(Before you read this entry, I warn you it’s intended to gross you out at multiple stages. Haaave fuuuuuuuuuun!)
A horrible creature plaguing the equatorial bogs of the Ton heartland, this species is also called the Silverblood. The reader may hope they’re small; unfortunately, adults may stretch past six feet long and swell to seven inches in diameter. Thankully, full-grown Silverbloods aren’t parasites at all, mainly devouring small fish and reptiles while roaming the bogs.
Their nickname comes from a bizarre adaptation their bodies use to protect them from otherwise lethal mercury levels throughout the bogs. Specialized cells in the Silverblood’s body seek out and isolate mercury as it arrives, distributing it into sealed “packets” insulated by fat and chitinous fibers matching the worm’s external carapace.
Over time these packets push out past the carapace itself and squish free from the body. Lungworms fall under knives and spear-blades often because the Ton have no more tolerance for the wretched things than anyone else. When a Silverblood gets sliced, the mercury packets burst open and ride atop the creature’s blood, making it appear silver.
Silverbloods breed in horrid, squirming, splorching pairs and dump eggs at random wherever they go. They’re sensitive to temperature, keeping them to the warmer waters. Hatchlings, most little larger than a human hair and transparent because nature hates you, seek out any warm-blood bodies in the area. If they can’t enter directly through the mouth, they attempt to burrow into the skin near the lungs, or nearest non-lung equivalent; Lungworms have no standards whatsoever.
From here they eat their way into the lungs and latch on, feeding off nutrients in the blood and slowly filling the host’s lungs with it, as well as their own excrement.
Once inside, chemical cues put the Silverblood’s metabolism into overdrive and it grows exponentially. Now the Silverblood develops flexible feeder-tubes which carve through the host’s body, even overtaking veins and arteries if the host’s immune system is weak enough. The larvae triple in size every day, and enough writhing within one host may kill simply by fatigue and hunger.
This obscene growth, and the Silverblood’s high egg count and strong early survivability—tiny translucent hairs go easily unnoticed in the hot murk-water of the bogs—make a proper extinction impossible. The Ton should know; they’ve tried many times.
When lungworms outgrow a given lung or the victim stops breathing, they wriggle out through the mouth and seek a new blood-sack. While larger animals (humans and ilbaret included) may theoretically survive a lungworm invasion, the odds are horrendous. The ancient Ton found one reliable solution: poison the worm by feeding a pill or herbal cocktail into the correct lung. Of course, depending on the poison, the worm may dump it right into the host’s lungs!
Arcane-induced paralysis or stasis work much more safely; after about ten seconds without the host’s oxygen, the worm will rip loose and quickly flee the body. Mages aren’t always ready to hand, however, and too many victims die even after the worms expose themselves to burn in spell-fire.
Silverblood infections kill most among hunters, miners seeking iron or the Ton-ga’s famed wushai ore (a vital alloy in sapphire-steel) from the bogs, and as ever, children. Ton elders spend most of their time in their homes, never tread in Silverblood-infested waters, and so never find themselves stricken by the larvae.
In one legendary incident, however, the Pre-Loar Matriarch Je-zhin Huan slipped several buckets of Silverblood larvae into the bathhouses of House Lin. The ensuing pandemic infected then-Matriarch Toda Lin, all her daughters, dozens of retainers, and her court sorceress too. The Matriarch, her middle daughter, and the court sorceress survived, but the rest did not.