I, Sloth, King of Meridell...: Part Four
Also by sytra
The second match was a foot race through a large tree-filled area outside the rear of the castle. Due to his great physical shape, Sloth did not hand this game down to me. Rather, as Skarl explained the rules (run to the marked white line at the end of the trees; whoever crosses the finish line first wins the contest; no flying), Sloth had a big grin across his face.
“I have this one locked up, Charles!” my overlord whispered into my ear.
“Good thing,” I said back.
“Now,” Skarl said, “my servants will escort me to the finish line. Once I arrive, I will sound a horn. Upon hearing the horn, begin racing!”
“Very well, Your Highness,” said Sloth.
Skarl smiled at Sloth. “Good luck!” he said. Then, he beckoned to me. “Come along, Charles. You can wait at the finish line for your father.”
I sighed and went along as Skarl’s servants began to lead him to the finish line. Once we arrived, the king sounded the horn, and exactly five minutes later, Sloth barreled across the neatly painted white strip on the ground. Perry arrived not ten seconds later.
As Sloth gave me a high five (something he had never done before in my life), Perry gasped, “He cheated again, Your Highness! He tripped me!”
“I find it pathetic that you’re trying to tarnish my good name! And in front of my little boy, too!” said Sloth.
“I agree,” said Skarl. “Do not listen to this poor cretin’s lies about your father, Charles. He is a fine man. And due to the fact that he has won the first two competitions out of three, he has clinched his spot as Meridell’s next ruler!”
Sloth grinned broadly and bowed his head to the king. “Why, thank you, Your Highness! This is a great honor!”
“This is so unfair!” spluttered Perry. “He cheated!”
“Servants, escort this sad Neopian out of the castle grounds, and lead our future king and his son to their room. They must rest up, because they’ll be crowned tomorrow!” Skarl said.
“Thank you again, Your Honor,” said Sloth.
And then, we were taken away.
That night, we feasted with Skarl’s entire court. It was a gourmet meal, consisting of food that Sloth had never been able to afford, not even in his glory days. I ate heartily, and after the meal was over, Sloth and I both relaxed on our respective beds in our chamber. Skarl said we would get our own rooms once we were crowned, but for now, we would have to manage with the small, shared space.
Seeing as the ‘small’ space was larger than any I’d ever had, I was fine with this, and Sloth, happy at having inherited Meridell, did not complain either.
“Remember our first invasion attempt, Charles?” he asked wistfully.
“Yes, Father,” I said, having grown used to our fake relationship.
“You were just an underling then. I never even noticed you,” he continued on.
“Yes, I remember that, too, Father.”
“But then, that fateful day... I left my domination plans in the Neopian library. Oh, Charlie, if you had not dared trek out all by yourself to retrieve them, I never would have had the chance to fail at conquering Neopia!”
“No, you wouldn’t have, Father.”
“Everyone else was too afraid to get the plans. But you, Charlie, you were so brave. So very brave. I have respect for you that I have for no other henchmen. You are the hero of villains!”
I grinned, feeling my cheeks flush slightly. Ever since that day, Sloth had favored me above all of his other minions. I couldn’t imagine how my life would be now if I hadn’t stumbled across his papers in the library while searching for a book on how to win over an evil overlord who didn’t acknowledge your existence. Or if I hadn’t then told a tiny white lie, saying that I had gone in search of the papers, rather than randomly finding them.
“Flu—I mean, son,” Sloth started, sliding underneath his sheets, “you never quite told me. Why did you... decide to join me?”
My ears twitched, and I turned over to Sloth. He had never asked one of his followers that question before, I was certain. Did he actually... care about me?
“Well...” I trailed off, smoothing the comforter of my bed with my hand. “I wasn’t always evil, you know.” I chuckled silently. I still wasn’t evil. But that wasn’t the point. “My whole life, I had been searching for a role model. Someone I could look up to, someone with a plan; a vision. When I saw your flyer on the wall in Grundos Café... well, I decided to sign up. After all, I was unemployed at the time, searching for work.”
