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In the Warhammer 40,000 setting, Mortarion is one of the twenty Space Marine Primarchs, genetically engineered by the Emperor. He led the Death Guard Legion and, during the Horus Heresy, fell to Chaos pledging himself and his men to Nurgle.
Followers of Nurgle, be they Champions of the Warhammer World or spacefaring Champions who lead the Chaos Renegades throughout the galaxy, favour certain materials with which to decorate their banners. Thus many of these banners, and for that matter the shoulder badges and icons of the Chaos Renegades, gleam with yellow pus, bile green, and several rich brown colours of doubtful origin.
The Emperor never made the mistake of underestimating the threat of Chaos, and in order to meet that threat he put the best scientific brains on Earth to work. Weapons and spacecraft poured out of the Martian factories to bolster beleaguered forces throughout the galaxy.
The Emperor's most long-sighted plan to counter the insidious influences of the Chaos Powers was the creation of the Primarchs: genetically engineered super-humans with god-like powers. The Emperor's intention was to create a whole race of super-humans from the genetic blueprint of the Primarchs. By making them loyal and strong he hoped that they would prove immune to the malign psychic influences of Chaos.
The Primarchs were to be shining examples of humans free from the taint of corruption. The energy of the uncorrupted warp would flow through them as it flowed through the Emperor himself, invigorating them and conferring special powers such as were possessed by the shamans of old.
Unfortunately, things did not go quite according to plan. Despite the Emperor's best attempts to shield the project from the penetrating eyes of the Chaos Powers they still managed to learn of it. The Primarchs were still in their foetal stage, growing in special amniotic tanks, when the Chaos Powers combined their energies to spirit them away in an unexpectedly bold move.
Even for the Chaos Powers this kidnapping represented a colossal expenditure of energy. The Primarchs were sucked through the warp and scattered on separate human worlds in distant parts of the galaxy. The Chaos Powers dis not have the resources to destroy the Primarchs, but they did the next best thing which was to hide them from the Emperor. They were to remain hidden until after the waking of Slaanesh.
The Emperor had lost the Primarchs and the first action of his renewed war against the Chaos Powers. The Primarchs could not be recreated and even if this were possible there was not time to do it. The birth pangs of Slaanesh grew louder and louder as the time of his waking grew near. The Emperor evolved another plan. Using genetic material which had been imprinted from the Primarchs into laboratory gholems, some of their qualities could be reproduced as discrete biological organs. By implanting these organs into a young growing body a person with some of the qualities of the Primarchs could be created. In this way the first Space Marines Chapters were founded. Each Chapter utilised genetic material derived from one of the Primarchs.
By the time that the warp storms were ended, the Space Marines and other Imperial forces were ready to begin their reconquest of the galaxy. The forces of Chaos were already strong, and many human worlds had been taken over by Chaos Cultists or other aliens. It was a long hard struggle, but with every victory the Imperium grew stronger as new warriors joined the Great Crusade.
The initial conquests concentrated in areas where the Primarchs had been hidden. Using his psychic powers the Emperor gradually located and found each of his original creations and united them with the Space Marine Chapters created from their genetic imprints. They seemed none the worse for their brush with Chaos, having grown up to be great leaders and warriors among the local human populations. In fact this appearance of normality was to prove deceptive, for some of the Primarchs had become tainted by their early contact with Chaos. With the help of the Primarchs the Great Crusade swept across the galaxy. Humanity rose to the task of rebuilding its ancient heritage, and everywhere the alien oppressor was defeated and driven out. Chaos retreated to its own realms, to the zones of warp-real space overlap such as the Eye of Terror.
The forces of Chaos were not quite so easily beaten. They whispered to the Primarchs from the warp, disturbing their dreams with promises of power, appealing to their pride, their martial prowess, and their courage. No single Primarch was wholly resistant to these unspoken temptations. The character of each was sorely tested, and fully half of them failed that test. So subtle was their temptation that they never even suspected how their own loyalties were changing.
For example, Mortarion Primarch of the Death Guard Chapter fully believed that he was the herald of a new age of justice. Angron of the World Eaters genuinely thought that he alone could save humanity from destruction. Horus too, the greatest Primarch of all, was convinced of the virtue of the martial ideals for which he fought.
By appealing to their virtue and courage, they were tempted to lead their Space Marine Chapters against the Emperor. Initially, even the Primarchs had little idea that they had fallen to Chaos, but when they rebelled their good intentions gradually fell away as Chaos saturated their souls. By the same token the Marine Chapters that they led also turned slowly but inevitably to Chaos.
The leader of the rebellion was the Warmaster Horus, the greatest and most trusted Primarch of all. He had stood by the Emperor's side throughout the long years of the Great Crusade. They had fought back-to-back at the siege of Reillis when the Emperor saved Horus's life. On the battlefield of Gorro, Horus had repaid the debt by hacking the arm from a frenzied Ork as he struggled to choke the Emperor's life out of him.
Horus's fall came as a great shock to the Emperor. For a vital month the Emperor hesitated, stunned by the extent of Horus's treachery, unable to believe that his friend and general was really gathering forces against him. When the war finally broke out it was savage and bloody. Marine fought Marine as the rival factions battled for supremacy.
In the third year of the Horus Heresy the rebel Death Guard Chapter was marooned in the warp while attempting a long-range jump to Earth. Months passed while the fleet's Navigators searched for a warp-tide that would bring them back to the material universe. Meanwhile a mysterious contagion began to spread from ship to ship. The stinking pestilence bloated the gut, distended the flesh, and turned its victims rotten from the inside. Eventually the Chapter's Primarch Mortarion became infected and in his delirium he called upon the Powers of Chaos to aid the Space Marines. Mortarion's fevered ravings were answered by Nurgle, and Mortarion became Nurgle's Champion and eventually the Daemon Prince Mortarion, Lord of the Plague Planet. The Plague Planet he rules over lies deep inside the Eye of Terror. From this dark and slimy orb Mortarion launches fleets of Plague Ships into the warp to carry their contagions through the galaxy. On board are Champions of Chaos and their followers from the Plague Planet accompanied by warriors of the ancient Death Guard - the heinous Plague Marines of Nurgle.
The Death Guard Chapter was one of the original twenty Space Marine Chapters founded by the Emperor. During the Horus Heresy the Chapter joined the rebel Warmaster Horus and took part in many battles against the Emperor's forces. Their commander, Mortarion, became an open worshipper of Nurgle when the entire Chapter was trapped inside the warp and ravaged by plague. Subsequently he led his Space Marines in a merry dance of destruction over a score of planets. As disease began to disfigure the Marines, their appearance changed into the disgusting form they still bear today. Now te once tall and erect Space Marines of the Death Guard are the Plague Marines of Nurgle. Their flesh bubbles with corruption, their innards spill through lesions in their putrid skin, and their bodies ooze with sticky slime.
Following the death of Horus and the effective end of the Heresy, Mortarion fled with the remnants of his Chapter into the Eye of Terror where he received Nurgle's ultimate reward and became the Daemon Prince Mortarion. He rules over a Plague Planet where sickness and pestilence are the norm, where miasmic clouds being corruption and death and where the diseased pray to Nurgle for relief from their constant agony. Some of them are favoured and become Champions, and then fight among themselves for mastery and the chance to become Daemon Princes in their own right. The Plague Marines rarely interfere in battles between rising Champions. In fact they are not commonly seen by the world's inhabitants except during the time when new Champions are selected to fight with the Chaos Renegades. Most of their time is spent attending on Mortarion or carrying out his wishes, spreading new diseases and travelling to other worlds to carry Nurgle's plagues to new victims.
Not even the ministrations of advanced technology can entirely eradicate the dangers of disease on long space voyages. A ship travelling between far flung planets always risks contamination by alien viruses or mutated bacteria. Such perils can quickly infect and slay the crew, or incapacitate the ship's Navigator stranding the ship in the warp. The empty husks of Plague Ships drift through the warp, sometimes for thousands of years, until they are drawn to that bosom of pestilence which is the Plague Planet of Mortarion. Here they are gathered into Plague Fleets and filled with the diseased followers of Mortarion before being cast back into the warp to spread their pestilence throughout the galaxy.
