Sitting amidst an orchard and a pen whom he had emptied of its sheep, Vainqueur glared at Murmurin’s volcano, a dark, fuming place even under the bright sunlight.
What kind of atrocity the lich was planning deep in his dungeon? How long before he spread knowledge of this dark, horrifying spell to the outside world? Vainqueur seethed at the thought, simmering with anger.
Although he heard Manling Victor and the new werewolves minions approach, Vainqueur didn’t even bother glancing at him, entirely focused on the mountain. “Your Majesty?” minion Victor called. “Your Majesty, are you alright?”
“Where are the kobolds?” Vainqueur asked.
“I sent them to recruit new minions.”
Good. More fodder to throw at the lich. “Minion Victor, you are now my military advisor,” Vainqueur told him, “I would have promoted you to general, but command of this operation is too important to delegate. I will oversee the war against Furibon myself.”
“The war, Your Majesty?”
“Yes, minion, war. This is war, against an enemy willing to cross any line into depravity. So you will gather all information about this dungeon, every trap, and every defender, every way to break this magical barrier, every way to return my hoard to normal, and then you will give me strategies to validate. You will also research ways for me to become a wizard stronger than Furibon, who is evil and must be destroyed.”
“Dragons can be wizards?” Croissant asked.
“Dragons can be anything,” Vainqueur clarified.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this…” Manling Victor hesitated. “But Your Majesty’s choice of taking levels in the [Wizard] class will be very suboptimal. Let alone the fact it will take you at least fifty years of study to become anywhere near Furibon’s level.”
“Fifty years is the length of a nap to me,” Vainqueur clarified, resolute in his choice. “I told you, minion, that I would destroy that lich, even if it takes me centuries.”
“Yes, but wouldn’t it be faster and easier to just recruit a professional wizard? I already asked Savoureuse for her contacts, and that way I would live long enough to see the lich defeated.”
“Your Lizardkin ally Savoureuse may be of use, and look reptilian enough to please me,” Vainqueur agreed, happy the minion shared his resolve. “But I can smell she serves another monster lord, and I will not rely on another’s minion to win this battle.”
“You remember her?” The minion seemed shocked. “Holy… Your Majesty is not fine.”
“A dragon is not poor, Manling Victor,” Vainqueur told his chief of staff. “My gold is sick, and so I am. Only gold and revenge against Furibon, who is evil and must be destroyed, can cure me.”
“Technically sir, only your gold is ‘sick,’ the silver, jewels, and magical items are fine. So the hoard is not totally gone, most of your assets are just… frozen.”
“A dragon’s hoard must have gold in it!” Vainqueur replied angrily. “Or it is not shiny enough!”
Having no hoard worth bragging about was a fate worse than death to Vainqueur, and he refused to suffer through it.
“I’m just… you’re being so intense and serious about it, Your Majesty, it’s scaring me a little.”
“Furibon took everything that was precious to me!” Vainqueur ranted, the strength of his booming words making Victor fall on his ass. “I am the great calamity of this age! I am the apex creature! No one mocks me and lives! My reputation will be in tatters if word of his cruelty spreads! So if I cannot blast his fortress the proper dragon way, then I will do whatever it takes to destroy him!”
Furibon had made Vainqueur feel like a pauper, and for that, he had to die. Or become deader.
Vainqueur would also learn how to break that curse of lead, in case another Furibon rose up after he had destroyed the current one.
“Your Majesty, I have thought about the problem, and if I may, I think there is an easier solution than working years on becoming a wizard.” Manling Victor rose back up. “There is a spellcaster-class called [Witch Hunter], which specializes in killing spellcasters and demon worshippers, and they learn exorcisms highly effective against both. With enough levels in it and Charisma points, you should be able to break the barrier.”
While Vainqueur stubbornly sought to cover his rear with magic, the idea of a class dedicated to destroying Furibon’s kind appealed to him. “What has my natural charisma to do with canceling a barrier?”
