Red Dragon Codex
Iroden Scene One
“Get lost you little thief!” the human woman yelled, slamming the door in Iroden’s face.
Iroden stumbled away from the house, his cheeks hot with shame. “I’m no thief,” he yelled. “I’m a cleric of E’li. I know every language of every race on Krynn. I could call on E’li to heal your aching joints, and I could teach your children to read and write.”
He paused at the front gate and dropped his voice to a whisper, “all I ask in return is a little food and a place to sleep.” But she hadn’t even given him a chance to ask.
The woman’s husband walked up the path to the house, saw Iroden, frowned, and said, “get out of here you stupid kender.”
He lifted Iroden over the gate and tossed him into the street.
Iroden waited for him to walk away before standing and brushing off his ragged robes. They’d once been soft and white with elegant gold embroidery down the sleeves and on the hem. They didn’t fit anymore because of the curse that had transformed him.
Once he’d been a graceful elf with fair skin and golden hair. The curse had changed him into a kender–one of the annoying race of beings that wondered the world getting into mischief and bothering everyone. He was short, nearly child-sized, with dark brown hair and tan skin.
He’d been thrust from the heights of civilization and knowledge and turned into no more than a worm, groveling in the road for his food.
His stomach grumbled. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten. Starvation stalked him. He stumbled away from the farm. Maybe in Palanthas someone would believe him. It was a long hard road, but he had nowhere else to go.
Iroden Scene Two
Iroden crept through the dim morning light to the waterfront. Thick fog hid his passing. Water lapped against the dock, and workers called to one another while they loaded the ship set to sail to Palanthas. The smell of salt water clung to Iroden’s hair and clothes.
A bulky dockworker strode toward him, and he ducked behind a barrel, his heart pounding. He’d never dreamed he’d come to this, skulking and hiding from mere humans. He was a Silvanesti elf, the most refined race on Krynn, and a member of House Cleric, second in rank only to House Royal. Chests full of steel coins and other valuables were locked in his father’s strongroom, but he’d had no chance to get any of it before being beaten and thrown out.
Iroden’s only hope of salvation lay in Palanthas at the Temple of Paladine. An expanse of the Sirrion Sea lay between him and it, and he had no money for passage.
The dockworker thumped past. Iroden scurried forward and joined a group of rats climbing up the ropes unnoticed onto the ship. At one time he might not have fit through the narrow opening the rats used to get aboard, but after his transformation and weeks of starvation, he slid right through and made his way to the storage hold.
Crates and barrels filled the space. He clambered over them and hunched down in a far corner where no one would see him. His stomach had given up grumbling for food.
He bowed his head and prayed to E’li. “Forgive me for seeking passage without paying. I never wanted anything but to serve you. Please grant me strength to make this voyage and guide me to those who can help me break this curse.”
The boat creaked and slid forward away from the dock. A firm wind sped it on its way toward Palanthas.
Iroden Scene Three
Iroden paused, breathless, beside the main road that led from the waterfront to the center of Palanthas. Passersby glared at him as they made their way to the vast array of shops that lined the street.
A Qualinesti elf covered his coin bag and gave Iroden a hard stare as he strode past. The well-dressed man walking beside him ignored Iroden, as if he were too filthy to acknowledge his existence.
“What are you staring at, kinslayer?” Iroden snapped in Elvish.
As soon as the words passed from his mouth, he knew it was a mistake to call the elf the worst name possible for a Qualinesti. It was an old insult derived from the war that tore the elves apart, separating them into two societies, the Silvanesti and the Qualinesti. A tentative peace had been established between the Silvanesti and the Qualinesti since the War of the Lance, but that didn’t mean they got along well. The Qualinesti were too uncivilized and denied the rightful order of society.
The Qualinesti lunged at Iroden, grabbed the front of his robes and lifted him into the air. Too angry to speak for a moment, he shook Iroden and pulled out a dagger.
“Come now,” the Qualinesti’s human friend said in the Common language. “Kender aren’t worth the trouble. As long as you have all of your belongings, who cares what they say?”
