THE NIGHTSHADE BUSH ("HOTVALE", "COÓR'S BOUQUET")

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

The flowering and useful fruit-bearing Nightshade Bush may be found in chalky soils throughout southern Sarvonia. The plant is also known as "Hotvale" or "Coór's Bouquet". Perhaps the Alchemist Periklesius had this plant, among other potent herbal remedies, in mind when he wrote: “All the drugs are poisons, it is only a question of dose.”

Appearance. Deadly Nightshade is a flowering bush, attaining a height of 3 to 5 fores in their second year of growth. There are at least 3 varieties known, all of which are cultivated for the delicate beauty of the flowers as well as for their medicinal properties. The entire plant is glabrous, devoid of hairs or other coverings.

The stem is purple and stout, branching two or three times about one fore above the base, dividing again into smaller branches toward the top of the bush. Each terminal branch puts forth 3 to 5 flame-shaped leaves. The leaves are deep green in colour and of unequal size, one palmspan long during the first year to 3 palmspans at maturity, with a prominent vein down the middle of each leaf, with smaller veins running obliquely to the edge of the leaf. The bush is rooted by a single, thick, fleshy white root about 12 nailbreadths long which sends out many thin radially-oriented roots. As the bush tends to grow in soil rich in minerals, they take root more readily where there is ground cover, such as decomposing vegetation or animal spoor.

A single flower blooms from each of the leaves’ axils, hanging pendulously, taking on the appearance of delicate membranous bells. The flowers appear in Rising Sun and Burning Heavens of the second year of life, and continue blooming until early Fallen Leaf. These blossoms are the colour of allia blooms, are about 2 nailbreadths long, and are crowned at the base by a light green, five-pointed calyx, appearing as a star at the stem of each bell.

After pollination, the flowers each produce a single green berry. As these ripen, they will change in colour from the immature gnastheen green, to the teki red of a young berry, finally ripening to the well-recognized shiny black mature berry. Ripe berries are gorged with a dark, inky juice which is exquisitely sweet.

Although the flowers are aromatic, used in some preparations as a light yet scintillating perfume, grinding up the fresh plant or root releases a somewhat noxious odour. The leaves, whether freshly-picked or dried, are astringent to the palate. 
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Territory. Deadly Nightshade is principally encountered in the southern provinces of Santharia, being almost confined to soils rich in minerals, mostly in waste places, quarries and near old ruins. It flourishes quite well in such locales as under the shade of trees, on wooded hills, or on chalk or limestone. Nightshade grows wild in the Tandala Highlands, but exposure to the elements in this mountains limits density of growth. It is found in great numbers along the low foothills of the Caeytharin Mountains, in the High and Low Fores, and in patches of densely-overgrown areas surrounding the Thaelon Forest. It is cultivated mostly by herbalists and monks, but also by enterprising farmers in Onved.
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Usages. The root is the basis of the principal preparations of Nightshade, but the dried leaves are a more readily-available source of the medicinal herb. The herbalist is advised to cover their hands and mouth before handling nightshade, and to clean their hands with water after any contact with the plant, especially the roots or leaves. The purity and amount of Nightshade derivative added to a preparation determines the potency, and hence the toxicity, of the mixture.

As a topical anesthetic, it finds uses as a lotion, plaster or liniment oil to reduce rubor, pain and tumescence attributed to shoddy leg, gout, and rheumatism. The plasters may be applied to injured ankles or sprained shoulders to assuage pain. Reconstituted Nightshade powder, mixed with other herbs and a pinch of uncommon metal, is made into a plaster which may be applied to reduce corns and bunions.

The tincture of Nightshade is also an antidote to Foolsbed dew intoxication, applied by ingestion or insertion just under the skin through a small cut.

Nightshade elixir is used for many ailments of the airways, such as to check excessive secretions and allay tumescence from the sweating disease and other exhausting diseases. In spasmodic strangling disease it may be used to assist breathing and open congested passages, and used thusly it is well tolerated by children. It also finds usefulness in soothing a sore throat.

The tonic, prepared from distillate of the root, in small doses remedies a weak pulse or faint heart. It increases the rate of the heart without diminishing its force. A plaster, applied to the chest just overlying the heart, may achieve a similar effect. Either preparation also may prevent collapse of the sanguine afflictions as seen with fluxes and wasting diseases.

Perhaps the most valued use of philter of Nightshade is in the treatment of eye diseases, and in cosmetic applications, both achieved through dilatation of the pupil. This philter may be taken internally or dropped into the eye.

Liquor of Nightshade is a powerful antispasmodic, often resorted to in cases of stomach cramps.

