Much to Vainqueur’s satisfaction, when Icefang looked upon his magnificent hoard, the frost dragon’s eyes widened as if he had suffered from a stroke.
“So huge and deep!” Jolie walked on the hoard, amazed by its depth, its warmth, its texture... its shininess. As a kingly gesture, Vainqueur let his family touch his treasure, so they could feel his wealth.
“It’s so warm and golden!” Genialissime added. “It’s… it’s the biggest hoard I have ever seen!”
“Indeed!” Vainqueur boasted with a quiet, smug voice. “Can you feel the warmth? The richness? The perfect mesh of jewels, gold, and princesses?”
“How did you accumulate that much gold?” Icefang asked, ever resentful. “Your treasure could barely fill a cave one hundred years ago!”
“It is because I discovered a great, ancient secret,” Vainqueur kept boasting. “A system designed to make dragons even richer! By dragons, for dragons!”
“Twelve gods, please forgive me…” Manling Victor muttered to himself in a corner, while the dragons examined every inch of Vainqueur’s hoard, looking for a fake setup. “I tried. I’m so sorry...”
“An ancient secret?” Jolie turned to her uncle with stars in her eyes, and so did his small first cousins once removed.
“A great sorcery, if somewhat faulty.” Vainqueur decided not to mention the intelligence score errors nor his problems with the Emperor Class, before raising his index finger. “Which allows me to summon treasure by poking manlings to death!”
“This is gibberish,” Icefang contested, and even Genialissime seemed puzzled. “What next, the moon is not a planet, and death is not a birth defect?”
Vainqueur realized that too many revelations at once may be too much to stomach for his kind, and so reluctantly, kept the dark secret of dragon mortality to himself. The world was not ready yet. “It is the truth,” Vainqueur defended his greatest discovery. “By taking levels in the amazing Noble Class, I now earn a stipend of shiny gold every month!”
“What?!” All the dragons’ eyes turned at him.
“I knew I was right to take that insurance plan…” Manling Victor muttered. “Thank the gods I did.”
His dragon master ignored him and proudly showed his guests the iron plate around his neck, and began to boast eagerly, “I, Vainqueur, am the greatest adventurer in the world! The manlings worship the ground I walk on when I do not fly! They pay me to kill their kind, and so do their gods!”
“This plate made you rich?” Icefang looked at it with greed.
“Oh, look, princesses!” Jolie noticed the trapped maidens in the fairy crystals, suddenly more interested in them than the secret of gold farming. “Two elves, so beautiful… and a human. Uncle Vainqueur, that one is not ethical.”
“They are stuffed!” Icefang complained. “They cannot dance nor sing! It is indragon!”
“Yes, feel jealous of my wealth and treasures,” Vainqueur taunted his rival. He opened his mouth to gloat further when his castle trembled, and a shrieking sound erupted.
“The magical alarm,” Manling Victor said, panicked. “Maure!”
“No, that is my vault’s alarm!” Vainqueur glanced and smelled around, looking for an uninvited guest, and found none. He immediately glared at Icefang. “A thief! A thief in my hoard!”
“Vainqueur, I respect myself too much to steal your gold on your own Bragging Day,” Icefang sneered back. “And silver is better, purer.”
“No, it is not,” Vainqueur replied to that heretic.
“Mayhaps this caused the sound?” Genialissime asked, pointing a claw at the second set of doors in the vault. Vainqueur squinted at them.
Indeed, the gate to Hell did shine strangely.
At once, without much warning, the chains holding the doorway closed broke. As the gates opened, a burst of sulfuric smoke entered the vault, alongside dozens of imps, fiends, and bug-like monsters. All of them carried weapons and wore armor, walking as an ordered regiment on Vainqueur’s hoard.
“The seals broke?” Manling Victor raised his scythe. “But Choc and the others reinforced them! Unless…”
“Vainqueur, your illegal occupation of King Maure’s property ends here!” A huge, tasty fiend that looked like a mix between a cow, a bat, and a humanoid stepped through the gates. “We, Maure Hellcorporated, shall take back our market share!”
