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"So many wondrous joys! So many hopes and dreams! Oh, Plaguefather, your gifts are boundless! Still, I will make an accounting of them."
— Pusmaw, Plaguebearer of Nurgle
Nurgle's Daemons and mortals alike smile at the thought of serving their god. Other masters are harsh and demanding, but the Lord of Flies only asks that his servants embrace each moment. Though they are rotting, diseased, and corrupted beyond redemption, Nurgle's blessed minions are rewarded with a sense of peace and certitude about their ultimate purpose in the universe.
Like all Daemons that serve at the whim of their dark deity, the minions of the Great Lord of Decay are beholden to the commands of their master. Yet unlike the ambitious Bloodletters of the Blood God or the self-centred Daemonettes of the Prince of Pleasure, those Daemons who serve Nurgle do so happily, understanding their part in the Great Corruption and counting the days until it comes to pass.
From within the Garden of Nurgle, the daemonic minions of the Plaguefather each contribute to Nurgle's goals in their own way. Some aid their master in the creation of system-crippling diseases by bringing their lord rotted, maggot-infested flesh from fallen foes. Others sow the galactic winds with the spores of their lord's many plagues, bringing corruption and rot to distant worlds. Legions of Daemons are sent into the field of battle to bring death directly to the doorstep of the foes of Nurgle, piercing flesh and spirit alike with foul plagueswords and other wicked weapons of decay. There are even those whose only contribution is to play, reminding the others that Nurgle is a god of vitality and boundless energy, and not merely a death dealer.
Counting, harvesting, experimenting, reaping, consuming, rotting, laughing - all are important to Nurgle, and his beloved children are eager to please their Plaguefather.
Plague Lords, Fly Masters, Stench Lords of Nurgle
Greater Daemons of all Chaos Gods go by many names, each tending to emphasise a particular aspect of these terrible beings, but only Great Unclean Ones have the distinction of being allowed to use the name of their master as an appellation of their own. This may lend some credence to the ravings of those who claim to have beheld Nurgle's grand form. If the hysterical outbursts of these broken souls are to be believed, their accountings of the appearance of the Plaguefather are remarkably similar to those given by mortals who have beheld an actual Great Unclean One and lived to recount the horror to others. Vast and rotund, oozing filth and corruption, leaving decay and foulness in their wake, the physical form of the Great Unclean Ones serves to terrify the foes of Nurgle and to remind his followers of the magnificent god that has blessed them with the strength to persevere in the face of such overwhelming bodily corruption.
These Stench Lords are Nurgle's favoured children; his blessed emissaries and trusted lieutenants. In battle, they lead his armies as generals and devastatingly powerful warriors. They gestate the countless Nurglings that continually crawl out from within their corpulent forms. They travel the galaxy, housing their master's many plagues deep inside their cauldron-like guts, brewing the foul concoctions to perfect potency before finally ripping open their own bellies and disgorging the virulent contents upon Nurgle's chosen recipients. As macabre master gardeners and wardens of woe, they tend to the decaying plant life and diseased animals of the Garden of Nurgle, while also ensuring that the Plaguebearers and other denizens of the Garden do their part in bestowing Grandfather Nurgle's gifts on the galaxy.
Purveyors of Poxes, Filthlords, Harbingers of Rebirth
Many mortal followers of the Chaos Gods have wrought terrible deeds in the name of their masters. Leaders of cults recruit new worshippers routinely. Billions of adherents commit foul acts of devotion to their dark lords every day. These actions are common, and go largely unnoticed by the likes of Nurgle. To gain the attention of the Lord of All, a follower must be willing to spread disease on a grand scale, infecting entire planets with a deadly pox. He must erode the foundations of entire cities and send their millions of inhabitants into a state of starvation, rot, and decay. A candidate for Daemonhood must prove his worth on a level that most mortal minds cannot even begin to contemplate. Once he has committed an act that brings a smile to Nurgle's blistered and seeping face, he can pledge himself to unwavering service and dedication to bringing about the Great Corruption.
Few who strive for this prize actually claim it. Failure ends in a wretched death, or worse, the curse of Spawndom, eternal life as a mindless, writhing monstrosity. Still, those who worm their way into Nurgle's foul heart receive his darkest blessing: Apotheosis.
