Ardry swatted at his neck in irritation. The airborne insects of Moarsman Isle were always a nuisance, but they seemed to be particularly dense and active today. He'd spent years as a scout, stalking through every fetid swamp and jungle Dereth had to offer in search of the information his superiors sought, and all his long experience had done nothing to erase his revulsion for the swarming pests that seemed to make a particular point of flying into his eyes, nose, and mouth.
He was trying his best to remain hidden as he traversed the home island of the servants of T'thuun. The defeat and further exile of their master had done little to slow the Moarsmen and Sclavus who worshipped the ancient demon. Indeed, it seemed like more and more powerful minions of the Creeping Blight kept showing up in the world. Right now, scholars like his uncle Aliester believed that the Blighted Ones were taking advantage of the instability in the ley lines that their master had created and that the secretive Apostate Virindi were doing their best to continue. Ardry was on the island to see if the scattered reports were true, that another High Priest of T'thuun had arrived.
He was near the southern end of the island, hiding from Moarsman patrols in a thick stand of broad-leafed trees. Ahead of him, occupying the southern tip of the island, was a large, high-walled fortress occupied by Moarsmen and Sclavus. It stood to reason that if a new High Priest was about, such a creature would show up there, to lord over the less highly placed servants of the Blight. The trouble was that these trees were the last cover before the fortress itself, and to get up to get a good look inside, he'd have to crest a barren hill and cross one of three long bridges that were the only landward approaches to the installation.
It was a quandary, and Ardry felt uncharacteristically indecisive about how to proceed. His chief asset as a scout had always been his ability to ignore fear and plunge into a perilous and almost certainly lethal situation for the sake of the information he sought. Tonight, though, he could not shake off his hesitation.
He swatted another bug before it could alight on his face, and looked up the hill. Just over the hill's rise, he could make out the glow of light from the watchfires of the Blighted ones.
“Maybe if I just charge in there, that'll lure the High Priest out…” He thought about the massive number of T'thuun's servants that lived in the fortress. “And maybe I'll survive long enough to actually get a look at their new Grand Poobah Snake,” he muttered sarcastically to himself.
He looked up at the tallest nearby tree and wondered if he could get a good look inside the fortress if he climbed high enough into its branches. “Worth a try,” he thought to himself. He huffed and snorted to clear the latest swarm of insects from his face, then began making his way quietly to the base of the tree.
Before climbing, he sat motionlessly for a few moments to try and ensure that there were no sentries or patrols moving nearby. After one last cautious look around the area, he began to climb the tree, slowly and silently.
Ardry was halfway up the trunk, reaching for a large branch to crawl out onto, when an arrow whirred out of the night and sunk into the meat of his bicep, almost pinning his arm to the tree trunk. A half-second later, a lightning bolt slammed into him. His arm already weakened, he lost his grip and tumbled to the ground, landing awkwardly on his legs. He felt and heard the bone in his left hip crack. Overwhelmed with pain, he went numb and became curiously detached from what was going on.
Instead of concentrating on using a portal gem to escape, Ardry lay on his back and watched the tree he'd been climbing catch fire, lit up by the lightning bolt that had knocked him out of its branches. He was too far gone into shock to panic when two hulking Sclavus in battle armor came to stand over him, pinning his arms to the ground with their big, scaly feet.
He did register surprise when a human appeared between the Sclavus, looking down on him with a smirk. In the flickering light of the fire spreading across the tree's branches, he could not make out much, but he could tell that this was a female, dressed in green scale mail and wearing a tabard that marked her as a servant of the Creeping Blight. She said nothing and did nothing, seemingly content to stare down at Ardry while her Sclavus goons held him down.
Ardry took a few moments to try and clear his head, practicing some of the pain-dulling mental exercises that his friends among the assassins had taught him, and finally recovered enough of his wits to be surprised by the woman's presence. It took him a few more moments to realize what was going on here, what her significance was.
“Wait,” he mumbled. “Are you the new High Priest?”
The woman laughed. “I suppose I should not be surprised that my pet's lightning attack scrambled your wits.” She bent down to crouch over him and touched the side of his face, almost tenderly. She was not hideously deformed like other servants of the Blight, but there was a chilling darkness behind her eyes that was more unsettling than even the most filth-encrusted Moarsman.
