Dark Gold

The Crown Jewel of Tolaran Textiles

Despite being a recent invention in the world of textiles, Milonan Silk is now one of the most sought after (and expensive) luxury fabrics available in world markets; originating in 6390, it was developed by the Lunar Elves who sought sanctuary in the northern reaches of Tolara- a place that would eventually become known as the Athdran-Lachill Mountains in modern day Di'kae Milona.   Today Di'kae Milona remains the only Kindgom of the world to manufacture Milonan Silk, and at the heart of its production sits the region's native Galycean Moth.  

The Galycean Moth

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Glowworm Beetle by Vlad Stankovic
Found only in the Athdran-Lachill Mountain Range in northern Tolara, the Galycean Moth has four life stages, as most Moths and Butterflies do: Egg, Larva, Pupa, and Adult; from start to finish, it takes an average of 30 days for the moth to complete its lifecycle- though warmer temperatures than average have, at times, been known to speed up their development by approximately a week.   As one of the only food sources available in the Mountains year round, the moth has developed a dependency on the the Möhring Juniper (also native to the region) for its survival. Despite the dependency on the Möhring Juniper to survive, however, the relationship is ultimately commensalist in nature; the Galycean Moth lays its eggs among small clusters of the Juniper's winter fruits. When the Larva emerge from their eggs, they consume these berries as their primary food source before finally making their cocoons within its uppermost branches- all with little to no direct ill effects on the tree itself.   To those unaware of their prized nature, the Galycean Moth is most prized for its gold, orange, and black coloration and slight bioluminescence. To the Lunar Elves of Di'kae Milona, however, it's the silk they spin that's worth more than Platinum- and forms the backbone of their economy and culture.   Where traditional silk moths produce silk during the cocooning phase, however, the threads produced by the Galycean Moth are not. Instead, the Galycean Moth spins its prized threads in an effort to navigate the boughs of the Möhring Juniper during its larval stage, well before cocooning. Traveling among the boughs this way allows them to easily navigate between food sources while conserving greater amounts of their precious energy- an adaptive feature much needed in the harsh cold of their native climate.  

Discovery

Several myths exist about the discovery of the Galycean Moth and the knowledge of how to produce Milonan Silk from its fibers. The most popular of these tales, of course, involves the Lunar Goddess Eilistrae; according to the myth, the Goddess herself led the Lunar Elves to a grove of Juniper the Galycean Moths inhabited, and gave them the knowledge of how to weave their silk into fabric.
Gather round, and sit quietly. I'll sing you the tale of Naeta's Tears and Eilistrae's Blessing... For once our people were without any food to eat, or clothes to wear, or even a place to call our home- and Naeta wept for us, her people... And it was Eilistrae who led Naeta into the grove, and blessed us with the Gal'Irae.
Sarala Oriynor, h'Temni e'ta Do'rahel; unknown
According to Archival sources, Milonan Silk was indeed developed shortly after their arrival in the region, when it was discovered that the threads produced by the larval Galycean Moth would produce a lightweight but well insulating material. It's unknown exactly how the early Milonan settlers discovered this, however- or what circumstances necessitated the discovery... But Archivists theorize it was due (at least in part) to their inability to grow and produce more traditional textiles in the colder reaches of the north.   Regardless of how it was discovered, Milonan Silk not only became a staple of Lunar dress, but also an important trade product for their culture; its discovery and popularity laid a foundation which ultimately made the nation of Di'kae Milona a possibility- and still maintains its relevancy in the global markets even in the modern day.  

Sericulture

Because of its economic significance to the Lunar Elves of Di'kae Milona, Sericulture involving the Galycean Moth (and the subsequent production of Milonan Silk) is highly regulated by The Imperial Empress. Additional complications in keeping and cultivating the Galycean Moths likewise necessitates special facilities to aid in various elements of the silk's production.

