Jay Bird, the prince of the forest, meets Gwen and together they discover who he really is. When they fall in love with eachother, Jay needs to convince Gwen to leave before his heart breaks. Will Gwen ever see her lover again?
Queen Antiope was fleeing for her life, hers and the life of the child within her. The king had declared he was going to kill the baby and so the queen fled from the castle.
Running barefoot through the forest, twigs snagged her dress and scratched her face while the rocks pierced her feet. The forest was testing her. She could hear the voices of the soldiers behind her. Arrows whizzed past her, nearly missing her face. Her cinnamon strands of hair, escaped from her bun, where plastered to her face with sweat.
Antiope stumbled into clearing where she saw a Jay bird circling. The bird sharply turned and landed on a rocky ledge revealing a cleverly concealed cave. The queen took a quick glance behind her. The soldiers could not be seen but heard, there were pains in her abdomen and it was either climb or run. Antiope looked at the bird and decided to climb.
She crawled behind the tree inside the cave just as the soldiers ran past into the other stretch of forest. As soon as they could no longer be heard, Antiope started to breathe normally again. She turned around to face the interior darkness of the cave, but it wasn’t dark at all. There was a glowing fairy lamp and a small pool of water. There were edible bushes in the back corner and a cradle against the wall with a bed carved from the stone. There were blankets and pillows and even a fire pit. This had been the hiding place of many long forgotten women.
Another pain in her body told Antiope it was time. She bit her lip to hold in her screams. She started to sweat again, she tasted the blood from her lip, her eyes rolled back into her head and she breathed heavily and yet, she made not a single sound.
Just as the baby came, the fairy that lit the lamp grew sleepy and stopped her glow. A cool breeze swept into the cave relieving Antiope of her sweat and heat. She leaned over and grabbed the child, feeling around in darkness.
“My beautiful baby” she cooed. She though for a moment, “I will call you Jay Bird, after the bird that saved our lives.” She smiled.
Another gust of wind blew through the cave, stronger, harder. So strong it whisked the baby from Antiope’s arms and stole him away. Antiope stood up and stumbled after the child, still weak from the excursion.
“No!” She screamed. “Give me back my baby!” She ran and stumbled, dodged trees and roots until she could no longer see the child. A loud scream echoed through the forest as the queen expressed the agony of loosing her child. She dejectedly walked back to the cave knowing she couldn’t go home. Her pace was slow and careless until she heard them again. Soldier’s voices. She gathered up her skirt and started to run.
Antiope burst into the clearing and sprinted up the rock. Her foot slipped, scraping her leg against the wall. She crawled behind the trees into the opening of the dark and lonely cave, peering through the branches.
The soldiers emerged from the forest, laughing and joking amongst themselves, not on the hunt.
“Don’t come back until the job is done!” One said mimicking the king.
“She’s probably dead by now.” one laughed. “That’s probably the scream we heard, most likely mauled by a wild animal.”
“Or fell off a cliff” Another said. They all traipsed back through the forest laughing and deciding which story they would tell the king., all but one soldier who stood before the line of trees, looking up at the rock, directly at Antiope. She gasped and pulled back, scrambling into the cave, still looking through the leaves. He slowly nodded and returned to group. Antiope sat still for a moment then slowly retreated into the cave.
In the cave she sat down quietly on her bed and stared at the bloodstained blanket. She picked it up and screamed again. She beat her fists against the cavern floor until they bled. Then she kicked the cavern walls until her feet bled. Finally she sat down and cried herself to sleep. Never again to see the little child she protected.
The next day the soldiers returned, after being flogged by the king. They climbed up the rocky wall and discovered a ledge where Queen Antiope sat. She was patiently quietly sitting on the ledge. Feet and hands scraped, face scratched. They tore at the branches of the trees and saw nothing but rock wall. A tear slid down the Queen’s cheek when they discovered nothing.
“Where’s the kid?” One asked roughly.
Antiope raised her chin and said nothing. The soldier repeated the question and grabbed her collar.
“I do not know.” She said firmly. The soldier hoisted her up and roughly tied her arms behind her back. They marched her back to the castle and that was the last time the peasants saw their beloved Queen, being marched into the castle like a common criminal.
