Cathedris Themesong

Shattercaps

A delicate shroom

Local folk tales give another name to Shattercaps; on cloudless nights, the lost Prince Etrean wanders the beaches looking for himself among the stars, gently weeping. His tears leave trails of dark spots in the sand, and in the morning, you'll find tiny beautiful mushrooms in neat little rows emerging from those dark spots left the night before -- Prince Etrean's Tears
— The story of the lost prince
  Shattercaps are a small yet fast growing mushroom that appears in neat rows among the white sand beaches of the continent Russin. They progress through different stages of growth rapidly over the course of one to three days, starting as what appears to be small piles of sand, before eventually reaching peak growth and turning into a small glass figurine, at which point the mushroom is ready to release its spores -- by shattering.    

Seaside Teardrops

New growth Shattercaps seem to appear almost overnight, forming in their earliest stages as a line of small dark spots in the sand that to most would look merely like wet sand, if it weren't for the uniform spacing of the dots.  

Connect the Dots

Beneath the sand is the network of mycelium that connects and dictates the growth of the mushrooms from these dark spots in the sand.   When an adult Shattercap "shatters" and the spores are explosively spread across the sand, each spore begins to send down tendrils, reaching for one another. These tendrils will always align with the geomagnetic fields around the planet, reaching North towards their nearest neighbour, with which it will intertwine and grow stronger. This process forms the trademark "trail of tears" that the resulting mushrooms are always found within.  

When the mycelium network below no longer finds another spore to the north of itself to connect with, it stops searching and begins the fruiting stage. The signal starts at the northern most spore, where the mushroom begins to grow as the signal propagates down the line.   The result is a small line of mushrooms showcasing the gradual transformation from tiny pile of wet sand, all the way up to an adult glass mushroom.   Once the final stage of growth has been reached, the mycelium will send up another tendril to the surface, forming the delicate tail that connects to the main body of mushroom and serves as the trigger for shattering and spreading spores.

Properties

 
Type
Mushroom
 
Alternate Names
Prince Etrean's Tears, Glasshrooms
 
Edible?
No. In early growth stages, before turning to glass, the shrooms are said to taste of mushy gritty salt, and leave a bitter aftertaste. Once fully turned to glass, the mushroom becomes inedible.
 
Eugh. It's like eating crunchy yet squishy fat soaked in brine.
— First hand account
 
Average Height
4-6 inches
 
Average Cap Width
1 inch
 
Growth period, from spore to shroom
1-3 days
The head of this mushroom is in fact quite resilient, in terms of glass. It's the tail and stalk you need to mind -- break that, and the resulting chain reaction will shoot up to the cap and shatter it in the blink of an eye.
— Mushroom Fan
 

Shatter and Spread

 
Through the "explosion" it undergoes, a fully mature Shattercap mushroom can spread millions of spores across a circular area roughly 3 meters wide. Less than 0.1% of these spores will survive long enough to form a network of mycelium.   The spores need a proper environment to have any chance of success. There must be ample moisture and salt content to allow for growth, and the growth must occur within a silica rich location, making beaches the ideal spot for Shattercaps to grow and flourish.  

Ready to burst

The shattering of the mushroom can be triggered through one of two ways. If the stalk of the mushroom should break, from external forces such as wind, waves, or animals, the head of the mushroom would shatter.   The main method of shattering comes from the small glass tail that is grown at the peak of maturity, however. It is the smallest and most delicate portion of a fully grown Shattercap; a slight breeze or shifting of sand might be enough to snap the tail, in turn causing the entire mushroom to shatter and spread.
No, your cut from a Shattercap shard will not grow shrooms.
— Mycologist
  The force of one fully "glass" Shattercap is most often enough of a force to set off it's neighbouring shroom as well; if the full trail of mushrooms is fully grown, this often results in a chain reaction of every single mushroom in a row bursting and spreading their spores.
 

Goin beach combing? I'd bring thick pants and good boots if I were you. It's peak Shattercap season, 'n you're more than likely going to set a few off just by walkin near em. Wouldn't want you to go gettin spore shards stabbed all into your legs.
— Russinian Forager
 
 

Culture and Tourism

The delicate nature and beautiful transparent glass-like quality the mushrooms take on as they mature have made them into something of a cultural icon over the many years humans have inhabited the continent of Russin. They're often tied to things of gentle and delicate beauty, something that may be lost with a careless touch. Other times, Shattercaps stir up images of loss and sorrow, representing the fleeting nature of life itself.  

Harvesting

With extraordinary care and timing, a near, or sometimes fully, mature Shattercap can be carefully extracted from the sand in which it grew. This is usually easiest done on hot days, when the tide is low and the sand is loose and dry.   These freshly dug shrooms are kept as heirlooms and trinkets, given to friends and lovers, or in some cases, used to prank the unaware by placing the hair-trigger mushrooms directly in the path of travel of unsuspecting victims.  

