: The Piper, part 35 by w.j.debi
Book of the Month contest entry
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
Burkehart dragged himself to his feet and peeked around the stone. His eyes grew wide.
"At last. After all these years, I've finally found it."
Giddy with exhaustion or relief, he wasn't sure which, Burkehart laughed until his sides hurt which, considering his condition, wasn't long. Then he buckled on his sword and dagger, shouldered his pack, picked up his water-skin, and trudged into the dry, level corridor with the daylight shining at the end of it.
Redd-Leif stepped onto the stoop of High Mage Crescendo's cottage, raised his hand to knock on the door--and hesitated. There's so much I should have told Piper before we reached the faerie realm. I was just so happy to finally have him with me. Voices drifted from the back of the cottage. He strolled around to the side of the building and paused in the shadows to observe the group enjoying their lunch.
Piper reached for a strawberry. "And you don't remember the cave at all?"
"I remember the wolf attack and waking up in Elfhaven. Everything in between is kind of a blur." Rupert took a bite of bread and looked thoughtful as he considered his answer. "I had strange dreams about traveling extremely fast through the forest." He laughed. "I even imagined I had a conversation with a wolf."
Piper nodded. "Sheba. I've met her."
"What?" Rupert's eyes grew wide. "I wasn't dreaming? There really is a talking wolf?"
"Yes, there is." Piper grinned. "She scared me to death when she walked into the cave and sat down. And when she spoke..." He shook his head. "She told me Summerstorm sent her to watch over me until he got back." Piper leaned forward. "I asked if she was going to eat me, and she snapped her jaws and licked her lips. I thought I was dinner."
Master Crescendo and Lady Spring laughed.
"Certainly sounds like Sheba," Crescendo said.
"You know her?" Rupert asked.
Crescendo nodded. "Everyone knows Sheba."
Redd-Leif chuckled to himself. Looks like I'm just in time. He stepped from the shadows. "Greetings. Anyone home?"
"Lord Summerstorm." Lady Spring smiled. "Welcome. Would you care to join us?"
"Thank you, Lady Spring. I have already eaten." He gave her a slight bow and one to Crescendo. "High Mage." Then he nodded at the young men. "Piper. Rupert, good to see you again."
Rupert grinned. "You're Redd-Leif Summerstorm?"
"Master Crescendo said you're the one who rescued me and brought me here. I am very grateful, sir."
Redd-Leif smiled. "You're welcome, young man. It is good to see you have recovered so well." He turned to Lady Spring. "I am sorry to interrupt, but I need to speak with Piper."
"Nonsense. We were just finishing." Lady Spring stood. "Rupert, could you help me clear up, please?"
"High Mage," Redd-Leif asked, "mind if we wander through your gardens? You have such a talent for mixing the flora to get just the right visual combinations and scents in the air."
"Be my guest. Wander wherever you wish, my friend."
Redd-Leif motioned for Piper to follow him and they walked the length of the garden in silence. When they reached the lilac bushes at the end of the path, Redd-Leif waved toward the mushroom-shaped seats and they settled in.
"Have you enjoyed your lessons with the High Mage today?"
"Yes, sir. I find the concept of magic in music exciting."
"I knew you would." Redd-Leif suppressed a frown. I wish he would call me "Father," but I guess that will take time.
Piper waited for a moment then asked, "You said you need to speak to me, sir?"
"Yes, I do." Redd-Leif shifted to face Piper. "When I heard the music students got out of class early, and Rupert was on the way to Crescendo's cottage, I decided I'd better find you."
Piper's brow furrowed. "Is there a problem?"
"No, no problem. I just need to ask you a couple of questions." Redd-Leif took a deep breath. "How much do you trust Rupert?"
"What do you mean?"
"He is human, an outsider. I know you've only been here a day, but as the elemental who knows him best, our custom dictates that you decide how much Rupert knows about you, about us, about what we can do. I need to know what you intend to tell him."
"Well..." Piper thought for a moment. "What does he know so far?"
"Obviously, he knows he is in the faerie realm and that he has been tended to by elven healers. He is staying with Crescendo because the High Mage was at the healer's cottage when I arrived, and I was in a hurry to return for you. Crescendo was interested in comparing human musical training to our own so he was happy to have Rupert as a house guest."
Piper swallowed. "What does he know about me?"
"Only that you are staying at the Summerstorm home because we have room and, due to Melodica's musical talent, we are also curious about your musical training. Rupert has musical lessons with Master Crescendo each day, so it should seem natural to him that you are doing the same."
"I see." Piper pursed his lips.
"My boy, we will honor whatever you decide to tell him or not tell him about yourself and the realm." Redd-Leif leaned toward him. "I must caution you about one thing."
"I understand you and Rupert are going to Moonbow Meadow tonight. Many people go there each evening. Our family is well known and your return has been anticipated for some time--"
"So someone might let it slip that I'm an elemental and the son of Redd-Leif Summerstorm."
"Yes." A smile flickered across Redd-Leif's lips. Yes, my son. "I probably should have told you these things earlier."
Piper hesitated a moment. "So, why didn't you?"
"A fair question." Redd-Leif took a deep breath then looked directly at Piper. "After I told you about your mother, you seemed to need time to think. I didn't want to overwhelm you by telling you I was your father, and that you had a brother and sister, so I decided to wait. I thought you would ask questions when you were ready. When you didn't, I wasn't sure if you had accepted you were half-elven so I wasn't sure how you'd react to being half-Fae."
"So you kept it secret," Piper said, mostly to himself.
"It wasn't secret..." Redd-Leif closed his eyes a moment then continued. "I had determined to share this information with you on our way to the waterfalls so you could be prepared when we entered the faerie realm. What I hadn't anticipated was Lynx showing up."
"And he was so excited that he shared it all."
Redd-Leif nodded. "Such excellent timing. It seems to be a trait of his. And Lynx said it better than I could have."
"And saved you from having to do it."
Redd-Leif smirked. "Now there's the Piper I remember--one willing to show his impatience and challenge what he is told." He looked toward the cottage then back at Piper. "You've been so quiet since the wolf attack, I was worried you'd hit your head on that log harder than I thought. Seeing your friend Rupert seems to have made you comfortable enough to be yourself again. I'm glad." Redd-Leif raised an eyebrow. "How do you think he will react once he knows you are elemental? Some humans consider it an honor to have fair folks as friends, others turn away."
"If it helps any, Piper, I've had several human friends. It can be risky, especially if you travel between realms, but it also can create a special bond." Redd-Leif reached over and put a hand on Piper's shoulder. "Follow your heart, my boy. It will be the best judge."
Piper looked up at Redd-Leif. "Rupert's always been fascinated by fair folk. He should accept I'm elemental."
"Will he keep it secret if you ask him to?"
"I believe he will." Piper bit his lip. "As far as the magic...I only found out about it a few hours ago. I'd like to learn more first."
Piper looked toward the cottage. Rupert was standing on the veranda waving at him. Piper waved back.
Redd-Leif watched the emotions warring on Piper's face. It's all so new to him. He isn't even sure what he believes himself.
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