Even from miles away, Aliester could see the forest burning. When he began his long journey to this remote and forsaken corner of Dereth, he could see the vague orange glow on the horizon and use it as a lodestone to navigate by. For all his years in Dereth, Aliester had gone on precious few of these wilderness rangings, and this was the first he'd attempted in the dark, by himself. So he was grateful that his ultimate destination was almost literally a beacon, standing out against the darkness of night in the Direlands. He was happy that he would at least be able to find the burning forest easily, without his dutiful if somewhat impatient nephew Ardry to guide him and keep him from falling into the chasms and crevasses that were so prevalent in the landscape of this region.
Aliester had doused his torch when he was still a league away from the site. The light by the burning forest was so bright, even through the unnatural pall that hung over the entire graveyard, that the landscape that far out had been illuminated well enough for an old scholar like Aliester the Loquacious to navigate the treacherous, hilly terrain that surrounded this tormented valley. After half an hour of further walking, he was close enough now to smell the smoke of the forest's perpetual flames. He paused briefly to consult his notes once more, and smiled when he noticed that now there was enough ambient light from those eternally burning trees for him to read the scouts' reports without any additional light.
Aliester was excited. He'd been devoted to studying the graveyard from the moment it first rumbled up from the depths of the ground in a cataclysmic upheaval months ago. He'd eagerly read every report he could find about the geomantic significance of the event, and devoured every piece of extant lore about the House of Mhoire, its destruction, and subsequent torment at the hands of Rytheran and Geraine and the assembled undead nobility of Dericost.
For months he'd tried to convince the scouts, including his nephew Ardry, to try and make some kind of meaningful contact with Lord Mhoire or his wife, the Lady Tairla, who were still known to occasionally patrol the ghostly premises of the graveyard. He'd been especially intrigued by the vague and fragmentary stories involving this infamous Jester of the graveyard, who had apparently tried to play a fool's game, balancing his loyalty to the Mhoires against a risky plan to cooperate with Rytheran, with disastrous consequences for all involved.
Of course not one of the scouts, not even Ardry, would indulge him in even a simple interview request. "Interview Lord Mhoire?" they'd ask him, and look at him like he was a simpleton. Even when he had offered to write the questions out for them in old Dericostian. He'd asked Ardry to try and get the Jester to answer a few questions about what language the Book of Eibhil was written in, and Ardry had been reduced to a state of offended apoplexy for no reason Aliester could fathom. Whatever their reasons or justifications, it added up to the same thing: they would not try to get Aliester the information he needed from these direct sources, and thus Aliester would be frustrated in his search for true wisdom, for a real understanding of just what had happened in this terrible graveyard between the Mhoires and the lords of Dericost.
And that's why he'd chosen to take matters into his own hands. While he was not a skilled woodsman or tracker, Aliester was very knowledgeable about Dericostian society and the ways of the undead. He'd read extensively about social rituals and etiquette in the royal court of that lost empire. He was confident he'd be able to achieve an understanding with these notable undead that was beyond the capabilities of the uncouth, unrefined woodsmen and soldiers who typically worked as scouts in this area. And if violence truly was inevitable, he was accomplished enough in magical skill that he was sure he'd be able to handle whatever crisis arose. The more Aliester thought about it, the more he was convinced that he would have been the right person to investigate this graveyard when it first appeared, instead of receiving slapdash, inadequate reports from scouts who were not properly trained to treat with undead nobility.
Aliester had been so lost in his thoughts that he almost walked right into the confines of the burning forest before preparing himself. He caught himself just in time and paused at the edge of the burning tree-line. He stopped momentarily to refresh the protective spells he'd cast over himself, and reached into his pack to find the notes he'd prepared for this.
As he drew the parchment from his pack, he heard a sound like a tree branch falling and hitting a few other branches on its way down. He looked up and saw a giant tree, spectral and man-shaped and on fire, moving in his direction. Sprites of flame danced around the tree and seemed to follow in its path like living retainers. As the huge flaming tree shambled closer, he could see a face on it, an angry and tortured face carved right onto the bark. More of the fiery sparks danced around its face, partially obscuring its frightful aspect.