The Plague Fleets carry followers of Nurgle to inhabited planets where their destructive raids are inevitably followed by an outbreak of a no less destructive contagion. Once the Plague Ships are abandoned or their crews finally destroyed, the hulks float back into the warp where the currents carry them back to the Plague Planet.
During the Plague Ships' journey through the warp the insides of the craft erupt with large furry black flies. They burst from every surface, covering the interior of the ship, filling whole rooms with their decaying carcasses. When the ship reaches a new world the Champions and their followers prepare to disembark by landing craft, teleport, or by landing the ship itself. As soon as the ship's hatches are opened a thick black cloud of insects is released, each a tiny bearer of disease ready to spread the foulness of Nurgle over a virgin planet. Even when the Marines disembark by teleporter enough flies are transported to form a dense cloud of choking blackness.
On the Plague Planet of Mortarian Chaos Champions pay homage to Nurgle, to Mortarion himself, and to many locally raised Daemon Princes. Every Champion struggles to become a Daemon Prince and hence a patron of new Champions. The Renegades may therefore include Champions of a great many Daemon Princes other than Nurgle himself. A player who raises a Chaos Renegade Champion to Daemon Prince status can use him as a patron from future Champions. A payer can also use the Mortarion himself as his patron.
Marke of Chaos. Champions of the Daemon Prince Mortarion receive +1 toughness and a randomly generated chaos attribute in the same way as Champions of Nurgle.
Gifts of Mortarion. A Champion of the Daemon Prince Mortarion can refuse a gift rolled on the Chaos Rewards table in favour of a randomly rolled Gift of Mortarion on the table below. The exception is the Eye of God result - which must be accepted and cannot be rerolled.
|01-08||The Dark Contagion. The Champion's whole body swells and turns blotchy purple and black. His skin splits and a pool of thick evil-smelling pus spills out. If the Champion recevies one or more wounds from a hand-to-hand combat blow the pus will burst out and splatter his opponent on the D6 roll of a 5 or 6. If hit by this foul stuff a model must roll equal to or less than his WP on 2D6 to avoid being overcome with nausea and vomiting. A model overcome in this way loses any remaining attacks it has in this combat round and cannot attack at all in the following combat round. Worst of all, any model hit by the revolting pus must test after the battle and may catch the Dark Contagion. This is particularly important in the case of an enemy Champion. On the D6 roll of a 6 the model catches the Dark Contagion and, being unprotected by Nurgle, will automatically die after fighting in a further D6 games. Should the individual be a Champion then he can still reach daemonhood so long as he does so within the allotted time. Meanwhile the model can spread the Dark Contagion to his opponents in the same way. Note that a follower of Nurgle or a Daemon Prince of Nurgle may contract the Dark Contagion but cannot die of it.|
|09-16||Yellow Dementia. The Champion succumbs to the peculiar malady of Yellow Dementia. His skin turns bright yellow and his eyes swell up like poached eggs. The Champion's facial muscles contort into a manic grin displaying his snarling teeth. The victim of Yellow Dementia cannot resist hand-to-hand combat, and as soon as enemy move close by he breaks into a whooping war cackle and dashes towards them. If any enemy is within charge range of the Champion he will charge as soon as he can. If the enemy run away then he is not adversely affected, but will continue to charge in his following turn, until he enters hand-to-hand combat. Once engaged in and-to-hand combat the demented character fights with the infamous ferocity of the hardened lunatic, doubling his weapon skill and strength up to a maximum value of 10.|
|17-24||Gigantic Boil. A gigantic boil grows right in the middle of the Champion's forehead. It swells until it is the size and colour of a shiny ripe melon. The boil may burst during any hand-to-hand combat round. Test at the beginning of the round before any blows are struck. On the D6 roll of a 6 the boil bursts and showers a chosen opponent with rank pus - knocking him to the ground on a 2D6 roll equal to his strength or less. An opponent knocked to the ground is glued to the floor by all the pussy mess and can neither attack nor move until the hand-to-hand combat engagement is over. Once the gigantic boil has burst it has no further effect in that game but a new boil will grow before the next game.|
|25-33||Spouts Blood. The Champion's ears, eyes, mouth and nose all drip with blood making him look especially horrific. This has no effect other than to enhance his appearance.|
|34-41||Sleeping Sickness. The Champion is susceptible to a curious sleeping malady in which he falls into a deep sleep at inconvenient and unpreditable moments. If there are no enemy within 12" at the start of his turn the Champion may slip into sickly sleep on the D6 roll of a 6. He will sleep until he rolls a 4, 5 or 6 at the start of a following turn. While asleep he can do nothing but can be carried by any model with a strength equal to or more than his own - the carrying model may do nothing else.|
|42-49||Feels no Pain. A degenerative disease of the nervous system means that the Champion loses the ability to feel pain. Even if he chops off a finger he feels nothing. As a result he can ignore all but the most severe wounds, and can fight on despite the most terrible injuries. To represent this the model receives an additional D6 wounds at the start of the game and the number of extra wounds is noted. Once the game is over any serious damage sustained will ultimately catch up with him, as even wounds which cannot be felt may still kill. After the game is over the number of extra wounds are removed. If the Champion has no wounds after the extra wounds have been taken away he collapses after the battle and is considered as a casualty. He must roll for casualty recovery like any other model removed from the table during the battle.|
|50-57||The Rune of Mortarion. The Champion's skin erupts with disfiguring pustules. When they heal they leave a puckered scar in the shape of Mortarion's triple skull Rune.|
|58-65||Twisted Gut. The Champion's intestines burst through his skin and writhe about like a huge long tentacle. The Champion can retract or extend his gut as he pleases. If damaged the gut regrows inside his body, so he can't be permanently damaged if an enemy slices through his intestines. The gut can be used to make an additional attack in hand-to-hand combat.|
|66-73||Gastric Gripe. The Champion's insides swell with gas and gastric juices until his whole abdomen is distorted like a balloon. Every so often the gas finds a vent through some natural orifice or by means of a tear in his body, and a cloud of noxious fumes surrounds him. The release of gas is accompanied by a distinctive ripping or slow burbling noise which the Champion's followers take as a cue for them to cheer enthusiastically. The exertions of hand-to-hand combat aggravate the condition and cause great clouds of noxious gas to surround the Champion. In the second or subsequent round of any hand-to-hand combat engagement the Champion is obscured by sickening fumes causing any enemy who strikes against him to suffer a -1 to hit modifier.|
|74-81||Peeling Skin. The Champion's skin peels off him as he moves, leaving great bare patches of flesh of his body. Apart from enhancing his appearance and making the immediate area untidy this has no further effect.|
|82-97||Bloat. The Champion swells up like a great round ball and his skin gradually turns green and pustulent. The Champion's extra bulk adds a further +1 to his toughness but reduces his initiative by -1.|
|98-00||Chaos Attribute. Mortarion is as fickle with his favours as any other Power of Chaos. He decides against awarding the Champion with a gift and gives him a randomly determined Chaos Attribute instead.|
During the Horus Heresy the Death Guards Space Marines joined the rebel Warmaster Horus and took part in many battles against forces loyal to the Emperor. Mortarion, Primarch of the Death Guards, turned to the worship of Nurgle, Lord of Decay, after the entire Legion became trapped in the warp and was ravaged by plague. Mortarion's fevered ravings were answered by Nurgle who saved the Death Guards and made Mortarion his Champion. Subsequently Mortarion led his Space Marines on a merry dance of destruction over a score of planets. Following the death of Horus and the effective end of the Heresy, Mortarion fled with the rotting remnants of his Space Marines into the Eye of Terror. There he received Nurgle's ultimate reward and rules the Plague Planet as the Daemon Prince Mortarion.
