Chapter 10: The Battle of Haudemer

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That disloyal minion!

“You thankless traitor!” Vainqueur lambasted Minion Victor in front of the terrified kobolds, the sheer power of his voice making him fall down on the sand. “You, you… you goblin, how could you do this to me?!”

“I swear, Your Majesty, this is not what it looks like!”

“It is exactly what it looks like!” Vainqueur replied. “I turn my back on you for five minutes, five minutes, and you cheat on me with another dragon! And a wyvern at that!”

She was right next to minion Victor, a horse-sized wyvern with lustrous black scales, and shiny ruby eyes that would lead any minion astray; and did. The pony to Vainqueur’s pegasus, all pretty looks and nothing else. Wyverns were as dim as cattle, and couldn’t even breathe fire!

Vainqueur had caught minion Victor riding that shameless creature’s back, caressing the scales behind her horns, while she wriggled in pleasure. He felt disgusted just remembering it. 

And worse, he had noticed the minion had brought a dragon-sized iron necklace adjusted to that flying rat’s neck! The minion had intended to replace Vainqueur and then dress her up!

Of course, the treacherous minion tried to play dumb, “I was just testing the [Horn of Wyvern Summoning], I swear!”

Vainqueur was too pissed to care, “You fool, she is all pretty scales and nothing else! What, she let you ride on her back? Was it worth it?!”

“Your Majesty, I don’t—”

“No Majesty, you maggot! I spend all my time being the best dragon master for you, and this is how you repay my faithfulness? I thought we had committed to a special, fulfilling relationship!”

“I swear this is not what it looks like,” Minion Victor repeated, even if he was caught in the act. The wyvern just looked at Vainqueur with a petty, smug look. 

Vainqueur would have eaten that filthy creature if it hadn’t been cannibalism. 

“And you cheat on me after I gave you custody of our first minions!” Vainqueur pointed a claw at their kobolds. “Because I promoted you!”

“Master, chief, please stop fighting,” sweet Pink cried.

“Your Majesty, I really, really don’t like the wording of this conversation,” Victor tried to defend himself, as he found the strength to rise back up, dusting sand off his cloak. “And I just climbed on her back, once!” 

“I know your species has a shameful fixation on dragon riding, but climbing on my back is a very special privilege. You know I can never give you that, minion. But it does not matter. What matters,” Vainqueur stressed that word, “Is that you are a dirty, shameless master-chaser trying to replace me with a wyvern!”

“Wait, no, of course not! It’s part of a plot to trick the Scorchers and get you richer, I swear!”

“Then what about this necklace?!”

“It’s not a necklace, it’s a ring! For you!”

Vainqueur froze in surprise. “Truly?” he asked, his greed getting the better of him. Indeed, that necklace did look like the rings he often saw on princesses’ fingers…

“I hope I’m not going to regret it, but…” Victor sighed. “Here’s a dragon-sized [Ring of Invisibility]. Just say ‘blink’ while wearing it, and you will become invisible. I asked the blacksmith to craft it; thankfully he was glad enough for your protection not to ask for a payment.”

His… his first, dragon-sized magical item? 

No, wait, that was a trick to get back in his good graces! “Why would I become invisible, when I am perfect the way I look?”

“It’s a trick to use on the Scorchers, Your Majesty,” the minion replied, continuing before Vainqueur could interrupt. “So you can take them by surprise.”

Ah. Ah… “Like when kidnapping a princess in front of knights?” Vainqueur asked, well-versed in that timeless strategy.

“Like princesses with knights,” Victor replied with his usual strangely pitiful tone. 

Suddenly, everything made sense, much to Vainqueur’s satisfaction. “I cannot believe I doubted my own chief of staff’s loyalty. Why did you make me doubt you? I could have eaten you for it.” Vainqueur grumbled at his manling’s mishandling of the matter. “I will forgive you for this misunderstanding.”

“I am forever in Your Majesty’s debt.”

“Of course, since I own you,” Vainqueur stated the obvious. “Now, give me that ring before I change my mind.”

And so, under the faint twilight sun, Vainqueur accepted the minion’s gift of reconciliation. Manling Victor put the ring on Vainqueur’s left fourth finger, while the minions clapped in happiness and the wyvern sulked in a corner. 

