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The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns
By Chris Colfer
Read by Chris Colfer
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Alex and Conner Bailey have not been back to the magical Land of Stories since their adventures in The Wishing Spell ended. But one night, they learn the famed Enchantress has kidnapped their mother! Against the will of their grandmother, the twins must find their own way into the Land of Stories to rescue their mother and save the fairy tale world from the greatest threat it’s ever faced.
Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of The Land of Stories: A Grimm Warning
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A TRAIN OF THOUGHTS
The subtle jerks of the train rocked Alex Bailey awake. She looked at the empty seats around her while she remembered where she was. A long sigh came out of the thirteen-year-old girl and she neatly fixed a strand of strawberry-blonde hair that had escaped her headband.
"Not again," she whispered to herself.
Alex hated dozing off in public places. She was a very smart and serious young woman and never wanted to give the wrong impression. Luckily for her, she was one of only a few people on the five o'clock train back into town, so her secret was safe.
Alex was an exceptionally bright student and always had been. In fact, she was so advanced she was part of an honors program that allowed her to take an additional class at the community college in the next town.
Since she was too young to drive and her mother worked the majority of the day at a children's hospital, every Thursday after school Alex would ride her bike to the train station and travel the short distance into the next town for her classes.
It was a questionable trip for a young girl to make by herself, and her mother had had reservations at first, but she knew Alex could handle it. This short journey was nothing compared to the things Alex had handled in the past.
Alex loved being a part of the honors program. For the first time, she was able to learn about art and history and other languages in an environment where everyone wanted to be there. When her professors asked questions, Alex was one of many people to raise her hand with the answer.
Another perk of the train ride was the downtime Alex got to herself. She would gaze out the window and let her thoughts wander while the train traveled. It was the most relaxing part of her day, and many times she'd find herself drifting off to sleep, but only on rare occasions like today would she accidentally drift off completely.
Normally, she would wake feeling embarrassed, but this time Alex's embarrassment was laced with annoyance. She had just been having a disheartening dream: a dream she had had many times in the last year.
She dreamed she was running barefoot in a beautiful forest with her twin brother, Conner.
"I'll race you to the cottage!" Conner said with a huge smile. He shared his sister's looks but, thanks to a recent growth spurt, was now a few inches taller than her.
"You're on!" Alex said with a laugh, and the race began.
They chased each other through trees and over grassy fields without a care in the world. There were no trolls or wolves or evil queens for them to worry about, because, wherever Alex and Conner were, they knew they were safe.
Eventually a small cottage came into view. The twins bolted toward it, putting all their energy into one final sprint.
"I win!" Alex declared when both of her open palms touched the front door a millisecond before her brother's.
"Not fair!" Conner said. "My feet are flatter than yours!"
Alex giggled and tried opening the door, but it was locked. She knocked, but no one answered.
"That's funny," Alex said. "Grandma knew we were coming to visit; I wonder why she locked the door."
She and her brother peered into the window. They could see their grandmother inside, sitting in a rocking chair near the fireplace. She seemed sad, and slowly rocked back and forth.
"Grandma, we're here!" Alex said and cheerfully tapped on the window. "Open the door!"
Her grandmother didn't move.
"Grandma?" Alex asked, tapping on the window harder. "Grandma, it's us! We want to visit you!"
Her grandma raised her head slightly and looked up at them through the window but remained seated.
"Let us in!" Alex said, tapping on the glass even harder.
Conner shook his head. "It's no use, Alex. We can't go in." He turned away and headed back in the direction they came from.
"Conner, don't walk away!" Alex said.
"Why bother?" he said, looking back at her. "Clearly she doesn't want us in there."
Alex began banging on the window as hard as possible without breaking it. "Grandma, please let us in! We want to come inside! Please!"
Grandma looked up at her with a blank stare.
"Grandma, I don't know what I did wrong, but whatever it is, I'm sorry! Please let me come back inside!" Alex said as tears began to spill down her face. "I want to come in! I want to come in!"
Grandma's plain expression turned into a frown and she shook her head. Alex realized she wasn't going to be let in, and every time she came to this realization in the dream, she would wake up.
It might not have been a pleasant dream, but it had felt so good to be back in a forest and to see her grandmother's face again.… It was obvious to her what the dream represented, and had been since the first time she had dreamed it.
