ontinuing from our last entry, I was stuck with a plot quandary – how could I trick a whole ballroom of noblemen who’d come to see the execution of the illustrious Baronet Mergenstein Hippen Von Graftin into flouncing away the time-limitation of their trumped up charges, voiding the execution which was to descend on his very neck a minute before midnight? How could the svelte leather-clad thief Tubitz alter the ballroom clock’s speed in the grand ballroom, decreasing its time so that the swells would blow their chance to axe him?
As I mentioned, I thought about this for days. Simply setting the clock back ten minutes would not work. That’s too easy a trick, so we’ll assume the nobles check their pocket fobs as they enter hours before, a tradition that shows us that no trickery is at play.
In my search for a solution, I began looking into how pendulum clocks actually work. Now, the formula for the swing of the pendulum is as follows.
T = 2(pi) times the square root of (Length / Local gravity).
This is interesting in an idea-killing way. I had an idea of changing the weight of the pendulum, perhaps by having a costumed Tubitz place a heavy gold bracelet on the head of the pendulum disk, a show of wealth-rejecting decadence that would alter the clock’s speed. But, as I realized in the formula, pendulum weight had no bearing at all on the clock speed. You could hang a cinder block off it and it would still maintain its time.
Gravity? That had possibilities, but the more I thought about it, the less chance a steampunk technology society could have any alterations here. I thought of special objects given to them, gravity orbs and such, but no, none of this made any sense.
And that leaves length.
This is how you actually adjust a clock. If it’s running fast or slow, you adjust the length of the pendulum by changing the screw usually located on the bottom of the pendulum disk. That speeds up or slows down the clock by a minutes over days.
So, yes, she could change it this way, but it dosn’t quite get the moment of ah-hah that comes from her doing it. It just lacks her… panache. But there is the idea of that svelte leather-clad thief breaking through the skylight of the ballroom, going in, leaving with a bulky object over one sharp shoulder. Since she is a swordswoman, one of the best, we’ll shift the scene to her swordsmaker, a nervous man who fears that perhaps her blade has failed and she now seeks revenge. “Nothing so petty. It that were true,” she tells him, “you would already be dead, the broken shaft of my sword driven through your throat.” He swallows, as if confirm that the threatened throat is unpierced. “No, I want to you alter this…” With a clunk, a long metal bar, too heavy to be any sort of weapon and lacking any edge, is placed on his nicked and battered worktable. He looks it over with questions she won’t answer. “Make it an inch shorter. There can be no sign of your alteration. You have an hour.”
And that’s the tick-trick. Shorten the length, lower the period, decrease the time. And so the nobles flounce, all eyes on the spectacle of execution and not an eye to be spared on their own pocket watches. And thus true midnight passes unnoticed by all, and the charges against Baronet Von Graftin run out.
Still, blades will cross. It’s the expected thing.
All that’s left is the writing. See you at publication.