Author's note: I hope you enjoy this fic as much as I did making it up. This story is about a year in the making, and I take it very seriously. In fact, if they made a movie out of this, it might sell. By the way, this little yarn takes place right in the world of SMB 3. It's my favorite universe out of all the games. Enjoy! -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Mysterious Scent
Mario paced back and forth in the dark, musty cell. He knew the floor had looked kind of rickety, but he needed the Starman above it. He had missed, crashed through the rotted boards, and into a deep pit. Even the master of the jump couldn't get out of it, and resigned himself to waiting for King Koopa to show up and do whatever. Now here he was, going stir crazy. He tried to look out the tiny window near the ceiling, but all he could see was a tiny patch of cloudy sky.He sat down on the cold hard stool in despair.
Suddenly, there was a noise. He started. It was a sort of plodding of bare feet, but there was a clicking, too. He thought it was a person, but that didn't explain the differing sounds. Maybe it was two people.
Presently, the noise stopped, and in the dim light, he could make out a dark shape standing in front of his cell door. It was roughly half a head shorter than Mario, but he couldn't make out much more. It bent forward, and he heard a tinkle of something metal dropping. Then the figure whirled and ran off, making the strange pad-click noise as it went, and was gone.
Mario sat there a minute, trying to figure out what had happened. Then he decided to investigate the metallic sound. He stood up and walked over to the bars. He bent down and felt around for something, anything foreign. His hand finally grasped something flat and hard. It was disk-like on one end, and the rest was like a metal popsicle stick. One side of the stick had jagged edges. A key! Then he noticed something- a string was dangling from the round end. He felt down it and came upon a folded piece of paper. He couldn't see what was on it, so he stuck it in his overalls' front pocket. Then, almost giddy with excitement, he shoved the key into the lock and turned.
It opened like a dream. He had never thought the sound of scraping metal would make him so happy. He pocketed the key and fled the dank dungeon as fast as his feet would take him.
The open air felt great on his face. He gazed up at the night sky. The few clouds he had seen from the window were long gone, and there was a clear blanket of stars overhead. Mario walked across the plains toward the Mushroom Village he called home. He put his hands in his pockets and started to whistle a little tune he had heard. His right hand curled around the key. The scrap of paper sprang to mind. In his haste to leave Bowser's castle, he had forgotten it. He pulled it out of his pocket and unfolded it. It was a note. This is what was written on it:
Mario looked at the note in disbelief. Who could it be? He thought of his friends back in Mushroom, but none of them would be so mysterious about a jail break. Besides, that wouldn't explain the key rather than simply breaking the lock.
The plumber in the red cap analyzed the handwriting; he didn't recognize it. He smelled it; it smelled of expensive perfume. A woman, no doubt; short, and probably well-off, for the scent. But something was different. There was something about it that enticed him, made his mind cloudy. That may have been due to over-smelling; he realized he was getting lightheaded and quit. The height factor ruled out the Princess. Even hunched over, she was way too tall to have been his mysterious rescuer. He frowned at the paper, then put it away. He would just have to wait and find out. ...soon.
"I dunno," Luigi said to his brother. "It's kinda odd. So this girl, or who you think is a girl, just left the key with this?" He waved the paper in the air. "She didn't say anything?"
"No, she just ran off," Mario said, fiddling with a socket wrench. "I didn't even know she was a girl then... not until that smell."
Luigi stared hard at him. "You okay, bro? You act like your mental pipes need a little Drain-O."
"Hmm?" Mario said, looking up. "Oh, yeah, I know. It's that smell... I wish I knew what it was. I've never smelled anything like it before. It stirs up feelings..." He stood up. "Well, I'm gonna go home and get some sleep. See you tomorrow, amico."
Luigi handed the paper to him. "'Night, Mario. Hope you can get some rest."
Mario headed back to his hut. He thought about the sound she had made. He wasn't sure what could make that sort of sound. He hoped it would make more sense to him in the morning. It had to, because right now, it didn't make any at all.
Our favorite plumber awoke to the sun's golden rays filtering through his window. He rolled over and looked at his clock. 10:25. Oh, well, he didn't have anything to do this morning, but he usually didn't like to get up that late.
