The Trial of Bayhaven
A lattimor is the result of a symbiotic union of two different creatures: a bursk (a large, muscular, hairy biped) and a neem (an intelligent fungal creature). They come together in synthesis to form a new being. Effectively, a lattimor is two creatures with one body.
A typical lattimor stands about 7 feet (2.1 m) tall, with broad, sloping shoulders, powerful arms, and short legs. It has two large and widely spaced eyes, plus four smaller eyes positioned high and close together. Although its entire body is covered in brownish-blond, black, or white hair, the back of a lattimor has a flat, discolored area, almost like a massive bruise. Humans often think the area vaguely resembles a bat or an owl with outstretched wings. Closer inspection of the area reveals tiny waving hairs that are almost threadlike—very different from the hair on the rest of the creature’s body. These small hairs are the outer manifestation of the neem, although by adulthood, the fungus has worked itself into the cellular structure of the main body of the bursk.
The synthesis of bursk and neem is imperfect. The symbiosis results in a single creature with a single mind, called the fugue state. While the bursk and the neem are enhanced by the union—the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts—sometimes the two creatures operate independently. In other words, the lattimor exists in a fugue state most of the time, but sometimes either the bursk or the neem is in control. From a human’s point of view, this can seem like a psychotic malady akin to multiple personality disorder, but to a lattimor, it’s simply normal life.
The bursk and neem each have individual names, with the union taking on both names. For example, a neem called Narlyen and a bursk called Fesh might combine to create a lattimor called Narlyen-Fesh. At any given time, a lattimor might be in a bursk state, a neem state, or (most commonly) a fugue state.
Typically, a bursk state is more prone to aggression, combat, and physical activity. A neem state is contemplative and conversational. Shifting from state to state sometimes happens unexpectedly. When the lattimor wishes to change state, the shift requires careful concentration. The bursk state, being more aggressive, is harder to shift out of than the other two states.
Lattimors are strong creatures with keen senses. They breathe nitrogen but need only a small amount, so they can hold their breath for up to ten minutes without issue. Most inhaled toxins that would bother a human have no effect on them. Lattimors are omnivorous and can digest organic material that a human almost certainly could not.Lattimors have male and female genders, but only because bursk do—the neem reproduce asexually. When two lattimors mate, the result is a bursk who is immediately joined with a neem so they grow together. If the union cannot be established within the first few weeks, it is unlikely to happen successfully. Male lattimors are typically larger than the females and walk a bit stooped. An average lattimor’s lifespan is approximately fifty years. Usually, when one part of the combined creature dies, both die. However, there are reports of a neem being “burned out” of a bursk, reducing it to a bestial creature that can never again form the synthesis of a lattimor.
Without a neem, a bursk is little more than a beast, about as intelligent as a smart, well-trained pack animal. Without a bursk, a neem is aware and intelligent, but not nearly at a human’s level; it’s not capable of using tools and is barely mobile.
The outlook of a lattimor depends on its current state and can vary from individual to individual. In its fugue state, a lattimor is careful but curious. In a bursk state, the creature is easily bored and focuses mainly on eating and proving its prowess (and worth) through physical acts, such as combat, feats of strength, or contests. In a neem state, the creature is timid, thoughtful, and introverted. It likes to talk but probably would rather just think. Not all lattimor pairings are harmonious. Rarely, a neem and bursk grow to hate each other and vie for control when not in a fugue state.