After so long, the fateful day had come.
The Piggybank ship, after a long time being repaired, was now ready to cross the ocean and reach the New World. The golden aircraft shone brightly under the sun, Vainqueur marveling at his own perfect reflection on its surface. His elite lackeys, from Charlene to Malfy and his Pocket Minions, observed him with awe, fear, and hope.
For the road to El Dorado would soon open!
Congratulations! For successfully causing your minions to breed on an incredibly large scale, you earned a level in [Dungeon Breeder]!
+10 SP, +1 STR, +1 VIT, +1 SKI, +1 CHA, +1 LCK.
Vainqueur should have felt happy about this, but something bothered him since morning. He couldn’t put his claw on what. A tension was in the air. An invisible weight on his wings.
It must have been the presence of Knight Kia, who had kept pestering Manling Victor for a rematch since she recovered. Jolie had stayed at her other minions’ bedside, to cheer them up until they recovered.
“You were going very easy on me,” Victor whispered to her. “I could tell.”
“True, and Rolo exhausted me beforehand,” the knight replied, unable to accept her defeat. “But that doesn’t diminish your accomplishment either. Do you know how long it has been since anyone could even slightly push me? Imagine if we fought at full strength—”
Sensing the spotlight getting away from him, Vainqueur cleared his throat, interrupting the discussion.
“Today is a great day!” the dragon began his speech. “I, Vainqueur Knightsbane, will do what no dragon has done in the past! I will cross the ocean alongside my chief of staff and a crew of loyal dwarves! The Empire of Murmurin, at last, shall expand beyond the horizon!”
“For the international revolution!” Marbré raised a fist in support.
While Vainqueur expected his minions to rejoice, only Marbré, Buzz, and Junior did so. The rest glanced fearfully at Manling Victor as if fearing he would not return. In response, the chief of staff handed them floating skulls, similar to those he summoned against Knight Kia.
“These are [Whispering Skulls], which allow long-distance communication,” Manling Victor explained. “Even if [Scarlet Study] is blocked, you should be able to contact us through them.”
“I will have one planted in central square, to remind everyone you’re only leaving temporarily,” Batling Charlene said.
“As soon as we land, I shall open a [Golden Path] to my hoard, and allow settlers to claim lands in my name,” the dragon laid out his plan. “Dwarves will build a portal linking both continents, so the empire may expand without the need of ships. I expect you minions to be ready to build a new colony the second the gate opens. Anyone caught touching my hoard in my absence shall be eaten.”
“We’ll cross the ocean too, if a bit later,” Kia said. “Jolie wants to join one of the exploration fleets led by Gardemagne’s princess Merveille, so we will meet again on the other side.”
Vainqueur ignored her, turning to his elite minions. “You have proven yourself the most powerful of my lackeys, and your strength shall be called upon once we have crossed the ocean; for the wicked Furibon awaits on the other side, stronger than ever.”
Manling Victor shifted, worried about fighting the vicious lich again. As if to comfort him, his mimic pet approached him with a rainbow crest, offering it to its master. “Gift,” Junior insisted.
“Not swordy enough,” Buzz added.
“Not swordy,” Junior grunted. “Shieldy.”
“Your Majesty should use it first,” Manling Victor said, ever dutiful, “Even if you have not reached level sixty yet, the fomors will target you first.”
“And I shall teach them to fear again,” Vainqueur replied. “Minion, must I remind that when you begged to become my eternal servant, you had more levels than I did? If you reached the threshold before me, then you should make use of this Crest. If there are any side-effects, it is better for you to serve as my level tester than trying it myself.”
Also, the item came from the cursed Moon, and the dragon wanted nothing to do with it.
“Your concern is always touching,” Manling Victor said, accepting the [Heroic Crest] and immediately using it; the shield dissolved into a blinding cloud of multiple colors, surrounding and empowering the Vizier.
Congratulations! Your minion broke past the sixty levels class ceiling! His [Crested] Perk has been upgraded to [Epic]!
