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I awoke to the tantalizing smell of fresh coffee.  I love it when I prepare the coffee in advance and set the timer.  The payoff is so rewarding.  You know what they say - the best part of waking up is…well, it’s not Folgers.  Not for me.  I prefer…..

I finally opened my eyes and realized with a start and a scream that this was not my bedroom.  That coffee was not from my coffee pot.  Which means that all that stuff really did happen yesterday.  It wasn’t a dream.

“Same thing happened to me when I opened my eyes,” said Mario.  He must’ve heard me yell.  He was standing at the window, looking out, sipping from a mug.  He was freshly showered and wearing one of the fluffy white robes with the silver mushroom on the breast that Toadette gave us last night while we waited for our new clothes.  I was still in my boxers and undershirt.

“Where’s the coffee?” I asked, sitting up in my bed which was just across from Mario’s.

“I think I saw something last night.”  Mario said, still looking out the window.

“That’s nice.  Where’s the coffee?”

“I can’t be sure because it was dark.”

“The coffee’s dark?  Good.  Where is it?”

“It might have been one of those cloud things.  Not like the big one but the little ones that they threw us in.”

“Mario!  Coffee!  Where’s the coffee?!”

“What?  Oh.  Over there.  Behind the Koopa cage.”

The guest room we were staying in was just as luxurious as all the other rooms I’ve seen so far in the castle, with tall ceilings and windows and exotic furnishings.  There was even a large bamboo cage that housed a pet Koopa.  One of the little ones with the bird heads like I saw in the sewers in New York.  Grayson explained the difference in Koopas when he showed us our room.  I saw the coffee pot and mugs and poured myself a cup.  It was good too.  Nope, this was not Folgers.  But why would it be?  I was in a different world.  

“You think you saw one of the cloud things?” I asked, now able to concentrate with a cup of coffee in my hand.

“I’m not sure.  It could have just been fog or mist.  But if it was one of those cloud things, it was hovering around the upper floor windows across the courtyard.”

“You think they’re spying on the castle?  Looking for weaknesses to exploit?”

“Could be.  Could be looking for us,” Mario said.

“I don’t think we’re that important.”

“The people here think we are.  Otherwise they would have let us go.”

“Where would we go?  We need six coins to open the pipe.  We have zero,” I pointed out.

“I’m just saying we’re more important to the people of this world than you keep making us out to be.”

“Well, did you tell anyone what you saw?  And how come you didn’t wake me up?”

“Because I wasn’t sure.  Like I said, it was dark.  It might have been nothing.”

“You seem to be taking all this in stride” I said.

“All what?”

“All of this.  Coming into a new world.  Fighting real life monsters.  Getting saved by Mushroom people.  Sleeping in a castle…”

“Don’t forget finding out your brother lived two lives simultaneously for a few days.  I still can’t wrap my head around that.”

“Either can I.  But those memories are real.  I think.  I mean how else would I know about Peach’s dad?”

“Kinda reminds me of that book by Delorean Jones.  Novella.  Remember that one?”

“You and that book!  That book made no sense.”

“And this does?!” Mario said. “Nothing here makes sense! You have all these memories of things you couldn’t have done in this life.  I mean, I found you in the sewer all dazed and confused that day.  I thought it was because you re-injured your head.  There was no warp pipe.  In fact, you yourself didn’t immediately remember the few days you spent in this world.  And yet, you did.  And not only did you spend three days in this world, you flippin’ died!  How does that make sense?  Also, how is it that everyone here speaks English?  Did you ever think about that?”

“Yeah, that’s weird,” I agreed.  “That reminds me, why did you call those Koopas Ninja Turtles?  Did you think they would get the joke?”

“Oh, like you have the right to analyze my humor,” he said.

“Were you trying to be like Iron Man in The Avengers?  When he called that one alien Squidward?”  I asked.  “You realize Tony Stark said that for the sake of the viewing audience.  Which you do not have.”

“You’re just jealous you didn’t think of it first.”


Mario left the window and sat on his bed.

“So, what’s it like dying?” he asked.

