What a bright sunny day. What could go wrong?
So Victor asked himself, as he flew over Isabelle Maure’s corner of the V&V Empire. Tonight was Samhain, the Outremonde equivalent to Halloween. A time when undead and monsters acted up, like the ones making up his entire nation.
And they had failed to kill Odieuse before this date.
Which meant that she would get her hands on those ‘arrows of light’ he had been forewarned about. Between the missing Apple of Knowledge, Brandon Maure’s Wind Spears, and the Fomors’ access to Earth technology, Victor had a pretty good idea of those weapons’ true nature.
The future looks dire, but not all is lost, the Vizier told himself. They had magic, allies, levels, and resources aplenty. They defeated Maure, the Nightblades, Wotan, Akhenapep, and even recruited a goddamn Tarasque. They would soon face their most dangerous enemy yet, but there was hope. With [Harvest], he could focus on extracting every information Mag Mell had accumulated on Prydain, and prepare for the coming war.
Still, Victor would need a pocket dimension sanctuary as soon as he could manufacture it.
He finally reached the settlement that the Archdevil had established, a fortified town in the middle of the desert. Unlike the semi-anarchic Murmurin, the governor ruled her patch of Maureland with an iron fist; almost all of the settlers were bug-like fiends, and Victor noticed an armored hellknight at every street corner. Workers built new houses and fortifications everywhere, while sorcerers were busy growing plants on the dry soil.
He quickly located Isabelle managing a group of fiends establishing the foundations of a new watchtower. The archdevil oversaw the construction with a pleased gaze.
“Isa?” Victor called her as he landed. “How is my favorite private teacher?”
“Darling, you are back!” she said, smiling at his arrival. In fact, she looked much happier than he had ever seen her before; she had taken some weight though, especially at the hips and the belly.
“I see that you have adapted to your new role well,” he replied, removing his helmet.
“As you did to your new armor,” she said, appreciating it. “You feel different. Did you earn new levels?”
“And a huge charisma increase.”
“I can definitely see that,” she said, looking at him like an appetizing dinner. “Maybe we should put it to the test?”
“Actually, I can cast Tier VIII spells now,” Victor said, taking her in his arms, “I thought I could fashion my own private dimension.”
“Mmm, I have scrolls for spells that you could learn,” she replied, pushing him a bit. “I will be more than happy to teach you that trick if I am allowed to furnish the place. I have high standards for private leisure sanctuaries.”
Truth to be told, if he could do it, Victor wanted to build more than one sanctuary. To have back-up escape sanctuaries for Murmurin’s citizens, planar hidden caches, maybe intermediary checkpoints between the colonies. But that was long term planning.
“I would be very glad to resume your magical studies, especially in [Diabolism],” Isabelle said. “That will take my mind off this urban development project. The raw fabric of Happyland will bow to our will.”
They would certainly need it. “I’m always up for a private lesson, but you also wanted to tell me something important, no?”
“You are looking at it,” she replied, a hand on her stomach, "Or rather, at her."
“Oh, that you have gotten ffffffffffffffffffffffffff—”
Victor’s brain stopped working, as the truth hit him like a truck on a highway.
His mind rewinded several memories in quick succession, linking them all together into a simple, terrifying picture.
“I have something to tell you on your return.” “She couldn’t make it in time.” “A medical examination…”
|Intelligence check successful!|
“It is a girl!” the archdevil rejoiced, “I hoped for a Braniño II at first, to replace the old one, but this is even better. Braniña will grow into a marvelous CEO warlord, cruel and beautiful. My, I even asked Fiendo Bugcci to design all of her wardrobe until she reaches eighteen.”
Victor wanted someone to pinch his arm and wake him up. But nobody did. “This is serious? This is not a joke?”
“I am serious. I know I spoiled Brandon rotten, but none of my children will dress like a blue-collar worker.”
“No, I meant, how can this be happening?!” Victor freaked out.
“Darling, we have been seeing each others for days… years…” The archdevil hesitated, before settling on a time period. “Years. It was bound to happen.”
“But, but, but—”
“I know,” Isabelle replied. “After the first dozen tries, I thought this could never work between us, but it simply took a few hundred more! My healers told me that she would be a [Demon/Humanoid] instead of the [Bug/Dragon] I hoped for, but she will inherit excellent genes from us both. She will have twice Braniño’s starting stats and unique Perks!”
Victor listened, but he could only focus on one thing. “A daughter.”
Thanks for reminding me. “C-can we discuss it more in length?”
She stroked his face. “You are afraid?”
“Of course I am!” That’s completely unexpected! “We aren’t even married!”
