THE MAIDEN'S STEP FLOWER ("MAEGGIE'S STEP")

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

Sprouting 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.

Appearance. 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.
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Territory. 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
Sarvonia, 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. Return to the top

Usages. 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
Mithral Mountains.

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.
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Reproduction. 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 hibernation.

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.
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Myth/Lore. 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 Grothar 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.
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 Date of last edit 16th Awakening Earth 1673 a.S.

Information provided by Rayne Avalotus View Profile