As dusk fell and the Taco Bell rang its joyous peals, happy villagers drifted from Holdermayo through the outer gates of the White Castle into the courtyard, where they joined the already seated members of the Burger King’s army, Prince Carl’s citizen army, and Asiago’s makeshift navy. At the far end of the courtyard, a large dais had been constructed on which the King’s table sat, for the moment empty.
At the appointed time, the Taco Bell ceased ringing and a trumpet fanfare announced the arrival of the royal family. As the guests respectfully stood, the Burger King, the Dairy Queen, and Prince Carl, dressed in their finest raiment, emerged from the castle and took their places at the center of the high table. Joining them at the table were Colonel Sanders, Asiago, Popeye, Baskin, Robin, Portillo, In-N-Out, the Hamburglar, Jimmy John (who clearly looked uncomfortable in his new set of clothes), and Wendy (who was disgruntled about having to dress up at all). Once the guests were assembled, the Burger King motioned with his hands for everyone to take their seats. He, however, remained standing.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he called out in a loud, clear voice, “citizens of Dryv-Thru all. I am sure that you are as eager as I am to partake in what will be a feast to surpass all feasts…” At that, the crowds burst into cheering and applause. After a few moments, the King raised his hands and everyone quieted.
“However, before we begin the festivities, I must say a few words. We have all passed through a great trial in these recent days. Never has our kingdom seen such peril, and never have a people fought so courageously to defend it. To those who joined in the fight against our enemies, I honor you.” The crowd once again erupted into thunderous applause. This time, the Burger King allowed it to go on for some time before finally motioning for silence.
“To a select group of citizens, I accord you special honor for what you have done for your King and country.” The King turned to his right and nodded. A castle page stepped up to the dais carrying a large black box which he placed on the table before the King. The King opened the box.
“Captain Asiago and Popeye, please rise.” Nervously, the two men stood up from the table. From the box, the Burger King produced two gold medals hanging from scarlet ribbons. As the men bowed, the King placed the medals around their necks.
“It has become clear to me that my neglect in establishing a proper navy has caused a great deal of suffering for those living along the coast. I allowed Long John Silver and his pirates to gain a firm foothold in our waters. I take full responsibility for this and will recompense anyone who lost property and earnings from my own treasury.” After a shocked silence, the sailors and residents of Port Plees-Comagin who were in the crowd began to applaud enthusiastically.
“Thank you, your Highness!” Someone shouted.
“Long live the Burger King!” Cried another.
“Well, blow me down!” Hooted Popeye.
“In order to ensure that something like this never happens again,” continued the King, “I hereby establish the Dryvthru Navy under the dual command of Asiago and Popeye.” The crowd roared its approval.
“Well, blow me down!” Muttered Asiago.
With a look of consternation on his face, Colonel Sanders leaned in and whispered to the King, who grinned and cleared his throat.
“Ahem…it has been brought to my attention that as a matter of family honor, I must correct my previous pronouncement. The Dryvthru Navy will be under the dual command of Asiago…and Beauregard Sanders.”
“Pappy!” Shouted Popeye.
“Now son…”began Colonel Sanders.
“In-N-Out and Portillo!” Shouted the King, cutting off the argument. The announced pair stood up. “Both of you risked your lives to travel across the country to notify me of Little Caesar’s machinations. In addition, you fought bravely by my side during our battle with the Vegetarians. To you, I award these tokens of appreciation along with my undying gratitude.” As Portillo and In-N-Out dipped their heads, the Burger King placed a gold medal around each of their necks.
“As reward, I have offered In-N-Out the position of royal scout which he has graciously accepted,” continued the King. He then turned to Portillo. “Now for you, my brave young warrior. What would you like?”
Portillo, surprised by this offer, thought in silence for a moment.
“Gee, I dunno,” he finally said, scratching the back of his head. “When all this started, I was just lookin’ for an adventure…”
“You’re welcome!” Wendy shouted.
“After that, I was hopin’ to start my own restaurant, but Arby’s already gonna help me with that once I’m done bein’ apprenticed to him.”
“You betcha, pard!” Arby hollered from a nearby table. Sonic, seated next to the rancher, happily barked.