[Epic]: Marks one as a mythical adventurer and demigod. Allows access to the most powerful of classes and entrance to [Valhalla] upon reaching level 99. This replaces [Crested].
Vainqueur could not wait to gain that Perk too; he could almost smell the riches that would follow his coronation to divinity.
“Now, time for promotion,” Manling Victor declared. “Some of you can gain access to higher forms as per my [Mook Promotion] Perk. Now, a promotion grants greater power, but as Junior here can attest…”
The mimic let out a growl, scratching his back.
“This comes with physical changes.”
“Can I grow wings like you?” Chocolatine asked. “That would make it so much easier to hunt food!”
“I have no idea what you will turn into,” Victor replied. “So the choice is yours.”
“With a war on the horizon, I believe higher power should be embraced,” Jules said. “Even though I am not ready to ascend into a greater form yet.”
“Only Buzz, Charlene, Miel, Allison, and Chocolatine meet the criteria currently,” Victor confirmed.
“Mr. Victor, not I?” Tasty Malfy asked, disappointed. “After so many bribes?”
“Sorry,” the chief of staff replied, “You should come with us to the New World once we have established the permanent gateway there. Maybe you only need more practical experience?”
“So will the others who are not yet fit to lead my armies,” Vainqueur added. The dragon had organized the tournament to test the strength of his servants, and while some like Rolo the golem had proven themselves powerful, most needed more training to match the fairy lords. “I will have all of you become worthy of becoming my minion generals.”
Allison sighed. “Just go through with it, Vic.”
The chief of staff activated his Perk, five minions immediately undergoing a transformation before Vainqueur’s eyes.
Miel the angel grew taller, thicker, and gained two new sets of wings in addition to her existing ones; the lowest set of wings, however, belonged to bats instead of birds. Her once pristine white skin darkened a bit, and her eyelids developed an unnatural dark shade.
Untasty Allison grew sweet-smelling flowers all over her body, from her hair to shoulders. Antler-like horns of wood grew from her head, taking the shape of a small crown.
Buzz Jelly, who had bravely crossed space and fought off the lead wasteland on the Moon, transformed into a slime of liquid steel, strong, yet flexible.
Sweet Chocolatine’s transformation… was most disappointing. Her human ears turned into those of a silver wolf, and nothing else.
Meanwhile, Batling Charlene changed spectacularly. She gained two enormous bat wings from her shoulders, and two smaller ones from her waists, which instantly closed around her legs like a robe. Curved horns grew among her hair, and her nails became claws. Her skin grew paler still, like that of a corpse, while a third crimson eye opened right below her throat. She smiled, her lips revealing sharp fangs everywhere.
Alchemical Vampire Charlene was promoted to [Blood Trismegistus].
Buzz Jelly was promoted into a [Iron Slime].
Angel Miel was promoted into a [Heartless Angel].
Dryad Allison was promoted into a [Hamadryad].
Werewolf Chocolatine was promoted into an [Alpha Werewolf].
“I don’t feel all that different,” Chocolatine complained, her new ears wagging.
“Speak for yourself!” Batling Charlene replied, carressing her body with her claws. “I can feel the bloody power coursing through my veins!”
"Yes, that's what is inside that counts!" the werewolf rejoiced on a second thought.
“Finally promoted, and to Seraphim!” Miel rejoiced, flaunting her new wings, before noticing the batlike pair among them. Malfy chuckled at the sight. “What? Why do I have a set of these?”
“Nothing,” the demon cackled. “Nothing at all.”
“Sword of empire!” Buzz rejoiced, Junior petting it on the head. “I sword!”
“I definitely gained new Perks out of it,” Allison observed. “More charisma, more luck too… oh, and my range has expanded!”
“How much?” Chocolatine asked, curious.
“I can only move within one mile of a tree,” Allison said. “Any tree, with which I can meld and teleport through at will with the [Greenbond] perk. I am no longer bound to my orchard!”
