Morb, the troll, and the entire room faded from view as Zann slid into the wormhole behind Wyssa. It was like nothing he'd ever seen or experienced before. It felt like falling—or flying. Zann found it difficult to breathe or think as he plummeted forward. Or was it downward? Or upward? He couldn't tell, and it made him feel dizzy and confused.
He put out his free hand, trying to slow himself down. But there was nothing to grab, and his body twisted wildly.
"Be careful!" Wyssa's voice echoed strangely. "Do not pull yourself off course!"
Zann opened his mouth to answer but no words came out. He looked around. The wormhole was dark, filled with swirling shapes and colors. Every few seconds he and Wyssa slid past bright spots. Were those other wormholes? Did some of them lead to different worlds?
Zann tried to focus on the next one they approached. He stared through it as they passed by, trying to catch a glimpse of what lay beyond. He saw a peaceful field of tall, amber grasses waving in the breeze with huge, strange-looking animals grazing. The sky above was a clear, pale purple; a pair of silver suns shone down on the scene. That was all Zann was able to take in before he was past the wormhole, but it was enough to set his mind spinning.
It was amazing. How many different worlds were out there? What were they like? No wonder his parents had loved exploring so much!
When the next wormhole appeared, Zann reached out to grab its edge, hoping to slow down so he could get a good look. The movement sent him twisting sideways. This time he felt his hand start to slip from Wyssa's grip.
"No!" Wyssa yelled harshly, grabbing him with both hands and yanking him forward.
Zann glanced back longingly at the wormhole. He hadn't seen much more this time. Mostly swirling blue-green water with large, dark shapes drifting through it. Was it an ocean, perhaps one in Magica? Or could it be yet another faraway world full of wondrous creatures?
Wyssa pulled him even with her; her eyes flashed angrily in the darkness.
"I told you not to do that!" she scolded. "This is no place for amateurs. Do not try to stop or slow down again unless you wish to stay lost like your parents."
Zann frowned, wanting to protest. But he was distracted by yet more wormholes flashing by. How could Wyssa just slide past them, ignoring the incredible scenes within?
Then instead of rushing headlong, they were slowing down, though Zann couldn't tell how Wyssa had made that happen. They were approaching another bright spot. Wyssa reached out with her free hand, and before Zann realized what was happening, they were through the wormhole.
"Oof," he grunted, landing facedown on the ground.
Zann's head was reeling, and for a moment all he could do was lie there. Finally he pushed himself up and saw that they'd emerged beside the ancient tree in Wormwood.
"Wow!" he said, once he'd caught his breath enough to speak. "That was amazing! How did you learn how to find wormholes like that? How did you know which one led here? How did you—"
Wyssa cut him off with a frown. "You need to get out of town. Morb will be coming for you."
Reaching into a knothole in the tree, she pulled out a large cloth bag and opened it. Taking out a small object, she pressed it into Zann's hand. "If you ever see your grandfather again," she added, a little more softly, "give this to him. Now go."
Zann looked down to see what she'd given him. It was a smooth, oblong stone. Its surface was a blend of swirling colors that seemed to shift and change with every glint of the sun.
"What is it?" he asked.
Wyssa didn't answer. Zann glanced up just in time to see her disappear back into the wormhole, clutching her bag. A second later the wormhole disappeared too.
"Wait!" Zann cried. That wormhole was the only way he could ever hope to find his parents. And the only person who could help him travel through it was gone. Zann could never go through the wormhole by himself. Or could he?
"I could probably figure out how it works," he thought. After all, he'd been waiting for an opportunity like this for four years, and here it was. All he had to do was step in, and he could be reunited with his mom and dad.
It was now or never. Zann walked over to the tree, and the wormhole opened up. He gazed into the whirling darkness, took a deep breath, and put the stone in his pocket. As he did so, he felt something else in there—the troll talisman. Zann took the talisman out and looked at it.
Trolls . . . Morb . . . What good would it do to bring his parents back to a world where virtually everyone was a prisoner of Morb? Magica needed Zann, and right now that was more important than his own needs. People were counting on him—he couldn't let them down. Zann took a step back, and the wormhole disappeared once more.
When Zann turned around, a message moth was fluttering toward him. He reached out and let it land on his finger.
It was from Fala, telling him where to meet her and the others in the forest. Zann let the message moth go and put the talisman back in his pocket. He took one last look at the ancient tree and then set out toward the forest.