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Week 449
You are on Week 450
Week 451

Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...

We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!

Story Four Hundred Fifty Ends Friday, March 5th

Dear Dr. Sloth,

Thank you so much for sending me your new book, How to Take Over Planets and Bend Grundos to Your Will. I've found it makes an excellent liner for my precious Gruslens' litter pans. Daisy seemed to especially enjoy the chapter entitled "Knowing Me, Knowing My Clone".

I can't imagine how much research you must have done on the subject of world conquest, since, as far as I know, you have no actual experience. Unless perhaps you were writing a how-not-to instead of a how-to guide?

I wanted to thank you particularly for mentioning me in the chapter entitled "Pretenders, Has-Beens, and the Inept: Neopians You'll Have to Push Aside on Your Way to Global Domination". As you well know, I am a master of subtlety, Sloth. But you probably don't even know what that word means, since you show so little of it. Look it up in your Unabridged Dictionary, my dear Doctor.

What baffles me the most, however, is who the intended audience for this book is. I only know one self-important, pompous megalomaniac, and that's the author.

But I do go on, don't I? Congratulations again on the book, Slothy. I have an idea for the second edition, though. Why not come to my Cloud and let me mentor you in the true ways of darkness and nefarious scheming for a week or two? That would be a guaranteed best-seller.

Well, let me know.

Venomously yours, Jhudora

With an angry hiss, Dr. Frank Sloth crumpled the sheet of purple paper in his vile, green hands. "Self-important, am I? Need her mentoring, do I? Well, I'll show her! I'll show everyone!" And with that, he took out a piece of paper and began to write...

Editor's Note: This Storytelling beginning was written from a suggestion by Larkspurlane. If you have suggestions for future Storytelling beginnings, please send them in!

Author: *Thinks they should have a hotdog-eating contest and be done with it*
Date: Feb 26th
Dear Jhudora,

I am, as always, thrilled to hear from you. Thank you for your kind offer, but I regret to inform you that I won't be able to come visit your cloud, since I'll be busy all month fine-tuning my death ray. I understand that some villains have the time to entertain houseguests, but I'm afraid that I don't have that luxury, what with the world domination and all.

Speaking of which, how's that coming along for you? As far as I can remember, I haven't heard news of any of your attempts, successful or otherwise, in the last... well, ever. But I'm sure you're hard at work on it. While I've been launching full-scale invasions and creating an unstoppable army, I'm certain that you've been doing equally-villainous things. I mean, I trust that you're at least doing something more with your life than just giving out quests to dim-witted Neopians. Because if that was all you were doing, well... that would just be sad.

Not to say that your quests aren't worthwhile. Asking Neopets to fetch you plushies and keychains? I wish I had thought of that! With their help, your Usuki collection must be almost complete! You must be the envy of collectors of useless junk everywhere.

Oh, and I did look up the word "subtlety" in my dictionary. What I found more interesting than its definition, though, was the fact that there was a picture of you next to the entry for "substandard." It wasn't a very flattering picture, either -- nothing at all like the dashing picture of me on the next page that was there to illustrate "success."

By the way, it seems that you're not a very thorough reader, as you apparently skipped over the chapter of my book entitled "The Respect that is Due to Geniuses and How to Properly Show It." I'll forgive the tone of your letter this once, but I must remind you that there is no use in being passive-aggressive with me, since I can be both more aggressive and more passive than you could even dream of being.

Despite our differences, though, I humbly accept your criticism of my book. I'll be happy to give you some feedback on your book as soon as you send it to me. Oh wait, that's right, you haven't even written one. Just one more area in which I'm ahead of you.

Sorry to end this letter so abruptly, but I have more important things to attend to. I'm afraid that answering fanmail is very, very low on my list of priorities. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a death ray to calibrate.

Slimily yours, Dr. Frank Sloth

"Ha!" Sloth exclaimed as he finished signing his name with a flourish. "That should put her in her place." Sloth folded his letter and addressed the envelope, smiling smugly.

***

Jhudora scowled sullenly. "He doesn't respect my world-domination attempts, huh? Well, we'll see how he feels after this next letter. I think I may send a little gift along, as well..." Jhudora then cackled and pulled out her stationary....

Author: rosabellk
Date: Mar 1st
Dear Dr. Sloth,

Firstly, thank you for taking what I'm sure was half the day to write out that thoughtful bit of fanmail. It should make a nice background for a new dartboard I recently purchased.

