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Index: Chaos (2017), p56 — Death Guard

The Death Guard are foulness made manifest. They are a vision of unnatural corruption, of nobility, courage and strength perverted into nightmarish foulness and diseased might. Cities, worlds, even entire systems rot at their touch, the power of Nurgle spreading inexorably wherever the Death Guard raise their flyblown banners.

Resilience. Obstinacy. Brute force. Even before they fell to Chaos, these were the watchwords of the Death Guard Legion. Led by their Primarch, Mortarion, the Death Guard specialised in grinding, attritional warfare, ploughing unstoppably over their foes while taking pride in weathering the worst that their enemies could hurl at them. Thanks to the genetic legacy of their Primarch, the Death Guard possessed a remarkable resistance to poisons, toxins and phages of every sort; no such underhanded weapon or lethal atmospheric condition could lay them low.

The Death Guard were rightly proud of their implacable might, none more so than their Primarch. Yet there was a seed of resentment in Mortarion's heart, for the gifts of his Legion were neither glamorous nor glorious, and won them little acclaim. It was this Achilles' heel that Horus used to turn the Death Guard to his cause. The majority of the Death Guard followed their gene-sire into damnation, becoming the linchpin of many traitor battle-lines.

It was as Horus' Legions advanced upon Terra that the Death Guard found themselves inexplicably lost upon the fickle tides of the warp. Weeks passed with no sign of salvation, during which a terrible plague began to spread from ship to ship. The Death Guard, so long immune to mere mortal frailties, found themselves bloating and sickening. The Destroyer Plague swept through their ranks like wildfire, leaving them ever more rotted and corrupt yet singularly unable to die. At last, Mortarion himself contracted the terrible sickness. In his delirium, the Primarch beseeched Nurgle to save his Legion, and the Plague God - who had planned for this all along - graciously accepted the service of the Death Guard.

The Legion that emerged from the warp in time to join the attack on Terra bore little resemblance to the noble soldiers who had plunged into the warp weeks earlier. Pus and glowing green slime dripped from burst and rusted armour. Bloated, flabby flesh spilled forth, thick with pustulent buboes and weeping sores. The Death Guard were swollen with the sick powers of their new patron, taking a macabre joy in spreading Nurgle's plagues to all who faced them. So it has been ever since, the Death Guard marching at the behest of their rancid god and spreading his blessings to unwilling victims from one end of the galaxy to the other.

Tainted Legions

Unlike so many of their fellow traitors, the Death Guard lost neither their discipline nor their cohesion after the retreat into the Eye of Terror. With Mortarion's rise to fully fledged Daemonhood, the Legion broke into smaller warbands led by their mightiest champions, but still they continued to fight with a singular identity and purpose. Mortarion still directed his plague-ridden sons from afar, and the Death Guard continued to recruit new warriors into their ranks, albeit often by force.

Plague Lords such as Typhus, the Host of the Destroyer Hive, have continued to lead attacks upon realspace and spread metaphysical plagues far and wide. Since the opening of the Great Rift, the Death Guard have redoubled their efforts, revealing that both their numbers and their martial structure were greater than even the most pessimistic Imperial commanders had feared.

Death Guard armies are built around cores of ultra-resilient infantry, Plague Marines and befouled Terminators trudging forwards amidst the drone of a billion plague flies. Plague Sorcerers and hulking Lords lead these lumbering traitors into battle, while before them stagger reeking masses of diseased Cultists and unliving mutants. Massed firepower and armoured support is provided by rusted packs of Helbrutes and Daemon Engines, while Death Guard tanks rumble through the muck and murk of the battlefield with their guns roaring. Occasionally, even larger and more terrifying war engines lend their might to the Death Guard attack, rotted Titans and huge, bloated Daemons crushing the enemy underfoot as they spew corrosive filth across their ranks.

Utilising sustained bombardments and relentless advances, the Death Guard pummel their enemies into submission. They chant droning mantras of worship to Nurgle, or chortle with revolting mirth as they gun down the foe, but always ensure that a few survivors escape - infected with the terrible plagues of Nurgle, such victims spread sickness and disease before the Death Guard like a bow wave, and ensure their conquests come all the quicker.