Federation-Apocalypse Session 183b – With an Order of Mushrooms

Fungus on Fungus

The classical version was prettier...

The seas were otherwise calm, and the wind was blowing in a favorable quarter – but about six hours into the journey it seemed that one of the crewman had fallen overboard.

He was still visible at least – but he was… swimming off into the distance?

That was STUPID!

(Kevin, to the Thralls) “Fish him out again! If he wants to go and isn’t a spy, he needs a small boat! If he’s a spy, we may still want to let him go, but we want to know who he’s spying for!”

It wasn’t like they didn’t have a dozen different ways to fish him out. The way he frantically struggled to get back into the water again was a little disconcerting though. What, had someone thrown a spell on him to turn him aquatic?

(Marty) “What’s up wolfy?

(Wolf) “It smells so good! I must have it! You can’t keep me away from that sweet, sweet aroma! You just want it all to yourself!”

Well, that was an interesting local variant on the old ‘Sirens’ routine!

(Marty) “Noseplugs for everybody!”

(Cook) “Are you insinuating that my food has given everyone indigestion?! Well, I never!”

(Marty) “No! Angkor can explain.”

(Kevin/Angkor) “Nope! That someone is trying to lure you all into drowning yourselves with supernaturally-enticing odors!”

(Cook, doubtfully sniffing the air) “Hmm, I must say that is an enticing aroma………”

(Marty, who could not cook) “Oh no you don’t!”

Kevin threw a mass noseplugs spell!

Raphael started holding his breath until he was sure that he wouldn’t get hit!

OK, there would have been a serious flaw with that plan if Kevin HADN’T promptly gone with the noseplugs solution – but the kid was pretty predictable sometimes.

Still, after a few hours, the odor would saturate their clothes, food, and supplies. That was going to be a headache later unless the effect was short-term or something (in which case it might be a boon to trade).

Marty tried pleasure magic. Cleaning was definitely on the fringe of the field, but it had to be there… He whipped up a large-area deodorizing spell – even if it did leave everything lemon scented.

Raphael went with the mind-magic again – some psychic void spells to negate the compulsion.

That didn’t work entirely – it was pretty strong – but it neatly handled what got past Marty and the Noseplugs.

Kevin had some of the Thralls in dolphin-form take a look; they were already immune to most compulsions induced through the senses – and it couldn’t be affecting dolphins much anyway because, if it did, (1) they’d be there from all over the seas, and (2) they had very little sense of smell anyway.

The Thralls reported the presence of some sort of vegetative mass the size of a small island floating in the waters. It looked like the usual sea life was avoiding the thing. Tentacles or roots reached down below it, and disappeared into the murky depths below.

They also reported a faintly repugnant scent.

A giant venus fly-trap from another realm? Or just a rare native species? If it was THIS effective it would be really hard for the locals to figure out what caused the occasional disappearances…

Kevin had the Thralls try communicating; after all, it might have some kind of mind!

More of a floating forest. There were quite a lot of little minds – but nothing at all advanced. The scent seemed to be coming from a fungal growth on top of the thing. The largest mushroom was over twenty feet tall and had a strange orange mist about itself.

Underneath it there were a lot of slowly-crumbling bones… sailors and birds mostly.

Marty had to wonder… Was the whole setup symbiotic? Would it attack them if they tried to chop the fungus off? Would the roots will pop up to strangle them? He remembered how the Truffle hunt had gone back home! 80% casualties! Those oak trees could be brutal!

The longest available “pole” to poke it with was a line-of-sight forcebolt spell – even if it was a rather weak one.

Hmm… The roots didn’t seem to react much beyond swaying in the currents. The vegetative mass responded by bunching up and releasing some sort of clear gel. The fungus responded via the release of more orange haze.

They talked Raphael into testing the gel and the haze and various other samples. He was a general scientist, and a biologist, and an arcanist, and who knew what all…

Well, presumably he did – but with a divination mage, it was really hard to tell what he was an expert on besides “knowing stuff”.

