Unchained Memory

The setting sun seemed a little brighter that day in the Mushroom Kingdom, for Smithy had finally been defeated. Bowser, being 1/5 of the reason for the day's cheer, held his scaly head a bit higher as he trudged up to the front door of his Keep. Opening the huge door with a creak, he saw his Koopa Troopa and Goomba minions, already hard at work to repair the damage done to the regal building. Bowser inhaled the scent of boiling lava and grunted happily.
"Good to be home." he thought with a smirk.

At that moment, Magikoopa scurried up to him. "King Bowser! You're back!" The little cloaked turtle seemed beside himself with joy that his master was well.
"Yep, that Smithy punk never stood a chance!" Bowser crowed. "How are the repairs going?" He started walking towards his chambers as he spoke.
"Very well, Sir!" Magikoopa chattered, walking quickly to keep up with the much larger Koopa king, "We should have everything fixed within a week. And how did you fare siding with Mario? I wish I could have helped you more...."
They entered the throne room, which was covered in a light layer of dust and rubble. Bowser removed his Drill Claws, set them on a a nearby table as he passed and rubbed his clawed hands, sore from the rigors of battle.
"Don't worry about it Magikoopa, it actually wasn't that bad. Mario's strong, he made a good addition to my Koopa Troop. And everyone else did, too. I'm starting to wonder why I bother Mario so much, he's a nice guy."
Magikoopa frowned slightly, unnoticed by Bowser.
"Well, I'm beat, I'm going to take a load off." Bowser said, opening the door to his master bedroom. "Keep an eye on the repairs, will ya Magikoopa?"
Magikoopa nodded. "Of course." He then turned sharply and bustled off, and Bowser closed the door to go take a well-earned rest.
"This won't do...." the small Koopa thought, furrowing his brow disapprovingly, "Not at all...."

Closing the door behind him, Bowser strode over to his window and took in the view. The surrounding mountain had been damaged by Smithy's troops; wide pathways covered with strange footprints laced across the terrain, and boulders had been split and strewn about, apparently as target practice for magic attacks. The Vista Hill bridge would need to be fixed if a Koopa ever again wanted quick access to Mario's house, the roof of which was just visible over some trees. A few boards and ropes from the bridge lay scattered around the landscape. But the whole scene radiated pride, as though boasting of its battle scars and survived ordeals. Bowser sort of liked the look.
"Now this place looks like a survivor. Just like me!" he chortled to himself. "Lightning in a bottle, an earthquake in a can, and all that other stuff." He made a mental note to add to that list later. Running a hand through his coarse hair, the Koopa got a handful of dust and decided, "I bet I look more like an earthquake victim though. Smithy's goons better not have wrecked the plumbing!" He reasoned that he might as well go find out, and wandered off to the master bathroom.

The bathroom had been one of the more fortunate rooms, Bowser determined as he paced a slow loop around the room. His claws clicked on the cool tiles, and this echoed slightly in the quiet space. The only visible damage was a few cracks in the ceiling; even the large window of frosted glass was perfectly intact. His litte tour brought him over to the hot tub. It was the size of a small swimming pool, but given the Koopa king's size that was quite justifiable. Bowser dipped his hand in and found the water to be just above room temperature. He delivered a light kick to the section of the wall where the motor ought to be, and the machine whirred to life. The water swirled around the jets' currents in a familiar pattern, and as Bowser watched it, a pleasant memory floated back to him.


