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After many joys and triumphs, Vainqueur and his minions finally made it to the ‘boss room,’ or so Manling Victor called it.

Unable to unlive past his crushing defeat in the War of the Hoard, the Forgotten One had recreated his old throne room down to the very last detail. The dragon recognized the ghostly candelabras, the armored statues on each side, the chains hanging from the ceiling… ah, the nostalgia.

Furibon observed the group smash their way into his lair, crumpling on his throne. A horde of slimes, mimics, and assorted minions poured into the room, shattering the silence with a noisy cacophony.

“Children, please calm down!” Manling Victor whistled, his newfound minions looking up at him in religious silence. “We are now in the boss room, the place where the most powerful monster in the area waits to kill adventurers. If you do not behave, Furibon will eat you!”

“I resent this slander on my person,” the lich rasped, while the slimes cowered behind their Vizier protector.

“True, for once, you not only ate baby minions, but baby coins too!” Vainqueur accused him. For he may have been forgotten, never would he be forgiven!

Knight Kia, however, could barely restrain her excitement. “I’m so pumped for the final battle! Can I solo him? Paladin versus lich, it was meant to be!”

“Furi, you made yourself the final boss?” Manling Victor asked the Forgotten One.

“Yes, but I do not care anymore,” Furibon replied, sounding utterly defeated on his throne. “You win. You win! Happy now?”

“Oh come on!” Knight Kia complained, itching for a fight. “Just a short battle! You can’t back away now!”

“The boss was in you all along,” the lich said as a lazy excuse. “By facing your fears, you defeated it.”

Clearly, Vainqueur had crushed the undead’s hopes and dreams. Broken as he was, he would never disguise lead as gold ever again. This satisfied the wyrm, but not Knight Kia, who booed the lich. "Refund!"

“You made a mockery of my dungeon!” Furibon complained. “All this work designing the hardest, most painful experience an adventurer party could ever know… wasted!”

“Furi, the time of dungeons challenging people ended with dragons,” Manling Victor argued. “And that’s fine. We adventurers don’t go to a dungeon for torture, no matter what the name would imply; we dungeon-crawl to have fun, for loot, and levels!”

“For what it is worth, I enjoyed myself today, up until now,” Knight Kia added, her eyes looking at the throne with longing. “The nostalgia made me relive my early adventuring years.”

“While this dungeon was not up to my standards, it was somewhat passable,” Vainqueur replied with disdain. “The ducks were a plus.”

Furibon’s ghostly gaze flared up when the dragon demeaned his dungeon, but instead of unleashing deadly spells, he simply sighed. “I do not have energy left for anger.”

“Come on, just a boss speech,” Manling Victor pleaded, holding a metal slime in his hands. “For the children. For the children.”

Faced with a hundred minions gazing at him with their cute, adorable eyes, Furibon had no choice but to oblige. Muttering under his nonexistence breath, he rose up from his throne, dark magic crackling in his bony fingers.

“You went farther than you should have, mortals!” Furibon’s voice echoed with the power of Happyland itself, terrifying the slimes. “But you have yet to meet Furibon either. Your journey is over, tiny ones. Time… to DIE!”

The entire minion horde erupted into tears and screams.

Furibon sank back into his throne, happy to have traumatized so many children.

A strange sound echoed in the dungeon, the flying mirrors that watched the participants during their entire adventure moving in circles around the throne.

“Time for the final vote,” Camilla’s voice spoke through the devices.

“I thought this dungeon would be a tragedy, but then I realized it was a comedy all along,” Deathjester added. “Even better!”

“Let our participants give their final judgment,” Veran finished. “Rate this dungeon on a scale from one to ten.”

“Ten out of ten!” Manling Victor rejoiced, petting a crying mimic. “It’s cute, family-friendly, and scares children straight for life. We have to teach our kids how the real world works, for their sake.”

Knight Kia hesitated but remained professional. “Nine out of ten. It was just the right balance between a relaxing experience and a power-trip. The lack of a final boss subverted my expectations, but not in a good way. But I would still come back.”

“Mmm…” Vainqueur hesitated. On one hand, Furibon built his dungeon with great cruelty, and the dragon could never give a ten to a place needing a fee to get into. The murder of the innocent, living hoard could not go unpunished either.

Yet, the dragon had come out of this place with new minions, great rewards, and a full belly. The ducks in particular earned Furibon a few points.

“Six out of ten,” Vainqueur settled on his final score. Let it not be said that the Emperor wasn’t merciful to his former enemies.

“Six out of ten?” An ember of wrath lit up in Furibon’s empty eye sockets. “Six out of ten, wyrm?!”

