Elder Worm, The

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.

Nl’ta’k, The

Constellation Lyra
The constellation of Lyra as seen from the northern hemisphere, the star Vega at its apex

Orbiting the blue-white sun Vega in the constellation of Lyra, the lush, jungle planet called Dh’va’n (English: Paradise) was once the homeworld of a golden-skinned race called the Nl’ta’k (English: The Awakened). They were a spiritual and contemplative race who lived in such complete harmony that conflict of any kind had become an unfathomable concept. There had not been a war fought on their planet in their over 100,000 years of recorded history and the only instances of armed conflict amongst the Nl’ta’k had occurred in their dark pre-history before the Nl’fa’k (English: The Awakening).

According to legend, the majority of the ancient Nl’ta’k lived in small communities of hunter-gatherers while the small minority formed permanent settlements devoted to agriculture and animal husbandry. Each household worshiped one of the deities in their pantheon and a patron deity was thought to be responsible for the welfare of the community as a whole. Over time, these communities evolved into city-states ruled by priest-kings whose divine authority was never challenged. Despite the numerous, often contradictory, religious ideologies, each creed preached a love for all life that prevented the balkanization of the planet into openly warring states.

The Twin Avatars of Ix’tl awaiting their destiny

Then, in what the modern Nl’ta’k calendar referred to as Ev’eh T’zk (English: The Year One), the people across the planet began simultaneously experiencing visions of a deity calling itself Ix’tl (English: The Source). Unlike the anthropomorphic deities of the ancient Nl’ta’k pantheon, Ix’tl appeared as neither male nor female but as a tree whose roots reached deep into the heart of every living being in the cosmos and whose branches cradled every star burning in the firmament. The vision foretold of the death of the Zn Gn’mo’l Ix’tl (English: The Twin Avatars of Ix’tl) in defence of Dh’va’n during its darkest hour and the resurrection of Ev’eh (English: The One) from the funeral pyre of the Nl’ta’k as a guardian of all life. The visionary experience was so powerful that, within a generation, the cults of the Old Gods were peacefully supplanted by the worship of Ix’tl.

The shift from pantheism to monotheism had a radical effect on the societal, cultural and biological evolution of the Nl’ta’k. The numerous theocracies that once dotted the planet were replaced by a single demarchy, in which planetary affairs were overseen by randomly selected decision-makers from a pool of eligible citizens. Their newfound sense of connection to everything around them inspired the Nl’ta’k to encapsulate the wonders of their faith in art and philosophy, creating masterpieces of sublimity that transcend the dogmas inherent in other religious or philosophical belief systems.

The planet Dh’va’n as seen from space

The greatest change to the Nl’ta’k was biological: despite the fact that they had never become interested in interstellar travel and exploration, they evolved over a period of 50,000 years into a species imminently suited to the task. The Nl’ta’k were an extremely long-lived species, with an average life expectancy of 3,000 years, which was perhaps due to the control they had over their own metabolic functions. They developed remarkable recuperative abilities and could also survive unaided in a variety of hostile environments including the vacuum of space. What was perhaps the most surprising evolutionary trait they developed was a unique form of “spirit travel”, in which the Nl’ta’k could dispatch their essence wherever they pleased while their bodies remained behind. Unlike astral projection, however, the essence of a Nl’ta’k could remain away from the body for months at a time.

When the Elder Worm threatened their world with certain destruction nearly 265,000 years ago, the Zn Gn’mo’l Ix’tl appeared as foretold in the ancient prophecy: the female Avatar on the southern continent and the male on the northern. As one, they flew towards the Elder Worm fleet and scattered the advance reconnaissance ships like dead leaves in an angry wind. However, the Elder Worm fleet proved more than a match for the pair. As their corpses tumbled back towards their planet’s surface, the Elder Worm unleashed a lethal techno-organic virus that targeted the Nl’ta’k genome. Within minutes, the Nl’ta’k became extinct. Although the planetary population of 7.2 billion sentients was eradicated long ago, Dh’va’n remains uninhabited to this day. It is said that any who dare land on the planet for whatever reason will invite the destruction of their homeworld at the hands of the vengeful spirits of the long-dead Nl’ta’k.

