Vainqueur glared at his chief of staff. “What do you mean by ‘they fled’?” Food did not flee!
Manling Victor sighed sheepishly, as more than a dozen monstrous priests imitated Vainqueur. All of them stood outside the temple of Murmurin, which had been taken over by ghoul soldiers. “Lavere shows up elsewhere on the map. She must have teleported away when we moved in.”
“You interrupted our morning rituals for nothing?!” a priestess of Shesha complained.
“You dare question our prophet, the one who will lead the chosen people to the Promised Land?” the priest of the Moon Man replied. “Don’t force us to start a religious war! We have the Old Ones on our side!”
“Everyone calm down,” Manling Victor tried to appease his angry minions, while Vainqueur confiscated the map from him to continue the hunt himself.
- Two failed operations later.
“Go, go, go!” Blue Ranger ordered as an elite group of kobolds swarmed the Nethermart, arresting the clients and testing them with silver to identify any doppelgangers. Vainqueur himself glanced through the windows, searching for the vampires.
After a whole hour of storming the building, inspecting every floor, Vainqueur ended up with nothing. Blue Ranger crumpled in shame. “It’s a bust, Your Majesty...”
Vainqueur took a long, deep breath, and then roared in frustration.
- Five more police operations later.
“Open the barn’s doors!” Pink Ranger shouted. “Hands on your back! You are surrounded!”
Vainqueur twitched in annoyance, as he watched the barn being surrounded by forty kobolds armed with garlic-stake shooting, dwarf-made rifles. The dragon was starting to get impressions of déjà vu.
“Your Majesty, their silence speaks volumes,” Red Ranger, the operation’s organizer, said.
“Of course, because they are afraid!” The dragon lost patience as he moved towards the barn, his wings casting a dark shadow in the broad daylight. He ripped off the barn’s roof with his hands, peeking inside.
Unlike the warehouse, the invaders had left a trace of their passage: slaughtered pigs, innocent cattle whose throats they cut open, and de-feathered chickens. Each of them had their blood drained, so anyone could see who did it, and why.
These savages spoiled his food!
“Empty again!” Vainqueur complained. “MINION! MINION!”
His servant teleported inside the barn, his iron boots immediately drenched in pig blood. “I assume His Majesty didn’t catch them this time either,” the chief of staff said, with a glance around the barn. “We’ll have to send them to the temple for cleansing before they rise up again tonight. Cow vampires are the worst...”
“Minion, you said the map showed her location! Yet countless times this week, I have opened a house to find no vampire within! I am starting to look ridiculous in front of my own troops!”
“We will never doubt His Majesty!” Pink Ranger hurriedly reassured him.
“I know,” Vainqueur replied, proud of his servants’ loyalty. “This is for my own sake.”
“I think this may be the point,” Manling Victor replied, just as annoyed as his master. “She knows we can track her, and so moves away anytime we approach. She plays psychological warfare with us.”
This annoyed Vainqueur to no end. How could he kill an enemy who refused to commit suicide by his hand? Like mosquitoes!
Worse, these insects kept causing problems. They slaughtered and spoiled his cattle with their diseases, tried to set the city on fire twice at night, and even caused a rockslide to condemn the main roads through the mountains. His minions would start to run low on food, and his lackeys had grown as weary of this fruitless hunt as him.
“At least now we know they have doppelgangers, and probably impersonated Miel, I managed to defuse the situation between Heaven and Happyland,” Manling Victor said, having spent the last few days handling that matter. “For now. Unfortunately, the cult of Shesha, the Agarthans and other guests are pushing us to find a solution. Between our economic crisis and these attacks, Murmurin no longer looks like a safe investment. They even encouraged me to compromise.”
“Never!” Vainqueur snarled, his voice making the ground tremble and his minions shiver. “I will not give away anything, and especially not to a fairy-lover who sullied my reputation! I will offer her naught but flames! Like this barn!”
Understanding that his master wanted to unleash his pent-up frustration, Manling Victor immediately exited the barn by flying outside it; the second he did, Vainqueur set it on fire with a roar of rage, cooking the dead cows while at it.
“I doubt Lavere will stop even if we give her the map,” Manling Victor said, while the other minions had been cowed by Vainqueur’s display of fury. “Unfortunately, she is a powerful sorceress, and she undoes any ward Jules and Allison try to set up.”
Another witch causing him trouble? “Minion, forget becoming a wizard,” the dragon said, after calming down, “I must become a witch vampire hunter. Fetch me more garlic.”
“Your Majesty, could we slow down on that front? I can smell it everywhere, we are exhausting our stockpile, and Jules said it doesn’t work against this breed of vampire.”
Speaking of smells, Vainqueur began to notice a disgustingly familiar one; even before he noticed her winged shadow on the ground. As if these vampires didn’t annoy him enough already. “She is back,” he hissed, glancing up at the skies.
His minion looked up as well, noticing the gryphon rider right above them.
“Vainqueur,” Knight Kia politely nodded at the dragon. “How long has it been?”
