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.

Chapter 9: Gods and Zombies

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Located on a creek near the docks, Haudemer’s temple was a rather large stony church by manling standards. According to Manling Victor, due to Haudemer being a small town, the twelve ‘gods’—Vainqueur couldn’t help but chuckle at the word—the manlings worshipped had to share the same temple.

From what he had understood, puny species worshipped these stronger creatures the same way minions obeyed their dragon masters, with the bonus of being promised a place at their side after death. That part confused the dragon, he expected to live forever. 

Vainqueur guessed the prospect of an afterlife could only appeal to races fragile enough to, well, die.

The inhabitants had deserted the temple’s surroundings once they caught sight of Vainqueur. While he perfectly understood their inferiority complex when basking in his presence, a little awe and worship would have been nice. If they had enough of it to worship twelve non-dragons, then certainly they could spare him some adoration. 

Only one manling hadn’t fled, and harassed his chief of staff instead. 

“Do you want salvation in a new world?” That manling looked even more ridiculous than the rest of his kind, with his black robe and a badly painted map of seas and land masses on his chest and forehead. “Wait, I can feel your Isekai levels, medium!”

“I’m a Claimed,” Vainqueur’s chief of staff protested, showing his dice tattoo. “And you mixed up North and South America on your map!”

“Ohoh, perfect!” Instead of being discouraged, the harasser grabbed the minion’s arm. “If you sign up to the Esoteric Order of the New World, you are guaranteed to reincarnate on the mythical island of Japan, where every girl is a virgin!”

“Scram!” Victor tried to push the manling away away. “Get him off me!”

“Minions,” Vainqueur ordered, he was too important to deal with it. “Do the thing.”

“Defend the chief of staff!” Red commanded the kobolds, the five critters jumping on the deluded cultist at once and clawing at his face. 

“Argh, kobolds!” the manling cultist protested, as he tried to throw the critters off his back. “Get them off me!”

“Don’t kill him, just restrain him!” Victor pleaded as the Kobolds restrained the poor fool on the ground. Vainqueur watched the scene with quiet amusement.

Those five were too adorable to end up as emergency rations. Vainqueur hoped Victor would recruit less funny minions whom he could eat without regret. 

The scene did confuse the dragon though. “What was that, manling Victor?”

“It’s a money scam,” Victor complained. “I’ve lived on Earth, and it’s nothing like he just said!”

“Why are we even here? Minion, while I understand your lesser species’ need to pay homage to a higher power, but if you want to pray to someone, you should pray to me. I even answer sometimes.”

“Your Majesty wanted to get rid selling off corpses and monster parts,” his chief of staff pointed at the carriage behind them. “The church deals with them.”

Ah, yes. In total, Vainqueur had ‘collected’ six manling thieves, and one manticore he accidentally cut down during his masterful practice with his axe. They also encountered goblins, fleeing on sight from him; the dragon had simply glared them down as if they weren’t good enough for him, which they were.

What was he thinking back then, recruiting those cowards as minions? Manling Victor had made the right call, kobolds solved everything. 

Manling Victor left the cultist to the minions, walking past the temple’s opened gates and inside the whitened, majestic hall within. Vainqueur followed him soon afterward, head and neck first, carrying himself with pure draconic majesty.

Then, he failed to fit his wings through. 

With a grunt, Vainqueur attempted to squeeze himself inside, but too fat after feasting, he couldn’t fit. His shoulders hitting the walls made the temple tremble, but unlike the puny guildhall, the walls were strong and thick. 

Manling Victor watched the sight with a blank expression, taking a sip of a water canteen while politely waiting for his master to finish his dramatic entrance. Vainqueur noticed a few other manlings inside the building watching with expectation.  

“Minion Victor!” the dragon complained to his sidekick, “Tell the architects to build a bigger door!”

“Sure, Your Majesty,” the chief of staff replied. “But could you avoid causing the place to fall on us poor mortals?”

As he finally realized he wouldn’t get inside without collapsing the entire temple on his lackey first, Vainqueur settled on only letting his neck and head inside with a groan. 

Why did the manlings have to be so small? 

The temple of Haudemer was mainly composed of a great white hall, and two small wings on both sides. Each of the twelve gods of the puny races had a statue and altar inside, although not with the same degree of respect. 

The dragon’s share of the spotlight went to the same creature Vainqueur had acquired a statuette of, Mithras, the sun god of law and justice. It was a manling king wearing a golden crown of fire and wielding a blazing sword, whose giant marble statue had the largest altar. At his side was a statue of a blonde female manling knight with large mammaries, whom the puny races called Leone, goddess of art and nobility. 

According to Manling Victor, these two ascended manlings were the titular deities of Gardemagne, and thus positioned at the center. “The architect placed the more ambiguous deities, such as the Dread Three, Sablar and Shesha, on the left,” Manling Victor told his master, his tone so low Vainqueur could barely hear it, “And the ‘politically correct’ deities, the Moon Man, Seng, Cybele, Isengrim, and Dice on the right.” 

The manling glared at that Dice’s statue with hatred. From what Vainqueur had gathered from the last prayers of the adventurers foolish to attack him in the past, the ’Dice Who Rolled,’ was the deity of magic, weather, and luck. As per its name, it was a dice with an eye at the center of each of its twenty faces. 

“Manling Victor, you do not like dice?” Unlike Victor’s subdued tone, Vainqueur didn’t care about respecting a quiet atmosphere, his voice booming through the hall. Nobody dared complain. 

He would have eaten any who did. 

“That dim creature summoned me to Outremonde without asking,” the lackey replied. “And unfortunately since it first unlocked the class system, everyone worships it. He’s almost as popular as Mithras.”

Pff… right. As if dragons didn’t level up first. Vainqueur refused to believe he was the first of his kind to do so. 

Dice’s altar looked more like a gambling table than a religious site, with a catkin priest busy playing a board game with what the dragon assumed to be two minions. Even Vainqueur’s wonderful arrival hadn’t made them raise their eyes off the game.

So Vainqueur loudly cleared his throat, and they briefly glanced up at his head long enough to satisfy him. 

Most of the altars had at least one tiny priest nearby, with three exceptions. One tentacled squid whom the dragon recognized as the Moon Man, an ancient creature his kind fought off in the distant past; a humanoid crow wearing a harlequin costume and carrying a sharp scythe, drenched in blood; and a huge worm like those infesting the caves below Vainqueur’s own lair. The manlings had utterly savaged the last statue. 

“That’s Sablar, the monstrous worm god of earth, time, and destruction,” explained Manling Victor. Vainqueur was silently pleased he didn’t have to voice his ignorance out loud. “No one worships it in Gardemagne, since it supports their enemies. People pray against it.”

“And the others?” Vainqueur listened, just in case there was profit to be made. 

“Bah, the Moon Man doesn’t remember he has followers half the time, and Deathjester is the god of crime. Nobody worships him openly.” 

“How much levels is that Sablar worth?” Vainqueur asked, eager to get that stipend and free money. “We could hunt him down if there is a reward on his head.”

“I don’t think picking a fight with a god is a good idea, even for Your Majesty.”

“Why? If it exists, I can kill it. I am a dragon, remember? I eat his wormy kind whenever they enter my cave.”

“Yes, but that one is level one hundred and turned the southern continent into a desert. Also, nobody puts a bounty on a god’s head.”

Saddening. 

Vainqueur briefly noticed Manling Lynette discussing with a priest nearby, but Victor focused on the matter at hand first, approaching the altar of Mithras. 

“Greetings, faithful,” the Bishop behind it said, a nice-smelling priestess of Leone at his side; unlike the unflappable priest, the woman observed Vainqueur with the appropriate degree of fear and apprehension. “Have you come to make an offering?”

