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Fighting on a true dragon’s back was a dream come true for Victor.

Fighting a [Dracolich] was a nightmare.

Vainqueur had already informed the Vizier of Mell Odieuse’s true form, but to see that horror in the flesh was something else entirely. The fomor had transformed into a half-rotten skeletal dragon the size of Vainqueur, her bones animated by unholy energies. The [Black Crests] covering her core only enhanced her menacing aura, a ghastly armor to match Vainqueur’s golden regalia.

Even with Furibon and King Wotan at their back, Victor felt as outmatched against this monster as he did against Akhenapep in El Dorado. The very air choked with the monster’s oppressive aura, her pull calling his very soul to its final demise.

You have entered [Dracolich] Mell Odieuse’s [Voracious Siphon]! Your connection to your [Black Grail] has been severed! If you die within its area of effect, your soul will be devoured! [Terrifying Aura] negated.

Warning: Ten minutes before the missiles launch! If you fail to defeat Mell Odieuse within that timespan, Outremonde will be annihilated!

If the System itself gave them a warning directly, then the situation couldn’t possibly get worse!

Wotan and his horse stood atop one of Crom Cruach’s numerous towers, while Vainqueur, Victor, and Furibon flew amidst the giant castle’s steel structures; Mell Odieuse had positioned herself above them all, at the frontier where the shield separated the castle from the outside world. The battle raged beyond these confines, the V&V army dueling Odieuse's last followers.

“Cover me!” Victor shouted, raising his scythe to spellcast. One could shape their own pocket dimension with tier VIII, but at tier X, the Vizier could create a semi-functional, mini-plane of existence, with its own rules; a plane large enough to swallow a castle as big as Crom Cruach. “I’ll need time to cast my pocket dimension spell and contain the explosion!”

“How long?” Furibon asked as he teleported next to the V&V duo, starting to buff himself while King Wotan immediately rode after the Dracolich on horseback, racing through an air zone as large as Murmurin. For the first time since Victor met him, the lich sounded truly afraid, his bones bristlier than normal.

The full spell took hours to complete, but Victor wouldn't need to finish it entirely. He simply had to do the first part, folding space around the castle into its own smaller dimension. It would contain the nuclear blast, as Vainqueur’s [Glitzy Theater] shielded his army from the missiles.

However, the fortress and the area kept within the barrier were as large as a city; casting that entire place into another dimension would be a tremendous test of spellcasting prowess.

“Hold her off as long as you can,” Victor said, unable to come up with a decisive answer, “and make sure she does not interrupt me!”

“Five minutes,” Furibon replied. “She severed my link to my [Phylactery], and it puts a drain on my magic.”

“Five minutes?” Vainqueur asked, following it up with a boast as he took flight amidst Crom Cruach’s towers. “That’s four too many to bring this vile fairy down!”

That was the spirit.

Victor began to cast his spell, focused his full attention on channeling magic through his scythe, while the others moved to battle.

By now, Wotan had closed the gap with Mell Odieuse, who looked down on the treacherous fomor like minion shit. Thunder echoed in the background, and as the dracolich’s eyes lit up with magic, burning circuits appeared everywhere on Crom Cruach’s surface.

[Technomancer] Mell Odieuse assumed direct control over [Crom Cruach]!

 

A ballista bolt of Starmetal flew straight at Wotan’s horse, piercing the mount’s heart at supersonic speed. The attack slew the beast in one shot, causing it to fall alongside its surprised rider on the castle’s ground.

Like clockwork, Crom Cruach’s towers shifted, the fortress’ layout rearranging itself. Holes in the walls opened to reveal artillery cannons, Starmetal-pointed ballistae, and archaic laser beams. All arrayed against Vainqueur and his allies.

“Hang on, Friend Victor!” Vainqueur barely had the time to shout a warning before diving down to dodge an artillery barrage; Victor’s supernatural [Chaos Rider] Perks allowed him to remain bound to his partner, even as the wyrm looped around towers, but it didn’t make it comfortable in the slightest.

Vainqueur managed to dodge the attack but was forced to move closer to Crom Cruach’s ground to avoid the artillery, like a fighter jet skillfully dodging anti-air defense. This left Mell Odieuse in control of the skies, a hawk watching doves struggling below her.

The Vizier lost sight of Wotan, the fomor forced to run on foot to avoid both a rain of bullets and Crom Cruach’s walls closed down on him. Furibon, meanwhile, remained close to the wyrm and focused on shielding Victor; he often summoned his [Anti-Vainqueur Barrier] to block blasts which the dragon wasn’t fast enough to avoid.

Instead of going on the offensive herself, Mell Odieuse remained sky high above the group and buffed herself up. “[Overheal]!” the dracolich shouted, her core shining beneath her armor of Black Crests. “[Soul Consumption]!”

