Riverberry (also called the "Blue Bavsberry", "Water Wineberry", and
"Flutterfish Fruit"), despite its name, does not grow exclusively in rivers.
Apart from slow- or moderately-running rivers, the plant also grows in small
streams, ponds, and lakes throughout Santharia,
(where some motion is created by fish, frogs, or other
water-dwelling creatyre) though it prefers
warmer, more humid locations.
While it can be used as a dye, its generally only used for dying small stretches; it is more common for making sweet juices and sauces in small quantities. And of course, it is one of the primary foods comprising the diet of the Blue Flutterfish; in fact, the berry is often attributed as the source of the fish’s serenely blue colouration.
Appearance. The Riverberry is a fairly adaptable plant, and it’s difficult to know whether to consider a water plant or not; while it will grow out from the soils in the bottom of lakes and streams, it is also content to grow by the river- or lake-side, vining out from the damp yet submerged soil and dipping itself into the water.
The leaves are long and tendril-like, growing up to a fore long, but always remaining on the surface of the water, neither sinking below nor lifting above. It’s easy buoyancy comes from small air pockets along the underside of each leaf. As might be expected, the leaves are a bit thicker than most, and are a deep green - with, perhaps, the slightest hint of blue.
The stems of the Riverberry plant is strong and sturdy as a dwarf, capable of holding leaves and fruits against the moving waters of the river or stream in which it grows. As though to contrast the slender leaves, waving nonchalantly in the currents, the stem is stalwart and strong, coloured a deep greenish-brown, though it is sometimes half-hidden in the water. The roots of the Riverberry often run deep. Greenish-white, they dig deep into the earth and hold tight, anchoring the plant and keeping it from slipping away.
When conditions are right, the Riverberry will bud and flower in little clusters of light blue flowers. These endearing little blooms, sometimes called Riverbuds or Riverblooms, are usually about half the size of a maiden’s little finger, and they sit contently upon the water, inviting river insects and butterflies to land upon them to rest and drink. Their little pointed petals are soft and thin - and when the bloom fades, the petals drift away into the river.
Soon after the bloom has gone, a collection of green berries begins to form beneath where the flower floated, submerged in the water. Taking nutrients from the water and sunlight from the leaves, the fruit ripens and the berries get larger, growing in clusters of 10 or more. The base from which they grow is buoyant, keeping the berries from sinking. Beneath the surface, the berries resemble wineberries, though they taste a bit seedier than their land-based cousins.
The Riverberry plant rarely grows very large. It grows to the height needed to reach the surface (or the water) and if it branches, only does so twice or thrice. While one plant may create many flowers, not all the flowers will turn to fruit, and one plant can usually only sustain three or four clusters at most.
Territory. The Riverberry plant grows here and there throughout Sarvonia, as far as Lu'Weilima and as far south as Bardavos. It does not generally grow with any great gusto, but chooses its place of growth carefully. It is as though the seed had thoughtfully considered its stretch of water and soil before putting down roots, making sure to choose a place with plenty of sun (though not too much) in a stream or river with a gentle current (but not too much) in a place where the air has ample moisture (though not too much rain) in soil that is firm enough to anchor it (but not so firm as to prevent good rooting).
While the Riverberry grows in many rivers throughout Sarvonia and especially in Santharia (such as the Thaehelvil), it will tend toward areas where the river is shallower and gentler. It likes little streams, particularly those near a copse in places where the weather is warm and humid. While it doesn’t mind slightly saltier waters, it refuses to grow in seawater. It should also be noted that the fruit from Riverberry plants growing in saltier waters are themselves a bit salty, and not very appetizing.
The Riverberry plant is not an overly difficult plant for a gardener to tend, provided he or she knows what he or she is doing, and makes a lovely addition to any fish pond. This plant is ubiquitous in and around fishponds in the gardens of thanes and dukes across Santharia. Recent trade with Nybelmar suggests it may be found in gardens there, too, though such rumours (while likely true) remain unsubstantiated.
Usages. The Riverberry has a number of usages, though most revolve around its small berries. Despite growing in water, the Riverberry is not watered down, either in taste or colour. In fact, it seems to be more potent, as though growing in water had helped to suck the wateriness out of the berry (almost like the way a bath prunes the fingers, removing them of water).
While the berry is sweet (and a bit sour), it is also filled with small seeds. Given age, these seeds will soften and can be ground up in the juices of the berry and served in various dishes without anyone getting them stuck between his or her teeth. Although frequently found in sauces (Riverberry sauce pairs wonderfully with taenish and pork), juices (often mixed with other juices or strong liquor), and as a garnish for stuffing (for any wild fowl), it is quite popular as a sweet liqueurs, generally served as a kind of desert wine. Because of the moderate rarity of Riverberries, the consumption of such foodstuff is often rare, or else reserved for those who have the wealth to pay.
