It had been eons since Vainqueur had seen so many dragons gathered in one place. This assembly made his Bragging Day look like a small family gathering!
Everywhere, as far as his eyes could see, dragons from all corners of Outremonde feasted in a great brotherhood of scales; not only the majestic true dragons, but armies of their lesser cousins, such as brutish wyverns, tiny drakes, zmeys, and even the wingless linnorms.
A Life Dragon talked with a Poison Dragon, the former granting life to the grass that the latter corrupted with his mere presence; a flock of wyverns played some kind of board game with chiefs of staff from multiple species; Genialissime and his extended family, from his mate Blightswamp to their children, listened to Jolie’s tales of protecting El Goldorado from knight poachers; even Sifu Jade the Wise had made his way to this gathering, pitching his cultivation techniques to dragonlings.
Hundreds of dragons in one place would devastate a countryside, but thousands could have brought Vainqueur’s empire low in a single night. Thankfully, harvested taradodos and whiskey sea cocktails satisfied the ravenous hunger of the guests; although the emperor pitied the minions who would clean up afterward.
Still, the sooner the Conclave ended, the better.
“Where is Gorynych?” Vainqueur asked Genialissime, having lost sight of his inbred minion. Not that he would ever care for the zmey’s safety, but… he could end up attracting the wrong attention at this gathering.
“Humping in the western woods,” his cousin explained with a sneer of disgust. “It turned out that female zmey and he were siblings by marriage, and nature ran its course.”
“Oh.” Good for him, Vainqueur supposed.
Grandrake cleared his throat and let out a mighty roar, silencing the gathering and bringing a thousand gazes upon himself.
“Young wyrms, it is a pleasure to meet all of you for this fifth edition of the Dragon Conclave!” Grandrake declared. “Indeed, the last one was more than five thousand years ago. Few of you were alive and awake back then! I am very proud of our species, which has endured the test of time and ruled Outremonde with justness, magnanimity, and enlightened greed!”
The dragons present all roared in response, the noise so deafening Vainqueur could have sworn he had taken [Sound] damage.
“As the eldest wyrm present, I, Grandrake, shall arbitrate the debates,” the famed [Princess Hunter] declared, to no one’s protest. “While Young Vainqueur called for this gathering to discuss a new Fomor-Dragon war, as per the rules of the Conclave, any participant can push for a subject. It shall be discussed by the assembly, which shall not disband until they have settled everything. If you wish to propose a motion, say it now, or stay forever silent.”
Vainqueur sighed, knowing that his own demand would be treated last in spite of the urgency. But the Conclave was an institution that went back from the days when the Elder Wyrm flew among them, and its traditions had to be observed.
“I zemand that we, zmey, wyverns, and drakes, and all dragonkinsz, all get the zright to vote!” a zmey spoke up with terrible grammar, backed up by lesser dragons. “Equality for all [Dragon] zypes! Down with the dracozrazy!”
“Never!” Genialissime shouted, his roar mightier.
“Rejected!” all true dragons shouted at once. “Rejected!”
“No!” Vainqueur replied, horrified. That would be anarchy, and blur the frontier between true dragons and dragonkin!
“Motion unanimously rejected,” Grandrake said in the face of the overwhelmingly negative response, the zmey lowering his three heads in disappointment. “But you are still allowed to make proposals and participate in the debates.”
“Me, me!” Jolie raised her hand. “Pick me!”
“Yes, Young Jolie?”
“We should discuss minions’ rights!” Jolie spoke up, although everyone who knew her immediately accused Vainqueur’s niece of cattletarianism. “Yes, minions are sentient, and eating them for nothing is wrong!”
“I agree,” Vainqueur said, much to everyone's surprise. He immediately reassured them about his eating regime. “I am no cattletarian and while I still eat them when needed, minions have souls, and thus, rights.”
“All minions?” Grandrake asked, taken aback by this progressive vision.
“Except elves, who eat grass like cows,” Vainqueur clarified, most of the dragons nodding in agreement.
However, many remained doubtful. “Minions’ rights are subjective, and left to the individual will of their dragon overlord,” a fire dragon argued. “It is not a Conclave’s purpose to take away this right granted to us by the Elder Wyrm!”
“I strongly disagree,” Genialissime replied, his human chief of staff hiding in his shadow. “In my travels with Manling Henry, I have encountered many dragons who used this excuse to abuse their minions. My, I have seen a life wyrm beating his troll chief of staff, with a golf club! Not eating, beating! My poor son was almost traumatized.”
