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Vainqueur felt it in his bones. The Fairy Queen Mell Odieuse was nearby.

Her foul stench filled the air, carried by the wind.

After crossing the dense forests of Prydain, Vainqueur and his mighty army had reached the island's western shores, destroying its defensive walls from behind. Thousands of minions and dragons had lined up, as dawn appeared behind the clear, crimson horizon. Sharkmen and their giant fish master had occupied the sea, to help carry troops on the other side.

"Here it is, meow," Cait Sith declared, his tiny paws on the sand. "Cross the waters, and you will see."

Beyond the tumultuous sea, Vainqueur watched a second, smaller island, fortified by powerful magical wards. Smoke came out of these distant shores, as if entire forests burnt to fuel some giant forge's appetite; the air choked with the smell of radioactive fumes and dust.

"How long until the castle takes its flight?" Manling Victor asked the cat, standing near his master's side as he summoned dark clouds to allow vampires and other sun-fearing creatures to move. He was himself surrounded by the minion elites and Knight Kia, in full [Plot Armor].

"Meow, she said in two days, but that was before you arrived. It has yet to rise, but maybe it will soon." Cait Sith looked up at the dragon emperor. "Do not forget your promise."

"I shall fulfill my oath," Vainqueur replied to the furball. "After the war is won, your meowing kind shall go free."

"You've got a part to play in this mess too, Cait Sith," Manling Victor told the fairy cat.

"Meow, do not expect anything to come out of this," the fomor replied, before showing them all his royal butt. "Good luck, yarn people. Superior species, out."

The fomor opened a fairy ring and vanished, leaving the army behind.

His body protected by the warmth of his [Hoard Armor], his shininess enhanced by the sun, the emperor turned to face his troops.

Never before had a dragon led such a strange motley of minions and allies. Kobolds, goblins, werewolves, fiends, undead, gnolls, trolls, spiders, taradodos, dwarves, orcs, slimes... in his journeys, the V&V Guild had grown into a great and terrible force, a horde gathering all kinds of monsters. Many dragons, among them his cousin Genialissime, Grandrake, and many others, had joined under Vainqueur's leadership. More would follow soon, flocking through the skies when the emperor would call the signal for the last battle.

The human Gardemagnian Army would join them too, as would Jolie's group... although Vainqueur secretly hoped that his niece would remain safe, and let her uncle bear the brunt of this devastating conflict.

His people looked at Vainqueur with anxiety, none daring to speak up. The tension was palpable.

"Minions," Vainqueur cleared his throat. "Beyond these shores, awaits our final battle."

[El Presidente] activated!

"You have my thanks for following me this far," Vainqueur spoke up from the heart. "A little more than a year ago, when I rose from my slumber to grow my hoard, I never imagined that I would stand here before you. Although I knew minions would flock to my banners and serve me unconditionally... you all made me proud. You fought with me against countless enemies, from the Forgotten One to the grasshopper Brandon Maure. Together, we smashed the wicked Mot and the Batling Lavere, and we built a great city upon their ashes! We conquered the East and the West until we crafted a great empire on which the sun never sets! It took me a long, long time to understand it, but my hoard was not made from coins and gems alone. It was made of you, minions."

The dragon nodded at his lackeys, who had tears in their eyes.

"You are my hoard! All of you!"

Hurrays and shouts answered his declaration. His minions clapped in joy, while the dragons present nodded in support.

"Today, we stand with my fellow wyrms as one, against a threat menacing all hoards!" As manling Victor cast buffs on his master, Vainqueur continued to make his case. "A bright dawn will rise on a new world tomorrow! One where dragons and minions can live in peace, to gather their hoards! A world free of lead! We shall storm this island, and bring the fairies' castle to the gro—"

"[Za Warudo]!"

For a second, Vainqueur thought the Forgotten One had joined the fray, but the voice was different. Familiar, but different.

Time seemed to stop for a second, and when it resumed, Vainqueur turned his head behind him to face an army.

