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The Tome of Decay (2014), p10-12 — The Garden of Nurgle

"In this universe, all rots. In this universe, one must rot to survive."
— Excerpt from The Enlightenment of Korvede Kalthrax, Harbinger of Carrion

The four great Gods of Chaos can each claim dominion over many of the inhabited regions of the galaxy. These holdings can be as small as the camp of a tribal cult on a backward primitive planet or as large as entire worlds or systems. None of these domains, even if added all together, can compare to the size, scope and spectacle of the abode each of the Ruinous Powers claims for himself within the Realm of Chaos. In truth, a meaningful comparison of the sizes of the mortal realms to those in the Immaterium is impossible. Concepts such as time and space have nearly no relevance in the Warp. The Realm of Chaos is made of thoughts and dreams and reacts to the conflicts and emotions of those who pass through it. As the most powerful entities within the Warp, the Gods of Chaos exert the most control over the shape of this dark dimension. These gods have, therefore, created kingdoms that are not so much regions with borders as they are manifested states of being, and as such they are apt to expand or diminish according to the waxing and waning of the power of their lord. It is only when realms meet at what a mortal mind might loosely conceive of as their borders that any semblance of boundaries can be considered.

Khorne, Slaanesh, Tzeentch, and Nurgle each exert their particular influence over the space around them through their will, their actions, and the deeds of their minions. This results in vastly different domains for each god. The Blood God is grounded in war and conflict of all kinds, and thus his realm has many battlefields upon which his minions constantly fight. Slaanesh's personal paradise is full of seductive wonders and bewildering beauty, where wanderers face temptation around each bend in the road. Tzeentch's domain is a chaotic jumble of impossible structures, mazes, and constantly shifting landscapes. Nurgle has a garden.

It is no ordinary garden. Perhaps it is not a garden at all, but the mortal minds that contemplate the manifested will of the Lord of Decay must attempt to make some sort of sense out of what they have seen or heard about in whispered tales. They must place it in some sort of relateable context that they can consider without going insane. The same tomes and other forbidden texts that have attempted to describe the lord of the land himself have, for the most part, agreed that the idea of Nurgle's realm being a perverse, deadly, and yet strangely beautiful garden best puts Chaos into terms they can fathom.

Like a normal garden, the domain of Nurgle is home to a bewildering array of flora and fauna, all interconnected and supporting the whole. Beds of bright blue Shovelpetal plants dig themselves up and leave the dirt in which they grew so that Plaguebearers can plant new Skullseeds in the rich loam. As the Skullseeds grow and blossom, they attract bounding, stomping, over-exuberant Beasts that mistake their fruits for the heads of new playthings. This scatters their matter violently into the air where it comes to rest on the wings of the ubiquitous flies. Slowed by the sticky pulp of the splattered plants, these insects become easy prey for other flying creatures that ingest them as they soar through the rot-choked air. Unbeknownst to the predators, bloatflies are carriers of many of Nurgle's experimental diseases and other creations. With their innards thus infected, these predators sicken, vomiting the contents of their guts all across the garden as they fly about and eventually exploding in showers of life-giving flesh and blood. This bounty of mutated and mutilated tissue falls into new areas of the Garden beneath, decaying into compost and starting the cycle of life and death anew.

Though the Garden of Nurgle does share certain commonalities with gardens and jungles on planets in realspace, it still is not a worldly garden in any sane sense. A visitor in this bizarre and perilous realm doesn't walk from this place to that. He experiences what needs to be experienced. Even the Daemons that tend the Garden are not really what might be thought of as a work force that arrives at a place, does a job, and then leaves for other regions. These Daemons are a part the experience of the garden itself. This is especially troublesome for the Plaguebearers, whose metamorphosed minds were once mortal, and still strive to impose a modicum of reality in their unreal existences. Still, even the Plaguebearers accept their place in the Garden and spend their eternity enjoying all it offers in their own way.

The Plaguefather affords all his children many ways to explore and appreciate his realm, and even to become a part of it. Though he is a god of Chaos, he also has a need to create order, to monitor his creations, and to control his experiments. A visitor to Nurgle's realm would find a dizzying amount of diversity of experiences. Here he might find trees made of nothing but the flesh of Eldar, constantly oozing the tears of a dying race. There he might find fields where tongues sprout up from the earth, each one blistered by the malign influence of a different infection. There is no telling what wonders await around each bend in the paths that stretch and wind throughout the Garden, but any who encounter them will surely have their sanity tested and questioned, should they survive to share the tale.

