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Kieron: Episode 1

This is a sequel of sorts to the first story about these characters. These are actually retellings of DND adventures in a campaign set in the city of Sharn, a part of the Eberron campaign setting.

“At the core of every living thing is a soul. These souls contain great power, being the source of all great and pure emotion. They are the distilled essence of what makes a person different from a machine. They are passion free from reason.”

On the whole, life was good. Steady employment, steady income, steady bed. I finally had all those things that I had wanted back when he was just a kid. And not just for one night, like when I was just a teenager. Now it was legit. And I was working for the Sharn City Watch, of all people.

Fate is nothing if not a bit ironic.

I checked the time; almost time to go out and act like good watchmen. Patrol time. Working for the Sharn Watch–and getting our money legally–had its perks, but the boring patrols in the uppers were almost not worth it. In a city of towers, the richest are always on top: economically, socially, and geographically. So anyone committing a crime in the higher levels was either stupid, and wouldn’t get far anyways, or very clever, and wouldn’t be committing the crime during the day in broad daylight.

But the City Watch never was very “in touch” with the real goings on of the Sharn streets and skyways. So we had to go out and play like we weren’t really that different. It might work if the whole department didn’t know who we were and what we’d done. But they had heard, as they always do. Between us, we’d seen more combat than most veterans of the Last War, and those were rare enough.

But now they had hired us so that we were on their side instead of on the market to the highest bidder, so they thought. The highest bidder usually thinks that.

Of course, with the new job had come new friends. One was an old buddy of sorts, Halharath the Kalashtar. His claim to fame is some hocus-pocus with his soul, making it a sword. I’m not sure what’s wrong with a real sword, but he likes his way better. Halharath went way back with us, to the first time we’d done stupid stuff and brushed with death for fun and coin. But we ended up leaving him for dead after he got so wounded he was just as good as dead. But apparently he didn’t kick it, because he showed up when the Watch hired us. Figured an old friend would help us.

I checked the time again. Time to go.

Gwent was one step ahead of me. “Let’s go, guys. Patrol duty.”

We all grabbed our cloaks and headed for the door. Looking around, I saw Heartwood hadn’t moved or looked up.

“Not coming?” I asked.

He stopped and turned to look at me. “Someone’s got to finish this report on the Morgrave incident, and I seem to be the only one who doesn’t revile paperwork as the rest of you do. I’m the natural candidate to stay behind and complete the work.” And he turned back to his paper.

I shrugged. He had a point. As I walked out, I heard him snort to himself and chuckle, “Natural candidate. Hmm.”

“Every soul, living, dead, and not yet born, swirls around us, through us, and within us. This group of all souls, this swirling mass of raw power, is called Incarnum. With careful study, one can learn how to harness this turbulence into productive purposes.”

Outside, it was bright. There are some things you just never get used to, and a bright sun in Sharn is one of those. You go so far in man’s buildings lit with magical flames, and then you step out and see the real thing. But only for the rich.

As we began to walk away from the tower, someone tapped me on the shoulder. Turning around, I saw a man who didn’t say anything, but handed me a folded piece of paper.

“What’s this?” Gwent had noticed I wasn’t there and doubled back to see what was going on. Damian was standing off away from us, apparently not wanting to have to get closer to this man than he had. I guess his god doesn’t protect him from bad smells.

“I was just wondering the same thing,” I muttered. The man just nodded at the paper. I couldn’t see any harm in reading, so I broke the crude, unsigned seal, and read the contents:

They’ve gotten much worse. We need help.


I knew instantly and without question what it was about. And it was all bad. The “they” the note referred to were the feral ex-humans known as the Ravers that prowled the shadows of Fallen, my home district right here in Sharn. Nobody really knows where they came from or what they are, but everyone knows what happens if you’re out alone and they get you. Some say you’re eaten, some say worse, some say they make you like them. The most credible explanation I had ever heard was that they were the insane people that the great and glorious rulers of Sharn had dumped in the Lowers when they couldn’t be bothered to build an asylum for them.

I’m not sure if I believed that, but I knew they were bad and if you could avoid them, you did. My mother hadn’t managed to get away in time. I never should have left her…

And the letter came from Faela, Priestess of the Silver Flame, proprieter of the Blackstone Church. She was the only religion the people of Fallen had left. When the Flame abandoned the district to the shadows, she came back and took up residence in the emptied cathedral left behind. From there, she ministered to the people, to my mother, to me, giving what hope she had to lend and what meager medicines she could gather. I’d give even odds which one had more healing power.

