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The Adventures of Solaire, Part VI: The Clockwork Temple III

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

Otherwise known as

The Adventures of Solaire


Part VI

The Clockwork Temple iii


If you’ll permit me one more quick diversion before the exciting finale to this section of the adventure, I’d like to give you some reference for what is about to happen. A standard pendulum-driven clock, much like the one you would have in your home, has two main sections to it: the going train, and the motion work. The motion work has three major sections to it, each of which requires a minimum of two pieces to work. The going train has five, wound around each other. Add in the pendulum itself, the two weights that drive the pendulum, the mechanism that connects the pendulum to the going train, the connection of the going train to the motion work, and, of course, the clock face and the hands that actually tell the time, and simplest, cheapest clock amounts to 23 carefully calculated, ratioed, placed, and delicate pieces driving one machine.


How many gears, cogs, weights, belts, and chains were part of the Clockwork Temple, we will never know for sure. But given the size and complexity of it, it’s safe to say that the innards of ten thousand pendulum clocks wouldn’t have been enough to satiate it. So for those of you who get the same sense of visceral catharsis as I do at the idea of the destruction of over 23,000 delicate analogue pieces, you’re in for a real treat.


***


The sounds that came from beneath as the five made their way over to the central platform were far from comforting. The symphony of the surrounding area was no longer the standard ticks and tocks that had been heard up until this point. Now there were groans, snaps, clacks, tinks and POPs sprinkled together, as if the temple had transformed from an intricate engine into an angry grandfather with protesting bones.


Willaby stopped to balance himself as the long circular gear he was standing on gave a shudder before continuing its slow rotation around the length of the room. “Is this place still safe? I mean, aside from death traps and golems. Is it going to stay together?”


“It does not appear to be so” Tomo replied, taking a long stride from one thin platform to another. “Our altercation with the golem in the depths damaged many of the internal structures. There is a very real possibility of this platform coming apart and causing us to all fall to our deaths.”


Willaby nodded and went pale. “Right. Just checking.”


Solaire stopped for a moment and took a look at where they were. It was a gigantic area, large and open, with a massive skylight towards the back of the circular room angeled in such a way that the sunlight fell on the centerpiece of the space: an elegant gauntlet of gold and sapphire layered with smooth, curving designs that suggested the waves of the sea. The gauntlet and the stand it was displayed on were situated on a large heavy platform, suspended in the air by an intricate metal skeleton that curved around it and formed the shape of a sphere. Residing between the platform and the skeleton were large, thin gears, massive enough to encircle the whole area in a variety of different angles and tilts. Gears they were currently climbing on, in fact, as they had landed a good distance away from the entrance platform that would have provided a much easier walk.


Whether or not these gears served any purpose beyond decoration, Solaire couldn’t tell. What was obvious, however, was that they were not working right. Some of the gears were spinning out of control, whizzing fast enough to create a breeze around them. Others were stopped completely. Most seemed to be taking the slow, ambulatory pace that they were supposed to, but even these had problems: jerking, shuddering, stopping and starting in weird, unnatural ways.


There was a loud SNAP! as the gear Skyler was standing on suddenly began to increase in speed. He jumped from it to a thin railing, then turned back to watch the circle twirl like a dervish. “Let’s hurry up then. The sooner we get out of here, the better.”


Austin gave a grunt of agreement before grabbing the center platform and hauling himself onto it. He grabbed a side railing and held out his hand to assist the others up.


Skyler took the assistance as he ascended onto the center. Solaire made a point of ignoring it.


Tomo, right before the platform, turned back to Willaby. “Are you….”


A sudden CRASH resounded as the whole room gave a mighty spasm, knocking Willaby off-balance and in danger of falling into the depths below. Tomo grabbed him and pulled him forward, putting him in Austin’s reach so that the large man could heave him up and over the side.


Willaby laid on the ground and gasped like a fish out of water, forcing Tomo to step over him as he joined the rest of the group. “Th-Thanks.”


Austin turned back to the gauntlet. “So this is what all the big fuss is about, huh?”


Skyler joined him in staring at it. “What is it?”