The Garden of Nurgle is an ever-changing realm, shifting according to the needs and whims of its master. Many areas exist only temporarily, taking shape to allow him to indulge a particular fancy or to be granted to an especially accomplished Great Unclean One as a reward. Even so, the legends hint that some aspects of this foetid domain remain relatively constant. Nurgle has need of fields in which to plant his crops of blighted herbs, pits to hold the bodies upon which he conducts his experiments, and, most important of all, a gigantic and decrepit mansion in which to store his creations, brew his legendary contagions, entertain guests, and plot the course of the Great Corruption.

The Blighted Mansion of Misery and Mirth

There is a house of decay at the centre of Nurgle's Garden. Its wracked and twisted structure creaks and groans under the influence of baleful toxic winds. Shutters cling just barely to window frames only half filled with broken panes of filth-covered glass. Sewage drains spill forth beetles, maggots, and twisted centipedes with only tongues for their bodies and human fingers for legs. Paint continually cracks and peels away from the wood beneath, yet the house never loses it grey-green hue. Along the roof, hundreds of chimneys billow out dark clouds that, upon close inspection, are composed of millions of floating, buzzing flies.

All around this house, trees made of bone bear fruit that rots even as it swells. The leafless boughs of these ancient trees provide shelter for daemonic birds that sing the funeral dirges of any unwelcome visitor. It is a house of pestilence, rot, and death. This is Nurgle's Mansion, and that means that it is also a place of hope and renewal. There can be no explanation for the strength that keeps this structure from collapse save that it is the dwelling place of the Lord of All, whose boundless energy, sense of eternal purpose, and limitless joy for his work finds perfect peace with the inevitability of decay.

Nurgle himself often sits in a massive chair just to the side of the mansion's front door. From there he entreats visitors, both summoned and unexpected, to approach, share tales and questionable libations, and explore the countless rooms within.

Inside the vast structure, a guest could easily become lost. Rotten floorboards send many to a doom of slow consumption by the carrion feeders that dwell in the lower levels. Grand staircases decorated with moth-eaten rugs beckon to wandering souls, leading them to chambers where Daemons are glad to receive new, fresh flesh.

Should the guest bypass these rooms and continue upward, he might find his way to the attic, where Nurgle keeps samples of his multitudinous works of decay, catalogued and counted over and over again by attendant Plaguebearers. In this attic are jars containing the viscera of plague victims from across time and space. Souls are trapped within apparently simple glass containers, left to slowly dim and fade as maladies of the spirit waste them to the bone.

If the visitor walked past the stairs and pushed deeper into the mansion, he might stumble upon the kitchens and larders of the Plaguefather's home. Every foul ingredient, every pestilent component imaginable (and some that defy sanity) rests on shelves here, neatly labelled and ready to be combined in the great cauldron. A wise guest moves on quickly from here, knowing that to linger is to become flavouring for the noxious stew, for this cauldron is among Nurgle's prized possessions and he likes to keep it full. It is in this great black crucible that the Lord of All brews the many plagues he pours into the mortal realm. Nurgle is a creative being, and he will take inspiration for experimentation where he finds it. Seldom can he resist the temptation to add nearby visitors to his virulent concoctions.

The Vibrant Grounds of a Morbid Estate

Nurgle is unlike the other Ruinous Powers is many ways, including how he views his domain within the Realm of Chaos. Khorne, for instance, rarely leaves his throne, barking orders to his generals from atop a mound of skulls. Slaanesh watches the happenings of his kingdom from within his palace or wanders the universe seeking to tempt mortals into giving up their souls to satisfy his hunger. Tzeentch seems to not care much at all for the state of his warped and fractured lands, spending his time plotting and interfering with affairs in realms beyond his own. Nurgle, on the other hand, cherishes the beauty and surprises of his Garden. He routinely takes strolls down its twisted paths, cavorting with his Daemons and stopping to observe as one of his diseases takes its toll on a wounded captive. Nurgle is in touch with his land and its many regions.

