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Mushroom Kingdom: Thank you, Mario! But our princess is in another castle!

Crash Landing

As the exhausted group began their airborne journey, they decided it best to learn exactly how the Hot Air Balloon works. Unfortunately time did not allow for this, as within minutes, a storm began to form in the clouds they were flying through.

As Chris, Luke, and Steven watched the clouds, and attempted to move the balloon closer to the ground, Topher and Mark both took hand on the Witch's Broom as it appeared to begin to glow. The two noticed the broom lose a great portion of its weight, and become very nearly weightless. As they then began to pull it back and forth, arguing over who should hold it, lightning began to strike in the clouds around them. Rain hit the balloon with a fury, and though Chris attempted to lower the balloon to safety, the ground was nowhere in sight. Just then, a large bolt struck the balloon, and Mark was thrown overboard, along with the broom, and the balloon began to sink fast.

Chris let go a burst of Chaotic energy to attempt to put out the flaming hole in the balloon, as Steven and Luke braced themselves along the ground, and Topher prepared to Teleport at the last moment before impact. With a powerful crashing collision, everything went black.

Its-a me, Mario

One by one, they all awoke, thrown from the carriage, in a clearing which occurred to them that they had created with their landing. Inspecting the balloon, they found the hole was not as large as anticipated, but still large enough that the balloon would be unable to fly again without some extra fabric, or at least some threading to patch it up.

Thus, they threw the balloon into the carriage, and attempted to hide the whole vehicle in branches and brush until they could return with supplies.

They worked their way out of the trees, to find a cleanly cut path leading two directions, and walked one. They came across a few small piles of broken brick, of which Chris picked up a piece for his backpack. Before long, they reached a walled town, which to their chagrin, was destroyed and abandoned. It appeared the town had been crushed by large objects, and burninated completely, besides for the relatively unscathed castle in the centre. The sign outside of the village let them know that the world they had reached was none other than that of the Mushroom Kingdom of the Mario games.

As they turned to leave the village again, they noticed exactly as how they hid their balloon in branches, was some other object of interest hidden in the same manner. They quickly cleared the brush off and found a green pipe, easily large enough to fit a grown man. Though there was no cover, the only way to determine the innards was to stand atop and wait. Simply trying to push one's hand or head in would not work.

So they entered, one by one, and found themselves in an underground tunnel only going one direction. What followed next was a series of traps and challenges that would test their mettle in ways they didn't imagine existed. A variety of gaping chasms, sheer walls, hovering platforms, and teetering platforms atop treacherous fulcrums awaited them at every corner. What sat at the end of the tunnel however, surprised them more.

They reached a doorway half opened, with a small sitting area inside. A small pile of hay sat next to a fireplace, burning weakly, with an obese, short man with a mustache, stained clothing, and a hat with an M on it. Chris took an apples out of his pocket and offered it to the man, which he took and ate eagerly before passing out. As Topher attempted to wake the man via slapping, Chris took some of the hay and stuffed his backpack, and Luke and Steven searched the remainder of the room, finding nothing but husks of food casings, and empty alcohol containers.

With Topher's waking method partially successful, the group attempted to talk to the drunken man. Strangely, Topher felt it appropriate to speak in a poor Italian accent, which likely resulted in the man's annoyance and lack of information.

Chris: What happened here?

Mario: He used to be a-useless, weak. I fought him plenty o' times. But now he's a-huge!

Steven: Who? Bowser?

Topher: A-yeah a-who-a? A-Bowser?

Mario: Not even a-worth it anymore. If he wants he that bad, he can-a have her. No chick is-a worth that much. That's why I dumped Pauline. That, and she was-a screwin' Luigi. I'm done.

At which point, he passed out. As the group debated what to do next, they rested and prepared for unknown battles against unknown numbers of foes.

Mario: I'll do it! Just need a nap.

And he passed out again. So the group waited.

Shadow of the Colossus

Mario awakened with a headache, but full of energy. He kicked off the hay pile, revealing a Warp Pipe hidden beneath, which he immediately leaped into. The others followed quickly behind.

It was a simple, yet hilly path up and down as they followed Mario. Every once in a while they would hear little bits of information, as Mario attempted to explain the situation to his barely-capable allies. From what they heard, they understood that Bowser had taken over the city and castle, and sent around six or seven or eight minions to destroy everything in their path and guard keys to the castle. Why exactly Bowser would think it a good idea to leave somewhat easily accessible keys to him rather than just have guards and no keys is up for debate.

