Devilweed

Jolmah, the Demon's Touch

Content warning!

References to suicide

The jolmah, meaning "Demon's Touch" in Qaj, better known as "Devilweed", is a plant that grows all over Arjin, to the great chagrin of its inhabitants. It is a bushlike plant with a single stem and several large, green leaves. It usually grows near trees but can sometimes be found in shrubberies and solitarily on plains.

Unremarkable

If it wasn't for its one defining feature, this plant would be completely forgotten and unremarkable. The Devilweed grows in tight clusters, forming a bush of large leaves on thin, hairy stems. The leaves are dark green and can grow as large as an adult's chest in area. They are thin and spongy to the touch, and have a dull, dark green color except in mid summer when they turn a brighter green. The stems are a bright green, leaning towards yellow.

The entire plant is covered in tiny, translucent hairs that are so thin that they are hard to make out with the naked eye. If the sun strikes the plant, the hairs can be seen as a silvery shimmer across the surface of the plant, with longer, more visible hairs covering the stem. But make no mistake, the hairs are present on the leaves as well, both the upside and underside.

I have never experienced anything worse than this. Child-birth is a cake-walk by comparison. The pain consumed my entire mind. It was the only thing I could think of. I was in a constant state of panic, wanting to flee the pain, but it was everywhere. There was nowhere to flee. I was nearly driven out of my mind by it.
— A survivor

A monster in disguise

Unfortunately the Devilweed is not as unremarkable as it looks. It is extraordinarily toxic. The tiny, transparent hairs covering its stem and leaves function as hypodermic needles. If one as much as brushes against the plant with any exposed skin, the plant will inject enough poison to cause excruciating and debilitating pain. The pain is so all encompassing that the person exposed largely lose their ability to think straight, walk or even talk. It's a stinging and burning sensation that in most cases overwhelms the senses of the creature affected.

The Demon's Touch

The poison has been described as "the touch of a demon" and in some of the western dialects, the plant is even refered to as the "Demon's Touch", jolmah. Most people describe the sensation as a sharp, burning sensation that begins right as you touch the plant, localized to the place of contact, but that it rapidly spreads through the body, as if carried by the blood, in white-hot iron burning lines across the body. It peaks as an all-encompassing, seething, piercing pain that peaks with every beat of the heart. It is felt everywhere at once, as if the entire body was on fire.

It is so powerful an experience that many animals affected by the poison will seek to end their lives to escape the pain through drowning or diving off of cliffs. Several people throughout history have reportedly also ended their lives as a last resort to try and escape the pain. For this reason, the Devilweed has been given the gruesome nickname of the "Suicide plant".

Touched by a demon

While the toxin, thankfully, isn't actually dangerous, the pain can absolutely be. The toxin itself leaves no lasting damage on the body once it passes, but the strain and stress put on the body by the overloaded nervous system can cause muscle snapping, sinew breaking, ruptured blood vessels and even heart attacks. Even extreme exposure won't damage the skin or tissue itself, but the effects of the body suffering through the pain can be harmful.

The pain will completely debilitate the person affected by it, and the small hairs on the stem and leaves of the Devilweed easily break off of the plant when disturbed, leading to the pain lasting for extremely long periods of time. While most subjects will fully recover within a week of exposure there are records in history about people having a stinging pain lasting for several years, coming and going as they move and irritate the affected area. Skilled physicians can usually remove most of the broken off hairs, and thus reduce the time it takes to recover.

With proper treatment, the pain lasts for about 48 hours before the toxin has broken down enough to not affect the creature anymore. During these 48 hours the person is in such pain that they are largely unable to do anything. Drinking, talking, moving and eating are all extremely difficult and trying to eat or drink can lead to severe vomiting due to the pain. Sleeping is usually impossible as well, as the pain triggers so many of the body's defensive mechanisms, the stress is simply too tough on the body to allow sleep.

After the first 48 hours the pain subsides somewhat and the person can usually return to relative normality, in spite of still being in severe pain. After a about week, the person is usually completely symptom free, unless there are still hairs left in their skin.

Eradication

Understandably, the plant have caused Kykr society to eradicate it wherever they find it. But the plant is prolific and, as previously mentioned, quite unremarkable and tend to blend into the environment. While you will rarely find large bushes of Devilweed near any settlements, in the wild you are still very likely to come across one.

