“Minion! Minion!” The dragon repeated the word with a stronger, higher pitched voice each time, as if he thought his victim too deaf to hear him. “MINION!”
“Yes, Your Majesty?” Charlene Ennuie, vampire chief of staff, asked as it took all her willpower to keep a straight face. She could hear her pointed fangs grind together, and her fingers clench her notebook obsessively.
“I have decided that I want my arena to have an opening roof,” Vainqueur pompously declared, his head high as he inspected the nearly finished Colosseum. With his crown too big for his head and his arrogant demeanor, he reminded Charlene of a mighty king looking down on peasants like dog shit. His every step made the bricks tremble under the stars.
“An opening roof?” Charlene repeated, having been forced to follow the dragon’s increasingly nonsensical demands for hours. It had started with chairs made of chiseled jewels, escalated to kobold-made stairs for him to climb upon, and it went further downhill afterward.
“For the opening ceremony,” Vainqueur said as if one word was enough to join both of these concepts. “My minions will stay in the shade until the roof opens; the sun’s rays will shine upon my gold, which will glitter for all to see! Build me an opening roof!”
“Why?” Charlene couldn’t help but ask since the opening ceremony was already an exercise in extravagance. “What is the point?”
“A true emperor, no, an Augustus, must make a dazzling entrance!”
“Your Majesty, how are we supposed to create an opening roof mechanism, on a nearly finished building, six days before its opening to the public? For something which will be used only once?! With an empty national budget?!”
“Minion Charlene, if you were half the minion my chief of staff is, you would have already figured this out.”
Calm yourself, Charlene, the vampire thought. Calm yourself, this is just temporary, like skin rash. Stay professional, you have seen idiotic and arrogant adventurers before, you can handle—
“And I do not say this because you failed to find me any quests to grow my hoard, proving yourself inadequate.”
|Intelligence check successful! [Berserk] negated!|
“I-inadequate?” Charlene chortled at his sense of entitlement.
“Thankfully, I believe in minion professional reinsertion,” Vainqueur continued with a patronizing tone. “While you have made for a poor quest manager, I am certain that you can shine as my Minion Secretary of Arena Architecture.”
Charlene scribbled down this new promotion, next to Underchief of Hoard R&D, Grand Seneschal of the Castle Dusting, and Holder of the Golden Mirror.
To think she thought her situation had finally improved. She had spent years managing a dead-end adventurer guild in the middle of nowhere, trying desperately to climb the professional ladder, when by some twist of fate, she had become the leader in a newborn nation. A nation of madmen, rogues, and monsters, but a leader nonetheless. She had privileges, status, new classes… and even immortality.
When Victor had departed for his holiday, she knew that the dragon would prove difficult; that without her sort-of friend with benefits, that chaotic, aimless ‘empire’ would collapse within a year. Yet in her heart, Charlene clung to the arrogant idea that she could help turn this nation into a model of bureaucratic efficiency, even without Vic’s help.
But the dragon was even worse than she thought! He wanted everything without paying for anything!
“Now, this is a very important role, and I do not deliver it lightly. If you are to prove yourself worthy of this honor, you will build me an opening roof. It does not have to close, I will have no use for it afterward.”
Charlene may be an undead now, but she could have sworn her heart beat again out of sheer frustration. “Can at least Your Majesty tell me where I can find the gold to pay for the needed material cost?” she asked with heavy sarcasm. If Victor could pull that off and make Vainqueur listen anyway, maybe it would work with her.
Failed! It failed miserably!
“Pay for material?” the dragon exploded into mirthless laughter. “Paying? That is funny sarcasm, minion. But if you are stressed enough to make a joke, then clearly, you need to work more to forget your pain.”
Congratulations! Due to your vampiric nature and personal circumstances, you have earned the [Boiling Blood] personal Perk!
[Boiling Blood]: 40 SP per ten minutes. You can cause your own blood to boil, causing exposure to it to inflict weak [Fire] damage on physical contact; you are immune to the negative side effects of having boiling blood, but you become vulnerable to the [Berserk] ailment under the Perk’s effect.
“Now, instead of saying jokes, Minion Charlene, go make me money. My hoard will not fill itself alone.”
- Twelve hours after the good Vizier’s departure.
“Go home, twolegs.”
“Dear lamb,” Miel said to the giant spider, as she refused to fully crawl out of her pit home. “By the power invested by our covenant with the empire, we can provide your children with the light of knowledge.”
“No way I’ll give my spiderspawn away to birds,” the telepathic spider protested, its children cowering beneath its legs. “I will teach them the way we all do, at home over the remains of our preys!”