Austin shrugged. “No idea. Weiss has been after this for a while but he hasn’t told us a thing about it.”


“So we just take it?”


“Sounds like a plan” Solaire said. He snatched the gauntlet off the pedestal.


Skyler looked at him horrified. “What if there’s…” he stopped. “Do you hear that?”


Solaire cocked his head. There was a click-click-click-click sound, coming from underneath them and growing louder as it approached. Everyone turned to the far side of the platform as a large metal, angelic construct ascended, hovering in the air. Done over in silver, with sculpted robes, wings, and face void of any features other than bright-white, luminous eyes, it looked expectantly at Solaire.


“SI VIS TOLLERE GAUNTLET DE FERRENINE, DICUNT CULPAM CUM HOC ORBIS” it pronounced with gravity.


Solaire blinked. “Um… what?”


“It is speaking in High Veqekian” Tomo clarified. “It says that if you wish to remove the gauntlet, please acknowledge this decision by pressing the panel that appears.”


Everyone waited for a few minutes.


‘Well,” Solaire asked, “where is it?”


“The mechanism must have broken” Tomo said.


“Well then.” Solaire moved towards the entryway platform to leave, only to have the metal angel glide in front of him.


“CULPA DEBET ESSET DIXERUNT”


“Oh come on” Solaire complained.


“It must be a security measure” Skyler speculated.


Willaby watched it float. “So what’ll it do if we try to get around it?”


“Probably attack us” Skyler replied.


Austin cracked the knuckles on his right hand, bruised purple from the blow he had given to the golem. “Not sure we want to tango with another crazed construct. Any ideas for avoiding that?”


The construct looked back down at Solaire. “ARMA DE CANIS REGINA EST ETIAM…” it began, but the rest of the sentence was drowned out by an ear-splitting rumble as the whole temple shook even more violently than before, causing the whole structure to smash against itself with CLASHes and BASHes, rocks and even small pieces of mechanism falling into the pit below as it did.


Solaire, crouched to the ground to avoid falling, glared at the angel. “Fine, have it your way.” He reached into his coat, withdrew the Ivory River, and aimed it at the artificial entity.


The angel cocked its head to the side, seemingly staring at the heavy pistol in curiosity, before Solaire pulled the trigger with a resounding BANG and the angel’s head snapped back and exploded, showering gears and shrapnel into the empty air behind it. The entire frame rocked with the motion as it gracefully drifted away before falling slow-motion into the pit below.


Solaire displayed the gun to Skyler. “Powder’s dry.”


The sound of hundreds of unseen, massive bells bonged to life almost immediately and the skylight slammed shut, stealing away the natural illumination of the room to be replaced with a deep, red glow. Thin automatons resembling skeletons with ribcages full of gears began climbing up the metal frame of the hanging area. One near Solaire turned to him, uttered a strange chattering series of clacks before leaping at the man with razor sharp fingertips outstretched for a kill.


A BANG sounded from behind him as the robotic form went down mid-jump. He turned to see Skyler, his own thin, long-barreled pistol emitting a trail of smoke.


“Glad to see someones’ awake!” Solaire said as he withdrew two pistols.


“Your welcome… again” Skyler muttered.


Willaby scrambled to his feet and withdrew his rod, pointing it from skeleton to skeleton. “T-th-this again. We’re doing this again.”


Tomo withdrew his katana and held the blade sideways. “It appears so.”


Austin let forth a deep chuckle.


One of the automatons turned towards Austin’s laugh, let forth a screech of his own and, like the first pebble of an avalanche, the others followed in behind, letting forth their own loud additions to the battle cries.


Austin immediately grabbed two incoming creatures by their heads and slammed them into the ground, bending the frames flat. Another flew past him as he was bent over and continued into the sword of Tomo, swinging the weapon in an upward arch over his head and cutting the attacker in two from head to toe. It didn’t take long before others replaced their fallen brethren and the two men turned the motions of their rises into more blows, Tomo with delicate steps and swipes and Austin with mighty backhands and haymakers.


