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“El Dorado must be conquered!”

So Emperor Vainqueur declared atop his golden hoard, facing the greatest of his minions. From his chief of staff to Necromancer Jules, Tasty Allison, and Marbré the Dwarf. All speechless before the dragon’s bold declaration.

“For its own protection,” Vainqueur added, as the gold would only be safe when added to his own hoard. “Else the wicked Furibon will turn it to lead, as he tried to murder my hoard and poisoned the Moon.”

“Your Majesty,” Minion Victor spoke up. “That Furibon may be looking for El Dorado—whose very existence itself is only based on rumors and orc-only testimonies—does not mean he intends to transform it to lead. Nor do we have any proof that he transformed the Moon to lead.”

“But do you have proof that the evil Furibon did not turn the planet Moon to lead?” Vainqueur asked the key question.

Manling Victor exchanged glances with the other members of the council, who had no answer to this.

“See?” Vainqueur said, his theory unanimously confirmed. “It all adds up. In the absence of proof of the lich’s innocence, we must assume his culpability in all things.”

“But what does Your Majesty suggest?” Friend Victor asked, showing a lack of vision which annoyed his master. Did he not understand that the fate of gold rested on Vainqueur’s shoulders? “El Dorado, if it exists, is an ocean and continent away! Even Your Majesty will struggle to fly there!”

“We have the Piggybank,” Vainqueur replied.

“Indeed!” Marbré the Dwarf promoted his invention. “Our ship could travel all around the world, without exploding more than thrice.”

“That’s reassuring,” Friend Victor said with sarcasm. Now Vainqueur had learned that he used this strange ritual to deal with stress. Surely the prospect of facing the lich which he failed to keep sealed unsettled him. “Even if we survive the trip, find the city, and return, this will take us weeks, if not months!”

“We will not stop at El Dorado,” Vainqueur declared, possessed by a visionary spirit. “This dragon-created world is vast and full of lands to explore. Of dungeons overflowing with wealth! Of gems and shinies which will help me triumph over Icefang! We will continue west, and west, until we have filled the Piggybank with treasures and sailed past the edge of Outremonde!”

“Your Majesty wants to do a world tour?” Manling Victor choked.

“Vic, I read a book about someone traveling across the world in ninety days,” Allison said, “without a magical plane such as yours. It can be done.”

“The perfect timing to be back on Halloween, and humiliate Icefang!” Vainqueur nodded happily.

“Ninety days is three months!” Manling Victor complained. “Three months where Murmurin would remain without your protection!”

“With my [Golden Road] Perk, I can open a gate to my hoard at any time,” Vainqueur pointed out. “More of my minions can cross this portal and conquer lands in the name of the V&V Empire!”

“That’s…” Friend Victor paused, trapped in his thoughts. “Wait, if we combine this with my [Scarlet Study] Perk… we can establish a direct line of communication with Murmurin and return if there is an emergency…”

“We can create more Warp Projectors to link areas together,” Marbré pointed out. “Outposts of the revolution, bound together by the great chain of industry!”

Vainqueur could almost hear the debate going on inside his prized lackey’s head. “I admit, it’s theoretically possible,” Manling Victor said. “But is it wise?”

“Your Majesty declared war on the fomors,” Jules the Necromancer pointed out. “We have no guarantee that they will not strike first. If anything, your absence, even if temporary, may encourage them.”

“We must look forward!” Vainqueur said. “Have I not become the most powerful adventurer in the world by pushing my limits? To triumph over the fairies and their wicked pawns, my minions must grow stronger! They must earn levels by accumulating glory and riches in my name! Under my guidance, the Empire has known peace; but to prepare for war, my servants must test their mettle against monsters, dungeons, and the unknown!”

[El Presidente] activated! Charisma check successful!

And who knew? These distant lands may prove a fertile ground for recruiting new, strong minions. Lackeys who would cheer him up when he invaded Prydain, to burn the fairies’ forests to ashes.

Manling Victor turned to the other minions, as if expecting support; instead, their master’s words had convinced them. “It is true opportunities to gain levels the traditional way are getting scarcer,” Allison admitted.

“It took a raid in the sixty levels range to defeat King Balaur, and millions of soldiers to push back his army to the sea,” said Jules. “While probably weaker, we have no hope of defeating Mell Odieuse on her own territory with our current forces, even if we are to raise the dead again and again. We could also use resources to develop Murmurin itself and sustain the population for the long-term.”

“Our weapons need testing, testing, testing,” Marbré added. “In live conditions.”

Realizing he was hopelessly outvoted, his chief of staff finally returned to the fold. “Can we at least wait and prepare for the trip?” Manling Victor pleaded. “Just the logistics involved for this campaign to work…”

True, Vainqueur still had an arena to inaugurate, and a minion championship to hold. “We will launch the Piggybank after the Summer Solstice,” the dragon declared. “Manling Victor, as my official campaign manager and military advisor, I trust you implicitly with planning, preparing, and perfecting the campaign until then.”

