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White Dwarf 119 (Nov 1989), p19-24 — The Great Unclean Ones

Greater Daemons of Nurgle (Bahk'ghuranhi'aghkami)

Great Unclean Ones, Fly Masters, Plague Lords, Stench Lords, Nurgle, Father Nurgle

The Great Unclean Ones are the Greater Daemons of Nurgle. In the case of other Chaos Powers, Greater Daemons are servants, albeit immensely able and powerful ones. This is not quite true of Nurgle's Greater Daemons, who are each a virtual facsimile of Nurgle, both physically and in terms of personality. Thus it may be said that every Great Unclean One is also Nurgle. A Great Unclean One is sometimes referred to as Nurgle or Father Nurgle by his underlings, although of course he also has his own daemonic name.

A Great Unclean One certainly looks like Nurgle - a gigantic figure bloated with decay, disease and all imaginable kinds of physical corruption. The skin of the daemon is greenish, necrose and leathery, its surface covered with pockmarks, sores, and other signs of disease and infestation. The inner organs, rank with decay, spill through the ruptured skin and hang like drapes about the Daemon's girth. Tiny creatures called Nurglings burst from these organs and chew and suck upon the nauseous juice within. Such foulness represents the ultimate truth of the universe: the inevitable victory of decay and the end of all things.

In character the Greater Daemon is neither deathlike nor morbid. In fact the opposite is true. Great Unclean Ones are motivated by all the trivial Human enthusiasms which drive the living. They are ebullient and vociferous, full of a natural enthusiasm to organise and achieve. They are driven by a gregarious and even sentimental nature and hold their followers dear, even referring to them as their 'Children', and taking a noticeable pride in their appearance and endearing behaviour.

This combination of physical corruption and energetic endeavour is the most extraordinary characteristic of Nurgle's Daemons. It can be seen most clearly when the Great Unclean One and his daemonic followers appear in the material world. The horde travels in a great cavalcade of covered wagons, bringing with it all the pestilences and ills that befall the living. The wagons are in no better condition physically than the Daemons within. Their shrouds are tattered and rotten, their frames splintered and bent, and their metal-work pitted and rusted. Yet within the plodding caravan of Nurgle all is bustle and activity as the Great Unclean One prepares to launch a festival of decay and destruction upon a Human village, a thriving town, or an opposing army. For Nurgle's visitation is like that of a travelling circus or great fair, except that the entertainment it offers is disease, sickness and death.

As the caravan draws near to its destination the excitement of the Daemons draws to a fever pitch. Plaguebearers take stock of pestilence and disease, counting the reserves of sickness, the number of Nurglings, each other, and eventually anything that stands still long enough to be counted. Amidst the deep-throated drone of the Plaguebearers' endless tally, the Nurglings chatter and prance like small children about to embark upon a special treat. They squabble and squirm, snigger and squeal, and their numbers increase and diminish beyond the Plaguebearers' ability to count them. Amidst the general hullaballoo and anticipation, the overly affectionate Beasts of Nurgle bound uncontrollably from Plaguebearer to Plaguebearer, like exciteable puppies, leaving pools of dribble and slime as they pass.

When the Great Unclean One speaks his manner is immediately reminiscent of the great stage manager and leader that he is. He addresses his cast of Plaguebearers, Nurglings and Beasts, building their enthusiasm by recalling the fine aesthetic qualities of famous diseases of the past. He may mention in passing the wine-dark sea of purple patterned decay, the fine flaky texture and slightly salty tang of eczema. As the multitude clamours for more, he will describe the gem-like shine of a boil as it wells to a head, and the final satisfaction as it bursts exposing a glistening cavity of inflamed flesh.

The space inside the wagon was cavernous out of all proportion to its tiny exterior size. The cacophonies that filled it were indescribable: the squealing, screaming, chattering and bickering of the Nurglings was beyond mere Human imagining. A million unruly school children left to their own devices could not even begin to rival the anarchy or intensity of that daemonic din. The grating drones of the Plaguebearers all counting at once produced a sound so bass and penetrating that it made the vital organs of every Daemon vibrate and quiver in time with its beat. Then there were the indescribable noises, the creaks and groans, the little pops of bursting pustules, the sloppering sticky noises of the frantically affectionate Beasts, and other sounds which were impossible to ascribe to any one source in particular. Amidst it all, waving his arms, the Great Unclean One was trying to make himself heard.

"Ahh... Gentlecreatures, Children, my pretties... lend your ears to your loving Father, cease thy aimless chatter, banish thy banal burblings..."

It was quite useless, the noise continued, the squeals and laughter reaching a new crescendo. The Great Unclean One appeared for a moment to be hurt by his fellow Daemons' rudeness.

"SHUT UP!" he bellowed.

The noise stopped instantly. Not even the beat of little daemonic hearts or drip of tiny daemonic noses could be heard. The brow of every Plaguebearer furrowed in concentration as each tried desperately to remember the last number he thought of. The Great Unclean One quickly regained his composure; he was used to such things.

"Gentlecreatures, our pretties... now is time to sing the songs of fate, for the moment has come for the Dance of Death!"

The Great Unclean One

Alignment: Chaos (Nurgle)

Special Psychological Traits: Hates all Daemons and Champions of Tzeentch. Otherwise standard for Greater Daemon.

