“So, shall we proceed—new, er—menial?”
“Indeed, Master—it is Master, isn’t it, not Mistress?”
“Ah, the dress. No, it is indeed Master. I’m merely wearing ladies’ clothes today as a mark of respect for our sister witches and their kin.”
“How strange, Master, you must be a mind-reader. Sorry, are of course a mind-reader. I’ve just been researching the old folklore of hedge witches and their somewhat dubious abilities to cure all ills.”
“Then get on with it, but just this once, my congratulations upon securing the esoteric monocle. Now, on with your description, or I’ll have you flogged with this enormous cheese grater. We’ve important work to do.”
It must be pretty frustrating in fantasy worlds—if you have the cash, the connections or the rank, generally whatever illness befalls you can be cured, any injury staunched, and even death can be overcome. For us lot in the gutter, life is different. We have to rely on other lotions and potions that may—or let’s be honest in all likelihood won’t—work.
Here then is a list of ten such cure-alls. Guaranteed by passing peddlers to remove warts, counteract level-drain, and prevent aging and the attentions of unwanted outsiders. The joy of these items is not in the attempt to sell them to the PCs (although that could be fun) but the reaction of NPCs to their faith in these objects, particularly as they are generously handed over as rewards to troubled and inflicted PCs.
There could also be a fun little adventure with the local Thieves’ Guild and a drunk bishop running a racket among the local populace for such “cures.” Those local rogues are going to get pretty cross if a fancy PC cleric wanders in and starts curing everyone for free. Having such side treks intrude upon events in major adventures can be a rewarding angle to exploit from time to time.
You may, of course, decide that there is more to these cures than meets the eye—perhaps they truly form the basis of elixirs, or are integral and obscure versions of other potions; it’s your campaign so you get to choose.
The companion article to this piece—“Strange Debilitations”—might be of interest to you. With a list of unheard-of illnesses, do the PCs rush about trying to find out who—or what—is behind these strange maladies then try anything to cure them, or do they simply shrug their shoulders and leave the hopeless peasants to their petty lives?
- Mother Quid’s Restorative Wig: Make ye wig from the hair of a woman shorn from her on her wedding nigh, and bind this with straw and wolverine fur soaked in the blood of a recently slain ewe. Fashion the wig with silver wire and chicken bones and attach the whole to a skull cap made of the skin of a beast born within the last six months, using a sewing needle steeped in the milk of a pregnant woman. The patient, upon wearing the wig for a month, shall be cured of all maladies of the head, including madness, baldness, the insanity spell, and domination by vampires.
- The Scent of Pregnant Newts: Gather up ten score pregnant newts and squash them in a large bucket that has never been used before, unless by ordained folk. Using a low flame, gently simmer the ichor until all the liquid has been dried out. Retain the remaining solid for a period of a year and a day within cheesecloth soaked in brine held in a wax skin sheath. The scent released when the seal is broken can be used at any period after this but improves with age. Breathing in the strong odor is guaranteed to cure all ills associated with toxins, poisons, and inhaled gases, as well as illnesses of the bowel.
- Sister Plaid’s Marvelous Curative Hedgehog Poultice: Skin your hedgehog, retaining the innards for later use. Stuff the stomach of the hedgehog with a clipping of sage, white birch, a stirge head, and fox’s tail and boil in a gallon pan of vinegar made from elderberry wine. Set aside and allow to cool, removing any scum that forms by using a spatula. The skin poultice should be soaked in the liquid for a period of 24 weeks within a score yards of a place of worship, after which it may be used to cure any unsightly skin condition, including the pox, leprosy, and mummy rot.
- The Juice of the Gods: This restorative is useful for anyone who has been touched by the undead and been so afflicted that their very soul and essence is damaged. It is also useful in relieving slimy doom. Take a vial’s worth of holy water and place it in a large earthen jar. Put within it a small, living toad and steep the toad for a period of a month, spanning two full moons. Leave the object undisturbed and buried during this time—exposing it to sunlight at any time is said to restore the toad to unlife and is considered extremely unlucky. Remove the bloated dead toad and discard the now-tainted holy water with reverence. The toad’s stomach contains enough juice to cure one afflicted individual. Those seeking cure for more extreme versions of these maladies should swallow the toad quickly and whole.
- Old Habb’s Transforming Wrap: Make ye a wrap from a funerary cloth of an insane person and place within it a dozen sloes and a tonic made by steeping a healthy amount of borage into sheep’s urine for a full moon. Bury the whole in a large bottle sealed with beeswax and place it beneath an oak tree adjacent to a crossroads. When the year has passed, those who spend a night’s sleep wearing the wrap shall awaken with whatever appearance they wish. The wrap is also certain to remove the effects of any baleful polymorph spell.
- Jubb’s Bread Poultice: This poultice removes all ill effects of those touched and infected by lycanthropes, ghouls, ghasts, and cockatrice, as well as those struck by curses of any kind. Take a loaf of bread made by a one-eyed male baker. Into the loaf place wolfsbane, a crushed peridot once worn within a necklace, and a full garlic. Store the loaf below a pew in the center of a church for a month. Soaked in goat’s milk, this poultice will cure all those ill-effects above when worn for a period of a seven days and nights.
- Bobb’s Balsam of Life: Take the sap from a birch tree during late winter. Store the sap in a covered jar that also contains thirteen hawthorn berries and a pound of sugar. Leave for three months before consuming; the potent solution is guaranteed to cure major wounds, the shakes, and insanity more effectively than any spell.
- Wash Away Fat: Make a pound of soap from cold water, lard, and lye. Leave it under a stair stored below a cage containing a live toad until the toad is dead. Then, each night for the next eleven days, turn the mixture first north, and then south, alternating the direction at each stroke of midnight. Once ready, the soap may be used to wash away excess fat and the effects of age, particularly those magically aged.
- Hoppree’s Syrup of Bees: This syrup is sure to protect anyone rubbed in it from the unwanted attentions of outsiders. Take a honeycomb and steep it in holy water heated by charcoal and a piece of timber from within a chapel. Toss into this mixture a handful of tarragon harvested by a virgin. Add to it a mouse and the trotters and ears of a sow, then bring to the boil. When cooled, store in a sealed pot and bury it at the graveside of a woman who died childless; leave for a year and a day. The remaining syrup should be smeared liberally upon the flesh of the one who wishes to avoid the attention of outsiders. The outsiders cannot see or smell the individual so smeared.
- Mother Hubbward’s Plant-Repelling Curative Egg Rub: Take a feisty hen and frighten it to death. Bury the body at the threshold of your house, and within a day the dead hen will have laid an egg. Rub the egg yolk upon any afflicted member to cure it or regenerate said member, or use the rub to ward off evil plant monsters for a year and a day.
The wondrous More Whispering Homunculus collection is available for your delectation in the Kobold Store!