Chapter 1: The Fearsome Demon
"Ahh, at least I can start the day with
a lovely morning like this!" said a short, middle-aged Toad as he gazed
out at the sea, breathing in the crisp, fresh morning air of Rogueport.
He walked down the pier, taking in the beautiful
sunrise and its orange hues that covered the sky.
As he continued through the plaza, he
noticed several decidedly groggy-looking villagers wandering through the
streets as he passed under an arch and strolled toward a tall, slightly
decrepit brown building. "Boy, the boss is gonna be mad at me for being
so late. It was worth it for that air, though," he said, grinning. He continued
into the building, not noticing the three large, black ships approaching…
"Status report, Helmsman," called the looming figure of Cortez, a tall, imposing man in a red jacket, an old-style saber dangling from the scabbard on his belt.
"We're approaching port, sir. Command to slow?" asked the helmsman, his voice slightly trembling.
"Not yet. I want to hit them before they even know what's happening.” The enormous pirate ship, the Black Skull, flanked by two slightly less imposing ships, veered closer to the port, being careful to avoid any rocks in the waters.
"Prepare the cannons!" shouted Cortez as they vectored into port. "Ready, aim---"
Suddenly the first mate, Nickoliae, shouted, "Captain Cortez, look at that!!"
And he stopped, cut off by the sheer terror of what he saw next. The port, once basking in the warm glow of the Sun, was now suddenly covered in a thick shroud of darkness. The entire crew was stricken with such immense fear and terror, you could almost feel it in the air. The villagers were all frozen with fear as an enormous tornado engulfed the plaza, ripping through the brick and mortar. "What kind of terrible power is this?!" gasped Cortez as he watched the entire town being ripped from its foundation.
Suddenly the tornado set ablaze, becoming
a hurricane of fire, burning everything near it to ashes. Then, just as
the tornado finally began fading, lightning bolts began striking all over
town, reducing buildings to rubble and tearing apart the once tall and
proud town of Rogueport. "All ships, retreat! Pull back!" screamed Cortez
as his helmsman scrambled to turn the ship around. Whatever this
was, it was nothing he or his crew wanted to face…
All these events were observed by a lowly traveler, who would be offended if he knew people thought of him as such. He was a tall, muscular, lavender-shelled Koopa with bright, green eyes that were brimming with anger.
"Something has to be done about this,"
he growled, breaking into a run as he rushed toward the village…
As the last of the smoke cleared, a dark female figure emerged from the shadows. She was a tall, imposing woman with pale-white skin and a regal, jet black dress. She smiled cruelly, relishing the destruction she had caused. Her dark eyes gazed around the ruined village, looking for survivors, her army of grim-faced Clefts sweeping the area. "Such pitiful fools," she muttered coldly. "Upon the city they took for granted, I will build my palace and rule this world."
"I wouldn't count on that."
As she pivoted around, looking for the source of the voice, a purple blur zoomed past, smashing into three Clefts and reducing them to rubble. The blur stopped, revealing the lavender=shelled Koopa, his face a grim mask. He glared at the woman, her body surrounded by shadows in direct defiance of the sun. "The Shadow Queen, I presume?" he said, shifting his stance to prepare for an attack. Recovering from her initial surprise, the woman grinned.
"You dare to address me? You have courage. What is your name?"
"Kahn. I've heard about your conquest, and I've seen the destruction you've caused here. You won't get away with this," he said, moving into an aggressive stance.
The woman laughed. "You grow very amusing. Most beings I've encountered in this world cringe in fear of the mere mention of me. Never did I think I would meet someone who wished to take up arms against me in combat. Who would've thought those cowards begot someone like you? You should be commended."
"Yes, I've heard the legends about you, how your power is unstoppable. I don't believe them."
"Hmm. Then perhaps I should give you a demonstration. As a reward for your courage, I'll make your death somewhat painless."
With that, Kahn lunged forward to attack at blinding speed. He threw a punch, only to find himself striking thin air. Startled, he pivoted around and found her standing a few feet behind him. "Is that your best speed? What a pity," she said with a snort. Angered, Kahn attempted to regain his momentum by pushing off of a collapsed building and launching another punch, with the intent of suddenly changing direction at the last second to hit her when she moved behind him. To his surprise, she did not disappear, but instead extended her arm and blocked the punch with her hand, then threw him aside.
After recovering from his initial shock, he assumed a defensive stance. "Let's see what you've got," he thought to himself. The woman suddenly turned, her dark eyes now glowing a bright red. Before he could react, a surge of pain shot through him as a crackling bolt of energy struck his torso. He leapt aside, trying to put some distance between himself and his opponent while he recovered from the immense pain of her previous blow. The woman continued raining a blinding holocaust of energy bolts down at him, and he was forced to run at full speed to avoid the attacks, ignoring the stabbing pain telling him not to.
