When Victor reached Murmurin, he found the village under siege. The Ishfanian scouts had reached it first.
Thankfully, all the training and drilling had borne fruit. Everyone in the V&V Adventurer Company was armed, and the citizens had set barricades south of the village, where the bulk of the army came from. Allison and Rolo had summoned a thick, dense barrier of thorns and blackberries around the village to delay the invaders, entangling soldiers with plants.
Rushing on the back of the Black Beast from the north, Victor rode to the town square, where the minions fought off dozens of invaders around Vainqueur’s statue. Most of the enemies were armored elf soldiers with tridents or cursed bows while huge gargoyles served as their heavy hitters.
Thanks to the weapons crafted by Barnabas or bought from Malfy—both of whom participated in the battle—the gnolls, kobolds, and undead held their own against their opponents, swarming them at the numbers of three against one. The werewolves, fully transformed and led by Croissant, handled the stronger gargoyles.
Vainqueur Junior, too, had joined the melee, grabbing elves with his hands and swallowing them whole. Other mimics, shaped like chests, swords, and cakes, followed its lead, feasting on the elves like wolves among sheep.
The sight of everyone working together warmed Victor’s heart a little.
The strangest of the attackers were ethereal, demon-shaped living shadows; they cast lightning spells at gnolls and kobolds, killing one with each strike. Red and the Rangers attempted to shoot them with arrows and musket bullets, but they phased through them. Only Chocolatine, who kept her human form, and the priest of the Moon Man managed to hit them with light spells.
“Chief!” Red rejoiced at Victor’s arrival. “Our weapons can’t hit the shadows!”
But Chocolatine’s spells could. As incorporeal beings, they were probably only vulnerable to magic… or to specific abilities. Victor used his [Monster Insight] on the closest shadow monster.
Shadow Fiend (Demon)
Strong against: Unholy, Darkness, Frost, Physical, all status effects.
Weak against: Demonslayer, Holy, Light, Necromancy, Magical effects.
A veteran of three downsizings. Immune to physical attacks as a bodyless soul; doesn’t know you eat them for breakfast or would have fled. Hopes killing everyone in Murmurin will earn him a promotion to Financial Affairs.
“You must be the Infercorp representative,” the shadow fiend hissed at Victor. “Genocide Choc!”
“You’re half-right,” Victor replied. “No fiend from Hell can hit me, from what I heard.”
“But we aren’t from Hell,” the demon said with a smug, amused tone. “We’re from Happyland.”
|Your [Get out of Hell Card] Perk has been canceled, because, duh, demons.|
Son of a… Trusting his [Monster Insight], Victor charged at the shadow fiend, and cut it with his weapon. The shadowy monster laughed it off, only to find itself dragged into the scythe by surprise.
|Critical hit! [Helheim] and [Steal Life] activated!|
Aha! His Helheim perk worked well against incorporeal beings!
Victor felt the lifeforce of the creature move into him, reducing his fatigue, while the fiend’s soul joined Furibon’s in the scythe. “A roommate,” the lich said, with a tone that sounded both irritated, and strangely happy. “Finally, some company to talk to.”
By the end, he would have a lot of it. “I’m always here,” Victor pointed out.
Victor, like a mounted grim reaper, struck down any soldier or fiend he could, receiving notifications of critical hits with half of his strikes. Months before, he doubted he could kill so many enemies so casually; hell, he would have probably fled while using the chaos of the battle. Surviving Vainqueur’s antics had made him braver.
A fearsome monster looking like a fiend covered in bone spikes engaged Victor in combat, parrying his scythe with a shield and trying to drag him off his mount with a spine-whip. His Black Beast mount attempted to crush the attacker, but the agile fiend leaped backward. Victor prepared to target him with a necromancy spell, while his foe swung his whip threateningly.
Then the monster gargled blood, as a reptilian hand pierced his back and went through the chest. The corpse collapsed, revealing Savoureuse in full assassin mode, her claws sharp and bloodied. “Sav!” The sight rejoiced Victor. “You haven’t run away?”
“I couldn’t!” she replied, causing him to facepalm with his free hand. “Fairy beasts coming from the north cut my retreat!”
Fairy beasts? “Melodieuse,” Victor cursed, as he cut down a gargoyle’s head before it could drag him off his mount. If she came from the north, then the entire village was now surrounded.
