Revolution Undercloud: Part Nine
“I hate this,” Larry said thickly. He was much calmer now. For a crazy, wild second, Cipher thought that Larry had seen them and was now talking to them. It soon came apparent, however, that the newly pirate Lenny was talking to himself.
Larry looked dreadful. There were giant purple bags under his eyes and he was all skin and feathers. He simply looked dead on his feet.
With a sudden roar, he smashed the empty potion bottle on the floor. Sinking to the ground, he groaned and hid his face in his hands. The otherwise quiet room shook slightly.
Skye still had a wide-eyed expression. Cipher was sure he didn’t look much better. What was going on? Why did Larry have to drink a morphing potion, a Lenny one no less? And what was that strange flash of dark green..? The question swirled around his head without answers.
There was a second bang, and the door was slammed open. This time, however, the impact was so hard that several potions did fall from the shelf. The room was quickly filled with a strange smell of rot.
Skye jumped so hard that Cipher feared for their safety. She clutched a hand to her heart, and Cipher could tell she was experiencing the same racing heart that he was.
Heavy boot sounds filed into the room. Cipher closed his eyes and tried to make himself smaller. Beside him, he heard Skye’s sudden drawing of breath. Her grip on his arm tightened painfully.
“Larry,” the voice, sharp and cruel, barked. Cipher’s eyes snapped open. He knew that voice.
There was a flurry of movement and feathers. “Master!” gasped the Lenny. He was pale and shaking all over, eyes wide and fearful.
No, no, no, Cipher chanted to himself. It couldn’t be... Skye was trembling, and he forced himself to look.
“What are you doing here, you useless fool?” But it was. In the flesh. Sloth was here, in the Undercloud, and Larry had just called him ‘Master’.
What in Neopia was going on?!
“I-I I was just r-renewing the spell!” Larry stammered. He wasn’t acting like the arrogant Lenny that Cipher knew at all. “It’s not affecting me properly...” he added in a small voice.
Sloth’s voice was dripping with darkness and anger. “You question my potion making powers!”
“No, no!” the bird argued feebly. “I’m transforming back. Much too fast. And the pain it causes...” he winced.
Sloth had crossed the distance between himself and the Lenny in two giant steps, and in a mighty slap, sent the Lenny sprawling into the wall.
Cipher had never seen Sloth so uncontrolled and malicious before. Not that he ever doubted that Sloth could, but seeing it firsthand chilled his blood.
Ignoring Larry’s soft cries, Sloth’s eyes glittered with malice. “The Shoyru is missing,” he said, voice scarily soft. “The Hissi is out of his cell. And where is the Lenny? Not doing his job! Get on your feet, you fool. Any minute, they’ll be at the potion. The addition of the dark nova will complete it, and you need to stabilize it!” He bellowed this last bit so hard that more potions fell.
Larry struggled to his feet. “Y-yes, sir!”
Cipher dimly noticed that Skye was fuming. Before he could warn her not to do anything rash, she took a fatal step backward. Her foot stepped on a potion (that was miraculously not shattered) that had rolled behind them. With a shrill yell, she slipped and fell with a loud crash that left Cipher’s head ringing. Any hope to stay unnoticed was gone.
The talking between Sloth and Larry stopped.
There was a heated flash of light, and when Cipher opened his nearly blinded eyes, the shelf that they had been hiding behind was gone. Incinerated. Evaporated. With a single shot from Sloth’s still steaming blaster, they were in plain sight.
Cipher rolled to the side hastily, expecting another flash of light to obliterate him, but there was nothing. Skye had risen to her feet, and there was a red flush on her cheeks.
“Sloth!” she snarled, her small fist shaking at him. “You’re a scam, a fraud...” she couldn’t seem to find the words. “Cipher actually trusted you!”
Cipher realized with a jolt that he did. He had let himself be lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that Sloth was really on his side. How could he be so stupid?
Sloth threw his head back and laughed. “Muahaha! I guess my plan is now revealed. No matter, really.” There was an air of smugness around him, a certain arrogant satisfaction that set Cipher’s teeth grinding. “I orchestrated this entire setup. The Undercloud? It’s my creation. Isn’t it a beautiful place?”
“It’s uglier than YOU! And that’s saying something!” Skye yelled back.
“The Lennies. Aren’t they making a potion to defeat the Grundos?” Cipher’s hard voice was strained.
