Krenduun the Great! — Prologue

Hello there! So, for the past year or so I’ve been working on a novel called “Krenduun the Great!”. Early in the process, I hit a lot of snags as I realized I needed to build out more of the world before I could keep writing. I’m about 45,000 words in at this point, which is maybe 30% of the way completed, but I wanted to share the prologue, which is more or less just an introduction to Krenduun and the world they inhabit.

The novel is fantasy, but I’ve leaned away from any pre-established fantasy characters and races that we’ve come to know (elves, dwarves, etc) and instead built from scratch the world of New Verdanthia, with new species and a whole host of new dynamics to explore. Most of those creatures are not mentioned in this prologue, but a few of them are.

One of the underlying but consistent threads in the novel is gender, and the various relationships certain species have with their genders (or lack thereof). Krenduun uses they/them pronouns, which is irrelevant to the story but is ultimately integral to understanding the characters.

If any of that sounds interesting to you, the prologue is below. I hope you enjoy!

Prologue

It wasn’t easy being the most powerful being on the planet.

At least, it wouldn’t be for anyone else. For Krenduun, it came quite naturally.

Currently, they were standing at the top of a large platform overlooking the stage. At the platform’s base, there was nothing to break their fall—no netting, no cushion, not even a tub of water. A fall from this height would surely kill them. And yet, Krenduun approached the edge fearlessly. They lifted one leg over the edge and held it there, as if they were about to step off, and the crowd gasped.

They’re so easily manipulated, Krenduun thought. Some of them have probably seen this show a dozen times, yet they still act like they don’t know what’s coming. How tedious and pathetic their lives must be.

“Are you afraid for me? For me?!” Krenduun asked, their voice booming out into the farthest reaches of the stadium. No, it’s nothing more than the fear they imagine they would feel in my place. “If I made a mistake and fell to my death, right here in front of you, what would you do?”

The crowd watched with baited breath. Krenduun smirked (as much as their facial scales would allow) and waited, knowing the tension of what might happen was just as important as the details of what did happen. “Krenduun the Great!” read the banners outside the stadium, and Krenduun had always liked the sound of that.

They leaned their head back, opened their mouth, and roared. A burst of light and flame poured out of it, the same golden color as the gelatinous skin beneath Krenduun’s hard scales. As they roared, the gaps between the scales glowed brighter than before as Krenduun’s magic burned.

The audience burst into applause as the hot golden breath filled the air above the stage, casting a magnificent hue across the entire stadium.

(Don’t read into this, it’s a stock image I found when I Googled “gold”

Don’t use too much, Krenduun reminded themself, and closed their mouth. Their body grew dimmer than it had been before, but the glowing light was still clearly visible, especially to those seated close to the stage. They fluttered their cape behind them and took an exaggerated bow, causing the applause to grow louder.

Krenduun snorted softly to themself. I really could do anything and it would impress them. Would they still love me if I died? Would they still cheer and applaud the sight of my crumpled body on the stage?

They stared out at the eager faces in the crowd. Or what if I stopped performing magic altogether?

Krenduun began to dance.

The crowd seemed unsure what to make of what was happening. Silence filled the stadium. And yet, Krenduun danced on. They began waving their arms wildly atop the platform.

It started slowly at first, but laughter spread across the room. A chuckle in the front row, followed by a tittering from a small group on the left. Within moments, the entire stadium was filled with hysterical laughter. Krenduun stopped.

“You dare mock me!?” their voice boomed. The laughter stopped. “Are you here to see a display of magical prowess, or are you here to witness Krenduun the Great?!”

One voice squeaked from the fourth row: “Krenduun!”

“Does this one speak for all of you? I asked, who did you come to see?”

“KRENDUUN!” came a booming reply.

“I thought so.” Krenduun turned their back to them, but it seemed the dancing and spinning had offset their balance a bit more than anticipated. As they turned, their foot slipped off the front of the platform. They attempted to catch themself, but it was too late, and they tumbled headfirst off the platform, hurtling straight for the stage below.

You fool.

The audience gasped, and Krenduun braced themself.

A moment before collision, Krenduun waved an arm in front of their body and disappeared.

On the opposite end of the stage, a golden circle of light appeared in mid-air, and Krenduun stepped out of it, completely unharmed. They threw their hands into the air in a victorious stance, their cape fluttering in the light breeze. The crowd leapt to their feet and cheered.

“Perhaps I should stick to the magic,” they said. The audience froze. “You can laugh.” A few  laughed, but most of them remained silent. Maybe you pushed them a little too hard… No, don’t be ridiculous. They’re truffidds.

The entirety of the audience was truffidds, which made sense. Truffidds had no skill for performing magic, and were the easiest to impress. They lived simple lives, in small homemade hovels or caves, but always underground. A truffidd didn’t need a soft bed to sleep in, as they usually buried themselves in dirt whenever they needed a rest.