He knew he had to end this fast. He leapt up on a building, then quickly leapt off as another bolt struck it, toppling it to the ground. He used the momentum to rush at her, delivering a series of blindingly fast punches and kicks, the woman blocking every one of them until Kahn got a lucky punch in, sending the woman careening until she smashed through a building. Kahn stopped, panting and gasping, and grinned. It felt good to punch out the Shadow Queen, he thought to himself.
His happiness lasted about three seconds. Then a shockwave nearly knocked Kahn off his feet and the building the woman had struck vaporized. She walked out, looking quite impressed. "Well done. I very nearly felt that attack." A chilled hand gripped Kahn's heart as he realized he had no chance at winning this battle.
The woman raised her hands, and another flaming tornado like the one that destroyed Rogueport appeared. Kahn's course of action was clear; he turned and ran as fast as his weakened body would allow, a split second before the ground beneath him was vaporized. He spun in his shell and rocketed away, and soon, he was out of sight.
The woman turned, contemplating the battle. "He's a lot more powerful than most beings I've met," she said to herself. "While he poses no threat to me, I'd better not take any chances. Beldam!"
At her call, a shriveled old hag with purple skin and a decidedly tasteless witch's hat appeared from the shadows. "Yes, Mistress?" she asked in a cold and raspy voice.
"That Koopa named Kahn," replied the woman. "Bring him to me, dead or alive."
"Yes, my Shadow Queen."
And with that, Beldam disappeared into the shadows in search of her quarry.
Meanwhile, a Dark Boo with a red bow
had watched the exchange from afar. "That was interesting," she thought
herself. "That Koopa actually put up a fight against Her Majesty. If I can bring him back before Beldam, I bet I'll get rewarded big time. After all, he is pretty badly wounded."
Suppressing her fear of Kahn's power,
she set out to find him…
The construction of the palace was going quite well, thought the Shadow Queen as she passed through the darkened stone corridors, admiring the various murals and columns of the imposing rooms until she reached the throne room. This was the reason that one fourth of Rogueport was taken; it was a strategic position that was easily defendable, thanks to the high walls and turrets guarding the city, as well as the rocks that kept ships at bay, thus making it the perfect place to setup her base of conquest operations.
"This palace will be a symbol of my eternal rule," she said to herself. "Now is the time to exert my influence over every corner of this world."
"Are you sure that is wise, my Queen?"
The Queen turned around and saw Animus, one of the three arc demons leading her army: a blood-chilling figure that looked somewhat of a cross between a man and a panther, with hideous fangs that looked like daggers protruding from his mouth and long, green wings folded on his back. "An exertion of energy like the one you intend would be a large drain of your power."
The Queen grinned. "My dear Animus, my power is already well beyond the point where anyone could challenge me. Even after this exertion, my power will still be unmatched throughout the universe," she said, smiling coldly. "It is time to teach the people of this world the meaning of fear."
"As you wish, my Queen."
With that, the Shadow Queen turned and raised her hands in the air, bolts of crackling energy manifesting in the air above her. She could feel the strain on her power, as was expected, though it was tolerable, and in a moment she suppressed it. Finally, the energy field grew so large it nearly filled the room, then slowly dissipated until it faded entirely, leaving in its place seven shining objects in the shape of stars.
One was made of the purest of diamonds, one was a perfect shade of emerald green, one was made of gold so pure it was almost transparent, one was made of ruby so bright it looked like a sunset, one a bright sapphire like the ocean, one of garnet that lined the walls with a brilliant glow, and one a perfect mix of all the other colors.
Once the Queen recovered from the slight drain of her power, she grinned. "Behold, the Crystal Stars, embodiments of my power! These beautiful stars will exert my influence over every corner of the world. Soon, all will know the power of Krobelus the Shadow Queen!"
Animus shook his head in amazement. "Your reign will last forever, my Queen."
The Queen turned to Animus. "These stars, impressive as they may be, pale in comparison to the three beasts I am about to unleash."
"You mean the three dragons?"
"Yes. Those great beasts will strike fear into the hearts of all people, and will destroy any resistance to my rule."
Animus grinned. "What, may I ask, are you planning to name the dragons?"
The Queen shrugged. "Let the people name them."
Animus cocked his head, confused. "What do you mean?"
She turned. "Well, the people usually give names to the things they see, especially the things that are destroying them. Let the people name the dragons. It will be amusing."
"When will you be sending them to attack the great tree?"
"Soon. The time is nearly here to establish my dominance there too. Send in my dragons.” While the Shadow Sirens were the most trusted of her servants, and the arc demons were the most cunning, the dragons were by far the most powerful.