“I don’t remember anything about being dead.  Just getting killed.  And that was scary!  Like I said last night, I was in some creepy mansion, doing something for the king.  Looking for something, I think.  And then this creepy lady in a dark cloak sicked her ghost dog on me.  I ran out of the house.  That...that hellhound chased me out the door to the edge of the cliff - which I didn’t see because it was night.  I ran right over the edge.  They say everything goes in slow motion when you think you’re gonna die.  And it did.  I thought about all sorts of stuff in those few seconds.  About how we never found Mama.  About how I didn’t get to say goodbye to you or Papa T.  I thought about dumb stuff.  Like how impressed everyone would have been if I got the chance to show them my baking skills.”

“Your baking skills?”

“Yeah.  I was seconds from death.  I didn’t think I’d get the chance to bake again.  But I guess I did.  In this life.  So, are you impressed?”

“Yeah, yeah, you’re pretty good.”

“Pretty good?!”

“No, you’re good.  I’m impressed.”

“You’re just patronizing me.  Do you even remember the first cake that I made when I started baking again?  What flavor was it?”

“It was…I can’t remember right now.  There was a lot going on then.  But I remember liking it.”

“Yeah, well, when I was falling to my death, I imagined it would have been a big deal to everyone.  You know what else I thought about when I was falling?”

I knew I shouldn’t say what I was about to say but at the moment I was feeling pretty frustrated about the unfairness of life.  So I said it.  “I thought about Pauline.”

“Pauline?  Why?”

Sometimes Mario could be so clueless.

“I don’t know. Who’s to say why we think about certain things before we die.  And then I hit the ground.  And it hurt really bad for like a tenth of a second.  That’s all I remember.”

“And then you woke up in the sewer?”

“No. The memories from that other life just end there.”

“So when do you think time split?” asked Mario, “and why?”

“Definitely when I chased Donkey Kong into the sewer.  In one timeline, I went into the pipe, came into this world, ran into the Professor (who was not at all happy that I was there), ate a green mushroom (that apparently did nothing), then the Professor took me to see the King.  They reluctantly recruited me for some quest which I obviously failed at - because I ran off a cliff to my death.  

“But in the other life, I was running through the sewers one moment and then all of a sudden I’m dazed and confused, as you put it - like when you walk into a room and forget why you’re there.  You find me and we go about our lives the same way you remember it.”

“What if it wasn’t a separate life you were living?” suggested Mario.  “What if it was a vision.  A premonition.”

“What?  Like I’m some sort of a psychic or something?”


“Huh.  I never thought of that.”


“Now wait a minute.  That’s not a good thing.  That means my death is still to come!  I don’t want to die!”

“You won’t.  Because I’m with you.”

“Hey now, if it was a vision of things to come, where were you?”

“It doesn’t matter because I’m with you now.”

“I don’t know.  I don’t think psychic powers work like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like showing half truths.”

“What do you know about psychic powers?” He questioned.

“What do you know about psychic powers?” I countered.

“What does it matter?  All I know is you’re not gonna die.  Because I’m with you.  I’m not gonna let you die.  We’re going to do what Toadsworth suggested.  We’re going to drive around the Kingdom after breakfast and try to jog your memory or premonition or whatever it is.  Then we’re going to use your info to find the king and the professor and see if he can’t figure out how to get you back before war breaks out here.”

“To get me back?  What about you?”

“I want to stick around a little.  See if I can help.”

“What!  You want to send me back alone?”

“No.  With Daisy.”

“And how do you expect to help an alien world in a war against a bunch of monsters?  You’re a plumber!”

“No, Luigi, I told you.  We’re more than that.  We’re important here.  We’re like superheroes when we eat their mushrooms and flowers and stuff.  If we could find some of those, maybe I can help them.”

“So, what, you think Destiny brought you here?  Like you’re here for some greater purpose?  Like the Blues Brothers - on a mission from God?” I asked.  This was actually kinda what I was feeling but couldn’t bring myself to say.  I thought I’d put the words in his mouth and see how he responded.

“Well, I don’t know.  I didn’t actually think about it in those terms,” he said, “but yeah, I guess.  Why not?  Maybe this is all part of a plan.  You know, maybe the Universe did bring me here for a special purpose.  It’s possible, right?”

