Disclaimer: The following story and characters contained within are based on The Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon, and are owned and copyrighted by... well, your guess is as good as mine. I do know it is not me, so being an honest, law-abiding citizen means the following story is purely for the entertainment and enjoyment (hopefully) of the reader, and no monetary gain from the writing of this story is planned or expected by the author.
Author's note: Some characters and situations of this story are taken from Amy Rummi's fine D&DC fanfic story "Advent", for which I owe a great deal of thanks, for writing such a rich story to build upon, as well as her indespensible help in proofreading and critiquing. Also thanks go out to Victoria Bishop for the last names she bestowed on them in her fanfic "The Gathering," which are used here. Finally, many thanks to Darkhaven Webmaster Kimmy for her help and input, as well as keeping the Darkhaven home fires burning.
Chapter One: Openings and Introductions
The group of park employees set the last picnic banner of the day. Kevin Reaves looked up and read the banner swaying in the morning breeze. It read, "WELCOME SAINT ANNE EPISCOPAL CHURCH" in big royal blue letters. The brown haired eighteen year old nodded in satisfaction.
"All right, guys. Perfect," Kevin said to his fellow workmates. He then turned to view the rest of the picnic area, which had several sections set up for different gatherings, each with its own set of banners and picnic tables. Some even had balloons and volleyball nets. Kevin whistled a "whew" as he noted how busy the area looked, and there wasn't anyone here yet. But then, Kevin knew that it was always busy on opening day. With the sun beaming down from a cloudless sky, Kevin could make out most of the banners from where he was standing. He noted many of the parties were with church groups, and this being Sunday, the place would start packing up after morning services.
Kevin looked at his watch, seeing it was 10:15 AM. "Okay!" Kevin said in a pleased voice to the group of twelve workers that gathered around. "The place looks great! Good job everyone!" Kevin put his hands up in the air to draw everyone's attention. "All right, looks like we're ahead of schedule, so if everybody wants to take a ten-minute break, go right ahead. Just remember, the park's opening in 45 minutes and as you can see..." Kevin spread his arms as to present the area to everyone, "it's going to be super busy today, so just make sure you know where you're supposed to be, okay?"
"Yes, sir! Kevin, sir!" one of the employees said in a mocking tone. The employee was a skinny blonde haired teenager with freckles.
"Knock it off Reggie," Kevin said to the kid with a half grin. "And why aren't you in your uniform?" he asked the blonde-haired teen.
"It makes me itch!" said Reggie. "I'm not wearing the thing a minute longer than I have to."
"All right. Just don't wait 'til the last minute. They want all of us looking presentable," Kevin said, instinctively spread his arms modeling his own uniform as an example. Kevin was wearing a loose fitting long sleeve royal blue dress shirt and dress pant. Also, he wore a bright red vest decorated with colorful pins and designs sewn into the fabric, with his nametag pinned to his left breast pocket. The outfit was completed by an oversized white bowtie decorated with red polka dots. Some of the other workers around Kevin and Reggie were wearing the same thing.
"Presentable..." Reggie guffawed. "I'll look like a dork."
Kevin rolled his eyes. "What do you want, Redge? Want us all to wear black? This is an amusement park!"
They both laughed as all the workers walked the same direction towards one of the gates in a large wooden fence. The side of the fence they came from looked like it came from any park in any town, with mowed grass, trees, and picnic tables. They all passed through the gate, and the other side the ground was covered in blacktop. Nearby were a "Tilt-A-Whirl" ride sitting motionless and an ice cream vendor who nodded as the group passed. Down a ways could be seen the "fairway" with it's booths of games of skill and the new Lazer Tag Arena. And passed that could be seen large rides like a roller coaster, a Ferris wheel, and other spinning rides with names like "The Zipper," "The Octopus," and "The Flying Saucer." And farther down could be made out the attractions of the themed "Fantasy Land." All around, park workers were putting the final touches on the opening day of Loonyland.
It was 40 minutes until the opening of Loonyland.
"Oh please," Reggie said. "Like I want to look like Bozo's accountant."
Kevin had to chuckle a bit. "No, really... you get free tickets to the rides and the shows... everybody from school comes to hang out here, especially on opening day."
"You're just high on it because you're used to it. You've worked here... what? This'll be your third summer, right?"