“Now that I think of it,” Portillo said, “I have been meanin’ to get Sonic a new collar…”
“Consider it done!” boomed the King. “He shall have the finest collar in the kingdom and be the talk of the canine world!”
Sonic gave a bark of delight and approval.
The Hamburglar was next to be honored. This time, Prince Carl rose to his feet to bestow the gold medal upon the reformed thief.
“And as promised,” said the Prince, “you will be provided with everything that you require in order to start your own restaurant.”
“You are welcome. However, I do have one suggestion to make.”
“Robble?”The Hamburglar asked warily.
“As you no longer plan to continue in your, uh…former line of work, might I recommend a name change?”
The soon-to-be-former Hamburglar grinned and nodded.
“If I understood my son correctly,” the King added, “you went into the heart of the lion’s den in order to rescue a number of hostages. And although things didn’t quite go according to plan…” The King paused as he, the Prince, and the Hamburglar turned to look at Wendy.
“What?” She asked innocently.
“…You put your life on the line. For that you have my thanks.”
“Robble,” said the Hamburglar modestly.
“According to the Prince, your past criminal record has been cleared in Hardeeshire. However, allow me to extend that clemency to all of Dryvthru.”
The Dairy Queen stood next, two medals in hand.
“Baskin and Robin, my loyal handmaidens.” The two women rose. “I now realize that I gave you quite the insurmountable task of watching over Wendy during her travels. The fact that you have come back to me still in your right minds is a testament to your strength of character.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Wendy asked indignantly as everyone else laughed.
“But your Majesty,” said Baskin in all seriousness, “a great deal of our time was spent as prisoners. It is other people who should be honored for watching over Wendy, not us. ”
“I agree,” said Robin with a touch of sadness. “Besides, Wendy seemed to handle herself quite well in our absence.”
“We are very proud of her,” Baskin concluded, her eyes welling up with tears.
At that, Wendy went over to her two friends and they embraced.
“Please don’t feel bad,” Wendy said, wiping the tears from her own eyes. “I couldn’t have handled anything without the things I learned from you.”
“Thank you,” Robin said quietly.
“Although I did learn something important from Arby too,” Wendy said, brightening. “A hero is someone who looks fear in the face, and spits!” She began to pucker her lips, but Robin instinctively placed a hand over Wendy’s mouth.
“You taught her to spit?” Baskin asked Arby incredulously.
“It was a figger of speech!”
“Moving on,” cut in the King, “we have Jimmy John!”
At the sound of his name, the startled farmhand shot up, banging the table and rattling the cutlery in the process.
“Hello,” he blurted, “I’m Jimmy John!”
This caused a ripple of laughter.
The lilting voice of McDonald called out: “Easy there, boyo!”
“Jimmy John,” said the King, “there are no words to describe just how deeply indebted I am to you. Not only did you manage to bring the war to a speedy conclusion, but in the process, you saved the life of our Wendy.”
At that, everyone burst into wild applause. Wendy, having been released from Robin’s grasp, ran forward and gave Jimmy John a bear hug that almost sent them both toppling over. The applause dissolved into cheers as the two laughed and struggled to remain upright.
“Prince Carl,” continued the King, “has the Chic-Fil-A guarding the skies to the south. Drvthru’s new navy has its own poultry air support, thanks to Popeye, er, Beauregard…whichever. However, we have no such organization established here. That is about to change.” He faced Jimmy John. “Jimmy, I know that you are happily employed with Mr. Donald. However, I need someone to take the lead in establishing a local chicken air defense, and I believe that you are the right man for the job.”
Jimmy John immediately turned toward the crowd.
“Mr. McDonaaaaaaaaald!” he hollered. “The Burger King’s offerin’ me anuther job! Whaddo I do?”
“Take it, lad!” McDonald called out. “Take it!”
“Atta boy, Jimmy!” Yelled Big Mac. “Make us proud!”
Jimmy turned back to the King, a buck-toothed smile stretched across his thin face.
“Okay, your Kingness! I’ll help ya with yer chickens!”
“Excellent!” said the King. “And now…” he clapped his hands twice, “…we feast!”
