MELINDA: Welcome back to Dragon Hoarders, I’m your host Melinda Doe. Now, Rustwyrm, tell me why you have this microprocessor from a 1984 PC Jr. on your hoard.

RUSTWYRM THE SCOURGE: Well, Melinda, there are trace amounts of gold in most computer circuits. As such, I felt this motherboard had a place in my hoard, until I could melt it down and refine the gold.

MELINDA: And how long have you had it, Rustwyrm?

RUSTWYRM THE SCOURGE: Since January 17, 1985, 5:17 AM MST. You have to understand, I was just starting out with my hoard at the time.

MELINDA: Do you really think, after 31 years, that you’ll ever go through the time and labor intensive process to refine it into gold?

RUSTWYRM THE SCOURGE: It also has sentimental value.

MELINDA: And the mountain of other motherboards?

RUSTWYRM THE SCOURGE: Also sentimental.

MELINDA: Rustwyrm, your cave is full and on the verge of collapse. You need to work with me on this. Now, be honest: keep, sell, or trash?

RUSTWYRM THE SCOURGE:…sell. I hear the Chinese pay a good price for this stuff.

MELINDA: Great. Now, what about this stack of Teenie Beanie Babies?

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The red dragon that had passed itself off as Ros Dos-Denarg, priestess of Jovan, glowered at the party from amid the ancient draconic ruins.

“Stand back!” cried Iffy the mage. “I’ve got a spell I’ve been saving for a situation like this!” Flipping through her spellbook in a whirl, she cried out an incantation and cast a pinch of ashes from a cursed fire onto the ground in front of her.

A pentagram spread upon the ground, serving as a gateway to the nether realms of the Abyss, from whence a terrifying demon with stunted wings and full red eyes pulled itself. It was gross, bloated, and reeking, far from the terrible demon one would expect from such a portal.

“Ugh, what IS that thing?” cried Tinuviel the halfling rogue.

“It smells awful!” added Adenan the halfling battlemistress.

“It’s a dretch,” said Iffy. “It can cast a spell of stinking cloud that should give us an edge against the dragon.”

“So wait,” said Chanel the elf cleric. “Did you just summon a fart demon to help us against the red dragon?”

“She did!” Tinuviel shouted. “She summoned a fart demon!”

“I did not! It’s nothing of the sort!” Iffy snapped back.

At that moment, the dretch loosed its attack. A pea-green soup of fog issued forth from the demon with a sphincter-rattling raspberry, flooding a good part of the chamber and sending Adenan gagging for clear air.

“Yeah. It’s a fart demon,” she said after the retching stopped. “It’s a fart demon.

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“The prophet Hephastus was never wrong,” said Cybina, her eyes intractable. “He predicted the fall of the kingdom, he predicted the Great Deluge that split our lands in twain, and he predicted that the cruel yoke of the Outsiders would fall upon us.”

“And he also predicted that the true ruler of these lands, the Crimson Child, heir to the throne before the throne, would help us cast off that yoke,” said Shayya. “We’ve all heard it. Nationalist drivel, mostly. The last king, Hannibar IV the Red, had no children.”

“No,” said Cybina quietly. The sage turned away. “Nor was there any kingdom before that which his ancestors raised up.”

“I thought so,” Shayya sighed. “For all that’s happened it was just coincidence and tricks. Little Heren couldn’t possibly be the Crimson Child.”

“But,” Cybina added. “There was a kingdom before Hannibar’s ancestors ruled.”

“That’s ridiculous,” said Shayya. “No one inhabited these lands before that.”

“No people. But there were others, other rulers, other thrones. Heren is in fact the Crimson Child…but she is not what people think she will be.”

“What…what do you mean?” said Shayya.

Cybina turned back to Shayya, and the latter gasped. Her eyes were suddenly orange, slit-pupiled, burning in the darkness. “The great serpents ruled before any man did,” she intoned. “And Heren is one of their number.”

Inspired by the song ‘Climson Child’ by Hiroki Kikuta, released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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Excerpted from the Ruins & Rogues Creature Compendium, incorporating materials from the Sorcerers & Sabers Interverse Guide

Menthol Dragon
Size: S (young) to VL (old)
Hit Dice: 12d13+25 (subtract 5 HP for each year of age under 100, minimum 25)
Treasure: Class D (common), Class B (uncommon)
Armor Class: Advanced Placement
Attacks: +6 (claws), Special (breath)

In ages past, the so-called Elemental Drakes who traveled the Interverse tended to reflect he classical conception of the elements: fire, water, earth, air (occasionally adding light and dark). But, as the Interverse is nothing if not a mirror of the Primary World, the invention of new materials has let to new races of Elemental Drakes.

