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The Price

There are leafy plants in the mountans that bloom with copper-colored flowers in the spring. They grow on slopes that catch the morning sun but are shady in the afternoon. The plant is called Blodstjarna's Gift. Juice extracted from the blossoms at the height of their bloom is dreadfully toxic. The ripe seedpods can be squeezed for an oil that adds a subtle herbal flavor to traditional meat dishes. And the dried leaves make a dark, bitter tea that is extremely popular with the people of Rothilimion.   Small shops all around the city-state brew and sell the tea called "the Gift". There are several varieties: darker, lighter, more bitter, more smooth, each with enthusiastic fans in the city-state. The tea is a mild stimulant, a pleasant drink on a cool morning (maybe with a little honey added), and has the added benefit of improving the drinker's memory. For the Rothilimion people, who prize learning above many other traits, that makes it very popular indeed.   It takes decades, even centuries, for the side effects to appear.  
As my mother would say, Blodstjarna's gift comes with a price. She said that on the day after my 17th birthday. It was cool that day, just after winter. The red birds were back from the south, but the biting flies in the marsh were not yet breeding...
— a Rothilimion elder, suffering from the effects of The Price
  The Price is a condition stemming from long use of Blodstjarna's Gift. It affects the victim's memory. However rather than making old memories dimmer, it makes them clearer. For Rothilimion scholars, the onset of the Price is refreshing. Details of early research that had slipped away are easier to recall and put to use. It often enables a season or two of renewed scholarship at the end of a long career.   As the condition deepens, however, it becomes less welcome. The afflicted slowly lose control over their memories. Events mercifully lost in the mists of time float back into view with stunning clarity. Over the next two or three years, the past takes an ever larger grip on the victim, crowding out the present. Eventually, it takes an act of will for the victim to pay attention to what is going on around them, rather than re-join a conversation from years long ago. At this stage, a Rothilimion elder will retreat from public life, accepting visits only from family.  
Mother won't stop crying about the way she treated a suitor in her 30's. She keeps saying "It was the right decision at the time," and then bursts into tears again.
— Rothilimion administrator
  In the final stages, the victim loses the ability to make new memories, and can only re-live old events in their minds. Unless they are remembering a meal, it is sometimes difficult for caretakers to get the victim to eat during this phase. After perhaps two seasons in this condition, the final decline is swift; over the course of a month or so, the victim loses first higher functions, then movement, then mercifully passes on.   The faithful believe that Blodstjarna, the goddess of knowledge and death, provided the Gift (and the Price) so that she could get good answers from people after they die. Most Rothilimion believe the price is fair for the gifts that it brings, and those who suggest not accepting Blodstjarna's Gift are broadly ignored.

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On the Mountain

There are 17 families who cultivate and harvest named varieties of Blodstjarna's Gift on the slopes beyond the city. It is also a civic right for members of the public to harvest their own beyond those lands claimed by the 17, in the manner of the early settlers.

This article is currently a work in progress and may be incomplete or subject to change.

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Author's Notes

Describe a physical condition associated with old age in your world.
— Summer Camp 2019 challenge

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23 Jul, 2019 05:19

Wow and I thought Alzheimer's was bad. I really like your idea of a person being stuck in memories from the past towards the end of their life. Outside of Rothilimion, do people regularly drink The Gift? Or do people find The Price too high a cost to pay?

23 Jul, 2019 06:47

Oh wow, that was a beautiful take on a horrible disease! I like how you turned the tables on old age and memory, really powerful stuff.   The one thing I was left wondering is: What happens to shorter-lived races who drink the tea? Do the negative effects never affect them? Or, do they still affect them, just "earlier"?   I was also intrigued, how many people actually refrain from drinking the tea? How common is to see an elder which reaches their death without paying the price of tea? Perhaps it would be a cool addition into the sidebar, as a quote or two for example, of someone being surprised by that old person's not very clear/precise memories. Or that person's reason for not wanting to drink tea, given the bad experience they had as a child seeing their grandparents suffer it.

23 Jul, 2019 12:12

I really like how it is tied to a culture in the world and has such context. That is what really stands out for me. The concept is also great - getting trapped in your own memories, unable to get out. Great, great stuff! :)   How is it viewed outside of Rothilimion? Is the tea exported at all, or is the gift kept a closely guarded secret?   Is the progress of the condition inevitable once it begins, or does it only happen if they continue to consume the tea? I can imagine some people trying to stick in the stage where they have all the benefits but none of the drawbacks.   You mention the plant as being dreadfully toxic. Can it have an more immediate effect is concentrated? Since the Price/Gift has religious undertones, does that apply to the toxin as well? Is it used at all in this society? Poisoning heretics or a form of capital punishment, drinking the Gift placed with this toxin?   Very great stuff. A grim fate and great article :D

23 Jul, 2019 16:47

What a terrifying prospect! Great article sent a shiver down my spine thinking how terrible that would be!

Grandmaster PBE
William Belley
23 Jul, 2019 21:24

Holy pepperoni. That's an interesting mix of alzheimer and drug addiction. For some reasons it reminds me of a bunch of characters in the end of Kiznaiver. (no spoiler doe) Getting out of reality by past things. Could that affect a undead creature like a lich permanently stuck in memorabilia in a vegetable state, or would it be something purely experimental by living organisms?