“They’re minions, they don’t know up from down!”
The comment was met with many boos, much to Vainqueur’s surprise. “My new career as a dragon adventurer taught me the value of good minions, and that they should not be taken for granted,” a frost dragon spoke up. “By condoning abuse, we send a terrible message to our wyrmlings! Think of the wyrmlings!”
“As a [Paladin of Leone], I say we should ratify a declaration of minions’ rights!” a silver dragon added. “Both to keep my class privileges, and because we must protect those weaker than ourselves.”
“Cattletarian!” “Somebody throw a cow at him!”
“I shall tolerate no cow throwing!” Grandrake cut the debates short. “Everyone in favor of reviewing the rights of minions, say gold, everyone against, say lead.”
After much gold and a little less lead, Grandrake added the proposal to the agenda, much to Vainqueur’s surprise. It appeared that the adventurer lifestyle he inspired had opened the eyes of many of his kindred.
“Next?” Grandrake asked.
“I also want to make a proposal for the future safeguard of princesses,” the black dragon Blightswamp spoke up. “New breakthroughs in the nature of princessness, and the destruction of their native monarchy environment at the hands of global democratization, must be addressed.”
“I second this proposal,” Grandrake said, many dragons voicing their agreement with roars of ‘Gold.’ “Motion added to the agenda.”
“We should discuss the shininess standard!” a Frost Dragon spoke up. “As a member of the ‘silver first’ movement, I say gold should no longer be the standard of hoard wealth.”
“Lead!” Vainqueur snarled in response, imitated by most southern dragons. “Lead, lead, lead!”
“The leads have it, motion rejected,” Grandrake said, the disagreements drowned in a maelstrom of ‘lead.’ “Anyone else?”
When nobody had anything else to propose, the oldest wyrm decided the agenda. “We shall start by discussing minions’ rights, then the princess proposal, and finally, Young Vainqueur’s declaration of war against the fomors. On the matter of minions, the first thing I believe we should address is…”
Grandrake observed the assembly.
“Do all minions have souls?”
The resulting chaos, shouts, and roars made Vainqueur sigh.
This was going to be a long assembly.
- Six hours later, well into the evening.
After countless debates, chiefs of staff testimonies, secret oaths, compromises, duels of honor, and tribulations, the Conclave was finally ready to review the final draft of the Declaration of Minions’ Rights.
Vainqueur cleared his throat before swallowing a barrel of water offered by his kobold minions. Having passionately argued for his vision of minions’ rights, he needed the refreshment.
“I am sorry that your proposal to forbid minion eating could not come to pass, Jolie,” Genialissime comforted his saddened niece. “But the dragon world is not ready for cattletarianism. And I do not think it will ever be.”
“One day they will see,” she vowed, refusing to let the disappointment wear her down. “One day.”
In the end, Vainqueur thought she should call it a win. While cattletarianism hadn’t caught on, many dragons had changed their mind on treating minions as mere tools over the last year. Enough to feel some empathy for their native weakness, and thus grant them their generous protection.
“Young Jolie, please read the final draft,” Grandrake said, presenting his assistant with a scroll full of modifications, “of the Declaration of Minions’ Rights.”
Vainqueur’s niece cleared out her throat, and read the document with grace. “Article 1, all minions are born free and average in dignity and rights, but below dragons in the natural order. They all have souls (except the elves). Article 2, all minions are entitled to a share of their hoard, after subtraction of their life tribute to their dragon overlords. Not even the dragon overlords will deny them this share, which is established at a minimum of one-one-tenth, but can be increased to one-ten-tenth if a dragon master wishes it. No distinction of any kind shall be made between minions (except elves, who have no souls).”
Vainqueur nodded to himself, although he was a bit saddened the Conclave didn’t fully embrace his revolutionary one-ten-tenth proposal. Dragonling steps, he thought. Dragonling steps.
Still, he was so proud to see his niece read this historical declaration.
“Article 4, slavery is an insult to the minion institution and shall be prohibited in all its forms… article 9, no minion shall be arbitrarily eaten without a good justification, unless in times of famine. Article 10, all minions are entitled to a fair and public hearing by their impartial dragon overlord, or their chief of staff if their master is absent… article 14, dragon overlords must provide for their minions in return for their loyalty and life tributes; this includes protection from outsiders, access to food, universal employment, and minion healthcare... Article 16, all minions have the right to breed with any other minion without facing prejudice...”
