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Laura Peregrin

"The Piper and the Princess" by Laura Peregrin

SciFi/Fantasy text 12 out of 12 by Laura Peregrin.      ←Previous - Next→
 
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This is a rather dark fairy story, written around an image, and a central character, who visted me one windry, grey and rain-slicked autumn afternoon...
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←- Fool's Gold | 3 a.m. -→

The Piper and the Princess

 

 

Once upon a time, in the days when the earth still wore proudly her green mantle, there lived a piper. He was not a wealthy man, and he did not live in the high stone castle on the hill, though every day when he woke he could see it starkly against the sunrise, and again at night before he lay down to sleep. The piper lived in a simple hut, deep within the forest’s mysteries and changeful darkness. He hunted and fished, and it seemed to him that the forest cared for him like the mother he could not remember, or the wife he had never met. Each day as he roamed the forest, he would play his wooden pipe, sometimes light and skipping fast like sunlight on a moving stream, sometimes slow and solemnful like the growth of the eldest of the old oak trees at the forest’s heart. Sometimes, as he played, the wind would riffle through the leaves, and it made him smile to imagine that the forest danced with his music.

 

With a sigh, the wind took leave of its dancing partners, and swept on up the high hill, like a carriage late for its appointment at the castle. It skirled round the towers and shrieked down the cloisters, and to the princess who lived in the tallest tower, it seemed like an undisciplined child, always angry or mischievous.

“If only somebody would take it away and give it a smack!” her nurse cried peevishly. The princess stabbed her needle once more into her embroidery.

“Endless embroidery, every day,” she sighed. “ I wish I could go outside and play, like the wind.” She spoke in barely a whisper, but her nurse’s keen ears missed nothing.

“Now, now my little precious thing, you know that playing outside with the wind is a fine thing for little girls who know no better, who don’t wear fine silk dresses and aren’t being courted by …” the nurse droned on, and her words were soon lost beneath the beguiling wail and call of the wind. If she listened almost as hard as she could, the princess imagined that she could hear a music carried on the wind. Something wild and old, not at all like the stately and rigid compositions of the castle minstrels.

Suddenly, she stood up. “I need to go to Confession,” she told her startled nurse, and skipped off out of the door before any remonstrance could be made.

 

The princess raced down the hill, the wind behind her pushing her forward like a fussy courtier anxious that she shouldn’t keep the party waiting. She giggled as she thought this, and the wind grabbed hold of her laughter, amplifying and distorting it and carrying it deep into the forest. The sound disquieted her, and she slowed her footsteps. The forest was close now, and she fancied that she could feel the darkness flowing out of it like a vapour. She shivered as it touched her, and for a single moment she hesitated, turned half towards the castle. Then a skein of music drifted high and thin and sinuous from the forest, entwining itself unnoticed around the princess’s feet and heart. She took three steps forward, plunging into the forest like a swimmer into water that is cold and immeasurably deep.

 

The princess had no idea how long she had been in the forest. At first, she had been surprised how the sunlight flickered and glittered through the leaves, dancing with her through the forest. She had followed the music like a bright ribbon before her. It was quiet now. The darkness was beginning to settle, like the softest snow. The princess began to feel a little frightened. She began to miss her warm, tapestried chambers and her nurse bringing her afternoon tea. She tried not to think about dinner in the great hall, with meats and ales and exotic sweets, and the minstrels playing in the gallery, the swish of the dancers in their fabulous dresses…

 

The piper, meanwhile, was thinking of making a start on the preparation of the fish he had caught that day. As he fished, and as he strolled back through the forest he had played softly but continually upon his wooden pipe. Now he placed the pipe carefully upon a tree-stump, and turned his attention to the fire and the fish. As soon as the flames were leaping eagerly to the fish, wrapping themselves around it like the arms of long-lost friends, he took up the pipe again. His fingers slipped easily into a lively, jumping melody, a counterpoint to the play of the flames. All day he had been aware of movement, always just beyond the furthest tree. His curiosity flared with the flames. Peering through the trees, he could just make out a figure this time, dancing not gracefully but without self-conciousness. At the moment he saw her, the figure sensed him. The princess froze. The piper stepped forward, playing all the while, moving slowly and carefully as if approaching a startled animal.