He stood up and pulled on his overalls, then put his boots on. Was that shoelace frayed? He would have to get a new one. Then he stood up and grabbed his cap. He would head over to Toad's for a cup of coffee and then- Something felt odd in his cap.
He took it off and looked inside. There was an envelope inside. On a sudden impulse, he smelled it. It was the same smell. He didn't know why, but he was instantly exhilirated. He started to leave, then realized he hadn't even read it yet. He opened it up and did so:
Mario didn't know what to think. His mind was pulled in a thousand different directions. He didn't know if he should show up; it could be a trap. But if it was, why had she saved him in the first place? He couldn't resist finding out who it was, but he told himself he would bring a fire flower, just in case.
That smell, now even fresher in his mind, consumed his thoughts like fire. As he slowly walked down the road toward Luigi's, he idly wondered if there could be an incense made out of it. It made him feel alive, and it somehow reminded him of home a little. Something he'd smelled in a night club, but somehow different.
A thought entered his mind. What would the Princess say? He supposed he should tell her where he was going. He turned to the right and headed off toward the castle.
Mario tried to be quiet as he landed. The entry pipe was a far drop, but it was the quickest and easiest way to the Treasury. He could hear the rats as they squeaked through the dark green metallic tunnels. Pipe Maze was the entire Mushroom Kingdom's supply of clean water (save Dark Land, which didn't get clean water at all). He knew it pretty well, especially the area near the Treasury. After all, he was the plumber extrordinaire.
He approached the door to the "apartment". What it really was was a small room next to the Treasury that contained a bed and a table with a couple chairs. As far as he knew, nobody had ever lived in it. It was basically a secret hideout. It just wasn't quite as secret anymore.
He patted the fire flower and leaf that were in his pocket. The Princess (whom had surprisingly let him go without any sort of fight) had given him a leaf when he told her, in case he ran into even more trouble. He knew his secret "friend" was on the other side, whether she meant to help him or... He held his breath and turned the knob.
The room was cold and dark. The smell of mold wasn't quite as prevelent in here as in the rest of Pipe Maze, as the builders had attempted to make it moisture-proof. He felt for the light switch, and flipped it. Nothing. He had only a moment to wonder why the ceiling lamp wasn't working when he heard a young voice whisper to him. "Close the door."
Mario jumped. He looked around, but his eyes still hadn't adjusted to the lack of light. He didn't know what else to do, so he closed the door behind him.
"Okay, hold on," the quiet female voice said. Suddenly there was a strike and a flare of blinding light as a match was lit. He could see a gloved hand holding it. It slowly moved to a candle on the table on the left side of the room and lit it, then threw the match on the floor. He could see a little in the dim light, and struggled to make out his company. It was the same shape as in the cell, but he could now make out a few details he couldn't before. He could see the shape was due to the black cloak she was wearing. It covered her entire body, and the hood shadowed her face too well to see it. She was sitting in the chair, facing him. He noticed the other chair was in the corner, broken. It had been a long time since he had been here.
"Sit," she said, gesturing to the bed. He supposed it would have to do, as he didn't feel like standing. He sat across from her. Now all he could see was a black form, as the candle was directly behind her. Even so, he could tell she was fidgety. She glanced at the door a few times.
"Are you alone?"
"Yes," he said slowly.
"Good. I need your help."
As he was now sitting very close to her, the scent from the first note and the envelope was overloading his olfactories, and he almost felt like he was on some kind of drug. He had unknowingly tuned his nose to be extremely sensitive to this particular smell. Because of this it took him a long time to find his voice and answer her. "Go on."
She sighed. "I'm in so much danger even being here right now. I know this is probably a bad move, but I can't stay silent any longer." Again, she checked the door. "I need to know if you can protect me."
"From- oh, I can't do this! He'll kill us both!" She started to get up and run toward the door. Mario stood up with her and grabbed her arm.
"Who? Who's going to kill you?"
Her head turned to him. "I don't want to get you caught up in the insanity. It's not right. I can't expect you to do that. This was a mistake. I'm sorry." She once again turned to leave, but Mario wouldn't let go.
"No," he said. "I want to know. It's my nature to protect people, not to mention my secondary business is hero of the Mushroom Kingdom."
She didn't say anything, but shook her head. He still couldn't see her, but knew she couldn't be lying. He just didn't know how he knew.
