The sun was high in the sky, yet darkness had taken over the earth.
Vainqueur could sense it all. The grim nightmares that awaited them behind the trees. The malevolence lurking at the heart of the jungle, the disgusting stench of paupers grasping for the gold of the well-to-do. The same, wordless evil that he had faced on the planet Moon, had returned to lay waste to Outremonde.
The curse of lead poisoning, and the evil lich that spread it.
Vainqueur’s roar echoed through the dense jungle, chasing birds away. “Was that… necessary?” his chief of staff complained, wincing from the noise. “My ears…”
“I want him to know!” Vainqueur declared. “To know that justice is coming and that he will have to answer for his baby coin genocide.”
The mere thought of the wicked Furibon corrupting the golden perfection of El Dorado, as he did with the moon, filled the dragon with fury.
To rest until his chief of staff returned from his hangover-induced flight, Vainqueur and a minion expedition had set camp in the heart of the forest, near the golden city. Xolotl the priest had guided them through, protected from the sun by parasol-wielding minions of his own. Other kobolds fawned over Vainqueur, constantly reminding the dragon of his greatness, wealth, and genius in whispers. The dragon made a note to recruit an elite fawner force to serve him in Murmurin.
Otherwise, only three minions of Vainqueur had dared to follow him in the war against Furibon’s cruelty: Sweet Chocolatine; Untasty Allison; and Tasty Malfy.
Manling Victor hadn’t recovered from last night's overdwarfing and struggled to stay standing even when using his scythe. He had needed Sweet Chocolatine’s help to put his boxers on, and couldn’t use a Perk to save his life. The adorable werewolf had cast every healing spell she knew on him, to no avail.
For dwarf intolerance had no cure. Vainqueur knew that well.
Manling Victor’s return to the camp was met with a variety of reactions. Allison reddened like a tomato and moved her hands on her mouth to suppress her laughter. Malfy looked at the Vizier with near-religious admiration. And Xolotl...
“Brother, you are back.” The lizard priest moved to give the greatest of all minions a passionate hug. “I pray to the goddess that you achieved illumination on your spiritual journey.”
“I… I don’t remember much…” the half-dragon admitted. “I think… I’ve been bitten…”
“Brother Victor, you have bloodbonded with the entire city’s priesthood. You are more than a guest. You are part of us, and we are part of you.”
“They said… I was easy…” Victor muttered as the priest broke off the embrace, before noticing Allison. “Hey, it’s… it’s Al…”
With her hands still on her mouth, the dryad turned away from Victor, doing her best not to look at him. Such shyness. “Did I do… something wrong?” the Vizier blurted, before putting a hand on his mouth too.
“Yeah, I mean, you started dancing while throwing off your clothes in public,” Chocolatine said. “She even tried to slap some sense into you. Don’t you remember?”
“No… Oh, gods, I want to puke...”
“But then you removed your underwear and you started ranting about ‘universal cosmic love,’ and she couldn’t stop laughing, and me too... and we would have gotten to the really funny part if it wasn’t for that meddling angel!”
“What… what is that?” Friend Victor asked upon noticing a pile of items in the middle of the camp.
Vainqueur had been meaning to ask as well. Since Manling Victor’s dwarf-fueled rampage, imp messengers had kept piling up stuff for the dragon and his minion. Cakes, gems, letters, golden watches, refined pens, demon-leather notebooks… by now it had reached the size of a small hill, and more imps added to the pile.
“These are all the gifts from the Corporate Overlords, the letters of congratulation, the alliance proposals, the invitation to private orgies, the codified offers of bootlicking, and… and…” Thick black liquid poured from Malfy’s insectoid eyes. “Mr. Victor, I… you...”
“You’re… crying…” Manling Victor frowned. “Malfy, are you crying?”
“I am moved to tears,” the fiend cried. “I never thought this day would happen… but you did it. You did it. You and Your Majesty, you are more than business partners. You are heroes.”
“I know,” Vainqueur said, always proud of himself. “I know, minion. But thank you for reminding me.”
“Did what…” Manling Victor would have been happy for his master too if he wasn’t suffering from his dwarf hungover. “Can’t remember...”
“I want to be your trainee!” an imp immediately asked Manling Victor. “Take me!”
“See this, imp?” Malfy said, managing to wipe away his tears of joy. “This is not the face of a mortal. This the face of a hero. Not the one Happyland expected... but the one it needed!”
“All minions of my minions are my minions,” Vainqueur declared. “I will gladly accept your fealty, imp.”
As the critter rejoiced, Manling Victor frowned. “I have the feeling I have done… something terrible…”
“You have done your duty, minion, and this is what matters,” Vainqueur said. “I am also pleased to learn you did not cheat on me with this cat, however refined a master he may be.”
“Cheat…” Manling Victor glared at Felix the cat, who had followed them back to the camp. “Why is he here? How is he here?”
“I am a cat, I can do anything,” the feline spoke in his native tongue, which was a close enough variant of dragonian for Vainqueur to understand him. Indeed, he had never known ‘meow’ was a variant of ‘minion’ until today.
“Because he is cute!” Chocolatine said. “Look at him. Look at his tiny eyes!”
