By Jack Goomba
Our tale begins on a snow-covered mountain range where an evil plot is about to unfold. Two figures scaled the side of a frosty peak. Both of them wore parkas to shield themselves from the biting cold. One parka bore stripes of light blue and white, the other, yellow and white. The two shadowy figures scoured the peek for the gateway sealing their master from the world. The two climbed up to a ledge, and took a well deserved rest.
One of them repeatedly grunted a sound which closely resembled “guh”. “What?!” said the other, “You mean to tell me that you had the idea to teleport all along, and you didn’t tell me?!” it bellowed. “You’re in for a serious punishment session when we get out of this weather!”
If you haven’t already noticed, the speaker was Beldam, leader of the Shadow Sirens. The other of course was Marilyn, stronger but less bright of the pair. And of course, bringing up the rear was Doopliss, who had just managed to bring himself up the ledge on which they were resting. Beldam took out a ragged old map, and held it up every which way mumbling “hmmm,” and, “I see,” and things along those lines.
Meanwhile, Marilyn had been obliviously walking around, when she ran into a wall. The wall of ice shattered, revealing a large domed chamber with blue lit torches, and the outline of a door on the opposite side.
“Guh! Guh!” Marilyn bellowed to her sister, who was still fumbling with the map.
"Marilyn!” the annoyed Siren shouted as she turned around. “If you don’t stop I’ll-” Beldam lost her next words, for she spotted the cavern that Marilyn had just so clumsily discovered. Beldam, open mouthed, checked her map once again, covering her face. When she lowered the map, her face bore a menacing grin.
She crept closer to the outline of a the door, and rubbed away some ice.
“The back door,” she whispered menacingly.
Samurai Jack Presents,
A Jacko Production,
Age of Shadow
Every day was a work day for the Mushroom Kingdom’s superstar, Mario Mario. Whether it was mending a faulty pipe, rescuing Princess Peach from her seemingly daily perils, or just making sure the pasta didn’t burn, Mario was always on the move, providing services to anyone and everyone in the Mushroom Kingdom.
This day, however, was special. This day, Mario took a sip of a fresh-squeezed glass of lemonade, and breathed a sigh of relief. Somehow, the Mushroom Kingdom managed to keep itself safe that day, a fact for which Mario was extremely grateful.
It wasn’t that Mario wasn’t fond of his job; he loved to provide services to his fellow citizens, but anyone could understand that a well-deserved break every once in a while is extremely refreshing.
So, Mario lay out in his back yard, hat over his eyes, catching a few rays and enjoying the moment. The serenity was broken when Luigi, in a humorous scene, walked outside to join his brother, garbed in one of those red and white-striped one piece bathing suits. He looked like a beach bum, to say the least, with his sunglasses and suntan lotion.
Although it wouldn’t seem like it, Luigi was grateful for a siesta as well; he wasn’t generally recognized for it, but Luigi was always at Mario’s aid, and he was just about as whooped as the red-garbed plumber.
As the two Brothers lay out to enjoy the sun and get a tan, Mario dozed off into a nice nap. He dreamed he could fly, although that wasn’t all too surprising considering that, given the right circumstances, he could in fact fly. However, it was pleasant all the same, until a figure woke him up.
“Mario… Mario…” it said. The Italian slowly opened his eyes; the blurred image of a black-robed, hooded figure dominated his vision. “Mario…” it said once more.
Mario flopped out of his nice beach chair in shock, and hit the cement- hard. “What a way to wake up from a nice nap,” he grumbled. He then turned his attention to the hooded figure, and was going to shriek again, but instead, Luigi took his place.
“Who are you? What do you want? Get out of here!” Luigi tossed his bottle of sunblock at the robed person.
“My name is… Tim, yeah, Tim,” the figure replied, “and I am in need of your unique talents.”
Luigi now tossed his sunglasses at the mysterious Tim. “No! We’re on vacation! Go away!”
Mario silenced his irritated sibling, and spoke up. “What’s happening? Is the Mushroom Kingdom in danger?”
Mario tried to look through the hood, to find the face behind the shroud, but he could see nothing but blackness. His gaze was interrupted as Tim spoke once more. “It very well could be if you do not assist me in collecting the Crystal Stars.”
