Announcements - 2002/09 - Verdict

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September 2002 - Patch Page

Contents


The Defense of the Cisterns

Teaser

Part 1

Original Link (now dead) - http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/ASHEeventteaser0902_1.asp

Click to return to Microsoft Zone Archive

Verdict


September 4, 2002

Img sword2.jpg

Part 1
As she sat at his bedside in the dawning light, Elysa was amazed at the transformation in Asheron. In the weeks following his healing, the color had been slowly returning to his face. After seeing the state he had been in, the pall of death hanging over him, his recovery seemed nothing short of a miracle. Already his strength had returned enough for him to open the ways to weaken Gaerlan's citadel. He hadn't completely healed yet; he still rested more than he once had. Yet soon, she knew, he'd be at full strength.

As she sat there watching Asheron sip his green tea, she grinned as she called to mind something one of her council members had said long ago. She didn't even remember the context--some minor crisis--and Celdiseth had sighed and said in his usual sarcastic manner, “Dereth is full of wonders.” Indeed, her son was one such wonder. He was responsible for saving Asheron, and perhaps their people.

At the time she hadn't known if she should praise Borelean for his bravery and selflessness, or punish him for putting himself at risk as like he had. As his mother, she had always thought highly of him, yet never before had she been so proud. He was becoming the man that she'd always known he could be. But underlying her pride there was that maternal twinge, the feeling that he was growing up combined with the gentle pain of knowing he wouldn't need her forever. “Thorsten,” she thought, “he's so much like you.”

Noticing her grin, Asheron said, “I didn't realize sipping tea was so entertaining.”

Elysa blinked, coming out of her fugue. “Sorry. I was just thinking about all that has happened in the span of a few weeks. It almost seems too incredible to believe.”

He smiled. “Agreed. I owe my life to your people. Both to young Borelean--” He paused to sip his tea and then said, “and to Candeth.”

“What are we going to do about Martine?” she shot back, an edge in her voice. “One act of altruism doesn't make up for all he's done. He's threatened all of our lives and brought us to the brink of disaster.”

“I realize that, Elysa, but I sense a change in him. Candeth's mind is no longer tainted by Gaerlan's influence,” Asheron said with care. “The clarity your son's actions brought to him was the seed from which Candeth was able to heal his mind.”

“Wonderful, he's healed,” she said, biting off each word. “He should be dead for what he's done to all of us. For what he tried to do to you.”

“Elysa, this calamity that your people face is just another a consequence of my actions,” he said forcefully. “Need I remind you of what I am responsible for?”

She sat silent.

“A thousand years ago I didn't have the strength to oppose the Emperor,” he continued. “I am responsible for the death of Gaerlan's brother, Delacim. My supposed genius wasn't able to find a way to defeat the Olthoi.” He gestured toward Elysa and said, “The portals to Dereth were the result of the mad spell I cast trying to save my people. Your people were enslaved by the Olthoi and died fighting their Queen.”

Seeing her wince at the mention of the Olthoi Queen, Asheron paused a moment before continuing more softly, “Candeth lives because I healed the grievous wounds he incurred during his berserk attack on a Virindi complex. If you need to blame someone for the threat that is hanging over your people--” He looked into her eyes. “You should blame me.”

She sat for a moment looking down at her hands as they rested in her lap, and then said quietly, “You aren't responsible for all those things, and I realized that long ago. You're a good man.”

Asheron laid his hand on hers, “And so was Candeth, once.”

They sat for a moment, silent. As the silence began to stretch uncomfortably, Elysa sighed.

“Perhaps,” she said, looking up at Asheron. “But that doesn't stop the threat.” She began to speak more quickly. “The combined might of my people have destroyed three of the four siphoning crystals, but Gaerlan still threatens them all. And Yanshi. . . you've told me you sense something wrong there.”

Before he could say anything, Elysa looked down at her hands again and said, “Asheron, I have to go to them.”

Concern entered Asheron's eyes. “You realize you'll be a target for Gaerlan, do you not? My wards are holding the force of his elemental magics back from this castle for now, but I won't be able to protect you if you leave it.”

“That doesn't matter, I simply can't hide anymore,” she said, looking up at his face intently. “I once left my people, after the towns were settled. I thought they didn't need me anymore. I see now that I was wrong. I was trying to escape. I tried to escape for five years.”

“Ely, I am well acquainted with bearing the weight of your race's future,” Asheron said sagely. “But I cannot stress the need for care enough. Do not risk yourself in this way.”

Before he could say anything more, she rose and strode toward the door. “I'm sorry, I can't abandon them. Rest, heal, regain your strength. You'll need it. I'll be back once I've spoken to my people.”

To be continued. . .

Unlike any other gaming experience, the world of Asheron's Call continues to evolve. Join us, as we open our September Event, Verdict. Be sure to continue your part in this incredible ongoing story, and we'll see you in Dereth!

__________

Part 2

Original Link (now dead) - http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/ASHEeventteaser0902_2.asp

Click to return to Microsoft Zone Archive

Verdict


September 6, 2002

Img sword2.jpg

Part 2
Asheron had not heard from Elysa since her departure; had she been there, she would have noticed the lines of concern around his eyes. However, she was not, and he was just beginning to realize what her absence meant to him.

“You are concerned about her,” said the masked figure across from him.

“Very much so, Candeth,” Asheron said as he stroked his beard. “Very much so.”

Before Elysa's arrival, before she had activated the portal device and he had summoned her into his presence, he had been alone for five centuries. Recalling that time, he had difficulty believing that he had kept his sanity. Throughout the long years, he'd had only a few constructs, Golems and other magical servants, to keep him company. Then he had offered a place in his castle for Elysa and Borelean, and their presence had warmed his heart in ways he hadn't thought possible. In Elysa he had found a kindred spirit, and in Borelean, a new pupil.

