Once upon a time, before airplanes and automobiles, before boats and trains, the earth was ruled not by men, but the people of the elements. Mermaids in the sea, with voices of silk and scales decorated with rainbows themselves. Bearded Dwarves in their kingdoms of stone, studded with raw jewels of ruby, diamond, and sapphire. The Shepherds, who lived among the earth’s animals, and could hide in plain sight. All the mythical folk that make up human fairytales today were the keepers of this world, and they lived in harmony, except for two.
The Children of the Sky and the Nymphs from the surface did not get along. The Nymphs were the caretakers of the soil, from the biggest sequoia tree to the smallest acorn. And they cherished its beauty and consistency above all else. They nurtured the trees to their full height, so they towered as tall as skyscrapers. The trees were their pride and joy, and they worshiped the giant trunks, sturdy branches, and emerald leaves all throughout the year.
But the Skylings did not appreciate the idols, for they valued the blue of an uninterrupted sky, and found the colossal monuments an intrusion on their kingdom. So, when a tree grew too high, they unleashed the power of the sun and scorched the trees, causing their leaves to whither and their trunks to turn to ash.
And for centuries, the two kingdoms fought, neither willing to give up their piece, both continuing to grow and singe. But then it all changed.
It was the Summer Solstice, and all the kingdoms were gathered together for the celebration. It was there they saw each other. The Prince of the Sun was radiant, with eyes that shown like embers and hair as red as a blood moon. The Lady of the Forest was slender with skin as dark as a black walnut, and hair that flowed about her like that of a willow’s branches. They were bewitched by each other’s beauty, and fell madly in love.
They knew their love could not be uncovered, so they met in the dead of night, where their two worlds met. She would wait at the top of the tallest tree, where he would hover low in the sky and they could be together. Their love was magical, and soon the Nymph princess became pregnant.
She tried to keep it hidden from her father, for the Princess was certain that if the King knew of the baby’s origins, her meetings with the Prince would end. But at dusk while she was in the waiting to deliver the news of her pregnancy to the Prince, the tree was scorched. She fell from the sky and was badly burned by the sun’s power. She called out for her lover to save her, but he did not.
The Lord of the Sky had discovered the two’s forbidden marriage, and had killed the Prince for his treachery and felled the tree where the two met.
The Nymph King was outraged by the death of his most beloved tree and the scarring of his only child’s beauty. But his anger with the Sky was short lived. While the Princess was in healing, her pregnancy was revealed to the King and he demanded to know who the father was. She would not tell him and he became bitter with her.
Nymphs have much shorter pregnancy terms than humans, so it was only a brief time later when the Princess’s son was born. His skin was tanned, the result of the Lady’s darker tones and the Prince’s lighter skin, and had eyes as blue as the sky and hair red as the sunsets that christened the clouds. The Lady of the Forest loved him, and she named Fántasma, which means Ghost, for he reminded her of her fallen Prince.
But once the King saw the child, he knew that the father had been a Skyling, and would not allow a Child of the Sun in his kingdom. On the Autumnal Equinox, he took the boy from his crib in his mother’s room and carried him to his tallest tree, where he presented the infant to the sky. The Lord of the Sun came down and examined the baby, and was certain it was belonged to his Prince. But he would not take it, for his ties to the child were gone. The Nymph King demanded the boy be removed from his kingdom, but the Sky Lord would not budge.
The King became angry, and said that if the Sky would not take him, then the child would die. This did not sway the Sun King, and he left the Nymph lord. The King, not liking to be ignored, drew out his dagger and pressed it against the boy’s throat. Fantasma began to wail, for he was tired and did not like being so high up without his mother with the cold metal pressed to his neck.
The Princess, hearing her baby’s cries, awoke to find his crib empty. In a panic, she rushed out of her castle and followed the sound of her distressed son to the tree where he dangled in her father’s hands. She screamed in horror as she saw the blade slice across the infant’s throat and the limp body plummet from the sky.
And that was the moment where it was determined, when the only bridge between the Sky and the Surface was slaughtered, that the two kingdoms could never again be united.
The Princess wept for her son and her lover as she cradled his body in her arms. Her tears became red as she thought about all the blood spilled on her account. The boy she would never rock to sleep, the man she would never love again. And as she cried her scarlet tears, the beloved green of the trees turned red as fire.
And to this day, on the Autumnal Equinox, the widowed Lady of the Forest comes out of the tallest tree and weeps her scarlet tears, turning the leaves from their sacred green to red in remembrance of her lost family.