“An offering?” Vainqueur asked, amused by the puny races’ strange customs. 

“You offer money to the Church as an offer to the god, in place of fealty,” Victor explained to him the concept. 

Vainqueur immediately saw an opportunity. “Minion Victor—”

“Your Majesty can’t be a god,” his lackey said hastily, the quickest sentence he ever uttered, “Unless he reaches level 100.”

Vainqueur sulked in disappointment. 

Bah, when he reached that level and became a god, he would ask his minions to build him a larger temple and a bigger statue than this Mithras. No way he would share it with other gods either. 

“We have six human corpses outside, and that of a Manticore,” Victor told the priest. “Will the church take them?”

“We will purify the corpses so they do not rise as spontaneous undead, then burn them free of charges,” said the priest of Mithras. “If you prefer another method, the priests of Isengrim and Cybele will bury them in the forest, so they can return to nature.”

“For free?” Vainqueur glared down at the priest. “You will not pay me for the transportation service?”

“Why would we pay you for a public service?”

“Because we inquired significant expenses in the course of their deadification.”

“This isn’t a real word, Your Majesty,” Victor said.

“Of course it is, since I said it,” Vainqueur insisted.

“We do not pay people to gather corpses,” the Bishop of Mithras replied, glaring back at the dragon. “If you want to be paid instead of doing the moral thing, I suggest you turn to the church of Shesha instead.”

“Where?” the dragon asked immediately, his greed stronger than his anger at the animal’s insolence. 

Victor pointing a finger on the left-wing, at the altar of a serpentlike humanoid with the upper body of a winged woman and the lower half of a snake. As befitting of a creature that looked the most like a dragon, her statue was the most outrageous of all, made from solid gold. 

“Hi there, Lynette,” Manling Victor said as he approached that altar. Vainqueur greedily looked at the statue, leaving his lackey to his poor attempt at pre-breeding. “Of course you would worship the goddess of commerce.”

“Yes and no, Victor,” she replied. “It’s more of a business deal.”

“Unlike the other gods, who are fickle in their gifts, Lady Shesha trades for her miracles according to the rules of the market,” said the goddess’ priestess, a bellyful dwarven woman. “For an appropriate monetary gift, she provides.”

“She improves the prosperity of my inn for a fee,” Lynette explained.

“Really?” Manling Victor sounded strangely hopeful. “How much to be transported back to my homeworld of Earth?”

“Let me ask the goddess.” The priest underwent a brief trance, feverishly waving his hands until a golden number made of light briefly flashed into sight. 

… 

Vainqueur had never seen so many zeros. “That’s robbery!” Victor voiced his master’s contempt.   

“You get a twenty percent reduction if you take the Shesha worshipper annual subscription,” the priestess tried to sucker Manling Victor, the number altered to reflect the deduction. “Thirty percent if you become a Bishop or Vestal. Donations to the Church of Shesha are also tax-deductible, so if you have time we can discuss your financial future.”

“The minion has no intention of leaving his current, fulfilling job,” Vainqueur answered for Victor, although he noted that being a god sounded almost as profitable as being an adventurer. 

“Yeah,” Victor replied with a strangely less than enthusiastic tone. “We came to get rid of seven corpses outside, six Scorchers and one manticore.”

“We can buy the corpses to make fertilizer, and use the manticore’s parts for leather and potions. Taking into account the value, I would give one gold piece per human corpse, and one hundred for the manticore’s pelt.”

“One hundred and six?” the dragon said upon adding the numbers, “I say double.”

“One hundred and six,” the priestess replied, eyes shining with the steely determination of the true negotiator.

So Vainqueur upped his price. “Triple!”

“Your Majesty, you are supposed to go lower in a negotiation.”

“Lower is only for unassertive manling!” Vainqueur replied. “I am a dragon, I know what I am worth. As my representative, I expect you to show dominance as well, minion Victor.”

“Dragon or not, the market is absolute,” the priestess replied, her greed so pure, so dragon-worthy Vainqueur couldn’t hold it against her. “One hundred and six.”

Manling Lynette observed the scene in silence, while a hooded figure wearing heavy, hooded crimson robes, approached the group as the argument heated up. 

“Excuse me, I heard your argument,” a figure said with a raspy voice. Even if he couldn’t see his face beneath the hood, Vainqueur noticed his corpselike white hands and the familiar smell of rot underneath. A ghoul. “Are you looking to sell fresh corpses?” 

Vainqueur glanced at the undead, then at his lackey. “That’s a worshiper of Camilla,” the minion said, pointing at the mosquito crest on the newcomer’s robes. “The Marquise of Blood, goddess of death, pestilence, and darkness. One of the Dread Three.”

“The three what?” 

“The Dread Three. Camilla, goddess of death, Deathjester, the god of crime, and Veran, goddess of fire and tyranny. A trio of evil adventurers who became gods together, and stayed friends since; they oppose Mithras, but people are too scared of them to ban their worship.”

“I resent that evil label,” the ghoul replied. “Our goddess is simply misunderstood.”

“Didn’t she unleash the Red Death plague that turned many people into bloodthirsty vampires?” Manling Victor asked.

“Only to prevent overpopulation, and the vampires played a critical role in defeating the Fomor during the Century War. As I said, misunderstood.” The figure coughed. “Anyway, have you heard of the undead labor trade?” 

“Here we go again,” the priestess of Shesha said with a sigh. 

“No, never,” Vainqueur said. 

“I did,” Victor said. “They buy corpses from living relatives, turn them into zombies, then put them to labor work, from mining to farming. Isn’t it illegal, though?”

“The undead labor trade is a perfectly legal new industry, albeit currently limited to very few cities allowing it in their charters,” the hooded figure replied. “Very few of them do, but in time, when they see the benefits of enslaving the dead for the betterment of the living, we hope more towns adopt it. Imagine, zombies laboring the fields in every town, from Midgard to Ishfania, or fearless skeletons saving helpless orphans from forest fires.”

“Oh, where can I get one?” Vainqueur asked, now positively giddy.

“Your Majesty loves the dead?” Victor asked. “I never thought you would be that kind of dragon.”

“Minion Victor, having undead as minions is a status symbol among dragons,” Vainqueur told his chief of staff. “And they are so useful. They never run away, they do not eat, they are not tempted by a hoard, they live almost as long as dragons…”

Vainqueur’s own rival, that arrogant Icefang, couldn’t stop boasting about his army of dead manling protecting his treasure when he didn’t brag about his crown. 

“From what I heard, Victor,” the necromancer priest of Camilla told the lackey, “You fit the criteria to unlock the Necromancer class. You could make good money.”

“Really?” Vainqueur glanced down at his lackey, who lowered his head. “You can raise the dead? That is wonderful!”

“I meet the criteria to take levels in that class,” the lackey admitted. “But I’m not proud of it.”

“Minion, you have to take levels in that class,” Vainqueur insisted. “For my own good.”

“I must warn you,” said the priestess of Shesha. “That our goddess herself is currently unsure whether the potential long-term consequences of mass necromancy make up for the added market value.”

“I assure you our use of undead labor is perfectly safe, and no matter what these bourgeois noble imperialists trying to crack down free undead enterprise will tell you, there is no scientific proof necromantic energy negatively affects the environment.” That necromancer couldn’t help going on a tirade. “Sincerely, the use of mindless labor is more ethical than the animal slavery still practiced by our nation. Animals have feelings, corpses don’t.”

“Corpseling,” Vainqueur interrupting, caring more about a quick buck than local politics. “How much?” 

“If you sign a binding contract authorizing us to turn them into undead, we can provide fifty gold pieces per corpse and five hundred for the Manticore. Eight hundred in total.”

