The Crown of Destiny [1-2]
Later in the throne room
“I’m sorry, what now?” Peach asked in confusion, not quite believing what she had just heard proposed. “You want to use this artifact to change one of my loyal subjects into a clone of me, so Bowser will kidnap them next time?” Well, when she said it like that it sounded kinda bad. This was one of the issues of not having a speaking assistant. You couldn’t bounce ideas off them to sort the bad ones from the good. And Gadd had so many ideas who could sort all the terrible ones from the brilliant ones?
“M vxssrvh mq uhwurvshfw--” Gadd started to say, perhaps to salvage the idea, but Peach just raised a gloved hand for him to stop, something she reserved to impress seriousness. The princess was not known for being severe, and the very rare cutoff was the extent of her unbecoming indulgences. That and laying her spoon the wrong way when she was finished with tea.
“I’m sorry, Professor, I can’t endanger my people, and whoever takes my place would be doing just that. Furthermore, it would be really easy for this to get out of control. If our enemies got ahold of it the results could be catastrophic, not to even bring up the ethical dilemma of using an experimental object on my citizens--”
That was all the spy-toad known as Shif. T needed to hear. He quickly exited the castle and made his way to a mostly forgotten warp pipe in the abandoned Mario Circuit raceway, a weed-choked relic of a bygone event. He crouched at the base of the rusted tube and held his breath a moment, listening for hungry jaws snapping, or the tell-tell scraping of a piranha plant moving around inside. Of course this system had been supposedly cleared, but that was years ago when this was still an active racetrack, and all it took was one careless mistake to become a piranha snack. Climbing into the tube with a grunt he was whisked to his destination with a speed that defied physics and logic. The pipe exited just outside the creepy old Toadwood Forest, a place of deep shadows and creepy vibes even in the middle of the day. It was a haunted place fed on death, torture and fear.
“Pssst.” The Shif. T hissed, trying to alert his contact without actually entering the shadows. “PSSSST!!” No response from the Dark Land contact. Shif. T reluctantly walked into the creepy woods, imagining sounds in the brush and eyes in thedark. He hadn’t taken ten steps when something grabbed the back of his shirt. “Aaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!”
“Shhhh it. It's me.” The contact recoiled from Shif. T like it had been slapped. It was a black clad anti guy who loved sneaking around and making grand proclamations about Bowser. No wonder he hadn’t been noticed among the trees. “What information do you have for our supreme sovereign?” He was a rather forward ‘guy’ that went by the handle Shadow Guy, a laughably fake name. “Waste not the time of he who serves might, lest you find yourself poised under the hammer of judgement, for we are all mere bugs for our lord to trample upon.”
“That senile lunatic-- Gadd --he discovered an artifact buried in the castle. A unique crown power-up that Peach is paranoid about. Something of catastrophic proportions according to the princess herself. I assumed it was something Bowser would be interested in.” Shif. T looked around as he reported, imagining he could hear unseen horrors surrounding them.
“You presume correctly.” Shadow Guy replied, silently disapproving of the lack of honorifics in regards to the Lord of the Dark Lands. “All power naturally flows to the center as nature commands it. Our lord is a vacuum to which all strength is drawn and assimilated, glory to his power and might.” Shadow Guy paused dramatically for a moment. “Who else knows of this object?” The dead eye-holes of his mask bore into Toadveth intensely.
“No one else! Peach won’t be talking about it and the old man has probably forgotten already.” Something crunched some leaves behind him, making Shif. T spin around in fear, visions of angry toad ghosts and feral piranha plants dancing in his head. When he looked back Shadow Guy was gone.