Chapter 5

As the party was heading through the Toadwood Forest and back towards the Castle, Starlow went over to Peach. "What sent you and the Brothers to the Sprixie Kingdom, Princess?" she asked.

"Bowser had another evil plan under his shell," Peach answered. "But Mario, Luigi, Toad and I stopped him . . . again! It became five as Princess Rosalina joined later on. We all put an end to it."

"Wait," Starlow said. "Bowser was up to no good again . . . with a scheme that didn't involve kidnapping you?"

"I know. That was a big first for all of us!" Peach went on. "It was a huge deviation from his normal routine. Instead of kidnapping me in an effort to take over the Mushroom Kingdom as he usually does, for some reason he turned his attention to the Sprixie Kingdom and kidnapped their Princesses instead. When he came out of that clear pipe, I thought maybe he might decide to kidnap me along with the green Sprixie Princess. I was quite surprised when he didn't. Seeing Bowser capture the Sprixie in that bottle and recalling the many times when I myself was in that same sort of situation, I was determined to go and stop him and quickly dove headfirst into the pipe in pursuit. The others entered right after me."

"In a bottle?" Starlow asked. "I seem to recall hearing about some elf in another land catching fairy-like creatures in bottles in just that fashion."

"Hmm . . ." Peach pondered in a slightly sarcastic tone. "I think I may know who you're referring to there."

"With so many adventures, I can't imagine what your biography would look like," said Starlow. "I'll bet it would take several volumes for each of you!"

"You can say that again!" Toadette complimented. "I wouldn't be surprised if it filled an entire bookshelf! Or a library!"

"Now that would be interesting," the Princess chuckled. "If we keep having so many adventures like this, 'The Super Mario Archives' could very well become a reality!" Everyone chuckled at the thought.

As they approached the Castle, Toadsworth came out to greet them.

"Princess Peach! Thank goodness you're alright," he breathed. "I heard reports of impostors at Yoshi's Island and feared the worst. What happened? And where's the King?" He finally took notice of their alien companion . . . and gasped in horror!

"Princess! What madness is this — to bring one of those horrible Shroobs into our midst? Are you insane?" And he tried to pull her away.

"Toadsworth, everything's fine!" Peach assured him. "This Shroob is harmless and unarmed. He actually assisted the Bros in rescuing me from an ambush with Bandits back in the forest." Toadsworth looked at her in complete disbelief.

"You've ALL been brainwashed!" he shrieked.

"Toadsworth please!" the Shroob implored. "I did not brainwash them! I don't even have the technology to do that." And Toadsworth was perhaps more startled than any of the heroes had been in hearing the Shroob address him and understanding him. "If your Princess were brainwashed, she would have an antenna on her head and be speaking very unnaturally. Do you see any antennae on your friends' heads, Toadsworth? Do you hear anything blatantly unusual in their speech?" He tried to step towards him in a non-threatening way, but Toadsworth instinctively backed away in response.

"If it would make you feel any better," the alien continued. "You could have some of your guards come and search me for weapons or anything deemed suspicious. I assure you that they won't find anything. I've already given Mario my only weapon. No other Shroob would ever relinquish his arms like that. I am NOT like the rest of my people!"

The Princess called two of her Mushroom Retainers to search the Shroob. Though utterly terrified, they approached anyway in as best of an attempt to follow their Princess' orders. Hoping to ease their conscience, she took the alien's arms and held them behind his back like a prisoner. The Toads finally mustered the strength to search him. They found nothing; no additional weapons, communicators or other equipment were to be found.

"H . . . h . . . he's . . . cl . . . clean . . ." they stuttered. But Toadsworth still did not appear to be all the more comforted by this.

"Toadsworth, this Shroob is under my care and observation," Peach told him. "I'll make absolutely sure that nothing bad happens. He can't summon any of his people because they're all gone, and we have his only weapon. I'll have a room put together for him so he can make himself at home, and I can even request that he stay there if you wish, keeping him on probation for your sake until he's found favor with everyone. Let's go find him a room." Toadsworth was still quite anxious and distrusting of their alien guest, but he moved aside anyway as she was the one with the authority.

"Th . . . this . . . way . . . Princess . . ." the head Mushroom Retainer stuttered. "I . . . I really . . . hope you . . . know what you're doing . . ."

"I promised the Princess she would not regret this. I make the same promise to you, Toadsworth, and to everyone here," the Shroob said as they walked in. He held out his two-fingered hand hoping for a handshake of assurance, but Toadsworth was simply too petrified. The elderly Toad moaned in despair and followed behind them.

The party followed the Princess up to her bedroom. She opened a drawer from her nightstand and pulled out a key. "After I was coronated, the King gave me a key to his study in case I wanted to do some government work in there. We agreed that if the door were fully closed, then that would mean the room was occupied. But even then, I haven't had to go in there too often. I haven't had to do quite as much paperwork as my dad had done." They soon reached the door to the King's study where she unlocked it and went inside, looking around nostalgically.

"This room hasn't changed a bit since I was a girl," Peach said.

They walked over to the bookshelf with the big chest on its center rack. The container was about 10 inches wide and 6 inches deep (25 cm by 15 cm). There was a plaque stuck to its front face, right underneath the big orange gem, with the word TOADSTOOL, the royal family name, engraved on it. A classical-style mushroom pattern was carved right on the wooden lid. Peach took it and placed her thumb square on the gem. It glowed, there was a click, and the box was open. She carefully took out the ancient parchment and rolled it out for her friends to see. The sheet was about 2 and a half feet long (85 cm) and its characters appeared to be a blended series of lines, strokes, and dots. They were all amazed by how well preserved and intact it was . . . with the worst deterioration being only small nicks and worn edges.

