Federation-Apocalypse Session 199 – Gold versus Red

With the creche under control, Markov elected to concentrate on building his coalition – with a focus on what his remaining local opposition (Ishvialsen, that gold who’d moved into the area) was up to at the moment…

As it turned out, he’d enslaved the four reds near his territories, and they’d recruited one and enslaved two – and the last independent dragons in the immediate vicinity were the ones holding territories between their coalition and the gold’s little empire.

And the whole mess was focusing down on a pair of red females – Fianvara and Gerthrid, a set of clutchmates who were actually friendly and cooperative – who had adjoining territories along the border.

Huh! Friendly chromatic clutchmates were really quite rare! Markov WANTED them! They were likely to be able to work together effectively without constant management! They’d make good allies! If he could impress them they’d make good mates too! Definitely not slaves if he could manage it; that would be a waste!

The pair were currently being confronted with conflicting offers of “Protection” or Enslavement or Membership… They could be fought over without even being directly involved if he just wanted to show up and show off. Of course, once they were being fought over, they’d be expected to join the winning side – one way or the other.

Markov loved showing off! He waited until Ishvialsen was making his move on the girls, and went to confront him – gathering his fittest and most magically-enhanced slaves as an entourage, taking along a sampling of his finest treasures as gifts, and taking along a number of his allies!

The numbers were… slightly on his opponent’s side, but he had slightly inferior (and much less loyal) dragons.

(Ishvialsen, a fancifully-decorated young gold with decorative inlays on his scales) “What? Winging to War? Your forces and allies against mine? That seems… wasteful. Many will die in such a battle! Most unprofitable!”

(Markov) “Hey, I don’t want a fight! I just want this fine pair of ladies on my side.”

Not that he’d have any objection to a fight if the gold was so inclined. He puffed his frills and chest to show his virility and dominance.

(Ishvialsen) “And I wish them too! Their territories march with mine, and I dominate in my own right – rather than with the aid of such untrustworthy “allies”. Are you quite sure that – while you are out here – your remaining coalition members are not enroaching on your own harem? That the ones here will not stab you in the back at a moments notice?”

Markov dragon-laughed… Felan’s enhancement-statue for the coalition had an approved subliminal manipulation effect on it – an influence towards loyalty to the group and not betraying it’s members! It wasn’t overwhelming, but it certainly helped! Between that and his ability to quietly sense their thoughts he was pretty sure that no one was thinking much about backstabbing him! Working together was just too profitable for the moment!

He really would have to do something nice for Felan there! Who ever would have thought that such a subtle effect could be so much help?

(Markov) “Nah, I’ve got the harem covered.”

There… had been some sort of suggestive effect woven into that little speech though! Designed to set the members of his coalition against each other – and to set the slaves to trying to escape while their master’s were fighting. It was well hidden, and subtle, and if he hadn’t been a witch with well-developed mental defenses he might never have noticed!

Fortunately, subtlety meant that HIS defenses could handle it easily – and that the conditioning of the slaves, and Felan’s emotion-influencing statues, mostly countered the effect.

Still… against a normal crowd of dragons… it would be a VERY good attack!

(Ishvialsen) “Come ladies! Settle this! There is no need for formal challenges! Submit yourself to me, and these interlopers may go home while you enjoy my attentions!”

Crap! The young women WEREN’T shielded! And the more tightly focused suggestion was pouring into their minds… If they consented, not only would it be a loss for him, but there’d be no way to turn this into a full challenge! He’d have to… withdraw gracefully! In defeat!

No! Losing was totally unacceptable!

Markov drew on exotic energies, and wrapped his own defenses around the dragonesses minds. There would be a price for that later – there always was – but LOSING to such a cheap trick was utterly unacceptable!

Besides… as a side-benefit, that would also make them well aware of the manipulation attempt!

Markov sat back to watch the fireworks – unless Ishvialsen was enough of a fool to attack him, of course.

(Fianvara, fuming and snorting small gouts of annihilating flame) “How DARE you try such manipulation on us!”

(Gerthrid) “Craven hypnotic tricks? It surely will not be long (glancing at Markov) before some other male in the area will add a pair of golden balls to his collection!”

Was that his cue? Time to strike!

(Markov) “How dare you try to bend these sisters’ minds to your sick desires! I won’t stand for that!”

(Ishvialsen) “Bah! I shall have them anyway, and your slaves for my own!”

(Markov) “Talk is cheap. Prove it!”

He took up his usual fighting stance.

(Ishvialsen) “Doom Swarm!”

Ishvialsen unleased… several dozen fairly decent (level four) attack spells – swarming force mouths that were trying to take out Markov AND his allies! Followed up by a well-coordinated strike from his slaves on anyone who could still fly!

