The Small Rock Excress
Among the stars, there was a small rock named Excres. Upon its surface was a collection of ape-like creatures that ruled every facet of the terrain. But greed and war consumed them, first their hearts, then their souls. Bodies limp, their structures laid in ruins, and a cloud of strange dust falling from the sky led to a new society developing within the ruins of the old. The peculiar dust killed most of the fauna that it touched, a caustic substance that burnt flesh and caused the infection. But when it landed upon the smaller life forms on the planet, it changed them fantastically. Insects’ intelligence grew, plants grew stronger, and fungus began to walk like the ape kind that fell before them. The powder had transformed them into the new life of the world; with a humanoid shape and a desire to collaborate, they soon developed a society in the trash left behind by the apes that died not so long ago.
They made cities, developed their own technologies, and sought to know what they wanted to seek. A whole new sentient species rising overnight, they struggled to survive in the new world, but now that they are established and safe, they want to know what is out there, what there is to find.
One small mushroom named, Mercol was out on his own adventure, seeking crystals to master the arcane arts of the world, magic through language, and powered by the strange gem gemstones that form all across the land; they are assumed to have come down the day they all awoke, and are the source of all life on the planet. The wisest of the Myconids formed a runic system to interact with the gems and have since harnessed their powers to create magic, as math was discovered and used to create a great many things.
Mercol was frustrated as he marched from the large tower he was just in; stomping down his feet, he stashed his spell book into his satchel and made his way off the grounds of the tower. Moving from curated paths and trimmed moss lawns, he stepped out onto the hard dirt of the surrounding grass jungle. He turned back to the wizard tower; it was an old dead tree that was carved out by transfixed termites that the wizards used spells to tame, getting them to prepare huge logs into spaces for research and the pursuit of magical power.
“Kick me out of your stupid tower; I’ll show you who is the real mage. None of you can handle my spells; you are all…” He took a deep breath and shouted at the top of his lungs. “Cowards!”
The sound of insects filled the air, and no one inside the tower seemed to stir, completely unphased by the screams of Mercol. He dropped his arms down and kicked a small pebble before turning face and walking away, not only from the tower but the small town that resided behind it.
“I don’t need them, I don’t need any of them, not even that stupid town. I will go out, I will find my own crystals, and I won’t be told by no council that I am not allowed it due to concerns of magical intent.”
Trudging along the tough, sun-cracked dirt, he pushed deeper into the yellowed blades of grass, disappearing from society and adventuring into the wilds unknown. In Mercol’s left hand, he had a staff with a very specific-looking head to it, one designed to hold gemstones of power, but it was empty, just like his stomach. Up the staff was an eclectic mix of runes carved deep into the wood, then burned so they kept their form, creating great, big, black, ornate runes all over the staff. Visually it was stunning, and the craftsmanship was impeccable. He strode off with confidence and with a fire in his heart.
Nearly four days later and Mercol was sprinting with a limp; his satchel was gone, he was covered in dirt and small cuts, and his hands gripped desperately to his staff as he moved. He breathed deeply, each inhalation as if it was fuelling a fire in his lungs, burning his throat as he desperately continued forward, despite his worsening state. He would occasionally look back over his shoulder at the screeching behind him, screaming and using the image of his pursuer to motivate him.
The rapid footsteps it made inspired fear into him; his failing legs filled him with an impending dread he had never felt before. He knew he no longer had the protection of his order or that the town guards were not just around the corner, ready and waiting to make a daring save. Instead, he was left with the knowledge that the next step may be his last as he could feel the hulking beast behind him coming closer and closer. The roar of the beetle behind him was enough for him to give up; slowing his feet, he was ready to stop and collapse, but before he could, he found himself sinking deep into the ground, into a hole that was not there a second before. Mercol looked up to watch as the enormous beetle ran over the hole and stormed deeper into the unknown. Meanwhile, Mercol was stuck in a thin hole; after some wriggling, he managed to turn his head to the side so he was no longer pushing hard against the hole’s sides, and after just a little more, he managed to find a small crawl space at the bottom of the hole.
He laid down for a moment, catching his breath, his legs thankful that they were finally able to rest. It was a long while before he was willing to move on, taking solace in the dark and quiet hole that he had found himself in. Knowing that he would not be able to climb up the narrow hole he fell down, he was making sure that he had the energy to crawl through the hole at the bottom of his fall.
