The Land of Stories: Gleefully Ever After

Having a Ball

In which we meet some old friends, and there is lots of gratuitous pointing…

Chris and Darren stood in the center of a bustling market town, gazing about in awe. During the cart-ride with Smithers (whom Chris could barely look at without feeling like his head was going to explode) they had learned that Quinderella would be hosting a royal ball at the palace that evening. All around them, people were buzzing with excitement at the prospect.

“Does everyone here look kind of familiar to you?” Darren asked.

“Yeah. I couldn’t name any of them, but I think I recognize a bunch of extras from Glee.”

“This whole experience is so trippy. I mean, how does this mash-up thing work? Do you think all the main characters on Glee ended up as main characters in your book, and the extras are the minor characters? Or do you think the characters got fused together based on looks, or personality, or names, or what?”

“I can’t find any rhyme or reason to it. Coach Beiste is nothing like the witch I wrote about, and Rapunzel didn’t even show up in the tower in my book. Sandy Ryerson made a perfect bridge troll, so I guess that one was based on personality… And Rick the Stick is a bully, like the Big Bad Wolf.”

“Well, I thought Kurt was flawless as Goldilocks. Not the original folk-tale little girl, but your version of the kick-ass, sword-wielding outlaw. Kurt Hummelocks is totally awesome.”

“You got a little crush there, Dare?”

“Hey, don’t be jealous. You’re the only one I really love,” Darren teased back, making kissy faces at Chris.

Chris rolled his eyes. “And now we’re going to meet Quinderella. I guess that’s kind of appropriate. I mean, the name works. And in my book Cinderella is pregnant, and Quinn is the only member of Glee Club who’s been pregnant…. I wonder who King Charming is going to be. Do you think it’ll be Finn, since he was her boyfriend during the whole pregnancy thing?”

“No. I bet Finn is Froggy. That would explain why he’s so tall.”

“Yeah, that makes sense. Oh, god. I’m afraid Puck is going to be King Charming.”

Darren laughed. “Would that be irony? Or satire?”

“Neither. It would just be wrong. But I’ll bet that’s what happens.”

“Well, we’ll find out tonight. Come on. Let’s stock up on supplies while we have the chance.”

Chris and Darren spent a delightful afternoon wandering around the marketplace, marveling over all of the beautiful handcrafted items for sale. Chris had to put his foot down and insist that they spend the gold coins Froggy had given them on food only, rather than buying souvenirs for all of their friends back home. As much as Darren begged, and as tempting as a shopping spree was, Chris knew that they’d need to budget wisely if they didn’t want to end up starving before they completed the Wishing Spell.

As evening approached, they noticed a long line of elegant carriages heading toward the palace. “Looks like the ball is about to begin,” Chris said. “Let’s go.”

“How are we going to get in without invitations?”

“Well, in my book, after the snooty guard tried to turn the twins away, Sir Lampton let them in. We’ll just have to hope that he lets us in, too.”

“He’s the head guard, right? I wonder if he’ll be someone we know from Glee.”

“Only one way to find out. Come on.”

Up close, the palace was even more impressive than Chris had envisioned. He and Darren made their way up an endless flight of steps leading to the entryway. A guard stood at the top, collecting invitations.

“Uh oh, it’s Principal Figgins,” Darren warned. “I hope we don’t get detention for trying to sneak in.”

Chris snorted, scanning the crowd for any other familiar faces. Just as they reached the top of the stairs, he spotted one a little way off. “Look, there’s Burt,” he whispered to Darren. “He must be Sir Lampton.”

“Invitations, please,” Figgins said, holding out his hand.

“We’re here with Burt,” Chris told him.

“You know Sir Burt?” Figgins asked dubiously.

“Yeah, he’s my uncle,” Chris said, praying that this would work.

Figgins gave their t-shirts and jeans a scathing look. “I don’t think so. If you don’t have invitations, you need to step aside. You’re holding up the line.”

“Burt!” Darren cried out loudly, jumping up and down and waving his arms wildly to attract the head guard’s attention. “Hey, Burt! Tell him we’re with you!”

Sir Burt stared in their direction with an odd expression on his face, as though he knew them from somewhere, but couldn’t quite remember where. “It’s all right, Figgins,” he called out. “Those young men are with me. Send them through.”

Chris and Darren let out sighs of relief, quickly making their way through the crowd to where Sir Burt stood waiting.

“You seem to know my name, but I can’t recall where we’ve met,” the head guard said, looking at them curiously.

“I’m sorry, we haven’t met properly, but we’ve heard so many wonderful things about you. We’ve never been to the Charming Kingdom before, and we just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to attend a royal ball. I hope that’s okay,” Chris replied nervously.

“I understand. I would have tried to pull the same stunt at your age. Enjoy the ball, and afterwards I’ll give you a tour of the palace.”

“Thank you so much!”

With a bow, Sir Burt left them and returned to his post. Chris and Darren followed the other guests to a spectacular ballroom where a trio of musicians was playing a lively waltz.

Darren held out his hand. “May I have this dance?”

Chris glanced around the ballroom. Most of the couples on the dance floor appeared to be straight, but he did see a few men dancing with men, and women dancing with women, so he figured that he and Darren wouldn’t cause any more of a scene by dancing together than they already were just by standing there in their outlandish clothes.

“Alright. But only if you let me lead.”

“Of course.”

One dance turned into half a dozen, as Chris and Darren got caught up in the excitement, whirling around the floor in the midst of all of the elegantly dressed couples. Chris was just about to suggest that they take a break to find something to drink, when the blaring of a trumpet caused a hush to fall over the assembled crowd.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the man with the trumpet announced, “please give a warm welcome to Their Royal Majesties, King Charming and Queen Quinderella!”

