THE NEVER-SIT-STILL MUSHROOM

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

The Never-Sit-Still is a moonsilver-coloured mushroom that has been recorded only in the Goltherlon Forest, and is known almost exclusively to the resident golgnomes. Its Tharian name, Never-Sit-Still, is rarely used, as it is merely a translation of the common name used among the golgnomes: Ignanok (from “Itgu-Nan-Okin”, Never-Sit-Still). The name refers to the uncanny property of the healthy mushroom head to unceasingly wriggle about in small, wavy movements. A second Gnomish name also derives from this peculiarity: Zpukhavt Vernwirkung (from “zpukin”, eerie; “havtim”, to wriggle; and “vernwirkung”, mushroom). The mushrooms are much loved by golgnome children, who frequently can be seen studying the fidgeting heads in fascination.

These mushrooms also have a less obvious characteristic, which well-trained specialists can exploit for instantaneous long-distance communication: when picked with the right method, a pair of mushrooms from the same fungus will always look exactly alike. If you dye or dent one, the other will change colour or shape accordingly. Inventive golgnomes have devised a signalling system that allows them to hold a conversation over an unlimited distance. Mushrooms thus picked and used as for transferring messages are known by the name Kolibim Mycoi (“Answer Fungus”).

The Never-Sit-Still Mushroom

View picture in full size Picture description. A golgnome uses a Never-Sit-Still for communicating. Image by Seeker.

Appearance. A round, fat stalk of about two nailsbreadths in both height and girth supports a dome-shaped head, which grows up to six nailsbreadths wide and three nailsbreadths high. Both are moonsilver in colour, except for the brown, rippled underside of the head, which contains the mushroom’s spores.

The head continuously wriggles about in small movements, which seem to run through the surface like multiple chaotic waves. One of the few humans to have seem this mushroom described it thus: “Maybe it was due to the stories I had heard about this wondrous fungus, but the wriggling appeared to me to be expressive somehow – like the ripples on the face of a babe lying on its back with eyes closed, feeling mildly uncomfortable, just before bowel movement brings relief and the possibility of a gurgling laugh and a smile.” (from Shabakuk Zeborius Anfang’s seminal work on the Never-Sit-Still: “Eerie Wrigglers: Mushrooms as a Vehicle of Golgnomish Distance Communication”).

The mushroom is the means of reproduction for a fungus which grows underground in the form of thin white threads, called “mycoi” by the golgnomes, who have not failed to investigate them thoroughly. These mycoi seem to ramify almost endlessly, and are certainly capable of covering an underground area several strals long and wide. This has led golgnome scholars to speculate that a Never-Sit-Still may be the single largest living organism in their forest, and possibly in the whole of Caelereth.

It is important to note that the same individual fungus never grows two mushrooms in close proximity to one another. If you happen to see two Never-Sit-Stills in the same spot, they come from different fungi.

Territory. The Never-Sit-Still grows exclusively in the Goltherlon Forest in the province of Vard}nn, North-Eastern Sarvonia. Even there, the mushrooms are few and far between. The best chance of finding one is to survey the undergrowth of the shadiest parts of the woods, as Never-Sit-Stills prosper in places with damp soil and little sunlight. Also, they often grow close to a tree or large shrub. To the frustrated mushroom hunter, it may appear as if the eerie wrigglers invariably hide their precious selves in the least accessible hollow, in the darkest shadow, or beneath the thorniest rosemint bush. Return to the




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Usages. Golgnomes have learned to use the Never-Sit-Stills for long-distance communication. In order to do so, one must find two mushrooms from the same plant. These are called “siblings” (or “gezvizter” in Gnomish). Gezvizter mushrooms have the characteristic of always looking – in fact, of always being – exactly identical. If you stepped on a Never-Sit-Still that grows in the woods, you would flatten not only this individual mushroom, but all the mushrooms belonging to the same plant.

The resourceful golgnomes have realized that this quality can be exploited to exchange signals over long distances: if you dye one mushroom of a pair, the other will be dyed the same colour at exactly the same time. And if you push a tiny dent into one mushroom of the same fungus, exactly the same dent in exactly the same place will appear on its “sibling”.

However, there is a complication: the connection between two mushrooms is usually dependent on the material link provided by the mycoi: if you pick one mushroom, thereby breaking the connection to the mother plant, its former siblings cease to be influenced by it, and the possibility of communication is thus lost.

There is only one way of picking a pair of siblings and retaining their communicative quality: you have to pick the two at exactly the same time. This is extremely difficult to do. Firstly, it needs an experienced gnome to even find two mushrooms of the same plant. This is done by “dyeing” one mushroom, and searching for another that has assumed the same colour. Gnomes have learned to dye Never-Sit-Stills by pouring small quantities of colouring liquid into the soil around the mushroom. This liquid is the absorbed by the mycoi, and from there transferred to the mushroom.

