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, p6-7 — Cycles of War

'Let root rot and bower be blighted, water clot and sap be sour! Let Grandfather's glopsome glories anoint this realm with bilgeful beauty, and his generosity unlock the plentiful pestilence now trapped b'neath its skin!'
—Bul'gla'throx, Great Unclean One

The Age of Chaos, and the Realmgate Wars, saw savage fighting throughout every realm. Yet Ghyran, the Realm of Life, saw some of the most gruelling and hideous battles. Nurgle's power waxed and waned throughout that war, and its epoch-ending conclusion led him to a new and hideous plan.

During the Age of Chaos, each of the Dark Gods sent invading forces into every realm save only Azyr, whose gates were barred against them. None would willingly concede any of the myriad prizes on offer to their twisted siblings, and so none could afford to ignore any realm entirely. Yet each favoured certain Mortal Realms, drawn to their own spheres of influence.

Khorne the Blood God desired mastery of wrathful Aqshy; devious Tzeentch coveted the changeable energies of Chamon; the slinking servants of the Horned Rat committed substantial forces to Ulgu and its concealing veils of shadow. Nurgle, for his part, set his greedy gaze upon the boundless bounty of Ghyran, the Realm of Life.

The invasion that followed has become known as the War of Life, and it was as bitter a conflict as any that has raged since the Age of Chaos began. Ghyran is the realm of Alarielle, the Queen of the Radiant Wood and goddess of natural life. She ruled over not only her own vast glades of sylvaneth, but also countless mortal tribes and other merciless beings who slew those trespassers that threatened the sanctity of their lands, and were resolved to protect Ghyran with their lives.

The horrors that Nurgle and his followers unleashed upon Ghyran tested that resolve to breaking point and beyond. Rivers clotted into oozing matter. Lifewells became stinking geysers of pus. Forests crumbled and moaned, and the cycles and tides of the Realm of Life were perverted by disease and corruption into hideous parodies. The drone of countless insects echoed across the lands like thunder, rolling through dense clouds of foul miasma. Every battleground became a hellscape of rot, sludge and filth, riddled with parasites and indescribable foulness.

Across the Jade Kingdoms, vast Tallybands of Nurgle daemons trudged relentlessly forward on every front, driving their foes before them. Rotbringers, the mortal chosen of Nurgle, led hordes of howling warriors into battle to destroy and despoil. Twisted herds of Pestigors and bubo-pocked monsters rampaged through the wilds, while the slinking Plague Monks of the Clan Pestilens added their rot-smog fumes to the slaughter. Alarielle was forced into hiding, and the last enclaves of her children fell back to strongholds concealed by sorcerous veils and glamours.

Though the sylvaneth fought tirelessly, the mortal tribes fell one by one, while the aelven Wanderers fled to Azyrheim, earning the eternal enmity of Alarielle's children. Even the Everqueen waned and slid into despondency as the Jade Kingdoms sickened, until it seemed as though Nurgle must surely claim Ghyran for his own.

Yet even in the face of such horror, heroism and courage prevailed. Alarielle escaped Nurgle's grip and - through the brave sacrifice of her closest protectors - survived to be reborn in her full and wrathful aspect of war. Allied with Sigmar's Stormcast Eternals and the disparate armies of Order, she led a furious counter-attack that drove Nurgle's armies back.

From the Blackstone Plains to Hyboralia, the Flittersea to the Vermillion Meadows, Nurgle's armies were outmatched. Though they fought with their usual mix of rambunctious glee and stolid determination, the Tallybands and Contagiums were overrun. Nurgle looked on in wounded disbelief as his generosity was spurned and his gifts squandered across a hundred fronts.

The sternest blow fell against the Genesis Gate. This was the vast Realmgate through which many of Nurgle's reinforcements flowed into the Realm of Life. Ghyran was riddled with portals that the Plague God could use, but if the forces of Order closed the Genesis Gate then they would cut off the most important arterial route though which his daemon legions struck. It would not end the War of Life, but it would surely be enough to change its course.

So it was that Alarielle led the onslaught against the Genesis Gate and the sprawling sevenfold fortress that surrounded it. Alongside her marched chamber after chamber of Stormcast Eternals, led by the Hallowed Knights and Sigmar's mightiest warrior, the Celestant-Prime himself. They were opposed by armies comprised of Nurgle's daemons, his mortal worshippers and their Pestilens allies, all led by Nurgle's greatest mortal champions, the infamous Glottkin.

The battle was nothing short of apocalyptic. Eschewing any form of conventional siege, the forces of Order launched thunderous assaults that bypassed the outer defences of the Genesis Gate and brought vast swathes of the fortress' mouldering walls tumbling down. Battle was joined on a dozen fronts, and though the armies of Nurgle unleashed every plague and hex they knew, they were hard pressed to hold out.

The foul ratmen of the Clan Pestilens turned upon their erstwhile allies, seeking to steal sorcerous secrets for their own gain and leaving Nurgle's armies in disarray as Alarielle launched a headlong strike for the Genesis Gate. Though they took a savage toll upon their attackers, the Plague Gods's armies were defeated and the Genesis Gate sealed. Alarielle's purifying magics ensured that Nurgle's servants could not easily reclaim the vital Realmgate. Thus she consolidated her victory upon this crucial site.

For the forces of Order, this was a moment of grand celebration. Yet for Nurgle it was a crushing blow. Victory in the War of Life - and by extension, dominion over all of Ghyran - had been his to claim. Yet somehow it had eluded him, slipping through his eager grasp like water. With the rich bounty of the Realm of Life at his disposal, Nurgle's might would have swelled until it eclipsed that of all his brothers. Yet his gambit had failed, and so he was left diminished.

Nurgle became morose and withdrawn, disappointed in his followers' failures and despondent at his own. His wars went into remission, and for a time, his power faded...

Plague Resurgent

Nurgle is a being of cyclical whims who never remains glum for long. Though he had suffered a great reversal in Ghyran, the Plague God resolved to learn from his mistakes. He had been selfish. The revelation struck Nurgle with the suddenness of fever sweats. He had fixated upon Ghyran, so much so that he had neglected those crying out for his blessings in the other Mortal Realms.

Nurgle resolved to change his ways. The war in the Realm of Life was not over, far from it. But no longer would it claim his attention entire. Instead, Nurgle resolved to launch fresh offensives across all of the Mortal Realms. To lead them, he summoned Horticulous Slimux, his Grand Cultivator. The daemon would go out into the realms, tainting sites of magical power in order to conjure forth the diseased fronds of Nurgle's own Garden. He would sow one plague-ridden hellscape after another until the realms groaned beneath the weight of diseased foliage and blighted flora. So would Nurgle spread his blessed plagues to all, and in doing so rise to ultimate power.