- "Buboes, phlegm, blood and guts! Boils, bogeys, rot and pus! Blisters, fevers, weeping sores! From your wounds the fester pours."
Nurgle, also known as the Plague Lord, is the Chaos God of Disease, Decay, Death and Destruction. In particular, the emotion of despair in mortals empowers him. He is known also as "Grandfather Nurgle," the "Lord of Pestilence" and the "Lord of Decay." He is the third of the Chaos Gods to fully awake within the Warp, emerging during the 2nd Millennium in the midst of Terra's European Middle Ages, as great plagues swept across the world heralding his birth.
Nurgle is the Chaos God most directly involved with the plights of mortals, particularly humans who suffer so acutely from a fear of death, perhaps the oldest fear of that species, or any other. While Nurgle is the God of Death and Decay, he is also the God of Rebirth. Decay is simply one part of the cycle of life, without which no new life could grow. In the same way, Nurgle is also the God of Perseverance and Survival.
While those who wish to spread decay and corruption are certainly amongst his followers, there are also those who wish to endure, to become resilient enough to handle the difficulties and opportunities presented by an uncaring universe. Many of those affected by Nurgle's poxes usually turn to him in order to escape the pain caused by sickness and disease.
Nurgle is the Great Lord of Decay and the Master of Plague and Pestilence. All things, no matter how solid and permanent they seem, are liable to eventual corruption and death. Even the process of creation is but the precursor to destruction and decay. 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 swept the universe, Nurgle is not a morose purveyor of despair and gloom, but a vibrant god of life and laughter. In death, there is life. Upon the decay of the living untold numbers of bacteria, viruses, insects and other carrion-feeders thrive. All life feeds upon other life to exist, and from every plague grows new generations, stronger and more virile than those who came before. Regeneration comes from decay, just as hope springs from despair. The greatest inspiration comes in the darkest moments; in times of crisis mortals are truly tested and driven to excel.
To understand what might otherwise seem contradictory or even perverse in nature, one must first comprehend that which Nurgle embodies. On the one hand, he is the Lord of Decay, whose body is wracked with disease; on the other, he is full of unexpected energy and a desire to organise and enlighten. The citizens of the Imperium know full well that their lives will end one day 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 dreams and ceaseless activity.
Nurgle is the embodiment of that knowledge of mortality and the unconscious response of all sentient beings to the knowledge of their own ending. He is the hidden fear of disease and decay, the gnawing truth 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 the mind. His skin is greenish, leathery and necrotic, its surface abundant with running sores, swelling boils and fruitful 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 Grandfather Nurgle's rotting intestines and suck upon his 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, the wilful and the strong.
As Nurgle's gifts multiply in full-blown pandemics, his power reaches a peak. Whole star systems -- even whole sectors -- are quarantined as plague runs rife across the stars. Proud civilisations wither away even as Grandfather Nurgle 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 among men and aliens. Yet his worshippers exist in numbers enough to ensure his daemon servants access the material dimension wherever plague abounds. This is just as well, for of all the Chaos Gods, it is Nurgle who most appreciates the personal touch.
Nurgle's sacred number is seven, his colours are those of rot and ruin, waste and vomit, mucus and pus. He is represented by the colours of green and brown, generally the most putrid variations of each. Nurgle also embodies the will of Mankind to struggle on no matter what opposes it, albeit perversely. Suffering, death, pain: human beings push these things from their minds and try to forget them by living in the moment in the hope that the future will be a better one.
For this reason Nurgle, his daemons and mortal followers usually demonstrate a disturbing joy at the pestilence that he inflicts, seeing the plagues as gifts and the cries of their victims as gratitude for the strength to overcome the obstacles of a mortal life rather than agony. The Plague Lord is often referred to as "Grandfather Nurgle," "Father Nurgle" or "Papa Nurgle" by his followers because of this hideous paternal stance.
It has recently been uncovered by the Aeldari Harlequins that Nurgle is in possession of the Eldar Goddess Isha (whom he rescued from Slaanesh's clutches), and imprisoned her within his realm in the Warp. Nurgle utilises her for his experiments, creating new contagions and diseases to spread into the material universe. With her divine powers of healing, Isha quickly regenerates from these tests, although Nurgle gleans what information is desired from the temporary effects. It is said that, secretly, she whispers the cures to those diseases to the mortals of the universe.
Lord of Plague
- "Indeed the very process of construction and creation foreshadows destruction and decay. The palace 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 stone of everlasting regret."
- —The Lost and the Damned
One of the four great Chaos Gods is Nurgle. He is most commonly called the Lord of the Decay but is also known by many names such as the Fly Lord, the Great Corruptor, the Master of Pestilence. The power of Nurgle is embodied in entropy, morbidity, disease and physical corruption. Of the four great Ruinous Powers Nurgle is said to be the one most involved with the plight of mortals. Through the gifts of raging fevers and shaking chills Nurgle's hand is upon them from cradle to grave. Few escape the touch of Nurgle in their lives.
