Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Ecology of the Clockwork Horror

The Ecology of the Clockwork Horror
Being a study of the Clockwork Horror

By Gear Jack, Dwarven Artificer esq., BFC, BSC, SSC
As Commissioned by Pontifex Amicus, Patriarch of Yoesville

I, Gear Jack, was approached by representatives of Patriarch Amicus concerning automaton, and automaton remains, recovered by the infamous Skull Collectors during a recent scouting action.  Patriarch Amicus asked the Skull Collectors to save a village in his domain that was under attack by (according to a cavalry officer) ‘spiders’, yet was unable to accompany the Skull Collectors while recovering from recent injuries. 

The Skull Collectors lured, and ambushed, a party of these ‘metal spiders’ (henceforth referred to as Clockwork Horrors), and managed to capture one apparently made of copper (henceforth all horrors shall be referred to by the material constructed of) intact, and several sets of non-functional remains of both copper and steel horrors.

Patriarch Amicus, in his great wisdom, knowing he was unable to actually accompany the Skull Collectors back into the field, decided it would be in everyone’s best interest if there was a more in-depth study of these machines, so the world at large (and the Skull Collectors in particular) might figure out a more straightforward way of dealing with the clockwork horrors in the future.

Physically, the clockwork horrors all resemble something quite like mechanical spiders, with the exception that they only have four legs, and two limbs beside the head.  While the bodies are only about two feet in diameter, while the legs give them an overall diameter of four feet.  In the front of the body is a crystal that allows the horror to see, while on the sides of the lens are two depressions which act as ears.  The functional copper horror I studied seem to communicate in a series of rapid clicks and whirs that I was unable to copy or understand.  Each horror also has, what I believe to be, a set of serial numbers above the eye.  The copper horrors I observed appear to have been numbers 37-47.  While the steel horrors have the markings of being numbers 25, 30, and 45-47.

The body of the clockwork horror is a highly durable shell, which is stuffed with an incredibly compact, diverse collection of sturdily constructed interacting mechanisms.  I found what I believe to be a brain inside the head-like appendage where crystal eye is located, with attachments running to eyes, ears, and to the machines in the main body cavity.  In addition, at least in the copper and steel horrors I was able to study, there is a large cavity inside the body where the ammunition for the dart/bolt throwers are stored. It appears that, due to the size and shape of the missiles versus the size of the ammunition storage, that the copper horror could hold 40 darts and the silver horror could hold up to 20 bolts.  I found a slot on the outside of the horror’s shell where additional ammunition could be loaded, and I theorize it would be possible for the clockwork horrors to be equipped with additional outside storage for missiles.

The clockwork horrors legs are highly functional, allowing them to move at roughly the same speed as a human.  The legs are durable enough for them to bear considerable amounts of encumbrance (most likely at least the weight of a person).  In addition the clockwork horror’s feet are durable enough to allow them to climb wood, or even stone, walls.

The clockwork horrors arm-like appendages are a terrifying example of interchangeability, form, and function.  The copper horror’s right limb is a claw-like manipulator, whose talons can flatten out to allow the claw to spin at high speeds, allowing the machine to cut into wood or flesh at a slow rate, or even stone or metal at a much, much slower rate.  The copper horror’s left limb is a hollow tube, with a surprisingly strong spring inside, which allows the horror to fire its dart with the same range and piercing ability as a much larger, heavier hurled weapon.  The steel horror’s right limb is an actual buzz-saw blade (or large, serrated grinding mechanism on at least one example) on a pneumatically telescoping limb, allowing them to cut through flesh and wood with ease, and stone and metal at a disturbing rate.  The steel horror’s left limb is an arbalest-like mechanism with disturbing range and power for something that size.

Something that I discovered examining the non-functional horrors, and observed in the working horror, is the grease the machines use, which not only keeps the internal workings running, but apparently allows the limbs to move and the weapons to move at such a high speed.  It smells especially foul, and applying some of it into test animals resulted in the subject’s death.  Examining the grease thoroughly through alchemy and some magical divination, have led me to find that the grease is made from organic sources.  I found evidence of snake venom, giant hornet poison, contents from the inside of various animals spleens and intestines, and other poisonous or diseased things, all of which is supported in a grease made from the rendered fat from humans, elves, goblins, orcs, trolls, and a variety of other living creatures.  To put it simply, the grease is slightly toxic, and pretty much coats any basic weapon the clockwork horrors use.

The only truly positive thing I can say about these clockwork horrors, is that because of their all-metal construction, their bodies are worth considerable amounts of money just for metal content alone.  The copper horrors contain about 50gp worth of copper, and the steel horrors are worth, easily, 100gp each.

I cannot comment on the intelligence of the copper horror that was captured, as I was never able to communicate with it, but it did spend a great deal of time trying work it’s way out of it’s cage (which, being rendered limbless, it could not do), all the while clicking loudly (which I believe was it trying to broadcast an S.O.S.).  The methodical way that it examined (and tested) the cage, the area surrounding the cage, myself, and my assistants leads me to believe that it was probably fairly intelligent.

As for weaknesses, I found the machine to have a very slight magical aura.  A dispel magic spell (targeted on the horror itself) caused the machine to be paralyzed for a short period of time (1 round per level of the caster) before recovering.  The machine appears to be immune to any kind of spell that affects a living mind (like charming, hypnotize, or fear) or a living body (like poison, cure/cause wounds, or polymorph other).  In addition, electrical damage appears to have no effect on them, as well.

To summarize:  Based on what I have observed from the nonfunctioning wrecks I was allowed to study, as well as the information gathered from talking to the Skull Collectors themselves, it is my opinion that clockwork horrors are an incredibly organized, terrifyingly dangerous, worryingly industrious, and spookily dangerous pack of mechanical monstrosities.  I am of two minds when it comes to the clockwork horror.  The part of me who is a machinist would give half my beard to have several of these machines to study.  I could basically devote my life, as well as the lives of my children, my grandchildren, and my great-grandchildren studying one of these things without working out how they work in their entirety.  However, the more rational part of my mind realizes that these things are ungodly dangerous.  I believe that even leaving the tiniest part of these machines intact could be hazardous to the future.

There is one more thing I really, truly believe:  The person who actually created the Clockwork Horrors is either a mad genius or a pathetic whacko.

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