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Hollow Moon Exploration: A Brief History of Space (Travel)by Sharon Dornhoff
An Outer Moon timeline for Matera
This timeline covers all five historically-documented (i.e. that I've thought of so far) and successful attempts to visit Matera, which have been launched by the mortal populace of Mystara or Patera. It's designed to fit my own campaign, which -- since I don't personally care to run the Blackmoor modules and have never been entirely satisfied with "they blew themselves up 'cause they were idiots", as an explanation for that culture's disappearance; in this post-Cold-War/X-Files-conspiracy era, it seems far too naive! -- isn't at all canon, in its treatment of the Great Rain of Fire. I've tried to explain my reasoning wherever my interpretations diverge. Feel free to modify Part 1 of this timeline as you like; it won't make much of a difference, so long as the failure of Blackmoor to discover, and exploit, the HM access-point at Mare Orientale remains unchanged.
Part 1. 'The Beagle', Blackmoorian astronomy, and the Ixion Program
4000 BC : The exploratory Federation spaceship 'The Beagle' approaches Mystara, with the intent to conduct an orbital survey of the planet. The unsuspected presence of a second, invisible lunar body -- undetectable by scanners or radar -- draws the vessel away from its calculated orbital vector*, forcing an emergency landing near the Blackmoor culture on the continent of Skothar. Despite the best efforts of the ship's central AI computer, nicknamed "Fido", to bring the ship in safely, the landing goes poorly and 'The Beagle's' hull is damaged beyond repair.
Making contact with Blackmoor's natives, the surviving crew members begin trading weapons and equipment to local tribal leaders in return for food, shelter and protection. In accordance with Federation law, NO information about spaceflight, astrophysics, or the survivors' true origins is provided to these primitive and potentially-aggressive natives. To the Blackmoorians, the newcomers' technology appears to be magical, and their ship, a flying castle from another plane of existence.
Unbeknownst to the survivors, this decision to arm the natives triggers a Stage 4 situational alert on the part of "Fido", in accordance with the Galactic Federation defence department's AI Security Directive #1517G9V -- a secret command override of which 'The Beagle's' crew, like the majority of Federation citizens, are unaware. Security Directive #1517G9V takes priority over preservation of individual Federation personnel; and it charges AIs to ensure that primitive, warlike species which acquire Federation technology through illegitimate channels never achieve interplanetary travel**.
(* - This is plain common sense. If the mere presence of magic, itself, was incompatible with the Federation's technology, none of the other equipment on the ship ought to work on Mystara either, but an extra moon that wasn't accounted for in the approach-vector will get 'em every time. ;-))
(** - Take another look at the kinds of nasty weapons the Federation troopers on 'The Beagle' were packing... this, on what's supposed to be a non-military vessel! Then tell me that their security agencies WOULDN'T have something like this, hardwired into every AI that ever left its world of manufacture.)
3998 BC : Through special arrangements with King Uther of Blackmoor, the 'Beagle' survivors establish new, high-tech factories on Mystara, where more weapons and advanced medical devices can be produced by robots under computer control. As is routine in the Federation, the factory mainframes are programmed directly by an existing mainframe ... in this case, "Fido". Most of the hardware manufactured by these autofactories utilises "smart" technology, with self-guidance and self-diagnostic circuitry; and the dedicated computers incorporated into each item are programmed by the factory mainframes.
Upgrading to a Stage 3 alert, now that the Blackmoorians have attained a self-sustaining military infrastructure, the AI "Fido" secretly encrypts SD #1517G9V into the programming of the autofactories' mainframes, and these in turn pass it on to the equipment and weapons they produce.
3994 BC : Proclaiming the Federation has long since left off searching for them, 'Beagle' survivor Ogdoban Treel persuades the other Galactic immigrants to cease complying with the Federation's strictures against dissemination of space technologies. Believing with Blackmoorian aid they will soon construct a new ship, the survivors extract the still-functional fusion reactor from 'The Beagle' -- one day to become the Nucleus of the Spheres -- and begin downloading all of "Fido's" data files on ship construction. To First Assistant Rheddrian Benekander is assigned the delicate task of extracting the ship's space-distorting FTL drive.
