Also see Where
the Heart Is: Fortinbras’s Tale: Offers background information about
the star of A Nation at Arms.
It was March 13, in the year 64,128
A.D. by the calendar of Sarasaland, and the time was 0927 hours. In three
minutes, the royal review of the 7th Army of the Princedom of Birubuto
would begin. All 15 divisions were in place, the Color Guard stood Ready,
the Band was warmed up. All that was needed now was for the signal to be
given and some 81,000 armed Sarasi men would begin their short march around
the three square-kilometer assembly field under close watch by Her Imperial
Highness, Princess Daisy Rose of the
Four Princedoms of Sarasaland.
Fifteen divisions of uniformed troops standing cemented in the position of attention, without a single soldier so much as flinching, made for an imposing sight indeed, and at the front of the imposing formation stood the equally imposing form of a tall, snow-white-haired man of 36 years. He wore the gray uniform of the Sarasi army with broad white epaulettes and a long, flowing white cape clasped in front of his shoulders by a large, royal purple gem set in gold. His plethora of medals had been carefully arranged so that each was clearly visible. All this combined with his perfectly polished infantry boots and his black patrol cap with its patent-leather visor made him the very image of regality. This man was Lord Fortinbras Toadstool, Prime Minister and Lord Chamberlain of the Four Princedoms of Sarasaland, Minister of their Defense.
"It's time to begin," Fortinbras announced under his breath as he turned on his heel to face the mass formation behind him, lead by his fifteen division commanders, all of whom were assembled before him. He drew a deep breath, taking his time as if he enjoyed the effect that swelling his chest had on his already intimidating appearance, and issued a one-word command with such force that it was heard across the entire field: "Report."
One-by-one, fifteen division commanders rendered up straight-armed salutes and replies of "All present and accounted for, Milord," and one-by-one Fortinbras received their reports and returned their salutes with all the pomp and circumstance expected from a Sarasi officer. At exactly 0929 hours, the reports had been given.
"Posts," Fortinbras commanded tersely and his division commanders returned to the front of their respective division formations. When all personnel were in place, Fortinbras about-faced, turning his back to his troops and his eyes to Her Highness.
At exactly 0930 hours, Princess Daisy Rose approached Lord Fortinbras, beginning the reviewing ceremony. "Present," Fortinbras commanded over his right shoulder for all the Army to hear, "ARMS!" In one swift movement, 81,000 right hands snapped forward in the straight-armed salute of the Sarasi Army, and Fortinbras turned his attention back to the approaching reviewer.
"I think my tailor used more fabric in my cape," he thought as Daisy approached, "then her seamstress used in that entire uniform." Indeed, it was obvious that the princess's uniform was designed to flatter her youthful figure rather than to adhere to the Sarasi uniform code. Her short, army-gray skirt was hemmed just above her knees and her low-cut blouse clung to her shapely body like a second skin. The dainty young princess walked slowly, with a pronounced sway in her hips as if she was very well aware that the eyes of every dashing young officer in the 7th Army of Birubuto were fixed upon her. She was, Fortinbras acknowledged as he watched her approach, quite lovely. However, the stoic Minister of Defense quickly thought, clearing his head of these ideas, that didn't matter. She was the princess of Sarasaland, and this was not, in Fortinbras's opinion, the image that a princess should project. "This probably has something to do with that Luigi scalawag," Fortinbras muttered, "but in any case..."
As Daisy stopped in front of Lord Fortinbras, he snapped his arm forcefully into a salute. "Your Most Gracious Imperial Highness," he sounded off, "the 7th Army of Birubuto is formed with all personnel present and accounted for, and is ready for Your Highness's comments."
Daisy smiled as she daintily returned the salute, or something resembling it, and answered, "Your troops may pass in review."
Fortinbras About-faced and drew yet another robust breath. "Pass, IN REVIEW!" he commanded, beginning the ceremony. On the far right of the enormous formation a large silver staff was thrust into the air, signaling the band to begin playing "Army of Light," the battle hymn of the Sarasi Army, and all 15 divisions filed to and began marching to their right, following the band in their pompous march around the field.
"They're all so..." Daisy whispered in awe as the first division passed by, "so intimidating."
"How so, M'lady?" Fortinbras humored her with slight amusement.
"Well," Daisy elaborated, "I dare say I haven't seen a soldier in the entire formation who isn't at least a foot taller than me!"
Fortinbras swelled his chest arrogantly and replied, "Your Highness shouldn't have seen any, because there are none."
"Are you calling me short?" Daisy countered indignantly.
"No, M'lady," Fortinbras regressed. "Not short, only... petite."
Daisy looked at Fortinbras for a moment longer before replying "Hmmph," telling Fortinbras exactly how much weight his opinion carried in her eyes.
"In all honesty," Fortinbras continued, struggling to stifle a chuckle at the childlike look on the face of the princess, "recruits in the 7th Birubuto must meet certain appearance requirements, in addition to those required for enlistment in any other unit. For example, we don't admit recruits who are under two meters tall."
"Are you telling me," Daisy asked in shock, "that you would just tell a recruit 'I'm sorry, but you're too short to be in the Army'?"
"No, M'lady," Fortinbras corrected, "I tell them 'I'm sorry, but you're too short for the 7th Birubuto." Fortinbras looked at Daisy and saw that she still had not seen the logic. "After all," he continued persuasively, "the 7th Birubuto is led personally by me, making it the Flagship, so-to-speak, of the Sarasi Army, and putting it in the eyes of foreigners more often than any other unit. So I prefer for them to project a more intimidating appearance than other units. You see, a foreign general, let us say a Koopa doomship commander, upon seeing the 7th Birubuto would think just what you thought. He would say to himself, 'Heavens! Those Sarasi are all giants! I think I'll stay out of their way'."
"In other words," Daisy wrinkled her
dainty nose in distaste, "you want foreigners to see the prime unit of
the Sarasi Army as 81,000 of the strongest oxen on the planet." She hesitated
a moment before adding
sarcastically, "I simply love Military Intelligence."
By this time, the Fourth division was beginning to process in front of the two of them.
"Speaking of Military Intelligence," Daisy whispered, changing the subject, "those spies you've ordered to snoop on your little sister have brought back an interesting report."
Fortinbras clenched his fists at the thought of his one-time home, with its backward politics and warped ideas. "What have they found in the Mushroom Kingdom?" he asked, struggling to keep his voice down.
"Thalidia," Daisy corrected, "not 'the
Mushroom Kingdom'. That is a derogatory term invented by Bowser, and I
will not have racial slurs thrown around about our allies. Besides that,
your own sister sits upon the
Thalidian throne, and I should think you could show a little more respect. Is that clear, Chamberlain?"
"Perfectly clear, Your Highness," Fortinbras answered reluctantly after a long silence.
"Now as I was saying," Daisy returned to the matter at hand, "the Thalidian ambassadors to Yoshi's Island have brought back some interesting news about an abandoned Koopa child bearing a striking resemblance to King Bowser's Eldest."
