• N

The Adventures of Solaire, Part V: The Clockwork Temple II

The Incredible Yet Accurate Adventures of the Dread Pirate Captain Solaire Ravenheart

Otherwise known as

The Adventures of Solaire


Part V:

The Clockwork Temple ii


Before we begin this next section of Solaire’s journey through the Clockwork Temple, I have a confession to make: as much as I’d like to make sure that the “Yet Accurate” part of this series’ title remains truthful, there are certain details I am simply unable to obtain, no matter how much research I do. And as secret societies don’t tend to leave behind blueprints of their sacred sanctums behind, the Clockwork Temple is one of those details. I have spent countless hours in countless libraries, visited the Isle of Delphine myself to try to puzzle together measurements from the ruins, and have even chased down members of the Order of Archangels themselves to ascertain the design of this building. All attempts have ended in vain. So as much as I’d like to say they are 500 feet below the surface in antechamber B between the main engine train and automaton storage, I simply can not do that with any amount of confidence.


I sincerely regret this fact and beg for your understanding. If you can find it within your heart to forgive me, we may proceed.


***


Solaire blearily opened his eyes and moaned, feeling the aches and pains all over his body. He rose with caution, and, as he did so, he heard the sound of splashing and the unmistakable trickling of water.


“What, in the name of all the gods and demons, just happened?” he growled.


As his eyes adjusted to the blackness of his surroundings, he saw the large form of Austin attempt to stand, slip, and land into an inch of water with a resounding “Ka-Blash!”


“This is your fault, Solaire,” Austin grumbled.


“Me? What did I do? Besides stop you from walking into another death trap, of course.” Solaire squinted and tried to find something in the darkness besides the forms of his four companions, but he couldn’t. The only thing that existed outside the blackness was the whirring and clicking of unseen machinery.


Austin stood, this time slower and more carefully. “If it wasn’t for you, we’d be in the next chamber right now, figuring out how to move on.”


“Or we’d be dead,” Solaire shot back.


Tomo sat up. “It is pointless to speculate on what would have happened if things had gone differently. Besides…” he ran his fingers through the liquid, which had apparently been draining, as it seemed much shallower now, “...it does not answer why the floor turned into water and caused us to fall.”


His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of slurping. Everyone turned to see Willaby on all fours, scooping the water up with his hands and lapping at it like a dog. Feeling the weight of stares upon him, he glanced backwards and gave a sheepish grin. “There is a slight possibility it might have been me.”


Solaire groaned. “Wonderful. So our sorcerer is a liability now.”


Willaby hung his head.


Austin picked something off of the floor, now drained dry, and cursed. “My torch is useless now. Any one else got a light?”


There was a chorus of patting pockets and naes from around the room before Tomo took out a small tinderbox and lit it. The orange light only extended for a few feet in any direction, not far enough to illuminate any details of the room. “I do not believe that this will be sufficient to guide ourselves with,” he said.


Solaire shook his head. “Tomo, you are a master of the obvious.”


Skyler sighed and looked around the darkness surrounding them. “Well, what do we do now?”


“Why don’t we get the sorcerer to make a light?” Austin suggested.


Willaby glanced around for a bit before picking up the small arcane rod Weiss had given him. He pointed it in the air, waved it around for a bit, then muttered “light”.


A small butterfly popped into existence and fluttered towards the light of Tomo’s tinderbox, promptly incinerating itself in the following of its insect instincts.


Willaby moaned and flopped back onto the ground. “It’s no use. I’m a sorcerer who can’t cast magic, a baker without a bakery, and a useless adventurer to boot. You might as well leave me behind to die.”


“Hey,” Skyler sat down next to him and gave him an affirming clasp on the shoulder, “no one’s thinking that.”


“Speak for yourself,” Solaire muttered.


Skyler glared at him. “You’re one to talk, after how you threatened him.”


Solaire shrugged. “It worked, didn’t it?”


A minute of silence descended upon the group.


Skyler gazed back up to Solaire. “How did you know it would work?”


“I didn’t,” Solaire admitted. “I just hoped that a simpler threat would focus him.”


“Simpler threat?” Tomo asked.


“Yeah. He seemed pretty useless when he was trying to figure out how to stop that crystal. I hoped that some panic would encourage him to do something helpful.”