The human obviously didn’t know Elvish.
“I beg E’li’s forgiveness and your pardon,” Iroden said in Elvish, keeping his hands out in the open so both human and Qualinesti could see he wasn’t stealing anything. “I should not have said that and am deeply shamed by my outburst.”
“Where did you learn to speak Elvish?” the Qualinesti asked, shaking him again.
“I am . . . .” Iroden fell silent. The Qualinesti wouldn’t believe him anyway.
“Well?” the Qualinesti said, inching his knife toward Iroden’s throat.
“I’m a cleric of E’li. I’ve learned many languages,” Iroden said in Common.
“Who’s E’li?” the man asked.
“E’li is the Elvish word for Paladine,” the Qualinesti said.
“That’s funny, I didn’t know they were ordaining kender. You’d better let him go, just in case,” the human said. He checked all his pockets to make sure his possessions were in place then motioned for his friend to come with him.
The Qualinesti dropped Iroden and stepped away. “Get out of here, kinder,” he said. “I better not see you again, or I may kill you.”
Iroden stood and straightened his ragged robes, then walked away. The road he followed headed deeper into the heart of the city. Graceful trees with golden leaves lined either side of the broad thoroughfare. The whisper of wind through the branches agitated instead of soothed him.
He came to a circular road near the city’s center called Lord’s Way. Like other major roads of Palanthas, dwarven builders had paved it with fitted stone.
With each step Iroden took he became more and more aware of his ragged appearance. He tried to smooth his stained robes. The bottom edge was frayed where he had torn off half the garment to make up for his diminished height. It looked more like a long ragged shirt tied up with rope around his waist than the regal robes that marked him a member of House Cleric. His hair was a long mass of thick black tangles. The more he tried to run his fingers through it to straighten it, the more snarled it became.
He groaned and slumped down on the curb. He couldn’t go to the Temple of Paladine as he was. He hadn’t had a bath for so long, he was nearly immune to his own smell.
His fingers closed around the platinum medallion that hung at his neck. It depicted a stately dragon with wings unfurled. It was the only thing of value he had, and he would never sell it or trade it for food and lodging no matter how hungry he got.
“E’li, help me. I can’t go before the other clerics like this,” he prayed. If he expected a sudden miracle from the god he served, he waited in vain. The afternoon grew late, and people hurried down Lord’s Way anxious to wrap up business and head home.
When he got no response from his god, Iroden steeled himself to the shame he must face, and strode the rest of the way to the spacious lot of land that housed the temple.
The white marble structure sparkled in the sunlight. Like everything else in Palanthas, it towered over him. Scaffolding still clung to the great cathedral that made up the center wing, but Iroden could feel E’li’s presence hanging over it. White-robed clerics and acolytes hurried between the other two wings from the cells where they resided to the offices and libraries and back.
The smell of dinner lingered on the air.
Iroden meant to go straight to the offices and plead his cause to the clerics. If he could gain an audience with Revered Son Elistan, all would be well. But his feet carried him up the marble steps and into the cathedral.
Iroden’s heart raced. He’d entered Paladine’s great temple. He’d ached to come here for a long time even though his clerical duties had kept him among his own people.
The temple’s beauty lay not in ornamentation, but in simplicity. White marble pillars lined the sides. The vast hall could hold a thousand worshipers at one time. At the head of the cathedral stood an altar flanked by marble statues of the great Platinum Dragon. Their eyes pierced Iroden’s soul as he entered.
Iroden sank to his knees and clasped his medallion. “E’li,” he whispered.
“Here now,” a tall cleric hurried to him from the side of the hall, a look of dismay on his face. “What are you doing in the cathedral?”
“Worshiping. What else would I be doing?” Iroden said, sliding his medallion beneath his robes and standing.
“Kender aren’t allowed in here. Get out,” the cleric said, waving Iroden toward the door.
“E’li cares for every race of Krynn. You can’t thrust me out from his temple,” Iroden said, surprising himself with his own words. He’d never thought of that before. Certainly E’li must care about all the races, though he’d given the Silvanesti the highest grace and intelligence.
