The Etherus Worm, named after the God of Lust, is a particularly interesting creature. At roughly two spans long and half a span in diameter, it is regularly mistaken for a snake. The female creature secretes a thin, mucus-like film from its body during its mating season, and this film can be collected and woven into transparent, shimmery clothing called ether-flake.
Appearance. The Etherus Worm is pink and fleshy, with a segmented body. At birth, an Etherus Worm begins with 12 segments; another segment is added on for each week of its life. The Etherus Worm also has a wide mouth at one end of its body, with fleshy nodules at its "lips", resembling carnivorous teeth. It is about two spans long and half a span thick.
Special Abilities. During mating season, the female Etherus Worm excretes a thin mucus-like substance from her body and spreads it on the surface of the earth to attract males. This material can be harvested during the worms' orgy-like mating ritual and used as a natural fabric. Once treated with a thin coat of wheat paste, it will harden into a flexible, transparent material called ether-flake, that shimmers in sunlight. It can also be dyed after being so treated.
Territory. The Etherus Worm lives in forests all over Santharia, preferring a clammy, dark atmosphere. It lives less than a fore underneath the soil, and even shallower in mating season. These worms are not territorial.
Habitat/Behaviour. The Etherus Worm does little beside eat, sleep and mate. There are no tricks and they do not metamorphose. They are nocturnal, preferring the cool of the night. They usually remain below ground except when mating.
Diet. Etherus Worms consume nutrients found in the soil. They have also been know to consume long-rotted matter, such as plants and corpses. Their constant movement through the soil helps to keep it aerated and loose, aiding in vegetation growth, and their "castings" add to the soil fertility.
Mating. Mating season is odd; there is no obvious rhythm to it. Some observers conclude that it is temperature-induced; several warm days will cause the worms to become sluggish, while a rain will make them frenzied. It seems as if early spring through mid-summer is the most common mating time. They avoid winter for mating as it is far too cold and the ether-flake mats are flimsy when wet.
When a female is ready to breed, she digs her way to the surface, and secretes a mucus-mat of white that stands out from the dark earth. Simply crawling and slithering upon the earth while in heat, a fully mature female can create a mat about a fore square. Males, in the earth, will hear the hiss and rustle of the female writhing above them and come topside. Then, upon the mat, the female will mate with every male that approaches her, as long as she is in heat (which lasts about a day).
The mating ritual is where the name of the worm comes from. Male and female worm will twist their bodies together and writhe as one from 5 to 20 minutes, the female secreting mucus all the while, though now it is laden with eggs. The male will then secrete a mucus of his own, to fertilize the eggs.The female will then uncoil herself from him, and the next male worm will approach. Then, the new male and female will mate. The number of males that cluster in wait for a female is shocking, about 20 males for every female.
After every male has mated with the female, the female will turn the mat into a small cylindrical nest by rolling in the ether-flake mat until she has wrapped herself in it. Then she will crawl out of it and return to the earth, leaving the eggs behind.
The eggs hatch about two weeks later, babies consuming the other eggs in the nest as they hatch ravenously. At hatching, an Etherus Worm is about half a span long, and white. At a week of age, the young Etherus worms will have grown to half of their adult size, as the eggs consumed help immensely in growth. Out of the 100 eggs laid by the mother, only 5 or so will escape the ether-flake nest alive. After the young leave the nest, they tunnel into the earth to restart the life cycle, at 3 weeks of age being sexually mature. Etherus Worms live about 3-6 months.
Information provided by Viresse