Mario Teaches Fanfiction
The Tragedy of the Grammar World
Chapter 1: The Punctuite Rebels
One day, Princess Toadstool (or Peach, as she was known to her friends) summoned Mario and Luigi – the heroes of the Mushroom Kingdom – to her, and she informed them of a new need for their services. "The problem probably won't be a simple one to fix," she explained. "I need you two to investigate Warp Zone Two. There are reports from the locals that there are strange things happening there with one of the pipes. They've been developing the area for farming, and in the process, they've discovered a new warp pipe. They say that several young toads went into it on a dare, and they haven't returned in several days. I need you two to figure out what's going on and report back to me. But don't try anything too dangerous just yet. We need to rescue the toads that have disappeared, but we can't do that until we know what we're dealing with."
"Hey, no problem, Princess!" Luigi exclaimed gallantly. "The Mario Brothers are on the case!"
"That's right!" Mario agreed. "You can count on us, Peach!"
"Thank you, guys!" Peach replied, beaming at them. "I'll be anxiously waiting for you to return with news!"
The brothers raced out of the castle and grabbed a couple of tanooki leaves on their way past the royal armory. It wouldn't hurt to be prepared, after all. After leaving the castle, they immediately dashed off toward Warp Zone Two.
"So Mario," Luigi laughed nervously as soon as they were out of range of any of the castle's staff. "We're only going to look, right? I mean, you aren't planning on doing anything dangerous, are you, Bro?"
Mario chuckled and shook his head. "Of course not," he answered, flashing Luigi a wide grin beneath his bushy mustache. "I'm just going to hop into the pipe and see where it goes! That's all."
"Oh, well if that's all, then - wait, what?!" Luigi squeaked, falling behind a little as his knees began to wobble. "B-but Mario! You heard what Peach said! She warned us to be careful!"
"I will be careful," Mario exclaimed. "But if there are any baddies on the other end of that pipe, they'd better be careful too!"
"Mama mia," Luigi muttered desolately. "I don't want to go jumping into any cursed pipes, Mario. You heard the princess. No one who's entered that thing has returned."
"Where's your spirit of adventure, Luigi?" Mario laughed, chucking his brother in the shoulder. "We haven't had a good challenge for months. Weren't you getting bored staying at home all day playing video games?"
"As a matter of fact, I wasn't," was Luigi's emphatic reply. "It was quiet, peaceful, and safe – everything this is sure to not be. I don't care what you say, Mario. You can't make me follow you into that warp pipe."
"Fine," Mario sighed. "You big chicken. You can stay behind and report to Peach if I don't come back. Sound okay?"
"No, but I guess it'll have to do," Luigi grumbled.
It didn't take them long to reach their destination. The Mario Bros. knew the Mushroom Kingdom's underground network of warp pipes and secret passages like the backs of their gloved hands. Only ten minutes had transpired by the time they reached the mysterious Warp Zone Two. They walked out among the various warp pipes and glanced around for anything unfamiliar.
"That must be it," Luigi gulped, pointing to a large, yellow pipe just in front of a half-cleared grove of trees and bushes. "I don't remember seeing that one before."
"Right," Mario agreed. "Let's check it out."
They cautiously crept toward the pipe, keeping their eyes open in case something might pop out and grab them. When they were only a few feet away, Luigi's nerve failed him.
"I c-can't g-go any farther, M-mario," he said through chattering teeth. "I just know something's g-gonna happen if w-we try."
"Nothing to do but dive right in," Mario surmised. There was nothing especially odd about the pipe. Its coloration was a little strange for this region's warp zone, but other than that it just looked like a normal warp pipe. "Here goes nothing! Wish me luck, Weege!"
Steeling his nerves, Mario leapt into the air and dropped feet-first into the pipe. It made the characteristic warping sound as he entered, and then he was gone. Luigi gulped apprehensively, and he ran off a few paces to put some distance between him and the pipe. Then he settled himself down at the base of another pipe and began to wait. He decided he'd give it an hour. If he hadn't heard from Mario by then, he was going to go back for help.
