Nothing could harm him.

Bullets, mortar, and cannonballs bounced off Vainqueur’s thick [Hoard Armor], as the dragon tore down the island’s walled fortifications. None could stand before the power of a true hoard.

“I am the gold that haunts your lead!” the dragon boasted loudly, as he pushed a watchtower down, stones crashing on the shores and crushing the tiny doppelgangers manning it. Behind him, minion ships landed on the beach, singing Vainqueur’s name while his success emboldened the dragons in the skies.

[Imperial Authority], [Healing Mantle], [Master of Silence], and [Pontifex Maximus] activated! Your [Ring of the Dragon Ur-Pharaoh] cast [Protection from Elements]!

The dragon’s very presence turned even the tiniest kobold into a self-regenerating killing machine and infused their weapons with holy energies. While the volleys of artillery slowed down their advance, they kept walking forward, tearing down any fairy thrall unlucky enough to get in the way.

Vainqueur landed on the ground and led the charge, shielding his troops with his body as he tore down the artillery; for a true dragon led from the front.

A pack of four large fairy hounds emerged from behind the murals to assault the wyrm and stop his rampage. Unfazed, Vainqueur welcomed them with swift punches, tearing a beast in half with each strike.

You inflicted supereffective damage to [Fairy Hound]!

The armor’s claws had been reinforced with Silver, Cold Iron, and Starmetal; second-rate, unshiny metals, but alloys which the fairies feared more than gold.

Even better, with every kill, the monsters dropped an item! A golden statue, a gem, a sword!

[Hoard Armor] improved your chances of item drops!

Combined with [Crowd’s Favorite], Vainqueur would get richer with every victim he claimed. “I am the shining heart of the universe!” he roared after demolishing the hound pack, drunk on his greed. “The greatest financial wizard in the world!”

These were novel boasts, unknown to dragonkind, but they suited the visionary emperor well.

Within seconds, Vainqueur carved a sizable hole in the defensive fortifications, having single-handedly removed most of the defensive artillery. Without suppressing fire, the fairies’ thralls could no longer prevent most of Vainqueur’s fleet from making landfall. Mimic and bone ships crashed onto the shores, pouring out minions.

Corpseling Jules led an undead cohort by bolstering them with spells, while Untasty Allison and Tinfoil Rolo led a second force. The ghoul waved his hand and unleashed a pulse of necromantic energy, raising fairy beasts as undead hounds without touching them; the golem simply charged towards the fortifications, smashed through them, and kept going; and Untasty Allison healed kobolds back to full health, and summoned creatures of solid stone to assist.

Above, Manling Victor cast down thunderbolts on the fairies’ remaining aerial forces, surrounded by Batling Charlene’s vampires and fiends from Happyland. It quickly became clear that the battle’s tide was changing, and not in the fairies’ favor.

So, with the walls destroyed, monstrous reinforcements emerged from the fairies’ forests beyond the fortifications. A battalion of one-eyed ogres, doppelgangers, and animated trees arrived to swarm the V&V ground forces.

Much to Vainqueur’s annoyances, the tiny doppelgangers all carried copies of Mot’s bottle. They opened them upon sighting dragons, sucking air within them; Murmurin’s Emperor immediately activated his [Spell Purge], remembering his last confrontation with Batling Lavere.

You avoided being caught in [Bottle of Dragonbinding]!

Several of Vainqueur’s kindred didn’t share his iron will and anti-sorcery defenses, their massive bodies sucked into the tiny jars; the others pulled back, although more in surprise than fear.

“No bottle can hold a dragon!” Vainqueur shouted to encourage them, before unleashing his mighty breath at the doppelgangers to release his brethren. Giants and animated trees attempted to flank and interrupt him, but his minions came to Vainqueur’s defense, swarming the bigger monsters with sheer numbers.

Charisma check successful!

The dragon's bravado inspired his kindred, who backed him up with an aerial bombardment. Within seconds, a rain of fire, lightning, acid, and other elements ravaged the thralls’ reinforcements, forcing them to run for their lives back inland. Unfortunately, the doppelgangers with the bottles managed to escape, prioritizing their cruel captures over winning the battle.

