Fantasy Fiction posted July 7, 2018


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The Caravan

The Piper, part 22

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 separated from the musicians and in the hands of the Fae, Redd-Leif Summerstorm who tells Piper he is half-Elven and Piper's Elven mother (Melodica) is alive and wants to see him.


End of previous chapter
"Summerstorm, my friend," Sheba said.

"Yes?"

"I'm sorry. I sometimes forget. You've waited a long time, too."

Redd-Leif merely nodded at her and looked over his shoulder. Down the path he spotted Piper hiking toward them. "The people in the caravan will take awhile to get started for the day. We should use the time to rest a bit and have some breakfast."

PIper looked up and waved. Redd-Leif waved back and started down the trail with Sheba in tow.




Chapter 22

Redd-Leif made a feeble attempt to stifle a chuckle as he and Piper walked away from the tailor's wagon.

Piper looked up at the Fae. "What is so amusing?"

"Oh, I was just wondering if you selected the most expensive shirt and pants the merchant showed you because you liked them or because she, uh . . . what was her name again?"

"Ruby."

"Ah, yes. Or was it because Ruby was so pretty and flirtatious?"

Piper colored slightly. "I like the clothes."

"Of course." Redd-Leif smirked. "But just think what you would have missed this morning if your friends hadn't taken all of your clothes with them."

Piper stopped in his tracks. "They thought I was dead. What else could they do?"

Redd-Leif turned to face Piper. His smile softened, as did his voice. "I know. I imagine they were very sad to leave you behind." Redd-Leif took a deep breath. "And I know they will be overjoyed to see you again when you rejoin them."

Piper looked into the distance as if imagining the scene. He nodded and a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. He returned his gaze to Redd-Leif. "At least I'll see Rupert soon. When will we get to the Elven village?"

"What?" The smirk returned to Redd-Leif's face. "Are you tired of being on the road already? I thought you were eager to become a traveling musician."

"I am, but . . ." Piper shrugged. "It's just, well, I was hoping to see some Fair Folk. I know you said it would take about a week to reach the Elven village, and we've been traveling almost constantly for four days and nights so I thought maybe we were almost there."

"We will be soon." Redd-Leif gestured toward Piper's satchel. "And now you can be presentable when you meet your mother. Though I doubt she will notice your attire, a bath and a change of clothes couldn't hurt. I know a nice spring where you can bathe before we reach our destination."

Piper smiled. "I suppose you are right. I should look my best when I meet her." Piper grew more serious. "Do you think Rupert is alright? It feels like forever since I've seen him."

"It's only been a few days and he is in good hands. He'll probably surprise us both with his recovery."

Redd-Leif reached up and adjusted his cowl and they continued toward the cobbler's wagon. As they reached the wagon something across the way caught the Fae's attention. "Piper, do you mind if I leave you to deal with the cobbler on your own? I recognize a merchant over there that I know has some things that interest my wife. I'd like to get her something."

"You have a wife?"

Redd-Leif smiled. "Yes, Piper." He took a deep breath. "As a matter of fact, I'm married to-"

"Hello, gentlemen. Can I be of service?"

They turned to see a jovial man with curly, salt and pepper hair and beard facing them. "Ah, customers?" A grin overtook his face. "Would you happen to be interested in a pair of shoes or boots? I have some ready-made, but if you have a couple of hours I could custom-make a pair."

Piper smiled at the cobbler. "I am looking for some traveling shoes."

Redd-Leif nodded at the cobbler, then at Piper. "Well then, I leave you to it, my boy. I'll be back soon."

The cobbler tapped his lip with his index finger. "Now, let's see, you wanted traveling shoes. Let me get a look at your feet."

Piper obliged by turning his feet and lifting each in turn for the cobbler to examine.

"Hmm. I may have a pair of boots already made that would be a close fit. Give me a moment if you would."

"Of course, sir. Thank you."

The cobbler disappeared around the side of the wagon. Then Piper spotted the horses with their dark chestnut bodies and flaxen manes and tails. His eyes grew wide. "Are those Black Forest horses?"

"Yes, there are," the cobbler called from inside the wagon. "Ever ridden one?"

"No, but I've heard about them. They are gorgeous."

"I like them--big, strong, elegant, and good natured. Feel free to pet them if you want. They enjoy the attention."

"Thank you, I will. What are their names?"

"Abel and Seth."

The horses were busy cropping grass between the wagon and a stand of trees. Piper stepped over and patted each of them. They did seem to enjoy it so he continued rubbing the neck of the closest one. "Good boy. You are a beauty."

"Psst, Piper," a whispered voice called.

Piper moved a step closer to the trees. "Who's there?"

A figure stepped out of the shadows.

"Captain Burkehart?"

The captain put a finger to his lips. "Shush." He cast a guarded glance around the area. "Are you alright?"

"Yes, I'm fine."

"Good." Burkehart stepped back into the trees. "Keep petting the horses and act like you are talking to them."

Piper returned to rubbing the neck of the closest horse. "Good boy."

"We thought you and Rupert were dead."

"Luckily, no. Redd-Leif saved us from the wolves."

"Then Rupert is alive. That is good news. I didn't see him with you. Where is he?"

"Redd-Leif took him to the Elven healers. He was badly hurt."

"Oh?" Burkerhart was silent a moment. "When did you last see him?"

"About a week ago." After another moment of silence Piper continued, "Redd-Leif left me behind and rushed Rupert to the healers and then returned to get me."

"So you only have the Fae's word that Rupert is still alive?"

"Yes. Why would I doubt it?"

"Because Fair Folk are tricksters. They especially like to lure young men and women your age away from their homes never to be seen again. Sometimes they try to convince their victims they have elemental blood themselves." Burkehart was silent several seconds. "Has Summerstorm told you that you are his son? That would be the obvious trick."

"No. No, he hasn't said that." Piper felt a knot forming in his stomach. He stopped petting the horse and looked across the camp. He couldn't see Redd-Leif anywhere, but then again, the cobbler's wagon was partially blocking his view.

Burkehart continued, "Well, I suppose that is good. I hope Rupert is safe as you believe, but I still fear he may be lost to us. Look, why don't you come with me now so we don't lose you, too? If Summerstorm is taking you to the Elven village, I can't help you once you enter their realm."

"But, Rupert . . ." Piper shook his head. "I can't leave him behind."

At that moment the cobbler called out, "I think I found just the thing for you, young man."

"That's great," Piper called back and then headed to the cobbler's wagon without looking back.

The merchant was holding a pair of boots in the air like a prize to be awarded. "Here we are."

Piper took a deep breath and put a smile on his face. "Those appear to be exactly what I am looking for. Let me try them on."

~~~~


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.
 


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Thank you to GaliaG for the use of the artwork "Music Abstract"
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Artwork by GaliaG at FanArtReview.com

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