“Not long enough,” Vainqueur replied, frustrated at seeing that poor excuse of a minion again. Pink Ranger booed the knight until Red hushed her.
“Hey, Kia!” his chief of staff waved at her. “What’s up?”
“Minion, she is no breeding material,” Vainqueur whispered to him. He couldn’t let her influence his beloved chief of staff, the way she did with his niece. “Keep your eggs for a better stock.”
“Vic? Vic, is that you with the armor?” The paladin finally recognized Manling Victor thanks to his wings. “What’s with the new look? You’re cosplaying as Sauron?”
“I decided to upgrade my equipment after surviving an adventurer raid.”
“Did rednecks try to pick a fight with you too?” the paladin asked them, landing with her gryphon next to Vainqueur’s chief of staff. “A small army of creepy and well-armed bandits with guns tried to kill my lovely Jolie on our return trip. They kept screaming ‘they tuk ur jewbs’ while I fended them off. It was unexpected but fun.”
“Your Jolie?” Smoke came out of Vainqueur’s nostrils. He knew she would be a bad influence on his flesh and blood. “Does my niece belong to you now, instead of the opposite? You forget your way, minion!”
“How did you know where to find us?” Manling Victor asked.
Knight Kia pointed a finger at the barn on fire, and the column of smoke going up from it; the chief of staff responded with a shrug.
“Where is Jolie?” the dragon asked, his concern for his flesh and blood stronger than his contempt for her poor choice in minionship. “Safe?”
“Oh yes, she returned to Mauria to deal with her new minions. She’s fine.”
Good. Vainqueur could never forgive Knight Kia if she had abandoned her mistress.
“I would worry more about us, Your Majesty,” Manling Victor said. “Kia you came back at the right time. We’re under attack from vampires.”
“Really? Great! I love vampires!” The warrior coughed when Vainqueur glared at her. “I mean, I love destroying them.”
“Me too,” the dragon conceded. “But they refuse to fight me fairly!”
“Because they know His Majesty will kill them,” Manling Victor stated the obvious.
“Exactly! It is as if they lost their fear of living when they died!”
“Vampires are pains to deal with,” Knight Kia said. “But I know how to deal with them.”
“Of course you do,” Manling Victor said. Vainqueur glared at him not to feed her overbound ego, but too late.
“Vic, I am, without boasting, the most experienced adventurer in Gardemagne, and I’ve killed almost every creature inhabiting Outremonde at least once. Including all species of vampire. Can you tell me what happened? What information do you have on them?”
Manling Victor detailed her the great struggle against this vermin, the paladin regularly nodding as she listened. “So Lavere is an alchemical vampire...” Knight Kia trailed off. “I knew that woman felt off; I will tell Kevin that his student is in cahoots with the fomors.”
“Kevin?” Manling Victor frowned, Kia responding with a shrug. “If she declared open warfare, then she must have been ready to drop her civilian identity. She probably figures that she can start again somewhere else, so long as we can’t track her down.”
“From what you tell me, she is probably the progenitor of her vampire line, and likely a [Scholomancer].”
“Scholowhat?” Vainqueur asked.
“A student from Scholomance, a hidden dungeon and black magic school in the Nightlands. Almost every alchemical vampire that I encountered could be traced back to that place. Their alumni usually wield powerful dark magic, necromancy powers, can control the weather, and summon powerful monsters. They must also create a powerful spellbook to graduate, a [Solomonari’s Grimoire], which serves as a lesser artifact with unique powers.”
“You sound like you fought one,” Victor pointed out.
“I did, and he was tough.” She said it with fondness, clearly relishing the idea of killing another worthy foe. “Look, vampires are not like liches. They have to feed, and ergo they also have to rest in their coffins. Even if these ones can walk under the sun, it’s just the equivalent of staying up past bedtime. They can’t keep it up forever.”
“They must use elixirs and pre-processed blood potions to extend that length of time,” Manling Victor guessed. “But eventually this won’t be enough.”
“So at one point, our prey will stop to hibernate, and we will catch them then.” Vainqueur relished the thought.
“Unfortunately, powerful vampires always have Renfields to protect them or transport their coffins while they sleep.” Knight Kia chuckled at everyone’s confusion. “It’s a term vampire hunters use to call mortal servants, alongside the ‘Bella’ fans. They also have stronger cousins called ‘Igors’, but they usually serve liches or mad scientist types.”
“A chief of staff,” Vainqueur said, looking down in contempt at the manling for ignoring the proper term.
“The easiest way to deal with a vampire is usually to turn their Renfields against them, since their Bellas remain unfailingly loyal; even if they seem to hesitate at first. Bellas are obsessed with their masters, but Renfields are usually motivated by fear or desire for power. If they see the opportunity for a better alternative than their current master, they will take it.”
“So make their minions my minions, and eat those who are not good recruit material.” Vainqueur nodded.
“This gives me an idea,” Manling Victor said. “But it may take time.”
“They can also use others’ crypts and tombs as alternate sanctuaries,” Knight Kia continued. “Have you checked your graveyard?”
