By Chris Colfer
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Conner Bailey thinks his fairy-tale adventures are behind him–until he discovers a mysterious clue left by the famous Brothers Grimm. With help from his classmate Bree and the outlandish Mother Goose, Conner sets off on a mission across Europe to crack a two-hundred-year-old code.
Meanwhile, Alex Bailey is training to become the next Fairy Godmother…but her attempts at granting wishes never go as planned. Will she ever be truly ready to lead the Fairy Council?
When all signs point to disaster for the Land of Stories, Conner and Alex must join forces with their friends and enemies to save the day. But nothing can prepare them for the coming battle…or for the secret that will change the twins’ lives forever.
The third book in the bestselling Land of Stories series puts the twins to the test as they must bring two worlds together!
Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of The Land of Stories: Beyond the Kingdoms
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AN EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY
It was half past midnight and only one light was on in all the homes on Sycamore Drive. In the second-story window of Dr. Robert Gordon's house was a shadow that moved back and forth: It was his stepson, Conner Bailey, pacing around his bedroom. He had known for months he was going to Europe but had waited until the night before his departure to pack.
Reruns of a dramatic television show set in outer space did nothing to stop his procrastination. There was just something about a female captain piloting her crew away from an evil alien race that he couldn't take his eyes off. But looking up at his clock and realizing he only had seven hours before he needed to be at the airport forced him to turn the television off and focus on packing.
"Let me think," Conner said to himself. "I'll be in Germany for three days… so I should probably bring twelve pairs of socks." He confidently nodded, and tossed a dozen pairs of socks into his suitcase. "You never know, there could be a lot of puddles in Europe."
Conner retrieved ten or so pairs of underwear from his dresser and laid them out on his bed. It was more than he needed but a traumatizing sleepover in kindergarten that ended in a wet bed had taught Conner to always be generous when packing underwear.
"Okay, I think I have everything," Conner said, and he counted the items in his suitcase. "I've got seven T-shirts, four sweaters, my lucky rock, two scarves, my other lucky rock, underwear, socks, pajamas, my lucky poker chip, and my toothbrush."
He looked around his room, wondering what else a kid could need in Europe.
"Oh, pants!" he said, thankful that he'd remembered. "I need pants!"
Once he had added the missing (and vital) articles to his suitcase, Conner sat on the edge of his bed and took a deep breath. A big boyish smile came to his face. He couldn't help it—he was excited!
At the end of the previous school year, Conner's principal, Mrs. Peters, had called him into her office to present him with a very exciting opportunity.
"Am I in trouble?" Conner said when he sat down in front of her desk.
"Mr. Bailey, why do you ask me that every time I call you into my office?" she said, eyeing him over the top of her glasses.
"Sorry. Old habits die hard, I guess." He shrugged.
"I've called you in here for two reasons," Mrs. Peters said. "First, I was wondering how Alex is acclimating to her new school in—where is it again? Vermont?"
Conner gulped and his eyes grew very big. "Oh!" he said. Sometimes he forgot about the lie his family had told the school about his sister. "She's doing great! Never been happier!"
Mrs. Peters bit her lip and nodded, almost disappointed to hear this. "That's wonderful, good for her," she said. "Although sometimes I selfishly wish she would move back and be one of our students again. Your mother was telling me all about the educational programs they offer up there, though, so I'm sure she is enjoying them."
"She sure is!" Conner said, and looked to his left to avoid eye contact. "And Alex has always loved trees… and maple syrup… so Vermont suits her."
"I see," Mrs. Peters said, squinting. "And she's staying with your grandmother? Is that correct?"
"Yes, she's still with my grandma… who also loves trees and maple syrup. It's a family trait, I guess," Conner said, and then looked to the right. He panicked for a second when he couldn't remember which direction people tended to look in when they were lying—he had seen a special about it on TV.
"Then give her my warmest regards and please tell her to visit the next time she's in town," Mrs. Peters said.
"I will!" Conner said, relieved to be changing the subject.
"Now, on to the second reason I called you in today." Mrs. Peters sat up extra straight in her seat and slid a pamphlet across her desk. "I have just heard exciting news from an old colleague of mine who teaches English in Frankfurt, Germany. Apparently the University of Berlin has uncovered a time capsule that belonged to the Brothers Grimm. I'm assuming you remember who they are from my lessons in the sixth grade."
"Are you kidding? My grandma knew them!" Conner said.
Conner just stared at her for a moment, mortified by his carelessness. "I mean… yeah, of course I remember," Conner tried to cover. "They're the fairy-tale guys, right? My grandma used to read their stories to us."