If I slept in dirt, I’d probably be pretty impressed by me as well. Krenduun lived a life of extravagance, living in the blattneor palace and coming out only to perform, for which they were compensated handsomely.

There was very little Krenduun wasn’t allowed to do—apart from enter blattneor holy sites and worship rooms—but there was even less that they were interested in doing. Most days, Krenduun slept until the late afternoon, waking up only to eat before diving back into the mound of blankets and pillows that made up their bed.

To be fair, Krenduun’s magic only worked if they got enough rest. There was a finite supply, and depending on how much they used, it could take entire days to fully regenerate. If they ever used all of their magic without recharging, they would die. That was fine for Krenduun, as they only needed to use their magic once a week, during their stage show on Neorday. As long as they slept for a full day before that show, there would be more than enough magic to get through the performance.

Of course, Krenduun wasn’t the only magical creature in existence. They were the only of their species, having been discovered in a larval state in the mountains at the farthest point on the island, far from the city of Skrrka Ktahn. The blattneor took Krenduun in and helped them hone their abilities before giving them their own show, cementing Krenduun’s god-status to the nonmagical citizens of the island of New Verdanthia. The other magical species that shared the island, the piddlim, had much less magic individually, but when they came together and focused their skills on the same goal, they could be quite powerful.

But I’m the one with the show, Krenduun thought. No one wants to see a hundred piddlim give a truffidd the ability to breathe underwater when I can do it alone. No, they want to see raw magical power.

“I’m ready to get back to the show. Honest.” The crowd seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief. “For anyone who’s seen the show before, you know that for this next part, I’ll need a volunteer,” Krenduun’s voice boomed. Vocal magnification was a simple enough spell, and required very little magical energy.

Stubby truffidd hands shot up across the stadium. Krenduun looked out at the volunteers, and their eyes locked onto a young-looking truffidd whose hand was bounding excitedly in the sixth row. Krenduun focused their energy and sent a thought into the truffidd’s mind.

Step up onto the stage, the message said, and the truffidd leapt excitedly to his feet.

“They picked me! They picked me!” he said as he scooted down the row as quickly as he could. Krenduun smiled as his friends slapped him on the back, simultaneously congratulating him and helping push him along so that the show could continue.

What are you called? Krenduun asked the truffidd. I’m able to hear your response if you allow it.

The truffidd’s mouth fell open in shock as he continued walking toward the stage, as if in a trance. At last, he scrunched up his face and thought, I’m Karna!

With the name, Krenduun also caught a brief glimpse of the emotion behind it: Unworthiness. Insecurity. A feeling like he was beneath Krenduun—and with it, something else. Gratitude, Krenduun realized. He’s thankful that he was chosen. And the thought made Krenduun feel sick.

Karna paused, searching for a way to get onto the stage. How do I—

Before he could finish his thought, Krenduun raised an outstretched arm into the air. A light cloud of golden energy appeared beneath Karna and lifted him up, placing him gently on the stage. Karna turned around and faced the audience, a look of shock and glee plastered on his face.

“This is Karna!” Krenduun boomed. “Have you ever been to the show before, Karna?” Karna shook his head. “So for all you know, everything that’s happened has been a part of the show.” Karna looked out at the crowd, hoping for a clue as to how he should respond. Before he said anything, Krenduun continued on with full enthusiasm. “Have you ever been affected by magic before, Karna?” They waved a hand lightly across the air.

Almost imperceptible golden energy made its way into Karna’s mouth.

“No, I—” as soon as the words left his mouth, he gasped and covered his face with his hands. “How did my voice get so loud?”

The audience roared with laughter. Krenduun approached Karna and clapped a hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t worry, it’s not permanent. Now, do me a favor and look me in the eyes.”

“I’m doing magic!” Karna called out to the stadium. He leaned back and roared, doing his best Krenduun impression. “Karna the Great!” he shouted. The audience erupted into scattered laughter and applause.

“Adorable,” said Krenduun, growing irritated. “Now, Karna, I’m going to need you to look me in the eyes. Now.”

Karna did as he was told. Krenduun muttered something under their breath, and Karna’s body relaxed.

“Now I want you to walk toward me.”

Karna looked confused. Like he knew what he was supposed to be doing, but wasn’t able to command his body to do it. He lifted a leg into the air and held it, attempting to move forward, but his leg disobeyed. Instead of stretching forward, it stretched back. Karna nearly lost his footing, but caught himself.

“I don’t understand,” he said, getting frightened.

“You wouldn’t, would you?” Krenduun said gleefully. “Now, step toward me.”

Karna’s other leg tried to run in a third direction, causing him to topple over onto the stage. Just before he slammed into the ground, Krenduun reached out his hand and caught him with that same golden energy.

