The Morelli Bros. (Chapter II, Part V)

“Luigi, No!”

As his brother lost his footing and fell before the face of the deadly creature, he nearly lost his own as well.  His right foot came down upon the crown of the next and slipped, causing him to fall in that direction.  Even as he felt his weight shift, he tucked his shoulder, put his chin to his chest, and rolled, coming back to his feet a safe distance away.

His heart thundered in his chest, fear replacing the exhilaration that had been there only moments before.  As he kept a cautious eye on the advancing creatures, of which there were still too many, he desperately scanned the area he had last seen his brother.

“Ha-ha,” he yelled as he jumped once more into the air.  It was an effective, if but a little gross, way of travel, but it was quicker then trying to dodge these malevolent things.  One, two, three more were squished as he bounced from one to the next, the last closing the distance between him and Luigi.

The latter was crawling backwards, frantically crab-walking away from three of the bug-eyed mushrooms, with a terrified look in his eyes.

“M-m-m-Mario,” he yelled.  The Goombas were nearly upon him.  The foul smell they emitted, a cross between rotten vegetation and death, permeated his nostrils, choking out his next words.  His legs trembled, and he had run out of room.  Though he continued to scramble away from his approaching doom, something strong prevented him from continuing.

He suddenly found his breath, and what came next was one of the loudest screams to ever pass his lips.  It was born of terror, and it passed through barriers that would normally prevent his vocal cords from climbing so high.  His was a shriek, high and feminine, and for a brief moment, it gave his enemy pause.  Just enough so that his brother, who was standing just behind him, could lift him to his feet, turn him around, and lay one across the side of his face.

The smack brought Luigi back to his senses, and though it stung, he was the opposite of upset.  His brother, ever the level-headed of the two, pulled him towards a small clearing, a place in this meadow of death where the creatures had yet to unleash their deadly slime.

“Are you good,” Mario asked him, his hands on both of Luigi’s shoulders.

“I-I think so,” his brother answered.  “But did you have to smack me?”

“No time for that now,” Mario answered.  “We need to come up with a plan.”

He looked around somberly, and despite being as afraid of the creatures as his brother had so recently displayed, he fought to keep his feelings buried.  He needed to stay focused if they were going to get out of this alive.  Not only out of this situation, but he had to also find some way to rescue the girl.

He briefly scanned the creatures before them.  While, at first, it had looked like they were hopelessly outnumbered, he was able to determine that only a dozen more remained.  They were slow, but determined, and their advance had continued without pause.  There were only moments before the two of them would be embattled once more.

“We have to finish them,” he said breathlessly.

“Mario, I-”

“-can do this,” he finished for Luigi.  “Focus, brother!  There’s no way out of this, unless we work together!”

 

 

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The Morelli Bros. (Chapter II, Part IV)

Deep within the bowels of the fort, where the shadows were cast by molten rivers, and only the most fearsome guardians awaited, was imprisoned a young lady of royal importance.  The fourth child of her family, a princess to the Toadstool name, and a fighter in her own right, she came from a race of people who were very similar in appearance to the two plumbers that had come to her rescue.

She’d barely escaped the initial attack, which had begun several feet above the Royal Palace.  A flying galleon sank beneath the clouds and docked against her father’s balcony.  Rabid Chomps, a rare breed of man-eating plant, that unless chained to the heaviest weight would eat any and everything in their paths, had made short work of her parents.

* * * * * * * * * *

She awakened to the sound of panicked shouts outside of her room.  There were tortured screams coming from every direction; through her window, the walls, in the distance, beneath the hurried cries of those outside, and for a brief moment, she had been disoriented.  As she struggled to free herself from her blanket, two guards burst through the door, each looking worse the wear.

The guard on the right, whose name was Nu’iratha, was covered in blood.  His sword was drawn, but it wasn’t blood that covered the iron.  A brackish ooze, slightly green in tint, dripped from the point of his blade. 

“Your majesty,” he said with a touch of desperation in his voice.  “You must come with me!”

The other guard, whose uniform and weapon had seen less battle, and whose name she recalled as Pou’ic, was frantically glancing over his shoulder, down the hall that led to her parents chambers.  

“You must hurry,” the latter cried.  “They’re coming!”

As she sat up, she swung her legs over the edge of the bed, inserting her feet into her slippers as she’d done a countless number of previous mornings.  The difference between each of those times and this one, was that they weren’t to the sound of battle.

Screams echoed off of the walls, each originating from different points of her ancestral home.  Smoke rose into the air, outside of her window, and bestial roars preceded what could only been the death cries of her people.  Forgetting her modesty, she rose in only her night-gown and rushed to her wardrobe.

“Your majesty, ” Nu’iratha protested, “we don’t have time!”

“We’ll have to make it, then,” she grunted through her teeth.  “It’ll not do, for a princess to be seen in her night-clothes, during battle.”

