How good to bathe in a bigger hoard!
Vainqueur had done far more than what he had set out to do. He hadn’t doubled his treasure’s size, but more than quadrupled it. While he once struggled to fully shower himself with coins, the dragon could now roll happily in gold and jewels.
All of this in less than a moon. At this rate, his cave wouldn’t be enough to contain his full hoard.
“Guys, go away!” Minion Victor called outside, Vainqueur paying it no mind. “Haven’t you seen the signposts? You will get killed if you get closer!”
“Is that the dragon’s lair?” a shrilling voice answered, Vainqueur trying to block out the sounds.
“Yes, but you really, really don’t stand a chance—” A zapping sound like that of lightning echoed in the distance. “Alright, that’s it! Shoot them, minions!”
The sound of an explosion and tremors interrupted Vainqueur’s joyful bath. The dragon turned to the cave’s entrance, where his minions had barricaded themselves. “Manling Victor, what is happening?”
“Dragonslayers, again!” his chief of staff shouted back, another tremor causing an icicle to fall at the cave’s entrance, nearly impaling one of the kobolds. “Blue, snipe the wizard!”
“I am trying, chief!” The undead minion fired an arrow with his bow of cattle bone. “I got him!”
Vainqueur was very proud of Victor’s choice of learning necromancy. Not only did undead minions add to Vainqueur’s prestige, but he could also now eat minions, spit out the bones, and still make use of them.
“Nailed him right between the legs!” Red gloated after firing his own arrow, before snarling. “They have a healer!”
Vainqueur grumbled, rising from his hoard to join the siege.
Since they achieved a level in [Outlaw]—which amused Vainqueur, who considered laws a manling absurdity—Victor had given each of the Kobold Rangers bows and taught them how to use them. A good idea, since this was the seventh adventurer party they sniped this week.
At first, it had been amusing and profitable, but Vainqueur had grown tired of the constant interruptions.
The dragon’s head exited the cave’s entrance, casting his minions in his shadow and glancing down at their targets. A foolish band of manlings, dwarves, and elves, mostly armed with these sticks Manling Victor called arquebuses or wands. Vainqueur counted fifteen of them.
Aw, they came back with greater numbers this time, as if it would help. Adorable.
Unfortunately, they didn’t bring any pegasus riders, unlike the previous group, so no horse food tonight. Vainqueur would have loved nothing more than poke them, but his finger had grown sore from overuse.
“They are very persistent.” As a magical projectile bounced off his head, the dragon considered learning magic himself. The way some sorcerers often threw lightning at him always fascinated Vainqueur. Not that it ever worked, but it amused him. “I thought they would give up after the first three pokings.”
“The bounty on Your Majesty’s head is very high,” Victor replied. “And your lair’s location is well-known now.”
Yes, yes, such were the downsides of fame and celebrity.
The dragon let out a powerful roar, causing an avalanche; the snow rolled down the mountain, flooding the screaming manlings while leaving the cave unscathed. He knew choosing this location would prove helpful.
Congratulations! For defending your territory and minions with the power of your noble roar alone, you have gained a level in the [Noble] class! +30 HP, +1 INT, +1 CHA, +1 LCK!
Finally! Vainqueur had started to wonder if he would gain any experience out of this, and he was one level short of that sweet stipend. “There, problem solved,” the dragon said. “Recover their treasure, while I return to my bath.”
“Your Majesty, this can’t continue,” Victor said, black marks under his eyes. “They just keep coming, even at night. They ignore all warnings.”
“We cannot repeat our new motto,” Red complained. “And Yellow keeps ruining it when we find the time too!”
“I just say we should add ‘doom’ somewhere,” the yellow skeleton replied, before switching to that deep voice he had grown awfully fond of. “Doooooom.”
The echo caused a lesser avalanche, finishing off the few manlings who managed to crawl out of the snow. Vainqueur ignored them as he retreated inside his cave. “Minions, I am just as annoyed as you, but what can I do about it? I cannot forbid manlings from committing assisted suicide.”
“Yeah, I have become comfortable killing idiots attacking us first as part of natural selection, but we should relocate.” Manling Victor shuddered, freezing even while wearing a goatskin coat. “To a warmer mountain where adventurers won’t keep finding us.”
