- The Hoardnational, Lyrics.
Stand up, minions of the Earth!
Stand up, prisoners of fear!
Greed thunders in its volcano!
This is the golden eruption!
Of the lead let us make coins,
Loyal slimes, stand up, stand up!
The fairies will lose everything!
We are minions, we are the Hoard!
Possessed by patriotism, Pink furiously scribbled her new song’s lines on a page as a drop of blood fell from the sky.
Putting her notebook in her backpack, the bard raised her eyes at the stormy heavens, where crimson clouds had gathered in spite of the sea wind. Squeakie, her gray, overfed cat ration, let out an adorable meow on Pink’s back. Every Kobold Ranger had such a bag of fur and meat leather-strapped to their supplies, so they couldn’t escape. Pink still remembered the drilling lesson about how to cook them.
“Remember, even if they are too fat to run, don’t take any chances!” Chocolatine had explained during her cooking seminar, using her personal ration Felix as an example. “Since they always respawn within ten meters of where they died, set traps just to be sure!”
While she had listened to the instructions religiously, Pink wasn’t sure she could bring herself to eat something this cute.
Alongside the other Kobold Rangers and their Brachiosaurus Dinozord, Pink currently waited inside a ship-shaped mimic carrying them towards Prydain. In truth, few of the ships making up the V&V’s armada were of wood or metal; most were monsters, mimics, or undead boats made from the bones of their defeated enemies. Sea monsters, fishmen, and deep ones led the invasion force, guiding them through the currents. All of them braved the stormy sea, titanic waves crashing against their hulls as the dark shores of Prydain came into sight.
The armada was divided into multiple fleets, with one, in particular, almost composed entirely of undead. They surrounded the mighty Tarasque Emperor and his half-dodo brood as they swam like a band of sharks, for undead resisted this family’s radioactive presence. Above them, flocks of monsters surrounded copies of the Piggybank, his Imperial Majesty’s own dwarf-made plane; all in all, the Emperor’s armies numbered in the hundreds of thousands.
The thought of His Majesty, who had remained absent so far, made Pink anxious, but the sight of other heroes filled her with hope.
Leading the aerial forces, Lord Victor, greatest of the minions, conjured the bloody clouds while on the back of Gorynych—may the vile zmey be ignored. Instead of water, the skies rained blood, to both provide cover for the fleet and allow vulnerable undead like vampires to operate during the day.
His rival, the Paladin Kia, led the human fleet from Gardemagne further east; she rode her own master, the Imperial Niece Jolie, in battle, much to the kobolds’ despair. While they had grown used to this strange quirk of the Niece, they would rather have been at her side in this dire moment.
For the island-fortress of Prydain had come into sight.
Pink couldn’t call what she faced shores. Stone walls and black towers stood strong on sharp cliffs, while black thorns covered the beach, preventing normal ships from landing. Magical wards and shields protected the island’s inner areas, while giant birds, ghosts, and evil spirits freely roamed the skies.
There it was. The sanctum of the fomors, of the vile villains that never ceased to threaten His Majesty since his awakening.
“One minute, prepare to clear the ramp!” Red shouted, his face against the wind. “Move fast and clean out these fairy holes!”
“We don’t have a ramp!” Blue screamed in panic, his stress getting the better of him.
“We’re dooomed!” Yellow howled to the winds, the mimic ship letting out a roar in answer.
“I know, but I just wanted to say it!” Red shouted back. “The ramp, not the doomed!”
“Show-off,” Black complained, before pointing a finger at the skies. “They are here!”
A song of gold and shininess overwhelmed the sea’s noise, as its singers dived through the bloody clouds.
The mighty dragons summoned by the Conclave descended upon Prydain like a jolly flight of hawks. Thousands of dragons, drakes, and wyverns sung and exchanged pleasantries, so confident in their inevitable victory that they treated this war like it was an amusing party. Their sheer moxie and confidence emboldened the kobolds.
“See?!” she told Yellow, who kept ranting about doom. “We have nothing to fear! We have the greatest of monster lords on our side!”
“It’s going to be clean up duty!” Black boasted. Only Red remained somewhat neutral, focused on the mission ahead.
Faced with their dragon destroyers, the fomors answered by unleashing their own armies. Creatures crossed the fairy wards by flight to fight the invaders in the skies, from gigantic birds with metal beaks, to winged golems. The numbers were evenly matched on both sides, although the fomors’ forces moved in organized formations.
