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Horticulous Slimux, the Grand Cultivator of Nurgle, is reputed to be the very first Daemon of Nurgle. He rides on the back of a gastrobominus, a gigantic snail-beast, called Mulch.
He often fights alongside the Befouling Host, an army of Nurgle daemons.
Neave Blacktalon leads the Shadowhammers into battle against Horticulous Slimux's daemon horde.
Nurgle is a being of cyclical whims who never remains glum for long. Though he had suffered a great reversal in Ghyran, the Plague God resolved to learn from his mistakes. He had been selfish. The revelation struck Nurgle with the suddenness of fever sweats. He had fixated upon Ghyran, so much so that he had neglected those crying out for his blessings in the other Mortal Realms.
Nurgle resolved to change his ways. The war in the Realm of Life was not over, far from it. But no longer would it claim his attention entire. Instead, Nurgle resolved to launch fresh offensives across all of the Mortal Realms. To lead them, he summoned Horticulous Slimux, his Grand Cultivator. The daemon would go out into the realms, tainting sites of magical power in order to conjure forth the diseased fronds of Nurgle's own Garden. He would sow one plague-ridden hellscape after another until the realms groaned beneath the weight of diseased foliage and blighted flora. So would Nurgle spread his blessed plagues to all, and in doing so rise to ultimate power.
Nurgle's new plan to dominate the realms played to his servants' greatest strengths. Instead of pouring all his power into a single conflict, he would open up a dozen new fronts, a hundred, a thousand; each would be small to begin with, but would spread like viral outbreaks until they overran all of reality.
Departing Nurgle's realm at the head of a full Tallyband, Horticulous Slimux began his mission. He travelled through the Grimbledrip Realmgate to the Hissing Rift. There, amidst the sulphur lakes and the ruins of ancient Gnassa, Horticulous sowed his first seeds and crushed the vengeful warriors of the Mjodor Lodge.
Leaving the Garden of Nurgle to poison the Hissing Rift, Horticulous moved on. Over the months that followed, his Tallyband struck in Aqshy, Ghur and Ghyran. The Khornate shrine atop Mount Balefire, the Slowgnaw Realmgate in the hinterwylds of Sheng, and even the desperately defended soulpod groves of Clan Thelythlin, all became magical fertiliser for Horticulous' foul seeds. With each successful sowing, the Garden of Nurgle spilled a little more into the Mortal Realms.
Seeking an auspicious target for their seventh unholy sowing, Horticulous' army squirmed like maggots into the heart of the Beaconfort, newly raised to the north of Hammerhal Ghyra. Horticulous succeeded in tainting the Alarielle-gifted magics of the beacon, and the fortress garrison of Hallowed Knights fought to the last as the Garden of Nurgle overran them. Yet upon their deaths the Stormcasts flashed back to Azyr for Reforging, and bore their warning with them.
Alerted by his returned warriors, Sigmar looked down and saw the sites of foulness that Horticulous was spreading across the realms. They were few as yet, but their corruption was growing, and presented a terrible threat to the fledgling enclaves of Order. Marshalling his Stormhosts, Sigmar ordered that Horticulous be hunted down.
Horticulous was wily, his army swollen with power from Nurgle's favour. He defeated every force that Sigmar sent against him. Recognising that the threat of the Grand Cultivator called for a very particular weapon, Sigmar sent out a secret summons borne by swift Aetherwings. His call was answered by a single warrior who prowled from the shadows to kneel before Sigmar's throne. Neave Blacktalon, first of the Knights-Zephyros, had come...
Led by Lord Danastus, the Shadowhammers - one of the finest Vanguard Auxiliary Chambers within the Hammers of Sigmar - began its hunt for Horticulous Slimux. These were the favoured comrades of Naeve Blacktalon, and together they were charged with the singular task of hacking the Grand Cultivator apart.
Amidst the High Snows of Thorca, Lord Danastus' chamber ran Horticulous' army to ground. Following the blackened trail of filth that the daemons left behind them, the Stormcasts successfully brought their foes to battle before they could reach the abandoned fane of Grungni that they sought to defile. The fighting that followed was brutal, Neave Blacktalon coming within a hair's breadth of striking Horticulous' head from his shoulders. Yet the Grand Cultivator escaped, albeit at great cost to his followers, and vowed vengeance.
The Shadowhammers continued their relentless pursuit, Naeve and her comrades following Horticulous' trail through the myriad paths of the Mortal Realms. At Bulakh and amidst the forests of Low Yorathi, the Rangers almost cornered their prey. Upon the Veilpaths of Forl'ek, Horticulous came close to slaying his pursuers. Yet always the chase continued, and still the sowings went on.
Seeing the disruption that the Shadowhammers were causing, Nurgle decided to help his beset Cultivator. The Plague God declared that any who slew Neave Blacktalon would know the full bounty of his gratitude. Once Chaos champion after another led their warriors against the Shadowhammers, thinning their ranks with every battle.
Seizing the opportunity his master had given him, Horticulous forged ahead with his sowings. He befouled the Forgetemple of the Narlsson Lodge, tainted the power of the Krakskull Warclan's Idol of Gorkamorka, and used the Plague Furnaces of Clan Skrittik to fuel his greatest sowing to fate. Yet the Shadowhammers remained on Horticulous' tail, reinforced with fresh warriors from Sigmaron. At last they caught up to their quarry again amidst the Bone Heights of Ghur, near to the city of Excelsis.