He took down quite a few of the slaves, and several of Markov’s full allies! That was quite an initial shot! Some fine magecraft there! Felan’s enhancements were helping – but were mostly keeping them alive, not effective.

It was within the limits of Markov’s regenerative powers though.

It looked like… the fellow had massive numbers of command-triggered spells stored in the “decorative” inlays on his scales… That was actually fairly clever! And not too easy to detonate either! They just weren’t explosive really…

He’d also commanded a decent shield against physical attacks. He apparently figured that his slaves could handle Markov’s weakened allies! Still… that might indicate that he wasn’t all that physical!

He was also – quite recognizably – a theurgist. That wasn’t one of the magical styles which was usually available in this universe! An off-dimension visitor! Probably with an immense pile of triggered, special-purpose spells ready to go. No wonder heds been winning so easily! That wasn’t bad at ALL!

Markov had to wonder what had bought him to this realm? Oh well, there was no time to think too deeply on it! He had to come up with a way to deal with those.

Ishvialsen was somewhat annoyed that Markov wasn’t folding nearly as easily as the others – but he had a lot more spells!

The red ladies were somewhat impressed! That was a LOT of magic!

The Thralls amongst the slaves weren’t too badly off yet – Kevin was heavy on the protective powers – so Markov put them on counterspell-and-healing duty and tested Ishvialsen’s shield with a claw-based ranged Crushing Hammer.

It had better work! A few more swarm attacks like THAT and even HE would be going down!

It blew through the shield and staggered Ishvialsen – spoiling his next spell. He wouldn’t get to trigger so many things in the next few moments, although a ripple of healing energy played over him almost instantly. More stored magic obviously!

He needed to… peel those scales off him! Dissolving breath perhaps? In investing power in those decorative inlays he had acknowledged them as being separate from him!

He could do the modification… but he’d have to break the shields and strike at the same time to get it through. Fortunately, that was well within his power!

He’d best get on with it! Several of his more powerful allies were down, and the enemy was beginning to focus on him!

Markov struck again, blazing like a comet from the various incoming and outgoing energy discharges… His hammerstrike once again shattering shields, but this time followed by a blast of magic and a corrosive toxic cloud tuned to destroy those scale-inlays…

He had the Thralls make sure that the two red ladies were all right, and not caught in that.

They were falling back a bit… Males battling males was no business of females – except to laugh at the loser and to evaluate the winner and decide if they wanted him.

Ishvialsen attempted a quick counterspell, but Markov augmented the corrosive cloud with a burst of raw mana, easily hammering it past his defenses – and destroying many of his stored spells and runes in flares of wildly-discharging magic.

For a moment he had an opening – although throwing even more magic into that mess might not be advisable…

He threw in another Crushing Hammer attack, backed with even more power than usual!

Ishvialsen crumpled a bit, and started spiraling down… He was obviously gravely hurt – and was frantically trying to use some sort of transport device.

Markov blocked that! Ishvialsen was a very minor gatekeeper apparently, and didn’t have more than a fraction of the power of a single Thrall – much less seven or eight. Of course, he was FAR better at magic than most of them…

He hit the ground with an echoing “THUD!”… Definitely a broken wing and severely injured! Semiconscious at best!

Well, that settled that!

Without Ishvialsen’s support, the battle against his slaves – of dubious loyalty in any case – began to move ahead. What did they have to gain by fighting to the end?

The red ladies were waiting to see if Markov would start processing Ishvialsen on the spot, invite them to help, or (with suitable guarantees of safety of course) invite them to come and watch in his processing rooms… They were quite impressed! Ishvialsen had been an extremely potent mage, and yet Markov had prevailed despite being heavily outnumbered! He certainly wielded some potent abilities there!

(Markov) “Hey, you ladies want to see a slave processing machine in action? What do you say, sedatives or none? You pick! That’s only fair, since he tried to FORCE you to join him!”

A slave-processing machine? They’d heard some rumors… They’d certainly like to see one in action! No sedatives of course! Were there options to show off? Since someone had captured a couple of male clutchmates they had several nephews and a few nieces around who had turned out to be more trouble than they were worth!

(Markov) “Oh, there are options like you wouldn’t believe. Why don’t you join me in my domain? We can discuss you joining the coalition while he (jerking a talon at the now throughly-restrained Ishvialsen) gets his just desserts!”

There were a few more negotiations, but they gladly came along – towing along eight nephews and four nieces without telling them what for. During the trip Ishvialsen was – somewhat deliriously – protesting on the grounds that “this can’t happen!”. Apparently he felt that he was always supposed to win…

(Markov) “What, you didn’t think losing was possible? You almost threw me for a loop there, but I think I proved which of us was the better dragon!”

Hm… from his thoughts, Ishvialsen had believed that all his opponents were phantasms, there just to put up a fight – and lose. He’d been pretty drastically overconfident in the superiority of his magic too.

