This wasn’t how Victor imagined his first 'ultrasound' session as a future father. Then again, he never expected to have one in the first place, and especially not in a ghoul-run undead clinic.
“As you can see,” Jules explained, projecting his divination spell on the white wall opposite to the patient’s bed. “The living fetus is developing at an accelerated rate compared to a standard humanoid, probably due to her fiendish nature. Since fiends are ‘born’ ready to fight, we must assume little Braniña should at least be able to walk on birth.”
“Is she going to claw her way out?” Isabelle asked, laying in a bed while Victor sat at her side, holding her hand. “Braniño was insufferably impatient, I had to kick him out early.”
“Unlikely, considering your resistance to Physical damage.”
Victor slightly zoned out, as Jules went into details about demon morphology. The picture of his daughter on the wall obsessed him; a tiny baby with wings, a tail, and sharp nails. Something he should have been disturbed by, but in truth?
In truth, she was the most beautiful thing in the world.
“She has your tail and your wings,” Isabelle noted.
“And she has your everything else,” Victor noted as well. “I thought she was half Humanoid though, not half Dragon?”
“Dragon blood is strong,” Jules said. “It is bound to assert itself in some way. In fact, she may even inherit a breath of some kind.”
“After this, Darling, I want to be spoiled,” Isabelle said, caressing his cheek with her finger. “Because I intend to spoil you too.”
“I have prepared the best vacation resort,” he replied.
Unfortunately for him, she aimed a little higher. “You lack ambition. While Hellhound fights are the latest fad, I will settle for nothing less than gladiatorial games in my honor.”
“What?” Victor panicked. “In the middle of a war?”
“Darling, this is your heir and me we are talking about,” she replied pompously. “Bring those lesser tarasques you have been breeding, and have them fight for my amusement.”
“I… I’ll see what I can do,” he said evasively.
“Mr. Victor.” Victor’s succubi summons entered the room, surrounding a prisoner whom he identified as Sigrun, Wotan’s head Valkyrie. At least the fact that he was now their ‘exclusive’ employer meant that they did bodyguarding full time. “We caught her sniffing around.”
“I did not come to threaten you,” the Valkyrie protested. “Lord Wotan asked us to behave.”
“Then why are you here?” Victor asked, slightly on edge with his unborn children in the building.
|Charisma check successful.|
“I was curious,” Sigrun admitted. “We Valkyries, we never…”
“Battle maiden?” Victor squinted when she left her sentence hanging.
She glared at him, before looking away. “I do not understand how any female warrior could accept this indignity,” she declared, looking at Isabelle Maure. “How can you fight in this state?”
“With [Insta-Death] spells and brimstone,” the archdevil replied with cold disdain. “I usually have others fight for me anyway.”
The Valkyrie crossed her arms, unable to find a good answer.
“Mr. Victor,” one of his marilith spoke up. “Since we are all gathered in the same room, perhaps we can discuss the honeymoon.”
The Vizier froze. “The honeymoon?”
“Part of the settlement is that we are treated with the care of official mistresses,” the serpentine demon replied. “Since our company has a strong esprit de corps, we have decided to form a union and equally share our privileges.”
“As such, we want an official romantic honeymoon to celebrate our new, exclusive partnership,” a succubus added. “We thought a luxury group trip to the Elemental Plane of Water would be more than adequate.”
“Do not worry about the cost calculations for all the expensive dinners, massages, spas, etc, we did it for you.”
“You do know we are about to declare war on Prydain soon?” Victor asked them with heavy sarcasm.
“We understand the political climate, which is why we agreed to postpone after your inevitable victory,” the marilith replied mirthfully. “But we want to make the reservations early.”
“We also want more emotional care,” a winged demoness added. “We wish to be considered as more than lust objects; we want each of us to have dates, dinners, intimate emotional connections… our customer value is almost as important as money to us.”
Victor sighed. Much to his shame, he didn’t actually remember the names of half of them, so he had a long way to go.
“Oh, also, that reminds me!” Jules spoke up. “The Lynette paternity test returned positive. She agreed not to file charges in exchange for a pension, a vacation house in Murmurin, and an official title.”
“What?” the [Reaper] almost jumped back, knowing the agony his budget already experienced. “Another, other alimony payment? I haven’t even seen her in more than seven years!”
“Darling, if this peasant is causing you problems, we can purge her,” Isabelle suggested happily.
“Nobody is purging anyone!” Victor replied firmly.
