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Vainqueur had always disdained wyrms letting their minions riding them as cattletarian, unworthy of calling themselves true dragons.

But as he carried Victor through the skies, their army unable to keep up with his sheer speed, Vainqueur realized he had been mistaken. His loyal friend didn’t feel like a false master on his back, but as an extension of the dragon emperor himself.

Now having fully recovered from his previous wounds, Vainqueur had used his ring to [Hasten] himself and aimed for the sun, the shadow of Crom Cruach rising towards the heavens. The fortress was quick, but the dragon was faster, quickly closing the gap.

“Here they come,” Victor said, readying his scythe.

Tiny holes opened in the magical shield protecting the castle, like a cheese. An army of flying mice flew through, eager to die at Vainqueur's hands.

Some were golems, but the bulk of the army were fomors. Having hidden behind all their minions until they had exhausted them all, the fairy lords finally deigned to show up. They were a chaotic menagerie of horrors and nightmares; ghostly riders carried by skeletal, fiery horses; wicked, child-eating hags; tiger-headed Rakshasa ancestors; giants and twisted fairies, screaming for blood, their body heavy with ill-gotten magic.

The Wild Hunt.

Hundreds, thousands of fomors were arrayed against V&V, diving down on them like a swarm of doves trying to overwhelm a hawk. Each was a match for a single adult wyrm, and a bane to minions everywhere.

Vainqueur only had one word to qualify the opposition.

“Mediocre!” The dragon shouted as his war cry. “Minion, support me while I carve a path paved with fairy blood!”

His minion immediately started to spellcast. “[Pact with the Archfiends]!”

As Victor transformed into a demon, his [Chaos Rider] class extended the transformation to Vainqueur himself. His [Hoard Armor] stretched to accommodate the transformation, as his size doubled, his scales turned to molten lava, and the tip of his tail grew a smaller dragon head.

Your minion rider’s buffs will extend to you!

You have been imbued with demonic strength. Your typing temporarily changed to [Dragon/Demon], and your [Fire] attacks will inflict additional [Unholy] damage!

“[Fire Crown],” Vainqueur activated, his body burning with hellfire.

“[Hail-bringer: Fire Hail]!” Manling Victor shouted as he changed the weather, overwhelming even the castle’s special effect. Fiery clouds formed all around the duo, raining flames and molten projectiles.

To outsiders, Vainqueur must have appeared in all his burning majesty, a meteor blazing through a firestorm. And like a meteor, the dragon didn’t stop, even as the screaming warriors of the wild hunt came within reach of his claws. A star didn’t deviate from its course.

Instead, Vainqueur smashed through his foes.

The vanguard of the Wild Hunt folded like paper, or water crashing against a mountain. Their golems exploded into scraps as Vainqueur hit them, their swords breaking upon his [Hoard Armor]. His mere contact burnt the flesh of a mighty dullahan, the headless rider and his soldiers falling to their death into the firestorm following V&V.

They didn’t even slow him down.

Obeying his partner’s command, Friend Victor cast buffing spells on himself, his class spreading the effects to Vainqueur.

[Fire] damage increased by fifty percent! [Physical] attacks will ignore Resistance! You gained immunity to [Frost], [Fairy], [Nuclear]—

This. This was what V&V’s respective class builds had led them to. Two invincible forces becoming one.

Vainqueur quickly lost count of all the improvements, for he required no higher thoughts. He trusted his dragon instincts, empowered by the System meant to serve him.

After demolishing the vanguard, Vainqueur continued his relentless ascension, the fomors retaliating by tapping into their own classes. “[Fire Immunity]!” hags cast upon their allies, while close-combat fighters braved the firestorm to engage Vainqueur in melee. A giant Rakhasa flew straight at him, the tigerlike humanoid raising a runic blade to pierce the dragon’s hide.

Vainqueur responded by opening his mouth and unleashing a torrent of hellfire. The fomor lost his focus, unable to see through the flames, and couldn’t dodge the fist aiming for his face. The dragon's punch tore the Rakshasa in half in a single strike, both halves falling to the ocean beneath them. Beyond the sea, he could hear the sound of approaching thunder...

As more creatures kept trying to slow down V&V’s ascent, Vainqueur pulverized them all, through claws and fangs; thanks to [Master’s Shield] and his enhancements, the wyrm healed faster than they could hurt him. They might have been a threat before he gained levels, but right now, they proved no more troublesome than powerful manling knights.

