The Tarnished Mirror Item in Fairtree | World Anvil

The Tarnished Mirror

Fairtree has many murals decorating its buildings, but the most famous of them must surely be The Tarnished Mirror. Presented on a custom-built wall attached to a grocery store on the eastern edge of the Commercial District, it was created almost twenty years ago by Kip Harrower. The mural is responsive to the state of mind of the viewer, and enjoys a steady stream of visitors both local and from afar.  

Up Close

Although the two-story masonry wall hides a surprising amount of hardware, the mural was painted directly on the primed surface, and retains a visibly rough texture even as the image shifts. Despite the apparent solidity of its construction, there is a long slash carved deeply into the wall.  
Visually, unless you stand in the right place, The Tarnished Mirror is a dim and gloomy painting with fantastical creatures peering out through the slowly moving murk. However, from the point of view of those standing in the circle painted before the Mirror, the mural is bright and clear, reflecting them in a hallway that changes based on their state of mind.  
This has spawned a number of urban legends, including the claim that Kip Harrower is merely passing off an artifact harvested from a Ruin as his own work. Experts seem to find the idea chuckleworthy, but it's a very stubborn rumor nonetheless.
I've heard stories about what Kip Harrower had to go through in order to get permission to install The Tarnished Mirror. He attended twelve separate interviews with the Prince--but remember, this was Prince of 25 years ago. The Prince of the Terror.   It's true, Kip doesn't talk much about the development process. Given who was looking over his shoulder the whole time, I can hardly blame him for forgetting.
from Just a Note, by Bowser Nicklbee


The Tarnished Mirror is a complex piece of technology, involving biometric scanning, high tech painting techniques, and optics, as well as custom software. Kip Harrower has mentioned that he personally tuned a presentation agent to assemble responsive imagery from the visual dictionary he created. It is unclear if he's updated the software since installation, but several years after that, the presentation agent started incorporating the damage inflicted on it into the imagery displayed.  


Due to its nature, The Tarnished Mirror gets many repeat visitors, especially locally. It's common for there to be a line to view it even on weekdays, especially at lunchtime. Some people visit it weekly, while others use it as an aid to introspection, or even as a way of doing fortune-telling.   One of the most common and deeply held beliefs about the mural is that it was damaged by one of the city's unicorns. This may or may not be true, but certainly unicorns have been spotted near it late at night. It's always wise to check the news streams before venturing there to see if it's been "closed on account of unicorn." While there is no agency responsible for access, locals know to stay out of the path of a wandering unicorn, for their own health.   While this is not generally discussed, The Tarnished Mirror is a dimensional lobby just like several other notable works of art. In theory, a Ffairlian with the right Knot could teleport to it--but among those in the know, that's held to be a guaranteed way to earn the ire of the unicorns, and who wants to risk that?

A rip-roaring good time!

But seriously, stay away.
The best hangover cure I know is a visit to the Tarnished Mirror. Swing by at the end of a night on the town and wait your turn to gaze into its depths. It'll read your state of mind ('drunk off your ass') and it'll get real weird for a while. Mean, I'd call it. It doesn't like catching being drunk. So sometimes, it takes it away. No, I have no fucking idea how it does it. But around fifty percent of time, it works.


A few weeks after installation, visitors one morning discovered the slash. One witness said it was as if somebody had sliced into the wall with a very sharp machete. Some of the internals were exposed, but the Tarnished Mirror continued to function normally. Kip Harrower restored the shielding on the internals but has otherwise left the piece as the vandal made it, saying,"It's part of the Mirror now."


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20 Apr, 2023 05:54

Really a fascinating tech art idea. Nice favor texts. And now I'm curious "What's the deal with Unicorns?"