“I take back what I said,” Sigrun said, having observed the scene. “The male is obviously the most miserable in this arrangement.”
“VICTOR!” The bedroom’s door opened wide, an angry goblin stepping through. “YOU TRAITOR!”
Why did he have the feeling the day was only about to get worse? “Goblina, I swear I was going to tell—”
“You are going to have a child with our teacher?” Goblina glared at the Vizier, before violently pushing a surprised Sigrun out of her way. “And you didn’t make me the godmother?! I thought we were friends!”
“We wanted to announce it under better circumstances,” Isabelle replied, having considered the goblin her second most favorite student at Scholomance. “Maybe even organize a class reunion, to see how far everyone has gone.”
“It’s fine, I forgive you both, so long as I get to be the godmother,” the goblin brushed it off, instantly fascinated by Isabelle’s stomach. “Is that why you always had top grades in [Diabolism], Vic?”
“I had private lessons,” he admitted.
“I am going to spoil her rotten,” Goblina gushed. “I will give her a gun for her first birthday, so she can snipe rebels as soon as she can aim.”
“My, that is very thoughtful of you,” Isabelle replied, with a smile. “Victor told me that you have conquered your first country? I am recruiting the best trainers for my Braniña, perhaps you would be interested in taking her as an apprentice once she comes of age?”
“I would be delighted to show her the ropes!”
Victor suddenly realized that his daughter may grow up surrounded by bad influences. “Oh jeez, look at the time,” he said, eager to escape the room. “I have to visit Chocolatine.”
“Your other woman,” Isabelle said, looking at him strangely, “Darling, you remember that Braniña is your heir? I’m sure she will be delighted to have half-siblings, as long as they remember she is the eldest and first in line. You know how decadent courts full of intrigue develop.”
He had followed enough courses to know he wanted to avoid such a setup at all costs. “I’ll make sure everyone gets along, family first,” Victor replied, although the discussion soured his mood a little.
He moved to another room of the clinic, where he found Chocolatine on a bed, attended by undead and Allison. “Hello, handsome,” the dryad told him.
“Hi, Vic.” Chocolatine waved at him, a ghost casting detection spells on her. “Isn’t it a bit early for a magicography? I am only a few weeks pregnant.”
“They’re just checking for potential biological problems early,” he replied. “I mean, you are a werewolf, the kids are wereslimes and weredragons. There may be complications, like the kids chewing their way out.”
“Oh, can we visit my brother when they’re done? So he knows he will become an uncle soon?” she all but begged him. “Do you know he settled down with Savoureuse on the Dark Side of the Mooooon?”
Yeah, he had heard. Charlene had come barging into his office when she learned the news, furious that her loathed ex was happily settling down. Victor was pretty sure that it gave ideas he could have done without right now. “Sure,” he said, before making a face.
“Vic?” Chocolatine asked as he moved on the opposite side to Allison. “Is something wrong?”
“I will have to remove you from my [Black Horseman] perk.”
The werewolf said nothing, blinking in surprise, then gave him a quick kiss. “Vic, you have touched her first,” Chocolatine said, her ear lowering in disappointment. “Are you replacing me with her?”
“No!” he replied hastily, holding her. “But Choc, things are going to keep getting worse from now on. I don’t want to put you in danger.”
“I’m [Crested], Vic,” she replied proudly. “I can take care of myself.”
“I know,” he said. “But you’re not alone anymore.”
Chocolatine bit her lower lip, but saw reason. “Choose someone who can help then,” the werewolf said. “Like Al, or Charlene!”
“I’ll consider those with the best fighting abilities,” he promised. “I’ll keep visiting you whenever I can.”
They hugged, but this time, it felt sadder than comforting.
As he exited the room and prepared to teleport out, Allison stopped him, closing the door so Choc wouldn’t listen. “Vic,” she said. “You are clearly unwell.”
“Is it that obvious?” he asked. Truth be told, the stress of keeping the peace, of managing his newfound family, and preparing for war gnawed at him.
"I am a priestess,” the dryad replied, holding his hand. “People come to me when they need to confide, or to release tension. I can serve as your therapist, if you need it."
"I'm not sure you're supposed to sleep with your therapist."
"In Cybele's church, it's part of the healing process," the dryad replied, confirming what he had always suspected about the hippie church. "I know you use physical intimacy to cope with the pressure of your position, but in your case, I believe that you need an ear. We can simply talk. I will listen and I won't judge."
