Forgotten Futures VIII
...And Frolics
Adventures In Victorian and Edwardian Children's Fantasy

by Marcus L. Rowland
Copyright © 2002, portions Copyright © 1993-2001



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Too Many Dragons


TOO Many Dragons is a simple adventure for a small group of children, preferably all members of the same family or close relatives. The children of the Psammead trilogy would fit in very well. They should have no spells or magical equipment apart from The Box (see boxed text below, which should be printed out and given to the players) and possibly Arnold the bear. Optionally one of the adventurers may be a dog (see the FF rules) or a cat (see the worldbook), but this may cause occasional problems.

Many thanks to users of uk.games.roleplaying who made numerous suggestions on dragons, their society, and their interaction with humans. For more on dragons see [7D], Terry Pratchett's Guards, Guards!, Diana Wynne Jones' Warlock At The Wheel, and Tom Holt's Nothing But Blue Skies. Tea With The Black Dragon is a novel by R.A. MacAvoy, Red Dragon is a novel by Thomas Harris. For a web site specialising in dragons try http://www.nukapai.net/.

Pontglas Pontglas Village
The setting is the area around Pontglas Hall, a country house in an imaginary district of Wales in the "real" world, some time in the late 19th or early 20th century; the exact date isn't important. Two maps are provided, one shows the general area and the other the village of Pontglas, about three miles away. Referees may wish to print these maps. There is nothing on them that can't be shown to players, but referees should remember that a child's impression of a new area is probably much less organised than a map; it may be better to keep directions and distances vague and confusing.

The Box
The Box is a flat wooden case, about 6" x 12" and an inch deep, made of some sort of stripy polished wood, which folds open like a chess set. You found it in a chest in the attic, and discovered its secret by accident. Normally you keep it full of pencils and other junk. When you open it, empty it, and lay it flat it starts to spin around, speeding up until all you can see is a blurry circle with a silvery pool in the middle. It isn't a good idea to put your fingers anywhere outside this pool, they get bashed by the corners of The Box, but if you reach into it you can usually pull something out - what you pull out can be much bigger than the size of the pool. For example, the last time you used it you pulled out a white elephant, which caused a few problems since it was in the cloakroom at school.

Some of the things you've pulled out may have been magic, although all of them vanished within a few hours. About half are useless; some simply don't have any obvious function, such as the little box made out of some grey material labelled "Nintendo Super Mario Brothers", which looked like it might have something to do with electricity when you took it apart, others are things like a rubber screwdriver, a half-eaten chocolate teapot, a key that doesn't fit anything, etc.

You've tried putting things into the pool, such as sticks, a teddy bear, and a pet frog, but they just seem to bounce out again as soon as you let them go (the frog seemed very dizzy but otherwise unharmed). The pool isn't big enough for any of you to go through it. Once you pull something out, or decide not to, The Box stops spinning and slams closed. Currently it is in one of your trunks.


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Players' Information

IT'S July, school holiday time again, and you are going to stay in Wales. It's a place called Pontglas Hall, which sounds very grand. Papa has rented it for the summer. Normally your parents would be with you, of course, but Mama is abroad taking a cure, and Papa has been called for jury service and can't join you until the trial is over. He says it's very complicated, something called a "bezzlement", and may take a couple of weeks, but you can't find that word in the dictionary and suspect that it must be very rude. For now you are travelling with Nanny, who'll look after you until your parents join you. With luck she'll let you have some fun, she's at least twenty-five, much too old and slow to keep up with you outdoors. The house is miles from anywhere, so you might be able to open your magic box again without too many people noticing; last time there was a lot of trouble, and you don't want to risk it anywhere close to London.

At the moment Nanny is dozing in a corner of the compartment as your train slowly rattles its way across country, and the rest of you are reading, watching horses and sheep on the surrounding hills, and otherwise passing the time.

You (point to the youngest child) look up to see a old Chinese gentleman with a long white beard in the seat opposite. You're sure that he wasn't there a moment ago. He smiles at you, nods, then says "Greetings. I am..." he says several long words you don't understand, probably in Chinese (a different type of Chinese, such as Mandarin or Han, if anyone happens to know such languages) "...in your language that is... ah... 'Honourable master of Red Dragon Magic'. I have business with you."


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Referee's Information

THE old gentleman isn't just a "master of Red Dragon Magic"; he is a dragon in human form, a servant of the Celestial Dragon Emperor. Naturally he does not intend to tell the children that.

Canine and feline adventurers will smell a strange "sparkly" odour, impossible to describe to humans, which should be associated with magic. This "drowns out" the actual smell of the "wizard".

Dragons mostly live in one of the worlds of Magic, but there are often some on our world (and other human-occupied parallel worlds); mostly they are outcasts, renegades who have offended against the dragons incredibly complicated code of etiquette. There are also native dragons, but most have long since migrated to the dragon world.

For the purposes of this adventure all dragons, irrespective of origin, have several powers (typically changing form and size, flying, breathing fire or steam, opening temporary portals between their world and ours, and an ability to sense the presence of magic), and there are also dragon sorcerers, such as the Honourable Etc., with a wider range of spells; they can also make use of magical equipment created by humans and magical creatures. All dragons are attracted to gold and magic. The old story about princesses is a myth; a fully-grown dragon can actually eat anything small enough to swallow, which includes anything up to and including the average cow, but most prefer to avoid eating food that talks back. They usually go several days between meals.

Note that this is an amalgamation of several different versions of dragons from a variety of sources. True Imperial dragons are mostly in the typical Chinese mould, breathing superheated steam rather than fire, and rarely have wings. They have light armour plating. Immigrants from other worlds may resemble Imperials or the Western winged form, which often breathe fire rather than steam and have heavier plating. There are also mixed-blood hybrids, most mixing traits from both races.

The Bracelet is a magical device, MAGIC [8], Wizardry [8]; the wearer can use it to give orders to one dragon, which must be obeyed if the dragon's MIND is overcome. If more dragons are present only one at a time can be commanded, but it is possible to give one an order that will take some time to fulfil then quickly command the next to do something else. The bracelet was designed for use against dragons, so they can't easily detect its presence. It is made of plain gold, and looks like a wide one-piece antique bangle for a woman with thick wrists. The gold would probably be worth forty or fifty pounds.
Currently the Celestial Dragon Emperor has a problem; following a domestic tiff (he ate a cow in bed, and didn't keep the left-overs on his side) his senior wife has left him and stormed off to Earth, taking with her four eggs and a large sack of gold. He isn't too worried about the eggs, but the gold she took included one of the sources of his power; a bracelet (sized for a human, so about the right size for a thumb ring on a dragon) which allows its wearer to command dragons. Normally the Emperor doesn't need this ultimate power, but occasionally he has to compel total obedience. He's also naturally worried that the Empress or some human might use it against him.

The Dragon Empress is Idris, a Welsh dragon, and the Emperor assumes (correctly) that she has gone home. The Honourable Etc. has been sent to Wales to get the bracelet, wife and eggs (the bracelet has priority, the others are relatively unimportant), assuming that he will be able to find them by detecting the magic of the bracelet. Instead he found the children (and The Box) and has hatched a cunning plan.

