Some of the most exotic plants and animals of the Twilight isles grow in high-magic locations – places where the power of one of the Eight Thunders – Fire, Earth, Air, Water, Life, Death, Spirit, and Magic – is readily available in the environment.
Plants and animals use their environments. It’s one of the things they’re noted for.
Life-magic using plants tend to be persistent – fast-growing, weedy, quick to heal injuries, able to tolerate otherwise-poor growing conditions, resistant to toxins (although diseases tend to partake of the same life-enhancement as the plants, making them as persistent as the host plants), and prolific. They’re rarely poisonous (unless growing in something toxic) or directly dangerous; such mechanisms are of little value when everything else in the area can be expected to share a similar resistance.
Rakphin Gourds are probably the most familiar life-magic plant: the vines grow quickly and – with enough life magic – will produce bountiful crops overnight. Yes, the gourds are watery, fibrous, and relatively poor in protein, and the seeds are covered in enough fiber to make them quite indigestible – but the flesh of the gourds is carbohydrate and mineral-rich, the seeds pass through the gut harmlessly, the preparation is easy, and the blandness is readily buried under any of a wide variety of other flavors. They keep well – remaining fresh for months even when separated from the vine – and are a cheap, common, and reliable food.
Chorell Root grows easily, and – unusually for a life-aspected plant – only yields a really good crop when planted in good, well-watered, and well-fertilized soil, in which case it grows into luxurious bushes. The sap is sweet and richly aromatic, well-suited to use in a wide variety of drinks, confections, and candies. It’s also a mild stimulant, and makes users feel bright, energetic, cheerful, and happy. (The pollen is stronger, but is hard to produce in quantity, although chorell root honey is sometimes available). It’s psychologically, not physically, addictive. Farmers growing it tend to be enthusiastic users, and to grow more and more of it. Where it’s not banned it tends to be widely used – and to be grown on quite a lot of the best land.
Borphion or “woundwort” is a fleshy vegetable notable for the extraordinary speed with which it can recover from injuries; the entire above-ground leaf structure can regenerate from the roots in less than a day. Those healing powers are concentrated in the sap, which can heal small cuts and induce low-level regeneration, such as fingertips and neural injuries. Unfortunately, unless extreme care is taken, Borphion tends to cause scarring, misgrowth, and even cancers. It’s a useful component in healing potions and alchemists can produce powerful healing extracts from the plant – but they’re dangerous to use without magic to guide the resulting healing and tissue growth.
Sandistyre Trees regenerate – or, more correctly, generate a massive (up to eight feet across) wooden knot – almost instantly when damaged. Hit one with an axe, and you will be lucky to escape being swallowed up by the resulting expanding knot of wood (large knots, with their internal lumps of fertilizer, tend to be shed and to roll off to sprout into new Sandistyre trees). Worse, the knots absorb and store life energy just like the rest of the tree, and will tend to absorb the life force of any creatures so entrapped – and to anchor and entrap the associated spirit. While there are obvious difficulties in harvesting the wood, and such a project often claims the lives of several slaves, it’s very useful in the creation of spirit-binding or spirit-powered devices – including stakes designed to bind vampires.
Deaththorn is a supple thorny tree of relatively modest size. Its touch disrupts other life forces – albeit only superficially – and the tree absorbs the energies so released, an effect which allows it to get along on very little light and will keep the wood alive for a long time after it’s been cut – indefinitely with care. Deaththorn is not especially dangerous; a brief contact produces severe pain, but no real injury. Longer contacts can produce injuries resembling sunburns – but they’re still fairly negligible for an otherwise healthy victim. Deaththorn wood is occasionally used in arrows and wooden weapons (despite the special handling it requires) since it tends to distract opponents. It’s also occasionally used to build torture racks, stocks, and similar implements. Magically-treated Deaththorn can disrupt the activities of the central nervous system, and so can be used to construct paralyzing manacles or mage-restraints designed to inhibit spellcasting.
Urmas resembles a huge fern, with relatively light and – when dry – brittle wood. It flourishes in extremely wet conditions, and during magical storms, accumulating and storing life (or positive energy) magic, which it uses to restore itself to flourishing life (often as a grove) even if reduced to no more than a scattering of broken fragments during a dry period. Properly cut and cured, it can be used to store healing and positive energy magics, and so makes an excellent component in wands, rods, and staves designed for such purposes.
Zram is a pithy reed which uses ambient life magic to accelerate its metabolism, to the point where a plant can sprout and grow to full maturity within an hour or two. It is very unwise to swallow the seeds; they actually can take root in the stomach or intestine and kill you. The pithy interior can be dried, powdered, and alchemically treated to produce an extremely powerful metabolic accelerator – capable of providing brief bursts of extraordinarily accelerated activity, allowing users to move and act at at least twice the normal rate. Unfortunately, user’s will run a high fever, place enormous strains on their heart, accelerate their aging process drastically, and risk other serious complications.
Khos is a “symbiotic” lichen-like moss that attunes itself to the hosts bioenergy field, and so shares his or her defenses – making it rather difficult to remove save by lengthy – and extremely painful – process of scraping and applying caustic chemicals. It’s rather ugly, although it is fairly good camouflage in natural woodland surroundings and bestows a modest resistance to fire.
- Esoteric Botany – Earth Magic Plants from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)