unassumingly and quietly, Maidenís Step (also called "Maeggieís Step") is a very
small plant that blossoms in a cluster of tiny lavender flowers. It can be found
in higher elevations on mountains throughout
Sarvonia. From the Gathorn Mountains in the north to the
Mithral Mountains in the south,
Maidenís Step has a wide territory. While it thrives on
sunshine, it requires very little
water and can take root in some of the
sandiest, rockiest terrain.
Maidenís Step is a rather small plant, growing to an area barely
larger than a maidenís palm, though sometimes these plants may grow together. It
does not grow very tall, but rather hugs the ground, unable or perhaps unwilling
to contend with gravity, or else finding it safer to cling to the
earth. Itís leaves grow no bigger than a
babyís fingernail, and are coloured a pale, dusty green. The leaves sometimes
curl slightly, and are thick and waxy.
The flowers, which are almost always blooming, are about the size of the leaves,
and are clustered. Each diminutive bloom contains five rounded lavender petals,
which hold to the plant for weeks or even as long as a month (though
occasionally, as flowers replace other flowers, it is hard to tell when one has
gone and another, arrived). The plant may constantly bloom and produce seeds,
which form at the base of the flower in seed pockets that eventually break. The
seeds themselves, the size of grains of sand, are taken by the wind and flown
across the mountain.
The stem of the plant is hidden behind the leaves and flowers, and is little
more than a snaking chain connecting the leaves and flowers to the gray-coloured
roots, which serve, not only to pull up what little moisture there is to be
found in the earth, but to hold the plant
securely in place.
Maidenís Step grows exclusively on mountainsides, where the
air is thin and the ground is more sand than
dirt. It can be found on most any mountain in
from the Gathorn Mountains to the Oro Mountains, from the Nirmenith Mountains to
the Tandalas, and all across the
High and Lower Fores. Maidenís Step can be found at the elevation where trees
and most shrubs have stopped growing, venturing as high as almost any other
plant can grow.
Maidenís Step has little use to humans.
Because the Maidenís Step tends to grow in small, dispersed clumps rather than
in large patches, it used to be common among some people to take someone to the
hill, blindfold them, spin them about, and have them walk until they stepped
upon a clump of Maidenís Step. Based on the size, shape, and appearance of the
clump, an elder or fortune-teller would tell the one who tread upon it what his
or her fortune was. The practice is rarely followed today, usually only in more
remote mountain villages in and around the Lower Fores and villages on the west
side of the
Maidenís Step flowers are occasionally used by herbalists as a sweetener.
Perhaps because of the drier conditions or the size of the bloom, the nectar of
the Maidenís Step flower is very concentrated. Herbalists may take a clump of
flowers, boil out the nectar, and add it to potions and tinctures - particularly
those for children or ones with a particularly repugnant aroma or taste. In some
cases, the sweet taste and smell of the Maidenís Step nectar can be used to mask
some noxious poisons.
Maidenís Step is slow-growing, but hardy and tough. It takes many months for a
seed to get to flower. The first phase of growth involves the development of
strong roots and a small leaf. Over the course of many weeks, the plant will
spread, vining out and putting down roots, then leaves, before it begins to
flower. It will then flower almost continuously.
Seasons matter little in the growth of the Maidenís Step. Seeds can take root in
late autumn, be stilled by winter freeze, and then start back up again when the
snow melts. The Maidenís Step can survive the winter, so long as itís not too
long, but can easily be killed if the snow melts too quickly or too slowly; too
quickly and the plant will be shocked by the sudden heat, and too slow and rot
or fungus will kill the plant before it can fully awaken out of its winter
As the plant flowers, and the flowers fall away, small seed packets form,
usually hidden behind existing blooms. When the packet matures, it splits, and
the grain-like seeds spill out. Most will be whisked away by the
winds that snake up and along the mountains,
and flown to new lands to take root and grow.
The Maidenís Step gets its name from the story with which it is often
associated. The name of the maiden often changes from village to village;
however, around the Mithral Mountains, it is almost unanimously purported to be
Maeggie (or some slight derivative therein). Because the name is often debated,
the story will be told here without naming the maiden:
It is said that once
there was a lovely young maiden, fair and sweet and kind. She lived in a
village by a great mountain, and lived peacefully with her loving parents.
Alas, one day her parents died of a disease that took them both quite
suddenly, and the maiden prayed to Grothar to turn her into rain so that
she could wash away the tears.
The maiden became a maid to a cruel man and his jealous wife who lived at
the base of the mountain. She was made to sweep the floor and launder the
clothes, to cook the meals and make the beds, to wash the dishes and empty
the chamber pots. And she was ever so lonely, and prayed to
turn her into a wind so she could blow away.
The man lusted for the young maiden, as she was sweet and fair. Many a
night he made her share his bed, and she was miserable, for she did not
love him. She prayed to Grothar to make her a cloud, so that she could
float into the sky and forget everything.
It was not long before the jealous wife discovered that the maiden had
shared her husbandís bed, and she was furious. In her rage, the wife threw
burning coals into the maidenís eyes, and thereafter, the maiden was blind
and knew only darkness. She prayed to Grothar to
make her sunlight that
she might be able to know light once more.
Soon after, in the early morning, the maiden heard a voice calling her.
She rose from her bed and followed the voice, leaving the house and
treading up the great mountain.
When the cruel man and jealous wife awoke, they did not see the maiden
anywhere, but saw the front door was open. From the front of the door and
up the mountain were small purple flowers growing in clusters about the
size of the maidenís steps. They followed them up and up, scaling the
great mountain. However, as they reached the top, the flower footsteps
left off. When they looked up, they saw her peaceful face in the sky.
When the man and his wife returned home, they found their house had been
blown to bits by a strange and sudden gale.