The Land of Stories: Gleefully Ever After

A Familiar Face

In which someone fabulous this way comes…

Chris and Darren continued on through the forest. After a while, they came to a small clearing. “Let’s sit on that fallen tree and have a little snack,” Darren suggested.

Chris gladly complied. Darren opened up the sheepskin satchel that Froggy had given him and pulled out a huge apple, a piece of cheese, and a flask of water. He took a bite of the apple, then handed it to Chris.

“Thanks… This has got to be the best apple I’ve ever tasted!”

“I know,” Darren mumbled around a mouthful of cheese. “And this cheddar is to die for,” he added, passing the wedge to Chris.


Chris and Darren traded back and forth, making happy little noises. They nibbled the apple down to the core, unwilling to leave the tiniest bit of fruit uneaten. When the cheese was nearly gone, they began taking smaller and smaller bites, each politely wanting to allow the other to finish it off.

Finally the remaining bit of cheese was so laughably tiny that Chris broke it in half and said, “Here – on the count of three… One, two, three!” and he and Darren simultaneously popped it into their mouths.

After taking a drink from the water flask and passing it to Chris, Darren rummaged around in the satchel and produced a large piece of gingerbread. “Dessert!” he declared triumphantly.

“I don’t remember seeing Froggy put that in there.”

“That’s ‘cause he didn’t. I broke it off of Witch Beiste’s house when she wasn’t looking.”


“Hey, do you want some or not?”

“Oh, definitely.”

They grinned at each other like naughty schoolboys as they devoured the gingerbread. As they were licking the last of the frosting off of their fingers (since Froggy hadn’t provided any napkins) they heard a clear voice floating across the meadow.

I walked across an empty land
I knew the pathway like the back of my hand
I felt the earth beneath my feet
Sat by the river and it made me complete

A beautiful buckskin horse stepped into the clearing. Her golden body matched the gold pants of her rider, and her jet-black mane, tail, and stockings matched his shirt, gloves, and boots. “Oh my god,” Chris breathed. “That’s got to be Kurt Hummelocks.”

Oh, simple thing, where have you gone?
I’m getting old and I need someone to rely on
So tell me when you’re gonna let me in
I’m getting tired and I need somewhere to begin

“God – your voice is gorgeous,” Darren murmured appreciatively. “This is so much better than the version I did.”

“Uh…reality-check, Dare. That’s not me.”

“Yeah, well, he sure sounds a hell of a lot like you,” Darren whispered. “And looks like you, too,” he added, pulling Chris down behind the fallen tree on which they’d been sitting. “Let’s hide. He might freak out if he sees his double.”

I came across a fallen tree
I felt the branches of it looking at me
Is this the place we used to love?
Is this the place that I’ve been dreaming of?

Chris and Darren crouched down even lower, wondering whether Kurt was singing about this particular fallen tree, and whether he sensed their eyes looking at him through the branches.

Oh, simple thing, where have you gone?
I’m getting old and I need someone to rely on
So tell me when you’re gonna let me in
I’m getting tired and I need somewhere to begin

As he sang, Kurt rode around the edge of the clearing, stopping in front of a tree that sported a “Wanted” poster like the one Chris and Darren had seen earlier. Slipping gracefully off of his horse, Kurt ripped the paper down and crumpled it up.

And if you have a minute why don’t we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know
This could be the end of everything
So why don’t we go
Somewhere only we know?
Somewhere only we know…

“Well, Rum Chocolate Soufflé,” Kurt said to his horse, “it looks like they just keep putting these things up faster than I can take them down. I wish there was somewhere only we know, so we could go there to take a day off and relax for a change. But I guess we’ll just have to keep moving.”

While Kurt’s attention was focused on his horse, Chris and Darren took the opportunity to get a better look at him. Chris recognized the black button-down shirt and skin-tight gold pants as the outfit he’d worn to perform “Not the Boy Next Door,” with the addition of taller black boots. Kurt seemed to be wearing the fingerless leather gloves that Chris remembered from his adventures on the scaffolding during “I’m the Greatest Star,” and a pair of sai swords hung from his belt. It was a surprisingly good look on him.

