The Land of Stories: Gleefully Ever After

The Warbler Council

In which there aren’t any fairies… Well, at least not that kind of fairies…

By the time Chris and Darren emerged from the tunnel into the pre-dawn light, the combination of relief from their narrow escape and exhaustion after three nights with barely any sleep had left them giddy. As they hurried away from the Troll and Goblin Territory, they couldn’t stop laughing.

“Oh my god!” Darren gasped. “Stoner Brett! He’s finally found the life he’s always dreamt of, living underground with a bunch of trolls and goblins, getting high!”

“I know – it’s perfect! And what did you think of King Karofsky and King Sebastian?”

“Couldn’t have cast them better myself!”

“I almost died with the way Karofsky was lurching around, trying to dance!”

“Oh, you got off easy. I had to spend all night dodging Mr. Grabby Hands the Goblin.”

“Yeah, I noticed. Did you see how quickly I jumped off of his lap?”

“You should have seen his expression!”

“You should have seen your expression when Trollbecky kissed you!”

“Oh, I am never forgiving you for that!”

“Awww, come on. Don’t be mad, Butterboy.”

Darren’s eyes flashed in warning. “Don’t you ever call me that again!”

“What’s the matter, Butterboy? You don’t like your new nickname? I think it’s kind of cute. Hmmm…. Butterboy…. Yep, I think that’s what I’ll call you from now on.”

With a roar, Darren lunged for Chris, who darted out of reach and took off at a run. Although his longer legs would normally have given Chris an advantage, he was worn out from their previous exertions. Darren quickly caught him with a flying tackle that sent the two of them sprawling onto the soft grass at the side of the path.

Darren wasn’t a big guy, but he was surprisingly strong. Chris struggled in vain to free himself as Darren wrestled him onto his back and pinned him to the ground.

“What did you call me?” Darren growled, his attempt at sounding threatening somewhat spoiled by the laughter in his eyes.

Chris gazed up at him, his own laughter suddenly dying in his throat. With a supreme effort of will, Chris wrenched himself out from under Darren and scrambled to his feet, brushing himself off and trying to regain control of his breathing.

“Come on, Dare,” Chris said, in as business-like a tone as he could muster. “We need to stop fooling around and focus on gathering the rest of the Wishing Spell items if we’re ever going to get home.”

Darren seemed confused by Chris’s abrupt change in mood, but he shrugged it off and got to his feet. “Okay, what do we have left to find?”

“Well, we’re halfway there. We’ve already got the lock of Emmapunzel’s hair, one of Cinderella’s glass slippers, a piece of bark from Red Riding Hood’s basket, and the stone crown belonging to the Troll King and the Goblin King. We still need the spindle from Sleeping Beauty’s spinning wheel, jewels from Snow White’s coffin, the saber from the deepest sea, and a teardrop from a Warbler.”

“But there weren’t any Warblers in your book. And Blaine’s not a Warbler in this world – he’s Jack, with his beanstalk. Are you sure one of my tears wouldn’t work? You could try pulling my nose hairs to make my eyes water.”

“Ewww! And no! You’re supposed to be an actor. Why can’t you just cry on command, like I can? And anyway, I already told you, you’re not really a Warbler; you just play one on TV.”

“Well, if you hadn’t noticed, the lines between fiction and reality seem to be a little blurred here. I think it’s worth a shot.”

“We’ll keep that as a back-up plan, in case we can’t find any Warblers here. Meanwhile, does the spine of the journal still have a little vial in it, to catch the teardrop if we do find one?”

Darren pulled the journal out of the satchel and checked. Sure enough, there was a small glass vial with a cork stopper hidden in the journal’s spine. He held it up to show Chris, and then carefully stowed it away again so it wouldn’t break.

“We’re nearly to the Fairy Kingdom,” Chris said. “Even though we’re not looking for a fairy’s tears, I think we should still follow the same route that I had the twins take, and hope for the best.”

“Sounds good.”

They walked along in silence for a while, as the scenery around them grew more and more lovely. A sparkling stream meandered alongside the path they were following, and in the distance they could just make out a herd of unicorns grazing on a flower-strewn hillside.

“This sure seems like the Fairy Kingdom to me,” Chris mused. “But I don’t see any fairies.”

Darren placed a hand on his shoulder, halting their progress. “Shh… Listen.”

The faint sound of sniffling could be heard, coming from behind a nearby clump of bushes. Chris and Darren quietly made their way towards the sound. On a flat rock on the other side of the bushes, a young man in a navy-blue blazer sat with his back to them, shoulders shaking with sobs.

Darren quickly retrieved the glass vial before moving forward to put his arm around the dejected figure. “Hey, there,” he said, voice filled with compassion and hands filled with ulterior motives. “What’s wrong?”

The young man’s head jerked up in surprise, and Chris immediately recognized Trent, one of his favorite Warblers.

“Oh! You startled me. I didn’t realize anyone was around,” Trent gasped. Then, visibly trying to pull himself together, he answered Darren’s question. “I have to appear before the Warbler Council in a few minutes. I’m afraid they’re going to banish me from the Warbler Kingdom.”

