The Deep and the Dark
Flora and Fauna of the Underworld
Sikaru shell: A mollusc of seven or eight inches at maturity that resembles a snail with an oblong, translucent shell that is mostly empty; it is known to live only in areas of rampant fungal growth, such as the mushroom forests that are occasionally found near mineral-rich subterranean rivers, and most commonly in the areas that myconids frequent, perhaps because of the extremely healthy poisonous mushrooms they cultivate. It is constantly either gorging itself until its elastic stomach expands to fill the emptiness in its shell, or lying dormant, tucked under the caps of large mushrooms, digesting the slime from certain species of poisonous mushrooms. These virulent slimes ferment in its belly along with its very mild digestive juices, into a potent, faintly hallucinogenic mead-like substance which it can then use to sustain itself for long periods of time. The fluid changes in color and consistency, from a thick, viscous clear to a dark amber as it is processed inside the sikaru shell.
The process largely breaks down the poison, until it has only a soporific, slightly mind-bending effect. They are often harvested by duergar in their dormant state, and are considered a delicacy, generally enjoyed by those who are skilled enough to possess extensive (by dwarven standards) leisure time, who carefully remove their fleshy bodies with a handy knife and sip the heady contents of their bloated stomachs.
*In game terms, consuming this substance has benefits and downsides. It makes the limbs and eyelids of imbibers feel heavy, imposing a -2 to both attack and damage rolls, and imposes a -4 penalty on all surprise checks. However, it opens the mind and makes one acutely aware of every sensation he feels, and improves the Power Score of ANY psionic powers by 2.
Kashiushu: A quasi-domesticated creature that the denizens of Ina-Sihirtu encourage the growth of on the ceilings of the caverns in which they farm their staple fungi, the average kashi ant is about the length of a knuckle, with large, chewing mandibles, and the color of chalk. These can be fried, rarely candied, or eaten raw, and can be a bracing meal in a pinch. However, the dwarves value them for the specialized, living repositories they count amongst their species – an unusual member of the colony which can balloon up to several inches in diameter around the abdomen, which becomes filled with a (to the duergar) delicious, supremely nourishing liquid as the other ants constantly feed them and rely on them in thin times (which rarely, if ever, come, thanks to pains taken by the duergar, resulting in a surplus of storage-ants). The duergar simply climb up, pluck them as they hang from the ceiling with their large mandibles, and pop the relatively tiny thorax off to enjoy the liquid within at their leisure.
Wabaluch: An enormous, blind, broad-backed beetle that the dwarves have selectively bred for strength and docility. It can be eaten, and though its meat is tough and stringy, gritty in places with the occasional mineral buildup, it is plentiful and has a pleasant gaminess. Far more useful, though, is its potential as a beast of burden – enormously strong, with an effective strength of 20, and bred from a stock of stone-boring monstrosities, it can be used to transport a massive quantity of goods, ridden, and employed as a labor-saving device to chew through almost anything. Ecologically, the beasts eat raw stone and earth, from which they absorb the minerals they need to survive and fortify their resilient bodies. Most useful of all, they have a keen taste for iron ore, can sniff it specifically out as a magical rod of metal detection might, and the enormous outer coverings for their stunted vestigial wings are composed primarily of that useful metal, which can be extracted after the death of the creature, along with deposits of whatever other useful minerals it has built up over its lifetime.