It was evening, and he was high on love!
So thought Victor Dalton, as he worked on a new mixture in his lab, his heart full of happiness. He had never been so productive, so energetic, so thoughtful! The warmth in his chest had fueled him through the day, finishing years-long research projects in hours while he awaited for Vainqueur’s summon.
“I’m so happy!” Victor shouted, out of nowhere.
“Me too!” his [Fetch] clone replied with the same enthusiasm, while Lynette dusted the pocket dimension in the background. In time, it would count as a magical inn, with all the benefits that came with it. “We should share the word!”
“Yes!” Victor looked in the screaming souls in his [Harvest] scythe, wielding it with one hand and his new potion with another. “I’m so happy! I’m so happy I could release all of you, even if I never will! But I could!”
Nothing could ruin his day!
His body shifted from his private dimension to another, but instead of finding himself in front of Vainqueur as he expected, the [Reaper] faced angry deities.
The marble temple around the Vizier reminded him of the afterlife antechamber, with which he had grown accustomed to after his repeated deaths. However, this place was clearly part of heaven, if Victor could trust the golden clouds and shining light all around him. A giant map of Outremonde had been drawn in the middle of the room, its borders shifting on their own.
Two giants, one of them Mithras, and the other a shining knight whom Victor recognized as Leone oversaw a gathering of mortal heroes.
“Vic.” Kia nodded at him, dressed in full armor, and backed by what appeared to be a small band of elite adventurers. Victor recognized the dark elf sorcerer he had met at Vainqueur’s Bragging Day, ‘Kevin.’ “We need to discuss—”
“Kia, I have a son!” Victor shouted, interrupting his friend. “I am so happy!”
“Oh, congratulations,” she said, happy for Victor, but not as much as the father himself.
“His name is Armand, and he pees everywhere!” the Vizier gushed over his progeny. “But he makes that giggling sound and he’s so adorable, that I always forgive him!”
The Paladin wasn’t sure what to answer, while the deities and crusaders looked at the scene with confusion. “Okay…”
“We have more pressing matters to address, mortal,” Mithras spoke up, his voice grim and imperious.
“More pressing matters, speak for yourself!” Victor replied, before frowning behind his helmet. “Wait, how could you summon me in your planar realm in the first place? I thought you needed to claim me first for that.”
“We rented you for thirty minutes,” Leone replied, without elaborating. While Mithras was simply neutral, the goddess didn’t sound happy to see the Vizier.
“You are here at my chosen’s behest, Victor,” Mithras pointed a finger at the Outremonde map, “to see how we can handle this.”
The Vizier looked at the map, realizing that it was fully animated. Thousands of tiny dragons flew from all corners of the map towards the Mistral continent, converging towards its shores.
“That’s a lot of dragon miniatures,” Victor said, before connecting the dots. “The Conclave worked!”
“More than sixty thousand dragons and their lesser cousins are making their way to Prydain, with most of them expected to reach the island in three days,” Mithras explained.
“Everywhere, chaos and confusion have spread,” Leone replied, summoning dozens of phantom pictures. The gathering watched scenes of humans, beastlings, and elves screaming in fear, as dozens of dragons flew over their cities. Drakes, wyverns, and zmey followed their greater cousins, nabbing cows and goats while at it. “Most countries believe the end of the world has come, and tensions are at an all-time high.”
“Meanwhile, Prydain remains completely shrouded from our divine sight and divination,” Mithras added. “We ordered a crusade against Mell Odieuse, even before her attack on the V&V Empire revealed the existence of her ‘light arrows.’ Now we’ve hastened it.”
“King Roland Gardemagne and Barsino of Barin agreed to lend their support,” Kevin explained. “We put back together the Shining Crusade and called every elite adventurer who participated in the final battle against King Balaur. All in all, the entire civilized world is arrayed against Prydain.”
“Sixty thousand dragons,” Victor muttered.