Rotbearers, Maggotkin, Tainted Ones, Nurgle's Tallymen
Nurgle is proud of all of the plagues and poxes he has created as gifts for the mortal realm, but one disease stands out above all the rest as perhaps the favourite of the Plaguelord - Nurgle's Rot. Most of the afflictions ravage the bodies of those who become infected by them, and many even eat away at the soul of their victims, but Nurgle's Rot utterly consumes those who contract it - mind, body, and soul. It transforms them from beings of weak mortal flesh, and sees them reborn in the Garden of Nurgle as a Plaguebearer.
Once they emerge from the muck and filth of the Garden, their mortal suffering is gone, a reward for their faith in Nurgle and their acceptance of his gifts. Whatever their old body may have been, be it Imperial Guardsman, spacefaring merchant, impoverished mother of ten malnourished whelps, or leader of a Plague Cult in some rusted out underhive, their new forms are all very similar to those of the other newly-reincarnated. Their flesh is dull and covered in sores and open wounds. Pustules form and burst, their contents pouring out and collecting in the folds of the daemon's flesh. Their faces all bear a single central eye and a horn sprouts from their head. Their limbs are unnaturally gangly and yet filled with a strength the mortal likely had not felt in many years. A plaguesword, the weapon by which it will infect the enemies, and friends, of Nurgle, is given to each new Plaguebearer as a symbol of allegiance. The person they once were is no more, evolved into the physical embodiment of Nurgle's affection for his children.
Though they have left their mortal selves behind, perhaps a piece of their former existence lingers within them, for these Tallymen invariably seek to fill their days with seemingly mundane tasks, most of which involve seeking to impose some kind of order in the chaos of their new home. Many tend to his Garden, help usher other Plaguebearers into existence like midwives, or keep catalogues of the diseases Nurgle has created. Some even attempt the impossible task of keeping a tally of the ever-changing number of Nurglings that populate the Garden of Nurgle. It's all rather odd behaviour for a Daemon, when compared to the savage acts of Bloodletters or the predations of Daemonettes, but it pleases Nurgle to see his children doing as they wish, and a father's love for his children is best left simply admired, if not understood.
Prime Corruptors, The Plagueridden, The Resolute
Those who receive the blessing of Nurgle's Rot endure some of the most twisted and foul bodily depredation imaginable. Sores swell, pulse, and split open, spraying pus and maggots. Bruises appear in an instant from even the slightest contact, often times with no contact at all, turning the flesh purple, yellow, and black. Fingers, toes, ears, and lips rot away and fall off. Hip bones soften and break, forcing leg bones through rancid flesh. In particularly vicious cases, the eyes and tongue become fertile breeding grounds of flies or even an especially mischievous Nurgling or two. It is a misery to which no amount of description can ever possibly do justice.
The toll it takes reaches beyond the physical form and into the minds and souls of the mortals who contract it. Still, dedicated followers of Nurgle understand that even this suffering is a gift from their master. Most bear the decay for as long as they can, cherishing each day of life and appreciating their place in the great cycle. There are those, however, who abandon all that Grandfather Nurgle has given them. They opt for a self-inflicted and untimely death rather than suffer with their malady as they promised they would. These wretches are forgotten. Cast aside by a disappointed lord, they dissolve into nothing, their flesh and souls utterly consumed.
There is a third path open to the strong and resolute believers. Resistance to Nurgle's Rot is always impossible in the end, but for these devoted mortals, the end can be forestalled. As their bodies collapse further and further into ruin, a peaceful calm comes over their minds and settles into their souls. At last, immobile heaps of little more than quivering flesh and rotted entrails, even these mortals succumb. When they are reborn in the Garden, their Plaguebearer form is more massive, stronger, and more powerful than those who could not resist the Rot as they did. These Plaguebearers reap one of Nurgle's greatest rewards, leading and inspiring their lesser brethren as Heralds of Nurgle.
Nurgle's Lapdogs, Slime Hounds, Bombastic Contagions
Each of Nurgle's daemonic minions takes delight in doing its part to bring to fruition the Plaguefather's grand vision for the collapse and rebirth of the universe. There is much to do, from counting the death toll of each newly unleashed plague, to filling the pus pits with fresh rot. The effort is ceaseless, but not without joy. As the Daemons go about their work, they will sometimes be interrupted by an unexpected, but always appreciated, visit from one of the Lord of Decay's most wonderful creations - a Beast of Nurgle. Propelled by stocky legs and a bile-coated, slithering tail, these enthusiastic Slime Hounds bound about the Garden, constantly seeking playmates. Their putrescent tongues wrap around Plaguebearers, drawing them toward the Beast's noxious maw. They crash headlong into meticulously organised piles of limbs, heads, and other rotted body parts, causing the Tallymen to have to begin their counts anew. Nothing embodies the joyful nature of Chaos in quite the same way as a Beast of Nurgle. Though they undo some work that has been done, not one Plaguebearer, Great Unclean One, or Nurgling ever complains, for these Beasts are the physical realisation of their God's will to bring energy, vitality, and joviality to the universe. They remind the other minions why it is they serve their master.