“What did you do to me?” Karna asked, the fear now unmistakable.

Krenduun flexed their whole body and muttered another word, causing another Krenduun to step out from behind the one everyone had been watching all along. They said the word again, and a third Krenduun appeared, then a fourth. All four moved in unison, but in separate locations.

“Which is the real me?” they all spoke.

Karna tried to get to his feet and run, but his legs felt like they were made of putty. Instead, his arms scrabbled at the ground, attempting to pull his weight away from the four Krenduuns. Instead, he did a sort of somersault and landed with a grunt on his back.

“Please,” Karna said. “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

The Krenduuns circled Karna, looking down on him like the tiny truffidd he was. They smirked and sent a thought into the boy’s mind.

I thought you were Karna the Great.

The audience was no longer laughing, as the truffidd’s fear washed over them. Now, they were growing concerned for the poor creature. Krenduun felt the concern and sighed.

The Krenduun copies disappeared. They relinquished control over Karna’s mind. Hesitantly, Karna climbed to his feet and turned toward the audience.

“That’s the thing about magic,” Krenduun said. “You never know what to expect. Let’s hear a round of applause for Karna. Karna, give them a bow.”

Karna gave a shaky bow, and a light smattering of applause came from various corners of the stadium.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it, Karna?”

Karna ran-walked to the edge of the stage and lowered himself over the edge, returning shamefully to his seat.

Krenduun looked out at the crowd, many of whom were looking back with absolute horror. A few truffidds were sneaking out the back door.

“Oh, come now! Don’t you want to stay for the grand finale? I’m just getting started!” Krenduun reached out, and golden energy slammed the doors in the truffidds’ faces. “This is what you’re here for, right? To witness power? To watch me do things you only wish you could? What have I got wrong, here?”

Krenduun spun their arms in a circle around their body, and a flat golden disc appeared beneath them. The circle began to rise into the air, lifting Krenduun with it. As it rose, Krenduun stretched their fingers wide, and golden fireworks exploded out of them, the sound reverberating across the audience.

“What else shall I do to… amuse you?”

Then Krenduun spotted Acktir standing offstage. It had been a long time since she’d bothered attending one of Krenduun’s performances. Once it had become clear that Krenduun knew the performance back-to-front, she’d found better things to do with her time.

Krenduun snapped back to reality. Just when I was starting to enjoy myself.

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to end the show early tonight. It’s been an absolute pleasure. Good night.”

They released the spells they’d been holding onto. The doors to the stadium swung open. The disc vanished, and Krenduun began to fall. They waved an arm in the air in front of themself, and disappeared from sight.

They reappeared backstage, where the blattneor assistants were waiting for them. The assistants moved to remove Krenduun’s cloak, but Krenduun pulled away.

“Wheeee muzzt tayk itt,” one of them buzzed.

“You must learn to speak as though your mouth isn’t full,” Krenduun responded, holding onto their cloak but walking lazily away from the lot of them. blattneor mouths weren’t designed for speaking, but they’d taught themselves to make sounds similar to speech by rubbing their mandibles across their teeth like playing a violin. It had been necessary as a means of fitting in on New Verdanthia.

Before Krenduun could get out the door, Acktir stepped into the door frame to block their exit, as if by magic. Of course it wasn’t, blattneor had no magic abilities at all, but it still seemed a strange coincidence.

If there were a hierarchy amongst Krenduun’s assistants, Acktir was at the top. She’d been in charge of the performance structure as far back as Krenduun could remember. What she commanded the others to do was seen as law.

She did not look pleased with Krenduun.

“Acktir!” Krenduun said aloud. “What a pleasant surprise.”

Although blattneor were unable to perform magic, their shells were impenetrable to magic, meaning Krenduun couldn’t communicate with them mentally as he had with the truffidd in the audience. Korm? Was that his name? Frustratingly, blattneor had their own form of telepathic communication that could be used exclusively with one another, a perk of the species.

“Whee muzzt kommuune,” Acktir scratched.

“Whatever about?”

Acktir glared at Krenduun, not wasting the energy playing their games.

“Alright, fine. That was nothing. A bit of fun. The boy will be fine.”

“Yoo muzzt maykk truffiddz frrgett.”

“I’m not interested in altering memories today. Let them speak of it.”

“Nno.”

“Then have the piddlim do it.” Krenduun tried to step around Acktir, but she moved to block them.

“Whee muzzt kommuune,” she repeated.

“I could just teleport past you.”

“Yoo arr low on magikk.”

Krenduun paused. “What do we need to talk about?”

“Whee muzzt gayn inzzight intoo yorr reezonzz.”

Krenduun sighed. “I’m bored with the show.” Acktir’s mandibles twitched, but she did not make a sound. “It’s the same every week. I’ve been doing it for ages. My abilities go far beyond what I perform on that stage, and it’s all going to waste.”