“You and not me?  Why’s it always gotta be about you, huh?” I asked.  “Technically speaking, I have more experience with the power-ups or whatever you call them.  Why do you think you are here for a reason and not me?”

“I didn’t say that.  Your purpose was to get us here and now it’s to show the way with your magic memory.”

“Then why send me back?”

“So you don’t die!”

“I can take care of myself, Mario!”

A knock at the door interrupted our argument.  

“Are you decent?” a small, feminine voice asked from the other side of the door.

I wasn’t decent.

“Come in,” Mario said to my horror. 

The door opened and Toadette entered.  

I stood behind the Koopa cage to partially hide my indecency.  When the Koopa snapped its beak though, I backed up a step.  Wouldn’t want anything getting chomped off.  

Toadette looked to be about seventeen years old and wore a dark pink dress that matched with the dark pink spots on her topper.  Like many of the Kinoko Zoku women I’ve seen so far, she had extensions that, though made of the same mushroomy material of the topper, gave the impression of hair.  Hers in particular gave the impression of ponytails since each one dangled three mushroom-balls long.  I did not know if it was a cosmetic attachment or something that actually grew from the topper.  She was carrying a pile of folded clothes.

“Hey guys,” she said in a squeaky, chipper voice, “I brought your new clothes.  At least the first set.  Are you excited?  You should be.  Yay!  I had a blast trying to replicate the style of your world.  I know, I could have just patched up your old clothes - and I will later, but I wanted to try my hand at making something I’ve never made before.  I hope you like it.  Here, look.”

She set the pile on a chair and held up a pair of red overalls.

“You were both wearing these pants things with the chest piece and the built-in suspenders so I assumed this is what the men wear in your world?”

Before we could answer, she continued.

“I didn’t have any denim lying around.  I’ll have to order some.  But this is an equally sturdy material.  This one is yours, Mario.  Red.  Like the shirt you had on yesterday.  And here’s your new shirt.  There’s a cold front coming through, so I made it with long sleeves.  And I just love the way brown goes with red.”

This girl talked a mile a minute.  And, in my opinion, the brown shirt looked pretty awful with the red overalls.

“And Luigi, these are yours,” she said, holding up a pair of white overalls this time. Great!  Now I could look like a painter.  

“And this green shirt,” she said. “Same color as your other one but more durable stock.  I just love how you two dress so similar.  Kinda like twinsies. So fun!  Wait, are you related?”

“Twinsies,” Mario said.

“Perfect!  Oh, and your hats are downstairs on the hat rack.  Mario, yours is washed.  But Luigi, I had to make you a new one.  Yours was pretty beat up.  I made you a white one.  You know, to match your pants.  Also, check this out - you’ll both be excited about this - I brought you some new underwear.  I bet it’ll feel great to get into some new underwear!  Sorry we didn’t have any available last night.”

She held up a pair of tighty-whities that had the silver mushroom crest on the butt.  She then turned to me and noticed the underwear I was wearing.  The cage and little koopa wasn’t a great barrier.  

“Oh,” she said.  “I guess you don’t wear this kind of underwear in your world.  Give it a try.  Who knows - you might like it better.  It’ll probably keep everything more snug than those shorts of yours.  And I have one more thing.  Since I couldn’t sleep last night, thinking about how we have visitors from another world - I can’t believe you are actually from another world! - I made these.”

She beamed as she took two plush dolls from her purse.  The dolls looked like me and Mario.  This girl had too much time on her hand.  And too much energy.  It wasn’t natural.  She tossed the dolls to each of us for examination.  Before we could express our thoughts on the dolls, she rambled on again at her usual high pace.

“I have so many questions.  What’s your world like?  Are there Kinokos there?  Toad tells me he doesn’t think so.  If not, do you think people would look at me funny if I went there?  Is it similar to this world?  What’s the weather like?  Oh no!  I didn’t think about that. I just made you long sleeve shirts but I never thought about if you felt temperature the same way we do.  Are you human?  Do you call yourselves that?  That’s what we call the people that look like you here.  Oh silly me.  I’m doing it again. I’m talking too much, aren’t I?  Some people think I talk too much.  And I am not supposed to take long because breakfast is almost ready.  The Princess explicitly told me not to make you late for breakfast.  Do you know how to get to the dining hall?  It’s just down the stairs, through the foyer, and straight back.  You can’t miss it.  Just follow your nose.  Okay, I better go now.  See you downstairs.  Oh, they said breakfast will be ready at 8.  Ta ta!”  And just like that, the little whirlwind was gone. 

