(The Marak Kender are from the Taladas Boxed Set, which has been discontinued by TSR)

Living in isolated Marak valleys of the Steamwall, well down on the lower slopes, are a cluster of small kender communities. These kender (a race that is somewhat rare in Taladas) are unique in Taladas and perhaps throughout all of Krynn. They, perhaps more than any others throughout Taladas, have undergone a distinct change in their way of life.

Known as the Marak kender for the region of their birth, these kender are physically like the rest of their race, though perhaps a bit longer in the face. In dress they favor grays and blacks, colors that fade into the gloomy stone walls of the canyons that make up their homeland. The typical costume is a shirt, heavy trousers, and hard-soled moccasins. A hooded half-cape, permeated with wax or fat, is frequently worn since the weather is often foul and rainy. Although they grow their hair long, they bind it in tight, spiraling buns or head-hugging braids.

Their weapons, too, are very traditional for their people, although modified to their particular conditions. Living in the rocky mountains, they are experts at flinging stones. Lacking the stands of straight-limbed wood needed to make the sling-like hoopak, the Marak kender instead use the springier twisted wood of the Steamwall's forests to make bows for hoopaui or stone-bows. These weapons, similar to a crossbow, fire pellets carefully chosen for their size and shape.

In addition to the hoopaui, they also use short swords, spears, daggers, and axes. Perhaps because of their larcenous natures they seem to carry a great number of magical weapons. Most of the time they wear no armor in particular, relying on their natural ability to hide and camouflage. When they do gird for war, their armors are amazing collections of stolen, cast-off, and captured pieces--a helmet from a League legionnaire, the breastplate of a Thenolite, a full suit of preCataclysm dwarven armor (liberally stuffed with pillows to fit the slimmer kender), or a Hitehkel gnome's breathing helmet and a bone breastplate taken from a hobgoblin. They present a tremendously interesting and amusing spectacle when arrayed for battle.

However, what truly makes these kender different from all others is their philosophies. Once the Marak kender were a carefree and happy-go-lucky race just like the rest of their kind. Their curiosity, humor, and cheerfulness were quite remarkable and infuriating. It seems they had retained the sense of innocence and childishness from the day that Reorx touched them to bestow his blessing, as the Marak say. Others, particularly the dwarves, agree that Reorx touched them all right, touched their wits and made them addled.

The Marak kender lived in a series of isolated and sheltered valleys. To the north were the humans of the Aurim Empire. To the east were the elves. Neither threatened the kender nor came too close to their safe lands. The hobgoblins presented only a minor threat. The kender believed they lived under the best of all times. The good gods loved them like children and protected them from all evil. Then came the Cataclysm.

The Cataclysm unleashed on the cheerful, smiling kender horrors beyond any in their memory. Worse still, they were horrors wrought by the gods themselves. No man could rend all their homes or crash down the walls of their valleys onto entire villages. No elf could cause rains of ash for weeks, poisoning their water. No hobgoblin could light the sky with the glow of volcanic fires, heralding the scouring flows of lava. Only the gods could do such things.

Suddenly the gods the kender always knew as protectors had turned their backs and betrayed the faithful kender. They never imagined their punishment was accidental. For a time they blamed themselves, believing their innocent trust had somehow become wrongful pride. Not surprisingly, this view did not last as the kender came to blame the gods and not themselves.

Today, their friendly cheerfulness has vanished, replaced by grim suspicion. Although they remain incurably curious, it is the curiosity of fear and paranoia. They are curious not because they just want to know but because they want to know whether it will hurt or help them. If they meet a stranger, they want to know everything about him--who he is and what he has on him--to see if he presents a threat or danger. To this end they constantly peek, poke, and pilfer.

Their understanding of morals, especially regarding property, have not changed. Anything not nailed down is theirs if they want it. The rationalization has changed. Now they take things to ''check them out." Caught with his hand in the pouch of a wizard, the Marak kender says, ''I'm only making sure nothing in there is dangerous. Of course I kept this wand I found in there. After all, you might decide to use it against me sometime." The Marak naturally assume that everyone and everything is a potential threat against them.

