This world sucked!
The locals had bound Victor to an olive tree with heavy chains under the faint moonlight. Around twenty werewolves had gathered to observe the sacrifice, while a squid-like humanoid held the ceremony, chittering incantations while wielding a scepter. Victor guessed the Moon Man worshippers were a relative minority in the community.
Unfortunately, the majority had given Victor the silent treatment.
“Brother, is that smart?” Chocolatine asked her brother, one of the few who did argue against the adventurer’s capture. “He is the dragon’s chief of staff, and that one is angry already…”
“He burnt our previous home, sis,” Croissant pointed out. Unlike his sister, he had shapeshifted in a monstrous, car-sized black wolf, glaring at Victor with seething hatred.
“Yes, which is why I don’t want him to burn our current one.”
“I’m sure Victor was just following orders,” Savoureuse tried to argue with the cultists, although that wasn’t the passionate defense Victor had hoped for. “Do not blame the follower, blame the leader.”
Croissant sneered back. “I asked the adventurer guild after the dragon devastated our home, and they confirmed the ‘human partner’ led the dragon in the first place.”
“But Vainqueur burned the forest on his own!” Victor protested.
“You still led him there!” Croissant snapped back.
“He burned my house!” another werewolf complained in the crowd.
“I watched all my livestock die!”
Savoureuse gave Victor a sympathetic gaze. “I’m sorry, Vic. I tried. I would have fought to release you if my life wasn't in danger.”
Victor shrugged. It was more than he expected.
The Moon Man’s priest finished the incantation, and a beam of light descended from the skies. With a brilliant flash, a horrible insult against nature manifested in front of Victor, a bus-sized hybrid of a dragon and a squid, with no eyes and only squirmy skin. Its countless tentacles thrashed around, tossing away some of the werewolf cultists.
The mere sight of the creature gave Victor a headache.
Charisma check successful! [Madness] negated!
The creature sounded no more happy to be here than Victor himself. “You again!” it shrieked with a shrilling, inhuman voice. “Why will you not stop?”
“Great Moon Beast!” the lead priest called, the other cultists bowing before the creature. Only Croissant, Chocolatine and Savoureuse remained still. “Your rancid glory honors us! Please, accept this sacrifice in atonement!”
The monster didn’t feel grateful. At all. “I do not understand the movements of your squishy tongue, skinbag, but I swear on the Moon Man, one day I will lose my self-control, and I will drip my pseudopods in the hole you use for excrement.”
“Mmm… sir,” Victor told the creature. “I would like to say that I am not complicit in this.”
The titan froze. “You speak r'lyehian, skinbag?”
R'lyehian? Victor figured his Perk had translated the words in the creature’s native tongue. “Well, yes I can understand you just fine.” The adventurer blinked. “They can’t?”
“He can understand the Moon Beast without going mad?” the squid priest turned to Croissant, who shrugged his shoulders in confusion.
Victor guessed they lacked the Perk needed to discuss with the interstellar abomination. “Since you can also understand me,” the human told the creature. “Words can’t convey how unappetizing I am.”
“Why would I eat you? You don’t even have pseudopods. Eurgh… you moving gametes disgust me… your face is terrible, and you look like a cancer with these big, bulbous, disgusting… eyes...”
How did it even know Victor had eyes since it had none itself? “Yeah, having eyes is terrible, almost as much as being tied to a tree while being threatened with death.”
“I will tell you what is terrible, gamete creature. You are minding your own business, enjoying your once in an eon vacation, before the stars are right and you must go back to work, and you are this,” the abomination raised two tentacles, “this close to eating that tasty telepathic spider. Then, without warning, someone teleports you right as you have your food in your tendrils, then throws a screaming human whelp at you. And they do that. Every. Single. Moon! Wouldn’t you vent a little?”
When seeing things this way… That would explain why tentacled creatures always destroyed the world when summoned.
“Yes, but…” Victor trailed, glancing at the cultists and Croissant in particular, who couldn’t understand the Moon Beast’s half of the conversation. “Why at me, and not at them?”
The creature sighed. “The Moon Man is… absent-minded, so we have to take care of his cults. He already has so few of them, and while stupid, this one is devout. I wish they could just stop summon me all the time, though. I do not know where they got the idea that the Moon Man needs live sacrifices, but the idea spread everywhere.”
“I think they do that because they do not understand what you say, unlike me,” Victor replied. “I can clarify your needs to them, and make them stop.”
“You can make it stop?” The titan's tentacles wriggled and let out a sound that sounded dirty. “Oh, yes! Yes!”
“You’ve got to spare and free me free first, though.”