Soon, the dried blood of a dozen fomors splattered his golden armor, both Vainqueur and Victor were drenched in the warm fluid.

“I AM THE LEAD THAT HAUNTS YOUR NIGHTMARES!” Vainqueur boasted.

Terrified by this primal vision of horror, a wiser group of fairies retreated and started casting offensive spells. In answer to his own fire, they rained down stones the size of castles, sharp fairy winds, rays of golden light, and raw elemental forces.

Although most attacks bounced off the duo, some did scratch them. This time, the fomors forced Vainqueur to deviate from his course, the dragon retaliating with fireballs as he tried to find a way through the opposition.

“[Za Warudo]!”

As time briefly froze, Vainqueur thought it had been Victor’s work.

But then, he saw two of the fomors turned into lead statues, creating a hole in the enemy’s defense. An explosion detonated behind the enemy lines, meteors raining from nowhere and hitting fomors in the face, as a ghostly shape teleported multiple times in short succession among their ranks.

Vainqueur realized who had come to assist, teleporting halfway across the world to ambush the fomors from behind; as he had sadistically murdered a dragon’s hoard once.

A flying lich, transformed into a ghostly shadow by a spell, had opened a second front behind the fairies.

Exploiting the situation, Vainqueur forced the fairies to disperse with his breath, returning to his ascension. This time, the castle, and its crimson shield would soon be within reach.

“Furi!” Victor shouted while the lich flew at their side; and for once, Vainqueur was happy to see his skeletal nemesis. “You came!”

“Because you wouldn’t shut up telepathically!” the Forgotten One replied crankily, lazily counterspelling some hag’s attack.

“Of course he came, but not out of goodwill,” Vainqueur warned Friend Victor. “He cannot transform the world to lead if it is destroyed!”

“You… you wyrm seriously…” Furibon screamed in anger at his vile intent being unmasked. Yet he insisted on lying again. “After all the work you made me do to shield your cities, no way am I letting you screw this up!”

“You came because you care,” Victor said, taken over by the lich’s false charm. “We love you as you are, Furi.”

“Shut up, Dalton, I hate you both.” The Forgotten One wisely focused back on the battle. “Can you break the castle’s shield, or must I do everything?”

“Fly back and watch!” Vainqueur replied, preparing a [Charged Attack]. “First the shield, then the fortress!”

“Thing is, if we destroy it, we risk setting off the nukes aboard,” Friend Victor replied. “Not only will we die, but the fallout will devastate the world.”

“And how would that be terrible?” Vainqueur glared at Furibon’s callousness, who shrugged. “Perhaps push it outside the atmosphere and into the void of space?”

The dragon half-considered throwing the castle at the cursed planet Moon, but some of his minions lived there.

“I can create pocket dimensions,” Victor replied. “Fold space itself. If I am allowed to focus, I could seal Crom Cruach inside one; it would contain the nuclear detonation.”

“Think quickly, then,” the lich replied, as the fomors reorganized. The fairies chased back after the group, trapping the trio between the castle and their forces.

At this point, the sound of distant thunderbolts grew so powerful that Vainqueur could hear clouds gather below him, pushing away his friend’s fiery hail. The fomors briefly halted their assault, as an overwhelming pressure filled the air.

A familiar message appeared before Vainqueur’s eyes.

King Wotan’s [Storm Caller] passive Perk changed the weather to [Heavy Thunderstorm]!

A mighty thunderbolt fell among the fomors, striking one of them dead.

A second army of fairies came from the east, smaller than the first, but deadlier. At the forefront rode King Wotan on his flying horse, followed by his Valkyries; behind him, Jack O’Lantern carried fiery pumpkins, carried alongside Cait Sith through the skies by a giant bat. The other fomors Vainqueur didn’t recognize, from thunderbirds, to mothmen and nightmarish titans made of crackling lightning. The storm followed them, rain and thunder and downpour.

They hadn’t come to help their kindred. Instead, they immediately engaged the Wild Hunt in battle with merciless ferocity, sowing chaos among their ranks.

“It worked,” Victor whispered, as Wotan’s force assaulted their pursuers much to everyone’s total confusion. “They listened!”

“Traitors!” a hag fomor follower of Odieuse shouted at the newcomers, only for one of Jack’s pumpkin bombs to explode in her face.

The situation only worsened for Odieuse’s defenders, as the flight of dragons and minion armies following Vainqueur finally caught up to the battle. A manling army followed from the west, led by a dark elf and the wyvern-riding, manling King Roland. “For Gardemagne!” he shouted, raising an axe as his minions’ war cry became deafening.

