It is something of a fascination of mine, I admit it Beoram. Do you not feel the same? Such brief conversations have such far reaching consequences. Two, separate, strong minded, high level individuals, in positions of authority and respect come into contact with these ancient murder machines (I know you consider it blasphemous but let us not quibble about the facts. Yarrum is projected to have devoured hundreds of thousands of my kind at least) and everything changes! They drop their previous positions and begin to work against (in many cases) their own society, and risk bringing the wrath of the immensely powerful Abyssal Legion down upon their heads!
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What in the good name of Pangera did they say? Oh, I know what you'll say Beoram: "We know exactly what they said, it's in the book of the Red Truth" and roll your eyes at me as you always do. But you have to admit that there is no way to ensure that the revelations of the book are complete. Something could have been left out! How would you possibly know? You can't just go on blindly assuming that the author was a good and reliable narrator without proof! And when it's literally a book about a conversation between two entities, it's impossible to confirm any of it! Now don't you send me another letter filled with your threats and nonsense about disrespect. I've been a member of the Cult for eighty years! Eighty years in the field mind you, now putting my heels up and theorising like some I might add. My dedication to the cause is beyond question. All I'm asking is that you seriously engage with the question.

I just can't imagine what form that dialogue took. Mind magic was involved, naturally, was there manipulation on either end? Both individuals were (reportedly!) among the most powerful and high level magic users our respective societies have ever produced, certainly capable of mental warfare. Then again, the ancients were absurdly powerful beings akin to gods. Even if mind magic wasn't a particular strength of the Ever Worm, it can't be ruled out that it could dominate the mind of a mortal.

It can't be helped Beoram, I can't be cured of this feverish curiosity. I burn to know the answers to these impossible questions! Sadly, most of my compatriots share your own (very unscholarly) lack of rigor on this subject. Holy texts should be subjected to the same level of academic scholar as other works, if not more! Your continual refusal to see this is a definite point against your academic reputation! At least with me.

• Letter from Scholar Poran Alact to Beoram Sallis'tan in the year 1432 A.C.

Granin trudged through the halls of the Shaper Circle outpost, still rattled by his journey pinched in the mandibles of a giant ant. Luckily the creature had sufficient control not to pierce through his true skin. Granite may not be the most expensive material to replace, one of the reasons Ganin had made the practical selection, but having to walk amongst his peers with a damaged skin would be shameful to say the least.

He could be grateful … maybe grateful was too strong a word… he could acknowledge, that Balta had finally seen the light and backed off before he'd been confronted by the twenty Shapers who'd rushed out to meet them. He hadn't been sure that would happen, especially after he was drenched in acid. A battle in the tunnels between the warriors and Shapers would have been a major incident to say the least. Still, the look of poorly supressed rage on Balta's face as he'd been forced to back down made Granin doubt they'd heard the last of the incident. No doubt the senior Shapers were in a tizzy over the issue, and the cult would be shaking their heads at the unwanted attention.

"Granin Lazus, here to see the Leading Triad." He pulled up outside a wide and imposing pair of double doors, the dark wooden beams inlaid with strips of polished stone.

Two tall Golgari Shapers dressed in ceremonial robes draped from their waists down, leaving their upper body bare stood on either side of the doors. As one they turned to open the doors, their hands freezing onto the stone and their powerful frames shifting the weight with ease. Inside was a tasteful office, drab in many ways, except for the long stone table that held three aged Shapers, papers and open books piled high in front of them.

"Ah, Lazus. Nice to see you again." Spoke up the woman in the centre, Irette Plamine.

"Plamine, a pleasure as always." Try his might his tone came out wry and tired. He'd never done well speaking to authority. Probably the reason he remained in the middle ranks.

"You may speak freely here Lazus. The cult has moved decisively to ensure that every post in this place is held by our people."

Granin was impressed.

"That must have meant calling in a lot of favours."

"Of course it did, but the leadership of the cult has determined that the time has come for bold action." Broke in the surly voice of the wizened Shaper to Plamine's left. "What we don't need right now is unnecessary tension with the blasted Warriors Circle! What were you thinking?!"

Damn ant!

"I think you'll find that it wasn't my idea to provoke or attack the Warrior Leader of the delve, Gravus. The specimen we acquired made that decision all on its own."

Oridene Gravus, so old his true skin had begun to crumble, waved a hand dismissively.

"It sounds like this creature is more trouble than it's worth!" He declared. "We should feed it to one of our more promising specimens and be done with it!"

"No need to be hasty," soothed the third member of the triad, "from the intelligence we received the creature was quite promising, also a reborn soul. Not something we should so casually toss aside."

The youngest member of the triad and usually the most reasonable, Biritite Cryslas attempted to play peacemaker. A role she was well suited too.

Gravus huffed.

"Those damned lizards wouldn't know a good stone if we through it up their nostrils. Tell me Lazuz, how do you think the creature holds up?"

Granin visibly hesitated and Plamine broke in to ease his mind.

"Do not worry overmuch, Shaper Lazus, the fate of the creature you captured will not rest on your words alone. We will follow the process as best we can in these trying times. It will receive an interview and assessment before this triad will make a decision."

Somewhat mollified, Granin gave his honest thoughts.

"The creature is difficult. Cagey, untrusting and holds back information regularly. Much of this can be attributed to the sudden and violent manner of capture which bypassed all the normal protocols."

A loud harrumph erupted from Gravus, it was he who had authorised this mission and its conditions.

"Nevertheless, I've found the monster to be surprisingly capable. It's certainly not afraid to cause a stir, has a huge variety of mutations and Skills, even a high level of core shaping which it has used to grow two quite formidable pets."

"Pets? A waste of resources, surely!"

"Shaper Gravus. As the first of this triad I will order you to hold your tongue if you continue to interrupt," Plasmine had run out of patience.

"As I was saying. Pets, two of them, although one has gone missing and we are unable to determine where it went. The creature itself refuses to say a word on the matter."

"Hardly relevant if it failed to get through the gate," Plasmine spoke dismissively.

"Quite so," Granin agreed. "I merely raise the pets to indicate the wide variety of capabilities the creature has. The magical skills it has demonstrated are quite well developed and I'm aware that it has invested heavily in raising its abilities in this area. I discovered through dialogue it actually has multiple brains…"

"Wouldn't utilising the relevant skill be more efficient?" Asked Cryslas, baffled.

"It would, but it has … had no awareness of the Skill until I asked the same question."

"It sounds like this monster has a range of curious abilities. I'll be curious to see how it performs in the upcoming trials."

"Trials? What exactly is being planned here, Plasmine?"

"The Cult has decided that our time is running out. A new ancient must arise soon if we to fulfill our destiny and reach beyond the confines of this world."

"What?! Isn't that a little sudden?!"

"We believe this to be true. All of our candidates will be put to the test. We must have a final specimen behind which we can throw all our strength!"

"And the rest?"

"Fuel for the fire."



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