Overview: A dark, decomposing place where the clinks of ghostly money echo through the moss-shrouded alleys.
History and Legends: The Fungal Garden has played little role in history. It is perhaps the most removed of the Celestial Gardens. However, as with all the gardens, the mortal races tell legends about it. Legends about the Fungal Garden usually fall into one of three categories: those in which a character must come here in order to attain a specific object; those in which it is a frightening place through which a character must pass—a place full of false smiles and sweaty handshakes; and those in which it serves as an object lesson against greed and gluttony.
Areas: The Fungal Garden of Charity, Gluttony, and Greed includes the Great Bazaar, the Alley of Ills, and Viril’s Shop.
Important Denizens: Money-changers; money-lenders; shopkeepers; the charitable; Gotorro, the first money-lender; Viril the shopkeep; and Dalbit the Fat. The Fungal Garden seems to retain more souls than the other gardens, giving the spirits more time to establish themselves as permanent (or semi-permanent) denizens.
Regulation: The mosses and mushrooms here hold no special properties. Instead, an implicit set of rules governs trade here. Anyone, even a god, who violates these rules finds that, at the least, the souls here view him suspiciously. At worst, the garden itself turns against him.
Souls who come here are: Those whose lives revolved around giving or taking.
- Those who take are the greedy. Most of them valued money (or similar valuables if, for example, their societies used barter systems), though some few souls were greedy for other items or concepts. Some collected specific sorts of objects, such as artwork or plants. Some collected knowledge—these are those people for whom the collection and hoarding of knowledge became more important than the knowledge itself. (Those who simply valued knowledge end up in the Orchard of Knowledge, Reason, and Madness.)
- The gluttonous souls are those who, in life, took and consumed. Many of them were focused on food and still are, but anyone whose life revolved around taking and consuming—whether food, drink, goods, people, or anything else—falls into this category.
- Finally, the sad charitable souls are those whose lives revolved around giving. These were people who did not simply desire to help their fellows, but whose lives were defined by such charity. People probably took advantage of them in life; in death, and in this place, they are mere prey for the greedy and gluttonous.
The Fungal Garden of Charity, Gluttony, and Greed is a dark place where the stench of decay hangs just beneath the surface scents—which are also not particularly pleasant. All sizes of mushrooms and toadstools define the environment. Some are huge, as large as trees or larger. They rise high overhead, some clustering together, others standing apart. Looking up, you can see their gills and their spores, which drift lazily down on the ghostly breeze. Tents or shacks perch on some of these great mushrooms.
Smaller fungi appear in profusion. Some reach only to head or shoulder height; these grow close together, forming dense patches. Others are small, about the size of toadstools in the Known World. They grow everywhere: from the ground, on walls, from the stalks or caps of larger mushrooms, even on the souls themselves, if they dwell here long enough. All of these fungi come in all different varieties, from the pale white to the red-spotted, the edible to the toxic.
Moss-covered tents spread throughout the Fungal Garden, defining a sprawling marketplace called the Great Bazaar. The bazaar extends almost everywhere here, and is a maze of tents, streets, and alleys separated by dense fungal stands. Souls throng this place, moving from tent to tent, purchasing all manner of ghostly objects and services. Many of these services are unsavory. Opium dens and shelters offering more powerful drugs are common, as are whorehouses where a soul can fulfill any fantasy—for a price. Of course, since these souls have no earthly bodies to abuse, such places are safer than they are on the Known World. However, something about the Fungal Garden forces souls to retain a strong memory of the body, and souls who indulge in drugs or similar pursuits usually find themselves worse for the experience.
In some ways the Fungal Garden is separate from the other Celestial Gardens. The greedy and gluttonous souls here tend to remain for a long time, some turning into semi-permanent denizens. Gods have little to gain by coming here; unlike the Orchard of Knowledge, Reason, and Madness, they cannot gain insights in this place. Unlike the Floral Garden of Vigilance, Paranoia, and Sloth, they cannot visit the Fungal Garden to gain new perspectives. Kind-hearted gods visit this place with some frequency to save their charitable followers. Other gods come here only when they feel they need to, while some forget about it entirely. Thus, the Fungal Garden is a darkly-lit merry-go-round of fools only occasionally interrupted by a god or Grappler.
One old tent in the Great Bazaar has a sign proclaiming it to be “Viril’s Shop.” The tent is striped purple and yellow, but it has spent so much time in this decaying environment that its original colors blend to a filthy gray. Viril the shopkeep runs the tent (more on him below).