“The potency of [Witch Hunter] Perks is based on Charisma, and from what I gathered Dragons have lots of it. Must be the scaly charm.”
It suddenly occurred to Vainqueur that he never cared about what those points did. He stopped looking at the mountain, focusing intently on Victor.
As expected of his chief of staff, Minion Victor explained without Vainqueur having to ask. “Health Points represent your lifeforce, health, and longevity. The more of them, the longer you live and the slower you age. Special Points power magical abilities. Strength is strength, Vitality increases your constitution and endurance. Skill handles your dexterity and skillfulness; Agility represents speed and reflexes. Intelligence is intelligence. Charisma influences willpower and charm. The more you have it, the more you get laid. Finally, the more Luck, the more randomness favors you.”
“So the higher the Charisma, the more willpower I have?”
“It also improves the use of certain spells and abilities. Since it represents willpower, [Witch Hunters] can use their Charisma to dispel magic or rain holy judgment on their enemies.”
Vainqueur checked his current stats. “Menu.”
Level: 14 (Noble 8/Gladiator 6)
“Seventy-nine?” Croissant almost choked.
So did Manling Victor. “That’s three times more than me!”
“Yes, yes, minions, everybody loves me,” Vainqueur replied dismissively. “It should be more than enough to break the barrier, then.”
“Well, you must burn an arcane spellcaster to get the class, like a witch or another lich. Demons also work.”
“I have the burning part covered,” Vainqueur replied. “Fetch me a witch. Any witch. It is not enough that I destroy Furibon, who is pure evil and has to be destroyed. Anything that looks like that cursed creature will burn in the fires of my wrath!”
“Furibon Delenda Est,” Minion Victor spoke a foreign language as if it made him sound more intelligent. “But we don’t have many liches or spellcasters available.”
“That’s not true, we have a dryad drui-” Croissant put his hand on sweet Chocolatine’s mouth before she could finish.
“It is easy to take levels in class before reaching level twenty, from what you manlings told me,” Vainqueur said, formulating a plan at once. “I awakened the proud [Noble] class simply by learning I could take levels. Gaining access to [Witch Hunter] should be quick, even without a witch on hands to burn.”
Minion Victor stayed silent for a moment, before making a face and asking, “Your Majesty, what is your intelligence stat?”
“Fourteen, and I started at nine!” Vainqueur said proudly, assuming the Manling started at one.
“I’m just scared of what Your Majesty will achieve with more points.”
“Oh, I have a great idea!” said Chocolatine with a gleeful smile, after pushing her brother’s hand away. “Why not summon demons as practice dummies?”
“Summon demons?” Victor turned to her, appalled.
“Yes! Since there is no witch nearby, we just summon demons! Demon witches, and you murder them, and we harvest the body parts.”
“Chocolatine, I already told you no,” Croissant told his sister. “We’re not sacrificing sheep to summon demons and then kill them. This is too dangerous, even if we summon only lesser fiends.”
“But we would got more meat that way! And Rolo said he wanted fertilizer for the farms…”
Vainqueur listened with attention, smelling an opportunity. “Minion Victor, could I gain [Witch Hunter] levels out of this?”
“You can gain [Witch Hunter] levels by burning demons, or people possessed by demons, yes,” Victor said, scratching the back of his head in embarrassment. “You would think they had some kind of fire resistance, though, seeing where they come from.”
“To your puny fire maybe, but not my dragonfire!” Vainqueur boasted.
“Some are immune to it, but we can summon those who aren’t,” said Chocolatine.
“Yes, but… summon demons just to kill them?” Victor grumbled, too pessimistic to see the golden opportunity. “I dunno, it sounds like prank calling Hell. No way it’s not going to backfire somehow, right?”
“Minion Victor, how can you not see the potential?” Vainqueur chastised his lackey. “That way, we can both gain quick levels, minion. I kill the demons, then you revive them as undead, and then I kill them again. This will double my experience, and I gain treasure both times!”
