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QotM*: Empire Building

*Question of the Month is some blueberries on meringue with ice cream served on a sunny day by Later Levels

As I sit here on the triple throne of Green Hill Zone, The Mushroom Kingdom, and Hyrule, I’d like to take a moment to recount for you the story of how I came to acquire this power. The challenge, if I recall correctly, was laid down by one Luna of GamersUnitedGG, inscribed for the ages in the legendary “Master Post” and archived in the great library of Later Levels. I’d made my way there some years ago to find a truth, but as I read that text, it began to form in my mind a dark challenge that, when translated in to the tongue of the current age, read thus:

You are a new villain trying to make a name for yourself so you have decided to take over the Mushroom Kingdom, Green Hill Zone and Hyrule. Who are you and how will you defeat each hero and take over?

Whilst in essence the challenge appeared simple enough, the complexity lay in the detail for to truly rule a land I would not have to simply defeat the heroes, but also the villains, and ultimately legitimise my power through the ruling party. A dark demon of a plan began to twist and shape itself in my mind until my very soul was consumed with the deviousness of turning strength in to weakness, and power into opportunity.

I knew from the outset that might was not the way to conquer these lands, for no might can vanquish the Hedgehog, Plumber, bearer of the Master Sword, Destroyer of Worlds, Spiked Shell One, and Orange Moustached. My only weapon in this case was a simple spell, taken from the library, which allowed me to open portals, not only from point to point, but between parallel universes in order that I should be able to visit each of these places at will.

First to Hyrule… 

My first task was the most arduous of the entire ordeal. I travelled to the green land of Hyrule; a Kingdom lying in the shadow of Ganon, their powerful Princess Zelda the only thing stopping his destructive reign, and the hero Link questing far and wide to vanquish this foe. My initial interest here wasn’t in any of these but rather the economy; if money is the root of all evil then I was having my unfair share and proceeded to use my teleporting ability to steal, loot, and drain every single rupee from the land. Every one of these colourful gems was critical in the next step of my plan and had the delightful side-effect of dramatically destabilising the economy of an already troubled Kingdom.

It took months to complete my task, but finally I had a mountain of rupees to use in the next phase of my plan. Standing next to this cache I opened a teleporting portal across dimensions to the even greener land of Green Hill Zone and allowed all of the rupees to drain in, scattering them across every rolling slope, loop and moving platform… then I waited. When Sonic the Hedgehog woke that morning his quest for the Chaos emeralds took an unexpected turn. He was overwhelmed by the rupees, these precious gems were so similar in appearance to the ones that he was searching for that he moved slowly between them examining each carefully. Sonic became consumed with examining each of these emeralds. His quest to defeat Dr. Robotnik became secondary and finally was forgotten all together. The Doctor quickly industrialised the entire planet whilst Sonic still searched through the gems… and then… nothing… for months until I decided to pay the now triumphant Robotnik a visit in his Death Egg Fortress.

“Good Afternoon Doctor,” I said cheerfully teleporting in to the room with an overly dramatic puff of smoke. Robotnik barely looked around.

“Feeling… Blue… Doctor?” I said with a wry smile. His egg shape frame sagged as he sighed. A single tear rolled down his orange moustache before finally losing its grip on those coarse bristles and falling to the floor.

“Missing that daily struggle? Is getting what you want more about the journey than the destination? What would you give for a ‘new’ world to conquer Doctor?” I enquired. He seemed to perk up.

“…. anything….” he growled.

I obliged, and conjured a portal leading to the Mushroom Kingdom. His eyes became bright and he rose from his chair. I laid a gentle hand on his shoulder…

“… and Green Hill?” I asked.

“Take it!” he said and leapt in to the mystical doorway.

The Kingdom laid out before me… 

I spent the next few weeks putting my own mark on Green Hill Zone, the odd colossal statue, new religions, that sort of thing before I decided to see how Dr. Robotnik was getting along in Mario’s domain. I caught up with them both locked in an epic battle within which neither were progressing. Robotnik’s weapons seemed to be geared specifically for hedgehog elimination which Mario’s attacks just weren’t the same as Sonic’s spines, so neither party was actually doing any damage. I jumped between the two and raised my hands to cease this fruitless combat. Both Mario and Robotnik looked exhausted and glad of the break.