Regulations

Being a Matriarchal and Matrilineal society, Sericulture in Di'kae Milona is limited only to Women; every part of the process of silk making, from the cultivation of the Galycean Moth to the weaving, dying, and sale of the silk itself rests solely in the hands of female Lunar Elves. Men are strictly prohibited by Imperial Law from participating in any step of the process- though they're allowed to buy the material once it's complete, and own or wear items made from the material.   Not just any female of Lunar Elf descent may become an Enapi or Temni, however; Milonan slaves make up the bulk of the workers- but only pure (virginal and unmarried) slaves may so much as touch the silk fibers. these slaves are usually raised for this role from birth, in near complete isolation, in order to ensure lifelong purity... Likewise, the role of Enapi requires not only decades of education on every step of the production process, but is strictly limited to the Matrons of the great houses- particularly those of Helvryn (ruled by House Av’yani) and Aleafin (ruled by House Do'rahel).   Both of these great houses maintain at least one Gramai somewhere within their territory. As it stands to reason, though, the Imperial House of Za'vaed itself also maintains its own Gramai accessible only to the Imperial Family; known as The Imperial Silk Garden, it is the largest Gramai ever constructed to date.

Facilities

As the Galycean Moth needs a significant amount of room to freely roam between food sources, and plenty of food to consume during its larval stage, containing them is more difficult than containing the average silk moth. Additionally, silk harvested from wild Galycean Moths is often of inferior quality due to prolonged exposure to the elements... And because Galycean Moths produce silk during the larval stage in an effort to move between food sources more easily, it's impossible to use more traditional methods of silk cultivation- such as placing larva on mesh covered mats with foodstuffs, and harvesting the cocoons once they're formed.   As a result, structures known as Gramai are used extensively in Sericulture. These structures serve multiple purposes, and are integral to the production of every bolt of fine Milonan Silk that reaches the global markets.   Large, often aviary or greenhouse-like structures, they contain (sometimes hundreds) of Möhring Juniper within them. This allows for the Galycean Larva to have free roam between trees, as is necessary for their health. But the enclosed nature of these structures also allows the houses to maintain their Galycean stock more efficiently, as well as allowing for the easier harvest of silk once they enter their Pupal stage. Additionally, Gramai have the added benefit of protecting the delicate silk threads from the elements, resulting in a higher quality end product.

 

Manufacturing Process

The process of creating Milonan Silk is a labor intensive one; very few shortcuts can be taken to speed this process- only adding to its high price at market. Because of The Imperial Empress regulations on Milonan Silk's production, however, it's unknown exactly how long each step of the process takes- only what the steps of that process are.

Gathering the Threads

Once the Galycean Moth has hatched, they start by consuming the cluster of berries in which their eggs were laid. After a few short hours, however, the ravenous larva are on to other sources- often jumping trees several times in order to satiate their hunger, after which point they migrate to the tops of the Junipers to create their cocoons. Once all Galycean larva have successfully entered their Pupal stage, harvest of the silk threads may finally being.   To harvest the strands, the Temni use a series of long rods and ladder covered in plain Milonan Silk. This allows them to reach (and subsequently remove) the thin strands of silk from the boughs of the Juniper trees- while covering all equipment in silk helps to prevent the delicate strands from snagging and breaking.   While even the shorter strands are harvested during this step, Temni often seek out the longer, unbroken threads above others.- and the longer the thread, the better. Once harvested, these threads are then bundled into woven baskets lined with plain Milonan Silk, and carefully transported elsewhere for the next stage of manufacture.  

First Boil and Spinning

In the next stage of production, the silk fibers that have been gathered are placed into large vats of water left to simmer over an open wood fire. Here, the silk is submerged for a number of days in order to strengthen them for spinning; it's unknown exactly why boiling the fibers increased their strength, but the difference between boiled and unboiled silk from the Calycean Moth is quite evident even to those uneducated in its production.   After they have been boiled, the bundles of strands are carefully unraveled and allowed to hang freely on long lines stretched within the Gramai. They're then anchored in place and allowed to dry in the sun for another number of days. Once sufficiently dry, they are again gathered by the Temni and spun.   Even after the first boil, however, Galycean silk threads are still too weak to withstand the intensive weaving process utilized in the manufacture of Milonan Silk. As a result, the initial spinning process focuses first and foremost on spinning a great number of these fibers together into a single strand that's heavy enough to safely weave with- though even these stronger, denser threads are still considered small when compared to spinning fibers used in the production of other textiles.