“Deal!” Vainqueur said before Minion Victor could open his mouth. 

“I will need to inspect the corpses first,” the priest of Camilla said. 

The necromancer left to examine the ‘wares,’ Manling Lynette put a hand on Victor’s arm. “Victor, Your Majesty, can we talk for a second?”

Victor nodded, clearly eager to earn the female’s favor. “What’s the matter?”

“Henry is missing,” she told them, before giving Victor a letter. “Someone ransacked his home last night, stole his researches, and left this inside.”

Henry. Vainqueur struggled to remember that name, while Victor read the letter. 

“One very pompous Captain François Vilmain of Harmonia,” said the minion, “politely offers to discuss the release of ‘our common friend Henry’ and an ‘offering of gold’ with ‘His Glorious Majesty King Vainqueur Knightsbane’ in exchange for the use of Haudemer’s ships.” Vainqueur silently appreciated that at least one manling knew the proper way to address him. “Vilmain also offered coordinates for the meeting point and an hour this evening, and not at all sinisterly signed with blood.” 

“Our apothecary confirmed it to be Henry’s,” said Manling Lynette, who sounded worried, “Since we do not have any spellcaster powerful enough to locate him, I thought to ask the goddess Shesha, but the price she asks is great.”

“If they want to buy my forgiveness and a ship, who am I to judge?” Vainqueur replied, still not remembering who this Henry was.  

“Your Majesty, the meeting place is conveniently very far from Haudemer. This is clearly a trap.” 

“I know, minion, but what can they do? Not die?”

“Clearly not, but they could sack the city in Your Majesty’s absence and escape,” the manling pointed out. “If they haven’t lied and killed Henry already by bleeding him dry.”

Manling Lynette made a blank face, then left without a word. “W-wait, I didn’t mean it!” Minion Victor called her, “That was just the worst-case scenario!”

Vainqueur figured his lackey wouldn’t reproduce anytime soon.

In the end, after the corpseling found the wares to his liking, Vainqueur had Victor sign a very long contract with the church of Camilla. Basically, as the legal ‘living relative’ he swore on the gods he agreed to surrender the corpses to necromantic transformation. 

“I just sold corpses to a necromancer for postmortem slave labor,” Manling Victor complained. “That feels dirty.”

“Why? There is no greater pleasure in life than watching my hoard grow!”

“Selling corpses of my own species makes me anxious, that is all.”

The corpseling shook his head. “Victor, do people complain when adventurers murder peaceful trolls and fairies in their dungeons to make clothes out of their hide, even when they are sentient? Why should we make an exception for humans, or elves, or dwarves? What would you call not equally exploiting the corpses of everyone, if not racism?”

“Yes, you should be ashamed of yourself, minion,” Vainqueur concurred.

“Isn’t Your Majesty insisting that dragons are better all the time?”

“This is different. I do not discriminate between other species. You are all equally inferior to me, which is a fact.” Vainqueur decided to cheer his lackey up with his promised fee. “Corpseling, please give my chief of staff his commission of eight gold coins.”

“Eight coins?” Manling Victor blinked. “I thought it was one-tenth of the sales?”

“One one-tenth,” Vainqueur clarified. 

Manling Victor looked up at his master, apparently not very good with math. “Like one-tenth of a tenth?”

“Yes,” Vainqueur replied, “One one-tenth, as I promised. What, you want less?”

“No, I’m good,” the minion said wisely. “This is already too generous from you.”

“We will have the corpses reanimated and sent to the cities of Ferpuit and Minecreuse for immediate mining labor,” said the necromancer, true name ‘Jules Rapace’ according to the contract. “Thank you for supporting our country’s modernization.”

[Congratulations! For ruthlessly selling your enemies’ corpses to the church of Camilla, making the world a deader place, you earned the [Deadfriend] Personal Perk!]

[Deadfriend: mindless undead mistake you for one of their own and do not attack you, unless attacked first; +5 charisma when interacting with the undead or worshippers of Camilla.]

“Sweet, minion, I have a new Perk! You too?”

“Never before have I been more ashamed of one.”

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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.

Chapter 8: Level Grinding

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Instead of breeding, Manling Victor had adopted a full litter of new minions. 

And already they proved useful. “Master Vainqueur, Master Vainqueur!” Yellow, the kobold with the best nose, pointed a claw at a bush, the dragon smelling a manling hiding there. “I found another!”

Vainqueur let out a roar, raising the giant axe Ogron the one-eyed ogre had kindly given him… 

Or rather, struggling, as he couldn’t keep the axe properly aligned even while wielding it with all his clawed fingers. How did the manlings do it?

Like a rabbit, the manling ran out of the bushes, only for Black, the biggest of the new recruits, to chase after him with a spear. Vainqueur followed, causing trees to fall as he moved through the woods; he constantly struggled against the urge to run back on all four, as a good dragon should. 

How did that cyclops do it? Raise the axe up, and then down. 

Vainqueur tried, the upward swing sending a pine tree fly, and he struggled to aim right at the escaping food-in-waiting. “Minion!” Vainqueur shouted. “MINION!”

“Yes, yes, I’m here!” Manling Victor emerged from the woods with his dagger toothpicks, barring the escaping prey’s way and forcing it to flee in another direction.

“This axe is not working!” 

“Just swing it down when we have him immobilized! And remember, you meet the stat criteria, but you have to impress your fans with a melee strike, Your Majesty! Kill him with style, or you won’t access the new class!”

Style? Like a crushing display of superiority? “Dear mammals,” Vainqueur asked the Dead Man Running. “Do you know what dragons call pain?”

Kobold Red jumped from a bush, trapping the prey and forcing him to stop running. The mammal briefly turned his head behind, crying at the sight of Vainqueur’s majesty. 

“A birth defect!” 

And then Vainqueur swept the manling with the axe, smashing him into a crater of blood and broken bones. 

“Argh!” The aftershock sent his entrails splatter on Red’s face, the poor kobold having to remove brain matter off his eyes. “I have human blood in my eyes!”

“Vainqueur, best dragon!” Black and Yellow cheered him up, as expected. “Vainqueur, best dragon!”

[By impressing a crowd of fans with your weapon prowess and moxie, you gained a level in the [Gladiator] Class! +30 HP, +2 STR, +1 VIT, +1 SKI, +1 CHA, +1 LCK! You gained the [Arena Warrior] Perk!]

[Arena Warrior: instantly gain medium proficiency in all melee weapons.] 

“Ouch,” minion Victor said. “Ouch, that joke hurt.”

“Joke?” Vainqueur asked, finding the axe suddenly light in his hand. He played with it, but he still had troubles wielding the weapon without his claws getting in the way. His hands were made to run on all four or rip the prey to shreds, not carry a bladed stick!

“Wait, dragons really consider pain a birth defect?” his chief of staff asked him.

“Why, yes, only lesser beings feel it,” Vainqueur replied plainly, before standing proud. “But not as much as I felt this new Gladiator class!”

“Vainqueur, best dragon!” Red added, late to the party. “Your Majesty is the greatest in the world!”

“Yes, yes, thank you,” Vainqueur replied, pleased, “Still, Minion Victor, do I still need to use the axe to gain levels in that class? I find it impractical.”

“No, just to impress fans with your battle prowesses.”

Vainqueur gave the stick one last chance, grabbing the axe with his mouth and swinging it this way. “Hosh do I loosh?” he asked, trying to adopt a dominant pose, only to hit a tree with the back of the blade and nearly lose equilibrium.

The minions exchanged glances, too aware of their master’s sensitivity to speak their mind. Obviously, he should stick to his dragon weapons. 

He was too good for human weapons anyway. 