His friendship with Elysa had been through much in the last few months, and only recently did he feel that it had returned to where it once was. Recent events had also brought about a change in what was important to him. Where once he had been solely dedicated to releasing his people or not compounding the crimes he had already committed, he was now focused on helping Elysa's people and those many others that had arrived. And while Elysa could not--or would not--see it, Candeth was one of those who had needed his help.

Already, Candeth Martine was struggling to make amends for what he had done. He had followed Asheron's direction on the siphoning crystals, appearing before those assembled, preparing them for what must come. Where once he had seemed to radiate an aura of insanity and instability, he now radiated one of contrition. In many ways, Asheron and Candeth were alike. Both had brought so much pain to the world, but neither had realized it until much later.

“Your heart is much tied to Melanay--” Martine paused for a moment, taking a deep breath. “No, she is Elysa.” He sighed, “My mind still occasionally betrays me. My control is still not perfected.”

With a faint, reassuring smile on his lips, Asheron spoke, “That will come in time, Candeth. In time you may even be able to shake off the Virindi trappings your body still expresses.”

The inhuman mask stared directly at Asheron. “Be that as it may, it pains me to think of the anguish I have caused her.”

“Her forgiveness may also come in time. You need only be patient.”

“If the time exists, that is,” Martine said quickly. “What more can I do? We can't have much time left.”

“Only what you have already done. Prepare yourself. Your people will open the way for us to attack Gaerlan directly.”

“The people.” The mask turned away from Asheron and stared at a torch hung on the wall. “They've done so much for me. One of them found a letter I had written long ago and returned it to me. It helped me break free of the state my mind was in after the truth was revealed to me.

“I know before, when I was. . .” Martine struggled for a moment. “Different, that I fed off the people's attention. I fed off their fear of me, their respect for my power. I used it to salve my conscience, to block out unwelcome thoughts and memories.

“Even the Virindi part of my mind,” Martine continued, twitching at the memory of what had been done to him. “The part that was violently thrust into my mind, enjoyed it. It took pleasure in the concepts and feelings that were alien to it. It is only now that I can see it was pushing me further and further, just so it could gain some new experience.”

Martine's voice became nothing more than a whisper. “I became accustomed to its presence, so much so that even after the unnatural union of our two parts resulted in its death, my mind generated a replacement. Why couldn't I see it? Why was Gaerlan able to exploit me so easily?”

“Candeth.” At the mention of his name, Martine turned to look at Asheron. “I have lived for over 2,500 years,” Asheron said, leaning closer. “And in that time I've studied many different schools of magic. In all my studies, I have yet to find a spell that will send us into the past, as much as our minds want to live there.”

“You have healed the damage done to your soul and mind. Be grateful for the chance you have been given. For so long you've been the pawn of others, those who wanted to use you. You were a pawn for Sir Alayne. The Virindi then transformed you into an instrument of destruction. Finally, you became a tool of Gaerlan's revenge.

“Now, for the first time,” Asheron paused to let the words sink in. “You are free.”

To be continued. . .

Unlike any other gaming experience, the world of Asheron's Call continues to evolve. Join us, as we open our September Event, Verdict. Be sure to continue your part in this incredible ongoing story, and we'll see you in Dereth!

__________

Part 3

Original Link (now dead) - http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/ASHEeventteaser0902_3.asp

Click to return to Microsoft Zone Archive

Verdict


September 10, 2002

Img sword2.jpg

Part 3
Ciandra heard the stirrings in the next room and pulled back her covers. The desert should have been very warm this time of year, searing the sand and making comfort while sleeping a difficulty, but this was no ordinary year. The wind whipped outside, and through a broken slit in her window, she could see the flame creatures dancing around a small prismatic stone with their acidic, lightning, and frost brethren. Nearly one full cycle of the moons had passed, and still there was no reprieve. Asheron and Martine had successfully divined the location of three of the four crystals that siphoned power directly to Gaerlan's floating fortress. The people had dispatched them, but to no avail. The Elementals clung to the ground as though the very essence of the world was creating them.

A soft whisper-hiss snapped her out of her deep thoughts. There was very little light in her hovel as the desert tended to swallow the moonlight. She made her way to her landing using only the wan glow cast by the forces of Elementals outside. She peeked over the banister to where her houseguest slept below.

Nuhmudira had asked that Ciandra not let anyone know she was free, and though Ciandra had been hesitant to oblige, she obeyed. Nuhmudira had moved into Ciandra's home and used the downstairs as a study and bedroom. Her youth and beauty had been stolen from her while she'd been a prisoner in the place of forgetting, but she had regained her knowledge and her power. Ciandra looked down on her now. . . and stifled a cry.

Nuhmudira looked up and saw her. She smiled, and in the orange glow cast by the Elemental invaders, the smile looked like that of a madman. She lowered her head and placed a hand on her guest, a seven-foot tall Chomu Sclavus that had come with a delivery. Nuhmudira beckoned to Ciandra as she stroked the crown of the Chomu.

Ciandra staggered back from the banister and looked about her room. She grabbed a sash and tied it about her waist, pulling her nightshirt tight, then slipped her wand beneath the sash. She trusted Nuhmudira still, but there was a Sclavus in her home, a development that she would never have expected. As she made her way down the stairs, she listened to Nuhmudira's words, barely audible over the sound of the wind outside. They were not Roulean, nor were they any Gharu'ndim dialect. As Ciandra reached the bottom stair, twenty snake-like forms turned to face her in the darkness. She shrank back in shock.

