Story by Zepp
"Zepp!" a tall hoop-head called, entering Zepp's room. "You in there?"
"Hi Krudd," Zepp replied from the corner he was sitting in. "Remember that gummy stuff you found the other day?"
"Yeah. What about it?" Krudd asked, sitting down on Zepp's bed.
"I wanna see if I could make a Weasel trap with it." Zepp held up the purplish gunk and smiled. "We just lure the Weasel to it, the Weasel gets stuck, and then we could boom it up!"
"Nice thought," Krudd said, "but you'd need Hoodians for bait. And if the trap doesn't work, the Weasel would eat them."
Zepp frowned, and mouthed a silent "Oh". With a sigh, he threw the blob at the far wall, where it stuck.
"Oh well," Zepp said, smiling as he stood up. "We go find something fun to do, yes?"
"Sure," Krudd replied. The two friends left Zepp's room in the Hall of Records and walked the two miles to the entrance.
Meanwhile, on the farthest side of the Neverhood, a darkly colored being with long, claw-like fingers hung for dear life off the edge of the world. Years had gone by, too many to count, since he had set foot on solid ground.
Ever since he had fallen off the Neverhood, Klogg had hopped from floating land-mass to land-mass, hoping he would someday return to the world of his creation. Finally he succeeded, and soon he would reclaim the Neverhood and all its puny inhabitants. Slowly but surely, Klogg pulled himself up.
"Who is that?" Zepp asked Krudd, pointing to a panting Hoodian slouched over by the Apple tree. "I've never seen him before. You think he's new?"
"I don't know. Let's go say hi."
Klogg was too tired to notice the two Hoodians as they walked up behind him. But he jumped up when Zepp called out, "Hi!"
"Sorry I startled you," Zepp said as he faced a glowering Klogg. "I'm Zepp. Are you new?"
Slowly, Klogg grinned. "Why, yes, I am. My name's, uh, Krogg."
Krudd frowned. There was definitely something wrong about this Hoodian. Something, almost... evil in the way he grinned.
"Um, will you excuse us a moment?" Krudd took Zepp's arm and pulled him off to the side. When they were far enough away, Krudd whispered, "There's something wrong with that guy. I don't like it."
"Aw, come on, Krudd. Just because he looks creepy doesn't mean he's evil." Zepp smiled and walked back over to Klogg.
"Hey, we're going to see Hoborg. You want to come?" Zepp asked.
Klogg's grin became wider, showing perfectly formed pointed teeth. "Sure," he replied. "I'd love to come."
The three took the short way to the castle, using the transporter above the Bobby Room. Klogg was very quiet on the trip, but he kept grinning in that strange way of his. Most of the Hoodians got out of the way as they went by.
The throne room was full of people, including Hoborg. Everyone fell silent as they noticed Klogg. Hoborg stared in disbelief.
"Hello, Hoborg," Klogg laughed. "It has been quite a while, hasn't it?"
"Klogg." Hoborg whispered. "We thought you were dead. We though Klaymen had killed you."
"It wasn't for lack of trying." Klogg said in a bored tone.
"Klogg?" Krudd whispered hoarsely.
Klogg looked back at him over his shoulder and glared. "That's right, you little maggot. I'm Klogg, the rightful king of the Neverhood."
"Get out, Klogg. You don't belong here," Hoborg commanded.
Klogg smirked, then lunged foreword and snatched the crown off Hoborg's head. The king stiffened and froze. Klogg turned and slammed the crown down onto the closest Hoodian's head. Zepp's.
The change was immediate. Zepp fell onto hands and knees as the change overtook him. Light flashed around his head, and his whole body began to mutate. Klogg smirked silently as he watched.
When it was all over, Zepp slowly stood, almost mechanically. Everything about him was different; changed into something fierce. Instinctively, Krudd and the other Hoodians backed away. Cruel intelligence sparked in Zepp's eyes as he turned to look at Klogg.
