“Dear Sven”, wrote his old professor, “We have an urgent project that needs your particular skills. The return of our expedition to Fomalhaut is overdue. They were exploring the fungal forests there and we are worried that the Fungus Hunters may be holding them prisoner. We have a transport leaving for Fomalhaut at the end of the week and would greatly appreciate it if you could join the relief expedition as an advisor. Your knowledge of Polybionomy as well as your well known prowess with archaic weapons make you the ideal choice. If you able to help us please be at The Tavern of Narwhals in Stonesea by Thursday evening. You will only be able to take what you can carry with you. Yours fraternally, John Quatremaine .”
Most people knew of the Fungus Forests, if only because of the powerful medicines that were produced from fungi gathered there, but very few had ever been to that blighted land. Sven went over to his library book shelves and pulled a huge leather bound folio from them and laid it on the folio stand. The ancient map of Fomalhaut and the few facts about it took up only half of the sheet.
In times long past the land of Fomalhaut was a pleasant wooded island off the northern coast of the Nubican continent. Its peoples had been noted for their high ethical standards and an advanced knowledge of botany which made their land prosperous by cultivating rare woodland fungi. The pressure from traders to increase production of those fungi had resulted in a civil war between those who wished to retain their traditional methods and others who wished to use forbidden methods. During that war spores of highly aggressive giant fungi produced by the forbidden methods had escaped. Within a few short years the fungi had taken over, killing the local flora and most of the fauna, along with any of the inhabitants who tried to stay. All that was left on Fomalhaut was a fungal forest, a few very resistant creatures and some tombs and monuments that the fungi could not digest.
Some families descended from the original inhabitants lived on the Nubican coast, protected from the spread of most of the spores by the 50 miles of salt water between them and the island. Some of these families made a living by risking their lives visiting their former home to harvest fungi and bring them back to the mainland after making sure they had no viable spores. They were very protective of their monopoly and anyone landing on Fomalhaut without permission was in grave danger from them as well as the fungi. The Fungus Hunters maintained that this blockade was not to prevent others trading but to stop the spread of spores to the mainland. Perhaps there was some truth in both views.
There was very little other information. Only a mention that modern weapons had proved unreliable there as the fungi found both gunpowder and other explosives very palatable. That would explain John's reference to archaic weapons. Sven had no doubt that he would be joining the expedition, partly as a debt of honour to his alma mater but also as an adventure in its own right. It had been so long since he had spent much time outside the kingdom. Llola would be concerned for his safety but she could handle any problems here as she always had.
Down in the Manor armoury Sven surveyed the racks holding his weapon collection. Anything with wooden or other organic parts he dismissed, they would not fare well. Finally he chose. First the old great sword called 'Black Blight', its black serrated blade could cut the toughest armour or materials and below its claw shaped guard a woven metal grip shaped like a mushroom, entirely appropriate. Next, a steel and iron crossbow strung with wire and a clutch of iron bolts. Finally a small all metal tomahawk, good for close quarters fighting, throwing and also a useful tool.
Clothing was Sven's next problem. Most cloth would be eaten quickly. He did have some old Fibrite clothes and boots from his university days, they were supposed be rot proof, that and his lightest chain mail would have to do. Well sealed containers for food and water, sterilizing tablets, anti fungal salve, face masks, the list grew and grew. After much sorting into piles, weighing discarding, replacing he had a pack he could carry, just.
Back at his desk he composed a note for Llola, how long should he say he would be away? Allow a week for travel to Fomalhaut , a week there, a week back and a week or more for luck. Five weeks? That would be best, better not have her worry for a few days.
Now to summon the ostler and get a good horse saddled and a pack horse too. He would need to travel quickly to make it to Stonesea on time. ….................