Washing and Second Boil

The final weavable threads are gathered and taken out to be washed. But where each step of the process up to this point has occurred near the Gramais where the silk was harvested, this step occurs at fresh springs and streams located high up in the Athdran-Lachill Mountains; once washed thoroughly, the fibers are taken back to be boiled a second time, and hung out to dry in the same manner as before.   Despite being considered a frivolous step to many, the icy water flowing from the frigid mountainsides does serve at least one purpose: To wash out any lingering debris or impurities that may be hiding in the bundles of silken thread. This increases the quality of the thread, at the very least, and ensures an even base to which the dye can later adhere... And while it's true silk fibers could just as easily be washed within normal water supplies, only the Mountain Springs are considered pure enough- and maintaining purity in the process is of utmost importance to the Lunar Elves.   It's here, however, that the unwoven Silk is most vulnerable to threat from those who would seek to steal or sabotage the material, necessitating the presence of heavily armed guards during such excursions into the mountains.  

Dying the Threads

After the threads have been harvested, boiled, dried, washed, boiled and dried again, the final step of the process may finally commence: Dying the thread for use in the final weaved product.   Once again, dying the strands is a process that takes place in the icy peaks of the Athdran-Lachill Mountains. This time, however, a number of large copper vats accompany the Temni and their guards into the peaks.   Once in position, the Temni will spread out across the mountains in search for the many traditional herbs used to dye Milonan Silk. Once gathered, these herbs are added- along with water- into the vats and left to simmer in order to color them. After several hours the fabric is removed from the vats and washed in the streams to both set the color and improve its vibrancy.   This step of the process is done in short bursts in order to allow for a more careful control over the color of the final product. But it is, perhaps, the most labor intensive step because it can take as many as 10 separate repetitions of dying, washing, and drying the silk fibers this way in order to achieve the desired color.

 

Preparation for Weaving

After all steps have been completed, the silk is transported back to the Gramai. Here the Temni separate the strands into bundles and dry them once more for a long period. The silk is then painstakingly separated into individual threads, and checked a last time for any debris that has survived the process... It's during this phase of manufacture, too, that the silk is also carefully inspected by the Enapi to ensure both quality and integrity.   Once the strands pass the inspection they're wound onto silk covered bobbins- at which point the Enapi will choose the season's patterns from among their House's many traditional motifs. The bobbins are then grouped together according to the colors needed to complete each motif, and stored until the weaving process can begin- at which point silk threads are stretched across a special loom (called a Thela), and woven in accordance with the chosen patterns.

Base Price
10 GP per Bolt

Rarity
Rare; Luxury

Significance
Cultural; Trade Good

         

Pattern and Design

Milonan Silk is unique to other Tolaran textiles (save Eris'kan Brocade) in that motifs are woven directly into the fabric during the weaving process. For that reason, each house involved in the production of Milonan Silk maintains a book of traditional motifs passed down through the ages. As the great houses have incorporated other lesser families into their folds over the years, their own traditional motifs have been added to the great houses pattern books; it's from these books that weaving motifs are chosen with each new batch of Milonan Silk produced.

In addition to weaving motifs, however, these books also contain other information related to silk production. This information includes (but is not limited to) traditional dye recipes, production spots, information on the care of the Galycean Moths, and more; these familial books are integral to maintaining the tradition of Silk Production. As a result, they are often heavily guarded and many families keep multiple copies in safe locations.

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Imperial Motif Example; Detached Floral Mandala

Imperial Motifs

Designs produced by the Imperial House of Za'vaed favor diamond, floral, starburst, and mandala elements. In most cases the various elements of these designs are attached through a network of lines or scroll work- though free floating, detached motifs also exist in their pattern books.

These detached designs are rarely produced, however. When they are, these bolts are usually reserved for use by the Imperial Family itself. They are also frequently given as gifts to visiting dignitaries from other kingdoms- such as a bolt with a Detached Starburst Mandala design, gifted to Baia Döhl-Karte (of Marjaan) for her wedding in 6438... Even more rarely, these motifs are also be gifted to Milonan citizens in acknowledgement of extraordinary deeds performed in service of the Imperial Crown. The most recent example of this includes a bolt of silk featuring a Detached Floral Diamond motif, gifted to General Reseda e'ta Torceran for their hand in ending the Mythril War in 6540.

