|Common Nicknames||Vorak Wyrm, Eartheater|
Knûrka-Vørak are medium-sized, plated worms with a unique, almost alien physiology. Once existing in harmony with another subterranean insect, the Stone Bee, the arrival of the Dakkar and their conflicts with the Dwarves shattered this careful balance, causing the species of worm to now spread across the underground caverns formerly dominated by the Dwarves. Some have even reached the surface of Ellador, often to their displeasure due to the extreme cold, and they instead retreat underground after having made a kill or two. They are well feared by Dwarven society, and the other local Races, considered a menace worthy only of being killed.
The Knûrka-Vørak has been a staple of Dwarven horror stories going back generations, originating likely even before the origin of the First Hold, Olovomm. However, it was with the onset of records that the Dwarves wrote extensively about this creature and its symbiotic relationship with the Stone Bee. Vorak larvae would be laid within the mosses and other vegetation that existed in the caverns of Ellador, where the Stone Bees would then consume them, or carry the food source back to their larvae. As the larvae would grow, or the adult perpetuating, the Knûrka-Vørak would grow, before in a period spanning mere hours, fully mature into an adult and explode out of its victim, consuming it afterward. In the case of larvae, spun into their stone cocoons, the Knurka adolescent would be forced to make use of its unique ability, and excreting its body compounds, eat through the stone encasement and escape the hive. In their natural state, however, while they were a threat to Stone Bee eggs, they never numbered enough to wipe out a hive, and the Stone Bees, in turn, hunted enough of them to keep the population low. Dwarves fell on another in the cycle, serving as food for either the Knûrka-Vørak or the Stone Bees, but overall it was a stable system that was only slightly affected by the spread of the Dwarven Holds. Small swarms of Knûrka-Vørak were felled, larger specimens, the “Dur-Knûrka-Vørak,” were also defeated, but overall affairs underground only improved for the Dwarves, while the surface was ultimately forsaken due to the conflict with the Isldar and disastrous consequences for the said surface.
But it was after the Cataclysm and the emergence of the Dakkar that truly spelled doom to this equal cycle. As the Dakkar surged forward, they killed the Stone Bees in huge numbers while the Knûrka-Vørak easily survived, resistant to heat, and feasting on all those the Dakkar killed. They took to not just laying their larvae in foliage, mainly since much of it had been burned away, but also into the corpses of fallen Dwarves, a terrifying sight for many to stumble upon. In the decades following the halting of the spread of the Dakkar, the Knûrka-Vørak were only just beginning their rise. Their infestation spread, reaching the surface of Ellador where they began to cause problems. However, the extreme cold of the surface has stayed their spread since, and they remain largely confined to the caves of Ellador. Some do occasionally emerge on the surface to the shock and horror of the locals, often told tales by the Dwarves of what these creatures can do. As for the Dwarves themselves, they despise the worm as a being that benefited from the fall of their great nation, while also rendering the Stone Bee extinct. Their stone-boring activities though also now do damage to Dwarven structures, damaging what ruins remain of the great olden Holds, resulting in them seen as a menacing pest by the stout folk. Some believe there may come a time that the Knûrka-Vørak is rendered feeble, consuming all that can be eaten before collapsing in population and dying off, though most Dwarves believe such a fall will only come with the reclamation of the old Holds, and the manual extermination of the beasts.
Knûrka-Vørak are a strange species, having many worm-like features but also those of an insect, at least in the opinion of scholars. Their bodies are relatively small, reaching about four feet long and half a foot wide when fully matured, though tales exist both of those that reach up to six feet long, and the truly massive Dur-Knûrka-Vørak, those that exceed ten feet in length. But, both of these larger varieties remain contained to the tales of the Dwarves. The worm’s head is a collective of armored, spined plates arranged around their central mouth, a toothed opening capable of stretching quite wide at a moment’s notice, filled with grinding, sturdy teeth. This sits below their eyes, a dual trio of small red orbs heavily surrounded by the chitin that protects the animal’s body. Their mouth also has a pair of small mandibles, which possess their characteristic small white hairs emerging from their hardened surface. These hairs are fine, and white, while also serving as the distribution point for the creature’s internal chemical makeup often called its “internal heat.” This heat allows them to survive extreme situations, and also tunnel through rocks. The rest of the creature’s body is plated in uneven, dark brown armor, with prominent though sparing white hairs protruding from their bodies. Their tails are simple and are one of the few places to lack the appearance of hair, and instead end in a tapered, somewhat stubby point.
