A warm, gentle breeze rustles through rich green treetops, the dancing leaves casting perpetually changing patterns onto the forest floor. The ground is mostly covered with various kinds of grass and moss, a dense carpet of verdure that is only being broken by a few brown spots and by moss-grown boulders of varying size and shape.
Barely visible, yet still noticeably there for the experienced eye, is a path, upon which merchants and travelers alike might have been walking once upon a time. However, it hasn't been used in years, if not to say ages, and nature has slowly started to take back what she rightfully owns. Rich forest flora grew into and over the forgotten path, so that by now it was almost completely fading back into the vegetation.
Following the remnants of the trail, one would first wander along a meandering pathway through mostly flat and rather open part of the forest, before reaching a hill, gently ascending at the beginning but soon getting steeper. The path starts to narrow here, and after a while it suddenly ends in a clearing on top of a cliff with a breathtaking view onto the vastness of the sea.
Blooming flowers and bushes add some color to the already lively green of the soft grass that covers the entire ground here. The place would appear untouched if not for two weathered stone pillars, thickly entwined by ivy, and a slate of rock growing out of where the path ends and going a few meters past the edge of the cliff before breaking off abruptly, most likely the last remains of an old bridge.
Looking out at the sea though, there is nothing that would justify or explain the existence of a bridge, nothing that would require such a connection. As far as the eye can reach, there is nothing but deep blue water, relentlessly crashing against the rocks beneath.
Upon further inspection of the clearing, one can find another sign which shows that people once must have known and used this path, even coming all the way up to the cliff on a regular basis: a little to the side, hidden in the shade of the only tree in the clearing stands a small stone bench. Like the pillars and the slate it is marked by time and the forces of nature, but strangely unlike the stone pillars, no vines or moss are covering it's surface.
Today, however, the sound of rustling leaves and clashing waves is suddenly interrupted by the excited exclamations of a child. Although there is no one yet to be seen, the voice indicates that it is a boy, and he seems to be cheering on another person to follow him a little faster.
Soon, the form of a boy indeed appears at the entrance to the clearing and he just stays there for a moment to turn around and eagerly wave at and encourage his companion to join him at the top.
It takes quite a while longer until the second person, who seems to be a girl, finally steps out of the forest. The boy immediately grabs her hand and leads her to the stone bench, where he motions for her to sit down and rest for a bit.
She does as instructed and watches as the boy leaves her side to run across the clearing and curiously look at everything he can find.
Upon having a closer look at the two, it becomes clear that the girl is not a girl at all, but a delicate elderly woman. Her elfin-like appearance is what deceives the eye and makes her look younger, though.
SheÕs wearing a white, knee-long dress, made from a fabric so translucent that it seems almost non-existent, and a white poncho with a broad black, fraying border. Her body is slender, bordering on too slender, her skin white, almost ethereal; her shoulder long, graying hair, which must have been raven colored when she was younger considering the few black strands still left in there, falls softly around her pallid, solemn face, emphasizing her already outstanding crimson-colored eyes, which attentively follow the boy's every movement.
The teen is running around in the clearing, busying himself with turning stones, sniffling at flowers or trying to climb up the pillars. From time to time he runs back to the woman, bringing her one or two flowers at a time, which she graciously accepts with a smile, before he scurries off again to play some more.
Except for the black hair, or formerly black in her case, the two of them share, there seems to be nothing else they have in common.
His clothes are more practical than hers. He wears light brown trousers made from soft leather, a red cotton shirt and a colorful cape with something similar to an ancient rune imprinted on it. He's sturdy, yet agile and his skin is tanned, giving him a healthy look. His black hair is unruly and at least one strand always sticks out and while the green of his eyes may not be as special as her red ones, its liveliness could still rival the vibrant green of the forest.
After some time has passed, he finally runs back to the bench huffing and puffing and sits down. The elder woman ruffles his hair affectionately and he huddles closer against her. She wraps her arms tenderly around him and it doesn't take very long until the boy's breathing evens out and he falls asleep.
Softly and carefully as not to wake him, she lifts his legs onto the bench and lets his torso glide downwards until his head rests comfortably in her lap.
The same way she watched him running and playing around just a few minutes ago, she now watches his peacefully sleeping form, caressing him tenderly from time to time.
At times such as now, when she's alone with the boy and he finally settles down to rest for a little bit, she often muses about how much he reminds her of the boy she met while she herself was still young, or at least looked like a normal teen.
Their physical resemblance never really astounded her - they were related after all. What amazes her far more is how similar their behavior and actions are, even though their childhood was so different.
The boy she first met may have grown up in a small village where people were taking care of him. They fed him so he would not die, they taught him random things to keep him busy and they let him play with the other kids within the village boundaries.
In the end, they didn't do it for the boy's sake, though, they merely did it for their own benefit, and when the time for the sacrifice came, no one stopped the men who came to pick him up and take him away, even though all of the villagers knew very well that the boy would be incarcerated in a mysterious castle far, far away and wasn't ever to return.
Through luck, or maybe even fate itself showing some mercy to the poor boy who had never done anything wrong except being as unfortunate as to be born with a couple of accursed horns, he got out of the sarcophagi in which he had been locked up to die. Having faced his impending death, something important sparked within the teen, something he had been taught to suppress all those years: his will to life.
Wandering through his prison, searching for a way to escape, he soon found a companion, a girl of almost angelic features, who seemed as lost and alone in this world as him and who was as unable to leave the castle on her own as he was. Joining forces they were able to proceed through their prison, the girl being able to open sealed doors, the boy fending off a vast number of dark creatures lingering around the castle who were chasing after the girl, trying to draw her into some kind of maelstrom.
While roaming through halls, hallways and gardens, crossing bridges, climbing stairs and ladders, the boy swore to himself soon enough that he would get them both out of the castle, no matter what the cost.
However, he didn't tell the girl. He just did whatever it took to achieve his goal, his determination to free them both not once wavering. And in the end they had been free.
The boy sleeping soundly in the elder woman's lap will never have to go through such an ordeal. He's growing up among people who love him, who really care; he's allowed to move about freely, to discover his home's surroundings with his friends to his heart's content; he can ask whatever is important to him and gets the answers to the respondent's best knowledge; he doesn't need to fight for his own life or to protect someone he cares for.
Yet, he's been showing a similar kind of determination as the other teen she met back then. And even though it causes trouble at times, she's very proud of him.
Lost in her reflections about the two boys , the one who changed her life back then and the one who is changing it now, she misses the arrival of a third person.
It's a tall man with tanned skin, about the same age as the woman, wearing clothes similar to the boy's clothes, except for an additional bandana and a big, round bag he's carrying over his shoulder. Unhurriedly he walks toward the two occupants of the bench.
The boy starts stirring, bringing the woman back from her reverie. She looks up and upon seeing who's approaching, she smiles. She softly shakes the boy in order to wake him.
When the man finally stops in front them, the boy is more or less awake and sits up closer to the woman to make room for the man to join them on the bench.
He opens his bag first, though, and pulls out a ripe watermelon. He cuts it and then hands everyone a piece before sitting down as well.
And while the boy who sits between them devours his piece of melon, the two older people look at each other, smiling fondly at the very dear memory of the first watermelon they shared back then.