“Yes, you poor misguided spy. I am the new High Priestess of T'thuun. And I promise you, whatever pain you are ignoring now will be as nothing compared to the torments we will inflict upon you.”
She looked up at her guards. “Truss this one up and bring him inside to await my pleasure.”
The armored Sclavus hissed their assent. They bound his limbs, provoking new heights of agony in Ardry as they kept moving his broken leg. Then they slid a hood over his face. The all-too-human face of the High Priestess, luridly lit by the flames of the burning tree, was the last thing he saw before darkness closed in.
The workshops in the Arcanum motherhouse had always been a bustling center of magical research and experimentation, but today they buzzed and rattled at a particular pitch, suggesting a heightened level of activity and excitement.
In the deepest chambers of the workshop level, isolated from the other rooms, behind doors guarded by royal soldiers, the renowned Sho metalsmith Koga Hideki was working on something new and exciting. A cache of artifacts had been unearthed and brought to the Arcanum for analysis, and Hideki was the first to get a good look at them. The artifacts consisted of pieces of shaped metal, obviously from some kind of technologically advanced source. There were recognizable human-like body parts in the pile – arms, torsos, legs…
Hideki had a forearm assembly propped up in a specially constructed pyreal workbench. He'd had to construct it himself according to his own specifications. He was tapping the metal surfaces carefully with a small pyreal hammer, just listening to its vibrations. An outside observer might think he was wasting time or just plain crazy, but Hideki was one of a handful of the most skilled metalworkers in all of Dereth, one of the fabled developers of the Shadowhunter Armor, and there was a method to his work.
He tapped his hammer on the narrow end of the forearm and listened to its tone. He wrote something in his notebook, stared hard at the artifact for a minute, and tapped the artifact a few inches further down. He recorded another observation, nodding to himself in satisfaction, and picked up the hammer again.
Before he could give it another sounding, he heard voices coming from outside the thick, locked doors that secured this room. They were voices he recognized, and he did not look forward to the interruption. Soon enough, the doors opened and one of the guards ushered through a pair of elderly scholars, an Aluvian man and a Gharu'ndim woman, dressed in Arcanum robes. The man carried a complicated contraption built out of silver and pyreal rods and tinkling crystals, while the woman wore an elaborate headset featuring a pair of large, purple-tinged lenses that covered half her face. The guard gave Hideki an apologetic look and a shrug as he closed the door behind the two newly arrived scholars.
Hideki set down his tools and put on the friendliest face he could. “Sages Aliester and Zarea. What an honor to have you here to consult on my research.” He bowed slightly.
Aliester the Loquacious bowed back ostentatiously and set his contraption down on the floor next to Hideki's workbench. Zarea bint Zea, bending her neck at an awkward angle to support the weight of her heavy headgear, bumped into one of Hideki's toolboxes as she shuffled closer to the workbench.
“Pardon our intrusion, Master Smith,” Zarea said. “Aliester and I were having a pleasant time recollecting our collaboration with you, years ago, on the matter of the Shadowhunter armor.”
Hideki nodded. “Yes… I am particularly proud of that work, though I still bear scars from the revenge of the Shadows…” he looked away, wincing.
Aliester nodded absentmindedly, as if he hadn't really been listening. “Indeed, indeed. It was a signature accomplishment for us all… and undoubtedly a model of cross-cultural cooperation among the Isparians who now consider Dereth their home.” He stepped closer to the workbench and peered closely at the forearm suspended on top of it. “We know you have spent a great deal of time investigating the properties of this alloy, Master Smith, and we have come to lend you our expertise on the matter of the magical nature and, in particular, the resonances of the energies attached to the artifacts.”
Hideki gritted his teeth. “Of course. I was in the middle of something, but if you come back in a few hours…”
Aliester cheerfully interrupted him. “Ah, but we could simply work with another piece in your workshop here! That's why Zarea brought her thaumatoscopic goggles!” Zarea was, at that moment, peering around the room like a particularly exotic and awkward bird, training her gaze on every artifact stored in the room.
Before Hideki could raise an objection, Zarea called out in delight. “Aha! I knew it!” She pointed at one of the other hunks of metal, which looked like some kind of chest plate. “That piece still has the source energies of the original form still attached to it. Well, all of these pieces do carry some of the resonance, but that one still seems to have a sample of material clinging to it.”