Sorry to hear you can't make it. I even went as far as to purchase some Chia cupcakes for the occasion. I heard from a secret source that you have a sweet tooth. Don't go too overboard there, though. From one friend to another, your robes are fitting a little tighter nowadays.

I'm glad to hear you're getting some actual work done. What was it you said you were doing? Working on the new and unimproved death ray, huh. Is that the same one that the Space Faerie destroyed those many years ago? I never got the chance to ask you what it was like losing to a faerie! Those tiny wings do look more daunting up close. Oh well, maybe the 100th time will be the charm, right?

Good luck with the creating that army you mentioned too. Must be tough. Though a true villain is heinous on their own, and doesn't truly need hundreds of blockheaded mutants to do his (or her) dirty deeds for him (or her).

I wish I had the time to do such trivial things, or write a book as you mentioned. But I'm afraid mine would actually be helpful in villainous ways, and why would I want to give my nefarious secrets away to the Neopian public? Oh wait, Slothy. Was that your subtle (oops, there's that word again!) way of hinting you need my help? Now I'll really have to consider it.

My questing is going more than fine, by the way. Is it my fault I have Neopians of all species cowering at my feet, practically begging me to give them orders?

Oh! Which reminds me, one of them brought me something very interesting the other day. My keychain collection is already quite enormous, not unlike your hollow head, so I thought you might like it instead.

Yours Truly, Jhudora

***

Dr. Sloth ground his teeth irritably and crumpled the piece of paper, throwing it aside. Picking up the envelope once more, intending to use it for death ray practice, he felt something jingle and slip from the envelope.

It was a Space Faerie Keychain. Sloth let out a howl of fury, grabbed a new sheaf of paper, and began writing... but then he stopped. He had a better idea instead...

Author: xx_neomania
Date: Mar 2nd
Sloth rooted through his trash compactor until he found the slightly mushy leftovers from his lunch from the day before. Smoothing out the organic materials, he muttered, "Some faeries and their 'sustainability codes'. When this world belongs to me, we'll see who makes the rules." Picking up a Berry Ink Pen, he wrote:

Dear Miss (Not So) Smarty Pants,

First of all, thank you for making me look like a complete Grundo in front of a certain dark faerie. (If there existed some sort of a sarcasm-denoting eye-rolling emoticon, this is where I would put it.) Remember how you assured me she would "rise to the bait" if I sent her my best-selling* magnum opus? Well, what do you know about bait, you landlocked forest dweller? I bet you'd fish for Space Fungus with Cloned Corn!!

Second of all, how about you leave the plotting to the plotters from now on? Hmmm? Do you even know how many schemes I have attempted to execute? Not to mention the innumerable plans that never even made it off of the drawing board! I think these kinds of numbers speak for themselves.

As a matter of fact, I have had an idea rattling around in my brain for some weeks now, and with your recent encouragement to make a strike, I agree that the time is nigh for a world domination plot. (And if there existed some way of marking the previous sentence as an exclamatory statement of great fervour, then this is where I would use such a symbol!!) As you said yourself, you and I make an unlikely pairing, one "above suspicion" to use your own phrase, but perhaps we are unlikely for a reason; I would prefer to be beneath suspicion. You said, "be subtle", but you and I know that that is not my style. One look at me in profile, cowl crisply turned up, cape flowing in the breeze of a Virtupets Super Deskfan, one look, and you will know that "subtle" and "Supergenius" only share a page in the dictionary by accident (look it up some time).

I know this must come as a crushing blow to you, the fact that I will not be teaming up with you after all, and to ease that blow, I am including a copy of the runaway hit** handbook: A Space Station in Crisis: Grundos, Grundos Everywhere. In particular, I would ask you to peruse the chapter entitled "Hangars On". In this chapter I discuss how to rid yourself of annoying Space Faeries, a concept that I am certain you could easily translate to your own purpose. I would like to point out, however, that the pages of this book are made from pressed Deep Fried Galactic Food Mass, and as such, are not suitable for lining litter pans, bird cages, trash bins, etc.

I wish you success in all future endeavours, blah blah blah,

Dr. Frank Sloth

*Best-selling according to the Space Station Review of Books, edited by Dr. F. Sloth, esq.

**The term "runaway hit" is used in the colloquial and in no way implies an endorsement or recommendation. All views and opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author.