Replicas

Hang on, how do I know if any of these are even real?
— A wary tourist
  Because of their fragility, not only are Shattercaps incredibly difficult to harvest, but they're arguably even harder to packaged, transport, and sell.   This has led to many instances of talented glassblowers creating replicas, recreations, or simulacra of Shattercap mushrooms. These imitations are often easy to tell apart; lacking the colouration and imperfections found within the real glass shrooms. Some are sold just like that; imitations for a far cheaper price compared to the originals.   More talented yet more shady artisans will often put significant effort in to making their replicas look exactly the same as a natural Shattercap. The same shape, colours, and imperfections will all be present, and thus fetch as high of a price as the natural trinkets -- without the risk of shattering.

Popular Mythology

Due to their fascinating transformation from apparent formless "wet sand" into something fragile and beautiful, Shattercaps have become the focal point of many myths and folk tales. Some tell of historical events that likely happened, while other stories merely feature the mushrooms as part of the message or warning in the tale.  

Glass Beach

Long ago, Russin was once hit with a rhythmic period of hot days and rainy weather, causing a massive bloom of Shattercap mushrooms. Stories say that this resulted in one large beach entirely covered, as far as the eye could see.   They say that when the first mushroom shattered, it started a chain reaction that sent so much glass upwards that the very air was said to sparkle.   The beach where this happened has since been named Glass Beach, home to a fine crystalline sand, said to be the remnants of thousands of Shattercaps exploding at once.
 

 

Ideal Conditions

While salt, silica, and moisture are the three main factors that need to be present in order for a Shattercap to grow, the mushrooms are found only in a few specific beaches across Cathedris. Their main habitat is upon the continent of Russin, spread out across many of its beaches, yet with a higher concentration in Northern Russin, near the capital, the The Coastal City-state of Russin.  
Many mycologists think that the Shattercaps prefer Russinian beaches as habitat because of the specific weather patterns and consistent temperature shifts the continent undergoes. Other places in Cathedris often have similar conditions, but differ in one quality, and thus are just not quite right for the delicate mushrooms.   However, most Russinians, and all worshipers of Sharenskus, think that the Shattercaps only grow on Russinian sand because of their proximity to Sharenskus himself. Popular mythology states that long ago, the original creator of this elegant species of mushrooms was the god of oceans, trying his hand at creating something beautiful on the very edges of his domain.  
It's so he could find his way home, so that he'd always know when he got back to Russin! The pretty glass mushrooms would reflect the setting sun and flash light into the darkening sky, serving as a beacon for Sharenskus.
— A Young Russinian
 


Cover image: Mushrooms drawn by Stormbril, background by Mario Caruso

Comments

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31 Dec, 2021 09:44

Awesome! The biology of the species feels believable yet alien, and I love the way you tie it to the local culture and mythology!

Check out my entry for the Bard Challenge here!
4 Jan, 2022 23:54

Thank you so much! It's always so fun to write the culture and mythology of species :)


Cathedris, the world of God-husks and New Magic, welcomes you.
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
31 Dec, 2021 10:55

Very beautiful mushrooms! How much damage they can cause when exploding near someone? Just small shards of glass superficially imbedded into th legs? Apparently the explosion is not too strong if protecting the feet and legs is enough. Super interesting to see all the mythology and legends about it :D Is Prince Etrean someone you intend to develop more? I'm curious about the story behind him now :p

To see what I am up to, my latest article is a choose-your-own-adventure story featuring a job interview to become one of the Dark Lord's evil minions :D
4 Jan, 2022 23:56

Thank you Amélie :D Definitely only skin damage, some small cuts and the likes, or bits of embedded glass if you're super unlucky!   Prince Etrean was mostly a way to sneak in a reference to Emy, but now that you mention it, it might be fun to write a bit more on that myth :D


Cathedris, the world of God-husks and New Magic, welcomes you.
Grandmaster AzounIV
Luca Poddighe
3 Jan, 2022 20:07

I quite like the idea of these glass mushrooms growing in line according to geo-magnetism. They seem beautiful little creatures, unfortunately they live only for a short time.

Transform your quirks, in your strength! Join the revolution and visit Phaldorya (Eng)
4 Jan, 2022 23:57

Thank you very much Luca :D It seemed like a good way to explain how they'd grow in little single file lines, so I'm glad it worked out :)   Thanks for your comment <3


Cathedris, the world of God-husks and New Magic, welcomes you.
Grandmaster AzounIV
Luca Poddighe
5 Jan, 2022 21:08

The whole article make so much sense that it feel almost real!

Transform your quirks, in your strength! Join the revolution and visit Phaldorya (Eng)
3 Jan, 2022 20:12

I love how this species of mushroom was inspired by the real world phenomenon of a Prince Rupert's drop - this familiarity made it recognisable and easy to understand, yet utterly mindblowing with the unique twist of making it into a unique method of spreading mushroom spores!   I featured this in my inspirations article for the reading challenge! :D

Snippets of inspiration from 10 excellent worldbuilders
Generic article | Jan 3, 2022

Get inspired and try out some of these techniques in your next article!