“Crystal Stars?” Mario babbled. “What could possibly be done with the Crystal Stars? I defeated the Shadow Queen, and the Thousand-Year Door has been sealed!”
Tim gave something of a low chuckle, and replied, “You think the Shadow Queen had no other means of world domination? The Mushroom Kingdom appreciates you, Mario, but I must say, you’re somewhat naïve. Now, we must make haste. Forces are already searching for the Stars; we must collect them first.”
Mario and Luigi were so confused; one second they were lounging and living great, the next second, they were being called on another adventure. Mario, still very suspicious of this Tim, spoke up. “Look here, Tim, why do you think I should trust you?”
Tim gave something of a sigh, and replied, “Let’s just say that if you don’t, everyone on Plit is going to die a horrible, painful death, and it’s going to be your and Luigi’s fault for not helping.”
Luigi gasped. “What?! I have to come too?!”
Tim now sounded somewhat annoyed. “What, you need to be told to save the world? You should be more than willing!”
Mario still wasn’t extremely trusting of this phantom-like person, who had just sort of popped out of nowhere and plopped a quest in their laps. Nevertheless, this Tim could very well be right, and Mario was failing his duty if he refused. So, he dragged a whimpering Luigi into the house and began to pack.
Beldam and the Shadow Sirens stood in the middle of Rogueport, making their way through heavy traffic. The leader of the group was again fumbling with the same map as before, except this time, she was considerably furious, having dropped the map and been bumped by careless bypassers quite a few times at that point. She was about to burst out in rage, when Marilyn grunted a series of “Guh! Guhs!”
“Don’t you tell me to calm down, you little whelp!” Beldam cried. “Now, where’s Freak Sheet? He should have come back with our supplies by now!”
Sure enough, the phantom happily dashed onto the scene, cackling madly. “I transformed into a store employee, and said I needed a few items to advertise outside the store!” he chuckled. “It was priceless! I got us a bunch of good items too! And-”
Beldam cut him off. “Yes, yes, that’s great, Freak Sheet. Now that we have our supplies, we can track down the Crystal Stars!”
It was true; the Shadow Sirens shared the same goal as the Mario Brothers and Tim. Being the Shadow Queen’s (almost) favorite lackeys, they had access to quite a few secrets unknown to just about anyone, one of which was the infamous Back Door.
Unlike the front door or “Thousand Year Door”, this one’s seal wouldn’t break as time wore on, only the magic of the Crystal Stars could open it. Why the Back Door is more reinforced than the front? Beats me.
“So…” Beldam mused, “the first Crystal Star is in Grass Land…”
She began to cackle evilly, and she was closely followed by Marilyn, who broke into a series of “Guh! Guh,” the closest thing she could get to an evil cackle. Even the downcast Doopliss found it in him to give a good evil laugh. With all the evil laughing occurring, the Sirens were unaware that they had drawn an annoyed crowd.
“I think it’s about time we got outta here,” Doopliss suggested.
“Ugh, that was so Roy’s fault,” said Iggy, beside his brother Lemmy in the dungeon.
“Yeah! If he didn’t want to be shot out of our cannon, he shouldn’t have volunteered!” replied his sibling.
A monitor flashed on inside the dungeon, a Koopa Klan standard in this modern day and age. The monitor revealed Bowser’s face, and man was that king beaming. “Children, please escort yourselves to the throne room!”
The siblings were quite puzzled. “Woah… I haven’t seen King Dad so polite and happy since… ever,” Lemmy said, as the steel sliding blast door to the dungeon slid open, another Koopa Klan advancement, of course). The pair walked out of the dungeon and into the maze of corridors and hallways that made up Kastle Koopa.
The pair got quite a decent workout, seeing as though the dungeon was almost a mile below the main structure. Panting from exhaustion, the two entered the throne room to discover that Bowser was toying with a Crystal Star.
“Woah, Dad! Where’d you get that?” blurted Iggy.
“eBay,” replied Bowser. “Anyway, boys, I’m sure you don’t want to be grounded for the duration that I set down, correct?”
Lemmy spoke up. “Oh yeah, Dad, six months is kinda long…”
Bowser’s smile broadened. “Good. Now I was hoping you’d go on a little adventure for me.”
“An adventure! Oh boy!” said the siblings together.
