Life can be found almost anywhere in our galaxy- even the inhospitable void of space contains the occasional life-form, from tiny microorganisms that drift about at the mercy of the solar winds, to colossal macro-predators like the near-legendary Void Drakes, creatures of nightmare large enough to menace even an Imperial Battleship.
Astrolytes are frequent prey of the mighty Void Drakes. They appear to be spherical clusters of spines, some up to a kilometer long, tumbling thru the inky void, migrating from one breeding-ground nebula to another on journeys estimated to take millions of years, making astrolytes one of the longest-lived organisms known to the Imperium. They propel themselves through space by ejecting bursts of bioplasma from their hollow spines. Only rarely do astrolytes rise to the level of even a minor nuisance to the Imperium, but the parasites many of them contain have recently become a cause for concern among the xenologists of the Magos Biologis.
‘Khug-worm’ is the name given to a particularly dangerous parasitic species known to infest some astrolytes. Fully grown khug-worms measure three meters from end to end, with a body shape comparable to a Terran fluke worm. Their thick hide is leathery and tough, offering protection that compares favourably to man-made flak armour. They move by undulating their bodies in a forward motion, supplemented by the action of a row of suction cups that ring the outer edge of their bodies. These suckers can grip with sufficient strength to allow a khug-worm to move along walls or ceilings with ease. Around the ‘head’ end of a khug-worm’s body, these suckers elongate, forming a ‘collar’ similar in shape to the hood of a cobra. These elongated suckers are capable of independent movement, functioning like crude tentacles which are primarily used by the giant worm to pull food into its lamprey-like maw, where it is rasped apart by multitudes of triangular, diamond-hard teeth. Khug-worms are extremely difficult to kill: in addition to the protection provided by their tough hides, they lack the vulnerability of having major organs. Instead, their vital processes are performed by numerous redundant ‘mini-organs’ spread throughout their bodies.
There are two means by which citizens of the Imperium sometimes come into contact with these creatures. Rarely a voidship will find itself running low on food stores, and, upon finding an astrolyte, the ships’ enterprising captain will attack it with an eye toward butchering its fleshy interior to feed the crew. This process sometimes leads to the parasitical inhabitants of a dead astrolyte being transferred aboard an Imperial vessel- much to the chagrin of that vessel’s original occupants. A khug-worm deprived of its host can become a very effective predator as it searches for new sources of organic matter to consume. The other means of encountering a khug-worm is on a Space Hulk.
When a migrating astrolyte gets swept up in a warp storm, it is usually killed; its crude form of propulsion is rarely strong enough to escape the pull of even a minor breach between universes. Dead astrolytes compacted into a Space Hulk are typically crushed outright, forcing any parasites they contain to migrate into the body of the Hulk in search of a new food source.
While most xenologists believe that khug-worms are simply dumb beasts, a vocal minority speculate that they may in fact be sentient. As evidence of this claim they point to documented instances of encounters with khug-worms where the creatures adopted seemingly intelligent tactics, such as drawing prey into an ambush when more brutal direct attacks have failed. Of course, there are a number of advanced predatory species that employ similar tactics- but these skills have been handed down through innumerable generations, not learned within hours of entering a new environment…
WS: 45 BS: - S: 50 T: 45(8) Ag: 40 Int: 25 Per: 20 WP: 45 Fel: -
MOVEMENT: 3/6/9/18 WOUNDS: 45
SKILLS: Climb (Ag) +20, Contortionist (Ag) +20
TALENTS: Resistance (Cold)
TRAITS: Blind, Constrictor*, Crawler, Fear (2), From Beyond, Natural Armour (Leathery Hide, 5), Natural Weapons, Regeneration (2), Size (Hulking), Strange Physiology, Sturdy, Undying, Unnatural Senses (15), Unnatural Toughness (x2)
ARMOUR: Leathery Hide (5 All)
WEAPONS: Crush (2d10+5 I; Primitive)
*Gains Unnatural Strength (x2) on the second round of grappling, and Unnatural Strength (x3) on the third and subsequent rounds of grappling.