21st Century Yoshi presents

THE LIBERATED PAST

Part 8: Ways In Which Castle-Storming Can Go Horribly, Horribly Wrong…

By Sk8er Grl

DISCLAIMER: To determine for yourself whether I own any Nintendo characters, places or things, please take a moment to fill out the questionnaire below.

Does SG own any of Nintendo's characters, places or things?

a) Yes.

b) No.

c) All of the above.

If you answered a, you are wrong.  If you answered b, you are right.  If you answered c, you are a smart@r$e like me.

Okay, now that's cleared up.  In this not-so-long awaited chapter, I WAS going to finally reveal Herman's species, find a replacement for the Metal Cap, and have scary ghosts freak out Luigi… AAAH!  Ghosts!!!  (I'm afraid of ghosts.  They're scary!)  But it got too long.  But I do introduce a brand new character.  And there's plenty of action and adventure.

Started: 1/11/02

*

Yoshi landed, breathing laboriously, in front of a pile of ashes and rubble.  "Wheee… whit… whee?" (Um… this is… your house?)  He caught his breath.  "Whiit whooh, wheeeoh?" (It looks different; did you redecorate?)

"Ha ha," said Mario gloomily.

"This is the dragon's idea of décor," explained Luigi.  He touched a burn on his arm tenderly.

"Let's go up to the palace," said Mario.  "The dragon won't come back to the town now that it's got what it wants."

"But this time you are NOT carrying us," Luigi told Yoshi sternly.  "You can barely stand as it is."

Yoshi didn't argue this time; instead, he spread his wings and flew onward.

At Peach's castle, they were let in by one of the guards.

"There's no point investigating," Mario told him, looking at the swarm of police gathered around the base of the broken window.  "Just get it repaired in time for when we rescue the princess."

Yoshi was set on the couch in front of a fire, and Mario found some proper bandages for his leg.  "These are just until we can get you to a doctor," he said.  Then he turned to Luigi.  "And you need something done for those burns."  Mario had already done his best to clean the cuts and scratches he had sustained from falling into the tree, but without his shirt on Luigi could not hide the fact that he was by far the worse for wear.

"Ah, its not that bad," Luigi protested. 

"Don't try to be a hero, you've done plenty of that already," Mario warned, and examined his injuries.  Up close, they looked worse than he had thought.  Luigi may have escaped being burnt to a crisp, but it had been a near thing and he had copped a fair few burns and abrasions from debris and burning shrapnel from the house.  "Look, at least have a wash or something," Mario told him. 

Luigi sighed in agreement and trudged wearily to the bathroom.  Mario sat down with Yoshi and stared broodingly into the flames.  He rubbed a graze on the back of his neck. 

"Wheee whit whit too?" (How are you going to rescue Peach now?)

"I don't know… It destroyed the Metal Cap; there's nothing else in the kingdom strong enough to protect us from that dragon now."

There was silence except for the crackling of the fire.  Luigi returned, carrying something.  He didn't like to see his brother so depressed, so decided to lighten the mood.

"Hey Mario, look what I found!"  He held up a pink t-shirt, probably the most casual thing Peach owned.  "A muscle shirt!" he said goofily, and proceeded to attempt to put it on.

Mario couldn't help but break into a grin as Luigi tried to put on a woman's shirt.  Yoshi hooted with laughter as he struggled to pull it over his head.

"AAH!  Help!  I'm stuck!" Luigi cried, his voice muffled by the t-shirt on his face.  Mario laughed and stood up to help his brother. 

"I can't breathe!" screamed Luigi.

Mario yanked the shirt off his head and tossed it on the floor.  Jokingly he slapped Luigi on the back of his head.  "I'll give you muscle shirt!  You don't have muscles!"

"Oh yeah?  Look at this!" replied Luigi, flexing his arms.  "I'm an iron man!"

Mario laughed again, but Luigi froze.  Mario stared at him.  His eyes were unfocused, like he was seeing something nobody else could.  "Iron…" he muttered.

"Wait, that's it!" he yelled suddenly, causing Mario to jump.

"What is it?" he asked.

"How can we have been so stupid?!" Luigi yelled.  "It all makes so much sense now!"

"What on earth are you talking about?" interrupted Mario. 

"Bowser!  Bowser's dragon!"

"What about them?  And how can you know for sure that the dragon belongs to Bowser?"

"It's been staring us in the face for so long!" Luigi replied.  "Surprise attacks, kidnapping the Princess, attempts on our lives—"

"Your life," interrupted Mario.

