- Defenders of the Niece, Volume III, chapter four, “The First Princess.”
Disaster! The worshipers of Sablar, worm god of destruction, have made their way to the New World! The vile Frank the Anark has captured Oriane, princess of the wood elves tribes! Everywhere, evil triumphs!
But a hero has come! The beautiful dragon Jolie, eager to rescue princesses everywhere (so she can keep them for safekeeping), tracked down the villain to his lair in the heart of the jungle. At her sides are the Shining Knight, Kia Bekele, and the fearsome Kobold Rangers, bane of rabbits and Defenders of the Niece. Together, they can overcome any princessnapper.
But the opposition is strong. As they approach the enemy’s stronghold, the air grows foul and thick with the stench of poverty…
Jolie, dragon [Paladin] adventurer, shivered in excitement. Today was the day.
The day when she would become an adult by capturing her first princess, all by herself! An elf princess!
True, her uncle had once given her one for her Bragging Day, but to be acknowledged as a true princess hunter, a dragon had to claim a maiden by themselves. Unwilling to abduct a manling, since they had feelings, the young dragon had crossed the ocean on a ship towards the New World. The one place where elves still had tribes large enough to produce princesses.
After a long search, they had finally located a fair maiden… only to discover that the evil cult of Sablar had abducted her first! Confronted with her duty to gather all princesses for safekeeping, Jolie had immediately given chase to the villains.
Maybe she would gain her thirtieth level while at it?
“Kia?” Jolie asked her best friend, as they moved through the dense jungle. The Kobold Rangers surrounded the young dragon from all sides as her true defenders, while her own armor’s noise made birds and insects fly away.
“Yes, Jolie?” Kia responded, cutting vines with her shiny blade.
“Are there Perks that can drop princesses?”
The knight paused and glanced at her dragon squire. “I’m sorry?”
“Uncle has a Perk that showers him with gold when he is awesome. If I become marvelous like him, will I be showered with princesses?”
“Jolie, that is not how the [Gladiator] class works, at all.”
“But can it be done with another class?” Red asked, curious. “If Chief Victor can summon skulls, can a dragon summon princesses?”
“I… maybe?” The knight shrugged her shoulders. “I haven’t heard of any class like this, but you cannot rule out the possibility.”
A [Princess Maker] class? Awesome! Jolie couldn’t wait to gain it!
The young dragon’s [Virgin Princess Radar] bleeped, causing her to raise her head in excitement. Her maiden sense wasn’t as powerful as her uncle’s, but she could sense her target nearby. “She’s near!” she said giddily. “Very near!”
“Looks like we found the cult,” Kia said, pointing a sword through the foliage. Jolie and the rangers peaked above her shoulder, gazing at a large camp full of tents. While tall grass usually covered the ground, the entire area had been scourged of vegetation, leaving only dry dirt. As she focused on the source of the princess signal, Jolie noticed a huge, closed stone gate at the northern edge of the camp.
“Alright, if we are discreet, we can take them by surprise,” Kia hushed to the group, before frowning as she caught a glimpse of flags in the middle of the camp. Each of them had the symbol of a badly drawn blue planet on their surface. “At my signal, one, two, three—”
“Oh, visitors!” Kia froze, as an orc came from the camp to welcome them, spoiling the infiltration. “Have you heard about Orknoob our Savior? He died on Earth for our sins!”
“What is an Orknoo—”
“Don’t ask!” Kia interrupted Blue before he could ask the question, sounding more annoyed than she had ever been. “Don’t encourage them!”
“Is this not the camp of Sablar?” Pink asked.
“Oh, the cult of Sablar has always supported the Esoteric Order of the New World,” the orc said. “In their own words, ‘the sooner you all reincarnate on another planet and leave this one a lifeless husk, the better.’ Their priests are very kind and do their best to supply us with carts. You can find their leader Frank in the north of the camp if you’re here to meet him.”
“Infiltration successful!” Jolie said gleefully, while Kia put her hand on her face for some reason.
“Milady is so cute that all these peons can only do as she wants!” Red flattered her.
“Anyway,” the orc said. “If you want I would gladly tell you all about the teachings of Orknoob our Savi—”
“We’ll be on our way, thank you,” Kia interrupted him.
“Oh, can I get spells from this guy?” Blue asked. “I am looking to convert away from Mithras, too restrictive.”
“Oh, unfortunately, no, Orknoob doesn’t offer special classes. But, but, if you donate to the true church, they can show you the path to Japan, where everyone is a school—”
“Next,” Jolie’s chief of staff interrupted the conversation yet again, raising her voice this time.
