Automatons were long thought of as machines without sapience. They had enough sentience, people thought, to follow the orders of The Commander and little else. However, whenever The Commander was not commanding the automatons around, they did things of their own accord. At first, they took care of the creation and repair of themselves – which they still do – but eventually they began to leave The Commander’s army. Amir knew that this was happening, but he had long known that automatons were sapient. He knew that any who left would return to his call if he truly needed them, but he doubted any such time would come.Excerpt from the works of Jergolt, The Scholar
In my interactions, limited as they are, with this god I have heard the tale of how automatons came to be. The souls of ancient humans, not ready to become gods, were included in the great ascension and, instead of becoming immortal in their own flesh, their souls were bonded to the automatons they were creating. Amir knew these people before and said that afterwards he always had a feeling they were more than they seemed.
Burner, Dreekt, Gaemacirch, and Julian found themselves in a much smaller cavern than the first. In this cavern there were piles of metal and wires all over.
Julian handed the quarterstaff back to Dreekt whose taloned hand strapped it back to his pack.
Gaemacirch’s ferret head was turning left and right, scanning the room.
The glow of Burner’s eyes under her hood did little to light the room, but Julian’s lantern did light up the room.
As they surveyed the bare wires and metal Dreekt wished they had a dwarf with them. They would’ve been able to tell what kind of metals there were, and what they were most commonly used for. He moved forward slowly, careful not to cut himself on any jagged pieces.
The four adventurers rounded the corner and found a humanoid automaton lying on its back. Its lower face was missing, and its legs were pinned under a large piece of metal. Its head swiveled around at the sound of their arrival and it motioned at its legs, uttering no sound but that of metal sliding across metal.
With concern Gaemacirch approached in his ferret form. “Don’t worry, we’re here to help.” He nosed at the piece of metal, tested the weight and shook his head. “It’s too heavy, I cannot move it and none of you can. We’ll need to rig something together to deal with this.”
“Dreekt, why don’t you and Julian stay here to work on that while Gaem and I scout further ahead?” Burner motioned forward.
“No, I think we should all work on this.” Dreekt made eye contact with Burner. “I don’t want you two going off alone.”
Gaemacirch sighed. “Look, we need to keep moving, Dreekt I-”
“No, either I go with you two or you stay here. The gem showed me something. You two need to stay with someone while we’re down here.”
Burner broke Dreekt’s eye contact and turned to Julian. “Can you handle this yourself?”
“Only if Dreekt leaves his rope.” Julian started to take the coil from Dreekt’s pack. “I have an idea and there’s a lot of material to work with here. We’ll catch up. If there’s a fork wait there.”
“Alright, Dreekt. You come with us.” Burner motioned forward. “We need to keep moving. The longer we spend down here the thicker the darkness seems.”
Julian watched his three traveling companions leave and turned to the pile of metal covering the automaton. “Ok, automaton, I’m going to do something. Don’t worry about it.”
Some of the automaton’s gears started spinning in its neck where its mouth would be if it hadn’t been torn off.
“Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you.” Julian sat cross-legged, pulled out a small notebook, set one of his hands on the metal and started reading something in a grating tongue.
After ten minutes of this he stood up, careful to keep his hand still on the metal. Once he was standing upright, he put his other hand under the lip of the metal and pulled. The metal seemed to grow where he pulled it, but the automaton soon realized that as he pulled the metal into a long, thick bar the metal that was on its legs was moving, almost as if Julian was sucking up water with a straw. Eventually Julian pulled enough of the metal away that the automaton’s feet were no longer pinned.
The automaton stood and felt surveyed its overall condition. It smiled at Julian and moved in to hug him.
“Wait, let me end the spell first. You’re made of metal.” Julian removed his hands from the metal, now in the shape of a bar, and said a few words in the same grating tongue as before. “Ok, now you’re fine. Not that I want the hug, but-” Julian was cut off by the automaton hugging him. “Right, now we need to go find the others. It’s been at least twenty minutes.” He picked the rope back up from the ground, uncoiled it, and recoiled it. “There, now it looks like I actually used this. Let’s go. Oh, I’m Julian by the way. The large ferret is Gaemacirch who is a zarx, the skravyn is Dreekt, and the wick is Burner.”
– – –
The tunnel cleared of metal after a few dozen feet. The concern Dreekt felt grew as they approached the small cavern he had seen in his vision.
“Here,” Dreekt said. “Be on the lookout for-” he was cut short as a giant spider attacked Gaemacirch by spitting acid at him.
“Spiders!” Gaemacirch loped towards the giant spider that had spit at him to slash at it with his claws. He missed, but as the spider avoided the attack an opening was created for Dreekt to shoot magic at the creature.
Seeing the opening Dreekt cast a bolt of fire at the creature who seemed to shrug most of the hit off.
Reaching for her bow and arrows Burner noticed another spider. “There’s a second one approaching!” She shot at the first spider, hoping that by focusing they would hold out long enough for Julian to show up to help. One giant spider would be no problem, but two? Big problem.
The second spider jumped forward and attempted to bite Burner but misjudged the distance and moved back again.
The first spider bit at Gaemacirch and managed to sink its fangs in. Venom injected into him, but Gaemacirch was able to shrug off the effects.