Luigi waved him into silence.  "Luring us into that old abandoned castle… I mean come on, there they were, fighting side by side—of course it's Bowser's dragon!"

"That doesn't tell us anything.  We don't know where he got it or how to get rid of it.  And where does the iron come into it?"

Luigi rolled his eyes in frustration.  "Who do we know, apart from the Toads, that has access to and extensive knowledge of metals?"

Mario was beginning to understand.  "Go on…"

"Bowser's been hiding that dragon away for ages!  He must have found something strong enough to contain it.  If we only knew what it was, we might have a way of defeating the dragon."

"Yes!" cried Mario ecstatically.  "Of course!"  He slapped Luigi on the back.  "You're right!  What are we waiting for?  Let's go!"

"Wheewhoo?" (Go where?)

"Bowser's dungeons," said Luigi.

"I always knew you were the smart one," said Mario as they left the castle.

"And the good-looking one."

"Aah," muttered Mario and made a hand signal behind Luigi's back.

"Wheewhoo whit whit!" (Hey, wait, you're not going without me!)

"No, Yoshi, you are staying right there!" Mario said, and closed the doors behind him.

"Whii whit." (Like hell,) Yoshi muttered, and went to pick up the discarded blue shell.  "Whi!  Wheeoh!" (Ew, cold spit!)

He wiped the cold drool off it and put it into his mouth.  Then he made a limping run-up and flew out of the smashed window, leaving the protests of the police behind.

~

"WHROOOAH!  WRAAAAAGHH!"

King Bowser's mournful, angry cries echoed through his castle.  He stormed through the throne room, scattering servants, and stomped up the stairs.  He climbed up to the tower and leaned against the battlements.  From there, he watched the sky become stained blood red as the sun set.  He slumped against them, feeling helpless and betrayed.  He had poured his heart out to Peach, and now he felt exposed and vulnerable.  It was as if he was worthless; an expendable figure in her eyes.

"Right," he growled, some of his previous vehemence returning.  "Those Mario brothers have taken all they can get from me.  They are going to regret the day they ever set eyes on—" he practically spat the name "—Princess Peach!"

He leaned back and began to plot.

Bowser's roars as he entered the castle had filtered down and reached Herman's ears as he slowly returned to consciousness.  He lay, facedown, his eyes tightly shut, trying to pretend that he was alone.  It was no use.

The dungeon cell was freezing cold and filled with sad whispers, sighs and moans, which could have been sounds made by the wind… but there was none.  Herman shuddered.  The ghosts were restless, and he wasn't sure why.  They drifted agitatedly around the cell, casting their ethereal light over the walls and floor.  They muttered amongst themselves, and the eerie sounds echoed, making it seem like there were ten times as many of them.

Herman risked a glance.  The ghosts were clustering around the stone walls, stroking them with ectoplasmic fingers.  Despite his fear he found himself wondering what they were doing.

As if she read his thoughts, the ghost of the girl who had first materialised drifted over to Herman. 

"They can sense the building that these stones came from.  It is close by."

"W-why d-d-don't they l-leave the dungeon?" Herman asked, his teeth chattering out of fear and cold.

"They are afraid," she replied.

Herman wanted to ask what on heaven or earth could possible scare a ghost, (another ghost, maybe?) but the room began to spin and he passed out again.

~

Mario and Luigi walked quickly through the town as the light faded.  Around them passed strange contrasts of deserted streets and sudden crowds.

They stopped for a moment to watch emergency rescue teams searching through the rubble that had once been a row of houses.  One of the areas the dragon had struck.

From a mess that had once been a large house, home to an obviously prosperous family, they saw a whole group of bodies being extracted.

"Not one of them survived," murmured Luigi.  Mario was alarmed by the look of horror on his brother's face.  He placed his hand on Luigi's shoulder, trying to think of something to say.

"That could have been me…" Luigi's voice was almost inaudible.

Mario wanted to tell him that he was glad that it wasn't Luigi in one of those body bags, but he couldn't think of a way of putting it that didn't sound like he didn't care about the other people.

"Come on.  We've got work to do," said Mario.  Luigi nodded, and tore his eyes away from the awful scene, grateful to have something else to think about.

The Mario Brothers continued on their way.  Both of them were silent, but the air was thick with unspoken thoughts.  Luigi could stand the atmosphere no longer.

"Mario, I know what you're thinking.  I know you still think it's your fault that I was almost killed, but it wasn't, okay?"

