Sloth awoke. The sun was high in the sky, shining directly into his eyes. He groaned and sat up, looking around him. Where was he? Where was this strange world that he was sitting on?
He looked down at the ground. He was sitting on grass. Sloth had never cared for grass. He didn’t like living things that didn’t respect him.
Slowly, he raised a hand to his face and touched his features. Two eyes, a nose, a mouth – all as expected. Both arms were present, both legs fully functional. In short, he seemed to be completely intact. He began to smile. Those fools thought that they could stop me by imprisoning me in that amulet! I’ll show them! It’ll take more than that to get rid of Dr Frank Sloth!
He started to absorb his surroundings. He was sitting in what seemed to be a fairly empty field. Around him were a lot more empty fields, with the occasional tree or bush breaking the otherwise-featureless landscape. There was no sign of life.
A flash of pure white light appeared from the sky, and, a second later, two Grundos in white coats were standing in front of him. One was holding a clipboard.
Sloth smiled. Victims.
“Cower before me, your lord and king!” he said, in his most grandiose voice.
One of the Grundos made a note on his clipboard.
“Good to see you, Frank,” said the other.
“Frank?” echoed Sloth. “Nobody calls me Frank! You shall call me Dr Sloth! Or possibly Lord King Sloth. I like that – it has a ring to it.”
“Very well, Lord King Sloth,” said the clipboard-less Grundo. “My name is Dr Foster, and this is Dr Cahier. We are here to start your reintegration course.”
“You can’t be doctors!” said Sloth, angrily. “I’m the only doctor around here! And what’s all this rubbish about a reintegration course? I don’t need one of them. I’m the ruler of the known universe!”
“Of course you are,” said Dr Cahier in a soothing tone, making another note on his clipboard.
“And incidentally,” said Sloth, “where did you get that fancy teleportation device?”
“Virtupets prototype,” said Dr Foster. “We found them in the Space Station. They were in the drawer marked ‘Fancy Teleportation Devices’.”
Sloth had seen that drawer before. He had always wondered what it contained.
Dr Foster leaned across to Dr Cahier.
“I told you this would happen,” he said quietly, and Sloth could barely make out the words. “I knew he’d wake up before he was found.” To Sloth, he said, “Unfortunately, the sedative we gave you wasn’t strong enough. You were supposed to be out for at least another hour.”
Dr Cahier reached into a coat pocket, and produced a needle. Holding it in one hand, he began to advance on Sloth. Instinctively, Sloth reached for his stun gun. It wasn’t there.
“Stay away from me!” he shouted at the approaching doctor. “I am your lord and master, and I command you to stop!”
Dr Cahier ignored him.
“Don’t worry,” said Dr Foster, in the voice he reserved for his most reluctant guests – generally children. “It’s a routine injection. All rulers of the known universe have it done.”
Sloth considered this for a moment, then stuck his arm out.
“Well, if everybody else does...” he said. Dr Cahier gave him the injection, and stepped back again.
“Well done!” said Dr Foster. “Who’s been a brave malevolent and domineering ruler?”
Sloth grinned – a lopsided, slightly confused grin.
“Fools!” he said, drowsily. “You have given me exactly what I required! Now I can take over Neopia!”
...but maybe I should have a little sleep first...
Sloth fell to the floor, snoring.
Dr Foster turned to Dr Cahier.
“Did you put the amnesia potion in there as well?” he asked.
Dr Cahier nodded.
“Can’t have him remembering all of this, can we?” he said.
“No,” said Dr Foster. He looked at the sleeping Sloth. “This should be interesting.”
He produced a device from his coat, and pushed a button on it. A second later, the two were engulfed in the bright light, and they vanished, leaving Sloth to dream peacefully of world domination in the mud.
* * *
Sloth awoke, groaned, and had a strange sense of déjà vu. He ignored it. Petty tricks of the mind were no concern for him.
He looked up. A concerned Yurble was leaning over him.
“Come over here!” he shouted to somebody in the distance. “I’ve found somebody!”
Sloth scoffed silently. Somebody... He was more than somebody.
There was the sound of approaching footsteps, and a Blue Techo appeared into Sloth’s view.
“Can... you... understand... me?” he said, slowly, loudly and clearly.
“Yes,” said Sloth, “and I think you should be a bit more respectful to...”
“Right. You’re our prisoner now, then,” said the Techo.
Sloth was taken aback.
“No, no, I think you’ve got confused,” he said. “See, that’s what I say. I’m the one that takes you all prisoner and makes all your lives miserable. Although I can see where the misunderstanding came from.”
