Luigis prediction had been proven correct almost instantly.
From the far east of Plit came a billowing family of volatile thunderheads that rose and flickered deadly incandescence. Purplish malevolence mingled and mixed, rising and coiling around the inner blackness that greedily soaked up ample moisture from the shadowed oceans below and behind. Atmospheric pressure booming its limit, the massive clouds roared and emptied their burden onto the rolling plains of The Mushroom Kingdom and spat blue forks of dry crackling lightning that tempted the sound barrier and elicited several cacophonous blossoms, all of which enveloped the air and rang it like a rented gong. Flat, dense sheets of stinging precipitation slanted in like hail, rapping against tin, thumping dryly about the arid dirt, and smashing wet clouds of dust from the solid stone face of New Koopa Castle.
A pair of hungry eyes, bloodshot and searching, pierced out of an open arched window. Wind forced in buckets of bullet rain every other second to land against the pebbly, unflinching skin of Bowser. Rightful heir to the Koopa throne, a glistening crown of scintillating gold rested over his menacing horns, curved outward and up as if to symbolize devilry. Silver claws sharpened down to a point capable of splitting a falling tree bark rapped anxiously against damp rock as the others curled into a fist, resting at the center of the Koopas spiny shell. Its a beautiful night, he remarked, knowing his most loyal vizier to be close behind him and most likely a few inches to the right. Bowser turned his head to look over his shoulder, not surprised to lay eyes on Kamek standing respectfully still, wand probably at a seconds reach somewhere deep within the folds of his blue cloak. Dont you agree?
Kamek only nodded, knowing that any truly definitive answer would have less-than-savory results when directed to such an unstable individual as His Highness. Of late, to make matters worse, Bowsers actions had become even more unpredictable. The whole of his mind, body, and soul was concentrated on finding the bane of his will and strangling the life out of them. Every day he would stand by the same window for hours upon end, eyes fixed on the horizon of the Vista Sea, posture always immaculate. And every day he would comment on what a beautiful day it was, no matter what the weather or any other sign by which most beings based the quality of a day on.
Now more than ever Bowsers seven power-hungry children sought his throne. Kamek had worked diligently to stop two assassination attempts as time had already allowed, but there wasnt any proof to accuse those whom he knew were to blame. Bowser pivoted his head back towards the angry sea and the flashing walls of lightning.
My lord, what has plagued you for these past weeks? I am no healer, but I know more than most that something otherworldly has been eating you from the inside. To hold onto such things is not only unwise, but unhealthy, Kamek winced. It is the Mario Brothers, is it not? He stepped back lightly on his toes, ready to dash when Bowser reeled and leapt from his point of stillness.
This is the point of no return for me, Kamek, Bowser said instead.
The confused Magikoopa squinted his eyes doubtfully and moved his hand from its position near his wand, coming down from the tips of his feet to regain his composure. Bowser hadnt seen him. If it does not anger you, my King, what do you mean by this?
I am not so easily riled in a state of such bliss, Kamek, for you see, Bowser said, turning so that his vizier could see a wave of reassurance pass over his eyes, I have finally deduced a way to eliminate those pesky plumbers once and for all.
Kamek mentally followed Bowsers claim word for word as he declared it. After all, the King of the Koopas had repeated the same speech, and many times from the same spot, hundreds of times, each rendition ending with the same disastrous result: failure. I apologize for my lack of enthusiasm, sire, but you must understand weve come to this conclusion time and time again in the past, and as of late, we still have not achieved the goal we strive so earnestly for. How is it that you think this new plan will outdo all of its unsuccessful predecessors?
I was so blind, so oblivious to their strength! exclaimed Bowser, choosing more philosophical repetitions over answering Kameks query directly. Weve never been able to announce victory over both of them, and the reason is so blatantly obvious.
Kamek was growing frustrated, and so he made a show of it, crossing his arms and sighing. If this is truly the case, than I can see cause for such exultation, but please, Master, enlighten me!
Bowser disregarded his servant for a fleeting moment, long deadly claws interlaced and pumping excitedly. His eyes were wildly intense, foggy with a deep concentration. Kamek surmised the Koopa King was admiring his master plan one last time in case his loyal vizier, as he often did, found a fatal design flaw. As if just noticing Kamek was in the room, Bowser turned and started again, What Mario has on us is not any divine powers that we cannot overcome, but his brother. And likewise, Bowser held up a finger as a frightening grin played across his snout, Luigi has him. Together, they are unstoppable, but apart well, I think our chances would improve astronomically.
