Hello, my dears - I am back!

And with a completely different story, this time. I've left Anne and Gilbert in the "Teacher"-universe (although I won't be leaving them there for long) and am now concentrating on their children. Specifically, Walter. I don't know about you, but I had a major problem with his death...I confess that I cried buckets the first time I read Rilla of Ingleside. So a while and many, many PMs ago, kslchen suggested a plausible way for Walter to have made it through the war alive...and this is the product. Kslchen, by the way, is my invaluable beta-reader and fact-checker (and the mind behind the title of this work)...and has already made improvements I would not have thought of (heartfelt thanks!).

I will admit that the fact that we are in 2018, the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, is what got me thinking about this story in the first place. The words "Lest We Forget" have now been solidly seared into my brain, and with reason. I was going to give myself until November 11th to finish this story, and I will hold myself to it as long as I can...although I am doubtful as to my ability to meet it.

Until then, however, I invite you to join me in following the Piper...who seems to be leading this story, anyhow.


June 1919

The soldier sat alone on the train, his back straight against the unforgiving hardness of the bench behind him. Outside, the red roads and countryside of his childhood rolled by, the distant sea barely visible beyond.

No one spoke to him. There was an air about him that asked, politely, to be left alone. It was the air of someone who had seen more, felt more, and suffered more than a body had a right to in an entire lifetime. This pain had added years to him that time had not yet had opportunity to, although his youth was still evident in the tilt of his lips, the darkness of his hair. Coupled with his eyes, which could have belonged to a man thrice his age, it was a startling effect.

And so the soldier sat alone. But alone, for him, was the preferred state to be in. Surrounded by people felt suffocating, as though he couldn't breathe, couldn't think. But now, alone on the train, the soldier could think. He thought about the past four years, the things he had seen, the people he had left behind. Like so many, he had left a girl behind him. Was she still there? Had she found someone else? Then there was his family. They thought him dead, his dog tags returned to them some time ago. They thought the Piper had come for him.

In a way, he had. He had followed the Piper where he had led him, to his native land. He had followed the Piper across an ocean, through foxholes and trenches, into No Man's Land. He had followed him through camps, farms and factories, never expecting the Piper to release him with his life. But the Piper had not taken him with him. It seemed that after years of service, the Piper had decided to release him. Sometimes, he could still hear him, piping away over the next hill. But the music, the call of it, would always grow faint and disappear, no longer having the hold over him it had once had.

The Piper had set him free.

The train slowed as it approached the station. This was it - his stop. He gathered his bag, nodded to the man across the aisle from him, and made for the door at the end of the car. Stepping off the train, he looked around, taking in the sights which were so familiar, but at the same time achingly foreign. Suddenly, a black-and-yellow ball of fur shot at him, yelping with joy. How he had known that the soldier would be there was a mystery, but the station agent, who had already seen one such reunion, knew that this dog had an uncanny sense when it came to his masters.

This reunion, however, was quieter. The soldier simply leaned down, gave the dog a fond scratch behind the ears, and with a whistle in the dog's direction, set off down the lane, the dog at his heels, both of them bound for the old house that lay at the end of it.

Walter Blythe had come home.