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Codex: Chaos Daemons (2018), p18-19 — Nurgle, the Father of Plagues

Nurgle is the Great Corrupter, the Master of Plague and Pestilence, the fountain and architect of rot itself. He is the embodiment of the truth that all things, no matter how solid and permanent they seem, are subject to decay, and even the process of creation is merely the beginning stage of destruction. The bastion of today is tomorrow's ruin, the maiden of the morning is the crone of the night, and the hope of a moment is but the foundation of regret.

Though he is the creator of every infection and epidemic to have ever afflicted the universe, Nurgle is not a morose purveyor of death and suffering, but a vibrant god of life and laughter. To understand the contradictory nature of the Lord of Decay, one must first comprehend the eternal truths that he represents and the mortal emotions that birthed him.

Life springs from rot. Untold numbers of bacteria, viruses, insects and other carrion-feeders thrive on the decay of the living. From the wake of every plague rise new generations, pox-scarred perhaps, but also stronger than those that came before. Regeneration comes from decay, just as hope is born of despair, the greatest inspiration coming in the darkest moments; in times of crisis, mortals are truly tested and driven to excel.

The citizens of the Imperium know full well that their lives will one day end, and that many of their number will live with disease or other torments in the meantime, yet they drive this knowledge deep into the corners of their minds and bury it with ceaseless activity. Nurgle is partially embodied by that knowledge and the unconscious response to it. He is the hidden fear of disease and decay, the gnawing fact of mortality, and the power of defiance that it generates.

Nurgle himself takes the form of a titanic flesh-hulk riddled with decay and pestilence. His gigantic carcass is bloated with corruption and exudes an overpowering stench that gnaws at the mind. His skin is greenish, leathery and necrotic, its surface abundant with running sores, swelling boils and rampant infestation. Nurgle's gurgling and pulsating organs are rank with the excrement of decay, spilling and spurting through his ruptured skin to hang like obscene fruit around his girth. From these organs burst swarms of tiny Nurglings that chew on his rotting intestines and slurp up Nurgle's bountiful, noxious juices.

Every single human being in the galaxy has been touched by Nurgle's foetid hand at some point. Countless trillions are host to his malignant, invisible creations, which corrupt their physical forms and sow despair in their minds. Interplanetary traffic ensures that contagious diseases are carried from world to world by the ignorant and the wilful alike. As Nurgle's gifts multiply into full-blown pandemics, his power reaches a peak. Whole systems - even whole sectors - are quarantined as plague runs rife across the stars. Proud civilisations wither away even as the God of Decay conjures obscene new life from their remains. Wherever there are plague pits and mass graves, the rotting splendour of Nurgle shines through.

Despite his consistent generosity, only an enlightened few truly embrace Nurgle's greatness. Yet his worshippers exist in numbers enough to ensure his Daemon servants access the material dimension wherever plague abounds. Of all the Chaos Gods, it is Nurgle who most appreciates the personal touch, and he watches over his followers like a doting patriarch, leading many to refer to him as Grandfather Nurgle.

The Garden of Nurgle

The domain of Nurgle is not a barren wasteland, but a macabre paradise, a near-infinite jungle of death and pestilence. Tended by the Lord of Decay, this unwholesome realm is home to every pox and affliction imaginable. Twisted, rotten boughs entangled with grasping vines cover the mouldering ground, entwining like broken fingers. Fungi, both plain and spectacular, break through the squelching mulch of the forest floor, puffing out clouds of choking spores. The stems of half-daemonic plants wave of their own accord, unstirred by the stagnant, insect-choked air. Their colours puncture the gloom, havens of cheeriness in a dismal woodland. Human-featured beetles flit along the banks of sluggish, muddy rivers. Reeds rattle, whispering the names of the poxes inflicted upon the worlds of mortals by Great Nurgle or lamenting those that have died from the caress of their creator.

Jutting from amidst this primordial mire is Nurgle's manse. Decrepit and ancient, yet eternally strong at its foundations, the mansion is an eclectic structure of sagging, rotted timbers and broken walls, overgrown with crawling poison ivy and thick mosses. Cracked windows and crumbling stone compete with verdigris-coated bronze, rusted ironwork and lichen-covered cornices to outdo each other with their corrupted charm.

