The Land of Stories: Gleefully Ever After

Heads Will Roll

In which something evil’s lurking in the dark…

Chris could feel adrenaline coursing through his body. The urge toward ‘fight or flight’ was strong, but neither one of those was much of an option at the moment, since he and Darren were still trapped within the rope net. He could feel Darren trembling slightly, and squeezed his friend’s hand in a way that he hoped seemed reassuring rather than desperate.

“Let’s get a better look at these gifts you’ve brought us,” King Sebastian said, a lascivious smirk stretching from one of his pointy goblin ears to the other as he gazed down at his prisoners.

Chris and Darren tensed as Azimio whipped out a long obsidian blade and sliced through the ropes securing the top of the net.

“Oh, yeah. They’ll do nicely,” King Sebastian leered.

“Bring out the other prisoners!” King Karofsky boomed with his deep troll voice. “Let the wild rumpus start!”

Jacob Ben Israel struck a great stone gong. The sound reverberated throughout the cavern as trolls and goblins with stone spears shoved a rag-tag bunch of human prisoners toward the center of the room. The goblins began to chant:

Off with your head
D-dance-dance-dance 'til you're dead
O-off-off-off with your head
D-dance-dance-dance 'til you're dead
O-off-off-off with your head

The trolls chimed in with:

It's close to midnight
And something evil's lurking in the dark
Under the moonlight
You see a sight that almost stops your heart
You try to scream
But terror takes the sound before you make it

(Heads will roll, heads will roll chanted the goblins.)

You start to freeze
As horror looks you right between the eyes
You're paralyzed
'Cause this is thriller, thriller night
And no one's gonna save you from the beast about to strike
You know it's thriller, thriller night
You're fighting for your life inside a killer thriller tonight

As the trolls and goblins sang, they lurched about in a grotesque dance, prodding the human captives with their spears to force them to join in.

Off with your head
D-dance-dance-dance 'til you're dead
O-off-off-off with your head
D-dance-dance-dance 'til you're dead

(Thriller tonight)

Chris watched in horrified fascination as the prisoners did their best to avoid having their toes crushed by their overzealous and under-coordinated troll and goblin dance partners.

You hear the door slam
And realize there's nowhere left to run
You feel the cold hand
And wonder if you'll ever see the sun
You close your eyes
And hope that this is just imagination

(Heads will roll, heads will roll)

But all the while
You hear the creature creepin' up behind
You're out of time
'Cause this is thriller, thriller night
There ain't no second chance
Against the thing with forty eyes, girl
Thriller, thriller night
You're fighting for your life inside a killer, thriller tonight

Chris could still feel Darren trembling, but when he dragged his eyes away from the dancing to glance at his friend, he realized that Darren was shaking not with fear but with barely-suppressed laughter.

Off with your head
D-dance-dance-dance 'til you're dead
O-off-off-off with your head
D-dance-dance-dance 'til you're dead

(Thriller tonight)

“Oh my god,” Darren stage-whispered in Chris’s ear, “this is hilarious! The trolls and goblins capture people and then make them dance. You’ve got to include this in your sequel!”

Darkness falls across the land
The midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y'all's neighborhood
And though you fight to stay alive (Off with your head)
Your body starts to shiver (Dance 'til you're dead)
For no mere mortal can resist (Heads will roll, heads will roll)
The evil of the thriller (Heads will roll on the floor)

The Troll King and the Goblin King finally made their way down from their thrones, and each held out a hand to one of their newest prisoners. With a quick “This should be fun,” thrown over his shoulder, Darren hopped down to join Sebastian. Chris sighed and reluctantly accepted Karofsky’s invitation to dance.

'Cause this is thriller, thriller night
Girl, I can thrill you more than any ghost could ever dare try
Thriller, thriller night
So let me hold you tight and share a killer, thriller, ow!

Karofsky danced about as well as Chris would have expected a mash-up between the football-playing Glee character and a troll to do. Which was to say, he managed to stay upright, and didn’t actually maim his partner, but it was a close thing.

Darren seemed to be faring a little better, since Sebastian at least had some sense of rhythm, but Chris noticed that his friend had to keep darting out of reach to avoid the goblin’s wandering hands.

Off with your head
D-dance-dance-dance 'til you're dead
O-off-off-off with your head
D-dance-dance-dance 'til you're dead
O-off-off-off with your head

Chris breathed a sigh of relief when the song finally ended, but it was premature. The trolls and goblins immediately began a new song, and Chris and Darren were compelled to continue dancing with King Karofsky and King Sebastian.

The dancing went on and on, long into the night, until Chris and Darren (who’d been up since midnight the night before) were stumbling around nearly as badly as their partners. Finally, when Chris felt as though he couldn’t dance another step, Jacob Ben Israel struck the stone gong again, silencing everyone in the room.

“Party’s over,” King Sebastian announced. “It’s time for my beauty sleep.”

This time, Chris’s sigh of relief was echoed by every prisoner in the room. The captives shuffled into one of the many tunnels leading out of the central cavern, escorted by spear-toting guards. By this point, none of the humans had the energy or the inclination to resist being taken to the dungeon, where they would at least be allowed to rest.

Once all of the prisoners had been locked in their stone-barred cells, the guards left, taking their torches with them, and plunging the dungeon into the utter darkness that can only be found deep underground. Unable to see his hand in front of his face, Chris felt around until he came in contact with what he hoped was an acceptable-to-grab part of Darren’s anatomy.