“Yes, yes, anything it takes.” The titan’s tentacles surged towards the chains, breaking them without effort. Victor walked away from the tree, enjoying his newfound freedom, much to the amazement of the cultists, and Croissant’s frustration.
None were more than the leading priest. “He… the newcomer has been chosen by the Moon Beast as its mouthpiece!”
“It says…” Victor trailed, before frowning at the Moon Beast. “Actually, what is your name?”
“Thul-Gathar, gamete skinbag.”
“Thul-Gathar says moonly sacrifices are not needed to show your devotion to its progenitor.”
The cultists exchanged hushed whispers. “Then how can we serve the Moon Man?” asked the chief priest.
“They’re asking what they should replace the sacrifices with,” Victor translated.
“Tell them they must moonwalk until they collapse of exhaustion every full moon, then to eat their own fecal matter.”
“No, but that would have been funny,” the Moon Beast replied. “Tell them to pray to the Moon Man for insight, then to hold a quiet, private orgy under the moonlight every full moon; narcotics are encouraged, but not necessary. Order them to stop summoning me, as I have other cults to guide.”
“Thul-Gathar says that you must pray the Moon Man for insight, while…” The cult listened to him with religious, rapturous attention, making Victor uneasy. “Having a drugged orgy every full moon.”
“Also, no more incest,” the Moon Beast clarified. “It is very important Father’s cults remain healthy and fertile. We allowed inbreeding long ago, and cults keep dying out because of it today.”
“Thul-Gathar explicitly forbids incest, which is an affront to the Moon Man.”
“Even cousins?” the priest asked.
“Are cousins allowed?” Victor transmitted the message.
The Moon Beast hesitated for a good minute, before coming with an answer. “Cousins are reluctantly forbidden, but in-laws are allowed in return.”
“Cousins are not allowed, but since blood is the only barrier to love, thou can lay with your in-laws. Finally, your repeated summonings prevent Thul-Gathar from guiding other civilizations to glory. It says that you have reached sufficient enlightenment to manage yourselves.”
“Ch'yar ul'nyar shaggornyth,” the cultists said all at once.
“Yes, yes, inbred gamete people,” Thul-Gathar answered dismissively, his flock unable to understand him. “Are we done?”
“Yes, I think they will behave from now on.”
“Then thank you, skinbag. Show me your hand, so that I may reward you for giving me peace.”
The Moon Beast touched Victor’s left arm with a tentacle, the moist contact sending shivers down his spine. The shining, white mark of a full moon, the Moon Man’s symbol, appeared on his skin.
Congratulations! You were granted a blessing by a star spawn of the Moon Man! You earned the [Claimed by the Moon Man] Personal Perk!
[Claimed by the Moon Man]: when you level up, you have an additional 10 percent chance of gaining a Charisma point. You gain Immunity to Madness and Moon effects unless those caused by the Moon Man and his servants.
Nice! Finally, things turned around in his favor for once!
“Tell me, gamete animal, would you like a job?” the Moon Beast offered. “You can make a good mouthpiece to address the Moon Man’s flock, and I have been looking for a chief of staff to lead my minions.”
A chief of staff? Here we go again. “I am already taken, sir.”
“You are?” The creature hummed at Victor. “A dragon’s scent? You serve a dragon?”
“Look, carbon-based mammal, dragons are prestigious, but they underpay their minions.” Like it wouldn’t believe. “If you serve me, you will be swimming in pearls and seashells by the next moon. As my chief of staff, you will also have unrestricted breeding privileges, including ignoring the incest restriction. You can keep your tendrils in your family.”
It was official, the creature was officially trying to bribe him. Victor pondered the offer, the idea of managing a fertility cult appealing to him.
But considering how Vainqueur had reacted when he thought Victor had left him for a wyvern, and that he would be in a cranky mood for a while... “I am very flattered,” said Victor. “But my dragon is very insecure about me leaving him, too, so I am not tempting his wrath. I also kind of like the other minions.”
“Your funeral,” the Moon Beast replied. “If you change your mind, visit me on the moon.”
“But thank you, I am honored by your proposal,” Victor said politely, in case the creature could hold a grudge. He turned to the cultists. “Also… what am I to do with them?”
“BEEP them.” The Moon Beast vanished in another flash of light, clearly in a hurry to leave the place behind.
Congratulations! For resisting the temptation to cheat on your dragon master with a Moon Beast, proving your faithfulness, and for serving as a bridge between monster lords and their flock, you have earned two levels in [Monster Squire]!
+60 HP, +10SP, +1 SKI, +1 AGI, +1 INT, +1 CHA, +1 LCK!
You earned the [Rally Minions] Class Perk!
[Rally Minions]: By uttering a strong authority statement, such as “Die to them, or die to me,” you can increase all the stats of your minions for a short duration.
