8th October 2007, 03:51 PM #1
Addicted to Shinies
Stealthy Ninja Mario
Stealthy Ninja Mario
This story is a novelization of a cartoon series that I've been working on for Newgrounds. This first chapter is meant to parallel the first full-length cartoon I've ever made - Stealthy Ninja Mario, Episode 0. If you'd like to find my cartoon, you may do so on Newgrounds, but be warned that my first one (and only finished one) is a sprite cartoon, and a pretty crappy one at that. :p
Prologue (this post)
Chapter 1: Enter Vaati! (this post)
Chapter 2: A Link to the Future
Chapter 3: Showdown at Hyrule Castle
The Mushroom Kingdom was in danger. The danger was incalculably terrifying, and anyone who might have heard about it would have been in a panic the very moment the words entered his ears.
However, such words never came to the citizens of the Mushroom kingdom – not until it was too late. There was, in fact, one person who was aware of the danger before it happened, but even he was powerless to stop the drastic turn of events that was about to unfold in his world.
Peaceful, unsuspecting, and unaware, the Mushroom Kingdom slept the night away as the danger readied itself to wreak havoc. Finally, the time had come, and tragedy struck.
Chapter 1 – Enter Vaati!
It was late night at Toadstool Castle, and although most of the inhabitants and staff would normally be asleep, there was actually much activity and excitement about the place. It was the night before Mario Mario's birthday, and Princess Toadstool had been conspiring with Luigi, his brother, to set in motion a grand event – a wondrous surprise birthday party to greet Mario into the following morning.
"But are you sure he won't wake up?" the princess urged Luigi, laughing in exasperation as a troop of toads accidentally knocked over a stack of empty crates in the royal supply room, sending thunderous reverberations cascading through the halls. She wrung her hands in dismay and glanced anxiously in the direction of the Mario brothers' sleeping quarters. "With all the racket we're making, we might as well summon a stampeding herd of Reznor outside his bedroom door!"
Luigi laughed and shook his head. "I've got it covered," he chuckled, tapping his nose and winking smartly at her. "My brother may be quick on his feet and alert as a hawk when he's awake, especially when there's pasta around..." He paused as he saw one of the royal chefs wheel by large dishes of uncooked ravioli and canoli on a cart toward the kitchen. "Er... but when it comes to sleep, he's like a log. Roll him over, poke him in the ribs, or pull his mustache if you like. It won't rouse him. Until he's had his eight hours, he's one hard nut to crack. But just the same," he added with a grin, "I've stuffed a bit of cotton in his ears just to be safe. He'll sleep like a baby until we're ready for him. I guarantee it, Princess."
"You've thought of everything, Luigi," Princess Toadstool - or "Peach," as Mario and Luigi affectionately called her - cried, hugging him and laughing gaily. "Mario will love it! And he'll never see it coming! Come on! His present is in the throne room. I want to show it to you!" Seizing his hand, she rushed him out of the dining room like a frilly, pink dervish.
When Princess Toadstool was excited about something, she could really move. Luigi always liked that about her, but then again, he liked nearly everything about her and these people, strange and foreign as they might seem to a simple plumber from Brooklyn like himself. It had been several years since he and Mario had accidentally stumbled upon a warp pipe that transported them to this fantastical world, with its exotic beauty and dangerous monsters. Since then, he and Mario had served the citizens of this kingdom faithfully and happily, without giving much thought to going back home to Brooklyn. This might have seemed odd to other people, especially considering how many tight situations and near-misses with death that the pair of plumbers had had since they arrived on that fateful day. Just the same, Mario and Luigi loved this place, and they hadn't even needed to say out loud to each other that it was their real home – more so than Brooklyn had ever been.
They had both felt a great deal of love and sympathy for the beautiful and somewhat impetuous Princess Toadstool, and they had readily agreed to save her time and again from all sorts of baddies and nasties that surfaced in this world on occasion. Being the sole ruler in a world of strange powers and forces that even the wisest denizens didn't know in entirety was a dangerous job, and there was always one more dangerous person or creature vying for power. The people were peace-loving and in most cases, defenseless. Yet, their beloved princess was the glue that bound them all together, and she gave them a strength that was both unexplainable and wonderful. Even the most timid of the toadstools would readily lay down his life for that of his princess. It was a marvel to both Mario and Luigi sometimes that she even existed here at all. For all the oddity and strangeness that existed here, she seemed to stick out the most. She was unlike any of the other people, and not just in appearance. She could soothe an angered heart with a touch, and she could heal fatigue and hopelessness with but a laugh. There was something almost supernatural about it, and it seemed only natural that she should be put in such an important role in the toadstools' society. They almost seemed to worship her, and in keeping her in her place of power, they were also able to keep her the safest. For all the times that she had been kidnapped though, the brothers would never have noticed this intriguing facet of her position.
Princess Toadstool giggled with excitement as she pulled Luigi into the dimly-lit throne room and let go of his hand. She bade him follow her up to her throne, and he did so, amused by her child-like playfulness and inability to keep a secret. It was just one more endearing quality about her. He loved her; it was one of the main things that kept him in this place. His love, however, wasn't the same as the love he knew his brother felt for her. Luigi saw the princess as one would see a precocious, loving baby sister. He felt a constant urge to shield her from all harm, and keep her happy and carefree forever. He knew that his brother felt differently about her, but although it made him a little concerned, he had chosen not to let it bother him. Mario had fallen for Peach almost immediately, but he was always nothing less than a perfect gentleman with her. He had confided in Luigi on several occasions that being around her was a blissful agony. He didn't dare make the first move, lest she be repulsed and drive them away. He instead spent his days praying that she'd develop similar feelings for him, and that she would somehow find a way to act on them. Luigi had always told him the same thing – that although being cast out of this place would probably devastate them both, it was wrong of him to hide his feelings from the princess. But Mario was petrified, and he couldn't be swayed. In the end, Luigi had taken a position of indifferent understanding. He would just watch and let happen what may. His brother may have been older, but in Luigi's honest opinion, he really wasn't the wiser of the two.
"Where is his gift?" Luigi asked the princess as he looked around and failed to see any flamboyantly decorated boxes – something he would have expected from her. "I don't see any presents in here."
"It's here," she replied, ducking behind her throne and lifting a small, oblong, jeweled box and bringing it over to him. "Go ahead," she prompted him, shyly handing him the box. "Open it."
Luigi did as she asked, and he found a pair of very expensive-looking boots inside. He removed one of them and studied it, noticing that although it didn't seem all that different from the kinds of boots that he and his brother usually wore, it seemed to be made of something stronger than leather, something more pliable, and smooth to the touch like velvet. He fingered the lip of the boot and pressed down on the toe, noticing that it did not give like the leather ones, and didn't seem as pliable as the lip and the sides seemed. The seams were clearly visible, and although they appeared somewhat uneven in places, it was apparent that they had been sewn with great care. He turned it over, and he noticed a mark on the heel. It was a simple crown with three prongs, each containing a stone-like mark within it. It reminded Luigi at once of the crown that Peach wore.
"They look very comfortable," he commented, noticing that she was staring expectantly and almost anxiously for his opinion. "And they definitely look stronger than the stuff we've got now. Where did you get them?"
"I made them," she replied, after a shy, almost embarrassed flushing of her cheeks. "I asked for the most skilled shoe cobblers in my lands to visit me, and I paid them handsomely to teach me how to make shoes. Mario is always stomping on things with tough hides, so I wanted his feet to be well-protected. I didn't want anyone else to make them, though," she added with an apologetic laugh. "It just wasn't the same. This way I can truly say they came from me. And I have the marks to prove it." She removed one of her elbow-length satin gloves and showed her hand to Luigi. Nearly every finger was bruised and nicked with needle marks. She wasn't accustomed to handicraft at all, and it must have taken her a good deal of time and effort to learn how to make shoes. Luigi was more than just impressed. He was dumbfounded.
He gaped at her hand in silence, and then stared down at the shoe in his hand. Was this the action of someone who was simply grateful for the services that he and his brother provided her? It couldn't be. There had to be more to it than that. But would Mario see it that way? What if it really wasn't that at all, and the princess was just excessively grateful? What if Mario thought there was more to it than there really was? These and a million other questions raced through Luigi's brain, and his prolonged silence was making them both rather uncomfortable. Princess Toadstool re-gloved her hand, and she cast her eyes aside, her face very red indeed.
"I'm sure they're not what you'd expect from royalty," she said stiffly, obviously thinking that he was disappointed with the gift, "but a lot of thought and care went into this gift. I hope Mario likes them. But if he doesn't, I'm not sure what to say to him about it..." Her voice trailed off, and her lips began to tremble.
"No, no, that's not it at all!" Luigi exclaimed, mortified by his own tactlessness. "I was just so impressed that you'd go to such lengths for us! You shouldn't trouble yourself so much for Mario and me. Mario will love these, Peach. You have my honest word on that. He'll treasure them!"