Immediately, without warning, the battle started.
Pink didn’t see who attacked first, but within seconds, the skies erupted in a dazzling display of fire, lightning, and ice. Dragons unleashed their elemental breaths on the winged golems, while the smaller wyverns and drakes swarmed the bird warbeasts. Swords clashed against scales, explosions thundered above the armada and roars echoed across the savage sea.
Pink could only stare in awe, as the dragons her kind worshiped trounced the fairies’ forces, smashing golems while minions below watched in astonishment. The remains of warbeasts fell into the sea, while drakes reached the fortifications and tried to get past the wards.
Black was right. Although it would sadden Pink not to sing her new anthem, she could settle for cleanup duty.
And then, an arrow of light flew from the west and hit a black dragon in the chest at a speed greater than the wind.
A blinding flash illuminated the skies, while a terrible blast caused the entire armada to tremble. The same weapon that almost destroyed Murmurin had exploded in the dragons’ midst, far above the fleet, and expanded outward. Clouds were blown away, warbeasts and wyverns vaporized, dragons’ flesh melted. The golden song of the Dragon Conclave was drowned by a terrible noise.
The corpse of a burnt dragon fell into the sea, left of the rangers’ ship, and sunk a mimic boat whole.
Pink screamed in horror, imitated by most of her teammates, as the great scaled ones fell by the hundreds into the sea; to be washed up on the shores, or dragged to the abyss below.
The surviving dragons reacted first with horrified surprise, then with fury. They unleashed their breath weapons towards the enemies, bathing them in fire and cold.
But the tide of the battle suddenly changed. The golems started shrugging off the dragons’ breath, while their swords cut through scales like butter. Holes opened in the fortifications, revealing heavy artillery. As the armada came within range, they started firing in its direction.
“Get down!” Red shouted, forcing his team to bend their back as lead projectiles hit the hull of their ship. Their brachiosaurus was hurt, letting out a moan of pain as blood flew from its scales.
The artillery fired evil lead bullets at the minions and powerstone cannonballs at the dragons above. Already, the battle was nothing like the overwhelming dragon victory that took place in Murmurin, more than a year ago. This time the dragons died as much as they killed, the sea turning golden from the blood. As the minion fleet came into range, the fairy defenders targeted it, unleashing evil lead bullets at them.
“We’re all gonna die!” Black screamed like a little manling child.
“I died once, I don’t want to die again!” Blue screamed louder.
“Hey!” Red shouted, trying to calm down his team. “Hey!”
SLAP! SLAP! SLAP!
Red slapped every member of his team, ending with Pink. “Scale up!” he shouted, forcing them to focus, even silencing the panicked cat rations. “Are you minions or whiners?”
“But, but, they killed dragons!” Black said, his bravado shattered. “They are at the top of the food chain! They can’t die!”
“Everything I believe in is wrong!” Yellow screamed, which earned him another slap.
“They are fighting, dying for us!” Red pointed a musket at the brave dragons, who kept attacking even while taking heavy losses. “This is what His Majesty always risked, whenever he defended us from liches, vampires, fiends, and nasties! Now, will you honor your monster lord and country with cowardice… or with victory?”
Red’s inspiring words, and a successful charisma check, brought the team back to their senses. “Yellow, you heal the zord!” their leader started barking orders. “Pink, you sing, Blue, you cast buffs. Black, with me at the vanguard. We are going to take these shores, for the Hoard!”
“For the hoard!” the kobolds said as one, their dinosaur and cat rations letting out panicked moans in response.
Above them, the minion aerial forces reached the battlelines, assisting the dragons in their fights. Flying fiends and vampires overwhelmed the golems, Lord Victor’s zmey mount forcing a path forward.
That was it. Pink knew it, deep in her tiny bones, as the cat rations meowed all at once.
The final battle!
The kobold bard gathered her breath and then sung the melody she had composed for this historical day.
“This is the final struggle
Let us group together, and tomorrow
Will be the minion race!”
“I will see you on the beach…” Red shouted, firing with his musket at the skies while his cat ration furiously attempted to escape its bindings, “or in Happyland!”
They had firearms.
The realization dawned on Victor, as his [Moloch’s Hide] armor caused bullets to bounce off him. Holes had opened in the fortifications to reveal machine guns, mortars, and cannons; while their design reminded the Vizier of WWII movies, they had an archaic bent to them, having been modified with runes and golem parts.