He is sometimes called the Lord of All because all things, no matter how strong and secure, fall to physical corruption and entropy in the end. Every Chaos God embodies the hopes, fears and other strong emotions generated by mortal beings. In the case of Nurgle, their fear of death and disease is the source of his greatest power. The mortals' unconscious response to that fear, the desperation to cling to life no matter what the cost, gives Nurgle an opening into their souls.
The whispered prayer of a parent over a fever-struck child, the anguished pleas of the dying man for one more day of life; these are meat and drink to Nurgle. The power of Nurgle waxes and wanes as his pandemics sweep across the galaxy. When untold billions fall prey to the newest plagues his strength can overshadow that of any of the other Chaos Gods for a period. At other times the power of Nurgle withers away to lay quiescent until circumstances are ripe for it to erupt forth once more.
- "Entropy is all-consuming, fed by all struggles against it. Thus, even to hope is to despair. So despair, and in your desperation, find purpose."
- — Zlans the Wracked, Speaker of Rot
There is nothing in all of Creation that does not decay. No civilisation forever endures the machinations of its rivals. No king survives the plotting of his enemies. No life avoids decay. Not even the False Emperor, with all His deluded sacrificial supplicants and thousands of attending Tech-Priests, will elude the ravages of time and his eventual demise. The question is what happens when the end comes. Nurgle is the answer to that question.
Each inevitable ending brings with it an equally certain start to something new. When a Catachan Spiker traps and consumes a careless Imperial Guardsman, the life of the soldier ends and a new Spiker grows. Rotted flesh that sloughs from the arm of a diseased underhive ganger is left in the sewers to feed the plague-rats that scrape out a miserable existence in those dark, maggot-filled tunnels. Even a Rogue Trader whose contract is terminated must seek out new avenues for commerce. There is no ending that does not result in the hope of renewal.
It is because of this inescapable fact of life that Nurgle is known to many as the Lord of All, for there is nothing that transpires anywhere that does not serve his ends. Truly there is no being, no action or outcome that does not further Nurgle's aims. In truth, Nurgle could simply sit back and wait for the universe to unfold according to his design. He is not content, however, to wait. He has too much energy, too much enthusiasm for his work to just sit idly by.
From deep within his manse he brews contagion, both physical plagues and virulent ideas, that he and his followers then unleash upon the mortal realm. He welcomes the resistance of those who attempt to deny him, for each time they erect defences against his advances, he learns new ways to circumvent the opposition. Each cure breeds a newer, more powerful disease. Every victory for his enemies is pyrrhic, coming at a cost so great that it leaves the defenders open to the tender predations of Nurgle’s ever-evolving poxes. This is the nature of Nurgle. Resistance is self-defeating. Change is a delay, nothing more. Running and denial only buy time at a cost of suffering, and time has no meaning in the Realm of Chaos.
Records of the many sentient races of the galaxy often say that Nurgle corrupts, that he brings ruination to all. To a small extent, they are correct, but their evaluation is narrow in scope and fails to grasp the greater truth. The more primitive races have a much better understanding of the undeniable nature of the Master of Certitude. Life is struggle and erosion. To face the dawn is to await the dusk and, in turn, to endure the night.
On a grander scale, if a being had the luxury of observing the rise and fall of empires, of seeing the birth of suns and their eventual collapse into swirling masses of cosmic destruction, the observer would surely recognize the rightful place of Nurgle as the Shepherd of Destiny.
It is only Nurgle's fondness for rot, for disease and decay, that prevents more from accepting his truth. It can be difficult for a mortal to accept that the rotting of a limb or the expulsion of his entrails is a blessing. Yet it is so. Even the decrepit Emperor of Man, ensconced in His Golden Throne, sits as a testament to Nurgle's greatness.
Each day a thousand souls give their fleshy bodies and immortal souls to this false idol in a vain attempt to preserve His rotting presence. It is a losing battle, but the ammunition spent in the conflict, the human bodies sent to their wasted doom, does indeed serve a purpose -- Nurgle's purpose. Each mortal that falls begets new life and new hope. This is the trade in which Nurgle traffics. Flesh is the coin of his realm, and hopes are the interest he pays on the investments made. Truly, Nurgle embodies the nature of all things, and thus earns his honorific as the Lord of All.
Imparting Hope to a Hopeless Existence
Life within the Screaming Vortex beyond the Calixis Sector, or for that matter anywhere else in the unfeeling galaxy, is harsh, miserable, and full of pain and suffering. Service to an uncaring God-Emperor or an eldritch and absent cosmic deity is ultimately empty and devoid of meaning. Men live and die, and for what? For others to stand on their graves and proselytise? Where is the reward in that? For those who accept the boundless gifts of the Father of Plagues, everlasting hope is the ultimate reward.
Decay is unavoidable. Bolters rust, the shells they fire are spent, and the fingers that pull their triggers wear down with the passing of time and repeated action. Over the course of their lives, mortals sustain injuries, become infected, sicken and succumb to their wounds or, more simply, to age. It is impossible to escape deterioration, and yet people try.
