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 Chronotomicon

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Envy

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PostSubject: Chronotomicon   Thu Jan 21, 2016 1:47 am

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So (almost) precisely 6 years ago, I got the idea to write a story. For various reasons, I didn't finish it. At the end of 2014, my writing inspiration came back, and some of you know I proceeded to write a fanfic homage to the story that brought that back (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood being the anime version of said story). I don't think people here would be interested in reading that one (for one thing, it is a pretty cruel story, sorry!)  BUT! I came across that old, unfinished fic, and to warm up for writing this new year, I decided to finish it. Because my skills have changed, what was written also got rewritten. It's going to be long, and it will take me a while, but I'll try to post a new chapter each week until I'm close to finishing, and then likely more often.

Chronotomicon is a story that uses and/or references a few original characters, including one that will be a main character. I hope you guys don't mind. Anything I have to say before each chapter, such as this, will be written in quotes, so as to separate it from the actual story. I hope you guys enjoy it. So without further ado...

Prologue


Hearken my words, for they bring the tidings of the nascent year!
The Stars shower their blessings on us,
our fields will swell with life and cheer!
A time of plenty, lacking nothing, all is a plus.
But behold! For in this year, a great event shall take place
And only through its greatness, through good will and trust
Shall a great evil of royal grace
Turn a new leaf and do what is just.



Chapter 1 - All is well?



It was a bright and lovely evening, and everything was right with the world. The Mushroom Castle in Toad Town, home of the King of the Mushrooms and his daughter, Princess Peach, shone and, indeed, almost glittered, in the sunlight. Already, the sun’s rays were starting to take on the rosy hues that preceded the night. It wouldn’t be long before the entire sky would be ablaze with the reds and oranges of a glorious sunset. It was certainly shaping up to be the perfect end to a . perfect day.

In a certain room, in the upper levels of the castle, Peach sat at a table, in front of Mario, who was listening very carefully to her, nodding every so often.

“So that is how we will set up security for the banquet. I don’t think there will be trouble, thank the Stars. The Koopas wouldn’t dare cause trouble with everyone watching. I prefer being safe, especially with Bowser’s track record…”

Mario nodded. No one would ever forget the things Bowser had done throughout the years. He’d kidnapped Princess Peach more times than most cared to count, and there’d been that time when he’d sent his children to steal the magic wands from the kings of the Mushroom Kingdoms. They’d used those wands to turn the Kings into animals, and in the resulting chaos, Princess Peach had been kidnapped yet again. Mario had, of course, chased them down and returned peace to the kingdoms, as he always did, but the pattern was there. Bowser was trouble. The last thing everyone wanted was Bowser causing trouble in such a great event as the one they were planning. It would be the first time in years that all the Kings got together in a single place for a celebration of peace and prosperity.

“We do have a… problem,” Peach said, with a sigh, handing a scroll to Mario.

“What kind of problem?” Mario asked, opening the scroll and reading it. “Let’s see here. The king of the Grasslands… that’s great! And the Desert King, of course… mmhmm. Well! That’ll be impressive for sure! King of the Giants! And also the King of Pipe Maze. Great! He’s always much fun! Oh… I see the problem now. King Koopa and his family.”

Peach nodded.

“But why?” Mario asked. “Surely no one wants him here!”

“It’s for the good of the Kingdom. Oh, Mario, I’m not happy about this at all. But do you remember the royal shaman’s prediction, right?”

“Of course. He said we will have a blessed year, with great harvests, blessed by the Stars.”

“Yes. But I meant what he said after that.”

Mario sighed.

“A great event making a great evil turn over a new leaf. Yeah, I know,” he said.

“This is the greatest event in, well, many years! And the prophecy says that Bowser needs to attend it in order to do the right thing. And we all know the right thing is to stop being evil. And like the prophecy says… he needs to be shown good will and trust. What better way than to invite him to the banquet? He won’t try anything. Not with everyone there.”

It was certainly true that he and his family would be greatly outnumbered. The Mushroom Kings weren’t pushovers, either. They’d been surprised back then, and attacked individually, but if everyone was there together, well, there was safety in numbers. It was a great opportunity for chaos, but as much of a nuisance as Bowser was, he was usually not known for having the most brilliant plans. There was really little risk he’d come up with a plan bright enough to overpower everyone who was going to be there. Still, this complicated matters a lot.

“I still don’t like it,” Mario said.

“Of course not. I don’t like it either. But if there’s a chance we may stop Bowser from continuing to be a problem, don’t you think it’s worth it? I’m sure everyone will agree.”

“Well, yes,” Mario conceded. “I think everyone can agree that Bowser stopping his evil ways would be the best thing that could happen. And I’m sure many, many people have made those wishes to the stars. But it’s never happened.”

“Maybe the Star Spirits are finally granting that wish.”

“Maybe. But I can’t help but worry about you, Princess.”

“I’ll be fine. I have you with me. And Luigi will also be there. I’m sure nothing bad will happen, but even if something does happen, you’ll be right there to rectify things.”

That was true, Mario supposed. He’d already been the hero so many times. What was one more time? If this could lead to Bowser stopping his evil ways, he welcomed it despite the risk. For Peach, he would gladly take the role of the hero again. All was well.

----------------

“Not that way. Thisss way,” a hissing voice whispered in the darkness.

There was a scurrying sound, and then a soft thump. A grey, furry creature stood there, looking rather proud of its graceful jump. Mouser looked at the red, scaly creature that was impatiently waiting for him, six eyes, two from each head, fixed expectantly on him.

“Yeah, yeah. Chill already. I have them here,” Mouser said.

“Hurry, then.”

Man, why couldn’t Triclyde ever take it easy? Mouser took out two flasks from a small bag he was carrying. One of the flasks contained a bubbling red potion, while the other had a bright blue one.

“All we need to do is mix these,” Mouser said. “Then it should take us there.”

“Do it, then,” whispered one of Triclyde’s heads.

Mouser nodded, opening both flasks and very carefully pouring the bright blue potion into the red one. Soft crackling sounds filled the silent night air, and as sparks came out from the mixture, it began to turn purple. Once it was a deep purple, it burst into flames and then became a sickly green color. The flames died out. With a grin, Mouser poured half of the green mixture back into the now-empty flask.

“Just in case!” Mouser chortled.

“Let’sss go, then,” Triclyde’s heads said in unison.

Mouser put one of the flasks back into the bag and grabbed the other one carefully with his right paw. Pulling back his paw for momentum, he threw the flask at the floor. The sound of shattering glass pierced the night, and a sickly green vapor began to erupt from the puddle the potion had left on the floor. The vapor began to take a rectangular shape and then solidified into a door of the same noxious-looking green as the potion and its vapor. Though it seemed to be leading to nowhere, Mouser turned the handle and pushed it open. He walked into it, with Triclyde slithering behind him. They were gone.

---------------------

Night had fallen a while ago, but work always had a way of keeping the matron of the Saint Lewison Orphanage awake for much longer than that. Not only did she have enough work to run the place, but she also had to make sure that all the children were asleep. She had long since given up expecting this to be short and easy work. The children liked to sneak out of bed so that they could steal a few more moments of freedom in order to romp around outside, maybe even catch a cold, but certainly have fun. Some of them just liked to walk, talk or play in the hallways. Or, well, they could always sneak into the kitchen to grab snacks. That was a thing too. Some of the kids, especially the older ones, were prone to bullying the other children about, too. The matron was forever thankful that these instances were much less numerous than they could certainly be.

Much to the relief of the matron, today was pretty quiet. Perhaps, for once, she might actually finish everything earlier than usual. She was certainly not complaining about that. Very quietly, she walked into the dormitory the boys used. She counted them, making sure they weren’t pulling the old trick of using a pillow to fake a child being in bed. Good. They were all there. Still silent, she walked to the dormitory for the girls. She counted the children and sighed. Of course. There was one of them missing. Of course having everyone being in bed already was too good to be true. Fortunately, she knew which child was up, and she wasn’t going to be too hard to find.

All the matron had to do was to walk out to the hall where an old grandfather’s clock was kept. The missing child was there, sitting quietly in front of it, staring at it as though it could share secrets no one else could hear. Her straight blonde hair was slightly unkempt and her brown eyes hardly blinked.

“Eris,” the matron called.

The girl said nothing, but the matron hadn’t expected her to. She knew the child must have heard her, even if she didn’t respond.

“Eris,” the matron called again. “Please, dear, come on. It’s late. You really should be in bed by now.”

Eris still said nothing, and she didn’t even turn to look at the matron. She only continued to stare at the clock.

The matron held out her hand so that Eris could take it and get up. However, the child didn’t move. The matron knew that trying to pick the child up by force would be a terrible choice. She’d likely scream and wake everyone else up. All she could do was to try to persuade her, but it was very difficult. As Eris hadn’t spoken in the years that she’d been here, and she often didn’t react to people, it was hard to be sure when, if ever, Eris actually listened. She seemed to live in a world inside her own little head. The matron could only wonder what kind of trauma had led Eris to behave that way. There had been next to no information about her, and she wasn’t sharing any more.

“Do you want one of your watches?” the matron asked in a sudden stroke of inspiration.

Eris had been abandoned in a temple back when she was an infant, so there really was no available information about her origins. There had been a name, of course, and there had been a small silk pouch. Inside the pouch there was a note, and there were the watches. They were pocket watches with intricate designs on them, and each one had a sort of gemstone “eye”, complete with a slitted pupil. There were seven of them, and each “eye” was one of the colors of the rainbow. The note indicated simply that the watches should never be taken away from her, as they were her birthright and the only possessions she had, mementos of her family. A temple lady had tried taking the pouch with the watches away, but Eris had begun to wail and cry so piteously and loudly, that no one had the heart to take them away anymore. Now in the orphanage, the matron kept them in a safe, mostly to keep them away from the other kids, who might want to bother Eris by taking them. Often enough, she’d temporarily let the girl have one of her watches. This seemed like a great time to offer her one.

Though Eris said nothing, she finally turned towards the matron. Her face had no real emotional expression, but the matron already knew that Eris turning to something meant she had some sort of great interest, even before the child actually showed an emotion.

“Come on, then, dear. If you promise to get right to bed, I’ll give you one of your watches tonight,” the matron said, holding her hand out again.

This time, Eris’s small, pale hand took the matron’s outstretched one, and she stood up. She did not, however, continue looking at the matron’s kind blue eyes.

The matron led Eris into her office. Once there, she walked over to a very old-looking safe. She positioned her body so that it’d hide the combination lock from the little girl as she opened it. It might be true that no one was entirely sure how aware Eris was of her surroundings all the time, but it was best to play it safe. The last thing she needed was for Eris to walk into the office on her own, unlock it, and then take her watches, likely leaving the door open. It would simply not do to have things potentially getting lost, including those watches the little girl treasured. The contents of the safe were not really very valuable and consisted mostly of toys and other such things, but they had plenty of sentimental value for the children they belonged to, who had asked the matron to protect them. She quickly found the silk pouch and took it out, carefully putting its contents on the desk.

“Pick one and you can take it with you tonight,” the matron said.

Eris tried to take all seven of them. The matron placed a gentle hand on the girl’s to stop her.

“No, Eris. Only one.”

Eris settled on the one with a violet gem. Each of the watches had a leather cord that could be used as a sort of necklace, and Eris smiled as she wore it.

“There you go! Do you like that?”

Eris didn’t respond, but continued smiling.

That had to be her version of a yes. What a relief!

“Let’s go to sleep, then, shall we?”

Eris followed the matron back to her room, where she got into bed without any fuss. The matron sighed and made her way to her own room. What a shame, really, that Eris was such an odd child and didn’t speak. The doctors had said there was nothing wrong with her hearing, and that, when she was ready, she would speak. It might just take a shock to get her ready faster, some of them said. That was something she didn’t want to put the girl through, however. Let her stay silent. Eventually she had to come out of her shell. For now, the matron was just happy that she got to sleep sooner than she had expected. All was well.
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PostSubject: Re: Chronotomicon   Tue Jan 26, 2016 1:25 am

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Because I began this month's writing late, I've been having to play catch-up. As a result, I've been writing much faster than I normally would, and that means I'm sitting at chapter 7 on my document. I can afford to post an extra one this week.

Anyways, as a comment on the story itself... originally, Eris was written as a completely different kind of individual. She was to be autistic. I thought it would be a really great challenge back then, but as I have grown to learn more of my strengths and abilities, I have come to the conclusion that, left the way she was, she would be at a disadvantage meta-wise. I could make it work, oh yes. But I took the decision to play more to my strengths. That's the major change I made to the original version. There's a few other changes that I'll describe some other post.

Chapter 2 - When Things Go Wrong

It was a cold, silent night and the stars were shining on a large yard with a rustic playground. There was the sound of a door handle turning, and a sickly-green door materialized in a remote corner of the lawn. Mouser walked out of the door, followed by Triclyde. Mouser took out a small compass from his bag. It gave off a soft glow. The needle spun around for a few times before it pointed to a battered-looking old building in the center of the yard they’d ended up in. Triclyde’s swift eyes took in some of the details, but Mouser didn’t really care. The only thing that mattered was that the compass was pointing towards the building, and that meant that what they sought was inside. They walked towards it and circled it when they got close, trying to find an open window for them to sneak through. However, the only open windows had bars that would prevent large creatures from passing through. What the makers of these safety bars likely didn’t anticipate was that a large serpentine body could certainly slither through, and that’s exactly what Triclyde did.

“Back door,” one of his heads whispered to Mouser, and he immediately disappeared into the building.

Mouser grinned and walked over to the back door to wait for Triclyde. How convenient, really, how so many buildings had an entry point that was quite out of the way from the view of any unsuspecting and curious bystander. Though they had the cover of darkness, Triclyde insisted that it paid to be careful. Mouser might be less prone to careful planning, but he had to agree with the three-headed serpent. The less trouble they caused here, the better. In fact, if they could make a clean getaway, everything would have gone exactly according to plan.

There was a click and the door opened. Mouser went inside as Triclyde watched him and then looked outside to make sure there were no troublesome witnesses. Seemingly satisfied, he carefully closed the door. Amazing how handy those heads could be, really. Mouser took out the compass again and held it out. Its soft glow would wake no one, but it still looked almost intrusive in the dark room. The needle was pointing towards somewhere inside the building, and all they had to do was to move around quietly, exploring the hallways and rooms. It didn’t take them long to reach an office. The compass’s needle moved slightly to point to an old, battered safe, its door carelessly left ajar. Mouser walked over to it, roughly going through the contents. It was just a bunch of worthless junk. No wonder the owner hadn’t bothered to make sure it was locked. His paws found a silk pouch, which he quickly picked up. As he moved it out of the safe to get a better look with the compass’s glow, he noticed that the needle moved to point to it. Yes. This was what they were looking for. He knew already they were watches, much like the ones in Subcon, except these certainly weren’t enchanted in the same way those were. Pretty useless, one might think. Not that they’d be useless for long, though, he thought with a grin. As he put the pouch into his bag, he expected the needle to start turning about wildly again. To his surprise it quickly pointed somewhere towards the front door of the building. Noticing Mouser’s expression, Triclyde looked at the compass, all three of his heads frowning.

“Imposssible. I thought thisss wasss all,” he whispered, his tone of voice clearly mirroring his frustration.

“Yeah, me too. But well, let’s find out what’s missing, then.”

Triclyde nodded and they both began to walk out of the office. Mouser suddenly held out his arm to the side, so as to signal a stop, and then pointed at the compass. The needle was moving in a way that made them think that whatever it was pointing to had to be close.  

---------------------

After the matron had left, Eris had not gone to sleep. She stayed in bed, of course. She wasn’t a troublesome child, and she knew to obey what she had been told to do by an adult in authority. However, she found herself unable to sleep. In order to try to entice herself to sleep, she had wound up the watch she had taken with her and was listening to the soothing sound of its soft ticks. It had been working, too, for a moment. And then, it suddenly wasn’t. Instead, she was gripped with a feeling of dread and the distinct impression that someone was calling her name. Urgently. She sat up in bed, listening carefully. She could just make out a sort of hissing sound. And was that… a voice? Was it the voice that had called her name? She had to find out. She knew she shouldn’t, but that sense of urgency was much stronger than any desire to obey the matron’s orders.

---------------------

Triclyde and Mouser waited by the door of the office in ambush. Eris wasn’t even quite inside when Triclyde struck, faster than any human being (or even mouse) could have done. One of his heads swung up, quickly wrapping itself around the girl’s mouth, preventing her from screaming, and making it difficult enough to even breathe so that she had to stay still. She barely had time to
give out a small, choked gasp. Mouser helped secure her.

“So much for a perfectly clean getaway,” Mouser shrugged. “But I guess it can’t be helped now. What do we do with the little brat?”

“Look at the compasss,” Triclyde’s middle head hissed.

Mouser held it in front of him in order to get a good look. The needle was pointed straight at Eris.

“Well, would you look at that! How convenient! If it’s pointing to the brat, then all we have to do is take it with us. We still get to make a clean enough getaway!” Mouser smirked.

Eris was making muffled sounds, but since she could barely breathe, it was impossible to make a noise loud enough to wake anyone. Triclyde was pushing her out of the room, and as much as she struggled, he was way too strong. It certainly didn’t help that Mouser was helping to keep her still. What they couldn’t secure, however, was her legs. As they made their way out of the office and into a hallway, Eris managed to give a really good kick to a decorative table, sending it crashing to the ground with a loud bang.

“Why, you little…!” Mouser began.

“Hurry! Let’sss go!” Triclyde interrupted.

They still did have to go outside and back to the magic door, which should still be there, if they got there fast enough. Creating another one with the leftover potion was an option, yes, but one that would cost them precious time. The sooner they got this little brat into the door, the better their chances of a close-to-perfect mission.

Those chances became slimmer when they saw the light coming from one of the rooms. They worsened even more when they heard the sound of approaching footsteps. Mouser fumbled with the handle a bit, distracted by looking back to see who was following. He could barely make out the silhouette of a woman as he helped push Eris outside with Triclyde, and slammed the door. There were shrieks, and more lights began to turn on. Worse still, the door was gone. They’d wasted too much time catching the girl, and now whoever saw them was hot on their trail. The little brat’s stunt was about to cost them their success. Quickly, Mouser took out the other flask and tossed it on the ground, behind a slide, awaiting the appearance of a second magic door.

“Oh, forget the clean getaway,” Mouser muttered. Though the door was hidden behind the slide, they’d been seen. It’d be a matter of time before someone followed them through the magic door.

As he opened the magic door and Triclyde slithered through, still holding Eris captive, Mouser took out a bomb. Glancing quickly at the compass, he tossed it as far as he could. The last thing he heard before he closed the door behind him was a number of horrified screams; the last thing he saw was the blazing orange glow of a big fire.

---------------------

Much of the Mushroom World consisted of places that, though very diverse, were full of life. Forests, oceans, jungles, mountains and marshes were only a small fragment of the kinds of places one could visit, and all of them were rich with all sorts of vegetation and fauna. There was even a lively world above the clouds. The deserts, though seemingly much more barren, hid the remnants of ancient civilizations in the pyramids, which now sheltered all sorts of creatures. There was water in some places, too, which brought forth oases and enabled other sorts of civilizations to flourish. And, of course, there was life, although less dense, in the desert itself. There was a single place in the world where this trend did not exist: Dark Land. Living up to its name, Dark Land extended like a scar through an area of the world. It was a mostly barren land, covered in the ashes of volcanoes, filled with bones, lakes of lava, rocks, patrolling tanks, warships, and evil magic that could even reanimate the dead. The land was imposing and hostile, almost frightening. Its ruler was Bowser, King of the Koopas.

He was pacing impatiently in his throne room, glancing at the door every so often. Kamek was most certainly late. The Koopa King was, in his own not-so-humble opinion, very reasonable. He didn’t expect someone he summoned to be there instantly. But when they lived in the same castle, and an hour passed and there was no sign of them, he began to lose his patience. He was going to make sure Kamek knew just how wrong he was for making the King of the Koopas wait.

Not long after, he heard a crash, and the laughter of some children.

“No! No, hey, stop it!” Kamek’s voice was heard. “Listen to me, I’m- wait, no! Not that!”

The voice was interrupted by a splash and another crash, followed by a thud. There was still more laughter.

“Hey, no! Ouch!”

Kamek’s voice was closer. There was the sound of running and a thud. The door to the throne room opened and Kamek went inside, closing the door behind him quickly. The laughter of the children became more distant and soon disappeared. Kamek spent a moment catching his breath, leaning his back on the door.

“I’m here, Your Evilness,” Kamek wheezed.

He was in quite a sorry state, with his robes soaked, a mop protruding from the back of them, a bucket on his head and broken glasses. Bowser raised an eyebrow.

“What happened to you?” Bowser asked.

“Oh, nothing at all, Your Highness. Just… ah… playing… with the children,” Kamek responded, straightening up and removing the mop from behind him.

Bowser suppressed a laugh. Whichever of his eight children had left Kamek in such a sorry state, well, they certainly took after him! Young as they were, soon enough they’d be making their own plans to kidnap Princess Peach. And then, when she was married to him and therefore their step-mother, they could kidnap other maidens for themselves (or a young man, in Wendy’s case). How fast they were growing! He could hardly be more proud of them.

“You’re late!”

“My deepest apologies, Your Grumpiness! I am, however, now at your service!”

“We need to talk. Not here, of course. It’s too open and I don’t want any kind of fool listening behind the wall or door or something. I’ll take the Clown Copter,” Bowser said, stomping away to the back room that led to the tower where he kept his vehicle of choice.

Kamek followed him, and in a few minutes, both koopas were flying away- Bowser in his Clown Copter, and Kamek in a flying broom.

---------------------

“What were you thinking?! Moussser, you fool, you left evidensss back there!” Triclyde’s three heads hissed after the door closed behind them.

“Oh, come on, it’s the only way we could make sure no one would follow!” Mouser retorted, crossing his paws and turning back to see if the door remained closed until it vanished.

Without Mouser to help keep her restrained, Eris saw a chance to attempt another escape. All she needed to do was reach that door and she’d be back where she belonged. She managed to slip away from Triclyde, making a mad dash away from him and towards the door.

“Help me here!” Triclyde yelled.