[Fairy Queen] Mell Odieuse will temporarily be able to heal over her max HP without ill effects! Every soul consumed will grant her 999 HP!

 

“[Permascan]!” Furibon quickly cast on Mell Odieuse, her stats revealed for all to see.

Mell Odieuse the Overlord

Type: Soulcrested Dragonblooded Fomor (Fairy/Dragon; also count as Undead whenever beneficial).

Level: 99 (Dracolich 10/Prismatic One 10/Tyrant 10/Deathlord 30/Technomancer 30/Fairy Queen 9)

HP: 7665/6666

Weak to Starmetal and Cold Iron.

“Level 99?” Victor shouted, his concentration faltering at the terrible sight.

“I am on the verge of godhood, and your death shall be my apotheosis,” Mell Odieuse proudly declared, before summoning tiny flying black prisms. “[Prismatic Shards].”

“Cheating!” Vainqueur snarled, melting a Starmetal ballista with a fireball. “I call cheating! No way you earned more levels than me in a shorter time!”

Mell Odieuse responded by sending her shards after the dragon, the prisms unleashing fiery beams of light in his direction. Unable to use [Spell Purge] without disrupting Victor’s own spellcasting, Vainqueur used the environment to his advantage, moving behind one of Crom Cruach’s walls to take cover. However, his respite was brief, for more weapons kept firing at V&V, forcing the wyrm to remain constantly on the move.

What followed was a game of constant movement, as Vainqueur and Furibon moved among Crom Cruach’s towers and labyrinth-like fortifications. Always avoiding artillery fire by the skin of their teeth, but never finding the opening to move in the skies above the castle and threaten Odieuse directly.

As his team protected him, Victor began the Tier X spell [Private World], spending the SP needed and starting the ritual. He began to expand his magic to claim the area around Crom Cruach, in preparation for folding it into a separate plane. Casting the spell at all would be extremely difficult, but doing it while in the middle of a battle was an heroic feat.

Intelligence check successful!

 

But even as a laser hit Vainqueur in the leg, Victor continued to focus. Camilla hadn’t trained a quitter.

Why couldn’t [Claimed by Mithras] protect against [Light] though? He was the sun god, damn it!

Above, Mell Odieuse’s HP bar had grown tenfold.

[56616/6666]

 

And it kept climbing.


Vainqueur snarled in pain, as a bolt of Starmetal pierced his [Hoard Armor] from the left side, destroying a scale and piercing his flesh.

Supereffective damage! You have lost a fourth of your HP!

 

The dragon removed the bolt with his hand, his flesh regenerating thanks to his rider’s [Master’s Shield], but the castle’s defenses didn’t give him any respite.

Everywhere, automated machines and minions kept hounding them! Even as he circled Crom Cruach’s fortifications and rained fire on its artillery, the prismatic shards pursued and bombarded Vainqueur with rays of light!

The streets and walls of the castle moved on their own; steel barriers rose up whenever he discovered an escape route, fortifications closed when he found a line of fire to shoot the ballista, and so on.

The very land was fighting them!

“Forgotten One, do something!” Vainqueur ordered the lich, blasting a laser-firing prism with a fireball. The lich turned mechanical defenses to lead with transmutation, reducing deadly Starmetal-firing machines to useless statues. Above them, Mell Odieuse increasing her HP reserve to astronomical level without going on the offense; after the resounding asskicking Vainqueur dealt her during their last encounter, she had revised her entire strategy to keep him away. “Bring that coward down, so I may poke her!”

“Sablar probably Claimed her, making her immune to [Time] effects,” Furibon replied, barely teleporting out of a cannonball’s way. “My [Za Warudo] will only paralyze you, and I cannot aim my spells with these weapons blasting us from all directions!”

A thunderbolt answered Vainqueur's wishes, striking the fairy queen.

It bounced off her, but it was the thought that counted.

Having [Hastened] himself, King Wotan emerged from the castle’s depths, covered in wounds. Starmetal bolts and bullets had opened holes in his mighty body, all shedding golden blood. He hadn’t looked so battered up since his last confrontation with Vainqueur.

Yet the fomor king was itching for a fight. He leaped over artillery, tore away cannons from walls with his bare hands, and shattered ballistae with his spear. Prismatic shards abandoned their pursuit of Vainqueur to attack the fomor, unleashing beams of light at Dragonbane.

Showing supreme skill and reflexes, the fomor king dodged all attacks with catlike agility, the tip of his Gungnir shattering every shard approaching him.

It felt like watching a tornado rampage through a town, leaving only upturned steel constructs and debris behind in its trail. An unstoppable force which had felled many powerful dragons, and nearly Vainqueur himself once.

