“You do not want to go that way, boy, travelers have been known to disappear off that path,” the old man warned.
James squinted down the shady path, trying to see through the gloom. The lightly tread dirt held minimal footsteps, as if few had walked along it.
“I need to. I need to find my sister. A few days ago, she went for a walk in the woods and she never came home.” James started toward the path.
The old man grabbed his arm. “If I cannot keep you from going, then at least heed this bit of advice: the trees tell tales to those who care to listen. If you ask, they may be able to tell you something about your sister.” He let go of James’ arm. “Good luck. You will need it wherever you go, especially down that path.”
James took a deep breath and started down the trail. After a few paces, the old man’s footsteps abruptly silenced. Tense, James looked back sharply. The old man continued to walk away, undisturbed by James’ alarm, but it seemed as if an invisible barrier separated them. James sighed. Luck. Our ever so ironic last name. I have a feeling this will not bode well. The woods hummed quietly, not silent, but nothing out of the ordinary. He wandered for a little while longer before he remembered the old man’s advice. Ask the trees.
“Hello?” James called out skeptically, glancing at his surroundings.
The woods stilled for a heartbeat. Gradually, the leaves began rustling and deep, rumbling whispers resonated around him.
“You are the first asker in many centuries,” the trees reverberated. “What is it you wish to ask?”
“Have you seen my sister?” James asked. “Do you know what happened to her?”
“Does she go by the name of Amber Luck?” the trees questioned.
“Yes,” James nodded. “She is my sister.”
“Amber traveled down this path four days ago,” the trees shifted in the wind. “She seemed distraught.”
James frowned. “Do you know why?”
“She said she wished to live a life of her own, not one destined by her parents,” they explained.
“Our parents only want what is best for us,” James added hesitantly. “We are but an average peasant family.”
“Amber said what she said,” the trees placated calmly. “Unfortunately, the ever-shifting shadows answered her plea before we could and gave her the option to have another life. They sent her to another world.”
“What?” James cried in bewilderment.
“The shadows were able to open a gate and take her to a different world,” the trees grumbled, almost disapprovingly. “A new place, a new identity, a new life.”
“Can you send me to her? Please?” James begged.
“We can. Take this.” The leaves rustled again and a round pendant attached to a cord fell out of one of the trees. “When you wish to return, tell the pendant you wish to return home. You are able to bring Amber back as well.”
A sudden gale of wind rushed along the path James stood on and a doorway appeared in the middle of the path.
“Walk through and you will be in the world your sister is in,” the trees instructed. “Best of luck to you on your journey.”
James bowed his head. “Thank you. You do not know how much this means to me.” He turned and walked through the gate. “I will find you, Amber,” James whispered.
A cacophony of noise and color rushed around James as he walked through. When the noise ceased and the colors came to a halt, James looked around him.
“Churlish earth-vexing hugger-mugger!” The dark woods of Medieval Europe had vanished. In their place stood multitudes of metal and glass towers that reached the clouds and hordes of people rushed around. Metal beasts on wheels screamed as they whizzed by him.
How am I supposed to find Amber in a place like this? James shook himself out of his stupor and shoved the pendant in the pocket of his pants, frowning when he felt more resistance than usual. He looked down and gawked at his outfit. Slim fitting pants made of a stiff material, a loose shirt, a jacket made of cotton, and shoes with ties on them replaced his simple, well worn farm clothes. James gulped uncomfortably and started walking around the park where he landed. Come now, Amber... I know you have to be nearby...
After nearly an hour of wandering, James saw a boy and a girl sitting under a tree. He didn’t recognize the boy, but the girl had chestnut brown hair and bright honey colored eyes that mirrored his own. James composed himself and walked over to the couple.
“Amber?” he asked hopefully. “Is that you?”
Startled, the girl looked up. Physically, she appeared unharmed, but the growing confusion in her eyes made James’ heart sink.
“I’m sorry,” Amber began. “Do I know you?”