“It will take me less than ten minutes to destroy you, Wotan!” Vainqueur Knightsbane declared, expanding his wings threateningly.
“It seems you have forgotten how our last physical encounters ended,” the stormlord replied, barely restraining himself. “You would have died in that crater, had your servant not rescued you at the last minute. Although I welcome the opportunity to settle our score, I am here to honor my word first.”
“Your word?” the dragon asked, surprised when no thunderbolt followed. King Wotan never talked for long, and always fought until the bitter end. So why was he staying his hand this time? “What is your fairy’s word worth?”
“An oath once given, I never betray,” King Wotan replied, one of his winged allies landing on his shoulder like a crow. “Although I did not make a vow myself, your 'chief minion' agreed to release the soul of my Valkyrie Sigrun if I vowed to talk peacefully for ten minutes. Nine now, I should say.”
What rubbish was this? Manling Victor would never act behind his friend’s back.
Vainqueur briefly wondered if this was a fairy trick, but he couldn’t see any benefit. If anything, the fomor had wasted a potential surprise attack.
|Intelligence check successful.|
Unless… maybe the trick was on Manling Victor’s part, so they could defeat the fairies more easily. He had always been crafty.
“Minion!” Vainqueur roared. “MINION! GET BACK HERE!”
Answering his call, Manling Victor teleported right before his dragon master.
And what a scene it was. His minion had abandoned his clothes to revel in his dragon nakedness, with blood dripped profusely from two holes in his neck. He smelled of bats and wild breeding.
“EXCALIBUR!” he shouted with a blissful face, crawling on all fours with both tails—the long dragon one, and the tiny manling one—raised.
Silence fell upon the gathering, as the manling’s face turned from bliss to shame.
“[Emergency Teleport]!” Friend Victor shouted, touching his hands and waist. “Damn it, my items!”
“Oh, my…” one of the valkyries muttered, a few of the flying princess looking at Manling Victor’s lower parts with fascination. Vainqueur also noticed Untasty Allison’s eyes peek out of the giant mushroom where she had hidden herself.
“I see that your thrall has taken levels in [Berserker],” King Wotan mused. “Excellent strategy.”
“[Golden Pantaloons]!” Manling Victor cast a spell, golden trousers of solid magic appearing to protect his little tail. “Your Majesty, please issue a warning first next time!”
“Minion, I am naked too and you do not see me make a scene about it,” Vainqueur replied with great wisdom.
His friend opened his mouth, closed it, then looked at his dragon master with a newfound curiosity. “Your Majesty is naked,” he muttered. “Your Majesty was naked all along.”
“Minion, I have always been naked power,” Vainqueur replied.
“Yes, I knew, but I didn’t understand.”
“Minion, we dragons have no shame in flaunting our natural beauty to everyone. It is you manlings who need to hide their insecurities below clothes.”
“Seven minutes,” Wotan spoke up, waving his spear as he started losing patience. “Speak, or fight.”
“Minion,” Vainqueur told his chief of staff. “The fairy pretends that you made a deal with him; to release one of his false princesses for a moment of his time.”
“Technically, I only talked to the Valkyrie, but…” Manling Victor rose up on his feet, looking at Wotan, and then at Vainqueur himself. “Does Your Majesty trust me on this?”
“Friend Victor, by now you should know the answer to this question. You are my most valued companion, and I trust you unconditionally.”
If he had an idea, then Vainqueur would support it; or at least give it the benefit of the doubt.
“Thank you,” Manling Victor bowed, before turning to the fomor. “Lord Wotan, I have asked that you please talk to us before we fight, because I believe we don’t need to fight at all.”
The statement surprised Vainqueur almost as much as Wotan. Did he expect the fomor to become a minion? If so, he was mistaken.
“You attacked us to prevent a war,” the chief of staff argued. “Because you believed that Your Majesty here was the greatest threat to your race.”
“He is,” Wotan replied.
“I am!” Vainqueur boasted.
“No, he isn’t!” Manling Victor shouted, much to both titans’ surprise. “The greatest threat to the fomors, are the fomors themselves!”
King Wotan remained entirely silent, his lone eye looming over Manling Victor. Vainqueur readied himself to pounce on the fomor, should he make any threatening move towards his manling.
“You fomors are the ones who keep waging pointless, costly wars on humans, on dragons, on everyone who doesn’t belong to your so-called ‘master race’,” Manling Victor said. “Certainly, nations of our world often bicker, but sentient species have managed to live in peace for centuries. Why not fomors too?”
“A lion does not make peace with sheep,” King Wotan replied. “This is the law of nature.”
