Grodus: I'm disappointed in you, Lord Crump. All you had to do is capture Frankly's assistant, and you blew it.
Crump: Sir Grodus, it wasn't my f-
Grodus: I'll have none of your excuses, Crump. Now, is there anything else you wanted to talk about?
Crump: Actually, I was kind of hoping to get a transfer to a less stressful position.
Grodus: Why is that?
Crump: Well, I was searching the ruins, and I came across a talking treasure chest.
Crump: Seriously, sir. It kept blathering on about ancient heroes and whatnot.
Grodus: ... All right, Crump. I'm transferring you to the Petal Meadows unit. All you'll have to do is supervise; all they're doing is gathering info on Hooktail Castle.
Crump: Thank you, sir. And what should I do with the chest?
Grodus: You still have it?
Crump: Yes, sir.
Grodus: ... Get rid of it. It's not healthy to encourage these sorts of things.
The door opens, and a pair of Elite X-Nauts come in, along with Princess Peach.
Grodus: Now, Crump, if you'll excuse me.
They just stand there for several moments.
Grodus: That means scram.
Crump: Oh, right! And with that, POW, I'm gone!
Grodus: Okay, Princess. What have you done with the map? And don't play stupid with me, we know you had it.
Peach: I'll never talk, you villain! Never!
Grodus: ... Very well. If that's the way it is, then there's no avoiding it. Elites!
The Elite X-Nauts come to attention.
Grodus: Do what you were trained to do.
One Elite grabs Peach's arms and holds them behind her back, while the other menacingly advances with a feather. When he gets close enough, he begins tickling her.
Peach: Hehehehehe! I'll-hahaha-never-hoHOHOHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
After several minutes, Grodus commands them to stop.
Grodus: Now, Princess. Where is the map?
Peach: I-hehehe-I sent it to... *giggle* Luigi.
Grodus: ... I've never heard of him. You, X-Naut.
One of the Elites steps forward.
Grodus: Go down to the research department, and tell them to research this Luigi fellow. This is top priority. Your partner can return the princess to her cell by himself.
They give the X-Naut salute, and leave with Peach in tow.
Grodus: ... Luigi...
Bowser is sitting on his throne, talking on the phone.
Bowser: Yeah, and I was totally like, "RAWR!" But the little punk beat me anyway. I mean, seriously. It's got to be the Shrooms. That's all there is to it.
Suddenly, Kammy Koopa bursts into the room.
Kammy: Lord Bowser, Lord Bowser!
Bowser: Kammy, I'm on the phone!
Kammy: Sir, this is urgent!
Bowser: *sigh* All right. (talking into the phone) I'll have to call you back, Wario. Right, bye.
He hangs up and looks back at Kammy, obviously annoyed.
Kammy: Sir, our spies have verified what the news has been saying. Someone ELSE has kidnapped Peach!
Bowser: WHAT?! That's MY turf!
An aid dashes into the room and up to Kammy. He whispers something into her ear, then leaves.
Kammy: It gets worse. I was just informed that Mario is trying to rescue her again, and was recently spotted with a mystical item known as a Crystal Star.
Bowser: Mario's after mystic relics, and Peach is gone! I can't just sit back and take this salmon!
The author glares at Lemmy for censoring that line, then continues writing.
Bowser: Kammy! Get the troops mobilized! We're going after Peach and those Crystal Star things!
Kammy: Yes, sir.
Mario: So we need to see this Kroop guy because...?
Goombella: He's the mayor. We need his permission to head for Shwonk Fortress.
Mario: And we need to go to Shwonk Fortress because...?
Goombella: There are two keys in the fortress that we need to reach Hooktail Castle.
Mario: And we need to go to Hooktail Castle because...?
Goombella: That's where the map says the first Crystal Star is.
Mario: And we need this Crystal Star thing because...?
Goombella: You want it because those are what Peach went looking for, and I want them because they open the Thousand-Year Door.
Mario: ... You know, we just successfully recapped the last chapter in only eight lines.
Goombella: We're efficient!
