THE AR'PUN GRASS ("SHAKEGRASS")

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

Ar'pun or Shakesgrass is one of the hardiest desert grasses on Caelereth, thriving in extreme dryness, heat and other unforgiving conditions. Growing in patches, it can reach two peds in height, and can be found in places where no other plants can survive. From the south of the Aj'Nuvic Grounds to the freezing, but dry, regions of Northern Sarvonia, Ar'pun can survive all but that which others need to live - water.

Appearance. A tall, pale, silvery-green grass of up to two peds in height, Ar'pun has thin straight blades that start at a mere three nailsbreadth wide and taper elegantly to sharp and dry browning points. Sheathed in between two tall leaves, the flower and eventual seed stalks have a circular cross-section and are mostly hollow. The flowers are quite difficult to discern, like many grass blooms, and are coloured like the grass itself - composed of tiny feather-like twists. There are, on rough counting, about a hundred such flowers per flower-head, and about one flower-head to every twenty normal blades. When the flowers turn to seed, they darken to oval grains of an almost black green and give a faint dry rattling sound when moved by the breeze, almost like the sound of the far distant sea. In higher winds, the whole plant sways and bends, flexible at all times, ready to spring straight again when the air once again breathes calm. For roots, the Ar'pun has a tangled mess of thin white fibers that may reach down as far as three peds to try to gather moisture. For its part, Ar'pun does much to halt or slow the movement of the sands with its net of fine roots and can lend stability to areas where there may be none. Return to the top

Territory. Ar'pun is a uniquely desert dwelling plant, being unable to withstand extended periods of high dampness or rainfall. Subjected to any such glut of water, Ar'pun rots just above the root-ball and the tall elegant leaves collapse, never to rise again. Indeed though, one could say that the Ar'pun thrives in those places where other plants would quickly wither, and can be found 'flourishing' in the inhospitably dry Southern Aj'Nuvic Grounds, sporadically in the valleys of the Great Dunes, and in stunted form on the borders of the Lands of Pain. Heat, vast amount of sun, occasional high winds, dryness, earthen salts and bitter cold nights are the Ar'puns favoured conditions.
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Usages.  Ar'pun has, for all known time, been used as a source of rough grazing for the aka'pi and the somewhat smaller aka'lol, though these animals will seek sweeter grass when they can. Animals raised on a diet of Ar'pun have been found to have brighter eyes than others, though the softness of their coat sometimes suffers and a diet of Ar'pun alone is not recommended.

The Shendar find uses for Ar'pun, as they find uses for all things in their lands, and have utilized the split blades of grass for weaving temporary baskets and brief shades against the sun. Ar'pun will be most often seen, however, used woven into a wrapping for small cakes of maturing aka'pi cheese. The leaves of the Ar'pun contain the moisture of the cheese, and impart a pale green colour to the soft outer rind, and a taste that can be called closest to roasted nut. While not the only method of cheese wrapping, Ar'pun wrapped cheese is very common and certainly not unpleasant to even a non-Shendar's tongue.
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Reproduction. A perennial grass, Ar'pun flowers and brings forth seeds once a year, though few of them ever manage to sprout in these harsh environments. At around the month of the Sleeping Dreameress, Ar'pun sends its flower spike up and by the end of a month, it has come into subtle bloom. Then, by no later than Passing Clouds, almost in reverence of Baveras, Ar'puns flowers have withered swollen to the hollow rattling green-black grains that make the distinctive sea wash sound. These grains, when ripe, fall from the plant and roll, bounce or are strewn by autumnal winds to find crevices to rest in. It will be half a year before they may first try to sprout, and some choose not to for several years, such is the hardiness and patience of Ar'puns grains.
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Myth/Lore. One of the most common tales told among the Shendar dealing with Ar'pun Grass is the story about Arila the Faithful and her encounter with a sand demon:

Arila the Faithful and the Demon. Long long ago, when the desert was almost unknown to the Shendar and they had yet to learn of it's wonders, a woman walked the sands and was called Arila the Faithful. She had lived as Baveras would want her, and to her clan she was most precious. This angered a nearby venazla sand demon, that a mere woman be so well thought, and he planned to capture her and steal her power. The demon waited until she walked alone on the sands, and lept out at her.
 
"Ah ha!" he cried, "I have caught you, feeble woman."

Arila laughed at him and told the demon, "No one can hold me, for the desert is free to the Shendar."

The venazla was angry at this outspoken woman, and cast great magics. He brought forth from the ground one-hundred sharpest knives to surround Arila, like a pen made for creatures.

"Now I have captured you, and you will give to me your power!" he leered.

Arila laughed again and said "Foolish demon, Baveras' will, not yours, hold sway in the sands - your knives are like blades of grass to me." - And indeed they became so - tall blades of grass with Baveras' will.

The demon was furious and stomped the sand greatly. "Then if they are to be grass, they shall still be sharp, and tall, and strong, that you may not bend them with force of arm." - And indeed the grass was so - it was sharp to touch, and tall, and very strong for grass.

Arila smiled at the furious venazla. "Demon, it is not by force of arm that one can conquer the deserts, but only by Baveras' will, Baveras' faith, and Baveras' gifts."

And Arila knelt and whispering a prayer, poured precious water at the base of the grass, which bowed before the gift of Baveras and freed Arila from the demon's trap. So now Arila's trap is known as the Ar'pun, and still it is sharp and tall and strong. But always will it bow to the gifts of Baveras.


-- Thuram Deith: "Shendar Tales", p. 112. Return to the top
 

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