The vile alien presence, that of Bolothamogg unleashed from its prison, caresses your minds. Terror and dread race through your thoughts, for who only knows what horrors are in store for you after having seen what the Defiler had done to both the woeforged and the abeils of the Apiary. And that had been when the Sealed Evil in a Can had actually been sealed away!
“YES, MY PETS. I AM FREE. AT LONG LAST, THE SHACKLES OF THE COAUTLS HAVE BEEN SUNDERED, AND NOW—“
Bolothamogg’s horrific bellowing in your own mind is cut-off by a scream of agony that would make you double over in pain for its wretchedness, but for that it was happening to such a nice Elder Evil. A cacophonous whooshing sound reverberates and the ceiling of the Throne Room is ripped off of the palace! A maelstrom of almost unimaginable fury roars above you, and in the distance you can see buildings alternately being ripped out of the ground or splintering under the seismic activity that rumbles beneath you. You and your allies frantically sprint down the rampways that lead to the Ydnamron, dodging pieces of aerial detritus from the palace collapsing around, arriving on the deck of the Ydnamron as the great crystalline pathways collapse behind you.
Once aboard, Nidrom, Harolizat, and Surrag make their way to the bridge of the amazing airship: A few moments after they’ve disappeared, two great wing-sails deploy from the rear flanks of the ship and its propulsion system hums to life, surging forward as the hanger in which it resided comes raining down around it. And you! You hang on for dear life as the cumbersome craft bounces hither and yon, weaving furiously to escape the imploding palace, before at long last you escape with your life, but not your shorts, intact.
The world you see before is markedly…smaller, with the horizon eerily closer than it was when you entered the Palace of Harmonious Order. Which, you realize, is not your eyes fooling you: It really is closer, for the cavern that houses the Apiary is rapidly collapsing in on itself, with the magic that produced the extradimensional pocket in which the Apiary existed having been destroyed by the death of Queen Sitris’Aniram. And into this whirling maelstrom of collapsing skylines and Siberys shard whirlwinds your skyship turns, with the tceffessam apparently grimly determined to see through your plan to the bitter end.
Clearly, this isn’t going to be your day. Your stomach concurs, as the buffeting winds and shrapnel-filled plumes of debris force you to take cover as the ship makes its way to the Citadel of Everflowing Aerophonia. As you approach it, you first notice that a gargantuan purple crystal floats above a Siberys shard ziggurat: As you get closer, the crystal has been cleaved in half, the upper half atomized into an orbiting debris field and the lower half boasting several deeper fishers. Judging by the damage to it, and the increasingly unstable wind effects, the asari succeeded.
“WHAT IS THIS? MORE INSECTS COME, INTENT TO RUIN EVERYTHING? TO MY THRALLS? EXCELLENT!”
A voice warbles and taunts in your mind as you into orbit over the shattered roof of the Citadel. It is not Bolothamogg: Your mind is not being fondled by an evil beyond description. You look around for where the telepathic voice could be coming from, when suddenly hear rumbling below you and find yourself staring eye-to-eye with what looks like the biggest three-eyed catfish your nightmares could produce as it emerges from the rubble of the Citadel. It is at least fifty feet long, with four menacing tentacles flaying and, just to make it even worse, it’s flying.
“I AM TERRIDAS, TAINTER OF THE STARS, AND RULER OF THIS PLACE. BOW DOWN BEFORE YOUR NEW MAS—“
The deck of the Ydnamron bucks and rolls as Nidrom frantically wheels the airship out of the path of a gargantuan Siberys shard hurtling towards. Terridas is not so lucky, with the shard impaling it from the right and proceeding to burst through the center of its head, obliterating all of its eyes as it passed through in an explosion of gore and gray matter. The space horror fish rolls over mid-air and then hurtles earthward, with its brain having been blown out of its head. Even over the winds and distance, you can hear the titanic crash of eighty tons of flying fish hitting the ground.
With the immediate threat eliminated, all eyes turn back to the roof of the Citadel. You see at least a dozen blue humanoids with static head-tentacles: None are moving and most are in rather oddly contorted positions. But then, climbing out from some of the rubble, you see a live one! And then another! In all, nine emerge: Three are the deep blue color of the contorted corpses, but the other six are pale green and seemingly ooze-covered. From the whoops of Pehsemmef, you know you’ve found the survivors your looking for: A rope is tossed overboard and they’re helped aboard. Just in time, too, for the segment of extradimensional space the Citadel resided in gives out soon after and the entire ziggurat collapse in on itself.