Kamek smiled a patronizing smile that he knew curdled Bowsers blood. Hed already formulated the same plan long ago, and yet one impassable obstacle stood in the way of its realization. Bowser, my Lord, have you taken into account the difficulty of separating them for any length of time? If so, Id be more than willing to hear your proposition.
Muddy footprints saturated by the fierce downpour eased along the outer edge of the Koopa Castle, perfectly linear and sure. A guard Koopa named Razor studied the rapidly filling marks with an off-hand interest, bending down to trace a rough finger along the outer edges of one as thick raindrops pelted his shell and upper hide. He held only a spear, welded in the sweltering furnaces of the Castles lowest basement. A rust-colored dagger was sheathed at his side, wobbling with the wind while it hung loosely from his belt. Razor grunted and then shuffled over to the next footprint, exercising the same caution and performing the same ritual. He didnt expect to find anything, but the tracks were most certainly not left by a Koopa, and as a night sentry, he rarely encountered excitement in any degree. Stooping over mud prints in a rainstorm seemed much safer than marching into battle against the legendary Mario Brothers anyway.
The marks continued on along the forward right corner of the castles highest tower, the one where Bowser oftentimes kept the Princess Toadstool prisoner. Curious, he thought, shuffling his bulk again, back aching as he scanned the electrically charged air for another print. Instead he stopped when two black boots came into his line of vision; before shock could even register, he found it odd that they did not sink in the mud. As he lifted his head up, he stared into two crimson orbs, glowing as if bioluminescent.
He let out a surprised chortle and felt a sudden pressure against his chest and then grunted when his body hit the muddy ground. Pain exploded from his left side, and he screamed aloud, roaring pitifully and moaning. He tilted his head up to see a black-cloaked figured, cowled, and with those same burning eyes that melted his soul. A motionless hand gloved in black was wrapped around the hilt of a broad battle sword, the blades tip buried deep in his left kidney, pinning him helplessly to the ground.
Ishkit! the figure cursed before avulsing the blade and drawing another horrible cry. Who is the master of this castle? it demanded, ruby eyes slanting inward, pulsing fluorescence. Razor tried to form words, to make a gesture, to do anything in his power to save his life, but nothing came. Fiery pain, hellish and throbbing, engulfed his body and paralyzed him. Speak, worm! Razor only closed his eyes and sputtered pleadingly, mud and spittle spraying onto his chest. His mind was going, and the edges of his vision were darkening. He wanted to go home, to be with his family. The figure snarled viciously and rose its blade high before swinging it back down in a low arc, ending the Koopas worries. It was best that the ignorant and peaceful be laid to their eternal rest now rather than later. It made an obscure motion with its free hand and smiled when blurs of black moved in the dark forest behind it.
A distraction, I suppose, was all Bowser could come up with, and from the look of Kameks dubious visage, the Magikoopa did not seem very convinced. He snarled and extended his claws near Kameks face, causing him to flinch slightly. And perhaps you would like to advise on this matter instead of only pointing out faults!
Well, Kamek began, pacing steadily away from Bowsers razors, I would recommend that we command your seven children to distract Luigi while the rest of our forces eliminate Mario, but because of our many failures, that would be quite impossible, what with all of them holding no respect for you and bitterly hanging onto their territories in the Koopa Lands on the other side of the world.
Dont even indirectly refer to those selfish brats! Bowser growled, backhanding Kamek to the floor with a bone-jarring force. He spat on the floor in front of the groaning viziers face. They are welcome here no longer; their last act of defiance was the final one. I wont allow such disrespect in my courts. Do you understand, Kamek!?
Y-yes, sire, Kamek managed, pulling himself off of the damp floor. He looked longingly back at the door. His master had finally gone insane, and it was time to leave. If it pleases you, my Lord, I will retire to my private chambers for further consideration of your grand battle stratagem. You have my solemn guarantee that I wont stop until an effective solution has been reached. Kamek hurriedly dismissed himself, not looking back until he was well clear of the Castle. After countless years of loyal service, he was still treated so poorly, and as such, the angered Magikoopa saw no reason to linger.