When they finally caught up to Mario, he was standing in front of a Giant Beetle. He quickly explained the plan.

Mario: These guys are-a lightweights. We go!

And he grabbed a small cloud, which became a hat, then threw it out to become a platform. He jumped atop the platform, then jumped directly into the gaping maw of the beast.

Mario: Oh sheet.

The heroes heard a fading scream as Mario disappeared from the world.

However, they had bigger problems to worry about as the Giant Beetle charged them. They fought. Steven, Luke, and Topher attempted to hit the large star shape atop the beast's back by climbing on its legs, as Chris stood in its mandible's reach, and achieved the killing blow with a sword strike in its mouth.

The beast vanished in a brilliant white light, and all that remained was a key marked with a large letter "I" on it. They wandered forward, and found three more Warp Pipes. They took the last of the three, and arrived in a stone area hovering above the world.

As they walked the corridor, a few skill tests awaited them, before arriving on a large square platform with a back wall. They approached the back wall, and immediately two eyes opened, as the wall moved towards them. The wall spoke.

Womp King: We build your houses, your castles, your roads, and still you walk all over us!

The colossal stone piece walked forward threateningly, and the ground in front of him lit up. Dodging out of the way, the heroes found that the beast would fall on those tiles shortly after lighting, at which point two smaller versions of himself would arise. Utilizing the beast's time on the ground, the heroes managed to hack at the weak point on his back, until he fell apart.

Behind the area the Womp King was guarding, lay another three Warp Pipes. Thus, the group went into the last, arriving in a closed in stone area. Shortly in front of their arrival lay a long corridor with a corner at the end.

Around the corner ran a small bob-omb. Without hesitation, the group blasted the bob-omb to oblivion. Satisfied, they continued around the corner, to a hallway wrought with alcoves. Out of each and every alcove ran a bob-omb, that immediately panicked and ran towards the heroes.

With a triumphant throw of a kunai, Steven missing the first, but blew the second of the pack into the rest, which exploded brilliantly. Chris ran forwards and booted the last, which exploded in midair. Steven and Chris high fived. The group stepped forward into a small room, where a giant King Bob-omb sat in a throne, sleeping.

Without hesitation, Chris blasted a Chaos Bolt and Steven blasted a Magic Missile, as Topher charged into the room and Luke waited behind. Chris's Chaos Bolt knocked the crown off the top of the head of the King Bob-omb, as the near-behind Magic Missile lit the wick atop the King's head.

The King woke up frightened as he realized his wick was lit. He ran immediately straight to Chris, as the others fled the room.

Chris: Do you want me to cut your wick off?

King Bob-omb: Mmhmm!

The King bent forward, and Chris swung wide, flinging the wick up in the air. The King smiled for a moment, then felt fear as the wick flipped around in the air and relit the remaining portion. Chris dodged back out of the way as the Bomb exploded.

Luckily all of the friends managed to avoid death. Albeit narrowly.

They grabbed the key, and looked at the throne of the King. Sure enough, sitting behind the throne lay a Warp Pipe.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

A small corridor lay ahead of the heroes. Thus, they headed forth, to find something they did not expect. A broken down refugee camp with a little over two dozen Koopa Troopas. As a few of the Koopas fled to their homes, out of a tent peeked the head of a very familiar friend: Mark. As Mark explained, he had managed to crash land not far from the camp, and when a few of the more risk-taker-type of the Koopas had gone looking for food, they found him and nursed him back to health. He then spent the remainder of the last day attempting to learn to use the Witch's Broom to Fly. Mark took them to see the Magikoopa leader of the clan, who had some information to tell them all.

The Magikoopa explained that Bowser had been taken over by something evil, and that Bowser had cannibalized the remainder of their race. As far as they knew, the residents of the clan underground here were the only remaining of their entire race. Bowser took the Princess Peach captive, and summoned 8 beasts to comb the land and keep him safe in the castle. The only way into the castle would be to defeat the beasts, and use the keys they held.

In addition, the Magikoopa released a bit of hidden potential in the heroes, allowing Topher to learn Lightning Sheath, Chris to learn to use his First Aid Kit better, Luke to redirect his Drain and Carom abilities, and Steven to slide and run twice his normal distance, the Koopa Slide.