“This is not the worst cave I’ve been in, but not the best either,” Vainqueur defended his visionary judgment.

Yet, in his wickedness, Furibon did not respond to this wisdom with humility, but with anger. “Change your vote, wyrm!” the lich ordered. “No dungeon of mine shall ever get such a poor rating!”

“Nothing can change a dragon’s mind, Forgotten One!”

“Defeat shall!” Furibon snapped his finger, a table materializing between his throne and the dragon. “A ten if I win, a zero if I lose!”

“Bring it!” Vainqueur roared back. Manling Victor, ever prepared, searched in his armor’s pouches and brought out his master’s deck.

And so, Vainqueur fought a boss battle worthy of him.


After the Monster Poker rematch of the century, the group was teleported back to the arena, where the Dread Three delivered awards. Only Furibon had survived all the way to this ceremony, backed by his adventuring party and dungeon architects.

From the ‘innocent’ smiles which Furibon’s team wore on their face, Victor had a pretty good idea of what happened to the other competitors. Everything was fair in war and television.

“Congratulations, Furibon,” Deathjester declared, handing the lich five golden statues, each representing a paladin dying in fun and unexpected ways. “You earned a Deadie Award in ‘Most Lethal Dungeon,’ ‘Best Supporting Miniboss,’ ‘Best Dungeon Boss,’ ‘Best Dungeon Design,’ and ‘Best Dungeon Sound Design.’

“How?” the lich asked, sounding both astonished and somewhat pleased. “Even if I avenged my honor at the end, they crushed my life’s work on live divination!”

“I will show the lich vengeance…” Vainqueur mumbled to himself, still angry after his loss at Monster Poker. The dragon had fought with ferocity, but not even the heart of the cards could prevail against the enraged lich.

Such a spectacular duel though, Victor thought. He would remember it for all of his life.

“All your competition either died or fled,” Camilla explained. “Since you alone were brave and strong enough to survive V&V’s presence in your life, you win by default. Your Monster Poker battle was by far the most-watched match in the game’s history.”

“At the Deadie Awards, we reward determination.” Veran patted the lich on the back. “Furibon, this team wrecked almost everyone they encountered, but you? You survived to antagonize them again and again.”

“I believe you are bound to do that forever,” Deathjester added mirthfully.

“I should feel insulted. I should. This is an unjust victory.” Furibon then claimed the prizes. “But you are right. I deserve these awards.”

Victor didn’t pay much attention to the congratulatory speeches and clapping that followed. He was too busy tending to his hundred new adorable slimes and finding names for each of them.

Jean-Pierre Boxy; Boxonaro; Slimella; Glunine; Mr. Jellydean; Sticker; Emmanuel Money...

Junior and Buzz Jelly would have such a good time with all these new friends!

“Where is my reward?” Vainqueur demanded, interrupting a birdkin’s speech about how Furibon crushed all his hopes so much, that he had grown to enjoy it. “I came for a prize, and I do not see it!”

The Dread Three exchanged a glance, making a strange face; it was as if they feared what would follow. “Give it to us,” Kia said, giddy like a child. “You cannot stop it.”

“A promise is a promise, [Paladin].” Camilla frowned in response, insulted.

“I don’t feel particularly bound to honor an agreement, but I have the gut feeling that you will screw this up somehow,” Deathjester replied, waving his hand dramatically at an empty spot to his right. “Here it is… the [Plot Armor]!”

The most terrible piece of clothing ever designed immediately appeared.

It could barely be called an armor at all, being crafted from crimson, folded paper. This hideous, giant origami creation looked like a knight’s armor, helmet included, but seemed about to fall apart on itself at any moment. Words appeared scribbled on every inch of it, as if someone had used trashy novels as the main material.

“This thing will not protect anyone,” Vainqueur stated the obvious. Besides being made of folded paper, it had holes everywhere it shouldn’t. “I could burn it with embers!”

Less convinced, Victor analyzed it with [Eye for Treasure], just in case.

Plot Armor

Quality: S+ (Major Artifact)

Material: Badly-written novels and villain’s tears ink.

Endurance: ∞/∞

Protection: Physical +1 and Magical +1 per friend and true believer.

Weight: Flavorful.

Bonus: +500 Luck to all checks to avoid dying. Can only be worn by someone with good karma, or else the bonuses become penalties (the armor will identify Karma frauds).

An ancient suit of armor worn by spoony bards, plucky farmland boys, noir detectives, and countless other unlikely heroes chosen by destiny. As long as you wear it, this gear will protect you from death, although you can be defeated/K.O.ed, especially if it would raise narrative tension. If you somehow die while wearing the [Plot Armor], you will soon be revived with a stat increase and newfound determination.