His very first magic item!

[Congratulations! For making up with your trusted vassal and strengthening your relationship, you have gained two levels in Noble! +60 HP, +10 SP, +1 STR, +1 SKI, +1 AGI, +2 INT, +1 CHA, +2 LCK! You gained the [Noblesse Oblige] Perk!]

[Noblesse Oblige: You gain a temporary stat boost to all your statistics when you defend your vassals from outsiders.]

Vainqueur would have cried in joy, had he been a weak manling instead of a majestic, dignified, and immortal dragon. 

“Your Majesty just needs to say blink, and—”

“Blink!” Vainqueur’s scales turned transparent. “I cannot see myself.”

“Yes, Your Majesty, you have become invisible,” Victor said, the kobolds petting the wyvern in the background. 

“Yes, but it is one thing to imagine the world without me, and another to see it,” Vainqueur complained. He, after all, denied the whole world the pleasure of watching him. Still, the minion had deserved a reward. “Manling Victor.”

“Yes, Your Majesty?”

“As reward for your good work, I will reveal you the secret of breeding successfully,” Vainqueur shared his wisdom, “I have studied you carefully, and while your primitive breeding habits elude me, you clearly should emulate the superior dragon approach.”

“Is Your Majesty suggesting I grow scales to attract Lynette?”

Manlings could do that? Why did they not then? No, the dragon mating approach was simpler. 

“Ask your females if they want to breed,” Vainqueur explained, Manling Victor putting his left hand on his face for some obscure reason, “Do not run circles around it, this shows a lack of confidence, and while weakness is the lot of the puny races, a true dragon is fearless. Unambiguously ask your female manlings to breed with you. Since all manlings look the same, if your hoard is big enough, they will accept. If they refuse, use that frustration as inspiration to better your hoard. Females use their hoards to entice males too, so be wary of tricks. If they propose to you, check the size of their treasure first. If you want the best progeny, you must breed with the best. Only accept the wealthiest.”

“Then at the rate you pay me, I guess I have to work hard to fill my pockets, Your Majesty.”

“Exactly, the shinier the hoard, the better.” Vainqueur knew he would make the perfect minion. “Now, minion, when do I get that [Stipend] Perk?”

“Soon, Your Majesty, soon…” minion Victor marked a short pause, his eyes set on the city nearby. “Mmm?”

“What is it, minion?” Vainqueur glanced at Haudemer’s direction, noticing a thick white mist spreading to engulf the city whole. The dragon couldn’t smell, nor hear anything within it. Strange. “An evening fog?” 

“Spreading so quickly at this hour?” Victor shook his head. “No. The Scorchers returned, Sir. The town is under attack.”

“The rangers are ready to strike, chief!” Red said, the kobolds adopting a brilliant fighting pose, while the wyvern croaked behind them. 

“Can Your Majesty blow the fog away with his wings?” Victor asked his invisible master.

“Of course.” Nothing easier for a dragon. 

“Okay then, rangers, follow me, we’ll scout ahead.” Victor wandered into the fog, followed by the minions. 

Vainqueur prepared to take flight and show the weather who was the master around here, but struggled somewhat to do so. As he flapped his wings, he ended up overdoing it and landing back on the sand within seconds. 

Since he couldn’t see his wings anymore, he had trouble orienting himself. The dragon had never flown ‘blind’ in his life. 

“Minion, how do I turn it back?” Vainqueur asked, but manling Victor had already vanished into the fog, “Minion? MINION!”


Victor somehow lost his way so badly, he ended up right where he wanted. He guessed all these new luck points had worked out for him in the end. 

While struggling to see past a few meters within this dense mist, he had spent enough time at Lynette’s inn to recognize its shape. Victor guessed the mayor must have gathered the townsfolk here when the fog began to spread, for their own protection. 

A very good decision, for the inn was under siege. 

A dozen men armed to the teeth with bows, swords, and axes had spread around the place, led by a heavily armored knight and a priest. Victor instantly recognized them as Vilmain and Gustave. 