Rolo and Allison joined the fray as well, with the iron golem hitting a gargoyle with a shovel. “[Sheepinize].”
With the word, the giant gargoyle turned into a black sheep, which Rolo kindly moved out of his way. “Farmers can do that?” Victor asked, astonished.
“At level fifty-one,” Rolo replied, raising his shovel threateningly at fiends. “You will all become Rolo’s sheep!”
“Sheeps, Rolo,” Allison replied, summon giant flytraps to catch the gargoyles. “Here, it’s sheeps.”
Victor suddenly realized he didn’t want to learn where most of the sheep in Murmurin came from. Pink, who unlike the other rangers didn’t fire projectiles at the fiends, began to sing, “Arise, children of the dragon, the day of glory has arrived!”
|[Bardic Song] has raised your Strength by one stage.|
“Bardic Song?” Victor blinked, as he cut down an elf bowman before he could shoot him off his mount. “Pink, you took levels in [Bard]?!”
“Since I wrote The War of the Hoard!” Pink shouted back, before returning to her singing. “To arms, minions! Form your battalions, let's march, let's march! Let cattle blood fertilize our crops!”
Encouraged by Pink’s bloodthirsty anthem, Victor and the other minions backed the remaining scouts against a house’s walls and slaughtered them, with only the shadow demons managing to scamper off from the slaughter.
“Meat treasure!” Vainqueur Junior gargled, as he spat out the remains of a half-digested elf.
“What is the situation?” Victor asked Red, looking at their forces. Most of the minions had survived, but they had lost dozens to the initial strike, their corpses littering on the ground. Hundreds more minions and citizens gathered at the town square, waiting for instructions. His [Mook Promotion] Perk told him many could be promoted, having gained experience from the battle.
“We pushed back the scouts, but a lot more will come!” Red said, his claws shaking as he held his musket close. “Thousands!”
“Too many!” Croissant said, Charlene by his side. She looked very bothered by her boyfriend’s wolfish appearance but stood with him wielding a spear. “We’ve got to evacuate!”
“They’ve already encircled us!” Savoureuse replied.
“And they have cavalry,” Allison, who herself couldn’t leave the village, pointed out with a cool head. “They will catch up to us if we try to flee.”
“Charlene,” Victor turned to the one human in the group. “Have you informed Gardemagne?” Since the King was due to visit them soon with his retinue, they could warn him in time to mobilize an army and stop Maure’s.
“I sent messenger pigeons, but archers shot most of them,” she replied, clearly fearing for her life. “I have no idea if any of them got through, and it will take them hours to send an army.”
They were on their own.
As everyone looked at him, Victor realized it fell on him to organize the defense. “We can’t win a prolonged battle against their overwhelming numbers,” he admitted. Especially since those were just the scouts, and the bulk of the army was running at them. “All we can do is delay until Vainqueur takes down the flying fortress and causes the army’s rout.”
“The Emperor has taken the field?” Blue raised his undead skull at the skies, ablaze with flames.
“To lead us to victory!” Victor raised his scythe, bringing hope back in the minions’ heart. “The Emperor is fighting for the great hoard as we speak! Which is his gold, but also us! If these paupers take the village, they will steal our lives, our sheep, and our coins! Will we run away, tails between our legs? No! We will send them back to the nowhere from which they came! Remember how we won the War of the Hoard? We bested them once, and we will do it again! For we are V&V! We are mighty! We are the hoard!”
That was complete, desperate improvisation based on cartoon speeches he watched on Earth, but it worked. “We are the hoard!” the minions cheered, while the sanest citizens such as Allison or Charlene tentatively raising their hands in support. “We are the hoard!”
“They will meet their dooooooom!” Yellow the Kobone couldn’t help himself.
“For my local monopoly!” Malfy added his own battle cry.
“Follow my command, and we shall prevail!” Victor shouted. “For the hoard!”
|[Rally Minion] activated! All minions’ stats raised by one stage!|
Victor immediately singled out the minions whom he could promote, namely ten gnolls and all the Kobold Rangers save for Red himself. “Come here,” he said, before touching and causing them to evolve in quick succession. “You are hereby given a pay raise!”