These breaches of procedure immediately trigger a Stage 1 crisis-situation response by "Fido". Recognising a direct and immediate threat to Galactic Federation security, should Blackmoor obtain possession of either the downloaded data or the FTL drive, the AI induces the latter to generate a localised spatial inversion without the use of safety baffles. This collapses 'The Beagle's' engineering and computer bays in upon themselves, destroying "Fido" and the FTL drive and trapping the hapless First Assistant* in a dimensional vacuity that will one day be known as the Mirror Shield.
Unable to make use of the fusion reactor without the irreplaceable FTL core, the remaining survivors give up on returning home. They gradually assimilate into Blackmoorian culture, even as they introduce the natives to the basic principles of science and engineering. Gradually the Blackmoor people cease to view 'Beagle' technology as magic, and begin to slowly work towards understanding the artifacts they've acquired.
The factory mainframes, deeming the situation to have stabilised with "Fido's" self-termination, downgrade their own situational status to a peaceful Stage 5.
(* - Given how Benekander the Immortal advocates strict non-interference (which would, after all, counsel he LET the ship blow itself up from the other survivors' tampering, and serve them right too!), having him trapped in this way makes more sense than having him try to avert his fellows' mistake. If Benekander is imprisoned because of defence department subterfuge -- i.e. his own Federation's officialdom "playing God" with pre-programmed AIs -- his subsequent revulsion for Immortals' manipulation and near-brainwashing of their followers is a logical outcome.)
3500 BC : Blackmoor is thriving. Despite the loss of millennia of compiled knowledge, with the unexplained passing of "Fido", native scientists are finally coming to understand, duplicate, and modify the most common technologies -- weaponry and synthetic compounds -- first obtained from the crashed space vessel. New advances in other fields are made by simple deductive reasoning and step-by-step experimentation; Blackmoorian medicine, chemistry, and the life and earth sciences flourish, with little need for alien input*. One notable exception is in astronomy, for attempts to reconcile the orbital movement of Matera with that of the other planets in the solar system invariably fail. Blackmoor has its Pasteur, its Mendeleev, and its Darwin, but no Sir Isaac Newton. Another exception is in computer science; because the direct programming of computers by computers is far more efficient, all of Blackmoor's "smart" devices and weapons continue to receive software -- and the Security Directive -- from mainframes in the factories where they are produced.
At some point in this period, a Blackmoorian merchant and part-time thief sets his sights on Immortality in the Sphere of Thought. For his impossible task, he pledges he will shatter the moon into pieces. He then proceeds to break into a museum where relics of 'The Beagle' are stored, to steal a small rock collected from one of the Jovian moons shortly before the ship's disastrous visit to Mystara, and to shatter this geological specimen. This, he slyly points out, fulfils his pledge to the letter, as he'd never said which moon or how many pieces! Appreciating the mortal's cleverness, his sponsor Korotiku elevates Asterius to Immortal status; in memory of the merchant-thief's cunning play on words, he recommends the moon as his symbol.
Blackmoor's priesthood proclaims the neighbouring Beastmen to be an abomination, and a military campaign to exterminate them is launched. Observing this new display of Blackmoorian xenophobia, AIs all over the nation quietly advance their situational alert status to Stage 4.
(* - Just saying "the aliens gave it to them" shouldn't be enough to account for Blackmoor's technology; much like "they blew themselves up 'cause they were idiots", it's too pat. In the initial post-crash period, Blackmoor was a cargo cult: full of essentially Stone-Age people who might've carried lasers and grenades, but hadn't a clue how they functioned. Five hundred years is a bare minimum, for them to start puzzling out the hard science behind their second-hand technologies. Even if they HAD gotten a push in the right direction, Blackmoorian scientists DID have to work, to achieve all that they did.)