Skyler snapped his fingers. “Of course! Solaire, you’re a genius!”


“Obviously,” Solaire said, then stopped. “Wait, why?”


Skyler turned to Willaby. “Emotion. It’s how you cast spells, Willaby.”


Willaby focused at Skyler, frown plastered onto his lips. “No it’s not. You cast spells with magic words and precise hand motions and lots and lots of practice.”


“Maybe that’s how a wizard does it, but you’re not a wizard! You’re a sorcerer! Magic literally flows through your veins. It’s part of you. Intertwined, even. The best way to call it forth is to reach inside yourself to get it.”


“This sounds a little too touchy-feely, and not...” Austin paused, face scrunched up in labored thought “...scientific.”


“No, it makes sense,” Tomo interjected. “It would explain why the only time he has cast substantial spells is when he is under duress.”


“I don’t get it,” Willaby said. “If that’s the case, how do I cast the spells I want to cast?”


“Well we need to trigger an emotional response, one related to what you want to do.”


Solaire withdrew the Ivory River and pointed it at Willaby’s heart.


Willaby shook his head. “That’s not going to work. I already know you’re not going to pull the trigger.”


Solaire raised an eyebrow. “You seem awfully certain about that.”


“Knock it off Solaire,” Skyler said. “He’s had enough of that today. Besides, we already know that’s not going to get him to produce light.”


Solaire aimed the pistol at Willaby for a bit longer, then grumbled something and put it away.


Another minute of silence passed.


“You said that you were a baker?” Tomo questioned.


“Yeah. Had my own place in Dinas,” Willaby mumbled.


Skyler looked over to Tomo, an expression of realization on his face. “What was that like, Willaby?”


He shrugged. “It was… nice. I know some of my employees didn’t like it, waking up before dawn to slave over ovens. But I always enjoyed it. There was just something… satisfying, about taking the ingredients and mixing them together, bending them to your will.” His hands began to pantomime the motions of pouring, mixing, and kneading. “When you really put in your best work to be enjoyed, and watch people admire all the products on display, it was… it was…”


“Willaby…” Skyler whispered, “look down.”


Willaby did. In his hands was a small ball of white, shining light out and illuminating the brass mechanisms of gears, cogs, chains, and other precise metal constructs that had been invisible only moments before.


“Skyler,” he gasped. “I did it! I cast a spell! On purpose!”


Skyler laughed as Willaby bounced up and down like a child counting presents on Martyrsday morning. Even Tomo and Austin grinned at the display.


“I knew you could do it!” Skyler shouted.


“A spell!” Willaby exclaimed. “On purpose! Without destroying things!”


Solaire, meanwhile, was turned away from the group, staring at something behind them. “Um, people…”


“You have searched deep inside yourself and conquered your fear,” Tomo commended. “You accomplished something great today.”


“Listen,” Solaire insisted, “could you look at this?”


“I… I did, didn’t I?” Willaby marveled. “Wow.”


Austin laughed. “Don’t get too full of yourself now.”


“I need someone to turn around RIGHT NOW,” Solaire shouted.


Skyler spun around, annoyed. “For heaven’s sake, Solaire, not everything has to be about… you…” he trailed off as his gaze went upwards, seeing what Solaire was staring at.


There, standing almost seven feet tall and the width of a small carriage, was a collection of large grey rocks and boulders, stacked and balanced in defiance of gravity to take on the frame of a human. The large stone man scanned back and forth at the small people in front of it, like a boy watching ants in a line and debating whether or not he should flood the area with a cup of water and watch the little insects scurry around.


The others, sensing the fear in the tone of Skyler’s last words, rotated to check the source of the disturbance and exhaled a round of gasps.


“It’s a stone golem,” Tomo breathed. “A being brought to life with magic, no doubt to guard this temple.”


Austin raised an eyebrow. “It hasn’t done anything. Maybe its friendly.”


The stone golem slowly raised an arm into the air, as if it was trying to receive permission to ask a question.


“It’s trying to communicate!” Willaby declared.


After taking another look around at the group of humans, it brought its fist down towards Willaby, intent on smashing the sorcerer into paste.