"Indeed," Mrs. Peters said with a smile—she had grown so used to Conner's strange outbursts that she didn't even question this one for a second. "And according to the University of Berlin, three brand-new fairy tales were discovered in the capsule!"
"That's amazing!" Conner was genuinely excited to hear this and knew his sister would be thrilled, too.
"I agree," Mrs. Peters said. "And even better, the University of Berlin is planning a big event to reveal the stories. They're going to read them to the public for the first time this coming September, three weeks into next school year, at St. Matthäus-Kirchhof cemetery, where the Brothers Grimm are buried."
"All great things!" Conner said. "So what does this have to do with me?"
"Well, since you've become a bit of a Grimm yourself—"
Conner awkwardly laughed and looked back to his left. She had no idea how close to home this compliment was.
"I thought you'd be interested in the trip I'm planning." Mrs. Peters slid the pamphlet even closer to Conner. "I've decided to invite a few select students such as yourself—students who have proven to be passionate about writing and storytelling—to venture with me to Berlin and be among the crowd that hears the stories for the first time."
Conner picked up the pamphlet and stared down at it with an open mouth. "That sounds awesome!" He flipped it open and looked at all the attractions the city of Berlin had to offer. "Could we check out these nightclubs, too?"
"Unfortunately, missing more than a week of school for any trip is frowned upon by the school district. So no nightclubs, I'm afraid. We'll only be there for three days, but I thought this might be an opportunity you wouldn't want to miss," Mrs. Peters said with a confident smile. "I feel like a little piece of history is waiting for us."
Conner's smile faded when his eyes fell to the bottom of the pamphlet. He saw how much this trip would cost.
"Eek, this is a pricey educational opportunity," Conner said.
"Travel is never cheap, I'm afraid," Mrs. Peters said. "But there are many school fund-raisers I can get you information about—"
"Oh wait! I keep forgetting my mom just married a doctor! We're not poor anymore!" Conner said, and his smile returned. "But wait, does that mean I'm still poor? I'll have to ask them. There's so much to this stepson thing I haven't figured out yet."
Mrs. Peters raised her eyebrows and blinked twice, not sure what to tell him. "That's a conversation you'll have to have with them, but my office phone number is on the bottom of that pamphlet if you need help convincing them," she said with a quick wink.
"Thanks, Mrs. Peters!" Conner said. "Who else have you asked?"
"Only a handful of students," Mrs. Peters said. "I've learned the hard way that bringing more than six students to one chaperone on a trip can lead to a scene out of Lord of the Flies."
"I understand," Conner said. He couldn't get the image out of his head of tribal sixth graders tying Mrs. Peters to a spit and roasting her over an open fire.
"But Bree Campbell has signed up," Mrs. Peters said. "I believe she's in Ms. York's English class with you?"
Conner could feel his heart rate rising. His cheeks went red and he pursed his lips to hide a smile. "Oh, good," he said softly while his inside voice was screaming, "Oh my gosh, Bree Campbell is going to Germany! That's amazing! That's the best news ever!"
"She's quite the talented writer herself. I can imagine the two of you getting along nicely," Mrs. Peters said, oblivious to Conner's increasing pulse. "I hope you'll be able to join us. You should head back to class now."
Conner nodded as he got to his feet, and continued nodding all the way back to his Biology class. He didn't understand why the room always seemed to get warmer every time he saw or heard someone mention Bree Campbell. He wasn't even sure how he felt about her—but for whatever reason, Conner always looked forward to seeing her around and really wanted her to like him.
He couldn't explain it no matter how much thought he gave it. But one thing was certain: Conner had to go to Germany!
Telling his mom and stepdad after school went as well as Conner could have imagined.
"It's a really great educational opportunity," Conner stressed. "Germany is a really super-smart place with a lot of history, I think some kind of war happened there at some point—can I go? Can I go?"
Charlotte and Bob sat on the couch in front of him looking over the pamphlet. They both had just gotten home from working at the children's hospital and hadn't even had time to change out of their scrubs before they were attacked by a very enthusiastic Conner.
"This seems like a great trip," Charlotte said. "Your dad would have been so excited to hear about the Brothers Grimm time capsule!"
"I know, I know! Which is why I need to go—so I can experience it for all of us! Please, can I go?" he asked, bouncing in little hops. Whenever Conner asked them for something he acted like a hyper Chihuahua.
They only hesitated for a second but Conner felt like it was an hour. "Oh, come on! Alex gets to live in another dimension but I can't go on a school trip to Germany?"
"You can absolutely go," Charlotte said.
"YES!" Conner threw both hands into the air.
"But you'll have to pay for it," Charlotte quickly added.