Mortarion is a cowled, skeletal figure wrapped in tattered robes which flap in an ethereal, pestilent breeze. He bears a daemon-etched scythe to reap the souls of the living. In the first fire segment of the combat phase Mortarion can invoke a Plague Wind, the winds around him suddenly rising to a howling blast which echoes with maniacal laughter. Choose any enemy model within 15cm. This model is infected with a deadly rotting disease and must make a saving throw to survive (models which don't normally have a saving throw save against the Plague Wind on a 6+). If the model fails it is destroyed and you can pick aonther model within 15cm of the rotting remains which must also make a saving throw to survive. The Plague Wind will continue to take effect until a model makes a saving throw or the last victim dies with no other models within 15cm.
|Troop Type||Move||Saving Throw||CAF||Weapons||Range||Attack Dice||Roll to Hit||Target's Save Mod.||Notes|
|Mortarion||10cm||2+||+10||Plague Wind||See above||-||-|
The forces of Chaos were not quite so easily beaten. They whispered to the Primarchs from the warp, disturbing their dreams with promises of power, appealing to their pride, their martial prowess, and their courage. No single Primarch was wholly resistant to these unspoken temptations. The character of each was sorely tested, and fully half of them failed that test. So subtle was their temptation that they never even suspected how their own loyalties were changing.
For example, Mortarion Primarch of the Death Guard Legion fully believed that he was the herald of a new age of justice. Angron of the World Eaters genuinely thought that he alone could save humanity from destruction. Horus too, the greatest Primarch of all, was convinced of the virtue of the martial ideals for which he fought.
By appealing to their virtue and courage, the Primarchs were tempted to lead their Space Marine Legions against the Emperor. Initially, even the Primarchs had little idea that they had fallen to Chaos, but when they rebelled their good intentions gradually fell away as Chaos saturated their souls. The Space Marine Legions that they led also turned slowly but inevitably to Chaos. The corrupting influence of Chaos soon spread to the Imperial Guard and Adeptus Mechanicus forces, including the Titan Legions and the Legio Cybernetica. From there the rot spread further into the Imperium itself. Over half of the Adeptus Mechanicus alone were ready to join an Empire dedicated to Chaos.
The leader of the rebellion was the Warmaster Horus, the greatest and most trusted Primarch of all. He had stood by the Emperor's side throughout the long years of the Great Crusade. They had fought back-to-back at the siege of Reillis when the Emperor saved Horus's life. On the battlefield of Gorro, Horus had repaid the debt by hacking the arm from a frenzied Ork as it struggled to choke the Emperor's life out of him. The Emperor had entrusted Horus with leading the crusades along the Eastern Fringe while he returned to Terra to consolidate the rule of the vast Imperium num under his control.
In the Emperor's absence Horus's plans were just coming to fruition when the Imperial commander of Isstvan III declared the whole of the Isstvan system an independent principality. The Emperor, ignorant of the change in the Warmaster, ordered Horus to pacify the system. Horus chose to do so by virus bombing Isstvan III from orbit. The voracious life-eater virus slew every living thing on Isstvan III in a matter of minutes; twelve billion souls died with a death scream which pulsed louder than the Astronomicon. Whole continents and hive cities were charred to ash as the mass of oxygen released by the instant rotting of all organic material on the planet burned in the atmosphere and covered the world in a gigantic firestorm which raged for days. Before the last fires were out Horus despatched the Titans of the Legio Mortis onto the planet's surface to root out any who had survived in protective shelters or underground bunkers.
During the bombardment a handful of Space Marines still loyal to the Emperor seized control of the Frigate Eisenstein. They had discovered the taint of Chaos spreading through Horus's command and as the Warmaster withdrew to Isstvan V to marshal his forces the loyalists fled into warp space to warn the Imperium.
The Death Guard Legion was one of the original twenty Space Marine Legions founded by the Emperor. During the Horus Heresy the Legion joined the rebel Warmaster Horus and took part in many battles against the Emperor's forces. When Horus led his attack on the Emperor, the rebel Death Guard Legion was marooned in the warp while attempting the long journey to Earth. Days passed while the fleet's Navigators searched for a warp-tide that would bring them bak to the material universe. Meanwhile a mysterious contagion began to spread from ship to ship. The stinking pestilence bloated the gut, distended the flesh, and turned its victim rotten from the inside. Eventually even the Legion's primarch, Mortarion, became infected and in his delirium he called upon the Powers of Chaos to aid the Space Marines. Mortarion's fevered ravings were answered by Nurgle, and Mortarion became Nurgle's Champion.
The Death Guard, newly dedicated to Nurgle, arrived in time to take part in Horus's attack on Earth and took part in all of the major battles of the campaign. As disease began to disfigure the Death Guard, their appearance changed into the disgusting form they still bear today, and the once tall and noble Space Marines of the Death Guard became Plague Marines of Nurgle.
Of all the Chaos Space Marines, Plague Marines are the most physically horrible to look upon. Their flesh pulses with corruption, their innards spill through lesions in their putrid skin, and their bodies ooze with sticky slime. The sheer stench their rotting bodies exude fills the air around them with the sickly sweet scent of death for hundreds of yards in every direction. The sight of living creatures so foul is an abomination to nature, and of all the Plague Marines, those of the Death Guard are the most foul and disgusting, the most corpulent and corrupt.
Following Horus's defeat, Mortarion led his Death Guard in a merry dance of destruction over a score of planets until finally retreating with the remnants of the Legion into the Eye of Terror. Here he received Nurgle's ultimate reward and became a fully-fledged Daemon Prince ruling over one of Nurgle's greatest Plague Worlds in the Eye of Terror.
The Plague Planet Mortarion rules over lies deep inside the Eye of Terror. From this dark and slimy orb Mortarion launches fleets of plague ships into the warp to carry their contagions through the galaxy. On board are Champions of Chaos and their followers from the Plague Planet accompanied by warriors of the ancient Death Guard, the heinous Plague Marines of Nurgle.
The Plague Planet itself is a place where sickness and pestilence are the norm, where miasma clouds bring contagion and death and where the diseased pray to Nurgle for relief from their constant agony. Some of them are favoured and become Champions, and then fight among themselves for mastery and the chance to become daemon princes in their own right. The Plague Marines rarely interfere in battles between rising Champions. In fact they are not commonly seen by the world's inhabitants except during the time when new Champions are selected and enter the ranks of the Plague Marines. Most of their time is spent attending on Mortarion or carrying out his wishes, spreading new diseases and travelling to other worlds to carry Nurgle's plagues to new victims.
Twisted and corrupt, the Death Guard are disease-ridden mockeries of their former selves. Guided by their Daemon-Primarch Mortarion, they revel in the contamination of Imperial worlds, sowing plague and contagion wherever they go, inflicting cruel and agonising deaths on a planetary scale.
The Death Guard Legion, the dread Plague Marines of Nurgle, has become a relentless and terrifying scourge upon the Imperium of Man. But it was not always so. Ten millennia ago, the Death Guard was one of the original twenty Space Marine Legions, united in the defense of Mankind under the command of the Emperor and their fearsome Primarch, Mortarion.
When the Emperor's twenty nascent Primarchs were scattered across the galaxy, the Stygian Scrolls tell of one who came to rest on a bleak moor, strewn with dead and scattered with the carnage of battle for leagues in every direction. The planet was Barbarus, perpetually shrouded in poisonous fog, whose mountainous crags were ruled by warlords with fantastic powers and horrific appetite, and whose human settlers, stranded there millennia before, were crowded into the lowest valleys, beneath the choking mists. They lives lives of unrelenting terror, eking out a peasant's existence by day beneath a dim sun which never burned completely through the fog, and cowering by firelight after dark from the terrible beings which moved unseen above.