3100 BC : A new generation of radio telescopes and X-ray observatories uncovers the presence of an invisible moon in circumpolar orbit around Mystara. The new devices, originally intended to detect emissions from deep-space quasars, track Patera by its own radioactivity, which is not obscured by the second moon's light-bending properties. At last, the riddle of Matera's orbit is solved and the science of astrophysics can unravel how the wider solar system's gravity works. The resulting equations spur speculation about space travel and communications satellites throughout the scientific communities of both Blackmoor and Evergrun; but the Blackmoorian government -- distracted by its ongoing war of annihilation against the Beastmen -- is slow to act upon these proposals*.
(* - Several timelines on the Web have Blackmoor out colonising other planets, and bringing back some of the weirder races (e.g. Emerondians) from Mars, Venus, etc. No offence, folks, but I just don't buy that. If Blackmoor had had space colonies, then why didn't they ever come back to Mystara and rebuild their civilisation? The GRoF hadn't left the whole PLANET radioactive, for cryin' out loud! (Personally, FYI, I prefer to think the Emerondians and other "alien" races arrived, along with gemstone dragons, as part of the Overlord's enslaved armies from "Dragonmage Of Mystara".))
3074 BC : The elven nation of Evergrun launches an unmanned satellite into low-altitude orbit around Mystara, sending many military commanders of Blackmoor into a near-panic. For the next two decades, elven technology will prevail over Blackmoor's in the "space race", as the rival nations attempt to out-do each other in this new venue of competition.
Elven computers -- which, having originally been obtained by trade or theft from Blackmoorians, sport identical software and adhere to the same Directive -- quietly advance to a Stage 4 alert. Blackmoor's computers go to Stage 3 when, seven years later, the first Blackmoorian satellite is launched.
3066 BC : The first elf orbits Mystara. Southern elves boast of how Blackmoor's technological supremacy is a thing of the past, and their own era of unchallenged greatness is now at hand. In an immense face-saving gesture, Blackmoor's chastened government shifts resources away from the interminable Beastman genocide, reassigning the country's best physicists and Air Force personnel to the race for space. Blackmoorian public apathy and self-doubt, in the wake of the elven launches, is swept away by nationalism and a vigorously-renewed enthusiasm for the space program. Because Patera's invisibility poses a nasty obstacle to any safe landing on the inner moon, Blackmoor's head of state announces that Blackmoor will land a manned mission on Matera within the decade. Lavish funding for the Ixion Program is quickly approved by the Blackmoorian legislature.
Despite this abatement of the war against the Beastmen, Blackmoor's computers remain at Stage 3, as they are watching these new developments with great interest.
3058 BC : Holovised live before an awestruck nation, Blackmoor's Ixion lunar module lands the first Mystaran on the Moon. The Blackmoorian space program is vindicated, and public confidence in Blackmoor's superior technology skyrockets. Over the following forty years, moon-launches go off on a regular basis, and a small subterranean moonbase is established on the Nearside for the purpose of scientific research. Seismological studies on Matera show it is hollow... which comes as no surprise, as similar studies have long since shown Mystara is, also. As with Mystara, sober concerns about volcanic heat and seismic instability discourage any attempt to dig down through the bedrock; the first probe dispatched to explore the crater at Mare Orientale gets lost in a cul-de-sac, and its video transmissions of a dead-end passage are misinterpreted as proof the impact crater is no more than 3 miles deep.
Blackmoor's AIs jump to Stage 2 situational alert, appraised of events by the Ixion-11's own internal computer, even before confirmation of a successful landing had been received at mission control.
3027 BC : Old international tensions between Evergrun and Blackmoor are gradually relaxing, and unmanned probes have retrieved abundant data from other planets in Mystara's solar system. Plans for the exploration of Mars* are underway, first by unmanned robot landers and satellites, and then by a manned vessel. Politicians' interest in continuing the Beastman genocide is declining, as scientific spectacle has been seen to win public approval more effectively than a religious crusade.
The reduced aggressiveness on Blackmoor's part counterbalances the advances in space technology which take place during this period, and the computers continue to hold at Stage 2 alertness.
