A frown on her face and dark circles under her eyes, Allison opened her house’s door to face a large group of thirsty dragons.
Even if she lived with Rolo in the farms at the city’s outskirts, the entire area was overcrowded by all kinds of dragon types, from recently awakened true dragons to talking wyverns. Most of the newcomers had slept below Murmurin’s countryside, only to emerge when Vainqueur's Conclave started singing their awful music.
Surprisingly, the capital of the V&V Empire had taken the arrival of hundreds, if not thousands of new dragons relatively well. Allison herself had grown used to these insane events and set enough meat aside to satisfy the ravenous horde for a short while.
“Minion,” a blue, wingless wyrm which Allison identified as a serpentine [Linnorm] glanced down at the dryad with pompousness. The creature was not as big as Vainqueur but could swallow the priestess whole if he wished so. “Where are the dwarves?”
“I am sorry?” the dryad repeated, struggling to stay awake. The ruckus from their Conclave could be heard all the way to Murmurin, and had ruined her night. Hard to sleep when you could hear dragons argue about whether or not they should ban elf eating.
And that damn hoard song! Even now Vainqueur and his compatriots kept humming it, with a zeal that would make hyper capitalists blush. It could have been somewhat bearable, but as it turned out, the entire dragon race was tone deaf!
“We know you have a dwarf cellar,” a wyvern rasped, licking its fangs. “We can smell it.”
“If you are hiding dwarves in your basement, hand them over right now,” the linnorm ordered haughtily.
“Why would you need dwarves, I thought they had souls?” Allison replied dryly.
“I am wingless!” the linnorm roared. “I refuse to swim across the ocean without getting wasted first! It is cold and the salt sullies my scales!”
“Yes, you lower-class minions cannot understand our suffering, and the burden of ruling the world!” a young purple dragon the size of Jolie complained.
“When I was awake, every dragon worth their hoard had a dwarf cellar!” another linnorm complained. “You hibernate for six centuries—six centuries—and everyone lowers their cultural standards!”
“There are no dwarves in my basement,” Allison lied. “We do not have a dwarf cellar, and all Agarthans fled underground when you started waking up.”
“Then why do your walls smell of them?” the blue Linnorm hummed the air, like a hound hunting a rabbit.
“I am a priestess of Cybele, goddess of pleasure,” the dryad explained, although she hated using these stereotypes. “I organize minion orgies in my basement. That included dwarves, and they left a lasting smell.”
“Oh, you are a minion breeder?” the linnorm immediately changed his tune. “It is true you smell a lot…”
“This minion city has no dwarf cellar?” the talking wyvern complained. “By the Elder Wyrm, we woke up in the boonies!”
“If you ever need to get rid of extra dwarf babies, call us,” the Linnorm said. “In these times of shortage, we will take anything we can eat.”
“Certainly,” Allison replied with a false smile, closing the door while the reptiles went to harass another house. Once certain that they were gone, the dryad moved to the staircase leading down her basement. Dozens of dwarves and the fomor Jack hid in the darkness, waiting for the storm to end.
“Are they gone?” Marbré asked, worried, while his compatriots dug a tunnel to escape back into their homeland.
“For now,” Allison reassured them. That was the fifth group today, but thankfully, no dragon alive had a Skill stat worth a damn.
“The Agarthan race owes you much,” Marbré said, a hand on his chest. “The Averagist Revolution shall not forget your contribution, Comrade Allison.”
“Thanks. Do you need anything? I’m afraid they’re going to stay for a while.”
“Are there cats left?” Jack asked with candidness. “Jack is hungwy!”
Whistling to himself, a cup of coffee in hand, Furibon exited his dungeon base to embrace the morning sun. With his base taking up most of the mountain overseeing the Holly Woods, the entrance was located at the summit and gave him an incredible view of the western ocean.
Sitting on a deckchair, the lich faced the sun while drinking his beverage. Not that he could actually taste it as an undead; Furibon mostly drank coffee to blacken his remaining teeth and better scare children. The vague sensation of a warm liquid going down his innards was one of his small pleasures, outside of annoying people.
However, his peaceful morning ritual was interrupted by background noise.
“Oh, my Shinies! So glittering, My Shinies!”
The song came from the east, a terrible noise coming straight from Hell’s bowels.
“What is this?” the lich muttered to himself, as flying shapes appeared all across the horizon, following the song back to the source.
