"And there shall come seven plagues, and in them you shall read his works, writ in black bile and red ruin across the land. And he shall come amongst you; all shall feel his touch, and wither. In righteous joy, he bestows these gifts. Rejoice!"
- — Imperial Astropath Sythia Zale, moments before her execution
A Great Unclean One is a grotesquely corpulent Greater Daemon of the Plague God Nurgle, the Chaos God of disease, death and decay. These loathsome daemons are the harbingers of the lord of rot and ruin, and amongst Grandfather Nurgle's greatest servants, bearers of his most sacred plagues and poxes.
Their forms are squat and mountainous, covered in rotting flesh and open sores that weep foul rivulets of pus. Hot ropes of intestines dribble out of huge tears in their enormous, bloated and distended bellies. This horrific girth is supported by two impossibly small and atrophied-looking legs, and their inordinately large, bulbous heads are crowned by enormous stag-like antlers.
To the mortal eye, a Greater Daemon of Nurgle is undoubtedly the foulest of all the daemonic servants of the Ruinous Powers. Each of these Great Unclean Ones is shaped in the fashion of Nurgle himself; flyblown, maggot-ridden innards spill into view through the tears and gashes in his swollen belly as he lumbers forwards. Clusters of pustules and weeping buboes erupt from his hide, birthing small swarms of giggling Nurglings. Noxious juices seep from dozens of infected sores, leaving a glistening trail of mucus in the Great Unclean One's wake. Few mortals have the stomach, let alone the will, to oppose such a being.
Great Unclean Ones are Nurgle's lieutenants, the field generals of his Plague Legions. As monstrous and horrific as their appearance is, these Greater Daemons are possessed of a paternal affection at odds with this nightmarish form. Gregarious and sentimental, a Great Unclean One takes pride in the achievements of his followers and looks upon all the creatures in his legion as his "children," and his underlings look upon him as an embodiment of Grandfather Nurgle. Each Greater Daemon pays careful attention to all of his followers, and is noticeably proud of their appearance and endearing behaviour.
A Great Unclean One takes delight in his minions' smallest boils, revelling in the variety and effulgence of their poxes and heaping praise upon them with vociferous proclamations. With a wave of his arms such a monstrosity sends forth his Tallybands, booming words of encouragement and gurgling guffaws across the battlefield. This boundless energy and drive is possessed by all Great Unclean Ones; constantly working to extend the process of rot and decay, they are heedless of their own comfort while parts of the galaxy still remain untouched by Nurgle's bounty.
"Let root rot and bower blight, to feed the plague of fortune."
- —Aghalhor, Bringer of Poxes, Greater Daemon of Nurgle
Great Unclean Ones are facsimiles of the Chaos God himself both physically and in spirit. Every Great Unclean One is also actually Nurgle himself in some sense, and their followers often refer to them as "Papa" or "Father Nurgle." Great Unclean Ones are seldom deathlike or morbid in character; in fact, they are usually motivated by the same trivial enthusiasms that drive the living. They are gregarious and even sentimental in their nature with a remarkable fondness for their followers. They often refer to their followers as their "children" and take great pride in their appearance and oddly endearing behaviour.
Indeed, it is not uncommon for Great Unclean Ones to compete amongst themselves in the matter of spreading Nurgle's plaguesome blessings across the galaxy. They take great pride in the achievements of their fellow servants of Nurgle, proclaiming vociferously the splendours of the poxes and sores evidenced by those around them, and laugh heartily at the death and destruction wrought in Nurgle's name.
Their appearances on the mortal plane is heralded with an ear-shattering howl of glee, as they burst through the veil of reality, delighted to walk upon the firmament of realspace once again, spreading their bounty of plagues upon mortals. Often disease and desolation on a planetary scale herald their arrival as entire populations are stricken with the corruption of the Plague Lord's favoured plague which is known as Nurgle's Rot.
This disease is the most contagious, rapacious, and most heinous of all sicknesses, poxes, and fevers Father Nurgle has ever conceived. The afflicted mortals slowly suffer as the plague ravages their bodies, turning them into bloated, rotting, living corpses before they succumb to the inevitable, agonising demise. The bile-slick Great Unclean One then waddles through the collapsed cities and the mounds of the dying, happily bestowing his blessings, borne aloft on a living tide of chortling, chattering Nurglings.
