Chapter 5: Food Chain

Previous Chapter

“Are we there yet?” Vainqueur asked for the hundredth time, as they flew over yet another stinking human village.

“Nope, sorry,” manling Victor replied, his eyes set on the map he struggled to keep pace with the wind. “Ogron was last seen near Haudemer, and this is Pointin.” 

“How do you know?” Vainqueur lambasted his minion guide. They had flown all the way across the land, almost reaching the western sea; yet missed the target. “All of your dirty villages look the same!”

“Oh, Your Majesty, I believe the next one will be the right one.”

“And how so?” 

“Because of the fires, Your Majesty.”

Indeed, a column of fire rose from the west, on the coast. Vainqueur squinted, noticing a small city under assault by a large group of manlings. 

Vainqueur approached the city and circled it from above to take a good view of it and the nearby beaches. It was larger than the villages they had visited, with stone houses and a wooden extension leading into the sea itself; a port welcomed a dozen floating buildings the manlings called ships. Quite a few of the inhabitants hastily tried to board them. 

A large group of manlings, around eighty, attacked the city from the north, axemen slaughtering people like pigs while bowmen set the roofs of nearby buildings on fire. Dozens of corpses littered the stony ground, while defenders used carts as improved barricades to slow down the invaders’ progress.  

A monstrous, fifteen-foot tall cyclops led the manling attackers, swinging a large two-handed axe which cut soldiers in half with each blow. Arrows and spears bounced off his thick green skin, as he tossed carts away with every step. 

Incensed at them not stopping to marvel at his arrival, Vainqueur let out a mighty roar from above, and it did the trick. Everyone looked up at him, freezing at his crimson majesty, their faces draining of colors. 

“A dragon!” one of the defenders shouted on the ground. “Ogron has a dragon!” 

“Ogron? Aha, finally!” Vainqueur chuckled. “Minions, on whom do I land?”

“The attackers, Your Majesty.”

Vainqueur descended in the streets below, the manlings fleeing at his sight; but not fast enough. His landing blew away nearby houses and crushed half a dozen latecomers. 

Only the cyclops hadn’t run, glaring at his men with its single eye. “Cowards! Dragons aren’t scary!” he shouted at them.

“Of course not, they are amazing,” Vainqueur replied, releasing his minion on the ground. The defenders cowered behind the barricades, unsure how to take this turn of events. “Which of you is Ogron the Ogre?”

The cyclops struck the ground with his axe, pulverizing stones and making the street tremble. “I am!” 

Vainqueur looked at the cyclops, then burst out laughing, the one-eyed meat responding with a glare. “No seriously, which of you is Ogron?” 

“Your Majesty, this is Ogron,” the minion said. 

“Minion, this is a cyclops, not an ogre. Ogres have two eyes.”

“Yeah, I know, but that’s Ogron the Ogre anyway. I’ve seen his poster.”

“You goddamn righ’,” the one-eyed ogre said with rising frustration. “Ain’t no other Ogron! I traveled to this country to figh’ and make war for Gardemagne! I bled dry, and instead of gold, the king gave me a dirt poor farm! Ogron ain’t no farmer, he is a warrior! Ogron will not stop until—”

Vainqueur zoned out at that point, too confused by the eye paradox. All he could notice were isolated blabbering, “Blah blah, pirate! Blah blah, flee the country! Blah blah, knights!”

“—and that is why Ogron will sail these boats!”

“Minion, if he is a cyclops and not an ogre, why is he called Ogron the Ogre?” Vainqueur ignored the one-eyed ogre. “It doesn’t make sense!”

“Because, lizard,” the cyclops said with a low growl, swinging his axe with impatience and showing his bloodied teeth. “I eat people.”

“You too?” Vainqueur looked at the cyclops with a new, fresh gaze. He was just fat enough around the angles, with plenty of meat… 

The cyclops let out a roar, raising his axe to swing it at Vainqueur. “You die—”

Chomp!

Vainqueur took a bit out of the giant’s upper torso, swallowing a third of the corpse in one go. He sprayed blood all over his mouth, too ravenous to care. Everyone looked at Vainqueur as he digested the cyclops’ eye and head, the manlings having all turned pale for some reason. 

“Minhion, shyclopsh tashte like pihg!” Vainqueur chewed on the giant’s flesh, finding the taste too sweet to stop with one bite. “Sho good! I wansh more!”

“What about some human bandit snack to go with the taste?” Manling Victor suggested, pointing a finger at the cyclops’ pale followers. 

They looked a bit too sick now, but Vainqueur approached his muzzle to smell them closer; at least one of the archers had soiled himself, so the dragon made a face. The bandits panicked at his approach, running away from him screaming.

Vainqueur wondered if he should pursue them, then decided he would rather eat the rest of the cyclops than run. He absentmindedly grabbed a large chunk of a house’s stone wall, and tossed it at the fleeing manlings, crushing a good chunk of them like insects. The others sped up even faster at that, and Vainqueur returned to his meal.

He ate the rest of the one-eyed ogre with two more bites and let out a belch. 

[You gained a level in [Noble]! +1 STR, +1 VIT, +1 CHA, +1 LCK! You earned the Class Perk: [Snobbery]!]

[Snobbery: your attacks inflict five percent more damage on non-noble targets, and you receive five percent less damage from non-noble assaillants.]

“Minion, I leveled up!”

“Sweet, how many stat points did you win?”

“Four, minion,” Vainqueur replied proudly, before realizing he had no idea what that meant. “Minion, where do stat points go?”

“You can check your class and stats by saying ‘Menu’ out loud.”

“Really?”

“Your Majesty didn’t notice?”

“Of course I noticed,” Vainqueur spared the minion’s feelings. “I always noticed. I was just testing your knowledge. And you have passed.”

“Truly an honor,” the minion replied with gratitude.

“Menu!” Vainqueur said, the word making hungrier than the ogre. A series of words appeared out of nowhere in front of him.

Vainqueur Knightbane 
 Level: 3 (Noble 3)  
 Type: Dragon 
 Party: V&V 

 HP: 5,315
 SP: 1290
 Strength: 95
 Vitality: 88
 Skill: 11
 Agility: 39
 Intelligence: 9
 Charisma: 71
 Luck: 39 

 Personal Perks:
 - Dragonfire Breath 
 - Fire Immunity 
 - Red Dragon Lifeforce
 - Dragon Arrogance 
 - Dragonscale 
 - Super Senses
 - Virgin Princess Radar
 - Lesser Poison Resistance
 
Class Perks:
- Old Money 
- Snobbery  

V&V? Double Vainqueur!

A heavy silence had fallen on the area, and Vainqueur realized the manlings defenders looked at him with open eyes. 

“Minion, the ambiance feels too heavy,” the dragon said. “Sing my praise to cheer it up.”

Manling Victor immediately raised a fist. “Vainqueur, best dragon!” He turned to the silent manlings behind the barricades, raising his other hand to encourage them, “Vainqueur, best dragon!”

“Vainqueur, best dragon!” a urine-smelling man said. Eventually, the other manlings joined in. 

“Vainqueur, best dragon!” “Vainqueur, best dragon!” “Vainqueur, best dragon!”

Much better. “Thank you, thank you!” Vainqueur said, licking the blood on his lips. “You are too kind. I, Vainqueur, am an adventurer coming to rescue you! See the plate? See the shiny aluminum? Now bring me your cattle!”


They fed him only a cow and two pigs, which disappointed Vainqueur slightly, but he was too full from the cyclops to complain.

Vainqueur had made his nest on the beach next to the city, resting on the warm sand as he digested his meal. Even if he had saved the city, he noticed quite a few ships leaving it regardless, fleeing as far away from him as possible. The dragon ignored them and toyed with this ‘menu’ power. 

“Menu,” he said, the words appearing, before saying it again. “Menu.” The words disappeared. He did again, finding the process strangely addictive. 

After five minutes of playing, Vainqueur noticed the minion returning with two other manlings, one female—not a princess—and the other male. The former was an adult with large mammaries, long blonde hair and that strange clothing the manlings called a dress; the other an old, frail monkey with a grey beard and a hat, but otherwise perfectly plain. 

Vainqueur still had trouble telling one monkey from another. They all looked the same at first glance. 

“Your Majesty,” minion Victor said. “This is the mayor of Haudemer, and its innkeeper, Miss Lynette, and the village’s Class Advisor, Henry Bright. I briefed them on your career choice.”

“Your Majesty Vainqueur, on behalf of Haudemer,” the female manling said, bowing deeply, “As thanks for saving the city, allow me to grant you the city’s highest honors, the keys to—”

“Where is my money?” Vainqueur cut her off. 