A second later, a flight of dragons flew over the mountain.
Hundreds, thousands of greedy lizards roared in a maddening cacophony above the lich’s abode. Dragons, wyverns, zmeys, an entire menagerie that darkened the skies with their numbers sung this terrible tune.
For a moment, the lich simply observed the display in an eerie silence, his hand shaking around his ‘misunderstood genius’ coffee mug. Then a wyvern let out a pigeon-like squawk, a disgusting white substance dropping on the left of Furibon’s deckchair.
Some of the dung ended up on the lich’s sleeve.
“Sarat!” Furibon turned his head and shouted towards the dungeon’s entrance. “Sarat!”
“Yes, Furi?” his teammate called from inside.
“Where is my lead armor?!”
“I threw it away!” the ratkin replied.
“What?” the lich almost jumped out of his deckchair. “Why? Why would you do that?”
“Because it gives me nightmares!”
“And because you are a sick BLEEP, Furi!” one of his other teammates, Raptor, joining the shouting contest.
“There is an army of dragons right above us!” the lich replied angrily, pointing a finger at the skies.
“Why don’t you turn all their hoards to lead, then?!” Raptor screamed angrily. “I’m sure they will fly away!”
Furibon sighed as he watched the dragons singing about gold for the entire world to hear.
“I hate this planet,” the lich muttered.
Nothing here was worth all the hassle.
Her whole life had led her to this moment.
Watching from the Nightblades HQ’s windows in the Gardemagnian city of Noblecoeur, protected from the sun by her umbrella, Charlene Ennuie observed the chaos with a cynical eye. Once upon a time, the sight of a thousand dragons passing through a city on their way to the western shores would have given her a stroke.
Today, she just saw it as a business opportunity.
Most dragons came from elsewhere, but some had slept beneath the city for eons, bringing down houses as they woke up. The population had mostly evacuated to the countryside while screaming for their lives; every goat, cow, or chicken in sight had been hunted to extinction by ravenous reptiles. Most of the city’s houses had been emptied, left behind by its panicked occupants.
Which made it the perfect day for criminal enterprises.
“Alright, so we’ll follow the plan,” one of her lieutenants explained to the gathered Nightblades, showing them a map of the city on the room’s central table. “First the banks and noble estates, then all the suburbs. If it shines, you take it. If it doesn’t shine, you still take it, just in case.”
“You will not rob the poorer districts,” Charlene clarified. “Too much work for little gain, and we are not monsters. You will also raid the adventurer guild for [Crests].”
Vainqueur wanted more of them, and she would deliver.
“You will spread these orders to every Nightblade chapter on the continent,” Charlene ordered. “Remember that is not theft, but redistribution of wealth. We take from the rich, to fill our own empty pockets.”
The gathered criminals nodded at once, and then prepared their tools for the raid. Charlene, however, approached the youngest assassin present, a tiny lizardkin with a positive attitude and an impressive murder pedigree.
“Not you, Potiron,” Charlene said. “I have a job for you. A private one.”
“Business?” The tiny assassin was positively giddy. “Who, where?”
“My ex, on the Moon.”
“Sweet, I love exotic murder locations!”
“I can get you in and out,” Charlene said. “But otherwise you will be on your own, and this cannot be traced back to me.”
“Alright, do you have a special execution method in mind?” the assassin started scribbling notes. “Anything is on the table, including sharks. Otherwise, I will go quartered.”
“I don’t want him dead, I want his current relationship destroyed,” Charlene replied. After what he did, she wanted him to suffer more, not to die.
“Oh.” The assassin didn’t bother to hide his disappointment. “Not even a few ‘accidental’ casualties?”
“He is meeting your aunt Savoureuse,” the vampire ignored his whining, “but she is too good for Croissant and deserves better. It is for her own good.”
Charlene couldn’t let the dragon apocalypse get in the way of petty revenge.
Everyone prayed to Sablar today.
Deep inside his chosen Akhenapep’s pyramid, the worm god found his precious social distancing interrupted by the prayers of countless mortals across the globe. Demands to be delivered from an apocalypse by dragons, from the sky falling on their head, or other nonsense.
It seems that with the apocalypse coming, Sablar had newfound popularity.
“Enough,” the god of destruction complained, furiously smashing his SNES’ buttons with telekinesis. He was struggling with a powerful boss, and humans found nothing better to do than to bother him.
