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The 19th Anniversary of Alter Aeon - Jan 15-19, 2014

The theme for this anniversary was 'zombie invasion', and as expected the players got to see a lot of undead for the duration of the event. The creatures gradually became more and more dangerous, eventually requiring groups to safely avoid being swarmed. Players searched for the source of the zombie infestation, tried to secure villages and towns, went hunting for old magic, and eventually helped wrangle a solution to end the zombie nightmare.

Unlike other events, the entire mainland was affected, and the zombies, while initially weak, gradually ramped up in difficulty until the end of the event. For a period of two days, the entire mainland was quite dangerous to explore unless you had certain skills or a high charisma. Fortunately, the infestation did not spread to the islands, giving low level players a safe place to remain until the threat was dealt with.

If you're interested in last year's event, you can find the 18th Anniversary Event Report on our System Events page.

Here's to another year of Alter Aeon!

Wednesday Morning, Jan 15, 2014

By Wednesday morning, the first unusual undead were sighted at the outskirts of Ralnoth. While not initially a threat, there were some notable differences with zombies raised by necromancers, causing the Captain of the Ralnoth City Guard to post a public notice:

From: The Captain of the Ralnoth City Guard
Subject: The recent undead outbreak

We have received an unusual number of reports in recent weeks of undead from travellers, and as of this morning, zombies have been reported in the Ralnoth area. These zombies are unintelligent and not particularly dangerous, however they appear to be uncontrolled, which is puzzling.

We are forming scouting parties and bringing on extra guards in the short term to assist. Please see me if you're willing to volunteer to track down the source of the problem and/or warn nearby towns and villages.

All citizens are encouraged to be on the alert outside of the city walls until further notice.

This kicked off several quests to both warn neighboring towns as well as locate the source of the zombies:

The Captain of the Ralnoth City Guard tells you, 'We should warn the nearby towns about these zombies, since they seem to be covering quite a wide area. It may also help us pinpoint where they are coming from, depending on where they've reached. Please take this official notice to the commander of the dwarven guard in the dwarven marketplace, the centaur chieftain in the centaur village to the north, and the fishermen in Sviri. While you're there, please ask them what direction the zombies seem to be coming from.

Thanks for helping us out, I'd prefer not to send too many guards out of the city until we know what we're up against.'

After delivering the notice and reporting back to the captain:

The Captain of the Ralnoth Guard tells you, 'So all three towns have seen the zombies too? And all report them as coming from the west? That's not good. That means the source of the zombies is probably pretty far away, and we're just seeing the edge of it. If you're willing to gather more information, please let me know. I get the feeling my guards are soon going to be very busy.'

You're next asked to collect information from nearby outposts to the west:

The Captain of the Ralnoth City Guard tells you, 'Since the zombies seem to be coming from the west, we should check on our guards and scouts in that direction. It may also be helpful to ask the Firbolgs what they know. Please take this short list of questions to the guard post on the west edge of the protected forest west of town, to the scout who watches the waypoint near the green dragon, and the Firbolg Chieftain. Return it to me when you've collected all the answers.'

Returning with the information:

The Captain of the Ralnoth Guard looks over the papers, then tells you, 'Even farther west then, and given that their numbers don't increase dramatically, probably really, really far away. At this rate, maybe we'll find out they're coming from the Shii'lok mountains. If you're up for some long distance travel, let me know - I think we're going to have to look a lot farther west to figure out what's going on.'

Finally, you're asked to gather zombie sightings from the far west towns of Elborat, Finspang, and Caer Bra'en:

The Captain of the Ralnoth City Guard tells you, 'I'd like you to gather information from the far west towns of Elborat, Finspang, and Caer Bra'en. Unless the source actually -is- in the Shii'lok mountains, that should give us enough to triangulate the source. I know it is rather distant, but please return as soon as possible with the information.'

At last, the source of the zombie infestation has been localized:

The Captain of the Ralnoth Guard looks over the papers, then tells you, 'The Zulu kingdom then - I just got a report that Aggerazzi is clear from one of my other scouts. We don't have diplomatic ties there, and they're as likely to kill and eat us as answer questions, assuming they aren't completely overrun with zombies as well.

I'll let the others know and see what the guildmasters have to say about this. There are a few with some experience in that land. Thank you for your help, and feel free to check in from time to time - we may have more work for you, and can pay fairly well.'