"Yep. Last summer before college."
"Yeah, well, I've been working in my dad's pet store for every summer that I can remember," Reggie said dishearteningly.
Kevin looked at his friend sympathetically. "Maybe things will pick up. Maybe your dad can open the store again."
"No, no..." Reggie said quietly, looking down at his feet. "My dad says he's too old and there's no future in it for a kid like me. He wants me to join the Army. We're... not getting along."
"Oh." Kevin didn't know what to say after that.
"I just took this job because there's nothing else in town. This was the only place hiring, and I need the money."
Kevin and Reggie walked in uncomfortable silence for a minute. Then Reggie looked inquisitively at Kevin. "So, what do they have you doing?" Reggie asked.
"Oh, I was told that Mrs. Kornheiser wants to talk to me."
Reggie nodded. He knew Mrs. Kornheiser was one of the assistant managers, and the offices were near the entrance to the park, near the employee changing rooms. "Ohhh, you are a big shot, huh?"
"Hyuh," Kevin exhaled. "I'm just a gopher with a bigger hole. The real important jobs go to the guys who work year round."
"So... what? You in trouble?" Reggie asked.
"I dunno. Don't think so."
Reggie and Kevin entered the open square which sat just inside the entry gate to Loonyland. In the center of the square was a large fountain shaped like a giant cartoon like statue of a loon that started to spring to life as the teens paused to stand by it. Customers could be seen gathering outside the entrance.
"Well, I'm off to put on my happy suit," Reggie said, nodding his head toward the employee area.
"Yeah, good luck. And smile a lot. They like that."
Reggie rolled his eyes as he started to walk away. Kevin started to walk in the other direction when he suddenly turned back to his friend.
"Hey! Where do they have you working?" Kevin yelled.
Reggie didn't even turn to answer. "The D-n-D!"
"The what?" Kevin asked.
Reggie looked over his shoulder to answer as he entered the door to the employee area. "The... Dungeons...and Dragons... Ride!"
Kevin had to admit he was curious about the whole situation. By what Mrs. Kornheiser said, she gave the impression that this new visitor was to be treated like visiting royalty. Kevin passed several groups of excited families, ready to enter to enter the main entrance of the park, as he strolled through the exit turnstile out to the parking lot. He pulled the out piece of paper Mrs. Kornheiser had given him out of his vest pocket.
Sitting in the small office of Mrs. Kornheiser, Kevin glanced at his watch for what seemed like the hundredth time. It was 10:45 AM. Kevin sighed and slumped down in his chair, passing the time looking at the pictures on the wall. Old posters and playbills from summers past dotted the walls. There was a clipping of an old newspaper encased in glass. "Elvis Greets Fans at Fun Fair Amusement Park" read the headline of the clip, and sure enough there was a picture of the King smiling and waving, with the park sign behind him.
Kevin could hear the door begin to open behind him and he immediately straightened up in the chair. In walked Mrs. Norma Kornheiser, a small well-rounded redhead in her late thirties, wearing a simple red summer dress with white polka dots. In her hands was a clipboard, which she dropped unceremoniously on her desk as she sat down.
"Ohhhh, sorry to keep you waiting Kevin," Norma said, trying to sound pleasant, but there was no hiding how tired she was. "There's just so much to get ready."
"I know. That's all right," Kevin said.
"I just took a look at the picnic area. You tell everybody they did a fine job. Everything looks great."
"Thanks, I will," Kevin said smiling, pleased at how this conversation was going. "It looks like we're going to have more people than last year."
"I'm sure," Norma leaned forward a bit in her chair. "This is your third summer with us, right?"
"Are you off to college?" Norma asked.
"Going up the road?" she asked, referring to the local university.
"No. I think I want to go to school out of state. Go be on my own."
"'Boy from small town in the big city' kind of thing, eh?" Norma asked smiling.
"Something like that," Kevin said.
"Well, you should do fine. You've always done a good job around here, and everybody knows that. You're good with people... that's why I called on you here." Norma said.
"Well, that's what 'public relations' is all about," Kevin said trying to sound enthusiastic, but was a bit anxious about where this was leading.
Norma peered at Kevin more intently. "Apparently, we have a VIP coming to visit the park today."
"Oh, okay," Kevin said, raising his eyebrows.
