Previous Update: Emain Ablach
The Automata Edit
by CrazedPorcupine and CupcakeTrap
This is from the second round of island explorations.
For some time now, Valoranians in Monsku’s evergreen forests have glimpsed humanoid figures in the distance. Given that the mainland’s arcane signature seems lethally toxic to native Nyrothians, this is something of a mystery. News from Bilgewater’s exploration of Avalon has led the others to believe that these figures may be surviving automata from before the cataclysm, humanoid hextech constructs created nearly a thousand years ago.
Wary of these potential threats, Queen Ashe of the Freljord has requested, and been granted, permission to investigate.
The Freljord’s Champions and Summoners have slipped out into the wilderness amid a freezing rainstorm in search of the automata. They’ve yet to get a good look at them.
The Freljord’s scouts lose sight of the automata as they traverse a ravine. Sensing something is wrong, Ashe gives the signal to take cover and allow the main force to catch up. No sooner is the order given than the automata emerge from the wilderness, encircling them in an ambush. Up close, it can be seen that they are wearing camouflage, and are glamered with a vaguely humanlike appearance, though that enchantment is fading.
Their voices have a tinny resonance to them, and their words are incomprehensible ancient Nyrothian: “ATHALOS KAL TERA TERA! KAL TERA! OBXEIN TERA!”
They sound furious, if such a thing is possible.
“For the Freljord!” Ashe nocks an arrow and takes aim as her troops brace for melee combat. In the center of the formation, Summoners draw back their hoods and begin their spellcraft, some calling forth icy winds, others igniting enchanted weapons with arcane fire that hisses and spits as the rain falls.
“Wait! Wait!” One Summoner hastens to Ashe’s side, bespectacled eyes wide. “I can communicate with them!”
A scout by Ashe’s side grabs a fistful of the Summoner’s robe and yanks him down behind a thick tree trunk. “We paid good money for your services, Summoner. Don’t go getting yourself kil—”
The bold Summoner breaks free before the scout can finish. He runs forward, waving his arms. “Tera mel! Kaitos mel tera!”
To the astonishment of all, it seems to work. The automata exchange looks with each other. They turn and depart, vanishing back into the trees.
Ashe lowers her bow. “What was that?”
The Summoner pushes his golden Piltovian spectacles back onto the bridge of his nose. “It wasn’t exactly grammatical, but I think it got the point across. Sort of a…you might say it was a spell-word. The prevailing theory is that these automata are a kind of golem, just much more advanced than anything we have on Valoran. Golems are attuned to certain phrases. I thought—”
Ashe held up a hand. “Very interesting, I’m sure. What I want to know is: are they our friends now, or what?”
The Summoner rubs the back of his neck, frowning uneasily. “Well, no. Not as such.”
Ashe raises a brow. “Not as such?”
“That is to say…I have a feeling they’re going to tera us right in the face,” he holds up a fist and makes a stiff bludgeoning gesture, “next time. I could try, but no guarantees.”
“Next time, just say ‘no’.” Ashe looks back at her troops. “We’re moving on. With me.”
Quite alarmingly, they notice as they leave the ravine that it is rigged with hidden hextech traps. Had the automata detonated them, the Freljord would have taken severe casualties. That Summoner has clearly earned his salary today.
By dusk, the Freljordians have tracked the automata to a clearing containing a strange sort of settlement with a vaguely military appearance.
Ashe looked out towards the dense forest. She sighed. Turning back to her desk, she wrote out orders for the military units that would be sent to investigate the Automata.
“Take these to the barracks.” Her attendant bowed and dashed off to deliver them.
A contingent of Avarosan, joined by Sejuani’s boar riders and Volibear’s ursine warriors, would make up the exploratory force. She had written her orders in the clearest terms she could: they were to scout the terrain and locate the automata, but were not to attack. She was not particularly optimistic that the Winter’s Claw would follow that last instruction. Her commanders knew this, and would (she hoped) not allow her own kinfolk to be swept up in the aftermath of Sejuani’s mistakes.
A few nervous Summoners asked her, that night, why the expedition force had not yet returned. She answered them with a mirthless smile. “Ask Sejuani. She’ll give you a thumb of truth and four fingers of lies.” The Summoners appeared to catch the gist of her Avarosan idiom, and left her in peace after that. If Sejuani’s brutish arrogance had cost the Avarosan its elite rangers, hand-picked for the voyage to Nyroth by Ashe herself…well, in the end, it would be their commander’s fault.
The next morning, Sejuani’s boar riders came stomping noisily through the trees. Sejuani had two inert automata strapped across her filthy mount’s back: a larger one made of dull gray-white metal, with a blocky quadrupedal shape, and a smaller one dressed in forest-green clothing. Sejuani seemed quite pleased with her prize.
Ashe watched with growing dread as the tattered remnants of her rangers limped along in the boar riders’ wake. Their commander, to her credit, was dead. At least she had paid for her mistake.
She forced expression from her face as she listened to the report. They had been flanked by automata. Their Summoners had attempted communication, but their peace-seeking words somehow provoked the constructs from neutrality into aggression. They had shrieked with deafening volume, a sound like a thousand alarm-horns, and the Freljord’s forces were set upon by all sides. They described immense lumbering constructs, like trolls or apes, charging forward on all fours, smashing the Avarosans to death with their oversized forelimbs. They had attempted to fall back to a stronger position, but were cut off by yet another unit of automata. Sejuani had charged through the enemy line, opening a path into the automata settlement, and from there at last they were able to recover a sound combat footing. Though their greater numbers ultimately prevailed from this new position, they took considerable losses—almost exclusively suffered by the lighter Avarosan units, mauled in the chaotic melee between the automata and the heavily armored warriors of the Winter’s Claw.
From the report, it appeared that the mirrorwater-edged weapons wielded by the Winter’s Claw readily pierced the automata’s defenses, but the Avarosans’ more conventional weapons glanced away unless they struck perfectly true. These metal golems would not flinch or duck cravenly for cover, nor had they arteries that a glancing shot across the arm or thigh could rupture; a hundred quick shots were as good as none. Firing upon these walking machines as though they were soft-fleshed humans, favoring quantity over precision or pull-strength, had cost the rangers’ captain her life, and had cost Ashe the lives of half of the captain’s subordinates.
They would not be easy to replace. Back at camp, many apprentices would have to step into newly empty places left by the slain. Still, they had succeeded in their mission. When they brought the automata back to Stormhaven and showed them to the Nyrothians in the floating city, they learned that it was indeed possible to imprint obedience on them.
“These units should now follow your command,” the Nyrothian tinkerer had said. “However, the magic that animates them is tied to Nyroth; in your homeland, they won’t be any good for you except as statues. Their language remains confusing to us, but we will consult the old texts with the aid of your Summoners and do what we can. They appear to date back to the cataclysm; if there is any memory of those days left in them, we could learn much.”
Next Update: The Ancient Library