Maya stared at the statue in the middle of the forest. She was used to avoiding the regular paths and exploring the rest of the land, but she had never come across anything quite like this. There was no remarkable clearing for the sculpture to be placed, no proper lighting to illuminate it. It was just sitting there in the midst of trees and shrubbery, dimly lit by a few rays of sunshine. At first Maya thought it had been a real person, lurking in the bushes, but upon closer inspection it was clear the individual was carved out of smooth marble.
She took a few wary steps closer, unconsciously trying to make as little sound as possible by avoiding dry twigs and leaves. The marble figure represented a woman, reaching out with her hand. She was sitting on a stone pedestal, feet on the grassy floor, instead of where common statues usually stood upon such a stand. Vines ran up her legs and, despite her relaxed posture, gave the impression that she was rooted to the ground. Her right hand was raised as such that it could've been holding someone's offered hand. The other was hovering over her heart. Her clothes were common, but appeared soft, despite being made of stone.
One final step and she was standing in front of the statue. The artist must have been incredibly dedicated, because its features were exceptionally lifelike, emotion clearly painted across the woman's face and hair detailed to the last strand. It was almost eerily so. With the way she was standing in front of the statue, she could almost be convinced the sculpture was looking at her. There was something unidentifiable in her eyes, but to Maya, it resembled relief.
Birds continued to chirp in the background and the wind kept disturbing the trees and tall grass.
She was fascinated by how such a remarkable finding could exist under such normal circumstances. She may have stared for quite a while, she wasn't sure, but eventually her eyes were drawn to the offered hand. The temptation was too great.
Before she could rationalize how absurd her thoughts were, she had already slipped her hand into the marble one. She was startled by how smooth the texture of the stone was, despite the worn look, and then by how her hand fit exactly in the other's. It was a wonder how such an aged sculpture could remain in tact in the wilderness.
Stone eyes continued to bore into her own, but where it first evoked trepidation, it now induced a feeling beyond fascination. Acting purely on instinct and silly thoughts, she raised her other hand to run her fingers over the smooth marble of the woman's cheek, her left hand still holding the sculpture's right. The off colouring that came with age was as impressive as the smoothness of the surface.
For a few ridiculous moments, the statue almost felt warm to the touch.
Spurred on by endless curiosity, Maya dropped her hand to touch the collar of a marble shirt. It wasn't nearly as smooth as the stone skin, instead possessing the slight roughness of clothing. Her eyes trailed across the collar to the hand that hovered over the sculpture's heart and wonder ignited within her once again. Pale fingers ran across the collar, over the shirt, until she could slip her hand under that of the sculpture. An almost giddy feeling overcame her when it fit perfectly once again.
She couldn't resist the glee tugging at her lips and she smiled at marble eyes. She was convinced she could spend a few days figuring out why this remarkable statue was there or why everything fit so flawlessly.
Jacob trekked south, in the direction of his hometown. It had been a lifetime and then some since he last saw his baby sister and he felt almost guilty for staying away that long. He had no reason to feel that way, but that didn't take away that he missed her.
Trees started becoming familiar. Smells, sounds and greenery long forgotten greeted him like an old friend, and then, eventually, he was met with the figure of his sister. This time, she wasn't alone. As he came nearer, he could see the shape of another woman standing close, holding her hands—one over Alynn's heart, the other in an offered hand. When he finally stood in front of the pair, he was pleased to notice the subtle smile playing on the woman's lips, and he could swear Alynn looked relieved after all this time.
He pulled his dagger, glancing between the two. He wished the woman had broken the curse, he could not lie, but at least his baby sister would never be alone again.
With a sigh, he kneeled and set to removing the vines once again, extending the same favour to the unknown woman.