As they evolved, the gnolls grew from tiny to a three meters tall, monstrous, and emaciated gnoll humanoids, with a skull-like face and ashen skin. Their eyes turned red, simmering with bestial fury.
Pink and Black, the living half of the Kobold Rangers, turned into pink and black colored copies of Red, albeit with Pink having a more effeminate figure. Blue and Yellow changed into skeletal versions of their kindred, with a black, beating heart in their chests; Blue’s bones turned deep blue, and Yellow’s golden.
Your Gnolls evolved into Tomb Gnolls.
Kobold Pink Ranger and Kobold Black Ranger evolved into Raptor Rangers.
Kobone Blue Ranger and Kobone Yellow Ranger evolved into Kobloods.
“We are all grown, and color assorted!” Blue rejoiced.
Victor immediately began to distribute orders. “Allison, keep entangling the enemy. Rangers, set the thorns on fire once enough soldiers are trapped. Shoot anyone who breaks through with arrows and bullets. Malfy, cover the skies with insects, so they can’t shoot arrows at us. We must create such chaos, that they will not be able to avoid friendly fire. Pink, keep singing. You, the squid priest, and Chocolatine—”
“Yeeees?” The werewolf’s head perked up at her name being called, which made him shiver.
“You focus on buffing the werewolves and ashen gnolls with spells or healing the wounded unless confronted by shadow fiends, in which case you toast them.” She seemed to enjoy the wording a bit too much. “Rolo, Junior, Sav, we will fortify the north with the new troops. Everyone else hit and run; ambush, isolate, swarm, then retreat behind flames and thorns. Bleed them dry for every inch of ground.”
“What new troops, Vic?” Savoureuse asked, anxious.
“These ones: [Animate Dead],” Victor activated his Perk, raising the dead from both sides as zombies. Since he didn’t sacrifice any gold, he only created non-sentient monsters, but they would make for nice meat shields and supplement the heavy hitters.
As Malfy summoned an enormous swarm of hungry locusts and Allison began to grow thorn trenches, Victor turned to Red the Kobold. “You are in charge. Remember, ambush and retreat, like in Haudemer.”
“Yes, chief!” The rangers made a pose. “We will protect the hoard with our lives!”
Congratulations! For showing your valor leading an army of minions against overwhelming odds in the name of your dragon master, your [Monster Squire] Class has been promoted to [Monster Knight (Red Dragon)]!
Your [Rally Minion] and [Mook Promotion] Class Perks have been strengthened!
Or so he thought until his whole body began to itch and burn. Within seconds, jet black wings almost identical to Vainqueur’s own grew out of Victor’s back and through his cloak, while a crimson, reptilian tail sprung out of his pants.
Victor remained immobile on his mount for several seconds, uncomfortable with both the new sensations and the stares he received from the other minions. Furibon laughed like a maniac from inside his scythe.
“Shut up!” the wielder complained. He could swing his new tail as if he had grown up with it, but…
Goddamnit, he was turning into a mini-Vainqueur! How gross!
No matter. He would worry about it later. He ordered his mount to dash north, followed by his undead thralls and the other minions.
As it turned out, riding a beast while having a tail was incredibly uncomfortable.
The makeshift group quickly reached the sheep pens north of the village, where five fairy hounds like those which they had fought in Ishfania had broken in, stepping on the food they gathered for the dragon guests. Melodieuse, riding the back of a horned, black pegasus, oversaw them from above, alongside three giant, monstrous crows and an escort of wyvern riders.
“My flock!” Rolo went berserk at the sight of his sheep trampled down, his rusted body heating up; moving faster than Victor’s own mount, the golem broke past the fence like an unstoppable juggernaut. Following him, the Reaper cut a fairy hound’s flesh as it attempted to lunge at him, both the beast and the squire’s own ride circling one another. Savoureuse hid among the panicked sheep, waiting for her chance for a sneak attack.
The fairy birds dived on them like birds of prey, one of them catching Savoureuse by surprise and trying to drag her up. Junior grabbed some of the sheep trying to flee the battle, then launched them at the crow as improvised projectiles, forcing the crow to release its captive. Then the mimic grabbed the sword working as its lure and used it to slice the neck of a fairy hound reaching for him. “Sword!” Junior snarled, showing surprising swordsmanship.