“I want you to collect the rest of the Crystal Stars so that the Koopa Klan can finally rule the world!”
Lemmy and Iggy’s hearts sunk; they had learned of Bowser’s failure in obtaining the artifacts, and figured that if he couldn’t do it, no one could. Bowser sensed this, and his smile turned into a scowl. “It’s that, or I extend your grounding to seven months!”
This of course was enough to motivate the twins, so they complied without another word of opposition. “I know it seems difficult,” Bowser said, “but how’s this for a deal? I’ll let you take Jack with you, and the Gold Star,” he said, pointing to the Crystal Star he was fiddling with.
“Sounds great, King Dad,” Iggy began.
“We won’t let you down!” finished Lemmy.
Bowser flipped a switch on his throne that turned on the castle’s intercom system- yet another Koopa advancement. “Jack the Goomba, please report to the throne room immediately!”
No sooner had Bowser said this than a little Goomba with a round black hat (similar to the one that Zorro wears) and a sword waddled into the throne room. “Jack the Goomba, leader of the Koopa Klan Goomba Division, at your service, sir!”
“Ah yes, Jack,” Bowser said, his smile renewed, “I’d like you to escort my children around the world in search of the Crystal Stars.”
Jack gasped. “You mean those ones that you failed miserably in collecting?”
Bowser slapped his forehead. “Yeah, those ones.”
Jack smiled. “Yahoo!
It’s adventurin’ time! C’mon, boys, Uncle Jacko’ll lead the way!”
And so the race for the Crystal Stars began.
After packing some helpful items, and of course finishing off their lemonades, the Mario Brothers followed Tim out of Toad Town. The phantom remained awfully silent, as did the Brothers.
Finally, Luigi found the need to break the awkward quiet. “Where, may I ask, are we headed?” he inquired.
Tim, as if he'd already known what Luigi was thinking, had dug a newspaper clipping from his robe before the plumber could finish. The headline read:
PRINCE MUSH CLIMBS TO THE TOP OF GLITZ PIT RANKS WITH USE OF A MAGICAL ARTIFACT
A picture under the headline showed the old Glitz Pit champion holding up the Ruby Star. “Glitzville, eh?” Luigi said. “Mario made it sound so cool, I’ve always wanted to go there.”
It was then Mario’s turn to speak. “But that would mean we need to go to Rogueport, and the voyage would take a day at the least!”
Then came Tim’s annoyed reply. “They just opened up a blimp in Mushroom City that takes tourists to Glitzville and Sky Land.” Tim flashed three blimp tickets. “And from what I hear, this thing is pretty fast. My estimate says we’ll be there by midnight.”
With both of their questions answered, the siblings were once again silenced. Luigi however, gave a shiver. Over the years, Mushroom City had become something of a hub of crime and villainy. Luigi estimated that there was not even a number for the amount of criminals roaming those streets. He hoped to Star Haven that they wouldn’t run into trouble.
“Hurry along, boys,” Tim said. “We don’t
want to be late for our blimp ride, do we?”
Even on the outskirts of Mushroom City, Mario could see signs of crime. Chalk outlines of bodies lay scattered here and there, and as Luigi looked up into the sky above the metropolis, an ominous cloud of smog added to the eerie scene. Tim seemed quite at home, however, because he made no signs of displeasure, or happiness either, really. Tim had stayed silent the entire trip, making the Brothers quite uncomfortable.
That feeling of unsettling anxiety continued even as they entered the city. It was pretty harmless at first glance; innocent bystanders talked on cell phones and toted shopping bags wherever you looked. Luigi begged to stop upon seeing a newly opened Starbean’s Café, but Tim insisted they press on.
As they got deeper into the metropolis, however, they began to see some shady characters. Bandits roamed the streets; Mario noticed that a few Goombas were holding an illegal dice game; and of course, the streets were littered with garbage and other debris.
After an uncomfortable stroll through Mushroom City, they finally reached the Cheep Blimp, to be greeted by a Bandit. “Tickets please,” he insisted as he held out his hand.
“Don’t we turn our tickets in at the ticket booth?” Mario inquired, motioning to the ticket booth a few feet ahead.
“Naw, I just got off my lunch break, and you caught me as I was going to go back into the booth,” he replied. “Tickets please,” he said again, now sounding impatient.
