THE GLOWCAP MUSHROOM ("MAGECAP", "BROWNIES' LANTERN")

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

The fragile Glowcap Mushroom (also referred to as "Magecap", "Bluecap" or "Brownies' Lantern") is unprepossessing by day but glows a delicate bluish-green at night. It is generally found in low-light, moist areas with a lot of decomposing vegetation in its vicinity. Inedible, the Glowcap is generally used in a gnome-processed form to create special-effect makeup for the theatre or in specific pigment applications.

View picture in full size Image description. The Glowcap Mushrooms, also called Brownies' Lantern or Magecap. Picture drawn by Eshóh K'ryvvlen.

Appearance. The Glowcap Mushroom stands about a baby’s finger tall, with a diameter of no more than the same across. The stem is slim and even in proportion, the same width from base to cap, although it may exhibit some slight fluting near the bottom in older specimens. The top is perfectly round when viewed from above, and sharply pointed or angled in young mushrooms, but flattening out somewhat in older ones. This cap-like shape, resembling a mage’s hat, is the source of most of the fungus’s names. The base of the cap, when inverted, is frilled with parchment-thin gills in an ivory hue, similar to most mushrooms.

Under normal lighting the Glowcap is a pale white hue, with soft grey shadings and mottlings over its slender form. Its flesh is quite delicate; even the pressure required to break it from its stem when harvesting will leave dark grey ‘fingerprints’ in the surface. It is by night, however, that the Glowcap comes into its own eerie beauty, radiating a phosphorescent aqua glow. The radiance is just bright enough to define the form of the mushroom and does not cast any light on its surroundings, so that a traveller who extinguishes the own torch or lantern would see merely the ‘floating’ bluish caps in a sea of darkness.
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Territory. These mushrooms grow best either in heavily forested areas such as temperate-climate fir woods, where they lurk under the skirts of the pines, glowing dimly, or in overgrown swamp systems with sufficient overgrowth or mist to shade them. In Santharia they can be found with some effort in most water-logged locations, but are more prevalent in the depths of the larger swamps and marshes: Aldrige Swamp in the Kanapans, the Seanian Swamp in Enthronia, and commonly in the Silvermarshes below the Helmondshire.

Some of the more heavily over-grown islets in the Thaehelvil Estuary also hold a goodly population of Glowcaps, where they are known as "Brownies’ Lanterns". The Shivering Woods, just outside of Ximax, are redolent with the eerie glow, which though of natural and explicable origin, has contributed to the ghoulish legends and fearful superstitions that have built up around the woods.

Glowcap Mushrooms can occur as far south as the Oka’Seri Swamp in the South, and up to the Shadowmarshes in Northern Sarvonia. The Glowcap can also be found in the rainshadowed pine forests on the eastern skirts of the Mithral Mountains, and the depths of some of the elven forests, though they are never harvested by humans there. The Goltherlon in particular is said to harbour vast quantities of Glowcap in its haunting depths, and indeed they may be seen sparsely even at the edges of its melancholic glades.
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Usages. Although non-poisonous, the Glowcap is not considered edible by any races, as it has an unpleasant bitter taste and leaves the unwary consumer with a smeared mouth which will glow in the dark. It is most commonly used to produce specialty artist’s pigments and theatre makeup.

Baked slowly to dry, then powdered and processed into a paste by gnomish chemists, the Glowcap becomes the base for a phosphorescent paint. It is decanted into tiny dark-glass tubs, sealed with parchment and beeswax, and then labelled with its various applications: “Spectral Appearances” – for producing ghostly effects – “Moonlit Lovers” – so that the stage can be darkened atmospherically but the actors’ faces can still be visible – “Deathly Pallor” – for deathbed scenes to focus attention – and “Spellcasting” – to make a nimbus of light around a stage enchanter’s hands.

The pigment sells well in larger cities where the art of the theatre is well-supported; however, it is also used in outlying areas for far more practical applications. The glowing paint can be applied to tool handles, the edges of steps and pathways, mining implements, thresholds, and any other areas where it might be less than convenient to always have a light available. Though considered a luxury item due to the cost of obtaining and processing the Glowcap, it is still readily available and enjoys a steady sale in most areas.
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Reproduction. The mushroom springs up, seemingly overnight, after the first good soaking of the spring rains, in little circlets and clusters. It grows well until the height of summer, at which point its size no longer increases but its glow may be perceived to be steadily brighter each night. In the autumn it begins to harden as it dries, and the phosphorescent qualities which it contains fade with the moisture. It is for this reason that they are always harvested as close to the summer solstice as possible, the folk saying being, “Glowcap envies Injèrá’s shine / In her heat t’will surely pine.” See Myths and Legends below. Untouched, the nearly dry mushroom will open the delicate frills at its base to release dust-like spores, as light and scented as mahood-euwen pollen. These drift on the faintest breeze, and settling on dank ground will rest quiescent till the following spring, when they will leap into birth as tiny glowing parasols and begin the cycle again.
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Myth/Lore. ‘Everyone knows that’ the Glowcap was the result of a magical process (however, the mushroom itself has absolutely no more magical properties than its weirdly-blue glow) and a tragic love, though the stories will differ from place to place.

One such representative tale comes to us from Brinsley, a town near the mouth of the Thaehelvil

“They do say that the Brownies’ Lantern, or Glowcaps as you call them, came to be a long time past. T’was a dragon-lad was doing magic on his own, they say, for to increase his fire. And he wanted to burn more fiercely than any dragon before or after him, since that he was in love with the sun. Silly dragon-youth… aye, he loved Injera’s bright glow, and wished to burn like her. So he sought magic to do so, and invoked it at the height of the tallest peak of the highest range in all the world. ‘Tis the Dragon’s Maw in the Tandalas, ye know, though whether its name comes from that same dragon I know not… Ah, well, he thought that he would leap into the sky there, and his mighty wings and his passion together would take him up to join his sky-treading love. Alas, the Xeuá loves not pride, or the dragon was careless in his desperate conjuring, for the spell went horribly awry. He went tumbling down through the sky, no more immune to his own fires, burning like a haired star, or a cinder that pops from the bonfire. His dragonish hide, and his blood, and his bones, his shape and nature, even, were all burnt away from him, till nothing was left but the pale white heart that fell to earth at the edge of the Thaehelvil, seeking out the water that might heal its burning. They do say that where it fell, it lay untouched till it dissolved into the earth, and that where it vanished, there the pale white Glowcaps came up out of the ground. They still burn, with only a glimmer of their old dragon’s fire, and they still love Injèrá, though they shrink from her face…”

-- "Legends of Santharia" by Imridil Tatarih, p. 36.
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