Growing in the canopy-shaded ponds and lakes in the forests of mid-Sarvonia, the Shadow Lily (Styrásh "Aylás'maerín" or "Reflection Lily") has blossomed into the myth and superstition of many tribes and cultures. It gains its name not from its habitat in the twilight dimness of wooded waters, nor from the colour of its delicate petals, which rarely show in any hue but pure white; rather, its name comes from the peculiarity of its reflection in the waters, for instead of mirroring lovely white, the waters always reflect a flower of pure black.
Picture description.View on the beautifully atmospheric Shadow Lilies growing on a canopy-shaded pond. Image drawn by Bard Judith.
Shadow Lily is regarded widely as a stunningly beautiful plant. Its seed, a grey
sphere resembling a stone worn smooth by running
nestles in the rich soil of the lake bottom and grows out its vining stems to
the surface; most of these open into languid lily pads: cordate leaves of a deep
forest-green that grow larger than a grown man's hand, and yet have all the
delicateness of a maiden's.
Some of these stems, though, form into a more breathtaking creation; these stems, stronger and darker than those that tether leaves, form small buds, like tiny white-green flames showing timidly on the lake surface. As they grow, they shone whiter and whiter, surpassing the whiteness of snow and moonlight to glow like beacons in the darkness of the forest. When they open, their centers show with rutilant light, and for a time (usually a day or two), glowing particles, perhaps pollen, drift up and away, fading into the shade of the forest.
Most peculiar, and notable, about this lily is its reflection, which rather than showing the pure white petals and brilliant glow, mirrors darkly: a shadow flower blossoms in the water, its petals blacker than a moonless night, darker than the feathers of the nightbird - and more haunting than its call. While the white lily blooms and glows, the reflected lily shows ever more darkly.
But as the white lily fades, and its petals fall and drift, so does the black lily. As the white petals grow dimmer, so do the black, until they meet as identical, listless grey-brown. In rare occasions, the lily's center dims, too, until it forms into a grey seed.
Territory. The Shadow Lily grows across a wide territory across Sarvonia, ranging from the Sharadon Forests in the south to the Shaded Woods in the north. However, it grows exclusively in the ponds, pools, and lakes of forests, making it a rather rare sight for tribes that do not inhabit such places.
Usages. Suiting to the displayed duality of the water plant, the Shadow Lily is both a panacea and a poison - though it is impossible to tell which until the moment it is tested. The petals of the lily, plucked when still bright white and boiled, produce a tea that can cure any ailment, from blindness and limps to poisons and disease - but it may just as easily kill the one who ingests it. The human's sometimes refer to the drink as "Queprur's Blade" or, less commonly, "Queprur's Tears".
It is unknown what causes the lily to cure or kill - a pure heart, a sincere soul, the way the moonlight fell when the lily was blooming. Not even the elder elves or wisest witches know. Ingesting the tea of the Shadow Lily is always a gamble, and so is very rarely used as a potential cure - and done so only as a last resort, if at all (for, after all, the Lily can be difficult to find at times).
The rest of the lily serves little use to humans - though the frogs of a lily's lake will occasionally rest upon its dark green leaves, and the fish may collect under its shade - and to all who wander through the forest, it serves as a redolent light in the woody shadows.
Reproduction. The Shadow Lily grows as though indifferent to all weather, and will bloom and grow in any season, provided it has room. (Lakes home to Shadow Lilies are noted to rarely freeze over, and when they do freeze, rarely do so entirely, as though winter gave space for the blossom.) A single plant seems capable of living for many hundreds of years, and so rarely goes through the cycle of reproducing a seed, though it will almost always be blooming.
The hidden cycles of the lily's seed-creation remain unknown. Whether it is tied to its own cycle of life and death, or those of the lilies around it, or to something else entirely: the movements of the distant tides, the silent songs the trees sing, the tears the world has shed. Or perhaps all of these contribute to the exigence of the seed.