“Not friendly!” Solaire yelled. He dove into Willaby, colliding with the man and toppling him out of the way a split second before the giant fist of rock cracked into the metal floor, Willaby’s created light following nearby, as if attached to the man. The golem slowly spun its head to face the pair, as if the smooth boulder actually contained eyes to see with. It brought back its second arm and swung in a powerful punch, but was interrupted by the charging form of Austin, whose own blow hit hard enough to move the limb off target, miss Solaire and Willaby, and smash into a collection of gears, shattering the metal into tiny pieces as if they were nothing but glass.


Tomo withdrew his katana and poised it horizontal in the air, legs apart in a stance of defense. “Prepare for battle!” he cried.


“Way ahead of you,” Solaire muttered. He withdrew one of his flintlocks as Skyler took out his own pepperbox, both aiming at the monstrosity and squeezing the trigger at the same time.


*click* *clack*


“Damn it!” Skyler cursed. “The powder’s wet!” He put the pistol back into his pocket and withdrew his hook swords.


Solaire scrambled to his feet and drew his cutlass just in time to see the golem take another swing, this time aimed at Tomo. Tomo waited, allowing the blow to strike his blade, before gracefully stepping under the limb, sword raised, dragging it along the underside to shave off tiny shards of rock. Skyler took advantage of the outstretched arm and hooked his sword into the crevice between two rocks, hanging on while the limb retracted backwards in order to chip at where the ribs would be.


The golem’s space-acting-as-a-face turned to the small hanging man. Solaire gritted his teeth and rushed in towards the other appendage, leaping onto the left member and dug his cutlass into a nook in the rock, using the weapon as a makeshift crowbar. The golem shifted in a way that suggested surprise and brought the other arm back like a man about to slap a mosquito on his skin. Austin roared and vaulted towards the right limb, colliding into it with enough force to slightly wobble the golem and holding on for dear life. It raised its right arm and lazily shook it as the two clung to it before slamming the appendage into another collection of gears, shattering more machinery and flinging Skyler and Austin like ragdolls.


“Ow” Austin complained.


Solaire hopped backwards to where his allies were now grouped. “I don’t think we’re doing a thing to this guy.”


Tomo gave a grim nod. “Our only hope against such a foe would be guerilla tactics, but we have no ranged options. We can not beat him in a melee.”


“What about Willaby?” Skyler asked hopefully.


The four turned to the tweed-suited man, who was frantically waving his rod back and forth as it emitted red sparks. “Cakes!” he shrieked. “Pastries! Father yelling at me! Kissing Lilly! Having to give back that stolen book! Burnt bagels!”


Skyler gave an embarrassed shrug. “It was a nice thought.”


The golem threw its shoulders back and took a menacing step forward.


“Run!” Solaire yelled. He bolted in the other direction, down a hallway surrounded by turning cogs. The others followed soon behind, Skyler grabbing Willaby’s shoulder to snap the man out of his focus and drag him along.


Behind them, the thudding sound of the golem’s charging footsteps roared, shaking the ground and drowning out the soft ticking coming from all around them. No one dared to look back.


The path slightly curved to the left and a large cog appeared. The center hole that wrapped around the pathway was only three feet tall, not large enough to run through.


"Obstacle!” Solaire shouted. He fell backwards and landed on his side, his momentum carrying him through in a slide. Tomo copied the motion while Skyler took both hook swords and grabbed onto a set of pipes on either side and hoisted himself, carrying him up and over the gear.


Willaby stopped in front of it. “Um, I might ne-AAHHH!” Austin grabbed him mid-sentence and wrapped his arms around the sorcerer, then leapt with enough force to clear the obstruction.


The golem continued his pace, not stopping or slowing down for the object in front of him, and broke through the cog like a racer tearing through the paper finish line.


Austin held out the sorcerer with one arm, letting the fat man begin the motion of running before plopping him down on the pathway to continue the sprint. Up ahead, his bobbing light illuminated a fork in the pathway, the road splitting into a left path and a right path.


“Which way?” he wheezed.


“Right!” Austin yelled.


Tomo scanned the hallway. “I think the left will bring us to safety.”


“Really?” Skyler asked.


He squinted. “Maybe.”


Solaire rolled his eyes. “We don’t have time for this.” Grabbing Skyler’s collar, he dragged him with him as he barreled down the left hallway.


