The Tale of Two Great Worms

Winter had released its grasp and spring had broken out in the early days of Kiani when sounds of a heated squabble echoed across the Basin. It would be Qistrel Strongleaf of the Serenwilde Commune who would first stumble upon Pachidrui Etloo, the herbalist newly settled there, being interrogated by none other than Ganine Natharian, resident of the abandoned Eternity Labs in the Undervault. As others joined the commotion, Ganine continued to aggressively question Pachidrui, going so far as to begin chasing them through the crowd. He was intent on finding the whereabouts of his brother Theone, who had stopped replying to his correspondence. Pachidrui desperately used Xenthos An’Ryshe and his leopard, Ilistala, as a barrier to keep themselves safe, explaining they had not seen Theone and that all they knew was that he was investigating something important for the Fellowship. It was Qistrel who eventually recognised the name Natharian and remembered she had seen Theone not all that long ago when an icy abomination had attacked the Serenwilde Forest. Anxious to find his brother, Ganine gave up on Pachidrui and sought Qistrel’s aid in finding his brother, which ended in a fruitless search of an abandoned cave in the Northern Mountains.

As Ganine was off searching for his brother, Pachidrui apologised that they would not be able to help find Theone themselves due to an important research project related to moss, but instead offered a way to find a secret outpost by means of an enchanted amber coin. Explaining the enchantment behind the amber coin, Pachidrui handed it over to Xenthos who was first to offer assistance, and so, the adventurers set off, led by Qistrel, on their hunt to find the whereabouts of the missing merian. Guided by the amber coin, the group first arrived at a spot just outside the Triple Junction Inn, followed by various other rest stops along the way. One such adventure saw Qistrel forcefully eject from a carriage barreling down the highway. Dusting herself off, she soon rejoined her companions whilst the Regent of Serenwilde, Xiran Stormcrow saw to the safety of three young Serenwilders, Mani, Velian, and Hyirah, still onboard. As they continued their pursuit, it was Velian of the Serenwilde Commune who rubbed the coin for the last time to reveal the location of the outpost they had been searching for.

Upon entering the makeshift outpost hidden beneath the courtyard of the Djarrakh Castle, it was soon apparent that Theone was nowhere to be seen. Those seeking him, spread out to explore and search for clues in the hope of finding some evidence of where he might have ended up. Upon closer inspection, a sharkskin-bound diary was found, along with various papers and a drawing board, leading to the discovery of what Theone and the Fellowship had been studying. They revealed various forms of flora and fauna, and, as Tridemon Regalis pointed out, an odd interest in creatures of the Namiraa Trench. This sparked many of those gathered to set out to search the icy depths of the Inner Sea – the Namiraa Trench – but many were unable to follow that trail due to the dangers the trench presented.

Uzriel d’Vanecu was first to stumble upon an unnerving cavern deep in the Namiraa Trench in which stood Theone Natharian, carefully studying measurements and adding to a journal, oblivious to the Basin-wide search that was underway to find him. Kalas Zagreus soon joined Uzriel and Freja n’Lochli of Magnagora along with Qistrel and Barrin Strongleaf and Xiran Stormcrow of the Serenwilde Commune, Xenthos, along with Tirah and Wrynn Mzithrei of the Glomdoring Commune and the Gaudiguchian, Eiselle Mes’ard. After a series of intense questioning, it was revealed that Theone had discovered several egg sacs within the Trench, and upon further investigation, uncovered the unknown presence of a second Great Worm, Bahlashyth, the Great Worm Mother, who was nesting deep within the bowels of Namiraa. While the argument went on, Tridemon left to appraise Ganine Natharian of the revelations and to put his mind at rest.

