The vaults of the castle overflowed with treasure.
Deep in the depths of the dungeon, Manling Victor had found strong, metal doors so thick and huge, five dragons could have gone through them at once. After some fiery landscaping, Vainqueur and his minions had forced their way inside, only to be welcomed with the most beautiful sight in the world: an immense underground metal vault, overflowing with hills of gold and silver coins.
Vainqueur immediately jumped into his new treasure, swimming in the gold like a shark in the water. So many baby coins imprisoned below ground by that lich, and without a good dragon to take care of them!
“Minions!” Vainqueur shouted, while vicariously showering his belly with coins. “Grow my new hoard by adding the old one to it!”
“Sure, but… what the hell is that?”
Vainqueur, who focused on his new shinies alone, hadn’t noticed a second door on the other end of the vault. This one was made of ancient stone and sealed shut by heavy chains covered with ancient runes.
Was there a bigger vault behind it? This kept getting better and better!
“Oh, that’s written in old Ishfanian.” Sweet Chocolatine moved to examine inscriptions written on the stone. “‘Beyond these doors, closed by the blessed Inquisition of Mithras the Eversun, is the demesne of the Archdevil Isabelle, Mistress of Blades. May these bindings never break, or Ishfania shall know Hell Unending.’”
“Of course the Ishfanian Inquisition would build a fortress over a gate to Hell,” Minion Victor said. “The castle was meant to protect it from invaders coming from inside.”
“Isabelle is Brandon Maure’s mother,” Croissant the Useless said. He still hadn’t recovered from the traps Vainqueur sent him to scout through, with slashes and paint all over his body. “Furibon must have worked to open these doors over the century and supply his master with demonic armies to throw at Gardemagne.”
“What about the seal?” Manling Victor asked. “Will it hold?”
“The bindings have weakened from lack of maintenance, but I can repair them with Squid’s help...” Chocolatine’s face beamed. “Oh, oh, why don’t we open them ourselves? That way we can slaughter demons as they come out. More money, more meat.”
Vainqueur’s chief of staff didn’t share her enthusiasm. “I really don’t like the undertones of tricking an entire species into getting killed one at the time by entering a closed room, even demons.”
“But organized slaughter is okay if it is done to fiends!” Chocolatine protested.
“No, it’s not! And does Your Majesty really want to give an army of would-be robbers direct access to their hoard?”
No. That would be like the mountain, except with winged goats rather than manlings. “Wolfling Chocolatine, you will keep these doors closed,” Vainqueur ordered. “You can still use sheep to lure them in your backward peasant village.”
The werewolf pouted in disappointment, while minion Victor rejoiced. “Wolflings, you go fetch that squid and reinforce these doors,” Vainqueur ordered. “I will not have my vault open to the paupers any longer than necessary. Kobold Rangers, go ask Troll Barnabas if my crown is ready. Manling Victor, you stay here to discuss my class planning.”
The minions left with haste to attend his needs, leaving Vainqueur alone with his most beloved treasures: his hoard, and his chief of staff. “Now that the evil Furibon has been destroyed, we can focus on what truly matters to me,” the dragon said, burying himself in gold until only his head was above it. “That sweet [Stipend] provides me with more gold the higher my level. Find a way to increase that amount.”
“The obvious way would be to level up further, Your Majesty,” Victor stated the simple solution. “Maybe a magic item or specific Perk can increase the money you receive, though.”
“I leave you to find the proper solution, Manling Victor. You are my class advisor.”
“Your Majesty, about magic items.” His chief of staff cleared his throat. “I suggest you let the minions keep and use your non-dragon sized magical items, as you allowed me.”
“Minion, Furibon is sealed forever, and the castle is mine.” He had already put the crown recovered from Furibon around his finger, like a ring. “There is no need to spread my wealth around. And speaking of loaned treasure, where are the sun bracers and the fireball pendant I gave you?”
The minion fell silent for a second, embarrassed. “Well, Furibon caught me by surprise before I could equip myself…”
“You should be more wary next time, and wear my items proudly,” Vainqueur chided his lackey. “It pleases me to always have my treasures in sight. It reassures and looks good on me.”