“Your axe sticks suck,” Vainqueur said, as he spat out the weapon, which landed in the bushes nearby with a loud crash. “Now, Minion Victor, I keep slaughtering these ruffians and yet [Old Money] does not activate with your kind.”

“Yeah, I guess it is to prevent nobles from slaughtering their peasants for items. It should work with monsters though.”

Vainqueur glanced at the kobolds with greed, before deciding no good dragon slaughtered their minions for items. For treachery and theft, always, but good, loyal minions were too valuable to get rid of casually.

The world already abounded with victims. 

“At least he had some standard loot on him,” Victor said, as he inspected the remains. “Iron daggers, and nice boots.”

“Not good enough for my hoard,” Vainqueur replied. A good dragon had wealth standards. “Next!”

“I don’t smell another,” Yellow said, smelling the air with his fellow kobolds. “Your Majesty got them all!”

“Aw… “ Vainqueur sighed in disappointment. “So no more levels and no gold today?”

“We can always sell his belongings,” Victor suggested. “I know you don’t want to become a Merchant, but we don’t need a class to sell these items. I could even use the gains to invest in better stuff.”

“Invest?” Vainqueur didn’t know the word.

“Yeah, you give away some gold in exchange for something else with more value.”

Vainqueur’s brain stopped working. “Giving away gold.”

“Your Majesty,” Victor cleared his throat. “For something else which has more value.”

“Giving away gold,” Vainqueur repeated, his mind unable to progress past that line. 

“Yes, but you gain more afterward, so you don’t really give it away. It’s a disguised loan.”

“Giving away gold,” Vainqueur repeated these cursed words for the third time. “Manling Victor are you well? Are you sick? I did not know the lack of breeding could have such dangerous effects on your mental health.”

The minion finally understood he had gone too far into sin. “Your Majesty cannot even imagine it.”

“What kind of sane mind would?” Vainqueur retorted, before shuddering at the mere word. “Giving.”

“Yes, I suddenly realize that may have been too much for Your Majesty.”

“Master Vainqueur, the chief of staff only tried to help you,” Yellow pleaded. “Please forgive him.”

“Buttkisser, buttkisser!” Black taunted his fellow, Red punching both of them in the shoulders. “Ouch!”

“No argument before the chief of staff!” Red said. “Remember protocol!”

“The protocol?” Manling Victor asked.

“The minion protocol,” Vainqueur clarified, before realizing he never drilled his chief of staff on proper minion management.

“The chief of staff is the highest echelon of the minion pecking order, the ultimate honor a monster lord can bestow!” tiny Red explained to manling Victor. “It is the ultimate minion killing machine, the most ferocious enforcer of the most dreaded of masters! Fifty percent strength, fifty percent cunning, two hundred percent loyalty!”

“Now you’re exaggerating on that last bit…” manling Victor replied with his trademark humility. 

“You underestimate your importance in the food chain,” Vainqueur cheered him up, “You are only beneath me in the preciousness hierarchy. You are even above princesses!”

“Nice to hear Your Majesty values me between himself and pretty faces,” the minion thanked his generous master.

“Of course, princesses are precious, but you are almost an honorary part of my hoard, manling Victor. If we are to starve, we will make a sacrifice and eat the minions together.”

“Your Majesty, I understood your first sentence, but you lost me with the second.”

“The preciousness rating also represents your place in the food chain,” Vainqueur taught him. “Each member of the chain can eat those below if they are hungry. If you and I are hungry without food available, we can eat minions as emergency rations.”

“It would be an honor to feed Your Majesty!” small Yellow said. 

“Wait, wait,” manling Victor panicked. “Does that mean you count me as a potential meal?” 

“Not unless we have no food or minions available,” Vainqueur reassured him. “That will never happen. The world is full of dragon food.”

Manling Victor probably understood he should focus more on recruitment from now on. He knew his previous chief of staff had hired a lot of goblins after they had that conversation. Minion Ressource was a full-time, difficult job, after all. 

Speaking of minion management… “Where are the sweet Pink and Blue?” Vainqueur asked, having grown slightly paranoid since his last goblins abandoned him in his sleep.

“I sent them to deal with the local blacksmith on my behalf,” Victor said. Surprisingly, the man in question hadn’t thrown a fit upon seeing Victor and kobolds enter his shop. Victor guessed people believed him to be some kind of monster charmer now. “I think the Scorchers aren’t at Haudemer to flee the country. Or at least, not only. I believe they are looking for something, and so I want to be prepared.”

“Something? Is it a treasure?”

“I dunno… maybe?”

“If it is not good for my hoard, it is good for nothing. Manling, explain.”

“Haudemer’s region is south of Euskal and north of the city of Rochefronde, which is held by crusaders but besieged by the Ishfanian and summoned fiends. By torching the countryside, the Scorchers cut the supply lines between Euskal and Rochefrond. Do you follow me so far?” 

As it always happened with too many uninteresting words, Vainqueur zoned out, pretending to politely listen to what his minion had to say. “Interesting,” the dragon lied.

“Blah blah… no strategic value… Brandon Maure… scorcher scorched… blah bla…”

“Interesting.”

“-And Your Majesty is really listening?”

“Interesting,” the dragon repeated. 

“Interesting,” Red the Kobold and his fellows nodded in agreement, before clenching his tiny fist. “The chief of staff trusted us with such an important mission, we will not fail him!”

“See?” Vainqueur said, “Minions solve every problem, when you raise them right. As expected from my prized chief of staff.”

“One day too, I will be chief of staff,” Black said. 

“Me first!” Red butted head with his fellow, Vainqueur so proud of them fighting for the job already. 

That would keep Victor sharp. He could already see the seeds of spirited competition germinate in the sharp glint of his treasured minion’s eyes. That fear of losing one’s position to an underling, Vainqueur found it so entertaining.

“Your Majesty.”

“Yes, Minion Victor?”

“I earned a Perk which makes it possible for me to learn monsters’ Perks, either if they teach me or if I experience them.”

“Ah, so if I try incinerating you, you will breathe fire too?” Vainqueur asked, curious. “Is that what you want?”

The minion looked up at his beloved dragon master and the smoke coming out of his nostrils, then paled. “You know, Your Majesty, on second thought, I may have been too hasty,” he said. “Let’s forget we ever had this conversation.”

“Your loss,” Vainqueur shrugged. Why would anybody not want to breathe fire? “Maybe one day, should you prove the best chief of staff I ever had, I will teach you the ultimate technique of dragonfire breathing. It is the perfect weapon to kill manlings.”

There, that should motivate him to work hard for Vainqueur’s personal gain. 

“I would rather avoid killing people myself,” minion Victor declared. “If I kill a fellow human, I will meet all the criteria for a specific class, and probably level up in it. I don’t want to.”

“Oh? Which class?” Maybe it could apply to Vainqueur.

“Assassin. I really wouldn’t feel proud of this one, even if Scorchers bandits are assholes who deserve to die.”

“Minion, I have eaten enough of your kind to get sick of it, and I never received a level in that class,” Vainqueur pointed out. 

“We never did either!” Black complained. 

“When did you ever kill a human?” Red asked.

“In my heart…” 

“You need to fulfill a few more criteria,” Victor shrugged. “And you need to kill members of your own species willingly, which I doubt you have yet.”

“Well, minion, it’s not as if you will need to defend me from your puny kind. Stick to my class planning and I will take care of the food.”

“Your generosity truly knows no bounds, Your Majesty.”

“I know,” Vainqueur said, feeling on a goodness spree. “About this ruffian’s belongings, Minion Victor, you are now—”

“Your treasurer and hoard manager?”

“Never!” Vainqueur roared, taking the manling aback as his golden eyes shone with wrath. “No touching my hoard!” 

