THE GIANT VENLAKEN TANGLEWEED ("MIRA'S BANE")

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

This large, meat-eating plant was discovered only a few years ago, growing in the marshland area of southern Nybelmar known as the Tears of Askanis. It has a voracious appetite, and is capable of actively seeking out prey if none presents it with an easy meal by walking into it. So far, the only person to have researched the plant is its discoverer, Miraran Tehuriden, and it is he who must be thanked for providing much of the information contained within this description.

Appearance. The Giant Venlaken Tangleweed was thusly named by the first person to research and describe it, and indeed, the first (and second!) person to survive an attack by it, Miraran Tehuriden, although it has since been agreed by most herbologists that it isn’t, in fact, related to the Common Tangleweed found in abundance in the Drifting Woods of Nybelmar.

Its appearance, however, makes it easy to see why he chose to name it so. Like the Common Tangleweed, the Giant Venlaken grows many long tendrils from a short central stem, some of which act as roots or anchors for the plant, whilst others grow along the ground in search of prey which, when caught, is dragged (in most cases kicking and screaming) into the centre of the plant where it is killed and eaten. Here, though, the similarity ends.

Where the tendrils of the Common Tangleweed grow to perhaps two peds in length and have a girth of around one nailsbreadth, the Giant Venlaken’s have been measured at up to ten peds in length and two palmspans around. The shoots which act as anchors or roots are generally shorter and thinner than this, but are still significantly larger than those of the common variety.

The number of shoots growing from the central stem is also different, with usually around fifteen to twenty anchor-shoots and eight to twelve feeding-shoots to each plant. This reduced number of shoots is suspected to be a consequence of their greater size (which takes up more of the plants energy to sustain) and the greater size of the prey caught (which means the plant doesn’t have to feed as often). As with the common plant, the Giant Venlaken’s anchor-shoots also act as normal roots by drawing up water, a task which is made easier by virtue of the fact that the plant actually grows from the muddy beds below the waters of the Misty Marshes. They have not been observed to catch any water animals for food, but it cannot be ignored as a possibility.

The shoots, or tendrils, which act as the main feeders for the plant grow in an almost identical manner to those of the Common. They snake their way across the ground, weaving their way beneath the undergrowth in such a way that it appears that they are aware of the camouflaging effect this has. They are leafless, and are possessed of a myriad of tiny holes which run along their length, enabling them suck the goodness from the corpses of their dead victims.
 
At the end of each green shoot is the device by which the plant attracts and catches its prey. A teardrop-shaped bulb of around the size of a mans head is attached to the end of the shoot, with the broadest part being at the base of the bulb. The colour is green at the base, changing swiftly through green-red to bright red at the tip. When the ‘flower’ opens, which it does to such an extent that the petals lay flat instead of in a bowl-shape like other flowers, it reveals that it is made up of three individual tear-shaped, fleshy petals, set around the base at equal distances, which overlap each other very slightly at that point. The inside of the petals is coloured the same bright red seen on the tip of the exterior. Around the inside edge of each petal can be seen many small, sharp, white, tooth-like growths, which on closer inspection prove to be small, sharp, white teeth. These are used to hold fast any creature unfortunate (or careless!) enough to wander too close to the flower.

Once an animal has strayed too close, either by being attracted to the flower (which emits a smell of decay strong enough to be detected even over the stench of the marshes) or just by sheer misfortune, the plant seems to detect its presence and will suddenly strike out at the creature, snapping shut the flowers petals around it, where it is held fast by the small, backwards pointing teeth around the insides of the petals. The tendril will then begin to coil back on itself, making its way back to the centre of the plant, where its poor victim is taken under the murky waters of the marshes and held there until they drown. Once this is done and the body starts to rot, the plant sucks all the rotting flesh-soup out of the corpse by using the hundreds of tiny holes which line the length of its tendrils.

When the plant has devoured the body of its victim, the tendril will die off to be replaced by a new shoot, which will begin to grow from the space left by the recently deceased shoot. It takes at least three growing seasons before the new shoot is mature enough to produce a ‘flower’ large enough to catch prey bigger than a rat. The Giant Venlaken Tangleweed knows no bounds in its choice of prey, the skeletons and partly-eaten bodies of corbies, vultures, wolves, jackals and feral dogs having been found within its inescapable grasp. (A perhaps significant point to mention is that, as yet, no black unicorn bodies have been found within the grasp of any of the Giant Tangleweed which have, to date, been examined. Is this due to some natural skill in avoiding their clutches on behalf of the unicorns? Or is it, perhaps, evidence of their non-existence?)