It wouldn’t even help them. He was the god of destruction, not of mercy.
While he backed the fomors in this conflict, Sablar did not care for the outcome. Whoever won, would cause enormous collateral damage; and even if dragons had been summoned to save the mortals, they would leave great chaos in their wake.
|You have 5,802,059 prayers on standby in your Godmail.|
Overtime work again. “How many are asking for the destruction of someone or something?”
Good. Quality over quantity. “Filter all the non-destruction, non-earth related prayers into my prayer spam folder. I will examine the rest later.” Sablar prided himself on taking a personal interest in his worshipers.
|Your prayer spam folder has reached critical mass. Do you want to erase or answer these prayers?|
Sigh… truly, being a god was a thankless job.
“Answer all the spam prayers by telling them to bother the Moon Man instead,” Sablar rasped. “Only he can save them now.”
|Spam folder cleaned!|
Finally, the voices fell silent, allowing the worm god to enjoy his peace and quiet.
At least, until his game’s screen went black.
Sablar waited a few seconds in front of his tv, before realizing that his SNES had breathed its last. As always, entropy had prevailed.
But now he couldn’t play.
Sablar could not rewind time and restore his item; neither could he create a new one. That would undo entropy, and go against everything he believed in. He could always summon Akhenapep to repair it, but his prophet was doing important work in Prydain.
He could summon a repairman, but...
Too much work.
He would just cause an earthquake somewhere.
Somewhere in Prydain, an army of golems toiled tirelessly to build the world’s greatest castle.
A fortress with sharp towers of dizzying height, not made of stone, but steel; its rune-reinforced curtain walls were so thick that they could withstand dragonfire. The rooms inside had been designed for giants and the elite of the fomor race; its stables could shelter thousands of fairy beasts and monstrous flyers; flying golems nested in the towers, adding the finishing touches, putting on the last gears.
Crom Cruach. The ultimate creation of the Mell Clan.
Its construction had needed so many resources that the countryside had been scourged of material for miles. Entire forests had been devastated, every last drop of wood used to fuel the forges spewing the needed steel. The smokes covered large swaths of the island, obscuring the skies.
Such destruction pleased Mell Odieuse, who oversaw the construction in her humanoid guise.
Crom Cruach was as much a weapon as it was a palace. Its towers sheltered the weapons that would cradle the lesser races to sleep, rip their souls from their bodies, and end this cycle of failures in one final act of annihilation.
In the background, she could hear the dragons’ song, even past the magical protections that made Prydain near-impenetrable. She did not care. Soon, so very soon, the music would end. A symphony of screams would follow, the last wail of all life in Outremonde.
And then, at long last… silence.
“Milady?” Frank the Anark, one of Sablar’s priests sent to support her war effort, bent the knee behind her. She could smell his warm soul, ripe for the taking. How hard it was, to quell her greed... “Wotan betrayed you.”
“How so?” the fairy asked, a bit surprised, but not that much. Dragonbane never had the guts needed to put the mortals back in their place.
“He spared Knightsbane, and led Mell Lin to his death.”
“I do not care about Mell Lin,” Odieuse replied with apathy, her eyes set on her castle. “What about my golems?”
“Their barrier worked, and while they held their own for a while, they were no match for the wyrm and his allies,” the priest argued with a pessimistic tone.
“Anything that can fight against Knightsbane will wipe out anything less than [Epic] adventurers,” Odieuse replied, who had thousands of these golems. They were her greatest creations, stripped of the free-will that caused so many of the fomors’ servants to rebel.
The humans of Earth had the right idea. Mindless drones did not question orders, and she could make as many of them as needed.
“However, Mell Lin activated a [Homing Rune] before his demise,” the [Chronomancer] added, perhaps believing Odieuse would kill him if he did not bring any good news.
“Excellent.” After the successful test run against Vainqueur’s insect farm, increasing her arrows’ precision had been her primary concern. “Add Wotan’s realm to Crom Cruach’s targets, and order Akhenapep and Ravana to prepare the shores for an invasion.”
“As you wish,” Frank the Anark replied, before teleporting away.
With the dragons’ song audible across the world, they would need to hold the line a few more days, until her castle could rise up. It would answer this noise with fire and fury.
A few more days and she would paint this blue planet red.