“Send her to the prison sphere!” shrieked Shen Ra Haa, his raspy voice echoing throughout the greenstone chamber. “We do not tolerate such blasphemy in such a holy place.”  The void engineer tried to speak in protest, but the only sound she could make were muffled screams as her lips fused together.  Two jeno cultists emerged from the floor and grabbed hold of the engineer, dragging her down with them back into the now liquid emerald tile.  The floor solidified again, and an uneasy silence filled the room.

  The engineer’s punishment was standard for nihilism: soon she would be transported to one of the metal prison spheres that orbit Aela.  She would be fitted with a collar that inhibits all of her magical ability.  She would be the same as the Mundane that live on the farms outside the Great Barrier.  For an Aelan, the shame is worse than death.

  Shen Ra Haa composed himself and turned towards the other engineers.  None of them would dare speak ill of the Worm after that display.  “Now, continue with your report.”

  One of the other engineers stepped forward.  “As we were saying, the readings show that the borders of the layer is growing weaker, and the Worm has grown more active.  Of course, this is glorious, and we are all blessed to be closer to the Worm.”  His emotionless voice cracked a little at the end.  He was a man of science, but unlike his colleague he knew what happened to those that spoke out against the Worm.  “If we increase the engines, we can weaken the border even further.”

  Shen Ra Haa visibly quivered at that last statement.  The cultists behind him began chanting rapturously, causing a cacophony that echoed throughout the Jeno Morbenay, the temple in which they currently stand. 

  A new voice spoke up from behind Shen Ra Haa, “...what is this about the barrier?” The creature that spoke had been waiting in the corner, silent until now.  His form had been as if a statue carved from marble, with the body of a man and the feathered wings of an eagle, beautiful and terrible.  If from another place, he would be called an angel, but there are no such creatures native to Aela.

  “Ah, my precious Laez, I wondered when you would arrive,” spoke Shen Ra Haa, awoken from his ecstasy.

  “The barrier is still holding well.  The Mundane have experienced casualties from the fallout of the latest experiments, but naught has breached the Great Barrier.  Aela, as always, remains safe.  However, there is something new to report on that front.”

  Laez’s expressionless face cracked slightly, and the smallest modicum of a smirk crawled across his face.  “Oh?”

  “We found... something,” the engineer continued, “near the outer reaches of the barrier, a small weakening in the layer border has been breached.  Not by the Worm, but by another layer.”

  Shen Ra Haa screamed. “Ha HA! Another layer!  This is fantastic news!”

  “Indeed it is,” Laez replied.  “There is much Aela would benefit from by initiating contact with another Layer.”

  Shen Ra Haa grabbed one of the Jeno cultists by the hand and whirled about, dancing with him throughout the room.  He was quite taken aback, but he knew not to disappoint his high priest. 

aela_underneath.png

  “We need to go immediately!” Shen Ra Haa exclaimed, “prepare the Empty Maw! Contact Sardo and gather an expeditionary force!  We will feast tonight, in preparation for the feasting of the worm!”

  Laez walked onto the balcony as Shen Ra Haa continued his dance and gazed upon the sky.  The purple and green clouds that swirled above the Jeno Morbenay had grown in intensity since he had last seen them.  He could almost hear the cries of the Worm from across the border.