With what survives you can find, Nidrom turns the ship around and accelerates towards the ever-shrinking exit to the Apiary. The effects of the out-gassing are sufficiently severe that you take shelter below-deck and watch through portholes the remnants of buildings and bodies being tossed around. Suddenly, out in the distance, something eerily familiar becomes visible: The armored spire drone from earlier, its blood still dulling its other gleaming full-plate! Kingu, not one to let his trophy get away again, ties a rope to his longspear to improvise a harpoon: Then, proving he’s absolutely batshit insane, goes up on deck. Braving shrapnel and an ever-thinning atmosphere in the name of awesome, he sights his mark and ties the other end of his harpoon’s rope to a bolted down object on the deck. Then proceeds to HURL himself towards the bee’s corpse! Using the power of hotblood and a little arcane magic, he manages to fight his way out to it and firmly secure the harpoon. Then proceeding to drag the thing – and himself – back to the airship, using the power of his hotblooded anger. All the while getting towed behind the Ydnamron as it tumbled and rolled through the closing mouth to the Apiary!
Adrenaline pumping, stomachs churning, certain death at hand…and then nothing. The horrible buffeting of wind disappears. The terrible grinding of shrapnel cutting into the hull and the equally terrible splintering of internal support beams gone. A kind of idle peace: Popping the hatches, you find yourself floating in spess, in all of its majesty and horror. Behind you the once panoramic doorway to spess from the Apiary violently shuts and a large segment of the Siberys shard into which the Ark has been built glows white-rod with radiance, as a vast amount of magical energy is set loose by the sealing of the Apiary. And then you see the King of the Talenta Plains, pulling himself aboard the Ydnamron astride his trophy giant spess bee.
As your exuberance about survival fades, you are forced to undertake the rather necessary job of inspecting the ship and conducting damage control. While the outside of the ship bears a passing resemblance to those in Khorvaire, its interior is like nothing you’ve ever seen: It is everything from the inside of the Ark writ large, with arcane holographic interfaces for seemingly every function, from simply opening doors to the most impressive navigational table you have ever seen. Even the tceffessam seem somewhat overawed by it all.
“Welcome, tceffessam. I have been waiting for you for weeks: I had feared that the worst had come.”
You whip your heads around in the direction that female voice originated from, only to discover a pale blue floating humanoid head. You can’t help but wonder aloud just what it is.
“I am Keeper Ediaranth: Once, long ago, it was my task tend to the Apiary of Harmonious Order. But that was sufficiently long ago that I have lost count myself. As my mortal body withered, I uploaded my mind into the Ydnamron: To watch, and wait, for the dreaded day that this vessel would be needed.”
It’s hard to tell what’s more impressive: That the ship is, for lack of a better work, talking to you or that it claims to be as old as the Ark itself. She – it’s fitting that the ship has the mind of a female, isn’t it? – takes it all surprisingly well, even congratulating you as Nonnagron did for simply making it to the Ark, let alone stabbing Queen Crazypants in the face.
“What you have just witnessed was one of the final safeguards the Creators built into the Ark. The hive-mind of the Apiary of the Harmonious Order was shaped by its queen, and done so through a complex system of arcane amplifiers within her throne room, and it was bound to providing the focus necessary to maintain the magics that carved out the Apiary and which bound Bolothamogg. The amplifiers were constructed in such way that were she ever killed within that throne room, they would self-destruct, on the assumption that if the Queen of the Harmonious Order had been slain, it had been at the behest of the Defiler, and with its shattering, the collapse of the Apiary to ensure the deaths of all the Defiler’s thralls. Using the wreckage of the Apiary as a feedstock, an automated protocol would be engaged to patch any and all primary containment breaches.”
You cannot help but look askance at being told that killing the head honcho of the Elder Evil’s prison guards tore down the final barrier necessary to free it. Or, for that matter, that such a contingency had been planned for in the first place.
“While we are fairly off the beaten path of operating protocols, at this juncture I would implore you to activate the Purge. If we have been sufficiently compromised that the Apiary had to be destroyed, then no hope remains of restoring any kind of true shackling of the Defiler. It will only be a matter of time before he eats through the patches to primary containment which have been applied. Initial reports indicate that the Purge trigger is ready for initiation and arcanocapacitors ready with sufficient power to initiate the Purge.”