When the lily does produce a seed, it forms as the petals are fading and drifting away across the water. It develops at the end of the blossom's stem, sheen as the nacre of a pearl, until it grows too heavy for the stem and drops noiselessly into the water, vanishing to the bottom from where it will grow.
Myth/Lore. The Shadow Lily's mysterious nature and unusual qualities have precipitated its blossoming into myth and legend. Among humans, it is often associated with Queprur, the shadow reflection representing the inevitability of death lingering even in the beauty of life. The tea produced by the petals is referred to among humans as Queprur's Blade or Queprur's Tears, Both represent the sway of Queprur in determining whether the drink will kill or cure. Like a crystal, the mystery of the flower takes the light of human awe and wonder and scatters it into many colourful stories.
The most popular ones attribute the creation of the strane and beautiful blossom to Queprur, Goddess of Death. In one story, it is Jeyriall who created the flower, a testament to the purity of her love for Armeros. She endowed it with the ability to heal wounds and cure disease, to be a light in dark places. However, Queprur, filled with jealousy after being rejected by the God of War, twisted the flower's reflection, ensuring that whosoever should try to use the lily would take a gamble with their own life; a blossom that might engender the restorative love of Jeyriall might also lead to the deathly blade of Queprur.
Another similar story acknowledges Queprur as the one creator of the flower; her quiet, deadly hands crafted it originally as a flower to bloom on the day Armeros took her as his mate; when she was rejected, she twisted it and made its effects chaotic and potentially deadly; an accurate reflection of the chaos and potential consequences of love.
But not all tales of the lily pertain to Queprur. Another, popular in northern Santharia, begins with the story of two unicorns living in the peaceful woodland of the forest. Their love for one another was deep and pure, for unicorns know no other way to love. One day, one was killed by a careless human hunter, and the other was filled with overwhelming despair. Looking into its reflection in a pool, it shed a tear which shimmered with both sorrow and anger. From that time on, the lake produced a white lily, representing the purity of its love and sorrow, reflecting as a black one, representing its anger: the twin emotions of grief.
For the elves, though, the flower has poignant significance, representing the dichotomy of Avá and Coór. According to elven myth, the dreaming Avá is ineffably beautiful - and not all the beauty in all the lands of Caelereth can compare to hers. The beauty contained in the world is but a smolder to the brilliant sun of Avá. As she dreamed, she dreamed the world - but as she searched herself, she discovered darkness in her reflection, a shadow as dark as her beauty is brilliant, and this was Coór. Vastly different but inseparable, this relationship is echoed in the Lily, the depth of whose lovely radiance is matched only by the depth of darkness found in its shadow reflection.
There are a multitude of stories from across the land, and even idiosyncrasies in the same tales as one travels from village to village and forest to forest, but one thing remains constant: the lily fills all who know of it with wonder and a tinge of fear.
History. The Shadow Lily blossoms even in the time of myth. It is said to have grown in the days of Fá'áv'cál'âr, during which time, myth states, the flower was immortal as the elves. It prospered in the open ponds and lakes of that great elven empire, blooming in the full grandeur of Injèrá's light, around reflection ponds and decorative moats girding the empire temples and palaces. Then, as now, the lily was seen as a reflection of the unique bond between Avá and Coór.
For this reason, the lily grew in prominence during the reign of Kásh'áv'taylá. Though now lost or drown within the Water Marshes, carvings of the lily are said to have blossomed across the stone work and murals commissioned by the proud queen. But when the empire fell in the tears and blood of the elven people, so did the symbolic flower - and when the race was cursed with mortality, it was as well.
Since the days of Fá'áv'cál'âr, the lily no longer flourishes in the brilliance of full sunlight, but keeps quietly to the shadows of deep woods. And while it still gleams with beauty, it is believed it will never again blossom with the same enrapturing beauty that it did when time was young and elves, immortal.