“Darling, I am a demon,” she replied, offended, “I would never marry you. This is against my principles.“
“I, I meant that we aren’t even exclusive!” Or at least he wasn’t, and he made that clear from day one. “And I never wanted to!”
“Darling, I am still fine with you keeping mistresses on the side,” she replied softly, apparently unable to understand his problem. “However, as my consort, I insist that you recognize Braniña as your true-born daughter. This is very important, since as the hero of Happyland, this may make her eventual ascension to Corporate Overlord much easier. Maybe she will become Outremonde’s very first [Demon Queen]! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”
Frankly, Victor didn’t know what to answer. He didn’t know how to deal with this situation at all.
“I know this is a very big change in our lives,” the archdevil conceded. “But, as a Grand Vizier, you need an heir. Maybe even a few spares. We could create a dynasty that will one day rule all of Outremonde.”
Wow, she was skipping a lot of steps there!
“I need a moment to process this,” the Vizier admitted, his breathing short.
“It is fine, Darling, but do not process too long. If she is anything like her half-brother, she will start clawing her way out in a couple of months once I use elixirs to hasten the process. I cannot afford to take a parental leave in these troubled economic times, you understand.”
A couple of months? That wasn’t nearly enough time! A couple of years wouldn’t be enough!
“I… I will come back later,” Victor said, having too much on his plate right now to react with a cool head.
“Take your time, Darling,” she replied happily, before immediately barking orders to her workers. “More to the left, the new watchtower!”
Victor walked away towards the desert, before using his newly earned [Magellan] perk to teleport back to his mansion for some alone time. He needed to breathe, to return to his place, see his lawyers, do something, anything!
Except he found Allison and Chocolatine waiting at the door.
While the dryad seemed only concerned, the werewolf looked outright devastated. Had something happened to her brother on the Moon? Unfortunately, he could do without more shenanigans right now.
“Ah, good morning girls.” Victor saluted them, doing his best to look cheery and not anxious. “If this is about the cat, I heard very shocking news and I’m not in the mood. Can this wait?”
“No, Victor, it cannot,” Allison replied, while Chocolatine anxiously bit her lower lip. “This is urgent. Very urgent.”
Victor was almost ready to brush them off, until a second look at the werewolf’s distraught face. His empathy kicked in. “What happened?” he asked, worried.
“It is about Choc,” the dryad explained, putting a hand on her female friend’s shoulder in support, “She learned something very important from her god during her morning prayers, and Cybele confirmed it to me. I believe that you should hear it as soon as possible.”
The werewolf didn’t look ready to say anything until Allison whispered encouragements in her ear. The Vizier braced himself for what he sensed would be more devastating news.
“Vic…” Chocolatine looked at him with terrified eyes. “Vic, you promise you won’t get mad?”
“Yes?” Victor tried to project a comforting smile, sensing a disaster coming. “No?”
“Vic, if you…” Chocolatine gulped. “If you… if we accidentally… if the protection ward didn’t work on me, and… you know...”
The Vizier kept smiling, even if he was screaming internally.
“Vic?” Allison asked him. “Vic, I think your face broke.”
Sitting on a chair inside a Nethermart lawyer’s office, Victor’s mind blanked out. The light from outside the window burned on his white, sweating skin.
“Sir?” one of his lawyers asked him, a pile of files on their mahogany desk.
“Can you...” the Vizier struggled to find his words. “Can you repeat?”
“You are sued with a class-action lawsuit by the Happyland Battle Harem, for ‘unlawful impregnation of horizontal angels during work,’” the lawyer said. “You risk eight child support condemnations, as per the ‘Sugar Daddy’ jurisprudence.”
“Since you are the hero of Happyland, and the judge is my cousin, we are confident that we can handle the matter quietly,” the other lawyer added, before browsing through files. “However, we anticipate new cases in the near future. There is the matter of Miss Chocolatine, a paternity test demand from a certain Lynette from Haudemer, that Scholomance intern...”
“Thankfully, we have covered up Head of State/intern affairs since the dawn of democracy. We call this an ‘oval office cleanup.’”
“How did this happen?” the Vizier asked while tightening his fists.
“Well, sir, with all due respect, you are a whore.”
“I always use protections, including magical wards, and I shouldn’t even be able to breed with half of them!” Victor argued angrily. “What, next you will say that Charlene is on the list? That an undead vampire and a half-dragon can procreate?!”
“Well, while Miss Ennuie is not among your confirmed cases, according to modern vampire literature—”
“That’s not how DNA works!” Victor protested.
“It appears His Majesty’s new Perk allows for minion interbreeding according to our research, no matter how unlikely anatomically,” the lawyer replied. “Which would explain all the post-Perk interactions like Miss Chocolatine. As for the protections falling, both magical and otherwise, we have no clue. It is as if you ignored them entirely.”
|Intelligence check successful.|
“[Skeleton Key],” Victor realized, his eyes widening in realization.