Wednesday Evening, Jan 15, 2014

As time progressed, the situation seemed to get worse:

From: The Captain of the Ralnoth City Guard
Subject: The recent undead outbreak

The number and strength of the undead appear to be increasing at an alarming rate, and we have also had a few minor skirmishes at the various gates of the city. While there is not yet cause for concern, we recommend that households prepare defensive measures and have weapons at the ready - given the number of creatures, it is possible that some of them will find alternate routes into the city.

If you have information regarding the threat, please contact the local guildmasters or guard patrols.

Thursday Morning, Jan 16, 2014

Soon, refugees from the nearby village of Sviri appeared at the gates of Ralnoth, begging for entry. Their story was a dark one:

They came from the west.

At first, it was only few. The occasional zombie, wandering mindlessly through the fields, or found on empty streets in the early hours when no-one was about. Normal methods sufficed back then - or so we thought. The strange corpses were turned, or hacked up, and typically reburied. Little did we know the nature of what we were up against.

Gradually their numbers began to increase, and gradually too their level of aggression. Wandering aimlessly at first, over time they seemed to develop a hunger, not for flesh, but for death. Human or animal, the bodies were left behind to become new zombies.

And then the reanimations started. The initial wave of the creatures were hacked up and buried, but their affliction was no normal raising of undead. Slowly their bodies mended and pulled back together, until they gained strength to burst forth from the earth to resume the cycle. Only those burnt to nothing remained gone. To make things worse, the recently dead, in their graves, also began to rise.

It was a plague, a plague that preyed not upon the living, but upon the dead and the undead.

At first we held our own. Slowly their numbers increased, until we had to keep roving patrols active at all hours. Those on the fringes of town began to seek refuge closer to the center. Eventually, we knew that we would not be able to win, that there were too many of them and that they were becoming more and more violent. Our best bet seemed to be Ralnoth, with its siege walls and town guard.

It was two days and nights without sleep, constantly on the move, but in the end we all made it. Inside the walls of we were considerably safer, and the town guard seemed to have things under control. Yet the number of undead continued to increase. It seemed like just a matter of time before we were overwhelmed.

We knew we had to leave the eroding safety of our village and risk the trek to Ralnoth.

Shortly after the arrival of the refugees, the gates of Ralnoth were closed for the first time in decades to keep the undead out. Inside the relative safety of the walls, groups were formed to go street by street in search of the undead. An expedition was dispatched to the sewers, but failed - eventually, the accessible sewer entrances were simply closed to prevent the undead from reaching the surface.

Similar groups were also formed in Finspang and Elborat, eventually establishing those cities as safe, but only so long as the undead were kept out and periodic sweeps of the streets came away clean.

Thursday Noon, Jan 16, 2014

The first detailed information about the threat came from a collaboration by the Ralnoth Mage and Necromancer guilds, in the form of a detailed notice and call to arms.

From: Luth, the Necromancer Guildmaster
Subject: The zombie problem

After much research and effort, we believe we understand the cause of the undead infestation. Somewhere, in the far west, quite probably the Zulu empire, a custom spell was cast mixing together both druid and necromancer skills to create a form of regenerating undead, one which could last indefinitely and which would be able to recover from all but the most thorough destruction.

This unusual combined spell can be found in ancient texts and while extremely obscure, is not novel. [see footnote 1] However, Dentin's recent strengthening of druidic powers [see footnote 2] has changed the balance of this spell, and has allowed it to become self-sustaining and self-propagating whereas it previously had a limited (if very long) lifespan and could only create weaker offshoots.

There are only two reasonable explanations for this: Either Dentin is testing us, or his adjustments to the magical balance of the universe have resulted in unexpected consequences that he did not forsee or did not care about. [see footnote 3]

Regardless, we must assume that we will receive no help here. [see footnote 4] In the short term, we must do more than just defend against the hordes at our gates - we must take the battle to them, search them out and destroy them early, before they become too powerful. With each day they grow stronger, and we must cull their numbers faster than they grow. Plans are already in motion to this end, but it is critical that all hands be available to assist. Communication to bring other cities and regions into play are already in transit.

All able citizens are encouraged to report to the various guild halls for placement in the defense teams. We shall post more information as it becomes available.