Secondly, and this is the more severe difficulty, simultaneous action on two tiny mushrooms growing up to two strals apart requires a concentrated effort. golgnomes have learned to achieve this feat by using a highly ritualized method of coordination involving a call-and-response pattern of rhythms played on drums. This method was described by Shabakuk Zeborius Anfang in the following extract from his scholarly work:

Drumming is relative: How the Golgnomes pick Mushroom Siblings. The gnomes go mushroom hunting with a large drum. When the first mushroom has been coloured, and a scout has found its equally tinted match, the scout will beat her drum four times. As a response, the gnome who stayed behind with the original mushroom will beat his own drum four times, acknowledging that he has heard the signal. Next, the two drummers need to get into a rhythm. Their problem is to gauge how far away their drumming partner is located, for this distance determines the time it takes for the sound of the drum to travel from one gnome to the other.

The two drummers establish a call-and-response pattern, so that the gnome who found the second mushroom drums a call, and the gnome who stayed behind drums a response. On hearing the response, the caller starts a new call, and so forth. Information about the distance between the two gnomes is contained in the delay with which the response is heard. Once the caller believes that she has “understood” the time lapse, she changes into a new rhythm, and her partner responds accordingly. Now the two will try to keep the beat, and to get a musical feel for exactly with how much delay they each hear each other’s sounds. Eventually, through subtle changes in the emphasis of certain beats within the second rhythm, the drummers signal that they are feeling ‘in swing’ – that is, that they can feel the rhythm intuitively in their bodies.

When both have signalled that they are in swing, the caller changes to the third and final rhythmic pattern, called “The Picker”. This rhythm has the important quality that the first drumbeat of the “call” will be heard by the response drummer at exactly the same moment as the caller performs the last drumbeat of that same call. Thus temporal coordination is established. The Picker will be called exactly three times. Each time there is a response, and after the third response both gnomes will drop their drumsticks, carefully swinging their hands in time to the now unplayed, but still experienced rhythm, and stoop down to pick the mushroom at exactly the moment when the response drummer would expect to hear the first drumbeat of the fourth call (which never comes), and when the caller would expect to perform the last drumbeat of that same call (which she never made).

For every successful attempt at picking “sibling” mushrooms, a dozen or more attempts fail. Some gnomish researchers have tried to improve upon this meagre rate by using already harvested Never-Sit-Still gezvizter to coordinate the picking of a new pair. However, although communication between siblings is instantaneous, the dents made in their heads by the stroking pointers have proved too poorly defined in terms of onset to enable the establishment of a precise rhythmic coordination, so that success using this visual method has proved even rarer than with the drumming method.

Once the mushrooms have been picked, they are transferred into growing boxes, where they establish new “mycoi”, and may survive for several years if cared for properly. The foremost question now on the drummers’ minds is whether they have managed to pick the two mushrooms simultaneously. The gnomes will be impatient to test whether their attempt was successful, but it is best for the mushrooms’ chances of survival if they are allowed to settle into their new soil before being tested. The surest sign of a mushroom that is ready to be “probed” for the first time is that it resumes its continuous wriggling – for this usually stops when a mushroom is picked and deprived of the connection to its roots. Once in the new growing box, while the new roots take hold, the mushroom at first starts wriggling in staccato patterns, before gradually settling into the smooth waves described above. The probing of a mushroom – usually done by the dyeing method also used to find siblings in the forest – is a great communal event, and success is celebrated with a feast lasting a whole day.

Communicating mushrooms that are separated from their mother plants are called “Kolibim Mycoi” (Answer Fungus). These are usually kept in little boxes filled with soil gathered from the place where they originally grew, and are meticulously cared for by their gnomish owners. In particular, infection by worms or other small creatures must be prevented to keep both siblings healthy. The soil must be kept moist, and exposure to direct sunlight be avoided. Oddly, the mycoi threads do not exhibit their natural expansive tendencies when they are confined to the growing box, and very rarely do the gnomes have to cut them to prevent overgrowth. It is interesting to note that the property of gezvizter identity applies to the mushrooms only, not to their mycoi threads, which do not necessarily grow in the same manner in both siblings.

