Once upon a time, in a land of enchantment, there existed a powerful kingdom. At the head of this realm, a king ruled. The king was fair, kind, and beloved by all his people. However, even though he had wealth and power, the king was deeply saddened at heart, and had been for many years.

Sixteen years prior, the king's dearly loved wife had died in childbirth. The king, though profoundly distraught by his queen's passing, vowed that he would love his newborn daughter as much as any father could. In honor of his lost queen, the king decided that his daughter would have every opportunity to flourish, just as her mother had.

He hired the finest tutors of every subject: language, dance, history, mathematics, and even political strategy, to name a few. Indeed, within the sixteen years of her life, the princess developed with intelligence and a well-rounded view of the world. The king grew prouder of his daughter with each passing day, and with that pride came contentment that had been missing from the king's life since the day of the queen's passing. The king even grew to love one of the princess' tutors, and eventually, they married.

There was a great celebration within the kingdom to welcome the new queen. Indeed, she seemed to be a good match for the king, and all of the people hoped that the new queen would be as kind as the king. The only person who lacked trust for her was the princess. Having been a pupil of the queen while she was still a tutor, the princess has grown suspicious of the queen's motives.

Before marrying the king, the queen taught the princess political strategy. Although it was uncommon for a woman to know of such topics, the queen had been one of the foremost experts in politics and war tactics. However, the princess suspected that there was far more to her tutor than met the eye. After every lesson that they shared, the princess was left with a feeling of discomfort and misplaced trust.

One night, after completing her lessons, the princess found herself venturing toward her father's bedchamber. She had not seen him for the entirety of that day, and she wished to bid him good night. When she approached the door, the princess noticed that it was ajar. Before she could knock, she heard her stepmother's voice. The princess stopped and listened.

The queen was whispering low and fervently. The words were coming so quickly that the princess could not decipher them. As curiosity rose in the princess' mind, she heard a faint whimper. Immediately recognizing the noise as her father's voice, the princess burst through the door in time to see her father fall to the ground. The princess rushed to him, but it was too late. The king was dead. Immediately, the princess turned to the queen.

"What have you done to him?" she cried, "What have you done to my father?"

When the queen responded, it was with a dark voice and an icy glare.

"You know very well what I've done, little princess. You mistrusted me from the start, and you were clever to do so. Can you even conceive how difficult it is to become a student of political strategy, let alone one of its most well known experts, while being a woman? Can you wrap your protected little mind around that concept?" the queen spat. The princess did not lower her eyes.

"You didn't do it by yourself," the princess said, realizing the truth. The queen laughed bitterly.

"Ah, there it is. You've figured me out. Do you know the price for practicing dark magic, little princess? I'll give you a hint: it involves the loss of one's head. Of course, that is precisely why that precious information cannot leave this room," she sneered. All at once, the queen's eyes darkened and her fingers twisted. She began to whisper low and heavy. Her words became entangled, creating one droning sound that drowned out every other noise. The princess, suddenly very afraid, tried to dart out of the room, but not before the mangled hand of the evil queen grabbed her wrist.

"No no, you aren't going to ruin this for me. With you gone, everything I've strived for will come to fruition, and the kingdom will be mine. It will only be a matter of time before all of the realms fall to my power. As for your fate, we'll keep that as a secret between us. Enjoy your new life, little princess!" the queen laughed. Suddenly, the princess felt as if she was being stretched into every direction all at once. She cried out as her limbs twisted and contorted, bones cracking and muscles ripping. The pain was excruciating, and the princess felt that she was going to die. But then, there was a flash of light and all was still.

The air was calm, and all of the pain was gone. The princess tried to take a breath, but she found that she could not. Everything felt strange and different; the princess could not breathe, but she found that she was not suffocating. It was as if the air was entering her in a completely new way. The princess suddenly realized that she was no longer in the castle. She could not see in the way of humans, but she could sense her surroundings. She was in the forest.

As she felt the wind blow against her, the princess came to the dreadful realization that she was somehow different, no longer human. She could not move, but she found that if she tried to push what used to be her hand outward, a fleeting feeling of stretching would occur. The princess did this multiple times, but the feeling did not last.

As the seconds ticked by, the princess focused everything she had on sensing what caused the stretching feeling. Finally, she found that every time she pushed and stretched, something on her new body opened. As the princess came to realize what was opening, she felt a sense of distress and helplessness. When she stretched, a flower bud grew and bloomed. Each flower grew on a branch, and each branch twisted and curled its way down to the princess' base.

The princess was a tree.

Seven months later, in an attempt to evade his royal guard, a prince from the neighboring kingdom ventured into the forest. He led his horse by the reins through the brush and wilderness. He knew that it would not be long before he was found, but he intended on hiding for as long as possible. The prince came to a beautiful, blossoming tree. He tied his horse's reins to one of the tree's branches and sat up against the trunk. The air was cool and crisp, and the prince took the opportunity to rest. He looked up at the blossoming tree, and suddenly felt truly at peace.

"It's been so long since I've felt this serene," he said to himself. He did not notice the tree bend forward slightly, offering him more shade. For reasons unknown to him, the prince continued to speak.

"I know that I've been born into privilege, but sometimes it feels as if I'm living in constant aggravation," he whispered, "All of the pressures of the kingdom are starting to drive me mad, and I'm not even king yet. "

The prince rested his head against the tree's trunk, not caring that bits of bark scratched his neck. As he looked on, he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. Turning quickly to the side, the prince watched in awe as a new flower bud grew from one of the tree's branches. In a matter of seconds, the bud grew larger and eventually blossomed into a pink flower. The prince reached toward the flower and carefully plucked it from the branch. Within a few seconds, another flower had bloomed in its place.

