The Battle Against Darkness

By Biribiri X

Part One: The Coming of Culex

The monster is coming! The darkman is coming!
-Man screaming about the coming of Randal Flagg, The Stand

My lightning's flashing across the sky
You wonder yon but you're gonna die

Culex drifted down the dark road of Dark Land, smiling bitterly to himself. Tonight was the kind of night that always brought the most joy to him: dark, a bit of wind, full moon, no clouds or stars. Culex was a tall purple demon with long claws and a long snake-like tail. He was quite muscular and had red and gold specks all over his body and arms. His head had wild, long, jet-black hair which flapped around in the wind. There was a dark, twisted, almost insane grin on his dark demon face that brought out the cruelty and evil in his silver eyes, which seemed to be made almost of moonlight. If you thought he was evil, you would be right. It was the face of a person who had no love or compassion for anyone or anything, the face of somone who would make the king of the underworld shudder. Not even a group of rabid wolves would dare to so much as look at him without shuddering when he was in this mood. The strangest thing was, he was happy.

Behind him walked ten Koopa Troopas, the leader being a large Terra Cotta who carried a long, golden scythe. This was General Sanzan, Culex's right hand man. Sanzan had been a rebel and a traitor to Bowser and the Koopa empire. Just the fact that he had insulted Bowser to his face and once even attacked him physically showed how twisted he was. Culex had appointed Sanzan commander of his military, most of them rebel soldiers from Bowser's army, because he had seen great potential in Sanzan. And Culex had been right. Sanzan was by far the greatest warrior he had ever come across. Sometimes Sanzan seemed so mercilless that Culex almost considered him another version of himself. The only difficulty was that Sanzan was too brutal sometimes. Culex's legions followed Sanzan's orders without any hesitation. If any false move was made, any objective failed or forgotten, the penalty was to be thrown into the lava pits. More often than that, Sanzan would kill them himself, sometimes on a whim. Culex had lost a good deal of his best warriors because of this. This rebellious, often dangerous attitude was one of the many reasons Bowser had banished Sanzan from Dark Land.

But how to keep his crazed second-in-command in line was of no importance right now. Right now, what mattered to Culex was exacting his revenge against Mario for defeating him in Monstro Town and claiming his most powerful possession, the Quartz Charm. He didn't want them to know he would be back, though, so he had wished them all well before he left. It had been difficult to avoid choking there, he was so disgusted with himself. Now he would exact his vengence, on all of Plit if he had to.

In fact, that was exactly what he would do when the time was right. Why? Because Culex considered any planet he landed on his. He didn't even consider it a planet, he just saw it as a tool which he could use to increase his power. Like a tool, it could be disposed of and replaced with a better one more fit to do the job when it no longer worked, and this tool's usefulness had been officially used up.  Besides, he had returned to his homeland after the battle and had been severely punished by the dark mage, his lord and master.  That aside, he could dwell on planets that were devoid of life, and if Plit was destroyed... well, he'd find himself a new place for living and continuing his reign. Now was not the time for action, but soon it would be, and that was when all of Plit would be his. For now, he would bide his time. The time would come soon. Very soon indeed...

As Culex floated down the road of DarkL and, Lemmy Koopa was having a very strange dream. In it, he was walking down a dark hallway, lined with torches, strange weapons, and every so often, a spot of blood. Lemmy shivered in the darkness. It was a shiver of fear, not of the cold, which seemed to become greater as he progressed down the dingy hall. This hallway was meaningless, empty, but at the same time it was not. It was like there was something in here, waiting for him, lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce. "This room is not right." Lemmy thought to himself. "Something is wrong here. I don't know why, but I know that this room isn't right."

Lemmy entered another room which stood at the end of the tunnel. In it, something smelled. Lemmy looked around and saw that in this room there were seven indecipherable shapes strewn about. Lemmy was really frightened now. The forms on the ground were shadowy, amorphous in the dim light, but he thought he could make them out.

"Enjoying my decorations?" a voice asked. Lemmy whirled around to see something coming towards him. It was a gigantic, dark shape with horrible red eyes. Lemmy sensed a horrible hatred radiating from the shape, so incredible he staggered back. He tripped over one of the shapes and in the next moment he went sprawling on the ground, crying from fear. The shape laughed, sending a ripple of cold, icy fear up his back.

"Don't cry, brat," the thing whispered. "In my world, all are given peace, just like them."

"Like who?" Lemmy choked. The thing snapped its shadowed fingers and light flooded the room. Lemmy looked at the shadows on the ground and saw what they were, and he began to scream. The shapes were his own siblings and parents. They had all been slashed all over their body, their eyes bulged in frozen terror and their mouths lay open in silent screams. Lemmy backed away shrieking, drowning out the crazed laughter which now pervaded the room and hallway.

The thing which somehow was still shadowed crooned. "This will happen when the time is right, child. And when that time comes, your wretched race will become extinct!"

Lemmy's last thought before the monster rushed at him was, "Why can't I see him? Is it really him? It can't b..."