"You really think so?" she asked him, her countenance brightening immediately. "You're not just trying to make me feel better?"
"Definitely not," he replied emphatically. He placed the boot inside the box and closed it carefully before handing it to her. "I know my brother; he'll be so flattered he'll probably never take them off."
"Oh, I'm so glad!" Peach laughed gaily, prancing back to her throne and placing the box back in its hiding place. "I wanted to give them to him in private, after the party was over. You wouldn't mind, would you?"
Luigi smiled. "Not at all. I think Mario would like that too. Just let me know if you need help with anything."
"You're so good to him," she sighed, walking up to him and taking his hand in hers. "And to me. I just can't imagine life here in the Mushroom Kingdom without you two, Luigi. I love the toadstools more than anything, but all the time I was growing up, I always felt so out of place. They treat me with such kindness, but I always feel so unlike them in every way. It made me sad, as though I had been put in a place where I didn't belong, and that the people were only trying their best to make me feel welcome all the time. But with you two here, I feel more as though I'm not alone."
Luigi chuckled and scratched the back of his head. "We'll stay as long as we're welcome," he laughed. "Mario and I are of the same mind on this. We love it here."
"What a touching scene," came a voice from over their heads. "Did I interrupt a tender moment, Princess Toadstool?"
"Who's there?" Peach gasped, giving a start. She stared wildly around them, trying to locate the source of the disembodied voice. "Show yourself!"
Or you could just go away if you want to! Luigi felt himself thinking as he began to tremble. Maybe it was a ghost!
"How rude of me. Allow me to introduce myself," the voice laughed, the mirth in his voice both dark and sinister. Luigi and Peach saw a strange, black portal of some sort open up above her throne, and a man materialized in the center of it. The portal dissipated with an electrical crackling sound, and they gaped at the man it left behind. He was dressed in rich finery – his dark purple cape swished around him as he hovered in the air above them; his pantaloons and sandals were of a bright, glaring red; his skin was pale violet, and his hair was only two or three shades darker; his cap was the same color as his cloak, and it was rimmed with a gold circlet embracing a fiery red jewel. The jewel seemed to flash as he spoke, and one got the impression that it contained a great deal of power in its depths.
"I am Vaati," he continued, giving them both a gracious bow as he remained hovering in place above them, "master sorcerer, brilliant conjuror, and inescapable conqueror, at your service."
"I don't care who you say you are! You can't just barge in here and scare the p-princess like that!" Luigi retorted, trying not to shake so much. "Don't you know how to knock on a door?"
"Luigi, I don't like this," Princess Toadstool implored him, grabbing him by his arm and tugging at it. "This man is powerful – much too powerful for us to handle alone. I can sense it! We must flee!"
"Oh, I can't have that," Vaati laughed, holding up one hand. A brilliant blue ball of energy began to envelop it. "You see, I came here to find you, your highness. You're coming with me, and that's all there is to it."
"The hell she is!" Luigi snarled, forgetting his fear for a moment as the intention of this Vaati had now been revealed to him. He struggled to free his arm from Peach's desperate yanking and pulling, and he pointed his other arm at Vaati. "Over my dead body, you jerk!"
"That can be arranged," Vaati laughed, hurling the ball of energy at Luigi. What happened next took only seconds, but it changed everything. Princess Toadstool, in a desperate effort to shield Luigi from the attack, flung herself in the path of the oncoming projectile. Luigi, sensing at once what she was up to, grabbed her around the middle and flung her aside. Vaati's blast caught him dead center in the chest, and he had no time to even gasp a breath before the spell was complete. He fell to the ground, and before he had made contact with the floor his entire body had been transformed into a stone statue, his terrified expression captured timelessly on his cold, hard face.
"Luigi!" Princess Toadstool screamed, scrambling to her feet and leaping to her friend's side. "No, Luigi! Snap out of it! What... what have you done to him?!" she shrieked at Vaati, her eyes blazing with fury and grief. "Change him back at once!"
"How delightful!" Vaati laughed at her in reply. "Truly, it was a remarkable bit of folly, wasn't it, princess? The man might have dodged it, had you not forced him to save you instead. It was you yourself who sealed his doom! What a delicious turn of events! And here I assumed that your vassal would at least offer me a minute or two of diversionary combat, but you've both defeated him and delivered yourself to me as pretty as you please, in a single fell stroke!"
"You... you vile, wicked monster!" she screamed, her face twisted with hatred, grief, and anger. "You will pay dearly for this!" For a moment, Vaati saw something flicker in her eyes. It was only a brief glimmer – a small spark of power – but it was enough. Quick as a flash, he shot his arms forward and sent a potent beam of dark magic straight at her. It caught her exactly as he had aimed it, and with a strangled scream, she fell to the ground, having fallen into his dark enchantment of unwaking slumber.
"I'm certain you wouldn't have struck me dead with one blow, but there's no sense in tempting fate, is there?" Vaati laughed at her, focusing his magic on her limp form and raising her off the floor and up towards him. "Shall we go, then? I've still two more royal powers to collect, and my impatience won't allow me to tarry! Immortality will be mine!" He laughed a long, cruel laugh, and as he opened a portal behind them, Toad ran into the room.
"What in the world?" he cried. "Princess! What are you doing with her? Give her back this instant!" He leapt into the air to save her, but he was too late. With a sneer, Vaati curled an arm around her middle, and he leapt back into the portal, just as Toad reached them. The portal closed, and Toad fell to the floor with a squeak.
"No... no!" he cried. "Princess! What's happened this time?" Then he noticed the statue of Luigi lying prone on the floor, a look of terror etched uncannily on its face. "This... is unbelievable," he gasped. "Mario! Mario, wake up!" He dashed from the room to go wake up the only one whom he thought could be a match for this confusing and terrifying situation.
Within minutes, Mario and Toad had shut themselves into the throne room, and they were trying to make heads and tails out of the tableau in front of them. They had told no one what Toad had seen; Mario wanted to find out for himself exactly what had happened first. All the same, a kind of panicky unrest had settled almost immediately upon the toadstools in the castle, as though their happiness had just been stripped away from them. They all knew that feeling very well. Their princess was gone!
"And you say he just vanished, in a black hole above her throne?" Mario asked Toad, frowning in disbelief as the small toadstool recounted his vision to Mario. Toad nodded, bowing his head in sorrow.
"I couldn't do anything to save her," he sniffed. "That man just took her. I've never seen anything like it. Not even Bowser has the power to spirit someone away like that. If he had, he wouldn't have had to stage such large-scale battles to storm the castle. This is something beyond my realm of understanding, Mario."
"Mine too," Mario sighed. "Luigi... I wish you could tell me what happened... and how... how you came to be like this." He fought hard to keep tears from welling up in his eyes as he gazed at the painful sight of his stricken brother. "I can't believe this is happening. It's always been the two of us. I can't believe he's actually gone."
"He's not really. Not yet, anyway," came a voice behind them. They spun around to see a tall, wrinkled old toadstool standing behind them. "I can revive him, but it will take some time. The magic that was used on him is very potent indeed."
"Elder Toad!" Toad cried, his face lighting up at once. "You've come to help!"
"I have," the old toadstool replied. "Toad, if you would, leave me alone with Mario for a bit. The people need calming down, and I need to ask you to give everyone word of what's happened. Tell them that our princess has been taken by a very powerful enemy, but Mario is going to bring her back."
"I will!" Toad replied, running to the door as fast as his stubby legs would carry him. "Leave it to me! Good luck, Mario!" He slammed the door shut behind him, and he raced down the hall to ring the announcement bell in the tower.
"Now then, let's get started," the old one began, studying Mario after stealing a quick glance at Luigi. "I suspect you have some questions, and I'll do my best to answer them, but we must be quick; Vaati will not wait for me to fill you in on all the details."
"What just... I mean... who are... who are you?" Mario stuttered, too confused to concentrate on any one question for long. "And who is Vaati? Is that the name of the one who did this to my brother and took Peach away?"
"I am the Elder Toad," the old toadstool replied. "I am called that because of all the toadstools, I am the oldest and wisest. I know more about existence than even you do, I would wager. I rarely venture out of my dwelling outside the palace, but I can't remain a recluse today – not after what has transpired. That will suffice for now. As for Vaati, yes, he is the enemy you seek. He is the one who did all this, and I fear his purpose has placed not only Peach in grave danger, but all the rest of us as well."
"What does he want with her?" Mario continued. "And how did he just appear and vanish like he did?"