Gil’Tai, The

An ancient race that has seen more than its fair share of adversity

The constellation of Sagittarius as seen from the northern hemisphere

Orbiting a red giant in the constellation of Sagittarius in the Carina–Sagittarius Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy, the lush planet of Ta’ran (English: The Cradle) is the birthplace of the Gil’Tai (English: The Sky-Watchers), an orange-skinned race that descended from feline mammals nearly three-quarters of a million years ago. The Gil’Tai were originally a warlike species whose violent tendencies nearly obliterated their planet approximately 450,000 years ago in what their historical records call Ari Vara (English: The Five-Minute War).

The conflict reduced the surface of the planet to radioactive rubble and killed almost 96% of the population outright. The few remaining survivors relocated to underground shelters but the race was doomed to extinction due to the intense background radiation. The alien known as the Comet Rider happened upon the handful of surviving Gil’Tai two-hundred and fifty years after the war. Moved by their plight, the Comet Rider not only purged the planetary ecosystem of the lethal radiation but also repaired the genetic damage done to the Gil’Tai. It is unknown whether this remedial measure or the radioactivity is responsible for mutating them until they gained the ability to store, metabolize and project ultraviolet radiation.

The remains of K’Nak, once the capital city of the southern hemisphere, have been left untouched as a reminder of the folly that nearly destroyed their civilization

Renouncing their savage past, the Gil’Tai dedicated themselves to life. Within 2,500 years, they had forged a civilization where the native populace lived in harmony with each other and with nature. They quickly gained renown throughout the quadrant for their unsurpassed skill in the life sciences and the arts, which unfortunately attracted the attention of the Malvan Empire. As the Gil’Tai had long forsworn committing resources to weapons of war, their planetary defence grid was quickly overwhelmed by the vastly superior Malvan forces and Ta’ran was declared a Protectorate of the Empire.

As was common at the time, the Malvans depleted the resources of Ta’ran and its population became one of thousands of servitor races that were under the thumb of the Empire. About 350,000 years ago, however, the Malvans lost interest in conquest and the glorious empire spanning nearly half of the Milky Way slowly shrunk, leaving the countless systems they had annexed to fend for themselves. Although the Gil’Tai living on the homeworld rejoiced at their emancipation almost 10,000 years ago, the large number of Gil’Tai born within the sphere of Malvan influence are considered little more than menial servants or unwilling participants in the bloody gladiatorial games.

Today, although they have formed commercial, scientific and cultural ties with several civilizations within the sector, the Gil’Tai eschew contact with other space-faring civilizations and rarely travel beyond their own solar system. The automated planetary defenses of Ta’ran are considered to be the most advanced in the quadrant. Aliens are only allowed to visit the homeworld after an exhaustive medical screening and the number of off-worlders is strictly limited to no more than 100 sentients at any one time.

Roin’esh, The

One of the most unusual extra-terrestrial species ever encountered due to their incredible shape-shifting abilities.

A typical Roin’esh in their natural form

The Roin’esh are a species that live as slaves under the rule of the Malvan Empire. They are a humanoid species with brownish-grey skin, small eyes, short, fine hair on their heads and backs, and a series of distinctive vertical furrows on their foreheads. However, their most distinctive feature is their shape-shifting ability; a genetic trait so well-developed that they can duplicate any humanoid species at the cellular level. Some Roin’esh have displayed such mastery of their shape-shifting ability that they can flawlessly mimic animals, inanimate objects, and occasionally substances such as liquids or even raw energy. Because of their shape-shifting prowess, the Roin’esh remain under the yoke of the hedonistic Malvans, who consider it a source of endless amusement.

Taroindar, the Roin’esh homeworld, is a planet characterized by extremely harsh climatological conditions, which is believed to be the reason why the Roin’esh genome evolved to permit shape-shifting. Originally organized into small nomadic tribes that traveled the face of the planet due to the scarcity of available resources, modern Roin’esh live in vast cities in which native and Malvan technology keep the adverse affects of their climate at bay.

As a species, the Roin’esh bitterly resent being subservient to the Malvans and long to win their freedom and chart their own destiny apart from the Malvan Empire. To that end, they have used their shape-shifting ability to gather intelligence on the Malvans for decades in the hopes that they will discover a weakness that they can exploit. Whether the Malvans are aware of the Roin’esh plot against them or are allowing their resistance movement to exist for their own entertainment is unknown at the time of this writing. The resistance movement has also been known to operate outside the Malvan sphere of influence and has quite recently become active on Earth.