Surprisingly enough, Toad was depressed. He felt he was insignificant. He felt he did nothing to help the Mushroom Kingdom.

"Mario," he said one day, "Next time you have to save the day, can I come, too?"

Mario was stuffing a hamburger in his face as fast as possible. "Why?" he grunted.

"Someday," Toad said, "I wanna be a hero just like you."

"If that-a happens," said Mario, "please-a don't-a take that-a-much of the spotlight. Save-a some for me."

"Gee, thanks for the support, pal," Toad said. He decided to talk to Luigi.

"Luigi," he started, "If you ever get as much glory as Mario, would you try to share it with me?"

"Heck no, Shorty," said Luigi, who was, at the moment, grooming his mustache. "I never have any of it as it is. Why should I give away what I hardly ever get?"

"I thought so," said Toad sadly. As a last resort, he decided to talk to Princess Peach down at the castle.

"Princess," he said, "Next time Mario saves you from Bowser, can you claim that I played a small part?"

"I dunno," she said doubtfully, checking her appearance in the mirror. "What would Mario think of it?"

"AAAAAAARRRRGH," Toad wailed. He burst into tears and ran out of the room, running into Toadsworth.

"My, my," said the old Toad, "Isn't someone unhappy. What's the problem, son?" He sat.

Toad ran to sit in his grandfather's lap. "Well, grandpa," he said, "ever since Mario came back from the Isle Delfino, no one ever stops talking about him. Mario this, Mario that."

"And you think you're a worthless speck because nobody ever pays attention to you," Toadsworth said.

"Well, yeah," said Toad.

"Well," said Toadsworth, "What's the most heroic thing you've ever done?"

Toad thought about it. "I stopped the Cook from killing a mouse the other day," he said pathetically.

"There you go." The elderly creature's eyes were full of sympathy. "We Toads have always been rather… minor beings, if you take my meaning, in this castle because, well, we've never done much in the heroic deeds that Mario, Luigi, and/or Yoshi are always doing."

"I hear the Boos have a similar problem," said Toad.

"Yep," said Toadette, coming in. "Poor them."

"What can I do?" asked Toad.

"I dunno."

Suddenly, they heard Peach scream. "HELP! MARIO! I AM BEING PEACH-NAPPED!"

Toad's eyes lit up. "This gives me an idea."

Mario heard the scream. "Hold on-a, Princess, I'm-a coming!" he called.

Then he heard a chuckle behind him. "That's likely," a voice said. Then he heard a thump, and he was knocked out.

"C'mon, Toadette, Toadsworth," said Toad. "We have a princess to save!"

Bowser chuckled as he steered his Toyota into the driveway of a pub by the name of The Demented Turtle. "Heh, heh, heh," he said, going in. "They'll never think to look in a greasy diner. They'll never find me!"

Toad was driving around the area in his Honda looking for any traces of a giant Koopa. He happened to glance in the direction of a license plate in search of a hint and noticed something odd.

"BOWSER?" he read from the license plate. "This is his car?"

"Bowser HAS a car?" Toadette wondered. "I thought he moved around in that flower-cup thingy. Koopa Clown Car."

"Nevertheless, this car has something to do with Bowser," said Toadsworth. "I suggest we go in!"

They walked in. A large man that looked like Bowser was playing the piano and a woman that looked like Princess Peach was singing to the music.

"Hey," said Toad. "Does that lady look familiar?" They sat down at the counter.

A short yellow/green turtle took their orders. (Toad ordered a Luigi steak with Daisy fries, Toadette took Yoshi Ribs with Princess Peach salad, and Toadsworth took a Mario flambé.)

"Gee," said Toadette, "These names sound familiar."

The pianist was leaving, carrying the singer to his car.

"EGAD!" said Toadsworth. "It's HIM! Bowser is the pianist! After him!"

Suddenly, all the waiters revealed themselves as Koopa Troopas or Goombas and attacked the heroes. Luckily, they were very slow and the three Toads jumped on them all rather quickly.

"C'mon, hurry, he's getting away!" cried Toadette.

Bowser had changed his car. He had taken a random one from the parking lot and was driving to the beach.

The Toads were following the trail of deep tire tracks (they went in rather deep due to Bowser's weight) and they got to the beach lot. Toadette scanned the license plates to make sure he was really there. "GOOMBA?" she read from a license plate. "Do we really need to think on this one?"

"It's a no-brainer," agreed Toadsworth. They entered. Another someone they couldn't see due to the blue cloak took the admissions and they went in. A rather fat person was sitting under an umbrella and a blonde girl was playing on the shore by him.

"Dare we assume this one?" Toad asked.

"Uh-huh," said Toadsworth.