“Gold or lead?” Grandrake roared, after Jolie finished reading.
At the end of the day, two dragons out of three voted on the twenty articles-long declaration, consecrating minions’ rights.
“Adopted,” Grandrake said. “Next is the love of my life, princess preservation!”
Compared to the tense debates that preceded it, the sanctification of princesses as an endangered species was adopted unanimously, alongside restrictions on poaching seasons so they could rebuild a sufficient population. The many promises to provide for Grandrake’s sanctuary pleased the old wyrm greatly.
“Gold, gold, gold!”
“I am…” Grandrake was at a loss of words, almost crying. “I am sorry for this outburst, but witnessing a dragon generation embracing conservationism so thoroughly… it is a dream come true.”
“We could not have progressed socially as a race without your efforts, Grandrake,” Sifu Jade patted the older wyrm in the back. “You have been a sifu to all of us at one point.”
Grandrake took a moment to calm himself and then recovered his bearing. “Finally,” he turned to the organizer of this gathering, “we shall hear Young Vainqueur’s proposal of starting a new war against the fomor race.”
As Vainqueur prepared to make his case, he suddenly realized that he should have proposed a motion on banning overdwarfing. Too late, he thought.
The dragon said nothing for a moment, having learned the value of silence to gain attention. When he was certain everyone focused on him, Vainqueur began his long rehearsed speech.
“Many of you know me as Vainqueur Knightsbane, Great Calamity of this Age,” he began the dragon way, with a good boast. “Some witnessed my Bragging Day last year, where I revealed the existence of the forgotten, Dragon-made System.”
Many nodded in response, and to his joy, it appeared that the emperor’s actions had brought him a great deal of goodwill among his kindred.
“Today, I summoned you because whether you like it or not, our race is at war,” he said, extended his left arm towards the horizon and Mount Murmurin. “When coming here, you have seen a side of my beloved mountain, turned into a glowing wasteland. A single arrow caused all this devastation!”
“What?” “Impossible!” “An arrow? An actual arrow?” “They bounce off our scales!”
“Young Vainqueur speaks the truth,” Grandrake spoke up, underlining the gravity of the situation. “I witnessed it, with my very own eyes. An arrow of light, with the power of an entire dragon flock!”
“This is but one of the weapons the fomors have developed to hunt us,” Vainqueur continued. “They raised great minions of metal, unleashed plagues among our minions, and even abducted wyrmlings to steal their dragonliness!”
“I can testify,” the silver dragon Snowsweep spoke up, her little brother Windi at her side. The emperor recognized him as one of the dragonlings whom he and Manling Victor had saved in the Winter Kingdoms. “Had Vainqueur and his chief of staff not intervened, my brother would have been killed, his blood harvested like cow milk!”
“I saved him, but I could not save everyone,” Vainqueur admitted with regret. “My rival, Icefang, and his fellows Magnifique and Suffisante… were slain in battle, by the fairy queen Mell Odieuse.”
“I always knew he was handicapped.” Genialissime shrugged.
“He wasn’t!” Vainqueur snarled, surprising his cousin. “Death is no handicap!”
His words were met with an eerie silence.
“Death is no handicap,” Vainqueur dropped the terrible truth. “Death is a natural feature. Every dragon suffers from it.”
Blightswamp immediately covered her children’s ears, as if she could protect their innocence. “Genialissime, say something!” she panicked. “He is your cousin!”
“I almost died too,” Jolie blurted out, much to everyone’s shock. Yet, in spite of admitting this shameful truth, she held her ground. “I almost died, many times.”
“But you did not,” another dragon pointed out. “Which proves you are a healthy dragon.”
“Do not project your weakness on our entire race!” a frost wyrm snarled.
“All dragonz can diez!” Vainqueur turned to his left, seeing Gorynych and his female kindred return. All of her hair was in shambles. “My, every zmey knowz thiz!”
“Yes, Big V had to save Gorynych!” Gorynych tried to help, but it had the opposite effect.
“Vainqueur, when a zmey agrees with you, you must realize that you are saying something inane,” Genialissime argued.
“Many of you have forgotten, but there were times when we dragons were not the absolute masters of this world.” Grandrake took a stance, much to everyone’s astonishment. “Times when the fomors contested us for supremacy. Times when we died as much as we killed. Times when we starved, because we did not follow the hibernation system.”