If the systems primary was distressed by the battles that had transpired on the fourth closest of its brood, it revealed nothing to the average viewer. The bright golden radiance of the unperturbed sun shone across the system, but as slow crawling sunlight played against the worlds punished surface, more sinister things became visible. Where precious blue, green, and white had once prevailed, ash-gray and a sickly reddish-brown now were predominant. Choking smoke chimneyed from immolated cities once home to hundreds of thousands and plumed from tracts of firestormed evergreen forests. Steam billowed off of superheated beds of boiling lakes and shallow seas piled high with festering aquatic carcasses.
And then the sun winked out, blanketing the strange universe in total darkness before abruptly opening back up, not as a solar body but as a great flame-licked eye, wreathed in torment and anguish. The cornea spat flares of molten lava while the pupils were of the deepest black, sucking all life into its gaping maw. Then without warning everything shifted to red, ruby, and crimson, all colors of blood mixing together and spitting out and bringing in. With an awing, rumbling laugh that silenced all sound, the system imploded.
Rauls right eye teared blood before he closed it, absorbing the fluid and opening it again to bring his consciousness back to reality. Back to the moment. Twenty archers stood still behind and around him in a deliberate semicircle, bows pulled taut with gilded arrows leading the form of a cloaked and cowled Koopa hurrying from the Castle and into the woods. The black form raised an outstretched hand and leveled it flat on an invisible horizontal surface, reaching out to test the escapees prowess. A surge of anger and power backwashed, causing Raul to wince and his hand to retreat a centimeter. It was a Magikoopa and a powerful one at that. But no matter. If he was leaving, then he was of no importance. But then again
Cele! he half whispered, half screamed, issuing a level of authority that could only be heard by those trained to interpret his will. A female human approached, donning an attire similar in style to her masters. She was beyond physical fitness with a lithe form and a fair face that betrayed her deadliness. He gestured, and she removed her hood, letting her trim, red-gold hair fall down to her shoulders. In a flurry of hand motions, she deftly tied it up behind her head and stared up at him with flaming emerald eyes. Stop the fleeing Magikoopa before he can reach the city, and make sure to question him thoroughly. Once you are sure he has worn out his usefulness, eliminate him. She turned to leave and stopped, anticipating Rauls final words of warning. And practice caution. He is of the order of the Magikoopas and strong in the ways of Doomstar.
In a blur of unflagging swiftness, Cele had disappeared into the woods to diagonally converge on her quarry. Raul snorted, confident that whoever the Magikoopa had been, he would not live to see daylight. With another contemptuous gesture, a second darkly dressed warrior trailed his cloak while twenty archers spread out to encircle the Castle. Ahead, two dozing Koopa guards leaning on their makeshift spears drifted in and out of awareness, oblivious to his presence. This would make things all the easier.
Both sentries watched the traveler cautiously as he neared their position, the trespassers companion still too far in the distance to be spotted through the thick rainfall. He lifted his head to meet them and exerted intimidation through the glow of his eyes. I apologize if I am curt, but I seek an audience with the King of this castle, whom I presume goes under the name of Bowser. When one of the guards leveled his spear threateningly, Raul extended a finger, and the weapon clattered harmlessly to the soaked wood of the drawbridge. Mine is a force beyond any of you. Do not tempt my patience.
The armed Koopa stepped forward with the gait of someone who was extremely nervous but did not want to show it. The Lord Bowser has commanded that we allow the passage of no one until the time of his choosing. Persistent rain is of no consequence to his Kingship and is your misfortune. Turn back.
Before the more gregarious guard could bring his spear to bear, Raul pulled his sword and spun to quietly separate the Koopas head from his neck. Cloak beating the wind wetly as he whirled, he snapped the remaining obstructions spear with his free hand and sliced the holder from left shoulder to right thigh. Raul brushed resting raindrops from his clothing and stepped inside the torch lit vestibule of the Koopa Castle, motioning for his shadow to follow at a closer proximity.
Bowser rose from his throne and snarled an incoherent threat as the inconceivable figure of Raul appeared in the doorway, sleeved hands crossed solemnly in front of him. Kamek! Who let this fool in? he boomed, glazed eyes searching earnestly for his missing assistant.