Ever since I had left Fallen on to a great future as a hero of the people, I had done what I could for her: donated, helped. I even brought her some illegal drugs we had confiscated from some criminals that had some potent analgesic properties in addition to their narcotic ones. Perhaps her Silver Flame was looking upon me after all. Good life and all that.

So, the Ravers had gotten much worse, and Faela needed our help. I hoped we were up to the task. “New beat today, guys. We’re going to take the Watch somewhere it hasn’t been seen in years: Fallen. No place like home.”

“Incarnum can be shaped in two ways. The first of these is concrete objects: armor, arms, jewelery, each bestowing powers upon its bearer based upon how much of his own soul he invests in them. The true master of Incarnum uses equal parts of himself and others.”

Finding my old home was no easy task, especially since I had never gone to–or come from–it from the skies. I wasn’t even sure if our airboat would be able to find a way in. But with equal parts fiddling and prodding, I managed to get us down right by the Blackstone. As we stepped out, I saw that the Eastern door was hanging off its hinges; I didn’t remember it being that way last time I was down here.

Inside, the church stank of fear. The normal life of terror had been magnified to all out phobia. On the streets, people didn’t even linger, though it was still an hour before midday. Those in the church were clearly only there by necessity: the wounded, sick, and dying. The effect of this place, of my home, on my friends was profound.

Using their experience in war triage, the others went among the people and began tending them as best they could, Gwent and Halharath with potions, Damian with his divine magic. It was no hospital, but battlefield medicine has its efficiencies. Perhaps the Silver Flame hadn’t abandoned these people after all.

I left them behind and sought out Faela, hope incarnate. I found her in the room behind the pulpit, tending to someone with bites so grisly it was unbelievable that any human could have made them. I saw her put her hands upon him and ask the Silver Flame to heal him, some of the wounds congealing and closing, before I knocked.

When I did, she turned around and her eyes lit up. She crossed the room, and swept me into a hug; her lanky half-elven figure made the trip two of her strides. “The light of the Flame truly shines upon this day. It is good to see you again, Kieron.”

“It’s good to see you too. I hope you didn’t think I had forgotten about you and this place.”

A smile spread across her face, curtailed by the ends of her mouth turning into a slight frown. “Nobody truly forgets the wretched land of Fallen. Not if you’ve lived and breathed this place as you and I have. And that’s how we always end up back here.”

I paused a moment, considering her words. She was right: no luxury would ever become as normal as it was to some. This place is who I am.

Changing the subject, I asked, “So how bad is it? Something must be serious to send a parishioner all the way to the Uppers just for me.”

“Not just for you, you little rascal. Many people talk of mighty Kieron and his band of companions. You’re getting quite a reputation; even I am hearing of your great deeds.”

I chuckled at her, “You know most of those are false?”

“Of course, but inside every rumor is a grain of truth, right?” Here, she paused and regained her focus. “They have always taken from us, snatching the outskirts during the dark nights. But now, they’ve taken to hunting us. Actively seeking out prey.

“I know what they’ve personally done to you, and I can’t imagine what that has done to you. But I wouldn’t ask you to do this if it were not important. I fear that soon not even this church will be a sacred sanctuary from evil. This threat needs tending to.

“There is also another concern, a matter of great fear among the people. They speak in whispers of seeing a man clad in golden armor around, especially near the Base. The monsters seem to be especially centered around there, and this outside presence is naturally associated with them. No one has seen him help or hurt one of us, so nobody knows what to think.”

This was the biggest shock. I hadn’t heard anything about this, and his unknown activity so near the Base–the mostly intact base of the Glass Tower that had come crashing down to create Fallen–was very odd.

“To put it bluntly, we need a hero. And from every word that’s reached my ears, you’re exactly the man for the job.”

“The second way Incarnum can be harnessed is into force and energy. Those granted control of Incarnum radiate the energy of the souls they use, chaotic, good, evil, lawful. But they can also harness this energy to strike down those opposite them.”