***

Illusen frowned, causing her freckled nose to crinkle beneath fearsomely smouldering eyes. She picked up the Neverending Fountain Pen from her desktop and began to chew pensively on its well-nibbled end.

"There must be another way to make this work," the earth faerie said to herself. Suddenly, her face brightened as she was struck with inspiration.

"Vadellen," she called out to the antechamber to her office. "When you have a moment, I have another letter for you to deliver."

She bent to her page and began to write...

Author: mamasimios
Date: Mar 2nd
Dear Mr. Nox,

I do hope this letter finds you in good health. I've been hearing stellar things about your efforts to reign supreme over the Haunted Woods, and when this business opportunity presented itself you were the first name that popped into my head.

Illusen glanced at the long list of crossed out names on her desk that began with Balthazar and ended with Dr. Sloth.

I must say I was particularly impressed when I heard of your dramatic battle with MAGAX. It was such a pity to hear that he narrowly escaped your powerful grip. I'm sure you'll track him down sooner or later; Neopets who spell their names entirely with capital letters can't be that smart. Coincidentally, the matter about which I write to you may be of significant help to you in tracking down this MAGAX.

And what is this business opportunity, you ask? Well, I'm sure you're aware of an enemy we both share. My bitter dislike of a certain dark faerie is well-documented, but of course she stands in the way of your efforts to conquer Neopia as well. I propose an alliance of sorts. With my detailed knowledge of Faerieland, and your unique abilities as an accomplished warlock, we can bring an end to Jhudora and eliminate some of your competition. Of course, there are many magical artefacts hidden within her lair that you are welcome to claim as your own once she is dealt with.

Now, you may be thinking that you have absolutely no reason to dislike Jhudora. After all, she's never done anything personally to you. Well, let me tell you, nothing could be further from the truth. I heard from a source in Faerieland that she routinely berates your abilities as a warlock in public, and even once alluded to your cape (which, by the way, makes you look quite dashing) being nothing more than an old bin liner. Such vehement remarks cannot go unpunished, I'm sure you agree.

Kindly awaiting your reply,

Illusen

***

Hubrid Nox regarded the sickeningly perfumed letter in his hand with some contempt, until a ruthless smile spread across his face. A Kyrii, Illusen's messenger, kneeled before him, quaking in terror.

"Shall I return to the Lady with a reply?" he asked nervously.

Nox gazed down at the Kyrii. "No. Now be gone, you foul creature, before I turn you into a zombie!"

The Kyrii didn't need telling twice. He was halfway out of the foreboding doors to the fortress before Nox had finished speaking.

"No," Nox continued to himself, "I have a better idea..."

Nox allowed himself the indulgence of a quick evil laugh before going about his business. He turned to his writing desk and selected a suitably gothic quill from the ink pot. With a hint of maddened glee, he began to write.

Dear Jhudora...

Author: herdygerdy
Date: Mar 3rd
First of all, try not to faint with excitement as you read my letter -- yes, it is I, the great Hubrid Nox, and no, you are not dreaming, stop pinching yourself. I know this missive may seem a little bit out of the blue, but rest assured that it is very much out of the black -- out of the blackness of my heart, that is.

I have recently received a business proposition from Someone of particular interest to you, and this Someone is suggesting that I ally with her in an effort to finally annihilate you from the face of this planet.

This is a wonderful suggestion in many respects -- after all, you were voted worst-dressed and worst-manicured villain for six years running, and frankly your questing obsession is embarrassing to the truly nefarious among us. Also, what is up with your hair?

This being said, I just can't see myself teaming up with the above-mentioned Someone, because her choice in perfume is abysmal, and if I have to take another whiff of her letters, I will be the one doing the fainting, which would be completely unacceptable.

I therefore propose that you and I team up to do some annihilating of our own -- what say you to a complete and utter obliteration of Sloth? I always hated that guy.

We will have to be more subtle than usual, though. If you don't know what subtle means -- I know I'm dealing with a lesser intellect, here -- look it up, and while you're at it, check out the rendition of the good Doctor eating his dinner under the definition of "suction," it is quite amusing. So anyway, subtlety is the key if we proceed with this. I would suggest that you weasel your way into Sloth's confidence, butter him up enough for him to trust you for a fraction of a second -- and then we will strike.

I have enclosed copies of The Great Betrayal and The Life of a Double Agent for your convenience. They are signed first editions, so mind you return them to me, and don't use them for something only fools would use them for, such as lining Petpets' litter boxes with their pages.

