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Gaffer and the Watch

By Subadubdub
Created: 1st December 2022 03:46:27 PM
7th February 2023 08:41:10 AM

  1. >Be Gaffer
  2. >Be Crystal Guard
  3. >Not a Crystal pony, but still a guard.
  4. >Networking is a wonderful thing.
  5. >Normally, you’d be doing your usual job, guarding the Crystal palace.
  6. >Going to high school with the prince consort and helping him get with the Princess of love really paid off. You got one of the good guard posts in one of the palace’s guest wings. Whenever there weren’t guests around, you could pretty much chill all day without getting into trouble.
  7. >But you weren’t there today. Though it was still a pretty cushy posting, all things considered.
  8. >Since the Crystal Empire’s return, the locals have been working to uncover all the things King Sombra locked away from the general public.
  9. >Not just the crystal heart and a mountain of gold, but other artifacts and documents hidden away.
  10. >Watching the Empire’s wizards go through the contents of Sombra’s vault was always a great source of inspiration for your next Ogres and Oubliettes Session.
  11. >The look on Shining’s face when realized the crystal skull that had been the macguffin for the players to quest to the kingdom of Foaledo was actually real and had been sitting in his basement was priceless.
  12. >So now you seek your next prize for the campaign.
  13. >The day was starting off pretty promising.
  14. >Some new wizard had been hired recently to help with the cataloging.
  15. >Apparently he did something with the Crystal Heart while you were on vacation and impressed the rulers enough to get a job.
  16. >Whatever it was, he was certainly having a blast looking through the box of artifacts. Always constantly expounding about one wizard or another when he found one that caught his eye.
  17. >“Oh, so this mirror must use a variation of Haycartes’ pagina ad conspectum, but instead of allowing the caster to put themselves into a book, it lets whoever’s looking into the mirror look out of any page of a book at whoever’s reading it.”
  18. >It was definitely interesting hearing him ramble off about the high level effects of the artifacts, but try as you might, whenever he started going into specifics besides the high level effects, you just stopped paying attention. That wasn’t where your talent lay. Well, not in the matters of actual magical theory and spellcraft.
  19. >You were always better at constructing magic systems and narratives in Ogres and Oubliettes than you were in practical magic classes back in school.
  20. >“Spying on ponies through their books. How horrifying.”
  21. “Well the Crystal ponies were being put to work by Sombra right? So they wouldn’t exactly have much time to do much reading in the first place.”
  22. >You replied, more to make some small talk while you perused the artifact catalog yourself. Looking for something to catch your eye.
  23. >”That’s the thing though. If they did have any downtime or reprieve from the work they were forced into, any research they could try to do to act against Sombra would be monitored. Heck, even writing down in a journal wouldn’t be safe from his gaze.”
  24. >Huh, he raised a fair point. And while it was a bit awkward to explain, it’d make some decent intrigue if you incorporated it into a more surveilled setting or campaign.
  25. >Let Shining and the others roleplay the overthrow of Sombra in the past? Or if that hit too close for home, maybe an alternate world where Nightmare Moon won?
  26. >”I don’t remember seeing this one in the catalog. What do you do?”
  27. >Click. Tick. tick. Tick. tick.
  28. >It got really quiet all of a sudden, apart from the sound of a stopwatch ticking. Sunburst’s consistent mutterings had gone eerily silent.
  29. >Glancing up from the catalog, you spotted Sunburst staring into a silver pocket watch blankly.
  30. >Unmoving.
  31. >Oh Celestia, is he dead? Did one of these things kill him out of the blue?
  32. >No…he’s still breathing and blinking. But all that wizard is doing is staring blankly at the wall like it’s the most interesting playcolt the publisher ever shipped.
  33. “Sunburst?”
  34. >He didn’t respond. Despite poking and prodding at him, tugging his ears, his tail, his tongue, whatever you did to normally wake up somepony, he wasn’t reacting at all.
  35. >Oh Celestia, you needed to get help. Find somepony who knows advanced magic. Who had clearance for the vault
  36. >That actually might be a bit more difficult now that you stopped to think about it. The usual wizards who looked into Sombra’s vault were on a rotating schedule and the nearest one who wasn’t on vacation would be on the outskirts of town.
  37. >What was it with wizards and living in far off locations from where important things were happening?
  38. >Okay, stop and think Gaffer. Panicking would only make things worse.
  39. >Sunburst was frozen, and could possibly stay that way forever if you didn’t do something. He had been normal beforehand and only froze once that ticking sound started. So it was clearly the work of an artifact.
  40. >There was only one that really fit the bill of the source then. The watch he was staring intently at. The one still clicking away.
  41. >Thinking fast, you plucked it out of his magical grip and glanced over at it.
  42. >Sunburst didn’t move at all, even his magic didn’t really react, floating an aura over empty air.
  43. >A single hand with a yellow gemstone was ticking forwards unrelentingly. Finding the yellow button on the top of the watch, you cautiously pressed it.
  44. >”OW!”
  45. >Sunburst finally reacted and clenched his ears and shook his body, blinking in confusion.
  46. >”What was that for? And weren’t you just on the other side of the room?” Sunburst asked, confused while rubbing his head.
  47. “Dude, you were just standing there like a statue. I’ve been poking at you and calling your name for ages.”
  48. >“I was doing what?”
  49. “Yeah, it was freaky, you pressed a button on this watch and then it was like you were dead on your hooves but still breathing.”
  50. >”Hmm…perhaps the watch is one of Moonshine the Mage’s Mental Magic Materials. But no, I don’t recall a watch being listed amongst her relics. Or a watch ever being mentioned in records of her. Maybe it’s-”
  51. >Sunburst began speaking out about some more magical artifacts or possible spells that lay within the watch at your hooves.