“Can you tell me again about my mother?” Jay asked for third time that day.
“Jay, how many times are you going to ask to hear that story?” asked Chippy.
“Leave the Prince be, Chippy.” said an old oak. “Today of all days, the Prince can hear whatever he likes as many times as he likes.”
“So…” began Jay. “Can you say ‘Jay is the best in the world’” A sharp chatter rang through the forest.
“That’s a pretty small world then.” Chuckled Chippy.
“Silence chipmunk.” The old tree commanded but even he couldn’t refuse to smile at the foolish rodent’s joke.
Jay frowned and glared at Chippy.
“Whatever just please once more about my mother?” Jay gazed up at the oak with big brown pleading eyes.
Fourteen years ago, the forest spirits took Jay from his mother’s fleeing arms. Soldiers found her and took her back to the castle where she was never heard from again. The spirits had taken Jay to the center of the forest and taught him everything he needed to know about the woods and surviving. The birds had brought him food when he was young, and as he learned he gathered food for himself. The animals showed him which plants to eat. The trees taught him the wisdom of the forest and the fairies and elves showed him how to start fire and stay warm. He never destroyed or harmed the forest. He was the only human being who could live in perfect harmony.
Jay’s eyes filled with tears as they always did when the woods spoke of his mother. Fourteen years was a long time to go without a mother and on his birthdays, Jay felt the pain more then ever. The woods had never kept Queen Antiope a secret from Jay. They told him almost every thing about the life he was supposed to have. Everything except who his mother really was. Jay knew everything except he was a prince and his father, was the king who had murdered his mother.
The big oak wrapped a branch around Jay’s shoulders and the fairies brought him leaves to dry his eyes. The elves looked sadly up at him, their pointed noses pointing to the ground.
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to have a moment to myself.”
The old oak nodded and retreated into his self. The elves scurried away and the fairies fluttered off and found amusement in the other trees. Jay was all alone in the clearing. The forest was still, the wind was calm.
Jay carefully twirled the grass with his fingers. Then the wind gently picked up, carrying the sweetest sound to his ears. It was coming closer and closer. It was a young girl coming to collect water from the nearby creek. Jay dove into the bushes and crouched down to watch. A young girl emerged from the dense woods. She had orange hair the color fire that hung down to her waist and green eyes the color of the moss that grew on the north side of the trees. She was singing a song about a poor baby prince having to run from his home and being lost forever and his mother coming home empty handed never to be seen again.
“Wow your highness, she’s beautiful. Too bad she isn’t a chipmunk” Chippy chirped.
“Shush Chippy!” Jay commanded. “I mean seriously do you ever stop talk-“Chippy flicked his tail in Jay’s face causing him to lose balance. Jay fell into the clearing and stumbled into the girl’s path.
“I…um…erm…it…I’m…sorry…” Jay turned bright red and scrambled to stand up. The girl cocked an eyebrow and gave him and strange look.
“Well that’s funny.” She said, smiling. Jay looked as his feet, he was so embarrassed. He let his brown hair hang in front of his face to hide his embarrassment.
“It looks like all the stories are true. You are the forest Prince I presume?” She asked him sweetly.
“I…I don’t like to think of myself as a Prince, I’m no important than the fairies and trees, but yeah…I guess I am.” Jay replied. “I’m…I’m Jay by the way.” Jay extended his hand in greeting hoping to make up for his lacking display of coordination. The girl ignored him and curtsied.
“I am the villager Gwen, your highness.” She said, not rising from her curtsied.
“That, umm, really isn’t necessary Gwen we’re all the same here.” Jay smiled and she looked up from her low bow.
“This is so amazing though, the forest Prince actually exists!” Gwen exclaimed straightening herself.
“Please though, please don’t tell anyone. I’m happy here by myself don’t let anyone know I’m here.” Jay pleaded with her.
“Your royal request will be fulfilled your highness.” Gwen curtsied again.
“And please Gwen, stop with the highness stuff. It’s awkward.”
“Okay.” She replied casually and grinned.
“Are you hungry?” Jay asked the girl
“Famished.” She replied. “I missed breakfast.”
