“That I am.” The cherry said.
A smile fluttered over Melissa’s face, and she sat up. Finally, she had found the Talking Trees. Now, she would learn how to use the magic stone. “Please, show me Korosadja’s magic. Help me to master it.”
“I am only a tree. I cannot perform magic.”
“But I thought …”
“I can help you discover the magic inside of you. I can teach you to use it wisely. I can teach you things the people of Greenwitch have long forgotten. Trees have a very long life.”
“What about Korosadja?” Melissa put her hand into her pocket to get the stone but it wasn’t there. She remembered that she had held the stone in her hand when the visions began. She felt around the ground but didn’t touch Korosadja.
“I must find it! How will I straighten everything out without Korosadja?”
“In the moss! It lies in the moss,” the cherry whispered. “Korosadja only disappears when its work is done.”
When Melissa’s fingers closed around the cool, smooth stone, she was relieved. She cocked her head and looked at the cherry. “I have released you from a spell, haven’t I?”
The cherry rustled its leaves. “The tears washed away more than your pain. I am in your debt.”
“Tell me something about Korosadja. If I don’t learn how to use it as quickly as possible, Djarret will kill my friends.”
The cherry rustled its leaves again, and it sounded like laughter to Melissa’s ears. “Korosadja carries the gate between the worlds in itself. No place and no time are unreachable for it. If your wish is strong enough, it takes you wherever you want.”
Melissa’s thoughts raced. “Does that mean, I could go back in time to save my mother?”
“You could return and try. Whether you can truly save your mother is a different issue. I know the stories of many bearers of Korosadja. So far, no-one has managed to change the past.”
“I will try it.” Melissa stuck out her chin.
“Is that wise? If your mother hadn’t died, you would not have lived with your aunt. Korosadja would have had to choose another bearer to save Greenwitch.” The voice of the cherry sounded worried. “Would this person have your talents? Would he or she be able to make the same friends as you?”
“But I don’t have any talents.”
“Korosadja does not choose its bearers at random.”
“So, I cannot save my mother and my friends simultaneously? Is that what you try to say?”
“I cannot answer this question, child. I know much, but I am not omniscient. The only truth is that Korosadja never shows up without a reason. You must decide what is right. Nobody can do it for you.”
Melissa pulled her knees to her chest, drew the coat around herself and pondered. She stared at Korosadja and rolled it on her palm. The memory of her mother and her brother still hurt, but her worry over her new friends was just as big as the pain. Melissa sighed. “I wish, I could ask mother.”
Korosadja glowed brightly and absorbed Melissa’s consciousness. Surprised, she looked around. She was surrounded by a yellowish fog that glowed warmly. A shadow advanced through the fog.
“Mom!” Melissa threw herself into the arms of her mother when she stepped from the fog.
“Darling,” her mother said.
Happily, Melissa breathed the familiar smell of her skin. Her mother stroked her hair. After a while, Melissa leant back to look at the beloved face. Surprised, she noticed that it had changed.
Her aunt Freya looked at her, and her eyes begged Melissa for help. “I want to go home to Herbert,” she said.
For the first time, Melissa realized how much her aunt and her mother resembled each other. She kissed Freya’s cheek and opened her eyes. She still sat under the cherry wrapped in her coat. Thoughtfully, she looked at Korosadja.
“You look as if you have come to a decision,” the cherry said.
Melissa pocketed Korosadja and nodded. “Can you persuade the other Talking Trees to help me? The more friends I’ve got to help me against Djarret and his magician, the bigger the chance that we’ll defeat him.”
“I doubt we’ll be a great help. For one, we are not many, and we move very slowly.”
Melissa was surprised. “The unicorns spoke of you so deferentially that I thought you were a whole wood.”
“We once were. There were many more of us when the exchange between humans and trees still worked.”