* * *
The Golden Fiddle
An excerpt from Fractured Dream (The Dreamer Saga)
The Golden Fiddle Legend has it that a king commissioned its making. He was a good king. But like all kings, he had lovers. When he met his wife and married her, he swore off all other women forever, and this angered one lover particularly—a powerful witch.
In a fit of rage, she put his wife under a sleeping curse. But all curses must have a way to be broken. Knowing how much he and his wife loved music, she made it so that only the purest music played by the purest heart would break the curse. Heartbroken, he sent out word, and soon every musician in the kingdom had gathered to play. But no one could break the curse, no matter how beautifully they played. Only one musician, a fiddler, struck the king as being particularly talented and particularly pure. So it was he that the king chose to go find a perfect fiddle to play.
The young fiddler searched high and low, for he truly wished to save the queen for the king. Being a musician and poet, he appreciated true love and wanted to help in any way he could. But no matter where he searched, no instrument would do. This one was out of tune, that one pure of sound but cracked. They were all imperfect. Merely a boy at the time, he began to despair as a year passed and then another. He was barely a man when he decided if he could not find a perfect instrument, he must make one.
So he went deep into the forest and visited every tree, praying to The Green to show him a tree that would do. Every night at the end of the day, he would sit down and play his own fiddle, a nice enough instrument, but not truly pure. Despite this, he played like an angel, and even if he did not know it at first, he had an audience. When she eventually showed herself to him, he found her more beautiful than anyone he’d ever seen. Her eyes were leaf green, and her hair was a soft, silvery blonde. She fell in love with him, and he lay with her, entranced by her pure, seductive beauty.
He loved her in his own way, but he was bereft at the thought of returning to the king and telling him he had failed, so pure was his heart. And because she loved him and could not stand to see his tears, she gave him a gift. After lying with him one night, she took his hand and led him through the trees, her long hair trailing in the dirt behind her, practically a part of the earth. He followed her, believing he would follow her anywhere, his heart was becoming so full with her. Finally, they came to a tree. Kissing him, she promised him this tree was pure, that it would make the most beautiful music and would surely wake the queen. He asked her how she knew. She merely replied that it was a tree made of magic and love, and surely that was pure.
They slept by the base of the tree that night, and when he awoke she was gone, like she always was. He only ever saw her by night, but he was so trusting, he never asked where she went. That morning he set to chopping the tree down, and as he did so, his heart felt heavy. When the tree was felled, he caressed its bark and indeed felt that it was a magic tree, worthy to make the perfect fiddle. He was the son of a fiddle maker, a great one at that, and so he set to carving the wood into an instrument that would be pure. It was glorious, with a golden sheen that clung to the strings and bark. But he didn’t want to play it until he was in front of the king, and so he waited until nightfall to ask his love to accompany him on his travels. When she didn’t come that night, he worried but thought something may have simply kept her. So he waited another night. By the seventh day, he was sure she hadn’t really loved him, and he headed back to the castle heartbroken. Not even the thought of waking the queen and restoring true love could make him feel better.
When he reached the castle, he quietly found the king had aged during the few years the fiddler had been gone. But the king was overjoyed to see the fiddler, and his entire face lit up when the fiddler told him his story. When the fiddler took the instrument out of his bag, the king delighted at the sight of it, for it was a thing of beauty. With a heavy heart, the fiddler sat down and for the first time touched his bow to the strings, and then he began to play a slow lament to his lost love. At first, the fiddler merely looked sad, but within a few moments tears streamed down his face. Those who were present that day, including the king, thought he wept out of happiness because after a few strokes of the strings, the queen began to stretch and yawn and finally opened her eyes. The kingdom rejoiced, and the king made him the royal fiddler, bestowing upon him the title and gift of his very own perfect fiddle.
No one knew the true reason he wept that day. But while everyone else heard music, he heard his true love singing to him with every note, telling him she loved him and that her gift to him was perfect music. And that’s when he knew she hadn’t been a woman at all, but a tree dryad who had sacrificed her life to him out of the purity of her love, so that he might fulfill his quest. Every time he played the fiddle thereafter, he would weep, for her voice was always singing that he was her truest love.
Years passed, and the fiddler married. There came a time when he put the fiddle away, although he never forgot his love nor the sacrifice she made for him and for the true love of his king and queen. He eventually had a son, and when his son grew up to be pure of heart with the soul of a fiddler, he bestowed upon him the most perfect fiddle that was ever made. By the time he gave it to him, it wasn’t as shiny and lovely as it had once been. It had been worn through time, but when the fiddler’s son played the instrument, it would light up and become the beautiful instrument it had once been, perfecting mistakes so the fiddler always played true.
Over the years the fiddle was lost to the family of the fiddler. Now that her job was complete and her love long dead, the dryad waited for the day to come when a pure hearted fiddler would play her once more and finally set her free.