THE PAELMERIN ("CLOUDYHEAD", "HALOBLOOM")

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

The Paelmerin plant is especially known for its strange appearance and the fact that it is a strong reagent for wind spells. The center of its flower is the part where its cár'áll is said to be the most concentrated, and it is used in Illusion spells as well as ingested by wind mages before casting magic as a focusing aid and a way of clearing the mind. The name of this plant is most likely a debased form of the Styrásh paél'merín (Paél'Merín, lit. "Mist Flower"), while humans often call it as well "Cloudyhead", and occasionally "Halobloom".

The Paelmerin Flower
View picture in full size Image description. The mystical sight of the Paelmerin Flower, also known as "Cloudyhead", which almost disappears when watched from a distance. Picture drawn by Morjer.

Appearance. The Paelmerin grows slightly more than a fore high. Its stem is of a light grey, almost colorless tone, and is so thin that from a distance of more than three peds it is nearly invisible to the naked eye. Thus, the much bigger flower part appears to be mysteriously levitating several spans above the ground. That the thin stem is capable of supporting the relatively large flower is surprising, but that is nothing compared to the miracle of the flower itself:

For the bloom of the Paelmerin is what gives it its names, "Mist Flower" and "Cloudyhead". From afar, it looks like a cloud of mist floating in the air, about two palmspans in diameter. The center of the flower is formed by a solid yellow ball, about five nailsbreadths in diameter, that is directly attached to the stem. By day, the spherical cloud is nearly invisible, but in the darkness, the small golden sphere in the center will give off a shining glow that illuminates the mist from within, making it appear like a lamp. Swaths of the Cloudyhead, which commonly grow in marshlands in groups of perhaps ten to thirty plants at most, by night illuminate their surroundings with an ethereal glow that gives its habitat an eerie atmosphere; the flowers are occasionally mistaken for will'o'wisps.

No one knows how or why the plant sustains the mist around it. It is speculated that it consists of tiny seeds, and the glow is there to attract certain night-active insects that are essential for the reproduction of the Paelmerin described below. Yet by what way it is held stationary in a cloud around the flower remains a mystery that is only inadequately explained by simply calling this phenomenon "magic".

The flower will form this cloud only during the months of mid-winter to mid-spring. During the rest of the year, the flower appears mostly normal, as a bright yellow ball sitting on a green stem. In the month of the Turning Star (córt'ometrá), a cloud will slowly begin to form; the process is usually complete after a day or two. During spring, this cloud will grow thicker, and the yellow ball will start to become luminous, giving off a soft yellow light. Even later, approaching the month of the Changing Winds (méh'avashín), a light scent will flow from the plant, slightly sweet but also a bit tart, like a bitter herb.

In the ides of the Singing Bird, sometimes even in Rising Sun, the cloud will be swept away by the slightest breeze, dissipating in the air as the tiny seeds composing it drift apart. For the rest of the year, the flower will appear without a cloud, until the new seeds start to develop in the next year.
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Territory. The Cloudyhead grows usually in little patches and groups of up to about thirty flowers, in marsh country. Being a reclusive plant it yet needs slight breezes to spread its seeds. It also prefers a very water-saturated ground, but can drown in stagnant water. This narrow range is another reason for its rarity.
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Usages. The Cloudyhead is highly aligned to the cár'áll of the Wind element. For that reason, it is extremely useful as either a focus for an inexperienced mage, helping them to concentrate, or as an enhancing catalyst that is ingested by the mage prior to or while casting a spell, strengthening their Wind cár'áll and improving the spell. However, if the flower is eaten when very fresh and still with the seeds, the effect may be so strong that it severely alters the mage's cár'áll – with possibly permanent consequences (at least there are a few reported cases to this effect). It also may cause the mind to 'overflow', resulting in loss of sensory or emotional control (similar to intoxication), irrationality, and intensive dreams.

The only part of the plant that is used for improving Wind cár'áll is the small yellow ball in the flower, and it can only be harvested for a certain timespan in the season: After the seeds have been released, the Paelmerin flower is nearly withered, and it cannot be used anymore. The flower is picked when it contains the most juice, and that is during the time of fertilization, when it lures insects with its glow and scent. As soon as the scent starts to form, the flower part is picked, and the mage doing so will be treated to a curious picture: The magic that held the plant together suddenly gone, the seeds will dissipate by themselves, floating through the air as normal objects (though they are still so light as to appear weightless).

It is also believed that even non-mages benefit from a tea brewed from the whole flower, which supposedly clears the mind, relieves headaches and confusion, and may be a valuable medicine against mental illnesses and memory loss.

Sadly, it must also be noted that at the time of this writing, the mages are reporting that sightings of the Paelmerin grow sparse. It is, unfortunately, a plant that reproduces but slowly, and the harvesting disrupts this process severely as it prevents the plant from reproducing for two years until a new flower grows at the top: The first time of reproducing would be shortly after the picking, and the regrowing flower is not yet able to form seeds in the next year. All wind mages are therefore advised to make use of this reagent only in direst emergencies, and to pick it very sparingly, always leaving more than three quarters of the swath of plants.
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Reproduction. Mages and herbalists that have long studied the plant have come to formulate the theory that the mist that forms the cloud around the plant is in truth composed of tiny seeds that the flower reproduces with. The insects that are attracted to the glowing ball in the center fly through this cloud and either coat themselves in the seeds, or lose some they have received earlier.

Finally, in early summer, light gusts of wind are enough to dissipate the cloud, allowing swaths of fertilized seeds to drift through the air and sometimes settle down to the earth several leagues away, the lightness of the seeds allowing the long range.
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Myth/Lore. It is only natural that such a curious plant as the Paelmerin should have many stories and legends connected to it, and such is the case. The most popular myth attached to the flower is that of the cursed will'o'wisps (or avaesthoria in Styrásh). As old as most folktales, and more garbled than some, the following is the version that the writer believes represents the myth most closely:

"In the days long gone, when the Twelve still walked the earth, when humans were yet unborn and the elves were the only race far and wide in Sarvonia, the world was young and full of magic. Fantastic creatures inhabited these lands then, some of them benign, some of them dangerous, and many just mischievous. Among the latter were also the will'o'wisps, the strange lights that lurked in bogs and marshes to lure travellers along wrong paths for their own amusement.

Now one day, the God Arvins, the Great Hunter, was tracking a white deer. The beast was cunning, and probably as smart as many humans nowadays, so that Arvins was pleased with the sport. He had pursued it for four days and nights, when the track led him through a swamp, where the wisps dwelt in large number. But the wisps were friends with all the wild beasts, and besides, they always enjoyed a joke. And therefore, when Arvins passed them, they contrived a way to cheat him of his quarry by leading him along wrong paths. In his physical form, even a God is bound to his mortal senses, and therefore Arvins was tricked by the wisps.

And great was the anger of Arvins when he realized that the deer had escaped him, through the trickery of the wisps. He cursed the wisps of that bog, and they were transformed, and became flowers, so that they would never move again to lure travellers from their ways.

But the wisps lived on in their new shape, and they became what is now known as the Cloudyhead. A bit of their former trickery remains with them, and that is why illusionists will search long for the plant, for it suits their purposes greatly in showing untrue images. But also, the wisps lost their immortality, which they had shared with the Gods and the elves before. That is why each year at the beginning of spring, they die – on the day that Arvins was tricked. Thus, they thrive only in winter, when all around them is barren. But Arvins was forgiving as well as wrathful: he granted the wisps eventual release. So when the flower seems to die, it also represents a new beginning, as the clouds around the flowers rise up into the sky like a host of freed spirits and are blown away, to begin new life elsewhere."
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