Insincere regards,

~ Hubrid Nox. Putting the Nox in Noxious since Y2.

***

"What the heck does this even say?" said Jhudora as she struggled to read the spidery, disconnected, wiggly, nigh-illegible handwriting of the dreaded Hubrid Nox.

"Pirst of oll, try not to paint with excitement as you knead my teller..." she read out loud, before giving up and looking at the signature on the letter. "Something something... Neopox?"

Jhudora slammed the letter down in frustration, pressing her palm into the paper with a burst of magic. The letters magically aligned themselves to something significantly more legible, and Jhudora, as she read the letter, smiled a slow Kadoatie smile to herself.

"I love it."

With that, she cracked her knuckles in the most hair-raising way possible, and began to write.

Dear Slothycakes...

Author: larkspurlane
Date: Mar 3rd
I'm going to keep this short, simple, and concise so hopefully you will understand what I am saying without having to look up every second word I've written.

First off, I've been receiving quite a few letters from other "villains" of late. Sure, I started it with you by responding to your... publication (I couldn't go calling it a book now, could I?), but I believe there is someone or something behind the entire thing. Earlier this week I received a terribly insulting letter from Balthazar, followed by that heinous copy of your publication, and finally, a rather interesting account from none other than Mr. Hubrid Nox.

Now, you're probably wondering why I would bother writing about this to you, after all, it's not like we’re on good terms or anything! No, there is a particular reason, and that is why this piece of parchment is coming to you first before I consider responding to Nox's uh, proposal of sorts.

In order to convey this reason to you, I have to admit something I daresay I ever wanted to admit. The reason I'm mailing you first is because, well, this situation reminded me of an instance mentioned in your book. There, I said it. I read some of your book, I admit it! I know by now you are probably cackling knowingly or whatever, but I need you to pay attention. That's why I cast a certain attention spell on this parchment, so your eyes cannot leave it until you have read its full extent.

Now if I remember correctly (and I always do) this event was mentioned in the chapter "Dispelling Enemies and Tricking Would-be Allies," in which you wrote of a certain tactic of turning your enemies' attentions against each other, so that your actions go completely ignored. I do believe that is what is happening here, that whoever instigated this is certainly trying to make us villains fight against one another in order to better themselves in some way.

Now, I have no knowledge of who this instigator is, but I have a faint idea that you do. You see, all the letters lead back to one source, and all of them end up pointing at me. I do believe I am being placed in the centre, and there must be a reason.

Now, sorry to cut the action short, but I've already written much more than I intended to. If you still want to help dispel whoever this do-gooder is, then your task is to write a letter to Balthazar. I would write one myself but after our last correspondence... let's just say it didn't end so well.

Despising you despite the situation, Jhudora.

***

"I can't believe the nerve of that blasted dark faerie!" Sloth exclaimed, slamming a fist on the desk in front of him.

The desk shook strongly, the purple letter floating slowly to the ground beneath his chair's spindly legs.

"Asking me for help now, is she? Despite her comments on my book..." he trailed off, remembering something from the contents of this latest letter. He tilted his chair back just far enough so he could reach the fallen letter, and he placed it back upon the desk. "She... she admits she read it!"

He cackled evilly, his fingers unconsciously twining together.

"Now... she wants me to write to Balthazar, but she doesn't say what I should write..." Sloth picked up his green-inked pen and nibbled on the end for a moment before a sudden thought struck him. "What if... what if I told him about a certain faerie who needs capturing?"

His laughter grew even louder and, if at all possible, even more evil-sounding as he placed the pen's nib upon a clean sheet of paper...

Author: sadinei
Date: Mar 4th
Dear Balthazar,

I hope you can stop chasing around dainty, defenceless faeries for a few moments in order to read my proposal to you. Frankly, I always thought it was rather insulting that someone like you managed to get into the Gallery of Evil and thus be compared to someone of my unrivalled genius. However, recently I, with my brilliant evil mastermind and all, have discovered a way that you could use your, uh..."talent" in a way that would be beneficial to villains throughout Neopia. Perhaps with this plan you could actually earn yourself a reputation that wouldn't tarnish the name of evil, and maybe even all of we true villains would stop snickering behind your faerie-catching back.

