THE FOOLSBED BUSH ("WANDERTHORN", "BATBUSH")

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

The Foolsbed is native to the Lands of Pain, and is also referred to as False Dreaming, Batbush or Wanderthorn. It is an unusual, woody desert shrub with unique methods of moisture collection and mind-effecting defenses from those creatures who would take that moisture. The Foolsbed Bush has also been recorded growing in Aeruillin, especially near the Void.

Appearance. The Foolsbed is a short, ground hugging plant which may never reach higher than a fore in height, but will rather bend low upon the dry earth - choosing to spread across rather than grow up-wards. A woody stemmed, brittle looking plant, Foolsbed seems to all intents and purposes like a dead plant of other regions, but this is misleading as there is still strength and life within its withered looking, thorned branches. Emerging from the cracked soil with a stem a bare half-palm around, it branches quickly, twisting and turning like a dried bramble. Every half-dozen nailsbreadths or so is a pair of close set thorns, thin and straight and two-nails long. Between these thorns is a thin papery membrane, somewhat like a bat's wing, and coloured like the sand. These are best seen in the first moments of dawn, when the thorns are still open from the night and the membranes are fully extended, catching early morning dew that may be found. After the first rays of sun have fully hit the plant, it closes its thorns again and seeks to conserve its hard won water from the cruel sun.

The root system of the Foolsbed is shallow and thin, twisting much as the branches of the upper plant portions do. When the Foolsbed flowers, it does so in shades of orange - ranging from pale salmon colours and brilliant gold through to rich dark shades that are reminiscent of stalls of dried hot spice. These tiny daisy-like flowers are never more than a nailsbreadth across and seldom last more than a glorious colourful week.
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Territory. The Shendar say that the Lands of Pain took their colour from the Foolsbed, for it is the only plant of noteworthy size which grows there in abundance. Found in arid lands of sand or pebble, Foolsbed is hardy to dry wind, bitterly cold nights and the almost intolerable heat of the midday desert summer sun. But the Lands of Pain are not the only place where it grows. It will be found on the long dry banks of abandoned riverbeds and wadis like in the northern part of the Seven Jewels and sometimes on the southern side of low desert hills. Foolsbed is however intolerant to damp conditions, and should it suffer rain more than twice in a month it will be likely to develop a powdery brown mould that softens the branches and weakens its constitution.

There are no reports, that this plant is common in the Nybelmar deserts, but it is widespread in Aeruillin and grows where the climatic conditions allow it, especially in the very south. There, near the Void, the vision-causing effect of a drop is said to be much stronger, and so-called observations of strange beasts living in the Void may be mere waking dreams brought on by unnoticed contact with this plant.
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Usages. Foolsbed curious method of collecting precious water in the depths of the desert is also the source of its one use. Each night, over the course of hours, the small pairs of thorns at each branch joint separate from its twin and thusly extend the papery membrane between them in small half-circle fans. These little 'bat wings' lie horizontal to the earth and at the night ends and dawn approaches, the dew is caught upon the undersides of these fans. Slowly then, the thorns close up again, hiding the moisture from the sun's theft. However, this dew has been changed with closeness to the plant, and collection of this precious water yields a most powerful drug. Foolsbed dew, if rubbed on the skin, or sipped in tiny quantities of no more than two drops, is a bringer of sleep and befuddler of the mind. Those who have taken it will be taken with the urge to rest, though they will forget all cause of worry or sense and will claim to observe things that are not there. Taken too freely, however, it can cause permanent feebleness of the mind, night terrors, and in extremis, a sleep that one cannot be roused from.
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Reproduction. Every other year, during the brief rain season, Foolsbed bursts into riotous colour, with every pair of thorns becoming adorned with a tiny orange flower. These flowers are coated in sweet musky smelling yellow pollen that flies off the flowers in small puffs like a housewife beating a rug. The yellow haze above a goodly crop of Foolsbed bushes is a lovely sight that serves to soften the image of the normally harsh plant, and seemingly is enough for it to bring forth small black seed from each withered flower-head. These black seeds are less than a nailsbreadth across and coated in a sticky gum like substance. Foolsbed seeds are thusly ideally suited to their method of transportation - sticking as they do so well into the hides of passing animals and on the clothes of the people of the area. When eventually shed, they roll over the now hard ground to find a crack that they might fall into, and over the course of the next year, sprout a bare palm in height and develop its first thorns.
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Myth/Lore. It was once thought that taking Foolsbed dew would give visions of great power and fortune to the imbiber, and one such tale is told of an Azhorhrian youth who accidentally found the knowledge of the False Dreaming.

Micipsa and the Foolsbed. Micipsa was a tall and handsome youth but his family had fallen from grace and he was very poor. His mother had no food and his father had taken a women of another tribe.

Micipsa was out hunting very early when he stumbled and landed upon the branches of a Foolsbed, being pierced but once in his arm. All at once a great fatigue sought to overtake him and he sat down with a bump. Beneath the branches lay a small furred creature, who blinked at him and spoke in his own tongue "You, Micipsa are very poor, and you are now very tired, but if you stay awake this day in the glare of the burning sun, I will make you wealthy again."

Micipsa was very tired, but spoke to the wonderous creature "Creature - I do not doubt that you can do this, as you can speak as well as a man, but the sun will bake my skin and no wealth will bring me back from the dead."

The creature smiled and said: "Well, you are as small as I now, climb under the bush with me and we can shade together and see what fortune will bring you." - And Micipsa found that he was small, and crawled under. He spoke of many things with the creature, and learned much wisdom, until late in the day when the sun was less, a great foreign caravan approached and Micipsa watched as it stopped.

The people were weary and very tired and looked very lost. Micipsa could hear them talk. "Oh, I would give ten strikes to a man who could lead us to a village." One woman was heard crying. Micipsa started forward, but his friend stopped him. "Oh, I would give a dozen minim to any soul who could guide us to such a rest!" Exclaimed another. Micipsa looked startled and went to move again, but again he was stopped. "Well, I would give one starbright to any hero who could lead us to shelter, and I promise on my soul that this is true."

And Micipsa emerged from the Foolsbed, tall and handsome, like a hero of old and led them to his village gladly. He was paid his starbright and bought many good things for his mother, thanking all the while the Foolsbed and the little creature beneath.
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