“Why? What did you do?”

“I totally messed up our choreography. I turned left when I was supposed to turn right, and banged into Jeff. I’m such a klutz!”

“Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself, man. We’ve got the “Perfect” song to cheer you up,” Darren told him, with a significant glance at Chris.

It only took a moment for Chris to pick up on Darren’s cue.

Made a wrong turn, once or twice
Dug my way out, blood and fire
Bad decisions, that's all right
Welcome to my silly life

As he sang, Chris couldn’t help letting his shoulders fall into Kurt’s trademark shimmy.

Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood
Miss 'No way, it's all good'
It didn't slow me down
Mistaken, always second-guessing
Underestimated, look I'm still around

One look at Darren showed that he was channeling Blaine as much as Chris was channeling Kurt. His heart-eyes were turned up to their full wattage as he came in on the chorus.

Pretty, pretty please, don't you ever, ever feel
Like you're less than, less than perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing, you are perfect to me

Dragging his eyes away from Darren long enough to check on Trent, Chris could see that their song was having its intended effect. The Warbler was smiling and swaying along.

You're so mean (you're so mean)
When you talk (when you talk)
About yourself, you were wrong
Change the voices (change the voices)
In your head (in your head)
Make them like you instead

Chris turned his attention back to Darren. He loved it when they got to sing duets together, and this had been a particularly fun one to perform on Glee.

So complicated
Look how big you’ll make it
Filled with so much hatred
Such a tired game
It's enough, I've done all I could think of
Chased down all my demons
I've seen you do the same
Ohh ohhhhhhh

Trent got up and started dancing with them as they reached the second chorus.

Pretty, pretty please, don't you ever, ever feel
Like you're less than, less than perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing, you are perfect

All three of them had a hard time not cracking up as Darren and Chris tried their hands at rapping on the next verse.

The whole world's scared, so I swallow the fear
The only thing I should be drinking is an ice-cold beer
So cool in line and we try, try, try, but we try too hard
And it's a waste of my time
Done looking for the critics, cause they're everywhere
They don't like my jeans, they don't get my hair
We change ourselves and we do it all the time
Why do we do that, why do I do that? (why do I do that?)

When they reached the final chorus, Darren wrapped one arm around Chris’s shoulders, leaning their cheeks together as they sang.

Pretty, pretty please, don't you ever, ever feel
Like you're less than, less than perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing, you are perfect to me

Pretty, pretty please, don't you ever, ever feel
Like you're less than, less than perfect
You're perfect, you're perfect to me
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel
Like you're nothing, you are perfect to me

As they finished the song, Trent gave them a round of applause. Darren bowed, and Chris – still in Kurt-mode – curtsied.

“Would you like us to come with you to your meeting with the Warbler Council?” Chris asked.

“That would be great. Thanks. I guess it wouldn’t make a very good impression for me to be late, so let’s go.”

They found the Warbler Council (all dressed in the familiar blazers) seated in a strange sort of gazebo. It looked as if the walls had been removed from Dalton Academy, while the floor, furniture, and ornate domed ceiling remained. Chris and Darren recognized the members of the Council – Wes, David, Thad, Nick, and Jeff.

Wes banged his gavel. “The Warbler Council is now in session. First order of business will be the hearing regarding Warbler Trent. Please read out the charges against the accused.”

David rose and unfurled a parchment scroll, reading aloud. “It is alleged that Warbler Trent has committed acts of inaccurate footwork, resulting in the disruption of a very important rehearsal. This is a most serious infraction, punishable by banishment from the Warbler Kingdom.”

“Warbler Trent, you have heard the charges against you. How do you plead?”

“Um…” Trent began, but Darren interrupted him.

“Serious infraction?! Hold on. So he bumped into someone – big deal. Are you really going to banish him for making one little mistake?”

Wes banged his gavel. “I will have order!” he commanded.

Darren was undeterred. “This is ridiculous. If perfect dancing is so important to you, you should leave poor Trent alone and go deal with those trolls and goblins.”

“You mock us, sir!” shouted Thad, outraged.

Chris cut in, trying to defuse the situation. “We mean no disrespect. But you should know that the trolls and goblins are kidnapping people and forcing them to dance. And I can promise you, every one of them makes Trent here look like a model of coordination and grace.”

“Is that true?” asked Jeff, eyes wide.

“Yes. We barely escaped.”

“That sounds like a much more significant problem than one botched rehearsal. I think we should forgive Trent, and go pay a visit to the Troll King and the Goblin King,” Nick proposed.

Wes glanced around at the other members of the Council. “All those in favor?”

There was a chorus of ‘aye’s.

“Decided,” Wes declared, with a final bang of his gavel. “Warbler Trent is hereby reinstated in good standing.”

Trent slumped against Darren in relief. “Oh, thank you so much. I don’t know how I can ever repay you.”

“Don’t worry,” Darren said, holding up a little tear-filled vial, “you already have.”

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