A short distance away from the site
of the pompous ceremony, leaning against a tree and watching the procession,
stood an outsider. This outsider, in contrast with the exceedingly formal
ceremony, wore simple blue overalls, faded from the years of abuse inevitably
suffered by work clothes, and a
green shirt and cap bearing the same signs of years of use. The soles of the outsider's brown leather shoes were spilt, and would soon have to be replaced. This outsider was Luigi L. Mario, brother of the world-renowned hero, Mario M. Mario, and - it was rumored - the soon-to-be Prince Consort of
From his distant perch, Luigi watched in awe as division after division of Sarasi troops marched ceremoniously by. 'Man,' he thought to himself, 'I sure wish Thalidia's army was that good. It'd give Mario and me a way easier time dealing with Bowser." Luigi watched until the last of the fifteen divisions had passed before approaching the assembly field quietly. He had been waiting all week to speak to a certain young princess.
"Chamberlain," Daisy commented formally as she faced Lord Fortinbras once the troops were back in place, "I am impressed. Your army is..." she fumbled for the proper word.
"Disciplined?" Fortinbras offered.
"Disciplined," Daisy agreed. "Disciplined, well-armed, and well-trained." She saluted, and waited for Fortinbras to return her salute.
'Is that all?' Fortinbras thought. 'She just sat here for half an hour watching 81,000 of Sarasaland's finest and all she can say is disciplined, well-armed, and well-trained?' He sighed inaudibly as he returned the princess' salute, with his usual pomp, and replied, "The Seventh Army of Birubuto thanks Your Highness for your remarks, and requests to be dismissed."
"You may dismiss the troops," Daisy smiled and dropped her salute. Fortinbras turned to face his army and went about dismissing them in his usual, over-ceremonial way, but Daisy wasn't sticking around for it. 'Finally,' she thought as she skipped hurriedly away from the assembly to meet the one person in the world she wanted to see more than any other. Her heart raced as she looked ahead of her and saw Luigi standing near the edge of the field. "Luigi!" she squealed and ran to him.
Luigi grinned broadly as Daisy rushed up to him. 'She's so much like a child sometimes,' he thought to himself.
Daisy, however, showed no childlike qualities at all as she flung herself into Luigi's awaiting arms and pressed her lips to his. "I've missed you, my love," she whispered in Luigi's ear.
"Missed me?" Luigi chuckled. "I've only been gone for a week."
"That's too long," Daisy insisted as she rested her head on Luigi's shoulder. "I get lonely here without you."
"Well, I've missed you too, Daisy," Luigi admitted.
"Hmm?" Daisy lifted her head and looked into Luigi's face. "What? No accent?" she asked, pretending to be disappointed.
Luigi sighed plaintively. "Daisy," he pleaded, "I've just gotten to the point where I can talk without that accent, and nobody took me seriously because of it."
"But it's cute!" Daisy insisted.
Luigi looked down at the pleading look on Daisy's face for a moment.
"Please..." Daisy added for effect.
"Alright," Luigi sighed, his Italian accent fully audible, "what-a the princess-a wants, the princess-a gets."
Daisy giggled innocently and kissed Luigi again. "Now, then," she began, twisting Luigi's moustache between her fingers, "what did you-"
Daisy was interrupted by the sound of someone clearing his throat beside her. She turned away from Luigi to see Lord Fortinbras standing next to her, doing his best to hide his disgust at the sight of Luigi.
Daisy sighed. It was just like Fortinbras to drop in when he was least wanted. She coughed slightly as she forced herself to step away from Luigi. "Do you wish to speak with me, Chamberlain?" she inquired formally.
"Yes, Your Highness," Fortinbras answered with a bow, and a distasteful glare at Luigi, "and I would prefer to say my peace in private, away from," he sneered at Luigi as he finished, "foreign ears."
"You will say what you have to say here, Minister," Daisy replied flatly.
"Your Highness..." Fortinbras argued.
"You will speak here, in public, Prime Minister," Daisy repeated, ending the debate. "I will not have rumors of secret discussions floating about in the Sarasi Court."
"As you wish, Your Highness," Fortinbras conceded, bowing once again. "What I wished to say, was that I was a bit surprised that Your Highness didn't stay for the entire ceremony."
Daisy rolled her eyes. "As though I didn't know what it would be like. You would stand there, barking commands at your staff, and all concerned would stand there for another half hour waiting for word to come down the chain of command that the ceremony was over and they could leave."
"And," Luigi intervened, his accent once again surpressed, "you couldn't expect the princess to just sit there while the whole army was dismissed, could you?"
Fortinbras clenched his teeth at the upstart interruption from the loathsome foreigner. "The very thing that makes the 7th Birubuto, as well as every other standing army in the Four Princedoms, so formidable is their attention to detail. No Sarasi soldier would skip any part of the ceremony for any reason, so it reflects very badly on the crown when the princess does. It is this attention to detail, more than anything, that makes our military the mightiest on the planet."
"Next to the Koopas," Luigi corrected.
"Greater than the Koopas," Fortinbras boasted, his chest swelling with pride to the point where Luigi was sure it would burst.
"Right," Luigi dodged an argument, "whatever. But, I don't see how this reflects badly on the crown. I mean, it's not like the princess is part of the military, right?" Luigi chuckled as he continued, "I swear, Fort, you act like all of Sarasaland is an army."
Fortinbras grinned as he replied, "Well, that's because it is." At the perplexed look on Luigi's face, he continued, "Sarasaland is completely a nation at arms; every citizen is expected to serve in the military from their sixteenth birthday until their sixty-fifth. Here, 'civilian' is just another word for 'retired'."
"It was a necessary step to keep another incident like the one with Tatanga from happening," Daisy elaborated. She couldn't keep the contempt out of her voice as she asked, "If the military wasn't so central to our government, then why would I subject myself to this ludicrous uniform?"
"Yes, well, about that uniform," Fortinbras interrupted, bringing the conversation back to it's original nature, "that's another thing I feel I must address."
"How so, Chamberlain?" Daisy pressed with a dangerous edge in her voice.
Realizing he was walking a razor's edge, Fortinbras chose his words carefully. "It's simply that it... doesn't quite project the image of dignity befitting a woman of your status. Remember, M'lady, you are the princess of Sarasaland."
"And what would you have me wear? That?" Daisy countered exasperatedly, motioning with her hand toward Fortinbras's uniform. "Or perhaps you'd prefer that hideous yellow thing in which I'm expected to flitter about at Court. No, I will wear what I choose to wear, Chamberlain, when I choose to wear it."
Fortinbras knew that it was pointless to argue with a 19-year-old princess, so he merely bowed, replying with "Yes, your Highness."
"Oh, and Chamberlain," Daisy added as an afterthought, "don't ever call me 'M'lady' again."
There was an awkward silence for a moment.
"Well, Chamberlain?" Daisy prodded at Fortinbras, stating quite clearly that he had best say something to justify his presence, or burden someone else with it.
"Yes, your Highness?"
"You may leave now."
"As you wish, Your Highness," Fortinbras surrendered with a deep sigh as he stalked off to find some unsuspecting recruit whose boots hadn't quite been shined to standard.
"I thought he'd never leave," Daisy whispered to Luigi when Fortinbras was out of earshot.
Luigi looked away. 'I guess now's as good a time as any to break the news to her,' he thought as he began. "Speaking of leaving," he said slowly, "I'm going to have to go back to Thalidia again soon, and this time I'll be gone for quite a while."
Daisy wasn't able to hide her surprise, or her disappointment. "Oh," she answered after a period of silence. "Why do you have to go so soon this time?"