His eyes sluggishly opened at first, then rapidly when he realized that he had fallen asleep; what had intended to be a short rest became sleep of unknown duration. He wriggled his legs, and felt them brace against the walls of the hole with a strength he did not have when he had landed in the hole, his arms gripped dirt with the same renewed strength, but as he crawled, he felt the wide rim of his head cap scrape against the wall, and warp against the uneven surface. While his arms and legs had rested, he could now feel the discomfort that lay within his cap from being bent and twisted as he slept. A hand landed over hand, the soil was disrupted, and his wide feet carved small grooves as he pushed his way through. His head ached with every movement, only getting worse as he went, until a sudden sensation of freedom happened from around his head as he found himself in a small chamber. His head was finally free of the confines of the narrow passage, and for the first time in the last few days, he laid down free of contortion and actually felt as though he had, had some rest. His breath started heavy but quickly slowed as he took the moment to calm himself, a calm that was interrupted by the intense pains that appeared in his stomach.
“I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” He muttered to himself.
He stared up at the ceiling of the small cave and felt everything his body had to tell him; despite the restful position, and the fact he had just slept, he could feel all the aches of everything that had happened over the last couple of days, tears fell from his eyes as he remembered the life he had not so long ago, how he let his ego get in the way of safety within the community, and the potential to gain much knowledge within the arcane arts, but instead he was destined to return the earth that once fed him, and now, his tomb. His eyes closed once again, and he let exhaustion take him once again.
This time when his eyes opened, he found himself lying in comfort. He patted his body, and where there were wounds, now bandages. His body still ached, but it felt as if it had been numbed, now just a shadow of what it had once been. His arm drooped from his side to make no purchase with the ground; Mercol looked to his side to find himself lying in a bed that was raised off the ground. The room itself had dirt walls, ceiling, and floor, but all the furniture within the room was made wood and stone. There was a small fire located in one of the walls, all the smoke disappearing up a tube from the old world, letting it loose to the sky above, keeping the cave fresh.
Mercol felt safe like he was home in his old town. He smiled softly and let himself be comfortable enough to let himself slowly fall asleep. His sleep was deep as Mercol’s body healed itself, so deep that he was incapable of dreaming, and it wasn’t until several hours had passed before the incessant chatter coming from the nearby chamber woke him.
He slowly sat up, groaning through the aches and stabbing pains. The air was filled with the noise of the muttering of others talking. Spying his staff, he used it as a walking stick to navigate his new environment; the ground was pressed flat, and while not as good as where he had come from, it was tenfold better than the wilds he had been traversing. None of the rooms he passed had doors, not even hanging moss to cover what was within. The longer he walked, the louder the voices became, and the more he was able to make out; Mercol walked into the room the voices were coming from, and inside, there were two mushrooms running around a kitchen, one tall and thin, and the other short and round.
“Uhum,” Mercol cleared his throat purposefully. “Excuse me, but where am I?”
The two other mushrooms turned to see Mercol leant up against his staff with a gentle sway.
“Oh you, look at you. The weird one is up.” The short one said.
“Up and about, like a regular ol walk-y-do.” The tall one added.
Mercol was confused and made no effort to hide it; while the conversation already felt alien, he could not help but comment on the strange heads that these other mushrooms had.
“I am so confused. Are you fungus?”
“Of course, we are, have you never seen one of our kind before?” The short one asked. “Not all of us have those wide-brimmed heads; some of us have these much more compact taller heads, which makes digging tunnels much easier without having to worry the width of a cap.”
“I don’t understand.” Mercol said as they adjusted their stance.
“Oh friend, please sit down,” the tall one said as they pulled out a chair. “We can answer any questions you may have, but you need to rest.”
Mercol sat down, realizing at that moment how much stress his body was under just standing.
“Who are you two, and where are we?”
The two Morel mushrooms looked at another and giggled slightly.
“Well, I am Larce,” the tall one said as she pointed to her chest.
“I am Hekaras,” the short one said.
“As for where we are, you are in our wee little home. The others are not home; they are out doing the outside things. But they will be back shortly, right Larce?”
“Oh, who knows? The others are wild, always out and about; who knows when they will be back.”
“But where is your home? Is it a part of a town?”
“Ummmm, no.” Larce said before punctuating it with a chuckle. “Na, we didn’t really agree with town living, so we made our own home.”
“More like town living didn’t agree with us, stupid rules, and all the dumb people who did the dumb things.” Hekaras added before tossing a plate of food down on the table before Mercol. “You need to eat; you look famished.”
“Yes, num num num, eat up, friend, plenty to go around.”
Mercol was too hungry to ask questions about how his hosts were acting; he quickly consumed as much food as his body would take before leaning back in the chair, feeling his body trying to go into a food coma.
“Listen here, friend, you go back to that room you came out of, take one of those sleeps, we will put more food next to the bed, and once you have rested, we can pick up from there.
Mercol thanked his hosts and made his way back to bed; laying down, he was finally close to actual comfort, with a full belly, and while his muscles were still worn out, whatever the others had done in his sleep had numbed the pain they had created. His eyes closed, and quickly he fell back into a deep sleep, despite the chatter of the other two lingering in the air.