Only a few feet away, Solaire and Skyler rotated back to back. Solaire was holding two of his regular revolver pistols, while Skyler had one withdrawn hook sword. The other hand held his pepperbox, favored over the long-ranged pistol for the melee of madness in front of them.


Solaire fired left gun into charging automaton head and right gun into second charging automaton head, watching the twos’ heads crack backwards and fall over before another one leapt at the man. He ducked and yelled “Six o’clock!”


Skyler reached his hook sword behind his head, hitched the blade between his metal ribs, and whipped it forward, carrying the creature over the edge and into the pit below. “I wish I knew why I was still helping you” he growled before firing his pepperbox twice into the chest of a nearby skeleton and hooking the neck of another one, drawing his arm back and forcing the thing to stumble towards Solaire. “Three o’clock.”


Without looking, Soliare fired a shot into the stumbling thing’s head, ducked a swipe, and brought the second pistol under the “chin” of his new attacker and fired. “What the hell are you talking about?” One more broke into a wild rush and Solaire stuck out his foot and tripped it. “Two o’clock, on the ground.”


Skyler glanced over, saw it sprawled out on the floor, and fired two shots into its face before firing two more into one to his right. “I’ve saved your life twice now and all I’ve gotten in return is a complaint about your coat.” He sliced off the head of another in the crook of his sword and continued the slice downwards into the leg of yet a different skeleton, tearing the limb off and making it fall. “Five, watch your feet.”


Soliare kicked it hard enough to slide off the edge. “What, you expect a cookie every time you do something right?” Solaire drew his guns up into an incoming wall of rushing forms and jammed his thumbs down on the hammer of the guns to rapid fire. Some hit, some missed, and a total of five more automatons fell as he ducked. “Reloading, cover me!”


Skyler cleared the two in front of himself with a long slash before reaching into his holster, sheathing the pepperbox and withdrawing the longer cartridge handgun, squinting as he fired off shots. “I don’t expect” BANG “praise but” BANG “your friendship is fickle.” BANG BANG “It’d be nice to know that you understand the effort” BANG “and will do the same for me.” BANG BANG BANG


Solaire spun the barrels of his newly-loaded pistols, stood and stepped around Skyler to fire another barrage. When Skyler moved to look behind him, twelve newly-destroyed automatons sat there, one for each bullet in Solaire’s guns.


“Actions speak louder than words, right?” Solaire asked as he quickly reloaded more bullets into his revolvers.


“I’ll take that for now” Skyler grumbled.


A motion of green appeared in Solaire’s field of view. Willaby had just bumbled in front of him, waving his rod back and forth and yelling “Darrsenby, Mr. Sanson, the bakery fire!”


“Move you useless obstacle!” Solaire shouted. He pushed the man out of the way just in time to shoot a sprinting skeleton, claws outstretched in attack.


Willaby’s face went red. “I’ve had just about enough from you, you… you…” he pointed at Solaire with the rod and the tip glowed a bright blue before a screaming missile shot from the end of it. Solaire jumped out of the way and the projectile hit one of the metal creatures with a small explosion, shattering the impact point into pieces and rendering the whole construct useless.


“Anger…” He stared at the rod with wide eyes, then glared at the encroaching attackers with a gaze of pure death, pointed the rod at the stampeding mass, and began to yell:


“FUCK YOU SOLAIRE! FUCK YOU WEISS! FUCK YOU ARCHANGEL, AND GOLEM, AND ALL YOU STUPID, ANNOYING, CONSTRUCTS!”


With each pause in the verbal onslaught, another screaming missile materialized into view and exploded in a burst of arcane energy. When the swearing was over, all that was left of the twenty or so approaching angry forms was a pile of smoking metal and an out-of-breath Willaby.


Austin blinked. “Woah.”


A hydraulic hissssss sounded from behind Solaire as he stared at the carnage. He whirled just in time to see Tomo digging his blade through the side of yet another construct that had just managed to claw its way up. “These creatures are weak, but their numbers are far too great” Tomo observed. “If we continue this fight, we will eventually lose.”


