Title: blood in the moonlight
Summary: It's a great big world out there. Stop trying to fill it on your own. The Plugs Series. –Rosalina.
Dedication: to Kendollface. Sweetie, you know I'm Barbie.
Notes: The Plug Series is a thing I'm doing where I write an AU one-shot/chaptered AU about a particular fandom where I don't want to live, but I want others to get into. Go play Super Mario Galaxy!
Also I am actually really pleased with this. So don't hate on it, please?

Star Galaxy. A place with many worlds with many inhabitants. Full of Luma, Toads, and Gearmos; Boos, Goombas, and Koopas. Many leave to colonize new worlds. Few return.

Zoom in.

The Mushroom Kingdom. The ruling class are humans, although they are only a tiny percentage of the species that swirl through its underworld. Prosperous and chaotic.

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Toad Town. Capital of the Mushroom Kingdom, named for its concentration of Queen Peach's servants. Contrarily, it's neither quaint nor small, but an enormous city. It brims with marvels such as Rainbow Road, a transparent race track where karts and bikes smash each other over the edge.

Zoom in.

Rosalina's Palace. An elegant establishment that caters to the richest of the rich, selling tea with Life Shroom enhancements and other expensive foods. It is presided over by nobility, who gather rumors like currency to share and save and squirrel away for whenever they might need a favor.

Zoom in.

The Cellar. A secret basement under the Palace. Where the Poison Shrooms and Koopa Shells and artificially created Yoshi eggs are made, and stolen power-ups and illegally made karts and fake biker's licenses are sold. Literally down and dirty.

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Rosalina. A silver-blonde with miles of hair in a blue dress that looks pale and flattering in the light upstairs, but blends dangerously into the background in the dark. She wears a silver crown that indicates at the very least high nobility, but at the most a cousin of a sovereign.

Zoom in.

Luma Crown. The shape of a star is tattooed on the crown that sits on Rosalina's head, confirming to the evil street rats and the rich assassins that she is, indeed queen of the Mushroom Kingdom's underworld.

Zoom in.

Red Jewel. The ruby that sits in the Luma Crown is winking and bloody, and highly valuable. It signifies her lineage. The real reason Rosalina is so powerful.

Rosalina is…undecided about her job. She likes helping people. She funds the largest charity in the city, which feeds the fallen Luma and the underprivileged, oppressed Koopa. It feels like a victory every time a street child doesn't starve. Still, the money has to come from somewhere, and that is a relic from her own vicious childhood.

Rosalina started her criminal career when she was thirteen, diving deep into the world of smuggling, stealing, and slit throats. It's kind of a fucking travesty, she thinks, that from such an age her best friend after her Luma was a Dark Bones mercenary. Her closest human associate is Wario, and the bastard makes his living by kidnapping. It makes Rosalina sick when he gets talking about his living 'trophies', all garlic breath and oiled mustache, but business is business, and she's used his services more than once. He's a royal pain, a pain fit for royalty, her Luma chuckles, and yet when she needs an unharmed hostage that can't be traced back to her, he's the guy to call.

Rosalina can remember vaguely most of the times she connected him to one of her clients, and the twice she hired him herself stand out clear as day. Once, when a Luma in her information network was captured by a Magikoopa cult and they would accept nothing in trade but a more enticing sacrifice, and once when a particular human was attempting to force through laws she didn't like, but was too powerful to simply kill.

Rosalina has a legion of contacts, an army of allies, and a nation of enemies. It's proof of her success as a criminal overlord, which worries her. What worries her more is that she enjoys it. The dance of politics is something she was born to, and really, how different is this? But when she decided that she wanted revenge on the corrupt humans at twelve, and a year later realized she needed power in dark places to get it, it was a means to an end. As Rosalina aged, it became more.

From the earliest age of which she had any memories (two), Rosalina was a child of the Luma. Their comet traveled peacefully through space, until it collided with another world. It was shattered into pieces, and though the Luma could fly, they were scattered across the galaxy.

The day her idyllic paradise exploded in a cloud of white metal, Rosalina was in the garden, frolicking. Or at least it was labelled frolicking by her Luma, who laughed at the way Rosalina's pale brows bunched at the word. It was seven and a half months after the anniversary of the day Rosalina had been found by the Luma.

It had been declared that her 'birthday week' (an invention to cover the fact that Rosalina had no defined birthday) should be this week, because she had hardly been newborn when found. Her knee-length hair was bound into pigtails by two new, pale ribbons, and her dress was fresh and tied around the middle with a navy sash. Her glimmering mane and snowy gown bisected by a river of night sky blue presented the impression of a creature spun from starlight, which was spoiled by the contorted look of utmost faked woe on her face.