However, Alex felt something different when she awoke this time. She couldn't help but feel as if someone had been watching her while she was asleep.
When she had first awoken, although she hadn't paid much attention to it at first, she could have sworn she saw her grandmother sitting across from her on the train.
Was this was an actual sighting or just her imagination getting the best of her? Alex couldn't deny the possibility that it had been real. Her grandmother was capable of many things.…
It had been over a year since Alex and Conner Bailey had discovered their family's biggest secret. When they were given an old storybook from their grandmother, they'd never expected it would magically transport them into the fairy-tale world, and never in their wildest dreams had they expected that their grandmother and late father were from this world.
Traveling from kingdom to kingdom and befriending the characters they grew up reading about had been the adventure of their lives. But the biggest surprise of all was when the twins learned their own grandmother was Cinderella's Fairy Godmother.
Their grandmother eventually found them and took them back home to their anxious mother.
"I had to tell the school you both had chicken pox," Charlotte, the twins' mother, said. "I had to come up with a good excuse for why you had been gone for two weeks and thought 'traveling in another dimension' would probably raise a few eyebrows."
"Chicken pox?" Conner said. "Mom, you couldn't come up with anything cooler? Like a spider bite or food poisoning?"
"Did you know where we were the whole time?" Alex asked.
"It wasn't difficult to figure out," Charlotte said. "When I got home from work I went into your room and found the Land of Stories book on the floor. It was still glowing."
She looked over at the large emerald storybook held tightly in Grandma's hands.
"Were you worried?" Conner asked.
"Of course," Charlotte said. "Not necessarily for your safety, but for your sanity. I was worried the experience would overwhelm and frighten you, so I called your grandmother immediately. Luckily, she was still in this world, traveling with her friends. But after the second week of not knowing where you were… well, let's just say I pray I never have to experience that again."
"So you knew about everything?" Alex asked.
"Yes," Charlotte said. "Your dad was going to tell you eventually; he just never got the chance."
"How did you find out?" Conner asked. "When did Dad tell you? Did you even believe him at first?"
Charlotte smiled at the memory. "From the minute I saw your father, I knew there was something different about him," she said. "I had just started my first week of nursing at the children's hospital when I saw your grandmother and her group of friends come to read stories to the patients. But I was completely smitten by the handsome man who was with them. He was so peculiar; he stared around in amazement at everything. I thought he was going to faint when he saw the television."
"It was John's first trip to this world," Grandma said with a smile.
"He asked me to give him a tour of the hospital, and I did," Charlotte continued. "He was so fascinated to learn about it: the surgeries we performed, the medicines we used, the patients we treated. He asked if we could meet again later after I was done working so I could tell him more. We ended up dating for two months and fell in love. But then, strangely, he disappeared without warning and I didn't see him again for three whole years."
The twins looked to their grandmother, knowing a bit of the story already.
"I made him go back to the fairy-tale world with me, and forbid him to return," Grandma said and slumped a tad. "I had my reasons, as you know, but I was very wrong."
"And that's when he discovered the Wishing Spell and started to collect the items like us, so he could find a way back to you," Alex said excitedly.
"And it really didn't take him that long; it just seemed like it because we hadn't been born yet, and there was still a time difference between the worlds," Conner added.
Charlotte and Grandma both nodded.
"I eventually saw him again at the hospital," Charlotte said. "He looked so frail and dirty, like he had been to war and back. He looked at me and said, 'You have no idea what I went through to get back to you.' We were married a month later and became parents a year after that. So to answer your question, no, it wasn't hard to accept that your dad was from another world, because somehow I had known all along."
Alex reached into her bag and pulled out the journal their father had kept while he was collecting the Wishing Spell items, the same journal they had followed while collecting the items themselves.
"Here, Mom," Alex said. "Now you can know exactly how much Dad loved you."
Charlotte looked down at the journal, almost afraid to take it. She flipped it open and her eyes watered as she saw her late husband's handwriting.
"Thank you, sweetheart," she said.
"Just to let you know," Conner said, "me and Alex did all the same stuff. We're pretty great ourselves. Just keep that in mind if you ever feel inspired to give us an allowance in the future."
Charlotte playfully glared at her son; they knew she couldn't afford to give them allowances. Since their dad died, she'd had a hard time supporting the family and paying off debts from his funeral. But that got Alex thinking: With all the connections their family had in the fairy-tale world, why exactly had their lives been so tough the last year?
