A Brief Treatise on the Mushrooms and Toad-Caps of Faedrun and Mardrun
Thomas ná Schweinitz
The role of mushrooms in the culture and cuisine of peoples across the lands cannot be understated. It seems to be a commonality amongst the Syndar, Ulven, and human populations that these small plants serve as a staple foodstuff and ritual ingredient, for reasons to be expounded on later. To this end, I have been commissioned to perform a complete survey of all surviving texts, folk knowledge, and ritual usage of these curious objects.
On the Mysteries of Mushroom Growth
At the moment, no known method exists for the organized cultivation of mushrooms, despite their similarities in edibility to plants. Different scholars have contributed their own knowledge to the problem, generally disagreeing on the exact nature of the species. De Haverland of Vandregon, in the scroll In Augmentum et Plantatio Fungos postulates that the flowering caps of mushrooms are formed on magically-active sites – places of natural mana. On the other hand, the seminal Μανιτάρια και τη γέννηση τους, by the Syndar scholar Laitenea Areasin, disagrees with this, pointing to mushrooms as an intermediate step between plants and animals, citing their tendency towards accelerated growth in decaying matter and the existence of a wispy, fragmented “root system”
A hybrid explanation is thus adapted from these – the following assumptions are made as to the nature of mushrooms.
- Based on the growth methods and taste of the flesh of the flowering mushroom, it will be assumed that they are a hybrid of plant and animal, as follows Areasin’s text.
- This hybridization requires a specific location – typically that of a magically-charged area replete with decaying matter for the carniverous plant-animal – to follow with De Haverland’s study.
- The “root system” of mushrooms is considerably more complex than Areasin allows for in her study, explaining why cultivation on the scale of grain and vines has proven impossible, yet occasional experiments bear fruit.
These assumptions, therefore, allow for a new formulation of the mushroom’s existence – suitable spots must be located before cultivation is attempted, as there is no known reliable way to determine whether or not the background mana is of sufficient quantity and purity to allow this plant to exist.
As for the success of attempts to cultivate mushrooms on a larger scale, it can only be assumed that some fluke of background mana has allowed the success of that particular growth. Their behaviour and growth patterns, therefore, lend themselves much more to the passive gathering of these plants, rather than active cultivation.
On The Four Natures and Five Shapes of Mushrooms
As the mushroom is a hybrid plant, it therefore must bear a specific nature in order to prove useful to an intelligent species. As such, we may return to Blackwell’s Animantibus Natura, which divides the natural realm into the following categories: Carniverous, Herbacious, Omniferous, Passive, Active, and Reactive. These categories form the basis for all classifications of non-thinking living matter – as mushrooms are hybrids, then the following natures are apparent:
- Carniverous-passive: the common “Waste-mushroom”, typically inedible
- Carniverous-herbacious-passive: Edible mushrooms, typically found growing on other plants.
- Carniverous-active: Mushrooms of a more active magical nature, found to be useful in the preparation of magical re-agents
- Carniverous-Reactive: Poisonous mushrooms, whose main method of survival seems to be the killing of any species which attempts to consume it.
These four natures neatly encapsulate every variety of mushroom found across the face of Faedrun and Mardrun, and so seem to be the most useful classification method. The transformation of mushrooms from one category to another is possible, but requires knowledge of the specific methods of treatment required to shift the internal mana holding these plants together into a form more agreeable with that of the consumer.
In addition, mushrooms are identified by one of five shapes, each of which tends to fall into its own category.
- The Capped Mushroom, or “Toad Stool” – term originating in Middle Richtcrag as a consequence of the military patois, these are typically mushrooms with an obvious cap and a tendency towards the Carniverous-Reactive type. “Toad” appears to be a Vandregonian Common reduction of the Richtcrag “Tod”, meaning “Death” – this has since be used to identify a New World mushroom, the Death Cap.
- The Finned Mushroom – originating from investigations of edible mushrooms, those types displaying fins on the underside of the cap are typically Carniverous-Passive or Carniverous-Herbiverous-Passive.
- The Balled Mushroom – Found growing underground or close to the ground, these mushrooms take an unusual spherical shape. Typically Carniverous-Herbivorous-Passive.
- The Climbing Mushroom – Displaying a sort of fin and radiating bark, much like the trees they prey on, these are typically Carniverous-Herbivorous-Passive.
- The Threaded Mushroom – typically displaying a small cap and an excessively long stalk, these are typically that of the Carniverous-Active variety.