Burner turned and shot at the second spider, now realizing that if they ignored one of the spiders it would be problematic. The arrow found a gap in the spider’s protective carapace, dealing some damage.
Deciding it wouldn’t hurt to try again Dreekt shot another bolt of fire at the first spider. Once again, the fire seemed to bounce off the hide. He quickly addressed his spirit. Any ideas?
Don’t use fire, use force?
Large ferret claws ripped into the first spider, heavily damaging its front legs and making it harder for it to attack.
The second spider ran back up to Burner, not willing to judge a leap again, and bit at her. The bite took a large chunk out of Burner’s side but did not inject any venom into her.
The first spider bit at Gaemacirch again, but he was to swift for it. The spider backed off by climbing up the wall.
A wave of arcane energy blasted from between Dreekt’s outstretched hands and knocked the spider off the wall and back to the ground where Gaemacirch could get to it.
Expecting the spider to still be on the wall, Gaemacirch had leapt toward it and missed when it fell back to the ground, but he ended up between the spider and the cave wall.
Pulling out her rapier Burner stabbed at the second spider, but the spider saw the attack coming and moved out of range before moving forward again biting at Burner. This bite knocked Burner out and the spider moved to close on her two companions, planning to deal with her later.
The first spider turned to attack Dreekt, but he saw it coming and jumped back, out of range. He then pulled out his quarterstaff and attempted to break off one of the spider’s mandibles but missed.
With a slash of his paw Gaemacirch dealt another blow to the first spider. “Dreekt! Burner went down! There’s a second spider!”
As Gaemacirch called out the second spider moved in to bite at Gaemacirch who scuttled to the side, barely avoiding the bite.
With a quick strike that Dreekt couldn’t avoid the first spider sunk its fangs into his arm. The venom entered his blood and he could feel it work it burning through his veins. He swung at the spider with his quarterstaff, missing before falling to one knee, barely able to stand.
Turning back into his humanoid form, Gaemacirch gripped his large, katana-like weapon in his hands, but was unable to strike before the second spider bit his leg. This ended up knocking him over and he hit his head hard against the hard floor of the cavern. He went out at once.
Julian and the automaton entered the cavern just as Gaemacirch went down and then ran over to help. The first spider noticed this and with a swift motion injected more venom into Dreekt, knocking him the rest of the way to the ground and making him lose consciousness. Oddly there was a smile on Dreekt’s face as he went out.
With the sound of metal on metal the automaton charged forward and struck at the first spider, dealing minor damage to it.
A scream loosed from Julian’s lips and he swung and the same spider with both his axes. He was blind in his rage and was unable to connect with the spider.
Circling around, the second spider struck at the automaton and pulled some chunks of metal away.
The first spider bit into Julian’s arm, but he was able to break the hold before the venom was injected into his veins. With the momentum from pulling away Julian attempted to strike at the other spider and missed but created a small opening for the automaton.
Seeing the opening the automaton grabbed Gaemacirch’s katana-like sword from the ground and beheaded the first spider with it.
In anger at having its mate killed the second spider bit at the automaton twice, the second bite finding purchase on the metal, pulling more away from it.
The automaton sliced a slab from the spider’s side just as Julian threw both of his axes at it. Together they dealt a heavy blow against it.
In retaliation the spider backed off and spit acid on the automaton, eating through enough of the metal to cause it to fall, useless, to the floor of the cavern.
Picking up one of his axes Julian tossed it into the spider and picked up his other axe.
Backing away further the spider spit more acid at Julian who was able to avoid some of the acid, but he knew he would be unable to take another hit. Picking up the other axe that had dropped back to the ground Julian threw them both into the spider’s head, killing it.
Exhausted from the battle Julian quickly made his way to Burner, who he knew had the magic to heal his companions. He bound her wounds to stop the bleeding and fed some herbs he had picked up in town to her to wake her up.
With a gasp Burner opened her eyes. “The others, how are they?”
“They’re unconscious, but Dreekt seemed satisfied when I arrived with the automaton. Can you heal them?”
“I can. It will probably take a while, though.” Burner moved over to her friends and started sending healing energy over them. After a while they woke up.
While Burner was distracted with healing Dreekt and Gaemacirch, Julian was using some of his magic to put the automaton back together. With a flash of insight, he cut open the spiders and fished around in their guts. He found parts of other automatons in there, mostly deteriorated by the acid they had spit, but in one he found a voice box.
He brought the voice box over to the mostly repaired automaton and pressed it against the automaton’s throat. After a moment the automaton lifted its hands to hold the box in place while gears and wires snaked from its throat and from the box to join up. In a moment the automaton could speak again.
“Thank you, Julian. You are a wonder among men.” The voice had a metallic echo to it.
Julian shook his head. “Don’t mention it…what’s your name?”
“Enress, call me Enress.”
“Hey, Julian.” Dreekt walked over slowly, his wounds no longer visible with regrown feathers covering them. “How’s he doing?”
“I’m a she, and my name is Enress.” The automaton held out her right hand and offered it to Dreekt. “I believe your name is Dreekt?”
“Yes, it is.” He took the offered hand and shook. “Nice to meet you, ma’am.”