Dragons of the Imperial Court are bound to a code of honour which forbids theft and lying, but they can and will use half-truths or misdirection, and are not above receiving stolen goods. As far as the Honourable Etc. is concerned the Empress must be found. She is also likely to sense the magic of The Box (there isn't anything else that's magical to be sensed in the area), and he hopes that it will draw her out of cover. Once he knows where she is, he should be able to get hold of the bracelet and command her to come home with him. Moreover, he can command her to take The Box without impinging on his own honour (or hers, since she won't be doing it voluntarily) and present it to the Emperor. Doing this will give the Honourable Etc. immense kudos, an important consideration in the Dragon Emperor's court.

When talking to the children he intends to imply (without actualy lying) that the Dragon Empress has entered the world through The Box, and that the only way to get rid of her will be to use his magic and The Box to put her back again:

"How sad, a door has been opened in the world, and the Empress of Dragons has entered. Already there will be eggs, and the appetite of a growing dragon is truly enormous. Perhaps another door might be opened, and the Empress and her eggs put back. Perhaps... If you find her and call me three times I will come; if she finds you first, better call quickly. But beware, she has powerful magic, and may pretend to be something else; a cow, a horse, even perhaps a human. And do not call me unless you truly need me, for I can come only once."

He'll answer three questions, bearing his objectives in mind. For example:

Things he will try to avoid mentioning:

Once he's answered a maximum of three questions he opens a magical portal (he draws a circle of fire with his hands), steps through it and vanishes; the portal vanishes a second later. Children trying to look through before it closes will glimpse distant hills and mountains; it isn't our world, but there's nothing to tell the children that.

Dragon Magic
Most dragons can "smell" magic (but not necessarily magical creatures; if Arnold is being used in this adventure they will not detect His power, since it is a seperate "animating spirit" that can control all Teddy bears) and have some degree of Wizardry; an ancient dragon wizard probably knows any spell that can be readily imagined, but most know at least two or three of the following spells:

The Box - Referee's Information
The Box is made of enchanted wood; it has BODY [1] and is easily destroyed by smashing it, fire, etc. More importantly, it is a simple Wishing Machine variant; anyone reaching in pulls out whatever the referee likes subject to the following limitations (unless the referee decides otherwise):
  • It will only work if the previous object has been destroyed, lost, or just faded out of existence (which takes 4D6 hours); even then it produces nothing about 10% of the time.
  • No weapons other than toys can be produced. Potentially dangerous toys are a grey area; for example, it might produce an air gun, but wouldn't provide ammunition.
  • The object pulled out isn't immediately dangerous to anyone around it; for example, the elephant the children pulled out was embarassingly friendly, and wanted to go home with them. Shame about the walls in the way, and the floorboards...
  • The object pulled out will fit into the space available (with inches to spare, in the case of the elephant).
  • At the referee's whim it can produce something useful; a clue, a tool, a few shillings, a magic carpet, the Psammead, whatever best suits the need of the adventure. Some possible clues for this adventure:
    • A small squid (an oblique reference to dye) which tries to pull someone into The Box before being pulled out.
    • A toy sheep which walks and "baaa's" and seems to be alive, albeit made of wood (suggests that sheep are somehow involved).
    • A gold coin as described in the adventure.
    • A Welsh flag with an animated dragon (not subtle, but some players need this much help).
    • The "Honourable Master", pulled out by an ear; he is angry, and will only answer one question before opening a portal and vanishing as before.
  • Wishing doesn't do any good at all.
The Box can be a disturbing factor in scenarios that don't involve it, and referees may prefer to arrange its loss, destruction or confiscation if children start to depend on it or it dominates their plans in later adventures.


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Pontglas

Pontglas AS soon as the "Honourable Master" is gone Nanny stirs and wakes up, checks her watch, and tells everyone to get their things together, they're nearly there. At the station a cart is waiting to take everyone to Pontglas Hall; the driver is John Jones, handyman and gardener at the Hall. He's in his mid-thirties, incredibly ancient as far as the children are concerned, and he and the porter load the heavy trunks into the cart with ease. Once everyone is aboard it rattles off down the country roads, watched idly by the porter before he goes off to sweep the platform. It's a fifteen-minute journey, giving the children ample opportunities to ask "Are we nearly there yet?" several times.

How To Be Welsh
It's unlikely that any of the adventurers will have the Welsh language as part of the Linguist skill, and in any case the locals all speak accented English, often in preference to Welsh.

The Welsh accent is slightly more musical than standard English. An excellent source is the film Zulu. If (like the author) you have little or no talent for accents, it's probably enough to use an ordinary rural English accent punctuated by occasional use of the words "look you" at the end of sentences. For example, "Arr, the dragon has eaten my sheep, look you!"

Most Welshmen and women are devout Protestants, usually of one or another non-conformist denomination, not Church of England. They usually talk of going to chapel, not church.

Pontglas is a relatively isolated area in Wales, bordered by hills and notable (but not very) for a lead mine, sheep farming, and wool. The children are to stay in Pontglas Hall, a Georgian mansion near one of the innumerable tributaries of the river Afon. The house is about three and a half miles from Pontglas village by footpath, and about five miles by road. The railway station is just outside the village. The nearest neighbours are Powell's Farm, a little over a mile away, and the village. There is no gas or electricity anywhere in the area; houses are lit by oil lamps and candles, food is cooked on wood or coal stoves. Water comes from pumps, plumbing drains to cess pools or is emptied manually.

Pontglas Hall is a rambling old country house, which has plenty of room for the children, Nanny, and eventually their parents. Apart from Nanny there's a staff of two; John Jones, handyman, gardener and driver, and Mrs. Booth the cook. Both live at the hall when it is occupied, in Pontglas Village the rest of the year. Guests are expected to bring their own servants if they need more. There are no communications with the outside world other than on foot or by cart. The cart travels to the village three times a week; twice for supplies and once for Sunday chapel.

2
3-4
5-9
10-11
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Raining heavily
Light showers, mostly sunny
Sunny
Light showers, mostly sunny
Raining heavily
Nanny will insist that the children spend an hour at their lessons after breakfast each day; she teaches them reading, writing, basic maths, and a little history and geography, and encourages them to paint, read the Bible, etc. in their own time. Apart from that she's happy to let them play outdoors (or indoors if wet), provided they're back for lunch and tea. Occasionally she'll come out to play with them, bring a picnic lunch, or take them out to look at birds, plants, etc. At least once a week she'll take them into Pontglas after lunch to post their letters to their parents and spend their pocket money. On Sunday morning she takes them to the village chapel; attendance is mandatory barring serious illness. On other days she will let them take out a packed lunch if they want to stay out, provided the weather looks good. Roll 2D6 each day on the weather table to the right; optionally roll twice a day.

The hall has extensive pleasant grounds running down to the river, which at this time of the year is shallow and (although it isn't obvious to a child in this era) polluted with lead and other wastes from the mine. As a result there aren't many fish, and any the children might catch are small and mostly infected with fungus and parasites. Fortunately the hall gets its water from a well which isn't badly polluted. The water isn't immediately dangerous if drunk, since it tastes unpleasant and will probably be spat out before a harmful dose is taken in.

Let the children spend hours exploring the house if they like (a plan isn't provided but it's easy enough to improvise one; alternatively, use the room layout templates from the FF VI adventure The Wages of Sin), there's nothing there that's relevant to the dragon problem. Things that the children might find on a prolonged search, or if they look in the right areas:

Powell's Farm is occupied by William Powell, his wife Blodwyn, and sons Ian (21) and Daffyd (16), with resident workers Robert Jones and Clarence Jenkins and cook Nora Lewis. They don't have much time to spare for children but aren't hostile. If they aren't too busy they'll let the children "help" to milk cows or feed the hens. Although the farm does have cows, pigs, and hens its main business is sheep.

