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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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Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
3 Apr, 2021 12:28

Giant mushroom forest! That's a cool idea. And this is really a nice story that you've written.   Here are the notes I took while reading your article:   If the mushrooms form steps, can you theoretically manage to go to the top of the highest mushrooms?   Oh, I was just thinking that the quantity of spores produced by those mushrooms must have been enormous! That's a very cool idea to have the sand by the leftover form the spores!   Was the gigantic mushroom sentient? The way you talk about it trying to survive with the spores seems to hint at it.   Oh! Cool reveal that the mushroom were fossilised from the start.   " The mushrooms were hungry, but the Ghaar-Ket live long lives and reproduce slowly." Love this, this is very ominous. Did the mushroom start to feed on still living people before the people left? I imagine something must have happened for the people not realise how hungry the mushrooms were and what was the danger…   Could the mushrooms come back to life again if they were feed more corpses or are they definitely dead? I imagine the place could be a great horror setting…   I have some suggestions on what you could do to make your article look pretty and get more readers: you can add free stock photos of mushroom taken from very close to give the illusion they are very big. You could also add quotes with excerpt from the researchers' journals or report and from the tales of the nomad people.

To see what I am up to, my latest article is Geography of magic for the River Challenge
8 Apr, 2021 14:23

Hi Amélie! Thanks for your comment, I'm glad you enjoyed my story. To answer some of your questions: Yes! The platformed steps of the mushrooms would allow one to climb to the top of the highest shrooms. The Ghaar-Ket certainly made use of this feature when they lived there, using the higher and wider platforms for more social gathering places.   The mushrooms were sentient in a way that the people of Elcart don't really understand. Much like in our world, survival is the key to everything. Some organic beings can realize the danger they are in sooner than others and take steps to try to avoid their extinction, as is what happened with the Solshrums. The quantity of spores they created was a last ditch effort to get rooted somewhere before they died out completely, but the change of climate had too drastically affected the continent for it to help.   The mushrooms hadn't harmed any living creatures when the Ghaar-Ket realized what was happening. Rather, they understood that they couldn't continue the symbiotic relationship with the Solshrums and instead of waiting for the mushrooms to find their own way to sustain life, they decided it would be better to leave while it was still possible.   To be honest, I haven't considered the possibility of the Solshrums returning to life but it is an interesting idea!   I appreciate your interest and feedback, I agree it could use some pictures. I hadn't thought about using some stock photos, it's a good idea especially since I can't draw in the slightest. Quotes are also great, I'm sure the leader of the Ghaar-Ket's words would have a lot more power if they were written directly! Thank you!

6 Apr, 2021 16:25

The story of the mushroom forest was a nice read and well thought out! I like how the sand is actually formed by the spores. As Amélie said though it would be nice to break up the text a bit with images or quotes.

Feel free to check out my River challenge article and my Secrets in the swamp Adventure article if you want to see what I am up to!
8 Apr, 2021 11:15

Thanks Master Kefkejaco! I would love to throw in images, but I'm not much of an artist at all. Quotes aren't a bad idea though, maybe I'll go back through and input something in there about people's feelings or history. Great idea!

8 Apr, 2021 11:20

Hey Lumber, I am not much of an artist myself either :p You can always add images and credit the authors of these no worries. As long as its credited and you are not attempting to make money you should be fine I think :)

Feel free to check out my River challenge article and my Secrets in the swamp Adventure article if you want to see what I am up to!
8 Apr, 2021 14:26

That's true! I'll have a look around for what I can find. Actually I wouldn't mind paying for the art in the form of a commission, but I'm not quite ready for it yet since my world is still very young and there are much more essential things to get fleshed out before I start having work done for every type of flora and fauna.

10 Apr, 2021 19:49

Hi Lumber!   I find it quite interesting that you developed an extinct plant for the challenge; however, it works. Your mushrooms are a very interesting plant/settlement/biome. I really like how its extinction was self-inflicted by draining the resources of its surroundings, and that the very sands of the desert are the spores of their 'last ditch effort' to survive. Wonderful work!

xtremepsy | Ölütanrı
Checkout my other favourite entries to the 2021 Peculiar Plant HERE!
Feel free to read, favourite, and comment on my entry, Digivine.
11 Apr, 2021 15:41

Hi xtemepsy, thanks for your comment and I'm glad you enjoyed my writing!

11 Apr, 2021 11:41

'Rather, they are mushrooms of girth and height ranging from that of a sapling pine tree to the greatness of a redwood.'   Heck yeah, giant mushroom forest. I am here for it. :D   'They are made coarse stone ridged with cracking lines making vertically racing webs to the underbellies of the caps.'   Very interesting - along with the golden sands, it creates a very intriguing visual dynamic.   'Further investigation into these relics revealed that they were once domiciles for some race of sentient, tool wielding creatures.'   And the visual become even more intriguing. Very, very cool. :D   A very interesting, somber story on the death of a place and its desertion. Very well done :)

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
11 Apr, 2021 15:46

Hi Qurilion! First of all, thanks for your comment and I'm glad you enjoyed my story!   Giant mushroom forests have always been a really cool thing to me to read about or see in art or video games, it's a shame there aren't more of them. This wasn't the first idea I had for a mushroom forest, but it certainly might have been the most unique! Usually I imagine them fairly standard, such as in a swamp, magic forest, or deep underground.   The continent where the Solshrums can be found is a never-ending story of death and desertion, but it's also a place of birth and life, which I hope to make clear in my other works. I hope you come back to check on Elcart in the future to see what other stories I can share!

11 Apr, 2021 16:02

I'm sure I will :)

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
12 Apr, 2021 22:36

That sounds both creepy and sad, and makes me wonder if there's a way to revive them...