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Warhammer 40,000: First Strike (2017), p10 — The Death Guard

The Death Guard were once Adeptus Astartes, but their Legion fell to the corruption of foul Warp entities. Bound by the vile will of Nurgle - the Chaos god of contagion - and with bloated and festering bodies, they spread death, destruction and disease to all corners of the Imperium.

Few sights are more loathsome than the corrupted forms of the plague-infested Death Guard. Their distended torsos are ripe with disease, yet they do not feel the agony of their own decay. In anything, these afflictions only make them stronger, their necrotic bodies so numb to pain that only total destruction can stop their advance. Abominations against nature, the Death Guard advance amidst clouds of flies, their corrupted boltguns spewing death as an unnatural miasma bleeds infection into their surroundings. Their decomposing flesh bulges with corruption, and plump buboes swell with festering pus. Skin, sloughed away long ago, has been replaced by mucosal growths and mutated protusions. Innards hang dripping from rent abdomens, yet by Nurgle's will these corpulent warriors continue to live. Truly Nurgle has blessed the Death Guard, and they intend to share their foul gifts with the denizens of the galaxy.

The Death Guard were not always such monstrosities. As Adeptus Astartes, their Legion was amongst the first to be created, and their Primarch, Mortarion, was a renowned commander who prosecuted the Great Crusade with ruthless efficiency. But for all his strength and achievements, Mortarion was consumed by bitterness towards his peers and the Emperor. When Horus, one of only two fellow Primarchs Mortarion respected and was close to, convinced him to join his nascent rebellion, the Death Lord and the majority of his Legion turned against the Imperium. At that moment, Mortarion had set himself and his sons on a path that ended in their tragic corruption by Nurgle, the god of decay and putrescence. The Death Guard were forever transformed from noble warriors into corpulent mounds of flesh, their genetically enhanced organs transfigured into vestigial disease incubators, damned forever to the Plague Father's service.

Though the atrocities of that dark time were many, few Legions brought more ruin and putrefaction to the Imperium than the Death Guard. Through them, Nurgle's rot spread to countless Imperial worlds. Where they were met in battle by the loyalist Adeptus Astartes, their disgusting resilience allowed them to weather the most punishing fire before replying with their own dread onslaughts.

Despite numerous horrific victories that carried them all the way to Holy Terra, the revolters were defeated when Horus was cut down by the Emperor. With their leader gone, the remaining Chaos forces retreated to the Eye of Terror, the star-spanning portal between realspace and the warp, to regather their strength and plot their retribution. Here, Mortarion was rewarded by Nurgle for his faithful service, and his mighty form was mutated into that of a hideously disfigured Daemon Prince. The warriors of the Death Guard continued to decay, growing more grotesque with every passing century, more inured to pain with every parasite that wormed through their flesh. Now that the Great Rift has opened, the Death Guard are spewing back into the galaxy in numbers not seen since the time of the Heresy. Like an endless swarm of flies they descend upon the Imperium, to worlds where the seeds of Nurgle's plagues have long been festering. But the time for sowing is now over, and the time for reaping has begun.