The greatest of these overlords stood in triumph on the battlefield, revelling in his massacre until the silence was shattered by a child's cry. Legend tells that the warlord walked the sea of corpses for a day and a night in his creaking battle armor, drawn by the wail of the infant. For an instant, he considered ending its young life; but no mere human ought to be able to breathe the poisonous miasma of the heights of Barbarus, much less cry out as this child did. For long moments he contemplated the thing which appeared human but was clearly more; then he gathered up the infant and carried it from the carnage. For all his dark power, until that moment he had not had what this child now promised: a son and heir. Born of death, upon a field of death, the warlord christened the infant Mortarion: child of death.
His master tested the infant's limits. When he had determined precisely how high into the toxic clouds of Barbarus's peaks the child could survive, he erected a stony keep and fenced it behind back iron. Then he moved his own manse beyond, to the highest crag, where the atmosphere was deadly even to the nascent Primarch. Mortarion grew to adolescence in such a world, of citadels of weeping grey stone and cast-iron fences, where the very air was death, and the sun never more than a distant smudge. It was a world of constant war, against opposing lords who came with golem armies of stitched-together dead one day, then tormented shapeshifters, more monsters than men, the next. To survive, Mortarion learned at the foot of his overmaster, and learned voraciously everything his master would teach him. Mortarion devoured it all: from battle doctrine to arcane secrets, from artifice to stratagem. He learned and he grew, shaped by his grim environs, but a child of the Emperor for all that - superhumanly resilient to the poisonous air around him and superhumanly strong even in the absence of sufficient sunlight or nourishment. Mortarion possessed an intellect which was highly keen and which asked questions his lord was not wont to answer.
Increasingly, the questions centered around the fragile things in the valleys below, which the warlords preyed upon for their corpses to reanimate, or victims to accurse. His master kept Mortarion as distant from the human settlements as he could, but his very act of denial fed the maturing Primarch's obsession. The day finally came when Mortarion would be denied no longer. Mortarion slipped through the dungeons from his keep. The last thing he heard was the voice of the overlord, the only father he had known, roaring in the miasmic darkness from the high battlements as Mortarion descended from the mountain, renouncing the Primarch for his betrayal, warning Mortarion that to return would mean death.
Descending beneath the mists was a revelation to Mortarion; his lungs were filled with air free of poisons for the first time. He smelled aromas of food being prepared, of crops freshly harvested, heard voices unmuffle by fog and, for the first time, heard laughter. The young Primarch realised that he was among his own kind, that the 'fragile prey' of the warlords were his own people. And with the realisation came rage. He determined to bring them the justice denied them by the dark powers which moved above.
Mortarion's acceptance amongst the human settlers of Barbarus was no simple thing. However like them he felt himself to be, to them he was little different from the monsters above. Towering over even the tallest of them, gaunt and pallid, with hollow, haunted eyes which betrayed the horrors he had seen, Mortarion terrified most of the settlers. They looked upon him with suspicion and fear. It stung the young Primarch, but he bided his time, using his great strength to work the fields for their meager harvest, knowing that his opportunity to prove himself would come. When it did in the twilight hours, he was ready.
From the darkness came shambling dark things. A lesser lord led his corpse-like thralls into the settlement, taking with silent, remorseless strength those they could carry off for their master's dark purpose. The peasants fought back as best they could, with torches and farmer's tools rendered into makeshift weapons. It was all they could do not to run, much less offer a meaningful fight. They had played out the futility of this scene their whole lives, and they knew how it would end. Until, that is, Mortarion strode into their midst. Towering over them with an enormous two-handed harvesting scythe, he charged into the ranks of the enemy with all his rage-born might, and drove them from the village. Their dark lord smiled at him as he neared and withdrew into the poisonous heights where this rebellious human could never reach him. He was still wearing his contemptuous smile when Mortarion caught up with him on the mountainside and exacted his vengeance for the 'fragile prey' below. After that night, Mortarion's place among the settlers was never in doubt.
As he matured, Mortarion taught the settlers of Barbarus what he knew of warfare. Word of his exploits spread, and many oters made the perilous journey to learn. Slowly, villages became strongpoints, and the villagers were more effective defenders. Eventually, Motrarion went amongst the people, travelling from settlement to settlement, teaching, building and, when occasion demanded, defending them. Always, however, his ultimate justice was denied; the dark powers could always retreat into the impregnable bulwrk of their poisonous mists. His people could only fight in defense. That had to change.
Mortarion recruited the toughest, most resilient of Barbarus' population, forming them into small units which he drilled himself, teaching them not only defense but also attack. He turned blacksmiths from toolworking to weaponsmaking when time allowed, and crafters to the shaping of armor. And, with the best artificers he could find, he bent his formidable intellect to the problem of the poisonous air.
Inquisitor Mendikoff's monograph, Cataphract of Death, relates the now-famous result. When next a warlord descended from above, and the villagers mounted a defense successful enough to drivehis unholy army back, Mortarion and his retinue of warriors, masked with crude filtering hoses and breathing gear, advanced into the fog after them. For the first time in living memory the prey brought death into the realm of death, killing the warlord and massacring his army. Mortarion continually improved his warrior's breathing apparatus, and he and his Death Guard, as his retinue came to be know, campaigned ever higher into the dark powers' domain, encountering ever more virulent pestilence. The constant exposure to ever higher doses of toxins toughened his Death Guard, traits which proved transferable to each new iteration of the Death Guard, growing tougher as though emulating their champion himself.
Only the most toxic peaks were denied Mortarion and the Death Guard and they warred for months across the poisonous spine of Barbarus, until only one grim manse stood against them, one which Mortarion knew well. The concentration of death about it overcame his force, threatening even Mortarion himself, and so he withdrew. Upon his return, however, his world was destined to once again spin out of his control.
Mortarion and his brethren arrived to find the village alive unlike he had ever known it. On everyone's lips was word of the arrival of a stranger, a great benefactor who brought promise of salvation. The Primarch's mood darkened; this day of deliverance was one he had worked for all his life, and he found himself altogether unhappy to see it co-opted by the arrival of some newcomer of uncertain agenda.
Taletellers say Mortarion flattened the massive wooden door of the hall upon his entrance. Seated at banquet, he found the elders and a stranger who was their opposite in every imaginable way. Where they were gaunt and pale, he was robust, his flesh bronzed, his physique utterly perfect. The people greeted Mortarion's arrival expectantly. Despite the effect wrought upon him by Barbarus's poisons, the connection between the new benefactor and their defender was nevertheless plain to them all. As plain as father and son. However, Mortarion was oblivious to any connection. He greeted the stranger with barely masked hostility, which quickly turned to outright anger at the stranger's utter unflappability. The elders spoke of the new arrival's promise to unite the people of Barbarus within a great expandign brotherhood of humanity which could help them be rid of their persecution from above. Mortarion felt his moment of triumph slipping from him. Twisting the haft of his ever-present scythe until this knuckles whitened, he declared that he and his Death Guard needed no help to finish their quest for justice.
It is said that the benefactor quietly challenged the stormy young Primarch's assertion, pointing out the Death Guard's failure to reach the last high citadel, and then threw down a gauntlet. If Mortarion could defeat the high overlord alone, he would withdraw and leave Barbarus to its own means. But if he failed, they would join his Imperium of Man and Mortarion would swear total fealty and allegiance to him.
Over the protests of his Death Guard, he spun on his heel and struck out alone for the last manse standing against him, the keep of the overlord he had called father. If some part of him knew that even he could not survive the highest reaches of Barbarus, he did not acknowledge it. Mortarion climbed ever higher, driven by the inevitability of the imminent conflict with his once master, driven by his desire to bring final justice for the people of his world. However he was mostly motivated by a compulsion to prove himself to the stranger below.
The confrontation, when it finnaly came, was mercilessly brief. Mortarion, choking in air so toxic that the hoses of his protective breathing gear began to rot away, struggled to the very gates of the overlord's citadel, calling out his defiance. The last thing he saw as he fell to his knees, the world turning grey as he was overcome, was the Overlord of Barbarus coming for him, to fulfill the promise he had made generations before. Then the might stranger stepped between them, defying the death-fog, and felling the overlord with a single blow of his gleaming sword.