Powell has an odd problem, although many people would consider it a blessing; every week or so someone steals a couple of sheep from his flocks in the hills West and South of the farm (mostly off the map). There is no trace of the thief, and every time they go missing he finds an odd gold coin left on the doorstep. The coins are about the size of a half crown and worth at least five guineas (far more than a couple of sheep) as gold, and have some undecipherable writing which looks vaguely Chinese and a picture of a dragon on each face. He is storing these coins under the hearth, and has nearly a hundred and fifty (he's sold a few as curios for their value in gold, when short of cash; one is on display in the village book shop). The stone covering the coins is far too heavy for children to lift.

While he would have no objection to selling sheep at this price, the flock scatters when the sheep are stolen and generally takes all day to round up. He's tried leaving shepherds and dogs with one or another of the flocks; usually they don't see anything, on one occasion a dog also went missing (four coins were left that week). He has twice found the bloody skin of a sheep in his meadows. There are legends of Dragons in Wales (the story of St. George and the Dragon, for example). While Powell has briefly considered the idea he thinks it's more likely that there's a rich mad-man in the area; for one thing, he's never heard of a dragon giving gold away. So long as whoever or whatever it is confines itself to killing sheep he's content to pocket the money and keep silent.

Needless to say Powell won't just tell children about this on a whim; he's keeping quiet about it for many reasons, not least the tax bill he would face if news of his sudden fortune got out. He might be persuaded to talk if the children ask him about dragons and produce some proof that they exist, or tell him that they know the coin in the village came from him. The farm workers know that sheep have been killed but don't know about the money; they live in out-buildings, and Powell is an early riser and always removes it before they arrive. All they know is that he seems to be curiously unconcerned about the dead sheep, and has sworn them to secrecy. Which in an area like this, with everyone related, means that most villagers know that something odd is going on. Powell loses more sheep from the hills to the South than to the West.

The Lead Mine is the major employer of the area, about two thirds of the villagers work there. Getting there from Pontglas Hall is a five mile trek by road or three miles along the river, quite a distance for a child. There isn't really much to see anyway, just the mine workings, a plant for crushing and separating ore, and a crane for loading the ore into freight wagons. All this is powered by steam engines, of course. Most of the time there's a plume of steam and soot from the mine, drifting randomly around the area. Needless to say children are not welcome at the mine, except by prior invitation; the village school gets a conducted tour once a year but there's no chance of an invitation in the holidays. The mine is worked 24 hours Monday to Saturday, with a maintenance shift on Sunday.

Despite its economic importance there's actually nothing important to this adventure at the mine; the children might possibly want to go there in search of the dragon and other clues, but there aren't any there.

Pontglas Village Pontglas Village is about fifty years old, built to accommodate workers for the mine and service the wool industry in the area, and these are still its main sources of income. It has a total population of about 150 (including some outlying cottages that aren't shown on the map), with most of the men working at the mine, most women do piece work for the wool factory. The village map shows the main buildings; outhouses, sheds, etc. mostly aren't shown.

The Dragon Empress lives in the village and will sooner or later notice if the children are carrying The Box with them; like all dragons she can sense the presence of magic. Once she has identified the source she will do her best to casually make their acquaintance and find out what they are up to, without arousing their suspicions. She normally adopts the form of Idris Noone (see below) but if necessary she could pose as an animal (such as a large friendly dog or a wandering donky) to get close and eavesdrop on their conversations. If she is encountered soon after changing form any animal members of the team will smell the "sparkle" of magic; otherwise these forms smell normal, since she takes the precaution of rubbing herself in grass or mud to disguise the dragon smell. Note that it is impossible for a dog to explain this to humans, except by frenzied barking; cats may be able to talk, of course.

The wool factory is actually more of an assembly and finishing point for cottage industry; fleeces are collected from farms in the surrounding area, washed, and distributed to the local women for spinning, returned to the factory for dying and finishing, then the finished wool goes out to the women who knit and weave cardigans, scarves, and other clothing to order. The factory ships the finished and packed garments to shops as far afield as Cardiff and London.

Coming into the village by road, the first thing noticed is probably the smell of the knackers yard to the west. This is owned by Isaac Jones (brother of Ian Jones, below), who lives on the premises with his wife and daughter (Imogene, 11). The yard is the main destination for animals that have outlived their usefulness, and processes them for glue, bone meal, soap, etc. Jones and his wife also make most of the sausages sold in the village. Most visitors to the yard are likely to consider vegetarianism...
 Imogene doesn't believe in magic or dragons; a sullen stupid girl, she dreams of moving to Cardiff when she's old enough and working in a shop. Her parents know about the stolen sheep but have no idea that farmer Powell is being paid for them or why he doesn't go to the police, and know nothing of dragons.

The smithy is nearer the road, and has all the usual facilities for shoeing and stabling horses and other metalwork. It's run by Caleb Pullman and his wife Patience; they have no children, but are very kind to any that visit the forge. There are usually several horses present, either waiting for shoes or stabled until they are needed elsewhere. Pullman also makes horse brasses and other ornaments, and his brasses include several variants on a dragon design. If he's questioned about this he'll say he got the pattern from an old coin they have in the book shop. Patience supplements their income by knitting delicate woolen garments such as baby clothing that can't easily be made on a loom.
 The children may suspect that the dragon is somehow involved in the smithy - after all, it would be a perfect place to hide something hot - but there is nothing there. Caleb and Patience will humour any child who mentions dragons, but it should be obvious that they aren't serious and have no real knowledge of the matter. Even children may guess that there is some tragedy in their lives; if the graveyard is checked they'll find that the couple had two children, both still-born, three and four years ago.

The next buildings on the main road are the school and St. David's Chapel, modestly sized brick buildings. There is no spire on the chapel but it does have a small belfry, accessible from outside the building, which would make an excellent observation point if the children can get in without being noticed. The school is a single large room intended to accommodate all of the children of the village, and is also used for Sunday school (compulsory for all children attending the chapel, including visitors such as the adventurers) even in the holidays. The school teacher is Hilda Keene, an enthusiastic woman in her twenties who works very hard to make unenthusiastic children learn about the Bible on Sundays and the three R's, history, and geography on weekdays. She also plays the harmonium at services. She lives in a nearby cottage and is in love with Stephen Jones, the chapel's minister, who lives in an extension to the chapel building. Jones is a devout non-conformist minister; although he is based in Pontglas, he visits three nearby villages every week, performing weddings and other services as needed. He has no idea of Miss Keene's affection, although it is obvious to many others
 Neither has any knowledge of the missing sheep etc., the villagers feel that it is best to avoid involving them in any unusual and possibly scandalous events. However Caleb Wells, below, is an occasional lay preacher with an interesting sermon to preach. He won't speak the first time that the adventurers attend chapel.

The main village is the cluster of sixteen two-storey buildings along the road; most of them are occupied by workers at the mine and their families but they include a pub and two shops. Unless stated otherwise all men work at the mine, all women are involved in the wool trade, and none of the residents know anything useful.

1: Jones family: Ian Jones works at the mine, his brother John is the handyman at Pontglas Hall and currently isn't in residence. Ian has a wife, Rachel, and three grown sons; Harry and Peter are also miners, Stephen works at the wool factory.

2: Keene household: The residents are Miss Hilda Keene (see above), her elderly mother Anne (who is bed-ridden), and lodger Gladys Pugh, the village nurse. Mrs. Booth, cook at Pontglass Hall, also lodges here when the house is empty.

