Wearing a wizard’s hat, Vainqueur unleashed his hoard-shattering magic, to bring back life to a barren land with a swipe of the hand.
And nothing happened.
The dragon let out a frustrated snarl, punching the fields with his fists. The golem farmer laboring them with a plow stopped to complain, “Yer Majesty, you’re damaging Rolo’s cultures!”
“Then tell magic to be less difficult!” Vainqueur replied, throwing away the wizard hat in frustration. It had done nothing to help!
The dragon would have rather flown all the way to the Dark Forest and burn it to the ground, but first, he had to fulfill his bet with Icefang. He needed to farm as much gold as possible before Halloween, so he could put his rival in his place. Afterward, the fairies would learn the pecking order as well.
“Minion, I have learned that by looking to the stars, we lose sight of what matters closer to us,” Vainqueur ranted, more for the pleasure of listening to his own perfect voice than his audience’s sake. “Also I believe the Moon must be destroyed.”
“Rolo agrees,” the golem answered, before adding a tiny bit of [Farmer] wisdom. “Better to labor the earth under one’s feet, than hope for greener pastures in space.”
“Which is why instead of pursuing quests on the Moon, I will turn to other continents instead!” Vainqueur agreed, his dragon spirit ignited. His favorite minion had told him about exploration fleets to discover new lands, full of treasures, items, and new levels to claim. “If even manlings turn to the sea in search of new lands, then V&V shall lead the way! Also, I believe the Moon must be destroyed.”
Against his better judgment, the dragon could not resist the urge to gaze at the skies, glimpsing the shadowy roundness of the evil planet Moon above him.
The dreadful feeling of invisible hands crawling on his back overwhelmed Vainqueur, as terrible nightmares flared to life in his mind; the very sight of the cursed celestial object brought back flashbacks of his near-death experience. He felt his very heartbeat accelerate. His breathing grew shorter. The shadow of lead put its frosty fingers around his imperial neck to squeeze it.
With an act of extreme willpower, Vainqueur managed to turn his eyes away from the the Moon, but his wandering mind could not escape the horrors he had foreseen there.
Channeling all his pain and sadness and frustration, the dragon poured all his feelings in a final spell, extending his hands in a dramatic fashion. “Weedgardium Leviosa!”
And for the first time since he began practicing the ancient art of wizardry, the earth shook on its own, without the dragon having to beat it first. Fueled by his boundless power, a small seed pierced through the earth, revealing a small beanstalk growing.
“I did it!” Vainqueur gloated, although slightly vexed the beanstalk didn’t turn golden. “I did it! I am a wizard!”
Congratulations! By finally casting an earth-shattering spell after weeks of unrelenting training, you earned a level in [Geomancer]!
You earned the [Geomancy] Class Perk!+20 SP, +1 INT, +1 LCK!
[Geomancy]: Spell, 0 SP. You unleash a powerful magic effect whose effects are based on current Field and Weather.
Not even the disappointing stat gains could destroy Vainqueur’s mood.
“Yer Majesty made a bean grow!” Rolo the golem rejoiced at the sight of his emperor's awesomeness.
“I promise you, tinfoil farmer,” Vainqueur said. “When I am done, my whole empire will be covered in beans!”
“Apologize?” Croissant glared at Victor, chained in his cell. His sister stood next to the Vizier, a basket full of meat in hands.
“Look, I admit I treated you like crap,” Victor said. “Although I only did so because you treated me like crap first.”
“So the two cancel out one another?” Chocolatine asked, hopeful. A regime of healing spells had allowed her to regain her cheery disposition.
“No,” Victor replied, focusing back on Croissant. “You still cooperated with the enemy, and Vainqueur will eat you if he sees you again. So I’m offering you a way out: you disappear from Murmurin. Forever.”
The male werewolf glared at him. “You will dump me on a deserted island or something?”
“We are starting a new colony, and we need settlers.” Non-crazy cultists at least. “I can send you there, and although you will be prevented from returning to the mainland. So long as you never show your face again, I will do my best to forget you exist and so will Vainqueur, who anyway will never visit that colony, ever. You can start your life anew, and we’ll be sure you won’t run off to the enemy.”
Honestly, while he understood Croissant’s motives, his sister was the only reason he felt merciful towards him. Had Chocolatine not talked him out of it, he would have sent him to the mines alongside the other Nightblades.
“And I will be able to visit you every weekend!” Chocolatine continued. “I will bring you baskets and sheeps!”
Croissant considered the offer. It was a very generous deal considering his treason, so he worried about a trap of some kind. “Where will you send me?”
“The Moon,” Victor answered.
Croissant chuckled, albeit without mirth. “Good one.”
“The Mooooooooon,” Chocolatine confirmed. “We have a portal to it!”
Poor Croissant remained in denial about his terrible fate. “No seriously, where?”
