The Leftover Skeleton

Wizards use skeletons for just about everything and consider them pretty much disposable. Skeletons guard lairs, move furniture, and fetch potion ingredients. All you need to do to get a skeleton is wait for a big battle to end, and then stop by with a wagon or wheelbarrow. Of course you have to know the proper spells to enchant the bones, and there’s a pretty gross step to get the skeleton out of the skin but otherwise, it’s pretty simple.

This means that skeletons get thrown out left and right by wizards when they break so much as a toe bone “Might as well get a new one,” they say “No point having this one tripping all over the hut dropping newt eyes everywhere.”

One time a wizard wanted to enchant a dozen skeletons for this group dance contest he had entered. After he made them, he realized that since the contest rules said you had to have exactly 12 members in your troop, he had made one too many skeletons (he had forgotten to count himself as one of the dancers). Without a second thought, he grabbed one of the skeletons and unceremoniously tossed it out the window. He figured it would either stay there and scare off any peasants who came looking for love potions, or wander off and therefore no longer be his problem. 

This particular skeleton chose to wander off. Maybe because of some memory of its former life, it headed to the nearest village and made its way to a tavern. It stood there in the open doorway stock-still, not moving a muscle (although that wasn’t really an option anyway). 

After a few minutes, a barmaid looked over and screamed, dropping a tray full of mugs all over the floor and soaking everyone’s pantaloons with ale. 

“What’s gotten into ye Maggie?” yelled the barkeep “Yer supposed to be servin’ the ales not drinkin’ em!”

This got an appreciative chuckle from the regular Thursday night crowd, but it ended rather abruptly when they all looked over to where Maggie’s shaky finger was pointing. 

“What unfinished business has brought thee back to this mortal plane?” asked a tipsy priest from the corner of the tavern.

“That’s ghosts – not skeletons!” said the turnip farmer seated next to him.

“Well den what’s he doing here?” asked Maggie as she cleaned up the spilled ale

“Maybe he come in fer a drink!” yelled Johann the cheesemaker. This got less of a laugh then the bartender’s line about the spilled ale, which Johann felt was unfair. 

“Naw,” said Maggie, “Skeletons don’t drink nothin cause they got no guts.” She didn’t intend this as a joke but it got a pretty good laugh anyway, which left Johann totally infuriated.   

“Skeletons can only take orders, that’s why come wizards make ‘em for,” she continued “This here one probably wandered away from his pack or sumpin’. Come ‘ere little fella and help me pick up dis broken crockery.” The skeleton obediently walked over to Maggie, bent down, and picked up the shards of broken mug. 

“Now go dump ‘em in dat trash barrel by the door,” ordered Maggie, “and mind you don’t drop any bits.” The skeleton did just as it was told without dropping a single piece.

The bartender, who also happened to own the establishment, saw what he thought was a golden opportunity to get some free labor. “Maggie,” he said “Your services will no longer be needed. Mister Skinny, please show yon clumsy lass to the door.”

The skeleton didn’t move.

“Move it ya pile a’ bones!” yelled the barkeep, but again the skeleton didn’t budge.

“Mister Skinny,” said Maggie, adopting the bartender’s name for her new friend, “Why don’t you go on over there and give Pete a smack in da puss?”

The newly dubbed Mister Skinny walked over to the bar, twisted the upper half of its body 180 degrees and then whipped around and smacked the bartender hard enough to loosen a tooth. Pete spat blood onto the dusty floorboards and looked at the skeleton in amazement.

“Good boy Skinny,” said Maggie.

Obviously Pete was mad at first, but he was a shrewd enough businessman to see that he couldn’t get the skeleton without Maggie around to tell it what to do. He offered her a two copper a week raise to stay but upped it to a full silver after she gave Mister Skinny a knowing look. 

The skeleton was a wonder when it came to doing bar chores, but one year later somebody donated an old piano, and without being told to, Mister Skinny sat down and started up a ragtime tune that set the entire bar to dancing. Pete bought him a fancy bowler hat and Maggie added a suit jacket and little bowtie. After that people came from three villages over just to see him play. Business at the tavern had never been better. 

One night the old wizard who made him dropped in. He looked at Mister Skinny for a second and thought he recognized him but then just went back to his wine. “Honestly,” he thought “who can tell one skeleton from another?”

skeleton_wizard copy
Art by Miranda Britton

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