Troubled Waters

In the wake of the triumphant return of the four Elder Gods, in the eventful year 381 after the Coming of Estarra, much rejoicing and celebration took place among the organisations of the Basin and in the Divine Havens alike. Serenwilde welcomed the Silver Goddess with joy and relief, their fervent prayers full of longing finally answered. The Frost Queen has chosen to take Her time, studying the First World with impeccable scrutiny while Hallifaxians were drawn in numbers to Her fulcrux. And finally, the Lord of Epicurean Delights was welcomed everywhere to such an extent that He decreed a culinary contest would be held to curry His patronage. In the end, a head to head rivalry between Glomdoring’s and Gaudiguch’s entry was settled in Gaudiguch’s favour. Amidst all the revelry that swept through the Basin, Carakhan, Pearl of the Ocean remained much overlooked by all but the Celestians.

Soon after Her arrival, a contingent from New Celest gathered at Her fulcrux, seeking to meet the Divine so closely associated with the waters they hold dear. Among the first arrivals was the Princess of New Celest herself, Kelly McCloud, Admiral Neos Eli’Silar, Grandmaster Ryboi D’Varen and his son, the Canticle of the Righteous, Daebach D’Varden. The gathering also featured the inquisitive Diresinger Siam Star-eyes and the Queen of the Night, Zouviqil Myeras. The Goddess welcomed them warmly and answered their many questions, portraying Herself as the artist of the seas, She who painted the seashells and sculpted the beaches, and not a Keeper of the Song like some in attendance had hoped. Much painful and bitter news was then revealed to the Goddess – the losses, the defeats, the mergings of Elders, and the return of the Traitors. She was most shaken and surprised to hear that the returned Triumvirate had done nothing about this, and it was then revealed, much to Her sorrow, that Hoaracle, the Dreamer, has been slumbering for quite some time and She would be unable to meet Him.

Many Elders visited the Pearl of the Ocean from that point forth as well, the Aesthete among them. The reunion of the Artists was most touching and Carakhan was almost rendered speechless that Isune, too, was among those who returned to the First World, and welcomed Her with open arms and joy. The Aesthete had changed significantly since the two last painted the sky and seas, upon which They both remarked, but their bond transcended all, and soon, They were laughing and rejoicing, celebrating the way only Artists do.

In the months that followed, the city of New Celest continued to visit the Mother of Waters, as some had taken to title Her. Upon one of those visits, the Goddess took the Aquamancers up on their offer to visit the Elemental Plane of Water and so they did, with the majority of New Celest in tow. The Lake of Dreams caught Carakhan’s fancy at first sight for it reminded Her of Hoaracle, but there were many more things to see and the Archmage Tridemon McCloud and Admiral Neos Eli’Silar spared no detail. It was there in those Cosmic waters that the Goddess first heard of Emperor Ladantine, along with details about the future that shall never be, physical and metaphorical doorways, and the secrets of Aquamancer wardrobes.

Her interest sparked, the Goddess requested the tale of the Fall of the Holy Celestine Empire soon after and Princess Kelly, along with Prelate of Loving Radiance, Meliana Regalis, Postulant Kagato, and Grandmaster Ryboi, all painted the picture of the grand Empire’s reign and abrupt demise. The focus then shifted to a discussion of the aftermath that befell Magnagora, once a member of the Empire, and the tainted powers they have mastered. The entirety of the tale carried the Goddess through an array of emotions – shock, marvel, disgust, and disbelief – all in equal measure. Her emotions were shaken especially at the revelation that Illith had splintered and Her soulless shards have found home in the transformed Magnagora.

A measure of time was needed for Carakhan to consider all that has transpired over the course of Her absence, and during that reprieve, the Celestians continued to shower Her with offerings of essence and marvellous symbols of affection – seashells enough to line the Inner Sea from shore to shore, marine paintings and trinkets from Aquamancer Telperion, seashell necklaces, and aquatic-themed pastry. Prelate Meliana even brought varied and exotic sealife to swim in the pool at Her fulcrux, much to the mild envy of others, for the Goddess Herself sung a gentle tune to the pool to make it habitable. The Goddess’ fulcrux became an aquatic temple yet worry struck many that, unlike the other fulcruxes, this one would often shake, shimmer, and behave strangely.

