It’s All in the Hat

By Spyder Z


It was a normal day like any other.  The Toads of the Mushroom Kingdom going about their business, the Goombas romping around in their stomping grounds, the princess getting snatched up by Bowser while, as usual, wandering outside the limits of her kingdom, Paratroopas flying formation...  Wait a minute.  The princess IS being kidnapped!  Yes, it's another one of THOSE Normal Days.  Now the message should be reaching Mario any second now...

Ahh... There we go, and off he goes to rescue the princess.  Where's Luigi, you might ask. Well apparently you don't know all that much about the way things go around here.  Mario heads off to fight Bowser while Luigi provides support at the home front.  Yep, it's another one of those days, at least that's how it starts...

Chapter 1 – Routine so far...

Through first the Mushroom Kingdom, and then the Mid-Lands, Bowser's Valley, and finally Bowser's Castle, Mario stays one step behind Bowser.  Upon reaching the Keep, Bowser of course heads in to prepare while Mario is left to deal with the welcoming party.

Our Hero (as if you don't know him already) is an ex-plumber-gone Mushroom Kingdom savior.  In his blue slacks, red shirt, and signature hat, this rotund, mustachioed man is capable of gravity-defying jumps and has the power to use magical artifacts of the Mushroom Kingdom previously thought to have lost all their power.  Destined by fate as a savior from all sorts of peril, our hero is more than up to the challenge.  With the occasional help from his brother Luigi Mario, Mario Mario has ousted Bowser (and the occasional other usurper) more times than can be counted on a Toad's spotted cap.

Now Bowser on the other hand is one mean son of a lizard (though I dare you to call him that to his face).  More a giant spiked turtle than a lizard, King Bowser Koopa rules the Koopa Troop with a scaly fist.  He enjoys nothing more than causing chaos, and dreams of one day ruling all of the Mushroom Kingdom.  To this end he constantly kidnaps Princess Peach, in the hopes of bringing down the Kingdom's Heroes, the Mario Brothers.

Arriving at the valley entrance to Bowser's Keep, Mario prepares himself for some kind of nasty surprise.  It wouldn't be the first (nor the last, he is sure) time Koopa tried to get the jump on him as he entered the castle.  Not this time though, just a few Goombas and a couple of Koopa Troopas wander the lower caves.  It is as if Bowser isn't even trying to stop him.  After clearing some lava pits and dodging the Podoboos living within, Mario is seriously beginning to wonder what is going on.  Bowser has been off his game before, but never this bad.  Goombas, Koopa Troopas, and Podoboos?  His valley offers more of challenge than his cave entrance, and that's just an embarrassment.  To guard the path to the castle and then stop right as you reach it - What was going on?  Not wanting to spend too much time worrying, our hero continues through the lower caves and soon reaches the keep door.

Upon walking through the doors, Mario is finally greeted with a little more of a challenge.  Magikoopas and a few of the Mecha-Koopas that Bowser seems to like keeping close at hand, guard the Keep entrance hall.  Dodging the magic blasts of the Magikoopas, Mario stomps on the Mecha-Koopas (disabling them only temporarily) and kicks them towards the unsuspecting Magikoopas.  That taken care of, he heads further into the castle.  So maybe not much more of a challenge, but hey, he's Mario.  He's been doing this long enough that most of the fighting's instinctual.  Several hallways, corridors, and secret passages later, Mario finally reaches the throne room.  And this is where things begin to go wrong...

Chapter 2 – The Bigger They Are...

Entering the throne room, Mario's first thought is that (and it comes as no surprise, Bowser does this every time) not only has the King of the Koopas redecorated, but if possible (and so far it's always been possible, it seems) he's given into an even more self-absorbed style of décor than before.  Glancing about, he realizes that the theme of today's trap is obviously lava.  The heat in this room is neigh unbearable, or it would be were he just about anyone else.  But since Bowser seems to have a thing for lava, Mario got used to being around it long ago.  Evenly spaced around the top of the chamber's walls are carvings of Bowser's face, all of them, of course, spewing lava into pools cut in the floor; and in the center of the room in a pool of molten rock carved out of the floor stands a thrice-sized statue of King Koopa, also spewing lava.  Bowser's no small Koopa, so this is a rather large statue.  And sitting on the other side of the room, in a throne recessed into a large representation of Bowser's face carved into the wall, is no other than the Koopa Mario has been waiting to see.

“BWahahaha!”  Bowser cackles. “You're no match for my ‘Room of Fiery Doom’!” he finishes as his throne pulls even further into the wall.  The faces on the walls begin to contort and move.  Instead of facing forward, they begin to look at Mario.  Not being a fool, Mario begins running.  His first goal, the wall Bowser went through.  After focusing in a new direction, the faces stop briefly and then spit out a Podoboo. Pipes began to sprout from the pools of lava around the walls, and unless he is loosing it, the central statue begins moving as well.  He circled the central pool while deftly dodging Podoboos and keeping an eye out for anything the statue wants to try. Mario finally reaches the wall just as it finishes closing up.  Well that's great.  Turning, he sees that no, he hasn't lost it.  Not only is the statue moving but the pipes come equipped with their very own Piranha Plants, just itching to hack their fire lugies his way.  No wonder security was so light.  Bowser wanted him to make it this far.  It will take more than moving statues and some Piranha Plants to daunt him, though.

Looking around, Mario notices that this room is devoid of any power blocks. Not surprised, he prepares to take on the statue.  Maybe if he could disable it...  Charging the rock figure, his attack plan quickly changes as the thing belches a thick stream of molten flame.  He is just able to dive out of the way before having to leap back towards the wall to avoid a well-aimed Podoboo.  This is getting him nowhere, and the statue begins slowly advancing on his location.  Now he is losing space.  Stepping back to give him a better angle on the wall, he barely avoids being struck by a fireball, so they're playing too.  With fireballs and Podoboos to dodge, Mario waits for the statue to get a little closer.

As soon as it is close enough, he jumps backwards onto the wall and propels himself over the statue.  Gripping the top of the moving monstrosity, Mario pushes off towards the ceiling.  Kicking out as he reaches the top of the room, he breaks off a layer of stone. It seems that King Koopa used cheap construction.  The falling rock no more than bounces off the thing's shell, but several healthy-sized stones land near where Mario came down from the roof, just short of the central lava pit.  Picking up a few of these, he begins aiming for the Piranha Plants while still watching out for the stray Podoboo.  He is able to pick off the closest three before they begin hiding in their pipes.  Vicious and fire-breathing they might be, but brave and tough they certainly aren't.  Keeping his eyes open in case one of them peeks out, Mario now turns more of his attention to the statue again.  It has just finished turning all the way around by this time.  The thing isn't fast, that is for sure.  This is a good thing, he decides.

Dropping his remaining stones, Mario dashes between the statue's legs and runs for the wall.  With the added speed, this time when he leaps to rebound off the wall he has enough momentum to carry him all the way up towards the ceiling.  Turning in mid-air so that his feet connect with the ceiling, Mario pushes off with all the force his famous jump gives him, and propels himself to the back of the statue’s head.  With no room for mistake, Mario pulls a tight somersault and brings the full brute of his triple jump to bear on the thing’s head.  Were he a normal man, a jump like this would have been impossible at best; however, through a combination of perfect timing and an unknown source of personal power (the same which presumably allows him to use the artifacts of the Mushroom Kingdom), he has the ability to leap with a force unmatched in all the Mushroom Kingdom, save for his own brother, Luigi.

Connecting with the back of the statue's head, the force behind his jump brings the goliath crashing forward into one of the lava pools lining the room.  Landing not only in the lava, but also on the pipes that came from it, the statue as well as the pipes it lands on are more than adequately destroyed.  Mario quickly jumps back to the central walkway as the thing twitches a few times, sinking further into the lava before finally coming to a stop.  Which is just how an oversized statue should be - still.  Once it ceases movement, so too do the faces lining the room.  Though they still pour lava, they no longer track Mario.  The pipes also retract into the lava, taking away all possible threats.

Waiting a moment, Mario expects what comes next, as a large pipe emerges from the lava pool in the center of the room.  Bowser knew he'd win.  He always won.  And now he is being summoned to face the Koopa King.  Cocky as usual, Bowser intends on finishing what his trap couldn't.  After having done this often enough, one would think even a Koopa would catch on, but not in his case.  Bowser may have temporarily slowed him down with his little trap, and he was careless to have allowed it, but now it is closing time.  Taking the pipe, Mario prepares to end this little excursion.

Chapter 3 – The Harder They Hit.

Now, traveling by pipe may seem a bit odd to someone who wasn't raised in the Mushroom Kingdom, but rest assured, not only is it a perfectly normal and acceptable way to travel, but it's also safe and extremely fast.  If you were to ask, even they don't remember how this method of travel came to be.  Much like various other things that they don't understand, all they know is that it works, and as far as they know always has and always will.  You leap into one end of a pipe and come out another pipe elsewhere in the world.  Not just any ol’ pipe will do now, it's gotta be a Warp Pipe.  What makes a pipe a Warp Pipe, well if they had an answer to that then they'd understand how Warp Pipes worked, now, wouldn't they?  It's rumored that Bowser has the makings of Warp Pipes figured out, but even that's up for speculation, the Koopa King not being one to share that kind of knowledge.

Coming out of the pipe, Mario looks around at the room he's in.  Nothing special here, just your standard throne room meets holding cell.  He came out in what could only be an entryway, a small room cut from the main chamber with just enough room to exit the pipe.  The main chamber wasn't too much in and of itself either, just a large, circular stone room with King Koopa's immense throne opposite the entryway.  The only other decoration is a cage beside the throne holding Princess Peach.

Pretty in Pink and never one to dress down, Peach is a woman in a league all to herself.  Not only is she the princess to (oddly enough) a kingdom of Toad, but she's also got a sense of adventure even Mario would be hard-pressed to rival.  While a good attribute in a self-driven ruler, it also has the unwelcome side effect of putting her right out in the open where any would-be abductor has all but no trouble snatching her up.  The biggest culprit being King Koopa.

