For uncounted eons the world has spun in a cycle known as day and night. The sky of the daytime was one of gleaming white light, dotted by specks of black. The night was a scintillating haze of color, moving in patterns both unpredictable and aesthetically harmonious. Ages of war, glory, enlightenment, strife, peace, and any possible blend echoed across the continents. Heroic figures, the common man, pantheons of deities, thinkers both small minded and enlightened all held sway in turn. Beings both simple and complex, organic and artificial, wholesome and composed of strange matters and forces comprised these dazzling cultures.
Everything had its time. The world spun effortlessly as ever, when from out of the skies, something intruded upon the cycle. A vast meadowland of mundane beauty, untouched by any mind above an animal's since it had formed centuries prior, was destroyed in a way unseen outside of the more dire wars. Every being in the world, even without sensing it, was suddenly aware that something new had happened. Many expeditions from civilizations sought this new thing out, and eventually the site was found. At the center of what-was-once-the-meadow, circled by miles of ruined trees and evaporated ponds, skeletal remains, and ash, the Black Artifact was sifted out. Crafted of mundane materials, bearing no strange forces, and inscribed with only a few crude runes. It was significant in an entirely unique way, it represented the idea of things existing outside of the world. In fact, it embodied this concept far beyond simply being evidence of the fact- mere contact with the object instilled this truth into the mind. The Black Artifact was easily brought in to the cycle of the world as it was studied, worshipped, loved and feared, the goal of war and the cornerstone of diplomacy for further eons, vanishing and re-appearing through histories.
A constant mystery surrounding the Black Artifact came about as the result of translating the circle of runes it bore. A single cryptic phrase was revealed, hinting at something historians and prophets failed to confirm did or would exist in the world. The answer was thought to exist outside of the world, in the very skies the Black Artifact came from. To this end, cosmologies were formed by cultures through the eons to attempt to chart the skies and ascertain the world's place in it. They were numerous.
The peasant lords of Oteln see the workings of the skies as a great turning wheel, with an arrangement of spokes connecting the rim of the night sky to the day's hub. The fisherfolk of the East Seas see worlds as bubbles in the brine, being continually popped and formed by crashing waves. Similarly, the undersea technological culture of The Deep Fixers has developed a line of thought that indeed each mind is in itself a bubble in the sea, and by taking action (bursting) the ripples effect others. [It is a point of constant contention between the fisherfolk and the Deep Fixers, as the secondary interchange of culture through waste products such as books lost overboard during storms, or expeditionary submarine vehicles washing ashore, has led each to believe the other has stolen and corrupted their beliefs. It is fact, though, that these cosmologies arose independently.] The Triangle Sages, the ones who translated the Artifact's runes, see worlds as leaves on a great tree, absorbing light shed from the higher branches, eventually to die and fall and, in decaying, feed the roots in perpetual cycle. The Sect of the Lawgiver asserts that consciousness is an illusion, and all that exists in the skies are part of an unthinking, blind engine of creation. The Keepers of the Analect see each mind as a letter, and the sky as a vast library; the central tenet of their belief is that by remaining harmonious with other minds, words are formed, and one day, when all minds are in alignment, the ultimate word will come into being. The Corbt Wanderers tell of a series of paths, crisscrossing through the skies, to be traversed in dreams. Dancers see the play of colors at night as proof of the greater motions in play, musicians see these as echoes of the first notes, and painters see it all as an infinite mural infinitely reflecting itself. And on and on like that, with variations and alterations great and minute.
Some time later, a second new thing was discovered. A disc of blackness had appeared at the center of the night sky. It was no object, nor was it a shadow. The hole in the night sky was expanding, or growing nearer, at a calculable rate. The vastest minds of the world existing, the Triangle Sages, agreed that it was the death of the world- the leaf would fall. Indeed, along with calculating the exact moment of this end, they had reversed the formula, and had discovered that the black hole's earliest possible moment coincides with the Black Artifact gracing the world with its presence.
With the days running out, the Triangle Sages arranged their thoughts around the issue at hand, and devised an alternative to resigning to obliteration. Despite being content with their tree cosmology, they realize others might want to try to survive. A worldship would need to be created, an immense undertaking that would require the efforts of many civilizations working in unison. They sent heralds to all civilizations, crossing the world in each direction, plumbing the seas, and zipping across the skies, enlisting the help they could. It was entirely opt-in, as it was not the Sages' place to try to convince anyone of anything. Many felt that the black hole growing in the night was a fitting end, impossible, or non-existent. But many were determined to press on, if such a thing could be done. Some were content sacrifice everything to improve the chances of some fragment of this world's vast history to be preserved amongst the sky.