“You are wrong. Lions need to kill to eat. You fomors don’t. You don’t need to kill or attack other races to survive. You don’t need to kill at all! Thing is, the only thing that sustains this cycle of destruction, is your sociopathic ego!” King Wotan’s face remained a mask of ice. “Do you want proof? One of your kindred is renting a goddamn room in Murmurin as we speak!”
“What?” Vainqueur glared at his minion, incensed that a fairy had made his lair near his own.
“Jack is the living proof that our species don’t have to kill each other,” Manling Victor continued. “Maybe the Soulcrests were born of great evil, but they granted your kind souls. They granted Fomors the capacity to change, to learn, to care; we have seen that in the volcano.”
The Valkyrie on Wotan’s shoulder shifted uncomfortably, while the others moved to shield their master. Vainqueur couldn’t help but see a mirror of his own minions in them.
“All I ask, King Wotan, is that you meditate on your old ways, and ponder if they have done your race any good.”
“The New Folk conquered the lands that belonged to my kindred,” King Wotan spoke. “They keep doing so.”
“Because you keep trying to recover lost glory, instead of accepting that the world has changed,” Manling Victor replied. “You can make treaties with the other races and kingdoms. Divide the world fairly. Or you can keep this eternal war going and see your kingdoms shrink century after century.”
“The Mell Clan will never stop,” King Wotan said. “You may be right, wise manling, that our species could coexist, but the fairy queen will never listen. She will kill or be killed.”
“Then do away with that psychopath,” Manling Victor said. “We’ve seen how you acted in the volcano. You cared. You cared about someone less strong, less mighty than yourself. We have killed many of them; do you want to lose more?”
The valkyries readied their spears in challenge, but Wotan raised a hand to stop them. “I swore an oath,” he pointed out.
“You promised to bring His Majesty’s head to the fairy queen,” Manling Victor said, “Never to separate it from his body first. I say you honor your word to the letter.”
While he would never suspect his friend of treason, Vainqueur had to think twice about his sentence.
|Intelligence check successful!|
“Oh, brilliant minion!” Vainqueur caught on. “He is bound to bring me to this false wyrm abomination, so I can destroy her!”
King Wotan’s lone eye narrowed. “This violates the spirit of my oath.”
“But respects the letter, and allows you to walk away from all this. With luck, we can even destroy Odieuse before the Conclave, and this pointless war will end before it begins.”
“A Conclave?” The Fomor Lord tensed up dangerously, his fingers crackling with lightning. “Knightsbane, what have you done?”
“Your fellow fairies shed dragon blood to power their Crests,” Vainqueur hissed dangerously. “Those responsible shall learn fire and wrath.”
The thought of a dragon-fairy war seemed to tear apart Wotan’s heart. On one hand, Dragonbane had earned his title, and yearned for a conflict worthy of his skills; but Vainqueur could also see a hint of worry in his gaze. The knowledge that his threatened race may very well go extinct gnawed at him.
“Your Majesty,” a Valkyrie spoke up, turning to her master. “The ten minutes mark has passed.”
The fomor lord did not attack. Instead, he turned to Vainqueur. “Lord Knightsbane, your servant has made his case. What do you have to say in this?”
Vainqueur thoughtfully pondered the question.
He had been as surprised as the dragonslayer when Manling Victor made his case. They had discussed the possibility of making peace with the fairies.
The old him, who had conquered this land for a bigger vault, would have brushed this proposal as a feeble dream and a waste of time. The new Vainqueur, however, had something else to say.
“I hate you fairies.”
Manling Victor made a panicked face, but Vainqueur ignored him and doubled-down.
“You are treacherous, vicious, and you treat your minions with great cruelty. We made peace once, but you never stopped abusing my kind’s mercy. You threatened to have me killed in my sleep before this feud with Mell Odieuse even started, and I suspect that you planned to renew our war for a long, long time. I will not call off the Conclave, and the Mell Clan shall be wiped out.”
Vainqueur marked a short pause, heavy with danger. King Wotan let out a shrug of disappointment, raising his [Gungnir].
“However,” he said, interrupting Dragonbane. “I have created a dragon utopia where all creatures can live in peace. Even monsters from the cursed planet Moon, whose evil nature you cannot begin to comprehend. It would be hypocritical to deny your kind the same treatment. If you fairies agree to reaffirm the ancient peace that bound our two species and respect it this time, then I shall reserve my judgment for the wicked Mell Odieuse and her allies. The rest of your kind shall be left in peace.”
“And if not?” Wotan asked. “If there is no will for peace?”
“If not, I swear that I, Vainqueur Knightsbane, shall lay waste to all your petty kingdoms and destroy them one by one. You will never rise to threaten my kind and minions, ever again. Because I will not stop until your power is forever shattered." Vainqueur let out smoke from his nostrils. "One way or another, there shall be no third fairy-dragon war.”
