I have not been here long, in this wonderful community of OSR enthusiasts and GLOGgers. I entered as but a tiny little goblin child, and I am very much still on my gretchling journey. Recently, I was honoured to be part of the first game in Draakdeure, a GLOG gathering (GLOGering) where we starved goblin-children could actually play the games we love so much. Yes, for once my work may actually be playtested! But the story of that first session can be saved for another time. For now, I simply must gush about its framing device: Draakdeure, the City of Dragon Doors.
In the centre of the universe, of the multiverse, of all existence, exists a city ruled by Dragons. True dragons, not the pedestrian kind you find in dungeons these days. These are the Immortal Scaled Ones, fearsome and fiery, and through their power and influence, the city remains safe from ruin. Or at least that's what they tell you. That particular story very conspicuously leaves out the Screaming Godhead, whose anguished cries echo not through the air, but in your very mind. Don’t worry though. You’ll get used to that.
What you may not get used to, however, is the bureaucracy. The Ministries of Draakdeure are the final authority on all things, enforcing curfews and taxes and strict guidelines on everything. The city is a well oiled machine, and nothing can stop its gears from turning.
But how does a city such as this supply itself? Well, my friend, that is where you come in. The Ministry of Foreign Acquisitions and Levies hires citizens to become adventurers and travel through the titular Dragon Doors into other worlds, to raid them for every last penny and return before the door closes. With your help, the Dragons that rule the city will possess hoards of treasure unlike any before them, and you get a nice break from the monotony in the process.
And that’s about it! There are a few more details, like the ever-expanding list of Ministries and exactly how the Doors function, but you can see this document for the initial pitch that was given. Right now, I want to flex my authorly muscles, and present a short story about a very unfortunate Ministry member who found themselves in possession of a particularly nasty bit of treasure…
Crowning Achievement: A Draakdeurean Tale
The Obedient Citizen Inn was crowded, as always, full of rowdy adventurers making good use of the meager amounts of free time afforded to them by the Ministry of Schedules. Hishreg ducked as a bottle flew over their head, smashing into tiny green shards on the concrete wall behind them. It was nearly ten o’clock, and at last Hishreg would have some peace and quiet in the pub. Being a public servant had its benefits, and the one they had chosen was to be able to stay in the Obedient Citizen Inn until 10:30. 30 minutes of bliss.
They couldn’t really blame the adventurers for wanting to drink so much, as well. Work was drying up as the city’s population rapidly increased, and until their next job, they would not be paid. Still, they could afford to be a bit less… violent all the time.
They took their glass of far-too-bitter wine and chugged it all down, placing it gingerly back on the table with their tentacle. These drinking implements were very much made by and for creatures with opposable thumbs, and Hishreg was becoming very tired of it. They resolved to put in a complaint with the Ministry of Public Nourishment. Or was it the Ministry of Complaint Management? You would think the latter would be the obvious answer, yet all they seemed to do was tell you to go somewhere else. Then again, so did every other Ministry. They took one last wistful look at the glass, giving up on ever getting one suited to their body, and hoisted their slimy form out of the booth, wading through the sea of people over to the countertop to pay.
“I can give you twelve thousand Traklimian Gustravars.” they offered the burly elf who ran the place, a man named Orstan. He was well known for being acutely aware of the exchange rates of every currency in the infinite multiverse at any given millisecond. It was quite astonishing really, and the Ministry of Fiscal Equilibristics had been chasing him for years now. He loved his small little slice of unusuality too much, however.
“Hmmm. Fourteen thousand, take it or leave it.” he replied in his usual monotone gravelly voice. Hishreg nodded, making a disgusting sucking sound as they did so, and handed over the small bird skulls.
“Goodbye, Orstan. I’ll see you tomorrow!” said Hishreg as they slithered away, haven given up on their peaceful night after the emotional rollercoaster of the glass. They began to wonder what they would do for the rest of the night, until suddenly the Godhead’s screaming grew louder in their head, taking on the rhythmic quality that called public servants back to their respective ministry. They were needed for something.
They sighed, and began their sluggish march through the razor-straight streets, up to the imposing 1,000 floor high skyscraper that housed the Ministry of Foreign Acquisitions and Levies, their place of work, and one of the most esteemed Ministries in the entire city. Consistent winner of Best Ministry Relations with the Public for 100 years in a row, in fact. Not that the public had actually voted.
They pushed through the fleshy doors into the Ministry hall; large, imposing and gold with murals depicting hundreds of the most distinguished adventurers ever to set out from its hallowed corridors and through the Dragon Doors. Hishreg sometimes wished they could do that, but their sluglike body meant they were far too slow to be of any use to a party. One misstep, and they were stuck in a pit for the rest of their life. If only they could climb like a slug as well as look like one.
They clambered into the fleshtube at the back of the room, squeezing in next to the current occupant, a small Oranguman named Ik’Luto. The soft walls pulsed with the beating heart of the Godhead, as Hishreg pressed the button for their floor. The muscles in the wall began to convulse, then dragged them upwards like food through one’s throat, rapidly bringing them through the levels.
Ik’Luto turned to them. “Hear what happen?” he said in his characteristic broken Draakdeurean. He had been a new arrival, and was trying his level best to learn the language.
“No I haven’t. Anything interesting?”
“New group found big treasure.”