Klogg placed a hand on Zepp's shoulder. "You and I will rule the Neverhood together, my friend."
At first, Zepp seemed not to hear. Then he smiled, and the two laughed. And then Zepp kicked Klogg in the stomach. Klogg groaned and doubled over in pain. Zepp balled his hand into a fist and smacked Klogg upside his head, knocking him unconscious.
"Sso ssorry to sspoil your planss, Klogg, but I have other thingss in mind." Zepp hissed. He grabbed Klogg and stormed out of the throne room, leaving the bewildered Hoodians behind.
Krudd was the first to recover. He sprinted after Zepp at a speed that would impress even the fastest Hoodians. Zepp was dragging Klogg's limp body toward the Hall of Records.
"Zepp!" Krudd called. "Zepp, what are you doing?!"
"Putting thiss diseasse ssomeplace... ssafe," Zepp growled, not slowing. "Not that it'ss any of your bussinesss."
Zepp tossed Klogg into the empty room at the beginning of the Hall, tore out the elevator, then closed the spike-door.
"There." Zepp grinned. "That should be ssatifactory. Enjoy yoursself, Klogg. You'll sstay there 'til I decide what to do with you."
Klogg groaned and sat up, glaring at his captor, but unable to do anything to free himself. Zepp sneered in a smug way, enjoying Klogg's helplessness. Then he turned on his heel and left.
"Where are you going now?" Krudd asked, having to run to catch up.
Zepp said nothing, but turned and grabbed Krudd, lifting him off the ground. Zepp's face held no emotion, and just as emotionlessly he threw Krudd against the big tree and walked off.
Quite some time later, Krudd sat up and rubbed his head. He was undamaged physically for the most part, but he had an ear-splitting headache.
His friend, his best buddy in the world, had somehow become unnaturally evil. And smart. Zepp was considerably clever, always had been. That, combined with the power of Hoborg's crown, could bring down the entire Neverhood. But somehow... this evil creature was not Zepp, would never be Zepp. Zepp was somewhere underneath this... this thing.
Zepp walked into the Shack and examined the supply of boom-sticks. Smiling in an ugly way and gathered up the largest Weasel boom-sticks.
"Thesse should do very nicely," he hissed. Slowly, he frowned. "No... no thiss will not do. I need more..."
Zepp ran back to his room. Snatching his collector-sack from his bed, he stuffed the boom-sticks into it. After some thought, he added a couple tubes full of highly explosive chemicals.
"Oh, yess!" he exclaimed, pulling the purple gum-blob off the wall. "Thiss iss jusst what I want."
"Hey!" One of Zepp's best friends, Tif, ran into the room. "What are you doing?! What happened?! Where's Zepp?!"
Zepp lit one of the smallest boom-sticks. "Here; catch!" he cried, tossing it to Tif. With a laugh, Zepp ran past his friend and outside. Tif freaked and tore the fuse off, killing the sparkle. Cursing, Tif ran after Zepp.
Zepp was nowhere in sight. Tif stopped as he stared at the remains of the Neverhood. Claw-marks covered everything, and buildings had huge hunks torn out of them. Plants were smashed and the Hoodians who had gotten into Zepp's way were thrown everywhere, some even dangling from the large tree.
"Tif!" Krudd called. "There you are. I was afraid Zepp had crushed you!"
"That was Zepp?! You're kidding!"
"Nope. C'mon, we have to find him before he hurts somebody else." The two ran through the Shack into the Weasel Valley. At least, they tried to. Zepp had jammed the door shut, so no one would be able to enter. Faintly, through the door, Krudd could here someone play the music box...
"Oh no," Krudd whispered. "Zepp's trying to catch a Weasel!"
Suddenly, a piercing scream rocked the 'Hood. Tif and Krudd redoubled their efforts to open the door.
