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1. Before They Try

"..and enjoy your day at Cedar Point…the RollerCoast," said Gregory Best, for the 786th time that day. He drawled it with a vaguely southern accent, despite the fact that he was born and raised in London, Ontario. For interest, he thought to himself. God knows that something needs to be interesting around here! God also knew, presumably, why Gregory ("Greg" or occasionally "Pimpmaster G" to his friends) had decided that taking a summer job in the States had seemed so alluring. Very quick was Greg's realization that amusement park work was neither a blast nor tolerable in any way.

As Greg saw it, the crowning insult was that he had to work the Dungeons and Dragons ride. Losers, he grumbled to himself, watching the tides of casually-dressed Americans attack the ride that he considered most outdated and lame. This ride seemed to attract a diverse range of ages and types of people, from your perfect nuclear family, to Goths. What they saw in this relic, he had no idea.. At least he was spared the indignity of having to monitor the Berenstein Bears' tree.

Greg looked on with foggy disinterest as the latest train left the pavilion, and turned around with resignation as the next train returned from a trip.

--

After the Dungeonmaster's "star pupils" had overcome the shock that Venger was his son (!!), they were even more overwhelmed with the prospect of going home. Home, at last.

The key which Venger had used to seal his powers (and his conscience), was one of the Realm's most ancient artifacts: the Dragonkey. Only the pure of heart could wield the Key's powers: not even the Dungeonmaster could use the key. Despite his goodness, his heart was not pure- a price he paid for the power he wielded.

Not even Venger had used the key; he had merely tied his soul to it.

Dungeonmaster never regretted bringing the six children from Earth into the Realm and keeping them there, because they were among the few souls that he could detect on any plane of existence who possessed the necessary spirit with which he could cleanse the Realm of Venger's taint. In doing so, they were also able to free the hundreds of thousands of unwary peoples who had wandered into the Realm through complex rifts in the fabric of space and time. Such was the power of the Key.

Just as he had given them weapons, through many trials the Dungeonmaster had forced the children to become weapons. And yet, even he was amazed by the power of these pupils of his to confound the most difficult traps and dangers that Venger had set before them. Surely none of his other pupils had ever possessed such talent, such passion for life, such hallowed integrity. Although the Dungeonmaster had used them to fulfil his goal, it seemed to him that the children were called by some power quite outside of his comprehension .

In the end, each one of them decided to go home. It was not surprising that the children wanted to go. Dungeonmaster blessed this wish, and with the powers at his command, he was able to fulfil it. And yet….as the children laid down their weapons, with Uni bleating sadly off to the side (and Bobby having a difficult time dealing with Uni's pain), Dugeonmaster hesitated before forming a portal.

"When it needs to be, the Realm will always be open to you" he said. "It is the least that can be done for you, my dear students."

Hank nodded. "Thank you, Dungeonmaster. I think we've all learned a lot from being here." The others nodded in assent, but Eric couldn't help but add: "I don't know what's worse…that something so horrible would come up that you'd need to call us back, or that something bad enough would happen to us back on Earth that we'd want to come back here! Sheesh."

"Indeed." Dugeonmaster looked carefully upon his young charges, evaluating them. "Life is full of challenges, small as well as great. But the greatest challenge is that which tests the human heart. May all you never be found lacking." He paused. "Goodbye, and goodluck. Or rather, godspeed."

--

Greg the Pimpmaster was not at all surprised when Train #3 rolled into docking position, and six nameless, pointless people filed out. He was surprised, however, to get an expansive hug from one of the passengers. He watched her a bit breathlessly as she followed the others off the platform: she was a lovely redhead, with pale porcelain skin. They all seemed excessively animated and happy. Bewildered, he returned to his work. "That was some ride!" he heard fadingly as they left. Damn.

--

After Eric had secured frozen Cokes for all, they walked around aimlessly for a while, not really wanting to go on any more rides, but a bit reluctant to leave altogether. A carnie called out after them as they wandered, "Step right up and win a prize! Knock the bottle down and amaze your friends." Diana laughed. "Ooh, Hank? I don't think fighting Venger will impress me as much as your conquering that bottle over there."

Hank looked back. "Is that so?" He made as if to turn around.

Sheila grabbed her brother's arm. "Look! It's cotton candy!" Presto started sneezing. "Oh no! My allergies…" Both Sheila and Bobby stopped from their dash to the Cotton Candy Man to look curiously at Presto. "You're allergic to cotton candy?"

Eric leaned in close to Presto, and said in a conspiratorial whisper "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard." "Hey!" protested Presto. "For the record, that's all," said Eric.

--

As Bobby was busy finishing off the last of Sheila's pink cotton snack, Hank was busy remembered the many conversations that had occurred among the companions regarding this very moment: homecoming. Is it amazing how casual we are being? After all, even though the taste of the frozen Coke still lingered in his mouth (a wonderful remembrance of sodas past and a glorious harbinger of sodas yet to come), he was in no particular hurry to reaquaint his appetite with further Earthian nourishment. It was almost as if a part of him wished he was still back in the Realm, and was rebuking him for returning. I know I'll miss it there. Am I the only one who feels this way?