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Project by Alyssa Llanos & Alex Vincent

As the morning light broke free from its imprisonment under the horizon, the small walled city of Leggerzza sprang into clarity from its comfortable position at the base of Mount Sfondo.  Vegetation, lush with fertile summer growth, spilt down from the hilltop right to the edge of the two great walls of stone that surrounded the city.  Emerging from the hillside, the two walls traveled in jagged lines east, to the River Prometeo below.  There at the wall’s base stood the tall stone water pump, working dutifully to irrigate the fields that fed the city.  From the river, rows of carefully tended gardens ran up the center of the city, carving a line of fruitful bounty.  At the city’s center, the garden continued into the palace of King Pietro, the kind ruler of Leggerzza in the 16th century. He ruled his kingdom alone, for his wife had died giving birth to the beloved princess Dafne.  Dafne was radiantly beautiful; with the light, nimble body of a dancer and a spirit of captured sunlight that was said to have given the city a bright glow.

Her vitality was the pulse of the city and often she would be seen dancing through the gardens or helping citizens tend to weeds or looking after her treasured bees.  Like the bees who helped to propagate the many rows of food, Dafne spread life throughout the city.  Yet no place was more precious to Dafne than the proud, gnarled olive tree that stood tall at the end of the palace courtyard.  When she was younger, Dafne would listen from the tree’s branches as diplomats from around the world would sit under the tree with the king and talk of their foreign worlds, full of valiant warriors, wild beasts, and issues unseen in Leggerzza.  As the princess grew older, she began telling stories of her own – fables that taught lessons of how to live a happier life.  Soon, people began to gather around Dafne and her tree to listen to her fables.  Attracting visitors from across the land, her father built an amphitheater into the hillside and Dafne spread her messages to many, soon becoming known around the world.

One day King Pietro was listening to his daughter tell a fable about the lion that falls in love with a doe.  The lion tries to approach the doe, but the doe runs in fear.  No matter how the lion called, the doe’s fear kept her running faster.  Just as the lion got close enough to touch his beloved, the doe tripped on a stone and died in the brush.  King Pietro had the sudden realization that his precious daughter, though still filled with childlike innocence, was approaching an age that may soon take that away.  Scared of the thought that Dafne would lose her purity, he began paying close attention to which men were allowed to see his daughter.  Male palace staff members under a certain age were dismissed.  Groups coming to listen to Dafne’s fables were hurried in and out of the palace with little time to speak to the princess.  The King even gave his daughter a new strict curfew, making up an excuse that there was a ravage beast spotted in the near by hills.

Yet soon after the King’s new restrictions, a young prince came to Leggerzza.  Prince Piantaro from the near-by Apollineo kingdom came to the small city, eager to hear one of Dafne’s stories.  Listening to one of the local bar owners, Piantaro learned of the King’s careful scrutinization of young men entering the palace.  The prince decided to mask his appearance before going to hear Dafne the following day.

Meanwhile back in her room, Dafne was getting restless.  She had been stuck inside all day because of her father’s silly new rules that kept getting more and more strict.  The princess longed to be back in gardens that just a few weeks ago she was free to roam.  As she gazed out the window at the hunched over workers among the bountiful crop, her eye was caught by the prince, strolling towards the great stone water pump that irrigated the land.  As her eyes followed the proud figure of the prince, Dafne felt a tickle in her stomach and pins across her skin.  She found herself longing to talk to the beautiful man, but remembered that she was locked in and slumped against the wall in frustration.

The day came when the prince, cloaked in a tattered, hooded tunic, gathered with the others to sit at the palace amphitheater.  Dafne began to tell the fable of the albatross trapped in the fishermen’s’ net.  No matter how hard the powerful bird tried, the net’s heavy knots kept the bird from its flight until the nimble hands of a fisherman finally set the bird free.  The prince sat entranced by the poised princess and her enthralling story.  Forgetting his disguise, Piantaro let his hood fall as people began to leave.  His well-sculpted face, now free of the cloak, was instantly recognizable to the princess.  She leapt from her seat on an olive root and swiftly worked her way through the excited crowd to talk to the beautiful man she had seen earlier.  Pulling him aside, she quietly lead him back through the senate hall, past the distracted guards, and into the secret escape path under the hillside.  Emerging in the wild vegetation of Mount Sfondo, hidden from view of the Palace, they talked for hours, sharing stories of their kingdoms.

