Victor thought they would just have to wait for dawn, protected by Kia’s shield. He was wrong.
Emile whistled, giving the signal for his group to attack. A cowled figure with a scythe, a vampiric grim reaper, walked through the shield as if it wasn’t even there.
|Reaper Deathscythe used [Skeleton Key] to bypass [Shield of Light]!|
Of course vampires assassins would have a Perk which bypassed supernatural wards… Kia immediately moved to intercept the intruder, but he grabbed some kind of pendant and uttered magical words. The shield of light collapsed, and everything became dark again.
Due to the thick darkness, Victor could barely see more than a few feet away, at least before Kia formed a miniature sun in her free hand. The aster partially illuminated their surroundings, revealing dozens of vampiric assassins charging at them with sharp blades. He could see Allison near him but not the rest of his troops, although he could hear them fight in the darkness.
Of course, Kia didn’t let the enemy through, cutting down one, then two, then three rogues without breaking a sweat. She didn’t even bother to dodge the strikes, even though they used poisoned weapons; their blades bounced off her armor without inflicting damage. Meanwhile, it took but one slash from the Shining Knight to reduce a vampire to dust.
It was like watching babies trying to take down Mohammed Ali. A hilariously one-sided slaughter.
But it distracted her, allowing other rogues to dash at their true target: Victor himself. His sharp reflexes allowed him to dodge a vampire’s blade and retaliate with his scythe, cutting the attacker in half.
|Critical hit! It’s a one-hit KO!|
His weapon absorbed the vampire’s soul, which told the Vizier that either his Helheim overwhelmed the soul trap effect, or that it spared the enemy thieves. It also gave him enough time to activate his buffs.
You gain +4 check bonus against [Undead] effects.
+100 temporary HP.
Chances to inflict [Terror] increased by 20 percent.
Your scythe will now inflict the [Poisoned] ailment!
You gained the [Regen] status!
He briefly considered summoning his trump card with [Black Horseman], but that would undoubtedly cause the mansion to collapse on everyone inside.
Emile Lavere, the assassin he fought in the Winter Kingdoms, emerged from the darkness to flank him with a silver rapier. He narrowly missed his chest, but pierced his armor through a chink.
|You took medium damage! Manslayer negated by [Darwinist]! Insta-Death negated by [Monster Lifeforce (Red Dragon)]!|
“Undead?” the vampire snarled, angry at his attack being countered. “How can you count as undead?”
Victor retaliated by blasting the killer with a dark fireball, but he dodged out of the way. The projectile exploded somewhere, making the mansion shake. The Vizier prayed that it didn’t hit the Kobold Rangers or Junior by accident, forsaking this attack so long as he lacked visibility.
The enemy Reaper soon joined Emile, trying to behead Victor from behind while he fended off the vampire assassin. “[Turn Undead]!” Allison rushed to help him, blasting the enemy Reaper against a wall, and keeping Emile at bay. “Vic, get behind me!”
“Alright, I’m taking Marinette!” Victor declared, his free hand fumbling in the dark while Allison shielded him.
“Marinette?!” Allison asked before a bunch of ghosts forced her to focus back on the fight. “[Turn Undead]! [Turn Undead]!”
“My bazooka!” Victor replied, grabbing the rocket launcher with his free hand, and swinging his scythe with the other.
“You named it?” Constantly repelling undead didn’t prevent Allison from complaining. “Vic, you can’t solve all your problems with a bazooka!”
“Why not?” Truth to be told, he couldn’t use it in the dark without risking friendly fire, but it helped with the intimidation factor. “Flee before Marinette! [Fright Knight]!”
As he spoke those words, the Reaper glanced at the weapon with dread, before slithering back in the shadows. The ghosts harassing Allison ignored him though.
Your enemies’ Strength and Charisma decreased by one stage!
Reaper Deathscythe now suffers from [Terror]! [Terror] failed to affect Dark Spirits and Emile Lavere!
“Not running away this time?” the Grand Vizier taunted the assassin, who adopted a dueling stance with his rapier.
“I fear Mamma Lucie more than you,” he replied, before casting a spell on himself. “[Bolstering Dead].“
Allison attempted to turn him again, but this time, the assassin ignored her. He charged at Victor with murder on his mind.
