This is part of the ongoing narrative of our D&D campaign, which is graciously being run by Proud Lion, a fantastic comic shop in Cheltenham. Their RPG Encounters nights are a lot of fun, and give me some entertaining material to work with.
[Before reading, please be aware that there may be spoilers ahead for the D&D campaign books. Equally, our stories are fluid, so things may not follow the books too directly]
The sharp, painful sound of the whistle seemed to echo from everywhere at once, and Burian could see the necromantic enchantment on it flow into the skeletal remnants along the floor. He stepped back in horror, and the rest of the group followed suit once bones started rattling along the floor and gathering together from the various bodies that they had just vanquished.
Painfully slowly, a new skeleton took form in front of Kalashnikov, bones building from the ground up until the skeleton reached a height slightly shorter than the previous attackers.
“Evidently not enough vertebrae survived…” Drenk mumbled under his breath, his detective instincts overriding his tongue and interrupting the gobsmacked silence of the group.
A low chuckle started in Klaashnikov’s throat, then built into a maniacal cackle from the warlock, before he coughed and spluttered, then recovered himself a little. The skeleton stood completely immobile, so he tried touching it, then walking around the construct, to no reaction. Even when he pried a rib off the skeleton, it made no reaction, so he replaced it and stepped back.
At this, the skeleton stepped forward, matching its distance from Kalashnikov. Drenk tried approaching the strange couple, yet the skeleton still did not react, and this served to alleviate some of the group’s tension. It did not seem to be hostile, so Burian returned to his inspection of the area and these artefacts while the rest of the group recovered from the brief action.
<Move over there> Kalashnikov willed directly into the hollow skull of the skeleton, and it followed his intent, traipsing over to the corner. His magical communication could evidently control the necromancy-imbued bones. As he experimented with moving the skeleton around, his smile only grew wider, and Jester was suddenly hit by some absurd inspiration.
“Can I…can I make a disguise for it?!” he asked Kalashnikov, and then the two of them descended into a discussion of the type of clothing it should have.
Over towards the altar, Enna and Drenk were patching up Burian’s wound, and she cast a spell of cure wounds on him, stitching his flesh back together. The druid followed Trystan the monk’s bold example and tested a sample of the potion inside the flask, confirming that it was full of an abjuration potion. He felt his skin tingle a little, then harden against the ambient heat of Enna’s hands as she helped him up.
“I, ow, I think this is, ow, a potion of fire resistance. Should be, ow, good if we come up against anything flame-wielding. Ow!” he mentioned through gritted teeth.
Over near the wrecked centre of the room, Kalashnikov was perched on a broken coffin, inspecting the crystalline whistle that held such power. For such a tiny item, the detail on it was immaculate, having been glass-blown into a transparent dragon, curled up into a snail-like shape. Its jaws and nostrils opened into the whistle, and an inscription could be made out along the curls of its body. Surprisingly, the inscription was in Dwarvish, and Kalashnikov read out “Nightcaller”.
Now that the hole in Burian’s side was healing, Drenk looked around the altar to see if it held any more information about the original users. He couldn’t find any scrolls or inscriptions, but while rubbing along a surface he caught his finger in a hidden compartment. Pulling it out, he discovered some peridot jewels, the yellowish-green stones carved into yet-more draconic shapes. Not an expert in the fine arts business, he asked the dwarven brothers how much they could fetch. Burian estimated about 60 gold pieces, while Kalashnikov ignored him.
The warlock was in deep concentration, thinking back on all his studies about and with the Duergar, training in their dark arts. He knew that this Nightcaller whistle was definitely a Duergar-made item, as in ages past they used to make them for a variety of cults, dragon-worshippers and drow covens, and imbued them with a variety of dark magics. This was truly an antique he would keep for himself, there would be no parting him from it.
His purer brother, was now spending his time looking at the mysterious candle they had collected. It seemed to have a spell of continuous light upon it, as the emanations atop the candle were not hot to the touch, nor did they act as a normal flame might, by consuming the wick and burning out. Instead this candle appeared to un-extinguishable, but could be covered over to keep dark. A very useful item indeed, even if most of the group did not need light to see by.
Using his arcane skills and knowledge of the occult, Kalashnikov could puzzle out several key features of the enchantment upon the Nightcaller. It obviously cast an animate dead spell when blown, but he suspected there were some key limitations, as otherwise this could create an unstoppable army. At an estimate, it would take a week to recharge the potent animation spell, but the control portion should be able to be refreshed once a day, so the user could direct their automatons.
“Damn thing’s probably got a limit to control as well. Likely two or so constructs, the Duergar wou’n’t ‘ave let anyone else get too much power,” he mused to himself, “but that don’t mean you can’t fill a vault with uncontrolled minions…”
Amid the group’s inspection of the sepulchre and messing around with the new skeleton, Levanix the monk decided that this adventurous company was more than a little too crazy for him, and he sidled off into the dark corridors of the keep. Not even a word of goodbye was said as the monk went on his way to fulfil his order’s ongoing mapping mission.
Jester was busy beavering away at the new costume from three or so of Kalashnikov’s hides, so the group took a little break while he finished the job. Kalashnikov was back to controlling the skeleton, which he had taken to calling Logan, and he made the skeleton high-five him, with much happy giggling.
“Don’t you like our new friend?” Drenk jokingly asked Meepo when he poked his head around the door, but Meepo jumped in alarm and turned around and headed out of the room in fright. Burian shook his head, then used a flame to heat the candle a little and stick the wax firmly to the front of his shield.
A few hours later, Jester finally completed his masterwork, and it was his best one yet. He made everyone turn their backs while he dressed the skeleton, occasionally asking Kalashnikov to change the skeleton’s position, then asked them to turn back around.
Holding an additional hide over his work, he removed it with a flourish and a bow, and the group were even more shocked to see how well the rogue had created a costume for this skeleton. The hides seemed to fit perfectly to the skeleton’s limbs, but added to his bulk, and clearly offered substantial protection to the brittle bones.
The clothes seemed to perfectly suit the nickname Kalashnikov had chosen, and somehow Jester had managed to dye them yellow and blue with his meagre supplies. Overjoyed with the look of his new minion, Kalashnikov let out a slight squeal, then commanded Logan to pick up two scimitars, a bow and a full quiver from the fallen skeletons.
Now ready to move on, the companions picked up their gear from across the room, and started back into the dark corridor.