small, ugly, pungent fungi are one of the most expensive foodstuffs in the whole
of Santharia. Vast sums of money (or
goods) regularly change hands for what are, basically, growths on the diseased
roots of trees. They come in two colours, black or the rarer (and therefore,
more expensive) white, and can be found only in certain areas, from the
Bolder Forest in the North, to
Manthria in the South. They are a cousin of
the mushroom, and have a similar smell, although somewhat stronger, and taste
more earthy or even woody.
Appearance. There are four varieties of Truphull, twowhite and two black. They are listed here in order of price:
White Truphull ("Coastal Truphull",
"Snow-Fruit", "Bard's Delight")
This is the rarest and most expensive Truphull, and widely regarded as being the most delicious, having a slightly nutty taste. It is found only on the roots of the coastal redwood tree, and only then between Fallen Leaf and mid Dead Tree. Fully grown they can measure up to 1 palmspan, 1 nailsbreadth, 2 grains in girth, and weigh as much as one od. The skin can be either of a pale creamy hue, or sometimes a pale brown with white marbling, and is covered all over in small wart-like growths.
This fungus is rarer than the other varieties but, perversely, is the easiest to find due to its unusual aroma. The smell is almost identical to the scent given off by a female pig when she is ready to mate. Truphull hunters (or "Truphull Snufflers") traditionally use a crossbreed of domestic pigs and woolly boars (as these have the best sense of smell), to locate the underground fungi. Once a Truphull has been detected, the hunter must quickly dig it up before the pig finds and eats it. It is a foolhardy Snuffler indeed who tries to come between a pig and the Truphull it is trying to dig up! Cattrel dogs, and more often Rimrunner Terriers are now used by some Snufflers as they are able to sniff out the Truphulls just as well as a pig, but don't like the taste, and are generally easier to control.
There is no record of the highest price paid for a White, but recently Veirek Gerrolv Snorring, a gaming house owner of Marcogg, exchanged a year's half-share in his profits for a 3 od 1 mut specimen. His wife was said to be "not best pleased."
Black Oak Truphull ("Rising Sun Truphull", "Black Summer")
This Truphull is smaller and lighter than the White, typically up to 3 nailsbreadths 4 grains round and 5 nailsbreadths long, weighing around half a mut. They have black skins, and the flesh is black also, and has a more woody taste than the others. The shape is more rounded than the White Truphull, with fewer warts. They are found growing on the roots of black oak trees mainly in the forests of southern Sarvonia and mid to southern Santharia. Harvesting is done between the months of Rising Sun and Dead Tree. The current price for the Black Summer is around 1 purse of silver coin per 9 mut.
Black Truphull ("Black Gold", "Smooth Black", "Baych
This Truphull is also mainly associated with oak trees, but is sometimes found on baych as well, and generally grows in the southern range of the Black Summer, seldom being found further north than the Manthria/Sanguia province border. This is the smallest variety, measuring up to 3 nailsbreadths 4 grains in length and girth. Weight is usually around 2 mut. The skin is of a lighter shade of black than the summer variety, as is the flesh which also contains small, white flecks. The taste is distinctly more earthy than the other Truphulls. The warts of the White and Black Summer are absent in the Black, replaced instead by depressions or dimples, one on either side. Expect to pay around a half to 1 purse of silver coin per 9 mut, depending on quality.
False Truphull ("Dog-Truphull", "Truphwight", "Truphwite")
Also called the "Poor-man's Truphull", this fungi is not related to the true Truphulls at all. In appearance it is almost identical to the White, although somewhat larger and with a smoother skin, its taste is very bland, and the texture of the flesh is very chewy. Its smell is also very different, resembling over-ripe warg cheese. It is harvested in large quantities by the peasantry and sold very cheaply at markets everywhere. Beware, though, the numerous tricksters who will try to sell you a small False as a true White. The smell alone will tell you immediately what you are buying. It grows on several species of tree, including maple, birch and urban. Harvesting can be done at any time. Prices vary depending on where you buy it, but you should pay no more than a few od for 9 mut.