“Well Mario,” Bowser begins, “looks like you survived after all.  Guess I'll just have to take care of you myself.” he finishes with a savage grin.  Not at all daunted, Mario prepares to face off once again with the King of the Koopas.  This is a fight he has fought too many times to count, and it always ends the same way.  As Mario leaves the small entry nook, Bowser roars in what would normally be a menacing way.  Mario leaping forward, Bowser charging, claws out and ready to do some damage, they begin to fight.  Anyone who has watched teachers to students, brothers to brothers, or maybe champion competitors sparring for the umpteenth time, would instantly recognize the fight of  long-time rivals in combat.  Almost more of a dance than a fight, the blows are dealt and dodged with a precision unmatchable in a normal fight.

Mario leaps to place a kick he knows will never connect as Bowser falls to the side and swipes at a target he has no chance of catching.  Landing and immediately leaping backwards, Mario avoids a blast of Bowser's fiery breath, just issued in the chance at catching an unprepared target.  On and on they fight, Mario leaping about like a crazed grasshopper, and Bowser lunging, slashing, sending flames at a target he'll never hit.  And then it happens.

What exactly?  It could have been slight misstep on Mario's part, perhaps Bowser followed a swipe with an unexpected blow, or maybe the princess distracted her savior with one of her shrieks of warning.  Whatever the cause, the outcome is as sudden a snake's strike and as slow as the falling snow.  This may not make sense to everyone, but if you've ever been caught so off-guard that you don't really know what just happened until it's over, then you can relate.

Time seems to slow to a crawl as Bowser's closed fist catches a totally unprepared Mario in the gut.  King Koopa being of considerable strength, Mario is sent flying across the circular chamber to crash into the wall, knocking all the air from his lungs.  Had it been an openhanded slash instead of the backhanded blow it was, the fight would have ended once and for all in Bowser's favor.  However, while not enough to finish him off, the strike is sufficient to knock his cap from his head.

Now it's funny how your mind works right after a head-ringing blow like that.  While there are many things that should have aggravated Mario - being hit by Bowser, getting thrown across the room - the thing that bothers him the most is that not only has his hat been knocked from his head, but in a stroke of twisted luck it happens to have landed on the brow of King Koopa.  Never has he lost his hat like this in a fight with Bowser.  And that is enough to truly anger the mustachioed plumber.

Getting up, Mario charges the Koopa King. Maybe if he comes at him from the other side...

Chapter 4 – Victory!

Halfway to Bowser, Mario has to leap aside, dodging one of Koopa's blasts, but this time something's not quite right.  That fire was much closer than it should have been.  Bowser's aim must be getting better.  Shrugging it off, he prepares to leap over his adversary for a chance at getting behind him.  Coming up for the jump, something happens that hasn't happened in all the time he's spent in the Mushroom Kingdom.  As Mario prepares to leap, he realizes, it's not there.  What?  There's no real answer to that, but whatever it is, it's just not there.  The realization comes seconds too late because he actually tries the jump, even as his, body? mind? something else altogether? tells him that this time he's not going to make it.  This time his jump isn't going to carry him.

Leaping not over but into Bowser, Mario's mind begins reeling.  What's going on?!  What happened there?  Bowser is also in a state of semi shock.  Mario has just leapt into his arms.  This is a new one, and for a brief moment neither of them can do more than stare at each other in surprise as Peach, also in shock, is left unable to even shout.  The shock lasts only a second and then Mario falls back and scrambles away from King Koopa.  Bowser, realizing he has lost a golden opportunity, roars in anger and charges after Mario.

His mind racing, the mustachioed hero slowly begins to see that things are very dire indeed.  Not only is he suddenly unable to leap King Koopa, something he's done more times in his life than he can count, but now as he's running from Koopa (which in itself is bad enough) he begins to notice other things.  His body feels much heavier than ever before, and he's slowly starting to tire.  This is insane!  After a trip through all of Bowser's kingdom, anyone would have been tired, but not Mario.  He's made this journey on several occasions, and not once has he felt as tired as he is beginning to feel now.  It must have been Koopa's punch, it must have taken more out of him than he initially realized.  And now that the rush of anger (and surge of embarrassment) is gone, his body is beginning to feel the effects of the blow.  That has to be it.

So what does he do now?  Fall back and regather himself?  He's never been in a situation like this before.  Mario is honestly considering making a run for it.  And that fact alone is enough to shame him deeper than getting knocked across the room by Bowser.  But the decision, it turns out, is not one he has to make.  For as he contemplates his next move, Bowser, moving faster than Mario has ever seen, overtakes him.

In his wild rush to catch Mario, King Koopa mows right through Toadstool's would-be rescuer, plowing the plumber clear across the room and into the wall before he realizes what has happened.  Looking down, Koopa sees that Mario is laying at his feet.  Wildly he leaps back and stumbles a few steps before he takes in a breath to breathe flames towards Mario in the hopes of keeping him away.  But when Mario doesn't leap up Bowser chokes on the flames..  For much longer than it should have taken to assure his foe is not getting right back up, King Koopa just stands there looking stupidly down at Mario.

Is it possible?  Has he finally defeated Mario?  Slowly, Bowser approaches the crumpled form of his longtime rival.  Still not entirely convinced something in't up, he continues to be on his guard.  As he nears Mario's body, a sense of euphoric disbelief starts to fill him.  Has he done it?  After all these years, could he truly have taken down the one enemy that he could never beat?  Standing right beside Mario, Bowser turns him over with his foot.  He isn't dead, but he was definitely out.

“I've done it...” Quietly at first, but then louder. “I've done it! I've finally beaten him!” A maniacal laughter bellows out and he is filled with the sudden urge to do something.  Run, jump, take down the Mushroom Kingdom singlehandedly.  He is invincible, he, King Bowser Koopa, is now unstoppable.  He has taken down the one person capable of thwarting him, and now nothing can stand in his way.  So filled with the intoxicating euphoria of his victory, Bowser leaps into a backwards somersault without thinking and comes crashing down in the center of the room, shaking in laughter and shaking the room with him.  Princess Peach, finally realizing that Mario really isn't getting up, begins to wail uncontrollably.  Looking over at her brings Koopa back to reality.

“Don't you worry, my little Peach,”  Bowser says to her as he returns to Mario's body. “He's not dead... yet.”  But now what?  And this is a truly sobering thought.  He hs never been here before.  Does he want to kill Mario?  No, that is too easy.  He wants Mario to see everything he has spent his life fighting for, fall before Bowser's might.  But what will he do with him until then?

It is all Bowser can do to keep himself from skipping back to his throne.  If this is how it feels to win, no wonder Mario is so unbeatable. Bowser presses a stone behind his seat and the wall opens up across the room, admitting a small group of his elite Koopa Troop, two Hammer Brothers and a Magikoopa . They have been there awaiting Bowser's possible (inevitable as far as they were concerned) defeat at Mario's hand. The Koopas come in, fully expecting to help their king back to his room to mope about his most recent loss.  So it takes a few moments for them to reorientate themselves when, instead of Bowser laying beside his throne and Mario gone with the princess, they find Bowser standing smugly beside Peach's still-occupied cage and a limp form across the room.  For a moment they do nothing but gape in openmouthed surprise at Mario's still form.

“Is, is he...”  the Magikoopa begins.

“No,” Bowser replies, still smiling and quite full of himself.

 “You beat him!” one of the Hammer Bros. says in obvious awe.

“Of course I beat him!” the Koopa King bellows, causing the three Koopas to back up a step.  “I am the King of all Koopas, am I not?  No one alive is more powerful than I!  And today is the day that I've proven that!  With the fall of Mario, nothing shall stand in the way of the Koopa Troop's progression through the Mushroom Kingdom!  Now comes the day that we show the Toads who true rulers of this land are!”  The three Koopas begin cheering.  “What are you fools waiting for!”  Koopa roars, breaking their cheers.  “Take Mario to the lower dungeons and place him in our strongest cell.  I'll take no chance of his escape while we're gone.  And send in the other guard on your way.”

The Hammer Brothers rush over to Mario's body and carefully lift him from the chamber's floor.  With the Magikoopa watching for any sign of movement, they carry him from the room, still coming to grips with the fact that it is Mario that they were carrying through the halls defeated.  On their way to the dungeons, one of the Hammer Brothers remembers something.  “Hey guys,” he starts, “was it just me or was King Koopa wearing Mario's hat?”

“What does it matter?” the other replies.

“Yeah,” the Magikoopa begins, “I noticed that too.  He must have taken it as a trophy after beating Mario.  Why?”

“Just asking,” the first Brother replies. “I just want to make sure I wasn't seeing things.”

After the Koopas left, Bowser once again turned to the pincess.  “Well well, now, Princess.  Your hero has been defeated and there's no one to save you.  Will you willingly turn over your kingdom now, or do we have to do this the hard way?  You know your subjects are no match for mine.  If it wasn't for Mario's interference, I would've taken over long ago.  Do you accept the inevitable?”

Peach says nothing, still haunted by Mario's still form.  And even if she were able to speak she would never just give up.  It must have shown in her eyes, because as soon as the second guard shows up Bowser orders them to lock her in the North Tower.  “And if she escapes then her guards had better leave with her,” he threatens.

Alone at last after his victory, Bowser sits in his throne as his thoughts begin replaying the entire fight.  He is so caught up in savoring the feeling of his triumph that it isn't until much later that night when he remembers somersaulting across his room after defeating Mario, that he begins to question not only how he did that, but what had happened in that fight to turn things around in his favor.  And it will be some time yet until he figures it out.

Chapter 5 – What Now?

Down in the lowest, most inaccessible and uncomfortable dungeon, sits Mario, Failure of the Mushroom Kingdom.  Laying on his back in a corner, he looks around the cell.  The stone in the top corner of the cell looks a little loose.  Maybe if he can jump up there...

Getting up (mot for the first time) and moving to the corner opposite the loose stones, Mario realizes that his head is pounding.  Shaking his head (which doesn't help), he prepares (again) to run to the corner and leap up to knock the stones free.  Running across the small cell (maybe this time...) Mario jumps just before he reaches the corner (it's not so high) and for the umpteenth time since his first awakening he crashes into the corner (should know better...), rebounds backwards, and knocks himself out on the cold stone floor.

Waking much later, and many, many attempted jumps afterwards, Mario, laying on the cell floor with his head neigh ready to split, finally begins to realize that it's gone, and it's not coming back.  How could he have lost it?  What is it he lost?  How is he going to get it back?  For the first time in all his life, Mario begins to feel hopelessness drift in from an open window, a window opened by that loss at Bowser's hands.  How, after all these years, has King Koopa finally gotten the best of him?  What has gone so terribly wrong as to have allowed this?  He'd been hit by Bowser before.  He'd even been knocked into a wall or two while fighting, but never, never, has he been worn out and so overmatched while battling with his nemesis.  It just doesn't make sense!