The Vizier raised his scythe to kill the vampire, but the bastard moved around Allison, putting her in Victor’s way. The chief of staff stopped his attack before his blade could cut his own friend, but this gave Emile an opening. The assassin raised his rapier, aiming for the throat.
Then a blue jelly jumped out of the darkness and hit him in the eye.
“My eye!” the vampire assassin screamed in both pain and surprise, the jelly hopping around happily.
“Eye!” Buzz Jelly chirped as if it found the word funny. “Eye treasure!”
“I can’t see…” Having put a hand on his wounded eye, Emile missed the glittering fangs on his left. “I can’t see—”
Junior’s jaws closed on Emile’s torso, the mimic chewing the vampire around like a cat with a rat.
Oh, right. It was a team fight.
“They think we fear the dark, but they’re wrong!” Victor shouted while Junior swallowed the vampire whole... only for Emile to escape its jaws in mist form. “They use the cover of darkness to hide from us! For we are the Hoard! We are fear!”
“Fear!” the jelly repeated. “Fear!”
|[Rally Minion] activated! All minions’ stats raised by one stage!|
Victor’s declaration was answered with the sound of windows breaking. It occurred to him that the cultists guarding his home must have engaged other attackers.
“Chief!” Victor heard Red somewhere to his left. After concentrating, he distinguished the shape of his ally, alongside that of Pink, in the dark. “This way, through the windows!”
“[Monster Insight],” Victor replied.
He sliced both of them without warning with his scythe, their bodies dissolving into shadows, much to his annoyance. “How many doppelgangers do they have?”
“What kind of Doppelganger?” The Vizier turned to find Kia rushing to his side, having slaughtered anyone foolish enough to attack her.
The Shining Knight cursed. “That’s the worst kind! They can create one health point duplicates at will. Unless we slay the original, more will keep coming.”
“Lavere is in my basement, we have to kill her or these attacks will never end!”
“I’ll take care of her,” said the paladin, “after we evacuate you.”
Victor guessed that she, like everyone, hated escort missions. “Sorry to have dragged you into this!” he apologized, as she guided him, Allison summoning thorns to protect their rear. He barely avoided a poisoned arrow aiming for his head and deflected a second with his scythe.
“You’re kidding? I’m so happy! There is a big battle...” she said while blocking a projectile with her blade, a blissful smile on her face. “And I haven’t missed it!”
|Skill check successful!|
Sensing something to his left, Victor leaped backward as shadowy claws emerged from a wall to try and seize him. A monstrous, ghoulish undead halfway emerged from the wall, snarling at him.
Wall Ghoul (Artificial/Undead)
Strong against Physical attacks, all status ailments, necromancy, Earth, and Unholy.
Weak against Artislayer, Deadslayer, Holy.
A malevolent basement dweller moving through the walls of a haunted mansion (yours) to ambush its prey (you). It can drag the people it catches to another part of the mansion. Beneath its thuggish exterior, it’s a very shy creature looking for love.
Did they turn his entire house into a death trap?
The monster attempted to grab Victor with a dreadful shriek, but whips caught its claws. The Kobold Rangers emerged from the darkness, forcefully dragging the monster out of the wall so Red could pummel it. “We have your back, chief!”
“Vic, here! The windows!” Kia called him. She raised her blade to parry a strike from the enemy Reaper, who had returned for a second round, locking her into place. Victor rushed to help her, but then sensed cold dead hands grabbing his ankles.
He suddenly realized the Nightblades had brought more than one wall monster.
Before he could react, another ghoulish creature dragged him through the flooring as if it was water. In the blink of an eye, he landed into some kind of underground catacomb, the wall monster hanging above him.
Victor raised his bazooka and pulled the trigger.
The resulting explosion blasted the monster into tiny pieces, parts of the ceiling with it, and repelled Victor by a good five meters. The Vizier quickly got back on his feet, facing a pile of rubble.
“This thing is amazing,” the adventurer muttered to himself, caressing his bazooka with religious awe.
But it only had one projectile.
