THE LYTHIEN MOSS ("LYTHE-GRASS")

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - MYTH/LORE

The Lythien also known as "Lythie-Loop", "Lythe-Weave" or "Lythe-Grass" is Northern Sarvonia’s most distinctive ground cover. Lythe-grass is actually a type of edible moss. Growing over every nailsbreadth of earth, up to the bases of trees as if trimmed by scissors, and flowing across hills like molten honey, the Lythien creates a luxuriously soft surface for walking, a strangely peaceful if barren landscape, and a nutritious meal for any grazing herbivore.

The Lythien Moss
View picture in full size Image description. The lush tangle of Lythien Moss, which can mainly be found in Northern Sarvonia. Pic by Eshóh K'ryvvlen.

Appearance. Much of the dry Northern Sarvonian ground is covered with a lush tangle of Lythien. From a distance it looks like golden moss, or a beautifully plush but monochrome carpet. Fine honey-coloured vines loop up out of the ground, about a finger's breadth high, and root back in, forming a thickly woven mat of interwoven strands.

The "vines" are about the same diameter as a piece of spun sheep's wool, and average a finger's length from the root to the top loop. The root system looks like matted thread - very fine, with tiny nodules where roots cross and join and rejoin, but only a palmspan deep. Here and there it puts up miniature spikes of flowerheads in the same golden-tan colour. What look like tiny petals raying out from the stem of the flower are actually slim oval seeds; in the autumn the wind tears them from their perch and sends them spinning across the plain to root elsewhere, or to provide food for the dainty cheewick birds. Return to the top

Territory. The Lythien is found naturally throughout most of Northern Sarvonia, but has been successfully transplanted to dry soil elsewhere in the continent. Rain tends to rot the root structures, and the plant becomes weedy and pale, before drooping and dying in large bleached swathes. When in ideal climactic conditions, it begins as a light yellowish-green shade in the spring, darkens to a deep golden colour through summer, and fades into a soft tan brown for autumn. In winter animals such as the cuncu and the ulgaroth dig down through the snow to graze on the withered brown loops, which retain their nutrition if not their sap. Return to the top

Usages. Along with ath’ho grass, this forms one of the mainstay dietary items for the cuncu and sawis breed of woolsheep. The southern milk-producers, dor’iyn, are restricted to ath’ho  grazing as the nutty taste of Lythe-grass often comes through in the milk. Some specialty cheese-makers purchase milk from Lythe-fed sheep and goats particularly for this flavour; however, it is considered undesirable in drinking-quality milk.

Lythian can also be cut into long strips of turf, about a handspan deep, and rolled up for transplantation elsewhere - it re-roots easily and grows well on most soils, whether bitter or sweet ("acid or alkaline"), as long as it is kept fairly dry. Some striking lawns on noble estates combine the off-white of Wean-grass, the deep green of ath’ho , and the gold of Lythe-grass to make unique chequered, bordered and "woven" effects.

Sarvonian Thergerim have experimented with Lythian in combination with imported Bardavos white grapes and a mix of (secret) herbs to produce an afterdinner dwarven digestiv liqueur. This deep brown, bitter drink is known as "Lythe-Ale". Bottled in characteristic amber flasks with hand-picked loops of Lythian floating in the liqueur, it is served in tiny ceramic cups after rich meals as a palate-cleanser and aid to digestion. Return to the top

Myth/Lore. A folk song of the Northern sheepherders runs as follows:

Morning dances like a lass,
Wake, my little lambs.
Afternoon upon the grass,
Eat, my little lambs.

Lythieloop your stomachs feed,
Ath’ho there in time of need,
Strews for cheewicks out their seed,
And feeds my little lambs.

Evening brings us golden light,
Home, my little lambs.
Darkening to kav’e night,
Sleep, my little lambs.

Lythieloop your bellies fill,
Alth’ho always growing still,
Out upon the plain and hill,
Feed, my little lambs.
Feed, my little lambs!


Note: ‘kav’e’ = a popular Sarvonian hot beverage
‘cheewick’ = a small bird which lives symbiotically with cuncu sheep
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