part of a castle or a city wall. Trolls are especially good at stone bridges so that is highly likely. He could even end up at the bottom of a river if he makes them angry enough. I wish I could watch, but they never allow it. Whatever it is, we will never see him again. No one ever returns from troll justice.”

“I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a troll.”

“Probably because trolls blend in so well. They can go weeks without moving. When they do, they can move very fast so watch out. Anyway, they found the sword the captain had. They said it is from one of their clans. It went missing during the Human-Elemental Wars. They also have other charges against him. They are very upset that he attacked Papa. Attacking a Fae is even worse than attacking a troll in their law. They’re also upset that Burkehart denies his troll heritage. Not a good thing.”

Piper smiled. Lynx was ever willing to share what he knew and usually more than necessary.

At that moment, Master Braun looked up. “Piper. It’s so good to see you alive and well. Lynx was just filling me in on all the excitement you’ve had the last few weeks.”

“It certainly hasn’t been dull.” Piper tried to quicken his step, but had to account for Serein’s short legs. “It is so good to see you Master Braun.” He looked behind him. Master Crescendo and Rupert were still up the trail. “By the way, Sheba asked me to apologize that she didn’t meet you as promised.”

“I understand completely. You can let her know that elves and pixies were here to help me get my musical instruments through the falls and keep them dry. Anyway, how is Sheba doing?”

“The healers say she will recover, but they’d like her to rest for a while. Father also apologizes for not being here.”

Braun smiled. “So, Lord Summerstorm finally got around to telling you about your heritage. Quite a surprise, I’m sure.”

“Yeah, it was.”

“How is he? Lynx says there was a bit of a battle up on the plateau.”

“He says he’s fine, but the healers are making him take it easy for a few days.” Piper stopped a couple feet from Braun. “You know about Captain Burkehart then?”

Braun nodded. “Yes.” He crossed his arms and smirked. “It seems a wolf attack was not enough for your first traveling tour. You had to have the captain of the castle guards track you down and try to kill you, too. Looks like my first apprentice is going to be more trouble than I thought. I better watch myself, especially around wasps from what I hear. Got any other surprises for me?”

Piper looked a bit sheepish. “None I can think of.” He thought for a moment. “I guess we need a way to explain to Lord Welf why Captain Burkehart is missing when we get back.”

“It won’t be an issue. In fact, I doubt anyone will ask us about the captain. Burkehart went off alone, declaring that he was searching for a faster way to Hanover. His guards looked for him, but couldn’t find any sign of him. It is assumed he was ambushed by brigands. No one is looking for him in this direction and certainly not in the faery realm. As far as you and Rupert, we’ll stick as close to the truth as possible.” He paused to wave at Crescendo and Rupert as they approached.

Piper got a puzzled look on his face. “You seem to know a lot about the faery realm.”

“I visit Elfhaven every year to confer with Master Crescendo. Speaking of which, here he is.” Braun stepped forward. “Salutations, High Mage. It is good to see you again.”

“Good to see you, my friend. I understand it is now ‘Master’ Braun. You’re not letting that go to your head, are you, my young friend?”

“No, sir.” Braun embraced Crescendo then turned to Rupert. “I am relieved to see you are up and around. Sheba told me you were wounded.”

Rupert beamed. “Nothing the elven healers couldn’t fix.”

“Good to hear. Learning as much as possible from the High Mage as well, I hope? There isn't a better mentor.”

“He is an excellent pupil and performer,” Master Crescendo answered.

Braun nodded. “I’m glad to see you are taking such good care of my first two apprentices, High Mage.”

Master Crescendo gave Braun a quizzical look. “Your apprentices? Now, I see that Rupert must return to Castle Welf. His parents will be anxious to see him. Piper, however, has a family here.”

“But I have plans to expand his career in the human realm. As my first apprentice, he will have opportunities you cannot offer him here. He will get to travel and perform all over the region.”

Crescendo looked over at Piper as he addressed Braun. “I think we have a lot to discuss.” He placed a hand on Braun's arm. “Come, my friend. Let’s gather your things and head to the Summerstorm cottage. We can talk along the way.”

Elves and pixies grabbed an instrument or bundle and headed up the path. Caught off-guard by the discussion between the music masters, Piper stood in place, watching them recede up the path.

Rupert grabbed a lute then elbowed Piper. “You are coming back to Castle Welf with us, aren’t you?”

“Of course. I mean, well…I just assumed that was the plan.”

“Good.” Rupert returned his attention to the music masters’ animated discussion. “I wish they would fight over me like that.” He hurried to catch up with the group.

Serein tugged on Piper’s tunic. 

He looked down to see the concern in her bright blue eyes. “What’s wrong?”

“You aren’t going to leave us, are you, Piper?”

“Nah,” Lynx said. “He’s just being polite to his friend. Piper just got here and found out he has a family. He needs time to get to know us. He’s staying. Right, Piper?”

Piper looked at Lynx, sensing the young hunter wasn’t as confident as he was trying to communicate to their little sister.

In a shy, pleading voice, Serein added, “I like you, Piper.”

“I like you, too, Serein.”

Those hopeful eyes made a lump form in his throat. Then the flute let out a long imploring coo.

Piper bit his lip. A moment ago, his future as Braun’s apprentice at Castle Welf had been so certain. Suddenly, he wasn’t sure.

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. With the help of the Mage Flute, Piper is able to partially heal Sheba.

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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