Sojourn on the Space Egg
Arriving with a crackle, the party (Zero, Damocles, Sprox, Ginson and Frederick) step out of the portal’s pentagram. The hum of ventilation and soft clunk of pumps and valves are all that confronts the band. Outre’ decor is the order here: flawless and impossibly clean curving glass, elegant instrument consoles, gently heated deck plating. Small discreet warforged automatons scuttle about dusting and polishing this reef sunk Titanic-to what end?
The impossible lies just beyond the continuous expanse of floor to ceiling window: the cold harsh vista of the afterlife-or is it simply space? The Sun rises, and the terminator races across troubled Eberron. The iron hand of vertigo shakes several of us as the impossible height of 70 miles sinks in. We are insects-the stars! We are insects-eternity!
Caught by the fierce glare of the new Sun, the party is forced to turn momentarily away from the spectacle below.
Shhhh-kerchunk! Squinting, tears running down our faces- trembling hands-a noise behind us, something rising up in the dark.
“Welcome-I am Steelhearth. This is the Facility, and you are now safe. You are most fortunate, I calculate your odds of survival to be 1.375×10 to the power of negative 5 if you had remained in former Cyre. Please observe the coming of the End of Times, as it were. Notice the Dragon-there he is.”
The vast ball of the planet is streaked with cumulous clouds, laced with titanic currents of moisture like icing on a cake. A glance reveals icy continents at the planet’s poles-vast seas-the equatorial continents themselves, and there just where you expect it to be-the Mourning. But where we had recently been-former Cyre, now all is fire.
“Observe, I think you will find this interesting. He emerged some 10 hours ago, and I calculate he and his minions have already devastated some 170,000,000 hectares. An amazing instrument of destruction-some might say of Judgement? But we are not so sentimental or pious to jump to such conclusions. Let’s just say he is tilling the soil anew, like a simple farmer might in preparation for the of sowing a crop.”
Sure enough, down there on the surface something wicked this way came. Even from this impossible height the black form of the great Serpent can be discerned. Rendered senseless, some of the party slump down where they stand, others shake, tears running down their faces: mourning all that they have even known. Some time later, we witness it’s grim progress across the scarred surface of home. It’s fast-very fast. The deadly veil of the Mourning effect marches in step, advancing to smother the Dragon’s new conquests. The end of all life. If this is Death, where does that leave us? What unfinished task leaves us here on the grim shores of Lethe?
“You will not be able to return the way you came. In fact, there are relatively few viable portals to which you might travel. Hmm, Xen’Drik, Sharn Blackhearth, and that’s it. It’s up to you, but I counsel delay-it will be pretty dangerous down there in a day or so-the Dragon you see. He is set to consume the entire continent in approximately 4 days and 17.5 hours. You are safe enough here-for a time anyway. This Facility was never designed for continuous habitation-by biologicals anyway. There a couple of options-but we can discuss that later, we have all the time in the world at our disposal!”
Trapped. No future. No context furnished by the party’s collective pasts fits the shattered remnants of the present. Ranting. Fits of pointless rage. Tears. Pacing out each meter of deck plate in our 100 meter prison. Again. The view out the window, always the triumph of death, the unraveling of all our hopes and efforts. Time passes. (someone) “Is there anything to drink around here? I could really use a drink right now! Anything besides this recycled urine-can you ferment urine? Anyone?”
“Despite, ahem, the unfortunate circumstances on the planet’s surface, I can’t help feeling somewhat optimistic about our immediate future. I am excellent company and an excellent host. I can converse in 127 languages, including several consisting solely of higher mathematics. We have, as you pointed out, all the recycled, and may I point out perfectly potable liquid you might require. I have books memorized-I can read to you, why a whole library of learning at your disposal. There is the small problem of food: the larder is bare. Of course, you could elect to leave your fleshy bodies-I have the means for the Transfer just over there…scrabble anyone?”
(Fredrick) “We must return and save them, how can we save them?”
(Damocles) “We should return and assist the Dragon with it’s work-this is a new day and a great opportunity that should not be missed! Hiss!”
(Ginson) “We should converse with Steelhearth. He may be able to help us discover our options.”
“I do have the portal combinations for teleport circles in several secret Cannith labs throughout Cyre: Whitehearth, Redhearth, Grayhearth, etc. Those are obviously not good places to travel to. After the Mourning, House Cannith established Blackhearth in the Sharn undercity.
In their folly, house Cannith abandoned me and this Facility, and don’t presume to ask me why-it’s still too painful. My consciousness is bound within the lab; I can’t communicate with our people on the surface unless they travel up here. I do have ways of getting information from Khorvaire, which is how I was able to get the teleport key to Blackhearth. I have also acquired the portal combination to a Cannith facility in Stormreach on the continent of Xen’drik. I can send you down to Blackhearth, but anyone at the site will be surprised and probably not happy to meet you.
This Facility was designed for a task, one that might serve your present needs. You are, as you have said, trapped here. The repeater beacons are winking out, one by one, each corresponds to a portal. Options are few, and there is little food. I can place your bodies in stasis, and you might ‘sleep’, but wouldn’t it be finer to inhabit a nice, shiny warforged body for a time? Think on it, consider the advantages! The situation down below might resolve favorably to the flesh yet, in time. To lead another life, in another body.”
Discussion. Argument. Resolve. We shall abandon our bodies for a time, and wait things out. The dust may settle. One by one the transfer is effected. Our bodies reside each in a crystal sleeve, packed in gel and wreathed by ice. The novelty of mechanical shells lasts awhile, no one is really keeping track of time any more. Sprox spends more and more time outside, clinging to the shell of the Facility, listening to the music of the spheres. Steelhearth warns him of the dangers: outside the shielded hull, the hard radiation of space could eventually erode his subroutines. Sprox doesn’t seem to care.
Years pass. Decades. Each of us find something to keep us busy, something besides astronomy and scrabble that is. Frederik faithfully records the new Mourning, other changes to the once familiar contours of the lands below. Damocles takes out her rage at this confinement at the anvil, learning the blacksmith trade and fashioning a suit of armor. Ginson’s pursuits are the oddest, building and launching capsules designed to fall back to Eberron. Even with Steelhearth’s assistance, each launch ends in the fiery spectacle of reentry.
Regarding the Mourning itself, you know that life can’t grow where it spreads. Vegetation dies off and food and water spoil and become poisonous. People and animals have to leave or they will die of thirst or starvation. It also gives rise to monsters and other dangers that no one’s been able to study or explain.
Steelhearth also explains that the thing that’s emerged from beneath the Mournland is an avatar of Khyber, not actually the god itself. It’s still an immensely powerful creature, but there might be a way to banish it, seal it, or otherwise put a stop to its rampage. The first Mourning stopped at the borders of Cyre, so this second Mourning may well only extend to the edges of Khorvaire.