Meanwhile elsewhere in the Trench, the voice of Soriali, the lurking nereid rippled through the dark waters as she cried for help, for Uskashyth, the Great Worm himself, was circling her, fiercely protecting the eggs of his mate. Uzriel, Vella, and Tridemon came to ward him off and save the snooping nereid. As Soriali’s audience grew, many had left the side of Theone, arguing his methods and motives to be false, even after his many attempts to assure those gathered that what he and the Fellowship were doing was for the good of nature and that it was only right to allow all creations a fighting chance. Eventually, it was Zagreus of Magnagora, who decided to test the waters and began to feed the Great Worm Mother, attempting to satiate her ravenous hunger until finally, her body convulsed as she produced a viridescent egg sac. Zagreus had his own intentions, however, and secretly took the egg sac, stashing it away as he rushed out of the cave before Theone could get a word in.

Very few remained by Theone’s side as he struggled to convince anyone that his intentions were true, but it was Eiselle Mes’ard of Gaudiguch who decided to help the merian and began to hunt the Trench for food to feed the Great Worm Mother. She eventually gathered enough resources to produce two more egg sacs to join the first that Zagreus did, in the end, plant within the trench. Theone was overjoyed to finally have assistance and taught Eiselle how to protect the eggs from being sabotaged.

Unbeknownst to Theone, Soriali had been garnering more support to destroy the previously planted, and so far, unsuccessful, egg sacs and to stop the Great Worm Mother from producing any more. And so, convinced by Sapphira, Uzriel, and Xenthos that they stood a fighting chance against the Great Worms, Soriali cunningly worked to thwart the merian’s research. With their help, she sought to recover the conch shell that had once stolen her voice and still retained a part of it, which prevented her from singing her Nereid’s Song. Together, with Huskii, Qistrel, Zagreus, and Veldrin also in tow, they visited the nereid’s old home, and home of her sister nereids, the Rhizoda Mangrove, where a murky saltwater lagoon held the conch. There, they used Uzriel’s knowledge of Bloodtide Coven rituals to part the waters and when the conch was returned to Soriali, the group returned to the trench.

Once home, Soriali needed her companions to help her obtain the final ingredient that would empower her voice, the still-beating Heart of Uskashyth. For that, Soriali had one special trick up her sleeve, something that would render her nemesis helpless so one of their hearts could be acquired. With a powerful artifact in her hands, Sapphira and the group set off to find the beast while Soriali was entertained by Hyirah, Xiran, and a honey cake. Once the Great Worm was engaged in battle, they waited for the precise moment to strike out with the magic to bring him down. After several attempts, Sapphira spied a vulnerable spot on Uskashyth’s exposed underbelly and drove the artifact deep into him, paralysing him and allowing everyone to venture through his great maw.

Passing through countless sharp teeth, the group traversed deep into the depths of the Great Worm until they reached the chamber where his five beating hearts were, their thundering pulses sending knee-trembling shockwaves throughout the fleshy chamber with every beat. In order to procure one of the hearts, those brave enough to enter the belly of the beast had to figure out a way to free it from the tangle of arteries. Time was running out for them, however, as each squeeze of a heart weakened the spell upon their host, and with one last ill-fated squeeze, Uskashyth swallowed everyone whole. It was the Zagreus who would have the last laugh, as he managed to survive the toxic environment long enough to wrestle a beating heart free and return to Soriali with the prize.

With the heart and her conch in hand, Soriali’s eyes lit up with excitement as she raised the conch to her ear, listening to the part of her voice trapped within. Her kelp-like tresses roiled in the dark waters as her skin began to shine with a vivid blue intensity, a haunting melody now echoing throughout the Trench. Bringing the heart to her lips, Soriali sank her teeth into its flesh and drank deeply of the essence contained within as her song intensified until it finally reached a crescendo. The powerful shockwave that followed rippled through the Trench, shattering any egg sacs, both old and new, and weaving a powerful enchantment over Bahlashyth, the Great Worm Mother, placing her into a deep slumber.

With all of his research now ruined, Theone visibly became distressed as Soriali gloated about her victory. Apologising profusely to Eiselle and thanking her for her efforts, Theone attended to Bahlashyth to ensure she was alive and breathed a sigh of relief to find that she was merely sleeping and that not all was lost. Perhaps one day he might be able to complete his research and see the Great Worm Mother’s children born and his hope for the creatures realised.