“Perfect!” Marbré seemed especially enthusiastic about the plan. “We can finally bring the light of Averagism to populations untouched by Feudali—”

“Until then, you are dismissed,” Vainqueur spoke before the dwarf could go on a tiresome tirade. “Grand Vizier Victor, stay at my side. We must discuss a private, important matter.”

The minions left the vault, leaving the Emperor with his most trusted advisor. “Yes?” his friend asked.

“Have you bred yet?” Vainqueur asked. He had done everything in his power to help his minion tie the knot with Sweet Chocolatine, and never checked if it worked.

“Chocolatine and I are… taking a break.”

What? After all the time Vainqueur spent setting them up! “Why is that minion? What could be more important than ensuring a new generation of lackeys can fill my hoard?”

“I… I don’t know. I don’t know if I want to settle or stay free. I don’t know what I want.”

“Minion, you shall not start breeding wars with your inability to settle on a proper partner,” Vainqueur said. “To avoid jealousy among other minions, you shall service everyone.”

That way, Vainqueur would progress faster in the [Dungeon Breeder] class: he would get new minions, and get better at setting them up. Win-win!

His minion didn’t see it this way though. “If Your Majesty prostitutes me to the entire minion army, I will find a way to make you pay.”

“Minion, I am concerned for your future,” Vainqueur replied. “While I will make you my god of minions, so you may serve me forever, what legacy will you leave behind? None of my current minions are up to your standard. If my hoard is to grow, your line must go on.”

In spite of his attempt to cheer him up, his chief minion seemed… depressed. “Your Majesty, I owe you my life.”

“Yes, indeed, and I will never stop reminding you of it.”

“So I will do whatever you ask of me, and I always put your own good first,” Friend Victor reminded his master of his oath of minionship. “But I haven’t figured out what’s my own good. I’m burning out.”

“Minion, your dragon blood makes you immune to puny flames; you cannot burn. This is all in your head.”

“Yes… exactly. It’s all in my head.”

Vainqueur observed his friend, his majestuous tail and wings attached to his ape-like body. The answer to his ‘illness’ appeared clearly.

“Minion, you have been blessed with a part of my glory, growing wings, and a tail,” so spoke the Emperor. “Yet you remain half-man. You are in-between. Your mind is torn like your body, unable to settle on one side or the other. So long as you cannot decide whether you remain a manling or fully discard this part of you for the majesty of dragonhood, neither will you decide firmly on anything!”

His manling looked up at his beloved master with his tiny eyes.

“Why have you fallen silent, minion?”

“It never occurred to me that Your Majesty had grown much wiser with time.”

“Minion, I have always been the wisest, smartest of all. You simply never listened before.”

“I doubt that,” Manling Victor replied, unaware of his own inability to recognize the absolute truth of the dragon way of life. “What is Your Majesty’s current level?”

“Fifty-four!” Vainqueur boasted. “Halfway to divinity!” He could already taste the sound of that devilish goddess giving him back his gold for her overpriced services.

“And I am fifty,” Manling Victor said, who hadn’t slacked off either, “We have one [Heroic Crest] for Your Majesty, so that you may get past the sixty level barrier.”

“Certainly this El Dorado must have a second one for you,” Vainqueur pointed out. A city of gold could only have the best treasures within its walls.

“I may have an opportunity to progress quickly,” Manling Victor said. “But I will remain unavailable for at least one week.”

“Aw, but you may miss the Minion Tournament!” Vainqueur said.

“Wouldn’t my very presence disrupt it?” his chief of staff replied. “I am twenty levels above almost everyone. It’s not really fair… and I would have time to think.”

“Minion, are you asking me for a vacation?” Vainqueur choked.

“If I may not be so bold…” Manling Victor trailed. “Yes. Yes, I need one.”

A minion asking for a vacation? Impossible! That was the road to strikes, rebellion, entitlement! Even for a chief of staff, no dragon had been asked time-off; rewarding a minion’s work with free days, yes, but being asked for it?

And yet, after so many months of loyal, dutiful hard work, that Manling Victor would ask such a thing raised all kinds of alarms. Vainqueur looked back into his past, when he led tribes of goblins, only to find them gone when he woke up from hibernation. He had never given them respite.

Did… did minions…

Did minions have needs unrelated to serving him?

Beyond Vainqueur’s own happiness?

Could his goblins have defected because he never considered their own baser needs?

Intelligence check successful! You have learned self-reflection!

Vainqueur could not let his best minion feel like a goblin.

“Minion, plan our expedition first,” the dragon ordered. “Afterward, while it pains that you will not be able to participate in our first official gladiatorial tournament, I grant you a one week vacation. For the good of the hoard… and yours.”

Manling Victor seemed not to believe his words, before bowing. “Thank you, Your Majesty.”

“Now go, and rest.”

Congratulations. By learning compassion for a lesser being, and helping your minion servant with his mental health problems, you have earned a level in [Dungeon Breeder].

 

+ 10 SP, + 1 SKI, +1 INT.

Somehow, watching Manling Victor be happier made Vainqueur feel fuzzier inside.

 

Was he starting to get sick too?

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Void Herald

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.

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