Vainqueur had to give it to Grandrake. Nobody would try to steal a hoard hidden there.
Springing from both the waters and the air, a huge tornado formed an impenetrable barrier of swirling winds in the middle of the ocean. Unlike other similar phenomenons, this particular twister did not move from its particular spot, far south of Port Vainqueur.
“The island is in the eye of the tornado,” Jajambe said, swimming in the water while Vainqueur and his chief of staff flew over him. “The only way to get inside is to fly through it. At least, my sharks said that’s how Grandrake kept getting in.”
“Grandrake is a lightning dragon,” Vainqueur said. “A mere storm could never harm him.”
Having left his new conquest to his minions, the dragon had decided to immediately claim the treasure while he could. According to his most prized minion, one day later and they could reach the New World’s southern continent, where new minions, gold, and Furibon awaited them.
“This is clearly supernatural in origin,” Manling Victor noted, now carrying a bag of scrolls on his back, “if it has held for years.”
“I will brave the storm and summon you on the other side, minion,” Vainqueur declared. “You lack the strength and vitality to make your way through without sinking.”
“Actually, if Your Majesty would give me a few seconds, I could perhaps end the storm on my own.” The minion raised his scythe, wielding it like a wizard’s staff. “[Weather Control: Clear Skies]!”
Manling Victor’s scythe surged with dark energies, releasing a wave of magic over the sea. The tornado collapsed on its own, the unnatural winds dispersing over the horizon and revealing a small tropical island smaller than the city of Murmurin. A dense forest of palm trees covered most of its surface, and a small, pointy mountain stood proud in its middle.
“Minion, with your control of the weather and my ability to bend the cosmos to my geomantic will, we shall redraw the maps as I see fit!” Vainqueur boasted for both of them.
Jajambe whistled. “Look, if you ever need help in sinking an island beneath the waves, just gimme a summoning call. I’m sure Lord Dagon would enjoy laying waste to landwalkers after I wake him up.”
“And for assisting the Empire, you shall be spared,” Vainqueur agreed. “All those wishing to lay waste to Prydain are welcomed in my armies.”
“I’m sure my boss will spoil us after his long nap,” the sharkman replied. “Anyway, a fish’s gotta go do his duty; continue south and you’ll reach the Thaoten’s capital of Kukulcan in no time. Been nice to see you again, Vic.”
“Before you go,” the Vizier said. “Why didn’t you tell me you were a [Fisherman]?”
“I thought you would think less of me,” the sharkman replied. “I mean, we have a terrible reputation. Most think we have to eat human babies to get a class this powerful.”
“Is it true that when you reach level twenty—”
“Yes, we can do that with fishes. All [Aquatic] creatures even.”
Manling Victor shivered. “Man, that’s evil.”
“Guess how I got invited to Scholomance?” And on these words, the sharkman swam away, followed by his retinue.
Vainqueur flew towards the island, hungry for gold. He could only imagine the fortune the good Grandrake had accumulated before his unfortunate curse. The old wyrm said he had gathered a most impressive hoard, one he would have bragged about for centuries—
His [Virgin Princess Radar] went into overdrive.
“Princesses!” Vainqueur’s head twisted, possessed by his dragon instinct. “Many princesses!”
More than he had ever sensed in a single location!
“LATER!” Vainqueur surged towards the island while ignoring his minion, his mighty wings blowing tropical trees. “PRINCESSES!”
The hunting season had begun!
Victor watched Vainqueur crash onto the forest’s island with a sigh, birds and other critters fleeing the forest as the dragon rampaged through. Thank [Monster Knight] he didn’t develop that particular dragon weakness.
“Then again,” he mused as he flew over the island’s sandy shores, looking for a cavern where Grandrake could have hidden his hoard. “Pretty women in general are my kryptonite.”
The Vizier didn’t have to look for long, for he found one of the strangest sights on a beach.
A garden of giant, overgrown crimson mushrooms, turned into improvised houses. He could see whole cultures of enormous fungi, enough to sustain a small settlement. A woman tended to them, near the frontier with the forest.