The eye of the whirlpool steadfastly met the gazes of Mario, Mallow, Geno, Princess Toadstool and Bowser. In the ocean's vast expanse, this swirling water was the only landmark, save the occasional ripple of a passing Bloober or Mr. Kipper.
"Well, this whirlpool should take us down to the ocean bottom." Geno stated, "The Star Piece should be down there somewhere."
Toadstool turned to look over her teammates. "Everybody can swim, right?" she asked good-naturedly.
Seeing the group's collective nod, the Princess turned to Mario. "Well Mario, would you like the honours?"
The plumber nodded in earnest, and jumped into the water. His red hatted head bobbed evenly as he fleetly paddled out to the whirlpool, and was sucked under by the surging water. The rest of the group watched as a speck of red descended to the sea floor and entered a pipe. The remaining team members looked at each other to see who would be next.
"Ladies first." Bowser teased, glancing at the Princess. Toadstool stuck out her tongue at him and hopped delicately into the sea. Geno followed a moment later, and the two were swept under to follow Super Mario.
Bowser was next. Easing into the chill water, the turtle gasped slightly. He never had liked the cold much. But as he started swimming out to the whirlpool, he heard a pitious splashing behind him. Glancing back, he saw Mallow floundering about on the surface. He was having a difficult time swimming due to the fact that he floated like a cork.
"What's the matter, Fluffy?" he asked, scooping up the light young prince in his claws, "I thought you said you could swim?"
"Well, yeah, that's the thing." Mallow admitted, "When people ask if you can swim, they usually mean NOT sinking." He grinned sheepishly. "Hard to believe I used to pass for a frog, huh?"
Bowser nodded, setting Mallow on top of his shell. "Well, don't worry about it. I bet I'll sink like a rock."
Mallow swept his damp lock of hair out of his eyes and took a firm grip on a nearby spike as the Koopa king started to swim swiftly out towards the whirlpool. "Thanks Bowser!" he chirped.
"Any time, Fluffy."


"That Mallow sure is a cute kid." thought Bowser as he settled into the hot tub. The water's heat soothed his sore joints, and he submerged up to his neck with a contented sigh.
Then an idea struck Bowser. Mallow would never have trusted him if Mario hadn't. Neither would Geno, and certainly not Toadstool. But the hero hadn't hesitated to accept Bowser into the group; why had Mario been so quick to trust one who normally caused him nothing but trouble? Granted, he had needed the large turtle's help. The looming threat of a greater evil force was enough to unite enemies in times of trouble.
That opened up a whole new set of questions to Bowser. Why, exactly, were he and Mario enemies? The only reason he could come to was that he kept kidnapping Princess Toadstool, and why did he even do that?
At this, Bowser started getting confused. The events of the past few weeks seemed quite muddled in his head, but through his confusion a small voice told him to stop thinking about it. There was surely a good reason for all of his evil efforts over the years, he just couldn't place it right now. And with that matter more or less resolved, the Koopa noticed that the hot tub suddenly seemed oppressively hot.
"Being in a hot tub for too long'll make anyone a little dizzy," he reasoned, climbing out of the water. He picked up a nearby towel and dried as much of his scaly body as he could reach. "I'll think on this more tomorrow."

Bowser re-entered his master bedroom. Night had just settled, and the stars cast a pure and amiable light in the room. As the heat left his reptilian body, Bowser started feeling sleepy. He yawned and lifted the blanket from his bed, flicking it to throw off a few bits of castle debris. Ordinarily, he would have removed his studded arm bands before retiring, but weeks of sleeping in hotels, inns and other people's houses had made him more comfortable leaving them on. He slid in between the sheets and pointed out once more to himself that it was good to be home, before drifting off to sleep.

The castle had long since quieted down for the night when Magikoopa approached Bowser's room. Glancing into the hallway's shadows to make sure he was alone, the small Koopa pressed his ear to his king's bedroom door and listened with baited breath. There was no sound from within. He turned the doorknob and opened the door with a soft creak, just enough to peek in. Bowser's slumbering form lay silhouetted in the moonlight, his great side rising and falling peacefully. Magikoopa
slipped into the room and tiptoed across the stone floor, his bare feet making no sound, until he stood right at Bowser's bedside. The Koopa king had a look of serenity about him that comes only with sleep.
"I have to do this." Magikoopa mentally assured himself, "For the Koopa kingdom and for King Bowser."
He held out his magic wand and murmured a few enchanted syllables. The wand responded with a scarlet radiance. Magikoopa quietly uttered a few more phrases of ancient tongue and the magical light spread to Bowser, enveloping him in its crimson glow. Then, as quickly as the spell had begun, it disappeared, leaving only a few brief flecks of sparkling magic to linger in the air and show that anything had happened at all. The large turtle scowled a little in his sleep, and stirred slightly without waking. And as Magikoopa turned and swiftly departed the room, he was hit with the consequences of what he had done.

