Dainbel (Styrásh "Dain'bél" for
"Day Berry") is a small, squat bush found predominantly within the southern
provinces. It is best known for the varying colours of its berries and unusual
flowers. On the first day of the month of
Changing Winds simple white
flowers extend from the thick stems. The flowers recede every night to only
flower again at Firstflame. As
the months change to the Rising Sun
the flowers are replaced by small white berries. As time moves on the berries
progress through many colours, and with each colour comes a different taste.
Appearance. The name of the Dainbel, meaning day berry, is liable to the flowers of this bush. On the first day of the Changing Winds tiny white buds cover the bush like freshly fallen snow. For that day and the next night it lies dormant, hiding its simple beauty. On the second day, when the rays of Injèrá fall upon the bush, the buds open to reveal a simple, white flower. This flower follows the sun around for that day and then closes, as Injèrá departs for the Void. It opens every day, and closes every night, continuing like this until it withers in the month of Singing Bird.
The bush itself is small, about two fores tall. It is adorned with green, ovate leaves and pale brown, slender branches. The branches spread out to make the bush about as wide as it is tall. These branches are often hidden by densely growing leaves, and droop when burdened by berries. Before the leaves fall they turn a brilliant deep red, to fade into a rather unremarkable dull brown.
Territory. The Dainbels love of warmth finds it chiefly within the southern provinces of Santharia, such as Sanguia, Mantharia and Brendolan. It prospers around such elven forests as the Sharadon, the Auturian, the Zeiphyrian, the Quallian, but it has been seen as far north as the Vontron. The yield of this bush always seems to be larger and more tasteful in and around elven forests, most probably because of the unusual mild temperature these woods have. The bush also grows in places more easily accessed by humans, but the elven bounty is the envy of all human harvesters.
Usages. As the flowers wilt and die, they are replaced by something even more spectacular. Small white berries sprout all over the bush, leaving it looking like snow fallen in Singing Bird. These berries are not often picked now, as their taste is sour and unpleasant. The few that are harvested are used to make light, tart, refreshing wine.
When Rising Sun comes about the white berries shade to green in colour. The vibrant green is similar to the leaves, and so the berries are hidden amongst them. The berries have still not achieved the sweet flavour they are loved for. Instead they please the body rather than the tongue. When simmered they create a powerful infusion, that invigorates the body and mind. It is also used as treatment for some minor ailments, such as indigestion and headaches. This tonic is often added to teas to disguise its unpleasant taste.
As a month passes, and the sun burns in the sky the berries change again. Under Injèrá's rays the summer berry ripens both yellow and sweet. It is now tasty to eat freshly picked or lightly cooked. This is the time when their numbers dwindle, as children rush from plant to plant, picking them in plenty, ignoring their mothers scolding. The berries still retain some medicinal benefits, so the children eat to their delight without stomach-ache.
Image description. A banquet scene with the delicious dainbel pie. Picture drawn by Seeker.
By autumn, the berries have lost their soft yellow colour for a brilliant orange
that borders on red. The remaining berries are usually gathered at this time by
adults as well as children. This is when the berries are most favoured in
cooking, baked into pies and turned into sauces to flavour a winter meal. It can
still be eaten fresh, and are often scattered over meals as a garnish.
If left on the plant to first frost, though it is rare for harvesters to have so much self-control, the berries become a deep crimson, almost purple. They begin to shrink and shrivel; in much the same way as a grape into a raisin. If plucked and left to dry, these berries now make excellent travelling food, and a tasty snack. They can be kept for a year, if stored in a cool dry place, and they have a strong revitalising effect.
Reproduction. The flowers of the Dainbel plant bloom during Changing Winds. Through this flower, one plant can share pollen with another plant in the area with the help of insects, or even by the wind. When the month changes, the petals fall away and the berries begin to grow. These berries are often eaten by animals and then the seeds are spread.
Myth/Lore. In the province of Brendolan, berry gatherers take care to wear the colour of the berry they wish to harvest somewhere about them. This custom has continued for so long that it has become stylised, and most people simply wear a scarf or kerchief in the desired colour. In fact, among the agricultural implements, baskets, and other oddments of a chandler's shop, you can easily purchase "Dainbel Scarf Sets" - a five-scarf collection in the five main hues of the berry's stages. These days it is not frowned upon to wear the scarves at other times and for other purposes; fortunately, for village belles with limited purses. But grannies in villages around the province say they still remember when they were chastised and sent back by their mothers to change, for wearing anything other than the hoped-for hue on a berry-gathering day!
Further north, another custom had developed among the superstitious. On the first day of Changing Winds villagers would go out and pick a budding flower from every bush they wished to harvest. They would then take the bud home and carefully open the flower. As the sun began to descend, the flowers would be taken back to the bush from whence they came and be placed among the still closed flowers. These open flowers would serve as a guide to all others for the next day. This practice has declined over time, and now it is common for only the village elder to pick and open a single flower, and then cast it into the wind.