There was no choice. If it had to be done, it had to be done. Damn the fact that the Ravers gave me a screaming case of the Heebie Jeebies. I gathered what was rapidly becoming my group of living legends, and we set off in the airship.

As we flew over my home, the odd contrast of the boxy air boat to the irregular angles of everything below struck me. When the Tower had fallen and crushed the district of Godsgate, nobody could quite figure out why. Some said accident, more said sabotage, but nobody really took time to investigate because they were in the middle of the Last War. For going on a year after The Fall, nobody came here. That’s when the rumors began to circulate about ghosts and bogeymen that lurked in the shadows. But any uninhabited area in Sharn doesn’t stay that way for long. Not even the haunted ones.

So the poorest folk moved back, looking for a free place to sleep. At first, they found it, until a market was set up and everybody started getting charged rent. Seeing people desperate for hope in a world that kicked them when they were down, Faela had returned to her former station and reopened the Blackstone Church. From there, she ministered to the people of Fallen for some 80 years, healing, guiding, aiding where she could. And she, like myself, had this place in her blood; she couldn’t leave this broken land if she wanted to.

And from up in the air, the skyline wasn’t even that bad, if a little jagged. Jagged and … glowing? I began to steer our craft towards a golden light atop one of the taller rubble piles. As we drew closer, I saw that the glow was a man.

It clicked. “Faela told me to watch out for this guy. We don’t know if he’s friendly, so be on your guard,” I muttered to my shipmates.

As we drew closer, I saw why people had spoken of him – it? – so reverently. He was not Human, but resembled one well enough, and wore armor that would probably fit a bulky man. But every piece of metal he bore, from his platemail to his sword, was made of what appeared to faintly luminous gold.

“Who are you and what brings you to the land of Fallen?” I called to him across the gap between rubble and ship.

His deep voice rumbled, “I am Astor, of the Pentifex Order. I will explain what I may once you allow me to join you and make this conversation a little more private. I assure you, I wish you no harm.”

I weighed the options quickly, and in the end it came down to the simple fact that villains don’t wear gold. I eased the boat over, that he might board, and the others stepped back. As he edged closer to me, Damian leaned and whispered, “Are you sure this is a good idea?”

In truth, I didn’t, but I told him, “If he wanted to fight us, why would he volunteer to be surrounded?” This didn’t seem to entirely satisfy him, but he didn’t have time to ask any more questions before Astor was aboard.

I took us a little further towards the base to where I knew no people dared live and set the craft down. “Explain yourself.”

“Those that would use Incarnum must have an unwavering commitment to their beliefs: the employment of souls is no time for maybes and half-measures. One must believe and allow that belief to carry him through.”

Gwent sat down and rested against the side of the ship, and Damian reclined on the gunwales. I stayed right where I was seated at the rear by the air-rudder.

Astor began: “Each of us has, despite the critics, a soul. It is the core of our being, it guides us through life on intuitive impulses. Every soul ever born and those unborn form a pool of energy called Incarnum. It is this that grants my Pentifex Brethren and me our abilities. In the natural order of things, when a person is born, his soul is plucked from the swirling morass and implanted into his body. From there, it guides an earthly body about its existence, and is occasionally manifested, like by your friend here.”

He paused and gestured at Halharath, who had been forming his mindblade as a mental exercise. “Yet very occasionally,” Astor continued, “a soul’s body dies in unfavorable circumstances, while filled with a rush of emotion: panic, anger, elation, inspiration. This causes the soul to linger, apart from the Incarnum, for a time, having an effect on the place of death.

“If you’ve ever been to the Silver Flame itself in the Cathedral in Flamekeep, you might have felt a great feeling of awe in the presence of a god. Yet you were almost surely touched by the spirit of Miron, who gave her life there in joyful sacrifice.

“This effect does, however, have a converse. When the Glass Tower fell, so many souls died in extreme confusion, panic, and fear that they became what we call the Lost. These souls come to crave death. They do not return to the great pool of Incarnum, but stay and take control of other souls’ bodies, using them to kill and find more to make like themselves. These are the beings you people have melodramatically dubbed Ravers.

“But the situation is even less simple than that. Before the Tower fell, it contained a properly functioning Dolmen Circle. This conduit of positive Incarnum became overwhelmed, by all the Lost and was corrupted to their …”

Here, Astor paused. He seemed to be casting about for the proper word. A second later, as each of us began to stir, he found what he was looking for.