Luigi sighed. "I have to go with Mario and Peach to meet with General Flutter in Monstro City."
"General?" Daisy repeated incredulously. "When did he earn a commission?"
"Eh, recently," Luigi replied. "But in any case, I'll be leaving again soon."
"I see," Daisy responded as she and Luigi began to walk away from the assembly feild. "So, why the sudden fixation on Monstro City?"
"Well," Luigi began as if he wasn't quite sure himself, "Peach said she had some kind of secret information for Flutter. I really don't know what it is, but she said she wanted Mario and me to come along."
Daisy bit her lip. She knew a great many things that that could mean, and she didn't like any of them. "You know, Luigi," she began with a deep sigh, "it sounds like..." her voice trailed off, and she began again. "I mean, that's the kind of thing that..." once again, she couldn't finish her thought.
"Darling," Luigi said, stopping and turning Daisy's face toward his, "what is it?"
Daisy stared at Luigi for a moment, as if summoning the courage to say what was on her mind. "It sounds to me," she finally declared, "like Peach is preparing for a war."
"What does she see in him anyway?" Fortinbras muttered as he stormed into his office in the Capitol of Birubuto. "He's a commoner. Not only that, but he's rude, uncultured," the Minister of Defense wrinkled his nose as he added, "and he has the social graces of a nokobon with a frayed fuse."
"And why should the princess care about his social graces?" interposed someone who had overheard Fortinbras' complaints. "It seems to me that the two of them are perfectly happy with each other." As Fortinbras looked up from his desk with a start, he saw a fairly squat Toadsman standing before him in the traditional blue of a Thalidian ambassador.
"Never mind that, Sir Toad," Fortinbras withdrew from the impending debate, "it's an internal Sarasi matter."
Toad cracked a smile in spite of his best efforts otherwise. Fortinbras seemed so different from Thalidia's Chancellor on the outside, but in reality they were so much alike. They both thought they knew exactly what was best for their people, they both distrusted foreigners, and neither of them could stand the possibility that the princess each of them represented might be married to a common man in what seemed like the near future. "In any case, Lord Fortinbras," Toad chuckled, taking the wheel of the conversation, "when you're through going over all the reasons why the princess should have nohing to do with the man who has saved her life on countless occasions, perhaps you would like to discuss the situation I came here to discuss."
"There is nothing to discuss," Fortinbras stated flatly. "Sarasaland has no quarrel with Thalidia, but we do not, and will not ever while I'm in office, have any intention of signing your treaty." He looked down at the papers on his desk for a moment before adding, "If you're looking for support in your war against Bowser, look elsewhere. I'm not going to plunge Sarasaland into the middle of a war that is, quite frankly, Thalidia's problem."
"And what happens if Bowser wins?" Toad countered. "What happens then, hmm? Or if Bowser just loses interest in Thalidia, what happens then? Where do you think he's going to turn his eyes next?"
Fortinbras glanced up at Toad for a moment, beginning to seem interested.
"I'll tell you where, Prime Minister: Sarasaland," Toad continued. "The Four Princedoms cover the greatest land area of any country on the planet, save for Thalidia, and contain the largest population."
"A population entirely ready to defend themselves against Bowser if need be," Fortinbras interrupted arrogantly. "Bowser has seen the power of Sarasi armed forces, and I assure you he'll think twice before waging war on us again."
"Oh, he's thought a lot more than twice already, Chamberlain. That much is certain." Toad decided now would be a good time to open the Prime Minister's eyes to what had been going on around him. "And your military just makes you that much juicier of a target. Haven't you noticed that border skirmishes between Muda and the Koopas have grown more frequent and more intense lately? Haven't you noticed that Easton has suddenly become more prone to monster infestations? And what about the rumors of a Koopa naval base ten miles from Chai's border?"
"That," Fortinbras cut in, "is a rumor, and nothing more."
"I wouldn't be so sure," Toad replied, "but it's all the same. Nimbus Land, Yoshi's Island, Monstro City, and yes, even Sarasaland... they've all taken losses to the Koopa Empire. It's no longer just Thalidia's problem. Do you remember Sarasaland after the fight with Tatanga?" 'Ah,' Toad thought, noticing the sudden change in Fortinbras's face, 'I said the magic T-word.' "I don't want to see that happen again, Chamberlain, and I doubt you do either."
Fortinbras wasn't taking the bait. "That won't happen again," he countered, "because we're ready this time."
"You're ready to deal with Bowser's Empire now," Toad agreed, "but what if the Koopa Empire were to suddenly increase in size a hundredfold?"
"That's ridiculous. How could that happen so suddenly?"
Toad's answer was simply a scroll placed on Fortinbras's desk. "Read that, if you would."
Fortinbras, now wrought with suspicion, proceeded to unroll the scroll and read it aloud. "The Treaty of Kappa Mountain?" he questioned after reading the opening articles of the scroll's contents.
"It names Bowser as the complete and total ruler of all Koopa clans, not just the clan of Morton," Toad explained. "And yes, I mean 'all'. Every Clan leader on the planet has ratified that treaty. The most common race on the planet now serves a single king, fights under a single banner, and works for a single goal."
Fortinbras sighed, and reluctantly nodded, understanding where Toad was leading. "And that goal," he agreed, "is a world enslaved by Bowser."
Fortinbras rose from his chair and slowly paced in front of his window, pondering the document Toad had just presented before him, wondering if it was authentic or not. At length, he sighed heavily, bracing himself for what he knew would eventually happen when he had said what he was about to say. "Ambassador Toad," he announced formally, "I'd like to take another look at your proposed alliance."
"So what you're telling me," Luigi mused, pretending he was interested in the conversation at hand, and that it wasn't just an excuse to spend time with Princess Daisy, "is that Ludwig supposedly has a twin?"
"Mm-hmm," Daisy nodded, "and this twin has come back to Bowser's Keep."
"That can't be good. I mean, that brings the Royal Family to 11: 8 Koopalings, Bowser and the Queen, and that halfling thing."
"But the surprising thing is this," Daisy pressed on. "Have you noticed that since this 'Karma' was first sighted, Bowser's plans seem to be failing more often? As if they're being sabotaged from within?"
Now Luigi was genuinely interested. "Izzat so?"
"And then, when we first learned about this twin, Bowser started having even more trouble from within. The doomship fleet hasn't enjoyed a victory in months, and the Yoshis are gaining the upper hand in Dinoland, despite Bowser's increased focus there."
A new thought struck Luigi. "D'you think that maybe that has something to do with Peach's sudden focus on Monstro City?"
Daisy wasn't quite following. "What does Monstro have to do with the Royal family?" she asked, wrinkling her nose in confusion.
"Maybe," Luigi continued more to himself than to Daisy, "she knows something else about this 'Karma' person, and Ludwig's twin." He paused, seeming to put together pieces of a great jigsaw puzzle in his head. "Maybe she thinks..." his voice trailed off, and his eyes slowly rose to meet Daisy's. "I have to talk to Fortinbras," he announced as he rose to his feet and quickly strode off to the Palace, leaving behind a very confused young princess.
"Ambassador, I know I'm going to regret this," Fortinbras sighed gloomily as he affixed his signature to the document in front of him.
"No, you won't," Toad assured him. "This treaty will be what future generations remember you for."
