Porriha Coral

I caution most travellers to take their leave in spring, despite the hit to my revenue. And each year, some fool won't heed the warnings, and when the pollen flies I'll find them unmasked and collapsed in some courtyard corner like they're drunk after a party. But it's no amusing incident. You try tending to such fools when their entire body fights against movement.
— Füloi Staugothe, owner of the Radiant Bay Inn in Zdähazosh
Porriha Coral is a unique species found only on the island of Xörrodha and its surrounding waters. Towering over the damp craggy rocks and limestone buildings, they dictate the lives of all other life on the island with their sleep-inducing pollen.

Characteristics

Individual corals grow to be 4 metres tall on average, though the largest is believed to be over 20 metres in height. Formed from stony cylindrical branches, they vary in shades from oranges to reds and the rarer pinks and purples. Some form like trees and others form more like prickly bushes, sprawling to cover wide areas and grasp for sunlight and nutrients in the craggy soil.   When they are found below the waves, the tips of their branches will often peek above the surface of the water and form a hazard for passing boats. Unlike their land-based cousins, the water porriha tend to be shorter and more cool-toned, making them harder to see even for experienced sailors.
Porriha coral
Porriha Coral by Isaac Thompson
  Porriha coral is very long-lived, with some specimens confirmed to predate The Collision which facilitated their discovery, and expected to live for hundreds if not thousands of years beyond the present. They are only found on Xörrodha and its immediate surrounds, and are not found on every rock on the island - the mountainous inland is surprisingly devoid of the coral, with the stronger winds and harsher sun leaving them stunted.  
Porriha Coral on Xorrodha
Xörrodha in 'bloom' by Isaac Thompson

Reproduction

Porriha coral reproduces in two ways - through the release of 'pollen' into the air, and through splitting branches which then continue to grow wherever they land. It is the former method that gives the coral its infamy, as this pollen has the ability to cause intense fatigue in other creatures.   Porriha can release this pollen at any point throughout the year, but they most frequently do so on spring nights, showering Xörrodha in a shimmer of warm-toned particles. This pollen collects onto carrier coral, which will fertilize and facilitate the growth of new plants.

Uses

Porriha coral has a wide array of uses, though these are often localised only to Xörrodha and the nearest shores of mainland Thurásin.   Due to its vibrant colours and its rarity, Porriha coral fragments can be found in the jewellery of the rich. With safe handling they can be turned into beads for necklaces and bracelets, or carved into more solid pieces. These are almost always coated with a layer of resin or lacquer to prevent any sleeping properties while in use, though it is not unheard of for more dastardly individuals to acquire unlacquered jewellery for nefarious purposes.   The exhaustion caused by the Porriha 'pollen' and coral can be harnessed productively in certain circumstances. Notably, a Porriha powder can be found throughout Xörrodha as an anaesthetic. Most medicines come from crushed coral plants, as these keep their sleep-inducing properties longer. Pollen-derived medicines can be used, being far more potent but fading faster.   These properties can be completely ignored if Porriha coral is used as a building material, which only occurs on Xörrodha. In this instance, coral chunks are boiled in pots and vats to kill off all the sleep-inducing organisms, simultaneously bleaching the coral into a bright white material similar to limestone. It can then be crushed and the powder used to create bricks or cement. A downside of using coral limestone in construction is that it weathers easily in the rain, and as such many buildings on Xörrodha need to be repaired annually or after substantial storms to prevent collapse.
Cliff city town limestone
Cliffside Town by Sebastien

Worth

Being entirely unique to the island of Xörrodha, pieces of Porriha Coral can be sold for high prices to distant lands, with its brilliant colouration and rarity being the main draws. It is at least partly for this purpose that the dangerous coral forests are ever braved, in order to collect more coral for selling, medicine, and manufacturing, as well as to clear land for more houses on the island.   Despite this, many on the mainland do not see holding the island as being worth the hassle and pain inflicted on those who have to live there. Citizens of the Republic of Chäladom - which holds a small territory in the island's south - see very little benefit from the coral trade, and have been advocating for leaving the area.   This feeling is not echoed by those in the island's north, which is a territory held by the Kingdom of Sambogen . For the Sambogayo, holding the northern ports means influence over the many ships which travel through the strait between the island and the mainland. Putting up with some sleepy coral, especially when that coral is worth a great deal when handled correctly, seems a small price to pay.