“Don’t split up!” Tomo yelled as the other three followed in behind. The golem, noticing the sudden change in his quarry, tried to turn and follow, but the sheer momentum of such a massive beast caused him to slide and drift down the right hallway, frantically clawing at the machinery and breaking off more pieces as he attempted to slow down.


The hallway twisted back and forth until it deposited the group into a large chamber, encased in all sides with more precision clockwork. A dead end.


“Great!” Austin complained. “Now what?”


Solaire took a moment to survey the area before climbing onto a gear twice as tall as himself, letting one of the massive teeth carry him upwards and leaping onto a long chain before the teeth interlocked with another cog.


“You don’t know where that goes!” Skyler protested.


“You want to stand around and wait for the second option?” Solaire called down.


As if to accentuate the point, the large, thudding footsteps of the golem began to sound behind them once again.


Skyler looked back in the direction of the noise, now growing louder, and dug his hook sword into a similar chain, holding on as it dragged him up. Tomo began to climb up onto cogs.


Austin turned to Willaby. “Can you climb?”


He blushed. “Umm, er, well…”


A large crash sounded from the hallway behind. “Not the time to save face,” Austin reminded him.


“No.”


“Right. Hold on for dear life.” Austin grabbed the man and deposited him on his back, like a parent giving a small child a piggy-back ride, before grabbing machinery with his massive hands and using them to hoist himself up. As the pair rose, so did the light, illuminating more and more interlocking clockwork for the group to ascend, seemingly going on forever.


Once they had scaled close to fifty feet of the “wall”, the golem came into view, staring up at them with head cocked like a curious cat noticing a bird nest. He reached his arm though a large gap and attempted to hoist himself up, but it did nothing but drag the limb downwards, forming a deep gash in the machinery.


The sides rumbled and shook with the action. Solaire’s muscles trembled as he held onto the chain. He had always been a weaker creature, componstasting for his lack of strength with his natural speed, and it was taking all his willpower not to drop five stories down into certain death. But even that wasn’t enough. As the golem landed on the ground, causing the room to rattle, Solaire lost his gip and began to plummet.


Skyler saw the noble dropping and reached the other hook sword out, piercing the weapon through his long white coat tied around his shoulders and holding it at the bend of the blade, with Solaire grabbed onto it like a man overboard holding onto floating debris.


Skyler looked down expectantly.


“I’m going to have to patch that later,” Solaire said.


Skyler gave the man a wide-eyed look of disbelief.


There was a “riiiiiiiiiip” as the coat dropped a tiny but noticeable few bits of length downwards. Skyler grimaced, reeled his arm back, and swung, flying Solaire through the air and onto a small platform jutting out of the interconnected clockwork. Solaire landed at chest-height with the outcropping, grabbing on and scrambling onto its top. As he did, the precariously balanced tophat fell downwards, right onto the upturned face of Willaby, who rocked backwards with surprise before squeezing on tighter to Austin to avoid falling himself.


“Bring that up will you? It cost quite a bit.” Solaire yelled down.


Austin reached up, grabbed the hat, and shoved it into one of his massive pockets.


Solaire frowned. “You bent it.”


“You can get bent!” Skyler shouted, now above Solaire as he continued to hold onto the chain via sword.


“Stop arguing, ” Tomo commanded, carefully balanced on a large metal piston, “and look down! We are safe. The golem can not climb.”


The large stone creature was staring at his arm. He turned to the gash, the back to his arm, then to Solaire, then back to his arm.


“Ha!” Willaby glared down at it with a grin. “Can’t get us now, you stupid rock!”


The golem glanced back up to the group and, without looking, drove his fist into the interlocked pieces.


The room shook once more, this time, more violently, as everyone was forced to hold onto whatever was nearby with every ounce of strength they could muster.


“How… much… further?” Austin groaned.


Tomo looked up and pointed. “There! Light!”


The golem reeled back and drove another massive blow into the side of the chamber, prompting another round of desperate clinging.


Skyler looked up to the small pinprick of white Tomo had showed them. “There’s no way we can make it all the way up there!”