More sinisterly, he noticed Henry Bright,  gagged, stripped of all clothes but his pants, and chained to a horse near Vilmain. The scholar showed sword scars all around his body, and lost a lot of weight. 

Thankfully, the Scorchers hadn’t noticed Victor yet. “Rangers?” Victor’s voice lost itself in the fog. Damn, he had lost the kobolds. He hoped they were fine; incompetent critters or not, he couldn’t let them get killed by bandits. 

Victor noticed Lynette and others through the inn’s windows; the townsfolk had barricaded themselves inside, watching the encroaching bandit band with apprehension.  

“Hello, friends,” the priest announced himself. “I am Vilmain, François Vilmain. We come in peace. If you open the door and let us ransack the inn, we will let you leave peacefully, and unharmed!”

Victor hoped Lynette wasn’t dumb enough to believe him. After a minute of waiting, without the door unlocking, it turned out she wasn’t. 

“I will break the door,” Gustave said, carrying a heavy claymore with one hand and a large shield with the other. 

“No, no need for that hassle, my friend,” Vilmain replied. “Since they have barricaded themselves in, I will set the place on fire with a [Fireball] and cook them alive. You and your men can kill those who try to break through.”

“Not fair, you get all the experience that way.”

“I want my next Bowman Perk, sir,” one of the archers complained to Vilmain. “I will never miss anymore with it!”

“Yes, I understand, but it will be quick, and we have to move before the dragon finds his way into the fog.” The priest suddenly turned towards Victor, apparently seeing him perfectly fine within the unnatural weather. “Well, would you look at that? Looks like we didn’t have to wait long.”

Victor sighed, as a dozen Scorchers turned to look at him. He might as well try to buy time until Vainqueur could blow the fog away. “That’s the [Disorienting Fog] spell, isn’t it? Pretty high level spell. I didn’t expect a level thirteen Bishop to have access it. The last spellcaster I saw use it was in his mid-twenties.” 

“Familiar spell? I would expect a Nightblade to know of it.” Vilmain insisted on the mention of the criminal syndicate, although most of the Scorchers didn’t recognize the name. “My class, Fell Bishop, allows me to cast powerful spells by sacrificing people to dark powers.  So we nabbed a peasant on our way here. ”

Disgusting. 

“That’s your fault by the way. We hoped you would leave the town to rescue poor Henry from us, but you didn’t, you shameless, honorless fiend. Abandoning a civilian to his death? How unheroic.”

“Yeah, trying to lure the brave knight away from the town you want to loot. That’s Outlaw trick number one. I was almost sure you already killed him.”

“Kill him? How could we kill our mana slave? Observe.” Vilmain grabbed Henry’s shoulder. “[Mana Drain].” 

 Victor watched in horror as Vilmain drained the life energy of his victim, Henry losing weight on sight. Victor thought the Scorcher was about to kill his victim, before he released Henry at the last moment, the scholar collapsing to his knees. 

“It also work with [Life Drain], which comes in handy when you need to keep healing spells,” said Vilmain.  “I can see him have a shortcareer among us. Oh, don’t give me that glare, he sold you out.”

That didn’t made that horrible act right. 

So that was their plan? [Disorienting Fog] reduced sound and scents within its radius and caused people to get lost within it. They probably figured out they could use the weather to raid the city while preventing the dragon from burning the place down from above, due to the lack of visibility making friendly fire likely. Simple, but effective. 

Why did they insist on sacking Haudemer instead of sensibly ignoring Vainqueur though? Victor guessed they had another motive than just pillaging. “Why the hell are you even sieging that inn instead of boarding ships and escaping the country?” 

“In time,” Vilmain replied mirthfully, “But our employer, Brandon Maure of Ishfania, asked us to recover a certain magical, white apple buried under the city. Once we have secured it, we will leave.”

The iPad? They were after iPad? Victor thought about handing it to them, but realized they would probably still kill everyone afterward. According to the comments he heard, they fought as much for quick and easy levels as gold. 

Vilmain coughed, “So, if you’re a thief yourself, why not join us then? There’s more money to make by joining in the pillaging and Maure’s rewards than fighting against us, and a man taming a dragon is one I want on my team. Also, you will live.”