"Mom," Alex said, "why have we been struggling so much when all this time Grandma could have just waved her wand and made everything better for us?"
Conner looked up at his mother, thinking the same question. Their grandmother went quiet; it wasn't her place to say.
"Because your father didn't want that," Charlotte said. "Your father loved this world so much; it's where we met, it's where we had you two, and it's where he wanted to raise you. He had come from a world of kings and queens and magic, a world of entitlement and undeserved luxury that he thought ruined people's character. He wanted you guys to grow up in a place you could get anything you wanted if you worked hard enough for it, and although there have been times a little magic would have gone a long way, I've tried to respect that."
Alex and Conner looked at each other; maybe their dad was right. Could they have managed what they had done in the last weeks if they hadn't been raised that way? Could they have collected all the Wishing Spell items or stood up to the Evil Queen if he hadn't taught them how to believe in themselves?
"So what happens now?" Conner asked.
"What do you mean, Conner?" Grandma said.
"Well, clearly our lives are going to be totally different now, right?" he said with a twinkle in his eye. "I mean, after two weeks of barely surviving encounters with trolls, wolves, goblins, witches, and evil queens, we can't be expected to go to school again. We're too mentally distraught, right, Alex?"
Charlotte and Grandma looked at each other and burst out laughing.
"So I'm guessing that means we still have to go to school?" Conner asked. The twinkle in his eye faded away.
"Nice try," Charlotte said. "Every family has its issues, but that doesn't mean you get to drop out of school because of it."
"Thank goodness," Alex said with a sigh. "I was afraid he was on to something for a minute."
Grandma looked up at the clock. "It's almost sunrise," she said. "We've been talking all night. I better get going now."
"When will we see you again?" Alex asked. "When can we go back to the Land of Stories?" Alex had wanted to ask that question since the moment they left. Grandma looked down at her feet and thought for a moment before responding.
"You've had an awfully big adventure, even by grown-up standards," Grandma said. "Right now you need to focus on being twelve-year-olds in this world. Be kids while you still can, children. But I'll take you back one day, I promise."
It wasn't the answer she wanted, but Alex nodded. There was one more question she had been meaning to ask all night.
"Will you ever teach us magic, Grandma?" Alex asked with wide eyes. "I mean, since Conner and I are part fairy, it would be nice to know a thing or two."
"I completely forgot about that!" Conner said, slapping an open palm to his forehead. "Please leave me out of this. I don't want to be a fairy—can't stress that enough."
Grandma went silent. She looked to Charlotte, who only shrugged.
"When the time is right, sweetheart, I would love nothing more," Grandma said. "But right now the Fairy Council and I are working some things out, things that are pretty time-consuming but that you don't need to worry yourselves about. As soon as we move past it, I would love to teach you magic."
Grandma hugged her grandchildren and kissed the tops of their heads.
"I think it might be best if I take this with me," Grandma said, referring to the Land of Stories book. "We don't want history repeating itself."
She headed toward the front door, but just as she reached for the doorknob, she stopped and looked back at them.
"I forgot, I didn't drive here," Grandma said with a smirk. "Looks like I'll have to leave the old-fashioned fairy way. Good-bye, children, I love you with all my heart."
And slowly, Grandma began to disappear, fading into soft, sparkling clouds.
"Okay, now that is something I'd like to learn how to do," Conner said. He waved his hands through the sparkles in the air. "Sign me up for that lesson."
Alex yawned contagiously and her brother followed.
"You kids must be exhausted," Charlotte said. "Why don't you go to bed? I'm taking tomorrow off so I can be here with you guys, in case you have any more questions. And because I've just missed you."
"In that case, I've got an important question," Conner said. "What's for breakfast? I'm starving."
Alex's train finally reached her station. She retrieved her bike from the bike rack and pedaled home, still thinking about her grandmother.
Alex had expected to live a dual-worldly life after discovering the fairy-tale world. She imagined spending summers and holidays with her brother in the Fairy Kingdom or Cinderella's Palace with their grandmother. She imagined a brand-new life of magic and adventure would begin immediately. Sadly, Alex's expectations weren't met.
