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Lungroot

Written by David_Ulph

To Alexius...   ...It was then that we saw them, the procession of husks. I had not once thought the well was infected when investigating the village's coughing fits and yet so obvious the stalks were once I checked. While obviousness is an assuredly positive sign of helping the sick, I had not acted with enough haste for it to matter. The stalks grew out of a songbird - the Lanius Collurio to be exact -, clearly having been overcome by the lungroot and found itself the nearest source of water to call home.
Reports of Doctor Azarias von Koszmar from Sorrow, Custodia

Introduction

Lungroot is an aquatic plant believed to be native to the Mortal Realm, first recorded by the historic Fisher Kingdom of Arannas in the near-equatorial coastal regions of the Silverlight Sea. The plant resembles a miniature kelp with more pronounced vein-like membranes patterned across its surface. The plant grows from stalks which protrude upwards from a sticky bulb that grafts on to anything it can for stability.
 
The Lungroot has long been a somewhat significant plant to the cultures surrounding the Silverlight Sea, and over the course of the four eras has spread somewhat inland from its original source, even being spotted growing in the rice paddies of the Heldenmarch.

Ecology

The lungroot is a fully aquatic plant, meaning that its favoured habitat is to be fully submerged in calm waters. An inland sea or loch can become infested with lungroot due to its perfect conditions, but one bulb will struggle to grow efficiently in a river. The lungroot does, though, have the ability to somehow conserve its energy to ensure prolonged survival in an almost hibernation period. When taken out of adequate water, the plant will dry and shrivel into a compact ball which becomes brittle but will allow the lungroot to survive months on end without access to water. Once returned back into an adequate habitat, the lungroot unravels and revives itself.
 
In the past, the lungroot was known not to stick a bulb onto a surface to grow but instead float on the surface of the Silverlight Sea on wide leaf-like structures that the stalks would grow down from almost like mobile upside-down seaweed. As equatorial cultures such as the Ruddle Isles and Arannas started using the lungroot more throughout the Second and Third Eras, the plant started to spread exponentially along the coastline.
 
This then permitted the plant to spread inland, growing further through both trade and natural means. The more the lungroot spread inwards, the more its presence in the ecology was foreign and local herbivorous fauna did not know to avoid the plant like Silverlight wildlife, thus they started to succumb to the natural dangers of the plant soooner.
 
In truth I could do nothing. My own personal remit covering nothing to this magnitude, having only been brought to Sorrow following rumours concerning a spreading case of the Outside Disease with magical origins.   A housemaiden, Mary, had been praying to the Father for weeks in hopes His light would return her own father to health enough to walk without suffering. I tried to work my craft but this was not what she wished for, as the water which had once quenched his thirst now caused his eyes to glaze over. He was already with the procession, though if anything left of Mary's father was in that cursed body I could not tell.
 

Uses

It was discovered in pre-recorded civilisation of the lungroot's natural habitat that the ingestion of the plant would on some occasions provide the individual with the ability to breath water where they naturally would be incapable of it. As time progressed, it was found that quickly drinking even a stalk of the lungroot after placing it in a cup of water would provide the bearer with near immediate and always fruitful results.
 
Anatomical investigations into cadavers of those who died with the lungroot still in their system discovered that with the moisture found within the body, the plant would begin its resurrection process and make its way into the lungs to feed on the organ's wetness. After growing and expanding onto the lining of the lungs, which is where the plant gained its modern common name, the plant would absorb any and all water which would normally flood the lungs when attempting to breath underwater. Due to such excess the plant does not require, it goes on to produce extra oxygen into the bloodstream of the host as is the organ's normal function. Thusly establishing a relationship between host and plant of mutualistic symbiosis.
 

Dangers

The reason lungroot is rarely ever taught or used as a source of waterbreathing is due to the inherent dangers of allowing the plant into your body. Uncomfortable side effects occur almost instantly to the lungroot taking hold of a subject's lungs, where the body reacts as if it is under attack and is drowning. The subject will endure near constant irritation from an itchy chest leading to prolonged coughing fits as the body naturally attempts to remove the invader. This coughing alone is rarely seen to be enough to remove the lungroot, so fumigation - choking the subject with smoke - is the preferred route for efficiency.
 
However, in some very rare cases or if the lungroot has been allowed to stay within the body for too long, the plant will not be able to be removed from the subject at all. This process is accelerated if the plant is used to breathe underwater, as the lungroot receives waves of energy to grow. This in turn cuts the life of the subject short, as it grows and thrives in the warm moistness of the host's body with autopsies showing all internally connected pieces of a body to be overrun with the plant after so long.
 
