Chapter 11: Fortune Upon a Dam

With Monsieur Koopartist defeated, Nebule and Chalk continued their way across the desert. With light shining upon them, things were starting to look a little livelier. A couple of orange enemies covered in spikes called Pokeys were roaming around, as well as some rock enemies called Bald Clefts. They mostly ignored them, though.

"Good thing everything's light out," Nebule smiled, looking at the blue sky and the sun that shined down on them. "Though… The sun's pretty bright, wouldn't you say, Chalk?"

"Oh, I'm already covered," Chalk smirked, putting on shades. Nebule took notice and couldn't help but ask the obvious.

"…Where did you get those?"

"I made 'em myself!"

"But how did you… Oh, right. The paintbrush." Nebule grumbled. "Can you make me some?"

"Go get your own!"

Nebule frowned before turning his attention back to the direction they were moving. There was another hill coming up ahead, but it wasn't as steep-looking as the one they previously ran into.


Hearing those words, Nebule immediately ducked, hoping that a projectile would just miss him.

Instead, he heard a quack.


Nebule stood up and noticed a duck walking by while quacking. His left eye started to twitch as Chalk ran after the duck, which began to fly away.

"Chalk… That was so unnecessary…" Nebule said calmly, his anger slightly building up. "I thought I was in danger for a second!"

"Well it was so important that I had to tell you about the duck!" Chalk countered. "It was super important! …Ooh! I see more!"

"Wait, what?" the blonde boy noticed more ducks waddling down the small hill ahead and eventually flying off. "What are ducks doing around here? I thought they usually stay around water or something? Not a freaking desert!"

"I bet they're desert ducks!"

Nebule gave Chalk a strange look. "…Desert ducks?"

"Well… Yeah! It's the best answer and is probably a fact that you can't change!"

Rolling his eyes, Nebule made his way over to the hill and gasped when he almost fell. Standing before him was a large pit that probably went over ten miles far. There appeared to be a dam all the way at the bottom, but there wasn't any water. It was just a single puddle. Nearby was a sign that had the words "Dusty Dam" labeled on it.

Chalk even got a look at the dam, but instead of being amazed, he said, "So… I guess the ducks came from there?"

There was not much time to inspect the dam when they heard something coming from their left. Turning, a shadow monster with blades on its arms, legs and back was coming toward them while rolled up in a ball.

But Nebule still had an idea. It sounded like a stupid move, but he held his sword like a bat and swung it before the enemy called a Shadoo Blade could make contact with him. Sparks came from both its blades and the Sword of Light before Nebule was able to knock the Shadoo Blade onto the sand.

Nebule looked down at his sword, which was emitting some steam. Meanwhile, the Shadoo Blade eventually pulled itself together and gave the two a glare with its glowing yellow eyes. Chalk smirked at it, while Nebule got in a fighting stance.

"Come on!" challenged Nebule, making the Shadoo Blade leap over to them. Chalk painted a hole in the ground where the Shadoo Blade was landing, leading it to fall into the hole. "Wait, what? …Oh, don't tell me. That was you, wasn't it?"

"Yup!" Chalk declared proudly. "Aren't I awesome?"

"Yeah…" Nebule approached the edge of the cliff and looked down. There happened to be a ladder nearby leading down to a few sandy rocks. Perhaps this was a way down to Dusty Dam?

Putting his sword away, the blonde boy walked over to the ladder and began to carefully climb down. Looking down was a terrible option at this point. Chalk followed him down the ladder and onto the sandy rocks. They didn't appear to be in good shape, so Nebule suggested they be careful.

Unfortunately, the Shadoo Blade was able to tear through the wall near them, but to their relief, it ended up in midair when it lunged. After realizing where it was standing, it eventually began to plummet to its doom.

"What an idiot!" laughed Chalk.

"Indeed," agreed Nebule, making his way onto some climbable rocks to the left of the cliff. Climbing down lead onto some wooden platforms, which was able to hold the weight of the two. "Hmmmm… Well, this seems to be sturdy… I wonder what we'll find here?"

