The heat from the open fire drew sweat in great beads from Alms brow. He crouched over the naked flame, stirring the thick preparation that bubbled in the iron of suspended by a tripod above it. A rich, nutty scent drifted up from the pot, a scent that never failed to tickle his taste buds.
It always helped if your curatives were a pealing to the pallet as well as helping ease the pain of illness. Alm knew that there were precious few of those, so he made a point of making tonics from Mallory whenever he could. Smoke curled lazily from the pot, wreathing the ceiling of his small cottage. Coughing quietly, Alm carefully put down his stirring soon and padded to the door, opening it to breath deeply of the late summer air.
His eye roved across his now depleted garden and he cursed himself softly when he spied his best metal trowel sitting atop the pile of soil that he had dug with it in order to uproot his Mallory plants. That was no good! Good metal tools were hard to come by this far from the city, and here he was carelessly leaving his best out in the elements to rust. He collected the trowel and washed it thoroughly in the rain butt, before drying it carefully on the hem of his robe. It was only the smell of burning that reminded him of his abandoned pot. No! He ran swiftly back into the cottage, snatching the iron pot from the fire, scalding his hand for his trouble.
His mind really wasn’t on the job today. The brown sludge at the bottom of the pan told him that the Mallory had reduced too much. Once it had cooled you would have to eat it with a spoon. He waited impatiently for the pan to cool before once more returning inside. He collected a thick earthenware pot from the shelf above his bed and, tying a length of linen over the jars top, proceeded to ladle the reparation into the jar.
It was a slow process, the Mallory had congealed so much that he had to force it through the linen with his spatula. Eventually, however, the jar was filled and he could wax the lid on.
He cut a small cube from his supply of tallow and carefully melted it above the fire before smoothing it around the lid with his pallet knife. Once he was done, he etched his makers mark onto the wooden lid with his etching tool.
Unsure as to the efficacy of this articular batch, Alm nevertheless laced the jar on the shelf that held his other remedies. A long line of earthenware and glass vessels stood there, waiting for the sick to claim them. Of course, the small glass phial hidden at the back was for a more dubious purpose, and because of this, he had left his makers mark from those reparations. It never hurt to be careful. Satisfied at last, Alm cleaned his equipment and placed the iron pot, his pallet and etching knife, spatula, and stirring spoons back on the shelf alongside the various strangely shaped glass jugs, retorts and vessels that nestled there. Tomorrow, he would have to start work on his distillation of healing herbs. There were some nasty lung humours sweeping the region.
The Herbalist is a person who has an intimate knowledge of the bounty of the plant world around them. They know which plants can be used for the relieving of painful insect bites and which can produce painful death. Many Herbalist are residents of rural communities that have little access to the luxuries of city life where healing may be administered by trained professionals.
They typically receive their knowledge from ancient traditions handed down from parent to child since time immemorial. More cosmopolite Herbalists may set up practices in cities and towns in order to administer cheap remedies to those who cannot afford a surgeon’s or pharmacist’s fees. Herbalists learn from an early age the myriad differences between the leaves, flowers and roots of the many plants of the land.
They put this knowledge to use by drawing forth their properties in a multitude of ways, producing unguents, lotions, tonics and preparations to mitigate the ravages of illness, or even to cause it.
The Herbalist puts his skills to good use in a world where misery and swift death are never more than a heartbeat way.
Well, Alm is an old man, at least- he seems very old, for his hair is snow-white and very curly. But he has nice twinkling blue eyes, and his face doesn’t seem old if you don’t look at his hair. And he is awfully strong and can walk miles and miles to gather herbs. He built the little shack he lives in ...all by himself, out of timbers from the woods.
Anne Threll- One of Alm’s regular pasients
Alm is indeed old, older then he looks. He is closing in on sixty winters, an extreme age in a world of hard labour and early death. Most people are considered really old when they reach fifty.
Alm reaches the six foot mark of height and has a kind face. His eyes and sweet appearance gains him trust, something he need in his profession. He dresses in a no-nonsense way. Preferring greens and brown colours. When he is in the woods collecting herbs he wears several belts and pouches, but never a weapon of any sort.
He always wears his tradesman ring with his makers mark. It identifies him as a Herbalist if questioned. Licenced Herbalists, like licenced hunters are allowed to hunt and gather what they need on the nobles land. That means about every inch of the kingdom. On another note, dabbling with herbs and plants reminds many of witchcraft still, and the witch hunters would not be kind if Alm couldn’t identify himself as a Herbalist they found him in the woods.
The Pearls of the Forest
Alm found two small Thrar Stones when gathering herbs deep the woods many decades ago. They looked like they might have been swallowed by some kind of animal and later thrown up again. Fascinated by the perfect smoothness of these strange gems he brought them home with him. The stones were black with a hint of deep, glowing brown within them.
He kept the stones a secret. After many years had gone by people started to notice how well kept he was. Still agile and strong for his age. It continued to be so up to a point where he started to lie about his age.
He realized the fact that it was the stones that kept him so, they had to be imbued with some kind of magic.
Alm is not immortal, but he will appear much younger then he is and be in great physical health until reaching great age.
Alm spends his time helping people, he is genuinely kind and moral. But the stones have become an obsession of his. He is constantly worried that they might be gone or missing.
The possibility of adventure begins when Old Alm staggers into town, blood dripping from numerous small wounds. As the venerable but wiry old fellow is revived and his wounds are dabbed stingingly by young women (strong alcohol is involved in both cases), he relates his tale of terror.
Alm, it seems, was out up on the ridges collecting herbs. He will take the time to explain about the remedy he was planning to make, much to the frustration of those who want him to get on with his story, but the old Herbalist wont be rushed.
Eventually, after describing his tortuous journey though paths crooked and narrow trough the deep forests to where the best herbs grow, after many hours of collecting herbs he realized that he was deeper in the woods then he had ever been. He describes the woods there as being strange, he says that they had a glow of autumn to them, yet it is spring.
The truth is that these stones are originally the property of the king. They were stolen from him by a one of his minion beast that swallowed them, confused by their nature.
Alm begs the PC’s to bring back his stones and promises all kinds of rewards, without the stones he suspect that he will age dramatically.
Alm has many uses other than the plot hook, he can be a re-occurring character as PC’s will almost always find themselves in the need of healing. He can also be a terrific guide as he knows the woods like his the back of his pocket. The GM can also make other plots circling around the question of his age. Alm could start out as a normal healer NPC and slowly become more important as the GM drops tid-bits of information.