The forest was ever tinder-twig dry and the dead brown of fall leaves. A dull, listless life kept the trees from rotting and their leaves from dropping, but each spring would find none of the green shoots and renewal visited on other woodlands.

Most who passed by preferred to avoid that wood, for legend had it that the elders of a nearby town had tied its fate with their own through a long-forgotten ceremony. As the town’s sins multiplied and grew, as weeds choked the farmers’ fields, so too did the forest darken and cease to bloom. Those who cared to comment said that the evils of the town were tied up in the trees, forever poisoning the land, and attracting all manner of darknesses to swallow up the unwary.

But those who braved the interior of the dead wood found, at its heart, a green and living tree. In spring, it alone among the boughs would be crowned with young shoots and flowers the color of driven snow. None could say why it alone was spared the fate of the others, but all agreed that its light shining in the darkness was an inspiration to lost and lonely travelers in their peril.

Much as the evils of the town were tied up in the other trees, so too was its hope made manifest in that last unspoilt bough.