Abandon his cave? A dragon did not run! “Are you not happy to have a roof?” Vainqueur browbeat his minions. “You have food aplenty, the best sight of the continent…”
“We lack space, and I’m sick of eating mountain goats all the time,” manling Victor complained, having grown bolder and angrier due to the lack of sleep. “Also, one cave soon will not be enough to hold your treasure, Your Majesty.”
Vainqueur pondered the suggestion, his eyes settling on his hoard. Indeed, his cave would soon become too small, and a thief might get lucky stealing his gold while he hunted outside. While he trusted his minions, they could not handle so many robbers at once.
That, and ever since they cooked that squid, they haven't had received any requests. Maybe they should use the time off to find a new place to live.
“I still do not understand why your guildhalls become deserted every time we go there,” Vainqueur grumbled.
“Your Majesty,” his chief of staff coughed. “The problem with eating a quest giver is that no more people will give you quests, because they are afraid you will eat them too.”
“But she refused to pay me first!” Vainqueur protested. “Before witnesses!”
“Yeah, well, she was also a high-ranking noble with lots of connections. I did send a complaint to the adventurer guild, and I heard the duchess’ sister is secretly happy we hastened her inheritance, but we aren’t getting work for a while.”
“I cannot believe it, is that what your puny race do in this situation? Complain and laze off?”
“Your picture of my species is very flattering, Your Majesty,” Victor said with his usual obsequiousness. “Usually we just clean a dungeon, kill monsters, and take their treasure.”
Vainqueur’s head perked up at the mention of treasures, hitting the ceiling. “Treasure?” he repeated, the kobolds cowering behind him to avoid falling icicles, “Minion, tell me everything.”
The chief of staff scratched the back of his head, probably wondering where to begin. “Dungeons are dangerous areas, overflowing with monsters and holding treasures,” he explained to his master. “Adventurers clearing the place can take everything they get their hands on, and even claim the dungeon if they kill all the monsters within. However, dungeons usually have a super-strong creature, a boss, keeping them.”
“A monster lord,” Vainqueur guessed.
“You have a term for it?”
“Monster lords are the top of the food chain,” Pink chirped. “They are the strongest of the strongest, to whom minions owe obedience!”
“Dragons are always at the top,” Vainqueur clarified. “Where can we find such a dungeon?”
“Most in Gardemagne have been emptied by older adventurers, but I heard of a few too dangerous for most, especially alongside the border with Ishfania. I guess Your Majesty could handle them.”
“Are these dungeons large enough to hold my ever-growing hoard?” The minion nodded. Mmm… it might also be the occasion to rebuild his minion base since Manling Victor clearly couldn’t breed for the life of him. “What kind of dungeons have you heard of?”
“There is the underwater city of Meropis—”
“Next!” Vainqueur immediately interrupted, having enough of watery adventures already. “Somewhere warm and on land. No wetness.”
“No marsh, then? I had a pretty nice one in a marsh.”
“No marshes, no swamp, no forest, no lake, no mud, no dirty, dung-smelling manling city.”
His chief of staff kept nodding. “And no frost, for our sake. What about a nice, dry desert then?”
“Oh, oh, I heard of one!” Yellow butted in the conversation. “I heard of an antlion nest in the southern desert, beyond the mountains! It is very deep and very warm!”
Black shuddered. “The cacti shoot you with needles there. I still feel the pain in my butt.”
“Ah yes, I remember that time we tried to practice in the sand,” Blue said. “Now is the time I am happy not to feel pain anymore.”
“Antlions don’t carry treasure besides the remains of their victims,” Manling Victor pointed out. “At best we will only get a few trinkets and what we can take by killing the beasts. The place would be big enough for the hoard, though.”
Vainqueur would rather eat two cows with one bite. “Next.”
“Great, great, then what about a castle in the middle of a volcano?” Manling Victor suggested. “Since Your Majesty enjoys lava baths as much as golden ones…”
Indeed he did. “I am listening,” Vainqueur said. “How much lava are we talking about?”
“I dunno, I’ve never been there. But the place, the Castle of Murmurin, has a spooky reputation. From what I gathered, it was once an officer training facility for the continent’s elite and the headquarter of the Ishfanian Inquisition. At the start of the Century War, Brandon Maure sent his general, the Lich Furibon, to claim the castle, turning it into a haven for fiends and waking up the volcano they had built the fortress on. The Ishfanian Inquisition did its best to fight off demons but—"
"Twenty words," Vainqueur interrupted his minion.