"You're only saying that to make me feel better.  But it was my fault!  I started the argument, and if you hadn't been mad at me you wouldn't have gone storming into the house."

They both fell silent, remembering the fight and feeling awkward.

Luigi sighed in exasperation.  "How can I explain to you?  How do I make you understand that it wasn't your fault!"

They stopped.  They had reached Toad's house.  Mario knocked at the door.

It opened a crack, and Toad peeked out.  "Oh, hello Mario, Luigi," he said.  He opened the door further.  "Would you like to come in?"

"We came to borrow some more things… is something wrong?" Mario wondered why Toad looked worried.

"You should come in," Toad replied and stood back to let them in.

He led Mario and Luigi to the kitchen.  A hunched figure was sitting at the table.

"Para-karry?" said Luigi.

The figure looked up.  It was Para-karry, and on his lap sat another para-koopa they hadn't seen before.  She was only young, and had a pink shell and wings, and wore a bow.

"Hi Mario, hi Luigi," said Para-karry.  The little koopaling on his lap watched them silently.

"This is my little sister, Parakette," he added.  The koopaling smiled at them shyly.

"I didn't know you had a sister," said Mario.

"She lives a fair way away," Para-karry explained.  "She came down to visit me a few days ago."

"What are you doing down here?" asked Mario.  He could tell something was amiss, but didn't want to ask outright.  Instead he tried subtle questions.  "I thought you usually did the late shift down at the post office?"

"I left early when I heard the news," replied the para-koopa.

"What news?"

"The dragon burned big brother's house," piped up Parakette.

"And I thought she was still in there," said Para-karry.  He hugged his little sister.  "So I left work.  All the way down there I was thinking that I'd never forgive myself if she had been in the house when it went up."

There was silence for a moment.  The assembly shifted uneasily.  Then Luigi spoke up.  "Well, thankfully she's safe.  You can stop worrying about her.  After all, even if she had still been in the house, it wasn't your fault that a supposedly extinct reptile decided to destroy it.  There was nothing in your power you could have done.  Instead of beating yourself up over it, just be happy that you had such a wonderful sister in the first place."  He looked sideways at Mario.

Para-karry smiled.  "Thanks, Luigi."  He grinned at his little sister and adjusted her bow.  "We've a had a pretty bad scare, but you're right, I should just be glad that we're okay and that Toad has given us somewhere to stay."  Parakette giggled happily.

Mario was looking at Luigi carefully, but his face remained impassive.

"Well, what was it that you needed, Mario?" asked Toad.  Mario snapped out of his curious reverie and looked down at Toad.

"We need to sneak into Bowser's castle.  We still have the Invisible Cap and the Wing Cap, but there are a few other things we need."

"What happened to the Metal Cap?" asked Toad.

Mario and Luigi explained the failed rescue mission and subsequent destruction of the Metal Cap.

"I don't believe it!" cried Toad.  "The Metal Cap was forged from the strongest metal available in the whole kingdom!"

"Which is why we need to find something stronger.  Without it we don't stand a chance against the dragon," said Luigi.

"Where do you propose we get this kind of material?" asked Toad.

"Wherever Bowser kept the dragon," said Mario.

A look of understanding crossed Toad's face.  "You mean Bowser… the dragon… Alright, when do we leave?"

"What do you mean, we?" said Mario.

"Oh, come on, you knew I'd have to come with you!"

Luigi laughed.  "Of course we did.  Metallurgy is your middle name."

~

High above Toad's house, a winged green shape flew onwards, completely oblivious to the fact that the people it was trying to follow were now behind it.

Yoshi panted from the effort it took to stay in the air.  Under any other circumstance he would have been enjoying himself, but the pain from his leg and the exhaustion were taking their toll on the dinosaur.  He veered off course as his vision clouded, but he caught himself in time and forced himself to stay alert.  It was a long way to the northern border yet.

~

"Alright, as far as I know, there's a warp pipe nearby that will take us about two-thirds of the way across the kingdom, but the rest of the way we'll have to fly."

Mario placed the Wing Cap on the table and continued.  "It'll take us too long to walk, but if we flew straight as the crow flies we could be there and back at least before midnight."

"The only problem," said Luigi, "is that the Wing Cap can only be used by one person.  And you can't go on your own."

"Well, I have this," said Toad.  He got up from the table and disappeared into another room.  He returned after a few minutes, carrying something yellow.  He placed it in the middle of the table.

"It's a magic cape," he said.  "It used to belong to the Yoshies."