Since a time before memory, Horticulous Slimux has been the Grand Cultivator of the Garden of Nurgle. Sitting astride the shell of his gruesome steed, Mulch, Horticulous rides into battle with daemons shambling around him and his pruning shears held ready for gory lopping.
Horticulous Slimux is a relentless and methodical being, a pragmatic tactician and resilient warrior whose steady glare can make even the silliest Nurgling behave. Since time before time, he has been the Grand Cultivator of the Garden of Nurgle, and there are many who say that Horticulous was the first daemon the Plague God ever created. Certainly he is amongst the Grandfather's favourites, a position that - uniquely amongst Nurgle's servants - he has never fallen out of.
So long has Horticulous existed that there is little he has not seen or done. His mastery of infernal horticulture is second to none; he knows precisely when to thin out the bone spikes on a spatterbush, when to drain the fluids from a seeping willow, and when to pair cuttings from a rot-blossom in order to attract the most parasites to its pus-sap. Horticulous applies this same methodical approach and steady hand to the battlefield, pruning limbs from his enemies with snicker-snacks of his shears, and droning orders at the daemons under his command.
Horticulous' unpleasant disposition and almost complete lack of humour are well known - amongst the Nurglings he is often referred to as 'old sour-seed'. Only the most reckless mites call him this to his face, however, and soon find themselves dangled as bait for Horticulous' slimy mount. This snail-like monstrosity that Horticulous calls Mulch, is one of the few creatures in the realms whose presence the Grand Cultivator can always tolerate. This may be because Mulch is every bit as curmudgeonly as his master. The snail-beast is always ready with a sardonic snort or guttural sigh, and devours any Nurgling incautious enough to stray within reach.
Horticulous carries everything he needs upon Mulch's pox-riddled shell, from clippings and sacks of rot-spores to riticulturalist paraphernalia and fat maggots to snack on. Though it is not a swift beast, Mulch is absolutely tireless and incredibly resilient. Moreover, tugged along in its wake is the foully enchanted artefact known as Gruntleplough. A groaning, rattling contraption fashioned by Nurgle's own hand, this strange device tills the soil with seeping corruption, mashing together corpse meat, spilled fluids and the diseased slime of the snail beast into a sticky and infectious loam, ripe for sowing with the seeds of Nurgle's Garden. So does Horticulous taint the ground over which he advances, scattering plague spores into the furrows he leaves and channelling the magic of the realms as fertiliser to trigger their growth.
Foul groves spring up in his wake, bloodweed and creeping lianas uncoiling amongst bubo-thickets and gallows trees. Droning insects rise from the burgeoning plague flora, while the lands sicken and break down into rancid slime and seething filth. Meanwhile, Horticulous presses onwards, sowing relentlessly even as he ploughs through the enemy battle-lines.
The Grand Cultivator has fought alongside many of Nurgle's Plague Legions, for he will make use of whatever tools he must to get his sowing done. However, he is most often accompanied by a Tallyband from the Befouling Host. Tasked with garrisoning the fortifications of the Garden of Nurgle, the Befouling Host have a particular affinity for unleashing plague spores on their enemies and transforming their victims into living nurseries for all manner of malignant fungi. This appeals to Horticulous' sensibilities, and together he and the Befouling Host have wrought many atrocities in Nurgle's name.
Horticulous travelled by strange paths. He and his followers slipped through forgotten Realmgates and squirmed like slugs beneath the shifting skin of reality. However, with the keen senses of their Knight-Zephyros to guide them, the Shadowhammers could not be evaded forever.
It was amidst the endless tracts of the Howling Forest that the Shadowhammers picked up Horticulous' trail. They had been stalking through the tangled woodland for days, searching for any sign of Horticulous' Tallyband. The trail of rot and trampled slime they found was impossible to miss. Trees had sagged and twisted at the daemons' passing, their sap turning putrid and their bark bursting out in obscene fungal growths. Foul insects buzzed and scurried through the infectious filth, and pools of clotted slime bubbled and popped.
Emerging from a deep cleft in a carved rock face, the trail led away north, cutting a befouled line through the trees. It was clear to the Rangers' practised eyes that Horticulous was many days ahead of them. Worse, he could have only one target in this region of Ghur; he was making directly for the city of Excelsis.
Excelsis was famed for its prophetic riches, which allowed the city's leaders to foresee dangers long before they materialised. Yet this was by no means foolproof, and Lord Danastus feared that the threat posed by Horticulous' sowing was so esoteric that it would defy easy detection. If the Grand Cultivator successfully corrupted one of the trio of Realmgates that existed near to Excelsis, the resultant spread of corruption could overrun the entire city. This must not come to pass, and so Danastus urged his warriors into swift pursuit.
Utilising their wind-shifting speed, the Rangers raced through the Howling Forest and out onto the rain-soaked savannahs beyond. For days they followed the daemons' trail, drawing ever closer to their quarry. There could be no doubt now that the trail of foulness led straight towards the Coast of Tusks. However, as the Shadowhammers closed in they found Horticulous' trail splitting into several slime-slick strands.
The Grand Cultivator had divided his forces and sent them towards all three of the Realmgates that stood within a hundred-mile radius of Excelsis. Horticulous would have to be present in person for a sowing to occur, but in this way he cleverly confounded the Rangers' pursuit.
