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- "There is One that inhabits the place of utter cold, and One that respireth where none other may draw breath. In the days to come He shall issue forth among the isles and cities of men, and shall bring with Him as a white doom the wind that slumbereth in his dwelling."
- ―The prophet Lith, "The Coming of the White Worm".
Rlim Shaikorth, a.k.a. "the White Worm", is a monstrous vermiform creature which travels within an iceberg in the glacial seas of the prehistoric Northern land of Hyperborea. It is a powerful being which can exert supernatural influence over the elements and communicate by telepathy. It's been described as supremely ancient and ultraterrestrial in origin.
Biology[edit | edit source]
Coming "from spaces beyond the limits of the north", Rlim Shaikorth exerts supernatural control over its surroundings and creates an aura of extreme frigidness, so cold that the air is no longer breathable for humans.
Its appearance is that of a massive white worm, larger than a sea elephant, and with a tail as thick as its midsection. Its wide mouth is toothless and tongueless, and above it there are shallow nostrils and eye sockets. However, the most unsettling aspect of this beast is that it has no eyes. Instead, its eye sockets are filled with red globular fluid which is constantly dripping, forming dark red stalagmites on the ice below. The only time in which the fluid stops dripping is when the worm is asleep, which happens once every "darkening of the moon". Curiously, the actual blood (or equivalent fluid) filling up the worm's body is not red, but black, and steaming hot, to the point of releasing vapor and melting the ice around if the worm is wounded.
When it's not traveling, Rlim Shaikorth dwells in the highest summit of the ice-mountains, in a place "not to be dreamt of by living men". The rest of the time, it travels through the ocean in its own frozen fortress, in the form of a giant iceberg called Yikilth: the floating citadel of the monster, which it uses to approach islands and coastal settlements, bringing death in the form of extreme cold. The worm's own supernatural abilities guide the ice citadel in its travels against the winds and the currents, preying on unfortunate galleys along the way and adding them to the material at the base of the ever-growing iceberg.
From some of the places it visits, however, Rlim Shaikorth will select one or a few highly-skilled sorcerers and spare them from this destruction. The worm will abduct these sorcerers, alter their physiology to allow them to survive in the ice-made citadel and breathe the frigid atmosphere that surrounds their new master, and communicate with them telepathically, promising great power if they become its worshipers. The real purpose of this entourage of worshipers is to serve as a stock of food, as Rlim Shaikorth will devour them one by one over the course of its voyages. The reason it selects sorcerers is that they're the only kind of humans that can be made to tolerate the frigid temperatures and breathe the air of the ice citadel; and the worm couldn't consume them otherwise. Besides devouring the flesh, however, the worm absorbs the minds of its victims, which become part of itself, although they can only manifest their consciences when the creature is sleeping.
Despite being extremely ancient, Rlim Shaikorth is not immortal, and the sides of its body are vulnerable enough to be perforated by bladed weapons; although the approach required for such an attack is only possible while the creature is asleep, since its telepathic awareness would otherwise alert the worm to the attacker's presence.
Appearances[edit | edit source]
- "The Coming of the White Worm", by Clark Ashton Smith (1941)
Notes[edit | edit source]
- The origins of this entity are ambiguous, complicated by the fact that Smith often employed the term "ultraterrestrial" in his fiction to mean the same as extraterrestrial, so it's possible that the worm originates from space.