“Amber, this is getting far too dangerous.”
Ruey sat up in his chair, removing his glasses and rubbing the brim of his nose with his fingers, sighing. She was the only part of his family left, and he knew that he wouldn’t be able to bear her death, along with his son and Amber’s mothers’. But she was stubborn and fearless like he had commented before, and once she had her mind set on something, she wouldn’t budge on it. “Just like her father,” he’d thought to himself. “If only he could see her now.”
“It is dangerous, yeah. But it’ll be absolutely fatal if I leave it for any longer than it has been already. No one else is going to do anything about it, clearly. And Cressela’s still alive, in that same forest that I found her in, I know it. This could be the only chance. Who knows what’s out there?”
“Amber,” he said again, gesturing for her to take the empty seat next to him, “please, be careful. You, my child, are all the family I have left. If you must do this, take care. Be on the watch, always. Being fearless towards many things has its advantages, but you must take care, understood? This is a huge task for a girl like you to take, Amber. It could change your whole life. Are you really, truly sure that this is what you want?”
She paused for a moment, before nodding.
“It really is, Ruey. I need my life to change. I don’t want what Mazel or Theo or Meadow, or anyone else for that matter, wants in life. I’ve always been a daydreamer and a fantasy lover. I’ve always been different and waiting for an opportunity like this to come up. This could be the adventure! I want something different, exciting - and this could be it. I know that I can’t really make you understand, but you know what I mean, don’t you?”
He leaned back in his chair, exhaling through his nose and nodding, as Celeste jumped up on the couch, pattering across the arm and cushions until she found a comfortable spot.
“Yes. I know what you mean.”
Amber sat up suddenly, grabbing his hand.
“You should come with me!”
He shook his head, smiling at her and patting her hand.
“You know that my adventuring days are over now, Amber. I’ve gotten too old for an experience like that. No, this is your story, your adventure, and you must take to it without me. But you know how to contact me, and where I am. I will prepare you though, with equipment and defensive tips that you’ll definitely need.”
“I’ll come straight back to you, with Cressela. I promise, grandad. You know I will.”
He laughed, standing up and shuffling over to his kitchen, switching the kettle on.
“She’ll give me a heart attack love, from what you’ve described to me. But yes, come back here as soon as you’ve made peace with her. Then we will decide where to send you, to find this insane inventor.” He shook his head as he gazed at the floor in a slight daze. “I will worry so, Amber. I mean it. Knowing that there’s a chance of your death...”
“Don’t think like that,” she said reassuringly, getting out a mug from the cupboard and placing it on the surface. “I’ll be fine. I’ll be back before you know it.” Then Amber frowned, crossing her arms. “What will Mazel and Theo say?”
“Don’t worry about that,” he replied, pouring the boiled water carefully and mixing it briskly. “I’ll tell them that you are to stay with me for a week or so. They shouldn’t mind, what with their busy work schedule nowadays.”
“Yeah, that’ll work,” Amber agreed, taking her tea and moving back over to the sofa, Celeste watching them with slight interest, purring as Amber stroked her head before sitting down.
“I think they’re getting sick of me anyway. But when I go to this island of Dr Insanis’, I’ll probably be gone for much longer than a week.”
“I’ll sort that out, don’t worry,” he told her, sipping his tea and sitting back down. “Now, take the memory book, and some other things I’ll pack for you. Tomorrow night, you are to find Cressela, to reason and discover, and make peace. Bring yourselves back here, to me, and we’ll take it from there.”
Escaping into the depths of the forest was Amber’s typical anticipation - getting away from the unstable realities of the outside, busy modern world. She stayed for hours at a time, sketching, reading, or just sitting and watching mother nature’s routine. But now, entering the woods again, the feeling wasn’t one of relief, excitement or happiness. It was one of slight fear of going back to the place where she was kidnapped, injured and nearly killed. A feeling of wonder, for what might happen if this creature understood and didn’t kill her, for what could happen next. And doubt, thinking of the odds of her plan going well.
But no matter how she felt, she knew that there was no turning back. This was her adventure, her next chapter, and she had already taken it. Passing the greens of the forest’s trees and bushes that were tinted darker because of the night, she patted her body and checked over what she had on her - a torch, her notebook (with Latin words already written in it by Ruey, in case she had to communicate that way), Cressela’s book, and her creator Dr Insanis’ picture, cut out from the article in the old newspaper. Amber carried no weapon or anything that could be seen as a potential threat to Cressela. She carried on walking the way she did the other night, not going through her normal route, but to the one that she had to go through before.
The journey to where Cressela resided was quite a long one - Amber didn’t realise how far she had gone the other night, right into the depths of the large, wild forest. But in time, she spotted the same unsteady, rickety bridge that she had the night before, and her pulse quickened as she noticed it. Knowing that she was probably going to be knocked unconscious again, she approached the bridge steadily and warily, as it came closer and clearer to her. When Amber was just a couple of feet away from the bridge, she held her breath and clenched her fists in the agonizing suspense of it all, biting her lip.
And, sure enough, she felt something hard and heavy hit her head, her vision quickly turning black.