The Menthol Dragon is one such, hailing from either the Interversal Continuum of Smoke or the Interversal Continuum of Disease. It exists in opposition to the Unfiltered Dragons in the former and the Fruit Dragons in the latter. The dragons project a powerful soothing aura for 10′ around them, against which all players wishing to harm the dragons must roll. While they can attack with their claws, causing +6 soothing damage, their breath weapon is their most potent tool. A blast of high-pressure menthol, it will sooth anything into a coma within a 20′ cone. A successful roll against soothing will result in only numbness and an intense desire for cough drops and cigarettes.

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“Let’s face it,” Jennie said, “you’ve never been able to hold a job for more than two months.”

“I always have a legitimate grievance,” Colin cried, waving his arms. “It’s not my fault, it’s that the modern workplace is so brutal and depersonalized.”

Jennie cocked an eyebrow. “Oh? What about when you working the fryer at O’Doul’s?”

“That customer said he wanted extra grease,” Colin deadpanned. “Never said where he wanted it to come from.”

“Pizza Mahjong?”

“Hey, they wanted me to dance on the sidewalk holding a lunch special sign when things were slow without even the benefit of a cartoon dragon mask. A guy’s gotta have principles.”

“Oh, of course,” said Jennie, rolling her eyes. “Metromart?”

“It’s their own fault for neglecting to put ‘not for recreational riding’ stickers on pallet jacks. Not to mention the way they stocked the cereal aisle just like a row of competition dominoes.”

“You can’t go back there!” the waiter cried. I brushed him off and swept into the kitchen. Hollister’s notepad said something about a short-order cook, after all.

I’d barely taken three steps in the kitchen when a green flash of something wrapped itself around my neck, just tight enough to be uncomfortable. “Didn’t you hear him? The kitchen’s employees only, hun.”

The short order cook, as it happened, was a Cantonese Wyrm–a younger one, probably less than two hundred years old, but still large enough for her front end to be working a wok while her back legs washed dishes in the kitchen sink ten feet away. She regarded me with intense yellow eyes, framed by the pink rollers that held her whiskers up and away from the food under a hair net.

“I need to speak with you,” I squeaked. “About Hollister.”

“Don’t know nobody by that name, sugar,” said the wyrm. Her rear claws emerged from the suds, each wearing a rubber glove. “But I bet wherever he is, it ain’t my kitchen.”

“He says otherwise.”

“And I say maybe I’ve got a new hunk o’ meat for the dinner rush.”

I had to think quickly. “I think you know that wyrms aren’t on the approved list of foodservice workers,” I said. “Health inspector’s coming on my tip in half an hour. What d’you think he’ll think of that? Let me go and I’ll cancel the call, then we can talk over tea.”

Preston’s writing grew more elaborate as the pages wore on, even as his handwriting declined in quality.

I have finally begun to approach this with the correct conceptual framework. Dragons are merely the visible part of a greater–one might say inconceivable–organism. Like an anglerfish’s lure, they represent the barest part of a whole, but the only one we can comprehend. As for the larger organism…words like ‘magic’ and ‘pandimensional’ scarcely do the concept justice. My head aches as I think about it.

A variety of diagrams followed with intersecting parabolas and terms I couldn’t pretend to understand–then again, it’s possible that Preston, in his madness, had made them up. He reverted to prose some pages later:

As projections they have no inherent form. They’re no more giant lizards than I am. But you can see how such a monstrous visage would have proven useful, give the revulsion that people greet reptiles with even today. Primitive man could easily be frightened by such, or coerced into obedience, but the rise of nations and creeds that could seek to shun or slay such ‘monsters’ explains why such forms are rarely encountered.

It also explains why they’ve never been found. If a diver could see only an anglerfish’s lure through a cloudy sea, they’d perceive only a worm and go mad trying to locate it on the ocean floor. But if the lure could be anything it wanted to be, unbound by the laws of physics…the implications stagger me.

For although the bardic tales are littered with stories of fire-breathing wyrmkin, they but scratch the surface of these creatures’ fascinating natural history–with their long-ago extinction, now all but lost to us moderns.

To be sure, many breathed fire, but they were only a lucky few. Most of the great serpents did lack the specific combination of forebears and kismet to ignite their breath, relying instead on foul stenches, acids, billowing steam clouds, or–the the most part–strong jaws and an agile neck.

Flight was similarly a trait only the most fortunate of the great wyrms posessed, and many lacked the power even with wings. Far more chose to take to rivers and lakes, rocky crags, or mountain passes to buffet on ill-starred passersby.

Consider the case of Smallmaw. He could only expel a blast of air from his mouth, which was too constrained to rend and tear a grown man, and whose stunted wings could not support flight. Yet this wyrmkin rose to be among the most feared in the British Isles before the Roman invasions purely on the strength of the one aspect our legends accurately describe: a deep and cunning intellect.