“True but,” the cleric spluttered. “It’s just you’re a kender. I mean the temple is closed today.” He shoved Iroden toward the door.
A dozen other worshipers knelt in the hall. The temple was only closed to kender it seemed.
Iroden drew himself up to his full short height and held his position. “I am a cleric of Paladine, ordained by Revered Son Elistan himself while he stayed among the elves during the War of the Lance.”
The cleric grimaced. “Kender,” he muttered under his breath while grabbing Iroden by his collar and marching him toward the door.
“No wait, please,” Iroden said. “Just listen to what I have to say. I’m not lying. I am a cleric. Let me talk to Elistan. He knows me.”
The cleric hesitated, and instead of tossing Iroden out into the street, he pushed him into a vestibule just off the side of the grand cathedral.
“All right, I’m listening,” the cleric said. He glared at Iroden and waited for him to speak.
Iroden straightened and smoothed his robes. Light from a high window slanted down into the room, illuminating a pedestal that held a delicate likeness of E’li’s constellation. Fashioned by some master craftsman, most likely a Silvanesti, each of the stars was a glittering diamond held together by thin silver filaments. The constellation’s exquisite beauty struck Iroden so he couldn’t speak for a moment.
When the cleric grabbed his arm, he realized he’d taken several steps across the room toward it. “Last chance, kender. How dare you claim to be a cleric of Paladine?”
“First, I am not a kender,” Iroden said. “Yes, I know I look like one now, but I’m not. I am a Silvanesti elf, a member of House Cleric. When Elistan brought us the plates of Mishakal, I rejoiced with the rest of my house to have the knowledge of the true gods restored. E’li is our creator and benefactor, so naturally I pledged myself in service to him along with the others of House Cleric.”
“You’re an elf?” the cleric said, releasing Iroden’s arm.
He rubbed his face and sat in one of the chairs at the side of the room. “How is it you look like a kender then?”
Iroden shuddered. The memory haunted him.
Iroden stepped outside. Sunset’s golden light shone over Silvamori. The surrounding forest was beautiful, but it wasn’t home. Home lay far to the east in Silvanesti where Lorac’s Nightmare had twisted the land into a dark abomination during the war. The war had ended, and Iroden, along with the rest of the Silvanesti, worked as hard as he could to heal his homeland.
But as the youngest cleric–some felt too young to be ordained–Iroden got the tedious tasks none of the other clerics wanted.
He’d spent the day collecting a record of all the saplings that had been sent to replant Silvanost. Even that hadn’t been quite as bad as the following task of recording how many napkins, tablecloths, and other linens had been brought from Silvanost, cleaned, mended or replaced and sent back.
Iroden sighed and headed for his house, such as it was, there in Silvamori. He’d rather be calling on E’li to heal the nightmarishly twisted trees of his homeland than counting saplings.
“You’re too young,” he’d been told over and again. Which was to say the other clerics preferred to keep him in Silvamori running their errands.
It was true; he was young, but Elistan had measured his heart and devotion and ordained him before leaving the elves to rejoin the humans in Palanthas. Elistan himself placed the emblem of E’li around Iroden’s neck. Iroden fingered it as he walked home.
The sky darkened, and E’li’s constellation rose into the sky, keeping watch over the world. Iroden lifted the doorlatch, but the whisper of feet on the road made him turn.
Two of the older clerics hurried away from town. They had dark cloaks thrown over their robes, so they blended in with the shadows between the trees. One of them carried something bulky beneath his cloak. They whispered to each other as they went. “Altar” and “grove” were the only words Iroden could make out, but he recognized the voices. They belonged to two of the clerics who delighted in giving him the most meaningless tasks.
Iroden shook his head and stepped inside. A muffled cry wafted to him from the disappearing clerics. Iroden froze and turned back. It sounded like a child.
He looked up at E’li’s constellation for guidance. The stars twinkled down on him, urging him to follow.
Iroden broke into a run along the road the clerics had taken. It led to a grove of aspen trees that grew so thick they blocked out the view of the rest of the world. Branches huddled close together. Dense underbrush made travel off the regular paths undesirable.
