A celebrated magician gave magic seeds to my grandfather. The magician said that they would grow into the finest golden apple trees in the world. He warned my grandfather that if one unripe fruit were plucked from the tree, the rest would become rotten at once.
The problem is, the moment the fruit ripens, it is stolen. Who is doing it? My brothers have tried to keep watch the last two years, but each time, they have fallen asleep. In the morning, all the fruit is gone.
Now I am keeping watch. The rising full moon lights up the whole neighborhood. At midnight, a gentle west wind shakes the tree, and a snow-white, swan-like bird sinks gently down onto my chest. I seize it in my arms, and, to my astonishment, I find that I am holding the most beautiful girl I have ever seen.
She says, “You need not fear Militza.”
Militza. Even the taste of her name is sweet.
Illustration by H.J. Ford.