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My true love gave to me… eleven pipers piping.

Once upon a time, a rich man organised a wedding for his daughter. He sent invitations to all the most important people, bought her the most beautiful dress, hired the best cooks, the biggest hall, and even hired a talented piper to play throughout the evening.

The big day went without a hitch. The daughter looked as pretty as a princess as she walked down the aisle, and the important guests enjoyed excellent food before dancing merrily to the piper’s music until the wee small hours of the morning.

Eventually the guests left, and as the servants began to clear the tables the piper approached the rich man for his pay. The rich man opened his money bag and held out five coins.

“That’s only five,” protested the piper. “You promised me ten!”

The rich man frowned. “I didn’t care enough for your music to warrant ten. I think five is a fair enough price.”

“It’s not what you promised,” said the piper. “You promised ten, and I played well enough for all your guests to enjoy themselves. You know what happens if you don’t pay the piper a fair price, right?”

The rich man frowned. “Let me guess, you steal away the children?”

The piper’s eyes widened. “Steal- children- Where would you get such an idea- oh wait, that fellow over in Hamelin? Well, he was always a little peculiar… But no, I’m not going to steal any children, but you really should pay what you promised, or you will regret it.”

The rich man laughed. “Be glad I paid you anything at all,” he said as he turned on his heel.

He went home and crawled into his big comfortable bed, looking forward to a lie-in after the late night and all the wine.

Barely had the sun risen over the horizon, however, before a noise awoke him; a merry tune, fit for dancing, which he had last heard only the night before. He looked out of the window and saw the piper standing outside his gate.

He opened the window and shouted out to the piper. “This is your revenge? I didn’t pay you what you wanted so you’re going to play more for free? Carry on!”

The piper looked up and winked, but didn’t stop playing.

By the time the family sat down to breakfast, two more pipers had joined the first outside the gate, and all three played the same tune over and over again.

By dinnertime, another had arrived. By teatime, there were two more, and another arrived at suppertime, and another two by the time the family went to bed. They stuffed their ears with cotton wool, pressed pillows over their heads, but the piping only grew louder.

Despairing of sleep, the rich man finally got out of bed and went to the gate in only his nightgown and slippers. There were eleven pipers now, all standing outside his gate playing the same merry tune over and over again.

“What in blazes is this?”

One of the pipers stopped playing long enough to answer. “We’re the pipers union- those of us within a day’s travel, anyway. We’ll play until you pay!”

The rich man stared. “Piper’s union? What do you mean?”

Another paused to answer. “Where one poor piper can’t force you to pay the fair price you agreed on, perhaps between us all we can. There are plenty more pipers on the way!”

The rich man suddenly realised how many lights were on in the street; how many of his neighbours were looking out of their windows annoyed at the constant piping.

“How many?”

A third piper paused. “I think our membership counts in the hundreds. We’ll all be here in a few days, unless you pay!”

The rich man spluttered and stuttered, but couldn’t think of any other way around it. “Fine,” he snapped at the original piper. “I’ll pay you the full price agreed if you’ll just stop piping!”

The pipers stopped playing, the rich man paid his bill, and peace returned to the town.

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: “Piper piping” inevitably made me think of the Pied Piper, but I wanted to write something a little different- so here’s another reason to pay the piper!)

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