Most members of the crowd simply pass by Viril’s Shop. A casual glance reveals an odd assortment of objects on the tables in front—weapons, toys, wood carvings, pieces of art, animals in cages, tools, and all manner of other items lie together. Viril’s shop seems to specialize in being unspecialized.
Some might think this medley characterizes Viril as a pawnbroker, and indeed that is one of the shop’s functions. Viril buys things (cheaply) from people who desperately need money (usually so they can go buy something else), then resells them. However, this base function belies the wonder of Viril’s Shop: Almost every worldly object that arrives at the Great Bazaar makes it to Viril’s tables.
Viril seems to have a sixth sense for objects tied to the Known World—these are actual, physical objects, not the items composed of spiritual material that are common in the Fungal Garden. Most other spirits cannot tell these earthly objects from their ghostly counterparts; they might balk when Viril tells them the price of a particular object, not knowing that the item is real. Thus, Viril usually sells these items to mortals who come here looking for them. (Viril undoubtedly inspired the portrayal of the shopkeeper in the “Arliss and the Fork” parable.)
Viril The Shopkeeper
I mentioned Viril’s Shop above, and now I will mention Viril himself. Viril is a sylph spirit, and none can say where he comes by his strange ability to recognize and gather earthly objects. Indeed, Viril identifies not only objects but also the mortals who occasionally come to the Fungal Garden, even if they do so under magical guise. He waves them to his shop, smiling, and then spreads his arms, showing his wares. Surely, he says, they must be looking for one of these things.
Those who know of Viril’s strange ability speculate as to its cause. The most prevalent theory is that Viril maintains some tie to the Known World. Maybe he is not a true spirit at all, but is instead a mortal who wandered into the Fungal Garden and remained. On the other hand, maybe Viril is something more than a spirit. If he were an ancestral spirit, for example, or some sort of godling, able to gain Belief, that might explain his powers.
Gotorro, the First Money-Lender
Possibly the oldest spirit in the Fungal Garden, Gotorro maintains one of the few actual buildings in the Great Bazaar. Composed of fungal fibers vaguely resembling wood, it looms over the nearby tents like a heap of dung over scattered pebbles. Within, Gotorro and his servants weigh, count, and distribute money.
Gotorro, a gnome, claims to be the first money-lender ever to come to the Fungal Garden. If you believe his tales, the Fungal Garden contained only a few scattered tents when Gotorro arrived, with perhaps a dozen shopkeepers (representing all the elder races). Gotorro had been a money-lender in life, and when he appeared in the Fungal Garden, he found a tent containing everything he needed to continue the practice. He willingly took up his old trade and has been practicing ever since.
Since that time, the Fungal Garden has changed much. Gotorro now runs a small empire of money-lenders and money-changers that spans the Great Bazaar. Most of the money-changers and money-lenders in the garden work for Gotorro. In the past, Gotorro has worked hard to eliminate or buy competition, but in recent decades he has not cared as much anymore.
Gotorro claims that, when the first human spirit appeared in the Fungal Garden, he experienced a turning point in his existence. For the first time, he stopped and thought about what he was doing. He realized that the Known World was changing—and changing in such a way as to affect the Celestial Realm.
Since that time, Gotorro has been more lax about his business practices. He just does not care as much anymore. Some say he is dreaming about the day when Fate will finally summon him for his judgment.
Dalbit the Fat
Dalbit, an enormous human woman, is a recent addition to the Fungal Garden. She epitomizes the “gluttony” in the garden’s title. She is always eating, and is always demanding more stuff. Often this stuff is food, but Dalbit’s appetite encompasses everything, and it is insatiable. She thirsts for drink; she demands lotions and oils for her deformed body; she summons servants to massage and wash her; she hungers for young men and women to fulfill her carnal pleasures.
Dalbit sprawls under an expansive pavilion complex in the Great Bazaar. She earns her money with her business, Dalbit’s Pleasure Palace, which caters to spirits like herself. However, Dalbit is so occupied with fulfilling her own desires that she spares little thought for business matters, such as ensuring that her larder is well-stocked or that her serving wenches are properly pliable. She leaves such concerns to her servants. As it turns out, she is right to do so, for Hegenom, her head servant, is an unfortunately charitable spirit with excellent business savvy. Rumors say Hegenom was Dalbit’s husband in life.
More information can be found in DSS005 The Celestial Gardens Chapter 4.
Artwork by Joe Slucher and Mark Facey for New Gods of Mankind.