For the final entry in this series, we have the backstory and aftermath – both things which adventures are never really complete without. Here, also, are some Shadowrun statistics for the T’skrang and a few other details.
Sirdis – now better known as Osiris, the keeper of the spirits of the dead – recalled the events six millennia past in the mage-academies of Thera. Even those events had built upon events that were older still…
For several centuries when before and after magic was at it’s peak, the Horrors of the outer metaplanes could freely walk the earth. During that time, the peoples of the world had retreated into Kaers – magically warded shelters, most often hidden deep within the living earth – to evade the Scourge.
Shortly before the end of the Scourge, the people of Thera, working upon their warded island and under the leadership of the elder Elves, had completed the construction of the Kaldon – a magical amplifier designed stabilize the cycles of magic – maintaining a level sufficient to support a glorious magical civilization, yet insufficient to allow the manifestation of any major Horrors.
It had succeeded. When it was activated, the level of magic stabilized. A few of the lesser horrors yet remained upon the Earth – but they could be dealt with. That was what heroes were FOR. While many of Thera’s other plans were foiled, across the ensuing centuries, civilization grew and spread.
Sidris, first an apprentice and later a senior mage of Thera, had grown up in that new world. As he grew older, he had studied the deeper mysteries – among them, the design and operation of the Kaldon. After all, it represented one of the greatest feats of magical engineering in history – and over some decades of study, he grew concerned. Now that the base level of magic should be in steep decline, his investigations at the borders of the metaplanes revealed subtle anomalies – observations that did not quite agree with the calculations and theories of the elders who had created the Kaldon centuries ago.
He concluded that, when the base magic level grew too low, the Kaldon would start to draw life energy from the earth instead of drawing magic from the astral plane – a process that would kill everyone nearby and trigger a geological catastrophe that might well destroy Thera entirely. With that disaster, magic would abruptly cease to function across the world – a catastrophic loss, rather than a slow fading. Instead of a slow collapse, mitigated by adaption, the practice of lesser magics, and the construction of the metaplanar taps which could keep minor local magic functioning through the depths of the magic cycle, civilization would fall in fire and destruction.
None would listen. Branded a senile madman, Sidris was banished from Thera.
He sought another path. There had to be some way to preserve the lore of civilization and the magical species that – robbed of the chance to gradually breed back into their mundane baselines as the magic levels slowly fell – would become extinct when magic ceased to be. Some way to make sure that the next age of magic would be better prepared for the Horrors than even his own age had been. Some way to preserve the essence and spirit of the age.
To preserve the spirit? To anchor a spirit to a talisman was forbidden; it polluted the astral plane almost as badly as the Horrors themselves and affected even the physical world – but a temporary refuge on the edge of the metaplanes, with a provision for return, might be possible. Resurrection normally required a ritual of the tenth circle – but if the power could be built up over millennia… That was not normally a goal – few wished to spend ages awaiting the possible remembrance of some future age – but it might be possible.
Sidris sought out a small tribe dwelling along a river – one that would be glad to gain the assistance of an elder elven mage – and traded his magics for their services.
He constructed a metaplanar tap (despite the popular belief that – since the magic would not fail – such a project was valueless, pointless, expensive, and dangerous) and erected a massive marker over it – a statue that would later come to be known as the Great Sphinx. Such artificial nexi could persist through a low-magic era – but couldn’t be made close enough together to sustain a magical civilization. There would not be enough power. Even now, compared to the ambient magic supplied by the Kaldon, the power of such a nexus was a weak and feeble thing.
He channeled most of its power into supporting his creation of a pocket-realm on the borders of the metaplanes and a massive spirit-binding – together creating a sort of artificial afterlife from which spirits could be returned once magic rose again if what had gone wrong with their original physical bodies (such as a lack of sufficient magic) could be compensated for.
The remaining magic he made available in very small amounts in the area around the physical anchor of his pocket-realm. If the Kaldon failed as he predicted, that trickle of power would serve to keep up the memory of magic, to power some small rituals, and to allow additional spirits to be transferred to his pocket realm. When magic rose again, the spirits of the dead who’d been ritually sent to his artificial realm could be recalled, and civilization could pick up again where it had left off.
Of course, if the magic did not fail, it was quite unlikely that anyone would ever notice his efforts or the pocket realm…
As the time of his predicted catastrophe approached, he gathered a number of sages, powerful magicians, and magical creatures, to the area. Most were willing enough to pay him a visit. After all, if Sidris was right, they would be saved – and if he was wrong, it cost them very little to drop by for a few weeks.
Sidris was right. In an instant magic failed across the world. Skyships fell, magically-supported structures twisted and collapsed, transformed into ruins in mere moments. The creatures of magic died, the spells which underlay the fabric of society failed, and the lights of civilization went out in a wave of darkness that would not recede for five thousand years.
And the spirits of a thousands of magical creatures whom he had gathered near the Sphinx, including a dozen small tribes of namegivers and many humans and elders (including himself) who’s lives had relied on magic, passed into his pocket-realm – and were there preserved.
Of course, as usual, things happened that he had not predicted or intended.