The duo arrives at Mayor Kroop's house, which is bright pink.
Mario: ... I'm scared.
They go in.
Kroop: Eh? Whozat?
Goombella: I'm Goo-
Kroop: If you're here to steal anything, go right ahead. Just ROB THE DEFENSELESS OLD KOOPA, WHY DON'TCHA?! Kids have no respect these days...
Mario: ... Well, you heard the man.
He begins going through Kroop's things.
Goombella: Mr. Kroop, we're not here to rob you.
Kroop: You're not, eh? Well, what is it, then?
Goombella: We just need permission to go to Shwonk Fortress.
Kroop: Shwonk Fortress, eh? Well, go right ahead. I don't care.
Goombella: YES! Thank you, Mr. Kroop! Come on, Mario!
They leave town, heading east. Mario is dragging a sack of Mayor Kroop's belongings.
Goombella: I can't believe you stole that old Koopa's stuff.
Mario: Meh. He'll never miss it.
Kroop: Now where'd I leave the TV remote? I could have sworn I left it right here...
Path to Shwonk Fortress
???: Uh, excuse me.
Mario and Goombella turn around to find a Petalburg Koopa accosting them.
???: Yeah, you see... my name is Koops, and I, uh... well, you see, I... er... never mind.
Koops turns and heads back to town.
Mario: ... What's up with that guy?
Goombella: He probably has self-esteem issues.
A short while later, they find themselves at Shwonk Fortress.
Mario: Well this is good and fine. We're in a little room, with nothing but a really ugly statue and no paths in.
Statue: Well, you ain't exactly a drop o' sunshine either, Stache.
Goombella: ... Did that statue talk?
Statue: Darn right I did!
Mario: So, I'm assuming you're the guardian of Shwonk Fortress?
Statue: Duh. And if you want to come in, you'll have to win at my...
Suddenly, the walls fade away, and they find themselves on the set of a trivia show.
Statue: Super-Ultra Deluxe Trivia Show 66! Here's how it works: I'll ask a question. If you get it right, you get a point. If you get it wrong, I get a point. First to three points wins. If you win, I let you into Shwonk Fortress. If I win... let's just say you won't want me to win. Get it?
Statue: Good. Now, question one: What... is your name?
Mario: Mario Mario.
Statue: Grrr... correct. Question two: What... is your quest?
Mario: To rescue Peach to end this nonstop news coverage so I can watch "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?".
Statue: Grrrrrr... right again. I'll have to make this next question impossible. Question three: What... is the air speed velocity of an unlaiden swallow?
Mario: African or European?
Statue: Well, uh, I don't know that!
Mario: Then what are you asking me for?
Statue: ... Whatever. Let's just change the question. The OTHER question three: What... is your favorite color?
Statue: GRRRRRRRRRRAAGH! Thatís... correct! Fine, you can go through.
The scenery returns to normal, and the statue slides back, revealing an entrance.
Goombella: Hey, why are you in such a bad mood?
Statue: Huh? Oh, right, that. Well, some CHUMP came by earlier and won the trivia contest. I let him in, and he came out a while later with the keys I've been guarding for millennia.
Mario: ... Someone else already got the keys?
Statue: Well, that's what I just said, ain't it?
Mario and Goombella dash out the door, back towards Petalburg.
Statue: ... (singing) I'm lonely! I'm Mr. Lonely! Wish I had someone...
Western outskirts of Petalburg
Koops: Um, excuse me.
Goombella: Not again...
Koops: Um, are you guys going to... Hooktail Castle?
Koops: Well, I was, kind of, sort of wondering if... if...
Mario: If what?
Koops: *cough* Please?
Goombella: Wait just a minute. Why do you want to go to the dragon's lair so badly?
Mario: Wait. Dragon?
Koops: Well, my dad went to fight Hooktail a long time ago, and he never came back.
Mario: I never signed up for any dragon.
Koops: I wouldn't say I want revenge so much as... well, on second thought, this whole thing is motivated by revenge.