Slowly sitting up, Mario gently puts his ringing head into his hands and runs his fingers through his hair.  Feeling the lack of his hat, he quickly looks around to see where it could have fallen.  With his head as sensitive as it is, the movement is too much, too soon, and Mario has to stop and hold his head firmly between his hands to keep his skull from exploding.  After some time passes in this position, he feels brave enough to try again, but slowly this time, carefully.  Looking around the cell, his hands holding his head together, Mario notices that aside from the bed held to the wall by chains, a refuse pit in the corner, and a small basket holding what looks like month-old food, there is nothing else in the cell.  Wincing from the pain of that simple activity, he closes his eyes and takes a few shaky breaths to steady the resounding pounding inside his head.

So he lost it.  A vague memory of Bowser wearing his hat while laughing at him surfaces, and he passes it off as a part of the nightmares that are undoubtedly plaguing his subconscious.  He is in enough trouble as it is without giving in to the fancies of his unconscious mind, and there are more pressing things to worry about right now anyway, like what he is going to do now...


In the largest and most lavishly furnished room in the Keep sits Bowser, Champion over Mario, and thus the entire Mushroom Kingdom.  Sitting at his “War Desk”, Bowser is planning (not for the first time) the perfect approach to taking over his rival's kingdom.  Every time he comes up with a rough plan, he starts to add in all kinds of “Mario Contingencies” (which isn't necessary) and ends up scrapping the whole idea (again).  Why is this proving so difficult?!  Without Mario to interfere he should be able to take the Mushroom Kingdom with ease.  Starting fresh, he develops a basic plan. Warships (check), Troops (of course), and a little backup from his kids (a diversion).  That way, when Mario shows up...  “ARG!” King Koopa roars his fury.

Some time later, having given up on his plans for the moment, Bowser is leaning back in his seat thinking of his Kids, his Koopa Clan.  They have gone out into the world to prove themselves and he now awaits news of their accomplishments.  Always before, he had set them up with one of his lesser castles around the lands he was conquering, but not this time.  They have grown some and feel that it is time to show their dad what they are made of.   He chuckles to himself.  He can remember leaving his dad's house in search of a way to “prove himself”.  That darkens his mood some.  He still hasn't conquered the Mushroom Kingdom.  At least not for any length of time.  Thanks to that blasted plumber!  The plumber who is currently enjoying residence in his dungeons.  He smiles as he remembers trouncing Mario again, and then he...

Startled out of his reverie, Bowser sits up in his seat, knocking several things from his desk.  Then he, what?!  Somersaulted across the room... No...  There was no way he...  But he did...  didn't he?  Getting up, Koopa starts pacing across his room.  Okay now, he had to think about this rationally.  He isn't in horrible shape, he knows he can possibly use a little more exercise but...  there is no way he can have jumped across the room like that.  He tries to recall exactly what happened.  Maybe he was so caught up in the moment that he just... felt like somersaulting...

Leaving the room, Bowser quickly walks to the chamber in which he fought Mario.  Walking over to the center of the room, he looks at the cracked stone in the center of the room.  Staring for a few minutes, Bowser is unable to cope with what that means.  These stones are old... and maybe he... Shaking his head, Koopa decides that a practical test is required to prove that he is somehow misremembering the situation.  That's all.  Looking around to make sure that none of his guard are watching him as he prepares to make a fool of himself, King Koopa walks to one end of the room.

Taking a deep breath (by the Lands, but he feels foolish) Bowser starts to run across the room (he is in better shape than he thought) as fast as he can before leaping (What in the!..) through the air and into the wall about halfway up the room, knocking loose several large pieces of the wall and bringing them down on top of him.  He hardly notices in his shock.

“hehe,” he starts. ”Hehehe... UrrAhahaHAHAHA!!!”  He is laughing in, what?  Amusement?  Shock?  He doesn't know, and frankly he doesn't care.  He is laughing as hard as his body allows, and much harder than he has ever laughed before.  He laughs so loudly and for so long that his guard peeks in to see if he is all right.  King Koopa, sitting in a pile of rubble from the wall, oblivious to anything else, just sits and laughs.  What is this?  This is crazy!  HE, King Bowser Koopa, has just leapt across the room like a... like... Mario.

Suddenly all his mirth leaves him.  Looking down he notices the Koopas looking at him.  “What?!  What is it?!” he yells at them.  Looking confused and terrified, the leader of the guard stammers an incomprehensible answer, and they all quickly made their exit (sure that their king has finally lost it).  Getting up Bowser starts to seriously question what is going on.  Not only has he beaten Mario, but now that he has, he can jump across the room, just like that crazy plumber.  Has he gained that from beating Mario?  And if so, does Mario still have the same skills?  What the Rotted Toad's Cap is happening here?

All Koopas carry the potential for a Magic that the Toads seems not to have... but this is like nothing he has ever heard of.  He in't to shabby a wizard himself at times; then again, there is no incantation for an effect like this… at least not that he knows about...  Kammy might.  She is much farther involved in the Dark Magics than Bowser has ever been.  He remembers all too well the lessons as a young Koopa that he had to endure from her.  And she has been willing to help him sometimes, when he needs her “particular” skills... Yes, He'll talk to that witch of a Koopa, she'll know what to make of this.  And after he understands it well, then...  He in't sure, but he'll get to that.  The Mushroom Kingdom isn't going anywhere for the time being.

Chapter 6 – Escape!

Sitting in the corner of his cell, his head resting against the walls, Mario is unsure as to how long he has spent in the dungeon.  Much longer than he's ever been locked up before; and, depending on how often they bring him food in a day (which isn't nearly enough), he can have been there anywhere from ten to twenty days.  It feels much more like the latter, and even longer at times.  His gloves are torn from his attempts at punching through the walls, and cover little more than his palms and the back of his hands.  His shirt and overalls are starting to look a  bit ragged from his attempts at throwing himself at the walls and door, and his shoes won’t last too many more attempts on the aforementioned door.  His normally unkempt hair is in an even worse sort than, what with his hat missing and all, and he is beginning to get that scruffy, unshaven look.  With his captivity and the obvious lack of any escape, Mario truly feels defeated.  He has never come to the point where there is no way out, and he begins to think that maybe this time he'll have to...


Looking up, Mario glances around the small room, wondering if he actually heard something.  The answering silence is enough to convince him that it is no more than his imagination acting up on him.  He desperately wants some way out of this little cell, and it looks like he isn't going to get it.  Standing up, Mario begins to consider another round with the wall.  Maybe he has weakened, maybe if he just works on it for long enough he'll find a weak point and break through.  Looking down at his hands, he grimaces at the sight of his gloves.  They've been through so much more in the past, he is sure of it.  But maybe this is a sign, maybe they, like him, have finally decided that it is about time to...


What in the world is...  ***BA-BOOM***  The whole world explodes.  Mario is thrown to the other side of the tiny cell by the blast and nearly knocked unconscious by the force of the wall coming in at him. There is dust everywhere and Mario can barely focus, not that he could have seen much of anything in that mess.  He is definitely bruised up and his head is ringing from the noise and the impact.

“Mario!” an extremely familiar voice shouts out to him.  “It's-a me, Luigi!”

Luigi Mario, Mario's brother and Co-Savior of all that is Toad.  Sporting darker blue slacks and a green shirt and hat combo (green goes better with blue eyes), Luigi has been there for Mario from the very beginning.  Slightly taller and notably thinner, he has all the same prowess as Mario, physically.  Not one for violence, Luigi tends to take a more supportive role in Mario's constant crusades against Bowser.  While no pushover, Luigi isn't quite as driven as Mario, and is more likely to be found thinking his way through a situation than rushing in and hoping for the best, like his headstrong brother.

“Mario?! Is there-a anyone here?”

Mario tries to reply, but is unable to do any more than moan a mostly incoherent response.  As the dust settles, Mario can finally see the blurry and doubled form of his brother, standing in a hole that is a new addition to the little cell.

“Mario?” Luigi begins. “Oh, I'm-a sorry, you look much like my brother.  If you follow this path back, it will take-a you outta the castle.  I'd take you myself, but I must find my brother.  Good luck!” he finishes as he backs himself out through the hole.

Mario is completely lost as to what just happened.  Did he really just see his brother?  Maybe he was just waking up from knocking himself out again.  Yes, that made much more sense... Surely Luigi would have recognized him if he had really just shown up.  He was just having another of those nightmares that have been plaguing  him as of late.  He was merely dreaming that his brother blasted a hole in the wall to save him, and when he wakes up, he'll be laying on the floor with his head pounding...  like it is right now...

Pulling himself into a sitting position, Mario tries to stand, holding his head together, and almost stumbles over the rubble that is laying everywhere.  So that part of it really happened, but who did it?  Standing up, he tries a few tentative steps before carefully walking through the stones and over to the hole in the wall.  Peering out of the hole, Mario is almost giddy at the sight of the tunnel between the cells and the stone.  Glancing first one way and then the other, Mario notices a form leaping onto a ledge that really isn't that high... or at least wouldn't have been, before...

Now isn't the time to be thinking about that.  What's happened has happened and dwelling on it in't going to get him out of here any quicker.  Whoever that was, has just gone out of his reach for now.  He'll worry about them later.  Right now he is going to take the apparition's advice, and head out of the castle.  Taking the passage in the opposite direction from the figure, Mario begins to head (he hopes) towards the outside of the castle.


Standing outside the cell that Mario was in, “The” Hammer Brothers looks down at the smaller “Hammer Brothers” whose job it was to watch the cell.

“So, tell us again how it is that Mario blew open the back of his cell and escaped without either of you hearing a thing?” Sledge, the bigger of the two already large Brothers, asks the trembling Brothers.

“It's... it's like... like I said...” the first Brother starts, “we, we were going to fetch his lunch.”

“Yeah!” the other Brother kicks in. “The Goomba who normally comes is late, and he was sleeping, and he had been so quiet for so long, and...” he rambles.

“Oh would you just SHUT UP!” Jack, the other Hammer Brother, shouts, bringing his large mallet down between the two smaller Brothers, causing them to leap apart and cower.