“Hey there,” Darren murmured, scooting closer. “You okay?”

“Yeah. Exhausted, but okay.”

“Me too. Let’s try to get some sleep. Here – I managed to keep the satchel slung over my shoulder all night, so at least we’ve still got the blanket to protect us a little from this cold, hard floor.”

Darren fumbled around in the darkness, arranging the blanket as well as he could, and pulling Chris down onto it with him before wrapping the loose end snugly around them both. Chris was glad to be the little spoon, knowing that if he had an inappropriate reaction to his friend’s embrace that it would be less obvious in this position. He lay his head down on the sheepskin satchel and almost instantly fell asleep.

It was impossible to know how much time had passed before they were awakened by the loud clearing of a throat. Opening bleary eyes, Chris found the dungeon illuminated by torchlight. A troll girl stood outside the bars of their cell, staring in at them.

“Hello,” she called. “I’m Princess Trollbecky. What’s your name?”


“I’m not talking to you!” Trollbecky snapped. Then, staring dreamily at Darren and softening her voice, she asked, “Can I call you Butterboy?”

Darren struggled to sit up, shaking his head in sleepy confusion. “Um, no, I’m Darren.”

“Do you have a girlfriend, Darren?”


“Oh good. Are you enjoying your stay?”

“Well,” Darren said, trying to be diplomatic, “I do love dancing. But my friend Chris and I are kind of on a quest right now, so I’d really appreciate it if you’d let us out.”

Trollbecky glared hard at Chris before turning her attention back to Darren. “I could let you out… in exchange for a kiss.”

“Ummm…” Darren said, uncharacteristically at a loss for words.

“Just kiss her,” Chris whispered in his ear. “We need to get out of here.”

“I can’t kiss her!” Darren hissed back. “Lauren’s like my little sister!”

“That isn’t Lauren Potter, it’s Becky Jackson. And it’s not even Becky Jackson, it’s a weird mishmash of her and Trollbella.”

“Well, I still can’t kiss her.”

“Sorry, Darren,” Chris said, hauling his friend to his feet and shoving him toward the bars of their cell.

Trollbecky grabbed Darren’s shirt and pulled him in for a loud, smacking kiss. Darren wrenched himself free as soon as he could, shooting Chris a dirty look. Trollbecky had a huge, satisfied grin on her face.

“Okay, Butterboy,” she said, producing a ring of keys from her pocket. “I’ll let you go, for now. But I’m sure you’ll come back to me as soon as you’re done with your quest.”

For once, Darren wisely kept his mouth shut.

Trollbecky turned the key in the lock and swung the barred door of their cell open. As she did so, Chris pushed her inside, grabbing the ring of keys and slamming the door shut.

“Sorry, Trollbecky, but we’ve got to free the other prisoners,” Darren explained. “Please don’t call for the guards.”

“Oh, they’re all asleep anyway,” Trollbecky replied, a dreamy smile still stretching across her face from horn to horn.

Chris quickly unlocked the doors to the rest of the cells. “Come on,” he called to the startled people within. “We’re getting out of here.”

Roused to action by this unexpected chance at freedom, the prisoners hurried out of the dungeon and made their way back through the tunnel to the main cavern. There they were greeted by the sight of hundreds of trolls and goblins passed out on chairs, tables, and all over the floor. The escapees tiptoed as quietly as they could toward the exit tunnel on the far side of the room.

Once everyone else had made it safely out of the main cavern, Chris and Darren approached the stone dais, where Karofsky and Sebastian were slumped on their thrones, snoring.

“I’ll get the crown,” Darren whispered.

“No, I’d better do it. I’m taller.”

Darren rolled his eyes, but stood back and allowed Chris to scramble up onto the dais. The stone crown they needed for the Wishing Spell was suspended high in the air between the thrones on which the Troll King and the Goblin King were sleeping. There was no way for Chris to reach it without standing on one of the thrones.

Karofsky’s big, meaty forearms were completely covering the armrests of his throne, so Chris climbed up next to Sebastian, careful not to brush against the sleeping goblin. He stretched up as high as he could, fingertips just grazing the edge of the crown. Taking a deep breath, he lengthened his body a tiny bit more, until he was able to grasp onto it.

As Chris wrenched the crown free from whatever invisible thread had been holding it aloft, he lost his balance and toppled into Sebastian’s lap. The Goblin King awoke with a startled yell.

Chris sprang up, leaping from the dais into Darren’s waiting arms. The two of them dashed from the room as King Sebastian shouted for his guards. As they raced through the exit tunnel, Chris and Darren could hear the heavy footfalls of dozens of trolls and goblins pursuing them.

Rounding a corner, Chris and Darren passed between two huge stone statues. A moment after they went by, one of the statues crashed to ground, completely blocking the tunnel. They turned to see Stoner Brett, dusting off his hands, and looking quite pleased with himself.

“That should hold them off for a while,” he said, smiling dopily.

“Thanks! Come on, let’s get out of here before they find a way past that statue.”

“Oh, no. You go on without me. I like it here. The trolls and goblins have the best weed, and they sure know how to throw a party.”

Chris and Darren grinned at each other, then took off up the tunnel toward freedom.

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