In his room, Lemmy sprang up in his bed. Sweat was rolling down his head in small droplets, his eyes wide with terror. He surveyed his surroundings and saw that he was awake. "Oh thank DAD it was all a dream," Lemmy whispered. Lemmy quickly realized his pajamas were drenched with sweat. So was his bed. He felt the incredible urge to scream again rising in his throat. He stifled it as best as he could, but a moan which was still fairly loud escaped his mouth

Iggy, who was sleeping on the bottom bunk, woke up. "Lemmy, what are you doing up?" he asked, groggily. He received no answer. "Lemmy?" Iggy asked again.

"Huh?" said a high-pitched male voice above him.

"It's me you dodo!" said a slightly higher voice from below. "Are you okay? You woke me up," Iggy said. Iggy felt something about the size of a penny fall on his forehead. He opened his mouth to speak and another small thing fell onto his tongue. "Ack!  Salty!" Iggy yelped. Iggy looked up and saw Lemmy was leaning over the bed. Small beads of sweat coursed down his head and onto Iggy and his bed. "That explains the salty stuff," he mused. Iggy looked up and was shocked to see how frightened his brother was. "What's with you? You look as though you had a nightmare!"

Lemmy remained silent for a moment and then said, "Yeah, I did."

"Care to share it?" At the mere suggestion of telling his younger brother about his dream, Lemmy grew pale and almost fell off the top bunk. Iggy got up in case Lemmy took a fall, but Lemmy quickly regained his balance on the edge. "Judging from your looks, I guess you got a tour of the underworld, Lemmy." Iggy laughed.

Lemmy looked grimly at his brother. "Ha ha, very funny," he remarked sarcastically. "I'd rather not share this with you, but I think it might be more than a dream."

"I'm listening," Iggy said, climbing back into bed. When Lemmy finished explaining his dream, Iggy was pale and shaking nervously. "Oh, wow..." was all he could say.

"I told you I'd rather not share it with you," Lemmy said. He quickly got into another pair of pajamas and climbed back into bed, but just as he got into bed, he thought, "Maybe Ludwig would want to know about this. That shape in my dream sure looked like Culex, and he always takes anything about him almost as seriously as King Dad. Maybe he could help." Lemmy got out of bed and headed down the hall to his older brother's room.

In the throne room, Bowser sat on his throne as still as a staue, not moving, not blinking, seemingly not breathing. From how still he was, someone might have mistaken him for a life-like statue. But nobody else was in the room, and for good reason. When Bowser was this still, that meant his temper was almost at its breaking point. And when Bowser was this mad, you did not want to so much as breathe loudly, because that might set him off like a nuclear bomb that had been dropped into a volcano. Many troops and a few of Bowser's children had experianced this nightmarish side of him firsthand. Mercifully, Clawdia had never set her husband off, not completely at least. Bowser always held his temper back with her as best as he could. In all the years of their marriage, Bowser had never lashed out at his wife. That was one of the beliefs that he had held since he was a child. Sometimes he would yell at her, and she would yell back at him, but thankfully, it had never come to blows. His children, on the other hand though, sometimes learned what it was like to have his powerful hand descend on their faces, but he rarely had to do that. They normally did as they were told without much hesitation, although sometimes they would step out of line. The only one who now almost always defied Bowser's orders was Ludwig. Mainly he disobeyed Bowser's wishes for Karma, that hyrbid girlfriend of his. If not for her, Ludwig might have been less disobediant, although sometimes Bowser wondered just how much more defiant his son would get if he got rid of her. Wondering was actually the only thing Bowser was doing right now.

"It can't be," he thought to himself. "It just can't be." Bowser still hadn't gotten over his crushing defeat when he had resurrected Final Destination from an outerdimensional black hole. When he and his kids had reached it, Ludwig had powered up Final Destination's core and transformed them all into their giga forms. But, much to his dismay, Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Princess Peach, and of course the ever vengeful Biribiri X had confronted them, defeated them again, and blown up Final Destination. That was what had driven Bowser into this state of paralysis.

"It can't be!" he yelled in his mind. "IT JUST CANNOT BE POSSIBLE!!!" his mind bellowed at him. Bowser snapped back into reality in an instant upon hearing his own voice scream at him like that. Something snapped in Bowser's head and rage took the place of shock as he leapt out of his throne. He couldn't have lost on Final Destination. It defied all logic, all reason, everything. Even in his giga form he lost? It just didn't seem possible. Pondering these things drove Bowser into a frenzied rage. Snarling and screaming and drooling in between his teeth, Bowser seized his throne and flung it to the other side of the room. It struck the wall and shattered as though made of glass. Bowser looked at what remained of his throne and screamed again. He flung himself at a large suit of armor which stood a few feet away from him and brought his claws down in a demented, reckless slash which cut the armor into unrecognizable pieces. Bowser then lunged at a  banner which hung from the ceiling and tore it into jagged ribbons with his claws. He was just about to destroy a large statue positioned on the other side of the room when an all-too-familiar voice interrupted him.