---

Note 1 - From the Necromancer Guild private library, "Oscurous Necrontius Och Sustanus", chapter 88. The spellset, ritual and effects described here closely match the behaviour and powers of these undead, with the exception that their power of grows over time, while those in the paper gradually decline. The ritual uses forced growth of fungus within the body to derive salve-based powers, which are then maligned into maintaining and strengthening a soulbinding spell. Minor fiends of lesser strength than the original may be spawned when nearby creatures are killed.

Note 2 - A missive from an unknown sorceress named Madeira was received by the Mage Guild earlier this week, reading as follows:

It appears that change 14d-608 in the A-Layer allows for circular amplification via changes 5-527, 12-527, 3-607 and root node 2-70. Analysis of an instance of this loop propagating in the wild confirms this and brings into question the long term stability of the network, as there appears to be no feedback limiter. Spell disruption is easiest via corporeal destruction using fire, though application of dispel and other techniques may reduce the burden. It is recommended that all instances be terminated with prejudice until a long term solution can be found.

The A-Layer references are known to be linked to:

2-70 - raise undead
3-607 - mushroom growing
14d-608 - salves, regeneration and tinctures, sundrinker
12-527 - lifetap
5-527 - soulbind

The Mages Guild has expressed unusually strong concern at this cryptic message, but has declined to sign this posting.

Note 3 - the Cleric Guild believes that Dentin was fully aware of the consequences of his changes, and is quite probably testing us. It is also conceivable that he simply did not care about the effect on mortals.

Note 4 - From Great Library AABN 57108 "Kenai and Dentin, the Comprehensive Guide", Chap 22:

Dentin slowly coalesced from the ball of light near the center of the tower, smiled, and uttered only a few short words:

"It is good that you came. I would have been sad, but I would have let the world die had no-one cared. Return home now and let the priests know what you have done. I will take care of this realm myself."

While long winded and overly detailed, there was no question about the need to act. The Captain of the Guard served as the organization point for the various teams, and had several special delivery jobs to be taken care of. Nearby towns and diplomatic contacts needed to be warned, but the city could not be left unguarded.

The first was the Elven Kingdom, deep in the forests of Thalenwood:

The Captain of the Ralnoth Guard tells you, 'We've already sent messages to other towns via our normal contacts, but still need to contact the elves in the Thalenwood forest to the south. Please take this official communique to Lady Kamil, the captain of the royal guard in the palace. Return here to let me know it was delivered safely.'

Lady Kamil opens the note and quickly reads it, then tells you, 'I see. It appears we will receive no help from Ralnoth then. You may go.'

The Captain of the Ralnoth Guard tells you, 'Thanks for delivering the message. Couriers able to survive the trip are in short supply at the moment. Please take this for your trouble, and check in with me in the future if you're interested in other jobs.'

Next was the desert city of Linholt, a city with somewhat rocky relations with Ralnoth:

The Captain of the Ralnoth Guard tells you, 'We've already sent messages to other towns via our normal contacts, but also technically have an obligation to contact the city of Linholt to the south. The leaders of that city are often ... problematic, to contact so we have taken to delivering messages to the castle guards rather than attempting a private audience. Please take this note to the castle guard in Linholt and return here to let me know it was delivered properly.'

The guard takes the note and sneers at you. As you turn to leave you see him also turn to deliver the message.

The Captain of the Ralnoth Guard tells you, 'Thanks for delivering the message. Couriers able to survive the trip are in short supply at the moment. Please take this for your trouble, and check in with me in the future if you're interested in other jobs.'

Then the city of Orton, to the far south.

The Captain of the Ralnoth Guard tells you, 'We've already sent messages to other towns via our normal contacts, but Orton is rather farther than the others, and we have not yet received confirmation from our earlier courier. If you could please take this note to Mayor Ranel in Orton and ask him if our previous message was received, it would be appreciated.'

The mayor slowly reads through the message and says to you, 'We have not seen or heard from the earlier messenger. Given how things look, it seems likely he did not survive the trip. I am sorry.

Thank you for risking your life to bring us this, though it is only more bad news. Good luck, and be safe on your return trip.'

The Captain of the Ralnoth Guard tells you, 'Thanks for delivering the message. Couriers able to survive the trip are in short supply at the moment. Please take this for your trouble, and check in with me in the future if you're interested in other jobs.'