With their new found resolve, the group headed off to the next of the beasts. Before they left the tent, however, the Magikoopa had some last words.

Magikoopa: Bowser is not himself. We followed him loyally against the Mushroom Kingdom all of these years. We followed blindly. But now, we know he is wrong. He is not himself. You must defeat him. if you must kill him, so be it.

They set off.

Since they had already defeated the Giant Beetle, the Womp King, and the King Bob-omb, they only had 8 more beasts to find. After climbing a gigantic pyramid, they found a series of panels requiring them to jump across. After a few near-misses, they arrived in front of two large hands with eyes in their centres, a monster known as Eyerok.

Without too much difficulty - though with some crushing pain at times - the group managed to hit the construct's weakpoints, and down him. A key lying where the downed beast disappeared was found to have a large "E" on it.

Again, using a Warp Pipe, they set off to the next, and arrived in a mechanical, industrial castle, complete with a few sets of crushing metal pistons, and green fireball shooting guns. Though the whole group avoided being hit by the pistons, the fireballs downed both Chris and Luke. While strangely Luke was able to stand up immediately after being downed, Chris took a moment to catch himself before crawling underneath the fireballs - the entire crawl wondering why they didn't just crawl under in the first place. Amateurs.

Standing in front of a stairway, they decided to take a rest for a while, to heal up and repair themselves before the next leg of their journey.

Fortunately, the next beast they were to face - though it lay near where they rested - was apparently decommissioned. Until they looked down at it. A Giant Robot arose from a pit at the top of the stairs, and quickly proceeded to shoot them with several missiles. Topher teleported to the top of the robot's shoulder, and wrapped himself in electricity to attempt to shock it. Chris leaped from the rear and barely managed to grab onto a handle on the beast's rear. Steven, Mark and Luke turned back the missiles, which blew up the beast's weakpoints one-by-one. While Chris was thrown off, he safely landed in the robot's hand, where he was able to crawl out onto the walkway again. Unfortunately, since Mark had no energy left to Fly and Topher had used all of his Teleport energy, when the robot fell apart, Topher fell.

Pushing all of his energy to separate himself from his fall, and arrive back on the ledge, Topher attempted to Teleport yet again. Chris reached out and tried with all of his might to grab hold of Topher. Topher vanished. Chris felt an extraordinary pain.

Chris ran to the corner and vomited, while the remainder of the group saw sitting on the ground, many feet below, another key. The group resolved to try to find Topher as well as find a path down. After a quick rest, Mark hopped aboard his broom and began to fly down to the key. At around halfway down, a supreme scream started, and Topher materialized in a puff of black smoke on the back of the broom. The two accelerated downward quickly, but managed to land with only minor bruises.

Collecting themselves, the key they found had a large "R" written on it. As they waited for their allies to find a way down, Topher and Mark discovered a doorway in the corner, behind which lay another Warp Pipe.

Before long, the group realized a ladder, in plain sight lay embedded in the wall, allowing the rest to climb down. Chris regained his composure, as Topher did too. Topher had no memory of what happened during his time away. Chris remembered only pain.

Beyond the next Warp Pipe rest a large, open area, filled with lava, above which hung what appeared to be a mesh net, though it was too far away to tell. The only method to reach the net seemed to be a similar net hung vertically along near a wall. Thus, the group climbed lengthwise, avoiding the bottom, as the lava was quite obviously very warm to say the least.

The group reached the top of the net, where they saw a large cage filled to the brim with Goombas. However, the moment they took a step towards, a Giant Centipede leaped out from nowhere, entered the cage, and proceeded to eat several of the Goombas, which immediately made it grow in length drastically.

With a furious blast of Chaos Bolt, Chris chained off of the Goombas and managed to remove all but the head of the gigantic beast. The group finished off the beast very quickly afterwards, as Topher electrified himself and stood near enough that the beast was unable to last much longer.

Unfortunately, the lingering electric energy manifested by Topher dealt damage to the remainder of the party as well, and fried to death the caged Goombas.

Upon returning to the Koopa Troopa village, they learned that the Goomba deaths, while sad, would be a necessary evil, as the Goombas were unintelligent beasts and would provide a proper food source to aid in the restoration of the Mushroom Kingdom. They stocked up for the final stretch of their journey in this land.