You can’t help but curl your nose at that option, knowing that an unknown but a rather large population of innocents exist in the outer ring that would be killed by activating the Purge. Ediaranth sighs exasperatedly and despondently.
“This no time for mindless sentimentality. What is most important is tha—inbound teleportation detected on the top-deck. Odd. Shouldn’t even be able to do that within the dimensional oscillatory shield. Assuming it’s still online. Please tell me it’s online.”
You don’t answer her question, partially because you’re not even sure what she’s talking about, and partially because someone’s outside in spess, presumably without a vac-suit. Racing topside, you do indeed find someone on the deck: A striking young and green-skinned humanoid woman with serpentine features and long, dark hair. She is also naked. And possesses large nail holes in her wrist, elbow, shoulder, ankle, and knee joints, as well as the joints where the femur meets the pelvis, with blood oozing onto the deck.
And, oh yes, she’s not choking vacuum. Or having her blood boil off. Either everyone’s been lying to you and spess really isn’t that bad of a place or the Ydnamron is sheathed in some kind of magical air envelope, so that you can be out and about on the top-deck without a vac-suit. You think it’s the latter.
After having firmly secured the King’s prize, had a chat with the sentience older than your civilization that inhabits the ship, and attended to your hitchhiker as best as you can (whose wounds won’t close, despite Gwynne’s most ardent attempts to pump her full of positive energy), you tend to the important task before you: Repairing the internal teleportation system, so that you can evacuate the Cyrans to somewhere safer. A process which, in rather anticlimactic style, takes all of then minutes to get running: It’s more than made up for by seeing Oagen reunited with his little girl and the tearful revelation that they are indeed going home.
Also the look on Dr. Flint’s face when you reveal the adventure you’ve been on: He’s been chatting with Nonnagron’s animated statute since you left, but apparently it didn’t bother mentioning the Sealed Evil in a Can. Indiana Hyena really, really wishes you hadn’t mentioned it either. The process of moving the Cyrans and their surprisingly copious supplies from the Celestium takes several hours, as does it take several more to get them settled into the rather robust quarters which are available within the bowels of the Ydnamron. After its conclusion, Dr. Flint and Oagen tag each other, with the former officially rejoining the party proper.
While the Cyrans are getting settled, you receive a call from an old holographic friend: Mithril Man, who Ediaranth informs you is Forgemaster Delthan, the man who you have heard so much about. It’s a good thing that Oagen’s no longer in the party, or else he’d’ve tried to stab Delthan through the holographic projector, as it was on Delthan’s orders most of the Cyrans were killed. When you broach the subject, Delthan shrugs.
“I did what I must to protect the Ark: Following the detection of what occurred on your ‘Day of Mourning’, I knew Bolothamogg would sense a disturbance and discover those Lower Worlders. I also know that he would break them and use them as tools to further his own escape. Purging them and destroying the umbilicals should have been – and was! – sufficient for the problem at hand until those constructs came through a year-and-a-half later. And you saw what Bolothamogg did to them.”
You ask what his opinion of the situation is: You had never thought you see a construct made of mithril smirk bemusedly at you, but today’s just been one of those days, hasn’t it?
“Do you know why the Ark still exists? Why I did not activate the Purge when the Queen of Harmonious Order proved to be an inept buffoon incapable of doing even the most of basic of tasks assigned to her? When Ranoe’s precious pets escaped their cages and overran the Arborium? When the illithids infested the Creators’ quarters in the Arcanium? Because that was never my decision to make: It was the decision of Nonnagron himself that the Ark’s mission of preservation was more important than its role as a prison. The Purge can only be activated by a Lower Worlder who has been authorized to do such, by having seen Ranoe’s welcome message at one of her precious obelisks.”
The tceffessam look rather confused: They, apparently, were under the impression they could blow it up themselves if push came to shove. Delthan laughs haughtily at their ignorance, and makes no bones of commenting on it. You angrily note that they’re just as sentient as he Delthan is, and that is why you have issues with blowing up the Ark: Because the outer ring is full of innocents, who don’t deserve a terribly death.
This just makes him laugh even harder.
“I had forgotten what it was like to interact with servitor races: It has been so long since they actually came to the Celestial Foundry for the purposes of chatting rather than attempting to breach the bulwarks. Were it up to me, the Ark would be remembered as nothing more than an odd celestial phenomenon tens of millennia ago. The Purge is the smartest, safest, and most logical course of action for the safety of all being on Eberron.”