Where the Greater Daemons of Nurgle's rival gods are disproportionate in their master's favour, the Lord of Decay loves all his children equally -- even if some are clearly more accomplished than others. Rather than operating as part of a hierarchical structure, Great Unclean Ones are given epithets and tasks in accordance with the stage of growth and fecundity that they currently represent. Those given the title of "Lord Fecundus" are chiefly concerned with propagating diseases, and lead Fecundus Legions or serve in the Garden of Nurgle. A "Grand Impoxenator" title signifies that the Great Unclean One commands an Infecticus Legion, tasked with the spreading of glorious malignancies. It is said that before a Great Unclean One can gain Exalted status, he must first successfully lead a Plague Legion of each stage of the cycle.
Great Unclean Ones are motivated by all the trivial mortal enthusiasms that drive the living. They are ebullient and raucous, full of a natural impulse to organise and achieve. Driven to coordinate Nurgle’s chaotic endeavours, a Great Unclean One seeks to instill purpose and function in the daemonic rabble under his command. Globules of yellowy-green spittle fly from his wide mouth as the Great Unclean One urges his minions onwards. With chiding grumbles, the Greater Daemon harries those who are tardy in advancing or who seem less energetic in the pursuit of the goals of Grandfather Nurgle. The love of their minions fills a Great Unclean One with joy, but they are consumed with indignation when a foe seeks to thwart Nurgle, and this escalates to paternal rage when his underlings are harmed.
When roused to war, a Great Unclean One is terrifying to behold. Though ponderous, they are all but unstoppable on the advance, shrugging off the bolts and blades of the foe as though they were naught but bothersome insects. Aided by the momentum of his charge, a Great Unclean One will throw his immense bulk upon his victims with all the force it can muster, the selfless act of generosity warming its rotten heart. Those that survive are met with a combination of diseased Plague Flails, iron-bladed Bileswords, filth-encrusted Bileblades and rusted Doomsday Bells. It is not physical attack alone, however, that makes a Great Unclean One so dangerous; by breathing deeply of the festering powers of the Warp, he can summon a pestilent wind to wither his foes, vomit forth a steaming tide of filth, maggots and mucus, or bless his underlings with new tumorous growths that cover over the worst of wounds.
If threatened with bodily harm, the thousands of diminutive Nurglings that follow in the Greater Daemon's wake will attack an unwary opponent, dragging them down in a murderous wave the instant their "father" is attacked. Natural-borne carrion creatures, numbering in the thousands, gather around the Greater Daemon to protect it and trail in its wake. Hordes of sky-blackening flies, rats, vultures, crows, and worms inevitably follow a Great Unclean One's passing.
Great Unclean Ones long ago became inured to pain, a result of their abundant infections, plagues, and virulent sores. Their truly massive size and their ability to withstand almost any level of injury and pain make them dangerous adversaries, as they can absorb astounding amounts of damage before finally falling to the attacks of their foes. These daemon lords possess a hellish prowess which seems at odds with their bulk and squat stature. They barrel into their enemies, laughing boisterously, all the while laying about them with colossal rusty cleavers and seven-headed Plague Flails. The thick cloud of flies which feast at their open sores disrupt the attacks of their enemies and spread the putrid diseases of their host. All the while, the cooing Nurglings form a hideous vanguard for their patriarch and in a playful gesture do all they can to help spread their progenitor's beloved plagues to all those nearby.
- Plague Flail
- Bileblade (Optional replacement for Plague Flail)
- Doomsday Bell (Optional replacement for Bilesword)
- Nurgling attendants' claws and teeth
Notable Great Unclean Ones
"Sing, sweet choir of ailments, let voices and buboes rise. Riddle them with juicy poxes, and ooze out their rotting eyes."
- —Ghrubex, Poxlord, Greater Daemon of Nurgle
- Botchulaz - Botchulaz was trapped by the Aeldari within the psychic construct known as the Black Pyramid on the Imperial Hive World of Aerius. The key to this prison was the artefact known as the Talisman of Lykos, which was split into three pieces, one of which was found on the Space Wolves' homeworld of Fenris, another on the world of Galt and the third in the vaults of the Inquisition. In the late 41st Millennium, Botchulaz manipulated several servants of the Imperium into reuniting the pieces of the talisman and freeing him from his prison, but these Imperial heroes were able to salvage the situation in time to re-imprison the Greater Daemon at the cost of many Imperial lives.