“Here are so berries. The birds bring me a large supply every day, I’m happy to share.” Jay pulled away a bush branch revealing a hole in the old oak filled with berries.
“These are delicious!” Gwen exclaimed she hesitated before taking another one, looking at Jay with uncertain eyes. How Jay loved those eyes.
“Take as many as you want.” Jay smiled and Gwen feasted upon the pile of berries that hardly seemed to grow smaller in size.
When finished, Gwen leaned back against the old tree, which retreated from him and smiled at the girl.
“Well hello Gwen. It appears you have met the prince.”
“Tree…Tree spirit! Oh my…” Gwen exclaimed her hand flying up to clutch her heart which had skipped a beat.
“Ah don’t be afraid of him he is the old oak, the kindliest tree in the woods.” Jay smiled up at his friend. “But if you want my opinion, the birches are the most gorgeous.” Jay whispered after. A group of birches over heard him and started to giggle.
“Oh my, its getting dark, my mother will be furious with me for taking so long. So long Jay, I will visit you often.” Gwen picked up her water jug and ran through the forest. Jay watched after her, even after she could no longer be seen.
Chippy let out a low whistle. “Isn’t she something?” Jay gave him a playful poke.
“Oh shush Chippy.” He got up and went to go make his bed. Chippy looked at the old oak.
“Was it something I said?” The oak rolled his eyes and went off to find Jay.
“Prince?” The oak called out. Jay didn’t turn around. “Jay?’ He tried again, softer and less formal. Jay turned and looked at him. “What’s wrong?”
Jay was quiet for a moment. His annoyed expression softened. “I really like her. She’s so, amazing, beautiful but she’s just another person I’m going to have to live without. You, yourself said that no other human being could live as peacefully in the forest as I do. You, yourself said that I was the only human being allowed to live here everyone else would harm the woods. First I lose my mother, now Gwen oh it’s not far!” Jay started to sob. He was embarrassed he cried so much but it’s what a forest Prince is, emotional.
“Jay you really should’ve said something.” The oak said wrapping his arm around the Prince.
“I know, but it’s stupid.” Jay sniffed.
“Maybe there will be something we can do. I’ll meet with forest elders counsel. In the meantime, she is most definitely allowed to visit. Is that better?” the old oak suggested.
“That’s okay.” Jay sniffed again.
“Now off to bed young prince. The sun has gone to sleep and now so shall you.” said the oak, returning to his position as the Prince advisor. Jay rolled his eyes and fell asleep in his leaf bed.
Gwen came and visited Jay every day. Some days she came with red welts from being slapped by her mother for being late, but she still came. Jay and Gwen did many things together. They explored the other side of the cliff and waded in the creek. Jay helped Gwen befriend every wild thing in the forest. Though most days were packed with adventure, there were quiet days when the pair sat at the base of a large tree and just talked. Gwen would ask many different questions about the forest.
“How do you tell which spirit is which tree?” Gwen would ask, carefully examining a flower Jay had given her.
“Oh that’s easy. Birches look like beautiful young girls and Pines look like prickly men, they always chase after the birches,” Jay would laugh and Gwen would chime in. “And the oaks, which there are few of, look like kind old men.”
“That sounds enchanting.” Gwen would reply and they would be quiet for awhile until she struck up another question.
One day the sun was setting over the hills. Gwen was twirling the rose Jay had given her. It was a special Blue Rose, colored by the fairies. Gwen looked up and smiled and Jay who was staring at her with those beautiful brown eyes of his. He smiled back and blushed. Gwen’s expression changed. She had a concentrating look in her eyes. Jay started to sweat. Why was she looking at him like that?
“You know Jay, I’ve never really noticed before, but you looked exactly like old Queen Antiope.” Gwen said.
“I’m sorry what?” Jay asked. Behind him the old oak took on a nervous expression but remained as still as a tree.
“You look like Queen Antiope. Don’t you know the legend?” Gwen asked in surprise.
“No please tell me.” Jay pleaded her.
