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Warhammer 40,000: Dark Imperium (2017), p2-3 — The Death Guard

The Death Guard trudge inexorably into battle amidst the drone of endless swarms of flies. Bloated, rotten and riddled with disease, these revolting traitors are virtually immune to pain. Each Heretic Astartes is utterly dedicated to spreading the feculent blessings of the Plague God Nurgle and working the will of their cadaverous Daemon Primarch, Mortarion.

There are few sights more revolting than that of the Death Guard marching to war. Pallid flesh bulges through splits in rusting armour plate. Rancid effluvium dribbles from pipes and lesions. Maggots squirm busily in gangrenous wounds, whilst toxic smog billows thick and polluted from censers and pus-clotted vents. Plague flies swarm around the Death Guard like smoke rising from a pyre, the mindless drone of their wings mingling with the thump of boltguns firing and the tolling of verdigrised bells.

Spattered with the mud and blood of the battlefield, reeking of rot and decay, the Death Guard advance relentlessly upon their enemies like the corpses of the risen dead. Yet there is much more to these grotesque warriors than first glance would suggest. Far from cold, dead things, the Death Guard seethe with revolting life. As the favoured mortal servants of Nurgle, the Chaos God of Plagues, the Death Guard are blessed with an abundance of foul contagions, parasites and bacteria that swarm through their riddled bodies. The sacred genetic sorcery used to create the Adeptus Astartes has been perverted in these traitors, superhuman organs transformed into pulsating incubators for phages and foulness beyond measure.

Any living thing so diseased ought to drop dead within a single beat of its worm-eaten heart. Sustained by the ebullient energies of their revolting god, the Death Guard are instead strengthened by their dubious blessings. Pain and suffering are notions that apply only to their victims; fear is a laughable concept to such ghastly beings. Warriors of the Death Guard can sustain the most monstrous wounds and continue to fight, battling on with arms torn off, torsos blown open and necrotic flesh crisped black by fire. Many foes employ volleys of plasma fire or salvoes of tank-busting weaponry to lay the lumbering Plague Marines low, and even this is no guarantee of success. Making the most of their horrific resilience, the Death Guard favour grinding, attritional warfare, scything their enemies down in punishing, close-ranged fire fights.

The Death Guard were not always such monstrous beings. During the glorious days of the Great Crusade, when the Imperium sought to reign supreme over a subjugated galaxy, the Death Guard were one amongst eighteen loyal Space Marine Legions who fought at the Emperor's side. Then came the Horus Heresy. Brother fought brother, the realms of Mankind burned in the fires of betrayal, and fully half the Space Marine Legions turned to the worship of the Ruinous Powers. The Primarchs, demigod gene-sons of the Emperor himself, led the Legions. The Primogenitor of the Death Guard was Mortarion, a mighty warrior but a soul consumed with bitterness and jealousy toward his peers. Mortarion's desire for power led to the slow curdling of his spirit. It was this chink in the Legion's armour that Nurgle needed to corrupt the Death Guard, transforming them from noble warriors to corpulent plague carriers, damned forever to Nurgle's service.

Despite their cursed existence, the Death Guard revel in spreading their patron's plagues. Nurgle himself is a rambunctious god, proud of his followers' achievements and indulgent of their whims. Many of the Death Guard are so rotted in mind and soul that they share their god's warped sense of jollity, chortling wetly through muck-encrusted vox grills as they maim and slay. Others are grim and morose, hacking and blasting their way across the battlefield with no more sound than the foetid rasp of their spore-thick breath. Whatever the case, the Death Guard fight an endless war to further the plans of Grandfather Nurgle, and they will not stop until nothing remains of the Imperium but a diseased wasteland of rotting filth.