King Bowser, Sovereign Lord of the Koopas, it is an honor to finally meet you, Raul said calmly, spreading his hands diplomatically. Allow me to introduce myself: I am Raul, traveler from far beyond the Vista Sea.
Raul? Bowser repeated, nodding his head and cocking an appraising eye. Listen, I dont know how you got past the night watchmen, but you are not welcome. My attendants will show you to the door in pieces. The King raised one side of his mouth to show a gleaming row of sharp teeth before gesticulating with his left hand.
From the far corners of the throne room came two heavily armed Terrapin, each clanking in their superfluous armor with a chain-linked mace across their backs and a broad, shining sword in their hands. Raul snorted and pushed out both hands to his side, leaning forward slightly. As if impacted by an invisible punch, both guards were thrown to either side of the room, heads impacting with a bone-crunching finality. After a short preparatory breath, Raul began anew, I am sorry that, presently, you wish not to entertain guests, but I come offering my services for a cost that will most likely not faze you in the least. I recommend you hear me out. Are we agreed on the matter?
Bowser stared at the two fallen Terrapin with a contemplating air of feigned disinterest, shifting his eyes to a far window and staring at nothing in particular. Finally, he turned to the figure again and then the Terrapin once more. For one with such power you are incongruously civil. I wouldve stormed in demanding an audience, not requesting one.
Power does not necessarily constitute rudeness, but rather ones character, Raul retorted, hands clasping behind his back. True, the reach of ones influence does often impress certain undesirable qualities in a being, but that is not always the case. My desires rank high above that of mere power, but in a world full of such intractable wills, I find it useful to have an eclectic selection of skills with which to employ in ways that I see fit.
Bowser took the lengthy reprimand in without a stir of wrath, most likely because his mind was focused on sizing up his competition instead of listening to philosophical nonsense that didnt apply to him. Very well Raul? Yes, that is an unusual name, indeed. Tell me, where exactly beyond the Vista Sea do you come from?
That is of no consequence, Raul cut the curious Koopa off swiftly. Yet, if you were wondering, the place I once called home is unknown to you, at least specifically, I think. Out with the old, though, and in with the new: as my proposal implied, I believe that my aide will significantly increase your odds of victory, yes, he whispered a hiss.
Bowser studied the newcomer for another moment, tapping a foreclaw thoughtfully against his snout in deliberation. I must admit, Raul, the prospect of finally bringing about the end of those troublesome plumbers is very appealing, but I dont even know what you look like. And youve already chosen to keep details of your origin vague. Wont you do me this one honor?
I anticipate that Ill be expected to do you many more honors in the future, Raul commented sardonically. Still, if I were in your position, may the Stars forbid, I would request the same compromise. He paused to await any possible reactions the Koopa King mightve put across, and upon hearing none, he finished, Very well; perhaps this will satisfy you.
With the utmost level of meticulosity and teasing patience, Raul wrapped both hands around his hood and pulled it off, bringing his hands down palms outward as he had done before. He was a young human, only in his twenties if Bowser wasnt mistaken. Fairly handsome as far as the scaleless bipeds went, he had glistening black hair that was stylishly unkempt, adding to his semblance of mystique. A cut half-mask curved and covered the right side of his upper face, ending directly above the larger part of his cheekbone. The same eerie red eyes gleamed back threateningly. Well, have your suspicions been lain to rest?
Bowser gave him another quick once-over and let out a deep rumble of a laugh, his bellowing roar filling the throne room like a pipe organ. Brat! You are only a child! You expect me to work equally with you? Hah! He swiped a clawed hand as if to silence the argument.
I am of the proper age to accomplish that which is my purpose. In fact I am nearly the age of those whom are your primary problem. Do you dismiss them as children when they beat back entire legions of your forces? Raul snorted derisively. I think not.
The massive Koopa snarled his third curse and flicked his tongue in a typical frustrated gesture for such an unsettled saurian. Your point is duly noted, save for a tingling sensation advising me canniness that still persists. Relieve it, or I will force you to handle much more than two Terrapin taken off a shift change.
