The ink dried on the parchment as Raddak turned to look at the candle. He was ten years old. By kobold standards, he was an adult from the age of 8 but given their rough, desperate lives, they were lucky if they ever lived past their teens. Twenty was considered old age for a Kobold and yet he felt as if he had done more in the past year than most would ever do in their lives. He’d scaled huge mountains, fought furious dragons and giants, even faced down an angry goddess with nothing but his amulet and faith to hide behind.
As he jumped down from the writing desk, he smoothed down his robes, the scarlet ones with a brass trim (gifted to him by the Red Pasha no less) he closed the book he had been writing in and made his way out to the chapel the claws on his feet tapping against the stonework. Caliport was a beautiful city and the Pasha had made good on his promise to help Raddak build the first temple to his goddess, Aasterinian. He had at first protested against Yaseno’s offer of donating his mansion but once it was established that this was what the jackrabbit monk wanted, the Pasha relented and had it converted into a smaller but comfy temple in the heart of one of Calimport’s richest neighbourhoods. Raddak didn’t mind. It felt good to remind the rich people that the gods were still amongst them, even the trickier and less reliable ones. And, good to his word, a special room had been left to one side for pilgrims of all religions to stay in when they had need, especially those of Yaseno’s order.
He paused in the centre of the chapel, looking up at the large statue of the smiling brass dragon that watched over the small space and couldn’t help but feel a moment of doubt. He’d not known what he was going to do when he was kicked out of his clan under the mountain, him hooking up with a bunch of inexperienced adventurers and fighting a blue dragon had certainly not been on his list of goals. He’d wondered about finding the old mage that had taken him in or dreamed of going to one of the famed colleges of magic he’d read about. Life, and his goddess it seemed, had different plans of him. But why him?
“Why me?” he said out loud to the statue, only to hear footsteps behind him.
“You finished it?” came a voice. A young girl in her early teens was walking towards him. Despite her human appearance, she hadn’t learnt yet to disguise the deep copper colour of her eyes, a tell-tale sign that she was a dragon polymorphed into another shape.
“Yes Kiti,” he said with some embarrassment. “I kind of wanted to get it down while I remembered it all.” The girl smiled. They’d found her chained in the Red Pasha’s basement, terrified and alone. Once she’d been reunited with her mother, Raddak had made it his mission to track her down and offer his support. After a few weeks, she’d come to the temple, curious to learn. Raddak had declined at first, amazed that a mighty dragon would come to a kobold to learn anything but he had soon relented. She had proven to be a great help in spreading the word.
“May I?” she asked and took the book from his reluctant hands. Her brow furrowed when she read the title page. “Tyranny of Dragons?” Raddak shrugged.
“It seemed catchy,” he confessed. “Let me know what you think. I can’t promise everyone comes off well in it. I’m worried that I might have made Onthar look like a bit of a drunkard and I do fear that Moon might sound like she jumped on anything male that looked twice at her.”
“You worry too much,” said Kiti, “I’m sure it’ll be fine.” She gave a smile and then ran off, the book clutched in her arms, leaving the cleric alone in his own chapel. The toothy grin, the best that kobolds can give, stayed on his face until she left and then dropped as he felt doubt creep back in again. He had gained so much yet still felt a sadness inside. Nasturax, the fat red dragon that ruled over his clan of kobolds had not perished in the war and had returned to his lair. Raddak had no doubt that the chromatic dragons’ failure to raise Tiamat would be taken out on his clan mates. Once more he wondered whether he should go back there, call in some favours and free his people. He doubted that they would even thank him if he did.
“Why me?” he asked again of the dragon statue, this time a bit louder. His voice echoed around the chamber, slightly distorted so all he heard back was “Why?” It took a moment to realise he had his answer.
‘Why’ had been the question that had first got him in trouble. When he had questioned why his clan continued to wage war on anything that came close to the mountain, why they didn’t do something about the lazy dragon tyrant, why the chief of the clan was so incredibly rich. He wasn’t like the other kobolds because of his tendency to question, to challenge. It had meant that he ended up kicked out of his clan but it had also attracted the attention of the dragon goddess of change, of transformation and learning. Because he wasn’t happy being just another expendable kobold. Aasterinian represented the capacity for change in all creatures, the opportunity to rise above that which society dictated was expected of them. Such a creature could maybe learn advanced magic, command a sky castle, befriend a mortal enemy, change the world even. Anything was possible.
He heard the front door to the temple open and was broken from his reverie. Looking up, he saw an intimidating sight. Three orcs, heavy set and wearing broken, battle worn armour stood in the sept, looking utterly lost. Sighing, and mentally preparing to call down his goddess’ wrath, Raddak moved towards them.
“Can I help you?” he asked, adjusting his robes for the twentieth time that day. The biggest of the orcs looked down at him, a clear four feet taller than the kobold.
“Got sent ‘ere by the town guard,” he grunted. “Got sick of fighting the merchants on the road, thought me and the boys could… dunno, work for a livin’ in the city. Guard said ‘ere was a good place to start.” He looked around, suspicious. This certainly wasn’t what the orc had been expecting. “Are we even in the right place?”
Raddak smiled again, his sharp teeth bared but his eyes remained warm and friendly. This was her house, and all were welcome here.
“Yes,” he replied. “You are exactly where you need to be.”