"He wants to use her, along with two other people of great power, to create the ultimate magical spell – one which will grant him immortality, eternal youth, and an unlimited supply of magical power. It's the golden fleece of sorcery, and up until now, no one has been able to uncover its secret. But Vaati has, and it is a dark, wicked bit of magic, to say the least. It will cost the lives of all three of his prisoners, most likely, to fuel such a spell. But that will only be the beginning. What he intends to do after that, will most likely be to conquer all realms of existence. You see, Mario, the Mushroom Kingdom exists in what is known as a realm – a plane of existence. There are many of these realms, all of which can be thought of as sheets of paper in a book. If you lift one of the sheets, you can see the next one. It is also possible, if you know the right magic, to 'lift' one realm away and travel to another, with a relatively simple spell. When Vaati learned this spell, it may very well have doomed us all. And that answers your second question. When he disappeared, he had transported himself and our princess into another realm."
"How many of these realms are there?" Mario asked him.
"Countless. At least millions, I'd say," the Elder Toad replied. "No one knows for sure – not even Vaati, no doubt. He could go from one to another for all eternity and conquer them all at his leisure."
"That's terrible!" Mario gasped. "How will we know where to go to find him?"
"As to that, I have a bit of insider information. Vaati may be a gifted sorcerer, but he's impatient. The places he intends to grace with his vile presence are all relatively close together, in realm travel terms, that is. I know exactly where he intends to go to capture his other two powers, and that will give us one edge, at least."
"How do you know that?"
"Even if I had time to tell you, I probably wouldn't," the Elder Toad laughed. "It wouldn't make sense to you even if I did. But for now, let's forget that. Time is of the essence. If you want to challenge Vaati, you'll need a way to fight him. His magic is all but impenetrable, and he has many ways of defending himself, most of which I cannot counter. But we do have a secret weapon here in the Mushroom Kingdom that none but me has known about, until now. I think it's time to use it. I want you to take this, Mario."
He handed Mario what appeared to be a scabbard, which contained a sword. It was a very common-looking, unremarkable scabbard, and Mario held it out in front of him, very much nonplussed.
"Er... a sword?" Mario asked him. "You're going to have me fight a sorcerer with this shabby-looking sword? But I don't even know how to fight with a sword!"
"This is no ordinary sword," the Elder Toad replied, smiling in faint amusement. "I've imbued this sword with the most powerful magic I have, along with ancient teachings long-forgotten in most of our race. It is the most incredible power-up item in the entire kingdom. It will transform you more dramatically than any other."
"Power-up?" Mario replied dubiously, holding up the scabbard and scrutinizing it. "You mean like a super mushroom or a fire flower?"
"Exactly. You may not be aware of this, but those items are imbued with magic themselves. They are natural manifestations of the magic that exists in our kingdom, and since the ancients created them long ago, they have flourished and sprouted up regularly in the wilds and habitations alike. This object is no different in origin than the first power-ups created by the ancients. The only difference is that when they created theirs, they allowed nature to nurture their creations and set them free. I've created only one, and it is meant for one purpose – to create a permanent, powerful transformation, the magnitude of which should be enough to handle any danger I could think of. I don't know if it'll be enough to face Vaati, but it's the most I can give you, and I think you'll use it well. The moment you draw the sword from its sheath, you'll be transformed into Ninja Mario, and you'll know all the secret ninjutsu and techniques of our race. Not only will you be able to 'fight with a sword,' but you'll also be a master of ninjutsu techniques. You'll know how to blend with the darkness and creep up on your enemies with all the stealth and care of a ghost."
"That's amazing!" Mario gasped. "All that's inside this sword? And... and you say the change is permanent?" he asked, frowning suddenly as what that meant hit him all at once. "Does that mean that, once I go through with it, I can never go back?"
"Unfortunately, yes," the Elder Toad replied. "With one exception. The sword holds the key to your transformation. If the sword should break, you'll go back to normal. But if the sword should break... well, we won't worry about that now. Let's just say that it would be bad to break the sword. You would remain Ninja Mario for a good long while; that's certain enough."
Mario sighed. "If Luigi wasn't even able to put a dent in this guy, I might just need some kind of power-up to succeed. I'll do it," he decided, staring resolutely at the sword and setting his jaw. "I have to. I won't take any chances with Peach. I have to get her back."
"I'm glad to hear it," the Elder Toad sighed. "Let's not waste time. Draw the sword, and let the transformation begin."
Mario nodded, and he stepped back a few paces. Gripping the sword by its hilt, he grasped the scabbard and tensed his muscles. In a quick motion, he slid off the scabbard and flung it aside. The white, tempered blade immediately began to glow, and within seconds, Mario could feel its power pulsing and actually physically causing the blade to quiver in his hand. He held it up in front of him and stared at it in wonder, and slowly but surely, he began to feel an odd sensation of awareness creep over him. His senses had begun to heighten; he could see things more clearly, hear things more clearly, and taste and smell and touch just as acutely as his other heightened senses. It was as though his alertness and clarity had all been raised to an almost superhuman level. He felt as though he could hear the very trees sigh if he chose to.
Then came the knowledge. It was the most incredible sensation he had ever experienced. Memories came flooding into his mind – memories of training in savage woodlands and arid deserts and canyons. He somehow remembered learning a veritable list of techniques and strengths from an unknown source. It was odd because, although his common sense told him that he had never actually been to any such training sessions, the products were there just the same. He knew exactly how to disappear without a trace, to subdue his enemies subtly and quietly, and to use stealth and cover to aid his victory. It was all there, so clear and so simple, all in his head. He looked down at his hands, and it was then that he realized that his clothes had changed as well. He was no longer wearing his usual plumber's coveralls and cotton shirt. He wore instead a dark, form-fitting ninja gi, complete with face mask and hidden item compartments. The only things of his previous garments that remained were his gloves and his boots. The white gloves stood out in stark contrast to the darkness of the rest of his clothing, but for some reason, he was glad they were there. It helped to remind him that he hadn't quite lost himself completely.
The sword had disappeared from his hands, and it had retreated to the inside of the scabbard, which was now tied to his back. Mario reached up and grasped the sword hilt, and with a swift, liquid motion, he drew out the sword and performed a couple of quick thrusts and slices in the air, until he was satisfied that the blade was light, easy to handle, and nice and sharp, just as he liked it, although he couldn't remember why.
"Ninja Mario," the Elder Toad interrupted him, his voice relieved but impatient, "are you ready to begin your task?"
Mario sheathed his sword, and he nodded. "I'm ready. Just tell me what to do, and I'll chase him down through the very depths of Hell, if need be." He started then, because the voice he heard was not his own. He stared in surprise at the Elder Toad, who smiled at him in understanding.
"One of the by-products of the transformation," he explained. "Your voice has changed, it seems, but you are still Mario, no matter what you sound like. In any event, let's hope it doesn't come to chasing Vaati through the depths of Hell, as you claim. Now, first of all, take these. They will help you on your quest." The Elder Toad handed him a small knapsack, which Mario accepted and looped over the opposite shoulder from the one about which his sword was tethered. "In that you will find four more power-up items – a super mushroom, a fire flower, a power star, and a tanooki leaf. I'm afraid that they're all I could gather on such short notice. But they will help you, no doubt. Bear in mind that since your current transformation is permanent, using one of these will not make it go away. Rather, they will transform you into a combination of your ninja transformation and the transformation you would normally undergo. For example, the mushroom would make you grow, the tanooki leaf would let you fly, and the fire flower would give you fire power, etc. All of these abilities would be usable along with your ninja ones, so use them all to your advantage. Stealth and cunning are your masters now, and you would do well not to forget that, regardless of which power-up you choose to use."
"I won't," Mario replied. "What do I do now?"
"First, look at this. This is what your enemy looks like. He can change his appearance, but he is not wont to do so, as he is rather vain about his looks. Study it well." The Elder Toad gave Mario a small photograph of Vaati. How he had gotten the picture of the violet-skinned sorcerer, Mario didn't know, but he had a feeling that even if he asked him, the Elder Toad wouldn't tell him anyway. He studied it for a brief period, then handed it back.
"I'll keep my eyes open for him," he promised.
"Good. Then I'll transport you to your first destination. Vaati is heading for the realm of Hyrule next. He intends to take the royal power from Hyrule Castle – Princess Zelda. He cannot be allowed to succeed. If he does, it will be that much harder to keep him from his goal. Your mission is to stop him at all costs. Don't worry about getting him to tell you where he's keeping Peach. We can figure that out later, and it'll be much easier if he's dead. You have to kill him, Mario. There is no other way. As long as Vaati lives, he'll be a threat to every realm in existence, as well as our fair princess. If not for her sake, we must destroy him for the sake of all living things! And finally, make sure to keep your sword close-by. It will provide you with a direct link to me, and if you have need of my wisdom, you need only unsheathe the sword and ask."
"I understand," Mario replied, nodding gravely, "and I'm ready. No matter what happens, I will not lose!"
"Then I will send you forth, and may the gods watch over you. Momentus impendium... Hyrule!" the Elder Toad shouted, waving one of his hands in a strange, figure-eight motion.
All at once Mario could feel himself floating, and his vision became blurred. The echo of the Elder Toad's magical command rung in his ears as he was embraced by a cold, oppressive darkness. The adventure of Ninja Mario had begun!
