"Did you hear about Olaf? He must have brushed against the Soft Death...he says he's tired and goes home, leaves his team to keep burning the fluff. Next morning his wife wakes up screaming...he's covered in white, stone dead...his arms locked around her. Lucky we had the Mages to do the cleansing before the spores took root, so she's safe. There's nothing and no one can stand up to that creeping disease...it'd cover the whole world if it wasn't for us Scorchers. Fire's the only master the Soft Death knows!" - Scorcher by the name of Halrick
Most unlucky souls who cross paths with the fungus known as the Soft Death will never even know they had it. The fungus weakens them, releasing poisonous spores that infect the brain and cause the victim to enter a deep sleep. While the victim is unconscious the fungus will proceed to grow, filling the lungs, the intestines, the brain...eventually emerging from every orifice and coating the skin in a horrifying layer of white fuzz. Death occurs very quickly, long before the infection is apparent.
The victim will often be found insensible and fully infested. Everything and everyone exposed to the infection must either be magically cleansed and purified by the local mages, or purified in the old fashioned way, with fire.
Happily, the Soft Death's only known habitat is the Sunken Heart
, the vast, wild land that hides the ruins of the Old Capital
. Mages can lead expeditions deep into the forest to gather animal and plant specimens, as long as they keep their magical energy high and perform frequent cleansing spells to keep the party from becoming infected. Certain animals within the Sunken Heart seem to have a natural resistance to the fungus, and are sometimes hunted and procured for alchemists, who wish to see if their resistance can be transferred to humans.
Like most fungi, the Soft Death is made up of many thin, branching filaments that spring from a single fungus. When they meet another fungus, they will intertwine their filaments into a vast and tangled web that carpets every available surface as it continues to spread and create new fungi.
Growth Rate & Stages
The Soft Death can grow to cover three square feet in twenty four hours. When it is directly exposed to a food source it can grow more than three times that fast. It must be burned every day to stave off the expansion.
Dietary Needs and Habits
The Soft Death feeds off of decaying matter and warm blooded mammals, both animal and human. It also uses the corpses while the musculature is still functioning to carry its spores to find more food.
Perception and Sensory Capabilities
For reasons unknown, the fungi is sensitive to light and heat. While it can grow in direct sunlight it cannot grow well, and often builds a canopy for itself before exponentially increasing. This is why the borders of the Soft Death are constantly being burned off, as fire is extremely effective against it. It is also sensitive to certain kinds of magic, but since this is not nearly as universal a tool as fire, the studies into that aspect have been limited.