Chris and Darren were lost. Darren didn’t realize this yet, since Chris was too embarrassed to admit it, but they were definitely lost.
There were two reasons why Chris was ashamed to confess that he’d led them astray. The first was that he was the one who was supposed to know every rock, every tree, every pathway in this land. After all, he’d created them, hadn’t he? That’s why he’d been the one setting their course this whole time, and Darren had been trustingly following along.
The second reason was even more humiliating. Chris had wandered off the path because, instead of paying attention to where they were going, he’d been daydreaming about Darren in a none-too-platonic way. This was definitely not something he was ready to acknowledge.
Of course, Chris had gotten a crush on Darren way back when they first started working together. But then again, who hadn’t? Darren was undeniably attractive, and the way he was so flirtatious and openly affectionate with everyone he met was hard not to fall for.
However, Chris had soon realized that, for the sake of his own sanity, he would have to channel all of his romantic feelings for Darren into Kurt’s feelings for Blaine. He accepted the fact that, as Chris and Darren, they could never be more than friends. And the truth was, they were great together as friends. And it was enough. At least, it had been enough…
Now, though, something seemed to be shifting inside of Chris, bringing those old feelings of attraction back to the forefront of his consciousness, and he was finding it very disconcerting. So, instead of trying to figure out where they were going, he mulled his emotions over in his head, hoping that if he could understand them, then he could more easily control them.
Maybe this was just a weird form of character bleed, brought on by witnessing Kurt and Blaine kissing. Or perhaps there was something about this fairy tale world they were in that made everything seem romantic. Or (and Chris could feel his face heating up at the memory) maybe it was simply his body’s reaction to having accidentally rolled on top of Darren last night when they’d both been naked…
Chris’s musings were cut abruptly short as he and Darren were suddenly whisked into the air, suspended in a giant rope net. They’d walked right into a trap.
It didn’t take long for their startled cries to be heard by the creatures who had set the snare. A troll and a goblin popped out from behind a nearby tree.
“Well, look what we have here,” growled the troll.
“Oh, the kings will reward us handsomely for these two,” gloated the goblin.
Although their faces and bodies were somewhat distorted – with horns on the troll and pointy ears on the goblin – Chris and Darren could still recognize Azimio and Jacob Ben Israel.
“We need to get the stone crown for the Wishing Spell,” Chris whispered to Darren. “So let’s just allow these guys to take us to the troll and goblin kings without a struggle.”
“No problem,” Darren whispered back. “You know me – I’m a lover, not a fighter,” he added, winking at Chris.
Chris tried hard to remember how he would usually respond to Darren’s flirting. He didn’t want his friend to notice any change in his behavior that could lead to awkward questions. He settled on raising one eyebrow, figuring that was a safe default reaction.
Azimio, the troll, ran off. He returned a moment later, driving a small cart pulled by a tired-looking donkey. Jacob Ben Israel, the goblin, cut a rope above the net, and Chris and Darren fell into the back of the cart. Then the goblin hopped up beside the troll, and they set off as fast (or, more accurately, as slowly) as the donkey could go.
The manufacturer of the donkey cart had clearly never heard of shock absorbers. With every rut or rock the cart rolled over, Chris and Darren were jostled together inside the net. Chris would not have found this to be particularly comfortable under any circumstances, but with his current heightened awareness of Darren’s body, it was torture.
Darren wasn’t helping matters any. He squirmed around, wriggling until he was able to bring them face-to-face within the close confines of the net. With the next jolt of the cart, Chris was knocked onto his back, with Darren half on top of him. Chris gritted his teeth, trying his best to think un-sexy thoughts.
An agonizing while later, the donkey pulled the cart through a gap between two of the giant boulders surrounding the Troll and Goblin Territory. They entered a desolate landscape, devoid of any signs of life. Ahead, the path they were following descended into a cavernous hole in the ground.
As the cart rolled down deep into the earth, it passed under a stone arch. Chris and Darren shot each other confused looks as they read the message carved into it:
OR BE AFRAID
WELCOME TO SCANDALS
“Um… What’s Scandals?” Darren asked their captors.
“What do you mean, ‘What’s Scandals?’ Where have you been living, under a rock?” the goblin taunted.
“Ha! Ha! Good one, Jacob!” sniggered the troll. “Under a rock! Ha!”
Chris rolled his eyes. Azimio wasn’t any more likeable as a troll than he’d been as a football player.
It soon became apparent that Scandals was the name of the underground city inhabited by the trolls and goblins. The path wound on and on, always traveling downward. All around, Chris and Darren could see small stone huts stacked on top of each other. The faces of curious trolls and goblins peered out at them as they passed.
Eventually, the tunnel they were in opened out into a vast cavern, lit by torches. Everything in the cavern was made of stone: trolls and goblins sat on stone chairs at stone tables, eating from stone plates and drinking from stone goblets. In the center of the room, high on a stone dais, the Troll King and the Goblin King sat on their stone thrones. Suspended above their heads, directly between them, was the stone crown that Chris and Darren needed to collect for the Wishing Spell.
As the cart neared the dais, Chris and Darren were finally able to get a clear view of the kings. With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, Chris recognized the Troll King as David Karofsky, and the Goblin King as Sebastian Smythe. The looks on their faces as they stared down at the cart were distinctly unsettling.
Azimio and Jacob Ben Israel bowed low before their monarchs. Then Azimio hopped into the back of the cart and roughly hauled Chris and Darren to their feet, still restrained inside the rope net.
“We come bearing gifts for our kings,” Jacob Ben Israel said obsequiously.
“Perfect timing,” King Karofsky rumbled. “The banquet is nearly over, and we needed some fresh meat.”
“Mmm…mmm…mmm…” King Sebastian added with a leer. “Looks like we’ll be having sex-on-a-stick tonight.”