Whether attached or detached in nature, however, Imperial motifs are almost always produced in tricolor. Productions using more than three colors are also seen, but are always reserved exclusively for Detached motifs; Bronze, Gold, Pink, and Blue are the most commonly used colors for all motifs, but all Imperial motifs favor threads dyed in a way that produces iridescent hues... This method (closely guarded by the Imperial Crown and seen in no other House's productions) gives finished fabrics produced by the Imperial House a vibrant, color changing quality; those who have been lucky enough to receive a bolt of Silk produced by the Imperial House describe the fabric as being nearly ethereal in nature, with a sheen that makes the fabric look as if it glows in the right lighting.

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Aleafin Motif Example; Attached Leaf Scroll

Aleafin Motifs

Motifs produced by House Do'rahel in the Aleafin region favor intricate, attached scroll work with natural themes. These usually include stylized fans, leaves, flowers, and other elements of nature. More complicated designs featuring birds, moths, and other animals insects are also used in Aleafin silk production. However, their appearances are incredibly rare; like rare Imperial Motifs, these bolts are reserved for use as gifts to visiting dignitaries- and as taxes paid to the Imperial House itself.

Two such samples of this nature exist: One Attached Beetle and Flower Scroll given to Deòrsa Fiach Áirachláin (Grandson of the Càer Rótàrlach of Anndrach, in Castrillis) in 6601- and another given to the Imperial House... The later, an Attached Floral Scroll featuring a Mockingbird, was used in the creation of Her Imperial Majesty, Sabraena Vhonne Iraelar e'ta Za'vaed's wedding dress for her marriage to Vezimar Calphrin e'ta Av’yani in 6550.

Aleafin motifs are often produced in two tone colors. Here, motifs are woven in either gold or silver and displayed against a vibrantly colored background. More natural colors tend to be preferred, such as Green and Blue- though Orange and Yellow are also used; Purple, Red, and Pink silks are incredibly rare for House Do'rahel to manufacture... But like the Imperial House, the Aleafin region prefers the use of iridescent threads to add color changing qualities to their fabric- though in this case these contrasting threads are not truly iridescent. Instead, the appearance of color changing fabric is achieved through the careful use of multiple thread colors as opposed to dying techniques; using threads that are only a few shades different than the base color for the design, and weaving them sporadically through the design, creates a much more subtle appearance of color shifting.

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Helvryn Motif Example; Detached Flame

Helvryn Motifs

In entire the history of the great house situated in the Helvryn region of Di'kae Milona, the House of Av’yani has never produced a single attached design- favoring, instead, detached designs with a significant margin of space between the individual elements. In all cases, these motifs most commonly reflect stylized images of natural elements such as fire.

Because this region doesn't produce attached motifs, their rare designs tend to feature interspersed designs. For instance, a Solar element may be interspersed with a Flame element in alternating- such as in the case of the bolt gifted to Princess Amayla e'Awenath of Eris'ka for her coming of age in 6625. Another example is a bolt featuring Water elements interspersed with Moon elements that was gifted to Her Majesty, Istriona Catalain Bairr of Ar'lasang Vaerda'ky, for her coronation in 6622; these designs are rarely generic, and the House puts great thought into the design- producing their motifs based on the person it is meant as a gift for.

Like Aleafin designs, Helvryn motifs are only produced in two tone- favoring the same combination of gold or silver (with the addition of bronze) on a vibrantly colored background. In all cases, the colors used in the silk are chosen for the explicit purpose of complimenting- and reflecting- the accompanying elemental motif being used in the production... Unlike Aleafin and Imperial designs, however, Helvryn backgrounds are monochromatic in nature; any variation in color is exclusively the product of minor variations in the dying process, and are not considered an overt design choice on the part of the region.


Cover image: Treasury by Yan Nam Ko

Comments

Author's Notes

World Ember 2018 'Item' Special Category Winner

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Not only [did] it pique my interest in an item as common as a textile (without any magical attributes), but we are also talking about a professional level of writing; the level of detail was beyond what I expected, and with all the detail about the manufacturing process, the secrecy, and the distribution of the Milonan Silk [it] gave me a good insight on the culture and lifestyle of the Lunar Elves... An amazing article giving a whole different perspective on textiles!


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8 Dec, 2018 21:26

Wow! That's incredible, and a beautiful presentation! Well done!

8 Dec, 2018 21:39

Thank you, hun!