The Cavernfire is a small bush, growing to a height between a man's knee or waist, which is found in caves, tunnels, and shaded areas of the Imlith Mountains in Northern Sarvonia. This plant can only grow in areas of limited sunlight at best, since it will wither when exposed to direct sunlight for more than a few hours a day. The Cavernfire is of great importance to the Susilgerim Dwarves, who use it for food, dyes, and several lesser purposes. This plant is highly revered by them for its usefulness. It is called "Cavernfire" by non-dwarves for its reddish-orange glow, which is especially apparent in the dark caves and crevices which the plant prefers. The Susilgerim Dwarves call it "Khorultir" (an elided form of KhorimyehUltir, "Dying Light"), which most think refers to the poisonous quality of the plant's sap, though some counter that it is a memorial of the death of a great Susilgerim hero who is associated with the plant.
Cavernfire stands 1-4 fores
high, and its height varies with the size of its environment (Cavernfires have
been seen to grow as high as 6
fores in open terrain, and as small as 2
palmspans in confined
crevices; however, such extremes are rare). It has roots growing in a fibre-like
pattern, and its stem is made of many intertwining branches (or roots, depending
on how you look at it). The Cavernfire grows straight up when there is room, but
can twist around obstacles if necessary, similar to a vine or creeper. These
branches are pale, thin and quite flexible. However, when they grow together, a
strong stem is formed. An object that happens to get intertwined in a growing
Cavernfire stem can only be removed through great labour, which usually will
kill the plant. This has led to speculation that the Cavernfire is a collection
of vines growing together.
Its leaves are a silvery colour, and the entire top surface of the leaves secrete a luminescent orange sap. The Cavernfire typically grows about two or three dozen quartets of these leaves per branch. They are arrow-head shaped and symmetrical. Its flowers, which bloom every three years, are circular in shape, and have seven petals. They are purple, green, and blue in colour. A typical bloom of a Cavernfire grows one flower for each quartet of leaves. These have seven petals, arranged with four looping upwards to form intersecting circles, and three spaced evenly in between the top four, looping downwards. These flowers become spore pods eventually, and after the spores are released they produce fruit. The fruit of the Cavernfire is shaped in a perfect sphere, and is approximately 8 nailsbreadths in diameter. Glowing a soft blue, these fruits are covered in swirling silver tendrils.
Territory. The Cavernfire is native to the Imlith Mountains, specifically its caves. The plant can also grow above-ground if the area is shaded enough: under heavy forest canopies, in cracks and crevices of the mountains, and even in the rotted-out trunks of fallen trees. The Cavernfire will wilt quickly if exposed to even moderate amounts of sunlight. Because it grows mainly in caves, the territory of the plant has not spread significantly, and remains restricted to the Imlith Mountains. Despite, or perhaps because of, its pale appearance, this plant survives well in the cold of the Imlith Mountains. The Cavernfire is also cultivated by the Susilgerim, and is grown in their communities.
Usages. Cavernfire is a versatile plant that is mainly used by the secretive Susilgerim Dwarves for its dyes, fruit, and poison.
Its roots, when ground into a powder, are used as an anaesthetic. In smaller amount, the roots are an ingredient in an incredibly strong beer. This beer is made using Margert Stalk barley. This beer is so strong that the nearby Kanapan men trade for it not to drink, but to give to their wives to use as a stain remover for clothing! (And even then, it is diluted in order to avoid destroying the fabric.) The Cavernfire's long, twisted, flexible branches make excellent rope. In fact the “runners”, which connect plant to plant in a patch of Cavernfire, can be as long as 15 peds.
The sap secreted by its leaves is luminescent, and when 'painted' onto walls and the edges of walkways, is a good low-level source of light in the caverns. It gives off a faint glow in the orange range - from a light yellow/green when freshly applied, then fading to a soft orange and finally to a faded red, almost a teki scarlet hue.. at which point it should be reapplied. It usually lasts for about two or three months; interestingly enough, in areas where it is most needed, such as little-travelled tunnels, it fades far more quickly, while in areas that are regularly provided with other lighting (hall torches, hearths, cooking fires, etc.) it can last nearly a season. Obviously it is responsive to light in some way, though no one has yet performed euxperi to investigate this curious property, owing to the relative rarity of the plant in areas outside the Imlith Mountains.
However, the sap alone is a narcotic, which has only a mild effect in small doses, but when concentrated makes an effective poison. The narcotic is extremely fast-acting, and in small doses produces dizziness and mild hallucinations. Several Rhom-oc orcs who have been grazed by the poison-dipped spear of the Susilgerim claim to have had strange dreams of being chased by kuatu riding on horned drakes. Whether this is an accurate account of the drug's effects is disputed, as no one has volunteered to test it. In high doses, the drug acts as a poison, shutting down the breathing of its unfortunate victims. The Susilgerim use this poison on most of their weapons, as it makes an ambush much more effective.
