The War of Summer's Ending
Once upon a time there was a young sculptor of great renown and skill, who hated women. He hated their lies and churlishness, their infidelity and wantonness. He hated their obsession with appearance and shallow beauty. He hated their perfumes, and their lotions, and their dyes and paints and polishes; but most of all, he hated the way his fellow men fawned over them, how men of great dignity and intellect were reduced to foolish children by the batting of a painted eyelid, or the gesture of a scented hand.
The sculptor decided to show other men the error of their ways, by building a perfect companion, so that the flaws of other women might be revealed by the light of her perfection. The sculptor toiled day and night, carving delicate fingers from ivory, grinding glass lenses for her eyes, polishing inlays of rare stone for her nails, and spinning gossamer threads of gold for her flowing locks. The sculptor cleverly cut and mounted tiny gears and springs, so that his perfect woman would have the gift of motion as well as beauty.
As the woman neared completion, the sculptor realized that although he had finally found a woman he could love, she could never love him back. Despairing of ever finding a woman worthy of him, the sculptor prayed for intercession, and fell into a fitful sleep. That night, a pair of radiant women visited him in his dreams; one claimed to be the goddess of wisdom and craft; the other said she was the goddess of love and romance. They told him that they had heard his prayers, and that he would find all he had asked for when he awoke.
The next morning, the young sculptor found that his companion had been brought to life by the kindly goddesses. She was able to walk and talk and dance and sing as cleverly as any woman, but she possessed none of their flaws, their imperfections, their failures. The sculptor and his new bride were very happy, for a time.
But as the years wore on, the sculptor began to notice tiny imperfections in his work: one finger was slightly longer than its opposite; her nose leaned every-so-slightly to the left; there was a small catch in her gait after she stood for more than a few hours. The sculptor found he was unable to ignore his own blunders, but did not dare to correct a gift from the gods. So his frustration at her imperfection, at his own clumsy hands, simmered for years. Each year, he grew older, and women began to look his way but seldom, while his wife remained as young and attractive as the day she was created. Slowly, his frustration began to ferment into resentment.
One night, he could stand it no longer. He had to fix her, to repair the damage he had unknowingly caused. He called his wife into his workshop, and barred the door behind her. At first, the neighbors heard screaming and struggling. Then they heard nothing at all. Then, some time later, they heard the sound of saws buzzing and tiny hammers ringing.
Afterward, the couple was always quite happy with one another. Everywhere one went, the other was sure to follow. They were as perfect as if they had been made for one another. And if any of their neighbors noticed that from that night on, the sculptor’s joints creaked and groaned whenever the rains came, none of them ever said a word about it.
All Changelings are shaped by their Durances; that much is certain. In order to survive, the Lost must change, and become more like the very things which hold them in thrall. Mechanicals’ Keepers, however, have carefully selected, shaped, reshaped, and honed their charges in the pursuit of a very specific goal or use.
While Elementals embody the untamed magic of wild nature, Mechanicals represent the refinement of these substances into useful tools and machines. While the Wizened may use and create incredible tools, Mechanicals are tools, and understand themselves better than any artificer could ever hope.
All Mechanicals have been used, in every sense of the word. They have been painstakingly selected to do a job, and they do it well. There’s nothing left to them, nothing on which to build an identity, save for their occupations.
Each Mechanical has been imbued with the essences of some man-made device, tool, or substance. Their miens generally reflect older machines (clockwork and steam are especially popular), though modern machines are gaining representation, as more new-made Mechanicals return from Arcadia.
Even more mystifying are the presence of Mechanicals which seem to represent technologies which did not exist in the eras in which they were taken (for example, an Edwardian gentleman whose torso conceals a steam-powered jetpack, or a man of canvas and wood who flies like DaVinci’s ornithopter). Some even represent technologies which have never existed, because their scientific underpinnings have long since been proven unworkable (examples include heat rays, teleportation chambers, and antigravity boots).
Mechanicals are always technically proficient, but they lack the capacity for ingenuity and innovation: it’s been hammered out of them in their Keepers’ workshops and forges. They excel within their field, but find all endeavors outside their areas of expertise a little mystifying, and must work hard to acquire any new skill or incorporate new paradigms into their worldviews. What they have gained in persistence and precision, they now lack in flexibility and innovation.
Mechanicals believe that their escapes from Arcadia were the hardest, because when they escaped, their jobs were all they had left. They had to abandon their identities, their very beings, in their Keepers’ realms. Escape meant leaving behind their position, their purpose, the one thing in their lives that they could depend upon. It meant finding their way in a world that might no longer have a use for them.
A majority of Mechanicals, upon their return, find themselves in blue-collar trades. They are eminently practical, and enjoy making (and breaking) things with their hands. However, some develop a taste for the power that comes from designing things, rather than simply following blueprints, and find their way into engineering, architecture, and industrial design.
