Bowser sighed and shuffled on the parapets of his castle. He was getting old. It seemed so long since he had first ascended the throne. He remembered so well...
Bowser bellowed at his staff, "Where is my breakfast?!"
A sniveling Koopa Troopa ran up to him. "I- I'm sorry sir, but since your father has been poisoned, all the food has been thrown out."
Bowser snapped in anger. Stepping
forward he grabbed the underling by the scruff and pulled him up to his
height. "Do you think I care? Go into a village and get something before
I skin you! Now go underling!"
He then put him down as he ran out of the room, tripping before making it to the door. Bowser scuffed a breath of fire in frustration, "Fools, we're all fools." He shook his head slightly and continued walking down the hall as he recalled past days. "Throwing out all the food... what idiots! Doesn't anyone around here know how to test for poisons?" Bowser shook his head. Then he slowly grinned and thought to himself how fortunate he was that no one in the castle did know how to test food for poisoning. "The old fool never saw it coming..." he chuckled to himself.
He grinned as he recalled his father's last words to him. "If something should happen to me," the old man had coughed, "then my portion of the Empire is yours. You are my son, and it is the order of things that you should succeed me." Well, thought Bowser with demonic glee, what could possibly happen to him? And now, it was time to put the Old Fossil's long-forgotten realms of the Koopa Empire to work in the war against the Mario Brothers.
And no matter about the food. He had a secret stash of fungi-cakes and spore-syrup somewhere. He chuckled cruelly as he remembered those Mushrooms he had tortured and killed to get them. After breakfast, he went down to survey his prisoners. The one he was looking forward to was that Koopa girl he had caught sneaking around the castle. What was her name, Clawdia? She was so beautiful... even thinking about her made his scales quiver with desire. She rejected him as an imposter, but she would come around in time.
Bowser walked down into his dungeon. He looked over his prisoners, who were all chained to the wall. He then looked over at Clawdia, who was glaring at him. He sort of felt bad chaining her to the wall, but he also felt wrong feeling sorry for her. After all, he was the biggest, baddest brute there was and he didn't want to ruin his reputation.
Bowser walked toward Clawdia. As he stepped forward, she lunged forward to mangle him. However, she reached the ends of her shackles just short of reaching him.
"I see you're glad to see me," Bowser said slowly, "That's the first time you've run forth to meet me."
"Why don't you come a little closer," Clawdia growled, "and I'll show you just how glad I am?"
"Not this time, darling," Bowser replied curtly.
"Well what do you want then?" she snapped.
Bowser grinned towards her. "Just to see how my favorite prisoner is doing."
"Just fine until you walked in, thank you!"
"Such an unladylike tone! But I'm very patient," Bowser said with a very fake smile, "I know you'll come around to my way of thinking eventually."
"We'll just see about that." Clawdia hissed as she lunged again feet-first and once again fell just short of Bowser.
"Clawdia, dear," Bowser sighed, "that was quite... unimpressive."
"If you'll just let me free of these chains, I'll show you how impressive I can be!" Clawdia snarled.
Bowser shook his head in mock-sadness, ignoring her threat. "My dear, the time has come for us to part. But first..." he deliberately stepped into range of the chains. As Clawdia leapt at him again, he caught her hair and arms, then forced his mouth upon hers. Before she could even begin to resist, he slammed the cell door and was walking away, leaving Clawdia to scream curses and threats after him.
Bowser strode into the war room of his castle. His "staff" was waiting there, trembling. Bowser slammed a claw upon the table, making it jump.
"Okay," Bowser started. "We have the mightiest military on the planet. The Mushroom Kingdom has the weakest. We have the sworn loyalty of almost all the monsters on Plit. The Mushroom Kingdom has... fungus. And yet all our attempts to conquer them have been foiled. I WANT SOME ANSWERS HERE!"
The Guildmaster of Bowser's elite sorcerers the Magikoopas stood up. "Milord," he sniveled, "the mushrooms seem to have found two champions to defend them. These-"
"I KNOW ABOUT THE OVERWEIGHT HUMANS!" Bowser interrupted. "How is it that we cannot best the two of them, despite our vast power? What kind of fools do you idiots have working for you?"
There was silence in the war room.
"I'm waiting," Bowser growled.
"Well sir," the Guildmaster nervously began, "the morale is rather low, what with the death of the king and all, and-"
"The death of the king, you say? That's interesting. Last time I checked, I seemed to be alive and quite well."
"But your father-"
"I AM THE KING OF THE KOOPAS, NOW AND FOREVER!" Bowser lowered his head and narrowed his eyes. "And let no Koopa question that, Guildmaster Kamek."
"Of course not, my king," Kamek bowed, "you are the king."
"Now then," Bowser changed the subject, "perhaps your troops lack motivation. If that is so, then perhaps I can find new ways to motivate them."