Yes, clearly joining a group whose leaders had levels in Turncoat and Vile in their name was a brilliant idea. No way it could go wrong. That left fighting as the only option. Point for him, thanks to Vainqueur, he had magical equipment and the dragon would be here any second now…

Point for these two assholes, according to their bounty, they were twice his level, and they had minions of their own.

Minions of their own? Damn, he was turning into Vainqueur. 

Mmm… a wise man once said criminals were a cowardly, superstitious lot… “Allow me to make you a counteroffer,” Victor said, before revealing his [Horn of Wyvern Summoning]. “Surrender now, and I won’t use this horn of dragon summoning to bring Vainqueur Knightsbane on your front door.”

Vilmain laughed. “I have the [Eye for Treasure Perk], my friend. That is a simple trinket for drakes and wyverns, nothing that can bind a great red dragon.”

“That’s what the false description would lead you to believe,” Victor bullshitted. “And it worked that way until I unlocked its secret powers. How do you think I bound that dragon to my will in the first place?”

“Nonsense,” Gustave said, clearly losing patience. “Enough talk. Join or die.”

But Vilmain and Gustave may have been too cunning to fall for it, Victor could see their minio—their men, hesitate behind them. He hoped their fear of Vainqueur outweighed their trust in their leaders. 

“Your loss. Vainqueur, I summon thee!” Victor sounded the horn. 

“Archers!” Gustave called, bowmen readying their weapons and preparing to nail Victor. Meanwhile, Vilmain immediately began to intone a spell. “At my signal—”

“Wait, above!” one of the men interrupted him. 

The shadow of a winged dragon appeared above their heads, its features obscured by the fog. 

“The dragon is here!” a bowman shouted, before immediately lowering his weapon in abject fear. The wyvern let out a screech through the fog; immediately, one of the outlaws turned tail, and the rest lost their nerve. 

“Wait, fall back into rank, cowards!” Gustave raised his blade, but his men had already started running away into the fog. Even Vilmain’s horse fled at the sight, dragging Henry with it. “Come back here! I will have your head for this!”

“Fine!” Vilmain declared, the two criminals left to their fate. “[Summon Lesser Demo—”

With a surge of speed and agility he didn’t know he could achieve, Victor interrupted Vilmain before he could cast his spell, his two daggers raised. Acting swiftly, the Fell Bishop parried his strike with a rapier; he stopped one of the blades, but the other dagger slipped past his guard, stabbing him below the shoulder. 

Victor sensed he may have a chance in close combat against Vilmain. The priest had more levels, but in a spellcasting, healer class. 

Unfortunately, this was a two on one fight. 

Gustave immediately rushed to his ally’s side, tackling Victor with his shield with surprising quickness. Victor’s solar bracers activated, empowering him with newfound strength and vitality; the blow almost tossed him to his back, but the Monster Squire managed to stay on his feet. 

The bracers would only work while the sun was up, and it would soon set. He had to at least take out Vilmain beforehand. 

Without warning, Gustave swung his sword to try and bisect Victor who gracefully dodged the strikes. The Monster Squire, unable to damage his foe through his heavy armor, tried to work around him to strike at Vilmain, but Gustave always blocked his path. 

“[Skill Up]!” An unholy red glow surrounded Vilmain as he cast a spell, his free hand searching under his cloak for something. Victor guessed he looked for a potion to heal his wound. 

Instead, he brought out a flintlock pistol and aimed at Victor.

Bringing a firearm to a sword fight? That cheater! Reacting before Vilmain could pull the trigger, Victor touched the necklace around his neck with a finger and then pointed at the bishop. He had only three charges, so he better make them count. “Fireball!”

The enchanted necklace activated, unleashing a sphere of fire in a flash of crimson light. The projectile Vilmain head-on, and it hurt enough to interrupt him, but the flames didn’t spread to his clothes. The bastard must have cast a fire-resistance spell of some kind, in case Vainqueur broke past the fog. 

Vilmain responded by firing his flintlock like a maniac, clearly not caring about friendly fire. Victor dived to the ground, the bullet flying through a window and blowing the head of an unlucky watcher.  