“Well about fourteen years ago they say, the king’s wife was about to have a son and he was going to kill it. So the Queen fled the castle and hid in the woods. When the soldiers found her, she was no longer with child but there was no child. When the soldiers asked her where the child was, she didn’t know. They say he was stolen in the knight by bandits. Some say wolves took and raised him but on a hard winter they attacked him.” Gwen lowered her voice to barely a whisper. ‘Others say the Queen killed the child herself.” She spoke back in her normal tone. “But I don’t believe it. From what I heard she was the most loving and kind queen who ever ruled. She doesn’t sound like a child murderer.”
Jay was very silent. “What did the Queen Antiope look like Gwen?”
“They say she had the most gorgeous brown eyes in the kingdom. Some say that if you looked into her eyes you would be hypnotized and that is how she married the King. Her hair shone like copper in the sunlight and sparkled like cinnamon in the moonlight. She was slender and graceful. She was fiery and defiant but kind hearted. From what I hear, the villagers sound like they are describing you.” Gwen grew excited.
“Me?” Jay choked. “What happened to the Queen Gwen? What happened after they found her?” Jay anxiously asked.
Gwen looked sadly at the ground. “She was marched into the castle and never seen again.”
“Your Highness, I think it’s time the noble Gwen returned home don’t you agree?” The old oak spoke up for the first time. He hustled Gwen along with his branches and escorted her to the tree line.
When he returned he found Jay standing in the middle of the clearing, his back to the tree. Jay turned sharply and glared at the oak.
“Who was my mother?” Jay demanded.
“Your highness I can assure you, we don’t know.” The oak replied.
“Really? Did you think I was going to swallow that excuse forever? Did you not think one day I would find out who she was? Don’t like to me Oak, who was my mother?” Jay asked once more.
The oak was quiet, even Chippy, seated on a nearby boulder made not a sound. The whole forest held it’s breath in wait for the truth to be finally revealed.
“Your mother, the woman you talk so fondly of, your mother was the highly honored, greatly praised Queen Antiope. You were always destined to be the prince of the forest. This whole predicament just made it easier.” The oak finished firmly.
“And you didn’t tell me because…?” The young prince was annoyed.
“Who knows how you would’ve reacted! You are just a child your highness, It was up to me to make the proper decision.”
Jay was blazing anger inside of him. His eyes burned with fury, black fire. His mouth was set in a firm straight line.
“Well your decision,” Jay said, “was wrong.” He turned sharply on his heel and strode out of the forest. He walked angrily towards the village. Though Jay was unbelievably angry, he could not storm hard enough to harm any thing. Tears streamed down the boys face, his fists were clenched and his breath came in gasps. He controlled himself before he reached the outskirts of the town. He walked through the town eyes staring straight ahead towards the castle. His fingers were now trembling as he continued his march. Unfamiliar eyes stopped to stare at him, people started to whisper, peasants crowded the doors and windows to watch him stomp by. Only one face was familiar in the village. Gwen’s frightened face as she stepped out the door.
“Jay!” She called. Now the strange eyes fell on her. Why did this girl know who this young man was? “Jay, stop! Calm down! Listen to me Jay Bird!” She yelled out. Gwen rushed out to comfort her friend who had stopped in the middle of the road. His whole body was trembling violently; he was gasping and sobbing again.
“Gwen” he moaned
“Jay Bird, Why don’t you come inside my family’s house and tell me what is wrong?”
“Your mother…” Jay started
“My mother will be hospitable and polite as she should be to all guests.” Gwen said firmly. She gently guided the boy in her house and all those familiar eyes followed them.
Behind a closed door, Gwen sat Jay down in her father’s lounge chair. She brought him a cup of cocoa and explained everything to her parents who were shocked at the boy sitting in their home.
“So I saw him storming through the village and I just had to help him mother! I should’ve said something earlier I suppose but I was worried what you would think. Please Father, let me help him. I’m the Forest Prince’s only friend.” Gwen looked up at her parents with pleading eyes. Tears started to fill hers to.
“Yes you should have told us about him earlier Gwen though I can see why you wouldn’t. Help your friend darling.” Her mother smiled at her and her father nodded in agreement.
“Oh thank you so much!” She hugged both her parents and rushed to Jay’s side. “Jay Bird, tell me what happened and why are you so upset.” And so Jay began his story.