In his wanderings outside of the Mansion, he passes by some of his favourite places, many of which have existed since Nurgle first thought of them and are likely to be the models for the reborn universe that is to come. A moment's journey from the Mansion are the Death Beds, a place he visits more often than perhaps any other. It is a place that serves two purposes. Not only are wayward travellers and defeated invaders trapped here, stored in the deep pits and sucking muck of this place awaiting some future foul use, or their eventual demise, but it is here that Nurgle can indulge in one of his greatest forms of entertainment. The Plaguefather loves to hear stories of the realms beyond his own. They inspire him to create new pestilences that are well suited to other lands, and in the Death Beds he has countless potential storytellers. Sometimes he offers these unfortunates the chance to improve their position by spitting the worms from their mouths and sharing tales of their worlds with him. Those who amuse him sufficiently are plucked from the muck and removed to the Mansion. There they have the great honour of becoming vessels for Nurgle's newest plagues. Once they are properly infected, Grandfather Nurgle smiles, gives them one last tender, gut-churning embrace, and sends them back into the lands their stories described.

After visiting the Death Beds, Nurgle often makes the Poxyards the next stop on his stroll. It is here that he tests the efficacy of his contagions of the flesh and spirit. Each malady requires a different set of trials to gauge its ability to achieve the Plaguefather's desires. This means that the physical form of the Poxyards changes to suit the task. For a test of the spirit, this region of the Garden may be filled with crystal clear lakes. A dehydrated test subject may see these lakes and, believing salvation is at hand, drink deeply of the cool waters. Suddenly the water will turn to pus, tormenting the sick and weakened soul. For a test of a skin-eating disease, the Poxyards may be filled with Clawthrust Brambles. Infected captives can be sent running into the daemon-plants, chased by Beasts. If the captives scream as they pass through the razor-edged branches of the plants, then Nurgle knows that the poor wretches can still feel pain and his affliction needs refinement. No matter the incarnation of the Poxyards, this corner of the Garden always gives Nurgle new insights, and therefore he spends a great deal of time there.

There are other places such as these - places that are always buzzing with activity and joy. The Morabusium where the most precious and toxic herbs take root, the Dunglash Arboretum where refined excrement hangs from trees like putrid, reeking vines, and many others. All of these regions provide Nurgle with the ingredients and insights he needs to further his work at the cauldron when he returns to the Mansion after one of his invigorating jaunts.

The Realm of a Million and One Plagues

In addition to the mainstay regions of the Garden, there are many others that enjoy a less permanent existence, coming and going with the ascendancy and passing of one of Nurgle's many plagues. Some of these likely only exist in the nightmare visions and untrustworthy hallucinations of disease-ravaged minds. Still, the Garden is near infinite, and it is not so unbelievable that a recipient of one of Nurgle's great gifts might be blessed with a fleeting glimpse of the Plaguefather's realm.

With their last dying breaths, some mortals gasp and choke out words saying that they hear faint bells tolling. Perhaps they refer to the blossoms that grow in the Deathbell Lily Fields. When a mortal dies as the result of one of Nurgle's many diseases, one of these pallid flowers opens up and emits a tinny chime to mark the success of Nurgle's handiwork. The ringing is incessant.

The Hanging Gardens of Thush'Bolg are a sight to be seen. This remote slice of Nurgle's realm was given to the Great Unclean One Thush'Bolg as acknowledgement of his use of a choking plague to wipe out an Ork infestation on Hurax, a planet that Nurgle coveted. To commemorate his victory and to demonstrate constant thanks to his lord for his reward, Thush'Bolg used their own intestines to hang every single Ork from the colony in the trees of his domain. There they dangle and rot, slowly dying but never quite finding release.

Plaguebearers toss organs from the bodies of disease victims into sorting pools, making it easier for them to count the numbers that have died from each ailment. Beasts of Nurgle frolic in fields where planted spines yield crops of dementia-inducing foodstuffs. Nurglings cackle with glee as they roll down hillsides that form spontaneously when Great Unclean Ones vomit up regiments they consumed thousands of years ago. The Garden of Nurgle is a wondrous place filled with vitality, mirth, and experiences beyond mortal comprehension. It is a playground for the minions of the Lord of Decay, a laboratory for his work, and a comforting home for a god that knows his realm is the shape of things to come.