The commanders looked at each other nervously.
"Now, as none of you fools know, one of the most important factors is the morale of the troops. If we find a way to decrease the morale of the fungus, we shall triumph."
"But what about our own morale? If you're pushing them on without a thought to their personal-" Kamek began.
"You idiot!" Bowser yelled. "To the Abyss with their morale! They should be perfectly happy knowing that they are serving their king. And it they're not, then... then execute them!"
There was a general gasp of horror as this prospect ran around the room. Bowser grinned wolfishly.
"Yes... execute them. If there is one Koopa that even mutters a word of dissent, I want his body spiked on the highest turret as a warning to others. Any objections?" Bowser glanced around the room, his razor sharp teeth bared.
At that moment the commander of Bowser's Terrapin warriors stood up. "I object, Lord Bowser," he announced, "I served your father for 25 years, and I know he would never allow such ruthless politics to be uttered in the Koopa Empire."
Bowser turned toward the Terrapin and shot him a stare that would have chilled a Thwomp to its core. "Well, I'm... sorry to hear that, General." He took a step toward the armored turtle, "Truly... sorry." The Terrapin began to shudder and placed a scaled hand on the side of his face as if it had begun to ache. "Because if there is one thing I cannot stand," Bowser hissed, his fists clenched in rage, "it is a divided board of command." The Terrapin stepped back, clutched the sides of his head, fell to the floor, and screamed in pain. "Which leaves me with only one option," Bowser roared, "and that is THIS!"
Bowser's eyes widened and reddened as the Terrapin let out a blood-curdling scream. But over his scream, another sound was clearly audible: the sound of bone cracking. Even the battle-hardened commanders turned their eyes away as the Terrapin’s skull began to slowly collapse, crushed by an invisible hand closing mercilessly around it. Finally, the Terrapin general let out a last pitiful scream, and then he screamed no more. The commanders one-by-one turned back toward their former comrade to see a decapitated corpse with a lot of blood amassed around a stub of bone on its shoulders.
"Are there any other objections I should note?" Bowser asked as if the incident had never occurred.
There were none. Most of the Koopas in the meeting were too scared to even move.
"Very well then. Take this fool's corpse and spike it on the highest parapet to serve as a warning to other traitors."
Bowser walked out of the room as his advisors glanced at each other in horror.
Bowser was sitting alone in his room, mulling over potential attacks he could use on the Mushroom Kingdom. There was always the direct assault, but that would damage the castles more than he would have liked. If only there was some way to demoralize the armies!
"Perhaps," he thought, "if I assassinated
Toadstool... no, that would make her a martyr. Hmm, what if..." Bowser's
eyes lit up as an epiphany came over him, "What if she announced that she
was with me?"
Bowser began to pace. "Now how can I accomplish that?" he wondered out loud. "She's too 'noble' to accept a deal, and she..." He stopped and grinned a foul grin. "That's it!" he announced exuberantly. "A kidnapping! It's perfect! No one would ever suspect that the Koopa King would dare kidnap the Mushroom Princess! Now to just work out the details... And even better! I get Kamek to create a potion to change fungus into stone, and then use the new rocks to make my new castles! The potion won't affect humans, but those two will never be able to stand against the full power of my army!"
Bowser, laughing evilly, ran off to implement his new plan.
"What?" Kamek gasped. "You're insane! There is no way to create a potion that- Ahh!"
Kamek slumped to the floor, victim of a pound on the head.
"I sincerely hope, Guildmaster, that you're not having second thoughts about your position on the command board," Bowser threatened. "I'd hate to think that two of my commanders are turning on me in one day."
The image of the Terrapin general's headless mangled corpse sitting atop the turrets upon a spear flashed before Kamek’s eyes. "N... no," he replied, "certainly not. It's simply-"
"Simply what?" Bowser demanded, imposing his horrific presence upon the Guildmaster.
"It's simply that this kind of potion is... an unusual... and d... difficult r… request, Milord."
Bowser sighed deeply and shook his head in mock disappointment. "So what you're saying," he intoned, "is that you are incapable of fulfilling this task."
"N... no! Of course not!" Kamek blurted out quickly, "It will just... take some... some time. That's all."
Bowser grinned maliciously. "I knew I could count on you, you flea-bitten old fossil," he said, slapping the side of Kamek's face twice. "Carry on. I'll be surveying the prisoners again." And with that Bowser turned on his heel and strode out of Kamek's lab. Kamek couldn't help but notice the unusual way Bowser said the word 'surveying'.
Bowser walked down the hall chuckling to himself. He couldn't understand why his father ever had such a hard time running the kingdom. It was all just a matter of proper motivation. And speaking of which, it was about time he taught Clawdia where her place in the Koopa Kingdom was. He laughed out loud and continued walking.