The struggle to forestall decay moves people to action. It motivates them to greatness. It gives them hope that better times lie ahead; endless possibilities in a universe that seemingly knows only certain crushing doom. It is the Plague Lord that brings light to the darkness. It is Nurgle that gives weak mortals the strength to resist the lies of the Ecclesiarchy and others. It is the Embracing Grandfather who encourages his followers to defy the doom of mortal corruption, and instead use it as a source of strength and inspiration.
In the market squares of backward planets and in the drone-filled cathedrals of the chapters of the Adeptus Ministorum, preachers spew their lies upon an unsuspecting and dimwitted flock. They warn against corruption of the soul and filth of the spirit. They admonish their listeners that to turn from their faith is to join the ranks of the Lost and the Damned. Their words cannot encompass the horror of the truth.
All Chaos Gods have a dual nature, but Nurgle, more so than any of the other Ruinous Powers, understands that the supposedly separate elements of his essence actually work together in a self-sustaining cycle rather than standing apart from one another as different explanations of the same thing. Khorne, for instance, is a god of bloodshed and killing -- of utter carnage -- and also one of martial pride and a sense of accomplishment or betterment. These two halves can be seen as two sides of the same coin, but the coin must be flipped to view and appreciate its obverse.
But this coin is illusory; there is no divide between its two faces, no beginning and no end. The coin is nought but a feeble mortal metaphor for the truth of Nurgle’s influence. On one “side” there is decay, death, and disease. What would be on the other side of this coin is in fact part and parcel of the first side. Hope, rebirth, resistance, and growth all arise directly from facing death and decay. The Seers of the Eldar Craftworlds and the Inquisitors of the Imperium will never share this truth with the weak-minded fools who drink in their lies like mother’s milk.
For a Lord of Chaos, Nurgle's actions seem oddly harmonious -- caring even. To receive the blessings of Nurgle, all one has to do is want to live and be willing to do whatever it takes to cling to life. All else follows naturally from there. Worshipers of Khorne must push toward ever-greater levels of destruction and carnage despite the risks to themselves or even to their allies. Those who devote themselves to Tzeentch must deny their lot in life and seek to change everything, never appreciating what they have. Followers of Slaanesh seek to escape reality in a blur of sensation and self-delusion. All that is required to feel the caring touch of Nurgle is to see life for what it is and to want to make the most of it. All that is needed is faith in the future provided by Nurgle.
While an invitation to stroll down Nurgle's pox-strewn path should be welcomed as an honour, not all see it as such. Wasting away under the seemingly malign influence of a skin-eating disease is painful to the afflicted and often repulsive to those around him. When a child’s flesh turns a sickly pale green and her eyes glaze over and become dull, milky, unseeing orbs, her father comes to know that he is powerless to prevent her suffering. Seeing a friend’s battlefield wound blacken and ooze blood-tinged pus, the stench of its rot choking the air of a barracks, is a reminder of the frailty of all mortals.
If this decay comes at the hands of Nurgle, via the thrust of a rusted blade or the unleashing of a plague, many will curse his name. For those who are unable to see that this pain and suffering lifts the veil that hides the truth of life and death from them, such moments and visions are terrifying. Some blessed mortals, however, are able to look beyond the putrescence and see the decay for what it is -- a gift from the Lord of All.
This gift, regardless of the form it takes, opens eyes even as it liquefies them. It simultaneously atrophies the leg muscles of its recipients and gives them the strength to march toward a greater purpose. It is Nurgle's great ambition to speed this universe toward its end by eroding the foundations of reality much as a disease can erode the spirits and bodies of those infected. Through his careful and ceaseless experimentations, begun within his wondrous Garden and then unleashed throughout the galaxy, the pillars that support the framework of existence are slowly but surely weakened.
There will come a time when they collapse entirely and the universe will begin a massive transformation. The old ways will be swept aside like a troublesome fly. All that was will cease to be, and from the rotted ruins a new and glorious reality will emerge -- one dominated by Nurgle and his beloved children. Those who walk with Nurgle and aid him in bringing about the Great Corruption, as Nurgle calls it, do so with joy in their hearts. They know that Nurgle's victory is assured and that when all things come to an end and life begins anew, they will have helped make it so. This makes theirs a life worth living, despite, and because of, the gifts of their caring master.
- "I gazed at his magnificence, my vision completely filled with his glorious girth. All around me was flesh and smiling flies. Within his bulk I spied lesser minions, suckling on his leaking entrails. At his feet pools of pus and other bodily fluids gathered, in which his children splashed and played with glee. It was a blessing to behold such glory and joy. It was with great sadness that I awoke into a world filled with Imperial dogma and admonitions. I knew then the path I must walk."