A Strange Set of Visitors

As they were preparing for the next leg of the journey, the Magikoopa led out a familiar face that had been resting in a tent. It was Sarah, Topher's daughter that he had surprisingly stopped worrying about quite some time previous. Apparently, Sarah had learned to Shapeshift, but would not explain exactly how. Either she did not fully understand, or something had happened that she did not want to discuss. The party did not harp on the fact.

After stocking up and resting a while, Gongshow:Gaiden hustled to reach the final key. They arrived in a large, deeply forested area, with a small walkway for them to wander. Reaching the end of the walkway, and immediately after discovering an opening, they found at the centre an enormous Giant Piranha Plant.

As its first action, the Piranha Plant roared fire into the air, and summoned a tremendous number of Thwomps to surround it. Gongshow:Gaiden knew it was not your typical garden-variety Piranha Plant. Thus, they prepared and leaped into the battle.

Sarah transformed into a ferocious Dire Badger, as the rest of the party ran around dodging the Thwomps and Mark flew atop on with his broom. Mark threw out a water elemental summon, which was very effective, and Topher shot fire at the thing, which was terribly ineffective, and seemed to result in the plant healing. The plant launched several fireballs at once, downing a few in the party.

After the plant had taken a significant amount of damage, it burst into flames, and continued to shoot numerous fireballs at the party. At this point, the party noticed that five Stormtroopers showed up from the bushes, used a communicator to call for assistance from Mistress Layla, and immediately proceeded to fire upon the Giant Piranha Plant. While highly inaccurate, they did manage to deal a small amount of damage before two of them were killed.

As things were looking grim, out of nowhere, a purple-skinned woman, presumably Layla appeared out of nowhere, and cut the giant beast in half, before backflipping in the air and landing triumphantly with her Lightsaber still lit. As the plant split, two objects sat in the centre of the heap, near a large still-burning flame. Chris grabbed one object, which happened to be another Piece of Stone, as Topher jumped to the second object, a key with a large M on it.

Layla: Give me the stone.

Chris threw the stone on the ground beside her, and as she leaped, she saw only briefly the giant Thwomp come crashing down on her. As the party deliberated for a moment, Steven ran to the Thwomp, and saw the thing move. As the Thwomp was pushed upwards with all of her Force energy, she was unable to stop or dodge the fireball that launched from the centre of the dead plant, leading her to be crushed by a second Thwomp. This time, the Thwomp did not move. The Stormtroopers stood in amazement for a moment before running in fear.

Strangely, at this time, Sarah also vanished.

As the Thwomps all disappeared, Steven ran to Layla's lifeless body, and cradled her. Mark and Chris rested for a moment. Topher, however, had discovered something in the fire. A tiny toddler-shaped humanoid, albeit somewhat misproportioned, sat distrought in the plant heap.

Topher: What are you?

Djinn: *Series of scrapes, crackling, moaning, bumps, and hisses*

Topher: I should understand this, but I don't.

Topher reached out to touch the being, as the thing shoved its hand into Topher's chest. Chris, from afar, attempted to determine the nature of the beast, but could only lightly tell that the beast was not of a good nature. Thus, when the beast put his hand in Topher, Chris did what he does best, and blasted the thing with a Chaos Bolt.

However, rather than killing it, in its shock, the creature was pulled inside Topher. Things could have gone better to say the least.

To the Gates

Finally having collected all of the keys, the party recuperated in the Koopa village one more time, before heading off to face the king.

Upon approaching the castle, the group realized that while the place did not appear to be guarded, the drawbridge was up, and thus they had no easy entrance. Looking around, it appeared that there was an object shimmering in the bottom of the moat in front of them.

After sticking their heads in, a couple of the group discovered that the object was indeed a Warp Pipe. Topher swam down to it quickly before noticing that the pipe was capped and locked, and that it would require the keys they had collected during their battles to unlock. As he tried the first key, the remainder of the crew saw a dark object moving very quickly under the surface, aiming straight for Topher. Luckily, he had already ran out of breath, and hurt deeply from the swim, so he exited the water just in time for the beast beneath to miss him, as he climbed up a random ladder Chris had so luckily happened across in the completely demolished village.