It was obvious that Kurt was a couple of years younger than Chris. He held himself differently, as well. There was something in the determined set of his jaw that made Chris’s heart ache.

Suddenly a piercing wolf howl echoed through the forest. Kurt grabbed his swords. “Get ready, Rum Chocolate Soufflé, we’re about to have company.”

Chris and Darren watched in horror as half a dozen wolves entered the clearing. They were four times the size of normal wolves, and their eyes glowed red. “Oh my god,” Chris mouthed to Darren, hardly daring to breathe. “Why did I write them to be so BIG?”

“I don’t know,” Darren mouthed back. “Those things are fucking terrifying!”

Kurt showed no sign of fear as he faced the largest of the wolves. “Well, if it isn’t Rick the Stick.”

“Rick the Stick?” Darren mouthed. “Who names a wolf Rick the Stick?!?”

“Not me,” Chris mouthed back.

“Kurt Hummelocks,” the wolf growled. “I’m surprised you’re not chained down in some Red Riding Hood Kingdom jail cell yet.”

“I’m surprised you haven’t been turned into a rug for a child’s nursery yet. But I guess you and your big bad wolf pack are too mangy for anyone to want your pelts.”

With a snarl, one of the wolves leapt forward. Kurt twirled his sai swords, leaving two deep gashes in the wolf’s muzzle. Another wolf tried to pounce on Rum Chocolate Soufflé, but she kicked him hard with her rear hooves, flinging him against one of the nearby trees.

The young man and his horse were a perfect team, deftly holding off the circling wolves. They seemed to be at a stalemate, with the wolves afraid to come within reach of the flashing hooves or deadly sai swords, but unwilling to back off. Unfortunately, as Kurt turned to keep Rick the Stick in view, he caught the heel of his boot on an exposed tree root, and toppled to the ground.

The enormous wolf lunged forward, going in for the kill. Without stopping to think, Darren leapt up, brandishing a branch from the fallen tree. “Hey, Rick! Look – a stick! Fetch!” he yelled, throwing it as hard as he could.

Instinctively, the huge wolf turned to dash in pursuit of the stick, bounding three strides before the laughter of the rest of his pack brought him up short. Kurt took the opportunity to regain his feet and lash out at the nearest wolves with his swords. Their laughter quickly turned to howls of pain.

“Retreat!” Rick the Stick ordered his pack. “No snack is worth this much trouble.”

As the wolves vanished into the forest, Kurt brushed himself off and then stroked his horse. “Good girl, Rum Chocolate Soufflé,” he said. Then, turning toward Chris and Darren’s hiding place he called, “It’s safe to come out, now.”

Chris was hesitant to reveal himself, but Darren whispered, “He’s younger than you are, and I bet he hasn’t looked in a mirror in years. I doubt he’ll recognize you.”

Chris and Darren emerged from behind the tree and cautiously approached Kurt. “That was awesome,” Darren gushed.

Kurt was not amused by his enthusiasm. “Yes, well, I do what I have to do to survive.” Then, voice softening a little, he added, “Thanks for the help.”

“Any time, man,” Darren replied with a grin.

Looking back and forth curiously between Darren and Chris, Kurt asked, “Have we met before? The two of you seem familiar.”

With a quick elbow to Darren’s ribs to make sure he didn’t blurt out anything inappropriate, Chris said, “Nope. I’m sure we’d remember if we’d ever met the infamous Kurt Hummelocks.”

Kurt rolled his eyes. “Infamous, notorious, legendary, scandalous – you can’t believe everything you hear.” With one fluid motion, he was back on his horse.

“Here, take this – in case you need it,” Kurt said, pulling a silver dagger from his boot and tossing it on the ground.

“Now, get as far away from here as possible; those wolves will be back sooner than you expect.” And with those final words, Kurt and Rum Chocolate Soufflé galloped off into the forest.

Darren picked the dagger up and handed it to Chris. “Told you Kurt was a bad-ass.”

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