Debate, however, exists on whether the subject is truly dead at this point where the lungroot takes over the host and the relationship turns into parasitic symbiosis. The lungroot continues to operate the body of the host, using it as a mode of transport to return to the water where it can grow in peace and develop more stalks. This is how the plant appears to primarily spread, as waterside fauna will eat the lungroot, travel, and then either coughs it up into another body of water or they will be puppeteered to a nearby source.
 
While most sources will say that the host is inadvertently killed by the lungroot when it takes control, some biologists claim this would also kill the plant as the host would lose its status as a perfect habitat. Instead, a minor theory explains that the host is fully conscious but in a state of mental paralysis similar to the effects of some charming magics, where they may even be aware of what is happening to them without any way to prevent it. According to this theory, the host only dies after being submerged in the water, though not even from drowning as the lungroot continues converting it to oxygen. Instead, the host starves after days of torment. Of course, no matter how likely this theory is to be true, few admit to the cruelty of nature as the Mother would never allow such a thing.
 
I was not one of them, though the villagers sought desperately for one to put faith into and in their mob mentality concluded that I would be that authority. Mary wept and begged at my feet to end her father's suffering, to pass judgment on the lives of these possessed souls. I could've given them humane deaths before the lungroot had its way, if there were any life left somewhere the roots had not reached. Or I could've allowed them to walk on, asking Mary to pray he would pass Sindla's judgement and join the Gods on the Blooded Shores of the Dead Isle.   Do I allow this puppet to continue desecrating Sorrow's loved ones, causing untold damage to this community forever? Or do I bring the revenge against malevolent nature for these people so that they may grieve properly, knowing all too well an unkindness of Carrion Crow currently nest a hillock over.   Odd how something so small can be so deadly.
The notes of Azarias were discovered by an Agent of the Hands under the burned remains of Sorrow, seemingly destroyed attempting to resist a Corvus Corone incursion.
Alternative Name(s)
Gavnah Seaweed, Kelpie Eggs
Native Spread
Arannas / Rum Coast / Old Tief

Cultural Impact

The Invasion Cycle

During the reign of Emperor Sarrus VI von Apollyon (r. 3E 453 - 516), the Silverlight Sea was in turmoil as the inhabitants of the Ruddle Isles followed the signs of their deity, and settled what would become Ruddlestone after ousting the civilisation of Arannas.
 
This period of time has been recorded by the bards as the Invasion Cycle, and saw the first union between human and triton while fighting as brothers-in-faith. A crucial part of this bond succeeding is believed to be the lungroot, which allowed humans to spend more time with their compatriots and intermix culture.

Gavnah Rooms

The culture of Ruddlestone still holds its roots in the traditions of the Ruddle Isles. Due to lack of space, ancient Ruddlers would not bury their dead and instead cremate them to ash. This ash is held in communal indoor pits as a replacement for a crypt or tomb like mainland cultures developed.
 
These rooms became known as Gavnah Rooms for the additional fact that once someone had imbibed in the lungroot they would need to use the smoke and ash of the funerary pits as effective means to stop the plant taking over their body. While the use of lungroot has passed into history, the funeral rooms and buildings of Ruddlestone in the Fourth Era are still known by their ancient name.

Atlantean Delicacy

Aquatic civilisations of the Silverlight Sea, such as the triton of Atlantis, are known to find lungroot as a delicacy to be used in all manner of foodstuffs. Interviews with triton chefs on docksides of Monsalvat have explained that they do not have lungs which the plant can attach on to and therefore cannot suffer from the dangers it possesses.

Kelpie Eggs

Arising from fears of malevolent sentience that drives the lungroot to puppet the bodies of mortals, folklore has arisen that they are in fact the eggs of kelpies. As such, when ingesting the plant, a kelpie will hatch within the body and attack the host. Kelpies themselves are believed in Ruddlestone and Moravia where they are not native to in fact be the bodies of those who fully succumbed to the lungroot and have been fully covered in the seaweed-like stalks.
 
However, this appears to mainly be a cautionary tale developed by mothers to prevent their children from going near the plant so long ago that it has entered the cultural consciousness as truth. Nothing suggests that the plant ever acts in a way other than what is natural and never suggests to possess a consciousness of its own.