"Yes," agreed Fortinbras, "but for good, or ill?" he finished signing, and placed his quill on the table. "It still seems like a mistake plunging Sarasaland into a full-scale war against someone who hasn't threatened us yet."
"Hasn't threatened you yet?" Toad questioned. "Are you so sure?"
Fortinbras was confused. "What do you mean by that?"
Toad took a seat across the desk from Fortinbras and prepared himself for a long, in-depth conversation. "What about Apollyon?"
Fortinbras' eyes snapped toward Toad.
"Tell me about that incident, Prime Minister."
Fortinbras paused, sighed deeply, and glanced up at Toad. Clearly, the Thalidian ambassador knew that story, but he wasn't planning on leaving until Fortinbras was forced to remember every terrifying detail.
"I have to give you credit, Toad," Fortinbras conceded, "you're a tough negotiator." He cleared his throat, leaned back in his chair, and began his account of a battle from years before. "It was about four years ago when Bowser first launched the Doomship Fleet. This was when the Koopalings first launched their assault on your seven so-called 'Mushroom Worlds'." At that same time, Bowser launched a Doomship of his own; a monstrous, horrific doomsday machine called the KDS Apollyon. First constructed in the mountains over the subterranean realm- Dark Land, as you call it- he intended to use this ship to attack Thalidia itself, and the quickest route from there to Thalidia was right through Sarasaland's very heart."
"But you got wind of this," Toad interrupted.
"Yes," Fortinbras nodded, "yes, we did, and I for one wasn't happy with the report at all. So I rallied the newly commissioned Muda Air Force together to engage the ship before it got to Sarasaland's skies. We intercepted it, ironically enough, in the sky over the Valley of Bowser, right off the coast of Yoshi's Isle." Fortinbras closed his eyes as the unsettling memories flooded back over him. "It was the most terrifying day of my life. Apollyon was five miles long and had 122 decks, with torpedo turrets on its underbelly and countless myriad of Bill Blasters on every deck. On the main deck, it was lined with Bob-omb catapults, but the most horrifying thing was its main gun: a plasma cannon stronger than the ones onboard Crusher and Amadeus combined.
In the end, we managed to destroy its
engine core, and that blew the ship right in half. The two segments were
hurled into the sea in opposite directions by the blast, and its torpedo
array was destroyed completely, with the pieces reported to have fallen
as far away as Soda Lake. Even so, Bowser somehow survived." Fortinbras
bit his lip as he began to emerge from the trance of one recalling a day
best left forgotten. "It was the Air Force's first fight, and it ended
with a victory for Sarasaland...
...but it was a costly one indeed."
Toad was silent for a moment while he waited to make sure Fortinbras was finished. "You hit Bowser pretty hard that day," he observed. "No matter how bad your losses were I'm sure his were heavier, and I'll bet he hasn't forgotten that day."
Fortinbras snapped his eyes toward Toad once more. "Are you saying I'm the reason Bowser would attack Sarasaland?" he demanded dangerously.
"No," Toad replied, "no. Quite the contrary. I'm saying he more than likely would have crushed Sarasaland that very day if you hadn't stopped him. After all, it would have been no trouble at all: he could just pass over Sarasaland giving a show of force, finish his war against Thalidia, and present the now demoralized Sarasi with two options: surrender or die. Fortunately, you stopped him." Toad leaned forward, across Fortinbras' desk. "But don't think for a minute that Bowser has given up. No, your victory against Apollyon is just one more reason why you should never, for any reason let down your guard, especially when dealing with Bowser."
Fortinbras was about to reply when voices were heard outside the door.
"I'm sorry sir, but I can't let you in here."
"Look, I don't have time for this. I have to speak to the Prime Minister."
"I can't allow tha... Sir, No! Stop!"
The conversation ended with the door swinging open and Luigi striding into the room. "Fortinbras," he gasped, "we need to talk... Toad?"
"Luigi," Fortinbras sighed wearily, "I don't have the time for this. I'm in the middle of an important conversation here, and I-"
"Prime Minister," Toad interrupted calmly, "I know Luigi, and he wouldn't have interrupted us without good reason."
Fortinbras couldn't have disagreed more, but decided to hear Luigi out simply because he was too tired of arguing to get into a debate with the foreigner.
"Fortinbras," Luigi began, "I just heard that your spies have information about a Koopa Royal that seems to be Ludwig's twin brother, and-"
"What?!" bellowed Fortinbras, jumping up from his seat. "How did you hear about that? That information is classified!"
Luigi stared at Fortinbras for a moment and shrugged. "Daisy told me," he replied, as if that were a perfectly normal explanation.
Fortinbras sighed. "It seems there truly are no secrets between you two," he muttered, "even when there should be."
Luigi hesitated for a moment, and continued, "Well, anyway, I also heard that since this twin first appeared, Imperial operations have been failing left, right, and center."
"True," Fortinbras nodded. "And?"
"I think," Luigi began, "that there's more to that story, and I think this is what it is."
Now Fortinbras was interested.
"You may have noticed that Thalidia has been trying to improve relations with Monstro City lately. Well, there's a reason for that, and here's the fun part."
This time it was Toad who tried to silence Luigi. "Luigi," he cautioned, "I know where you're going with this, and that's classified."
"Oh, no, no," Fortinbras said in a mocking tone of voice. "He wouldn't have interrupted us without good reason."
"Will you two let me finish?!" Luigi sighed exasperatedly. "As I was trying to say, Peach and the Chancellor are doing this for two reasons. One has to do with two guests staying at the Thalidian palace right now: Monstermama, and Warlord Monstro."
Toad sighed, and slid down in his chair. "Good one, Luigi," he muttered.
"And the other," Luigi continued, "is because they have reason to think- get ready for this one- that Ludwig von Koopa is working with this twin and the Halfling known as 'Karma' in a rebellion against Bowser."
Fortinbras stared at Luigi for a moment, and began to laugh. "Am I supposed to believe that?"
"It's true," Toad sighed. "It's true. It was supposed to be classified, but since Luigi has so cleverly disclosed our secret," Toad stopped his lecture long enough for a distasteful glare at Luigi, "it's best you know the truth."
"And that truth is?" Fortinbras pressed.
"We do have reason to believe that Baron Von Koopa is involved in a rebellion, and here are the two bits of evidence. First, there's what we know of a recent attack on Monstro City by the Koopa Troop. A battalion of Bob-ombs was sent to attack the city from one side, and Amadeus was sent to attack from the other. The plan was seemingly foolproof, but something went wrong. A shot from Amadeus' main gun ripped through the ranks of the battalion, causing a chain reaction that detonated each one of them. Now, that could be written off as a misfire, but there's more. Instead of continuing the assault without the Bob-ombs, Amadeus ceased-fire and returned to Bowser's Keep."
"That could mean anything," sneered Fortinbras. "You'll have to come up with more convincing evidence than that."
"Very well then," Toad replied. "I will. The second thing is what Warlord Monstro saw that prompted him to leave Yoshi's Island and join the war against Bowser. He was watching the sky around the island, as usual, when he saw three Doomships approaching. He didn't know their names or commanders, but he said one of them was as big as the other two put together. That sounds like Amadeus. Now, he assumed they were on their way to Yoshi's Island as part of a Koopa attack on the isle, but before they got there they were ambushed by another Doomship which crippled all three of them. The attacking Doomship then moved on to Yoshi's Island with its main gun extended, and was moving in to attack the island when he shot it out of the sky with his own plasma cannon. Now, the scene of Doomships attacking Doomships tells me there was a rebellion involved somewhere, and If this Doomship was attacking Yoshi's Island, it was probably under Koopa control, as it should have been. So the only logical conclusion is that Amadeus and the other two weren't."