The flowers of the Cavernfire can be crushed to make blue, green,and purple dyes. These are formed by mixing the crushed leaves of the plant with bearbane oil and ground brikta grass. By varying the ratio of these ingredients, many shades of the above mentioned colours can be made. The dyes are used on clothing, as well as for various tattoos. These dyes are treasured by the Susilgerim, and often the mark of a Hu/Baregozar is sometimes applied using these dyes. Each Susilgerim is marked with a different shade of color, according to their occupation. Hunters are marked with a light green colour, foodmakers and brewmistresses with a dark green, and stone masons and weapons makers a dark blue. Also, singspeakers, earth guides, and healer are marked with light blue. Weavewenders and farmtenders are marked with purple, and mages are marked with an almost black purple.
The mark which is applied is the Susilgerim's tribal symbol, an arrow-head shaped leaf with a spear running threw its center. The runes for the letters "BK" marked on either side of the spear on the leaf, and are said to refer to the first Susilgerim clan chieftain.
Click on the cookery book to read the recipe of the Moonlight Pie.
The Cavernfire's fruit is very sweet, and considered a delicacy by the
Susilgerim. The fruit is used in
several tasty dishes. The most famous of these is the Moonlight pie. A female
dwarf's skill in making this pie is the main
consideration as to who becomes foodmakers. Its juice is often drunk by young
children, and slices of this fruit are a popular afterdinner snack, seeing as
they seem to clean the palate and remove bad breath. The tendrils surrounding
the fruit must be peeled off before the fruit is eaten. Though they are too
tough to be eaten themselves, they can be used as a flavouring to soups, having
a sharp spicy flavour when boiled in a broth.
Because the Cavernfire is held in such high regard by the Susilgerim, its products are not traded with other races, and few non-dwarves have privileged enough to receive one of these products as a gift. However, from what we have been able to discover, humans find the fruit tooth-achingly sweet, with no subtlety, while our one elven tester and two hobbits nearly swooned over it (and were all most dismayed to learn that the Compendium had only the one small sample for investigation...) Our single Susilgerim researcher, Morden Peshirgolz, claims that dwarves find it a perfect balance of sweetly succulent pulp, juicy and fragrant - the perfect berry.
Reproduction. The main form of reproduction of the Cavernfire is to grow “runners”, which embed themselves in the ground a few fores from the original plant. Then a new plant grows from that spot, exactly identical to the original. A single Cavernfire can typically grow into a patch of fifty Cavernfire in a year, though the main season of this type of growth is the fall. A Cavernfire is either male or female, and therefore each entire patch is the same gender as the original plant that started the patch. Every third year or so in the spring, the Cavernfire blooms and release spores into the air. Cavernfire spores usually remain relatively close to the ground, and have been noted to have a tendency to be redistributed into caves by the internal eddies and currents of air. If a male and female spore collide in the air they will merge to form a tiny seed. The new seed will fall to the ground and, assuming it lands in a suitable spot, grow into a new Cavernfire which will start a new Cavernfire patch.
Myth/Lore. The Susilgerim believe that this plant was created by Trum-Baroll himself as a memorial to the first clan-chieftain of the Susilgerim. The tale was recounted by a Susilgerim Denirim (sage-priest) thus:
The Fire of the First Clan-Chieftain. “The Khorimyeh Ultir, yes, a very revered plant, my child…,” the sage paused, “its origins are very old and shrouded in mystery. This much has been handed down through generations of Susilgerim. There was a time, long ago, when no dwarves lived in the mountains of Imlith. Then Trum-Baroll spoke to a clan of the Thergerim, bidding them come to these mountains. But the dwarves were torn between their respect and fear of Trum-Baroll and their love of their homes. For while all dwarves pay utmost honor to Trum-Baroll, also we fear change, and are loyal to our own homes. But one of their number, whose name is lost in the ages, convinced them that they must obey Trum-Baroll. This dwarf is considered the first clan-chieftain of the Susilgerim. This chieftain led them through many incredible dangers, but it would take me too long to tell you of their trials. When they reached the Imlith Mountains, they began work on a new home for the Susilgerim. This home was the beginning of the Great Hall. But in digging their new dwelling, the dwarves discovered an earth drake. Their chieftain, determined to see through the will of Trum-Baroll to the end, faced the drake in mortal combat, and killed it at the cost of his own life. For his great faithfulness, Trum-Baroll created the Khorimyeh Ultir to commemorate the fire and determination of our first clan-chieftain. Also, the plant was given many uses to benefit the new people, the Susilgerim.”
It is not known to what extent the Susilgerim hold to this story as historical fact. As far as we can determine, this story is only believed by a few extended families of the Susilgerim, maybe a quarter of the entire clan. There seem to be several stories surrounding the origin of the Susilgerim and the Cavernfire, some related and some not. However, since the Susilgerim keep no written records and keep largely to themselves, it may be some time before these stories can be effectively compiled.