Thinking quickly, Danastus split his own forces into three, each including retinues of Hunters, Palladors and Raptors. Once force he led in person towards Fortress Abraxicon and the Heavenstride Realmgate over which it stood watch. Another was given to Knight-Azyros Kilteron, who swept away towards the Echosteel Realmgate. Finally, the swiftest and most deadly of the Shadowhammers were given over to the command of Neave Blacktalon. She led this force away at a blistering pace towards the Bone Heights, and the Emberwash Realmgate that was nested amidst their peaks.
As her force swept across the grasslands through curtains of falling rain, Neave's wolf-sharp senses detected the taint of Chaos corruption on the breeze. The stench of Nurgle daemons became stronger by the hour, but to the Knight-Zephyros one stench stood out from amongst the rest. It was a putrid reek that she knew all too well from her months of hunting and battle - the spoor of Horticulous Slimux himself.
Blacktalon knew then that she was on the right track. The Bone Heights loomed ahead, a dark line on the horizon that grew into towering hills. Sheer cliffs of dark stone rose high into the stormy skies, gallowshrikes wheeling and shrieking above them.
Huge osseous protusions jutted from the crests of the tallest hills, vast ribs and fangs and talons stretching towards the clouds. Up there, Neave knew, lay the Emberwash Realmgate that must surely be Horticulous' target. Yet closer, amongst the foothills, her keen eyes picked out foul figures marching en masse. Horticulous' daemonic rearguard was directly ahead, and Neave did not mean to let them slow her down.
The foothills of the Bone Heights swarmed with daemons. Horticulous and his army had reached the site barely a day ahead of his pursuers, and wasted no time in climbing up to the Emberwash Realmgate and beginning his sowing ritual.
The ritual would take time. Ever the glum pragmatist - Horticulous found it best to assume that his enemies were always breathing down his neck. He had despatched much of his Tallyband back down into the foothills to lurk amnogst the craggy plateaus and watch over the old road that led up to the heights.
Fat little flies brought warning of the Rangers' approach, wobbling through the downpour to land on dameons' shoulders and jabber in their ears. Yet so swift were Neave and her warriors that word of their coming arrived scant moments before them.
The Knight-Zephyros was a direct and aggressive huntress, and she put great stock in rapid kill. Still, she was no rash fool. She would not rush in blindly. Crouched amidst the storm-lashed grass, Neave held a swift council of war with her warriors while they waited for their Aetherwings to scout the daemons' positions.
Upon their return, the vibrantly-hued birds spoke of slouching daemon packs spread all along the line of the hills. They infested every route like maggots, but in their wide deployment Neave saw a weakness. The daemons of Nurgle were resilient and dangerous foes, but they were lacking in speed. If the Rangers could punch a hole through the rearguard that defended the old road, they would be past the enemy lines before the farther-flung daemons could react to stop them. From there, it would be a straight shot to the summit and Horticulous. With their plan decided, the Shadowhammers moved out. They slipped through the grasslands like flitting shadows, gathering pace as they arrowed towards the old road upon aetheric winds. Neave led the warriors' charge, becoming a blur as she accelerated to her full blistering pace and bringing the full wrath of the storm with her.
From the Bone Heights, Horticulous looked down upon the battle. His sour expression showed little surprise at the carnage taking place. Mulch gave a contemptuous snort as, far below, the Stormcast Rangers tore through the daemonic rearguard and moved swiftly up the old road.
The Emberwash Realmgate stood upon a flat, stony hilltop dotted with old ruins and towers of bone. Horticulous' sowing was already well advanced.
He had ploughed the soil and spat his foulness into every furrow; he had spoken the tiller's lament and enunciated seven times the bubonic beseeching to Nurgle. He had daubed the Realmgate's lintel with filth, inscribing the runes of plentiful growth. Feeding upon the Realmgate's magical power, the first fronds of the Garden of Nurgle were already pushing through, and the gate's energies were turning a sickly green.
Yet his crop needed to ripen, and now these pests had come to spoil it. Horticulous meant to stop them, and, as with any other pest, the best way was to set a trap...
A short while later, Neave and her warriors crested a steep rise in the road and found themselves in an area of scrubby trees and rocky outcroppings that shivered with magical residue. Looming above them was the last, steep climb that led up to the summit, from where could be seen the sickly glow of the corrupted Realmgate. Closer to hand, Neave saw Horticulous himself. The Grand Cultivator shot a panicked glance over his shoulder at her, urging his snail-like steed to flee for the hilltop high above. Seeing their chance, the Rangers lunged forward into the ragged copse - into the jaws of the trap. Horticulous' daemons poured onto the plateau from all sides. The thrum of membranous wings filled the air as Plague Drones buzzed down from above, and whistling death's heads burst foully amidst the trees to spray diseased slime. Nurglings spilled from the undergrowth, and Plaguebearers trudged in to cut off the Rangers' route to Horticulous. The trap was sprung, and now the Stormcasts would have to fight for their lives.
The Whirlwind Axes swinging, Neave Blacktalon hacked down every daemon within reach. The Shadowhammers shot their way out of their encirclement, their Vanguard-Palladors wind-shifting straight through the daemon lines. Though many Stormcasts fell, Horticulous' trap had failed.
Filled with anger and determination, the Knight-Zephyros led her surviving warriors in the final advance on the Emberwash Realmgate. Spreading her Rangers out and watching for danger, Neave moved up the last, steep stretch of the old road and into the rocky ruins at its summit.