“We, uh, we don’t have one,” said Manling Victor.
Knight Kia frowned. “You don’t have a graveyard?”
“Well, everyone who dies in Murmurin is usually revived as an undead, or turned into fertilizer.”
“Or eaten by me,” Vainqueur said.
“His Majesty leaves nothing to waste!” Red Ranger chirped. “We recycle everything!”
“Yes, we are the most eco-friendly government on Outremonde,” Manling Victor said with sarcasm, which made Vainqueur worry. Obviously the presence of Knight Kia disturbed him as much as it did his master.
“Then either they transported their coffins and move them around, or you missed a crypt or dungeon buried somewhere in the area. Considering their numbers, I find that part more likely.”
“I had every tunnel and hidden passage in the castle closed after we raided the Pyramid of Sablar,” Manling Victor said. “It’s a stratagem.”
“Good call, minion,” Vainqueur congratulated him, happy that he could distinguish pyramids from towers now. “Furibon will not retake the castle by guile, and my gold will remain safe.”
“Then they’re probably under the city,” his chief of staff continued. “The presence of a Hellgate would suggest dark forces operated in the region even before Furibon took it over. A pity he escaped, we could have asked him…”
“Which is your fault, minion.”
“Your Majesty, we will search the entire town for catacombs,” Red Ranger proposed.
“Good idea, minion,” the dragon said and nodded. “Until we can locate their nest, I shall return to my training and prepare to crush them.”
“You already have levels in [Witch Hunter] Vainqueur,” Knight Kia said. “Promoting it into [Vampire Hunter] should be child’s play. I could train you if we have the right tools—”
“Wait,” Manling Victor interrupted her. “Could you train groups in vampire hunting?”
“If they meet the stat criteria, yes, sure. We will need the right tools though. I have no idea why, but whips and crosses are required to take the [Vampire Hunter] class.”
Vainqueur already visualized it. The perfect weapon to fight the most annoying creatures in the world: vampires, and minion strikers. Much better than the damn ax which annoyed him in Haudemer.
“I thought we should train our minions in the ways of new classes,” Friend Victor explained himself. “Since my [Monster Insight] can identify their infiltrators, I thought I should try to get more [Monster Squires], and if you can contribute, all the better.”
“You would teach us to become dragonly like you, chief?” Red’s eyes widened in envy.
“Teaching Kobolds how to become Vampire Hunters?” The idea seemed to entertain Knight Kia. “Can it even work?”
“It’s worth a try,” Vainqueur’s chief of staff replied. “Vainqueur may not gain a new level in that class, but learning the skills of one will help.”
“All of V&V must remain in top shape against this new threat,” the dragon declared. “I shall lead by example. Knight Kia, to prove yourself worthy of my niece, I shall allow you to serve me in that capacity.”
“So… you want me to teach you, but you do not want to word it so simply?”
“You shall learn to serve me,” Vainqueur clarified, before turning to his most prized lackey. “You too, Manling Victor. You have yet to learn more Monster Perks since we fought Furibon.”
“Because it involves me surviving the attack first, and it hurts!”
“Minion, have you not tasted death already? What is there to be afraid of anymore? I too suffered pain when Furibon murdered my hoard, or when Jolie let that…” Vainqueur glanced at Kia, his voice dying in his throat at the sight of that poor excuse of a minion. “Let her do the thing we shall not speak of in front of my other minions. Yet look at me! I remained as amazing as ever!”
|Charisma check successful!|
“Mmm… when worded this way… but I don’t know...”
Your Minion is seeing the wisdom of your words but remains unsure. Will you persuade him by:
A) Telling him he will become more powerful.
B) Remind him that suffering for you is the greatest pleasure a minion can experience.
C) Convincing him that he will have more opportunities to breed if he trains.
Clearly, all of the above! “Minion, by becoming more powerful, you will not only get used to the pain and learn to enjoy it for me, but you will become a more desired breeding partner!”
“It is true that high-level and fame improve your dating life, but it gets tiresome very quickly,” Knight Kia said.
“Really?” Manling Victor asked.
|Charisma check successful!|
“We live in a village full of monsters…” Vainqueur remained silent, letting Manling Victor make the words his own. “And since it’s getting harder to level up more, we should explore our existing abilities… For battle. For battle!”
“We will gladly teach you our attacks, chief,” Pink Ranger said. “So you can show us how to do them better!”
“You can learn the Perks of monsters?” Knight Kia whistled. “Nice! How many?”
“I dunno, I never tried to push this ability to its logical extremes.”
“You are my chief of staff,” Vainqueur cheered him up, “You can do anything.”
“I know I will regret saying that, but can Your Majesty…” Manling Victor struggled to spit out his demand. “Almost kill me?”
Time to teach him the masterful art of firebreathing then!
“Say no more, minion.” Vainqueur inhaled and held his breath. “We will begin with the easiest technique: the wyrmling fireball.”
“Wait, wait, Your Majesty, I didn’t mean it right now—”
Vainqueur unleashed the weakest fireball he could on his minion, creating a small crater while at it.