Chalk ignored him as he ran on ahead to the left of the platforms and found another ladder leading down to the lower level. Nebule followed him down the ladder, but while they climbed, they heard some voices through the wall.

"What the…" Nebule stopped for a moment to listen to the voices carefully. "Strange… I hear voices, but I don't know what's being said…"

"I can hear it too!" Chalk noticed. "But hey, like we care, Neboop!"

"Well, I'm sure it might be important…"

When they climbed down the bottom of the ladder, they saw another ladder near them, but all the way to their left appeared to be a wooden door. It didn't appear to be sturdy. In fact, it easily fell off when Chalk was pulling on the knob.

"Ha! This door is so bad!" Chalk scoffed.

"Well, I guess it was old… Makes sense. Looks like it leads into a cave." Nebule was the first to step into the cave. Thankfully, it wasn't filled with darkness, because purple lanterns shaped like orbs were hanging from the walls. It made the cavern look gorgeous, actually.

Well, until Chalk made it out of shape by painting one of the lanterns green without Nebule noticing. He let out a small snicker before following Nebule.

Eventually they found the path fork off when there were now two ways to go. There was a sign to the left that stated "To Merlee's", while the other appeared to be too dirty to look at. Probably because of some small pebbles that left dirt on the sign. Speaking of pebbles, some were falling on the two's heads.

To stop some of the pebbles, Chalk spun his paintbrush above his head like a propeller. It looked pretty cute for someone like him, but it bothered Nebule more when those pebbles were hitting him now.

"Chalk! Stop it!" Nebule barked. "This isn't helping!"

Chalk frowned and eventually stopped. "Thank you... Let's go to the left. I remember Merlon mentioning someone named Merlee. Perhaps those voices were coming from her?"

Chalk would've said something, but Nebule was already heading toward the left, so he followed him through the small cavern. Along the way, they found a depiction of Magic Powder on the wall, which Chalk used his paintbrush to make real. Afterward, they continued their way onward. To their surprise, they noticed the purple getting dimmer around them with the cave getting much lighter. In fact, they stumbled on purple curtains just up ahead.

Opening the curtains left the two astounded. The walls were a light purple with depictions of yellow stars everywhere. The ground was also light purple, which included a purple rug and a blue table that looked rather out of place. On the table was a crystal ball glimmering with energy. A couple of shelves were near the corners of the room and were mostly about fortune telling.

On the other side of the table was a Shaman woman garbed in a lavender cloak that covered most of her body and a hood shaped like the upper part of the sun that kept her face hidden, with the exception of her purple eyes. A yellow emblem of a sun was slightly above her hood, and a blue orb with a star embedded in it was on her cloak. She wore black gloves and brown boots as well.

But what also struck Nebule mostly were the people that were speaking to her.

"So you see, fortune teller, we've gotta finish our mission to save some princess so I can marry her! Her father even promised me that!"

"Toadburt, you realize that King Braze and Tagel itself were destroyed?!"

"Now now, Bonnie. Can't you see I'm talkin' here? You three are supposed to be silent, because as the leader, it is my duty to talk to the people here!"

"Except you're just an idiot," Koopo stated.

"Tagel, you say?" Merlee asked, breaking the argument between Toadburt and his "friends". The fortune teller began to wave her hands around the crystal ball as it began to glimmer with purple light. Through the crystal ball, Tagel could be seen, but not as it once was before. "Hmmmm... Yes, I see it now! The Shadow Queen had invaded Tagel and wiped it out and redesigned the town! Now darkness roars over the skies!"

No longer was Tagel a place of peace and beauty, but it now had buildings that ranged from blue and dark purple. A large palace was created in a large section of the place, and the entrance had a big, red door with seven star emblems.

"Oh my gosh..." Goombi gaped, looking at Tagel. "What has become of this place?"

"It is the work of the Shadow Queen," Merlee stated. "Where the castle once stood now has a palace. It has been deemed the Palace of Shadow."

"Oh, no!" Nebule cried, seeing the image through the crystal ball. The four heroes and Merlee happened to notice them, with one person in the former not being happy.