“Death is no handicap,” Vainqueur continued; having learned from Icefang, he decided to turn the truth into a call for arms, instead of a shameful secret. “Death is a natural feature, granted to us by the Elder Wyrm so we do not grow complacent! Should we deny it? No. Should we fear it? No! A true dragon does not ignore death, but looks at her in contempt!”
|[El Presidente] activated! Charisma check successful!|
“The fomors are trying to bring us death?” Vainqueur raised a fist. “I say we return the gesture, with dragonfire!”
In spite of his successful charisma check, his words were met with a division. Some wyrms seemed willing to entertain the thought of death as natural, but many others remained strongly in denial; even among Vainqueur’s own family.
“I am not convinced about death being a natural feature,” Genialissime replied, many dragons nodding in support. “But I agree the fairies are in need of a long-overdue spanking.”
“The fomors have unleashed a plague among my disciples,” Sifu Jade declared, to support the motion. “Only those who paid for my seminars survived, but the lack of healthy trainees cost me money! Retribution!”
“We must exterminate the fomors!” an Earth Dragon proposed, many others nodding in support. “They never followed our agreement and broke the truce. Let us burn their forests from orbit, to be sure there is no third war.”
“No,” Vainqueur declared. “We should not go this far.”
His response caused some whispers and muttering among the crowd.
“I am the one who called this gathering for war,” Vainqueur confirmed. “But recent events have taught me that while difficult, coexistence with the fairies might be within reach.”
“Peace?” “Is he serious?” “Fomors know nothing of peace!”
“My chief of staff, while struggling with parental wisdom, taught me a great lesson,” Vainqueur held his ground. “That sometimes, one can defeat their enemies by making peace with them. True peace, not the truce which we mistook for peace. I have set Furibon, the Goldslayer, straight, and forgotten him; a fomor now lives in peace among my minions, and even Wotan Dragonbane decided to lower his weapon and walk away.”
|Charisma check successful!|
His words surprised the gathering, who had grown to fear Wotan as a vicious dragonslayer; the thought of him making peace with them was as shocking as learning the Moon’s shady secret. And while the Forgetting of Furibon was a more well-known event, to have it confirmed forced many dragons to reconsider what they thought for granted.
While he could not yet convince his species of the inevitability of death, Vainqueur could teach them mercy.
“There can be no peace as long as the vile Mell Odieuse remains, for she desires nothing less than the complete destruction of Outremonde; but perhaps for the first time since we started fighting, fomors and dragons may coexist. Albeit unwittingly, we granted the fairies souls, and thus, the possibility for change. While the path may be hard, we must tread it. War, yes, but not one of extermination; a just war, against the Mell Clan and those who would stand by them!”
And so, his motion came to pass, with a roaring applaud.
“War!” The word spread through the gathering. “War! War! War!”
“Gold!” Jolie shouted in support. “Gold! Gold!”
Congratulations! For running a dragon Conclave and convincing your species to war against Mell Odieuse, you earned two levels in [Kaiser]! You earned the [Sublime Dragonbreath] Perk!
+20 SP, +2 STR, +2 VIT, +2 SKI, +1 AGI, +2 INT, +2 CHA, +1 LCK.
[Sublime Dragonbreath]: Technique, 100 SP. For one hour, you can change the base element of your breath, so long as your choice is associated with a type of true dragon (for example, you can choose to breathe [Frost] or [Poison], but not [Time]). If you want to change your element again, you must pay the SP cost each time.
By reaching level twenty in [Kaiser], you maxed out the class! You can no longer take levels in it, but you gained the capstone ability [Wyrm Sovereign].
[Wyrm Sovereign]: Your draconic majesty brings luck to your allies. All allies within 120 feet of you gain +5 to any checks they make and immunity to Critical Hits.
By redeeming your species’ main flaw into a virtue, your [Dragon Arrogance] monster perk has evolved into the [Dragon Honor] variant!
“My brothers and sisters, let us sing the song of the Elder Wyrm!” Vainqueur roared, before humming it to himself.
Following his lead, all of dragonkind sang, from the lowliest wyvern to the greatest of dragons.
“Oh, my Shinies!
So glittering, My Shinies!
Golden to the core, Our Hoard!
So beautiful, so blissful!”
All around Outremonde, panic spread as a strange sound echoed across the globe.
Sands shifted in the Deadsea desert, as fossilized stones cracked from within.
Birds flew away from marshes, as great shapes emerged from their depths.
Mountains shook, as great titans emerged from caves deep below the ice.
Everywhere, the skies darkened from their numbers, soaring through the heavens.
For the whole dragon race had awakened, and flocked towards Prydain.