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Congratulations! For helping your master defeat King Wotan and trapping his right-hand woman’s soul in your scythe, you have earned a level in [Weathermaker] and a level in [Reaper]!

+30 HP, +10 SP, +2 VIT, +2 SKI, +2 AGI, +3 INT, +2 CHA, +2 LCK.

By reaching level thirty in [Reaper], you maxed out the class! You can no longer take levels in it, but you gained the capstone ability [Charon’s Grim Harvest]!

[Charon’s Grim Harvest]: Reaper Capstone, 5 SP per second. You summon phantasmal, flying sickles in a wide radius around yourself, which will instinctively seek out all non-undead creatures within your vicinity to harvest their souls. The sickles inflict medium [Spirit] damage on contact, and if one kills a target, their soul is transferred to your main scythe as if affected by the [Helheim] Perk. With each soul harvested, the Perk’s radius will increase exponentially.

By consuming many fresh souls and your capping of the [Reaper] class, your scythe evolved into a [Scythe of Charon]!

[Scythe of Charon]: +30 critical; inflicts a STR/VIT debuff on successful hits.

Well, it was bound to happen. Maxing out the [Reaper] class and Vainqueur breaking past the level 60 cap made Victor somewhat happy, but didn’t make up for the post-battle exhaustion.

“Are we there yet?” Vainqueur asked as they flew over the shores of the New World, leaving the Dagger Coast behind them.

“The pyramid is there,” Victor pointed his scythe at a tipping point over the horizon. Although the sun had almost set, he could see dozens of winged, crimson ships flying over the area, the first sign of civilization since they sank Grandrake’s island. “This is the great pyramid of Kukulcan, capital of the Thaoten Empire.”

It didn’t take them long to reach the city, built in the middle of a lake of blood.

Beyond that ominous bit, the place couldn’t look more awe-inspiring. Far larger than any city of the Mistral Continent, the Thaoten capital was an entire island linked the lake’s shores by four bridges, one for each cardinal point. Built almost entirely of orange bricks, the houses were aligned in a very organized fashion, a stark contrast with the chaotic Murmurin. Immense alleys all lead to the city’s center, a massive mesoamerican pyramid as tall as the Empire State Building.

“I smell undead everywhere,” Vainqueur said, aiming for the pyramid. Unlike Port Damné, no ship attempted to stop them; in fact, they moved out of their way.

“This is a vampire theocracy, ruled by undead priests,” Victor explained. “The vampiric Red Plague came from here, brought by explorers from the New World to the Old. Most of the citizens are reptilian lizardkin, and the worthiest citizens are rewarded with unlife.”

He had also heard they sacrificed their enemies to feed their elites, but thought it wiser not to mention it.

“Batlings, hm?” Vainqueur grunted, gazing at a population of humanoid lizards watching at him with awe. “At least these ones have scales, which is a mark of utmost patrician refinement.”

“It’s fine, Your Majesty, these ones are friendly,” Victor said, noticing a crowd waiting for them at the main plaza, right at the pyramid’s base. Since night had now fallen, mists swirled around the pyramid, taking the shape of albino lizardkin.

As always, Vainqueur made his presence loud and clear by landing on the plaza, blowing bricks in all directions. Victor’s own landing was a lot more discreet.

The crowd that welcomed them was almost entirely reptilian, but the species making it up were surprisingly varied. While many were lizardkin, some of them obviously vampires, Victor noticed many winged kobolds, serpent-like creatures, and even wyverns among them.

The vampiric lizardkin obviously led them, each wearing elaborate, Aztec-like dresses of feathers. One of them stood out from the lot, an albino lizardkin with an elaborate winged hat and a staff resembling a mighty mosquito, the symbol of Camilla. Victor immediately used [Monster Insight] on him.

High Priest Xolotl

Lizardkin Vampire Progenitor (Undead/Reptile)

Strong against Holy, Unholy, Moon, Berserk, Darkness, Fire, Lightning, Blood, Frost, Necromancy, Drain, Insta-Death, Mind-Control, Disease, Poison, Fatigue, Sleep, and Beast.