“Your Majesty wants me to turn demons into undead so he can kill them all over again?”
“You will also let the demons use their Perks on you whenever possible, in case you can learn them.”
Minion Victor’s skin turned pale. “I would rather not—”
“That’s a great idea!” Croissant complimented Vainqueur’s choice, Manling Victor sending him a fierce glare. The werewolf answered with a smirk.
“It’s okay, Victor, I can cure you,” said Chocolatine with a cheery smile. “So long as you are not dead, I cast a spell and zap, you’re fine again!”
“Is your god even okay with this scheme?” Victor asked Chocolatine. “I thought Isengrim was one of the nicest deities.”
“Of course he is! Commandment Seven: you shall respect the hunt. Hunt to feed, or to thin the herd, but never for profit or pleasure, and never to extinction. Except demons and undead. Demons and undead can be hunted for pleasure, for profit, and to be made extinct.”
“As far as divine declarations go, it's pretty direct.”
“Minion, while I never felt it, I understand that pain hurts for your kind,” Vainqueur reassured his lackey, “But this is war. War calls for sacrifices, and sweat, and tears. For the sake of my hoard, you cannot fail, and so you will do whatever it takes to become the best chief of staff you can be.”
Minion Victor said nothing, lowered his eyes, then raised them back. Vainqueur noticed a change in his gaze, a gleam that wasn’t there before.
The spark of a dragon’s greed.
“Alright, Your Majesty, but, can I ask you a request? Can I keep the undead instead of having you destroying them again? I’m not sure you will gain experience, and I could use them as minions.”
“Oh, and you can always sell them afterward for me,” Vainqueur caught on. “Good idea minion.”
“That’s the spirit,” Minion Victor said with an ominous tone.
And so, for the first time in his immortal life, Vainqueur began to train seriously.
Using a knife, Chocolatine sacrificed a lamb, then drew a circle of blood around the cattle outside the village. She began to recite incantations, the circle shining bright with unholy light. "[Summon Lesser Demon!]"
As she finished her prayer, a creature manifested inside the circle, a manling-sized goat with wings and wielding a fork. “Hell’s Witch Customer Service, what can I do for you? Is it to sell your soul for magical powers, or some other…” The fiend stopped, looking up to Vainqueur. “What the Heaven is—”
Vainqueur lightly blasted him with a fireball.
The explosion tore the fiend in half, sending the remains fly a few meters away from the impact; the sacrificed sheep was entirely vaporized.
Argh, he had wasted the food! Vainqueur decided to breath lighter next time, since demons looked very fragile.
Congratulations! Through your sheer hatred of a spellcaster, burning of a foul fiend at the stakes, and your inclination to solve every problem with fire, you earned a level in the [Witch Hunter] class!
+30 HP, +10 SP, +1 VIT, +1 AGI, +1 INT, +1 CHA, +1 LCK!
You earned the [Spell Purge] Class Perk!
[Spell Purge]: By exhausting one SP per second, you can radiate a field of antimagic energy which automatically cancel any spell in its range, including yours; your Charisma must be higher than the spell’s effective level (Spell Tier + Main Stat Value of the Spellcaster at the time of casting) to cancel it. You can activate and deactivate Spell Purge at will.
Vainqueur’s mood improved when two treasures appeared on the spot where the fiend had fallen. [Crowd Favorite] and [Old Money] had both activated!
At this rate, he could rebuild his hoard within the month.
“I am so going to hell for this…” Victor said, as he put back both halves of the fiend together and raised it as a soulless zombie. “But it’s going to be worth it.”
Vainqueur suddenly realized they forgot to train his minion first. “Manling Victor, next time, you stand in the middle of the circle. Do not forget to let them use their abilities first, then get out of the way so I can burn them. Chocolatine, bring another sheep.”
“Can you leave a bit more meat next time, Your Majesty?” Chocolatine asked, disappointed by the experiment’s result. “I really want to cook a demon’s heart with beans.”