""And behold! For a time of great trial and suffering shall surely come to pass, a terrible Ablution and an upheaval of all the world, all the nations, and of the very magic itself! Only those who head the warnings of the age shall be prepared and survive the coming calamity when Zodo's Power falters and the veil of deception blinds all.""
- The Apocalypse Papers, recorded by Armeas Mercleis
The Ablution Event, known by others as the Great Magic Apocalypse, was the terrible calamity that marked the end of the Fourth Era and gave traumatic birth to the Fifth Era. We all know well the events that led to the Ablution Event, of the great battle of the saints and heroes of old against the very Power of Zodo himself. We also know well the end result, of this land though restored in a way from before Taal Zodo's desecration, made all the more hostile and unstable. What is lacking is how the people of the world survived that terrible event, and the nearly five centuries it took before life was again possible on the surface, or why they would even dare to return to the surface after such a catastrophe.
In this document we will explore the measures the people took to survive the forewarned Ablution, how they survived, and why they left their shelter to try again on the magic scared surface.
1. Preparation for Ablution
What seems to be forgotten by many scholars and historians is that Ablution was no surprise. Indeed, since the days that Mogen David walked the Austerlands in mortal form was there foreshadowing of a great worldwide disaster and upheaval. Though the event to come didn't start to be known as Ablution until zealots of the Church of the Holy Body began proclaiming it as a threat to gain more converts in the mid First Era, still every nation that has existed on Nor'Ova had prepared just in case Ablution would come in their time.
Near the end of the First Era and the rise of Xerxes Zodo and the Nor'Ovan Empire, such preparations really took off, mainly by the rebels and conspirators against the Xerxes Zodo government. They constructed many of the great tunnels and vaults that would later save the people of the Fourth Era that were indeed used to save many of the people of the First from what became known as the Great Magic War.
After the Great Magic War ended though, the threat of future Ablution left many people's minds. For the people of the Second Era, the Great Magic War was the Ablution. So though the Holy Body and even the Church of Mogen David had continued to warn of a worse Ablution to come, most simply didn't believe it. They still didn't believe it even after the ascian emperor, Sulnas Zodo, failed to cast Ablution at the end of the Second Era.
When the Asterian Emperor, Armeas Mercleis - son of the Ascian War hero Arameas, began to record and distribute his famous book of prophesy, the Apocalypse Papers, the people still didn't believe that there would be 'another' Ablution. Luckily, Emperor Armeas was in the position to do something to prepare, whether or not he had the support or the backing of his people. It wasn't until the rise of Taal Zodo did the people realize that maybe Ablution hadn't come yet and that it may be soon on its way.
The turmoil of the Fourth Era greatly hindered any real preparation or upkeep of Ablution shelters. The hard, iron clad rule of Taal Zodo hindered any such developments, and largely they were used by the Underground Resistance Movement and the Free Peoples of Nor'Ova not to prepare for Ablution but to move against the tyrant Taal Zodo. During the ten years of peace that followed Taal Zodo's defeat at Capa City though, the world did get ready. There almost seemed to be a global fear that something big was coming.
It was the ruined state of Asteria that worked hardest on their preparations, developing devices called magicteck that would ensure a livable habitat underground for years and possibly centuries to come. Such devices like water purification and creating what was basically called an artificial sun would help the people to live underground. It wouldn't be the same as living under the yellow sun and the blue morning star of Nor'Ova, of course, and some races would have a harder time living underground for so long, but at least it would be possible. It is rumored that the great founder of Sanctuary and a hero in the final battle, Aitre, helped to develop such technologies, though that remains to this day rumor and speculation. Armeas insisted on sharing the technologies with the other lands of the Fourth Era, and thus the other lands implemented them in their own way, sometimes with their own touches and changes.
Armeas Mercleis of course wasn't the only one to have had visions of the coming Ablution. The High Elf of Eleusia, Tannhauser Na'Dir, is rumored to have had visions as well. Such visions, it is said, spurred Eleusia's development of magicteck towers, deal making with the Underdark, and vast underground improvements.
2. Surviving Ablution
It is said that hours before Ablution struck, a two-toned winged angerian flew to each land and heralded coming disaster. Such story fits well with the following verse from the Apocalypse Papers…
""Hear me and listen well, for in the hours before the fires of Ablution are set loose, merciful Mogen David will plead one last time to his people. He will send them a great angel who will warn all the nations and all the people of the disaster that is to come. Those that take heed of the warning shall be spared, those who ignore the message shall find themselves too late when the great wrath is unleashed. Plead as they might, they shall find no door open to them, and their pain and suffering will be made ten fold for having ignored the warning.""
Just as the papers, written back in the Third Era, predicted, an angel warned the people. Many did head the warning and took to the underground shelters designed and prepared for such an occasion. However, even more did not, and they did not survive.
3. The Five Centuries of Fallout
The Ablution Event was a powerful and long lived rendering and restructuring of the world by magic. It wasn't some short event that lasted a day or even a year. No, the storms and destruction of Ablution waged on for three centuries, and it took another two centuries before the magic storms settled enough and the chaotic magical poisoning dropped in levels low enough for mankind to survive again on the surface.
During this time, the people survived underground. The Asterians had it a bit better than the rest because their leader was more prepared and had not only restored the old caverns and vaults, but also financed the upkeep of still functional First Era devices and the invention of magicteck devices. Next to them were the people of Sanctuary who, thanks to their brilliant founder, had their whole city safely sealed away. The people of Capa City and the elves of Eleusia would place at third on the so-called comfort and sustainability of their underground shelters, Capa City because of the vast dwarven ruins and Eleusia because of the High Elf's preparations and the somewhat shaky terms he came up with with the dark elves of the underdark.
Still, it was not an easy survival. Some races did great; dwarves, dark elves, gnomes, and goblins being said to have lived and survived just fine underground. Other races not so much. Many other elves, especially the rune elf and the silver elf, were lucky to live to be 200 or 300 years old, none reportedly lived their life span. The same is true of the humans, often credited as being the most versatile of the races. In the best prepared spots they might have lived to see 50 years, but in other areas most didn't make it past their mid thirties. Faced with such shortened lives, they often married and reproduced at ages younger than they had in eras before, with human families being led by children barely in their teens.
4. The Eventual Decline of the Underground
As can be expected, this eventually had a toll on the sustainability of the underground. Having shorter life spans, often blamed on the alien environment they were forced to endure, caused a gradual brain drain effect. Eventually less and less people knew how to care for the intricate devices that the depended upon, such as water purification and the artificial suns.
This caused a spread of diseases and even a return of long dormant illnesses such as Bitterwood and other plagues. Food supplies began to suffer, cohesiveness and communities that had formed underground began to break apart over increased tensions, and the water began to sour. Towards the end, the artificial suns even eventually gave out - lacking the know-how needed to maintain them.
5. Return to the Surface
As the situation became more dire, people began to look for escape. At first none would come back and would be presumed as dead, and thus the people suffered longer. Eventually though, some would come back, seemingly well. When that happened, that underground community would emerge and shape the world as we know it today.
Of course not all left the undergound. There are those that still fear the surface. They continue to still try and survive in underground communities to this day. Those that did come out learned quickly and harshly that magic was not as reliable as it had once been. They had to develop new ways to survive, leading to different uses for magicteck and the reinvention of steam-powered technology.