A warrior angel, clad in golden armor, summoned a sword of flames. “Free education is non-negotiable,” he spoke with an imperious tone. “Your children shall go to public school, or you will go burn in Hell for the sin of homeschooling!”
Miel winced, immediately recognizing her colleague as one of the ‘old-testamenters.’ This would turn very ugly unless she interfered. “Forgive these poor sinners, for it will take them time to see the light,” the insurance saleswoman pleaded. “Turn the other cheek, for they know not what they do!”
“Miel, I find your protestations a bit too…” The angel pointed his fiery blade at his trip, “Protestant.”
“Pointing a sword at your fellow angel is not very graceful either!”
“Get off your sacrament,” the warrior argued. “The higher-ups may consider promoting you to [Dominion] because they have gone soft, but you are no revelation deliverer! By negotiating coexistence with Hell, you have committed simony!”
The insult shook Miel to the core as if she had been slapped on the face. “I have always served the cause of Heaven in all things! My, we increased our department’s SP harvests tenfold with the new covenant!”
“By surrendering our soul!”
“I am already giving some of my precious Special Points to you, no way I give you my eggborns too,” the spider complained. “I left the Moon thinking this would be the land of freedom and opportunity, not an avian dictatorship!”
“And you would be right, to defend your emperor-given rights.”
The very sound of Malfy’s voice was enough to infuriate Miel, doubly so when he showed up backed by his lawyers.
“Beware, heathen,” the angel warrior threatened. “You shall not corrupt the youth!”
“The children are safer with us, than with you pigeons,” one of the lawyers said. “If you received custody, you might give them to a priest.”
“Instead, we can take care of your eggborns, for a meager afterlife favor.” Malfy moved to proselytize the spider, safe in the knowledge that his role in the empire protected him from the angel’s wrath. “We can provide your spawns with the best individual education they could ever want.”
“Do not listen to them!” Miel interrupted the fiend before he could poison the mind of this many-legged lamb. “We alone provide truly free education for everyone!”
“I do not want either of you!” the spider shouted in response.
“Then you should take the third path.”
Much to Miel’s confusion, a third party, which had apparently observed the discussion from afar, decided to intervene: a dwarven woman whom the angel did not recognize, with her eyes hidden behind sunglasses. In fact, she looked almost identical as any other duergar, except for the lack of a beard.
“The middle path, unfulfilling, yet sustainable. The Averagist path.” The dwarf lady cleared her throat. “We champions of equality have decided to provide free education for all, in the true Averagist ways. A place where there are no grades, only equality. We share everything, as parts of a single organism.”
“Like a communal web?” the spider asked, suddenly more interested in the offer than either Heaven or Happyland’s proposals. “That takes me back to my youth when I learned to hunt bigger prey in groups.”
“My, bringing down the tallest is the truest Averagist endeavor!”
“Mmm… it is true my spiderspawn need to learn how to socialize with the neighbors… can you come inside my dark cavern, so we may discuss your school program?”
“Of course. I must tell you that as earth core dwellers, our schools are adapted for nocturnal creatures.”
“Amazing,” the spider chittered. “What about diet? My spiderspawn are goblin-intolerant.”
Both angels and fiends watched the scene in stunned silence, as the spider invited the dwarf in its home… and didn’t even eat her!
“The Agarthans are stealing our market share!” Malfy protested, as furious as Miel herself. “This is theft! We are the government, we must stop them!”
“You have my vote,” Miel said, and then continued before her unreasonable colleague could protest at allying with the rival planar company. “Under the condition that Happyland not be allowed to open private schools, recognizing the heavenly way as the only way.”
|Warning: for this act of gratuitous spite, even towards a demon, you have lost karma.|
The message mortified Miel until the sight of Malfy’s entire body turning red from fury made it worth it.
- Fifteen hours after the deeply regretted Vizier’s departure.
“Junior, please calm yourself,” Allison tried to soothe the monstrous mimic, as the scene caused citizens to gather in the street.
“Babies!” the creature barked back, gathering newborn jellies on its back while stomping the remains of a destroyed stand. “Protect babies!”
“Sword babies?” Buzz Jelly repeated, the famous explorer having hopped at Junior’s side since it began its rampage. “Coming!”
How did Victor tame this thing? It had been completely uncontrollable since the last slime rain brought new jellies to Murmurin, smashing anything between itself and its new charges; and without Victor to keep it pacified, the creature’s violent instincts had resurfaced. A poor orc shopkeeper had the misfortune of catching a fire jelly to make light, which enraged the giant mimic and made it overreact.
“This is a disaster,” the orc complained. “My shop is in ruins!”
“It’s the advisers,” a kobold merchant in the crowd loudly complained, “Everything has been worse since the beloved Grand Vizier left! I’m sure they mislead the good Emperor Vainqueur with bad advice and mistreated the mimiczord!”
