: The Piper, part 28 by w.j.debi
Artwork by jgrace at FanArtReview.com
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 (Redd-Leif Summerstorm) 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 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 into the faerie realm.
End of Previous Chapter
"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."
"You're much taller than I expected." Melodica stood within arm's-length as she studied Piper. "I guess I envisioned you as a little taller, blond version of Lynx, but you're as tall as I am." She smiled. "How silly of me. Of course, you would be. You're five years older than Lynx." Melodica reached over to brush Piper's cheek. "And so handsome." Her voice quivered a little. "I can see hints of my father in you, and of Redd-Leif, too."
Piper felt a knot growing in his stomach. Is it true, then? Redd-Leif is my father? Or is it a trick like Captain Burkehart said?
"Fifteen years." Melodica's emerald eyes started to glisten again. "Oh, Piper, you have no idea how much I've missed you." She couldn't seem to help herself; she pulled him close.
Piper tentatively put his arms around her and returned the embrace. The last female to hold him this close was his mother--his human mother--when he was nine. Yet, something about being held by Melodica seemed so right, like a lost memory surfacing for air.
Melodica stepped back and assessed him once again, brushing the tears from her cheeks. "I'm sorry to be so emotional, Piper. Having you here, it's like a dream I thought would never come true."
Piper nodded. "It's alright. Redd-Leif told me how we were separated and how difficult it has been for you."
"Redd-Leif?" Melodica looked from Piper to Redd-Leif and then back at Piper. "I don't understand. You call your father by his given name?"
"Uh . . ."
Redd-Leif stepped over and put his arm around Melodica. "I told him to call me Redd-Leif for his own protection." He took a deep breath. "I'll explain later. For now, let's give Piper time to adjust. He has spent fifteen years thinking he was human. He didn't know about us. It's a lot for him to take in, my love."
"He didn't know about us?" Melodica's voice had an edge to it. "But Raymond gave his word."
"And he meant to keep it." Redd-Leif looked over at Piper then back at Melodica. "Raymond and I planned on speaking to Piper together. Unfortunately, the Grand Master died while I was on my way to meet with him. In fact, I found Piper playing his flute at his grandfather's grave when I arrived."
Melodica returned her attention to Piper. "Yes, news reached us about Raymond. You poor thing. First we leave you behind. Then your human parents die. Now, the man you knew as your grandfather is gone." She dropped her eyes for a moment and then looked back at him. "It hasn't been easy for you. I am sorry."
"Thank you." Piper took a gulp of air, and tried to breathe normally. The man I knew as my grandfather? Raymond Acker was my grandfather. He raised me. Piper bit his cheek to keep his emotions in check.
Melodica took his hand in hers. "Piper, now you're home, if it's not too soon or too much to ask, I am hoping you will call me 'Mama' or, since you're nearly grown, perhaps, 'Mother.'"
"Of course." He took a breath to steady himself. "Mother."
Melodica's smile brightened and she wrapped her arms around him again. "Oh, Piper, my baby. My nearly grown-up baby. I am so happy you're here."
Piper returned the embrace more confidently this time. Everything is happening so fast. Maybe, Melodica really is my mother. Or maybe, I just miss my parents and ... grandfather. Oh, I don't care. It just feels good.
Just then a six-year-old girl came bounding into the room with Lynx right behind her. "Papa! You're home!" The little girl leapt toward Redd-Leif.
Redd-Leif caught her in his arms and hugged her tightly. "Hello, little one. Have you behaved yourself while I've been gone?"
"Yes." The little girl looked over at Piper, her smile changing to a guarded expression. "Is that him?"
"Yes, Serein. This is your brother Piper."
Serein scrunched her nose. "He doesn't look like a Fae."
"He's half Fae and half elf, just like you are. He just takes after the elven side of the family more."
"How long is he staying?"
"As long as he wants." Melodica reached over to stroke her daughter's hair. "Piper, this is your sister Serein."
"Hi Serein." Piper smiled at her; she glared back. Her response made him smile even more. At least there is someone beside me who wonders if I belong here or not.
"Oh, Mama," Serein said in a rush, "I came to tell you, Master Crescendo and his wife are coming up the walk."
"So we have visitors already," Redd-Leif said. "I didn't expect word about our arrival to get out so quickly."
"Perhaps, it hasn't." Melodica headed for the door. "I invited the High Mage and his wife to come visit and join me for dinner. I wasn't sure when you'd be back and I wanted some company."
"Excellent." Redd-Leif turned to Piper. "I didn't have time to speak to your mother when I brought Rupert here. She was out helping a neighbor and I had to gather my things quickly. High Mage Crescendo agreed to watch over Rupert once the healers released him. The High Mage is what you would call our local grand master of music. He was quite excited to discuss music with a human so it seemed like a good place for Rupert to stay."
"I know his whole title," Serein said. "It's High Mage, First Sage of Music and Song, Master Crescendo."
"Very good, Serein." Melodica smiled then turned to Piper. "But we generally just call him Master Crescendo or High Mage."
Piper looked hopefully at Melodica. "Will Rupert be with them?"
"Let's go find out," she said.
When they reached the sitting room, an elven couple stood in the doorway. The man wore the robes of a music master and had a lute slung over his shoulder. "Greetings to the family Summerstorm."
"Master Crescendo, Lady Crescendo, please come in." Melodica approached and embraced them.
Master Crescendo smiled at Melodica. "As always, it is a pleasure to be in the home of one of the loveliest voices in our province." He nodded at Redd-Leif. "Lord Summerstorm, it is good to see you."
Redd-Leif nodded back. "And you as well, my friends."
Master Crescendo looked over at Piper. "It appears I also have the good fortune of meeting a special flute player and his very special flute." Crescendo stepped forward and nodded. "You must be Piper."
"I am delighted to make your acquaintance at last. I have been informed you are very talented. I am eager to hear you play."
Piper followed the example Redd-Leif had set and nodded back. "Thank you, sir. It is a pleasure to meet you." He nodded to Lady Crescendo. "And you as well, ma'am. I hope I can live up to your expectations." He looked past them to see if there was anyone else at the door. "I heard my friend Rupert is staying with you. Is he here?"
"No, I'm afraid not. We didn't know when to expect you. Rupert went with some of my students to provide entertainment for a celebration in the pixie village tonight. He will be back tomorrow."
"Oh." Piper smiled, trying to mask his disappointment.
Master Crescendo put a hand on Piper's shoulder. "The fact is, the timing works out perfectly. Much as I enjoy Rupert's company, it is good to have him away at present. You and I need to discuss some things that are meant for elemental ears only."
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