Mouser reacted quickly, his paw grabbing Eris’s arm to pull her back. Horrified, Eris yelped and struck at his other hand, knocking off the compass that he still held. The artifact went flying and struck the floor hard, shattering and glowing no more.

“You stupid brat! Look what you’ve done! That thing was valuable!” Mouser yelled.

He’d let go of her for a moment, and Eris took the chance to run away from them. All she wanted to do was to get back home, to the orphanage and the matron and the other children. It was, however, impossible to get to the door now, with those two creatures on the way. Still, on the other side, there were some large pipes. If nothing else, she could hide there. They might lead to safety. She made a mad dash towards the closest pipe, with Mouser at her heels. It was only by a split hair that she managed to get into the pipe.

“Darn it!” Mouser growled.

“What are you waiting for? Go after her!” Triclyde commanded.

“What do you mean go after her? Are you out of your mind? We’d never find her! Those pipes are a maze! There’s no telling where they’ll send us! We have most of what we need anyways. It’ll do for now.”

“I sssuppossse we can alwaysss chassse her down later, when we’re in a better posssition,” Triclyde conceded. “She cannot hide forever.”

“You’ll be glad to know that I checked the compass before she broke it. We left nothing back there.”

“Exssselent,” Triclyde grinned. “That makesss our work easssier.”

Mouser opened his bag again. There was one more flask left, this one filled with a red potion. He took it out and tossed it on the ground. There was less smoke than there had been with the green potion, but in the end, the result was the same. A red door stood before them. Mouser opened it and the two of them went inside it.  

---------------------

The matron was trembling as she did her best to explain, through tears, sobs and shock, what she had seen to the officers. The policemen listened politely.

“So you didn’t recognize the intruders?” one of them asked after the matron paused.

“N-no! I didn’t. I’ve never seen them before. They- how did they get in?! The wall around the orphanage is tall, and there’s broken glass on top of it. No one should have been able to climb it! and the door was locked, and the windows have bars in them! How could anyone get in?!” the matron asked, her pleading eyes fixed on the policemen, as though they must have some answer.

“We can’t say anything yet, ma’am. There needs to be an investigation. But don’t you worry. We’ll get to the bottom of this,” the officer replied.

“She was just a child… how could this happen…?”

Everything was still a daze of events, almost as though it was a really terrible nightmare she couldn’t wake up from. She’d heard the noise of something falling down, and when she’d gotten up to investigate, she’d managed to see two (or were there more?) figures leaving through the back door. She hadn’t been able to recognize them, as they seemed to be wearing strange clothes… and then the explosion came. She had amazingly been just far enough to not be hit by anything, but the fire had begun to spread immediately. Her thoughts were only with saving the children, and she’d run to their rooms. Fortunately, the older children were well-educated in evacuation and they were already tending to the little ones and making lines to leave through whichever way was safe. The matron could only think of giving out orders and leading the children out of the burning building, as calmly as possible. Someone had called the fire department, and by the time she was counting children, the firemen had already arrived and were taking care of the fire. she could hardly breathe when she found out there was one missing girl.

She had started to run hysterically towards the building. Of course, the firemen had stopped her.

“No! Let me through! There’s a child in there! Please!” she’d shrieked.

“Ma’am, if there’s anyone still in there, we’ll get them. But we can’t let you through and put you in danger too, ma’am,” she’d been told.

It had taken two people to finally restrain her. However, even after the fire was out, Eris wasn’t found. It was as though she’d vanished into thin air…

---------------------

Despite her terror, Eris didn’t scream. She’d expected the pipe to be able to hide her as she crawled inside, deep enough to stay out of reach from the monstrous mouse and the terrifying giant serpent. What she definitely had not expected was to have the pipe pull her in and send her sliding through it. She was falling, faster than she ever had fallen before, too scared to scream, wondering when, if ever, it would stop. What if she continued falling forever?  No. It couldn’t be. Maybe she’d just wake up instead. This all had to be a terrible nightmare. Giant talking mice and serpents… just didn’t exist. It was impossible, even though they’d seemed so real, even though she still could almost feel the red serpent’s cold scales on her face, and the fur from the mouse’s paws on her arms. It didn’t feel like a dream, nightmare or not. And, of course, there had been that horrifying noise as she’d been pulled through the door. It was the unmistakable sound of an explosion, followed by screams. No, she couldn’t think about that. Everyone was fine. Maybe a bit scared, but fine.

The pipe twisted and turned, and Eris was starting to shiver from the cold, dank atmosphere in them. Suddenly, she felt it become warmer. That temperature change was the only warning she had before she saw a light and then just as suddenly the surface beneath her disappeared and she was sailing through the air. Only then did she scream.
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PostSubject: Re: Chronotomicon   Wed Jan 27, 2016 6:05 pm

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Well, it's Wednesday, so it's when I intend to be posting the chapters, at least. The first three sections of this chapter are also part of what I already had written. However, this was only in my notes and never posted anywhere. In that first version, this is where chapter 2 began. In this re-write, it ended up being chapter 3.

I think my favourite portrayal of Bowser has been in Paper Mario. Particularly the first one. I tried to take that influence in my portrayal of the character. I had much less to go with for Kamek's personality, but I added a sprinkle of Kammy's portrayal in Paper Mario.

I know there's several common fan stereotypes for the personality of several of these characters (like Mario, or Luigi or even Bowser and company), but I've never subscribed to those, so I realize the way I write these characters might not be the most accepted one.

Chapter 3 - Preparations and Discovery

Back at the Mushroom Castle, a group of para-troopas with satchels was lining up. As each of them reached the front of the line, they met with an old mushroom man, by the name of Toadsworth. He gave them each an envelope, which they put on their satchel. After saluting the old mushroom, they’d fly out. Mario, Luigi and Peach were nearby, watching the procession of mailman para-troopas. After the last one of them flew away, Toadsworth turned to the Princess with a small bow.

“That’s all of the invitations sent, Your Majesty,” he said.

“Thank you, Toadsworth,” Princess Peach said.

“May I take my leave, Princess? This old back does tire sooner than it used to.”

“Oh, of course! Thank you very much for your help.”

Toadsworth gave another small bow and left.

“Well. That’s it, then,” Peach said. “That’s all of the invitations. The feast will be held at the start of spring. I suppose we’ll see what happens with the shaman’s prediction then. I do hope everything turns out perfectly.”

“Uh, yeah, Princess, about that,” Luigi said.

“Yes?”

“Listen, I know what the shaman said and all, but, are you sure this is a good idea? Inviting HIM? HERE? There’s so much that could go wrong. Like, uh, you know. Everything?”

“Yes, I know it seems like a terrible idea… but like I told Mario before… if this will give us a chance at peace, I am willing to take a risk. Bowser really is a nuisance, but I don’t think he’d dare to cause trouble when everyone is here and he’s outnumbered. And the prophecy did say that the event would be what allows him to turn over a new leaf.”

“Isn’t there, uh, some other way to give him trust and good will for the event that doesn’t, you know, include an invitation?”

“Well, if there is, it’s too late, I’m afraid. The invitation is sent,” Peach shrugged.

“Relax, bro. You worry too much! We’ll be right here to make sure Bowser and his kids behave,” Mario said.

“But, uh, have you considered something? What if we’re thinking about the prophecy all wrong, and this is not the great event, or he is not the great evil that turns over a new leaf, or trust and good will aren’t to be given in an invitation?” Luigi asked.

“It’s still worth the risk,” Peach replied. “Besides, what other event could it mean? This feast is to celebrate three centuries of peace between the Mushroom Kingdom and the Seven Kingdoms. Everyone will be there.”

She had a point. The event was so big, they were inviting a lot more people than just the seven kings. There hadn’t been a celebration like this in a hundred years. It really was hard to think of some other occasion that was as great.

“And besides,” Mario said. “Other than King Koopa, there are no other great evil forces. There were a couple in recent years, like the Shadow Queen and King Boo, but they’re all defeated now. So it’s pretty much impossible for them to turn over a new leaf.”

Luigi shrugged. He supposed that was true. And well, he and Mario would be there, just in case. What was the worst that could happen?

---------------------

It only took a few seconds for Eris to land. She’d expected to hit a hard floor, and while the surface she hit did feel pretty hard, it wasn’t floor. There was a huge splash and she found herself swimming in cold water. Or, well, trying to swim, anyways. She’d never actually been taught to swim and all she could do was flail her arms and legs wildly. She could barely breathe before she was underwater again, surfacing after a while only to take a small breath before she was underwater again. She caught a glimpse of the shore, desperately trying to push herself to it with her hands and legs. It seemed, however, that she wouldn’t make it, and that every breath she took was smaller than the last. Already, her sight was starting to seem oddly dark and she could barely think. Water had gotten into her eyes and they were stinging and making it hard to see anything. It seemed like an eternity since she’d fallen into the water, and she was starting to feel she wouldn’t make it.

However, just before the last bits of energy and hope gave out, she finally felt something hard beneath her feet. The shore! She waded out of the water, exhausted, and looked back at it. It was a large pond, it seemed. It looked so relatively small and harmless that it was difficult to believe that it had just almost taken her life. Where was she? Too tired to walk around, Eris sat down on the muddy ground. What a strange place this was! The sky was dark, and there was the faint scent of smoke in the air. Not only that, but… were those blocks floating in the air in the distance? And pipes? Wherever she was, she was certain she was nowhere near the orphanage. Things were so strange here, it was almost as though she’d stepped into another world. But that was impossible! And yet, so were giant mice and snakes. Feeling panic starting to well up inside her, all she could do was curl up on the ground, wishing that she’d wake up and find out all this was simply a nightmare. All she wanted was to go home.

---------------------

No one could deny that the King of Koopas was very used to getting his way, and taking whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. What many people didn’t quite seem to realize, was that this didn’t actually leave him without softer feelings. When he was young, old Kamek had been his caretaker. Now, when Bowser was a father, Kamek was the caretaker of his 8 children. You just couldn’t replace someone like that, and even when Kamek’s sister Kammy had practically become his right-hand koopa, Bowser couldn’t help but respect all the wisdom Kamek had obtained during his long service to the Koopa Royal Family. And, despite his utter selfishness, Bowser really appreciated the old magikoopa.

For his part, Kamek listened carefully to what Bowser told him. Afterwards, he seemed thoughtful, pacing back and forth. As much as he’d been aware of this problem, he hadn’t expected Bowser to be this troubled about it. And, well, he wasn’t sure how to really voice what he thought about this, much less in a way that wouldn’t completely dismiss the possibility of a solution.

“Princess Peach, eh…?” he thought out loud.

“Yes! I can’t stand it anymore! Every time I kidnap her, all she does is cry and chant Mario’s name! Mario! What does he have that I don’t?!” Bowser growled. “I need her to see all the great qualities in me! But she’s too busy with that fat, useless, boring plumber! She’s a princess, for crying out loud! She deserves a royal husband!”

“Well, one can’t deny that Mario is a very poor choice for anyone, my lord.”

“I’ve tried to get rid of him, but he’s stubborn and keeps getting away!”

“Well, Your Tenaciousness, while it’s true that ridding yourself of Mario would make Princess Peach stop chanting his name when she’s with you, there’s a small… ah… problem.”

“Yeah? Out with it.”

“Well, my lord, if you are the one to rid the world of that plumber, Princess Peach would forever think of you as the one who took her hero from her. She will never like that.”

“Then what am I supposed to do?! I’ve shown her how strong and smart I am by being able to kidnap her time and time again. But it’s like she doesn’t get it!”

“The Princess is pure of heart,” Kamek said. “To win a pure heart, you must do something pure of heart.”

“My kidnapping her is pure of heart! It’s a really honest, strong desire!”

“Er, of course, my lord. But I mean something more… traditional. Something like… oh, maybe helping out someone who is poor and helpless and changing their life. I’m sure that if she saw you do things like that, she would be much more likely to see the good in you.”

Bowser was thoughtful for a moment. Then he stamped his foot.

“I can do that! I’ll show that princess that Mario’s got nothing I don’t have, and much better than him, at that!” he declared.

“That’s the spirit, Your Greatness!” Kamek nodded emphatically.

---------------------

Because of the exhaustion, Eris had managed to fall asleep, despite how scared she was. Presently, she got up. She was muddy, but no longer so cold. The place she had ended up in was actually pretty warm and it was only the soaked clothes that had made her feel so chilly. Now that she was starting to dry up, she was starting to feel much better. She was so thirsty, that she cupped her hands and dipped them into the pond where she’d fallen. The water looked clean enough to drink, but even if it wasn’t, she was too thirsty to do anything else. And the place she was in didn’t seem like the kind of place that really had lots of water everywhere. It was best to take advantage of it while she had it. She was also hungry, but she had no idea where to even get food. There were hardly any plants around, and none of them looked very healthy to eat anyways. The best thing she could do was wander off in a certain direction and then turn back after a while and come back to the water. Unless, of course, there was another source of water somewhere. That’d be nice. Still, if she just stood here, she’d starve to death.

The pond was in a small valley of sorts, and she had to climb a small hill to get out of it. The way was tricky, however, because the loose earth was slippery. She wasn’t entirely sure all of it was normal earth, either. A lot of it looked like ashes. Maybe they were ashes. And if that was the case, maybe there were volcanoes. That sounded very dangerous. She needed to get away from this place! By the time she finally made it up the hill, not only was she exhausted again, but she had several scrapes and scratches from slipping on her way up. She wasn’t feeling like running off immediately to look for food that was probably not going to be there. She needed to catch her breath.

She sat down again, this time to think while she recovered a bit. Her mind seemed so… empty and lonely and quiet. From the time she could remember, there had always been some sort of… voice inside her head. One that wasn’t hers. It was a man’s voice and he claimed to be her father. He told her stories and he told her many things, and it was a constant presence in her life. For a long time, she’d even talked back to it. And then… she hadn’t. She hadn’t talked since… then. But she didn’t want to think about that. What she was focused on was on the fact that the sweet voice she’d heard since forever was gone, and she didn’t know why. It always seemed to be strongest when she was near the only remnants she had of the family she had lost and never known. But even though she still carried one of the watches, the voice was gone, replaced by a crushing silence that was almost worse than the situation she was in.

---------------------

As Bowser made his way back to the castle in his Clown Copter, he kept an eye out for any poor, wretched person that he could help. He was going to do things right! Starting in his own kingdom only seemed natural to him. Still, he couldn’t find anyone to help. There were normal soldiers and normal people all over, and that dirty pink blob. No one to help… except… wait, a dirty pink blob? At the least, that required more investigation. He stopped his Clown Copter and went back, Kamek following after a bit, realizing Bowser had gone back.

It had been hard to see what the pink blob was from the air, but once he approached it, he could see it was a tiny girl with blonde hair, wearing a pink dress that was so dirty that there were only small bits that still seemed pink. The rest was a mottled brown and black color, possibly from all the ashes and dirt. She was also human, and she was asleep. Well, that was strange. The last census hadn’t indicated any humans were living in Dark Land. Sure, they got a couple as tourists once in a while, but this grubby lump of a child didn’t look at all like a tourist. Unless maybe she was lost. Then he, the great King of the Koopas, could help her and save her life!

“Hey you! Kid!” he called.

The little girl jumped up and, after seeing who was calling, gave out a yelp of what seemed to be fear, but Bowser took to be awe at the mighty king.

“What are you doing here?” Bowser asked.

The gruff voice seemed to scare the child even more and she took a step back.

“Hey you! Stop looking at me like that! I’m going to help you somehow!”

The girl stepped back again.

“Ah, if you please, my lord, let me try to talk to her,” Kamek said.

Bowser crossed his arms and stepped back a bit to let Kamek handle the initial situation.

“What’s your name?” Kamek asked the girl.

Eris couldn’t reply, mostly because after the time she’d spent silent, she couldn’t bring herself to speak anymore. But this guy… he was some kind of strange turtle creature, but he seemed a lot friendlier than the spiky monster that had approached her first. She made an effort to talk, but no voice came out.

“You can’t talk?” Kamek asked.

Eris shook her head.

“Are you lost?”

Eris nodded.

“Do you have a family we can take you to?”

Eris shook her head again.

“A family… at all?”

She shook her head. Kamek turned back to Bowser.

“A lost girl, with no family… I think this is an orphan, my lord.”

“An orphan? That’s great! She can be the first person I help, then! But how does one help an orphan?”

“One usually gives them food, shelter, and preferably finds them a family, my lord.”

“I can give her all three! I hereby adopt this girl. But she needs a name, so while I think of one, I’ll call her Girl!”

Kamek sighed. To be fair, though, the one that had been good at naming kids was Lourdes, Bowser’s ex-wife. When Bowser got to name kids, they ended up with names like Bowser Junior. The old magikoopa really hoped that the girl would eventually be able to tell them their own name before she ended up being Junior the Second or something along those lines.

For her part, Eris was in some shock. This spiky creature? Adopt her? She’d wanted to be adopted for years now, but now that the opportunity presented itself, she wasn’t so sure. For starters, she knew there was a process involved, with the matron signing papers and meeting the parents and probably approving them. She’d seen it several times with some of the youngest kids that had been in the orphanage. Couples would come and meet kids then they’d have several meetings with the matron, and they’d later adopt a child and leave with the child and a bunch of papers. They didn’t just say they were going to adopt a kid. Still, she was lost and he was the only person offering help. She just didn’t know what to do. The matron had always told the kids never to talk to strangers.

Seeing that she didn’t move, Bowser walked over to her and carried her. Eris was so shocked, she yelped, but the giant creature covered her mouth with a finger. He jumped on the Clown Copter.

“Well, I’m not asking, Girl. You’re coming with me. I’m going to adopt you and do a really good deed while at it!” Bowser said as he started the Clown Copter and flew towards his castle.

Kamek stood there for a moment and hit his face with his palm. As good as Bowser’s intentions were, he really needed to refine his social skills.
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PostSubject: Re: Chronotomicon   Sat Jan 30, 2016 3:20 am

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As the month comes to an end, so does my fast-writing period. I mean, I'm also closer to the end of the story, even if not quite there.

This chapter will introduce the Koopalings. I know the personalities I portrayed them with aren't the same ones from the show, but bear with me. Before the show, I had the SMB3 Nintendo Power guide. Those are the personalities I knew them with. That and the manual. When the show came out, not only were the personalities shown different from what I knew, but even the names were changed! My young, change-resistant mind could only accept these new portrayals as an alternate reality with completely different Koopalings. As official sources kind of started giving information that didn't clash with the SMB3 portrayals (but did with the cartoon ones), well, this is what I went with. I did enjoy the cartoon a whole lot, definitely. But SMB3 will forever be, for me, the definitive source. (NO, MIYAMOTO. YOU CANNOT TAKE THIS AWAY FROM ME!!!!)

Chapter 4 - A Family By Any Other Name

Not long after Bowser reached his home, he summoned all eight of his children to introduce them to Eris, or, well, “Girl”, as he called her. Eris was still muddy and scraped and, understandably, none of the Koopalings were impressed at all by her.

“This is Girl, and she’s going to be your new sister… starting now!” Bowser announced.

The only sound heard after that was a “yay!” by Lemmy, who was quickly silenced by the hostilely quiet reaction from his siblings.

“I don’t really care what you guys have to say. Girl is your sister, and that’s that.”

“But she’s a GIRL!” Larry protested. “Why don’t we get another brother instead?”

“You have enough brothers already!” Wendy snapped. “I’m just wondering why it’s a human and not a koopa.”

“What kind of kooky name is Girl, anyways?” Morton asked.

“She looks wimpy,” Roy added.

“Aren’t eight ov us enough?” asked Ludwig.

“He has a point,” Wendy said.

“SILENCE!” roared Bowser. “I have decided to do a very good deed. She’s an orphan and needed saving. So now she’s your sister, and I don’t really care whether you like her or not. You’re going to LEARN to like her. Take her to your rooms and find her a place to sleep in. And you better treat her like your sister!”

There was much grumbling, but Ludwig stepped up and led Eris away from the throne room. Eris had little choice but to follow these strange new… siblings? Normally, she would have felt horror and disbelief at being anywhere near creatures like this. However, with all the shock she’d gone through in such a short time, she wasn’t even able to feel that way. She wondered what would have happened if she hadn’t climbed the hill by the pond, and if she hadn’t returned to rest by the water after finding no food. More importantly, what would have happened to her if she hadn’t been taken here? To be fair, she’d been offered neither food nor water, but at least this was shelter. She’d somehow found her way into a world where monsters were people, and even though she couldn’t bring herself to completely believe it, the idea of somehow waking up from this nightmare seemed slightly less possible. She still hoped.

The Koopalings led their new unwanted sister through several corridors until they came to a hallway with many rooms. There they stopped. After all, though there were many rooms, only the few they used were actually ready for any occupants. This presented a problem when it came to giving this Girl a place to stay.

“I’m not letting her stay with me!” Junior declared. “I don’t like girls! And besides, if you guys try to put her in my room, I’ll tell Dad!”

“No one’s asking you!” snapped Wendy.

“I won’t keep her either. I like to practice with a tennis racket and I bet she’ll cry if the ball hits her by accident,” Larry said.

“Don’t even look at me, either!” Morton grumbled.

“Yeah, and she’s not going with Roy, either,” Iggy said, noticing Roy smirking. “Dad said we’re supposed to take care of her.”

“I’d keep her, but I have nowhere for her to sleep,” Lemmy said.

“Well,” mused Iggy. “There’s always Fluffy’s bed…”

“I don’t like it, but zat is the only really viable option,” Ludwig said. “Fine. Keep zee girl in Fluffy’s bed. Vat vill you do viz Fluffy?”

“Oh, I’m sure she’ll understand,” Iggy shrugged and giggled. “Come on, then, Girl! And you better start sharing your name before Dad gives you one!”

She didn’t like Iggy’s laughter. It wasn’t the kind of laughter that gave one the idea of a stable person. It was more the kind of laughter that gave Eris the idea that Iggy might be dangerous. And he was so tall, too. And his hair! It looked like some kind of… strange alien onion. She didn’t want to go with him, but glancing at the others, she noticed they were looking at her. The dark-scaled one and the one with sunglasses (really! Who wore sunglasses inside a dark castle?!) looked even scarier than the green-haired monster. She followed him. The others went on their own merry ways, presumably to their own rooms.

“We’re going to get along great!” Iggy giggled as he opened the door to his room. He closed it behind them when Eris was safely inside. “My name’s Iggy.”