Children and assassins

With such a potent poison, you would expect unsavory assassins would leverage it, but seeing as the Devilweed is relatively harmless beyond causing excrutiating pain, no known case of intentionally poisoning someone with Devilweed in order to murder them has ever been recrorded. It is, however, both a common torture method and a common, devious prank to intentionally strike someone with a leaf of Devilweed. However, most children only do it once. What sounded like a fun trick to play on someone turns to a week of pain and torture for their friend and they quickly learn their lesson. Provided they didn't already inflict it on themselves, trying to harvest the plant. One tiny mistake and you prick yourself, leading to your own week of misery.

Lifespan
6 years
Average Height
1-3 feet
Also known as
Suicide plant
Jolmah (Demon's Weed)
Game stats [CD10 RPG]
DEVILWEED
Neurotoxin

Incubation: Instantaneous
Potency: 12+
Decay: 1 week
Shock: 0 / 3 / 6
Scratch: Extreme stinging and burning sensation on the spot of contact. The pain subsides within an hour.
Light Injury: Extreme, all encompassing, unbearable pain paralyses the bodypart that came into contact with the toxin.
Serious Injury: Utterly debilitating pain. A burning, seething, stinging, unbearable pain that completely prevents the person from doing anything but focusing on enduring the pain.
Fatal injury: An absolutely agonizing, unbearable pain drives the person insane and their only recourse is to kill themselves. Alternatively the pain is so strong it causes heart failure.

Related Reading

Arjin
Geographic Location | Jul 6, 2020

The mainland and home of the Kykr civilisation. The cradle of civilisation, Arjin is a huge and diverse continent.

Kykr
Ethnicity | Dec 14, 2020

The "kykr" are the dominant civilisation of the world, encompassing three sapient species: The Illim, the Vindral and the Kuna. They rule over the continent of Arjin in a diverse collection of cultures and nations.

Qaj
Language | Mar 18, 2019

The majority language in the western countries on the Morvátian Peninsula.


Comments

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16 Mar, 2021 21:42

God I can barely imagine the pain the children who accidentally sting themselves go through. Between that being a seemingly current enough prank and the gruesome nickname of the plant, this could go very, very dark very, very fast ^^   Other than that, great plant! Reminds me of Urtica, I used to constantly get stung by these as a kid so I can really picture the accidental crossing of a devilweed patch happen :')

Author of Interarcanum and the Shakiraverse
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
18 Mar, 2021 17:34

Amazing plant! I can also empathise thanks to urtica... I like how it can hide among other plants and people never know when they are going to fall on it. I would never leave my house if I lived there!   I'm not sure what you mean by "Shock: 0 / 3 / 6" - could you maybe add a tooltip here?   I have a few questions/suggestion on things to add:   1) What's the plant strategy? Poison/toxins like that are there as a defence mechanism against herbivores, but if the plant is so dull they won't be able to recognise it and avoid it, will they? So the toxin is not going to be that useful for the plant. Unless there is something specific about it that animal can notice and human can't, like a specific smell?   2) You say the people who get hurt cannot sleep, but can they get knocked out by something equivalent to morphine for example? Or just plain "knocked out"? I imagine a common strategy is also to attach them to a bed and to just wait it out.   3) Even if the toxin doesn't kill by itself, there should be a lethal dose Is it maybe that concentrating the chemical is too difficult to justify its use by assassins? Or what about mixing it with a more lethal poison that would be at a low dose, so that the agony lasts and is extremely painful? That sounds like someone would do just to make a point XD.

18 Mar, 2021 19:19

Hello!   The Shock thing is a statistic for the CD10 RPG system which this world uses. It's basically a debilitation value that the character suffers for as long as they're affected by the poison.   1. For this plant, the defense is against herbivores. It's dull, but that doesn't mean herbivores aren't going to see it. Also, there's some pretty hungry, large herbivores in this world.   2. That they can. If drugged, they can be knocked unconscious. There are also tranquilizers that reduce nerve activity that could potentionally work to counteract the pain.   3. There could, theoretically, be a lethal dose. But like you say, harvesting it would be too hard, since the toxin is embedded in the tiny hypodermic hairs on the plant. You could possibly harvest it from the leaves and stem, but at great risk of being stung yourself. The question is if it's worth it when it's a slow killer and also very obvious. A person who dies to a cardiac arrest while screaming their lungs off is pretty...obvious. But the possibility exists!