Gustave immediately tried to strike Victor before he could rise to his feet. The Monster Squire exhausted another charge of the fireball necklace, targeting Gustave. The Scorcher hid behind his shield, weathering the projectile like a champ. 

Yeah, the chief of staff couldn’t beat that knight on his own. 

“No!” Victor cursed out loud over internalizing his new job, rising back to his feet and dashing madly at Vilmain before Gustave could return on the offense. He managed to get past Vilmain’s guard, finding himself between both Scorchers. Gustave tried to intercept him, but the wyvern, which had been circling them from above, fell upon him like a hawk. Her claws and fangs struck his armor without piercing it. 

Unable to reload quickly enough, Vilmain threw away his pistol and struck with his rapier. Victor deflected the blade before it could hit him in the heart, but the sword pierced his left flank and drew blood. 

Damn, what was that idiotic dragon doing?

Struggling against the sharp pain and ignoring his reservations against killing humans, Victor used the proximity to stab the bishop back. His dagger pierced him through the left eye, splattering the criminal’s face with blood.

It didn’t kill Vilmain, but it angered him. And behind Victor, Gustave had cut one of the wyvern’s wings with his sword, pinned her to the ground with his shield, and started slashing at her with his sword. 

Vilmain prepared to cast a spell, moving his free hand against Victor’s torso to blow him up. Cackles of dark energy built around his fingers…

And then five Kobolds jumped out of the fog from behind, grabbing Vilmain’s arms, legs, and head. “For His Majesty!” they shouted at once, biting the crime priest’s flesh and interrupting his spell.

[Congratulations! By dishonorably ambushing a stronger enemy in the middle of a fight to defend you, your Kobolds have each gained a level in the [Outlaw] Class!]

“The power!” Red said, stabbing Vilmain in the other eye with his tiny claws. “I can feel the power!”

“My eyes!” Vilmain screamed in agony as he lost his other eye, struggling to get the kobolds off him. As the criminal lost his hold over his rapier, Victor used the opportunity to toss one of his daggers away, grab the sword, remove it from his flesh, and then stab the bishop back in the chest. Vilmain gasped and coughed more blood. 

The Fell Bishop fell on his back, the kobolds still biting and clawing at him.

“Vilmain, you weakling!” Leaving the mortally wounded wyvern to die, Gustave rushed to his ally, hitting Victor with his shield from behind. Distracted by the pain in his chest, the Monster Squire couldn’t dodge in time.

Crack! The blow propelled Victor against the inn’s walls, his left shoulder going numb with a loud sound and a flash of sharp pain. 

“Chief!” Yellow dropped Vilmain and attempted to defend Victor, only for Gustave to cut him in half with his sword, killing him in one blow. With another swing, he beheaded Blue. 

The other kobolds immediately attempted to fight back, but they were no match for the brutal knight. Gustave kicked Pink right in the face like a puppy with enough strength to put her out of the fight, knocked out Red by hitting him with his shield, and backhanded Black when he tried to flank him. The confrontation had lasted mere seconds. 

“Can you heal yourself?” Gustave asked Vilmain, who crawled on the ground, struggling to get back up while covered up in his own blood. 

“I exhausted… my special points with all the… interrupted spells,” Vilmain replied, coughing some blood. “I will need help… to walk.”

“Pity.” 

Without warning, Gustave struck his own ally’s back with his blade, killing him in one blow. 

“Sorry, friend, I wanted that new level more than I liked you.” An unholy aura surrounded the treacherous knight, empowering Gustave further. Victor immediately used the last [Fireball].

As the necklace disintegrated with its last charge exhausted, the projectile slipped past Gustave’s guard and hit him in the chest. But the knight didn’t even flinch at the resulting blast. 

A rumbling sound echoed through the fog. Had the citizens of the city decided to fight back against the Scorchers? Victor couldn’t know, and wouldn’t live long enough to. With the wound on his chest and a limp shoulder, he couldn’t hope to dodge Gustave’s strikes. 

“[Attack Stance],” Gustave shouted, throwing away his shield to wield his sword with both hands. The murderous aura around him only increased in potency, the sheer pressure paralyzing Victor. “And now, I will take my sweet time cutting yo—”

Splat!

