“My crown…” Vainqueur mourned, as he rested on the ship’s deck. “My imperial crown…”
“I know, Your Majesty,” Manling Victor reassured him, while his undead dwarf lackeys oversaw the pirates. After salvaging whatever they could from the shipwreck and raising their dead minions with the power of Victor's cup, the adventurers had spent hours in that Devil’s Triangle, with no shore in sight. “We will get you another!”
“You better, minion!” Vainqueur had taken the captain’s hat as a replacement—after the birdkin pirate kindly ‘gave’ it to him—but it wasn’t the same! Neither did his accommodations befit his station!
After the pirates offered Vainqueur the ship out of the goodness of their hearts, the dragon had climbed on its deck and managed to fit between two masts. It was incredibly uncomfortable, but the dragon considered himself too good to fly when minions could transport him instead.
He still mourned the destruction of his Piggybank with all his heart though.
So he had renamed the ship the Piggybank II.
“Troll Barnabas will have to remake another crown from scratch, even shinier!”
“I will try to contact him again, as soon as we leave the triangle,” Friend Victor said, turning to the two pirates who tried to rob him. “How far are we from civilization?”
“I dunno, traveling in the Triangle is weird,” the birdkin grumbled. “The currents, magnetic forces, and even the skies change at random!”
“We rarely venture there, and only after storms wreck ships there,” the orc added.
“And it would be way faster if our ship didn’t have weight in excess,” the birdkin said, glancing at the dragon. The Emperor wondered if he was supposed to understand something, before brushing it off.
“That is not an answer,” Vainqueur replied, his bitterness making him sound raspier.
“Give us a few days, until we find the way out again,” the birdkin said hurriedly. “Then we can reach the pirate city of Port Damné and resupply there.”
“And then you’ll let us go?” the orc asked, pleading.
“Of course not,” Vainqueur replied. “Minionship is for life, and death.”
“I used to think Averagism was the only form of equality,” a revived dwarf muttered. “I stand corrected. Undead Averagism, where all are equal in death, is the purest equality of all.”
“How about we make everyone undead?” another dwarf added. Like his fellows, except a paler skin, he looked as he did in life.
“Patience, my equal fellow. Patience. All comes to Death.”
Obviously, the exchange made the living work harder to reach civilization.
“I tell you, Friend Victor, Wotan will pay tenfold for this humiliation.” Vainqueur hadn’t felt so vengeful since Batling Lavere.
“Actually, who was that guy?” Friend Victor asked. “We were lucky to survive one round, but I’m pretty sure he will come back for another.”
“He is a fomor who styles himself as ‘King’ Wotan.” Vainqueur loathed the title since he had copied it from the dragons. “When they were younger, when fairies and dragons fought one another, my fellow Grandrake taught him his place and took his eye.”
“I assume they didn’t see eye to eye afterward,” Manling Victor joked.
“Ever since he has hunted my kindred so he could practice his vengeance against his target,” Vainqueur said. Once he had disdained the fomor’s victims as handicapped dragons but now knew better. “By using fake princesses called Valkyries, he lured many of my kindred to their death. We nicknamed him Dragonbane, but he retired to his northern domain after the fairies sued for peace…"
"Until Your Majesty declared war on them again," Victor finished, "I’m surprised he didn’t break his agreement like Melodieuse.”
“Wotan is many things, but tricky and treacherous he is not. When he gives his word, he abides by it, and he only believes in strength.” Vainqueur remembered the battle, and the pain he felt from the fomor’s lightning. “Stronger he has grown, if he can wound my pristine scales.”
But his previous tactic only worked because of the surprise. The dragon would take him down next time they crossed paths.
“About that, there’s something that bothers me,” Friend Victor said. “He used [Charged Attack] right before using his devastating lightning attack.”
“Like me with my breath,” Vainqueur nodded.
“Yes, like you.”
|Intelligence check successful.|
“You believe Wotan copied my classes?!” The thought made Vainqueur restless, enough to sway the ship.
“Which is impossible, since as far as I know, you need a soul to gain levels, and the fomors have none.”
“Minion, before I arrived, was it not believed that dragons could not gain levels too?” Vainqueur reminded his servant. As a true detective who had solved Furibon's conspiracies, he knew not to exclude a possibility because it invalidated prior facts.
“Yeah, and fomors can create corrupted [Crests],” Manling Victor added. “Even if it seems difficult to believe… they could have exploited a flaw in the System to empower themselves with classes. If I’m true, then the worst is yet to come...”
“I will not abide by fairies stealing from the dragon-made System,” Vainqueur declared. “I defeated them with or without classes, and I will do it again.”