“You leave tomorrow, Croissant,” Victor replied, leaving the cell alongside Chocolatine. Considering he would spend years alongside Moon Men cultists and their tentacled patrons, the Vizier briefly wondered if killing Croissant would have been a kinder fate.
“Thanks for sparing him, Vic,” Chocolatine told him after he closed the door behind them, before giving him a cute wink. “I know my brother can be frustrating sometimes, but he has a good side too. I’m sure he will learn!”
The Vizier doubted it, although he kept his true thoughts quiet.
“You’re holding up?” Victor asked her, concerned for her health. Especially since she suffered from her wounds trying to defend him.
“Allison patched me good,” the she-wolf replied. “But I wouldn’t mind a thorough examination!”
She approached to kiss him, but the courageous Vizier took a quick step back. “About that…” Victor struggled to find his words without ending up tied in a corner, while she looked at him with puzzled eyes. “You are… rather extreme…”
“You mean I have an overactive imagination?”
“And I… I actually like my bachelor lifestyle. Even if I like you a lot more than I thought I would… I don’t want to settle down with anybody yet… maybe one day, but not yet.”
There, he said it.
“Oh, me too!”
“So please, don’t murder any—” Victor froze. “What did you say?”
“I’m young and beautiful!” Chocolatine replied with a smile. “Why would I want to settle with my first crush? What I want is passion, torment, excitement, explosions!”
She began to take her crazy face again, which weirded Victor out. He simply could not figure her out. “If you didn’t want to settle for life with me, why were so implacable then?”
“Because you never stopped looking past our friendship!” Chocolatine replied, having naively misinterpreted things. “I was sexually starved because my brother wouldn’t let any boy near me, and when I saw you brimming with authority, I could not resist! There are so many things I want to try, like the whip-knife combo!”
“I would rather avoid that part,” Victor said, mindful of his health and sanity.
“But I get very jealous and clingy if I am frustrated!” Chocolatine complained.
So either he submitted to her insane appetite and she wouldn’t get jealous, or he didn’t, but the obsession cycle would repeat all over again. Victor had parked his car in the forbidden lot, and now he had to live with the fine.
Remembering what Allison had said about the lack of a good solution, Victor realized that love—and lust—always involved a compromise of some kind. Truth to be told, he had grown to like the she-wolf, even if he didn’t want to marry her or anything.
“Okay, so, let me offer a way out,” the Vizier began. “If I hypothetically agree to fulfill your… creative fantasies… on a semi-regular basis, you would agree to not being in a committed relationship for the moment, without brutally murdering anyone else and baking them into cakes?”
“I’m sorry, Vic, but I can’t. Even for you.”
“I mean, without murdering potential or perceived romantic rivals.”
“Oh, you should have said it first!” Chocolatine considered the matter thoughtfully. “So, like above friends, but below boyfriends and girlfriends?”
She pondered the question for a while, before settling it with one word. “Okay.”
He didn’t expect it. “Really?”
“You spared my brother, Vic,” Chocolatine said, sounding a lot more mature, “And you have been so nice to me. If you need some time to figure yourself out, it would be very mean of me not to give you space.”
That… that was an extraordinarily mature response from her. “Thanks,” he said, not knowing what else to add.
“Hey!” A male voice came from behind a cell’s closed door. “When am I getting a trial? I’ve been there forever!”
Victor exchanged a glance with Chocolatine, who seemed as puzzled as him. “Who are you again?” the Vizier asked.
The prisoner let out a very heavy sigh. “The magician, during the raid.”
Ah! That guy! Victor smiled sheepishly, unable to find a nice way to word it. “I had a great deal of trouble to deal with recently, I, uh, I kinda forgot you?”
“Y-you forgot a prisoner of war?” the magician choked. “You monster!”
“Alright, I’ll just send you to the mines for the next thirty years,” Victor decided. While Croissant had cooperated with the enemy, that one tried to abduct and kill defenseless wyrmlings.
After leaving the prisoner to his angry screams and separating from Chocolatine, Victor moved to another chamber in the castle, which Miel the angel had transformed into a temporary office.
“Ah, dear clie—I mean, Mr. Victor!” She was in an awfully good mood today, finishing arranging papers on her desk with a cheery smile. “Good to see you.”
“As well, Miel. With Savoureuse’s testimony, I hope the tensions between your employers and Happyland lessened?” Malfy at least, while struggling to recover, had taken his assassination attempt very personally.
“While Heaven and Happyland will never cooperate, we agreed that a third party trying to exploit our divisions complicate our distinguished market rivalry,” Miel replied. “The fomors have also been historical enemies to mortals, so my superiors agreed to offer summoned creatures support. They found this Dragon Watch a very positive direction for your country.”
“I dunno when we will act on Vainqueur’s speech though. We’re a long time away from launching an invasion of Prydain or other fomor lands, and we need to train our army first.”
Vainqueur had also been giddy since he learned about the exploration fleets and the rewards offered for discovering new lands. Fulfilling quests would help their minions at leveling, gather resources needed to build a fleet, and allow Victor to promote the monsters to higher forms.