Fifteen minutes later, I was showered and dressed in my silly white overalls.  I grabbed the minish cap mushrooms that I was still hesitant to try, and headed down for breakfast. 

The dining hall had a number of tables, seated at which were all the people I saw around the castle yesterday.  It appeared breakfast would be a buffet.  Mario and I were saved a spot at the table with the Princess, Captain Toad, and Toadsworth.  The General was not present.  Peach looked haggard.  She had dark rings around her eyes.  Her hair was messy.  She still had on the same clothes as last night but over it she wore a lavender colored hooded sweatshirt with the word PRINCESS scrawled across the front - for humor, I assumed.  

“Did you sleep last night?” Mario asked her as we took our seats.

“There was too much to do.  We had to alert the entire kingdom about the invasion and have them prepare to evacuate to shelters.  We had to set up new shelters because we didn’t have enough for everyone.  General Starbright has been readying troops.  We have people searching the skies for mysterious cloud formations.  Unfortunately, it’s been a cloudy night.  Actually, it’s supposed to be cloudy throughout all of today.  I think they waited for a day like this to invade.  But we’ve been taking leads all night and morning from people who think maybe they saw something.  We also have a couple blimps circling the kingdom, looking for anything suspicious.  

“We reached out to the Prime Minister of Sarasaland.  They’re sending forces over to help.  Oh, and me and Toad interviewed the Border Patrol Chief and some of his men.  At first he didn’t want to talk.  But when his men started squealing, he spilled the beans.  So get this.  He claims he’s been having dreams lately.  Dreams of the Maker visiting him and telling him that letting the Koopa in was the right thing.  That it would save the world in the end.  He knew we wouldn’t understand, he said.  His men tell me he’s never shown any signs of insanity.  Which I find surprising.  He’s far from sane now.  He just let the Koopa in and ordered his men not to tell us!”

The Princess looked at Toadsworth.  “And then, as if that wasn’t enough for one night, we wasted a ton of time debating over my safety and where I should be today.  And I don’t care what they think they decided,” She looked at me now.  “I’m going with you guys.

“If there’s even the slightest chance that you’ll remember something about where my father might be, I’m not going to miss that.”

“Why do you suppose the Koopa were on the ground when we showed up - and not on their cloud ship thing?” Mario asked.

“Turns out the Koopa troopers were on the ground from the beginning,” said the Princess.  “Our trustworthy Border Patrol Chief opened the gates for them so they could walk right on in.”

“The General has a theory on that,” Toadsworth added.  “He believes the soldiers on the ground were meant to be found eventually.  They were the diversion.  Draw the army and Castle Guard to the fight in one location while the cloud ship surprise attacks somewhere else less protected.  Probably the power station or someplace with a lot of power stars.”

“Power stars?” I asked.  

Before anyone could answer, I noticed the Princess gaze over my shoulder.  I turned to see Daisy being wheeled in.  She was in a wheelchair that supported her broken leg.  She was wearing a stunning yellow gown.  She wore one brown boot and one thigh-high cast.  Her Kinoko nurse rolled her to the head of our table, just to the right of me.  

“How are you?” I asked her, trying pleasantries rather than asking why she sold me out to Bowser.

“Better,” she said simply.

“Food is served,” someone called from the serving table.

“I’ll get you a plate,” I offered Daisy.  

“Already taken care of,” said Grayson, the human butler who showed up with a plate of eggs, bacon, biscuits, and fruit.  He set the plate before her.  

“Thank you,” she said to him.  She nodded at me.  I think that was sort of a thank you as well.  Everyone else, including the Princess was forming a line at the serving table.  I joined them. 