Norma grabbed her clipboard from her desk and gave it a quick once over. "Right. It's the darnedest thing. It just came up all of a sudden... I'm not sure of all the details here, but apparently this man's people gave us a call this morning to let us know he's coming."
"He has 'people'?" Kevin asked with a mild grin.
Norma's smile matched his. "Oh, of course. All the real VIP's have 'people,' Kevin."
"Anyway, he must be pretty important since the office seems to be in a real stir about it. They called me in and asked me who would be the best man to escort this gentleman into the park, and I immediately thought of you," Norma said, pointing her finger at Kevin.
"Really?" Kevin asked. "I mean, is this 'official'? Maybe someone higher up in the office staff should..."
"No, no, no... Nothing like that," Norma said. "This man is in a wheelchair and not in the best of health... Mr. Leonard just thought one of our staff should be there to meet him. Of course, I'll bet the office is hoping this'll turn into something more 'official' later. They want to make a good first impression."
"Well, I'll do my best, Mrs. Kornheiser," Kevin said, smiling.
"I know you will." Norma ripped a piece of paper off a notepad on her clipboard, and handed it to Kevin. "Here's the man's name and where to meet him. They want you to meet him in the parking lot. I'm sure he'll have one of his 'people' there, too. When he arrives, just lead him through the employee gate to avoid the lines, and after that Mr. Leonard will greet him, I guess. I was told to... extend the highest courtesy." Norma said in a more formal tone. She then glanced at her watch. "Whoa. We're all runnin' late, aren't we? He's due to arrive just as the park opens. You got about ten minutes." Norma then stood up from the desk and started to walk for the door of her office. "I have to run some errands myself, so good luck and have fun."
"Right. Okay, see you later," Kevin said as he got up and followed Norma out of the office with piece of paper in hand.
Kevin mumbled to himself, "I guess they really want to schmooze up to you, Mister..." As he looked down at the paper, he looked at the name curiously. It was an oddly spelled name to his eyes.
"Oh, man," Kevin said, picturing himself mispronouncing the man's name when they first meet. "Great first impression," Kevin said dryly.
The parking lot of Loonyland was divided up into several sections; each named after a particular animal. Norma's note said "Monkey Section, Lot A." Kevin made out a picture of a very happy looking red and blue monkey on a sign nearby and walked towards it. Another sign read "Section A--Reserved Parking Only."
"Oh, of course," Kevin said, rolling his eyes.
Kevin glanced at his watch... it was 11:00 AM. He heard the voices of the crowd near the gate rise in excitement as the first customers started flooding in like a tide through the turnstiles. He could see groups of young teenagers and preteens speed off as soon as they were in the park; determined to be the first of the season to ride their favorite thrill ride. He heard someone in the distance yell, "No running!" It never worked.
Kevin couldn't help but smile thinking he acted the same way coming on quite a few of the park's openings. Growing up in this area all his life, he had clocked more time on more rides in this park than anyone he knew had; he loved coming here. On most of the days he came to the park, he would spend most of the early afternoon getting his need for thrills out of his system by riding all the rides. Then as the day went on and more of the kids his age started to arrive, he would just hang out at the arcade or play a quick game of touch football in the picnic area with his friends from school.
As Kevin leaned against the "Section A" sign, waiting, he noticed how the newly tarred parking lot looked. As black as charcoal under the near midday sun. It reminded Kevin how many changes the park had gone through since he was a kid. When he took his first trip to the park with his parents when he was six, it only had half of the rides it contained now. The parking lot was small enough that they didn't need guide posts filled with happy looking animals to guide people to their cars. The park celebrated its small town roots, calling itself "Fun Fair" back then. Churches and families used it as a place for gatherings. All the kids used it as a hang out during the summer. For the people of the community, it was their own private place for friendly diversion.
Unfortunately, though the locals grew to like the place, the owners needed more customers. Over the years they built bigger, faster rides. They changed the park's name to Loonyland, complete with Loony, the red and blue suited giant loon mascot. They promoted heavily in nearby cities and towns, with mixed success, bringing in louder, rowdier tourists, which annoyed some of the local townsfolk. Kevin, however, couldn't have been happier with more things to do at the park.