“flow. The Dolmen Circle became corrupted to the Losts’ flow.” Feeling a tightness in my legs and heart, I got up and began to pace.

My mind was reeling. What did this all mean had happened to my mother after all? Was she really eaten or some other grisly fate?

“It now serves as not only an opening for the evil Hated Incarnum, the hellish half-brother of Incarnum, but also as a magnet for it, and by consequence, the Lost. The Pentifex Order, of which I am a member, has seen fit to close this Dolmen Circle, if it can even yet be called that, forever. The world will be both lessened and bettered by this, and it must be done. Soon.”

At the moment, I would have followed Astor into the Mournland on a quest for his lost lucky coin, after such a speech. His glowing blue eyes stayed fixed upon me. “The choice lays with you, whether or not to help me. I could do the work alone, but to deal with all of the Lost individually would be most wearisome and somewhat dangerous. Do as your soul tells you.”

Gwent, ever the orator, piped up: “It’s the right thing to do.”

I sat there, reeling. This was too much for my mind to take in. You did not fight the Ravers, you ran. You ran for your life and hoped it wasn’t hungry enough to follow for long. And you hoped that someone would come along and save you. A hero in shining armor. Damian decided for us, saying, “Then we are agreed that this threat to the followers of the Silver Flame must be ended. Let us go.” I broke out of my thoughts enough to roll my eyes at Damian. He can’t help it, it’s just his way.

Astor was still looking at me, and unmoving monolith of gold and blue. I said, “You heard the boys. Let’s go.”

Only then did he nod and say, “Take us up and to the base of the Glass Tower.”

The ship was a little sluggish, but we didn’t have far to go, so I didn’t push it. As we glided silently to the Base, my nostrils were filled with the stench of them. The smell of pure fear.

“As with anything mortal and involving evil, some must stand to stem the flow and prevent the spread of darkness. We, the Brothers of the Pentifex Order, do this, that others might see for themselves and believe as we do, seeing firsthand the power of the soul.”

Too soon, we were there and I set the ship down. The gloom showed what was, unmistakably, the round curvature of the Glass Tower. It appeared the Base had remained almost intact, just tilted a little and cracked. Ahead was a doorway inside.

Outside the door were two ex-humans rummaging through some debris. They didn’t seem to notice or care about our landing. Astor strode up to them, and they turned as he approached. Their eyes locked on to him, and at once, I recognized the dark eyes, the ones that you wake up from in a cold sweat. Astor took their measure and struck each down. I had been away from Fallen too long; I didn’t recognize the people whom they had been.

Without pausing, Astor swept inside. I hurried to follow. He lead us through a number of hallways and turns, and came to two dead ends. He seemed to be navigating by feel alone, as through he could sense the Dolmen Circle and was finding the most direct line to it. Along the way, as he came across Lost, he dispatched them with the same motion as the others outside. There was something solemn and ritualistic about his killing.

Shortly before we came to the Circle, he began holding up his hands, now glowing blue, as he made symbols in the air with them began chanting words I’ve never heard before or since.

The corridor we had been walking down opened up and into a room with five stone pillars of sorts, a bunch of runes on the floors and walls, two Warforged, and … a Minotaur. The beast was covered with what appeared to be pouches and bags and pockets. Each’s eyes glowed with the same red of the Hated Incarnum, even the Warforged.

The Minotaur charged Astor, who was in the lead, but who sidestepped the rush and continued chanting. “This is where you must prevail, Kieron the Second!” he yelled, momentarily breaking his chant.

I didn’t have much time to think before the Minotaur turned to me as though a particularly delicious morsel of meat. Gwent, drawing his hooked hammer, charged at the Warforged to waylay them before the interrupted Astor. Between blows from the beast-man attacking me, I called out, “Warforged have souls?”

“They do now,” came Astor’s somewhat sarcastic reply.

“Heartwood would take umbrage to th—oof!” Gwent shouted, taking down one of the machines as the other got him from behind.

“He’s very good at that!” I sniped back.

Damian shook his head in frustration and drew his ranseur. He had been gesturing and bellowing at the Minotaur to little effect. “I cannot exorcise this taint from them!” he cried.

Astor replied, “Of course not. These souls now belong to these bodies as much as yours does to your body.