As Bowser walked down the halls of the dungeon, thinking of all the ways he could "convince" Clawdia to accept him, he heard a voice from behind him.
"Lord Bowser," the voice called.
Bowser clenched his fists and turned around to see a silver-shelled Paratroopa running toward him.
"Sir," clipped the Koopa, stopping and saluting, "Cadet Flutter reporting."
Bowser lazily returned the salute. "Get on with it," he snarled.
"Sir," Flutter sounded-off, "I have strict orders to escort you out of the dungeon, sir."
"Sir, it's for your own safety, sir. There is a prisoner in here who is considered dangerous, sir."
"Sir, a young Koopa girl called Clawdia, sir."
Bowser roared with laughter. "So your superiors consider my prize dangerous?" he asked incredulously. "That makes her all the more desirable!
"D... desirable, sir?" Flutter stammered.
"Indeed." Bowser replied sharply. His face slowly twisted itself into a grin. "Oh, come now, even someone as young as a cadet must know what an uncontrollable urge lust can be."
"You'll understand me when you're older, cadet." Bowser cut Flutter short, resuming an all-business attitude. "Now inform your superiors that THEY now have strict orders not to send any confounded fool cadets to hound me again!"
And with that, Bowser turned on his heel and strode toward the cell where his "prize" awaited him.
Bowser stepped up to Clawdia's cell and opened it again. Again, she launched herself at him, and again, he caught her. A quick kick to the stomach and she doubled over, winded.
"I could have my way with you now, if I wished, but I prefer my women to be willing. You will learn in time."
Then he shattered her chains and dragged her to the top of the castle.
"I had the bad fortune for an entire
contingent of soldiers to revolt today. You'll see them if you look down.
Now watch." He forced her head down and her eyes open just as the cannons
around them opened fire.
Clawdia shuddered and managed to wrench her head away from Bowser's claw.
"How can you watch that? Don't you feel ANYTHING when you see that?" she asked him.
"Yes," he replied impassively, gazing down at the corpses being removed from the courtyard. "I see a great waste of ammunition. I think I'll start having them chucked in the lava pits."
"You're a monster!"
"See? I knew you'd come to love me for who I am."
"Yes. Every king needs his queen, and I've decided that you will be mine!"
"That's what they say about all geniuses, but the world will eventually come to realize my brilliance. History is written by the victors, and I will be victorious over all! Soon the banner of the Koopa Kingdom will wave over every country on Plit! And no one will be able to stop me! NO ONE!"
He looked at Clawdia with the closest thing to affection his blackened heart could feel. "And I'm more than willing," he whispered in her ear, "to share it with you."
Clawdia wrenched away only for Bowser to pin her against a wall and grab her face in his hands. As he brought his reptilian lips closer to hers, he murmured, "I can give you anything. Power, money," he kissed her forcefully and added, "even the crown."
Clawdia closed her eyes and allowed Bowser to continue kissing her until he was satisfied and pulled his lips away.
"Y'know what I'm starting to realize about you?" she mused, running her fingers through his hair.
"What, my darling?"
Clawdia traced the lines of Bowser's face until she came to his throat. Before Bowser could react, she grabbed him by the esophagus and began to dig her claws into his flesh. "That you're even crazier than your father was!"
Bowser grabbed her arms and flung them off his throat with the greatest of ease.
"Did you really think that would accomplish anything? I have powers that you don't know about, my dear. Now what can we do about this temper of yours? It's not befitting a queen to lose her head so easily! Maybe Kamek knows of a spell that will make you easier to deal with... or would it be more fun to do this the hard way? Decisions, decisions..."
Bowser's eyes then lit up with an evil idea. "Come with me again." He grabbed the front of Clawdia's shell and teleported to a nearby Mushroom village just conquered.
Kamek had not yet completed the stoning potion so all the Mushrooms were still alive, being forced into menial labor by the cruel whips of their oppressors.
Clawdia seemed horrified that living creatures were treated in such a manner. Bowser chuckled. Then she would be even more so when he invoked his plan.
He gave the signal, raising a hand, and slaughter ensued. He had trained his troops on guard duty to kill on a moment's notice.
"What are you doing?" Clawdia cried.
"I'm killing enemies of the kingdom," Bowser replied. "They're useless anyway, so why spend my money to feed them?"
Clawdia only gaped in open-mouthed horror.
"Just submit to my will, and they will be spared, my dear. Just say the word and I shall release them."
Clawdia looked back and forth from the slaughter to Bowser. She couldn't stand this...
"Stop!" she screamed.
Bowser raised a claw. "You have something to say, my dear? You will submit to me?"
"I... I... I will." Clawdia slumped forward in shame as she surrendered.
"I knew you'd see things my way," Bowser grinned. With a snap of his fingers, they appeared back in his castle. "Now then, we need to see about the preparations."
"Preparations?" Clawdia asked.
