Emophilus
The Emophili (Emopholi) are perhaps distant relatives of the Mould-walkers, but they occupy a different
ecological niche. They live in groups which make their lairs in volcanic places and sulphurous
swamps. These humanoid creatures are roughly human-sized, depending on nutrient
availability. They are protected by a natural covering of chitinous scales, plates and
protuberances and have two f
orked and extensible tentacles. They are coloured according to
habitat: yellow-orange forms occupy rocky volcanic regions, whereas greener forms occupy
sulphurous swamps. The colour is probably due to the symbionts which live inside their tissues:
micro-organisms which metabolise sulphur, providing their hosts with energy.
However, from
time-to-time they have to supplement their diet with additional sources of organic carbon. They
begin life as encrusting growths, on volcanic rocks, on the bottom of volcanic pools, etc. When
conditions are sub-optimal and the organism becomes stressed, then it will assemble a pod-like
structure which eventually hatches. The hatchling resembles a humanoid Emophilus, but maybe
much smaller initially, perhaps only a foot in height. The hatchling will locate animal prey,
primarily by scent and, when closer, by locating its source of body heat. Some of the chitinous
protuberances possibly function as lenses, making up simple eyes. When prey is encountered it
will use its tentacles to infect the skin of its target with spores. The infected animal will, after a
day or so, seek out and locate the home of the Emophili, whose location seems to be
genetically stored within the infection itself. There it will die and establish a new encrusting
growth, or be assimilated by another Emophilus. Using its tentacles the Emophilus can absorb
the encrusting growth stages, such as might have developed upon an animal's corpse; the
growth becomes a kind of cellular broth on contact with the tentacles to aid absorption. Once
absorbed, the new cells will incorporate into the body of the Emophilus, enlarging it.

The larger Emophili defend the lair and its various encrusting growths and food sources for the
latter. They have been known to infect humans and within a minute or so of contact, the host
feels a strange calmness towards the Emophili and will generally refuse to harm them in any
way. The encrusting growths can also be dangerous: parts above the water line may develop
syphons which can squirt spores upon any animal form coming too close to the growth and
contact with the growth can also spread the infection. The walking Emophili, however, will
venture a certain distance from their lairs searching for food, but they will never wonder more
than about a day from their precious source of sulphur. Sulphur deposits also seem to be
absorbed by the tentacles, though sulphurous vapours and solutions can also be absorbed by
gills beneath the head dome.

It is difficult to rate the intelligence of Emophili, since it is fungoid and quite alien to us. However,
they do seem capable of organising themselves collectively. It is rumoured that they form much
larger communities deep beneath the surface of the earth in volcanic caverns, though their
source of carbon in these places is unknown.
Article created: 31 Dec 2016