Nor has their sense of humor totally abandoned them. It has, however, become a very black humor. They still delight in fun, defined as harsh practical jokes and mischief. The preferred targets of these jokes are outsiders, particularly non-kender. Failing that, the jokes are used as a method of revenge and comeuppance among the kender. They have developed an elaborate system of face based on who has last had the better of whom.

Kender society is built around strongly knit families and relations. Generally all those within a valley are related, tracing back to a common group of ancestors. The Cataclysm has strengthened the family bond of the kender to the point of fanaticism. Insults to the family are not tolerated and have been the cause of more than one murder. Long-standing feuds have been started by the slighting comments of one kender against the family of another. Meetings between the kender of different valleys are strained and formal to avoid accidental insults by either side.

The kender live by working their small farms. Good lands in the Steamwall are rare. Fields close to the rivers needed to irrigate the fields are often dead, poisoned by those same rivers. Fields further away are dry and often ash-choked. It takes much hard work to grow even poor crops in the soil, but nonetheless the kender try. This hardship too has added to their bitter outlook on life.

The fields are scattered widely throughout the valley floors, while the kender cluster in small villages for defense. The Marak are no builders, so the villages appear to be lightly fortified with a few simple walls of field stone. However, the kender, following their natures, have prepared rings of devious traps, harassing and deadly. Many times the hobgoblins have made assaults on kender villages only to break and run before ever reaching the stone walls that mark the edge of the village.

Apart from the attacks of lone creatures, hobgoblin raids are the greatest threat to the kender. Having learned by painful experience, the hobgoblin attempt to make raids on workers in the fields, well away from the deadly traps of the villages. However, sometimes they become ambitious and lay siege to a village, using special methods.

For days they will lie up in the hills overlooking the region, watching the movements of the kender, trying to see the routes in and out of the village. Once they are satisfied, they move in. The attack normally begins at night as the hobgoblins slip out of the mountains in small groups and encircle the town. Once the ring is closed, they begin the dangerous business of probing for the safest approach to the village. Scouts are sent out to search along the routes. More often than not, the hobgoblins fail to see all the traps. In their villages, the kender can hear the screams of the scouts as they ''discover'' undetected traps and by the noise know that the siege has begun.

What comes thereafter is a battle of wits. By night the hobgoblins probe and advance further along a safe route. During the day they lay up, ready to defend their newly won advances. By day and night, the kender seek to slip out and make new traps. By night the hobgoblins continue their probing, seeking out the new traps and attempting to advance farther toward the town.

The security of the kender depends on the effectiveness of these insidious defenses. It is rare for a kender village to have enough males to withstand a full hobgoblin assault. Once the hobgoblins clear a large enough route through to assault in force, the outcome of the battle is usually decided even before it begins.

Because the kender are known to be extraordinary collectors of things, it is assumed they have managed to collect great treasures. If they have, they certainly do not show it. They do not wear fine clothing, flash wonderful jewelry, or carry sharp steel weapons. This has led to the persistent rumor that the Marak kender are a race of misers, hiding their wealth away from all sight. Certainly their villages must have hidden storerooms filled with wonders beyond belief, or so the belief goes. Like all rumors, no one can actually say he has seen these things, but everyone has it on the best of authority that it is so. Even the kender have come to believe these rumors, always thinking the kender in the next valley are secretly hiding some powerful item.

Of course, what these rumors fail to take into account is just what the kender consider valuable. Even the hardships that changed their views on the world and life could not alter this. True, they do ''collect'' magical items and weapons, but only to prevent others from using these things against them. Bright baubles, odd bits of information, unreadable scrolls, and other things (that just might be potentially dangerous) are treasured as great finds. The treasure troves of the kender are likely to be overlooked by others who see only a pile of junk.

Wander Home