Adonasfel and its Uses
The adonasfel, occasionally called the starlight fern, is a plant with slender fronds of bluish silver. It is not a true fern and produces clusters of small red flower-like structures along the end part of each frond in early winter. These flowerlets have a waxy coating whose scent attracts the beetles that pollinate the adonasfel. While starlight ferns are reasonably common in low lying and well shaded areas and are not hard to care for they are difficult to propagate and cannot be efficiently farmed. The wax that protects the flowerlets is a luxury product that earns it high price from the number of plants that must be processed to extract a small quantity of the material and the seasonal nature of the flowering. However, attempts at monopolising adonasfel solution have failed due to the widespread area in which it grows and its dispersal through forests, and due to the small amount used at any one time.
The adonasfel wax can be removed by steeping the cut ends of the fronds in boiling water for several hours before removing the fronds and allowing the liquid to boil dry. This leaves the reddish-brown wax as a flaky, slightly crumbly layer that can be scrapped out of the pot and stored in sealed container in a cool dry place. It takes an apothecary around a day to produce a measure of finished wax flakes from pre-cut fronds. In rural areas were the fern grows particularly dense some households will make their own extractions, but without the tools and experience of professional apothecaries the resultant product is generally of lower quality and grainy consistency, and does not last as long.
These flakes do not dissolve well in water, leaving only a sodden oily mess at the base of the vessel unless the mixture is kept at a rolling boil. However the purified wax dissolves well in alcohol. Many have attempted to exploit this and use alcohol to extract the wax from the fronds, but this contaminates the wax with essential oils from the plant and transforms the wax into a sticky and near-worthless mass.
When clear spirits or white wine is used to dissolve the wax the resulting liquid takes a distinct rosy tint. This fluid is seen as an aphrodisiac and occasionally ingested mixed with red wine or mead to mask strongly bitter flavour and unpleasant after taste. Love letters between young nobles are often written on paper soaked in adonasfel solution, which oxidises as it dries and stains the paper a pinkish-tan hue. The most common use is as a perfume, generally when dissolved into odourless clear spirits. The solution is dabbed behind the ears or smoothed down small segments of hair, used less often in other unnoticed places; unlike more common perfumes, it cannot be used on the face or hands without staining the skin.
While easily recognisable humans can only smell adonasfel solution from close distances. The scent is strongest (and near overpowering) while the wax is being extracted from the plant or while the solution is being boiled off afterwards, and lacks the sweeter notes found when sniffing the living plant. As the prepared solutions dry after application the smell rapidly diminishes and after a few minutes most must hold the object near the nose to detect it. After an hour or two on skin and a day or so on porous objects such as paper or cloth the scent has faded beyond detection.
There are superstitions that adonasfel solution may be used to attract, reveal or ensnare werewolves. This may be based on its unusual affect on dogs. When exposed to small amounts – for example, the quantity used as perfume – dogs will actively investigate the source of the smell but rapidly lose interest once it has been located. Larger amounts tend to have a calming affect on canines. Care must be taken not to startle the animal, for it will often attack swiftly and reflexively if surprised. An unusual feature of these attacks is that the animal will often slip back into its previous calm state and not display distress if the attacked entity remains motionless, unlike the wariness and fear a dog would normally display towards a perceived threat. It is suspected the scent of adonasfel may have a hypnotic or hallucinogenic affect upon canines.