The Petrified Solshrums
Deep in the desert of Sol de Dythwym one can find what appears to be a forest from a distance. However, as one approaches it's stark white trees, one can clearly see that the trees are not trees at all. Rather, they are mushrooms of girth and height ranging from that of a sapling pine tree to the greatness of a redwood. These giants stagger each other, with thinner ones growing at the base of the larger and forming a series of what one might consider steps or in some cases platforms due to the wide parasol like caps. They are bleach white, a blinding complement to the golden sands of the Dythwym. At first glance, one might feel that they have stumbled onto a mirage brought on by the desert heat. After all, how could anything, much less mushrooms of this size, grow in the middle of sanded dunes of the desert? There is no moisture here, no rivers or streams or oasis. As one reaches the outskirts of the forest, where smaller house and cottage sized mushrooms grow, one can see that these mushrooms are not actually living. They are made coarse stone ridged with cracking lines making vertically racing webs to the underbellies of the caps. When the first citizens of the empire discovered these forests, the Capital City immediately sent in a team of archaeologists, geologists, and botanists to find out how these giants were either formed or grown. Through a variety of tests, samples, and comparisons, the scientists discovered that the mushrooms were indeed once organic. They hypothesized that the great forest was once a thriving jungle of various flora and fauna. This theory was reinforced by the discovery of fossilized plant structures in the sandstone that packs the ground around the base of the fungi. Through excavation, they found that the stalks of the mushrooms were actually connected at a base level under the sands, indicating that the vast forest was once actually a single living organism spreading itself through the dense jungle. It also explained why the forest was so dense and how the mushrooms could grow seemingly atop one another creating the platforms that make up it's canopy. More interestingly, the botanists found organic particles not only in the petrified stems but also in the sand that surrounded the desert. It cannot be proven, but it is said that the sand is made up of the spores of the mushrooms and may even had led to their preservation. The theory is as follows: the Dythwym sands were once blessed with a mighty river or series of rivers that fertilized and gave life to the land. This ancient irrigation however dried up with the world's naturally changing climate, leaving the plants and animals to die or move away. At first, the mushrooms continued to thrive on the decaying masses of life, allowing them to grow as large as they can be seen now. However, as their source of nutrients faded, the mushrooms began to increase their survivability in the only way a plant knows how, reproduction. The fungi released mass quantities of spores, but without wind, water, or wildlife to transport the spores, they simply fell to the ground. The spores were resilient, they bonded with the once fertile soil in an attempt to leech what remaining energy it could. Unfortunately for the species, the soil was already drained and by bonding with the dirt the spores created sand. Spores stacked on spores, and eventually the sands of the Dythwym were formed. The sea of sand acted similarly to the way a bog of peat might treat a corpse. It covered the mushrooms, but instead of preserving the tissues and fibers, the sand fossilized it. Further investigation into these relics revealed that they were once domiciles for some race of sentient, tool wielding creatures. Holes, dwellings, and unnatural structures could be identified connecting the caps, forming a series of stairs, homes, and workshops. For many years it was unclear who could've been the inhabitants of these long forgotten abodes. They left no tools, no waste, and no records of their stay here. It was as if they had decided one day to pack everything up and simply vanish into the dunes. It wasn't until a merchant group of the nomadic Ghaar-Ket visited the site bringing a variety of commodities and necessities that their elder revealed it was their people who once called these mushrooms home. However, the tales of the Ghaar-Ket was somewhat different from what the scientists believed. The elder explained that according to their people, the Solshrums (as they had since been named) were cultivated and grown by the Ghaar-Ket and this area was their native home. Long ago, the Ghaar-Ket were an agrarian people born of the sands of the Dythwym. They found their home in the stone mushrooms and helped them to grow in the unforgiving desert. The relationship they had was symbiotic. Although the Ghaar-Ket could not consume the mushrooms, they provided a shelter and a home from which they could live. In return, the Ghaar-Ket offered their dead to the mushroom forest and the sandspores dropped by the caps would grow tall and wide from their remains. From their home in the caps the Ghaar-Ket could use the hardened flesh of the mushrooms to form tools with which they could hunt creatures that lived deep under the surface for food, where they could also find water tables in the form of underground streams or pools. The mushrooms also produced spores which were found to be edible by the Ghaar-Ket. In their tales, the sands around the Solshrum forest was their depository, the product of their powerful digestion on the resilient spores of the fungus. The ever thrifty Ghaar-Ket also found that they could refine their waste into glass and other crafts that they traded in the distant Rurt city for various goods produced locally or brought in from outside the desert. In this way, the Solshrum was a perfect place for the Ghaar-Ket. It wasn't until the Solshrums began to grow too tall, too wide, that the Ghaar-Ket realized the instability of their home. The mushrooms were hungry, but the Ghaar-Ket live long lives and reproduce slowly. Their underground hunting places began to empty as their prey recognized they were being targeted and food would perish before making it from the Rurt city of Therskarnet. The Ghaar-Ket were hungry, their home was hungry, and they were unwilling to sacrifice their race for the survival of the Solshrum forest. And so, the Ghaar-Ket took everything they owned, as is their custom, and left the mushroom forest behind to die under the suns of Elcart.
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