Fortinbras stared thoughtfully at the Thalidian Ambassador for a long time, contemplating whether or not he believed the tale. It was based entirely on circumstantial evidence, but still he somehow couldn't erase the nagging sensation that there was truth to it from the back of his mind, especially after reading his reports of internal sabotage somewhere in the top levels of the Koopa Empire.
"I'm not sure why," Fortinbras admitted, "but I believe you. Now, my question is, what difference does this make to me?"
"Because I'm supposed to accompany Peach to Monstro City soon," Luigi explained, "and I think this has something to do with the reason. I just thought it would be best if you knew what was going on, and I wanted to see if I should fill you in on what happens when I get back. You see-"
"Yes, Luigi," Fortinbras interrupted, "I see the implications. And yes, I would very much like you to report back to me when this trip to Monstro City is over."
Toad, by this time, would have gladly chosen to disappear into his chair, were he able to do so. "Is there any other classified information you'd like to give to the Prime Minister while we're here, Luigi?" he demanded sarcastically.
Luigi, taking the disclosure much less seriously than Toad, thought for a moment before jokingly continuing with, "Well, I could tell him the-"
"NO! NO! JUST SHUT UP! SHUT UP, LUIGI!" And with that, Toad rose from his chair, mumbled his farewell to Fortinbras, and stomped out the door and toward the nearest warp pipe to Thalidia.
"Well, Luigi," Fortinbras forced a smile as he glanced at Luigi, "it seems I was wrong about you. Sarasaland may need you after all."
Luigi saw right through Fortinbras' fake smile, but he played along. After all, Sarasaland DID need him, and it needed the information he was giving them, whether Thalidia was willing to give it to them or not. Something like a rebellion in the Koopa Empire didn't need to be kept classified. "I'm glad to hear it," he replied with a false smile of his own. "I'll be sure to keep you up-to-date." There was a brief pause before Luigi dismissed himself with, "If you'll excuse me, Prime Minister," and briskly walked out the door of Fortinbras' office.
Once Fortinbras was certain Luigi and Toad were out of earshot he called to the person who had been listening in from the next room. "Alright Ambassador Kamek, you can come out now."
Kamek, Guildmaster of the Magikoopa Sorcerers Guild, sat in the room adjacent to Fortinbras' office listening intently through the door to the conversation between Fortinbras and the Thalidian ambassador. "I don't believe it," he muttered. "That idiot is actually going to sign that treaty. In fact," the Guildmaster thought with disgust, "I'd almost say he was planning to do so from the start." The ancient Magikoopa sighed as he thought of what King Bowser's reaction would be to this. We can't afford to fight alone against Thalidia, Sarasaland, and Monstro at the same time and still keep up our fight against the Yoshis, and the Treaty of Kappa Mountain isn't official yet. This could mean trouble. Kamek continued to eavesdrop when something caught his attention. Kamek pressed his ear against the door and listened intently.
"I'm sorry sir, but I can't let you in here."
"Look, I don't have time for this. I have to speak to the Prime Minister."
"I can't allow tha... Sir, no! Stop!"
There was the sound of a door swinging open, followed by "Fortinbras, we need to talk," in a voice Kamek recognized with loathing as Luigi L. Mario, one of two Thalidians who had been a thorn in King Bowser's side for ages.
"What in blazes is he doing here?" Kamek grumbled.
Kamek tried to discern what Luigi was saying, but all he could hear was a umble of voices as Toad, Luigi, and Fortinbras all struggled to be heard over each other. Finally, the noise began to subside and Kamek was able to distinguish the voice of Luigi, and what he heard made his reptilian skin crawl.
"They have reason to think- get ready for this one- that Ludwig von Koopa is working with this twin and the halfling known as 'Karma' in a rebellion against Bowser."
Kamek was stunned. He had heard Bowser's suspicions that his eldest son had become a traitor, but to hear it from Luigi was more than he had expected. Could it be that Thalidia, watching Koopa affairs from a distance, had come to the same conclusion as Bowser? Could it be that Thalidia had seen what no one inside the Koopa Troop but Bowser had suspected? Certainly the evidence was all there, Kamek was forced to admit to himself. As Kamek continued to ponder over this, he was distracted again, this time by Toad.
"The second thing is what Warlord Monstro saw that prompted him to leave Yoshi's Island and join the war against Bowser."
Warlord Monstro?! What?! Kamek couldn't believe his ears, but there were more surprises to come.
"He was watching the sky around the island, as usual," Toad explained, "when he saw three doomships approaching. He didn't know their names or commanders, but he said one of them was as big as the other two put together. That sounds like Amadeus."
Kamek narrowed his eyes. He knew what mission Toad was talking about. It was the first mission where Ludwig's twin and the halfling were placed in command of doomships, and new ones at that. This mission was one that had been shrouded in suspicion since its failure. Maybe, he thought darkly, this was a good time to find out what had really happened, and Toad just might have the answers Kamek's master wanted.
"Now, he assumed they were on their way to Yoshi's Island as part of a Koopa attack on the isle," Toad continued, "but before they got there they were ambushed by another doomship which crippled all three of them. The attacking doomship then moved on to Yoshi's Island with it's main gun extended, and was moving in to attack the island when he shot it out of the sky with his own plasma cannon."
Kamek fumed. Was that how it really happened? Amadeus had been ambushed by a doomship? Only Amadeus and its sister ships were intended for that attack. The commanders of all four doomships had claimed they were ambushed by a plasma cannon from Yoshi's Island, and that the fourth vessel had "come to their rescue". With no evidence to the contrary, King Bowser had been forced to accept their dubious explanation. But now, Toad told a new story. Kamek's master would be interested.
In any case, that was all the shock Kamek could stand for one day. Stunned, he made his way away from the door and back to a chair in the center of the room to wait for Fortinbras to summon him.
Kamek couldn't be sure how long he'd sat there in that state before he heard Fortinbras call from his office. "Alright, ambassador Kamek. You can come out now."
Kamek rose from his chair and stepped into Fortinbras' office to find Fortinbras looking back at him from across his desk, apparently braced for the conversation he knew was ahead. "I'm disappointed, Prime Minister," Kamek said with a shake of his head. "I thought you had more insight than that."
Fortinbras sighed. "I'd be lying, ambassador, if I said I didn't see this coming. I've known for some time that Sarasaland couldn't remain neutral forever."
"True," Kamek conceded, "true. But why Thalidia? I came here to propose that you side with us. After all, you aren't exactly Thalidia's biggest supporter, from what I'm told. Why then did you choose to enter into a treaty with them, against your better judgment?"
Fortinbras decided it was time to end the charade. "Because, ambassador, I knew that if I didn't sign it, then I would have been tempted to sign your treaty instead. I'm not willing to do that, Kamek. I won't fight against my own sister."