“Yeah, I get it. I’m just saying, now our adventurer company is in charge of the barony, we may need a good police force, and minions with magical items will be more effective.”
Vainqueur squinted at his minion. “The barony?”
“I told Your Majesty before, Gardemagne promised that whoever destroyed Furibon could lay claim to the surrounding lands, which is called a barony. I had Savoureuse send a message through a homing pigeon, so you should officially be named Baron of Murmurin once the adventurer guild is notified. And if they refuse, well, It’s not like they can do anything about who owns the place. Murmurin is so far away from Gardemagne, so full of monsters, and so close to Maure’s territory that not even suicidal adventurers will dare dislodge us.”
“The Barking of Murmurin,” Vainqueur corrected, before explaining his logic to his confused lackey. “Baron King Vainqueur. Barking Vainqueur.”
The minion gave him an empty stare.
Vainqueur suddenly realized the problem with the name. “Kingron? Kingaron?” Nothing fit! “Is there a title that could include both? King of the Albain Mountains and Baron of Murmurin does not sound melodious.”
“I think Emperor is above King, Your Majesty, since empires are bigger than kingdoms. So it should cover everything.”
Really? And all this time he just called himself a king because he thought there was nothing above it! “Minion, I shall henceforth be known as His Majesty Vainqueur Knightsbane, First of his Name, Great Calamity of this Age, and Emperor of Murmurin and the Albain Mountains.”
“As you wish, Your Majesty Emperor Vainqueur.”
Vainqueur realized that never before had he loved a new word so much.
“It displeases me to spread my hoard around and out of my sight,” said the dragon, “Asks Barnabas to create the minions weapons; until then, I agree to loan the kobolds weapons, so the beauty of my hoard encourages them to work, but only for a time. You alone are worthy to wield my sacred treasures in battle, Minion Victor. You are the only one I can fully trust not to lose them.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” the minion said, without any pitiful tone this time. Come to think of it, Vainqueur didn’t remember him ever using such a warm voice before.
“As a celebration for my promotion to Emperor, I declare today to be the Vainqueur Day. Every year, we will rejoice over the defeat of Furibon, who was evil and had to be destroyed. A great feast of cattle will be held, and I will burn a wood puppet of Furibon before an adoring crowd while they cheer me.” Maybe he would get a treasure out of it. “Also, the minions will build a statue of me in that werewolf village, so my subjects can be in awe of my emperor person. I want a bigger statue than the gods in your temples.”
“Your Majesty, holidays and public works are good, but what about actual laws? I think Murmurin's inhabitants want to know how they will govern themselves now that you are the top dragon in town.”
Vainqueur thought about it, and the first direction became obvious. “Minion Victor, this experience, and the cruelty of your manling king made me realize that there is no greater crime than separating a dragon from his hard-won hoard. In my magnanimity, I declare my first commandment to be: no taxes, ever.”
“No taxes, ever?”
“No treasure tax of any kind will ever be levied in my empire. Taxes are evil. Instead, I will take a daily tribute of cattle in reward of my enlightened dragon leadership.”
“I think Your Majesty invented tax havens way ahead of their time. What about reducing the tax on my one one-tenth fee then?”
“That is different,” Vainqueur replied, incensed by the Minion’s base greed. “That is not a tax since you are selling my non-shiny possessions on my behalf. The one one-tenth is a reward. If you want to get rich and impress females to breed with you, build yourself a hoard by working hard.”
Manling Victor let out a sigh. “I guess levies and mindless undead labor will cover for public service.”
“My second commandment will be: no lead. Lead is the work of Furibon and forbidden until the end of time. Everyone found smuggling lead in the lands of Emperor Vainqueur shall be eaten. Unless the lead is sickened gold, in that case, it shall be cured and added to my hoard for eternal safekeeping.”
“Copper for plumbery then.”
“My third commandment is,” Vainqueur stared at his minion dead in the eyes, “Minion Victor, do the thing.”
His lackey blinked, the honor overwhelming him. “Do the thing?”
“The non-dragon thing,” Vainqueur clarified. “I have better things to do than manage the life of wolves, minions, and manlings, like counting my new coins or killing liches. I am a dragon, I do not care how minions run their lives so long as they do as I say when I demand it. So, Manling Victor, I now promote you to my Grand Dragon Vizier, and Doer of the Thing.”