“Uncle!” Vainqueur's beautiful niece, Jolie, was the first of the dragon flight to reach the Wild Hunt, wearing shining silver armor. Much like her uncle, she carried a group of minions on her back; the Kobold Rangers, Corpseling Jules, and Buzz Jelly in this case. “Paladin time!”

“For Empire!” The tiny Buzz Jelly was the first to enter the fray, leaping off his master’s back to land on a fomor’s face, hopping from one fairy to the other. The Kobold Rangers and Corpseling Jules remained on Jolie’s back, supplementing her breath with spells, songs, and bullets.

Grandrake roared, leading the dragons as they bombarded the Wild Hunt, the skies exploding into an orgy of devastation. Vainqueur’s flying minions and Gardemagne’s Pegasi riders cast spells, opening gates through space itself. Hundreds of fiends and pigeon-like angels poured through them, swarming the fomors.

Odieuse’s servants were mighty, but the dragons could match them, and the minions overwhelmed them through sheer numbers. After ordering his Valkyries to set up a defensive perimeter at his back, King Wotan left his horde to join Vainqueur’s own team.

“Knightsbane, Dalton,” Wotan greeted both members of V&V politely, frowning upon seeing the lich, who he didn’t recognize. Thanks to Vainqueur’s size enhancements, the mighty titan looked like a child next to the dragon.

“I thought you wanted to see this one out, and not take arms against your kin?” Friend Victor asked the fomor lord, shocked to see him there.

“I did, but Cait Sith informed me Mell Odieuse had marked my realm for destruction. There are battles a warrior must fight, not for himself, but for others.” The thunder lord readied his spear. “Tell me, where do fomors go when they die?”

“I do not know,” Vainqueur replied, having finished building up his breath.

“Let us find out together then.”

Vainqueur couldn’t have agreed more. “[Charged Attack]!”

Opening his mouth, the dragon unleashed the most potent beam he ever produced; first, it took the shape of a stream of hellfire, before growing into a solar flare that would shame the sun itself. His blast expanded in wideness until it could have swallowed a mountain whole in its shininess; the sheer recoil forced Victor to hold onto his partner’s neck, to avoid being propelled backward.

The mighty hellfire ray crashed against the Crom Cruach’s crimson field, the defense holding for a while; fomor magic against dragon magic. Yet, like fairies folded before the true rulers of the world, the barrier bent.

Within seconds, the beam pierced through the shield, shattering one of the castle’s towers and melting its steel fortifications. As Vainqueur finished and caught his breath, a large opening had opened in the defensive shield. Large enough to let him through.

“Now!” Victor shouted as the shield began closing back on itself, Vainqueur immediately slipping through the crack. Wotan and Furibon followed, the barrier closing behind them before anyone else could follow. “Your Majesty, you know we could have slipped through with my [Skeleton Key]?”

“A true dragon doesn’t enter by the backdoor!” the emperor replied, the castle’s artillery defenses arrayed against him. “He makes his presence known to all!”

“[Souldrinker Breath]!”

A blast of ghostly energies exploded the walls of a nearby tower to Vainqueur’s left, aiming for the dragon. [Hastened], the dragon and his rider dodged the attack. The sneak attack blast instantly vaporized the slower Furibon, or so it appeared to Vainqueur; the lich’s soul didn’t fly away into his destroyer’s belly, as Icefang’s did. He must have teleported away at the last second. Meanwhile, Wotan forced his horse back and settled atop a metal tower, his Gungnir raised.

The final enemy emerged from the hole, smaller than Vainqueur, but far more twisted. A skeletal insult to dragonkind fueled by hate and envy, she flew over her castle’s towers, overseeing Vainqueur and Wotan from above. Much like her enemy, she wore her hoard in battle, having covered her chest with a makeshift armor of black crests tied together. The screams of captive souls echoed from within her core.

“Odieuse,” King Wotan said, with no respect whatsoever.

“I shall deal with you in time, race traitor.” Mell Odieuse’s eyes blazed with ruthless cruelty, before setting her full attention on where it belonged. “You have gotten farther than you should have, Knightsbane. Far, far farther, but it ends here. Time to die.”

And then without wasting any more words, the [Dracolich] opened her skeletal maw, light shining at the end of her throat. Vainqueur roared like a dragon, flames flickering in his mouth.

Their breaths collided in a catastrophic storm of energy, and the skies burnt bright.

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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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