"It's hardly frolicking, you know," Rosalina said faux-passionately to her offending companion, her human features puckered into a Luma-esque expression of distaste. "I'm picking flowers for my birthday feast. No more, no less. After all, I'm twelve today. Or tomorrow. Or possibly three months ago. However, that's really beside the point that I'm trying to make. And the point that I'm trying to make is this: I don't want more improperly used vocabulary that I already know to be my birthday present. Should I attempt to converse in the manner of a certified linguist in the faint hope that it would demonstrate to you that my mind and all its environs are suitably elasticated, lubricated, and brimming with creatively employed words such as 'erinaceous', meaning of, pertaining to, or resembling a hedgehog?"

Here she paused, and then said, through the uproarious laughter of her Luma, "You know, I have no idea where any of that came from."

And then the sky exploded.

Many Luma landed in the Mushroom Kingdom, but none landed in Koopa Village save Rosalina herself and her loyal Luma. Rosalina was shell-shocked. Her entire life had been in the sealed sphere of the comet, and in an instant, that was shattered. It was a definite blow to her pride and sanity to see all of her family and previous life swept away so casually by forces so beyond her control. It left her strangely broken, as well as alone. She knew nothing of living among the many races, but soon was directed to Toad Town, where there were both humans and rumors of Luma. She needed allies, but finding them turned out to be harder than expected.

Rosalina was left wandering the roads performing tricks with Luma to make money. Her clothes (which she had only started wearing when the comet exited the orbit of the Fire planets when she was eight) had once been plain, white, and silky, a perfect fit. Now what was still left above the disintegrating hem and the unraveling sleeves was stained with travel dust and stank of sweat. It had discolored to a pale brown, and though there was substantially less material than there was to begin with, it still hung loose and large. Her hair, once lovingly brushed on a daily basis into twin off-white waterfalls, was an unruly tangle not unlike an elongated bush. It too was stained with dust at the ends, which reached the tops of Rosalina's calves. It was nominally restrained by her once-fine navy sash, tied around her head to replace fallen ribbons. Even the shoes that had been nothing more than wood bound to her feet were almost worn through.

It was only a small wonder that Rosalina survived. Certainly she was pitiable enough. And so she made do with whatever kind passerby gave her as she trudged along the road, and what her Luma could steal from the unkind ones. In the course of a week, she arrived at Toad Town, nursing blisters and post-traumatic shock. However, the old, painful shock was soon replaced by a new one, just as jarring and just as dangerous.

The comet had been bustling with the civilization of Luma, in Star form or otherwise, but never had Rosalina been in a place like this. It was not the peaceful coexistence she'd known. Here, everything was here was alive, hostile, and ready to take your money. A young, inexperienced and innocent girl from a distant land had chances of survival that were negligible, to put it mildly.

And Rosalina drifted, dying by inches under many bridges, huddling away from the wild-eyed, haggard folk who stalked her still dignified footsteps. She begged to stay alive, and clung on by a tenacious half a fingertip, but found no fellow Luma in the huge metropolis. So she drifted aimlessly from patch of semi-safety to patch of semi-safety, fracturing and twisting with each narrow escape in a back alley. Long gone was the intelligent girl making dry, scholarly jokes in the garden. She was a waif and a wraith. Nothing changed, except the prominence of her ribs and how afraid she was.

When she made her widest, most helpless eyes at a Toad in hope of being given a few Coins, Rosalina was grabbed harshly by the chin, her face scrubbed at with a handkerchief. There was an exclamation from the Toad to his companion that Rosalina didn't quite catch, and despite many protests and eventually screams, she was swept up in the arms of the second Toad and placed in the back of a kart.

For what felt like around a week Rosalina was at the center of a whirlwind of attention; she was shunted from place to place and captor to captor, led by the nose and subjected to a series of tests. Her face was compared to unseen photographs; her bone structure was analyzed by a doctor; her blood was sampled and tested. Once, Rosalina was interrogated about her history, and having entered a state of blind shock, she told all there was to tell. It was after perhaps six days that she was tied up once more, led back into a different kart, and shipped, blindfolded, off to a new destination, this one permanent.

This turned out to be a large mansion, and despite the sight of money changing hands and a red Toadette taking hold of her bonds, Rosalina didn't emerge from her fear-induced haze until she was thrown into a tub. When she emerged, spluttering, the Toadette commanded to put on a new dress, and dragged her down many, many stairs into the parlour. It was a dull relief after her captivity to be able to walk on her own, but she could hardly remember what had happened over the course of the past week; there were only dark, dirty rooms and bad food and looming men.