Last edited by Shuko; 13th October 2007 at 03:56 PM.
8th October 2007, 03:52 PM #2
Addicted to Shinies
Chapter 2: A Link to the Future
Mario landed gently on a mossy bit of ground after what seemed to him to be only seconds. He didn’t feel overly weary, but he had the uncanny feeling that he had somehow completed a very long journey, even if it had only spanned less than a minute. He breathed a sigh of relief – it would take him a while to get used to the concept of magic – and he immediately began to study his surroundings.
He was standing on the edge of a wide dirt road that looked as though it had seen years and years of use. Individual tracks had long since been stamped too much into the hard-packed dirt, and they were no longer discernible. It didn’t even kick up any dust as a rabbit, having not yet noticed Mario, hopped out onto it and scratched behind an ear.
Both edges of the road were lined with thick bushes and grasses, and beyond these were dense expanses of forest. It was a bright, cheery summer day, and birds were singing in the trees. Realizing that no one seemed to be around, Mario drew out the sword from its sheath. The glint of sunlight off the blade caught the rabbit’s attention, and he fled into the scrub on the other side of the road. Mario’s face pulled into a grim scowl. Some stealth that had been.
"Elder," he said softly. "Can you hear me?"
"Quite clearly," came a response just as quietly. "It appears that you’ve arrived just a few miles outside of Hyrule Castle Town. If you head in the direction of their sun, you should see the town after you cross over only a couple of small foothills. At moderate speed, the trip should take you about ten minutes. Once you get to the town, you’ll most likely want to head for Hyrule Castle. That is the home of princess Zelda, and subsequently, that is the place where Vaati is most likely to strike."
"Shh!" Mario interjected suddenly. "Someone’s coming!" He quickly sheathed his sword and crept silently and out of sight into a large clump of bushes nearby.
He waited silently for about a minute and a half before the source of his urgent need for concealment revealed itself. It was a man, or it appeared to be one, judging from his apparent size and shape. He had turned the corner in the path twenty or thirty yards away, and was making his way towards where Mario had arrived only minutes before. Mario studied him intently. He could afford to miss no details, no matter how ineffectual or mundane they might be.
The man was old, but he was strikingly similar to Mario – robust and somewhat short, but with a hearty black mustache and thick, curly black hair. His hair did, however, have a little grey in it, but it didn’t show all that much. Mario was surprised to notice that the man had apparently been injured on his right leg – most likely in the calf region – and was walking with a heavy limp. His legging and boot on that side were both soaked with blood. Although Mario couldn’t see the wound from this angle, it was apparent that it was still bleeding freely, as he was leaving bloody prints in the dirt road behind him. Although he carried a sword, he seemed to be using it more as a walking stick than a weapon. Just the same, he was constantly looking in all directions, as though he expected some hidden foe to leap out at him and attack him at any moment. It suddenly occurred to Mario that maybe he had had dealings with Vaati. In any event, Mario’s sense of compassion couldn’t help but wonder if there was something he might be able to do for the man. If nothing else, he could offer to take him to that Hyrule Castle Town for medical attention. He was going there anyway. But then again, the man was heading away from the town. There might be something else to this.
I’ve got to chance it, he decided. He just might know something of Vaati. I can spare a couple of moments to determine what can be done about him. If luck was with him, it wouldn’t take long. Tensing in case the man should attack in surprise, Mario hopped out of the bushes and stood in the path before the man.
"Excuse me," he said, hailing the man and holding up his hands in a gesture to mean he meant him no harm. "I noticed that you’ve been wounded. Do you need help, old man?"
The man did indeed jump in surprise, and he raised his sword defensively. But when Mario made no motion to counter it, he laughed and lowered his blade. He studied Mario curiously and silently for a few moments, but then he shook his head. "My problems, though likely more grave than I can bear, are no concern of yours, kind stranger. In fact, there is someone very dangerous following me, and I’d very much like it if he didn’t find you here too. Pray, take my advice and get as far away from me as possible."
"Dangerous?" Mario prodded him. "But you’re injured! Surely you can’t hope to defend yourself like that? You should let me take you to Hyrule Castle Town. They have physicians who could mend your wound, don’t they?"
"It’s no use doing that!" he growled, waving at Mario in dismissal. "I’ve just come from there. I chose to leave Town so as to draw him away from it. The one pursuing me is my nephew, Link. I am Smith, the kingdom’s finest blacksmith. And if I can’t protect one measly town from my bewitched nephew, then I’m not worth a pile of Octorok dung."
"Bewitched?" Mario asked, suddenly very interested indeed. "How so? And by whom?"
"We don’t have time for this," Smith groaned with an exasperated sigh, "but since you don’t seem like the type to let this go, I’ll make it quick. As I said, my nephew is Link. Surely you’ve heard the name before? He’s made quite a name for himself, becoming the hero of Hyrule and all, what with defeating the evil wizard Ganondorf. In any event, that foul sorcerer Vaati has bewitched him, and he’s become a rampaging, violent maniac. He hears no reason, and he seeks only death to all living things in his path. I managed to attract his attention before he could kill any of the townsfolk, and I’ve lured him out here where he’ll be less of a threat. I only pray that he’ll come to his senses before I grow too weary to elude him."
"Vaati!" Mario exclaimed, narrowing his eyes angrily. "I should have known. Where is the demon sorcerer now?"
"What is he to you?" the man returned, eying Mario distrustfully. "He only just appeared in Hyrule Castle this morning. None knew of his existence before then, and yet you seem well aware of him. How could that be?"
"I’ve come a very long way to defeat Vaati," Mario explained, balling his hands into fists. "He’s taken away someone very dear to me. He is my mortal enemy, and I have come to this land to destroy him."
"In that case, I’d be only too glad to help you find him," the man sighed, resting on his sword. "However, there is the matter of my nephew that I must deal with first. I’m sorry. All I can say is that if he’s still here, he’ll be somewhere in Hyrule Castle. He appeared there while the king was holding a celebratory feast in Link’s honor over his recent victory. There was a loud explosion outside the castle, and I went with many of the king’s guards to investigate, leaving Link and only a few guards to guard Zelda and the king. We went outside only to find that we had been tricked. As soon as we left the castle, we found ourselves unable to enter again, by some manner of evil sorcery. Minutes later, my nephew came barreling out of the place, crazed out of his mind by that wizard’s spell. He gravely wounded one of the guards, and I managed to attract his attention by taunting him and running. He wounded me with his boomerang just as I entered the woods. He could be anywhere now. I haven’t seen or heard him for quite some time, and it makes me very uneasy indeed."
Mario held up his hand for silence. He was almost certain he had heard a rustling in the bushes no more than ten yards up the path from where Smith had just come. Smith shot him a look of fearful inquiry, and Mario darted his eyes in the direction of the sound. "We’re not alone; that’s certain," he whispered to Smith. "Whether it’s your nephew or something else, it chooses to remain hidden, and that causes me to distrust its intentions. I say again, you’re in no condition to defend yourself. Let me handle this, whatever it is. If it is your nephew, I’ll try and find a way to break the spell without harming him. I’m sure that’s yet another reason why you made him leave the guards, is it not? In any event, I’m hoping that he might be able to tell me more about what happened with Vaati. I’ll need all the information I can get before I take the sorcerer on."
"I’m warning you; he’s very skilled with a sword," Smith responded, his whispered voice sounding desperate. "And he has other weapons besides. You’ll be hard pressed to keep him from killing you, whether you try to keep him unharmed or not. In all of Hyrule, there is none to match him in swordplay, regardless of his young age."
"Don’t worry," Mario assured him. "I’m no slouch with a sword myself. And I won’t hurt him, either. Let me try."
"Oh, very well," Smith sighed, shaking his head. "I suppose I have no choice. I’ll have to trust you, stranger."
The bushes rustled again. This time, Mario was able to discern a pair of eyes, glowing blood-red, glaring at him with no small degree of malice. He could tell an attack was imminent. He tensed.
"Get ready," he warned Smith. "When I give you the signal, jump into those bushes behind me. The less he sees of you, the better. I want him focused on me."
"Understood. Good luck, stranger."
The moment the figure clad in green leapt from the bushes, Mario had been ready for him. "Now!" he hissed, shoving Smith into the bushes and drawing his sword. Smith landed with a grunt under the cover of the dense grass at the base of a wide tree, and he didn’t move. It was all in Mario’s hands now.
"Graaaggh!" came a high-pitched scream from the small, blonde boy who charged at them, brandishing a sword held high over his head. In less than a second he was upon Mario, and he brought the sword down with a "shing" sound.
"This kid is fast!" Mario thought as he barely had time to nimbly dodge away from the stroke, and the sword sunk deeply into the hard dirt road. As the boy struggled to yank his sword free of the dense-packed earth, Mario took the opportunity to size him up.