“Already covered, Your Majesty,” Victor replied, while the female remained speechless from the blunt rebuke. “The local guildhall reported your deed to the Duchess, who will send men at arms to deliver the reward soon.”

The mayor coughed. “Please allow me to offer you free lodging at my inn for a week, free of charge. It would be a pleasure to have you around.”

“Is there a lava bath?” Vainqueur asked. 

“A lava…” the female frowned. “No, Your Majesty, no, we do not have a lava bath.”

No lava bath as a basic accommodation? They truly were backward peasants. “I will sleep on your hot sand, but my minion probably does not have my quality standards.”

The female made a strange face, while the minion concurred, “Certainly not, Your Majesty. I will be sure to enjoy a good, warm bed.”

Vainqueur brushed the matter off, focusing on that Class Advisor. “Great Vainqueur, your friend Victor told me your majesty needed advice on the class system—”

“Majesty, with a capital M,” Vainqueur corrected him. “Also, what is a friend? Some kind of minion?”

Henry blinked. “How can you… does Your Majesty have the Super Senses perk?”

Vainqueur checked his menu, noticing it among his ‘personal perks.’ “Ah, yes, I do. How do you know?”

“It’s a Perk common among people with high perception, such as beastkins.”

“Henry is our city’s class expert, advising us on how to develop our career, stats, and perks,” Lynette told the dragon. “Although I didn’t know a dragon could get one.”

“Me neither!” Henry exclaimed, “This a new discovery! I couldn’t wait to discuss with Your Majesty about it!”

“Me too,” Vainqueur nodded. “Now, what is this system exactly?”

“It’s a powerful supernatural system unlocked by the god Dice during his first rolling spree, back when it was still a sentient dice artifact,” Henry explained, already losing Vainqueur’s attention. “Classes represent powerful roles, which grant us immense powers when we tap into them.”

“Are you sure dragons did not create it?” Vainqueur pointed the obvious hole in his logic.

“Your Majesty, historical research show the class system appeared with Dice, who is the very first recorded instance of an intelligent being gaining a level in a class. Even if Dice never claimed to have created it, evidence shows that it activated it first.”

“So you have no proof dragons did not create the system first,” Vainqueur replied.

“Er, yes, maybe, but this would go against every research we ever did, all species combined.”

“So this is a dragon-created system to grow stronger and richer, I get it,” Vainqueur said, minion Victor putting his hand on his face for some reason. “Now, manling Henry, I want to get more levels in Noble.”

“Are you sure?” the manling sounded confused, “The noble class is a hit or miss, with either situational ones like Noble Sense, which help sense true or false nobles, or strong ones, such as Stipend, which grants money every month.” 

“Free money?” Vainqueur’s head perked up, the sudden gesture startling the manling trio, “When?!”

“Noble level nine!” the scholar cowered. 

“And then? I gain diamonds at eleven? Tell me!”

“None of the other perks of the noble class increase money gains,” Henry continued, trembling under the dragon’s gaze, before adding hurriedly. “But there are very good perks, like Privilege, which allows you to ignore one attack a day.”

“Why would I need it? I already ignore your attacks all the time!”

“That is true indeed,” the minion said.

“What else can make me richer?”

“Merchant,” Victor said with a laugh. “Or Banker.”

“But merchant is a minion’s work!” Vainqueur protested. 

“Crafter classes tend to get better material rewards, compared to other classes,” Henry said. “But maybe it would be better if I started from the beginning, please?”

Vainqueur sighed, already bored by the professorial tone. “Go on…”

“Classes are divided into five categories. Fighters, the best at direct combat and warfare; Spellcasters, who gain strong magical abilities; Rogues, who focus on tricks and social perks; Crafters, who create items or empower existing effects; and the rare Monster classes, which are only available through deals with monsters. If Your Majesty wants to get richer, Crafter classes like Alchemist or Merchant would indeed work better.”

“A dragon does not hold a shop,” Vainqueur replied proudly. “What else? How many classes can I get?”

“As many as possible, although one cannot get farther than level 100 in total, everything combined. When a person reaches level 100, they level up into the God class, becoming true deities, but no longer able to grow further. Also, the higher your total level, the harder it is to gain new levels, even if a class’s entry conditions are low. You will need ever greater challenges to reach a new level. I see with my Class Screen perk that you have three levels in Noble, so you could probably level quickly to level nine with a good training regiment.”

“The Scorchers are pressured by knights of the Shining Crusade, adventurers out for their bounty, and men of the King,” Lynette said. “Ogron’s band attacked us to board ships to escape the country, and Haudemer is less defended than Eskadi. Which means they may return.”

“Good, free experience,” Vainqueur replied. “That way I won’t have to burn fat to chase them.”

“Oh, by the way, I gained a level in Monster Squire when King Vainqueur made me his chief of staff,” Victor butted in. “Ever heard of it? It might come in handy.”

“Monster Squire?” Henry frowned. “No, I never heard of this class. What kind of perks does it have?”

“Monster Kin, which makes me buddy-buddy with monsters.”

“This may be a monster class,” Henry said. “Monster classes are classes which are usually only available through deals with intelligent monsters or fiends. Somehow, your promotion fulfilled the class’ entry condition. Amazing.”

“Yes, yes, all my minions bask in my brilliance,” Vainqueur said, impatient. “Now, what class can make me rich in a good, dragon way?”

Henry frowned, thinking. “Gamblers have good, balanced stat growth for an unpromoted class,” he finally said. “C in Health Points, C in Special Points, D in strength, D in vitality, A in skill, C in agility, A in intelligence, B in charisma, and, the best for last, S in luck. A jack of all trades with a strong focus on luck, and several useful perks to farm gold.”

“What is this gibberish?” Vainqueur started having a headache. “Unpromoted?”

“Every time Your Majesty gains a level in a class, your stats have a chance to increase according to that class’ stat growth,” the manling continued. “D is a one in four chance, C one in two, B three in four, and with A, you always win a point. S means you always get two points instead of one, and E means you never gain anything. Promoted classes are classes only available if you reach sufficient level in another class, so Gamblers open the path to—”

Boring! “Minion Victor, you are now my official class manager,” Vainqueur said when he couldn’t take it anymore, “This is a very important job, the most important you will ever receive. You deal with this.”

“Me?” manling Victor frowned. “Didn’t you want to learn everything about the system yourself, Your Majesty?”

“I, as a dragon, have too much on my hands to learn every single detail… that is why we have minions laborers do it.”

Lynette and Henry exchanged glances, with Vainqueur tiring of their presence. “Go,” he said, resting in the sand. “Minion, stay a bit longer.”

The two monkeys left hurriedly, leaving the dragon alone with his favorite audience. “Merchant,” Vainqueur complained. “I am not paid enough for this, minion.”

“What? But it went so well!” the minion tried to cheer him up, “Free lodging, Your Majesty! I even got an anonymous letter from an admirer! With so many single maids in town, maybe I have a shot.” 

The manling sighed at Vainqueur’s puzzled look. “A shot at getting laid, Your Majesty.”

“Getting laid?” After some deep thinking, Vainqueur guessed the meaning. “Ah, ah, you want to breed! To put your eggs in a female manling!”

The minion said nothing, then gave him a strange, empty stare. “You’ve ruined it,” he said. “The way you said it, you’ve ruined it for me.”

“No, no, minion, the problem lays elsewhere,” Vainqueur corrected him, “You will never succeed unless you take a bath.”

“A bath, Your Majesty?”

“Minion, I wanted to spare your feelings before your fellow monkeys, but you stink like beetle dung! You will never breed with that smell!” Manling Victor lowered his head in shame, his master deciding to cheer him up. “Minion, I swear to you as your master, I will do everything in my power to ensure you breed and perpetuate your species.”

The minion’s head sprung up so fast, Vainqueur thought he would snap his neck. “Wait, what, really?”

“Of course I will! That way I can renew my stock of minions within the year.” The minion didn’t get it, so Vainqueur detailed his logic. “If you breed well and your females lay their eggs before winter, then I should have a new tribe of minions available by next summer. No more goblins, all manlings. I will even let you use my cave for a nest if you need it.”

“We humans don’t grow as fast as—Wait, goblins lay eggs?”

“All the time,” Vainqueur nodded. “Manling, I, Vainqueur, order you to take a full bath, for your own good. These peasants have no lava bath, but there’s the sea right next to us.”

“I will settle on a hot bath at the inn, Your Majesty.”

“Then go breed, and sin no more!”

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Chapter 4: Chief of Staff

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When the marquise had invited Victor to a private breakfast in her apartments, Victor had expected everything but an actual breakfast. Maybe a poisoned meal, or being made into the breakfast, or maybe fed to a lion. Not an actual, pleasant breakfast with the lady of the house and the Count of Provencal. 

