Creeping Madness is one of many names for a hallucinogenic vine found in the magic rich swamps of Faerie and the Otherlands. The vine is believed to have crossed through a minor magical vortex opened by the early warlocks, as no mention of such a plant is found prior to the warlock's experiments. There is some skepticism surrounding this theory after the Creeping Madness was found growing in the Otherlands, which are not believed to have had contact with Faerie at the time of the warlock's experiments. Whatever its origin, Creeping Madness has come to pose a huge threat to all who live in the swamps. The vines grow on everything and reproduce incredibly quickly. They are also near impossible to destroy completely. As part of it's respiratory process, Creeping Madness releases a waste product called ínobutrairi into the air. Ínobutrairi is highly hallucinogenic, as well as containing nerve toxins that can build up in a body over time. The plant itself is also extremely poisonous when consumed, causing painful death within a few hours. The only species of animal in Faerie known to be immune to the Creeping Madness are humans, while Faerian Mortals enjoy a strong resistance. Creeping Madness was discovered in the closing days of the Age of Blood by Zerala the Mad, a warlock botanist who is unfortunately best known for losing his mind to Creeping Madness and murdering his entire following. Due to the vast amount of time (and civil wars) which have happened since Zerala's time, very little of his original writings survive to the present day. Those that do are erratic and difficult to understand, but the notes, as well as the effects on his mind recorded by outside observers leave little doubt that Zerala's "Death Drape" was, in fact, the modern Creeping Madness. The plant was first called Creeping Madness in A Most Dangerous Guide To The Swamps of Faerie. Other names for it include Death Drape, due to it's effects on the ecosystem; purple vine, after it's signature purple markings; and mind root, due to it's hallucinogenic effects and it's notoriously persistent root structures.
Control and Socio-political ImplicationsWhile Creeping Madness deals massive damage to the environment and populations living in the swamps, major steps were not taken by the Faerie Empire until about 100 Diamond. This is for a variety of reasons, the most prominent being that the swamps were of very little economic or cultural value to the wider Fae populaces. They only meant something to the nature mages and warlocks, who were also the main populations that lived in swamps. As both of these groups were and still are seen in a negative light by mst Fae, government help was infamously slow in responding to new outbreaks. Eventually, however, the Empire started digging their heads out of the sand and researching ways to control the spread of Creeping Madness. They found that the plant has three major weaknesses: cold, certain strains of warlock magic, and chemical herbicides. While it was also found that Creeping Madness could be burned, the smoke contains and spreads massive amounts of poison, which could result in devastating death tolls both in the swamps and anywhere the smoke blew.
Basic Structure and AppearanceCreeping Madness is composed of three parts: an extensive root system, vines to climb and wrap around trees, and long, thin, drooping leaves. The vines will grow in a spiral pattern around the trunk of a tree, splitting into multiple vines that wrap around the branches. The leaves growing on these vines grow so dense and long that the presence and shape of the vines are nearly completely hidden. The root system is shallow and spreads out though the ground up to 9 meters from the original plant.
Diagram of a Creeping Madness Plant, from A Most Dangerous Guide to The Swamps of Faerie.Creeping Madness looks like a heavy, rough curtain hanging from tree branches and clinging to the trunks. It is greenish-grey in colour, with thick, pulsing veins of bioluminescent purple spread throughout. The air around a Creeping Madness growth is often unusually foggy, may be slightly lavender coloured, and smells faintly smokey.
Survival Mechanisms and By-productsCreeping Madness naturally releases gaseous nerve toxins that affect all animals native to Faerie. This leads to hallucinations, madness, and eventually death. Due to its singular effect on Faerian and Otherlandian species, it is theorized that Creeping Madness may have originally been sent as a bioweapon from another world. In order to survive in the swamps, Creeping Madness grows up the sides of trees, which allows it's leaves to reach sun light. The trees are also protected from predators by the Creeping Madness, because anything that wants to eat the tree first has to chew through a layer of extremely poisonous leaves and vines. Various parts of the Creeping Madness plant contain rare, extremely deadly poisons, which has allowed for no natural predator to the plant to exist. These poisons affect all known animal and semi-animal life in Faerie, causing death within hours.