Weak against Sunlight, Life, Manslayer, and Scaleslayer.

One of the first vampires of Outremonde, a follower of Camilla older than most countries. As personable as an undead, bloodsucking abomination against nature can be, he is currently on a ‘socially responsible’ vampire diet, feeding only on the blood of disgraced politicians.

“Welcome, great guests!” the priest said, his voice old but brimming with power. “I am one of the Thirty-One spiritual guides of the Thaoten Empire, Xolotl. Mother Camilla foretold your coming.”

“Ah, a dragonian speaker,” Vainqueur said. “Perfect. Minion, announce ourselves.”

“I am Victor Dalton, Grand Vizier of His Majesty Vainqueur Goldbeard Knightsbane, August Emperor of the V&V Empire, Ishfania, the Pirate Sea and the Albain Mountains. He is also known as the Defender of the Hoard, Minion Liberator, Greatest Gladiator, Billionaire Adventurer, and bringer of Dragon Civilization.”

“A great evil lies close, priest,” Vainqueur declared. “The vile Goldslayer Furibon will soon turn the golden El Dorado to lead! We must stop him!”

“That too.”

“We Thaoten will help you on your holy quest,” the priest replied. “You shall be guests of honor for the night, and the nights afterward. A great feast of cattle shall be ordered to celebrate your coming.”

“I also demand a lava bath!” Vainqueur ordered. “I am weary, wealthy, and important.”

“You will have it.”

This made the dragon pause. “You… you have a lava bath?”

“Of course we have one,” the priest replied, shocking Vainqueur. He clearly hadn’t expected them to deliver on his usual impractical demands. “Dragons are great and mighty beings, and we have honored the few who delivered their wisdom to us since the empire’s early nights.”

“I also want minions to cater to my every whim,” Vainqueur demanded, pushing his luck.

“Bring the dragon-kissers minions,” the vampire priest ordered while raising his staff. Immediately, a group of a hundred, winged kobolds arrived to serve Vainqueur. Many of them wore strange fur mantles.

And then, before the Vizier knew it, the kobolds threw themselves at V&V’s feet, their back exposed. On a closer look, Victor could finally see the mantles closer, and what they truly looked like.

Doormats.

“Our guests are too important to walk on the ground of common citizens,” Xolotl continued. “Our minions will make sure you never have to go outside your private quarters. Go on, and try them.”

Victor glanced at his master, who was completely speechless at this degree of servility, and hesitantly stepped on a kobold’s back. “Is it painful?” the Vizier asked, hoping he didn’t crush the poor creature’s back. “Am I too heavy?”

“It is perfect!” The kobold replied with an… aroused voice. “The feeling of being trampled by a higher being fills me with joy!”

“We are experimenting with minion chairs, who will allow guests to sit anwhere,” the priest continued. “And fawners, who will fawn over you while you bathe. They will remind you of how good and wise you are for the entire duration of your stay.”

Victor could almost see the gears turn in Vainqueur’s head, as he probably imagined new ways to order his minions around. “Manling Victor, this is the greatest archeological discovery since gold mining!” he declared. “We found a lost, advanced minion civilization! Far more advanced than yours!”

“I’ll do my best to reach that stage of development, Your Majesty,” Victor deadpanned.

“It is fine, minion, I forgive you. You are only half a dragon.”


Victor had to admit it, these vampires knew how to greet guests.

They had given Vainqueur and Victor each an entire wing of the pyramid as their own, each bigger than the Vizier’s manor. The Reaper’s own room included a king-sized golden bed, a magical mirror serving as some sort of interplanar tv, a jacuzzi, a sauna, a hammam, and, the pinnacle of luxury, a small, private, primitive soccer field.

How did the architects manage to fit all of that in a single place?

In any case, Victor traded his armor for a dressing gown, kindly offered by kobold servants eager to serve him. He jumped in the bed, whose feather-made mattress felt so soft, he could sink in it.