"Well well, if it isn't the guy who thinks he can be the hero of this story!" Toadburt said in an annoyed tone.

"At least I'm doing more to help!"

"Both of you quiet down!" Merlee snapped, silencing the two. She was focusing her magic on the crystal ball and tried to get a glimpse of the interior of the Palace of Shadow, but the dark power from the building was too strong. "I'm sorry, but it doesn't look like my crystal ball's power can breach through this darkness..."

"Oh..." Nebule frowned. "Listen, I came here because of-"

"Hey, who said you could talk?" Toadburt cut in. "We were here first, you moron."

"As much as I'd like to disagree with Toadburt here, he is right," Koopo agreed. "We came here to seek Merlee's help about these dark lands and how we can possibly stop the rulers causing this."

"...Hold on, I'm getting something!" Merlee realized, taking a glimpse through the crystal ball. Through the ball, a crystal in the shape of a star was revealed. Seven of them, actually. "These stars... They are filled with incredible power, being able to surpass even the Shadow Queen's... Coincidentally, it was she who had created these in order to rule the world."

"Yeah, we managed to encounter her when she was about to use them, but that only caused the stars to get separated," Bonnie noted.

"Actually, it was your magic that helped separate the Crystal Stars," Goombi corrected.

"Oh, right. Too bad I don't have a spell that can bring them all together..."

"So technically, it's your fault that we don't have them," Toadburt pointed out, receiving a glare from Bonnie.

"Very interesting... If they are not in the Shadow Queen's grasps, then it is possible for anyone to find them and use them for great or evil purposes..."

"Yes. As a matter of fact, we found one out in Grass Land," Koopo informed, taking out the Crystal Star. "I believe this is the Diamond Star."

"Oh my..." Merlee gawked, getting a closer look at the star. "I don't believe I've seen this in person... How magnificent. If you had the seven others, I'm sure they might be enough to defeat the Shadow Queen."

"What about the Shadow King?" Goombi asked.

"Hmm... Not even I am sure how to stop him... He is much stronger than the Shadow Queen."

"Do you know where we can find a Crystal Star here?" Koopo wondered.

"As a matter of fact, yes," Merlee nodded, looking into her crystal ball. "The Emerald Star is somewhere in Desert Land... If I'm correct, it is located in Sandy Ruins. That is where Sir Sandstorm lingers. Getting there is no easy feat."

"Ha! Then we've got this in the bag!" Toadburt declared. "And we'll certainly not let a stupid blonde person get a hold of 'em."

Nebule gave Toadburt a glare before turning back to Merlee. "Speaking of Sir Sandstorm... We were looking for him. He has a hold of something called the Land Tablet. I'm actually a good friend of Merlon's."

"Merlon? Ah, him! Our ancestors were responsible for creating Myrtle Town! Why would I ever forget him? And you also say you're looking for a Land Tablet? Hmmmm... Yes, that is very important. Collecting each one can eventually lead you to a new land, and I'm certain more Crystal Stars are located in those places."

"Wait, so we have to get tablets AND stars?!" Toadburt gaped. "This is so stu-"

Koopo quickly poked his arm with his elbow to silence him.

"Well I certainly have no idea what you people are talking about!" Chalk declared proudly, painting the rug green. Merlee noticed, but she didn't bother to tell him to stop.

"Since these four and you and...whoever that gray thing is are doing the same tasks, I suggest you people work together," Merlee suggested.

"You kiddin' me?!" Toadburt gaped. "No way am I workin' with this loser! The gray kid, sure, but Blondie here ain't workin' with us! Plus, I think 'Four Heroes' sounds much better in my eyes!"

"Well I think it's a better choice," Nebule stated. "As much as I don't want to be around you, working together will make us stronger."

"Nope! Not doin' it! And that's final!"

"You sure are ignorant..."

"And I'm handsome! You're argument is invalid!" Toadburt declared, thinking he won the argument. "That princess from Tagel is mine, ya got that?"

Merlee seemed to perk up as she looked down at her crystal ball. She happened to see an image of Lilia through the crystal ball in her prison. "Hmmmmm... Is this the princess you mean?"