Of course, she had four knights ready to chop his head off at any moment, alongside a few catkin butlers, but he was thankful for the meal all the same. It had been a while since he last ate beef and cooked vegetables with a fork. 

Thankfully, he didn’t taste any poison in the meal. He guessed yesterday’s fiasco taught them a lesson. 

“This is humiliating,” the marquise said, lounging in a mink chair while petting a winged lion in one hand and sipping a glass of wine with the other. Victor guessed she had taken more than a few drinks. “A red dragon empties our pantry and then decides to take a nap at my front door. Why did Mithras send this calamity? Is he still there?” 

“Yes, my lady,” an armored knight in full plate armor replied, glancing through the window. “He is resting on his back, with a hand on his belly. The poison should have killed him thrice over by now.”

“Why did you have so much poison on hand in the first place?” Victor asked, too curious for his own good. 

“Intense war politics,” the marquise replied without giving more of an explanation, shifting uncomfortably in her chair. “I cannot take this anymore! Someone groom me!” 

One of the catkin attendants, a thin, frail, humanoid cat wearing butler clothes, groomed the back of the marquise’s ears with a paw, soothing her. “Victor, is it?” she asked him suddenly. “What is your level?”

“I’m level seven, madam.” Five levels in Outlaw, two in Monster Squire.

“A level seven taming a dragon?” She sneered at him with resentment. “I do not believe you.”

“Do I look like a dragon tamer to you?” Victor replied with a sneer of his own. 

“He listens to you,” the Count of Provencal said, having removed his sweat with a now wet handkerchief. “You saved my life.”

“Listens is a bit exaggerated. That creature is a goddamn wrecking ball, all I can do is try to steer him in one direction and hope he doesn’t burn too many houses.”

“We could mount a surprise attack while he sleeps,” a guard proposed. 

“Yeah right, try to kill the invincible dragon who ignores arrows and thinks your best poison is pepper. Maybe you will give him a better perk this time.” As he drew glares from the nobles and their guards, Victor cursed his tongue. When he had noticed Vainqueur didn’t understand sarcasm, the adventurer could no longer help himself. It helped relieve the stress of dealing with the wyrm. 

“Use another tone with your better, ruffian!” one of the guards spoke up, barely restraining himself from hitting him in the face with his iron gauntlet. His mistress interrupted him with a mere gaze.

“Where do you come from?” the marquise asked Victor. “Your accent is not Gardemagnian. It sounds vaguely Prydanian.”

Her tone told Victor this wasn’t a good thing to flaunt. The Fomors of Prydain had shed much blood in their attempted conquest of Gardemagne, and their Wild Hunt still attacked ships approaching their island. “I come from America,” Vic admitted, before adding, “Earth.”

“A Claimed,” the marquise nodded. “Show me.”

Victor pulled back the sleeve on his left arm, revealing a crimson, shining tattoo representing a twenty-faced dice. “The mark of Dice,” the Marquise recognized. “I should have known only a chosen of the luck god could befriend a dragon.” 

Some luck. This world sucked. It was full of brigands, man-eating monsters, dragons, oh, and stuck in the Middle Ages! He hadn’t been able to take a hot bath for months! All because he saved some girl he had a crush on from getting mugged, only to be stabbed and left to bleed in an alley. And if death hadn’t hurt enough, getting forced to join a band of outlaws to survive right afterward had been just as harrowing. 

But he understood where that comment came from. People from Earth reincarnating in Outremonde after being branded by the local gods were a known occurrence, and most sported unique perks allowing them to make a life for themselves. The phenomenon even caused the rise of a new religion, the Esoteric Order of the New World. 

But Victor didn’t care about becoming a hero or a local curiosity. He just wanted to survive, get laid, and return home.

Also, befriend? Victor would have run away if he could. Unfortunately, the dragon would probably track him down in no time, that beast had keen senses. “Look, lady, I’ll try to lure him off your lands, but I don’t promise anything. Just don’t try to steal his stuff again, okay?”

“My lady, why did you ask for this rapier in the first place?” the Count of Provencal asked. 

“This is a family heirloom,” the marquise replied. “My ancestor, according to legends, befriended a manling adventurer and tricked a King of Gardemagne into giving the boy his daughter’s hand. As a reward, the manling gave my ancestor his prized rapier and the marquisate of Carabas. Catkins ruled Carabas ever since.”

Ah, that explained all the felines running around.

“Looters stole that rapier from my great grandfather’s corpse during the Century War, but I had no idea it ended in the claws of a red dragon,” the marquise said, a maid refilling her glass. “I did not know one befouled the country, let alone Vainqueur Knightsbane.”

“He’s got a reputation?” Victor asked, eager to know more about the wyrm. 

“He was the bane of Midgard for centuries, before vanishing fifty years ago,” the Count of Provencal said. “Legends say he fought a Wild Hunt party single-handedly and traded blows with a level sixty-seven elf knight.”

From what Victor had heard, only the now legendary Shining Knight approached that level. Which meant the dragon might as well be invincible. “Yeah, and now he has taken two levels in Noble.”

The marquise and the count exchanged worried glances. After all, like most aristocrats, they probably had levels in that class too. “A red dragon should not have access to a Rogue Class,” the marquise stated. “How did this happen?”

Victor wisely decided not to mention his own responsibility. “No idea. He was already like that when I found him. Now he’s set on becoming an adventurer because it pays well, and it’s easy for him. Look at the forest.”

“The monsters of Gevaudan plagued the regions for ages, especially with the chaos of the Century War,” one of the knights said. “To destroy the entire area in minutes…”

Louise de Carabas nodded. “While the loss of my pantry is devastating, the economic gains do outweigh it. We might as well make use of the dragon’s current fancy. If he wants to be an adventurer, we could send him on a fool’s errand.”

“My lady, you cannot be serious!” the count protested. “A dragon adventurer? What else, a troll prince?”

“The creature is toying with us,” a guard agreed, clenching his fists. “How long until its natural instincts reassert themselves?”

“We could offer him a doomed request, like attacking the Fomors of Prydain or the demon lord Brandon Maure,” the marquise ignored her advisers, her butlers moving to groom her back. “Either he will succeed and do the world a favor, or fail and get killed.”

“Er, the lizard won’t move unless there’s a significant reward,” Victor said, although the idea had merits. If the dragon was willing to fight other monsters for a price, then maybe he could steer him towards a better purpose. “You better be ready to deliver if he succeeds.”

The marquise frowned, probably lacking the funds to assuage Vainqueur. “No matter,” the marquise said. “My court’s Wizard sent messages to His Majesty King Charles Gardemagne and the Shining Knight, who will dispatch their best warriors after him. After the news spread, this dragon’s days are numbered. ”

Victor doubted they would amount to much. Vainqueur’s family name was Knightsbane after all. 

But what should he do? Lure Vainqueur to his death, hoping an adventurer would get lucky? His gut told him it wouldn’t work. No, Victor was stuck with the dragon for now, and from what he had seen he would better work with or around him than against.

The adventurer decided the best option was to make use of the dragon’s fancy, as the marquise suggested. Even with the war’s end, the kingdom of Gardemagne remained plagued by troublemakers, who killed people right now, instead of retreating to an island far away like the Fomors. 

He might also make a nice profit out of this mess. He had gotten two levels in less than one day, after struggling for months to level up in his Outlaw class. Being around a dragon killing strong opponents he himself couldn’t take on helped him level up faster. If he reached a high enough level while guiding and studying the dragon up close, maybe Victor could escape his grasp one day. 

“Are there any troublemakers that need death by dragonfire?” Victor asked, drawing gazes at him, “This is a gamble, but if I aim him at dangerous enemies, maybe one will get lucky and kill him.” 

That greedy Vainqueur would never let him keep anything shiny, but if he managed to grab a noble title or magical items while at it…

“The main threats to Gardemagne’s peace are the Scorchers, roving bandits and mercenary bands ravaging the countryside since the end of the Century War,” the Count said. “Bands led by the kind of Ogron the Ogre, Gustave La Muraille, and François Vilmain are causing trouble in the south-west. Duchess Aelinor issued bounties on their heads.”

“They are no match for a dragon, Gilbert,” the marquise said. “Even Ogron is only level thirty-five or so, and while the duchess put a bounty on the Scorchers’ leaders, they are low. Will they motivate a dragon?”

“Do you have the bounties on hands?” Victor guessed he would just guide Vainqueur towards that kraken. Considering the reward, he would have no trouble convincing the dragon. But it wouldn’t hurt to take a look at the other options. 

“Minion?” Victor winced, as Vainqueur’s voice made the walls tremble. “Minion?! MINION!”

