Friday, April 22, 2022

The Cult of Mak Thuum Ngatha

"A worm crawled down my arm and rested on my neck. When he whispered into my ear I felt a tingle... He told me how to make a weapon that would help us against our enemies. And here's the thing... it's made of worms... it even fires worms... but it stings like you wouldn't believe"
-System Shock 2

The cult of Mak Thuum Ngatha - also called the Nine-Tongued Worm - are simple folk who believe in simple things like family values, the importance of community, the illusory nature of the separation of spaces and times, and the attainment of infinite knowledge via biological merger with their deity.

A Diet of Worms

Their central rite is known by many names on many worlds - the writhing communion, the prayer of folds and squiggles, the knotted convention, and so on. The important thing, the unifying thing across all these variations, is symbiosis with divine worms, the material form of their god.

These divine worms connect with each other and with the nervous systems of their hosts, enabling the exchange of information across solar systems and millennia - in theory. In practice, this exchange is throttled by the amount of worms within a host and within a community of hosts. Smaller cults who imbibe only the worms they can bear with physiological ease might only share broad feelings and dreams among themselves. If the cult gets wider and infests (or shares the blessing with) more hosts, it's a bit like getting a bigger radio dish, or more fiber optic cables set up - thoughts may be shared from further and further away, and zip between heads fast enough that it gets hard to tell which head they started in. At certain celestial alignments, a cult might transceive or open doorways beyond the reaches of the cosmos. Knowledge thereby gained can be distressing, and hard to decipher, filtered as it so often is through alien sensoria, language, and imagery.

If a cultist gets in deeper, fits more worm-mass within their own body, they find they can reach the collected information of all cultists more easily, and not just what they're currently thinking or feeling but the archive of all that has or will pass through the network. Get in deep enough, and they may make contact with the native intelligence of the network itself - the will of Mak Thuum Ngatha.

Samples of worm-mass are traded between cults like sourdough starters among baking enthusiasts. Tips are swapped on their cultivation and care. Cults in more advanced civilizations will even send samples on arks to uncontacted planets, in the hope that their worship will be accepted there.

The worms integrate best with decentralized nervous systems. In the brains of terrestrial vertebrates they sit uncomfortably, even painfully - in rare cases causing death by increased intracranial pressure. Human cultists treat this with painkillers, trepanation, artificial cranial deformation, and seeking mutation into more accommodating forms. Some apostates undergo dangerous procedures to burn out the worms from their brains, losing their cosmic awareness and abilities to communicate or feel empathy in the process.

Feral Preachers

The flesh of Mak Thuum Ngatha is not the will of Mak Thuum Ngatha. One may exist without the other. The will without flesh is latent. The flesh without will is tragedy. This is the seventh tenet of the nine-tongue evangelists.

By poor stewardship, cosmic accident, or deliberate perversion, the worm-mass that is called the flesh of Mak Thuum Ngatha can find itself without a higher intellect - however alien - guiding it. It reverts to base instincts: survive and spread. The stuff is a parasite that hijacks the bodies and minds of its hosts, fumbling for mutations and madnesses that will make them more effective in their role. When the need or opportunity arises it will merge with other hosts, collate knowledge, create new forms. When a large enough mass gathers it can even launch itself to other stars. Beyond this basic behaviour, each outbreak is unique.

Sane (relatively-speaking) cultists hate or pity the pure flesh, which they call "feral preachers". Some will burn it out, others commune and attempt to re-introduce the will - the rarest few, heretical even among the cult's thousand-thousand sects, set the feral preachers as their vanguard. The feral preachers they seed do the dirty work of assimilation and inquisition, leaving nothing but raw worm-mass to be indoctrinated with their teachings.

Inspiration for scenarios involving the feral preachers can be found in the movies Slither, Splinter, Black Friday, the Dead Space games and the like.

Emissaries of the Nine-Tongued Worm:


A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a planet that achieved utopia. Each inhabitant was a philosopher-poet, enjoying clarity of thought cleansed of negativity. They were able to enjoy this because in the planet's catacombs, fed on the slop of their waste, there was a slug-like species of psychics they genetically engineered to pluck the nastiness and incoherence from their minds to take into themselves.