Conner's hands instantly fell and his excitement deflated like a crashed hot air balloon. "I'm thirteen—I can't afford a trip to Europe!"
"True, but ever since we moved into Bob's house you've been getting an allowance for helping out around the house and your fourteenth birthday will be here before you know it," Charlotte said as she did the math in her head. "If you add those together with a little fund-raising at school, you'll be able to afford—"
"Half of it," Conner said. He had already done every possible math equation in relation to any parental scenario he thought they might throw his way. "So I'll be able to get there but I won't be able to come back."
Bob looked down at the pamphlet and shrugged. "Charlotte, what if we met him halfway? This is a really great opportunity. Besides, he's always been such a great kid, it couldn't hurt to treat him a little."
"Thanks, Bob! Mom, listen to your husband!" Conner said, and gestured toward him like he was directing a plane into a terminal.
Charlotte humored the idea for a moment. "That's fine by me," she said. "If you earn half and show us that this trip is something you really want, we'll give you the other half. Do we have a deal?"
Conner wiggled from all the excitement building up inside of him. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" he said, and shook both their hands. "Pleasure doing business with you!"
And so, after four months of saving his allowance, birthday money, and taking part in school fund-raisers selling candy, baked goods, and hideous pottery (which Charlotte and Bob bought most of), Conner had earned his half of the trip and was ready for Germany.
At the beginning of the week leading up to his departure, when Conner should have started packing, Bob walked into his bedroom with another surprise. He plopped a very old and dusty suitcase onto his stepson's bed. It was brown and covered in stickers of famous locations, and made Conner's room smell like feet.
Bob placed his hands on his hips and proudly looked down at the suitcase. "There it is!" Bob said.
"There what is?" Conner said. "Is that a coffin?"
"No, it's the suitcase I used during my own Euro trip after college." Bob gently petted the side of it like it was an old dog. "We've had some pretty good times together—covered a lot of ground! I thought you could use it for Germany."
Conner couldn't imagine taking it overseas—he was shocked the suitcase wasn't instantly decaying like a mummy exposed to the elements after thousands of years. "I don't know what to say, Bob," he said, hiding his reservations under a fake smile. He couldn't refuse it after Bob had helped make the trip happen.
"No need to thank me," Bob said, although a thank-you was the furthest thing from Conner's mind. "Just do me a favor and get a sticker from Berlin for her."
"It's a she?"
"Oh, yes, her name is Betsy," Bob said as he headed out of his stepson's room. "Enjoy her! Oh, almost forgot, her left buckle needs a good push to lock. Just put your back into it and you'll be fine."
At the end of the week, Conner discovered exactly what Bob was talking about as he struggled to shut it with the new addition of pants. After three good pushes that almost threw out his back, he surrendered to Betsy.
"All right, maybe just six pairs of socks, four T-shirts, five pairs of underwear, two sweaters, pajamas, my lucky poker chip, a toothbrush, and one lucky rock will be enough," Conner said. He removed the excess items from the suitcase and finished packing.
He was overdue for bed but Conner wanted to stay awake for a little while longer. He wanted to feel the excitement as long as he could. Thinking about the trip to Germany had been a great way for Conner to ignore the other thoughts he had been having lately. As he looked around his bedroom and listened to the absolute silence of the house, Conner couldn't fight off the loneliness he had been suppressing. Something was missing from his life… His sister.
Conner opened his bedroom window to break the silence around him. Sycamore Drive was just as quiet as the house and did little to comfort him. He gazed up at the stars in the night sky. He wondered if Alex could see the same stars from wherever she was. Perhaps the Land of Stories was one of the stars he was looking at but it hadn't been discovered yet. Wouldn't that be an uplifting discovery? That he and his sister were only separated by light-years and not dimensions?
When Conner couldn't stand the solitude anymore, he asked himself, "I wonder if she's awake?"
Conner snuck down the stairs and into the family room. A large golden mirror hung there, on a wall it had all to itself. It was the mirror their grandmother had given them the last time they were together—it was the single object that allowed the twins to communicate between worlds.
He touched the golden frame and it started to shimmer and glow. It would glow for a few moments until Alex appeared in the mirror or return to its normal shade if she didn't—and tonight she didn't.
"She must be busy," Conner said quietly to himself. "She's always so busy."
When he first arrived home from his last adventure in the fairy-tale world, Conner talked to his sister in the mirror every day for a couple of hours. She told him all about the lessons their grandmother was teaching her and the magic she was learning to use. He told her about his days at school and everything he had been taught, but her stories were always much more interesting.
