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 II)

Appearances can be very deceiving to the unsuspecting.  To mistake what looks like a harmless creature can have deadly consequences.  Such is fate for one small family of Mushroom people.  The Goombas marched upon their house, silently closing in from every direction as they ate their evening dinner.

Like most of the denizens in the Mushroom Kingdom, they lived in an oversized fungus for which their country was named.  The interior had been carefully carved out to accommodate their needs, and the walls had been coated with a special salve that helped keep them alive, as well as to prevent them from filling in the wounds.

Rooms were only carved per their need, usually starting with a general living area, and one bedroom.  Because they were an industrious people, not much time was spent inside, with the exceptions of eating and sleeping.  As their needs grew, so too, did the number of rooms.  Because their homes continued to live and grow around them, there was never any worry for lack of space.  Of course, this led to some very interesting natural architecture, for no two homes ever looked the same.

For centuries untold, the Mushroom folk had lived in harmony with their surroundings, integrating with, and showing the greatest respect for, the bounties of their land.  As reward for their due diligence, however intentional or unintentional that it was, their land had given their homes natural camouflage to protect them from their enemies.

Unfortunately, until this day, they had always been able to distinguish the nature of their enemy.  They were hunted as food by the carnivores, until they had learned to hide themselves.  Their homes were eaten by the herbivores, until they learned to coat them with a mixture of mud and dung.  This not only helped their homes to grow and remain healthy, but the smell repelled the creatures that would dine upon them.

Never had they known a species that attacked without provocation.  They had never faced the kind of monster that would kill creatures they deemed to be inferior. And so it was that the first casualties fell in the small community soon to be formally known as Shrooshen, which was home to forty-seven of the Mushroom people.

First came the Goombas, marching mindlessly through the underbrush.  The first fell beneath three of the bug-eyed fungi, to be simultaneously trampled beneath their feet and melted beneath a spray of thick, mucus-like acid.  The latter erupted from thin mouths which opened as they trod over the hapless creature beneath them.  Steam rose into the air from the wounds, and its dying screams soon gurgled as its lungs filled with blood.

Neighbors popped outside to find the source of distress, only to become one themselves when hammers were launched from the shadows around them.  Some hit their mark true, catching the creatures in the torso and face, caving in the point of impact.  An unfortunate young Mushroom curiously peered through a window in time to catch a hammer in the mouth, completely destroying her lower jaw and killing her instantaneously.

Two separate families sprinted through their doors with the hope of escaping into the untamed forest.  Each group drew slowly closer together, each aiming for a large opening in the trees where there appeared to be no sign of their strange attackers.  They only noticed the soft buzzing above them when it was too late.

Three airborne Lakitu swooped in from above, launching crimson orbs into the center of the group.  The first spike covered projectile caught the mother of the first family in the face, to the horror of her children, and she fell to the ground, dead.  Her oldest son, who had recently been awarded for ‘Fastest Runner’, didn’t move fast enough and caught one of the orbs in the chest.  The living weapon thrashed, clawed, and bit its way into the center of the once agile mushroom, who fell near his mother’s body and died choking on his own blood.  His eyes continued to stare into the sky long after the deaths of those around him, unbelieving and forever unknowing of the fate that had befallen him.

None survived the first attack of Bowser’s army.  No hands had been lifted in defense of their homes, or of their lives, and in less than an hour’s time, the Goombas had erased them from existence.