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...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.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.
On the MountainThere 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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