“Worry not, child,” Nuhmudira stated very calmly. “They are my servants. It seems that my meddling with the Book--” Nuhmudira broke off when she said the word and gently patted the item the Sclavus had brought to her. So long had this Book absorbed her studies, driving her to commit atrocities and wonders far beyond comprehension. It had been both a boon and bane for the Arcanum. The members of the Arcanum had thought the Book forever lost when Nuhmudira disappeared, yet here it was again, returned to her by the Sclavus. Nuhmudira looked back up from the Book and continued, “My meddling with the Book has awakened something within them. They were my saviors in that hellish place. They have simply come to return my belongings to me.”

The old woman smiled again and Ciandra felt her muscles relax. The Sclavus bowed to Nuhmudira, and then to Ciandra, and backed out of the building into the desert night.

“Come, child. You must have many questions. And I have a tale to tell.”

*****

Antius watched as the High Queen approached. Several of her guard had come to Yanshi over the past few days and told him that she would soon arrive, and they had helped the devastated town wherever they could. But he conferred more often with the light being that was sent from Asheron. It was quizzical, highly evolved, and incredibly intelligent. Antius was sometimes at a loss for the deductions that it was able to make.

Their study had been slow; Golems had to remove the rubble from the entranceway of what was once the Elemental Sanctum, as they could not gather information until they were within. He pondered what he might say to the High Queen upon her arrival. Asheron's Emissary knelt as she approached, but Antius did not. He forced himself to remain standing, remembering how much she hated the fineries of being Queen. His effort was marked by a knowing look on Elysa's face.

“Antius, I assume you know why I am here?” she asked.

“Yes, Elysa, but. . . there have been some complications.” He paused, searching her face for signs of disappointment. He was met only with a look of patience. “The explosion and release of raw mana destroyed the entirety of the Sanctum below us. Golems are below now removing the rubble, but there can be no determinations made until we have access into the lower levels. We know the chambers are there because the floors sound hollow, but--”

He stopped and looked behind the Queen as a force of men and women wearing the colors of the royal guard and bearing her standard marched into the city. Elysa cleared her throat to get Antius back to his story.

“We have yet to find a way into the lower levels,” he continued. “We have, however, heard the sounds of something speaking, as if waking from a slumber, and there have been minor quakes in the earth.”

Elysa nodded. She looked back to her forces and called out to them.

“We need to assist Scholar Blackmoor. There is a subterranean lair below what used to be the Sanctum where Gaerlan worked his magic to destroy this town. We'll be assisting Asheron's Golems in removing the debris to facilitate further study of this area.”

The ground shook violently, causing some to lose their footing. Elysa remained a pillar of calm, and when the tremor ended she turned to Antius.

“Any guesses?”

“Something that was never meant to be. Something that the Aun Tumeroks fear is more powerful than the Olthoi.” He shook his head. “If you are asking me for an educated guess, Elysa, I cannot give you one. Too much speculation and fear is running through my mind at the moment, but. . .” He paused and leaned toward the High Queen. “I think that there is something down there, growing and giving itself the very magic of this world. I don't think that it can be stopped, and I worry that if it succeeds in weakening magic any more than it already has, something worse than the Hopeslayer could be released.”

Elysa met his eyes for a long moment and then nodded. She turned back to her force and motioned them into action. They descended into the pit and began assisting the Golems beneath the charred landscape of Yanshi.

To be continued. . .

Unlike any other gaming experience, the world of Asheron's Call continues to evolve. Join us, as we open our September Event, Verdict. Be sure to continue your part in this incredible ongoing story, and we'll see you in Dereth!

__________

Part 4

Original Link (now dead) - http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/ASHEeventteaser0902_4.asp

Click to return to Microsoft Zone Archive

Verdict


September 13, 2002

Img sword2.jpg

Part 4
(View the teaser movie here : 7.5 MB)

The air crackled around him. The ground sizzled where he walked. Beads of acid flew from his hands as he furiously paced his study, located in the highest reaches of his citadel's library. Moisture condensed in his frozen breath and slowly floated to the floor as snow.

“This is inconceivable!” Gaerlan screamed to the empty room.

The words echoed throughout the library, “This is inconceivable. . . is inconceivable. . . inconceivable. . .”

The third crystal had fallen, destroyed by the Isparian vermin. He sensed the power that it once fed him ebbing away to somewhere else, to where the rituals to summon the Harbinger had failed.

“The fools will be the death of the world,” he cried.

Through the library, “Death of the world. . . of the world. . . the world. . .” echoed.

Hundreds of years of effort were unraveling before his eyes. When first he had found the citadel, this temple that had lain dormant for centuries, he'd known that it would be the instrument of his ascension. The destiny he knew he had been born to would begin here. He had felt it in the pit of his being and had known he had been fated to find this. Nothing could prevent his destiny, not even the prison between worlds to which Asheron had condemned their people.

After Martine had accidentally returned him to the world, Gaerlan had been so sure--it had been so obvious--that the force of history was behind him. It had all fallen into place, each piece he had used. . . That fool Martine, yearning for the life he had left behind, pushed further into madness. . . Nuhmudira, her unswerving loyalty to her people so readily twisted into a path abhorrent even to her fellow barbarians. . . The vermin's weak-willed Queen, so easy to manipulate, the tool that had exposed Asheron to Martine's assault. He had masterfully placed them against each other, almost as if it had been a game. His revenge, his ascension. . . It had been so close, so very close.

Now he would fall, the world would be consumed by the magics loosed by the vermin, and Asheron would never pay for his crimes.

“I refuse to believe it; it cannot be so!” he said as he turned a corner in his pacing.

“It cannot be so. . . cannot be so. . . be so. . .”