“My mother is Queen Antiope, I’m the heir to the throne but I rule the forest which is certainly a dilemma, my father probably killed my mother and my closest confidence lied to me.” Jay finished. Gwen’s parents stood flabbergasted at who their daughter had befriended.
“A Prince!” They whispered in shock. Gwen sat loyally by Jay’s side, who was sobbing again,
“Well, I can understand why he kept it from you, how to explain to a little boy his father may have murdered his mother?” Gwen said. “But at the same time, I know why you are so upset, but you can’t go storming into the castle Jay Bird. You’d be taken prisoner by the guards and killed as soon as your identity revealed.” Gwen said. She opened her mouth to say more but a sharp knock at the door cut her off.
“Palace officials.” A gruff voice said. Jay looked at Gwen, his eyes filled with terror. Gwen took firm hold of his hand and pulled him through the house.
“Stall!” She called to her parents blowing them a kiss then dragged Jay through the back door into the fields.
“We hear you have a strange and unexpected guest in your midst.” The officials voice started to fade as Gwen and Jay ran faster and faster.
“Where are we going?’ Jay asked
“Back to the forest.” Gwen replied. But they ran past the oak, past the clearing, past Chippy. They ran past the rabbit burrow, past the cliff and hills. They ran and ran until they came to an opening with a rocky ledge on the side.
“I know this place.” Jay whispered. Gwen looked around hurriedly and started to climb the rock.
“Hurry Jay!” She called down and Jay started to climb the wall. They crawled behind a bush into a dark cave lit by a fairy lamp.
“This place…” Jay started.
“Is where Queen Antiope gave birth to you. A Jay bird led her here as she fled from the soldiers. That is why your name is Jay Bird.” Gwen finished solemnly.
“Jay Bird.” Jay whispered as he picked up the bloody blanket from the cave floor.
“We’ll be safe for now.” Gwen said, trying to light a fire. Jay sat in the middle of the cave, staring mindlessly at the back wall.
‘“My beautiful baby” she cooed. She though for a moment, “I will call you Jay Bird, after the bird that saved our lives.” She smiled.
Another gust of wind blew through the cave, stronger, harder. So strong it whisked the baby from Antiope’s arms and stole him away. Antiope stood up and stumbled after the child, still weak from the excursion.
“No!” She screamed. “Give me back my baby!” She ran and stumbled, dodged trees and roots until she could no longer see the child. A loud scream echoed through the forest as the queen expressed the agony of losing her child.’
Jay woke up perspiring, he was suffocating trying to claw away at the gag covering in his mouth, his eyes wild with fear, saw nothing. He was thrashing wildly and kicking.
“Jay calm down it’s just me!” Gwen whispered harshly. Jay held perfectly still gasping for air. Gwen removed her hand and leaned back, giving Jay some space.
“Why did you cover my mouth?” Jay asked after he had regained his breath.
“You were screaming like a madman! What if soldiers had walked by?” Gwen said.
“So, why didn’t you just wake me up?” Jay asked again
Gwen laughed. ‘I tried, but you hit me” She said and Jay noticed the red welt on her face.
“Gwen I’m so sorry” Jay apologized.
“Don’t worry, it was my own fault, I should’ve dodged away from you not into you.” She laughed again but the sting from the mark was bringing tears of pain to her eyes.
“We can’t stay here forever.” Jay said quietly. Gwen nodded.
“What else is there to do?” Gwen asked hopelessly.
Jay thought for a moment. “I have an idea.” He started to climb down the wall and before Gwen could stop him, he was running into the black forest.
“Jay!” Gwen screamed after him.
“Shush Gwen!” His voice echoed back to her.
“By the King, I hope you know what you are doing.” Gwen whispered and turned back to the cave.
Jay was running barefoot through the forest, just like he used to do when he was younger. He used to race the deer. Jay finally slowed down when he reached the Fairy Forest. It was the darkest part of the forest that no human knew about. Not even Gwen was allowed to know. The fairies glow brightened up the place. There was large tree in the center that had no spirit it had retreated so far into its self. Around the tree grew many rare and unheard of plants, poisonous plants. Jay was looking for a purple plant called Excessum Aeris, Death Air. He leaned over and whispered something to the plant. He held out a vial and the plant stuck the tip of its purple leaf into it. A strange gas started to fill the vial. Jay quickly corked and whispered something to the plant and then got up and ran back to the cave,
“Gwen I got it!” Jay called climbing up the rocky wall.
