Warning: This story wrote itself! That beautiful song from the Disney movie "Beauty and the Beast" was all it took to inspire me. (No, I don't own the song.) This is rated so high because of oh....a total of two sort of gory scary things that youngins might not like (This chapter and the third). So read already, and enjoy!
Toad hated to be the one to break the news; even though he was quite used to delivering bad messages, he felt that this latest development might light a fuse. His premonition came true.
A loud, high pitched "What?!" practically knocked him clean off his feet. A screech, resembling the words "That does it!" sent him reeling. The small mushroom retainer was lucky to have moved away from the door before the charging Princess opened it and screamed. "This has gone far enough!"
Toad didn't know what to do. After all, Bowser had never snatched both plumbers before, although he had come close on more than one occasion. Forcing a calmness that only he could, he assumed that a yawn, and order to the troops and a prayer was all it would take. If that was the case, this should have happened five minutes ago. So why was Princess Peach putting on her long red cloak?
"Princess, where are you-"
"I've had enough of this, Toad. I am going to Bowser myself."
"No harm will come to me, and I can't afford to lose any more troops. I should be back shortly."
Toad knew that dealings with Bowser Koopa never lasted short of an hour. "Please, your highness!"
Peach saw he was close to tears, and kneeled before him in pity. He was a young retainer after all; it was a wonder he could handle everything she had set him to do at such an age.
"I promise, Toad. Bowser won't do anything rash. No harm will come to me."
"But…but what if it does?"
Swallowing hard, she tried not to let his words fill her with doubt. "It won't." And with those words she left her castle and her kingdom in hopes that the Marios would return with her. Toad had no choice but to trust his majesty's judgment.
Yet he had no idea what kind of fuse he had just lit.
"First, he terrorizes the kingdom by kidnapping me. Now he seizes the kingdom's heroes?" Peach stopped her muttering, she felt silly talking to herself, and her thoughts were running away with her.
After a moment's silence she stopped walking. The kingdom's heroes? Is that what this was all about? Who's shoulders did the kingdom's security rest upon? Why was it so important to rescue the Marios when she was the one that ruled…?
She stopped her thoughts again and continued walking up the mountain to Bowser's Keep. No, these were her friends. Heroes or not, she cared for them and their safety. She knew in her heart that Bowser wouldn't dream of hurting his 'beloved Princess', but wondering what fate awaited the plumbers at his castle quickened her pace up the path.
Mario lifted his head glumly, examining his hands, chained uncomfortably above his head. He stole a nasty glance at his brother, who sat on the floor across from him.
"This is entirely your fault."
"My fault?" scoffed Luigi. "I didn't lead us into Dark World 'on accident.'"
"Like I said," Mario growled between clenched teeth. "Wrong pipe."
"I told you last month to get some glasses, bro!"
"Get a life."
"Why do you have to be like that, Mario? Do you want to fight?"
"I'd take it outside, but the chains are kind of heavy!"
"You might want to lower your voices, gentlemen. Loud sounds make me very irritated."
Mario and Luigi swallowed their next insults and stared at King Bowser Koopa. Drowning in his enormous shadow, Mario silently bit his lip and Luigi's face paled. The sharp spikes of Bowser's shell gleamed in the orange light thrown by the torches on the wall, as did his sharp, toothy grin.
"The Mario Brothers themselves are finally in my court. This is quite possibly the best thing to happen to me."
Controlling his fear, Mario managed to choke out, "And now that you have us…what are you going to do?"
Bowser's malicious grin grew wider, assuring the plumbers that whatever pain or death awaited them, it was to be the worst.
"Oh, I don't know," sighed Bowser casually. "What would you like me to do?"
Neither of them answered. Luigi shifted positions uneasily to stop his knees from knocking. Mario's throat felt parched and he realized he was breathing rapidly. He closed his eyes, not bothering to answer, giving up any and all hope of coming out alive…if at all.
"I've got an idea…but I'm not sure you'll like it." Bowser's expression was that of mock graveness. "I must warn you, it involves a lot of pain."
"I can deal with torture," lashed Luigi, feeling himself grow brave again.
Bowser raised an eyebrow, surprised. "Oh, can you now?"
He heard the cell door being unlocked, and he scooted himself as far away as the chains would allow. Bowser knelt on one knee before him, and the younger plumber stared into narrowed, red, reptilian eyes.
"Could you stand pain so intense, you'd wish you had never been born? Let me explain this to you in simpler terms." Bowser lowered his voice to a hush, enjoying the terrified plumber's face. "I'll gouge out your eyes so you won't even know if I was going to break every bone in your body or eat you, limb from limb."