The central stem of the plant grows to a height of around one fore, but this seems dependent on the depth of the water the plant grows in. If the water is shallower than this depth, then the stem will be shorter, and if it is deeper, then the stem will be longer. The plant has not been found growing in water of depths greater than a ped. The reason for this is unknown

Calling the central growth of the plant a stem is perhaps a misnomer. Whilst on first observation it appears to be just that, it is in fact a bunch of very densely packed, dark-green leaves, growing tightly around each other in a circular manner. Their use will be explained later in the Reproduction section. Return to the top


Territory. As can be deduced from its name, this plant is found in only one place, the Venlaken Enclave of south-central
Nybelmar. To be more precise, the area of the southern Enclave between the Zylos Delta and Repose Bay, known more familiarly as the Tears of Askanis, is the sole location which provides the heat and moisture this plant would seem to need for its survival.

There are rumours, however, that Miraran Tehuriden, the well-known meddler in experimental herbology, has somehow managed to obtain a live specimen which he intends to cross-breed with some of his more dangerous acquisitions.
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Usages. Research is still being carried out into possible uses for this remarkable plant, however, the difficulty and danger involved in this research are proving most troublesome, not to mention the cost of awarding large financial incentives to any apprentices willing to take on the task. Tests made on the efficiency of using the tendrils as rope have met with some small measure of success, but the tendency of the shoots to decay quickly after separation from the parent plant would seem to indicate that this is a fruitless avenue of investigation.
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Reproduction. Each time the plant feeds on a victims flesh, the surge of goodness which races through it seems to provide it with the necessary strength to reproduce.

After the plant has started to take in the soup of rotting meat, one of the tightly-packed leaves which make up the central stem begins to unfurl itself from the rest, gradually flattening itself until it takes on a heart-shaped appearance. At the point where the two halves of the heart come together, a short stem attaches it to the main plant. This stem begins to grow upwards towards the gloomy light above until the leaf lies flat on the surface of the water. Once the leaf has reached the surface, the stem stops growing upwards and instead begins to swell at the point where it joins the leaf. Inside this swelling a seed is developing, and after several days growth, the stem detaches itself from the leaf, which then floats away with any current, eventually sinking to the bottom of the marsh where the seed can take root and begin the long cycle of growth and feeding.

It has been observed that whilst one leaf is growing upwards to develop into a seed-carrier, the parent plant will produce no more leaf-stems, no matter how well it feeds during this time.
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Myth/Lore. Some twelve years ago, Miraran Tehuriden, the famous herbologist, set out on a trip to the Tears of Askanis, during which he hoped to discover the fate of the numerous apprentices he had dispatched to the area. The following is his own account of what befell him during that trip, written in his personal diary. This account can only be presented here thanks to the diligence of one of Mira's apprentices who, having been left in charge of watering his mentor's private collection, just happened to accidentally find the diary hidden underneath a heap of poison receipts, which were themselves stuffed into a locked trunk in the bottom of a wardrobe.

"I came upon a flower I had not seen before. So beautiful was it that I quite forgot where I was and all the dangers the region contained. Even though the stench emanating from the large, three-petalled bloom was enough to make me gag, I could not resist moving closer to inspect it and perhaps pick it for pressing in my 'What I did on my holiday to Nybelmar' diary.

As I bent to examine the flower more closely, I could have sworn that it seemed to open its petals even wider than before, and it was almost certainly turning its head to follow me as I neared it. Noticing that there were small, sharp, white growths around the inner edge of each petal, I put his face almost within the flower in order to get a better look at what they may be. Just as I thought to myself “They look like tee….”, the flower snapped shut around my head and with a jerk began to drag me through the undergrowth towards the fetid waters of the marshes.

With my head encased in what smelled like a corpses backside I was hauled through deep mud, dragged into and over trunks of long-dead trees, through deep puddles of marsh-water where I felt strange wriggling things slide inside my shirt and breeches, and finally, I found myself face down at the bottom of the marsh, bound and gagged by whatever this thing was that had attacked me. And without provocation too, I fumed.