His sister? Kamek didn't understand. What did she have to do with... "Oh, I see," Kamek sighed as understanding first came to him. "Is that what this was about, Prime Minister? Is it about your sister?" The Guildmaster rolled his eyes at what he considered a trivial concern. "Peach could have been spared, Fortinbras. After we conquer Thalidia there will be a need for a puppet government. It wouldn't have been difficult to spare your sister, and even leave her on the throne. She would have been perfectly safe, and lived out her life in complete comfort. In the meantime, you would have been rid of a problem of your own: Luigi."
Fortinbras clenched his fists at the reminder. He had thought of that, and the prospect of eliminating Luigi so that a more suitable partner for the princess could be found was tempting. But nonetheless, Fortinbras was more comfortable siding with Thalidia than the Koopa Empire. Thalidia, at least, hadn't launched Apollyon. "Consider this, Kamek," Fortinbras countered. "If I had signed your treaty and we had prevailed against Thalidia then once you conquered Monstro Cit,y Sarasaland would be the only major power left in the world that isn't under Koopa control. So instead of facing three separate nations with three separate agendas, we'd find ourselves surrounded by a single hostile, expansion-minded force on all sides. What would become of Sarasaland then?"
Kamek didn't respond. He knew there was no point in continuing the argument. Instead, he turned away, realizing what he now had to do. "Well, Lord Fortinbras," he sighed again, "I suppose this is the end of diplomatic relations between our two cultures."
"I suppose so, ambassador," Fortinbras agreed, "which means it's best that you leave now."
"Indeed it is," Kamek agreed, drawing his wand and beginning to cast a spell. "But before I leave, I want to make one thing known."
"And that is?"
Kamek whirled around, pointing his now glistening wand dead into Fortinbras' face. "I'm no ambassador, and I'm not here on a diplomatic mission."
Luigi stalked through the halls of the Sarasi palace, too deep in thought to even bother with his usual greetings to the servants running this way and that, tending to the day-to-day business of maintaining the Royal residence. He was so deep in thought that he almost didn't hear a voice calling from behind him, trying to catch up to him.
"Luigi, wait! Luigi, do you hear me?"
Luigi looked over his shoulder, startled by the interruption, and saw Daisy running toward him. "Oh, Your Highness," he greeted with a bow. "I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention."
"I noticed," shot back an out-of-breath Princess Daisy as she came to a stop next to Luigi and placed her hands on her hips. "Luigi, what's going on? One minute we were sitting in the palace garden talking, and the next you shot like lightning out of the garden and up to Fortinbras' office muttering some gibberish about Monstro and..."
Luigi placed his hand on her shoulder
to calm her. "Daisy," he said
softly, "it's alright. Don't be so worried."
The gesture seemed to partly sedate Daisy, but she still wanted answers. "Luigi," she sighed, "what's going on here? Talk to me."
Luigi hesitated. He really didn't have the time to explain it. He needed to return to Thalidia. And besides, was it really worth worrying her over matters that he and Fortinbras could take care of by themselves? Did she really need to know the alarming truth? In the end, Luigi decided she did. She was, after all, the princess of Sarasaland, and this was most definitely a Sarasi problem now. There was no other way.
However, Luigi realized, he didn't have to break the news to her himself. "Daisy," he began, "I'd tell you, but I think it's best if you just talk to Fortinbras about it."
Daisy crossed her arms indignantly. "Why's that?" she demanded.
"I just think he could explain it better than I could."
Daisy wasn't buying it. "Try again."
"Look, Daisy, I... I just..."
"You just don't think I can handle it," said Daisy as she threw her hands in the air. "Luigi, I'm no child. I'm the princess of Sarasaland, and from the way you were talking, I get the feeling something is about to go on in my country that I need to know about." She softened her voice a little as she continued, "I'd rather hear it from you then Fortinbras, because I know I can trust you."
Luigi hated to admit it to himself, but he knew she was right. "Alright, Daisy, I'll tell you. But the fact is I really don't know what's going on. I know what you told me about a Koopa twin and a Yoshi-Koopa appearing suddenly out of nowhere, and I know what Peach has told me. Beyond that, I have nothing but guesses and theories." He stopped, wondering if he should finish his thought. "And a great many fears."
Daisy realized by now that she would get no answers from Luigi. "Alright," she conceded, "I'll ask Fortinbras about it. But you're going with me."
"Daisy," Luigi started to protest.
"That's an order!" Daisy announced flatly, ending the debate. And with that, the two of them returned to the Prime Minister's office for a conversation Luigi knew he wasn't going to remember fondly.
Luigi had no idea how right he was, because at that moment the sound of an explosion echoed through the halls, and the sound came from Fortinbras’ office.
“What was that?” Daisy gasped.
“I don’t know,” Luigi replied suspiciously. He looked toward Daisy and said only two words. “Wait here.” With that, Luigi darted to the office he had just left, hoping he could get there in time to stop whatever was happening.
Fortinbras ducked to avoid the blast from Kamek’s wand and threw himself on the floor behind his desk. He knew better than to put his head back up, because Kamek would be expecting it. As Fortinbras reached for the Super Flower hidden on the underside of his desk, another blast of magic exploded against the wall, passing right through the space where Fortinbras’s chest would have been had he stood up. Fortinbras heard Kamek let out a surprised grunt at the miss.
The Prime Minister recognized his chance to act. He tore a petal from the Super Flower. As it began to flame, he threw the fireball that the petal had become over the desk and in what he hoped was Kamek’s direction. Clutching the Super Flower close to him, he rolled out from behind the desk and threw himself forward, trying to catch the guildmaster off guard. He failed, and he paid for it. No sooner had Fortinbras begun to charge forward than he felt an intense burning pain shoot throughout his body as he flew backward from the blast of fiery force from his enemy's wand.
“You disappoint me, Prime Minister,” Kamek gloated. “I expected more of a fight from a battle-hardened Sarasi warlord. Oh yes, that’s right,” he mocked. “You’ve never actually been in battle, have you?”
Fortinbras picked himself up off the ground and looked for his Super Flower. “You seem to be forgetting something, Guildmaster,” he returned the snide insult. “If I’ve never been in battle, then what happened to your almighty airship Apollyon? Who sent it to the bottom of the sea on its maiden voyage?” As he said this, Fortinbras found the Super Flower. He had let go of it when the blast hit him, and it was halfway across the office. He tried to get up and run toward it, but his legs couldn’t support him. He was too weak from Kamek’s bolt of energy, so he began crawling toward it.
“An airship is one thing,” Kamek sneered at his fallen foe, “an enemy who can look you in the eye is another. So tell me, Prime Minister: have you ever truly known fear until now?”
As Kamek finished his torrent of remarks, Fortinbras reached the Super Flower. Kamek, however, didn’t seem to notice yet. “What I’ve never known until now,” Fortinbras laughed, “is someone who talks so much when he should be finishing his enemy off!”
Before Kamek could make sense of that, Fortinbras rolled onto his side, crushed the Super Flower blossom in his hand, and hooked the entire now-flaming mass at Kamek, hitting him square in the chest. Kamek screamed in agony as his cloak caught fire, and immediately cast a spell to douse the flames. No sooner had he done this than he felt something heavy land squarely on his shoulders, knocking him to the floor. This was the wooden door of Fortinbras’s office: Luigi’s gift to Kamek upon his arrival on the scene.
“Kamek,” Luigi exclaimed, “what in the...” Nevermind, Luigi thought. It doesn’t matter why he’s here. What matters is getting rid of him.