“Excuse us, sir?”
“One of my [Reaper] Perks causes me to count as ‘invited’ in any location magically protected and unlocks any lock on a successful [Skill] check,” Victor said. “If it applies to any part of me, and has a broad understanding of locks...”
That was why the Perk had activated at the inn last time! He hadn’t considered the implications, but now he could only curse his naivete!
“Oh gods, this is really happening,” the [Reaper] panicked. “I’m going to have kids.”
“Babies?” Victor almost jumped out of his chair, as he heard Vainqueur Junior scratching at the office’s door. “Babies?!”
How did it even get there? “Not yours,” the Vizier replied with a haunted voice. “Mine.”
“Babies, Vic?” he heard Buzz Jelly ask from behind the door.
“Babies?!” Vainqueur Junior responded, clearly more happy for his master than Victor himself. “Babies!”
“Don’t worry, sir,” the lawyers tried to reassure their client, in a way only fiends could. “We will make sure you get away with everything and do not pay a cent to your, sorry for the politically incorrect term, many bastards.”
“Wait, how many?” Victor asked the lawyers, his gaze empty. “How many?”
The fiends exchanged glances in awkward silence. “Well, if we believe our projections, the confirmed cases, and the propensity of werewolves to have litters between four and six, a conservative estimate might indicate-”
“How many?!” Victor snapped impatiently.
|Vitality and Charisma checks successful! [Paralysis] and [Terror] negated!|
“SIXTEEN?!” Victor choked.
“Maybe only fifteen, Sir!”
He wasn’t ready to have one, let alone SIXTEEN! How was that even possible?!
|Intelligence check successful!|
“Congratulations for your thirty-two new eyes,” Victor muttered, remembering the Moon Man’s words during his bad trip. He glanced through the window, at the moon half-hidden by clouds in the skies. “That godly bastard!”
“He knew! That squid knew and foreshadowed it!”
The fiends looked at him as if he had gone mad, before awkwardly straightening their ties.
“This is karma, isn’t it?” Victor asked. “This is karma punishing me for my lustful lifestyle.”
“Sir, I understand that the situation may feel hopeless, but we are your lawyers. You pay us to protect you from karma, and this is nothing we haven’t faced before. We have solutions.”
“Like what?” Victor almost begged for an easy escape.
“We can make the problems go away, away.” One of the two demons mimicked a beheading with his hand. “Or we falsify all the paternity tests. Maybe even threaten the offenders with lawsuits, if you prefer a non-violent solution?”
“Threaten is a strong word,” his colleague replied. “I suggest a slander campaign, followed by an insulting settlement offer.”
“Yes, that is more civilized. Good call.”
The Vizier ignored them debating amoral solutions, from putting the children in a rocket for the moon, to faking his death so he could legally avoid paying child support. For Victor, who had done everything to avoid any kind of serious romantic entanglement, this was a nightmare made real.
He turned to the window and looked at the sun. That bright, brilliant guiding star that Mithras had claimed as his own. He remembered Ludvic’s word and realized that events had probably played out the same for his mentor.
If he followed his example, opened the windows, and ran, he could escape. Even with Vainqueur, he had grown powerful enough that he could easily vanish after dealing with the fomors. It would be cowardly and irresponsible, but he would remain without responsibilities. He could become a free spirit like Ludvic, roaming the world as he wished. He could even skip Outremonde outright and move to the other planes.
But that meant abandoning Vainqueur, his people, his children, and all the people who had grown to depend on him. That would probably be the most selfish thing Victor could ever do.
He immediately decided against it.
No running away. He had built a life there, and he couldn’t throw it away.
What about the other solution? Isabelle would keep her daughter, he knew that for sure, and for the others… Chocolatine had said that she didn’t want to settle down either, but she was just as confused as Victor himself right now. While the Vizier did have a say, he wasn’t the only one making that decision.
He still had no idea what to do. What did he learn in Scholomance? What parental wisdom did he learn from Akhenapep?
Vizier Stratagem Eighteen: The law of no sons, because they are would-be usurpers and distractions.
Okay, what about daughters? Vizier Stratagem Nineteen: The law of no daughters, because they are one check away from being turned around by a handsome [Paladin].
Achieve immortality instead, because you are the only one right for the job.
… that didn’t help! That didn’t help at all!
College didn’t prepare him for parenthood!
Should he ask the gods for guidance? He had been claimed by half the pantheon, someone should at least answer his prayers. Maybe Camilla?
“No, not them,” Victor replied, more to himself than to the lawyers. “There’s only one friend that I need to consult.”
The person that knew him most.