In Locastus, City of Mirrors, much of the ever-present steam-technology, clockwork and other mechanika is enhanced and made possible by power runes or enchantments. Transmission shafts and chain gears, cogs and pistons, boilers and gear boxes are often stamped with intricate, glowing strings of thaumainterferometric meta-equations or rune-like, power-enhancing Aether glyphs, working together in a myriad ways to increase tensile strength in a drive shaft, maximizing boiler output in a steam engine furnace and tweaking chemical reactions within exothermic reaction chambers.

The use of symbolotheurgy in mechanical applications produce machines which demand less maintenance, extract the maximum amount of energy from the fuel, and can function beyond the capabilities of their non-enhanced counterparts. With the use of thaumatechnology, it is even possible to transphase a machine's parts so that it no longer exists fully within the boundaries of physical reality, allowing for power transmutations and chemical reactions otherwise not possible under the natural laws.

A thaumatechnologically boosted machine is an impressive and unsettling sight, power runes and thaumoequation strings glowing on casings and moving parts, stamped deeply into the blackened steel and cast iron. A shimmer of argent mist sometimes builds among the innards of an enhanced mechanism, as stray puissance accumulates like a mirage, making the moving parts indistinct, sometimes, impossibly, seeming to pass right through one another as if the cast iron is no more substantial than smoke.

The Aetherial effluence of an enchanted mechanism can be felt as an almost-subconscious tingling, buzzing feeling, the intensity of which is proportionate to the power output of the machine in question. Higher levels of Aetherial exposure on an unprotected human can have devastating effects, similar to those associated with radioactivity. In addition, any greater concentration of Aetherial energies can result in a tear in the membrane separating this world from the Spirit Realms, the Grey Void, and can, if you are unlucky, allow the alien creatures and materials of the Beyond access to the material world, with strange and terrible results.

Even with this wonderful, complex marriage of magic and technology functioning smoothly and reliably, a thaumatechnologically enhanced machine remains vulnerable to interference - and there is, for the operator of such a device, no greater irritation then an infestation of Cog Devils.

Preface to: 'A Primer to Locastrian Thaumatechnology', by Dr. Mya Ukomm
(Required reading for all first-year students of Thaumatechnology)

Cog Devils

Cog Devils are small, noncorporeal entities that thrive, nest and propagate in the puissance-saturated innards of any thaumatoenhanced mechanism, causing all kinds of problems as they bask in and eat not only the extruded effluvium but also the kinetic energy of the machines moving parts.

No one knows where Cog Devils come from, but it is possible that they are created spontaneously by any sustained concentration of puissance. Whatever their origins, they are a scourge of the thaumatechnologically enhanced industry.

If the Cog Devils infest clockwork, for example, they will absorb potential energy from its wound spring, causing the mechanism to work slower than usual. If present in a steam engine, their presence will result in a lowered boiler output or reduce the expansion of gas within its pistons.

The amount of energy absorbed by a single Cog Devil is minuscule, but they propagate swiftly, by division, and as their numbers grow, their effect on their machine habitat will quickly become noticeable.

A machine infested with Cog Devils will, gradually, begin to lose efficiency. It's power output will decrease while, at the same time, its fuel demands will increase. In the early stages, these changes are subtle and hard to diagnose as a Cog Devil infection, rather than normal wear and tear.

As the Cog Devil population grows, the effects will become more and more obvious, erosion will occur since ball bearings and lubrication mechanisms start to fail, metal fatigue and stress fractures becomes apparent, boilers melt as it struggles to produce enough steam power to perpetrate continuous motion and gears, drive shafts and transmission cantilevers runs red-hot, sizes up and tears themselves apart, with catastrophic results.

More than one of Locastus's heavily thaumoaugmented steam engines have torn itself to pieces in a deadly spray of white-hot cogs and whirring bits of jagged shrapnel, so Cog Devils is a threat taken seriously by the Locastrian industry.

Physical Description

Cog Devils are invisible to the naked eye, but can, when viewed through a magesight hex (or a pair of Aetheric Goggles) be observed as small, vaguely flame-like smears of ghostly luminescent smoke entwining and enmeshing themselves endlessly through the rotating transmission shafts, pumping pistons and spinning cogs of their machine nest, basking in the various, delicious energies emanated by the enchanted mechanisms.

They appear, from their carefree cavorts and acrobatics, to be quite happy little creatures, leaping and rubbing themselves ecstatically on the moving machine parts, although there seems to be little intelligence in their behaviour.

They do not exhibit pack traits or, indeed, any form of communication or cooperation with their own kind. In that respect, they resemble more microbes than higher life forms.

Extermination and Population Control

A Cog Devil can, under ideal conditions, reproduce by division once every 24 hours, quickly establishing a viable colony in any infected mechanism.

The more established and entrenched a colony gets, the harder it is to eradicate, although the reason for this is unknown.

No one knows exactly where Cog Devils come from they just seem to appear out of thin air. Wherever their place of origin, it must be a place radically different than this world indeed, they seem to be oddly aspected to technology, almost as if that is their natural habitat.

Outside of a thaumatologically enhanced mechanism, a Cog Devil quickly fades away, dissolving into nothing within a matter of minutes. However, it can travel from machine to machine if it has some form of technological conduit, a puissance conductor cable or a connecting drive shaft. Caught out in the open, it cannot move and will quickly perish.

Just about the only reliable way of keeping down Cog Devil numbers is to perform regular, scheduled stops of the Machine in which the infestation has taken root. Since the Cog Devils feed off of the kinetic energy in the machine's moving parts, a period of inactivation can curb their expansion and keep down the Cog Devil population. A longer period of inactivity (1-2 weeks) will starve the infestation to death, although a mechanism once infected, will be susceptible to a recurring infection.

Since long-term stops can spell economical ruin for a small-to-mid-scale fabricator, the operators of thaumatically enhanced machinery has learned to accept short periods of inactivity in the small hours, preferring a small decrease in productivity before a major disaster.

Some of the larger production plants run duplicate production lines, one active while the other is inactive. This arrangement is usually planned so that the duplicate machinery is isolated from each other, avoiding cross-contamination of Cog Devils.

Sometimes, especially in the case of the larger, more complicated and expensive industrial systems, any period of inactivity is just not an economical possibility. Then, other means of keeping down the Cog Devil population must be employed.

However, any method except direct starvation is unreliable at best. Physical violence is, of course, of no use whatsoever and warding hexes have only a limited effect. Rituals of exorcism acts more as a mild deterrent than a form of banishing.

Sprinkling the machines with certain arcanely charged salts has been seen to have some effect, but the alkali carries with it other problems corrosion to metal parts and interference with the salt's puissance from that produced by the machine. 

For smaller mechanisms, such as clocks, a casing of transparent lead crystal seems to help keeping the Cog Devils out, although this alternative is, of course, impractical for the larger pieces of machinery.

Author's Notes

Not sure how these critters were born, I'm afraid. I guess I just figured that even shining, sophisticated thaumatechnological contraptions shouldn't be immune to vermin.

More than anything, they were an excuse to order my thoughts and expand upon Locastrian thaumatechnology.

Thanks to Kassil and Chaosmark for inspiration. Kassil should also have kudos for his Aetheric Goggles, mentioned above. I just blatantly assimilated (stole) them into my setting.

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