Later that evening, King Pietro returned from his visit across the river to hear of his daughter’s absence and went into a panicked frenzy.  He quickly sent all of his guards into the city and among the hillside to find the rebellious princess.  Storming through the torch-lit palace, the furious king stomped out into the courtyard, just in time to see the dark figures of the two youths scampering out of the escape tunnel.  Grabbing a torch from a nearby column, the king chased after them.  Letting out a great roar of anger, the king hurried after the couple.  Guards, hearing their king’s roar, went to intercept the princess and the prince.  Dafne easily twisted out of the way of the guards, but Piantaro had less luck and was quickly overpowered.  Looking back to her new love, the image of her father, a gaining cloud of tunic and fury scared the princess and caused her to hesitate for just a second.  Losing her balance, one of the gnarly roots from the olive tree caught her foot, sending her head first into its great trunk with a loud crack.  Seeing his world turn into a limp figure at the base of the tree, the King stopped in shock, dropping the torch.  The dry summer grass quickly caught ablaze as the king ran to the lifeless body of his daughter.  He now saw how foolish he had been, expecting to keep her always as a child and not letting her be free to grow.  Cradling her like he had so many times before, King Pietro’s fiery fury turned into a pool of grief.  His tears, though plentiful, weren’t able to stop the spreading fire from surrounding the base of the tree.  Piantaro, swiftly slipping from the shocked guard’s grasp, ran towards the tree and through the blaze.  The guards were right behind and the three men worked to pull the king away from the consuming flames.  The grieving king struggled against the men, but quickly lost the strength to fight back.  Leaving his only child between the twisted roots of the tree, the king went limp in the prince’s hands.  The four figures ran from the palace as it too went ablaze.  Orange flames brightened the night sky as the kingdom began to burn.  As hurried voices and crackling flames filled the air, the king looked back once more over his loyal guard’s shoulder at his world that crumbled behind him.

The next morning, the king’s good friend and trusted architect, Albirto Astuzia, marched silently through the fire-scared timbers and crumbled stones.  The destruction cracked and crunched under his feet as a bird sang solemnly in the distance.  The sky was bright with daylight and billowing clouds slowly shifted their way across the deep blue backdrop.  Though the sunlit wisps of smoke still rising from the remnants of the city, the clever designer looked out over the city with a furrowed brow.  That morning, he had visited the king and, through intense boughs of tears, was assigned the daunting task of designing a memorial to the princess.  As the king regained strength, he worked closely with Albirto to create the tribute to his daughter.  The two bright minds came up with a vision for a great canopy, the L’albero di Dafne, like that of Dafne’s tree that would be placed over the remaining stump.  Still filled with sadness, the king asked Albirto to make the canopy of a dark bronze; both to speak of the sorrow held in his heart and to contrast the gold that represented the lively spirit of his daughter.  The gold would brighten the bronze like Dafne illuminated his being.    Albirto also designed a new seal for the king that symbolized what Dafne had brought to the Royal Family and Leggerzza as a whole.  In the center was the princesses face over which floated a crown, which she never grew to wear and now remains empty.  Crossing between Dafne and the crown were two keys that symbolized the ability for her moral teachings to open up her followers to better opportunities in life.  In the center were three bees, which both stood for the members of their family and once again spoke of the kingdom’s fertility to grow again.

Today, we see the completed design of Albirto.  Housed in a great dome, the completed L’albero di Dafne seems to fit in with the decor of the building around and yet also contrasts, with its dark color standing out against the white marble.  The gesture towards the now absent gardens and marketplace can be seen today, marked by the obelisk-lined road and grand piazza leading up to the palace.  Oriented east-west, cobblestone now soaks up the southern sun that once fed the crop.  Millions of visitors a year from all over the world come to pay tribute to Dafne and listen to her stories be retold.  Though visitors speak many different languages, they all seem to understand the importance of the princesses fables and gather regularly to learn the lessons that were once told under the great olive tree.  As one walks into the massive main hall, one’s eye is drawn instantly to the L’albero and the gathering space beyond, crowned by a glowing beacon of a dove.  Scholars that have studied Dafne’s tales continue to tell them and teach people about the lessons they hold.

From this sad and yet moving tale, we learn a valuable moral, if you love something, you must set it free.