On one of these nights, when his body gave in early, he sat in the grass and pressed his back against one of the trees. Once again, he closed his eyes just as the sun was disappearing behind the horizon, and the next time he opened them, the moon had already taken its place.
“This place was so beautiful back in the day.” - a voice came next to him.
Ozren turned his head to see the housemaid sitting in the grass on the tree next to him, looking at the blanket of stars visible between the leaves.
“The ground was littered with flowers. You couldn’t find a place to step without crushing one. The bushes were a wall of color that people used to come and look at just to forget the greyness of their houses. And the apples. They were marvelous when the sun shone on them.” - she said.
“When I was little, there were only the apples, but they were still a sight to behold. I feel that this year we can turn our luck around. I can’t understand why they’re not growing. Any tree in the middle of the road gives fruit besides ours and we take care of them like they’re royalty.” - Ozren said.
“I feel bad for you, child. You’re breaking your back here all spring, yet I fear you won’t have anything to show.” - the housemaid continued.
“But I’ve done everything right!”
“Just like everyone before you did each year so far.”
“So what are we missing then?”
“Has it ever occurred to you that it may not be sun and water that these trees want?”
“What else could they want?”
“Why don’t you come with me, and I’ll show you?”
“It’s something special that can be found only in the village. We can go look for it right now if you want to?”
“But what is it that we’re looking for?”
“Come now. You’ll know when we find it.”
Ozren jumped to his feet, all memory of his tiredness gone.
“Should we ask the guards to come with us?”
“Under no circumstances! We can only look for it alone.”
So they jumped over the orchard’s fence and snuck out of the keep. The housemaid led the way. She knew all the dark paths the guards were blind to in the night.
“This is not the first time you’re doing this, is it?”
“Shh.” - she whispered as they disappeared in the night.