Considering the large range of this fungus, it is quite suprising that they are
so rare. The northernmost limit of the range is marked by the
Bolder Forest in
Vardýnn province. Here, the Black Oak
Truphull is harvested by the Aellenrhim
elves, who then trade with a small band of trusted
humans for salt and other necessaries. It can
also be found, though in much smaller quantities, as far south as the
The southern limit of Truphull growth is the Auturian Woods, which is the only known source of the Black. It grows here in abundance and is a staple part of the diet of the Tethinrhim elves. So common is it, that the elves have granted special licence to the few humans living around the edges of the woods to harvest "as much as a small child can easily carry, each day within the period known as Fallen Leaf, To be taken only from trees within the distance from the forest's edge, that a man can walk with one breath." However, they must agree to leave the forest otherwise undisturbed or the licence will be removed for everyone.
The eastern and western limits stretch as far as the coasts. This is where the elusive White is found on the roots of the majestic coastal redwoods. However, very few trees are affected by the fungus, and in the hard, stony soils of the coast it is difficult for the Snufflers to dig for it with their wooden spades (or Snuffler shovels).
Usages. The most common use of Truphulls is in cookery. There are many varied and unusual receipts involving the use of all varieties, many of them using only the very best ingredients. We have printed some below, with the kind permission of Masterbard Judith of Bardavos (who owns the publishing rights).
Carefully wash and skin a fresh, fresh mind you, Truphull of medium size. Finely chop with only the sharpest of blades and add to a bowl of Strata butter softened for the purpose. Leave to stand for 1 whole turn of a sandglass at room heat (the choice of room is yours). - When ready, spread on golden rain bread, or baked tuberroots.
Black Porc Dumplings with Truphull Shavings
Roast, chill, and chop
the meat of a dozen or so riccio (Pricklepigs).
Heaven’s Queen Sherry (an infusion made to honour Avá)
Take a sack of sherry at least two years old.
These receipts and more can be found in Masterbard Judith's forthcoming book "101 Interesting Things to do with Fungus", available at all good merchants soon. Price negotiable.
Picture description. A rich lady's treasure-trove, including the costly Truphull Oil. Image drawn by Bard Judith.
Another major use of this versatile mould is Truphull Oil. The high cost of
Truphulls means that no-one wants to waste a single scrap of any they have. This
meant finding a use for bruised or damaged ones, or any that had "gone over"
(once unearthed, Truphulls begin to rot very quickly, usually being good for
only 3 or 4 days, after which they begin to soften and turn to a paste).
Realising that the much-loved aroma of the Truphull was contained in its juice, one enterprising person collected together as many of the damaged and over-ripe ones as he could find, and began to squash them in a tub. He did this by stamping on them with his bare feet (known as Truphull Treading) until he stood ankle deep in Truphull mush, then he drained out the oil, bottled it, and began to sell it as a salad dressing. It proved to be an instant success. He was selling the oil as fast as he could as "Tread the Truphulls", and became very rich, very quickly. Unfortunately though, he put all his new found wealth into searching for new Truphull fields, and in the Great Truphull Drought, he lost everything, including his Truphull Treading Tub.
While the Truphull Oil revolution was in full swing, well-to-do ladies began to wear a little dab of the oil behind each ear, as a public exhibition of their wealth. Soon, they were washing their hair with it. It was noticed that when the hair was washed in the oil, it became thicker, stronger and healthier looking. Dyes were added to the oil, which had the effect of changing the hairs' colour. This proved very popular as the oil improved the condition of the hair, and the colour looked natural and could be removed by simply washing, unlike magically coloured hair, which was usually singed and you were never quite sure what colour it would be. Soon, every Truphull Snuffler in Santharia was feverishly hunting for enough fungus to meet demand. no matter how long and hard they searched, they could never find enough. This led to the Great Truphull Drought, as mentioned previously.
Inevitably, the less trustworthy citizens began to experiment with the oil, mixing it with this, stirring it with that, until every market in the land had a stall selling Truphull cure-all potions. Everything from Saddle-rash to Travellers Foot to sore throats was listed as being cured by this miracle tonic (Though if you try it for all three, don't use the same bottle, obviously. Or at least start at the top and work downwards.). Unfortunately, very few of these "miracle cures" seem to have any effect other than making the sly tricksters purses heavier.
