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Hidden Vein

by Brent Schmidt
Turbine Entertainment Software

Dereth: Solclaim PY 13 / Earth: May 2002

As the Bronze Statues' assaults increased in regularity and power, Arcanum researchers furiously continued their efforts to find some way to stop these constructs. Before her disappearance, Nuhmudira, the former head of the Arcanum, had become convinced that Asheron's people, the Empyreans, were soon to return and immediately declare war. So passionate was she in her speech against the Empyreans that many in the Arcanum had followed her almost blindly. Yet now, with Nuhmudira still trapped in the ancient Gelidite judgment device, the only help to the Arcanum in its darkest hour came from an Empyrean. Asheron approached a group in a research center established near the underground city of Xarabydun. When pressed, Asheron would reveal little of why he had chosen to reveal himself now, but fortunately, he was much more forthcoming with vital information on ancient Empyrean transmutation techniques.

To aid the efforts of those seeking to stop the statue assaults, Asheron shared information on how to create an Etheric Seal, a device that would make a portion of a statue's pedestal base permeable. With this information in hand, organized forces soon infiltrated the underground foundries feeding these constructs and destroyed the guiding mechanisms. As the last of the statues was nullified, grand fireworks displays were seen in every town across the length and breadth of Dereth. Defeated, the statues truly obtained to their makers' original intention: to be monuments to the strength and abilities of the Isparian people.

Asheron aided the Arcanum in another area of its research. For months, the Arcanum had been searching for ways to improve the Atlan weapons crafted from pyreal ingots. The Atlan weapons used during the Shadow War millennia ago had been several orders of magnitude more powerful than the ones Isparians now wielded. Researchers quickly became convinced that this was due to two factors: first, the forging temperatures of the Empyrean's Smith Golems were much higher than those of Silencia's Golem; second, the ancient Empyrean pyreal ingots had contained richer concentrations of mana. Many researchers had tried various methods to circumvent these problems, but their efforts usually only resulted in ruined pyreal ingots. To bypass one of these limitations and provide more mana for the ingots, Asheron located a rich source of mana deep below the mountains near Shoushi and then supplied the means to access it. In addition, Asheron provided guidance in how to apply the mana to the ingots. He suggested combining the raw mana obtained from the mana flow with diamond powder to stabilize the mana enough to be applied to the ingots.

These two breakthroughs resulted in ingots of superior quality, unlike anything seen before. To assist those searching for this source of mana, and to provide additional direction in crafting the weapons, Asheron instructed one of his Emissaries to appear in Eastham and provide this information to any who asked. As with any new discovery, the initial crafting of these new Isparian arms, as they came to be called, was occasionally less than perfect. Soon, however, all could craft a weapon unlike any Atlan that had come before. A side effect of using diamond powder in the process made these weapon resistant to any outside enchantment, but those who used them in battle reported that the Isparian arms could inflict tremendous amounts of damage upon Elemental creatures.

If not for the appearance of Martine, Isparians might have begun to feel that they had defeated their unseen foe and could begin to take their rest. With each appearance, though, the ravings of Martine convinced everyone that they must yet keep vigilant. No goal to his visits could be discerned. On some occasions, he would enlist the Isparians' aid in destroying Virindi elements that had broken away from his control; on others, he would demanded a tax of Singularity Keys. If anyone was fool enough to attack him, they quickly found themselves at their Lifestone. The tale was even told of his appearance at a marriage ceremony, and some felt that his babbling indicated he was in love with Queen Elysa Strathelar. Researchers in the Arcanum also took note of an element he seemed to repeat over and over in some of his appearances. He kept saying that the Empyreans were trapped, and their life force was somehow being sustained by the Isparians. Many wondered if this could indeed be the truth. Or were these just the nonsensical ravings of his mind?

Even though the assaults had stopped, many felt as unsure about what was to come as they had at the beginning of the month. Did Asheron's actions prove he could be trusted? Or was the insane Martine right in declaring Asheron a fool and a tyrant oppressing the Isparian people? These questions sharply divided the people, but only time would tell who was right. For the moment, all they could do was prepare for the battle they were sure was coming.

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