When a man dies in Llaphedon, he is neither buried nor cremated. He will be wrapped in a white burial shroud, woven from still-living mycelium, and will be taken out into the forest by his family. There, without tears or priest, he will be returned to the earth and live forever.
The practice is well-established in that country. The Llaphedoniks guard their weavers' arts carefully, but are willing to sell their shrouds to outsiders - they certainly do not disapprove of spreading the forest further, nor of whatever gold that comes to their secluded land.
What they do keep to themselves is the fruit.
A variety of different fungi breeds are used in the shrouds, but only for the Llaphedonik dead do the weavers use silk that has been treated with sap of the Milk Cap. (The Milk Cap being a rare mushroom found only in the inner reaches of the Llaphedon forests) The mushrooms that grow from Milk Cap-treated mycelium will develop teardrop-shaped buds as they grow to full size: these are the fruits of the dead.
Each fruit contains within a fragment of the deceased's essence - stronger than the imprint that leaves a ghost, though not as strong as what might be kept through advanced necromancy. Impressions of memories, traces of senses, a presence. Consuming the fruit will impart that essence into whomever consumes it, and they will gain some trait of the departed. Young Llaphedoniks will eat the fruit of beloved ancestors when they come of age, as a means of preserving the virtues of past generations.
Few accounts exist that directly describe it, as the Llaphedoniks keep it closely watched. The best recourse is the account of the explorer Greran Satti, who stated that the experience is similar to that of "being utterly certain that [their] grandfather is sitting out of sight in the next room doing crosswords"
The networked forest means that the trees will share their traces with each other, so a single cap might bear the fruit of a dozen or score different individuals. Specific groves will be tended to to produce unique blends, often arranged by family. Grove-keepers can be picked out from the typical hairless, bluish-skinned Llaphedoniks by virtue of the pale white spore-crust on their hands and faces.
Effects of Eating Fruit of the Dead
- Roll d6 to determine the deceased's best stat, and re-roll against your own. If you roll higher than your own ability score, take the higher result.
- Learn a language known by the deceased.
- Gain a skill known by the deceased, at the same level of ability.
- Learn a spell known by the deceased. If you do not know any other magic, you may cast it with 1 spell die or 1/day
- Gain 1000 XP
- You hear the soft voice of the dead, babbling softly, for 1d10 hours. It tells you a secret.
The Mushroom Men
Sometimes, the mushrooms grow in a different manner. The corpse is consumed all the same, but instead of forming the typical tree, the fungi takes the form of a man. This will also occasionally occur when a fruit of the dead is left alone for long enough and falls to the ground.
Mushroom Men carry the memories and knowledge of the deceased - There's no continuity of consciousness, of course, but the effect is far more pronounced than if one just consumes than the fruit of the dead itself. It is almost, but not quite, that the deceased is present - a different voice, a different face, but the same presence. Turn your head and it feels as if they are present.
Needless to say, outsiders will often find mushroom men firmly in the uncanny valley, if they know the truth of matters (and even worse if they knew the deceased). This is a shame, as their slow and peaceful ways lead them to be genial neighbors. The Llaphedoniks revere them as spiritual teachers and givers of guidance, and do not hold to any of the gods of man where their own ancestors provide.
Distant pocket forests will always be watched over by at least one mushroom man caretaker. In some of these groves it is possible, through great respect and care, to gain their favor and receive a Milk Crown burial shroud of your own.
Thankfully, being reborn as a mushroom man is a mechanically simple process. Now in GLOG!
The Great Work
Deep in the fungal forest of Llaphedon, deeper even than the Milk Crown groves, at the very center of that alien landscape, the mushroom men are building. They are raising stones: a fortress, a pyramid. Right atop the very center of the forest, where the colony is the oldest.
The Llaphedoniks know only whispers. Tales of seeing some structure in the distance, rising above far-off cap-tops. And of bands of mushroom men, silently plodding towards the center through the still and spore-filled night.