  52. >Once again, you had started to tune him out while you looked closer at the watch.
  53. >It didn’t look quite like a normal watch
  54. >No dice, Sunburst was still talking to the air while floating over a few books to look into.
  55. >While he was looking, instead you glanced into the watch itself and, bracing yourself, you pressed the button.
  56. >Nothing happened, as far as you could tell. The yellow hand didn’t even move forwards. So you guessed that it might not have done anything yet.
  57. >Sunburst still being in the same spot and not suddenly hearing a break in his sentence seemed to imply the same.
  58. ”Well it’s not working now.”
  59. >That broke Sunburst out of his stupor. “You used it? Again? Without letting me, or anypony know? Gaffer, that was dangerous! And dumb! And..and…I don’t know, a bad idea!”
  60. “It clearly did something to you Sunburst, and we’d need to know what you did to the watch that caused it to make you freeze up like that.”
  61. >”Well…yes, but we need to research something like that properly. Safely. Not just pressing buttons randomly while the artifact is pointed at us. Who knows what could have happened?”
  62. >He wasn’t wrong there. If you had gotten trapped as a statue, you might have been stuck there for a while. You hadn’t actually told the wizard how you had unfrozen him after all.
  63. “You’re right.”
  64. >Admitting this, you pointed the watch at Sunburst and hit the second button on the watch. The one with a pink gemstone inlaid in it.
  65. >Instantly he stopped moving once more, but instead of the stiff statue-esque posture he had before, now he seemed to be relaxed and unwound. Like someone who had too many edibles before the effects kicked in.
  66. >Your theory was right, at least partially.
  67. >When Sunburst was looking at it and pressed the button, he was put under its effect. It affects whoever’s looking at it at the moment one of the buttons is pressed. And if your theory was correct
  68. “Well the watch still works. Maybe it’s a one button at a time thing, or a sequence. How do you feel Sunburst?”
  69. >“I’m fine Sir.” Sunburst replied in a monotone, still staring blankly ahead.
  70. >So that was it. Maybe? You had to point the watch at somepony and then it would take effect.
  71. >But then again, it didn’t work when you were looking into the watch before and hit the first button.
  72. >Was there a time limit or something?
  73. >There was a lot about this watch you didn’t really understand, but at least Sunburst was talking while being affected by it now.
  74. “Why are you just standing around then? I thought you’d say something about me using the watch on you.”
  75. >”You’ve not told me what to do.”
  76. “So you need me to give you an order then?”
  77. >”Yes, Sir.”
  78. “Care to explain why you need me to give you an order?”
  79. >”Because, Sir, you activated the watch on me. Therefore I must obey your orders.”
  80. “So you need me to give you orders because I activated the watch? Do you know anything else about the watch? Like why it just froze you before but now you’re all chatty?”
  81. >”I do not know Sir. This is the first time I can recall ever seeing the watch.”
  82. “Hmph, well I’m liking the way you call me sir right now. Why don’t you do that when you’re not all roboty?”
  83. >”Understood, I will refer to you as Sir from now on.”
  84. “Uh, right then.”
  85. >It was supposed to be a joke, but it looks like Sunburst wasn’t able to tell when he was like this.
  86. >You turned back to the watch in your hoof. Talking to the monotone Sunburst had been enlightening, but it was also off-putting a bit. You just wanted to see if pressing the
  87. >Click.
  88. >“Eh, did I freeze up again Sir?” Sunburst asks as he blinks and then turns to face us.
  89. >So he doesn’t remember what happened while he was under? But he’s still calling you Sir happily.
  90. “Yeah, though you were all weird that time. Saying everything in a monotone and asking me for orders. You started calling me sir while you were like that, and now you’re doing it when you’re not acting like a dead fish.”
  91. >”I have? It doesn’t feel like anything’s changed sir. I have a memory of not calling you that before, but now it just feels right to.”
  92. “Is that so?”
  93. >You glanced back down at the watch, at the strange hands and face of it that looked nothing like the usual clock face you were used to.
  94. >Two of the hands, one inlaid with a pink gemstone, and the other a yellow, were ticking counterclockwise. Meanwhile the third hand with a red gemstone was sitting comfortably at the 12 position unmoving.
  95. >”It might be that the watch affects ponies’ memories and minds, Sir. If it’s an artifact that forces ponies to obey your orders sir, we’ll need to inform Princess Cadence and Shining Armor immediately.”
  96. >He was right. An artifact like the watch was a threat to national security. The fact that it came from Sombra’s vault made it even more so. The Princess and the Crystal Guard needed to be ready and waiting in case something happened because of it.
  97. >But despite that.
  98. >...you just didn’t feel like giving up the watch.
  99. >Ideas were just coming into your head about just what you could do with it.
  100. >Hell, if you could use it on your players, they’d stop breaking character all the damn time in the middle of important moments in the campaign.
  101. >And if it made ponies think they were following your orders of their own volition...
  102. >Ch-chack. The pink gemstone stopped at the 12 position alongside the red with a soft noise.
  103. >It was soft, so you doubted he heard the sound over your words.
  104. “Don’t worry, I understand Sunburst.”
  105. >With that, you pointed the watch at him again.
  106. >Click. Tick. tick. Tick. tick.
  107. >So it was still working now. So was it a time limit thing then? Or just the watch needing to be wound back up?
  108. “Shouldn’t we fully document the watch’s effects before we run off to warn Shining and the Princess? You don’t want to give them an incomplete report.”
  109. >Click
  110. >”Well um, now that I’m thinking a bit more about it. Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad to wait on informing them? Just so that we know the full extent of what the artifact can do of course.”
  111. >He gave you a sheepish smile. But you could only grin in response.

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