"I remember this," said Mario.  "They gave it to me a long time ago…" He unfolded the cape and regarded the yellow material fondly.  "It was a present from Yoshi when I first met him."

Luigi stuck a roadblock in front of Mario's trip down memory lane.  "One of us can use the cape, then."  He looked at Mario.  "You can use it, seeing as it's special to you."

"It sure is," replied Mario.  He folded it back up.  "And you've looked after it so well, Toad.  I knew it was a good idea letting you be the keeper of valuable items for Peach… I mean, the Princess." Mario hoped nobody thought him over-familiar with Peach…

But nobody seemed to have noticed.  "Well, if Mario is going to be using the cape, and Luigi the Wing Cap, how am I going to get there?" asked Toad.

"I'll take you," said Para-karry.  Three pairs of eyes turned to look at him.  Until now he and his sister had been quiet, so quiet that they had almost forgotten about them.  "I've carried mail bags that are far heavier than Toad.  I'll carry him."

"Well, I suppose," said Luigi, "but what about Parakette?  Who'll be here to look after her?"

"I'm coming with Para-karry!" said Parakette.

"Oh no you aren't!" cried Para-karry.  "You almost got hurt today, I'm not letting you get into more danger!"

"I won't get hurt!" replied Parakette indignantly.  "I swear, I'll be good and not wander off, and you won't even know I'm there!  Just let me come with you!"

"What would mum and dad say if they knew I took you on a dangerous mission right after you nearly died in a fire?  You aren't coming!" Para-karry argued.

"Please, big brother?" she begged, but not in the persistent way of most children when they want something.  She spoke quietly, turning her face up to look Para-karry in the eye.  "Please, Para-karry?" she pleaded.  A tear ran down her cheek, a look of fear upon her face.  "I'm scared to be by myself…"

Para-karry sighed.  All his arguments broke down at the sight of Parakette's frightened little eyes, staring unblinkingly at him.  "Alright," he sighed.  "You can come with us.  But you have to promise to stay right by my side the whole time."

"Of course I will," replied Parakette, sounding relieved.  She hugged her brother.

"Well, I guess that's settled," said Luigi.  "Toad, do you have all you need?"

"Probably," he replied.

"Well, let's find that pipe," said Mario.  He went to the door and opened it, carrying the cape.  Luigi picked up the Invisible Cap and the Wing Cap from the table.

The two caps were both very different.  The Invisible Cap was translucent and blue, with the letter "I" on the front.  And of course, wearing it made the wearer invisible.  But the Wing Cap had more personality.  Most of the time, it was red, with white wings sticking out, and no initial.  But once it was in someone's hands, it changed appearance to match their personality.  It was one of many intrinsically magical items found in the Mushroom Kingdom and the lands beyond.

Luigi put the Invisible Cap in his pocket.  The Wing Cap in his hands had changed green with the letter "L" on it, just like his regular cap.  He strode out of Toad's house and caught up with Mario.  They both stopped on the street corner to wait for the others, who were still at the house, getting some things together.

"Luigi…" began Mario.  Luigi faced him, and shivered in the cold night wind.  He still didn't have a shirt, as all his spares had been destroyed in the fire.

"About what you said in there… to Para-karry?"

"You mean about how it wasn't his fault that the house was destroyed and that he should be glad that his sister was okay, rather than tearing himself up over it?"

"Yeah, that…  Were you trying to tell me something?"

"Was I?" said Luigi, enigmatically.  "That's for you to decide."

Mario opened his mouth to reply, but Toad, Para-karry and Parakette caught up to them and Luigi began to walk away.

"Luigi, give me a straight answer!" cried Mario, running to catch up.

"Mario, if what I said meant something to you, then yes, I was trying to tell you something."

They walked in silence for a moment, then Mario broke into a grin.  "Damn, Luigi, I don't know how you do it.  You just always know how to make me feel better."

Luigi grinned too.  "And you always manage to sound corny.  I don't know how you do it!"

Mario muttered to himself and made a hand signal.  Luigi laughed at him, and got another jokey slap over the back of his head.

The atmosphere was lightened for all of them, and Mario, Luigi, Toad, Para-karry and Parakette walked on through the dark town, until Mario stopped them.

"Here's the pipe," he explained, motioning towards a large, green warp pipe on the corner of two streets.  "I'll go first."  He jumped onto the edge of it, and turned to the others.  "Give me a few seconds, then come in after me.  Once we're all at the other end, it's a fair flight to the dragon's keep, so pace yourselves."  With that he jumped into the pipe and disappeared.

