Alex sat on a stump in the forest replaying the events she had witnessed the day before. She and her brother had an uncle-Uncle Lloyd, to be exact. Since Uncle Lloyd dreamed of taking over the world, Alex couldn't blame her dad and grandma for keeping him a secret. Alex was looking forward to regrouping with her friends until a stomping sound came from behind her. She turned and saw a chubby unicorn with a broken horn in the distance. "Cornelius, is that you?" asked Alex. Cornelius bucked excitedly when he saw her, but then he ran in the opposite direction. Alex though that was strange until Cornelius came back a few minutes later with a handsome young man with wispy hair on his back. "Rook? What are you doing with Cornelius?" asked Alex.
Rook replied, "Alex! We've been looking everywhere for you! We've been following the Masked Man and we know where he's hiding!"
Alex replied, "But we've been looking for months! How did you find him?"
Rook explained, "Cornelius and I have been trailing him. A few days ago we saw him running through the Dwarf Forests and found a cave he's been living in!"
Alex replied, "Rook, that's amazing! Where is the cave?"
Rook said, "Northwest, between the Elf Empire and the Northern Kingdom." Rook took out a map where he had circled the exact spot in the Northern Mountains where the cave was located. Rook said, "There's something else you should know. Yesterday he poured a strange liquid on the ground and then the ground started glowing. He stepped into the glow and disappeared. He said, 'First stop, the Land of Oz!'"
Alex repeated, "The Land of Oz? Oh no! The liquid must be a potion that allows him to travel to different worlds! I've got to find my brother! Thank you so much, Rook!" Alex hugged Rook and kissed him on the cheek-but as soon as she did, she regretted it. She pulled away from him and he blushed. It was an insensitive thing to do, given their history. "You could have been killed. Why would you risk going after him?" said Alex.
Rook was shy about telling her, but he forced himself to. "I'm just trying to make amends for hurting you. I'll never stop caring about you, Alex." Alex appreciated it, but it didn't change how she felt about him. During the war with the Grand Armée, Rook knowingly put the world at risk to save his love ones. She understood that he had been thrown into a terrible situation and just did what he thought was right, but it was still difficult to forgive him. Unfortunately, Alex's world was filled with terrible situations and difficult decisions, and she had to trust anyone who came close to her unconditionally. And just like her brother had feared, she didn't think she would ever find someone she was comfortable enough around to share that burden with. "Well, don't waste any more time on my account," Rook said. "Go find your brother." Alex gave Cornelius a hug and left the forest. She headed for the Center Kingdom, hoping her brother and their friends were still there.
Meanwhile, Conner was lying in bed in a guestroom of the Center Kingdom castle. Hagetta, a good witch, sat by his side, setting his injuries ablaze with the flames of her magical healing fire. Goldilocks and Jack stood over the bed, very intrigued by the process. Conner thanked Hagetta and then Hagetta asked how Red was holding up. Goldilocks sighed, rubbed her pregnant belly, and said "She won't eat or come out of her room."
Jack added, "In good news, the kingdom felt so sorry for Red, she's been reelected queen in Froggy's absence."
Conner said, "I can't believe he left her at the altar. That doesn't sound like the Froggy we know."
Hagetta said, "He's overcome the curse but not the spell she cast over him. I hate to say it, but he did the right thing. Morina is a powerful witch and she's infamous for the grudges she keeps. He probably saved Red's life by leaving with her."
Then there was a bright flash and Alex appeared in the middle of the room. It gave everyone a fright and Conner almost fell out of bed. Conner yelled, "I don't know when you learned to do that, but I wish you wouldn't! Wait-Alex! You're here! Thank God, we have so much to tell you!"
Alex replied, "And I have so much to tell you! Where are Froggy and Red? Did they go on their honeymoon?" They exchanged depressed looks and Alex knew something was horribly wrong. Alex saw Conner's wounds and exclaimed, "Conner, you're hurt! What happened?"
Goldilocks broke the bad news to her. "Shortly after you left, a witch named Morina stormed into the wedding and threatened to curse Red unless Froggy left with her."
Alex said, "What? But why? Who is this witch?"
Hagetta said, "She's the witch who cursed Froggy to look like a frog all those years ago. It must have infuriated her that he found happiness despite his appearance, something she could never achieve."
Alex asked, "But if the Fairy Council was there so why didn't any of them stop her?"
