A Matter for Mushrooms
It was a seasonably normal day in Dioni when the Wheel of Goloths appeared once more, spiraling through the skies above the Razine Mountains. A grim, red light raced across the heavens, heralding the arrival of another spinning portal. Like clockwork, the eerie voice of a commanding Dame blared a dark portent to the Basin of Life, commanding her horde of one-eyed dominators to "collect a sample."
Adventurers from across the lands raced to the Razine Mountains in search of the tell-tale signs of the dominators. The augurs of destruction, mayhem, and death that typically walk hand-in-hand with the one-eyed horde were not immediately discovered, however, and the Basin of Life fell silent for the span of several heartbeats. Suddenly, a visceral cry filled the air, echoing up from the entrances of the Undervault. More cries followed swiftly after the first, multiplying into an eerie chorus until the Basin of Life shuddered with the sound.
After so long, it became clear that the cries, desperate and anguished, roared forth from the mouths of colossal insects. The residual echoes of enormous mandibles clacking against stone walls filled out the intervening moments when the brave adventurers decided, as a pack, to pour themselves headlong into the cavernous depths of the Undervault. A mad search began, starting at the entrance by the Holy Shrine of Klangratch in the Razine Mountains, where the Wheel of Goloths now stood as a grim reminder of its untold origins and the chaos that it brings as it moves across the Basin. The search ended, fruitlessly, and the adventurers seemed at a loss until the small, insistent voice of Pilea Myceli was heard pleading with what could only have been the one-eyed dominators, begging them not to hurt her experiments-- the very enormous, aggressive insects that cried out when the dominators arrived, which Pilea referred to as the mycefax.
Pilea's shouting brought the adventurers closer to their targets. It was Oberst Ushaara Gordian and Private Ejava, both from Hallifax, and Serenguard Haghan Eli'Silar, from the Serenwilde, who arrived on the scene first, discovering a frantic, incoherent Pilea, a tiny hyfae with a knack for scientific experimentation, huddled against the cavern walls of her makeshift laboratory in the Caverns of the Hyfae. More adventurers arrived as Pilea began unfolding the tale that led to her state of desperate unrest, revealing -- between sobs -- that the mycefax were her greatest creations and that the "one-eyes" disturbed them, unsettling them from their slumber in the hatcheries that stem from Pilea's alcove.
It wasn't long before the gathered adventurers speculated, rightfully, that the dominators must have accidentally startled the slumbering mycefax in their quest for something poor Pilea held within her alcove, triggering a stampede of sorts that broke the dominators' formation and stirred up the denizens of the Undervault. The speculation about what it was that attracted the dominators to Pilea's alcove, whether it was the fungus or something else, was cut short by the imperious shouting of Rusacha, Dame of the Weft, who commanded her dominators to alter their mission: rather than to simply collect some sort of sample, the objective now included the destruction of the stampeding mycefax.
Waves of dominators flooded the Hyfae, much to Pilea's horror, and the mycefax grew angrier and angrier as a result, becoming ever more agitated by the dominators' feeble attempts to dispatch them. In response to this new directive, the adventurers split into different formations of their own in an attempt to hold back the flood of one-eyed beings, but the Dame of the Weft continued her fight, commanding her small army to retreat only when the new target was defeated.
Up until this point, Pilea had begged the adventurers to leave the mycefax alone, expressing her regrets at the casualties they may have caused, but assuring them that they truly meant no harm. And so the stalemate ensued; dominators continued to fill the caverns and the adventurers continued to fend them off. After due deliberation, and with the Dame's threat lingering, Pilea made the weary decision to encourage the adventurers to put down the mycefax that were too far gone to be saved, all in an effort to quell the flood of the dominators from further damaging her experiments. With their new, grim task in front of them, the adventurers made swift work of the mycefax and the remaining dominators, sustaining minor casualties in the process.
As the last of Pilea's creatures fell, the Dame of the Weft announced that her mission was a success and the Wheel of Goloths flew through the skies once more, opening the portal through which the dominators escaped from whence they came, fewer in numbers but seemingly successful.
Little Pilea, regaining her composure, began the tale of her successes once more, explaining that she could not have fathomed the power of the fungus that she grew and the effects it had upon the insects, which became the mycefax. As the gathered adventurers processed this information, Pilea fell into a meditative trance, using her tendril-like appendages to sort through the roots of the fungus that grows in her alcove, determining that dozens of her mycefax still live-- and were perhaps, at this moment, reproducing in the depths of the Undervault. Delighted, Pilea informed the gathering that she believes, with a little help, she can grow more fungus that might lure them back to her cavern, where she could complete their evolution into new guardians for the Queens of the Kepheran Hives. But first, she would need a few moments to compose herself.
Eager to help but respectful of Pilea's wishes for silence, the gathering left the tiny alcove in the Caverns of the Hyfae, promising to return soon in order to assist her with her new project. All but Spirit Warden Xenthos An'Ryshe, the now fallen Ascendant and long-time servant of the Glomdoring Forest. Sensing ill-intent, Pilea ignored the presence of Xenthos, muttering about her allegiance to the Kephera Hives and her mistrust of their enemies. At these words, the fallen Ascendant struck young Pilea, murdering her in cold blood.
When the eager adventurers returned to the caverns to find Pilea missing, a new quest for answers erupted, resulting in the counsel of Wise Lamella of the Hyfae, elder of the Tryko Forest, who informed Heir Sondayga Zayah of the Serenwilde that treachery from within the caverns led to Pilea's death and that the Tryko would only return her to life when it was safe. With a little prodding, the adventurers coaxed out of Wise Lamella the solution to their problems: the extermination of the enemies of the Hyfae.
A bloody battle broke out, resulting in spilled blood and short-lived deaths. The Glomdoring returned with more strength each time they were repelled, led by the fallen Ascendant, and the guardians of Pilea's experiments were at a loss-- when she was returned to life, she was struck down just as quickly. Wise Lamella, powerful and mysterious, could only offer Pilea's saviors a burst of energy that would allow Pilea to avoid the cold metal of Xenthos's blade for a short while, perhaps allowing them a chance to help her grow new fungus.
It was Serenguard Haghan Eli'Silar who championed the first return of the elusive mycefax, a bulbous centipede-like creature that transformed into a massive version of itself, but as the adventurers led the creature to its destination, Queen Sethmenton's hive, the fickle nature of the intelligent mycefax reigned, resulting in its premature return to the wilderness of the Undervault.
Pilea's dangerous experiments, tentatively recovered by the willingness of more who would help her raise new fungi, continue to roam the dark corners of the Undervault, unseen and as enigmatic as the dominators who caused their distress. What were the dominators looking for? If it was truly Pilea's experimental fungus that lured the dominators to the Undervault, what could they possibly need such an unstable, transformative substance for?