As I struggled to release myself from the grip of the plant, the tendril wrapped itself tighter around my body. I felt some of the strange, wriggly hitch-hikers I had accumulated on my journey burst inside my clothes as the plant squeezed the breath from me.
Unable to reach my pruning-knife due to the entanglement of the tendril, I began to lose hope of escaping my watery grave, and as the realisation of my impending doom struck home, I sank into a state of resigned acceptance that this smelly, remote, bug-infested swamp was to be my final resting place. Oh, the ignominy.

As my struggles became weaker and my mind began its final task of replaying for me the more significant events of my life, my mothers face appeared before my minds-eye. For some strange reason I couldn’t quite fathom the significance of, she was berating me for not eating up all my greens, and that if I wanted to grow up to be a big strong boy then I should do so immediately.

How strange! I thought to myself, that of all the things in my life, I am to die watching the mother who long ago foresook me scolding me for...!

Then it struck me. She wasn’t berating me. She was helping me! Eat up your greens, she was saying. That was it! Brilliant! That was how I would escape from this monstrous mess of foliage!

Immediately, and with a renewed surge of vigour, I turned my head as much as I was able, given the grip the sharp teeth of the plant had on my face, and took as big a bite out of the flower as I could manage.

Oh Nice! I thought. Not only does it smell like the innards of an undead creature, it tastes like it as well.

Forcing myself not to gag on the foul-tasting mouthful, I swallowed, and immediately took another bite from the plant. Seeming to realise it was under attack, the plant responded by uncurling the shoot holding me in its death-grip and forcibly spat me, face first, into the deep mud of the nearby bank where I lay, bloodied, coughing, spluttering and greedily gulping in air. The flower which had held me captive lay beside me, withered, and with a large hole in one of its petals.

After sitting for several timeticks waiting for my breath to settle and my body to stop shaking, I dragged myself to my feet and began to make my way wearily back to the patch of boggy ground where I had first encountered the unusual flower, where my meagre possessions had been dropped in my surprise.

After collecting my notebook, satchel and “Southern Nybelmar for tourists” easy-fold map, I set off unsteadily northwards, hoping to reach safety before nightfall.

As I slipped and slithered my way through the slime and sucking mud of the marshes, I recounted the events which had recently befallen me, hastily making notes in my diary which I would present to the other Ter'ei'Vikh herbologists, if I ever made it alive out of this demons-latrine, obviously playing up the dramatic way in which I slew the giant man-eating plant, which in the end had held no challenge for my superior intellect and strength!

Engrossed in my scribblings, I failed to notice that I had wandered away from the safe route suggested by my guide-book, and had entered a part of the marshes described within the guide as being “unexplored”. Is it not surprising, I thought to myself, how such an unassuming word can take on such dread, dependant upon the circumstance in which one encounters it?

My revelries were brought to a sudden halt by the sensation of having a thousand needles stuck into my rear-end, all at once. Before I could turn to see what had stung me, I felt the by now familiar sensation of being dragged through the stinky mud which substituted for solid ground in this Spirits-forsaken place. This time, though, I was going backwards, and my hands were free of entanglement, which I considered to be a bonus. Having become used to this mode of transportation during my previous encounter, I calmly replaced my diary in my pocket, taking care to remove the large, wriggling, spitting maggot-like creature which had so recently taken up residence within. Then, I unhooked my “Prune-a-majyck 1600” from my belt, twisted my body around as much as I was able and, ignoring the sharp sting of the wet grass slapping me across the cheeks as I sped along the ground, deftly cut the stalk which was attached to the large red flower, which was itself attached to my, by now, large red posterior. Ever the one to spot an opportunity, I had managed to retain the flower intact, and after prising it, with no great discomfort to myself, gingerly from my rump, I placed it in a collecting jar, ready for the triumphant presentation I would give upon my return..."

More of this diary entry cannot be shown, as the apprentice who provided this information only managed to rip this single page from the book after hearing his mentor's footsteps on the wooden stairs outside the room.

As discoverer of this new species of plant, the honour of choosing a name for it fell to Miraran, owing to its unusual hunting methods, and its resemblance to the Common Tangleweed, he chose the name of Giant Venlaken Tangleweed. Others, perhaps with a hint of jealousy, dubbed it “Mira’s Bane”, a name which, to his eternal embarrassment, has become the most common title of this truly remarkable, not to mention dangerous, plant.
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 Date of last edit 12th Fallen Leaf 1668 a.S.

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