Chapter 4: Down the Pipe
Zecora sent Luigi and Toad east, out of the forest to the Great Mountains. The journey took a few days, but luckily for the both of them, they didn't run into any trouble. As they walked, the weather became colder and the cloud above grew darker. Before long, small white flakes floated around them and Toad's teeth began to chatter. A nagging thought kept bothering the little fighter.
"Luigi, I was th-thinking. If it's s-snowing everywhere, how is a f-flower going to be able to grow?"
Luigi shrugged his shoulders and looked at the looming mountains. It was a good point. He hadn't seen any grass in hours, let alone flora. When they arrived at the base of the mountain, their spirits didn't improve. The ground was rocky, icy, and covered in snow. Not a plant to be seen.
"Great," grumbled Toad, "N-now what?"
"Let's go look for someplace to stay. Maybe we can ask around if anyone knows where to find the Wendigo Flower."
The two of them began walking around the base of the Great Mountains and before long, they came upon a very small village surrounded by an old wooden fence. The village itself consisted of only about a dozen huts, covered in thick furs and thatched roofs. A few villagers roamed around dressed in similar furs, making them look like miniature huts gliding through the snow. When the heroes arrived, they sought out the nearest villager to ask about the flower. The man they found was surprised to see them, but welcomed them warmly and offered to help in any way he could.
"We're looking for the Wendigo Flower," stated Luigi. And with that, the old man stared at them with a blank face. After a moment, he burst into laughter. Luigi and Toad looked at each other.
"Oh," said the chuckling man, calming down, "wait, you're serious? The Wendigo Flower is just a legend. A story we tell our children."
"Listen, I know the flower is real. A zebra named Zecora told me find it for her. She told me to look for it here."
With that, the man began laughing all over again. "A talking zebra told to about the flower? That's rich!" Toad's eyebrows lowered and his fists clenched. "You two might have been out in this cold a bit too long. I think you ought to talk to Mara. She's our healer, our elder, and our leader. If she can't help you, I don't think anyone can." Before Toad could speak his mind, the man turned around and began leading them to a large hut. When they arrived, he pulled back the heavy fur entrance and gestured them into the room. After Luigi and Toad stepped into Mara's hut, the man closed the flap and could be heard chuckling to himself, "talking zebra...wendigo flower...what a hoot."
The inside of Mara's hut was warm and inviting. Mara sat on the far end in an old rocking chair surrounded by bookshelves. When she looked up, she beckoned the heroes to come join her.
"My name is Mara," she began, "and you two are certainly not from around here. What are your names?"
"My name's Luigi and this is Toad."
"Hey there," grunted Toad.
"And what brings you to my quiet village, Luigi?"
"We were told you were the one to speak to about finding the Wendigo Flower," said Luigi. Just then, Mara's eyes began to widen. She looked at the two visitors as if she only just saw them now for the first time.
"No," she whispered, "it couldn't be!" And she began to frantically rummage through her book collection. When she found what she was looking for, she pulled the book from the shelf. It was a dusty blue book, with a large spine. She flipped through many pages until she pointed to one in particular and exclaimed, "There it is! You...you wouldn't be a plumber by any chance, would you?"
Luigi looked at Toad and then back to Mara. "Well, of course I am." Then he pointed to the plunger attached to his belt.
"The prophecy is true!" Mara stood and shouted.
"Prophecy?" asked Toad.
Mara collected herself and sat back down on her rocking chair. "Let me explain. The Wendigo flower is a very powerful plant. It has been around for hundreds of years."
"But everyone here thinks it's just a legend," interrupted Luigi.
"Yes, yes. That's what I told them. An item of that type of power could spell doom for the world if it fell into the wrong hands. So I've been... not entirely forthright about the details. I let them know about a legendary plant, but never admitted the plant is real."
"Well, I'm sure it's real. A zebra asked us to go find it for her," proudly stated Luigi.
"Zecora?" asked Mara.
"You know her?" Luigi gasped.
"Oh my, yes. Zecora and I go way back. I had no idea she would be involved in the prediction, however. You see, the prophecy says that two heroes will come looking for the flower, one a tall plumber..."
"Hey, I'm tall!"
"...and a short angry fighter,"
"Hey, who you callin' short!"
"The two must battle three large monsters before finding the flower. If they fail, the flower will be found by a terrible evil."
Toad gulped and sat back in his chair. Luigi stood up and said with a smile, "I'm sure we can handle it. We fought a water monster before, you know." Toad rolled his eyes.
"I will help you on your quest," stated Mara, "but first, you must obtain the Wendigo Compass. You see, the flower never stays in the same spot for long. So, a secret magical compass was made to guide heroes to the flower. This compass is hidden in an underground cavern. I'll take you there now!" Mara stood up and turned to Toad. Seeing him shiver, she added, "But first, let's get you dressed for the trip." Mara turned to a nearby chest and opened it. Inside were piles of well worn wool and furs. She grabbed a long cloak and handed it to Luigi, then a child-sized fur coat for Toad. Both of them felt warmer immediately.
Mara walked them outside and spoke to a nearby villager. "Thomas, I'm going on a short walk with my new friends. I'll be back before dinner. The village is yours to protect."
Thomas nodded to the elder and the three of them headed out through the gates, toward the looming mountains.
After about an hour, they came across a peculiar sight. Standing before them was what looked like a well in the ground. However, instead of stones, the well seemed to be made of a smooth metal and it was painted green! Luigi and Toad peered inside, seeing only black.
"We're going in here?" asked Toad.
"This pipe will take you to the underground cavern. Inside you must find the chest containing the Wendigo Compass. Only then, can you hope to find the flower." Seeing the boys' concerned faces, she added, "Don't worry. It's a soft landing."
Luigi shrugged and began to climb in. "Thanks for all your help!" and with a jump, he was gone. Toad looked surprised, grumbled something Mara couldn't hear, and jumped in after him.
"Ow! Soft landing, my butt!"
"Hey, that was MY head you fell on!"
"Sorry, Luigi. Woah, it's completely dark down here. Hold on." Toad reached into his backpack and took out a torch. After a few strikes on his flint, the torch was lit.
"Well, we're definitely in a cavern," whispered Luigi looking around at the wet rocks and stalactites just barely visible from Toad's torch. Just then, two red beads appeared in the distance of the shadows. And then, two more. Then more.
Before Luigi and Toad could say anything, they realized they were surrounded by six rats, each the size of a small dog. The rats hissed and inched closer to the heroes. Toad set down the torch and slowly drew his weapons. Luigi moved back to back with Toad and took out his plunger.
"Here we go!"