Hood grows in woods and copses in northern
Santharia, in Vardưnn and
Nermeran provinces. Within the shadows of
the trees, in the eerie twilight beneath the canopies, the Harlot’s Hood blooms
in a brilliant crimson corolla, its thick, deep-green leaves stemming from its
singular, sturdy stalk. Almost entrancing in its startling and seductive beauty,
the Harlot’s Hood is often noted for its mysterious and dangerous allure.
Appearance. The Harlot’s Hood grows from a single, thick stem, around from which it’s thick leaves unfurl. The leaves can grow rather large, and a single plant will likely have no more than four or five of them at any one time. Coloured a dark, deep green, they may extend to over a fore in length and nearly a palmspan wide, ending in a delicate point.
At its pinnacle, the plant blossoms into an elegant corolla - one silken petal colored a deep, dangerous, sensuous crimson, like the colour of a lover’s lips. The flower is somewhat large, over a handspan in length, and smooth, soft, and seductive.
The plant itself grows no higher than a ped, though usually two fores is more common - just past a maiden’s knee. Growing from a bulb as a white as a maiden’s breast, the roots are stringy and do not venture very deep into the earth.
Territory. The Harlot’s Hood is somewhat particular concerning its territory, refusing to grow south of the Vandrina River or north of the Tandalas, or east of the Allsiscaey and Troll Mountains. It grows in well-shaded areas, usually deep in woods and copse, far from the patchy periphery. It can be found in Thaelon, Bolder, and Calmarios, though it will grow in smaller woods as well.
The Harlot’s Hood is not a terribly common plant, though it will often grow in the same place for many, many years. Many herbalists with customers requesting elixirs, potions, and tinctures made from the Harlot’s Hood usually know of at least one or two places from which they can harvest it.
Usages. The Harlot’s Hood flower, steam, and leaves are somewhat poisonous, capable of causing digestive issues, though not usually death. The bulb, however, is used frequently in mixtures that restore sexual energy. Because the plant is relatively difficult to come by, and the bulbs are rather rare, herbalists will generally only shave thin slices from a bulb, then tincture them in alcohol and mix them with other, sweeter-smelling herbs to create an elixir commonly called Etherine (sometimes also called Etherus’s Kiss, it has a number of more unsavory names, as well).
Etherine is a staple of any Voldarian or Nyermersian brothel and whorehouse, frequently used by the working girls to restore or increase vigour after satisfying one of their customers. A few drops in water, tea, or a beverage of a more alchoholic inclination can help revive the consumer.
Reproduction. The Harlot’s Hood begins as a bulb, about the size of a hobbit’s fist. It starts by sprouting white, hair-like roots, and then a stem emerges. Leaves unfurl and the stem grows ever longer. When the temperature is right - the kind of warmth that comes around early summer - the plant begins to bloom its red flower. The flower can last months, lingering in the darkness of the wood and growing slow.
When autumn is settling a chill in the air, the Harlot’s Hood flower begins to fade. The flower itself falls away, and as the singular, silken petal crumbles into dust, it reveals a white bulb which, next year, will sprout hair-like roots and sprout a stem.
When winter comes, the plant fades, drowning in the freeze. Its leaves darken and fall, its stem wilts and both die away; the bulb, however, preserves itself, and can in fact produce a flower next year; a bulb can last for four or five years before becoming unfertile and wasting away beneath the earth.
Myth/Lore. It should come as no surprise that the Harlot’s Hood is generally associated with Etherus, God of Excess and Lust. The sensuous appearance of the flower coupled with its use as a sexual revitalizing elixir ties it distinctly to Etherus. The story of its origin, too, is tied to Etherus:
There was once a
beautiful, lascivious prostitute, with seductively dark hair and eyes and
lips of deep crimson. She one day journeyed out to a forest stream to
bathe, wearing her red cloak. She undressed herself and bathed in the
river. All at once, she saw a man moving through the forest: his eyes were
a deep green, his hair dark and curly, and he had horns like that of a
great buck. It was Arvins, God of the
Hunt, and the woman found herself overcome with desire.
There are also many tales involving the Harlot’s Hood. One well-known among prostitutes is the story of the Mistress.
It is said that a nobleman
took a young woman as his mistress, a woman who fulfilled all his desires.
However, when the nobleman’s wife discovered her husband and his mistress in
bed together one night, she flew into a jealous rage. She murdered her
husband, and the mistress flew to the nearby wood, the wife behind her. The
mistress almost escaped, but tripped, and the noblewoman was soon upon her.
With her knife, she murdered the mistress, and left her on the forest floor.