It all began with King Stymian the Second in trouble. His attempted conquest of the neighboring kingdom failed miserably. The nobles that seemingly supported him sabotaged the whole venture. At home, there was already little love for the higher taxes, fueled by more disseminated rumours. Criminality and banditism soared to unheard of levels, the aristocrats were blatantly unable to aid their people as they were ‘doing their duty’ and serving their king.
The plans of war being put to a halt, and his son taking over most of a king’s duties, there was still much to think about - the very future of the kingdom! Not to forget the war he felt was necessary. In the end, it was the (lack of) public support that hit him hardest, a strong opposition backed by the unwashed masses could not be overcome. Yes, he had wise advisors and even the mage dabbling in mind-magic, but he couldn’t control or easily see through that many people.
Then, while having no magical powers, but making full use of the magicians under his command, he himself has directed the research for an item that would give insight into the mind of “the people”.
Full Item Description
The base of this item used to be a crown, an iron circlet covered in bronze, with simple adornments, most prominent are the twelve large gems inset around (merely semi-precious stones, but still having value for their size and same shape). It is the gems that carry the magic.
But after a few tries there were no willing wearers to be found, not even the old king himself. Now, there are straps and wires added, clearly to force an unwilling person wearing the crown to keep it on, making it resemble a torture device.
The crown’s purpose is to make its wearer feel the general attitude of a large group of people it is bound to. Hence, at least once a year the magic must be renewed, by re-enchanting it close to a crowd of people (target group), with the enchanter keeping in mind their group identity. Of course, the meeting must be significant - like the regular celebration of an important event, or perhaps the rare public audience where everyone can come to speak the king. If done properly, and the group is diverse enough, the crown will be mystically connected to an entire kingdom. If not… the results may be different than expected.
Shortly after putting the crown on, the wearer will start feeling strangely, and faintly hearing what must be thousands of voices speaking. Slowly, moods not his own will attempt to get hold of him… with some concentration, this can be overcome, but the draw is permanent and will become very taxing over time. Should the target group be by accident feeling the same emotions, these will be clearly felt by the wearer. Generally, random moods of all kinds can seize him, which can be quite disorienting. The more people feel something, the stronger an emotion will be.
At no point will the wearer hear discernible words or statements of any kind, though approval or denial are easy enough to interpret. Unclear or split opinion will produce unclear results.
Now, if the wearer concentrates on some topic (like, for instance, war with the neighboring country, or execution of a certain Duke, etc.) the feelings that will come to him are what the target group would feel in such a case.
After a short, but painful period of testing it on himself, the former king has decided to use some other carrier. For this purpose, he has gathered a few village fools, weak-willed people that cannot resist the item and clearly show what they feel. Also, they are not likely to run away or tell anyone in a clear way what his plans are.
The World keeps turning
Meanwhile, the heavily guarded secret is not so secret anymore, and his enemies loose much time pondering about what secret weapon has he developed. Could it really be a tool of prophecy? The new king (advised by his father) has already made a few successful moves. As the old man is known to consult his new tool frequently, the very possiblity that the former king could foresee the steps of his opponents is terrifying.
Sooner or later, they will hire someone to steal it or destroy it, if possible with the plans of its creation. Alternatively, they may want to ‘free’ one of the fools to find out what questions they are given. Or get some information from the wizards that helped creating it. Or something else.
This political tool is more valuable in democracies and similar establishments, where masses of people are to be counted and manipulated with. Other ways of government make the item more of informative nature.
Of course, it is possible to make a Helm for a smaller important group - a parliament, assembly, council, or whatever. Strangely enough, the smaller the group, the more often needs the item to be enchanted.
The biggest question in the end, is the usefulness of the item. Even if it works well, it won’t bring anybody easy power - a politician must skilfuly use the information to further his goals. The item may be easily considered useless. (Another interesting option is to make it useless, a red herring that mixes up the politics of a whole country.)
The most important lesson this item gives, is how to ask good questions.