The Reed Pipes

Prompt: “The marshes stank of rot and old magic, smothered beneath the fresh scent of spring Written 20 January 2020

She hadn’t wanted to go to the marsh today. It was misty and that meant that the Fair Ones would be watching her. But her mother needed the herbs, and so Asura took her basket and her sturdiest pair of boots and hiked through the forest to the marshes. They stank of rot and old magic, smothered beneath the fresh scent of spring.

Her boots squelched, and she moved ahead slowly, turning to either side to check for prying eyes. The hem of her skirts were damp and muddy, and she huffed as her hair fell in her face. Still, she crouched in the muddy water and felt around for the roots she needed.

There were few flowers in the marsh, and even less color. Everything was muted browns and greens, turned gray by the mist. But she felt the magic, like an old man breathing down her neck.

Her task was half done when she heard the reed pipes. They whistled hauntingly, begging her to follow them to their source, dancing across the water carelessly. She froze.

“I am terribly sorry if I have offended you.” she called. “My mother is the village herbalist, and she sent me to gather roots for her work. I will leave if you wish me to.”

There came no answer besides the sound of the pipes, which had become more insistent.

“I cannot follow you into Elphane, Good Neighbor. I am needed here.” A soft trill followed her statement. She hesitated. “I trust you not to hex or enchant me, and to let me return to my village before the week is out. Do you agree to my terms” The music bounced around her happily. “Alright then. I come with the understanding that I have been invited, and am thus under the protection of hospitality.” she stopped to set down the basket, then lifted her skirt and trudged onwards.

When she entered a copse of trees on firmer ground, she felt the gaze of many and the weight of old magic around her. The air smelled of damp soil and dying roses. With a deep breath she brushed off her skirt and unlaced her her boots, tying them to her belt. The ground was soft and mossy, and she found no discomfort in walking barefoot. Still the sound of the pipes pulled her along, and she found herself wanting to dance the rest of the way.

Her journey ended at the bottom of a waterfall, where a slender man with pale hair and bluish skin sat on a boulder, playing the music that had led her in. His eyes were closed, his expression serene. Asura found herself wondering what his lips would feel like against her skin.

He seemed to register her presence as soon as the thought crossed her mind. His eyes opened unhurriedly, and a kind smile warmed his face.

The fairy boy wore a tunic and breeches the color of wet pebbles. His feet were bare, and one foot stretched lazily into the water. “You are a wise one, girl. How did you learn to interpret my music?” he asked, with the look of a cat napping in the sun.

“Your intent was clear, my lord.” she replied.

“Your faith was the intent behind my music? Could it not have deceived you?” she shrugged.

“The Fair Folk are not capable of lying, and even human music is the most honest representation of one’s spirit. You mean me no harm, I could hear it.” she said.

He tilted his head. “You believe I am no danger to you?”

“Not yet.” she said, smiling.

He laughed, a high, trilling laugh that vibrated across the forest. “Come sit with me, girl. I called you here for company. You will lose no time from your realm while you are here.”

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