"...[untranslatable]...dwelt in the steaming fens of the newmade Earth: a mass without head or members, spawning the grey, formless efts of the prime and the grisly prototypes of terrene life . . . And all earthly life, it is told, shall go back at last through the great circle of time...[end of fragment].
Excerpt Six from the Yvvonik Book,
as compiled by Ruther Valdrix
for the Second Polar Expedition,
Imperial War College,
Fantomists cultivate this fetid, foul-smelling corruption of primordial life in their deep defiles and buried redoubts. The undead seek it out as though it were some sort of necromantic balm to ease their agonies. Mediums, Lichtmongers and Gleambringers seek out wild patches of Ectolichen left untended behind tumbled walls or well-shielded from the sun's blasting light by the ruins of the Jumbles, the overgrown plots of de-commissioned cemeteries or the crypts left cratered and shattered after the last war; venturing into dangerous areas for a chance to harvest even a small amount of the stuff for it is incredibly valuable to them in their work. Mannikinnieri, Geppetorre, Pupeteers and their ilk have been known to use Ectolichen in some of their worst creations. There are Distillers and Candymakers reputed to include small amounts of the stuff in their more potent concoctions. Seamstresses and Gardeners are also interested in this stuff, but no one is sure just why, all anyone cares about is that they will sometimes pay a good bit to take delivery of a small quantity of Ectolichen. It used to be a hanging offense to distribute Ectolichen to a Miasmister or any of their sordid brethren, but times change, old laws go out of vogue or get replaced with new ones, and while hanging is no longer condoned as a form of execution thanks to the Midwives and their Alraunes, it is a question for the courts whether the old restriction still applies beyond a few old fashioned vigilantes and the occasional mob armed with pitchforks and torches. Discretion is, as always, a professional virtue among those who seek to make a profit subverting the old laws.
Cold and dewy, one would never suspect that this stuff is related to various strains of pseudo-plant colonies that arrived from one or more of the nearer Greenhells, or possibly there is some [so far inconclusive] evidence to suggest a slight connection to the fungal infestations of Yellowholme, as well as a form of lichen brought back from one of the ill-fated polar expeditions. No one is entirely clear on where this stuff actually came from, whether it arrived in Wermspittle in its current form or if it was in fact modified, twisted or somehow deranged from its natural state by some unregistered tinkerer, clandestine Chymist or [as some have whispered] a Comprachico renegade.
Wherever it came from, whatever its provenance, Ectolichen is a valuable commodity because it exudes ectoplasm that is unlike anything produced by any other living thing; it is somehow undifferentiated and free from the lingering imprints and emotional pollution that taints all other forms of the stuff.
But not all patches of Ectolichen are clean and clear of untoward influences; indeed most are contaminated or spoiled by contact with rats, vermin, or scavengers...those that aren't sabotaged by vindictive rivals or vengeful cultists or other meddlesome, bothersome agents of destruction. Many patches of Ectolichen spawn twisted demi-spectres, aberrant apparitions and misshapen phantasms or worse...and there is always worse to be discovered in Wermspittle. Some patches of Ectolichen seem to produce Irrlichts and Weirdlights, which has led some scholars to surmise and hypothesize that this stuff might give rise to various forms of these types of entities...or perhaps it has some other role in the pseudo-life-cycle of these things. No one knows as yet and wherever there are argumentative, inquiring minds, hastily-assembled expeditions and academic skullduggery is never far behind.
Efts, Blupes and Figments, Low Shades, Gloomswallows and Gloomshadows have been known to prowl or congregate around patches of Ectolichen in order to feed on the ectoplasm. Small clutches of Zoogs, usually the Blue variety, will also sometimes nest near a patch of Ectolichen in order to suckle their young on the ectoplasmic miasma that surrounds the stuff. There are many creatures, animals and beasts that have reason to visit these patches, or to lair near them, or to hunt around them for those others drawn to these places...but the most numerous sort of creature or entity attracted to these sites are the immaterial, the insubstantial, the wisps, geists and all their ilk.
Those without material form, the wandering spirits of the forlorn dead, the lingering vestiges, the lurking shades and hungry ghosts and all the other innumerable forms of undead and unborn and all things in-between descend upon these devil-ridden, demon-haunted, wellspings of raw ectoplasm as though they were some sort of oasis in the midst of a vast, harsh wasteland and in their conflicts and contentiousness render these once placid spaces into centers of pestilence and virulence.
Beware even the slightest outcropping of this seemingly innocuous stuff, for it portends horrors and terrors best left unseen, unmet and left to their own devices unless one is properly equipped, suitably trained and well prepared to confront unnameable, unspeakable things...
“To destroy wonder and mystery, is to destroy the only elements that make existence tolerable.”
Clark Ashton Smith