“[Supreme Thunder: Dragonslayer]!” Wotan shouted, readying his Gungnir. “[Maximize Lightning]!”

King Wotan’s [Lightning] attacks will ignore Resistance, and inflict additional [Dragonslayer] damage!

[Lightning] element greatly strengthened!

Wotan Dragonbane had earned his name by killing wyrms; surely, his masterful tactic should work on half of one.

“Wotan!” Mell Odieuse snarled, although she didn’t alter her [Overheal] tactic. Above her, Gardemagnian mages attempted to bypass the shield protecting Crom Cruach and join the battle, but they failed to pierce the magical defense. “You dare to betray me?! Betray the master race?!”

“You mastered nothing!” Wotan replied, channeling lightning through his weapon. “I have not betrayed myself.”

“Yet you help these animals against your own kind! [Soul Slaver]!”

Souls slipped through Mell Odieuse’s chest armor, taking the shape of three ghostly dragons... and a zmey.

It proved to be a poor choice, as Wotan casually blasted them into nothingness with lightning. “[Ghostouch],” the fomor lord kept empowering himself with magic, while Odieuse sent more undead after him. This time, however, the fomor lord’s spear hit them as if they were solid.

Solid paper, that is.

Meanwhile, Furibon formed a barrier around Vainqueur and Victor, shielding the group from an onslaught of projectiles. Yet, although he took no wounds, the Forgotten One’s body was crumbling. “Furibon?” Vainqueur asked, and much to his surprise felt somewhat concerned.

“As an undead, her [Voracious Siphon] drains my lifeforce away,” the lich explained. “I do not have much time left, Knightsbane.”

Nobody made the lich miserable but Vainqueur himself!

“Then cover me,” the wyrm said, knowing how to destroy this castle. He only needed a brief respite and a place where to anchor himself for a few seconds.

“You granted us souls, Odieuse,” Wotan told the fairy queen, as he slew every ghost she sent her way, the trapped souls returning to her core. “You gave us a power greater than you could imagine; the power to look beyond our primal needs, to care for creatures less fortunate than us. The power to become true kings. The power to fight without fear.”

“You call this power?” Mell Odieuse replied contemptuously, her body radiating light. A second later, she unleashed beams in all directions like a burning star, her rays searing her own fortress, and casting down her fortifications. Vainqueur and Furibon immediately moved to take cover wherever they could. “You suffer from the same sickness as dragons, Wotan. You forgot yourself, and let your food dominate you!”

“This is your mistake,” the storm lord replied, deflecting the lasers with his spear. “No one should be dominating anyone; this is not an inevitable law of nature, nor a privilege of the strong. Dalton and Knightsbane showed me that. We unlock our true potential when we respect one another. As my Valkyries grew stronger in their desire to protect me, I too, found strength in protecting my creations.”

The dracolich marked a short pause, struggling to understand his point.

“Who fights with you in your final hour, Odieuse?” Wotan asked, the barrage of attacks dying down for a few seconds, as the fairy queen processed the storm lord’s wise words. “Machines? Golems? You have no desire to protect anyone, so no one will risk themselves to save you. You fill the void in your heart with bloodshed as I once did, but certainly, a part of you must realize this is only half a life.”

For a brief moment, Vainqueur thought Dragonbane's speech may have impacted the fairy queen a little. Perhaps not enough to make her reconsider her madness, but at least seed her black heart with doubt.

But there was no place for doubt or compassion in that wicked beast.

Instead, Mell Odieuse’s eyes shone with contempt and cruelty.

“You are weak,” she spat in disgust. “You, my father, Mell Lin… you are all too weak to seize true happiness, forcing me to take matters in my own hands. I am done with being disappointed. I will kill you, Wotan. I will kill all of you, fomors and lesser races alike, until I am alone, in a quiet world. This universe only needs one of me.”

She renewed her assault with a barrage of lasers, aimed solely at the wiser fomor.

Wotan, the greatest of his puny race, deflected the attacks with his spear. “Even if you succeed, others will keep standing against you,” he warned. “Because we will learn not to fear you.”

“Let us put that resolve to the test.” The vile fairy extended her arms and cast a mighty spell. “[Gigante]!”

Mell Odieuse’s body multiplied in size until she overshadowed her own castle’s towers; even with his enhancements, Vainqueur looked as small as against the Tarasque Emperor in comparison. A layer of prismatic light covered her bones, an armor of solid light.

As for her HP...

[507165/6666]

 

Vainqueur didn’t feel fear, but the sight of that number made him pause.

The colossal dracolich landed on the steel ground, causing all of Crom Cruach to tremble, and immediately attempted to stomp Wotan. The fomor lord dodged, her feet crushing one of the castle’s artillery platform. Possessed by fury, the giant pursued her smaller kindred, devastating her own lair and paying little attention to Vainqueur.

