Once upon a time, a poor piper sat on a log near a small hut on the side of the road that wound through the forest between Near Village and Far Town. He was clad in a shabby coat which seemed a hand-out, a size too large for his slight frame, and baggy plaid trousers whose hems trailed the ground, hiding his worn boots. His shaggy black hair hung loose around his pale, kind face. Many a person who passed that day saw a beggar, a wastrel, his only worldly possessions the clothes on his back and the pipe in his hands. He seemed one who contributed nothing to the world but frivolous tunes and rode on the backs of others to live, and they crossed the road to avoid contact with him. The piper paid them no mind, content to keep his own company and make his merry music as the sun wove its way among the clouds as it crossed the sky.
As the traffic dwindled in the heat of the hours after noon, a lone traveller walked the road, a heavy pack slung across his back. A young man, everything about him called out his fastidious nature, from his starched shirt and trim violet jacket to his buffed boots. An indigo bow tie framed his strong jaw with its straight symmetry and a gold fob chain sparkled across his lavender waistcoat. The only detail that was out of place was the long lock that hung over his right eye. His figure proclaimed money and status, but he had no servants and carried his own load.
The traveller trudged along to the piper’s song, a pleasant folk melody. Despite his burden, he found himself humming the tune, then singing the lyrics, as he walked, his steps altering to keep time with the music. When he reached the musician, he stopped to rest, letting his burden down at his feet, but he did not sit. The piper laid his pipe aside and smiled up at his visitor.
“You play an interesting song,” remarked the traveller. “An old tune I’ve not heard in many a year. A winnowing song, if I recall, handed down from mother to daughter across the centuries, to call the wind and add rhythm to the throws.”
The piper nodded. “The music made a game of the work and brought joy to what must be done.”
“An ancient tune,” the traveller repeated, more to himself than to the piper. “An ancient, ancient tune. One I have not sung for longer than many a mans' lifetimes. It has added a spring to my step and eased my journey, as much as it can. I thank you.”
The piper rose to his feet and bowed, but his smile faded. “I know who you are,” he stated plainly. “You have come for me.”
“Indeed I have,” replied the traveller.
“What is your purpose?” the piper asked. “Why have you come?”
“I come to call you to war.” The traveller’s eyes were old and tired. “The enemy is at our doorstep and we must fight.”
The piper tapped his fingers together front of himself for a brief moment, then acquiesced with a sigh. “I must do what I must do.”
“Aye, we must,” agreed the traveller. He bent to pick up his pack. “Come now. Let us go.”
“No.” The piper sat back down on the log and picked up his pipe. “The world has time enough for war. Let there be time for music and beauty. Let us find joy before we do what we must. Sit with me and sing or play.”
The traveller hesitated for a moment, then acceded to the wisdom of the piper. “I have journeyed far and long, and have not made time for joy. I shall join you with great pleasure.”
The piper smiled again. “I may supply you with an instrument, if you wish.”
“I thank you, but I have my own.” Returning the pack to the ground, the traveller opened it and produced a fine horn.
“Excellent. Let me call my companion. He shall accompany us.” As the traveller settled himself on the log, the piper hopped up and scurried into the hut. A moment later, he emerged with another piper. The musicians arranged themselves, then launched into song, regaling passersby until the shadows grew long and daylight began to fade.
. _ . _ . _ . _ .
Victoria swept down the corridor, wringing her hands as she glanced both ways at every intersection. “Doctor? Jamie?” she called every few moments in an increasingly timid voice. “Where are you?” She’d searched everywhere, and there didn’t seem to be a trace of either in the TARDIS. “Where’ve you gone?”
She ran into the console room, her face a mask of worry as she found it empty. She often had found it difficult to locate the Doctor, who might wander far beyond her knowledge of the interior of the time travel capsule, but Jamie never strayed beyond the immediate living area and his absence frightened her. Bewildered, she approached the console and ventured to press a few of the buttons that she had seen the Doctor use that she knew didn’t have anything to do with flight or time travel. Behind her, the shade over the scanner retracted and she turned to see what it showed: the Doctor seated on a fallen tree, playing on his recorder with Jamie and another man. The girl scolded herself silently for her temerity and, with a relieved smile, flipped the door switch so she could join them.