Besides, even if Vainqueur's amazing speech had convinced the population to adopt a new currency, allowing the government to start regulating inflation, their economy remained very shaky. The Empire was in the process of stabilizing, but not fully solid yet.
“Considering your karma moved into a strong shade of chaotic good, I can only encourage your current decisions.” Miel’s smile froze, as she read the papers. “A karma rise one would call meteoritic, even suspicious. I hope magical enhancements or special Perks were not involved?”
After everything he learned about himself these past months… there was only one answer to give.
“Nah,” Victor lied. “It’s all talent.”
|Charisma check successful!|
“Perfect!” the angel replied, overcome by his Grand Vizier charm.
“Indeed, because now that my karma score is in the green, I wish to renegotiate more favorable terms,” Victor ruthlessly exploited the situation. “Paying half my SP and months of paperwork doesn’t sound good. I have also another idea which can benefit us both.”
“Considering your massive improvement in your karma score and standing up for my virtue while accused by heathens, this should be easy,” the angel nodded, before smelling an opportunity. “What idea do you have in mind?”
“We need a public service. Free healing, social services, education... but Vainqueur’s refusal to spend any gold makes it impossible the traditional way. So, I’ve been thinking, instead of raising taxes, we could ask citizens to donate a small part of their SP to you, in exchange for angels providing key services.”
“A Special Points levy?” The idea made Miel giddy. “If all citizens of your country even donate ten SP every week…”
“And they would rather offer a renewable resource they all have other than gold. We get the best of all worlds. I’m thinking of a three years trial period if it can be arranged.”
“This is brilliant! My superiors will love it! I may even get promoted to the higher form of [Principality], with my own angel unit!” Miel’s mood was now sky-high. “Maybe we could discuss it around a cup of coffee you offered me a while ago?”
Victor’s mind wandered off, and while he would have once jumped at the occasion… his own reluctant answer surprised him.
“Maybe another time,” he said, unconvinced.
In the heart of the dark forest, amidst black roots and snarling trees, the fairy lords of the Fomors had gathered.
The ancient terrors had answered the call of Mell Odieuse, to witness the ritual from the shadows. Giants and other thralls formed a ring around the Mell clan, to witness this historic day.
Lin stood beside his sister, a festering, burning scar on his chest; his punishment for failure. Odieuse would have done far worse, had he not successfully activated the bottle. Now that she knew that it could trap dragons, the dark witch would produce more and more.
The loss of the Nightblades and the infiltrators she had in the human realms was a harsh blow; and Vainqueur declaring war on them turned him from a secondary problem to a major one, second only to the Kingdom of Gardemagne itself.
However, dear Lucie served her purpose. She brought them the blood and bones of dragons with class levels; the key to the fomor’s greatest victory.
If you cannot beat them, become them, Mell Odieuse thought, as her father presented his newest creation: a shield of dragon bones, coalesced blood, and solid darkness, whose power eclipsed anything the witch had ever seen. The wicked fairy could sense its vile energies saturate the air.
“Behold the greatest of artifacts, the perfect blend of fairywork and dragoncraft,” Mag Mell congratulated himself, festering in his pride. “The Soulcrest.”
Mell Odieuse raised an eyebrow in doubt but claimed the item as her own anyway. Her fingers touched its cold surface, letting its power activate. She felt something slip inside her flesh, a strange light fill her icy heart. An artificial, black soul born of dragon blood, taking root in her empty shell of a body. She felt whole, in a way she could not properly describe.
“Did it work?” Mag Mell asked his daughter.
Mayhaps. Mell Odieuse glanced at her mortal thralls in silence, before counting them.
“Eena, meena, mina…” the witch's eyes settled on a cyclop. “Mo…”
“I won?” the giant asked. “What did I win?”
Instead of answering with words, Mell Odieuse cast a spell and impaled him through his heart with a spike. The dead thrall collapsed on the trees, his sweet red blood spraying the roots; its kindred cowered in dread at the sight.
A strange, blue screen appeared to reward her good work.
Thanks to your deadly, arbitrary approach to employee motivation, you earned a level in the infamous [Tyrant] class. You earned the [Tyranny] Class Perk!
+30 HP, +10SP, +1 STR, +1 AGI, +1 CHA, +1 LCK!
[Tyranny]: If you inflict damage, your victim has a ten percent chance of being afflicted by the [Terror] ailment.
“Ha… ha…” a bellowing sound came out of Mell Odieuse’s throat, beyond her control. It was a strange, new sound, yet a pleasant one, “Hahaha…”
“Sister, you are…” Lin took a step back in dread. “Laughing?”
Mell Odieuse’s cackle transformed into a cruel, cold laugh, chilling her slaves and guests into silence. The newfound power, and the death of the thrall, had filled her with a new feeling; an emotion she had seen the mortals experience, without ever understanding it before.
She had to feel it again.
|End of Volume II|