They waited a few seconds, and then Luigi nodded to Para-karry and Parakette.  "You two can go now."  The two para-koopas flapped into the pipe.

"I'll go last," Luigi told Toad, who nodded and jumped in.  Luigi gave him a few seconds, then jumped in himself.

He fell for a second or two, then there was a bright flash of light and suddenly he was flying upwards.  He flew out of the pipe and landed on a footpath, next to Mario, Para-karry, Parakette and Toad.

"Okay, are we all ready?" asked Mario.  There was a chorus of affirmation.  "Okay, just let Luigi and I climb something tall and we can leave."

"Over here, Mario," called Luigi, motioning towards an old building with a climbable-looking drainpipe attached to the wall.  Mario joined him and they climbed it, while Toad scrambled onto Para-karry's back and sat on his shell.  He and Parakette flapped up to the roof where Mario and Luigi were waiting.

Mario unfolded the cape and fastened it around his neck.  Luigi took off his hat and stuffed it into his pocket, replacing it with the Wing Cap.

Wind blew over the roof, ruffling feathers, billowing Mario's cape and making Luigi shiver.  "Let's-a go!" cried Mario, quoting one of his favourite signature lines.  He took a run-up and leapt off of the dilapidated building.  Immediately the wind caught his cape and it magically sent him soaring.  He dipped into a short dive to get up speed, and then ascended rapidly.  "Yippee!" he said, another of his favourite lines, as the wind rushed across his face.

Once again Luigi waited until last.  Para-karry snapped on his flying goggles, then when he, Toad and Parakette were out of the way Luigi took a run up.  He jumped twice, then did a forward flip into the air, and the Wing Cap's wings caught the wind and propelled him upwards.  Luigi stuck out his arms to steer, then like Mario dipped downwards before ascending.

"Here we go!" he cried.  It was both his and Mario's saying.  And it managed to convey the feelings of all five of them, as the disparate group took to the sky.  There was something about night air that made it better than that of the day.  As they rushed through it, each of the group's inhibitions and individual problems were stripped away and they felt nothing but the joy of being alive.  The air felt smooth and silky, almost like they were swimming in water.  Mario and Luigi, tired and fatigued from the rigors of the day, felt their energy renewed as adrenaline coursed through them.  It was all they could do to stop themselves doing aerobatics and fly sensibly.  But they didn't think Parakette would be able to keep up, so they controlled themselves and saved their energy for the time when they knew they would need it.

After what seemed like no time at all, the towns became sparse and then disappeared altogether, replaced with cultivated land, which in turn gave way to dark plains.  They weren't so much rolling as lurking plains.  The stark, desolate and above all brown land was so featureless that you would notice it for its unnoticeableness. 

But in case you weren't sure, there was always the fact that the full moon had disappeared completely, despite the fact there were no clouds in the sky.

"We've reached the northern border!" called Mario to the others.  He shivered.  The lands beyond the border were uncannily cold.  But although he didn't want to admit it, Mario was also shivering out of fear.  The northern border was a creepy place, and the fact that they were searching for something even more dangerous was not a comforting thought.

Ahead lay a dark shape.  As they flew closer it became more refined and visible as two shapes.  One was the ruined castle.  The other, Bowser's flying island.  The tethered landmass swayed a little in the wind.

Luigi called out to Mario, and motioned at the ground.  Mario understood and nodded to him.  "Let's land now, everyone!  But stay quiet."

Softly, the small crowd touched down.  Toad dismounted.  Mario and Luigi decided to retain their flight trappings, just in case.

"Why are we stopping down here?" asked Para-karry quietly.  "Why didn't we just fly a bit further and land on Bowser's island?"

"We're less noticeable on the ground, and we don't stand a chance against that dragon in the air," Mario explained.

"Let's go," said Luigi, and silently the group crept past the castle, using the cover of its shadows, up to the base of Bowser's island.  The giant anchor was embedded deeply into the dusty ground.  The chain stretched upwards, going into the shadow of the island, beyond the scope of vision.

"How do we get into the castle?" asked Toad.  "Do we fly up there?"

"No," replied Luigi.  "There'll be guards around the castle.  There's a better way."  He grinned smugly at Mario's blank expression.  Their plan hadn't actually extended this far into the operation. 

Luigi turned, and grabbed the giant chain.  He pulled himself up and stood on one of the links.  "What are you waiting for?"