Jack and Sledge, “The” Hammer Brothers.  Leaders of Koopa's elite fighting force, and the top of the chain of command in his ground troops.  Their legendary skills with their hammers is a widely known fact around training halls all across the Mushroom Kingdom, and not just the recruitment halls of Bowser's Keep.  Both larger and stronger than just about any other Koopa out there, they wield massive hammers along with the normal array of smaller ones carried by the average Hammer Brother.  Sporting matching metal caps, these turtle twins are truly a threat to the Marios... well, a significantly larger threat than the average Koopa, anyway...

“Much better,” Sledge states.  “Now, we've heard your story a few times now, and it's not very helpful.  What we really want to know is, how long ago did this happen, and what have you done about it?”

Gulping, the Hammer Brothers glance first at each other and then back at their superiors, and the first one begins, “Well you see, it wa...wasn't that long ago, and we figured we oughta let you know before we...” He trails off as he notices Jack coming closer, his hammer slowly raising in his hands.

“Listen! It really wasn't that long ago!” the other Brother shouts.  “And we came straight to you as soon as we noticed.  So he's probably still in the castle!” he finishes in a rush.

Looking back at his Brother, Jack gets a small nod from Sledge and then, moving faster than the smaller Koopa can react, he swings his large hammer and knocks the stammering Koopa into the other, which is followed by Sledge swinging his weapon and sending the two guards crashing into the wall, knocking them unconscious.  Walking over to ensure that the two screwups are out, Jack then beckons to a nearby Goomba.

“Take these two to an empty cell.  If they can't do their jobs on this side of the door, we'll let them sit on the other side for a while.”  The Goomba nods and calls to a few of his companions to help him move the Hammer Brothers.

While they are doing that, Sledge addresses the other assembled guard.  “Listen, and listen well.  King Koopa has finally bested our enemies' champion, Mario.  If he discovers that due to the lax security in his troops, Mario was able to escape, well...” He trails off, shaking his head in mock resignation, “then there's not much I can do to stop him in his rage.  I want each and every one of you to gather all the troops you can and scour every inch of this castle, starting with this floor, until you find him.  If he escapes, then more than your positions will be on the line,” he ends, thumping the shaft of his mallet across his palm to emphasize his point.  “Now Go!” he shouts, sending them all scrambling to arrange the search.

“This isn't good,” Jack states as soon as the troops have all left earshot.  “This isn't good at all.  You know that we'll be held responsible if King Koopa discovers Mario missing,” he points out, turning to his brother.

“Well then, we'll just have to make sure he doesn't until they find him.  As long as those morons are telling the truth, then he really can't have gotten too far.  Besides, Bowser left to talk with Kammy, so we're okay for right now,”  he returns, shaking his head. “And if all else fails, we could use a vacation. Who knows, we may run across Mario while we're out, and wouldn't that be a good way to keep our shells.” He chuckles.

Smirking at the thought, Jack nods before becoming serious all of a sudden.  “You know, we really should alert Kamek, he's going to find out soon enough, and I'd rather not have him coming after us any more than King Bowser.  Besides, with the help of the Magikoopas, finding Mario should take no time at all,” he states in an almost positive tone.

“You're right,” Sledge agreed, “but let's be careful with what we tell him.  If he thinks we were responsible...” He lets it trail off ominously.  They both nod their agreement before heading back up into the castle.

Chapter 7 – Goomba!

Waddling along the corridor behind the cells, Goombite, a newly appointed member of King Koopa's castle guard, is lost amidst his daydreams.  Yeah, I'll be the one to catch him!  All I gotta do is find him and then Fwap! Pow! Bite! And he's down! Hehehe... he thinks, envisioning the scene.  Nah, who am I kidding.  Goombash already told me about how he watched Mario take down a whole squad of Goomba without even pausing...  And that's why I'm back here anyway.  Everyone knows that Mario's not one to skulk around in the shadows, so there's really no chance of running into him back here, but at least I look like I'm trying.  Still... it would be really cool if I could take Mario... he thinks again, losing himself once more in his daydreams.

Now the Goomba are a very interesting race.  Squat, mushroom-shaped creatures with two stub-like legs, and no arms or other appendages, they generally rely on their mouths, their feet, or the over-flexibility of their bodies to allow them to interact with the environment.  Once at peace with their distant cousins, the Toad, they decided long ago to forgo the boring lives of the peace-loving Toad, and instead joined Bowser's army, where their naturally aggressive nature was appreciated and they were given the freedom to express their more base instincts.  While vicious fighters in one on one ground combat, they've received the erroneous reputation for being pushovers due to the ease with which the Mario Brothers dispatch them, using an aerial advantage that they cannot match.

Lost in his own world, Goombite doesn't hear the sound of footsteps coming from around the corner, no more than the source of the footsteps seems to hear him.  Both parties, lost in their own thoughts, are quickly alerted to each other’s presence soon enough when, while coming around the bend, they both stumble into each other.  Reacting to months of training, Goombite quickly jumps up and back, thrusting with the top of his cap, and knocking the larger figure that has almost fallen completely over him back a few steps before getting  his first look at him.  For a few moments he is sure his heart has just stopped and that he is having an afterlife hallucination.  There, not more than a few feet from him is Mario, “The” Mario, scourge of the Goomba Clan, and champion to those horrid Toad.  Completely paralyzed in fear, he can do no more than stare as Mario rushes at him and inevitably knocks him senseless.

Bracing for the crushing blow he is to receive, Goombite is startled when instead of crashing down on his cap and compressing him to the point that he loses consciousness, he is instead tackled from the front and rolled by his attacker.  Tumbling back as he has been instructed to do in this situation, he pulls himself into a curl and kicks off of his opponent, sending his assailant into the nearby wall.  Righting himself and turning to face the obviously unknown attacker, Goombite thinks to himself, That isn't Mario!  Mario is at least several feet taller and capable of jumps that are the bane of Goombas everywhere.  Heh, I was obviously mistaken, and since this ugly impostor gave me such a fright, I'll teach him a lesson that he won't soon forget.  No one messes with a Goomba, and gets away with it... Unless it’s Mario, of course... hehehe...

Laughing at his initial confusion, and fueled by the knowledge that he isn't facing Mario and thus can realistically win this fight, Goombite throws himself at his attacker, scarcely giving him time to pull himself back up.  Goomba...


Leaving the immediate surroundings of his cell was enough to boost Mario's flagging confidence.  He may have been captured by Bowser, but he is still Mario, and that means that there is nothing in this castle that can stop him, short of King Koopa himself, and he'll take care of that problem as soon as he escapes and recovers his strength.  Wincing, Mario cringes at the thought of leaving Bowser's castle without Princess Peach.  He has never, in all his career as the Mushroom Kingdom's savior, never left without the princess... but things are not going as they should; and more than anything else Mario needs a chance to regroup so that the next time he faces Bowser, everything will turn out the way it was supposed to.  That still doesn't diminish the taste of failure that he can't get out of his mouth.

After having walked for a bit, Mario begins to think about other things, like how Bowser has ended up getting the best of him.  It just doesn't make sense.  They were fighting like always, Bowser helplessly trying to beat Mario, and he waiting for a good chance at stomping the brute.  Granted, he may have been toying with King Koopa just a little bit, but that was half the fun.  The massive Koopa was never (up until this point) going to beat him, so why not put on a bit of a show?  It kept things from getting too stale, and if things started to look ugly he'd just end it and get out of there... At least that was how it was supposed to work.  But somehow, this time, things went sour.  One minute fighting, and the next, Bowser came at Mario like a Tweester and bowled him over.

Scratching his head (which has finally stopped ringing), Mario once again notices the lack of his cap, and chuckles in a mirthless way.  That is right, not only has Bowser beaten him, but he's lost his cap as well.  It just goes to figure.  He'd had that particular hat since the first time he fought King Koopa, so of course the first time Koopa beats him he'd lose his cap... It is almost like...

But he has no chance to figure what it is almost like, as at that moment he trips over a Goomba and is suddenly knocked back a few steps, snapping him back into the now.  Looking over at the Goomba, Mario's inert cockiness reasserts itself.  It is just a little Goomba, he's fought these things time and time again, and yet they still seem to think that they stand some kind of a chance.  It is almost humorous.  At least this one can tell that it is in trouble - Mario can see the fear in its eyes - and he isn't about to let it waste that rightly-come fear.

Charging the Goomba, Mario prepares to stomp... at the last second it comes back to him... he is so used to fighting with his jumps that he forgot for a moment... but no matter, it is just a Goomba; and so Mario takes his forward momentum (that it is too late to stop) and tackles the thing.

Now Mario expected one of two things.  One, the Goomba, as weak as everyone knows they are, would be knocked unconscious by Mario's tackle.  Or two, if he wasn't knocked out, then, scared by the change in tactics, the Goomba would flee, leaving Mario one less fight to deal with.  He is, after all, still Mario, and it isn't that infrequent that Bowser's underlings choose flight over fight in a confrontation with him.

What he doesn't expect, however, is to be rolled by the thing and thrown into the wall at the intersection.  With his head still not completely right, that is enough to set it ringing once more.  He has to clear his vision before he can see what is going on, and he didn't like what he sees.  The Goomba, obviously not afraid anymore (what if they already know?), is charging him.  Rolling out of the way, Mario barely misses being tackled by the Goomba's rush, and it isn't stopping there.

Of course he has to be fighting in a smallish corridor that gives him little room to avoid the thing’s attacks and even less to maneuver, but he'll have to make due.  Turning to face his attacker, Mario has to throw his hands up to fend the Goomba away (By the lands but this one was fast!) and is rewarded with its teeth sinking into his arm.  Stifling a shout of pain (he really doesn't need any more of these foul creatures to show up), Mario kicks the Goomba at its base, causing it to release his arm, and quickly stumbles back a few steps to put some room between them.  Obviously it has other plans though, because as soon as Mario begins to stumble back the Goomba charges again.  This isn't going to work, Mario knows that when you fight on the defensive your opponent has control, and he isn't about to give control of this fight to a Goomba.

Falling on his back, Mario kicks out at the creature, and once again feels its teeth sinking into his body, this time his leg.  Barely holding back another shout of pain, Mario curls up and punched the thing right between its eyes.  That seems to stun it a little, and it stumbles back a few steps itself.  Not giving the Goomba a chance to recover, Mario scrambles up (his leg!) and stumbles towards the little monster.

