The Iron Muse
The Muse resembles a very typical iron maiden, being made of iron, and large enough to hold a humanoid of average size. Unlike the typical iron maiden, which are often rather plain in appearance, the Iron Muse is decorated with delicate ironwork, a figure depicted on the hinged lid. The figure is referred to as the muse, and is typically a beautiful woman of classical proportion.
What's inside the box! Sarlo shouted as her heaved the heavy doors open. We couldn't speak, it was Sarlo's would be bride, the sorceress Alara. She was pinned through over and over by the cruel device, but she wasn't dead, not quite. Something still stirred in her, her eyes were milky and we could feel her channeling magic power. If she could still channel, why was she still trapped inside the device. The necromancer dusted himself off, the wounds we had inflicted on him sloughing off with her healing spells. He raised his hand and a necrotic blast took us unprepared. Sarlo vomited blood and collapsed and Tyrs barely avoided the blast, only losing his hand and lower arm. The necromancer should have been tapped out, no spells left to hurl at us, but Alara was still channeling. He was using her, using her power to fight us. I drew my dagger and ended her, driving the blade through the base of her skull, through the bottom of her delicate jaw. The necromancer staggered as his source of stolen power faded. Tyrs took the necromancer's head with his axe, a one handed swing worthy of his jotun ancestors.
One of the major limitations for magic users is that their ability to cast spells is limited. They can only handle so much magic until they are tapped out, have expended their spells, or simply reach the end of their ability to handle the raw power of magic. The most common use for magic items is to extend this ability, storing power for later, or amplifying power so that less can do more. The Iron Muse is simply the most vile and pragmatically brutal extension of this search for greater power.
Alara wasn't the first to inhabit the Necromancer's Iron Muse. Dozens of names were inscribed inside the lid, with Alara's being the last. We carried the infernal device back to the city of Athenelmet, where we turned it over to the Wizard's guild for study and restitution. After some investigation they told us that unless a woman with magical potential was put in the device it was a very elaborate and expensive iron maiden, and a painful death. If a woman of magical potential is placed inside, she is grievously wounded, but the device will keep her alive while it siphons away her magical ability. There was a limit to how long the device could keep a victim alive before they eventually perished, which required a steady supply of women for it's cold embrace.
They speculated that if the victim were removed and given healing, they could last longer, but eventually the draining of the Iron Muse would leave them too bereft of will to survive.
Creating an Iron Muse
Creating an Iron Muse is an expensive venture. The vessel itself must be crafted of the finest materials my a master craftsman, and decorated with the image of a woman being tortured on the lid. The interior must be designed to certain specs, inscribed with the proper runes, and the placement of the spikes inside is not haphazard by any means. When the lid is shut, each spike is designed to puncture a specific chakra, organ, or nexus in the victim's body. This has the twin functions of sustaining the victim and draining their magical potential.
After the device is created is has to be enchanted over the period of a month, and completed with it's first victim, a virginal female magic user must be sacrificed as it's first victim. This must be done under a black or new moon.
She is with me, the necromancer's head said. She was with me, until you killed her. It was a gabby hunk of a corpse, and strange as it might have seemed, it missed Alara. Apparently, it wasn't just magic they shared, they seemed to have conversed quite a bit, the head knew us, knew our names, knew that Sarlo wasn't just a sellsword but was important to Alara. He had planned on sparring Sarlo, making him a death guard or some undead thing, along with her. It was a bizarre sentiment the head expressed.
The damn thing talked until we dusted it with salt and burned it.