She grabbed a dress and pulled it over her head, securing it to her waist with an embroidered belt.  From this, she hung a small pouch, the contents of which she always had on hand; an enlarging mushroom, a fire-flower, and a green mushroom, though never used, was supposed to reverse time a short distance, when the need was desperate.

As she was fitting her shoes, the battle came to her door. 

Pou’ic suddenly lunged forward and shoved the other guard into the room.  As he did, he shouted; “Keep her safe!  She may be surviving member of the royal family!” He pulled the door shut behind him, locked it from the outside, and slid the key under the door.  “Love live the Queen,” he shouted heroically.

“Queen,” she mouthed.  

“Worry not, your highness,” Nu’iratha had said.   The others may yet live!

* * * * * * * * * *

She awoke with a start, helpless to contain the yelp that escaped her lips.  She struggled to remember where she had been taken, the memory not as fresh as the one she had just escaped.

The most unexpected sensation she felt was the heat.  Sweat beaded upon her skin, already, and the air was thick with moisture.  Her dress clung to her skin, soaked from perspiration and reeking of fear.  Beneath this was the smell of wet straw.

A single torch lit the room, though its meager light fought hard to push the darkness to the farthest side.  She saw only one door, a mighty steel portcullis, of which there was no way to open from this side.

Defeated, she slumped back into the mound of straw from which she had awoken, and cried.

 

The Morelli Bros. (Chapter II, Part III)

Toad’s legs were like tiny pistons, working tirelessly as they carried him further into the fort’s interior.  Though it was small on the outside, the halls beneath it were many, and it would be several minutes before he reached his destination.

Toad was very different from the majority of his people.  Unlike most, who were happy to integrate into society per norm, he was born with an adventurous spirit. As a child, while his siblings and peers were performing light duties to help their parents, he was exploring dark caverns, or climbing magic vines, just to see where they’d lead him.

When he wasn’t questing, he spent his time running.  Toad was the fastest creature this side of the kingdom, aside from the wild yoshi, but those were so rare that it was hard to find contest in the claim.  He found comfort in the movements that his body made.  The light swing of his arms, the flex and relaxing of the muscles in his legs, the steady intake and release of the air needed to continue, all had become second nature to him.

So in the comfort of running he retreated as the stone walls blurred past him, and he soon took little notice of his surroundings.  He had traversed this path enough times to know the route by heart.  As he ran, he had to occasionally duck under the arms of various slave workers, who were busy with the construction of the interior. He dodged when another of his folk, a youngling by measure, stumbled into a pile of unwound Bob-ombs, the latter whose lifeless eyes seemed to accuse any who looked upon them.

A shiver ran down his spine, sending a chill throughout his body as he expected one of the dangerous orbs to suddenly come to life.  Before he could find out, he was running down another corridor and the scene was long behind him.

He was only stopped once when, ahead of him, a Magikoopa was using its magic to command a small group of Drybones to work.  Four of the undead koopa were tethered to a mighty Thwomp trap, a living block covered in spikes and whose sole purpose was to kill any that cross its path, and were dragging it toward a rope and pulley.  There, it would be taken to the top of the corridor and placed in its hidden alcove, where it would await its victims.

He knew that it wouldn’t be long before even he was unable to pass through here, and his little heart grieved for the prisoner below.  He had yet to see the dreaded King of the Koopas, but if the fear in the eyes of all those around him meant anything, he knew that there was little hope for the girl he was going to prepare for it.

He was close.

There was only one more obstacle before he reached his destination, a retractable bridge that had to be activated near the door to her cell.  He stood at the edge of the chasm, the bottom of which was being filled with molten steel, and motioned to the guard on the other side.

The creature looked very much like the koopas who marched on two legs, only this one’s shell was covered with thick spikes.  In the right light, he thought, it could easily pass for true leader of this army, King Bowser.  It bore a strong resemblance the cruel tyrant, or at least to its descriptions, such as the purpose for which it was created.

It was the guardian of the depths, the keeper of the key, and the last test any intruder would have to pass to gain access to the door it was protecting.  Unlike any other creature, these were created using the blood of the King himself.  The intention had been to protect his bloodline, but the outcome had not been as planned.

These creatures may bear the resemblance of Bowser, but they were nothing like the evil king.  Most lacked the intelligence to speak and acted solely on instinct, attacking any and all creatures they deemed inferior.  While some could only muster enough of their wits to jump on their enemies, others had just enough sense to attack with weapons, or with their legendary fire breath.

Once it had locked into place, Toad slowly crossed the bridge with his eyes pointed to his feet.  To look up was to provoke the guardian, and no magic would protect him from the wrath that would incur.

“Please let me pass, please let me pass,” he chanted with each carefully placed step.  Even though he wore a magic pendant around his neck which allowed him just that, his nerves wouldn’t allow him to pass quietly.

The Bowserling leaned down as he approached, sniffling deeply of his scent and drooling with anticipation.  One misstep and he would be lunch.