Genetics and Reproduction
Creeping Madness reproduces asexually, by putting up off shoots from it's massive root systems. These seedlings are believed to be exact copies of their parents, but due to the hazardous nature of Creeping Madness, no research has been done which specifically proves or disproves this.
Map showing the spread of Creeping Madness in a particular swamp throughout the Diamond Dynasty Outbreak.Regardless of the exact genetic details, no one will deny that Creeping Madness reproduces at a shocking rate. One parent vine can put off as many as ten offspring vines per year, and is reproductively active for 200-400 years. This leads to a horrifically quick spread and makes Creeping Madness nearly impossible to contain.
Chart showing Infected Land and Dead Zones Created By Creeping Madness During the Diamond Dynasty Outbreak (1 Diamond - 306 Diamond), compared to modern levels of both. Graph created using google sheets.
Growth Rate & Stages
During this stage of the life cycle, the Creeping Madness exists as an embryo in its parent plants' roots. During the first year or s of its life, the plant will set out its own roots, grow a seedling, and detach from its parent.
This is the longest stage of the Creeping Madness life cycle. At this point, the plant will grow out its signature vines, which wrap around nearby trees and climb in a spiral pattern, putting out leaves as it goes. As the plant gains nutrients, it will began to grow out it's root system as well, in preparation for reproduction. If a Creeping Madness plant runs out of room on the tree its living on, it will continue growing out to try and find another suitable trellis. The vines can survive on the ground, but it faces a greater risk of rot there. A healthy Creeping Madness plant can grow up to six feet in a month. The active stage of Creeping Madness growth lasts 600-900 years.
As Creeping Madness is not a flowering plant (thank the gods, can you imagine the poisonous pollen possabilities?!), it technically can not "bloom" in the classical sense of the word. However, the reproductive stage of Creeping Madness is referred to as "blooming" due to an increase in hallucigen and poison output, strengthening scent, and brightening of the bioluminescent veins, all linked to an increase in energy output necessary for reproduction. During Blooming, Creeping Madness plants put off small clumps of roots, food, and genetic material, which then spends the next year in the dormant stage before sprouting. One Creeping Madness vine can put out 3-10 offspring per year, starting closest in to its root system and moving out. The blooming stage lasts 200-400 years.
The fourth and final stage of the Creeping Madness life cycle lasts 100-200 years. in this stage, the Creeping Madness, which has spent the past several hundred years putting out offspring is finally using its energy faster than it can replenish. This stage is characterized by drooping leaves, a decrease in oder and bioluminescence, and a more skeletal look as the vine structure deteriour rates. Eventually, the Creeping Madness dies making way for rot, the only thing that thrives in the dread vine's domain.
Ecology and Habitats
Creeping Madness thrives exclusively in the swamps of Faerie. Due to its massive size and rapid growth, the vine requires access to lots of water and nutrients found in the swamps. Additionally, it needs trees to grow up onto, which has prevented it's growth in the more populated flood plains. The greatest vulnerability of Creeping Madness, and the only reason it has not yet obliterated all life in Faerie, is its need for specific soil conditions only found in swamps. Unlike many vines, Creeping Madness is not parasitic. Instead, it forms a symbiotic relationship with the trees it grows on. The tree provides a trellis that allows Creeping Madness to reach sunlight, while the poisonous leaves of the Creeping Madness discourages animals from eating the trees. However, the gasses produced by Creeping Madness are highly toxic to all known animals native to şiv´ia. In a matter of days to years, depending on the animal, anything that lives near the Creeping Madness will die. Because of this, the animals quickly die out in huge areas of the swamps. Without animals spreading their seeds and providing nutrients, the plants start to die off. Ironically, the Creeping Madness is one of the first plants to die, due to its massive need for minerals and water. Adding to the death of plants in these swamps is that Creeping Madness uses up a huge amount of water, which can lead to widespread desertification in infected regions. The dead zones and deserts created by Creeping Madness ave been the main focus of many environmental relief efforts over the years.
Dietary Needs and Habits
The Creeping Madness requires rich, moist soil. Additionally, it needs elements and minerals that are only found in swamps. For photosynthesis, Creeping Madness favours the near and mid-infrared light ranges put off by Qei . This is why the best growing season for Creeping Madness is during the summer.