Unfortunately, as Alex became more and more involved with the fairy-tale world, the twins' daily conversations happened less and less often. Sometimes more than a week passed before they spoke. Sometimes Conner wondered if Alex even needed him anymore. He had always known that one day they would grow up and lead separate lives—he just never imagined it would happen so soon.
Conner touched the mirror again and waited, hoping his sister would arrive. He didn't want to leave for Germany before having a chance to talk to her.
"I guess I'll have to tell her about it when I get back," Conner said, and headed to bed.
Just as he reached the stairs, he heard a small voice behind him say, "Conner? Are you there?"
Conner ran back to the mirror and his heart jumped. His sister was standing in the mirror before him. She wore a headband made of white carnations and a sparkling dress the same color as the sky. She seemed cheerful but Conner could tell she was very tired.
"Hi, Alex! How are you?" he asked.
"I'm great," Alex said with a big smile. He could tell she was just as excited to see him as he was to see her. "You're up late."
"I couldn't sleep," Conner said. "Too excited, I guess."
Alex scrunched her forehead. "Excited about what?" Before Conner could say anything, Alex had answered her own question. "Oh, you're leaving for Germany tomorrow, aren't you?!"
"Yes," Conner said. "More like later today. It's super late here."
"I completely forgot! I'm so sorry!" Alex said, disappointed in herself for letting it slip her mind.
"No worries," Conner said. He couldn't care in the slightest, he was just happy to see her.
"I've been so busy with magic lessons and preparing for this silly Fairy Inaugural Ball," Alex said. She rubbed her eyes. "I even forgot about our birthday! Isn't that crazy? Grandma and Mother Goose made a cake and I had to ask them what it was for!"
It was Conner's turn to scrunch his forehead. "Fairy Inaugural Ball? What is that?"
"It's this big party the Fairy Council is throwing to celebrate me joining the Fairy Council," Alex said, as if it were just any old fact.
"That's amazing, Alex!" Conner said. "You're joining the Fairy Council already? You must be the youngest fairy that's ever joined!"
A proud and eager smile grew on her face. "Yes," she said. "Grandma thinks I'm ready. I'm not sure I agree with her, though; I still have so much to learn—"
"You know how protective Grandma is. She would protect the ocean from a raindrop," Conner said. "If she thinks you're ready then you must be!"
"I suppose," Alex said, still very unsure of herself. "It's just a lot of responsibility. Being part of the council means I'm automatically part of the Happily Ever After Assembly—which means having to give my input on so many decisions—which means so many people and creatures will look up to me for guidance—"
"There wouldn't still be a Happily Ever After Assembly if it wasn't for you," Conner reminded her. "That whole world is in your debt forever after defeating the Enchantress. I wouldn't worry."
Alex looked into his eyes and smiled. "Thanks, Conner." His reassurance always meant more to her than anyone else's.
"How is Grandma, by the way?" Conner asked.
"She's good," Alex said. "She misses you and Mom terribly—almost as much as I do. She's taught me so much over the past couple months. Really, Conner, you would be so impressed with some of the things I can do now."
Conner laughed. "Alex, I've been impressed by you since the womb. I'm sure your part of the uterus was much neater and more organized than mine."
Alex laughed out loud against her will—she missed her brother's sense of humor but she still didn't want to encourage it. "Really, Conner? A uterus joke? Come on. You're lucky Mom isn't awake to hear you," she said. "Is Mom doing all right? She's always very happy when she talks to me but we both know what a great front she can put up."
Conner nodded. "She's doing good, actually. She misses you but I've only caught her crying over an old photo of us together once or twice since we got back. Bob makes her really happy. I had almost forgotten what it was like to see her so happy all the time—it's like Dad is around again."
"That's great to hear," Alex said. "Dad would have been so excited about your Germany trip. He'd probably be going with you if he was still alive—I wish I could go."
Conner looked at the clock. "Speaking of which, I better get to bed soon. I leave for the airport in, like, three hours."
Alex's face fell. "Aw, that's too bad. I've missed you so much—it's been great to catch up," she said. "I've just been so busy. Sometimes a whole week will pass and I'll feel like it was only a day or two."
"You're still happy, though, right?" He looked at her with a raised eyebrow. He would know if she was lying to him.
"Um…" Alex thought about all her lessons, all her tasks, and despite how overwhelmed and tired she was, she told him the truth. "Honestly… I've never been happier! I get up every morning with a smile on my face because living here is like waking up to a dream that never ends!"
The twins shared a smile, each knowing this was the truth. As hard as it was to be without her, Conner knew Alex was where she belonged and was having the time of her life.
"I wish there was a way I could take you to Germany with me," Conner said.
