(Thergerim, “Margert Stalk”)
is a long, slender plant that is native to the cold plains of
Northern Sarvonia. It stands about
the height of man’s waist, and is very useful as a food product. The seeds of
this plant are ground up into flour, and used in baking by peoples all over the
north. It also is used as a source of fermentation for beer and as an ingredient
in other malt beverages by several tribes. A bright shade of red, this plant
blooms with flowers every spring in colours of orange, white, and yellow. Its
seeds, which are referred to as "Beerlay", are an off-white colour.
Strangely enough, this plant has managed to find its way into Southern Sarvonia by trade, and grows there also. However, it appears that the change in climate results in a dramatic change in the appearance of the plant. There it grows nearly three times as high, and is a very dark shade of purple. It sports red, pink, and green flowers while growing in Southern Sarvonia, and the seeds it produces are an orange colour. It has been found that the seeds grown in Southern Sarvonia are incredibly bitter, and unusable for flour, though they are still usable as a fermentation source. In Southern Sarvonia, the plant is more commonly called by the name of its seed, Beerlay.
Appearance. There are two varieties of Red Grain, a northern one and a southern one:
Red Grain, on average, grows to about a ped tall, give or take a palmspan. The majority of the plant is made up of a thin, narrow stalk. This stalk, which is coloured a pale shade of red, is circular in shape, and has a velvety texture to it. It is covered in tiny little hair-like fibers. At the base of the stalk are several leaves, which are about a fore long, and about half a palmspan across. They are shaped like large blades of grass, and have a peculiar pattern of veins running through them. Instead of the straight, parallel pattern of grass, these leaves have an intricately intertwining pattern that looks very much like a lace lattice. These leaves are also a rusty red in color, but the veins in the leaves are an aquamarine colour. Because this causes an effect much like a heavily latticed window, these leaves are commonly used for decorations.
Picture description. The strong colour of Red Grain, also called "Barlay" or "Beerlay". Image drawn by Bard Judith.
The roots of the Red Grain all grow from one thick main root, which grows
straight down into the ground, for at least a
ped and a half. From this
grow many smaller roots, all of which end in a small bulbous structure. These
bulbs are about a half a
palmspan in diameter, green in colour, and hold a lot of juice within them.
Also, covering the main root are various black “eyes”, rough round spots with a
raised bump in the center. All of these structures aid the plant in growing in
the cold, hard soil of Northern
The last two palmspans of the Red Grain are covered in flowers throughout the spring and summer. There are usually several dozen rows of the tiny flowers clustered together in this small space. These flowers can be orange, white, or yellow in colour. A particular stalk of Red Grain will only grow one colour of these flowers. Furthermore, it is said that a stalk of Red Grain only grows red flowers upon the Heaths of Wilderon, the site of a great battle among the peoples of Northern Sarvonia. Each flower, only a few grains in diameter, has five delicate petals. Upon very close inspection, children of Northern Sarvonia have found three different patterns formed by the veins in these petals, though each petal contains only one design. Easily distinguished by their dark blue colour, these are an arrow, a square, and circle, and they occur with a completely random degree of frequency on these petals.
The seeds of this plant, called “Beerlay”, appear on the plant in the late summer and early fall. They are small, about the same size as the flowers of the plant, and they are a somewhat yellowish-white colour. These seeds have an elliptical shape to them, being thicker around the center than at the ends. They are very hard, and have a rough outer skin with many small niches and holes in it. Around the center of this covering is a groove that encircles the seed, and secretes a transparent, oily substance. When broken open, it has been found that the Beerlay contain a creamy-white coloured, malleable substance that surrounds a hard miniscule rusty orange sphere.
Due to the warmer climate of Southern Sarvonia, Red Grain changes in several ways when planted in that region. This was discovered through the trade of the plant between the peoples of both continents. The stalk of this variety is about twice as thick as the northern version, and it grows to an impressive height of just under two peds. Its colour is a very dark shade of purple, in contrast to the bright red of the northern plant, and the stalk loses its velvety texture to a rough, nearly bark-like exterior. The leaves no longer grow from the base of the plant, but branch off of the stalk. These leaves are circular in shape, but still have the same interweaving pattern in their veins. However, the colour of these veins also changes, in this case to a mellow golden colour.
While the root structure of these southern plants remains unaltered, their flowers do not. Firstly, they are fewer of them and they are much larger. They are about one and a half palmspans on diameter, and cover an area at the top of the plant twice the amount of the northern flowers. These flowers grow in colours of red, pink, and green. Unlike the northern variety, each stalk does not produce only a single color of flowers. Each plant has flowers that are a mixture of these three colours. In rare cases, even the petals on a flower are different colours from one another. The usual arrangement of colours is two petals of one colour with the third one being different. These flowers have only three petals as opposed to five, and though are no visible veins or designs on them.
The Beerlay seeds of this plant are slightly larger, and fewer in number, than the northern stalks. They are similar in structure, but their inside is black in their colour. These seeds, when ground into flour, have been found to have a terribly bitter taste that destroys any thought of eating it. When left to ferment, however, beers and ales can be produced.