Finally, an unexpected yet vitally important delivery:

The Captain of the Ralnoth Guard tells you, 'The final contact we must make is one I hesitate to ask of any of my guards, but it must be done or there will be repercussions when this is over. I need you to deliver a message to the Lich King, Es'Pawmarrow, in the Undead City in the Ash Mountains.

Fortunately, we have been told not to disturb the king himself, but rather deliver messages to his Loyal Retainers instead. The mark of the retainer is on the outside of the envelope, and only a retainer would dare touch it within the city bounds.

There are currently a number of games in progress in the arena, so you would be most likely to find the king there. Good luck, and be careful. Diplomatic immunity will not give you much protection there.'

The retainer takes the message and puts it inside his robe. He gives no visible indication that it will be delivered, but indicates that you should leave.

The Captain of the Ralnoth Guard tells you, 'Thank you. While I hesitate to send anyone there unless absolutely necessary, this was one of those necessary times. It is good to know we have citizens we can count on in time of need.

Please take this for your trouble, and check in with me in the future if you're interested in other jobs.'

The following days were a storm of activity, of hope and despair. The words of the townspeople convey this eloquently:

Understanding and hope had entered our lives, the feeling that we could do something, the knowledge that we had a plan. Squads marched and sorties were launched, and the pyres burned around the clock. Within days, the initial wave had been pushed back from the walls, and a line was established farther out. Yet it did not hold - we could not maintain the initial push for long, and they kept coming. More and more, they kept coming, more of them with hungry eyes, focusing on the life force contained within the city walls. Our lines fell back, then back again and again, until we were once more able to do nothing more than defend against the onslaught.

Thursday Afternoon, Jan 16, 2014

As the situation deteriorated, the spellcasting guilds posted a distant but thin ray of hope to shut down the runaway spell.

From: Resaech, the Guildmaster of Mages
Subject: The runaway spell

It has become apparent that the situation is far worse than we anticipated. We had originally hoped to push the undead back, and eventually make our way to the Zulu Empire to ensure that the last of the spawn had been destroyed. This seems a far dream now.

At best, we lie at the fringes of effect of the rogue spell, little more than a barely standing outpost on the fringes of a steadily increasing power. By our current estimates, we will be completely overrun within weeks, and while some may find temporary refuge in the distant peaks of the Ash Mountains, even that place will be overrun in time.

We are left with but two options: pray to the gods for assistance, and try to find some way to change the very rules by which the spell derives its power. As prayer is unlikely to save us in the little time we have remaining, an all out search is underway to for the latter.

We have some reason to believe that it is possible for mortals to affect the very rules of magic themselves, even if by indirect means. [see footnote 1] The sorceress Madeira has sent another message with some recommendations, which we are following up on. [see footnote 2]

In the short term, we have a continuous need for defense of the city walls, and there are several information gathering missions which could be of value to both defense and our long term prospects. Please see the various guild leaders for details.

---

Note 1 - Great Library AABN 57134 "The Celestial Archive, From Mythe to Reality", Chap 7:

"One does not cast god-level spells without getting the attention of powerful entities:

Dentin says, 'what are all you doing here?'

Dentin looks upward at the knot.

Dentin says, 'oh, I remember this place'

Dentin looks at the ground, the rune, and the corpse.

Dentin says, 'that's rather good work Redferne, congratulations on being in the right place at the right time'

Dentin pokes the corpse with his toe.

Dentin says, 'interesting way to do the binding. You guys have a long way to go though'

Dentin utters a handful of words that slide out of your mind like water. The rune flashes bright violet, then each of the runes in the chain in succession, until the circle is complete. A line of purple fire arcs from rune to rune around the ring, then settles into and buries itself into the stone.

Dentin says, 'that should hold a little better. It'll also keep it from being broken in the future'"

Though manipulation of the Celestial Archive provides several avenues by which to weaken the spell, our mages have assured us that the new binding placed by Dentin in the year 527 is well beyond our ken.

Note 2 - The second message received from Madeira reads as follows:

Of the A-Layer changes involved in the amplification loop, it appears that 5-527 is the most problematic. The weakening of the temporal restriction and addition of the mana/time tradeoff allow for slightly better than unity gain when paired with the other components in the loop, allowing the overflow to strengthen the soulbinding. This is a complex interaction and it seems unlikely that the initial caster understood the implications.

Events were once again set into motion with this, with the Mage guild requesting a courier to ask for assistance from other spellcasters.