Mortarion was true to his oath. When he recovered, he bent his knee to the stranger and swore himself and the Death Guard to his service. Only then did the Emperor of Man reveal himself as the young Primarch's true father, and the destiny such service would bring: command of the fourteenth Legion of the Adeptus Astartes, the Space Marines.
The Libram Primaris, or Book of Primarchs, tells how Mortarion brought the relentlessness, remorselessness and resilience of his personal Death Guard to the Legion built of his own genetic material, and how in turn they adopted his retinue's title as their own. The resulting prowess of the Death Guard was recognised from the moment Mortarion took command, but the young Primarch never settled in Imperial society outside of battle. Mortarion was a grim, driven Primarch, fixated on reckoning with the oppressors of the galaxy. The easy camaraderie of the other Primarchs was alien to him. The Shadow Journal of Bellerophan, Dark Angels Librarian, confides that, of them all, he found kindred spirits in only two: Night Haunter, the dread master of the Night Lords, and Horus, the Warmaster of the Imperium, and the right hand of the Emperor. Horus above all others recognised the value of the Death Guard. He would often place Mortarion and his Legion in the center of his battleline, counting on the enemy's inability to oust them so that he could either lever his advance from the rock of Mortarion's immovable position, or use it as the anvil upon which the Imperial hammer, in the form of his Luna Wolves, or the Haunter's Night Lords, would break the foe. It was a mercilessly effective combination.
In the charismatic Warmaster, Mortarion found a mentor who seemed to understand his goals and appreciate his methods. So close did Mortarion appear to be to Horus, in fact, it is believed that at least two of the other Primarchs, Roboute Guilliman of the Ultramarines and the ever watchful, ever taciturn Corax of the Raven Guard, approached the Emperor with concerns about where the master of the Death Guard's loyalties lay. The story of his allegiance to the Emperor won through his own failure was by then well-known, and anyone with even a passing familiarity with Mortarion knew that the pallid Primarch chafed at it. The Emperor is said to have dismissed their concerns with a wave; loyalty to Horus was de facto loyalty to the Emperor.
On that matter, the Emperor could not have been more wrong...
On the feral planet Davin, the Warmaster and his Legion, now named the Sons of Horus in his honor, had fallen to Chaos. Before they would leave, Horus would be utterly possessed, foreswearing allegiance to the Emperor for the cause of Chaos and his own advancement, and would draw the Primarchs and Battle Brothers of half the Imperium's Legions to his cause. Transcripts of the Council of Charon, convened after the Heresy to ascribe responsibility, suggest that, unlike some of the other Primarchs, Horus did not need to resort to ritual possession to win the Death Guard to his side. Horus promised that under his rule the old order woud fall, and a new age would dawn, a just age with right ensured by the mighty. Mortarion turned on the Imperium as he had turned on the overlords of Barbarus, and joined the rebellion which would forever sunder the Imperium - the Horus Heresy. What he did not know then was the price he would be called upon to pay.
Horus was a brilliant strategist; he knew that the heart of the Imperium was Terra, and from the very moment of his rebellion, Terra was his objective. In short order he had gathered sufficient strength to shatter the defenses of the Imperium and lay siege to the Imperial Palace itself. Mortarion was determined that the Death Guard would be there with him. With his entire fleet, he crossed into the Warp and straight into nightmare.
The Death Guard fleet was becalmed by an impenetrable warpstorm, its navigators neither able to guide them through it nor find safe passage into realspace. The fleet was reduced to drifting through the Immaterium, and while they were stilled the Destroyer came.
For Mortarion and the Space Marines of the Death Guard there was nothing so terrifying as the plague which made their legendary resilience meaningless. These were the warriors who the Imperium had sent to conquer worlds no other man could set foot upon, much less fight on and win. Pestilence, contagion, toxin and pollution; there was no environment so hostile which Mortarion and the Death Guard could not overcome, until the plague which raced through their fleet. It roiled in their guts, bloating and distending their once superhuman bodies, transforming them into horrible, pustulent grotesques. They were made corrupt within and sickening to behold without and they grew sicker and sicker, yet could not die, their own constitution becoming their worst enemy. What they endured was unimaginable yet none suffered more that Mortarion. For the Primarch, it was as though he were upon the mountaintop of Barbarus once more, surrendering to the poison, without the mercy of unconsciousness to claim him or the Emperor to come to his salvation.
Whether he perceived, in those terrible hours, the loss of what he had once stood for, and the damnation he had wrought upon himself and his Legion, only Mortarion will ever know. Unable to endure the suffering any longer, Mortarion offered into the Immaterium himself, his Legion and his very soul in exchange for deliverance. A presence in the Immaterium answered, as though it had been waiting all along. In the depths of the warp, the Great God Nurgle, Lord of Decay and Father of Disease, called that debt and accepted Mortarion and the Death Guard Legion as his own.
What emerged from the warp when the Death Guard fleet broke out bore little resemblance to what had entered. The gleaming white and grey armor of Imperial champions was no more, burst and shattered from the horrific bloating of infected bodies, scabbed with boils, putrescence and the filth of corruption. Their weapons and machinery of war were now powered by the sickly sorcery of Chaos, glowing with lambent green luminescence and oozing gangrenous pus. The name Death Guard itself would pass into secondary use, as the walking pestilence-carriers became a terrifying sight across the Imperium. To their victims, to their erstwhile allies, even to themselves, they had become the Plague Marines.
Horus was eventually defeated by the Emperor and Chaos was driven back across space, finding refuge in the weeping sore known as the Eye of Terror. Mortarion and his Death Guard retreated there as well, but not in disarray, as many of the other Legions did.
Even in damnation, the resilience of the Death Guard remained, and under the direction of their Master they withdrew into the Eye intact, Loyalist Space Marines and Imperial Guard regiments breaking upon them time and again.
Within, Mortarion claimed the world which would become known as the Plague Planet as his own; its location near the fabric of reality was ideal for launching new strikes into the Imperium and across the galaxy. He shaped it so satisfactorily and defended it with his Plague Marines so well that his patron, Nurgle the Unclean, elevated the Primarch to daemonhood and gave Mortarion what the Emperor had denied him, and what Horus had not been able to provide: a world of his own. Mortarion became the overlord of a world of poison, horror, and misery. He had come home.
Barbarus was a feral world which orbited near its dim yellow sun, creating a thick, miasmic atmosphere of toxic chemicals. The most virulent gases rose through Barbarus's perpetual cloud towards the heat of its star, making the world beneath a dismal place of night, unbroken by starlight and with short, shadowy days. An atmosphere breathable by humans existed only in the lowest elevations, on flat moors and in the valley basins of the jagged, stony mountains which spined the world. Beings immune to the toxic soup of the planet's higher atmospheres once existed on Barbarus, building great grey keeps in the mountain fastnesses. When humans came to Barbarus, the horrific conditions from which they had to eke out survival quickly reduced them to a pre-feudal state. The higher beings' incomprehensible powers, their ability to survive where men could not, and above all their hunger to prey upon, experiment with and accurse Humankind caused the settlers to ascribe to those beings a medieval supernaturalism. What manner of creatures these dark overlords were will never be known.
Since his elevation to daemonhood, Mortarion has, consciously or not, remade the Plague Planet very much in Barbarus's image. Its citizens cower in festering villages on the planet's surface, serving their supreme masters, Mortarion's champions and other daemonic chosen of Nurgle who reside in mighty fortress-citadels high above them. Diseased things which should be dead, yet are not, roam the landscape, and skeletal Mortarion rules over all, enthroned upon the highest peak of the world.
Mortarion was well-educated, if narrowly. Matters of culture, history, philosophy were often alien to him, but on the subject of dealing death he was a prodigy. Mortarion believed that victory came through sheer relentlessness, and communicated that ethic throughout the Death Guard. Their weapons and armor were rarely the most expertly artificed, certainly not the most beautifully-ornamented, but functioned without flaw. The Death Guard did not manouevre fancifully, or confound their opponents; they picked the best ground upon which to fight, then smashed their foes after they had broken themselves against the Death Guard line. There was no environment which Mortarion and the Death Guard feared. What Mortarion and his adepts could not devide means to compensate for, the Death Guard overcame through sheer resilience.