"Please, dolce ragazza (don't forget, Mario is Italian), tell me what's going on. I'll see if I can help."
She looked up at him. For the first time, he could see something, as small of a thing as it was. She had beautiful blue eyes. She sucked in a nervous breath as she considered him. Then, after a minute or so, she let it out and said, "Okay, if you're sure. I guess I can't stop you."
The azure-eyed shadow slowly returned to the little chair by the table. As Mario sat down across from her, she said, "I'm about to tell you some really horrible things. I still don't think I should tell you this-"
"Please, I can't stand suspense," he interrupted. "I can handle it. Please tell me."
"Right," she said, her head hanging. "I guess I should start by telling you that all my problems stem from my family. My brothers torment me constantly, and my father doesn't understand me." She paused a moment, then continued. "This all sounds fairly normal, but it's much worse. I'm just... I've never talked with anybody about it before."
Mario placed a hand on hers. Through his own gloves he could feel that hers were leather. He could hear in her voice that she was probably right- he didn't want to hear this. But he knew she had to be suffering, and couldn't let her do it alone. "It's okay."
"My brothers hate me... well, most of them. Lee doesn't, but he sometimes acts like he does in front of the rest to save face. He's really the only friend I've ever had." She wiped her eyes. "Lug's done terrible things to me; horrible. The rest make my life a hell, too, but the youngest ones are just sheep. It's the older ones that I can't figure out. It's probably because my father..." She trailed off, leaving the room in unearthly silence.
Mario could almost predict what came next, but was hesitant to ask. He could feel his anger rising already. "What?"
"He's an abusive alcoholic, Mario." She blurted it out, then sighed with relief. "I can hardly believe I'm finally telling someone."
Mario patted her hand. "I've heard it helps. So, did he ever... hit you?"
She sighed. "No... not much. Once. He was so far gone he couldn't even stand. I tried to help him up and he slapped me, saying he didn't need any help from fungus." She choked. "He didn't even know it was me. Then he was passed out for the rest of the night."
"I guess that means he hit your brothers most of the time."
"Yeah," she said. "Every other night, you could hear him beating them. Once a week, you could hear one of the little ones crying. Even though they don't like me, I still can't help but wish they weren't living there." She looked up at him. He could no longer see her eyes because of the candle behind her. "I've never actually been able to analyze my life like this. Now that I have, I know I could never go back to it." She squeezed his hand a bit. "My dad knows about this place, so I'm not very safe here. Do you know anywhere I can escape to? Maybe your world, um... Earth?"
Mario thought about it a moment. "Why don't you come back to the Mushroom Village with me? We can protect you pretty well there."
The girl seemed surprised by the offer. "Oh, no, I couldn't, I..."
"Well... I don't really think I'd receive a very warm reception."
"Why would you think that? The Princess is a very kind person. I don't understand how you could think she'd turn you away."
"My past... nobody could forgive me that easy."
"Why? Who are you?"
She suddenly stood up and bolted for the door. Mario jumped up and pounced at her, but she was already out the door. He ran out after her, but couldn't see her.
You might think he lost her there, but he was a plumber. Pipes were his life, and he could hear which way she went. She was heading for the north exit. And he knew a shortcut. He turned down a dark pipe tunnel that smelled terrible. The walls were very close, but he could still run through it with no trouble. At the end, it opened on a huge sewage tank. He ran across the catwalk to the other side. As he re-entered the brighter tunnels, he could only hope she was still heading in the same direction. He paused to listen. She was, and was now behind him. He passed a few tunnels to the east, then stopped. The sound of her feet hitting the metal was growing louder. He crouched in the adjacent tunnel.
Suddenly she burst into view, her hand about the neck of her cloak. She was looking back, so she didn't notice him until he sprang at her. She screamed in shock, then tried to dodge, but he caught her arm and took her down.
"NO, PLEASE! It won't work, let me go!"
Mario got up and had her pinned to the floor by her shoulders. "Sorry, but I can't believe that you could have any kind of past that w... oh."