Vic sighed. Duty called. “Do you happen to have a large bag?” he asked the nobles. “And maybe a potion of fire resistance?”

“Have you not asked enough already?!” a knight lambasted him, the winged lion growling at his outburst. 

“Otherwise, I tell him you have a hidden pantry under your tower,” Victor replied, annoyed. “Your choice.”

The marquise waved a hand in annoyance. “Fetch him what he wants, so long as they leave.”

Victor figured babysitting a dragon had its perks. 


“That feast was great,” Vainqueur told Victor, as the poor adventurer returned from the ash-filled ruins of the Woods of Gevaudan, a scarf turned into an improvised gas mask to breath through the ashes and carrying a bag full of items. “We should come back one day.”

Victor doubted the marquise would appreciate. “We, Your Majesty?” 

“Minion, you are my official guide.” Apparently, Victor had gotten yet another promotion. “You take care of the trip, I take care of the food. Now, what have you found?”

“Quite a lot, actually. That Old Money perk is goddamn useful.” Especially when used during a total massacre. No wonder the nobles managed to live the high life. “A Ring of Fire Resistance, a Horn of Wyvern Calling, a golden statuette of Mithras, a Firebomb Necklace, a pair of Solar Bracers and a lot of gold pieces I couldn’t count, probably twenty thousand.”

Since the dragon’s attack had burned everything, melting even the trolls’ metal armors and swords he had found, the Old Money perk had probably materialized these rewards from nothing. “You sound like an expert retriever, minion. I did not know this.”

“That’s thanks to my Eye for Treasure,” Victor replied. “It’s a class skill that allows me to identify items and their value.” Fabulous for thieves.

“What about this Lesser Poison Resistance perk I received yesterday? You said I could only get one every two levels.”

“Yes, for class perks. There are two categories of perks, class perks and personal perks. The first are obtained by leveling up, the others by fitting specific criteria, like eating too much poison. I heard it’s very rare to get it this way.”

“Who else but a dragon to unlock it?” Vainqueur declared proudly. “Put the treasure with the rest. We return to my hoard, and then we go…” The dragon left the sentence hanging. 

“Hunt the kraken of Messaline, Your Majesty?” Victor suggested.

“Hunt the sixty thousand coins squid, my thought exactly, minion.” 

“About that, Your Majesty,” Victor cleared his throat, putting his increased charisma to work, “I only survived the trip thanks to a potion of fire resistance the marquise gave me. What use to you have of that ring or the bracers?”

“They are shiny, and they will look good in my hoard.”

“I’m just saying, I would perform my duties better with good equipment, Your Majesty.” Especially if he had him search for items in ash-covered ruins every week. “At worse, you could recover your loaned treasures from my corpse if I die in the line of duty.”

“What equipment?” Vainqueur sounded more surprised by the suggestion than anything. “You will not look better with bracers or a ring. All manlings look the same.”

Outside of the condescending remark, the reaction surprised the outlaw. “Yes, but the ring will make me resistant to fire, the horn can help me summon a wyvern in a pinch, and the bracers increase my strength under the sun. Only the necklace is more trouble than it is worth, and the statuette has no effect besides looking shiny.”

Vainqueur gave him a confused look. “You can get stronger by wearing bracers?” 

It suddenly occurred to Victor a giant dragon probably never used a single magic item in his entire life. Because he never needed them. And unfortunately, while uninformed and not that sharp, Vainqueur remained bright enough to put the two and two together. “Minion, are you telling me that you also became resistant to fire by drinking a potion?”

… he just taught the dragon how to use magic items. Right Victor, smooth move, no way it won’t backfire. “Yes, Your Majesty, I did. For a time.”

“Marvelous! And the bracers give strength? I will try them at once!”

“They’re human-sized so they won’t fit,” the adventurer pointed out the obvious. Which, considering the dragon’s item drop, may only a matter of time before they find one. 

“Oh.” The lizard did not hide his disappointment, before becoming angry. “Why does my skill brought me human-sized treasure? This is sabotage! A malfunction!”

“Maybe it was never meant to work with dragons, Your Majesty.”

“Exactly, a malfunction.” Thankfully, unable to wear the items, Vainqueur considered Victor’s offer. “Fine, minion, I agree to loan you items you can wear. No need to thank me, my generosity knows no bounds.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” Victor replied, smiling inwardly. With time, he could build a hoard of his own and get out of that beast’s grasp. 

“That Eye for Treasure skill, how can I get it?” Vainqueur asked, awfully curious. “Does it come from your Monster Squire class?”

“No, that’s from my first class, Out—” Victor stopped himself, as he realized his mistake.

“You can be two classes at once?” Vainqueur caught on. “How many?”

At this point, Victor just gave up on trying to hide anything. The dragon just latched on every slip up of his, and he might as well just push him in a direction he could steer. “As many as you can achieve. The level cap is one hundred in total though. Afterward you become a god and ascend to heaven. I don’t think anyone alive today reached level eighty, though.”

“Then I, Vainqueur, will reach level one hundred!” the dragon boasted with enthusiasm, “And you, minion, will reach ninety-nine!”

That’s the spirit, scalie, Victor thought, as he took a moment to read both the request for the Kraken of Messaline and that for the Scorchers. 

According to the request, the kraken was a beast that disrupted a sea trade route to Barin, a merchant empire that allied with Gardemagne during the last third of the century war. The beast’s territory prevented ships from passing through it, and while locals had gotten used to getting around the animal’s den, merchants offered a sizable reward to get rid of it. Left undisturbed, the kraken didn’t bother anyone.

The Scorchers, not so much. 

As it turned out, the bounty listed the crimes of three leaders of these warbands, and looking at it made Victor sick. It was basically an endless litany of murders, abductions, arsons, and other war crimes perpetrated on the helpless peasantry. 

‘Gustave La Muraille,’ Victor read the wanted poster of a knight with a black, horned helmet, ‘Twenty levels in Knight, four levels in Heavy Knight, three levels in Turncoat, total level twenty-seven. A human deserter from the Gardemagnian army leading a warband of twenty soldiers; wanted for the sack of the Poustagniac village and the massacre of its eighty-seven inhabitants. Duchess Aelinor of Euskal offers five thousand gold coins for his head.’

The other two were just as terrible. Ogron the Ogre was a high-level cyclops with a triple-digit body count, and François Vilmain a corrupt priest from the defunct Harmonian League turned highwayman. Aelinor offered ten thousand gold coins for Ogron, and five thousand for Vilmain. 

Only a third of the reward from the kraken, combined. But they shed a lot more innocent blood. 

Victor wisely left that argument out, as he turned to Vainqueur. “Your Majesty, about that kraken, I think I have found a better request than the kraken. Three bandits.”

“How much?” Vainqueur asked greedily. 

“Twenty thousand, officially.”

“Minion, twenty thrice makes sixty,” Vainqueur brushed him off, before glancing down on his unwilling companion, “Why do you mean by, officially?”

Time to put these charisma points to the test. “They are enemies of the great and beautiful Duchess Aelinor, who will be very grateful if we get rid of them. I’m sure she will give you a much greater reward under the table.”

“Why under the table? Is it a magic ritual?”

“Ah, no, it’s uh, a metaphor, Your Majesty. Meaning that she will offer us a much greater reward that is not mentioned in the bounty.”

“If she is willing to offer more, why didn’t she put it in the request?” Vainqueur found the hole in his logic.

“Because of royal taxes,” Victor improvised. “The king takes a tenth of rewards offered through the Adventurer Guild, and that doesn’t include the guild’s own five percent fee.” Which was true, unfortunately. 

“A tenth?” Vainqueur looked ready to choke. “That is theft! No wonder you turned outlaw, your puny race is led by a robber!”

“Indeed, Your Majesty,” Victor said. “Hence why she offers the real reward outside the guild, so it does not get taxed. Avoiding taxes is an ancient, respected human tradition.”

“A noble endeavor,” Vainqueur scratched the back of a horn with his claw. “Aelinor, is she a princess?” 

Victor had frankly no idea. He didn’t even know how she looked. She could be a hag for all he knew. “Maybe.”

The prospect delighted the dragon. “Minion, we will hunt your thieving kind at once.”

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Thanks to my dragon patrons on Patreon, Alex PruittSaul KurzmanDex, Warwick Robertson, BlissForgotten, Johnathan, Marc Claude Louis Durand, Rhodri Thornber, Drekin, Bald Guy Dennis, Floodtalon, Dax, Karolus, and Daniel Zogbi.

Chapter 3: First Quest

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They gave him an aluminum plate tag with his name on it. Him. Like he was some mammal

“This is degrading!” Vainqueur complained to his loyal lackey Victor, as they flew above the farmlands of Carabas. The news had put him in a foul mood. “Aluminium? Aluminum!”