3: Jones family: Clive Jones (cousin of Ian Jones, see 1 above), his wife Elizabeth, and children Frederick (12), Anna (9), twins David and Walter (6), Peter (5), Arthur (4), and newborn baby Nora.
 David and Walter have seen the dragon a few months ago, but regard it as their secret; they hope to catch it when they're old enough. Judicious bullying might get the secret out of them.

4: Pub: The Welsh Fusilier, a typical Welsh public house serving beer and a range of spirits. The sign shows a red-coated soldier firing at a charging Zulu, the pub is decorated with an assortment of trophies of the Zulu wars (purchased in Cardiff by the landlord); shields, spears, and other weapons. By law children aren't admitted. The landlord is Robert Jones (no relative to any of the above), his wife Judith helps in the village shop by day and behind the bar in the evening. They have no children, and live above the pub.
 Both are familiar with village gossip: they know of the stolen sheep, and remember William Powell selling gold coins a couple of years ago.

5: Book Shop: Run by Alfred Williams, he and his wife Anna live above the shop. He mainly sells books (new and second hand), including some for children and has a fascinating collection of junk and knick-nacks including jewellery, old coins and stamps, some moderately valuable. He is also agent for the owners of Pontglas Hall; if there is any trouble there, or anything goes wrong, he will come out to assess the situation and/or arrange repairs.
 One of the shelves of a display case in the shop holds some dragon memorabilia; a Welsh flag, a statuette of St. George slaying the dragon, and one of the Dragon coins (marked as a "5th century Chinese medallion" and on sale for 9 guineas). It is badly worn but the pattern and symbols resembling Chinese or Japanese characters are just visible. He bought it (and four others) from Farmer Powell for their weight in gold, thinking that they must be rare coins, but can't find them in any catalogue. The provenance and valuation are just a guess, of course. He's sold the other four to a numismatic specialist in Cardiff for a modest profit. Oddly, one of the two dragons on the coin looks very like the dragon on the Welsh flag.

6: Clarke family: David Clarke, his wife Ruth, and three adult sons John, Abel, and Seth. All of the men work in the mine, Ruth at the wool factory.

7: Lewis family: William Lewis, wife Moab, adult sons Henry and George, and children Mavis (12), Charity (10), and Lucy (6).
 All three girls know that they live next door to a dragon, having accidentally witnessed one of Idris' more spectacular transformations; she has sworn them to secrecy and told them that she is on the run from the Dragon Emperor, who "could eat you all for breakfast" if he ever finds the village. She hasn't said that he would do this, that wouldn't be true and she prefers not to tell outright lies. They have also been told to keep an eye open for strangers asking questions about dragons, "it might be the Dragon Emperor in disguise". Idris occasionally baby-sits for the family (and other families in the village), and she and the children have a good (if somewhat odd) relationship.

8: Mrs. Noone: "Mrs. Idris Noone" or "Aunty Idris" (the dragon Empress Idris) has lived here for three years, renting her cottage. She says she doesn't want to talk about her past, but in "strict confidence" has told several village women that she has left an abusive and unfaithful husband. Naturally all of the village adults and older children now know this story. It's more or less true, but this is the normal state of marriage for dragons. She works at the dye works (part of the wool factory), and is in charge of mixing. Her eggs are incubating in a disused corner behind the furnace that keeps the vats warm. Her garden is by far the most fertile in the village, a glorious riot of flowers, despite the fact she seems to pay little attention; she attributes it to good composting, and has two mounds of the stuff in her garden. Although she frequently gives bags or barrows of compost to other gardeners, the piles never seem to get much smaller. Careful examination of the compost will show bits of unspun wool, pulverised bone, and something much like guano; in other words, sheep as processed by something with an enormously powerful digestive system.
 Her hoard of five hundred or so more coins plus verious gems and jewels is concealed under the mattress of her bed, which has a box base. She likes to take off the mattress at night and sleep on the gold in dragon form. With the exception of the compost and eggs described above she has nothing else to hide apart from flights, at roughly weekly intervals, to get food. She usually walks out to the dye works after dark (if anyone challenges her she'll claim that she wants to adjust one of the cauldrons), waits a while to make sure that nobody is watching, changes form and flies off to find a sheep or two; she can see in the dark so it isn't difficult.
 She often baby-sits for families in the village. For more about Empress Idris see Red Dragon below, and descriptions of some of the other houses.

9: Powell Family: Another branch of this extensive family, Stephen and Harriet are a childless couple and aren't on speaking terms with any of their relatives, following an extended family feud over the ownership of Powell's Farm. Both work at the mine; Stephen is one of the managers, Harriet runs the office. Because they are both away all day they know very little of the undercurrents and secrets of the village.

10: Doctor's surgery: A surgery and four cot bets for use if there is ever a serious medical emergency in the village. Gladys Pugh looks after it and tends to minor ailments, on Thursdays Doctor Snodgrass (a travelling doctor with surgeries in five villages in the area) spends an afternoon in the village treating more serious cases. The building is also used as a police station if necessary; the local constable, Cuthbert Carter, is based several miles away but calls in once a day as he cycles around the area. He is blissfully unaware of the sheep killing and other undercurrents of the village.

11: Jones Family: Six more members of this prolific family; Gordon Jones is brother of Clive Jones, he and his wife Maud have four children; Blodwyn (6), Mary (5), Amy (4) and Idris (1). Idris is named for Idris Noone, who occasionally baby-sits for the family.
 They are unaware of any peculiarities about "aunty Idris", she's just regarded as a friend who likes children and seems to be happy to look after them.

12: Powell Family: Oddly this family isn't related to anyone else in the village, which everyone else seems to find very confusing. Samuel Powell and wife Ellen and her sister Naiomi are actually an extremely discreet menage-a-trois; Samuel and Ellen have three children: David (10), Donald (8) and John (6), Samuel and Naiomi have one child, Edward (9). Naturally they are all supposed to be Ellen's children, and Edward calls Naiomi "aunt". The children are unaware of the truth. They know nothing important to this adventure.

Dragon Modes
13: Dress Shop: Dragon Modes is owned by Mrs. Regina Olliphaunt, an English widow who has only been in Pontglas for a few months, having inherited the shop from a very distant cousin. The shop sells women's clothing, woollens, and baby clothing. It has a Welsh dragon sign over the window.
 Mrs. Olliphaunt is a red herring; she is an impostor, a neighbour of the real heir who received notice of the inheritance by mistake. Her aim is to build up the business and sell out quickly before someone realises. She thus tends to be a little secretive, even with children, who may somehow get the impression that she has something to hide. She can sometimes be seen through the window at night, counting money, and it's common knowledge that she is a miser with "a golden hoard". Again, this may lead children to suspect she's a dragon. She lives above the shop.

14: Baxter Family: Lee Baxter and wife Tanith are yet more cousins of the Powell clan, via a female member of the family hence the difference in names. They have one adult son, Michael, who works at the wool factory, and children Blodwyn (9) and Gwyn (6). They don't know anything important.

15: White Family: Barry White and wife Laura are Scots ex-patriates; he is chief mining engineer at the lead mine, she knits and currently runs the local Women's Institute. She is pregnant with their first child.
 Laura has "a touch of the fey"; she is an untrained medium and has sensed that there is something odd about Mrs. Olliphaunt and Idris Moon. She is good with children and animals, who instinctively trust her (children should be told that they "know" she is someone they can trust, dogs will want to roll over for her or sit up and beg, cats will want her to rub their heads). Nevertheless, she won't casually say that she thinks there is something odd about her neighbours, even if the childen give her all the facts and prove them by demonstrating The Box; after all, she could be mistaken.