The friends realized that as soon as Topher reached the shore, the beast vanished, and would likely reappear once someone re-entered. Thus, they prepared for battle. With a combination of missed Blaster Rifle shots, near dodges, and weak Drains, they managed to lure the beast into being trapped halfway through what appeared to be an anchor lodged deep in the ground. As the Giant Eel struggled to free itself from the loop, the entire object dislodged, revealing itself to be a plug in the bottom of the moat. How convenient.

The water drained quickly, and as the Eel attempted to swim, its final breaths went wasted, with the party out of reach of its attacks. Without too much difficulty, the party figured out which keys worked in which locks, and unsealed the warp pipe. Unfortunately, Chris' ladder would not fit through. He would have to find another.

A Series of Unfortunate Challenges

As they arose in a cold, dimly lit castle interior, they realized that 'storming the castle' as such, would not be exactly as anticipated. The friends knew very quickly that the Skill Challenges that would be in front of them would make their previous feel like a playground. Chris decided to look for another way around.

A series of spinning platforms, moving ladders, ground that collapsed beneath when stood on, flamethrowers, and poorly timed powerups lay in front of them. Luke found a Star, and felt invincibility for nearly a minute before the coldness of mortality slid back in.

After barely jumping a few underestimated distances, and a couple of teleporting saves, the group finally arrived in front of a large doorway. Chris, who until this point had been separated, arrived unscathed as the remainder of the group stopped to catch their breath.

While they did thusly, Chris checked the doorway to find that a lucky break would be given, as the door was slightly ajar, and inside sat a sleeping giant.

Bowser Risen and Rerisen

The group peered quietly inside, they saw the great king Bowser deeply asleep in a giant chair. Indeed, he was much larger than they ever remembered him from the games they played throughout their lives. To the side of his throne hung a cage in which a Princess Peach lay.

As the group quietly deliberates how to approach the king and save the princess, Luke speaks.

Luke: ITS OKAY! HE'S ASLEEP!

The beast stirred, and arose. They fought. A series of platforms around the arena allowed for vantage points. While Chris, Steven and Luke jumped around attempting to acheive a good place to attack from, Mark Summoned a series of poisonous snakes to attack the feet, and Topher went for the seat behind the risen king.

After a few minutes of near misses, the group managed to distact the king long enough for Topher to teleport in behind and grab the axe sitting behind the throne. He cut the ropes holding the ground beneath the king, and he plummeted into the lava beneath.

The group cheered, and as Chris went to check the princess, the rest of the group caught their breath. Chris, attempting to stir the girl, was shocked when she sat up straight, and with dark eyes and a deep satanic voice, screamed:

Princess Peach: Exorior!

The ground rumbled and grumbled, and from the depths of the lava arose the red-hot, molten rock dripping, terrible skeleton of the once-king Bowser, as the Princess fell back down.

Chris debated killing the girl, in the case of which she was the source of Bowser's power, but decided against it. Perhaps she could be saved.

Above many of the platforms appeared several boxes, which appeared to be breakable, similar to what they had seen in their often-played Mario games. So they went to work. Some attacking the beast with spells, and others running for powerups. Boom! Down came Bowser's fist. Bam! He was shot with a Chaos Bolt. Baf! Topher vanished in a teleport.

As they attacked and tore apart the skeleton, he did not appear to be phased. Perhaps this was the result of the demonic magic that brought him from the depths of death? Perhaps this was Bowser's strength gained from the destruction of his people? How had he grown so invincible?

And as the group debated the invincibility of the beast, Steven reached out to snag the last of the powerups... a star. The sound of power echoed through the building, and Steven slid triumphantly to kick and destroy the once-king. A monstrous roar came from the Princess, as a hideous cloud of darkness flew out of her mouth, and dissapated.

Bowser roared and fell, and the splashing lava, barely missing everyone, cooled instantly. The ground reformed. After a short debate as to whether or not they should wait for Topher, they finally decided to leave a message with the Koopas and let Topher know where they were going.

The Koopas cheered and offered a feast - though limited in variety - of epic proportions to satisfy their heroes.

The Magikoopa handed Luke the book he had taken from the Joker, and offered a few notes on things that he could translate quickly. Luke realized then just how powerful the book was. The book offered notes on how to summon, bind, and repel demons. What was the Joker up to that he could need that book?

After a night of rest, and still no sign of Topher, the group prepared to leave. The Koopas repaired their balloon, and held a going away event. Gongshow:Gaiden were their saviours, and it was good for them to know how much of an affect they had on worlds they visited.

They set sail.

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