Uses, Products & Exploitation
The biggest obstacles to controlling Creeping Madness are its popular uses in black market hallucinogenic and poisons. The hallucinogenic chemical produced by Creeping Madness can be distilled from its leaves to create a potent (and often deadly) hallucinogenic drug which can be sold for quite a sum on the black market. Fortunately, due to the rarity of the plants this drug can not be produced in huge quantities. However, no less than five Creeping Madness outbreaks have been linked to illegal gardens connected to the drug trade. The second popular use of Creeping Madness is for the large and varied number of poisons that can be extracted from it. To put it bluntly, every part of the plant is poisonous. Poisons extracted from Creeping Madness have effects ranging from temporary paralysis or blindness, sezsours, permanent paralysis, blindness, or madness, and long or instantaneous death. These potions are either inhaled or ingested, and share many properties with the natural poisons of Creeping Madness such as affecting all Faerian animal life, while having little to no effect on mortals.
Geographic Origin and Distribution
Creeping Madness has been found, at varying points in time, in every sizable swamp in both Faerie and the Otherlands. As combative measures have increased, its range has been restricted. However, Creeping Madness can still be found in small pockets in swamps on both continents.
The Killer From BeyondOne popular theory about the arrival of Creeping Madness is that it was purposely sent from Tşh´óaeşiv´ia as a weapon, earning it the haunting nickname of "the Killer from Beyond." Substantial evidence for this theory does exist. First off, the poisonous and ecosystem collapsing effects specifically target creatures from şiv´ia. Secondly, Creeping Madness is hyper specialized to Faerian and Otherlands swamps, to such a degree that it would not be a stretch to consider it to have been tailor made. The third, and most compelling argument that Creeping Madness is, in fact an attack of some kind, is that it is found in every swamp in both Faerie and the Otherlands. These swamps have never been directly connected and travel between them is rare, so Creeping Madness must have entered all of them independently, at around the same time. Even with the high minor vortex rates in swamps, this would be highly improbable as a natural event. The timeline most commonly put forth by supporters of this theory goes as follows:
- Some sort of inciting incident, which leads to hostilities
- Tşh´oaeşív´ians, who have seen Faerie mostly through minor vortexes, engineer a weapon that is best suited to attack the biome they had seen the most of: swamps
- The Creeping Madness is deployed and begins its first attack on Faerie
Major Outbreaks In FaerieCreeping Madness first appeared in Faerie during the Age of Blood and the early Diamond Dynasty. Even though combative measures were created at the time, the swamps of Faerie have remained sparsely populated and of little wider political or economic value throughout most of Faerian history. This has allowed for many outbreaks to began unnoticed and unchecked. Here is a brief summary of major Creeping Madness outbreaks:
- (1 Diamond - 306 Diamond) Original outbreaks in all swamps. Rapid growth occurs until combative measures are invented and put into widespread use.
- (400 Diamond - 450 Diamond) Outbreak in a small, Central Faerian swamp goes unnoticed until poisoned air costs dozens of lives in a nearby settlement.
- (1,234 Fable - 2 Air) Outbreak starting from an illegal hallucigen lab spreads rapidly through large inland swamps, insufficient steps are taken to control the outbreak.
- (Start of 1st Faerian Civil War - 460 Thicket) Creeping Madness is purposely planted near enemy camps during battles in the swamps during the civil war. Without a focused central government to intervene, the plants retake huge swaths of swamp land. One of the biggest early missions of the Thicket Dynasty was to reduce the Creeping Madness infestation to such a point that the swamps were once again inhabitable. Following that, strict laws were passed to control Creeping Madness.
- (10,094 Storm - 4 Eternity) An outbreak of Creeping Madness linked to a government backed poison lab spread uncontrollably. No action was taken to counter the spread until the end of the Second Faerie Civil War, after which the Eternity Dynasty started fighting it back. The effort to recover from this outbreak continues to this day, with 50 acres of Creeping Madness and 106 acres of dead zones remaining within the swamps of Faerie (as of 32 Oriole).
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