The creature looked like a mushroom version of Allison, a dryad with mushrooms growing out of her body instead of flowers, and purple skin instead of olive-colored. She sensed his approach and glanced up as Victor landed right in front of her.
“A man?” the dryad asked, looking at him with curious eyes. “Are you a fiend? You ended the storm?”
“Yes for the storm, and technically not a fiend. My name is Victor, and my boss and I are looking for—”
“You’re a boy, you have to run,” the mushroom lady interrupted him, not sounding quite right in the head. “Quick, before they notice you.”
“Who’ll notice me?” Victor asked, only to hear sounds coming from the forest and the village. He immediately cast buffs on himself, even if the [Weather Control] spell had drained a good chunk of his SP.
Within a minute, a dozen women, each from different species, emerged from either village or the forest to gather around him. While all of them were humanoids, they ranged from a pink catkin, with the rarest shade of pink fur Victor had ever seen, to a centaur. With the exception of the catkin, all of them belonged to long-lived species.
Unlike the dryad though, they looked far from healthy. While they probably used to be strikingly fair maiden, they looked disheveled, sick, dirty, and malnourished; their nails had grown into claws, and their teeth had turned yellowish. They gazed at him as if he were some kind of alien traveler, and worryingly, they had a certain crazy glint at the edge of their eyes.
And not the cute, Chocolatine kind.
“Hello there, traveler!” the leader, an elf dressed like an amazon, grinned at him in a way that should have felt reassuring, but wasn’t, at all. According to her fur-made clothes, she must have been forced to survive on the island for a long while. “I am Elf Princess, from the Sablaris Empire.”
“Victor, Victor Dalton,” the Vizier replied with a frown. She sounded as if she thought the elf empire still existed. “Don’t you have a name?”
“We forgot them,” the centaur admitted. “The dragon called us by our species, and it stuck. I’m Centaur Princess.”
“You’re looking for the treasure too, are you not?” the Catkin asked, the Vizier reluctantly nodding. He had a very bad feeling about this meeting.
“We are the hoard, the ‘bragworthiest’ a dragon could ever gather,” Elf Princess said; meanwhile, the mushroom lady kept making discreet signs to Victor in the background. “A hoard of forty princesses, each from a different species.”
“I only count a dozen of you...” the Vizier let his sentence unfinished, as he tried to make sense of the mushroom dryad’s sign messages.
Not right... in the head?
“Most died of old age, or hunger,” ‘Cat’ Princess said. “The dragon left us here for decades! I lost two of my nine lives on this backwater island!”
“Without Mushroom, we would have starved to death,” Elf Princess agreed, the dryad stopping making hand signs when her fellow turned to her. “She’s very good and kind.”
“A few haven’t returned from gathering duty on the rest of the island,” Centaur Princess said. “We’ve been so hungry… mushrooms are not enough!”
Poor girls… no wonder they looked half-mad, isolated and malnourished for so long.
“We can save you,” Victor promised. “We can get you out of this mess.”
“Indeed you will.” Elf Princess licked her lips. “We didn’t have enough meat. But you… you will do.”
And BLEEP, cannibals!
“Don't you dare try to eat me!” Victor took a step towards the forest, only to find his back against a mud wall.
“Oh no,” Elf Princess’ fingers shone with magical power, having backed him into a corner. “We’re cannibals. We can’t eat a half-human.”
“We can only savor the flesh of other princesses now,” Cat Princess added.
“We tried to eat the few unlucky adventurers who managed to brave the storm, but they tasted terrible,” Centaur Princess said. “We ate the corpses of our short-lived princess friends.”
“But we don’t have any to sustain ourselves anymore,” Elf Princess finished. “We need to make more princesses. And this is where you come into play.”
This was Hell.
This place was his Hell!
“Back off, ladies!” Victor raised his weapon to protect his manhood. “I have a scythe, and I’m not afraid to use it!”
