Chapter 1: Rise and Shine Daisy
She could finally feel cold again? How long had it been? There was sensation in her limbs even though she was still blinded. The cold was painful, jarring, forcing her into a standing position. Yet the pain subsided to be replaced by warmth. The icy stillness replaced by damp movement. Her body did not respond as she fell forward and met the floor with heavy thud. She could barely move in that moment, like she was anchored to the metal and stone ground. Finally Daisy’s eyes could open although her hearing hadn’t quite returned yet.
Daisy was in a brightly light laboratory of some kind. The ceiling was wreathed in cables pulsing with electricity and steam, looking closer to the overgrowth of a treetop than an actual roof. They were almost moving like serpents making her dizzy just staring at them. The walls were lined with all manner of cabinets and workspaces that hosted all manner of mechanical and biological specimens. A closed door led elsewhere, away from prying eyes. For the most part the main floor was clear aside from a few operating tables and two large pits that dropped suddenly. The walls had appeared to part thanks to the collection of gears gathered at either side.
The view from the opened wall was a world away from the deserts and oasis of Sarasaland. The night sky was the strangest as there was no star in sight, only a luminescent moon that cast a silver light upon the earth. Where the problem in Daisy’s kingdom was a lack of water, this land appeared to be saturated to the point of festering. All the plants either clung to life or were dead and rotting in the murky sludge that passed as water. The earth was soft mud, making it near impossible to get steady footing. Sinking in the swamps were the ruins of ancient castles and cities. Once proud beacons of civilisation were now lost, half submerged in the putrid earth like stunned giants being consumed by quick sand. The trees were mostly withered husks studded with moss and fungi. They glowed with colourful bioluminescence adding a sense of life to the dying mire.
She tried to pull herself upright but found the layers of her saturated dress pinned her to the ground. A firm hand grabbed her and Daisy found herself being thrown over someone’s shoulder. As the laboratory moved around her, she noticed others in the room. An alabaster Boo materialised from the air, her eyes were lined and curled with deep turquoise. A leather and brass backpack was strapped to her as she hovered with quill and book in hand. She smiled, revealing rows of fangs dripping with ectoplasm. A Magikoopa who wore a layered dress of blacks, blues and turquoise with a small shrug around her shoulders. A leather corset made the skirts flare out to create a more feminine shape. Icy blue hair was grown long and curled over her shoulders. A charcoal top hat with a broad rim rested on her head.
“Looks like the spell worked,” the Magikoopa laughed shyly “Shalazia’s curses are so strong, I didn’t think we could bring you back. I’m glad I proved myself wrong.”
The Boo called out “Please take it easy princess, we’re not here to hurt you. Some new clothes will be arriving shortly for you.”
Daisy tried to move her mouth, uttering pitifully “Where… who?”
“I’m Gallileo,” the Boo informed, she gestured to the Magikoopa “That’s Magnifico and the lady carrying you is Diabella.”
Daisy found herself gently placed on a nearby couch, she finally saw the face of her third saviour. She looked human with jagged white hair that was shaped like lightning bolts around her face. She appeared to be wearing a lab uniform studded by large gold buttons and shaded with dark greys. A hefty pair of safety goggles obscured most of her face. A thick leather belt hugged her waist while tight sleeves striped black and purple covered her arms to vanish beneath leather gloves. Her smile revealed a missing front tooth and seemed more cruel than kind.
Everything then clicked in Daisy’s mind “You’re the Lightning Queen!? Then…” she tried to gesture weakly to Gallileo and Magnifico “You’re some of the Steampunks… and I’m now in the Malevolent Mire? What is going on?” Her eyes widened as she forced herself upright “I need to save Peach! That Shalazia woman is just as bad as I thought she was!”
Diabella caught Daisy before she could fall again, carefully returning her to the couch with ease “And that’s exactly why Shalazia put you on ice. You’d be surprised how gullible, naïve and generally trusting people are in this era if a pretty face begs for help.” Diabella sighed as she studied Daisy’s features “Then again, I doubt the direct descendent of Belladonna would be so easy to fool.”
“Belladonna? The founding queen of Sarasaland? But… you speak as though you knew her?”
Diabella shrugged “Either way, thank my buddies for your rescue. They ran into some guy called Luigi at Shyguy Falls, he told us where you were and that you needed help.”
“And you willingly helped? What kind of deal did you force him into? Where is he, Peach and Mario?”
“I’m helping because my sister, Shalazia is completely insane and planning to do something with forbidden magic for the wrong reasons.”
“There’s a right way to use forbidden magic?”
“Of course there is, it’s all about context. So, no deal was really struck. Just an exchange of information. As for he and Mario’s location, I can’t say. But Peach was not in the barracks with you so Shalazia has squirreled her away somewhere else along with Wario, Bowser and Ludwig… I don’t like where this is going at all.”
Daisy stamped her foot and demanded “And where is this going exactly? Stop talking in riddles!”
“Shalazia fell in love with the first king of the Mushroom Kingdom Lentinellus who in turn, completely brainwashed her, taught her forbidden magic and brought the downfall of life as our kingdom knew it. Since then, she has been trying to rebuild the Prism Star so she can create the Water of Life, ascend to the Star Road and be by Lentinellus’ side forever and ever. Does that about cover it?”
“Yes… that was surprisingly direct.”
“Ask me the right questions and I’ll give you answers.”
“Has Shalazia tried this before?”
“Many times actually, but she tends to fail partially because of me and the fact that no one prior to this era has been so gullible and stupid that they immediately believed everything she said without checking facts.”
Daisy fell silent, Diabella was right… Mario, Luigi and Peach had a habit to be so trusting and kind. They had even managed to infect Bowser a little as most of the time it felt their ‘rivalry’ and ‘kidnappings’ were just excuses to play a game only they knew about. It was why Daisy usually kept her distance especially after the time Bowser ended up going into space. Daisy had a kingdom to run, she couldn’t disappear on a whim like that. Daisy then noticed Gallileo float in front of her with a bag overflowing with clothes.
“You can fill us in on what you know in a minute,” The Boo smiled and offered the bag to her “Your dress is saturated, you’ll catch your death if you stay in it. The tailors in Rhapsody have offered some clothing for you pick from.” She then gestured to a nearby doorway and floated alongside Daisy “You can get changed in here, I can help you if your fingers are still a bit numb.”
Diabella let out a sigh, she knew this end game against Shalazia was fast approaching. She knew it had to come one day, but a part of her always hoped Shalazia would come to her senses. That they could be a family again…
“Diabella…” Magnifico spoke timidly “Look… I helped with the situation… the princess is free…” She steadied her nerves “I’m not going to help you with whatever you’re going to do next.”
“That’s fine, I understand.” Diabella smirked back to her old friend “I know you’re still hurting from Figaro’s death… in fact, I’d prefer it if you and Scaramouch kept your distance with this.”
“Good luck with Scaramouch, she despises Shalazia…”
“Well, how about I plan Scaramouch to go with those Koopalings to take control of the Arcane Kingdom while Fandango, Gallileo and I go to where Shalazia really is.” Diabella knelt down to Magnifico’s level “I don’t know what’s going to happen to us… but I need you here to protect Rhapsody and keep it going. There are so many people who rely on this town, it can’t just stop because I’m not here.”
Magnifico gasped “So you think this is really the end for you?”
Diabella shrugged “Who knows? But I always have to consider it a possibility.”
Magnifico bowed deeply and Diabella returned the gesture. Nothing more had to be said between them so Magnifico took her leave. She no longer wanted a part of this story. She had heard from Diabella not to trust Shalazia but she had no idea how far Shalazia could go; to so cruelly take advantage of modern day royalty for personal gains. It was sickening…
The old bridge leading to Diabella’s laboratory still creaked with each step. At this point it was difficult to tell how much of it was moss and fungus rather than wood. Magnifico saw that Bismillah and Beelzebub were missing from the drained moat that circle the laboratory. The earth at the bottom was carpeted with layers of moss in shades of blue and green. It glistened beneath the light cast behind the tower suggesting it was more slime than plant at that point. The drained moat was riddled with tunnels and doorways leading into the unknown; some looked made by hand with architectural frames in place; others were cracked and ripped into the earth like something had burrowed through.
Crossing the bridge was crossing into another world, leaving behind the dark, ramshackle tower Diabella called home led one into the streets of Rhapsody. It was an ingenious little industrial town partly immersed in the surrounding swamps. Hidden within the heart of the Malevolent Mires, beyond the ruined city, the treacherous crags, the wild overgrowth and the catacombs, was a bustling nocturnal playground. The buildings were actually supported by large platforms, pontoons and stilts to move with seasonal rainfall and the shifting terrain of the swamps. Every few months the main streets would change and channel visitors into other districts of the small town. The original settlers had crafted this town from the ruined husk of another. The architecture was a quilt of steel and stone speaking to an era long gone. The walls of the buildings were steel as gears churned beneath exposed panels. The street lamps slowly stirred to life as night draped it dark cloak over the sky. Smoke stacks atop the tiled rooves yawned with steam.