Sloth remained quiet, so I continued.
“Anyway... once I joined, I found I actually enjoyed working for you. I know it sounds weird, but I felt at home with you and all of my co-slave -- ... I mean, coworkers.”
Sloth brought a green hand to his chest, and it hovered over his heart. “I... that... that... is very... touching, son.”
“I know, Father. And it’s the truth.”
Sloth smiled at me, showing his pointed teeth. I knew he was trying to look kind, but to be honest, his grin only freaked me out.
“Well, we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow,” Sloth said, turning off the lamp on his nightstand. “Goodnight, son.”
I lay awake in bed for a while as Sloth snored heavily across the room. Our heart-to-heart conversation was enlightening, if not a bit disturbing and surreal. Although I had always respected him, I’d never seen him as a living, feeling creature before; to know that he cared about me – or had emotions at all! – was a peculiar thought.
I took a deep breath and turned towards the wall. I then breathed deeply for a few more minutes before drifting into a deep sleep.
The coronation ceremony was at 9 AM sharp. Sloth and I awoke promptly at dawn and spent a few hours being groomed by an array of servants. They dressed us in lavish robes – gold for Sloth, purple for me – and delicately combed my overlord’s gaudy wig. Then, they put shiny gold rings on my fingers, and trimmed my own blonde wig down to perfection.
“Time to go,” the usual Ixi servant chirped as she poked her head into the dressing room. “The king is waiting.”
Sloth and I bustled after the Ixi once the servants completed the finishing touches.
“This is really happening,” I mused as we scurried down the long corridors of the castle. The fact that Sloth was really going to be the king of Meridell had just sunk in. “You’re really going to be the king.”
“Of course I am,” Sloth said, puffing his chest out triumphantly. “Meridell, and soon, Neopia, will be mine.”
“And I’ll always be your favorite servant, right?” I asked timidly.
“Of course, Fluffy,” my overlord said, nodding firmly. “But you’ll hold a higher rank than a servant, I can assure you. I could never appoint my most trusted henchman to such a low position.”
I smiled gratefully as we entered the giant throne room. The Meercas began to play their trumpets as we marched toward Skarl, who was, for once, not perched in his chair.
“Welcome, Mister Fluffins and Charles!” the king called. As Sloth and I grew closer, he put an arm around his successor’s shoulder and gestured toward the crowd of Meridellian citizens before us. They were separated from the three of us and a handful of servants by a plush velvet rope.
“Thank you, Your Highness,” said Sloth with a smile. Then he gave a hearty wave to the crowd, who cheered in delight.
“Now, both of you kneel out in front of me,” Skarl said, gently pushing Sloth and I forward and to our knees. As we kneeled before him, Skarl announced to the citizens of the country Sloth was about to inherit, “And now, the coronation ceremony shall begin!”
At this, an elderly Kacheek wearing a thick green cloak emerged from the depths of the throne room. Beside him stood a younger Kacheek whose own cloak was of a matching shade. Each of them had a crown in their hands – the older pet held a large gold one studded with jewels, and the younger a small silver one with a shiny emerald trim.
The Kacheeks walked down towards us at a Slorg’s pace. I swallowed nervously, my entire body shaking. We were finally going to succeed! For once, our mission hadn’t failed!
The Kacheeks both stopped a couple feet in front of Sloth and I, holding the crowns out. Skarl stepped forward, taking the small silver one from the Kacheek. He placed it on my head without hesitation or speaking. I suppose I didn’t really matter much after all.
The blue Skeith then took the large gold crown and stood directly in front of Sloth, who was still kneeling before the king.
“I now appoint you, Geoff L. Fluffins... as the King of Meride—”
“STOP THIS CORONATION!”
Everyone in the throne room turned, some even gasping, to see who had just burst open the giant double doors. None other than Perry flew in at top speed, clutching a few documents in his claws.