“You should check your new abilities before we open the portal,” Manling Victor said. “And welcome the new western governor, when she deigns showing up.”
“Mr. Victor, you should have that woman killed,” Malfy said with a grumble. “She is treacherous, old money, and most importantly, competition. She's outdated.”
“For once, I agree with the fiend,” Flying Miel said. “Giving governor power to an archfiend of her caliber, this is bound to backfire!”
Vainqueur, who hadn’t paid attention to that part, frowned. “If a new minion wishes to become another meatshield against the fairies, then I welcome them with open arms,” the dragon said, proud of his all-inclusive policy.
“At least limit her powers!” Miel protested. “Like red tape! Nothing better than red tape!”
“Well, if you hadn’t shown me that a democratic council didn’t work in Murmurin, maybe I would have considered it,” Manling Victor replied. “But since iron fists can maintain order here, she will have the freedom to do as she wishes within her borders, within reasons. Same as you for your territory.”
“If it comes to it, Miel, I will kill that fiend myself,” Knight Kia reassured the angel, but not much.
“Do you agree with this?”
“No, absolutely not,” the paladin replied. “But I am only an ambassador and thus my powers are limited. However, Vic gave me permission to carry out the sentence, if she steps out of line. And believe me, when she inevitably does, I will cut her down.”
“As Manling Victor suggested, most of you will be granted an area to manage, with the power of a sous-chief of staff,” Vainqueur declared. “As the most sensible among you, Corpseling Jules will manage Murmurin while we cross the ocean.”
“I have found that an army of the undead do wonders to enforce peace and quiet,” Jules added.
“Now that the matter is dealt with,” Vainqueur said, impatient to leave. “It is time to track down Furibon, who is evil and will be destroyed.”
Under the gaze of his minions, the dragon moved to enter the Piggybank, his eyes set on only one thing.
“El Dorado, here I come!”
For most of the trip, Vainqueur elected to stay on the ship’s back, even as a thunderstorm arose.
The trip had been incredibly boring. For hours, the Piggybank had crossed what seemed like an endless ocean, albeit one full of giant fish, sea serpents, and other creatures. Vainqueur thought they would stop at this large island called Atlantis on their way, but the ship only passed by its coast.
The dragon understood the need for quickness to reach Furibon before he could poison El Dorado, but he wouldn’t have minded a little activity. Beyond the dark thunderclouds and the raging waters below, the dragon had nothing to entertain himself with.
Why did he feel such disquiet in the atmosphere? His dragon instinct kept telling him something terrible would happen soon.
Eventually, his loyal friend emerged from the ship, struggling against the wind to join his master. “The weather is not very good, but the duergar captain said that we should reach the Dagger Coast soon,” Manling Victor said. “I heard it is full of pirates, but nothing we cannot handle.”
“If thieves are eager to donate their money to me, I will gladly accept,” the dragon replied.
“Afterward, we will make a stop at the Thaoten Empire in the south,” the Vizier said. “From what I gathered, they could help us find El Dorado since they are familiar with the jungle.”
Vainqueur only vaguely listened, for he couldn’t help but glance around, at the thunderous skies. He could sense a distant, yet increasing, pressure around him.
“Your Majesty?” Manling Victor asked. “Is something the matter?”
“Do you not feel it, minion?”
His chief of staff glanced around, sensing it too. “That tension in the air…”
And that smell… the smell of a fomor, but not just any of them...
Vainqueur froze upon recognizing its owner.
“Minion,” Vainqueur extended his wings, suddenly on edge. “Get back into the ship.”
“Get back into the ship!”
A thunderbolt struck the ship’s wing, making it tremble. Manling Victor barely held on by using his scythe to cling to the metal. Vainqueur immediately activated [Fire Crown] and [Spell Purge], bracing himself for a fight to the death.
“[Supreme Thunder: Dragonslayer]!” a thunderous voice echoed through the clouds. “[Maximize Lightning]!”