As he reaches the Goomba, it seems to have cleared its head and flattens itself on Mario's approach.  Not sure what to expect, our weary warrior prepares to pounce, but it isn't to work.  As soon as Mario is about to try something, the Goomba leaps at him with incredible speed and knocks the breath out of him.  Not letting up for a moment, it ducks down close to him and leaps once more, thrusting with its cap, and at this range its blow sends Mario flying back into the wall once more.  His head pounding now, and both his left arm and his right leg throbbing in pain, Mario can't believe he is having so much trouble, against a Goomba!

With the Goomba advancing on him, all kinds of horrible things dancing in it's eyes, Mario doesn't have too much time to think.  Okay, so what does he know about goombas? One, they are weak (that didn't help); two, they are easily knocked unconscious by compressing them (as things are now, that is even less helpful); and three... well, there is no three.  Generally when dealing with Goombas there isn't much to think about.  It is jump, squish, continue, and that is it.  How do the Toads deal with Goombas...? He'll have to ask them later, if he makes it out of this hallway, that is; and that's what really startes to worry Mario like nothing so far has affected him.  Here he is, being thrown about by a Goomba.  How in the lands did he expect to fight Bowser in this condition?  Something is very, very wrong, and it goes deeper than King Koopa's beating him.  Now is not the time to worry about what is wrong though, now is the time to fight, and win... he hopes.

Chapter 8 – Filibert!

Struggling back to his feet, Mario has to dive out of the way to avoid being tackled by the Goomba. There being very little room for diving about, he ends up smashing his arm into the wall, sufficiently disabling himself in the process.  Biting back the howl of pain that threatens to erupt from this fresh battering of his newly hurt arm and barely keeping the precarious hold he has on staying vertical, Mario is prepared to turn and throw himself bodily at his foe in the hopes of maybe wrestling a win out of the situation, when he hears the sound a Goomba makes when it's been stomped into submission.

Whipping around his head (which, thanks to the Goomba, is ringing once more) and reeling at the effect it has on him, Mario is just barely able to make out a figure dressed in blue overalls and a green shirt through his blurry vision.  Trying to bring the image into focus, and careful not to move anything more than he has to, Mario's eyes clear on a site that more than makes his day.  There, not more than an arm’s reach away, and standing beside the unconscious form of the Goomba, is none other than his brother, Luigi Mario!

“Weegie!” he shouts in pure, undiluted joy, as he stumbles forward into his brother's arms.  He has never been happier to see his brother than he is now.  Moments ago he was seriously convinced that he was about to lose to a Goomba for the first time in all his life, and now he is here with the only other person he knows can possibly help him out of here.  The only thing that ruins the moment is the extremely puzzled look on his brother's face.  What is the matter?  Does he not recognize him?  There is no way he can look so different... is there?

“Ahem...” Luigi begins, pushing Mario into a standing position. “Ahhh, forgive me for asking, but... who is it that you-a say you are?” he asks with real puzzlement in both the tone of his voice and the look on his face.

“Weegie!” Mario cries out, his heart aching with the fact that his own brother doesn't seem to recognize him.  He can't have possibly been gone that long... can he?  This doesn't make any sense.  Why wouldn't Luigi know him on sight?  He hasn't forgotten his own brother... has he? “It's... it's-a me... Mario...” he says, his heart not in it.  Those words feel so far from the truth at the moment that even he isn't even sure anymore.  Not only is he unable to hold his own against a Goomba, A GOOMBA! For the Star's sake, but now his own.... his Own Brother! is having trouble identifying him.  Maybe there is something wrong with him, on a level that he has yet to consider... What if really isn't...

No, that is ridiculous!  He has all his memories, he can still remember what it feels like to leap across a room and land exactly where he plans, and he can still remember what it feels like to stomp a Goomba.  There is obviously something else going on here, and he needs to figure it out, and quick.  But first, he needs his brother on his side.  He isn't sure he can go on alone... not only because he'd need help (the thought hurts too much to continue), but also because he needs Someone! Who will support him.  If even Luigi doesn't recognize him, then he knows he’ll have much more trouble.

“Mario?” Luigi asks incredulously.  “Mario?  I'm-a sorry, but my brother is a much larger than you are.  You look a lot like him, but...” He trails off, staring at Mario as if trying to figure him out.  “But... you ahhh... you just-a look a lot smaller.” he finishes lamely with a shrug.

“Luigi!” Mario shouts in his best “Big Brother” voice.  “Don't-a be ridiculous.  Who-a else would-a know about the diary you keep-a under your bed?” he starts, and not letting up, even at the shocked expression on his brother's face, he continues, “And who-a else could know about-a the song our Mama sung to us every night before she-a tucked us into bed?  Our-a bunk beds in the room, with the pizza lamp,” he finishes.

His face full of disbelief, Luigi nonetheless is beginning to stare at Mario anew, almost as if he is trying to believe him, and just can't bring himself to.  He looks like a man in a struggle with his own thoughts.  Mario lets him think for a moment as he looks down at his arm.  The wounds aren't too awfully deep, and the bleeding has begun to slow now that he isn't banging his arm about.  He lightly puts a little more pressure on his bit leg, and winces at the result.  It is going to be slow going no matter what, unless...  Looking up at Luigi, Mario can see that he is going to ask him something else.  That is okay, at least he isn't just disbelieving him outright.

“If-a you are who you-a say you are, then you should-a be able to a tell me what my middle name is,” he asks in a serious voice.

Mario chuckles in mirth at his question.  Luigi has always been bothered by the fact that their parents hadn't given them middle names, and he would always bother Mario about it.  With their parents no longer around, Mario decided long ago that it fine just the way it is.  That wasn't good enough for Luigi though.  So one day Mario jokingly told Luigi that his middle name is Filibert, just to get him to quiet down about the issue.  Luigi was so appalled at the thought of having such a goofy middle name that it became Mario's favorite nickname for him when no one else was around.

Chuckling at Luigi's choice of a question, Mario answered him anyway. “Filibert.”

“Mario!” Luigi yells in joy, throwing his arms around his brother, crushing his arm and bringing him a whole new wave of pain. “It's-a really you!  What-a happened to you, Brother?” he asks still squeezing Mario, who while happy to have his brother on his side now, still needs to do a little bit of recovering before he engages in any hugging of his own.  “How did-a Koopa catch you, where have you been for so long, why didn't you-a breakout like-a you've done so many times before, and what'sa matter with your face?” Luigi asks in a solid rush, as Mario strains to keep himself from howling out in pain.  Looking down at his brother as if really seeing him for the first time, Luigi exclaims, “Mario! You're all torn up!” before releasing him from the tight embrace and carefully, almost awkwardly holding his hand out to steady his older brother.

Taking in a deep breath, Mario slowly collects himself.  So now, he has his brother here, and that makes his chances of escaping (he can't even think that without hating himself, but there is no other way...) much better.  There is nothing for it, Mario is going to have to rely on Luigi to get him out of here, and he is going to have to explain to him that he is incapable of defending himself...  He, who has always been his little brother's rock... Gahhh!!!  Holding his head in his hands, Mario can't fathom how things have gone so horribly wrong!  What could possibly have happened to weaken him so much?  Why can't he jump, run, or fight like he should, what in the rotting Koopa-Keep is going on!  Brushing his hands through his hair, Mario is beyond noticing the lack of his cap.


“Well, well, well... Isn't this a surprise...?” Kammy cackles, looking up from her broth as Boswer enters without so much as a knock. “What's wrong now?”   She'd raised him with more manners than that, but he is “King” Koopa, and the title destroys any chance she had of keeping him in line.   The only time she sees him now is when...

“I need to ask you something,” Bowser says, while looking around the little hut.  He never really liked this shack as a young Koopa, and he doesn't care for it any more now that he is older.

Kammy Koopa, Head Witch and arguably (by Kamek alone) the most powerful Magikoopa alive.  Bowser's original teacher, and mentor in the Dark Arts practiced by the Koopa'. She is only superceded by Kamek, due to the fact that having her around is “Too much like having his grandmother around” in King Koopa's mind, thus allowing Kamek to gain the “title” of head Magikoopa in the Keep.  Having spent a significant amount of time with him throughout his education whilst he was young, her relationship is more maternal, when no one else is around.

“Well, ask, or sit, or do something other than stand in my doorway, you overgrown lizard!  You're letting the heat out!” she states while pouring out two bowls of soup.  Stepping into the hut, Bowser pulls the door shut behind him without a thought.  He has come here to learn something, and he knows better than to rile Kammy up before seeking her help.  It is bad enough trying to get her to do things for him when she is in a good mood.  Stepping over to the table, he takes a bowl from her before continuing.

“I beat Mario!” he blurts out instead, and then waits for a response.  Looking at him, Kammy can't tell if he is trying to be funny, or if it is something else.  “King” Koopa has a strange sense of humor at times, but this doesn't seem to be one of them.  He looks to be almost bursting at the seams with self satisfaction, and there is something else, something different about him that she can't quite place... Could it be, could he have possibly beaten...

“That's nice, dear.  What was it you wanted from me? It sounds like you've finally taken care of your biggest problem,” she says with a shrug, as she begins to eat her soup.  Bowser's jaw nearly drops to the floor.  He is flabbergasted, he'd just revealed that he'd beaten Mario, Mario of the Mushroom Kingdom, and all she can respond with is,

“That's Nice?!  That's Nice?!” he roars, crushing his bowl in his hands. “I, King Bowser Koopa, have bested my lifetime rival of many years, and all you can say is That's Nice!” he finishes in disbelief, a little hurt, and infuriated by her lack of interest.

“Now now, calm down, it had to happen eventually dear,” she begins as she waves her hand, causing the broken bowl to reassemble itself on the counter in front of her, “You are King Koopa after all,” she continues, filling the bowl once more before handing it back to him. “It's not like it's so surprising that you've finished off that lousy plumber, he was only human after all,” she finishes, looking up at him.  She is actually more proud than she lets on.  His reaction is enough for her, he has actually done it, Mario is... “So I assume you've finished him off,” she asks in an offhand manner.

“Well...  I...” Bowser begins, his anger dissipating as quickly as it had come on before trying to explain...

