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Greedy eyes looked out from the roiling warp. They lingered long over the southern reaches of Ultima Segmentum. Nurgle wanted them for his own. He wished to lavish his gifts upon them, to watch their citizens sprout new growths and lament while other parts rotted and sloughed off.
The worlds of Ultramar were prosperous, well governed and aesthetically beautiful. It is no wonder that such a gem drew the eager eye of Nurgle. Wishing to annex those worlds directly into his own Garden in the Realm of Chaos, the Father of Plagues set his minions to the task. After the Great Rift tore reality and flooded warp energies into the galaxy, Nurgle deemed the time was ripe. Where seeds of corruption had been planted, where the Plague That Walks, the Oozing Pox, and the Eyerot had decimated overcrowded hive worlds, there did Nurgle put forth his greatest efforts. As darkness closed over those worlds, new, virulent strains of those dreadful diseases started the cycle of death anew. This time, however, the cycle was completed, for there was life also. From the corpses of the fallen burst countless Nurglings. In the devastation that ensued, Cults of Corruption summoned further aid. The following battles - known by the Imperium as the Plague Wars - ended when three systems to the galactic north of Ultramar were corrupted and turned into the Scourge Stars. Calling upon three of his greatest commanders, Nurgle tasked them with next conquering Ultramar.
The first invaders to issue forth from the Scourge Stars were the Death Guard, led by their grim Primarch, Mortarion. His meticulously planned seven-part campaign would bring untold ruination to all of Ultramar. So began the first part the War of Flies including the assault of the Three Planets, the besieging of the hive world of Ardium, and the Creeping Doom offensive against Espandor and Drohl. Virus bombardments preceded the Death Guard. Once-gloried hive cities became pits, and agri worlds became flyblown wastes. The attacks were slow but relentless, wearing down the Ultramarines and their auxilia. With communications severed and relief forces cut off by fresh warp storms, the defenders were hard-pressed in a hundred locations across Ultramar. Then, Roboute Guilliman returned from his galaxy-spanning crusade. Tactically, Mortarion and his fellow commanders now found themselves evenly matched, their offensives blocked at every turn by the Ultramarines and their Primarch's precise counter-attacks. A new stage of the war had begun.
In the early stages of the invasion of Ultramar, many different strikes were levelled at the capital world of Macragge. Whether Mortarion planned these events to probe the defences of the Ultramarines' home world, or merely aimed to tie down as many of the Imperial forces as he could, is unknown. All of the battles were short, sharp affairs, such as rapid strikes from Plague Drone forces, or cultist attacks attempting to deliver pox bombs into the heavily guarded defence networks. Whatever Mortarion's intent, the number and variety of the attacks steadily drained both morale and resources from Macragge until Primarch Guilliman returned and seized the initiative with his own strikes into Chaos-held territories.
Mortarion's Creeping Doom offensive on the cardinal world of Espandor initially made great advances. When Guilliman returned, however, he ordered a new defensive plan to slow the attacks. As the battle turned into a stalemate, the Primarch launched a series of system-wide counter-attacks.
In attacking Ultramar, Mortarion was not alone. Two other commanders led massive armies out from the Scourge Stars, each seeking to win the contaminated glory of Nurgle's favour.
Ku'gath Plaguefather, a favoured Great Unclean One, led the Bubonicus legions into Ultramar. Typhus, First Captain of the Death Guard, commanded a Plague Fleet, a dilapidated rot-armada packed with Renegades, cultists and his own loyal Death Guard. Ku'gath's Daemon legions ravaged the Tartella System, which lay between the Scourge Stars and Ultramar, before manifesting on the garden world of Iax, an ideal place to nurture new diseases. The Plague Fleet, meanwhile, destroyed three of the six massive star fortresses that stood sentinel over Ultramar's shipping lanes. Even with Guilliman's return, the attacks were too many and too widespread for the defenders to contain. The timely arrival of the Ultramarines' successor Chapters, however, along with reinforcements from several forge worlds, allowed the Primarch to attempt to regain the initiative. Guilliman launched the Spear of Espandor counter-attack, hoping to buy the forces of the Imperium more time.
The final battle of the Plague War was fought at First Landing, on Iax. Before the ruined citadel the Death Guard held the upper hand, their relentless assault all but unstoppable, when Mortarion was summoned back to the Scourge Stars to defend his holdings at the onset of the War in the Rift.
Across Ultramar, the Plague Wars escalated. Guilliman's brilliant counter-attacks staved off defeat, allowing him to stabilise fronts across several systems. The largest battles of the war, however, were still to come.