Within these crumbling walls, Nurgle toils. Beneath mildewed and bowed beams, the Great Corrupter carries out his eternal work at a rusted cauldron, a receptacle vast enough to contain all the oceans of all the worlds. Chuckling and murmuring to himself, Nurgle labours to create contagion and pestilence - the most sublime and unfettered forms of life.With every stir of Nurgle's maggot-ridden ladle, a dozen fresh diseases flourish and are scattered across the stars. From time to time, Nurgle reaches down with a clawed hand to scoop a portion of the ghastly mixture into his cavernous mouth, tasting the fruits of his labour. With each passing day, he comes closer to brewing his perfect disease, a spiritual plague that will spread across the extent of the universe and see all living things gathered unto his rotting embrace.

Dwarfed by their grotesque and enormous lord, a host of Plaguebearers are gathered about Nurgle. Each Daemon chants sonorously, keeping count of the diseases created, the mischievous Nurglings that have hatched, and the souls claimed by the Lord of Decay's putrid blessings. This hum drowns out the creaking of the rotten floor and the scrape of ladle on cauldron, so unceasing in its monotony that to hear it is to invite madness.

When Nurgle's diseases wax strong in the mortal realm, his garden blooms with death's heads and fresh filth, and its boundaries encroach upon the lands of the other Chaos Gods. War follows, as Nurgle's adversaries fight back and his Daemon legions take up arms to defend the morbid forest. From such war springs more of the richness of life and death, of triumph over adversity. Though Nurgle's realm and his lead in the Great Game will eventually recede again, his Garden will have fed deeply on the fallen, and will lie in gestate peace until it is ready to swell throughout time and space once more.

Uninvited Guests

Very few mortal eyes have beheld the Garden of Nurgle. Its swamplands constantly wheeze a fog of supernatural diseases, and living beings cannot endure so much as a single breath of its repugnant air. Only Nurgle himself can spare visitors from his garden's toxic affections; when he is expecting company, he will open a path through the gurgling fungus-fronds with a single magnanimous gesture.

Trespassers are viewed poorly in Nurgle's domain, as the seers of Lugganath found to their cost. The Aeldari of that far-flung craftworld have long told the story of the Caged Maiden, wherein Isha, the goddess of fertility and healing, is imprisoned in Nurgle's mansion; there she is forced to imbibe Nurgle's most pleasing concoctions as her grotesque admirer observes their results with building excitement, and Isha's restorative powers ensure the process can be eternally repeated.

The Aeldari believe their myths to be founded in truth, and so it was that when Lugganath was ravaged by the Brittle Coma, a council of its most gifted psykers cast their minds into the domain of Nurgle, in pursuit of Isha, hoping to find their lost goddess and put a halt to their craftworld's deadly malaise. They knew that they would almost certainly die in the attempt, but believed that their souls would ultimately be drawn back into the glittering spirit stones of their comatose bodies. Once safe in their crystal afterlife, they could impart Isha's cure to the Spiritseers and lift Nurgle's curse.

At first, their astrally projected forms appeared to be able to pass through the grasping foliage of Nurgle's garden with ease. Their ghosthelms kept them as insubstantial as spirits and their rune-shielded minds cut through the dismal vegetation, for they were sharper than any corporeal blade. The rot-flies of that realm buzzed loud in alarm, however, and whispered of the intruders into Nurgle's ear.

Just as the seers of Lugganath sighted Grandfather Nurgle's manse in the distance, a great host of Plaguebearers rose up from the mud and began to chant in a droning monotone as they came forward. The seers channelled their psychic energy into great blasts of cleansing blue fire, boiling away huge chunks of Nurgle's army and darting out of the clumsy reach of their foes, but ever more Plaguebearers emerged from the slurry to block their path.

The battle raged for days, and swathes of Nurgle's garden were blasted to ruin in the process. However, in the material dimension, the physical forms of the trespassing seers began to convulse and shake, succumbing to the very plague they hoped to overcome. Slowly, as their bodies shrivelled and their spirit stones turned to rotting mulch, the souls of the seers that were trapped in Nurgle's realm began to pass fully into the immaterium. The soupy atmosphere of the garden seeped into their lungs, worm-riddled mud spattered up their legs, and white-bodied daemonflies clambered into their mouths. Claimed at last, the seers' feet took root as their faces hardened into bark. Their arms split and twisted into gnarled branches, each finger hung with ripening Nurgling-fruit.

The seers of Lugganath remain there still, a copse of wailing trees that brighten Nurgle's leisurely walks and strike a note of despair into the heart of Isha, his immortal captive. Such is the fate of all those who enter uninvited into the heartlands of Nurgle, for even the generosity of Grandfather Plague has its limits.