Ahead, she saw the Realmgate. Its structure shuddered and groaned, bilious light spilling from it. Miasmal spore clouds and thrumming storms of flies spilled from within. Meanwhile, foul-looking plant life squirmed up from the ground all around. Dripping lianas colied up around the Realmgate's arched lintel. Shuddering feverblooms burst from between its stones.
Neave had seen all of this before, too many times to count. She recognised that the sowing was in its final stages, and that the Realmgate was beyond saving. All that she and her comrades could do was halt the ritual before the gate burst like an overripe fruit and the Garden of Nurgle spilled forth to destroy the entire region.
Neave's first priority, however, was still Horticulous. The daemon had to be banished, lest this terrible spectacle happen again and again. The Grand Cultivator was there, half visible through the choking spore clouds, the whirling flies and the driving rain. His surviving daemons drew up in a slouching battle line, determined to hold off the Stormcasts long enough for their master to finish his work.
Ordering her warriors to see to the daemons' destruction, Neave accelerated into a lightning-fast charge. Axes in hand, she raced for Horticulous Slimux. Seeing her coming, the Daemon reared up to his full height, shears snicking open and shut, and prepared to deal with his relentless hunter once and for all...
Horticulous Slimux, Grand Cultivator of Nurgle, leads his trudging Tallyband into battle.
Horticulous Slimux roams the realms, performing gruesome sowings and battling those who try to stop him.
A Tallyband of the Befouling Host, these shambling and revoltingly green-fingered daemons are the perfect companions for Horticulous Slimux. They feel the weight of their duty keenly, and do whatever they can to defend their master and facilitate his bounteous sowings.
A Fecund Riticulturalists battalion consists of the following units:
Riticulturalists: Witnessing the seeding of Nurgle's Garden invigorates his children. You can re-roll hit rolls of 1 for models from this battalion whilst they are within 7" of Horticulous Slimux.
Fertile Ground: If the unit of Plaguebearers from this battalion is within 3" of Horticulous at the start of your hero phase, you may immediately replace D3 of its models that were slain earlier in the battle
Horticulous Slimux rides into battle perched upon the shell of his gastrobominus, Mulch. As Nurgle's head gardener, he has the power to seed the Garden of Nurgle into the fabric of reality, churning the ground with his Gruntleplough to summon it forth. Surrounded by packs of Beasts of Nurgle and wielding his lethal lopping shears, Horticulous is a being to be greatly feared.
|Melee Weapons||Range||Attacks||To Hit||To Wound||Rend||Damage|
|Mulch's Slime-encrusted Jaws||1"||D3||3+||3+||-2||2|
Horticulous Slimux is a single model. He is armed with a huge pair of Lopping Shears that he uses to snip his enemies in half, and rides upon the back of a massive gastrobominus called Mulch that snaps at the foe with its Slime-encrusted Jaws.
Beast Handler: You can re-roll failed charge rolls for friendly units of Beasts of Nurgle that are within 7" of Horticulous Slimux. In addition, you can re-roll hit rolls of 1 for friendly units of Beasts of Nurgle that are within 14" of Horticulous Slimux.
Disgustingly Resilient: Roll a dice each time Horticulous Slimux suffers a wound or mortal wound; on a 5 or more, the wound sloughs away rancid flesh but causes no real harm and is ignored.
In Death There is Life: All friendly Nurgle units within 7" of this model heal 1 wound each time a unit is wiped out within 7" of this model.
Ploughed Slime Trail: Each enemy unit that is within 3" of Horticulous Slimux when he starts to make a retreat move suffers D3 mortal wounds as they slip in the deadly, acidic slime trail left in Horticulous' wake.
Chaos, Daemon, Nurgle, Hero, Horticulous Slimux
At the zenith of one of the Blood God's reigns of dominance in the Great Game, Tzeentch encouraged Nurgle to invade the realm of his brother Khorne, assuring him that both his own legions and those of Slaanesh would aid him. Convinced, the Great Corrupter sent his most faithful servants to the Skull Lands, instructing them to take the bounty of his garden with them. Sure enough, powerful Tzeentchian illusions drew many Blood Legions away to chase phantom armies, rendering Khorne's armies vulnerable to the combined forces of his rivals. So great were the Blood God's losses in the ensuing conflict that the minions of Khorne were pushed back to the very walls of the Brass Citadel.
All around that indomitable fortress, vast swathes of the Garden of Nurgle had sprouted, the land ploughed and seeded by Horticulous Slimux and watered by Rotigus the Rainfather. With victory seeming certain, a supposedly stray spark of warpflame from a Herald of Tzeentch ignited Nurgle's flora, dried out as it was by the desert heat of Khorne's underground forges. The resultant inferno created a wall of flame around the citadel that utterly engulfed Nurgle and Slaanesh's legions, and began to spread uncontrollably back to the centre of the Plague God's domain. Only by Rotigus' quick thinking was the blaze prevented from reaching all the way back to his master's manse, as he called forth a bigger deluge than he had ever previously manifested. Seeing the towering flames around the citadel, Khorne's Blood Legions realised they had been tricked, and returned to repel the last of the invaders.
With a thump of his tumour-hardened foot upon the shell of his faithful mount, a snail-like creature known affectionately as Mulch, Horticulous Slimux rides to battle. It is not the quickest of charges, but what it lacks in speed it makes up for with sheer toxicity.