Mario popped up out of a red pipe and landed neatly on his feet. He hopped down to the ground and glanced at his surroundings. Well, he was at least somewhere. The pipe hadn't been a dead end, and it hadn't thrown him into the jaws of some kind of fearsome beast. He was in what appeared to be a town, inside a dark alleyway leading to a cobblestone street. Keeping a hand on the handle of his plunger, he stole out of the alley to investigate.
What he saw astounded him. He was in the center of a small but very busy town, and he was surrounded by moderately-sized, colorful buildings. All about him there were strange people of variegated colors bustling to and fro on the street. The people themselves were oddly shaped; some of them were solid wheel-shapes (with no holes in the centers) standing upright and walking on spindly legs; some of them were similar to that, but they had thick tails protruding from their backsides; some were similar to that, except they had an additional wheel portion atop that. Each one had two spindly arms protruding from either side of the wheel shapes, and each arm sported a narrow hand with clever fingers. Each person also sported a small face on the narrow edge of the upright wheel (or the topmost one if they were one of the double wheels). Their faces were small but expressive; they each had two bright eyes that varied in color – usually a shade or two lighter than the skin of their owner. They also had tiny bumps for noses, and equally petite mouths that were tight-lipped but often turned upwards. The shapes seemed vaguely familiar, as they stirred in Mario old memories of his struggles as a kid in school back in Brooklyn. However, he quickly brought himself back to the present; he had no time to dwell on unpleasant thoughts. He had to figure out where he was.
"Excuse me," he asked one of the single wheel-shaped people as it walked by. "Where am I?"
"Oh, hello!" it squeaked at him. "Why, you're in the town of Punctuville! I suspect you're from out of town, aren't you?"
"You might say that," Mario laughed. "Punctuville, huh? I've never heard of such a place!"
"It's a great place," the little person squeaked happily. "You couldn't have picked a better day to visit. The annual Clause Fest is happening today! Some of our finest young commas and semicolons are going to wrangle the wiliest clauses in all the land! It'll be a sight to see!"
"Sounds interesting. Well, I'll try and take a peek then," Mario said, completely nonplussed. "Thank you for your help."
"Think nothing of it. Anyway, sorry to be rude, but I've got to run. My wife just called, and the sentences have run on again. No time to stay and chat!" With that, he scurried off down the street, leaving Mario very much baffled and amused.
Mario stared at the figures around him and wondered if any of them might know what happened to the missing toads. He studied them a bit more. There were other circles like the one he'd met, and several of them were leading on leashes strange, elongated beasts with large eyes and vacant stares. Their bodies resembled those of fluffy dogs for the most part, but they had hooves and birdlike beaks too. There were many of the little wheels leading these strange creatures around, and although they appeared to be tame, Mario felt a certain degree of apprehension when one plodded close by.
The circles with tails were leading smaller animals, and these had scales on their rear flanks and thick, shaggy fur up front. These animals had a mouth full of sharp, needle-like teeth that Mario could see when one of them yawned in front of him. There were so many odd beasts and strange people around that Mario soon found himself overwhelmed by the oddity. Not knowing what else to do, he began to walk with the flow of the crowd down the street. He made a mental note of the alley in which he had left the warp pipe, and he began to walk in the direction that the small wheel person had taken.
He hadn't gone more than two blocks when suddenly, an irritatingly nasal voice pierced the air high above the town. "My dear punctuites," it boomed, "this is your king speaking! I am most displeased with you all!"
Nearly everyone in the city froze, and gasps of horror and cries of alarm rose up from the crowd around him. Mario looked up to see a large blimp hovering high in the sky above Punctuville. The voice seemed to be coming from up there.
"Save us!" cried one of the odd people – whom Mario now assumed to be called punctuites – beside Mario. "The king has found us! Suethor has come! We're doomed!"
"Your little rebellion was amusing at first, but there are limits to how much even I will tolerate. I'm afraid that it is time for you to die," the voice cried, cackling with merriment. "I'm going to make an example of you, so that all those who would refuse to pay tribute to my greatness might think better of it. Enjoy your final fleeting moments of existence, my naughty little ones!"