Eris nodded but still couldn’t bring herself to speak.
“I suppose we need to get your spot ready. We’re actually going to have dinner first, but I’m sure Dad would really not like you going to dinner so filthy. That’s prolly why he told us to take you to your new temporary room first.”

Eris shrugged. She certainly wouldn’t presume to know how a giant spiky turtle man thought.

“Hey Fluffy!” Iggy called.

Fluffy was kind of a cute name. They’d had a cat named Fluffy back at the orphanage: a cute cat with several colors all in a patchwork of sorts. No one had agreed on what name to give the cat based on her markings, so eventually they just named it after the silky, long hair it had. What kind of cute pet would this Iggy person have?

Nothing could have possibly prepared her for the answer. There was a sort of banging sound as a very large, glossy ball that seemed to be made of black metal bounded to Iggy from behind the bed. The large eyes were terrifying enough, but then there were the teeth. Those large razor-sharp… things… seemed like they could pierce through bone as easily as a knife could cut butter. It seemed to be trailing a chain behind, that seemed to be part of the creature. There was not a single bit of fluff anywhere on that thing.

“Hey, Fluffy! I’m going to need to use your bed tonight. For this girl, you see. She’s a special guest! Our new sister! But she doesn’t have a bed, so that’s why she’ll use yours.”

There was a rather unwelcoming growl from Fluffy.

“Oh, come on, Fluffy! It’s only for a few days while we chase out spiders and other things from one of the empty rooms! Then you can have your bed back!”

Fluffy’s growl became louder.

“Come on, now, Fluffy! Play nice! I’ll let you sleep on my bed if you play nice and let this girl use your bed for a couple of days.”

Fluffy’s growls finally stopped and she jumped on Iggy’s bed as an answer.

“Good Fluffy! I knew I could count on you!” Iggy said, patting the strange round creature. “Here, Girl. Come pat Fluffy. She won’t hurt you.”

Very, very reluctantly, Eris stepped forward. She put her hand close to Fluffy, who sniffed it brusquely, in a manner reminiscent of a large dog sniffing out someone suspicious. But as Iggy had said, the creature didn’t bite. Eris then patted its head. It definitely seemed to be made of metal, so she couldn’t explain how it was that it was alive, but, well, it was, and it seemed almost pleased to be pet by her. She was not sure how to feel about this. On the one hand, she did like dogs. On the other, this Fluffy was unlike any other dog she’d ever met. as much as it behaved like a dog, Eris wasn’t even actually sure that’s what it was. But it had a dog bed, and it behaved like a dog, and to be fair, she was in a world where monsters were people. Of course, now she wasn’t sure how to feel about sleeping in Fluffy’s bed. The orphanage had never been the most luxurious place in the world, but even they hadn’t made the kids sleep on a dog’s bed. Glancing at the floor, though, the bed was an improvement over the alternative.

“Okay. Now that you know where you’re sleeping, you need to remove all that grime from you,” Iggy said. He pointed towards a door in the back of his room. “There’s a shower there.”

Eris looked at the door, and then back at Iggy, who had gone to sit at his desk and was busy going over some papers. A shower was all well and nice, but… what was she supposed to wear? It didn’t seem like Iggy would have an answer to that. Well, it seemed her best bet was to just take a shower wearing her clothes. That’d wash them too. She sighed and went into the shower.

By the time she was out, Iggy seemed to be done with the papers and was simply waiting.

“I bet that shower felt great, didn’t it? We should go to dinner now!”

He’d never bothered to wait for her answer. He merely stood up and went towards the door, making an impatient gesture for her to follow. Okay, yeah. She wasn’t even getting any sort of dry clothes. Soggy as she was, at least she was clean, she supposed. She just followed Iggy out of the room. He was tiptoeing now. What a strange guy. Still, not wanting any trouble, she followed along with that too. It was only after they passed the hallways that he seemed more relaxed.

“They’re not going to be there at the dinner table yet,” he said. “We’re going to be early.”

Eris gave an exaggerated shrug, hoping he’d understand she was trying to ask him why. Fortunately, he did.

“Well, if we don’t, then maybe Roy would get us. And I dunno what he’d do to you, but he’d use me as a punching bag. Oh, yeah, you don’t know who Roy is, do you? He’s the big dude with sunglasses. Normally I wouldn’t tell you this, but if Roy uses you as a punching bag, I don’t want Dad yelling at me for it because I didn’t warn you.”

So. A small brat. A grumpy dark-scaled guy. A lone girl. A less-small brat. A tiny cross-eyed guy. A larger guy with a weird accent. A weird bespectacled guy who gave her a dog bed to sleep on. A big bully kind of guy. What a lovely family she seemed to have fallen into...

---------------------

Ludwig paced around his room. Well, what a strange kind of mess they were in. Their father didn’t really seem to think anything was bizarre with finding a tiny girl orphan like this in Dark Land. He was too busy helping her for… whatever he wanted to help her for. He hadn’t bothered to share that particular plan with him. Still, Ludwig prided himself in being a lot more observant and analytical than his dear old dad. Something was not right here. The girl was helpless, and as far as the Koopaling knew, there were no orphanages anywhere nearby that had humans in them. There was no way that little wimp had managed to walk into Dark Land on her own. Of course, he’d asked Kamek about the girl already, and he knew what pond they’d found her by. The pond did have a connection to warp pipes, so she definitely could have gotten in through one of them. However, he knew that the warp pipe was one-way only, and if it came from anywhere friendly, they’d find intruders in Dark Land a lot more often than they actually did. One could never stop the thrill-seekers, and they did get them once in a while, but he’d never heard of anyone being caught near that one pipe.

There was only one thing to do, Ludwig figured. He had to find out where this child came from. If Dad still wanted to adopt her, fine. It would still be good to find the orphanage she was in before she ended up in Dark Land, and then do things the right way. At least, the Koopaling would feel more at ease with this situation, knowing that there was nothing too suspicious about this child. It would be so much easier if the girl could speak, but she couldn’t and there was nothing he could do about that. Plus, she also seemed very young and it wasn’t even likely that she’d be able to read and write well enough for them to get any real answers from her. He’d need to talk to Kamek after dinner. At the very least, Ludwig wanted to know her name, but even if she couldn’t give it to them, the fact that she was human simplified the task of finding her origins. Humans were so rare a species, that simply asking orphanages if they’d recently lost one should get him all the answers he needed.

---------------------

Years, ago, when the Koopalings were very young, three rooms had been made into a single room. This place was set aside as a playroom for the Koopalings. For years, it had been used according to its intended purpose, but nowadays, the only ones who really did so were Junior and Larry, who were the youngest ones, and Lemmy, who was just… Lemmy. The others had taken to use the playground as a more socially-oriented place to just relax, work, and sometimes hold small meetings to discuss plans when they did get to participate in Bowser’s schemes. Today, Junior and Larry were playing a makeshift tennis game, while Lemmy acted as a sort of clownish cheerleader and referee. Wendy was reading a magazine on the latest fashion trends while she sort of supervised her younger brothers. There was nothing especially maternal about the one female Koopaling, that was true. However, who else would do this job if not her? Morton was too grumpy to bother with it, and was more likely to cause problems than avoid them. Iggy was a useless pushover. Roy couldn’t be trusted looking after kids. Lemmy was equally untrustworthy for the job, but for different reasons. Ludwig, as the eldest, often took the job, but today, he’d said there were other things he had to do.

After a while of playing, the boys took a break. They were starting to get hungry and dinner was going to be served soon, and in either case, they didn’t feel like playing on an empty stomach. Larry and Junior had, amazingly, not gotten into an argument. While all the Koopalings had resented, each in their own way, the fact that Junior had become Bowser’s favourite, none had resented it as much as Larry had. He’d already felt ignored enough as the youngest, but when an even younger Koopaling had obtained Bowser’s favor, that had really gotten to him. They shallowly got along, mostly for the sake of their Dad, but that was about it.

“I can’t believe Dad got another kid!” Larry exclaimed after a bit. “I mean, weren’t eight enough? What does he want? A hundred kids?!”

“Who cares?” Junior shrugged. “Dad won’t like any other new kid better than he likes me.”

Larry glared at the oblivious Junior and opened his mouth to say something, but as Wendy cleared her throat, he thought better of it. Wendy didn’t manage to live with seven brothers by being a cute little porcelain doll. Even Roy didn’t mess with her.

“I think it’s about time I had a sister,” Wendy said. “Mom and Dad are not having any more kids, so adopting one seems like a great idea to me.”

“I think it’s great too!” Lemmy piped in. “I get a fresh new audience for my circus shows!”

“I bet she’s gonna hate them!” Junior said, blowing a raspberry.

“I’m the greatest circus master in all of Dark Land,” Lemmy said, crossing his arms. “I bet she’s going to love them.”

“There are no other circus masters in Dark Land!” teased Junior..

“I’m still the best!” Lemmy said proudly. “And I’d be the best even if I had competitors.”

“Whatever!” Larry said. “I’m still mad. No matter what Dad says, I don’t have to like that girl!”

“No, of course not,” Wendy said. “But as long as we’re here, we do have to act like it.”

“Dad can’t really adopt her unless she signs papers, though, right?” Larry asked.

“Dad’s the King. He can do anything he wants,” Lemmy replied.

“Still, now that you mention papers and everything,” Wendy said. “It does make me wonder where she’s from. Humans are so very rare.”

“Can we return her?” Larry asked.

“No, of course not!” Wendy said. “Let’s just go get dinner.”  

She stood up to leave and her rambunctious brothers followed her.

---------------------

Neither Morton nor Roy were the friendliest Koopalings, but in the end, that tendency to not get along with anyone was what brought those brothers together in a rather strange kind of friendship. Roy respected Morton and in exchange, Morton was quite patient with him, and even a bit talkative. They were each other’s only real friend, but none of the others shared such a strong sibling bond as they did, not even Lemmy and Iggy, who got along famously well. Morton was looking into a mirror, exasperated at how droopy the few strands of hair he did have were.

“How am I ever going to be a famous radio talk host when I look like this?” Morton complained. He looked nothing like Bowser, but had very obviously inherited his vanity.

“People don’t lookit you when you’re on radio,” Roy said, trying to be helpful.

“But they look at you on magazines,” Morton said.

“I don’t think none care,” Roy said. “People are goin’ crazy with that Mario, and he’s a fat plumber with a weird moustache and a gigantic nose that looks‘s though some bee got it good.”

Morton had to laugh.

“Yes, yes. You’re right. So in more immediate news, what do you think is going on with Dad? Adopting a human? Maybe he’s sick.”

“I dunno if I care. She looks like a good punching bag. And she ain’t even able to talk. It gets borin’, just like beatin’ up Iggy and Lemmy.”

“Well, why don’t you pick on Larry?”

“He hits back now.”

“Oh, right. And with that temper, too. I get it, man.”

“Iggy’s gettin’ good at running. Lemmy bounces around too much and thinks it’s a game. Was easier when they were littler.”

“Lemmy thinks EVERYTHING is a game. That annoying little runt. If he comes by and goes ‘Hey, Morton, wanna see what I can do on my ball?’ one more time,” Morton said, imitating Lemmy’s voice quite well, “I think I’m going to beat him up myself.”

It was Roy’s turn to laugh.

“You really are good with voices,” he commented.

“Why, thank you. That skill is going to make me famous one day.”

Roy nodded. For the rest of the time the two of them were waiting for dinnertime, they just talked about nothing in particular, and they had much fun thinking and discussing ways in which both their skills (Morton’s great imitation and acting abilities and Roy’s strength and stealth) could be put to use for several different things, such as pranking people (especially their siblings), or even getting ahead in things like the show business. They laughed. A lot. By the time they had to go to dinner, they were quite exhausted from laughing so much and both had to wipe tears of laughter from their eyes before they left the room (Morton took a moment to straighten out his long eyelashes before leaving, too).

---------------------

Eventually, all eight Koopalings, Bowser, Eris, Kamek and Kammy were at the dinner table. Eris couldn’t help but notice how gloomy the place looked. The whole castle seemed to be made with the same kind of grey brick, which, with the dark sky, made the place look more like a haunted fortress than some kind of king’s home. Even the chandeliers cast a funereal glow on the table. The food was great, even though the dismal lightning made it seem almost as eerie as everything else. For the most part, Eris observed her new… caretakers. She knew the smaller spiky people, like Iggy, were her “siblings”. The large one was her “father”. Who were the other two with the weird robes? They were the only ones wearing normal clothes. Or well… normal… ish. They were also much smaller and didn’t have spikes like the others did. Fortunately, she didn’t have to wait the entire meal to get properly acquainted with her new… “family”.

“So have you found Girl a place to stay?” Bowser asked, sometime at the middle of the meal.

“Yeah!” Iggy replied. “She’s sleeping on Fluffy’s bed.’

There was some snickering from Roy, Larry and Junior.

“Well… it isn’t exactly the best thing, but it works,” Bowser said.

“My lord, it might be a good time to properly introduce every member of the family to the girl,” Kamek suggested. “There was no time to do that before.”

“Aha, yes. That’s right,” Bowser nodded. “Alright, then. I’m King Bowser Koopa. That’s my eldest son, Ludwig von Koopa. That’s the next one, Lemmy Koopa. And then there’s Roy Koopa. And Iggy Koopa. And Wendy O. Koopa. And Morton Koopa Jr. And Larry Koopa. And then there’s the youngest one, Bowser Junior. And finally, this hag here is Kammy Koopa. And that old one is Kamek.” He paused for a moment before adding, “those two aren’t your siblings.”

As Bowser mentioned and pointed to each of the people at the table, they made some kind of gesture to acknowledge their identity.

“I suppose you can consider me Aunt Kammy,” Kammy said. “But don’t you dare think of me as a grandma! And I do believe that’d make Kamek your uncle.”

Eris nodded, pretty sure she could remember them all. That wasn’t going to be the problem. What she was sure would be a problem was seeing these people as a family. It was true that she had very little idea about what a family was like. She’d never had one, but she had heard about them. Some of the kids remembered their family and talked about it, and the matron often read stories out loud, and a lot of them had families in them. None of them were even close to what she was seeing here. They seemed to not get along, and yet, they had absolutely no problem doing favors for each other. When Iggy asked Roy to pass him a jar of water, Roy did so immediately, even though Iggy had claimed that Roy would use him as a punching bag. And it wasn’t even that their father was present. After all, there was some bickering among them every so often. Eris supposed that it was a bit like her situation at the orphanage. Most of the kids didn’t particularly get along, but they looked after each other. Maybe it was only because this was such a large family, but it just seemed like a very strange example of one. Still, she supposed in the end it didn’t matter. If Bowser hadn’t picked her up from near the pond, she would likely have died after a while. As scared as she had been of him before, having had time to calm down, she realized she was, at the very least, in less danger than she’d been before. Family, or whatever Bowser wanted to call this group, it made no difference.
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PostSubject: Re: Chronotomicon   Fri Feb 05, 2016 12:10 am

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I meant to post this yesterday, but yeah. And it almost didn't get posted today, either, but no harm done.

Originally, Ludwig's little "side-quest", to call it something, wasn't planned. However, Ludwig is stated to be extremely intelligent, even if not a mechanical genius. It just seemed natural that he'd be questioning things and being careful. He was Bowser's right-hand Koopaling before Junior came along, after all.

It was tempting, especially when I first thought of this story, to have the Koopalings and Bowser all legitimately like Eris. However, the moment I really sat down to figure out the personalities I was going to go with... I knew it'd be impossible. At best, most of the Koopalings would tolerate her because they were asked to, and Bowser would hardly ever deal with his new "daughter". He was raised by Kamek, so he seems like the kind that'd make that a tradition. Kamek and Kammy would be the ones really dealing with the new kid, and she'd just happen to spend a lot of time in the same area the Koopalings do. The only Koopaling that struck me as the type that would actually like someone was Lemmy.

Still, despite the rather clashing personalities some Koopalings seem to have, they strike me as the kind of characters that stick together. Like a brother/sisterhood. Sure, they have some in-fighting (siblings fight), but they seem like they do trust and depend on one another.

Chapter 5 - Adaptation

After dinner, she headed back to the rooms that the Koopalings occupied, mostly because Iggy headed straight for there. The other Koopalings seemed to have other things to do, and went elsewhere. Eris poked Iggy on the shoulder and pointed towards his siblings, shrugging in an exaggerated manner to indicate her confusion.

“That’s not where I’m going,” he replied.

She tried shrugging again.

“Oh, I have work to do,” he said, giggling madly. “And I can do it in my room. Fluffy can keep me company, and guard me in case Roy tries anything funny.’

She wished she could ask him what kind of work it was, but she couldn’t. Back in the orphanage, she’d never really had the desire to talk, mostly because of that lovely, kind voice that seemed to be always coming from all around her. It seemed to know what she thought and it responded accordingly. Now that it was gone, she didn’t know what to do. Everything was so silent that she was starting to really wish she could interact with others. This was her chance, but she could make nothing of it.

As they approached Iggy’s room, Eris noticed that Kamek had been following them. She didn’t think that Kamek’s room was on this part of the castle, so what was he doing here? He cleared his throat, causing Iggy to stop and turn around.

“Master Iggy,” Kamek said. “I need to borrow the young lady for a bit. I just would like to ask her a few questions. I’ll bring her back when I’m done.”

“Asking questions to a mute girl?!” Iggy laughed. “Yeah, fine with me! Maybe I ought to start looking into a machine that’ll zap the voice right back into a mute person!”

“Ah, I do hope we don’t get to that point, but if all else fails, that might be necessary,” Kamek replied.

Zapping the voice back into a mute person?! That sounded very dangerous! Eris gave them a worried glance, but neither of them seemed to notice it. Kamek turned towards her.

“Let’s go, child. I do hope we will manage to get a few answers we need. Don’t worry. It’s only a few questions, but I would much rather not distract Master Iggy. He’s doing important work,” Kamek explained.

How exasperating! She still couldn’t ask what that work was and, goodness, she was curious! Still, she obediently followed Kamek. He wasn’t going to hurt her, she supposed. If they wanted to hurt her, they already would have, unless… they were trying to fatten her up! To eat her! They had the teeth and the size for that, too! Well, all she had to do was eat less, then. They weren’t going to make her fat enough to eat!

Kamek only took her to the playroom and motioned for her to sit down in one of the chairs. She sat down, somewhat wary. Kamek sat down in front of her. He had a crayon and a few pieces of paper with him.

“Well. First things first,” Kamek said. “Do you know how to read and write?”

Eris hesitated. She knew how to write her name and a few simple phrases and a fair number of short words. Her reading skills were about the same. She wasn’t sure whether that counted as a no, or as a maybe. She tilted her head.

“I suppose that means you’re new to reading and writing. Am I right?”

She nodded her head. This guy at least understood what she was trying to say better than Iggy did. Kamek gave a deep sight.

“This would be easier if you were fluent in reading and writing, but I’ll settle for a small amount of ability. Here, have this crayon.”

Eris took it and looked at him questioningly.

“Okay. The first question is… what’s your name?”

That was easy! It was one of the first things Eris had been taught to write. She wrote down ‘My name is Eris’ with her rather messy handwriting.

“Very well. Eris, is it? I will report this to Lord Bowser. My second question is… where do you come from? What’s the name of the place?”

That one was more difficult to answer, at least in writing. She knew the name of the place she was in: Saint Lewison Orphanage, but she didn’t know how to write it. She thought about it for a moment before she wrote, as best as she could ‘Sen Luuson Orfnash’. Kamek didn’t seem to know what to say.

“Well… I’m sure that at least gives us a good idea. We want to do things right, you see, and sign the proper papers. To do that, we need to find out how you came here. Did you run away?”

Eris shook her head. Of course she hadn’t! It had all been the fault of that giant mouse and that snake. There was, however, no real way for her to explain this. She tried drawing a very simple mouse and a three-headed snake, but Kamek didn’t seem to really understand what she was trying to say.

“Don’t worry. We’ll manage to find out something. That’s enough for now,” Kamek said. “I suggest you write your name on a new piece of paper and show it to the Koopalings. That way they’ll at least be able to call you by name.”

Eris nodded and wrote her name on a blank piece of paper. She folded it and put it in her pocket. Kamek then led her back to Iggy’s room. The tall Koopaling was busy doing… something at his desk. He was apparently writing or drawing or something of the sort. Eris had to find out. She approached Iggy and looked at what he was working on from behind his shoulder. What she saw surprised her. She’d thought all of these strange smaller creatures were merely kids or teenagers, but at least Iggy seemed to be working on complicated diagrams and numbers, more like an adult. Was this what they called a genius? It was impressive either way. She didn’t have much time to think about this, however, because Lemmy came into the room.

“My new audience!” Lemmy exclaimed.

“I haven’t finished your automatic clapping machine yet!” Iggy replied.

“Oh, that’s okay. Take your time! I’m taking this girl!” Lemmy exclaimed.

“Oh, yeah! I keep forgetting she’s a thing.”

Eris took out the paper with her name and showed it to Lemmy.

“Hey! Check it out Iggy! She has a name! It says here her name is Eris!”

“Sure beats Girl. Yeah, sure! Take her!”

Lemmy grabbed her arm and began pulling her away.

“You’re gonna have so much fun!” he exclaimed.

She really wasn’t sure about this, but she followed Lemmy, back into the playroom she’d just left minutes ago. The small Koopaling went to the back of the room, where there was a chest of sorts. He got a large ball out of it and a few smaller balls. For a long while, he entertained her with silly acrobatic acts, which actually far more fun than she’d imagined. He really was good at his acts. He eventually finished, with much applause from Eris, who could express her amusement in no other way. Lemmy was beaming. Since it was rather late then, he took her straight back to Iggy’s room. Eris was in no way pleased with having to sleep on a pet’s bed, but she was too tired to think about it too much. She just went to sleep.

---------------------

While Ludwig was in the war strategy room, reviewing the Koopa Troop’s assignments (mostly patrols) and other such assets, Kamek knocked on the door.

“Come in,” Ludwig said, absentmindedly.

Kamek did so. Ludwig didn’t look up from all the papers.

“I questioned the girl, Master Ludwig,” Kamek said.

“And? Vat did you find out?”

“Her name. I tried asking her where she came from, but she can’t really write well and the results of that were… atrocious. It gives us a place to start.”

Kamek handed Ludwig the paper where Eris had written the answers to his questions.