Suddenly all the other people on the beach revealed themselves as Magikoopas or Chain Chomps and attacked them. Toad and Toadsworth jumped around, away from the Chain Chomp attacks and Magikoopa spells. Toadette, very fortunately, had her hand mirror in her purse and reflected the spells away, frying whoever was unlucky enough to be in the way.

Bowser had again escaped. He and Kamek had gotten away and split up. Toad and his relatives simply followed the one with the clearer tracks.

Actually, Kamek was the one with clearer treads. Bowser had instructed him to take a 4-ton weight with him. "They're always making fun of my weight," said Bowser to himself. "Well, the joke's on them!"

The Toads were lead to a public execution lot. Just to be sure, Toad checked the license plates. "KAMEK1," he read. "Yep, he's here."

They went into the prison and saw . . . guess who?

The infernal Kamek!

"Ha ha ha!" Kamek cackled. "I have you now! There's no escape!" Then he started throwing little colored squares from the tip of his magic scepter. Toadette screamed. Before she could reflect them, the squares were turning into mutant Goombas.

"Broohoohahaha!"

"Don't worry," said Toad. "I have a plan!"

"Which is?" said Toadsworth skeptically.

"RUN!" screeched Toad.

They broke for the door, but Kamek barred it with a well-aimed spell.

"Whadda we do?" wailed Toadette.

"We fight!" declared Toadsworth. He charged and started jumping on Goombas as fast as he could. (He was old and slow, and rammed headlong into many of them, but oh well).

Toad and Toadette looked at each other, shrugged, and joined in too. Still, Kamek kept conjuring more. The three Toads jumped for a long time, but finally he got tired and flew away, locking them in a building full of Goombas.

When they had finally escaped, with no small number of injuries, hungry, thirsty, and tired, they came to the problem of getting out.

"We're going to suffocate!" said Toadette. "Oh no!"

They all held their breaths and rammed against the door. The door, weakened by past convicts trying to escape, fell down. "Whoopee!" said Toadette. "Thank goodness for these enormous, mushroom-shaped craniums of ours!"

"Now where's a diner?" said Toadsworth.

"Anybody have cash?" asked Toad.

"We don't even have pockets, bro," snapped Toadette. "But, yeah, I do." She pulled out a pink embroidered pocketbook. "Let's see, how much . . . About two hundred sixty coins."

"You robbed a bank, didn't you?" asked Toadsworth.

"Believe me, Grandpa, then I'd be a millionaire."

The tiny three trumped off to a nearby diner, where they checked to see if

A) there was a strange license plates in the parking lot, and

B) the food was named after their friends.

It was cooler now, so they ate and went back to the beach to trace the other tracks. They led to 13 Bowser Castle Road, where (how surprising!) Bowser's castle was built. Unfortunately, it was bristling with guards.

"Oh, these are easy," said Toadsworth. "Just a lot of Goombas and Koopas and like. Killable stuff."

"Ah, I still think we should get some Fire Flowers or whatever. As backup," Toad said.

"I still have a bunch of coins left," Toadette said. "How 'bout we go to that store we saw on Hammer Brothers Lane?"

"Sounds good," Toadsworth agreed.

Hammer Brothers Lane was less than a half of a mile from Bowser Castle Road. It was one of the neater streets in the Dark Land; it was actually paved with asphalt, and the street lamps that were built next to the road every sixty feet were all in working condition.

The Item Shop, owned and ran by a Sledge Bro, was part of a brown brick strip mall that sold things like extra F. L. U. D. D. nozzles, Item Box packages, and Magic Paintbrushes.

"Three fire flowers, please," Toadsworth told the Sledge Bro,

The clerk picked some from a can and wrapped them in a wad of newspaper and stuck that in a bag. "Thirty-two coins." He held out a hand expectantly.

"How much do we have, Toadette?" Toad asked.

"Thirty- one coins."

Toadsworth groaned. "Two Fire Flowers, please."

Back at the castle, Toadsworth stopped behind a rock and handed Toad and Toadette both Fire Flowers.

"They taste like arugula, but it will make anything unpleasant think twice about bothering us," Toad said, making a face after swallowing the flower.

"Wonderful," Toadsworth said, tossing the bag and newspaper in a garbage can. "Now, once you get out from behind this rock, run like the dickens, and fry any Goomba or turtle that is in the way."

"What about you?" Toadette asked.

"I follow behind you."

"Okay," said Toad, doing his best "brave" impression. "Let's go!"

They charged. Unfortunately, the guards were tougher than they looked, and they had tallied a few more bruises and bites before getting to the door. Toad had lost his Fire Flower; Toadette just barely managed to hold onto hers.