“We need to return to Murmurin, prepare our defense—”
Manling Victor paused. “No?”
“Obviously, Furibon sent Wotan to delay us, so he could corrupt El Dorado as he did with the entire planet Moon,” Vainqueur enlightened his minion on the wider conspiracy. “Us turning back from our quest is exactly what he wants.”
His Vizier remained silent in awe of his master’s deductive power, before putting his hand on his helmet in a sign of respect. “Your Majesty, leaving Murmurin—”
“My minions can take care of themselves,” Vainqueur brushed off his lackey’s worries. “If we cannot expect them to defend my hoard and empire in our absence, then how can we ever feel safe? You have to learn to trust, my dear Victor.”
The sound of a bell interrupted the chief of staff, as the watchkeeper sounded the alarm. “Weresharks! Weresharks in the water!”
Vainqueur glanced over the deck, noticing at least thirty shark fins quickly surrounding the ship from all directions. While Manling Victor and the undead remained calm, as befitting of true minions, the pirate crew panicked.
“The Teeth of Dagon!” the orc pirate panicked. “We’re doomed!”
“Look, we can repel them,” Victor replied, casting buffing spells on himself. “Vainqueur will boil them, I cut them, you nail—”
“They have a [Fisherman] leading them!” the birdkin snarled back at him.
Vainqueur snickered, but much to his surprise, his manling froze in fear. “A [Fisherman]?” he repeated with dread. “How many levels?”
“Twenty!” The birdkin, showing himself unworthy of minionhood, tried to fly overboard and abandon the ship. He barely flew a few meters away before being cut down by a harpoon from below and dragged screaming under the waves.
“And BLEEP!” Victor looked up at his master. “Your Majesty, don’t hold anything back! This is a fight to the death!”
“Minion, why should I fear a fish hunting other fishes?” Vainqueur asked, casually putting his hand in the water and catching a humanoid shark in his fingers. The animal tried to bite his hand but broke his teeth on the dragon’s scales.
“Because they have a capped [Fisherman]!” Victor parried a wereshark’s teeth, as one of the creatures jumped overboard and attempted to bite his head off. By swirling on himself, the chief of staff tossed him overboard. Yet half a dozen blue sharkmen climbed on the ship, assaulting the crew with fangs and tridents.
An enormous, white-skinned wereshark leaped from the waters, making the entire deck tremble. Blasphemous markings covered his hide, and a necklace of fangs glittered around his neck. “You mammals will fear the wrath of Jajambe, chosen of Lord Dagon!” he roared while brandishing the harpoon which killed the birdkin. “I will rip your legs with my steel-cutting tee—”
“Jaja?” Manling Victor said, seemingly recognizing the creature.
The shark captain immediately stopped barking threats, his crimson eyes squinting upon noticing the chief of staff. “Vic? Vic, is that you?”
“Jaja!” Victor rushed to the sharkman’s side, his fear turning to joy.
“Vic, you son of a mammal!” The wereshark and Vainqueur’s chief of staff immediately underwent a strange kind of brotherly hug. “What are you doing here? Wait, is that your boss over here?”
“We crashed on an island nearby, and we ‘recruited’ this ship’s crew. And indeed, the dragon is my ‘master.’” Vainqueur noticed something strange about how his friend made the word sound but guessed his minion needed to unload stress.
“Happy to meet you, Lord Vainqueur. Vic couldn’t stop talking about how much he missed you.” The shark turned to his fellow fishmen, who had stopped their assault in confusion. “Drop the attack, he’s a pal of mine! We went to school together!”
“School?” Vainqueur asked his chief of staff, releasing the sharkman in his hand when the others stopped harassing his minions. Both groups glared at one another threateningly, save for the leaders.
“Scholomance,” Friend Victor said, without explaining himself. “We followed the same [Ritualistic Magic] class.”
“I was taking remedial courses to learn how to awaken my own monster lord, the great Dagon, from his slumber beneath the waves,” the wereshark explained. “Vic helped me practice, and we had a lot of fun. ‘Member the shoggoth?”
“How could I stop ‘membering that? Wait, wait, wait, don’t tell me your master causes the Field Effect?”
“I won’t tell you, then,” Jajambe replied with a smirk. The sight of his three rows of teeth made Vainqueur’s newer minions recoil. “We are so close to waking him up, I can almost smell the blood in the water. Pity that ship is yours though, I would have taken it.”
“I can only respect such dutifulness from a chief of staff, even not my own,” Vainqueur said. “However, I fail to see how attacking us would help your master.”
“Oh, we need sentient tributes to sacrifice,” the wereshark replied. “Since it’s a slaver ship, I thought nobody would miss it.”