At the same time, a terrible noise echoed as the storm battered the shores. A dozen long, metal arrows descended from above. Wind Spears.

“Minions, behind me!” Vainqueur ordered as he and fellow wyrms shot down a few of the projectiles, but not enough. They rained down onto the entire battlefield, unleashing mighty blasts of winds turning hard stone to paste.

Unlike the arrows of light, these projectiles didn’t devastate the entire region nor instantly kill dragons, but they hurt. They fell at random everywhere on the ground, with no regard for friendly fire, hitting dragons and giants alike. The detonations shredded kobolds into bloody puddles, tore animated trees apart, and caused a few dragons to break a wing and make an emergency landing.

For a minute, Vainqueur’s entire world was reduced to explosions, kobolds, and ghouls hiding behind or below his mighty body. Much to his fury, many of his servants couldn’t take cover in time and drop like flies; his [Healing Mantle] regeneration unable to protect them from such a powerful force.

When at least the bombardment ended, the beach looked like the devastated surface of the cursed planet Moon.

“Kobold down!” Pink Ranger screamed, tending to a wounded Red alongside her teammates. “Kobold down!”

They killed the Kobold Rangers again?!

Above, Manling Victor and his zmey flew towards the attack’s source, only to barely avoid being shot down themselves; for more projectiles emerged from the sea itself, an uninterrupted rain of destruction.

“[Glitzy Theater]!” Vainqueur summoned a golden cage around the shores, protecting his surviving minions from a second bombardment. Even his mighty arena shook from the sheer intensity of the attack. Unfortunately, the dragon couldn’t activate his more destructive abilities without risking friendly fire. “Manling Victor, do the thing!”

“I’m trying!” his Doer of the Thing shouted back, Gorynych furiously trying to keep his rider alive by making circles in the skies and dodging the wind spears.

Suddenly, the assault ended as abruptly as it began, an explosion erupting below the water. A swarm of shark beastkin gathered around the source of the attack, while a dark shape started to emerge; a familiar face led the amphibious reinforcements.

“Jaja!” Manling Victor shouted from above, Vainqueur’s sharp hearing picking it up over the battle’s noise.

“Vic, you son of mammal!” The sharkman raised a spear, surfing on a wave. “You can’t sink an island without me!”

Mighty tentacles raised a captive monster above the sea’s waves, Vainqueur finally seeing the attacker.

A dolphin.

A giant, black metal dolphin with an iron tower for a back fin. The creatures had tiny metal legs, a fanged, eyeless metal mouth, and holes all over its body.

The creature holding the metal dolphin captive half-emerged from the waters, an entity almost as big as Vainqueur himself. The beast appeared to be some sort of giant centaur, with the upper half of a deformed green, fishlike beastkin, and the bottom half of a kraken. Its terrifying visage inspired dread in the minions ashore, although Vainqueur’s presence calmed them.

Charisma check successful! [Madness] negated!

“Lord Dagon, Lord Vainqueur!” the sharkman shouted across the battlefield. “Lord Vainqueur, this is Lord Dagon, first spawn of the Moon Man!”

The enormous fish let out a wail, its tentacles struggling to ensnare the giant metal dolphin. This Dagon fellow attempted to throw it on the shores, where it wouldn’t move, but the giant machine responded by firing a volley of projectiles from the holes on its back.

The Moon Man’s child let out a scream as the projectiles almost blew off its face, and tossed the dolphin backward; the machine sank back into the sea with shark beastkin giving pursuit. Dagon let out a snarl and returned to the deep, alongside its servants.

At the sight, Prydain’s remaining aerial forces panicked and fell back, except the golems. Even then, the machines were outnumbered and quickly demolished by dragons and Manling Victor’s forces.

“Action!” Vainqueur ordered as he undid his [Glitzy Theater], allowing his troops to move further inland. “Let none escape! Recover the dragonbinding bottles!”

The shores were his, and soon, the entire island would follow.

The battle ended in victory, although a costly one.

