Book Two: The Lone and Level Land
CHAPTER THREE:
Clockwork Blue

Berrona Umbermoraday

Lake Clockwork

An account by Thalazzar

Peering through the glass view plate Thalazzar felt a little nervous. Although he had full control of his movements in the murky depths, he had been through a lot in the last few days. With only a few hours to sleep to clear his mind of the residual effects of the Dream, they had undertaken another quest. They were running short on time but to have left Cauldron at that moment would likely have meant further suffering for the city.

Returning to the Daisy Cutter they had found that Calibre had somehow managed to open a planar gate to the plane of elemental water and disappear within it. It was now thought that the water pouring forth from the open gate would flow into Cauldron and dangerously raise the water level within town. Or so they surmised. The gnome engineers onboard the zeppelin had ventured through the gate and found it akin to an undersea mechanist’s nightmare. And so, the gnomes had outfitted their company with underwater armour that permitted them freedom of movement and the ability to breath. The group had then entered the plane searching for Calibre and a gnome and Clockwork who had been lost within. Perhaps they would save the city from yet another calamity.

Accompanying them was a new addition to their motley crew – Tiganis Rin. He was a Selunaport swashbuckler of mixed elvish descent, not unlike many of the other sell-swords who he had sailed with before the Eye of Independence. Thalazzar immediately liked his demeanour. He had the good intentions of Domaldi with a little of the tendency to misbehave that he liked about Tiberio. He seemed to know his way around a sword as well so Thalazzar put up no dispute when the Order of St. Cuthbert asked them to let him join their company. Thalazzar had shown him the Hankuan tapestry that they had retrieved weeks prior. Rin was able to tell them that it was not, in fact, Hankuan and that Wooden Toad had died five years ago. A vague memory from his visions returned to him – a gate in a tapestry?

An agent met the group from the Order of St. Cuthbert in the Uncle Ogre’s Monocle who claimed to speak on behalf of Inquisitor Quinn. He passed to the wizard and his companions the broken hilt of the Justinian family blade, now enchanted to link them to the Inquisitor during the journey to the Order. He also bore magical equipment, promised to them by the representatives of St. Cuthbert, to aid them on their quest inside the Monotheocratic Order. For Thalazzar their gift was Pillar, a dark arcane conjuror’s staff of some power. Holding the firm ash wood in his hands, the wizard was humbled by the powers within it. He could sense its links to the beyond and its ability to strengthen his magic. This was a mighty gift and holding it in his clenched fist alleviated the guilt he felt for having sold Kalthanalas to the merchant Magus of the Ebb, Nulzdindantilus. Wielding Pillar, the Dream-induced clouds in his mind parted even more. He had been very uncomfortable leaving it, along with most of his possessions, onboard the Daisy Cutter while they traveled about the planes of existence.

Thalazzar’s only previous sight of the realms beyond was a momentary glimpse of the City of Tin during his last battle with the Khi’Ganad. In that moment he had observed watery war elementals bearing magic cloaks, bound into infinite, enchanted servitude to their alien astral masters. The wizard did know very well how elementals felt. The blow he had received in the Devourer depths was perhaps the worst of his life and had brought him close to death. Venturing into the plane of elemental water did not seem that appealing.

The wizard went, however, bearing only what he could wear under the underwater armour, his daggers and a harpoon launcher. His kobold manservant also came along. How humourous the creature looked in his underwater gear! Babbling about his adoration of the wizard within an enclosed bubble of glass, the kobold was quite comical if not for the sharpened daggers the creature carried and the evil glint in his eye. Dragana had served him well in the past few days and had already paid for Thalazzar’s mercy several times over. The wizard felt justified in thinking that he had been right about the lizard’s destiny. What dangers it had faced and what more lay before it? Thalazzar determined that his companion would serve a while longer.

Thalazzar might not have gone into the plane if not for the curious connections to his namesake, Thala Xevar. Calibre was an underwater battle-clockwork with an internal link to the plane of water. For what purpose? Speaking with the gnomes and Ts’elf, Thalazzar had learned of their connection to an evil clockwork maker named Ripplestick. Elements of the Order plot were falling into place. Apparently the clockworks had been smuggled to agents within the Order, one of whom, the buyer, had signed his document “T.X.”. Was this his namesake the wizard-priest Thala Xevar? Alive and plotting within the Federation on behalf of the Order? Ivindof Golgadin seemed to have thought that Thalazzar was Thala Xevar, so much in fact, that he had kidnapped him and held him in his brother’s dungeon! Given the leather token that Urban and Arek had found in the Temple of Sss’rast there now seemed little doubt that this was the case. Perhaps, thought the wizard with a sense of irony, he had now twice robbed the wizard of his possessions! Unfortunate, he mused, that he had not connected these threads while he himself was at the Temple. Perhaps one of those Order agents ate by giant frogs had been one of the infamous seventeen ruling Thala Mourne? Thalazzar doubted that, although within his glass breathing bubble he chuckled at the thought of twice passing by the presumed dead body of a ruling member of the Order. Perhaps the beggar knew more, his mysticism had linked him to that Temple and he now shared its memories. Would he recall the wizard-priest? And what connection did this 300-year old clockwork vessel in another dimension have to the Order plot if any? Despite the headache that still clouded his mind, the Dream had connected some of the various questions in his head. The various plots were weaving closer together.