But unfortunately, he had a few things to check out before enjoying that warm place.

“Isabelle?” Victor closed his eyes and mentally focused on the demonic CEO, praying she was alright. He would have contacted Chocolatine first if her being overplane didn’t hinder his [Scarlet Study] Perk. “Isa?”

“Yes, darling?” the voice responded warmly through telepathy.

“Oh, thank the archfiends, you're alive!”

“Why would I be dead?” the governor responded, sounding irritated.

Because he thought a certain werewolf had killed her. “Oh, we, we almost died on our end, I had to check you out; especially since you’re starting out on your new job. Chocolatine said she exchanged a few words with you.”

“That werewolf girl? We had a very pleasant conversation, I like her. She understands how Hell works so well she could have been a demon herself. We will definitely do business in the future.”

Really?

“However, I came back home afterward to find my guards slaughtered, and a cow’s head in my bed,” she admitted. “Why is that?”

“Because the only horse in Murmurin is mine,” Victor replied, sighing. Clearly, while Chocolatine had agreed not to murder the competition, godfather-style intimidation remained a viable strategy.

“I see… any idea who the culprit might be?”

“No,” the Vizier lied.

“I see,” she replied with a tone that implied she believed in the opposite, before adding, sensually. “When are you coming back?”

“At least a month or two.”

“I will have a surprise on your return, but I will not spoil it telepathically. Take care.”

Victor ended the communication, puzzled, before mentally checking up on his allies in Murmurin and Port Vainqueur. Since they would open an embassy in the Thaoten Empire, probably with a permanent portal towards their own empire, he asked Allison, Malfy, Miel and Vainqueur’s main minions to be ready to cross over soon.

“We will take care of the princesses Vainqueur brought to us,” Allison said. “Poor girls, isolation did terrible things to their sanity.”

“Can you try to locate their still living relatives?” Victor asked. “We should try to return them to their loved ones if we can.”

“Vainqueur won’t be happy.”

“I will cook up some excuse, and dragons have a catch and release program. He will understand.”

By now, Victor understood how dragons worked, their levers, and what arguments could convince them. While uncaring, Vainqueur was no longer inconsiderate of people’s feelings now either; he would probably be more open than ever to such suggestions.

"Also, I have come across disturbing news," Victor dropped the bomb, "We have come across a fomor with class levels."

Allison's answer took a while to arrive. "Are you sure?"

"Certain, and I doubt that he is an isolated case. Vainqueur buried that fairy lord under an erupting island, but I doubt he died." As a good Vizier, Victor refused to believe the enemy dead until he had disposed of the body personally. "I will share you the coordinates of that place, and I want it watched at all times."

"It will be done. I will tell everyone to remain on high alert as well."

Victor nodded, stopping the communication after sharing the island's rough coordinates. His [Monster Insight] had mentioned a soul crest... could it be an unknown type of Crest capable of granting class levels, even to fairies?

“You will die,” a new voice said.

The Vizier interrupted the communication, glancing at his scythe, and the new soul in it.

“My master still lives, below the earth, raging against his bindings,” the Valkyrie, Sigrun, taunted him. “My sisters will find you! You may run, but you will never escape His Highness’ justic—”

Victor mentally muted the sound of the scythe, leaving the Valkyrie to fruitlessly try to scream at him. One of the tricks he had learned at Scholomance.

A sulfuric portal opened in the room, causing the Kobold servants to panic before Victor raised a hand to calm them. About time, he thought, as Chocolatine stepped through. He was starting to wonder if the fiends intended to keep her for ransom.

“Ta-da!” Chocolatine had traded her dress for an indecent black corset, with tiny wings and a demon tail attached. “How do I look? How do I look?”

“Amazing,” Victor replied, before noticing the receipt in her hand. “What is this?”

“The expenses,” she said, giving it to him. “The succubi said the overplane travels cost extra.”