He pauses and purses his lips. It seems talking has gotten him thinking about something profound. He sighs wearily.
“For too long have I and my kin been forced to subsist on all but the narrowest of advantages. But one slip-up and we, the final bastion of the Creators, would fall. We have had no margin-of-error or room for seemingly wasteful compassion. But however dim the memory has become, I do remember what it was to be a man. To hope against hope and search for a way out even when logic commends you accept your fate.
“There is nothing I can do to save the Ark. The patch to primary containment will hold for a short period of time: A few decades, maybe half-a-century if we are lucky. When Bolothamogg cracks it, there will be no army ready to face him and the monsters he will spawn to accelerate his escape. He will dominate all sentience aboard the Ark beyond the Foundry, throw them against us, and we shall be overrun. And with that done, he need just deactivate the oscillatory engine and teleport back to Eberron.”
“If, to save a few million souls, you are willing to risk the life, freedom, and even very existence of independent thought on Eberron, then all hope is not lost: The Ark, despite 40,000 years of trouble, can still be repaired. But it will an effort that is herculean even by the standards of the Creators: Its scale is something that, I suspect, you cannot begin to comprehend.”
Under the original division of labor which was installed by the titans, the Celestial Forge was tasked with propagating the magics that kept the Ark intact and operational while the Apiary was tasked with the physical upkeep of the Ark and preservation of good order in the areas which the titans had once occupied. Soon after the final titan took its leave of the Ark, however, the system began to break down due to a falling out between the Forgemaster of the Celestial Foundry and the Queens of the Harmonious Order: This falling out, and subsequent compromising of the basic division of labor, led to ever-greater inefficiencies as the Apiary struggled to maintain the exotic arcana which enabled it to exist while the Celestial Foundry struggled to maintain some semblance of order in the outer ring. With the Apiary now gone entirely and the Celestial Foundry’s scarce resources stretched to the breaking point merely to hold onto what it already does, there is no source of manpower available to begin actual repairs of the Ark. You will need to recruit and mobilize three broad classes of individuals in order to restore the Ark:
1) Low-skilled laborers. The task of restoring the Ark will be daunting: It will require the mobilization of a veritable army of thousands of laborers in order to do in any kind of timely manner. Thousands of laborers who will necessitate hundreds of support personnel, to guarantee that they are fed, housed, and properly equipped for the job at hand. And all of this will have to be done in a place 22,000 miles from the planet’s surface.
2) Highly skilled laborers. The Ark is, without question, the most complex eldritch machine ever encountered by the peoples of Khorvaire. The system crafted to do something as simple as maintain a consistent and pleasant temperature throughout a given section of the station is as complex as a creation forge: The mind reels simply trying to imagine the kinds of artifice required to maintain a stable orbit, operate the dimensional oscillation engine, or keep Bolothamogg imprisoned. In addition to a veritable army of worker bees, you will need a legion of arcanely inclined foremen to supervise the teeming masses of laborers, artificers and magewrights to operate arcanely powered heavy equipment, and men willing to develop entire new fields of endeavor, such as mastering spesswalking and arcane operations in the Ring of Siberys. You will also need skilled administrators and bureaucrats to keep a project of this size and scale moving forward.
3) Academics and bureaucrats. It is not simply enough to put an army of laborers at the behest of the Forgemaster: The cultural and technical gaps are too great for such an arrangement to work. You will need to mobilize a sizable intellectual contingent, to process the demands made by the Forgemaster, facilitate the requisite knowledge transfer to make it happen, and to transmit all necessary lessons learned by to Khorvaire. A task the magnitude of the Ark’s restoration will require nothing less than creating several new academic disciplines and pushing exponentially beyond the limits of what was thought possible with current arcana in a half-dozen more: You will need to ensure that you have the brain trust ready to not only rise to the challenge, but do it with aplomb and make sure that those expanded horizons are put to use.
4) Garrison forces. As the party discovered, the Apiary was awash in heavy weaponry and formidable military force. Much of it was devoted to containing Bolothamogg and the horrible creatures that it crafted and animated from Siberys shards and then sent marching against the city. Such a garrison would, in due time, need to be reconstituted to keep a weather eye on the Elder Evil Sealed in a Can. You will also need to recruit and develop a sizable military apparatus if you are to ever hope to retake the Arcanium and evict its mindflayer overlords, or bring order to the death jungles of the Arborium.