He was looking, searching for something. Sunlight fell through the forest canopy in dazzling patterns. Voices could be heard calling to him through the trees, familiar ones, and he was trying to follow but was unable to catch up. Couldn't even see his quarry. He had been travelling through this forest for a long time, or had he? It certainly seemed long. He knew he had to find whatever it was he was looking for. The sunlight suddenly became more intense and the sky lit up, the voices' siren song grew faint. He stopped and stared up at the sky, transfixed. The sunlight grew brighter and brighter until there was a flash and then-
Bowser woke with a start. The morning sunlight shone in through the window, gentle and yet insistant that the day had arrived. He wanted to roll over and go back to sleep, but he chided himself that there was work to be done. The large Koopa sat up and stretched.
"I'll go see how the troops are doing on the castle repairs, and then maybe think up a new scheme." he mused aloud. But something at the back of his mind pestered him; wasn't there something he had resolved to think about? Bowser, being unable to remember what it was, shooed the thought away and rose to attend to his day's activities.

Bowser's troops had already been working hard since sun-up, but when their master entered the room they redoubled their efforts. Bowser surveyed the work, nodding thoughtfully. A few of the larger holes in the wall had already been patched up, and at the rate his minions were eagerly working it wouldn't be long before the damage to the castle's outer walls was nothing but a memory.
"Good morning King Bowser!" Magikoopa's voice broke into his thoughts, and the Koopa king looked down at his small wizard companion. Magikoopa was smiling cheerfully, but there was something vaguely nervous about his demeanour.
"Hello Magikoopa." Bowser responded. Magikoopa reminded him of a dog expecting to be kicked, which struck Bowser as odd. The smaller Koopa quickly filled the lull in conversation.
"Well Sir, the troops are almost done repairs on the south wall of the Keep, and the Paratroopas have rounded up almost everyone who went missing. By tomorrow your armies should be close to full strength, if there's anything...." Magikoopa trailed off, apparently deciding against finishing his sentence.
Bowser paced thoughtfully for a moment before turning to the slightly edgy Magikoopa. "Have my troops ready to move out by noon tomorrow. The Mushroom Kingdom won't be expecting an attack this soon, and I should be able to capture Toadstool without any trouble." The command seemed to have just slipped out; Bowser's surprise was evident on his emerald face. But if Magikoopa noticed this, he obviously didn't show it. "Yes Sir." He bowed slightly and scampered off to carry out the unwitting order before Bowser could object. The Koopa king was left to sort out his actions.
"Why did I do that?" he mentally asked himself, and his mind was quick to respond.
"Because it's a good move. That fool Mario would never expect an attack right now."
"But I shouldn't attack them, they-"
His thought process abruptly stopped. It was as though he had run face-first into a wall and simply couldn't carry the notion any farther in its intended direction. The other voice in Bowser's mind obviously had no such qualms.
"I've always kidnapped Toadstool and Mario has always been my enemy." it told him firmly, "That's the way it should be."
Bowser supposed that he might as well agree with this voice for now, since it certainly seemed to know what it was talking about. He shook his head slightly to clear it, and wandered off to check on some other Keep reconstruction efforts.