It seemed to Luigi that Bowser was quite serious, and he dared not speak another word. The Koopa King took this for impudence and snarled menacingly. "You wouldn't last one minute, boy," Bowser hissed, yanking up the wide eyed Luigi by his shirt.
Mario gasped a little and stirred, pulling on the chains and desperately praying his brother wouldn't be murdered before his own eyes. "No!"
A voice rang out through the dungeon halls. "Koopa, stop!"
Everyone froze. King Koopa, still holding Luigi, slowly turned his head and saw Princess Peach Toadstool standing in the doorway to the Marios' cell. She thought he looked surprised to see her. Mario's face was marred with a panicked frown.
"Peach, what are you doing? Get out of here!"
As often as she was kidnapped by him, the Princess still couldn't stand to look at Bowser. A giant ugly turtle was not her idea of a pretty picture. She took one careful step back as he stood to his full, immense height, dropping Luigi to the floor. She finally found her voice. "Let them go."
"Let them go?" repeated Bowser in pretend shock. "Honestly, Princess, do you think I'm a fool?"
"Enough is enough, Koopa. Why won't you leave us be?"
"Only because I can't live without seeing your beauty."
"Put a sock in it, Koopa," Mario muttered. Bowser shot fire from his eyes and the plumber fell silent, feeling lucky that the fire had not come from his mouth.
"Really, Bowser. What makes you think I'd love you back?"
The giant turtle narrowed his eyes. "Go home Princess."
"Not without the Marios."
"There's nothing you can do for them anymore."
Peach swallowed nervously. "Why not?"
"Because you obviously don't share my feelings. A very grave mistake that will cost you two lives."
Peach held her breath and took another step back as Bowser came nearer.
"The Mario brothers will be dead by morning."
The Princess was frozen. "You wouldn't."
"I'll give you points for valor in coming here; their deaths will be painless. They won't suffer, I assure you…"
"You…you monster!" she cried, feeling ready to strike him yet common sense holding her back.
"Go home, Princess. Sleep well."
"This isn't fair!"
Bowser stepped nearer. "Fair? I give you my love and you give me nothing in return. That sounds very unjust to me."
Peach's face crumbled; it was all Mario could do to keep from breaking his chains to run and comfort her.
Bowser beat him to the opportunity as an idea came to him; he placed a clawed, scaly paw on her delicate shoulder. "Now wait a minute, Princess. This can be remedied. I won't kill your precious plumbers, if…"
"If what?" she whispered.
"If you stay with me."
Peach froze. "With you?"
Mario and Luigi spoke at once. "No Princess! Don't do it! It's a trick! It's not worth it! Please don't do it!"
"For how long?" she asked, voice wavering.
Bowser stopped glaring at the plumbers threateningly and turned to look at her gravely. "Forever."
Chains rattled, and Peach watched Mario through watery vision. "Princess, don't do it. Don't worry about us…we can…" He swallowed and started over. "Don't worry. Just…please don't do this!"
Peach was torn. An eternity with her arch enemy or her best friends murdered at her enemy's hands.
"You try my patience," pressed Bowser, raising his voice. "Make your choice."
Peach pleaded softly, still staring into Mario's eyes. "This isn't fair."
He grinned slightly. "Interesting. I thought I heard you say 'no.' Hear that, boys? She just gave you your death sentence." Bowser stepped fully out of the cell and shut the door behind him.
"Wait!" the cry cut through the prison like a ray of sunshine in the dark. Bowser whipped around to face her.
"It's too late. You made your decision!"
"No I didn't!" she retorted. She mouthed the words 'I'm sorry' just before she closed her eyes, breaking off contact with Mario. She took a deep breath, lowering her head. "I'll take their place."
Bowser's smirk returned. "Very well."
Peach sank to her knees, the seriousness of the situation just coming to light. She tried so hard to block out the pleas of the Marios, begging her to change her mind. She tried so hard not to look into the face of her new master, rows of his ugly teeth grinning at her.
The plumbers, for once in their lives, were kicked out of the castle, kicked out of Dark World and back to their own by way of the pipes. They wouldn't take their freedom without a fight.
"I'll come back for you," Mario whispered huskily in her ear, grabbing her hand.
"A promise is a promise," she sadly reminded him, tears flowing freely now as his hand was wrenched from hers. And just as quickly as she found the plumbers, she had lost them forever.
Bowser returned shortly after dumping the heroes and loomed over Peach, sitting alone in the empty cell.
"Your punishment for taking so long to choose will not cost you lives, but you shall stay here."
"In the prison?" Bowser met her incredulous stare, saw the hopelessness in her eyes, and snorted.
"I never promised you a rose garden." And he slammed the cell door.
For the sake of Benjamin Bratt, just try and believe that Bowser has never had both plumbers in his possession. Ever. Forget whatever else you read or watched. ^_^