Solaire backpedaled a step, and as he did, he felt a blast of heat upon his neck. Turning around, he saw a large hole, drilled into an exposed furnace filled with lava only ten or so feet deep into the hole. He took out the Ivory River, looked at it, then aimed it upwards at the dot of light. His mind began to turn, combining images of gunpowder, Weiss’ steam engines, and his recent launch through the air.


“Everyone, to me! I’ve got a plan.”


Skyler groaned as he swung his feet up onto the chain and pushed himself off, landing onto the platform below. Tomo cleared the space in two long, graceful jumps while Austin gave a guttural roar and dug his hands in deeper, clambering up the wall at a quickened pace until he and Willaby were there as well.


Skyler pointed at Austin. “Get me the biggest piece of metal you can. One large enough for us all to stand on.”


Austin, bent over and gasping, furrowed his brow. “Wh…”


There was another shudder. Willaby staggered backwards, almost toppling off the edge before Skyler grabbed him and pulled him to safety.


Solaire glowered at Austin. “Do it! NOW!”


Austin inspected the area around them, noticed a large sheet bolted down onto a nearby wall, grabbed on and pulled. The metal gave a long straining groan as he tugged at it. “I… can’t…”


Tomo pulled his katana back with a flourish and dug it into the seam between the two metal pieces, leaning into his improvised lever and forcing it further back.


Solaire twirled to Willaby. “That huge amount of water you summoned.”


Willaby raised an eyebrow. “Yeah?”


“I need another one. Right over this lava pit.”


Willaby eyes went wide. “That was an accident! I can’t just…”


Skyler grabbed the man by the shoulders and forced him to face him. “You did it once, you can do it again. Why’d you do it?”


“Um… I was thirsty.”


“Yeah? And I bet you’re thirsty now. Forced to run for who knows how long. In tweed, no less. Right next to that pit of burning… hot… lava.”


Willaby stared at him and smacked his lips.


There was a sudden loud “POP POP POP POP” as Austin and Tomo ripped the large sheet away, causing the bolts to fly off like bullets. Austin held the piece awkwardly in front of his face. “What now?”


“Hold it over that pit,” Solaire said. “Wait until Willaby makes that water, then slam it over the hole as fast as you can.” He turned to the group at large. “When Austin puts that metal piece down, we need to climb on as fast as possible.


Tomo frowned. “I believe I understand the plan, and I do not like it.”


The machinery shook once again. Solaire stared at him.


Tomo held up his hand. “Your point is made. You do not have to comment on it.”


“Well, when you put it like that…” Willaby took off his bowler hat and wiped beads of sweat off his forehead. As he did, a large mass of water began to swirl into existence over the pit, hanging in the air with loud sloshes.


“Get ready!” Solaire shouted.


The water dropped into the hole. Austin slammed the sheet down with a “CLANG!”, covering the space as everyone quickly scurried on top of it, standing and waiting.


“What now?” Skyler asked.


“The water will boil, turn into steam, and shoot up with enough force to carry us upwards like a bullet. It should take us close enough to the surface to pull ourselves into that opening.”


“It SHOULD?” Skyler yelled.


Willaby turned pale. “Like a what?”


There was a loud explosion, different than the sound of the golem striking the walls. This was like a cannon fired in a far-off canyon.


There were a few tense moments of silence.


The plate shot upwards with a “WOOSH!” as hot clouds of steam poured around the sides, fast enough to force everyone to crouch down as the sheer acceleration of it pressed upon it. The speck of light grew larger and larger and larger until it became a fist-sized window, illuminating an expansive area decorated with mammoth thin gears encircling the center at different angles. As everyone slowed down and hung in the air for a few moments, frantic hands were outstretched as everyone grabbed onto a gear (and in Austin’s case, to Willaby). Once they did, they carefully, wobbly, stood upon the thin bands of metal.


No one said anything for some time.


Skyler looked at Solaire. “I can’t believe that worked.”


Solaire outstretched his arms. “See? You should just do what I say the first time around.”


Skyler gave him an incredulous look. “I don’t know about that. Your record is still…”


“Look!” Willaby interrupted, pointing to the center of the room.


Everyone turned to the source of the outburst. There, displayed on a large pedestal, was a gleaming metal object, cast in gold and decorated with sapphires.


A very special metal glove: the gauntlet.

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