They had seized the beach, and thus a landfall point on Prydain; but the shores were covered in corpses, destroyed ships, golem parts, craters, and ruins. The dragons had borne the brunt of the massacre, both from the nuke and the aerial bombardments, but the V&V Empire also registered thousands of dead.

“So much work to do,” Victor sighed, while Jules was already hard at work to raise the deceased as undead labor; having recovered his [Black Grail], the Vizier would assist him soon. Allison had joined in too, but provided healing for the wounded instead; with her new levels, her group healing spells had improved enough to help many recover quickly.

She had been too late for a few minions though.

“He was too young!” Pink cried over Red’s remains, the Kobold Rangers having formed a wake around their leader’s body; the Wind Spear had shredded half his chest. Buzz Jelly was holding the wake, carrying the V&V Empire’s flag while humming the War of the Hoard. “He was too young!”

“Why is she acting like this?” Victor asked, puzzled. “I mean, he’s just dead. That’s not the end of the world.”

It wasn’t even the first time it happened to this team, as Blue and Yellow could attest.

“After the first resurrection, death lost its luster,” Allison commented, although she only sounded half-serious.

“Pink said it is a [Bard]’s duty to hold a tragic death scene,” Black answered, while his teammate kept crying over Red’s corpse. “She never got to do yours, chief, so she’s making up for lost time.”

Oh. Alright.

While Vainqueur and most of the surviving dragons were cleaning up the remnants of Prydain’s forces further north, Victor raised a group of goblins as [Arisen] with his [Black Grail]. This earned him a lot more attention than he thought it would from unlikely sources.

“Vainqueur’s chief of staff can cure minion death!” a Linnorm shouted, like a medieval peasant in adoration before the discovery of electricity.

“I cannot believe that minion repairmanship progressed this much in my century-long slumber…” a true dragon muttered in astonishment. “What about lead poisoning, minion of Vainqueur? Have they found the cure?”

“Somewhat,” the Vizier replied, the dragons whispering to each other, to ponder this wondrous discovery. Victor dared not tell them about the [Transmute Gold to Lead] spell.

“What about the dragon birth defect? Can it be undone?”

That was Victor’s next order of business. Upon finding the first dragon corpse which a nuclear bomb hadn’t completely vaporized, the Vizier covered it with black blood.

Your [Black Grail] could not raise [Green Wyrm].

… why? Because the dragon’s soul wasn’t bound for Happyland? With all the greed and pride, he would have thought otherwise.

In any case, Victor tried to raise the corpse as a normal sentient undead with [Reanimator], only to receive a blue screen of death.

ERROR 404: Soul not found!

Soul not found?

This was exactly like after Icefang bit the dust.

Victor frowned, doubly so when he realized Jules had no problem raising minions killed by warbeasts and firearms. Was it because this wyrm had been killed by the nuclear bomb? Other dragons had been decimated by Odieuse’s golems, did something prevent them from being raised too? He would have to check as soon as possible.

But all in all, unlike what Victor joked about, it appeared a lot of people would stay dead today.

His lack of success also disheartened the dragons present; they looked at the death toll and the corpses of their brethren with a cowed expression. Victor guessed that this was the first time most of them witnessed slaughter on that scale.

Kia chose this moment to arrive, riding the back of Jolie. “Vic, I’m so glad you guys made it,” the [Paladin] said, climbing down from the dragon’s back. Many of the wyrms present responded by turning their back on the newcomers as if to deny their very existence; Victor guessed they wouldn’t share a bus with minions anytime soon.

“Hey, it’s Loon Dad,” the dark elf Kevin said, as he landed next to the [Paladin]. Unlike Kia, he had flown over through his own magical means.

Victor was immediately upon him. “Loon Dad?” he asked Kevin while invading his personal space. “Why do you say that? You think I have a hidden child?”

“Calm down, Vic, he was just joking!” Kia pulled him away from her disturbed teammate.

“Oh,” the Vizier calmed himself, disappointed. “Don’t scare me like that. How was your battle?”

“We took heavy losses, but our army made landfall in the Essex equivalent,” Kia explained. “King Roland established a permanent stronghold, and we await reinforcements there.”

