Treesday, 7th of Nerth, Year 3033
The party is led down into the metropolis of myconids, a place known as Myconopolis, all the while taking in the sights, smells, and sounds (though they mostly be the sound of running water) of the cavern. All around them, mushrooms clinging to the cliff faces tower above their heads, shining dreamy lights down upon them.
The banks of the streams that flow alongside them are overgrown with colorful mushrooms that Magnus deduces are psychoactive in nature but not poisonous, though the Heirophant encourages them to drink, as it is safe. The walk down to the cavern floor is arduous on their already sore calves, and many times they stop to rest as Kvothe and Magnus harvest many of the psychoactive mushrooms.
Finally giving into thirst, the party fills their empty waterskins with fresh water flowing from the many waterfalls that pour over the rock shelves and splash lower and lower into the “bowl” of the cavern.
Alonwyn, enchanted by the shining and glimmering lights of the drifting spore matter, uses an empty vial borrowed from Lilith to capture some of the faerie lights, creating for herself a makeshift lantern.
After walking to the point of nearly collapsing, having walked many miles that day already, they finally arrive at the bottom of the cavern. Peering upwards, they can see the many layers and “steps” that make up the cavern and the homes of all of the hundreds of myconids that live therein, most of which are sat in large circles or groups, eyes glassy, communing within the meld.
Nearby, the Sovereign rests motionless in meditation, like a colossal mushroom, in the center of the rippling pool. Having melded for so long, the Sovereign is covered with sprouts of fungus, mold, and toadstools that have begun growing from his stationary and hulking frame. The Heirophant explains that the Sovereign is deep within the meld along with much of myconid colony, and is unable to communicate outside of the meld without being drawn out of meditation by someone inside the meld.
Kvothe immediately volunteers to enter the meld to converse with the Sovereign, but is confused as to how to meld with the myconids. The Heirophant instructs him to be seated, then reaches out, sending a cloud of melding spores into Kvothe’s nostrils, which mentally links him with the rest of the colony.
Kvothe, having closed his eyes before melding, opens his eyes to the most incredible, vibrant, and unbelievable sight he has ever seen. Within the meld, many realities overlap, creating a physically impossible and reality-bending existence within the minds of all of those bound together in the meld. Kvothe sees endless imaginations and worlds around him, existing in all of them separately and simultaneously. After having his mind blown by the plethora of sights, sounds, and colors, Kvothe focuses to see many myconids living out fantasies and lives beyond the subterranean cave existence they possess – many myconids dancing in the sun, something they could never do in reality; existing as other creatures; discussing philosophy and the meaning of life and existence itself; exploring their lost homeland, a place they cannot return to or find.
The overwhelmed druid realizes he can experience anything he wants within the meld, and suddenly is standing within the forest he calls home, Dankwood, long before it fell to the plague of undeath that claimed it. Seeing his sacred forest in its untainted, pure form almost brings a tear to his eye. As soon as a single thought to the plague enters his mind, the forest begins to decay and rot, and horrors spring up from the earth. The zombies begin crawling and clamoring towards him, claws reaching for the terrified elf. Clearing his mind and gaining control, the apparitions disappear, and the forest returns to its pure state.
A deep, slow, chthonic voice booms in Kvothe’s ears, remarking on the darkness that has claimed his home. Kvothe turns to see the Sovereign, in all his massiveness, standing at his side and surveying the forest. Kvothe asks the Sovereign if he can help him and his friends, but that he would need to exit the meld in order to speak to the others.
Upon saying this, Kvothe emerges from the meld, opening his eyes within the cavern again. The others watch as the Sovereign’s eyes glow with light once again, and he stands up, shaking the fungus and mold growths from his body and stretching his colossal limbs. The Sovereign vocalizes within their minds, asking what the party seeks from the myconids.
After hearing about the Bleeding Tooth, the Sovereign repeats what the Heirophant explained, saying that the myconids can use their numbers and reach to locate the rare mushroom. The Sovereign offers the party food and drink, noticing that they are hungering and thirsting greatly after a long journey. A few myconids bring the party mushroom caps filled with water, as well as fungal plates covered in various types of “food” – a sort of salad, made up of gooey, fermented grass and plants; an array of insect larva, grubs, worms, and bugs; and a plate of various common, edible mushrooms, which are actually quite tasty.
Korag-Gora, staring at the “food” with disgust, pulls out his rations and begins eating. Lilith forces one of the worms into her mouth, feeling it explode into goo on her tongue, barely manages to keep herself from vomiting. Kvothe focuses on the salad, finding it to his liking. Magnus picks at the mushrooms, and throws the grubs at Korag-Gora, who shoves a grub into the halfling’s unwilling mouth. Alonwyn, praying, purifies the food and does her best to force it down.
