Monday, August 01, 2011

Dark•Heritage: Haşhaş

Haşhaş (the ş is a Qazmiri letter that is pronounced like a really thick, whistling S or sh sound), also rendered in Terrasan as hash-hash or hashash, is a plant native to the nation of al-Qazmir, but which grows well in the Golden Peninsula. More frequently, however, when a Terrasan uses the word hashash, he's referring to the drug that is made from the plant, which can be boiled as a bitter tea to induce mild hallucinations and euphoria, or other dissociative behavior, along with signs characteristic of drunkeness, such as slurred speech, and clumsy uncoordinated use of limbs. When dried and smoked in a pipe or hooka in suffucient dosages, the effects are much stronger.

Here, the drug causes, at a minimum, a severe dissociative "out of body" experience, hallucinations, suicidal or violent tendences and paranoia. Frequent users can develop severe mental illnesses, including persistant schizophrenic tendencies, violent or suicidal lingering behavior, severe dissociation with reality, and paranoia.

While most physicians and others understand this to be an effect of the chemistry of the dried and treated plant, there remain people, occultists and other fringe members of society, who believe that the drug is a conduit to an altered state where humanity can perceive reality as it truly is; seeing the spiritual as well as the physical at the same time. The paranoia and violent or suicidal tendencies, they explain, are caused by fear of spiritual entities and daemons which surround us at all times out of sight. Because hashash users are aware of these threats at all times, they say, the paranoid behavior is entirely understandable.

Most hashash is grown in al-Qazmir; either on the island itself, or on plantations and farms in the so-called "Golden Peninsula" immediately to the west of the island. The Golden Peninsula has been largely "Qazmirized" but still retains relicts here and there of the civilization that lived there before it, which was distantly related linguistically and culturally to the more westerly Terrasans. The Qazmiri government themselves, however, forbid the use of hashash. They are more tolerant of the growing of it, as long as the crop is shipped overseas. Hashash plants are also grown as ornamental plants in some places in al-Qazmir, although in such cases the harvesting of them is negligible to non-existant.

The Terrasans have also forbidden the trade of hashash, and attempted to stop or at least limit the degree to which it spreads through the empire, although state-sponsored trading of it to non-Terrasans is not unknown. As with the Qazmiri, the dangers of the drug are the reasons for the its restriction, but selling it to foreigners, or brokering trade from al-Qazmir to other nations (such as city-states from the Baal Hamazi lands, or Kurushat, or barbarians who don't form nation-level polities) is a perfectly acceptable way to bring revenue to the state and a weakness to potential enemies.

Because of this restriction of the legal use and trade in the drug amongst local potential users, hashash is most likely to be found in black markets, smuggled in from vessels that hail from Porto Liure or Sarabasca, or even sponsored by the sinister Union of the Snake. The trade in hashash has become inseparably connected to elements of crime, especially organized crime (although small-time smugglers are hardly unheard of still) in the major urban centers of Terrasa, al-Qazmir, and elsewhere.

Curiously, possessing, or even using hashash is not illegal or restricted in Terrasa, only the sale and transport of it, which is heavily regulated to keep the drug away from the citizens of the nation who is making the regulations. Because of that, some people, especially wealthy users, occasionally openly flaunt their use of it, at least in tea-form. Smoking hashash is still done privately, both because of the danger to the user (and others nearby) and because it is socially very frowned upon as openly flaunting the norms of society.

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