A committee was organized, designs were created, rivalries were put aside and new ones formed. Some in the committee felt exhilarated by this one final glory to be attained, while others grew cold as the impending doom drew nearer. With the last thousands of days cycling down, construction began.
Particular stones were quarried from cherished sites across the world. Pristine airs were captured blended into a breathable atmosphere. Workers scurried up and down thinking scaffolds of fine crystal, that entwined itself along the growing structure; as each section was phased out of use, it willed itself into death, allowing its skeleton to sink into the Worldship's surface, strengthening it. Whole circles of farmland were transplanted and set into the surface, along with domed gardens, samples of various trees, and the occasional patch of purified and blessed sand. Cavernous structures were implanted across the surface, as well as numerous passages leading to the interior chambers. Leylines were filigreed all through it, vital harmonies instilled, and various charms engaged. The culmination of every living civilization, on the shoulders of many dead and forgotten ones; the Worldship came into existence far grander than was planned.
Years of work led to this as the days spun down, The Last Great Santfication Ritual. Representatives of every tribe and nation, eager to urge onwards their world's hope of survival in some small way, had organized the Ritual. Pavilions and stages and feasthalls and other displays of emotion had been erected around the site of the worldship. In a circular lake of nutrient rich water, and reachable only by a crystalline bridge of the same lineage as the scaffolds, the Worldship basked, preparing for its journey, seeming very much like an island. Surrounding it were all manner of festivity and solemn meditation. Seething columns of liturgical dancers in their seventh day of ecstatic motion. Wizards attempting their final chances to scrye out meanings in the patterns of the night sky once so vivid, but now almost wholly obscured by the black hole. Several mystics all meditating alone atop their pillars or inside their small camps strewn about the Ritual grounds, or walking through the crowds doomsaying. Music and food of every sort. Secret loves revealed, group suicide, and mad attempts for that one final inspiration to strike and an art to be perfected, all displayed publicly. Of the millions there, only a fraction of each nation would be given passage onto the Worldship. Those attempting to sneak on were destroyed by the Ritual Guard, once the elite troops of some godking or another, now tasked with preventing any attempt to sabotage or vandalize or hamper the Worldship. There were also sharks in the nutrient lake, which even in this desperate time, were effective obstacles. With everything so dire, and every hope gambled on this one event, the world had united into one enormous city without border or ruler. It brought many to tears that the world would only attain this glory with only a few hours remaining.
Speeches and final farewells and tough talk about the task at hand were being given constantly, from the center pavilion near the lake. Here various powerful figures had gathered, most of them people of note or power, who had earned their place on the ship. Their voices and images were being broadcast via enormous telepagraphic screens repurposed from a dead culture's ruins. The Triangle Sages had excused themselves days prior to prepare themselves for the world's end in privacy- finally allowing their three minds to be separated for the first time since their birth. In their place was a proxy, a sort of master of ceremony figure, who was orchestrating the central events regarding speeches, directing precious cargo on to the ship across the bridge and via hovercraft, and keeping the travel itinerary. He stayed behind the scenes, mostly, save for introducing those giving speeches. Occasionally he could be spied in the corner of one of the giant hovering psychic screens, glancing at his watch or peering at the blackening sky, an eyebrow raised.
Othlo the Merry had finished delivering his final sonnet, themed around the quieter joys of life, and had ended his time on screen with a simple thank you, and a mention that he and the nation he spoke on behalf of had changed their mind, and will not be attempting to escape the devastation. The Attendant nodded, as such last minute changes of heart were not uncommon. Peering at a thick sheet of paper with names on it, the Attendant stepped to the center of the stage, and appraised the remaining hundred or so heroes and figures of legend gathered there, with their followers and associates and underlings. The horizon was beginning to be tinged by fingers of white light as the last day of the world was starting. The Attendant addressed the gathering of pantheons and heroes.
"I apologize for those of you on the tail end of the list, but we have time for just a few more offerings. Would those of you that would be fine with relinquishing your slot at the podium take a step back, and those who still want to go up and address the world take a step forward?"