"Me too!" Alex said. "But I doubt there's a story the Brothers Grimm wrote that we haven't heard from Grandma or Dad or—wait a second…" Her eyes fell to the bottom of the mirror. "Is the right side of your mirror's frame loose?"
Conner inspected the corner of his mirror. "Nope—but wait, I think the left side is."
"Can you gently pull it back and uncover the corner of the glass?" Alex asked as she did the same on her side.
"Check!" Conner said.
"Oh, good!" Alex said. "Now, can you gently chip off a piece without cracking—"
Clink! Conner held up a piece of glass bigger than the palm of his hand. "Like this?"
Clink! Alex broke off a piece of her own mirror—it was a smaller and neater piece than her brother's but neither commented on that.
"Perfect! Now look into it!" Alex looked down into hers.
Conner looked into the small piece of mirror in his hand and saw his sister's face staring up at him. "Amazing!" he said with a laugh. "Now I can keep you in my pocket the whole time! It's like video chat!"
"Terrific!" Alex said. "I've always wanted to see Europe! Now go get some rest; you don't want to be exhausted before you get to Germany."
"Okay. Good night, Alex," Conner said. "I'll call you—or, um, reflect you rather—as soon as I get off the plane!"
"I'll look forward to it," Alex said, so pleased she would be a part of his trip. "I love you, Conner!"
"I love you, too, Alex," Conner said. And with that, the twins faded from each other's mirrors and returned to their separate lives.
Conner climbed the stairs and placed his piece of mirror gently into his sticker-covered suitcase. He lay in bed and closed his eyes tightly but couldn't fall asleep—seeing his sister had rejuvenated him completely, causing all the excitement about the following day to come rushing back.
He laughed at himself as he lay there. "I've ridden a magical goose, climbed a giant beanstalk, swum to an enchanted underwater cave on a sea turtle's back, and sailed on a flying ship across the skies of another dimension.…," Conner listed to himself. "But I'm excited about getting on a plane tomorrow! Oh, brother…"
THE HALL OF DREAMS
Alex woke up the next day wearing a big smile. She had woken up with a smile every day since she began living in the Land of Stories, but her smile was especially big today because she had talked to her brother the night before. And although her new home had brought her huge amounts of happiness, spending time with her family made her feel better.
The Fairy Palace was the most beautiful place Alex had ever lived. She marveled at its beautiful golden pillars, archways, staircases, towers, and vast tropical gardens. However, one downside was that there were very few walls and ceilings in the Fairy Palace—it was always so pleasant outside the fairies had no need for them. So every morning when the sun rose over the Fairy Kingdom, Alex had no choice but to rise with it.
Luckily she had been able to enchant a magnolia tree to grow its branches and blossoms around her room like drapes. This gave her an extra few minutes of rest each morning before she forced herself out of bed and started her day. Other than the enchanted drapes, Alex kept her chambers quite simple. She had a large comfy bed with white rose-petal sheets, a few shelves filled to over-capacity with her favorite books, and a small wardrobe in the corner, which was practically unused thanks to a few magical tricks her grandmother had taught her.
Alex stepped out of bed, picked up her crystal wand from her nightstand, and waved it around her body. Her plain nightgown was instantly turned into a long, sparkling dress the color of the sky and a headband of white carnations appeared on her head—it was her standard fairy uniform and resembled her grandmother's.
"Good morning, Mom, Conner, and Bob," Alex said to a framed photo on her nightstand. "Good morning, Dad," she said to another framed photo, this one of her late father.
Alex took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "All right, three wishes by noon, three wishes by noon," she said to herself. "You can do this, you can do this."
Every day at noon Alex met her grandma in her grandma's chambers for a new lesson. Sometimes the lessons were magical, sometimes historical, sometimes philosophical, but whatever it was, the lesson was always highly enjoyable.
And although it wasn't expected, Alex had recently taken it upon herself to grant at least three wishes every day to the villagers nearby using the little magic she knew. It was very ambitious of the fourteen-year-old fairy-in-training, but Alex didn't feel like herself unless she was overachieving. Alex also found that the busier she kept, the less homesick she felt—and the less she thought about her home in the Otherworld, the better her training went.
She briskly walked out of her chambers, through the palace, and down its front steps. The shimmering golden walls and floor had taken some getting used to but they didn't make her nearly as dizzy as they had the first week she lived in the palace.
Alex passed Rosette, who was trimming a luscious rose garden just outside the palace. The roses and thorns were as big as her head.
"Good morning, Rosette!" Alex said.
- On Sale
- Jul 8, 2014
- Page Count
- 480 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers