THE TRUPHULL FUNGUS ("TRUPHUL", "TRUFEL")

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

These small, ugly, pungent fungi are one of the most expensive foodstuffs in the whole of Santharia. Vast sums of money (or goods) regularly change hands for what are, basically, growths on the diseased roots of trees. They come in two colours, black or the rarer (and therefore, more expensive) white, and can be found only in certain areas, from the Bolder Forest in the North, to Manthria in the South. They are a cousin of the mushroom, and have a similar smell, although somewhat stronger, and taste more earthy or even woody.

Appearance. There are four varieties of Truphull, twowhite and two black. They are listed here in order of price:

Territory. Considering the large range of this fungus, it is quite suprising that they are so rare. The northernmost limit of the range is marked by the Bolder Forest in Vardýnn province. Here, the Black Oak Truphull is harvested by the Aellenrhim elves, who then trade with a small band of trusted humans for salt and other necessaries. It can also be found, though in much smaller quantities, as far south as the Zeiphyrian Forests.

The southern limit of Truphull growth is the Auturian Woods, which is the only known source of the Black. It grows here in abundance and is a staple part of the diet of the Tethinrhim elves. So common is it, that the elves have granted special licence to the few humans living around the edges of the woods to harvest "as much as a small child can easily carry, each day within the period known as Fallen Leaf, To be taken only from trees within the distance from the forest's edge, that a man can walk with one breath." However, they must agree to leave the forest otherwise undisturbed or the licence will be removed for everyone.

The eastern and western limits stretch as far as the coasts. This is where the elusive White is found on the roots of the majestic coastal redwoods. However, very few trees are affected by the fungus, and in the hard, stony soils of the coast it is difficult for the Snufflers to dig for it with their wooden spades (or Snuffler shovels).
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Usages. The most common use of Truphulls is in cookery. There are many varied and unusual receipts involving the use of all varieties, many of them using only the very best ingredients. We have printed some below, with the kind permission of Masterbard Judith of Bardavos (who owns the publishing rights).

Truphull Butter

Carefully wash and skin a fresh, fresh mind you, Truphull of medium size. Finely chop with only the sharpest of blades and add to a bowl of Strata butter softened for the purpose. Leave to stand for 1 whole turn of a sandglass at room heat (the choice of room is yours). - When ready, spread on golden rain bread, or baked tuberroots.

Black Porc Dumplings with Truphull Shavings

Roast, chill, and chop the meat of a dozen or so riccio (Pricklepigs).
If you have not prickleporc then you may use regular porc from domestic swine – a quarter-carcass is usually sufficient.
Set to simmer in a broth of salt water with peppercorns while you prepare the dumplings.
Goldflour, sunseed oil, and a ladle or so of milch to moisten makes the pastry up flaky.
Let it sit in a bowl in a cool place as you gather the greenstuff required.
Now find and chop weeproot, garlick, carroots, oya or onn sprouts, and a head or two of kail (headcabbage or - snowcabbage are the best) finely together.
Fry all over a quick fire with some further sunseed oil.
Drain the riccio porc and mix well together with the cooked greenstuff.
Let cool while you roll out the pastry.
Cut circles from the pastry the width of your hand and put a half-ladle each
of the filling upon one side of every circle.
Clean and grate your fresh truphulls. Sprinkle a moiety upon each open dumpling.
Fold over and seal with a damp finger or brush, and pinch the edges so they do not leak.
You may bake these as pasties or fry in oil or drop into boiling porc gravy.
Each way they are equally delicious. You may garnish the brown coats with another
sprinkling of truphull and a twist of onn or oya sprouts.
Serve immediately, and watch that the children do not burn their mouths on them.

Hi’Cupa, an elven wine specialist, has provided this exotic receipt for our delectation:

Heaven’s Queen Sherry (an infusion made to honour Avá)

Take a sack of sherry at least two years old.

Bruise a good handful of kao-kao beans in the mortar and add them to the sherry on the first dark moon in the month.
Gather two to four trufels two days before the next new moon. Wash with care and slice in thick pieces. Let soak overnight in a toss of Vhodka (Sailor’s Spirit.) Add to the sherry the next evening by darkmoon.

Wait for the next new moon – not the following day, but the following month. Grate a ladle’s worth of cinnabark and a mere pinch of kragghi dust, by the fresh moonlight. Add the spices to the sherry while invoking Avá – often a verse of "O Lady Fair’"is sung at this time. Let rest a further two weeks, and open at the full of that moon.

This should be drunk in very small quantities, heated, decanted into silver goblets and drunk under the moonlight. That which is left undrunk, if any, in either cup or sack, must be poured out upon tree roots before the dawn. Though some high court elves say it must be the birch, beloved of Avá, the type of tree is immaterial.

These receipts and more can be found in Masterbard Judith's forthcoming book "101 Interesting Things to do with Fungus", available at all good merchants soon. Price negotiable.

A rich lady's treasure-trove

View picture in full size  Picture description. A rich lady's treasure-trove, including the costly Truphull Oil. Image drawn by Bard Judith.

Another major use of this versatile mould is Truphull Oil. The high cost of Truphulls means that no-one wants to waste a single scrap of any they have. This meant finding a use for bruised or damaged ones, or any that had "gone over" (once unearthed, Truphulls begin to rot very quickly, usually being good for only 3 or 4 days, after which they begin to soften and turn to a paste).

Realising that the much-loved aroma of the Truphull was contained in its juice, one enterprising person collected together as many of the damaged and over-ripe ones as he could find, and began to squash them in a tub. He did this by stamping on them with his bare feet (known as Truphull Treading) until he stood ankle deep in Truphull mush, then he drained out the oil, bottled it, and began to sell it as a salad dressing. It proved to be an instant success. He was selling the oil as fast as he could as "Tread the Truphulls", and became very rich, very quickly. Unfortunately though, he put all his new found wealth into searching for new Truphull fields, and in the Great Truphull Drought, he lost everything, including his Truphull Treading Tub.

While the Truphull Oil revolution was in full swing, well-to-do ladies began to wear a little dab of the oil behind each ear, as a public exhibition of their wealth. Soon, they were washing their hair with it. It was noticed that when the hair was washed in the oil, it became thicker, stronger and healthier looking. Dyes were added to the oil, which had the effect of changing the hairs' colour. This proved very popular as the oil improved the condition of the hair, and the colour looked natural and could be removed by simply washing, unlike magically coloured hair, which was usually singed and you were never quite sure what colour it would be. Soon, every Truphull Snuffler in Santharia was feverishly hunting for enough fungus to meet demand. no matter how long and hard they searched, they could never find enough. This led to the Great Truphull Drought, as mentioned previously.

Inevitably, the less trustworthy citizens began to experiment with the oil, mixing it with this, stirring it with that, until every market in the land had a stall selling Truphull cure-all potions. Everything from Saddle-rash to Travellers Foot to sore throats was listed as being cured by this miracle tonic (Though if you try it for all three, don't use the same bottle, obviously. Or at least start at the top and work downwards.). Unfortunately, very few of these "miracle cures" seem to have any effect other than making the sly tricksters purses heavier.

So, as you can see, Truphulls have many uses. From fine cuisine, through beauty products, and even cures for embarrassing ailments. A truly versatile mould!
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Reproduction. Truphulls, along with many other fungi, reproduce by means of spores. The dust-like spores cover the surface of the Truphull and are taken into the tree through its roots. Once in the root, they appear to somehow stick to the inside of it and begin to grow. Herbologists who have spent many years studying fungi have proposed the theory that any spore that fail to attach to a root will be taken up through the trunk of the tree and eventually into the leaves. When the tree sheds its leaves, it can be assumed the spores will be returned to the soil where the process will start again. Some of the spores will almost certainly find their way into the fruit of the tree, for example - the acorns of an oak. If this acorn falls to the ground and begins to grow, the resulting tree would already be infected with the fungus, which would wait until the tree is mature enough and should then begin to grow. Realizing this, the herbologists have planted a grove of "infected" acorns in the hope of creating a cheap supply of Truphulls. They currently have around another 20 or so years to wait before the trees are mature enough to bear Truphulls.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely this method would be viable for the White, as the coastal redwood takes up to 200 years to mature.

It is reported that the Snufflers are incensed at this experiment, seeing it as an attempt to steal their livelihoods. If it is a success, it must be hoped that some form of compensation is arranged for the people whose lives depend on the annual Truphull harvest.
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Myth/Lore. Captain Moroc Jaek of the Manthrian port of Ciosa, a keen amateur herbologist, recently returned from a trading trip to Nybelmar, has told of a previously unheard of variety of Truphull, native to the Crimson Isles. He says that during a brief re-provisioning stop on the isle of Euri, he heard tell of a small, red coloured fungus which grows underground. Apparently, this fungus is inedible, extremely rare, and is highly prized by the shamans of the islands as a means of "easing the communications of the spirits". The Shamans supposedly dry the fungus until it is easily crumbled, place it in a bowl with various leaves and herbs and then heat it over a fire and inhale the fumes, after which they are seen to enter an almost trance-like state. It is whilst in this state that they are supposed to recieve their most vivid dreams. All Captain Morok's attempts to procure a specimen of the fungus failed, as the locals consider it extremely bad fortune to allow anyone but the shamans to possess it.

A Truphull Snuffler's equipment consists of only two items (not including the pig or dog), the Truphull Snufflers Shovel, and the Truphull Snufflers Truphull Trug.

The shovel is always carved from a single piece of wood, and must be of the same type of tree which grows the Truphulls the Snuffler is snuffling. This is so any spores sticking to the shovel will be transported to a tree of the same type and will hopefully infect that tree as well. There have been unconfirmed reports of very old shovels, handed down through a family, starting to grow Truphulls of their own, but these may just be old Snuffler's tales. Another reason the shovels are made from wood is so that there is less chance of any Truphulls being damaged by the blade, which is rounded off at the edge.

The Truphull Snufflers Trug is the bag used to carry the Truphulls. It is always made of very fine, soft cloth. Sometimes, even hair is used to weave the bag. Again, this cuts down any risk of damage.

Every year at the end of the harvest, Truphull Snufflers gather together to celebrate their success, share a flaggon or two of Truphull mead (or for the more successful, Truphull wine), and to give thanks to the trees for providing them with their bounty. After an evening of revelrey and tall tales they perform their dance of thanksgiving, passed down from generation to generation.

At a signal from the Chief Snuffler, everyone falls silent and the Snufflers form into a square around the room. They take turns to walk into the centre and place their Truphull Shovels on the floor into a series of cross shapes. Then one Snuffler takes position in each corner of each cross, facing the Snuffler to their right, standing perfectly still with arms straight down at their sides. Another signal from the Chief Snuffler and the Truphull Snufflers Truphull Shovel Shuffle begins. Keeping arms firmly down their sides, each Snuffler begins to stamp first one foot, then the other, on the floor of the room, mimicking the Truphull Treaders in their Treading Tubs. On every third stamp, each Snuffler opens their Truphull Trug to show its emptyness (signifying a successful season, having sold all their Truphulls). They then jump across the Shovel to their left, bow to the Snuffler on their right, and begin the whole process again. This continues until each Snuffler has visited each corner of the cross four times.
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 Date of last edit 10th Singing Bird 1668 a.S.

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