Maiden of the Oak

A queer flower blooms on an ancient black tree deep in to the forest. It is a lovely thing with snow white petals, splashed with fiery streaks and an emerald centre. It only blooms on the tree branches on the night of the final harvest when the moon rises above the forest and ghosts and faeries walk between the worlds.

The flower and tree on which it blooms are said to come from a place of deep magic, love and greed.

A young man was once walking through the shedding forest with his bow in hand looking for a beast. He was indeed looking for a large addition to his store of meat for winter was on wing, and by the cruel chill in the air, he knew that if he did not find a beast to feed him for the brutal winter he would surely starve in a matter of moons.

The young man walked the yellowing wooded trail, frosted leaves crunched under his sore feet in his fruitless search. He could hear the creatures bounding away through the thick orange foliage to a place he could only struggle to follow. The desire to return to his hearth battled with the knowledge of his poor harvest. Apples alone could not fill a man.

Out in the open, he saw a stag, simply standing there eating small crab apples off a shedding tree. The young man ducked beneath the brambles and knocked his arrow, taking aim for what would be his rationed salvation this year.

It was when his arrow missed the stag he heard somewhere in the forest the most beautiful music he ever did hear.

A lovely melody strung together by magical notes sang and plucked on a silver stringed harp. The one singing was even more beautiful than the song she sang. It was a spritely young lady with snow white flesh and hair like bright fire while her eyes shone emerald. The lad dropped his bow and spied on the fey girl playing her harp of willow wood and silver.

That was when he saw her turn to his direction and he knew she had spied him in the brambles. He stood quickly to reveal himself and chance speaking with the maiden of the tree.

but when he stood she had vanished.

The maiden of the fiery autumn oak haunted his dreams, her song filling his head while he watched her dance among the leaves. So possessed the lad was with the maid, he went to the forest the next day armed only with an apple he intended to split with her. He heard her voice once more, wispy between the willow fronds veiling the lake that were so close to her ancient oak.

The lad followed her, but once she spied him she retreated to her tree. He stood guard that evening, even as the sun sank and the moon took her turn in the sky. The lad knelt and held the apple out to the tree. He sang to her of undying love, of making her his bride.

Still she did not come out from her tree, but she did grace him with her sweet voice. A dryad’s only mate was her tree.

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After sunrise he returned to town. He took his axe and went back to her oak. It was there he fell it. It was thick so it took him until sunset, but the oak fell to the ground with a crash and a heart wrenching cry. There he saw her, but before his eyes she turned into a white flower with fiery streaks and an emerald centre. The lad became a tree, as black as night where the oak once stood, getting his wish to be with her, for a dryad’s only mate was her tree.

They say that if the wind is blowing just the right way, you can still hear the anguished cries of the doomed lovers.

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