This citadel and its ancient library, constructed by that cabal of undead elementalists, these had been his tools. He had dedicated himself to using the magics found there, to using what those abominations had created, in defense of the Cerulean Throne. Why now, when his plan seemed closest to fruition, would it begin to fall apart around him? How had he failed? What had he done wrong?

“I did everything perfectly!”

“Did everything perfectly. . . everything perfectly. . . perfectly. . .”

Although the magics had been born from those opposed to the Throne, in his capable hands they had become a weapon in defense of the Crown. They were to have been a means for him to rise to prominence in the Empire. Perhaps even a means for him to lay claim to the Throne! Where was the misstep?

A thought occurred to him, and he paused in his frantic pacing. Perhaps Asheron was not the fool he had taken him for. Could the secret of Asheron's long life, the secret Gaerlan had discovered long ago, be a sign of his collusion with those who had forsaken the Light, those loathsome undead? Yes, the undead were infamous for trying to manipulate and control the living. Asheron was the cause of all of this!

Yes! Yes! Asheron's meddling stretched back even to when Gaerlan and his brother had first arrived at the Knorr Lyceum, Asheron's academy for magical study. Asheron must have recognized Gaerlan's innate ability and determined that he would do all he could to hamper it. That was why Gaerlan's brother Delacim had been held in esteem, while Gaerlan had been virtually ignored. Asheron had interfered in Gaerlan's life, even using his own brother against him. And when his brother was of no more use to him, Asheron had arranged for Delacim to be killed. Asheron was behind all the problems that had plagued his plans, and now his corruption would be the doom of the world.

“I am not yet defeated!” he shrieked, his frozen spittle clattering on the floor.

“Not yet defeated. . . yet defeated. . . defeated. . .” returned the echo from the walls of the library.

He would strengthen the guard on the final crystal. It would be inaccessible to all those protected by Asheron's corrupting magics. Gaerlan would focus his remaining power on that location and maintain it; he would resist Asheron's minions. His power would be enough to wipe them off the face of Dereth. The vermin had already seen the extent of his power, as his forces had plagued them for weeks. Now though, with this remaining crystal, the crystal he would secure, Gaerlan would scour the surface of the planet clean. The infestation, the taint brought to this world by Asheron, would be gone forever. Perhaps a scrap of pity had plagued him before, preventing him from using his full might against them.

He smiled to himself when he thought of how future generations would remember this time. They would see it as the turning point between his darkest hour and when he rose to the challenge presented by the world. Yes, those future Empyreans would see this as the beginning of their return to power, when their greatest leader defeated Asheron and led them into a glorious future.

He would not fail, nor would he fall. Asheron's corruption and meddling would be defeated. He would have his revenge on the man. Asheron would pay for Delacim's murder, the massacre of their people, and the near destruction of the world itself.

He raised his head toward the roof and roared, “Asheron! I will see the vision fulfilled!”

The chamber echoed for several minutes with his laughter, and then was silent.

To be continued. . .

Unlike any other gaming experience, the world of Asheron's Call continues to evolve. Join us, as we open our September Event, Verdict. Be sure to continue your part in this incredible ongoing story, and we'll see you in Dereth!

__________

Part 5

Original Link (now dead) - http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/ASHEeventteaser0902_5.asp

Click to return to Microsoft Zone Archive

Verdict


September 18, 2002

Img sword2.jpg

Part 5
(View the final battle between Gaerlan and Martine: lower quality : 18.5 MB or high quality : 35.6 MB)

Elysa thought to herself that a more unusual council meeting would have been unimaginable just a few months before. Council meetings had been an irregular event in the calm years before the Hopeslayer had been freed, but in recent years they had become more regular as Elysa realized the importance of her role among her people.

After rallying the Guard and examining Yanshi, she'd been able to see that Asheron was relieved at her return. For several hours, they had discussed what she had seen and what was to come. He had agreed that she needed to gather the council, and had set in motion the necessary preparations. He'd also agreed with her decision to invite two more guests to the proceedings, and had sent emissaries to them as well. However, there was another decision she had made, one that she hadn't told him about, one that she knew he wouldn't agree with.

Responding to the summons Asheron had conveyed via his emissaries, the council members slowly filtered into the room. The council was comprised of various members of Isparian society, from the prominent founder of Ayan Baqur to scholars and wise archmages. Elysa had positioned her high-back chair so that she could watch the members as they entered. As some crossed into the room, she noticed a bewildered look on their faces, especially those who had never been to Asheron's castle before. On others, she saw an air of indifference. One in particular seemed almost overwhelmed by the summons and the castle; it was Ciandra, who represented the Arcanum and was now the youngest member of the council. She had distinguished herself in the months following Nuhmudira's disappearance and had become the de facto head of the Arcanum. The last to arrive was Celdiseth the archmage, as usual; just another of his ways of showing that position and rank meant little to him.

As Celdiseth took his seat, Elysa stood up and opened the council. “Thank you all for coming. We have much to discuss, although our time is short. In just the last hour the situation has progressed and we must respond to it. However, before we begin, we have two more who will be joining us.”

A curious look crossed the faces of some as she stated this, and a moment later the doors to the chamber swung open. Gasps escaped a few lips as a towering Lugian strode into the room, followed by a Tumerok from the island of Marae Lassel.

Elysa scanned the faces of the council and, gesturing toward the Lugian, said, “This is Lord Kresovus of Linvak Tukal.” He inclined his head as he was introduced. Directing her hand toward the Tumerok, she said, “And this is Aun Hareltah of Timaru. The Lugian and Tumerok people face the same doom as we. They have been invited today to serve in an advisory capacity.”

Hareltah directed his attention toward Elysa and bowed. “Thank you, Ispar Elysatah.”

“Yes, thank you, Queen,” Kresovus spoke up. “Although your people still war with our brethren, it is in our best interests, especially now, to work together.”

