Woe to the One who Deals with Sloth
For Kristykimmy, whose randomness always manages to make me smile and inspire me.
I shouldn't have looked out the window that day.
Bluejay had asked me to draw the curtains and open the windows so that he could go out for a fly, and there certainly wasn't anything unusual in that. It was a simple favor, and one I was not unwilling to grant. As I pulled the curtains back, I screamed, and so did my beloved Pteri boy.
The Spinacles Mask in my window was more foreboding and terrifying than the fiercest-looking rain cloud.
I pulled the curtains back over the window, more for Bluejay's sake than for mine, but I could still see the silhouette of Dr. Frank Sloth outside my window--and the silhouette of that stupid mask.
I sighed and trudged my way to the door. Disaster didn't like to leave me alone, did it?
"Kristy, no, don't get it!" Bluejay pleaded. "You don't know who that creep could be!"
If only you knew, Bluejay... I thought.
"If I don't, he's going to blast a hole in the house and come in anyway," I pointed out. "It's not like I have a choice," I admitted, thinking guiltily of the time Sloth had forced me to go to a dance with him and to pick out earrings for Jhudora with him. I shuddered. Then, he'd used my children as perfectly good reasons for doing those horrid favors for him, and I didn't doubt that he'd do it again.
I opened the door and was assaulted by the silly grin of the mask and Dr. Sloth's ominous robe. It was quite an eerie combination.
"Let me guess, you need my help again?" I butted in before he could even introduce himself with that tiresome maniacal laugh of his.
"I'm in no mood for your games, Ms. Kimmy," he growled. "What you say is true, yes, but I need a neutral party--someone who's neither hero nor villain for this."
"For what?" I asked before I could stop myself, mentally swearing as soon as the words left my lips.
To my surprise, Sloth looked somewhat bashful behind the mask. I could tell by the fringe on top of his head--it drooped slightly. Combined with the Spinacles mask, he looked absolutely pathetic. I giggled.
His fringe shot straight up. "Is Bluejay home?" I could hear the evil grin in his voice.
My laugh dissolved into a half-whimper.
"Jhudora and I are having a bit of a disagreement," Sloth said with uncharacteristic diplomacy and an air of exuberant formality. I blinked, not used to such a non-threatening tone coming from Sloth. "Before we blast each other to oblivion, thus resulting in fewer beings to combat those goody-two-shoe heroes, I need you to step in if things come to blows, or look like they're going to. Do this, and you and your children go unharmed, and you get some sort of recompense from Jhudora."
"Oh, Borovan, I should have known." I blew a strand of hair out of my eyes. "What kind of recompense?"
This time, the savage grin on Sloth's face stuck out from behind the mask, which was even scarier than the mask itself. "You'll see soon enough."
I backed away into the safety of my neohome. "Believe me, I'm no peacekeeper. What about one of your minions?"
"Too one-sided, Jhudora said." Sloth folded his arms.
"Gets too sugar-high too often to pay attention to anything."
My mind raced for another possibility. "Have your talk in front of the Money Tree?"
"And expose us to the Defenders and other heroes?! Hah!" I could feel the heat of his glare through the Spinacles mask.
I sighed. "Let's just get this over with."
"Good! Get in the ship." Dr. Sloth jerked his thumb behind him, pointing to a rickety-looking spaceship that didn't look at all safe to ride in.
"I daresay you really should invest in better equipment," I murmured, stroking a loose rivet. "If I die today, will you tell my kids I love them?" I asked, hoping for once that Sloth would be decent enough to do me a favor.
"There's been a conflict of interest, you see, but I'll spare you the rest of the details." Dr. Sloth continued to drive the spaceship towards Faerieland.
I said nothing and continued to stare out the window. The interior of the spaceship was downright disgusting what with its panels caked with grease and dirt, and trash littering the floor. I'm an evil genius; my minions should have cleaned this up ages ago, but they're wise enough not to venture into my quarters unless I say so! Sloth had almost proudly boomed this, perhaps hoping to impress me. I suppressed a snort and merely nodded, hoping we'd be out of the smelly ship soon.
I saw the lush, pink landscape of Faerieland, and for a moment I couldn't help but feel cheered up at such a lovely sight. All of those lilac trees and buildings arranged in a very careful manner—a far cry from what it used to be in the sky, but still very pleasant to look at.
My heart sank right away, however, as we passed all that and made a Springabeeline for a bluff partially shrouded in green and purple smoke. How foolish of me to think that my happiness around Sloth would last more than a few seconds.
"Say, Frank, why do we have to go to Jhudora's place? Can't she just come over to Virtupets?" I asked, mildly curious.
Sloth scoffed, apparently miffed because I called him by his first name. To my surprise, he didn't say anything about it but instead answered my question. "She detests this spaceship and refused to come to my lair. Said that my ego was too large for her to fit anywhere in there. Besides," Sloth gave me a knowing scowl. "The offending party must go to the offended for any villain disputes. Jhudora probably thinks I stole her lollipops again."