The Captain of the Ralnoth Guard says to you, 'Resaech in the Mage's Guild has requested that I send over a trustworthy courier to assist with his research into the zombie problem. If you could head over there and talk to him, that would be grand.'

Resaech tells you, 'One of our most valuable magical resources is the fire giant Redferne, who currently occupies the floating palace above Gad's Mountain on the island of Archais. He is extremely old and understands certain fields of magic better than anyone else we are aware of. As much as I hate to bother him, I believe we should request his assistance here.

I've prepared a set of notes for him, and I ask you to deliver it to him and await his response. This problem seems outside his field of interest, but he may have some advice for us. Please return as soon as you have an answer.'

Redferne takes the papers, frowns, then casts a spell on them. For a while he is silent, but then he speaks.

'That's quite a mess, and definitely not my baliwick. Tell Resaech that his best bet is probably to set up local damping fields to break the feedback loop. It looks like it wouldn't take much, and those kinds of spells are probably within the ability of mortal casters. On the other hand, trying to actually change the A-Layer ruleset is completely out of the questions. We didn't even do that when the planar knot was rebound.

I have work to do, but if this is still a problem when I'm done, I'll do some research and try to lend a hand. Good luck.'

You relay Redferne's message, and Resaech sighs before speaking.
'I was afraid of that. While the subject of wide area spells did come up in our internal discussions, we really don't have any good ideas on how to actually do that, or which part of the runaway spell will be easiest to attack.

For now, all we can do is continue our research, and search for old spells which may give us the key insights we need to create wide area spells. If you encounter any in your travels, please let us know.'

Thursday Evening, Jan 16, 2014

An unexpected bit of divine intervention made itself manifest shortly after the return from Redferne:

From: The Cleric Guildmaster
Subject: Unusual dream/vision

It has been a very long time since I have had a vision, and so it is with confusion that report I have just seen two, one after the other, no more than an hour ago. In both cases, a great sense of urgency was impressed upon me, as well as a feeling that the situation is quite a bit worse than it appears.

The first vision was that of a small book with pages of silver, lying on the floor of a stone room with other items strewn about.

The second vision also showed me a book, rather a leather manuscript, knocked to the ground in what can only be a memorial hall.

I do not know the meaning of these visions, but I urge those who can identify the books or their locations to see me at once.

May the Pantheon be with you all.

Talking to the cleric spawned two all-out searches for the books in question. The dusty manuscript was found first:

The old cleric says, 'So you think you might be able to find it? There are a few other details that may also help. Just before the vision ended, my view floated through the door to stand before an undead dwarven king sitting on his throne.

I have no doubt that the book exists, or the gods would not have made the effort to show me the vision. If you are able to find and retrieve it, it may help us to fend off this growing zombie threat.'

You pick up the manuscript, and are struck with a transcendental feeling that yes, this is the right item.

It's an ancient manuscript, the equivalent of a research paper. The topic seems to be magical 'leylines', which is the name given to magical conduits through the earth between highly magical areas.

The paper claims to have found and analyzed several of these leylines, but the maps and locations are extremely old and don't really match any terrain you're familiar with. The techniques used are also strange, involving boring holes in the ground and channeling lightning to track the location of the lines.

While all this sounds interesting, not much of it matches up with your own understanding and magical training - this kind of 'leyline' wasn't mentioned, and certainly isn't a big part of modern spellcasting. You're not even aware of any large structures or projects with make use of them, bringing the topic of this paper into serious doubt.

The old cleric takes the manuscript, opens it, and says, 'This is definitely the manuscript from my vision. This isn't clerical magic at all, but I have no doubt that Resaech will find it useful. I will have it delivered to him immediately. Thank you so much for your service to our cause.'

Followed soon after by the silver paged book:

The old cleric says, 'If you are going to search for the silver book, there are a few other details that may also help. The last part of my vision showed me a massive stone slab and part of an underground crypt haunted by ethereal beasts and guarded by a stone black minotaur.

I have no doubt that the book exists, or the gods would not have made the effort to show me the vision. If you are able to find and retrieve it, it may help us to fend off this growing zombie threat.'

You pick up the book, and are struck with a transcendental feeling that yes, this is the right item.

The book is light and in extremely good condition, as though an incredibly strong protection spell had been cast on it to make it last through the ages. The script is beautiful, and the pages seem to be made of pure silver, enchanted to handle like paper yet be far, far stronger.

