As I descend into the dark and stuffy corridors of the Santaki delve in the Alik’r, I can hear a distant monotonous symphony of hissing steam, clicking gears, and the scuttling of metallic limbs echoing through the rock caverns. Whilst the architects of these underground settlements are centuries gone, their creations live on. A self-sustaining society of machines that never gets old; yet never learns, never builds, never grows, and never advances. This is the stagnant society of the automatons.
The first mechanisms I encounter are the Dwarven Spheres. Seemingly their sole purpose is to patrol and guard. They roll up and down the tunnels, or through hidden pipes in the rock walls. Only when they sense an intruder do they unfurl to their full height like a mechanical flower from a metal bud. With a giant axe on one limb, and a crossbow on the other, they make for deadly adversaries. Yet once unfolded, with an expert thrust of a bladed weapon, one might be able to expose their vulnerable cogs and gears, and like most machinery, their inner workings are particularly susceptible to fire.
Next, I meet the Dwarven Spiders whose function it is to perform maintenance on the other machines and keep the city itself breathing. They travel the delve freely through steam pipes and can be heard in every wall and ceiling, or skittering across the cavern floors, always just out of sight. Small, quick and agile, they fight with their sharp pointed legs and small lightning bolts from hidden instruments beneath their shell. Alone they are but an irritant, but where there is one inevitably there are more nearby, and like skeevers defending a burrow, they can overwhelm much larger adversaries by sheer weight of their numbers.
Finally, I cross paths with a huge Dwarven Centurion, easily the height and width of three stout men. There can be little doubt of the duty of these heavily-armoured giants, rarely do they wander far from their sentry posts. With a hammer on one arm, and a mechanical axe on the other, pistons the size of tree trunks, and armour as thick a Nord’s skull, only the most fool-hardy would stand toe-to-toe with one. Their strength however is also their weakness, for their bulk makes them slow and cumbrous and an agile warrior or an adept mage might dare to attempt to tear one apart from a distance. But woe-betide if they should begin to run low on stamina or mental vigour, for once a Centurion has a foe cornered they will blow steam into the eyes to blind them, before battering them into pulp with their mighty crushing blows.