The Yurble hit Sloth around the head. Hard.
“Do not be disrespectful!” he said, as Sloth felt consciousness slip away from him again. “That’s the Elder you’re talking to there!”
Sloth’s head fell back again. Can’t I spend more than a couple of minutes awake? was his final thought, before blackness swallowed him again...
* * *
For a change, Sloth awoke. He wondered for a second what had hit him, before he remembered it was that darn Yurble.
He was now inside some sort of wooden hut. The blaze of the sun outside was clear, but he was in the shade at the moment, and it was a lot cooler inside than out.
The Yurble from earlier was inside the hut with him.
“Good to see you’re awake,” he said, although it didn’t sound genuine. “Now, the Elder has offered you two choices. Either you can stay here and help us, or you can be released into the wild...”
“I’d like to be released into the wild, please,” said Sloth.
“...with a pack of hungry Lupes chasing you.”
“I’d like to stay and help you, please,” said Sloth.
“The Elder thought you might make that decision,” said the Yurble. “He has granted you an audience. Come with me.”
The Yurble led Sloth out into the sunlight. He had no idea how far he had travelled from the place where he had woken, but he now found himself in a primitive village. Scattered around the area were a dozen or so huts, similar to the one he had just left. They were of varying shapes and sizes, all made of mud and uneven pieces of wood. The roofs were covered with leaves – clearly this was an area that did not get a lot of rainfall.
It was to the largest hut that the Yurble now directed him to. Sloth stepped inside.
The Elder’s home was sparsely decorated. On shelves around the walls were various custom-made ornaments. Some had been carved out of wood. Others had been sculpted from mud. Some were merely interestingly-shaped pebbles.
The Elder was seated on a wooden block in the middle of the room. As Sloth entered, the Techo smiled at him, and gestured towards another block. Tentatively, Sloth took it.
“Welcome to our village,” said the Elder, beaming at him. “I must apologise for being unnecessarily rude to you earlier – I did not know whether you came from one of the other tribes around here.”
Of course I don’t come from around here! Sloth’s brain instructed him to say. I have come to destroy your puny excuse for a civilisation. I have military might and weapons that you can only dream of. Soon, you will all bow before me!
“Understandable,” he found himself saying instead.
“I hear that you are interested in joining our tribe, is that correct?”
No! screamed his brain. “Yes,” said his mouth. His brain made a mental note to have a word with the other important parts of the body later, and remind them who was in charge.
The Elder smiled.
“Very well!” he said. “We need some additional firewood. You can go with Wagg – he’s the Yurble. I think you’ve met before.”
“We... bumped into each other, yes.”
“He’ll look after you, and make sure you know what you’re doing.”
Sloth nodded, and stood up, as if to leave.
“Wait!” said the Elder. “You haven’t told me your name.”
Sloth thought for a second. I could say I’m Dr Sloth, he pondered, but I think it would be better to remain incognito. Just for the moment. Then, at the right time, I’ll reveal myself in my full glory.
“You can call me... Frank,” Sloth said.
“Frank, then. Go and chop firewood, Frank.”
Sloth left the hut. The fool, he thought. He did not even realise that his doom approaches.
The Yurble, Wagg, met him outside. He was carrying two axes, and he gave one to Sloth.
“Here,” he said, and Sloth gingerly took the weapon, examining it carefully.
“Strange,” he murmured to himself. “And how does it work?”
“The other way around, for a start,” said Wagg, and Sloth turned the axe around hurriedly.
“So, you hold the long, thin end, and you attack with the short, fat end,” mused Sloth. “How unusual.”
“Come,” said Wagg. “Let’s go and chop firewood!”
* * *
“What are you doing?”
Wagg strode angrily into the glade where Sloth stood.
“Why haven’t you cut down any trees yet?” he demanded. “You’ve been here an hour.”
Sloth threw the axe on the ground.
“It’s broken,” he complained. “There’s no hole for the bullets to come out of, and I can’t find the trigger. I tried just pointing it at some trees, and it didn’t work.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Wagg, lifting the axe. “You don’t shoot with it. You use it like this.” He pulled the axe behind his shoulder, and brought it down in one quick, sharp swipe, digging a notch into the nearest tree, before pulling the axe out. “Like that. Happy now?”
“You... hit things with it?”
“How odd. And you call this complex piece of machinery an... axe?”
“Yes!” Wagg threw the axe back to Sloth, who tried to catch it, and missed by a good foot. “Now cut down some trees!”
Wagg left the clearing, and Sloth smiled to himself.