The hallways leading to the inner rooms of the castle grew steadily more cluttered with rubble as Bowser made his way through the Keep. Sure enough, he came upon an area that had once been part of his troops' living quarters, but was now a ragged, gaping hole.
"This must be where Exor landed." Bowser thought.
Soldiers of various species scurried back and forth with supplies, and Paratroopas were unrolling large pieces of canvas to cover the ruptured ceiling. Their pace of work, already enthusiastic, sped up a little more when they saw their king. Bowser observed his subjects' work with the occasional thoughtful nod, and then his gaze met a familiar figure. A Goomba to his right was pulling a cart, loaded with mortar to mend the castle walls. Fetching supplies was one of the few jobs Goombas could help with, since their stubby, limbless bodies weren't much good at wielding tools.
"Goomba!" exclaimed Bowser. The creature in question turned, and smiled at the sight of the Koopa king. "Bowser!" He slipped out of his harness and trotted over. "Glad to see you're alright, Sir!"
"I'm surprised to see you here, you had a pretty cozy setup with your shop." Bowser fondly remembered the imposing Spiked Link Goomba had provided him with.
The small fungi made a shrugging motion. "Yeah, it was OK. But I knew I wanted to work for you again. I left the kids with Monstermama. So how badly did you and your friends beat up Smithy?" Goomba grinned, revealing his tiny, pointed teeth.
Bowser was taken aback by this term. "Friends?" thought the massive turtle. He knew who Goomba was referring to, but for some reason the term didn't sit right with him. Something was holding him back from accepting it, and that something sounded a lot like the "Mario is the enemy" voice from earlier.
"Uh, yeah, we really wiped the floor with him!" answered Bowser hurriedly. Then, he added, "Well, I'm going to keep going on my rounds. Keep up the good work, Goomba!"
"Sure thing, Sir!" Goomba piped, and shuffled back over to his cart.
Bowser turned and left the bustle of the construction area, the look of a forming idea draped across his features. And he knew who he wanted to ask about that idea.

The castle library was quiet, aside from the sound of Magikoopa briskly flipping through a large, leather-bound book. He turned yet another page and trailed his small claws across the text, trying to keep his place. It wasn't working. He was far too distracted to read the ancient volume. The wizard removed his thick glasses, and gingerly massaged his aching head.
"Why am I so nervous?" he wondered, "That spell has always worked fine before, I have no reason to worry."
But he also knew that that wasn't the only reason he was ill at ease. Magikoopa replaced the spectacles on his beak and tried to refocus his energy on the book.
That voice made the small Koopa flinch and yelp slightly in surprise. He turned in his chair to see Bowser peering around the half-open door.
"Oh, hello King Bowser! You just startled me a bit." Magikoopa acknowledged, a tad shakily.
The Koopa king entered and closed the door. "I noticed....I've got a question for you, Magikoopa." He crossed the soft red carpeting between them as he spoke.
"Y-Yes, Sir?" Magikoopa's mind raced, "He can't know, can he? Maybe he does?"
Bowser looked out a nearby window for a moment, as if to compose a thought. "Well, I've kind of been feeling different since beating Smithy." he said slowly, "I dunno what it is, it's like I can't agree with my own mind any more. And I know I got a lot of magic attacks used on me fighting Smithy and his goons, so do you think there could be some magic still cast on me?" He returned his curious gaze to his diminutive advisor.
Magikoopa didn't know whether to be relieved or worried. This was the moment of truth; he could come clean or keep up the veneer. He didn't have to think very hard.
"Bowser...Um, I probably should have told you this before, but...What you're feeling right now isn't from some enemy's magic, it's from mine."
Bowser's garnet brows raised in surprise, and the smaller turtle quickly added, "I didn't want to Sir, but...Well, I should start from the beginning...." Bowser nodded calmly, as though to ease the other's worry. Magikoopa took a deep breath to gather himself, and began his story.