The slug-things lived confusing, miserable lives. They suffered without understanding why, suffered in a state of total id, ganglions too clogged with others' impurities to form their own egos.

And then a nine-tongue evangelist came to them and shared the gift of Mak Thuum Ngatha.

Communion with the network lifted their eyes from the grime to the stars, filled them with hope and ambition. These slug-things - the ancestors of the psurlons - rose up from beneath the earth and exterminated their former masters, deeming them unworthy of conversion.

Whereas most followers of Mak Thuum Ngatha desire to spread their faith to any who would have them, psurlons are discriminating. They see it as their duty to purge any who would taint the awesome benevolence of their god. Worlds have been scoured to the bedrock at their dissatisfaction. No psurlon has felt a moment of guilt about this - they never lost their power to taste the sins within your soul.


The will of Mak Thuum Ngatha is inscrutable, its plan for its cultists rarely elucidated beyond the immediate moment, when it is expressed at all.

One cult came up with a great idea to address this: instantiate the will and the flesh together in a single, immanent avatar, then ask it personally. The result was less than desired. What they ended up making was instead the tsochari - a species of colonial body-snatching parasites.

Most tsochari are still aligned with the cult of Mak Thuum Ngatha - after all, they're treated with celebrity status as almost-messiahs. They tend to be narcissists as a result. Severed from their god by the manner of their creation, they need to possess a body infested with divine worms to experience communion-by-proxy.


The nilshai once preyed upon cultists of Mak Thuum Ngatha, extracting the wisdom of the worms through their guts. The more they ate the more they came to appreciate the faith of the Nine-Tongued Worm - conversion through consumption.

Nowadays the nilshai, while abhorrent to most living creatures, have become fierce guardian deities of the faith. Mere repression isn't enough to attract their wrath, but where wholesale slaughter of Mak Thuum Ngatha's faithful occurs, it's not unheard of for the fanatical hordes of the nilshai to spill out of ethereality and devour their persecutors.

"In legend and in the few accounts we may fairly credit, sorcery is capable of great wonders: moving instantly from one place to another, peering across gulfs of distance and history, and opening portals to unearthly realms.

Yet, great as these works may be, they are not without limit: sorcerers do not move across space and time like birds through the air, but as carts across well-worn roads - ways passed down from master to apprentice across centuries, if not far longer still.

Like a shining city that must have rivers of filth flow through its sewers beneath, even the heights of mortal sorcery are built on deeper workings, shrouded in darkness, which can only arouse the disgust of those who learn of them...

...All magic known to us cannot truly open the way - only make use of those ways which have already been opened, by things which by their nature we find we must avert our eyes from."
-Excerpt from the Collected Lectures of Father Llymic


  1. Do nilshai still eat cultists or do they now propagate the faith independently from consumption?

    1. I've heard that burial-by-nilshai is not an uncommon practice. Also with the hivemind and Importantnce of the worm mass, cannibalism is often not only acceptable but also comforting to both the mourning relatives and the echos of the deceased bouncing around in the network.

    2. Gorinich has said exactly what I would've, so I'll wrack my brain to come up with something worthwhile to add on...

      People can survive a hemispherectomy - perhaps half a brain can be fed to a nilshai, making the donour and the eater a connected whole, more than the sum of their parts, like Ash & Pikachu or Narutaru

      Inspired by the conversion of the nilshai, particularly difficult and predatory populations are sometimes subject to an anthropophagous (or whatever-phagous) gospel-feast, the bodies of martyrs served up in delicious dishes that won't destroy the worms within them

      Perhaps some nilshai, overcome with guilt, give themselves to be eaten by the faithful - the eaters overcome by an ecstasy of psychical sorcerous outpouring

      A heresy of the cult of Mak Thuum Ngatha teaches that rather than spreading to all sentient life, their goal should be ascension by way of self-consumption - one part gu ritual, one part ouroboros, all parts fucked-up autocannibalistic theogony

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, I like taking bits of D&D that have languished in obscurity and polishing them up, like all those youtube videos about restoring rusty knives.