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[Master’s Shield] negated! You have lost your [Regen] status!

 

The reminder of his chief of staff’s demise made Vainqueur more furious than ever. If he could still fly, he would have bathed the entire city in his holy flames from above, melting the false gold and the mummy with it.

Instead, he still blasted everything nearby with fireballs, while fruitlessly trying to smash the fireproof Akhenapep with his claws. In spite of his own immense agility and speed, the mummy’s magic allowed him to dodge every attack.

Meanwhile, his beautiful niece had joined the fight, casting spells while Knight Kia rode her—the very sight only fueled Vainqueur’s berserk rage further. “[Aura of Justice]!” Jolie shone like silver, bathing her uncle in holy light.

You gained +2 to all attack-based checks, and your unarmed attacks will inflict additional [Holy] damage!

 

Holy? That was the mummy’s weakness! The knowledge only bolstered the dragon’s determination to bring the undead down. Akhenapep attempted to retaliate with golden arrows, but Vainqueur’s onslaught gave him little opening.

He barely noticed the infernal portal widening further, an immense, long-necked lizard passing through. With the Kobold Rangers on its back, the beast trampled golems underfoot on its way to the last gate; Malfy had reached it thanks to his ice bridge trick, trying to freeze the doors while Manling Victor’s tentacled abomination kept undead soldiers away from him. Meanwhile, the evil Furibon flew towards Vainqueur after noticing Victor’s leftover scythe.

“Furibon!” Jolie showed her tiny fangs at the vile lich and fired a small, fiery projectile at him. “You will pay for your crimes against Uncle and hoardinity!”

“Jolie, no!” Kia called out from the niece’s back, cutting down an undead knight with her shining sword.

“Not me, you inbred lizard!” the lich complained while dodging the attack and stealing Manling Victor’s scythe. Vainqueur knew they may be an ally, but his niece’s response made him proud.

“Uncle? Is that your niece over here, dragon?” Akhenapep noted, renewing the spell protections Vainqueur had disabled during their close encounters. “Because I cannot, in good conscience, let her dedicate the rest of her life to revenge after I kill you.”

The words snapped Vainqueur out of his rage-fueled rampage, replacing his fury with fear. “Don’t you dare!”

“That would violate Vizier Stratagem thirty-eight,” Akhenapep interrupted his assault on Vainqueur to point a finger at his niece. “‘The law of family sets’! [Atomic Ray]!”

Vainqueur’s heart skipped a beat. “Jolie!” He rushed to his niece’s rescue, as the mummy unleashed the same beam that killed his chief of staff. But the red dragon was too far… too far!

Instead, the vile Furibon flew at Jolie's side, touching her pristine scales with his dirty hand. “[Teleportation]!”

The lich, the dragon, and her rider vanished out of the beam’s way, dodging death. They reappeared a few feet away, safe and sound. “You villain…” Jolie couldn’t believe what happened. “You, a villain, saved me?”

“No, I saved her,” the lich replied, glancing at the rider. “You should be optimized to destroy him.”

Knight Kia climbed down from her master’s back. “Jolie, go help the others.”

“But, Kia—”

“Go help the rangers and the others close the gate,” Knight Kia repeated with calm, her blade shining with heavenly energies and her eyes with a greater fury. “That one is too strong for you.”

Akhenapep pointed one hand towards Vainqueur, and one towards Jolie’s group. Everyone had fallen into a tense stand-off.

“Jolie, go,” Vainqueur ordered, his eyes sent on the minion slayer. This time, the niece obeyed, flying above the remaining enemy minions and burning them. Akhenapep’s funerary mask briefly shifted to his summoning gate, which Malfy had trapped in ice.

“[Sacred Sword of Mithras].” Knight Kia’s blade doubled in length, transforming into an iridescent solid rainbow. She took a few steps towards Akhenapep, and then outright rushed at him. “[Miracle of D’Arc], [Blade of Dispelling], [Accelerated Hasten]!”

“[Atomic—”

“[Accelerated Ancient Meteor]!” Furibon unleashed a mini-meteor at Akhenapep before he could attack Knight Kia. The mummy glitched out of time to dodge the blow, allowing Vainqueur and Kia to close in. Akhenapep dodged the dragon’s poke, but not the paladin’s blade.

And he screamed for it.

Much to Vainqueur’s consternation, unlike his fruitless attempts from before, Knight Kia’s blade actually hurt the mummy. Her sword cut through his reinforced leadskin like butter, sparkles glittering in its path.

Akhenapep’s HP screen also dwindled tremendously.

HP: 670/2550.

The mummy let out a roar of rage, unleashing the same repulsion attack he used before. An invisible force slammed Furibon against the pavement and forced Vainqueur a few feet backward. Meanwhile, a rainbow armor appeared around Kia, shielding her from the attack.