“Sen Luuson Orfnash?” Ludwig read out loud. “Vat is zis supposed to mean?”

“She claimed that’s where she comes from. She also said she didn’t run away from there, so if we do find that place, there should be no trouble getting her back.”

“Zis last vord. It is obviously orphanage. Sen Luson, zough… I have not heard of zis.”

“Neither have I, but who knows if there’s new places, or the old ones changed names.”

“Vell, vee do have some agents zat can be called on to find out if zis place exists. Zough, vee do not alvays have zee most competent minions. I vill have to ask zem to find zee places zat have two vords in zeir name, aside from orphanage.”

“Are you telling Lord Bowser about this?”

“No. Zere is no reason to vorry him yet. I vill tell him if vee find out vere zis child came from. Vat are zose drawings?”

“She drew them after I asked her if she’d run away.”

“Is… zat… a bear?” Ludwig wondered. “She needs drawing lessons aside from vriting ones.”

“That does give me an idea, Master Ludwig,” Kamek said.

“Vriting lessons?” Ludwig asked.

“Why, yes. If she learns to read and write, she will be able to accurately tell us where she came from and how.”

“It vould take too long. But viz so little to go on, vat choice do vee have? Let’s do boz zings.You should ask Father, but I don’t zink zere vould be any problem viz zat.”

Kamek nodded and left. Ludwig scratched his chin. He really was just being very careful here. But in the end, that kind of thinking always paid off. He didn’t know what would happen if they couldn’t find the place this child came from, but he did know it would be worrying. She could always be lying, too, but all that’d do was delay their finding her origins. The sooner he sent agents to investigate this matter, the better. True, the best agents already had assignments, but it wasn’t like the unassigned agents were completely useless. With a shrug, Ludwig wrote down the order to summon the agents to him and signed it. The order would be dispensed tomorrow, and he’d give them their assignment in person.

---------------------

Eris did not spend many days sleeping on Fluffy’s bed. Less than a week after she’d come into Castle Koopa, she’d been given her own room. It was the room right next to Junior’s, and it wasn’t that it hadn’t been there before, but more like it had not been used in so long that it was impossible to live in. Getting all the stray spiders and the dust cover off it had taken the castle servants several days, given that they also had other duties. But in the end, she’d been given her own place. She supposed Bowser was serious about the whole adoption thing, weird as it was.

She also found out what Iggy meant about Roy using him as a punchbag, and she got to see Lemmy escaping the same fate. Though both of those Koopalings were very agile, Lemmy’s small stature and impressive ability to jump fast enough to seem like he was bouncing (and sometimes literally bouncing with that ball he liked to balance on) gave him an advantage Iggy didn’t have. She almost got beaten up too, but Roy had suddenly looked behind her and just walked off as though he’d had the most harmless intentions in the world. Turning around, Eris managed to catch Wendy giving Roy the nastiest glare she’d ever seen in a living person. Truth be told, those days spent in Castle Koopa were anything but boring. As unlike a normal family as they were, they sure were unique and entertaining. Lemmy was absolutely thrilled with her appreciation of his circus acts and often called her to watch his performances.

What none of them had seemingly noticed was Eris’s severe lack of wardrobe. It took Kammy asking why she wore the same thing to mealtimes for three days in a row for the Koopalings and Bowser to realize that Eris didn’t wear a shell like they did and they really needed to get her clothes. Wendy cheerfully volunteered to get her a complete wardrobe and Kammy volunteered to help. The very next day, they took her out of the castle to buy her all sorts of things. Eris got to pick very little, since Wendy wanted to do the picking, but to be fair, her new adopted sister was actually pretty good at picking nice girly things, and that was really quite Eris’s style. The only thing that was less her style were the gigantic ribbons Wendy got for her. She could live with them, but she would much rather leave her hair free. Much to Iggy’s chagrin, his wardrobe had to hold her clothes for a few days and he had to take an impressive amount of junk from it. He had clothes, yes, but it seemed the bespectacled Koopaling preferred to keep pieces of machinery in there. He was forced to put everything on a box and, for the days Eris still had to share the room with him, he was prone to giving her very ugly looks. He didn’t do or say anything else about it, however.

All things considered, Eris was adapting pretty well to life with these creatures. Even the idea that they might want to fatten her up in order to eat her was starting to seem more ridiculous than ever.
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PostSubject: Re: Chronotomicon   Wed Feb 10, 2016 7:07 pm

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I like to name chapters by giving them a name that vague enough that when it's first read, it doesn't give anything away, and yet after the chapter has been read, in retrospect, it gave everything away. I owe this particular influence to one of the first long, "proper" books I ever read. A Little Princess, by Frances Hogdson Burnett. With chapter names such as "Lottie", "Becky", "The Diamond Mines", "'I tried not to be!'" and so on, you kind of got the idea of what the chapter was about, but not really. In that way, the chapter name became more a teaser than anything else. I have tried to replicate this in my own works.

Chapter 6 - Under the Guise of an Invitation

The next event to break the routine was the arrival of a Paratroopa carrying a satchel. It was dinnertime when a Hammer Brother came in, looking for Bowser.

“Your Evilness!” the Hammer Brother said. “We have captured a Paratroopa mailman from the Mushroom Kingdom. We await your orders on what to do to him, sir!”

“Can’t you see I’m busy? I tell you. I can’t even have my peace at dinner!” Bowser growled.

“But, Master Bowser, the intruder said he had a message for you. From the Mushroom Kingdom!”

“From Princess Peach?” Bowser asked, suddenly seeming interested.

“He… didn’t say.”

“Whatever, then! To the dungeon with him!”

“Lord Bowser,” Kamek said, very quietly. “Remember your plan.”

“On second thought, bring him here,” Bowser ordered.

The Hammer Brother nodded and quickly ran off, leaving the royal family, its attendants and the young human girl bewildered.

“Aren’t Paratroopa messengers the, well, mailmen in most of the rest of Mushroom World?” Iggy asked.

“What kind of question is that?” Wendy asked. “You know the answer to that.”

“Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s just like…” Iggy said, hesitant.

“Peach is sending letters to Dad?!” Lemmy asked excitedly.

“Yeah, exactly!” Iggy responded.

“And what is wrong with that?!” Bowser snapped.

“DAD AND PEACH, SITTING UNDER A TREE!” Iggy and Lemmy started singing in unison.

“SHUT UP BEFORE I THROW YOU TWO IN THE DUNGEON FOR A WEEK!” Bowser roared.

They did stop singing, but they couldn’t stop giggling. Not even the really nasty glares from Bowser could make them stop.

“Vell, zere is a holiday coming up in zee Mushroom Vorld,” Ludwig said.

“What would YOU know about Mushroom World holidays?” Roy asked.

“I read it in a book,” Ludwig responded cooly. “Maybe you should try it sometime.”

“Nah. Books are dumb. They make people into annoying know-it-alls,” Roy said.

“Anyvays,” Ludwig continued, ignoring Roy’s comment with a haughty look. “Many centuries ago, zee seven kingdoms of zee Mushroom Vorld vere at var. Zree centuries ago, zey made peace. Zey celebrate zis every year, but every hundred, zere is an even bigger celebration. Zis year is it.”

“So what’s that got to do with a captured messenger?” Larry asked.

“I think I know,” Wendy said. “Since it’s such an important celebration, they are likely asking for a truce. They don’t want the Mushroom Kingdom to get invaded, or any of the other kingdoms while the celebration is ongoing.”

“Exactly,” Ludwig nodded.

“Sounds to me like there’s no better time to attack than then,” Morton said.

“It could be harder to, though,” Wendy said. “They’re likely going to have a lot of security, especially around the Princess.”

“Vee can’t launch an invasion viz zee sorry state of our troops,” Ludwig said.

“What do you mean sorry state?! The Koopa Troop is the finest army in the whole world!”

“Actually, the tanks and airships are in really poor shape. I don’t think the engineers do a good job keeping them in tip top shape,” Iggy said cheerfully. “We might have a really good army, but we’re sure as hell not going to get anywhere fast.”

“Those worthless minions!” Bowser growled. “I’ll have a little chat with them.”

“Well, at least the cannons at the castle and all the weapons are in great shape,” Iggy shrugged with a grin. “It’s really just the machinery I designed that’s not doing so well.”

Eris could hardly believe what she was hearing. Were they really planning an actual invasion to a kingdom that might have asked for a truce?! What were they going on about? And so calmly, too!

“What have you been doing all this time, then?” Bowser asked.

“Oh, don’t worry, Dad! I’m doing all sorts of things. I’m done updating the designs for a few of the tanks and I’m working on a few secret projects, too. I’ll see to it that our ships and tanks are in perfect shape before we go!”

“Good. I will not have the Koopa Troop mocked!”

Not long afterward, the Hammer Brother came back, leading a well-tied and very scared Paratroopa.

“Lord Bowser, this is the intruder we caught,” the Hammer Brother said.

“Okay, then. You, intruder! State your name and business!” Bowser growled, pointing straight at the captured Koopa.

“P… Parakarry. My name is Parakarry, King Bowser. I came here to deliver a letter.”

“Letter? From whom and to whom?”

“From Princess Peach. To you.”

“Well what are you waiting for!? Give it to me!”

Parakarry looked down at the ropes and then back up at Bowser.

“I can’t, King Bowser.”

“Oh yeah. Junior! Retrieve the letter from the mailman.”

“Do I HAVE to?!”

“Yes!”

Grumbling loudly, Junior got up, walked to Parakarry and searched his satchel, taking out the letter that was addressed to Bowser. He then handed it to his father. Bowser opened it and read it. His countenance changed entirely from anger to shock.

“Is this… an invitation?!” he exclaimed.

“Yes, sir,” answered Parakarry. “It was the last invitation I had to deliver.”

“Last? Why the last? Why not the first? I deserve to be the first!” Bowser frowned.

“No offense, King Bowser! It was just the last delivery spot in my carefully-designed route. I must be very efficient.”

“Hmph. Very well. Release the prisoner. Can’t have the messenger be treated poorly after delivering such good news. So this invitation states that I am invited… with my whole family?”

“Y… yes, sir. All of it.”

Parakarry’s eyes darted towards Eris. He tried not to stare, but he was quite curious as to why a human child was here, of all places.

“Does that mean Mom can go?” asked Lemmy.

“I’m not sure an ex-wife counts as family,” answered Bowser.

“Y… you can invite anyone. Her too, if you wish. How many people shall I confirm?”

Bowser looked around. Seven children from his ex-wife… they did still count as family for the most part. Then his youngest son. Then the new adopted daughter. And of course, he’d already counted himself.

“Ten confirmed,” Bowser replied.

“Awww, Dad, come on. Invite Mom too!” Lemmy pleaded.

“Yeah, you never invite her anywhere anymore!” Larry exclaimed.

“Does the word ex-wife mean anything to you?!” Bowser asked, exasperated.

“She’s still our mom!” Lemmy said.

“FINE! Confirm ten of us and an eleventh may be possible. No guarantees!”

“V… very well, King Bowser,” Parakarry nodded.

The Hammer Brother untied the knots that kept Parakarry prisoner. The Paratroopa seemed rather relieved to be able to stretch his wings.

“Before you go, you’re welcome to have dinner or something,” Kamek said. “Wouldn’t want Peach’s messenger to leave on an empty stomach and not get back with our answer soon enough.”

“I’m… fine,” Parakarry said, though it was more likely that he feared some kind of poison or something.

“No, no. We insist. Stay. We have plenty of food.”

Parakarry had no real option but to accept the invitation. He was nervous, definitely, but he sat down at the table. Though he expected hostility, there was none, which actually made him all the more apprehensive. Even the Koopalings managed to not glare at him.

“Come on, calm down. It’s not like we’re going to EAT you or nothing,” Roy said.

“Yeah, you’re a Koopa!” Iggy exclaimed. “Even we’re not THAT evil.”

Considering that they had so readily immobilized him and thrown him into a cell, Parakarry wasn’t sure that made him feel any more at ease. He felt far more like an insect in a spider web, where the spider invited it for dinner.

Much to his relief and amazement, dinner passed with absolutely no outstanding event. The Koopalings were the very picture of perfect behaviour (and as far as Wendy and Ludwig went, also perfect manners), and while Bowser’s manners weren’t exactly dainty, he was quite polite. Still, Parakarry was incredibly relieved when he was allowed to leave, which he did as quickly as possible.

After he left, there was some silence at the table. The Koopa family hadn’t gotten up immediately, mostly because there were things they wanted to discuss without having a spy for the Mushroom Kingdom present. Before they could get on those topics, though, Roy interrupted the silence.

“Okay, so, can anyone explain why we were just so nice to that obvious spy?” he asked.

“Yeah, I thought I was going to be sick if we had to look at him one more minute!” Larry exclaimed.

“Now, now. No need to be upset,” Kamek said. “It’s all part of our new plan.”

“What new plan?” Wendy asked. “No one’s told us about any new plan.”

“I’m going to win Peach’s heart!” Bowser declared in a very proud manner.

“Wait. What does love have to do with having dinner with a spy? I thought love was all about kidnapping someone,” Iggy said, confused.

“THAT is why you’re never getting married,” Wendy rolled her eyes. “Don’t you see? Dad’s talking about being romantic and winning a lady’s heart. So that means he has to do things she’d like.”

“Yes,” Kamek agreed. “Wendy has the right idea.”

“Of course I do. I’m a lady!”

“PFFT! You!? A LADY?!” Iggy laughed.

Wendy gave Iggy the kind of glare that would pulverize a diamond. She stood up, quite properly, walked over to Iggy, took hold of his hair while he was still laughing, and proceeded to drag him out of the dining room. Screams and blows were heard and she walked calmly back inside and to her seat, where she sat down again. A rather battered Iggy walked in after her. He was no longer laughing.

“Anyways!” Kamek said, quickly, trying to break the tension. “Though we figured we would be asked for a truce in this celebration the rest of the world will be having, it turns out you are all invited. So this changes our plans considerably. I don’t think we will be able to launch an invasion as we planned.”

“Yeah. It figures that they’d so completely mess up our plans, but the first priority is to win over Princess Peach. So you are all going to be on your best behaviours! I don’t want any fighting and arguing while you’re in Princess Peach’s castle! DO YOU HEAR ME?!” Bowser finished with a yell.

“YES SIR!” the eight Koopalings replied in unison.

“When Peach sees the good deeds I am doing and sees what wonderful behaviour you all have, she’ll surely change her mind about me!” Bowser said, crossing his arms and laughing heartily.

“More like she’ll call him a sucker,” Larry whispered to Lemmy.

“DID YOU SAY ANYTHING?!”

“Noooo, sir! I just had… something stuck in my throat!”

“Hmph! As I was saying, that’s why we let the spy stay with us. You all did well, playing along!”

That made perfect sense to the Koopalings, but Eris felt completely left out of the loop. Invasions, spies, winning the heart of a princess, arguments, celebrations… she’d never had so many odd things happen around her, much less all at once. Not to mention, these people seemed evil after all. They’d been nice enough to her, but they were planning to invade kingdoms and they thought kidnapping was a way to express love! No one who was good would think that way. And why was she dragged into it? She never should have gone back to investigate the noise. She should have stayed in bed, like the matron said. She would never have been caught by that giant serpent and the giant mouse. She would have been left behind in the explosion that the mouse had caused… or maybe it never would have happened in the first place. Suddenly, for the first time since she’d found herself in this place, she felt the entire weight of the events on her shoulders. Had it been her fault that things had happened this way? Was it her fault that the matron and the other children got caught in the explosion? Were they hurt? Were they even… alive? Would she ever go home and find out and apologize? She’d never thought of things like this before. As any seven-year-old would be likely to do, she suddenly broke down crying.

“Whoa, what? What happened? Why are you crying?” Roy, who was the quickest to spot tears, asked.

There was silence at the table for a moment.

“It’s probably been too much excitement for her today,” Kammy said after a bit. “After all, wasn’t she found just lost in the middle of nowhere? Who knows what happened to bring her there.”

“I’ll take her to her room,” Kamek said. After all, he still needed to ask her questions. If she was crying from all she had to hold back due to her inability to communicate, then this was probably the best time to ask her about it all.

He walked over to her and she followed him back to her room. She was still visibly upset, and Kamek rather hoped she had learned her lessons better. The agents Ludwig had sent to find her place of origin hadn’t returned, but after weeks, they were expected to arrive soon enough. If he could get any new information from her, it could help immensely to make sense of any intel they brought back. It would be so much simpler if they came back with a name and location.

After she’d sat down on her bed, she seemed to calm down. Kamek wondered how to even begin questioning someone who was still learning to read and write. Waving his magic wand, he conjured some paper sheets, and a crayon.

“Well, did you want to t--write about it?” Kamek asked her. He’d been about to say ‘talk’ but caught himself in time. It just wouldn’t do to remind an upset girl that she couldn’t talk.

Eris nodded and took the paper sheets and crayon.

‘I am scard,’ she wrote. ‘Ar yu eebol?’

Well. What a difficult question to answer. He had to reassure her without lying because if he did lie, and she found out, there would be much trouble.

“Well, it depends on who you ask. We’re only mean to those who have wronged us,” Kamek answered. It was true enough. “And we also have some… unique ideas. Some people call that evil.”

Eris nodded, seemingly understanding Kamek’s answer.

“Haven’t you ever had someone think you’re something you’re not really? Like maybe they think you are bad because you do something, but you had a reason and it wasn’t a bad thing to you?” he asked, trying to clarify.

Eris nodded. Her mind went back to several years back, when her caretaker had found out she talked back to the friendly voice that claimed to be her father. She had given Eris such a yelling that Eris had lost her voice. It hadn’t been a bad thing. She hurt no one. And she wasn’t crazy. The voice really was there. Still, the caretaker had been really angry and had called her a ‘bad girl’. Now that she thought about it, she supposed a bad girl fit right in with an evil family. Maybe they wouldn’t think she was a bad girl if they were bad too. She seemed a lot calmer now.

Kamek smiled a bit in relief. It was good he had raised so many children, really. He didn’t have the patience he used to have, but he knew what kind of tone to use on an upset child to calm them down, among many other things and tricks he’d learned.

“I need to ask you a favor. Can you do it?” he asked her.

Eris nodded.

“I need you to remember how you got to that pond. Was it through a pipe?”

She nodded again.

“How did you get to that pipe? You can write better now, so you can try telling me again. Will you do that for me?”

Eris nodded her head and took the crayon again.

‘I was took by a big maus and snaik wit tree heds,’ she wrote. ‘I ran auei from dem. Dey hab bombs and hurt home. Dey meik dors by magic.’

Well, that was certainly an improvement. Her spelling and writing were still atrocious but he at least knew what those awful drawings she’d done the first time he asked were. They were a big mouse and a three-headed snake, not a bear and a tree as he had come to believe. It still made no sense, but if she’d been taken by these creatures, then it would seem that they’d kidnapped her. That at least narrowed down the list of suspects. There were a few questions remaining. Who were these creatures? Kamek didn’t know of any three-headed serpents, or giant mice for that matter. And they had bombs? She said that they’d “hurt home”. They’d used the bombs on the orphanage? That was nasty. Well beyond what the Koopa Troop would be capable of. The most important bit was that about the doors. He’d seen some types of magic doors before, such as those that only appeared with magic P-switches. But he hadn’t heard of anyone making doors on their own by magic before. Well, he would have to report this to Ludwig. They had to wait for the agents anyways. For now, he just needed to finish calming the child.

“Well, don’t worry. We’ll do our best to find these two and bring them to justice,” Kamek said, wondering whether it was more accurate to say it was four people, given the whole three heads on that serpent at all.

This reassured Eris even more. It wasn’t long before she was calm enough that Kamek was able to leave. As soon as he left, he went to look for Ludwig. He hadn’t learned much, it was true, but it was something and he honestly doubted the girl knew much more than she’d already told. At any rate, this was certainly information Ludwig would be interested in. He was right. The girl was suspicious, and this led them one step closer to finding out why.
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PostSubject: Re: Chronotomicon   Tue Feb 16, 2016 4:51 am

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This is being posted on Tuesday, but technically it's for Monday. I'm like 6 chapters ahead of this.

I always like to do world-building. It's some of my favourite stuff in writing. Therefore when I manage to get a bit of an idea for that, I just use it. And this is about the time when it starts showing.

Chapter 7 - Investigations

Kamek didn’t take long at all to find Ludwig. There was so much to be done on the Koopalings’ visit to the castle, that he knew he’d find the eldest one still working. No matter what Bowser thought about Junior, the truth was that things always ran much more smoothly when the Koopalings were around. Junior was not only still too inexperienced, but in the end, even if he were as competent as any of his half-siblings, they were still seven and he was still only one. It was simply impossible for him to replace them.

Sure enough, Ludwig was checking and signing military orders at an impressive pace. There still was a large pile of papers to check through, but he’d most certainly be done before long. He might not be the mad, scientific genius Iggy was, but he had brilliance all his own. He was the second most intelligent Koopaling, and it wasn’t even by too much.

“Master Ludwig, I have questioned the child again,” Kamek said.

“Vat did you learn zis time?”

“She claims she was kidnapped from her orphanage by a big mouse and a three-headed serpent.”

“Vat? Zat doesn’t sound like it exists.”

“She also claims that they used a bomb on her home. The orphanage, I assume.”

“Vy vould someone destroy an orphanage full of pazetic children?! Zat is so low-class!”

“I agree. This wasn’t the work of any loyal members of the Koopa Troop, certainly.”

“Also vee don’t have zree-headed snakes. Vee do have mice, but not giant ones.”

“I have heard of snakes, but never like this. Plus there’s also her other claim. She says that they made doors out of magic. I’ve never heard of that kind of magic before.”

“I vould have zought zat you vould know. You’re a magikoopa, and of top rank!”

“My magic is without equal, that’s true. Only my sister could hope to compete. However, this kind of lore is beyond even me.”

“Perhaps Kammy vould know somezing.”

Kamek had to agree with that. Kammy was even older than he was. She’d had more years to read books and might have come across something that could be useful.

“I’ll bring her, then Master Ludwig,” Kamek said and left to find his sister.

Ludwig’s work slowed down as he thought about this new development. He hadn’t even bothered to try to decode what those drawings Eris had made were. Now that he knew what they were, he found them just as incomprehensible as before. The agents he’d sent were due to be back any day now. He could hardly wait.

