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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.
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