"Before you came along, the Koopa kingdom wasn't much of a kingdom at all. Koopas lived like outlaws, beggars and thieves. We needed a leader, but didn't know where to find one. And then you were born, Bowser. There was something...special about you. Our most talented prophets predicted that you'd do great things one day, but that was obvious, somehow everyone who met you knew that you'd achieve greater things for the Koopas. Your parents put you in the care of the Magikoopas when you were just a toddler, they wanted the best for you and knew that we could provide it. I was just an apprentice wizard then. Kamek was the head Magikoopa, and he took care of you most of the time. To be honest, I think he had a bit of a soft spot for you."
At this, Bowser smiled a little. He remembered Kamek all but bending over backwards to keep him happy as a child.
"Koopas everywhere were glad to have a king to serve, and some other creatures like Shyguys and Goombas happily served you too. But as you grew up, we saw that you had a rather gentle nature. We were worried, we didn't know if you'd be willing to lead the kingdom and fight the necessary battles. So Kamek cast a spell on you. The spell made you more aggressive, and the people liked that. They loved you as their king, and wanted you to be strong to lead them. When you took over the Mushroom Kingdom for the first time and Mario showed up, Kamek changed the spell a bit so that you'd automatically consider Mario to be your enemy. The prophets had also told us that Mario would cause trouble for the Koopa kingdom, but more than that, we knew Mario was a strong opponent. If we kept you in conflict with him and made you strive to defeat him, you would be strong too."
Magikoopa hung his head a little as he continued. "So we kept the spell on you. It had to be recast once every 2 or 3 weeks, so there were always a couple of Magikoopas around you just in case. We'd teach you a new magic attack once in a while, and your soldiers considered any opponent of yours to be an enemy of theirs. So you started up a real rivalry with Mario, and began kidnapping Princess Toadstool just to make him show up for a fight. We'd add to the spell sometimes, maybe give you a suggestion as to why you wanted to kidnap Toadstool. And then, Kamek retired. He appointed me as head of the Magikoopas, but mostly to be your advisor and keep you under our spell, and then he just sort of vanished. Nobody knows where he went. You probably remember him leaving, you were about 16 years old at the time. I sort of felt bad about hexing you, but I did it. Your subjects loved you and the Koopa kingdom was at its finest. And then Smithy came."
The wizard swallowed, and removed his glasses to clean them on the edge of his indigo cloak. "Some of your troops found you again Bowser, and we started to go back to kick Smithy out, you know that part. But however loyal we were to you, we knew that Smithy was way too strong and that the mission was suicide. So we left one by one...eventually even me. I still feel awful about that Bowser, but I've never been that scared in my life! You continued on your own, and I started searching for Kamek. If anyone could help us, I figured he could. But I couldn't find him, I couldn't even find anyone who knew of him. I was searching for Kamek in the forests around the Barrel Volcano about a week and a half after I left you, when some of Smithy's goons caught me. They hypnotised me, and the next thing I remember after that was coming to my senses at the feet of you, Mario and the others." Magikoopa relaised that he had been polishing his glasses all that time simply for the sake of fidgeting, and placed them back on his beak.
"But why didn't you recast the spell on me then, Magikoopa?" Bowser asked, "All you did was heal me and provide us with some coins. You even healed Mario and everyone!"
The small Koopa smiled gently. "Mario and your other friends did what all your subjects couldn't; they helped you in the biggest battle of your life. That group of five was the greatest fighting force ever seen in this world, I could all but see the power radiating off of you all and most of the reason for that was your teamwork. I knew that if I recast the spell on you, Mario would become your enemy again and the whole team dynamic would break down between you. You still didn't entirely want to accept them as your friends though, did you?"
The Koopa king nodded. "Yeah, I threatened to rip their stuffing out and everything." He grinned toothily at the thought.
Magikoopa mirrored the smile, and explained, "When you found me, I figure you had about 3 days left, tops, before the last traces of the spell wore off. If you had taken any longer to defeat Smithy you probably would have broken down and become best friends with the others, and you'd all be sitting around playing cards and talking about old times right now. But...I recast the spell on you last night. I felt absolutely terrible about it, and not just because I knew you might notice it this time. I still thought it was for the good of the kingdom. But, you know something Bowser," Magikoopa met his king's gaze, "I don't think I need to keep the spell on you any more. You've proved that you're perfectly strong when making your own choices, without we Magikoopas butting in. You'd like me to remove the spell, right Sir?"
Bowser took in the creature before him. Magikoopa suddenly seemed to show his age, but he was energetic and happy in a way the Koopa king wasn't sure he'd ever seen before. "Yeah, that'd be great." he agreed quietly.
Magikoopa picked up his wand off the nearby table and held it in front of him, muttering phrases that sounded to Bowser like a language of old. The wand obeyed the words by glowing in a jade hue, and as the light engulfed Bowser he could hear the hostile voice in his head retreating. The walls in his mind melted away and all the memories came rushing back; of Mallow and Geno stubbornly defending him in battle as one of their own, of Princess Toadstool using every bit of magic she knew to mend his battered body. And of Mario's comforting arm around his shell after one too many jabs at his dignity. The spell's light had disappeared when Bowser opened his eyes, and only a few glittering hints of magic remained in the air. Magikoopa looked quite satisfied. "How do you feel, Sir?"
Bowser beamed back at the wizard. "I'm feeling great, Magikoopa. In fact, I think I'm going to go visit some people. You know, wrap up a little unfinished business." He started to stride out of the room, and the smaller Koopa was about to return to his book, when Bowser stopped and called over his shoulder. "Oh yeah, and Magikoopa? Quit calling me 'Sir' and stuff. 'Bowser' will do just fine."
Magikoopa smiled widely as he heard the door close behind him. "Sure thing, Bowser."