 

The princess had found herself carried away by the new flurries of music and by her ballroom reverie. Just as she had been inexpertly working her way through the steps of the current fashionable court dance, with the wind and the dark and her fancies as a partner, she had become aware of eyes upon her. She froze. A figure stepped towards her. He was tall and lean, with long hair like the mosses that hung from the oldest trees, and eyes as dark as the peat pools lost children drowned in. He held a crude wooden pipe, and his fingers danced across the holes quick as insects, whilst all the time he held her gaze with those too-dark eyes. She took a hesitant step towards him, and then she noticed that his clothes were peasant rags, and that he was a stranger to any court except the windy revels of the woods. She turned and ran. He did not chase, but the melody of the pipe lingered with her almost back to the castle.

 

Several nights later, her nurse turned to her. “Where have you been these past few nights?” She demanded. The princess said nothing, and turned intently to her embroidery. “Why, just look at the state of these skirts! All covered with moss and bits of dry leaf – goodness knows however I’ll get them clean again – and your hair, too. All tangled and wooded like a peasant girl’s. And you to be ma-”

“Nurse, please tell me that story again,” she interrupted sweetly. “The one about the exiled prince who lives secretly in the woods till he meets the beautiful princess…”

That night, she did not return at all.

 

“See the moon,” the piper gestured with one elegant hand. With the other he caressed the princess’s hair. “Almost three full moons you have visited me here to dance over the leaves, under the moon’s changing lights, like the most exquisite bird that no lime may trap.”

The princess laughed. “Your music is the sweetest lure, but it is within another’s cage that I must dwell.”

“You speak of marriage to another?” Hurt twisted through the piper’s words like a glittering wire. “But we have lain beneath the moon together these past nights. What of the promises we whispered?”

“Promises whispered, that none but us and the night air might hear. My father has promised for me, loudly at noon with proclamations and trumpets. I am to marry a great Prince. I shall be Queen, in a palace, with princesses of my own to run laughing about me and bring me flowers for my chamber.”

“But what of the flowers of the forest?”

“Oh my piper! Do you not see? To visit the forest is the most wild, thrilling thing, but I could never live here – I am a princess from the great stone castle, and I must marry a prince, not a woodsman.”

“Do you love your Prince of stone?”

The princess nodded, her face hidden behind her gilt hair.

The piper turned, and walked away. That night, a melancholy music drifted from the forest that chilled all who heard it. The rain came down as if even the sky were moved to tears, and the princess’s mantle was sodden and smeared with mud before she reached her castle.

 

The days before the wedding passed in a bright blur of dresses and fussing for the princess. It was only during the night, as she lay alone in her stone chamber beneath the waning moon, that she sometimes thought she heard, at the cusp of hearing, a sweet, brittle music from the woods. It contrasted with the loud, triumphal music of the palace in its wedding preparations but it had lost the beguiling element that had once entranced her wandering feet. Instead she felt a thrill of fear, and buried herself deeper under the swans-down quilts to dream of matrimony.  On the pre-nuptial night, the music threaded through her dreams, like a trickle of silver mercury, leaving her uneasy and un-refreshed the following morning.

 

The bride sat in her throne beside her prince, radiant and beautiful. The sumptuous feast lay in polite ruins, and even the speeches had subsided happily into a pleasant, merry drunkenness.

“Music!” someone called, and more and more voices took up the summons.

“Yes, what a splendid idea,” the bride agreed, and waved a ringed hand in the direction of the minstrels’ balcony.

A single figure stood up. He held a crude wooden pipe in one hand, and his tangled hair fell past his slender waist.

“Madam, your minstrels are indisposed. Might I play for you?”

The new bride paled.

“Play on, fellow!” cried her prince. “Yes, play on,” she echoed weakly.

 

The bride and her prince skipped through dance after dance, their subjects whirling round them like the sparkling halo of a star.

“Sir, we grow weary!” the princess laughed. “A rest? A drink perhaps?”

“Nay, my lady, it is a merry occasion. Dance!” the piper replied.

 

The dancers kicked off their shoes and cast off coats, many of them looking longingly towards the benches and the wedding meads.

“I fear our feet cannot sustain much more!” the prince called out.

“Nothing must mar the jollity of a wedding dance – dance on!” the piper replied, replacing the pipe immediately at his lips.

 

The music pulled them onwards inexorably through jig and reel. On bleeding feet and with panting breaths they set and curtseyed, skipped and turned.

“Our hearts! Please stop,” the princess gasped.

The piper’s fingers danced ever faster across the pipe stem.