The chaos that ensued was horrendous. Panicked punctuites fled in every direction, and out of alleys, buildings, and even the sky, odd creatures of every shape and size lunged into the streets and began mauling and destroying everyone whom they encountered.
"Sentence Fragments!" one unfortunate wheel punctuite cried, just before he was rent to pieces by a tiger-like, scaly-legged beast with huge jaws. Mario was mortified by the carnage and devastation that surrounded him. His intense feelings of pity overwhelmed him, and he drew his plunger from his belt. With a furious yell, he charged into the maelstrom of destruction and proceeded to beat and stomp on every vicious-looking beast he could find, desperately trying to save whomever he could. He found the creatures surprisingly durable, and simple attacks that had served him well in the Mushroom Kingdom didn't do nearly as much damage to these beasts. He managed to stun a fair handful of them, but unfortunately, he was sorely outnumbered. While he was in the process of kicking the tar out of a particularly vile wolf-like creature, he was struck down by a blow to his left shoulder. He fell onto his back, crying out in pain. He looked up to see what had struck him – a large, flying creature with a bulbous, feathery head full of jagged teeth. It landed atop Mario's chest, digging its talons into his overalls. Mario struggled to dislodge it, and he gaped in horror at its jagged teeth, which were already dripping with brown liquid – the substance that seemed to be the blood of the punctuites.
Just before the creature brought its gaping maw down over Mario's face, it was knocked silly by a small punctuite with a club. "This is for Mom and Dad!" he screamed, bashing the creature's head in with the heavy, wooden instrument. "Monster! Demon! Murderer!" The savage creature – the sentence fragment, not the punctuite – flopped unceremoniously off of Mario, and the small punctuite continued to pummel it with his club. The punctuite was one of the double-circled ones with a tail, and although by now he had already killed the sentence fragment, he was still pounding its head with his weapon. Tears were streaming down his face, and he was howling with rage.
"You got him, Semmy! It's over!" came a voice behind Mario. He sat up to see another punctuite with a club. This one was one of the single circles with a tail. He ran up to Semmy and tried to pull him away from the dead fragment. "It's dead! Come on; we have to go!"
"Not happen!" came a cold voice behind them. This time Mario scrambled to his feet and spun around. This was not a sentence fragment. This was a person, and he was humanoid in shape, but his skin was green, and he had purple hair. He was wearing outlandish gold armor, with a heart emblazoned on his breastplate. "W.T.F.?" he exclaimed, staring at Mario in astonishment. "You not punctuite!"
"No, I'm not," Mario growled. "But I can see that being a punctuite isn't much of a picnic at the moment. Are you the one responsible for this massacre?"
"You stupid!" the man scolded him. "I King Suethor's Illiterati! I here ensure cute pet fragments not get owchies! Two brats just kill one pet. They come with Illiterati. His Kingness probably want give them special, public execution!"
The idiotic way this man spoke grated on Mario's nerves. "This King Suethor sounds like a real piece of work," Mario snarled. "But I'm not going to stand aside and just let you weirdoes kill a couple of kids. I don't know what's going on around here, but I do know that right now I smell the stink of injustice. If you want to take these two, you'll have to go through me first!"
"OCs!" the man barked loudly. "We having rebelling er, thing here! Take mustache man to King!"
A mob of armored people similar in shape and color to the first one – except that their armor was silver – came pouring out of the still-boiling mass of panicking punctuites. They quickly surrounded Mario and the two little punctuites, and each one brandished a strange spear with three green, luminescent prongs at its end. Mario felt the two punctuites cower and shiver against his back. He didn't need them to tell him that this was not a desirable situation in which to be.
"As much as I'd love to stay and meet your king," he cried, pulling the tanooki leaf out of his pocket and activating it, "I'm afraid I've got to run. Give him my regards, will you?" In a puff of white smoke, he transformed into his tanooki self, ringed tail, fuzzy ears and all. He was relieved to notice that the transformation had healed the damage done to his left shoulder, too, and that the pain was now gone. As soon as the transformation was complete, he seized each of the two punctuites with one of his arms, and he leapt into the air, twirling his tail for all he was worth. The OCs charged toward him, but it was too late. He had already flown high out of their grasp by then, and he was flying as fast as he could away from the city.
