THE SAVAGE MUSHROOM ("SORCERER'S PET")

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - CURE/PREVENTION - MYTH/LORE/ORIGINS

"Savage Mushroom" is actually a rather poor translation of the orcish name "K'arg'Batuk" (lit. "attacking vegetation"), which somehow seemed to stick in the minds of those who heard it and gradually became accepted. Some also call it "Flesh-Eater Fungus" or “Sorcerer’s Pet” (see Myth/Lore/Origins). It is a small, hardy fungus found only within the Mists of Osthemangar in Northern Sarvonia. The dull, grey-brown lichen of the main plant is the exact colour of the plains themselves, allowing it to lie hidden against the ground and prey on anything which comes to pick its deep red fruits. It can kill and devour humans, orcs, apes and even very young spine worms with a noxious gas it releases from these large red pods. This gas somehow contains the fungus itself, which then eats into living skin and flesh, slowly devouring the victim.

Appearance. At first glace this plant appears to be two different fungi growing on top of one another, one a flat lichen and the other a round, red, bulbous swelling. In fact the lichen is the main part of the plant, a flaky, brownish non-descript sort of fungus. It is only loosely attached to the dry soil, as most of the roots only form underneath the red fruits. The mature plant can lie dormant for longer than anyone would care to measure, waiting until it detects another living thing nearby. No-one knows quite how it manages to do this, although people have suggested that it can detect movements in the mists, or even that it simply uses unknown magical forces from the portal itself.

The growths which seem to emerge straight from the heart of the plant are the pods for its noxious gas. They can grow to around a palmspan in size, although most are about the length of a human finger, and are the shape of an unopened bud. The outer layer is slightly spongy and yields to the touch, although it’s a little firmer than that of a sulcho mushroom and covered in tiny holes. The pod is a rich, foreboding red, dull and bordering on brown.

When the fungus detects the presence of another living thing, all the red pods will suddenly begin to hiss softly, and the noxious gas will spray out onto the victim. This gas smells of something long dead and rotting, or so we have been told by those unlucky enough to get close. This substance is highly dangerous, somehow containing enough of the fungus for it to latch onto the skin and begin growing there, even whilst the animal or person is alive (see Reproduction).
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Territory. This mushroom is found only on the Plain of Ehelvin on the peninsula of Caaehl'heroth in
Northern Sarvonia. It lives within the dangerous Mists of Osthemangar which surround the Deep Winds Portal. For some reason which no-one has been able to discern, it seems to need the mists for survival, as even if the plant has gained a really good hold on a victim's flesh it will die if taken completely outside them.

Eleanna Kalrinwenens is an intrepid gnome botanist who managed to take a few notes on this fascinating plant whilst studying the area with the famous Rev'lor.

First, we took two large rats and, creeping as close as we dared, threw the fresh meat at the mushroom. Next, with the help of our marvellous team and a large crossbow we managed to break the plant's five red pods, which were now emitting a high-pitched hiss. We camped nearby that night, and in the morning, when we were assured that the pods would be safe, we went out to collect the infected meat. The fungus was too young to be dangerous yet, but we knew it would become lethal in a few days. Back on our ship we had made a box for it which, once sealed, would prevent the gas from escaping. But it was not to be. As soon as we found the water and the sea breeze that bit through the fog, the specimen stopped growing entirely and after just a few hours it was completely dead.

However, it is often found around the edges of the mists, where they are still thick enough to support it but where other life is more common.
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Usages. The red gas pods of Savage Mushrooms are actually edible and apparently fairly tasty if you can manage to quickly kill them before they have a chance to release the gas into the air. Darkmist Ape poo makes an excellent missile once dried, and if aimed carefully then you can manage to break open the pods from a good distance. As soon as the noxious gas is released from the pod it tries to find something living to infect, but as it disperses it loses its power within half a turn of the sun. Therefore, if you come back after this time, the pod will no longer have any noxious gas and it will be safe to pick up and eat. This technique has been learnt from the darkmist apes who have shown surprising ingenuity and patience in developing it. They may have some immunity to the gas, possibly because of their thick, impenetrable coats. The plant wins sometimes though, when an ape accidentally leaves one of the pods alive, or is still learning the trick.

The flesh is considered a rare delicacy by the kind of people who enjoy jumping off high cliffs into the sea or hunting large ferocious animals for the fun of it. This is partly due to the danger of collecting and eating it, but also the rumour that eating the bulging red growths will ensure a vibrant and active interest in the opposite gender for many years to come. People, particularly men, who find they have difficultly performing in the bedroom come to seek this "cure" for the problem. There isn't really any proof that it works, but the hope of it still seems to bring in some visitors. So, here are a few reports from people who have tried the strange fungus:

Reproduction. The plant reproduces by infecting another living thing with its noxious gas. This dangerous substance carries the essence of the plant, and any skin which it touches quickly shows signs of the lichen growing on it. At first the infection looks like a brownish-red rash, becoming browner and drier within hours until the whole area is extremely painful to the touch. It also seems to secrete something into the flesh which makes the victim weak and dizzy, so that they are more likely to become lost or disorientated and give in to the pain.

After half a day the plant will have taken a life-threatening hold on a human-size victim and large patches of the skin will begin to look like the lichen. The victim will be around the point of collapse, although the effect depends greatly on their constitution and stamina. If the fungus cannot be checked then it will eventually kill its prey, probably within a day or two. Smaller prey would succumb much quicker, and something like a fully mature Spine Worm has too thick skin for the fungus to really gain a hold.

Once the prey is dead it will continue to consume the corpse, and with the suddenly-abundant food it can begin to root and produce new gas pods of its own as it rapidly reaches maturity. Once there is nothing left but bones and the red pods are fully formed, the fungus will become dormant and simply wait for the next victim to pass its way. The whole process is incredibly short, normally taking under a week. No one knows how long exactly the plant can live once it has matured to this stage, but it is thought to be many years, as long as it has a little water and of course the mist.
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Cure/Prevention. The only sure-fire way to stop the fungus once it has got hold of living flesh is to take the victim as fast as you can away from the mists. When there is not a bit of the foreboding fog in the air then the fungus will die completely and the infection will stop progressing. However, depending on how far advanced it was, some of the victim’s flesh may already have died, in which case the affected part will need to be amputated. Loosing a hand or a foot to this infection is not an uncommon outcome, due to the plant’s extremely rapid growth. The luckiest victims often still have large brownish scars of warped dry skin, which crease and pucker like a burn scar.

There are many other stories of things which can slow the progression of the fungus, and therefore give you more time to get the victim out of the mists. Some people say the fungus can be drowned by soaking the effected limb in water, although no account agrees on the length of time it takes to kill the plant this way. Various bodily fluids are also recommended, including urine or vomit, although this researcher wonders how exactly their effectiveness was discovered. Strong alcoholic drinks at least seem like they might do the trick, as do some of the strange acidic concoctions. However, none of these many speculations have been proven to have a specific effect, possibly because of the danger of testing these theories.
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Myth/Lore/Origins. The fungus is thought to be a weapon which was brought through the portal and into this world by a sorcerer eons ago. The story goes that he was the maker of the mists as well, and the only one to be able to control the strange plant. He thought it would allow him to retain the land once it was conquered and covered in his mists. However, the plant itself got used to the magics he used to control it and eventually took hold of the power itself, killing and devouring the sorcerer who had wielded it. In doing this the mushroom unknowingly trapped itself on the peninsula, as the sorcerer was no longer there to advance the mists which it needed to survive.
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 Date of last edit 26th Rising Sun 1669 a.S.

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