Animus obediently left the room. Within minutes, Animus returned followed by three dragons, which nearly filled the space of the large, open room. The first, a black dragon, stepped forward. An armor of dark, oily scales plated his sides and back, and his belly looked crusted with black jewels. Cruel spikes protruded from his massive tail and along his spine. His claws looked like scythes, and his eyes burned like magma. This was indeed a force to be reckoned with. The second, a younger version of the first, approached. Her scales were red as flames, her eyes piercing and her wings like cutlasses. The last one, easily the most terrifying of all, did not move or react. The eldest of the three dragons, his claws and fangs were so long and sharp they appeared as though they could slice through steel like butter, his cold, black eyes scanning the room, scales a bright green hue.
The Queen marveled at her creations,
then grinned. "Yes, their resistance won't last long at all."
Kahn, battered, weary, and about to collapse, was running for his life. He had travelled the land, battling the Shadow Queen's monsters wherever he found them with shell and sheer bravado, but never had he faced an enemy like that before. He had always imagined the Shadow Queen to be a gutless tyrant who lived on the backs of others, but in reality she was far beyond his level in terms of power. He had to constantly fight searing pain just to keep moving. He was exhausted, and close to giving up... but no. Every time his heart told him to give up, his soul urged him to fight on, to stand against this evil, no matter how powerful.
"It would help if I at least knew where I was going," he thought. Then, seeing no sign of his enemy, he stopped; it had never occurred to him to stop and check his surroundings. He saw he was on beautiful plains, with smooth, green grass beneath his feet, the Sun illuminating the world around him. Petal Meadows. "Okay, that's a start... At least now I know where I am."
Kahn continued for a few more feet, until he heard a faint hissing noise. He turned... and saw the grass he was looking at a moment ago was now dead. He gasped in horror as he saw more grass dying around him, like a wave of death was spreading across the plains, sucking the life from the valley. "If it's happening in Petal Meadows... it'll probably spread to Petalberg. I've got to warn them!" he said, breaking into a run again, the death wave following slowly behind, swallowing all in its path. Trees turned black and lost their leaves... flowers withered and lost their color... this malevolent force had to be stopped.
Just as Kahn was about to cross the bridge leading to town, a figure got in his way. It was a Dark Boo wearing a red bow, a mix of fear and determination on her face. "Stop, in the name of the Shadow Queen!" called the Boo.
Kahn's heart sank; an agent, no doubt, probably here to capture or kill him, preferably the latter. Kahn tried to hide his weariness. "Who are you?"
The Boo lass remained firm, despite her fear. "My name is Nadia, servant of Her Majesty, the Shadow Queen, who orders you to surrender."
Kahn snorted. "Sorry, but I don't acknowledge your queen. Now stand aside."
Nadia gulped. This was not going well. She did not want a fight with this Kahn, weakened or not; and from his attitude he did not seem to weak. He had shown such skill and determination against the Queen so as to actually land a blow against her, and if she could not talk her way out of this, she wasn't too sure about her chances in battle. "There isn't any need for a fight," she said, trying to sound confident. "If you surrender, I'm sure that..." She stopped, realizing that if he did surrender, the Queen would probably put him to a slow and painful death.
Kahn laughed. "Yes? Go on, I'm dying to hear the rest."
Nadia glared at him. "If you don't surrender, I'll be forced to kill you."
"Will you, now?" Kahn asked sarcastically, readying himself for battle. Nadia contemplated fleeing, but decided against it. After all, this was what she came here for, and she knew from the start he probably wouldn't give up. She leapt back, preparing to strike from an angle that would catch Kahn in his wounded torso. Instead of trying to cover his weakness, Kahn suddenly rocketed forward in his shell, shooting straight past Nadia, throwing a kick behind him and catching her on the side. She yelped in pain, trying to create more distance between them. She knew she had him beaten at long range, but in a close range battle, she had no chance against his raw strength.
She used her magic to hurl a ball of flame at Kahn, but instead of dodging, he turned, then rocketed in his shell at her, his speed snuffing out the flames as he slammed into her again. Such searing pain shot through her that she was forced to change tactics and try to fight defensively, dodging his attacks and waiting for an opening. He charged at her again, but this time she was ready. She dodged to the side, then quickly hurled a bolt of energy at him, catching him on the leg. He nearly cried out in pain as his leg felt like it was on fire. He limped to one side, looking for another chance to strike.
Both of them were wounded, but only one of them would find a way to win. He leapt to the left of his opponent, dodging a black ball of energy as it whizzed past him. He suddenly lashed out with a kick from his uninjured leg, but Nadia was expecting this, and ducked under the blow. Then Kahn astounded her again. Instead of backing off, he lashed out with his wounded leg, smacking her in the head and causing both of them extreme pain, her slightly more.
"So his strength lies in his unpredictability," she thought, realizing she had lost. "I have to warn Beldam he's here." With that, she suddenly turned and flew away at top speed.
Kahn stopped. He knew he could follow her, but he was too badly wounded to keep this up, and he had to warn Petalberg about the enemy approach. Hearing the death wave approaching from behind, he quickly proceeded across the bridge and into town.