More than a year had gone by since the night their grandmother disappeared. They hadn't received a single letter or phone call explaining why she had been gone. She missed every holiday and their birthday—days she never missed. And to make matters worse, the twins hadn't been back to the Land of Stories, either.
The twins couldn't help but be angry with their grandmother. How could she just disappear and never make contact again? How could she take them to a place they had been dreaming about since they were kids and then never let them return?
Their grandmother herself had even said it; a part of the Land of Stories lived inside them—so who was she to keep it from them?
"Your grandmother is a very busy woman," Charlotte would tell Alex whenever the subject came up. "She loves you very much. She probably just has her hands full at the moment. We'll hear from her soon enough."
This wasn't enough to put Alex at ease. As more time went by, she began worrying whether her grandmother was all right—sometimes wondering if she was even alive. Alex hoped nothing had happened to her and that she was okay. She missed her hugs more than anything.
Life without their dad had been the most difficult thing the twins had ever experienced. But life without their dad and grandmother was nearly impossible.
"What do you think is going on?" Alex asked Conner on one occasion.
"I don't know," Conner said with a heavy sigh. "The last thing she said to us was that she and the other fairies were working something out. Maybe it's just taking longer than they expected?"
"Maybe," Alex said. "But I have a feeling that whatever it was, it's much worse than she was letting on. What else would be keeping her away from us for so long?"
Conner just shrugged. "I don't think Grandma would ever intentionally avoid us or exclude us from anything," he said.
"I'm just worried about her," Alex said.
"Alex," Conner said with a raised eyebrow, "the woman is magic and has lived for hundreds of years. What is there to worry about?"
Alex sighed. "I suppose you're right. She better have a great excuse next time we see her."
Unfortunately, "next time" didn't seem like it was happening anytime soon.
It was unsurprising that the situation had started affecting her dreams, but more than that, Alex was depressed. Ever since she had returned from the Land of Stories, she'd felt like a part of her was missing. The magical dimension had filled the emptiness she'd felt after losing her dad, and the emptiness grew every day she couldn't go back.
The weekly trips to the college were always a major trigger for feeling this way. College was a place that represented the future, and even though Alex was years away from actually going to college, she didn't like planning any future that didn't involve the Land of Stories. How could she live a normal life when she had proof that she was not normal?
Alex fantasized about moving to the Land of Stories one day. Could her grandmother teach her enough magic for Alex to become an official fairy? Could Alex become a member of the Fairy Council or, better yet, the Happily Ever After Assembly?
Alex tried doing magic on her own, but it never worked. The only time she had done something magical was when she accidentally set off her grandmother's storybook that transported her and Conner into the Land of Stories. But since it was her grandmother's book, she wondered if she was capable of doing anything alone.
Sometimes, when Alex was feeling particularly desperate, she would go into the school library and find a random fairy-tale treasury. She would hold it against her chest and think of how much she wanted to see the fairy-tale world, just like she did the night of her twelfth birthday. But it never did anything but attract unwanted attention from other students.
"Why is she hugging a book?" a popular girl said to her snooty pack on one occasion.
"Maybe she's taking it to homecoming!" another girl said, and they all laughed at Alex's expense.
Alex was tempted to yell, "Hey! My grandmother is Cinderella's fairy godmother, and as soon as she teaches me magic I'm gonna turn you into the lip gloss you wear too much of!" But she kept these thoughts to herself.
As Alex rode her bike the rest of the way home from the train station, she closed her eyes for a minute and pretended she was riding along Thumbelina Stream in the Fairy Kingdom—a herd of unicorns was to her left and a hovering flock of fairies was to her right—and she was meeting her grandmother for a magic lesson on how to transform rags into a beautiful ball gown.
Paradise, she thought to herself.
Alex opened her eyes a second before crashing hard into a set of trash cans. Thankfully, the only witness was a garden gnome across the street, but even it seemed to judge her.
She got up and brushed herself off, deciding to walk her bike the rest of the way home. It had been a brutal reality check.
The Baileys still lived in the same rental house with a flat roof and few windows, but things were looking up for them. Their mother had finally caught up on a lot of their financial troubles and wasn't working nearly as much as she used to. However, something else had been occupying Charlotte Bailey's time recently, and it wasn't nursing.
Alex parked her bike on the porch. The front door flew open just as Alex was about to walk through it. Conner was standing on the other side. He seemed upset and very concerned about something.
