In all the land, there were no more bitter enemies than Fallu the Sorceress and Zaugar-Pakh, the Lord of Cold Stones. They fought and fought, over no pettier a reason than that, in days past, Zaughar-Pakh had refused a gift from Fallu’s hideous daughter, the fish-woman Mev.
So, on the eve of the Day of Troubles, on the Black Midnight, Fallu the Sorceress kissed the nose of a dead assassin, ate the left index-finger of an emperor, and tossed a crystal goblet full of Young Monkey Tea, sweetened with shade-of-the-evening, out of her window to shatter on the ground.
Promptly appeared Smile Frown, the Laughing Demon. He was great and tall, and thin like a scarecrow. He had two faces, one on his face where he kept all his laughter, and another in his belly where he kept all his darkness. He chuckled and said:
“Wherefore have you brought me, oh most beautiful crone, when I was attending my cold fire and my bright smoke?”
Fallu the Sorceress offered up to him the hair of a blonde baby, stewed in the sighs of spurned lovers and said:
“I have called to you for your aid, oh Illustrious Laughing Demon.
In the West there is a man, my enemy, named Zaugar-Pakh, the Lord of Cold Stones.
In days past did this man, Zaughar-Pakh refuse a gift from my darling daughter, Mev!
Long and bitter has been our quarrel! I wish for you to end it, or a means you may provide!”
Smile Frown gave a great gale of laughter, and reached into the voluminous pockets of his robe, sewn from the skins of a thousand thousand mice, and produced a helm, as would befit a great warrior.
It was black and cold, and was masked as a grinning demon with curling horns. From its lolling tongue hung a short chain.
Said Smile Frown, the Laughing Demon, to Fallu the Sorceress:
“Send to him this gift, as a present of reconciliation between you, and tell him that he should wear it at a great feast, which you will hold!”
And with that he was gone.
And thus it was done, and at the feast, Fallu sat at the head of the table. The seat of honor was set for Zaughar-Pakh, who was a very large man.
Into the dining room strode he, and upon his head was the fearsome helm of which Smile Frown had presented.
“Come! Sit beside me, and eat!”
And they did eat, but as the hour struck midnight, Zaughar-Pakh suddenly gasped.
For he realized that Fallu had died. She lay face down in her food. As had all of her men and servants. All stone dead were they, for they had choked on their food. He removed the hidden dagger with which he had intended to stab his dire enemy and then began to laugh.
He laughed. And laughed. And laughed, and laughed, and laughed, and laughed, until he laughed so hard that the roofs rang with his laughter. And he laughed louder and longer until the countryside rang with his exclamations. He laughed and laughed and laughed, until he choked on his laughter, and he, too, fell dead in his supper.
Such was the wont of Smile Frown, the Laughing Demon, Patron of Cruel Ironies. And he, too, laughed, with both of his faces, grinning and dour.
One-Thousand Groans for A Laugh is a fearsome iron helm, black and dull as night and always cold. It is shaped into the visage of a grinning demon, with curling horns upon its brow. It has a lolling tongue with a short length of chain hanging from it.
One-Thousand Groans for A Laugh is the cruel, ironic joke of Smile Frown, the Laughing Demon.
It comes into the possession of those who have some sort of dire grudge or enemy, or person whom they wish to destroy. They may recieve the helm from Smile Frown himself, or perhaps find it, or purchase it in some junk shop where Smile Frown sees to its installment. In some way, the person must give the helm to their enemy.
The helm does indeed destroy the one who has been gifted with it, whether he falls from the saddle and breaks his neck, is cut down by barbarians, chokes on a bone, or what-have-you.
However, upon the moment of the enemy’s death, the giver, also dies, in a similar fashion.
If the enemy dies in a fire, the giver may die scalded by hot water. If the enemy is stabbed, the giver may accidentally fall upon his sword. Et cetera, et cetera. Smile Frown, being Patron of Cruel Ironies, loves irony in the giver’s fate, and the helm’s curse will do all in its power to make the death as ironic as possible.
When the helm’s purpose is fulfilled, it returns to Smile Frown, who arranges for it to fall into the hands of some other dupe who can make him laugh…