“Why are you fighting?” I asked before turning to Robotnik “Did you kidnap the Princess Doctor?”

“… of course not!” he blustered, “I have no interest in her!”

I spun around to face Mario.

“So why are you attacking him?” I asked.

Mario opened his mouth, but seemed unable to form a sentence before finally closing his mouth and shrugging his shoulders.

“Come now,” I soothed, “You both have so much in common. Mario, make the good Doctor some of those famous mushrooms that you’re always raving about, and Doctor, why not prepare some of your legendary eggs for Mario here? You both look like you could use a hearty breakfast”

So the unlikely dining companions sat down to share breakfast… then some more breakfast… then yet more breakfast. Mushrooms and eggs were cooked round upon round until Mario was egg shaped and Robotnik was even more egg shaped somehow. In the weeks that followed the two rotund enemies became friends and opened a small breakfast diner. Mario now unable to jump as he once had and the Doctor content that he had found something more fulfilling than world domination. In the midst of this fairy-tale Bowser successfully kidnapped the Princess Peach and stole her away to his fortress. He would have to wait because the next step in my plan was to return to Hyrule.

The economy had crashed, looting was rife, and bands of once peaceful quest giving villagers now roamed in packs looking for anything that even resembled a rupee. Upon teleporting into Hyrule I saw an old man, with no cuccos, wrestling a small boy for a pine-cone. Things had taken a turn for the worse, and Link was overwhelmed just trying to maintain any sort of order, let alone defeating Ganon. I decided to ‘help’ Link out and go and speak to Ganon myself. I found him, unsurprisingly, trapped in Hyrule Castle, contained by Zelda’s power.

“So this is the mighty Ganon?” I announced as I brazenly strolled across an elaborate marble floor toward him.

The being of ultimate destruction looked momentarily sheepish and slightly cramped, pressed up against the ceiling of the great hall as he was. I hopped on to the plinth of a statue that had long since been demolished in an effort to bring myself closer to eye level. He seemed to sense the need for secrecy and drew his fiery, impossibly glowing, face toward mine.

“Ganon…” I said in a half whisper “… this Kingdom is lost… “

He snorted in defiance, but I continued.

“The people are already defeated, the villages burn, the factions divided. Their hero has no time for your evil presence when their own desperation has formed an evil of its own”

That glowing face softened and the flames in his eyes burnt that little bit duller

“… and you?… You are trapped here. Held by a Princess who’s power is equal to your own and threatens to hold you until the end of time itself if no force can be found to break this deadlock”

If it was possible for a being of unimaginable power to look mournful, then I was looking at it.

“… but there is another princess… in another castle… one that you could destroy, one without this power, in a Kingdom that has yet to feel your wrath” I said, gradually increasing the volume of my voice so that it echoed around the vast chamber.

The flames in his eyes burnt brightly and he began to once again throw his weight against that magical prison.

“Here!” I yelled, opening a portal to the Mushroom Kingdom in the centre of the room. Ganon tore through the mystical doorway, passing into that other dimension leaving only the crackle of electricity and a faint burning smell. Nonchalantly I hopped through after him to survey the havoc I had unleashed.

this.. this picture isn’t relevant… I just really like it… 

The Mushroom Kingdom was ill-prepared for the destroyer of worlds to suddenly materialise on a calm sunny day. Arguably the least prepared resident was Bowser who typically only had the occasional scrap with a troublesome Plumber, but was suddenly presented with an entity of unimaginable power. It caught him off guard and he barely managed to let out a single fireball before being obliterated. Princess Peach was immediately imprisoned in a cage of pure energy, and I found Mario and Dr. Robotnik cowering under the counter of their breakfast diner… the two of them now barely indistinguishable from each other apart from the colour of their moustaches. I casually propped myself up against the counter and majestically hit the service bell.

“We’re closed!” came a duo of voices from under the counter.

I tapped the bell again. Slowly the face of a visibly shaken Mario appeared from the other side of the counter.

“Oh, it’s-a-you” he said.

“Come on Mario!” I implored, “The Princess has been kidnapped! Arn’t you going to rescue her?”

For a second it looked as though I’d miscalculated. Mario heaved himself on to the top of the counter and made a pitiful exploratory jump but barely managed to get airborne.

