A common bush found in many of the northern areas of the Sarvonian continent, the Sipping Bush tree is unlike most plants. A thin, stalky plant, it grows in a very unusual way, giving it its common name, the Sipping Bush, except for the Antislar who know it as the
"Ahenah Bush". Used by northern tribes for its medicinal uses, for nourishment and building material, it is a plant that has become very important to the northern people.
The Sipping Bush is a strange plant. For one, it does not grow out of the ground. It has roots, but these roots do not burrow into the soil like most plants do. Instead, they wrap around another object, anchoring it to its spot. These anchors can be nearly anything solid and stable enough to carry the weight of the Sipping Bush. Rocks, fallen logs, trees, and even buildings can become anchors for the bush. The only requirement is that it be next to water. Since the bush does not have roots that go into the soil in order to gather nutrients, it must get them another way. It has even been observed hanging on the sides of the gorge on Windy River, at Ranger's Falls and sipping from the water as it cascades over the falls.
The Sipping Bush gets its name because at dawn and at dusk, the main trunk of the Sipping Bush bends downward until its top most tip touches the water. It is through this hollowed out protrusion that water is taken into the plant. It might leave this protrusion, called the mouth, in the water for an hour before it rises again and once more reaches for the sky.
The roots of the Sipping bush are a pale white in colour. Like a spider web they encircle whatever object the plant has anchored onto. These roots are extremely tough and fibrous, completely enveloping the anchor. Even in strong winds, rarely do these bushes become unfastened and fall.
The trunk rises from the roots, the bark becoming a smooth reddish colour. Rarely more than a few nailsbreadth in diameter, the trunk is very pliable. It can be bent quite far before breaking. This is especially important when twice a day it "drinks" from the stream or pond by which it sits. For most of its length, the trunk is branch free, having only a few near the tip. These branches are usually short, much narrower, and hold the only leaves of this plant.
The leaves of the Sipping bush are of an elongated oval shape about a nailsbreadth in width. The leaves are a dark colour, ranging from a brownish red to a greenish red, with each bush producing mostly a single hue of leaf. Thus reddish bushes can be found next to brownish bushes, next to greenish bushes, all in one small grove. The edges of each leaf is serrated with the end of each point having a tiny hairlike string coming from them. The hairs of the Sipping bush are touch sensitive, and if triggered, the leaf will curl up in an attempt to protect itself. This curling is quite quick, and it is not uncommon for an insect to be trapped in the leaf's curl, though the sipping bush does not "eat" the insect in the way that some bushes are known to. The leaves will stay curled for a few moments before slowly uncurling again, though in the case of a poor unfortunate bug, it will likely begin to uncurl then tighten again as the insect struggles. The insect often ends up dead before it is released. Observers have noted that the leaves are neither triggered by wind, or by other leaves touching it, which begs the question how the plant does this. The best guess, and the accepted theory, is that the leaves can differentiate both the texture and heat of the object touching it, the hairs having the same ability to feel as skin does. Lack of good scientific experimentation in the north has hampered efforts to learn more of this feature, and Herbarium scholars have hinted that they may need to travel north in order to further the knowledge on these plants.
The very tip of the main trunk is a hollow opening, known as the mouth. During the dawn and dusk hours, the bush will lower this mouth into the water where it "sips" water to feed itself. From the mouth, the trunk is hollow for a distance of about a quarter of the entire length of the trunk, which fills and thus provides the bush with water throughout the day. It is not known why it chooses these two times of day to drink, but there are very few sites that can awe a traveller as that of going down to a mist covered lake in the early light of dawn and watching a small grove of these plants lowering themselves into the water in complete silence and drinking.
During late summer and into fall, these bushes begin to lose their leaves. By the time the snow falls and everything is frozen, the plant becomes dormant. It no longer drinks or moves on its own. It spends the winter as all other deciduous trees and bushes do.
Each spring, just back of the mouth, each bush produces one large red flower. This flower can be two palmspans in diameter, being a bright red in colour near the center and darkening in colour toward the outer edges. Small yellow freckles are sparsed on each petal, and the flower itself has between six and eight petals. The stamen is a pale yellow in colour, and stands about a fingerlength in length.
The Sipping bush can be found in many places in the north, wherever freshwater can be found, such as along river banks and next to lakes. Where they are found, they are usually quite numerous. Rarely do you find a single Sipping bush. They are found along the Aden River on the Peninsula of Aden, and into the Caaehl'heroth Peninsula along the banks of the Kharim and Ulaenoth rivers. Along the Camlyn River, and the Lofty Lake in the Iol Peninsula are found many areas thick with bushes. The Sipping bush does not grow in the Icelands regions of the Iol Peninsula, nor can it be found along the Icelands Coast.
Travelling south, one will encounter these bushes around Ebony Lake in the Peninsula of Kr'uul, all along the Liben and Luquador rivers and into the Kanapan peninsula along the banks of the Ancient River. Crystal Lake seems to be the southernmost location where the Sipping Tree is found. Attempts have been made to transplant it to the south of the Tandala Highlands, but to no avail so far. Those specimens that have been transplanted live for a short time, do not flower and reproduce, then wither and die.
The Sipping plant is a versatile plant for the people of the north. Its trunk is used for building, mainly as the framework for wattle and daub buildings. It is a strong wood that can also be woven into shape. The Antislar common folk use this type of building material for their homes. A framework is built from sipping bush trunks, woven together like a basket or mat might be, then a mixture of dung, water and mud is applied to it. These walls are cheap to make, and fairly easy, so they are a prominent feature of the farms and orchards in the southern areas of Northern Sarvonia.