Horticulous Slimux has been Nurgle's head gardener since before time. A Herald of special powers, Horticulous has an eye for tending the diseased plant-growths so beloved by Nurgle. None knows better when to deadhead a skullrose, divide up a witchspike shrub, or graft new tendrils together to make entire new flora. Indeed, if he had his way, Horticulous would spend all his time tending and pruning the endless vegetation fields around Nurgle's great manse. The Lord of Plagues, however, has other ideas.
Nurgle moves in cycles, and after seeing his Grand Cultivator at work in his garden for a time, the God of Decay senses the need for a change, and sends Horticulous into realspace to plant his seeds. There is none better at spreading the glorious growths of the garden. Horticulous is a pragmatic and humourless being, and goes about his task - whatever it may be - with the same no-nonsense approach. He finds the uncontaminated regions of reality disturbing, and seeks to garnish them as quickly as possible with Nurgle's blessing, although he will grumble as he does so of his 'beauties back home', for he trusts no one to tend his prized plants in his absence. But no sooner has Horticulous set his grundleplough working than Nurgle grows restless again. He decides that now is not the time for planting, but instead the time for reaping. And so, hefting his rusty pair of pruning shears, Horticulous joins the Plague Legions for battle. Heads and limbs are snipped with the same precision and skill he shows when trimming down a bleeding marrowtree.
As he goes about his duties, Horticulous conjures the tendrils and mutated fronds of Nurgle's garden and ushers them into reality as if with only a thought. Within moments of sowing a seed, a boundless fecundity erupts, creating a small facsimile of his master's garden. Such infested areas, populated by the likes of daemonic Feculent Gnarlmaws, augment the diseased hordes of Nurgle and cause all others to weaken in the unnatural miasma.
It is rare to see Horticulous alone, for he is almost always accompanied by bounding packs of Beasts of Nurgle. The creatures frolic in the slimy and poisonous wake left behind by the Grand Culvitator's squelching mount, and will respond to the Herald's call with unmatched enthusiasm. Horticulous tolerates the Beasts' antics, but the same cannot be said for Nurglings. When no Great Unclean Ones are watching, Horticulous has been known to feed the imps to Mulch. This foul diet ensures Mulch's bite is extremely toxic.
Horticulous Slimux, the Grand Cultivator
From the warp they come, bearing gifts of destruction and corruption. An army composed of Daemons from each of the Chaos Gods bears down upon the Ultramarines' defence line, seeking to smash it asunder. No one will be spared on this planet, or any other, and the wars will continue until the forces of Chaos hold sway over the entire galaxy.
'Wither when you stand, toll the bells of the Tallyman.
Sores that run with pus, toll the bells of Epidemius.
Boils that grow and pop, toll the bells of Gru'glop.
Come rains of gristle-pus, toll the bells of Rotigus.
Seeds that are bibulous, toll the bells of Horticulous.
The tallow is lit to light you to bed, the plaguesword is coming to chop off your head.
Chip chop, chip chop, 'til the last of them are dead.'
— Drone-chant led by Gru'glop, Poxbringer of the Dirgebells
Horticulous Slimux frowned, the slick skin of his forehead furrowing like a well-ploughed field. The ancient daemon had been thinking pleasant thoughts about running down the last survivors of Zintalis Old Town, his lolloping Beasts of Nurgle driving the citizens into the open so their corpses could bring Grandfather's fecundity to the meadows and plains beyond. It would be a welcome and hard-earned change from desperate battle against that cursed axewoman Blacktalon and her Rangers, that much was sure. But to his frustration, his quarry was escaping.
'Perhaps runnin' 'em down is a bit of a stretch,' droned Slimux - given the sluggard's pace of his mollusc-steed Mulch, the humans would outpace them for days yet. But there was something to be said for doing things slowly, steadily and properly. 'Run, my little hares,' muttered Horticulous. 'The snail always wins in the end.' But there was something on the wind that made his usual certainty ring hollow.
A scent of death blew from the cracked plains to the north of Zintalis, with another smell cutting through it. Was that the cold, nostril-scouring tang of sterility?
Slimux shuddered at the very thought. Death was all fine and well by him, an integral part of Grandfather's great cycle and a necessary prelude to the birth of glorious new life. He had brought that gift to millions of souls over his long existence, and extensively travelled Shyish, the Realm of Death, in his time. But as he always told his wide-eyed Nurgling helpers in the Plague God's Garden, a creature's demise was always followed by rebirth, whether of body or spirit, and from the tiniest forms of life blossomed vast and malodorous entities that pleased Grandfather with their foulness - until one day they, too, died and the cycle continued.
Wherever the barren scourge of undeath could be found, however, that cycle was broken, replaced with a dreaded stasis that even the boundless energies of Nurgle struggle to overcome. Horticulous vehemently hated those who spread that blasphemous curse.
'Ah well,' said Horticulous, snorting at his own introspection. He could still see the town's survivors ahead, crossing the plain with his Beasts in gleeful pursuit. 'On with the great labour.' He kicked his steed hard in its slime-clotted shell and waggled the Nurgling he had tied to his stick as bait. 'Get 'em, Mulch.' The molluscoid daemon sighed heavily, rolled its eyes and pulled itself forwards as fast as it could, accelerating from the pace of an asthmatic Nurgling to that of a leper at a dangerously fast walk.