Red Grain grows on practically any relatively flat area on the entire continent
of Sarvonia. This
plant (due to its dual nature), can survive in many different climates, and so
the only limitation to its growth is its need for flat terrain. A particularly
heavy concentration of this plant can be found on the Heaths of Wilderon. The
reason for its spread across the continent is the fact that it has been used in
trade very much through the ages, and nowadays it is rarely seen growing in the
wild. The vast majority of this plant is grown by farmers.
Usages. The northern variety of Red Grain can be ground into a rusty orange colored flour, which is used by the Kuglimz men, Kanapan Men, northern dwarves, and Evathonrhim for their baking needs. This flour is very good for cakes and pastries, since it produces a rich flavor. However, this flavour is too rich for bread, and the products produced from this plant do not keep fresh for more than a few days, which means it is not practical for rations. The Kanapan women are especially renowned for their skill in using this flour for a variety of excellent sweets. The Susilgerim dwarves, who conduct regular trade with the Kanapans, have copied this skill in some degree with their Moonlight Pie (made with the fruit of the cavernfire bush). The Kuglim mix the flour with dried lythien moss, which keeps the good flavor of the flour but also acts as a preservative, making it usable for more practical needs. The Kaaer'dár'shín half-orcs also use this grain for baking, though they use a small amount of the extract of the althz'onn ("bean plant") to help preserve it. The breads they bake are usually eaten with many of their meals, as a balance to their largely carnivorous diet.
The orcs find the baked goods made with this flour to be absolutely vile, and burn the plant whenever they can. A common method of torture used by humans and dwarves upon their orcish prisoners is to forcefully feed them bread baked with this flour. Due to the sharp teeth and claws of most orcs, this is accomplished through the use of a wooden pole.
Another important usage of Red Grain is as a fermentation source for many of the beers and ales produced in Sarvonia. In the north, the Beerlay seeds ferment to make very strong beverages used by many different tribes. Several of the techniques used by these peoples are worth mentioning. The Susilgerim dwarves dig out small caves specifically for this purpose. These caves usually have a pit in their center, into which is poured sugar, water, and Beerlay. This pit is then carefully sealed by a stone cap. The stone masonry skills of the Susilgerim allows them to create a cap that will fit perfectly over the pit, sitting over the ledge carved out by the dwarves for this purpose. The mixture is then allowed to ferment for several months. The Kuglimz men construct clay pots to put a similar mixture in, which they bury underground during fermentation. The Kanapan men use the hide of a furno to make a pouch in which to place the Beerlay and other ingredients. These are hung in a shack specially built for this purpose, and most villages share one such shack.
The southern variety of the Red Grain is not usable for flour, but the Beerlay it produces is still fermentable. It does, however, produce a beer much weaker than the northern version. It makes superb malt, and is one of the ingredients of the hobbits’ malt-coffee. It is said that several malt beverages made from this plant have been a favorite of the Santharian king and his court for many generations.
Reproduction. The Red Grain reproduces solely by flower pollination, and the production of its seeds, the Beerlay. Therefore it is always necessary for a farmer to save a portion of the crop of this plant to use to grow next year’s crop. This plant blooms every spring, and keeps its flowers through out the summer. These flowers are not pollinated by other creatures, but by a peculiar process the plant uses. Three times over the summer this plant produces sacs of pollen which burst, spewing their contents into the air. These then pollinate other flowers, and seeds are produced. In this way, the plant actually can produce three crops within a growing season. The Red Grain withers and dies in as the first frost of winter begin, leaving its many seeds behind to grow next year's crop. However, this is usually accomplished by farmers and not by the forces of nature.
Myth/Lore. The flowers of the northern variety of Red Grain have designs on them, formed by the veins in their petals. These designs are an arrow, a square, and a circle. Finding a flower that has all five of the same symbol on it is considering to be extremely good luck and is quite rare. Each symbol gives the luck a different meaning. Five arrows means a time of plentiful food is coming, squares (representing an anvil) is said to portend great wealth in the future, and circles mean a long life for the finder of the flower. It has become a custom among both the human and dwarven children of the continent to search through the fields of Red Grain for flowers of these kinds.
The flowers of the Southern version of this plant are viewed by humans in a similar way. It is rare to find a multi-coloured flower, but even more difficult to find one on which all three petals are the same colour. Red is said to mean that the finder will discover their true love soon, pink is said to be an omen of having many children, and green means that food will be in abundance. A flower with all three colours is even rarer, and it portends several important things. First, a person who manages to find such a flower is considered to be smiled upon by the Gods, and to be a source of good luck. It is said that only a person of noble heart can find this flower, and they are usually given a position of leadership in the community. Called the “King’s Flower”, for the first to find this rare sight was indeed a king of Santharia, the flower has only been found six times in known history. All those who found the flower, excepting the king, went on to become nobility. All six were renowned for their kindness, courage, and leadership in their time.