Over time, the Goddess became more inquisitive, asking the frequently visiting Prelate Meliana and Merciful Judge Saoirse McCloud about the Holy Celestine Empire and the ways in which New Celest stays true to its heritage of technological advances and leadership of the Basin of Life. The Prelate was eager to answer, but as Carakhan posed more and more pointed questions that highlighted New Celest’s failures to, in Her opinion, adhere to its founding tenets, the Prelate found herself questioning her beliefs. The Goddess insisted that New Celest was so eternally focused on eradicating its foe, Magnagora, that all of their potential was wasted. Rattled, the Prelate returned soon after to admit that perhaps there is more New Celest could be doing, and the Goddess urged her to continue down that path eagerly.

As the Prelate battled between her deeply held beliefs and Carakhan’s persuasive rhetoric, the Goddess continued receiving visitors within Her fulcrux – some more controversial than others. Hope’s Defender, Azula Vivalde, even sighted Raezon, the Forbidden calling upon Carakhan, but He departed quickly with a cryptic remark, leaving behind His ghodak board as a gift to the Goddess. Another time, Kalnid the Librarian of Magnagora was seen retelling the story behind the Xion Initiative, a collaboration between New Celest and Magnagora, at length. Henceforth, Carakhan often visited New Celest, taking tours of the gardens and sights with Telperion, Meliana, Brother Naraj, Raeri Stormcrow, and others, engaging them on their laws, beliefs, and perceptions of the Engine.

Finally, on the 3rd of Roarkian, the Goddess chose to act and arrived in New Celest to lay out Her vision of New Celest’s future. At the heart of the city, the Pool of Stars, many gathered to join the debate – notably Ecclesiarch Jaamil D’Varden, Prelate Meliana, Sir Kreon Zayah, Librarian Iytha, Acrune McCloud, Squire Preston, Postulant Kagato, Grandmaster Ryboi, and several others. Carakhan postulated that New Celest abandoned its roots to battle a foe they cannot destroy any more than the Creatrix Herself has been able to purge the Soulless without tearing the First World to shreds. Further, She skillfully insisted that the only way forward was to become the Empire again and unite with Magnagora – the seat of the Traitors. Many found themselves nodding along to the Divine, confused, yet more than willing to please Her; while others, like the conflicted Prelate, Grandmaster, and the Ecclesiarch began opposing a plan that so deeply went against the Light, even if it meant contradicting a Divine. It was then that Princess Kelly McCloud arrived and, caring little for politeness, queried the Goddess right back on Her suspicious intentions.

As the debate was about to heat up, a burst of light emanated from the Goddess’ pocket and revealed a round object within, one She previously curtly refused to discuss but frequently checked upon to ensure it was at Her side. Disturbed, the Goddess left without a word, baffling the gathered citizenry of New Celest.

Scarcely a moment after Carakhan, Pearl of the Ocean abruptly disappeared from New Celest, a loud alarm sounded from the Aetherplex. A brief outline of the Starhopper was sighted hovering over Avechna’s Peak, but it soon descended once more, and the alarm rang again, this time with more urgency.

The citizens of New Celest first hurried to Carakhan’s fulcrux to demand answers, but they found it abandoned, the sealife that once overflowed in abundance now lifeless. As the alarm sounded once more, they abandoned the fulcrux and arrived aboard the Starhopper, joining intrigued visitors from Gaudiguch, Glomdoring, and Magnagora. Captain Girda Starhopper explained to those gathered that her ship was grounded and this alarm called for all gnome aetherships to protect destiny, which is the greatest gnomish duty. There was much confusion over what said destiny was or where it might be found beyond the certain fact that it would be in aetherspace.

Over the next hour, aetherships launched one by one from the Aetherplex and roamed the vastness of aetherspace in search of destiny. It was Librarian Iytha of New Celest and her betrothed Doman Trueflight of Hallifax that first arrived at Aquagoria, a bubble of reality previously unknown to any. As they stood at the beach of a tiny island lost upon an endless sapphire ocean, the furious Carakhan descended upon them, uttered an ominous warning and vanished immediately after.