For all that, the content of the book is surpassingly awful. It is clearly a book of curses, describing rituals and punishment curses well beyond the capacity of the sane to apply, much less endure.

About halfway through, the content changes. While the first half of the book focuses the application of terror and revenge, the second half seems a thorough treatise in setting up large scale curses and spells which can affect large areas.

Gradually, the second half shifts from the technical details of the spellcasting, and delves into more practical applications: making large scale curses which are undetectable, extremely hard to break, and insidious. It then begins to cross reference the curses in the first half, leaving the reader with many, many options for a potential scorched earth policy.

The only thing that eases the slight upset in your stomach is knowing that at least some of these techniques simply don't work. It has been a very long time since this book was written, and some of the magic described in it is simply wrong. On a whim, you try to cast one of the extremely simple diagnostic spells, and it doesn't even bind a magical charge when you're finished.

The old cleric takes the book and reads through it for a short time. When he looks up, he seems rather more pale than earlier.

'I don't yet understand why the gods would have shown me this ... thing, but they must have had a reason. I must admit I have an overwhelming urge to destroy it immediately. Thank you for delivering it to me.'

Friday Morning, Jan 17, 2014

Rumors of doom began to circulate among the townspeople, demoralizing the defenders and making people suspicious. Among the most damaging was the following, which is even now believed to be accurate, even though denied by the Mage Guild.

There's a rumor circulating that Madeira's last message contains more than we were led to believe. It's said that there's a second part which reads as follows:

"If the damage cannot be contained, it may be necessary to relocate the Guild to one of the outer planar realms and institute lockdown procedures to prevent the spell from taking root there. Alternately, it may be possible to select a realm where one of the core constraints is weakened, causing the spell to decay instead of grow. Regardless, the Guild must consider as a valid scenario the complete loss and abandonment of the Prime Plane at this time."

Nobody seems to know who this Madeira is other than the leaders of the guild, but we all know this: the mages are scared. Really, really scared. More than one has been caught packing up and selling prized possessions in the last few days.

As if to confirm it, official evacuation plans were posted soon after the rumor began:

From: The Captain of the Ralnoth City Guard
Subject: Evacuation of the city

With the pressure continuing to mount, we have begun putting into place evacuation plans for the city. We are in contact with Dragon Tooth and Gad's Landing on Archais, and are preparing to evacuate the city to there.

There is more than enough capacity to save everyone, and there is no need to panic. At this time, we recommend that you put your belongings in order and pack only the essentials for a quick exit.

Please check this board regularly for updates to the evacuation plans.

Instead of calming the population, it served only to bring out even more extreme viewpoints and cranks:

From: Rickert Pipebane
Subject: The REAL evacuation!!!!

I know enough about magic to know that evacuation is only a temporary measure. Archais is unaffected by the rogue spell for now, but it will only be a matter of time before someone accidentally duplicates the spell there or the zombies break through the barriers on the portals.

We should immediately start the construction of portals to outer planar realms where the spell can't propagate. These would be built on Archais after the evacuation of Ralnoth. Redferne is near there, and he would surely help us build them as long as we have the materials for the project.

Before we leave we should gather the resources to build the portals. Of most pressing concern is obsidian. We need many very large, very heavy cubic blocks of it. Everyone knows that real portals can only be made with obsidian.

The Dragon Elves on the north continent have a lot of pure obsidian. We should send a detachment there to get all the obsidian possible and bring it back here. So far, the guildmaster's conspiracy has refused to acknowledge my plan! If they don't wake up soon, it'll be too late!

Tell the guildmasters you support my plan! They can't ignore all of us if we stand united!

As well as those who had simply lost hope:

From: (anonymous)
Subject: The end is near

They say that there will be plenty of time to evacuate everyone, but everyone knows that only the top people will get out. Interplanar portals are very hard to make and transport things through. We're all dead, they just can't admit it to us.

Friday Noon, Jan 17, 2014

There was little to do but sit back and wait, and ensure the safety of those behind the city walls. Alas, that was easier said than done.

The Captain of the Ralnoth Guard tells you, 'We've been getting reports of strange sounds and smells from one of the buildings on the northeastern edge of town, inside the city walls. Even the fishmonger says something is wrong, and he -never- talks to us unless he has to.