"You're mad. I know you're mad, father, but answer me this: is destroying everything you see really going to help you?" Bowser whirled around to see Ludwig standing in the throne room entrance. When Ludwig saw Bowser's face, he backed away. He knew that his father was still angry (although that couldn't even begin to decribe his fathers feelings at the time) about being defeated on Final Destination, and he knew that approaching his father at this time would be foolish, maybe even dangerous, but this time Ludwig saw something which had never been Bowser's eyes before: insanity. Pure, uncontrolled insanity. Ludwig began to back out of the room, but before he could even get two steps away, Bowser had dashed up to him and grabbed him by the throat. Ludwig tried to say something but all that came out was a hoarse gag.

Bowser slammed Ludwig against the wall of the chamber and screeched into his face. "DON'T EVER GIVE ME AN ORDER!!! DO YOU HEAR ME?!  DO YOU?!  ANSWER ME IF YOU CAN HEAR ME!!!"

Ludwig found his voice at last and muttered, "DAD help me." With an enraged shriek, Bowser flung his son across the room. Ludwig got up and saw Bowser rushing at him, snarling, bellowing. This was not his father. Not at all. What he was with was not his father, but some sort of crazed demon that contained only the devilish will do destroy everything it so much as saw or heard. Bowser shrieked again and brought his fist flying down at Ludwig's face. Ludwig did something that nobody in their right mind would have done at a time like this: he brought his hand up and caught his father's fist and halted it.

At first, Bowser couldn't believe what was happening. In all his life, this had surely never happened. He wouldn't believe for a moment that Ludwig was blocking a blow from him. No, he wasn't really doing this. He wouldn't dare do that. Not if he valued his life. "Let go of me!" Bowser roared. Ludwig continued to hold Bowser's fist in his hand. It was difficult, but his father's previous violence had brought out something in him that hadn't ever come up in any fights until now, not with his siblings, or his troops, or even the Mario brothers. He didn't know what it was, but it was all that gave him the strength to keep Bowser from knocking him senseless. "I said let go of me!" Bowser screeched.

"No," Ludwig said in a low voice.

Bowser's eyes bulged. "What did you just say to me?!" he bellowed.

"I'm sorry I have to do this, father, but you leave me no choice," his son responded. Before Bowser even knew what was happening, Ludwig ran behind him and grabbed Bowser's tail. Ludwig knew that the tail was a Koopa's most sensitive area, and if it was squeezed even a powerhouse like Bowser would be left as weak as an infant.

Bowser started to turn around, but before he could move Ludwig sank his claws into his father's spikey tail. Bowser howled and collapsed to the ground. His face went red with rage but when he spoke, all that came out was a weak whisper. "Let go of me," he croaked. "I'll have you thrown to the Bob-ombs if you don't let go of me now."

Through a haze of pain, Bowser saw Ludwig looking sternly at him. "Just try it father. I dare you," he muttered. Ludwig squeezed Bowser's tail again. Bowser screamed again, louder this time; half of the scream was his pain while the other half showed his rage. For the first time he was afraid of his son. Sure he had worried about him many times, sometimes feared for him, but he was never scared of him. No, this was totally new. And what if somebody found out? Then what? They might tell someone else, and he or she would another person, and soon everyone would know that the almighty Bowser Koopa had been bested by his son. Ludwig said, "I can sense you're in great pain, father. I'll let go if you'll calm down." Bowser glared at him with eyes that might have burnt holes in the wall, and then Bowser, the real Bowser whom Ludwig had known and loved from his infancy, returned. Bowser got up and looked around the room dreamily, and then broke down into tears.

At first, Ludwig couldn't believe it. Bowser Koopa, leader of all the Koopa Clan, blubbering like this? It couldn't be. "What is it?" Ludwig asked. Bowser only continued blubbering. "Let me guess. It's Final Destination, isn't it?" he said. Bowser shook his head slowly. "Then what is it?" Ludwig asked, curious about what else could shake his father so badly.

"It's frustration," Bowser whispered. "If I can't beat the Mario Brothers, then why should I bother trying to rule an empire?! Two measly humans have defeated me countless times, and even if I send my entire military force after them, I always end up losing! What is the point of it all?! What is the point of my existence if I can control vast nations but I can't defeat two simple humans?!" he screamed.

Ludwig nodded. He imagined if such a thing happened to him, he might lose it like this as well. Ludwig did control all of Pipe Land, but he hadn't been in many battles with the Mario Brothers, none that involved actual confrontation at least. Now that he thought about it, Ludwig could really see why his father was reacting this way. Perhaps he shouldn't have squeezed his father's tail as he had, but if he hadn't he might have lost a limb or even been killed. But that was over now. What mattered now was telling Bowser about the dream his younger brother had told him about minutes earlier.

"Father," Ludwig said to Bowser, who had finished blubbering and was now sniffling gently, "what I came here for is to alert you about a dream that Lemmy just had."