- — Taken from the Journal of Ulbirna
When it comes to understanding the glory that is the physical form of the Plaguefather, those who are privileged enough to be able to read about him in the pages of secret texts hidden away in the Black Library are on equal footing with the primitive warriors gathered around sooty bonfires within the wandering Kill Kroozer battleships of marauding Orks. Nurgle, like other Chaos Gods, does not have one single form that can be recorded, shared, analysed, or conceived. His is majesty unfathomable by the mortal mind.
Still, if one were to delve into the comparative histories and galaxy-wide myths associated with Nurgle, certain commonalities would present themselves. Whereas other gods within the Realm of Chaos are associated with dozens, even hundreds, of depictions, there are far fewer variations on the appearance of the Plaguefather. The legends and tales universally describe Nurgle in unflattering terms.
He is said to be a vast mound of rotting flesh, with open sores and gaping wounds in which his lesser minions cavort and frolic. Weeping pustules ooze filth and his bowels constantly issue putrescent waste. Beneath his fingernails, maggots and other carrion feeders lay eggs around which develop cysts that periodically burst open and spew their rancid payloads. Perhaps the tales are correct. Perhaps they are not. It does not matter, though, because whatever it is dwells within the mansion at the centre of the Garden, there can be no denying that the creations of this being are both foul and wondrous, and the joy with which he goes about his work is infectious.
Even if none of the insanity-inspired stories of Nurgle can be counted on to be perfectly accurate, the similarities among them are too hard to dismiss, and those similarities extend beyond the gut-churning descriptions of his open sores, exposed intestines, and stupefying stench. Rot and decay are part of Nurgle’s nature, but so it seems are jocularity and enthusiasm. Such is the paradox of Nurgle.
Indeed, it may be his boundless energy, the passion with which he delights in his work, and his irrepressible joviality that erodes the minds of so many who contemplate his existence. It seems impossible to believe that a rotund, foetid purveyor of plague and ruin could simultaneously positively beam with mirth and have such concern for the billions of souls upon whom he has inflicted his wracking and hideous poxes. To bend the mind toward the task of reconciling such foulness with such frivolity is to invite madness.
Those who are able to do so without slipping into lunacy are fortunate. They will have taken an important step toward understanding the Great Corruption that is to come. Unlike their less "enlightened" brethren, they alone will recognise that the Plaguelord is a tireless gardener of rot, who is always trying to prepare the slowly eroding realm they call reality for its grotesque apotheosis.
- "His enemies shall wither and die. His allies shall wither and die. The universe and all within it shall wither and die. And when the Great Corruption has settled over the land, and permeated the very foundations of reality itself, then shall the Lord of All rise from the rot and ruin, spread his arms wide to reclaim all his dutiful children..."
- — “The Victory of Rebirth,” from Litanies of Inevitability
Though they strive to embrace each day of life left to them, to forestall the inevitable, those who serve Nurgle must accept their eventual death. They must also believe in the equal certainty of rebirth. This hope for something new and glorious is the great comfort that the Plaguefather has shared with them. It is a hope born from Nurgle's own understanding of the workings of the universe. Just as his followers have accepted the teachings of their lord, Nurgle himself long ago accepted that decay brings an end to all things, but that through such decay life begins anew. Decay is the victor in all battles, the opposition to which there is no resistance.
This is why Nurgle embraces decay as a weapon, as a tool, and as a means of instructing and guiding his followers. Decay is at the core of Nurgle's philosophy and methods. Blessed with reshaped forms and renewed purpose, the minions of Nurgle become his instruments in the Great Corruption. As vessels and embodiments of decay, mortals and daemons alike are effectively living fuel, powering the great cycle through their actions and, indeed, their simple rotting, infectious presence in the Realm of Chaos and the mortal plane.
Rot, Glorious Rot
Few who pledge themselves to Nurgle do so in the belief that he offers an easy path to power and glory. He does not promise increased influence, brutal strength, or hedonistic excess like his fellows. Those who turn to him for aid are not seeking to make their dreams become reality, to strike down those who stand in opposition, or to be adored by all who know them.
No, most mortals who find their way into Nurgle's foetid embrace wish only for an end to some sort of suffering. They call to him to protect them from the ravages of disease, to save them from the slow, painful death of unchecked infection, or to otherwise spare them from whatever may ail them. There are even some who do not seek him out but are instead visited by one of his messengers and offered a bargain.
No matter if they sought his gifts or if they themselves were found, the exchange is never quite what was expected. These mortals have their doubts and fears cast aside. They find that they are no longer caught in the paralysing grip of despair and misery. Their afflictions, however, linger, and are usually joined by other blights. New sores and pustules appear, the foul liquids they contain becoming home to small worms and maggots. Bellies swell and distend, the flesh straining to contain bleeding entrails that push the abdomen outward. Old wounds rip open again spontaneously and invite fresh infections. Whatever diseases or weakness these mortals once sought to leave behind take up permanent residence within their bodies and minds.