“I heard they want to raise taxes!” A gnoll added, causing the citizens to argue among themselves.
“That is wrong,” Allison replied, sensing the tension in the air. “We have no intention to—”
“I feel you, gamete person, this gods-blessed country is declining before my three hundred and eight eyes!” An eldritch horror added, ignoring the dryad. The priestess suddenly realized that while she had once commanded respect when Murmurin had been a small village where everyone knew one another, she didn’t recognize half of these monsters. And they didn’t respect her. “They must have conspired to send the good Victor away, as they did the Kobold Rangers… the true prophet would never have let this happen!”
The worse thing was, Allison realized that they may be on to something...
“Gentlemonsters,” a gnoll spoke up. “I think there is only one way for our voice to be heard loudly enough to reach the Emperor. The monster way.”
He raised a spear.
“Riot!” Buzz Jelly hopped happily. “Team activity!”
“The chosen slime is with us!” a Moon Beast roared in poor commonspeak. “RIOT!”
“RIOT!” the other monsters shouted in agreement, some immediately smashing the nearest windows and tossing carts around in a frenzy.
“Stop!” Allison pleaded, only for someone to start a fire with a spell. She immediately moved to try to extinguish the flames before they spread. “Damn it! Damn you! Damn you all!”
- Twenty hours into the Murmurin apocalypse.
Exhausted, Allison took solace in the one place where she always felt safe. Her temple, before the statue of her goddess.
The dryad prayed harder than she had ever been to Cybele, but the love goddess, who had so many times answered her prayers directly, remained silent. The new cathedral, built months ago, remained eerily silent. Until at long last, her best friends stepped into the room, more for her sake than the goddess’.
“What has Rolo missed?” the golem asked, always straight and to the point. “Rolo has seen smoke outside.”
“You missed sixteen murders, hundreds of wounded, riots, fires, fires everywhere, hundreds of thousands of gold coins lost in property damage, Heaven and Happyland threatening to go to war over proper youth education...” Allison trailed, her voice breaking. Since she always favored conciliation, the rampant chaos drained her utterly. She would have rather talked to people over a drink than help quell the riots.
How did Victor manage to stay sane after months of this? The experience had only renewed the respect she felt for her fellow human-turned-monster.
“It is a very sensible subject, education,” Rolo said with a farmer’s wisdom.
“I never went to school, but I turned out sound in mind and body,” Chocolatine added, before giving Allison a cake. “Here, you need sugar. I mixed it with chocolate, with no meat. You will feel happier afterward.”
“Choc, you are crazy, but you are also cute, and I want to take you home with me,” the dryad declared. Now that she felt the shadow of death and destruction chase her with every step, she had finally found the courage to say it.
“Silly, your home is probably burning as we speak!” Chocolatine replied innocently. “I should be the one to take you to my place!”
“It’s a deal,” Allison said, “Rolo, can you...”
“Rolo does not need repairs. Rolo will go work, and make sure the fields do not burn in our absence. You must rest.”
“Thank you, my friend,” the dryad replied. “I will offer the last of my silent prayers tonight, and then I will leave.”
Chocolatine hugged her dearly, while Rolo patted her on the back. When they both left, the dryad thanked the goddess for sending her to this world, where she had made friends as strong as them.
Another figure ended up paying her respects to Cybele that night: Charlene. “I did not know you prayed,” Allison told the vampire.
“Neither did I,” Charlene replied, looking absolutely destroyed. “At this point, only the gods will save us.”
“We…” Allison bit her lower lip since she had promised herself not to bother her friend while on his soul-searching trip. “We can always contact Vic…”
“I tried,” Charlene dropped the bomb. “I tried to contact him through his [Scarlet Study] Perk, but wherever he is, it blocks the connection.”
The dryad’s heart froze, the world around her drained of color, of the very substance of hope. “So you’re saying—”
“That we are on our own.” Charlene shook her head as if lost in her thoughts. “Only Jules is happy. He called it a good day.”
Allison choked, aghast. “How can he call this mess good?”
“There have been sixteen deaths so far, which he translated as sixteen new undead births. He hopes that we can keep going with the new momentum.”
How did Victor manage to keep all these maniacs in line?
“I will have to apologize to Victor when he comes back,” Charlene said, “Keeping Vainqueur grounded is an impossible task, let alone his entire army!”
“Managing an empire of monsters is way, way more difficult than a small village,” Allison had to admit. “They are all within an inch of starting a fight, unless kept in line by a strong chief of staff. I never thought that Vic would be so… irreplaceable.”
“We have to make sure that he never takes a vacation ever again.”
“Agreed,” Allison replied. “No matter what.”