Rockmoss is also often referred to as "Rockwool", "Cuncu-moss" or "Weavemoss".
The dwarves name it TruThelk (TruThelk),
literally ‘Rock-Moss’, while the Kuglimz
say "Alth'turg'meeh'kah", literally "Rock Plant like Sheep". To
Brownies it is “aiaLL-rreh” although the
Brownies near Kor Donion use a variation of
the ThergerimTaal name; “Tr’oooeh’eee’ehl”.
Rockmoss is a wiry dark-coloured vegetation growing almost everywhere in lowlight conditions and is notable mainly for its ability to be spun into a resilient - if somewhat scratchy - heavy thread, from which the Thergerim of Caelereth weave their everyday overclothes, but is also the source of ‘mosspepper’, a pungently spicy flavouring powder.
|Image description: Growing on the mountainside of the Tandala Highlands you can often find patches of Rockmoss. Picture by Quellion.|
or “TruThelk” as the
call it, is a spongy moss composed of many thin
fibrous strands which are tangled and curled together like a tuft of
sheep’s fleece. In fact, due to its
black-brown shading, and the way in which it grows in large clumps spread over
rocky surfaces, it aptly resembles a
cuncu pelt spread out to dry…
Individual fibers are about a half-grain in thickness and can be as long as five or six fores, although typically they range from a fore-and-a-half to three fores (or a ped). They are tough, springy, and not easily broken from their tangle. Depending upon the amount of light the plant receives, the colour of the moss will range from a pale tan (in light shade) to a soft brown (in shaded forests or grow-caverns) to nearly black (underground in Thergerim caverns lit only by firelight).
The root system is shallow but almost as thickly tangled as the plant aboveground, with hundreds of minute ‘spikes’ or prickles, which effectively dig into whatever surface the moss grows upon, even seemingly sheer rock. The moss bears tiny ‘flowers’ which are not actually recognizable as such, being grain-sized projections from the main fibers. Roughly hammer-shaped, these little offshoots are coloured a soft milchbutter yellow which will eventually release spores and then fall away, withered.
Territory. Prolific and tolerant, Rockmoss can be found throughout Sarvonia, from the cold northern steppes and the Heath of Wilderon, right down to the southernmost point of Truban, wherever there is shade and some moisture to be found. To be fair, it has only been found rarely in Stratan cellars at this point, but it does grow in the wild as far southward as Occen’s Lake in Bardavos.
It prefers very low light but can grow in indirect sunlight and shade such as is found under individual trees. It thrives in the depths of overgrown forests where little else can survive beneath the canopy of ancient trees, and is particularly fond of caverns. The Thergerim cultivate it by both firelight and the luminescence of glowmoss, producing the darker, saturated hues and slightly shorter fibers.
It can be an eerie sight even for the stoutest wanderer, to walk a path beneath the dark-barked trees of the Paeleon or the Sharadon and see the branches all be-draped with this wiry moss. One’s footfall is cushioned with the brown sponge, so the sound is muffled, and it clings to the boles and stumps of forest giants, shrouding them in peculiar looming shapes.
Usages. There's a large palette of Rockmoss usages, the most important are listed below:
The most common usage for Rockmoss, as indicated by some of its alternate names, is in Thergerim work garments. The dwarves cultivate and harvest TruThelk regularly, immediately after it has spored, cutting it away with great sweeps of specialized sickles. The still-moist sheets and ‘pelts’ of moss are then laid to soak in basins, carved like much else in the underground world directly out of the rock.
Each clan has its own receipt for the soaking mixture and is reluctant to divulge it to humans, but we know the fluid contains extracts of yahrle, bat guano, wild rose petals, and alum, among other ingredients. Sometimes at this time the moss is also bleached and then redyed with gnomish distillates in brighter colours, but just as often it is left in its original tan, dark brown, or black hues. Various other flower extracts can also be added at this time to cover or neutralize the faintly peppery scent of the untreated moss. The soaking renders the moss fibers stretchier and smoother, and in some way removes the prickly stubs of the roots as well as dissolving the scratchy silicates, or so our gnomish Compendium writers tell us.