“Thank you for coming,” she said with a smile, then turned her attention back to the council and began, “Let me bring you up to date on what has happened. You are all aware that in the past few weeks Asheron has divined the locations of Gaerlan's siphoning crystals. Our people have been successful in shattering these crystals, although with each successive assault, they find the crystal stronger and more difficult to destroy.”

As she spoke, she surveyed the faces of the council. “The last one, which Asheron discovered only a few hours ago, was the most powerful and proved to be the most challenging. The intensity of the energy contained there prevented our people from even entering the facility where it was located. In order for our people to enter, they were required to step out from under Asheron's protection. We were also distressed to hear that a few misguided citizens opposed the destruction of the crystal, out of fear of what might be released if it was destroyed. They attacked our people and tried to hamper their efforts. However, in the end our people proved successful. This crystal's destruction has weakened Gaerlan, opening a way to attack him directly.”

She paused for a moment and looked down at the table, collecting her thoughts. She returned her attention to the council members and continued, “Martine has been working alongside Asheron to aid our people--”

“And what of Martine?” Celdiseth interrupted loudly. “So nice of you to inform us of this now, even though I had heard reports right after the first crystal was destroyed. How are we to know that this isn't just another of his mad tricks? That he isn't playing us for the fool?”

“Celdiseth,” she said slowly, turning to face him. “You are well aware that I have. . . reservations about dealing with Martine. Nevertheless, Asheron has assured me that Martine's intentions are pure and that he is a changed man. In regard to the situation currently confronting us, I have no reason not to believe Asheron. However, do not think for a moment that I have forgotten all Martine has done.”

Celdiseth simply snorted in response.

“As I began,” she continued, focusing her attention back to the faces of the council. “Martine has been aiding our people, informing them of what is to come. After the last crystal fell, he created portals to a location below Gaerlan's floating citadel. Reports from some of my Guard indicate that he told the crowds that he was going to face Gaerlan personally.”

“Yes, a member of--” Ciandra blurted, then stopped an instant as she realized the attention of the entire council was upon her. “A-a-a member of the Arcanum spoke to Sir Olivier Rognath, a member of the Explorer Society. Sir Olivier had known Martine before he was modified by the Virindi and was in attendance when Martine spoke to the crowds. Sir Olivier said that Martine appeared before them as a human. He appeared as Sir Olivier originally remembered him!”

“Amazing,” Asheron said quietly, stroking his beard.

“Asheron?” Elysa said, turning her attention toward the man seated next to her.

“I knew that as his mind healed,” Asheron addressed the council, “he would gain the ability to appear human once more. However, I'm surprised he gained the ability so quickly. Although Elysa and I differ on our feelings, I feel that Martine's mind is truly healed. I can feel the sincerity in him, the enormous guilt that he feels. I feared that it might move him to take this course, to confront Gaerlan. I only hope he survives.”

At one side of the table, the usually quiet and serene archmage Shoyanen Kenchu spoke up, “I can appreciate the need to bring us up to date, Your Highness,” she said, agitation clear in her voice. “But you have not yet told us what we are to do. The destruction of the crystals has not removed Gaerlan's elemental creatures from the land. They still surround my tower, and my visitors are slaughtered as they try to approach.”

As she continued, a tremor entered her voice. “Just before I was summoned here, I witnessed a horrible murder of someone new to our lands. Although they were returned to life, death still has a price.”

As Shoyanen finished, the council broke out into a chorus of voices, each clamoring for Elysa's attention, or the attention of the person seated next to them. Some talked of events they had witnessed, others of the course the Queen should take to rout Gaerlan. Elysa tried to regain their attention, but their voices drowned her out.

Suddenly, from a corner of the room, a voice cried out, “Silence!”

All eyes turned to Lord Kresovus, who simply said, “Among my people it is customary to respect the matriarch.”

“Thank you, Lord Kresovus,” Elysa said as their eyes turned back to her. “I can appreciate your concerns--all of your concerns. I share them. We will act, and we will focus on the dual threats that face all of our people.”

As she spoke, she looked directly at each person in the room. “First, we need to prepare for the assault on Gaerlan. We must face him and rise to the challenge that he presents. Together we faced the Hopeslayer and defeated him; can we do no less with this Gaerlan? Asheron has promised to provide whatever means of support he can to aid us against Gaerlan.”

Her voice turned gravely serious. “Although the destruction of the crystals has greatly weakened Gaerlan, he will be a formidable force to counter. It will require the abilities of all our people.

“Lord Kresovus and Aun Hareltah,” she said, directing her attention to the two figures that stood to the side of the table. “I would ask that you provide whatever support your people can to help in the battle. Already your support has been invaluable, and I wanted to thank you especially for helping us to try to understand the threat growing below Yanshi.”

The scholar Asaina al-Arqis spoke up, “Is this the second threat that you spoke of, your Highness? Something in Yanshi?”

And now they were coming to the decision Elysa had made, the one she knew Asheron would not agree with. There was nothing to be done about that now, though; it was necessary.

“Yes, below Yanshi something is forming. Our scholars feel that this thing, if left unchecked, could destroy this world.” She paused to let that point sink into the minds of her listeners, then continued, “However, our people should focus their attention initially on Gaerlan. I will lead my Guard against the threat below Yanshi. If the Mothers smile on us, the threat will be easily countered. If not, then hopefully we can provide the vanguard that will lead our people to its defeat.”

“Elysa. . .” Asheron began, but was interrupted by an earth-shattering rumble. He rose and quickly strode to the nearby window. The sky above them was now a sheet of elemental colors, flashing from green to blue to red to purple and back again.

“It has begun.” He turned back to face the council. “Candeth is attacking Gaerlan.”