“Stop it at once!” he repeated, landing in front of Skarl. He shoved the papers in the king’s face. Bewildered, the Skeith grabbed them. He glared at Perry, thoroughly annoyed.
“What IS it? Didn’t I banish you forevermore from my lovely kingdom, you annoying flea?”
“Yes,” said Perry, “but in reality, you should have banished this filthy creature, Geoff L. Fluffins!” He jerked a thumb towards Sloth. “Or should I say... Dr. Frank Sloth!”
The crowd seemed to love the drama, and all they all clapped wildly. Skarl, however, put a stop to this with a sharp bellow and then, with dead silence engulfing the room, he nervously examined the documents Perry had shoved into his hands.
All the while, Sloth and I were holding our breaths. I hoped that the documents didn’t prove anything, that Perry had just had a suspicion and that the papers proved nothing. Of course, I also wished I was the richest pet in Neopia and that I could buy a new bed that didn’t have a headboard of an evil Chia, but those hopes hadn’t come true -- why would this one?
After a few minutes, Skarl looked up from the document; instantly, Sloth and I could tell that they had indeed been conclusive. In a single motion, the two of us jumped up, with Sloth whimpering something I couldn’t make out.
“This cannot be true,” said King Skarl numbly. “Is it true?”
Sloth, taking advantage of the fact that Skarl was in disbelief, said, “Why, no, Your Highness, I’m not Dr. Sloth!”
Skarl didn’t reply. Rather, he reached out and grabbed at Sloth’s wig. My overlord had glued it to his head, but an angry Skeith is quite strong, and it came off without a fight.
From a few feet over, Perry smiled smugly.
The crowd, on the hand, gasped and screamed.
I blinked, slowly inching away from the furious Skarl and Perry, but the pink Draik grabbed my wrist, preventing me from moving.
“You’re not going anywhere,” he spat, glaring over at Sloth.
My master rubbed his bald head, wearing a horrified look on his face. “No! My beautiful hair! How... dare you!” He lunged at Skarl, trying to wrestle the documents out of the king’s claws.
“Guards!” Skarl shouted, snapping his fingers. In seconds, we were surrounded by ten armoured Draiks and Ixi. It took five of them to tear Sloth off of Skarl. My overlord had managed to rip some of the papers apart in the quarrel, but it was no use now. Our secret was out.
“How did you find out?” Sloth asked Perry as the guards restrained him from Skarl.
Perry smirked. “I knew there was something fishy about you two from the start. So I did some research last night, and I came upon a Neopian Times article. There was a picture of Doctor Sloth and a purple Grundo, looking exactly like ‘Charles Fluffin’. It didn’t take a genius to put two and two together.”
Sloth glared at the pink Draik, struggling to break free from the grasp of the guards.
And while the crowd reeled in a state of hysteria, I tried to squirm away from Perry, but he pushed me towards the guards.
“OH MY! LOOK!” Sloth pointed up at the ceiling, and everyone in the room, including the guards and Skarl, looked up.
I grinned. Sloth sure was good, if not a bit repetitive. The guards let go of him as they looked up at the ceiling confusedly. He slipped out and signaled for me to follow him into the crowd of nearly rioting pets. I jerked away from Perry, following Sloth. We squeezed out a nearby open window, and ran into the bright morning sun.
Sloth chuckled as we dashed through the grounds of the castle; my silver crown fell off as we ran.
“I can’t believe our plan was foiled, Fluffy,” he said to me, kicking off his dress robes.
“We were so close, too.” I frowned as Sloth led us down the road towards the Eyrie cab stop. While we waited for one to arrive, Sloth noticed the new issue of the Neopian Times lying on the ground. He picked it up slowly and dusted it off. Unfolding it, he skimmed the headlines.
“Oh, Fluffy, look!” Sloth pointed at the front page excitedly, and I stood on my toes to get a look.
“What is it, sir?” I asked.
Sloth grinned broadly and said, “Fyora’s resigning as the Queen of Faerieland. And guess what?”
“She’s holding a contest to find a new heir...”