He was blonde, fair-skinned, and couldn’t possibly have been more than thirteen or fourteen by Mario’s reckoning. He wore a long, green cap that swished behind him as he ran, and his knee-length tunic was of the same color. He wore tall, leather boots that flipped over at the tops, and he wore tight leggings within those. The ensemble was complete with heavily armored leather gloves, and a leather belt to match, complete with brass buckle in the center. He had a shield attached to his back, along with a scabbard for his sword, and like Mario, he carried a knapsack, although his was attached to his belt, and it was positively bulging. Mario wondered what sort of devilry was contained within it, but he didn’t have much time to consider it, as Link had just dislodged his sword and was glaring at him with nothing less than hatred. Howling and snarling like a wild beast, he lunged at Mario, who instantly drew his sword and began to parry Link’s blows.
It only took seconds for Mario to realize that the old man had been right. Despite this kid’s apparent age, he was a regular whiz at swordplay. His feet were nimble and his reflexes superb, and Mario was hard-pressed to keep ahead of his lightning-fast blows. He realized immediately that this sort of fight would never be resolved quickly enough for his liking, nor would it be won without a great cost in effort. It was time to use his ninja instincts.
He leapt into the air and snatched an item out of the hidden compartment on his left leg. He had grabbed a spore bomb, one of the items created by toadstool ninjas throughout the ages, and it was very useful for getting out of tight spots. Without thinking about how he even knew what to do with it, Mario tossed it to the ground and dashed away. That’ll slow you down for a few seconds, he thought grimly. I need to figure out what to do to break this spell. As Link began to gag and cough in the cloud of smoke his spore bomb had produced, Mario took the opportunity to leap into a nearby tree and study his adversary some more.
I can’t fight this kid directly, he thought anxiously. He’s too fast and skilled with a sword for me to beat him at swordplay. I need to set a trap for him.
A breeze had picked up, and the smoke was beginning to move away from Link. Coughing and spluttering, he staggered out of the miasma and began to glare this way and that, searching in vain for his foe. It was then that Mario noticed the crest on his hat. It was golden, and seemed to hold a large, ruby-colored stone at its focal point in the very center of Link’s forehead. For a few seconds, a vague sense of recollection stirred within Mario, and all at once, he remembered the photo that the Elder Toad had shown him. "Hey! I’ve seen one of those before!" he gasped. "Vaati’s cap had a crest just like that! But that must mean..." He didn’t get a chance to finish his thought, however. The remnants of his spore bomb had drifted over to the bushes where Smith had been hiding, and it had caused the old man to begin coughing loudly and rubbing his eyes from the irritants in the smoke.
Even before Link had heard Smith’s first cough, Mario was already down the tree and racing for the boy. "Damn him," he growled under his breath, as Link began to make a beeline for the bushes. "Hey dummy! Over here!" he called to Link. The kid screeched to a halt just beyond the reach of the bushes, and he turned to see Mario, just in time for Mario to hit him with a jarring kick to the side of his head, sending him flying away from the bushes.
"Hey!" roared Smith, leaping out of the bushes. "Not so rough, dammit!"
"Look carefully at his hat, old man," Mario ordered, ignoring his protests. "Look at the crest with the red jewel. Has Link ever worn that before?"
"What? Why... no! I’ve certainly never seen it. Link doesn’t have anything that expensive!"
"I thought so," Mario replied confidently. He was just in time to meet Link’s sword with his as Link had righted himself and flung himself at Mario, howling in rage. "This crest... must be the key... to Vaati’s spell!" he shouted as he and Link exchanged blows. "I have to destroy it!" He paused for only a moment, and he got quite a scare as Link sliced at his arm in an effort to sever it at the shoulder, coming within a hair’s breadth his mark. "Whoa, that was too close!" Mario gasped, dodging and leaping away from him. "You wanna play rough? Then let’s dance, little runt!" He tossed a second spore bomb to the ground, and this time he didn’t hesitate. He made a mad dash for the bushes where Smith had been hiding, and, grabbing him about the waist, he none-too-gently hoisted him over his shoulder and leapt up into a nearby tree with him in tow. He clamped a hand down over his mouth to prevent him from saying anything, and as he sat him down on a thick, sturdy branch that was well-hidden from the ground, he met Smith’s indignant, glaring eyes with a silent finger pressed to his lips.
"Stay here. I don’t want him going after you again," Mario whispered, turning one eye to the ground, where Link had come tearing out of the spore cloud, looking mad enough to split the world in two if he’d had the power.
"Take it easy on me, stranger," Smith hissed at him, his face contorted in apparent pain. "I’m no child’s doll, you know."
"Sorry," Mario replied with a grin, "but it beats being cut into ribbons by that kid’s sword, doesn’t it? Be done in a minute." Without offering Smith a chance to reply, Mario leapt to the nearest tree, and then to the another one in the same direction. He leapt to one more tree after another, until he had come to a position that suited his purpose. He hopped rather noisily down out of the tree, and after hesitating for a moment – long enough to allow Link to see where he was, he took off at full speed toward Link.
The moment Link saw him, he began running full-speed to meet him. However, just before they were to clash, Mario darted to one side and sprinted away. Snarling, Link whirled around and gave chase again. Mario turned just as suddenly as before and charged at him again. And yet again, just before they met, he spun on his heel and darted away, leaving Link very confused, frustrated, and immensely angry. Link howled furiously, running after Mario with all the speed his tiny legs could muster.
Having stopped a full two dozen yards ahead of Link, Mario turned to face him, and this time he drew his sword. This only made Link charge even faster. The timing was critical. Mario would only get one shot at this. The moment came, and Mario seized it.
With a fierce cry, Mario brought his sword down and sliced through a cord he had tied to a bush beside him. A great snapping of wires could be heard, and suddenly Link was propelled backward from some unseen force, and his hold on his sword broke, sending it flying in the opposite direction. Mario had lunged forward the moment he had sliced the cord. After leaping over the wires he’d set, he dashed after Link and was quickly gaining on him. Timing was of the utmost importance; he had to be right there the moment Link fell, so that he could be upon him and destroy that crest the very moment he hit the earth. Any longer, and the boy would have too much time to react.
Mario’s plan was a good one, and had he been facing an adversary who was unused to wriggling out of tight corners, he would have succeeded. Unfortunately, Mario hadn’t counted on the tenacity of Link. The spry boy had quickly regained his composure, and after jamming a fist into his knapsack, he withdrew an elegantly curved boomerang. Before Mario had a chance to realize what was coming, Link had flung it at him. It was only sheer luck that at the moment he was about to throw, the sun reflected off of Mario’s drawn sword, and the reflection caught Link squarely in the eyes, causing him to miss Mario’s neck by several feet. Just the same, the damage had been done. Mario’s element of surprise had been lost. Link rolled himself over in mid-air, and he landed – cat-like, on all fours – when he hit the ground. Without a moment’s hesitation, he bounded at Mario, howling and snarling.
"Damn!" Mario cursed him, leaping and dodging away from him. Link’s eyes were narrowed into slits and they glowed red with rage. He swiped at Mario as though his fingernails were claws, and his mouth was foaming. He really had been reduced to the mentality of a beast, and it sickened Mario that someone would do this to another person, much less a kid. "Well, without your sword, you are still just a kid," he said grimly. "We’ll do this the hard way then. Prepare yourself!" He gave Link a swift kick to his side, sending him sprawling. He then darted over to one side of the road, and he stood with his back up against a slender tree trunk.
Link leaped to his feet and charged at Mario. As he came, Mario secretly pulled a spool of Mycelia cord – the same substance he’d used to set his previous trap – from one of his hidden compartments. As Link came within nanoseconds of reaching Mario, Mario leapt forward and grabbed onto his tunic. He whirled around and used Link’s own momentum to slam him – back first – into the tree trunk.
"Oof!" Link grunted.
Without giving the boy so much as a flicker of a chance to recover, Mario began to run rapid circles around the tree, tightly binding Link to it with the Mycelia cord. By the time Link had recovered enough to struggle, it was too late. he had been securely bound to the tree trunk by Mario’s handiwork.
Mario let him snarl and froth a bit before he was certain that Link wasn’t going to wiggle free. He trotted over to the tree where he’d hidden Smith, and he helped him down out of it. They walked over to where Mario had tied Link up, and they studied him.
"He’s like a mindless beast," Smith said sadly. "I can’t hope to keep him like this. He’d tear me to shreds. Didn’t you say earlier that you had thought of something to break the spell?"
"Yes, I did. But I wanted you to be here when he came to. It’ll make it easier on him. Here goes!"
In a single, expert stroke, Mario sliced with his katana sword, cutting neatly through the gem in the center of Link’s circlet. Immediately, Link began howling in pain and rage, and the crest began to crumble away. As it did so, a strange, purple glow enveloped Link, and he stopped howling. After the glow had dissipated, he blinked his eyes a few times, and then he gasped and stared at them with surprise, his eyes no longer red, but instead a deep blue.