With Mortarion's Creeping Doom offensive mired in continent-spanning trench warfare in the Espandor System, the Daemon Primarch shifted his focus, joining forces with Ku'gath. Together, they sent their surviving forces to Parmenio and Iax simultaneously. On Parmenio, the largest armour and Titan battle of the war took place over the shell-ridden Plains of Hecatone. At the battle's height, Roboute Guilliman struck against Ku'gath's vanguard, slaying his lieutenant, Septicus, and shattering his Plague Guard. In space, Galatan - Ultramar's largest star fortress - attempted to provide support but was boarded by the Plague Fleet. Massive casualties ensued, including the loss of the Novamarines' Chapter Master. The Ultramarines and their auxilia made gains on Parmenio, and Guilliman led a relief force to Iax. Once a verdant garden world, it was in ruins when Primarch met Primarch. Guilliman confronted Mortarion, fighting to a deadlock before the Death Guard withdrew under cover of a virus bomb.
The defence of Ultramar was really a tale of three parts: the initial losses, where the defenders gave ground before the Death Guard onslaught; the stabilisation with the return of Primarch Guilliman; and finally, the seizing of the initiative with the Primarch's counter-attacks along with the final battle.
*Many Chapters arrived to lend aid to Ultramar and to fight beneath Roboute Guilliman. The Primarch and Lord Commander of the Imperium organised those Adeptus Astartes in less-than-company numbers into battle-brother battalions, using them for special missions and to shore up the Ultramar Auxilia.
Let them flee beneath cover of their virus bomb. By the Emperor, they shall be repaid tenfold for the evils they have wrought upon Ultramar.
— Roboute Guilliman
The invasion of Ultramar began as separate spearheads, but as the campaigns slowed, Mortarion and Ku'gath formed an alliance. Unlike the Champions of the other Dark Gods, Nurgle's lieutenants were more capable of cooperation. This was not the case, however, between Typhus and Mortarion.
Bursting with life. Bursting with life. Bursting with life.
— War Drone of the Sloughskins
In the Garden of Nurgle it is a great honour to serve amongst the foot soldiery of the God of Decay, but there are some amongst the ranks of the Plaguebearers that are destined for still greater things. Those that prove exceptional in terms of power, ability or capacity to bear the most loathsome of diseases are granted further blessings from Grandfather Nurgle.
In the vast shadows of the Great Unclean Ones are Nurgle's Heralds, the commanders of the Plague Legions' Tallybands. These champions of plague and misery use their grotesque abilities to lead and augment the Lesser Daemons beneath them, or to perform the most vital duties throughout their god's garden. The Heralds of Nurgle each have their own proclivities and armaments, and are given impressive titles based on these.
A mortal who resists the ravages of Nurgle's Rot for a significant time transforms into an unusually resilient Plaguebearer, resulting in a larger, tougher individual destined to one day reach the rank of Herald as a Poxbringer. Such warriors are testament to the futility of denying Nurgle's embrace, but speak volumes about how much the Lord of Decay values determination and the most obstinate perseverance. Through their will and defiance, the Heralds-to-be stand taller and broader than the Plaguebearers that surround them. Upon proving themselves in battle or service, each is rewarded by Nurgle himself. The first sign is a lengthening of the single horn that juts out of their misshapen heads, followed by the sprouting of a magnificent set of rotting antlers as if to crown such malformed glory. Further engorged by the touch of blessed diseases, Poxbringers grow stronger and tougher still, becoming true champions of their kind. With their newfound strength, a Poxbringer can hack down multiple Bloodletters with a single swing of their balesword.
The change undergone by Poxbringers is more than just a physical one. Imbued with a generous portion of the unnatural vitality of Nurgle, Poxbringers project an aura of disease. This vile atmosphere is sometimes visible as a hazy fug that surrounds them. So noxious are these emanations that they can empower fellow minions of Nurgle. This ability makes Poxbringers the ideal lieutenants to lead a unit of Plaguebearers into battle, for the Herald's energies invest his charges' plagueswords with further virulent might, allowing for a greater spread of disease. With a single bale-eye glowing, Poxbringers can also tap into psychic powers, using them to vomit forth diseases or smite down the foe with horrific viruses.
Unlike the jolly Great Unclean Ones, Poxbringers are closer in temperament to Plaguebearers, but even less morose. As they are filled with a greater portion of the curdled energies of Nurgle, Poxbringers are gifted with far more personality than any of the droning Lesser Daemons they lead, most typically expressed in their gallows sense of humour. The Poxbringers pit their mumbling gripes against the boisterous, booming voices of the Greater Daemons that lead them, one side hopeful and ebullient about what might be done, the other grousing as they are the ones tasked with actually doing it.
