When the marquise had invited Victor to a private breakfast in her apartments, Victor had expected everything but an actual breakfast. Maybe a poisoned meal, or being made into the breakfast, or maybe fed to a lion. Not an actual, pleasant breakfast with the lady of the house and the Count of Provencal.
Of course, she had four knights ready to chop his head off at any moment, alongside a few catkin butlers, but he was thankful for the meal all the same. It had been a while since he last ate beef and cooked vegetables with a fork.
Thankfully, he didn’t taste any poison in the meal. He guessed yesterday’s fiasco taught them a lesson.
“This is humiliating,” the marquise said, lounging in a mink chair while petting a winged lion in one hand and sipping a glass of wine with the other. Victor guessed she had taken more than a few drinks. “A red dragon empties our pantry and then decides to take a nap at my front door. Why did the gods send this calamity? Is he still there?”
“Yes, my lady,” an armored knight in full plate armor replied, glancing through the window. “He is resting on his back, with a hand on his belly. The poison should have killed him thrice over by now.”
“Why did you have so much poison on hand in the first place?” Victor asked, too curious for his own good.
“Intense war politics,” the marquise replied without giving more of an explanation, shifting uncomfortably in her chair. “I cannot take this anymore! Someone groom me!”
One of the catkin attendants, a thin, frail, humanoid cat wearing butler clothes, groomed the back of the marquise’s ears with a paw, soothing her. “Victor, is it?” she asked him suddenly. “What is your level?”
“I’m level seven, madam.” Five levels in Outlaw, two in Monster Squire.
“A level seven taming a dragon?” She sneered at him with resentment. “I do not believe you.”
“Do I look like a dragon tamer to you?” Victor replied with a sneer of his own.
“He listens to you,” the Count of Provencal said, having removed his sweat with a now wet handkerchief. “You saved my life.”
“Listens is a bit exaggerated. That creature is a goddamn wrecking ball, all I can do is try to steer him in one direction and hope he doesn’t burn too many houses.”
“We could mount a surprise attack while he sleeps,” a guard proposed.
“Yeah right, try to kill the invincible dragon who ignores arrows and thinks your best poison is pepper. Maybe you will give him a better perk this time.” As he drew glares from the nobles and their guards, Victor cursed his tongue. When he had noticed Vainqueur didn’t understand sarcasm, the adventurer could no longer help himself. It helped relieve the stress of dealing with the wyrm.
“Use another tone with your better, ruffian!” one of the guards spoke up, barely restraining himself from hitting him in the face with his iron gauntlet. His mistress interrupted him with a mere gaze.
“Where do you come from?” the marquise asked Victor. “Your accent is not Gardemagnian. It sounds vaguely Prydanian.”
Her tone told Victor this wasn’t a good thing to flaunt. The Fomors of Prydain had shed much blood in their attempted conquest of Gardemagne, and their Wild Hunt still attacked ships approaching their island. “I come from America,” Vic admitted, before adding, “Earth.”
“A Claimed,” the marquise nodded. “Show me.”
Victor pulled back the sleeve on his left arm, revealing a crimson, shining tattoo representing a twenty-faced dice. “The mark of Dice,” the Marquise recognized. “I should have known only a chosen of the luck god could befriend a dragon.”
Some luck. This world sucked. It was full of brigands, man-eating monsters, dragons, oh, and stuck in the Middle Ages! He hadn’t been able to take a hot bath for months! All because he saved some girl he had a crush on from getting mugged, only to be stabbed and left to bleed in an alley. And if death hadn’t hurt enough, getting forced to join a band of outlaws to survive right afterward had been just as harrowing.
But he understood where that comment came from. People from Earth reincarnating in Outremonde after being branded by the local gods were a known occurrence, and most sported unique perks allowing them to make a life for themselves. The phenomenon even caused the rise of a new religion, the Esoteric Order of the New World.
But Victor didn’t care about becoming a hero or a local curiosity. He just wanted to survive, get laid, and return home.
Also, befriend? Victor would have run away if he could. Unfortunately, the dragon would probably track him down in no time, that beast had keen senses. “Look, lady, I’ll try to lure him off your lands, but I don’t promise anything. Just don’t try to steal his stuff again, okay?”
“My lady, why did you ask for this rapier in the first place?” the Count of Provencal asked.
“This is a family heirloom,” the marquise replied. “My ancestor, according to legends, befriended a manling adventurer and tricked a King of Gardemagne into giving the boy his daughter’s hand. As a reward, the manling gave my ancestor his prized rapier and the marquisate of Carabas. Catkins ruled Carabas ever since.”
Ah, that explained all the felines running around.
“Looters stole that rapier from my great grandfather’s corpse during the Century War, but I had no idea it ended in the claws of a red dragon,” the marquise said, a maid refilling her glass. “I did not know one befouled the country, let alone Vainqueur Knightsbane.”