Sipping bush bark tea is a medicinal drink that has been used for hundreds of years in order to cure upset stomachs and headaches. The bark, dried and ground, is steeped in hot water and given to the person in need. The hotter the water the better, so the patient is encouraged to drink it as quickly as possible. It tends to make the patient drowsy, and they usually fall asleep. When they wake, their symptoms have usually abated.
The leaves of the Sipping bush are used in a variety of foods. A very savoury type of flavour, it is used in many stuffings and salads of northern people. An example of this is the Antislar spit roasted
hrugchuk mouse meal. Mice are often gutted, stuffed with sipping bush leaves and finely chopped azigoor fruit and placed on a stick and roasted over an open flame. The flavour of the sipping bush leaves permeates the flesh of the mouse as it cooks. A ranger favourite, is to take a
woodworm, a worm found in the north that burrows into the trunks and branches of trees and bushes, and place it onto a leaf, then when the leaf closes around it, to pull the leaf off the bush and eat it.
Many times the leaves are not used fresh, but dried and ground, which is then called Nah'spice. The famous Dame Sausade has describes the flavour as such: "spicy, faintly smoky, savory tang, complementing mithatoes, lythebells, taenish meat and sausages", from her upcoming book, 'Frozen Fare: Barbarian Food Rendered Palatable'. Having it dried and ground, the Nah'spice will last much longer than would fresh leaves. It is this form which has made it into the spice trade to southern Sarvonia, and thus into many Santharian receipts.
Another usage is for cosmetics. The flower that is produced each spring is ground up and mixed with animal fat, then can be applied as a lip colourant, being a deep karikrimson in colour. Not only does it produce a beautiful colour, but many women claim that the smell of the lip balm entices men into kissing them more often. Unmarried girls of marrying age often wear this heavily. Noble women wear this as well, while most married common folk are discouraged by their husbands from wearing this while out at the market. Because of the rarity of the flower, this lip balm is an expensive luxury, but one that is viewed as "needed" by single women, thus even poorer people try to save up to buy it. There are cheaper lip balms on the market, dyed with other products and perfumed, but they are considered far inferior products and are not nearly as popular.
When curled, the leaves can produce a whistling sound when wind passes through. On windy days, hunters can sometimes track prey by listening for this wail, though no one would claim this as a reliable means to hunt. Still, hunters are themselves careful not to touch the leaves, thus alerting their prey to them.
The last usage for the Sipping plant is mainly for children. The children who come across a sipping plant sometimes pull off the leaves, after first touching them, causing them to curl. Once done, the children blow through the leaves, creating the song for which the plant is famous for, much to the dismay of many parents.
Each spring, the Sipping bush produces one large flower. When the flower reaches about two palmspans in diameter it will fall away from the main plant. In many cases, this happens when the plant dips into the water. Carried by the water, or wind if it has fallen to the ground, when it encounters a solid object, it begins to grow a network of fibrous roots that grow quickly. Within a couple of days, a Sipping bush flower can have roots completely encircle another tree trunk with a diameter the size of an average human waist.
Once a network of roots has efficiently gripped another object, the plant will start sprouting a stem that will eventually grow into its trunk. During this time, some of the roots that grow do bury themselves into the ground, and for a time, this bush grows much like a normal bush, though rather quickly. The stem, or trunk, will grow in the first few months at up to a palmspan a day. During this time, the plant will start its morning and evening dipping movement, though rarely does it find water right away.
Once the plant has grown long enough to find water, the roots that have dug into the
soil shrivel up and dry out. Over time, these roots can move the bush short
distances, such as further up the trunk of a tree, so that is not touching the
The Antislar have a myth that tells the tale of how the Sipping Plant came into being.
How the Sipping Bush Came Into Being.
In the time before time, there was a beautiful girl who came everyday to the stream to gather water in a bucket for her family, each morning and each night. Her name was Ahenah, and though she was beautiful, her looks had not made her a fickle and silly girl. Everyone who knew her loved her, but she remained pure and loving and kind.
Unbeknownst to Ahenah, the spirit of the Stream, Ji-kari, had caught a glimpse of her one day and fell hopelessly in love with her. Each morning and each evening, Ji-kari would hide in the flowing stream and watch her, dreaming that she loved him back. Dreaming that the songs she sang to herself she sang to him alone. Dreaming that the large red flower she wore in her hair was one that he had picked and given to her to wear. Day after day he would watch, as the girl grew more lovely and grew into womanhood, but always with that smile, always with that big red flower in her hair, always with the song she sang to him.
Then it came one day that Ji-kari could no longer take his loneliness and vowed to profess his love for her. But on the day that Ji-kari planned to give her his heart, planned to profess his love, Ahenah did not come down to the stream. He waited until evening, but she did not show. He waited til dawn, but she did not show. Days turned to weeks which blended into months, and Ahenah never showed again.
Then one day, a young boy came to the stream, bucket in hand, with a face as lovely as the girl Ji-kari had known and loved. Approaching the boy, Ji-kari spoke to him and asked his name, to which the boy replied it was Foorayl. And did he know, this Foorayl, the beautiful girl whose name was Ahenah? To which the boy nodded and said that he indeed did know the girl, that Ahenah was the name of his mother.
Then why did your mother no longer draw water as she had done for so long? And the boy answered with tears that filled his eyes that his mother had died years before, while giving birth to him. Together Ji-kari and the boy cried over the loss of the women they both loved yet did not know.
And Ji-kari spoke unto the boy and said that when he returned on the morrow that there would be a surprise for him. And so the boy ran home, and then the boy returned as the morning light was burning the mist from the water. And the boy stood on the bank, and Ji-kari stood beside him, and together they cried, for all along the bank, on both sides, hundreds of red flowers drew water from the stream. And in the breeze that blew, the song of Ahenah did softly fill their ears.
And together they cried.
And together they missed her.
And together they loved the girl, Ahenah.