Elder Worm, The

Narthesh
Ancient rendition of the city of Narthesh at the height of its power approximately 750,000 years ago

The first Elder Worm civilizations arose on their swampy, humid homeworld just beyond the Galactic Rim around 800,000 years ago. Villages of extended “families” united by a common purpose, such as security or improved food production, gave way to cities, which became city-states and then sometimes empires. According to the records the Elder Worm still have, the greatest political powers of early Elder Worm history were the Empire of Hsash-Tlethor, which was said to have once controlled nearly half the planet, and the vast, wealthy city-state of Narthesh, which dominated trade throughout the northern swamplands for nearly a century. At several times in their history, various Elder Worm leaders or nations tried to achieve the combination of political and arcane power that would allow them to control the entire world and all its people. However, unification was not truly achieved until around 750,000 years ago when the Elder Worm had reached a level of technology equivalent to mid-twenty-first century human technology.

A member of the oligarchy that ruled the city-state of Helgthret, a powerful sorcerer and cunning politician named Rthchash brought all of Helgthret under his rule through clever political manipulation just as the stars came right for him to cast the Ritual of Control. The ritual would cement his political victory over his adversaries, bending all but a few powerful Elder Worm to his will. Rthchash thus became the first supreme leader of the Elder Worm, assuming the title Y’shaal-Htath-Ml (English: Supreme Emperor Sorcerer). To his offspring, he not only passed the mantle of leadership but also numerous powerful artifacts with which to ensure his rule. Each ruler has, in turn, budded a child who became Y’shaal-Htath-Ml after him, creating a line of succession that remains unbroken to this day and terminates in the being known as Slug.

Once the Elder Worm were united, it was only a matter of time before they expanded their empire to the stars. They first colonized a few worlds in their home system, mainly through settlements sealed inside hermetically-sealed domes that allowed them to create a hospitable environment for their race even on the most hostile of worlds. Then, using powerful spells, the Elder Worm were able to locate other species ripe for conquest. Driven by a combination of desire for political power, religious fervor and a hunger for new types of food, the Elder Worm steadily spread across the galaxy. A few races tried to stem the tide, but they simply were not powerful enough to overcome the Elder Worms’ numbers, technology and sorcery. By approximately five hundred thousand years ago, the Elder Worm controlled roughly half of the Milky Way.

Malvan Dreadnoughts
Malvan dreadnoughts on maneuvers shortly after the outbreak of the war

The expansionist policies of the Elder Worm soon brought them into conflict with the other great power of the time: the Malvans. What would become a galactic war lasting three hundred thousand years started as a dispute over ownership of a planetary system on the same side of the galactic core as the Elder Worm homeworld. At that time, the Elder Worm sphere of control occupied roughly the southern half of the Milky Way while the Malvans dominated the northern. For the next three hundred millennia, war raged across the galaxy. The awesome magics and mighty vessels of the Elder Worm were pitted against the vastly powerful starships and military machinery of Malva.

For centuries, the Elder Worm pushed forward, taking advantage of Malvan unpreparedness to smash their fleets and capture their worlds. Millions of Malvan colonists and members of Malvan subject species were sacrificed upon Elder Worm altars to feed the dark gods the Elder Worm worshiped. Yet, once the Malvans focused their efforts on the war, they were able to halt the Elder Worm advance and even found ways to thwart some of their magics. During the middle period of the war, Malva built starships the size of planets to counter the Elder Worm forces. The Elder Worm responded to Malvan technology with Qliphotic magic.

Elder Worm Homeworld
The remains of the Elder Worm homeworld

After the initial gains made by Elder Worm had been retaken by the Malvans, the war settled down into a long, bloody conflict marked by extended periods of stalemate. Untold trillions of sentient beings died in the process and more than one species was entirely wiped out. In one infamous incident, the Elder Worm sacrificed all 7.2 billion members of the Nl’ta’k species in a ritual to summon one of their gods, Zhalnathet, bodily into the galaxy. The entity wreaked havoc throughout Malvan space until his manifestation was ultimately destroyed. The tide of war gradually turned against the Elder Worm and, by approximately two hundred thousand years ago, the once-feared Elder Worm empire was no more – even its homeworld was shattered into fragments by the Malvans.

The Malvan-Elder Worm War reduced the Elder Worm population from trillions to a few thousand survivors hiding on backwater planets scattered across the Milky Way. They are viewed with distrust across the galaxy, making it difficult for the surviving pockets of their race to establish diplomatic relations or engage in trade. Many Elder Worm enclaves have concluded that the only way to survive is to use their magic to enter states of mystic slumber until such time as the fortunes of their species change. Whether due to hibernation, the vastness of space or their propensity for secrecy, many of the surviving Elder Worm communities have lost contact with each other since the diaspora. Some of these communities have carefully preserved whatever they could while others have left the old ways behind and developed new traditions for surviving in a hostile galaxy.

Adapted from a text published in Champions Beyond by Stephen S. Long. ™ and © Hero Games, Inc., 2011.

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