Eventually, the Toadette, whose name was Samantha, explained to her that she was the heir to House Ruby, a human clan who intermarried regularly with the line of the queen. This was the Ruby Mansion, only a portion of the grounds owned by Rosalina's apparently splendidly rich, long-lost family.

As they sat, Rosalina realized that the world had shifted. Just a little down and to the left. She could feel her mouth watering as she watched the crystal bowl of candies to Samantha's right. The dress was overlarge, but rich and clean, and Rosalina could feel its folds against her, scratching up and down as she breathed. She could feel her pupils contracting as she glanced at the sun through the nearest window. She could feel the adrenaline pounding in her veins. And she could feel her incredulity at the sheer ridiculousness of the story being told crystallizing into sharp, acidic, concentrated sarcasm.

It was at this point that Rosalina was coherent enough to actually examine her latest kidnapper. Samantha was a standard Toadette, at least outwardly: she had the domed head with circles in the color of her hair, a pleasant, round face, and a small stature. However, her thick, ropy hair was secured not in the common braids, but a professional, elegant bun. Her attire was red, obviously, but composed of a tunic and leggings topped with robes, professional and elegant as her hair. Her eyes were black and intelligent, and her voice dominated the room, not squeaky like that of most of her fellow Toads.

According to her narrative, Samantha had been the keeper of the Ruby Estate since the House Ruby had been destroyed in the last Bowser War. Samantha, whose cousin had been abroad, taking care of the Rubys, knew that Rosalina was conceived at the Ruby Base, the stronghold of House Ruby. No pregnant humans were allowed into battle, but by that point the airspace was too dangerous to risk sending a woman and her unborn child back to the Mushroom Kingdom through the hordes of Paragoombas that blocked out the sky.

When the Ruby Base was destroyed, Rosalina was five months old. Most of the Ruby were either dead or fled, so it was really only the injured, the sick, and servants untrained in fighting. This is a blank stretch in Rosalina's history; an empty gap where no knowledge lies. How she left the Ruby Base unscathed and arrived on the Luma Comet is a mystery. All the Luma can tell her is that they simply found her one day, wrapped in a red blanket, gurgling up at the passing worlds.

Rosalina laughed harshly when Samantha told her the story. In fact, she said something about feeding her line of bullshit to some other street girl that she bought like a dog. There had been one benefit, at least, to this new imprisonment: Rosalina was alive, snapped out of the cold, rattled state that had trapped her since…since the comet. It gave her fire. She hissed and spat. She rolled her eyes. And again and again, she laughed.

And then she asked the pivotal question. "If children weren't allowed into battle, why the hell did they all get killed?"

Samantha actually had a response for this. "If you were listening, you'd've heard me say that Ruby Base was a really big castle thing. Since all Rubys are actually inspiring commanders, talented tacticians, and vicious fighters, every adult was called out in an 'all hands on deck' mentality. It was very good for morale when foot soldiers who knew with absolute certainty that they were going to die saw rich, powerful, privileged humans risking themselves along with the meatshields. Of course, this meant that they were basically figureheads, since Ruby Base was every bit as fine as Ruby Mansion. Your overprivileged family actually took the kids with them, so as to be able to keep an eye on them a fair distance from the fighting and isolate them from invasive powers at court that might strike in the absence of adults...but Bowser realized the motivational power they held."

Here Samantha's eyes grew dark. "He struck at the Base personally. It was full of servants and children, all dying in gouts of flame and agony. The Rubys were fighting in nearby fields and airspace...and one by one, they abandoned their posts. Left their troops to follow them or die in their mad rampage to save those dying in the stronghold. And of course, they arrived poorly equipped and in disarray, and were struck down like flies. Perhaps some of the more sensible Rubys fled, but of course such cowardice would not be looked on favorably by Queen Peach. She and her consort Mario fought on the front lines, after all."

"Say that I believe you," began Rosalina doubtfully. Her hand scabbled absently in the candy bowl, which she had almost emptied. "My only living relations were killed, leaving me a classic, tragic orphan. I was plucked off the streets by merest chance, but now I've found my family's fortune, and can move directly into a world of tea parties and talking with the Queen, all because you, faithful minion of my long-lost family, selflessly wish me to take back what's probably legally been yours for a dozen years. Care to reason through that?"

