When Eliza turned thirteen, she needed to leave the village on her own for the first time. Her father had died in a hunt, and her mother had grown sick after spending days in the cold rain, chasing after his ghost. Before Eliza could be allowed to leave, Thaddeus took her aside for special instructions. The old man was wise, and had been charged with protecting the young ones from the many dangers outside the walls. He taught her of the flowers that bite and the birds that sting, and the thing in the cozai tree that must not be spoken to, no matter whose voices it used.
And then he taught her about mushrooms. He showed her many examples, both fresh and dried, and pointed out their differences and similarities, and how deceptive mushrooms could be. “If you explore the wilderness and come across wild mushrooms,” he said, his white beard bristling, “you mustn’t touch them unless you can identify them. If you are in doubt, consult a guide, either a book or a person.”
He showed her the edible ones like Purple Capes and Red Sprouts. He showed her the inedible ones like Glow Buttons, Horse Saddles, and even the reeking Black Rot. The ones with twins were the most confusing. Mushrooms had few means to protect themselves. They would try to survive by hiding their true names.
Enochians were red with twelve white spots, and tasted great with rice.
False Enochians had but eleven spots. Their flesh opened doors in the ether and summoned dark wanderers. These strangers from beyond would claim to be the Eternal Ones, but they were actually Shadow Speakers. “Do not listen to their instructions,” Thaddeus said, his dark eyes flaming, “when they bid you to follow them off the well-trod path and into the depths of the forest. You will find yourself lost, trapped in the Nowhere Place.”
To help her remember his warning, he recited the ancient poem.
Know thee well where Shadow Speakers hide
They hate the minds they are trapped inside
They will drag you down into the dark below
And then the hands of time begin to slow
Chased by monsters in your head
All your thoughts will turn to dread
Never more to see the sun
To stay alive, just run, run, run
“One more thing,” Thaddeus said, “and perhaps the most important: False Enochians taste great sauteed with garlic.”