The moment she stepped outside, she was assailed by a cacophonous storm, and she clapped her hands to her ears. The high chirps of the Doctor’s recorder were nearly lost in the deep blasts from the stranger’s fat, coiled brass horn and Jamie’s bagpipes’ triple nasal wheezes, the bass of which thrummed through her chest. “Doctor!” she cried. “DOCTOR!”
She couldn’t make herself heard over the noise, but Jamie had seen her emerge and, dropping the blowstick from his mouth, he stepped over and tapped the Doctor on the shoulder. The man looked up at Jamie and said, “Yes, my boy, what is it?” but it was barely heard above the other man’s sounds. He held up a finger and blessed silence reigned. When the young man nodded toward the girl, the Doctor turned and smiled, and both he and the stranger stood to welcome her.
“Yes, my dear? Have you come to join us? You’ve your penny whistle, don’t you?” He trotted over to guide her to a seat on the log. Bewildered again, she sank down as she stared at the Doctor.
“I’d forgotten about the penny whistle!” the stranger exclaimed. He fidgeted as he talked, as if he were used to gesturing with the hands that were currently cradling his heavy instrument. “The Delaware Mall, if I remember correctly, and I always do. Little shop of Irish trinkets tucked behind that place where you can make your own teddy bear.” He turned to the Doctor. “Went back there to make one for Rose, oh, but I’ve said too much.”
“Ye say that a lot,” Jamie pointed out.
Victoria peered at the stranger, and her face screwed up in an accusatory pout. “How do you know about my penny whistle?”
“Oh, never mind that, my dear,” soothed the Doctor. “Do you have it with you? With music, it’s always the more the merrier.”
“That wasn’t music!” she cried. “That was noise!”
“Oh, no,” he replied. “We aren’t rehearsed, that is true, but it was quite lovely.”
“It was horrible!” she insisted. “I couldn’t hear a note of melody, over that -” and she pointed at Jamie’s bagpipes, “- and especially that.” She wrinkled her nose at the stranger’s horn. “What is that thing?”
“That,” began the Doctor, “is a euphonium. A very well-regarded concert instrument, with a warm, smooth tone. Perhaps I should give you a demonstration.”
With an eager smile, the stranger settled back on the log and played a slow, melodic aria, the rich tone filling the little clearing with an aura of warmth and comfort. Victoria stared at him in enchanted fascination. When he was done, she clapped, pleased. “That was so very beautiful. But who are you?”
The Doctor tapped his fingers together. “That’s a bit difficult to explain. Suffice it to say that he is a very good friend who has come to ask a favor, and an excellent musician to boot. Now, will you join us, Victoria?”
“Oh, no, Doctor,” she replied. “I should like to, but these instruments don’t go together. Perhaps the recorder with either the bagpipes or the…” and she waved a hand at the stranger, “...that, but all three is too much.”
The Doctor drew himself up to protest, but Jamie moved quickly to head him off. “Then I’ll lay mine aside,” he said. Placing his bagpipes on the log, he sat down next to Victoria and took her hand. “Play us a tune, Doctor. Somethin’ tae sing, or somethin’ tae dance tae.”
“I know just the thing,” exclaimed the stranger as he turned to the Doctor. “You remember that jig Mikoferus Pel played on T’kopec IV, the one that he used to distract the wedding guests so that he and Iriptid could elope?”
“Of course I do,” the Doctor snorted, wagging a finger at the stranger. “It wasn’t all that long ago for me. The real question is, do you think you could play that bass line? It’s a simple task for a species with two mouths and three arms, but you’re a bit limited.”
WIth a daring smile, the stranger launched into a complex introduction and was joined four bars later by the Doctor’s recorder playing a lively melody. Jamie grinned broadly and, jumping up, coaxed Victoria to him, and the couple danced into the evening.