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The Tome of Decay (2014), p18-20 — The Countless Ills

"His enemies shall wither and die. His allies shall wither and die. The universe and all within it shall wither and die. And when the Great Corruption has settled over the land, and permeated the very foundations of reality itself, then shall the Lord of All rise from the rot and ruin, spread his arms wide to reclaim all his dutiful children..."
— "The Victory of Rebirth", from Litanies of Inevitability

Though they strive to embrace each day of life left to them, to forestall the inevitable, those who serve Nurgle must accept their eventual death. They must also believe in the equal certainty of rebirth. This hope for something new and glorious is the great comfort that the Plaguefather has shared with them. It is a hope born from Nurgle's own understanding of the workings of the universe. Just as his followers have accepted the teachings of their lord, Nurgle himself long ago accepted that decay brings an end to all things, but that through such decay life begins anew. Decay is the victor in all battles, the opposition to which there is no resistance. This is why Nurgle embraces decay as a weapon, as a tool, and as a means of instructing and guiding his followers. Decay is at the core of Nurgle's philosophy and methods. Blessed with reshaped forms and renewed purpose, the minions of Nurgle become his instruments in the Great Corruption. As vessels and embodiments of decay, mortals and Daemons alike are effectively living fuel, powering the great cycle through their actions and, indeed, their simple rotting, infectious presence in the Realm of Chaos and the mortal plane.

Rot, Glorious Rot

Few who pledge themselves to Nurgle do so in the belief that he offers an easy path to power and glory. He does not promise increased influence, brutal strength, or hedonistic excess. Those who turn to him for aid are not seeking to make their dreams become reality, to strike down those who stand in opposition, or to be adored by all who know them. No, most mortals who find their way into Nurgle's foetid embrace wish only for an end to some sort of suffering. They call to him to protect them from the ravages of disease, to save them from the slow, painful death of unchecked infection, or to otherwise spare them from whatever may ail them. There are even some who do not seek him out but are instead visited by one of his messengers and offered a bargain.

No matter if they sought his gifts or if they themselves were found, the exchange is never quite what was expected. These mortals have their doubts and fears cast aside. They find that they are no longer caught in the paralysing grip of despair and misery. Their afflictions, however, linger, and are usually joined by other blights. New sores and pustules appear, the foul liquids they contain becoming home to small worms and maggots. Bellies swell and distend, the flesh straining to contain bleeding entrails that push the abdomen outward. Old wounds rip open again spontaneously and invite fresh infections. Whatever diseases or weakness these mortals once sought to leave behind take up permanent residence within their bodies and minds. All this must be accepted as the first lesson Nurgle teaches - decay is inescapable, but also glorious. This knowledge is illuminating for those who follow Nurgle. If all things decay, each moment is a gift. Why not use these moments to shape what is to come and secure a place in it? Why sit idly by wallowing in pain and sorrow when there is so much to do and so little time in which to do it? As these thoughts race through the minds of the newly converted, it dawns on them - their pain is deadened. Even with so many new afflictions, so much rancid corruption of the flesh, the suffering has abated. Hope arrives.

For these newest of Nurgle's adopted children, it is as if the morning fog has lifted and they see the world clearly with fresh eyes. Why had they complained about their poxes and failing bodies? What selfish desires to change their fates had prevented them from realising their true purpose? Rot, glorious rot, becomes the constant companion for a servant of the Lord of All, instructing them, guiding their path, and reminding them that they are fortunate beyond measure to have been chosen by Nurgle to receive his gifts. Indeed, many discover that the initial malady from which they suffered, the one that drove them to seek salvation in the first place, was actually bestowed upon them by Nurgle. Rather than anger, it is joy that springs from this knowledge. These mortals believe themselves to have been chosen, destined for greatness as a true champion of Nurgle.

Champions of Decay

Relatively few of those who receive Nurgle's glorious blessings distinguish themselves as much more than a tiny but welcome maggot, doing their part to eat away at the rotting corpse that is the decaying universe. Those who do differentiate themselves invariably exemplify the precepts of Nurgle's philosophy and emulate his grand and corrupted form at a level that leaves no doubt as to which of the Ruinous Powers has claimed their souls. These are the Plaguefather's mortal champions, and it is through their foul deeds that many of the greatest accomplishments of Nurgle's plan are achieved.

So often these champions take on an appearance not unlike that their dark patron. This is not unusual for minions of the Plaguefather. Great Unclean Ones are said to be small (though still massive in their own right) versions of Nurgle himself, and in turn their excreted offspring, the Nurglings, look like miniature replicas of the Great Unclean Ones that gave them life. Likewise, mortal champions become bloated, stinking, leaking, collections of rotted flesh, exposed entrails, necrotic sores, and all manner of foulness. They are surrounded by clouds of flies and followed by Nurglings that splash about in the slime trails that spread out behind them to mark their passing. Unlike the minions of the other Gods of Chaos, champions of Nurgle do not hesitate to pursue enemies into the most dank, disgusting, and polluted places. There is no cesspool or sewer noxious enough to deter Nurgle's followers. No quarantined plague zone is off limits. Once a champion of Nurgle has the scent of his foe, no amount of stink can throw him off. The determination that is such part and parcel of all that Nurgle's lessons impart serves his champions well as they do whatever must be done to serve their lord.