Forty-thousand years ago, the Ark was built in situ using predominantly Conjuration(creation) magics, with raw Siberys shards from the Ring being transmuted directly into arcane energy and then used to power true creation and greater fabricate spells on a truly colossal scale. While the needs of the moment are not nearly as great, the resource stockpiles of the Ark are grossly inadequate to handle the backlog of repairs and deferred basic maintenance which currently exists. Large infusions of four categories of resources are required to restore the Ark:
1) Quality stone and iron. Much of the Ark’s is constructed of alchemically treated and arcanely reinforced stone or steel, which will be required in voluminous quantities to repair the damage done to the Promenade and the outer ring by millennia of bare minimal maintenance and more recent events. Delthan furnishes you with a mineralogical survey of several locations where quarrying stone of sufficient strength can be obtained, as well as the specifications to which steel must be prepared to.
2) Precious industrial metals. The Ark’s critical systems, related to the upkeep of what’s left of Bolothamogg’s prison, upkeep of the Ark’s libraries of the Giants’ knowledge, and maintenance of proper orbit, have been overdue for overhauls. The situation has degenerated to the point that nothing less than full rebuilds of most of those systems will be required, and necessary to do that will be adamantium, mithril, and a basket of other planar minerals you have never heard of before. Delthan provides you with a mineralogical survey of several locations where these metals can be found in the quantities required.
3) Organic materials. For all of its wondrous and gleaming artifice, the Ark is still in no small part reliant upon plants for day-to-day operations: The organic material they produce is used in myriad applications across the Ark, ranging from emergency patching materials to maintain the structural integrity of the outer ring to being the basis for the fibrous arcane cabling that transfers energy throughout the Ark and, given the extent of the accumulated damage to the Ark, massive quantities of such will be needed. A small botanical encyclopedia is supplied to you of useful plants and, more broadly, useful traits known to be possessed by plants.
4) Portable magic. Many of the Ark’s systems were built to utilize combined-cycle arcane power sources, drawing some of their power from absorbing the ambience of the Ark’s central Siberys shard while, concurrently, drawing power from the direct transmutation of shard reservoirs into magic. The Celestial Foundry’s shard reservoirs have all but depleted themselves: Alternative sources and mechanisms for solid magical fuel will be required to keep the systems which rely on portable magic online.
Magic is the lifeblood of the Ark: It is what keeps the station where it is and keeps its prisoner bound, ever so tenuously.
1) Little magic. Around every corner of the Ark lays some kind of magical effect: From its usage of holographic interfaces to its omnitool security protocols, the Ark is replete the arcane. Much of its functionality has worn thin, however, due to failures by both the Celestial Foundry and Apiary to ensure basic upkeep was done on the infrastructure that supports it. This is the sort of work, keeping ambient magical effects operative and in the best possible condition under their usage circumstances, that is the bread-and-butter of major urban areas in Khorvaire: A corps of artificers and magewrights adept at such preservation of ambient magical effects will be required to return the Ark to its former glory.
2) Big magic. As the millennia have worn on, the Ark has faced an ever greater magical energy crunch: Because of the falling out between the Apiary and the Celestial Foundry has much of the power collection apparatus to ossify and breakdown due to lack of maintenance. The available power resources for the Ark have dwindled to the point that there is only enough to maintain its most essential systems for maintaining orbit and the most critical of the station’s defensive protocols: Worse still, the immense periods of exposure to the hostile medium of spess have corroded and warped most of the radiance collectors that power the Ark, meaning simple repair is no longer an option and that replacement is necessary, and there simply no way to replace the ruined collectors needed in a timely manner given the slew of other, more pressing repairs that need to be made. What is required is a power source capable of producing the combined output of the lost radiance collectors: Delthan thinks he could design such a thing, but would need to find someone with a large enough and sophisticated enough magical base to build it. He scoffs at anyone in Khorvaire being able to do it: He requires something with an output of four-hundred megavances – with a vance equaling one-sixth of a spell-level per second of magical output – and the largest such output humanity has ever achieved was approximately ninety kilovances, out of the oscillatory engine which inadvertently triggered the Mourning. You’re going to have to enlist the help of someone with far, far more power. While Delthan knows nothing of Eberron’s evolution for the past 40,000 years, he can think of at least one player who could do what he requires: Argonnessen.