“It’s-a-no-good,” he sighed, “I’ve-a-had-too much breakfast, all those eggs and mushrooms have made-a-me nimble as a goomba”

I leaned in closer and a smile slithered across my face.

“What if I told you I could summon a hero here? One with the Master Sword that can defeat Ganon?” I paused. “For a price of course…”

“What-a-do-you want?”

“The coins,” I answered, “All of the coins”

Mario’s face dropped and he fell to his knees.

“It’s a deal…” he mumbled.

Reluctantly Mario instructed me on how to find his stockpile of coins, all the coins he’d ever collected in the Mushroom Kingdom, an impossible amount of coins. Dramatically I opened a portal and as I returned to Hyrule with the vast wealth of the Mushroom Kingdom I shouted back through the closing gateway to Mario and Robotnik that I would return soon with their saviour.

I found Link and Zelda in Hyrule Castle, reunited in less than triumphant circumstances. Ganon was gone, but the Kingdom still suffered. They both looked up as my bold footsteps made their way across the Throneroom to them.

“Cheer up,” I announced jovially, “Ganon is gone! Why so glum?”

“The Kingdom is in financial ruin, all is lost” replied Zelda in a voice that quivered slightly as she spoke.

“Might I suggest, a prolonged campaign of quantitative easing” I said flicking a single gold coin from the Mushroom Kingdom to the disheartened princess.

She caught the coin and turned it over in her fingers before her eyes snapped back to me.

“At what cost” she said mechanically.

Casually I caressed the golden throne.

“I would need to sit here,” I replied, “Don’t worry, I’d rule with an even hand and the people would once again be content.

The troubled look on Zelda’s face turned to despair, then finally to resignation.

“… agreed…” she muttered.

Soon the Hyrule economy was flourishing once again. The Mushroom Kingdom coins substituted the ‘lost’ rupees and the people returned to their pointless quest giving. I allowed Zelda a position as my adviser, and Link maintained his hero-ing. The princess even presented me with some… triangles… in a ceremonial transition of power. As promised I ruled in a mostly fair way, ordering the citizens to erect a few colossal monuments in my honour and implementing a new rule where they could only speak in Haikus on Thursdays.

Two Kingdoms conquered, only the Mushroom Kingdom remained. I summoned Link to my chamber and ordered him to come with me. He was to destroy Ganon as he was always fated to do; just not here. We passed through the portal to the Mushroom Kingdom and in an effort to save time I took Link immediately to the former Castle of Bowser where Ganon had taken up residence.

Their battle was epic. The blade of the Master Sword cut and thrust, Ganon regenerated through several forms, Link took short breaks to eat pre-prepared meals, but finally he triumphed and Ganon disappeared into the ether. The cage of energy around Princess Peach disappeared and tentatively she stepped toward Link, their hands automatically stretching out to each other, the ingrained behaviour of Hero and Princess about to play out once more.

“Wait!” I cried, stepping from the shadows, their fingertips pausing just a few inches apart.

I marched toward the pair, stopped, and pivoted to face the Princess Peach.

“Why Princess? Why would you go with him?” I asked.

“He… he saved me,” she replied, “.. that’s … that’s how it’s supposed to go…”

“… and then you’ll get kidnapped again!” I interjected, rolling my eyes, “… and he… or some other hero… will save you again, and again, and again. How many times has this happened? How many times do you need to be kidnapped before you break this cycle?”

She stepped back and looked at Link, blinking slowly as though she had just woken up. I stretched out my hand toward her.

“Come with me Princess,” I said, “I have already conquered the worlds of Hyrule and Green Hill. I have single handedly toppled and rebuilt the Hyrule economy. I have incapacitated Sonic and Mario using their own unflinching drives against them and reformed Dr. Robotnik. The Princess Zelda answers to me and Link must obey my command. I have unleased the greatest evil ever known on this land, which defeated Bowser, then brought you redemption.”

I paused for breath.

“Don’t get kidnapped again Princess and don’t wait for someone to come and rescue you. Rule these three lands with me”

That bemused empty expression on her face dissolved to reveal a dark smirk. Her hand reached past Link’s and took mine. I smiled and with the other hand began to open a portal.

“Good choice. Where would you like to go first Princess?”



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