“Yes, no time to waste!” Jolie said, fired up by her dragon paladin instincts. “We will defeat all these villains and rescue Princess Oriane! For my hoard!”
“For the hoard!” the rangers shouted in response, uncaring about warning the puny orcs.
“Jolie, we cannot keep an elf hostage,” Kia protested, unable to understand the tenets of Cattletarianism. The orc looked at them as if they were mad and then departed without a word. “They’re almost extinct!”
“But Kia, it is fine to keep elf princesses! Elves do not have souls!”
“Jolie, we already had this discussion. Elves may be vegetarian, that doesn’t make them cows.”
“But that is what the Elder Wyrm said when it created the world!” Jolie protested. “It made grass to feed cows! Hence anyone who only eats grass is cattle!”
“And what about a human vegetarian? Are they cows too?”
“Silly Kia, if a manling abstains from eating meat, then it is no different from me abstaining from eating manlings!”
The shining knight surrendered in front of Jolie’s implacable dragon logic. “This discussion will wait until we actually rescue the princess.”
Spurred on, Jolie ran through the orc camp with her minions in toes, the local orcs looking at her in amazement of her dragonliness. “Sorry, sorry!” Kia pleaded with the locals, as the dragon paladin crushed a few carts and card games on her way to the gate.
Soon, Jolie found herself right in front of the stone doors sticking out from the ground, and there she found the princess kept in a steel cage.
She was perfect in every way, a beautiful, dark-skinned elf with green hair and shiny jewels that radiated princessness. Even in the face of capture and surrounded by orc dung, she looked dignified.
Her jailers were a trio of orcs, two of them thugs armed to the teeth with axes and knives, and the third something else entirely. The leader overshadowed his minions by more than a head, pushing more than eight feet in size and examining symbols on the stone doors. Thick steel armor covered most of his body save the arms, with a planet-eating worm symbol painted on his chest. The monster breathed through a strange mask with a tube linking the mouth to his back, leaving only vicious eyes exposed.
All turned at Jolie’s group with frustration, as the dragon and her minions formed a line to face them.
“That thing is an orc?” Even Kia seemed perplexed in the face of such a fearsome princessnapper.
“He’s enormous!” Blue complained. “He’s as big as a troll!”
“I’m Frank the Anark!” the villain boasted, glancing at the heroes of justice with annoyance. “Who the Happyland are you?”
“Jolie Dragon, greatest dragon paladin in the WOOOORLD!” Jolie howled to the sun, while her rangers clapped in response. “I have come to rescue the princess from your clutches, vile villain!”
“Another, other rescuer?” The orc let out a growl of rage. “Could you goody-two-shoes please mind your own business? I ain’t hurting your princess or anything!”
“We know you stole her from the Wood Elf Tribe!” Pink recounted the orc’s crimes. “That you intend to sacrifice her to the vile Sablar!”
“Sacrifice… oh, that’s what it’s all about, right?” The orc’s eyes turned disdainful. “Just because we are orcs worshiping the god of destruction and abduct an elf maiden, you think we will sacrifice her? Like savages?”
“... yes?” Kia answered the stupid question.
“Well, that’s racial stereotyping! All we will do is dump her on the other side of that planar gate, alongside these idiots,” the orc pointed at the camp. “As soon as we figure out how to open the doorway.”
“W-why?” Jolie couldn’t grasp her head around his ill-intent. “Why kick a princess through a door to nowhere?”
“Because princesses represent the aging establishment, and Sablar thrives on its destruction!” Frank the Evil ranted. “And destroy civilization we shall! We’ll create a world without rulers, without kings! Without queens!”
“Without princesses?” Jolie panicked.
The words echoed through Jolie’s skull like a haunting echo, filling her mind with images of an apocalyptic future. A world of darkness, where dragons would roam the world without purpose, without princesses to shelter.
|Charisma check successful! [Terror] negated!|
She faced the greatest threat to the dragon way of life since Furibon the Goldslayer. Jolie had grown convinced of it. “You’re evil!” she declared. “You’re evil, and you have to be stopped!”
“What is wrong with you people?! When we massacre your villages to depopulate the world, you complain, and when we offer you a non-violent alternative, you still do it! Make up your damn mind!”
“Yeah, you make genocide look like the easy way out!” one of Frank’s henchmen accused them. “You should be ashamed of yourself!”
“Hey, Frank!” the third orc pointed a finger at Kia, with terror in his eyes. “That girl… it’s Kia Bekele!”
