Once upon a time, there lived an enchanted tree deep in a twisted forest. It was said that this tree would yield fruit for a story. Every day, the young king would risk the perils of the steep hills and dark forest to share a story for food. He gathered the crimson apples and made his way back to the village where he distributed the goods to his people. Unlike others that visited the tree, however, he did more than just share a tale. As he told his stories, he would always tend to the tree, giving it water, nutrients, and the like.
One beautiful day, the young man found himself telling the tree of his hopes and dreams. He had not realized before, but something about the graceful tree reminded him of a young maiden of long years past, one he had never dared to share his true feelings with, and suddenly, he felt lonely. This time, instead of just the plump red apples dropping to the ground, a golden one fell amongst them too. It was strangely warm and so beautiful that he could not bring himself to part with it. He took it home and placed it on the windowsill so the whispering breeze gliding past carried its sweet aroma inside.
The next morning, instead of the apple on the sill, there sat a charm in the shape of a puppy, yet his home still smelled of sweet apple. He put the charm in his satchel and made his journey up the steep hill, through the barbed thicket, and to the tree. He told a story he heard from the whispering winds the night before, embellishing it with the idea of restoring his land. Again, the ground was speckled with many delectable apples and one golden one.
He held the golden apple to his chest as he gathered the remaining apples for the village. Once more, he set the apple on the sill, anxious to see what it would bring the following morning. Eventually, the lulling whispers on the wind soothed him to sleep. The next morning he found a beautiful birthday cake charm. He smiled as it reminded him of birth, new beginnings, and the hope such things carried as he tucked it safely away.
Over again, the king visited the tree. Rain fell and the tree sheltered him. The wind picked up as he thought aloud and cleared away vines from the tree. He spoke of love and a family, and of having a strong, courageous son. One by one, the apples fell and finally a golden apple toppled to the ground. While he gathered the treats, the tree curled its branches to protect him from the storm. In the morning, he found a shiny badge on the sill. Curious, he thought as he made his way outside and up the hill.
Thinking of a son made him long for grandchildren and so he spoke of his wishes to the adoring tree before returning to the village. In the morning, warm rays of sunshine streamed in and glimmered off two charms sitting on the sill. It seemed strange to the king, for he only had but one golden apple the night before. To the king’s delight there sat one charm of a little boy and one of a little girl.
The king could not wait to visit the tree. “How,” he asked, “how can any of this ever be when my kingdom struggles under a curse and I have no love?” He gathered the apples, thanked the tree, and headed for home. To his surprise, the next morning was something special, a tiny replica of his crown made into a charm! He discovered a newfound determination for his people, his kingdom, and his dreams.
Of course, he could restore the land; he came from a strong bloodline of courage and determination, love and nobility. He would find a way to break the curse! As the young man provided for the tree, it provided for him, and he delighted in hearing the whispering on the winds through the lovely leaves. Early the next morning, as expected, the king found a new charm. He added the tiny key to the rest of the charms residing in his satchel and made his usual journey.
While clearing undergrowth from around the tree-roots and telling another story, he found a key, much like that of his miniature key charm. To his amazement, he saw something he had not noticed before. In the tree was a lock embedded in the bark. He could hardly contain the unexplainable excitement as he put the key in the lock, the heart of the tree, and found it to be a perfect fit. Leaving the key, he gathered the apples and went back to town.
Unable to sleep the king sat watching the golden apple. At first light, a guardian angel appeared. She held out her hand and gave him a charm, one of herself. Being she was gentle and kind and he now knew her to be the one that had been whispering on the winds, he gladly accepted. She whispered a blessing in his ear and was on her way.
This time, when the king revisited the tree, it was he that was bearing gifts. He had created a stunning chain-wreath, inlaid with the precious charms gifted to him and hung the wreath on the key in the lock. He bowed, and returned to his home.
With no golden apple on the sill, it astonished the king to find a charm glinting in the early light. Before he could retrieve the treasure, it was announced that he had a guest. He quickly grabbed the queen bee charm and made his way to the grand hall. In the doorway, stood the fair maiden he had adored so long ago. Her insight was astounding, her beauty unrivaled. Her voice was like that of an angel. But, it was her kindness and grace that stole his heart.
“How is it you have found me?” he asked.
“But Sir, it was you that found me.”
The guardian angel explained, “Your souls touched and you freed each other. And in turn, because neither took for their own sake, both giving of their own free will for the sake of others, I was able to lift the curse on these lands. So you see, both of you restored your kingdom.”
On the queen’s wrist was the wreath he gave to the tree, and in her arms, a puppy. Standing next to her, was her son, and with him, his children. They were now a family. Before the guardian left, she handed them one last charm … a tree.
They married at once and their kingdom flourished. The blessed couple revisited their lush meadow on every anniversary, professing their love in the now blossoming forest, and yes, they lived happily ever after!
-By Leah P. Lozano