Solaire’s eyes darted all over the room, noticing the chain attaching the ceiling to the large sphere structure they were standing on and the now-shut skylight. “Tomo, besides that chain above us, how is this platform kept steady?”


Tomo looked around as well. “It appears that two chains of similar composition hold it at either side.”


“Right.” Solaire nodded. “Austin, Tomo, break that chain on the left. Willaby, Skyler, you get the one on the right.”


“What are you going to do?” Skyler asked.


“Distract them.” Reaching into his coat, Solaire withdrew the golden gauntlet, put it onto his wrist and began to run towards the center of the platform. “HEY RUST-FOR-BRAINS, LOOK WHO’S GOT YOUR FANCY GLOVE!”


There was a chorus of angry chattering from the constructs before they began to run after Solaire en-masse, forcing the pirate to dodge, duck, step, and weave around them, bringing a pistol up just long enough to blast a hole to dash through to before continue the chase.


The other four turned to look at each other for a confused moment before splitting up to follow Solaire’s orders.


Austin sprinted to the humongous chain linked to the rest of the platform. “How am I supposed to break this?”


Tomo carefully placed the katana down over a giant link, as if he was an executioner lining up the blade to a man’s neck. “You are familiar with the process of hammering railroad spikes, correct?”


Austin glanced around before reaching an arm out to grab a running automaton before reeling the entire construct up and over his head like a sledgehammer, brining the full force of the blow upon Tomo’s sword. There was a loud hollow CLANG before the link fell away, cleanly split in two, and the rest of the chain with it.


Tomo flicked his weapon up and inspected the blade. “It is times like these that I am thankful for the skill of the senshi sumisu.”


Skyler and Willaby, meanwhile, arrived at the twin chain on the other side.


“Now, remember all that’s happened in the past two hours…” Skyler coached.


“MOVE!” Willaby shouted and aimed the rod at the chain just in time to fire an ear-shattering explosion, breaking the connecting link into shards.


Now free from the stability of its anchors, the platforms began to swing and groan. Solaire dove out of the mass of automatons attempting to dog pile him and onto one of the thin gears laying flat around the platform, rapidly spinning around. He managed to stand up onto the band of metal and gave the upwards forearm-thrust that universally means “up yours” to the congregated constructs with the golden-gloved hand. Without hesitation, the clockwork army leapt towards the man, those not falling into the black depths below clinging onto the whirling circle and attempting to climb on top of it.


“Now what?” Skyler shouted at him.


Solaire cupped his hands over his mouth, yelling at the group when he was in ear shot and waiting when he was not. “Figure out… a way to… break the top chain… When I say… break it!”


Willaby glared at the ceiling chain with fury and determination, spread his legs apart in a square stance, and aimed his rod upwards with both hands. “Got it.”


“Anything else?” Austin asked.


“Yeah…” Solaire continued. “Hold on!”


Now saddled with an uneven, rotating weight, the entire platform began to swing around in a circular motion, as if it was a child’s top. With each rotation, the wobble became more and more pronounced, soon swinging at a wild angle, forcing the members to bend and sway with the motion lest they fall off.


At the same time, the metal creations had caught up with Solaire and were now closing in. Pistols empty with no time to reload, he withdrew his cutlass and swiped at an encroaching figure to his right, only to have another from his left grab the outstretched arm he was using to balance himself. It roared into Solaire’s face as he turned to see it, only to crumple over as the noble released the spring on his hidden one-shot flintlock, firing it straight into the guts of the creature. The recoil caused by dispatching it in such a way combined with the various motions of the ground he was standing on almost became too much, and Solaire was forced to stumble a few steps to avoid falling.


“It’s too many,” Skyler said. “He can’t deal with all of those things and balance at the same time.”


Willaby turned around. “I can…”


“No!” Skyler barked. “Stay on that chain! Be ready the second he says so.” He fished out his longer pistol and offered it to Tomo. “Help me clear some of these guys off. We don’t want to get rid of all of them, just enough to give Solaire some breathing room.”