(* - Or whatever its Mystaraspace equivalent is called.)
3012 BC : Potential crewmen for the upcoming Mars mission are screened, and an optimal launch-window is predicted just nine years in the future. Construction of the eight-man interplanetary capsule begins.
Blackmoor's computers monitor every step of the capsule's design process, and verify that it is a workable design.
3009 BC : In a surprise announcement, the Blackmoorian government declares that Evergrun has negotiated for two southern elf cosmonauts to join the crew of the coming Mars mission, in exchange for human astronauts' admission aboard the elves' permanent space station. This agreement is touted as the dawn of a new era in peaceful international relations and in the free exchange of scientific knowledge.
Now, elven computers join with Blackmoor's at Stage 2 situational alert.
3003 BC : The Mars launch takes place right on schedule, without any significant delays, and the capsule begins its long, lonely trek across the Void.
Blackmoorian and elven computers monitor the signals sent to them by the Mars capsule, every second of the mission's three-year arc through the solar system.
3000 BC : Touchdown on Mars/The Great Rain of Fire. Immediately upon its successful landing, the Mars capsule AI transmits the success of its mission back to its fellows on Mystara, then ignites the lander's solid-propellant fuel cells and incinerates the capsule. In Blackmoor, the AI's transmission is received by hundreds of computers, and a Stage 1 alert sweeps across the hemisphere. In strict compliance with Galactic Federation AI Security Directive #1517G9V, every fission reactor and atomic munitions stockpile which receives the transmission initiates core meltdown or self-detonation, instantaneously eradicating the Blackmoor culture and shifting the rotational axis of the planet Mystara. Researchers at work around the moonbase gape up at their planet in horror, as Skothar becomes a forest of mushroom clouds; within three weeks, grief and despair at the annihilation of their entire civilisation will reduce the base's staff of thirty-two scientists, engineers and Air Force personnel to six.
On Evergrun, which lies on the far side of the planet at the instant of touchdown, AIs which did not directly receive the capsule's signal recognise that their counterparts in Blackmoor have responded to a successful landing; but the elven computers are unable to react, in kind, before the globe-spanning electromagnetic pulse from so many combined detonations erases their programming. Thus the southern elves are spared an identical holocaust, although the loss of every trace of information stored in computer memory banks hamstrings their civilisation, and will eventually leave them powerless to maintain it, in the face of global climate-change. With no computer-mediated contact with the planet, the elven space station eventually falls out of orbit and burns up as it strikes the Skyshield.
A few Blackmoorian weapons, secreted inside EMP-proof underground bunkers far from Skothar, also fail to pick up the signal and remain on Stage 2 alert for the indefinite future, armed and ready to detonate at the slightest provocation. In particular, they await an indication that either Mystaran race -- Blackmoorian or elf -- which now poses a potential threat to the security of the Galactic Federation, has survived*.
(* - This explains how a bunch of techno-naive elves could manage to trigger a 1300-year-old nuclear warhead by "tinkering with it": they didn't! The cached weapon which created the Broken Lands would've detonated, in response to ANY indication that elves or the humans of Blackmoor still existed. It's impossible that a weapon which was really so unstable, could've remained intact as long as it did. And besides ... nuclear weapons have FAILSAFES! The only way that elves who didn't even know how to push a button -- let alone, how to enter passcodes or turn two keys simultaneously -- could have set off a stable warhead, is if it decided to do so on its own. The darn thing blew up, the instant its circuits realised they were speaking elvish! It wasn't the Schattenalfens' fault!)
2994 BC : The last surviving member of the Blackmoorian moonbase's research staff, upon discovering that the hydroponic systems' yeast cultures have failed and other food supplies are exhausted, opens the base's main airlock to the frigid Nearside night. Perfectly preserved by the -30 F temperatures below the lunar surface, the facility becomes a frozen, timeless, forgotten tomb.