“Nice work,” Savoureuse congratulated Victor, “I didn’t understand half of what it said, but you handled it like a champ.”
Victor shrugged. He had the feeling he had done the best he…
Wait, wait! Victor hadn’t asked the creature if it could send him back to Earth!
“I guess I will have to eat him myself,” Croissant said, showing his fangs, only for the priest of the Moon Man to block his path with his scepter.
“You will not lay a fang on a prophet of our god, Croissant!” The priest turned back to Victor. “Please, chosen Victor, what was the final revelation? What are you to do with us?”
… do not abuse your power, Victor. Do not abuse your power, don’t abuse the power.
Abuse the power. “Thul-Gathar asked me to—”
Before Victor could make his unreasonable demand, a powerful shadow obscured the moonlight, followed by a familiar sound.
Everyone trembled, as Vainqueur landed in the field with a loud crash, his landing blowing off dust. “Minion! There you are! Stop daydreaming, and tell me where is my hoard! Is it safe? Is it cured?”
Victor sighed, his vacation was very short-lived. He already regretted not taking the Moon Beast’s offer. “I put it where you wanted, Your Majesty, but no, it is not ‘cured.’”
“As I feared,” Vainqueur fumed, his golden eyes falling upon the gathered villagers, the fire in his gaze making them step back. “What are they, new minions?”
“They’re survivors from the Woods of Gevaudan, which Your Majesty burned.”
“Yes, we are.” To his credit, Croissant had enough courage to stand up to Vainqueur. “You burned our home.”
“Then you will apologize to me at once, wolfling.”
Croissant glared back at the dragon, aghast. “Why would we apologize to you?”
“If you had not survived, I would have gained more treasure,” Vainqueur replied. “So your survival cost me. You will all apologize by becoming my new minions. Now, there is a great reward for doing as I wish. Namely, living. Any other dragon would have eaten you all for your sinful crime, and would never have taken werewolves in their service, but I am forgiving and merciful.”
Victor had terrible flashbacks at the wording, which he blamed on Post Vainqueur Stress Disorder. The more Croissant listened, the more incredulous he looked. “You cannot expect—”
“I am a dragon. A dragon who never ate a wolf before, and you are starting to sound like food. Minion Victor, is that wolf food?”
“That depends,” Victor looked at Croissant dead in the eyes. “Are you dragon food, Croissant?”
The wolf looked at Victor, then at Vainqueur, realized that he was twenty times smaller, then glared at Victor again. “I am starting to realize that the ‘just following orders’ excuse may be valid,” he grumbled.
“You’re goddamn right,” Victor replied, a bit too happy to rub it in the wolf’s face.
Croissant looked at the rest of the villagers, none of them willing to take a stand. And then, proving himself far smarter than every noble in Gardemagne, he decided to cut his losses after a glance at his sister. “I apologize to both of you,” the werewolf said, forcing himself to say every word. “Just don’t eat us.”
“Not unless you run out of sheep,” Vainqueur replied, the villagers looking at one another. The dragon lost interest in the wolf pack, turning to Victor. “Minion, I must become a wizard.”
“A wizard, Your Majesty?”
“The lich does not stay dead when I kill him, and now hides in his castle like a coward. You said he hides his soul in an item, which makes it immortal."
"His phylactery, which is probably hidden in the castle, yes." Victor started realizing where the dragon was going.
"I cannot break the magical barrier protecting it nor cure my hoard, so I must become a wizard to do so,” Vainqueur explained. “We must destroy the great evil that is Furibon, Minion Victor. This is no longer about wealth, minion. This is about all dragons, all hoards, present, and future. Furibon is the greatest threat to the dragon way of life since the Gold-Eating Insects.”
“There are insects that eat gold?” Victor asked, wondered how that even worked.
“There were,” Vainqueur said with an ominous tone. “I was overconfident, thinking being an adventurer was all about increasing the size of my hoard. I now realize that I was blind to the danger ahead. There are threats to all hoards hiding in the darkest corners of the world, and I must destroy them.”
Victor said nothing, astonished by Vainqueur’s passionate speech.
“Furibon is evil incarnate, a cruel, heartless monster who delights in taking all that brings worth to the world and turning it to lead. Imagine if he spreads that spell outside of this castle? Imagine a world without gold?” Vainqueur marked a short, rhetorical pause. “You cannot, manling, and neither can I! Because only a twisted monster like Furibon could imagine it! He is evil, and he has to be stopped. So we will break the magical barrier, clear that dungeon and destroy the lich for good. Even if it takes us a thousand years!”
They were all doomed.
Vainqueur had started behaving like a true adventurer.
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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.