Mario: It's one thing to quest to save a princess and, more importantly, a TV show. It's an entirely different matter if a dragon is involved.
Koops: Plus, I'm sort of a wuss-
Goombella: I've noticed.
Koops: ...and I want to get over that.
Mario: Dragons are an entirely different matter. They're big, and breathe fire, and... I wonder if Bowser is a dragon? He's big, he breathes fire. Maybe I'm overreacting.
Suddenly, classic Mario music bursts from Mario's pocket.
Goombella: What's that?
Mario: I think it's my brother's Mailbox SP...
Mario removes the mobile Email receiver and checks the mail.
Dear Mr. Luigi Mario, we are writing to inform you that your C-Bay watch list (ancient relics of power) has just received a new item. If you would like to bid on this item, please click the link below.
(If you are not Luigi Mario, and have received this Email in error, click HERE.)
Mario: Oh, ancient relics of power!
Mario clicks the link, and is brought to a page showing a talking treasure chest claiming it can grant powers to whoever opens it.
Goombella: Oh, it comes with a key!
Koops: Good price, too. You should buy it.
Mario buys it, and it asks for what sort of delivery, method of payment, and where to deliver.
Mario: Express delivery sounds good...
Koops: Oh! Pay with your credit card! It's efficient!
Goombella: But then someone can just get his card off the Net! It's not secure!
Koops: Oh... Checking account?
Mario clicks the Pay-Pal button, and types in Hooktail Castle for the delivery address.
Goombella: Well, that's that, then. Onward to the castle!
They reach the gateway to Hooktail Castle, finding the two keys in place and the door already open. Apprehensively, they step inside, only to find-
Parakarry: Oh no!
Mario: Oh no!
Goombella: Do you have our package?
Parakarry: I have a package for Luigi...
Parakarry: Sorry. I'm only supposed to deliver the package to Lu-HERK!
Mario is holding Parakarry in a choke hold.
Parakarry: *gasp* FINE! *wheeze* TAKE IT! *choke*
Mario releases Parakarry and grabs the package.
Parakarry: I hope you choke on it!
He flies away. Mario begins tearing through the packaging until the treasure chest and its key are found.
Chest: Oh boy! Are you going to open the chest?
Mario: That is the idea.
Chest: YES! Oh, I've waited so long to get out of here!
Mario opens the chest, and a Toad pops out.
Toad: Yes! I'm free! I'm free! I've been trapped in that box for nearly a thousand years!
Mario: ... No mystical powers?
Toad: Well, I have this medallion... You want those?
Mario: *sigh* Fine.
The Toad hands over the item, and leaves.
Mario: That is the last time I buy anything off of C-Bay.
The trio ventures further into the castle, only to discover that the bridge is out.
Koops: Well, how are we supposed to cross now?
Goombella: Wait... The ground.. it's... glowing...
Sure enough, the ground they're standing on is glowing a bright yellow, just as the medallion Mario is holding is.
Mario: What the-
With a flash, Mario is... a paper plane.
Mario: Well, this is anticlimatic.
He glides across the gap, and returns to normal upon landing on the other side.
Koops: Looks like you got your money's worth, after all.
Mario: Or my brother's money, more likely.
And so, the group trudges onward. Deeper and deeper into the castle they progress, until...
He runs over to a nearby pile of bones and begins weeping.
Goombella: Hey, his corpse-
Koops shoots her an angry look.
Goombella: Er, his "remains" are clutching a note.
Koops grabs the note, and begins reading.
Koops: "If you are reading this note, than I am no longer in this world. Please take heed, as what I write may very well save your life, as well. Hooktail is a formidable foe, and it may seem as though he cannot be beaten. However, it is said that he has a very weak stomach, especially for crickets. It is said that, somewhere in this castle, there is an item that will remind him of this. Find that item, and use it to your advantage. Alas, my time draws short. Lastly, to my son, Kolorado: I'm proud of who you've become, and wish you a long, happy life."
A long, awkward pause ensues.
Koops: ... I'm sure you will both have the common courtesy to never mention this, right? Right?
