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The Priornites of Mire are a caste of sorcerer-kings that feed upon the cerebral matter of their subjects and, in so doing, make themselves hosts for the most virulent and delightful of Nurgle's blessings. Only the strongest Priornites survive for long, for their rivals are ever seeking new means of casting down their peers in an eternal cycle of growth, decay, death, and rebirth. For the Mirens, this ceaseless struggle is the supreme act of devotion to the Plague God Nurgle and they have little or no desire to transcend it or to seek power elsewhere within the Screaming Vortex. The Heretics, however, each of them well travelled along the Path to Glory, seek to harness the staggering reservoir of power built up on Mire over countless generations, to use the Priornites as a means of gaining the favour of Nurgle and in so doing take the final, and by far the most harrowing, step in their journey.
Having set foot upon the mist-shrouded, stinking ground of Mire, the Heretics attract the attentions of several natives, including the inscrutable Thanator, a high-ranking Priornite of Mire who is said by many to hold the favour of a number of Nurgle's Daemonic lieutenants (see page 116 for the Priornite Thanator's profile). This individual has the power to bestow the Heretics the boon they seek, but will only do so if they can prove themselves worthy of the Plague God's blessings. To prove themselves fit, the Heretics must submit to the greatest trial they have faced in their long journey along the Path to Glory - they must go willingly to their own deaths, trusting that the Dark Gods will carry them through the heart of the Screaming Vortex where the greatest of heroes who failed reside yet, and to be reborn in the full, unfettered glory of Chaos.
If the Heretics master their own mortality, they are granted the power they desire. They may even gain the ultimate gift that all Aspiring Champions strive towards - Apotheosis. But such a fate must never be sought hastily, for the vast majority that reach the end of the Path to Glory falter even as they take the very last step. Judged unworthy, such unfortunates descend into madness and damnation as their souls are torn asunder and their bodies are mutated beyond all recognition. Doomed, they become mindless, thrashing Chaos Spawn, ever to serve the whims of whatever masters choose to drive them to war in pursuance of their own ambitions and desires.
Such is the final challenge that awaits the Heretics in The Heart of the Vortex!
The Heart of the Vortex is an adventure in two parts. The first part sees the Heretics arrive on the world of Mire in search of the blessings of the Plague God, a boon they must earn if they are to complete their quest for power and take their places as the mighty warlords they each believe they are destined to become. In this section, the Heretics encounter numerous servants of Nurgle and face the many threats of everyday existence on Mire. What they are unlikely to realise, however, is that they are being watched all the while, the inscrutable gaze of the Thanator, Priornite of Mire, upon them throughout. If and when the Thanator wills it, the Heretics are made aware of his presence and invited to attend him. Then the real challenge can begin.
As a Priornite of Mire, the Thanator sits at the apex of a pyramid of fell power, its foundations made of the rendered souls of the countless generations of cerebral cannibals who have preceded him. Each generation has imbibed the brain matter of the last, and in so doing inherited the sorcerous abilities, along with the memories of their predecessor, but also the countless aggregated curses and side-effects of such a concentration of blessings. The Thanator has gained the power to speak directly to Daemons that serve Nurgle, and he is able to act as a combination of oracle and agent of the Plague God's Greater Daemons, speaking with their voice and perceiving something of the ascended plane of existence on which they dwell. This august lord of rot and reclamation knows that this power is not granted him for his own benefit and that it will prove his undoing. It has been revealed to him that the sole reason for his existence is to harness the power of every generation of Priornites before him and to concentrate it into a single act of transference to another, whom he himself must judge worthy to receive such an unimaginable blessing. It is the judgement of the bestowing of that blessing that forms the second part of the adventure, and potentially heralds the climax of the Heretic's journey along the Path to Glory.
In the second part of the adventure, the Heretics are confronted with the ultimate trial. Should they wish to claim the blessings of Nurgle, they must face his servants, from the invisibly small to the largest and most destructive. In all likelihood, the Heretics, and indeed the players, will not immediately perceive the full extent and nature of the challenge and so the Heretics will likely fight for all they are worth to avoid death. But this is entirely the point - only by transcending death and proving themselves worthy of rebirth can the Heretics truly ascend to the next tier of power.
In short, the Heretics must die in order to be reborn, at which point the Game Master can conclude matters or, should he wish, make use of the rules for Apotheosis (see pages 63-73) or Spawndom (see pages 120-121) found elsewhere in this volume. The Heretics' ultimate fate depends on their actions, and the story that the GM and players decide to tell together.
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