Aliester cleared his throat nervously and began reading out loud from his parchment. It was a meticulously prepared and researched speech, written in the Dericostian dialect that would have been current ten thousand years ago during the ascendancy of the court of Geraine. It was a well-written speech, too. It acknowledged the ancient glory of the House of Mhoire, expressed sympathy for the injustices that had befallen them, established Aliester's own credentials as a credible and important scholar, and politely requested a meeting with Lord or Lady Mhoire so that Aliester could present himself officially to them within their domain and beg for a few moments of their indulgence to speak with them.
The tree-like creature loomed over him, shedding ash and flame, as he read his prepared statement. When it first approached, the creature had first seemed ready to strike out at him, but paused as he hailed it in the language that had been familiar to the Mhoires and their servants. One might even have thought that it waited politely for Aliester to finish reading his message. Aliester certainly seemed convinced that he had penetrated the creature's rage and hunger for destruction, and he gained confidence in his recitation as he went on. Concluding with a respectful but genuinely funny joke that only worked as a pun in the ancient Dericostian tongue, Aliester bowed to precisely the correct degree and awaited a response from the momentarily docile tree-creature.
After a moment of what seemed like indecision, the tree cocked one giant arm-like limb back and took a swing at Aliester. The old man wasn't fast enough to dodge, and the first blow knocked him heavily to the ground and scrambled his senses. It took him a few seconds to be able to see straight again. When he looked up, he saw fiery spirits cascading from the tree's many branches, landing on the ground to swarm all around him. He watched the tree twist its trunk to wind up for another crushing blow, and Aliester's last thought was a sudden flash of sympathy for his nephew Ardry.
In a dark and roughly hewn cave tunnel far beneath Freebooter Keep, a group of men waited by a huge, heavy metal door that was locked and barred with a beam as thick as a ship's mast. The only sound in the damp confines of the tunnel came from the soft crackle of a single torch, held by the man in the back. Every other man waiting there kept their eyes forward, on the door, to keep the light of the torch from interfering with their dark-vision. Every man there was dressed in black or dark grey, and kept a dagger or a sword belted at his side.
Finally, there was a flash of purple light on the other side of the door, visible through thin gaps in the stonework between the door and the tunnel walls. Shortly afterward there was a knock from the other side. Three knocks, then two: the pre-arranged signal. At the back of the group, the man with the torch grunted, and the two men nearest the door unlocked it, lifted the wooden beam barring the door, and slowly pushed it open.
In the chamber beyond the the door, blinking against the torchlight, stood another group of men in black and grey clothing, similarly armed. They were clustered around a pile of a dozen wooden crates. Their leader shielded his eyes with one gloved hand and stepped boldly forward.
"Delivery, sir," he called, looking to the man with the torch.
"Bring the first box forward," the man with the torch called. "I'd like to inspect these things meself afore we stock them."
The leader of the new arrivals grumbled. "Master Mekhar didn't trouble me with this. We got a schedule to keep, or the boss will get cross with us."
"I'll take none o' that guff from ye, Lugo," the man with the torch called back. "Ye can tell himself that I insisted upon the inspection." He gestured, and two of his men stepped forward with crowbars.
"You take too many liberties, MacTavish," Lugo complained, even as he motioned two men to carry a crate forward.
MacTavish chuckled as he came forward to stand with Lugo. "That's a strange thing to tell the laird o' Freebooter Keep."
Lugo and MacTavish watched from the side as their men opened the crate. When the lid was off, MacTavish held the torch out over it, shedding light on the extremely valuable and perilous cargo within.
Without waiting on ceremony, Lugo reached into the crate and withdrew a single-edged sword with a curving blade. He handed it to MacTavish for inspection. The metal was mottled and heavy. The blade itself had a heavy chopping edge, almost as much a butcher knife as a battle weapon. The hilt was spiked and almost grotesque in its detailed carvings. It was a vicious and ugly weapon, and it seemed to thrum with malevolent power. Even the torch light seemed to dim a little in its presence.
"Vile thing," MacTavish murmured, even as he admired the weapon's elaborate detailing. He tried an experimental chop through the air, feeling the blade's weight and balance. "I suppose ye'll no tell me where himself got this load of weaponry?"