All this must be accepted as the first lesson Nurgle teaches -- decay is inescapable, but also glorious. This knowledge is illuminating for those who follow Nurgle. If all things decay, each moment is a gift. Why not use these moments to shape what is to come and secure a place in it? Why sit idly by wallowing in pain and sorrow when there is so much to do and so little time in which to do it? As these thoughts race through the minds of the newly converted, it dawns on them -- their pain is deadened. Even with so many new afflictions, so much rancid corruption of the flesh, the suffering has abated. Hope arrives.
For these newest of Nurgle's adopted children, it is as if the morning fog has lifted and they see the world clearly with fresh eyes. Why had they complained about their poxes and failing bodies? What selfish desires to change their fates had prevented them from realising their true purpose? Rot, glorious rot, becomes the constant companion for a servant of the Lord of All, instructing them, guiding their path, and reminding them that they are fortunate beyond measure to have been chosen by Nurgle to receive his gifts.
Indeed, many discover that the initial malady from which they suffered, the one that drove them to seek salvation in the first place, was actually bestowed upon them by Nurgle. Rather than anger, it is joy that springs from this knowledge. These mortals believe themselves to have been chosen, destined for greatness as a true champion of Nurgle.
Champions of Decay
Relatively few of those who receive Nurgle's glorious blessings distinguish themselves as much more than a tiny but welcome maggot, doing their part to eat away at the rotting corpse that is the decaying universe. Those who do differentiate themselves invariably exemplify the precepts of Nurgle's philosophy and emulate his grand and corrupted form at a level that leaves no doubt as to which of the Ruinous Powers has claimed their souls. These are the Plaguefather's mortal champions, and it is through their foul deeds that many of the greatest accomplishments of Nurgle's plan are achieved.
So often these champions take on an appearance not unlike that of their dark patron. This is not unusual for minions of the Plaguefather. Great Unclean Ones are said to be small (though still massive in their own right) versions of Nurgle himself, and in turn their excreted offspring, the Nurglings, look like miniature replicas of the Great Unclean Ones that gave them life. Likewise, mortal champions become bloated, stinking, leaking collections of rotted flesh, exposed entrails, necrotic sores, and all manner of foulness. They are surrounded by clouds of flies and followed by Nurglings that splash about in the slime trails that spread out behind them to mark their passing.
Unlike the minions of the other Gods of Chaos, Champions of Nurgle do not hesitate to pursue enemies into the most dank, disgusting, and polluted places. There is no cesspool or sewer noxious enough to deter Nurgle's followers. No quarantined plague zone is off-limits. Once a Champion of Nurgle has the scent of his foe, no amount of stink can throw him off. The determination that is such part and parcel of all that Nurgle's lessons impart serves his Champions well as they do whatever must be done to serve their lord.
Lesser worshipers of Nurgle who follow them are unperturbed by the grotesque condition of Champions and draw inspiration from the macabre beauty of their rotting forms, the sickly sweet odour of their rancid flesh, and the corruptive acts they commit in the name of Grandfather Nurgle. The Plaguelord's followers all end up mimicking his appearance in one way or another. Some even became his children because they started out life bearing some passing resemblance to him. Nurgle is more than form, though. He is also philosophy. Most mortal Champions, and many lesser followers, end up thinking like he does, though in a limited fashion due to the constraints of mortal minds, but it is the daemonic champions that know their father's thoughts the best.
Great Unclean Ones understand Nurgle in a way that no mortal -- not even one elevated to the rank of Daemon Prince -- ever could. They are nearer to their god than any mortal, and more closely involved in his plans than any Plaguebearer or other daemonic servant. There is little place for jealousy or scheming in the Garden of Nurgle or any of his domains beyond, and his Daemon Princes know this. Though they wish for nothing more than to be one with the Plaguefather, they also know they will never be as close to him as the Great Unclean Ones are. As they do with so much else as a result of Nurgle's teachings, they accept their lot.
This relationship to their god differs from that of other Daemon Princes. The other Ruinous Powers take particular pleasure in deceiving mortals, damning them by tricking them with lies and promises they know they will almost certainly never need to keep. They see their daemonic followers, even their Champions, as never having had a choice but to do as they are commanded. They view these daemons more as slaves to darkness than co-conspirators with it. In their eyes, this makes mortal servants somehow more interesting.
Nurgle, on the other hand, knows most of his mortal followers turned to him as a last act of desperation, but his daemonic minions, most especially the Great Unclean Ones, have genuine affection for Grandfather Nurgle and serve him out of love. Nurgle delights in reciprocating, reminding him as it does of a kind of cycle, and therefore takes great interest and pride in the efforts of his daemonic champions. The desires of Nurgle and his champions are one. Each knows that the Great Corruption is a higher purpose that must be served, and they do so with great resolve and satisfaction.
The Gods of Chaos are all ultimately after the same thing. Each wishes to overthrow the existing order and claim dominion over both the Realm of Chaos and the mortal world. The questions of how this is to be achieved and which lord the universe will call master are answered very differently by each of the Dark Gods.