The tension in the air became almost unbearable, both sides looking at the other. Rolo the golem peeked out from his hiding spot alongside Untasty Allison, both ready to join the fray at the first sign of movement; Manling Victor hesitated to cast a spell; and the Valkyries looked at their lord for his command.
Vainqueur knew that Wotan would strike. Dragonbane had only ever understood violence; he breathed it, lived for it. The idea of compromise was alien to him.
But he didn’t attack.
This alone shocked Vainqueur, who realized that he didn’t face the same brute who dedicated his entire life to avenging his wounded pride, after Grandrake had defeated him. This, this Wotan-shaped creature, seemed at war, but only with himself.
The dragon could read the internal conflict all over the fomor’s face. A struggle between a vicious instinct compelling him to settle for nothing but a bloody victory; and a reasonable voice, arguing for a better course of action.
King Wotan had gained a soul, and he had changed.
“Hm.” A sorrowful shadow appeared at the edge of the fomor lord’s eye. “I do believe my kind’s path is wrong. I admit it. Hence why I wanted nothing to do with the Mell’s war and vile farms. I intended to slay you, honor my oath, and ignore war entirely; but clearly, I can no longer sit on the fence.”
Vainqueur prepared to summon his [Glitzy Theater], but he had misread the fomor’s intent. Wotan looked at the horizon as if he could glimpse something beyond it. Perhaps he understood that he was about to make his life’s most important decision.
“Show it to me.”
“Show you what, Dragonbane?” Vainqueur asked.
“This place that you have made. This ‘utopia’, where my kind can live as equals with the New Folk. Show it to me, and then… then I shall see.”
“Your Majesty…” one of the Valkyries trailed off.
“There shall be no battle tonight, my Valkyries,” the fomor lord said, his horse letting out a thunderous noise. “Whether there shall be one tomorrow, however... it will depend on how much your word is worth, Knightsbane.”
“Then come to Murmurin, and be amazed,” Vainqueur replied proudly.
King Wotan said nothing, before pointing his spear north, towards the V&V’s capital. His horse carried him in this direction, his Valkyrie flock following.
“Holy Happyland, it worked,” Manling Victor let out a heavy breath, relieved. “It worked.”
“Did you doubt it, minion?” Vainqueur asked, Untasty Allison and Tinfoil Rolo emerging from their hiding holes.
“Yes, yes I did!” the manling admitted. “I worried it would end in a fight anyway.”
“For all it is worth, I believe you both did the right thing,” Untasty Allison said. “Even if it doesn't work, it was worth a shot.”
“We should present him Felix,” Vainqueur said, an idea crossing his mind. “Such an exquisite, refined creature can only help turn the fairy around.”
Manling Victor said nothing, causing the dragon to squint at his prized friend. “Minion, what are you hiding from me?”
“I ate him!”
Vainqueur frowned, as his lackey collapsed to his knees, crushed under the weight of his sin.
“I ate him!” Manling Victor confessed, breaking down in tears. The dragon couldn’t say if they were of joy or sorrow, however. “I ate him twice, and he tasted so good!”
“Minion, I am highly displeased,” Vainqueur chastised his chief of staff, disappointed by his behavior. “Why have you eaten Felix?”
“Because I hated him! I hated him so much!”
“Minion, sometimes, you must ignore your feelings and use your reason,” Vainqueur scolded him. “You should have eaten the orcs first.”
Manling Victor stopped crying and looked up at his partner with his big, adorable eyes. “Your Majesty is not mad that I ate the cat?”
“Friend Victor, eating minions lower in the food chain is your right,” Vainqueur explained. “But you must learn to prioritize. You start with my least favorite minions, and you finish with the ones I like more. I should have explained to you these subtleties first.”
Vainqueur should definitely make a list of minion priority, to clear out his friend’s clouded mind. He would raise Manling Kia to the middle, alongside the zmey, push down Useless Croissant to the bottom...
“If you ever eat the moon veteran Buzz Jelly when you have any alternative, I shall never forgive you,” Vainqueur stated, before realizing that something bugged him with the situation. “Friend Victor, how can you eat the same minion twice?”
“Cats have nine lives in Outremonde, Your Majesty,” Untasty Allison explained. “They automatically revive one day after their demise.”
The dryad took a step backward when Vainqueur’s full gaze fell upon her; unaware that she had stepped on a great discovery.
“Minion, this changes everything about what I just said!” the dragon declared. “No longer will minions need to eat lesser ones to avoid starvation! Instead, they can eat a single, nine-times renewable one! This will save thousands of lives!”
Vainqueur swore it.
Every one of his soldiers would have their own cat ration.