“You got what?” Gwen asked, just mildly annoyed. Jay reached the top and handed Gwen the vial.
“Poisonous gas. If we release it into the castle it will kill all the guards.” Jay explained
“But won’t it kill everyone else to?” Gwen asked. She didn’t like the thought of killing innocent people.
‘Nope. I tagged the gas so it would only affect the guards. Besides, I am dealing with my father.” Jay finished coldly.
“Jay…” Gwen reached out a comforting hand and placed it on his shoulder.
“Midnight.” Jay said. “Are you going to come?” He asked her.
“Someone is going to have to keep you from losing your head.” Gwen grinned. Jay nodded but he didn’t smile back and Gwen’s smile promptly faded away.
At midnight, Gwen and Jay climbed out of the cave and headed to the castle. They walked quietly through the forest. When they came to Jay’s clearing they were shocked. The grass was scorched in the shape of the king’s symbol and a skull and cross bones was burned onto the Oak’s bark. Jay’s eyes filled with tears, but he reached under the oak and rubbed some sap on the mark. He nodded and then started to walk through the forest again.
When they reached the village, their journey became more dangerous. Careful not to step on any gravel and make any noise, Gwen and Jay crept around houses and behind sheds until the reached the castle. Jay uncorked the vial and threw it through the gate. He showed Gwen three fingers and motioned to the bushes beside the castle wall.
When Jay had tapped his foot one hundred and eighty times, He motioned for Gwen and him to slip through the gate. Walking through the castle, Gwen saw many guards and soldiers lying lifeless on the ground. Jay stopped and pulled a sword from one of the soldiers and continued on to the bedroom chamber. Gwen couldn’t help but notice how wrong the sword looked in Jay’s hands.
Creeping along the silent hallways, Gwen and Jay arrived at the room. Jay quietly slipped inside and started to circle the king sized bed where a king slept. Upon seeing the face of his father, Jay’s sword clattered to the ground in shock.
“What…Whose there?” The king said, abruptly sitting up in his bed. “Guards!’ he called.
“That won’t help you.” Jay said darkly.
“Who are you?” The King said gathering the quilt to his chest.
“I am the Ruler of the Western Woods Prince Jay Bird the First. You may refer to me as your son.” The king gasped and clutched his chest. His eyes rolled back into his head showing the whites and he collapsed onto the floor.
“Is he dead?” Gwen whispered. Jay kicked the sword and walked out of the room.
Outside the castle, Jay sat down on the large boulder.
“Jay, are you okay?” Gwen asked.
“Please go home Gwen. Please I’ll be fine. I just need a minute alone.” Gwen nodded and walked off.
Jay pulled out a pen and sheet of paper and started to write.
Upon the death of our King, William the XIV, I, his only heir, hereby give up the throne and surrender it to the Lady Gwen. As her loyal subjects you shall respect and honor her decisions.
Prince Jay Bird the First
Jay nailed the note to the castle gate and walked home to the forest.
The next morning, villagers on the way to the market read the sign and gasped at what it read. Whispers travelled through the crowd. The Forest Prince, how can it be? The Gwen girl is our ruler, her mama must be proud. Gwen on the way to pick up eggs from the market saw the crowd and ran to see what was so interesting.
The villagers stepped inside to allow their princess to come through. Everyone fell silent.
“Gwen! Gwenneth!” Her mother called running down the path, having heard the news from a passing villager.
“Daddy!” Gwen called running into her father’s arms. “Daddy do you want to be a king?” Gwen’s father hugged his little girl and buried his face in her hair. “Daddy can I go visit Jay?”
“Don’t be too long.” And Gwen took off to the forest.
Gwen found Jay sitting in the middle of the clearing, his back to her.
“Oh Jay! Thank you so much. A Princess, a real princess! I can’t believe it I Mean-“
“Why are you here?” Jay asked her. His voice flat, emotionless.
“What a silly question. I’m here to see my best friend!” Gwen said smiling.