Slaanesh would see all of existence turned into a playground in which he and his minions could eternally explore new delights. Khorne desires nothing more than to claim every skull and drop of blood to use as the mortar with which to build the foundations of his new kingdom. Tzeentch surely has his own plans for what a twisted reality reshaped in his image would look like, but he has not shared what that might be. Perhaps he does not even know himself. To Nurgle, these alternatives are indistinguishable -- self-indulgent fantasies with no sense of greater purpose or understanding of the nature of things. To him, the ambitions of the others seem small.
Reality will be remade. Both the mortal plane and the Realm of Chaos have ever been on a path of decay, and from decay come death and endings. Endings, but not finality. It seems that Nurgle alone comprehends the meaning of this, the distinction. Where his brother gods each envision a destination at the end of the path, Nurgle knows that the journey turns ever back upon itself in a loop, leading to rebirth, revitalisation, and new beginnings.
It is this fundamental divergence of views that sets Nurgle at odds with the other Ruinous Powers, for it means that they are not actually working toward the same thing that he is. On the surface, it appears to the others that while the methods each employs may be different, the end result is much the same -- the destruction of the Imperium, the enslavement or destruction of all mortals, and final dominion over all existence.
This is, though, a superficial understanding. Differences come to light in many ways. Slaanesh is content to allow Plague Marines to inflict grievous damage on an army through blight and disease, but is then perplexed when Nurgle's servants do not allow the minions of the Prince of Pleasure to play with the wounded, absconding with their shattered forms before delights can be explored. To Khorne it is all well and good to work with his brother Nurgle in an effort to blast a Kroot colony into oblivion, but he cannot fathom why the Plaguelord insists on leaving their former homeland untouched rather than raze it to a charred, lifeless stone. Still, these incidents pass, written off as the eccentricities of their jolly brother.
Tzeentch, however, is another matter entirely. He refuses to give Nurgle his due or to allow him to pursue his own path. He tweaks, twists, and diverts. He warps, redirects, and alters. The Master of Change is unable to accept that which will surely come to pass. He is constantly looking to modify the rules to his advantage so that his desired ending is the one that will come to pass, even if it means interfering with Nurgle's desires, no matter how small the consequences of those desires may appear to be.
Nurgle knows that such meddling is pointless. He knows that the journey down the path does not stop, but the machinations of his brother are vexing and irritating just the same. The actions of Khorne and Slaanesh are a small inconvenience, but Tzeentch's games play havoc with Nurgle's plans, creating setbacks that are needless and counterproductive to not only Nurgle's own goals, but also those of the other Dark Gods. Very little causes Nurgle's smile to dip, but Tzeentch seems to be able to provoke that reaction at will. When the universe dies and then rises again, it is one of the greatest hopes of the Lord of All that like the Corpse God of Man, Tzeentch will not be reborn with it.
Cult of Nurgle
Nurgle is the mighty Lord of Decay who presides over all physical corruption and morbidity in Creation. Disease and putrefaction, the inevitable entropic decline of all things, are the favours he bestows upon the universe. The Chaos God's immense body is bloated with corruption and exudes a sickly, diseased stench. His skin is greenish, leathery and necrotic, its surface pock-marked with all of his various boils, running sores and favorite infestations. From his exposed guts spill tiny Lesser Daemons, his Nurglings, who dine upon the filthy fluids that ooze from Grandfather Nurgle's many festering wounds. It is to free themselves from despair -- the eternal mortal dread of disease, starvation and death -- that men and other mortals turn to the Plague Lord.
Despite his horrific appearance, Nurgle is a warm, welcoming god who prides himself on the achievements of his followers, gifting them with his most hideous diseases even as he protects them from all pain and the cold sleep of death. The fear of death can be found in the hearts of all the sentient beings of the universe, and so there is no shortage of mortals of every species present in the galaxy willing to sacrifice their immortal souls in return for the corrupted preservation of their physical bodies for all time.
Compared to the other Chaos Gods, many of Nurgle's followers worship him by no choice of their own. The taint of Nurgle spreads readily among beasts and humanoids alike, and the awful arcane illness known as Nurgle's Rot may strike even the strongest person and cause him or her to be outcast as a leper. Despite the nature of his influence, Nurgle takes an interest in the victims of the diseases he unleashes (which he considers to be "gifts"), jovially caring for them in a manner similar to a loving grandfather; for which reason he is frequently referred to as Grandfather Nurgle by his servants. This also causes some that would have otherwise never been infected to seek out disease and even poison themselves to earn his favour.
The deranged worshippers of the Lord of Pestilence say that he concocts diverse contagions to inflict on the material universe for his amusement, and many of the most infectious and horrible diseases are Nurgle's proudest creations. It is their belief that those who die caught in the grip of one of Nurgle's terrible poxes are swept directly to his realm. Those that sing the praises of Nurgle loud enough are sometimes spared so that they can spread his blessings further, for the church of the Fly Lord is always open to all. Nurgle has many supplicants but there are few with the fortitude to declare themselves as his Champions. The few that can survive the Great Corruptor's manifold blessings exhibit a feverish, morbid energy and a preternatural resistance to physical damage.