“He’s got a reputation?” Victor asked, eager to know more about the wyrm.
“He was the bane of Midgard for centuries, before vanishing fifty years ago,” the Count of Provencal said. “Legends say he fought a Wild Hunt party single-handedly and traded blows with a level sixty-seven elf knight.”
From what Victor had heard, only the now legendary Shining Knight approached that level. Which meant the dragon might as well be invincible. “Yeah, and now he has taken two levels in Noble.”
The marquise and the count exchanged worried glances. After all, like most aristocrats, they probably had levels in that class too. “A red dragon should not have access to a Rogue Class,” the marquise stated. “How did this happen?”
Victor wisely decided not to mention his own responsibility. “No idea. He was already like that when I found him. Now he’s set on becoming an adventurer because it pays well, and it’s easy for him. Look at the forest.”
“The monsters of Gevaudan plagued the regions for ages, especially with the chaos of the Century War,” one of the knights said. “To destroy the entire area in minutes…”
Louise de Carabas nodded. “While the loss of my pantry is devastating, the economic gains do outweigh it. We might as well make use of the dragon’s current fancy. If he wants to be an adventurer, we could send him on a fool’s errand.”
“My lady, you cannot be serious!” the count protested. “A dragon adventurer? What else, a troll prince?”
“The creature is toying with us,” a guard agreed, clenching his fists. “How long until its natural instincts reassert themselves?”
“We could offer him a doomed request, like attacking the Fomors of Prydain or the demon lord Brandon Maure,” the marquise ignored her advisers, her butlers moving to groom her back. “Either he will succeed and do the world a favor, or fail and get killed.”
“Er, the lizard won’t move unless there’s a significant reward,” Victor said, although the idea had merits. If the dragon was willing to fight other monsters for a price, then maybe he could steer him towards a better purpose. “You better be ready to deliver if he succeeds.”
The marquise frowned, probably lacking the funds to assuage Vainqueur. “No matter,” the marquise said. “My court’s Wizard sent messages to His Majesty King Charles Gardemagne and the Shining Knight, who will dispatch their best warriors after him. After the news spread, this dragon’s days are numbered. ”
Victor doubted they would amount to much. Vainqueur’s family name was Knightsbane after all.
But what should he do? Lure Vainqueur to his death, hoping an adventurer would get lucky? His gut told him it wouldn’t work. No, Victor was stuck with the dragon for now, and from what he had seen he would better work with or around him than against.
The adventurer decided the best option was to make use of the dragon’s fancy, as the marquise suggested. Even with the war’s end, the kingdom of Gardemagne remained plagued by troublemakers, who killed people right now, instead of retreating to an island far away like the Fomors.
He might also make a nice profit out of this mess. He had gotten two levels in less than one day, after struggling for months to level up in his Outlaw class. Being around a dragon killing strong opponents he himself couldn’t take on helped him level up faster. If he reached a high enough level while guiding and studying the dragon up close, maybe Victor could escape his grasp one day.
“Are there any troublemakers that need death by dragonfire?” Victor asked, drawing gazes at him, “This is a gamble, but if I aim him at dangerous enemies, maybe one will get lucky and kill him.”
That greedy Vainqueur would never let him keep anything shiny, but if he managed to grab a noble title or magical items while at it…
“The main threats to Gardemagne’s peace are the Scorchers, roving bandits and mercenary bands ravaging the countryside since the end of the Century War,” the Count said. “Bands led by the kind of Ogron the Ogre, Gustave La Muraille, and François Vilmain are causing trouble in the south-west. Duchess Aelinor issued bounties on their heads.”
“They are no match for a dragon, Gilbert,” the marquise said. “Even Ogron is only level thirty-five or so, and while the duchess put a bounty on the Scorchers’ leaders, they are low. Will they motivate a dragon?”
“Do you have the bounties on hands?” Victor guessed he would just guide Vainqueur towards that kraken. Considering the reward, he would have no trouble convincing the dragon. But it wouldn’t hurt to take a look at the other options.
“Minion?” Victor winced, as Vainqueur’s voice made the walls tremble. “Minion?! MINION!”
Vic sighed. Duty called. “Do you happen to have a large bag?” he asked the nobles. “And maybe a potion of fire resistance?”
“Have you not asked enough already?!” a knight lambasted him, the winged lion growling at his outburst.
“Otherwise, I tell him you have a hidden pantry under your tower,” Victor replied, annoyed. “Your choice.”
The marquise waved a hand in annoyance. “Fetch him what he wants, so long as they leave.”
Victor figured babysitting a dragon had its perks.
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Bio: I'm a European warlock living in the distant realm known as France, spending half my time writing and the other half managing magical websites. I post Magik Online on my main website and RR both on Wednesday, and Vainqueur the Dragon twice to thrice weekly.