By the time the plague daemon had reached the edge of the cracked flatlands, he was in a thoroughly bad mood. He could see his Beasts lurching and bounding back towards him. 'What's wrong with 'em now?' he grumbled. 'Time for the whippin' stick, mayhap.' His rotten heart softened a little when he saw that their tentacles were drooping and their expressions were like that of a kicked hound. They whined and puked as they gathered around him, seeking to hide behind Mulch's shell and then peering back out at the flat plain. Something out there had spooked them, but other than the townspeople stumbling onwards and in some places catching their breath, Horticulous could see nothing at all.
Mulch trundled up to the edge of the flatland, sniffing at it with suspicion. By the smell of it, the land was not a salt plain, thank Grandfather - those were always a problem. So why were his pets so reticent to go after their prey?
On a hunch, Horticulous got out a handful of his most exceptional spore-seeds from one of his mouldering kingleather pouches. Taking a moment to revel in its earthy and putrescent scent, he scattered the seeds across the flatlands with an expansive gesture. Soon the vile and colourful fungi of Nurgle's domain would sprout.
'Any moment now,' he said, 'and we'll bring some lovely life to this place.' He chewed on a splintered bone and peered with an expert's eye at the earth, but it remained cracked and dry. How could it be? His skill as a cultivator was such that even the most arid desert was soon rich compost for the blessings of the garden, and his seeds were the finest in all the lands.
Up ahead, some of the scattered townspeople had noticed that Horticulous and his entourage had halted in their pursuit. One of the humans gave a strange laugh, his tone somewhere between relief and madness.
'Not havin' that,' grumbled Horticulous. 'Mulch! Lead the charge!' The daemon molluscoid shambled forward, but as soon as his front set of legs touched the cracked flatlands, he screeched and recoiled as if stung by a paladin-wasp. 'That ain't right,' said Horticulous. He peered down once more at the spore-seeds. Instead of bursting into glorious life as they should have, they had shrivelled away to black ruin. Nurgle's magic was not taking.
'We made it!' shouted one of the Zintalis humans. 'They're not coming after us!'
Horticulous ground his crumbled molars, his choler souring with every passing moment. He took a greenclay urn from Mulch's shell, the one containing his most prized plague flies, and cracked it open with his lopping shears to release a cloud of fat-bodied insects. 'Swarm 'em, little 'uns!' he cried out, but the insects just buzzed around him, not trespassing so much as a foot onto the cracked lands.
'He can't touch us,' came the call from up ahead. One of them took out a shortbow, and a moment later an arrow struck Horticulous right in the chest. It caused a momentary flicker of pain as it pierced his heart. The daemon plucked out the arrow and snapped it, his anger rising up to consume all reason. He slid off Mulch's shell, took up his shears, and stepped out onto the flatlands, grimacing at the stinging pain he felt in the soles of his feet.
The cracked earth shivered and shook as if revulsed, and a hundred skeletal hands thrust upwards from the earth with a noise like a thousand earthenware jars shattering at once. Those closest were grabbing at Horticulous but could not quite reach him, for they were repelled by the spore-seeds scattered on the ground. 'Huh,' he grunted, slashing one of the hands with a backhand swipe of his shears. It came apart in a scattering of bones.
Those hands bursting out nearest the human survivors experienced no such obstacle. They clawed at Zintalis' survivors in ever-greater numbers, the earth around them crumbling away to reveal an entire layer of juddering skeletons beneath. Bony fingers sank into soft skin and ripped away chunks of pink flesh as the townspeople were dragged screaming into their graves.
Horticulous raised his eyebrow, drinking in the spectacle with a mixture of satisfaction and disquiet. 'Strange times indeed,' he muttered, climbing slowly back into Mulch's saddle-shell. 'But this old dog has plenty of tricks yet. Come on, my fine little lads, back to the garden with you. We have work to do.'
A gnawfly droned lazily through the Garden of Nurgle. Spores drifted around it on the miasmal airs. Moanwillows sighed and rustgrass creaked below as the fly buzzed along, its simple mind filled with thoughts of filth, food, and where it might find the two combined. The gnawfly settled for a moment upon a stone arch that rose from a shallow lake of bubbling foulness. It ruffled its wings, humming shrilly and tonelessly as it added its own generous offering to the noxious waters.
Emerald light flared, causing the fly to squeak in surprise as the arch filled with flickering energies. A fleshy mound spilled from the portal, something large and slug-like with a slime-slick shell on its back. A gnarled claw reached out and closed around the gnawfly as it tried to take flight. It gave a last squeal of alarm before it was tossed into a daemon's stinking maw.
The gnawfly popped like a zit in Horticulous' mouth, and he pulled a sour face.
'Bloomin' empty, just my luck,' he muttered.
Mulch squelched down into the foetid lake, emitting a sigh of relief as gelid filth washed over him. The snail-beast swiveled one eyestalk and shot Horticulous a questioning look.
'Well I don't know, do I?' said the plague daemon irritably. 'The dead have their place in the cycle, that's well and good. But if they're forgettin' what that place is...'
Mulch blew out a heavy sigh of concern, bubbles of filthy lake-water frothing around his mouth.
'I know, lad, not good at all,' said Horticulous. 'That's the sort of thing that'll get Grandfather all in a latherboil.'
Mulch submerged his head further, until only his eyestalks protruded above the sludge. He burbled morosely.
'Truth, that's what we need, and time to make sense of it,' said Horticulous. He stuck two gnarled fingers into the corners of his mouth and whistled messily. His plague flies swarmed in answer, gathering upon him in a thick carpet, their legs and wings tickling Horticulous' leathery flesh.
