“Stop pushing!” I whirled on Tim, scowling. “I was just trying to get a picture!”
The brisk wind reminded me we had returned to Earth. Refusing to look at Tim, I dug in my backpack for my sweatshirt. “How’d you find me anyhow?”
He tossed some sort of pendant to me. “I used that to find the passage you used, and then I just followed the trail. The paper you threw away let me know I was close.”
The pendant hit the ground at my feet. Surveying the faceted crystal and flashing lights with a glance, I made no move to pick the object up. Curiosity gnawed at me, but I was still mad at Tim. “A magic compass, huh? How’s it work?”
“You follow the light until you get to the passage. Then it shows you a little preview of the world on the other side.”
I looked up at him, then back at the pendant. “Did you get it in Renolia?”
“Yes. The original Tim did, anyway. He didn’t have enough time to figure out what it did before he cloned himself and sent me to Earth.”
I shook my head. The whole “original Tim” and “clone Tim” thing still confused me. Tim bent down to pick the pendant up, but I grabbed it first. “So the ‘original Tim’ gave it to you?” I ran my finger over the lights, which flashed as I moved the object.
“Not intentionally. He cloned it along with the clothes he was wearing at the time and, well, himself.”
I sighed. More cloning. My head still couldn’t wrap around the idea that there was another Tim in an alternate dimension somewhere. With another flashy-light pendant thing. “So it shows you where portals are? To other worlds? Is that how you found Renolia?” I waved the thing around a bit. The lights flashed and a picture of another world came into focus. The dragon we had just escaped flew in and out of view. “There’s where we just were. What’s that world called? And where are all the people?”
Tim snatched the pendant out of my hand abruptly. “Look, Heather, I know you’re all excited because you just went on some sort of ‘adventure,’ but slow down. This amulet shows where passages are. I only just learned how to use it today; the original Tim found the passage to Renolia on accident. I’ve never been to the world we were just at before, so I have no idea what it’s called. I don’t know where all the people are. Maybe they’re farther from the passage, or maybe there aren’t any left. It’s impossible to say with what little we know.”
“Well, why don’t we wait for the dragon to fly off and go back? Your amulet thing with the lights should show us when the dragons are gone and we can find out where the people are.” Having found another world of my own, I was not about to give up on exploration so easily. So what if my world had dragons that wanted to eat me and was more dangerous than Renolia? It was certainly more exciting than Earth.
“It’s not that simple. The first picture I saw was of the ruins, and you can’t even see that from just on the other side of the passage. Even if we could be sure the dragons were gone, they could come back any time and we have no way to defend ourselves. Let’s just stay here where it’s nice and safe.”
I folded my arms and frowned at Tim, unable to argue with his logic but unwilling to let the matter rest. “Well, you’ve got that pendant compass doodad. Why don’t we just find another world? How about Renolia? We could go there instead.”
“The passage from Earth to Renolia was closed. We can’t get there from here. There are probably multiple passages leading to each world, but we have no way of figuring out which other worlds lead to Renolia. And going to a random world could be just as dangerous or even more so than going back to the one we just left.”
Why didn’t Tim get it? There were worlds out there waiting to be discovered and he just wanted to stay on Earth! Coward. “Well we won’t know unless we go there and find out!”
“Then we’ll never know!”
Tim stuffed the pendant back in his pocket. His traveling cloak billowed out behind him as he stormed off. Exasperated, I watched him go. “It’s not fair!” I shouted at the back of his head. “You get to go to Renolia and stuff, but when I find something cool you drag me out. Why should you have all the fun? Maybe I should go without you!”
Tim whirled, eyes hard. His expression left me momentarily speechless. “NO. Absolutely not. World-traveling is too dangerous for a novice like you. You’re not going back there and that’s final.”
His outburst stunned me momentarily. My thoughts spinning, I plopped down on a nearby stump for a royal-sized pout. “A novice,” I muttered. “If you’d just take me with you when you go to Renolia or wherever it is you go, then I wouldn’t be a novice for long, now would I?”
Tim cast me a disparaging glance. “You’re not going to leave well enough alone, are you?” he sighed. His expression softened. “Look, I know you’re excited about discovering other worlds, but what good will it do to go exploring and end up as a dragon’s lunch? You’re defenseless against a creature that size. It’d take a magician as powerful as . . . well, as powerful as the original Tim to fight one of those things.” He seemed to consider for a moment. “I can’t have you exploring other worlds alone, but it seems you’re bound and determined to go, danger or not.” I nodded. He paused another moment. “Then you’ll need an experienced guide to keep you safe. And since I’m the only person on Earth who, to my knowledge, has experience in the realm of world travel, that will have to be me.” My heart leapt with excitement at the proposal. “But,” Tim held up his hand to quell my excitement, “that means we go on my terms and you do exactly as I say. You’ll go when I’m ready; not before.”
My enthusiasm deflated at his terms, but the possibility he offered for adventure gave me hope. “And when will you be ready?” I queried.
“I’ll let you know.”
Drat. He would say that. I weighed my options: follow Tim’s directions or go alone. “Fine,” I conceded. “You win. I’d rather go with you than be dragon lunch. But you better not leave me hanging, or I really will go alone.”
Tim didn’t answer. As he turned to leave, I rose to my feet and brushed the dirt from my jeans. Suddenly, I remembered the pictures I had taken in the other world. I whipped out my camera to see if any of them turned out. Click . . . Click . . . Click . . . they were all blank. Just like my trail map had been. The question formed on my tongue as I looked up from my camera. Tim was already far down the trail ahead of me. With a sigh, I put my camera back in my backpack and trotted down the path after him. Maybe I could ask him about it later, when he was in a better mood.