Magic: A Greater Daemon of Nurgle has a spell pool of 7 randomly determined spells - the first spell generated of any level will be a Spell of Nurgle as described later.

Magic Items: A Great Unclean One carries D6 randomly-generated magic items.

Special Rules: A Great Unclean One has 10 attacks in total: 8 claw, 1 bite or gore, and 1 stomp. When the Daemon scores a successful hit with a bite attack, his snake-headed tongue makes an additional attack; if successful the damage caused is resolved with a Strength of 4. WFRP - successful claw and bite attacks cause infected wounds.

Any non-magical weapon which strikes a Great Unclean One will instantly rust away to nothing, leaving the attacker weaponless.

Any living creature engaged in hand-to-hand combat against a Great Unclean One risks catching the dreaded disease Nurgle's Rot.

Great Unclean Ones do not need to wear armour. Their corpulent and unfeeling flesh gives them a natural saving throw against damage of 5 or 6 on a D6.

WFRP - the Great Unclean One has 2 armour points on every hit location.

Profile - Warhammer Fantasy Battle and WH40K

Profile - Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

The Nurglings flocked to their master, squabbling and bickering in their impatience to nestle in the warm comfort of his decaying bosom.

"Ahhh... Nurgle's Children, our pretties, our pets," cried the deep warm voice of the Great Unclean One. "How Nurgle loves his little Children!"

With a broad and loving smile the great Daemon raised a hand to pluck the Nurgling that had settled into the folds of his chest. The Nurgling squealed and squirmed as the hand enveloped it and caressed it for a moment before popping it whole into the Great Unclean One's mouth.

The Dance of Death

As the great plague carts and wagons of the cavalcade of Nurgle approach their target, the unsuspecting village or the sleepy town, the Daemons prepare their campaign of destruction. In all respects it is a performance, and like all performances it has its prelude as well as its climax. In this case the prelude is the Dance of Death, enacted the night before the assault, when the Daemons of Nurgle dance a great Dance of Death, circling the town or village three times. As the moon rises into the sky the dance begins its course and the cast of Daemons moves solemnly over the hills and fields. As the procession moves past the outlying houses, dogs and cattle take up the cacophonous noise, adding their barking and lowing to the rising song. As the night progresses and the first circuit is complete, the excitement begins to mount. The songs become raucous and the dancing more and more animated. As the dancers begin the third circuit they abandon themselves to a frenzy of song, laughter, and madness in which they cry out the terrible things that they intend to do on the morrow. As the dance nears completion, the noise reaches the houses of the living. Those awakened by the song hide under their covers too terrified to move, while those still sleeping experience strange and disturbing dreams. Then all falls quiet. The third circuit is now complete and the songs of fate are at an end.

The Burgermeister woke from the nightmare, his heart beating like a drum and his grey limbs quivering with unreasoning terror. The words of the dreamsong echod in his mind, the cries of some daemonic child threatening and taunting him.

"Flies, flies, eat up his eyes! The Burgermeister's lovely eyes!"

He shuddered as he recalled the verse of the childish rhyme ringing even now in his ears. Throwing aside the clammy bedclothes, he walked to the window. As he inhaled the cool night air he looked out across the Newfield towards Redfarm hill. And then his heart almost stopped. There, outlined against the hill, was the nightmare made real. A carnival of cavorting Daemons vanishing behind the rise as he watched, and there upon the breeze once more the piercing cackle and that maddening song.

"The eyes! The flies! The eyes! The flies! Before the Burgermeister dies!"

Father Nurgle settled down among the supporting heap of his smallest minions. Those lucky enough to escape being crushed by their master's bulk squealed delightedly as they snuggled into the damp warmth of his flesh. Nurgle reclined comfortably and his corpulent face assumed an air of triumphant expectancy.

Nurgle gave a dignified nod to one of the Plaguebearers. Excitedly, the daemon began to beat its drum, slowly and rhythmically at first, and gradually faster and faster as it became carried away by the sense of occasion. All of Nurgle's servants cheered and applauded, and Nurgle acknowledged them with a smile and a regal wave of his festering paw.

It was the prelude to battle that excited the daemons, drawing squeals of anticipation from the tumbling little Nurglings. This time the cavalcade was to be joined by others: Champions of Nurgle and their mortal Warbands, who were going to take part in the great war. The Beasts bounded and fussed in their eagerness to welcome the mortals, causing considerable disarray and the odd casualty among the serried ranks of warriors.

The Warbands flocked to the sound of the drum. The came in carts and wagons like those of Nurgle's own cavalcade, marched into camp, or simply distilled from the surrounding woods like shadows at sunset. Some of the most severely mutated of them wore bright carnival masks and voluminous robes, completely failing to hide their unique disfigurements if that was in fact their purpose. The Plaguebearers carefully recorded the name of each Champion as he arrived, announcing his titles as loudly as they were able among the rising laughter and squeaking chatter. The show pleased Father Nurgle immensely: the busy scampering daemons, the creaking carts with their tinkling bells, the gaily-coloured masks and carefully decorated palanquins bearing various daemons or Champions. He sighed with satisfaction and patted the Nurgling that had crawled into the crook of his arm and puddled.