Elysa spoke, gaining the council's attention. “We must hurry. Let us conclude our discussions here, then set about our tasks. The fate of our people may well rest on our actions in the coming hours and days.”

To be continued. . .

Unlike any other gaming experience, the world of Asheron's Call continues to evolve. Join us, as we open our September Event, Verdict. Be sure to continue your part in this incredible ongoing story, and we'll see you in Dereth!

__________

Rollout Article

Original Link (now dead) - http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/ASHEeventrollout.asp

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Verdict


September 19, 2002

Img swords.jpg

Part 6
(View the final battle between Gaerlan and Martine: lower quality : 18.5 MB or high quality : 35.6 MB)

Two men meet on a floating fortress. Neither is human. One was once a man, but is now a twisted fusion of man and Virindi. The other is an Empyrean, possessing vast elemental powers. Words are exchanged, and then these two foes exchange blows. They remain locked in battle for hours, yet all the while neither gains the upper hand. The battle continues until the Empyrean unleashes a devastating spell at his opponent. The man crumples to one knee. The Empyrean boasts over his fallen foe, but the man looks up. The man knows how to defeat the Empyrean. He calls on the powers given to him by the Virindi.

The flame grows. It burns, tearing at my body and mind. It builds. Focusing becomes difficult. My thoughts drift to you my wife, my love. . .

I came home to you, Melanay, after my day. More cargos have come in today, ship after endless ship emptying its hold. You ask me of my day, to talk to you. What shall I tell you? That the most interesting facet of my day was the discovery of a miscalculated ledger sheet? My heart burns for exploration, excitement. How it burns. . .

Sir Alayne approaches me. Since falling through that swirling maelstrom to this strange, intimidating world, I have been lost, without focus. He speaks to me of a purpose on this new world. He says we should set out and explore it, map its edges, and see what none of our kind has seen before. This has been my fondest wish, it has been the very call of my heart, but now it leaves a bitter taste. I have betrayed you. I have followed my heart and lost all that it holds dear. It smolders with the loss of you and little Aritta. . .

The Mosswarts surround me, their spears prodding me in the direction they want me to go. If only the overwhelming fear of death didn't paralyze me. But those Lifestones, how can I trust them? How can I trust devices created by a man who abandons us on this blighted world? And even if they do restore life, I have seen the corpses of those who have died. Even though they knew they would be returned to life, their bloated faces are disfigured into masks of pain and fear. This is a world of sorrow, Melanay, it blisters us all. . .

Master congratulates him on the control of his abilities. “Who am I?” he thinks, and a voice in his mind responds, “A separate part of the whole.” Master blasts a wave of pain through his mind, driving those thoughts away. Master explains that soon he will be given a task, and he will be a tool of the whole. He must begin to repay the whole for the gifts given to him, for his abilities. His training continues and the power builds within him, focusing, burning. . .

Later, clarity returns to me and my thoughts are once more my own, though not entirely. The voice of the Virindi within my mind cries out. It misses its connection to the whole, its connection to the Singularity. It has lost all that it once knew. If I still had a mouth, perhaps a wry smile would cross it. “Now we are very much alike, you and I,” I muse. The amusement leaves soon, though, and the pain of existence returns. The pain threatens to consume me, it burns within me so strongly. . .

Ketnan begs for his life. He is just one of those I meet as I study the society our people have built on this world. From some of those I meet I take what I need. Others I manipulate to suit my needs. Would you be ashamed of me, Melanay? Or maybe even horrified? It matters not, for I will gain the respect of this world. With respect, I can control this world. I wish to wipe away its chaos and pain. I have so many, many plans. I will provide gifts to our people, although they will come with a price. Some of my gifts will instill the fear of death in them. Other gifts will leave them questioning the nature of their existence on this misbegotten world. I will show them the way and be a blazing beacon to them. . .

As I walk in the shadows cast by our people, I find others who are as I was when I first arrived on this world. They are directionless, filled with hopelessness. What kind of monster would drop these people on a world of pain? I will become these outcasts' benefactor, not abandoning them like that man has. They will not be torn apart by this world. The sight of them stokes the fires of hate in my heart, hate for Asheron. . .

These outcasts of society remind me of something from the past. In what now seems a lifetime ago, the departed Sir Alayne gave me a purpose: to explore this world. Although he is gone, his mandate remains, and I will begin exploring this world, mapping its edges. I find that even after all that has happened, my heart still burns for understanding, for exploration. . .

My exploration has found other people, Melanay, although they are not people. Tonk, they call themselves. They are a peaceful, spiritual race living in a devastated land, a land they call Palenqual. They will provide a purpose for our people. We will help these Tonk free their land from the threat we have defeated. I will establish a stronghold for our people to find in this plagued land. I will provide more gifts for them, more direction, more insight, showing them how meaningless their lives are. Perhaps I can finally quench the fire within me . . .

I am within my chambers, surrounded by my people. This town has grown and prospered, all hidden from the world above. I focus my mind on the final spell, the spell that will bridge the gap that separates the Tonk and our people. Tremendous energies build within me. I begin to weave the tendrils of energy into the portals our people will use. As I complete the spell, I sense a host of minds around me. Intrigued--for I still consider myself an explorer--I send forth my mind toward them, but I find myself rebounding off a barrier. Could this be the Singularity, protecting itself from attack? I focus on one mind, a mind consumed with rage and anger. Perhaps this is Master, or Overseer, or one of the others who had tortured me, who had turned me into something else. Again and again, I strike out at that point, trying to pierce the barrier. Torrents of pain rain down my body. . .

