When James Raggi held a contest for Lamentations-worthy magic items, I came up with an idea I rejected as too useful and insufficiently cursed. Yesterday I wrote it up anyway. Here it is.
The Apparatus of Talamira
To date, scholars know of only three Apparatuses.
All three at first appeared to be a wooden square about two feet (60 cm) on a side, with a circular hole less than 1 foot (30 cm) cut in the center. What appears to be a metal sheet fills the hole from side to side. A padded “leather” rim lines the interior of the hole on each face.
(More advanced societies may identify the “leather” as possibly rubber, plastic, or another synthetic material, since the material does not crack or break even after centuries.)
Further inspection reveals the following:
The wooden square has two parallel seams, one through the center of the hole, the other an inch or so from the edge.
On one side of the middle seam is a brass hinge. On the other side is a brass latch.
The edge with the seam pulls away easily. It is the handle of the metal sheet visible through the central hole. When pulled free, the opposite edge of the sheet is sharp and canted, like a guillotine blade.
Once the blade is removed, opening the latch separates the square into two halves along the central seam. The hinge keeps the two halves together.
The apparatus works like a common street illusionist’s trick, variously called the Guillotine or the Head on a Plate.
The user unhinges the wooden square, puts his head in the hole, and latches it securely around his neck.
The user or an assistant pushes the blade through the slot. It’s best to do so firmly, in one motion. The blade should go all the way in.
The user will discover that he is unharmed, and that he may speak, breathe, drink, eat, and move normally.
If the user inserts any other object or body part through the hole and slides the blade in, the user will slice into or through the obstruction. A metal object will not dull or blunt the blade.
While wearing the apparatus, the user or another person may lift the user’s head off his shoulders with very little resistance. Jostling may also detach the head. The user remains conscious indefinitely, and can speak and breathe normally. Eating and drinking will prove impossible, as a metal plate, like the metal of the blade, seals off his neck. (The edge of the plate conforms to a cross-section of the user’s neck.) While the user’s head is detached, the body will remain inert but alive.
The user will also find that he can will his head to float, unsupported. With practice, the user’s head can fly as fast as a bird. The head can move an unlimited distance away from the body.
While in this state, the user does not need to eat, drink, or sleep. Head and body will remain alive and well until they are reunited, as long as the user avoids the following:
Do not pry the metal plate under the user’s head off the stump of the neck.
Do not pry the apparatus off the neck stump.
Do not remove the blade.
Do not undo the latch.
Do not pry off the hinge.
Do not break off a piece of the apparatus for analysis.
Do not remove the apparatus in any way until the head rests firmly on the metal blade inside the apparatus.
If any of these events occur, the user will be effectively decapitated. A typical user’s head will bleed quickly through the neck stump and die. At the same time, blood will fountain out of he neck stump on the user’s body, wherever it is, and the body will also die.
“Differently alive” users may or may not die, depending on the importance of their heads.
P.S. I also wrote a long history of each of the Aparatuses, but I don’t want to bore you.