21 - Grinding Gears

In which many things both relevant and irrelevant are discussed, a new associate is brought forth from the forge, and old familiar names make themselves known.

As the Trade Union members bind their wounds, they converse with the Voice of the Machinist. The construct appears to be some sort of pseudo-sentient archive, and describes its function as providing information necessary for the tower’s Caretaker to pursue his duties: information on the tower’s functioning, information on duties, and so on. The group speaks extensively with the Voice, learning many things such as the general length of a Caretaker’s tenure (500 years), who the Machinist entertained in the Clock Tower most often (the Gatemaker and the Shaper), the age of several structures in the city (which seems to have been built from the North at first and then moved southward) and other such things. However, many of their questions are answered as either “irrelevant,” “inconclusive” or “the answer is not archived”; the Voice seems to know only information specific to the Clock Tower or the large map of the city. The Voice also mentions an infestation of some sort, concentrated in the assembly floor, that is causing particular trouble for the tower’s functioning.

Hinge learns the location of a potential safe haven for the group, in a room off one of the main travel arteries. After a tense night’s rest, the four speak once more with the Voice, then head down to the assembly floor to target the infestation. The “externalists” turn out to be a small group of mephits, elemental vermin-imps that are considerably more dangerous than they look — a few of which are attempting to disassemble an as-yet-incomplete clockwork entity, a clear relative of Hinge and Hasp. The mephits (one steam, one iron, two fire and a swarm of small kindling sub-mephits) badly injure Peluma and Hinge with their elemental blasts, but can’t finish the Trade Union before they’re overwhelmed and snuffed out.

Observing this particular portion of the assembly floor, the group notes all manner of worked armor and attachments for customizing a clockwork soldier. Hinge finds a particularly durable suit of armor plates, and begins upgrading himself, while Sym and Peluma consider the last stages necessary for activating the still-dormant warforged. A number of exterior “suits”, each marked with the symbols of different guild-clans, make it clear that the newcomer could be given a purpose before activation. Sym favors the skull-and-reaper-marked shell that seems associated with the Catacombs, but Peluma discovers something even better for her tastes: a secret compartment containing armor marked with the cult symbols of the Shadow Cloisters, and a helm that matches the empty hood common to divine symbolism. The two eagerly clothe the clockwork in Night Sweeper gear, deduce how to use the forge, and complete the process of full animation.

It sits up, flexes its fingers, observes itself, then addresses the group.

“I require a name.”

“Somber,” says Dewlian, and Sym immediately cackles about how perfect the name is.

“I require a purpose.”

“To root out and destroy threats that hide in shadow,” responds Hinge.

“I require armaments.”

To that, the group gestures to the many choices of weapons around the assembly floor. Somber chooses a large scythe, and then falls in behind the group.

As the Trade Union searches out their next potential clue, a crossbow bolt suddenly sprouts from one of Hinge’s new armor plates. The shooter races up a stairwell, and the group pursues, sending Peluma ahead stealthily to see what she can discern of the inevitable ambush. She reports back with interesting news: the ambush is set on a balcony and an extensible bridge around the central well, and two of the central figures appear to be none other than the missing Savatine Fell and his Battleman companion Barhook: no longer living, but still very active. Their ambush party is rounded out by a concealed Night Sweeper (apparently one of the Dagger Cult, and also no longer living) and an iron construct in the form of a serpent.

Forewarned, the group is able to rush the ambush and give a good fight, quickly slaying the ghoulish Night Sweeper (who’s decapitated by a swing of Somber’s scythe) and pressing Barhook heavily. Fell snipes from behind the bridge’s gears, defended by the cobra and an unpleasant dart-trap. But once Barhook falls and Fell is forced off the edge of the bridge, he plays his trump card — a bolt-line fired from his remarkable crossbow — and swings to safety amid the open mechanisms two floors down.



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