The guests cheered and burst into applause as the royal couple entered the ballroom, slowly making their way down the curving grand staircase. Chris gave Darren a wry look when he realized that his prediction had been correct. Puck was, indeed, King Charming, and Quinn was very, very pregnant.

King Charming led Queen Quinderella to an ornate throne and helped her to sit down. “I have prepared a song for my beautiful wife,” he proclaimed.

The musicians struck up a tune, and Puck began to sing:

Having my baby
What a lovely way of saying
How much you love me
Having my baby
What a lovely way of saying
What you're thinking of me

“Oh my god,” Chris whispered to Darren. “I thought nothing could be cheesier than the version of this song that Ryan made Cory do. But I was so, so wrong.”

I can see it
Your face is glowing
I can see it in your eyes
I'm happy knowin'
That you're having my baby
You're the woman I love
And I love what it's doin' to you
Having my baby
You're a woman in love
And I love what's goin' through you

Darren was grinning from ear to ear. He was a huge fan of cheesiness.

The need inside you
I see it showin'
Oh, the seed inside you
Baby, do you feel it growin'
Are you happy in knowin'
That you're having my baby

“Stop smiling,” Chris hissed. “You’re going to make me laugh, and then we’re going to be thrown in the dungeon for treason.”

But Darren’s smile just grew wider as Quinderella chimed in with:

I'm a woman in love
And I love what it's doin' to me
Having my baby (Puck sang in counterpoint)
I'm a woman in love and I love
What's goin' through me

By this point Chris was biting the inside of his cheek, trying to keep a straight face. It was all he could do to hold in his mirth as Puck delivered his last lines with the sappiest look of adoration Chris had ever seen on his face.

You're the woman I love
And I love what it's doin' to you
You’re having our baby

The tumultuous applause drowned out Chris’s laughter, and he hid his face against Darren’s neck so that no one would see his expression.

“The queen is tired, and must rest,” King Puck Charming announced, once the crowd had quieted. “But please, continue to enjoy the ball.” With that, he helped Quinderella to her feet, and began the laborious process of assisting her back up the grand staircase.

“Would you like to dance some more, or should we find Burt and see if we can get that tour of the palace he promised us?” Darren asked.

“Let’s find Burt. With any luck, he’ll show us where Quinderella’s glass slippers are kept.”

Sir Burt wasn’t difficult to locate, as he was stationed right outside the ballroom door. He was happy to provide Chris and Darren with a palace tour. He began by escorting them down a long hallway, the walls of which were hung with the portraits of previous monarchs of the Charming Kingdom. Sir Burt named each one as they passed.

As they neared the end of the hallway, Sir Burt pointed out a particularly large, imposing portrait. “This is Queen Quinderella’s late father-in-law. Old King Charming never married, but he loved children, so he adopted four sons. Here are the portraits of the four princes when they were younger. As you know, Prince Puck Charming married Quinderella, and took over as monarch of the Charming Kingdom when his father passed away. Prince Sam Charming married Snow White, and now rules the Northern Kingdom with her. Prince Mike Charming married Sleeping Tina, and they govern the Sleeping Kingdom. Sadly, the youngest son, Prince Finn Charming, disappeared years ago, and no one has seen him since.”

Chris gave Darren a significant look. Now they were both sure that Froggy was Finn.

Sir Burt continued with his tour, eventually leading them to a pair of black double doors flanked by guards. Above the doors was a stone arch with a sign that read Queen Quinderella’s Royal Room of Display. Sir Burt greeted the guards, who bowed respectfully and stood aside to let him pass into the room. Chris and Darren followed eagerly.

Inside, the room was filled with mementos of the magical evening on which Quinderella had met Prince Charming. Chris immediately spotted the glass slippers, which occupied a pedestal in the center of the room. They were made from pure crystal glass, and decorated with diamonds. Sir Burt continued his tour around the room, describing the significance of each of the objects, but Chris’s eyes never left the glass slippers. How would he and Darren be able to take one without getting caught?

Suddenly a soldier burst into the room. He was wearing silver armor that gleamed in the light of the oil lamps, and he carried a shield with a large, red apple painted on it. “Sir Burt!” he cried, pointing dramatically at the head guard. “I am Sir Cooper, commander of Queen Snow White’s Royal Guard. I come bearing news of the gravest importance!”

“Yes?” Sir Burt responded, seeming to be a little taken aback by the theatrical way in which Sir Cooper was waving his arms about.

“It’s the Evil Queen! She’s escaped from our dungeon!” Sir Cooper cried, pointing at the floor as though he was referring to a dungeon directly under their feet. “And the Magic Mirror has disappeared from her former chambers!” he added ominously, pointing for emphasis at a perfectly ordinary mirror hanging on the wall.

While Sir Burt’s attention was distracted by Sir Cooper’s wild gesticulations, Darren took the opportunity to surreptitiously slide one of Quinderella’s glass slippers into his satchel. Chris caught him out of the corner of his eye and winked.

“Until the Evil Queen has been apprehended, no one is safe!” Sir Cooper declared, giving an especially menacing point of his finger toward each of them in turn.

“I must go and inform the king and queen at once,” Sir Burt said, remarkably calmly considering the ever more frenzied pointing and shouting of Sir Cooper. “Please excuse me.”

Chris and Darren followed Sir Burt out of the room, and then quickly left the palace. They hoped to be far away before anyone noticed that one of Quinderella’s glass slippers was missing.

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