I awake, finding myself on the floor. As I stand upright, I see the form of a man struggling to his knees. . . but he is not a man. He is an Empyrean. Another deceiver, another liar. He has appeared among my people to mislead them, to scar them like I have been scarred. Power wells up within me, my hands crackle with energy. . . Then he speaks. He begs. He pleads. He is rather pitiful, actually. It is obvious to me now: He recognizes my power, he sees that it is greater than anything ever wielded by his own people. Yet he claims to have a means to destroy Asheron, and I listen. He fuels the fires of hatred. . .

Confusion. At times you are with me, Melanay, but other times Asheron keeps us apart. How did you come to be on this world, or are you still back on Ispar? The moment has come; I will finally accomplish what I had set out to do. I am gaining the respect of the world and it will be mine to make right. The firestorm within me burns. I make the final move and unleash the rage and pain at the man responsible, I unleash it on Asheron.

Then the truth comes, and I see that the fire has consumed me entirely. . .

It is my memories of you, Melanay, and the actions of a brave child, a child so much like our own, that ignite a new fire in me. The old passions and desires have been turned to ash and blown away. I burn brightly now, my love, yet instead of consuming me, the fire makes me stronger, it makes me the man I once was. . . and more.

This fire will burn up all the wrongs I have committed. I will use it to destroy the disease I have brought to this world. The fire burns. It is blinding, Melanay, burning brighter and brighter. It is burning up the pain, the confusion. It consumes it all. It burns and burns. . .

Until. . .

. . . only you and Aritta are left.

And then it burns no longer.

With Gaerlan's Citadel shattered, the people of Dereth have a chance to finally rid the world of his influence. Heroes of all skills and abilities will be needed in this desperate fight for the future of the land!

The Developer's Notes for September and the Letter to the Players contain even more details about September's Verdict Event. Join us as the ongoing saga of Asheron's Call continues, and we'll see you in Dereth!

Release Notes

Original Link (now dead) - http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/ASHEeventbuild.asp

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Developer's Notes--September


September 19, 2002

Img painting.jpg





Here are just some of the additions made in the September 19 game update, Verdict. The following list is comprised of detailed notes straight from the developers themselves. For a summary of things of interest, be sure to consult the official event article, Verdict.

We appreciate your feedback and bug reports in helping to ensure that the world of Dereth is a stable and fun place to be. Please submit any such bug reports to http://bugs.zone.com.



New Functionality and Content

  • Challenges unseen before await the heroes of Dereth.
  • Gaerlan's Elemental hordes have melted away from the landscape. Creatures have now returned to their old familiar haunts.
  • The Arcanum builders have been burning the midnight oil. Along with their other construction projects, they've found the time to add 500 new Residential Quarters for players to purchase.


Miscellaneous Improvements and Changes

  • As discussed in the Letter to the Players, if you find duplicate hooks or chests in your home, please remove all items from these immediately to prevent item loss. After you leave the area and the server resets your home, the duplicates should no longer be present and you can safely use your hooks for storage again.
  • We have revised the types and levels of enchantments that can be found on various pieces of armor and weapons.
  • We have tweaked the rate at which certain weapons appear as treasure, as well as the racial restrictions applied to these weapons, to be more inline with their skill point costs.
  • Certain thrown weapons--such as throwing axes, clubs, daggers, djarids, darts, javelins, and shokens--will no longer appear as treasure. Worry not, though! The multitude of players who use these items will still be able to find a selection of such weapons on sale at the 9 Nexus town bowyers.
  • Granite and Ceramic should now appear slightly more often in higher quality treasure.
  • Examining stacks of salvaged Black Opal, Fire Opal, and Sunstone will provide a better description of the effect they add to an item, instead of just providing the name of the effect.
  • Chests that require a Sturdy Iron Key to open should now provide slightly better treasure. Chests that provide level 7 scrolls, and require a Sturdy Iron Key, are unaffected by this change.


Minor Details

  • The Arcanum has continued to work out the last few kinks in the Isparian Arms. The Isparian Atlatl now has the correct description, while the Shimmering Isparian Crossbow has been assigned the correct slayer property.
  • The Agents of the Arcanum have recovered from their temporary amnesia and should now be helping you again on several Arcanum quests, such as “Nuhmudira's Boon.”
  • We had designed various Elemental creatures so that they could spend the experience they received from resisting and evading attacks. The assaults on Gaerlan have affected these creatures, and they are no longer spending the experience they receive on their skills or attributes.
  • It has been possible to find gems that cannot be salvaged (because they have not been mutated by the treasure system) as treasure. These gems would appear as though they could be salvaged; however, when the Ust attempted to salvage these items, it would generate an error. The Ust has been given an upgrade so that it will recognize these items as being unsalvageable.
  • We have made a further upgrade to the Ust. Double-clicking an item in the Salvage panel will now remove it from the panel, and the “Salvage” button has been moved to the right-hand side of the panel.
  • The animations and sounds from double- and triple-striking just weren't cool enough, so we tweaked them slightly. Thrill at the enhanced swinging action!
  • In the distant past, when the Virindi Director was a unique creature only to be found in the Disaster Maze, he was assigned a unique treasure profile. However, due to the abundance of Directors now found in game, we have removed that unique profile and assigned them a better treasure profile.
__________

Letter to the Players

Original Link (now dead) - http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/ASHEletter0902.asp

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Letter to the Players


September 19, 2002

September is another exciting month for players of Asheron's Call! Here is a summary of the changes and additions for September.

Greetings fellow adventurers! I'm Tim Holman, the new Asheron's Call Producer. I've taken over for Ken Troop, who has moved on to Asheron's Call 2 and is pouring his high level of talent into the upcoming release. Being a player of Asheron's Call for over two years, I'm very excited to join the talented and dedicated teams at Turbine and Microsoft. In continuing the tradition of fresh and exciting content delivered each month, I'm very proud of what the team has created for you in September. Most changes this month are pure content, and while I won't spoil it for you here, let me assure you that September brings danger to Dereth that threatens the very existence of all life!