The Village Shop is owned by the Jenkins family; Howard and Jessica, adult son Fred (a miner), and children Jack (6) and Mordecai (3). It sells meat, groceries of all sorts, some canned goods, seeds and bulbs, confectionary, newspapers, household goods such as soap and candles, and a selection of a hundred or so books offered on a fee-paying library basis. The selection includes several books about the area and Wales in general. There is only one reference to dragons in the local area; one of the more dubious histories claims that a dragon killing sheep was driven off by soldiers in 1640, and was last seen retreating with a "larger and darker" dragon under heavy fire. The family lives above the shop.

South of the chapel off the main road is Wells Cottage, occupied by Caleb Wells, the village handyman and grave digger. He's a widower in his sixties and has no time for children. The cottage is large, with a workshop as well as living quarters. Wells is a lay preacher and (currently) teetotaler who frequently preaches on the evils of the "demon drink" at chapel services. With great fervour he describes how he was a drunkard until one night, while staggering home from the pub, he saw the "great winged beast of Satan" flying overhead. This "drunken vision" inspired him to repent his evil ways, and now he preaches against the evil of alcohol. It's stirring stuff, and an obvious clue to anyone looking for dragons.
 Wells isn't keen to answer the questions of children, but if they find a good excuse - for example, they say that they want to paint his vision for a Temperence poster - he'll describe it in more detail. It was about twenty feet long with wings thirty foot wide, bright red, and flew directly towards him as he was going home. If this is plotted on the map and is even approximately right it was flying towards the dye works and wool factory. He saw it a year or so ago, which doesn't fit in well with the story the children have been given, but otherwise it sounds very interesting.

North of the main village are Morgan's Cottage, the Wool Factory, and the Dye Works.

Morgan's Cottage is occupied by Callum Morgan, foreman of the factory, his wife Margaret (who does the books), and children Rob (10), James (8), Morag (4) and Rhodri (2).
 Neither parent and none of the boys know anything about the dragon. Morag has seen it once (one of the first things she says to other children is that she's seen "a big flying thing" over the factory) when she was sent to bed early for being naughty. She doesn't make it clear that this was several months ago, when it was dark early in the evening. Her parents think she has a vivid imagination.

The wool factory is a wholly unremarkable facility; incoming fleeces are stored and cleaned, sent out to the village women for spinning, the wool is stored, dyed, and sent back to the villagers, and the finished goods are stored for shipment. By day there are usually several workers present, at night it's empty. The dye works is a separate building, where dozens of vats of dye slowly bubble and simmer, kept warm by steam pipes from a coal-fired boiler. There's a dead space at the back of the furnace compartment of the boiler - the only way to reach it is through the flames. Idris has hidden her eggs there, concealed by a false wall of fire bricks, and they are inaccessible unless the fire is extinguished.


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Red Dragon

THERE are two main ways to resolve this situation; one is for the children to find Idris, the other is for Idris to find the children. The first method works well if there is plenty of time and the children question the villagers and investigate carefully; the second is easier to stage-manage if you want to finish in a hurry, or if the children seem to be missing obvious clues. For various reasons most playtests have ended up taking the latter approach.

Finding Idris
There are several clues above to suggest that the dragon is living in the area; they also suggest that she has been there for some time and is not the ravenous monster the Honourable Etc. has implied. The children may guess that she has taken human form and is trying to live peacefully amongst the villagers. There are many other possibilities, of course; for example, they may suspect that she lives in the hills or down the lead mine. They just won't find any evidence to support the idea.

If they are looking for a woman, they will probably end up suspecting Idris; she's one of only two women living alone, and unlike Mrs. Oliphaunt has a job that routinely puts her into contact with heat and fire. She will also probably go out of her way to talk to the children if they go anywhere near her with The Box (or any other magic); she won't discuss dragons, but she will try to find out what's in "that pretty box" without arousing their suspicions. Once she knows, she'll lose most of her interest; it's an interesting spell, but not exactly useful.

If the children are really enterprising they may find a way to persuade Nanny to let them stay in Pontglas village overnight, perhaps as guests of one of the village families, and see what happens after dark. If they see Idris transform it should be all the proof they need. Judicious bullying and interrogation of some of the village children may also point the children towards Idris, although the children who know that she is a dragon are more likely to want to protect her.

Hopefully they will think twice about summoning the Honourable Etc., until they are sure they have the right person; even then they may want to make sure by confronting Idris. See below for the results of a confrontation.

Idris Finds the Children
This is in many ways easier to run; while the children are looking for the Dragon Empress, she in turn has sensed the magic of The Box and is trying to find out what it is.

If you use this approach she will first notice the "smell" of The Box when the children arrive at the station, but can't place it precisely before the cart drives out of range. Over the next few nights she searches for the source of the magic, eventually realising that it's in Pontglas Hall. The next day the children find a fallen branch with deep claw marks near the Hall; Idris misjudged the strength of a tree she used as a perch. Meanwhile the children may visit the village; remember that Idris has a day job and can't easily take time to check them out, but if they visit the dye works with The Box, or are around the village for more than an hour or so, she will find a way to see who they are, and possibly talk to them briefly. She will also find out about them from any village children they talk to. However, unless they have been very talkative she won't know that they have been talking to the Honourable Etc. and can summon him.

Once Idris knows where the children are based she will arrange to take a day off work "to make some personal arrangements", implying that it's something to do with her "marital problems", pretend to catch an early train, then lurk around the Hall in Old English sheep dog form. It's a good disguise, which she has used several times, except that she sometimes forgets to counter enough of her real weight and leaves very deep footprints. Optionally she also leaves her tongue forked! When the children are outdoors she'll "wander by" and pretend to be a stray, grateful for food and affection, hoping that she'll see The Box opened at some point. If she gets an opportunity to open it for herself she'll do so, pretending to accidentally "nudge" it open with her nose. Once she is aware of the random and rather petty nature of the magic she'll lose interest, but usually by this point the children suspect that she isn't all she seems. Alternatively she may scorn subtlety and snatch The Box, carrying it away in her teeth for further examination. If she hears the children talking about the Honourable Etc. she will be a lot more careful, of course.

Many variants are possible; for example, if the children don't take The Box to the village they may encounter her driving the factory's wagon on the road or at Powell's Farm, where she collects fleeces for her employer if the regular driver is ill.

In play testing Idris often got The Box; on one occasion she was left alone in the garden with the youngest child and The Box while the others played by the river. This led to a frantic chase through the garden, into the house, and up and down stairs, with Idris eventually transforming to dragon form and shattering a large window as she flew out; needless to say the children got the blame! Once Idris was clear of the house she examined The Box, realised that it wasn't any sort of threat, and got it back to the children by claiming to have found it in the road. This gave her an excuse to talk to the children and try to drop some subtle warnings about the dangers of magic ("I'm Welsh, look you, I can feel these things..."), but the children suspected who she was and eventually asked questions that she couldn't evade without outright lies. Although she started to convince them of her good intentions, in the course of this conversation she "accidentally" mentioned the Honourable Etc. three times! On most other occasions the Honourable Etc. was summoned by children before she got away.