“You fool!” she retorts, throwing her soup bowl at “King” Koopa, sending a ball of force to travel with it, and then the most absurd thing happens.  Instead of throwing his arms up and absorbing her attack while deflecting the bowl, like she had taught him to do in such a situation, or trying to move out of the way and likely destroying some of her furniture, which has happened in the past, “King Bowser Koopa” leaps, like a... like Mario, only with his mass and size, he leaps straight through her roof.  Kammy just stands there for a moment, unsure of what to do.  This, this is different...

Chapter 9 – Finally Free!

Having explained his situation to Luigi (who took it much better than Mario could have hoped), the Brothers set off to escape the castle. They meet very little resistance on their way out: a few Goombas, two Koopa Troopas, and one Hammer Brother who they catch by surprise. Luigi is quick to dispatch of them and they continue on without having to stop for any considerable amount of time, which suits Mario just fine. Now it is obvious that they are looking for him, and if it weren’t for these back passages (which Mario has never taken before) they’d likely have more trouble escaping.

He still hasn't gotten over the fact that for the first time ever, he is actually leaving Koopa's Keep without the princess, but there is nothing else for it. Luigi isn't that strong of a fighter (he isn't weak by any means, but he never developed Mario's confidence) and he agrees that if Koopa beat Mario then he'd likely fair no better. So, they head out for backup.

It's-a my turn to take care of Mario, and I won't-a let him down, Luigi thinks to himself as they make their way out. I may not understand what's-a happened to my brother, but what we-a need right now is some more firepower. And maybe if he gets a little time to rest, he may-a get back into fighting shape.

At least he hopes so. Luigi has always counted on his brother's strength to pull them through when things got rough; and while he won't turn his back if he needs to step up and fight Bowser, he definitely hopes that he doesn't have to. King Koopa scares the Bejeesus out of him and he'd never be able to fight him with the nonchalant air Mario normally has.

Coming out of the castle into the moat from an entrance Mario didn't even know was there, he is glad to see a warp pipe nearby. “Where does this-a lead, Luigi?” Mario asks him.

“This will-a take us to the underground caverns,” Luigi answers him. “We won't-a have to worry about-a the Mid-Lands through there,” he adds.

Thankful for that, but still confused, Mario enters the pipe, coming out near a lava bed where they board a bone raft that has obviously been left near the pipe for that very reason, then move away at a decent clip. Looking around, Mario is surprised that there aren't any of Bowser's minions hanging about. Every time he's traveled through the caverns he's had to practically swim his way through the Koopa Troop.

“Where-a are we going, exactly?” Mario asks his brother.  If he was remembering correctly, there are a large number of Blarrg's and several clans of Chuck living in this general part of the caverns. While he trusts his brother to handle his own in a fight, he isn't too sure they'll be able to manage if they happen upon an entire Chuck Clan down here.

“And where are all-a the Koopas? It's-a never this quiet down here. Something must be up.” he comments to his brother.

Luigi chuckles a little before answering. “All that's up is that they-a don't have someone-a charging through like some kind of madman, so they are a taking it easy,” he informs his brother. “You can't-a seem to go anywhere without making a lot of noise, so they always know when you're a coming,” he adds.

Mario gives his brother a searching look. Is Luigi making fun of him? What did he mean he can't go anywhere without a lot of noise? Does Luigi think his brother is some kind of attention-loving warrior? Mario can't help but battle his way through swaths of Koopa. It seems that no matter what route he takes, they are always waiting on him. It's not like he goes looking for a fight, he's even tried to take out-of-the-way routes in the past, but it always seems that runs into just as much trouble, if not more, for his efforts. Bowser kidnaps the princess and since it doesn't matter which way he goes, he just goes straight through the middle, this being much shorter.

Mario tries to explain this to his brother, who only chuckles again in response. “I know you’re not-a doing it on purpose, but you-a can't help but bring every Koopa for miles around down on you if you-a trash their bases on your way through. You've-a never tried to avoid them,” he tells him, still smirking at Mario's response.

Now Mario knows where his brother is coming from. They've had this argument many times in the past and Luigi stubbornly refuses to see Mario's point. Whenever Bowser startes one of his campaigns to capture the Mushroom Kingdom, he usually seizes or builds several satellite bases in the Mid-Lands to tighten his control there before he comes for Peach. Also, when King Koopa sets up these satellite bases, he often leaves either his children (who could be as bad as or worse than Koopa themselves) or one of his generals to guard the main stronghold in each area, so that someone is there to keep the Koopa Troop organized. This way he can ensure that Mario has a hard time getting through to him (they are actually there to stop him, but even King Koopa has little hope for their success). When Bowser does this, he generally kidnaps various leaders or innocents from the Mid-Lands and uses them as bait to lure him to the Strongholds. Not every stronghold had a victim, but there is no way to tell, so Mario thrashes them all just to be safe.

What Luigi seems to have a hard time grasping is the fact that if Mario leaves these bases alone on his way through (which generally, by Bowser's design, would be far from practical) he would still have to deal with them later, Not only that, but the longer they remain the more organized the Koopa Troop will be in that region. While this means that the closer he comes to Bowser's Keep the better organized the Koopas are, it is a small sacrifice to ensure that things didn't get worse after he comes through. The citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom looks to Mario as their savior, and if he were to pass through an area and make no effort to help the people therein, their hope would dwindle. Koopa's people are good at manipulating the hopeless, so really he has no choice.

Luigi doesn't see it that way. He has tried to convince Mario that the people are not as “fragile” as he makes them out to be, and that he can come back to take care of those that Mushroom Kingdom's guards aren't able to manage after freeing the princess. In his mind, Mario is trying to do too much and not allowing the people to stand on their own two feet, which doesn't help them in the long run. What would happen if (which even though he doesn't like to consider it, he knows is now so, for now at least) Mario is unable to fight for them? How will they, who never had to defend themselves in the past, do so now? It isn't as if they are helpless, they just aren't as organized as Bowser's troops, and that have to deal with the fact that not only have they not had to be, but they aren't a warlike people. So really, Mario is doing them more harm than good by constantly fighting all their battles for them.

It seems, though, that no matter how many times they discuss this, Mario always boils it down to the same point. If he doesn't help them when he has the opportunity and something were to happen, it would be his fault for not trying. And even though he doesn't really believe this to be completely true, Luigi hasn’t come up with a valid argument that doesn't seem to require that Mario intentionally leave people in peril, and that's where the argument always ends.

Deciding that he doesn't want to go through the whole argument now, Mario instead turns his attention towards their surroundings, making it clear that he in't about to discuss this point. Considering their current situation, this suits Luigi just fine. And so they continue through the Caverns, coming out in the Mushroom Jungle.

Whenever there is a need to fight, Mario approaches the battle as he usually would (though he isn't as quick as he used to be) and Luigi ends up doing the actual fighting. It doesn't seem like the Koopa Troop has caught on to Mario's condition as of yet. They still react as if he is about to trounce them, and in general their foes focus on Luigi, hoping to take the “weaker” Brother out. This makes the few battles they have to fight easier than they otherwise would have been.

With every battle he has to sit out, Mario feels more and more useless... This isn't right. He shouldn't be avoiding battles. Anytime an enemy attempts to engage him, Luigi is quick to take care of it, just as he's always done in the past for his younger brother…Just as he wants to do now…

Exiting the Mushroom Jungle in the lower Mid-Lands, the Brothers continue traveling back to the Mushroom Kingdom. There are several days of hard travel, all of which only serve to show Mario how much he has truly lost. Luigi is forced to assist him on numerous occasions, just to clear obstacles that are no more than a hop to his younger brother; and while Mario's arm begins to feel a bit better, he is still in no condition to do any fighting. So Luigi continues to handle the combat, what little there is. The Mario Brothers have such a reputation that unless they are headed towards Bowser's Keep, most of King Koopa's underlings leave them. Mario continues to “stay out of harm’s way”. Just hearing his younger brother ask him to do so on various occasions hurts Mario more than he can bear.

After entering the Mushroom Kingdom, there is almost no fighting to worry about, though they still avoid the Main Roadways... Mario doesn't want to have to explain what he is doing there without the pincess any more than is absolutely necessary, and this means sneaking through the Mushroom Kingdom all the way to the castle. Luigi is able to stay visible most of the time, as he often is seen “Defending the Home Front” whilst Mario saves the princess, and not everyone knew about his reconnaissance trip to rescue Mario.

Arriving at the Castle, Mario prepares for what he feels will be the worst moment of his life....


Entering Kamek's Office, Jack and Sledge are reminded how little their ranks matter to him. It has been many, many years since either of them first picked up their True Weapons, but Kamek has a way of making even veteran soldiers like themselves feel like new recruits. The fact that they come bearing bad news doesn't help any.

“Ahem,” Sledge starts, after having stood in the entrance for several moments without receiving any acknowledgment.

Kamek, Grand Vizier and Leader of the Koopa Troop after King Koopa.  While not as powerful a Magikoopa as Kammy (a fact that he would rather die than admit to), he is well known for his vile moods and his penchant for throwing spells first and asking questions later. Having spent the larger portion of his life as Bowser's Caretaker (alongside, but certainly not along with, Kammy), he knows how to get what he wants from the King of the Koopas. Not one to cross, Kamek is prone to silence anyone who displeases him without giving them an opportunity to salvage the situation, earning him a reputation as bad as, if not worse than, King Koopa himself.

Looking up, slowly, as if only just now noticing the Hammer Brothers, while wearing an expression that clearly states he was loathe to have been disturbed from his work, Kamek raises an eyebrow at Sledge's noise, causing him to continue “coughing”, while his brother answers the questioning gaze.

“Kamek, sir.  We've come to inform you of...”

“I am well aware of your incompetence in allowing Mario to escape, as even now he journeys through the Lava Dome,” Kamek interrupted.

Sledge, seeing a possibility to regain face, starts, “Well, if he's that close we can dispatch a...” He stops as Kamek has begun shaking his head.

“You will do no such thing. You know as well as I that the Koopa Troop is no match for Mario without leadership, and even then, Mario has trounced them time and time again. (He fails to mention, they noted, that Mario has trounced him as well.) And this time will be no different,” Kamek states, his eyes unfocused in thought.

“Though there is something amiss… I've no idea what, but something has changed and so I want you two to catch Mario yourselves. If you fail, don't bother coming back,” he finishes, waving his hand. “Now leave me, I've a lot of work to do here and I have no time for dealing with your pitiable problems.”