Those that fashion themselves Champions of Nurgle represent a dire threat to densely populated worlds, where close-packed populations are vulnerable to a single contagion. Ships in the void are particularly vulnerable to disease and many dying crews have beseeched the Lord of Decay for his intercession. Such was the fate of the Death Guard Space Marine Legion when it became marooned in the Warp on the long journey to Terra during the Horus Heresy.
While they lay becalmed in the Immaterium, a mysterious contagion spread from one to another of the Death Guard's voidships until the entire fleet was infected. Even the reinforced physiology of the Space Marines could not fight off the dire plague as it bloated the guts, distended the flesh and rotted its victims from the inside. It is said that when even the Legion's Primarch, Mortarion, fell victim to the plague he cried out to the Ruinous Powers of Chaos in his delirium. His desperation to save himself and his Legion called forth Nurgle, and Mortarion became his greatest Champion. These Chaos Space Marines became known as the Plague Marines, his most potent mortal servants. Thus, the Death Guard Legion has enjoyed the favour of Nurgle for the last ten thousand standard years.
Nurgle and the Death Guard
- "In the embrace of great Nurgle, I am no longer afraid, for with His pestilential favour I have become that which I once feared: Death."
- — Kulvain Hestarius of the Death Guard
The Death Guard are a Traitor Legion entirely steeped in the power of Nurgle, the God of Plagues, their very essence the epitome of all that vile Chaos God stands for. Their bodies are hives of filth and decay, their flesh eternally rotting away even as it is renewed by the ceaseless process of death and rebirth.
Once, however, the Death Guard were the strongest and most resilient of all of the Emperor's Legions, the inheritors of the Primarch Mortarion in whose genetic image they were created. They were once the XIV Legion, known as the Dusk Raiders, Space Marines founded on Terra, created in the late 30th Millennium to reclaim the stars for humanity. For some time, they fought with distinction and were nearly indistinguishable from the other Space Marine Legions.
Operating in the role of heavy infantry, the Astartes of the XIV Legion were experts at survival and endurance, and quickly gained a reputation among the other newly-forged Legions as relentless and disciplined fighters. Their grey and unadorned Power Armour began to carry the symbols of rank and decoration, now modified, that once formed the armorial imagery of the Ironsides of Old Albia, a nation of techno-barbarians on Old Earth before the Unification Wars, and most tellingly their right vambraces, gauntlets and shoulder plates were painted the deep crimson of drying blood, now symbolising the red right hand of the Emperor's justice.
After the XIV Legion was reunited with its Primarch Mortarion on the Feral World of Barbarus, he renamed the Legion the Death Guard. The XIV Legion's Astartes had been primarily Terran-born before Mortarion joined the Legion; after that time almost all of the Legion's Neophytes were drawn from Barbarus.
This changed the culture and traditions of the Legion, so much so that by the last days of the Great Crusade in the early 31st Millennium, there were increasing tensions between the Barbarus-born Astartes and the Terran minority who remained in the Legion and who remembered the Dusk Raiders' earlier martial traditions brought out of Old Terra.
These tensions became most clear in the period directly preceding the first battle of the Horus Heresy at Istvaan III, when approximately one-third of the Legion was judged by Mortarion to be likely to remain loyal to the Emperor when the Legion joined the Warmaster Horus in his rebellion against the Imperium. Many of these Loyalist Death Guard Astartes were Terran-born, former Dusk Raiders like Battle-Captain Nathaniel Garro of the Death Guard's 7th Great Company whose loyalty to the Emperor outweighed their devotion to their Primarch.
Mortarion's warriors were ever to be found at the centre of the battle line, their strength and determination the inheritance of their Primarch, making them the unbreakable core of any Imperial army of conquest. When the Horus Heresy plunged the galaxy into civil war, the warriors of the Death Guard found themselves becalmed in the Warp and assailed by Warp-born plagues so virulent that not even their legendary resilience could withstand them. Soon, the entire Legion was beset by a sickness that bloated their bellies with corpse gas, caused flesh to slough from their bodies and made these strongest and toughest of warriors into crippled wretches assailed by delirium.
Though none can say exactly what forces acted upon the soul of the Primarch of the Death Guard, whether he was already damned or whether he made his pact in some state of fever, he must have called out for deliverance, and his call must have been answered. When finally the Death Guard Legion's fleet emerged from the Warp, its vessels and its warriors were entirely changed.
The once-gleaming white and grey armour was stained with filth, and the noble warriors were transformed into walking hives of death and abomination. Worse still, the "Plague Marines" of the Death Guard were now hosts for the most virulent afflictions that their new patron, the Plague God Nurgle, could concoct. Condemned to a deathless state of decay, the Death Guard would spread their pestilent diseases the length and breadth of the galaxy for the greater glory of Chaos.