End Game
Sooner or later someone will probably summon the Honourable Etc. What happens then is largely up to the children. If Idris is around he uses his Mind Control spell on her as soon as he sees her; he can't dominate her completely, but locks her muscles so that she can't escape, then tells the children to get the bracelet she's wearing "so that I may bind her to my will". It should be obvious that he is making an immense effort to keep her under control. As the children get the bracelet Idris whispers "Help me... use the bracelet... make him tell the truth...", adding "He's a dragon too..." if they don't already realise the truth. Meanwhile the Honourable Etc. says "Quickly... I cannot hold her for long!"


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Tea With The Black Dragon

THIS is an optional section, to be used if the children are somehow caught up in the Honourable Etc.'s machinations, are arrested by the Dragon Emperor, or follow of their own accord, and are transported to the Dragon Empire.

The Dragons live on a parallel world which is much like our own in geography, but somewhat warmer, and has no humans. Instead there are large mammals including mammoths, buffalo, sabre-tooth tigers - and dragons. The dragons are top predators in this world, but aren't very numerous; there are only a few hundred thousand of them. They prefer high altitudes, so tend to live on mountain tops and high plateaus; anywhere where they can catch thermals and glide with a minimal expenditure of energy.

The largest and most civilised community of dragons live in the Dragon Empire, based in this world's equivalent of Tibet; there are several other smaller nations. Here they have developed a complex and extraordinarily bureaucratic society powered in part by magic. An early discovery was the ability to change form, later the dragons found ways to cross into other worlds; to their surprise they found that most of these worlds are infested with humans, who are intelligent and dangerous enough to be a real nuisance, with dragons hunted or extinct. They have learned to loathe the name of St. George, who is responsible for their extermination or banishment on scores of worlds. The dragons began to send disguised scouts into these worlds, to learn more of humanity and look for signs of native dragons. Naturally there was some cultural contamination; for example, on many worlds the early Chinese bureacracy was based on a simpified version of the dragon system, while the dragons picked up Confucian scholarship and Japanese verse forms.

Some dragon explorers ventured as far West as Europe, where they found native dragons in Wales and Scandinavia. There are obvious differences in their forms, but since the dragons of this adventure can change shape anyway this wasn't an insuperable problem. Over the years most of our world's dragons migrated to the Dragon Empire, but a few remain behind, and some Empire dragons spend time in our world when they feel like it. One consequence was the marriage of the Welsh dragon Idris to the Celestial Dragon Emperor.

The spell to take dragons back to the Dragon World also transports them to Tibet. This represents a massive change of altitude, so any humans accompanying them will have painful ears until they swallow a few times, and will also feel dizzy from lack of oxygen. The height change isn't quite enough to be dangerous, but children will be very tired until they have had time to acclimatise; at least a night's sleep.

If the children have followed the Honourable Etc. and Idris voluntarily, both dragons will be dismayed to see them appear. Humans aren't normally allowed into the Dragon World; the palace (larger than many human towns) is designed for huge creatures that can fly and teleport, and isn't an ideal residence for children that can do neither. The Honourable Etc. says "Well, I'm not taking them back...", and an argument begins. If the children have been forcibly "escorted" to the Dragon World their guards will make sure that they aren't carrying any spears, enchanted lances, bows, etc. - Saint George has a lot to answer for on several worlds - while the Honourable Etc. and Idris engage in a prolonged shouting match in Dragon. The guards will also confiscate The Box unless one of the other dragons already has it.

If the children worry about getting home, Idris reassures them that the dragons have magicians who can get them home within minutes of the time they left; "...if my blasted husband tells them they have to, of course."

However they got there, Idris will insist on taking charge of the "poor little mites" and looking after them until an audience with the Emperor can be arranged. The children can easily fit into a corner of her apartment, which runs to thirty or so dragon-sized rooms. Needless to say there is little food suitable for humans in the palace, but Idris can get servants to bring some steak and cook it with her flame. She gives each child the equivalent of a two pound steak. They'll have to do without vegetables, bread, etc. for the moment, although there are some ornamental fruit trees in the palace so servants can provide apples, oranges, figs, and grapes. Fortunately Dragons like wine and tea; Idris knows better than to offer wine to children, and may have problems persuading them to try green tea, but there really isn't much else on offer apart from water. Beds and lavatories are another problem - dragons don't normally use them - but there is a training school for scouts who are to spend time in disguise on human worlds, and it is equipped with human furniture such as beds, chairs, plates, cutlery, chamber-pots, blankets and cushions. Most of the wooden furnishings have a few deep claw marks, of course.

Reaction
+2 if any child has toy weapons or armour
2-3
4-7
8
9-11
12
Good
Neutral
Queasy dislike
Loathing
Fascinated horror
Allergies
2-9
10-11
12
None
Mild allergy
Strong allergy
Once word gets out that humans are present, a succession of servants bring in furniture, fruit, etc., while courtiers and some of the Emperor's other wives find excuses to visit Idris and scope out the children. Remember that many dragons have never seen a real human, and that humans have a fearsome reputation as the exterminators of dragons on many worlds. To an inexperienced dragon, seeing a human is like a human seeing a tarantula or a venomous snake or a hideous grub-like thing; seeing a human with any sort of weapon or armour (even a toy) is much worse. Some are fascinated, many are repelled. Some are also allergic to humans. Roll 2D6 for their reaction, using the table to the right, and roll separately for any allergy. Dragons with a mild allergy start to sneeze small puffs of flame or steam, a few inches in diameter; dragons with a strong allergy get hives and start to sneeze huge gouts of flame or steam, and the children must stay well clear to avoid being burned.

In the morning there are a few hours to kill before the audience with the Emperor, so after breakfast, which consists of fruit and tea, Idris (who is still technically under arrest) takes the children on a tour of the palace, with several guards trailing the party to make sure that she doesn't escape and the children don't slay any dragons. She stays in human form to put the children at their ease. In most parts of the palace they are still regarded with a mixture of fear and disgust (and frequent sneezes); Idris takes great care to steer them clear of deep pits and other features that are dangerous to a child, and eventually leads them to the training school where young dragons are taught to imitate people when they visit the many human-dominated worlds. This is a complex of huge classrooms and training areas, simulations of human homes, hotels, and shops, with waxwork models of people in a variety of costumes. Some will be familiar to the children, others are very strange, a few just look plain wrong; a lady wearing bathing dress and carrying a severe black umbrella, a gentleman wearing a dress suit with tails and galoshes, a policeman with a floral bonnet instead of a helmet.

The young dragons (most are less than a hundred years old, and about the size of human adults) have been hand picked for their future careers, and aren't allergic or frightened by humans, but are instead intensely fascinated by them, and full of questions about human civilisation. Some of these questions will seem very naive, others may be difficult for children to answer. For example:
  "Which wine goes best with fish?"
  "What are toys for?"
  "What was the crime of Oscar Wilde?"
  "What do you think of the Baltic question?"
  "What about bimetallism?"
  "Why do trains whistle?"
  "Why doesn't the sun set on the Empire?"

It probably isn't a good idea to run an extended interrogation; just give the children a chance to get deeply confused (and possibly make up some bizarre answers to confuse the students in turn) before it's time for their audience with the Emperor. Before they leave most of the students will be smaller and more like children; imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Before things have a chance to get boring, a messenger arrives to tell Idris that the Emperor is ready so see her and the children, and the guards form up to take them to the throne room. Idris transforms back to dragon form as they walk, and once the transformation is completed stops to let the children ride on her back for the flight up to the throne room. Although there are no reins and nothing obvious to hold on to, nobody falls off - if anyone is stupid enough to try to get off they are caught by one of the guards and tucked under a scaly arm for the rest of the journey.