I don't have the manpower right now, so I'd like you to go check it out and report back to me. If there are zombies inside the city walls, we need to take care of them ASAP.'

Upon exploring the building, you find and dispatch a number of zombies, then find the source of the trouble: an insane necromancer, and a number of very powerful undead. The necromancer had been using the deathwalker skill for far longer than was healthy, and seemed to be convinced that the undead were perfect beings destined to rule the world:
An insane necromancer yells, 'these undead are the new world!'

An insane necromancer yells, 'you'll never take them away from me!'

An insane necromancer utters the words, 'pigca ca yahunwir jyn'
A recently risen zombie blurs and begins to move with supernormal speed.
A recently risen zombie weakens and stumbles.
A recently risen zombie weakens and stumbles.
A recently risen zombie is mortally wounded, and will die soon if not aided.
Your blood freezes as you hear A recently risen zombie's death cry!
A recently risen zombie is DEAD!

An insane necromancer yells, 'my haste spell? my haste spell killed him? no, you killed him!'

You stand stunned for a moment at what just occurred: one of the most powerful zombies you have seen to date, was quickly destroyed by a simple haste spell intended to help it. You should report this to the Captain of the Guard immediately.

You tell the Captain what you've discovered, and he replies:

'That's very interesting information, but we'll need to verify it and see if it works on all of the zombies before recommending others use it. I'd rather not have more defenders taken down because of bad information.

I'll also pass it on to the guildmasters to see what they think of it. Thanks for your help.'

This completely unexpected discovery quickly made the rounds and opened up a new avenue of attack against the oncoming hordes.

From: Resaech, the Guildmaster of Mages
Subject: Zombie weakness to 'haste'

To all hands:

There has been a completely unexpected discovery which may allow us to hold on for longer than expected, though it is unlikely to change the overall tide of battle. In short, these creatures are killed very quickly by use of the 'haste' spell. [see footnote 1] We recommend the use of the spell for all combat and defense groups, and casters will be dispatched accordingly.

---

Note 1 - perhaps not by coincidence, haste directly affects the time/mana tradeoff described by Madeira in her description of A-Layer change 5-527. The undead in question maintain a low but sustainable reservoir of mana to stave off decay. When hasted, the reservoir quickly becomes depleted, resulting in a 'release' of the soulbinding in a very short amount of time.

Friday Afternoon, Jan 17, 2014

At last, a long term solution was proposed by the spell casting guilds.

From: Resaech, the Guildmaster of Mages
Subject: A possible solution

With the discovery that haste is effective against these creatures, there has been discussion of casting a realm-wide, low level haste spell to eliminate the effects of the spell on our continent. Our current estimates are that such a spell need only have a miniscule fraction of the effect of the main spell to be effective, and that casting a realm-wide version should be possible.

Our current estimates lead us to believe that by placing glyphs every few miles, we can create a grid inside which the rogue spell will slowly decay and fail. However, construction of the glyphs, and the effort required to place them in the grid, will not be trivial. We also estimate that in order to kick start the grid, at least a dozen glyphs will have to be placed and activated.

We are still working out the details for this plan, and hope to have more information soon.

Construction of the spell anchors began in earnest, short only two critical ingredients. The hunt was on!

From: Resaech, the Guildmaster of Mages
Subject: We need your help

We've figured out a way to disrupt the undeath spell over wide areas, with what we believe will be a minimum amount of side effects. We've already built the first of a network of spell anchors, each one having a very minor haste effect over a wide area. The runic post driven into the ground here is our prototype.

Once the network is powerful enough, zombies within its range should slowly weaken, and eventually fall apart. The key is making the network powerful enough, and getting it to cover enough areas for the spell to die out.

Unfortunately, these posts are made of arjale smelted in part using liquid sunlight. Further, they are hollow, and trapped sunlight in their core provides power for the anchors. As such, we need liquid sunlight. All druids are encouraged to contribute at least one suncatcher to the cause.

We are also quite short on arjale ore, having used the last of what was available both here and from Khal'Uktar. Any adventurers willing to leave the safety of town to search for ore should talk to me in the Mage's Guildhall.

Thank you for your endurance of this difficult situation. The sooner we can get the network operational, the sooner we can turn the tide of battle against these creatures.

