(This post was inspired by the Herbmasters of Hibara. Now, for once the Captain created a completely noble people, and I felt obliged to show their dark mirror.
The members of this obscure order specialize in growing funghi. Growing, researching and studying many kinds, they even try to create new ones. Obsessed with their work, they hoard knowledge and share little of it with others. Their services can be costly but effective, healing and purifying products, poisons as well as cures can be found. Many addictive products are supplied by these men and women of dubious morals.
While their work is questionable, none can deny their competence; it is a matter of pride for a grower to sell quality goods only, and describe the effects in detail. Most live alone, distanced from civilization, that so often misunderstands them… and sometimes kills. Working usually through middlemen, they often end up working with criminal and/or secret organizations.
Tradition knows only one way of becoming a fungus gardener. Two apprentices are chosen and taught the basics. When the time comes, the students are sent on a journey, and depending on the master’s liking, one or both receive the pollen of the Kheliaa (see below), and knowledge of using it.
One returns as a master.
The Kheliaa Fungus
This rare plant is highly magical, and grows very slowly. Countless experiments and breeding slowly improve its potential; it may be the only reason why this loose ‘group’ stays in some contact.
If a living creature inhales the pollen of this fungus, it starts to live in her lungs. Slowly as it spreads, the person looses itself, growing weaker in body and mind, until at some point it cannot take care of itself anymore. There exist more funghi like this.
The exceptional feature is the magic of the plant itself, that spills over into its host’s blood. Extracted and concentrated, mixed with ingredients, boiled, or dried, drunk or otherwise applied, it is an excellent base for healing potions and other medicine. Regularly administered, it can prolong life significantly.
The problem is the effect is bound to the host’s race: it can lessen or vanish if the imbiber is of a different race; it could even do harm. If you have customers of a different race, you need a respective ‘source’. Due to the constant care the source body needs, few fungus gardeners maintain more than a few bodies. A body well taken care off can survive for decades, maybe even a century, provided the fungus’ growth is limited.
Of course, cultivating of this kind is best done in secret.
Accidental inhaling of the fungus is very rare, but happens. A few books on the topic of healing mention ways how to cure a funghal growth inside of a living body, unpleasant and risky ways. Someone would have discovered the magical nature of this plant sooner or later.
In the few written resources that are freely available within the Gardeners, there is an alchemist mentioned, that has done the feat. Curiously, there is no name attached to the person, though there are hints that he (or she) was at the start of all their knowledge. Rumours claim that he (or she?) was killed by students too thirsty for knowledge, and too eager to put their own name on everything; who have subsequently erased their mentor’s name from all records. It appears they were successful.