"What’s going on?" he cried, looking around in amazement. "How did I get here? And who are you?" he added, staring at Mario.
"Thank you stranger," Smith sighed, patting Mario on the shoulder in his gratitude. "At long last, my nephew has returned to normal."
"Good thing," Mario replied. "I’m ready to get some answers from him."
They quickly undid the Mycelia cord, and Mario stowed it in the hidden compartment on his forearm for safekeeping. Link was a little wobbly at first, and Smith made him take a draught of a strange, red liquid he kept in a glass bottle inside his knapsack. That seemed to do the trick, because the boy was all questions after that. For the first minute, all they could get out of him were exclamations of confusion and concern for princess Zelda. In the end, his uncle told Mario to take over the questioning, and Mario gave him a clear-cut, simple question to answer without even so much as introducing himself.
"Were you there when Vaati attacked the castle?" he asked him, watching Link’s expression carefully. "I want to know everything that happened."
"Vaati! That’s right! It’s all coming back!" the kid gasped. "Uncle and the guards had gone to try and figure out what that explosion was that we’d heard. After a couple of moments had passed, Zelda turned all pale, and she said that we were under attack. As soon as she said it, this weird purple guy who called himself Vaati just showed up out of nowhere, and he turned the king and what was left of the guards to stone. I made Zelda stand back behind me, and I told that creep that he was going to have to try harder than that if he wanted the Triforce. He laughed at me. He said he had absolutely no use for beads and trinkets, and that what he’d really come for was princess Zelda. She told me to get out of there; she said I’d be no match for him. I didn’t listen to her. I attacked him anyway, and all I remember is being knocked to the ground by some kind of invisible force from his hands. Next thing I know, I’m here!"
"He may already have her," Mario grumbled, staring at his sword and scowling. "What now?"
"He hasn’t captured her yet," came the Elder Toad’s voice, with a confidence that belied more than just guesswork. "He is still locked in combat with the princess. If you two want to save her, you’ll have to hurry. Her power is dwindling."
"What the?" Link gasped. "Your sword can talk! Wait a minute! Zelda! We have to save her!"
"Come on!" Mario cried. "There’s no time to lose!"
"You’re right!" Smith agreed. "Leave me here. I’ll make my way back to town. What’s important now is that you get to the princess. Don’t worry about me, Link," he added, noting the look of concern on his nephew’s face. "I’ll be fine. Zelda needs you more than I do now."
"Right," Link replied. "Come on, stranger. I hope you can keep up!" In a matter of seconds, Link had taken a pair of odd slippers out of his knapsack and had fastened them to his boots. They had tiny wings at the ankles that seemed to flap as Link ran. Unbelievable though it seemed, they caused him to run even faster than he had when they were fighting.
"Take care, old man," Mario cried before darting off after him. It was a race against time, and Zelda’s time was running out. Would they be able to get there in time to save her? More importantly, if they did get there in time, would they actually be able to defeat Vaati? Hopefully, what they now knew about him would give them an edge. As far as Mario knew, it didn’t seem like enough of an edge to grant him confidence in the slightest. That didn’t matter, though. All that mattered to him was ensuring Peach’s safety, and if that meant conquering insurmountable odds, then by his reputation as a plumber, he was going to do it!
Last edited by Shuko; 8th October 2007 at 05:15 PM.
13th October 2007, 03:55 PM #3
Addicted to Shinies
Chapter 3: Showdown at Hyrule Castle
Few words were spoken as Link and Mario sped through the wilds of the outskirts of Kokiri Forest and out onto the vast Hyrule plains just beyond it. Though Mario didn’t know the country well enough to navigate it expertly, Link did, and they made surprisingly good time. It took them all of about seven minutes to reach the drawbridge at the gates of Hyrule Castle Town. They didn’t even bother checking in with the guards as they went in, either – a fact that caused a bit of turmoil to erupt behind them. All the same, Link and Mario were both very fleet of foot, and any guards who wished to pursue them would have been hard-pressed to do so. As it was, the gate was shorthanded, and they could not leave their posts. They could only sound loud alarum bells, warning the inner portions of the market of approaching danger. As Mario and Link sped through the market, people were gathering up belongings and scurrying into houses. Anyone who might have tarried long enough to see what the fuss was about would only have seen two blurry figures racing through the center of town, and such a person might have wondered why the figures were in such a hurry.
Within only two minutes’ time, Mario and Link had dashed completely out of the limits of the town, and they were on their way through the reserve surrounding the castle. It would take them another couple of minutes to clear it though, as it was very spacious. The king and his knights enjoyed using the large, sparsely forested area for hunting.
"We’re not long now," Link told Mario. They had entered a small wood, and their feet made loud crashing sounds as they scurried through the leaf litter. "The castle is up ahead. We didn’t see any on the way to town, but I’m sure we’ll find some monsters as we make our way to the castle gates."
Mario eyed Link curiously and asked, "Monsters? You have monsters here?"
"What do you mean? Of course we do. Monsters exist all over in Hyrule. They seem to get pretty restless in this area whenever the royal family is in peril, though. They can sense when the powerful magic is dwindling, and it makes them less cautious. You mean to say you didn’t know that?"
"I don’t live in Hyrule," Mario explained as they leapt over a narrow stream and continued through a less wooded patch than before. "But we have monsters where I come from too. It’s odd; they get restless when the princess is in danger too. Now that Vaati has taken her, I’d wager they’re giving her people a rough time."
"He hasn’t taken her yet," Link corrected him. "Or at least, he’d better not have!"
"Not Zelda," Mario replied grimly. "Princess Toadstool. That’s our princess. Vaati abducted her before coming here for Zelda. That’s why I’ve chased him here. I’m going to kill him for what he’s done."
Link stared at Mario in surprise. "I’m sorry!" he exclaimed. "I had no idea! What’s your name, stranger?"
Mario shook his head and smiled. "I’m Mario," he replied with a nod. "And forget about it. There was no time for introductions before. As it is, we need to concentrate on where we’re headed. Do you see what I see?" He pointed to a large, motley group of odd characters that was charging at them across the plain.
"Monsters!" Link cried, drawing his sword, but not slowing his pace. "Leave this to me, Mario. I can handle these guys!"
"Not going to share?" Mario laughed. "There are over half a dozen of them. At least let me take care of the flying ones."
"All right then," Link replied, nodding. "Those are peahats. Their leaves repel most blades, so aim for the soft underbelly. When I give the signal, jump as high as you can and attack them. Try to land far away from me, though, as I don’t want to cut you instead of the monsters. I’ll take care of the ones on the ground."
"Right," Mario agreed. He studied the oncoming brood of monsters. There were a couple of pig-like, fat, bipedal creatures of some sort, brandishing what appeared to be jagged spears. There were also a pair of red octopus-type creatures, but they had only four legs apiece instead of eight, and they moved speedily along the ground. Additionally, Mario discerned what appeared to be strange spider-like things that hopped great distances and heights. He’d have to be on his guard against those. Finally, he studied his own share of the monsters, and smirked as he saw how sluggish their movements appeared to him, when compared to his own agility. This would be a simple matter. There were three of them, and they were bunched closely together. Each one had four dark-colored leaves that whirled atop a squat mound of flesh, and although they appeared to have no eyes, they definitely moved with a purpose. The leaves were acting as propellers, keeping them aloft. They, along with the rest of the monsters, were taking a direct path toward Link and Mario.
As the two groups approached each other, Mario drew his own sword and held it out at arm’s length beside him as he ran. When they were only paces away from each other, Link gave the signal.
"Now!" he cried. He let out high-pitched battle cry, and Mario leapt high into the air, his sword gleaming brilliantly.
Surprisingly, the monsters’ onslaught was very short lived. In no less than two quick swipes of his blade, Mario had hewn the peahats into halves, and the pieces fell messily to the ground below. Mario glanced in the direction of Link’s voice, and he was amazed at what he saw. Link was whirling around in circles, shouting in fury, and his sword was glowing a brilliant green as it flew around with him, slicing through enemies as it whistled through the air. Link was like a deadly, green, spinning top, and within seconds, all his enemies had been slain.
"Let’s go!" he shouted, waving Mario on. "No time to waste!"
They resumed their flight toward the castle, and Mario stared with unqualified amazement at the young boy that ran alongside him. "That was incredible!" he laughed. "I’ve never seen a technique like that!"
"It’s one of the things I picked up on my quest to defeat Ganondorf," Link replied, grinning at him. "In a way, I owe a lot of my items and abilities to that foul man. Just the same," he added, frowning at Mario, "that technique isn’t something I use all the time. It drains my magical energy, so I save it for emergencies most of the time. We need to save as much time as we can, so I may have to use it again before we reach the castle."
"If we get the time after this is over, I’d like to spar with you," Mario said thoughtfully, glancing at the sky and fighting the urge to smile. "I underestimated you."
"Let’s hope we get the chance," Link replied darkly. "But I’d like that, stranger. I’d like it very much."