A few minutes later, when everyone was eating and talking, Daisy seemed to have opened up more. She was asking all the same sort of questions me and Mario were asking each other since last night.  Mario caught her up on our story - from discovering the fire-flower and the little Koopa in the sewer to being led by Rosalina to the warp pipe.  The Princess caught her up on the significance of the Koopa invasion.  Daisy was shocked to learn that Gadd has been a well known and respected advisor to the kings of this world for many years.

I deemed the time to be appropriate and removed the little, blue-ish, long-stemmed minish cap mushrooms from my chest pocket.

“Do you know what these are, Daisy?” I asked.

“They look like mushrooms,“ she said. 

“Do you know what kind of mushrooms?“

“Should I?”

“Is there any reason you can think of why I should not try them?”

“I don’t know,” she said.  “Are they poisonous?  Why are you asking me?”

“They’re not poisonous,” Peach offered.  “We eat those all the time.”

I handed one to Daisy. 

“I offered these to you last night on the mountain and you refused them, saying ‘not the small ones or the purple ones.’  Does that mean anything to you?”

I could tell something clicked.  She stared at the mushrooms.  She gasped suddenly and dropped it.  She turned her eyes to several different Kinoko, studying them as if looking for answers.

“I think I’ve been here before,” she said. 

This caused a shock-wave of surprise. 

“When I was a little girl,” she said. 

“What?  Really?” I asked.

“I remember being taught about the mushrooms. Not to eat the small ones or the purple ones.  And I remember...your type of people,” she said to Toad.

“Who?” asked Toad.  “ Who taught you about the mushrooms?“

“I’m not sure.  A man, I think?  My dad maybe?”

“Who’s your dad?  And how did he get here?”  I asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t know him. I can’t even hardly remember him. I grew up as a foster child.”

“Maybe she should come with us too,“ I suggested to the Princess.  

“But her leg…” she responded.

“I agree with Luigi,” said Toadsworth, “Who knows what sort of information she has hidden in her mind about - what do you even call it? - trans-dimensional travel?  Until yesterday, I was not convinced it was even possible.  Who knows how long Professor Gadd has been doing it?  And if others have been coming into our world since Daisy here was a lass without us knowing, well that has me concerned for our nation’s safety.  We need to find out everything we possibly can.”

“Our nation’s safety is already compromised and with more immediate threats than trans-dimensional wanderers,” said the Princess, “but still, it would be good to learn whatever we may. Daisy, are you feeling up to riding in a car?”

“If you guys are looking for Professor Gadd, I’m not staying here!”

After breakfast, those of us who would be embarking on a tour through memory lane took the elevator to the basement-level garage.  But not before Toadette came over and reminded me and Mario about our hats.  Gee, thanks Toadette.  Wouldn’t want to forget those.  Toad again tried to urge the Princess to stay in the safety of the castle but in the end she proved to be more persistent than him.  Toadsworth stayed behind to manage the castle in her stead.  Five Kinoko Palace Guards joined our caravan to protect the Princess.  They would take one car while Toad, me, Mario, Daisy, and Princess Peach would take the other.  The vehicles looked somewhat reminiscent of old fashioned Rolls Royce convertibles but with more seating.  Just as we were getting in the cars, a skinny man wearing jeweler’s magnifying glasses on his bald head came running up to us from behind.  The palace guard took fighting stances with their glow staffs and crossbows.

The man stopped, hands raised, apparently realizing now it was a bad idea to run after the Princess.  He was out of breath. 

“Oh sorry, Princess,” he said, “but I’m glad I caught you before you left.  I thought you’d want to hear my findings ASAP.”

“Who are you?” Peach asked.

“Oh right.  Doug Bowers.  Sorry.  You called me to inspect the coin?”

“Doug Bowser?”

Bowers, Your Majesty.  Bowers.”

“Oh yes, sorry.  It was a long night,” said the Princess.  “What did you find?”

“It’s a fake.  A forgery.  Gold plating over copper.”

“I knew it!” Toad said excitedly.

The Princess was crestfallen.  “Thank you,” she said sadly and crawled into the back seat.  

Doug looked sorry for bringing such bad news and not knowing how to console or what to say, walked away awkwardly.  