"That was tiring. Who's game for a nap?" Toadette asked the other two once inside the large front door.

So they went to sleep. Naturally, a few guards followed them, and a few more had been inside the castle, so the family was unpleasantly awakened just fifteen minutes later.

"I needed that," Toad announced, rubbing his head and eyes. "Any other brilliant ideas, Toadette?"

After a long while of wandering the torch-lit halls and frying the occasional Koopatrol, they found Bowser in his bedroom wielding a strange-looking weapon.

"Ha, ha, ha!" he laughed. "Mario! I was waiting for you! I was just finishing my ultimate weapon – The Mario Destroyer!"

"Can't the idiot think of something more original?" whispered Toadette.

"This baby is specially designed to kill you and leave everything else unscathed!" Bowser continued. "Waiddaminute – You're not Mario, you're just a couple of Toads! Ha! I can kill you with my bare hands – just let me put my lucky underwear on. Now, go wait outside while I change." He shooed them away.

Toadsworth, Toad, and Toadette left the room, trying not to laugh so hard that they would attract the attention of the entire Koopa Troop. The reason they might do that, aside from Bowser having lucky underwear in the first place, was that he had forgotten to close the door.

Meanwhile, Bowser reached into one of his dresser drawer and pulled out a pair of boxers patterned with teddy bears and hearts. "Broohoohahaha! You're mine!" he laughed, opening the door, then realizing he hadn't closed it in the first place.

Toad, Toadette, and Toadsworth looked at each, grinning with silent mirth, as Bowser tried to savor the moment and slap himself across the face at the same time. Then, suddenly, the three Mushroom People lost control and burst out laughing.

"Hahahahahahahahahahahah!" they cried. "Lucky . . . underwear! Hee, hee, hee, hee! OH, MY GOSH! Hoohahaha!" It was simply too funny for the family to grasp maturely. Bowser was replacing his shell.

"Well," said Toadette, struggling to her feet, "Ha… ha… Well, we'd best get to business, I suppose. Let's get 'im!"

"Not a chance," Bowser scoffed at them. He blew a fire ball the size of Toadsworth at the trio, which missed completely.

"Is that really your lucky underwear?" Toadette howled. "Ha, ha . . . that's just ridiculous!"

"Ridiculous to you is lucky underwear to me," Bowser said, swiping at Toad's head. Toad was still bending over, in stitches, and Bowser missed.

"Where's the princess?" Toadsworth asked, ever trying to be a diplomat. "Well?"

"That's for me to know, and for you to find out," the Koopa King said. He took another swipe at Toadette. "Why isn't Mario here for me to use my Mario Destroyer on?"

"He's temporarily disabled," Toad said shortly. "Next time he comes visiting you again, he may or may not have a lump the size of a Mega Mushroom on top of his head."

"No matter," Bowser said. "It shouldn't take me TOO long for me to disable you. Maybe short enough to take a hike down to that castle and deal with that Dumber Plumber Drain Brain guy, too." He picked up the Mario Destroyer and flipped a few switches.

"I don't like that idea," Toadsworth said. "No, not at all."

"Actually, we came down here with the intention of rescuing the Princess," Toadsworth said. "Can we do that, or do we actually have to fight? (I sincerely dislike fights . . .)"

"There is no Princess here," Bowser said. "So you're wasting your time. And mine. And for that, I'm going to beat the TAR out of you." He pressed a large green switch down, and a gray cloud with a distinct aroma of moldy pasta came rushing out.

"Nice smell," Toad said, stopping and sniffing. "Moldy bread. No, moldy pasta. Not bad!"

"What- did you just say nice?" Bowser said. "That's supposed to be BAD!"

"You see, we're Toads, Fungus People, so we like anything fungus-related," Toadsworth explained, gesturing with his hands. "Therefore, we like the scent of moldy pasta."

"Mold isn't a fungus."

"Oh, but of course it is," Toadsworth said. "And, not only do we like anything fungus-related, but we find that it actually strengthens us."

There was a scream "Someone! Help!" from Bowser's locked closet.

"Shut up, you," Bowser barked. Of course, while his back was turned, Toad ran up and jumped on his head and started punching it.

"What the heck are you doing?" Bowser shouted. "No- stop- PUNCHING me. I'M supposed to beat up YOU up. Hey-"

"NO, I won't," Toad said. "Unless, I guess, you give us the key to that closet of yours."

"I'd give you the key," Bowser said, "but there's NOTHING IN THERE."

"Except Peach," Toadette said, grabbing Bowser's tail.

"Peach isn't in this castle."

"So what's in the closet?" Toadsworth asked.

"Not Peach."