That was a way to put it! “Thank the gods I make as much as a third world dictator,” Victor said out loud, upon reading the number on the check. “Before Vainqueur’s cut that is.”

“What is this place?” Chocolatine asked as Victor hid the receipt under the mattress, the werewolf putting her arms around his neck. “A tomb?”

“The Thaoten Empire’s central pyramid.”

“The Thaoten? Awesome! You should invite Jules too, he always wanted to visit this place. Is it true they built their capital in the middle of a blood lake?”

“Yes, and I still have no idea how they did it.”

“Silly, obviously one demon at a time!”

Her childish excitement made all his worries and exhaustion melt away. “We can go sightseeing if you wish,” Victor said, putting his arms around her waist and drawing her closer to him.

“Oh, can we try the local cuisine? I want to add new recipes, and I believe you can only understand another culture by tasting them.”

Victor didn’t comment on the ambiguous wording, and he didn’t have the strength of heart to deny her. “Whatever you want,” he said, briefly kissing her on the lips. After the very tense situation with Wotan, he felt relieved to be in her arms again. He couldn’t put a word on it, but the werewolf’s company made him feel somewhat at peace, in ways other women didn’t. And that was in spite of her general insanity.

“You’re so sweet, Vic,” she said, after breaking the kiss. “I’m sure we will learn a lot! I mean, you cannot build a country as big as their own without making many species coexist together. I know they have a bad reputation because they brought vampires to us, but Charlene is one, and she’s super nice!”

As if to answer her thoughts, a cloud of mist intruded into the chamber, soon coalescing into the high priest Xolotl. If he was surprised by Chocolatine’s appearance, he didn’t show it, and simply greeted her. The spellcaster probably had them under tight surveillance. “Dear guest and chosen of the goddess, I hope that you found your accommodations appropriate for your rank.”

“I’m thankful for your hospitality,” Victor said, frankly impressed by it. “And I’m sure Vainqueur is too.”

“You see me rejoiced,” the priest said with an archaic manner of speech, before showcasing his own Claimed branding on his arm, below his priestly dress. Since he didn't speak like a reincarnated human, Victor guessed the goddess claimed the reptile as a personal favor. “I would delight in tasting your holy blood as you taste mine, so we may blood-bond as fellow chosen of the Goddess.”

“That’s… intimate…”

“Vic, I bit you everywhere that counts, and I’m sure Charlene did too,” Chocolatine said with a happy grin. “Shouldn’t you be used to it?”

“You’re not helping.”

“If blood drinking is too close, we can perhaps each cut a lump of flesh and taste the other’s?” the priest suggested as a middle ground.

“Oh, do you make cakes out of demons too?” Chocolatine interrupted, suddenly interested.

“We have many unique recipes,” Xolotl replied, clearly proud to showcase his culture to a foreigner. “Fiendish Pathé, Chocolate-stuffed Phoenix Heart, Imp Filet… still, I insist on the exchange ritual. Among Thaoten, to share one’s blood is the supreme expression of trust and friendship.”

In diplomacy as in the bedroom, sacrifices had to be made… “Sure,” Victor said. “But please be gentle when we get to it, okay?”

Now he realized that wasn't the best way to describe it...

“Excellent. As expected of one worthy of the goddess, and the supreme servant of a dragon lord.”

“About that, how did you achieve such a level of… cultural refinement?” It hurt just to say it.

“We Thaoten are a highly advanced society,” the priest said like he was repeating a script. “Yes, a very advanced society.”

“You can drop the mask,” Victor said. “I recognize a kindred spirit.”

“Oh, thank the goddess, you understand the pain,” the priest said, the word resonating with the Vizier. “One dragon at a time, scaled brother. Our empire is old, and while we have only met a few of them, dragons embody chaos. We found these guest rituals easier to placate them with, than having the fiery ones scour our countryside of its cattle.”

“Oh, can you give us a tour of your city?” Chocolatine asked. “I want to visit every corner!”

