Bearer's Baneroot

Nature, though boundlessly savage, can seldom be accused of malevolence. Bearer’s Baneroot is so vicious and vile that it is hard not to attribute it with a cruel intent.

 

 

Gnarled and twisted in appearance, growing low to the ground and deeply rooted in taut, contorted knots as if it were trying to tear itself to pieces, Bearer’s Baneroot is a uniquely aggressive plant native only to the Faroe Islands, an archipelago that sits between the North Atlantic and the Norwegian Sea. It seems to grow naturally in roughly circular clusters - with circumferences between four to six metres - before settling into a somewhat dormant state. Originally discovered in some of the islands’ least hospitable conditions, the tangled throngs of its growth are dense and, if disturbed, incredibly dangerous. Pervasive to an almost pernicious degree, it is also apparently immune to the hardships of the various climates to which it has, despite the stark dangers, been transplanted. Although hardy, needing very little in the way of moisture, sun or even air to survive quite adequately, Bearer’s Baneroot is omnivorous and has been known to grow in spurts - apparent to even the most unobservant of naked eyes - to ensnare small animals that stray too close, drawing the nutrients from their remains through its flesh.

 

It kills any such prey that becomes trapped by constricting and is able to exert enough pressure to break bones and rupture internal organs, their pulp presumably being easier to absorb. Clusters of splintered skeletons, predominantly those of the local Faroe duck, have been found in areas where growths of the ‘Root have been successfully burnt away. Moreover, the ‘Root has been known to kill larger prey, up to and including livestock and even humans. Where this happens it is accomplished, generally, by grasping around and breaking the ankles of its victims, bringing them down to the ground before growing new tendrils over them and crushing them entirely. This remarkable alacrity that Bearer’s Baneroot has shown in its growth is also reflected in its extraordinary regenerative capacity: if damaged its primary defence mechanism, an even more prodigious capacity to grow, is activated. Attempts to free someone who is trapped, or to clear dormant clusters, result in damaged roots spreading to increase the clusters reach until the damage ceases. Or until the threat itself is consumed…

 

These unique properties have given rise to some creative uses for Bearer’s Baneroot, with it even being utilised in the past as an exotic tool to commit murders. Typically this was accomplished by forcing or tricking the victim into ingesting a cutting suspended in a binding substance – such as gelatine – that prevented it from growing until it was breached by the stomach acid. At which point even an extremely small amount of the root would grow quickly, stimulated by being cut from the cluster and by the damage which the stomach acid continued to cause, expanding until its tendrils ruptured through into the chest cavity, variously piercing and choking the internal organs and eventually bursting through the skin. Given how painful such a death must have been, it is fortunate that the obvious difficulty of procuring and containing a sample that could be used for such a murder mean that few such instances (even fewer than those of it being deliberately cultivated) have been recorded.

 

With all known clusters carefully monitored and protected by international treaty, the existence of Bearer’s Baneroot is downplayed (if not outright denied) to reduce the risk of any interference that might result in an outbreak. The extent of such a potential disaster can only be hazarded at, but the disruption that could be wreaked on the flora and fauna of any climate where such an invasive and aggressive species was released is likely to be catastrophic. Any crisis involving the Bearer’s Baneroot is particularly dangerous, given that an inexpert or ineffective attempt to cull and control the outbreak will only exacerbate and escalate the situation. The only way yet discovered to destroy the ‘Root quickly and surely enough that it cannot regenerate is to burn it, but even this method will only work with a fire fuelled by an accelerant that burns at extraordinarily high temperatures. Such conflagrations tend to be difficult to control in the best of circumstances, particularly when dampening them prematurely would cause a violent resurgence of the Bearer’s Baneroot, but if a cluster has spread into populated areas it can be even more dangerous to attempt to quell it.

 

Due to the volatility and inherent dangers presented by its unique capabilities, very few inroads have been made into the scientific study of Bearer’s Baneroot. There have been attempts to conduct thorough research into its properties and workings; all have ended in disaster, sometimes even in fatalities, and the attempts have all but ceased in recent years. As a result, it has not even been formally classified within the taxonomic structure and much about it, including what other plants it might be related to, remains completely unknown. Nonetheless, and despite its undiscerning appetites, there is a general consensus that it sits apart from and outside the food chain, without a single predator to contain it or any prey that it must necessarily consume. As such there have even been discussions about a coordinated, careful extermination, with some arguing that because Bearer’s Baneroot presents a clear threat but could be excised with little to no knock-on effects on other species, such a plan must at least be seriously considered.

 

Some of the pushback against such a drastic, absolute solution come from members of the scientific community who believe that there may be vital medical applications hidden in the biological mysteries of the ‘Root, but there are those whose arguments are more spiritual in nature. Bearer’s Baneroot is a longstanding ritual or casting component in several religious and magical traditions. The most extreme of these shared certain tenets of a pantheistic bent: believing that it is the expression of nature’s anger towards the damage we do to the earth and its environs. They say that, eventually, if and when we foul the air and water enough to create a climate which causes continual damage to the Bearer’s Baneroot, the various clusters will respond to the attack by growing endlessly, out of control. If this is the case, human civilisation would be destroyed, with our species perhaps becoming extinct. Nature, in the ascendant, would heal itself on the meal of our bones, grinding us to dust in order to repair the damage we have done and that we have allowed to have been done.

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