“Kia Bekele?” Frank’s eyes widened in surprise, his anger replaced with apprehension. “The Shining Knight? The woman who killed Balaur?!”
“And I am her squire!” Jolie said proudly.
“... oh,” the villain noted, intimidated in the face of true justice. “Well, ain’t that a big problem? I only see one solution to it.”
“The secret technique?” one of the henchmen asked, dumbfounded. “But we never used it before! It’s unorcish!”
“There is a first time for everything!” Frank adopted a menacing stance. “Prepare yourself, men!”
“Minions, to me!” Jolie called, the rangers and Kia brandishing their weapons, ready to lay down their lives for the greater good.
And then, it happened.
Frank and his henchmen turned around, towards the jungle, and ran. They ran, perhaps having summoned a powerful beast right behind the heroes, or sprung a trap. Yet Jolie could not sense anything extraordinary. Perhaps they had called upon an invisible creature? Or...
“Not again!” Kia jumped after the fleeing orcs. “Come back! I’m not that strong! [Hasten]!”
“My exp!” Jolie panicked, running after the villains. “My exp is running away!”
“Catch them!” Red ordered, the Kobold Rangers chasing after the orcs before they could take cover in the jungle.
“[Chrono Summon],” Frank cast a spell while running, as Kia started catching up to him. “[Brachiosaurus]!”
Kia answered with a laugh. “It’s an herbivore, nothing to worry about!”
A huge shadow formed right above the group, and Jolie realized where the orc had summoned the creature.
|[Heroism] activated! You get a stat bonus to rescue allies in distress!|
“Minions, get down!” Reacting on impulse, Jolie grabbed her closest minions, Black and Blue, and pushed them away from the growing shadow; Kia, Pink, and Red were fast enough to dodge, while Yellow simply raised a shield and summoned a barrier of light around himself.
An enormous, Vainqueur-sized scaled beast fell into the clearing, blowing dust and rocks in all directions. Tents went flying, orcs ran screaming, trees collapsed, and even the princess’ cage fell to the side. Only the stone gates remained intact.
“Kia! Pink!” Jolie blew away the dust with her wings, while the scaled beast let out a growl of pain, its bones broken by the fall. “Yellow!”
“We are fine, Milady!” Pink shouted. “We are alright!”
After checking Black and Blue, who were more surprised than hurt, the dragon rushed after the villains, only to find them long gone.
No! The evil orc had fled! The princess had been saved… but at what cost?
“Poor beast,” Pink said as she examining the scaly beast howling in agony. “The fall broke its legs.”
“To cowardly abuse one’s minion like that orc,” Red shook his head. “Loathsome.”
“Blue, help me cast healing spells on it,” Yellow said, emerging from the dust unharmed. The Kobold Rangers gathered around the beast, to nurse it back to health.
“Why?” Kia complained, hitting the ground with one fist. “Why do they always flee? Why?”
“It is okay, Kia!” Jolie reassured her, as she approached the steel cage to check on the princess. “We have saved Oriane anyway!”
And indeed they had! The blast had weakened the cage, enough for Jolie to break it open with her bare claws! While covered in dust and bruised, the princess was unharmed. “Thank you, fair dragon,” she said in elf with a delicious, honeyed voice. “You have saved me.”
“And now I will bring you home with me!” Jolie nodded happily.
“To my tribe? You will bring me back to my tribe?”
“No, to my home!” Jolie gently caught the princess by her robes, lifting her like a kitten above the ground. She let out a squeal of surprise, which made her even cuter. “Yoush ash now my prinshesh!”
“Jolie!” her beloved chief of staff started nagging the dragon. “Release her! She’s scared!”
“Shia, elvesh mashe the besh prinsheshes!” Jolie continued, her mouth full from the princess’ dress. “Thasish the trush!”
“Can we at least return her to her tribe first?” the knight pleaded. “If not, they will assume that the cult killed her. Have you thought about her relatives, Jolie?”
The dragon froze, something in her friend’s tone somehow making her ashamed of herself. It was true that by stealing away the princess without her family’s permission, she would be no better than these orcs.
And dragons, as the supreme beings, had a duty to show themselves better than everyone else.
“I’m shorry,” Jolie apologized, putting the princess back on the ground and releasing her. “I should make you happy to become part of my hoard, instead of abducting you as those orcs did. We will bring you to your family first, I promise!”
The princess was too shy to answer, and so simply nodded. Kia gave the maiden a pat on the shoulders, whispered a few words in elven to her ear, and calmed her. “I still wonder where that gate leads though,” the knight said, glancing at the stone gates. “If Sablar worshipers wanted access to it… there can be nothing good on the other side.”