"Why for the wedding of course! I despise long engagements. Now where's Kamek?"
In an instant, the Magikoopa appeared before Bowser.
"Is there something you wanted, sire?" he asked.
"Yes Kamek," Bowser responded. "I would like you to meet the future queen of the Koopas, Clawdia."
"Q- queen?! Bowser, what in the-"
"I believe you mean, KING Bowser, don't you Guildmaster?"
"Y- yes, of course Your Highness, but-"
"You will be conducting the ceremony. I expect preparations to begin at once."
Kamek stood flabbergasted. A wedding?! King Morton hadn't even had his funeral yet!
"Is there a problem, Kamek?" Bowser asked with a dangerous tone in his voice.
"N- no, Your Excellency. None at all."
"Good. I would hate having to replace such an old dear friend..."
"R- right sir."
"Then you'll get right on it?"
Kamek vanished as quickly as he had come.
"Just think, my dear," Bowser said, turning to Clawdia. "Once I have the Mushroom Kingdom in my grasp, I'll practically be king of the world! And then..." he added, approaching her slowly, "you shall be queen!"
Clawdia backed away. "I have conditions," she declared.
Bowser froze. "What kind of conditions?" he inquired suspiciously.
"First of all," Clawdia pushed, "I want an immediate release of all prisoners in that death camp you just forced me to see."
"What?" Bowser demanded incredulously. "I can't release that big a part of my labor force!"
"I see," Clawdia said dryly, "So your slaves are of more importance than your queen."
Bowser staggered backward, speechless. He hadn't seen THAT one coming! "I... I..." he stammered.
"Hmm…" Clawdia pursued.
Bowser stuttered for almost a full minute before forcing a smile and replying, "As you wish, my dear."
"Good," Clawdia smiled at how easily manipulated this fool was, "I'll be in my cell." Before Bowser could tell her otherwise, Clawdia strode down the hall toward the dungeon, much to the surprise of the Troopa guards.
Bowser glowered after she was out of the room. "Kamek," he barked.
"I'm here, sire," Kamek greeted exasperatedly, appearing in a puff of smoke.
"Begin the extermination of the fungi in the camp on the Eastern acquired territory." He grinned demonically. "If Clawdia wants them released from servitude, then they can be released from their terrestrial struggles as well. For, as my father said before he got those weakling notions, death is a release, not a punishment."
Kamek shuddered and retreated in the general direction of the dungeon as soon as safety allowed. He had some serious thinking to do, and he needed someone to talk to as well.
Bowser sat back in his throne. He was a genius, he thought. In just a matter of days, he had taken the throne, organized an attack that would bring the entire planet under his heel, and gotten himself a wife. He licked his lips as he thought of what he would do when he at last got her alone.
A scared Terrapin peeked his head into the room. "Yes sir?"
"Prepare the troops for a mission deep into the Mushroom Kingdom. We are going to kidnap the princess."
The Terrapin was confused by these orders, but he was too afraid to question them. "Yes, sir!"
Kamek, making sure no one else was around, poked his head into the dungeon and looked into Clawdia's cell. She was lying on the ground in an attempt to sleep.
"Uh, excuse me?" he asked of her intelligently.
She looked up. "Who are you?"
Kamek surveyed her for a moment. Bowser was right, she WAS beautiful. But Kamek drove this thought from his mind quickly.
"I am Kamek, Magikoopa Guildmaster and advisor to the king," he answered, "At least I WAS, until... anyway, I'm here to discuss something," he looked around once again, "of some importance," he whispered.
Clawdia sat up. "What do you want?" she asked petulantly. "I assume one of Bowser's advisors didn't just drop in to say 'hi'."
Kamek nodded. "You are right," he stated, "I am not. I need to ask..." He paused, listening, then whispered, "I'll be back," and disappeared around the corner as a guard marched by. After it was out of sight, he reappeared.
"I can guess you don't want to be seen," Clawdia mentioned.
Kamek, ignoring her, repeated. "This is of much importance. I know this may sound crazy-"
Clawdia interrupted. "With the kind of day I've had, anything else will probably sound normal."
Kamek coughed and nervously looked around. "Well, I suppose you could say that. Anyway, I need you to help me foil Bowser's schemes."
She glanced disbelievingly at him. "Why would one of Bowser's top advisors and Guildmaster want to stop him?"
"Bowser may be the king, but only by birthright. He's a madman!"
"And I'm marrying him!" Clawdia sighed in despair.
"I'm afraid so, but maybe this is the best position for you."
Clawdia stared at him for a moment.
"Have you gone crazy?"
"Not yet, but if Bowser has his way... anyway, think about it. You're in a position to learn of his schemes, help stop them, and influence his decisions! It's perfect!"
"But if he finds out..."
"He won't. Besides, he does feel something for you. I don't know if I'd call it love necessarily, but he's not just going to execute you."
