The Pianist

Now, coming back to Winni and the twins. They had been following Redtail for several hours and he’d led them into a quiet clearing. It was a tranquil place and they were tired. They could hear the sound of birdsong and the gentle sound of running water from a nearby brook. They slept there until Winni was rudely awakened by the gentle sound of a lulling and relaxing (yet odd, due to the fact that they were alone in the wilderness) jazz piece.

            She wanted to investigate, but Terri and Theo were sound asleep and she couldn’t leave them. She started to gather sticks for a fire while Redtail went fishing in the brook. After smoking some salmon on skewers over the fire she woke up the twins and they broke fast, the jazz music giving a laid back and relaxed aura to that peaceful morning by the brook. It may have been the most restful and leisurely morning that any of them had ever known, still, if there was jazz music they were not alone.

            Now that Terri and Theo had woken they could investigate as to where the music was coming from. They followed the sound, which seemed to meander through the trees and alongside the brook. It grew louder and the woods grew darker. The sun went behind the trees and the music sounded much more mournful now. One moment peace and tranquillity and now, suddenly, everything had become much more sinister. As they approached they saw a man sitting at a piano, but could not see any other instruments. It was clear that he was talented (in fact, he was the most talented pianist on this side of the magic cave – or whatever side of the magic cave for that matter!). Although his piano was ordinary he was able to make remarkable and impossible sounds with it. From the one piano came the sounds of harps and lyres, and crashing cymbals; flutes and pipes and violins; light and jolly notes along with heavy bass notes; the high pitched ping of steel drums and every sound you could think of, along with a beautiful piano accompaniment. He was able to bend the atmosphere of the world around him to his will.

            As they crouched behind a bush they watched and the whole forest changed in an instant. As he flowed seamlessly into a jaunty piece the trees started dancing and the birds started singing along. Animals came out of their hiding places and everyone knew their part in the song. Squirrels hopped about as if to the beat and deer pranced around as if oblivious to the people around them.

            Winni plucked up the courage to introduce herself (although it is a very foolish thing to introduce oneself to a stranger) not knowing how else to proceed. In any case, he might have been able to help them to find the other children. He seemed not to notice her as she approached from behind and she managed to get within one-and-a-half feet of him without catching his eye. She noticed that he was a tall man with dark skin and dark hair, and that he was wearing white robes; the whitest white that anyone has ever seen or imagined. He had a certain aura coming from him – in fact, he was dazzling! – and although she could only see the back of his head, Winni could tell that he was a beautiful man.

            “Sorry to bother you sir-” she gave him such a fright that he jumped out of his skin. The jump caused the lid to shut on the piano keys, catching his fingers and he gave a shrieking howl along with several bum notes at once on the piano. The deer immediately fled, the squirrels bounded off into the bushes and the birds fluttered into the trees. All of a sudden, the forest was the same as when they entered it and as it had been since then (until they had reached the brook). The sun was beating down through the leaves, although it was not unpleasant. It was like a cool, still summer morning.

            The man was (understandably) grumpy, but not hostile. “Who are you, and what are you doing here?” he was inquiring more than he was being unfriendly (although he was also being a little unfriendly).

            Winni explained about the other children and the tranquil brook and the jazz music (which he, of course, already knew about). “So we were hoping you might have seen our friends” she added “or would at least be able to point us in the direction of the city.”

            “There is only one way to the city and it is a long and sometimes difficult path” said the pianist, more understanding now that his fingers had recovered a little “but anyone can get there and there will be people to help along the way. I will walk with you today. Tomorrow there will be others.”

            The man seemed nice enough (considering he had almost had his fingers mashed into a pulp), but Winni knew that it was a foolish thing even to talk to a stranger, let alone to walk along with one in the middle of the woods. She knew however that it was also a foolish thing to wander in the woods alone and the twins could be troublesome when they were without an adult. The solution was simple. She would have to get to know the man.

            So as they walked, they talked and soon she had heard all about his adventures and his stories. He described most of them through song and his singing was almost as beautiful as his piano playing, but even after hearing his stories she felt like she knew him as well as she did when they’d first met (for although you can know about a person, the only way to truly know them is to spend time with them – and they had only just met!). Hours passed and although his stories were much more interesting, he listened to her all the same and seemed to truly enjoy listening to her as much as he enjoyed telling her his stories. Soon she felt that she did know him and although they had only met that morning, they quickly became good friends.

            Things were much easier with the pianist around. He helped them gather food and seemed to know where they should be going, and when evening came he knew where they could find shelter. They found an inn (an inn in the middle of the woods! And a lively joint at that!) and although he seemed to know everyone there he didn’t exclude the children. The pianist was an inclusive man and when he (naturally) became the centre of attention he would include his friends in the attention he had gathered and no one would feel left out.

            They had a pleasant and entertaining evening and went to bed looking forward to seeing their friend in the morning. When they woke, however, he was gone. The twins were saddened to see him leave, but Winni was the most pained of them all. She had looked forward to seeing him all night and he had disappeared. He had sent a friend, Arthur, to look after them for the rest of the journey.

            Arthur was at least six-foot-four and he was almost as broad as he was tall (obviously that is an exaggeration. He was not six foot wide – no one is, for that is absurd – but he was broad). He wore a suit of armour as if he were a knight and had a sheathed sword at his belt. Everything on him shone a dazzling gold and neither he nor his armour bore a single scratch (which he later explained was not because he lacked fighting experience, but simply because no foe could touch him). He explained to them that although The Prince had left (he kept referring to their friend as The Prince for some reason or another. They never actually learnt who he was, so perhaps he was a prince of sorts), he was eager to see them again at his home in Olympus, but had to return swiftly for princely duties. In the meantime Arthur would look after them.

            The children liked Arthur enough, but Winni was unsure of his tales. He told them of how he was once a king and he was friends with a wizard, and that now he serves a much greater king as a knight, but Winni was unsure that he would enjoy being a knight as much as he seemed to having once been a king. He didn’t look as old as he said he was either.

            And so Winni, the twins and Redtail (who, despite being an attention seeker had gone relatively unnoticed while The Prince was around. Perhaps he didn’t want to steal his thunder) had ended up travelling with a man who claimed to be (the former) King Arthur of Camelot – wherever that is (Winni was not fond of literature and so did not know much about the ancient tales and legends from before The War. Had she known who Arthur was I’m sure she would have appreciated meeting him ten – or even twenty – times more).


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