“Oh, maybe it leads to fairyland!” Jolie replied, before examining runes on the door, “There lies the first gate to the Elemental Plane of Earth. Never heard of it.”
“You know how to read this language?”
“Uncle Genialissime taught me the tongue of the fomors, so I could insult them in their own language!” Jolie boasted, “They made doors like this one everywhere since dragons created the world, you know?”
Her chief of staff looked at her with her big eyes, amazed by her friend’s knowledge. The dragon felt so proud! “Silly Kia, do you not know how dragons created the world?”
The knight’s lack of answer started to worry Jolie, while the Kobold Rangers tended to the scaled beast’s wounds out of the goodness of their heart. “You do not?”
“I heard conflicting stories,” she admitted.
Conflicting stories? From the fairies? No wonder she had such confusing ideas about elves and cows! The dragon couldn’t let that stand, and so decided to open her friend’s mind to the truth, the dragon truth.
“Long ago, there was only void and earth,” Jolie recounted her uncle Genialissime’s favorite tale, the one he told her all the time when she was a child. “The earth was without form, and the darkness unshiny. Then came the Elder Wyrm, first of all dragons, who was just passing through. And it said, ‘let there be shinies!’ And it created the stars with its breath.”
“That… sounds familiar.”
It should! “And then the Elder Wyrm said, ‘let there be gold and gems for my hoard!’ And it shaped the earth, so it could produce riches for the great hoard! But the Elder Wyrm felt lonely because it had no one to brag to about its immense wealth! And so, it created the dragons in its image!”
“Oh, I know what happens next!” Pink interrupted the conversation, having climbed on the scaly long-necked beast’s back to pet it. The creature had responded by licking its rider. “The Elder Wyrm realized that its dragon children were too good to gather the gold and the gems for the great hoard themselves. And so, the first dragon created the minions, to harvest wealth from the earth.”
“But then the dragons and minions became hungry, and so the Elder Wyrm invented cattle to feed them, and then fruits and vegetables so the cows would not starve,” Jolie continued. “Because the Elder Wyrm is nice and considerate!”
“Is that the official dragon creation myth?” Kia asked, Jolie nodding furiously; then she added, with a very strange tone. “That explains a lot of things…”
“After having bragged to its children for seven days, the Elder Wyrm said, ‘This whole world is your hoard now, my sons and daughters! Be fruitful and multiply, and breed minions to make hoards of your own! For one day I will return, and you will all brag about your wealth to me!’ And then it departed to add new suns to its piggy bank.”
“That’s an interesting tale Jolie,” Kia smiled. “But what does it have to do with the gate?”
“I’m getting to it!” Jolie said, having grown engrossed by the sound of her own voice. “Dragons and minions lived in harmony… until the fomors attacked! They rose from below the earth, looked upon the land the Elder Wyrm made, and said, ‘this is our hoard now! We created it!’ Then they built doors, to capture manlings, elves, and dwarves minions through them.”
“Wait, the fomors created planar doorways?” The plot twist had taken her chief of staff aback. “To where? The elemental planes?”
“From far, far away, but that’s not important,” Jolie brushed her questions away. “The dragons said ‘this is not your hoard, we made the world first’! But the fairies kept lying, so Grandrake stole one of their princesses. And that is how fairies and dragons went to war.”
Her chief of staff glanced at Jolie’s princess, then at the gate. “Could it be…” she trailed, a thought on her mind.
|Intelligence check successful!|
But Jolie finished it for her. “Oh, Kia, I understand! I understand what you are thinking!”
“You do?” The knight grinned at her best friend. “You think it is possible?”
“Yes! If the planet moon cannot sustain dragon life, we can go to other worlds instead! I am sure they are full of treasures and princesses!”
Kia’s smile stopped reaching her ears, the strain of the emotions too strong for her.
And so, Jolie Dragon, most beautiful and only niece of the good Emperor Vainqueur, captured her first princess; becoming an adult in the eyes of dragons and minions alike. Princess Oriane was brought back to her tribe, who kindly gifted her to the dragon of justice. For they knew the vile Frank remained afoot, and that Oriane would only be safe as part of a dragon’s hoard!
With the reveal of the gate, the promise of new worlds encouraged the Niece to reach for new heights in her quest for wealth! For her heart is pure, and her hoard golden!
Yet, sometimes, I, Pink Ranger, glimpse at Kia the Shining giving strange, morose looks at those doors. For she had glimpsed at the trials beyond.
But fear not, for in the end, dragons will always prevail!