He considered it, before letting out a heavy breath. “I would prefer talking,” the Vizier admitted. “Someone to help unload the burden.”
“Then tell me—”
The walls of the clinic trembled, the booming voice coming from outside. Victor and Allison immediately rushed to the window, opening it to find a blue, lightning wyrm right outside. “Lord Grandrake?” Victor blinked.
“The world needs you!” the wyrm shouted. “I crossed the sea to seek your help!”
“Are the fomors attacking El Goldorado?” Allison panicked.
“No.” Grandrake shook his head. “I cannot find any Mushroom Prince, all remaining elf royals are more inbred than Zmeys, and orc males are too stupid to breed. Many of our captive princesses may go extinct in two generations.”
Oh, good. Viva la democracy.
Wait, wait. “You don’t mean—”
“I have heard the wonderful news,” Grandrake confirmed. “You can breed half-dragons, which makes you the next best thing to a true prince. You can enhance true princessness with perfect dragon genes.”
Victor and Allison exchanged a glance.
“Breeder Dalton, follow me,” Grandrake declared as if laying some kind of great chosen one prophecy before the [Reaper]. “Follow me, to Goldorado! You must fulfill your destiny!”
Victor nodded, once, twice, and then spoke two words.
To honor Seng and relieve tension before the Conclave, Victor had organized a Monster Poker tournament in her honor.
Countless monsters had gathered in the central plaza to either play or observe the battles; demon and orc entrepreneurs had quickly set stands and improvised bars to service everyone, running through stocks of whiskey and tarasque food.
Vainqueur himself played, using an orc woman as his hand; since the tournament involved teams of two to foster cooperation, the dragon played alongside a conscripted Gorynych. Surprisingly, their opponents, Rolo and Jack, seemed to hold their own, mostly thanks to the Zmey's stubborn attempts to play the tiny cards with his big hands.
And King Wotan stood nearby, observing the scene in silence. While some of his Valkyries mingled with Murmurin’s citizens and seemed to get along, nobody dared break the ice with the mighty fomor.
Walking through the crowd under the cover of a [Perfect Invisibility] spell— one capable of hiding his body odor and the sound of footsteps— Victor decided to let the fomor alone for now, noticing Kia near to a bar stand. “You’ve stopped playing?” he asked the [Paladin], startling her as he sat right next to her. “I thought you had jumped on the Monster Poker bandwagon.”
“Vic, is that you?" she looked around, "Are you invis—”
“Shush!” he replied, putting a hand on her shoulder. “Grandrake has been stalking me for hours and is incredibly perceptive. He always finds me.”
This was insane. How could a giant creature be so good at ambushing someone a hundredth of his size?
Kia looked at him strangely—or rather, in his rough direction—but didn’t comment. “I went to the quarterfinals with my partner, but Rolo and his fairy 'friend' demolished us.”
“Looks like they’re doing well,” Victor said, surprised. He could count the number of players who had survived past the first round against Vainqueur on one finger.
“Rolo plays a broken [Farmland] deck, and Jack is almost as nasty. I didn’t even know [Plants] were competitively viable.” Kia glanced at Wotan with a hint of paranoia. “How did you convince two fomors to behave?”
“Blame Chocolatine for Jack, and five charisma checks for Wotan,” he replied. “You’re worried?”
“Yeah, I am. I spent a decade fighting them.” Still, Victor took the fact that no fight had broken out yet as a good sign. “I’ve also been meaning to ask, is this Seng prophet rumor true?”
“Yes,” he said, “I did it for you.”
“Oh, Vic.” She made a face full of compassion. “You sold your body for me?”
“No!” God damn it, Victor didn’t solve all his problems by prostituting himself! “I simply agreed to help spread her faith after she put her tentacle on—you know what, nevermind.”
“How is…” The [Paladin] shook her head. “How does your mess of a love life even function?”
“Besides the alimonies-fueled bankruptcy, the jealousy, the politics, and trying to make time for everyone?” He let out a heavy sigh. “It’s a lot more tiring than I thought it would be. Like Murmurin, there would have been a war by now without me to keep the peace. Managing an extended family is hard.”
“On one hand, I feel compassion for you; but on the other hand, you also brought it on yourself.”
“I know,” Victor replied. “But I didn’t think it would be this bad. And now that they know I can have half-dragon kids, I get stalkers now. It’s even worse than after Vainqueur defeated Brandon Maure.”
