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Authors: Brandon Dorman

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“Nope, I mean it,” Lucy said with a confident nod. “Otherwise, it would just be
weird
how much you care about helping other people.”

Just then, the wooden doors swung open and Emerelda, Xanthous, Tangerina, and Skylene charged into the office. The young fairies’ cheeks were bright red and they were all panting as if they had been running.

“Oh, there you are!” Emerelda said. “We’ve been looking all over the castle for you!”

“Brystal, you should come outside!” Xanthous said. “Like,
now
!”

“Why? What’s wrong?” she asked. “Are the students okay?”

“The students are fine,” Tangerina said. “People from the magical community have started showing up!”

“That’s wonderful!” Brystal exclaimed. “How many have joined us so far? A dozen? Ten? At least five?”

“Umm,” Skylene said with difficulty. “I’m not the best with numbers, but I’d say it’s more like…
all of them
.”

Brystal thought her friends were playing a practical joke on her, but the look in their overwhelmed eyes didn’t waver. She turned to the enlarged Map of Magic above the fireplace and was stunned to see that the majority of the stars were moving through the southeast In-Between toward the academy. Brystal ran to the window, looked toward the hedge barrier in the distance, and gasped at what she saw.

At the edge of the property, Horence and his three-headed horse had crossed through the barrier and were followed by a line of hundreds and hundreds of people. The line kept coming and coming until there were almost a thousand members of the magical community inside the academy grounds.

The travelers were both young and old; some traveled in groups or with families, while others traveled completely alone. They had clearly journeyed from places near and far. Most had recently been released from prisons, while others had spent their entire lives on the run or in hiding. Regardless of their differences, each and every person wore the same expression of sheer amazement as they gazed around the property, and not just because of the vibrant plants and enchanted animals. For the first time in their lives, the magical community was laying eyes on a place where they would be safe from persecution, a place where they could be themselves without discrimination, and most important, a place that they could finally call home.

“We’re going to need a much bigger castle,” Brystal said.

“And name tags,” Lucy said. “Lots and lots of name tags.”

Without wasting another second, Brystal, Lucy, Emerelda, Xanthous, Tangerina, and Skylene hurried out of the office, ran down the floating staircase, and emerged on the castle’s front steps to greet the newcomers. The travelers gathered around the castle and looked up to the fairies for guidance.

“Pssst, Brystal!”
Lucy whispered.
“Say something.”

“What should I say?”
she whispered back.

“I don’t know,”
Lucy said.
“Something inspirational like you always do.”

Brystal’s friends nudged her forward and she nervously waved to the large crowd. As she looked into all the hopeful but weary eyes of the magical community, Brystal was reminded of her final moments with Madame Weatherberry, and she knew exactly what she wanted to say.

“Hello, everyone,” she said. “I can only imagine what you’ve all been through to get here—both in life and on the road. This historic day is possible thanks to a long history of brave men and women making tremendous sacrifices. And although the fight for acceptance and freedom may seem like it’s over, our work isn’t finished. The world will never be a better place for us until we make it a better place for all. And no matter what challenges await us, no matter whose favor we’ve yet to earn, we cannot allow anyone’s hate to rob us of our compassion or dampen our ambition along the way.

“The truth is,” Brystal continued, “there will always be a fight, there will always be bridges to cross and stones to turn, but we must
never
forfeit our joy to the times we live in. When we surrender our ability to be happy, we become as flawed as the battles we face. And too many lives have already been lost for us to lose sight of what we’re fighting for now. So let’s honor the people who gave their lives for this moment to happen—let’s cherish their memory by living each and every day as freely, as proudly, and as joyfully as they would have wanted us to. Together, let’s begin a new chapter for our community, so when they tell our story years in the future,
the tale of magic
has a happy and prosperous ending.”

I’d like to thank Rob Weisbach, Derek Kroeger, Alla Plotkin, Rachel Karten, Marcus Colen, and Heather Manzutto for all their guidance and assistance.
All the wonderful people at Little, Brown, including Alvina Ling, Megan Tingley, Nikki Garcia, Jessica Shoffel, Siena Koncsol, Stefanie Hoffman, Shawn Foster, Danielle Cantarella, Jackie Engel, Emilie Polster, Janelle DeLuise, Ruqayyah Daud, Jen Graham, Sasha Illingworth, Virginia Lawther, and Chandra Wohleber, for making
A Tale of Magic…
possible.

Also, Jerry Maybrook for directing me through the audiobooks, and of course the incredible Brandon Dorman for his breathtaking artwork.

And finally, all my friends and family for their continued love and support.

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