The clerics turned from the path and made their way deeper into the forbidding trees.
Iroden followed the sound of snapping twigs and rustling branches, taking care to keep his own passing quiet.
The two clerics stopped, and Iroden hunched down behind an elderberry bush, watching. A pinpoint of light flared to life, followed by another. Two candles lit a small clearing. The clerics set them on either end of a black marble altar. At the head of the altar hunched a fat statue with cold eyes and an oily smile.
Iroden gasped. The statue was of Hiddukel, one of the dark gods who corrupted souls to evil and bound them to him.
The clerics might have heard Iroden’s outburst, but one of them drew forth a bound elven child from beneath his cloak at the same moment. The child cried out, covering Iroden’s gasp.
Iroden watched in horror as the clerics tied the child to the altar and started chanting a prayer to Hiddukel. These were the same clerics who in broad daylight had taken vows to serve E’li.
Bitter fear lingered on Iroden’s tongue. Leaves scratched his face as he leaned forward in his hiding place. His hands groped for his medallion. “E’li, help me,” he prayed silently.
“Great Hiddukel,” one of the clerics cried. “We have done as you commanded and brought forth a child as sacrifice. We give you now his life in trade for your blessing. Let us be elevated into the place of royalty. Grant that we will lead our people back to Silvanost and gain the kingdom’s treasures.”
A deep laugh filled the clearing. A cloud of darkness poured from Hiddukel’s mouth and covered the altar.
Iroden screamed in outrage, tore through the elderberry bush, and rushed to the altar. He fumbled to untie the ropes that held the child.
One of the clerics grabbed him from behind. He smashed the cleric in the face with his fist and freed the child. But then the other cleric got hold of him.
“Run,” Iroden told the child as one of the clerics pounded Iroden in the ribs while the other one held him. Another blow caught him on the chin, and a third in the groin. He doubled over, paralyzed with pain.
All the while Hiddukel filled the air with mocking laughter.
One of the clerics drew out a dagger, leaned over Iroden, and said, “you fool. You’ve ruined everything.”
“My pleasure,” Iroden said through gritted teeth. If he was meant to die in service to E’li, than he would accept that great honor.
“Hold,” Hiddukel commanded. “This one deserves worse than death. You have prayed for a blessing, I will grant you a curse instead. This servant of E’li will no longer be an elf. His curiosity brought him here, so that curiosity will shape his life forever more.”
Pain tore through Iroden’s body. He screamed and thrashed on the ground while his bones constricted and skin folded in on itself. He thought it would go on forever.
When it finally stopped, he lay on the ground, covered with dirt and leaves. One of the servants of Hiddukel grabbed his robes and jerked him into the air.
His feet swung back and forth helplessly above the ground.
“A kender,” the cleric said. The other one laughed, a high-pitched hysterical laugh.
“Then they beat me again and threw me out of Silvamori,” Iroden said, finishing his story and looking up into the cleric’s eyes. He hoped to see some sign of belief.
The cleric stared at him with a puzzled expression.
“I made my way by boat to Palanthas,” Iroden said as if that would prove the truth of his words, though he could tell it had not.
The cleric stifled a low laugh and said, “what did you think to accomplish by coming here?”
Iroden crossed the room to stand in front of the pedestal that held E’li’s constellation. “I thought if Revered Son Elistan prayed for me, E’li might lift the curse,” Iroden said. He reached his hands out to caress the delicate creation. “E’li is merciful. Surely he will help me.”
The cleric jumped to his feet and shouted, “get away from that.”
Iroden stepped back. Hiddukel had been right. A noble death would have been much better than taking the shame of being a kender.
“Forgive me,” the cleric said, laying a gentle hand on Iroden’s shoulder. “That piece is priceless. Why don’t you come with me, and I’ll get you some food and new clothes. We will not send you away from the temple as you are. I’ll find a cell for you, and you can stay until you are stronger. Whether your story is true or not, I can see you have suffered much.”