"What is this?" the prince asked quietly, "What's going on?"

In response, another blossom appeared on the branch. The prince looked up at the tree, his mind racing. Suddenly, the answer became clear. He cleared his throat.

"Can…can you understand me?" he whispered. Another flower appeared. The prince gaped at the tree. After a few moments, he found his voice.

"So, you can actually comprehend what I'm saying?" he asked. Several more flowers bloomed on the tree, opening so quickly that it seemed as if they had already been there. Before the prince could ask another question, his royal guard appeared.

"Sire, there you are. We've been searching for you. You're needed back at the castle."

The prince turned to look at his guard, and then back at the tree. No other flowers bloomed, so the prince nodded toward his guard. As he untied his horse's reins, the prince whispered to the tree.

"I'll be back."

Three days later, the prince returned to the forest. He followed the path that he previously walked and came to a halt in front of the same beautiful tree. The prince tied his horse's reins to one of the trees branches, and then paused. He wasn't quite sure what to do.

"Hello again," he said after a moment. The prince waited, but nothing happened. He frowned; had he imagined the whole thing?

"Erm, I'm back," he tried. Still, nothing happened. The prince sighed, resting his hand against the tree. Suddenly, he felt softness beneath his hand. He lifted his hand to find a newly bloomed flower. He could hardly contain his excitement.

"It's true! I'm not crazy!" the prince cried, "You really are magical!"

Another flower bloomed. The prince smiled widely and sat against the tree's trunk. This time, he couldn't keep himself from speaking aloud.

"I can't believe that this is real. I've heard of magical happenings, but I've never encountered one myself. Do you like it when I speak?" he asked. Three more flowers bloomed. The prince grinned.

"Well, then…where should I start?" he whispered.

From then on, the prince would take every chance he got to sneak away and visit the blooming tree. He told the tree about his childhood, his likes and dislikes, and his problems. Every time the tree bloomed, he couldn't help but smile. Despite their obvious differences, he felt as though he had made a true friend. This continued throughout the summer months and into the beginning of the rain seasons.

One night, after the prince had returned to the castle, storm clouds rolled over the forest. Thunder boomed throughout the night and rain poured in sheets. All of the animals had fled their woodland homes, as lighting crashed to the ground.

The next morning, the prince navigated his way back to the blooming tree. As he led his horse through the thicket, he couldn't help but smile at the thought of talking to the magical tree once more. He considered the tree to be his ethereal secret; a friend who would never judge him. Once the prince pushed through the brush, he looked up with a smile, expecting to see new blossoms waiting for him. What he found was a split, burnt tree. The bark was bare with no blossoms to be found. The prince felt the blood drain from his face.

"No! What happened?" he yelled, dropping his horse's reins in the process. He ran to the tree, kneeling by the trunk.

"Can you hear me? Please, let me know that you can understand!" the prince cried. The tree did not bloom. The prince felt his eyes well with tears. He couldn't believe that his beautiful, blooming tree was gone. In a moment of defeat, the prince closed his eyes and lighting kissed the bark.

Suddenly, the prince noticed that the air around him was changing. The wind blew softly, but all the prince could feel was warmth. He looked down just in time to see a bright radiance envelop the tree. The split trunk mended, and the branches morphed into limbs. Within only a moment, the tree had turned into a girl. The prince looked on, bewildered and amazed.

The girl did not move, and her eyes were closed. After a few seconds, the prince lightly grazed her shoulder, a small attempt to revive her. Suddenly, the girl gasped for breath, grabbing the prince's hand. Startled, he tried to pull away.

"Wait!" the girl cried, "It's me! I am your tree!"

All at once, the prince stood still. After a beat, he took his turn to speak.

"You? You're my beautiful tree?"

The girl nodded.

"I have always been your tree! I was placed under a curse by my former tutor and queen of the neighboring kingdom. I am a princess, and I am your tree. This past night, lighting struck me and I feared that I had died, until you saved me," she explained. The prince was confused.

"Me? How did I save you?" he asked. The princess smiled.

"True love's kiss," she replied. The prince felt his face flush.

"So, all of the secrets, all of what I said…I said to you?" he asked. The princess nodded. The prince wasn't sure how he felt about that news. Would this girl –this princess- blame or judge him for all that he had said? Sensing his hesitation, the princess cupped her hands, and closed her eyes. A soft glow appeared around her hands. Within an instant, a lovely pink flower bloomed above the princess' palms, floating in mid air. She released her hands, plucking the flower out of the air, and presenting it to the prince.

It was then that the prince knew that he still had his magical friend, and that his secrets and thoughts were safe with her. In a kind of excitement he had never felt before, the prince pulled the princess into a soft kiss. She did not pull away.

Within the coming days, the prince and princess traveled to the princess' kingdom, along with the prince's army. It was took no time to prove the princess's story, and the evil queen was killed on the spot.

The prince and princess were married, and they ruled with kind hearts. The kingdoms were joined, and life improved for all of the inhabitants. The prince and princess regaled their children with their magical story, and the princess would produce the pink flower that brought them together.

To this day, the flowers can be found in secret and ethereal places, and appear only to people who know where to look.

The End