Upon hearing the word "dream", Bowser looked up. Dreams, under certain conditions, could sometimes become prophecies in the Koopa family. Many times dreams his children had came true, and from how grim Ludwig's expression was Bowser suspected that whatever dream he would be told about was not a very relaxing one. "What is in this dream?" he asked. Ludwig sighed, and told Bowser about the nightmare. Bowser was shaking as badly as Iggy was when he finished. Ludwig backed away in case Bowser went berserk again.

This time, however, Bowser only whispered, "So he's come back...".  Ludwig knew exactly whom Bowser was referring to: Culex, master of time and space. During the long battle with Smithy, which was only a year before he was born, his father, Mario, Mallow, Geno, and the princess had encountered a strange demon of incredible power behind a sealed gate in Monstro Town, a place where traitors to the Koopa regime resided. Culex had challenged them all to a battle to test their strength when they met him. Culex did not tell them the fight would be to the death. The group had pulled out a narrow victory and had taken Culex's most prized possesion, a crystal called the Quartz Charm. The demon wished them good luck on their quest to stop Smithy, but Bowser had never trusted him. There was something in Culex's eyes that suggested that their wasn't any truth in his words.

"How do we know Culex is really coming back?" Ludwig inquired. "Lemmy was quite frightened when you told him about Culex and he might have just thought about that and brought on the dream."

"There was one power that I did not mention, though. Culex also had the ability to come into another person's dream. He only liked to frighten people in their dreams, never hurt them," Bowser said.

"So we should expect the worst?"

"No," Bowser said sharply. "He won't come in broad daylight. He likes to sneak around in the shadows and attack when his victim is off guard. We'll post sentries around Dark Land in case he shows up. In the meantime, get back to bed. We'll discuss this in the morning."

"Yes, father," Ludwig said and went back to his room. After he left, Bowser remembered another thing.  Before he and Culex had met, one of his better troops, Sanzan, who lead one of his units, had betrayed him and left. Bowser always had a feeling that the wily Terra Cotta would one day step out of line. He just didn't consider just how far out he would go. Those memories rushed back now...


"I'm telling you, you old buzzard, if you send all our troops into Mushroom capital, we'll be overrun within minutes!" Sanzan yelled.

Bowser whirled around to confront the one who had insulted him like this. "Have you forgotten never to question my commands, Sanzan?" Bowser growled.

"I'm not questioning them, your highness, I'm only stating facts!"

Bowser grabbed him by the neck and lifted him up to face him. "I ought to have you thrown to the Jelectros for that!" Bowser hissed.

Sanzan showed no sign of fear at all. In fact, he seemed to be enjoying this. "Somehow, being thrown into a pit of electric jellyfish seems rather comforting to me, Bowser. Maybe they can plan attacks better than you!" he retorted.

Bowser roared and threw Sanzan into a wall. He bounced off and crumpled to the ground. "Really, is that the best you have, Bowser?" he asked sarcastically. "Because if it is, I can understand how you lose to those pesky plumbers."

"You are forgetting your place, Sanzan.  You have no right to address me by name or to defy what I command. When I tell you to do something, you do it!" Bowser ordered.

Sanzan dusted himself off and left the room. As he left, he said, "I obey orders, Bowser. I just only obey orders that a real king would command!"

Bowser considered killing Sanzan there and then, but decided not to. Sanzan was, after all, the greatest of his troops, and he would be very valuable in the upcoming battle. But he would still fix him somehow. Nobody spoke to him like this. Nobody. "We'll see just how you react when the Mushroom Kingdom becomes mine, Sanzan," he whispered.

But Bowser had made a grave mistake in attacking the Mushroom Capital first. He had been expecting victory, an easy battle for his army. He hadn't expected the Mushroom Kingdom to have actually planned an ambush for him. When he entered the capital, more Mushroom Kingdom soldiers thatn even Ludwig himself would ever be able to count had swarmed all over the battlefield and surrounded his army. Most of his troops, even the Sledge Brothers, were defeated within a matter of minutes. Bowser had even sent his tank force in, but they had tanks of their own which harnessed the power of Starmen, making them invincible. Bowser was eventually forced to make a hasty retreat. When he got back to the castle, Sanzan stood at the doorway waiting for him.

"Gee, why am I not suprised that you failed, your not-so-royal highness? Is it perhaps because you didn't take my advice? Or maybe you're just incompetent at running your soldiers?" he taunted.

Sanzan had finally gone too far. Bowser rushed at him and brought his fist crashing down into Sanzan's snout. And then something happened which no Koopa had ever done before. Sanzan jumped up and delivered a wild kick to Bowser's jaw, causing him to stumble back. Bowser touched his face and saw blood as he drew his hand away. Sanzan stood facing him, breathing heavily, his eyes wide with pain and satisfaction at having accomplished this treasonous deed. All the other Koopas stared in disbelief that someone would do such a thing. Bowser staggered forward, trying to regain his balance so he could tear the traitor who had dared to strike him into ribbons. Before he could raise his claws though, something clicked inside of his head. Sanzan may be a great warrior, but when it comes to surviving in the wild, he was nothing. He decided to simply kick him out and let him die slowly in the wastelands rather than mercifully killing him here.

