Lemon Peel, a tiny dragon, gazed greedily at the vending machine. Ignoring the prices, Lemon began mentally making his selections (all the treat options, every magical item in the machine, and of course the machine’s coin box).
The facts of “location” (a hero guild hall), “size” (the selection pad glimmered out of reach), and “lack of money on hand” did not enter Lemon Peel’s scheming.
Voices echoed down the hallway, “…got that dungeon crawl next Tuesday, going to smash…”
Ducking into an unlocked door, the absurdly bright yellow dragon avoided detection for a few more minutes. Peaking out, Lemon Peel resumed his silent vigil over the bright, shiny snack hoard. Creature crisp apples glistened magnificently, as did bundles of night lilies, several bones, a magical scroll, many candy bars (chocolate, cursed, peanut, gem-encrusted), and bags of chips (potato, kelp, bark).
The dragon reared one of his paws back and swiped with all of his might. The vending machine’s front glass vibrated with a pleasing, but fruitless to snack-stealing, sound. Hissing, the dragon attacked the machine full on, slashing with both claws and biting at the hardware.
The vending machine blasted the dragon back with a wave of concussive force and then, like a majestic monolith, a shrine to an unspeaking god, mocked the tiny yellow monster with a soft, eerily quiet glow.
Narrowing his eyes, Lemon Peel raised his wings, roared horribly (editor’s note: it is actually adorable but please pretend to be terrified) and lunged again at the vending machine. And unexpectedly hit the “push for purchase” door. And wound up inside the machine itself.
Lemon Peel blinked rapidly in surprise as he surveyed his new surroundings. Chirping happily, he began to devour the snacks and stuffed magical items into a pocket dimension for later review. As Lemon Peel began chomping through candy bar number two and bushel of crimson sunset strawberries number four, he realized he was not only stuck but also being watched by an entire troop of heroes on the other side of the glass.
Weakly, the dragon waved. Angrily, the heroes readied weapons and began casting spells.
Vending machines in the Netherworld are at least somewhat sentient, absolutely neutral to the conflicts between adventurers and monsters, and extremely testy when attacked by either. As the heroes blasted at the dragon, trapped behind the glass, the machine struck back at them with increasingly powerful spells of its own.
Lemon Peel casually ate his snacks, thoroughly enjoying the show, safely tucked away.
A tiny paw tapped the dragon’s shoulder.
A smiling cobalt blue rabbit greeted the dragon. Peanut Brittle, a member of the Purple Paw Thievery, a band of magical rabbit rogues, had snuck into the vending machine earlier in the day.
Squealing happily in surprise, the dragon licked the rabbit, who quickly hopped onto the space between Lemon’s wings. Pointing, the rabbit showed Lemon Peel the way out. The mismatched pair stole every last treat and magical item then ducked out to share their new treasures with the rest of the Purple Paws.