“This means that Toad is probably right,” Peach said, “Gadd is probably up to something nefarious.  And if Father is mixed up with him...I’m scared.  Do you think Gadd is holding my father captive?  Do you remember anything that might indicate that, Luigi?”

“I’m sorry.  Not really,” I said.  “I just know they were together and in some secret lab or something.  He could have been held captive.  Or not.  I can’t remember.  But he was very positive, regardless.”

Daisy looked just as pained as Princess Peach.  She really respected the Professor.  To find out someone you care for has been lying about who they were the whole time you’ve known them has got to be hard. 

The rest of us got in the car.  Captain Toad would drive.  Mario made sure to sit with the Princess.  I sat across from them with Daisy who put a pillow under the foot that was in a cast.  Being in the limo reminded me of my ride with the gangsters just yesterday.  Man, that seemed so long ago!  

We entered a long, underground tunnel that led us into Mushroom City.  No magic pipes this time.  The city roads were heavily congested, most likely with people evacuating to shelters.  It was surreal how quiet the roads were, regardless of the traffic, due to the nearly silent vehicles everyone drove.  

Even in the tainted light of a cloudy day, I was able to see so much more detail in the city than I did in the dark of night.  The colors in this place really made the city feel alive.  

Something caught Daisy’s eye.  I followed her gaze and saw a staircase made of floating brick platforms.  Nothing supported each stair.  Not even the railing.  Did I really just see that?  Or were the supports just hidden?  And then there was another one on the side of another building.  And then a brick walkway floating over the highway for pedestrians who wanted to cross.  And a brick framed traffic light supported by neither pole nor wire.  

“How is that just sitting there in mid-air?” I asked, pointing at the traffic light.

“What, you don’t have stativus clay in your world?” asked Toad.

“What kind of clay?” I asked. 

“Stativus clay is what the floating mountains are made of,” said Peach.  “You can form the clay into bricks. When you apply the right amount of heat, it stays in place.”

My mind was blown!  

We ascended a hill outside of the metropolitan area.  Here I could see just how mountainous this land was.  In the distance I could see the forest that was made out of giant mushrooms. I’d like to go there should the opportunity arise.   

Mario took the plush mini-Mario out of his pocket to show Princess Peach.  

“I can’t believe you brought that,” I said.

“Why not?  It’s cool. I like it,” said Mario, cheerfully.  He wiggled it in front of my face and said, “It’s me - I’m Mario.”  He was trying to annoy me.  

“Toadette is very talented,” Peach said. 

It was hard to believe we were in a land on the verge of war as I watched my brother try to flirt with a pretty girl while we drove through some of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen in a convertible limousine, cool autumn air blowing on our faces.  I supposed I should have felt more trepidation, all things considered, but honestly, I was unusually content.  I was actually smiling a genuine smile.  

We had an actual destination we were heading to on this lovely drive.  Last night, when I mentioned the ghost dog to the committee, they all looked at eachother with knowing eyes.  They informed Mario and I that a couple unexplained deaths and a few supposed sightings of the paranormal had led to an outbreak of rumors that ended up causing a mass exodus from a particular town called Evershade Valley.  We would start looking for answers there.

The drive was long and winding and the tired Princess eventually dozed off, her head landing on Mario’s shoulder - to his unabashed delight.  What a dork!  An hour into the drive, Toad told us to wake her up.  We were entering the valley.  

I could tell why it was called Evershade Valley.  Large oak trees with hanging moss created gorgeous canopies over most of the streets.  This place could be a cute little town if it weren’t for the creepiness of the empty streets, overgrown weeds, and abandoned, vandalized  houses.  Nothing seemed familiar to me though.  Until I noticed a cliff at the far side of town.  I asked if we could take a closer look.  We found a road that took us up the mountain to the shelf at the top of the cliff. 

“I think this is the place.” I said.  

We stopped the vehicles and all of us but Daisy got out to look around. 

“I thought you said there was a mansion here,” said Mario.

Not only was there no mansion, there was no anything up here.  Just a few naked trees.  In the distance, at the back of the shelf, the mountain extended upward another hundred feet or so.  At the top of it was a lighthouse.  

