Desert Rose is of old a symbol of the
Ráhaz-Dáth Desert and the people who dwell there. Both the
Stratanian people use the rose in
their art. Little is known for sure about this beautiful flower, but it has
found its place in the local lore and oral culture unmistakingly. Being a rose
of legend, and dark legend that is, it took a while before the rose was first
described. The first written account is by
Frigord the Weird, who owns his name due to an unfortunate encounter with
Appearance. The Black Desert Rose is one of the oldest symbols of the Ráhaz-Dáth Desert. Even the oldest of Shendar domes have vague pictorial designs referring to this deadly flower. The old Stratanian coat of arms also features the rose as focus point of the composition. However, the rarity of the flower makes an accurate description rather difficult as but a few written sources have information on the rose. One of these accounts was written by an author known as Frigord the Weird. The name alone should arm us with a fair dosis of scepticism when reading his description.
"When I first saw the flower I couldn’t believe my
eyes. There was a flower, lonely but proudly standing, amidst nothing but
sand and more sand. I thought there had to be some kind of
magic fooling with me: black flowers are
rare, but in the middle of the desert… I approached the
plant cautiously. Somehow I could think of nothing else but to pick
the flower and treasure it. It is exactly what I did: I took the flower
and brought it to my home. Its petals were like those of a
water lily, large and
shaped like a date, but it had the thorns of a rose, and the scent was
strong and sweet and somehow comforting. It reminded me of the roses in
Varcopas and as the Desert Rose is a very common flower, I dubbed this one
the Black Desert Rose. It was the best name I could think of."
The date-shaped petals from the description above don’t match the representation on the Stratanian coat of arms, but the variety of images found among the Shendar people make it not worse than any other shape. Except that the flower was found a few times, there are no other references to the flower in written lore. Fortunately, the Shendar oral culture has a warning poem about the tempting Black Desert Rose.
closer child, come closer / And sing with me tonight
The main features are here also
only vaguely defined and leave us with little more than the following summary:
The Black Desert Rose is a flower with black petals and green stem. The stem
features thorns like other members of the rose family,
while the petals of the flower are probably differently shaped than other rose
species. The flower spreads a pleasant odour which has assumingly hallucinatory
effects and may draw you near to it. This gives it a distinct other function
than for example the sand lily, where the scent is
mainly used to draw people away from it. Whether the scent might draw insects
towards the core of the flower where they are caught, making the rose part of
the hunting flowers family, is not known.
Territory. The Black Desert Rose is unique to the Ráhaz-Dáth Desert and is not found on other continents, not even those of Aeruillin. As such, it can be found as symbol among the local inhabitants, the Shendar and Stratanians respectively. Most accounts on the Black Desert Rose have been kept in the library of Thalambath; The mentioned Frigord lived in the neighbourhood of the city as well. Some therefore note the west side of the desert, in particular the surrounding area of the Norong’Sorno, as the ideal place for the flower to grow.
Usages. Fortunately no factual information is available on these topics, as people with doubtful intentions might use it. There are of course rumours on several notoriously lethal organizations employing the flowers in their methods. The Templars of the Black Pearl are one of these, who would give the roses to their unsuspecting victims. Tinholdt mentions a doubtful account where a victim is given the flower, the murderer saying it’s one of the most precious flowers on the continent, “you will only see one in your lifetime”. Not only would this suggest that the flower is comparable in lethalness to the mythical wild rose from the War of the Chosen, but it’s also quite contradictory to accounts of Frigord, where a long-term effect is noted, and the mentions of Stratanian children bringing the flower home (see Myth/Lore section). And from what source Frigord would have his information is really beyond our knowledge, as the victim, according to the same account, died within an hour.
Reproduction. As with the usages, there is no concrete information on this topic. The only special fact about the existence of the Black Desert Rose is that it seems to be attracted to evil or people with evil intentions, as they have the habit to acquire it somehow. If the flower responds to the mind of an evil person can only be speculated about, but it might explain the occurrence of the flower in stories surrounding the Templars of the Black Pearl, the Seven of Thalambath and Darkfriends from the Third Sarvonian War.
Myth/Lore. Besides the earlier mentioned symbolism of the rose for the local region, it is, because of its suspected malicious features, also a symbol of evil and Coór, the Dark One. Shendar sometimes tell a youngster who is too proud and full of himself "Pick a Black, but don’t come back", meaning that he can be so brave as to pick a Black Desert Rose, but that he brings them bad luck by doing so. Picking or even seeing a Black Desert Rose is considered bad luck by the Shendar, which is why every child knows the aforementioned poem by heart.
However, the Stratanian population lost part of its Shendar heritage and the poem is no longer part of their tradition. During the wars with the darkfriends, especially the Third Sarvonian War, the Black Desert Rose was found several times by Stratanians, even by some children. The finders were brutally executed, as the rose was considered an ill omen of the Dark One. These events are also recorded in the Thalambathian library. This practice, one of the blacker pages of Stratanian history, died out after the war, not because the rose was suddenly considered a benign sign, but because it was again rarely found.
This is also the most characteristic feature of the Black Desert Rose: it is seldomly seen. The Herbarium expert Judith of Bardavos once speculated over a shared meal in the Library of New-Santhala that it may be "nothing more than a regular but distinct miscalculation of mother nature, which I would probably make just the same in those temperatures", followed by an elaborate wiping of her forehead, cleaning it of imaginative sweat and sand. Speculation is of course not our business in the Compendium, we leave that to the traders in Ciosa or Strata, but some say that it may be a funny breed of sand lily and common Desert Rose, but we’ll probably never know as we as researchers don’t hope to encounter one in our lifetimes.
The scent of the flower returns in most accounts concerning the rose and is compared to the normal sweet scent of roses, but although the scent of a rose may quicken the pulse of lovers, the hallucinatory effect of the Black Desert Rose is not encountered among the other family members. It is even recorded that Frigord was struck with dumbness after having touched the rose.
Another far-fetched explanation of the special features of this rose species goes back to the mythological origin of the city of Thalambath. As the city was based on magic, the still lingering powers would cause certain flowers to create this malicious offspring. No concrete evidence to support this theory has been found as of yet.