Moreover, the gnomes must guard against misuse or inadvertent damage that ignorant non-gnomes may inflict. Older gnomes are fond of telling the story of a proud owner of a Kolibim Mycoi, who saw his priceless possession being crunched up into little bits before his very eyes, and watched in horror as the pieces gradually decayed into a featureless pulp. The unfortunate gnome later found out that the owner of the associated sibling had been the victim of human thieves, who in their ignorance had eaten the mushroom they had captured. What the first gnome saw, then, was the effect of the sibling mushroom being chewed up and attacked by digestive liquids. The culprit did not live long to enjoy his triumph, as the gnomes took bitter revenge. As the story goes, they poisoned the thief by injecting a toxic substance into the remains of the mushroom still in their possession. They never found the thief, but are convinced that his death was quick and accompanied by excruciating pain.

To use the Kolibim Mycoi, golgnomess have developed a sophisticated communication system that relies on two techniques: first, the gnome who wants to start a conversation would dye his sibling, in order to let the possessor of the second sibling know that he desires a conversation. His partner will then signal readiness by pouring another dye in a different colour into her own mushroom.

In order to send messages, the gnomes then use a small stick with a smooth, carved end, which they refer to as the “pointer”. This they use to push small dents into the skin on the mushroom’s head. The position of these dents signals the letters in the Gnomish alphabet, so that a literate gnome versed in the art of Kolobim Mycoi communication can readily write and read any content capable of being expressed in the Gnomish language. A detailed and colourful account of this process is given in the already cited work by Shabakuk Zeborius Anfang:

The Zpukhavt Distance Effect: How the Golgnomes send and read Mushroom Messages. The gnome in the black coat closed the door to the little chamber, and carefully turned the key. He put his candle on the little table in the centre of the room, which, as a result, was now bathed in gentle yellow light. With a friendly glance and a nod, he invited me to sit down, while he himself went to the window, opened it, took a few blinks to peek into the darkness, before closing it again and meticulously drawing the curtains. I felt my heart bump and my fingers twitch, as I began to realize that now, finally, he would permit me to see.

My face must have revealed my surprise as the gnome unceremoniously took a little wooden box out of a wide inner pocket of his coat and put it on the table before me, for he sniggered and said: “Did you think I would ever part with something so precious, let along leave it behind in an unguarded room?” The box was cube-shaped, and its edges about a palmspan in length. The gnome’s fingers opened a little latch, and carefully removed the lid.

The box was filled with moist soil up to about half its height. And growing out of that soil was the object of my fascination: a greyish mushroom, its flat wide head sitting on a fat stalk. In the dim light of the candle, it took me a little while to realize what made its appearance so distinctly peculiar: the mushroom head continuously performed what I can only describe as tiny wriggling movements that seemed to run like multiple chaotic waves through the surface of its skin – so that the candle light never seemed to be able to come to rest, but instead forever to dance about on the pale plant’s head. “Do you see why this plant is called Never-Sit-Still?” asked my host.

I certainly did. Maybe it was due to the stories I had heard about this wondrous fungus, but the wriggling appeared to me to be expressive somehow – somewhat like the ripples on the face of a babe lying on its back with its eyes closed, who is feeling mildly uncomfortable, just before bowel movement brings relief and the possibility of a gurgling laugh and a smile.

I don’t know how long I stared at this wondrous mushroom, but I wouldn’t have averted my eyes from it if I had not thought it impolite to ignore my host for too long. But he indulged me: “Feel free to regard it a little bit longer: the time for the message from my sister has not yet come.” I wanted to ask a question – but I felt I should give my host the pleasure of demonstrating the abilities of his plant in his own manner and time.

And that time came. My host’s trained eyes saw it before mine, and with a wave of his hand he directed me to have a closer look. The change seemed as slow as the changing of the light in a landscape caused by the movement of the sun on a cloudless summer evening – but a change it was: gradually, the mushroom’s skin became tinged a faint pink. This colour slowly got stronger, until it was a greyish red. “This is the sign that our twice daily conversation is about to start”, explained the gnome.

He took a small phial out of another of his coat pockets, and out of it he poured a few drops of a blue liquid onto the soil near the base of the mushroom. After a little while, I noticed how the head’s red changed its hue and turned a greyish shade of purple. “This is to let my sister know that we are ready.” He seemed to take in my astonished look with glee. “Yes, I have already told her that you would witness our conversation tonight. She lives in the forest of both our births, many furlays from here – but with the Never-Sit-Still, we can converse as if she were sitting here next to me.” While speaking, my host took a wooden utensil out of yet another pocket of his coat. It was about as long as a fully grown Brownie is tall, but thin as a Brownie’s finger, except for a broader, flattened section at one end (“This is the pointer”, the gnome explained.) With the pointer’s flat end, the gnome proceeded to delicately press the mushroom’s head in a quick succession of movements – far too quick for me to follow. “I’m just setting up the direction. The mushroom is round, you see, and anyway may wriggle out of place – so we must know what’s North, South, East and West.” He lifted the hand that held the pointer, and began to watch the mushroom intently.