“Yes, and dragons,” Leone said, clearly not happy at all with this development. “If the fomors do not destroy the world, their hunger will. They devastate the countryside on their path, devouring all cattle they find!”
“We were already forced to send all dwarves underground, for the world’s own safety,” Mithras said. “Outremonde will not survive a dragon drunken riot.”
“This Conclave was a disaster,” Leone complained, clearly more of a hardliner than her fellow, “The dragons already caused such disorder, but something of this magnitude hasn't been seen since the godwar!”
“Odds favor us, but as Mell Lin pointed out, a cornered rat will bite a cat,” Kia cleared her throat. “Odieuse has fortified her dominions, and if she is willing to launch five of them at once, then she probably has a large stockpile of nukes. Why she hasn’t used them to devastate our shores yet is worrying.”
“Oh, it’s okay, we are going to sink the island after we are done leveling it to the ground,” Victor replied casually. “We will drown their arsenal like Atlantis.”
His solution was met with confused silence.
“My friend Jaja woke up his master Dagon, and he is very good at destroying civilizations,” Victor explained cheerfully. “We hit the Mell clan from everywhere, and then we sink their entire stronghold. Problem solved, and my kids will be safe.”
“This seems disproportionate, not to mention irresponsible,” Mithras said.
“It’s the only way to be sure.” Victor suddenly stopped though, as he remembered something important. “Kia, most of my kids are monsters and half-demons. You’re not going to go [Paladin] on them once this is over, are you?”
“What do you mean?” The knight frowned, as the atmosphere turned positively oppressive, “Why is the temperature increasing?”
“Because, Kia, you are my friend, but they are my kids. They come first, and I will do anything to protect them.” He looked at her with the fires of Happyland in his gaze. “Anything.”
|Charisma check successful!|
“Vic, I owe you one for the curse of Seng thing,” Kia reassured him, although deeply disturbed alongside all the people present. “I’m not going to discipline your children without picking a fight with you first. You have my word.”
“Oh good,” the Vizier replied, calming himself. “Because I am a dad first, and a friendly soul-stealing warlord second.”
“You will not threaten my Claimed in our presence!” Leone's voice boomed, her eyes shining with burning wrath.
“Why, you want to harm my kids?” Victor glared back.
The goddess seemed surprised by the defiant response, and a little offended. “No, of course not. I am a knight, I do not harm children.”
“Good for you, because if anybody threatens them,” Victor ominously looked at the shining Heaven around him. “I would be very unhappy about it.”
A short silence fell on the gathering.
“Get it?” Victor asked, the lack of reaction bothering him. “Happyland, unhappy?”
“Kia, you are friends with this loon?” Kevin asked his teammate.
“He’s usually nothing like this,” Kia replied, embarrassed. “I don’t understand what’s going on. He sounds bipolar now!”
“Fatherhood drove him mad,” Mithras said, nonplussed. “His karma was already all over the place, but it is getting increasingly difficult to keep track of it.”
“This already happened in the past?” his own Paladin asked him.
“Countless times.” Leone looked at her fellow deity with a frustrated ‘I told you so’ gaze, but the sun god ignored her. “Kia, Victor, you will work on your very platonic friendship after the world is saved from devastation. We will coordinate to assist the dragon’s assault in three days, but until then, we must ensure order among the civilian populations and protect Mistral’s shores from fomor retaliation.”
“The magical shield designed by Furibon to protect his castle could be extended across the coast or at least major cities,” Kevin the mage coughed, slipping the last discussion under the rug, “if we could reverse-engineer it.”
“Why haven’t you asked him directly?” Victor asked the deities.
“Unfortunately, the lich is under the protection of Deathjester, at least for the duration of that… that loathsome dungeon contest,” Leone spat.
“Which is where you come in,” Mithras explained. “Use your Claimed privileges to intercede on the world’s behalf. We will also need your help to pacify the dragons and prevent things from getting out of hand.”
Why did everyone always hand him over the dirty work?
“Also, how far are you into developing the plague’s antidote?” Kia asked.