Mortarion learned battle in a theatre of rocky mountainous terrain, without benefit of machinery. Though his considerable intellect allowed him to grasp the value of such support when his elevation to Primarch of a Space Marine Legion made such things as tanks and transport available, the primacy of the foot soldier remained ever the trademark of the Death Guard. Mortarion preferred to utilise huge waves of infantry, well-equipped and highly-trained on an individual level. He demanded that they be able to function and fight in almost any kind of atmosphere, and gave little emphasis on specialised units using jump packs or bikes. In fact, the Death Guard did not have dedicated Assault and Tactical squads as such; all his Space Marines were expected by Mortarion to be equally adept with bolter, pistol and close combat weapon, to fight with whatever weapon circumstance dictated. Such doctrine lent itself well to the use of Tactical Dreadnought armor, and the Death Guard regularly used Terminators before the Heresy. The Death Guard were particularly renowned for their success at such high-risk missions as space hulk clearance and the Plague Marines continue that success, using hulks to spread disease, infection and the cult of Nurgle throughout the body of the Imperium. The combat doctrine which served the Death Guard so well in life now suits the damned character of the Plague Marines to perfection.
Mortarion was an infantryman, and the Death Guard were organised around the principle of equipping the individual Space Marine as well as possible. Obedience was extended through every rank: sergeants were extensions of their captains, who were extensions of Mortarion himself. If there were any of the original Legions that could be said to be of one body, it was the Death Guard. As a consequence, the Death Guard were organised into fewer companies than any of the other First Founding Legions. There were never more than seven companies at any time in its history, but each was of considerably greater size, and heavy with Space Marine infantry, including Terminator squads.
With Mortarion elevated to daemonhood, his hand upon the Legion became more remote and the Death Guard became broken up through space and time into smaller units. Warriors of the Death Guard are most often seen afoot, or at best accompanied by mad, plague-infested Dreadnoughts. Few of the tanks and transports of the Legion still function, their upkeep and maintenance being no priority to Space Marines dedicated to the incarnation of Rot and Decay. Some such constructs do soldier on, possessed by minor daemonic entities or infested and animated by Nurgling hordes, the swarming worker drones of the Lord of the Unclean. These forces are often found organised in squads of seven banded together into cohorts of seven squads. An echo of their Legion's organisational model at its height, seven is also the sacred number of the Death Guard's patron power, and they believe that by forming themselves in multiples of that number, they carry the favour of the daemon lord Nurgle and create a kabalistic strength. Whether their 'Rule of Seven' draws the attention and sorcerous blessing of the Death Guard's deity or not, the manner in which the Plague Marines carry themselves to war still reflects the hand of the Primarch which forged them, shaped them, then led them to their damnation. The daemon prince Mortarion remains master of the Death Guard even after their fall, orchestrating their movements unseen from his bubonic throne.
The beliefs of the Death Guard echoed those of Mortarion, beginning as one thing and ending as the corrupt opposite. A resolute determination that individuals should be free of oppression and terror became a conviction that individuals were not suited to decide what was just for them. A faith in inner strength, iron will and unshakeable resolution in the face of hardship led to pride, arrogance and an utter contempt for those they deemed inferior.
When Nurgle's Rot came to the stranded Death Guard, their pride and arrogance was revealed, and their contempt for weakness turned upon themselves. Their surrender to Nurgle left them with only one seething, burning outlet, stoked white-hot by the depth of self-loathing: to infect the strong, slay the weak and rot the foundations of everything in their paths until it collapses. Their debasement would no longer seem so shameful, if the pestilence of their Unclean Lord eventually brought everything to ruin.
The Space Marines of the Death Guard always reflected the gaunt, shadow-eyed, quality of their Primarch, that gave the lie to the hardiness with which they were made. The contagion which led to their damnation corrupted them physically, as well. As Plague Marines, the once-gaunt Death Guard are now bloated and seeping like an infected abscess, covered in boils, sores and weeping wounds crusted with the brown and green filth of the unclean. Nurgle does not accompany this repulsive aspect with gifts of mutation as freely as other powers (such capricious change is the province of his antithesis, Tzeentch), but on occasion will alter the countenance of a Death Guard aspirant with a tentacle, facet-eyed head of an insect or some other hideously repulsive form.
The Death Guard have no rallying cry as such. As Plague Marines, they are the incarnation of silent death, the virulent epidemic, the wasting disease and the remorselessness of deay. They are pestilence and pox, famine and blight, contagion and cancer, and like all of these things, are most terrifying when they come without word or warning.
With the initial attack stalled, Horus opted to bring forth his entire arsenal of weapons and warriors to overthrow the Emperor. For over a month, the gigantic cannons of the rebel army pounded the walls, foremost amongst them the siege weapons of the Legio Mortis Titan Legion, which had turned to Chaos in the earliest days of the Heresy. Eventually, after heavy bombardment, part of the curtain wall came crashing down and the Traitor Legions hurled themselves at the breach to pour into the inner palace.
Along banner-lined corridors, through mile-long galleries, the loyalists and rebels tore at each other. At the heart of the fighting stood the Primarchs. Rogal Dorn of the Imperial Fists and Sanguinius of the Blood Angels fought a desperate rearguard action to halt the force pouring through the breach. Angron of the World Eaters slew loyalist Space Marines by the dozen, while Mortarion of the Death Guard led his pustulent Plague Marines into the thickest fighting.
The most infamous Daemon Princes come from amongst those Primarchs who sided with Chaos during the Horus Heresy. These are those Primarchs who turned on the Emperor and led their Legions into damnation. Yet for all of the Imperium's hatred levelled at them by the Inquisition, the Daemon Primarchs Angron, Magnus, Mortarion and Fulgrim are content to wage wars against their enemies within the Eye of Terror. It is almost unheard of for them to lead forth their warriors from their Daemon worlds, preferring to leave such petty tasks to favour-seeking, fanatical underlings.
"In the embrace of great Nurgle, I am no longer afraid, for with His pestilential favour I have become that which I once feared: Death."
— Kulvain Hestarius of the Death Guard
The Death Guard are a Traitor Legion entirely steeped in the power of Nurgle, the God of Plagues, their very essence the epitome of all that vile Chaos Power stands for. Their bodies are hives of filth and decay, their flesh eternally rotting away even as it is renewed by the ceaseless process of death and rebirth. Once, however, the Death Guard were the strongest and most resilient of all of the Emperor's Legions, the inheritors of the Primarch Mortarion in whose genetic image they were created.
Mortarion grew to maturity on the world of Barbarus, a planet steeped in a toxic miasma where the human population cowered in the dark lowlands, fearful of the overlords that preyed upon them from their mountaintop keeps deep within the fog. History does not record who or what these beings truly were, but it is certain they were more than, or at least other than, human. For one, they were able to breathe the deadly gases that make up the atmosphere, getting ever more deadly the higher the altitude, but they are said to have displayed other abilities too. The abominable masters of Barbarus were somehow able to enslave or dominate the flesh of the dead, and they preyed upon the cringing natives in the valleys below, ever needful of raw material to fuel the endless wars they fought against one another.
The infant Primarch was raised by one such overlord, who taught him the ways of war, yet would not answer his questions regarding the people who dwelled in the lowlands. When Mortarion defied his master and descended through the fog, which as a superhuman Primarch he could breathe, he found people, like himself, if weaker and existing in perpetual terror of the overlords who preyed upon them each night. Though they were initially suspicious of him, Mortarion proved himself one of their kind, and moulded them into an army that at first defied the hunting parties of the overlords, and then turned the tables upon them. At length, the only one left was he who had been Mortarion's master, residing so high in the toxic strata that not even Mortarion could pursue him.