"What's your problem?" Alex asked.
"Sorry, I thought you were Mom," Conner said.
"Do you need her for something?" Alex said.
"No," Conner said. "Mom is just usually home by six o'clock every night."
"It's six o'clock right now," Alex said, looking at him like he was a crazy person.
"It's six-fifteen, Alex," Conner said, raising his eyebrows.
"Well, where is she, then? Do you see her? Is there a car parked in the driveway?" Conner asked.
"Maybe there's traffic," Alex said.
"Or something else," he said. "Like something keeping her at work."
"Is there a point to all of this?" Alex asked, becoming annoyed.
"I need to show you something," Conner finally admitted. "But let me warn you, you aren't going to like it."
"Um… okay," Alex said and followed her brother in.
A series of barks and whimpers came from inside the house as Alex stepped through the front door.
"Buster! Down, boy! It's just Alex!" Conner shouted. "Why does this stupid dog act like everyone who comes inside this house is carrying explosives? We live here, too!"
"Are you going to tell me what's going on, Conner?" Alex asked, running out of patience.
"I'll show you. It's in the kitchen," he said. "There's been a development."
IT STARTED WITH A DOG
A few months ago, Buster the Border collie was rescued from the local animal shelter and given to the Bailey family. He was a gift from Dr. Robert Gordon, whom Charlotte worked with at the hospital and who had become a close family friend.
"Dr. Bob," as the twins called him when he occasionally came over for dinner, was a kind man whose face settled into a natural smile. He was balding and not very tall but had big, caring eyes that made him an instant friend to anyone he met.
"Oh, Bob! You shouldn't have!" Charlotte said as soon as he surprised them with the canine.
"What's up with the pooch?" Conner said when he came to see what the ruckus was about.
"He's all yours!" Bob said. "Your mom is always talking about the Border collie she had when she was a little girl and said she's always secretly wanted another one. I was volunteering at the animal shelter and as soon as I saw him I knew I had to adopt him for you guys."
"We have a dog?!" Conner exclaimed. Although the words came out of his mouth, he hadn't fully grasped the reality of it.
"I suppose we do," Charlotte said.
Conner immediately fell to the floor and started rolling around with his new pet. "We have a dog! We have a dog!" he exclaimed. "Finally, our suburban lives are complete! Thank you, Dr. Bob!"
"You're very welcome!" Bob said.
"What's your name, boy?" Conner asked.
"Buster," Bob told him. "At least, that's what they called him at the shelter."
The black-and-white dog was obnoxiously happy and had bright green eyes, one of which was larger than the other. Bob had placed a red bandana around Buster's collar.
Conner hugged him and almost cried tears of joy. "I know we've just met, Buster, but I feel like I've loved you my entire life!" he said.
"Who's this?" Alex asked when she came to see what was causing all the excitement.
"This is my dog, Buster!" Conner said. He took off one of his socks and he and Buster played tug-of-war with it.
"He's for all of you," Bob corrected him.
"Conner, don't use good socks!" Charlotte said.
Alex unintentionally let out a high-pitched squeal and her mouth dropped open. "We have a dog?!" she asked and jumped up and down. Something about Buster made the twins act like they were ten again.
"Yes, we have a dog," Charlotte said, and shared her smile.
"Don't be disappointed if he likes me more, Alex," Conner said matter-of-factly. "Dogs tend to bond with boys more. It's proven science, I think."
"Buster, come here!" Alex called. Buster ran straight to Alex's side and happily whimpered up at her.
"Never mind," Conner said, a little disappointed.
The twins were so excited to get a dog they never questioned the gift for a second. They were so distracted playing with the new addition to their family that they didn't see Charlotte give Bob a long, thankful hug, an embrace that lasted too long to just be a friendly gesture.
But as time went on, and the twins saw more of Bob, they were forced to notice the signs that their mother and the doctor were more than just friends.…
Conner sat Alex down at the kitchen table as soon as she walked through the door. Although he saw them every day, Buster couldn't contain his excitement for the twins both being home. He jumped up and down and spun in circles around the kitchen.
"Buster, calm down!" Conner ordered. "I swear, that dog needs to be on medication."
"What's going on, Conner?" Alex asked. "You love that dog as much as he loves you."
"That was before I discovered Buster was a
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