Knûrka-Vørak lack traditional genders as the species is naturally hermaphroditic. Variation between individual Knûrka-Vørak is almost non-existent, save for the exact variation in their armored chitin shells. However, some claim the more hairs are on a Knûrka-Vørak, the older it is.
Life Span and Development
Knûrka-Vørak are laid as dozens of tiny white larvae in a food source, most commonly corpses or vegetation of some description though their old balance of life though with the Stone Bee has been shattered. Whilst previously they would exist in a parasitic nature, they are now completely necrophagic, consuming the dead as their primary food source and incubation grounds. They will now also sometimes eat one another when they are larvae. The species later moults its adolescent form, which is about a foot long, into its adult form, its final length, and size, over only a few hours. This event occurs after a period of two to three months. While this was once easily accomplished, they now must hide and remain vulnerable as their body violently contracts and curls, their pale, thin-chitin exterior turning into a thin cocoon for their final form, which erupts out. With this, the creature’s ability to tunnel through rock is also achieved, and they join wider Knûrka-Vørak populations, as well as likely any of their siblings in the area that have survived. They can live for perhaps as much as forty years.
Knûrka-Vørak are quite mindless, focused on eating, surviving, and reproducing more than anything else. While they are fine with others of their kind in the area, hungry Knûrka-Vørak, or injured Knûrka-Vørak have been known to attack or be attacked by others, being cannibalized or dragged away to be used as a larvae incubator. Some, however, lay their eggs within a recently dead member of their species and leave, allowing others of their kind to consume the larvae, and sometimes, become a host that serves as a living incubator like the Stone Bees once did. Their main predator in these dark depths though, is the Troll, whose stomach acid is too strong for the Knûrka-Vørak larvae. The most any Knûrka-Vørak can hope for is to infest a part of the animal’s body with their larvae, allowing them to grow and emerge from an area such as a limb, away from the corrosive acid that would rapidly kill them. In this respect, some might call the creature crafty, seeking out alternative reproduction methods to those of the past several decades. The Knûrka-Vørak also has the unique body feature of its “internal heat,” a powerful, superheated chemical that they excrete from their white hairs, which allows them to both tunnel through the rock, but also through flesh, burning it in the process. The Knûrka-Vørak has two weaknesses though, one being directed, constant cold, which is what ultimately drives most of them from the surface, and the other being flames. They often dwell in total darkness, some for their entire lives, and when introduced to a flame or a source of light, they will often screech, and seek to avoid it. However, they can rapidly adapt to such stimuli, and can instead come to crave it, following the light and the fleshy prey that usually accompanies such things.
Territory and Groupings
Knûrka-Vørak do not form packs or anything organized by a strict structure. Generally fine with the presence of others near them, they instead exist as “clusters,” groups of up to fifty individuals who all exist in a common area, eating food, digging through the earth, and existing in the total darkness they often find themselves. Many now populate Dwarven ruins, while a few clusters each up to the surface of Ellador.
- Knûrka-Vørak chitin, while hard to extract and use, is often worn in the form of gauntlets by the most experienced and distinguished warriors, the primary force that has battled the insidious worm for the Dwarven people.
- Tales of great Dwarven heroes slaying Dur-Knûrka-Vørak are somewhat comparable to tales of Ailor Knights slaying Dragons. After the fallout from their wars with the Isldar, many Dwarven storytellers took to adding the embellishment of wings on these gigantic “wyverns of the earth,” yet another correlation to the Isldar and their Wyvern mounts.