Storm mushrooms

Table of Contents

The name storm mushrooms in fact designs a variety of closely related species of fungi. All of them are undistinguishable from each other from the outside and grow intermingled together. They are famous for their location as well as for the unique properties of their toxins.  

Habitat and adaptation

Storm mushrooms live in the Orage Mountains which are subject to violent magical storms. As all lifeforms in the mountains, they have had to adapt to their dangerous magic. They do this by growing their mycelium in the centre of strong magical currents, allowing them to directly take the magical particles that they need from it and using it to form a protective metal-lipid layers on the surface of the mycelium.   Growing inside the current expose the mushrooms to strong amount of magic already, however their growth in the direction of the current offers them partial protection. In addition, the protective layer at their surface is able to store excessive amount of magic so as to protect the mushroom.


Lightning in the middle of dark clouds
A magical storm by Johannes Plenio


"My lady, I am afraid that the healer has not been able to do help. If anything, your son has worsened after the examination and all the magic to which he has been exposed."   Lady Miresse clenched her fists against the embrasure of the window, keeping her face turned towards the outside so as to hide her distress from the servent. She did not have to wait long to be left alone. All of them were avoiding her nowadays.   She exhaled slowly. All healers, local or not, had been consulted. Today had been her last chance with a southerner smuggled in at high expensive despite the wars going on. Everyone in the Estate and the neighbouring ones were talking, saying she should have given up a long time ago and that it was just a waste.   If a son of hers was stupid enough to catch a peasant disease, she should just give up on him and make a new child. Deficient children were just a drag on the Estate's expense and her attention. A weak spot in her own armour that many were only too happy to exploit.   Well, all those imbeciles may have easily given up under similar circumstances, but she was not one of them! A cure did not exist? It was only a question of inventing it.   And as her eyes lifted once again to the Orage Mountains looming above her Estate, she knew just where to look for it.


This storage already occurs in normal circumstances, with the excesses from the currents going there, but it is also increased during magical surges such as storms. Those indeed trigger the contraction of the protective layer, preventing all magic from going through to the mycelium. Once a storm has ended, the layer relaxes and the magic of the currents can reach the mycelium again.   This allows the mycelium to gain the energy it needs without having to expose itself to the dangers of the storm or without having to deal with the complications of having a mechanism able to both store the magic of the storm while still being able to release afterwards like the prickly sparks have.  

Mycelium

The mycelium feed from the minerals in the rocks surrounding them. It grows deep underground and forms complex networks, with all species of storm mushrooms interweaving together and forming special connection nods that are thought to allow for the transmission of information. Such mushrooms are considered to be "associated" together. The degree of sentience of the mushroom is unknown since their means of communication are so foreign to humans.
Map of the Empire of the Covenant
The Empire of the Covenant is a millennia-old federal empire spread over a whole continent and gathering around 600 independent Estates. Those are ruled by powerful mages, lords and ladies who are the Heads of their Houses and who are linked to the ancestral magic of their Lands. Estates are divided by their affilitation with the Light or Dark political factions.   See Geography, Climate and Demography of the Empire and Political Organisation of the Empire.


"No one has come back from the last expedition, my lady."   Lady Miresse hissed at the servant's judgmental tone. Not only had she to put up with incompetency, but now insolence was added to the mix?   "Very well." They all shivered at the iciness of her tone though their faces appeared relieved at what they presumed to be her giving up. Damn them all.   "It appears that if I want something to be done correctly, I need to do it myself. Send words to the army to stand ready to depart in one hour and have ten cows with silk ballots attached to their back ready to accompany us."   She left before anyone had the time to take in what she intended to do and to protest. Her bedrooms were empty when she rushed in, but she did not bother calling for her maid. She threw the doors of the wardrobe opened and went directly for what she needed: her silk armour.   Her hands stroked the embroideries that covered the external layer, checking for any catch in the delicate threads. It had been a long time since she had worn it. A long time since anyone or anything had dare come into her way. And now all the life she had built with her bare hands starting from the lower order of society was about to crumble because a miserable insect had bitten her precious Lucien...   Her fists clenched on the clothes and her lips pulled back in an ugly grimace. She had ripped the Estate from its previous owner's hands. Had forced all of its inhabitants to bow to her and respect her. Even the senate had had to reckon with her skills and iron will. No mere disease would stand in her way.   One hour later, she was standing tall and impressive in front of her men, glaring at those still rushing to finish carrying out her orders. All of them avoided her eyes and shivered at the glorious sight of her, undoubtedly recalling exactly what she had done while standing on the opposite side of a battlefield.   When she ordered them to march forwards into the mountain, nobody dare emit any kind of protest despite everyone living in the region knowing it was suicidal.   The walk was short and made under tense silence. Even the cows did not dare go against her will. And soon, they were all standing at the foot of the first mountains. Contrary to her men, she did not bother with looking around in fear for potential predators. She would survive any attack.   "Set up the wards and stand in close formation! As soon as you are ready, we will slit the throat of the first cow."   Everyone rushed in to rise the wards and put themselves behind a minimum amount of protections. Yet, before the y were finished, the first buzzing sounded out loudly in the oppressive silence of the valley. Everyone froze.   Lady Miresse exhaled slowly and called all of her magic to the surface. If they had any hope of surviving this, she would once again need to do everything herself. She thrust her magic towards the half-raised wards to roughly power them up without any regards for their delicate working. They sprang around them just in time to intercept their first assailants.   A loud crash against the dome of the wards made a loud bell noise rang through the valley. This was not warning enough however, for it was soon followed by a dozen more. And then even more of them until the entire dome was covered in blue bodies, the noise cacophonous noise deafening them all.   Prickle sparks. The most dangerous living creature in the Orage Mountains. And that was saying something.
 
