THE SAPPHIRE ANEMONE

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

If one was to explore the reefs around the Scattersand Shoals, they would be almost guaranteed to see the tiny jewel-like Sapphire Anemone. A strange looking water plant, the Sapphire anemone is many shades of glittering blue, with dozens of tentacle-like appendages, rather than petals or leaves, which sway and dance with the current. As incredibly beautiful as they are, the most extraordinary thing to have been discovered about the Sapphire Anemone is not their appearance, but that, unlike most plants, it is not stationary. Various euxperi have shown that it can move from place to place as it wishes, making it one of the most intriguing plants to have been discovered to date.

Appearance. The array of glimmering blues and violets make it easy to see why the Sapphire Anemone is named after one of the twelveMainstones of Santharia. A majority of the plant is blue, but tiny hints of purple here and there give it that little something extra, which draws and holds the eye.

The stem is very much like a shorter, squatter version of the stulcho mushroom, minus the cap, though much smaller, being around four nailsbreadths at the base, and three nailsbreadths in height. It is waterberry blue in colour, and has a rubbery, slightly squishy feel to it, with a patterning of small ridges running horizontally down the length. A powerful suction action, under the base, secures them firmly to their chosen home, and investigations have found that, even after death, it is impossible to remove them whole. From the base, the stem curves outwards slightly, then back in again, almost forming a half sphere. Then, at the top, it widens again, creating a lip, which is formed around a hole down through the centre, and it is from this hole that the tentacles protrude.

The tentacles are each around six nailsbreadths long, and display an array of blues up the length, the tips ending in a vibrant shade of violet, and each one glittering like a shard of glass. They are about a grain in width, tapering up to a bluntly pointed tip, and number at around two dozen per plant. These tentacles are usually spread up and around the base, and sway back and forth with the current. It is thought that this is done to gather vital nutrients from the water, as they live exclusively upon rock and stone, which can provide them with little goodness if any. If the Sapphire Anemone is threatened, it has been seen to draw its tentacles down inside the stem, and close the entrance tightly. This renders them very well protected against all but the most determined of creatures, who might want to take the time to gnaw them from the rocks to which they cling. These predators include some of the smaller species of fish, along with young moonsharks, and the occasional hungry clawfish.

The tentacles also have tiny poison barbs, which are believed to also be a means of protection against smaller animals, though they do little against the larger ones. It has been noted that the barbs feel like tiny prickles against the skin, when they're touched, and that the area of skin will become inflamed for a short period afterwards, though it will not be particularly painful.

When they have been dissected, they have been found to be filled with thick, uderza blue liquid. This liquid is highly pigmented, and when watered down can be used as an ink.

Their numbers vary, ranging from clumps made up of a mere three plants, to huge masses of over 50 individuals, which can make a section of reef look very much like a cave wall encrusted with jewels. It has been described by many as the most glorious sight ever to have been bestowed upon their eyes.

As mentioned before, the Sapphire Anemone has been found to have the most extraordinary ability to move around. The base can become temporarily unstuck, and the stem acts like a foot, to move the plant to another destination. They cannot move particularly fast, only for very short periods of time, never usually succeeding in reaching more than a palmspan a day, and most of the time it is far less. This astounding ability was discovered by the highly respected Eyelian researcher Genani Ra'anouf, after months of careful observation. The following are extracts from journal entries written by her husband, Tenrans Jorek:

"I watched Genani's expression as she studied the Sapphire Anemones, gently touching the delicate tentacles with a finger, feeling the tiny prickle of its defensive barbs, which over the past few weeks had taken hold of her fascination. On the occasions when we had ventured into the ocean to observe various creatures, her eye was often drawn to their jewel-like beauty, and she had become convinced of something. She was sure that the anemone could move around, and was intent on proving it. Hence the day's activities.

I looked on as she picked up the long slice of rock, which she taken with her for the purpose of her euxperi, and gently pressed it between a groove in the reef. Her plans were for us to return to the same spot a week later, to see if the rock-slice was inhabited by any anemones, and if so we would remove them from the sea, and would be able to observe them at more close quarters, and for longer periods of time. But the rock-slice wouldn't sit in the groove solidly, it needed something to hold it in place. I could see her looking around for something, until her eyes landed on my belt. She reached out, grabbed my knife from it's scabbard, and jammed the blade into the reef, so that it held the slice of rock firmly in place. The whole thing was done within just a few minutes, and she turned to me and smiled, gesturing that we return to the surface..."

The completion of this first part of the euxperi, was followed by a near fatal attack from a Moon shark. But despite this Genani still ventured back into the ocean so that she could finish what she had started.

"The shark attack, a fortnight previous, had unnerved Genani. I watched as she cautiously slipped over the side of the boat, and into the water, while I held it steady. I smiled at her reassuringly, knowing that this time, I had come fully prepared, having a set of three daggers attached to my belt. We both took a deep breath, submerging, and then began to swim towards the spot where she had left the slice of rock.

Upon reaching it, part of the nervousness that had overshadowed my wife's face lifted, as she saw with delight that some of the Sapphire Anemones had indeed set up home on the rock slice. She counted them, then held up nine fingers, indicating the number we would be taking back. While I kept an eye out for sharks, Genani removed the rock slice, and my knife from the groove. We wasted no time in heading back to the surface, carrying the rock between us so that we could both swim more easily. When we reached the boat, we dumped the rock as gently as we could inside it, then I helped Genani in before dragging my own wet form up and over the side.