“Every adventurer starts with an aluminum plate,” Victor explained, the wind in his face causing his lips to move in ways Vainqueur found distracting. “That’s the ranks. Aluminum, copper, iron, bronze, silver, gold, and starmetal. I’m an aluminum adventurer too, Your Majesty.” 

“But you are a manling!” Also, why the adventurer guild put that black unshiny starmetal higher than brilliant gold, Vainqueur would never understand. “I am a dragon. Can you manlings fly? Can you breath fires that melts stone? Can you live forever? No, so why is that not enough for gold?” 

“You are a unique case, Your Majesty,” minion Victor tried to assuage his wounded pride. “Forgive my poor species, who does not know how to deal with you.”

“Just this once!” Vainqueur said, flying over a vast forest, smelling the presence of trolls, slimes, and other beasts below. Birds and harpies flew away in fear at his arrival. “Are these the troll woods?”

“Yes, Your Majesty. Trolls usually live in caves, if we look for one—”

“Minion, I will not sully my peerless scales with some troll’s dung. I am a dragon, remember?” Vainqueur took a long, deep breath, and then dived towards the woods. The forge in his stomach lit up, the infernal power within turning the air into flames.

The great calamity unleashed his mighty dragonfire upon the forest, a torrent of bright, nearly white flames incinerating trees, animals, everything; Vainqueur flew in a straight line around the forest, intending to make a full ring of fire and trap the trolls – and whatever creatures unlucky enough to live with them – within. 

Victor screamed in surprise, held close to Vainqueur’s own maw. “Your Majesty, what are you doing?!”

“Fulfilling your kind’s request,” Vainqueur replied, after taking back some breathe and preparing for a second round. Thanks to the wind, the inferno spread through the forest far north, turning trees to candles and grass to embers. 

Vainqueur dove again through a cloud of smoke, much to his minion’s terror, smelling trolls below. A bunch of these savage, green-skinned giants attempted to flee the coming flames, only for the dragon to bombard them, spitting his fire in the shape of fireballs instead of a continuous stream. The projectiles exploded on contact with the ground, vaporizing the beasts, blasting the dirt and forming craters. 

[Congratulations! You gained a level in [Noble]! +30 HP, +1 INT, +1 LCK!}

Vainqueur awaited the declaration of a new Perk, but nothing came up. Maybe he hadn’t burned the place enough. The forest bordered several hills forming a natural frontier, and so Vainqueur bombarded this area too, intent on devastating the entire forest instead of just the troll’s lair. 

After a few minutes of firebombing the land, Vainqueur finished remaking the Woods of Gevaudan into a nice, smoking hellscape. “There, troll problem solved!” Vainqueur said, happy with himself. “All we need is to claim the reward now!”

“Your Majesty, can I…” Victor pleaded, the ash-filled wind making him scoff, “Your Majesty, flight is terrible when you hold me in your palm. Especially when you breath dragonfire down my neck.”

“This must be your lack of scales,” Vainqueur said. “I empathize with your situation, I truly do, but what can I do about this birth defect?”

“Can I… can I… can I ride on your back instead?”

Vainqueur looked down on his insolent lackey. “Minion, what kind of ungrateful demand is that? Have I not given you an honest occupation? When I found you this morning you were but a mere thief, purposeless, adrift. Now you are chief of staff. My chief of staff. Do not demand too much.”

Victor sighed at his master’s scolding. “I guess at least I got a level out of this.”

“You did?” Was that not payment enough?

“Yeah, I got a level in Monster Squire when you made me your ‘chief of staff,’ and now I got another. I didn’t even know this class existed.”

“What is a squire? A manling term?”

“It’s, uh, the apprentice of a knight or a noble. They help them get ready for battle, do menial chores for their boss, learn the tricks of the trade…”

“Ah, yes. A minion.”

“Yes, it pays just as much.”

Of course, the manlings would copy this honorable dragon institution. They learned from the best. “I did not get a perk this time, which I find confounding.”

“It’s only one per two levels, Your Majesty.”

“Who decides that?”

“The gods, I think. Or maybe the Fomors.”

“These good for nothing upstarts? They always claim they made the world when everyone knows dragons did it first. Tell me where I can find and reprimand them.” 

Victor gave him a strange, incredulous look. “Reprimand the… I don’t know Your Majesty, I’m not a religious guy. Maybe we could ask a bishop.”

“We will after you climb down and recover what is mine.”

“After I what?”

“According to this Old Money Perk , the trolls below should drop treasures when they die. You do not expect me to get down and sully myself with ashes?”

Victor glanced down at the fiery crater below them, then back at his master. “Your Majesty, I am not immune to fire.”

Not immune to—ah yes, he had forgotten. By the elder wyrm, how could the manlings avoid extinction so far? “We will delay my gratification after the fires die down,” Vainqueur said. “After we obtain restitution for your previous employer’s crime.”

“Sure, sure, if we could just land somewhere safe so I could look at the map…”


No wonder that Marquise lowered herself to hire thieves. Vainqueur too would be bitter at living in a palace with only one tower.

And one on such a small hill at that. The female manling must seethe in jealousy upon seeing Vainqueur’s own lair, made of the world’s tallest mountains. That castle had little stone walls, overseeing villages from above its mound, and manned with manlings equipped with bows and arrows. They had fired a few of these toothpicks as Vainqueur and his minion landed on their front door, with the dragon retaliating by tossing a few of the primates on the ground with his tail. After they stopped, Vainqueur had patiently waited for them to bring their master for a civilized chat.

The castle overflowed with the smell of cats and felines, including lions, tigers, and even a sphinx, according to Vainqueur’s nose. A flag representing a cat with boots stood at the summit of the tower, much to the dragon’s amusement. 

Maybe they had good knights? It had been a while since Vainqueur hadn’t lived up to his name. 

“I have been wondering, minion, what does Marquise mean in your language?”

The minion finished stretching his legs, happy to be back on his feet. “That means she’s a noble lady. Don’t ask me where she ranks in the kingdom’s hierarchy, I just know she’s above the count that put the request for the trolls.”

A noble lady? Vainqueur’s head perked up, his Princess Sense stirring. “Is she a princess?”

“A princess? I don’t think so, no. Why?”

Disappointing. “Old habits.”

The manling’s tiny eyes blinked. “Does Your Majesty kidnap princesses?”

“Sometimes, mostly elves,” Vainqueur said, fondly remembering that particular hunting season he snatched the only elven princess of the current generation before his rivals. He had bragged to his fellow dragons for centuries afterward. “This is a very popular sport among dragonkind, since the black dragon Grandrake ransomed the manling Princess Genevieve a thousand years ago. Maybe I will take you minion on a hunting season someday.”

“Do you…” His minion hesitated, as if afraid of the answer, “Do you eat them?”

“Of course not, do you take me for a savage? I release them back in the wild when I get bored of their whining.” Or when he ran out of the food he had stored to keep them alive.

As if hearing their conversation, a chubby, two-legged cat the size of a manling joined the soldiers on the walls, wearing emerald and gold jewelry that Vainqueur immediately thought would look great atop his hoard; so would her golden fur. Two pretty manling maidens attended the cat, looking fearfully at Vainqueur. 

Apparently, the owner wasn’t a manling, but a catkin. “What business have you here, threatening my castle, dragon tamer?” the cat, Marquise Louise, asked the minion. 

Vainqueur couldn’t help but laugh. Humans, taming dragons? “I think you got our relationship backward!” Victor shouted back with modesty. 

I tamed him,” Vainqueur made a face. Even if that talking cat was probably the Marquise, she didn’t smell like a princess. She didn’t even smell like a virgin! Not worth adding to his hoard. Still, since she was noble blood, Vainqueur deigned answer directly. “I am Vainqueur Knightsbane, King of the Albain Mountains, great calamity of this age! You sent ruffians after my silver rapier treasure, interrupting my long nap. I thereby demand half your cattle as restitution for the trouble caused, alongside the one thousand gold coins you offered for my possession.”

“Half the cattle in my marquisate?” the catkin asked with her shrill, insolent voice. “This is preposterous!”

“I had to fly two hours to get here,” Vainqueur emphasized his pain, “Two. Hours. I burned pounds of fat and smelled the dung of your peasants coming to this place.”

“Also, Your Majesty burned the local woods coming here!” minion Victor shouted to the Marquise. “On request of the Count of Provencal!”

“Who owes me six thousand golden coins for this service!” Vainqueur pointed at the aluminum tag around his neck with his claw. “See this tag? I am an adventurer! The greatest your puny race has ever known!”

“Certainly, Your Majesty,” Victor said. “Certainly.”