Magnifico remained in silent contemplation as she walked the boulevard. The walls were either smeared with posters of popular acts or painted with murals from one of the many artists. They lifted the surrounding nature, the death and decay, to create a small oasis of harlequin beauty. The streets came to life beneath the colourful lights to draw patrons into the markets and restaurants. Every night felt like there was a festival on as people took to the streets. She stepped aside as a centipede bus carrying passengers skittered past at lightning speed. Giant moths fluttered without being distracted by the light, carrying tiny letters and parcels like homing pigeons. Stoic, hardy beetles trundled along towing giant carts overflowing with supplies for the town. Their handlers never strayed far from their side but always tipped their hats or waved at people passing by.
It was a strange town… yet Magnifico had learned to call it home after leaving the Koopa Kingdom. With new resolve she marched to the headquarter office on the main street. The place where all the raids were organised and all town queries were raised. She had to tell the people of this town what they were up against. She had to get planning on how to protect their home if Shalazia came for them.
Chapter 2: The Freezing Descent
Luigi kept focused on the flight path the whole way back from Bowser’s Castle. He was trying his hardest to avoid sobbing uncontrollably. Yet he could still feel his knees knock together every so often. The airship was commandeered from Bowser’s fleet, it was fortunate none of his minions dared to fight them. It was a spectacular feat of engineering, a mix of old world ship building, magic and science to create a flying galleon. The marks on the engines below deck indicated it was all Iggy’s handiwork. Luigi had to admire the ingenuity of the deranged Koopaling. If he wasn’t so scared, maybe he could take the time to appreciate such an amazing invention.
Luigi knew his brother had been cursed by Shalazia but he had no idea how he could confront the princess about it. He hoped at least Daisy and Peach were safe, Magnifico and Gallileo promised him they would do what they could to save them. He occasionally glanced over his shoulder to see Mario standing behind him ominously. There were no words spoken, just an icy frost in the air. Mario’s hair and moustache had frosted over slightly as his skin went deathly white. His eyes, usually vibrant and blue, were dull and milky.
Luigi saw the sapphire and gold star badge Shalazia had gifted them. It was pinned to Mario’s overalls and was the source of this accursed state. He wanted to tear it away from Mario and hopefully let his brother come to his senses. Yet he feared it may cause more harm than good. Even now, Mario had been partially gifted with Shalazia’s mastery of water magic making him a dangerous foe if Luigi tried to fight back or flee. Sadly he knew that in order to survive, Luigi had to keep playing along with the act.
Mario remained oblivious to Luigi. He was mesmerised by the three prism star pieces they had to collect for Shalazia. Those points were like the purest cut diamonds that reflected all the colours of the rainbow. Luigi could feel something sinister about them. He hated when he got feelings like this because they always proved to be true. There was nothing more he could do but steer the airship towards the Arcane Kingdom and hopefully think of plan later.
Soon enough, Luigi could see an iridescent pearl road trailing along the landscape bellow. It was only from the air that he could see the various paths twisting among mountain ranges to lead travellers to the Arcane Kingdom. High shimmering walls that gleamed with hues of blue like waterfall shielded the civilisation from the mires in the distance. Beyond the gold and sapphire gates was bustling town of beauty and wonder. There did not appear to be any sign of poverty on the streets as its citizens wandered the ivory buildings in a state of euphoria. Gold, sapphire and crystal embellishments framed the plain white stone that parted the beautifully clean canals of gleaming water. The canals themselves networked their ways through the city with elaborate curves and swirls.
A castle rose from its centre and was by far the most remarkable. The pearly walls and turrets looked rather ordinary. It was the curving crystals reaching to the cloud line that made it spectacular. The gleaming gems reflected shades of blue from the surrounding canals. Their form contorted to resemble the flow of water itself as it cascaded down the walls and splashed upwards like tumultuous waves. He originally thought it was beautiful, but now that kingdom looked like a dangerous Piranha Plant waiting to snap.
He looked over his shoulder, feeling an evil gaze upon him. Luigi saw Mario give him the cruellest death glare, reminding him that Mario was no longer in charge of his body. He reluctantly made the necessary preparations and started the descent from the sky to the castle. The chill in the air grew colder the closer they got to the Arcane Kingdom.
The Arcane Kingdom had lost its wondrous lustre. Luigi was rudely shoved off the airship after docking it at one of the upper balconies. Mario kept him in line like a prisoner as they marched through the castle. Sapphire and gold frames outlined every corner of the hall, every piece of furniture was gilded and embellished that he was amazed they didn’t break under the weight of the gems. Yet it was all frozen beneath layers of jagged ice; contorting into spikes and swirls to make the halls look like that foreboding maw of a greater beast. Luigi saw the floors were no longer relaxing pools. They were black ice… like a deep lake caught in the grips of winter.
They finally came to one of the identical chambers of this crystallised maze. In the centre of it all was a beautiful princess who looked so out of place in her harsh surroundings. She had that same air of innocence and kindness that Peach had; her hair and gown mimicked a cascading waterfall. Her golden eyes looked to him with understanding. This princess was a delicate snow flower amidst a cold, frozen wasteland. Yet Luigi could not believe how easily she had played them.
“Sorry I couldn’t give you a more hospitable welcome, but I’ve been busy rebuilding my castle. It was attacked while you were away. Not that it matters much, I see you have completed the quest I gave you.” Shalazia smiled warmly and wandered to Mario, outstretching a hand which received the remaining pieces of the Prism Star. She marvelled at the crystals “I heard you were the greatest hero of this era, but I didn’t believe you could get the job done so easily.”
Luigi nervously added “I helped too.”
“Yes, yes, you helped too… I guess.” Shalazia turned her praise back to Mario “Romulus’ bloodline is all about obedience to royalty so I’m glad to see your breed still exists.”
“So… that means this Romulus guy is my ancestor too, huh?”
“Yes, I suppose so. But you clearly inherited lesser traits which is why you’re useless. My hex didn’t even take to you and then you lost one of the badges, the nerve of you people.”
Luigi fell silent, he had no real response to that… it took all his strength not to burst into tears. Shalazia raised her hand and spoke an incantation; the icy runes flittered as ethereal chains only to melt away to flimsy ribbons when they attempted to grasp Luigi. Her brow furrowed, this was most unusual. No one should be able to defy her hexes without potent magic abilities. She then sensed something peculiar about him “You uh… you haven’t had prolonged exposure to Boos or anything have you? Like, you don’t work as an exorcist or anything, right?”
He informed shakily “Actually… I did help out with some Boo problems in the past…”
“Knew it, I can sense Agaricus’ taint all over you!”
“The one you know as King Boo. When he was alive, he was the mad mage, Agaricus.” Shalazia stomped her feet like a child mid-tantrum “Now, be a good little coward and follow my every command! If I can’t control you with magic, you will fear me!”
“No…” Luigi whimpered, he saw her turn to face him. He strengthened his resolve “No! This stops now! I’m taking my brother and the princesses home! We don’t want anything to do with you!”
Shalazia tilted her head, her fine features turned to a low snarl “Or else what?”
“I… uh…” Luigi immediately regretted his decision.
“Well, come on,” she floated over and poked him hard in the chest “What are you going to do about it?” Luigi shrank beneath her presence “Pitiful. You’re a horrific little coward. But I need you for the ritual.” She snapped her fingers “Mario,” she cooed “Would you be so kind as to escort your brother?”
Mario’s deathly eyes were blank by now. He lumbered over to Luigi with outstretched hands. Luigi felt like he was back in those haunted mansions all over again. He was paralysed with fear as Mario grabbed him roughly and forced Luigi to follow Shalazia.
She raised a finger and warned “One wrong step and I will kill your brother.”
Luigi replied “But don’t you need him for the ritual?”
“Well… yes… but… shut up! There are seven star children. I only have five here so there are still two out there. That means two of you are disposable!” The princess cracked open the surface of the black ice sending them all into the darkness bellow.
Dull light allowed the outline of the ancient chamber to come into view; emitted from series of gemstones set in the walls. Each was part of a larger pattern of runes that weaved into a giant tapestry across all surfaces of the room. The impossibly high ceiling reached beyond the chamber, high up into a mountain where bioluminescent moss clung to the remains of a sunken city. Luigi, Shalazia and Mario were in the lowest chambers of the Thwomp Ruins. Not the bright, cheery temples he had raced through during go-kart championships. The lost, forgotten remains of the past buried within the mountain. The same ruins one had to traverse to reach the Arcane Kingdom and the Malevolent Mires.