Creator of the dark fantasy world of Melior
I also make worldbuilding resources!
4 Jan, 2022 23:59

Oooooooo, thank you for the comment and the feature TJ! :D   I looooooove Prince Rupert's drops, so bringing that into play here and turning it biological was really really fun, and I'm very happy it makes it easy to understand and interesting :D


Cathedris, the world of God-husks and New Magic, welcomes you.
5 Jan, 2022 16:13

Amazing article! I loved the detail of the life cycle, and how it is interacted with by people. This article truly inspired me, along with much of your other work. Keep up the incredible work!

6 Jan, 2022 01:24

Thank you so much Ace! :D


Cathedris, the world of God-husks and New Magic, welcomes you.
6 Jan, 2022 18:27

Really interesting article and mushroom! I like the cultural aspect of its different uses and the whole concept of it becoming glass.   Though my reading might be a bit bad, when the explosion happens, do the tendrils dig into the flesh of animals and... humans? The quote under "shatter and spread" seem to hint at it, but I find no confirmation of this in the actual body of text.

Worldkeymaster, also known as A of Worldkeymaster.
You are welcome to explore Nimenra, a world in conflict between Humans and Demons.
My entry to the Rivers/Waterways Challenge: Vieavon
6 Jan, 2022 21:44

Thank you very much! :)   I might have not clearly explained it perhaps! But essentially, the "explosion" is a forceful shattering of the glass mushroom, scattering tiny shards of glass in a small area with a small amount of force. It's meant to scatter the spores around the given area, but if something is unfortunate enough to be nearby, those shards of glass could actually embed themselves in your skin.


Cathedris, the world of God-husks and New Magic, welcomes you.
8 Jan, 2022 17:32

Ah, I see, I understand this more "clearly" I think. Thanks for the response!

Worldkeymaster, also known as A of Worldkeymaster.
You are welcome to explore Nimenra, a world in conflict between Humans and Demons.
My entry to the Rivers/Waterways Challenge: Vieavon
11 Jan, 2022 23:13

I've seen a surprising number of mushrooms as I've explored looking for the articles I should read during the WorldEmber 2021 Reading Challenge. I wonder if I should write mushroom stories, too. Other people write such longer world entries than I do, with such a mastery of the page layout that I despair to match it. Can this be done on a Master account?   As for the mushrooms themselves, I think I would rather buy a skillful fake than a true but utterly delicate glasswork. A great deal of talent goes into such forgeries, and likely they last much longer on display, with less gentle handling needed to take care of them.   These beaches would be forbidding. I think I would be scared of the shrooms. "No, your cut from a shattercap shard will not grow shrooms," you say; the quote on the page is a masterful little inclusion. I would worry that myself, and I know the feel of that worry because you put on here that quote. Well done!

12 Jan, 2022 00:28

The worlds need more mushrooms! There was a little community effort at the beginning of world ember to write a bunch of mushrooms, inspired by the author/world of Serukis/Etrea :)   As for formatting like this, it's essentially all possible on a Master account! I think the only thing you don't get is the full footer? Otherwise, it's all BBCode columns and headers and inputting images/quotes.   Thank you for the comment and the lovely words about my mushrooms as well! <3


Cathedris, the world of God-husks and New Magic, welcomes you.
12 Jan, 2022 22:16

'No, your cut from a Shattercap shard will not grow shrooms.' Darn.   I have finally got around to reading this and it was so worth the wait. I love the beautiful art and the uniqueness of the mushroom and all the little bits of mythology surrounding it. This article makes my heart happy.   And yay, Sharenskus! <3

15 Jan, 2022 03:14

No becoming one with these shrooms D:   Thank you so much! That's everything I've ever wanted to hear about these mushrooms, I tried to write it as "something that'd make Emy smile" :D


Cathedris, the world of God-husks and New Magic, welcomes you.
8 Feb, 2022 21:04

I happened to see this on twitter and I instantly fell in love. Its so great to see other people take inspiration from physical non-biological phenomena and give it a biological twist: its my favorite kind of species building to do. This particular fungus is super creative yet really well grounded in reality (getit?), I love all the detail and the art especially. Really great work: You continue to provide masterclass articles that delight.

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Check out my world for the video game I'm working on!
The Realm of Heroes
9 Feb, 2022 17:34

Ha-haaaa, I see what you did there! xD   But yeah I love this kind of species building too, it's so fun! Thank you so much for the lovely comment :D


Cathedris, the world of God-husks and New Magic, welcomes you.
Sage Timepool
Garrett Grace Lewis
27 Apr, 2022 06:59

Ooh that's a pretty cool idea for a plant, well done!

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