The darkness was physically stifling, almost suppressing my ability to breathe. I was locked in a cell that due to the smell, and a shriveled corpse resting in its center, led me to believe it was a crypt. A prison all the same. A low droning of some dark magic tickled my ears as if just out of my hearing and at the same time my mind refused to hear the words as some part of me knew my sanity would travel with it. I was told that I was to craft some item for this man, lunatic fits his description better. Something better left unspoken, nay, not not even think of such a thing. Fear of my inner feelings could grant me a different fate than he promised.
He could have been young and good looking if it were not for the fever burning behind his eyes, now sunken and dark. His words were smooth and inviting, I almost believed him when he claimed he would set me free when I was complete, which I knew to be a lie. I wept when I was given the materials that I would use for these crowns he wanted for in my heart I knew where it had come from.
The bands of rusted iron were crude and not worth making nails from, but I had seen these layers of iron before. Indeed I had hammered some myself in my day, sadly for family and friends. They were the iron bands used to seal the coffins of those who died of a sickness to seal them inside so some unsuspecting grave-robber would see it and be smart enough to leave the dead alone. The small thin circles of white spoke of some kind of bone, and from the mewling cries of the past few days I knew it to be from a child. No, children. I am afraid to know they may be pieces of rib bones and my soul weeps for the innocent lives taken for them. The fact that he has given me these items and they are far from perfect leads me to believe that these crowns will be for a dark and nefarious purpose hence the need for them to be vile. Holding the rib bones in my calloused hands I wept thanking the heavens that my children were grown, and I feel sickened at my happiness.
The crowns are simple bands of circular bone strengthened by bands of iron. Their making appears crude and poor but closer inspection reveals them to be very finely made. The circular bone has been polished to a high sheen, almost ivory like. The iron bands, while rusted and crude, compliment the anadem by helping the bone form a perfect circle banding them every few inches. The contrast in red iron and while polished bone give it a antique appearance of quality. While constructing the circular bands and binding them together, the magic used to infuse them with their nefarious powers warped the circlets causing bone-like spurs to grow giving the bands a look as if made from garland. Closer inspection reveals their true appearance of small bits of broken bone protruding up and into the center of the circlet. These spurs burrow into the scalp of the dead making removal extremely difficult, often breaking them in the process.
When used, the anadems' are placed on the head of a corpse often prepared for their use in advance but can be used on those recently dead by minutes. They grant those in control of a main commanding crown to control the undead that wear them by simple thought alone. Being as their purpose is to make control of the dead easy, often times a powerful mind can control a veritable army of the dead wearing these crowns. A simple form of think and forget type of commands can be issues so as not to sap the strength from the commanding cultist, or they can be used as a General issuing commands on a battlefield. Able to use on the fly commands for a better marshaling and atypical tactics normally seen used by the undead.
The first few dozen crowns were finished and I saw the evil light in the man named Kormak glow with a heated hunger. He placed them on his first prepared dead, strengthened with his dark necromantic magics to be large and strong. I saw him make one punch a hole into a stone wall the size of my own head. He laughed in a way that chilled the bile I wanted to throw up but couldn't. He then made it punch a slave in the chest and it's fist went completely through the man as if pushing a hand through unwoven cotton. The ensuing mess made me double my effort to make them better so my usefulness was continued to be needed. He then forced one on a sickened looking woman who was still alive. I cringed at her ensuing scream as it bend her nearly backwards in two. She clutched at her temples, unable to pull the anadem free she cried hysterically and laughed manically together making it all the more painful to watch. She giggled about the voice, no voices, in her head. Voices of the dead she said, calling to her, begging her to come to them. She laughed and cried in a heap and I knew the look on Kormak's face was one of interest at what it did to the living. I wept deep into my soul knowing that I may be next once the number of these evil crowns were complete.
The anadem creates a link from the dead to the one who wears the commanding crown, allowing them to control the dead with their mind. The purpose for this is not having to create so many undead wasting time and resources when all they need is a manageable corpse. They can mentally give them commands that they will follow to the exact letter. This can be done as a simple command and letting the dead loose to their own devices, or keeping contact with them via the controlling anadem giving them constant commands on the fly making them a dangerous military utility if the one in command of them is a student of tactics.
Looking into the eyes of one of the dead wearing one of these crowns, there appears to be a form of intelligence that transfers itself to the corpse. It is possible the soul of the sacrificed child somehow binds itself to the crown and grants the ability of thought to the dead. This is untested and unknown.
There is a side effect to the crowns when used on the living. It was not designed to be worn on someone who has a mind of their own, the living. The thoughts that are poured into the dead are transferred into motor functions that the dead can not process on their own, but when these same thoughts are pushed into a living subject conflicts occur. The soft parts of the mind break at the conflicting commands of their own, the one attempting to control them, and somehow the voices of the dead wearing similar crowns speak out. Again, thought to be the voices of those sacrificed in the creation of the anadems but no one who has worn a crown was able to explain the voices after only a few minutes of hearing them. Instead falling into a gibbering display of mental psychosis unable to communicate more than drooling and giggling.
The group uncovers a previous battle with corpses littering the ground in various states of decay. A search of the bodies reveal typical items of a few coin purses, weapons and bits of usable armor, and a few oddly crafted crowns adorning various bodies. Possibly worth something to the right buyer.
After defeating a (minor) villain they discover them wearing a controlling anadem. Do they destroy it or use its power against their enemies and woe to the consequenses of commanding the dead for the right reasons.