When the Emperor came to Barbarus, the people greeted him as their saviour, yet Mortarion was jealous and resentful of the adulation heaped upon this perfect stranger. Though his people could see that the Emperor was the Primarch's sire, he himself saw only the differences. Where the stranger was noble of form and tanned of skin, Mortarion was pale and gaunt. When he refused to join him, the Master of Mankind issued Mortarion a challenge - if the Primarch could defeat the last overlord of Barbarus, the Emperor would depart. If he could not, Mortarion must accept his fate and join the Great Crusade.
Mortarion accepted the Emperor's challenge and ascended into the toxic clouds, higher than he had ever travelled before. At length, he reached the grim keep of his former master and raged for the overlord to face him. Yet, even the Primarch's superhumanly enhanced body could not withstand the toxic atmosphere, but as he succumbed, he saw the golden figure of the Emperor step between him and the overlord, entirely unaffected by the poisonous air. With a single stroke of his mighty blade, the Emperor felled the last overlord, and Mortarion acceded to his fate.
Once the Primarch was united with his Legion, it was found that the Death Guard, as they became known, were amongst the most resolute and resilient of all the Legions. Mortarion's warriors were ever to be found at the centre of the battle line, their strength and determination the inheritance of their Primarch, making them the unbreakable core of any army of conquest. When the Horus Heresy plunged the galaxy into civil war, the warriors of the Death Guard found themselves becalmed in the warp and assailed by warp-born plagues so virulent that not even their legendary resilience could withstand them. Soon, the entire Legion was beset by a sickness that bloated their bellies with corpse gas, caused flesh to slough from their bodies and made these strongest and toughest of warriors into crippled wretches assailed by delirium. Though none can say exactly what forces acted upon the soul of the Primarch of the Death Guard, whether he was already damned or whether he made his pact in some state of fever, he must have called out for deliverance, and his call must have been answered. When finally the Death Guard Legion's fleet emerged from the warp, its vessels and its warriors were entirely changed. The once-gleaming white and grey armour was stained with filth, and the noble warriors were transformed into walking hives of death and abomination. Worse still, the "Plague Marines" of the Death Guard were now hosts for the most virulent afflictions that their new patron, the Plague God Nurgle, could concoct. Condemned to a deathless state of decay, the Death Guard would spread their pestilent diseases the length and breadth of the galaxy for the greater glory of Chaos.
With the ending of the Horus Heresy, the Primarch Mortarion led his Legion into the Eye of Terror, and while others had splintered into countless warbands, the Death Guard remained largely whole, thanks in no small part to their legendary strength and resilience. Mortarion led them to a world that would become known simply as the Plague Planet, which he moulded into a new and despicable form, making it a virtual copy of Barbarus.
To this day, Mortarion's Death Guard launch their assaults through the Cadian Gate and into the galaxy beyond, sometimes in large bodies and at others lending strength to allied forces. Wherever they travel they spread the joyful, exuberant poxes of Nurgle, gifting those who would know eternal life with the choicest of the Plague God's blessings. The Death Guard is known to be active in several warzones in the Jericho Reach, though so far only in relatively small numbers and acting as adjuncts to larger forces. There have been numerous occasions when previously unknown plagues have swept the defence lines of otherwise static fronts, followed hours later by an overwhelming enemy advance. Many amongst the crusade's high command ascribe such instances to the Death Guard, and are fearful of what vile diseases they might concoct next.
The infected Ork warbands invading the Ecclesiarchy world of Sanctia evince a terrible new barbarism. They fall upon the planet's defenders and consume them bodily, devouring the living and the dead alike, as if compelled by a daemonic hunger. Bloating and swelling, the Orks become obese monstrosities that can move only at a snail's pace. Puzzled by this strange reprieve, the Adepta Sororitas systematically purge the Orks with flame and bolter. It is then that Mortarion and his Death Guard make planetfall. The skeletally thin Daemon Primarch looms over the bodies of the Orks as he stalks to the front lines. At his passing, each Ork bursts apart in a shower of foul fluids, and dozens of Nurglings spill out from their remains to follow their master. Sanctia falls to the Green Death within twenty hours of Mortarion's arrival, and the plague spreads across the Ecclesiarchy-held system at an unstoppable pace.
Land Raider with additional spaced armour, Death Guard Traitor Legion sub-faction 'the Lords of Decay'. This vehicle bears an Ordo Malleus Infernus Perdita codification dated 811.M41 due to its having fought under the command of Mortarion, the Daemon-Primarch of the Death Guard himself.
Even before the Horus Heresy, the Death Guard did not manoeuvre fancifully, or concern themselves with confusing their opponents; they picked the best ground upon which to fight, then smashed their foes after they had broken themselves against the Death Guard line. There was no environment which Mortarion, their Primarch, or the Death Guard feared. Thanks to their superhuman ability to resist poison and disease, no toxic smog or corrupted atmosphere deterred their course. What Mortarion and his adepts could not devise means to compensate for, the Death Guard overcame through sheer resilience. The Warmaster Horus above all others recognised the value of the Death Guard; he would often place Mortarion and his Legion in the centre of his battle line, counting on the enemy's inability to oust them so that he could either lever his advance from the rock of Mortarion's immovable position, or use it as the anvil upon which his hammerblow assault would break the foe.
When Horus led his attack on the Emperor, the rebel Death Guard Legion became marooned in the Warp while attempting the long journey to Terra. Days passed while the fleet's Navigators searched for a Warp-tide that would bring them back to the material universe. Meanwhile a mysterious contagion began to spread from ship to ship.
The stinking pestilence bloated the gut, distended the flesh, and turned its victims rotten from the inside. For the Space Marines of the Death Guard there was nothing so terrifying as the Destroyer plague which made their legendary resilience meaningless. These were the warriors who the Imperium had sent to conquer worlds no other man could set foot upon, much less fight on and win. There had been no pestilence, contagion, toxin or pollution potent enough to overcome Mortarion and the Death Guard, until the plague raced through their fleet. It roiled in their guts, warping their once superhuman bodies, transforming them into horrible, pustulent grotesques. They were made corrupt within and sickening to behold without and they grew sicker and sicker, yet could not die, their own constitution becoming their worst enemy. Eventually even Mortarion became infected, and in his delirium he called upon the powers of Chaos to aid the Space Marines. Mortarion's fevered ravings were answered by Nurgle, and he became Nurgle's champion.
The Death Guard, newly dedicated to Nurgle, arrived in time to take part in Horus' attack on Terra and fought in all of the major battles of the campaign. What emerged from the Warp when the Death Guard fleet broke out bore little resemblance to what had entered. The gleaming white and grey armour of Imperial champions was no more, burst and shattered from the horrific bloating of infected bodies, scabbed with boils, putrescence and the filth of corruption. Their weapons and machinery of war were now powered by the sickly sorcery of Chaos, glowing with lambent green luminescence and oozing gangrenous pus. The name Death Guard itself would pass into secondary use, as the walking pestilence-carriers became a terrifying sight across the Imperium. To their victims, to their erstwhile allies, even to themselves, they had become the Plague Marines.
The beliefs of the Death Guard echoed those of their Primarch, and a resolute determination that individuals should be free of oppression and terror became a conviction that individuals were not suited to decide what was just for them. A faith in inner strength, iron will and unshakeable resolution in the face of hardship led to pride, arrogance and an utter contempt for those they deemed inferior. When Nurgle's blessings came to the stranded Death Guard, their pride and arrogance were revealed, and their contempt for weakness turned upon themselves. Their surrender to Nurgle left them with only one seething, burning outlet, stoked white-hot by the depth of their self-loathing: to infect the strong, slay the weak and rot the foundations of everything in their paths until it collapses. Their debasement would no longer seem so shameful, if the pestilence of their Unclean Lord eventually brought everything to ruin.