“A samurai does not sully his hands with gunpowder weapons,” Tomo declared. His hand darted under the chest plate of his armor and produced a thin kunai, then readied and threw the blade. It struck the ribcage of an automaton, not strong enough to pierce anything, but strong enough to cause the form to tumble and fall off the edge as Tomo prepared another kunai.


“Right,” Skyler noted. “Austin, you…”


His sentence was interrupted by a loud shout erupting from beside him. Austin had grabbed one of the constructs by the head, still flailing as he proceeded to whip it forward like a child pitching a ball, taking out three of its kin as it collided with the mass gathered on the gear and kept going.


“Fine, be weird” Skyler grumbled. He aimed the pistol himself and proceeded to snipe one after another, helping his companions keep a five-foot wide margin between Solaire and the nearest skeleton.


The platform picked up speed and all the forms upon it, both the party and the constructs, stopped moving in order to grab something and hold on. Solaire himself slipped and was forced to grip the gear with all of his strength.


“Solaire!” Skyler cried.


“Not… yet…” he managed to gasp.


The platform made two more rotations around before the whole structure proceeded to drop a foot and make a longer arc.


“NOW!” Solaire shouted. Willaby closed one eye and fired a massive projectile of blue arcane energy at the chain link, shattering it into shrapnel. The platform flew forward as it continued in the direction it was last headed. Solaire released his grip on the gear he was holding and drifted through the air towards the center platform, managing to grab a hold of the edge and hang on as the entire structure rocketed towards the closed skylight.


There was an indescribable deafening sound, residing somewhere between an earthquake and what a cannonball must hear as it’s fired, as the spherical skeleton crashed through the side of the mountain and continued going, spraying cliffside and construct alike into the air in a glorious explosion of chaos.


The sphere hit the ground with a resounding THUD and began rolling downhill at the same velocity it was launched from. Gyroscopic hinges of unknown construction kept the center platform level as the group of five stood upon the rolling ball of death.


“Hah!” Willaby shouted triumphantly into the stinging cold salt air, pointing to Solaire as he stood. “Fear me! For I am no longer a mere commoner you can bully! I am a sorcerer, and I am AAAAAAAH!” His speech suddenly ended in a high-pitched scream of terror as Solaire twirled to face him and released the second flintlock from his sleeve and fired, bullet traveling past Willaby and hitting a skeletal automaton right between the eyes, causing it to drop backwards. As it fell, it revealed the forms of hundreds more, now joined with the frames of rock golems and metallic angels, all pouring from the huge collapsing hole in the rock, chasing after the ball and the occupants on it.


“They’re still coming!” Solaire shouted. “Any suggestions?”


Skyler turned to Tomo. “Is there anyway to confuse the instructions their makers gave them?”


Tomo scratched his chin. “Potentially. I must admit, this is based only on speculation.”


“Don’t care, out with it!” Austin roared as he grabbed the head of a nearby angel and yanked hard enough to pull it off.


“Well, constructs are often instructed to retreat back to their stations should they fail in a task. And if I was creating the instructions, I would phrase something to the effect of ‘do not let any intruders leave the island with the gauntlet’. So…”


“Get off the island and watch them run away,” Solaire finished. “Alright everyone, move the way I tell you to when I tell you to.”


Willaby stared at him in confusion. “What do you…”


“LEFT!” Solaire screamed. Everyone scrambled to the left side of the platform as the sphere turned with it, the gyroscopic contraptions forcing the sphere to move with the weight. Its momentum carried it up and over a small ridge before continuing its roll downwards, towards the massive form of the Emperor, still anchored and waiting for them to come back.


“Center!” Solaire commanded. Once everyone had done so, a barrage of bullets, kunai, magic missiles, and large rocks ejected from the spinning ball as the people on board began to fire away at all sides, trying to take down nearby constructs.


Solaire noticed a rock golem keeping pace to their right. He withdrew the Ivory River, aimed it at the creature’s head, then recalculated and aimed at a knee before firing. The analogous rock shattered from the explosion and the golem fell face first, disintegrating into a collection of unconnected stones rolling alongside. “How much further?” he demanded.


Skyler looked over to the ship. “500 feet, maybe. But we still have that huge bay we can’t cross.”


