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Codex: Eye of Terror (2003), p8 — Creeping Death

As the end of the forty-first millennium drew closer, the first signs that Abaddon's long-feared attack was imminent came in the form of numerous sightings of drifting vessels emerging from the Warp in the surrounding sectors. All were converging on the core systems of each sub sector and, while this number of space hulks was rare, it was not unheard of. System defence ships scrambled to intercept them and prevent them from reaching their systems' inhabited worlds. The vessels of the Adeptus Astartes boarded those they could, but numbers were limited. The Space Marines found them to be twisted and disease-ridden nightmares, encrusted with all manner of necrotic matter and toxic filth. Subsequently, every such vessel encountered was destroyed with torpedoes and bombardment cannons, but for some it was already too late.

With a synchronicity that could not have been coincidence, outbreaks of virulent sickness erupted among Imperial Navy crews within a day of a reported sighting of the dreaded Chaos vessel Plagueclaw in the outer reaches of the Urthwart system by Captain Roark of the Dauntless class cruiser Duke Lurstophan. As the sickness spread throughout the region's naval forces, and the number of ships fit for duty fell exponentially, even more hulks dropped from the Warp, converging on vital strategic worlds. Ships from neighbouring sub sectors rushed to destroy the hulks and a small, ad hoc fleet was assembled at Belis Corona under the command of Admiral Quarren. The fleet surged from port and began the hunt for the Plagueclaw, though they were to encounter something far, far worse. In the shadow of the Frenerax Dust Cloud, the fleet was ambushed by a force of Chaos warships led by the Terminus Est, flagship of the Herald of Nurgle, Typhus himself. The battle was short and bloody, with several Imperial ships crippled in the opening salvo of torpedoes, while others were overrun by vile, diseased creatures that vomited forth from loathsome boarding craft. Admiral Quarren recovered well and rallied his forces superbly, counterattacking and fighting his way clear of the trap. Typhus did not pursue and the majority of Quarren's fleet was able to limp back to port. The Battle of Frenerax had been a costly disaster, but there was worse to come.

During the return journey to Belis Corona, thousands of crewmen sickened and died and only with the help of system pilots was the fleet able to dock safely. But if the situation at Belis Corona was bad, it was worse elsewhere. Many of the plague hulks had slipped through the defensive net and the same contagion that had struck down the ships' crews was spreading like wildfire through many inhabited worlds in the Cadian and Agripinaa sectors as well as those of the Belis Corona sub sector. The Hive world of Subiaco Diablo proved to be an ideal breeding ground for the unknown plague and was quickly quarantined by officers from the Officio Medicae, but not before millions had already perished. Within a month, a dozen other worlds reported cases of the plague and panic spread as transit between neighbouring sectors was halted in an effort to stem further infection.

As the epidemic spread, apocalyptic sects began appearing on every world afflicted, preaching that the Emperor's wrath had descended upon them and was a punishment for their sins of wickedness and vice. Only the faithful would be spared the Curse of Unbelief and hordes of flagellating devotees filled the streets of every world around the Eye of Terror. The continued health of these fanatics gave their words the sheen of truth and millions flocked to hear their fiery rhetoric. The plague continued to spread, but it was on Subiaco Diablo that the true horror of the plague was finally revealed. To the shock and disgust of the planet's inhabitants, the mass graves deep in the ash plains heaved and split, the corpses of those who had perished in the plague climbing from the lime-encrusted ground. Soon millions of shambling corpses were advancing on the hive, clawing their way inside and attacking the weakened inhabitants.

Within months, plague zombies were climbing from their graves on scores of worlds throughout the Belis Corona and Agripinaa sectors, and Imperial forces were stretched to the limit in containing these abominations as well as mobs of flagellating zealots who burned medicae ward facilities to the ground in their misguided attempts to halt the plague. Paralysed by the sheer scale of the epidemic, the Naval forces in these regions were completely unprepared for the vast Chaos fleet that emerged at the edge of the Subiaco Diablo system and surged into Imperial space. The Herald of Nurgle, the Traveller, Typhus of the Death Guard had come to reap the harvest of his plague, and nothing stood ready to stop him.