The Sporewood - Christopher M. Dailey
At the edge of civilization sits a forest of strange disposition. It is surrounded and permeated by a fog of chalky yellow spores that oppress the senses and warp the mind. Those who live near the forest give it a healthy distance. The brave few foolish enough to enter tell of a surreal landscape where fog distorts the sun’s rays into a jaundiced twilight. They speak of towering trees, not hard to the touch but spongy and soft. They speak of malicious silhouettes stalking furtively through twisted glades, of horse-sized insects, floating ruins, and distant pulses of sickly light. Few give these tales much credence for the fog twists minds, and inside their rambled descriptions lurks a tinge of madness. All the same, most give the forest wide berth.
The trees of the Sporewood are soft and porous. Their light composition allows them to reach impossible heights and support broad branches that shoot off at high angles. These branches combine and twist together, forming a thick canopy that covers the forest like a knotted blanket. From their surface seeps a sickening stream of spores that blend together to create a thick fog. The fog weighs heavily on all who enter, causing breath to come in dry, chalky rasps. It obscures vision and addles the mind, inducing a slow-building delerium that worsens with prolonged exposure.
Creatures of the forest mirror its bizarre nature. The hostile atmosphere wards off most animals but provides a dearth of competition that allows insects to thrive and grow to unprecedented size. Similarly the Sporewood lacks intelligent creatures save for a clan of feral halflings whose ancestors long ago adapted to the forest’s inhospitable environment. They are savage beings who adorn themselves in vicious masks and dance fitfully through the trees in service to their own bestial whims. For hospitality they offer only brutality, cunning, and violence.
The origins of the Sporewood are murky. Its unique nature has caused some to speculate that it arose unnaturally, a work of organic artifice by some unscrupulous agent. For now the mystery persists, but the forest contains clues to its own beginnings. Inside its deepest reaches some have spotted stone monoliths, ancient and unfamiliar in construction. The purpose of such structures can only be speculated but what is certain is that they are tied to the forest’s past and possibly to its future.