(Markov) “So what made you think I was a phantasm? Don’t tell me you can’t sense souls!”

(Ishvialsen) “Whaah? Nooo…”

Huh! Apparently not! He’d just been assuming that – in a world so far out and silly – there wouldn’t be much of any.

Oh well! Mindprobing the semiconscious wasn’t much of a challenge – and it wasn’t like any of it really mattered, or wouldn’t be available for the asking after he was conditioned!

It didn’t take long before he was locked in a processing machine – along with a dozen squealing hatchlings.

The red ladies tried out a variety of combinations on the nephews first – giving the medical systems time enough to get Ishvialsen fully conscious and ready to suffer – before setting him up for the slowest, most agonizing, processing-combination that they’d been able to find…

Marty had been trying to push Markov to send young Ishvialsen to Kadia before processing – but Markov had promised these girls that he’d let them do the processing – and now it was too late! Perhaps he could have him sent afterwards, using the excuse that Ishvialsen was just too sorry to have around?

Nah, even that wouldn’t work! They knew that he was a very powerful mage, and could be quite useful!

Markov… was viewing the young mans fate with pleasure – and as entirely just. After all, the youngster had tried to steal his harem, and enslave him, his kids, and all his friends just for the fun of it – and believing that he could not lose, and so not even allowing a fair fight. No one had FORCED him to come to the Dragon Empire and go on a rampage!

Marty sighed. The youngster had… tortured and enslaved a dozen adolescent males, and a couple of hundred hatchling-children, and enslaved and raped a dozen adolescent females, many of whom had simply been trying to live their lives, purely for his own pleasure and amusement. He’d listened to them scream… and laughed. Now he was screaming as he was tortured and enslaved for the amusement of some of his would-be victims. By dragon standards, by Kadian gambling standards… and by most of Marty’s own standards, the young man had gambled, and lost, and was now paying… an entirely-appropriate price.

Well, he had enough useful powers to make an excellent slave-servant! He shouldn’t have bet something that he REALLY didn’t want to lose!

Meanwhile, the red ladies were happily listening to Ishvialsen as he started to scream – with the pain turned all the way up and things set to “slow and painful”. The nephews and nieces would be providing a bit of background accompaniment, but they were hardly the main show!

Well… it was their due as dragons!

On due consideration, Marty felt a lot more sorry for the hatchlings than he did for Ishvialsen. A happily-conditioned slave was probably a better fate than he deserved!

Markov offered to let them join the coalition… He’d be glad to have them! Of course, from their point of view, there really wasn’t much choice. There weren’t many other holdouts – certainly not enough to form another coalition – and Markov’s resources were now quite sufficient to overwhelm theirs. Plus, that had been a VERY impressive display there!

Besides… being massively overwhelmed otherwise, they did let Markov fight for them. That incurred some obligations.

They asked if he wanted to father a few of their clutches. They were going to have a thousand or more over their lives, and it WAS one of the expected rewards for a male fighting on behalf of a female.

Oh yes, Markov was just FINE with that idea… Where could they possibly find a better male? Besides… that way they could add a bit more consciousness of his failure and loss to Ishvialsen’s misery!

Of course, capturing all of Ishvialsen’s properties added another sixty or so slaves and concubines to the coalitions resources – plus rather a lot of hatchling-slaves and Ishvialsen’s hatchlings.

A bit later Markov stopped by to see Felan privately… His tricks had been very helpful, and deserved some acknowledgment!

The boy was so obviously thinking “See! They ARE really useful!” that it was almost painful, even if it WAS quite true.

(Felan, looking bright, alert, attentive, and expectant) “Thank you father! I was sure they’d help!)

(Markov) “Well, they were very helpful! You’ve made me even richer.”

(Felan) “Ooh!”

Markov ensured that some of that wealth overflowed in his direction… More than a token too! Wealth, magic, and some tools to help with his sculpting!

As well as tacit permission to continue to subordinate the weaker to mid-level son’s in his allies creches – since the boy now had nearly twenty of them under control thanks to subliminal conditioning and a boosting statue made just for the lower-end types… They could be collected any time later on of course – and, until then, they were technically free and could hold more slaves and things for him, thus expanding his holdings for when he came of age. Fortunately, the other members of the coalition would all find having a few of their kids tricked into slavery far more funny than annoying… That was what weak or unlucky or incautious hatchlings were FOR!

Felan might learn more self-control – or even to share a bit – later on, but at the moment he was basically planning on one heck of a coming-of-age party.

And he’d DEFINITELY acquired a soul too! Evidently his current prospects were more than bright enough to pull one in! Hurrah! Soon he could start school – and meet Eogam in Kadia! He was a clever kid! He’d have a really major lead on the next batch before they hatched!

Markov might have to establish a “younger sibling” slave-allowance too!

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