One of the critical components was liquid sunlight, typically caught by suncatcher bottles. An open call and reward for suncatchers was placed:

Resaech says, 'We will need sunlight - a lot of sunlight - to both forge the arjale and to power the anchors when they're placed. If you have a spare suncatcher you could donate to the cause, we would greatly appreciate it. Bring any extras to me and I'll make sure they get used.'

Resaech says, 'Thank you, we will likely need as many of these as we can get. We'll be filling them whenever the sun is out to make sure we have enough to forge the spell anchors.

There was also a serious shortage of arjale ore:

Resaech says, 'We desperately need arjale ore to forge more spell anchors to destroy the zombies. Unfortunately it takes quite a bit of ore to make not much metal, and the sunlight purification process we must use means we cannot start from already forged metal. Please spread the word - a supply of ore could mean the difference between success and failure.

Please bring any ore that you can get your hands on to me. I will ensure it is given to the smiths.'

Resaech takes the ore, levitates it to the back of the guild, and returns to you.

'That should serve to make at least one anchor, perhaps two. Take this as a token of the town's appreciation.'

Saturday Morning, Jan 17, 2014

Spirits began to lift as the first of the spell anchors became available.

From: Resaech, the Guildmaster of Mages
Subject: Spell anchors are ready

While we only have a few anchors as yet, we should place these as soon as possible to get the spell network running. As the anchors are extremely valuable, those trustworthy individuals who helped bring forging materials will have first priority in the anchor placing teams.

Once enough anchors have been placed, they will emit a very wide area, very low level haste spell that is sufficient to disrupt the spell animating the zombies. However, even their range is limited.

Because their range is limited, we need to place anchors every few miles. Zombies outside of the range of the anchors will continue to grow stronger, while those within the range of the anchors will grow weaker. If an anchor refuses to be placed, it is too close to another anchor. Try placing it in another area.

Remember that zombies outside the range of the network will still continue to grow stronger, so it is imperative that we cover all areas containing them. Please see me at the Mage Guild to assist in placing anchors throughout the world. With any luck, the threat posed by the zombies will be controllable in the next few days.

Good luck, the people of Ralnoth are depending on you!

Those who helped most with defense and retrieving materials were given the first anchors and asked to travel outside the city walls to place them and set up the network

Resaech says, 'We have a spell anchor ready, and as you helped gather the materials to forge it, you should have the chance to place it. Simply take it to an area with zombies nearby, and attempt to drop it point first into the ground. It will only sink in and connect to the network if it is in a proper location.

Once enough anchors are placed, the zombies should begin to slowly lose power as the spell animating them dies out. This may take some time, but in the end we will be victorious.

Good luck, and don't get killed before placing it!'

You drive the arjale anchor deep into the ground and activate it with a short trigger spell.

You feel a momentary time skip as the spell anchor connects to the other anchors in the gigantic spell network.

With the network in place, the zombies near them began to weaken, eventually being destroyed as the rogue spell animating them failed. It was not quick, and it did not affect zombies outside the range of the network, but it was sufficient to protect the towns and push the zombie threat to the fringes of civilization.

Sunday Morning, Jan 19, 2014

The spell network, a curious achievement combining curses, haste, the dark metal arjale, druid sunlight, and other high level magic, may have held for centuries, if not for divine intervention.

From: Resaech, the Guildmaster of Mages
Subject: The spell network has been destroyed

Approximately 15 minutes ago, the spell network failed, and we believe that all nearby anchors were destroyed, including inactive anchors which were recently completed. We do not yet know the reason and are investigating.

Eventually the reason was determined from an unexpected direction:

From: Resaech, the Guildmaster of Mages
Subject: The Pantheon to the rescue?

It appears that the gods themselves have stepped in. Two changes were recently made to the A-Layer, and we believe one of the changes caused the spells in the anchors to become unstable. The other modification directly affects change 5-527, which was part of the feedback loop allowing the rogue spell to maintain itself.

In short, the gods have fixed the problem in the A-Layer, and decided that mortals shouldn't be able to cast wide-area haste spells, so they blew up our anchors. As a result, we appear to be safe, and it seems unlikely that the zombies will be a threat in the future. We'll post more information if anything troubling comes up.

And yes, this is why I'm not a cleric.

To this day, it is not known if the gods were merely testing mortals to see if they would survive, or if the existence of the rogue spell was simply a mistake that was eventually corrected.

Happy 19th anniversary, Alter Aeon!



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