While he had originally been preserving the endangered races and the wisest sages, he had entrusted the rites that allowed the people remaining on Earth to consult the spirits in his pocket-realm – and which bound spirits into it – to the early priest-kings or “pharaohs” – and they soon started stuffing his pocket-realm with friends and relatives.
Each such extraneous spirit had required a bit more of the power-capacity of Sidris’s metaplanar tap – the Eye of Rahn – to maintain. Thus, once his pocket-realm was stuffed to capacity, there was no more spare magic to send to earth, and the magic faded from Egypt. The rituals quit working – and, like anything else that quit working, were soon warped and forgotten. No one consulted the elder sages any more because – even if you could find enough power to reach them – none of the magic they could talk about worked. The ancient secrets were forgotten.
Sidris might have failed – leaving his pocket-realm of souls as no more than a snack to be devoured along the way when the magic levels rose and the Horrors once more began to move towards Earth – but a young woman followed a trail of clues more than three thousand years old to find the Eye of Rahn and the Secrets of the Sphinx.
Should she open the doors, and bring a mage to perform the true Ritual of the Opening of the Mouth of the Underworld, the power stored in Sidris’s ancient pocket realm will mostly be expended on restoring it’s occupants, and the pocket dimension will collapse. The sages and races of the prior age will rise, the remaining energies of the pocket realm will spread out across Egypt (fueling a new wave of goblinization into types currently unheard-of), the power of the Eye of Rahn will create a local high-magic zone around Gaza (at least until the general magic level exceeds it’s levels everywhere, which will happen in another few centuries), and the ancient pharonic enchantments will awaken once again.
Many of the sages, of course, were later regarded as godlings, so – in a way – the Egyptian Gods will once more walk the earth, bearing all their ancient magical knowledge.
And an old man’s plan to preserve his world for the future would come to fruition.
Yseult spent some months getting her cyberform adjusted to suit her new species – T’skrang:
Basic T’skrang: Str +0, Qui +1, Bod +1, Int +0, Wil +0, Chr +1, gains Tail Attack.
Winged T’skrang: Str +0, Qui +1, Bod -1, Int +1, Wil +0, Chr +1, gains Tail Attack and Limited Levitation (enough to cushion falls and allow limited flight with wings). Earthdawn purists should note that the fully-winged T’skrang appeared roughly a thousand years down the timeline from the original Earthdawn setting.
She had it rebuilt to match what the biologists and magicians said she SHOULD look like now. It felt a lot more comfortable somehow – and it wasn’t any more outre than a lot of the other people out on the streets these days.
It did pretty much put an end to easy disguises – but being involved in the discovery of the Eye of Ra had made her famous enough to pretty well put an end to that anyway.
She did finish tracing Hitoshi though… The Kaer had been far too old, and somewhat too far away, to have any involvement in Sidris’s project – but it would have had information on the creation of a metaplanar tap, and that was missing from it’s library.
To avoid unwanted attention, he’d want somewhere EXTREMELY isolated – and where any newly-awakened creatures could not escape to the outside world.
Out in the pacific, an island would keep any affected animals from wandering off.
Knowing Hitoshi, he’d want at least a few people around to cook and clean and such – but he’d want little contact with the outside world.
He’d want easy access to a source of magical materials – probably an uninhabited, or uninhabited until recently, island near his base.
That didn’t really leave many possibilities. Only the very smallest islands didn’t have many people, and most of the archipelagos were actually crowded enough to allow a lot of visiting.
In fact, a little datamining narrowed it down to five major possibilities.
It took some long-range flying – but working down the list eventually led her to Pitcairn’s Island, where Hitoshi was currently having problems with some of the things his tinkering had turned loose.
She had to import a fair amount of firepower to deal with THAT – but it really wasn’t a very complicated problem.
It took quite some time before everything was ready in Egypt – but once so many people were aware that the powers of the ancient world might be restored, the enactment of the ritual was inevitable.
The power of the collapsing pocket-realm funneled through the Great Sphinx – incidently restoring it to it’s ancient glory – and radiated out across Egypt, a rippling rainbow wave of astral energy. Ancient monuments that had incorporated binding spells into their construction rose again. A tidal wave of greenery spread across barren deserts and hills in the wake of the wave of magic. With that wave of magic, the Obsidimen, T’skrang, Windlings, and many other magic-dependent species returned – as did a great many ancient pharaohs and pharaonic relatives.
For good or ill, most of the pharaohs and their relatives could be saved – at least for a time – by modern technology and magics; many of the problems that had been a death sentence in 2000 BC without magic were fairly readily handleable in the twenty-first century with it.
It wasn’t all that long before Sidris – now greatly honored – passed on in peace at last; modern medicine could do little more than magic against extreme old age – and he had been a very old elf five thousand years before.
With her final case complete, Yseult settled down to her new (and well-paid) job – interface with the modern world for a series of ancient tribes who were wholly unfamiliar with non-magical technology, custodian of ancient magical secrets, celebrity, and researcher into methods of defending the world against the Horrors. This time around, civilization would not fall if she could help it – even if there were many centuries in which to prepare.
Although she did maintain her hobby of information brokering.