"You can fly!" one of the punctuites shrieked. "Holy plot device! Just who are you, anyway? No, strike that. What are you?"
"My name is Mario," he replied, setting his jaw grimly. "I'm a human. I've come here from a different world in search of some people from my world who've turned up missing. I don't understand any of what's going on around here. Why is this king of yours killing all of you off?"
"King Suethor is an evil tyrant," the smaller punctuite sniffed. "He taxes all of Grammar World to starvation, and he forces us to go to his castle once a week and praise him and sing songs to him. It's disgusting. Our village of punctuites decided to defect, and we left his kingdom to live peacefully on our own. We've been doing just that for the past two years, until today, that is. He finally tracked us down, and now it's all over. Semmy's and my parents have already been faulted and spliced by those sentence fragments, and the rest of the villagers will all be dead in less than an hour. Semmy and I may very well become all that's left of the punctuites from our village."
"That's terrible!" Mario gasped. "Why on earth would this man kill you all for defecting?"
"Because," Semmy seethed, "if we're not feeding the king's ego, he'd rather we didn't exist. The man is an egotistical maniac! Commie and I vowed the moment our parents died that if we got the chance, we'd kill Suethor ourselves!"
"And yet, it seems that all of our political leaders just adore him," Commie said sadly. "They all say he's so handsome, smart, and kind. It's as though there's no flaw to him in their eyes. I'm sure it's not their fault, though. It's got to be some kind of dark magic. There's no other explanation."
"This is all very complicated and terrible," Mario replied. "I had no idea a world with such problems existed. I'm worried that it might spill over into my world too. Now that your king has taken your village, he might discover the warp pipe that brought me here. That's a very unsettling thought."
"Can we land soon?" Semmy asked, staring at the ground far below and gulping. "I don't think I like flying very much."
"We need to go a bit farther," Mario replied, glancing behind them and keeping an eye open for more of the flying sentence fragments he'd seen back at the village. "I don't want to risk their tailing us. Sorry it's not a more comfortable way of traveling, but it's the best I can do."
"No, we're the ones who should be sorry," Commie apologized. "We've been ungrateful. Thank you for saving us, stranger. My brother and I owe our lives to you."
"Consider us even," Mario laughed dryly. "I don't know if you remember, but that sentence fragment Semmy pulverized was about to bite my head off. You guys saved my skin before I saved yours."
They all laughed, but the mirth was short-lived. As Mario flew them onward, each one retreated into his own thoughts. Mario frowned as he realized that when he failed to return, Luigi would most likely go back to tell the princess, and then she'd organize a search party to rescue him. He worried that they'd all venture into the pipe and then subsequently wind up prisoners to this rotten king. He ground his teeth; the very idea made his blood boil.
Twenty minutes later, Mario's tail was beginning to get tired, so he glided them down to a forested area and landed in one of the denser trees, keeping a firm hold on his two passengers. He set them all down on a thick bough, and they sat down to rest. "Now then," he sighed, "where should we go next? You guys know this country better than I do. My first priority is going to be to get you two to safety. After that, I need to find a way to sneak back into your village so that I can get to that warp pipe. I've got to warn the people back home about the danger."
"We should head for the city of Crossover," Commie replied. "All of our world's races meet there to exchange news and find friends. There are sure to be plenty of punctuites and other people there who can help us."
"I know how to get there," Semmy added, nodding in agreement. "Dad took us there when we were younger. Commie was too young to remember any of it, but I do."
"Fine," Mario replied. "So, while we're resting, can I ask you guys to tell me about this Grammar World? I've never met a punctuite until today, and I don't know anything about sentence fragments, clauses, or sentences. This is all very foreign to me."
"Well, as you've heard, Semmy and I are punctuites," Commie explained. "There are many different classes of punctuites, but the most common ones are commas, periods, and semicolons. I'm a comma, and semmy is a semicolon."