After some pitched fighting, Gwent finished the other Warforged just as Damian’s ranseur pierced the skull of the Minotaur. We all whirled around, to find Astor seated, seemingly meditating, radiating the most beautiful shade of blue. He spoke some final words and all was still for a moment. And then the stone closest to me split diagonally along its width and slid smoothly apart, top sliding down and thudding as it fell over to the ground. Our gold friend looked to me and said, “It is done.”

He arose from his kneeling position and went over to the Minotaur, and began searching through the sundry pouches and pockets. He seemed to speak to no-one in particular but I knew his words held special meaning for me. “The leader of the Lost in any area is the strongest and most feral creature, who defends itself best from any usurpers or outside threats. It is this leader’s peculiar duty to keep an item from each of his followers who dies. We’re not sure why they do it, but it seems to be an innate instinct.” At these words, Astor opened a pouch and pulled out some papers, on which were written “Kieron” in a curvy feminine script I did not recognize. “I believe your mother would want you to have this,” he said, placing them in my hand. He also removed a scroll with a strange seal from his pack and handed it to me. “This will explain much I’ve not the time to make clear.”

He walked over to the entrance, and removed his haversack, dropping it on the floor against the wall. “For your service to the Brotherhood, you will be rewarded most handsomely with items usually reserved only for members of the Order. Use them wisely and use them well. They are no different in function than steel.”

“Well, what now?” asked Gwent.

“No more Lost will be created here, and such that live will drift away. They have lost their reason to exist, to protect the corrupted Dolmen Circle and make way for the further release of their Incarnum to this world. The lucky ones will drift away into the countryside and be as beasts. The unfortunates will be caught and dealt with by your kind — with no grasp of their true nature.”

I turned to him from my staring at the letter he had recovered and said, “What about you? Where will you go now?”

“I must return to my people and my Order in the lands of Xen’drik. I hope that we may one day meet again, Kieron the Second.”

“Second what?!” I yelled at the glowing blue footprints rapidly fading that showed his hasty retreat.

“Maybe that will tell you,” Gwent said, pointing at the papers held in my hands.


“My Brothers and I knew that you would come, following in the steps of your father. You could not have kept away.”

We opened the back door to the office from the airship dock, and it hit me in the face like Magda’s frying pan: something was wrong. The front door ajar, the scattered papers, and Heartwood slumped over his desk. A metallic stench hung heavy in the air.

Gwent rushed forward to examine the rapidly eroding body. Pointing at the rapid conversion of wood to dust, he said, “The Warforged were crafted to be reduced to mere dust in minutes after their death. It was a measure to enable them to be employed in endless waves without building a wall of their bodies. He is freshly dead.”

Damian leapt to the door and out into the hallway. Seeing no one, he set off down the hall towards the front door of the keep. As the door swung closed behind him, I saw how it was the killer had gained entry: a gaping hole in the door, as large as my hand, where our lock had been. “Hey, Gwent.” He looked up at me and I nodded towards the door. The soldier sighed and turned back to his work, examining the rapidly decaying wooden Warforged.

Just then, Damian pushed the door in and walked through, glaring at the hole. “Nobody saw anything.”

I slouched over to my chair and collapsed in it. I dropped my papers on the desk and picked up the Minotaur’s note. I unfolded it, and a second folded page fell out. The first sheet help more of the curly hand:


I am sorry I had to keep this from you. I could not lose you as I did your father.

-Your Mother

The second sheet also had my name on the outside, but this in a man’s rough writing. It read:

Kieron the Second,

When you are old enough to read these words, their meaning will not fault. These words are all that is left. Though we have never met, my only son, I hope you know that I would have been there to watch you grow, but I heard my call and I did go.

Now, your mission lies ahead of you, as mine did me, so long ago, to help the helpless ones, who all look up to you, and defend them to the end.

Fight, my proud son,

-Kieron the Senior

The scroll Astor had given me contained a personal message from his Order to me, telling of Incarnum, the flow of souls, and the father I had never known. I reread each in turn, and sat, letting it all wash over me.

“Your father’s soul was freed to join the flow of Incarnum many years ago, greatly against our will. But now you must take up his sword and fight in his place. Believe in yourself and you shall prevail.” –Astor’s Scroll

I studied the ceiling, and myself.

Categories: Kieron
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