So, as you can see, Truphulls have many uses. From fine cuisine, through beauty products, and even cures for embarrassing ailments. A truly versatile mould!
Reproduction. Truphulls, along with many other fungi, reproduce by means of spores. The dust-like spores cover the surface of the Truphull and are taken into the tree through its roots. Once in the root, they appear to somehow stick to the inside of it and begin to grow. Herbologists who have spent many years studying fungi have proposed the theory that any spore that fail to attach to a root will be taken up through the trunk of the tree and eventually into the leaves. When the tree sheds its leaves, it can be assumed the spores will be returned to the soil where the process will start again. Some of the spores will almost certainly find their way into the fruit of the tree, for example - the acorns of an oak. If this acorn falls to the ground and begins to grow, the resulting tree would already be infected with the fungus, which would wait until the tree is mature enough and should then begin to grow. Realizing this, the herbologists have planted a grove of "infected" acorns in the hope of creating a cheap supply of Truphulls. They currently have around another 20 or so years to wait before the trees are mature enough to bear Truphulls.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely this method would be viable for the White, as the coastal redwood takes up to 200 years to mature.
It is reported that the Snufflers are incensed at this experiment, seeing it as an attempt to steal their livelihoods. If it is a success, it must be hoped that some form of compensation is arranged for the people whose lives depend on the annual Truphull harvest.
Myth/Lore. Captain Moroc Jaek of the Manthrian port of Ciosa, a keen amateur herbologist, recently returned from a trading trip to Nybelmar, has told of a previously unheard of variety of Truphull, native to the Crimson Isles. He says that during a brief re-provisioning stop on the isle of Euri, he heard tell of a small, red coloured fungus which grows underground. Apparently, this fungus is inedible, extremely rare, and is highly prized by the shamans of the islands as a means of "easing the communications of the spirits". The Shamans supposedly dry the fungus until it is easily crumbled, place it in a bowl with various leaves and herbs and then heat it over a fire and inhale the fumes, after which they are seen to enter an almost trance-like state. It is whilst in this state that they are supposed to recieve their most vivid dreams. All Captain Morok's attempts to procure a specimen of the fungus failed, as the locals consider it extremely bad fortune to allow anyone but the shamans to possess it.
A Truphull Snuffler's equipment consists of only two items (not including the pig or dog), the Truphull Snufflers Shovel, and the Truphull Snufflers Truphull Trug.
The shovel is always carved from a single piece of wood, and must be of the same type of tree which grows the Truphulls the Snuffler is snuffling. This is so any spores sticking to the shovel will be transported to a tree of the same type and will hopefully infect that tree as well. There have been unconfirmed reports of very old shovels, handed down through a family, starting to grow Truphulls of their own, but these may just be old Snuffler's tales. Another reason the shovels are made from wood is so that there is less chance of any Truphulls being damaged by the blade, which is rounded off at the edge.
The Truphull Snufflers Trug is the bag used to carry the Truphulls. It is always made of very fine, soft cloth. Sometimes, even hair is used to weave the bag. Again, this cuts down any risk of damage.
Every year at the end of the harvest, Truphull Snufflers gather together to celebrate their success, share a flaggon or two of Truphull mead (or for the more successful, Truphull wine), and to give thanks to the trees for providing them with their bounty. After an evening of revelrey and tall tales they perform their dance of thanksgiving, passed down from generation to generation.
At a signal from the Chief Snuffler, everyone falls silent and the Snufflers form into a square around the room. They take turns to walk into the centre and place their Truphull Shovels on the floor into a series of cross shapes. Then one Snuffler takes position in each corner of each cross, facing the Snuffler to their right, standing perfectly still with arms straight down at their sides. Another signal from the Chief Snuffler and the Truphull Snufflers Truphull Shovel Shuffle begins. Keeping arms firmly down their sides, each Snuffler begins to stamp first one foot, then the other, on the floor of the room, mimicking the Truphull Treaders in their Treading Tubs. On every third stamp, each Snuffler opens their Truphull Trug to show its emptyness (signifying a successful season, having sold all their Truphulls). They then jump across the Shovel to their left, bow to the Snuffler on their right, and begin the whole process again. This continues until each Snuffler has visited each corner of the cross four times.