Birds were chirping in the woodlands of Mushroom Way, and a pleasantly warm breeze swept along the rolling, grassy hills around Mario's Pad. Mario was out checking his mailbox, and the thought occured to him that today was the nicest day he could remember in a long time. The sun gently warmed the back of his neck as he peeked into the wooden mailbox, then pocketed a few flyers and turned to go back to his house. And that's when he spotted Bowser, standing several meters away along the faint path.
"Uh...hi Mario." the large Koopa said, a little awkwardly.
Mario's cerulean eyes met Bowser's crimson ones, and any concern Mario might have felt was quickly dispatched. Bowser had never been known for false pretenses; if he wanted something, he was up-front about it, and right now he certainly didn't seem to have an evil scheme in mind. If anything, the reptile looked sheepish. "Hello Bowser." he replied.
Bowser was relieved that Mario was still speaking to him. He had also learned a thing or two about his former nemesis' habits, and he knew that the hero, renowned for his bravery, was oddly soft-spoken. Mario prefered not to speak except to close allies and anything he wanted to say in public was usually pantomimed. His quiet greeting gave Bowser the courage to continue.
"Well, I've just been thinking since I got back from beating Smithy with you guys, and...I just wanted to say that I'm sorry for being such a jerk all the time." The Koopa king nervously rubbed the back of his scaly head, and watched Mario hopefully for a reaction. He was rewarded with the small man's friendly smile.
"I guess that-a means we don't have to fight anymore." Mario ventured, his Italian accent lacing his words, "I'm-a glad, Bowser. Come on-a inside, Mallow and-a Toadstool have dropped by for a visit." He gestured towards the house with a white-gloved hand, and Bowser gratefully followed him. After ducking through the low door, the large turtle saw Mallow and Princess Toadstool chatting cordially at the kitchen table.
"Hey everyone, Bowser's here!" Mario announced.
Toadstool smiled politely. "Hello Bowser. I hope you're not here to kidnap me?" Her eyes glittered impishly at the joke.
Mallow's reaction was a more animated one. "BOWSER!" he squealed, "Great to see you again! We were just about to start a big game of Crazy Eights, wanna play?" The fluffy little prince was practically bouncing up and down in his excitement.
Bowser chuckled. "Hi everyone. I'd love to play, just don't be too disappointed when I beat you all with one hand tied behind my back."
"That sounds like a challenge to me!" Toadstool jested, "Marioooo! Saaaaave me!"
Bowser took a seat at the table as the group chortled at the Princess' joke, and he smiled both inside and out. "Nothing like being with your friends." he thought contentedly. His chains had finally been removed.

The End

*sniffle* Waah, in case you can't already tell, I wuv Bowser. And the way I figured, Magikoopa is named Magikoopa for the same reason some people name their son Guy. Pwease review people, or E-mail me if you prefer, Pyra_the_maniac@Hotmail.com