A massive force of golems, greater than the one who prevented them from landing on Prydain, had gathered in the skies, a swarm of steel and swords. Orc and human priests of that worm Sablar rode flying warbeasts, summoning monsters and deadly magic. Explosions detonated beneath the sea, the sharkman Jajambe propelled on the shores by a mighty detonation.

The metal Dolphin which attacked Vainqueur upon first landing rose from the waves, covered in the blood of fishmen, its Wind Spears ready to take to the skies.

Those cowards, they didn't even let him finish his speech!

"Someone triggered the anti-teleportation wards," Victor declared, while Knight Kia drew her blade. "They tried to teleport a nuke to our face in the stopped time."

Only a vicious mind could imagine such a destructive strategy, and Vainqueur caught a glimpse of the responsible. On the back of the Dolphin stood an ancient, rune-covered mummy, a wicked foe from an age bygone. The undead who slew his minion for the second time, costing Vainqueur a fortune.

The vile Akhenapep, Vainqueur recognized him, before letting out a furious roar. "Minions, to arms! Dragons, to me!"

As his mighty roar and the flapping of his wings echoed across the skies, dragonkind answered. The horizon was filled with an army of wings and claws, flocking to the final battle.

More dragons came from the west, some of them as big as Vainqueur himself; primordial great wyrms who had slumbered beneath the earth for centuries, millennia! Their shouts became a cacophony, drowning the buzzing of flying machines.

"[Black Horseman: Noirceur]," Manling Victor shouted. In the blink of an eye, a dark horse appeared below him, the [Reaper] ready to reap and tear. "Kia, are you ready?!"

"Nakama Desu!" she replied, the armor taking her over, before climbing on Gorynych’s back.

"Minions, I shall break the Dolphin, you bury the mummy!" Vainqueur ordered, blasting a Wind Spear launched at him with a well-placed fireball.

His hoard he would defend.


Time for payback.

You changed the weather to [Slime Rain]. Slime type chosen: [Thunder Jelly].

As he altered the weather, electric slimes falling from the skies and charging clouds with electrical energy, Victor saw the area around him erupt into chaos. Spells and elemental breaths were unleashed from one side, bullets and shells fired from the other. Owing to the chaotic nature of both armies, it appeared as if two hordes of savage barbarians had met on the battlefield, to engage in a furious melee.

“Allison, Rolo, with me.” Victor picked up the dryad as his support, lifting her on Noirceur’s back, before casting a spell on the steel golem. “[Windy Cloak].”

A swirling cloak of wind surrounded the golem, turning him as light as a feather. The golem did some footwork, preparing himself to take a leap of faith; this time, he was determined to end Akhenapep, his maker, once and for all.

"So what's the plan, handsome?" Allison asked, sounding a bit worried. She hadn’t forgotten her death at the pharaoh’s hands.

“Rolo says we end this today. Rolo will not let him make the green a desert again.”

"Allison, heal and focus on buffs; the rest of us will go on the offense.” Victor then cast a few spells on himself. “[Rainmantle], [Hasten].”

For ten minutes, you will recover 1/8 of your HP each minute and walk on water. Your reaction time and speed will be greatly increased for ten minutes.

[White Rider] activated! Your buffs will be extended to your mount!

A shroud of water surrounded Victor and Noirceur, her fiery hooves turning to steam. “Worship me!” the horse roared, following Vainqueur’s lead and chasing after the submarine by running on the stormy sea itself. Allison grabbed Victor’s waist to hold on. “Worship me, worms! I am the goddess of horses!”

While the submarine began to dive down into the sea as Vainqueur and Kia approached it, Akhenapep summoned a sandstorm below his waist and used it to fly straight at Victor. Instead of casting spells at his former trainee yet, the mummy summoned reinforcements of his own. “[Chronosummon: Pterodactyls]!”

As he spoke these words, rifts in time opened across the open sea, a flock of six-meters wide flying dinosaurs teleporting through. Akhenapep seemed a bit bothered; clearly, he would have preferred to summon monsters amid the V&V army, not in front of it.

If Victor hadn’t unlocked Tier IX and up, he might have succeeded.