The kobold minions cowered behind their chief of staff, who had lost all the color on his skin. By now, Vainqueur had guessed manlings reacted this way when reminded of dragon superiority. 

The greatest calamity of this age calmed himself. “No, manling Victor. I said yesterday buying and selling is a minion’s work, and that is exactly what you and the kobolds are going to do.”

“So you want me to open a shop away from the frontlines?” Victor asked, slightly more enthusiastic than Vainqueur had expected. 

“You already have the name,” Vainqueur said, “V&V! That way, we get rid of the junk not shiny enough for my hoard, except gold and jewels, which are!”

“Your attempt to corner the value chain is truly brilliant, Your Majesty,” the obsequious Manling Victor congratulated him.

“And, and, to keep you motivated, I will allow you to keep one,” Vainqueur raised a claw once he had the minions’ full attention, “One-tenth of the profits you will earn!”

“We… we are going to be paid?” Yellow almost had tears in his eyes. “Paid…”

“Indeed, you are way more generous than the King himself,” said Victor.

The mere mention of this ruffian angered the dragon. “I swear to you, manling Victor,” Vainqueur declared, “V&V shall never pay taxes to this criminal, ever.”

“I will send royal constables to you, Your Majesty. I am sure they will agree to a tax exemption.”

“No giving away money,” Vainqueur insisted, shuddering at the words. “No investing, no buying. The glorious name of V&V cannot be associated with this madness. Also, sell the corpses. I am sick of eating manlings all the time.” 

While Vainqueur removed some meat in between his fangs with his claw, Victor kept nodding to himself in short succession. Vainqueur wondered if he had broken his neck. “So Your Majesty wants me to open a shop where I sell junk and monster parts and corpses. Wonderful. Anything else?”

“This is a lot of work, but you are my chief of staff,” Vainqueur reassured him, “You will find the time in between preparing my class progression and training the Kobolds in those you seem appropriate.”

Manling Victor said no word, as he struggled under the weight of his duties. “Teach classes to the kobolds…”

“You fail to grasp my grandiose vision for V&V, Minion Victor. An adventurer party of minions, trained from the egg and working to the death to fulfill quests; shopkeepers selling junk and meat in every single one of your backward villages, filling chests with gold. Everyone working together to build the greatest hoard that shall ever be! A mountain of gold which will make your tallest castle crumble in shame at its shiny glory!”

Vainqueur narrowed his head, so his silent minions could see the fire in his eyes. 

“My hoard!”

Victor made a strange smile, which Vainqueur assumed as one of absolute joy. 

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Who now joins the ranks of my army of dragon patrons on Patreon, the amazing 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.

Chapter 7: Interlude: Murderhobos

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Henry knocked on the door with impatience, a book under his arm. 

He wondered who owned the house. Located in the outskirts of Haudemer, many thought it abandoned, its owner absent, and his host had indicated she only rented it for a while. Thorns and weeds had taken roots in the garden and the stone walls, while the shutters remained firmly closed. No matter the outside spookiness, he had run towards the place as soon as he read the invitation. 

“Professor Henry.” A charming young woman welcomed him, as she opened the door with a squeak. She was no rare beauty, keeping her long raven-hair tied with a white rose, but her dark eyes shone with a keen intellect. Most importantly, she wore the black and gold wizard robes of the Royal University of Gardemagne. “How kind of you to visit me.”

“When you informed me you visited our beloved Haudemer, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” the scholar replied. “It is an honor to meet you in person, Miss Lavere.”

“Please call me Lucie,” she replied politely. “I may represent the Royal University, I never forgot my humble roots.”

Indeed, it made her academic success all the more striking. She had published two papers, one on the effects of the Red Death plague on base stats, and another about spellcasting classes synergies. A brilliant young mind, she was apprenticed to the famous royal headmaster Nostredame, a wizard of great renown. 

Henry examined her class with his Class Specialist Perk. 

[Lucie Lavere; Scholar 15/Unknown Spellcaster Classes 22]

Unknown classes meant she had an item preventing him from clearly identifying her levels. A Perk would have hidden the information entirely. “Why hide your spellcaster classes?”

“University politics,” Lucie replied calmly. “I study new fields of spellcasting yet unrecognized by the University, and I might get in trouble before I publish my thesis. Many covet my apprenticeship under Nostredame and would ruin my reputation to take it.”

“To be level thirty-seven at your age… most adventurers retire at it. You are very good, miss Lavere.”

“I am an apt pupil, and I learn from the best,” the young woman replied with great courtesy, before inviting him inside, “Please come in.”

Henry did so, finding the house’s inside much more welcoming than the outside. The two stepped inside a long hallway, covered with a red carpet and lit up by fire elementals kept in glass containers above their heads. While the place lacked in decoration or a personal touch of any kind, the owner took care to maintain it in pristine condition. 

The inside also looked far bigger than the outside. “A space altering spell?” Henry asked, impressed. He had never seen one.

“The true owner’s doing, I must say,” Lucie replied, closing the door behind them. 

It must have been a spellcaster of great power. “I wonder what a scholar of your caliber is doing in Haudemer, especially in these dark times.”

“Learning,” Lucie replied. “One of my mentors asked me to follow her on a business trip, which of course must remain between us. She is a very private person. ” 

“I didn’t tell anyone,” Henry replied. He understood scholars of her caliber wished for anonymity, especially since Scorchers might target them for ransom. “I thought you would be interested.”

He handed her his notes, which the woman began to read at a quick pace, almost a page a second. “Monster Squire,” she noted. “I never heard of that class before.”

“It has good, equilibrated growth for an unpromoted class, and very interesting Perks,” Henry said, eager to impress the other scholar. This may be his chance to get his research published, and for him to finally obtain some recognition. “A whole unknown monster class. And the dragon, Vainqueur, gained levels.” 

“I saw this dragon, Vainqueur, laying in the sand outside the town. He is not the first case of an intelligent monster gaining levels, but this is certainly the first case for a dragon. Even the fabled Jade Dragon of the East never gained a class of his own.”

“I wish I could study him further,” Henry said. “Mayor Lynette told me the Shining Crusade would send a squadron of knights to kill him as soon as possible.”

As he told her of the recent events, Lucie chuckled, amused by the passage on Vainqueur’s demand of a lava bath. “I would not count on your crusaders for this task,” she said, before stopping before a wooden door. “We can discuss it in my study. I believe your research has great potential.”

“Thank you, hearing you say so warms my heart,” Henry said, as he opened the door and walked inside the dark study. 

Finally, after spending years researching classes, he was on the verge of a breakthrough. If Lucie validated his findings, the Royal University would publish his researches; he would get credited as the discoverer of a new array of Monster Classes and Perks, and his name would live on.

At first, he couldn’t see everything, although strong odors assaulted his nose. The study didn’t smell like paper and ink. 

It smelled like rotten meat. 

Then the room suddenly lit up, and Henry screamed. 

It wasn’t a study, it was a dungeon; a cold, dark room smelling of death, full of wooden operation tables and shelves covered with surgical tools. Two zombies hung in the middle, suspended to the ceiling by chains. Henry recognized the faces as a couple of fishermen, whom he had often seen while strolling around the docks. 

The door closed behind him. 

Henry turned around, expecting to face Lucie. 

Instead, a knight two heads taller than Henry barred the entrance, pointing a sword at his throat. The titan of metal facing the scholar had shoulders that would rival a bull, and his heavy plate armor exuded a strong sense of menace. His horned helmet, which covered his face, made him look like a gatekeeper from Hell. 

Henry instantly recognized him from a wanted poster, even before his Perk activated. 

[Gustave La Muraille; Knight 20/Heavy Knight 4]

A Scorcher leader. 

“Ah, Lucie brought us a friend,” another voice, pleasant, called from behind the chained zombie. 