After soaking, the moss is hung to dry and then combed out and spun just as one might work with sheep’s wool or any other fiber. The tendrils remain coarser than wool but also more resilient, so the resulting ‘rockyarn’ has a spongy, cushiony feel to it. Although different clans may have different ways, in general Thergerim women tend to spin individually on little hand spindles but then take their rockyarn to the cavern’s weaver to have it made into cloth. Most of the cloth is then returned to its spinner who cuts, pieces, and sews her mate’s clothing to measure as needed. Extra cloth is stockpiled for the community by the weaver, to be parcelled out for the children and the unmated bachelors as needed.
Bedding, Ropes, Cleaning
The moss is used aboveground by humans as traveller’s bedding, and can be woven directly into a rough rope in cases of need, although it does not have the strength of the dwarven-treated fiber. Tufts of it are cleaned, dried, and used as scrubbing pads in many households, the high silica content of the fibers making them effective at removing burnt-on detritus.
The desiccated moss, just before it crumbles, is extremely dry and will not absorb water, making it highly flammable and ideal for a tinderstarter even in the dampest weather. But only the rawest novice will bother to buy a bag of the stuff (as it is sometimes sold in chandler’s shops), since most people can locate a patch of Rockmoss on their own by simply seeking out a shady, moist area and looking for the faded spots that mark the dead moss.
And last, but not least, the spores can be collected (by placing a large bag over a patch of the flowering moss and waiting for the hammerbuds to burst) and used as a pleasantly peppery shake over one’s food. Both dwarves and humans enjoy a sprinkle of this ‘rockspice’ on meats, over taenish eggs, or to perk up otherwise bland vegetables. Commercially, rockspice, or mosspepper, as it is also known, is usually only available in the markets of larger cities, for the benefit of the middleclass and nobility, as most farmers and peasants have the moss ready-to-hand somewhere nearby and can collect a small pouch of the stuff as they require.
Rockmoss grows slowly but plentifully, and it reproduces through most of the
year, so that one can find patches of the stuff in every stage in any particular
month save the coldest. The young moss first sprouts its hammer-shaped yellow
‘flowers’ at about two months of age, while its fibrous system is still short
and undeveloped. Those protrusions begin to swell with spores from the third to
the fifth month of the moss’s life, then burst explosively to spread the
miniature peppery grains everywhere, after which, withered and empty, they fall
away. A spore germinates as soon as it has any moisture and begins to grow
rapidly, first thrusting out a miniature prickle-root to anchor itself, then
sprouting hair-fine tendrils which develop into the mature tufts of dark fiber
familiar to us as Rockmoss.
The mature plant, having scattered its spores, now continues to twine and develop its strands for the next three to six years. Eventually the moss, if not harvested by the industrious dwarves, will begin to fade in colour and harden – despite the continued presence of moisture – and will eventually become so completely desiccated that it crumbles to powder. Thergerim herbalists say that somehow the plant becomes unable to absorb water, even if it is immersed in the substance. The space it has occupied up to that point will now become free for new spores to take root, and so the cycle continues.
Myth/Lore. The Thergerim make much of the fact that the moss, like they themselves, hardens in death. The dried TruThelk is sometimes collected and used in their parting ceremonies, tossed into the great hearthfire in the centre of the cavern (see “The Aveferpesthomm of Mututaph”). The flammable substance makes the flames leap as if dancing, joining the mourners in their rituals.
The Boltgrummarim, who speak more freely of their customs to humans than most dwarven clans, tell us that they believe the moss to be an apt symbol of the Thergerim race, citing its survival abilities, its love for darkness and the underground, its strength and resilience – even its prickly nature and peppery taste they proudly claim as akin to the well-known dwarven bluntness. Indeed, we can almost believe that Urtengor, rather than Jeyriall, designed this hardworking plant, with little beauty but much utility!
Information provided by Bard Judith