Raul almost grinned, and Bowser didnt like that. Not at all. Come now, there is no need to be hasty or hostile, for that matter. I planned to explain all of that, but of course, how can one do so when under such a constant barrage of doubting queries? He continued, this time not allowing Bowser even a second to retort. Lets see, where to begin ah yes! My goal is simply this: to seek out the strongest and most courageous of this world to travel with me back to my home land, where there is a desperate struggle that involves the survival of my peoples hopes and dreams. Although I reserve the right to keep your arch-enemies alive if I approve of them, they will never bother you again, I promise. As such, you will be able to conquer The Mushroom Kingdom without any further difficulties. Is this to your liking?
Bowser paused for a tense moment, unsure of what to think, and then said, Not entirely, but, he admitted, turning and raising his eyes, if it does work, then it will be the only thing that has done so thus far. My vizier, Kamek, might take your intrusion into my confidence with some reluctance, however.
Rauls photographic memory backtracked to the powerful Magikoopa fleeing the Castle. This was undoubtedly the assistant Bowser mentioned with such profound confidence. This Kamek you speak of was seen decamping your Lordships mighty chateau shortly before I arrived. I tasked the job of silencing him to one of my most skilled accomplices.
A look of unbridled rage directed towards the Magikoopas treason on Bowsers face was hastily replaced with a sly sneer. You did, did you? Seeing that Raul would not take the bait laid before him, he twitched his scaly mouth uncomfortably and started again, Your accomplices? You did not mention them.
Yes, Raul said. I saw no reason to at first. But they do exist, two being my most trusted warriors, and twenty being skilled archers and swordsmen/women if they need be. All are notably formidable, and just one can hold off hordes of martial regulars. They will assist you in your coup.
Bowsers initial mistrust was displaced by Rauls referring to the coup as his. At least the puny human knew his place. The King had been wary of his impressive battle skills at first, but now pride was getting the better of his providence. Of course, that is most promising. Now, if youll excuse me
Bowser picked up a comlink resting on the left arm of his golden throne. He thumbed the activation button and spoke clearly into it. Adamant, report in! This is King Bowser; Ive sent the proper clearance codes electronically and wish to be connected with Admiral Jade immediately.
Yes, sir, replied a stuttering junior officer. Immediately, sir.
There was a pause in which Bowser threw a quick glance at Raul, who seemed to be perfectly entertained with standing by idly. His hooded companion of a slightly higher stature acted similarly. Admiral Jade reporting for orders, my Lord, came a brusque, slightly feminine voice, obviously with the inflected chortle of a Koopa.
You will rendezvous with the Eviscerator and the Cerberus in the Vista Bay at 1200 hours tomorrow. Ive made a most roseate deal with a band of travelers offering help. We will assemble there and decide on a suitable course of action.
The returning voice was full of ebullient excitement, but it was also laced with the certain doubt of past hopes long crushed. That is most encouraging, sire. We will fuel and depart directly after making another reconnaissance pass. Adamant, out.
Bowser turned back to Raul, awaiting his comment. I find it surprising that you have a fleet, King Bowser. Im assuming those names belong to airships, and three of such a craft is a force to be reckoned with.
Indeed! We have four of those magnificent vessels, the last being my own flagship, the Leviathan. It is quite clear to me that your arrival was not a coincidence, for the finishing touches on that particular ship were completed not but a few hours ago. Isnt that interesting?
Raul dismissed the question as rhetorical. This meeting you have called who is invited?
You of course, Bowser said, searching the mans eyes for deceit and being forced to turn away from the haunting glow. Myself, Admiral Jade, General Jagger, Vizi well, I suppose Kamek will not be attending. That leaves only four, a small number, yes, but I trust we shall get the job done in due time.
I plan on it, King Koopa, Raul said flatly. Victory depends on much more than that, though I suppose all will be brought into light tomorrow. His complexion darkened as his vision wandered before coming into focus again. Until then, there is rest, for me at least. Ive already set several other steps of my larger plan into motion that you need not concern yourself with. Bowser seemed wary, but he once again was cut off.
You need not bother with showing us to our rooms. He turned to the dark figure behind him and beckoned as he headed briskly for the rooms only door. Come, we will retire for the night. Raul turned to Bowser one last time before leaving. I think, he said, that this long wars end is going to occur ahead of schedule.