“RIGHT!” Everyone dashed at Solaire’s words, giving the platform just enough momentum to skirt around a huge spire of stone jutting out from the ground. “Left, center! Good, stop!” Once the party had finished shifting around, Solaire turned back to Skyler. “We can cross it. See that outcropping?”


Skyler saw what he was referring to and looked back to Solaire with shock. “No. You can’t be serious.”


Solaire just glared at him.


“What?” Willaby asked, back turned to the two as he fired projectiles into the charging army behind them. “What’s he going to do?”


Skyler gritted his teeth. “Get ready to hold on for dear life!”


“Ho boy” Austin muttered.


Willaby’s eyes went wide with fear. “Didn’t we do that already?”


“It does seem to be a common feature of this plan, yes” Tomo agreed.


“Grab something, NOW!” Solaire yelled. Everyone dove for the nearest edge they could grab onto as the sphere continued forward and up upon an incline of rock. The mass proceeded to drive up this improvised ramp, fly into the air, and proceed to drop straight to the length of the stationary Emperor.


***


Weiss, meanwhile, was laying on the deck of the Emperor, longing on a long plush sofa and inhaling through the length of his cigarette holder, now emitting a very non tobacco-esque shade of blue. He closed his eyes as he turned towards the sun, letting the warm light tickle his face. “Hafe all ze passengers gone below deck?”


Winthrop, who was standing nearby and staring at his outstretched employer, cleared his throat. “Yes sir. We told them that the top deck was closed for repair and sanitation. As compensation, they are enjoying a complimentary symphony show in the orchestra hall.”


Wiess smiled. “Excellent. Besht to keep sings as quiet as possible, nien?”


“How long should we wait for them before considering them a lost cause and moving on?” Winthrop asked.


“Vinthrop! Hafe a little faith! I’m sure zey’ll all come back triumphant!” He opened one of his eyes and peeked at Winthrop with a twinkle of mischief. “Two days,” he added before closing it again.


“Very good, sir” Winthrop replied.


A sudden shadow began to grow upon the deck. Sensing the lack of sunbeams, Weiss frowned. “A cloud? I sought zat ze shkies were clear.”


“That’s… uh… sir…” Winthrop stuttered as he stared at the shape in the sky.


There was a thunderous SMASH as the metal sphere piloted by Solaire slammed into the deck on the back end of the ship, rocking the entire boat up and down alongside various splashes and blooshes of metal shards falling overboard and into the water.


Weiss shot up to his feet and stared at the side of the ship where the commotion came from, now covered in a cloud of dust. “VHAT,” he yelled, “IN ZE NAME OF ALL ZE CREATED VORLDS…”


The stumbling, coughing form of Solaire suddenly staggered out of the cloud. He turned to Weiss and shoved the metal gauntlet into his hands. “Next time, get your own fashion accessories.”


“You…” Weiss began, but Solaire was already marching off. Willaby suddenly ran out of the cloud, twirling around in circles like a girl in a ballerina recital. “Magic! I can do magic! I’m a sorcerer!” He stopped inches away from Weiss’ face. “I’m a sorcerer!”


“Ah… yes…” Weiss stammered.


“Don’t get full of yourself” Skyler grumbled as he marched past.


Willaby turned and ran after him. “But magic! I can do magic!”


“So I’ve heard” Skyler said in an exhausted tone.


“Vhat…” Weiss protested helplessly as the two dissapeared from sight.


“Mr. Weiss… ”


Weiss turned back. The dust cloud had now dispersed, showing him smashed wooden floorboards, a massive, broken skeleton of iron, a layer of broken, metallic pieces, and a very battered and bruised Tomo and Austin in the middle of it all.


“Permission postpone debriefing until after we have some time to recover?” Tomo asked.


Weiss blinked a few times. “I… Yes, dismissed.”


The two marched off without a word. Winthrop watched them leave, then turned to Weiss. “What just happened, sir?”


Weiss turned down to the metal gauntlet in his hands, poised with only its middle finger extended outwards. “I sink… Solaire jusht happened.”

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