The Harper knew he was running late. Things always turned out this way when he was on his way to one of the few hundred festivals the kingdom of Wistful held each year. This particular party was dedicated to the Prince Wistful, who had recently finished his rite of passage. The entire kingdom will be rejoicing, as its Prince would soon be graduating from Wistful’s premier university.
The Harper knew the Wistful Royal Family would be displeased at his late arrival. Yet, the Harper was not worried. He felt obligated to enjoy the beautiful sights that nature had provided for him on the long path that was the Wistful Highway. There were radiant sunrises and brilliant sunsets. The majestic Roland Mountain Range almost seemed to smile and wave hello as it watched the Harper travel; he couldn’t help but wave back.
Of all of nature’s gifts, the Harper liked the Forest of Solace, located in the heart of the Wistful Kingdom, the most. He couldn’t help but spend a few days watching the leaves in the trees dance in the wind and sunlight, then fall in magnificent waves of crimson and gold. He would watch, but never arbitrate, as the squirrels squabbled over fallen acorns. The birds, who had already begun their long journey southward, would plead for the Harper to play for them. He couldn’t say no, he loved hearing them sing along.
Whenever the Harper passed through the Forest of Solace, he would always visit one tree in particular. It was, and still is said to be, in a small clearing towards the middle of the forest. Unlike other trees in the forest, who tower over mankind, this one was a tiny sapling that would never lose its leaves in the winter. Nothing grew near it except for very short and soft blades of grass. The Harper would never touch it, nor would he even walk into the clearing that surrounded the sapling. It was a testament to nature’s flawless perfection. He had traveled through the Forest of Solace for years now, and this peculiar sapling had not grown an inch since he first discovered it. Sometimes he would play a tune on his harp, sometimes he would talk to the sapling, and sometimes he would stare in awe. No matter what the Harper did, the sapling would never budge. Was the sapling not paying attention? This trip through the forest was no exception. The Harper despised the thought of entering the sapling’s circle of tranquility. Yet, he vowed to get its attention one day.
By the time the Harper reached the Wistful Royal Palace, the celebration was well underway. Music filled the air, and the smell of fresh cooked roast filled the Harper’s nostrils. People, mostly high society folk, were dancing merrily in the palace courtyard. The atmosphere was jubilant, and the Harper felt strangely detached.
After a few minutes of looking for people closer to his class to mingle with, the Harper saw King Wistful approach him. A moment’s worry of being late was quickly extinguished as the King told the Harper that it was time for him to play. There was no mention of him being late. The entire party came to a hush as the Harper took the stage, for everyone in the Wistful Kingdom knew he was the best harpist in the land. With a touch of his fingers, the Harper brought forth the most captivating sounds conceivable from his instrument. The audience was in awe, and the Harper was as well. Never in his life had he played this well.
It was then that he looked into the audience and saw a Lady standing alone in the crowded area. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Her yellow hair flowed like a wheat field on a windy day. She was innocent, yet she had a peculiar grace about her. He looked at her, and she smiled. She looked into his eyes, and he smiled. He looked into her eyes, and she blushed and turned away.
After the greatest harp concert in the history of the Wistful Kingdom, the Harper immediately moved towards the Lady. The closer he moved, the more beautiful she became. He approached until he was at the edge of a crowd of people. There she was, full of life, full of youth. Innocence shone from her as she swayed to harps that only she could hear. Her eyes were closed. There was no one near her; just a few steps forward and he would reach her. The Harper hesitated.
He called to her, but her music muffled his beckoning. He strummed a short melody on his harp, but the Lady did not notice. He knew that he could not approach, for he would spoil this perfect creature. He would spoil all of her beauty, all of her grace, all of her amber hair. The Harper begged for the Lady to open her eyes and see him.
As he stood in awe, a Gentleman walked up to the lady and asker her to dance. She immediately stretched out her arm and walked with him. The Harper, saddened, could do nothing but watch them from a distance. With every one of the Gentleman’s smiles, the Lady’s became even more beautiful. Every time she looked into his eyes, her grace and mystique were amplified. By the time the Gentleman took her into his arms after all of the dancing was done, the innocent Lady that the Harper had seen a few hours earlier had become a woman. The Harper left distraught.
The next time he passed through the Forest of Solace, the sapling was a mighty and magnificent oak.
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