So he tossed it away, keeping only the scythe and running as fast as he could through dark, underground corridors. As he did, Victor heard a piper’s melody echoing across them; while he knew he should run as far away from its source as possible, the Vizier decided to finish Lavere before she could launch another attack.
The corridors eventually led him to a much larger underground crypt, which unlike the manor above, had a few sources of magical light. Bright lanterns kept the darkness at bay, casting light on dozens of coffins belonging to the Nightblades, and a table at the center. He quickly distinguished shapes in the dark, sitting around it. Savoureuse, a strange human piper, and...
“Chocolatine?” Vic’s eyes widened, upon seeing them more closely.
“Oh hi, Vic!” Savoureuse greeted him. Victor noticed a pile of cookies and cheese on the table, alongside some fine, half-emptied wine.
“Oh, hi, Vic!” the werewolf repeated and waved at him. “What’s up with all the racket above? Is there a party?”
Victor glanced at her, then at Savoureuse, who shrugged, then back at Chocolatine.
… no. It had to be the doppelganger. He used [Monster Insight] on her to be sure.
Strong against Moon, Beast, Madness and Fairy effects.
Weak against Silver, Manslayer, and Beastslayer effects.
Your girlfriend, whether you like it or not. She forgets her sadness at her brother’s arrest by drowning herself in Savoureuse’s delicious meat cookies. You don’t want to know what they’re made of… or rather, who they’re made of.
Yep, that was the real one, against all odds. “You’re not a hostage?” Victor asked Chocolatine while keeping an eye on the other people present; especially the piper.
A fomor. Damn. Yet somehow he ignored the adventurer to play music, and Victor couldn’t hit him with a fiery projectile without wounding his friends.
“A hostage?” Chocolatine turned to Savoureuse. “I’m a hostage?”
“Oh, yes, I forgot to tell you,” Savoureuse said, before turning to Victor. “I wanted to tie her up, but when she told me all about how her brother’s arrest puts a damper on your relationship, I couldn’t let such a cute couple break up. So I baked her cookies.”
“Poisoned cookies?” Victor asked, finding the scene surreal.
“I could never poison food. People, always, but good food? Only nobles do that.”
“You have to tell me about that secret ingredient though,” Chocolatine continued, oblivious to the current situation. “Is it goblin? Gnoll?”
“It’s a secret, sweetie,” Savoureuse replied with a cheeky smile. “I don’t want to fight you, Vic.”
Him neither, against his better judgment. “We don’t have to.”
“Indeed. [Darkest Fear].”
A familiar dark aura swallowed Victor, who had a horrible sensation of déjà vu. His strength and vitality abandoned him, causing him to fall on his knees.
HP and SP reduced to one!
[Terror] and [Necrophobia] ailments negated!
[Troll Regeneration] activated!
“As they say, if you want something done,” Lucie Lavere said while stepping into sight, a screaming black book in hand and a humanoid made of solid shadows at her side. “Do it yourself.”
Victor had grown to hate, hate assassins hiding in shadows with passion tonight. She must have waited for her minions to soften him up before moving for the kill, like a hyena.
|Charisma check successful! Lucie Lavere cannot read your mind!|
Horrified and snapped out of her drunkness, Chocolatine instantly rushed to defend her crush, targeting Lavere. “[Turn Undead]! [Turn Undead]!”
Proving herself in a whole different league than her servants, the Nightblades’ leader didn’t even flinch. “[Telekinesis].” She absentmindedly raised her free hand, throwing Chocolatine against a coffin with the mere force of her mind, knocking her out. While Savoureuse watched the scene with terror in her eyes, the fomor briefly stopped playing his pipe, a crooked smirk flaring on his face.
“You should have checked your mansion for tunnels,” Lavere taunted Victor, in a good enough mood to banter with her prey.
“I did!” the Grand Vizier protested, managing to get back on his feet. “I was going to bring architects to check for hidden pathways after my seminar, but I didn’t have the time between Mot and the economic crisis!”
|You have recovered a quarter of your HP!|
“Annoying,” Lavere said, quickly casting another spell on Victor. “[Accelerated Anti-Teleport].”
|Luck check failed! You can no longer teleport away for the next twenty-four hours!|
Realizing she could diminish his HP to 1 at any time, Victor decided he could sacrifice some. “[Hades Blast]!”