The main feature of this chamber came in the form of a large circular pedestal that bore various crests and charms. The main pattern appeared to be a pentagram that branched out into spiralling meteors and nebulas. Whatever this chamber was; it was clearly designed for casting powerful spells. Everything was too precisely laid out from the main pedestal, to its steps, the support pillars and the canals and pools of pure water that added to the patterns of the charts on the floor. On the main pedestal, frozen upon three of the points of the main pentagram were Bowser, Peach and Wario. Two were vacant, obviously awaiting Mario and Luigi. Off to the side was another ritualistic circle laid out over a pool of clear water. Imprisoned in frozen shackles over it was Ludwig. His form was not frozen but coated in a fine layer of ice crystals.
Shalazia gestured to the remaining points of the main pentagram. Mario robotically dragged Luigi over to one point. When Shalazia snapped her fingers Luigi’s legs and feet were frozen in place. Mario then lumbered to his designated place and remained still. With an approving smirk, Shalazia remarked “Excellent, all is in place. Now, to wait for the moon to reach the optimal position.”
She glanced upwards revealing that even in the deepest parts of this ruin there was channel leading to the sky. The layers of ruins coalesced around this tunnel to the heavens so that when the moon was in just the right position, it further empowered the ritual chambers.
“That’ll be a few hours from now,” Shalazia rolled her eyes, she glared at Mario “Make sure no one gets out of place. I’ll be back in a while.” She wandered over to one of the pools, the waves danced around her and engulfed her. The princess had vanished in an azure splash.
Now that they were alone, Luigi finally noticed that Daisy, Waluigi and none of the other Koopalings were around. Mario was dead to world as he stood in place like a perfect sentry. Luigi turned his attention to the only other person who might be still conscious in the chamber. “Hey…” he looked back at Mario, no response. He yelled a little louder “Hey Ludwig!”
Ludwig lifted his head wearily “Yeah, green Mario?”
“Luigi.” He corrected “Look, can you still breathe fire? Think you could hit something from over there?”
Ludwig carefully evaluated the distance between him and the main pentagram. “I think so, perhaps what’s closest to me, but I’m pretty drained at the moment… there’s something about this chart that’s weakening me… could only manage a few shots.”
“All I need you to do is weaken the ice around Bowser and Wario… maybe save one fireball for Mario when you get the chance to remove that stupid badge from him.”
“Well, look at you. All sneaky and planning.”
“Look, are you going to help me or are going to wait for an insane princess to come and do… whatever it is she intends to do to us?”
Ludwig’s response came in the form a fireball; it shot directly into Bowser’s frozen form. The flames were only red and orange indicating a lower temperature. Yet Ludwig felt he could manage a few shots before passing out from exhaustion.
“That’s it! Keep going when you can.” Luigi cheered.
Chapter 3: Preparing for the fight
Roy took a moment to relish the template of his custom suit. The tailor had cut the calico and was just getting the measurements perfect before going ahead with the selected fabrics. He flexed his arms and was pleased with his reflection.
The Toad tailor rolled her eyes “Will you be doing that often? If so, I’m going to have to reinforce the seams and possibly pick a more durable cloth.”
The small boutique was cluttered with reams of fabric and cabinets of paper templates. Much like every other tailor or seamstress in Rhapsody, their workshop spilled out into every corner of their shop. What drew Roy’s attention to this one in particular, was the infamy of being a tailor who specialised in suits for Koopa variations. He had to admit, he was beyond impressed. Not even the Koopa Kingdom or any settlement in the Dark Lands could attest to such fashionable designs all tailored to fit his species. It was almost liberating.
The bell above the door clanged loudly as a pamphlet was thrown in their general direction. The tailor took a moment to flick through it after she pulled it from her face. Stricken by panic, she crumpled the paper in her hand before running madly into the back of her shop. Her only answer was “Shop’s closed! I’m going now!”
Roy was left very befuddled in front of the mirror. His dreams of fashionable grandeur were slipping from mind. From the window of the shop he could see people running through the streets with much more purpose than usual. He shook his head, judging from the sound of papers and fabric rustling madly at the back of the shop he was not going to get any answers here.
Rumours and whispers had engulfed Rhapsody in those few hours. Panic settled in as the citizens of the swampy town made the decision of whether to evacuate or stay and fight. Like everything in that town, no one was expected to act against their will. Naturally, some chose to leave, hastily packing belongings to then evacuate. Those who stayed prepared for a fight. They worked constantly to find every scrap of metal, every half-finished invention and anything that could be sharpened to a point. Time was running short as they worked madly to build barricades and reinforce the town.
Roy wove through the bustling crowd of panicked bohemians. The template of a tailored suit was still hanging off him as he yelled to no one in particular “Are you serious!? A tailor can’t just leave halfway through a fitting!” He was ignored as people kept moving around him in a frenzy.
“Oh Roy! Good! Come on!” Iggy cheered through the bustle, easily stretching above the crowd “Want to have some fun?”
“Uh… sure? But I thought that was what was already going on here?”
“It’s gotten serious now, some kind of showdown between here and the Arcane Kingdom.”
“Oh… so we’re now working with these guys?”
“I am, the others are too, you can do what you want.” Iggy bounded off into the crowd, it was only then that Roy noticed him carrying an array of strange fungi.
Out of curiosity, Roy trekked after Iggy as he passed more people preparing to evacuate through a single warp pipe in one of the squares. It appeared to be manned by members of the Robbo Gang and the Pianta Cartel. He suspected the pipeline would lead the bohemians out to Rogueport. Those who remained congregated in the main square where the town organisers settled. The structure used for planning raids and heists of various kingdoms was now a makeshift war room. It was closer to a large open aired pagoda to accommodate all the different creatures who lived there. Each main archway was mounted with the crest of a gear with a lightning bolt through it. At the heart of it all was Magnifico, Wendy, Daisy and Scaramouch directing those who remained to fight. The room was a whirlwind of activity, Lemmy, Iggy, Larry and Morton were busy following orders.
Princess Daisy was perhaps the biggest surprise, Roy hardly recognised her without a gown and tiara on. She was dressed more sensibly with a blouse, kidney belt, tights and knee high boots. All done in the similar steampunk style of Rhapsody, although it appeared to have floral patterns throughout each garment. “You have your locations and tasks assigned.” Daisy stood before a section of the assembled troops that spilled into the courtyard “I expect to see those buildings converted to guard towers, the pathways between the rooftops secured and the traps of the outer perimeter set within the hour! We’ll be out for inspections shortly!” She glanced over at Wendy “I still can’t believe we’re working together…”
Wendy snorted “I can’t believe how well you’ve fitted into the role. The only reason we’re working together is because Shalazia kidnapped Ludwig, Junior and Bowser and I intend to help get them back.”
“I guess the enemy of my enemy is a friend then… she’s got Mario, Luigi and Peach too…”
“Yeah, but Peach gets kidnapped so often it’s hard to take it seriously.” Daisy chortled to herself in response; maybe Wendy was wrong about her in thinking that all human princesses were the same as Peach.
Morton waved to Roy as he headed out with a mallet and few bohemians having been given their orders by Wendy. Iggy followed close behind with a crate of strange mechanical devices, a deranged and excited grin smeared across his face.
“All magic users, remain here and start mass producing runes and catalysts!” Magnifico looked over the vast map unfurled on the tables shoved together “We have to get the bugs out of the water, if Shalazia’s forces do a flash freeze they’ll be helpless.”
Wendy snapped her talons at a group of nearby Koopas and Dry-bones “You heard her, start rounding the bugs up! We’re going to need those giant beasts to fight back.” The motley crew of musicians and artists went to work and stepped into perfect formation; possibly a reminder of their lives before they arrived here.
Magnifico carefully looked at their plans “So far, we have ways of accounting for attacks from any direction… but we need to guard the pipeline to Rogueport and come up with an evacuation plan if things go south.” She raised a finger to silence Wendy before she interject “As Gallileo taught me, a foolish leader is an arrogant leader. We need to take all outcomes into consideration.”
Scaramouch tapped another map “I see no tactical advantage in taking the Arcane Kingdom… it’s made of ice anyway. Without Shalazia it’d probably melt into nothing soon enough.” Lemmy and Larry were perched around her and studying the same diagram.
Lemmy then smirked “But… we should probably blow it up for good measure?”