Lugo laughed. "Boss doesn't even tell us. I just deliver them, Master MacTavish. You want your questions answered, you know you'll have to ask the boss directly."
MacTavish nodded solemnly as he handed the sword back. "Aye, I knew that. Still, I had to ask."
Lugo gestured at the rest of the crates. "Will you want to inspect the rest of the shipment?"
MacTavish shook his head. "No, that'll be fine. I just wanted to see one of the bloody things for meself." He tossed Lugo a payment pouch that rattled when caught. After inspecting the contents of the pouch under torchlight, Lugo waved his men forward. They started carrying the crates out of their chamber and into the tunnel, where MacTavish's men took them and started carrying them back up into the main complex of Freebooter Keep.
It didn't take long to move the rest of the shipment. When they were done handing off crates, one of Lugo's men cracked a gem and created a portal for the rest of them to step through.
Lugo was the last to depart. He paused in front of the portal and turned back to MacTavish. He reached into his belt pouch and held out an oblong, silk-wrapped object. "Take it," he said. "Boss's orders. He wanted me to give you one of the blades quietly, free of charge. Token of his esteem and everything. He knows you favor daggers."
MacTavish hesitated. "I'm a merchant and a freeholder now. Been a while since I had to do me own murder. Got some hired hands to do that for me now."
Lugo waved the package. "I'd take it, if I were you. You're not in the most scrupulous business out here. Sometimes murder happens whether you plan it or not."
MacTavish laughed. "That's the bloody truth." He took the blade, nodding his thanks as he tucked it into his boot. "Thank himself for me, then."
Lugo was about to respond when a call came down the tunnel. "Master MacTavish! There's combat outside the walls! Some adventurers caught some society guards sneaking about the perimeter!"
MacTavish paused to shake hands. "Well, good luck on your other deliveries, then," he said. "I'd best get back up there. The murderin' business waits for no man."
Greetings and welcome to the September Release Notes! This month the team [made] many changes to how some of our newer systems work. Many of these changes are based directly on player feedback we have gathered over the past couple of weeks, and we thank everyone who let us know what they thought about our 100th content update. Going into the last update, the team was aware that there were going to be some needed adjustments, particularly to drop rates and the new tier of treasure. The adjustments have been made and are listed below.
So without further delay, lets see what happening this month in Asheron's Call!
Miscellaneous Changes and Improvements
The Society NPC's will now allow players to hand in a piece of society armor they don't want, as the society texts state they should.
The timer on the PvP towns has been reduced from 72 hours to 68 hours.
The drop rate on the Pyre Skeletons has been increased so that players can complete their tasks more easily.
Pyre Shrouds now stack to 20.
The Drop rate on mana shards has been increased substantially. Players should now find these with more ease.
An issue where society armor was spawning with racial requirements has been resolved.
With the new level 8 spells we found that there were several older spells that would override the newer more powerful ones. This should now be fixed and spells should now work as they are supposed to.
Casinos have received some long needed attention. Some of the new attractions include Carenzi races and monster fights that players can wager on. [Note: monster fights have been delayed until the next patch. See Known Issues for more details]
New PvP oriented weapons have been added to the Black market vendors. These weapons are known as Blighted weapons and will feature increased stats on the weapon, but they will decay after 24 hours.
Several quests have had their rewards updated to include the drop of keys to be used for the new higher loot tier. These quests are:
Aerbax's Prodigal Shadow
Aerbax's Prodigal Olthoi
Aerbax's Prodigal Harbinger
The PK/NPK timer on all worlds (except Darktide) has been reduced to 15 minutes.
The shard turn in NPC has been changed to 25 shards and a new NPC has been placed by him that takes 10 shards. You can hand in to the 10 shard NPC 5 times a week.
The Recruiters for the societies will now tell you if you're below 180 you can't join instead of sending you to the portal which has a level 180 limit.
There is now a 5 minute timer placed on a player who uses the PK banners in a town to take control of it. This should allow other players to have time to arrive to defend the towns and prevent one person from soloing the town before aid can arrive.
Vendors and archmages in society halls have had their speech fixed.
So there are just some of the things we have in store for Asheron's Call in September. Please remember that along with everything listed here, there are several new quests and exciting things going into the game for the September event.