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Authors: Brandon Dorman

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BOOK: A Tale of Magic...
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The following week Brystal took her mother’s advice to heart. To prevent herself from falling asleep in the library again, Brystal limited her nightly reading to just one hour after she finished her evening duties (two hours at the most if she found something
good) before packing up and heading home. She didn’t get to read nearly as much as she wanted, but any time at the library was better than none.
Late one night, while searching for something to read, Brystal strolled down a long, winding hall on the second floor. Of all the sections in the library, she figured this was the least popular because it always needed the most dusting. The shelves were filled with collections of old public records and outdated ordinances—so it was no mystery why the hall was virtually forgotten.

As Brystal browsed the shelves at the end of the hall, a book on the very top shelf caught her attention. Unlike all the leather-bound records surrounding it, this book had a wooden cover and practically blended into the wooden shelf.

Brystal had never noticed the strange book before, and as she marveled at its peculiar camouflage, she began wondering if
had ever noticed it.

“Could there be books in this library that have never been read before?” she wondered aloud. “What if
the first person to read something?”

The notion was very exciting. Brystal rolled a ladder to the end of the hall and climbed to the top shelf. She tried to retrieve the wooden book, but it didn’t budge.

“It’s probably been sitting here for centuries,” she speculated.

Brystal pulled on the book again, with all her strength, but it didn’t move. Her feet rose off the ladder as she used all her weight to try to pry it loose, but even that didn’t help. No matter how hard she tried, the wooden book wouldn’t part from the shelf.

“It must be nailed down! What kind of sick person would nail a book to—

Without warning, Brystal and the ladder were knocked to the floor by something large and heavy. When she looked up, Brystal discovered that the entire bookcase had swung away from the wall to reveal a long and dark hallway hidden behind it. She quickly realized the wooden book wasn’t a book at all—
it was a lever to a secret door

“Hello?” Brystal nervously called into the hallway. “Is someone there?”

The only thing she heard was her own voice echoing back to her.

“If anyone can hear me, I’m sorry about this,” she said. “I was just cleaning the shelf and it opened. I wasn’t expecting to find a door to… to…
wherever this creepy hall leads

Once again, there was no reply. Brystal assumed the hidden corridor was just as empty as the rest of the library and didn’t see any harm in inspecting it. She retrieved a lantern and slowly walked down the hall to see where it led. At the end of the hallway, Brystal found a wide metal door with a plaque bolted on it:

“‘Justices Only’?” Brystal read aloud. “That’s strange. Why would the Justices need a secret room in the library?”

She reached for the doorknob and her heart fluttered when she felt it was unlocked. The metal door creaked open and the sound echoed into the empty library behind her. Curiosity overpowered her judgment, and before Brystal could stop herself, she disregarded the sign and stepped through the door.

“Hello? Is anyone in here?” she asked. “Innocent maid coming through.”

Brystal found a small room with a low ceiling on the other side of the door. Luckily, it was just as vacant as she had predicted. The walls had no windows or artwork but were lined with black bookcases. The only furniture was a small table and a single chair in the center of the room. An empty candlestick adorned the table, and a coatrack stood beside it with only two hooks: for one hat and one coat. Based on the minimal furnishings, Brystal figured the room was meant for only
Justice at a time.

She put on her reading glasses and raised her lantern toward a bookcase to see what kind of books were kept in the secret library. To her surprise, the Justices’ collection was sparse. Each shelf contained less than a dozen titles, and every book was next to a file of paperwork. Brystal selected the thickest book from the nearest shelf and read the cover:

The title was difficult to read because the book was coated in ash. Brystal moved her lantern closer and saw that the front cover had been branded with a word in large lettering:

“‘Banned’?” Brystal read aloud. “Well, that seems silly. Why would anyone need to ban a book?”

She flipped the book open and read the first page it turned to. After skimming a few paragraphs, Brystal had her answer:

One of the greatest deceptions in recorded “history” was the reasoning for the Declawing Act of 339. For hundreds of years, the people of the Southern Kingdom have been told that King Champion VIII banished the trolls for acts of vulgarity, but this was nothing but propaganda to disguise a macabre plot against an innocent species.
Prior to the Declawing Act of 339, the trolls were respected participants in Southern Kingdom society. They were gifted craftsmen and built many of the structures that still stand in the Chariot Hills town square today. They lived quietly in the caves of the Southwest region and were regarded as a peaceful and private minority.

In 336, while expanding their caves in the Southwest, the trolls uncovered a large amount of gold. At the time, the Southern Kingdom was still crippled with debt from the Four Corners World War. Upon learning of the trolls’ newfound wealth, Champion VIII claimed the gold was government property and ordered the trolls to turn it over at once.