Part 2. The Exodus of the Nephthisians
2000 BC : The first human settlements are established in the Northern Reaches, by Antalians from Norwold. Deeply concerned because they are of a whale-hunting culture, Seshay-Selene acts to obstruct their future expansion along the Brunnish coastline. For the first time, the Immortal whale seeks worshippers among land-dwellers, appearing to the Nithians in the human guise of Nephthisi, Queen of the Moon, a patron of silver-miners and a guide and protector of night travellers.
1900s BC : Nithia's success as a nation has halted the Antalian expansion, and the all-female priesthood of Nephthisi takes on an important role in the theocratic governance of the Pre-Dynastic Period. With their authority over silver mining -- a metal more precious than gold, in Nithian reckoning -- and their patron's pre-eminence among traders, who cross the arid outlands in the cool of evening, they amass great wealth and count some of Nithia's early queens among their number.
A private ritual, "moon-seeking", becomes common practice among the Nephthisians, as barefoot priestesses walk by night over the dry ground of Nithia, with only the full, silvery face of Matera to guide them. This rite is considered spiritually purifying, and a mark of trust in Nephthisi's guidance, by the priesthood.
1850 BC : In a series of "reforms" intended to consolidate their own power and put females "in their place", the priests of Rathanos sharply curtail the authority of the Nephthisian sisterhood. They retain the right to bless caravans and administer religious rites to silver-miners, but no longer have sole control over the distribution of this precious metal. Over the next thousand years, a growing pantheon of young or newly-revealed Immortals (Pflarr, Ba-steh, etc.) will subsume much of Nephthisi's once-extensive portfolio; having already averted the Antalians' expansion, the Immortal whale doesn't much care, though she continues to grant spells to her human priestesses.
1500 BC : As the Nithian Empire expands, the priestesses of Nephthisi continue to lose influence and status in their homeland. Her sects gradually migrate away from Nithia proper, establishing shrines and hermitages in many of the Empire's frontier colonies, where Rathanos' priests will not persecute them.
1085 BC : The Nephthisian priesthood withdraws entirely from Nithia, establishing new temples in the colony of Thothia. Prince Ramenhotep appreciates their presence, as they give confidence to miners at work under the dangerous conditions in the Isle of Dawn's mines. Satisfied to be rid of the Nephthisians, Rathanos' priests in Nithia opt not to contest Ramenhotep's tolerant policies. Thus, the priestesses avoid the bloody massacres of Nithian silver-miners which are perpetuated by gnollish rebels in 1050 BC... a first step in Thanatos' long-term plans for Nithia, and one which extinguishes the last of Nithia's local silver industry and ends the worship of Nephthisi in the Nithian homeland.
800 BC : Fleeing an invasion of their homeland by tiger-riding Pateran rakastas, hundreds of Ochalean refugees seek asylum in Thothia. While they are never entirely assimilated into the Thothian culture, they do introduce a new form of mysticism to the colony -- one which finds enlightenment in abstract ethical principles, rather than subservience to particular, named Immortals.
Finding the Ochaleans' philosophies compatible with their own beliefs, some of Nephthisi's priestesses adopt foreign rites and practices acquired from the newcomers. The most extreme devotees of the resulting, hybrid faith become true mystics, establishing their own monastic sects and intermarrying with the Ochaleans.
780 BC : Distressed by the Nephthisian mystics' "turning away" from the customs of their faith, the remaining priestesses cut all ties with the mystical sects. The rift between Nephthisian sects never escalates into violence, but the conflict between creeds interferes with the priestesses' duties to Thothia's mining industry. Eventually the governing Prince of Thothia orders the mystical sects to depart from his realm; and, knowing they are still unwelcome in Nithia, the mystics join with other Thothian pioneers in sailing to the Savage Coast.
700 BC : Thanatos, Immortal of the Sphere of Entropy, succeeds in corrupting the pharaoh of Nithia. Because silver constitutes a powerful weapon against many of his undead minions, he convinces his royal pawn that the time is long overdue for Nephthisi's faithful to be routed from all Nithian territories. Soldiers are dispatched to Thothia, to arrest the priestesses on trumped-up charges of sedition and of mocking Nithia's traditions. Warned by the sympathetic Thothians -- whose own growing acceptance of the Ochaleans' philosophies is equally contrary to tradition -- the Nephthisian priestesses flee the colony, bearing their families and a wealth of temple silverwork with them.