The throne room is simply a vast marble-walled domed chamber at the centre of the palace, about the size of the Albert Hall, with a dozen scribes and messengers dancing attendance on a huge dark-scaled dragon, by far the biggest the children have seen, which is reclining on a vast mound of gold and reading a huge scroll. He looks up as Idris enters and begins to roar something in the Dragon language. She replies "Manners! Speak English in front of our guests."

He roars something that sounds dismissive, then shrugs along his entire length and transforms into his human form, as does Idris. He peers at the children and says "So... you're humans, are you? Jolly good. Rather smaller than I remember, though." Another dragon nearby turns into the Honourable Etc.; he has The Box under an arm (unless the children have somehow retained it), and looks extremely pleased with himself.

Once Idris has explained that they're children the Emperor rather pointedly asks if they've just hatched; this ought to be a cue for some discussion of the eggs (which are still in Wales) and some bargaining:

For this part of the adventure keep the children involved in the argument, and give them chances to try to win the dragons around to their point of view. The Honourable Etc. claims he has behaved entirely honourably by dragon standards, but the children ought to be able to prove he has misled them to entrap Idris and steal the box. Misleading humans isn't forbidden, of course, but downright lies are an offence against Dragon honour. While the Honourable Etc. has gone to great lengths to avoid such lies, it could be argued that his overall conduct and persuasion was in itself a lie. A bright child might also claim that he has insulted Idris and the Emperor's eggs by claiming that she is a monster, and that the eggs would eventually become monsters. Don't make things too difficult for the children, and be prepared to cooperate with any idea that seems to be appropriate to the circumstances; for example, if the children think that the way to proceed is to sob until they get their way, the Emperor turns out to be a sucker for a child's tears!

Eventually some sort of compromise should be reached; nobody should get everything that they want, except possibly the children, but nobody should be entirely disappointed. For example, Idris might gain the right to live in Wales as she feels fit, with the proviso that she must bring her children back to the Emperor for at least a month every year. In return the Emperor will pay her a modest allowance, but her main hoard will be confiscated and returned to the throne. Let the children help to shape the final decision as much as seems possible, even if it strains the bounds of plausibility. Once the dragons agree the decision will be binding, and they will hold to the letter of their agreement. Whatever the decision, the children will be returned home; they give too many courtiers the "creeps" to be allowed to stay there!

After another meal some of the Emperor's magicians are sent for, and begin to cast the spell that will get the children home, with Idris if she is returning. If so, she will go through as Idris, or in one of her other disguises if it seems more appropriate. It's a long ritual, and by the time it is completed the children are starting to feel hungry again.

Eventually the returning group steps through onto the lawn at Pontglas Hall. Nanny is setting up tea things for a picnic when they arrive, and somehow misses seeing the magic (or Idris if she is present). Nanny briskly checks hands and faces for cleanliness, and sends most or all of the children to wash. By the time they return they are half convinced that they have imagined things, since Nanny seems unaware that they have even been gone. But there are egg and ham sandwiches and buttered scones with rasberry jam and cream for tea, and after a day or two of dragon cuisine the children are really ready to tuck in.

Unless things have gone disastrously wrong Idris will still be a friend to the children, as described above, and may still reward them with some gift or future help. But for the moment the adventure is over.


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Characters

Nanny
BODY [3], MIND [3], SOUL [3], MAGIC [0], Artist (singing, watercolours) [5], Athlete (running, netball) [5], First Aid [5], Linguist (French, German) [4], Science (Natural history) [4], Scholar (bible, teaching) [5]
Spells: -
Equipment: Books, sketch pad, paints, etc.
Quote: "Children... Children... CHILDREN!!!"
Notes: Nanny (who probably has a name, but never uses it with children) is mainly trained as a child minder, but tries to teach them too. She believes that letting them run free (in an isolated area and good weather) won't do them any harm, provided that they go to church or the best local substitute on a Sunday, spend at least an hour a day at lessons, and get their meals and sleep on schedule. She is usually quiet and softly spoken, but has a sergeant-major's voice and personality in the event of any disobedience. A useful role model is the cinematic version of Mary Poppins (minus the magic and dancing chimney sweeps).

The Honourable Master of Red Dragon Magic
BODY [10], MIND [6], SOUL [2], MAGIC [7], Artist (Haiku, Calligraphy) [7], Brawling (claws Effect 12 / Steam Effect 14 in dragon form only) [12], Business (Dragon politics) [9], Linguist (All human languages) [7], Wizardry [8]
Wounds: B [ ] F [ ] F [ ] I [ ] I [ ] I [ ] C [ ] Armoured skin, -1 Effect to all attacks (dragon form only).
Spells: Communication, Flying, Teleportation (between worlds if necessary), Transformation (of self only), Mind Control (of dragons only)
Equipment: Nothing relevant on Earth, coins and treasure worth several hundred thousand pounds at home.
Quote: "Oh most noble and excellent Celestial Dragon Emperor, it is not your humble servant's place to state that you are in error. Nevertheless, it is perhaps my respectful duty to advise certain courses of action..."
Notes: The Honourable Etc. is an experienced Dragon bureaucrat and wizard; while he is honour-bound not to lie he feels no need to tell unnecessary truths, and the truths that he tells are usually misleading. He is a fan of Machiavelli ("a talented amateur") and Sun Tsu ("We lost a great dragon when he was born a human"), but dislikes the climate of most parts of our world so rarely visits. A useful role model is Sir Humphrey (as portrayed in the BBC series Yes Minister). He lives in a modest fifteen-room apartment in the Celestial Dragon Emperor's palace.
 In human form he appears as an ancient Chinese man wearing wizardly robes (or a modern business suit if it fits the needs of the occasion); as a dragon he is about twenty feet long with tendrils like a cat-fish, has no wings, but can nevertheless fly. He speaks like a stage Chinese; substitute "L" for "R" and vice versa occasionally, and mention Confucius or the I Ching if you really want to annoy people who know more about China than you do. He doesn't have any other forms prepared, but could make a (bad) stab at pretending to be a cow if it seemed necessary. He can breathe a cloud of superheated steam, occupying several cubic yards, at will.

Empress Idris / Idris Noone
BODY [8], MIND [5], SOUL [4], MAGIC [5], Brawling (claws Effect 9 / Fire Effect 10 in dragon form only) [8], Linguist (Oriental languages, English, Welsh) [7], Wizardry [7]
Wounds: B [ ] F [ ] F [ ] I [ ] I [ ] C [ ] Armoured skin, -2 Effect to all attacks (dragon form only).
Spells: Communication, Flying, Teleportation (between worlds if necessary), Transformation (of self only)
Equipment: Dragon amulet (see Referee's Introduction), coins and gems worth several thousand pounds, Eggs (concealed in dye factory).
Quote: (as Idris) "And of course we needed to raise the temperature of the whole batch to get the colour to stay fast, but would they pay for the coal? Not on your life!" (as Empress Idris) "What you must remember, look you, is that while a dragon can't lie, he doesn't always tell all the truth, and that so-called Honourable Master can lie through his teeth without ever actually lying. If you see what I mean..."
Notes: Idris is a Welsh dragon, one of many that migrated to the Dragon Empire in the 14th and 15th centuries. On reaching the Empire she seen by the Celestial Emperor and invited to join his harem, soon becoming his chief wife. Idris' motives for leaving him are detailed above; she is currently thinking that she might give him another chance in ten or fifteen years, once the babies are hatched and talking. Meanwhile she is quite enjoying life back in her Welsh home; she was last here in 1640, when she returned to dig up some gold she'd left behind in 1400 but was driven off by some soldiers. The gold is still buried somewhere near the village (it's actually a few feet below the blacksmith's forge) but she hasn't been able to pinpoint the exact location. She doesn't much care, since she knows where there are some undiscovered (by humans) gold deposits in the Welsh mountains, and plans to visit them if she runs short.
 As a human Idris seems to be a pleasant-looking woman in her early thirties. She has spent more time in human form than most dragons, and very rarely make mistakes in this spell. She isn't as good at other forms of transformation, but has memorised the forms of a large Old English sheep dog and a donkey. As a dragon she has the typical winged Welsh form. She can breathe a broad blast of flame (like a powerful blow-torch flame several feet long) and can focus it into a narrow jet (like a welding torch).