“You don’t believe me?” Iroden said, pulling away from him.
“It is an outlandish story, although I suppose a few prayers to E’li wouldn’t hurt,” he said, giving Iroden a patronizing smile.
“By E’li, please. I’ve told you the truth. Let me talk to Elistan,” Iroden said. He touched the constellation, calling out in his heart to the god he served.
“I’m offering you our hospitality. It’s the best I can do,” the cleric said. “Revered Son Elistan is too busy to deal with something as trivial as this.”
Iroden’s cheeks grew hot. He could stand the shame no longer. “I am not a kender to be fed and thrust back out on the street. I am a cleric of E’li, and if you will not accept me as that, than I have no desire to stay here,” Iroden cried.
He turned his back on the cleric and stormed out of the temple. He raced down the marble steps and paused in the street, shaking with anger.
“Stop thief!” the cleric yelled. He stood at the top of the stairs, pointing at Iroden.
Iroden looked down to see the delicate constellation still clutched in his hands. Fear knifed through him. He hadn’t meant to take it. He’d just been too angry to think. He held the constellation out to the cleric.
“You lying thief,” The cleric said, marching down the stairs. “I’ll see you rot in prison.”
Iroden panicked. He couldn’t let the cleric catch him, and he didn’t dare drop the constellation for fear it would break. Clutching the priceless artifact to his chest, he ran.
Iroden Scene Four
Iroden woke early and noticed Mudd trying to stay awake for the second night in a row while Drakecutter slept. The human distrusted the dwarf with such an intensity it made Iroden’s skin crawl. There was something dangerous about the dwarf that Mudd had not bothered to tell him.
Though Drakecutter had grumbled in complaint, he’d let Iroden have the bed again, because Hiera insisted. He lay there with the warm covers wrapped around him and his stomach full from dinner the night before. He’d been afraid he would never eat again, but E’li had led them to these people who alone seemed to care about him whether he was an elf or not. He was sure Hiera believed him, but she was young, even for a human. Mudd and Drakecutter figured him for the kender he looked like.
Kirak slept by the back wall, beneath the window. He’d casually opened it and looked outside before bedding down, and just as casually left it open. He moved like a Wildrunner elf of House Protector, not with elvish fluid grace, but with the same stance and awareness of those who had seen battle and expected an attack at any moment. He would not sleep without securing an escape route out of the room. But the drop from the window to the ally below was further than Iroden would have wanted to make.
Mudd sat beside the door with his head against the wall, blinking and shaking his head to stay awake. In his hands he held a small gnomish puzzle game. He’d worked at it all afternoon the day before and all night without solving it.
Drakecutter slept in the center of the room, his ax clutched in his hands. Every so often he’d grumble a curse at the red dragon in his sleep.
Iroden slipped out of bed, and pulled on the new clothes Hiera had bought for him. He’d wanted white robes as was fitting a cleric of E’li, but Hiera had insisted on something more practical. Since she was paying, Iroden couldn’t argue.
He slipped into a tiny pair of brown trousers and a forest green shirt. A heavy leather vest fit overtop, keeping him warm, and giving him some protection in battle, or so Hiera said. She had even bought him a sturdy pair of boots that fit his little kender feet and a set of daggers that went into small sheaths inside the boots.
For some reason, she seemed to like him. Iroden couldn’t explain why. Kender were one of the lowest races on Krynn, equal with gnomes and not far above the brainless gully dwarves. She had not laughed when Iroden told her the story of being changed into a kender.
Iroden picked up his cloak from the foot of the bed and held it a moment, trying to make up his mind.
“What are you doing?” Mudd whispered.
Iroden jumped. For a moment he’d forgotten about Mudd, struggling to stay awake by the door.
“I wanted to go to the temple to pray for E’li’s blessing on our journey. But I’m not sure they’ll let me back in there.”
“Of course they won’t.” Mudd slid the puzzle back into this pocket and rubbed his eyes. “You stole their holy relic thing.”
“I didn’t steal it. At least not on purpose. I was just looking at it, and then it accidently stayed in my hand when I left.”