Everyone took a glimpse of the crystal ball and noticed Lilia was not looking as clean as she did in Tagel. In fact, her face, her hair and dress were all covered in dirt. Seeing her in this condition left Nebule saddened.

"What have they been doing to her?" Nebule asked, almost looking like he was about to cry.

"Not even I know... But if you'd like, I can allow you to communicate with her through my powers. I will let a spirit of one of you appear before her."

"Spirit? Awesome!" Chalk exclaimed. "I've always wanted to appear as a spirit! Then I can go into bodies and possess people and make them do stuff! You've gotta turn me into one, lady! You've GOTTA!"

"Wait, Chalk!" Nebule cried. "I think I would like to..."

"If you wish to be a spirit, then I shall do so," Merlee declared, using her magic on Chalk. While he wasn't technically a spirit, he was one in the prison where Lilia was in. Though, he appeared to be disappointed.

"What? Come on! This isn't what I wanted! I still look like myself!"

A spirit of Lilia happened to appear above the crystal ball. Sadly, she could not see everyone else but Chalk.

"What the... Who are you?" Lilia asked, her soft voice suddenly filling Nebule's mind. Hearing that voice again made him feel calm. Yet, he was upset now that he couldn't talk to her.

"Me? I'm Chalk! And believe me, I'm the coolest person out there!" Chalk declared. "Do you see me as a spirit?"

"Ummmm... Yeah, but I don't understand how you-"

"YEAH! It worked! I'm actually a spirit!" This eventually led to mostly everyone smacking their foreheads. "Hey, Liliart, isn't this cool?"

"It's Lilia, not Liliart. And how do you know me?"

"'Cause some guy named Neboup is with me right now! I remember him mentioning something about you. Boy, I wish I had some duct tape so I could shut him up about that!"

Nebule was a bit annoyed, while Toadburt was giving the blonde boy a smirk of satisfaction.

"Neboup? Don't you mean Nebule? You're telling me he's with you? But I don't see him…" Lilia trailed, a little disappointment being heard in her voice.

"Yeah, I know. …Wait, I completely forgot he could hear me!" Chalk looked back at Nebule. "Just so you know… I didn't mean any of that stuff I said before, OK?"

Nebule's glare had not gone away, though.

"…Yeah, he's fine," Chalk assured, looking back at Lilia. "So… How are you?"

"Are you and Nebule even doing anything? In fact, why are you with him?" Lilia asked out of curiosity.

"Errr... I'm just getting these fancy shmancy things called Land Pieces or whatever they are to save the lands 'round here. I think they'll lead us somewhere near you!"

"Well, if he can't hear me, tell him I'll be fine here. Yakken's still trying to find something that can help sabotage the Shadow King's plans. Don't let him worry about me, OK?"

"Oh, sure, I can do that!" Chalk assured. "...Wait, what did you say?"

The spirit of Lilia was beginning of fade away, and Merlee spoke. "My power cannot last forever, gray boy. I must conserve this power or else I cannot give fortunes."

"Tell that beauty that I'll be there for her, 'cause Mr. Hot Stuff here will get her out of there!" Toadburt assured.

"Oh, and this Toad guy here told me..." the magic soon wore off, and Lilia's hologram soon faded away, leaving Nebule saddened. Toadburt, on the other hand, was stomping the ground in frustration like a toddler.

"Well I don't think we got much out of that," Koopo noticed.

"Yes," agreed Goombi. "We could have gotten something important about the Shadow King! ...But, I guess some kids are too naïve to understand what's going on here."

"Well, anyway..." Toadburt began, trying his best to look cool again. "I think we better get goin'. We've got a Crystal Star to hunt! An' we're gonna make sure this blonde dork doesn't get to them before us! So, onward, heroes!"

Toadburt took off, leaving the three others to let out a groan and follow. They always wondered when Toadburt would ever learn.

"Hmmmmm... I think there was something I forgot." Merlee realized, a light bulb appearing over her head and lighting up. "Oh, yes! Now I remember!"

"What is it?" Nebule asked.