"Sanzan!" he screamed. "I've officially had enough of your treachary! As penalty for defiance and striking out against your leader, I hereby sentence you to exile! Now get out of Dark Land and never show your face again in my kingdom!"

Sanzan looked at his ex-leader defiantly. "Feh! Fine! I don't need to depend on you to survive, Bowser Koopa! I'm more than happy to get out of this dump! At least I won't have to deal with your brats anymore!"

Wendy, who had been walking by to see what the commotion was about, heard this and immediately dropped to the ground and threw a tantrum. "King Dad, I'm not a brat! I'm as sweet as anything could ever get! Tell him to apologize! WAAAHHHH!!!"

All the Koopas except for Bowser, who was putting on a large pair of earmuffs, and Sanzan, who was storming out the castle gates, ducked inside their shells. "Thank you for proving my point, Wendy," Sanzan muttered as he jumped into a warp pipe to parts unknown.


Yes, those memories were still as vivid as the sun to Bowser, even now. That was all in the past now. No more traitors, no more difficulties. Anyway, tomorrow was another day. Tomorrow he would attack the Mushroom Kingdom again, and this time he wouldn't bother with his army. He'd just do it himself this time. Yes, he thought to himself. Tomorrow was another day...


Sanzan walked down the hallways of the dark fortress to his master's chamber. Arriving at a large metal door, he knocked on it. "Enter," said a voice from within. Sanzan pushed open the door and went into the dark, seemingly walless room which served as Culex's throne room. It really wasn't a room at all, but rather a forgotten area of time, where all was black but you could still see as well as one could in broad daylight. Stars twinkled all around the ceiling and wall, casting radient pools of light on the rocky surface of the floor. At the end of this room of time and space were two shimmering, moony lights hovering in the air. At first glance, one might think they were stars of some kind, but then you would get closer and see that they were cruel, shiny eyes. These eyes of course, belonged to Culex.

Sanzan bowed to his demon master and spoke. "You're sure that this mode of attack will be successful your highness?" he asked.

"I am quite confident that this plan will succeed, Sanzan," he said.

"Are you sure we cannot just attack Plit now, sire?" Sanzan inquired.

"You forget that I cannot exist in Plit's current climate. I can only survive in barren dessert climates. That is why we need to destroy it!" Culex said. Culex held out a necklace with a diamond pendent on it. "I have already given seven of my men these. Tomorrow, Plit as we know it shall end. Nobody will be able to so much as blink before they die once my plan is enacted."

Sanzan grinned. This was the kind of carnage he enjoyed most. Cities burning, people screaming and begging for mercy, death everywhere, it always gave him an incredible sense of power and control, not that he didn't have that already. Sure, he had destroyed entire cities before, sometimes even entire nations, but to destroy an entire planet, oh yes that would be fun. Very fun indeed.

As Sanzan stood envisioning all the destruction he would cause the next day, his master took out another necklace, this one with a black pendent, and slipped it around Sanzan's neck. "Each of these pendents is a small bit of my power. A color represents a different region of Plit, black for Dark Land, blue for Water Land, and so on. You will destroy Dark Land tommorrow. All I ask is that you spare Bowser and his family and take them captive once Dark Land is gone. They will be very useful to me. Is that clear?"

"Yes master," Sanzan whispered, carressing the pendent on the necklace with his fingers.

Sanzan was just about to leave the room when Culex interupted him. "There is one more thing I should remind you of. When you arrive in Dark Land tommorrow, you are to call out "darkness" on my command. That will tell me that you are ready to attack. These pendents are a part of me, so by calling out their element you will be able to tap into my powers temporarily. This will start the beginning of the end." Sanzan nodded and left the room.

Culex chuckled to himself after his second-in-command had left the room. Tomorrow would be an eventful day. Plit would be destroyed in a matter of minutes once Sanzan called out the magic phrase. After that, one thing would lead to another and all would perish, save for a select few inhabitants he had ordered his warriors to capture instead of kill. "Mario, Bowser, I promise you that when you enter my world you'll wish you had died along with the others on this miserable planet!" he yelled to nobody in particular. He threw back his head to the ceiling and laughed.

The next day...

"Toad, are you done with the flowers yet?" Peach asked as she tended to the rose bushes in her garden.

"Almost!" Toad said, although really he was far from even being started. When the watering can is as big as you, it's difficult to lift it up to water flowers. "Here goes nothing again" Toad thought as he tried to lift up the watering can. Last time he had only succeeded in tipping it all over himself, but this time he seemed to have gotten it up. The problem was that the can was quite filled with water, so he had trouble carrying it. He began to stumble backwards. "Princess, look out!" he yelled as he fell over backwards.

"Huh?" was all the princess could say when all of a sudden the full contents of Toad's watering can drenched her. Toad got up in time to see the princess looking down at him.