In addition to leading Plaguebearer formations, Poxbringers can also be found in a variety of other roles, both in the Plague Legions and throughout the Garden of Nurgle. Powerful Great Unclean Ones use Heralds as subordinates, personal disease-tasters or right-hand advisers. Lord Dhripit the Grand Ulseer - a rising favourite of Nurgle - often deploys seven Heralds as his own formidable honour guard. The Poxbringer Ghlub'tar fell out of favour due to his unceasing stream of glum retorts, and was put in charge of the Nurgling masses that followed the legion into battle during the final stages of the Plague Wars in Ultramar. While originally envisioned as a punishment for his sour attitude, the results of his Nurgling assault waves were so impressive that the position has since become a permanent one. Ghlub'tar, naturally, grumbles about this constantly.
Always watchful of his minions, Nurgle himself selects the most accomplished of his Poxbringers and amply rewards them with special tasks. This is a true honour and such duties are discharged with solemn pride, be it as guardian of a sacred site in the garden, or as an observer of some new disease. One such individual is Wretch Gab'larr, who is tasked with studying the effects of Nurgle's plagues upon specimens never before encountered, then describing them to his master upon the porch of Nurgle's manse.
'Grumbling? I'm not grumbling. I should be grumbling, though, leading this lot of stumbler-mites. 'Tis the chanting I can't abide. Always the Eyerot ditty, never willing to give another disease a chance. And there they go again, not even worthy of their mucus...'
— Ghlub'tar, a sample of his stream of invective
Not all of the plagues created by Nurgle turn out as planned, many of them being just a minor inconvenience rather than a world-sweeping contagion. Some attempts prove even more disastrous, such as the pox that was meant to gnaw flesh but instead proved to be something of a disinfectant. That catastrophe was never spoken of again, not even by the boldest of Great Unclean Ones. The disease that eventually became known as the Chortling Murrain was at first believed to be a damp squib, but, when it was re-purposed as a punishment, it swiftly became one of the Lord of Plagues' favoured creations.
The Chortling Murrain becomes truly infectious when it settles into a Plaguebearer. Ever the most organised and glum of Nurgle's creations, a Daemon infected with Chortling Murrain - usually as a result of failing in his counting - abandons his characteristic shuffling gait and steady, measured droning as he falls into what can only be described as a comedic fever. So infected, he capers and quips, jabbering light-heartedly at any who will listen. Amidst the dour, endless counting of Plaguebearers it is only too obvious to pick out one who is so afflicted.
Once the symptoms of the Chortling Murrain fully manifest, its victim is given the title of Sloppity Bilepiper and a new task. Gifted with a gutpipe and marotter, these budding Heralds are sent to amuse Nurgle's Tallybands as they march to war. Admittedly, the antics of the Bilepipers wholeheartedly fail to impress the gloom-ridden Plaguebearers, but Great Unclean Ones and Nurglings find the steady stream of jokes and nonsense-songs hilarious. The Greater Daemons unleash booming belly laughs that send rotted innards splashing out in waves, while Nurglings shriek with laughter. Even Beasts of Nurgle flop about with extra enthusiasm, not understanding but eager to join the fun. Invigorated by the Bilepiper's exploits, Great Unclean Ones and Nurglings set about their vile work with extra vigour.
Unfortunately for Nurgle's foes, Daemons with the Chortling Murrain are infectious, and the warp-borne disease can cause mortals and the Daemons of other gods to laugh with ever-growing hysterics until their hearts burst or their sides split open. Despite their augmentative roles, Bilepipers themselves are doomed, for the Chortling Murrain always gets the last laugh - or not. As the disease goes into remission and the bearer fails to raise the least of titters from even the jolliest of Great Unclean Ones, the Herald is subjected to cruel magic that devolves him in twisting agony, reshaping him into a set of pestilential gutpipes - the tools of the trade that will eventually be given to his desperately grinning replacement.
The Heralds known as Spoilpox Scriveners are given a specific task by Grandfather Nurgle. It is their lot to tally the Tallyband, to audit their ceaseless counting, and to ensure that their calculations are accurate. To accomplish their role, Scriveners are equipped with endless hidebound scrolls upon which they use special quills made from the plucked tail feathers of a Lord of Change. They record the number of diseases counted by the Plaguebearers - to double-check later - and scribble down the names of any Plaguebearers that lose count. All the while, Scriveners verbally browbeat those around them, their nasal voices amplified by their distended jaws, which can bite a man in half. Such constant abuse has a strange motivational effect upon the Plaguebearers, forcing them to concentrate upon their chanting count and move with all the haste their swollen, fluid-ridden joints can muster. Spoilpox Scriveners themselves are sullen and spiteful creatures; they long to catch their fellows out with a mistake or, even better, to record enough wrongdoing to actually punish them. Those found to make repeated mistakes are slated for the dread fate of the Chortling Murrain.
|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; Flylords; 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|