“I don’t know why there’s no mansion here but I’m pretty sure this is the place.  I remember that lighthouse.  I remember this cliff edge.  I even remember those creepy trees.”

“But if there’s no mansion,” said Mario, “this must be the wrong place.”

“No, no.  This is it.  This is definitely the place.”

“Is anything else coming to you?” asked the Princess.  “Anything about…”

“Gadd!” Daisy yelled.

We turned to look at her.  She was pointing to the top of the mountain and the lighthouse.  A figure was standing at the edge looking down at us.  He was startled by Daisy’s yell and ran out of sight.  

“Was that Gadd?” Mario asked.

“That was Professor Gadd.  I’m sure of it,” said Daisy.

“I think it was too,” said Peach.  

“After him!” Captain Toad ordered his soldiers.  They rushed back into their car.  We were rushed into ours.  We drove to the base of the mountain and ascended the stone cut stairs.  Again, Daisy stayed in the car.  I think she could see the aggression in Toad’s eyes.  She cried out for him not to harm Gadd.  He gave no reply. 

The Kinokos ran much faster than us humans and were at the top of the stairs before I was even halfway.  In fact, I had to stop and catch my breath.  I could really use one of those mushrooms right about now.  When I did reach the top, I saw there wasn’t much up there but the lighthouse itself.  Beyond it and far below, was an ocean.  

I heard several voices yelling from the inside of the lighthouse.  But more importantly, I saw a red topped mushroom growing at the base of the tower.  Before my brain could tell my body to move, Mario plucked it up.

“What?” asked Mario.  “You already have some mushrooms.”

“Some that might kill me if I eat them!” I said.  

“Come on,” urged Peach, pushing us toward the door of the lighthouse. 

We took the circular staircase to the crowded top floor.  Professor Gadd was up against the wall with raised hands.  The palace guard had staffs and crossbows aimed at him.  In the middle of the small room was what looked like a small, floating sun.  It was just like the one Gadd used in the sewer to make himself radiate energy.  The floor was cut out below it, probably to give light to the rest of the tower.  Turning mechanically around the little sun was a large, curved mirror, obviously used to reflect light out into the ocean.  

“You escaped.” he said to me and Mario.  “Where’s Daisy?”

“Answer my question!” Toad demanded of Gadd.  “When did you steal the Royal National Coins?”

“Never!” cried the Professor.  He then turned pleading eyes to the Princess.

“Princess, please,” he said.  But she did not have the Kinokos stand down.

“Who are you working for?” spit Toad.  

“Where’s my father?!” an angry Princess Peach interrupted.  

“Safe,” Gadd said.

“You were obviously running,” said Toad.  “Why into the lighthouse?  Why trap yourself?”

“I know why.” I said.

Toad turned to me.  

“That,” I said, pointing to the little sun.

“The Power Star?” Toad asked.  

“It makes him powerful when he touches it.  He could have fought you off if he got to it.  I saw him do it,” I said. 

“That’s impossible,” said Toad.  “It would burn his hand off.”

“I saw him do it.” I said again.

“You also saw a mansion outside,” he countered.  

“I don’t care why you ran in here,” said Peach.  “Tell me where my father is!”

“Help!!” a distant female voice cried.

“Daisy!” Mario said, alarmed.  

Gadd also looked concerned.

Several of us ran down the stairs.  As we exited the lighthouse, we could see a small grey cloud just to the side of the car Daisy was in.  A short Koopa was wrestling her out of the car.  It was that captain they called Lakitu.  

“Daisy, catch!” Mario yelled as loud as he could.  He threw the mushroom over the edge.  Amazingly, it almost made it to her.  She bit the Koopas fingers and threw herself to the ground.  She grabbed the mushroom just as Lakitu pulled her back up.  She took a bite.  I wasn’t sure what good it would do.  She still had a broken leg.  Lakitu threw her into his cloud.  

Mario reached into my chest pocket, pulled out the minish caps, and shoved them all in his mouth.  By now several of the Kinoko were charging down the stairs of the cliff to the scene below.  The cloud started to lift.  

I heard Mario yell.  When I turned to him, all I could see was his empty clothes falling to the ground.  Mario was gone.