**This story was written for this story contest:http://www.spinningdaydreams.com/blog/a-princess-in-the-woods. The photo was taken from the above website.
She was just a woodcutter’s daughter. Her family was often hungry, and they worked hard. Last winter was particularly cruel. Mother and Little One had succumbed to fever. Father had not sold enough wood, there was no money for nourishing food or to send for a doctor. The girl stayed at mother’s side with a cool cloth, watching her slip away. A smaller gravestone soon joined Mother’s in the clearing.
Winter gave way to spring, then summer. Father and brother cut wood. The girl tended a little garden and gathered what she could from the woods. There were small joys in life. She laughed at the antics of squirrels, and collected interesting leaves and bits to keep in her treasure box. Her greatest joy was autumn. She loved the woods in autumn. The way that leaves rained down from the trees in showers of color made her think of a royal coronation or a great wedding. She spent hours pretending to be at just such an event. If only winter did not follow!
One late autumn afternoon, when the chill had just begun to creep and fill her soul with dred, Father and brother didn’t return from cutting wood. She went to the forest, partly searching for them, partly to soak in its life before cold robbed the trees of their glory. This day, the golden afternoon sun drew her further in than she would normally go. All around her the wood seemed to glow. The further she went, the more the light beckoned.
A little squirrel scampered in the leaves overhead. A single flaming leaf dropped from a branch. She watched it float towards her. It was then she heard the voice.
The girl started. “Father? Is that you?”
“No, it is I”
“Who are you?”
“I am the One whom the leaves announce, I am the King of these Woods”
“I cannot see you”
“Still I am here. Come away with me, I have long watched you and desired for you to enter my kingdom”
“I cannot. My Father and brother, they need me. I couldn’t come away with you. I do not even know you!”
“You have known me long. You have wished to see me in my Kingdom and attend my wedding. So you will.”
“I don’t understand”
“ You need not understand”
“Winter is coming, I must…”
“Winter is past, you will never be cold or hungry again. Come away with me.”
The girl looked behind her. The wood had grown dark. Before her, the light only grew.
“What of Father? What of brother?”
“They are already here. Come away, my beloved!”