"The king and his men are called 'original characters,'" Semmy added. "We call them OCs for short. Anyway, they have a reputation for being perfectly trained, perfectly groomed, and perfectly admired by all who know them. They're also all about the same as the rest of their brethren. The king is reportedly one too, but he's the worst of them all if he is.
"You got to meet sentence fragments earlier," he continued. "They're abnormalities that Suethor created. He took to breeding sentences, and through his mistreatment of them and their kind, he created a warped, evil race of monsters with which he annihilates his enemies. These fearsome creatures splice and fault punctuites without abandon. In addition to the sentence fragments, King Suethor has a special corps of OCs known as the Illiterati. If you'll remember, the captain of that OC group was one of the Illiterati. They are Suethor's best assassins, and if you stick a thorn particularly deeply into the king's side, he'll send them after you. The Illiterati are hellishly efficient at killing punctuites, words, and any other denizen of the Grammar World, really. They don't always kill us, though. The Illiterati abuse this world's people in all the worst ways." Semmy shuddered. "For some reason, they also get along really well with the sentence fragments. It's quite common to see a member of the Illiterati with one or two fragments along for company."
"These are the bad examples of our world's people, however," Commie interrupted, shaking his head. "But we're not all like that. In addition to punctuites, we also have words, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs. Words are prolific creatures, and they roam wild all over the kingdom, as well as serving as our livestock. We use them for many things, and they are usually very gentle creatures. Some of them can have a bit of a sting to them, though," he added with a laugh. "As for clauses, they're somewhat trickier to manage than words, but we keep them as livestock too. They're really strong, and they make good beasts of burden. They eat words though, so they can be expensive to keep.
"Sentences are powerful creatures that can speak and think coherently like us, although they don't always look it. We don't really use them for anything; they're mostly kept as pets, and the domesticated ones are very loyal too. However, if we don't watch out, wild ones can make off with our clauses. They're predatory creatures, but they only seem to have a taste for clauses. Like most things though, there are good sentences and there are bad sentences."
"You mentioned paragraphs earlier," Mario interrupted, feeling slightly dazed by all the structure and strange familiarity this conversation seemed to hold. "What are they like?"
"Paragraphs are wise, powerful creatures. They're even smarter than we are. We consult them for guidance a lot, but unfortunately, they aren't strong enough to defeat the OCs. If they were, we'd have overthrown King Suethor long ago. Most paragraphs are decent folk, but some are quite testy, especially from all the negative treatment Suethor gives them."
"This king of yours is a real problem, isn't he?" Mario grumbled. "I can see him getting in my way too. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to investigate whether or not I could help you guys bring him down. I've taken down pretty powerful evil monarchs in the past. He can't possibly be any worse than Bowser, Wart, or even Dimentio."
"Wow! That would be great!" Semmy exclaimed. "If that were possible, the whole kingdom would practically worship you! The things King Suethor makes us do just make us all so sick and angry! And besides, we're in constant fear of being killed," he continued with an angry scowl. "I've been told that he sends his evil sentences, sentence fragments, and Illiterati to splice and fault us all the time, but I've never seen it happen before until today. It's horrible."
"Well, first things first," Mario sighed. "We need to figure out a way to get to this Crossroads or whatever it is without being sighted. Would it help if we waited until dark?"
"Crossover city," Commie corrected him. "And I think you're right. It won't do to travel by day; the king is sure to be watching from his blimps, trying to spot us and send his Illiterati after us. The darkness will help keep us hidden."
"We might as well stay up here in the tree until then," Semmy agreed. "It'll be dangerous on the ground. We're less likely to encounter territorial sentences or phrases up here. We'll have to be careful when we set out tonight too."
The three agreed then to try and get a little sleep, as their night was likely to be a trying one. Mario found places on the tree where they might recline more comfortably, and they all did their best to settle down for a few hours of rest. It wasn't easy for any of them, however. Mario had begun to get hungry, and he was still very worried about the folks back home. Semmy and Commie were both preoccupied with the thoughts of their dead parents and neighbors. Despite their best efforts, none of them was able to get a wink of sleep that day.