In fact, she didn't seem bothered by the mummy’s radioactive aura either.

“You are a [Saint]?” Akhenapep prepared to zap Knight Kia with a spell, astonished by his attack’s failure. “[Greater Dispel—”

Too late.

Knight Kia’s holy blade swiftly cut him in half from the skull to the pelvis, killing him instantly.

Or so Vainqueur thought, as the mummy glitched out of existence and reappeared a few feet away, Furibon’s screen still showing his HP above his head.

HP: 670/2550.

 

The mummy barely had the time to regain his composure before Vainqueur hit him from behind, crushing him with both hands on the street. His immense strength shook the ground with deafening noise, sending pieces of the pavement in all directions.

Yet the mummy reappeared afterward, shaken, but alive.

“Why won’t he die again?!” Vainqueur roared with consternation, trying to squish the undead like a game of whack-a-mole; Knight Kia backing him up, their enemy furiously struggling for his unlife.

“[Save Scum], the [Chronomancer]’s fearsome capstone!” Furibon let out a hiss of frustration, supporting his nemesis with a jagged beam. Akhenapep used his [Za Warudo] to avoid the attack and break the encirclement, reappearing on a pile of debris twenty meters away from them. Vainqueur immediately pursued him before he could recover. “Every time death should claim him, he reverts to a ‘quicksave state’ right before the last blow!”

“He cannot be killed?!” Kia launched a holy sun at the mummy, who dodged by time leaping.

“The ability consumes SP and doesn’t recharge them, so he cannot recover once he runs out of them,” the lich replied. “There are other workarounds, like killing him in an [Antimagic Zone], canceling the Perk outright, or judicious use of status ailments...”

Then Vainqueur simply had to outlast this vermin. Force him to waste every drop of his magic until he had nothing left to power his ability.

The dragon blasted the mummy with his mighty flames while running at him, forcing the villain to reapply his chest seal to absorb them. In the background, Malfy and the rest had managed to condemn the summoning door, and now focused on the stranded minions of Akhenapep.

“Enough!” the mummy snarled, realizing the brilliance of the dragon’s plan and switching strategies. “[Ur-Pharaoh Ascension]!”

A golden glow surrounded the mummy, empowering him, changing him. His body grew in size, quickly casting a shadow upon the dragon, and threatening to crush Knight Kia underfoot. The paladin had to run away. Vainqueur looked up… and up…

And up.

Gone was the mummy, replaced by a giant of armored gold, his funerary mask now a soulless, condemning visage. His head reached more than a hundred feet above the ground, and he could easily grab even Vainqueur himself within his hands.

The giant raised his knee, extending it back, and then—

BHAM!

The giant kicked Vainqueur with more strength than Wotan’s lightning or Maure’s wind spear, shattering his ribs and propelling him backward.

The dragon smashed through one of the last pyramids still standing, came out on the other end, and finally ended his trajectory against one of the city’s outer walls; his body having made a hole within.

Vitality check successful. Death averted.

Warning: you have less than one hundred HP remaining!

Critical health! [Bravo Bull] activated, strength increased!

Vainqueur struggled to remain conscious, his eyes dizzy and his body wracked with pain. He could hear the steps of the giant, as he trampled houses on his way to finish off the dragon; Knight Kia sliced his leg, but her blade barely dented his reinforced skin. Even Furibon and Jolie couldn’t do anything, flying near the Ur-Pharaoh’s shoulder while unleashing fireballs and bolts at his head.

Thankfully, Vainqueur’s minions proved more effective. Having disposed of the remaining minions of Akhenapep, Malfy froze the titan’s right foot with a breath of ice, briefly slowing him down; while the Kobold Rangers, their beast of burden, and Manling Victor’s summoned allies climbed the mummy’s left leg and tried to anchor him.

The emperor glared at this incoming insult to gold, which strangely hadn’t cast a spell at him yet. Perhaps the vile mummy couldn’t do so in this shape, having transformed to continue the fight while saving his SP.

The dragon wondered if his breath could melt that statue from that far…

False gold.

Intelligence check successful!

"Furibon!” Vainqueur roared to his nemesis. “Do the thing!”

The vile lich heard him, and seemingly understood the atrocity asked of him… Only for the glow in his empty eye sockets to somehow turn smug. “Say it!”

“Never!” Vainqueur refused to lower himself to his level.

“Say it, wyvern!” the lich insisted in his boundless cruelty. The gold giant looked at them with confusion, before realizing the threat Furibon presented. Instead of continuing his course to finish off Vainqueur, he raised his hand to smash the flying skeleton like a bug.

Vainqueur closed his eyes, the memories of his poor minions and his beloved niece flashing in his mind. He had to do it for them.