According to the maps they had gathered, Prydain covered what would have been Great Britain and Ireland on Earth; with the V&V fleet having landed in Hampshire. Two large islands, both heavily fortified. Odieuse’s lair could be located in any of them and considering the difficulties in taking one area even with dragon support, conquering the country would be an uphill struggle.

For now, the allied forces intended to make a pincer maneuver and secure Prydain’s southern part. This would make it easier to progress north and organize a landing on the second island.

“I shall avenge your death!” Pink cried loudly over Red's corpse, before wiping off her tears. “I’m done, chief.”

“It was a great death scene, Pink!” Jolie told the [Bard], having immediately understood the situation. She had even faked a tear over Red’s demise.

Victor took a second to splatter Red with his [Black Grail]. The body reconstituted itself, the Kobold Rangers’ leader rising up none the worse to wear. “I am so glad to live in a country where death is a temporary inconvenience,” Red declared. “Thanks, chief.”

“Don’t thank me,” Victor replied. “Thank your Deathcare Insurance.”

“I guess this rules out suicide as a permanent solution,” Kevin the mage deadpanned, Kia elbowing him.

“The Undeathstrial Revolution cannot be halted,” Jules cleared his throat in the background, with a tone of smug satisfaction.

“Revival made me hungry though,” Red said, eying Pink’s overfed cat with hunger.

“Squeakie helped us!” the [Bard] shielded her cat protectively. “He shielded me from a blast!”

“Squeakie is food! He has to die!”

Victor had the feeling that they had just spearheaded some kind of cat genocide, and felt a little remorse. “Anything on the submarine that attacked us?” the Vizier asked his fellow Claimed, having sent them a report through [Scarlet Study]. “Jaja’s amphibious force gave pursuit, but had to order a retreat after being ambushed by nautical warbeasts.”

“According to my divinations, it’s a Typhoon-class Russian submarine transformed into a golem by magic,” Kevin explained, drawing gazes. “Was nobody into WMD on Earth?”

“No,” Allison replied, with slight condemnation. Victor, meanwhile, was aghast. The fomors animated a nuclear submarine as a golem? No wonder they could hit Murmurin half a continent across!

“These things can hold up to twenty ballistic missiles, each of them with ten nuclear heads,” the mage continued. “So in short, their missiles unleash ten smaller projectiles past a certain point to target more ground. The whole arsenal could probably wipe out all civilized lands in Outremonde if judiciously applied.”

“Even the missiles used on us by Hamelin didn't fit that category,” Kia noted. “All of them, including the one that targeted Murmurin, were modified wind-spears holding only one nuclear warhead.”

“Then…” Victor trailed off, disturbed. “Where are the real missiles?”

Hoard Armor

Quality: S+ (Major Artifact)

Material: Various metals (Gold, Silver, Starmetal, Cold Iron...), gems, and Powerstones.

Endurance: ∞/∞

Protection: Physical +50/Magical +50

Weight: 57 tons.

Bonus: [Metal] Immunity (except Adamantine and Starmetal)/[Dragon] only/weight divided by ten if worn by a true red dragon/Breath Weapon damage +25/+20 to checks about item or money drops.

A massive magical armor crafted from Vainqueur Knightsbane’s legendary hoard, refined through magic and powerstones. This massive, dragon-shaped suit of armor is too heavy for anyone but a mighty wyrm to wear, although its magic doesn’t impair flight nor movement.

Besides its high defenses, the Hoard Armor possesses several abilities. At will, the user can try to transmute matter to gold on touch with a successful Charisma check (this is a [Polymorph] effect), although only an amount equal to the armor’s weight at once; once per day, the wearer can summon molten gold from the Elemental Plane of Earth in the form of a flood centered around the armor; and the armor is immune to metallic weapons, except those made with Adamantine and Starmetal.

Finally, the armor’s claws and tail have been reinforced with Cold Iron, Silver and Starmetal; [Fairy] types are thus especially vulnerable to the wielder’s physical attacks.

A note from Void Herald

Hoard Armor stats granted by popular demand.

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About the author

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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