Author of prize-winning RPG settings Dark Shadows and Cinders of the Cataclysm. Designer of the narratively focused Celenia D10 RPG System.
Forgemaster Dimitris
Dimitris Havlidis
20 Mar, 2021 15:49

Why are the like / readling list etc SO SMOL!

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20 Mar, 2021 20:08

Because somehow not enough people have seen it yet! :)

Author of prize-winning RPG settings Dark Shadows and Cinders of the Cataclysm. Designer of the narratively focused Celenia D10 RPG System.
23 Mar, 2021 01:07

I've read about a real-life version of the 'suicide plant', but I think you've actually managed to top how terrifying that is for me. :D This sounds utterly horrific to go through - if I imagine the worst pain I've endured in my life, I can't imagine experiencing more than that! D:   Also, really liked the touch about kids trying to prank each other with it... I can definitely see why it only happens once! XD

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
23 Mar, 2021 12:50

I hated when I walked into an Urtica as a child so the description of this plant makes me feel uncomfortable xp How horrible it would be to be in that much severe pain for several years. It truly lives up to its name. I wonder though do the people who experience it for several years get accustomed to clothes being worn over the area in due time? I can imagine that this will irritate a lot after the first recovery. Great article, was an uncomfortable but nice read ! ^^

Feel free to check out my costume entry. :)
23 Mar, 2021 15:36

We have stinging nettles (Urticas) ALL over my country, so I'm very familiar with them. Trust me that a nettle sting would feel like a gentle caress compared to the Demon's Touch. >_<

Author of prize-winning RPG settings Dark Shadows and Cinders of the Cataclysm. Designer of the narratively focused Celenia D10 RPG System.
24 Mar, 2021 10:19

Hello! Thank you for this submission. It is indeed a pretty gruesome plant. And still, it remains very realistic!   A few questions come to my mind: Can the hair detach from the plant and hurt people from a distance? (like processionary caterpillars, which are a pain in the butt where ever they exist) Once you remove the hair, is the plant edible? (Here, I'm thinking about Urtica which can be used in soup) Can the toxin be used as a medicine in some situations? (I'm just thinking about a ton of medicinal plants which also happen to be pretty toxic) You mentioned the plant is pretty unnoticeable. Is it because other plant mimic the devilweed's shape to avoid predators? Finally, can a few select herbivores still eat that plant, in the same way that only a few herbivores eat thistle?   In any case, good job with that entry.

With love,   Pouaseuille.   I finally participated to The Costume Challenge: here's an entry if you like!
24 Mar, 2021 17:19

Good questions. The hairs do not easily break off. The plant is resilient and rather "gummy". The other questions I'll have to consider.

Author of prize-winning RPG settings Dark Shadows and Cinders of the Cataclysm. Designer of the narratively focused Celenia D10 RPG System.
24 Mar, 2021 17:24

Those were just a bunch of things that came to my mind: your submission happened to be pretty realistic, which prompted me to compare it with real-life plants more than I would've otherwise ;)   Keep up the good work in any case!

With love,   Pouaseuille.   I finally participated to The Costume Challenge: here's an entry if you like!
7 Apr, 2021 16:04

Hello Toblin!   I feel woefully underqualified to comment on your article but I'm going to anyway. Your dark forest cover image immediately drew my attention. As a GM, I appreaciate the inclusion of a stat block/game mechanics in the sidebar (and it's not one size fits all). The concept that the pain response is the only danger of the toxin is unique/neat, and tying it to a child's experience is a great way to inject realism and macabre humour.

xtremepsy | Ölütanrı
Checkout my other favourite entries to the 2021 Peculiar Plant HERE!
Feel free to read, favourite, and comment on my entry, Digivine.
7 Apr, 2021 16:51

I wasn't aware we needed qualifications to comment on articles. ;)   I appreciate the feedback mate! It's basically the common stinging nettle, only turned up to eleven and turned into an absolute monstrosity.   Thank you for the read!

Author of prize-winning RPG settings Dark Shadows and Cinders of the Cataclysm. Designer of the narratively focused Celenia D10 RPG System.
Deity ka_jan
Jan Kaltenecker
10 Apr, 2021 20:41

I like how excruciating pain is in the same sentence as relatively harmless. It's like a box jellyfish plant. Interesting read!

"Thunder rolled. It got a 6." — Guards, Guards by Sir Terry Pratchett
Island-Inquest awaits!
15 Apr, 2021 15:57

Burn it down with fire. O_O It's the only way to be sure!

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