“It will be much easier for all of us if you don’t resist,” Cat Princess said, drawing a bone knife. The others, with the exception of a terrified Mushroom Princess, surrounded the Vizier from all sides threateningly. “There is only one part of you that we need.”
“Look, I really don’t want to hurt you, but if you take another step—”
A rumbling sound shook the ground, trees collapsing on the beach. The ladies turned at the source of the commotion, a crimson dragon with a pirate hat, and a wriggling treasure bag.
“Found you!” Vainqueur’s voice boomed across the island, as he raised a bag with one hand; he must have had summoned it with his [Golden Road] perk. “Get into the princess bag!”
The woman looked at the creature with shock. “A dragon?”
“I said, get into the princess bag!” Vainqueur grabbed Elf Princess with his free hand while she screamed, and put her in the bag like one would do with grocery. Realizing what would follow, the other princesses immediately attempted to run back to the village. “You will not escape my hoard!”
With a sigh of relief, Victor watched on as the dragon quickly pursued and caught all the cannibals in his bag, only Mushroom Princess managing to escape by burrowing herself into the ground. Proving himself the best princess hunter of his generation, Vainqueur had little trouble capturing all of them.
“Your Majesty, I…” Victor fell in adoration before his protector. “I love you. So much.”
“Minion, we already had this conversation. I value you too, but only as a friend and minion.” The dragon shook his head in disappointment. “See? This is why we dragons should not raise princesses in captivity. They become feral and violent if left out of their natural environment for too long. I will have to ask a veterinarian to take care of them before I return them to the wild.”
“This happened before?”
“Not that often…” Vainqueur cleared his throat, sweeping the unfortunate subject away. “We had princess hunting mostly figured out after the first century.”
Victor just tightened his pants, to reassure himself.
“Now, where is the last one?” Vainqueur walked towards the woods, trying to find Mushroom Princess. “Kitty, kitty, kitty…”
The Vizier watched the dragon leave, collapsing on the sand with relief.
He needed a comforting shoulder, a familiar sight to wash away this sinister encounter from his mind.
“[Black Horseman: Chocolatine de Gevaudan].”
His sort-of friend with perks materialized right in front of him, with a delightful expression, and boots drenched in a red liquid.
“Vic, I thought you would never call!” The werewolf smiled at him, a crimson spot on her cheek, a bloody knife in one hand, and a giant insect’s head in the other. “I’m sorry, I’m not dressed well. You summoned me in the middle of a meal.”
The Vizier glanced at the head, and on a closer look, realized it belonged to an insect demon.
“That’s…” Victor recognized the creature. “One of Isabelle’s guards…”
“Oh, yes, I knew we agreed on an open relationship, but I was feeling a bit jealous anyway... so we had a friendly talk,” Chocolatine chirped, playing with her knife; and Victor suddenly wondered whose blood was on it. “I had to make sure she was cut out for the job.”
The wording made the Vizier shiver.
“Anyway, Viiiiic… did you call me for something? Maybe… practice?”
“You’re a good girl,” Victor lied to protect himself. “I just wanted to tell you that.”
“Silly, of course I am! Was that ever in question?”
It had taken him a good hour, but Vainqueur had finally cornered and caught the last virgin maiden! His bag was full and heavy with the weight of their princessness; with so many of them, he would triumph over Icefang’s contest with no trouble at all.
Unfortunately, he had yet to find any piles of gold on the island. Grandrake must have hidden it well.
Vainqueur would have loved to stay here for a few more hours until he could locate it, but each minute wasted there gave the wicked Furibon more time to find El Dorado. The dragon would settle on tossing the princess bag on his hoard through his [Golden Path], leave minions to scout the island in his stead, and then move on with his friend to the south.
Above in the skies, a faint rain began to fall. Vainqueur wondered if his Vizier had changed the weather again, before a glance at the horizon told him otherwise.
A cloud of lightning had approached the island at full speed; a fairy lord riding at its helm.
Vengeance was at hand!