Victor beat himself mentally. Of course, the fomors had firearms, they had nukes. It would have been child’s play to smuggle these weapons and mass-produce them with magic. He could only hope class levels and the inherent power of Murmurin’s monsters could make up for the technological disparity.
After the nuke had decimated a large dragon flight—although Victor knew many more would follow—the fomors had started unleashing hell on the invasion force. Their heavy artillery focused on the air force, especially large targets like the wyrms and planes, while less devastating weapons like machine guns focused on the ships, trying to snipe the kobolds, ghouls, and other minions. So far, with the weather and distance, they struggled to hit anything, but the landing would be a slaughter if these defenses weren’t taken down.
For now, Victor focused on maintaining his [Blood Rain] with [Control Weather], both to empower the undead members of the fleet, and to provide protection from the nuke’s radioactive fallout. He had noticed the missile coming from the west, but a telepathic report from Kia through his [Scarlet Study] Perk informed him that a second projectile had been fired at her own fleet. They needed to identify the site from where the fomors launched their nukes, or else their losses would accumulate.
The dragons were powerful and prevented most of the artillery from hitting the naval force, shrugging off all but the most devastating, powerstone-fueled cannonballs, but the nuclear weapon had wiped out hundreds of them. The Vizier suddenly realized that Vainqueur was a beast, even among his kind.
As V&V’s troops engaged the fomors’ defenses and Victor commanded them from above, the System finally saw fit to reward him for all the dodo blood on his hands.
Congratulations! For violently massacring cute, helpless [Exp Dodos] hybrids—and totally going to Happyland for it—you earned three levels in [Weathermaker] and two levels in [Chaos Rider]! You earned the [Hail-bringer], [Devil Archmage III], and [Black Rider] class Perks!
+150 HP, +40 SP, +5 STR, +5 VIT, +5 SKI, +4 AGI, +7 INT, +5 CHA, +8 LCK.
[Hail-bringer]: Spell, 100 SP per hour. You can passively change the weather, to [Blood Rain], [Slime Rain], [Acid Rain], [Fire Hail], [Ghost Storm], and [Plague Winds]. Additionally, while the ability is active, you can switch between each of them at will without spending SP. If a spell such as [Control Weather] overwhelmed [Hail-bringer], they need to focus on the spell, or else your ability will reassert itself.
[Devil Archmage III]: You can learn and cast spells three tiers above your current one. You can also learn and cast spells with the [Evil], [Fiend], and [Weather] traits, but only those equal or below your current tier access; if they belong to an exclusive school of magic, you count as if you met the other requirements. This replaces [Devil Archmage II].
[Black Rider]: Technique, 80 SP per minute. You create a ten-feet draining field around yourself, which devours HP and SP; this is a [Drain] effect. Additionally, spells of tier VI and lower will be canceled and consumed, unless you wish them to affect you. If you are fighting while mounted, your mount projects the field too. You can add two more mounts to your [Black Horseman] stable.
By reaching level ten in [Weathermaker], you maxed out the class! You can no longer take levels in it, but you gained the capstone ability [Foul Metamagic].
[Foul Metamagic]: When you cast spells with the [Necromancy], [Diabolism], [Evil], [Fiend] and [Weather] traits, you can either [Accelerate] (cast a second spell at the same time as a normal one) or [Enhance] them (double their strength and duration) by doubling their SP consumption.
Haha! “Tier X, here I come!”
Keeping his storm active passively, Victor started summoning additional reinforcements, opening gates towards Happyland. Hordes of flying demons emerged from the rifts, joining the dragons in fighting the fomors’ golems and warbeasts.
Malfy, whom Victor had finally Mook Promoted to [Demonbug CEO], was the first to fly through. The insectoid had transformed into a greater form, or more precisely, splintered. Instead of a single entity, he now appeared as a living swarm of blue, icy flies, organizing themselves into the form of a winged, nine-foot-tall fallen angel.
Although they had, at their back, the greatest army of monsters ever assembled, Victor could tell this would be a long, hard day.
And what was Vainqueur doing? He should have been at the forefront of the invasion, instead of vanishing after Daltonia.
Here he came.
Falling through the bloody rain clouds like a shiny star, his body surrounded by the flames of his [Fire Crown] Perk, Vainqueur Knightsbane announced his presence to all.