The sight of these paupers desecrating his treasure room briefly paralyzed Vainqueur with fury, before he understood the situation. “Ah, good thinking, Manling Victor,” the dragon told his confused chief of staff. “Excellent idea to bring appetizers for the early guests.”
“Is that the buffet?” Genialissime said with a cheerful expression, humming at the sulfuric smell. “Nice, they smell spicy.”
The fiendish leader suddenly realized that he faced seven hungry dragons of various sizes, and his troops took a step back.
“I thought you, Vainqueur, would be stingy on the food, but I am pleasantly surprised,” Icefang said, glimpsing at the humanoid cattle with hunger. “He’s a bit skinny around the edges, but it will make for a passable snack.”
“A talking cow?” Jolie looked at the fiendish captain with interested eyes. “A new kind of cattle? It’s grey enough not to count for my regime! Dibs on the cattle!”
The fiend’s eyes widened in panic. “Retreat!” the cattle shouted to its troops. “It’s a trap! IT’S A TRAP!”
The gold coins below the fiend moved on their own, taking the shape of a manling-like creature, which immediately restrained it from behind. Vainqueur knew he was right to give his hoard self-defense classes.
Jolie swallowed the cattle fiend whole, and the other adult dragons rushed for the gate with hunger. The fiends tried to run away back to Hell through the gate, only for them to get frozen by Icefang’s chilling breath or stopped by the hoard as Genialissime closed in.
And so the feast began.
Vainqueur watched with quiet joy as he saw his niece and cousins catch the food and devour it with ravenous energy. Genialissime’s children, too young to hunt alone, worked together to bite a screaming demon’s legs and drag him to a corner; even his bitter rival enjoyed the appetizer, showing classy table manners by snapping fiends in half before eating them like sticks.
“Holy Hell…” Victor stared at the scene, horrified, putting a hand on his mouth. “It’s… it’s… savage...”
“Manling Victor, you’ve seen me feast for months,” Vainqueur replied, delighting at the scene. His guests were fed, and the thieves punished. Win-win!
“There are more behind that door!” Jolie shouted, her mouth drenched in fiendish blood, as she put her neck through the gate. “Spicy!”
“Safari time!” Genialissime rejoiced, moving through the gate with the others in tow.
Vainqueur was slightly bothered that they would ignore his wealth for the food, but couldn’t blame them. They had flown for miles and burned a lot of fat to come here. “Good work, minion. Your quick thinking showcased the true depth of my wealth and the bountifulness of my domain.”
“Your Majesty, this wasn’t my doing,” the manling replied. “I believe the seals were sabotaged from our side, which means Maure not only has agents in Murmurin. This may be the opening salvo of a full invasion.”
Vainqueur’s eyes flared with fury. “The moth attacks us on my big day?!”
The castle trembled, and all magical alarms went off with strident sounds. The enraged Vainqueur immediately activated his [Dungeon Owner] Perk and teleported outside, on the roof.
The dragon found his castle under siege by a flock of gargoyles and spearmen riding wyverns, who fought his kobold and undead minions on the fortifications. That damn metal eagle flew high above the southern desert, followed by a large flock of flying beasts.
On the ground, a black mass, the moth’s land army, spread out of the sandy lands and into his dominion. That was a lot of fiends and elf cattle, more than Vainqueur had ever seen gathered in one place. They were crossing the canals his minions had built, and rushed towards Murmurin with pillage on their minds.
“You will not ruin my big day!” Vainqueur incinerated the nearest gargoyles and wyvern-riders with his holy breath, their corpses falling into the lava below. His mere presence emboldened the minions, who shot arrows and spears at the invaders. The dragon took flight, hunting down the panicked air force with claws and flame.
Two circles of light materialized on the castle’s ramparts, and Vainqueur instantly realized what that meant. “Not my castle!” the dragon snarled, flying above the crater, as the distant iron eagle fired two projectiles at his lair.
Vainqueur hit one with a fireball, causing it to detonate harmlessly above the crater, but the other slipped past his guard and reached his lair.