'Alright you lot, time to earn your keep,' said the daemon. 'I haven't been around this long without gettin' a nose for when something don't stink right, and after that business outside Zintalis, all I smell is ashes. Get out into the realms and get searchin'. I don't care how or where, just fly as far as you can, then come back and tell me what you seen. Signs, omens, walkin' cadavers, whatever it is, I want to know about it, right?'
His flies gave a resounding buzz, thrumming their wings in answer. They burst from Horticulous' body like a cloud and shot away in all directions, making for the corrupted Realmgates that dotted Nurgle's garden.
The Grand Cultivator nodded to himself, then gave Mulch a firm kick. 'Alright sluggard, enough marinatin'. It'll be a span before them flies start coming back, and in the meantime you can just bet the Plaguebearers won't have pared the rot-blossoms right. Come on lad, cultivatin' to be done.'
Mulch gave another long-suffering sigh before hauling himself off through the slime with Horticulous perched thoughtfully upon his back.
Time had always passed strangely for Horticulous, if he noticed its passage at all, wheeling around him in fluid cycles one moment and flowing turgid as a clotted river the next. All the same, the Grand Cultivator was surprised by how soon the first of his flies returned. Barely had he found time to berate his assistant gardeners, plough the lower festerfields and attend to the wytherblooms before the insects started flitting back.
Most bore a fresh message of alarm, some strange sight or unnatural encounter having left the daemonic insects buzzing with panic. Some of Horticulous' little familiars returned with legs brittle and thoraxes graying with patches of ashen sterility.
Some did not come back at all.
As each fresh tale was told to him, Horticulous' concern deepened. 'Ghasts and haunts, blackenhounds and wailing bogies,' he muttered to Mulch after an especially vivid account from the Jade Kingdom of Verdia. 'Dark omens and darker visions. There's bad business comin', you mark my words. I think it's time I had a word with the Rainfather.'
Mulch belched in agreement and snapped lazily at the giggling Nurgling that dangled from a pole before his face. The mite swung tantalisingly out of reach as it released a string of flatulence and poked out its tongue. Grunting with annoyance, Mulch set off through the garden towards the pestilent pastures, the last known location of the mighty Great Unclean One known as Rotigus.
Horticulous heard the sounds of battle long before he saw Rotigus himself. Clashes, screams, and the wet rush of jetting foulness echoed between the trunks of a withered copse as Mulch dragged himself between the trees. Emerging from the eaves of that noisome wood, Horticulous tapped Mulch's snout, pulling his steed up short atop a ridge of bone that overlooked the pestilent pastures.
Sitting back and chewing on a splinter of bone, Horticulous watched Rotigus work with professional appreciation. Down amongst the muck of the pastures, the ground had been heaved open by great shards of blue crystal that danced with varicoloured flames.
Horticulous recognised a spur of the Crystal Labyrinth, the ever-twisting realm of Tzeentch that sometimes intruded upon Nurgle's bountiful domain. From within that strange maw had spilled a tide of Tzeentchian daemons, no doubt intent upon claiming the Plague God's pastures for their master's realm.
The heaps of rotting ectoplasm and writhing, fungus-covered flesh strewn about the battlefield showed that Rotigus had other ideas. As Horticulous watched, the cowled Great Unclean One led his Plaguebearers in a last, resounding charge against the battered remains of the invading host. Rotigus swatted kaleidoscopic daemons aside with swings of his twisted stave. He crushed them under his huge bulk, and vomited streams of brackish filth from the maw in his gut, drowning Tzeentch's servants and extinguishing their unnatural fires.
At last, the few surviving Horrors turned and capered for the mouth of their tunnel. Rotigus raised his staff and bellowed words that caused the daemons to convulse with the raw power of unstoppable fecundity. One by one they were torn apart by fungal growths that billowed from within their flesh, until at last a new copse of nodding mushrooms the height of trees stood before the entrance to the Crystal Labyrinth.
Satisfied that the show was over, Horticulous urged Mulch forward. Rotigus saw him coming, the beetle-black eyes that stared from beneath his rotted cowl marking the Grand Cultivator's approach. Leaving his daemonic foot soldiers to smother the crystal shards in corpse-compost, Rotigus lumbered to meet Horticulous half way. The Great Unclean One settled on his haunches, looming over Horticulous like a mountain of flyblown flesh.
'Hgh... Horticulous,' he said, nodding. Rotigus' deep voice was a bubbling, liquid horror, the sort of sound a mudslide might make if it could speak. The Great Unclean One sounded as though he were constantly striving to choke back mouthfuls of vomit, with black slop spilling from his lips in noisome spatters. Horticulous nodded in turn, chewing nonchalantly on his bone splinter.
'Rainfather,' he said. 'Fine gamekeeping there. Can't have the Changer's vermin springin' up all over, can we?'
'What do you... ugh... want, Slimux?' asked Rotigus. 'This business has... hgh... taken up too much of my time already. There's ways to wander, and gifts to be given. Always more... urgh... gifts.'
'Where'll your wanderings take you next?' asked Horticulous.
'Ghg... Ghyran, not that it concerns you,' replied Rotigus. 'Why? Would you like to wander with me, little cultivator?'
'Mayhap,' nodded Horticulous. 'But nowhere of as little import as that.'