“Oh, I have it already!” Victor showed them the potion in his hand. “I had to rough up Mell Lin’s soul to make him confess, but it was worth it!”
Kia’s face deflated, but Mithras’ eyes instantly shone up. “Then give it to me, Victor,” the deity said, “I will have my church distribute it to the population for free. I have the religious infrastructure to spread such a cure quickly.”
“Vainqueur wanted to commercialize it, at an overpriced rate,” Victor pointed out, ignoring the offended responses. “You know what, I can give it away, but under one condition.”
“You would—” Leone seemed ready to crush him, but Mithras silenced her by putting his hand on her shoulder.
“I want the answer to one question,” Victor cleared his throat. “Where is Miel?”
“That is all?” Mithras asked, having expected more. But the Vizier didn’t want to go to what he sensed would be his final battle, without putting that unresolved issue to rest. “Then in this case—”
The sound echoed not in the air, but in Victor’s own mind.
“The time is up already?” Leone asked with a frown. “It was barely twenty minutes!”
Before the Vizier knew what hit him, a powerful force tore him away from Heaven and dumped him into an enormous warforge of brass and steel. Hundreds of golems and ghostly dwarves shaped cannons on a near-endless assembly line, toiling endlessly to make weapons. Windows provided a view of the world outside, that of a metal fortress floating amidst a volcanic, hellish landscape.
“Ah, Victor, right on time.” The dwarf goddess Veran had switched place with her more heavenly counterpart, most of her body hidden beneath some kind of golem suit. “I am glad to see the customer service is on point.”
“Lady Veran?” Victor blinked, his armor and immunities protecting him from the ambient heat. “Where are we?”
“This is my planar realm, at the junction between the Elemental Planes of Fire and Earth,” the goddess explained. “I need both heat and materials for my best work. Now, this renting prophet service is a first for me, but Shesha made me an opening sales offer and with the war starting, I could not resist. Let us make the best of our allocated time.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I rented you for two hours,” Veran said as if it explained everything. When she realized Victor remained clueless, she snapped her fingers and an imp flew to her side, carrying some kind of primitive laptop.
The Vizier looked at the screen.
Victor blinked, as he watched the imp scroll down an entire website with his own face plastered on it. Texts and pictures oversold his past achievements while a video of Shesha pitched the idea to listeners.
“You want a Moses, but nature gave you a Christ? You want to develop your cult in these troubled times, but you don’t have the right person? Approved by half the pantheon and with almost eight years of experience as a professional prophet, Victor Dalton is the perfect assistant, capable of handling any divine task set for him. For what is a prophet, but a god’s minion?”
Victor’s eyebrows lowered in despair.
“By renting my allocated Claimed time while another deity hasn’t requested him, you can get the best of the Claimed marketplace for a fair retainer fee of—”
“She had the idea during our last table session,” Veran explained before Victor could have a heart attack over the price. “Since many gods couldn’t agree when you were supposed to serve them, Shesha set this system to allocate your time. Since she rarely used you, and won Dice’s allocated time at the table, she now rents her time to the highest bidder.”
Victor should have felt unhappy about it, especially since he probably wouldn’t get paid over it.
But he was so happy to be a parent, that he refused to let it drag him down. “What do you want me for?”
“I need a sounding board for new weapons,” the goddess explained, showing him the blueprints of an enormous cannon. “With the dragon-fomor war incoming and these new arrows of light, my church needs a boost. This continental conflict is my chance to test out new stuff, and I will! There is this big railgun idea in particular that I can’t out of my mind...”
“What about something more innovative?” the Vizier suggested. “Something they will never see coming?”
“Like a smaller gun?”
One hour and a half later, Victor was the one pitching weapons to Veran.
“... and then with the sun blotted out, everyone is blind but our armies,” the Vizier explained. “Since most of our troops can naturally see in the dark, this gives us a tremendous tactical advantage.”