The marquise let out a hiss as she squinted at the aluminum tag, then turned to whisper at one of her manling knights. “Bring me Count Gilbert for an explanation,” Vainqueur heard her say thanks to his good ears, before she turned to the dragon. “If I give you what you want, you will leave my lands at once?”

“That depends, do you have more quests for me?” Vainqueur asked, eager for more gold.

“No, no, we do not,” the marquise declared with haste.

“Also, if you have a Bishop on hands, Your Majesty has theological questions!” Victor added. “Important questions!”

“Good thinking, minion,” Vainqueur said. 

“Our chaplain is away on a diplomatic mission.” The marquise then turned to whisper to the same knight as before. “Tell our cooks to prepare a feast for King Vainqueur. The ‘troublesome guest’ kind, with the special ingredient.”

“I will tell the cooks to put the maximum dose,” the knight added. 

“We will provide you with a feast, and the reward for your noble deed!” the marquise told Vainqueur. “I hope you shall forgive us for our lack of courtesy!”

“Only if your cattle is good!” Vainqueur replied. 

“You will find it most exquisite,” the catkin noble replied with a strange tone, before leaving with her knight. 

“She’s…” Victor struggled to find his words. “Damn, she’s a catkin. And here I thought she would be hot.”

“Not as hot as me,” Vainqueur rolled his eyes at his chief of staff’s naivety. “You are too easily impressed, minion. My breath burns brighter than the sun. You have seen it. Of course, she would be lukewarm in comparison.”

“Yeah, at least most of the staff is human. I wonder if one of the ladies-in-waiting is single.”

“Of course they are not ‘single’, your noblewomen are rare in the wild, but not as much as princesses.” Clearly, Vainqueur would have to finish the poor minion’s education. 

As the sun began to set, armorless manlings came out of the castle, bringing Vainqueur fat, cooked sheep, pigs, and cows on carriages. A fat, obese manling wearing brighter, cleaner clothes than the servants led the way, carrying purses and sweating. “Minion, is that manling part of the feast?” Vainqueur asked Victor.

“I’m not sure, Your Majesty…”

“No, no,” the fat man sweated. “I am Gilbert, Count of Provencal.”

“Ah, the one who issued the troll request?” Vainqueur’s head perked up. The purses must contain his rewards. 

“Yes, yes, I was petitioning the marquise for help getting rid of them before Your… Your Majesty solved the problem.” The count gulped as he looked at the smoke rising on the horizon. “You were very zealous…”

“I am taking my duty as an adventurer seriously,” Vainqueur agreed, swallowing a cow whole and spitting out some meat that got stuck between his sharp fangs. “You can eat the leftovers, minion. Let it never be said that Vainqueur starves his staff.”

The minion glanced at the feast, then at the count, noticing sweat over his forehead. “No, no, I cannot share Your Majesty’s meal,” Victor replied. “It’s all yours.”

Such a dutiful manling. Why did Vainqueur ever bother with goblins? “You have come to deliver my reward?”

“Alongside the marquise’s gift of apology,” the sweating manling said. “She said this was my duty as her vassal.”

“Indeed, what a good minion you are,” Vainqueur said, feasting on sheep covered with a strange sauce. “Minion Victor, count the coins. And do not dare steal them!”

“Oh, very far from my mind, Your Majesty,” Victor replied, taking the purses and doing as asked. 

[Congratulations! By stomaching the poison in the food like a champ, you gained the [Lesser Poison Immunity] Perk!]

“Poison? What was this? Manling seasoning?” The count smiled, although it strangely did not reach his ears, and sweated so much Vainqueur wondered if he would die of it on the spot. Was he ill?

“Yes, Your Majesty,” minion Victor said. “It’s a very bitter spice for special occasions.”

“I did not feel the taste, bring more of it!” Vainqueur complained, the count hurriedly running to the castle and attend to his needs. 

Maybe he would get a stronger Perk at the end of the feast? 

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Thanks to my dragon patrons on Patreon, Alex PruittSaul KurzmanDex, Warwick Robertson, BlissForgotten, Johnathan, Marc Claude Louis Durand, Rhodri Thornber, Drekin, Bald Guy Dennis, Floodtalon, Dax, Karolus, and Daniel Zogbi.

Chapter 2: V&V

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Victor had no idea what he had gotten himself into. 

For the first time in his life, he flew outside the confines of a plane. Namely, the dragon carried him in palm—because his back was too good for Victor—as he flew north of the mountain, towards the Valbin village where he took that damn request. Victor hated the experience; not only did he take the icy wind head on in the face, the dragon held him tight and could crush him any moment. 

Victor had had terrible luck streak lately, and no amount of Luck stat increase changed it. Dying on Earth to end up in this fantasy world, falling in with brigands to make ends’ meets, narrowingly dying half a dozen times, and then getting caught by a giant dragon on his very first adventurer quest. 

This world sucked!

“Your Majesty!” Victor shouted, as the duo left the snowy mountain to the grasslands, the sight of the village coming to life under the morning sun. “I should go alone! The guard will sound the alarm at your coming!”

The dragon would have none of it. “Minion, a king sometimes must show his face to his subjects, so they may remember who rules them. Also, I do not trust you yet not to have lied to me, especially about this ‘class system’.”

In hindsight, Victor wondered if informing a giant red dragon about it had been his brightest idea. 

How could he have known? Every civilized person on this goddamn planet knew about it! They even had Class Scholars!

As expected, as they reached the village’s wooden ramparts, Victor heard the song of bells, the city watch sounding the alarm upon seeing the dragon. Not that it would help. Victor had heard a single dragon could devastate a country single-handedly, and Vainqueur seemed huge even by reptilian standards. 

A few archers and wizards on the ground launched arrows and lightning bolts at the legendary beast; they bounced off Vainqueur’s scales, who hadn’t even noticed. “Minion, where is this guildhall?” the dragon demanded, as he circled the village, the inhabitants closing their windows at the sight of his dreaded shadow.

“The stone building with the bells, between the bell tower and the marketplace, Your Majesty.”

Finding his target, the dragon landed on his last two legs in the middle of the marketplace, the flapping of his wings and his sheer mass blowing away most stands. Panic set among humans, beastkin, and elf merchants, as they hurriedly fled screaming, most of them not even grabbing their wares with them. 

Vainqueur briefly glanced at the animal-like beastkins with what looked like hunger in his eyes, before focusing on the guildhall and its human-sized, closed doors. Without a care in the world, the dragon headbutted the entrance, smashing down the walls and most of the ceiling, so he could move inside. 

Victor found himself in front of two dozen adventurers armed to the teeth, forming a wall between the dragon and Charlene, the pretty, plump receptionist Victor had hoped to take out on a date after his first quest. The mission board which caused this whole fiasco stood behind her back, Victor immediately noticing that damn request among them. 

A powerfully built spearman led the adventurers, swinging his spear like a show-off. “My fellows!” he shouted, his white teeth shining as he flashed a smile, “Are you afraid of a flying lizard? Well, I am not! I am not afraid of an oversized drake, and I will prove it this second!”

That asshole braggart, Alain… Victor couldn’t stand him, but that smug bastard was the highest level adventurer in town at twenty-five. He had killed a lot of drakes, even a giant. Maybe he had a shot at killing the dragon.

With a mighty roar, Alain charged with his spear, his sheer moxie inspiring the rest of the adventurers to follow suit. 

With a gaze full of condescension, Vainqueur lazily moved his free hand in front of the incoming spearman, and flicked his fingers. 

Alain went flying and crashed against a stone wall with a loud, morbidly amusing sound. He turned into a puddle of blood, brains and bones on impact, like a squashed mosquito. 

… they were all doomed. 

The adventurers immediately screamed as one. They dropped their weapons and fled by crashing through the windows and the staff backdoor, much to Vainqueur’s smug amusement. Only poor Charlene stood behind her desk, too shocked to move, her poor colleagues probably hiding beneath it. 

Finally, the dragon released Victor, letting him walk again. “Minion Victor, do the thing,” the dragon ordered, Charlene briefly blinking at hearing him speak in common. 

The poor rogue briefly glanced at the broken windows, realized they were too far off to escape, and cleared his throat. “Charlene,” the terrified receptionist’s eyes moved from the dragon to him, “I present you King Vainqueur the First of his Name, my new boss. Long may he live.”

Her eyes widened in stark, raving terror. “Vainqueur? Vainqueur Knightsbane?! The Red Terror of Midgard?!” She clenched her fists in a mix of horror and fury, while Vainqueur looked proud that people remembered him. “You brought an ancient red dragon to our village! Are you insane?!”

“Yes, yes, of course I had a choice in the matter,” Victor deadpanned, pointing at the giant behemoth right behind him. 

“Minion Victor, who is this female manling and why do we need her?” 