This year was no different. There were a few new attractions in the old section of the park, like the new improved parachute drop, but this year most of the money went into expanding Fantasy Land. They built a Pirate Island play land for the kids too small to get on the big rides, and they put in more props and decoration to push the whole mystical medieval theme they were trying to present. But the biggest new arrival to the park was the "Dungeons and Dragons" ride.
"The D-n-D," Kevin said to himself with a wry smile. Kevin thought it was about time the park put in their own version of a "Tunnel of Love," and with the "Dungeons and Dragons" ride, the park was sparing no expense. The ride led passengers in a coaster car sent down on tracks into the mouth of large dragon and into a long tunnel of a man made hill populated with animated beasts and creatures like ogres and Minotaurs and a dragon breathing real fire! Then as the ride progressed, the tunnel would get darker and darker until it was pitch black. Then, in the grand finale, the tunnel would light up in a brilliant flash and the riders would be taken between the legs of a five-headed dragon spitting fire and steam. Kevin was sure there were going to be quite a few kids that were in for a surprise at the end of that ride!
The feeling of a wet nose sniffing his hand interrupted Kevin's thoughts. As he instinctively snatched his hand away, he backed up to see a large brown shaggy dog panting contently.
"Stay Fred!" a voice said a few feet away. Kevin saw a small girl, maybe nine or ten years old by Kevin's guess, with black hair in a ponytail come running up to them. A blue leash was in her hand.
"Sorry, mister. He got away from me," said the girl, going down on one knee to tie the leash around the dog's collar.
"I'm not surprised. He's bigger than you are!" Kevin joked. It was true; the dog the size of a St. Bernard, though it looked like it was growing a gray beard, and had some features like a Scottish terrier.
"He's okay. He's harmless, right big boy? You big sweeeetheart!" she said while scratching the dog's head. "Can I ask you something, mister?"
"Sure, what do you need?" Kevin answered, glancing at his watch.
"Are dogs allowed in the park where the rides are?" the girl asked hopefully.
"I'm sorry. Only Seeing-Eye dogs are allowed on the park grounds," Kevin said in a sympathetic tone.
"Oh, I kinda thought so. He just likes to follow me wherever I go. Sorry, Fred," she said stroking the dog's back. "I guess you're going to have to stay behind at the picnic."
"You're with one of the groups in the picnic area?" Kevin asked.
"Mm-hmm," she said.
"Oh. Well, have fun!"
"Thank you. This is my first time here! It looks really cool!" she called out buoyantly as she ran off. Kevin couldn't help but feel a little jealous of the girl, being able to visit the park for the first time to see the park through fresh eyes.
As the girl ran out of sight, Kevin noticed a large black four-door sedan slowing down near where he stood. Judging by the look of the shiny black car with its darkly tinted windows, he guessed that his VIP guest had arrived. Kevin straightened up and smoothed out his uniform as the car slowed to a stop. Out of the driver's seat came a tall, well-built blonde haired man in a dark suit and tie. He gave a quick nod to Kevin and went to the back of the car to open the trunk. As Kevin watched with curiosity, the man pulled out of the trunk a folded up wheelchair and what seemed like a small tank, similar to the ones Kevin sees to carry helium for balloons. The man opened the chair and looked to be rigging the tank to it.
"Do you need my help?" Kevin asked.
"Mm-mmm," he hummed as the man shook his head. With the tank fastened to the chair, he wheeled it over to the back door of the passenger side of the sedan. As the blonde haired man opened the door, another man slowly and deliberately stepped out of the car. He was an elderly looking man; his head was bald with only a halo of silver hair behind his ears, which spread to the back of his head. As he stood up to stretch, Kevin noticed he was tall and rather thin. He wore a pair of pressed gray wool slacks, and a simple light blue polo shirt; he had on expensive Italian looking leather shoes and had what looked to Kevin to be a very valuable looking gold watch. Kevin reasoned that whoever this man was, he wasn't hurting for money.
"Good morning!" the old man greeted Kevin boldly as he settled in his wheelchair. Kevin noted the presence of a foreign accent in the man's voice as he reached out his hand.
"Good morning!" Kevin returned with a smile, grasping his hand and noticing how firm the old man's handshake was. The moment of truth came: "Welcome to Loonyland, Mister..." Kevin paused slightly, "Mueller."
The old man smiled knowingly. "Yes... Mueller. Josef Mueller."