Dirge Moths

Dirge moths are fairly large species of moths with distinctive colorations: they are black with white markings that can glow when the moths are agitated. The white markings are said to be rather skeletal in appearance, especially when they glow in the dark. They are highly poisonous and only active at night. Though folk superstitions claim they lay their eggs inside corpses of people who die in the forest, they actually lay their eggs inside rotting trees. They spend most of their life (about 23 years) as larvae, feeding on wood pulp and absorbing ambient magic, spending their chrysalis stage within the safety of their wooden home before emerging en masse one night. Dirge moths do not feed, subsisting solely on the mana reserves they stockpiled as larvae, and live for just one day before dying. Within this one day they mate and find a suitable place to lay their eggs. They possess highly developed soul sense, which they use to track down and judge potential mates. It is also useful for avoiding threats, though dirge moths are too poisonous for most things and rarely attacked.

The most useful part of the dirge moth is the chrysalis, which must be harvested in just the right moment. It is easy to recognize if the harvester picked the right moment for an experienced alchemist, because the contents of a properly harvested chrysalis are a milky white slime as opposed to an orange-tinted chunky contents of a too-soon harvested one, or a black jelly exhibited by a too-late harvested one. The chrysalis can be used for a variety of potions, but is most important as a component for potions that grant soul perception to people.

Although dirge moths are only active for one day every 23 years, they are actually quite numerous in the northern wilderness of Altazia. As such, their chrysalises can he harvested in great numbers when the right time comes. The Triumvirate Church uses this to create soul perception potions on a mass scale, turning many of its priests into soul mages every 23 years. The resulting abundance of soul mages has done a lot for keeping the Triumvirate Church a powerful and influential force in modern times, despite losing their divinely-granted powers in the Silence.

It was the Triumvirate Church who developed and perfected the dirge moth potion. However, the final recipe was so simple and reliable that it eventually leaked outside the Church hierarchy and became wildly employed in necromantic circles. The church is very unhappy about this and has tried for quite a while to hunt down these recipes and destroy them, without much success. These days they have mostly given up on this, as it has become obvious that this is a lost cause – too many people know the recipe now to truly suppress it – but they have still made actual usage of the potion illegal in many countries.

Even before the soul perception potions had been developed and become widespread, dirge moths have always had a heavy association with death and necromancy, likely because of their skeletal markings and highly poisonous nature. They were said to flutter about around dying people, waiting for them to breathe their final breath so they could steal their souls as it leaves the body.

Morlock societies, before their destruction at the hand of Ikosian refugees, considered them sacred in some way. This probably only added to their sinister, deathly reputation among surface inhabitants of pre-Ikosian Altazia.

Adult dirge moths and over-ripe chrysalises can be harvested for their poison, though trade in it is illegal. The larvae have very high mana reserves, but have no known use in alchemy – though many magical creatures consider them an absolute delicacy.

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4 thoughts on “Dirge Moths

  1. Has Tinami Aope used the Dirge Moth potion to get soul perception? It seems plausible her family might have arranged for her to get it, assuming the potion has been available during her lifetime. If she does have soul perception, could she see any differences in the souls of the current version of Zorian and the Zorian she knew during her first two years of classes? Perhaps that the current Zorian’s soul is a lot more magically developed than the old one was?
    And while we are on the subject of Tinami, is the reason she became so knowledgeable about spiders because she hoped (prior to the timeloop) to eventually make contact with those mythical sentient mind magic using spiders she’d heard legends about?

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    • Most mages don’t go for multiple magical disciplines, especially not from a very young age. Tinami has already chosen to pursue mind magic (with her mother’s blessing), so she’s not going to be spread herself thin by also going for soul magic. Perhaps later, when she already has a solid grasp on her chosen specialty. Besides, she already has her hand full also trying to follow academy curriculum. And she also has to be prepared to eventually take over the House, since she’s the designated heir, which means lot of additional non-magical schooling by her family and networking with various outsiders beside.

      No, Tinami is just a fairly weird girl from a House that has a dark and offputting reputation. She started to like spiders as a young girl because they were scary and, in her mind, unfairly maligned (just like her!). She eventually started reading everything she could about them, and eventually found out about the aranea, who were spiders fond of mind magic (just like her!), so she developed particular interest in them.

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  2. What causes Dirge moths to all transform at the same time every 23 years? Is their an outside factor, or is it just a quirk of their biology? If someone stuck a Dirge moth into a time acceleration chamber, could they potentially create a supply of Dirge moths that can be harvested yearly? (I’m also Drakannon BTW)

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    • It’s just a quirk of their biology. There are real life moths with equally quirky lifecycles. I don’t know if the time acceleration chamber idea would work, since I’m not sure what causes real life moths to have such a lifecycle. Maybe it would work, maybe not. I suspect that some of the cues the moth larvae normally work with would be absent in such a small, artificial area and that things would go wrong, but I could be wrong about that.

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