Without warning, Gustave collapsed into a puddle of blood, crushed under the weight of an invisible behemoth. 

“Minions? MINIONS?! Where are you?!” The knight’s blood splattered Vainqueur’s invisible scales. “Minion, there you are!”

For a split second, Victor couldn’t find his words. 

“I cannot see where I go, and I cannot take it off! How do I turn the invisibility off?!”

“You just say ‘blink’ again, Your Majesty…”

Vainqueur marked a short pause, then said, “Blink!” The invisibility veil suddenly lifting off the dragon. The beast took a few seconds to look at his own scales, without any hint of narcissism whatsoever. “Better.”

The great dragon expanded his wings, then unleashing a powerful gust merrily by flapping them. The wind pushed the fog back, revealing a trail of destroyed houses and broken walls which Vainqueur left behind him. 

The invisible dragon had caused more damage to the city than the Scorchers themselves. At least no civilians had been killed. 

“Ah, clear as day,” Vainqueur said. “I can at long last hunt the manlings.”

Victor glanced at the corpse of Gustave, still stuck under Vainqueur’s left foot. The dragon hadn’t even noticed. “That won’t be necessary, Your Majesty,” he said, as Lynette and the townsfolk exited the inn, the danger now gone. “Except maybe stragglers, they fled at your coming.”

“I will have my stipend!” Vainqueur complained, before going on the hunt for Scorchers, leaving bloody parts of Gustave behind with each step, “Sweet manlings, where are you? Come out, I do not bite… not always…”

“Victor, are you alright?” Lynette rushed to the Squire’s side, forcing a green potion to his lips before he could answer. As he drank it, finding the taste strangely sweet, he felt the pain vanish, and his shoulder could move again. 

At least he was alive, he thought as Lynette helped him back to his feet. 

Unfortunately, the kobolds hadn’t been so lucky, mourning their two fallen comrades. “What do we do?” Black said, tears in his eyes. “Yellow… Yellow was the best minion out of all of us… I should have died…”

“We sell them,” Red said tearfully. “That was what they would have wanted.”

… 

“Come again?” Victor asked, blinking. 

“We sell them to make Master Vainqueur’s hoard bigger,” Pink explained, Black and Red nodding sorrowfully, “That way they will be part of it forever…”

Victor figured out he had just experienced a strong culture clash.

[Congratulations! For fearlessly leading monsters to victory against vastly superior opponents, you earned seven levels in [Monster Squire]! +120 HP, +70 SP, + 5 STR, + 4 VIT, + 4 SKI, +5 AGI, +6 INT, +6 CH, +7 LCK! You earned the [Monster Lifeforce (Red Dragon)], [Monster Rider], and [Monster Insight] Perks!]

[Monster Lifeforce (Red Dragon): the blood of your dragon liege now flow in your veins. You gain the additional creature Type: Dragon, which is both a blessing and a curse. You gain immunity to Drain, Paralysis, Fatigue, Insta-death, Disease, and resistance to Fire and Aging; but you gain vulnerability to Frost, Fairy, and Dragonslayer.]

[Monster Rider: You can now ride monsters with medium proficiency; if the target is a minion, your proficiency increases to good.]

[Monster Insight: When you observe a monster closely, you gain a vision of their stats, perks, and tidbits of information.]

Seven levels at once? It almost made up for the blood loss and the dislocated shoulder.

As Victor glanced at the rapier he pilfered from Vilmain, he guessed he had also gained some interesting loot out of it. He would grab the flintlock pistol while at it. 

“I have no idea how to reward you, Victor,” said Lynette. “You were very brave out there.”

Reward?

Oh, and hell, why not. He had nothing to lose, except his dignity. 

“Do you want to breed?” he asked Lynette. 

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A great many thanks to the dragons supporting me on Patreon, Enaz the Great, Evan Cloud, Alex PruittSaul KurzmanDex, Warwick Robertson, BlissForgotten, Johnathan, Marc Claude Louis Durand, Rhodri Thornber, Drekin, Bald Guy Dennis, Floodtalon, Dax, Karolus, and Daniel Zogbi.

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