Story Saturday: The Secret of the Forest (Once Upon a Time)

"The Secret of the Forest"

Hidden deep within the darkest depths of the woods was a magic portal that led to a land of great riches beyond a person's wildest imagination. These glittering jewels and gold nuggets were the lifeblood that allowed the faeries who resided there to live forever. In order to ensure that no one discovered this hidden paradise, the faeries were guarded by Princess Abeline, whose family was long gone due to the odd passage of time within the hidden land. The fae were all she had left, and she was determined to protect them with her life.

Rumors had spread of the secret treasure, but no one knew the exact location of the portal. No one was more determined to find it than a treasure hunter named Jules, who sought a life of comfort in the wake of his kingdom's recession. He bravely traversed the darkest part of the woods, feeling his way through the trees after his trusty lantern burned out. When he saw a flicker of light, he was certain the portal was near. Just before he could reach it, a beautiful maiden with braided raven locks stumbled out from behind a tree.

"Oh, thank goodness there's someone here!" she cried. "I thought I was going to starve to death in these woods. I've been lost for days. Can you help me find my way back to my village?"

Jules was not a heartless treasure hunter, and when he found out the maiden lived nearby, he was happy to escort her back. When they returned, however, she refused to let him walk her back to her cottage. He found that suspicious, so he bid her farewell and hid behind a nearby bush, watching her closely as she slipped away back into the forest.

Silently following the maiden through the woods, Jules returned to the same flickering portal where he had found her. He held his breath as she recited a complicated incantation, and a light burst through the darkness glittering with gold and jewels. As she walked through the bright light, he raced after her, tumbling inside just as the portal closed. She shrieked at the strange presence that fell on top of her, and Jules found himself surrounded by angry pixies who pulled on his hair and tore at his clothes.

"Why, it's you!" gasped the maiden. "I thought you left me at the cottage."

"Is that truly your home, or were just trying to keep me away from all of this?" he asked, gesturing to the fabulous riches that surrounded them.

"You don't understand," she said. "Our world may look like an endless treasure trove, but it is the only thing that keeps us alive. If it weren't for this place, the fae would have gone extinct long ago, just as I have outlived my own family here. I am the long-lost Princess Abeline."

Jules was disappointed to learn that the situation had changed. The treasure was far more valuable to the princess and the fae than it was to him. He couldn't overlook the desperation in the princess's eyes.

"I can't force you to keep this place a secret, but if I offer you a handful of gold, will you promise to leave and never tell anyone what you saw here?"

For the first time in his life, Jules considered the needs of people other than himself. It pained his heart to see the princess trapped here alone for eternity so far from everyone she had ever known, and it pained him, even more, to consider how much the other people in his land were suffering.

"I will accept your offer," he said, "but not for myself. I would like to give the gold to my people so they might be able to survive with it as the fae here do. Then, I would like to return to you, my princess, so you may no longer be alone in this trying task."

Abeline could hardly believe what she was hearing. "You do understand that being here means becoming immortal, do you not? The world outside will keep changing, but everything here will remain the same. You will have no one to return to."

"The only person I wish to return to you is you, Princess Abeline," he said.

With that, he bowed and took his leave, bringing the gold to the poorest people in his land. It wasn't much, but they were grateful that they would no longer have to starve. They were not used to the local treasure hunter being so generous. When they asked him how he came upon such riches, he told them that he found a treasure that was greater than any jewel, but he kept it a secret as he had promised.

True to his word, Jules returned to the portal later that night, where Princess Abeline welcomed him with open arms. The two watched over the fae for the rest of eternity and never spent another day apart.


Sugar said…
Very beautiful! Haven't you ever thought of publishing these short stories in an anthology? I remember as a child reading an anthology of stories only about princesses and it was wonderful!
Lisa Dawn said…
Thank you! I've already tried the indie author route with my novellas and found it very difficult to get sales. I think I would need to put a lot more time and effort into my short stories to make them an actual anthology like I did with my other books.

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