A man walked into Henry’s line of sight, an elegant, black-haired man of Harmonian descent, with a pleasant face and beautiful amber eyes. He wore the white and gold garments of a priest of Mithras but proudly displayed the sinister crow symbol of the murderous god Deathjester on the upper left. He wielded a rapier around his belt, although he hadn’t unsheathed it.  

[François Vilmain; Fell Bishop 13/Outlaw 3/Sellsword 7]

“Hello, my dear guest. My name is François, François Vilmain,” the fallen priest said with a mirthful smirk. “I am a captain of what you call the Scorchers, alongside my comrade Gustave. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of horrible tales about us, all of them true.”

“What have you done to Miss Lavere?!” Henry asked, Gustave grabbing his shoulder with his free hand and maintaining right in place. Lacking any combat ability, Henry had no chance of fending off these two. 

“Lucie?” Vilmain chuckled, “Her master owns the house and agreed to let us hide there, so long as we helped with her student’s, shall we say, empirical research.”

A necromancer. The headmaster laid in bed with Scorchers and necromancers? Henry froze, aghast, before realizing they said ‘her’ student, and the archmage Nostredame was a man. 

“Please, take a seat, Henry,” Vilmain offered, waving his hand at a wooden stool right next to the restrained zombie. Before Henry could respond, Gustave forcefully grabbed him with his free hand and forced him to sit with inhuman strength. “Let’s have a chat.”

“People will notice my disappearance,” Henry pleaded, trying to buy time. 

“Oh, don’t worry about us, we have your case covered,” Gustave replied. 

Vilmain cleared his throat. “Contrary to what you may believe, Henry, neither me nor Gustave, or even Ogron, started as bandits. In fact, we fought for Gardemagne during most of the Century War; back then, the king granted adventurers and mercenaries a writ, allowing us to raid enemy towns in his name. Unfortunately, with the end of the war, our respectable occupation of massacring people and torching their villages for easy levels is no longer politically correct.” 

“We were asked to retire, farm like peasants, or move on to much more dangerous monster-hunting jobs,” Gustave said with disgust.

“Fortunately,” Vilmain said with a light grin, “His Dark Majesty, Brandon Maure of Ishfania, offered us a very nice retirement sum and asylum, so long as we torched the countryside of Euskal to the ground and kept the crusaders busy while he retakes his fortress of Rochefronde. Which unfortunately for you, Henry, includes Haudemer. Do you understand?”

The poor scholar nodded, pissing himself. Vilmain glanced down at the soiled pants with a sneer, before continuing his story. 

“But you see, we have a very big problem. Apparently, you have a dragon guarding the city, and he ate our men for breakfast. When we sent men to check on these men, he killed more of our men. Finally, the royal army is breathing down our necks, and for important reasons, we cannot skip Haudemer’s destruction. The situation is not good for our financial future.”

“So we caught these two,” Gustave pointed at the zombies. “Who said the dragon had a master.”

“Of course we had to rough them up before they gave names, namely, that this master, ‘Victor,’ often met with you.”

“That is wrong,” Gustave replied. “That we roughed them up. One of them talked when he saw you zombified the other.”

“Ah, yes, but you had your Outlaw knife him dead afterward if I remember.”

“It was to help him level up. I take care of my men.”

“He got a level out of this commoner? Lucky beginners, they don’t have to burn the midnight oil the way we do.” 

It was relatively easy to break into the two-digit range by killing low-level people, even up to level twenty for dedicated killers. Afterward, the increased experience requirements made it necessary to fight people who could fight back on even terms. 

After this awful interlude, Vilmain focused back on Henry. “So, my friend, I am sure we can find a solution we all agree on.”

“You’re going to kill me anyway,” Henry said. “Why would I tell you anything?” 

“Of course we are going to kill you,” Vilmain replied with a disturbing kind of serenity. “The only question is, do we have to rough you up first? Unlike my fellow Gustave here, I would rather make it quick and painless. I am not a savage, Henry.”

“Says the priest of Deathjester,” his comrade replied with a taunting tone.

“I am the holiest man there is,” Vilmain protested. “I worship the god of crime, and he likes my work.”

“Whatever,” Gustave replied, swinging his weapon. “Do you talk, scholar, or do I cut a leg?”

“No, no, Gustave, wait,” Vilmain raised a hand to appease his fellow criminal, while Henry shook in pure, unadulterated fear, “I tell you, I’m not a savage. While you are most certainly going to die so word of our presence does not spread, I’m sure we can honor last requests. If you tell us the truth, the full truth, the entire truth.”

Knowing his life was done for, Henry figured out he might as well try to bargain for something. “Will you spare someone, if I speak?”

“Depends on whom,” Vilmain replied. “We are going to kill that Victor fellow whatever happens. I am sorry. Professional pride.”

“No, Mayor Lynette.” He had had a crush on her for years, even if he never dared make a move. “Also, please do not burn my house. The research inside… they’re my life’s work.”

“You demand much,” Vilmain replied mirthfully, “Lynette, that’s the innkeeper right? I heard she’s very beautiful. Smart woman too. Do you like her?”

“Y-yes, I do.”

“Ah, very well. If you speak, we will spare her life, and we will try to leave your home unscathed if you give us its location. No promise on that one, fires spread in wild directions sometimes. Maybe I will find a way to sell your papers to an Ishfanian scholar if they are truly so precious. Now, tell us everything.”

And so, Henry spoke.

He gave them a rundown of his discussions with the dragon, including his general personality and levels; then, much to his shame, he sold out Victor, his class levels, his Perks, everything he could gather. 

He would have lied if he could but Bishops like Vilmain could detect lies. “A Nightblade?” the priest of Deathjester raised an eyebrow. “Interesting.”

“The Nigthblades can control dragons?” Gustave asked, worried.

“Of course not,” Vilmain replied. “I do wonder what a career criminal is doing protecting a village.”

“He said he left them,” Henry said.

“You never leave the Nightblades. Well, no, technically, you can leave them, but life leaves you first. No matter. Is he greedy, like this Vainqueur?”

“I don’t think so…”

“He must have a weakness. Honor, fame, women…”

“Mayor Lynette had him do jobs for her,” Henry remembered. “I noticed him glancing at her, and not at her eyes.”

“Ah, yes, of course, no man can resist a chest, any kind of chest.” Vilmain chuckled at his own sexist joke, while Gustave didn’t. “What else?”

“I… I have no idea. He is a nice person who wants to help.”

“A good man, with a kind heart? Ah, now this is interesting. Gustave, what do you think?”

The cruel knight’s fingers twitched on his sword’s pommel. “There is absolutely no way we can beat that dragon in a fight.” 

“Yeah, I didn’t think so either.”

“But he is dim.”

“But he is dim,” Vilmain nodded. “We will have to distract him before we burn this town down, recover the Apple, and flee on stolen ships afterward. As for that Victor, we can handle him easily enough. We’re both over twice his level, and a kind heart is easily misled. Is that all, Henry, my friend?”

“I told you everything,” the scholar replied, crying in shame at his own cowardice. 

“Did he lie?” Gustave asked his partner.

“No, he is an honest man, albeit not a brave one.” Vilmain shook his hand, before flashing a comforting smile at his prisoner. “You must not know it, but my friend Gustave here has three levels in Turncoat. That class’s first Perk, Falseness, hides Turncoat levels from scanning Perks, such as yours. The second is called Traitor’s Joy. I’m sure a scholar like you knows what it does.”

Henry clenched his fists in impotent shame. “You get an experience boost every time you betray a promise.”

“I told you he was a savage,” Vilmain said, sounding falsely sorry. “Poor Lynette.”