After Horus' defeat, Mortarion led his Death Guard in a merry dance of destruction over a score of planets, until finally retreating with his Legion into the Eye of Terror - but not in disarray, as many of the other Legions did. Even in damnation, the resilience of the Death Guard remained, and under the direction of their Master they withdrew into the Eye intact, loyalist Space Marines and Imperial Army regiments breaking upon them time and again. There, Mortarion received Nurgle's ultimate reward, and became a full-fledged Daemon Prince, ruling over one of Nurgle's greatest Plague Worlds in the Eye of Terror.
With Mortarion elevated to daemonhood, his hand upon the Legion became more remote and the Death Guard gradually became broken up over space and time into smaller units. Warriors of the Death Guard are most often seen afoot, or at best accompanied by mad, plague-infested Helbrutes. Few of the tanks and transports of the Legion still function, their upkeep and maintenance being no priority to Space Marines dedicated to the Incarnation of Rot and Decay. The Daemon Prince Mortarion remains master of the Death Guard even after their fall, however dispersed they become, orchestrating their movements unseen from his bubonic throne.
Even after the end of the Horus Heresy, the primacy of the foot soldier remained ever the trademark of the Death Guard. Their grim Primarch Mortarion prefers to utilise huge waves of infantry, well equipped and highly trained on an individual level. He demanded that they be able to function and fight in almost any kind of atmosphere, and gave little emphasis on specialised units such as those using jump packs or bikes. The Death Guard were particularly renowned for their success at such high-risk missions as space hulk clearance and the Plague Marines continue that success, using hulks to spread disease, infection and the cult of Nurgle throughout the body of the Imperium. The combat doctrine which served the Death Guard so well in life now suits the damned character of the Plague Marines to perfection.
An ancient device infused with the atrophying power of the Warp, the Hand of Darkness decays all and everything that its wielder touches. Flesh sloughs from bones and armour is reduced to little more than pools of liquid slag. It was with this fabled artefact that Abaddon finally gained access to the inner workings of the Blackstone Fortresses, before later surrendering it to the Daemon Primarch Mortarion to secure the allegiance of the Death Guard for his Thirteenth Black Crusade.
When making his close combat attacks, the bearer of the Hand of Darkness can instead choose to make a single special attack that uses the profile below:
|-||x2||1||Melee, Armourbane, Fleshbane, Instant Death|
The Death Guard were not always such monstrous beings. During the glorious days of the Great Crusade, when the Imperium sought to reign supreme over a subjugated galaxy, the Death Guard were one amongst eighteen loyal Space Marine Legions who fought at the Emperor's side. Then came the Horus Heresy. Brother fought brother, the realms of Mankind burned in the fires of betrayal, and fully half the Space Marine Legions turned to the worship of the Ruinous Powers. The Primarchs, demigod gene-sons of the Emperor himself, led the Legions. The Primogenitor of the Death Guard was Mortarion, a mighty warrior but a soul consumed with bitterness and jealousy toward his peers. Mortarion's desire for power led to the slow curdling of his spirit. It was this chink in the Legion's armour that Nurgle needed to corrupt the Death Guard, transforming them from noble warriors to corpulent plague carriers, damned forever to Nurgle's service.
Malignant Plaguecasters fill the air with billowing filth. With every gurgling inhalation they draw lungfuls of noxious vapours from Nurgle's hellish Garden, before blowing them out in phlegm-thick clouds that can rot a man to the bone in seconds.
Clouds of diseased foulness whirl and surge through the enemy ranks as the Plaguecasters attack. Potent Death Guard Sorcerers, these vile psykers are warp-rotted from their pallid, flyblown skin to their ever-churning innards. They have bargained away what remained of their souls in exchange for Nurgle's blessings, and been gifted in exchange with the ability to channel the gusting malaise of the Plague God's foetid realm.
The bloated bodies of the Malignant Plaguecasters have become living conduits for the Garden of Nurgle's toxic miasmas. Flesh-eating spore clouds, droning plague flies, vomitous mists and plague-thick corpse gas all roil within the Plaguecasters' guts, at times straining their skin to bursting point. With retching exhalations, the Plaguecasters blow these clouds of lethal filth across the battlefield to engulf the foe.
The effects of such noxious clouds upon mortal victims are immediate and hideous. Warriors collapse, choking upon their own rotting lungs even as their flesh blackens and liquefies. Armour corrodes and weapons spark and sputter as they are eaten away. Even sealed fortifications offer no protection, the Plaguecaster's fumes eating away metal and stone as easily as they do flesh.
Before his fall from grace, Mortarion had nothing but disdain for those who wielded the energies of the warp. One of the cruellest ironies of the Death Guard's corruption by Nurgle was the sudden proliferation of tainted Sorcerers who rose amongst their ranks, and who have thrived there ever since. Though Malignant Plaguecasters are amongst the most commonly seen strains of psyker within the Death Guard, there are many others. From the Cadaverous Faminebringers and the Slopmaw Maggotmancers to the truly disgusting - and rarely seen - Festering Poxshamans, all of these twisted beings wield Nurgle's blessings. They aid their comrades in battle, and spread disease and desolation at the Plague God's behest.
Four of the original Traitor Legions were singled out by the Chaos Gods to become their ultimate mortal avatars. Khorne, the Blood God, chose Angron's furious World Eaters to do his will, while Mortarion and his Death Guard were claimed by the Plague God Nurgle. Slaanesh, the Dark Prince, marked the obsessive Emperor's Children as his, while the Thousand Sons were manipulated into becoming the puppets - and puppetmasters - of Tzeentch. Yet there were other Traitor Legions who retained, to one degree or another, their autonomy and identity, degenerating into twisted parodies of their former glory as the millennia slid by. The Night Lords, terror troops and assault specialists without equal; the Word Bearers, dark heralds of the daemonic and the diabolical; the Iron Warriors, embittered masters of siegecraft; the Alpha Legion, infiltrators, manipulators and agents of mayhem; the Black Legion, first amongst traitors, reborn Legion of Horus himself, now ruled by his greatest gene-son, Abaddon the Despoiler. Amongst the Heretic Astartes, these primogenitors form a sort of twisted elite, and whether fighting as dedicated forces or augmenting the ranks of Renegade warbands they are feared and hated by all.
|III - Emperor's Children||Fulgrim||[Chemos]|
|IV - Iron Warriors||Perturabo||[Olympia]|
|VIII - Night Lords||Konrad Curze||[Nostramo]|
|XII - World Eaters||Angron||No Record|
|XIV - Death Guard||Mortarion||[Barbarus]|
|XV - Thousand Sons||Magnus the Red||[Prospero]|
|XVI - Luna Wolves||Horus||[Cthonia]|
|XVII - Word Bearers||Lorgar||[Colchis]|
|XX - Alpha Legion||Alpharius||No Record|
|Creatures||Beasts of Nurgle; Blight Drones; Foetid Bloat-drones; Great Unclean Ones; Lords of Contagion; Mabrothrax; Malignant Plaguecasters; Noxious Blightbringers; Nurglings; Pestigor; Plaguebearers; Plaguebulls; Plague Hulks; Plague Ogryns; Plague Toads; Plague Towers; Plague Zombies; Poxwalkers; Rot Flies|
|Characters||Abcellyoth; Aynthrexes; Bilerot Vomitflesh; Lothar Bubonicus; Bubonis; Vorxec Calvarius; The Carrier; The Entomancer; Epidemius; Ferrue Fayne; Tormus Fayne; Foulspawn; Nathaniel Garro; Ghulroth; Goresqualor; Gulgoth; Jibberjaw; Ku'gath; Mamon; Adrius Meinloka; Mephidast; Mortarion; Mortius; Necrosius; Nurgle; Pestilaan; Putricifex; Scabeiathrax; Achkovas Spengh; The Thanator; Typhus; Ussax; Plaguestrangler Vilestench; Jonas Whitespore; Ystareth|
|Groups||Apostles of Contagion; 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; Pox Tribes; The Purge; The Reborn; The Scourge; 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; 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; Scab; Scourge Shells; Staff of Nurgle; TP-III; Undead Heart; War Altar|