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Dwarfwheat by Imperator-Zor Dwarfwheat by Imperator-Zor
Beneath much of the world is a vast network of caverns and caves which are by in large the domain of the dwarves. In this environment they evolved, and they are hardly alone. Many creatures call these areas home, from bats and swallows who make their roosts there to blind fish and insects who never see the light of the sun. Much of these tunnels and chambers are barren places populated by creatures who live slow lives in which squeeze all they can out of what few scraps of sustenance come their way by chance, but not all. For there are many areas in which there is a higher than usual level of background magic. In many of these areas grow strange plants who instead of being powered by sunlight draw energy from the standing magical field.

In cooperation with several Dwarvish clans, no less than 1,128 species of these subterranean plants have been documented by the Order of Keepers with many more uncatalogued and undiscovered. Many different varieties of plants have their subterranean variants, with isolated pockets evolving into endless local variations. However as a rule these plants are slow growing, knobly, have a waxy outer coating, lack conventional leaves and are never green, instead being purple, red, grey, pale yellow and black. They are also generally sensitive to light and wither if exposed to sunlight for prolonged periods. Even so, they often form the basis for a subterranean ecosystems and are in particular important to the Dwarves. While Dwarves have imported food from the surface for thousands of years, these plants have provided the dwarves with most of their food, as well as other products such as oils and fibers for twine, paper and rope. Among the most important of these is Dwarfwheat.

As a rule Dwarfwheat makes up a significant part of the dwarvish diet, representing about 20-30% of the average Dwarf's caloric intake under normal circumstances and in times of war when a Dwarf city is cut off from trade that number spikes. Dwarfwheat is fairly easy to cultivate and generally involves getting a clear area of cave with a decent level of magic, covering it in stonedust and ash, sewing it with seeds and watering it every month or so and efforts at pest control. The biggest problem is the rate at which the plants mature. It takes 21 to 24 months for a Dwarfwheat seed to germinate, grow to maturity and be ready for harvest. As the yearly cycle is rarely an issue for these plants, most dwarf farmers stagger their plantings so their crops yield a constant steady harvest.

Beyond the Dwarves, there is not much of a market for Dwarfwheat and Dwarfwheat foodstuffs. Some people will buy Dwarfwheat biscuits and bread for long journeys or voyages where supplies are in doubt but most non-dwarves will avoid Dwarfwheat if there are other alternatives. The biggest exception to this is the Dark Elves. Living in areas with limited arable land and an above average level of background magic, the Drow put old mineshafts to work as dwarfwheat farms. Galthirith has the most extensive cultivation of Dwarfwheat. Even so to the Drow the purpose of Dwarfwheat is to feed their slave populations.
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August 1, 2015
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