Cures and Treatment

As of the year 39 Return, no cure or neutralisation for the effects of Porriha coral exist. Many have been suggested and tested with only minimal success. The most common of these folk-cures is milk, which needs to be imported from the mainland due to Xörrodha's inhospitable landscape for cows. Others include consuming raw eggs or eating small amounts of crushed coral with meals to build up an immunity to its effects, the latter of which is not recommended.   While the sleep cannot be instantaneously reversed through medicinal means, there are still many ways to treat those afflicted with the exhaustion. Among those is a strong focus on rest, warmth, and hearty food, similar to how you would treat a fever or strong cold. If it is not pollen season and it is safe to do so, getting them fresh air is highly recommended. If they are healthy enough to travel, removing them from the island entirely is often not a bad idea either, as residual pollen in the environment is likely to affect them more than their healthy compatriots.  

Long Term Health Effects

Provided someone receives quick care and was not exposed to much pollen, a full and total recovery can be expected. For those caught maskless for longer, or who have other conditions, chronic exhaustion after exposure to pollen is very common, or more extreme symptoms like intermittent paralysis and unconsciousness. One thing all those afflicted with the pollen have in common is susceptibility to its effects in future, making masking or departure from Xörrodha more important than for others. Even for those who never experience the "full" effects of Porriha pollen, people from Xörrodha are notorious for being early to bed and late to rise.
Porriha Coral Location
Range of Porriha Coral by Isaac Thompson
Other Names
Bringers of Death, Darl Ünmirn
Average Height
3 - 4 metres
Average Length
5 - 6 metres
Geographic Distribution

Island Fashion

In order to protect themselves from the Porriha 'pollen', residents of the island have developed many strategies. While the most obvious is to leave for the mainland during spring, this is not possible for the majority of people, especially those whose work cannot be done off the island. For those who remain, staying inside is very common, but if they must leave the house, covering your face is recommended.
Hijab woman
Woman by Chermiti Mohamed
This largely takes two forms - coverings made entirely out of lengths of the fabric arranged in such a way as to cover their mouths and noses, and those made from woods or metals that cover the entire face. The former can often be seen throughout the year, as it is easier to always have your face covered in case a coral spontaneously 'bloomed' in your vicinity, and they could be easily styled to be fashionable and comfortable.   The wood and metal masks are far less common, especially outside of Xörrodhayo springs. When they are seen it is often among the higher society who can afford to make even more elaborate ones with carvings and gemstones and even inlaid coral, and are worn either as a show of their wealth or at some kind of fancy dress or masquerade party.
Porriha Mask Xorrodha
Xörrodhayo Mask by Isaac Thompson

Traversal

Going into the coral forests is not recommended under any circumstances, and in most cases it isn't even possible to enter without a permit due to the guards and walls which exist along the perimeters of the island's two settlements.   If one must travel in the forests, there are a number of things which should be done:
  • A mask should be worn at all times
  • Do not go in alone
  • Do not stray from any of the existing pathways
  • Food and drink should only be consumed outside of the forests
  • A friend should be informed of when you have left, why, and where, so that they can notify authorities if you fail to reappear within a certain amount of time
  • Do not stop
  • Take a flare or be practised in a spell that can signal your location should anything happen
  • Do not sleep
Even the most well-prepared expeditions into the coral forests can have trouble befall them, even during winter months when there is little pollen around. Everyone on the island has a horror story.
misty forest
Forest Light by domeckopol
Swimming the coral-filled waters can be equally dangerous, as the pollen can spread even further through the water, affecting even the mainland in some rare cases. Sailing across the strait does not pose as much danger, provided sailors take care not to swallow any of the sea spray.   However, boats must face the other danger of the coral, that being running aground on its branches. In order to aid in traversal, masked 'collectors' will row through the paths from the mainland and use tools and scoops to snap branches which might pose a risk to passing ships. These collectors will also find large amounts of unconscious fish floating during pollination season, allowing for a little extra money to be earned.
Sailing Boat ship sunset peaceful
Sailing Boat by Free-Photos