Legally, the trolls had every right to keep their discovery, and they refused the king’s demands. In retaliation, Champion VIII and his High Justices orchestrated a sinister ploy to tarnish the trolls’ reputation. They spread nasty falsehoods about the trolls’ lifestyle and behavior, and after time, the residents of the Southern Kingdom started believing the rumors. The king banished the trolls to the In-Between, seized their gold, and successfully brought the Southern Kingdom out of debt.

Sadly, the leaders of neighboring kingdoms were inspired by the Declawing Act of 339 and used the same method to erase their own debts. Soon the trolls were unjustly ransacked and exiled from all four kingdoms. Other intelligent species came to the trolls’ defense, but their efforts only caused them to suffer a similar fate. Together, world leaders instituted the Great Cleansing Act of 345, which expelled all talking creatures other than humans from their kingdoms.

The troll, elf, ogre, and goblin populations lost their homes and their possessions, and were forced into the harsh environments of the In-Between. With limited resources, the species had no choice but to resort to the barbaric and primitive survival measures they’re resented and feared for today.

The so-called “monsters” of the In-Between are not humankind’s enemy, but humankind’s creation.
Brystal had to read the excerpt twice before she fully understood what it was saying. Was Robbeth Flagworth exaggerating, or was the Declawing Act of 339 as dishonest as he implied? And judging by the size of his book, if the author was correct, then the Southern Kingdom’s history was jam-packed with other fabrications.

At first, the idea of history being dishonest was difficult for Brystal to comprehend. She didn’t want to believe a topic she knew so much about was filled with lies, but the more she thought it over, the more plausible it seemed. After all, the Southern Kingdom was a blatantly flawed and oppressive country—why should she believe it was an

Brystal continued looking through the bookcases and selected another title that caught her eye:

Just like the previous book,
The War on Women
was covered in ash and branded with the word
. With one quick glance at the pages inside, Brystal was instantly captivated by the subject matter:
The female mind is not the fragile flowerpot we’re made to believe. According to many studies on human anatomy, there is no evidence to suggest a woman’s brain is any weaker, slower, or less capable than a man’s. So the question remains: Why are we kept from education and positions of power?
Because the Justices use the oppression of women as an instrument to maintain their grip on the Southern Kingdom!
By nature, women are more maternal than men. If we ruled the Southern Kingdom, we would govern on principles of enlightenment, empathy, and nourishment. But the Justices and the current court system can only function in a society operated by fear, scrutiny, and punishment. If the country began valuing compassion over control, the Justices and their governing techniques would be rendered obsolete. That is why they take every step necessary to prevent women from rising above them.

From the moment we’re born, women are brainwashed to prioritize motherhood and marriage over intellect and personal fulfillment. We’re handed baby dolls and aprons and told our greatest contributions are accomplished in the nursery and the kitchen. But that lie is as damaging as it is degrading, because
a kingdom is only as strong as its weakest citizen
! And a society with unjust limitations is less likely to prevail than a country of equal opportunity.

When a nation segregates any percentage of its population, it only segregates a percentage of its potential! So for the sake of the kingdom, it is time for women to stand together and demand a new government that values every citizen’s thoughts, ideas, and morals. Then and only then will our country journey into realms of prosperity it has never seen before.
Brystal’s mouth dropped open—it was like she was reading a book of her own thoughts. She had never heard anyone else
about the things she believed, let alone seen them printed in a book. She stacked
The War on Women
History Other Lies
on the table, eager to finish them later, but first she wanted to see what other books were in the secret library. Another enticing title she found was called:
Like the previous books, it too had
branded into its cover. Brystal opened the book to a random page to get a sense of what it was about:
If the Book of Faith was as pure as the monks claim it is, there would be no need to amend it or publish
over time. However, if you compared a current Book of Faith to one from a hundred years ago, you would discover vast differences between the religion of today and the religion of yesterday.
So what does this mean? Has the Lord simply changed His mind over the years? Has the Great Almighty corrected His mistakes after being convinced he was wrong? But wouldn’t the very notion of being “wrong” contradict the “all-knowing” qualities the Lord is supposed to possess?

The truth is, what started as a joyful and loving faith is now a politically motivated ruse to control the people of the Southern Kingdom. Whenever the fear of incarceration is not enough to make people obey the law, the Justices alter the principles of religion and use the fear of eternal damnation to enforce their agenda.

The law and the Lord should be separate entities, but the Southern Kingdom has strategically made them the same. Therefore, any activity or opinion that questions the government is considered a sin. And every lifestyle or preference that doesn’t help expand the population is considered demonic.

The Book of Faith no longer reflects the Lord’s will, but the will of men who use the Lord as a tool to manipulate their people.
Brystal was absolutely fascinated by Quint Cuppamule’s writing. In all her years attending church, she had never questioned the monk’s sermons denouncing murder and theft, but she had always wondered why the monks preached just as passionately about the importance of paying taxes. Now it appeared Brystal had her answer.

She put
Losing Faith in Faith
in her stack and continued searching through the bookcases. The next
title that gained her interest was called:

BOOK: A Tale of Magic...
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