“Done and done. I’ll have that place in rubble”
“Oh Roy, perfect timing, you like explosives, want to blow up a castle with Scaramouch?” Lemmy cheered as he noticed the last Koopaling join their mayhem.
Roy nonchalantly added “I suppose so, nothing else to do.”
Wendy added as she passed by “But I think we need a stealth team to handle the Arcane Kingdom rather than send everyone.”
Larry then recalled “Wait, Junior is still at the castle. Maybe we should save him?”
“Right, so while you’re” she gestured to Scaramouch and Roy “setting the explosives, who’s going to rescue that lump?”
“I could.” Larry, Wendy, Roy, Lemmy and Scaramouch looked around for the owner of the voice. To their surprise Waluigi was sitting across from them, patiently waiting with his arms neatly folded and resting on the table. Waluigi stood confidently before his peers “I mean, I am the best person to do this. I’m the only one here who could sneak around undetected. You didn’t even realise I was here,” He then pointed to Scaramouch “Maybe she could too. But that’s it.”
“Maybe we didn’t notice you because you’re useless.” Larry rolled his eyes “Seriously? You’re like the worst plumber out of all four of them.”
Roy added “You don’t even go on crazy adventures, you just show up for sports and go-karting.”
“Firstly, Wario and I are electricians. Not plumbers.” Waluigi counted each point on his hand “Secondly, I like playing sports, dancing and go-karting so of course you’re going to see me there.” He then rolled his eyes “Thirdly, do you know how many losses Wario makes on his big heists? He gets scammed or cursed at some point and gets nothing.” Waluigi smirked “Finally, I got the skills. Don’t you think it’s a little weird how I don’t have to work a regular job and yet I never have any money problems?”
Lemmy tilted his head “Come to think of it, your sport gear, karts and motorcycles are always really well cared for…”
“Because I steal things. Lots of things and never get caught. That’s the idea. You take things without anyone even noticing they’re gone. You don’t go for the stupidly ancient, rare, royal treasure, people are going to notice. You don’t have to go to some forsaken pyramid to find loot.”
“So Wario’s castle?”
“Partially mine after Syrup trashed it a few times and I had to pay for the repairs.”
“And his company in Diamond City?”
“I’ve bailed him out of bankruptcy quite a few times.”
Larry was unconvinced “So what have your stolen?”
Waluigi laughed “If you have to ask, you clearly don’t know.” He then addressed everyone again “Case in point, I’ll handle the sneak into the castle and steal the frozen brat while you guys fight back the giant golem army headed this way.”
“I’ll be your getaway driver then.” Scaramouch jumped up to punch his shoulder but only reached his elbow “Come on, let’s move it to the hovercraft!” Roy, Waluigi and Scaramouch departed quickly to prepare for the job ahead.
At that moment a few Dry-Bones returned, trembling as they admitted “We need help with the bug wrangling.”
Wendy snarled to her cousins “Larry, Lemmy, see to it!” They both jumped a little from the vicious tone in her voice. They knew better than anyone that you don’t argue with Wendy when she’s in charge of a situation. So they both ran off with the Dry-Bones to help complete that task.
The only ones who remained in the bustling war room were Magnifico, Daisy and Wendy. An eerie silence had filled the air that made each of them acutely aware of how the tense the situation and their alliance was. Three different kingdoms were represented in that room. Three different leaders with little in common who happened to share an enemy.
“Say Magnifico,” Wendy started “Where exactly is Diabella anyway? Come to think of it, that Boo and Shyguy I’m used to seeing you with are missing too.”
Daisy added her own curious thoughts “How exactly will we be dealing with Shalazia anyway? Is she leading the attack on Rhapsody? When can we rescue my friends?”
Magnifico couldn’t lie to them “Well… we’re a distraction really… a way of diverting Shalazia’s strength. On the other hand, we’re also protecting this town that so many outcasts call home.”
“Well, I guess controlling an army of frozen golems would weaken your magic.”
“Diabella has already taken off to divert Shalazia’s attention and force her hand to attack Rhapsody… Fandango and Gallileo are with her.” Magnifico sighed “They will then go so some place called the Sanctum of Earth and Water to free your friends…”
Daisy demanded to know “If you knew all this then why didn’t you say anything!?”
“You’re free to leave if you want.” Magnifico glared back “But it was kept quiet because unlike you lot, I know when I’m in way over my head. This thing between Diabella and Shalazia… it’s not a petty rivalry… it feels so much more ancient… so wrong… I don’t want anything to do with it.” She then gathered a few of her talismans from a nearby table. She motioned that she was leaving the war room to check on the proceedings of the town’s defences “As I said, you’re free to leave if you want to. No one will stop you.”
As Magnifico left them, the tension in the air grew more intense. Daisy and Wendy remained in silence as her words played over in their minds over and over. Sure, both of them had taken part in the wild adventures of Mario and Bowser’s schemes. Yet here it felt as though there was much more at stake, like this was one of those adventures Mario or Bowser didn’t want to speak of once they were completed. It was like the time Mario ventured after the Thousand Year Door or when they ventured through time to fight the Shroob. There was something about these stories that no one wanted to discuss further... and yet, that made them want to be here. To see how it would all end.
Wendy asked first “You staying?” Daisy nodded back, Wendy smiled “Then we better get on with inspections.”
Chapter 4: Cool guys don't look at explosions
Diabella hated this idea… to actually guarantee an attack on Rhapsody rather than leave it as a possibility. Prior to leaving, there had been a meeting between her, Gallileo and Fandango. Collectively they worked out that distracting Shalazia would make her magic less focused which meant it would weaken her. It would present a chance to thwart her and rescue her victims. After running the idea past Magnifico and Scaramouch, they oddly enough endorsed and set about preparing the town for the attack. Diabella knew that she’d made the right choice in indoctrinating Magnifico all those decades ago. She wondered how long it would be before Scaramouch finally took the plunge to pledge her allegiance to the Shadow Queen.
She wondered for a moment what her patron would think… this was by far a major distraction from the end game in mind. Although, in the scheme of things this closure to Diabella’s abrupt death and betrayal had been a long time coming. She didn’t care for these outsiders being involved, but Shalazia had played her hand and brought the Mushroom and Koopa Kingdom right into the middle of it all. It was all an elaborate distraction so Shalazia could complete her intended plans… no matter how foolish they were.
Casting an eye towards the wetlands bellow, Diabella heard Bismillah start clicking its mandibles. She noticed a shadow moving across the dampened earth leaving ripples in the shallow marshes. She recognised the rounded shape, reminiscent of a flattened Bullet Bill, as Scaramouch’s hovercraft. It moved swiftly, skimming across the mud and opaque water like a dragonfly. The time to trigger the battle had come…
The hour was almost upon her. After so many eons of waiting and wishing and hoping… the time had come. Shalazia could finally win. All she had to do was return to the ritual chamber to cast a final incantation. Then she would finally be able to show how superior she was to her sister. As for the various monarchs and subjects of the Koopa and Mushroom Kingdoms, well, their noble sacrifices will not be forgotten. She danced around her grand, opulent boudoir and how it overlooked her frozen kingdom of crystals. She truly wanted a grand kingdom… to be a princess with a prince and subjects who adored her… it was so much better than the stuffy older archives she and her siblings watched over many eons ago.
Shalazia had a skip in her step as she waved her arms and conjured her armour to manifest. With each added piece of armour, the castle around her began to deplete; disappearing instantly in jagged pieces to reform perfectly around its caster. A full suit of plate made from crystal gently wrapped around her gown. The faulds layered upon her skirt to maintain a princess dress silhouette. She retrieved her staff from its pedestal and tapped it on the ground thrice. The staff contorted into a gold and sapphire halberd. Finally with an outstretched palm she conjured a shield of the same materials as her weapon. She marvelled at her perfect reflection in the mirror. A graceful battle princess stared back which made Shalazia feel ever so pretty.
She looked perfect, she would be a beautiful sight for her love…
The room then shook violently. Shalazia caught herself on a nearby table. From the gaps in the ceiling she saw the source of it all. Those wretched bugs were buzzing a little too close to her kingdom for comfort. Shalazia then incited a powerful incantation, the tongue of which spoke to very element of water no matter its current form. The castle around her began to stir… the Arcane Kingdom was slowly coming to life. At the last moment she ripped open a portal with her halberd and retreated back to the ritual chamber in the mountains.
