The Opened World
Overview & SporesThe plague is a nickname for a virulent fungi-like amoeboid that exhibits minor levels of sentience and aggressive parasitic and symbiotic tendencies. It is also referred to as plague-moss or blight while the Remnant have traditionally called it “The Contagion”. It consists of small seed-like spores, which are roughly the size of a grain of sand. The spores have one large flagella in the back and numerous tiny feathery hairs protruding from the body. The spores are easily carried by the wind and may drift many miles from their original source. The spores do not seem to possess much significance when isolated, but one they come into contact with other spores, they begin to exhibit odd characteristics.
Spore Colonies and RootingWhen multiple spores make contact with each other, the hairs begin to grow rapidly and the spores begin to function together as a single organism. Such behavior is called rooting. The hairs appear as a tangled mess of interwoven roots under a lens. In this form, the organism may be more appropriately referred to as a colony. The colony will begin to slowly break down any organic matter it comes in contact with and will use this to form a larger root systems and spore pods for propagation. The colony also begins to form a greyish-green slime acting as a biosurfactant on which the colony is able to more quickly move. The colony can however move along a non-surfactant covered surface, however it tends to take longer. Various types of colonies can occur and their behavior varies accordingly.
Spore PodsShortly after the rooting process, the colony will begin to establish spore pods for propagation. This is the fruiting body of the colony and consists of a hardened stalk and the actual pod itself, which is roughly spherical. These stalks and pods range from under half an inch to the size of medium trees depending on the colony. Even on enormous colonies, the smaller pods are quite common and there may be only a few larger ones. After enough organic matter has been digested by the colony to mature the pods and their enclosed spores, the pod bursts open at the top releasing the spores. If the pod and stalk are large enough to contain enough hardened cells (usually those larger than a foot or two) the stalk and burst pod may persist in a shriveled state, but may be cannibalized by the colony.
Parasitic and Symbiotic TendenciesPerhaps the oddest feature of the colonies is that they secrete a neurotoxin that is paralyzing to nearly all known species. The toxin is thought to come from the biosurfactant secreted by the colony. A colony often latches on to another organism and begins to break that organism down while also making use of its increased motor capacity to move at a more rapid pace. Once a body is sufficiently covered by a colony, whether the body is live or dead, it will begin to have its large muscle movements controlled by the colony as the host’s neural control is lost. Such control gives the colony the ability to walk, albeit at a much more stilted pace and often with an lilting gait. Over time, the host becomes digested to the point where the limbs are no longer functional. Even at this time, the remnant of the host may be dragged along with the colony to continue being digested as the colony searches for more food. Living hosts have been known to survive for several days inside an active colony, although the process is extremely pain. The host however is generally unaware of it though as the neurotoxins prevent much awareness. The spores tend to avoid contact with mucousal membranes and as such, eyes, nasal passages, and mouths are generally not covered by anything more than a small amount of plague.
Awareness and WeaknessesThe spores and colonies exibit awareness of the surrounding world. Although lacking eyes or photoreceptors, they are quite aware of changes in light and shadow. The hairs on the rooting structure are also very sensitive to vibrations in the form of sound or movement. Interstingly, the colonies seem completely unaware of the presence of elemental beings of any sort until actual physical (if such a term can be used to describe an elemental) contact is made. The plague spores are quite hardy and may survive in extreme conditions for decades, although once a colony is formed it is more succeptable to changes in environment and energy levels. Dehydration and lack of organic matter for digestion will weaken and eventually kill a colony, as will exposure to large amounts of energy, kinetic or elemental.
TypesA colony may form into several differing types. They are not subspecies, but rather different forms based off of environmental circumstances. A colony may manifest itself in multiple forms during its lifetime and even split into two disparate forms should it grow large enough. Features from differing types may also be found on a single colony.
- Slime molds – the most mobile and aggressive form. Due to the large amount of biosubstrate formed, it appears more gelatinous than other forms.
- Infesters – infester colonies appear in realitively food prevalent areas. They often look like a nest of tangled root hairs spread across the ground. They move slowly in this form but spread in vast networks underground, through walls, cracks in trees, etc. They largest fruiting bodies are observed in infester colonies.
- Trap fungi – trap fungi form rings or netlike structures along the ground or in trees or passageways. They produce a stickier residue than normal and contract rapidly on contact.
- Parasitic – this is the form colonies take when using a living host bodies. The host does not have to be an animal either, trees and hard shrubs have been seen moving along covered in plague moss.
A male Alathay covered in a plague colony.