You see, there is this certain dark faerie with whom I have had somewhat of a disagreement as of late. And by "disagreement," I mean a burning hatred from the bottom of my pitch-black heart. And by "as of late," I mean ever since the moment I first laid eyes on that purple-haired twit. Anyhow, it is not just I that would benefit from this certain faerie's -- and I believe you know to whom I refer -- disappearance. Ever since this insufferable creature started conducting her little quests, she has been shaming the entire evil society and making us a laughingstock to the should-be-trembling-with-fear society of light. Actually, now that I consider it, she is not so different from you in this respect. Therefore, I think it only appropriate that this certain faerie be done away with once and for all.

As you probably have realised already, though with someone of your intelligence, it may be questionable, this letter came enclosed in a glass bottle. Since Jhudora... I mean a certain dark faerie that gives out quests on a hideous purple cloud hovering above Faerieland... is much bigger than your usual "victim," I have enchanted it with a spell that will allow it to grow to the proper size upon your command. (Though I'm not sure I could ever make a bottle large enough to fit her and her ego inside of it.) Anyway, all you have to say in order to activate the spell is "I bow down to Dr. Sloth in all his brilliant infamy."

I hope that I can count on your compliance in this matter. I am sure that you can get the job done. Actually, I am not, but I cannot do the job myself, as I have other more important things to which I must attend, such as world domination and the like.

With hate, Dr. Frank Sloth, Esq.

***

Balthazar furiously ripped the letter to shreds. How dare that pompous, unsuccessful "doctor" ask him for help after insulting him so?!

After shattering some of his empty faerie bottles against the wall, Balthazar finally calmed down a bit. He carefully took the bottle in which Sloth's letter had come into his paws, as a wicked grin spread across his devilish mug. If Dr. Sloth had seen such a twisted smile, he would not have doubted that the Lupe was indeed a villain. While Balthazar hated to utter such degrading words, an oversized bottle would come in handy for the Lupe's forming plan...

Author: favonianbreeze
Date: Mar 4th
As the working day came to a close for four small white postal Weewoos, each delivered its final letter to the four corners of Neopia: to deep within the Haunted Woods where tree roots twist and grasp at unwary travellers; to the more friendly forests of Meridell where spires rise aspirationally above the soaring treetops; to Faerieland, where one corner of its beautiful cloudscape is seething with vile, green mists; and lastly to the Space Station, orbiting menacingly high above the oblivious planet dwellers below. Each missive delivered, four small white postal Weewoos reassembled to roost together, resting weary bodies after such an eventful day.

***

Dear Mr. Hubrid Nox,

Due to your recent efforts involving the battling of MAGAX (sic) in the Haunted Woods graveyard, the Committee for the Recognition of Insidious Mounting of Evil (C.R.I.M.E.) has voted unanimously to rededicate your statue in the Gallery of Evil.

In particular, we are impressed with your ability to successfully enchant fire-breathing Scorchios and use them for your malevolent purposes. Also in your favour is your recent advances in the use of shapeshifting (i.e., assuming the form of a zombified Cybunny to pass unnoticed in the graveyard).

Kudos on all of your accomplishments of late, and we are hoping that you will join us this evening at midnight NST in the Great Hall of the Gallery of Evil for the ceremony. We would ask you to please use the North entrance.

Yours in evil,

C.R.I.M.E

***

Dear Illusen,

Your scheming activities of late have not passed unnoticed by us here at the Committee for the Recognition of Insidious Mounting of Evil (C.R.I.M.E.). As we can only assume that your underhanded plotting involves some do-gooder outcome, we have enclosed a cease-and-desist order (C.D.O.), as these nefarious activities are the sole intellectual property of the denizens of the Gallery of Evil.

In order to ensure your compliance with the C.D.O., you will notice that your assistant (a rather tight-lipped Kyrii who refuses to divulge his name) has been taken as collateral.

Should you wish to dispute our findings, or to say good-bye to the unnamed Kyrii, I would encourage you to attend our annual council meeting this evening at midnight NST in the Great Hall of the Gallery of Evil. We would ask you to please use the South entrance

Hoping to see you there,

C.R.I.M.E

***

Dear Jhudora,

It is with great pleasure that I announce that we here at the Committee for the Recognition of Insidious Mounting of Evil (C.R.I.M.E.) have selected you to receive our Evil Villain of the Year award (the 'Evy').

Your ability to strike fear and suspicion in the hearts of all Neopians, while never actually behaving overtly menacing, is an example in subtlety to us all. This year we will also be awarding a 'Best Dressed' trophy, and after a close debate (with a certain evil genius from the Space Station taking second place), I am delighted to inform you that you will also be taking that title as well.