He just revealed the secret of how to work their most intricate weaponry, he thought. And now I, too, can use their axes! Bet they didn’t think of that.
He picked up the axe carefully (taking extra care to hold the right end – something he was getting very good at), and faced the tree that Wagg had started on.
“So you raise it above your head... like so...” he muttered to himself, “...and then... you lower it quickly!”
He brought the axe down quickly. It slipped out of his grasp halfway down, and flew out of his hands, embedding itself in a completely different tree, fifteen feet away.
Sloth nodded, satisfied. I’m getting the hang of this! he thought. Soon, this whole village will be mine!
* * *
“So, in six hours, what did you produce?”
The Elder’s eyes glistened menacingly as Sloth proudly held out the solitary twig that a flailing axe had accidentally severed.
“I must be frank with you, Frank. That’s not good.”
I don’t care what you think! thought Sloth. I’m not here to be judged by you. I know the secret of your axes, even though I’ve never used an axe before, and I will use it to destroy you all! And mouth, remember what we discussed about using the words that I suggest.
“I care what you think,” said Sloth. “I’ve never used an axe before.” Possibly I should have emphasised the importance of keeping them in the same order as well.
The Elder seemed to relent.
“Well, you’re new to these parts,” he said. “You probably haven’t had much experience of using weapons.”
“No...” said Sloth, slowly.
“No matter,” said the Elder. “There’s other work to be done around here. Construction, for example. With your arrival, we need another hut on the south side of the village. That doesn’t involve any weapons at all. Do you think you could do building?”
“I have built empires before!” said Sloth. “I can build a hut.”
“Excellent,” the Techo said, beaming at him. “I’ll leave you to it, then.”
“Yes,” said Sloth. “Leave it to me. See what I can... produce.”
* * *
The following evening, the Elder left his hut, and made his way south, to the patch of land that had been allocated for Frank’s new hut. As he neared, he started to squint at the distance. Surely what he was looking at couldn’t be right?
It was. Sitting on the southern embankment, overlooking the fields, was a statue of Sloth – thirty feet high, and perfect in every detail, down to the axe sheathed in his belt – which, the Elder noticed, had been put in the wrong way round, and, had the figure been real, he would have been removing an axe head from his thigh.
Sloth was standing next to it, beaming proudly.
“Is this the hut?” asked the Elder.
“Yes!” said Sloth. “Well, it started as a hut. But huts are boring. Large wooden statues of your lord and leader are far more interesting. Anyway, it performs all the functions that a normal hut does. Apart from the going-inside-it part, obviously.”
“And you intend to live here?”
“Oh no. You all worship me here. I live in one of the other huts.”
The Elder smiled at him.
“I think I have the perfect job for you.”
* * *
A great feast was starting. Today was an important day in the life of the village; a celebration of the forests nearby. The Woodland Festival was a highlight in the year, and, since there was no official calendar, occurred whenever somebody remembered. The exact details of the celebration were a little hazy in everybody’s memory, but they all seemed to agree on the idea that they should think about trees for a bit, and then eat a lot.
This year was no exception. This year, a collection of fruits from the nearby vines had been used in an endless, delicious selection of salads, pies and tarts, all meticulously prepared and beautifully prepared.
In one of the huts tucked away in the suburbs of the village (in fact, the hut was the suburb of the village), Sloth hummed merrily to himself as he carved out another pastry shape, to form the basis for his Aquaberry Pastry.
The pasty was in the shape of his face.
Another inhabitant of the village, a small Xweetok, came into the hut.
“I’ve got the Ubikiberries for your Wild Fruit Selection, the Aquaberries you asked for, and I dug up some fresh Slorgs for the Mortogberry Surprise. Is that all you needed, Frank?”
“For now, Thorg. You are dismissed.”
The Xweetok deposited his collections, and left the tent to join in the celebrations. Sloth was left alone in the kitchen.
He smiled to himself. Soon, he told himself, this whole kitchen will be mine!
And from there, Neopia would follow.
He chuckled, and rolled out some more dough.
* * *
From the Space Station, Dr Foster moved away from the telescope.
“He seems to have settled now,” he said to Dr Cahier. “All the same, we’ll keep monitoring him for the next few months before we declare his reintegration into Neopian society complete.”
Behind them, a nervous trainee doctor stood, observing the two doctors at work.
“Is that because there’s a chance of a relapse due to a strong external stimulus?” he asked.
Dr Foster snorted.
“No,” he said. “It’s because it’s ridiculously entertaining to watch.”
Thank you for reading! :)