"Well that's comforting," she muttered sarcastically.
Kamek had to hide from another guard coming around the corner. "I think it would be easier to plan from my laboratory. Bowser is going to be gone for a few more hours, so I'll try to break you out. Do you object?"
Clawdia shook her head. Kamek took out his wand and gently rubbed it against the lock until it broke. The door opened.
"I'm going to have to make it look like I'm transporting a dangerous prisoner, so I'm going to have to make the appearance of shackles." At Clawdia's nod, he waved his wand and the illusion appeared.
They hurried to the deeper dungeons, where Kamek's secret laboratory was located. But just as they were about to make it through, a guard turned the corner and saw them.
"Halt! What are you doing with that prisoner?"
Kamek smoothly delivered a lie. "Lord Bowser orders me to create a new potion and I need this one to help me."
"Uh... okay. You may proceed."
Kamek rushed down the remainder of the hall and they both made it to his laboratory.
"So, the way I see it- pass the hen's teeth, would you?- Bowser's going to kidnap the princess and create enough traps to stop even me. It will take some doing, but if we're lucky and fast, we'll be able to disable most of them before the two humans get to them." Kamek sprinkled one final mixture over his cauldron and it turned orange. "There!"
"What is it?" Clawdia asked.
"It's a potion to nullify the one I made earlier. We can't use it directly, but if we hide it on the princess' body, those humans will find it and use it to change the Mushrooms back to normal."
"Great idea, but how are you gonna get it to the princess?"
"Leave that to me. Now, do you have any questions?"
"No. I know what has to be done."
"Good. I'm afraid I'll have to take you back to your cell now."
"Right," she sighed, holding up her wrists for Kamek to shackle again.
It was a simple task to return the Koopa girl to her cell again. And just in time too, for just as Kamek locked the door again, he heard Bowser coming down the stairs. He barely had time to dodge around a corner before Bowser slammed the door open.
Bowser hummed happily as he unlocked the door to Clawdia's cell. She turned towards the door, startled that Kamek would be back so soon, and found her least favorite Koopa standing there.
"Hello my dear," he greeted congenially. "How are you?"
"Oh just fine, considering the surroundings," she quipped.
"Yes, this is a little drab, which is why I came. I don't think a dungeon is befitting a queen, so I've arranged some new quarters for you."
Clawdia felt an overwhelming sense of revulsion as she allowed Bowser to take her by the arm and lead her up to the "Royal Suite", which was merely Bowser's chamber. The only change that had been made was that the room now included a double bed. Clawdia shuddered at the thought of a night alone in that bed with the monster that held her now.
"What do you think, darling?" Bowser asked, grinning. "Is it satisfactory?"
Clawdia looked around the room for a moment. "Yes," she lied, "it's wonderful."
"Well," Bowser sighed. "As much as I hate to, I must leave you now. I have some business to attend to. Goodbye, my dear." He kissed her on the cheek and walked out happily.
Clawdia took the opportunity to look around the room more closely. She tried to cheer herself up and tell herself that this wasn't so bad, but the decor made that a little difficult. There were pictures and paintings of Bowser everywhere, and it seemed that everywhere she looked, there was another one to remind her of him.
Bowser tossed Princess Toadstool into the cell that had once held Clawdia. Chuckling evilly, he strode back to his war room.
"All right people!" Bowser bellowed. "We have the princess and all the fungus is now rock! What I want now is traps! Does anyone have any ideas that might possibly work?"
Kamek stepped forward. "Milord," he half-whispered, "I have an idea."
"Yes," Bowser nodded, "well, what is it?"
Kamek took a deep breath and prayed Bowser wouldn't recognize his plan for what it was. He reached into the folds of his cloak and drew a vile of potion. "I say we hide this on the princess, and let the humans find her."
There were gasps from everyone in the room.
"And what exactly is that, Kamek?" Bowser demanded, narrowing his eyes.
"It is a potent toxin," Kamek lied, "that, once inhaled, will kill any human within a week. If the Marios find her, they'll seal their own doom. All we have to do is place this somewhere on Toadstool where she won't notice it."
"Hmm…" Bowser said, rubbing his chin. "I don't know..."
"It's perfect!" Kamek assured him. "It's extremely potent, and may wipe out millions of them."
"Well... if you say so. Now how are we going to get it on the princess without her noticing?"
"Don't worry!" Kamek assured. "I'll handle it."
Bowser thoughtfully bit his lower lip. "Very well, but I want to prevent the humans from reaching her anyway. I want to use this for an emergency measure only."
Kamek, grinning with pleasure to find that his plan had worked, went off to talk with Peach and Clawdia.
"Now then," Bowser continued. "We have recently obtained the loyalty of the Goombas. Now I know they're not the strongest monsters on the planet, but they are the most numerous. And their betrayal of the Mushroom Kingdom will put a sizable dent in their army. Now how many castles have we got ready?"