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Cover image: by Bungie

Comments

Author's Notes

(Oh Gods.. Laptops breaking and University deadlines... This should've been up yonks ago! Though I am seriously scatterbrain at the moment of publishing from the vaccine so bear with me if the writing is intelligible at some points.)   The inspiration for this literally comes from a single thing while drinking with mates over Zoom. We were scrolling through Reddit and came across a video showing a "resurrection plant" from the Chihuahuan Desert. Basically a completely dead plant that suddenly burst into life when water hit it because it conserves its energy during dry seasons in order to survive. For whatever reason, my only reaction was "woah, I wonder what would happen if you swallowed that".   And now here we are XD   Oh, and a little inspiration did come from my very own local water spirit back home on Benbecula. Going through my town is a wee stream called in modern days as "the Leaky" (because it leaks into the Atlantic, yeah really creative) but it's traditional gaidhlig name is "a'Ghamhnach" and a gruagach (goblin, spirit, god, beasty) of the same name (Gamhnach) is said to live in the stream and you were only allowed to pass over the running water if you made an offering of grass to the stream and the gruagach that lived within. When Saint Columba who brought Christianity to our isles landed, the only plant that the gruagach would take could only be found floating on the water surface out into the Atlantic ocean. I can't remember the exact details of the story (curse this lockdown separating me from me books) but Columba apparently made a bargain with the gruagach, I think even supposedly converting it to Christianity as well, so that it would take any plants not just the floating waterplant.


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Master TimeBender
Unknown User
28 Mar, 2021 19:59

This article was very interesting, but also, the effects of this plant are horrifying! I would not want to touch this plant with a ten-foot pole. Great job!

~TimeBender~ Here's my main Summer Camp world: Knights
Journeyman David_Ulph
David Alexander
28 Mar, 2021 21:44

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed! Definitely something that has long gone out of fashion for that very reason

Latha math leat! Sending praise from the Hebrides! Check my Summer Camp ramblings out here
28 Mar, 2021 21:39

This seems like an interesting but horrifying plant! It's nice how there is a thin line between the plant being usefull and it becoming dangerous. The music was also a nice addition. My only real remark would be that the first sentences of the 'uses' section seems a bit weird to me. Other than that nice read!

Feel free to check out summer camp overviewif you want to see what I am up to!
Journeyman David_Ulph
David Alexander
28 Mar, 2021 21:43

Awesome thanks for pointing it out! I'll fix the wording when I get back to it ;-)   Thanks for the comment and I'm glad you enjoyed all the same!

Latha math leat! Sending praise from the Hebrides! Check my Summer Camp ramblings out here
28 Mar, 2021 21:45

Oh now that I look at it again it seems that I have put the wrong section in my comment :p I meant 'Ecology' :)

Feel free to check out summer camp overviewif you want to see what I am up to!
28 Mar, 2021 21:45

Oh now that I look at it again it seems that I have put the wrong section in my comment :p I meant 'Ecology' :)

Feel free to check out summer camp overviewif you want to see what I am up to!
Journeyman David_Ulph
David Alexander
28 Mar, 2021 21:53

Noted!

Latha math leat! Sending praise from the Hebrides! Check my Summer Camp ramblings out here
Journeyman Monkos
Andrew Booth
29 Mar, 2021 04:09

I love it. It's a haunting article, especially with that music - a bad thing from a forgotten time, that claimed too many victims. The plant itself is super interesting and I love the way that it continues to supply oxygen from water to the lungs for as long as it remains alive - sounds like it would be quite a nasty beasty to get into you. Nicely written!

Creator of the world of Mythia, where writing is magic!
Journeyman David_Ulph
David Alexander
29 Mar, 2021 12:33

Thank you I'm glad you enjoyed!

Latha math leat! Sending praise from the Hebrides! Check my Summer Camp ramblings out here
29 Mar, 2021 08:43

You had me going :D when I saw the plant let you breath under water, and D: at all the other details hahaha   Seriously though, this is an awesome and terrifying plant! I get kind of « zombie » plague vibes from the plants controlling the hosts to find new places from which to spread, though it does seem to be fairly contained so thats some good news.   Great work and lovely read!!

Author of Interarcanum.
Journeyman David_Ulph
David Alexander
29 Mar, 2021 12:38

Haha I'm glad it turned out well if it gives those reactions ;-)   Thanks for the comments TC, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Latha math leat! Sending praise from the Hebrides! Check my Summer Camp ramblings out here
29 Mar, 2021 10:33

Ooo your CSS has changed. It's looking nice! :D   This is such a cool plant. I was all excited when you said it allows you to breathe underwater, and then slowly more horrified as I read on. :D I really enjoyed the little section where it is a delicacy in Triton cooking as they don't have lungs to be overtaken by the plant. The myth of kelpie eggs is fun too. Great cautionary tale to keep kids away. :D

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
Journeyman David_Ulph
David Alexander
29 Mar, 2021 12:40

Ahh thank you! Posted an update on my profile with what's upcoming for Destiny.. A few changes which hopefully will turn out for the better!   Aw thank you for the kind words, I'm glad you liked it! I seem to be writing a lot about Kelpies these days XD

Latha math leat! Sending praise from the Hebrides! Check my Summer Camp ramblings out here
31 Mar, 2021 23:25

Zombies via Parasitic Plants. I love it. I've always been fascinated by the way Cordyceps take over insects - and this Lungroot is PERFECT.

