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by Brent Schmidt
Turbine Entertainment Software

Dereth: Morningthaw PY 13 / Earth: April 2002

Morningthaw, the beginning of Spring. The death of one season and the birth of another. Perhaps taking their cue from the season, the events of the month of Morningthaw PY 13 seemed to encapsulate this concept. Suspicions about the Bronze Statues, which had been gifted to the various towns by the Arcanum, proved true as they began duplicating themselves to attack hapless residents. Nuhmudira, missing since Coldeve, was found. A brother uncovered the fate of his long-lost sister, leading to the discovery of priceless Isparian artifacts that reminded all of a price paid long ago. Finally, in defiance of those seeking to destroy lives and hope, Grand Sentinels appeared to officiate wedding ceremonies, and happy couples forged bonds of love to face the struggles ahead.

Duped by some unknown party, the Arcanum realized that they were responsible for unleashing dark magics on the homes of many Isparians. Frenzied researchers began studying the original incantations and materials used to create the Bronze Statues, hoping to find some clue to how to stop them. The researchers gratefully accepted any and all materials found on defeated statues, welcoming any help they could get in these desperate times.

Compounding the Arcanum's problems, their Head Mistress, Nuhmudira, was still missing. The Arcanum had frantically requested the assistance of all in trying to locate her. As Isparians combed the countryside in their search, they uncovered an ancient Empyrean library, constructed by the Gelidite cult over a thousand years ago. Nearby, they encountered one who had been an aide to Nuhmudira, an enchanter by the name of Kai Mallan. Try as they might, no amount of pleading or threats could induce him to volunteer more about her, other than that she had received the fate she deserved.

Giving up on the enchanter, many entered the ancient structure itself. As they progressed downward, they encountered great charred libraries guarded by Elemental creatures of Flame. Amidst the ashes of the library, the adventurers found two books, one not nearly as burned as the others in the library, and one that had remained untouched by the flames. The partially charred book was much older than the other and seemed to refer to the ancient Empyrean constructs discovered two months before.

The author of the more recent, undamaged book had evidently been a later Empyrean by the name of Gaerlan. The book was a journal detailing how he had stumbled across the burned Gelidite Library and had been piecing together the knowledge that had been lost. The journal explained that the Gelidites who had built the library had splintered away from the main Gelidite body because of a disagreement over the Great Work's ability to achieve the Gelidite goal of overthrowing the Yalaini Empire in order to establish a new empire under Gelidite control. In addition to the library, the splinter group of Gelidites had built enormous cisterns to collect the Blood of the World, known to Isparians as mana. The channeling of this mana in specific forms had given rise to the Elementals. These Gelidites had felt that their plan to create vast Elemental armies to battle the Yalaini would be more effective than the Great Work of their brothers in Frore. Later, the main body of Gelidites had branded this splinter group as heretical and destroyed them, along with all their works. The Gelidite cisterns had been completed, but there had not been time to activate them.

If not for one clumsy adventurer who stumbled into it, the ethereal wall in one of the library rooms would have remained undiscovered. This wall disguised a passageway leading down to a complex maze. As they entered the maze, many wondered how they would ever find Nuhmudira, if she was there at all. Fortunately, they quickly found a golem that would allow them passage to Nuhmudira's prison, but only if the adventurers could prove she had sent for them. As fellowships explored the maze, they found scattered scraps of paper on the floor. Once all of the scraps were found, they formed a book written by Nuhmudira. The book was a disturbing tale of her betrayal and imprisonment. When shown this book, the golem allowed them to enter the room where Nuhmudira was being held.

As they crossed the threshold, they heard Nuhmudira's anguished screams coming from an unscalable platform high above. Although many cried up to her, she never responded. Throughout this room were scattered clues indicating that the original builders had used this room and its devices as instruments of judgment. On either side of the platform holding the accused was a lever. Pulling one condemned the prisoner to death by ripping a portion of life force from his or her body. Pulling the other lever granted clemency, giving the accused person a portion of the voter's life force. Whoever had betrayed Nuhmudira had placed her in this device. What's more, her captor had made an addition: on either side of the slab holding her were crystals that appeared to be imprinting memories and feelings upon her. Failing to find a way to release Nuhmudira, the Isparians began using the device as it had been intended, each choosing to condemn her to death, or to grant her mercy and restore her life. Her fate then truly rested with the people she had felt she was protecting.

In the town of Cragstone, Glysander Cartoth was attempting to gather letters written to his long-lost older sister, Lania. Lania had been a long-time friend of Queen Elysa Strathelar on Ispar before coming to Dereth. In the years following the defeat of the Olthoi Queen and before Elysa's disappearance, Elysa and Lania had exchanged letters. The younger Glysander remembered that one letter in particular had disturbed Lania and caused her to leave in search of something, never to return. Glysander had grown up without his sister, but now he wanted to find the letters, perhaps to find out what had become of her. The explorer Brontynn Marshad had promised to track these letters down, but he too seemed to have disappeared. Hearing nothing from Brontynn for several months, Glysander found himself in a panic for any information at all. Kind adventurers came to Glysander's aid and followed Lania's trail. Eventually they rescued Brontynn Marshad from Tumeroks and uncovered a series of letters Queen Elysa had written to Lania. It seemed that Lania had never completely trusted Asheron, and these letters indicated that she had gone to the Underground City in search of some proof that Asheron had lied to Queen Elysa about his intentions.

The Underground City had been the first home outside of the Olthoi Hives for many Isparians. From here they had launched their final assault against the One Queen. The Underground City was also the final resting place of Thorsten Cragstone. As the adventurers scoured halls infested with Drudges and other vermin, they discovered a previously unknown passage, one that led down to a vault containing Thorsten Cragstone's armor and axe. Apparently, Asheron had used his magics to carve this vault, and he'd left behind Golem servants to protect the Cragstone artifacts from thieves. To the disappointment of those who had hoped that Lania was still alive, her remains were found here. The Golem servants had slain Lania, thinking her a common thief, and since she had never used a Lifestone, she had never resurrected. Adventurers bore this bad news back to her grief-stricken brother, who could at least take comfort in finally knowing what had become of her. At least one benefit came from this sad incident, as craftsmen began making molds of the relics and crafting replicas of them. Now Isparians could have a daily reminder in their homes of the price paid for freedom from the Olthoi.

Love is a mysterious and wonderful force, binding people by threads not easily cut. In the past, those wishing to show their commitment to one another had approached Asheron's Sentinels to officiate during their marriage ceremonies. Unfortunately, in recent times this practice had to be suspended. Many rejoiced when these ceremonies began again, and happy couples asked officiating Sentinels to help them seal their vows. Unlike before, couples now had to prove their love through a series of trials symbolizing the various challenges the couple would face together in the future.

As the month closed, and facing continued assaults on their towns, Isparians knew this was not the end of their troubles. They braced themselves as best they could for whatever might come next.

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