Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Grown in Darkness

The other day as I was surfing the internet, I stumbled upon this story:

In brief, someone discovered that if you forced rhubarb to grow by candlelight, it would force them to draw upon their resources and become much sweeter.  I'm not sure if I'm being a botany geek here, but this seemed remarkably like a... very Yoon-Suin thing to do.  Sure you grow bizarre vegetables in the dark in D&D but in the real world?  No way...  

And yet, here we are.

So in honor of forced rhubarb, I guess I have to force myself to write down a few ideas I had about the power of darkness in Yoon Suin.

First, yet another god!

Lyla, the dark soap mistress.  This peculiar cult is not very popular due to being... strange, even by the Yellow City standards.  The goddess takes the shape of an odd Beetle-octopus, and appreciates the sacrifice invertebrate.  The sacred color is black, and the cult takes the devotion to this color to an alarming extreme.  The priesthood is composed entirely of  human women who dye their skin black. The more advanced the holy woman, the deeper and more total the shade (teeth, eyes etc become black too).  Other cults consider this concern over color to be over the top. 

The high priestess has become so dark that she is but a silhouette, appearing not as a black shape but almost as a human-shaped hole in the universe (Look up vantablack to get an idea).  She is said to be one of the most powerful holy woman in the city, and slugmen sometimes pay great fees to consult her on various matters.  

High rituals of the cult includes sleeping in ink, sometimes for very long periods.  Other strange rituals include very long washing (most people aren't "holy enough" to withstand this, skin gets irritated, although certain slugmen say it is just *the thing* to get over an opium addiction).   Soap is seen as holy because it reveals (the sheen of soapy water gives substance and detail to very dark objects/people) , but also the soap is needed to keep dust etc at bay that would keep true blackness from being possible.  

Besides the high priestess, another cultist gained some notoriety - the would be successor, Chi Da Mat, was banished for her greed.  She relocated to Ras Bolon and quickly took over  the cult of the Black Lotus, a different goddess concerned with magic, women and the harvest.  She is said to wield not inconsiderable mystical and temporal power, and charges dearly for her services.

Second, a peculiar tea:
The unseen brew.
This black tea is grown in the shade, on steep northern slopes in Sughd that never seen the sun.  It is the harvest process however which is most particular - only on moonless night, cloudy if possible.  The harvesters are "honored" slaves, who are born and live in perpetual darkness, only coming out of their lightless halls to perform the harvest.  The same slaves perform the post-harvest processing, fermentation and packaging in complete darkness.  Each packet is carefully sealed against light contamination, and is sold for 10 rupees (2 gp) per packet (one packet being sufficient to brew one teapot).  

The tea is said to taste best if brewed and drunk in complete darkness, and is the preferred brew of cynics.  It is also used by serious-minded slugmen who wish to ponder "what could go wrong" with a project, as it blackens the mood and strips the drinker of unwarranted optimism.  It is also said to be a suitable base medium for various types of darkness magic.  

(edit:  this was in part inspired by the imperial silver tips which really should be part of yoon-suin anyway.  )


  1. The Unseen Brew kind of reminds me of Joanna Russ's idea from "A Game of Vlet" that mundane objects can be imbued with one-time magic by a special manufacturing process (typically in total darkness) that leaves the finished object in a "virgin" state.

    I'm kind of curious about how photosynthesis in artificial light might affect plants - both in real life, as with your rhubarb example, and in the game world. Imagine plants grown under special "colour out of space" lamps, for example.

    1. Well in this case the photosynthesis is minimal - the plant is forced to draw upon its reserves in the roots, trying to grow its way out of darkness back into the sun. This changes the flavor, making it sweeter - if left alone, it would eventually die :/

      Buuuut in a fantasy world, there may be other, more esoteric sources of energy...

      P.S. I am kind of amused that this is a British thing, considering that the author of Yoon-Suin is British too :)

    2. As far as your notion of objects having special properties - a tool for a spell, if you wish - I really wish there was a solid system for that, perhaps for a low magic world where every spell takes *effort*.

      "Well, I could use an enchantment to make myself smarter for a moment or two" (game terms: spell that gives bonus to knowledge skill check) "... but I need one of those light bulbs incubated by a clever chicken. Hmmm".