Mario leapt at the chain and began climbing up after his brother.  Toad looked up at the huge links; Luigi was already high enough to be blotted out by the great, dark silhouette of the island.

"I don't think I can climb that," he said.  Para-karry responded by picking him up and placing him on his shell. 

"That won't be a problem," he said.  He and Parakette took off after the Mario Brothers.

~

As the ill-assorted creatures, humans, and part-humans progressed steadily up the chain towards Bowser's flying island, they were unaware that someone else looked upon their destination.

Yoshi flew erratically, making ragged, uneven flaps with his magically induced wings.  He fluttered in exhausted zigzags, so tired that his eyelids drooped and every laborious flap took nearly all the strength he had, but his determination forced him onward.

Yoshi could feel himself on the verge of passing out.  Every muscle burned in agony; he knew that if he stopped he wouldn't be able to move again.  The overwork and blood-loss of that day had already taken a huge toll on the young dinosaur, and now he wanted more than anything to at least be able to hang out his tongue and pant, but doing so would lose him his koopa shell and he would fall to his death.  So his lungs continued to feel like they were about to explode.

Yoshi sought with the rest of his strength for more altitude.  Slowly and unsteadily he rose, until he was at the lip of Bowser's flying island.  Immeasurably gratified, he touched down on the edge of the grass.  But as he spat out the shell and sank to the ground for a rest, his feet slipped.  For a moment he scrabbled for purchase, but there was nothing for his feet to catch against and he fell from the island.

Yoshi screamed and managed to grasp the edge of the island in his paws.  There he hung, but his shoulder muscles ached from the flying. 

Flying!  His wings!

But they were gone… the shell up on the island where he left it.

Yoshi whimpered in terror as his grip began to slip…

~

Luigi reached the top of the chain, and stuck his head inside the hole it came from.  He could see nothing in the dark room the hole led to, but there was no time to get used to the darkness.  Mario shoved him, and Luigi half climbed, half fell into the room.

His brother followed, then Parakette and Para-karry with Toad landed next to them.

"What is this place?" asked Parakette softly.

"It's the room with the giant winch for the chain," Luigi told her, squinting around in the darkness.

"How can you tell?" said Para-karry.  "I can't see a thing!"

"Wait for your eyes to adjust," said Mario.

"Or, how about you don't," interrupted Luigi.

"What?"

"There are some things in here that instead of looking at, you would most likely rather run from."

"Luigi, make some sense…" said Mario, but then his voice trailed off.

From the darkness came a low growl.  Like a horrible dream, or a horror movie come true, two glowing pinpoints of red light blinked into existence.  Many more followed them, as well as some yellow ones, and really big white ones.  The big white ones were accompanied by matching sets of sharp white teeth.

"GHRRRR…" went something.

Jaws dropped.  Eyes popped.  Five identical screams of terror rose out of that room, as five figures turned and ran for their lives.  Their eyes had adjusted so that in the gloom they could just make out what looked like an exit.

There came heavy, slow, ponderous pounding footsteps as the things gave chase.

"What are they?!" cried Parakette.

"Whomps," said Mario.

"Thwomps," said Toad.

"And Chomps," added Luigi.

"Oh my," finished Para-karry lamely as they continued their mad dash for safety.  They ran through a stone corridor, Luigi leading the way and Mario bringing up the rear.  Suddenly Luigi stopped, and the others cannoned into him.

"What's wrong?" said Mario.

"Dead end!" cried Luigi, terror flashing in his eyes.

As one, the group turned to face the huge stampede.  It sounded more like a rockslide. 

The heavy pounding of the footsteps shook the ground like an earthquake, as certain death came nearer and nearer…

TO BE CONTINUED…

Finished: 5/11/02

Cliffhanger!  CLIFFHANGER!  CLIFFHANGER!!!

I had to finish dramatically.  I mean it took long enough, so I thought I should give you something worth waiting for.  I apologise, this was meant to be the chapter where Herman's species was revealed, among other things, such as another fight between Mario and the dragon, and stuff.  But last chapter I said this stuff would fit better into two chapters, and this one got so long… Around page nine of it I decided it fits better into three. 

This story currently is tied with one of my first ones for the record of longest story written—but that's only going by chapters.  By sheer amount of words it's most definitely my longest.  Wow.

On a completely unrelated topic—TODAY'S MY 15TH BIRTHDAY!  YAAAAAAAY!  I got money from my parents, and tomorrow I'm going shopping with mum to get a new GameBoy Advance game.  Whoo!  Okay, I'll shut up now… but only if you review!  Bye!