The Carnyx is a strange-looking device; a thin, tapered metal tube of hammered bronze, twelve feet long and bent at a right angle near both ends. At the smaller end is the mouthpiece while the upper end flares out into a bell, which is usually shaped like the head of the clans’ totem animal. The horn is played in an upright position, placing the business end high above the heads of the warriors.
Sounding something like a cross between a freshly skewered boar and a brontosaurus in heat, the Carnyx seems designed to both attract the immediate attention of friends and allies while simultaneously scaring the living daylights out of the enemy.
Despite this apparent crudity, the Carnyx is in fact a highly sophisticated peace of military equipment, providing the tribes with a level of battlefield command and control that is the equal of any professional army.
The horns’ loud, and somewhat raucous, notes carry well across the noise of battle and its’ very size dominates the battlefield. Furthermore a skilled musician can produce a range of notes, and even some quite complex tunes, from the horn.
Specific notes or short tunes are used for common orders, much like the more conventional bugle, while its’ size allows it to simultaneously serve as a rallying point. And these are the primary uses, and value, of the Carnyx on the battlefield.
Also, shaping the bell as the clan totem animal gives the Carnyx a kind of religious significance, reassuring the clan warriors that the gods are with them and instilling, if not religious mania, at least increased confidence and courage.
Carnyx are not an intrinsically magical devices, and indeed the vast majority have no magical properties at all. Nonetheless, the mountain Druids commonly enchant them with a variety of magical abilities. There is no accurate census of the number of such enchanted horns, but estimates (and these are rough guesses at best) suggest that about one in ten have a magical power of some kind.
It is said that no two Carnyx are the same. While this is not strictly true there is some veracity to the statement, for there are a variety of enchantments commonly placed upon these horns. In general these are large-scale area effect spells which are invoked by playing a specific tune, much like a bugle call, on the Carnyx affecting all those who hear it.
These enchantments are almost always designed to assist the musicians’ allies in some manner rather than directly hinder his enemies. Offensive spells are rarely enchanted into a Carnyx, although there are no theoretical or practical reasons for this. The restriction appears to be cultural (the use of magic to attack a foe is considered dishonourable).
The power of the effect is dependent both on the skill of the musician and the enchanting skill of the Druid who originally cast the enchantment on the horn. It should be noted here that, although not entirely unknown, it is rare indeed to find a Carnyx with more than one magical property. Some of the more common enchantments are listed below:
Call the Healing Wind: All friendly warriors who hear the call receive the benefits of a healing spell. The level of healing is dependent on the strength of the original enchantment (i.e. the Druid’s enchanting skill) and the skill with which the musician invokes its’ power (i.e. his playing skill).
Speed of Thought: All friendly warriors who hear the call speed up slightly. All combat related speed (movement rate, initiative, number of attacks, whatever) are increased for a short time. The size of the increase and the duration of the effect are dependent on the strength of the original enchantment (i.e. the Druid’s enchanting skill) and the skill with which the musician invokes its’ power (i.e. his playing skill).
The Beast Within: Selected friendly warriors are filled with the spirit of the clan totem, transforming them into homicidal berserkers who charge headlong into the enemy battle lines, killing all who get in their way regardless of whether they be friend or foe. These berserkers are completely suicidal, unaffected by any kind of moral effect (fear, demoralisation, moral, whatever), and cannot therefore be stopped by any means other than simply hacking them to pieces.
To be effected by the spell a warrior must have consumed an alchemical potion, the formula for which is a jealously guarded secret, before the battle starts, although it is not necessary that he does so voluntary. Selecting who is given the potion is a matter of tradition and varies considerably from tribe to tribe. In some tribes it is considered a great honour to be offered the potion while in others it is force-fed to lawbreakers so that they may, by their death, perform some useful service to society.