“Turn him to lead!” the dragon roared, tears in his eyes, sacrificing his morals for the greater wealth. “Turn him to lead, you evil, sadistic monster!”

The lich instantly raised his hands, as Akhenapep’s finger threatened to close around him. “[Transmute Gold to Lead]!”

And so, in a flash of sinister magic, the wicked Furibon turned the golden Ur-Pharaoh into a vile statue of lead. The spell spread throughout the titan, transforming him in a matter of seconds; the mummy didn’t even have the time to counter the curse through his own magic.

The giant pharaoh was petrified; weakened by lead poisoning.

“[Charged Attack]!” Vainqueur gathered his remaining strength, the power building up in his belly, and then unleashed it upon the giant.

The dragon fired a massive beam of pure energy at the giant’s heart, the attack melting it, and then worked its way on the other side. His minions wisely dispersed, as a rain of molten lead overflew from the wound.

The giant’s [Save Scum] activated, rewinding him to his previous state; that of a statue of lead. Vainqueur kept unleashing his attack, melting his heart a second time… and then a third…

On the fourth try, the titan stopped rewinding time, and Vainqueur’s breath incinerated him whole. Like a wax candle, the giant collapsed into a lake of boiling lead, spreading across the streets of El Dorado like a diseased flood. Knight Kia took refuge on a pile of rubble, Jolie flying down to catch her in her arms and bring her to safety. The surviving minions of Vainqueur fled the flood, deeper into the city.

As Vainqueur breathed his last flame and inhaled again, he let out a sigh of relief. The mummy didn’t come back.

As the lead lake cooled off and solidified, a humongous pile of items appeared at the mummy’s last spot; the battle's spoils. The mummy’s funerary mask, a dragon-sized ring, a scepter, piles of gems and treasures... his minions had also dropped many rewards, spread all over the battlefield.

Not worth his chief of staff.

“Uncle!” Jolie flew at his side, Knight Kia in her hands. The upstart minion immediately cast two spells on him: [Greater Restoration] and [Full Heal].

[Irradiated] status and Max HP reduction removed.

You regained all your HP.

 

Vainqueur could feel his wings again, and his chest no longer itched. Perfect.

Right afterward, the worm god Sablar teleported in the middle of the lead lake, a killjoy to the end.

“The racket is over. Congratulations, my prophet…” The deity looked around him, noticed the pile of treasure, and then the dragons, lich, paladins, and minions surrounding him with murder in their eyes. “Oh.”

“Your actions cost me two minions, vile worm,” Vainqueur hissed, while Knight Kia barely restrained herself from attacking him.

“A shame, I hoped for more,” the deity replied callously, his eyes full of malice. Time seemed to rewind for the lake of lead, as it gathered back on the spot of Akhenapep's defeat. It quickly coalesced into the mummy’s shape, shaken, surprised, and defeated. “My prophet, the march of time will not claim you today.”

The minion instantly knelt at his master’s clawed feet. “My lord Sablar, I failed you.”

“A single defeat doesn’t invalidate a lifetime of atrocities in my name,” the deity reassured his chief of staff. “You have done your best. This battle was but a sideshow, to the troubled times to come.”

“We’ve won, get on with it.” Furibon sounded as exasperated as Vainqueur himself.

The worm god glanced at the lich with contempt, before letting out a buzzing sound.

Instantly, the false gold plating of the ruins vanished into flying dust, eroding at indragon speed. El Dorado quickly transformed from a false vision of paradise to a devastated ruin of red, bloody bricks and concrete. The collars around Vainqueur's, Furibon's and Malfy's neck turned to dust. “Do not expect the citizens to be grateful for your deed,” the god mused. “Learn that you have made a powerful enemy of me today, mortals.”

“Go back to your ruins, fairyspawn!” Vainqueur snorted back.

“Now I have to find a new vacation resort,” the deity complained. “Such a waste.”

“My pyramid trumps this city,” Akhenapep told his patron deity. “It is quieter, deep below the earth.”

“Oh? It sounds like my kind of safe space.” The worm god teleported both of them away.

The battle was over.

Congratulations! For leading friends and foes to victory against a mighty archmage, you earned three levels in [Augustus], one level in [Kaiser], and three levels in [Witchfinder General]! You earned the [Pontifex Maximus], [Malleus Maleficarum], [Incinerator], and [Master of Silence] class perks!

By capping the [Augustus] class, you earned the [Glitzy Theater] class perk!

+150 HP, +70 SP, +8 STR, +7 VIT, +6 SKI, +6 AGI, +5 INT, +10 CHA, +5 LCK.

[Pontifex Maximus]: 60 SP. Your near-religious authority inspires your allies to greater heights; for five seconds per charisma point of yours, all their attacks and spells inflict fifty percent additional [Holy] damage.