“You need to leave.” He said.
“What… what do you mean?” Gwen said. Her smile disappeared her eyes squinted in confusion. “I don’t understand.”
“The Royal family isn’t allowed in the forest. You need to leave.” Jay explained.
“But…I…You…why?” she stammered.
“I made you princess so you would leave.”
“But Jay!”” she cried.
“Leave Gwen.” Jay ordered.
“Jay I don’t want to be a princess! No I want to stay here, with you! You were the royal family why are you allowed here!” She already knew the answer but she couldn’t help but ask it.
“That’s different. I was raised here, God’s sake Gwen I was born here!” Jay turned to face Gwen his eyes were burning with anger, no compassion.
“Jay no! I...I can’t leave you. Please Jay no, I love you Jay Bird. Don’t, please don’t!” Tears started to stream down Gwen’s face. She didn’t like crying in front of Jay but the tears were coming to fast.
“Leave Gwen.” Jay ordered again.
“No Jay, please no!” She was sobbing so hard.
“I Prince of the Forest Order you to leave the forest and never return as long as I reign.” Jay yelled at her. Gwen stumbled back in shock.
“Jay.” She whispered shaking her head and then turned to run. She ran from the forest. She ran, branches hitting her snagging her dress. Tears blinded her. She burst through the forest and stumbled down the path to the castle gates. The crowd and thinned out and disappeared leaving her all alone. She kicked at the ground, smashed her fists against the Iron Gate, and screamed until her lungs gave out. Finally she collapsed on the ground sobbing. ‘I Prince of The Forest, Jay Bird the First, order you to leave the forest and never return as long as I reign.’ The words rang through her head.
“But I love you!” She whispered.
Jay watched Gwen run from the forest. He watched until he could no longer see her.
“I know that was hard.” The old oak wrapped a branch around Jay’s shoulders. When Gwen had ran, all the hardness had faded in his face.
“I love you to” He whispered. Jay felt his chest tighten.
“Your highness, it’s better this way.” Jay nodded. He lifted the branch from his shoulders and went off to sit by himself.
Gwen grew up in the castle and became a wonderful princess. She had many dresses and shoes. She was just and kind. She had a beautiful smile, but it never quite touched her moss eyes. Her laugh was never entirely full and her happiness never complete. Inside she harbored a broken heart. When her father died Gwen became the Queen. She never married and never set foot into the forest.
On the night of her coronation Gwen was wandering through the throne room, alone and unhappy. She was fiddling with the Jay Bird pendant she wore on a string around her neck. Her orange hair hung loose down to her waist. Her robe was wrapped tightly around her body. She ran her fingers gently over the throne designs when she noticed something glinting on the cushion. It was a silver ring. Under it was a note that read Jay Bird the First. Gwen slipped it on to her finger and from that day never took it off again.
Jay grew up and ruled the forest wisely. He lived in perfect harmony with everything in the woods. He rarely smiled but when he did he had the same boyish glisten in it.
On warm nights, Jay would sneak out and sit behind an abandon shed and listen to the villagers songs. Songs about a baby boy and his mother fleeing from the castle and the baby disappearing. Songs about the legend of the forest prince who lived in perfect harmony with every living thing in his kingdom. Songs about a beautiful queen who came from a peasant family. Jay’s favorite song was about a Prince and Princess falling in love, ruling different domains right next to each other, but never seeing the other as long as they lived. Gwen and Jay never again saw each other during their life after that fateful day when Jay banished her, but what neither one of them knew, was on those warm nights, the other sat on the opposite side of the shed, listening to the same heartbreaking song.
“Your majesty, you have a meeting with the counsel tonight and tomorrow you need to visit the southern woods.” The old oak was instructing the King.
“Too formal.” Jay said.
“What is that my kingship?” the old oak asked.
“Too formal. I like being a prince.” Jay replied.
“Yeah, makes you feel younger huh?” Chirped in Chippy.
“Shush Chippy.” Said Jay.
Chippy was Jay’s only friend, the oak his advisor. The birches combed his hair and all the creatures of the forest honored him. Elves brought him gifts and fairies wiped away his tears that he cried. Never did Jay forget Gwen.