Those who enjoy consuming the berry occasionally must compete against those preferring to use the Riverberry as a dye. It soaks and sets quickly into fabrics and has a bright blue colour. Again, it’s rarity generally reserves it for detail work, though it is said that in the 1300’s a Thane from Voldar once had a tunic and cape dyed completely by Riverberries. Its use was specified, not only because of the brilliant colour, but because of the sweet aroma of dye, which perfumed the cloth exquisitely. It is said the Thane wished to woo a noble lady - and indeed, succeeded.
Apart from the better-known uses for the Riverberry, the plant itself has some use to herbalists. The leaves are particularly useful in the treatment of rashes - particularly rashes that burn or otherwise feel hot (it should be noted that this does not included rashes actually caused by burns, but rather rashes that feel as though they are burning). When the leaves or torn, the tear excretes a thick, gooey substance that can be applied directly to the skin to help cool it. The substance is gentle and safe, but should not be used on large gashes in the skin or around (ahem) sensitive areas. For those kinds of burning, higher-level herbalists will be able to treat the leaves for safe use or recommend some other remedy.
The Riverberry is often used as a decorative plant in many gardens, particularly in those paying some tribute to the goddess Baveras, and it is often grown in ponds and lakes that house the Blue Flutterfish. Consumption of the deep blue berries is attributed as the reason for the colour of the Flutterfish’s brilliant cerulean scales.
Reproduction. The Riverberry’s seed sews itself into the fertile, moist bottom of a shallow stream or lake, or else in the rich bank. It requires a great deal of water, and so usually grows most quickly in the spring, when the snow of winter melts and once-dry riverbeds flow again. Rarely will the river-level rise more quickly than the Riverberry plant; it can grow with great haste to meet the river.
In late spring or early summer, many Riverberry plants will begin to bloom. Not all blooms result in fruit, and so it may be that the Riverberry may bloom for weeks - even months, and only produce a dozen or so clusters in that time (though never more than four at one time). As long as it is warm and humid, as long as the weather is sunny and fair, the Riverberry will bloom and grow: in many parts of southern Santharia, the Riverberry blooms and produced fruit from late spring until early autumn. Under the careful hand of an expert gardener, the Riverberry will bloom and produce fruit all year long.
When a fruit-producing blossom has faded, and her petals have fallen away, her base will sprout a collection of tiny, bright green berries. Over the course of several weeks (sometimes as long as a month and a half in some places), the berries will plump and darken, ripening to a deep blue.
What fish - or deer, or other woodland creature - could resist? These creatures often gobble up the berries when they have ripened. When overripe, the berries drift away themselves, pulled from the stem by the current of their watery home. Whether by fish traveling upstream or currents moving downstream or deer venturing to another stream entirely, the seeds wander. Once dropped by their host in a suitable location, the seeds wait until suitable conditions propitiate their growth.
Many wild Riverberry plants will die when their streams dry up. In warmer places, where such things are more likely, the Riverberry grows with greater haste. In colder places, where the streams may stay wetter longer, the growing period may be slower, and it may eventually be the chill of winter that kills the plant. However, in a garden, where a green thumb may nurture the plant, the Riverberry may grow and thrive for many years before it wearily expires at last.
Myth/Lore. The Blue Flutterfish, because of its colour and environment, is deeply connected with Baveras, and is found frequently in her shrines and temples. Because the Riverberry is not only a favourite food of the Flutterfish but also the source of it’s striking cerulean hue, it has, too, come to be associated with Baveras, growing in her temple’s garden ponds and streams to feed her tranquil Blue Flutterfish.
However, in some villages in the southeast of Santharia, there is a tale associated with the plant that more deeply tied it to Baveras. It is as follows:
Baveras' Pity. It is said there was
once a young man, well-loved by all, who fell in love with a young maiden
who had dedicated herself to the worship of Baveras. The young man
pleaded to be accepted by the young maiden, but though she loved him
dearly, she refused him.
The Riverberry can also be found in a myth amoung the Eyelians. That story is as follows:
The Sacrifice. It is said that long ago, when the sky were still new and the earth had
not yet known the blood of war, Grandmother Eagle dined heartily on the
fish in a stream. She would soar above with her eagle-wings, and watch the
currents with her eagle-eyes, then catch fish with her eagle-talons and
devour them. And she was well-fed.