A terrible mistake. Exploiting the respite which the Forgotten One’s shield offered him, Vainqueur landed on the ground and anchored himself to Crom Cruach.

Then, he called upon his best Perk.

“[Geomancy]!”

Geomancy activated! Field Type: Crom Cruach.

Effect: [Short-Circuit].

A pulse of lightning spread through the castle, burning the circuits fueling it. Artillery and ballistae fired wildly in all directions, the will controlling them gone; bolts of energy fried the prisms, shattering them while the entire castle creaked like a broken clock.

The voltage shocked both fomors present, briefly stunning Mell Odieuse while Dragonbane ignored the lightning. Wotan raised his Gungnir and channeled the ambient electricity, as he once did with storms.

“[Ragnarok]!”

A blinding flash swiftly overtook Vainqueur’s sight, while the mightiest lightning spell struck Odieuse right at the chest.

She didn’t even flinch.

The thunderbolt inflicted some damage, and had Odieuse been a lesser wyrm, it might have slain her in one strike; but the Dracolich had grown so big, her HP reserve so colossal, that the attack barely fazed her.

However, Wotan ended up winded after launching his strongest attack, leaving him open for retaliation; and both Vainqueur and Furibon were too far away to help.

Quick as a snake, Odieuse’s giant hand seized Wotan and lifted him above the ground. She then smashed the fomor against Crom Cruach’s pavement, as the Tarrasque Emperor did with Vainqueur himself in the Teikoku Empire.

In this beatdown, there was no honor, no tactic; only raw, naked savagery. The inner beast within Odieuse was exposed for all to see, a rabid animal in the twisted shape of a dead dragon.

In defiance, Dragonbane launched his spear at her chest, but the Black Crest deflected the blow. The weapon grazed her core, without inflicting much damage, and ended up embedded in a disabled cannon.

[497166/5667]

 

“This is the end,” Mell Odieuse said, grabbing the Gungnir within her fingers; with the difference in size, it looked like a toothpick. “Die.”

“A coward like you dies a thousand deaths,” King Wotan replied defiantly, facing death the dragon way, “I will taste it only once, with no regret.”

The dracolich raised Gungnir and brutally impaled Wotan through the forehead with his own weapon. The spear went from one side to the other in a sickening noise.

Vainqueur's eyes widened in shock, as Dragonbane Wotan’s body went limp. The echo of distant thunder suddenly turned silent.

King Wotan’s [Storm Caller] Perk canceled.

 

The dracolich then opened her maw and devoured the fomor lord whole, his remains and weapon vanishing in her gullet. The sinister display horrified Vainqueur, who had never even dreamed of eating his own kind. She treated her own species like… like food!

“Your turn,” Mell Odieuse told Vainqueur, the monstrous titan glaring at him and Furibon next. “You are too late to change anything.”

“So are you!” Friend Victor replied, his scythe brimming with magic. “[Private World]!”

The effect was instantaneous.

Space around Crom Cruach’s protective shield bent, cracks in existence itself widening all around it. Darkness spilled forth, reality folding on itself. The sound of the battle around the castle grew weaker, as Crom Cruach shifted away from this dimension to another.

“No!” Mell Odieuse snarled, tossing a steel tower away to clear her line of fire, the construct collapsing to the side. “You will not stop me, Knightsbane! Not today!”

“I can and I will, fairy!” Vainqueur snarled back, having recovered from his geomancy display.

The fomor attacked with her spirit breath, a ghastly stream of broken souls in the shape of a deadly ray. The dragon and his rider flew away, towards the open skies which the fairy had previously occupied.

“[Meteor Rain]!” the lich cast while following Vainqueur, summoning fiery stones to hit the dracolich. While Vainqueur's geomancy attack hadn't destroyed of Crom Cruach, this spell finished the job. Mell Odieuse's enormous size prevented her from dodging, but her HP bar was so high that she barely registered any damage.

But they did not need to kill her. She would be sealed with her own castle for all eternity, never to threaten anyone ever again.

The fomor let out a roar of pure fury, the items on her chest shining with cursed light. “[Black Crests]! Grant me your strength! Open the path to victory!”

Answering her call, the crests brightened with unholy energies, as they once did for Batling Lavere. Space-time began to crack around the [Dracolich], her magic clashing with Friend Victor's own.

“[Accelerated Teleport]!” Furibon shouted, quickly disappearing before he could be trapped inside the spatial effect. Both V&V members attempted to do the same, using their own Perks to teleport before being trapped alongside the fairy.

“[Magella—”

Too late.

[Immovable] negated by Mell Odieuse.

 

A black hole swallowed them all, and Vainqueur’s world turned into darkness.

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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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