This boundless enthusiasm for play and unquenchable thirst for attention also serves the Lord of Decay when his forces march to conflict. A Beast of Nurgle could go thousands of years never knowing the greater world outside of the Garden. When taken to the mortal realm and sent toward Nurgle's enemies, the excitement a Beast of Nurgle feels is impossible to restrain. They lunge into the ranks of the enemy, trying to find new friends and different playmates. Armour rots instantly upon contact with the caustic goo that coats the Beasts. Bones and weapons shatter under their bulk as they roll around on top of their newfound companions. When the unfortunate victims cease moving, the Beast of Nurgle pauses briefly, feeling a touch of sadness that his friend will not play anymore, before setting off to find someone new.
The Rotting Riders, Harvesters of Sorrows, Pus Crows
When a Beast of Nurgle suffers the ultimate frustration of being killed by the very playthings with which it had hoped to frolic, its essence retreats back into the Warp and comes to rest in the slime pits of the Garden. There it spends centuries forming a new body, shielded from interference by a mass of bloated flies. Over the course of time, depression and resentment take hold within the Beast. This makes it a very rare creature in the domain of the Pus God - a being without joy, mirthless and bitter. When the Beast emerges from it long dormancy, its new form is much different from that of the creature that it once was. Its skin develops a chitinous layer on its back. Spindly, bladed limbs replace its short, stocky legs. Most dramatically, the Beast's tentacles give way to enormous wings similar to those of the flies that protected the Beast while it regenerated.
Thus transformed, the new Rot Fly attempts to return to the mortal realm, malice in its heart driving it to seek out and destroy those who refused to play with it centuries before. Left to its own devices, the Rot Fly's anger would drive it mad, but Nurgle is a loving and merciful god and cannot bear to see one of his children suffer so. To ease the Rot Fly's pain, The Plaguefather pairs it with a Plaguebearer who has earned a place of pride in the daemonic legions of the God of Filth. The relationship between a Rot Fly and its rider benefits both the former Beast and the favoured Plaguebearer. The rider gains the ability to cover ground more quickly, allowing it to count Nurgle's many putrid blessings more thoroughly than ever before. The mount gains an eternal companion, allowing the pain of its previous rejection to fester a little less, and its victim's wounds to fester a little more.
Gleeful Castoffs, Pus Spores, Mites of Nurgle, Tiny Plagues
Though they are some of the least of Nurgle's minions, Nurglings are surely some of the most numerous, and among the most favoured. Even their appearance is pleasing to the Lord of All, for each Nurgling is like a minute copy of the dread master himself. This is perhaps not surprising, given that Nurglings are formed within the innards of Great Unclean Ones, who themselves physically reflect Nurgle's repulsive magnificence. Nurglings serve the Filth-father in which they were formed, often pretending that their progenitor is Nurgle himself. They play within the folds of his flesh, fetch morsels for him to consume, pick at his sores or give him new ones, and otherwise seek his approval, giggling all the while. Sometimes they are gifted to Heralds or other powerful champions to act as a living litter for him, or to hold him aloft atop a palanquin. In these cases, the Nurglings will treat their new master much as they had treated the Great Unclean One from which they came - whether the new lord would prefer it or not.
Daemons of Nurgle emulate the Lord of Decay and follow his path in many different ways. When they are not vying for the attention of their parent-Daemon, Nurglings most often try to do things that reflect the mirthful nature of Nurgle himself. This frequently leads to them interfering with the work of the Plaguebearers, who find Nurglings to be something of a nuisance - though they don't normally give voice to their irritation, at least not when a Great Unclean One is within earshot. Just when a Plaguebearer is nearly finished counting the number of drips of pus required to fill a particular pool, for example, a swarm of Nurglings may come running through it, playfully splashing in the rancid goo and scattering it all around. It is their nature to cause mischief, just as it is the Plaguebearer's nature to keep tallies. In the Realm of Chaos, even in the relatively ordered domain of Nurgle, it is no surprise that harmony eludes the grasp of most Daemons.