They spied another herd of monsters in their path, and they readied their blades. It looked as though they were going to have to leave a trail of bodies behind them as they hurried toward their destination.
The captain of the guard spat angrily. For nearly fifteen minutes he and his men had been pounding at the door to the throne room with the armory’s battering ram, but with no degree of success whatsoever. The doors had been enchanted, and nothing was making so much as a dent in them. There wasn’t a damned thing they could do to help their princess. Just the same, he refused to give up. Part of what had earned him his title as captain of the guard was his indefatigable tenacity. They were going to open these doors if they had to gnaw them open with their own teeth!
He ordered a fresh regiment of men to take over the battering ram, and he joined them at the front. He would not be turned away from his duty, sorcerer or no.
Vaati was thoroughly enjoying himself. Unlike his last target, Princess Zelda was much more adept in the ways of magical combat. Her bloodlines were strong and pure, and the power of the royal family of Hyrule was a force to be reckoned with in any battle. At the beginning, he had been hard pressed to do anything but stave off her attacks. The magic she used was old and powerful, and its nature was nearly exactly the opposite of that of his – a fact that made countering her spells very challenging indeed. However, the situation was different now. She was skilled, but she was young and inexperienced. She had been unable to foresee how much stamina Vaati had at his disposal, and she had overexerted herself at the beginning of battle. Now Vaati had her on the defensive, and it was all she could do to maintain the slowly diminishing protective field she’d set up around herself.
"Do yourself a favor, your highness," Vaati laughed as he increased the strength of his dark energy blasts. "Just give up and come quietly. Your vassal can’t save you; he’s under my orders now, if he even still lives. Your guards will never penetrate my enchantments, and your power is weakening. You can’t expect to hold out like this for long. You’re only delaying the inevitable!"
"Silence, foul demon!" she replied, her voice strained but icily cold. "I shall defend myself, and the power of Hyrule, until my last breath. I shall never submit to one such as you!"
"You have no choice," Vaati chuckled, sending more blasts of dark energy at her and sneering. "You have your share of power, to be true, but even with it, you are still weak. The weak must fall before the strong. That is the way of the universe, and it cannot be changed. I shall triumph, and Hyrule, along with every other realm of existence, will crumble beneath my feet!"
He laughed gleefully, and he shot a powerful beam of energy at her, taking great delight in the pained and exhausted grimaces that it caused on her face as it made contact with her protective field. It wouldn’t be much longer now.
Mario and Link were nearly there. They had dashed through the passageways of the castle, and they were within only seconds of reaching the hallway leading to the throne room. Guards stationed at various points along the way cried aloud in alarm as they sped past, and before long there was a nice mob of guards tailing them through the castle. But neither Link nor Mario paid them any attention. Link could explain things to them later; now was the time to act.
As they skidded around the corner and sprinted up into the hallway, Link let out a cry of dismay as he saw the battering ram. Both he and Mario knew immediately what it meant.
"The door has been sealed," Mario muttered. "I take it that the battering ram means they can’t just unlock it."
"It must be magically sealed," the Elder’s voice replied through Mario’s drawn sword. "Mario, use your sword to attack the door. I’m going to try to break his enchantment by channeling my magic through the sword. Link, when he does that, help him try to break through. This may be a bit jarring."
"Out of the way!" Link hollered as they made their way down the hallway. The captain spun around and nearly dropped his handle on the battering ram. Link had come back!
"Get this battering ram out of the way!" he roared to his troops. "The kid’s back! Let him try the Master Sword!"
It was none too soon. Mario and Link both leaped over the heads of the last two guards as they scrambled to bunch together along one wall, pulling the ram after them. Mario didn’t wait to land on the floor before he grasped the handle of his blade with both hands and rammed it into the center of one of the doors. It made a shower of sparks when it touched the door, and cracks appeared in the wood around his blade.
"I have temporarily broken Vaati’s seal!" the Elder cried. "Break through the door! We may not get another chance!"
"We’ll kick it in together!" Mario cried. "On your mark, kid!"
"Get set," Link cried as they ran back to get a running start.
"Go!" Mario shouted. They ran forward with all their might and then both lunged at the door, Mario leaping into the air with his leg extended in a flying kick, and Link charging head-on with his sword thrust out before him like a lance. With a mighty crash, they smashed through, showering themselves with splinters and chunks of wood, and blowing the entire door inward as it snapped off its hinges. The guards shouted cries of victory and triumph, and they readied themselves to charge in after them.
When Mario and Link had broken through, both Zelda and Vaati were so surprised that, for a moment, they nearly forgot about each other. It didn’t last long, however. Vaati’s beam was still in contact with Zelda’s protective field, and neither one relented, despite the surprise on both their faces. Zelda gasped, and Vaati stared at the two intruders, his mouth agape.
Link and Mario didn’t pause to introduce themselves. As though they were joined at the hip, they both leapt at Vaati, swords raised high. Vaati reacted by creating a protective field around himself. He laughed then, as if their efforts – to attack him, a powerful sorcerer, with nothing more than swords – amused him greatly. As the swords connected with his spherical protective shell, there was a great sound of popping and hissing, as though the magic was boiling and combusting in response to the power within the two blades. Pretending as though he hadn’t noticed, Vaati freed one of his hands from the dark beam of energy with which he continued to barrage Zelda, and he casually waved his freed arm at the open doorway, just in time to seal the guards outside. Although the guards could still see what was happening, they could no longer enter the throne room.
Mario and Link hung suspended in mid-air, their swords still clashing with Vaati’s magic. All at once, Mario’s sword began to glow a bright blue, and a deep, resonating hum began to pulse through it, as well as through Vaati’s magical field. The sword’s tip shone as though it were on fire, and it began to penetrate the protective barrier, but only as far as a couple inches. Surprisingly enough, Link’s sword was holding its own nearly as well. It had taken on a distinctly greenish hue, and Link himself was glowing with a mysterious green power. It seemed there was ample magic latent in his own blade as well. Vaati hadn’t expected this. They were supposed to have bounced back the moment they made contact with his barrier.
"You dare!" he snarled, his eyes flashing spectacularly. "Meddlesome fools! You know not the peril you face!" Scowling at them, he swept his hand through the air in a wide arc, and a dark blast of energy sent them flying away from him. They landed on the floor, Mario on his back, but unarmed, as his sword was still mysteriously lodged within Vaati’s barrier. Link landed atop Mario’s stomach, still clutching the Master Sword in a tightly clenched fist. The pair of would-be heroes writhed in pain on the floor as Vaati’s blast sent waves of cruel, black sparks of energy coursing through their veins. They felt as though their minds would break from the sheer agony.
"These blades of yours are enchanted," Vaati muttered, dodging as he let his barrier dissipate – all the while maintaining his continuous beam of energy aimed at Zelda – and Mario’s sword lurched toward him. It seemed that it only held enough power for a single thrust, as it fell promptly to the floor afterward. Vaati stared down at his assailants, and then he grinned. "If it isn’t the princess’ green defender!" he cried, his face brightening. "What a delightful surprise! And look, your highness! He’s brought a friend with him! How nice of them to join in our fun! It puzzles me that the green one managed to break free of my spell, but no matter. I’m certain I can think of a more lasting enchantment for him this time."
"Link!" Zelda spoke in an anguished, frightened whisper. Her eyes opened wide. She saw what was coming. Vaati grinned fiendishly at her, and what happened next seemed as though it progressed before her eyes in slow motion. Vaati’s free hand began to glow with power, and he aimed it at Link and Mario, who were still reeling from their last encounter. With a laugh that chilled her to the bone, Vaati shot a volley of potent blasts toward the unfortunate heroes.
Just before the blasts were to connect, Mario’s sword rematerialized in its sheath. As soon as it had rejoined him, he began to think more clearly, and he saw the danger that was coming. Forcing his aching limbs into action, he grabbed link by the front of his tunic and made a desperate leap for safety. He bounced back into place almost at once, as though he’d dived headfirst into a brick wall. The round of blasts ricocheted away from him and Link as though repelled by an unseen force. Dazed, he glanced over at Zelda and immediately knew why. One of her hands was controlling the magic she needed to protect herself from Vaati’s beam, and the other was facing them, apparently shielding them as well.
Laughing, Vaati sent a beam identical to his other one crashing down onto Mario’s and Link’s protective barrier. Zelda visibly flinched, and she staggered slightly. It was obvious that this was putting an incredible strain on her.
By now, Link had come to his senses, and he sat up, gazing around blearily. He saw Zelda, who appeared to be in great pain as she tried to maintain her hold on their defenses, and he saw Vaati, who was attacking them all. He knew what had happened.
"No, Zelda!" he shouted, jumping to his feet and pushing against the barrier. "Forget about us! You need to save yourself!"