We do hope that you can join us for the ceremony this evening at midnight NST in the Great Hall of the Gallery of Evil. We would ask you to please use the West entrance.

Yours with congratulations,

C.R.I.M.E

***

Dear Dr. F. Sloth, Esq.,

Due to a recent surge in sales, we here at the Committee for the Recognition of Insidious Mounting of Evil (C.R.I.M.E.) have selected you to receive our annual Book of the Year award for your recent volume entitled: Mind Control for Absolute Beginners. We would be honoured if you could attend this evening's awards ceremony at midnight NST in the Great Hall of the Gallery of Evil. Perhaps you could be encouraged to read from the chapter "Controlling Grundos: Is There a Mind Worth Manipulating?".

After the ceremony, we are hoping to discuss your current statue. In particular: haven't you recently lost a significant amount of weight? We would be delighted to commission a new statue, to more appropriately capture your current form. We would ask you to please use the East entrance to the Great Hall.

Yours with congratulations,

C.R.I.M.E

***

As midnight approached, the great lamp of Kreludor emerged bright and shining through the skylight in the ceiling high above the circle of evil-looking statues. As the four doors at the four entrances to the Great Hall began to slowly sweep open, one of the statues shifted slightly, the glass bottle in its hand catching the light of the newly seen moon...

Author: mamasimios
Date: Mar 5th
Editor's note: Due to the Judge's indecisiveness and the high quality of the entries, please enjoy TWO endings for this week's story! :)

And that was when this ominous, crucial scene was interrupted by loud, echoing complaints apparently issued from the North entrance.

"...useless compass! I never needed these things on my Station! How in Neopia should I know which door is which..."

Balthazar froze with a frown, as did the three other guests from their respective doors.

"Who was that?" demanded Hubrid Nox. "At least have the courtesy to wait until I'm actually at the ceremony before you praise my successes!"

"Judging by the lack of IQ in that outburst, it was probably Sloth," Jhudora said coolly with a supercilious smile.

"Jhudora?" Illusen exclaimed. "So you were behind this, I knew it! Where is my assistant?"

The dark faerie's response was swift and cordial. "Your assistant? Oh, you mean that unfotunate Kyrii who runs around doing your dirty work? Why, I'm surprised, he was so dim-witted I thought he'd walked into a rock or something. I have no idea, nor do I care; some C.R.I.M.E. group sent me a letter."

"C.R.I.M.E. group? Hang on, that's what I got too," said Nox.

"Me too," Sloth piped up.

"Someone is behind this, obviously," Illusen answered. "Even if it's not Jhudora, which I doubt."

There was a growl of frustration from the center of the Hall, where the Bounty Hunter stood, no longer attempting to suppress his anticipation in his imitation of a statue. He should've known -- that Frank Sloth, he'd ruined it all with his ignorance! According to his plan, the four were supposed to come in, see each other, and begin an argument (with the help of discreet remarks from a hidden Balthazar himself), and it would escalate until they finished each other off.

That would've been perfect. No matter, he always a backup plan at hand and did now.

"Balthazar," said Jhudora with finality. "What a surprise."

"I'm so glad you four could make it," the Lupe said. "Seeing as my original plan didn't work, I will just go ahead and tell you what I want."

"I'm confused," Sloth cut in. "You sent us those letters so we could come and negotiate with you? What's there to negotiate? There's four of us and one of you, in case you can't count. Which I'm sure low-class villains such as you cannot."

"I am not on your side, Slothy," Jhudora snapped.

"Good!" said Balthazar, clapping his hands. "Then you're on mine, and that makes everything so much easier. The doors have been locked behind all of you, by the way, so please be original and pay attention to my proposition. We'll start with you, Illusen."

"I don't see Vadellen anywhere," the earth faerie said calmly. "If you were lying about holding him hostage, which I don't doubt you were, then I see no reason in my remaining here."

Balthazar lifted the glass bottle Sloth had given him several letters ago, giving it a slight jiggle. "I've shrunken him to fit in here," he said with some smugness. "You'll see him inside if you look carefully. Now. As we all know, I operate by the exchange of little faeries for cha-ching. Neopoints.

"As of late, this business has been disrupted by several factors. You, Illusen, have been creating a sanctuary for the faeries in the forests of Meridell. How can I go in and capture my Neopoints -- I mean, faeries -- with your irksome barriers in place?"