Rolo, who had taken some momentum, leaped from the shores at high speed. Thanks to the spell empowering him, he jumped hundreds of meters in the air and landed on the back of a pterodactyl, forcefully driving the beast away by holding it by the neck. Allison focused on casting buffs, raising Victor’s stats while his nightmare horse raced on the open sea to dodge the flying dinosaurs.

Strength and Vitality increased by two stages! You gained Resistance to [Nuclear].

"These wards were your doing I presume?" Akhenapep asked Victor, keeping a safe distance from his enemies; clearly, he understood how much the group outmatched him in physical combat. "You have grown powerful, cultist. A pity you chose the wrong side."

"Guess surviving your last lessons gave me the levels I needed to kick your ass!" Victor replied, raising his scythe. “[Black Horseman: Tarasque Emperor]!”

In a flash, Victor teleported the radioactive Tarasque right above Akhenapep’s head, a towering heavyweight falling on a much smaller target.

Using the same defensive strategy as in the battle of El Dorado, the mummy leaped through time, the Tarasque falling through an empty spot. Akhenapep reappeared a second later, narrowly dodging a claw attack from the giant, glowing radioactive reptile.

Even with the protection set by Allison, Victor had Noirceur put some distance between the Tarasque and them. A giant radioactive pseudo-Japanese lizard, fighting the literal high priest of a nuclear god… poetic, in a way.

"What a coincidence, I gained a few levels too." Seeing the Tarasque roar and open his mouth to swallow him, Akhenapep slammed his hands together and summoned an item within his palms. The most terrifying weapon of all.

A dirty teapot.

"[Great Beast Containment Seal]!"

A mighty force pulled the Tarasque towards Akhenapep, alongside tons of waters and some of the dinosaur summons. Noirceur managed to pull away from the device’s range, while Rolo leaped from dinosaur to dinosaur like Super Mario. The Tarasque Emperor wasn’t so lucky though; a vortex pulled him inside the teapot and quickly trapped him inside.

Once the beast was contained, Akhenapep slammed the cover shut, then casually tossed the teapot out into the sea. "Strategem Twenty-Eight: I shall always keep dangerous monsters in secure cages. [Alacrity]."

Akhenapep's spellcasting time has been greatly shortened for Tier III spells and below!

"Oh come on! Do you know how many kids that thing left behind?” Victor complained. “How many monsters you just orphaned?"

The mummy responded by attempting to skewer him with a rain of golden arrows, forcing the Vizier and his minions to run away. The pharaoh’s body began to radiate a green aura, polluting the air with nuclear energy.

All creatures near Akhenapep will lose 2 Max HP per second, except [Undead], [Eldritch], [Alien], [Insect], [Elemental] and [Artificial] types.

If your current HP surpasses your new Max HP limit, you will develop a [Radioactive Tumor].

[Darwinist] activated! You will count as [Eldritch] for the purpose of the effect!

Eldritch? Must have been his inner slime showing. “You’re holding up?” the Vizier asked Allison and Noirceur.

“For now, my magical protection will hold,” the dryad replied. “But he might dispel them at any time.”

Meanwhile, Vainqueur engaged the submarine alongside the V&V amphibious forces, destroying Wind Spears before they could hit him with his breath. Kia and Gorynych, trusting the dragon to handle the superweapon, switched focus to circle behind Akhenapep and take him down.

Braving his radioactive aura, the [Paladin] raised her blade and tried to impale the pharaoh. The [Chronomancer] had no choice but to drop his assault on Victor to defend himself against the new challenger.

“Lightning,” Victor told Allison his battle plan, while Kia and Akhenapep engaged in a deadly aerial dance. “We go for lightning.”

“You’re sure?” she asked, looking at the clouds and then at Vainqueur’s confrontation with the submarine. “We’re near the sea, we risk friendly fire.”

“Buff my precision,” the Vizier replied. Akhenapep was unfortunately too dangerous and too high-level, with a radioactive aura that only weakened his opposition with time. They needed to kill him fast.

