Clockwork horrors are a form of arcane apparatus. They look something like a mechanical spider (though they have only four legs). While the body of the horror is only about two feet in diameter, the legs give the creature an overall diameter of about four feet. In the front of the body is a crystal that enables the horror to see. Two depressions, one on each side of this lens, serve the horror as hearing organs. Two limbs, located roughly below the hearing dishes, serve a number of purposes described later.
The body of a clockwork horror is always cast as a single piece from some type of metal. The most common type of horror is created from copper, but others may be cast from silver, electrum, gold, platinum or even adamantite. The surface of the body is always highly polished and covered with pulsating runes of mystical power.
Each horror is construced to fill a specific role and exists within a rigidly structured heirarchy. Individually they have no identity. Rather, they have a mission: the race must survive. Once the clockwork horrors have established a foothold on a world, they see all living things on that world as a threat. Logically, to the horrors, such cultures must be removed – and removal of living things is one thing at which the clockwork horrors are expert.
Clockwork horrors communicate with each other by means of clicks, whirs, and similar mechanical sounds. The exact nature of their language is unknown. It is believed, however, that the horrors use a type of dot-and-dash code similar to that employed by sailors when they signal each other with lights.
The clockwork horrors are not natural creatures, but make radical changes in the worlds they visit. They sometimes temporarily enslave intelligent races, keeping hopes of some accommodation alive until they have total control. They also take occasional prisoners to study and analyze species weaknesses.
A clockwork horror fleet, which nearly always consists of 10d10 captured neogi ships, leaves the worlds it visits stripped of their natural resources. Metals are strip-mined, living things are removed as useless and troublesome, and everything that can be exploited is drained away. This process takes only two or three centuries.
The powerful weapons of the clockwork horrors are highly prized by most artificers. While they do not retain their powers after removal from the horrors, they are nonetheless interesting to study.
The wisest sages tell of an ancient humanoid race, known only as the “Lost Ones”. Records of their origin have long since faded, but frightening tales are told of their demise.
The Lost Ones were fond of mechanisms. The more subtle and clever their devices, the better they liked them. In the end, however, their own love of such toys brought them down. One of their most brilliant artificers built a magnificent adamantite machine with workings so advanced that none but he could fathom its operation. In addition, he wove powerful spells about the contraption, bestowing on it intelligence and mystical abilities. In gratitude for its creation, the adamantite machine destroyed him.
Over the course of the next few decades, the adamantite horror built an army of mechanical followers, each in its own image, but of lesser quality. As the horrors rose to power in their sphere, they eliminated all biological life in it. In the end, they tore apart the worlds in their sphere and used the raw materials thus obtained to build more and more horrors.
Centuries passed for the horrors contained in the sphere of the Lost Ones. They would have been forever doomed to remain there had they not been visited by a fleet of neogi deathspiders. The neogi had come seeking slaves and “cattle” to feast upon. Instead, they found death. One by one, their ships were taken from them. In the end the neogi and their slaves found themselves forced into lifejammers (spelljamming ships powered by life energy instead of magic).
Now able to journey between crystal spheres, the clockwork horrors began to spread. Each crystal sphere they entered was violated and the worlds within were plundered. For those living in these doomed spheres, there was no escape.