“She’s the chief of staff and receptionist of this guildhall, Your Majesty,” Victor explained, making discreet signs to Charlene to play along. “Charlene, please tell the giant angry dragon what you do.”

The woman glanced up at the dragon, then wisely decided to play along. She dusted her robes, then adopted the same professional look she used with every would be adventurer, albeit while still noticeably trembling in fear. “I manage the paperwork and requests on behalf of the Gardemagne Adventurer Guild. I receive requests from clients and distribute them, and the rewards to adventurers and mercenaries willing to take them on.”

“Minion Victor, ask manling Charlene to find and read the request that led you to my domain out loud.”

Of course, the dragon couldn’t read the language, even if he could speak it. Even Victor had taken a few months of intense study to learn it. “Your Majesty does not talk to other humans?” Victor asked the giant beast, curious. 

“No, talking to animals is what a minion is for,” Vainqueur replied. “Minion Victor, ask manling Charlene to read your request out loud.”

“Charlene, would you kindly…” The secretary had already grabbed one of the paper sheet on the board behind her, clearly in no hurry to test the dragon’s patience. 

The woman cleared her throat. “Louise, Marquise de Carabas, offers a generous one thousand gold pieces reward for the return of her family’s prized Silver Rapier, last reported in the hands of goblins in the Albain mountains. There is a drawing of the sword with it.”

Since most goblins had fled the mountains years ago, Victor thought it would be easy money. That, and bringing the rapier back would give him the opportunity to scout the Carabas estate in case something caught his fancy. 

Pity the locals had forgotten to mention the dragon’s presence. 

“It appears you spoke the truth, minion Victor. You shall be spared. You too, manling Charlene, if you tell where I may visit this Marquise and eat her cattle.”

“Charlene, where is—”

“I heard,” the angry receptionist cut him off. “Victor, give me your map.”

The rogue hurriedly grabbed the old sheet of paper he kept around his belt, Charlene taking it from his hands, grabbing a feather pen, and marking a spot in the south-east of the Gardemagne countryside. 

Vainqueur squinted, as he observed the board where Charlene took Louise de Carabas’ request. “Minion, explain to me how it works.”

“People, mostly nobles, merchants, or groups of peasants, send requests to the adventurer guild alongside promised rewards,” Victor explained, “With the end of the Century War two years ago, many of them involve dealing with roving monsters or brigands.”

“There were many lucrative requests and bounties to take Your Majesty down, decades ago,” Charlene said. “Until you were declared dead.”

“Oh? And all this time I thought your kind had a collective deathwish. Like sending your sick and your wounded to die honorably at my—” Vainqueur suddenly stopped mid sentence, as the words hit him. “Declared dead?”

Charlene winced as the dragon glared at her. “A-a group of Barinian adventurers brought back a red dragon skull twenty years ago after Barsino’s march through the mountains, declaring it belonged to Vainqueur… and since no red dragon showed up for years afterward…”

“This, this is an indignity!” The news had infuriated the beast almost as much as Victor’s attempted robbery, smoke steaming from his nostrils. “Minion, order manling Charlene to inform your primitive, credulous species that I, Vainqueur Knightsbane, am not dead!”

“I am sure the news will travel fast after Your Majesty’s mighty show of force,” Victor deadpanned, the dragon thankfully too incensed to notice the sarcasm. 

“They better do!” Vainqueur calmed himself, his eyes fixed on the board. “What kind of requests does this manling get?”

“Charlene, can you read a few quests for His Majesty’s benefit?”

A bit more confident due to being in her element, Charlene grabbed a paper sheet and read it out loud. “A clan of trolls calling themselves the Branded Barks has sacked the lands of the Count of Provencal and currently hide in the Woods of Gevaudan, east of his domain. The Count offers a great reward for the extermination of this vermin.”

“You get ‘experience’ and ‘levels’ for this deed?” Vainqueur asked, before clarifying his true intention. “I could get levels?”

“You know about levels?” Charlene blinked, without waiting for Victor’s ‘animal translation.’

“His Majesty Vainqueur apparently leveled up in the Noble class,” Victor told her. Fitting for a large, belliful parasite living off the gold he ‘taxed’ from people weaker than him. 

“A dragon can level up in a class?” Whatever colors left on Charlene’s face suddenly drained, as she realized the implications. “Oh, by Mithras, dragons can get class levels.”

“Yes, my minion recently informed me of the existence of this class system.” If glares could kill, Charlene would have murdered Victor twice over. “How much do you manlings get paid for this request?”

“Six thousand gold coins.”

“Six thousand gold coins, to eat trolls?” 

“This is considered a difficult quest, Your Majesty,” Victor said. These were war trolls, brought by Prydain during the great war, crafty and strong. 

“Trolls? You are afraid of trolls?” The dragon’s bellowing hiss of a laugh made the walls tremble. “You manlings are so weak!”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Victor deadpanned, angered by his patronizing. “Maybe you should consider a career as an adventurer and show us the ropes? I’m sure you would do great.”

He said this as a joke, but much to his horror, the dragon seemed to consider his words seriously. “Six thousand coins for a feast of trolls…” he mumbled. “Is this the most well-paid request available?”

“No, Your Majesty,” Victor replied. “I think it was the kraken hunting bounty, right?”

Charlene nodded abruptly. “Killing the Kraken of Massaline is worth the equivalent of sixty-four thousand gold coins in emeralds.”

The fires of greed lit up in the dragon’s eyes. “Sixty-four thousand? That is almost as much as my entire—” He stopped himself, probably realizing that he had already said too much. 

As much as my entire hoard, Victor guessed. Perhaps more. The rogue estimated quite a few of the items the dragon had collected had lost their luster over time. 

Victor could almost the gears turning in the dragon’s head, and the exact train of thought his mind followed. And it terrified him. 

Oh no. Oh please no. 

“Minion Victor, I intended to burn this village to the ground for you manlings’ crimes against my royal person,” Vainqueur declared. “But I suddenly realize my usual method of building my hoard may be slightly outdated. All of this wealth sleeping without a good dragon to claim them is a sin, and if this Old Money perk does not lie…”

Oh by the gods, please no…

“I, Vainqueur the Dragon, will gladly answer requests and solve your inferior species’ problems for your coins!” 

Charlene, too, wondered if the dragon was serious. When it became that yes, he was, she didn’t know what to do. “Your Majesty, Vainqueur, I am not sure a dragon can become an adventurer.”

“Of course, I am overqualified,” Vainqueur declared proudly.

“Your Majesty, this is not—”

“I am a dragon. I am, now, an adventurer. And you are starting to sound like food. Minion, is manling Charlene food?”

“Charlene, are you dragon food?”

Charlene, understanding the implied threat, searched under the desk for a huge pile of paperwork, putting it on the desk. “I will register you two as a new adventurer company. We will need both your signatures, and the paperwork done.”

Vainqueur glanced at the pile of paper, then at Victor, who saw what came next coming from a mile away. “Minion Victor.”

“Yes, Your Majesty?”

“I officially promote you to my minion chief of staff and living signature. You shall be responsible for managing this ‘paperwork’ thing on my behalf. This is a great and important responsibility, but you will do fine.” 

Victor guessed he wouldn’t be paid for it, but wisely kept that for himself. 

[Congratulations! By becoming the chief enforcer of a mighty dragon, you gained a level in the Monster Squire Class!]

Victor blinked at the notification. Monster Squire? He had never heard of that class. 

[+30 HP, +10 SP, +1 STR, +1 VIT, +1 SKI, +1 AGI, +1 INT, +1 CHA, +1 LCK! You gained the Monster Kin Class Perk!]

[Monster Kin: you can now talk to and understand any monster, and gain a +20 charisma bonus when interacting with them!]

Wow, he never received such a massive stat boost before. That Class must have had incredible growth potential.

Victor glanced at the name Charlene registered the adventurer company as, and froze.

V&V? 

“Is this a prank?” he asked out loud.

Charlene glared at him, then at the dragon, then at the destroyed ceiling, then back at him. 

Okay, maybe he deserved it. He supposed that also meant she wouldn’t go out for a drink with him. Bugger. 

“What is it, minion Victor?” 

“Nothing, Your Majesty,” Victor sighed as he completed and signed the documents on both his and the dragon’s behalf, “Nothing.”

“I wish you go to hell, Victor,” the receptionist said. “But I think you’re already there.”

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Thanks to my dragon patrons on Patreon, Alex Pruitt, Saul Kurzman, Dex, Warwick Robertson, BlissForgotten, Johnathan, Marc Claude Louis Durand, Rhodri Thornber, Drekin, Bald Guy Dennis, Floodtalon, Dax, Karolus, and Daniel Zogbi.