In less than twenty minutes, Kamek was back with Kammy. She didn’t seem at all happy.

“I do need my beauty sleep, you know! How else can I stay looking young and beautiful? You’d better have a good reason to be robbing me of it!” she said to Kamek as she came into the room. She turned to Ludwig. “Good evening, young man. What is that you require?”

“You didn’t tell her?” Ludwig asked Kamek.

“I thought it was too delicate a matter to talk about in the hallways,” Kamek replied.

“Fair enough,” Ludwig sighed. “Basically, vee are vorried about zee little girl Dad brought home. Zee place she vas found in is near a pipe, and zee pipe is not a place vere vee keep getting intruders. So it can’t lead to a very friendly place. A child zat small couldn’t have gotten zere on her own. So zere is somezing strange going on, and vee need to find out vat it is.”

Kammy nodded as Ludwig spoke.

“Well, if you want my honest opinion,” she said. “I doubt the girl herself is a problem. She seems perfectly harmless. Still, I do agree that the circumstances regarding her arrival are a bit suspicious. I like how you think! Being careful and investigating. Have you found out anything yet?”

“She comes from an orphanage, but we don’t know the name for sure because she can’t speak and can’t even write well. She also told us that she didn’t run away from the orphanage, but was, in fact, kidnapped by two giant creatures. One was a mouse and the other was a three-headed serpent. She claims they could make doors out of magic. They also had bombs and used them on the orphanage,” Kamek explained.

“What an outrage!” Kammy exclaimed. “We pride ourselves on evil, but that’s too much!”

“Vee vere hoping you knew about zese creatures, or zeir magic doors.”

Kammy was thoughtful for a few minutes. The only noise that was heard was the shuffling of papers as Ludwig went back to his work, plus the occasional sound of a pen scribbling a signature on the paper.

“Well,” she said at last. “As far as I know, those creatures the girl described don’t exist in the Mushroom World. Perhaps the mouse does, but the serpent? Surely not.”

“Vell, zat is disappointing,” Ludwig said. “You know nozing?”

“I did not say any such thing young man! I may actually know something.”

“Vell? Out viz it!”

“When your father was very, very young… just a small egg, even… I used to read him stories from an old book of fairy tales. Tales about actual fairies, mind you, not what you young people call a fairy tale lately-”

“Vee don’t need stories. Vee need real answers!” Ludwig interrupted.

“Kamek! I thought you educated these youngsters in manners!” Kammy exclaimed snappishly.

Kamek just shrugged.

“As I was saying,” Kammy continued, “the stories were about actual fairies that lived in dreams. And they brought good dreams to people, whereas monsters brought bad dreams. One such monster was a very large serpent. They weren’t three-headed, but they were still large enough to help kidnap a small child like that.”

“Vere zere magical doors in zose stories?”

“Oh, yes. There were magical doors that could transport people to a dimension deeper than the dream dimension,” she answered. “But I don’t remember all the details. I don’t recall how they made them. Just that they could. I don’t think I read the stories where they actually made one of those doors. Your grandfather thought the stories were too cute to be read to your father.”

“Is zat book still around?” Ludwig asked.

“Ye-es, I should think it is,” Kammy said. “It should still be kept deep in the royal library’s less-used parts.”

“Can you find it?” Kamek asked.

“Of course I can. But if you intend for this to be a secret kind of campaign, I can only do this on my free time. Which means it’ll take time. Do you know how many books there are in the royal library’s less-used areas? Worse still, do you know how long ago it was since someone went and tried to impose some kind of order in those books? I’ll have to check them all, one by one.”

That was indeed bad news. Still, it was all they had.

“Very vell,” Ludwig said. “Yes, please do zat. Vee need zis information before zee agents come back viz zeirs.”

“Agents? You haven’t told me of any agents,” Kammy frowned.

“Vee sent some unassigned agents to find out if any of zee vorld’s orphanages vas missing any humans,” Ludwig explained.

“It’s not very likely that any of them HAVE any humans to begin with,” Kammy said. “Humans really are rare creatures. Still, it was a great idea to start this mission. It’s best to be proactive!”

Because there was little else any of them could do for now, the two magikoopas left, and Ludwig went back to his work. He was going to make sure that the Koopa Troop was in top shape before it was time to leave his father’s castle.

---------------------

“I’m telling you! There was a little girl in Bowser’s castle!” Parakarry exclaimed.

It was days after Parakarry’s visit to Bowser’s Castle. He’d finally made his way back to Peach’s Castle, and was reporting what he’d seen and gone through to Peach and the Mario brothers. No one had found it hard to believe that Bowser had initially had Parakarry tossed into a dungeon. Inviting Parakarry for dinner was much more unheard of. But when Parakarry mentioned that there had been a little girl sitting at the table, as though she belonged there, being treated as part of the family, Parakarry’s tale had seemed too farfetched.

“But why would there be a little girl? Was she kidnapped?” wondered Luigi.

“Oh, no. When Bowser kidnaps someone, he doesn’t invite them to the table. He just keeps them in a cage,” Peach said.

No one disputed that. There really was no other person who would know this better than she did.

“Well, if you don’t believe me, you’ll find out when he comes here with his family. He included the kid in the number of people that he’d bring!” Parakarry exclaimed.

“Really?” Peach asked, looking at the reply that Parakarry had written down for reference. “Oh, my, it’s true. He didn’t confirm nine people. He confirmed ten, with a possible eleventh.”

“The possible eleventh is the ex-wife,” Parakarry said. “The other is the girl, for sure.”

“Ex-wife? You mean, Bowser had a wife at all?” Luigi asked.

“Well, he does have all those kids,” Peach said. “I’d be interested to meet what kind of person she is.”

“She’s probably as scary as he is,” Luigi said. “I can’t understand the kind of person that’d willingly marry Bowser.”

“I suppose we may just find out,” Mario said. “And we’ll also get to find out what he’s doing with a girl. It can’t be good. This is Bowser we’re talking about.”

“If she was being treated so well, though,” Peach said, “I have to wonder if perhaps he did kidnap her before. And then, like the shaman predicted, he started to turn over a new leaf. And so he felt sorry and he decided to treat her well while she is returned to her family.”

“That sure would be nice, Princess,” Luigi said. “I mean, I think it’s not really a big possibility but that sure would be nice.”

“I just think it’s kind of relieving, in a way, to hear these news,” Mario said. “If Bowser is actually being nice for a change, whether or not it’s about the shaman’s prediction, it at least gives me hope that we will really not have to deal with trouble during the banquet. It might even mean it was a good idea to invite him.”

“Oh, don’t you worry. I’m sure it was a good idea,” Peach said. “I can’t help but have hope. Can you imagine how lovely it would be if we had peace among all the kingdoms?”

“Yes, that’d be really nice. I’d kind of miss the adventure, but I’m sure there’s plenty we can do that’s exciting and doesn’t require war. There’s always… kart racing!” Mario nodded.

“That sounds scary. Imagine an accident at those speeds! Why don’t we just play tennis or party games instead?” Luigi asked.

“Or we could just do all of that,” Peach said. “I do dream of the day when I will never get kidnapped again. Thinking of fun things to do when that happens is also pretty wonderful. We could hold banquets and dances as well, and never fear that something awful might happen.”

Both brothers nodded. Despite the often-violent adventures they were forced to go through in order to bring peace back to the Mushroom Kingdom every time Bowser (or some other foe. That happened too) decided it was a great idea to kidnap Princess Peach or otherwise cause some major trouble, Mario and Luigi were generally peaceful people. It wasn’t that they liked stomping goombas and koopas. It just happened to be the best way in which they could defend themselves against the hordes of koopas, goombas, lakitus, and all sorts of other hostile creatures. One could write an entire encyclopedia simply about all the enemies they had encountered in their adventures. Still, if they could retire from that kind of life and instead dedicate themselves to things like sports, they’d love that. It would certainly beat having to travel all the way to Dark Land(or wherever Bowser chose to take Peach to that time), stomping their way through hordes of hostile enemies and obstacles, all of which were trying to kill them. They didn’t want to be as optimistic as Peach, but they really hoped that she was right about this.

---------------------

Two weeks after Ludwig and Kamek had first talked to Kammy about their suspicions regarding the origin of the little girl that lived with them now, the agents arrived at the castle to report to the Koopaling general. Ludwig asked both of the elder Magikoopas to be present in the de-briefing, in case they thought of something to ask. The five agents, all Koopas, were already waiting patiently by the time the magikoopas arrived. When Ludwig sat down, he motioned for the agents to begin their verbal report.

“We traveled throughout the world,” Agent T said, “but we couldn’t find any orphanage that was missing a human girl.”

“Did you ask about orphanages zat vere no longer vorking?” Ludwig asked. After all, if those creatures had bombed it, it was likely that it wouldn’t be in operation anymore. He wished he’d had this information before sending the agents.

“Yes, sir. Orphanages past and present,” Agent L replied. “We left no stone unturned in our investigation.”

“Were there any orphanages that were damaged in some way? Perhaps attacked?” Kamek asked.

“No, sir. Some were in bad shape, but more due to the passage of time than any other kind of attack,” Agent M said.

“There was, however, exactly one orphanage that had a human child in it,” Agent G said. “It was a boy, though.”

“We checked each town for any notices of missing people, too,” Agent Y said. “There were no human children in any of the notices.”

“We also checked all boarding schools,” Agent L said. “Just in case.”

“Everything is in the report,”Agent B said. “We made a list of all the orphanages by region and what kinds of children were in them. Then we made a list of boarding schools and whether they were missing human children, or had any. None were missing any, only a couple had any humans in them. We also added the list of missing people, which is actually pretty short, and I think the Koopa Troop is behind most of that.”

They were thorough, Ludwig noted. Frankly, they were just as efficient as any other agent. Unfortunately, the agents were all named after letters of the alphabet. Agents with “cool” names, such as K or X tended to get the best assignments. Agents M and L were considered to have awful names, due to their letter being the starting letter of Mario’s and Luigi’s names. Agent T was considered a Toad-sounding name. Agent G was the subject of a few puns, and wasn’t considered to have a great name (though he was luckier than the other three and often got somewhat more interesting assignments than they did). Agent B was the subject of many bee-related puns. He had embraced it by painting his shell black with yellow stripes. Of course, he wore a normal green shell when going on missions, but other than that, he made a pretty striking koopa. Ludwig made a mental note to keep them in mind any time he had the need to deploy agents. It was convenient that they were competent and mostly available.

“Zank you. Please leave zee report here. I vill go zrough it and vill tell you if anyzing else is needed,” Ludwig said. “Until I mention it again, forget about zee mission.”

The agents saluted and left. Ludwig, Kamek and Kammy exchanged worried glances. It felt impossible that there was not a single orphanage that had lost a human. Where had Eris come from? And what did it have to do with the giant three-headed serpent and the giant mouse? Where had they come from? Who were they?

“Vell, zat vas a troubling report,” Ludwig said.

“It’s like she doesn’t come from this world,” Kamek said.

“Yes, zat is vat troubles me,” Ludwig said. Then he turned to Kammy. “Did you find zee book?”

“Yes. I brought it with me,” she replied, taking out a book from her pocket and putting it on the desk.

The three of them looked at it. It was an old and frayed book that seemed to be at least a hundred years old. The drawings were in a very strange and ornate style and mostly seemed to depict tiny fairies. The title read “Tales of Subcon”.

“Subcon?” Ludwig wondered out loud. “Vat is zat?”

“The realm of dreams, young lord,” Kammy answered. “The fairies on the cover are the guardians of good dreams. They protect them from monsters.”

“And vat has zis to do viz our problem?”

Kammy opened the book to a page close to the beginning and pointed to the passage.

‘Behold! The greatest defense of Subcon, and the greatest danger! The potion opens the door to Subspace, where dreams may never escape!’ the passage read.

The picture had a table with a flask on it. It was filled with a bubbling red potion. There was a book next to it, and on it, there was a picture of a red door, in some sort of encyclopedia-like entry whose letters were completely unintelligible. To the other side was a quill in an ink bottle.

“Vat is Subspace?” Ludwig asked.

“It doesn’t say, young lord. But there is a page that shows the snakes.”

Kammy turned the page until there was a picture of a few fairies cowering as several large red snakes, standing quite upright, spat a round sort of bullet at them. The fairies were holding a glowing crystal ball.

“That’s one of the creatures that supposedly brings nightmares,” Kammy said.

“Why don’t we show the picture to the girl?” Kamek suggested. “We can judge, by her reaction, whether or not these are the snakes in her story.”

“I vould rather not give her zee book itself,” Ludwig said. “Vould it be possible she saw zat book vere she vas?”

“I don’t think so,” Kammy said. “A book like this would never last so long in an orphanage. I’ve asked around and there was never any newer version of it. It’s possible she saw the snakes elsewhere, but definitely not here.”

“Vell, I’ll ask Vendy to copy zee drawing of zee snakes. Zen, I vill show zee copy to zee girl.”

“Take good care of the book, young lord,” Kammy said. “It is pretty priceless now.”

“Of course,” Ludwig said, taking the book from Kammy.

He had more to think about now. Suppose that the snakes in the book were indeed the ones Eris had seen? What would that mean? This was just a book of fairy tales. But if the snakes were real, then what else could be real about it? Was there really some kind of dream realm populated by fairies that protected good dreams from monsters? Had Eris come from that realm? If not, why would creatures from that realm kidnap her? That last question was the most troubling one. Ludwig knew evil. His family was, after all, quite evil. Evil forces were not in the habit of doing evil things for the sake of it. They did evil things when it was convenient, due to the fact that doing said thing would bring them a benefit. That was the difference between good and evil people after all. Whereas good people knew something evil might give them a big benefit, they wouldn’t do it. Evil people wouldn’t hesitate. So if someone had bothered to go to the orphanage Eris was from (was it, perhaps, in the fabled Subcon?), and then kidnapped her and bombed the place, what were they possibly gaining from it? The end result certainly wasn’t the girl. There was nothing outstanding about her, aside from her inability to speak, and that was certainly not the kind of trait that was valuable, because she still could hear and communicate. What kind of evil force was stirring in the world and what did they want?

Ludwig picked up the book and walked away. He’d find Wendy now and give her the book so that she would be able to copy the picture of the snakes. Even though Kammy had said that the book was too old to have been seen by Eris, he still wanted to make sure she didn’t recognize the book somehow. It had to be the picture. In fact, Wendy was so good at art, that he might just ask her to draw the snakes, but in some other pose. That would ensure that she wouldn’t recognize the source. Yes, that’d work.
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PostSubject: Re: Chronotomicon   Wed Feb 17, 2016 7:02 pm

Quote :

Frankly, the only reason I pace myself in posting is because that way, I always have something to post consistently, with just extras being posted here and there. Sometimes I just zoom through the writing, other times, it goes more slowly, but if I keep to posting on certain days, I can make sure there's always something to post. Today being Wednesday, it's the day to post the next chapter. At the rate I'm going, I still do have a couple of weeks' worth of chapters to post, so even if the Writer's Block hits me hard, I'm ahead of the game.

This chapter focuses more on Ludwig, Iggy and Wendy than the others. I guess the Koopaling that really gets a big "reveal" of the way I'm portraying them is Wendy. The spoiled brat interpretation was kind of hilarious in the cartoons, yes. However, most young evil princesses are portrayed this way, and I wanted to do something a little different. I kind of meshed the different portrayals I've seen in different games and thus made her smart(third smartest koopaling!), dangerous, calculating and with an artistic flair. I gave each of the Koopalings at least one hobby like that: something they want that works with their personalities but is a bit of a subversion from them as well.


Chapter 8 - The Search for a Shadow

A few days after Ludwig had given Wendy the book, she returned it. She brought her drawing of the serpents. She’d drawn them in a good variety of poses. Ludwig was, as usual, quite impressed with his sister’s artistic ability.

“Took you long enough,” he said when she handed the picture to him.

“I wasn’t inspired. Inspiration is the key to a good piece, you know,” she replied.

“Vatever. It’s good. Zank you,” he said.

“Why would you want that, though?”

“Zee girl Dad brought home claims she vas kidnapped by a snake,” Ludwig said. “Her description of it, as bad as it vas, seems to match zese snakes zee best. I vant to show zis picture to her and see vat she zinks.”

“You could have  just shown her the book, you know.”

“I don’t vant her biased. I only vant her to see zee one picture.”

“Speaking of the book, it has an art style that I’d never seen before. Where did you get it?”

“Kammy found it in zee royal library. It’s a very old book,” Ludwig said.

“It’s also in a dreadful state. Let me keep it and I’ll make a good copy of it. You know, for preservation purposes.”

“Yeah, vatever. Keep it,” Ludwig said. “Just give it back to Kammy ven you’re done.”

“Sure will. Thanks!” Wendy exclaimed and walked away.

He couldn’t blame her for her enthusiasm. It was the same for him and his composing. Sure, he’d been mostly working since he came back to Bowser’s Castle, but when he wasn’t working, he did love to compose music. He’d be doing that right now if his father’s army wasn’t in such a sorry state. Their other general had retired and Junior had been given the job of finding a replacement. He had so far failed at it. He’d messed up the army ranks so much, that Bowser had been unable to fix it and deal with everything else he had to deal with on a daily basis. So much for giving Junior responsibilities. Junior was good at working on his own and barking orders, but management was not one of his strengths. That was probably why Bowser had recently taken away most of his responsibilities and left him mostly doing menial tasks. The only problem with that was that he was constantly whining about how bored he was. Oh well. They didn’t have to deal with him the entire year. It was really Dad’s problem. And Kamek’s, he supposed.

Despite his annoyance with having to fix the mess Junior had left, Ludwig couldn’t deny that he missed this work. He missed being completely in charge of the Koopa Troop and managing most of its orders. He was good at it. He was smart and had the intelligence, memory and the ability to look forward enough to do a great job at this. Sometimes he wished that Bowser hadn’t given his job to Junior.

---------------------

The very next day, Ludwig decided to show the picture of the snakes to Eris. She was, as had become pretty usual, watching Lemmy’s so-called circus show. It was an excellent opportunity. As soon as Lemmy was done, Ludwig approached Eris.

“Hey,” Ludwig said. “Do you know zese?”

Eris was still laughing from Lemmy’s latest acrobatics when he showed her the picture Wendy had made. Eris looked at it, the smile turning slowly into horror. She gave a little yelp, and then she urgently pointed at three of the closest snakes. She then traced a line with her fingers connecting the snakes.

“Is zat your zree-headed snake?” Ludwig asked.

Eris nodded, looking quite upset.

“Hm. Come viz me,” Ludwig said.

“Hey, I wanna see too!” Lemmy exclaimed.

“Yeah! Me too!” Larry, who had been watching Lemmy’s show too, said.

“I dunno what it is, but I wanna see it too,” Iggy, who had just come inside looking for Ludwig said as well.

“Oh, FINE!” Ludwig said, exasperated. “All of you can come and see!”

The three of them laughed and followed Ludwig and Eris. Their laughter caught the attention of Junior, Morton and Roy, who tagged along too, just because they could. Ludwig rolled his eyes, but said nothing else. He knocked the door to Wendy’s room. She opened it, and though she was quite surprised at seeing all her siblings there, she didn’t really express it.

“What do you want? I’m busy,” she told Ludwig.

“I need your art skills again,” Ludwig said.

“Again? I need to be inspired. I told you so.”

“Zis is easy. I just need a sketch, if you can’t do more.”

“Fine! Come in.”

“We’re here to watch Wendy draw? Boring!” Roy grumbled.

“It’s vat she vill draw more zan how,” Ludwig said.

“Well, what do you want me to draw, then?” Wendy asked Ludwig, casting a nasty glare at Roy while she was at it.

“You, girl,” Ludwig told Eris, handing her the drawing of the snakes. “Show Vendy vat you showed me a moment ago.”

Eris again traced the body of the three-headed serpent she had seen back then.

“I need you to draw zat,” Ludwig said. “A zree-headed serpent.”

“Is that all?” Wendy asked.

“Yes.”

She snatched the picture from Eris and went to her desk. There she took out a pencil, a piece of paper and some colored pencils and began to draw. Ludwig stood behind her, watching. The other Koopalings all tried to get a glimpse, but the only two that ended up getting a good view were Iggy, Morton and Roy. Morton and Roy were big and strong enough to push the others around, and Iggy was just tall enough to see.

“Let me see or I’ll tell on you!” Junior whined.

Roy grumbled and picked Junior up and sat him on his shoulder.

“That’s not fair!” Larry complained, but didn’t really get much attention for it.

Morton soon grew bored with watching Wendy draw. He honestly felt a little jealous of her artistic abilities. Then again, she wasn’t as good at making and mimicking voices. She would never get a great career in acting or anything, and acting paid a lot better than drawing did. With Morton gone from the bunch behind Wendy, Larry was able to get a better view and Lemmy was able to jump up and down in order to get a small glimpse every time he bounced up.

“Add bigger fangs!” Lemmy exclaimed.

“No, no! Horns!” Iggy giggled.

“Oh, shut up, all of you,” Wendy said.

After a little while, she was done. In the new picture, there was a single snake, with a thick body that split into three heads. It was red, with a bone-colored underbelly and fierce eyes.  Eris looked at the picture and gave a big yelp. That was the snake that had helped the mouse kidnap her from the orphanage!

“I suppose zat is your zree-headed snake?”

Eris nodded emphatically.

“What snake?” asked Roy.

“Zee one zat kidnapped zis girl from her orphanage,” Ludwig replied.

“Never seen one like that,” Morton said.

“I don’t zink zat any of us have,” Ludwig said.

“That looks pretty cool, but it does need fangs,” Lemmy said.

“And horns!” Iggy added.

“Quiet!” Ludwig said. “I know vee haven’t seen anyzing like zis before. But vee have to be vigilant and keep an eye out for zis creature.”

The other Koopalings agreed, somewhat grudgingly. Most of them didn’t really see why they should be vigilant about some kind of imaginary creature. Even if she claimed that she was taken by it, who was to tell that she was right? Only Wendy and Iggy were thoughtful after this. They realized the same thing Ludwig had realized: if this was some kind of evil force making a quiet move, then there was a lot to worry about. They didn’t know who it might be. They were so unaware of that force, that they had never even seen their agents. That was more than a bit scary.