Appearance: Due to their “manufactured” nature, many Mechanicals are mildly robotic in appearance. Others simply appear “hard” or “rough-hewn” depending on the quality of their Keeper’s workmanship. A Motorhead might have a brylcreemed pompadour in the style of a 1950s “greaser”, which on closer inspection is actually slicked back with motor oil. Clockwork Mechanicals tend to be ornate and beautiful, as well as functional. Steam-powered Mechanicals are often large, dirty, and ugly. Those abducted in more recent years may return with minimalist design principles, reminiscent of the iPod, cell phones, and other “smart” technology. Some Mechanicals (particularly those whose miens reflect luxury cars or high-powered speedboats) are beautiful as well as functional, while others are merely utilitarian.
Mechanicals have an unfortunate tendency to be mistaken for Fetches and other Fae constructs. Most Mechanicals do not hold this initial prejudice against their fellow Lost, and often become fierce and unflinching comrades (once their respect has been earned).
Background: Almost as a rule, Mechanicals possessed great skill in a particular trade, closely related to the purpose for which they were abducted. Blue-collar jobs are common, as are a bit of fame (or notoriety) for their skills. Some were studious and bookish, others were rough-hewn, self-taught adepts. Either way, their skills were needed by the Others. Many who make it back claim that they were only able to do so because they remembered an obligation or commitment from their mortal lives which “trumped” their pledges to their Keepers: a career, a design, an apprenticeship, a marriage, a promise, or a child are all common responses to questions about what guided them back through the Thorns.
Durance: Drudgery is by far the most common impression which Mechanicals bring back from Arcadia. Many toiled ceaselessly on assembly lines in smoke-belching factories, churning out an endless stream of machines which did not, nor could not work. Others were solitary craftsmen, forced to repair the damage done to their masters’ playthings, sometimes made to take their place when the toys were too broken to be fixed anymore. Perhaps their Keeper hoped to stave off madness by talking about something logical and fixed, like car repair. Perhaps she simply wanted to experiment with more exotic materials, such as human bodies, emotions, or sanity. In any case, by the time their Keepers were done with them, everything unnecessary to the completion of their jobs had been stripped away.
Character Creation: Mechanicals are specialists by nature. They concentrate on Skills and Attributes that will help them in their field, to the exclusion of all else. This often makes for “unbalanced” or “lopsided” character sheets. While Mechanicals may place their dots into any category they choose, those who select Social attributes as their primary concentration are a rare bunch indeed. The large majority of Mechanicals focus on either Mental or Physical attributes. Physical Flaws are uncommon, as most Mechanicals simply repair the damage, or “know a guy who’s good with that”. Social and Mental Flaws are more difficult to remove, and hence are much more common. Physical Merits such as Gunslinger, Iron Stamina, Quick Draw, Strong Back, and Stunt Driver are very common, as they complement Mechanicals’ natural aptitudes. Common Sense, Eidetic Memory, and Encyclopedic Knowledge are the most typical Mental Merits. Harvest is a widespread Merit, due to Mechanicals’ tendency to burn through large amounts of Glamour. Many possess Hollows which do double-duty as workshops and proving-grounds.
Blessing: Mechanicals are blessed with preternatural insight into the workings of machines and tools of all kinds. Mechanicals automatically benefit from the 9-again quality on all rolls involving Crafts, except for Contract-activation. Additionally, Mechanicals gain two bonus dice when one of their skill specialties applies, rather than the usual one-die bonus.
Curse: Mechanicals may be the best at what they do, but they flounder when it comes to areas outside their particular field of expertise. Mechanicals take an additional -2 untrained penalty on any roll involving a Skill in which they have no dots. Additionally, their stubbornness makes it very difficult for Mechanicals to think on their feet: they do not benefit from the 10-again rule on rolls involving Wits.
Seeming Contract: Contracts of Industry
Concepts: Kleptomaniac, compulsive hoarder, workaholic trucker, socially inept engineer, construction foreman, theoretical physicist, bitter mathematician, post-humanist advocate, prophet of the Singularity, jacked-in wunderkind.
Beasts: Cast not thy pearls before swine. Or any other kind of livestock.
Darklings: I see you out there. If you’ve got something to say, why don’t you say it to my face?
Elementals: There’s so much potential there, but it’s all undeveloped.
Fairest: Sure, you’re pretty. But what are your skills?
Ogres: Give me that before you break it!
Wizened: They don’t like it when the tools talk back.
● ● ●
Vampires: This is way outside my field. You deal with it.
Werewolves: They adapt to their environment, instead of making their environment adapt to them. Stupid.
Mages: They’re so much like the ones who made us. Watch out that they don’t use you, too.
Prometheans: They’re built, not born. I get where they’re coming from.
Geists: What the hell was that?!
Geniuses: Too clever by half. They’d love to take us apart and see how we work. But they’re fun to talk shop with.
Mortals: I don’t have time to listen for any “funny noises.” I’m busy!