The sneer on Sloth’s face said it all. “Fool. There are no Lennies. All of them are really my Grundos in disguise.” Even as he said it, Larry’s appearance was changing. He turned green again, and this time, stayed green. As the transformation took place, a sad mutant Grundo was in Larry’s place.
Skye gasped audibly.
“Those morphing potions,” Cipher asked. He was stalling for time. In the corner of his eye, he had seen his dark nova inching along the floor discreetly. He had motioned for it to attack Sloth. He had to keep Sloth’s attention diverted until the dark nova was close enough to dispatch him. “Why don’t they work? Why doesn’t Larry stay a Lenny?” As far as he knew, all villains enjoy a time to monologue. Sloth was no exception.
“You think I had the funds to get real morphing potions? No, these are again, imitations of the real thing. Just like the Rainbow Pool. In a few hours, your shadow paint will also disappear. I’m a genius, aren’t I?” He laughed again.
“What, did you prepare for us to find out?” Cipher growled.
“Certainly I had planned differently. But the same things are going to happen. The vision from the crystal ball was a fake. The real ingredient for the potion is actually the dark nova. The potion will increase the strength of my Grundos to enormous extents.” He had an ugly, happy look on his face. “Strong enough to take over Neopia!”
Cipher and Skye both recoiled. This was another world domination plan?
Sloth continued, clearly enjoying the explanation. “My plan was this: get you to finish the potion, think you had the Lennies defeated, go to the Faerie Queen in tears of self-righteous anger about the situation with the Grundos-” At Cipher’s surprised flinch, Sloth giggled. Actually giggled. “Yes, I predicted that you would hate my manipulation of the Grundos. I needed someone who could lie to the Faerie Council, and once they come to investigate...” There was an absurdly gleeful expression on his face. He made a snapping motion with his hand. “The trap will close. This isn’t an ordinary Cloud, oh no. I designed the Undercloud to be the ultimate faerie trap! The Undercloud is the pinnacle of my genius, an invention so astounding that I amaze even myself. A beautiful work of the newest technological advances. Something that prevents magic, and actually destroys it. Ten days in the Undercloud, and their magic will be obliterated. There goes the Faerie Council and there goes the only authority over Neopia that I have to defeat. Domination is child’s play after that! It didn’t exactly go my way, but the potion can still be completed, by real Lennies, you actually already messaged the Faerie Queen- oh yes I saw that Kazeriu, and the Faeries are coming as we speak!”
“What did you need us for then?” Cipher exploded furiously. “Why did you drag us, out of everyone in Neopia, to do this? You could have done your plan without using us!”
Sloth gave a fake long-suffering sigh. “Cipher, Cipher. You don’t understand. The potion can only be completed by someone who is innocent in nature. Neither I nor my Grundos nor the dastardly Lennies fit that description. Thus, I needed a way to blackmail a winged creature who was easy to manipulate into doing it for me. Furthermore, the Faerie Queen can detect ill-intent and lies. If I led you to believe that you were telling the truth, she could come here immediately to stop the 'injustice'. Hehehe... the Faerie Queen won’t give up the chance to catch old Sloth! I was the perfect bait. So you see, it’s a very complicated plan, one that needed a puppet for me to control. There was no way to lure the faeries here otherwise. None at all.”
Skye tried frantically to summon her Kazeriu, but nothing happened. He must have already flown into the range of wards around the Faerie Castle.
Cipher felt dread sneak into his belly. What had he done? It all made horrible sense. Sloth’s real goal was bigger: A mastermind plan to take over the world. Starting with this group of Lennies that would wreak some havoc in the world, Sloth would catch the attention of the entire faerie council. As they began to investigate (after all, Sloth himself was the bait), the Undercloud was designed as a trap- one to overthrow the reign of the faeries. The reason why Sloth needed Cipher and Skye was because he needed two genuine neopets- two that would be thinking that they were telling the truth to the entire council (through their petpet in this case)- for both Sloth and the Lennies could be caught lying. The reason why it was specifically Skye and Cipher was that he needed two winged pets (so they could fly to Faerieland)- ones that were fast friends, so they were easy to manipulate. The potion could be completed by someone else, probably one of the real Lennies that were fooled or brainwashed into joining. Like the Lenny that Cipher had fought earlier.
It made perfect, terrible sense.
Skye, you were right about Sloth; he’s the real villain!
To be continued...