The world around them seemed to shimmer, and there didn’t seem to be any ground under them. Then, suddenly, everything became clear, and grass appeared under their feet.
“We’re there,” Jessie said.
Across the small clearing, Merlin sat in his chair a book in his hands. When he heard Jessie’s voice, he looked up. “Excellent, my dears.” He stood up and snapped his fingers. Both the chair and the book vanished. “Let’s get down to business.”
“How did you get here before us?” Emma asked.
“The moment the keys touched, a portal opened near me as well, and I came through,” Merlin answered. “Now, we must go. We don’t have much time.”
Emma looked at Jessie and Madison. Both looked excited and nervous at the same time. She understood how they felt. “Are you guys ready?” she asked.
Madison didn’t hesitate to nod.
Jessie looked at Merlin and then back at her. “I guess so.” She rubbed her tiger’s ear between her fingers. She did the same thing to her stuffed animal back home whenever she was afraid or nervous.
Merlin started walking, and the three girls jogged to catch up to him. The world around them looked similar to their own. There were tall trees, a blue sky, and green grass. Occasionally Emma heard a bird chirp, but she never saw any.
“Do the leaves look brighter to you guys?” Emma asked. All the trees they passed looked like the maple and the oak trees at home. However, the leaves looked brighter and the trunks much darker.
“I thought it was my imagination,” Madison answered.
“They do look a little different,” Jessie said. “Like someone used a brighter crayon to color them.”
Up ahead, Merlin slowed and turned around. “You will find this world greatly resembles yours.”
They passed a slow-moving river. The water was the clearest any of the girls had ever seen.
“You can drink the water in any of the lakes or rivers here,” Merlin said.
“Really?” Emma asked. She went hiking with Mom and Dad all the time, and they never let her drink the water they found unless they put it through a special filter first. They always told her if she did, she’d get sick.
“Yes, and you can eat any of the fruit growing on the trees, too,” Merlin said.
Again, Emma was surprised. “Where are we going?” She’d thought the portal would have taken them to the exact spot they needed to be. “Didn’t the portal take us to Morenda?”
Merlin continued to walk backwards, so Emma saw him smile. “It did. We’re heading to the castle and village. That is where everyone is.” He turned back around and kept walking.
“Is it a big castle?” Madison asked.
“Very large,” Merlin answered.
The river they’d been walking along emptied into a large body of water. Emma could see the outline of land on the other side. They all knew how to swim, but she didn’t think they could swim that far, and there wasn’t a boat in sight.
Jessie set Elvis down on the ground, and he immediately walked to the water’s edge and started drinking. “Is the castle close?” she asked.
Merlin pointed at the land across the water. “Do you see the land over there?”
All three girls nodded.
“The castle and village are there.”
Madison put Poley down near Elvis so he could get a drink, too. “How are we going to get there without a boat?”
Smiling, he snapped his fingers. “No need to worry.” A large wooden raft appeared. The shapes of a heart and star were carved into it. However, rather than touch the water, it hovered over it.
“Problem solved,” Jessie said, stepping closer to the water’s edge. “Can we get on?”
Merlin made a low bow. “After you, Princesses.”
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