: The Piper, part 27 by w.j.debi
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. Redd-Leif then leads Piper to the faerie realm.
End of Previous Chapter
There was a chorus of farewells and good wishes as Redd-Leif lifted his pack to his shoulder and started down the path, Lynx in tow.
Piper took one last look at the fairies, a huge smile on his face, and hurried to join the others.
Though Lynx bounced along next to him, Piper had to admit he felt a lilt in his own step, and he couldn't stop smiling. He touched his cheek. He'd been kissed by a faerie--a real faerie. He sighed.
Growing up in Castle Welf, he'd heard stories of Fair Folk, but seeing one was so uncommon, he'd sometimes wondered if they actually existed. Once, an Elven musician came to the castle with visiting troubadours. Elven merchants were said to have sold wares at the market, but he'd never seen one, at least not that he knew of. Redd-Leif was the first Fae he'd ever met.
During the next few minutes, several groups of elves and a group of gnomes passed them, traveling in the opposite direction. Redd-Leif nodded at the various creatures and exchanged pleasantries, and Piper followed his example. Here, Fair Folk came in groups, and he was acting as if it were a normal occurrence. He smiled. It was normal here. Along with the faerie creatures, plants he didn't recognize were in various stages of bloom along the trail. It seemed strange to see this much color, foliage and even fruit so early in the spring. Scents from the various plants perfumed the air. Piper inhaled deeply.
"Welcome to Elf Haven," a deep bass voice said. Piper jumped nearly a foot as Elven sentries emerged from an unseen post a moment later.
One sentry took a step forward. "Greetings, Lord Summerstorm. You have been sorely missed, sir. We rejoice at your return."
"Thank you." Redd-Leif nodded as two more sentries stepped forward and gave him a slight bow. "I am happy to be home, my friends."
The sentry nodded at Lynx. "Lynx, welcome back. I hope hunting was good."
"It was excellent, Commander Thorn." Lynx put a hand on Piper's arm and beamed. "I found my brother."
"Ah, so this must be the long lost Piper. Sorry if we startled you, young sir." Thorn nodded to him. "It appears we can look forward to some festivity. Everyone will be happy to know you have arrived."
"Thank you." Piper's brow furrowed. "Everyone?"
"Yes, your arrival has been hoped for these many years. There is much to celebrate."
"I see. Well, I am happy to be here." Piper smiled nervously. "Are there passwords to open some secret portal leading directly into the mountain realm?"
The sentries chuckled good-naturedly.
"I think you have heard too many human tales about elementals," Thorn said.
Piper smiled. "You could be right."
"Come on, boys. We're nearly home. Your mother will be anxious to see you." Redd-Leif nodded to the sentries. "Good day, my friends."
As they started down the path, Lynx broke the relative silence he had maintained since they left the waterfalls. "That was awesome, huh, Piper? I mean, we got to dance with pixies and then talk with faeries. Don't you think faeries are beautiful? I really like their wings. Did you notice some of their wings are so transparent they shimmer like rainbows as they fly around? It is rare to see faeries, you know. They are what people call, 'aloof.' Even some elementals never get to see one in their entire lives, and we just saw an entire frolick of them. 'Course, faeries like Fae best of all so that's probably why we got so lucky. Right, Papa?"
"Yes, Lynx. That's probably it." Redd-Leif turned to smile at the two boys, but kept up a steady pace.
"And we got faerie-kissed, too." Lynx's voice increased in volume and pitch. "Wait until Mama and Serein hear about that."
"Yes, they will be surprised," Redd-Leif said.
"Wait until you see the house, Piper. It is the prettiest cottage in the woods. And Mama's cooking is the best; everyone says so. Do you like being in the faerie realm so far? Are you excited to meet Mama and Serein? And what do you think about . . ."
Piper smiled. Somehow, he found Lynx's unrestrained chattering soothing. The boy seemed to want to unload information like river rapids racing for the falls, and he rarely required a response other than a nod or an occasional, "I see."
A few minutes later, Redd-Leif turned to his right and stopped. "Home is such a comforting sight, isn't it?"
A wide flagstone path led up to a decorated blue door. A deep porch ran along both sides of the door and disappeared into the foliage. The rest of the cottage seemed to merge into a group of trees on one side and to be part of the mountain on the other side, making it impossible to gauge the size of the building.
Lynx let out a yelp and took off at a run, disappearing into the trees. "I'll put my hunting gear away and meet you inside."
"Don't dawdle," Redd-Leif called after him.
A sweet, melodious song drifted toward them from inside the cottage. Piper stood transfixed, goose bumps rising on his arms and neck. He couldn't place the tune or the words, but something about the music was . . . familiar.
Redd-Leif turned to Piper. "Come on, my boy. Let's go in."
They walked through the cottage door into a sitting room. Afternoon light flooded the room from windows on three sides and an open skylight. The room was decorated with flowers, some in pots while others appeared to grow right out of the walls. Piper drew a deep breath and smiled. This felt so homey.
Redd-Leif put down his packs and coat on a nearby bench and led Piper down a hallway, following that beautiful singing coming from the center of the cottage. The aroma of fresh-baked bread and some sort of stew simmering made Piper's mouth water. When they walked into the kitchen, a slender elf with dark green hair was working at the kitchen counter with her back to them, singing to herself.
Redd-Leif walked over and put his arms around her waist, then rested his cheek next to hers. "Hello, my little meadow lark."
She turned and wrapped her arms around him. "Finally. Oh, I've missed you, you crazy Fae. What took you so long?" Then she looked over Redd-Leif's shoulder, and her eyes met Piper's. She looked up at Redd-Leif. "Is it . . . Is it . . . him?"
"Yes, Melodica. It's Piper."
"At last," she whispered.
When Melodica returned her gaze to him, Piper felt his breath catch in his throat. If he could paint a picture of the perfect sylvan elf, she would look like Melodica, with porcelain skin and dark green hair. Her emerald eyes were flawless, shining with warmth, kindness and a hint of sadness. And Melodica's voice was even sweeter than Sheba's--so soft and melodious.
Piper smiled politely. "Hello."
Emerald eyes began to glisten with tears and smiling lips quivered slightly. "Piper." She paused to take a deep breath. "My dear one. Welcome home."
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