Among the clockwork tinkerers and inventors of Steamspout Row, the best-known for many years was Stindt Mecias of the Stindt gens but long distanced from that noble and corrupt lineage of ministers of the Imperial chancery. The name still opened many doors for the young Mecias that would not otherwise have been so, and he was able to obtain a much-coveted technical education and set up a workshop in the most affluent part of Steamspout.

In the old Chancery Era, weak figurehead Emperors and Empresses, often children, were on the throne while the real power rested with their ministers who fought endlessly for power. Their byzantine machinations meant an overall breakdown of tradition and weakening of Imperial governance, even in the great capital city. Mecian’s contraptions, which harnessed various radiant spiritual energies to do useful work, would have been branded heresy in an earlier (or later) era and earned him a quick death in purifying flame. But there was no interference from above, and his mechanisms became something of a fashion among the capital’s aristocratic elite.

Even so, Mecian rarely took commissions and even then grievously overcharged for them, as they were only a means to keep himself funded for his ultimate project, one which took an increasing share of his time and his efforts. Orders for bizarre parts, metals with no known alloys, medical cadavers with specific diseases or that had died in specific ways, and even items from abroad shipped in sealed cases labeled “death penalty for unauthorized opening.” Twenty years after the fact, the first strong emperor in many years attempted a full audit of Mecian’s doings, but eventually had to throw up his hands in frustration.

All that the Imperial investigators could establish was that Mecian’s device ultimately included the complete radiant spiritual energies of at least one living person, kidnapped off the streets and sacrificed for the purpose.

None are even sure what the device looked like. It has long been assumed that the engraved sphere found in Mecian’s quarters was the ultimate product of his obsession, but it remained inert and resistant to the efforts of investigators to the end of the Imperial dynasty. Mecian himself could not be questioned, as he had disappeared in a massive, explosive conflagration that had consumed the top floor of his apartments.

Over a hundred bodies were recovered afterward, but the erstwhile tinkerer was not among them.

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