A magical barrier, the very same which Furibon had hidden behind during the War of the Hoard, stopped the weapon before it could hit the castle. A powerful burst of compressed wind blasted both minions and invaders in all directions, making the crater tremble; yet the barrier resisted.
Manling Victor rushed out of the castle’s gates, riding the Black Beast of Murmurin and followed by a group of undead led by Corpseling Jules. “I had Jules activate Furibon’s old defenses,” Manling Victor explained as he glanced up at his master. “How many enemies?”
“All of the food in this backward desert,” Vainqueur replied, unable to count.
“The entire Ishfanian army is attacking us?” Manling Victor panicked. “Your Majesty made Maure mad when you punched him.”
“The foolish moth knows my emperorness is the greatest threat to his authority,” Vainqueur replied.
|Your [Emperor] Class is not recognized.|
“They’re going to Murmurin?”
“The moth is trying to take back my hard-won empire, break the seal keeping Furibon imprisoned, and ruin my big day!” Vainqueur snarled, imparting on his lackey the seriousness of the situation.
“I think he wants to wipe us out then continue to invade Gardemagne, as he planned. He must be stopped right there.”
“Yes!” The dragon cared about one thing and one thing only. “We will defend my hoard and my castle, even if we have to burn every single elf out there. The coins must be protected.”
“If that magical barrier can resist one of their ‘wind spears,’ then their air force shouldn’t have what it takes to break it,” Manling Victor pointed out, before turning to Jules. “You can hold the castle by yourself?”
“If I can maintain the magical protections and raise the dead as they fall, I believe we will have enough forces to,” Jules said. “But if they take the village and climb the mountain, their mages may either disable the barrier or, more likely, wake up the volcano to sink the castle.”
Vainqueur froze. That would destroy his hoard!
“We must stop their troops at Murmurin,” said Manling Victor, showing his worth as a military advisor. “Your Majesty, the other minions and I can defend the castle and the town, but none of us can fly nor defeat Maure himself. He’s probably commanding the attack from the eagle’s bridge. If we take him down, the army will fall back.”
“Minion, that is an iron bird, not a bridge,” Vainqueur replied, before glaring at the iron fortress. Everyone counted on him to save the world. It was his moment in the spotlight. “Minion, will I gain a Crest if I kill that moth?”
“If not, I don’t know what it will take.”
Vainqueur nodded, extending his wings. “Minion Victor, I promote you from my military advisor to Minion General. You will win this minion war against the moth in time before my guests arrive, and you shall protect my hoard with your life.”
“I will try—”
“No, you will,” Vainqueur coached him. “Manling Victor, you found me when you tried to steal from my hoard, do you remember?”
“Every day of my life.”
“Then you must understand how much I trust you to entrust its safety to you,” Vainqueur continued, the manling’s eyes widening at the honor. “I do this because I trust you. You are my prized chief of staff, and this is my big day. You cannot fail.”
His lackey said nothing, then returned Vainqueur’s words with a sharp, thankful nod. “Alright, Your Majesty, I will. We all count on you to win this.”
“Of course,” he replied, as Jules cast a spell and briefly disabled the barrier, allowing them out. “Dragons always win.”
And with those wise words, Vainqueur flew out of the crater, invigorated by both his minions’ cheers and his own burning desire for payback. Manling Victor rode with kobones towards Murmurin, while Jules set the barrier up again before invaders could slip through.
Five wyvern riders attempted to intercept Vainqueur as he rushed towards the iron eagle, but he shot them down with fireballs without slowing down. The moth may have challenged him on the ground through trickery, but Vainqueur ruled the skies.
Flying at greater speed than he ever did before, which he attributed to his stat gains, Vainqueur reached the iron eagle, blasting through the air force protecting it. The strange musket-like weapons on the fortress’ back turned towards him.
“Vainqueur!” Brandon Maure, transformed into his demonic moth form and wielding his blade, flew out of the iron eagle alongside a flock of demons. “You have slighted Brandon Maure long enough! Today you die!”
“One of us will!” Vainqueur roared and engaged the flying fortress in battle.