[Incinerator]: any creature killed by one of your [Fire] attacks (be they your breath, spells, or perks) has their corpse instantly disintegrated, preventing future revival attempts. Even effects such as transformation into an undead post-mortem cannot bring back the deceased.

[Malleus Maleficarum]: Variable of 20 SP. You target a single target within one hundred feet of yourself with a phantom hammer, inflicting [Spirit] damage. If the target has levels in a spellcaster class, the attack becomes super effective; for each 20 SP you sacrifice to the spell, the hammer has a chance of dispelling one magical protection of the target on a successful Luck check.

[Master of Silence]: 80 SP. You infuse all allies within thirty feet of you with your silent hatred for spellcasters. For ten minutes, all unarmed and armed attacks have a chance to inflict the [Silence] ailment on a successful Luck check, preventing magicians from using verbal spells.

[Glitzy Theater]: 100 SP. You can summon a golden theater over a mile around yourself, trapping everyone present until you release it; [Teleportation] effects to escape the trap’s confines always fail, but teleportation inside and within the cage remains possible. The theater counts as a gladiator arena for the purpose of your Perks.

“I… I gained levels.” Knight Kia had tears in her eyes, immediately embracing her mistress by the neck. “Jolie, I gained new levels!”

“Me too Kia!” the dragon replied, nuzzling her minion’s cheek. “So many at once too!”

Malfy raised his pincers, as if expecting a promotion of some kind… which didn’t happen. “Why?” the fiend complained. “Why will I not evolve into a CEO? I sinned so much!”

“Oh, a new class?” Furibon’s glee angered his nemesis.

“You are unforgivable,” Vainqueur lambasted him. “Your saving of my niece is commendable, but nowhere near enough to atone for your sins. And if you wish to survive for the next five minutes, you would better leave my minion’s scythe alone.”

“It is the only memento of him, wyvern,” the lich replied. “If you wish to revive him—”

“You would blackmail me?” Vainqueur let out smoke from his nostrils. “Tread carefully, lich.”

“Your Majesty, I can deal with the matter of Mr. Victor,” Malfy coughed. “I know exactly where his soul is.”

“You do that, Tasty Malfy,” Vainqueur ordered, his eyes set on the lich even as his demon minion opened a portal alongside the other fiends present. “And do not even think about touching my rightfully earned loot, Goldslayer.”

“Rightfully earned? I defeated the mummy and saved your worthless life!”

Both glared at one another, although newcomers quickly interrupted their tense contest.

The victims of the lifted [Curse of Greed] invaded the devastated warzone; most of them lizardfolk similar to Xolotl, although Vainqueur noticed manlings and elves among the crowd. Best of all, Sweet Chocolatine and Felix showed up.

“You… are you the one who freed us?” one of the lizardkin asked.

“Yes, yes,” Vainqueur raised his head haughtily, prepared to receive his daily dose of praise and adoration. “It is I who saved you all.”

“You dirty pauper, how could you?!”

Vainqueur paused, glancing down at the crowd; almost every native lizardkin staring angrily at him. “Excuse you?”

“How dare you bring your poverty here, to the richest civilization in the world?!” The lizardman kept shaming his savior. “El Dorado was the brightest place on Outremonde, and now it looks like lead! No tourist will ever come fill our coffers now!”

“Give us back our gold!” another lizardkin complained. “You made us poor, so you better reimburse us!”

“Refund!” the crowd chanted. “Refund! Refund!”

Even Vainqueur’s minions and allies were too shocked by the sheer ungratefulness to properly lynch them. The manlings and elves present wisely put distance between themselves and the locals.

The dragon glanced at this collection of idiots, the biggest piles of lead crap he had ever seen in his very long life. Remembering that his best minion died for them, Vainqueur raised his head, closed his eyes, and took the higher road. The dragon road.

CHOMP!

With one bite, the dragon swallowed the lizardkin whole, silencing the angry crowd.

It was strangely tasty, like hate food.

“I am going to eat you,” Vainqueur declared with cold fury. “I am going to eat you all.”

And so he did, running after the ungrateful lizards as they screamed for their worthless lives; Manling Victor’s star squid, which had survived the fight, soon imitated the dragon.

“Uncle!” Jolie protested while the minions chanted ‘Vainqueur best dragon’ in the background. Furibon washed his hands of the spectacle, retreating in a corner with Manling Victor’s scythe. “That is not very Paladin!”

The holy niece prepared to rush between Vainqueur and his food, but Kia put a hand on her shoulder. “Don't bother, Jolie,” the knight said. “They brought it on themselves.”

At this moment, Vainqueur felt much better deep down, a burden lifted off his shoulders. He still had it.

He was no cattletarian.

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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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