I stared at him in disbelief. "Did you?" Another inquiry bubbled up inside me that I couldn't keep down. "Apart from the theft you seem to be very gentlemanly about the whole thing. I haven't seen that since, what, Valentine's Day?"
Ignoring the remark, Sloth snarled, "Not this time! Last time it was an urgent matter of bribing Alien Aishas! This time is worse. Much worse."
I was sorry I'd asked.
We landed right at the gates in front of Sarah and Daisy, two oddly-coloured Gruslens who growled at us as we approached.
As much as I didn't want to do so, I hid behind Sloth. "I'm a neutral party! I'm not here to hurt your master!"
That seemed to pacify them a little, but I hovered a few paces away. From my past experiences with Sarah and Daisy, I learned to be wary of them.
Jhudora herself came gliding out. "Ah, it's you." She narrowed her eyes and appeared to be biting the inside of her cheek so hard I wouldn't be surprised if it drew blood.
"Well, come on in," she said gruffly, and led Sloth and me to a rough stone-hewn table. Sloth sat on one side, Jhudora on another, and I searched for a seat in the middle. Of course I had to stand. Typical Jhudora.
Silence reigned over us for several seconds. I glanced uneasily at Sarah and Daisy towards the entrance. The two of them appeared to be sleeping peacefully, only to be awakened by unwanted visitors.
"Nice place you have here," Sloth said awkwardly and flatly, attempting to recreate the diplomacy he'd had upon taking me to Jhudora's. I looked at him. Did he really have this much trouble talking to Jhudora? Or was it the situation in general.
"Oh, cut the chatter," Jhudora hissed, clearly in no mood for Sloth's attempt at gentility. "I know you slipped some ray guns into my supply of prizes, knowing I'd give them out without looking at them closely! One of my questers even had the gall to complain that he thought he should have gotten a Bartamus instead, and I turned him into a Mortog. Upon closer inspection of what used to be in his arms and how many quests he did, I grudgingly realized he was right!"
Jhudora unfurled her massive, ominous wings. "Now what the Shadow Usul did you mean by that?!"
Sloth chuckled. "Dear Jhudora, how you are upset so easily by trivial things. The Mortog you created may be of better use to you than he was as a Neopet. Besides, I thought you could use more variety in your rewards, since your legendary wand proves nigh impossible for many a quester. I was merely helping you by helping them."
There it was. There was the smoothness in his voice, the charisma, the lull he instilled into his victims convincing them that all was well.
Jhudora would have none of it. "Oh, for Neovia's sake, did you think I'd really need that? If I wanted to change up my quest items, I would have done it myself! You obviously had another plan in mind! What was it?"
"It's classified. Surely you of all Faeries know that?" Sloth grinned a sickly, white grin.
I surreptitiously looked around Jhudora's bluff, wondering if there was any popcorn around. All I had to do was sit here and do nothing!
"Kimmy," Jhudora barked, ignoring Sloth completely.
I thought too soon.
"What do you suggest?"
I gulped. If only one or neither of these villains were satisfied by my suggestion, things would get very ugly, very fast!
"We're waiting." This time it was Sloth who was staring me down.
I took a deep breath and made up my solution as I went along. "Keep only one ray gun in the pile of prizes so it'll act as a bonus reward? This way Sloth gets to infiltrate your bluff or wherever the quester wants to go, and your questers leave happier, and you get to manipulate your questers too?" The end of my suggestion had probably too much evidence of a question.
Sloth and Jhudora entered a deadly silence, and I buried my head in my arms for cover. I ducked down under the table, hiding from the inevitable blasting. I could just picture spheres of purple, green and orange energy flying over my head, resulting in the destruction of either villain. The Meepits would want me to write about that, and I'd have to write myself into the dungeons! What's more, I would sort of miss them, as much as I didn't want to admit it.
"That sounds like an...interesting idea, Kimmy." Jhudora tented her fingernails, the light clicks sounding very much like the warning hiss of a Cobrall. "Frank?"
"If I may be," Sloth said, not missing the unusual opportunity for the pun, "It works. I have several underlings who are far more qualified to handle ray guns than your questers."
Jhudora bristled. "Are you saying I don't choose worthy Neopians to do my bidding?!" she screeched.
"Oh, Borovan," I mumbled.
"What did you say?!"
It was a long time before I got home again. Walking and hitching rides from fellow journalists wasn't easy, especially when they asked who I worked for.
Night settled on Neopia Central, and I was glad for the peace at last. Sloth and Jhudora bickered like children in Neoschool for a few hours more, but eventually went with what I'd suggested.
I flopped into bed. Frankly, I didn't care what happened to them anymore.
Wait...did I just?
I slapped my forehead and groaned silently into my pillow, swearing that I would never use the word 'frank' again. It'd take all my willpower to forget this ever happened, but by Fyora, I would do it...