Kamek picked himself up from underneath the door. “Luigi,” he sighed, more annoyed than frightened. “This is a revolting development.”
“I’m sure it is,” Luigi razzed the Guildmaster. “And so will this be.”
As Luigi said this, Kamek felt a tremendous push from behind him and found himself pinned to the floor. It was Fortinbras, struggling to strike at Kamek while he was still focussed on Luigi. Kamek, by now, had had enough. He irately raised his wand and...
“My wand!” Kamek gasped. “Where is it?!”
“Looking for this?” came Luigi’s voice from somewhere above Kamek. Desperately, Kamek writhed his way out from under Fortinbras. Just as he came to his feet, he found himself flying backward through the air with stars swirling around his field of vision as Luigi swung the wand and quickly and forcefully connected its tip with Kamek’s head.
“Well Kamek,” Luigi sneered, “I guess this glorified toothpick is good for something after all.”
Kamek shook his head to clear his senses. “Indeed,” he agreed with a grin. “Why don’t I show you just how much good it can do?” At that moment Kamek thrust his hand toward Luigi. Before Luigi realized it the wand had freed itself from his grip and flown across the office into Kamek’s awaiting hand. Kamek, his wand in his possession again, turned toward Fortinbras to finish the job he had begun. It was all too easy, he thought. In just two shots he would rid himself and his master not only of Apollyon’s destroyer, but Luigi as well.
Unfortunately for him, it was not to be so.
“Wha.. what?” Kamek stammered, staring at the empty space where Fortinbras had been only moments before. “Where...?”
“Right here, Guildmaster,” Fortinbras announced triumphantly from the doorway.
As Kamek spun around toward the door, he found Fortinbras surrounded by a squad of uniformed soldiers, each with a Super Flower pointed directly at Kamek. On either side of Fortinbras was an additional guard helping the wounded Defense Minister to stand.
“I’d like to introduce you, Kamek, to a few of Sarasaland’s Finest:” Fortinbras declared, “Shock Troopers from the 7th Birubuto, alerted by all those fireballs you keep mindlessly throwing around.”
Kamek looked around the room nervously. If he moved, he was a casualty, and if he didn’t, he was a Sarasi P.O.W. He knew that. With a sigh, he resigned himself to the knowledge that his mission had failed. Disgusted, he glared at Fortinbras. “You know, Prime Minister,” he growled, “we had every intention of letting you be our ally.”
“We,who?” Fortinbras countered.
“King Bowser and myself,” Kamek answered. “But you wouldn’t listen to reason, so I had no choice but to have you ‘removed from office’ in the hope that your successor would be more open-minded.”
“Well,” Fortinbras replied, “you failed. Let’s move on now.” Fortinbras was about to signal his guards to have Kamek taken into custody and hurled into the palace dungeon, but Kamek cut him off.
“Oh, make no mistake, Prime Minister,” the Guildmaster grinned, if I wanted to, I could kill you all and set this palace ablaze, but then where would King Bowser’s residence be when we crush this miserable nation?” Kamek afforded one last glance at Luigi. “So, plumber, you’re traveling to Monstro City in the near future? And Warlord Monstro is with you, you say? Well, I certainly hope Monstro City is still there when you arrive.” And with that cryptic threat, Kamek waved his wand and disappeared in a ball of flame.
Luigi, Fortinbras, and the guards stood in silence for a moment. “Well,” Luigi pointed out the obvious, “he got away.”
“Yes,” Fortinbras nodded, “he did. But I nearly didn’t.” With a wave he dismissed the guards, and turned angrily toward Luigi. “Who asked you to interfere anyway?” He paused to make sure he could stand up before insisting “I had everything under control!”
Luigi stared at Fortinbras in shock for a moment before slowly shaking his head. “Right,” he sighed. “I can see that you did.”
Fortinbras took a few steps to make sure he was in control of his legs again before conceding, “I suppose you’ll want an explanation for all this.”
Luigi looked back at Fortinbras. “An
explanation?” he asked in
confusion. “You mean you have one?”
Fortinbras sighed and returned to his seat at his desk, which had somehow escaped destruction during the fighting. “Have a seat, Luigi,” he insisted, motioning to the chair in front of the desk.
Luigi was eager indeed to hear the Prime Minister’s explanation, so he sat across from Fortinbras as requested.
“Before I begin,” Fortinbras announced,
“I have to say I would like to
keep this hidden from the princess for now.”
“The reason being?” Luigi asked suspiciously.
“I just would rather inform her myself than have her come storming in here demanding to know why she heard it from you first,” Fortinbras replied.
Luigi nodded. In reality, he had no intention of keeping this from Daisy, but he wasn’t about to let Fortinbras know that.
“The first thing you need to know,” Fortinbras began, “is that I knew Kamek was here. In fact, I allowed him to come into the palace.”
“You did what?!” Luigi shouted, nearly leaping out of his seat.
“Please,” Fortinbras attempted to silence
him, “sit down and hear me out.” As Luigi forced himself to sit back down,
Fortinbras continued. “He was here calling himself an ambassador, claiming
to have in mind a treaty between Sarasaland and the Koopas. Who knows?
Maybe that was his goal. I don’t know. But in any case, he had been here
for weeks trying to convince me at every opportunity that Thalidia was
as much a threat to Sarasaland as it was to the Koopa Troop. And I have
to admit, he had almost convinced me when
word came to me that Ambassador Toad was on his way. That, I suppose, was just the opportunity Kamek was waiting for.”
Fortinbras rose from his seat and stepped over to his enormous window overlooking the parade grounds before continuing. “Kamek was adamant that Toad was actually a spy, and that he was not to be trusted. I doubted this, of course, but Kamek’s resolve wasn’t dampened in the least. Finally, he persuaded me to allow him to listen in on my conversation with Toad from my chamber, to ‘make sure Toad didn’t try anything.’ I knew it was ludicrous, but I agreed to it to appease Kamek. So, when I signed Toad’s treaty...” The Prime Minister stopped himself, but not soon enough. “I shouldn’t have said that.”
Luigi shook his head. “I would have found out soon enough anyway, Fortinbras, either from Daisy or from Peach. What I want to know is this.”
“WHAT IN BLAZES WERE YOU THINKING?!” Luigi practically vaulted over the desk reaching for the Prime Minister’s throat. “You allowed the Guildmaster of the Magikoopas to waltz in here calling himself an ambassador, discussed signing an alliance with Bowser, and gave Kamek the perfect opportunity to ambush Toad and me, and you did it all in one single, unparalleled act of... of...”
“I think ‘stupidity’ is the word you’re looking for,” Daisy finished for him from just outside the door, where she had been standing hidden from Fortinbras and Luigi’s eyes. “Then again,” the princess said in mock contemplation as she entered the Prime Minister’s office, “’Idiocy’ springs to mind. But as for me,” she glared almost murderously at Lord Fortinbras, “I was thinking more along the lines of ‘treason’!”
Fortinbras lost all track of what little of his usual bearing he had managed to maintain at the entrance of Princess Daisy. “Uh... you... You’re Highness,” he struggled to find a way to explain himself. “I... I...”