King Wotan’s [Lightning] attacks will ignore Resistance, and inflict additional [Dragonslayer] damage!
[Lightning] element greatly strengthened!
“We’re under attack!” Manling Victor shouted, casting buffing spells on himself.
“By King Wotan!” Vainqueur added with a fiery roar, glaring at the thunderclouds to look for the challenger, “The worst of the fairies!”
“Huh? A fomor? Then why… why did the name appear on...”
Friend Victor didn’t finish his answer, as the enemy flew into sight, emerging from the thunderclouds seething with bloodlust.
A titan among the fomors, King Wotan was a giant who matched Vainqueur himself in size. Riding a giant, six-legged silver horse racing on the air currents, he looked even more fearsome. His skin was silver, but without the metal’s shininess, and he wore very little in the way of clothing beside a winged helmet and a regal mantle—which couldn’t match the beauty of Vainqueur’s own.
Mostly because the fomor wove it with dragonscales.
Wotan’s visage superficially looked like that of a manling, with a long golden wizard beard. But while his right eye had turned white, the skin still bearing the scar of Grandrake’s claws, the left one radiated with a golden glow. A twenty-foot long crimson spear, shaped from a wyrm's spine, cackled with lightning in his hand, hungry for blood.
Following in his wake were his thralls, the Valkyries. Armored, vicious copies of princesses meant to bait dragons, the creatures flew through the skies thanks to white wings. Each carried a spear and a shield, their face hidden behind a closed helmet.
“Vainqueur Knightsbane.” The storm lord spoke as he reached the Piggybank, his voice booming and imperious. His Valkyries immediately formed a defensive line between their master and the ship. “I have come for your head.”
Vainqueur responded by blasting him with a fireball, a projectile which Wotan swiftly deflected with his spear. The dragon’s eyes bulged in surprise.
No one can deflect dragonfire! Not even that cursed golem could fully resist it!
“You declared war on my kind and broke the peace agreement, which bound my Gungnir to my trophy wall,” the fairy lord spoke without condemnation, only vicious eagerness to fight. “This is retaliation for your transgression… and me settling a debt.”
“Here to lose another eye then?” Vainqueur taunted him. “I will complete Grandrake's set!”
“You are welcome to try. [Charged Attack].”
His spear coursed with almighty lightning. Once, Vainqueur wouldn’t have cared, confident that he could take even this infamous dragonslayer and come out on top. Grandrake once demolished him, and the emperor had grown bigger than the princess hunting pioneer.
And yet… yet something felt dramatically different about this fairy. Vainqueur could sense the raw, absolute power within the spear; an overwhelming strength which he knew, deep in his bones, could harm him.
The dragon, spurned by an ancient survival instinct, immediately flew toward the mighty fomor to cast him down from his horse. He unleashed a stronger breath, but three Valkyries instantly formed a triangular barrier of light to protect their creator. To Vainqueur’s surprise, the shield held against his flames, although barely.
The dragon let out a roar and decided to charge through that protection, trusting his [Spell Purge] to shatter it. Four Valkyries moved to intercept him, cladding their spears in light.
Friend Victor immediately flew after his master, repelling the flyers before they could stab him in the back with his scythe. “[Shining Majesty]!” Vainqueur roared, his scales unleashing a brilliant flash. A perfect picture of his marvelous hoard burnt the Valkyries, blinding them with glory. The dragon’s mere touch caused the shield to collapse into nothingness, incinerating the fomor’s minions.
Yet they had brought their master enough time.
“There it comes!” the storm king shouted over the sound of roaring thunder, as he raised his spear to the skies, “The supreme lightning, which guarantees victory!”
Vainqueur didn’t have time to react, as the skies turned white.
“[Spirit Shield]!” Friend Victor summoned a purple shield above them, just as a massive, mountain-sized thunderbolt fell from the skies upon both fighters and the Piggybank.
A flash of light swallowed Vainqueur upon impact, and then…