His eyes are each a different color. One moss green and the other a pale blue. He smiles with a smile stretched just a bit too wide.
“Come here, child.” His voice is soft. Sweet. Too sweet, like the concoctions used to catch flies.
The rats peer out at us from the crevices and cracks in walls and under furniture. They are motionless, their eyes dormant but glowing red, waiting the low, unmistakable call of their master.
“I need a favor, Piper.”
“A favor?” His left eyebrow arches.
They warn me to stay away from the Piper. He is dangerous, they say. Especially to my kind. I never knew what that meant. I met the Piper long before they had a chance to warn me.
The night had been bright from the half-moon and her entourage of stars, but the tunnel under the earth was black and damp.
My stepbrother called my name over and over from the other direction, his voice growing more desperate with each echo, but I pressed onwards into the blackness, further and further under the earth.
Scurrying and scratching soon joined the sound of my panting and the faint calls of my brother. I knelt down to meet the glowing eyes of Demetrius, a favorite servant of Piper. He sniffed me several times and crept closer, his comrades watching from the shadows. I could only see them because a dim reflection of light caused their eyes to cast a reddish glow. There were hundreds of them. Before me and behind me.
I followed them until reaching a pale light and a ladder leading up into the dwelling place of Piper.
When I crawled out of the manhole, dirty and intrigued, he’d gazed at me just as bewildered.
A strange, sixteenth century coat with a lacy design and frilly sleeves, a common man’s trousers, and huntsman boots. He was bent over sewing and snipping a lady’s ball gown when I shoved open the cover and practically fell onto his floor.
The room and decorations were delightful. White walls with paintings and the occasional tapestry.
He’d straitened and lifted his glasses up over his mess of curly, brown hair. Then, he’d smiled.
I’d glanced back at the tunnel, but none of the creatures followed save Demitrius who attempted to leap up into his master’s hand but was met with a blow that sent him spiraling back down the hole.
“They’re not allowed in this room, and they know better,” Piper said, kicking the lid back over. He stood too close to me, with his eyes too wide and his grin too big. It was almost comical.
Our walk through the woods is short and scattered with conversation.
Finally, we reach our destination.
Piper stares down the black abyss with a frown.
“Is this really what you want?”
“What is Piper’s real name?” I’d asked my stepbrother once.
He’d shrugged and shuddered. “Who cares?”