“You,” Daisy finished for him, “have
just done the stupidest thing of your career, Chamberlain. And believe
me, it’s had some competition for that title.” She stepped up to Fortinbras
furiously. She had to stare almost
straight up to see his face, but Fortinbras felt as though she towered over him like the pyramids of Muda. “You know, Chamberlain, you’re extremely lucky your office as Defense Minister is a difficult one to fill, or I would have you court-martialed.” She spun around and stepped toward Luigi, her heels clicking dangerously on the hard wooden floor of the office as she went. “As it is, Fortinbras, I’m going to keep this conversation between the three of us. But let me make one thing as clear as the seas of Chai. If you ever, EVER allow a Koopa operative inside the borders of Sarasaland, regardless of how many ambassadorial titles he claims to have, I’ll have him thrown into the prison at Rosengrad,” she paused to let Fortinbras take that threat in, “in a cell right next to yours. Understood, Chamberlain?”
“Perfectly, You’re Highness,” Fortinbras gulped.
“Wonderful,” Daisy clipped. “Now if you will excuse me, Prime Minister, I must speak with Luigi.”
“Uh, Daisy,” Luigi began, then caught his mistake. “I mean ‘You’re Highness’, if you don’t mind, I’d like to have a word with Fortinbras first... in private.”
In the midst of her tirade of taking charge, Daisy still managed to look a bit hurt by Luigi’s comment. “Oh,” she digressed. “Well, if that’s the case,” she made a great show of attempting to put forth her in-charge face again, “I’ll leave you two alone.” And with that, the princess pointed her nose haughtily at the ceiling and stalked out the door.
Luigi sighed as he fell into the chair he had been sitting in before. “Geez,” he moped. “Now I’ve done it.” He glared out the corner of his eye at Fortinbras. “She thinks I picked talking to you over talking with her. I guess it’ll take a lot of groveling to get back on her good side.”
“Tell me about it,” Fortinbras muttered.
“But Fortinbras,” Luigi returned his mind to the matter at hand, “there was something Kamek said that confuses me, and I want you to have your intelligence sources inside Bowser’s Keep look into it.”
“And that is?”
“I want to know what Kamek meant by that ‘I hope Monstro City is still there’ comment.”
“Guildmaster Kamek,” came the aged voice of a Koopa witch as Kamek appeared in the Magikoopa’s Guild common room deep in the bowels of Dark Land, “I wasn’t expecting you. To what do I owe-”
“Not now. Kammy,” Kamek griped as he stormed past the witch and down the hall toward his private chamber. He didn’t want to face anybody right now with the embarrassing news of his failure, least of all his former apprentice.
So, Kammy stood there for a while, unsure of what to say. “Kamek, wait,” she called after him finally.
Kamek aggravatedly stopped, turned around and answered, “What do you want, Kammy?”
“What I want, Kamek,” Kammy declared, dropping all formalities, “is to know what crawled under your robe and died, not to mention what you’re doing here. I thought you were in Sarasaland negotiating a treaty.”
“The negotiations were cut short,” Kamek responded indignantly, “but not before I had to take on a more... aggressive diplomatic approach.”
Kammy threw her hands skyward and groaned. “Oh, don’t tell me: Fortinbras wouldn’t sign the treaty because you flew off your broomstick and started mindlessly throwing fireballs around his office. Am I right?”
“No,” Kamek muttered through gritted teeth. “If you must know, I started mindlessly throwing fireballs around his office because he woudn’t sign the treaty. Are you quite happy now?”
Clearly, the answer was no. “What do you mean ‘he wouldn’t sign the treaty?’ Has he lost his mind?”
“Yes,” Kamek replied, “he has. He has so thoroughly lost his mind that he let me listen in as he entered into a moronic alliance with...” he stopped, having to force himself to spit out the remainder of that sentence. “... with the Mushroom Kingdom.”
“The Mushroom Kingdom?” Kammy spat. “What… why?”
“I don’t know, Kammy,” Kamek bellowed, “Now will you go away?”
Kammy ignored the Guildmaster’s irritated request. “You should tell Lord Bowser about this.”
Kamek couldn’t contain his sarcasm any longer. “Oh, do you think so? Great astral forces, Kammy, I would’ve never guessed.” He turned away from Kammy and began to skulk. He did indeed have to speak with Bowser, and there were more important matters than an unsigned treaty to deal with. But right now, Kamek couldn’t afford to face his king, not after his double-failure in Sarasaland. He didn’t like it, but Kamek realized he would have to send Kammy to deliver the message for him. “Kammy,” he said, glancing back over his shoulder at her, “there is one other thing that Lord Bowser should have brought to his attention.”
“And that is?”
“He’s planning to attack Monstro City in a few weeks with three doomships. I assume you know this.”
Kammy nodded her understanding.
“Then you know that even after their... suspicious performance the last time they were deployed, His Lordship is counting on the Amadeus and its sister ships for the attack.”
Kammy shifted uncomfortably. She had known this, and she had not thought it wise of Bowser at all.
“I learned something in Sarasaland that makes me think...” Kamek hesitated. Did he really want to tell Kammy? True, she already suspected the baron and his entourage of treason, but did he really want to erase all doubt from her mind? In the end, he had no choice. He turned around, looked Kammy in the eye, and announced, “I heard something that suggests Baron Ludwig, his twin, and his halfling fiancee are plotting a coup, and it’s my strong recommendation that Bowser reconsider his decision...” he let himself and Kammy both recover from this statement before adding, “to say nothing of keeping a close watch over Baron Ludwig.”
“So, Luigi,” Lord Fortinbras recapitulated, “I suppose now Sarasaland has no choice but to wage war on Bowser. You’ve gotten your way at last.”
“It looks that way,” Luigi nodded.
“And I suppose,” Fortinbras confessed, “your experience dealing with Bowser will make you essential to the Four Princedoms.”
Luigi nodded again. “Most likely, yes.”
“But understand one thing, Luigi,” Fortinbras snarled as he leaned across his desk toward Luigi. “This does not mean, nor will it ever mean that my opinion of you has been raised even a microbe. As far as I’m concerned you’re still a foreign menace and a troublemaker, and most definitely not a fit consort for Her Highness. And make no mistake, I have no intentions of letting you pollute her head with your foreign ideals and Thalidian ways.”
Luigi looked confused. “Where did that come from? I’m talking about making sure Sarasaland is ready for the confrontation to come, and you’re demonizing me again as twenty different kinds of trouble. Geez, Fort, it seems like you could at least show a little gratitude. After all, I did kind of save your life.”
“Yes,” Fortinbras interrupted, “and I’m sure you hated every minute of it. But don’t even begin to deceive yourself. I don’t trust you for a minute. In fact, I’d sooner trust Kamek again. At least he made his intentions known from the start.”
“Don’t try to distract me. It won’t work.” Fortinbras waited a moment for Luigi’s response. Hearing none, he finished with, “I’ll be watching you very closely, Luigi. You are dismissed.”
With that dismissal, Luigi stood up and left Fortinbras’ office. As Fortinbras suspiciously watched him leave, he thought to himself. True, Luigi would be invaluable to Sarasaland’s defense in the near future. And it was true, Luigi had saved him and most likely everyone in the palace from Kamek. As much as Fortinbras hated to admit it to himself, the foreigner was a hero. Much like his brother, Fortinbras felt himself sink as he thought, much like his brother.
Well, Fortinbras decided, I will indeed
be watching you, Luigi...
...just like your brother.