 

Footsteps echoing, the piper stepped through the slumped and lifeless opulence. Pausing by the bride’s body, he snapped the pipe in two with a sound like a bone breaking and dropped the pieces by her still breast.  He left the great wooden doors wide to the night and the forest creatures, and on a night when the new moon sheds its darkness, you may still see the ghostly dancers. Do not linger to hear the piper’s music, however, else you may join them in their hellish mirth…

←- Fool's Gold | 3 a.m. -→

DateNameComment 
4 May 2004:-) Simi Landau *Muffin Queen*
Awesome! I've never liked a story so much that started with "Once upon a time..." The story is stunning-dark and delightful. Congrats on Mod's Choice, and the Wyvern Magical Mod Muffin for ya!
~Muffin Queen
4 Dec 2004:-) B Layne
>2 Hell hath no fury like a piper scorned!

Great job! I love a good fairy tale, but sometimes I get sick of the goodly prince who would do anything for his beloved, or the girl who lets her love leave her because she knows it's best. Why can't more people write about real human emotions in fairy tales such as these?--the anger, rage, jealousy, hatred, etc.

I'm glad you showed the piper's revenge!
2 Oct 200545 Nate Breidenbaugh
Magnificently written, utterly heartwrenching, and as a musician, I can relate...
Thank you.
Nate
6 Oct 2005:-) Jasna Bancak
what a wonderful story, the best I read in a long, long time... the ending is just great, I like it better then ''they lived happily ever after'' kind of end...
17 Jan 2006:-) Samantha E Fortie
I really enjoyed it. I love these kind of fairy tale. No disney fluff to make it kind of boring.
13 Feb 2006:-) Bella Feine
Thou art as tyrannous so as thou art
As those whose beauties proudly make them cruel,
For well thou know'st to my dear doting heart
Thou art the fairest and most precious jewel.

Shakespeare. *points upwards* this sorta reminded me of this story...not ot sure why but anyhow...Fabulous story, really good, so now I'm off to see some of your other pieces.
P.S I love the ending. So different to the normal ones.
13 Feb 2006:-) Natalie Adams
....*stares at screen* woah.
that story is amazing. the imagary is so clear in my head, it really is great!
feel sorry for the piper but he shouldn't do nasty things! *wags finger at screen*. hee hee
GREAT STORY!!!!!!!!!!!!!
1 May 200645 Jennifer Crowley
Very nicely done. I like how this is in the spirit of the classic fairy tales- the ones that are about death and not so nice endings and things that really are morbid and dark and scary. The Disney-fying of fairy tales, in my opinion, saps the true depth out of the stories. So well done.

As for criticisms, there are a lot of breaks between perspectives, and I found it interupted the flow of the story. In the begining and the end it sounds like a person is telling that story, yo might want to buiild on that to help smooth out the transitions.

Overall, well done!
I'd love to have you visit and comment sometime!
Jen
23 Dec 2007:-) Cullen A. Groves
Surely the piper knows that royal marriages are farces of love, with fourteen year-old girls betrothed to men twice their age? But alas, our princess forsook her promises of love and decided to make the best of her entrapment by loving her future husband...

I am definitely a fan of the darker side of fantasy, and this is a good rendition. I felt it lacked some, though. It hovered between the vague but authoritative voice of myth/folklore and a more "modern," "proper" story form with lots of concrete details and characterisation. That last scene have been beautiful if you'd dragged it out, shown us enough (not too much, of course!, which I think you recognised in your sparse detail there)--the prints of blood spiraling out beneath billowing skirts, the heavy panting of the dancers, the sick smack of their bloodied feet on the floor... (though, how much will the mods tolerate?!)

Nevertheless, I enjoyed it! Thanks for the thought-food.
24 Dec 2007:-) Lexi Lee
love your imagery. there's very little i'd fix about this story - it would only be nitpicking. the only major content issue i'll bring up here will be to say that her first flight from the castle seems a little to spontaneous. you do establish that she's a free spirit who wants to get out of her ivory tower [literally and figuratively] but you don't give her enough reason to just waltz out. if you're going to have it be a spur of the moment decision that even surprises her in retrospect, you've got to throw some little thing in that makes it clear that she's more than curious, that she's thought about escape many times and now, hearing the music, she's bold enough to do it.

i love the concept, i love the tone and feel of the piece, it's really well written. again. the imagery makes me swoon. 1
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'The Piper and the Princess':
 • Created by: :-) Laura Peregrin
 • Copyright: ©Laura Peregrin. All rights reserved!

 • Keywords: Castle, Dance, Piper, Princess, Woods
 • Categories: Elf / Elves, Ghosts, Ghouls, Aparitions, Magic and Sorcery, Spells, etc., Romance, Emotion, Love, Royalty, Kings, Princes, Princesses, etc
Modpick •  Mod Pick at: 2004-05-03 10:06:07
 • Views: 1326

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