Beyond the Kingdoms (The Land of Stories #4) by Chris Colfer, Brandon Dorman

PROLOGUE

THE OTHER SON

1845 Copenhagen, Denmark

In the cozy study of his home, Hans Christian Andersen was busy writing at his desk.

“High up on a tree, taller than all the steeples in all the land, a lonely little bird awoke in her nest,” he read aloud as he wrote the first sentence of his newest story. The soft scratches of his quill came to a halt and the author scratched his head.

“Wait, why is the bird asleep?” he asked himself. “Wouldn’t she wake at dawn with the other birds? She may appear lazy and unrespectable if not. I want the readers to like her.”

Hans crumpled up the piece of parchment and tossed it into the pile of previous drafts on the floor. He retrieved a new quill, hoping a darker and longer feather would rejuvenate his storytelling.

“High up on a tree, taller than all the steeples in all the land, a lonely little bird was building herself a nest…” He stopped himself again. “No, if she’s building a nest, the readers will wonder if she’s about to lay eggs, and then they’ll think the story is about an unwed mother. The church will accuse me of alluding to something unholy… again.”

He crumpled it up and tossed it with the other attempts.

“High up on a tree, taller than all the steeples in all the land, a lonely little bird searched the ground for worms…” Hans covered his eyes and groaned. “No, no, no! What am I thinking? I can’t start the story like this. If I say the tree is taller than the steeples, some imbecile will think I’m comparing the tree to God himself, and make an unnecessary fuss.”

The author sighed and tossed his latest effort aside. Being a writer in a nineteenth-century society could get frustrating at times.

The grandfather clock near his desk chimed as it struck six o’clock. Hans stood for the first time in a few hours. “I think it’s time for a walk,” he said.

Hans took his coat and top hat off the rack by the front door and left his home. He was easily recognizable to the other pedestrians as he walked down the street. After a quick glance of his prominent nose and thin stature, there was no denying the famed author was among them. Hans politely tipped his hat to those who gawked at him and then hurried away before they bothered him.

Eventually, Hans arrived at the Langelinie promenade and had a seat on his favorite bench. The Øresund water ahead sparkled in the remaining daylight. He took a deep breath of salty air and his mind relaxed for the first time all day.

This was Hans’s favorite spot to decompress. Whenever his head was filled with too many ideas to concentrate, or empty of all imagination, a simple walk to the promenade always took the edge off. If he was lucky, he would find inspiration in the land and waters to take home. And occasionally, if he was really lucky, the inspiration would find him.

“Hello, Mr. Andersen,” said a soft voice behind him.

He looked over his shoulder and was delighted to see an old friend. She wore light blue robes that sparkled like the night sky. She was very warm and welcoming, but a stranger to everyone in Denmark except for Hans.

“My dear Fairy Godmother, it’s good to see you,” Hans said with a large grin.

The Fairy Godmother sat beside him. “You as well,” she said. “You weren’t at home, so I figured I would find you here. Are you having trouble writing this evening?”

“Unfortunately so,” Hans said. “Some days words flow through me like the Nile, and other days I’m as dry as the Sahara. I’m afraid you’ve caught me in the middle of a drought, but I’m confident rain shall fall again.”

“I have no doubt,” the Fairy Godmother said. “I’ve actually come to congratulate you. We’ve just heard the news that your fairy tales are being published in other countries. The other fairies and I couldn’t be happier. You’ve been very successful in helping us spread the tales of our world. We’re very grateful.”