The castle beneath them awakened, contorting its static form into a four legged bestial colossus. With shaky limbs it stood for the first time, part of it cracking open to reveal a twisting maw of icy fangs. Diabella signalled Silhouetta to ascend and conjure a lightning storm, she then charged forward on the back of Bismillah with Beelzebub in tow. The castle colossus lunged forward to swat them from the sky as it moved, Diabella saw her target; the slowly closing portal within an upper chamber. She knew she had one chance to leap into the colossus’ maw to pass through it before it shut. The sky above rumbled with thunder, clouds darkening before unleashing a crescendo of lightning into the colossus. The frozen construct howled like the northern wind. Diabella leapt back mid-air to land on Beelzebub. Wings madly beating so she could get closer to the portal; narrowly manoeuvre between the layers of broken halls, chambers and corridors within the colossus.
At the last moment, Diabella leapt from Beelzebub, just in time to fall through the portal before it shut. Another lightning strike from Silhouetta allowed Beelzebub and Bismillah to retreat to a safe distance. The lumbering colossus was stunned temporarily…
However, while the castle had awoken early… the rest of the kingdom was catching up. The buildings and gilded streets slowly unhinged and built themselves into vague humanoid shapes. Their composition varied greatly on what they formed from, yet the city had turned itself into an army of faceless golems. They began to march towards the Malevolent Mires… the hate of their summoner willed them forward…
Mud and earth cracked asunder with each step of the mighty army. The golems were unlike the ones that attacked the Mushroom Kingdom. They appeared less composed, slowly falling into abstract machinations and faceless figures far removed from the familiar. The magic that powered them were weakening as they mindlessly lumbered. Some even stumbled in their stop only to rise again. An army of mindless frozen golems trudged towards Rhapsody. Amidst the lumbering steps skimmed a small hovercraft, manoeuvring and circled between each wavering limb.
Roy braced himself as they skimmed over another golem’s sunken leg; causing their vehicle to shake erratically “Sure you know what you’re doing?”
Scaramouch revved the hovercraft up another gear, boosting them further along at a higher speed “Plan’s still the same, we’re just working with a moving target now.”
Waluigi appeared less perturbed by their ride, although that was an elaborate ruse. He was actually terrified of the magical mayhem around him. To remain calm, he said “So uh… how is this plan still the same?”
“I say we crash the castle.” Roy smirked, getting on the same level as Scaramouch “If you crash into it, I’ll grab you both and we can climb inside it.”
Scaramouch nodded as she swerved through another tangle of icy golems; miraculously missing a collision. “I know it’ll trash my ride, but… hey, these things can be rebuilt.”
“Can’t be too hard, it’s probably got a vulnerable spot that glows at convenient moments to tell us to hit it. Usually three times does the job.” Roy tapped a talon on his chin “Suspiciously like every single giant boss monster we ever face…” He then noticed Waluigi freeze up completely, his eyes wide with horror as he stared blankly ahead. Roy tapped him on the shoulder “Look, we get it. You’re not the adventuring type, but relax. You’re with us. We’ll make sure you get back safely.”
Waluigi sighed “Why should I trust either of you anyway? We’re all going down in a frozen game over…”
“Look, my uncle seems to like hanging out with you and Wario, so… I’m not going to put directly in harm’s way? If you end up in it, you did it yourself.”
Waluigi rolled his eyes to sarcastically remark “Thanks, that sounds fantastic!”
Scaramouch added “Besides, you agreed to help. You could’ve just left and gone to Rogueport.”
Waluigi admitted bluntly “I regret my decision. Any chance of turning around so I can warp home?”
“Nope. Here we go!” Scaramouch revved the engine a final time as she twisted around. The hovercraft was heading right for a supportive leg of the walking castle. Waluigi covered his face while Roy cheered with excitement.
Amazingly… Waluigi did not find his game over in that moment. He imagined he would awaken somewhere in the Underwhere because who was he kidding? He’d never be allowed in the Overthere. Instead he thrown over Roy’s shoulder, amazingly not impaled on any of the Koopa’s shell spikes. The hovercraft was a smouldering wreck bellow them, a massive crater was blasted into the castle’s leg making the giant, moving monolith crash to the ground on its side. It flailed weakly with its other limbs but alas, it was too heavy to get upright again. Roy was now scaling the side of the castle, claws digging easily into the ice, as he ascended higher and higher to a gaping maw of open doors upon a balcony. Scaramouch perched on the back of his head, a few explosives tucked haphazardly into a satchel that was nearly as big as her. After a few moments, they made it to the balcony and entered the crippled colossus. The other golems marched on, leaving their kin behind without so much as a thought.
With the castle tipped over like a turtle, the architecture of the castle was warped to say the least. Less actual rooms, more organic lattice of webs and curves like the innards of an insect’s nest. Roy carefully studied the drop below, noticing how most of the bridges and tendrils of swirling ice were too delicate to support them. One even cracked under his gaze and dropped into the darkness bellow. Amidst the shadows was a glowing icicle that appeared much thicker than the others. Roy was thankful that all suspicious things that needed to be struck always conveniently glowed brightly. He asked “Do we separate or continue as one?”
Scaramouch peered over his head into the abyss below “I know there’s a glowing thing down there, but how do we know where your cousin is?”
“I reckon I can climb this, want me to scout ahead?” Waluigi offered after surveying the eeriness of the castle’s innards.
“Yeah, probably won’t be easy for us.” Roy released Waluigi on a lower web of ice. He then remained still as the lanky electrician scaled the various arcs and curves of glaciers without fear. “You’re pretty good at this.”
Waluigi’s voice echoed back “Part of the job, you need to be pretty good at going through stuff to fix wires.” He carefully manoeuvred down the crystal organs of the golem. Although, it reminded him more of a wild forest that had been untouched since time immemorial. Delicate crystals would flitter out thin as spider’s silk then weaved back into the thickness of trees. The single glow gently emanating down below reflected spectrums of red and purple light, illuminating the way downwards. If he wasn’t in a monster’s gut at that point in time, Waluigi may have described this place as beautiful.
Scaramouch’s voice alerted him to his temporary partners in crime “I take it that Wario is not a good electrician.”
“He knows how it works, but he’s lazy and selfish and doesn’t want to do anything for anyone.”
Scaramouch sighed and rolled her eyes “And yet, you’re still friends with him?”
“Yeah… I know right. But it’s not so bad.”
Roy bellowed “How far down are you now?”
“Near the glowing thing and yeah, looks like Bowser Junior is in there.” Waluigi slumped down on a nearby branch of ice; he wiped the mist and condensation from the glowing nucleus to see the familiar silhouette. “Sort of like the thing powering this thing.”
“Look out! We’re on our way!” The sound of Roy cracking his knuckles and Scaramouch cackling madly echoed above him; Waluigi felt his blood turn colder… and not just because he was inside a giant, dormant ice monster.
The delicate crystalline forest of vessels and capillaries began to shake. Waluigi instinctively climbed atop the frozen nucleus as the delicate of web of ice began to fall around him in a violent blizzard. The rumbling grew then came a grand crescendo. He looked up to see the flames engulfing the heights of the chamber from detonated explosives. Roy was free falling, thrashing wildly to break the creature from the inside out. Scaramouch feel slower, behind him, her sack of bombs was empty now. The serene crystal forest shattered out of oblivion as quickly as it had formed.
A cold wind blew through the fields that night, the collapsed castle golem had remained motionless for too long. Strange lights flashed wildly within, finally erupting in a plume of fire and smoke that smashed through the golem’s body from all angles.
The decimated husk of ice lay melting in that field. Three survivors and a frozen heart remained within the miniature snowfield created by the golem’s eradication.
Waluigi complained, feeling that he was soaked from head to toe “My shoes are too squishy! I’m going to have so many blisters…”
Roy proudly admired his handiwork “That’s one way to crash a castle.” He knelt down to high-five Scaramouch “Nice work short stuff.”
The Toad smirked back “You ain’t so bad yourself. We ought to destroy more things together.”
“I’m still amazed the brat is still on ice after all that.” Roy picked up the icy prison of Bowser Junior, realising he greatly appreciated not having to put up with his younger cousin.
“Magnifico can unfreeze him back in Rhapsody.”
“Oh, there’s no rush.”
“Speaking of Rhapsody,” Waluigi wrung out his hat to remove some of the excess water “How are we getting back?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Scaramouch tilted her head “We’re walking and dragging that icicle with us.”
“You think this is the first time I trashed my ride and had to walk back?” She pointed in a general direction towards the mires “Now let’s march!”
Roy chuckled as he positioned himself behind the frozen nucleus. He then prepared to push the giant hunk of ice of the sodden fields. Waluigi continued complaining loudly while Scaramouch led the way. All in all. Mission accomplished.
Chapter 5: So be it
The portal ended from her daring leap, however something was amiss. Diabella found herself in the inner ruins of the Thwomp Ruins; the decimated remains of her kingdom from long ago. This was merely a detour, Diabella knew this city even in its decrepit state. She could easily find her way to Shalazia’s sanctum. A voice cried out in a lost language, the words were incomprehensible yet they burned, they froze, they riddled Diabella’s body with so many types of pain that she was paralysed. She fell to the ground, immobilised and weak.