He paused dramatically.

"And you, Jhudora, happen to live near one of my most efficient traps. It was tolerable in the past, but your noxious fumes have been spreading even farther and that disturbs the faeries. They don't fly by my traps anymore."

"So?" the dark faerie said. "If you're suggesting I cease my important experimentation just for your faerie-bottling, think again."

"Then why am I here?" asked Sloth.

Balthazar mused for a moment. "No particular reason... Actually, yes. I'd already used you and Nox in my plot, so there was no harm in inviting you too. As you boasted in the chapter "Attire of a Proper Villain" in your book, any respectable villain dons a cool cloak at all times. Which both of you have, so you'll be handing that over, I'm sorry to say."

Nox laughed -- a credit to Balthazar, because he did not do so often. "Excuse me?"

"In any case," said Illusen, "I don't see Vadellen in that bottle of yours."

Balthazar frowned. "Of course he's in my--"

He held the glass bottle up and saw that it was indeed empty. Confusion slid across the Lupe's features like a Lutari Island high tide.

"Hey, angry-face!"

There was the Kyrii, shrunken to the size of a thumbnail, apparently having been on his captor's shoulder the whole time without his noticing. He waved cheerfully. "Sloth only sent you the bottle and not the cork, so -- you forgot to cork me! Though you did have your finger on the bottle's mouth until just now."

Vadellen skipped nimbly down, grasping the neck of the phial, and shouted, "I bow down to Dr. Sloth in all his brilliant infamy -- because his enchanted bottle is the answer to everything. Thanks for letting slip the spell to me earlier, Balthazar."

Realising what was going on and what needed to be done, Sloth jumped forward and caught the bottle as it expanded several times and several more.

"No worries, Balthy, I'm just taking back my bottle," said Sloth with a grin.

Before Balthazar could even flinch, the other villain had cast his glass over the Bounty Hunter himself.

Conveniently, he had kept the cork in his pocket, and popped it in place with a flourish.

Balthazar didn't know which was worse -- the failure of his plan and thus the continued decline of his business due to Jhudora and Illusen, or the sheer irony of his situation.

Jhudora yawned. "Do whatever you want with the bottle and its occupant. This is an inconvenience at most -- in fact, I almost pity the amateur."

"All this for a few faeries and two cloaks?" Illusen said, equally bemused.

Nox shrugged, turning to depart. "We're talking about a Lupe who goes around bottling faeries. He was probably bored."

"Hm," mused Sloth...

* * *

Dear Jhudora, Nox, Illusen --

I have had my Grundos copy this message three times for the three of you. I will be brief -- my death ray is nearing perfection at this moment. There are three things I would like to inform you of.

First, the whereabouts of Bottled Balthazar. Yes, that's my new nickname for him! It may surprise you to know that I have released him, because the magic of the bottle obligated him to grant me a favour thereafter, and he grudgingly did.

No, I won't tell you what the wish was, though in the near future perhaps you will read the Neopian Times and congratulate me on my success with the death ray at last. I wouldn't have done it without Balthazar's supply of corks -- and that is all I'll divulge in regards to my creation. After all, you are the enemy.

I never did give him a cloak; he'll have to earn one himself. I have informed him that he will have to hunt his faeries elsewhere in the future.

The second is that I will, and ever always, not hesitate to blow raspberries in your faces should we meet again. This has changed nothing. I especially express distaste for Jhudora's lack of fashion sense. Nox should go back to turning into Cybunnies, and Illusen has yet to understand the fun of evil and thus does not have my respect.

I figured a letter from Sloth would not be that without a few insults. Don't take it personally.

Villainously not-yours, - Sloth.

The End...

Author: _razcalz_
Date: Mar 5th
The North entrance swung slowly on its hinges to reveal Hubrid Nox, radiating arrogance and a kind of pleased anticipation.

The South entrance was daintily pushed open to reveal the figure of Illusen, an expression of cold fury on her face as her eyes scanned the dark Hall for her missing messenger.

The West and East entrances were slammed open with equal force, because each slammer desired to make the most dramatic entrance possible and make everyone awaiting their respective arrivals jump.

And everyone did jump -- Hubrid Nox at the sight of Illusen's svelte shape outlined in the doorway opposite, Illusen when she noticed Hubrid standing there expectantly, Jhudora at the sound of Sloth's door slam, and Sloth at the sound of hers -- and the creak as it slowly fell off of its hinges.