---------------------

Time went on and the banquet grew closer. Bowser was starting to worry about what he would wear and whether or not his shell could use polish. Wendy, too, was starting to fret about the state of her wardrobe. The other Koopalings didn’t seem to care about that, and neither did Eris. It was Wendy that pointed out that because she didn’t have a shell, she’d have to worry about getting a dress or some such thing. Kammy was the one who grudgingly went out to get Eris something that would be presentable enough for such a great event. Ludwig, having finally gotten as much information as he thought he would be able to get, had finally shared with Bowser what he knew about the creatures that had brought Eris to the pipe that led her to Dark Land. Bowser seemed uninterested.

“If there is indeed some evil force going about, our agents will find out. There’s no force greater than the Koopa Empire! We’ll just crush them harder than a banana!” Bowser had said.

The other Koopalings, with the exception of Wendy and Iggy, also didn’t seem to care much about any evil force that could be hiding. Roy and Morton were confident that the Koopa Empire could win. To be cautious, however, they did promise to fortify the castle’s offenses, as well as  the army’s general offensive capabilities. Larry promised to check the castle’s defenses. Having spent as long as he had exploring the nooks and crannies of the castle, no one knew better than he did about any secret passage or entrance or even any defenses that the castle might have. Only Lemmy rivaled this knowledge, and the small Koopaling also pledged to help Larry. Ludwig was pretty much done readying the army’s orders, and Iggy was also done upgrading most of the weapons, tanks and such. Of course, he mostly only designed the blueprints of devices like that. Building all of the machines on his own would take too long. He had hand-picked the engineers that actually built his designs. Wendy had decided to take care of the entire intel operation, something that Ludwig was very thankful for. She had sent many of the agents to recon missions, to see if they could find any new traces of the evil force that was obviously on the move.She had also analyzed every report they had brought and coordinated responses to them with Ludwig. The seven Koopalings basically had the whole castle operation down pat. Whatever happened, they at least could rest assured that Dark Land was going to be able to respond to the best of its ability.

The week before the event, Ludwig, Wendy and Iggy decided to have a bit of a conversation about the intel information Wendy had managed to obtain already. Because of the nature of the conversation, they decided that the best place to talk was Iggy’s lab. As much of a genius as Iggy was, he was known to have several of his new inventions explode a number of times before he actually made them work. All he had to do was let people know he was working on something new and no one would dare bother them.

“I can’t believe no one’s found any traces of whoever is behind that three-headed snake,” Wendy said. “It’s like trying to track a shadow.”

“What makes you think there’s someone behind them?” Iggy asked.

“No self-respecting evil force goes and does the dirty job on their own,” Wendy replied. “You need minions to do the dirty work for you. And kidnapping is borderline dirty, but bombing an orphanage definitely is.”

“What if they’re, like, super-evil?”

“Don’t be silly. Bombing an orphanage is as pointless as kicking a puppy. Who’d ever do that and be worth taking seriously? If you ask me, they were either cleaning up evidence, or causing a diversion. That’s minion work. An evil overlord doesn’t worry about that kind of thing.”

“Vell, vee can’t assume zey are high-class as vee are,” Ludwig said. “Maybe zee snake is zee overlord and zee mouse is zee minion. And zey are just starting out and have no one else. Zere have been successful evil forces like zat.”

None of them wanted to mention Cackletta, given the traumatic experience their father had suffered, and the way they’d been used by that creature, but she was the example the three of them were thinking about.

“That’d be a big problem,” Iggy said. “It’s like machines. A really big defect, and you can find it real quick. But when it’s a tiny defect, it takes that much longer to find the problem. And just because it’s in a small piece doesn’t mean that the consequences are small. I’ve had machines explode entirely just because of a small, tiny piece that wasn’t very carefully adjusted.”

“There’s only one interesting fact that the agents brought back,” Wendy said.

“Vat is it?”

“Well, I sent them looking for rumors of strange things. So one of them came back with one that seemed like some kind of weird conspiracy theory. But it kind of makes sense. He said that an old, old Koopa said that shy-guys were trying to take over the world.”

“Shy-guys? Vy, of all zings, shy-guys? Zey are so primitive!” Ludwig exclaimed.

“I know, right? The agent thought the same way. So he asked, and what the koopa said was ‘Well, where do shy-guys come from? Why aren’t they in the oldest texts?’ And I think that question makes a lot of sense in our investigation. We haven’t been looking at things right. It’s less about where these evil forces are and more about where they come from,” Wendy explained.

“Oh… right,” Iggy said, thoughtfully. “That might be why we can’t find them. It might be like looking at the problem in the motor, when it’s actually the compressor that’s causing the issue. You’d never find it.”

“Vat do you two mean?”

“I think she means that we’ve been looking all over the Mushroom World for this dangerous evil force, and it’s likely that it might not even come from here. It wouldn’t even be the first time a thing like that happens.”

“You don’t zink… zee dream vorld?!” Ludwig exclaimed.

“Well, it’s worth checking out. If this world exists, there should be other mentions in other old books,” Wendy said.

“Zere is not enough time in zee vorld to check all zee old books!”

“Do it like I upgrade the Koopa Troop’s fleet. I design the plan and then ask people who already have the required knowledge to perform the plan. We have the blueprint of what we need to do, which is to go and check the origins of the shy-guys. There’s people who study those kinds of things, so it’s not like we have to check all the books. They’ve already read the relevant books. All we have to do is send agents to ask historians and other such people that study the origins of things,” Iggy said.

“I like how you think,” Wendy said. “We have enough unassigned agents to do that.”

“I vish Dad vould take zis seriously,” Ludwig said. “Vee command only part of zee Dark Land’s forces. A substantial amount, yes. But if vee had his backing, zings vould go more smoothly.”

“At least you have us,” Iggy said. “I’m glad you figured this problem exists. I always thought you’d make the best commander of the Koopa Troop.”

Ludwig shrugged.

“Vell, zat is only my job part-time now, isn’t it?” he said.

“Still, I have a feeling that, when all's said and done, everyone is going to be glad you had the cautiousness to follow this lead through,” Iggy said.


Last edited by Envy on Sun Mar 13, 2016 2:19 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : How did I miss the title's format????)
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PostSubject: Re: Chronotomicon   Sun Mar 13, 2016 2:18 am

Quote :

This was supposed to be posted a long while ago. Whoops. So here's February 24's chapter.

The character here introduced is my answer to the perennial question of "who is the mother of the Koopalings?" I looked that up and despite the claims to the contrary, there is no official answer. Lourdes was actually designed visually by a friend of mine, so credit goes to her for that. She goes by Silver Ray currently. The credit for her personality and story goes to me, though.

I wasn't sure how I'd feel about her when I decided to use her, but the ideas that came to me were amusing enough that I went with it. I don't regret it.

Chapter 9 - Lourdes

Though almost all of the most important people in the Mushroom World would be going to Princess Peach’s castle, the truth was that, even with warp pipes and other means of travel, most people couldn’t make it there and back to their homes in a single day. Peach had, therefore, graciously provided accommodations for everyone who needed it. The only exception, really, was Bowser, whose powerful airships doubled as transport and lodgings. They just had to leave early the day before the banquet to make sure that they were there and ready in time. The day before they left, they had already loaded everything they would need onto the airship. There was only one thing missing… and that was the one thing Bowser worried about the most. To appease his seven older children, he was going to invite Lourdes to the banquet. The truth was that for years, since she had left, he and Lourdes had barely spoken. Her parting had not been an especially friendly one, and, as intimidating as the Koopa King was, many people thought Lourdes was even more so, King Bowser included. When he’d received the invitation to the banquet, he’d sent a letter to invite Lourdes as well, and, well, she had accepted. It was time to call her so that she would come. Bowser was nervous. It wasn’t that her parting had been unfriendly, either. They were on very respectful terms. Still, after their separation, he couldn’t help but become nervous in her presence. The fiery personality that had originally brought them together seemed almost scary now that they were not tied to each other.

For their part, the Koopalings were very excited to have their mother visit. The younger ones still held some hope that Bowser and Lourdes would get together again, though the older ones had entirely given up (except for Lemmy, who, despite his physical age, was usually counted among the younger ones). And even if they didn’t get together again, it would be great to see Lourdes in a different kind of setting. She’d never been to the Mushroom Kingdom, after all, and they figured she’d love to see it, and a fancy banquet was a great excuse for it. For once, their kind would be welcome there. Even Eris was quite excited. Lemmy had told her about his mother, and as Eris had never really met a mother, she was looking forward to it quite a lot.

It was soon known all over the castle that Lourdes was going to arrive that evening, for dinner. The entire castle was buzzing with nervous excitement. It had been years since the previous Queen of the Koopas had set foot in the castle, and despite the separation, she was still regarded with awe. The chefs worked extra hard to prepare the meal so that it might please her, the janitors worked harder than usual to clean everything up, and then it was a sort of waiting game. The eight Koopalings and Eris stayed in Bowser’s throne room, awaiting Lourdes’s entrance. All of the Koopalings, aside from Junior were quite on their best behavior. Junior kept whining about being bored every so often, but even Lemmy didn’t bother to pay attention to him. Bowser simply seemed nervous and fidgety. Kamek and Kammy, as Bowser’s top advisors and caretakers of the royal family, were there as well.

They didn’t actually have to wait too long. She was quite on time. An announcer came into the room to tell Bowser that she was here, and he sent for her. When she arrived, Eris could see why the castle servants and even Bowser himself had seemed nervous. She was an impressive figure, almost as tall as Bowser was, though far less bulky. Her fierce red eyes were set on a green face, much like some of the Koopalings’ faces. Her horns were almost as impressive as Bowser’s and her spiky blue hair gave her an even more wild appearance. She was wearing red heels and a thick red pearl necklace, red lipstick, and her manicure was blood-red as well. Her green shell had spikes similar to Bowser’s and her expression was every bit as bold as her looks. Bowser seemed to be at loss for words for a moment, and eventually went with a polite, fairly generic greeting.

“Lourdes! Pleasure to see you! Welcome to my humble abode,” he said.

“Well, honey, with all the statues of you all over the place, it’s anything but humble. But thank you! Long time no see!” Lourdes responded. Her tone wasn’t exactly aggressive, but there was plenty of assertiveness behind it.

“Mom!” Lemmy called out.

“Well, hello there, my dear children! You’re all looking wonderful. And so well-behaved! Good! I haven’t spent so many years educating you just so you’d turn out any different than that. Great to see that’s not being spoiled over here. And hello to you too, Bowser Junior! You’re looking bigger!” Lourdes said. Then her eyes fell on Eris. “And my, my. What do we have here? Who is this child?”

“She’s my new adopted child,” Bowser said. “Her name is, uh…”

“Eris,” Kamek helpfully finished for him.

“You adopted her? Really? Quite unlike you! But very well. Hello, Eris. It is a pleasure to meet you.”

Eris smiled and gave a small wave.

“She doesn’t talk,” Kammy explained as Lourdes gave her a confused look.

“Oh, I see. Well, if you lend her to me for a couple of months, I’ll have her singing like a canary!”

“Er, there’s no need, dear,” Bowser said. “She’ll learn to talk soon enough.”

“I can’t believe you’re going soft!” Lourdes said. “But well, she’s yours, so it’s your choice.”

At that moment, a koopa servant came into the throne room.

“What is it?” Bowser asked the servant.

“Dinner is served, Lord Bowser,” he said meekly.

“Very well. We’ll be there in just a moment.”

The servant bowed and then left.

“I do remember the food being great here. I trust it still is?” Lourdes asked.

“Of course it is,” Bowser said. Then, he muttered, “For the chef’s sake, I sure hope it is.”

The Koopa royal family, Eris, Kamek and Kammy made their way to the dinner table. Lemmy and Larry both sat next to Lourdes. Every one of the seven Koopalings was happy to see her, but it was the young ones that couldn’t resist sitting next to her. Eris was fascinated by her. She was scary, and at the same time almost friendly. And she seemed to be more sophisticated than Bowser. It was really a pretty amazing thing. It would be fun to have her along for the banquet they were going to the next day. She wondered what the other people would think of her. The servants at the castle seemed to be almost scared of her, even though they also seemed to respect her a lot. The respect didn’t seem to be born out of fear, either.

“So what have you been up to, Bowser?” Lourdes asked as they were being served. “Kidnapping new maidens, or still going after the same one?”

“It’s the same one,” Bowser said.

“I’m quite looking forward to meeting her. She’s the one that is organizing this whole banquet, isn’t she?”

“Yeah.”

“We’ve helped kidnap her!” Lemmy said proudly. “We once disguised ourselves as a birthday cake and sent ourselves to the castle. And then we jumped up and we ran off with her!”

“That’s… creative. But technically, your dad is supposed to be doing the kidnapping. No wonder the poor girl is so confused!”

“I’ve made my intentions clear enough,” Bowser said.

“Well, one can’t help it if the young lady is so oblivious,” Lourdes said. “I’ve always found the people from the Mushroom Kingdom… lacking… in boldness. Though with how rocky the relations are between Dark Land and the Mushroom Kingdom, I’m surprised they extended this invitation. Are we sure they’re not up to something?”

“What could they possibly do against me?” asked Bowser. “Those wimps can’t even fight their way out of a paper bag, aside from those plumbers. And even they can’t deal with all of us at once.”

“That’s what ambushes are for, honey.”

“They wouldn’t dare ambush the great King of the Koopas!”

“Yeah, I have to agree with Dad,” Wendy said. “They don’t really have the guts to do something like that at the Mushroom Kingdom. They consider such things dirty tactics.”

“And either way, we’ll all be there,” Bowser said. “They can’t do a thing against us. We’ll be going by airship, and all our airships are war-capable and the crew is well-trained to function even without us commandeering the ship.”

“Oh, and of course, I’ll be there too,” Lourdes said with a smile. Then her smile turned into a glare. “If anyone tries to so much as look at my kids funny… I’m going to turn them inside out.”

Eris flinched slightly. She wasn’t sure whether Lourdes was serious, but turning someone inside-out seemed mighty uncomfortable. She thought mothers were supposed to be kind and protective, not fierce and, well, she supposed turning someone inside-out for looking at her kids funny was being protective in a way. Just maybe a bit too fiercely. She sincerely hoped she didn’t mean that literally. The Koopalings apparently found what she’d said quite hilarious and laughed over it.

Despite her scary threat to the people she hadn’t even seen yet, Lourdes was quite pleasant over dinner. She happily held an intelligent conversation with those at the table, especially Kamek, Kammy, Ludwig, Iggy and Wendy. Even Bowser was more talkative than usual when she prompted him. It gave Eris the impression that they used to be a pretty great family, and she couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to cause their separation. Whatever it was, it didn’t seem to prevent their getting along at times like this. She really wished she were able to talk so that she could ask Lemmy later. Lemmy was nice, so he’d probably answer. Perhaps she could try writing, since talking was out of the question. Kamek had been giving her lessons, and she was getting better and learning to write more difficult words.

After dinner, however, she had no chance to talk to Lemmy, mostly because the seven Koopalings all went with Lourdes, and Eris just didn’t feel like she was supposed to go with them. That left her with Junior, and it wasn’t really like they got along. To her surprise, however, perhaps because of being left alone by all his siblings, Junior was friendlier than usual. At least… friendly in his own selfish kind of way.

“I wanna go play tennis! You’re going to come with me!” Junior declared. “You do know how to play, right?”

Eris had seen him and Larry play before. She likely wasn’t very good, really. After all, she had never participated much in those kinds of games, even back at the orphanage. But, well. She knew how to play either way. She nodded hesitantly.

“Well, while everyone else is busy, you’re gonna come with me and you’re gonna play with me!” Junior said.

Eris had little choice but to follow him.

---------------------

The royal chambers were on the right wing of the castle, as were the chambers of especially high-ranked people such as Kamek and Kammy. On the left wing of the castle were the guest chambers, and this was where Lourdes was staying. The Koopalings had gone there after dinner. They lived with her most of the time, yes, but they were also closer to her than their father. It would be a few months before they went back to live with her, and it was the first time she’d been at the castle since her separation from Bowser. They had to take advantage of that situation.

Lourdes, for her part, was happy to have this chance to speak to her children in private. When she’d come to the castle, she’d expected to see everything the same way as it always was. Still, finding Bowser had a new adopted daughter was so unexpected, that she was starting to worry there was something wrong. And who better to clear that up than her kids?

“How has your father been treating you?” Lourdes asked. That, of course, was the most important question, as far as she was concerned.

“Pretty good!” Lemmy responded. “We get to be super useful around the castle.”

“The dungeons are kept in great shape, even without us helping,” Wendy said. “I went to inspect them personally yesterday. Is it true that you’re the one who added them to the castle?”

“Not entirely. I was the one who renovated them into their current state, though,” Lourdes replied, a hint of pride in her voice.

“That is really cool!” Larry exclaimed. “I didn’t know that. But well you’re really good at interior designing, so I guess it makes sense.”

“We’ve had a lot of fun dealing with the army and giving them orders and making sure they’re battle-ready, and strengthening all the castle offenses,” Roy said. “Shame we don’t have too many prisoners at the moment. I’d love to go and scare them and make them toil.”

“The Koopa Troop was in pretty bad shape until we came along,” Morton said. “But we’ve fixed it right up!”

“It’s just to be expected, really,” Ludwig said. “Junior can’t hope to match us in competence. He’s so spoiled, he doesn’t even try. Zough, even if he did, he vould just fail. He may like giving orders, and vee may have to obey zem, but vee all know who’s superior.”

“That’s my boy,” Lourdes said. “What about you, Iggy?”

“I made this device that makes a huge BOOM!” he said giddily. “It explodes, and it’s SUPPOSED to explode! It’s a re-usable bomb! And I’ve just done blueprints for all sorts of upgrades to the ships and tanks. The ship we’ll be taking tomorrow has been outfitted with some of my best work! And don’t worry! I tested it, so it only explodes on command!”

“That sounds… great!” Lourdes said. She wasn’t really sure it did sound great. Iggy might be a genius, but he was as careful as a hungry psycho mouse on caffeine. And that did tend to add a bit of a… bang… to his creations. Despite that, it had to be said that he had created some pretty amazing things that worked perfectly fine, like Bowser’s Clown Copter. Sure, it looked fairly silly, but, well, it was Iggy. It was to be expected.

“It’s not like I can GIVE it the command, either!” Iggy laughed. “Maybe I should start adding self-destruct buttons to everything I build!”

“I zink not!” Ludwig exclaimed. “Zey have enough vays to explode as is!”

Iggy only laughed in his usual maniacal way.

“I need to know something,” Lourdes said, causing Iggy to finally stop laughing. “Is everything really… okay? I’m no idiot. Something’s up with that ex-husband of mine. Adopting a little girl? Sure, she may look almost adorably innocent with her silence, but that’s exactly what’s wrong with this! Surely his crush on that flimsy princess isn’t turning his mind to mush, is it?!”

The Koopalings paused for a moment, exchanging looks.

“We’re not exactly sure,” Morton said.

“The kid’s a wimp and far from a problem,” Roy said. “But yeah, Dad’s brain is prolly turning to mush.”

“It was such an unusual thing to do for him, that I went and asked Kamek about it last week,” Wendy explained. “He didn’t really want to answer, but I managed to convince him.”

“Whoa, what did you threaten him with?” Iggy asked. “Usually, when he’s made up his mind to say nothing about some plan or secret, he doesn’t change it!”

“I told him I’d give Larry and Junior great ideas to make his life miserable,” Wendy said proudly. “He was so horrified, he spilled the beans. Turns out, Dad’s mostly just trying to win over Peach’s heart by doing good deeds. We knew about him wanting to win her heart before, when he was nice to her spy, but I didn’t think he’d go and make a big change like adding a new daughter to his family.”

“That makes a little more sense,” Lourdes said. “I bet it was Kamek’s own idea, or his sister’s.”

“Yeah, I don’t get it,” Larry said.

“You’ll get it when you’re older,” Wendy said. “But basically, if you do something big for someone, it’s considered romantic. And doing good deeds is pretty big for Dad, especially when they basically change his life...”

“Zere is somezing you should know about,” Ludwig told his mother.

“What?”

“As Roy said, zee girl is no problem on her own. But zee vay she vas found vorries us. She says she vas abducted from an orphanage by a large zree-headed snake and a large mouse,” Ludwig said. “Vee don’t know vy, and she doesn’t know eizer. But she claims zey also bombed zee orphanage. Vich makes zem evil, and it vorries us zat an evil force is out zere, and vee have no idea who zey are and vat zey vant. Viz all zee power of zee Koopa Empire, and zere is a zreat vee know nozing about? Zat is terrifying.”

“Are you children sure the child doesn’t have… something to her? Listen here, I know evil. I even TAUGHT your father some of his evil. And here’s the thing. When evil makes a move, it’s always a move to bring a benefit. Now, here’s the thing. If this child’s story is right, she was kidnapped and her kidnappers bombed an orphanage. Doesn’t that strike you as odd?” Lourdes asked the kids.

“Well, it means they’re evil and ruthless,” replied Roy. “Really evil and ruthless. I’m kind of jealous.”

“It’s a bit too evil,” Lemmy said.

“Yeah,” Larry said. “Why bomb the orphanage?”

“I think,” Iggy said, “that the question is less why they bombed it and why they didn’t bomb Eris with it. I think that’s what mom’s getting at. It’s a bit like using a sledgehammer to remove a screw from an old machine, but then failing to use the screw at all in the machine you intended to fix in the first place.”

“What’s all those words about machines gotta do with anything?” Roy asked. “Talk like a normal person, or I’m gonna shake those loose screws on your head!”

“I zink his point is zat bombing zee orphanage vas likely to remove vitnesses, and zen zey vent and left her as a vitness. If zey vanted to remove vitnesses, vy miss such an obviously important one?”

“That’s exactly right,” Lourdes nodded. “So are you sure there’s nothing about that girl?”

“What THAT means,” Larry said, “isn’t that there’s something SPECIAL about her. It’s that they are probably going to come after her again! They obviously wanted to get her, and they obviously didn’t get her.”

“Oh boy,” Wendy said. “Just what we needed. Aren’t you boys glad you listened to us and actually worked to strengthen the castle’s defenses and offenses?”

Larry, Morton, Roy and Lemmy nodded.

“Oh, you kids already worked on that?” Lourdes asked. “That’s my kids! That’s a smart precaution.”