“All these years and you’re still weak to the words of the Glitch.” Shalazia stepped from the shadows with a smug grin “I won sister. I only needed to win once and I’ve done so.” She frowned as she heard Diabella laugh “What is it? I’m about to send you away so you can’t interfere.”
Diabella stated, no panic, no despair, just stated calmly “You lost this game the second you started playing. The last piece of the star is lost. The Shadow Queen already has a champion and I cannot get a game over no matter what foul tricks you play.”
Shalazia sneered “Lentinellus was right, you’re just a god-modded coward who can’t stand to lose!”
“No, you made me this way. You made me become your undoing. If only you killed me before I broke the Prism Star and set her free.”
“Be gone you worthless glitch.” Shalazia could still hear Diabella laugh as the skeletal hands and fires erupted to drag Diabella down into the depths of the Underwhere. With this distraction gone, she could return to her glorious victory heralded by modern idiocy.
They never even realised they were playing to Shalazia’s game…
Loud rumbling groaned from behind the horizon. The city of Rhapsody fell the silent and still when the vibrations started. The quaking of the rippling water and the rattling of the steam powered city ushered their fears. Tips of icy golems rose above the treetops of the Malevolent Mires. Their sodden march slowed by the uneven and unforgiving terrain. Some of them sank into the darkness below before even reaching the inner swamps of the mires. Wendy kept an eye on all that unfolded from the hastily made watchtower near Diabella’s laboratory, one of the highest points in town. Magnifico hovered nearby aboard a broom, nervously pacing in the air. The others were in position, the other Koopalings had scattered to the forward locations of the swamps and waiting in ambush with the insects. Daisy, Magnifico and Wendy remained with the townsfolk as the squares were prepped with runic charts to use at a moment’s notice. Wendy couldn’t tell if Roy, Waluigi and Scaramouch had succeeded in their task. She had bigger things to worry about right now.
Magnifico cringed at the sight of yet another golem sinking into the swamps. Wendy politely reminded her “One less mini-boss we have to fight.”
“Yeah but… Diabella and Gallileo worked so hard to make the mires what they are.” Magnifico sighed to herself “That sudden temperature change is going to mess up the ecosystem.”
Wendy was a little puzzled by how anyone could value some swamp in the middle of nowhere. But she could understand disappointing those close to you so she reasoned “I think they’ll forgive you if we keep the rest of it safe.” She smirked “Think we’ll get lucky and see everything sink before it gets here?”
“Probably not… I better fill everyone in on what’s going down and tell everyone to stay put for now.” Magnifico took her leave and flew back towards the main square.
Wendy kept giggling to herself as she watched golem after golem sink into the Malevolent Mire. She wondered how long it would be until they filled the swamp or finally worked out a different path to take. She also noted the series of glowing spots on their icy bodies. It never made any sense as to why giant imposing monsters had those, but at least it would be easy to identify a weak spot and attack accordingly once they finally arrived. “How are meant to know if Diabella has succeeded?”
Magnifico replied “She’ll be back here.”
“Has she done something like this before?”
“Yes. Diabella has actually fought with her sister many times in the past.”
“But you don’t like her chances this time?”
Magnifico reluctantly admitted after an awkward pause “No.”
Wendy nervously suggested “Is it because we’re all involved?”
“Yes.” She bluntly remarked “Anytime those Star Children have anything to do with the game, things get very weird, very quickly.” Magnifico then steered her broom back towards the town “I’ll just be checking on the other towers. Stay vigilant.”
Wendy waved one of her bracelets back at her, a reminder that this Koopaling could handle herself just fine. Yet casting an eye back to the slow march of ice golems was disturbing to say the least. All those mindless giants stomping blindly towards the mires like a horde of zombies. Then being swallowed by the dark, murky sludge that passed for water here. The Malevolent Mire was fighting back long before the golems reached any sentient opponent. Wendy made a note to speak with the castle architect back in the Koopa Kingdom, clearly they were not utilising their environment properly to deter intruders.
Ludwig’s throat was raw and painful as he panted weakly. The accursed water he was bound to made him feeble, unable to focus his vision or move without pain. Such clever manipulation of magic, he never knew water could be so destructive, so leeching of one’s energy. It was as though Shalazia’s magic was influencing the fluids of one’s body, altering the temperature or changing the viscosity to just make one’s body function a little less efficiently. Then again, if he were somehow immortal he’d probably find new ways to use his magic too. He had to hand it to Shalazia, she certainly had a sick mind to devise such a spell.
Luigi appeared to be spared of the brunt of her magic, being the only one in there who was not frozen, brainwashed or weakened. In the time of Shalazia’s absence, he carefully studied what he could of the chamber in the faint light of the torches. He couldn’t recognise anything. The architecture and the script used on the runic circles predated any history book he had read. It made him wonder how accurate those books were; so many things were omitted or lost with too many details about recent years and not enough about the past. Perhaps if Shalazia wasn’t malevolent, she may have helped historians learn of her time. Either way, this place unsettled him, it was too familiar to Dimento’s foul schemes when the mysterious jester stole the awakened Chaos Heart and used Luigi as a catalyst for the spell to gain control of it. Things weren’t quite the same since then… Luigi seldom spoke of it but he could hear strange whispers in his head sometimes. Those whispers encouraged his interest in the paranormal and magic of different eras. It frightened him that even with his knowledge, he had no idea what any of this meant or even what the Prism Star would do if it was reformed.
Fragile cracks shattered the air, Luigi turned to see Bowser’s frozen body struggle against his constraints. He quickly said “Bowser! If you can hear me in there, keep fighting it!”
The layer of ice had melted into a thin shell thanks to Ludwig’s efforts. Bowser continued moving little by little to break and crack his way out. However even when weakened, Shalazia’s frost was much stronger than any of them had anticipated.
A stone wall clunked open abruptly sending a cloud of dust throughout the chamber; whether it was the ashes of the former kingdom or the result of no cleaning services for millennia was undecided. Either way, Luigi sneezed as it agitated his senses. From the newly formed hole came two figures, a Boo and a Shyguy, Steampunks who belonged to Rhapsody.
Fandango shuffled over to the ritual pool as fast as his stubby legs could take him “Ludwig!”
He growled back “Still alive, get me out of here.”
“I’ll see what I can do about these runes.” Fandango knelt down in the pond to tend to the strange stones and tiles embedded in it.
“Good, everyone is still technically alive.” Gallileo remarked as she circled around the main ritual podium. She nodded at Bowser “Come on! A big Dragon Koopa like you can do it! I know you can. Then you can use your fire to free the others” She then carefully studied Peach and Wario, their faces frozen in states of terror “Oh dear…” then saw Mario standing like a zombie in his place, overcome by the blight of frost. She quickly floated around the room, tapping on stone tiles and slightly shifting movable sections of the supporting columns that Luigi hadn’t even noticed. It was like she knew every secret, every piece and trick of this chamber. The magic dissipated from Ludwig allowing him to move freely. The ether of the air relaxed as the magic at play weakened to a lazy lull rather than a gathering storm. She glanced to Luigi who was trembling at the sight of the Boo “I know it looks bad, but this is fixable. All of this is fixable! How long has it been since Shalazia left?”
Luigi could not muster an answer, despite everything he was faced with in that moment, the sight of a Boo turned his mind and legs to jelly.
“Enough for me to come back.” Gallileo paused and turned to see Shalazia emerge from the teleportation pool. Shalazia looked rather banged up and scratched like she had been caught in a fight beforehand. “Just Astrapi meddling again, but I gave her the slip in the warp. Now Gaia… what is the meaning of this? How dare you trespass! This is my chamber!”
Gallileo grew indignant, fangs gnashing as she snapped “Shalazia, this is the Theatre of Earth and Water! It belongs to both of us!”
“No, not since you stopped being human.”
“Because you killed me and this was only way I could return.” Gallileo shiftily noticed Bowser was close to freeing himself, she floated backwards, taunting Shalazia to approach. She answered to Luigi “Did my sister not mention that she murdered her family for the whims of a selfish king?”
Shalazia snapped “Do not speak of Lentinellus like that!”
“He’s a cheat, he broke everything and turned nations against one another. He robbed the sky of stars and created a new world, a new game, out of greed and classism. The first monarch of the Mushroom Kingdom was nothing more than a pretty monster who threw a tantrum when he couldn’t get what he wanted.”
“Shut up Gaia! Always thinking you’re so smart because you’re the Archivist! You’re just a nerd who reads too much!”