“Felix claimed you as his Doer of the Thing, and I very carefully reminded him of your minion vows,” the dragon replied in his native tongue. “We talked it over a cup of milk, and I found him to be an extraordinarily refined and intellectual creature.”
“Your dragon master is the most exquisite being I have met who is not a cat,” Felix flattered Vainqueur. “He is such a paragon of kingship, with such novel ideas about minion management… what enlightening discussions we had.”
“Truly, I am marvelous, and I wish more creatures shared my understanding of true nobility and quality breeding.”
“These are the hallmarks of true superiority over the common rabble,” the cat agreed. “The splendor of nobility.”
“If only the plebeians could reach our level of culture, we would have worldwide peace,” Vainqueur said. “Alas, we can only take solace in ourselves, our native species, and our well-trained chiefs of staff. Such is the burden of a square root sixty-four intelligence.”
“I dream about the day when minions will finally understand how to fulfill my every need,” Felix nodded in complete agreement. “And when I find a lap as comfortable as your chief of staff’s.”
“Remember my words,” Vainqueur told the feline. “Only once, I allowed you to experience this rapturous contact with my most prized possession. To give you a taste of the essence of ultimate minionship.”
“What about my lap?” Sweet Chocolatine proposed. “I will cuddle you on the belly and scratch your ears!”
“No,” Manling Victor said, jealous. “No…”
“Yes!” Felix jumped at the werewolf. “Mine, mine, mine!”
“Oh, I will give you milk, and food, until you are so full of fat around the bones, you can no longer walk!” Sweet Chocolatine rejoiced, taking the cat in her arms and the feline purring in response. Malfy eagerly took her place in helping Manling Victor stand up, barely repressing a joyful sob.
“But enough self-congratulations.” Vainqueur cleared his throat, using his [Golden Road] to teleport the pile of gifts to his hoard. “We must reach the golden city before Furibon turns it all to lead.”
“Maybe he isn’t… isn’t there to turn the city to lead…” Manling Victor blurted out
“Why else would he be there, minion?” Vainqueur asked a simple question. “After what he did to the Moon, how can you doubt?”
“This is… a conspiracy theory…”
“Yes, exactly, a worldwide conspiracy against gold itself, and we have to stop it. For the baby coins.” The dragon turned to priest Xolotl. “Lead the way, foreign minion.”
And so, after a two hours trip through trees and foliage, Vainqueur and his minions finally came into view of El Dorado.
Never before Vainqueur had witnessed such a beautiful spectacle.
Great walls protected a magnificent city the size of Murmurin, one created in the same style as the Thaoten's; the ramparts themselves surrounded by a river of molten gold. Tall pyramids stood side by side with house-covered hills and ancient temples, while four colossal, armored statues of ancient lizard warriors stood watch over all cardinal points of the city.
Everything, everywhere, from the tree to the ramparts to the pyramids, was made of solid gold. A shade so pure, it reflected sunlight in all directions, turning the city into a shining jewel whose sight would burn the eyes of the unworthy.
Dragon heaven existed, and Vainqueur had found it!
“Amazing,” Allison gasped, all minions present speechless at the sight.
“This is as far as I can lead you,” Xolotl said. “I must return to Kukulcan and offer gifts to the goddess. You must fulfill your holy mission on your own, oh great scaled one.”
“You have done well, small minion of the gods,” Vainqueur said graciously, amazed by his level of lackey technology development. On his return to Murmurin, he would have his own servants import that doormat mantle in bulk.
“I will return and discuss with your dwarven emissaries on how to keep a portal between our lands open, so our civilizations may bathe in one another’s blood,” the priest declared, before bowing politely before Manling Victor. “I will await your return, so that we may partake in the potion of power together—”
“No…” the Vizier weakly panicked. “No more mushrooms!”
“As you wish,” the reptile said with obvious regret, before excusing himself and returning to his jungle alongside his own minions. Vainqueur instantly regretted the loss of the fawners, but now was not the time for fawning.
Now was the time for action.
For as he smelled the lich’s terrible presence in these walls, Vainqueur looked for any sign of his wicked nemesis’ presence. And he didn’t have to look for long.
In this perfect picture of heaven, the dragon noticed an anomaly. The pyramid farthest from their own position. The metal that coated it differed from the others, an alloy dark and foreboding.
A pyramid of lead.
“No!” Vainqueur panicked. “We are too late! Furibon is already at his vile work!”
“Can’t be…” Manling Victor’s eyes widened, upon realizing that his master was indeed right all along. “He is… he is really transforming the city into lead?”
“I was right! I was right about everything!” Vainqueur immediately extended his wings. “Minions, with me! We must stop Furibon! Form the battle line!”
With Malfy carrying Manling Victor in his arms, the dragon opened the charge, crushing any tree or foliage between him and the golden city’s gates. His minions followed, but Vainqueur paid them no mind.
For in that moment, only the thought of saving heaven from lead poisoning ruled the dragon’s mind.
|You have fallen under the [Curse of Greed]’s influence.|
Curse of greed? Pfft, as if greed was a curse, instead of the universal truth to which all bowed to.
And soon, all this gold would be his.