The tragic tale of Princess Penelope’s favourite tree.
Lightning struck the rocky ridge as the sky flared white, the vicious colour of burning stars. Before the great owl could swallow down the next bolt, it struck her nest.
Two of her three eggs she could save. The third turned to stone in the blazing heat of jagged fire. The storm passed by dawn.
With feathers of ink and starlight, the owl swept over snow-dusted trees. Downwards her flight melted, down into the wretched, sacred valley of grief, towards the witch who howled like a tempest at the cruelties of twilight.
The witch could not resurrect stone.
But she could sing of seeds and growing things as the great owl buried her young beneath the frigid forest earth.
A century passed, and the great owl nursed her two hatchlings, their feathers livid with the hues of dawn and dusk.
She fed them vole and stories of their sister, lost to fire and cold ground.
On their first true flight, she guided her young over the valley in spirals, landing under cover of moonless midnight in the forest that wept for the dead.
The tree which now stood over the grave of her stone heart had feathers of opal and sunlight. The wind whispered through the willow’s tendrils, humming the song of a wood witch who could breathe new life into stone.
The hatchlings cried, keening for their sister, whom they remembered as a warm and beating heart alongside theirs. The honeyed midday sun to their rise and set.
The wind giggled through the willow’s boughs, lifting feathers skyward in swirling drifts, much like the snow of a century prior.
Gathered in beaks and talons, the great owl and her children returned to the peaks, lining their nest in summer’s light. Returning their sister home.