“Was the Archivist, was! Shalazia. Our kingdom no longer stands so how can we be anything? The game we belonged to is long gone now. If only you could find happiness and a new purpose instead of refusing to change… maybe… maybe Diabella and Fandango could forgive you. Have you not been getting all those self-help books I’ve sent you?”
“Yes and they are wrong! There is nothing wrong with my life or attitude. If Astrapi and Floga are so displeased, why don’t they let themselves be known? Oh yes, because I shattered them beyond existence and I’ll happily do the same to you again, if you get in my way.” The crack of ice alerted Shalazia to Bowser, turning moment before his claw could rip her pretty face off. With a flick of her wrist she hindered him enough, covering his arm in ice so she could step out of the hit. She then looked around to see Ludwig and Luigi had been alert this whole time and surmised what they had done. “Perhaps I underestimated you all. Best get this conjuring out of the way.” She stormed to the centre, swatting Gallileo out of the way.
Ludwig had seen how agitated Fandango had become since Shalazia reappeared. He wanted to call out, to stop him from reacting as he erupted with ancient rage. Fandango ran out of the shadows brandishing a fallen flagpole “Don’t touch my sister!” He dared to strike Shalazia only to be swatted away with a smack of her spear.
Shalazia tutted to Fandango as he flailed into the distance of the chamber and smacked against the wall “Oh Floga… so hot tempered… so unstable… so explosive… just like your magic. No wonder I couldn’t harvest it from you.” With a wave of her hand the waters of the ritual pools contorted and trapped Gallileo and Fandango in impenetrable bubbles. She levitated them so they could watch her moment of triumph as she began to illuminate the sacrificial altar with unknown magic “Now both of you shut up and know your places! You are beneath humans now, you don’t get to judge me.”
Luigi and Bowser struggled in vain, the runes were crackling with splashes of vibrant colours. The deluge of magic was swelling and bubbling to the surface; overflowing the chamber in glorious waves of harlequin magic. Shalazia stood in the centre of it all, pieces of the Prism Star floating before her grasp. Luigi then noticed something amiss, he counter the pieces, imagined how it would fit… he then realised one piece was missing.
“And you’re an idiot who based their life around pleasing another person rather than doing your duty as a leader!” Fandango flailed wildly against the bubble “Seriously, you were the Enchanter! You were meant to use your knowledge to make magic accessible to the masses! To make everyone’s lives better with your ingenuity! And you failed, sister! You failed miserably!”
“Don’t say that!” Gallileo piped up, she appeared calmer, less flighty than her cursed brother “I don’t know why Shalazia fell in love with Lentinellus… but it is too far to call her that.”
“No, I know you’re the brightest of us all Gaia, but I cannot forgive this.” Fandango glared down at Shalazia “It’s not like you were a love struck teenager, you were old enough to make your own, informed decisions… and you chose wrong.”
Shalazia smiled insanely as the pieces of the star began to migrate and fuse together as one “Silence! Once the Prism Star is reformed I will enslave the Shadow Queen to my bidding! That is the truth of this relic! Then I will finally be all powerful! All knowing! I will be able to prove my love to Lentinellus!”
Fandango snapped “That was your plan all along!? Or did you just realise this as you started casting it?”
Gallileo was shocked “Oh dear… it seems to have been a futile one… that’s not how the Prism Star works…”
Luigi could feel the magic pulsing through him as shockwaves. He could see the ice cracking and fracturing around Bowser, Wario, Peach… even Mario was flailing wildly. The foul magic grew in intensity, surmounting into a blast of shimmering light. When his vision returned and the pain stopped, he realised the ritual hadn’t killed him as Shalazia planned. Instead, Shalazia stood in the centre of the chamber in blank astonishment. Her entire body had crystallised yet still moved organically. She gazed with uncertainty at her new hands, completely unaware that her captives were free of her magic.
“Ow… what happened? Where am I?” Wario rubbed his head then noticed Shalazia “Wait a minute! What did you do to me!? How dare you mess with my feelings like that!?”
“The book! That horrible picture… I… I…” Peach realised the audience in that strange chamber, she looked to Luigi “Did Shalazia use some weird ritual and try to sacrifice us?” He nodded back, Peach let out a sigh “Daisy was right, she was up to no good.”
Mario tossed the broken remains of the star badge away from him, the twisted remains of the offending relic shattered on the stone beneath the altar. Colour and warmth had returned to him as he surveyed the chamber with horror and confusion. Luigi and Peach immediately engulfed him in a hug, happy to see him alive.
“Ludwig…” Bowser jumped down from the altar and went to the imprisoned Koopaling. He shattered what remained of the stone columns surrounding the pool to weaken the magic flowing through it. “Still alive?”
Ludwig growled back as he weakly stumbled through the water towards his uncle “Barely.”
Bowser smirked “You’re a Koopa, it’ll take more than that to finish you off.”
“So… if the Prism Star failed to reform… then what happened to her?” Fandango jumped back up to the altar to see the horrified, yet living state of his sister.
Gallileo floated around Shalazia “It appears to have fused with her… fascinating… I have no idea what it means, but it’s fascinating.” She looked to the others “Alright, let’s try to figure out a safe way to go. I’m sorry you had to see this family drama bu-”
“NO!” screamed Shalazia, the venom in her voice echoed with hate and rattled the very existence of the chamber and all who stood within it. “This is NOT OVER!” She turned in Bowser and Ludwig’s direction “If the Prism Star has failed, I will still have my shadow magic!”
Mario and Luigi immediately readied to fight her, the folds of her skirt twisted and contorted like water to echo waves of piercing crystals from her. The chamber became engulfed in spiked gemstones that barred passage to the plumbers. The floor began to shake as things began to grow from the crystals. The surface of the gemstones bubbled and hissed as they birthed abominable golems; all uneven and jagged with far too many limbs to be logical. They were skittering creatures of crystal that made no sense and glitched awkwardly; frantically changing from moving in slow motion to lightning speeds. The cries they made through non-existent mouths would haunt Luigi more than any ghost. Their priorities changed as Mario and Luigi gestured Peach to hide behind them. Wario seemed to have less reservation as he started flailing wildly and punching any crystal monster that got close. Fandango and Gallileo kept near him for protection.
As the chamber erupted into chaos, Shalazia descended, the skirt of her dress had melded into too many legs that ended in hands that skittered and carried her towards Bowser. “You’re in my way.” She leered at him as he stood between her and Ludwig.
Bowser growled defiantly “You’re not taking my nephew.”
Shalazia tilted her head at an angle that break someone’s new, her eyes narrowed as she remarked “So be it…”
Chapter 6: We got a plan, maybe?
The lance of strange, crystal magic narrowly missed Bowser’s face as he ducked out of the way in the nick of time. As a final boss, he’d seen his fair share of dramatic fights whose outcome would determine the fate of the game world. But this was different… Shalazia was aiming for either his head or heart with every strike and she was relentless. The skirt of her dress had elongated into a tangle of tentacles that allowed her to attack and skitter about all surfaces of chamber with ease. Bowser was mostly on the defensive, dodging every wild stab and swipe from Shalazia while trying to surmise a plan of attack. Her only weak point would be her vaguely human upper body riding atop this strange crystal cephalopod. He hadn’t yet ascertained whether he could climb the tentacles to reach her as the crystal was neither a solid, liquid or gas, it just was… he didn’t know what it was and wasn’t keen on finding out on a whim.
To distract her, Bowser unleashed a rapid burst of multiple fireballs that bounced and kicked about the summoning chamber. The flames appeared to be more of an annoyance as she coldly swatted them out. One exploded against Shalazia’s head, she merely glared back at him with the hatred of a demon. As Bowser stepped back, he realised the crystals in the chamber were growing. They matured organically and began to cluster and creep over every surface like fungus. Bowser saw how the cloak of tiny crystal fragments was encroaching on Ludwig; his nephew was too weak to oppose them. Immediately, Bowser changed focus as he grabbed Ludwig, shattering the crystal infection and tucking him under his arm to resume fighting.
“Oh…” Shalazia cooed, her voice now rasped in a metallic tone “How kind of you to bring my prize to me.”
Bowser didn’t talk back, he just let out another barrage of fireballs while he kept her ire. As long as he could distract her, maybe the others would figure something out. After all, Mario always seemed to figure a way to save the day no matter how dire it became. Bowser had to trust that the plumber could do something. So for now, he fought, he defended, he generally lured Shalazia to the other side of the chamber so she couldn’t see what the others were up to. With each movement, Shalazia was becoming more unstable, erratically alternating between smooth animations and pixelated staggering.
