Anyone who works underground, miners in particular, fear an outbreak of Ash Lung above all other things and all are taught to recognise and hate the Grey Globe Mushroom that produces the spores that cause so much pain and misery. People who live in mining focused communities such as Kazskmal in Minid Province have all known friends or loved ones who have died coughing up dry clouds of grey dust, which is all that is left as their lungs are devoured by the fungus’ spores.
Ash Lung is caused by spores released from Grey Globe Mushroom, which when inhaled attach themselves to damp, warm lung tissue. It is the actions of these spores which cause all of the symptoms of the disease, as the spores literally suck all of the moisture from the patients lungs and break down the lung tissue into the grey powdery substance that is coughed up and gives the ailment its name. Because Ash Lung is spread by spores, it is possible for a single affected individual to spread the disease to more people, but this spread is not caused by humanoid to humanoid transmission from spores already in patient 1’s lungs, but is always through the later inhalation of spores that have landed on a person’s clothes, hair or equipment.
The initial symptoms of Ash Lung are relatively unworrying, beginning with a slight shortness of breath and a cough that refuses to go away. After a few days, the sense of breathlessness will increase, a heavy sensation will develop in the chest, in the area of the lungs, and the coughing will become worse. Patients will begin coughing up mucus that is a grey colour, which will swiftly become drier and drier as the disease progresses until small plumes of dry grey, dusty material, the ‘ash’ that gives the ailment its name are coughed up. Once a patient begins coughing up ‘ash’, either wet or dry the area of the lungs will begin to become incredibly painful and breathing will become more difficult and painful. Eventually a patient will begin to suffer from oxygen deprivation and unless treated will die as their lungs are destroyed by the Grey Globe Mushroom spores.
Research conducted amongst the ruins of the Lost Civilisation of Zastral by the continent's Imperial Colonies has thankfully revealed a cure for Ash Lung that is now exported across Kelbonnar. It has been discovered that the blood Yellow Cave Creeper, a large predatory reptile that dwells within the caverns and tunnels beneath Zastral when ingested proves an effective cure for the disease. The discovery was made thanks to a happy accident. A member of an expedition noticed that the drying Yellow Cave Creeper blood on their sword, left there by an encounter en route to the ruins complex the expedition was investigating , bore a striking resemblance to a dry, yellow powdery substance found in the remains of what was thought to be an apothecary’s shop or doctor’s surgery. Upon the expedition’s return to Port Belliotrix, further study of both the blood and the discovered powder confirmed that they were indeed the same thing, and after trials on patients, most of whom were unfortunately unaware that they were being used as guinea pigs, the powder was found to cure even the most dire cases of Ash Lung. Hunting parties now operate all over Zastral, seeking out Yellow Cave Creeper and harvesting their blood, which is then dried and shipped out to the rest of the Empire, especially to places such as Kazskmal, where the predominance of mining based industries means that there is a high percentage of Ash Lung cases.
If treated at any stage with Yellow Cave Creeper blood, Ash Lung can be cured, but depending on how far advanced the depredation of the lungs is, a patient might still not recover fully, and some will still die if their lungs are unable to absorb enough oxygen.
Patients who receive treatment in the later stages of the disease are likely to suffer from shortness of breath for the rest of their lives, along with increased receptibility to other respiratory diseases.
The only way to ensure that an outbreak of Ash Lung is prevented is to clear underground areas of Grey Globe Mushrooms, or to avoid caverns and tunnels with the fungus in them all together. If an individual is exposed to a spore cloud, they should be taken for treatment immediately and all of their possessions, including clothes should be destroyed and their hair shaved to avoid the spread of spores from their person.
Because Ash Lung generally tends to affect miners, or other people whose professions mean they spend most of their time underground, it is generally regarded by the upper and middle sections of society as being a disease of the poor. Despite the fact that Ash Lung is spread by spores, rather than by humanoid to humanoid transmission, the predominance of cases amongst the lower sections of society is used as another way to increase class divisions and to further ostracise people not fortunate enough to be born into wealth and power from their overlords and ladies.
Ash Lung has been observed to affect any humanoid species native the to the surface of Kelbonnar, regardless of their age, health, sex or overall physical condition. However, observational evidence suggests that humanoid who are native to underground environments are not affected by Ash Lung, and theories have even been proposed by those scholars that they may even use colonies of Grey Globe Mushrooms to protect their lands from incursions from surface dwellers.