Then Jhudora noticed Illusen and Illusen noticed Jhudora, and the atmosphere became so charged that Hubrid Nox would later describe the hairs on his moustache standing on end and quivering in fear as the faeries locked gazes.

"WHAT is going on here?" imperiously demanded four of Neopia's most prominent figures at precisely the same time.

There was a rather long pause as everyone looked expectantly at everyone else, deeply suspicious of ulterior motives and impending open warfare.

However, as everyone was wearing similar expressions of bewildered apprehensiveness as everyone else, they quickly realised that their fellow citizens were just as confused and surprised as they were.

"Are you all here to watch the unveiling of my new statue?" asked Hubrid Nox with a suspicious twitch of his 'stache.

"I should've known you were all members of that ridiculous Committee for the Recognition of Insidious Whatsit," snapped Illusen with an angry glare. "Where is Vadellen?"

"Just calm down -- I know you're all wired out because I was voted best dressed but --" Jhudora began, when she was rudely cut-off by Sloth:

"Best -- what? That's ridiculous. You're all here to attend my reading. Just sit down and try to keep up, I'll read slowly for you..."

"You're all wrong," came a gruff voice from amidst the black-shining statues in the shadowy Hall.

Balthazar's hirsute outline became visible in the moonlight, and the jar he was swinging casually by his side gleamed softly.

"And you're all remarkably easy to trick, might I add. I mean come on. Real donuts, the lot of you. You might all want to try looking up 'gullible' and figuring out in what ways it applies to you, instead of telling each other to check definitions..."

Balthazar moved closer, disappearing now and then in the shadows.

"Thank you for the big jar, by the way, 'Slothycakes,'" said Balthazar to Sloth with a wink. "It was very useful for my current project."

"And Vadellen's help was invaluable, once he decided that what I'm up to isn't going to hurt any houseplants or something..."

The earth faerie he addressed this comment to curled her fists.

Balthazar was silent for a moment as four pairs of eyes looked at him with deep suspicion.

"But MOST of all I want to thank you for attending --" here Balthazar stopped next to a huge formless mass hulking amidst the statues "-- Balthazar's ELEVENTH ANNUAL MEGA FAERIE GIVEAWAY BONANZA!"

With that, he jerked a large tarp off of the shadowy thing next to him, which revealed itself to be an immense glass jar, filled to the brim with glowing, twinkling faeries.

Balthazar looked exceptionally pleased while Hubrid's, Illusen's, Jhudora's, and Sloth's faces fell groundward so fast you'd think they were making for Moltara.

"I had to change the venue at the last minute -- the Money Tree is shedding leaves like crazy, see. Needed some big names to put on the ads..." Balthazar explained, waving some garish flyers around that featured quite grotesque renditions of the four Neopians he had deceived. "Drew the pictures myself."

Balthazar glanced skyward, as though to calculate something based on the moon's position in the heavens.

"And a large percentage of Neopia's population should be arriving in three..."

Jhudora almost fell over as a rumble began to quake through the Hall.

"Two..."

The screams of eager Neopians resonated through the still air.

"One."

And all four doors were crashed open with impressive force as hordes of pets rushed in, flyers in hand, to attend Balthazar's Eleventh Annual Mega Faerie Giveaway Bonanza.

And request autographs.

A LOT of autographs.

Sloth's wrist would never be the same again, while Illusen swore off of pens for the rest of her life.

***

When the festivities had calmed down and the last captured faerie was flown, Jhudora, Illusen, Hubrid and Sloth drew together amidst wrappers and pen caps and the still forms of fangirls that had fainted with excitement.

"Tch," said Jhudora, picking up a flyer ruefully. "We all got had. Real bad."

"You want to know what the worst part is?" asked Hubrid.

"My Kyrii messenger can't be trusted farther than I can throw him?"

"I didn't actually get voted best dressed?"

"My statue makes me look fat?"

"No..." said Hubrid, quiet with fury, and he held up the flyer that Jhudora was holding. "We got had by someone who can't spell for beans."

The four of them looked at the flyer, which gleefully announced that Sloth, Jhudora, Hubrid Nox, and Illusen were all happily attending...

BALTHAZAR'S ELEVENTH ANNUAL MEGA FAERIE GIVEAWAY BANANAZA!

The End

Author: larkspurlane
Date: Mar 5th



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