What my unbelieving eyes saw next made my old heart jump: The surface of the mushroom got a small dent, which, due to the mushroom’s resilient skin, almost immediately vanished again. Then there appeared another dent, in a different place, and once that had vanished, another – and so forth, in regular intervals, just as if the gnome’s pointer had gently pressed it. These dents seemed to appear and disappear out of their own accord! “Do you see? My sister is letting me know that she has understood. Her mushroom is now aligned in the same way as mine. This makes it possible to begin a conversation.” Again he moved his pointer over the mushroom’s head, in what seemed like a more complicated pattern this time. He stopped, waited, and once again the mushroom began to display a rhythmic pattern of dents. “My sister greets you! Oh, and our cousin has just given birth to a little boy! I had so hoped it would go well. Let me just send my well-wishes.” With that, he let his pointer perform another dance on the mushroom. When he watched the reply, he began to laugh: “Hahaha! Well. Sorry, I couldn’t help being amused, but it’s difficult to explain. It’s, um, like a pun. She says it’s eerily wriggling that a non-gnome is interested in our mushroom. Um, I suppose that won’t make sense to you. Don’t worry about it.”

We may add that Never-Sit-Stills are neither nutritious nor tasty to any intelligent race, nor to most animals (so the Kolibim Mycoi thief mentioned above cannot have enjoyed a last meal that was worth the price of his life). However, worms and other small organisms may feed on them. It should be clear by now that as long as the connection to the mother fungus is not broken, any hole that a worm may eat into a mushroom will appear in all other mushrooms of the same plant in exactly the same place.Return to the




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Reproduction. The fungus reproduces by means of the spores that grow within the ripples in the underside of the mushroom head. These spores are tiny, but covered in a hard capsule that has a sticky surface. Between the months of Changing Winds and Rising Sun, the spores mature and are dropped from the mushroom head. A single mushroom will release groups of capsules in little “sporing bouts” throughout the spring. The gnomes believe that the capsules stick to the legs and bodies of passing insects, worms, and spiders, who act as involuntary carriers and transport the spores to new locations. Eventually, the spore capsules fall off their temporary hosts, and start establishing a new mycoi colony.

Reproduction poses a challenge to the owners of communicating siblings, as Kolibim Mycoi resume spore production once they have settled into their new soil. During the spring, gnomes spend many hours gathering the tiny capsules released by their Answer Mushrooms. A few additional mycoi networks in its box as such do not endanger their welfare, but the growth of a second mushroom sprung from a spore of the first needs to be prevented lest the narrow growing box gets crowded, and the soil is drained of nutrients. It should be noted that only two mushrooms grown from a single mycoi network have the property of sibling identicality – whereas two mushrooms grown from different spores of the same parent mushroom, or two mushrooms grown from the spores of two communicating gezvizter, do not.

Naturally, the gnomes have also attempted to cultivate the Never-Sit-Still. In the course of their experiments, they have discovered that the mycoi network usually grows for several years, and over a wide area, before a mushroom is formed. Thus, the gnomish gardeners have found it impossible to predict where and when exactly their next Ignanok would pop up, thus diminishing any hopes of improving the chances of successful sibling picking.
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Myth/Lore. Among the golgnomes, “ignanok” has become a term of abuse for a person who cannot concentrate. Gnomish teachers tell off fidgety children by saying: “Behave and sit still. You are not an ignanok”. In general, the scientifically-minded, no-nonsense golgnomes find the few humans whom they happen to meet flighty and flippant, and like to refer to their restlessness and inability to think things through rationally as “zpukhavt”. Among golgnomish youngsters, on the other hand, “zpukhavt” has become a colloquial term of praise. Say, if one has managed to concoct a particularly impressive display of sparkfire, her friend might comment: “That’s zpukhavt!”, meaning that the achievement was splendid.

Among expert gardeners, “mycoi discussion” or "mycoi talk" refers to endless shoptalk about the merits and demerits of fertilizers and methods of pest control, as any owner of a Kolibim Mycoi will regard these matters as being of paramount importance. By extension, the phrase has come to mean any conversation driven by an obsessive, monomanic preoccupation of any kind. In general, "mycoi discussions" are by no means rare among scientifically-minded, green-fingered and opinionated elder golgnomes. Cynical gnomes are wont to remark that whilst mycoi talk grows wide and long, only rarely does it result in the sprouting of productive mushrooms.
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 Date of last edit 28th Molten Ice 1669 a.S.

Information provided by Shabakuk Zeborius Anfang View Profile