As Jay got older he hardly changed. He kept the same lock of hair that hung over his eyes, the same smile and the same brown eyes that Gwen had adored so much. Jay had never let his age bring him down.
One night Chippy was sitting on Jay’s shoulder.
“Are you feeling alright, Jay? You don’t look so great.”
“Actually I feel kind of sick. I think I’ll go to bed early tonight.” Jay said rubbing his forehead.
“What ever you say.” And both lay down for the night.
The next morning the sun filtered in through the leaves of the trees and woke Chippy. He stretched his little arms and gave a big yawn. After shaking away his drowsiness he turned to the King.
“Jay wake up. Time to get going.” Chippy said and Jay didn’t stir. “Aweh come on Jay. I’ m too sleepy to play right now maybe later. If you ever wake up jeesh.” Jay still didn’t move. “Wake up, Wake Up, Wake Up!” the chipmunk squawked. He jumped on Jay’s stomach and patted his face. Chippy bit Jay’s ear and pulled at his eyelids but Jay didn’t move.
“I don’t think the King is with us anymore.” The old oak’s voice rang out through the forest which had become very quiet.
“What are you talking about! He’s sleeping right there. Jeesh can’t you see anymore?” Chippy tried to joke but the truth behind the Oak’s words were starting to sink in. “But he can’t be dead.” Chippy whimpered softly. The air grew very cold and the wind started to pick up. The trees and flowers drooped and wilted and the birds and animals retreated into their homes. The elves took off their hats and the fairies started mourning cries. The whole forest grieved.
At the castle Queen Gwenneth was sitting at her throne when a gust of wind blew the castle shutters open, sweeping up everything in it’s path. Gwen gathered her skirt and rushed to the window. She looked out to the forest and saw death in it.
‘I Prince of The Forest, Jay Bird the First, order you to leave the forest and never return as long as I reign.’ The words swarmed through her mind. “Jay’s dead.” Was her last thought before she passed out.
After three days of mourning the forest slowly came back to life. The elves and fairies, animals and plants all gathered around their lifeless king. A little tear dropped from Chippy as the grass started to grow over Jay’s body to serve as a resting place. Flowers popped up circling the mound. A jay bird was burned onto the hill where Jay lay. The forest creatures disbanded but Chippy sat on the mound and cried his little furry heart out. Soon he scampered off home still mourning the loss of his friend.
At the castle, Gwen opened a trunk of old clothes she had. She pulled out a purple gown and smiled. It used to be her favorite. The last time she had worn it was…her mind faltered. The last time she had worn it…had been the very last time she had seen Jay. She ran her fingers over the cloth, torn and bloodstained from her trek through the forest. She looked out the window and back at her dress. Acting on impulse she took off her Queen garment and pulled on her peasant dress. I twas snug and a little short but it fit. She let down her hair and ran down stairs through the castle gate and out onto the path. The wind lifted her hair as she flew through the forest. She came to the clearing and saw the mound of grass covering her dead friend.
“You aren’t allowed here.” A Gruff voice said.
Gwen gasping for breath replied. “Only as long as he reigns. And his time, is over.” Gwen weakly walked over to the grave and rested on it. The oak turned and left disgusted with the outcome. Gwen. Very tired from her trek, she didn’t have as much energy as she used to, rested her head on the grass grave and closed her eyes. Her chest heaved once and then rose no more. Her body fell limp, her face relaxed peacefully. She never woke up again. Gwen died on the grave of her best friend.
“Once in the forest lived a prince who befriended a girl
With moss green eyes and fiery orange hair
Who lived in the neighboring village
Many adventures together they had
And soon they fell in love
One fateful night he made her a princess
When the true king did die
For he was the prince, Son of the king
The king that did die
But banished her from visiting the forest
No, I love you! To him she cried
Never again did they see each other
Mourned in kingdoms apart
One in the forest other in the village
Both harboring broken hearts
When the wind blew so cold
The forest did grieve
The prince was laid to rest
She rushed to meet him
Donned in peasants clothes
For death is what she had guessed
She ran to the forest weary and weak
Laid her head on the grave
Closed her eyes went to sleep
And never again did rise”