Nodding, the dryad cast spells on the Vizier, the necessary preparations for an ultimate attack. “[Protection from Lightning], [Accelerated Lightning Up]; [Lightning Pierce], [Accelerated Precision Up].”

You gained resistance to [Lightning] for ten minutes! [Lightning] spells will inflict 20 percent more damage and will bypass Resistance. You gained +20 to precision-based checks for five minutes!

Struggling against a Paladin optimized to damage him, Akhenapep collapsed space within his hand, creating a small black sphere. “[Black Hole].”

He launched the sphere at Kia and Gorynych, the projectile growing from the size of a tennis ball to that of a truck. The attack drew in anything unlucky enough to get close to its event horizon, from the [Chronomancer]’s summons to the very clouds. Rolo himself managed to drag his current dinosaur ride afar, instead regrouping with Victor and Allison.

Kia was much luckier.

Her [Plot Armor] radiated a blue light, forming a sphere around the knight and Gorynych. The shield and the black hole collided, fusing like yin and yang before both magics abruptly vanished; the [Paladin] and her Zmey mount ended up unharmed.

“What happened?” Allison asked, as astonished as Akhenapep himself.

Intelligence check successful.

“Friendship is pure positivity, while a [Black Hole] is created from negative energy,” Victor realized. “The sum of Kia's bonds, magnified by the [Plot Armor], created a reverse polarity which canceled the black hole!”

The dryad remained silent for an instant. “That doesn’t make any sense!” she protested.

“And yet, it does!”

"Justice will prevail!" Kia shouted, more and more ashamed of her own speech. "I'm sorry, I'm nothing like this normally!"

"The [Plot Armor]," Akhenapep realized, recognizing the artifact; however, unlike what Victor would have thought, he sounded more confident than before, not less. "A very tricky defense, but one with a glaring weakness."

"It makes me want to puke?" Kia frowned, summoning a [Solar Judgment].

"You are protected from death, hero," Akhenapep mused upon dodging a pillar of light, "and only death."

The Ur-Pharaoh flew towards the [Paladin], Gorynych opening his three mouths to target him with his elemental breaths; instead, the mummy teleported right in front of Gorynych’s chest and slapped him in the belly. "[Time Push]."

POOP.

Kia and Gorynych popped out of existence with a strange, ridiculous noise.

Victor saw red. "What did you do?!"

"I pushed them further down in the timestream," the Ur-Pharaoh replied, proud of his cunning. "They will reappear later at the same spot, safe, unharmed... and surrounded by defeat."

"How long?" Allison asked, horrified by the sudden loss of one of their strongest warriors. The mummy responded by targeting the two with a blast of radioactive energy, unwilling to give his foe any tactical information. Noirceur managed to dodge, while Victor maintained his focus on the thunderstorm above.

Poor Kia, that was the cruelest thing the mummy could ever do to her: force her to sit out of another epic battle. Even the [Plot Armor] couldn't offset her terrible luck.

Rolo, having gained some sort of control over his pterodactyl mount, prepared to attack his maker, but Victor dissuaded him with a glance.

The [Weathermaker] was ready.

“I heard you caught a fairy too, cultist,” Akhenapep said, preparing to unleash another [Black Hole], this time at the Vizier. “But you should have kept Mot chained and bound. A well-crafted wish would have saved you.”

"Mag Mell's soul knew more than how to create a Soulcrest,” Victor replied, confident. “He had knowledge of fairy magic; in particular, of spells so powerful that no humans could ever cast them... until a few levels ago."

The slime storm had reached its apex, carrying the lightning Victor needed to cast this ultimate technique. Allison protected her face while she cast [Protection from Lightning] spells on herself and Rolo.

"Here it comes!" Victor waved his scythe like Wotan once did with his spear. "The supreme lightning, which guarantees victory!"

"Impossible," Akhenapep muttered, astonished, before attempting to skip time and dodge, "[Time Le—"

"[Ragnarok]!"

Thunder swallowed Akhenapep whole, and the whole sea flashed brightly.

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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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