"OF COURSE IT'S ME IN HERE!" the voice from the closet said. "BOWSER, YOU LITTLE-"

Toad was still beating Bowser on the head. "Can we have the key anyway?"

"No."

"Fine, then," Toad said. "In that case . . . Toadsworth, grab that heavy-looking Koopa statue over there and use it to break down the door."

"DON'T DO THAT!" Bowser roared, throwing off all of the Toads that had been mercilessly attacking him. He grabbed the statue from the wall, placed it outside, closed and locked the door.

"Now," he said, "no more distractions." He tossed the useless Mario Destroyer aside and blew a fireball at Toad's head. Toad ducked, barely escaping being set ablaze. The fireball sailed harmlessly out the window.

"Why won't you let us have the key to the closet?" Toadette asked.

"Just because," Bowser said. "And besides, I already told you, there's nothing in there."

"YES THERE IS!" Peach screamed through the door. "GET ME OUT OF HERE!"

"I guess we'll have to do this the long way," Toadsworth said. "Toad, keep the big lummox distracted while I pick the lock." He picked up a paper clip that was sitting on a table, unfolded it, and shoved it in the keyhole.

"No, I don't think so," Bowser said. "No, absolutely not." He jumped in Toadsworth's general direction, but hit his head on a low-hanging light fixture.

While Bowser was groaning and rubbing his head, Toad jumped on his back and started swatting him with a stapler.

"Get off," Bowser insisted. "Stop it. Cut it out. Argh . . ."

Toadsworth was still stabbing the keyhole with the paper clip. Peach was still screaming from inside.

Bowser managed to throw Toad off, and breathed another fireball in his general direction. He missed this time, also . . .

. . . and hit a 24" x 36" photograph of the Koopa Kids that was hanging high on the wall . . .

. . . which was knocked down, onto the unbalanced cabinet beneath it . . .

. . . which toppled in the direction of Bowser . . .

. . . who jumped out of the way towards the window.

Unfortunately, the window was open, and Bowser lost his balance and fell out of it sixty feet into a pool of mud.

Toadsworth heard the keyhole snap and pulled the closet door open. Princess Peach was tied to the top shelf.

"Scissors!" Toadette exclaimed, rummaging through a drawer in the cabinet. She found a pair, and cut through the ropes binding Peach to the wall.

"Thanks a lot," Peach said. "Where's Mario? Why is he 'temporarily disabled'?" She used Toadsworth's head as a step down from the shelf.

"It's a long story," Toad said, not looking at the Princess.

"Did you say something about a lump about the size of a Mega Mushroom on top of his head?"

"Ah, no," Toad said. "I said, 'a Yoshi with a Mega Mushroom accidentally stepped on his head'."

"Hmm," the Princess said, clearly not believing a word of it. "Anyway, let's go back home."

No members of the Koopa Troop were in the way on their way out of the castle. When they were walking down Bowser Castle Road, however, they found Bowser limping down the road to the Hammer Brother shop, presumably to get a Super Mushroom to renew his energy.

"I think you were mistaken," Toadette told the King of the Koopas. "Princess Peach was in the closet."

"Can you see why I don't like Toads?" the turtle-thing moaned.

"Oh, and you might want to know that the fireball you blew out your window hit one of those tall maple trees, and now your whole backyard's on fire," Toadette said.

Bowser looked in the direction of his backyard, in time to see one of the taller trees fall onto one of the walls. There was a noise like breaking glass. Bowser yelped and started running back towards his home.

"Just thought I should let him know," Toadette explained to the other three, grinning evilly.

Mario was not in a very good mood when the three Toads and the Princess arrived back at the castle after midnight.

"That was-a-unnecessary," he yelled. "What-a was the-a big idea, a-hitting me-a on the-a head with that-a encyclopedia?"

"What encyclopedia?" Toad asked. He looked at Princess Peach, who still clearly didn't believe any of it.

'The-a one you-a-hitted me-a on the-a head!"

"You're not fooling anyone, Toad," Luigi said. "We all saw you hit Mario over the head with the C volume of the Mushroom Encyclopedia."

"No, I didn't."

"Yesyoudid!"

"Noididnt!

"Yesyoudid!"

"Sorry, Toad," Peach interrupted. "Thanks for bringing Toadsworth and Toadette and saving me and all that, but Mario would have been quicker, and you . . . well . . . I hate to do this to you, but. . ." In one fluid motion, she whipped a giant turnip from her pocket.

Toad shrank back. "Heh, heh," he laughed nervously. "Uh, Princess, you're joking, right? You don't have to do this . . ."

Peach grinned evilly. "Oh, yes, I do!"

Whap!

"AAAAAAAAUGH!"