The Western Lands
Tig was the middle child of twelve siblings. His father was a miller who instilled in Tig a love of gadgets and machines at an early age by letting him play in the watermill as he worked. Of all his brothers and sisters, Tig was the only one who followed in his father’s footsteps as a tinkerer.
Tig’s father was constantly trying to improve his machinery by adding different sorts of gears and contrived pulley systems. This is probably what led to his death. It was no doubt one of the extra bits of machinery he added that made the spark that ignited the floating grain chaff in the air, exploding the mill while Tig’s father was inside.
Having lost her husband and the family’s only source of income in one horribly spectacular instant, Tig’s mother was forced to bring her brood of children to the largest port city in Cengalis, where she eked out a living as a washerwoman. They were very poor there and life was a struggle. Tig and his brothers began running with the street urchins and getting into all sorts of trouble. Fighting was a daily part of life in the squalid harbor districts, and as he grew into a youth, Tig learned a scrappy sort of wrestling style that fit his smaller size.
The thing that most fascinated Tig about the city was the great dial face on the highest tower at the heart of the city. It was one of the great wonders of the world. It was vertical, not horizontal, so everyone could see it from the harbor side. The sun did not indicate the time with shadow, but a pair of moving arms pointed out the time of day, whether it was cloudy or sunny. Tig desperately wanted to know what made the arms of the dial move. There were many different stories about the origin of the time device. Some said an old caliph of the city had won it from the emperor of the Ga’av-lin in a riddle game. Some said it had come from a strange shipwreck, of a vessel that had come across the Sunsend Sea. Others said it was an artifact found in the desert.
Tig determined to find out what was behind that dial face and see what sort of mechanisms drove the arms that moved over it. One night he broke into the tower and snuck all the way up to the room at the top. I was filled with metal gears, and chains, and winches of all sorts. Tig was completely awestruck by the sight and did not hear the person that accosted him from behind.
It was the caretaker of the clock, a gnome named Luftwig. Tig at first thought he was a dwarf, as he had never seen a gnome before, and thought them only legendary. Luftwig was very offended by this, but quickly saw that the boy had a genuine fascination for the way machines worked. Luftwig spent some time talking to Tig, explaining how he had come with an expedition of Aulves across the desert ust when trade was beginning to open up between the two coasts of the continent, and had become enamored with the great clock, staying in the city after the rest of his group returned home. Impressed by Tig’s passion for and knowledge of engineering (granted, still quite rudimentary), Luftwig agreed to take Tig on as an assistant.
So, for the next few years, Tig spent his days, and sometimes his nights, helping Luftwig with the maintenance and occasional repair of the enigmatic machine. As he did so, the caretaker taught him the principles of engineering and mechanical advantage. Tig’s mother and siblings were always discouraging of his job. They told him that such devilry had led to his father’s fate and he would suffer a similar end if he continued, though they never complained about the money it brought into the household. Tig was always quick to defend his father’s interest in gadgetry as those times fiddling around in the mill had been very special to him.
Tig also developed a great love of tall tales, legends, and myths of the lost cities and ancient ruins that filled the desert, remnants of the civilizations that had once flourished there thousands of years ago, now buried beneath the sand along with the treasures they contained. Whenever he was not spending time helping Luftwig, or building his own experimental devices, he was down at the harbor taverns listening to sailors tell their tales, or at the caravan markets being regaled by the drovers of all the ruins they’d come upon among the desert sands.
One day while he was working with Luftwig in the clock tower, his arm became stuck between the cogs of two gears. Luftwig was able to get him out before he became seriously injured, but it was then that the gnome realized Tig had grown too big to move safely about the machinery—though he was still small by human standards. Regretfully Luftwig told Tig that he could no longer work with him in the machinery of the clock room. Tig was heartbroken.
After several days of moping about the city, Tig decided it was finally time to go off into the desert and search for all those lost cities and ruins that had so captured his imagination. Despite the protests and dire pronouncements of his family, Tig gathered what supplies and equipment he could afford and set out.