Merlee checked one of her shelves and took out a map. "I should have told them about this map that will lead them to the Crystal Stars... But I guess it's too late to tell them! They're on their own!"

Chalk quickly snatched the map from the fortune teller.

Item: Magical Map

This map has a strange power... It glows brightly when it senses a Crystal Star nearby.

"We're taking this!" Chalk declared.

"Hmmmm... Yes, you can go ahead. It's not like I need it anyway... Perhaps you will find them before they do, yes?"

"Maybe..." Nebule trailed, taking the map from Chalk. "So... How can we get to Sandy Ruins? The only thing we saw here was some dam."

"Ah, yes..." Merlee turned his attention back to the crystal ball. "My crystal ball is telling me something that's damaged Dusty Dam... It looks like it needs some fixing, but it does not tell me who is messing with it."

"Do you know where we can go?"

"Yes. Just go to the right of the cave where you first entered and you should be led to the damaged dam. If someone's causing a mess to it, then go right ahead and stop him. Fixing it will keep this area from becoming dry!"

"How will the water come back, though?"

"Well... Actually, I don't know. I'm not sure how those things work. But you gotta fix that dam, 'cause you're not going to get to Sandy Ruins if it's left like that. ...So do me a favor and scram, 'cause overstaying is going to cost you!"

Grimacing at the fortune teller, Nebule decided to leave. Chalk followed him back to where the sign was, while Merlee sighed in relief and began to relax. Having that many people in her room was quite annoying. She mumbled about how much of a pain that was, but at the same time, she was relieved to get rid of that stuff she had.

Nebule and Chalk had finally gotten out of the cavern and were now at the bottom of the cliff. They noticed how steep it was around them and also the small crack in the center of the sand that went off for a couple of miles.

"I bet that dam's going to be far!" Chalk declared.

"Dang it..." Nebule muttered. "I bet this is going to take a long time to get through! And it also stinks that I never got to talk to Lilia."

"There there, Nebo," Chalk said in a sympathetic tone, patting his shoulder. "It's not your fault you're someone who whines over someone they like. It's only natural."

In response, Nebule gave the puffball a glare before moving on. The puffball followed him, feeling satisfied that he just annoyed his partner.

Unfortunately, they noticed a Shadoo Blade charging in their direction. Actually, it looked like the same one from before! How it managed to survive the fall, Nebule had no idea, but he managed to perform the same sword swing to stop it from hitting him just like before.

"How the heck is this thing still alive?!" Nebule gaped, knocking the enemy back. "It just doesn't learn!"

When the Shadoo Blade got up, it cast a death glare upon the two and fired a blade from its head at them. Nebule threw a bomb at it to send the blade flying away near the Shadoo Blade's foot. This gave Nebule an opportunity to roll a bomb near the enemy's feet and allow it to explode, sending it flying back.

Eventually it managed to get on its feet and roll up in a ball before charging at the two. Nebule readied his sword, but Chalk made a wall in front of them to make the Shadoo Blade Crash into it and leave it stunned. Chalk then proceeded to beat it on the head with his paintbrush.

"Calm down, Chalk! It's already finished! See?" Nebule pointed down at the Shadoo Blade, which was slowly disintegrating. "No need to go berserk and bang that paintbrush on its head!"

"Well... I thought it was cool." Chalk stated. "Now let us find that dam, Nebgo!"

Nebule's hands slowly began to connect to his face and sighed as Chalk took off. "When will he ever get my name right?"

Nebule proceeded to follow Chalk between the two large cliffs, with the shade thankfully cooling them down. Though, they had to stop when they saw two Shadoos smacking each other and laughing along the way. Nebule had to wonder how these monsters could handle being around in the light.

"Hey, look at those fools!" Chalk laughed, gaining the two Shadoos' attention. "They're beating each other up!"

"Chalk... You shouldn't be too loud..." warned Nebule, noticing the two Shadoos grin before going up to them. Being alarmed, Nebule aimed his bow at one Shadoo and destroyed it with a light arrow.

The other Shadoo was about to leap at Nebule, but Chalk suddenly got in its way and hit its head with his Spectrum Paintbrush, leaving it unconscious.