He unleashed a mighty blast of purple energy at the vampire, sacrificing his very lifeforce to empower it.
The book in Lavere’s hand let out a wail, the cover morphing into a ghoulish face. A shield of dark energy sprung around the vampire and her doppelganger ally, shielding them. Victor exploited her brief distraction to charge at her, scythe raised, as the shield dispelled. The doppelganger shielded his mistress with his body, but she didn’t need any help.
The second the words left her mouth, Victor’s body wracked in pain, as wounds opened beneath his armor. His very blood floated out of him, drained by Lavere’s vile spell.
Warning: Critical health! Your Vitality dropped by three stages!
Congratulations! You learned the [Blood Fountain] Personal Perk!
[Blood Fountain]: Technique, 50 SP. You can expell blood from every target within thirty feet of yourself as if you used the [Vampire Kiss] Perk, recovering half of the damage inflicted in HP and reducing the victims’ Vitality; creatures without blood are immune.
“Finally, I taste dragon blood…” the Nightblades’ leader sucked the floating blood like one would with champagne...
And immediately spit it out.
“Your blood tastes like shit,” Lavere cursed, her fake veneer of sophistication replaced with disgust. “Half-human blood, and half… chili pepper!”
Victor would have happily shoved more down her throat, had he not been forced to use his scythe not to fall on the ground. That perk hurt!
“Finish him off,” the piper said with sadistic glee, Savoureuse glancing away not to watch what would follow.
“It appears you can change type at will,” Lavere observed while spellcasting. “I wonder if you will rise as a zombie due to my field’s effects, or just die. Let’s check.”
“Does that offer of necromancy lessons still hold?” Victor deadpanned.
“No,” Lavere replied, being careful to stay at a respectable distance, in case he had a last trick up his sleeve. “[Crush Heart].”
She opened her free hand, a phantom, spectral heart forming inside her palm.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take up your role,” the doppelganger said, before duplicating. The shadowy blob divided into two, one taking the shape of Chocolatine, and the other of Victor himself, “And more and more.”
No way around it then. He didn’t wish to do it in an enclosed space, but… “[Black Horseman],” Victor activated his trump card. The vampire may prevent him from teleporting away, it wouldn’t stop a call for help.
“Calling your horse?” Lavere mused, closing her fingers to crush the fake heart in her palm. With her foe at her mercy, she allowed herself a moment of smugness; a fatal mistake. “Fighting me is foolish.”
But fighting was for gladiators.
A Vizier Reaper Assassin used cheap tricks.
And then the entire crypt shook, as the legendary dragon teleported right on top of Lavere herself and her bodyguard, in a sitting position. His crown hit the ceiling above, causing the ceiling to crack; the teleportation effect blew dust in all directions, upturning the table and the coffins.
“Minion,” the dragon grumbled, the artificial darkness summoned by the vampire already dissipating. “You better have a good reason to summon me in the middle of a golden shower.”
Victor knew there was a dirty joke to make here, but it was beneath him.
While Savoureuse didn’t find her words, the piper fomor’s eyes had bulged out at the unexpected sight. He silently opened a circular rift in space and quickly fled without looking back, shaken.
Vainqueur smelled his chief of staff, unaware of the vampire and doppelganger crushed beneath his imperial bottom. “Have the bats bled you?”
“Yeah, but Lavere didn’t like it.”
“What do you mean by, she didn’t like it? How dare she not appreciate the blissful perfection of dragon blood?” Vainqueur asked, infuriated. “This only showcases her complete lack of taste! I will eat her cattle for this insult!”
Victor glanced at the spot where Lavere used to stand with a smug look until he noticed purple mist slipping out of Vainqueur and fleeing through the tunnels. “Not again!” the Vizier cursed, as Lavere quickly escaped.
First blood was on him, but from the lack of level-up, the war was far from over. Why they decided to attack him while he had Kia at home though, that was beyond him.
Unless… unless they wanted to keep her busy as a secondary objective. Another way to hit Vainqueur through others. “Your Majesty...”
“Have you called your niece lately?”