When the door finally gave way from the onslaught, the Hoodians stopped in shock. The largest Weasel the had ever seen, bright purple and yellow, stood stuck in the middle of the Valley, snapping at Zepp and the purple blob that stuck to its legs. Zepp had surrounded the beast with boom-sticks, and would dodge the frustrated crab's pinchers and light another Weasel-buster to scare the creature to obedience.
"There now," Zepp laughed when the Weasel was too tired to move. "I thinks you'll behave now."
Whimpering, the crab nodded (as best it could with no neck).
With four quick movements, Zepp pulled the gunk from the creature's legs.
"Now then, my pet..." Zepp pointed to the Hoodians gathered by the Shack "...eat them."
Klogg listened to the shrieks and screams that echoed from above and smiled. He could just imagine what kind of damage Evil Zepp was doing. If only Klogg could be up there doing some too. He sighed and hung his head.
All of a sudden, the Hall was flooded with voices raised in fear. Klogg looked up. Tons of Hoodians filled the Hall above him, hiding in their rooms from the angry Weasel outside.
"Hey!" Klogg called up at them. "Hey, somebody let me outta here!"
Krudd pushed his way through the crowd to look down at Klogg. "Sorry, Klogg," he said. "One power-hungry maniac on the loose is one too many."
Klogg growled to himself. It would appear he would never get out of this cell. Zepp would blow the Neverhood to shreds before Klogg had a chance to take over.
"A power-hungry maniac, am I?" Zepp's mocking voice commanded the Hoodian's attention. "How wrong you are." He took a bite of the fruit he was holding. "I only want what'ss besst for the Neverhood. This place needss a new king. Hoborg iss too ssoft hearted. What you need iss a powerful ruler."
"And who made you that powerful?!" Klogg yelled up. "I did! I should be king!"
"Ssilence!" Zepp commanded. "If you are sso sstrong, how come you're the one in the cage?"
Klogg glowered and said nothing more. Zepp laughed smugly and left.
Determined, Krudd followed. After a moment, Tif started after them too.
Zepp headed straight for the palace, all the way to the throne room where Hoborg still stood, completely frozen. Willie Trombone stood with him, muttering gibberish to himself. Zepp looked around for a minute, then scooped up the remote control for the cannon, which was sitting on a nearby table.
"Hmmm..." Zepp said thoughtfully. "Thiss presentss interesting possibilities."
Krudd stood outside, listening. If he could just get the crown back to Hoborg, the rightful king could return things to order. And perhaps bring Zepp back to his true self.
Willie said nothing when Krudd slipped in. Lightly on tiptoe, Krudd walked up behind his friend. He knew even when the crown was removed Zepp would not return to normal, so he had to do this fast. Taking a deep breath, Krudd snatched the crown from Zepp's head.
Zepp whirled around, but Krudd was already moving. The hoop-head placed the crown onto Hoborg's head and prayed for a miracle.
Slowly, Hoborg came back to himself. Zepp glared, but didn't move at first. Krudd, Willie, and Tif (who was still hiding behind the door) held their breath as the true king awoke.
Suddenly, Zepp whirled and bolted for the door. Krudd ran and tackled his friend, and smashed a vase against Zepp's head. Zepp fell unconscious.
"What...? What happened?" Hoborg asked in his deep voice. "Where's Klogg?"
"Locked up in the Hall of Records," Krudd answered. "But there's a giant Weasel running loose and Zepp will wake up in a few moments."
The three went to work. Zepp was locked up until Hoborg could think of a way to cure him, the Weasel was bombed-up, and Klogg was banished off the Neverhood. Hoborg finally invented a chemical that would turn Zepp back to his original state. Krudd, Tif and all of Zepp's other friends watched in relief as Zepp returned to normal.
"Ow...!" Zepp groaned when he finally awoke. He had a skull splitting headache. "What happened?"
"You don't remember?" asked Tif.
Zepp shook his head. "Not much anyway. I remember Klogg putting the crown on my head... where is Klogg anyway?"
"It's a looooong story." Krudd said gently. "And it'll have to wait 'till you're better."
THE END (for now)