The companions had already assumed that the Order agents had been the ones to smuggle Tallim out of the Federation. They had found the escaped Tyconderoga’s feathers within the cage in their hideout. Images in his head burned clearly as he pushed along behind his companions through the water. The gnome was on the trail of her kin through the eerie green waters of the beyond. They were exploring this mechanical ship, the Venture.

Thalazzar’s thoughts drifted to the image of Tallim – it must be Tallim - veiled in black, white skin burned red, raven black hair matted to her flesh with sweat and sand. Swarthy, Yithic-speaking men were guarding her caravan as they moved. The sounds of that language was all that had alluded him before, soon their tongue would be his own just as he had learned the language of devils in the dark depths of the Khi’Ganad.

Sharks - these were no elemental beings. With a few arcane shouts, his minions came; Dribblinateen, an aquan water-devil of Skorvatok and Uyummagund, a mischievous water mephit, likely drawn to this place from his own watery home not so far away. Thalazzar left his companions to the sea-creatures and returned to his thoughts.

The trail had grown hot, acknowledged the wizard. He now had faces to find, voices to listen for, and places to search for. The agents trail passed through Telemar. It ended in Eudaemonia. The companions must turn to geography now to see where exactly their road would lead. The stolen Golgadin documents marked a smuggling route under the Wall of the Righteous. Thalazzar would need to observe the maps, but that would likely be their way. They only had a few days remaining before Woden’s threat would come due. Would that road lead too close to Divinity? Having made enemies of House Golgadin, and perhaps the El Jabón dream cartel, would that road be clear? Perhaps the infamous Golgadin undead soap soldiers waited for them in the jungles beyond?

(DM: Ts’Elf finds Frankie’s uncle Sparks, holed up and unconscious inside a rusty old mini-launch in the cargo bay where the Companions battled the sharks.)

The companions began to venture outside of the Venture and into the elemental plane, crawling along a chain through the murky green in search of Calibre and Keratone, the Daisy Cutter’s Clockwork doctor. One of the gnomes had been found amongst the sharks so their wandering had not been in vain. The chain appeared to lead to a coral node, floating adrift in the planar vastness. Schools of exotic fish darted in and out of its environs and the water of the current passing over his armour felt pleasant, despite the danger of being washed away into the nothingness around them.


The Venture

Thalazzar’s full attention now rested on the objectives at hand as they all sensed danger ahead. They located a skiff, indicating the probable presence of Keratone and Calibre and so they dared journeying into the darkened alcoves and coral caves. Following his companions into the darkness, they saw their way by the light emanating from the beggar. The wizard considered that he likely should adjust his view of the man. While he was as strange as ever and continued to speak in riddles, his power had grown considerably and he was now far more mystic than beggar.

Winding through the elemental depths they came upon a large cavern. Peering into the gloom, the companions could see multi-coloured stalactites piercing upwards through a layer of gold and jewels. The wizard’s mouth dropped open with the sight of such wealth. Much of his gold had been stolen by Ivindof and this treasure would go far to readjust his wealth to the lifestyle to which he was growing accustomed.

But there was movement in the water. A lithe, black, scaled monstrosity clawed its way down a ridge of yellowish-coral from above. A dragon! The companions froze in terror. The beast opened its maw wide, displaying an impressive rack of sharp glinting teeth and emitting a gargled, burbling roar of challenge that resounded off into the watery depths. They began to step away, gauging their next move. Many of his companions were wounded from their fight with the sharks. Thalazzar had expended several spells and wondered if his remaining repertoire would be sufficient to fell such a terrible opponent. There was doubt and fear. Their new companion Rin retreated in absolute terror. With one swoosh of its great wings, the beast launched itself off the coral ceiling, swimming rapidly at them through the water, its claws reaching out for them. It seemed quite eager to devour them for disturbing its horde. As the creature charged Thalazzar cursed his own greed. How could he have missed the gigantic skeletal remains of a sea creature and the broken clockworks amongst the glimmering treasure? Too late now.

The dragon rushed the companions, intent on their destruction. If not for Tiberio’s spell song that dazed the creature, they might not have survived its charge. As it was, Thalazzar blasted the beast with everything he had remaining. The wizard hit the dragon with a purple burst of blinding demon dust, covering it with a million glittering motes of light and illuminating the chamber with its sparkling brilliance. But the spell had no other effect on the creature. As the beggar-turned-mystic moved to absorb the dragon’s charge, Thalazzar unleashed a spell that covered the creature in magical webs, anchored the dragon between two coral stalagmites and the floor. Furious at its entanglement, the dragon reared its neck back in the webs, thrashing about for a moment trying to free itself. Unable to do so, it roared and breathed a cloud of acidic breath directly onto the beggar in its path. But the strange mystic emerged unscathed and to the dragon’s surprise, the man swam away into the shadows created by the brilliant purple dust, perhaps searching now for two lost clockworks.

In his absence, the companions fire