Luigi eagerly handed over the tickets, readily willing to leave the dump of a city. Tim made grunts of protest, but nothing more.
The Bandit greedily snatched the tickets out of Luigi’s hand, and walked away whistling. They could just hear a faint “Suckers!” as he rounded a corner into a nearby alley.
“Hm, wonder what he meant by that?” said Mario as he made his way to the Cheep Blimp entrance. A gruff voice emitted from the ticket booth. “Tickets please,” the Cheep Cheep asked.
“No, no sir,” Luigi insisted. “We just gave our tickets to that nice Bandit.”
The ticket master slapped his forehead. “You gave your tickets to a Bandit? Around these parts? Youse guys are chumps. I suggest you chase 'im down, 'cause this boat sails in an hour.”
“You mean, flies,” Luigi insisted. “This
boat flies, or this Blimp flies if you want to get technical.” Mario dragged
his sibling away from the ticket booth, pursuing the Bandit who had stolen
their only means of travel.
Tim had somewhat of a good instinct for sleuthing out criminals, as Mario perceived; the hooded mystery led them through tons of back alleys, each yielding shifty-looking Bandits. Some handled knives, and some gave threatening glances to the passersby.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, much less an hour, they came to a particularly dark alley. Luigi gave a terrified shriek as a Bandit flew down from above, waving around a threesome of Glitzville tickets. “Lookin’ for deez, eh?” he smirked. “Well, you stumbled inta da territory of Nab and da Dagger Gang! And nobody ever escapes Nab’s territory!”
At least five Bandits crawled out from the shadow from behind the Bandit (who was not the infamous Nab, just so ya know). Each had the same uniform, black trench coats and New York gangster hats, all with matching feathers, bands, and carnations pinned to their chests, all of the color red. “Prepare to get a beat down!” the Bandit leader said.
The Shadow Sirens plus Doopliss arrived in Grass Land, happy and ready for action. Beldam shuffled around in her pack for a couple seconds until she withdrew her magic map,and scanned it for the Crystal Star’s exact location.
“If that traitor Vivian’s map is correct,” Beldam began, “then the Emerald Star should be located in the wreck of Larry Koopa’s doomship.”
“Well, all right. How about you guys tele-” began Doopliss, before he was cut off.
“All right, Freak-in-a-Sheet, let’s begin our trek to that Star!” Doopliss was going to suggest that the other two teleport there and he would catch up later, but he silenced himself as he sighed and followed along.
“Guh, guh!” grunted Marilyn. She probably meant something along the lines of, “Gee, this place sure is beautiful!” Of course, we really have no way of knowing, I was just making a fair guess. It could have been one of many exclamations really, but I was just figuring-
“Would you shut it!?” cried Beldam in a huff. “Or else we’ll use our Crystal Star on you!”
Er- right. Anyway, they continued their leisurely stroll through the foliage-stricken Grass Land, only pausing to check the map, and cut Doopliss off in the middle of his genius and selfless suggestions.
Their trip was somewhat delayed, because even Beldam had to meander off the path at some points to smell the flowers. Marilyn tried to make herself look attractive by making a flower necklace, but it just looked plain awful, so I’m going to use my narration ability and say a squirrel stole it. “Guh!” Hey, I just say the truth.
Moving on, the Shadow Sirens finally came to Larry’s doomship. However, it was covered in spiky vines and ivy; red, with green and white spots. There was a large hole in the hull of the ship, which Beldam signaled the group to enter. However, from out of each of the two pipes on either side of the hole came a Piranha Plant.
“This is the HQ of the Piranhas Objecting Oppression!” the one on the right said. “Nya, see? Ya can’t come in unless you’ve got yourself a membership!”
Doopliss erupted into an uncontrollable fit of laughter. “Piranhas Objecting Oppression eh? HAHAHA! P.O.O? HAHAHAHA!”
The Piranha on the left said, “Ugh, we get this all the time! The Donut Plains Piranhas have copyrights protecting Piranhas Against Oppression, so this was the next best thing!”
No amount of explaining could calm Doopliss’s fit, however, so Beldam butted in. “Look, we just want to get in to look for something. Is that too much trouble?”