Alistair, watching the others eat, is reminded more of his hunger for souls, and feels an intense desire to consume. Alistair turns to the Sovereign and says he is sorry for what he is about to do. He then brandishes one of his sickles, and begins swinging wildly at one of the myconids nearby, who is taken entirely by surprise. Alonwyn sees this, and, screaming out at him, dives into Alistair and knocks him down. The sickle’s blade still drags across the flesh of the myconid, tearing open the creature and causing sappy ooze to drip out of the wound.
Unable to feast on the soul, Alistair is enraged. Kvothe and Korag-Gora jump into action, attempting to detain the enraged revenant. Korag-Gora gets him into a bear hug, but Alistair, muttering an eldritch spell, suddenly dissipates into mist, reappearing nearby and walking away from the group. Completely exhausted and realizing the magnitude of his actions, Alistair collapses to the floor of the cavern in a stupor. Korag-Gora retrieves Alistair, tying him up completely with his length of rope, making sure he won’t be able to speak as well. Alonwyn touches the wounded myconid, channeling the divine to heal the innocent creature, which thanks her.
Kvothe speaks to the Sovereign, apologizing for the actions of Alistair and asking how soon we can find the Bleeding Tooth mushroom. The Sovereign explains that all of the party must meld together to find it, but that after the actions of Alistair, they must prove their trustworthiness by helping them with the aggressive gnomes. Disappointed, the party realizes they are no closer to finding the object of their quest, and begins preparing to sleep, entirely exhausted from the events of the day.
Lilith does her best to remember what time it is, but having been underground so long, she is unable to ascertain what time it actually is. Surrounded by the gentle glow of the mushroom lights, the strange haze of the fungal spores, and the whisper of many waterfalls and streams, the party make their beds and begin to drift off to sleep. Kvothe rejoins the myconids within the meld, and spends his time conversing with them about many topics and subjects. Barkley, ever-hungry, dreams of leftover beef.
Windsday, 8th of Nerth, Year 3033
The individuals sleep for what feels like an eon, waking up and falling back asleep again as if time itself were stood still within the cavern. A long time passes before everyone awakens for good, and no one knows what time it actually is.
Alistair remains subdued by the ropes, and is unable to utter a spell to escape, but begs and pleads to be released. Korag-Gora eventually relents, but only after taking Alistair’s sickles and making him swear he will not pull that kind of behavior again. Alistair apologizes to the “bobs” and everyone else, feeling much remorse over his actions. Korag-Gora mounts the sickles to the top of his shield, out of Alistair’s reach, and gives him a look that says he will have to earn them back.
Magnus urinates freely, which fascinates the Heirophant, who remarks on the similarity between the halfling’s genitalia and a mushroom.
The Heirophant, still lucid, unlike the Sovereign and most of the other myconids, begins guiding the party away from the central cloister of the cavern and the Sovereign’s pool. The Heirophant explains that there are two paths to the gnomes – either above ground, which will take a good while longer, or through a subterranean passage, which has been booby-trapped by the gnomes and has a high likelihood of killing them. After much arguing and debate, they elect to go above ground and avoid the deadly traps.
The Heirophant takes them back up through a new winding path that climbs the many rock shelves and twists through forests of toadstools and fungus, into a tunnel below a tumbling waterfall, a passage that apparently leads to the surface nearer to where the gnomes will be found. The passage inclines for many hours, and during the trip, the party is greeted with many familiar sights of melding myconids and glowing mushrooms. Magnus stabs a fungal bat out of boredom, but the Heirophant restores it to life using revival spores.
Eventually, they come to the surface, finding a similar opening in the earth with a toadstool covering. Pushing it aside, they are blinded by the orange light of the setting sun. Instinctively, the Heirophant backs many feet away, just to be safe. Knowing that the Heirophant will be unable to guide them further, the party asks if there is anything they should do to find them. He simply tells them to continue North.
Kvothe asks if there’s anything they can use as a sign of peace to the gnomes, and the Heirophant hands him his only possession – his fungal staff. Kvothe grips the ancient wood of the staff, noticing the cracks and grain in the wood and how it is filled with petrified fungus like glass, similar to the large, translucent toadstools that top it like crystals. Holding it, he can feel the power of the staff connect to him, and he sees a dim green light begin to glow within the translucent fungus throughout the ancient wood, and realizes the name of this wondrous item – Foxfire.
Traveling onward, they come to a road that seems oddly similar to the road they stumbled upon the other day. As they pass beyond the road, they hear the growing sounds of commotion, as well as small, agitated voices. Metallic ringing, booms, clangs, and the sounds of trees being felled fill the air.
Anticipating danger, Magnus scouts ahead, sneaking through the brush silently and carefully. Eventually, the little rogue comes to a glade, far from his companions. Peering from beyond the tree-line, he sees a scene that causes his eyes to grow wide in surprise.
To be continued…