“So, I keep doing what I always did, doing the boring stuff while you enjoy the rewards.”
“Do not abuse your privilege.”
Congratulations! By self-promoting yourself to Emperor, establishing your ‘imperial authority’ over the Murmurin region, and possessing enormous personal power worthy of such a title, not only did you earn a level in [Noble], but your Noble Class has evolved into the [Emperor] Class!
Warning: you will lose the benefits of the [Emperor] Class’ Perks if you cannot defend your title from challengers and doubters; you will regain these benefits only if you fend off naysayers.
+30 HP, +10 SP, +1 AGI, +1 INT, +1 CHA, +1 LCK!
Your [Old Money], [Snobbery], and [Aristoradar] Perks have changed!
[Old Money] changed to [Born in the Purple]: Your chances of gaining treasures after killing monsters are tripled.
[Snobbery] changed to [For the Emperor]: When you lead them in battle, your soldiers and vassals gain a stat and moral bonus proportional to your Charisma.
[Aristoradar] changed to [Dynasty]: You can grant a [Noble] level to others at will. You can only grant only one level per person after which, they must level up the class on their own.
Thinking of gains… “Manling Victor, has this misunderstanding with your duchess’ untimely demise been cleared with your species?”
“I dunno.” The minion shrugged. “It should resolve itself once the news of Furibon’s demise reaches them, or else it never will for anything. Your Majesty wants to go on an adventure again?”
“One with a princess,” Vainqueur said. “Bragging Day will arrive soon, and I need a princess to parade as the crown jewel of my hoard.”
“Your Majesty already brags all the time,” Minion Victor replied. “Every day is Bragging Day.”
“Yes, but not to dragons,” Vainqueur said, his minion frowning when he mentioned his amazing species. “This is Bragging Day. Now that my hoard is cured of lead sickness, it has grown big enough to brag about to the rest of my kind; but a true hoard is not complete without a princess caught in the wild to showcase. I want to hold a Bragging Day here in two moons, so find me a well-paid quest with a princess.”
“Is Your Majesty going to eat the princess?” the minion asked worryingly. “I know you said you wouldn’t, but… if this is a special occasion...”
“Minion, I am not a savage. I will keep it until the end of the Bragging Day, then I release her so she grows into a queen, and makes more princesses. So will continue the cycle of life. I am a dragon mindful of preserving the wildlife.”
“Okay good.” His minion breathed in relief. “How many dragons are we talking about? No offense, but Your Majesty is already a lot for us mortals to handle.”
Vainqueur thought about it long and deep. He would invite every member of his kind whom he had remained in contact with, so he could showcase his wealth in a great show of dominance.
“No more than two hundred,” Vainqueur said, the minion losing all colors on his skin. “You should prepare the cattle already. It would be very miserly of me not to show my wealth by welcoming them with a great feast.”
“Two… two hundred…”
“I know, so few, but we dragons enjoy our alone time too much to stay in touch,” Vainqueur explained. “Most of my kindred are hunting princesses in the north, in lands so cold I freeze thinking of them.”
The minions returned with both that strange squid who worshipped the ground Manling Victor walked on and Minion Barnabas. The troll struggled to carry a crown, helped by the kobolds.
The second he saw it, Vainqueur immediately fell in love with the trinket.
It was the most beautiful crown he had ever set his eyes on; a golden, dragon-sized diadem with three miniature copies of Vainqueur rising from the front of the circlet, surrounding an enormous ruby. Four ivory horns were mounted on the edges, giving it a strong, yet elegant look; it would mesh so well with his own natural horns.
“This is a [Crown of Dragon Authority], Yer Majesty,” Barnabas said. “+10 Charisma, and a whole host of benefits.”
“Mine!” Vainqueur’s hands greedily reached for it, putting it on his head at once. The crown fit right around his black horns, and the dragon immediately looked at his reflection in his hoard’s coins.
Which was him!
“I am Emperor Vainqueur Knightsbane, owner of all I see!” Vainqueur boasted, the minions falling to their knees. “Praise me! Cheer me up!”
“Vainqueur, best dragon!" "Vainqueur, best dragon!" "Vainqueur, best dragon!”