"Those are some interesting characters," said Starlow. "I've never seen anything like it."

"So how are we gonna decipher this?" Toadette asked.

"I don't know," the Princess responded.

"May I take a peekage at the mystery font?" Stuffwell asked, emerging from Mario's back pocket. The Princess showed it to him for a few seconds. "That is sufficient. I have committed it to my databanks and am commencing some of my deciphering algorithms on it as we speak. I will inform you when I have compiled something."

"Thank you, Stuffwell," Peach said. "We'll look forward to it." Putting the ancient pell back in the chest, she decided to store the chest with Stuffwell for future reference, and to keep it away from their enemies.

"Okay," she began, "the next order of business is figuring out how we're gonna get into the Dream World and rescue my father. The way I see it, the only option we have is going to Pi'illo Island and talking to Prince Dreambert."

"I take it this is from another adventure of yours?" the Shroob inquired.

"Yes, it was," Peach answered. "When Luigi slept on one of the Pi'illo people, he could spawn Dream Portals."

"Really?" the Shroob said. "I never realized that that was possible. My people knew about the Dream World and Dream Portals, but we were never able to get there personally."

"Well maybe you can tell us more later," Peach responded. "We'd like to talk to Prince Dreambert first."

"I'll stay here at the castle," their alien friend told her. "It doesn't sound like you need me right now. Good luck!" He then left and headed to his living quarters.

"I'd like to get there as quickly as possible," Peach said. "I don't want to know what those Sapian creatures are doing to my father." She looked over at Cappy. "Do you mind if we use the Odyssey?"

"Not at all, Princess!" The Bonneton replied. "It's big enough for all of us. Let's go!" And in the next few minutes, the five of them made themselves comfortable inside the craft and headed off.

"This airship of yours is so cool, Mario!" Toadette complimented. "I don't think I'd ever gotten the opportunity to ride in it before. And to think I helped contribute some of its Power Moons! It's awesome!"

Soon they found themselves at the airship port on Pi'illo Island and were given permission to land. After touching down at the designated spot, the Pi'illos all hovered over to them.

"Mario! Luigi! Princess Peach! Welcome back, everyone!" they serenaded. For the next few minutes, the eight individuals (Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toadette, Starlow, Cappy, Perry, and Stuffwell) and the surrounding Pi'illos went around greeting and shaking hands, when and if able, with each other. After this was finished, the heroes' hosts continued: "It's so exciting to see you all again after what the Brothers had done for us! What brings you back to Pi'illo Island?"

"Another adventure," Peach answered. "Is Prince Dreambert around?"

"I wish we knew," they responded. The group looked surprised. "We've just now realized that he's missing." The Princess looked concerned.

"I think there's a connection here, everyone," Peach said. "My father has been kidnapped by a race of toad-like creatures called the Sapians, and they have access to the Dream World. We were hoping that Dreambert could assist us in entering so we could continue our pursuit."

"Hmm . . . that does sound like it could be related," the Pi'illos replied. "Especially since he has strong ties to you guys and with Luigi being able to spawn Dream Portals and all. Why don't we all head over to Pi'illo Castle and go over everything." And reaching the castle, the party found about a dozen more Pi'illos awaiting to greet them all upon hearing about their arrival on the Island, including Eldream and Bedsmith.

"Welcome back, everyone!" Eldream said. "Your timing could not have been more perfect."

"It's pretty typical, I must say." Peach told him. "Though it often feels like we always arrive just a skosh late. Despite that, we have always put the situation right in the end."

"You guys are going to need a Pi'illo to assist you in entering the Dream World in place of Prince Dreambert," the elder Pi'illo explained. He faced the crowd. "Is there anyone who would like to volunteer?"

"I!" came a response. The crowd shifted aside, and the group saw a young Pi'illo much like the rest of them that was dressed in a deep green hover over to them. "I'd like to help them, Eldream!"

"Ah, Youmie!" Eldream said. "You look much better today!"

"Thank you, sir," the Pi'illo acknowledged. He turned to face the four heroes. "I had been under the weather with a modest case of dreamiado. But I've gotten over it now and am ready to help you in any way I can."

"That's good to hear," the Princess said. "I don't think I've seen you before. Were you one of the Pi'illos that the Bros freed?"

"No," he answered. "Mario and Luigi managed to free 53 Pi'illos including Dreambert, but there were many more that they weren't able to get to. But by that time, there were enough of us that had been revived so that we could figure out a way to start freeing the others ourselves. I was one of those second-wave members that were liberated. My name is Henry Nickenschlaf, but everyone calls me 'Youmie.'"

"That's quite a surname you've got there!" Toadette commented. "Is it German?"

"I think so," The Pi'illo replied. "Though I don't really know where it came from."

"Well, it's nice to meet you, Youmie," Peach said. "Now why don't we figure out what happened to Dreambert? When was the last time you saw him?"

"I don't think he ever left the castle, Peach," one of the Pi'illos said. "Do you guys remember that room that you freed him from petrification in with the bed and all our old artifacts . . . the room with the Dreampoint? He might have been in that room, and had gone into the Dream World to do something — maybe to just relax and meditate on current affairs, or something like that. Why don't you try searching there?"

"Sounds reasonable," the Princess responded. "Well, what are we waiting for? Let's get moving!" And soon Luigi was positioned on the bed with Youmie as his Pi'illo pillow. The Dream Portal opened in an instant.

"Oh, I've always wanted to see what the Dream World is like!" Toadette said ecstatically. "Can I come?" Mario nodded.

"Be careful in there, both of you," Peach told them. "If Dreambert is missing, then there might be something in there. Keep your eyes open. In the meantime, Starlow and I will stay out here." And Mario and Toadette jumped into the Portal.