“Really? Which one?” they asked, curious. A new group finding something noteworthy was fairly rare these days.
“Remember weird crow and monkey?”
“And no-wall drug frog with ant?”
“Who could forget?”
“Join together. Found big treasure.”
Suddenly, the fleshtube unceremoniously spat Hishreg onto the hard concrete of the 476th floor, cutting off their conversation as Ik’Luto continued the climb. They picked themself up with a slurping sound and dragged themselves through the winding grey corridors until they at least their completely plain white door, the only way to tell it apart being the plaque that read ‘476-987’. They pushed the door open into their dinky office, furnished only with a far-too-small swivel chair and a wooden desk. The room was barely big enough to fit Hishreg’s bulky form, now even smaller with the box on the floor, marked with the words ‘Dangerous Contents’ on each side.
They went over and used the sharp point on their left tentacle to slice the cardboard open. A flash of golden light issued out from inside as the harsh electric light caught on the object. It was a crown, beautifully crafted and inlaid with myriad jewels of different kinds. Rubies, pearls, diamonds, emeralds, jade and countless other rocks could be found embedded in the solid gold. It curved like a waning moon, its lustre drawing Hishreg to look closer at the engravings on it.
The details on the crown seemed far too granular to have been made by natural hands. It depicted strange beings with hooked hands, gathering treasures from across countless to give to their masters atop a massive tower, far taller than anything around it. They continued their quest for millennia as their masters’ hoards grew ever larger, until one day a strange object was found in their midst. For all their advanced eyesight, Hishreg could not discern what the object was. But it seemed to tear the beings’ society apart, as one creature rose above the rest and overthrew their masters, taking the hoards for itself. But there, it lost the object in its joy, never to be found.
In their wonder, Hishreg forgot the warning that had been printed on the box, and reached out to touch the crown. There was a moment of pure silence for a second as they stared at themself in the golden surface. Suddenly, the image shifted, no longer showing a reflection but instead, a new scene. Hishreg, standing upon the hoards of the Dragons, the bodies of the city’s rulers at their feet, with them as King of Draakdeure, a title not held for hundreds of years. They were supreme, and all bowed at their feelers.
You can have this, Hishreg. All of it. No more tiny office. You will have a palace.
“But how? I don’t have the kind of power needed to kill a Dragon.”
You don’t, but I do. Put the crown on, and I will give it all to you. You will be a god.
Why would I lie to you? I gain nothing if you are king.
Unfortunately, it was already over for Hishreg’s weak mind. They were nearly a completely blank slate for the entity to write on. And write it did, filling their thoughts with dreams of grandeur and prestige.
“Alright, then.” replied Hishreg, and placed the crown on their head.
The Dragon Palaces stood as monoliths at the very centre of Draakdeure, non-euclidean technicolour buildings with spires of pure gold piercing the void above them, all under the watchful eyes of the Godhead. For the first time in their life, Hishreg could not hear the Godhead’s screams, and they felt somewhat empty for it.
Worry not. You are far stronger now than that puny head’s powers.
Hishreg nodded. The crown was right. Their tentacles crackled with arcane energies, strong enough to level a building with a mere thought. What could screams do now?
If they could have heard the screams, however, they would have been afraid. It had reached an intensity not heard for a hundred years, and if one listened closely, a word could be discerned:
And thus the Dragon-Lords of Draakdeure burst forth from their palaces, majestic and unknowable as their scaly wings, covered in armour of pure mithril, blocked out the light of the Twelve Suns as if night had fallen once more. Hishreg stared onwards, readying a bolt of lightning to strike the beasts from above. They chanted the incantations instinctively, as if guided by the crown, a beautiful cacophony of chaotic arcane choirs.
With a crack, the bolt came down, striking the Silver Dragon Termithriza on the wing with an explosion that echoed through the city. For an agonising moment, she reeled back in pain, but quickly regained her composure and swooped down in perfect synchronisation with the other Dragons. They dived in unison, like a great wave of destruction headed straight for the crown-bearer. And it was in the moment right before their fiery death that the crown betrayed Hishreg, sliding off their head before they were consumed in the flames, nothing more than a scorch-mark on the pavement.
As unknown as they had started out.
Kalorvin Terrelton Esq. of the Ministry of Foreign Acquisitions and Levies stared at the crown. “This is it?” he asked the Dragon next to him.
“Indeed. I was surprised indeed to see it again.” it replied in a voice so resonant that it shook Terrelton’s desk with every syllable.
“And what should be done?”
“Put it in the Deepest Vault. And keep an eye on the four who found it.”
“Yes, my lord. And the slug’s remains?”
“Put them to work. We can’t have slacking citizens. The Undercity will do nicely.”
The Dragon left in a puff of smoke, leaving Terrelton alone in his rather large office, the fireplace crackling behind him. He picked up the crown and threw it into an iron lockbox on top of his mahogany desk. It glowed slightly as he put on his leather coat and left to visit the Obedient Citizen Inn. Another employee lost to a cursed object. It truly was sad, but there was nothing more to be done.
But it had managed to damage a Dragon’s wing, he thought to himself. Very few things can do that.
He prayed that whatever had created that was not still out there. But if there were indeed things capable of that, then the Dragon Doors would eventually open out near another.
And if they do, he continued in his head, I’ll deal with them as well.