Cover image: Porriha Coral Forest by Isaac Thompson

Comments

Please Login in order to comment!
19 Mar, 2021 15:24

Oh wow, this is a really fascinating entry. There are so many unique aspects to this plant, from being the first aquatic plant I read about to the effects of its spores! Going through one of these forests sounds like an absolutely chilling experience, it could make for many great scenarios. I also love the art you did for the article! Great work all around :DD!

Author of Interarcanum and the Shakiraverse
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
26 Mar, 2021 12:13

That's such a great plant! Creepy coral! And great illustrations.   I love the details about the influence the coral has on fashion!   A few comments:   "as it was easier to always have your face covered in case a coral spontaneously 'bloomed' in your vicinity" should be "is" instead of "was"   I like the idea of the expedition in the coral forest! That sounds indeed perfect for a horror story! You could add a quick quote related to that. Is there even any reason people would want to risk going through the forest?   You mention consequences for the islands, but no the sea. Is there any effects for the boats? Do people do any fishing at all? How dangerous is it for boats to come from the mainland and how often can they do that?   I like the idea of the jewellery. Is there ever any faulty lacquering? I imagine that some discreet "accidents" could happen this way…   Is there any long term consequences on health for breathing the pollen? How many times on average the inhabitant slip and breath the pollen? I imagine it must happen to all children at least once…   Also I'm wondering why people would make the effort of staying on that island given the danger and what's the size of their population. You also mention travellers in the introduction quotes. Is there a lot of them? Do they all just come to look at the coral and then die while walking in the forest? XD   That's probably not the case, but I love the idea of some predators having develop an immunity to the coral… but then there is probably not enough prey on the island to sustain them…

6 Apr, 2021 08:50

Thank you so much for the lovely comment! It took me a little bit to get around to, but I've added answers to a few of the questions! I didn't answer all of them, since I think some bits might be better suited to an article about the island/its towns rather than the coral, but they've given me a lot to think about that I know will make those articles even better when I get around to them! Thank you again ^v^

Writer of Tiyu Amara, and friendly discord moderator!
26 Mar, 2021 15:01

This really is a very interesting entry. It must be quite beautiful and horrifying to go into that forest. The art you added here is very nice as well. I like how the citizens in the region are forced to wear masks and have used it as a defining feature of their fashion. But most of all the fact that visitors refuse to wear masks hits close to the current reality xp

Feel free to check out my costume entry. :)
8 Apr, 2021 23:11

I love the illustrations. They remind me of a storybook! <3 Really fascinating species.I like how you've woven the culture in around the pollen blooms. :)

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
11 Apr, 2021 10:02

Idiots not using masks when needed... -,-   I really like the sound of this, and I can imagine this whole big expedition to go into a forest and harvest a lot. I imagine in modern times they'd wear scuba-gear for it.

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young   Costume Challenge Entry: As Superpowered troops on an alien planet, the Battle Spears wear a uniform capable of handling all they face
13 Apr, 2021 15:12

Hey Isaac!   Your coral creation is one of my top favourites for the peculiar plant challenge. The use of pollen to induce sleep is relatively straight forward/simple but that's not what makes your article shine. Your use of the plant to shape an entire culture in behaviour, business, and art is excellently done. I really like how you've incorporated masks into the culture (it's a nice distinctive feature) while also enabling it to showcase nuance within society by embedding economic disparity into their use. Great 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.
13 Apr, 2021 15:45

I really like your article, having a coral that grows on land and in the sea is interesting. I just love how you described the various different uses and effects of it, and how it influences the people living there. Walking through the forests seems to be a big challenge and could make for an interesting story and/or adventure by itself. And of course I also love the art you did!