Jack explained, "The Charming Kings tried, but he wasn't being kidnapped. There was nothing they could do. He left of his own free will to protect Red." Alex couldn't believe she had missed all this, but she was glad she left the wedding when she did. Had she stayed, she definitely would have lost control of herself and done something she regretted.
When Conner told Alex about seeing the Masked Man steal books from the library, Alex informed him that the Masked Man was not their dad but their Uncle Lloyd. Alex explained that a moth was sent from the stars, led her to a forest, and re-created a memory of their grandmother and Uncle Lloyd. Alex exclaimed, "The Masked Man is our uncle! Grandma had two sons!"
"IT'S ABOUT TIME YOU FIGURED IT OUT!" shouted a voice that didn't belong to anyone in the room. Mother Goose suddenly appeared outside the window, flying on Lester's back. The gander knocked the window open with his beak and they flew into the room and landed with a loud thump. Mother Goose said, "Alex is right, Conner. You have no idea how long I've been waiting for you to put the pieces together!"
Alex asked, "You've known this entire time?"
Mother Goose said, "It was your grandmother's dying wish that I not tell you. I swore to her that I would keep it from you. That's one of the reasons why I've been keeping such a low profile! I knew if I hung around you kids while you looked for him, what I knew would slip out eventually. Thankfully, the rooster is out of the hen house now!"
The twins wanted to choke her for keeping information from them yet again, but they knew Mother Goose cherished her friendship with their grandmother too much to break her promise to her. Alex asked, "Does anyone else know about our uncle? I mean, the Fairy Council must have known Grandma had two sons."
Mother Goose said, "Well, it's complicated. When Lloyd was a teenager he ran away from the Fairy Palace and your grandmother told the council he was dead-she even staged a funeral that the council attended. She didn't see him until years later on the first night he broke into the palace to steal the potion. The Fairy Godmother received an anonymous letter that warned her he was coming for it, so she was expecting him. Thanks to the Hall of Dreams, she already knew what he was planning to do with the potion, so she sentenced him to life in Pinocchio Prison. She gave him the mask he wears so that no one would ever know he's her son."
Alex quickly filled the others in about her encounter with Rook and Cornelius in the woods. She told them everything Rook told her, and what he had witnessed. Conner said, "He stole the Oz books, The Chronicles of Narnia, the Harry Potter books, Peter Pan, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and some comic books."
Alex said, "Grandma gave Froggy the books as a thank-you for helping us survive our first trip into this world. They must have been the collection our uncle was asking the witches to help him find. He must have found them on his own and stole them when everyone in the castle was at the wedding."
Conner gasped as he remembered something he and his sister had seen several months earlier. At the time it seemed meaningless, but now that he knew his uncle's plans, it was spookily significant. Conner said, "Alex, do you remember his cell in Pinocchio Prison? He had strange carvings on the wall of monsters and pirates and soldiers! He's planning to recruit an army of literary villains!"
Alex asked, "But how can the Masked Man be sure that the worlds in the books really exist somewhere in the multiverse?"
Mother Goose said, "Oh, that was a theory your grandmother and Hans Christian Andersen came up with. If me, your grandmother, and the fairies were spreading stories about our world what would stop other creatures from other dimensions from doing the same thing? Or an author's imagination may be a subconscious map to other stories in other dimensions, but I'm inclined to believe the former."
Jack asked, "What's the plan?"
Alex said, "We'll have to follow him through Oz before he recruits the Wicked Witch of the West, capture him, and bring him back here."
Conner said, "Yeah, we need him to clear your name. The only way we'll be able to prove to the Fairy Council that you've been right all along is if they see him with their own eyes. They need to admit they were wrong for doubting you and reinstate you as the Fairy Godmother."
Alex said, "Conner, I don't care about being the Fairy Godmother anymore-"
Conner said, "But I do! You were born to lead, protect, and help the people of this world, and you can't do that if you spend the rest of your life hiding. You and I both know that if this world gets left to the council alone, it's going to fall apart." Alex was very touched and saw that everyone was nodding in agreement with Conner.
Jack said, "To the cave!"
Goldilocks added, "Beyond the kingdoms!"
There was a soft knock on the bedroom door. It opened and everyone was happy to see Red standing in the doorway. Her eyes were swollen from crying and she held a handkerchief tightly in her hand. Red sniffled, "I couldn't help overhearing. I'm not positive where you're planning to go, but I hope you'll let me come along. I could really use an adventure."