"Eh, sorry princess," Toad said, sheepishly.

"It's alright, Toad. It's not the first time it's happened." She was just about to go inside to get a new dress when a shadow fell over her.

"Is it going to rain, Toad? The forecast said we weren't supposed to get any rain." But Toad did not say anything. He was just looking up at what was most definitely not a cloud. The princess looked up and saw that what was overhead was not a cloud but Bowser's colorful Clown Copter. "Mario! Luigi!" she called out.

Mario and Luigi rushed out of the castle doors and saw Bowser's Clown Copter.

"Hey Bowser! Down here! We'll give you a fight if you want it!" Mario yelled.

Bowser looked down and saw plumb-dumb and plumb-dumber below him. "Let's rock and roll," he thought to himself. He switched into high gear and rushed towards them. He stopped directly above them. "Prepare to die, plumbers!" Bowser yelled from above in his Clown Copter. Mario and Luigi glanced up just in time to see two Mechakoopas leaping down towards them. Before they could land down on their heads, Mario dove out of the way and bonked one of the Mechakoopas with his fist, knocking it out. Luigi quickly grabbed it and threw it into the other robot. They both sparked and then exploded.

"C'mon, Bowser! Is that really the best you can do?!" Luigi taunted. Bowser pressed a button in the control panel of the clown copter, setting it into crusher mode. The copter's face became mad and it began to bounce around the ground. "I guess that answers my question" Luigi muttered as he ducked the copter's deadly blade. Bowser's machine sailed on, flattening some trees and bushes in the way, but nothing else. Luigi quickly punched a block and grabbed a Cape Feather.  "Catch, bro!" he called and flung the Feather to Mario. Mario grabbed it and got a cape.

"Thanks Luigi!" he called back. Mario flew into the air after Bowser and landed on the Clown Copter.

"Get off of my machine!" Bowser roared, swiping at Mario with his claws. Mario ducked and spun around, hitting Bowser in the face with his cape. He fell back a bit, giving Mario enough time to get into the cockpit.

"If you want to fly, I'll help you!" Mario said and pushed the self-destruct button. Mario leapt out of the flying machine just as smoke began to pour out of it. Bowser got up in time to see his Clown Copter burst into flame. "OH NOOOO!!!" was all he managed to yell before it exploded, sending him flying into the sky.

"Nice move, Mario!" Luigi complemented.

"No problem! If my calculations are correct, he'll land in Water Land!" Mario said.

In Water Land, Yoshi lay on a towel with a watermelon smoothie beside him. "Ah, this is the life!" he thought to himself. "No Koopas, no Mario eating my secret stash of spaghetti, no nothing! Just rest and relaxation on a warm beach with all the food I can eat!" Just as he was about to nod off, though, a large splash of water nailed him. "Ack!  I hate the water!" he yelled and jumped out of the way as another splash of water knocked over his smoothie.

"Woohoo!" Biribiri X crowed from the water. "Come on in, Yoshi! The water's great!" he called.

"You know I'm afraid of the water, you nimrod!" Yoshi yelled back.

"Aw, don't be such a wimp! C'mon in!"

"I'm not going in!" Yoshi growled. "Besides you knocked over my smoothie!"

Just before Yoshi could say anything else, though, some gigantic shape fell through the air and landed with a loud splash in the water. A moment later, Bowser emerged from the water, gasping and panting. "Ooh, just wait until I find those plumbers! I'll tie their arms ar-" Then he noticed Yoshi and Biribiri X.  "I'll just destroy you guys then!" he yelled and lunged at Biribiri X.

Before Bowser could grab him, Yoshi threw an egg at him and bonked him on the head. Bowser fell back as Biribiri X took out a Fire Flower. Bowser got up in time to see a fireball hit him in the chest. "Yeow!" he screamed and leapt out of the water onto dry land. Biribiri X continued throwing fireballs at him as Yoshi asked a Bob-omb Buddy to open up a cannon. Bowser dodged the flames as best as he could, but one hit him in the foot and knocked him into a hole where the cannon was.

"Target is locked," Yoshi said as he pointed the cannon towards Dark Land. "Fire!" he yelled and the cannon shot Bowser off into the horizon.  As he disappeared, they both heard him yell "NOT AGAAAIIINN!!!"

"Nice going, Yoshi!" Biribiri X said.

"Thanks! Let's get back to the Mushroom Kingdom. The princess is probably waiting for us." They gathered up their things and jumped into a warp pipe back to the Mushroom Kingdom.

In Dark Land...

Sanzan looked around the dimly lit regions of Dark Land. It hadn't changed a bit since he had left. On further inspection, however, he noticed a different castle in place of Bowser's Keep. "Hmph," he snorted. "I always thought he would lose his castle at one point or another." Of course in a moment, his ex-leader would lose much more than his castle. He took out his scythe and focused his energy into the blade. A moment later the face of Ryorga, a Hammer Brother with long black hair, appeared on the blade.

"Is everybody ready?" he asked into the blade.

