As counterintuitive as it may seem, there are many things in this world worth more than the sum of their materials. Artwork, fine silks, sculpture, delicate machines, so many beautiful treasures that cannot simply be consumed and added to a living hoard. Many of these lovely pieces couldn't even be handled with her bare hands, for fear that they'd burst into flames at her slightest touch. It was frustrating, but she'd never backed down from a challenge yet in her life.
Expanding her collection had been a greater undertaking than she'd first expected. She'd always lived the nomadic ways of her former people, and had never truly paid attention at how many bodies it takes to make the world work. She needed safe and secure places to enjoy her growing collection, which meant vaults and buildings worthy of her stature. Which meant she needed land, and people to design and build on that land. She needed people to care for that land. Those people needed to eat, as tempting as it might have been to make them into creatures that didn't, which meant either she needed to bring in supplies or she needed farms her own, both of which required yet more people. The supply chain continued to spiral, and soon she found herself in charge of a hamlet, then a town.
Word would travel, as it is wont to do. She found that the merchants and couriers she'd hired were telling stories about the wonders she had built; before long, people were flocking to her lands, eager to pledge their lives into her service. It seemed her neighbors didn't treat their toys with anywhere near the care and attention she did, and the modest lives she'd promised to her servants was somehow considered extravagant to the outside world.
It is hard to track the passage of time without any of the many clocks a living body usually has inside of it, but it felt like, not that long ago, she was feared as a monster. Now, with little more than a change of appearance and a few honeyed words, she was being hailed as a protector, practically a goddess. She hadn't actually set out to found an empire, but her talents for collecting had spread wider than she'd thought.
She'd been quite happy living as a monster, but she had to admit, being an empire was an improvement.