THE TREE OF FIVE OWLS

May 7, 2018

Calinda took great pride in her status, for she was the finest seamstress in the land. Summoned to work on the Royal finery for all celebrations, grand to intimate, she moved with slow dignity with a half smile playing at her lips while Queens, princesses, ladies-in-waiting chattered hopes for fabulous gowns into her ears. So, for years and years, she sewed the swiftest, the straightest, the most artfully hidden wonders of cloth joining glory. When she grew old, her fingers became gnarled and no longer  nimble. She was unable to perform her duties. Sadly, the grateful Royalty banished her to a loft above the stable, saving themselves from having to inadvertently catch sight of the twisted fingers on the shaking hands.

“Why do you weep?” asked a rat when it noticed the sobbing mound of Calinda in the loft.

“I can no longer sew. I am useless,” said Calinda, reaching out to show her misshapen hands to the rat.

“Ah, rheumatism. Bad luck,” said the rat. “The Tree of 5 Owls can help you. Of course, you would have to find it first.”

Calinda had never heard of the Tree of 5 Owls. She struggled to her knees and listened.

“It’s in the middle of a labyrinth in Thick Wood. Anyone who finds it gets one wish,” continued the rat.

“Where is Thick Wood?” asked Calinda.

“Across the sea in Harpland. I just arrived yesterday on a ship from there. It will sail back after it loads. I could get you on board. I know some important rats.”

No sooner said than done, the rat led Calinda to the harbor and distracted the watch so that Calinda could sneak on board. Two important rats stowed her away. The ship sailed back to Harpland, and the important rats deftly delivered Calinda safely to the wharf.

Kind townspeople gave Calinda scraps of moldy bread and set her on the path to Thick Wood. Three nights she took her rest in ditches. Three days she walked until she came face to face with the densest tangle of forest she had ever seen.

“I will close my eyes and struggle through in any old way I can,” vowed Calinda.

Crawling, burrowing, climbing over, squeezing through, Calinda struggled in search of the Tree of 5 Owls. She carried in her mouth her favorite thimble, pottery made, glazed white and painted with a single pink rose. She counted to five hundred in her head and paused. She did this time and time again. How many times she counted to 500 she couldn’t tell, but after several hours leaked away, there came a last time. She knew it was the last time. She opened her eyes.

“Who?” “Who?” “Who?” “Who?” “Who?” said the five owls from the five hollows in the tree.

“I am Calinda, the finest seamstress in the land. I wish my hands were as they were,” said Calinda.

Her hands tingled. She fell into a sleep. She awoke.

“Calinda! The gowns! Calinda! There’s work to be done!” shouted the Queen.

Calinda, dazed, stared at her beautiful hands and her long talented straight strong fingers. Her rose thimble sat on the coverlet.

“A dream?” she mumbled, looking around her gorgeous palace chamber.

 

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