Monday, March 12, 2012

Plow Grubs (Wermspittle)

Plow Grubs
No. Enc.: 1d6
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 30' (10')
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d4 + Poison
Save: as zero-level human
Morale: 0

Long a fixture on the farms and fields of the Low Lands, Plow Grubs are the preferred beasts of burden when it comes to plowing the fields after the first thaws and the Spring Floods have receded. Farmers can rarely afford a mule or work-horse, and few such animals survive the harsh Winters, when hungry bands of raiders pour across the areas surrounding Wermspittle seeking something, anything to eat.

But no one eats a Plow Grub in Winter. They are virulently toxic and completely inedible until after they have spent a few days burrowing through the wet, clumpy earth. Even a child knows not to eat a Plow Grub in Winter, and especially not ones that still have purplish spots. Only the pinkish-ones are edible, and they are only available after the fields have been plowed. Then there is plenty enough for everyone and the first feasts take place, for the flesh of ripened Plow Grubs does not keep, not in salt, nor in alcohol, not even pickled or smoked. It is a one-time bounty and one makes the most of it, before it is gone.

Rustling-Up the Grubs
Each Autumn, the farmers go rooting about in the woods with their hounds, trained pigs, goats and other helpers. Some gather mushrooms, a few dig-up truffles, but the majority spend the two weeks deemed most providential in the Rural Concordance or one of the lesser Almanacs searching after and collecting Plow Grubs. Hundreds are dug up from the wet, loamy soil and packed away in saw-dust or old rags and then safely, almost reverentially deposited in the attic, slid back into a crawlspace, hung from the rafters or otherwise stored away from the soil so they remain dormant until the plowing begins. Plow Grubs so stored can remain suspended and viable for generations. Some farmers keep a reserve stock on-hand that they claim is derived in-part from the first batch their parents or grandparents gave to them when they first started out. It is a folk tradition among the Low Landers to gift new farmers with a few 'choice' Plow Grubs at their barn raising, wedding or right before first-plowing.

Hammer Time
In the spring, the farmer pounds a nail into the head-section of the Plow Grub. If they do the job right, the Plow Grub will only burrow in a straight line and a small handful of the things can plow-up a typical field in under an hour. Botch the job and the grubs will go askew and will need to be dug-up and destroyed. It is not a good idea to let them burrow off into the woods. Grubs grow into beetles and other things. Not all Plow Grubs are necessarily the same species. Some grow into very troublesome beasts. Things that might prey upon livestock and ruin crops. Any farmer who lets a Plow Grub run off loose into the wild will be ostracized and shamed until they get out there, track it down, and kill it once and for all. Or else they hire would-be adventurers and grub-hunters to do it for them. In some communities the local militia uses such situations to train-in their newest recruits or conscripts.

A Simple Bounty
Plow Grubs are carefully handled. They make farming possible after the dark, cold winters and grant some of the first real fresh food of Spring. They also provide a bit of chitin that can be peeled back from the raw, pithed grubs freshly retrieved from the dirt. If one is skillful, the chitin can be harvested in two good-sized pieces. But even the small bits and pieces a child manages to rip free from the grubs as they are prepped for the kitchen can be useful. If boiled together with various substances (every family has their own recipe), the Plow Grub chitin can be reduced to a soft paste that is quite pliable and moldable. Farmers craft all manner of small odds-and-ends from this material, up to and including a form of 'plow man's leather' and the distinctive boots, slippers and shoes each particular region is noted for. It is a simple bounty, but a welcome respite from the soul-crushing horrors of Winter. Some even see the Plow Grubs as a humble reminder that not all hope is lost and that things can get better. In time.

1 comment:

  1. A great bit of world-building, this. Weird, but with a lot of verisimilitude.

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