“What material?” Hideki asked helplessly, as the scholars took over his space.
“We have not isolated, identified, or named it yet,” Aliester informed him. The old man's face lit up in delight. “Isn't this wonderful? A truly novel discovery, after all these years we can still be surprised by the wonders of Dereth.”
“Yes, well, I'm constantly being surprised myself,” Hideki grumbled.
Aliester picked up his metal and crystal device and carried it over, setting it down near the piece of metal plating that Zarea had identified. He drew a wand from his pocket, pointed it at the device, and spoke a quick incantation. The device started to glow and small pieces of clockwork in the center of its mass began to click and whirr. After a few moments, both the device and the metal plate began to glow with a faint purple aura.
“Maybe this is not the best time to start experimenting…” Hideki started, but again he was interrupted.
“Zounds!” Aliester cried. He tugged on Zarea's sleeve in excitement. “It's just as I said! The structure of the material is unknown to us, but contained within it is the essence of portalspace!”
Zarea grinned beneath her goggles. “We'll need to bring Kanezo here to do some tracings, of course.”
“Of course!” Aliester agreed excitedly. “But here, I wonder what happens if we just give the energy there a little goosing…” He waved his wand at the metal plate.
Hideki finally got alarmed enough to act. “No! Wait!” He waved his arms at Aliester and stepped towards the aged scholar.
Unmindful of the alarmed Master Smith coming towards him, utterly fascinated with the artifact before him, Aliester whispered another word of magic. The tiniest spark of light leapt from the tip of his wand to the metal plate.
There was a flash of purple light, a loud clapping noise, and all of a sudden the two elderly sages were alone. Koga Hideki had vanished.
“By the Poet's broken quill!” Zarea yelped. “Did you see that? The goggles showed me everything! There was a release of a powerful burst of portal magic, but in patterns that I have never observed before…”
Aliester and Zarea continued their discussion excitedly, the vanished Hideki completely forgotten in their enthusiasm.
Hello there and welcome to the Release Notes for the July event, Picking up the Pieces. This month we continue to try and discover why Mar'uun has been destroyed. What could have happened there? Hopefully somebody can find out. Let's see what else is new and exciting in Asheron's Call this month!
There have been reports that random portals have been showing up in the Direlands
The New Explorer Markers are in.
The Monthly Kill Task has been updated
The PvP Towns crystal's now have a chance of spawning a few small defender crystals with short lifespans
Patriarch Pyramids Portals are now Falatacot style
PvP Arena now refers to itself as Isparian Combat
The Dark Isle Degenerate Shadow that was not dropping the new loot now does
Barkeeps in Bluespire and Greenspire no longer sell duplicate rumors
All of the Master Archmages have had their duplicate items removed (extra mana stones and robes)
The Master Archmage who was missing a couple items the others had was fixed
The regen rates on the satellite crystals from the Crystalline Crag end fight have been reduced (No changes were made to the boss crystal)
New multi-strike weapons should now be able to be hilted after being tinked and hilting should no longer make the item attuned and bonded
Faction Intro quest no longer hands you back a manifesto that can be turned in by someone else
Feruza ibn Salaq will now properly have a chance to give you a lightning/acid wall spell when turning in Pyreal bars
A Celestial Hand member now correctly has a male head and a male body
Tornash and Olcris are now Lugians
Arena Mana spell has had its typo fixed
Typo in Aerfalle quest was fixed.
Aerfalle's Gaze spell has had its typo fixed
Hurnmel the Smith had a typo fixed
Aun Teverea's typo was fixed
Several Mosswarts that were still dropping heads have been fixed
Society Armor writs no longer say Armor Level Unknown in the description
Pathwardens now take any heritage robes
Monster Fight dome is hopefully now transparent for all users
Typo with Prodigal Mosswart has been fixed
Typo in the name of the live-op reward Nivinizk's Sacrificial Dagger has been fixed
Uncovering the Renegades (or as it is known, Apostate Citadel) quest has been fixed to allow a player who has given the item to a Town Crier to go back for another one. The portal also no longer removes access after completing the quest
Fixed the hallway of traps not working in the second half of Messenger's Collar quest
So there are just some of the things we have in store for Asheron's Call in July. Please remember that along with everything listed here, there are several new quests and exciting things going into the game for the July Event.