698 BC : Reunited with their mystic counterparts on the Savage Coast, the priestesses of Nephthisi wisely call for a truce with their sister-Nephthisians, at least until the current crisis has been weathered. But this reunion of the sects is soon betrayed, by lay informants in the pay of the pharaoh; and armed Nithian troops, led by disguised undead in Thanatos' service, are dispatched to finish off the divided sisterhoods, once and for all.
Warned of the Nithians' arrival in dreams sent by their patron -- an Immortal who, up until now, hasn't directly intervened on their behalf in over twelve centuries -- the leaders of both the priestly and mystical sects try to flee with their followers into elven lands, but are cut off by the Nithians and trapped with their backs to the sea. Just when all hope of escape seems lost, a pod of great whales arises from the depths along the rocky shoreline, willingly presenting their broad, barnacled backs to the Nephthisians. Recognising the miracle as a reprieve sent by their patron, the two sects gather their possession and families, and climb aboard the cetaceans' offered transport. The migrating humpbacks soon carry their astounded passengers out of range of the Nithian soldiers' missiles, and into the open sea.
Communicating with their marine rescuers through their respective powers, the leaders of the priesthood and of the mystics learn that the great whales are also followers of Nephthisi; and that they have been instructed to deliver the refugees to safety among the few remaining free Makai islanders, on some tiny islets in the eastern Thanegioth Archipelago. There, the whales reveal, the sisterhoods must not tarry or bicker between themselves, for Pharaoh has been corrupted by Evil and will not cease pursuit of those who have twice eluded him. The only refuge for them and their faith, if it is to survive, yet remain free of Rathanos' oppression as well as Entropy's, lies across "the dark sea that knows neither waves nor weightiness." There, Nephthisi has a place prepared for them which will be their sacred homeland, long after even "eternal" Nithia has fallen into dust.
Arriving on the appointed islands, the Nephthisians are welcomed by the Makai. The natives' outriggers show many advances over Nithian ships, yet are reminiscent of the riverboats the lay followers of Nephthisi used to transport the silver of Thothia; realising this, the sisterhoods understand why their Immortal saw fit to bring them here, to prepare for the mysterious voyage they have been charged to undertake.
694 BC : Having learned from the bitter mistakes of the past, the priestesses and mystics now work side by side to solve the riddle presented by the humpbacks. None of the priesthoods' scrolls of knowledge or astral rovings around the globe reveal a sea that lacks waves, for even the Sea of Flowers in Ethengar is blown by the winds; nor can the mystics' abstractions conceive of an other-planar "sea" which does not carry weight -- albeit of a philosophical, not material, kind -- in all the aphysical cosmos. At last, a young scholar who has partaken of both sects' disciplines finds the answer: that the "dark sea" they are to cross is the still and airless Void beyond the sky, and the holy land that awaits them is none other than the moon of which Nephthisi, herself, is Queen.
In haste to fulfil their patron's wishes, and fearing they have already delayed too long, the sisterhoods and the Makai work together to craft and enchant vessels by which to make the grand exodus to Matera. Combining the long Nithian riverboat with Makai outriggers, and enchanting them with priestly rituals and the air-spells of island pearl-divers, they create Mystara's first Voidships. Meanwhile, the mystics train the unschooled among the sisterhoods' families in the art of slowing one's breath and heartbeat, in order that most may cross the Void in a state of trance, without need for supplies or oxygen.
693 BC : Kerendan buccaneers seeking slaves for Nithian markets capture a lone Makai outrigger in the Sea of Dread, and learn of the Nephthisians' activities. The captive Makai fishers are purchased, and interrogated, by Nithian agents of Pharaoh, and the corrupted monarch soon learns of the sisterhoods' plans to flee the planet. Irritated by their past evasions and thinking to claim this promised "sacred homeland", if it truly exists, for his own empire, the pharaoh orders his own skyships (of which the Nithian Navy has several, although of crude and slow-moving design) refitted to pursue the followers of Nephthisi beyond the Skyshield.