Rotigus's belly maw heaved and sputtered with sloshing laughter, but his true expression congealed into a heavy frown. Mucus crawled in trails down his flabby chins.
'The War of Life is... hwugh... somehow unimportant to the great Horticulous Slimux, is it?' he asked. 'Too old and wise for Grandfather's war are you, first-spat?'
'The War of Life is a single enterprise, one that Grandfather's interests have branched out from,' said Horticulous. 'Why do you think he sent me out a-sowing? All the realms need to feel his generosity, not just one. Leave the fixed obsessions to the Skull Lord, is what he says now, and I agree.'
Rotigus shifted wetly. He rumbled deep in his chest.
'You know something, don't you? What... hugh... hgh... is it?'
'I've seen things, heard 'em on flies' wings, smelt their charnel stink,' said Horticulous. 'There's somethin' bad coming, Rainfather. The dead are on the rise, and if I'm right, the cycle's under threat.'
'If you are right,' echoed Rotigus. 'And whence do these... ugh... these winds blow? Where do you plan to ride that gastropodal steed of yours in... suhgh... search of answers?'
'Where else?' asked Horticulous. 'Shyish. And I don't look to go alone. Let the other fly-eyed fools scurry through Alarielle's pretty fields. If you and I lead the Tallybands to the lands of the dead, and we put an end to whatever infecund mischief is brewin' up, think how glopsome-glad Grandfather will be.'
'A reward shared is a reward halved,' said Rotigus.
'Hah!' barked the Grand Cultivator. 'Alright, says you, then let's make it a wager, eh? Surely even the barrens of Shyish can't long stay dead with your powers of plenty to coax their generosity?'
'He... ugh... who first discovers the source of your belly-aching and puts paid to it is declared the winner,' said Rotigus, nodding his boulder-like head.
'Aye,' said Horticulous.
'And if your... ghg... your fears prove baseless, little cultivator, and my time is wasted?' asked Rotigus, his voice menacing.
'They shan't, and it won't,' said Horticulous, his eye locked steadily with Rotigus' black orbs.
Eventually, the Great Unclean One gave another rumble deep in his chest and turned away.
'Squamglut, Mulgus,' he bellowed, catching the attention of his subservient Poxbringers. 'Ghugh... gather the Tallybands! We make for the Crackenbone Realmgate! The Deluge has... hgh... business in the lands of the dead!'
Horticulous gestured to his surviving flies, sending them winging away to gather his own followers. He smiled a sly smile to himself and sucked the last marrow from his old chewing bone. Two of Nurgle's mightiest daemons, and all those who would follow them to battle, amounted to a prodigious force indeed. Whatever was stirring in the Realm of Death, he almost felt sorry for it...
|Creatures||Beasts of Nurgle; Blight Drones; Foetid Bloat-drones; Great Unclean Ones; Hooktors; Lords of Contagion; Mabrothrax; Malignant Plaguecasters; Noxious Blightbringers; Nurglings; Pestigor; Plaguebearers; Plaguebulls; Plague Hulks; Plague Ogryns; Plague Toads; Plague Towers; Plague Zombies; Poxbringers; Poxwalkers; Rot Flies; Sloppity Bilepipers; Spoilpox Scriveners|
|Characters||Abcellyoth; Aynthrexes; Bilerot Vomitflesh; Lothar Bubonicus; Bubonis; Vorxec Calvarius; The Carrier; The Entomancer; Epidemius; Ferrue Fayne; Tormus Fayne; Foulspawn; Nathaniel Garro; Ghulroth; The Glottkin; Goresqualor; Gulgoth; Horticulous Slimux; Jibberjaw; Ku'gath; Mamon; Adrius Meinloka; Mephidast; Mortarion; Mortius; Mulch; Necrosius; Nurgle; Pestilaan; Putricifex; Rotigus; Scabeiathrax; Septicus; Achkovas Spengh; The Thanator; Typhus; Ussax; Plaguestrangler Vilestench; Jonas Whitespore; Ystareth|
|Groups||Apostles of Contagion; The Befouling Host; Blessed Flesh; Bringers of Decay; Callers of Sorrow; Carnival of Chaos; The Cleaved; Company of Misery; Death Guard; Deathmongers; Death Priests; The Grey Death; Inevitable Order; Legio Mortis; Legion of Festering Death; Lords of Decay; Mournful Song; Nurgle's Rotters; Plague Legions; Pox Tribes; The Purge; The Reborn; The Scourge; Septicus Legion; Sorcerer-Kings; The Tainted; Tainted Sons; Vile Savants|
|Things||An'garrach; Balesword; Blight Grenade; Bloodrot Rounds; Bone Maul; Corruption; Cursed Carillon; Death Head; Dolorous Knell; Doomsday Bell; Entropic Knell; Epidemia; Father of Blades; Foulswarm Grenade; Gem of Nurgle; Horn of Nurgle's Rot; Icon of Despair; Icon of Seeping Decay; Manreaper; Palanquin; Pandemic Staff; Pestilaan Light Cruiser; Pestilent Flail; Plague Banner; Plaguebringer; Plague Cauldron; Plague Chalice; Plague Claw; Plague Flail; Plague Knife; Plague Sceptre; Plague Skull of Glothila; Plaguesword; Poxwalker Hive; Puscleaver; Rot Giver; Scab; Scourge Shells; Staff of Nurgle; TP-III; Undead Heart; War Altar|