Wario smashed yet another skittering, crystal mass of legs away from him. The polygon gems were oddly warm to touch and hard to comprehend. He had no idea how to understand where the head or even an eye was on these things. They just spawned on mass from the encroaching crystals without fail. Every time he knocked one back, forcing it to evaporate into a mess of pixels and light then to nothingness, another two appeared.
“Alright, level with me…” Fandango remarked, alerting Wario that the mysterious Boo and Shy Guy were still near him and using him as a meat shield. “When you brought me the designs for the Prism Star and lists of where to find materials and create it… where in the archives did you find this knowledge?”
Gallileo shrugged “The basement section no one wants to talk about… I was doing a burning of all the corrupted and cursed texts because only an idiot would keep that stuff around.”
Fandango continued to study the creatures as Wario fought through them “And… what exactly was the point of the design?”
“The theory is that you create a glitch, a way of rendering something beyond the logic of the game or reality. The Prism Star was basically the ultimate prison because whatever you put in there, can’t get out.”
“Because it’s been rendered into a glitch and was ultimately a data error to the game, I get it despite your silly metaphor. It’s why we could put the Shadow Queen in there to stop her from wrecking up the place and how we were able to build that magic door powered by the test stars we made.”
“Which technically became her prison at a later date so it still upheld its original purpose.”
“Wait a minute…” Wario looked over his shoulder at the pair “How old are you guys anyway?”
Gallileo pointed behind him “Duck!” Wario followed instruction and countered with an uppercut to the top most growth of the polygonal mess attempting to strike him. Gallileo then answered “We’re very old, but we came back through different cheats of the game.”
Wario growled back “Alright, brainiacs, you made this mess, how are you going to fix it?”
“We don’t know… we’ve never seen anyone fuse with the Prism Star, let alone an incomplete Prism Star. It’s just meant to be like a box or a treasure chest.”
“From the sounds of it, even I wouldn’t want to open that treasure chest… but an ornate gem with the Shadow Queen inside would be pretty cool to show off at dinner parties so I’d still steal it.”
“That’s it! The Shadow Queen!” Fandango cheered as the idea struck him “The only thing that could be equal would be the power of the Shadow Queen! So we just have to summon her and she’ll take care of it!”
“What do you mean equal? She got stuck in a shiny gem!” Wario laughed “But… given how impressive that Prism Star is… I’d do the same.”
“She got trapped in it, but her powers never diminished. She was just kept contained… you’re right!” Gallileo tapped Fandango on the head “Oh wait, we don’t know where she is and we can’t even think of summoning her because someone opened the Thousand Year Door like an irresponsible idiot and Diabella is a no show!”
Fandango nodded wisely “True… wait, what about the Champion of the Shadow Queen? Would that work?”
“HOW!? She’s in the Underwhere being watched over by Queen Jaydes!”
Wario snapped back “You know what, I don’t care how you do it! We just need a plan you tiny idiots!” He punched a few of Shalazia’s spawn for good measure “I’ll fight them off, you idiots come up with a plan to fix your mess!”
Fandango and Gallileo studied the chamber’s surroundings; they noticed a runic circle on the opposite side to mirror the one that had imprisoned Ludwig. Frustratingly it was right near where Bowser and Shalazia were fighting. Wario followed their line of sight “You want to go over there, huh? Right next to the crazy princess and the Koopa King?”
Gallileo remarked “Yeah, the circle of this side is attuned to water whereas that one over there is for earth… maybe we can open a warp point using the earth one?”
“If you can do it, why not?” Fandango wisely nodded “We retreat and live another day or die horribly… again.”
“Again? Yeah, I’m not keen on doing it a first time.” Wario laughed “Nothing wrong with running away, it’s how you steal the most stuff.”
“But I thought you mostly ended up fighting ancient curses instead of actually stealing stuff… well that’s what Syrup told me.”
“Shut up and stay close, you tiny idiots!” Wario bounded through the melee with Fandango and Gallileo in tow. Waves of spawning crystal abominations were sent flying in a glorious explosion of light as they made their way to the desired runic circle.
Luigi was distracted by the cacophony of those horrific, muffled screams of the polygon gems. He watched in awe as Wario charged ahead, was he going to interfere with the fight between Shalazia and Bowser? Was he really that headstrong? Luigi remained by Peach to protect her while Mario fought off the bulk of the onslaught. The three of them were so small compared to Bowser and Wario, they couldn’t just plough through everything on a whim like they could. From their corner of the ritual chamber, Luigi noticed three main crystal pillars that were the source of Shalazia’s corruption. They were large, jutting out amidst the creeping gemstone floor and any spawn that emerged started their journey near one of them. Luigi then had an idea, waving to Mario to get his attention then pointing at the large crystals.
Peach commented, following Luigi’s gestures and interpreting his plan “They’re giant, how are we meant to bring them down?” She noticed his surprise “Well… we can’t exactly leave them to spawn for all eternity. That’ll have huge consequences for every kingdom!”
“Yeah… you’re right.” Luigi nervously answered “But as to how we bring them down, no idea… I was hoping maybe you two would have a clue.”
Mario informed “I was thinking of maybe just hitting it really hard and see what would happen.”
“Okay, let’s try that… it’s all we got really.”
Given that charging onwards wasn’t an option, the trio instead took to jumping from obstacle to obstacle. The skittering minions panicked as their opponents leapt out of their reach; madly crawling over one another to even try catching Mario, Luigi and Peach as they bounded across the chamber. Two of which were hit squarely in their uppermost growths or what could be understood as a head by two pink high heeled shoes. Liberated from her heels, which were fantastic for being royal but not so great for adventures, Peach quickly caught up with Mario and Luigi as they each landed on a separate crystal pillar.
Mario was the first to make a fist and smash the crystal pillar. The odd thing resounded with a tune and shivered with annoyance. He then struck it again, noticing a flurry of light within it from the point of the strike. Luigi followed suit, trying to understand how they functioned by hitting them randomly. Peach carefully watched the lights that resulted from the pillars being struck. She then patted the one she was standing atop, noticing how any contact regardless of strength elicited the same glow. She then noticed the light appeared focused at one point of the pillar, conveniently right near her skirt. Peach undid one of her earrings to procure a sharp edge, the crystal wasn’t overly solid like ice so it was worth a shot. She pushed the small metal spike of her earring into the point where the light emanated. In an instant the pillar trembled to spasm out of existence erratically.
Peach probably did not think this through as she tumbled towards the floor below. Luckily her descent was stopped as Mario leapt to her aid and caught her. Once she was safely on the sacrificial podium, she handed Mario her earring and said “When you hit the pillar, look for where the light starts, then use this to pierce it.”
Mario smiled back at her, a reassuring sign that maybe everything was going to work out. “Thanks princess, I’ll get to it right away!”
Peach remained away from the remaining crystal spawn while Mario went to assist Luigi with destroying the two remaining pillars.
The flames cleared as pixel by pixel, Diabella felt her body reform in every excruciating detail. Once again she was met by the all too familiar dismal cavern that at the same time, felt like various stones and onyx floating in a sea of night. It stretched out beyond the horizon in the endless void. That same haze hung in the air and obscured the jagged structures in the distance. The few plants were nightmarish and angular, defying all sense as they varied in shades of red and purple. The sky overhead changed erratically with vivid shades of blue and violet, like the colours were trapped in a vicious conflict. Amidst the darkness were streams of amber and gold that wavered like water.
She marched down a cobbled path leading to a ghoulish courtyard. A fountain spraying amber liquid resided in its centre. Shaydes, strange spectres made of geometric shapes and with identical faces, floated around aimlessly and prattled on about how they died. Upon approach she saw giant demonic creatures dressed in fine suits strolling amidst the ghosts, Queen Jaydes beloved D-men. The air turned cold which was unusual for the Underwhere, the D-men saw her and immediately dropped all their newspapers and briefcases.
One of the burliest of the D-men dared to speak “YOU AGAIN!? Seriously!? You know what, just go, we’re not going to stop you. We always end up losing too many of us when we try to fight you.”
Diabella darkly replied “Glad to see you learned from last time, took you long enough.”
“Just get out here, Warlord Astrapi! We know who you herald, we know everything.”
“Then shut up. I’m busy.” She growled back then started her descent through the wild crags infected with crystals that were slowly encroaching towards the upper levels of the Underwhere with each passing day. The path would twist and turn all the way down to the ocean of night and amber. She had to return to the Well of Souls to stop Shalazia’s game and as Diabella descended into the crystal caverns of the Underwhere, she knew the Onyx Witch could sense and hear her. To save time, Diabella only offered a single explanation “My sister is going to kill your son and your brother.”
The depths of the Underwhere shook with fury, she had heard Diabella.