“Best part is zat it is somezing vee usually do ven vee come here anyvays, so it’s not suspicious.”

“Right you are! I think those preparations will be sure to come in handy,” Lourdes smiled.

“I’ve also sent agents to find out about this snake and the mouse and where they might have come from,” Wendy said.

“Wonderful! I’ve taught you well, and you have learned well!” Lourdes beamed. “I’m so proud of you all!”

Wendy seemed quite proud of that compliment.

“You still have your own intelligence forces, right?” Ludwig asked.

“Of course I do!” Lourdes replied.

“It vould help if zey also looked for zee zree-headed snake,” Ludwig said. “Our only lead is so strange so as to be ridiculous.”

“Really, now? No lead is ridiculous. So what is it?” Lourdes asked.

“Oh, this one is all kinds of ridiculous,” Wendy said. “You see, when we talked with Kammy and Kamek about it, Kammy said she’d heard of things like that before. In a fairy tale book. And she was right. I made a drawing of the snakes in that book and the girl said she recognized them and Ludwig made me draw a three-headed snake using those designs and she definitely recognized that. She pointed it out as the snake that had kidnapped her.”

“A… book of fairy tales? Which one?” Lourdes asked, suddenly a bit more serious.

“One called ‘Tales of Subcon’,” Wendy said.

“I read that book years ago,” Lourdes said. “Kammy wanted to read it to you kids, back when Ludwig was like Junior’s age, but I thought it was too traumatizing for children. The villains were constantly being beaten up by the heroes! It was so barbaric, I told her not to read that to you. It’s the kind of book that should be read by adults. She lent it to me and I read it. Of course, then your dad and I divorced, so she never read it to you.”

“A lot of stories are like that, though,” Larry said. “They have really downer endings, with the villains always losing. What makes this one so barbaric? It’s fairy tales! I bet I could read it and think it’s no big deal!”

“They beat them up by throwing… vegetables at them,” Lourdes said dramatically. “Vegetables with faces, even! Big, smiling vegetables with gigantic eyes!”

“Oh okay, that is BRUTAL,” Larry said, his eyes wide.

“I love it!” Morton exclaimed. “The drama! Imagine me, as an actor in a dramatization of that, hit in the face by a vegetable, lying on the ground with my last breath, my loyal partner not leaving my side!”

“If that ever happens, tell me so I can be on the other side of the world then!” Larry teased.

“Up to you, shrimp! You’d miss an excellent award-worthy performance!” Morton replied.

“HEY! Shaddup! I’m not a shrimp!”

“I’m not having any yelling in here that I’m not making!” Lourdes snapped. “So be quiet, you two!”

Morton and Larry grudgingly stopped bickering.

“Anyways, yeah, that’s the book,” Wendy said. “Our agents also came back with a lead that’s really grasping at straws, if you ask me. They said some old man claimed that shy-guys were taking over the world, just because they don’t appear in old texts, so no one really knows where they come from. So they’re obviously a conspiracy theory. It’s really stupid, but we sent agents to find the origin of shy-guys from historians to see if they give us a clue as to where the three-headed snake and the mouse might’ve come from.”

“Funny you mention shy-guys,” Lourdes said. “That book has shy-guys in it. I thought that the writers had really just used any number of exotic world creatures, but now that you mention that shy-guys don’t have a defined origin… it makes me wonder. I know a lot about the history of Dark Land, but never really gave any thought to primitive shy-guys. Maybe it’s true that people don’t know where they come from.”

“So, vere did zee book get zis from? You don’t mean zat the Dream Vorld exists, do you?” Ludwig asked, still incredulous.

“Well, it was probably written after shy-guys appeared in our world. They do go back a long time, that’s why they formed tribes and the like. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything. It’s just a curious coincidence that you’re looking into a species that is featured in the book about Subcon,” Lourdes said.

“Well, other worlds exist,” Lemmy said. “Who’s to say Subcon isn’t one of them? I like the idea of a world with dream fairies.”

“Of course you would,” Roy said. “You’re kinda stupid like that.”

“But, vell, he does have a small point,” Ludwig said. “I hate zee idea of a dream vorld, but, vat if it does exist? At zee very least, zere could be a different vorld zat zey came from.”

“What’s so wrong with a dream world?” asked Lemmy.

“Vee just saw it in a book of fairy tales! Fairy tales are not real!”

“Yeah, they say the same thing about legends, and then they turn out to be not only real, but also important to save the world,” Lemmy said.

“Legends, by definition, have SOME basis in zee truz. Some zings are real and some are not, and zen zere are zee exaggerations. But fairy tales are total lies. Just stories to put kids to sleep,” Ludwig said.

“Well, I don’t care what YOU say. I like my world better with dream fairies and I’m gonna believe in dream fairies,” Lemmy said, crossing his arms.

“But--” Ludwig began.

“It’s not like his belief causes any harm, so let him believe what he wants,” Lourdes interrupted. “We don’t really have time to set beliefs straight right now. There’s a time and place for those things and it is not now. So you guys are looking for the origin of shy-guys to try to find possible places to look for your serpent and mouse. You really think of everything! It’s definitely a start.”

“Oh, right, there’s the magic door too,” Wendy said.

“What magic door?” asked Lourdes.

“Well, the kid said they made a magic door, and Kammy said that there was a magic door in the book too,” Wendy answered.

“That’s right. There’s a flask of a potion and you toss it on the ground and it builds a door to Subspace,” Lourdes nodded. “It went something like that.”

“Yeah, that’s it, I think. Either way, they had the flask, and a book next to it with the picture of the door, so it’s related,” Wendy said.

“But vat is Subspace, exactly? I don’t like not being told zese details.”

“They never explain. They only say that it’s a place where dreams and nightmares are vanished, never to return,” Lourdes said.

“Here’s my question,” Iggy said. “If the book’s magic door leads to Subspace… then can it really be the same as the one the girl described? That one didn’t lead to Subspace. It led to… wherever she was before she got to Dark Land.”

“All magic spells can be altered,” Lourdes said. “All it takes is a very skilled magician. Or, in this case, a potion-maker.”

“Oh, great. So not only are zese people sneaky and dangerous, zey are also skilled! Vat ozer bad news vill be get?” Ludwig asked in quite an annoyed tone.

“Well. They’re coming back! And they probably have more friends!” Lemmy said, helpfully.

“It vas a rhetorical question!” Ludwig snapped. “Vy vould you answer it?!”

“Well. We do have little to go on. But when we get back from this banquet, I’ll set my own intelligence network on the job,” Lourdes said. “I do wish we weren’t all going to this banquet, but well. We’ll make the best of it.”

“What’s wrong with the banquet?” asked Larry.

“Only that we will be seen by the entire Mushroom Kingdom, and any visitors and that could include the snake and mouse!” Wendy responded.

“Oh. Okay, yeah, that’s no good,” Larry said.

“Maybe we should dye the girl’s hair rainbow, like mine!” Lemmy suggested.

“Most people can recognize faces, Lemmy,” Morton said.

“She can wear a mask!” Lemmy countered.

“That’d be so suspicious it wouldn’t even fool a Toad,” Wendy said.

“I think you should just worry about finding out why those goons wanted that kid. There’s nothing else we can do for now,” Lourdes said.

“Leave it to me!” Iggy exclaimed. “I have just the right machines for the job! Of course, it’ll take a while so we’ll have to do it when we return from the banquet.”

“Then it’s set. Let’s talk about something else for now, then,” Lourdes said. “Conspiracy theories are all good fun and everything, but we have a lot to catch up with.”

The seven Koopalings agreed on that point, so they immediately changed the topic and began to talk about all sorts of trivial things and anecdotes. In the end, they all laughed and had a great time. They were, actually, quite disappointed when it was time for them to go to sleep. Sure, they could sleep most of the way to Peach’s Castle, but Bowser wouldn’t be pleased if they all looked like sleep-deprived zombies the next day. And anyways, it wasn’t like Lourdes would be leaving just yet. They did enjoy their time with their father, but they weren’t going to be complaining about getting extra time with their mother, either.
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Envy

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PostSubject: Re: Chronotomicon   Sun Mar 13, 2016 2:27 am

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If I catch up, it's like I never left, right? Very Happy This is TOTALLY March 2's post.

A lot of the story has led to this moment. It won't exactly be short, but well... it's an important event, after all!

Chapter 10 - Keeping the enemy closer

Fairly early the next day, the airship set out towards the Mushroom Kingdom. It was no Doomship, which was their flagship and most impressive vehicle, and whose cheesy name was pretty fitting for a war machine anyway. Even Bowser realized that taking such an obviously heavily-armed ship to what was supposed to be a peace-celebrating feast was a pretty bad idea. Still, the airship they did end up taking was ostentatious enough, and if anyone tried something funny against them, it was more than capable of war. They didn’t think anyone would be foolish enough to try to bother them, even when they were so outnumbered, but in the end, Toads could be a bit… dull. And Mario had this oversized hero complex and things could get complicated. At the same time, Bowser was pretty excited about this opportunity to parade his new good deeds in front of Peach. She just HAD to be impressed with his efforts. Maybe she’d at least consider his proposal next time, after seeing how he was capable of meeting her standards of “good”. He didn’t really care that these standards were so different from traditional Koopa culture. If it’d bring him closer to Peach, he was okay with this.

The Koopalings were pretty excited about the trip as well, mostly because it was surely a great change of pace from being beaten up by Mario. They never even had a chance to really enjoy the scenery or, really, much of anything, most of the time. It was always a rush inside the castle, a kidnapping, and a rush out of the castle and into all sorts of trap-filled fortresses where they would try to protect the way forward from Mario. And Mario always ended up beating them anyways. There had even been that one awful time in Dinosaur Land, when most of them had gotten dumped into lava. Thank goodness for Kamek and his magic. The divorce papers between Bowser and Lourdes were settled soon afterwards, and the Koopalings had gotten a very needed recovery time. They had not participated in every single one of Bowser’s plans since, mostly because some of them took place when they were staying with Lourdes. Not even a long time later, Bowser had gotten Junior, and the little Koopaling had taken their place as Bowser’s usual accomplice. Even so, they hadn’t really traveled much, outside of those times they’d gone Peach-kidnapping, so they were very glad to have this opportunity. They might be evil, but they sure knew how to enjoy and appreciate leisure time.

Eris was pretty excited as well. She had never taken a trip at all, except the one time she had been moved to another orphanage. She’d been glad, mostly because the matron in the first orphanage was kind of scary and mean. She just didn’t have much patience at all, and she was the reason Eris had lost her voice. She was just really glad that the matron in Saint Lewison was so much nicer. She really hoped she and the other kids were okay. Still, with the amount of time that had passed, it was difficult for Eris to think about them as much as she had done before. The more she had thought of what had happened, the more she was convinced that none of them had really been hurt. After all, what she had heard were screams of fear. They didn’t sound like screams of pain. That knowledge was the only thing that kept her from being horribly crushed by what she’d heard. The rather hectic days that were often to be found in the Koopa Castle were also helping her a lot. And now she had the exciting prospect of getting to know an entirely new kingdom! It really was like something out of a fairy tale. She wondered what Peach’s Castle would be like and what kinds of things would be served at the feast. If the Koopa Castle had all sorts of turtle-like creatures, what kinds of creatures would be in this new kingdom? they called it the Mushroom Kingdom, but it surely couldn’t be made of mushrooms, could it? Either way she really loved to be able to look at the scenery as they flew over it. Being so high up in the air gave her a giddy kind of feeling, something in between nostalgia for something that had once belonged to her and a great desire to jump off the airship and fly. Of course, she knew she couldn’t fly, but she still felt like she should love to try. Thankfully, Lemmy was often distracting her. She’d grown to like Lemmy a fair amount. He was the nicest of the Koopalings, and was the only one that really spent any considerable amount of time with her. He’d even taken her with him a few times when he went to do his jobs around the castle. It wasn’t that the others were terribly hostile or anything. They talked to her sometimes, but they just were busy with their own thing, and were naturally less friendly. If it hadn’t been for Lemmy being so friendly and accepting, she wasn’t sure she would have adapted so well into life with these creatures.

For her part, Lourdes had a lot to think about. It wasn’t like it was really awkward to be in close proximity to her ex-husband. She was actually glad she could sneak in some extra time with her children. Bowser didn’t seem bothered at all, either. Ever since he’d gotten Junior, he’d completely gotten over any bad feelings he might’ve still had after their divorce. That just made things easier. When she’d first asked for a divorce, back at the time when Bowser’s obsession with conquering the Mushroom Kingdom had gotten the best of him, she had been worried that she’d have to fight the court system (literally) to keep her children. He’d surprised her with agreeing to share custody. That was really the reason they’d managed to stay friends. She wasn’t sure she would have been on any sort of good terms with him had that not been the case. Still, the happiness of seeing her children for extra time was slightly dampened by the news they had brought her. Strange creatures going around bombing places and kidnapping kids did not bode well for anyone. There certainly were other evil kingdoms, but Dark Land was the most notorious one, and also the strongest. Besides, she didn’t think any of the others had the gall to do what these creatures did. What kind of rival were they dealing with? She wondered if the lead they had with the book would really result in any new information. They lived in a world where legends often turned out to be true, but the idea of a dream world spilling into their world was pretty disturbing. Fortunately, none of those worries would prevent the former Queen of the Koopas from enjoying this trip. She was very good at compartmentalizing feelings, and after allowing herself a bit of time to worry, she decided to just enjoy the trip. She was curious about meeting Peach, too. She’d heard a lot about the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom. She couldn’t understand Bowser’s interest in her, though. Peach was so dainty and delicate as though she were made of porcelain. She wasn’t the kind of person that would really seem to be a great fit for Bowser. And yet, she was pretty accomplished. From a young age, she had taken over the actual job of ruling the kingdom instead of her father, who had retired. Despite the constant attacks from Dark Land, she had kept her kingdom together. She had even managed to escape from Bowser’s clutches several times. She was no physical fighter, but she seemed pretty resourceful. There was much to admire in a person like that. As much as she was enjoying the whole trip and the idea of a fancy banquet in an exotic kingdom, she figured she would be more interested in getting to know the foreign monarch.

Bowser, for his part, could hardly wait until they got to Peach’s castle. Sure, he would be okay conquering the kingdom, but if Peach would finally see his manly charms, his strength and intelligence and all sorts of creativity, things would be even better. He was the mighty King of the Koopas, and he was an outright blessing to anyone he happened to grace with his presence. This was the perfect opportunity to show Princess Peach his new good deeds. She had to be impressed. It wasn’t like it was a small thing to do, either, save someone’s life. If all the times he’d kidnapped her and shown her how strong he was hadn’t impressed her, maybe this would. He wasn’t too fussed about being with his ex-wife. It was true that she’d taken away his heirs. He’d wanted to keep them all the time in order to groom Ludwig to be king. And if he’d proven inadequate, there were six other candidates to the crown. But Lourdes had wanted custody and he’d given it to avoid a long feud(Lourdes and her family were not to be trifled with, especially when one has great ambitions that take as much commitment as conquering a land). Good thing he had Junior now. With no mother to fight over custody, he was the perfect heir. The only real worry that he had right then was whether or not he’d look perfect with the tuxedo he’d gotten ready for the occasion.

---------------------

Back in the Mushroom Castle, everyone was already busy with the festivities. Sure, they were worried about the arrival some time later of the Koopa family, but that wasn’t going to stop anyone from having a good time. It wasn’t quite time for the feast yet, and the guests had decided to start the festivities early… modestly, of course. They didn’t want to add a huge burden on their hosts. Still, the kings were spending time talking to each other (the King of Giant Land had eaten a mini-mushroom so as to be able to fit in), and Princess Daisy had been spending time with Peach and the Mario brothers most of the day.

“Don’t you guys worry about old Bowser,” Daisy said in her typical energetic way. “I’ll be here right with you! I learned a lot after Tatanga kidnapped me! I took self-defense classes, and I can totally help out!”

“Well… yes, I’m sure you can. But I would really prefer to have no problems,” Peach said. “Toadsworth wondered if it was a good idea to invite so many people, especially considering our unexpected guests, but it’s been a whole hundred years since there was a celebration like this. Everyone was expecting something huge. I couldn’t let the people down.”

“Well, technically, you didn’t have to invite Bowser,” Daisy said. “It’s a bit crazy, really. A bit like if I’d invited Tatanga to dinner at my palace!”

“I told them so, too!” Luigi exclaimed. “But nobody listened to me. Bowser and his kids coming here is a disaster at any time. But invited? Oh, I expect chaos!”

“I’m so sorry my decision has caused you to worry so, Luigi. But like I explained, if there’s any way that this risk may bring us peace with Dark Land, I must do it.”

“It’s okay, Princess. Luigi and I will protect you from anything that might happen,” Mario said.

“Thank you, Mario,” Peach smiled.

“I love how dependable you two brothers are,” Daisy grinned. “Why, if it weren’t for Mario’s heroic efforts-”

At that moment, a very fancily-dressed pionpi tugged on Daisy’s sleeve.

“An urgent message from home, Your Highness,” the Pionpi said.

“Oh, dear me, I can’t even take a couple of days without work following me,” Daisy said apologetically. “Do excuse me. I’ll be right back!”

She moved away to talk to the Pionpi. Peach, Mario and Luigi glanced at her for a moment, but out of politeness, turned away.

“I wonder what message could be so urgent that it couldn’t wait until she got home,” Peach wondered. “I do hope everything’s alright.”

“I’m sure it is. There’s really no reason for anything to go wrong right now. The only current threat is Bowser, and he’s never been interested in Sarasaland. And besides, he’s coming here, so it’s not like he could be doing something evil over there anyways.”

“Yes, you’re right.”

Daisy didn’t take long to finish talking with the envoy from Sarasaland, and she went straight back to Peach, Mario and Luigi.

“Is everything okay at home?” Peach asked.

“Well… I think so. Someone from the court disappeared and was found like ten hours later, and he had no idea where he’d been all that time. It’s a freak incident and several people are worried, but we’re sure it’s just a one-time thing. That man is one of our most loyal subjects. He does a lot of the planning for the army and everything, and brings that information to me. I’m sure that he just got very busy with his work again and lost track of time,” Daisy said. “The only odd thing is that he said he never left the room he was in, and though everyone looked for him, no one saw him, until ten hours later. He appeared back in his room after people had stopped looking in that area.”

“That does seem rather odd,” Peach said.

“Oh, don’t sound so serious! I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about! It’s not like it’s the first time that good old man’s lost track of time when no one could find him!” Daisy exclaimed.

“In any case, if there’s more events like that,” Mario said, “Luigi and I can go and investigate.”

“Investigate mysterious disappearances?” Luigi asked, dismayed.

“That’s what we do!”

“But someone needs to stay behind and protect Princess Peach,” Luigi said.

“Well, if you want to volunteer for that, go ahead. But if things are strange in Sarasaland, I might just go and take a look after the feast is over.”

“Well, thank you, Mario. That’d be just swell. I’m sure it won’t be necessary, but thanks for offering!” Daisy smiled.

The conversation moved on from serious topics, with the princesses mostly talking about the festivities as they’d been so far, with the kings and their entourages, and the things they were wearing. Mario and Luigi didn’t find this conversation at all something they would enjoy, but they still stayed nearby, just in case Bowser decided to go with a flashy entrance and kidnap the princess despite his supposed truce. After all, since they didn’t know exactly when Bowser would show up, they figured it was better to be cautious.

---------------------

Barely an hour later after Daisy had gotten some news from her homeland, there was a big uproar. The Koopa airship had been spotted! Despite the news that the Koopa family was here on peaceful terms, a lot of Toads couldn’t help but run around in a panic. The airship settled down on the outskirts of town, causing even more of a panic among certain Toads, who were sure Bowser was just getting ready to destroy the town.

In reality, Bowser had his crew park the airship outside the town at Kamek’s suggestion, mostly because the old Koopa thought it’d be less likely to be seen as a hostile move than to park the airship next to the castle. None of the cannons were visible, and the ship was flying a white flag. There could be no misunderstanding as to their intentions, they thought. And then, once the airship was settled, the Koopa family came out of it in a sort of procession. It was led by Kamek and Kammy, who despite not being invited, thought it was pretty much their duty and honor to escort the royal family. Behind them went Bowser, in an elegant black tuxedo, and Lourdes, in quite a stunning red dress with some black lace. Right behind them were Junior and Ludwig, in black suits. Then came Lemmy in a bright orange suit and Roy, who was wearing a much more standard black suit, with a decidedly elegant red tie. Then Iggy, who was wearing a brown suit, and Wendy, who was wearing a very fancy green dress to go with her plain pink bow. Then came Morton, who wore a flashy blue suit. And at the back, Larry and Eris. Larry was wearing a standard black suit and Eris had been given a very girly, but pretty, pink dress. They all walked as regally as they could, though Lemmy was never much of an elegant Koopa, and Larry couldn’t help looking mad at being left all the way to the back of the procession, and Eris had never been taught any sort of graceful walking. She tried to copy Morton’s walk first, but found it too exaggerated. Then she tried to copy Larry’s way of walking, but in the end, the result was just awkward. Despite this, the procession was very impressive, mostly because of Bowser and Lourdes heading it. They were indeed a terrifying presence, especially together. It was easy to see why, when Bowser had married and ascended the throne, Dark Land had become especially notorious as an evil empire. With leaders like that, they didn’t even need to do any sort of evil deed.

The Koopa family procession did actually get a lot of stares (and plenty of Toads running away). Bowser was quite proud of the reactions he was getting from the Toads. He simply loved to make people fear him. It added to his evil overlord cred. There was also an efficiency component to the whole thing. The more he scared people, the less he had to actually back it up with force. He was sure he had the whole being evil thing down to an art.

---------------------

Princess Peach had decided to greet every foreign king personally, and, much to her dismay, this did include Bowser. Despite Mario and Luigi telling her that it would be completely justified to make a distinction with Bowser and having him and his family greeted by an ambassador, Peach wouldn’t hear of it.

“Remember the Shaman’s prediction!!” Peach had said. “We have to show good will and trust, and treating Bowser like an evil tyrant is not showing that.”

Mario and Luigi had relented. After all, the Princess was capable enough to make her own decisions, and, as the ruler of the kingdom, she had a different perspective to their own. She had to consider things that they couldn’t consider, and either way, there was great pressure in a decision like this. If she thought this was the right way to proceed, she had an excellent reason to do so. When the airship was spotted landing outside Toad Town, the Princess and the Mario Brothers had made their way to the entrance of the castle to wait for and greet King Bowser and his family.