It looked like… the root system was an odd form of a sulfur-breathing creature anchored to a volcanic vent. The top vegetative portion appeared to be a combination of symbiotic plant species doing nitrogen fixation and other species that captured animals for additional nutrients. The root system for the plant was intermingled with the roots coming from below with significant nutrient exchange going on. The fungus is more of a parasitic organism that had infected the plants on top and was busily breaking the plants down into food for itself, and in the process was using it’s spores to lure in potential compost.

Removing the fungus wouldn’t harm the plant, and the funguses only major defense mechanisms were it’s attractive and sophoric scent and highly-addictive tissues. Damage would cause it to release more spores, but that was fairly easily dealt with.

That really was quite interesting! There could be a wide variety of commercial uses… Perfume, foods, and more!

Of course, it might well be magical enough to only work when it’s alive and it would have to be carefully sealed in airtight containers or else shipboard productivity would plummet.

It looked like they’d have to rid the forest of some parasitic fungus. Of course, the spores were all over the place… They’d have to decontaminate the fleet after this – and the crews too; it might be able to grow on or in them too.

Hrm. Highly attractive smelling mushroom zombies?

As far as eating them went… that “addictive” bit WAS a problem. Worse, Marty suspected that these were not like BBW mushrooms, which often DID heal you or grant special powers for a bit!

Sadly, the psychological and physiological effects ranged from stupor to depression and a weakened immune system.

Drat!

(Marty) “Hey, I think Jenkins’ ex took that one for weeks after the divorce! You don’t want that in you.”

(Raphael) “Well, now that we have decided to get rid of the fungus, how do we get rid of the fungus?”

(Kevin) “Rain of fungicide? Transform a few local bugs to eat it right up?”

(Raphael) “Wait!! it’s a parasite; giant heal spell?”

(Kevin, rather doubtfully) “Well, it is a single infection-organism…”

(Raphael) “It’s growing on two other plants, and there’s no land there for it to root in other than the rotting corpses it has gathered… Still, bugs might be the better option; that will keep working if the spores make another – and doesn’t take nearly as much magic.”

Huh! Raphael didn’t seem to have ANY idea how much work making species could be! It took HOURS!

For a moment, Raphael suddenly found Kevin looking doubtful a little frightening… What if he took this as a reason to suddenly revise the world again? He was NOT stitching reality back together twice in one day!

Well, at least he didn’t want to have to try!

Marty had to agree there. He suspected that they hadn’t yet sailed out of the radius of Kevin’s FIRST major magical act on this voyage!

Bugs it was!

For a moment, Kevin had an impulse to create a giant moth creature designed to eat anything vaguely looking like a mushroom – and to battle any giant lizard creatures that might be roaming around – but that passed quickly.

Of course, things might easily warp a bit after they left. That kind of thing DID happen, and Pirate Mothra (and, for that matter, Ninja Godzilla) had both been mentioned on occasion… And it WOULD do wonders to disrupt Otter shipping!

Everyone else’s too though – and they’d probably done enough of that for one day.

Kevin settled for a variant on ladybugs that could easily digest these particular mushrooms, trace them by scent, breed effectively, and to slow up (eating far smaller amounts of other fungi) – or even drop into hibernation – when the supply of their preferred fungus ran down.

That just used magic, no mana, and so wouldn’t distort the local reality again.

Marty and Raphael kept a few carefully-contained fungus samples for further investigation and possible commercial use, but let the bugs have the rest. Marty felt that – between Escrima and Kadia – there had to be some way to make it profitable and safe as a perfume or something.

It took an hour or two before Kevin was happy with his bugs anyway.

After that… It was cleaning and scrubbing the ships and crew. Fortunately the Thralls had their smartclothes to help filter it out and were at last finding that immunity to sensory-based mind control coming in handy. So was Raphael’s endless supply of Unseen Servants…

And the fleet continued southward.

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