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Erjat-Reh

Erjat-Reh (Zean: Undying Growth) is a species of lichen native to the Great Eastern Desert. It has remarkable regenerative properties and its spread is under watchful surveillance by the Nata-Kea tribe.   Description   Singular Erjat-Reh is a minuscule plant, about one centimeter in diameter and almost completely flat. Its surface is green or greyish-green, rough to touch and resembling a porous rock. Bottom of the disc is covered with long, hooked cilia it uses to cling to surfaces. Single specimens are rarely observed, as the Growth's primary characteristic is it's ability to rapidly replicate and form unstable webs quickly covering their surroundings.   Life cycle   The Growth sustains itself on nothing more than the sunlight, as water is extremely scarce in the desert environment. In the morning, nets of lichen covering the dunes can be observed, dragged with them across the sands. During the day, majority of the plants will tear off and die due to the heat. As soon as the sun nears the horizon, the surviving units start budding, often in more than one direction at once. It takes about fifteen minutes for a new cell to grow. As the dunes continue to move after dark, the nets continue to rip and seed new clusters of lichen, enhancing their exponential growth. By the end of the night, the population regrows to the previous numbers, maintaining the delicate balance.   Danger   With time, Nata-Kea became worried about the Growth and the possibility of its expansion beyond the desert. Unlike any other plant or animal, it appears to not be constrained by the physical limits of nutrients and body mass in its reproduction. The current hypothesis is that the Growth is the first known species of flora that developed it's own Change. Unfortunately, extrapolating from human history, that means that it's still undergoing adaptation, and if brought outside the desert, could cause unpredictable harm to the ecosystem. It also means that the lichen regularly interacts with sefia, and that there must be a source of it in the desert. So far, the lichen nets that reached the edge were small and did not continue to replicate at the normal speeds, suggesting that periods of intense heat or rapid cooling might be necessary to jumpstart the replication. The settlement of Safi-Tor was established, among other reasons, to research the Erjat-Reh biology.

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Comments

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1 Aug, 2022 13:57

Very creative use of a replicating lichen in a desert environment. I like reading about the dangers it could have on the ecosystem. I’m curious to know what uses, if any, the Nata-Kea have for the erjat-reh.

Choose your poison:   Phasmatum: An Afro-Solar-Fantasy world created for my epic novels.
Adazuri: A shonen-inspired magitech fantasy world home-brewed for 5e.
4 Aug, 2022 00:55

Thank you!   I think the Nata-Kea's priorities right now are, in order: 1. Apparently there is a new continent and price of their main export matrial skyrocketed. 2. The ruins of the lost city they can't figure out how to get into. 3. Everything else. They didn't find any use for the lichen over the last 50 years, but I think that if they spared resources to try to find its source, the desert might hide more surprises.   In real life terms, I had no idea I'd add a desert to my Summer Camp world, but I'm happy I did. I had a lot of fun this year, so I might actually work on it a little before the next July, outside of just polishing the drafts after the awards.

5 Aug, 2022 00:01

Definitely hooked me with the idea of the "Change" and the realization baked into the article that this is something that could be somewhat concerning to the populace. Love the concept.

5 Aug, 2022 11:08

Thank you for the kind comment! This is exactly why I took part in the Summer Camp, to get over the fear of showing people my writing. Challenge for the next year: show the work as it comes along, don't publish all the articles on July 31st :D