The right Piranha struck up a deal. “Ok, you get him to shut up,” he said, pointing his leaf to Doopliss, “and we’ll let you in.” Beldam used an ice spell to freeze Doopliss, and ordered Marilyn to carry him. Without further obstruction, the Shadow Sirens were permitted entry. As soon as they entered, however, they found themselves in complete darkness and silence.
Marilyn gave a startled “Guh!” as the sound of multiple warp pipes emitting their cargo penetrated the still air. Lamps flashed on from overhead, and the light yielded more than a score of piped Piranha Plants, along with some who had evolved so that they could walk on leaf-like feet.
And of course, sitting on a throne in the back of the ship was none other than Petey Piranha. Upon his head was a gold crown, and he wore on his shoulders a cape of violet animal fir. What really caught their attention, however, was his scepter; perched on top was none other than the Emerald Star.
“Got any bright ideas Beldam?” asked the now thawed Doopliss.
Before the Koopa siblings departed on their journey, they made a stop in Ludwig’s laboratory to pick up some supplies and helpful gadgets.
“This,” Ludwig said as he held up a palm pilot device, “is the Krazy Koopa Krystal Tracker! This baby will be able to locate any Crystal Star in the world! My greatest invention, if I do say so myself.”
Iggy fumbled with the buttons briefly, and a little blip appeared on screen. Jack looked over his shoulder, or rather, jumped to get a look over his shoulder. “It seems to me that the closest star is in Grass Land,” he said between jumps, “and you guys are of course familiar with the area, so it seems logical to me that we go there first.”
Lemmy and Iggy both gave nods of approval, and walked out of the lab.
Larry, who was frantically dashing around the castle for his brothers, ran into them at full speed and let a flower pot of some kind fly out of his hands. Jack, using unknown means of grip, took hold of the pot and returned it to Larry, who immediately shoved it back.
“Nah, this is for you guys to take on your journey,” he said. “I call it the Genocide Pod! Just sprinkle on some water, and a flower pod will sprout that’ll shower any enemy in solar energy!” Larry began laughing maniacally to mask the mist that was forming in his eyes; he truly cared for his brothers, and didn’t want them to blindly go on some quest with only a Goomba as a bodyguard. He dashed off, without another word.
Now armed with two sibling-fashioned devices, Iggy and Lemmy found themselves considerably well-armed, but not Roy Bully Koopa.
“Oi, jerks!” he called from across the corridor. “I hear you’re questin’ for dem Crystal Stars!” The siblings nodded (Jack would’ve, but his neck-less body structure simply didn’t allow it) and Roy continued as he pulled out something from a sinister-looking jack-in-the-box. “Dis is Roy Koopa’s trademark Punch-in-a-Box! Whenever ya need some extra muscle, give dis bad boy a whirl, and one of my flyin’ fists’ll pop out wherever ya are, and sock 'em a good one!” Roy’s smug expression turned to one of worry. “And er… I know dis isn’t somethin’ Roy Bully Koopa would say, so youse better not repeat it, but uh… be careful out there, okay?”
After accepting Roy’s gift and well wishes, the trio found themselves armed and ready for action, but Wendy had other thoughts.
“You selfish little brats!” she shrieked once she found them. “I can’t believe you’re going on a perilous adventure without offering to take me!” Wendy tried her best to hide it, but burst into a torrent of uncontrollable tears. “Please guys! Can’t you just stay grounded for 7 more months? You won’t be able to get hurt in a dungeon! WAH!” The group had to refuse, so Wendy dried her tears and brought forth a conch shell. “If you really are gonna leave, at least take my Torrent Shell. Just think about the ocean once it’s in your hands, and a powerful stream of water’ll give some real hurt to your enemies!”
The party finally reached the door of the castle, only to be greeted by a weeping Morton. “This is almost as sad as the time my Cheep Cheep died! What with the flushing, and the funeral, and the wake afterwords, which I have to say had some pretty nice foods, but other than that was really sad and-”
“Ok, Morton!” interrupted Lemmy.
The motormouth Koopa continued. “Well, I made you something.” He presented a radio with his face on it. “This is my Motivational Radio. Whenever you need a pick-me-up, just turn the dial, and I’ll say a motivational speech to keep your morale high. I mean, I don’t know how you could complete this quest without a morale boost in a while, it seems insane! Why I-”
By this time, the ragtag band of heroes had already left on their journey.