THE VANILLA ORCHID ("LÁVÁNO PLANT")

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

Elyá Fánílye Lá'váno, also known as Láváno (common Nybelmarnese) Fanilye (Northern Sarvonia) or Vanilla (Southern Sarvonia) is the only edible fruit of the orchid family, the largest family of flowering plants in western Nybelmar. The plant itself is a tropical orchid, one of three hundred known varieties found in the jungles of Krath. Despite the claims of the Lillivear that the flower is unique to their gardens, there have been sightings of Láváno in territories with a similar weather pattern, such as the city of Katran'searamh a furlay across the Twin Kingdom's westernmost border. Various parts of the plant are used as a flavouring ingredient, a perfume distillate, and an orc repellant. The plant also has numerous medicinal usages.

Appearance. Láváno is possibly among the world’s most labour-intensive crop, which accounts for its outrageous price. It may take up to six years after the vines are planted before the first flowers appear. Luckily, flowering usually takes about three years in the most common variety of the orchid, Krétá-Láváno.

If the fruits are not picked up in time, the pod will crack and burst most of its contents - rendering the beans useless at the same time - since it will not be able to support its own weight.

The fruits, which resemble big green beans, must remain on the vine for nine months - seventeen in the case of the Llívá-Láváno - in order to completely develop their signature aroma. However, when the beans are harvested, they have neither flavour nor fragrance. They develop these distinctive properties during the curing process.

The vine itself has wide, luscious green leaves sprouting from its shafts. Another reason why tending to a Llívá-Láváno is extremely hazardous, even compared to the normal Elyá treatment, to the cultivator is the vine’s tendency to wrap itself around the infamous larkentir trees. An entire larkentir tree - trunk, roots, and all, - trembles and vibrates in response to any movement of the air, no matter how subtle. Hence, a shout can make a whole copse of larkentir explode violently and cause subtantial damage. Thus, the lives of the pickers are always at risk while attending to the demands of this orchid. Ironically enough, the Lillivear never seem to have trouble finding “adventurous farmers” among the rest of the Krant population who are always willing to volunteer for this deadly task in exchange for the intense thrill and a suitable payment. As if this and the incredibly long flowering period are not enough, a Llívá-Láváno only blossoms up to a mere sixth of a Krétá-Láváno. However, the heightened aroma and the durability of the Llívá-Láváno pay for more than all the effort put into its cultivation.
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Territory. Generally Fánílye is found in the jungles of Krath, located on the southwestern peninsula of Nybelmar. Though the Lillivear are persistent in their claims that the flower is restricted to their gardens, there have been sightings of Láváno in territories with a similar weather pattern across the Twin Kingdom's western border. The Krunt city of Katran'searamh is a fine example for non-Lillivear attended vanilla orchards.

The Llívá-Láváno on the other hand only seems to grow around the settlements of Ayáráyushulu, the city of “Moonlight”, in the Howling Forest.
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Usages. When the beans are harvested, they are treated with hot water or heat and are then placed in the sun every day for weeks-to-months until they have shrunk to a good fifth of their original size. The beans must be roasted wrapped inside leaves of their own plant to prevent the aroma from diffusing out into the boiling water. Furthermore, belief among the Lillivear has it that any direct contact with the beans while they are being processed will cause them to wither into a viscous yellowish grey ball later when ingested. Hence, the Krean always pay great heed to whom they are purchasing vanilla seeds from. Since the women of the Lillivear, especially the priestesses of Ankriss, the High Goddess of Earth in Krath, are the ones attending to this better part of Láváno cultivation, it is always possible to find a whole cluster of them dancing and performing the appropriate rituals to the Goddess while waiting for their beans to ripen.

After this process is complete, the beans are sorted according to their size and quality. Then they will rest for a month or two in tiny light-proof bins made of Krillim wood to finish developing the full Láváno flavour and fragrance for which they are recognized. By the time they are shipped around the continent, their aroma is quite remarkable.

The best way to store Láváno extract and beans is a "common secret" among the Lillivear: the extract should be kept in a cool, dark place to prevent light from affecting it. A cupboard that is away from the heat of the oven would be fine indeed. Láváno beans should also be kept in a cool dark place, but they must be kept dry so that they don't mold. Storing them in a small jar is usually fine, but if one lives in a humid climate one may want to wrap them in paper that has been dipped in wax for further protection. Please note that the wax of the tiny "Aráth's Breath" plant found in the southern Krath jungles – also used to make the famous scented candles of the Lillivear – serves well for this purpose.

Láváno is not only used to give flavour to foods and beverages, but also in perfumes. Perhaps the only perfumes worth mentioning – compared to the imported Anpagan fragrances – produced in Krath are made from this plant. One of the better-known fánílye-scented products that is currently available on the Sarvonian continent as well is called "Orchideros" - a body oil with tiny golden flecks suspended in it and a rich Llívá-Láváno aroma...

In some parts of Krath, Láváno is believed to be an orc repellant. In fact, the word Fánílye derives from the Krath'mélár'ián words “Fire-burnt” and “Repel”. Towns neighboring the Orcal border will import large quantities of Láváno, especially Llívá-Láváno for its relation with moonlight and thus the River Goddess of the Aestera, and hang them in bundles on their doors. Recently, the Aestera have also started to coat the bundles with protection runes to thwart inflammations.

The Santharian Compendium takes great pride in the diligent research it has conducted on the usages of this almost enchanted plant. Here is a list of the known
uses of the Láváno plant:

Reproduction. The Fánílye plant reproduces using a whole lot of seeds. After the flowers bloom, they release tiny pollen particles, which ride the wind until they are deposited. The sad detail is, a Láváno can only be pollinated by another Láváno of the same kind.

The reproduction of a Llívá-Láváno on the other hand, is a wonder of its own. Little ajan myrmex, moving in and out of the blossoms for the entire mating cycle of nine nights (and only during the nights the moon can be seen) will be spotted on the ground once the pods fall. They seem to be almost hypnotized by the fragrance of the flower, which is quite different from the normal scent of the plant, during this period – barely feeling any disruptions to their single-lined march.

The Lillivear, despite all their tries, could not find a way to manifest the distinct smell of the Llívá-Láváno without harming its reproduction cycle.
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Myth/Lore. The Llívá-Láváno is thought to be a gift of the Aesteran Goddess to the Lillivear when they have accepted to harbour their cousins within their splendid towns after the Pact of the Silent Wind. Even today the design on the Llívá-Láváno’s flowers is accepted as the primary symbol of moonlight. The plant itself is believed to drive the fiery destruction brought by orcs away.
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