I'd also like to take this opportunity to invite you all to check out two new AC forums. The first, http://www.accmty.com/, is where you can find official news on the state of the code and the state of the network. The second, at http://forums.turbinegames.com, has been established as a place to ask the odd question, share tales of heroics, and connect with your fellow AC players in a friendly environment.

Before I address some of the changes that have been made, I'd like every player to read the following:

Doubled Hooks/Storage--VERY IMPORTANT!!!

As you know, we have had an issue with duplicated housing objects--hooks, storage chests, and covenant crystals--off and on for several months. In certain server conditions, it is possible for your housing objects to be doubled or even tripled, leaving you the proud owner of two or more identical copies of your hooks or storage. These copies are confusing, often do not behave correctly, and carry the risk of item loss.

In our continuing effort to deal with this problem, we are introducing new code this month that will both lessen the incidence of doubled house objects and help correct the situation if it occurs. However, because there is some small risk associated with this situation, we want homeowners to be aware of the following:

If you find multiple copies of your housing objects--especially your hooks and storage chests--in your residence, please remove all items from the hooks/chests and let the house reset. Once you are back to one copy of each hook/chest, they are safe to use again. IF YOU DO NOT DO THIS, YOU RUN THE RISK OF LOSING YOUR STORED ITEMS.

How do I tell if I have doubled hooks/chests?

You can determine if you have doubled housing objects by using the [ and ] keys on your keyboard to select the items near you. If you have two or more storage chests, for instance, you will be able to flip between selecting both chests by using the [ and ] keys, even though you can only see one chest and select one chest with the mouse. Once you have selected one of the doubled housing objects with the keyboard, use the R key to open the object so that you can remove the contents.

How do I let my house reset?

In order for a house to reset, the landblock containing the house needs to be empty of all players for about 10 minutes. You can tell if the house has successfully reset because it will no longer have multiple copies of its housing objects. At that point, it is safe to return your items to their places in your hooks or chests.

What if I'm not around when my hooks and storage doubles? Will I lose everything?

The primary risk of item loss from doubled housing objects occurs when you are transferring items to and from your hooks/chests while they are doubled. If you are not around to access your storage, then the risk of losing items due to doubled housing objects is very small. Get into the habit of checking for doubled hooks/chests whenever you are transferring items to and from your storage, and you should be fine.

Now, on to some of the other changes this month:

Residential Quarters: This month, we've added new Residential Quarters to Dereth. We're continuing to make improvements to lag in these areas and to resolve storage issues.


Elemental Spawns: The tide of the invasion has changed and the elementals have been driven deep into Dereth. Players will find that Dereth is still a very dangerous land, but the threat of last month has been abated.


Hollow Missile Weapons: Unfortunately, these did not make it into the update this month. Despite our best efforts, we were not happy with the results at the time of code freeze and decided it best that we hold off. Direct all hate mail to me.


Creature Spells on Armor: We have altered what spells can appear on what pieces of armor. It should be a bit easier to get full coverage of Creature Spells on loot armor.

The Future
This month's event is promising to be one of our biggest yet, providing players with quests and content unlike any seen before in Asheron's Call. We'll see you next month, and thanks for playing!

__________

State of the Code

Original Link (now dead) - http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/ashenewscodestate1.asp

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State of the Code


September 20, 2002

This is the latest installment of a frequently updated series of reports on The State of the Code for Asheron's Call. In this report, we keep players informed as to the state of some of the more technical aspects of AC, particularly bugs we are working on and technical limitations of which you should be aware. Look at the News page on the Zone for other articles about recent additions and changes to Asheron's Call.

Warning: On Purchasing Mansions and Villas in September
We have discovered an issue with purchasing Mansions and Villas in this event. If you purchase a Mansion or Villa while the dungeon area of the house is not loaded into the world, the hooks and storage chests in the dungeon will not be informed that you are their new owner. Therefore, you will not be able to access any of the hooks or storage chests in the dungeon area of your new home. If the dungeon area of the house is loaded into the world when ownership changes, however, all of the hooks and storage chests are updated in the normal fashion.

For this reason, if you are purchasing a Mansion or Villa this month, please ask a friend to stand in the dungeon area while you complete the purchase. This forces the dungeon area to remain loaded, and thus the hooks and storage chests are updated properly.

This issue will be resolved with the next monthly update. At that time, all of the affected dungeon hooks and chests will have their ownership automatically updated and will once again be accessible. Alternatively, a Mansion or Villa owner with this problem may choose to abandon their house and then re-purchase it while the dungeon is loaded. If you choose to do this, make certain that the dungeon area remains loaded by stationing a friend in the dungeon during this process.

State of the Code Archive
Below are items from previous State of the Code articles. Some items have been retired from the archive below because we believe they have been fixed. If they turn out not to have been fixed, we will revive those items.

War Magic Damage

In August's Letter to the Players it was stated that the additional damage inflicted by the new skill-based War Magic damage bonus was a percentage of the War spell's minimum damage. This is incorrect. The actual bonus damage is a percentage of the unmodified spell damage. This unmodified damage is a number somewhere between the listed minimum and maximum damage for the spell. It should also be noted that this bonus only begins to appear when the character's buffed War Magic skill meets the difficulty of casting the spell. Players should be aware that each level of War Magic spell has a different maximum damage bonus. The higher the level of the spell, the higher the potential damage bonus. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

Video

Preview of the Gaerlan's Citadel Quest
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Final battle between Gaerlan and Martine
<youtube>JhQtzIb5Frs</youtube>

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