Chapter V : Revelation VII

Chapter V : Revelation

“ Into the Mist “

Though a sight to behold from afar, toadstools were among the few tame plants which posed danger to humans and animals. Their white-speckled red caps seemed innocent enough, but toadstools released spores which could grow in a creature’s body. A simple witchweed soup could clear up one’s airways due to its vapor which was fatal to nothing but toadstools. When he thought about witchweed, Steel remembered something.

“ It was too good to be true, “ said the farmer as they rested beneath Linnorm’s shadow for a while, “ I thought Ochre was acting a bit weird. He’d forgotten a lot of things although he wasn’t much older than me. “

The tragedy in 144 left no survivors aside from the small group from 27. Errol explained that hydnorae could live indefinitely without food or water since all it had to do was to take small amounts of moisture from its hosts. The humans of that town seemed to have been long dead due to the complete assimilation of the parasites into their skull; the hydnorae planted their roots into a host’s nervous system and in the long run, their brains, if the hosts had any. The Ochre whom Steel hugged was probably being controlled by an older hydnorae which could access some memories and use them to trick more humans.

But at that moment, not even a whole day after their near-death experience, Errol was about to take them into another one. They were hesitant, of course; Hunter was the only one who immediately jumped into the seemingly-suicidal mission. Apparently, Errol could feel her copies if they used their abilities. Consequently, she traced their location to the massive red plants. And by “massive”, that meant “no less than five Linnorms stacked end to end”. Like mold, toadstools grew together; their root system supported one another much like weary travelers in the middle of the vast desert.

“ You’re absolutely sure that they’re in there? “ Steel asked the black-haired girl, “ Is that why you’re making him cook some soup? “

A few paces from where Errol and Steel stood, the red-haired guard did what he could do best: cook. A guard’s role demanded that he stay at the town’s edge for moments on end. They had nothing to do but to guard the outskirts of town, and the only highlight of their moments were mealtimes. Uneventful days resulted in the creation of many wonderful and tasty dishes which guards perfected for their own consumption.

Not surprisingly, the farmer’s bag contained many utensils which Thyme was able to use. He wondered if Steel stuffed his whole house within his pack. Errol’s ability to create plants from seemingly nothing was equally convenient for she was able to make rows of witchweed grow on the desert sand. When the soup was done, the humans inhaled the vapor and then had their fill of the delicious dish.

“ Thyme’s dishes are the best! “ Rina happily declared, and that resulted to a rare blush on her fiance’s face.

“ Are we really going in there though? “ Steel asked in a very serious, monotone voice.

“ Of course, “ Errol nodded, “ Or… you could stay here with that- “

She pointed to a familiar massive figure which waved in the distance. Its large trunk and thorny branches still had Black Blood on them. All four humans balked at the thought of staying behind with the bloody thorn tree. They immediately packed their belongings and stood up. Errol snickered before she stepped forward to lead the group into the toadstool colony.

“ Linnorm, stay here and guard that antlion’s burrow, “ she said, to which the snake replied with a nod, “ Puppy will travel underground. “

The tardigrade dove into the sand and soon he was completely out of sight. Errol walked until they were just outside the toadstool colony. A thick, dark mist filled that area; Steel already explained beforehand that the mist was comprised of toadstool spores which would root itself into a human’s throat. They were very fragile but a single surviving spore could kill its host. As they stood there, waiting for Errol to lead them into what could possibly be their graves; Rina poked the Overlord’s butt. Yes, it was inappropriate, but she thought that it was okay since they were both girls. Startled, the little one turned around and faced the culprit.

“ I wanted to know… what happened to that tree? “ the historian asked the question which lingered in everyone else’s mind.

Errol’s eyes narrowed down to slits; it was clearly not a pleasant memory.

“ It was massive. And it was stubborn, “ the Overlord turned towards the toadstool colony as she explained, “ … took a while to tame it. “

The acacia still waved from where it stood. The tree was rather strangely enthusiastic and, though it seemed to pose no immediate danger, the humans did not want to get close to it at all. When Errol walked into the mist, the rest of the group followed her quickly. Puppy moved underground, Linnorm stayed and did as he was told, and the acacia’s branches drooped. The bloody thorn tree seemed to be depressed because it was not allowed to join in the action.

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