Within a few hours, the aethership of New Celest arrived, bearing upon it Princess Kelly McCloud, Acrune McCloud, Sister Chakraja, Prelate Meliana Regalis, Sister Fay, Grandmaster Ryboi D’Varden, Grand Commander Kurama Eli’Silar, Squire Preston, and Sir Kreon Zayah. As the group alighted on the beach, they were joined by the lone delegate of Glomdoring, Belibi Ga’ruul. Such a gathering attracted Carakhan again, but as She shrieked for them all to leave, three Silver Dynodeons flew from above and attacked Her. The assault was easily dismissed by the Goddess but as more Dynodeons arrived, She left with Her pursuers trailing behind Her.

As more members of Glomdoring arrived, Celestians set out to explore the ocean. Ryboi D’Varden was the first to encounter the Swimmer of Destiny, an angelfish surrounded by a blinding aquamarine aura, and attempted to attack it with little success. Soon afterwards, the submarine Tid-Bit was found patrolling the ocean and those boarding it met with Captain Beehab. Frantic with worry, he requested assistance in protecting Destiny by vanquishing the Devourer, now revealed to be an enormous vampire squid.

Trusting the Captain’s word over Carakhan’s, those of New Celest and Glomdoring set to work, gathering squids and other ingredients that would help weaken the Devourer enough to be defeated. Under the Princess’ command, the Devourer was poisoned and slain with Postulant Kagato landing the killing blow. And when Kethaera An’Ryshe of Glomdoring brought its heart to the Captain, the ocean was rocked by a surge of aquamarine light that revealed the Swimmer of Destiny to be Carakhan, Sculptor of Waves.

Baffled and amazed, the mortals rushed to the surface to witness two Carakhans floating above the ocean – one star-shaped and another with a tail. An argument ensued between the Goddesses as to which is the real Carakhan, which led to the revealed one accusing the other of stealing Her precious Pearl and using it to create a disguise. As the Sculptor gathered Her power to retrieve the Pearl, the other Goddess flung it into the ocean in annoyance. At that very moment, Her entire body began to shift and transform into another Elder with billowing golden hair, and the scent of musk and spices drifted upon the wind, confirming the fears of many. Her plot thwarted, Drocilla, the Enchantress laughed and vanished into a portal.

Still confused by the whole ordeal, the real Carakhan arrived at the beach into the midst of mortals. Her appearance was different to that of the impostor – Her legs were transformed into a tail for ease of swimming through aetherspace, She wore a cuirass to protect against enemies, and She wielded a golden trident as Her weapon. Once the mortals explained how they came to exist and what transpired, the Goddess told Her own tale. In it, the fate of the last group of Elders to depart into the Void was made known – in short, They never made it. There were many dangers in aetherspace, among them the Soulless, so Carakhan was forced to adapt and fend for Herself, ultimately becoming trapped as the Swimmer of Destiny to fight the lesser Soulless known as the Devourer. She also revealed that Agnomenon vowed to protect Her at all costs and it became clear that, indeed, His shards continued His work tirelessly.

When all was said and done, the present members of New Celest invited Carakhan to travel with them to their city. As they arrived, the Pool of Stars was full of cheerful faces that sought to greet their true Divine. The peace did not last long, for moments later, a portal tore the sky above New Celest in twain, revealing Drocilla returning to a city She not so long ago sought to subvert. Proclaiming Her disappointment in New Celest for all to hear, She also whispered threats and promises into the ears of Celestians alone. Then, floating high above New Celest, She began to sing an unearthly song that shattered windows, eardrums, and sapped the citizens of their strength, much to the amusement of Magnagorans. Several succumbed to the bittersweet melody before Carakhan shielded the city in a globe of water to deflect the sound.

The song ceased and Drocilla lingered a moment longer in silence to revel in the destruction before turning Her attention to Magnagora, where Her Brother, Raezon, the Forbidden, had already ordered the Iron Council to ready itself for Her arrival. The meeting took place within the Tower of Midnight Domination with Warlord Leolamins d’Murani, Heresiarch Esca n’Lochli, and Chosen of the Legion, Lavinya d’Murani present. The details of what transpired there remain unknown, sans the whispers that covertly spread the news that the Hyringex Collar still binds the Enchantress.

Why has the Traitor Goddess chosen to return now and not before? How did She procure the Pearl from the depths of the Inner Sea? And further, what exactly was Her goal with New Celest? Pure entertainment or something more sinister?

And why were the Silver Dynodeons involved at all?

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