Samantha's dark-eyed stare grew, if anything, darker. "The Ruby fortune was suspended by the Crown after the massacre. It continues to grow under my care, but only a direct descendant, named in the Ruby family tree, can access it for full use. In a way, you could say we need each other. Also…" She paused then, as if uncertain what continuing would bring. "I was very fond of your mother."

Rosalina's head shook slowly in time with her hands. "My mother-you knew her?"

"Oh yes. Quite like you, really, although her wit and jokes were much, much drier and more subtle." Samantha smirked at the obvious offense displayed across from her, before returning to the point.

"Coming back to you, all Ruby the kids were blonde, blue-eyed, and sarcastic. It's kind of hereditary. I can't prove the bit about sarcasm, but the blonde and blue-eyed bit I have evidence of. Specifically, evidence that your mother looked like you." She pulled Rosalina through a hall of portraits of cold-eyed blonds dressed in red, coming to a stop in front of a painting of a fifteen-year-old girl. She had her hair twisted back from her face in a prim bun, and her bangs sat just above her eyebrows, but other than that, she could have been Rosalina's older self.

"This," Samantha announced, "was your mother when she was younger. She's fifteen here, which makes her, what, five years older than you are now?"

"I'm twelve," Rosalina said coolly. "Are you?" Samantha assessed her size, the way the dress pooled around her waist and the lanterns made shadows in the hollows of her cheeks. It would take months of polishing and feeding her up, at the very, very least. The others at court would have the advantage of years as well as longer training, and no doubt the process molding this girl into a clan princess would be...intensive.

"I assume so, if your story was true. The last Bowser War ended eleven years ago. The Luma never really knew how old I was. Is there anything else you would like to show me to prove that this isn't just a strange sexual fantasy on your part? Perhaps a secret birthmark?" Rosalina was convinced but trying hard not to show it. Maybe more than a few months of training, Samantha decided. That sarcasm and obstinacy will be more dangerous to her than she knows.

In any event, she composed herself and smiled her best 'demure servant' smile. "There's nothing left to show you but your rooms. They may help you decide." She beamed at the look of cynical disbelief.

Samantha led Rosalina up, endlessly up. There were grand, thickly carpeted staircases, spiral stairs that swirled around and around, short, steep servant's steps, and, as the hallways narrowed, a long ladder, the rungs bolted to the wall hidden behind a dull, dark tapestry. The door to The Room, as Rosalina had taken to calling it, ironically, was heavy and menacing, thick with locks both internal and external. There was even a knocker in the shape of a moon, and a peephole. It was bracketed by a cage of bars on the outside and closed by a sliding cover on the inside. Overkill, from Rosalina's perspective, but then again, she had no idea what was inside.

Samantha produced a key from her pocket and undid the first lock. Then she pulled a drawstring pouch from her belt, and, reaching in, removed a second key, clicking open the second lock. The third and largest turned out to be opened by a key on a chain around Samantha's neck, something Rosalina decided might be important to remember.

"Before we go in," Samantha began in a lecturing tone, "I'd like to tell you about the history of this room. It occupies the northeast tower, and was traditionally the room of the heir to House Ruby. Since the firstborn female inherits, it is custom designed to fit the tastes of someone very similar to a princess. The locks are not to keep you in, but to keep people out. Thus also the secrecy of the route. This was not…" here she hesitated, but then ploughed on, "this was not your mother's room. She was the first daughter of the second in line. Your grandmother would have become Head of Ruby House only after the death of her eldest sister, so you mother was not terribly important in matters of lineage. However, as the only remaining Ruby, you are now the heir, and so I'd like for you to live in here until you wish it otherwise."

And with that, Samantha gave the door a hefty shove, undoubtedly intending to sweep in and leave Rosalina shocked in her wake. When this shove was not enough to unstick the siege-weapon proof, solid-wood door that had been firmly closed for a dozen years, she kicked it repeatedly, quite ruining the drama of her last statement. Rosalina smothered her snigger behind a scarred hand. However, when they did cross the threshold, she found herself smothering a gasp.

The room was a vision. Creamy, ivory white wall stretched up to reach a flat ceiling painted with twining, pale green vines. Huge, tinted windows showed much of the rooftops of Toad Town, but were clearly invisible from the outside. Rather than the deep crimson of spilled wine that made up the parlour where she had been before, or the cold white-and-black scheme of the guestroom Rosalina had bathed in, or even the neutral beige of the hallways, the decorations and carpet of this room were a light, dusky red, so pale they almost pink.