Victor marked a short pause. "Excuse me, Your Majesty?"
"I start zoning out after twenty uninteresting words," Vainqueur said. "I know you manlings love to blatter meaningless words, but a dragon has better things to do than listen. Twenty words, twenty-five if you push it, and gold, treasure, and money do not count."
Manling Victor let out a strange sound. "Lich occupying the castle, bad. Killing it, good. Great reward."
Vainqueur suddenly realized the manling may have used big words to hide his true lack of intelligence. That poor human. The dragon had probably saved his life while taking him under his wing. "What reward?”
“I heard the Ishfanian Inquisition kept most of their fortune in vast vaults underneath the castle, including unique relics. In fact, Maure ordered the attack so they couldn’t be used against him. Also, Gardemagne promised that whoever cleaned up the Castle could claim the surrounding lands as their own, which doesn’t mean much since they have long been deserted.”
“Not really, chief,” Red countered. “I think I know the place, and many kobold warrens made their home there.”
“Deserted by the civilized races,” Minion Victor corrected himself, before frowning. “Wait, you lived there?”
“Our original warren still does,” Red nodded. “When resources grew too scarce to feed all of us, the five of us left to find a monster lord of our own. The minion job market is crowded there.”
Blue nodded. “The mountain is full of demons, undead, and nasties, except for that one human village.”
“There is still a village there?” Victor asked, only caring about his puny kind while Vainqueur imagined the legions of kobolds who would soon cater to his every wish. “How did it survive?”
“No idea, chief,” Red replied. “The elders said that the village is ‘bad moon mojo,’ and everybody avoids it. We ate all the other adventurers for miles.”
Which meant no more attempted robberies. “Nice, you have sold me,” Vainqueur said. “Pack your belongings, minions, castles are the new caves.”
“I must warn Your Majesty that the lich Furibon still occupies the castle and has wiped out every adventurer party trying to dislodge him. Gold-ranked adventurers even.”
A lich... “Minion Victor, a lich is a kind of undead, right?”
“I knew it!”
“They are the strongest of all undead, spellcasters who turned to the dark arts in order to prolong their life. And Furibon was a level fifty magician when he conquered the castle one hundred years ago. He is probably stronger now, he has armies of minions, and he himself is a general of Brandon Maure.”
“Brandon whom?” The name sounded vaguely familiar.
“The demon king who usurped control of Ishfania one hundred years ago. Also, the employer of the Scorchers; since we caused them to disband, Gardemagne was able to retake the fortress of Rochefronde from his forces, so he’s probably pissed off at us.”
“I fail to see why I should care,” Vainqueur replied, who feared no one. “I will poke him as I did with your puny kind.”
“I’m just saying a demon king and a lich who killed just about every hero sent after them for one hundred years might present a bigger hurdle than a bunch of bandits.”
Great, that would mean more treasures to grow his hoard with, and more levels. “I, Vainqueur, relish the challenge,” the dragon replied, unmoved. “Pack your belongings and my hoard.”
His chief of staff glanced at Vainqueur’s treasure, marveling at the size. “Your Majesty,” he said. “How do we transport all the gold?”
The dragon squinted, before realizing the problem.
Ah, indeed. Vainqueur’s hoard had grown so much, the dragon could no longer carry it in his hands, and what his minions had in wit, they made up with a lack of brawn. They couldn’t transport the entire hoard in one go.
“We could leave it behind,” Manling Victor suggested. “Collapse the entrance. It would take days for adventurers to dig it out if they even try.”
The idea of leaving his hoard unattended for days while robbers kept making their way to the mountaintop horrified Vainqueur. What if he came back to find some of the gold lost? After he struggled so much to grow his treasure! “Minion Victor.”
“Yes, Your Majesty?”
“Find a bag. A big bag.”
“A big bag? For the entire hoard?”
“A very big bag,” Vainqueur clarified when his chief of staff looked at him with his big, ugly eyes. “And smaller, tiny bags for the other minions.”
“Your Majesty, there is no bag big enough for your hoard.”
Vainqueur took it as flattery. “Then do you have a better idea, minion? Gold does not fly.”
The manling opened his mouth to say something stupid, then closed it, then looked inside his coat and brought a strange, white metal plate from underneath. The other minions whistled in awe, much to Vainqueur’s confusion.
“Actually,” Manling Victor said. “I think it can…”