“Then we can finally get these intimidating night-goggles out of storage for diurnal soldiers.”
“And with eternal night, half-vampire kids can properly go out during the day. This weapon is entirely child friendly.”
“You’ve given it a lot of thought,” the goddess said, even if they both worked hard on brainstorming the concept.
"Ever since I had a son half a day ago, I have been considering world domination,” Victor explained, Veran remaining silent. “Most of my children are half-demons, meaning that by nature, they will be targeted by heroes and paladins. Ergo, the only way to create a world where they can live safely, is to preemptively take it over first.”
“With military might?” Veran asked with enthusiasm.
“With a mix of intrigue, economic power, and overwhelming military might.” Victor raised his scythe. “The V&V Empire will become the most powerful nation, where my kids will grow in a safe, family-friendly environment!”
“That is the attitude I want in a prophet!” Veran pointed a metal index finger at his face. “Victor, you are hired! I want you in my church!”
The symbol of a fiery whip appeared on his right arm, joining the other marks.
|[Claimed by Veran]: When you level up, you have an additional 10 percent chance to gain a Strength or Intelligence point. You can craft any item with medium proficiency as if you had the necessary perks.|
“Any item?” Victor asked, pumped up. “Even a wereslime crib?”
“Any item as long as you have the necessary materials, and if you ignore the slim chance of devastating, catastrophic failure.” Veran checked the website next. “I will see if I can extend the weapon brainstorming session for an extra hour...”
Wait, if he could craft anything, then maybe… Maybe even a Soulcrest? Since they could be made without harming any dragon, if he had the skills needed to craft the device, then Victor could produce his own ethical version.
“Oh, your next appointment is a Jesty session about the new Dalton Dynasty idea he wanted to pitch us after we end the current War Edition. I guess he won’t be too mad if our current meeting spills over ten more minutes.”
"Very interesting concept. We each choose a Dalton child and guide him while they accumulate ‘prestige points’; the dynasty with the highest prestige at the end of the campaign wins. Isengrim called dibs on your werechildren, while I would guide your eldest daughter through my chosen Goblina. However, Cam wants to play undead and is saddened by your lack of progress on that front, while Cybele would like a descendant of Allison as her charge. The game is only a vague concept for now, but it is gaining traction.”
|[Evil Dad Mode] activated!|
“Undead?” Victor tensed. “Are you gods discussing killing my kids?”
“What? No, no—”
“Because if any of you tries to kill my kids and reanimate them as undead, I’ll ascend to Valhalla just to crap on your gaming table!”
“Someone beat you to it, and it took months to clean up Atlantis afterward,” Veran replied. “Do not worry, Victor. Cam simply wants that you could get down with having a half-vampire scion, or maybe a half-ghoul.”
“Oh,” Victor calmed himself. “Good. I knew Camilla would never do anything that could jeopardize our fulfilling relationship, but I lost control for a minute. I am a parent now."
"Yes, although I heard you were anxious about it."
"That was before I actually had a kid!" It was as if he had been neurotic all his life, only to receive a vaccine upon seeing Armand. "What about the other gods?”
“Shesha would like to play Armand,” Veran said. “Dice will roll for his chosen, and the Moon Man is planning to guide someone not conceived yet.”
Good, all his kids would have a deity’s protection, and would never struggle the way Victor did before he met Vainqueur. “What about Seng? Whom did she choose?”
“What about her?” Veran replied. “She is not invited.”
“She should,” Victor defended the mermaid goddess, taking his role of prophet seriously. “She claimed me and she’s pretty nice when you get to know her.”
The dwarf goddess looked at him as if he had lost his mind. “Do you want Seng to mentor one of your children?”
Victor opened his mouth, then thought about it. “... yes?”
“No, you do not.”
“She will never gain self-confidence if nobody trusts her, and all my children need divine protection,” Victor argued, more firmly this time. “Give her a chance.”
Veran remained silent for a moment. “Your funeral,” she replied. “Now, about that sun-blotting plot...”