Prickly spark header
A prickly spark by AmélieIS
 
Lady Miresse struggled to maintain the wards up under the continuous assault. She clenched her teeth and glared at all the little bastard testing her. The soldiers accompanying her finally reacted and finished their job. As soon as the ward was properly settled, the strain against her relaxed. Marginally.   But her life was in her hands. Lucien's life. She refused to show any weakness and stayed standing with her back straight and her chin lifted. The insects were as long as her forearm and had impressive mandibles that could cut through flesh, looking like some perverted blue bees out of a nightmare, but she would show them who should be afraid.   Time went by incredibly slowly. The insects relayed themselves on the wards, continuing their assaults. Their blue bodies sparkled with bioluminescence every time the magic hit them.   Finally, after more than hour, the assault relented. An hour longer and most of the insects had grown tired of them and left. As all reports had suggested, only youngsters, recognisable by their smaller size, inexperienced with humans, had stayed behind out of curiosity.   Lady Miresse gathered all of her courage and dropped the wards.   The insects rushed at her and she let her protections sprang back up. They crashed once again straight on them. A few minutes went by before they retreated and she attempted to drop them again.   They went through the process a few times before the sparks learnt that she was no easy prey. The next time she dropped them they did not react. Good. Next step.   She reached with her magic towards one of them, and seize it as if directing an invisible hand. But delicately, so as to not hurt it. She needed them compliant. She focused on the idea of dead cows and pretty silk, then on drawing of rare mushrooms and plants from her books. Getting the images across was not easy, and she could not be sure she had been understood given that the sparks had to have a different type of vision from humans. Still, she had to make the attempt.   When she released the spark, the insect continued to buzz in the air where it was before it did an excited somersault and buzzed some more as if speaking to its siblings. Then it came towards the humans, stopped, and moved away towards the mountain, stopped again to turn back towards them. Well, the message was clear.   Lady Miresse raised a quick shield over herself to prevent surprised attack and made to follow the sparks. All of her soldiers rushed to imitate her, dragging the cows behind them after also putting some shield over them.   An hour walk into the forest and the spark stopped at a point that had nothing to distinguish it from any other place. Grass, moss, a few low bushes. Lady Miresse walked forwards slowly. Her breath caught when with her next step she disturbed the grass enough to reveal a few small white caps.   Storm mushrooms.


Fruiting body

For their vast size spanning kilometres, a group of associated storm mushrooms have minuscule fruiting bodies, with a unique area of less than one metre of diameter circle containing a few of them. They generally form several small clusters of a half a dozen to a dozen mushrooms within the circle they occupy, with several species of storm mushroom inside each cluster.   The fruiting bodies are extremely small, at a maximum one centimetre in height, and so they hide very well in the grass. All of them are a greyish cream colour. Their cap is as wide as they are tall and it is almost completely flat.   The gills of the mushrooms are extremely thin and have an almost fibrous consistency. Because of the shape of the cap, they are partially exposed to the winds. This allows the spores to easily be carried away during storms despite the tiny size of the mushrooms themselves and the grass partially hiding them. The stem is thin but very flexible and strong, allowing the mushroom to bend in the wind rather than snap.   The fruiting body does not contain any protective layer contrary to the mycelium, and so it is shredded by the violence of the storms. No fruiting body can survive more than a couple of storms before being destroyed.  

