Dry waited until he heard the sound of the bus zooming away before he let his shocked reaction leak into his face. Mouth agape, he unhooked his backpack and let it drop to the ground, reaching into a side pocket to pick out an old disposable camera.
Petalburg was, first of all, completely shrouded in darkness. It had stuck out as the only thing around on this empty plain for miles, but was now shadowed by a massive structure in the distance. He shook it off and convinced himself it was only the placement of the sun.
The darkness was the first thing Dry noticed when he started to get off the bus. No other passengers were bothering to leave, and some talked to each other, whispering about the current state of the place.
When he finally stood at the front gate and prepared to drop his backpack was when a sight finally reached him and gave him a sinking feeling.
Petalburg wasn't only desolate-looking, but desolate completely. Not a single villager was around, and the houses were falling apart from lack of maintenance and care.
Dry sucked in his only feeling of dread
that he'd had for months, and walked forward, putting his backpack on again.
As he strode down the dirt path slicing through the village, he began to notice other things, too. The doors were swinging around on their hinges, some even had been kicked down. Roofs were busted in completely by something unknown, and footprints and a mess of tracks were printed all around the area, kept in history by the lack of wind.
He kept walking, peeking over his shoulder to make sure there weren't any ghosts or creepy skeletons following him. He shuddered at the thought and picked up the pace. He was just exiting the ruined town when, suddenly, he finally saw what was casting such a big shadow.
Hooktail's Castle rose gloomily through the sky. It looked just as scary as ever, but there was something different...
"C'mon, c'mon...think..." Dry racked his thoughts and scanned the building earnestly. He'd visited Petalburg twice before, and didn't remember being suffocated by a shadow.
A glare from the sun caught him off-guard, and he stared blankly at what it had reflected off of and gasped to see what he had been missing.
Huge systems and walkways made of wood and scrap metal were wrapped all the way around Hooktail Castle's main tower, and what looked like some type of big cloth sail jutted out prominently from the top, blotting out half of the sun and casting the eerie darkness.
Dry, again, shook slightly, realizing that this whole Red Bones thing might be bigger than he thought.
He broke out into a complete sprint this time, running all the way to the familiar night and day stones by Shhwonk Fortress before he stopped and caught his breath. As he wheezed, a strange type of slime leaked out of his right arm and dropped to the floor. Dry instinctively straightened up and pulled a bottle of water out of his book bag, chugging it down in a matter of seconds.
He had to remember that his body was a bit... complicated.
"That's all you know?" Ludwig von Koopa questioned the bus driver intensely, staring him down with both eyes and holding a picture of his brother, Larry, out.
The driver, a Hammer Bro who had been caught off-guard by the interrogation, scratched his head and stared at the picture for a while before shrugging. "Yep. I saw him run off in a hurry at Seashell Scrape. He's not THE Larry Koopa, is he?" The driver spoke cautiously and nervously, glancing to his sides to see if anybody who looked like one of Bowser's agents was closing in on him.
Ludwig sighed in frustration and turned around, thinking deeply but not dismissing the bus driver beside him. Eventually, he opened his mouth and started saying his thoughts out loud. "My brother took the bus on the Creek Line, which leads to two different areas that my father has looked to conquer: Dire Dire Docks, and Petalburg. However, if Larry got off at Seashell Scrape, he would have put himself much further away from Petalburg and Hooktail Castle, and might have switched buses for some unknown reason to head to Dire Dire Docks. Judging by the sporadic timing of this event, I'd imagine he headed to Dire Dire Docks, since if he wanted to confront the Red Bones Republic he would simply stay on the Creek Line until driven there. Tell me, did anybody get off at Petalburg?"
The Hammer Bro stared, trying to figure out the same solution in his own head, but was brought back to reality when Ludwing snapped his fingers impatiently. "Oh! Yeah, one guy did. A Dry Bones." The driver started inching away from the discussion, walking slowly backwards to his bus.
Ludwig waved his hand as if the fact didn't matter. "Probably one of the Red Bones's citizens. Very well, you may leave." Before he was finished, however, the driver was already gone. Royalty had that effect on people.
Afterwards, Ludwig walked wistfully
down the dark street, stopping only to see a map pinned to a billboard.
"Brother... How rash can you be?"
He'd noticed that Larry had gotten increasingly
bold over the year. He blamed it on all the excitement that his parents
constantly brought to the dinner table, and felt almost like a guardian
over his little brother at times, acting as a voice of reason whenever
Larry attempted something dangerous, like practicing with the minions on
the archery range and such.
Ludwig was just getting back to trusting his brother... and then this happened.
He shook his head and picked up his pace to the harbor. He knew that Dire Dire Docks wasn't a place for tourists, never mind high-ranking people from other kingdoms.
Although he didn't like it, he'd have to run in and pull his brother out before it became too late.
Dry walked cautiously and carefully, stepping lightly over the blocks and fragments of cement that were strewn across the ground. He was right outside of Hooktail Castle, and had instantly noticed some strange remodeling decisions made by the new residents.
The drawbridge was broken completely and floating in pieces down in the moat, and the only way in was by a wooden plank with a make-shift archway over it. It was guarded by two spear-wielding Dull Bones, each one missing a leg.
There seemed to be a back way in of some sort, but Dry noticed an unorganized, but still dangerous, patrol wandering around guarding it.
The only hope he had was that he could somehow convince the guards to let him in. Slowly, he swallowed a hint of fear in his throat and stepped forward, letting the guards register his presence.
They were pretty surprised, the one on the right suddenly coughing and falling over in an attempt to grab his weapon with both hands, while the other fumbled around and ended up pointing the wrong end of the spear straight at Dry's head.
"Woah! Hang on, I'm... um... a friend." Dry put both hands out and let his sleeves roll back, revealing his skeletal body.
The guards stared at each other for a brief second before taking a more imposing stance and speaking to each other. "Uhhhh... Keeta, what should we do?" The one on the right leaned on his spear and pointed at Dry uncertainly.
"We... errr... ummm... What did Skelecarlate say?" Keeta tilted his head back in an effort to think, while Dry put the word “Skelecarlate” into his list of words to remember.
"He said... we... listen... to...Joat! I'll go get him! You... uhhhh... hit this guy over the head and make him go to sleep until I get back!"
That last phrase made Dry step back, confused, and raise an arm in defense. "Wait!" he yelled just as Keeta swung the blunt end of the spear straight at his chest.
Instead of hitting his stomach like
Dry hoped, Keeta brought the weapon up and smacked Dry right on the jaw.
He started to stumble backward, falling down as his vision started rattling
in time with his brain and skull. "Ooooh... I missed his forehead!"
He was vaguely aware of the pounding of footsteps as one guard started to run away. The last thing he saw before his consciousness was blotted out was the sight of someone staring down at him and waving his hand. "Nighty night."
To Be Continued...
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