And finally, he was there. To the Mushroomers, he looked like an almost paradoxical mixture of elegance and awkwardness. It was just not usual to see Bowser dressing up like that. Even his usually wild mane of reddish hair was combed back. It was strange enough to see even his family dressed up formally. And then, of course there were the two people that none of the Mushroomers had ever seen before. There was the little girl, at the back of the procession, that Parakarry had described. It had seemed almost impossible to even consider that Parakarry was right in his vision of events, but it seemed that he had indeed interpreted things correctly. There was the little girl, awkwardly walking next to Larry, as much a part of the Koopa family as he was. And then there was the Koopa woman next to Bowser. They’d always secretly wondered who the mother of the Koopalings was, but seeing her, there was no doubt anymore. They couldn’t help but slightly worry, though, about what kind of Koopa she was. Hopefully it was the kind that wouldn’t betray a truce.

Either way, Peach showed no surprise as she personally greeted every member of the procession, including Kamek and Kammy. So far, so good. She had honestly expected them to get here just in time for the feast, but there were a couple of hours left still before it actually started.

“You already know me and most of my kids, so there’s no need to introduce them. Anyways, the little girl back there is Eris,” Bowser said, feeling glad that he’d remembered the girl’s name despite rarely actually using it. “And this lady next to me is Lourdes, the, uh, mother of most of my children.”

“How do you do?” Princess Peach asked. “My name is Princess Peach. Pleased to meet you.”

“Good to meet you as well,” Lourdes said.

“And pleased to meet you too, Eris,” Peach said.

Eris smiled and gave a shy wave. She was meeting a princess and not only that, but the people in the Mushroom Kingdom really were mushrooms, and that meant that Princess Peach must be an odd kind of mushroom too, even if she looked normal.

Peach looked a bit concerned for a moment. Bowser didn’t notice, but Lourdes did.

“She doesn’t really talk,” Lourdes whispered to Peach.

“Oh! Well, welcome! You’re all most welcome to come inside the castle,” she said politely. “There’s still a few hours left before the feast, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay outside. There’s a couple of areas that are off limits, but there are guards who will be able to tell you which ones there are. But please, come in.”

“Don’t mind if we do!” Bowser said.

And thus, the long-time enemy of the Mushroom Kingdom was invited into Mushroom Castle as though he were an ally, for the first time in a very, very long while.
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PostSubject: Re: Chronotomicon   Sun Mar 13, 2016 2:31 am

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And this would be this week's post, the 9th of March. Whew! Now this is starting to catch up with what I've written, so I should hurry it up!

Anyways, this is about the Koopa family and what they do in Peach's castle to pass the time before the feast. Some things actually become important later. Others are just there because things happen to people, even when they're not very important. It gives a good glimpse into the minds of the characters, though, I think.

Chapter 11 - Walking Among Enemies

For Eris, the moment she walked into the castle was absolutely magical. For as long as she could remember, she had been living in rather humble conditions in Saint Lewison Orphanage. Castles and princesses had been a very distant fantasy to be found only in the books that the matron read to the children. And now, there she was, wearing her own lovely dress, the likes of which she never thought she’d own, and she had just been greeted by a real princess. And now, she was entering a castle. It was true that she had lived in a castle for the past few months (she was amazed it had been that long), but there was no real point of comparison between Bowser’s castle and Princess Peach’s castle.

Bowser’s castle was built with plain, grey bricks and the only real lighting was provided by infrequent torches, giving the place a perpetual gloomy look. The corridors were mostly empty and eerie, aside from some paintings and statues of Bowser, and most of them had a damp kind of smell. Those that didn’t were the rooms that were filled with lava, and those didn’t exactly smell sweet, either. The lava caused a faint sulphur-like scent to fill those rooms, and sometimes it even spilled over to the nearby ones. Frankly, she had hated the place at first. The place looked so much like the lair of an evil monster from the stories she had been read, that she just couldn’t stand it. She’d had little choice, that was true, and had kept every sign of discomfort to herself. At that time she’d also been convinced that the Koopas were trying to fatten her up in order to eat her, so that made it even more important to pretend everything was going great. By now, she had started to actually grow almost fond of the eerie castle. The echoing sound her footsteps made as she walked, the flickering shadows cast by the torches… everything was almost as though it belonged in a story. She had not seen it at first, but it had its own charm.

And then there was this castle. This was the kind of castle most of the girls back at the orphanage would have wanted to live in, or even just visit. It was built with bright white bricks, and the walls were decorated with tapestries and paintings, and there were plush red carpets on the ground, and the floors were polished until they were almost like mirrors. The hallways were full of the fresh scent of flowers, and the only real emotion that Eris could find to describe it was ‘cheerful’. There were large windows allowing the light to come in, as well as torches placed relatively close to each other. It was beautiful and wonderful and it was like stepping into a fairy tale. She could almost envision herself as a princess in some story that had just been rescued from evil dragons and brought to her rightful place. Of course, she knew better than that, but it would be fun to pretend. It wasn’t like her pretend play could bother anyone. After all, she couldn’t even talk. For the time being, she decided she might as well explore the castle. It wasn’t like she’d ever get another chance like this.

“Hey, where are you going?” asked Larry. “Ugh, I hate babysitting people. Come back here! Dad said you can’t go and get lost here!”

She tried to point towards a nearby corridor, but Larry shook his head.

“No, just come back! Dad’s going to be mad with me if I let you get lost!”

She shook her head and pointed again. Lemmy approached them.

“What’s that? You want to explore?” Lemmy asked her.

Finally! Someone who got it! She nodded emphatically.

“Come on, Lemmy. Don’t try to pretend that you know what she says. She can’t talk,” Larry said.

“I do! It’s cos we think a lot alike! I want to explore, so she must want to as well!” Lemmy said.

Maybe he hadn’t understood after all, Eris thought. But he was right in saying that, at the least, he understood the way she thought. They had spent a lot of time together, after all. She could even call him a friend. The others seemed to think she was dumb because she couldn’t speak, but Lemmy never seemed to care.

“You can’t go explore!” Larry said. “I don’t think Dad would like it! Besides, she can’t go alone anyways!”

“That’s okay! I’ll go with her!” Lemmy grinned. “Come on, Eris, let’s go!”

He waved to Eris and she walked over. Then they began to walk away towards the corridor she had pointed to.

“Hey, no, don’t!” Larry called out. “You’re not allowed!”

“I’m older than you are anyways!” Lemmy said and picked up his pace.

Larry gave an angry stomp, but Lemmy and Eris were gone.

---------------------

Wendy was pretty glad that they were given the opportunity to explore the castle. It meant that she could visit the Mushroom Kingdom library. She wasn’t a huge reader, it was true, but there were books that had all sorts of lovely pictures in styles that wouldn’t be seen in Dark Land books. Maybe she would even be able to borrow one of those books. It would surely be of great help to her art style.

She got plenty of stares as she made her way through the castle, but she didn’t especially care. After all, she was well-aware of the fact that she wasn’t gifted with conventional beauty, but she was sure she had a unique charm and elegance all her own and it was amazing. After all, anyone could sport a pretty look when they had thick locks of hair to work with. Few people could manage to look as good as she did when they didn’t have that. Thus, she mostly welcomed the stares. At the very least, it must mean that she was an impressive Koopa to look at.

The guards at the library were very visibly uncomfortable when she walked in. She had the feeling that they really wished they could tell her that the place was off-limits, but in the end, there were other people coming in and out, and it was easy to tell that they weren’t exactly from around the place. There were Toads in very obvious desert garb walking out of the library, and a Toad with a tropical attire walking inside. Helpless, the guards said nothing as Wendy confidently walked inside.

She was right when she figured that the kinds of books here would be a lot different than the ones in Dark Land. Most of the ones she could find back home were of a dark sort of story and style. She certainly loved it, but after seeing and studying that old book about Subcon, she’d come up with the idea that if she wanted to be a successful artist, she might as well create a unique style. And, of course, to do that, it was absolutely necessary to study the styles of different places. And it wasn’t like Dark Land got many cultural imports. The Mushroom Kingdom, however, did. The library was basically heaven for an aspiring artist! She would be able to spent hours and hours just looking at all sorts of artworks, from the tropical Pipe Maze to the inhospitable Ice Land, to the exotic Giant Land and the dry Desert Land. Her mind was overflowing with ideas before she was done with the tip of that iceberg.

One of the books that she liked the most also happened to be the oldest one she had looked at. It was a book that had come from Desert Land, and the drawings depicted stories about ancient Mushroom Pharaohs and their feats and adventures. She couldn’t help but be reminded that she had also found the art style on that old Subcon book appealing.

“I wonder if old art styles might be worth looking into,” she mused to herself, her voice barely a whisper.

With this in mind, she began specifically picking out books that seemed like they might be quite old. Obviously no one really used those styles anymore. Perhaps if she managed to incorporate them into her own way of doing things, she could be able to create something unique enough to give her a real entry into the world of famous artists.

---------------------

Ludwig and Iggy had decided to walk off on their own. As intelligent as Iggy was, his eccentric behaviour tended to give him few chances at getting along with people. It didn’t help that he found most of his peers to be so beneath him in intellect, he could hardly relate to them. The only Koopaling Iggy found he could really talk to was Ludwig. Sure, he could talk to Wendy too, sometimes, but she was more of an artist than anything else. Ludwig was more of a comfortable middle, and he had interest in the sciences as well as in the arts. He was one of the few people that could really keep up with him in conversation.

“So then I added the capacitor and connected it to the wrong terminal. That’s when the whole thing blew up. I’ll never try adjusting things like that without my glasses again. Not being able to see the polarity of component connectors is the kind of thing that keeps setting me back days,” Iggy said. “It’s worse than a misplaced blueprint because in the end, I can usually just… fill in the blanks and work on something while I find them. It’s just fortunate that so many components work in such standard ways. If you have a motor and you know what you want to do with it, there aren’t very many ways you can connect it to get the desired behavior out of it.”

“Vell, Lemmy vill be most disappointed,” Ludwig said. “He’s been vaiting for zat clapping machine for a long time now.”

“Yeah, I know, but now I have to redo the tank prototype’s motion mechanism all over. And I have to make sure that the weapons system that was connected to the main power line didn’t get fried enough to start malfunctioning, too. In fact, should probably change a few components just to be safe. Lemmy’s contraption is something I can only really work on when I have free time, and that’s not something that’s been a common luxury. But when I DO finish it, it will be the best clapping machine you’ll ever see!”

“Vell, to be fair, he does have a new audience for his tricks. So he can vait longer,” Ludwig shrugged.

“Oh yeah, speaking of that… Mom said that we should find out why those… customers… are after that prototype,” Iggy said, giving his brother a meaningful glance. “They’re unusually interested. I’d never pay that many coins for something a hatchling could build by just looking at the ‘Evil Robotics for Shroomheads’ book I first learned from. And I’d barely poked my head out of my egg by then!”

Ludwig knew exactly what Iggy meant with that. It wasn’t safe to talk about Eris and the creatures that were after her when they were essentially surrounded by enemies.

“Vell, you’re not zee most typical case anyvays,” Ludwig said. “But if it is as simple as you say, zen it is veird for zem to pay zis much.”

“I know exactly what tests to run in order to find what is so special about that prototype, too, whenever we get home. I have just the right diagnostic tools for that job.”

That was a relief, Ludwig thought. He’d never heard of Iggy having tools that could diagnose what was ”special” about someone, but in the end, Iggy tended to start hundreds of projects that he didn’t always finish, and often revisited old projects in an erratic kind of order, so it was not inconceivable that he would have finished some kind of measuring device that would tell them if there was some sort of magic that might cause an evil group to come after the kid. Maybe it’d even be able to tell if there was some sort of curse that prevented her from being able to talk. But whatever that device was and its capabilities were not something the eldest Koopaling was aware of. A lot of the time, he was actually aware of what Iggy was working on. Ludwig had an amateur interest in chemistry, seeing the elements and compounds and the way that they combined almost as musical notes, combining to make something beautiful and new, and more than the sum of its parts. Therefore, when Iggy had any work that involved chemistry, he tended to seek Ludwig’s help. And then he’d also enthusiastically share information on every crazy half-finished project in his lab. Ludwig had to admit he rather enjoyed this, and he did look forward to seeing what Iggy had in store to try to help with their little conundrum.

“Vell, as long as you find out somezing useful before zose customers buy zat prototype,” Ludwig said. “Ozervise, vee might lose a big business opportunity.”

Iggy nodded.

“Trust me! I’ve got this covered!” he exclaimed. “Say, you ever notice what this castle really, really lacks?”

“No,” Ludwig answered. That was a quick topic change, but it wasn’t exactly rare for Iggy to do that. “Vat does it lack?”

“Machines!” Iggy answered enthusiastically. “There should be all sorts of machines all over the place! Behind paintings and statues, and they really should have Peach statues that jump up and down and shoot flowers or something at people! Cos I don’t think they’d go for lasers, but that’d be cool too.”

“Be careful, you’re almost sounding like Lemmy zere…”

---------------------

Morton and Roy enjoyed strutting around the castle, enjoying the wary and often scared looks that the Toads kept giving them. They simply loved how the little Toads would stare and then give a few steps away. Some would even bump into walls when they didn’t stop staring while they were walking.

“I’d make a great villain in a theater production,” Morton noted after a Toad hit his head particularly hard on a wall. “I’m terrifying and I don’t even have to do anything!”

“Yeah, these guys spook easy. I love it!” Roy snickered.

“After this feast is done and after we go back to Mom’s place, I’m going to start looking for auditions. With my skills, I should be able to land a really good role pretty soon!”

“But what about racism and that stuff?” Roy asked.

“Well, that’s true. It is possible that some theaters would reject me just because I’m a Koopa. But I don’t think that’s called racism. I think it has another name.”

“Oh yeah? What’s that?”

“Beats me! I think it’s something like koopcism,” Morton shrugged. “And I guess it’s something you’d have to deal with too as a fighter.”

“They’re less fussy with fighters. I think. The point is to beat up people, right?”

“I think there’s some show biz involved too, but yeah, mostly. Still koopcist people are something you gotta watch out for.”

“Heheh… koopcist sounds funny.”

“Not so funny when they ruin careers of people just because they’re the wrong species! But that’s okay. I’ll come up with this really cool stage name for you, and people will love it! It will be something like… the Pink Koopstacle!”

“I’m not gonna use a name that makes me sound like a popsicle!” Roy complained.

“Okay, how about the Bespectacled Koopsader?”

“What’s even a Koopsader?”

“It’s like a crusader, but a Koopa.”

“No, no. Doesn’t sound tough enough. I want something like… The Manly Pink Fist or something that you can tell means I smash people. Maybe the Manly Shroomsmasher, too,” Roy said punching his fists together.

A small Toad saw him do this gesture, yelped and ran the opposite direction. Morton and Roy burst out laughing.

---------------------

Lourdes was not going to let the opportunity of getting to know Peach pass her by. She’d known a fair number of accomplished people, but none from any enemy kingdom.

“Young lady, we really must have a conversation. There is much I’d like to discuss with you, and it’s the kind of thing that only a woman who has sat on a throne can really understand,” Lourdes said.

“Oh, of course!” Peach said. She was pretty nervous about having a solo conversation with such an imposing Koopa, but how bad could she really be compared to Bowser? She waved at the Mario brothers and began to leave.

“But… princess! We’re your bodyguards!” Mario protested.

“Do I not look like a capable bodyguard myself?” Lourdes asked, glaring at Mario.

“Well, yes, but-”

“I have no interest in doing anything to the princess aside from getting to know her,” Interrupted Lourdes. “Now, if you’ll excuse us.”

Princess Peach smiled apologetically and walked off with Lourdes. Well, after all, she was the ex-wife of the king of the Koopas. Even though she was attending the feast, it didn’t mean she had the same goals as Bowser, right?

“For the longest time now, I’ve really wanted to meet the young princess that stole the heart of my ex-husband,” Lourdes said.

“Oh! I’m so sorry! It’s not like that, it’s-” Peach began.

“It’s okay! He’s my ex-husband! I don’t care who he goes and kidnaps!”

That was an odd choice of words. Still, to be fair, Princess Peach was quite curious as to how Lourdes and Bowser had met.

“May I ask… how you two met?” Peach asked.

“Oh, of course! It wasn’t something I really expected. I was a countess, you see, of a remote corner of Dark Land. I never expected the young king of Dark Land would notice me, but he did. One day, out of the blue, he kidnapped me.”

“He… kidnapped you? Really? Just like that?”

“Oh yes! I wasn’t expecting it, but it was quite romantic. Out of all the noble ladies, he’d singled me out. He even had a cage just for me! Of course, I was freed a couple of days later. My mother freed me. The second time I freed myself and then bumped into my mom who’d come to free me. It took until the third time that Bowser kidnapped for me to accept his proposal.”

“He… proposed?”

“Well, honey, if a Koopa kidnaps you because they can, rather than for some useful reason, that IS a proposal!” Lourdes said, laughing a bit.

“Oh…” Peach said. She’d never quite seen in that way, even though, in hindsight, it definitely made sense, especially when Junior had claimed she was his mother.

Still, that didn’t make it any less uncomfortable. The only reason she hadn’t really known what to say to Junior was that she didn’t want to say something hurtful to such a young child. She wished Bowser hadn’t told such a silly thing to his son. It was a pretty outrageous claim, that was true, but her diplomatic nature had just held her back and made everything all the more awkward.

“But anyway, enough about Bowser. He hasn’t been a part of my life, really, for a long time. I’m more interested in your achievements. A regent Princess, at your age! That is pretty impressive.”

“Thank you. Really, I just do everything I can for my people.”

“Oh, trust me. I understand that. but it’s not always very easy to choose what the best is and juggle that with being the face of your kingdom. I didn’t spend that many years as a Queen, but even as a countess, my job holds similarities to that. You can’t really say that it isn’t difficult sometimes, can you?”

“Well, no. Sometimes what I want to do goes against my role as Princess. But it’s okay. If it brings benefits to my people and they are better off for it, I’m happy to make any sacrifice, and be as princess-like as I need to be. Even if it means late nights of all sorts of work, I must inspire my people.”

Lourdes gave a good-natured laugh.

“I can see why people like you so much. Inspiration is a good thing for more than just well-being of your people. If you inspire your people, then they also are willing to work with you, and in the end it means less work for you, and more efficiency. I find it quite interesting that, though your way of seeing it is different, you place value in inspiration. We do the same at Dark Land, or at least most Kings and Queens have, even though we go about it in such different ways.”

“Do you think,” Peach asked, “that peace is possible between all kingdoms?”

“It’s a difficult question. People always want what they don’t have, and sometimes what they don’t have is necessary and what they do have is the means to take it. Culture is a difficult barrier, and people always want to belong with similar people. I don’t say it’s impossible, though. Even as a member of Dark Land, I keep hope. I think deep down that no one, not even us evil ones, want to fight any more than the good guys do.”

“It is such a nice thought. I like to believe the same thing,” Peach smiled.

The idea that neither “good” nor “bad” guys wanted to fight really was comforting. It was empowering, even, to see those kinds of similarities between the two sides. It was altogether too common to see the other side as monsters or, well, something other than people. It was simply too easy to focus on the differences and what made them the “other” side. Even if the shaman’s prediction was wrong, or they’d misinterpreted it, she was thankful for the reminder that the other side was made up of people, and they were more similar than they might think.

---------------------

“I can’t believe it! Bowser has a human kid? That’s not Peach’s kid, is it?” a troubled Daisy asked the Mario brothers some time after the Koopa family had arrived.

“Geez, I hope not! The stork would have really messed up in the delivery if that’s the case,” Luigi said.

“No, of course she’s not Peach’s kid! Bowser just got her and she’s already grown up quite a few years, so she’s probably not really his, either,” Mario said.

“Hey, look, there he is,” Daisy said, pointing at Bowser and Junior, who were looking down from atop a balcony and talking. “I’ll just go and ask him!”

“Wait, what? Yo-you’re not really doing that, are you?” Luigi asked.

“Of course I am! I can’t be scared of a giant, uh, monster… koopa,” Daisy said.

Of course she was. She was actually scared of evil monsters since Tatanga had kidnapped her. She’d always felt so confident, but after that, she wasn’t so sure. But she couldn’t show that kind of weakness. Her people looked up to her, and she had to inspire them by being brave, since she couldn’t inspire them by being the perfect princess like Peach was. She’d tried, but it just wasn’t in her nature. This was a great opportunity to prove that she was brave. It wasn’t even recklessness, since, after all, Bowser had come in peace.

She made her way up the stairs, heading straight towards that balcony. She knew she looked perfectly confident as she reminded herself that this wasn’t like meeting up with Tatanga. Bowser had no interest, either in her or in Sarasaland. Bowser was still in the same spot, talking to Junior when she approached them.

“Excuse me, King Bowser!” she called cheerfully.

Bowser turned his gaze towards her, but not his face. The gesture made Daisy feel unwelcome and almost threatened, but she kept on smiling either way.

“What do you want?” Bowser growled.

Not the greatest manners, but to be fair, she’d always been told Bowser was like that.

“Oh, I just couldn’t help noticing that there was a new little girl with you!” Daisy replied.

“You got a problem with her being different from us?” Bowser asked.

“Oh, not at all! But none of us knew her, so we were just wondering where she was from.”

“She’s my new sister!” Junior declared. “Dad saved her from starvation and death, and then he made her my new sister!”

Bowser grinned slightly at Junior’s words, and at Daisy’s surprised look.

“Yep. That’s what happened. She was an orphan, lost and hungry, and I adopted her,” he said.

“Oh, wow, that’s really nice of you!” Daisy exclaimed.

“Yeah!” Bowser grinned. “I’d even say… I saved the girl’s life. I’ve given her a home and every privilege that comes with it.”

“I’m really happy for her, then,” Daisy said. “She’s lucky! You have a very exceptional family.”

“Ain’t that the truth! I’m proud of them all!”

After a bit more small talk, Daisy left. Bowser grinned. There went one person who would be able to vouch for his pure heart.

“Who was that, Dad?” Junior asked.

“I’ve no idea. But her dress looks like Peach’s, so they probably know each other.”
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