The universe is vast, and yet no part of it remains untouched by conflict, change, and greed. Service to Nurgle secures a safe harbour in a swirling sea of doubt. Fear of infirmity is set aside and replaced by the knowledge that a greater destiny lays ahead, free from the nightmares that plague those who do not understand the great cycle of death and rebirth.
Not all mortal followers of Nurgle are quick to accept his blessings. Many need to suffer before they can accept the truth. For a path full of paradoxes, one of the greatest is that the longer a blighted mortal struggles against accepting Nurgle, the more powerful his form will be when he finally yields. Through immeasurable suffering and loss, the mortal will gain resiliency and strength.
Corruption. It is a word that lies at the heart of the most divisive, destructive, and long-lasting conflict the galaxy has ever known. It was corruption of the spirit that caused Horus and half of all Space Marine Legions to turn on the Emperor of Mankind. Corruption of will broke the resolve of thousands of warriors who found the unrelenting hardships of serving a weak cause in support of a cruel master too much to endure. Corruption of faith cast thousands more down a fresh path of glory and freedom, embracing new, darker masters that blessed them with tangible gifts and rewards rather than fleeting promises and thankless suffering. Corruption of the body - the infirmities of ageing forms, infected wounds sustained in battle, and the ravages of illness were sufficient for countless others to turn to the only being capable of saving them from the misery of their decline - Nurgle.
Among the first to abandon the Emperor and embrace the Lord of Decay were Mortarion and his Death Guard. Abandoned by the Corpse God of Man and left to a fate of starvation and disease, they struck a bargain with their new corpulent master, Nurgle, and were saved. The pain of their affliction was numbed. Their bodies became hosts to maggots, flies, and a host of contagions. They were given renewed strength and a purpose they had never considered before. As Plague Marines, they embraced corruption in all its forms as a natural and inescapable part of life. Thus empowered and enlightened, they set about the task of taking the blessings and revelations of Nurgle to the masses. They became Nurgle's rotted fist, spreading his infectious message of hope and perseverance to the battlefields of the galaxy. But they would not be his only power armoured servants.
War zones are breeding grounds for all manner of corruption. They present ample opportunity for Nurgle's truths to manifest and present themselves to those who have open eyes with which to see them and the cunning to make use of them. Plague Marines such as the Death Guard and others spread disease with each toss of a blight grenade or thrust of a plague knife, but other forms of decay shape events as well. Fragmentary warbands from many of the Traitor Legions and renegade Space Marine Chapters, though not particularly given to devout worship of Nurgle, know in their twisted hearts that the Pox Lord is correct in that collapse is inevitable. The Lord of Decay teaches that nothing is permanent, and it is a lesson these Chaos Space Marines have learned well.
Even after a battle has been won by the Legions of Nurgle, his presence continues to have an effect. Broken bodies lay rotting, their organs and flesh turning to mush and renewing the soil into which they seep. Though their approach is less subtle than that of a lovingly crafted plague, Chaos Space Marines are remarkably efficient at converting massive armies of enemy flesh into the raw materials of rebirth, and therefore he embraces their service to him with glee.
Some who have been touched by the unchecked warping influence of gods like Slaanesh or Tzeentch might be able pass themselves off as normal, at least for a time. An extra limb or third eye can be covered up or masked, but the unmistakeable stench of corruption that hangs in the air around a mutant afflicted with one of the Pox Lord's many diseases is impossible to miss. Even the smallest pustule is filled with a fluid so noxious, that when it bursts, those unfortunate enough to be nearby wretch and heave uncontrollably, struggling to avoid vomiting the contents of their stomach where they stand.
Because they find it so difficult to remain hidden, mutants who manifest the corrupting influence of Nurgle's ministrations often face very short lives. For most, this is a mercy. Their chances of becoming a great champion of Chaos or being reborn in the Garden are slim at best, so for these putrid wretches, there truly is little hope. Still, survival instincts push them to live as long as they can, perhaps taking refuge in the dank sewers of cities or in the charnel pits of primitive cultures, where the stench of the decay and filth around them provides a slight chance of masking their own repulsive odour. Tactics such as these usually only succeed for a short time. Unless they are found and sheltered by sympathetic plague cultists, these mutants are almost invariably betrayed by their own nauseating deformities. Zealous priests, watchful wardens, or even simple frightened former family members have but to follow their noses to uncover the hiding place of a noxious mutant. Cornered, alone, and often so warped in form that they cannot flee from their persecutors, these pathetic souls find peace in flame.