- Bolothrax - In 529.M33 three Imperial sectors are overrun by a vast army of the Immaterium referred fearfully to as the "Daemon Tide." Deploying into the daemons' path, five knightly houses -- led by the renowned Nobles of House Terryn -- form an adamant bastion to halt the rampage. Using swift-loping packs of Armiger Helverins and Warglaives, High Queen Desmadara Terryn channels the daemons through the shattered valleys of Godsmote. As the Warp-born creatures spill onto the Hollow Plain they are subjected to thunderous bombardment by two dozen Knights Castellan. The daemons' casualties are phenomenal, yet with no concept of fear they surge onward to exact revenge. Over six hundred Questoris-class Knights storm out to meet them, enduring barrages of sorcery, flame and filth that send towering Knight suits toppling in ruin. With Queen Desmadara and her Exalted Court at the lance-point, the Knights slam into the still-vast daemonic horde. They carve a path of annihilation to its heart, the ground shaking beneath their tread, unclean ichor drenching their legs. Though empyric fiends and coruscating Warp energies tear down one Knight after another, their momentum is unstoppable. At last, with Reaper Chainswords howling and Thunderstrike Gauntlets crackling, the Exalted Courts of three knightly houses engage the masters of the Daemon Tide. The battle that follows is so grandiose and cataclysmic that it spawns a hundred songs, tales and tapestries. Several heroic Knights are slain by the enormous Great Unclean One Bolothrax, before the Knights Valiant known as Master of Iron and Fellbreaker successfully pinion the foul abomination with their Thundercoil Harpoons. With their quarry unable to move, the Knights hack the mighty daemon apart. Bolothrax's banishment spells the end for the Daemon Tide, though they wreak much more destruction before they finally fade back into the Warp. It is on that day that Bolothrax's unending grudge against House Terryn and all its descendants is born. Later, in the years after the opening of the Great Rift, Bolothrax would gain his revenge. Amidst the swirling fury of the Damocles Gulf, High King Tybalt leads the Knights of House Terryn in their latest push against the T'au invaders. They strike at the recently reclaimed T'au colony world of Shans'et, formerly an Imperial-held planet known as Gossamehr. Initially, the Terryn offensive progresses well. The Knights are supported by a force of Raven Guard Space Marines, who scout ahead of their advance and repeatedly negate the xenos enemy's rapid-manoeuvre tactics. The battle takes an unexpected turn, however, as the skies curdle into matted filth and black rain falls, rotting all that it touches. From the sucking morass rise the Daemons of Nurgle, led by the bloated abomination that is Bolothrax the Great Unclean One. In the vicious conflict that follows, House Terryn sustains terrible losses, while the vengeful Bolothrax wounds High King Tybalt sorely and fells the Knights of three of his closest blood relatives. It is only when the Raven Guard lure the T'au forces into contact with the daemonic host that Tybalt's Exalted Court are able to spearhead a breakout. The mauled Imperial forces stage a fighting retreat to their extraction point, battling droning plague creatures all the way. They leave Shans'et to the frustrated daemons, who waste no time in making the T'au suffer.
- Gul'gulm'ga'tol - During the Battle of Hamagora in the early 42nd Millennium, the 2nd Company of the Scythes of the Emperor, newly reinforced with Primaris Astartes Battle-Brothers in the wake of the reinforcements brought by the Indomitus Crusade, found itself under siege upon the Hive World of Hamagora, assailed by an endless swarm of Nurgle daemons. Intercessor Squads established a punishing series of kill-zones amongst the ruins of hive city Agrippa, yet for every daemon they slew, two more emerged from the dank tunnels of the undercity, and their casualties began to mount. Operating in total secrecy, Strike Force Harbinger of the Grey Knights' 5th Brotherhood teleported into the sub-city. Their quarry was the Great Unclean One Gul'gulm'ga'tol, who had turned Agrippa's sprawling sewage works into his personal baths -- hordes of putrid daemons crawled endlessly forth from the morass of rancid gruel. After a bloody battle, the strike team sent Gul'gulm'ga'tol screaming back into the Warp. Hamagora was saved, though the Scythes never discovered how.
- Ku'gath the Plaguefather - Ku'gath is driven by an eternal quest to discover the most perfect pestilence that has ever existed.
