Black Body Radiation

Stylized with Deep Dream Generator
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This design was originally published with the following lore:

A peculiar sorcery kept the twin kingdoms of Rima and Saland in careful balance. Many generations ago, a clever arcane tinkerer gifted an enchanted mirror to each king, and explained how the magic within them was bound to the authority of their crowns. To most, the mirror simply reflected the scene as any mirror would, but they held a secret to be seen only by kings. The mirrors were linked, and would show a different scene for each king, decided by their relative prosperity. To the king who is prospering more, their mirror shows a view of the marketplace from the other kingdom. To the king who is prospering less, their mirror shows a view of the throne room from the more prosperous kingdom. With their undeniable strategic value, these mirrors found prominent placement in the relative castles, and have remained on display ever since.

For the less prosperous king, the mirror gives the opportunity to see what alternative leadership looks like. It also keeps the more prosperous kingdom from conspiring too openly against their neighbor, granting both sound and sight. Knowing that their kingdom is less prosperous spurred them to focus on providing for their citizens and gave them a constant reminder of the need to do better. Conversely, for the more prosperous king, the mirror was an affirmation that they were doing well. The fear of the mirror changing views kept them motivated not to stagnate, and the knowledge that their inner court was always potentially under watch reminded them to rule diligently. But seeing the market of the less prosperous kingdom had a subtle effect, it kept the well being of foreigners always in the corner of their mind. There's pride in knowing you're doing well, unless you encounter the consequences of your success. Most of the time, the scene was much like any you'd see in any of the kingdoms in the region. But at times it showed grim scenes of scarcity, poverty, and sickness, with faces so full of anguish and suffering that no king could ignore.

This lead to the longstanding tradition of the Giving Festival. When the situation in the mirror looked grim, an entourage of merchants, cooks, doctors, entertainers and laborers would be commissioned by the prosperous king to travel to the other kingdom and give their goods and services freely. The king would offer to pay costs, but many volunteered without recompense, holding to memories of when the festival provided for them. Done without schedule or warning, these surprise celebrations were times where the community could come together and focus on the struggles. Buildings were repaired, meals were provided, and everyone took on a joyful air of co-operation. The spirit of gratitude and community would linger for months after the festival finished, and were often the turnaround point in economic recessions.

And while it doesn't attract much notice, a charming tinkerer finds his way into every festival caravan. Often dispensing charms of luck and healing powders, sometimes hiding as a chef or a storyteller, but always present. His friendly smile and warm demeanor always felt familiar and inviting, but he carefully kept himself from growing any roots, preferring a life of travel. He cherished the feeling of being around the good will of the festival, but secretly it was much more. When he'd built the mirrors, so many, many years ago, he realized there was no rule he could devise that properly compared prosperity between two kingdoms. It was too subjective to trust to arcane logic, and he worried that any formula that was easily devised would be deduced and exploited by an opportunistic king. So to ensure that the complex task was completed with human intelligence, he invested his own mind into the mirrors. His physical form now is little more than a magical hologram projected between the two mirrors. His mind and soul reside within them, always watching the kings, their thrones, and their markets. Choosing when to change the views on the mirrors, to encourage or scare kings as they played with their crowns.

To ensure he would not abuse his position as a monarch meddler, he designed the mirror to draw power from sharestones. These were a type of arcane engine that soaked up feelings of giving and charity to create pools of arcane energy. A little goodwill would power the mirrors for several months, but the festivals were so full of gratitude and compassion that they'd produce years worth of charged sharestones. Without them, the charge could deplete and the magic of the mirrors lost forever, along with the tinkerer's mind. So for him, the Giving Festivals were more than just a celebration, they were a testament to his success, and served as the lifeblood that sustained him over the decades. The key to his eternal life was to spend it encouraging others to share, and that suited him just fine.

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