There was once a girl who lived with her family. Unlike most families, her family was composed of a forest and the plants and animals within. People from the village nearby saw her every-so-often and just asumed she was a lost child who never found her way home. But she was much more than that. She was the daughter of the trees. A faerie, some might say. Sightings of the girl here and there became commen, and the village children would spend their time off from chores exploring the shallow edges of the forest, before it became dense, looking for her. When someone claimed to see her, the children gathered around to picture a wild girl, running amuck with flowers in her long black hair.
"She has skin like maple syrup and eyes the color of a lake at sunrise!"
"She glides through the trees as though she weighs nothing!"
"She can speak with the animals."
But these were all rumors. Not everyone had seen her and not everyone believed. But she was very much real and very much like the descriptions brought back to the wide-eyed children. Paeonia loved her garden, her forest, her family. Nothing was more dear to her. Of course, she had nothing else.
When she was young, the forest cared and nurtured for her. But as she grew, her magic grew stong and she began to take care of the forest. At nine years old, she made the pink flowers bloom the brightest and the trees shine. When she was ten, the trees grew an abundance of silver moss, which she created a bed out of. Paeonia made vines that carried her around to watch the stars at eleven. When she was twelve, the river was dammed, making a clear lake where the girl would often swim. At thirteen, three men came into the forest and chopped down a tree.
She cried into lake and the trees sang to her. Her tears were sent throughout the land in the river. The village had an excellent harvest. Fourteen wasn't a special year at all, and she cried far too much for a young girl.
When she turned fifteen, her flowers didn't bloom anymore. Her trees were barely green. Not the unheard of emerald they had been. And the river had nearly dried. The forest seemed grey, half its old self. The birds flew east to find a new home, the wolves starved, the squirrels moved into the village, and the fish disappeared.
The kingdom the village belonged to was a major power of its time. The Kingdom of Adeleli didn't know about the drought in this small village, nor would it care. But unlike her father, princess Helena was kind to the core of her soul. She greeted peasants on the street as if they were her family. She listened to their problems and concerns, and did her best to fix anything she could.
Young, unwed, and beautiful, Helena had every man's attention. She had fair, freckled skin and beautiful, curly red hair. Her eyes were the lightest shade of blue imaginable, and she was known throughout the land as the most beautiful girl alive. She was proposed to everyday, and apologized genuinely before she turned down every single man who asked for her hand.
An elder from the small village one day left to visit the city and the castle. Upon arrival, she was executed for trespassing. She shouted her worries for her people, and Helena begged her father to let the poor woman go, but to no avail. So, the princess set off on her own to help the people. It was nothing she hadn't done before, but this time was different. This time, there was Paeonie.
Helena took her horse from the stables at midnight and snuck under the guards' noses. The guards did, in fact, see her, but they knew there was nothing they could do to stop her. She arrived at the village pub just before the golden sun graced the horizon. Her sea blue cloak disguised her presence, but she was spotted anyway.
"Oi! Why's the king ignorin' 'is people?"
"Has 'e forgotten us?"
"We're in a drought! We need help!"
Shouts from the desperate people were thrown at the princess as threats, bargains, bribes, even lies. But the princess knew they were only doing all they could to help their families. So, she stood on a table and spoke.
"My people, I know you struggle. I do my best to alert my father but he doesn't care. He is a bad person. It took me along time to see that, him being my father, my parent, but I see it now and that's what matters. My time is coming. I will be queen sooner than ever. And to prove to you I will be a better ruler than my father, I am here to help," Helena explained. There was a general murmur from the people as they expressed their doubts and concerns. "I know you can't just believe me when I say this. But I was told that your river is drying up and I will see what I can do to prevent that from happening. Who can take me to the source of the river?"
Of thirty-something people, two are brave enough to raise their hands. One was an old, bearded man who had no doubt been there when the dam was built. The other was a tradesman who was barely old enough to enter the pub. They agreed that they would lead the princess to the middle of the forest, but they had to turn back. They were both afraid of a the faerie.
"What's the faerie?"
"There's a girl said to live in the forest. People think she's a faerie," the young man said.
"It's true, I've seen her! Oi, I doubt she'd mess with royalty though," the bearded man smiled, reasuringly. The princess had heard many village legends and, despite her big heart, didn't believe a word of them. But she listened to everyword of warning that was brought with the nonsense. They left for the dam right after sunrise. They foliage was too dense to bring horses, so they prepared to go on-foot. The grey-brown trees had pale green leaves. Every now and then they passed flowers, and even less often they passed flowers that were colorful and alive.
The sun was at its hottest when the old man announced they were half way, and the two men turned around instantly. The princess, slightly annoyed at first, sighed in understanding of superstition. She knew the sun would set in a few hours, and that she would be missed back at the castle, but she couldn't turn back now. When the sun began to set, the orange sky and pink clouds illuminating her path just barely enough. She set down her cloak to use as a blanket and piled some brush under her head for a pillow. The ground and air was far too dry to start a fire without starting a deadly forest fire, so she waited for the moon to rise to see light again. She slept well. The ground cradled her small body, and the trees kept her warm with love.