From the journal of Alaric Clay:
After our partial success in Oldoak, I spent some time in my workshop with the alchemical notes and supplies I had recovered from the demonologist (as I suspect her to be). Such an opportunity to study the art is rare outside the schools of Lij, and hopefully my newfound knowledge will help counter any further use of alchemy against us. I can now determine the nature of virtually any substance, and have added a powerful corrosive to my arsenal of attacks.
When the letter from the Witchfinder was first circulated, I had hoped to reason with the Swords of Astrid – after all, I had discovered direct evidence that the woman we fought and her companions were responsible for the shadow that fell on Chuton! But others in the town convinced me that they do not listen to reason alone, and value piety above all (more reasons to distrust the Cult of the New God). For that reason, I voted to try and outwit them – hopefully making an ally of these powerful zealots against the Shadow.
I spoke with Sister Hüvje and offered to aid her in parleying with the inquisitors; having spent time in Sixton and being around many devotees of the Cult, I understood the basics well enough to pretend to be pious. I hope Hüvje did not take offence when I declined to actually convert, but while she represents the best of the Cult, I am still suspicious.
We went over our plans and preparations, and when the inquisitors arrived, they were greeted by banners, food and ale, and signs of recent purification. As it happened, I had little to add to the Sister’s words; she spoke well on behalf of all of us. The inquisitors – whose masks unsettled me more than any faceless clockwork’s visage – seemed pleasantly surprised and entirely taken in. But in the manner of all zealots, they demanded more evidence of our piety. They each had tasks they wished us to perform in service to the Cult; one, a Brother Lancel, spoke of a tower infested with Gremlins which had been “bothering” a nearby township, demanding we bring back their corpses. We once had a Gremlin in our study workshop in Sixton and, having no love for the creatures, I immediately volunteered. I was pleased that Branka wished to come with me.
We set off, in the end also accompanied by the gnome Coal Sparkmore and Blys, who I noticed had learned some magic of her own since we last crossed paths. We found our way to the zone of the Gremlin’s influence easily enough: broken machinery and vehicles littered the ground, and Blys stepped on a bear trap blighted by their foul fae magic. I deduced she should be safe enough as it was more a danger to the rest of us, but somehow Blys’ luck ran foul and when the thing exploded, she was wounded in the thigh.
That’s when I heard their foul laughter. They took such delight in suffering! I am not sure of cosmic good or evil, not when it comes to the fae, but that laughter killed any sympathy I will ever have for Gremlins. I unleashed a magic dart but it only wounded one of them; Branka had more success using her chain to pull down the branch on which they sat, and they ran off into the undergrowth, forcing us to follow. Sure enough, they led us to their tower, surrounded by the remains of devices they had stolen and destroyed. It was so…wasteful. Without any purpose! Just wanton destruction.
Some of my memories of the encounter are hazy, but the scars in my chest ensure I’ll never forget it. We were almost flattened by a collapsing carriage wedged into the tower entrance; crushed by rotting floorboards, which I barely detected their magic spreading through in time to warn my companions; and beset by their hexes and curses, which they cast on both myself and Blys. But Branka managed to strangle one with her beard, another had its skull crushed by my magic wrench, Blys lured one towards her with magic and then burned it in a lantern, and even Coal struck a few and kept the rest of us standing long enough to finish them all off – though not before two of them shot me in the chest with a blunderbuss. It’s not something I will ever forget, though I had my vengeance.
Inside their tower, though, is where I found the newest addition to Chuton: a humanoid clockwork, with blank face and hidden compartments in its arms. It had clearly been affected by the Gremlin’s aura, and I used Technomancy to repair its chassis, but I admit that after Bzzzantine‘s actions I hesitated to awaken it. But every soul deserves a proper chance to live, and so I turned its key. The poor thing seemed barely aware of its surroundings – perhaps because of a lingering effect of the Gremlins – and I had to guide it out of the tower as we left, the interior burning from a pile of refuse Coal and Branka had prepared to smoke the Gremlins out, ignited by the exploding lantern. As we headed back to Chuton, I collected various useful components from the destroyed machinery around us, building up a bag of artificer’s parts from which I am sure I can construct many useful devices.
The clockwork still has not spoken, though it seemed more aware and less erratic as we travelled further from the tower. I will study it’s construction, continuing to effect repairs wherever possible, and perhaps, in time, it will share something of its life with us – or perhaps, like Bzzzantine, it has no memory of the time before I turned its key. At least it has hands, and not just weapons, with which to explore its environment. I pray to the gods – perhaps even the Cog God of the clockworks – that this time I have not awakened a naïve killer…