The castle doors swung open and out marched a procession of servers proudly led by Wendy’s uncle. Just behind him, and struggling under the weight of their respective trays, trudged Little Caesar, Jersey Mike, and Long John Silver.
The crowd roared with delight.
As the evening progressed, some of the tables and benches were cleared away, opening up the center of the courtyard. The court musicians, who had been playing softly throughout the meal, now struck up a variety of waltzes and folk songs. Soon, the courtyard was full of smiling, twirling couples. In the midst of them all danced the Burger King.
“So,” he said, grinning at his partner, “did you enjoy your adventure?”
Wendy looked up at the King and beamed.
“I must admit,” he continued as the pair stepped in time to a waltz, “it wasn’t quite what I had envisioned when I sent you off with Baskin and Robin. I would have preferred something a little less…dangerous.”
A laughing Baskin swirled by in the arms of Big Mac. Wendy caught her eye and winked, causing Baskin to blush.
“Those two seem to be enjoying themselves,” observed the King as the pair swept past. From another direction, Robin waltzed by with Prince Carl, both enjoying each other’s company as well.
“Hello son,” the King called and flashed a mischievous wink. “Aren’t you glad I made you take those dancing lessons when you were younger?”
This time, the Prince blushed.
“So…” Wendy said after a moment of thought, “does this mean you won’t send me on another one?”
The King laughed and gave Wendy a spin.
“If there is one thing I have learned from all of this,” he said, “it’s that I have no need to send you on an adventure. Adventure seems to find you well enough on its own.”
The waltz came to end followed by enthusiastic applause. The Burger King bowed to Wendy who curtsied in return. Immediately, the musicians broke into a lively, fast-paced tune.
“Hmm,” said the King, listening to the music and tapping his foot to the beat, “I have never heard this before. It is rather catchy.”
“It is a new song written especially for this occasion,” said the Dairy Queen, approaching the couple. “What do you think?”
“I love it!” Wendy cried, clapping her hands. Unable to contain herself, she ran out into the middle of the now-vacated courtyard and started dancing an intricate jig of her own devising. The crowds let out a cheer and began clapping in time to the music.
“Hey Wendy!” Portillo called out, pushing his way to the front of the spectators. What’dya call that dance?”
Wendy paused for a moment in thought.
“I call it…the ‘Steak and Shake’!”
The onlookers cheered again as Wendy resumed dancing.
“This I have to try!” From the crowd, Becker Jean, the dancing scout, leapt in and joined Wendy. She was soon followed by Portillo and Sonic, who proved to be a talented dancer for a dog. Soon others began to join in the “Steak and Shake” jig.
Retiring to the comforts of the high table, the King and Queen sat, quietly holding hands and watching the ensuing celebration.
“Leave it to Wendy to start a new dance craze,” the King finally said. Wendy was now dancing merrily in a circle with Becker, Portillo, Turvy Karico, and Samuel T. Ickes. In the center of the circle, much to the King’s surprise was a very spry Papa John, his gray hair and beard flying as he danced, his staff occasionally tapping to the beat.
“The people love her,” replied the Queen.
“You know, if we are not careful,” the King said with a wry grin, “she might end up taking over this kingdom.”
“Who’s to say that she hasn’t already?”
The King laughed.
“Indeed. Well, she is welcome to it. She can have the headaches of leadership while you and I can spend the rest of our lives having fun.”
“Hmmm…” mused the Queen. “Speaking of which…do you suppose there is anyone near the throne room?”
“What?” the King asked, slightly confused at the turn of the conversation. “Well…no. Everyone is outside. Why do you ask?”
The Dairy Queen smiled and leaned in.
“Well…I have always wanted to slide down the stair bannisters outside of the throne room.”
“I beg your pardon?” the King said with a laugh. “That is hardly proper behavior for a queen.”
“Do not pretend that you haven’t wanted to do it too.”
“Well…yes, I suppose, but…”
“When will we ever get another opportunity like this?” The Queen rose from her seat and gently pulled at the King’s arm until he stood as well. “Come along, my dear,” she said, putting an arm through his and leading him away, “the ‘sliders’ await.”
The Burger King sighed and smiled.
“Have it your way.”