Mudd gave him a fond smile. “Of course. But I promised to look after you until we get out of the city. I’m afraid I can’t let you go back to the temple. You can pray here if you like. I won’t interrupt you.”
Iroden wrapped his fingers around the warm platinum dragon pendant. “I guess that will have to do.” He longed to see the unadorned beauty of the temple again, but Mudd was right.
“There are still a few hours until dawn,” Iroden said as he lowered himself to his knees. One thing about being a kender, his knees were much closer to the ground. “Why don’t you get some sleep while I pray? I’ll keep an eye on the dwarf and shout if he so much as twitches an eyeball.”
Mudd hesitated for a moment, then lay down in front of the door. He dropped into a deep sleep the moment his eyes closed.
“Holy E’li,” Iroden began his prayers. A shout from the streets outside interrupted him.
“Come back here you blasted kender!”
Iroden jumped and looked around. His companions still slept. Whoever had yelled, could not have been yelling at him. He leaned across Kirak and looked out the window.
A small shadow darted into the ally and stood panting. It was a kender with a loaf of bread in his hand. The bread’s warm smell wafted up to Iroden.
“I don’t know what all the fuss is about. I left the money on the baker’s counter,” the kender said. He bit off a piece of bread, chewed and swallowed.
“He went down the ally,” the voice who had shouted before said.
“Good. Birch is already on the other side. We’ll catch him between us. Come on.” Another voice answered.
Iroden’s heart raced. He snatched a coil of rope from Kirak’s supplies and tossed one end out the window.
“Climb up,” he hissed to the kender below. The kender stuffed the bread in his pocket, grabbed the rope and scrambled up.
Iroden braced himself to hold the kender’s weight, but the rope slipped through his hands. Without opening his eyes, Kirak reached up and grabbed the end.
The kender climbed into the room and pulled the rope up. “Thank you,” he said, panting.
“My pleasure,” Iroden said.
Kirak groaned and rolled over. “Keep it down will you. I’m trying to sleep.”
Iroden glanced at Mudd. The noise and commotion hadn’t stirred him or Drakecutter.
The kender sat down on the floor, tore his loaf of bread in two, and offered half to Iroden.
Iroden waved it away. He was sure to get breakfast in a few hours. Hiera would never let him starve.
“Suit yourself,” the kender said and started eating. Drops of blood seeped from a jagged gash across his forehead.
“What happened to your head?” Iroden said, squatting down to get a closer look at the wound.
“The baker hit me with a frying pan. Can you believe it? All I wanted was to buy a little bread, but the front door was locked, so I let myself in through the back window. I wish I had a mirror. I’ve never been cut on my face before. I bet it will leave a wonderful scar.”
Iroden shook his head. “I don’t think it has to. I’m a cleric of E’li. I can ask his blessing to heal it.”
The kender stopped eating for a moment. “A cleric, really? Who’s E’li.”
“Paladine. Be quiet and let me pray.” Iroden clutched his medallion with one hand and touched his fingertips to the wound.
Though he was young, he’d been more successful than many of the other clerics in calling forth E’li’s blessings. A black thought took him as he remembered the faithless clerics who during the light of day feigned allegiance to E’li and in the dead of night offered dark sacrifices to Hiddukel.
As Iroden prayed, warmth spread from the medallion through his body and into his fingertips. The kender’s skin knit back together and the swelling vanished. Iroden wetted a cloth in the wash basin and wiped away the blood.
The kender probed his forehead looking for any remnant of the wound, but found none. “That’s amazing,” he said in awe.
Iroden smiled and rubbed the medallion. The warmth lingered in him. As he stared at the kender in front of him, he felt a strange sense of brotherhood.
Kirak spoke before Iroden could open his mouth and ask the kender if he wanted to stay for breakfast.
“You better get rid of your little friend before Mudd wakes up. Back out the window please. The baker and his thugs have gone now.” Kirak wrapped one end of the rope around his hand and threw the other out the window.
The kender scrambled to his feet, shook Iroden’s hand, and vanished out the window.