"Yes sir. Everybody is at their posts and we're ready to attack when ready," Ryorga said.

"Good. It is almost time." Ryorga broke contact and his image dissapeared. "Any minute now," Sanzan thought. He heard a voice in his head whispering "Now!" He grinned. It was time. He grasped the necklace on his neck and held it up. "DARKNESS!!!" he commanded. It was the beginning of the end...

Bowser got up and dusted himself off. Once again he had been defeated. For some reason that wild, animal-like rage which had come last night did not present itself this time. This time it was like receiving a box that had nothing in it at all. Somehow, not having any feelings about it made it worse. First of all, he should attend to business now. With his Clown Copter destroyed, Bowser would have to rely on his doomship for attack, and that gigantic thing could be sign from mile away.  Because of that, the Mushroom Kingdom might be able to mount an attack before he even got there. Oh well, that thing was getting old anyway. "I'll just go back to the castle and relax. That'll take my mind off things for awhile," he thought.  Just before he could move, however, some crazed inhuman voice called out "DARKNESS!!!" and the ground began to shake.

"Is it an earthquake?" he thought worridly. Within moments, the ground was rumbling, most of it coming undone in large, magma-colored stones. Bowser looked and saw his castle shaking apart as the ground churned and rumbled. He tried to run forward, but the ground tripped him up. Then another part of the ground came up and fell onto him, knocking him out. Just before he passed out, he saw a bright light shooting up from the ground where a lone figure stood.

Sanzan laughed wickedly to himself as the ground churned beneath his feet. Soon Dark Land would be completely destroyed and his other men would get the signal the pendent was now flashing up into the sky and begin their attacks on the other regions of Plit. This was all very fun for him, yes indeed it was. Fire began to erupt from all the large crevices which were now forming in the ground. He didn't mind. It would all be over soon...

In Giant Land, Ryorga saw the large dragon-shaped beacon in the distance. Time to begin. He held up his pendent and called out "TYPHOON!!!"  A large tornado spun down from the sky. It was joined by another twister, and another. Ryorga quickly snapped his fingers and a blue aura surrounded the tornadoes. They became still, quiet. "Destroy everything and everyone in sight, but don't hurt the Koopaling Iggy!" he ordered. The tornadoes moved out, each in a different direction at speeds not even a tornado should move at. Ryorga pointed his finger towards the castle of Giant Land. One of the twisters whirled towards it and then through it. "Soon this entire place will be a barren wasteland!" he laughed. A beacon, this one shaped like a hawk, came out of his pendent and flew up to the sky, covering most of it.

In the Mushroom Kingdom Zaelos, a tall Boom Boom, noticed Ryorga's beacon in the sky. It was his turn now. In a loud voice he called out "MAGMA SURGE!!!", causing a gigantic wave of lava with heated rocks in it to erupt in front of him. He fired a bolt of energy into and said "Dragon summon!" The magma turned into a gigantic dragon with nightmarish red eyes. "Torch this whole dump!" Zaelos commanded. The dragon immediately flew into the air and began to breathe fire all over the kingdom. People ran for their lives, many screaming for their wives and children, but it wasn't much use. The fire was spreading all over the kingdom like a disease. In five minutes, most of the kingdom was torched, and the fire was rapidly approaching the Mushroom castle.

Princess Peach was the first in the castle to notice the flames. "Mario! What is going on?!" she screamed. Mario rushed to where she stood and almost screamed himself. Most of the Mushroom Kingdom was going up in flames. The fire was reaching such a horrible temperature that it was difficult to see the kingdom through all the smoke and steam. "Mario, do something!" Peach shouted.

"Princess... we can't do anything," he said grimly.

The princess stepped back as if she had been slapped. "There has to be something we can do! I can't just let my kingdom burn like this!" she pleaded.

"We don't have any other choice!" Mario said. "We have to get out of the Mushroom Kingdom now before the fire gets to us!"

Peach realized that Mario was right. She wanted to cry, but now was not the time. "All right. Go get Luigi, Yoshi, and Biribiri X." Peach sighed. Mario ran off to alert the other three of the impending danger.

Luigi and Yoshi were engaged in a vs. mode battle in Super Smash Brothers Melee while Biribiri X was busily playing his Gameboy Advance when Mario rushed into the room so quickly he tripped over the cord to the GameCube console, knocking it over and shutting it off.

"Mario! I was just about to beat Yoshi again!" Luigi complained.

Mario screamed, "We have to get out of here right now! If we don't we're all going to die!"

"What do you mean?" Yoshi asked. Mario grabbed him and dragged him to the window nearby.

"That's what I mean!" Mario yelled. Yoshi's heart jumped into his throat when he saw the carnage outside. Luigi and Biribiri X came over and saw what was going on outside as well. Without so much as a second's hesitation, they ran out the door and down the hallway to the stairs which lead to the back door with the princess following close behind. They made it out just in time as the castle burst into flames behind them.

"Oh man that was close!" Biribiri X said, his voice almost a sob.