Lesser worshippers of Nurgle who follow them are unperturbed by the grotesque condition of champions and draw inspiration from the macabre beauty of their rotting forms, the sickly sweet odour of their rancid flesh, and the corruptive acts they commit in the name of Grandfather Nurgle.

The Plaguelord's followers all end up mimicking his appearance in one way or another. Some even became his children because they started out life bearing some passing resemblance to him. Nurgle is more than form, though. He is also philosophy. Most mortal champions, and many lesser followers, end up thinking like he does, though in a limited fashion due to the constraints of mortal minds, but it is the daemonic champions that know their father's thoughts the best.

Great Unclean Ones understand Nurgle in a way that no mortal - not even one elevated to the rank of Daemon Prince - ever could. They are nearer to their god than any mortal, and more closely involved in his plans than any Plaguebearer or other daemonic servant. There is little place for jealousy or scheming in the Garden of Nurgle or any of his domains beyond, and his Daemon Princes know this. Though they wish for nothing more than to be one with the Plaguefather, they also know they will never be as close to him as the Great Unclean Ones are. As they do with so much else as a result of Nurgle's teachings, they accept their lot. This relationship to their god differs from that of other Daemon Princes. The other Ruinous Powers take particular pleasure in deceiving mortals, damning them by tricking them with lies and promises they know they will almost certainly never need to keep. They see their daemonic followers, even their champions, as never having had a choice but to do as they are commanded. They view these Daemons more as slaves to darkness than co-conspirators with it. In their eyes, this makes mortal servants somehow more interesting. Nurgle, on the other hand, knows most of his mortal followers turned to him as a last act of desperation, but his daemonic minions, most especially the Great Unclean Ones, have genuine affection for Grandfather Nurgle and serve him out of love. Nurgle delights in reciprocating, reminding him as it does of a kind of a cycle, and therefore takes great interest and pride in the efforts of his daemonic champions. The desires of Nurgle and his champions are one. Each knows that the Great Corruption is a higher purpose that must be served, and they do so with great resolve and satisfaction.

A Purpose Shared, a Plan Divided

The Gods of Chaos are all ultimately after the same thing. Each wishes to overthrow the existing order and claim dominion over both the Realm of Chaos and the mortal world. The questions of how this is to be achieved and which lord the universe will call master are answered very differently by each of the Dark Gods. Slaanesh would see all of existence turned into a playground in which he and his minions could eternally explore new delights. Khorne desires nothing more than to claim every skull and drop of blood to use as the mortar with which to build the foundations of his new kingdom. Tzeentch surely has his own plans for what a twisted reality reshaped in his image would look like, but he has not shared what that might be. Perhaps he does not even know himself. To Nurgle, these alternatives are indistinguishable - self-indulgent fantasies with no sense of greater purpose or understanding of the nature of things. To him, the ambitions of the others seem small.

Reality will be remade. Both the mortal plane and the Realm of Chaos have ever been on a path of decay, and from decay come death and endings. Endings, but not finality. It seems that Nurgle alone comprehends the meaning of this, the distinction. Where his brother gods each envision a destination at the end of the path, Nurgle knows that the journey turns ever back upon itself in a loop, leading to rebirth, revitalisation, and new beginnings. It is this fundamental divergence of views that sets Nurgle at odds with the other Powers, for it means that they are not actually working toward the same thing that he is. On the surface, it appears to the others that while the methods each employs may be different, the end result is much the same - the destruction of the Imperium, the enslavement or destruction of all mortals, and final dominion over all. This is, though, a superficial understanding. Differences come to light in many ways. Slaanesh is content to allow Plague Marines to inflict grievous damage on an army through blight and disease, but is then perplexed when Nurgle's servants do not allow the minions of the Prince of Pleasure to play with the wounded, absconding with their shattered forms before delights can be explored. To Khorne it is all well and good to work with his brother Nurgle in an effort to blast a Kroot colony into oblivion, but he cannot fathom why the Plaguelord insists on leaving their former homeland untouched rather than raze it to a charred, lifeless stone. Still, these incidents pass, written off as the eccentricities of their jolly brother.

Tzeentch, however, is another matter entirely. He refuses to give Nurgle his due or to allow him to pursue his own path. He tweaks, twists, and diverts. He warps, redirects, and alters. The Master of Change is unable to accept that which will surely come to pass. He is constantly looking to modify the rules to his advantage so that his desired ending is the one that will come to pass, even if it means interfering with Nurgle's desires, no matter how small the consequences of those desires may appear to be. Nurgle knows that such meddling is pointless. He knows that the journey down the path does not stop, but the machinations of his brother are vexing and irritating just the same. The actions of Khorne and Slaanesh are a small inconvenience, but Tzeentch's games play havoc with Nurgle's plans, creating setbacks that are needless and counterproductive to not only Nurgle's own goals, but also those of the other Dark Gods. Very little causes Nurgle's smile to dip, but Tzeentch seems to be able to provoke that reaction at will. When the universe dies and then rises again, it is one of greatest hopes of the Lord of All that like the Corpse God of Man, Tzeentch will not be reborn with it.