Now, there are a few things in life that you can prepare for. You can get ready for an airplane ride by chewing gum. You can get ready for a party by dressing nice and bringing Tic Tacs. You can get ready to commit suicide by praying, writing a note and finishing your will. This was not something quite so easy to prepare for. The girl's hood had fallen back, and Mario was once again gazing into those deep, blue eyes. But now, he could see more than that. A tanned face. Full red lips. A red pearl necklace. A pink hairbow with white polka dots. As strange as it was, he was staring into the face of Wendy O. Koopa.
Mario jumped off of her like she were made of boiling magma. He backed up against the tunnel wall, sweating despite the cold. He watched as she sat up slowly, a sad statement on her reptillian face.
Mario's head was spinning. He not only couldn't think of anything, he forgot what thinking was. His mind could do nothing but compare. Compare the past several years of this girl at her family's side, tormenting the people of the Mushroom Kingdom, to the past few days, the rescue, the sadness of her tale, the... The smell. That smell was the scent of the female Koopa. It was the thought of the smell that brought him back to the girl quietly sobbing on the floor of the tunnel. He had been so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he hadn't even noticed when she started crying. He knew he should comfort her, but she was a Koopa. His hatred for the family was at war with his newfound friendship with her. At last he realized it really didn't matter who she was, and moved toward her.
She heard his footsteps, and looked up in fear. She started to back away.
"No, I... I'm okay," Mario said, not sure how to say he'd gotten over his prejudice. "Are you?"
She stopped and looked at him, her eyes glistening with tears. "Wh- yeah, I guess." She shakily started to stand, and Mario offered his hand. She looked at it a moment, still crouched on the floor. She wasn't sure she could trust him now that he knew her identity. But she took it anyway, and he helped her to her feet.
Some things made sense now. The strange noise her footsteps had made in the dungeon were due to her claws. The expensive perfume- King Bowser could certainly afford it. The sad story- He suddenly realized what family her stories were about. This got Mario angrier than he had been in a long, long time. He couldn't believe Koopa, as evil as he was, would beat his own children! It was just so appalling, so...
He realized he must have been squeezing her hand and let go. "Sorry, Wendy."
She looked at him with a strange look in her eyes. Mario realized as well; he had never called her by name. They stood there a moment, then she broke the silence.
They looked away from each other quickly. Mario's senses were driving him insane. He wished he could shut them off, but he suddenly remembered.
"Mama mia! Koopa!"
Her head jerked, and she looked at him agape. "You're right! We've gotta go before he finds out I'm gone! Being grounded with six brothers is not the best time to be had! Especially not mine." They started down the tunnel, but Wendy stopped him. "Wait... where are we going?"
"Mushroom Village," Mario said, and started to pull her along. Again she stopped him.
"Mario, look at me," she said. "How do you think your friends will react to me strolling into their home? I'll be lynched on the spot!"
"Yeah, but... well, I can't think of anywhere else. Don't worry, we... I'll just talk to Peach. If I can't make her understand, then... well, I don't know, but I'll figure something out. Maybe the Koopahari Desert..."
Suddenly, from the tunnel behind them, came a deep-voiced yell. "WENDY!!! Where the hell are you?"
"Oh, no, it's daddy!" She whispered.
Mario wordlessly grabbed her hand and started off in the opposite direction. They dodged through several different pipes, trying to lose him. Wendy realized that they were heading in a deliberate direction.
"Where are we headed, Mario?" she asked.
"The west entrance," he panted in reply. "It's the shortest route to the Mushroom Village."
They wound through a few more passages, and doubled back once. Now very near the aforementioned west entrance, they stopped to listen.
"We lost him," Mario said, gasping for breath.
"Good," Wendy replied, sliding down the wall. "I was afraid he'd catch us. You'd be back in the dungeon, and I-"
Suddenly, they were blinded by light. They tried to look through it, but it was too bright. Then, a voice sounded from behind the light.
"Mario, what the fungus is going on here?"
He recognized that voice. Toad. He must be on duty to guard the passage. It was an easy way to get close to the Village, so they had long ago decided to guard it. Mario knew it was a good idea, but now he wished Luigi had never had it. He also knew he would have a much harder time getting Wendy's name cleared. This was further reinforced by seeing Toad's flashlight point toward the floor. In his other hand was a pair of handcuffs.
"Well, Miss Reptile 2000, you're going to spend a night in our beautiful, moldy prison. Hope you have a nice stay!"
to be continued...
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