"Holy Cow!" Yoshi suddenly screamed. "Look at the size of that thing!" They all turned to see the gigantic dragon that was blowing fire all around the Mushroom Kingdom. "There's no way we can beat that thing!" Yoshi whimpered.

"Well everything has to be beaten at one point or another!" Mario said. "C'mon Luigi! Let's send this dragon back to the medieval days!" Luigi and Mario rushed forward to attack the dragon.

Zaelos saw them before they even moved. "There they are. I'll be careful with them," he thought. He sent out a telepathec message to the dragon to hurt but not kill the Mario Brothers. The dragon quickly blew a small ball of fire from its mouth, instead of a wave of fire, at the approaching Marios. Mario and Luigi quickly shot fireballs of their own and knocked the fire away. Before they could attack, though, the dragon knocked them to the ground with a swipe of its claws. Then it smashed them into the ground with its powerful tail. "So these are the Mario Brothers, eh?" Zaelos thought. "Master Culex said they were the Mushroom Kingdom's greatest fighters! I never thought my dragon would beat them this quickly!"

Down in the pit, however, the Mario Brothers were quite alright. A pair of blocks with Starmen happened to be inside the pit which they had been knocked into, giving them invincibility. They hopped out of the hole and emerged with Star power. "Mario! Take the right side!" Luigi ordered. Mario ran to the right of the dragon, enticing it to blow fire at him. While Mario kept it occupied, Luigi grabbed the dragon by the tail and threw it into a large lake, reducing it to steam.

As the Marios slapped high fives, Zaelos was speaking with Sanzan through his communicator. "They destroyed the dragon?!" Sanzan yelled. "I ought to have you thrown into the magma pits for that!"

"Please sir, I promise you it wont't happen again!" Zaelos pleaded.

"It had better not!" Sanzan warned. "Have you sent the soldiers to occupy the Mushroom Kingdom? Mine have already captured the Koopa family and searched for any survivors."

"I'm just about to send them in, sir," Zaelos said.

"Good. Over and out," Sanzan said as he cut the transmission. Zaelos pressed a button on the communicator which sent a signal to the dark fortress to alert the other soldiers.

"Nice going, guys!" Peach congratulated.

"Thanks Princess!" Mario and Luigi said in unison.

Just as they were about to get out of the kingdom, a Hammer Brother appeared. He was soon joined by four more. "All of you get in a line. You're coming with us!" the one in front ordered.

"Yeah? Give us one good reason!" Luigi taunted. The Hammer Brothers revealed that they were not holding their usual hammers, but large Bullet Bill cannons.

"Okay, that's a reason!" Mario sighed. Mario and the others formed a straight line and were marched into a large cage with a chain on top.

Zaelos followed the others in. "Take us up," he said. The cage began to rise into the air towards a large castle that was definitely not the castle of Sky Land. It was black and ominous, with large spikey turrets and surrounded by white flames.

"Is that where you're taking us?" Biribiri X gulped.

"If you must know, yes," Zaelos said.

The cage ascended into the flames, which parted like a canyon as they approached it and into the castle.

In that same castle, Iggy was becoming increasingly nervous. First Castle Koopa had been destroyed, then Hammer Brothers with cannons had captured him and his family, now this. As they had been taken to the castle, one of his captors had mentioned that they would be meeting with someone named Sanzan. "This isn't good. I wish I was back in the castle," he muttered.

One of the Hammer Brothers punched him. "Be quiet! You are to remain silent until you are given further instructions!" he ordered.

Iggy looked around the dark hall they had been lead to. "King Dad, what's going on?" Iggy asked nervously.

"I don't know, Iggy. Somehow I don't want to know," Bowser said.

Iggy sighed. As he looked around, his thumb went into his mouth. One of his captors whacked him again. "Stop that! Sanzan doesn't tolerate immaturity!" Iggy quickly put his hand down.

Another voice said, "I don't tolerate much of anything I don't like!"  Iggy looked up in time to see a large Terra Cotta with a scythe enter the room.

Bowser had been calm up to this point. Upon seeing Sanzan, he lunged towards him. "You're the one behind this! I'll fix you!" he bellowed. Just as Bowser was within a foot's distance of him, Sanzan swung his arm forward and knocked Bowser back.

"I'd stay in line if I were you," he whispered. Bowser got up and reluctantly went back to where his children and wife were.

"I want to know why we're here!" Roy yelled. "Why'd you bring us here?!"

Sanzan smiled. "I've brought you to my master's palace for a specific purpose. That purpose, however, I am not permitted to disclose yet. I can assure you, however, that you will all be very useful to us later." Bowser was puzzled. If Sanzan wasn't permitted to tell them why he had taken them, did that mean that somebody else was controlling him? No, it couldn't be. Sanzan would not permit anybody to rule over him.

"If you're in control of these soldiers, why won't you tell us why you brought us here?" he asked.

"I'm glad you asked," Sanzan said. At that moment, the door swung open and Culex levitated into the room.

Read on!

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