“Yoo purrform onzze per weekk. truffiddz muzzt not feer yoo.”

“I hate them, Acktir. I breathe a little bit of fire and they treat me like I’m some kind of god. That boy… when he responded to me, inside my head, I could feel the way he felt about me. I saw me the way he sees me, and it isn’t true. I’m not what he thinks I am. I’m just… a jester. A highly paid jester, but a jester. I’m growing tired of all of it.”

They stopped, seeing a strange look in Acktir’s eyes. Acktir made no attempt to respond, and in fact seemed to have stopped listening. The telepathy.

Krenduun whirled around just in time to see the other assistants approaching them, arm stingers extended.

They lunged.

Krenduun waved an arm in front of his body and disappeared. A golden circle of magical light appeared on the other side of the room, and Krenduun stepped out of it. Between their blue-black scales, Krenduun could see the glow fading. I really shouldn’t have gotten carried away during the show. Flying and firework fingers? That was just tacky.

Barely a second after they stepped out of the portal, the blattneor spotted them. They turned and ran.

A launched stinger bounced off one of Krenduun’s scales. They ran through a doorway and sprinted as fast as they could. Behind them, they heard Acktir buzzing orders & the skittering of blattneor legs in hot pursuit.

Where won’t they look for me? Krenduun thought.

They would have tried teleporting outside of the Palace, but the outer walls were made from blattneor shells, preventing magical travel through them. Besides, Krenduun had never been able to teleport farther than the distance across the performance stage. There was a seemingly exponential magic cost as the distance grew greater.

As they ran, an idea came to them. Risky, they thought, but possibly my only option. By now they’ll have guards, servants, and assistants looking for me everywhere else.

They reached an intersection and turned. They waved an arm and a doorway opened at the end of the hallway. In any other situation, Krenduun wouldn’t have used the magical energy to teleport down a hallway, but right now every second mattered.

They were aiming for the Trophy Room—it was the closest blattneor worship room. If going off-script was grounds for Krenduun’s assassination, they weren’t particularly worried about the consequences of trespassing in a forbidden room. Besides, any worshipping blattneor had probably already been enlisted to hunt them down.

They heard scuttling from around the next corner. Krenduun stopped. I need a place to hide. They snapped their fingers and drew a golden square in the air in front of them. It shimmered for a moment before a tiny room appeared, and Krenduun stepped inside, then quickly turned around and redrew the square in the opposite direction. The doorway disappeared.

Back in the Palace, four blattneor passed through the hallway where Krenduun had just been standing.

Now the issue was determining how long to wait in the Secret Room. If they stepped out too soon, the passing blattneor might hear, but if they waited too long, another group might show up and see the door opening from the rear, where Krenduun wouldn’t be able to see them. Just staying in the Secret Room wasn’t an option either—because the doorway had been closed, there was a finite amount of time before Krenduun would suffocate.

Trust your instincts on this, they thought. You know how fast they move, their patterns—you’ve been living with them forever. Krenduun made a judgment call and opened the door.

This particular ability used a lot of magical energy, and Krenduun could feel their skin stretching with the exertion. Alright, no more magic doorways. To anywhere.

Thankfully, there were no blattneor in sight or earshot. Krenduun breathed a quick sigh of relief and kept running. Running itself was more difficult when they were running low on magic. It felt like being dehydrated.

They made it all the way to the Trophy Room without incident. Krenduun made sure the coast was clear before making a break for the door.

Out of breath but feeling confident, Krenduun carefully pushed the door open. Before their eyes adjusted to the light inside, they felt something sharp and painful sink into the side of their torso. Krenduun glanced down and saw a stinger stuck between two of their scales.

The gelatinous golden magic that held Krenduun’s scales in place began to seep out through the wound, and Krenduun felt their body losing its shape.

“No…” they gasped. The scales beside the wound fell off, clattering to the ground. From the darkness, another stinger flew directly into the opening. A bubble of liquid gold magic burst out as the stinger disappeared into Krenduun’s body.

They gasped as the scales around their neck popped off. Their facial scales dripped onto their chest plates, scraping as they slowly melted to the ground. Krenduun lost control of the direction of their eyes as the contents of their head spilled out from between the scales, leaking down their chest.

They could no longer speak; their mouth had been disconnected from their magic. Their vision went dark.

Krenduun heard the unmistakable sounds of blattneor legs skittering across the stone floor, and then the scratching of mandibles against teeth, but it didn’t sound like words.

Krenduun’s mind went blank.

Published by Chloe Jade Skye

Hello! I'm Chloe Skye. I'm a trans woman currently living in Los Angeles. I write, I podcast, & I think too much. Check out my TV review podcast "Skye & Stone do Television", or my podcast about women in history, "Broads You Should Know".

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