Yet instead of proudly displaying his crimson scales, the wyrm emperor now wore armor as ostentatious as his pride. Almost every inch of the dragon’s body, except for the eyes and mouth, was protected by heavy plates of gem-encrusted gold. The areas protecting the wings and belly were made of gems, while the claws were coated in silver; and Victor could have sworn he noticed the rapier that started this whole mess at the tip of the tail. In spite of the heat coming from Vainqueur’s body, the armor didn’t melt, held together by powerful magic.
“I HAVE RETURNED!” Vainqueur roared, proudly flying straight at the aerial battleground.
All in all, the wyrm looked awesome.
His face hidden beneath his helmet, Victor couldn’t help but smile. His best friend sure knew how to make an entrance.
They all looked at him!
Vainqueur let out a fearsome roar as his minions rejoiced at his shininess, and his enemies cowered in fear.
[Victory Roar] activated! The strength of every enemy within earshot has been lowered by one stage!
Congratulations! You killed helpless birds! For this daring, courageous deed and compensating with your new [Hoard Armor] artifact, you earned four levels in [Fisher King]! You earned the [Symbol of Hope] and [Healing Mantle] class perk.
+120 HP, +80 SP, +1 STR, +8 VIT, +3 SKI, +2 AGI, +3 INT, +4 CHA, +2 LCK.
[Symbol of Hope]: While you are above 25 percent HP, all your subjects feel bolstered, gaining a bonus of +6 to STR, VIT, AGI, CHA, and LCK. If you fall below 25 percent HP, your subjects instead take a -6 penalty on these same attributes; if you die, the penalty becomes permanent.
[Healing Mantle]: All your allies within twenty meters of you gain the benefit of the [Regen] positive ailment. Additionally, healing effects will help them recover double the usual HP.
And Vainqueur was only getting started.
“[Charged Breath]!” He gathered all his might into his belly, the fairies’ projectiles bouncing off his [Hoard Armor] and his flames melting any warbeast getting too close. The dragon dived down, straight at the defensive fortifications, and opened his mouth.
He unleashed a nuclear breath so hot, that it turned green-white. The blast vaporized a watchtower, shattered the magical defenses, and caused a blinding explosion as impressive as the fairies’ arrow of light.
Vainqueur would eat anyone who disagreed.
Within seconds, dragons flew into the breach, entering the fairies’ lands to devastate them. Odieuse’s golems moved to intercept the invaders, and while Vainqueur smashed many of them, many of his brethren fared poorly against these creatures. Their metal blades could cut through dragonscales and for one tinfoil destroyed, two more replaced it.
While the sight of many of his kindred dying all around him infuriated the dragon, Vainqueur felt great pride upon seeing his minions land on Prydain’s shores. The [Tarasque Emperor] arrived first, shrugging off everything in its path and smashing through the defensive walls. His Taradodos spawns followed in his wake, tearing apart giant soldiers and warbeasts by swarming them; the reptiles kept moving forward, carving a bloody path into Prydain.
The ferocious, Moon-veteran Buzz Jelly was the first slime on the front lines, leaping over the Tarasque’s back and ignoring his radioactive effects. Although he hadn’t been [Mook Promoted] while in Daltonia, the metal slime had great strength, reaching level 50!
Bullets bounced off his body, as Buzz Jelly declared his patriotic pride for all to hear. “FOR EMPIRE!”
His brave father Junior followed him, having evolved into a mighty [Mimic Witch Hut] on Daltonia. The [Excalitrap] had transformed into a living house more than five meters tall, its timber-looking walls carried by six legs with hands. Its windows were eyes, its door a fanged mouth unleashing hundreds of slimes on the beach. With one hand, the mighty mimic hut wielded a sword, and with another, it cast protective spells on its charges.
Linnorms and other creatures emerged from the ocean to invade the shores, while minion ships managed to land. They were welcomed by a hail of gunfire, the vile fairies having weaponized lead against their dragon nemeses; while many invaders fell, more charged forward, spurred on by the sight of Vainqueur’s shininess.
For today, dragon and minion knew that they didn’t fight for gold, glory, or fun.
They fought for the dragon way of life itself!
Roaring again, Vainqueur made a circle in the skies and prepared to carpet bomb the fairies to protect his minions.
He would not rest until victory was his.
And so began the final Dragon-Fomor war: in fire and gold! Together, our Good Emperor Vainqueur and his greatest minion led the charge, to hand the fairies their asses!
But unknown to them both…
This would be their final adventure together.
- Prologue, “The Last Adventure,” by Pink Ranger.