The Celestial Dragon Emperor
BODY [13], MIND [4], SOUL [4], MAGIC [7], Brawling (claws Effect 14 / Steam Effect 15 in dragon form only) [15], Business [7], Linguist (Oriental languages, English) [5], Wizardry [6]
Wounds: B [ ] F [ ] F [ ] I [ ] I [ ] I [ ] C [ ] C [ ] Armoured skin, -1 Effect to all attacks (Dragon form only).
Spells: Flying, Teleportation (between worlds if necessary), Transformation (of self only), weather control (see below)
Equipment: Gold and gems worth several million pounds.
Quote: "So you're humans, are you? Small ones? Jolly good..."
Notes: The Celestial Dragon Emperor is a rich workaholic. He's constantly reading scrolls produced by his vast bureacracy, dictating messages to several dragon secretaries, and despatching couriers to outlying provinces of the Empire. Most of this activity is unncessary; the Empire's bureaucracy largely runs itself, and relies on the Emperor only for those decisions which no lesser Dragon can make. Everything else the Emperor sees is routine business, where the correct choice is obvious and his interference can do little harm. A good role model is John Cleese as Robin Hood in Time Bandits.
 In human guise he appears as a tall Chinese man wearing silk robes, but he is very rarely encountered in this form. As a dragon he is about thirty feet long with tendrils like a cat-fish, has no wings, but can nevertheless fly (although he is usually encountered lying on his "throne", a mound of gold). He also does quite a good sabre-toothed tiger impersonation. He can breathe clouds of steam, and also cause rain (from a gentle shower to a torrential thunderstorm) if there are any clouds in the sky. A party trick is to breathe a cloud of steam and create a miniature thunderstorm.

Dragon Guards
BODY [10], MIND [3], SOUL [2], MAGIC [5], Brawling (claws Effect 12 / Fire or steam Effect 14) [12], Melee weapon (spear) [9], Marksman (spear) [7], Wizardry [3]
Wounds: B [ ] F [ ] F [ ] I [ ] I [ ] I [ ] C [ ] Armoured skin, -2 Effect to all attacks plus leather armour, -1 Effect to all attacks.
Spells: Flying
Equipment: Coins and treasure worth several hundred pounds, armour, spear.
Quote: "Hai!"
Notes: The dragon guards are typical palace guards, except that they're dragons. Most are winged, or have mixed blood, since winged dragons tend to be better fighters. Their main duty is to bodyguard the Emperor, also to brandish weapons ceremonially, take charge of prisoners and defend the palace. They wear leather armour over their scales, a throwback to an era when most of the guards were the Imperial form with less body armour. These guards are selected for loyalty to the Emperor, not intelligence or magical ability, and it sometimes shows. Most stay in dragon form at all times. They can typically breathe jets of fire or steam, depending on their heritage. There is also an army, which has heavy weapons including cannon and siege engines, but children won't see it unless they ask nicely.

Dragon Students
BODY [6], MIND [4], SOUL [3], MAGIC [6], Brawling (claws Effect 8 / Steam or fire Effect 10 in dragon form only) [8], Business [5], Linguist (human languages) [5], Wizardry [6]
Wounds: B [ ] F [ ] F [ ] I [ ] I [ ] C [ ] Armoured skin, -1 Effect to all attacks (dragon form only).
Spells: Communication, Flying, Teleportation (between worlds if necessary), Transformation (of self only)
Equipment: large slates or notepads, pens or calligraphy brushes
Quote: "What is the outside knife for..?"
Notes: These dragons are learning magic and the basics of human civilisation as a prelude to visiting one or another of the human worlds. Most are imitating humans when met, although a few may prefer to stay in their natural forms. All have wear odd clothing (for the period), such as a sombrero with a pin-striped business suit or a lady wearing a man's casual clothing. They are intensely curious about humans and will ask lots of embarassing or confusing questions.


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Rewards

THIS isn't a dangerous adventure but the children should still earn some Bonus points for it, unless things have gone spectacularly wrong.

If Idris was rescued from the Honourable Etc. without having to return home and the children kept The Box, give each child five Bonus points. Subtract points if they lost The Box, or Idris is forced to return home against her will.

If the children somehow arrange a reconciliation between Idris and the Emperor give each child six bonus points. Reduce this to four points if the children broker a settlement that gives most of the principals what they want; again, losing The Box or otherwise messing up should result in fewer points

Give individual awards for good role playing (especially effective portrayal of a child), creative bickering, making the referee laugh, or anything else that seems remotely appropriate.

If the children saw a major spell performed, such as the spell to get them home in time for tea, they can attempt to improve their Wizardry if they have enough Bonus points (they probably do). The spells used by the Honourable Etc. and other dragons don't count, since they are innate powers rather than something the children can watch and copy.


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Further Adventures

IF Idris is returned home without the children they may realise that the eggs might still be around and start to look for them. They aren't impossible to find, once the children know what Idris' job is and realise that she is in charge of several furnaces, although the fire must be put out to recover them. What the children will do with them is an interesting question. They know nothing about bringing up young dragons, and have no idea how to teach them to fly or control their fire safely. This could lead to disaster or comedy, it's up to you.

ANOTHER consequence of Idris returning home is that her cottage will be empty for a few days before anyone notices. If the children realise that her gold might be there thay could try to find it, and possibly even "borrow" it. But gold is a dangerous possession for a child, and may lead to considerable problems. See e.g. [5C 2]

MANY of the possible outcomes leave Idris in Wales bringing up her babies; at first they'll be very small, lizard to cat sized, cute, and entirely harmless. During this period she might conceivably ask the children to baby-sit for a day or two. But even the smallest baby dragon can change shape, fly, and teleport if its mother teaches it well, and Idris is a very devoted mother and a good teacher. Unfortunately she sometimes overestimates human abilities and resourcefulness... Give the children babies to look after, then send them on a frantic chase to recover their straying charges before someone realises that something very odd is going on.

IS The Box as harmless as it seems? Almost anything could be lurking on the other side of its strange portal. Maybe one day something will come through that won't disappear, and will be a lot more dangerous than the children expect. This is a good way to get rid of The Box if it no longer seems to be useful in a campaign.

FINALLY, if the children were really helpful in resolving the dispute it's possible that they may be asked to lend a hand in another problem. This requires another visit to the world of the dragons, of course. But this time someone really doesn't want to see the problem resolved, and will take very active steps (or rather claws...) to eliminate their contribution to the debate.