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NACL is the first of my books - and World Anvil might help me get an idea of how to get the sequel to be even better. :)
Journeyman David_Ulph
David Alexander
5 Apr, 2021 12:08

Thank you! Believe it or not, cordyceps wasn't the influence on this article in the beginning but I agree with you I can really see some similarities now it's done!   I'm glad you enjoyed :D

Latha math leat! Sending praise from the Hebrides! Check my Summer Camp ramblings out here
12 Apr, 2021 20:27

Hi ! That's a well-written article, about a pretty well done - and yet disturbing plant. Congrats for finishing the article even while fighting against your technical issues!   There isn't much I can say about the form of this article: you made a pretty good use of tooltips, bold, references, and boxes. That makes the article enjoyable and easy to read!   I have a question regarding the resurrection aspect of the plant: you say it could start its resurrection process inside an organism. Is the process a bit hindered by the organism's body heat? It seems lungroot lives in somewhat temperate climates, so the warmth of a mammal's lungs may be troublesome for it, wouldn't it? Not that it would make the plant less dangerous, though.   Similarly, what would happen if this plant was eaten? Would it be destroyed by stomach acid? or would it manage to dehydrate the digestive system?   In any case, thanks for this nice read.

With love,   Pouaseuille.   I finally participated to The Costume Challenge: here's an entry if you like!
Journeyman David_Ulph
David Alexander
14 Apr, 2021 11:22

Hmm I can't say I am in any way a biologist or know really anything about plants other than what was ingrained into me back at school, so I have taken on board your comment! I would think that if the body heat is a hinderance, this may be the reason why it takes a longer amount of time for the plant to fully take root within the lungs and why in that space of time where it is struggling to adapt is where it gives the benefit of "breathing underwater"! Though this then makes me think if there are any people technically "immune" to the lungroot which I'm sure a mad scientist or wizard or two have searched for this answer over the years...   In terms of being eaten, I thought this as being akin to preparing pufferfish. Incredibly hard to get right, and incredibly dangerous when prepared wrong as even a living piece of stem could "go down the wrong hole" as they say and the game is a bogey. However, I decided to not develop this idea any further as I couldn't see anyone making use of the plant in cooking when it has such unified cultural animosity against it.   Thank you very much for your comment and I am glad you enjoyed! :D

Latha math leat! Sending praise from the Hebrides! Check my Summer Camp ramblings out here
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
13 Apr, 2021 16:50

This is a super interesting plant! I love how you go into the mechanism of how it allows to breath under water and of the consequences of its actions :D And the zombie effect sounds horrifying XD   A few notes I took while reading:   " This process is accelerated if the plant is used to breathe underwater, as the lungroot receives waves of energy to grow." Why do you mean by waves of energy here? DO you just mean as the water comes in, or something else?   " Instead, the host starves after days of torment." Nice XD   So is the plant sentient to be able to pilot the host like that, or does it just make the host thirsty/desire for a big source of water and go there on their own?   " seemingly destroyed attempting to resist a Corvus Corone incursion." A tooltip to indicate this is another name for Carrion Crow here would be helpful – or using the name Carrion Crow here too.   I also love the little history and culture elements in the sidebar, it was great to put in perspective what was in the main text and highlight the positive side the plant has for the people – I was wondering why the introduction quote shows the plant to be so horrifying but then the rest of the article shows it under a more positive light until the end. Being able to breath under water doesn't seem to be worth the price, but then the history explains why it was so influential.   Great article :D

15 Apr, 2021 22:40

Eesh, zombie-plant that first fools you by being useful. O_O Creeeeeepy. Definitely something modern scientists would try to figure out how to adapt and control, though.

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
16 Apr, 2021 01:04

Hi David!   As I started to read your article, I really hoped there was going to be something unnerving and I'm glad my wish was fulfilled. Your plant and its impact are all well composed - the only "error" I noticed was that "pre-recorded" should be "prerecorded". I may use Lungroot in my home game although, if I do, I will probably also include the concept of Kelpie eggs in a more devious form. Great work!

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