A Koopa stood up. "Eight, counting this one, your majesty."
"Good... good." Bowser rubbed his claws together. "Now pour lava into those castles. Put in flamethrowers and fireballs. And dress up a troop to look like me and place it in each castle. If they think a weakling Goomba is me, then they may be frightened away."
"Yes sir, and those new traps?"
"You mean the Firebars?" Bowser replied. "Of course! What do you think I developed them for? Get them in every castle you can! And I want lots of lava!"
"As you wish, Your Majesty."
"Oh, Field Marshal Ironshell, I need to speak with you."
"Yes, Milord," answered a tall, aggressive-looking green Troopa.
Bowser pulled him aside and whispered, "I have a vision for our Air Force," he announced almost excitedly, "I see a flagship of our entire force: a flying ship, heavily armed, with a crew of the finest troops, and under my personal command. I see..." he paused to relish every word, "a doomsday ship."
Ironshell quivered with delight over Bowser's vision. "A brilliant idea. We could have access to any place on Plit, and there would be no one to oppose this ship from the air."
"Can it be done?" Bowser asked severely.
Ironshell looked almost indignant. "Milord," he replied, "we are the Koopa Troop. We can do anything." His face sank a bit in disappointment as he added, "It will, however, take time. To design, test, and build something like this can take months, even years."
Ironshell looked expectantly at Bowser, expecting him to chew him out for needing so much time, but to his surprise, Bowser looked back at him with a pleased smile.
"Take all the time you need, Field Marshall," he replied. "I'm in no hurry. We won't need them for the Mushroom Kingdom, and it'll be a while before we're ready to move on anyway. The Mushroom Kingdom may be weak, but it IS large... anyway, get right on it."
Ironshell saluted. "At once, Your Excellency."
Kamek timidly knocked on the door of the cell that contained Princess Toadstool.
A voice came from inside. "Go away! I'm sick of being taunted by every Goomba and twisted freak that passes my cell!"
Kamek was taken aback. "I'm not here to taunt you. I'm here to help you!"
"Yeah, sure. And I'm Tympani, the all-powerful goddess of rubber bands."
"I know this is hard to accept," Kamek answered, "but I'm not..." Kamek noticed a Sledge Brother guard was watching him suspiciously, so he lowered his voice. "But I'm not any happier with Bowser's rule than any of your people are, and I have a plan to help you defeat him."
"And what's in it for you?" Peach asked suspiciously.
"I get Bowser off the throne, and then maybe we get a decent ruler," Kamek replied. "Now if you're not interested in helping your people, that's fine. I have other ways to sabotage his plans..."
"No! Wait!" she called as he started to walk away. "Let's talk about this."
"I thought you'd see it my way," Kamek grinned as he simply walked through the door of her cell without opening it.
The Sledge Brother looked suspiciously in that direction, but soon turned back to his boring duty.
"Okay, here's the plan. You just hide this vial somewhere on your body and when you get rescued, just open it." Kamek handed Peach the potion.
"And what makes you think I'm going to get rescued?"
"Trust me. We, my partner and I, are going to guide then through the lands and disable most of the traps."
Peach looked skeptical. "I don't understand. You're the Guildmaster, right? Your people and mine have been at war for so long, and it was your guild that started the war. Why are you helping me all of a sudden?"
Kamek looked away. "It was I, not the guild who started the war," he said lifelessly. "I groomed Bowser to take the throne, and I made him his father's advisor. I never dreamed he would allow the border disputes to escalate into a full-scale war, and I absolutely never dreamed he would place the blame on the Magikoopas guild." He looked back at Peach with a renewed aura of hope about him. "But it's never too late, m'dear, to correct a mistake."
"Well," Peach sighed, "I don't know whether to believe you or not, but I really don't have a choice."
"I'm afraid not. Now, will you take the vial?"
"Thank you," Kamek smiled. "Wish us luck."
Bowser had scheduled the wedding for the next day, no matter that he was overworking his already strained castle staff to get ready for it.
"You there! Get that banner up! I want a bigger cake! Where's my suit?"
Clawdia, meanwhile, was still locked in Bowser's room. She was having problems of her own.
"Listen, now. And listen good," she snarled, holding a Koopa Troopa by the front of its shell, talking slowly and cutting off every word with deliberate clarity. "I... am... not... going... to... wear... that. Get the picture?"
"B- but my Lord Bowser demands it!" the Koopa squealed.
Clawdia glanced contemptuously at the outfit she was supposed to wear. That... that was beneath her dignity.