- Rotigus - As the Death Guard's siege of the Imperial Hive World of Nebbus reached its seventh standard year in the early 42nd Millennium, Mortarion's Death Guard Sorcerers summoned an ancient evil to aid them. The strange Great Unclean One known as Rotigus joined the fight, bringing with him his appalling aura of infernal fecundity. Protein vats in the hives overflowed as the flesh-broth within them grew at an unstoppable pace, burying entire levels under flabby drifts of bloated meat. Vermin of every sort entered frenzied cycles of birth and death, the Imperial defenders finding themselves overwhelmed by tides of sump-rats, infestations of grizzleworms and million-strong swarms of ravenous ripper jacks. Worst of all was the Deluge of Nurgle, an endless storm of putrid filth-water that seethed with infectious, bacterial life. Soon enough Nebbus' arid plains became quagmires, then stinking oceans that rose higher and higher. The corpse-choked hive cities flooded from the roots upward, their last garrisons fleeing ever higher in search of a salvation that did not exist. Blessed beyond endurance by the plentiful generosity of Rotigus and his daemons, methodically cut to pieces by the thundering guns of the Death Guard, it was almost a mercy when the last of Nebbus' defenders met their grisly deaths and the world was claimed for the Plague God.
- Scabeiathrax the Bloated - Also known as Papa G'aap, Lord of the Blighted Pit, Maggotspore, and the Wind of Nurgle, Scabeiathrax was most recently summoned into the mortal realm in 830.M41 by the Forces of Chaos infesting the world of Vraks Prime during the grinding military campaign recorded in Imperial databases as the Siege of Vraks.
- Septicus Seven - Septicus Seven was the Great Unclean One who commanded the Septicus Legion and was the second in command of the Greater Daemon Ku'Gath within Nurgle's elite daemonic Plague Guard. Septicus often carried with him the glistening stomach sac of some unfortunate creature with protruding hollow antlers, on which he played music as if it was a macabre bagpipe, summoning such terrible sounds that it exasperated even his fellow daemons. During the later years of the Plague Wars, Septicus aided the Plague Guard in claiming the Garden World of Iax in the Realm of Ultramar for Nurgle. The Plague Guard then invaded Parmenio and later clashed with the Imperial forces led by the Lord Commander of the Imperium, Roboute Guilliman. During the battle, Septicus fought Guilliman, but was defeated, and his essence banished back into the Warp by the Ultramarines Primarch with the Sword of the Emperor. Though Septicus' essence was supposedly annihilated by the use of this potent Imperial artefact, as an extension of Nurgle's own consciousness, it was still possible for him to be resurrected. His ultimate fate is not fully known.
- Slogoth Poxbelly - Slogoth led the Plague Armies of Nurglite daemons against the Fortress World of Cadia during the climax of Abaddon the Despoiler's 13th Black Crusade in 999.M41.
- Ulkair - Ulkair manifested on the world of Aurelia in the 40th Millennium when a Warp Storm engulfed that planet, but he was defeated by the Blood Ravens Space Marine and Librarian named Azariah Kyras. But Aurelia was consumed by a Warp Storm and over the course of their mutual imprisonment Ulkair corrupted Kyras to Chaos, ultimately returning him to realspace to reunite with his Chapter and begin the process of corrupting the Blood Ravens to the service of the Ruinous Powers and heralding the return of Ulkair himself. Ulkair's plans were ultimately disrupted only through the heroism of Captain Gabriel Angelos and his fellow Blood Ravens Loyalists.
- Black Crusade: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 13, 357
- Codex Adeptus Astartes - Grey Knights (8th Edition), "Putrid Springs," pg. 25
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 2nd Codex), pg. 23
- Codex: Chaos Daemons (8th Edition), pp. 21, 52-53, 95-96
- Codex: Chaos Daemons (6th Edition), pg. 46
- Codex: Chaos Daemons (4th Edition), pp. 30, 48
- Codex Heretic Astartes - Death Guard (8th Edition), pg. 22-23
- Codex: Imperial Knights (8th Edition), pp. 52-54, "Daemon Tide", "Daemonic Vengeance"
- Dark Imperium (Novel) by Guy Haley, Chs. 16, 20, 27
- Deathwatch - Mark of the Xenos (RPG), pg. 102
- Imperial Armour: Apocalypse, pg. 98
- Imperial Armour: Apocalypse, Second Edition, pg. 103
- Imperial Armour Volume 7 - The Siege of Vraks - Part Three, pp. 166-167
- Liber Chaotica (Background Book), pp. 278-279
- Ragnar's Claw (Novel) by William King
- Realm of Chaos: The Lost and the Damned (2nd Edition), pg. 13
- Dawn of War II - Chaos Rising (PC Game)
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (8th Edition), pp. 53, 158, 161