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SEVRIN LORE: The search for a panacea

One of the primary preoccupations of alchemy is a universal panacea, a remedy that will cure all ills.  In Sevrin, that search has taken a rather unusual tangent, yielding elixers that, though not by any means a panacea, contribute to the vigorous health and long lives of the islands’ inhabitants.

The primary ingrediant in these elixers are berries. These fruits grow in great variety and abundance on the islands of Sevrin and in the mainland meadows and forests.  It was, ironically, the toxic nature of some wild berries that led to the development of elixers.

Alchemists spent considerable effort trying to isolate and identify the substances that made some berries deadly poison, with the goal of transforming a life-taking substance into something that had equally powerful life-giving properties.  Though mishaps occurred along the way, they have achieved some successes.  In the process, they have bred a wide variety of berries previously unknown to the people of Sevrin.

The belief in the efficacy of berries is a central part of Sevrin’s culture.  Children are given daily doses of berry elixers.  Decoctions of healing herbs are frequently mixed with berries, as are the medications alchemist create.  Certain astringent berries are crushed and mixed with distilled berry wine to make a solution used to clean and treat wounds. Most parents keep a jar of this remedy on hand to dab on small skinned knees. Craftsmen of all kinds keep a jug to treat workshop injuries.

Berry farming is a common occupation, and even the smallest gardens–including the patches of land around in-town homes–contain at least one berry bush, a dwarfed tree, a vine-covered trellis, or a few ground-hugging plants.

Berry wines are common, as are berry-fortified meads known as kvani. Many households put up a small barrel of their own kvani, and unwritten rules of hospitality demand that hosts offers their guests berry wine or mead in tiny pottery cups called kvanimar.  Even in this purely social setting, alchemists and the search for panacea is acknowledged.  Kvanimar usually have colorful glazes that represent the four elements or the four humors, or they might be hand-painted with elaborate designs that incorporate alchemical symbols and imagery.