Careful note should be taken when applying any fashion of Nightshade, as it is a strong poison, even in minute amounts. With as little as one pinch of purified derivative, an unfortunate man or woman may experience excitement and delirium, blindness, facial flushing, leading thence to heart palpitations and stupor, giving way to death within minutes to days. People who are ingesting medicinal preparations in prescribed dosages will take in much smaller quantities of Nightshade derivative, hence they are not so predisposed to accidental poisoning.

While an antidote has yet to be conceived, the best known treatment in these circumstances is to administer an emetic as soon as possible, such as a large glass of warm vinegar or mustard and water, followed by a dose of arv seeds and juk’lan cha, the patient being kept very warm and on strict bedrest for a week. It is worth noting the complete loss of voice peculiar to souls poisoned by Nightshade, accompanied by rocking movements of the torso and head, wringing of the hands, and pupillary dilatation.
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Reproduction. In the wild, Nightshade will drop its fertile berries close to the bush in Fallen Leaf. Only those berries that roll some distance away will be able to take hold and root, since these bushes compete with one another for nutrients. As well, animals who eat the berries and pass spoor in another location may in this way disseminate the seeds. Seeds typically do well if they land in damp rubbish or decomposing leaves in shaded areas. They send their primary root out during Molten Ice, then put out their shoot in Awakening Earth. They grow throughout their first year, and by their second Awakening Earth become fecund.

When cultivated, harvesters are advised to prepare the soil in which it is grown by soaking the earth with boiling water to destroy the many natural predators the plant has - slugs, weevils, and other insects. Then, powdered chalk or lime are added to the soil to provide nutrients for the plants. Next, vegetable rubbish should be layered on top of the soil and burned, the remnants then stirred into the earth. The soil should be allowed to air for 1 week, and then sow the seeds sparsely. Only three out of every four seeds will germinate in a good year.
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Myth/Lore. As early as the days of the musician Tinholdt, the plant was known as "Hotvale". Father Superior Jerkyll of Marcogg has conjectured that this name stems from the dwarven Unsthommeron of lime and sandstone, Hothesvil. In elven lore, it is mentioned by its Styrásh name, Ythrecín Cár'tuulén-aváth, meaning “black beauty of death”. Among the Kuglimz people, it is referred to as "Alth'veir" (lit. "plant of death").

In elven lore, this herb was a design from Avá that was soon after tainted by Coór. As She dreamed Hotvale into being, the delicate purple blossoms opened and the young plants began to produce their red berries. It was then that Coór poisoned Her creation, darkening the sweet berries, impregnating the entire plant with venom. Of course, the end result was as Avá had envisioned in her dream: The venom was her ultimate gift with this plant, a remedy obtained from the blight.

Purportedly, the roots have seen use among dark elven priestesses of Queprur, making a fermented infusion of pulverized Hotvale root steeped with kellian petals before worship or invocation of her name. A more common application is drinking the juice of the berry, used by Bardavan ladies to dilate their pupils and thus create the illusion of brightening their eyes.

Historically, Hotvale has been cultivated in Sarvonia since the twelfth century a.S. Foggu Wyvernbrewer of the Thrumgolzerim reported in his compendium "Upon the Nature of Yerbs and Mosses", in 1178: “The hotvale herbe appears as a bush, laying humbly about cavern exits and shales, as well it is growne by fomenters of scenic schrubs.” (Translation by Scholar Trukist the Erudite, quoted with permission.) It is better described in "A Discourse of the Flora of Sarvonia" by Brother Erachmar of Voldar, written in 1388: "The Hotvale Bush, so named by the dwarves, also known as deadly nightshade in Vardýnn and throughout the southern empire, grows wild in sheltered, damp climes, and is employed by herbalists in various manners of tinxures [sic], plasters, and infusions. It may be encountered in the shales off the Low and High Fores, as well as the verges of the Thaelon Forest, and at Marcogg and more locally here in Voldar."

In more recent times, the famed Perfumer Laenthris Highbrow warned of the toxic nature of the plant, in his Litany of Herbs and Spices, Vol. II - The Medicinal Herbs of 1560: “Take caution that, in cultivating this plant, you are not exposed to the ichor of the root in particular; less rigour is required in harvesting the leaves and flowers, and least of all in the berries. For, if you should come in contact with that deadly poison, be it by ingestion through the mouth, or inhalation through the nares, or seepage through an open wound on the hand, in sufficient quantities this exposure may be enough to risk the untoward effects of the Nightshade. A hearty adult may consume three berries without ill consequence. That being said, the lower beasts of Sarvonia are more resilient to the effects of this drug, being able to ingest up to eight or ten ods of the roots and leaves and yet be unscathed.”
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 Date of last edit 17th Molten Ice 1667 a.S.

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