“You said it, not me,” Gustave replied, raising his sword.

“Wait,” again, Vilmain raised a hand to stop his ally, “Not yet.”

“What?” Gustave complained, “He’s of no use to us.”

“We could make use of him as an hostage, for now. Just knock him out. I swear you will have his head in time, my friend.”

Gustave grumbled and struck Henry from behind with the pommel, the poor scholar’s world fading to black.

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A special thanks to my patron on Patreon, Evan Cloud!

And of course, thanks to my other 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 6: Minions

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Victor let out a moan of pleasure, as he sank in the warm, hot bath. So good!

Lynette’s inn was a top-notch establishment, a stone mansion renovated into a resort for adventurers and merchants; he had his own room with a king-sized bed and full access to a private bath in the back.

Victor had left his clothes and weapons nearby, just in case. He had had a nasty experience with a naked ambush in the past, and it didn’t hurt to be paranoid. 

Victor glanced at the copper plate around his neck. Following Ogron’s ‘last meal,’ the adventurer guild had upgraded him and Vainqueur to copper-rank adventurers. Of course, from what he had gathered, the guild itself still had no idea how to handle the dragon and simply decided to follow due process until King Gardemagne or the Shining Crusade ‘settled’ the matter. 

Victor had no idea what to make of the dead cyclops’ axe however. It didn’t have any magical powers, and it was too heavy for anything but a giant to use. He figured he would let Vainqueur toy with it, then sell it behind the dragon’s back. 

The former outlaw had a more important problem to deal with. Namely, the love letters, and the maiden blushing at him when he walked through the street. Now Vainqueur had agreed to settle in Haudemer for a few days after Victor conned him into fighting the Scorchers, he could fool around again. Lynette was also quite easy on the eyes…

The bath’s door opened behind him, Victor’s hand moving to grab his daggers on impulse. Was it Lynette, bold enough to join him in the bath? Damn, this just kept getting better and better. 

Except it wasn’t a maiden, but a disheveled Henry, and fully clothed at that. “Sir Victor!” he smiled at him with enthusiasm, ignoring or uncaring about Victor’s weapon. “Here you are!”

“Henry, why are you in my bath?” Victor asked the obvious question. Especially since he must have gone through the bedroom to get here. 

“I couldn’t wait! I’ve been studying your case since yesterday, and it has been bugging me since—“

The Class Scholar suddenly noticed the black sword tattoo on Victor’s left shoulder and paled. “That’s the mark of the Nightblades.” He knew what the mark meant, and the organization which issued them. 

Damn, the outlaw thought. He would rather keep that little secret to himself. 

“Let’s call them legitimate waste collectors, and I left them when I became an adventurer.” A lie. No one ever truly left the Nightblades. “And if you’re smart you will hold your tongue about it.”

Henry wisely dropped the matter, more interested in class discussions anyway. “I’m sorry, but it has been bothering me for a while,” he said. “Why not Crusader?”

“Crusa—what?”

“The class! With his immense strength, the dragon would reap the best benefits of its stats’ growth, and the self-healing would make him nigh impossible to put down! Think of the optimization potential!”

“You’re seriously considering making that dragon impossible to kill,” Victor said. 

“Y-Yes, isn’t it your job?”

Yes, but he wasn’t going to do it well! “Look, all he cares about is money,” Victor replied. “He’s probably strong enough to handle anything short of legendary adventurers, so unless you propose a class that can farm gold without doing ‘minion work’, I’m not interested.”

[Congratulations! For being perfectly in tune with your master’s desires, you gained a level in [Monster Squire]! +10 SP, +1 STR, +1 SKI, +1 AGI, +1 INT, +1 LCK!]

[You gained the [Minion Trainer] Class Perk!]

[Minion Trainer: you and your minions gain fifty percent more experience when fighting side by side.]

“How is it that I just leveled up in Monster Squire?”

“Ah, you probably gain experience doing tasks for the dragon,” Henry guessed. “You gained your class by serving him right? So, of course, the system will reward you if you protect his interests.”

Great, Victor got levels by being a good, loyal henchman. Somebody up above laughed at him. Monster Trainer though? Did the Class expect him to go befriend more dragons? One was already enough trouble!

“That just proves my point,” Victor said. “The way I see it, Vainqueur will level in the Noble class until he gets that stipend perk, and then he will delve into a new class better for moneymaking.” One which hopefully will not make him even more invincible. 

“Gambler then. They have an excellent luck growth to complement the [Old Money] perk, and multiple abilities that can multiply money gained from bets.” 

“I just can’t imagine Vainqueur ever betting anything though,” Victor said. “He’s a dragon, a miser.”

Henry thought about it, before having a eureka moment. “The Gladiator fighter class then! They gain lots of Perks that can provide tangible rewards if they impress crowds. Dragons have high strength and charisma, perfect to make full use of that class.”

Victor guessed it would appeal to that dragon show-off. “Do you have documents on it?”

“Yes, of course! Do I have your permission to take notes on its evolution? I have no idea how it will synergize with a dragon.” Henry lost himself in calculations. “You yourself have the [Claimed by Dice] perk, right? That means you get ten percent more chance to increase your intelligence and luck. You would make a good Spellcaster.”

“I would rather not spend all my time reading scrolls and grimoires,” Victor replied. “Don’t get me wrong, I won’t mind shooting lightning bolts, but I prefer to stick to daggers. All kinds of them, if you catch my drift.”

Henry didn’t get the dirty joke, making Victor sigh in disappointment. “Why not Gambler, then?”

He would have tried, if Vainqueur paid him. “Henry…”

“Yes, Sir?”

“That’s a bit dirty, but… is there a class that helps getting laid?”

“For men or women? Most are gender-exclusive, except the Red Mage class.”

That wasn’t the answer Victor had expected. “There’s more than one?” he asked, puzzled.

“Of course, there are dozens of seduction-oriented classes, and many of them have useful perks for it, like the Dark Knight’s [Sinful Aura]. It’s a very common question.”

Damn, Henry made it sound like a respectable academic subject. And here Victor thought it was a stupid question! “I have a friend who has been… inactive… for a while, and he wants to stop up his game. Level ten, mostly rogue-like classes.”

“He? Ah, too bad, the best class for seduction is the female-only Black Widow. Does he have a high charisma score?”

“As good as mine.”

“Average then,” Henry said, Victor sulking. “Then I would suggest the Fiendish Rake class, discovered by Ludvic Van. It has very high entry conditions though, including charisma, vitality, and agility scores of fifty each, and surviving a special fiendish ritual. If he doesn’t that score yet, he should build his charisma and grab a few perks in the Red Mage class. I can give you a book on it if you want.”

Was everybody in this world a munchkin? 

[For studiously learning about the Class System and how to improve your dating life, you receive the [Observer] personal perk.]

|Observer: you can instantly divine the class levels of someone you look at, as long as they are the same total level as you or lower. If the target is higher leveled than you, you can only see the total class level.]

Yes, even Victor himself. “Henry?”

“Yes, Sir?” he asked, his eyes full of hope.

“Thank you,” Victor said. “Now get out of my bathroom, please.”

The unfortunate implications of their current situation suddenly dawned on Henry, who hurriedly left while apologizing all the way to the door. 

Victor sank back in the bath, leaving his dagger aside, and letting himself drown in pleasure. 

His moment of respite lasted one minute before someone knocked. 

“What?!” Victor complained as the person opened the door without his authorization. 

Lynette walked in, wearing a summer, golden dress showcasing her assets. Victor instantly sank deeper in the water, only his head rising above the waters. 

The innkeeper laughed at the sight. “Such modesty,” she said. “Am I interrupting, Sir Victor?”

“Not at all,” Victor replied, having a very nice view with the current sight angle. “What can I do for you?”