The anemones, we noticed, had drawn their tentacles inside their bases, at the feel of the open air. We had brought along a shallow tray, which Genani filled with sea water, and placed the rock slice inside. After a few moments, the tentacles reappeared, and I then set about rowing us back to shore..."

At night, the Sapphire Anemone reveals another of it wondrous abilities, the almost lantern-like glow that it gives off, allowing it to be seen in the dark. The glow is of a pale blue shade, and can look very eerie to those out on the water at night, especially if they have no idea where the strange light originates, prompting an array of tales and myths to have been created. Return to the top

Territory. The Sapphire Anemone is found almost exclusively on the reefs around the Scattersand Shoals, though they have been discovered in small numbers slightly further north, as far as the Thalambath, along the south-western coast. They are most numerous around the large reefs on the southern and western coasts of Aidan and Sylffia. Return to the top

Usages. As mentioned before, the fluid inside the base has been found to make a very acceptable ink, though it is not easily obtained. Due to their reluctance to be removed from their reef home, the only way to do so is to cut them off with a knife or metal chisel, which often results in the base being damaged, and the liquid escaping into the water. If they can be made to grow on removable slices of rock, they can be taken out of the water, and the fluid obtained in that way. The ink itself is thick, with a smooth texture, and excellent durability, which can, on occasion, prove to be problematic. Whether paper, rock, glass or skin, the ink of the Sapphire Anemone will stain anything that it touches. If one is unfortunate enough to have it stain their skin, it is only removable with painful daily scrubbing, which can take weeks to prove effective, and leaves the skin red raw. But, on the upside, it has proven successful when used to create vivid and beautiful tattoos.

They have been found to taste fairly good, especially the base when sliced into rings and fried in butter. It retains the rubbery texture that it had in life, and has an almost meaty taste, with a distinct salty flavour. They are expensive to buy, due to it being a time consuming job in treacherous waters, though it is possible to obtain them in the same way as the ink for this purpose. But their movements are unpredictable, and there are no guarantees that they will choose to settle on the rock slices.

They are very occasionally sought to keep in underwater gardens, which consists of a large spherical bowl, with a hole in the top. The bowls are around two fores at the widest point, and can be filled with underwater plants, and the occasional small fish too. A clump of Sapphire Anemones can be the highlight of such an object, though they have been found to not last very long outside of the ocean, and need a constant supply of fresh seawater.
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Reproduction. The Sapphire Anemone reproduce through a mass fertilisation, the act of which has made it clear that there are both male and female versions of the plant. What is believed to be the male plant, will release thousands of minuscule silver spores into the ocean around them, while the females each release a single seed, which will float amongst the spores until fertilised. This seed is a flat disc-shape, around a nailsbreadth in diameter, and coloured a dull grey. Once fertilisation has occured, the seeds will gently float down onto the reef, and will settle there, their colouring blending in well with the rock beneath them.

Within the first two weeks, the seed will swell into a fat button shape, and once it has reached the full base diameter of four nailsbreadth, it will begin to grow upwards. All in all, it takes around four to five weeks for the base to form. Once it has reached full height, the tentacles will begin to grow from the hollow centre. It is the growth of these delicate tendrils that is the most time consuming, taking around six weeks to get to their full length.

They will remain stationary until they have reached their full size, then they will gain the ability to move around like the other adult plants. Once they have reached their full growth, they begin to transform from dull grey, into brilliant blue, matching their parent plants perfectly.
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Myth/Lore. At night, the blue glow of the Sapphire Anemone is visible from quite large distances, sometimes as far as a whole dash away. The ghostly, shapeless mass, of a large clump of anemones, has unnerved many a sailor. From phantom gemstones, hell bent on luring a ship and her crew to their end, to lanterns of the dead, a story so popular, that it has been officially adopted as a nickname, there are tales a plenty surrounding the Sapphire Anemone.

As they are always found on the reefs, surrounding the main land, it is a popular notion that they are guardians of the islands, and that if one is to see them, he or she should never set foot onto that particular piece of land that night, for to do so is to walk willingly to ones doom. The following is such a tale, told by the first mate of the ship Capricorn, while they journeyed back to the mainland:

It was a pleasantly cool night, and I was manning the deck of the Capricorn, as she floated noiselessly through the islands. We were at a point between Sylffia's eastern shore, and south of Manat when I saw it. I rubbed my eyes with my fists, thinking that it was some form of delirium that was causing me to see such a thing. But they did not disappear, those lights, those ghostly, eerie lights.

I could not take my eyes off them, transfixed by their strange, luminous beauty, though they scared me half to death. There were two large, glowing masses some ten peds apart, standing silent and stationary, in the water of Manat's southern shore, as we floated close to a dash from them. They were shapeless, but unshifting, though I began to fancy that I could make out heads and bodies, arms and legs. I had never seen the like before.

I had heard stories of guardians of the islands, who would appear at night, some said as a warning to men of the sea to steer clear, and that if you saw them, you must not set foot upon that shore, whatever you do. But looking at them now, these mysterious keepers of the isles, it occured to me that they might possibly not be warning us to stay away, but trying to lure us to our doom. Their attractive, almost hypnotic glow, and the clear path between them indicated such a possibility to me, and it was that thought that scared me most of all...
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 Date of last edit 19th Fallen Leaf 1670 a.S.

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