However, the armor will force the wearer to say corny, cliche lines at inappropriate times. You are warned.

+500 Luck?!

“Many of our students at Scholomance doubted the power in this armor, and it cost them,” Camilla explained, upon noticing Victor’s astonishment. “It took us great pain and effort to claim it.”

“With the fomors’ acting up though, it will find no better a user than you,” Deathjester said, although he blatantly dismissed Kia’s presence.

“As for the other part of the prize.” Veran snapped her fingers. “One million coins!”

A torrent of gold started raining from the heavens, showering Vainqueur’s whole body. The audience just went wild, as the dragon let out a happy roar, rolling himself on the ground while coins fell down his scales.

“[Leone’s Peeping Shield].” A fitting room appeared out of nowhere around Kia, velvet curtains protecting her modesty from the crowd, as she grabbed the [Plot Armor] to put it on.

While Vainqueur and Kia amused themselves, and the Dread Three addressed the crowd to pitch the next year's edition, Victor approached Furibon. “No offense if I take all the slimes with me?” the Vizier asked his sort-of ‘Stockholm friend.’

“No, you showed me that I should stick to the classics. I will replace them with mindless, carnivorous undead and merciless golems.” Furibon teleported his awards away, emptying his hands. “I have given thought to what you told me, about the era of hard, painful dungeons ending. Maybe there is truth in it.”

“Your Tomb will find more success as a horror-themed tourist attraction,” Manling Victor suggested.

“I am a purist through and through,” Furibon said, before changing the subject. “So… you will invade Prydain?”

“We need all the help we can get, especially to shield population centers from their arrows,” Victor argued. “Even your Starmetal boulder would be a huge help if we could reforge it into weapons. What I mean to ask is, will you join us?”

The lich fell into silence, considering the matter deeply. The thoughtful undead probably pondered the hassle in helping Vainqueur, against Odieuse’s odds of victory.

“A world devastated by the fomors is not one I would call home,” Furibon finally spoke up. Unlike previous times, Victor didn’t even have to pass a charisma check to convince him. “I refuse to fight side by side with the wyrm, but… I will contribute.”

Kia soon emerged from her dressing refuge, having traded her metal armor for a paper one. She didn’t notice a ‘kick me’ sign Deathjester quickly scribbled on her back.

“How does it feel?” Victor asked, wondering how it could even hold on to her skin.

“In one word, uncomfortable.” The [Paladin] forced herself to smile. “Come, try it! Try to kill me!”

“Not while you owe me money,” Victor reminded her of his leverage. Now that he owned her financially, she would never dare touch his kids.

Vainqueur meanwhile, suddenly stopped playing with his coins and looked at the knight with hope in his eyes; as if her words had awoken an ancient instinct buried for years. “You ask to commit suicide, minion?”

Kia put her hands on her waist and opened her mouth. Yet, while it was her voice, her words were those of someone possessed. “Danger is my middle name!”

Vainqueur immediately rose to try and incinerate the [Paladin]...

Only to trip over his piles of coins.

Victor watched his best friend crash on his left shoulder with a terrible noise, blowing gold in all directions. The entire crowd fell silent, while Deathjester clearly struggled not to laugh.

Letting out a fearsome roar, Vainqueur moved back on his feet and switched to physical force. He raised his hand and attempted to smash a very smug-looking [Paladin] like a bug.

“I will protect my friends!” Kia shouted, unable to control her own mouth.

BOOM!

Something deflected Vainqueur’s palm as he brought it down on Kia, deviating the blow. Instead, the wyrm hit the nearby stand, sending the closest spectators flying.

A shield of blue energy had formed around Kia, deflecting the attack. “What is this?” Furibon asked, analyzing the protection with magic.

“The power of friendship,” Camilla sighed. “It fuels the armor, alongside love, wishes, and hope.”

“Sometimes friendship manifests as a physical force,” Deathjester added, looking at the scene with disgust. “Although it only ever did for heroes, and never for us.”

“Oh yes, I learned that in Scholomance,” Victor remembered. “That’s why you always advised killing the rest of the party before the leader?”

“Whose friendship?” Vainqueur complained. “She is Knight Kia, she doesn’t have any friends!”

“Jolie’s faith gives me strength!” Knight Kia recited a scripted line, causing Vainqueur to see red and try to smash her. Once more, a shield of light protected her from harm.

That armor was ridiculously overpowered.

“We are more than a team,” Kia said, reciting scripted lines, as Vainqueur stubbornly tried to kill her—and always failed, “we are a family!”

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Void Herald

Bio: I'm Maxime Julien Durand ([email protected]), a European warlock living in the distant realm known as France, spending half my time writing and the other half managing magical websites.

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