Reproduction

When the magic-sensing organ present at the base of the stem warns the fungi that a storm is oncoming, spores are produced and brought to the surface of the gills. They are then released during the storm and carried through the mountains.   Being hit by magical lightning is essential to allow for germination as this triggers a change in the conformation of their enzymes and renders them active. Spores that have been thusly activated grow a characteristic purple colour that has slightly different taint depending on the exact species of storm mushrooms—the only difference that exists between them.


Storm mushrooms among grass by AmélieIS



A storm mushroom releasing spores by AmélieIS


"Should we crunch the mushroom and mix them into an elixir, my lady?"   Lady Miresse sent an offended look at the imbecile. "Of course not, are you mad? Some of them are bound to be highly toxic. No, what we need is test subjects."   Everyone gave her uncertain looks. What lack of imagination they had.   "Our dear neighbours have been sending us threats, have they not? Trying to take advantage of the situation to renegade on our trade deals. I think it is high time we give them a little visit..."


The spores settle on the ground but rarely get to germinate and form new mycelium. For this to occur, the metal content in the soil and the magic currents need to be exactly right. Once a mycelium grows, the conditions for a fruiting body to appear are not fully understood. Of the many mycelia discovered underground, few had fruiting bodies. It is thought that a combination of age and certain triggers in the magical currents results in their formation.  

Toxins

Each individual species of storm mushroom is specialised in the production of a specific toxin in their stem and cap, with the spores carrying the same toxins in a highly diluted form. The intermingling of the different storm mushroom species allows them to defend themselves against a wide range or predators.   Storm mushrooms are highly valued in all the Estates located around the Orage Mountains, as some of those toxins can be used in extremely powerful medicines or elixirs to kill diseases and parasites. However, other toxins will kill human who ingested them in a variety of horrible ways, including slow suffocation, the destruction of all nerves or the melting of the body from the inside.


Lady Miresse's hands shook as held her son's head up to make him swallow the elixir. The prisoner had survived. She had to remember this. He had survived and so would Lucien.   She pressed her hand against his throat and massage delicately, not daring to use her magic to help him swallow. All of his reactions to any type of magic had been bad, it would be too stupid to kill him now.   Nothing immediately happened after he swallowed the elixir and she could only put the flask to the side and clench his hand between hers. He had to survive. The prisoner did.   Murmurs erupted behind her and she bristled and shouted at the damn servants to leave. Of course it would take longer to work! Her son had been weakened for months.   Finally, finally, Lucien's eyelids quivered. "Mum?" he murmured hoarsely.   She let the tears she had been holding back for months fell freely.



If you want to read more about Lady Merisse's story, you can go here:  


Cover image: Storm mushrooms among grass by AmélieIS

Comments

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13 Dec, 2021 00:02

I would not want to make her angry. I am glad she was able to save her son. Hopefully he grows into a good person? Hopefully.

Lead Author of Vazdimet.
Necromancy is a Wholesome Science.
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
13 Dec, 2021 09:55

Oh I haven't really thought about the son XD But I'll certainly put Lady Miresse in some of my other articles since I had fun with her so Lucien might make another apparition too :D   Thanks for the comment!

To see what I am up to:WE list of articles and goals.
13 Dec, 2021 13:45

There's a great story as an undercurrent to this article. Obviously I love the mushroom and your descriptions of it, but I loved reading the story too! :D

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
13 Dec, 2021 16:30

Thanks! I'm glad to hear that since I intend to bring Lady Miresse back in some other articles :D

To see what I am up to:WE list of articles and goals.
Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
26 Jan, 2022 15:34

Oooo more mushrooms! I really enjoyed the read. For some reason, I cant recall reading articles that depict flora and fauna adapting to magical environments. I'm impressed. It's an excellent touch, adds a sense of realism, and also a sense of wonder cause it makes me consider possibilities that never occurred to me before. How would flora in such an environment adapt to grow? What interesting traits would they develop? The way they can indicate an approaching storm, the medicinal qualities as well as the other side of the coin depicting what really seems like a painful and horrifying way to die.   The story is also a nice touch and helps touch on everything the article discusses. It further enhances the article as opposed to just using the worldbuilding in practice. Just well done!

Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
30 Jan, 2022 10:48

Thanks a lot for the comment!   Your own articles really inspired me a lot with the way I used stories inside my article and the continuing story of Lady Merisse :D   I've touched a bit more about adaptation of the flora and fauna to the storms in my magical storms article. It's definitely the biologists and chemists in me that came out with all of that XD

To see what I am up to:WE list of articles and goals.
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