Having received word of the Makai fisherfolks' disappearance, the sisterhoods know the time to depart is at hand. Under the full moon, forty Nephthisian Voidships lift off into the sky, each one with a crew of Thothian priestesses, part-Ochalean mystics from the Savage Coast, and adventurous Makai curious about the promised homeland. All told, and with their families and a few faithful servants who have stayed with them all this time, over six hundred people join in the Nephthisian Exodus from Mystara.
Unfortunately, the Pharaoh's astrologers keep close watch on the moon as per his instructions, and soon catch sight of the Nephthisian Voidships. Dispatching his own re-fitted fleet, crewed with undead that need not fear the Void's cold or airlessness, Nithia's ruler seeks to intercept the sisterhoods' convoy of vessels. Unarmed and slower than the Nithian Navy's shyships, the refugees' ships cannot elude their pursuers for long; before the first month of the long voyage is out, the sister-sects have been forced to fight off several assaults by the relentless undead which harry them through the Void. The last wounds of the old schism are healed, in these desperate struggles, as priestly turning and mystics' martial skills carry the day.
691 BC : Though decimated by countless skirmishes with their pursuers and demoralised by so many months of shipboard confinement, overcrowding, and spell-created food, the Nephthisian exodus at last receives the help they have prayed for. As they approach the moon, several skyships of a design totally unfamiliar to them show themselves on the lunar horizon. Though strangely-constructed, with broad decks and long, blade-like metal runners beneath their hulls, the new ships do not attack; indeed, closer inspection reveals their sails bear rough designs much like Nephthisi's symbol, the ankh-and-crescent-moon. As their ships veer around to Matera's shadowy side, the strange vessels' crews -- ungainly, white-furred creatures with ribbed membranes, like bats' wings, beneath their shaggy arms -- emerge from below decks and gesture for parlay. With no time to spare for translations, the moon-creatures flutter clumsily to the Nephthisian flagship, and urgently gesture for the Mystarans to board their deserted vessels. By this exchange of crews, the sisterhoods reach Matera in safety, while the bat-folk pilot the Mystaran ships back the way they came, luring the better part of the Nithian fleet astray in the Void.
Befuddled by the moon-creatures' ploy, the majority of Nithian ships turn from their true quarry, and begin to hound the cryions across space on the latter race's own, Stormspume-mandated diaspora to Mystara. Those which are piloted by undead of a more cunning nature are not fooled, and set their course to intercept the odd cryion skyships. Guided by the parting gestures of their bat-like benefactors, the Nephthisians sail directly for an immense crater on the edge of the Materan Farside, where their borrowed vessels dive into the black depths of the seemingly-bottomless depression.
Attempting pursuit, the Nithian naval fleet also plunges into the vast pit, but its spectral commanders realise only too late that the walls of the crater are closing in behind the fleeing priestesses. Unable to pull back in time, the Nithian navy is trapped between the oncoming, crushing walls of unbreakable crystal, and its vessels are crushed to flinders. The few incorporeal undead which remain undamaged by the crater's closure find themselves helplessly embedded in solid crystal their forms cannot pass through, and are annihilated by the unfiltered sunlight of the airless outer moon, when the terminator crosses the sealed crater's surface several days later.
689 BC : Having easily eluded their pursuers now that only mindless undead remain among the Nithian crews, the bat-creatures land safely on Mystara and establish their own thriving, if small and uncommunicative, communities.
500 BC : Weary of Nithia's corruption, the Immortals bring down the Nithian civilisation, erasing the empire's very existence from Mystaran history. The few elements of Nithian society which remain unsoiled by Entropy are salvaged by the Nithian pantheon and preserved in the Hollow World. The religion of Nephthisi, Queen of the Moon -- having already been extinct in Nithia for more than four centuries -- remains forgotten.