"Now this is too much," Vaati crowed. "Such idiocy! You can scarcely keep yourself protected, and you insist on dividing your power to protect them as well! But make no mistake, my naïve little princess! You cannot keep me from my victory. I shall claim my spoils, and these two will pay dearly for their insolence! Your time is ended!"
"Don’t be a hero, Zelda!" Mario exclaimed. "You can’t let him take you! He can’t be allowed to win this!"
"Zelda!" Link yelled, his tightly shut eyes streaming with tears. "Zelda, please!"
"I... I can’t..." she stammered, her voice strained and indecisive. "I won’t let him hurt you!"
"We’re done for," Link shouted angrily. "We’ve failed! You can’t keep you and us both from him! You have to choose! Choose for the future of Hyrule!"
"I..." Zelda began again, the indecision clearly visible on her face. She stared first at Vaati, and then at Link. It was plain to see that a great turmoil was taking place inside her.
"There is no decision!" Vaati cried. "There is only defeat! Accept your fate and succumb to my power!"
His words seemed to awaken her resolve. Setting her jaw, she turned and glared at him, her eyes cold and hard. She was not defeated. Not yet. She closed her eyes and began an incantation.
"What’s she doing?" Mario asked Link. "Is she praying?"
"She’s going to use a spell," Link replied. "She must be using it to transport herself away from here. She has no choice; Hyrule can’t survive without a ruler to protect it."
Mario drew his sword. "It looks like the end for us," he told the Elder. "But I’m not giving up without a fight. Do you have any suggestions?"
"Just one," the Elder Toad replied, his voice wavering. "Hold the sword up high as soon as the princess’ barrier leaves you. I will do my best to counter his blast. His magic is far superior to my own though, I’m afraid."
"I will fight him too," Link added, baring his teeth and strapping his shield onto his left arm. "If it’s my time to die, I’m taking him with me!"
"That’s the spirit!" Mario laughed, his voice mirthless but resolute. "For the Mushroom Kingdom!"
"For Hyrule!" Link cried.
"For love!" Zelda shrieked. She sent a powerful burst of energy at Vaati, forcing him to cut off the beam he’d aimed at her and throw up his own barrier in defense. While he did that, Zelda focused her power on Mario and Link, and all at once their barrier began to glow a brilliant shade of pink.
"Grant me my one selfish wish," she commanded through her tears. "Protect the one I love!" She sent a final burst of energy at them, and their barrier flared outward, burning with a bright, white flame. Vaati’s beam made no visible mark on its surface. It was impenetrable.
"Zelda, no!" Link screamed.
But it was too late. Vaati seized his chance, and he shot his final blast of energy at Zelda. She had time only to smile weakly at Link before the dark pulse of energy connected, knocking her to the floor. Slowly, from the place on her side where the blast had connected, she began to turn into stone. She struggled to push herself upright, and she looked once more at Link, who was beating his fists against the barrier, screaming and crying for all he was worth.
"Good-bye, Link. May the Goddesses smile upon you always," she said through tears of pain. Vaati sailed down to the ground, and he grabbed a fistful of her hair, wrenching her face away from them. She cried out in pain as he floated back up into the air, lifting her up with him by only her hair. Her pain didn’t last much longer, however. Within seconds, she had completely succumbed to Vaati’s spell. It was over. She was nothing more than a stone statue, its face etched in agony. She had been defeated. A great tumult was heard beyond the barrier at the door as the guards saw their princess’ new state.
"No!" Link screamed. "Zelda! Zelda, no!"
"At last," Vaati chuckled. "She put up quite a fight. It’s unfortunate; I’ll have to restore some of her strength in order to extract enough power from her. If only she hadn’t been so persistent."
"You monstrous creature!" Link howled. "I’ll never forgive you! You will die with my sword in your gullet!"
"I think not," Vaati laughed in reply. "Your princess’ spell may have protected you from me for now, but when I return to this realm after I’ve become immortal, things will be very different. You receive a stay of execution, for the present, at least. Enjoy your last few days of existence while you can."
He snapped his fingers, and a portal opened behind him. He turned to leave.
"Sorcerer!" Mario snarled at him.
"Hm?" Vaati replied, politely bemused. "Do you have something to say, little worm?"
"Only this," Mario growled. "You may think you have won. But this is far from over. When this barrier disappears, there will be nowhere for you to hide from me, and I will track you down. We will meet again, and when we do, I’ll rip your last breath from your corpse myself. You have my word."
"Ignorant buffoon," Vaati chuckled. "If you really think you can follow me to where I’m going, I welcome you to try. In fact, I’ll even tell you where I’m headed. I’m going to a place called Angel Island. It exists in the land of Mobius. Go ahead and find it if you think you can! I’ll be waiting!" Laughing as though humoring a dotard like Mario was a spectacular joke, he withdrew into his portal, the statue of Zelda in tow. As soon as he had entered, the portal closed with a crackle and a snap.
The barrier on the door slipped away, and so did Zelda’s barrier on Link and Mario. Link dashed to the place where the portal had been, but it was no use. They were gone. Screaming in anguish, Link fell to his knees and beat his fists upon the floor. Mario shook his head sadly.
The captain of the guard came forward and placed a hand on Link’s shoulder.
"We saw everything," he said quietly. "There is no shame for you, Link. You fought bravely, and you are not to blame. The princess made her own decision. We can only do what we can to recover from her loss."
Link just shook his head and let the tears flow unhindered as they dripped onto the cold stonework of the floor. It had been his fault, though. He was supposed to have saved her. He had failed. He would never be able to live with himself for losing her like this.
"What do we do now?" Mario asked, sighing and frowning at his sword. "We have to give chase. Vaati only needs one more royal power before he can complete his spell, and we can’t let that happen. We have to go to Angel Island."
"Indeed. I will transport you there at once. I can channel my magic through the sword and send you there. I only hope that I can manage to transport you to the right time as well as the destination. Realm travel is a tricky business, as it involves not only distance, but time as well. I had the advantage of knowing when to send you here. I’m still not certain what time period Vaati has gone to for Angel Island. I will have to trace the trail his magic left behind."
"You’re going after him?" Link cried, leaping to his feet and dashing over to Mario. "Take me with you! I’ll do anything to beat Vaati and get the princess back!"
Mario stared at him uncertainly. "Well, he is good with a sword," he began, scratching his chin thoughtfully. "And his blade does seem to have a similar effect on Vaati’s magic as yours did, Elder. Perhaps we should take him along. Is that possible?"
"Easily," the Elder responded. "But not advisable. This will be a perilous journey, and there is a chance that, even if we succeed in defeating Vaati, we may not be able to return to this realm again. It all depends on what happens in the battle to come. Do you understand, Link? Even if we succeed, you may not be able to return to Hyrule. Likewise, neither will Zelda. Are you willing to accept the possibility?"
"No," he replied emphatically, "but I’m willing to accept the risk. I will not lose. I can’t. Just the same, though, I’ll face any odds to get my chance."
"I see," the Elder sighed. "Very well then. Grasp Mario’s hand. Whatever you do, do not let go!"
A voice from the doorway caused them to jump. "Wait!" it cried. Mario’s eyes widened, and Link gasped in surprise as they recognized a voice that they hadn’t expected to hear so soon. It was Smith, Link’s uncle. "Wait, Link! Before you go, take these with you!"
"Uncle! How did you get here?" Link cried, accepting the bag his uncle handed him but staring at him in puzzlement. "And so quickly with your wound!"
"I ran into one of your owl friends, and he gave me a lift," Smith laughed. "The guards have filled me in on what’s been going on. I still had some potion on me; I used it to heal myself and then I bought some more for you in town before I came here. I wanted you to take it. I had a feeling you’d be going off on another journey to save Zelda."
"Thank you, Uncle." Link replied. "I’m glad you understand. I have to do this."
"I know you do, boy, and I’m not going to stop you. I just want you to be careful. When I think of what a foolhardy thing I did to promise your mother I’d look out for you, it makes me cringe. But you have to do what you can. We all do. We’ll be hard pressed to keep the monsters out of town while you’re gone, but we’ll manage. Just bring our princess back!"
"I will!" Link cried. "Take care!" He seized Mario’s hand. "I’m ready," he told him. "Let’s go!"
Mario nodded. "We’re ready, Elder," he said. "Anytime you are."
"Momentus impendium... Angel Island!" the Elder Toad cried. A flash of light shot out of the sword and enveloped Mario and Link. Then darkness crept in, and all the sights, sounds, and smells of Hyrule melted away into nothingness. Mario kept a strong hold on both his sword and Link’s hand. He wasn’t sure what was going to be waiting for them when they arrived at Angel Island, but he knew they were going to have to handle things better there than they had in Hyrule. There just had to be some viable way to defeat Vaati!
15th October 2007, 04:42 PM #4
The freeze of ice!
Great! great I love it!
The only thing I would do is make Vaati be the one from Four Swords, I think he looks way cooler. But this is still pretty good
27th October 2007, 08:19 PM #5
I think that banner at the top is stupid.