"Never go mushroom hunting alone."
— Nommo proverb
These dangerous creatures are the final result of a Nommo
being infected by the spores of the common cloud parasol mushroom
. This fungus causes a mild skin rash known as pale ache
in all species, but the Nommo's strange genetic code complicates matters. When the immune system of a Nommo becomes compromised, either through another disease or death, the fungal infection spreads over the Nommo quickly and enters the central nervous system, killing them if they are still alive.
The resulting mushrooms that sprout from the corpse can number anywhere from four to several dozen, depending on the mass of the Nommo's final form. These mushrooms will continue breaking down the Nommo's body, going through intense mutations in the process. They will take on part of the genetic structure of the Nommo, growing limbs and primitive sensory organs. It is able to see through the rough eyespots that form, but the "mouth" they adopt from their absorbed form serves no actual purpose other than emitting strange groans in place of a voice.
Once a mushroom breaks free of the corpse in this form, it is referred to as a mycoceph. The mycocephs completely break down the Nommo corpse, gaining mass and competing with each other for food. They have been observed occasionally cannibalizing a smaller mycoceph and absorbing its mass, but this is uncommon.
Early Feeding Habits, or Watch Your Ankles
Once the Nommo is fully devoured, the mycocephs immediately set off in search of more food, in the form of any sort of fungal or animal matter too slow or stupid to get out of their way. While they are not particularly intelligent, they are capable of astonishing speed and are persistent hunters.
A mycoceph feeds by excreting enzymes through its "skin" which break down the cells of its prey. The mycoceph will move around slowly until it detects a source of food, and then charge towards it, attempting to knock the prey over and press it to the ground. The creature then spreads out its mass slightly to increase surface area, applying its full weight to crush or smother the prey. Mycotoxins excreted with the enzymes sedate the animal while it is consumed. All material from the animal except the skeleton is absorbed into the mycoceph.
Freshly spawned mycocephs are not much of a threat to larger animals or sentient creatures, beginning their life at only a few inches in height. They will instead feed on other fungus or, if available, decomposing animals. They may attempt to catch small animals or birds, but have greater success catching slower prey like lizards or amphibians. Their mass increases considerably each time they feed, and they are soon a threat to even the largest animals on Adin.
A Quickly Escalating Threat
A fully mature mycoceph rivals the largest manticora in size, roughly the height of a typical wagon, and their growth slows significantly after this point. While no mycoceph is known to have died from old age, they are believed to continue growing past maturity and no upper limit to their size is known.
Once mature, each feeding will also produce a thick ring of spores around the remains. Thankfully, these spores are lacking the mycoceph mutations, and instead will grow into more of the original cloud parasol mushrooms.
Prevention and Mitigation
Because of their destructive nature, mycocephs are hunted down ruthlessly as soon as their presence is known in an area. Special care is taken to destroy the corpse of a Nommo if known to be infected with pale ache, or also if it cannot be properly preserved by a kursu and taken immediately to the Underworld, to prevent later infection.
Pieces of the mutated fungus removed from a mycoceph can grow into smaller individuals if provided a food source. These chunks will go dormant, only able to consume material unfortunate enough to come into contact with them. Disconnected pieces can only survive in this state for about a month before withering and dying. However, spores from a mature mycoceph will spawn cloud parasol mushrooms in about two weeks, providing food for these dormant mycocephs. Therefore, if a mycoceph's prey manages to damage its predator but is still eaten, it may result in more mycocephs being spawned.
Because mycocephs require Nommo corpses, they are extremely rare in the Five Nations. Sherdasa has an ongoing problem with these creatures, but do their best to keep them suppressed. Several huge mycocephs have been spotted on Satium, as many Nommo were killed there in the early days of the Great War and left to rot.
There are no known uses for mycoceph flesh. While dense and fibrous, it does not have any properties that cannot be found in other materials that are less dangerous. They are not suitable for eating, being highly toxic to other animals. While a mycoceph continues to make a mutated form of cloud silk
normally harvested from the cloud parasol mushrooms, their silk is considered useless, resembling cobwebs and not at all durable.
The only ways to safely destroy a mycoceph are with the application of fire or acid, or starving it by trapping it or encasing it in a material it can't break free from. Smaller mycocephs can be crushed fairly easily with melee weapons, while larger ones are usually disabled by chopping at their meaty legs and then collecting the pieces for destruction.
Cutting mycoceph flesh into small pieces is extremely dangerous, as any touching fragments will consume each other resulting in potentially hundreds of new individuals from a single mycoceph.
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
That's a really terrible mushroom!!! Great article XD
Just letting you know that a small broken link have snuck into this article "@Nommo" at the top, great work otherwise!
Thank you! Fixed the link for the second time, hopefully it'll stay working this time. lol
Oh, these are scary! And to know that the ancient specimen from the sidebar is still unsecured... o_O I really like the detailed descriptions of the different growth stages and how you illustrated them on the right. Great article!
Creator of the Kaleidoscope System, an alien star system shaped by a colorful radiation source. My pledge for WorldEmber 2022 turned Worlduary 2023
Why do I find them adorable? WHY? These are terrifying, though. I love the interesting way in which they form, and then the body-horror style growth they undertake as they begin to take over and consume the original host. Growing a mouth with no purpose but to make scary groans is great, haha! This is definitely going in my reading challenge article!