“Slaver ship?” Vainqueur squinted his eyes at the fish.
“Why, yes? I mean, I could smell all the elven blood in the ship’s hold from fifty miles away.”
Both Vainqueur and Victor exchanged a glance, then glared at the pirate crew.
As it turned out, the ship carried more than one hundred chained ‘slaves’ in its hold, overcrowding a space made for half that number. Being too large to see for himself, Vainqueur had sent his minions down, and they brought back a sample of elves, diseased, beaten, and frightened like mice.
They probably expected him to eat them.
“Apparently, the crew preys on, and enslaves, would-be colonists or exploration ships having run aground in the Devil’s Triangle,” Victor told his master with clear distaste. “With a particular focus on endangered sentient species.”
“Port Damné is a slavering pirate port, and elves fetch a great price there,” one of the weresharks said.
“I’m just sayin’, if you need to lighten your ship,” Jajambe the shark glanced at the pirate minions, who stood in a straight line, pissing themselves. “I can help.”
“No eating slaves, Jaja,” Victor immediately shut him down.
“We do not eat elf slaves,” Jajambe the shark protested. “They have so little meat on them, it’s like chewing bones. We aren’t dogs. I can settle on the crew.”
Vainqueur grew impatient with his lack of understanding. “Minion, what is slavery?”
His chief of staff looked up at him. “Your Majesty does not know?”
“I keep hearing about it from lesser species, and they all seem to agree it is bad… but then I do not understand why they do it.”
“Because it pays well!” one of the pirates shouted as if it would save him from punishment.
“You shut up!” Victor lambasted him for speaking out of turn, although it appealed to Vainqueur’s curiosity—and greed. “Slaves… they’re like minions, except it sucks a lot more for them.”
“Minionship cannot be bad,” Vainqueur replied. After all, the only alternative was food. How could anyone turn this promotion down? “So why are these creatures… disheveled? Are they not taken care of?”
“No, because slaves are merchandise,” Friend Victor explained. “They can be bought and sold at their master’s will.”
“You cannot buy a minion!” Vainqueur protested. “You have to earn them, and their adoration!”
“Also, they have no rights at all, are never paid for anything, are never taken care of, and have no vacations, ever.”
“They have no vacations?”
“No,” Victor said ominously.
“Then, if they have no gold, no rights, no time off, then what do they have?” Vainqueur asked, puzzled.
“Nothing. Nothing at all, and that’s the problem.”
The more he heard, the less the dragon liked it. After Friend Victor finished explaining the ins and outs of slavery, there was only one way for a dragon to react.
“By the Elder Wyrm, that is indragon!” Vainqueur blamed the pirates. “You make me ashamed of being your master!”
The pirates lowered their heads, in penitence for their sins.
“But I forgive you,” Vainqueur spoke, channeling the spirit of wyrm forgiveness. “Because I see that the evil you commit, is born of ignorance. Ignorance of the dragon way of life, which is the purest, truest way to live, as taught to us by our Elder Wyrm progenitor. And because true minionship is taking care of their servants, as if they were part of their hoard. For minions have feelings beyond their master’s wishes!”
|[El President] activated! Charisma check successful!|
Friend Victor remained eerily silent, awed by Vainqueur’s passion.
“Clearly, this ‘slavery’ is a debased corruption of the minion institution,” the dragon continued to enlighten his audience. “A minion is no item to be worn and cast aside! Minions are sentient beings who must be cared for, so much that they want to be minions! They need to be respected, even honored, for their contribution to the hoard, and a dragon cannot eat them without proper reason. This is not Prydain! And I have not even breached the worst consequence of this slavery business…”
“There’s something worse?” one of the weresharks asked, curious.
“Yes! By poaching elves to extinction and mistreating them, slavers make it harder for new princesses to be born!” Vainqueur shook his head. “As an environment-responsible dragon, I shall not stand by it!”
“Then… What does Your Majesty suggest?” Manling Victor asked.
“First, you will unchain all these ‘slaves,' so they can be set free, healed, and cared for. Then we set sail to this ‘Port Damné’ on our way to El Dorado, to bring it dragon civilization immediately. I will not abide by minion abuse on my watch.”
“Oh, that should be fun,” Jajambe the shark relished at the thought. “If you spare us a few captives for our [Rising Deep Ritual], we can show you the way there.”
Vainqueur glanced at the horizon, to the savage, lawless lands he couldn’t glimpse. Lands free of dragons, and thus, of hope in a better life.
Vainqueur the Minion Liberator.
That new title sounded right.
“Minion?” Vainqueur asked, suddenly realizing something worrying.
“Yes, Your Majesty?”
“Am I becoming a cattletarian?”