The bed was a four poster of ebon wood, draped with hangings in caramel brown. It shimmered like a mirage, lit from above by a delicate crystal chandelier. On the wall to its right, a much flimsier door than the one they had just passed through hung half-open, revealing a spacious washroom with a bath, shower, and sink, indicating that it had an expensive, indolent feature: running water. Up a staircase that swept along the only rounded wall, the walk-in closet was lit with by yet another lamp, illuminating rows of empty shelves, hangers, and chests, waiting to be filled with millions of Coins worth of clothes. If the lap of luxury were a place, it would be the room at the top of the northeast tower.

Some say that loyalty and trust cannot be bought or sold. Those people would be lying. That day, Rosalina decided that if she was going to be held in a gilded cage used to suck out the riches from the Ruby accounts, it was at least better than the streets, which were-are-a filthy trap. She threw herself face first into the bed, and releasing Luma from her long, tangled hair, she burrowed under the copious blankets, not even waiting for Samantha to exit before falling asleep. After all, Samantha was sworn to protect her bloodline, and needed her to use the Ruby money.

Though Rosalina had not believed her before, she believed her now.

The next morning, Rosalina bloomed from her bed like a true rose, swathed in concentric circles of pinkish blankets. She wobbled into the bathroom, filled the bath almost to its granite lip with scalding water, and splashed into it with a sigh. It was less than a minute before she fell back asleep, luxuriating in the heat and the sensation of cleanliness. She awoke only when it began to grow cold, and ran a second one (in a fit of what she considered at the time overpowering, self-indulging greed. Little did she know that it would become a habit).

During the second bath, Rosalina then busied herself with actual bathing. There was soap, shampoo, conditioner, and a scented wash that stank of peppermint. Realizing that the wash was minutely used, the soap was the abrasive type for mushroom heads, and the hair products appeared freshly bought, she decided that they must be Samantha's, and resolved to use all of them. And not because she was so desperately dirty. Just because Samantha was actually a servant of her and her family didn't mean that Rosalina didn't resent the high-handed way she was bought off the mercenaries, nearly drowned, and shut up in a tower like a helpless damsel in distress. Okay, so maybe the ransom had saved her from random kidnappers. Okay, so maybe the frigid tub had both snapped her out of a state of severe shock and washed off a few weeks' worth of grime. Okay, so maybe the tower was the most opulent, comfortable place she'd ever been, let alone given to live in. For free.

Damn the logical conclusion, Rosalina decided, and went back to overusing the shampoo.

When Samantha ascended the six hundred twenty-seven stairs, steps, slopes, and ladder rungs that lay between the dining hall and the northeast tower (not counting flat hallways, general upward inclines, and awkward locations where she had to climb patches of roughened stone due to her shortness), she arrived expecting a comatose, soundly snoring heiress. What she found was that the door had been bolted from the inside sometime in the night, and when she pounded on it, the girl was almost instantly peering through the grille above the knocker. She held a gold candlestick lightly, ready to strike.

"Well," Samantha said drily, "at least I won't ever have to worry about your safety. Goodness knows you're well-protected with that custom-made weapon you have there."

Rosalina opened the locks one after another with the sound of a volley of rifles, and swung open the door, looking indignant. "It was the best I could find in the five seconds after you knocked. Besides, is this real gold? It's got a good weight to it." She swung it for emphasis, almost injuring herself in the process.

"And how would you know exactly what a good-weighted candlestick feels like?" Samantha asked as she reached out and pried it from Rosalina's unresisting hand before permanent damage was done. "I am a connoisseur of candlesticks, weaponized or otherwise," Rosalina replied sarcastically.

It really was quite the speech, especially for probably-twelve-year-old. Samantha was impressed. "Where did you learn words like that? Half the kids who've been to a school don't talk that way, and you grew up in the middle of nowhere."

Rosalina tossed her head with some effort, spraying a shower of water droplets. "The Luma are sentient beings that can fly, levitate objects, and transform into another state. Of course they can read and write. They educated me, and well, too. They even have libraries. Don't try to patronize me or teach me things I already know."

Samantha stared down at the girl, with a mane of soggy hair that scraped the backs of her knees, with a 'sentient being' that lived in it, who had only ever been raised by members of another species, on another world. The girl who would probably tongue-lash any courtier so violently that even such a valuable heir would not be invited back to court the next day. And she smiled.

"I think I have plenty to teach you."

Notes: Ummm…this may be the longest (mostly?) coherent work I've ever written. I mean seriously. A thousand words was once a huge accomplishment. And hey, there might even be another chapter. Or maybe I'll let you wallow in speculation. BUT WHATEVER. And yeah, props to me for writing the longest fucking flashback ever. I want a prize.