"Hey, this gives me an idea!" Chalk began to paint a mustache and silly-looking teeth on the Shadoo with red paint. He even added silly-looking facial hair to the mix. Of course, that only resulted in the Shadoo being set on fire and soon flailing around like some kind of idiot.

"Ummm... OK, you know that should've happened, right?" Nebule asked, looking back at Chalk.

"Yeah. But I did that just because it was funny!"

"Errr... OK... Well, I guess it helped anyway." the blonde boy moved on through the empty river. They were able to notice a few rocks and even some bones that resembled fish. It was kind of creepy, especially since the shade around them made the area dark.

Eventually they got out of the shade and found a much larger area. There was another cliff leading down to a large river that seemed to be overflowed. It didn't look like there was any land remaining there.

"So this is the dam..." Nebule trailed, making his way to the edge. "Wow... I guess a broken dam can really cause something like this!"

"Yup! Definitely something unexpected!" Chalk said, accidentally pushing Nebule and nearly making him fall off the edge. "Whoops! Didn't mean to do that..."

"Ugh... Whatever." Nebule groaned, stepping back from the edge. "So where can we find the broken dam?"

"Hey, I see something over there!" Chalk pointed over to a lift that was labeled "Lift to the Dam" in many different colors. The words happened to be lit up as well.

"Huh... Well that's convenient."

They walked over to the lift and let it take them down to Dusty Dam. While it began to descend, Nebule took out the map Merlee gave them and began to check the location of the next Crystal Star.

"Hey... There's no Crystal Star shown here!" Nebule exclaimed. "It's just some areas and no specific location! So much for this map being so..."

The map was suddenly glimmering with light, causing the two to stop and look up at the map that now floated out of Nebule's hands. The map slowly floated into Nebule's leather gloves as soon as the lift stopped. It was also no longer glowing with light.

But upon looking at the map, they noticed in Desert Land, some ruins now appeared and looked like it was even popping out of the map. With one shimmer, a green Crystal Star appeared on those ruins.

"Oh... Well... I guess I was wrong about this!" Nebule said sheepishly.

"Ooh... Shiny!" Chalk tried to touch the star on the map, but he felt only the map. "Hey! It's not working!"

"That's because that star on here is just showing us that it's in Sandy Ruins. The real deal's in there. Anyway, we gotta find that broken dam..." Nebule scanned the dock-like floor they now stood on above the water. He noticed the dam nearby with a large hole. "Ah! That must be... Wait a second."

Upon further notice, there was actually something chewing on the dam. And it was certainly someone Nebule was not happy to see.

"Oh, great... You again."

The figure stopped and turned to be met with Nebule and Chalk. Its face quickly turned red – even though it was already red to begin with.

"What the meork?! You're that meorking meork from that meorking cave!" the Angry Fuzzy yelled. "Who the meork do you think you are, trying to meork with me right now?!"

"Meork!" Chalk cried out. "You must love that word! MEEEEEEEORK!"

"Shut the meork up, meork! Do you know how meorking hard it was to meork off that meork in that cave?"

"You mean that spider web?" Nebule pondered. "Oh, yeah... And will you quit using 'meork'? It's getting pretty aggravating..."

"I don't give a meork! You meorks should just get the meork out of here before I meorking meork you!"

The Angry Fuzzy was expecting them to go away, but unfortunately for him, they didn't move. "Well, what the meork are you meorking for?! MEORK!"

"Not until we fix that dam," Nebule declared, slowly approaching the Angry Fuzzy and reaching his back for his sword. "And I really don't want to have to use force to get you to let us fix it."

The Angry Fuzzy decided to ignore Nebule and jump at him. Thankfully, Chalk's paintbrush was able to smack the Fuzzy's face and send it flying over to the edge. Enraged, the Angry Fuzzy bounced over to Chalk to attack, but Nebule jumped on top of it and left it flattened.

But what Nebule wasn't expecting the Angry Fuzzy to do was to light on fire. Now his own boots were on fire, causing him to scream and shake his boots to let the flames wear off.