The two brothers nod and quietly back out, grateful to have been let out without so much as a single spell cast in their direction. “Well, that could have gone worse,” Jack says. “He didn't even seem all that upset, considering.”

“Yeah,” Sledge replied, “you're right... And that worries me.”

“Well, you heard what he said, and besides, weren't you saying we could use a vacation?” Jack adds, chuckling nervously, not at all certain that this is the best turn of events.

Back in his office, Kamek looks over the reports his informants brought him. He isn't all that surprised that Mario escaped. What does surprise him is that it had taken so long. Normally Mario is out of their cells in less than a day. This time he'd been in there for nearly a month before he finally escaped; and if his sources are correct, it seems like it has actually been Luigi who freed Mario… an oddity in and of itself. That coward normally relies on Mario, not the other way around. This doesn't make sense. Not only that, but all his reports seem to mention Luigi in the forefront. Something is definitely amiss, and it is likely tied to Bowser's sudden victory... He knows the king has gone out to talk to Kammy, saving him the embarrassment, so now all he has to do is wait until he returns with whatever she tells him. Something is most definitely up.

Chapter 10 – It's a Me, Mario....

Standing in front of the outer walls to Peach’s Castle, Mario has never felt as out of place anywhere in the Mushroom Kingdom.  These same walls that he's passed through time and time again now seem foreign to him.  Who is he?  Mario will be heading through these gates any moment now with Princess Peach, and he'll have to get out of the way...  At least that's how he feels.  For never has he stood where he now does, unable to gain entrance, and arguing with the guard about his identity.

“I'll ask you again.  Who are you!” the younger Toad at the wall shouts down.

The Toad are a truly interesting race (with a rather deceptive name).  While distantly related to Goombas (though you'll never find a Toad willing to back that up), they look nothing alike.  Standing about twice as tall as the average Goomba, they have a far more “Humanoid” form, complete with arms, legs, fingers, and toes, none of which the Goomba can brag.  Another difference, their Mushroom feature is more cap-like, and less the overall shape of their head.  As the predominate race in the Mushroom Kingdom, they also happen to be the people of Princess Peach Toadstool, even though she isn't of the Toad herself.

He's told them already that he is Mario, but even with Luigi arguing his case they don't believe him.  And who can blame them?  Why would Mario be standing outside the Castle walls asking for an audience with the Guard Captain?  Everyone knows Mario was probably on his way back from King Koopa's Keep, the princess in tow, Bowser once again picking himself off the floor.  Everyone knows that their Hero would NEVER return without the princess... so who is he trying to fool?

“We've-a already told you!” Luigi hollers back, “It's-a me, Luigi, and my brother Mario!” he tells them for the third time.

“Listen Bub!” the guard yells back down, “We know he's not Mario! I mean his costume's good and all, well... except for the hat, Mario's always got his hat, but yeah while you may be Luigi, unless you've been fooled, you wouldn't be arguing for his sake!  So we're not about to let some wacko in. Give up, and when the real Mario shows up with the princess, you can talk to him about why you need to come in!” he finishes, pounding his spear into the walk like some informal gavel finalizing his point.

“What will I-a have to do to make-a you believe me?!” Mario yells up to them, unsure whether or not he'll be able to convince them like he convinced his brother... while running his tattered glove through his hair idly, missing his cap now that they've brought it up.

The two guards look at each other and discuss in hushed voices for a few moments what he “could” possibly do to convince them.  After a bit they look back down at him, and the older Toad hollers back.

“I'm sorry, but there's no way we're going to believe that if  ‘Mario’ wanted through this gate, that we would have any hope of stopping him,” he states, shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head, “I mean, it's not like he hasn’t been through enough times to know this place like the back of his hand,” the Toad adds, gesturing inside the keep wall. ”And besides, if you really are Mario, you'd just jump on up here and walk right through.”  Looking down at Mario as if he just thought of it, and waving his hands to demonstrate, he continues, “Speaking of which, why don't you hop on up here...? That would convince us.  Come on then,” the older guard finishes, smiling smugly.

“Hmph,” Luigi snorts, knowing as he does about Mario's current condition. “I've a mind to show these cheeky guards a piece’a my ahhh... mind,” he mutters so that only his brother can hear him.  But they discussed it before they approached the wall, and Mario doesn't want Luigi to do anything to jeopardize his reputation while Mario is feeling off.  It is bad enough that Mario is out of it.  It will only get worse if Luigi is ostracized as well.

Taking a deep breath, Mario nods curtly and walks a little ways away from the wall amidst the chuckles of the guard and the sigh of his brother, noticing as he does that there is now a small crowd beginning to gather. Turning back, he dashes towards the wall before Luigi can stop him.

“Mario, No!” Luigi shouts.

They were right.  If he really wants in, what could they do to stop him?  It is, after all, just a wall.  He's faced off against gigantic monstrosities devised by Bowser to thwart his attempts at rescuing the princess; climbed towering citadels with moving platforms, an enemies throwing themselves in his path; and even the King of the Koopas is afraid to confront him in combat... Or at least he was... But he's been beaten now, and here he is asking for help because he knows he can't win this time, that he isn't able to...


His jump carries him face-first into the wall...

“Mario!” Luigi shouts, his voice echoing as if across a padded hall, while running over to make sure his brother is okay as the guards starts rolling in laughter atop the gate, their mirth cascading across his consciousness as everything slows to a snail’s pace...

He just lays there, looking up at the rapidly darkening sky...  Who am I...


Standing in the shambles of her kitchen, the soup long forgotten, with Bowser going over in detail how he'd beaten Mario for the fourth time, Kammy can't help but wonder what is “Really” going on here.  She is also bothered by the fact that every time he tells the story, Mario finds himself in progressively worse shape...

“And as I threw him into the air, while bathing him in flame... “ the Koopa King was saying.

“Stop,” she says. “Two things I want to know, and don't exaggerate, it just makes you look silly,” she informs him, ignoring the huffy look he gives her.  “One, where is Mario now? And two, why are you wearing his cap?” she asks.  In none of the stories does he explain the hat, and by the look he is giving her, it is obvious why.  He doesn't even know he is wearing it.

“I'm not...” he begins, running his clawed hand across the top of his head where, much to his surprise, he encounters the hat.  Pulling it off, he looks at it, rather confused by its presence.  When had that gotten there?

“Let me see that,” Kammy preempts as she takes the cap from his grasp before placing it atop her head.

“Hey!” Bowser, caught off guard by his sudden anxiety over losing the hat that moments before he hadn't even known he'd been wearing, shouts halfheartedly as he conflictedly reaches towards it, and instead grasps at open air.

Watching, now confused, Bowser snorts in amusement at Kammy as she attempts what looks like it was meant to be a backflip, but instead throws herself onto her back, rapping her head rather soundly against the floor.

“Hehehehe...” the Koopa King chuckles while Kammy slowly sits up, rubbing her head where she hit it.  Noticing while doing this that the hat was gone, she looks around and sees that it landed beneath her counter.  Frowning, she picks it up and, looking at Bowser, says in an irritated voice, “Yeah, well why don't you show me how it's done then!”

“Outside!” she yells after he starts shifting his weight as if he is about to jump.  He's already damaged her house enough with that first jump and the subsequent landing. She doesn't need him tearing it up anymore. And besides, if her hunch is correct, she wants plenty of room for him to actually start figuring this out. This is by far the most interesting turn of events yet. Not only has he beaten Mario without the aid of any outside force (that she knows of), but he also seems to have gained some of Mario's signature prowess. Something has to have happened during that fight, and she is determined to figure it out.

Standing impatiently near the hut, Bowser gives her a questioning look as she comes out the door. “Okay then, show me,” she says.

Leaping far higher than a Koopa of his size should be able to, Bowser neatly turns a Somersault in the air and lands with a thundering *Fwump* in her garden amidst the pumpkins. Figures... she thinks to herself. Though, now she is perturbed. She'd been sure Mario's hat was somehow the crux of this, and now she hasn't a clue what was going on...  How did Bowser suddenly start bounding around like that Shroom-cursed plumber, and what has happened to Mario as a result? She doesn't like not knowing so much, and she also doesn't like the implications. Somehow King Koopa unwittingly received some of Mario's strength. With this, it is no shocker that he had the upper hand, but why has it happened, and who is behind it? She refuses to believe that it “Just Happened”, and Bowser's lack of concern is starting to aggravate her. He never was one to Question things... having come from Royalty, he is accustomed to having things given to him... but she'd raised him with more sense than this. His jumping around and ruining her yard is angering her too...

“All Right Already!” she shouts at him as he comes down for the second time into her garden, destroying the rest of her pumpkins. “I get it, you can bounce now. That's wonderful, dear, but you've proven your point, so you can stop destroying my yard,” she fusses at him.

A slightly mischievous grin that never bodes well crosses his face as he calmly walks over to her. “So then, what does this mean?” he asks, trying noticeably to keep his face serious.

Watching him suspiciously, she thinks about it. If it usn't the hat, then what is it... “Wait here,” she tells him as she turns to walk into her house. No sooner hadsshe turned around then she feels Bowser's clawed hands grab her around the waist as he rockets once more into the air.

“Put me down, you dolt!” she shrieked at him as she throws a rather large blast of raw magical energy backwards at him, knocking her from his grasp at the top of his jump and sending her flying over her house. Summoning her broom from the porch and her wand from the mantle as she falls, she catches herself a few yards from the ground, and turns in rage at “King Koopa”. Ohhh... So he's gotten “playful” all of a sudden now that he can jump. Well then, I'll set him straight real quick here! she thinks to herself, noticing as she does that he took the hat from her when he jumped into the air.

Bowser had landed (on his feet by some miracle) on the small road leading up to her house, triumphantly donning Mario’s hat as he lands. Not giving him the time to regain himself, she opens the earth beneath him and channels a large column of flame from her wand in his direction. The fire, unlike that from a Fire Flower, isn't harmful to him, but it will sting enough to make her point... or it would have if it hit him, that is. Somehow, at the moment the earth begins to open beneath him, Bowser manages to throw himself backwards to where he is still on solid land; and while she shifts her aim to account for this, he leaps into the air before her flames cam connect, and launched a large Fire Blast himself, which she then needs to avoid. That cocky little! she thinks to herself, but then has to continue dodging as he is now pelting her with short bursts of his Natural Flame from the ground.