Chapter 1: Vainqueur the Dragon

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Vainqueur the Dragon, great calamity of his age, stirred as he awakened from his sleep. 

This sixty-feet long beast of legends, with scales more radiant than molten rubies and great jet black wings, yawned as he stretched his body, pushing away some of the gold and jewels of his hard-won hoard. How good, he thought, his golden eyes opening and acclimating to the darkness of his cave, to rest on the wages of victory after a feast. He could spend another half a century here if he didn’t feel the urge to eat some cattle this morning. 

Vainqueur slowly stretched his mighty neck until his crown of horns scraped against the stone ceiling. He surveyed his cave deep within the southern mountains of Albain, as his eyes acclimated to the darkness, marveling at the beauty of his shining conquests. A bed of rubies, diamonds and gold coins, looted from beastkins, mermaids, the retinue of an elven princess, and the corpses of armored manlings foolish enough to challenge him. A good hoard, but a small one; one he promised himself to double in size before going back to hibernation. 

Maybe he should raid the dwarves underground? He had heard they collected enough gems to fill underground vaults. 

And here, on his left, one of his trusty, dutiful goblin minions cleaned up a silver rapier, one of the finest items of his treasures. It was a tall goblin, with smooth skin, a dirtied hood and a terrified expression as Vainqueur watched him…

Wait.

That was no goblin, but a human. A manling.

Vainqueur suddenly blinked in realization, and so did the manling who just realized he had woken up a dragon. 

“A thief!” Moved to action by a flash of fury, Vainqueur roared and attempted to crush the manling with his upper arm, the terrified rogue jumping with the rapier to the side before he could make a dash to the exit. Vainqueur kept attempting to stomp the manling like a fruit, but the cloaked one had good reflexes. 

No matter, the cave was too small, and the exit on the other side. The dragon quickly cornered the robber, trapping him between a wall and himself. The manling held the rapier as a desperate weapon, but only the threat of melting his treasure prevented Vainqueur from burning that treacherous animal to cinders. 

Vainqueur quickly scanned his hoard with a glance, sighing in relief upon finding no missing piece. He had caught the thief right in the act. 

“I swear it,” Vainqueur cursed in dragonian. “You take a quick nap for fifty years—fifty years—and everyone forgets the food chain.” 

Even setting up his lair in the tallest mountain known to western dragonkind hadn’t discouraged thieves. 

And where were these damn goblins he had allowed to live in exchange for keeping watch? Did they run? Or did the thief kill them? Why was it so hard to find good help nowadays? 

No matter. He would eat this fool and then raid the nearby villages for cattle; that would teach the manlings not to bother him again. “My sweet food,” he told the thief in the manling’s tongue, “What is your name?”

The manling’s hideously small eyes bulged beneath the hood. “You can speak?” 

“Yes, yes, sometimes I talk to my breakfast.” Or to maidens he abducted back in his younger years. “Answer me manling, before I lose patience.”

“I, uh…” The human trembled at Vainqueur’s amazing majesty. “Victor, sir…”

“Vainqueur Knightsbane, First of his Name, Great Calamity of this Age and King of the Albain Mountains. But you may call me Your Majesty.” 

“Your majesty—”

“With a capital M,” Vainqueur corrected his insolent food. “I can tell the difference.”

“Your Majesty, I swear this is a mistake!”

“I do not think so, manling. Now, tell me, because I truly want to know. What made you think trying to steal from me was ever a good idea?” 

The manling narrowed his head in recognition of his stupidity. Vainqueur knew little of manlings, but this one sounded young, barely an adult. “I swear,” he said. “I didn’t know this mountain was yours. Someone hired me to recover that rapier, and that was all! It was thought lost, not yours.”

“Liar!” Vainqueur roared, his voice causing the ceiling to tremble, “You must have fought past an army of goblins to get there!”

“There… there’s been no goblin activity in the mountains for decades, Your Majesty. They fled Barsino’s great march through the Albain mountains twenty years ago.”

What? Vainqueur hummed deeply, trying to smell goblin stench. His sharp senses didn’t pick any, not even the faintest hint. The manling was right, no goblin had guarded his lair for ten years at least. 

“Those moronic cowards, fleeing the very second I take a nap?” Vainqueur cursed in dragonian, the manling unable to understand the brilliant elder tongue. The dragon deigned to return to the creature’s primitive language. “Do you have minions, manling Victor?”

“Minions?” Understanding the dragon would let him live so long as he answered, manling Victor answered. “I had a party once, but it didn’t work out. Like I was the only professional with ambition beyond petty theft.”

“Finding good help is hard everywhere,” Vainqueur ranted to his audience. “I advise you never to hire goblins, even if you will not live long enough to. I will spare you this mistake.”

“Wait, wait!” The manling panicked. “They will send someone else, even if you kill me! No one knows Your Majesty lives in these mountains!”

“They will, once I burn the countryside to cinders,” Vainqueur replied, although the manling indeed piqued his curiosity. “But I am curious, who sent you? I will eat them after you.”

“I don’t know! It was an anonymous request in the guildhall of a town nearby,” manling Victor said, “The reward was one thousand gold coins.”

“A nice sum for such a dirty deed,” Vainqueur condemned him, vowing to search for these coins once he had tracked down the mastermind as payback. 

“Yes, but I mostly took it for the challenge,” the manling admitted. “I thought I would gain a few levels out of it. Maybe even a special Perk from the climbing.”

“Levels?” What was that, some kind of cattle food? That interested Vainqueur. “What is that?”

“You, you don’t…” The manling shut his mouth. “How to explain… levels are powers you gain in a class, like Knight or Wizard or Outlaw, and which grant you extra power called Perks. You gain levels through work, experience, or killing stuff. I thought I would gain at least one or two.”

What rubbish was that? “You cannot even begin to fathom the number of thieves I slew, manling Victor, and I never received any of these, ‘levels’.”

“Maybe you just didn’t know,” the manling pleaded for his miserable life. 

That was stupid. Class? Like what, a thief? He was a great red dragon, the king of the mountains, the apex of creation! Surely the mighty dragonkind would have unlocked such a power long ago if it existed!

[ Congratulations! ]

What? Vainqueur thought, as words appeared right before his eyes. 

[ Through your sheer ego and noble dragon bloodline, you gained a level in the Noble class! +30 HP, +10SP, +1 STR, +1 AGI, +1 CHA, +1 LCK! You gained the Old Money class perk! ]

What was this witchery? Math magic? The sight puzzled Vainqueur. “Old Money?” he said out loud, much to manling Victor’s confusion.

[ Old Money: double the chances of monsters dropping treasure after death. ]

Ah. Nice. “Manling Victor,” the dragon asked his food. “Do you self-identify as a monster?”

“Of course not!” the manling replied, and it didn’t sound like a bluff, “Monsters are goblins or trolls or… or…”

“Or dragons?” Vainqueur finished the sentence, amused. Well, if that ‘perk’ worked on that damn, arrogant frost dragon Icefang in the northern lands, he might just triple the size of his hoard. The dragon narrowed his head until it was within an inch of the thief, who tried to present a strong face. “Take off your hood and cloak, manling, slowly. Look at me in the eye.”

The manling did so, revealing his face. As Vainqueur had guessed, this was a young adult manling, with disgusting short black hair instead of mighty horns; how could these animals live with them Vainqueur would never understand. Still, the dragon liked the fear and the hint of low cunning in these small, amber eyes. The would-be thief also carried two metal toothpicks around his belt, not worth adding to his hoard. 

That manling was no goblin, but it would make a nice substitute. “Manling Victor.”

“Yes, Your Majesty?”

“Put the rapier back where you found it. You will lead me straight to this ‘Guildhall’ so I may see this request for myself. Since I am short on goblins right now, you will be my new minion until you pay back your life debt to me.”

The manling couldn’t believe the great honor bestowed upon him and thought himself undeserving of it. “I am wholly unsuited for this role, Your Majesty.”

“I am a dragon,” Vainqueur reminded the manling of this timeless wisdom. “You are now my minion.”

The manling said nothing for a short while, before gracefully accepting his new role, “It is a great honor, Your Majesty.”

“Very good. There is a great reward in doing as I wish. Namely, living. Any other dragon would have eaten you for your sinful crime and would never have taken a manling in their service, but I am forgiving and merciful.”

“This is very generous of you, Your Majesty.”

“I know, manling. Now, tell me more about these Perks…”

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Thanks to my dragon patrons on Patreon, Alex Pruitt, Saul Kurzman, Dex, Warwick Robertson, BlissForgotten, Johnathan, Marc Claude Louis Durand, Rhodri Thornber, Drekin, Bald Guy Dennis, Floodtalon, Dax, Karolus, and Daniel Zogbi.