"Look. I may be forced to marry Bowser, I may be forced to do disgusting things for him, but I will not be paraded around like some kind of se-"
The Troopa cleared his throat, and began as if quoting from his code of loyalty. "What you think you want is irrelevant. I really don't care if you like this. I have my orders, and they are your orders as well. Frankly, if Bowser decrees that you are to wear... this, you shall, if Bowser decrees that you will not, you will not. It makes no difference to me if Bowser orders you to serve in his court as his personal harlot!"
That was too much for Clawdia. She screamed. It felt good to scream after all this play-acting of being happy to be married to Bowser. Then she brought a clawed hand down onto the Troopa's face. Hard.
A howl escaped from the Troopa as the claws tore into his face. He dropped the outfit and, clutching his face, stumbled out of the room. Clawdia believed she had got him in the eye. She sank into a corner, absently flicking the abominable outfit into the center of the room.
Then Bowser, whistling cheerily, walked through the door.
He smiled at the trail of blood on the floor. Maybe Clawdia would be a good queen after all...
"Did he give you trouble, dear?" he asked cheerfully.
"Listen, you!" she snarled. "We need to talk about this 'dress'!"
She held up the flimsy bit of fabric in front of him.
"How dare they?!" he yelled in outrage as he took it. "The nerve..."
"I'm glad to see we finally agree on something," she replied with some small measure of satisfaction.
"I'll say! This is at least twice as much fabric as I told them to use!"
Clawdia's face turned as red as the trail of blood on the floor. This was just too much, and Bowser was about to get another earful. "Would you run that past me again?" she growled.
Bowser tossed the dress over his shoulder into a lava pool.
"Incompetent, the whole lot of them," he grumbled. "I'll have them all executed for stupidity tomorrow."
"No! Wait!" Clawdia screeched.
"I- I know a little about dressmaking. Maybe I could-"
"A queen, lower herself to the position of a seamstress?! Never!"
"Wait! Hear me out! I could just oversee them... make sure they do it right." Bowser still seemed unsure, so she decided to try a new tactic. "You know..." she added in a sultry voice, "make sure they make something that will... please you."
Bowser grinned wolfishly and departed. Phew... another silver bullet dodged. Well, to keep the facade up and running, she had to get to work. And - shudder - she had to keep her promise to 'please' that conniving slimeball.
Bowser strolled along whistling.
Everything was going exactly according to plan. The castles were set up,
the princess was in custody, and the kingdom would soon be his. A Troopa
dashed up to him and saluted.
"Well?" Bowser replied without so much as attempting to return the salute. "Give me your report on the plumbers' progress."
"They've gotten through the first castle sir."
"Already?" Bowser asked in surprise. "I thought it would take them at least another week to get through... oh well. Keep me informed."
There was no way Bowser could have known that things were NOT all going as planned. There was no way he could know that in the time it took his report to get here, the Mario Brothers had made their way into the very heart of his Empire. And there was no way he could have known that at that moment he was being watched by his closest advisor, a rebel leader. No, if ignorance was bliss, then at that moment Bowser was the happiest creature in any of Plit's four kingdoms.
Clawdia was fighting a problem of sorts. How in the Abyss was she supposed to create a wedding outfit that was not completely humiliating and yet not disappoint Bowser? Knowing him, if it didn't fit his fancy, he was likely to tear it off her, leaving her even more humiliated.
Then she got an idea! It wasn't ideal, but it was the best thing she could do. If she performed it just right, Bowser would think she was wearing something that would "please" him, and no one else would see her anyway.
She got to work. Later, she would have to talk to Kamek for seeing to the distraction she would need.
Bowser had slated the wedding for
this day. It was being held in the grand hallway. The only light was a
fire flickering in the center. Bowser was standing up front with Kamek,
who was performing the ceremony.
Bowser was shuffling his feet in impatience, and Kamek seemed distracted.
Clawdia walked up to Bowser, wearing a white cloak that covered her entire body. First, he seemed angry at her and his massive claws flexed.
Kamek fumbled his book open. "We are gathered here-" Then he looked at the back of the room and his jaw dropped. Naturally, all eyes turned to the back. That was the signal. Clawdia whipped the cloak off and hurtled it over the fire. Bowser's eyes snapped to her, but he only got one brief, but greatly intriguing flash, before the room was plunged into darkness. Clawdia heaved a silent sigh of relief. It was all okay now. She would not be humiliated.
Slowly, the room came into groggy focus. The figure of Bowser was across from her, and moving at her. Suddenly, she was snatched in an unbreakable grip. Rough claws stroked her flesh. Clawdia stiffened in rage. That arrogant pig! The least he could do was wait to abuse her body until they were alone.
"Err, ahem," Kamek muttered. "We are gathered here to witness the union of these two souls in-"
"Just get to the point!" Bowser growled. "I have... urgent business to get to."
"Err, yes. Well, um... if anyone here has any reason that these two should not be wed-"
"He will thrown to the Piranha Plants as soon as he opens his mouth!" Bowser yelled.
There was absolute silence.