“With pleasure. Truth to be told, we Thaoten would enjoy fostering good relationships with an oversea nation. Our attempts to establish contact with countries beyond the ocean ended in disaster, when they rejected Mother Camilla’s gift and slaughtered our envoys.”

Vampirism. A plague for some, a gift for others. “We’re preparing for war though,” Victor warned. “Against the fomors.”

“Good. To fight in the goddess' name against the soulless heathens is a Thaoten’s duty, and we need more sacrifices. The lake of life needs fresh new blood.”

“Do you know of Isengrim, the best god ever?” Chocolatine preached for her deity. “He is kind and amazing!”

“We know of the Great Hunter, and he is granted a temple in our Holy City, but we exalt Mother Camilla above all others,” Xolotl replied, before focusing back on Victor. “While I will answer the call of the goddess, we Thaoten are an equal necrocracy. My Thirty fellow rulers will ask for gifts and tribute in exchange for help. Especially to access El Dorado.”

“Oh?” Victor frowned, “They would be more open to a war than going there?”

“The Golden City is a cursed place. I told the dragon that he was not the first of his kind to seek it, but he still wishes to go there.”

“Cursed how?” Victor asked.

“It has drawn many foreigners, thieves, and would-be conquerors, and let few of them leave,” the priest said. “There is a great calamity trapped there, a ‘superbeast,’ or so it is called. It cannot escape the city’s vault, but it can still call the greedy to him. The lich you hunt must have answered its lure. In any case, my fellows will not risk bringing the curse on their own pyramids without proper compensation.”

“Would this be appropriate?” Victor asked, showcasing his [Black Grail] on a bedside table. “It is an artifact of great potency, which Camilla asked me to deliver to you; it can raise the dead under specific circumstances, providing the illusion of life.”

“Interesting,” the priest nodded, casting a few spells to identify the object. “This is a holy artifact.”

“I can let you borrow it for studies, in exchange for a passage to El Dorado, and the opening of negotiations for military help.”

“That should do,” the priest declared, happy with the proposal. “We priests of Camilla always study the undead condition, so that we may share the gift of immortality to all. Once we have perfected vampirism, we shall embrace as brothers while the sun rises. One night, we shall cure death for all beings of Outremonde!”

“Also, if you are part of a cult, could you provide me with equipment?” Chocolatine smirked. “I really need ropes, a sacrificial knife, and a pig for later.”

“We do not have any ‘pig,’ but we do have llamas,” the priest replied. “Do you wish to sacrifice it? Does your god demand blood?”

“It’s just for, uh…” Victor shivered, struggling to find the right way to say it in polite society, before abandoning. “Breeding.”

“Breeding? With a beast?” The priest suddenly understood. “Oh, I understand. You make a sacrifice to improve virility before the bedding of the bride.”

That was a way to put it… “Can you help, then?” Chocolatine asked, clearly eager to do the deed after visiting the city.

“I will see that the temple’s acolytes bring you what you need, and more. [Summon Item].” The priest raised his staff, and a crimson potion materialized in his hand. “This sacred elixir brings great health to the living. Yes, great health!”

“But you priests are undead,” Victor frowned.

“On the undead, it offers spiritual health,” the priest replied. “I would not advise partaking it with a mortally blessed person unless you can keep them in a safe, secluded environment. The effects are very strong for the uninitiated. Take it now, and it will cleanse your body of its impurities before the event.”

Xolotl then graciously excused himself to ‘see to the cattle feast,’ leaving Victor and his favorite werewolf with the bottle. The Vizier took the first sip, and while it tasted nothing like blood, he couldn’t put a word on the mixture.

It didn’t feel effective either.

[Darwinist] activated. You will count as [Undead] for the purpose of the [Mushroom Wine of Power].

The cosmic trip will begin shortly. Prepare yourself.

The cosmic trip? Like what, teleportation?

Why were his fingers starting to look like snakes?

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About the author

Void Herald

Bio: I'm a European warlock living in the distant realm known as France, spending half my time writing and the other half managing magical websites.

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