Your lips kiss the foreheads of your children. Your hands wrap around your husband at night. You greet your neighbors every morning and your back hurts after working in the fields. But you did not choose to do any of these things. Your life is not your own. This is the horror of the mystauk.
Trapped within your own body, you watch and listen as your words persuade your wife to head deeper into the swamps, looking for sweet casgrove fruit to sell. She does not know your words will turn her into a helpless puppet just like you. This is the horror of the mystauk.
Your neighbor comes by, priest by his side. They are here to release you from your prison. They know you have been trapped for years. Your words and movements belonged to another. Suffocating, you were forced to watch your life through your own eyes lived by another. But they will release you! Until you uncontrollably reach forth, your enhanced strength allowing you to punch your fist right through the priest’s chest and out his back. Your other hand grabs your neighbor’s head and crushes his skull. This is the horror of the mystauk.
Ecology of the Mystauk
Mystauk are a type of fly-sized, green beetle living in the swamps of Verda. The insects feed on yellow-orange, citrus fruits called casgroves and live a life cycle of about a hundred years. Although they are insects, these tiny creatures reproduce at about the same rate as humans. But of all these features the most important is this – mystauk are mind-controlling parasites.
When not inside a host, a mystauk’s intelligence drops to an animal level. It relies on instinct to seek out food. Instinct also drives the creature towards the brain tissue of intelligent humanoids. By crawling through the ear, nose, or mouth a mystauk can attach to a humanoid’s brainstem and seize control of its body, memories, and mind.
Upon attachment with brain tissue, the mystauk becomes super intelligent. After this awakening, most mystauk desire nothing more than to remain in this enlightened state. The parasite will often assume the identity of the host and use this cover to awaken other mystauk. To the insects, this is the natural way of things. All parasites need a host.
While inside an individual’s body, the mystauk can often play the host perfectly by accessing memories. The only real change in the host’s behavior could be the mystauk’s insatiable desire for citrus fruit, which they often force the host to consume daily. Other behavioral changes can occur, but the mystauk is often careful about these as to not tip-off others that the host is possessed.
Another change comes from the mystauk’s ability to harness all parts of an individual’s brain – increased physical prowess. A mystauk-possessed host has almost supernatural strength and toughness.
The mystauk will sometimes leave the host’s body to mate. It will gather with other possessed hosts, who will hold down the humanoid host while the mystauk it out of the body. The mystauk will return to an uninhabited body after mating and return the favor of standing guard while the other insects mate. Often during these times, a mystauk will re-enter a body different from the one with which it came, which is fine by the insect. To have many different experiences in life is preferable to a mystauk.
When the host dies the mystauk immediately detaches from the dead brain and seeks out a new host or swampy environment instinctually. Its intelligence returns to an animal level, but if it finds a new host, it will remember all of its past experiences.
A mystauk also has a special sense. It can tell when another inhabited host is in their presence and can communicate telepathically with any other awakened mystauk within 25 feet.
The Goals of the Mystauk
Most of the parasites share a single goal once they have attached to a host – help their unenlightened brethren awaken. Mystauk may infect an entire tribe or village in this way without anyone realizing until it is too late. Though these occurrences are few and far between, the mystauk will obviously act more freely when they are with only other mystauk-inhabited hosts.
These communities of awakened mystauk are dangerous indeed. Many prefer to remain isolated, guarding their secret from outsiders and woe to the travelers who wander into these settlements. There is always a need for host bodies and always another mystauk to be awakened. If one of these settlements is discovered it often means a bloody conflict. The parasites will not give up their bodies without a fight. The biggest fear is one of these communities could overpower another and slowly add more and more awakened mystauk to their ranks, creating an army of inhabited hosts.
Individual mystauk also pursue other interests that are as varied as those of humans. These interests are often related to their now heightened intellect and creativity. The mystauk may take up artistic and academic endeavors, or travel the world looking for unique experiences. Often the mystauk is smart enough to make these behavioral changes gradually if their host had different interests before inhabitation, as to not tip off family and friends.
Discovery and History of the Mystauk
The tribes of Verda have long spoken of a strange force in the swamps that grabs one’s mind and makes one’s body into a prison cell. However the cause of this phenomena was discovered ten years ago by the first Aeranorian humans exploring the swamps of southern Verda. But first, these explorers found casgrove fruit. It’s exotic flavor made it popular overseas in Findalay and Parian for cooking, baking, juicing, wines, and raw eating.
The tribes of Verda warned the explorers to stay away, for there was a mysterious mind-controlling evil in the swamp. But the opportunity for profit was too great and the Aeranorians went deeper into the swamps to continue harvesting the fruit. One day an entire camp of farmers and their families left the swamp in pursuit of other endeavors. Aeranore, confused about the sudden halting of operations sent a team to investigate. After talking with the tribes and venturing in the swamps, this team uncovered the truth of the mystauk.
The farmers were eventually captured or put down. The prisoners were studied and Aeranore’s druids eventually discovered that a successful feeblemind spell will detach the mystauk from the brainstem of a host, drawing it out. However, the mystauk itself must still be killed and the host still suffers the ill effects of the spell, needing to be healed in the normal fashion.
Eventually, Aeranorians created hooded, netted outfits so they could continue their profitable casgrove farming safely. Currently, Aeranore’s government will pay, house, and feed any citizen looking to make a fortune in the casgrove swamps of Verda. For many this is a ticket to the new world. Still, with so much casgrove fruit being farmed… accidents do happen, outfits do tear, and mystauk claim their hosts. And with all that casgrove fruit traveling to Findalay and Parian… who’s to say a few mystauk haven’t hitched a ride?