“I know how it feels,” Kia said. “To pursue a goal, and realize that it wasn’t what they made it out to be. I’ve been there too.”
Victor shook his head, wanting to change his mind. “What about your love life?”
“Actually,” she stroked her hair, “I’ve been seeing people.”
“Really?” he looked at her curiously, but being invisible, she probably didn't notice.
“Yeah, there’s that half-orc [Paladin] of Isengrim, and that handsome dark elf I play Monster Poker with,” Kia explained. “It’s thanks to you actually. Since every fertile female monster in Murmurin is after you, except me, the lack of options forced the guys here to muster the courage to approach me. It is a very weird setup.”
“Vic, is there seriously a female creature between ten and—”
“Between eighteen and thirty in Murmurin that you haven’t slept with, or who didn’t try to get in your pants?”
“Well, easy. You.”
Kia seemed a little offended at this. “Vic, did you never make a move on me because I am a [Paladin],” she marked a short pause, “or because I am black?”
“Oh, no, I find you very attractive,” Victor reassured her. At one point at Scholomance, he had even asked his succubus intern to polymorph into… well… “It’s just, honestly, you’re a straight-laced [Paladin] in the service of my patron goddess’ mortal enemy, and we have completely opposite outlooks on life."
Also, Camilla was already distraught about Vainqueur's last minute teleportation, and he had no intention to piss her off further. "I would rather have fewer women in my life right now, not more,” Victor admitted.
“Yeah, don’t take it personally when I say a Hell-sponsored conqueror is not my type either,” Kia replied. “Now that I have suitors I get along with, though, I’m not sure which one I should pick.”
“Why not both?” Victor asked the simple solution, before realizing how much that way of thinking had cost him. Old habits died hard.
“I’m not a skirt-chaser like you, Vic,” Kia replied, although without any condemnation. “I want a person I can truly rely on, since my last serious boyfriend killed us both on Earth. Quality over quantity.”
Yeah, it would mean less headaches. “You remember the dungeon architect quest?” Kia suddenly said.
“The one you found fishy?”
“I asked Charlene, and besides learning which criminal church sponsors it,” she said, with a angry sneer on her face. “I learned that the prize for this year is the [Plot Armor] artifact.”
Victor had heard of it. “You want us to participate?”
“It might be our last chance to gain levels before fighting Odieuse, and we could use a magic item that powerful.”
Speaking about levels… Victor summoned a bottle of wine and put it on the counter. Kia didn’t react.
The Vizier suddenly realized that the invisibility spell was still active, and lifted it for the bottle. This time, Kia made a face at the sight.
“That’s a bottle from Seng’s realm, which will make you drunk but not lift the curse. You must use it to earn a level in one of Seng’s chosen classes.” Thankfully, he put his veto on [Fisherman]. “[Drunken Brawler]. If you succeed, as Seng’s prophet, I will confirm that you atoned for your apostasy.”
“And if I do, the curse is lifted?” she asked, her eyes full of hope, before towards the person behind the counter. “Bring me a pot of grease please!”
Victor wondered why she would order that until a busty orc barmaid delivered. Kia drank the whole bottle in one row, broke it, before putting her hands in the grease. Then she rolled them in the glass shards. “That’s not very [Paladin],” Victor said, astonished.
“But it’s very [Drunken Brawler],” she replied with a savage face, the alcohol seeming to take effect. “And I can’t take saltwater anymore. I will do whatever it takes.”
What had he done? What had he done?
Silently walking away from what he expected to be a bar brawl of epic proportions, Victor wondered if he should approach Wotan, before deciding to let the titan and his Valkyrie posse make his own opinion about Murmurin. The Vizier wouldn’t always be present to smooth things over, and for his plan to work, the fomor lord needed to choose peace of his own volition.
Still, he would hang around, in case a catastrophe happened.
“Breeder!” Victor froze, turning his head to find Grandrake’s eye peeking over his shoulder. “Breeder Dalton, I have found you again.”
How? How did Grandrake manage to sneak up on him?! That mammoth was more than sixty-feet long, and the invisibility spell still active!
“Breeder Dalton, you may have the cunning of a mermaid princess, but I have hunted far subtler prin—”
Grandrake’s boasting suddenly ended, as the dragon caught sight of King Wotan. The atmosphere became immediately suffused with ambient electricity, as the two ancient enemies looked at one another.
Uh, Charisma checks incoming.