Above them, Melodieuse began to sing a spell. Victor, still struggling against butt pain, attempted to blast her by channeling a blast of Hellfire from his fingertips, but she immediately summoned a purple barrier around herself and her mount.
Her wyvern-rider bodyguards began to bombard them with a volley of arrows, with Victor incinerating the projectiles before they could hit him. Rolo just shrugged them off, busy manhandling a fairy hound and beating the hell out of it with his shovel. The arrows hit Junior, making it moan in pain, while Savoureuse dodged everything.
“[Death Candle],” Victor spellcast, summoning small will-o’ wisps from the remains of the sheep. He sent them to swarm the wyvern riders, halting the attack. Meanwhile, the undead he had created finally joined the fight, swarming a fairy hound like the horde of zombies they were. The beast collapsed under the weight of dozens of walking corpses.
Well, that was going way better than expected! Maybe they could handle—
As Melodieuse uttered these words, a powerful red bolt of lightning hit Victor and his mount. The black beast of Murmurin was felled in one blow, while its rider ejected from its back and crashed on the dirt, losing his grip over his scythe along the way.
|You have taken massive damage! Critical health!|
“Ohoh,” Furibon cackled inside his scythe, as Victor struggled to get up. “Will your luck finally run out?”
Victor raised his head from the dust, finding a fairy hound opening its jaws in hunger, ready to devour him. A shadowy giant bird descended to feast on him as well.
It was way, way bigger than the birds, or a wyvern rider.
The fairy hound barely had the time to look up at incoming death, before the giant flyer landed on it, its sheer strength scattering a cloud of dust and sheep in all directions.
When Victor regained his sight, he found himself staring into the yellow eyes of a green dragon almost as big as Vainqueur, albeit more crocodilian than lizard-like.
“You smell like a chief of staff, and you look dragon enough to be halfway civilized,” the green dragon said with a foppish, arrogant tone. The surprise sight of the ancient reptile caused the beasts and wyvern-riders to halt their assault. “Tell me, minion of Vainqueur, is this the welcome buffet? I was told there would a sweet poison sauce, which tastes good with cows and pigs, for the fashionably early.”
“Yes!” Victor replied, realizing the opportunity offered to him. He pointed a finger at the fairy beasts. “But the fomors are trying to spoil the food!”
“The fairies feel acting mischievious again? Haven’t they learned the food chain the first time we ate their cattle?” The dragon turned to the skies and roared. “Vainqueur brought us elves and tasty birds for snacks!”
“Dibs on the elves!” A red dragon smaller than Vainqueur roared back as it descended from above, picking a wyvern rider like a hawk attacking a dove. Melodieuse immediately cast a spell, strenghtening her barrier, but her escort wasn’t so lucky.
Soon, an entire flock of dragons descended from the heavens, most going south to pick on Ishfania’s army, but four dived to prey on the wyverns and the fairy birds. The green dragon left Victor to feast on the fairy hounds and the sheep without discrimination, turning the battle into a one-sided feasting slaughter.
Melodieuse looked down on the disaster, leaving her escort to die while slipping closer to Victor with a hateful gaze. “The hellgate has fallen,” she said. “My plans for Gardemagne wasted. You ruined everything.”
“It was you all along,” Victor realized, as his hands reached for his scythe. “The Apple, the Scorchers, Maure’s invasion... you set it all up!”
“None of this would have happened without you,” Melodieuse glared back at him. “You taught Vainqueur the secrets of this cursed class system, and now our rightful quest to take back Outremonde will become harder than ever before.”
“Taught? You’re exaggerating there.”
“It does not matter. More of the lizards will follow his lead. But you will not live long enough to see it. [Darkest Fear].”
A dark aura swallowed Victor before he could retaliate, draining him of his life and vitality. An irrational fear of death seized him, as he looked at it from above.
|HP and SP reduced to one! [Terror] ailment! [Necrophobia] ailment!|
“Any last words?” Melodieuse asked Victor with fake politeness. He noticed Savoureuse make a dash to rescue him, but she was too far away to make a difference.
Victor used [Monster Insight], trying to decipher any weakness that woman may have.
Damn! “Can’t we... talk it out?”
“We just did, manling,” Melodieuse raised her hand. “[Death Spike].”
As sharp, pointy ice spears rose from below Victor, he realized that maybe he should have taken a better insurance plan.
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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.