"W- well," Kamek muttered nervously, "I suppose I now pronounce you Koopa and wife. You may now kiss-"
"KING BOWSER!" a Koopa Troopa yelled, charging into the room.
"This had best be extremely important..." Bowser snarled through clenched teeth.
"It's the Marios! They're inside the castle!"
As the room plunged into a panic, Clawdia glanced at Kamek for a moment. Apparently, he was thinking the same thing: "finally".
"General quarters," commanded Bowser. "All troops prepare for battle. Guards, full intruder alert status, activate the defense warps."
Kamek decided that now was a good time to cause a little havoc. When no one was looking, he waved his wand in the direction of the nearest "?" box, casting a spell on the castle's item system and removing the safeguards that kept the power-up items from being used only by Bowser. "That should give him something to keep him occupied," he whispered to Clawdia, "while we take out a few of the castle's defenses. Come quickly."
Clawdia only took the time to don a robe Kamek conjured up, concealing her exposure.
Bowser sat at the crystal ball he'd "obtained" from Kamek, watching the Mario Brothers. They were completely lost, the fools. They would never find the way through his personal castle. He sat back and relaxed. There was nothing to worry about now.
But suddenly his eyes snapped back to the vision. There was now a third figure with the Marios. He couldn't tell who it was as it was obscured in a black cloak. It was leading the Marios through the passages of his castle!
Bowser smashed the delicate ball into thousands of tiny pieces with a single stroke of his massive claw. He then stormed off to deal with those idiots himself, and that traitor.
Clawdia motioned the Marios into the room where the princess and the unstoning potion were. After they were gone, she disappeared down a hidden passage.
"Are you alright, Your Highness?" Mario asked in a hushed voice as he unlocked the cell door.
"I'm fine," answered Peach, "but we have to hurry."
"You don't need to tell me twice. C'mon."
"I wouldn't do that, human!" came a thunderous voice from all around them.
"Who the?" Mario wondered out loud.
"Oh no," moaned Peach, "Don't tell me it's-"
"Hm hm hm hm hmmmmmmmmmm, I see you made your way here at last. Took ya long enough, fatso!" came the voice.
"It is," sighed Peach, "it's him."
Bowser fell down from the ceiling, landing between the humans with a crash, knocking all three off their feet.
Kamek bit his lip as he watched the battle progress from another crystal ball. The Mario Brothers were losing. Bowser had hit Luigi with a hammer, knocking him out, and Mario was barely dodging Bowser's fire breath. He used his wand to create a Fire Flower next to Luigi, who was just waking up, but he wasn't sure if that would be enough.
Suddenly, Kamek's eyes lit up as he saw... yes! It was! Bowser was standing on the narrow suspension bridge over a magma pit leading to the dungeon. But he wouldn't stay there for long. Kamek immediately conjured up an axe behind Bowser. Hopefully, the Mario Brothers would be able to see it and know what to do with it.
"Mario!" the princess called, pointing to the axe.
Mario ran under Bowser as the Koopa King tried to smash him, and grabbed the axe. Bowser turned and laughed.
"You pathetic human! What do you think you can do to me with that? I am King Koopa! The Great Bowser! No mere human can defeat me! Especially not with a miserable little hatchet."
"Oh I don't have to hit you with it," Mario replied calmly. "All I have to do," he raised the axe up, "is this!"
With one swoop, the chain holding up the bridge was severed.
Bowser screamed and plummeted into the lava below. He wasn't hurt; the scream was more of one of outrage than anything else.
Mario dashed over to the princess. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, I suppose so. Let's get Luigi and then get out of this terrible place."
"Hey, what happened to Luigi anyway?" Mario looked around in confusion.
"I'm over here!" Luigi yelled from the other side of the lava pit.
Kamek tuned out. They would get out all right now.
Clawdia lounged back on Bowser's bed, confident that she would be rid of Bowser for quite some time while he was in recuperation.
The door slammed open. Bowser stood there, a maniacal red glint in his eye.
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm immune to lava, sweet. The princess is gone, but soon Kamek's potion will kill the humans. And now I may reap my rewards from today."
Clawdia swallowed as he advanced on her. She braced herself for what she knew was to come. She could feel his body force his way onto hers...
Her screams were heard all throughout the castle that night.
Bowser sighed. Ah, the good old days, but now it was all over. He almost wished that he could just die to end the boredom and torture of his life.
The figure in the shadows granted his wish. It leapt onto Bowser's back. A knife flashed and Bowser's throat was cut in an instant. He collapsed, dead before he hit the ground. Ludwig, new King of the Koopas, stood triumphantly on the parapet. His wife and a strange red figure walked out to join him.
"My lord?" Karma whispered to her beloved. She fell to her knees and kissed his hand.
The red figure bowed deeply and nodded in approval. The terrible reign of King Bowser was finally over.
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