“I have a very pressing problem in my basement, which I think only you alone could solve.”

Alone in the basement…

Ah.

Ahah! Finally! “I’m all ears,” Victor grinned with a smile, Lynette smiling in response.


Victor sighed, as he walked into the inn’s dark basement, a torch in hands. It smelled of cheese, meat, and brewery, and the bitter scent of disappointment.

Instead of a basement tryst, Lynette had sent him on a giant rat extermination mission. 

Seriously? He knew he had technically just started his career, but this was adventurer hazing number one! And unpaid labor at that! The things he did for dragons and pretty faces… 

Yet, Victor had been scouring the underground without finding any rat and started to wonder if Lynette had overreacted. She said food had been missing lately, but it could have been the cook or a staff member stealing…

“Remember, everything is in the heart!” a high-pitched voice said, coming from behind a crate, “We need to say it with the heart, the heart! And practice the pose!”

Or maybe not. Grabbing a dagger with his free hand and holding the torch with the other, Victor looked behind the crate and found himself facing five pairs of eyes. 

There were monsters in the basement! Except they weren’t rats. They were…

Kobolds.

Small, lizard-like humanoids the size of human children, and just as smart, kobolds had sharp claws, stunted horns, and long, slithering tails. Victor counted five of them, each with scales of different colors, namely red, blue, yellow, black, and pink. Quite the rainbow. 

Victor noticed a small tunnel, dug in a wall nearby. The creatures must have dug all the way from the countryside to steal the basement’s food.

“Oh my gosh, a human!” the pink kobold said upon seeing him, cowering at the sight of the much bigger Victor. 

“Everyone, time for the choreography!” said the red one, bigger than the rest and seemingly the leader, “Remember, say it with the heart! He will cower before us!”

Much to Victor’s amazement, each kobolds adopted a strange, ridiculous pose.

“We fight for injustice!” the red Kobold started.

“We live for evil!” the black one continued.

“We love what we do!” the blue added.

“We strive in discord!” the pink one shouted.

“We are…” the yellow reptile finished, before shouting in unison with his gang, “The Kobold Rangers!”

Victor stood there, too confused to respond. 

“Yeah, we finally mastered the choreography,” the red one chuckled happily, congratulating his team. “We floored him!”

“I still think we should add ‘chaos’ somewhere in the motto,” the pink pointed out, “I mean, it has such a zing!”

What the hell was Victor watching right now? “I felt that blue’s timing was off,” the adventurer admitted. “Also, if you want to go all the way, you need a team pet, like a white alligator.”

“What?” the blue kobold glared at him, “How dare you insult my talent! A human can’t understand true art!”

“I never understood abstract art, no,” Victor replied, not that impressed. Kobolds were no more dangerous than rats, and these ones looked like a bunch of utter idiots.

“Foolish mammal, the Apple of Knowledge showed us the truth!” the yellow one added. 

“Wait,” the red one said, giving a blank look at Victor, “How did he…”

“You humans are out of style!” the black one snarled, showing his tiny claws and leaping at him. “It’s killin’ time!”

Kobolds being as small as human children, Victor stopped him by wordlessly putting his foot on the creature’s face. The monster struggled, its tiny hands unable to reach him, before calling to his teammates, “Help!” 

“Wait!” the red kobold said, preventing the others from joining the ‘battle’ by moving in between the two groups. “He understood!”

“He understands?” the blue one repeated. “Absurd!” 

“Yes, I understand what you said,” Victor shrugged, before realizing that he probably shouldn’t. The [Monster Kin] perk worked! 

“And the smell,” the red said. “Do you smell his scent?”

The black one stopped trying to reach Victor and backed down, sniffing the human’s boot. “He smells like a reptile! A super reptile!”

“Ultra Reptile!” the yellow one exclaimed, sniffing Victor with such intensity the adventurer felt deeply embarrassed. 

Even after a warm bath, spending days with Vainqueur had rubbed his awful smell off on him. And the dragon had complained his chief of staff stinked?

Victor instantly cursed himself for internalizing that stupid job. But then again, maybe he could make use of it… “Listen to me, kobolds,” the human declared with a broad gesture, “I am His Majesty King Vainqueur the Dragon’s chief of staff, guide, and class manager! Cower before me!”

“A dragon’s chief of staff!” Much to the human’s amazement, they seemed to recognize its meaning. “A real minion chief of staff!”

“Such raw charisma…” ‘Pink’—Victor decided to mentally nickname them after their scale color—had tears in her eyes. “I can almost feel it!”

“We have no choice!” Blue said, “We must sue for peace!”

“Peace!” Red repeated. 

“Then, bring me this Apple of Knowledge, and I shall let you go,” Victor ordered them, although he suddenly felt guilty for some reason. Like he was bullying guillible children.

“Quick!” Red ordered, the others running into the tunnels, and quickly coming back with a black and white tablet computer with a familiar logo on its back. Victor lowered himself slightly to look closer, as they showed it to him. 

An Ipad? 

Sweet! He could never afford one! Victor had heard items from Earth sometimes found their way to Outremonde, mostly brought by people abducted there. Where did the critters found it? 

The adventurer lit the Ipad up, the screen loading with a delay, maybe due to aging. A quick glance at the desktop told him the previous owner had been one huge fan of downloading ebooks and videos; while most were hidden behind passwords, a few could be freely accessed. 

Victor loaded one of the videos, showing old, silent footage of one of these ridiculous Japanese Super Sentai series. It was cheesy enough to make him cringe, but the kobolds watched with rapturous interest. 

“He knows how to unleash the Apple’s power,” Blue muttered. 

“Take us!” Pink implored Victor.

“Wait, what?” Victor asked, “Where?”

“Oh mighty chief of staff, please accept us as minions,” Red asked, bowing to Victor and soon imitated by the others. “We do not have the experience, and it would be our very first minion work, but… but we are hardworking and polyvalent and… please!”

The human found them strangely cute, monstrous critters aside. After seeing their big, adorable eyes looking at him with candid hope, the adventurer couldn’t help himself. “I’m willing to take you as interns,” Victor said. “Unpaid interns.”

Urgh, Vainqueur had rubbed off him. 

“Interns! We’re interns!” the black one jumped on place, before stopping in confusion, “What’s an intern?”

“It’s a great opportunity towards potential future career advancements,” Victor deadpanned, repeating the words from his first summer internship. 

“Such responsibility,” the blue one said with big bright eyes, much less cynical than Victor had been in his place. 

[For recruiting your first group of expendable minions, you have gained two levels in [Monster Squire]! +10 SP, +1 STR, +2 VIT, + 2 SKI, +2 AGI, +1 INT!]

[You gained the [Monster Student] Class Perk!]

[Monster Student: you can now learn monster-exclusive Perks after you are taught or targeted by them. You also count as a monster for the purpose of class access criterias.]

Now, how would Victor word that to Lynette?  

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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 5: Food Chain

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“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, “Ogron, Ogron, Ogron, pirate! Blah blah, flee the country! Ogrongron, 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!”

“Ogron is called Ogron the ogre because…” the cyclops said with a low growl, swinging his axe with impatience and showing his bloodied teeth. “Ogron eats 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 shalty 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 many of them like insects. The others sped up even faster after 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, I deserved it,” Vainqueur said, licking the blood on his lips. “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 was an old, frail male 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 Scholar, 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 Scholar, who began to speak up. “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 highly perceptive species, 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 [Aristoradar], 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 other ports. 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 the conversation. “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 dragons have minion laborers do it.”

Lynette and Henry exchanged glances, with Vainqueur tiring of their presence. “Leave,” 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 had to say it like this,” he complained. “Your Majesty’s phrasing 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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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 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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