Mario and Goombella look at each other, then burst into laughter. After the laughing subsides, they move on, until they come across an armory.
Koops: Who's that?!
Koops points at a shadow figure across the room, busy picking a lock on a treasure chest.
???: Hehehe! Looks like I've got some company.
The shadowy figure jumps into the light, revealing a white mouse with red glasses.
???: Hmmm... You don't look like the sorts to be after treasure.
Koops: We're not. At least, I'm not. We've come to kill Hooktail, avenge my father's death, and get a Crystal Star.
???: Crystal Star, you say? Sounds valuable. Maybe I should go after it.
Goombella: Hey! Not fair! We were going after it first!
???: Well, I doubt I could take care of Hooktail by myself, anyway. I've already got what I came for, anyway.
She walks up to Mario and spontaneously gives him a kiss.
???: Tell you what: you three can have whatever's in that chest over there.
She leaps up to the window.
???: Well, I know we'll be seeing each other again!
She dives out the window.
Goombella: What a total floozy. Anyhow, we should grab that treasure chest and move on, Mario.
Koops: ... Mario?
Mario is standing there, grinning, his eyes glazed over.
Goombella: ... MARIO!
Goombella: Come ON! We've got to get that Crystal Star!
Mario: Oh, the Crystal Star, right.
Koops grabs the treasure chest, and our heroes press on... and on... and on... until, an uneventful period of time later, they find themselves just outside Hooktail's lair. Sounds of combat are coming from inside.
Koops: Sounds like someone beat us here.
The trio goes in.
Kolorado: You killed my father, you fiend!
Hooktail: I kill lots of people.
Mario: PROFESSOR KOLORADO?!
Kolorado: Mario, old chap! Splendid timing! Absolutely spot-on!
Koops: ... All right. I'm confused.
Mario: It's a long prequel.
Author: It's Cardboard Mario! Now available for reading at Lemmy's Land!
Goombella: ... Shameless product placement aside, what's going on here?
Kolorado: Well, my dad took on a bit of an archaeological venture in Hooktail Castle, you see, and never came back. So, I came to look for him, and found his, shall we say remains, in the lobby.
Mario: Say, how did you survive when I threw you out the window of Bowser's Castle?
Kolorado: Well, old boy, it's sort of a long story. Anyway, so I was falling, and-
Mario: Yeah, we'll get to you in a minute. So you were falling-
Goombella: Hey, where's Koops?
They all turn to see Koops approaching Hooktail by himself.
Koops: My name is Koops Koopa. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
Hooktail: You do look rather yummy...
Koops: ... What?
Hooktail leaps forward and swallows Koops in a single bite.
Goombella: Wait! Koops had that treasure chest the floozy gave us!
Inside the chest inside Hooktail's stomach...
Jiminy Cricket: When you wish, upon a star... Makes no difference, who you are...
Hooktail: NO! THAT CHEST HAD A, HAD A, HAD A CRICKET! I'M ALLERGIC TO CRICKETS!
Hooktail begins having convulsions and foaming at the mouth. He then staggers about, then collapses.
Mario: ... Whatever works.
Goombella: But we still don't have the Crystal Star!
Kolorado: Crystal Star? You mean this widget?
He pulls the Crystal Star from his shell.
Goombella: That's it! Can we have it?
Kolorado: I suppose. After all, you killed that brute for me, eh?
Kolorado hands over the Star.
Goombella: YES! Come on, Mario! We need to take it to the Thousand-Year Door!
They leave the castle, bound for Rogueport. Several hours later, in a different part of the castle...
X-Naut: Sir, it's just as our spies reported: Hooktail was killed, and the Crystal Star is gone.
Crump: Grodus is going to KILL me. *sigh* Just go back into town and interrogate them about who did it, or something. I need some alone time.
The X-Naut salutes, then leaves. Crump wanders around a bit, feeling dejected.
Crump: I am SO dead...
Curse Chest: Say, anyone there?! Hellooooo?
Crump: ... All right, Crump, you're definitely losing it...