Providence smiled upon the refugee nations of Ispar in the month of Coldeve. Rumors sprang up of ancient storage vaults hidden across the length and breadth of Dereth. Bold parties sought these lost facilities out, and discovered the fragments of weapons used in the last war with the Shadows, some two thousand years before humans first arrived in this land. These were designed ages ago by alchemist and warrior Lord Atlan, and his wife, the enchanter Lady Maila. While the contributions of both were apparently vital to winning the last war, the documentation recovered suggests both died in the conflict -- hardly a reassuring statistic.
The Atlan artifacts were a set of melee weapons -- swords, daggers, maces, and so on -- fashioned from raw pyreal motes. Any one of a number of special, magical gemstones could be imbedded in a weapon to imbue it with a particular elemental power, and by means of a special stone tool, each gemstone could be exchanged for another of a different power. Thus, for example, a frosting axe could be turned into a lightning axe. While pyreal motes could be recovered from any type of golem, the stones and the tool were securely stored in several remote and dangerous dungeons. One of these was defended by legions of powerful undead, one by fire elementals and magma golems, one by never-before-seen lightning elementals, and one by a band of Tumeroks. A final vault, named Incunabula, had been infested with Olthoi, who transformed it into the most deadly hive known to exist in Dereth.
Perhaps in response to the discovery of these weapons, the Shadows that had made overland travel a terrifying prospect melted away into the night. Very few remained under open skies, although this made some more nervous than relieved. New rumors abounded in taverns that some dark force was biding its time for a major assault.
Many powerful monarchs were whisked away to a remote island, said to lie to the southwest of Dereth. Here they were challenged by a dark presence to run a gauntlet filled with bizarre monsters. While most lost their sense of direction, or were slain by the gauntlet's fierce inhabitants, two of the most dangerous fiends in Dereth survived the trial: Blackthorn and Vidorian of Thistledown. They were rewarded with corrupted Shadow Stones, which could be fitted into the Atlan weapons. These stones gave a weapon tremendous power . . . though their use seemed to drain the will and sense of self from the weapon's wielder. It remained to be seen what the two so-called "Dark Masters" would be called upon to do. Fafhrd of Thistledown and Killean of Morningthaw made a heroic decision to defy the gathering evil, and refused to take the dark presence's test. Their selfless denial of easy power would be remembered in the days ahead.
The hand of darkness also sought allies using means as subtle as the monarch kidnappings were gross. Hamud ibn Rafik, leader of an extremist sect of the Gharu'ndim Zharalim called the Tenebrous Edge, made his presence known in Dereth. He and his daughter Devana sent many adventurers on a test of their own. Success earned a magnificent Pyreal Katar that pulsed with dark power, trailing streamers of sooty mist. Rumor held that Rafik had lost his mind taking to heart Archephoros' maxim that to fight darkness, sometimes one must become a shadow.
On the opposite edge of the A'mun desert, Dizah ibn Nadqab began excavating a massive crypt complex built beneath an ancient fortress near Zaikhal. He apparently ventured where he shouldn't have, and the ancient dead of the Impious Temple reawakened, chasing him out of the complex. In exchange for funds to continue his research, he let the bold enter the Temple. A shattered staff, apparently unusable, was discovered in its depths. Fortunately, some adventurers managed to find someone wise enough to repair it.
Not all the news was worrisome. The land continued to recover from the damage wrought by the Great Work of the Gelidites. Flowers blossomed all over Osteth, filling the air with drifting clouds of pollen. Rabbits, delighted by the return of warm weather, quickly did as rabbits are wont to do, resulting in a veritable plague of baby bunnies on the landscape, which nibbled crops and tripped inattentive travelers. Most were harmless irritants, but tales of more dangerous bunnies trickled out of the Direlands . . .
Meantime, the excavations of over twenty Meeting Halls that dated from the Empyrean Era of Lore were completed near the major towns of Dereth. These underground amphitheaters are thought to have been built for assemblies of nobles and scholars, or for the briefings of local troop garrisons. Allegiances across Dereth soon began holding their meetings in these structures. In other local news, Guthima the Wise, archmage of Arwic, moved down the road. Complaints from neighbors about crowds of mages practicing their craft all hours of the night convinced the town's nobility to build a new shop for him outside of town.
Lastly, as if in omen, the beginning of the month saw a titanic bridge, carved from dark volcanic glass, appear over the River Prosper between Holtburg, Cragstone, and Arwic. Formerly cloaked by the lost magical arts of the Empyrean, the Obsidian Span drew crowds of gawkers. Not a few mad souls actually jumped off of it. Sages could only speculate what other structures might lie in the open without our knowing.shionable attire, however, as the traditional warrior garb of Ispar began to appear in Dereth. Celdon, Amullian, and Koujia Armor became visible signs of a warrior's prowess.