Dodging his blasts, she is beginning to lose her temper, and the sky around her little hut begins to darken with her mood. Thinks he’s some big shot now that he's trounced the little plumber, does he? The rumble of thunder echoes her angry thoughts. Figures he can take me, ME! That last thought punctuates with the *Crack* of lightning in the clouds above them.  Well then... She turns to face him, the wind billowing around her, his flames breaking before they even reach her. I think it's time for “King Koopa” to remember who it was that raised him...

Chapter 11 – Ama

Waking, Mario looks around at the familiar contents of his room. So now, not only am I incapable of saving the princess... but I'm napping at home while she's a prisoner in Bowser's Castle... Sitting up in bed, he has to wait a few moments as his head takes a few trips around the bedroom before he trusts his feet to hold him. Standing, he doesn't make it as far as his door before Luigi walks in with some broth.

“Here.  Drink this,” his brother orders, handing the delicious-smelling bowl to him. He doesn't need to be told twice, and downs the broth. His brother is quite the cook, which is nice because Mario can't boil water without catching something on fire.

“Are you a feeling a little better?” Luigi asks as Mario hands back the empty bowl, his voice full of concern.

Nodding, he inadvertently winces as a sharp pain shoots through his skull. Touching the side of his head, he is surprised to find a bandage there. He must have hit that wall a little harder than he thought. “What-a happened after I-a...” Mario trails off, not sure how to describe his crazed attempt at the wall.

“I had to-a carry you home,” Luigi states plainly.

“No,” Mario replies, knowing by the expression on his brother's face that there is more to it than that. “What else happened? I-a noticed a crowd before I....” He trails off again.

“Mario,” Luigi begins, shaking his head and reaching out to his brother, “it's-a not important what they-a did or didn't say,” he tells him as he grasps Mario's shoulder. “The people are-a confused by what's-a going on. You're-a normally on the way back by now, and the people are-a worried that something might have happened to the princess,” he ends.

Looking at his brother, Mario knows there is more that he isn't being told, but he decides to drop it. Luigi isn't going to speak if he doesn't want to, and Mario doesn't feel like dancing around the subject for the next few hours.

“So...”  Luigi says, giving his brother a questioning look, “What are we-a going to do now?”

The truth is, he has no idea. He's never been here before and he isn't quite sure what he should do. He's already made the trek to Bowser's Keep and fought the Koopa King. There shouldn't have been a “Next Step”. The only “Next Step” up until this point has been to come home and celebrate for a few days, and he really doesn't think that is a good idea at this point. He “could” go back to the Keeps he'd freed on his way to Bowser, and gather what few guards he can from them... but with King Koopa undefeated, they should really stay put and ensure their lands are safe...  There are other kingdoms, Sarasaland for one, with their own armies, but it is bad enough he's embarrassed himself here in the Mushroom Kingdom... he doesn't want to sully his name any further than he has to... Though if that's what it takes…

*Knock, Knock*

Looking towards the door, Mario is confused as to who might be showing up, and he isn't in any shape or mood for company. His brother, alert as always to Mario's thoughts, leaves the room to answer the knock, and Mario steps nearer the door to their room so he can hear what is said.

“Hello, I know Mario's here and I'd like a word with him if I could,” an older voice Mario has never heard before is saying to his brother.

“I'm-a sorry, but he's not up at the moment. I can tell him you-a came by…”

“That will do. Let him know I'll only be in town until tonight, so if he'd like to know what's going on between him and Bowser, I can probably help clear things up...”

“Who are you?” Mario asks aloud, stepping out of his room and onto the upstairs balcony, looking down as he does at the front door.

Standing right outside the Mario Brothers’ home is probably the oddest person Mario has ever seen. Wearing a thick coat made up of what looks to be hats of every kind hanging off of it, he stands no taller than Luigi, but somehow carries an air of power that makes him seem to tower over Mario's taller brother. Obviously in his later years, the man still stands without hunch or stoop, and seems positively alive with energy.

Smiling up at Mario as Luigi steps aside while giving the stranger a mistrusting look, the old man stepped inside and introduces himself as “Amardarak, they call me Ama the Hat-maker,” he says with a grandiose bow, spreading his hat coat open to expose even more hats on the inside.

Slowly making his way down the stairs, Mario looks the stranger over. While his coat is covered in hats of all kinds, his head is bare save for wisps of what might have been hair and could have also been bit of fluff from a frayed sheet. His face has the chiseled look of someone who has spent far too long peering intently at something, and while obviously old, isn't as wrinkly as it first appeared. His cobalt eyes seem to crackle with a kind of amused energy, and he wears smile that makes no secret of the Secrets it withholds. His coat is something else altogether. There have to be at least 30 hats, headdresses, bandannas, and caps fastened onto it by some unknown means, and their bulk lend meat to his otherwise wiry frame.

“What do you-a know about King Koopa and I?” Mario asks him, a little bit of his worry over people's reactions to his new state clearly leaking into his voice.

“What I know,” the old man says, walking across the room towards the kitchen with a very confused Luigi following him, “is that Big Bad and Ugly has something of yours that you want back,” he states opening the fridge and peeking around.

Luigi gives Mario a look that reflects the absurdity of the situation, and clears his throat before turning back and addressing Ama. “Can we-a help you with something ahhh... outside of the fridge?” he says, completely lost as to how he should react to the Old Man's intrusion.

“Yeah, looks like you don't have any bread in here. You know it keeps better in the cooler, right?” he asks, pulling a block of cheese and a few slices of meat out of the fridge and arranging them on the counter before going back for condiments and finally the bread, which is in the cupboard beside the fridge.

“Ahem, no, I... I mean yes, but what I meant was...” Luigi stumbles over his words as all this is going on, getting more and more bothered by the minute.

“You want to know why I'm here, and I'm hungry. Been walking all day, and I'm not as young as I used to be,” he says with a light chuckle. “So I'ma make a sandwich before we get into all the chattering. If there's one thing I've learned, it's easier to make a sandwich before a long story than in the middle. People get all fussy when you stop talking and tend to your appetite,” he finishes with a smirk.

The two Brothers look at each other, and shrug. Luigi just shakes his head, and Mario just watches the old man. How does he know something is up? Did Luigi talk to him before, no... he was just as confused as I was... Putting up his hand to let his brother know to just go with it, he continues to think, He says he's got a long story. Maybe he knows what happened back in Bowser's Castle... Hoping for the best, he knows at least one thing about this odd old man... He sure knows how to make a sandwich.


Hovering over her house, Kammy can't believe it. They've been fighting for well over an hour, and she is wearing out, but as far as she can tell, Bowser isn't even out of breath. This is absolutely ridiculous! There is no way “King Koopa” can match her once enraged, but here he is, bounding about like that star-cursed plumber, and with no signs of slowing down. Calling down lighting to knock him back, she attempts to have her trees grab him as he avoids her attack, and only succeeds in losing several branches from each to his claws.

“Bwahahaha!” Bowser laughs.

He's never felt so good! First Mario, and now he is matching Kammy blow for blow. Inhaling deeply as he avoids her lightning strike, he lands amidst the thicket across the road from her hut. Tearing through the branches as they attempt to grasp him, he belches out a rather large fire burst. Knowing she is about to swerve to avoid his attack, he dashes towards her hut and leaps where she is swerving to, shell first. Feeling first her magic, and then her broom break across his back, Bowser reachs up and grabbed hold of the now defeated Magikoopa Witch as he crashes once more through her roof.

“You overgrown, thick-headed oaf!” she shrieks at him, beating him over the head with her wand, though doing no more than earning a chuckle as he sets her down in the remains of her kitchen.

“This broom is older than you! You, you…” She continues shrieking as she attempts to gather the splinters from the pile that was once her table.

“Hehehe, sounds like I did you a favor,” Bowser remarks, laughing at her rage. “It's about time you replaced that thing anyway,” he adds, remembering all the times he was swatted with it as a young Koopa.

Giving him a glare that clearly states her opinion on that, she continues to pick through the mess.

“So what does this all mean?” he asks her, completely disregarding her anger as completely as she is disregarding his question. Great, she's in one of her attitudes... I'll never get any answers from her now... “Well... When you figure it out, let me know,” he commands as he heads for the door. Turned around as he is, he misses the expression she is giving him.

Walking through the living room, he is confused to find an old man standing by the fireplace, warming his hands. “Who are you?!” Bowser barks, wondering who could be dumb enough to just walk in on Kammy and the King of the Koopas.

The old man before him is dressed rather oddly for a human. He wears a coat that is covered in hats of every kind, though he is bald and hatless himself. He stands shorter than the taller Mario, and taller than Mario himself (those being the only humans he has had enough time around to compare against), though he doesn't seem to have the same build that he’s seen in either. In fact, he looks rather scrawny.

Coming out of the room to figure out who he is talking to, Kammy is surprised to see an old human practically bursting with energy, his eyes literally crackling with power to her senses, standing in her living room. “Who's this then?” she asks, turning to Bowser, not letting the stranger out of her field of vision.

“I'm known as Amardarek, and I'm humbled to be in the presence of two of this kingdom's most prominent figures,” he answers her question, bowing low and sweeping his odd coat with a flourish in their direction, earning a chuckle from the King of Koopas.

“Her? She's just a witch,” Bowser states, causing Kammy's face to take on an icy glare. “I am King Bowser Koopa though, and I want to know who you are that you think you can walk in on me?”

His face playing a sly smile that belies far more than he is letting on, he answers, “I'm merely a traveling hatmaker.” This time earning a snort from Kammy.

“And I'm the queen of the Mushroom Kingdom,” she replies leveling her wand at him. “Answer us, stranger, or I'll give you a lesson in manners that you'll not soon forget,” she finishs, not trusting this human any more than she understands him.

“Well, I can honestly say I've not been taught manners that would befit an encounter like this,” he answers her, still wearing that knowing smile, “but I do know that you're in the market for answers to your lord’s newfound prowess, and I may be able to assist you there.”

Looking at him with sudden interest, Bowser blurts, “What do know about my newfound powers?!”

“That, my Lord, is quite the tale, and if you've got the time, I make a passable bard,” he answers, chuckling.

Still not trusting this human, but curious as to what he might know, Kammy lowers her wand as Bowser says, “Whatever, just get on with it,” and the two of them settled into the chairs, Bowser taking up the entire couch with his size, as “Ama” begins his tale...

To Be Continued...

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