"Now you're going to meorking get it!" the Angry Fuzzy hissed, charging into Nebule like a fireball. Chalk instantly took action and painted it blue.

"You look like you need to calm down!" Chalk smiled, extinguishing the fire on the Angry Fuzzy and leaving it vulnerable. Plus, it was painted blue. "And you're feeling pretty blue!"

While Nebule smacked his forehead at that last statement, the Angry Fuzzy looked at itself and seemed sickened by its new look. Since the paint was still wet, it quickly jumped into the water to wash off. It was about to hop out, but the current appeared to be too strong for him to get back on the platforms.

"ARGH! MEORK!" the Angry Fuzzy shouted. "You were meorking lucky, you meorks! Wait until I meork you up next time!"

Its voice only got softer as it was carried farther. And Nebule and Chalk only watched it be carried off until it was out of their sights.

"So... Who was that thing?" Chalk wondered. "It sure was angry."

"I remember encountering it before back in Grass Land, but I think it's called the Angry Fuzzy. At least, that's what I've heard. Anyway, that's not important at the moment." Nebule pointed at the broken dam. "We need to find a way to fix that thing!"

"I've got it!" the gray puffball approached the hole in the dam and began to paint over it. The hole was instantly patched, and the water soon began to drain until it was at a fair level. How it managed to drain like that, they had no idea.

Plus, there was now a waterfall.

"That was...strangely convenient," Nebule blinked. "But at least there's some water here, right?"

"YEAH!" Chalk cheered, jumping into the large river and being carried away by the current.

"Wait, Chalk! No!" Nebule cried. Unfortunately, he was too late, so he was forced to jump into the river in order to follow him.

He was able to grab a hold of a log that coming his way and used it to paddle his way to the right side. There happened to be something up at the distance. To his right, there was a giant sand castle.

"Hey, Nebu! Look at that giant sand castle!" Chalk called out, pointing at the sand castle to their right. While Nebule looked up at it, Chalk managed to swim back to Nebule and grab the log. There was a large rock in the way that stopped the log and allowed them to get out of the river.

Nebule removed his hat and began to squeeze it to let the water drip out. It was nice to know there was at least some water, but with the sun now coming down, this was more of a bad thing.

But the sand castle was more interesting than the sun setting. There were actually a couple of guards patrolling near the castle. Nebule suspected that Sandstorm was in there, but then he remembered he was in Sandy Ruins. He took out the Magical Map and inspected the ruins. What also shocked him was a lime dot that now appeared on the map. It was apparently standing right on the ruins.

"No way... Sandy Ruins couldn't be here! Unless..."

His thoughts stopped when Chalk told him about some dark weirdo wearing purple armor over by the castle.

"Wait, a purple armored person?"

"Yeah! I think he was carrying some crossbow." Chalk explained.

"Kagoushi..." muttered Nebule, noticing Kagoushi entering the sand castle. "Well, the map says we're near the next Crystal Star... I'm sure the Desert Tablet is around here then!"

"Then move we shall!"

Nebule was confused with Chalk's wording of that, but he decided not to care and made his way toward the sand castle with the gray puffball. Sure, he was a bit of a nuisance at times, but he couldn't help but think he was a lot more helpful than he thought.

And then there was Lilia... Was she truly safe from harm? Being stuck in the Shadow King's prison did not sound great, and neither did the king sound great himself.

And Tagel... Seeing what it had now turned into seemed to disturb Nebule. It was such a nice town at first, but now it had turned into a nightmare thanks to the Shadow Queen. Nearly everyone was killed off or perhaps enslaved. These thoughts continued to haunt Nebule's mind as they got closer to the sand castle.

Perhaps he would get some answers soon.

Yeah, there was not as much action as the previous chapter (only two fights, honestly), but I thought there were a lot of funny moments here. There was also some stuff about the Crystal Stars and even the Shadow Queen too. I know this isn't what exactly happened prior to Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, but sometimes I like mixing things up a bit. Kinda makes it interesting. :P

Well, next chapter will surely have plenty of more action when our heroes go into the sand castle! :D