Not all who seek to serve Nurgle have the means to attract his attention through grand individual acts of devotion. Most mortals do not have the might of a Chaos Space Marine or the influence of a corrupt political leader. For these common worshippers, notice is often best gained when they band together as a plague cult. The power of such a group is far greater than that of any one of its members. So much that is out of reach can be seized though concerted effort. The food stores of an Imperial barracks, for example, are secured against interference and spoilage. There is a guard at the door who ensures that nothing enters or leaves without his knowledge, a supply master who inspects and maintains the food, and a cook who requisitions ingredients and uses them to prepare the meals. Alone, these individuals can do very little, but if all are members of the same plague cult, it can be another matter entirely. The guard can look the other way when suspicious materials are smuggled in and stored safely away from prying eyes. The supply master can keep the contraband out of official records and mask its presence in the larder. The cook can access the ingredients and use them to taint the meals of the entire garrison, bringing illness to all of the soldiers at once and allowing the barracks to fall to invaders. Actions such as these just might be enough to gain some small favour in the eyes of their true lord. Perhaps not, but the chances of each member of the cult are much better together than they would be alone.
Disease and despair are common throughout the galaxy. Death is ever-present as well, especially when plague grips a region. Some who would worship Nurgle see the death that follows disease, misinterpret the Plaguelord's will, and form death cults instead of plague cults. To these woeful souls, death is all. They believe that Nurgle's ultimate goal is final death. They are wrong. One common task that plague cults often take upon themselves is the eradication of these rival death cults who have so egregiously wronged Nurgle. The struggles between the two types of cults are usually limited to small skirmishes or individual assassinations. Only when it is too late, when the plague cult has vanquished the heretics, and an unstoppable contagion spreads through their streets, do the authorities realise their error.
Plague cults are groups of relatively powerless individuals banding together in order to venerate Nurgle in any small way they can. Warbands have no such insignificant mortals diluting their memberships. They are comprised of some of the greatest warriors, the keenest tacticians, and the most creatively gifted mortal minions of Nurgle. Unlike plague cults, warbands of Nurgle likely already have his attention. Many members are Chaos Space Marines who will have received blessings from their master long ago. Common purpose and the power to act motivate warbands to achieve greatness in the name of the Plaguefather. Much distinguishes a warband from a plague cult, but one of the greatest distinctions they have is that they do not hide. With power, strength, will, and the many gifts of Nurgle they possess, there simply is no need.
It is not hard to imagine why a Chaos Space Marine might leave his brothers behind. Loyalty and self-sacrifice are not hallmarks of the lost and the damned. Service to Nurgle can take its toll on even the most dedicated of followers. Advanced mutation, loss of mobility, or even fanatical devotion beyond those of his fellows can leave a Plague Marine unable to function as an effective member of his squad. Sometimes his only option is to break from his squad-mates and continue to befoul the galaxy on his own. Isolation, however, is at odds with the communal nature of Nurgle. Loneliness festers in the heart of a Plague Marine or other Chaos Space Marine that has left his Legion, and Grandfather Nurgle is often moved to reach out to a wayward follower in such a position. The warrior hears the kindly laughter of his master on the cosmic winds and pursues the joyful noise. Once the mirthful trail is followed to its end, the blighted soul gives thanks to his caring God, for more often than not he arrives to find a fellowship of others whose faith and dedication to Nurgle left them in similar straits. Together, the warband forms something of a travelling cavalcade of mirth and rot, freed from the structures imposed by the organisation of their Legion and accepted by one another as exemplars of all that Nurgle teaches.
These warbands can accomplish much that a plague cult or Legion of Chaos Space Marines cannot. Examples of the fruits of such ambitions abound. The great rivers of pus that flowed from the volcano on Grenetus Major were the doing of Yorgol's Vomitmaws when the small warband passed the planet's defences undetected and delivered a pox-blessing from Nurgle's own cauldrons into the erupting mountain. Because they were free to act according to their own plans, the members of the Brotherhood of Unclean Mercy were able to seize upon an opportunity of random chance and infect the entire store of supplies in a passing merchant fleet. Thus enhanced, the cargo spread the Stenchgut Plague to an entire continent on Xurunt. These are but a few of the many deeds warbands of Nurgle have carried out in his name. Positioned perfectly between the nuisance activities of localised plague cults and the massive galaxy-spanning campaigns of corruption of the Death Guard, the actions of a warband of Nurgle serve the ends of the Lord of Decay perfectly - a fact in which their members take great solace and joy.
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