With the ending of the Horus Heresy, the Primarch Mortarion led his Legion into the Eye of Terror, and while others had splintered into countless warbands, the Death Guard remained largely whole, thanks in no small part to their legendary strength and resilience. Mortarion led them to a world that would become known simply as the Plague Planet, which he moulded into a new and despicable form, making it a virtual copy of Barbarous. To this day, Mortarion's Death Guard launch their assaults through the Cadian Gate and into the galaxy beyond, sometimes in large bodies and at others lending strength to allied forces. Wherever they travel they spread the joyful, exuberant poxes of Nurgle, gifting those who would know eternal life with the choicest of the Plague God's blessings.
Nurgle is typically depicted as an immense, bloated humanoid, his body swollen with putrefaction. His skin is shown as leathery and necrotic, his surface pocked with running sores, swelling buboes and oozing wounds. Internal organs bulging with decay spill through splits in the ruptured skin to hang like bunches of scrofulous grapes around his vast girth. Nurgle is often illustrated with hordes of tiny daemons bursting forth from his pustules and suckling upon foulness. His sickening, pus-covered form is accompanied by an enveloping cloud of buzzing flies.
Nurgle is the age-old enemy of the Chaos God Tzeentch, the Lord of Change. Their energies come from diametrically opposing beliefs; Tzeentch's power derives from hope and changing fortune while Nurgle's comes from defiance born out of despair and hopelessness. The followers of Nurgle often pit themselves against those of Tzeentch in complex political intrigues in the mortal realm, forever attempting to mire his schemes for change in dull-minded conservatism and parochial self-interest.
Their corrupting influence is often successful in thwarting the Architect of Fate and they erode his accomplishments constantly, safe in the knowledge that whatever survives the collapse into entropy becomes their inheritance. Nurgle and Tzeentch are in many ways opposed, for at the heart of the matter the Changer of Ways seeks to build ever more complex and improbable webs of power, while Nurgle embodies continuous growth, destruction, and renewal.
The war between the two powers is ceaseless and played out across countless realities. That which Tzeentch creates and evolves to undreamed of heights of complexity and insane perfection, Nurgle's servants gnaw away at, seeking to bring the entire edifice toppling down so that new growth can emerge from the fecund grave.
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 Garden of Nurgle 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 relatable 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 Chaos 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 of 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 Aeldari, 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.
While the mortal realm is laid waste by blight and pestilence, the lands of Nurgle in the Realm of Chaos thrive on disease and corruption. Tended by the Lord of Decay, this unwholesome realm is home to every pox and affliction imaginable and is foetid with the stench of rot. 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 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 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 tumbling walls, Nurgle toils. Beneath mildewed and sagging beams, the great god works for eternity 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 through 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 mighty lord, a host of Plaguebearers are gathered about Nurgle. Each 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 the ladle on the cauldron, so eternal 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, encroaching upon the lands of the other Chaos Gods. War follows, as Nurgle's adversaries fight back and the Plaguebearers 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 will eventually recede again, it 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.
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 bellow 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.
Vibrant Grounds of a Morbid Estate
Nurgle is unlike the other Ruinous Powers in 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 Chaos 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.
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 standard 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.
The Aeldari believe that when Slaanesh the Lord of Pleasure awoke in the early 30th Millennium, their gods were destroyed outright. Yet there is one myth upon a single Craftworld that tells of how the Maiden Goddess Isha was not slain by the Dark Prince and absorbed by Slaanesh like the rest of the Aeldari Pantheon after his birth during the Fall of the Aeldari.
Slaanesh vanquished her as he had all of the other Aeldari Gods within the Warp, but only took her prisoner rather than absorbing her energies outright. What foul purpose Slaanesh had in keeping Isha alive, none amongst the Aeldari now know, but the Prince of Pleasure was ultimately denied his spoils: for some reason Nurgle, the Plague Lord, waged war against Slaanesh to "rescue" the Aeldari goddess.
Why Grandfather Nurgle intervened is unclear, although some Aeldari savants believe that one of the oldest of the major Chaos Gods wanted to give the youngest amongst them a good lesson about his proper place in the order of things. What is known is that Nurgle's daemonic forces proved victorious and he took the Aeldari goddess back to his domain in the Realm of Chaos. A goddess of rejuvenation and a god of decay seemed an odd pairing, but Nurgle came to adore his new companion like no other being in the universe.
Yet the adoration of a Chaos God is a strange thing, for Nurgle shows his affection in cruel ways. Nurgle keeps Isha imprisoned in a rusted cage in the corner of his cauldron chamber within his personal manse. It is there that he keeps the cauldron where he mixes the elements that create all of his plagues and pestilences. When the Plague God creates a particularly pleasing brew, he forces Isha to imbibe the putrid mixture, watching with building excitement for the symptoms of his latest contagion.
Though as the Goddess of Healing, Isha can cure herself of the disease's ravages, the speed with which she is free from its grip allows the Plaguelord to evaluate his creation's virulence. If Nurgle is pleased, he returns to his cauldron and empties its contents into a bottomless drain, the noxious liquid falling as rain upon one of the mortal worlds. If the concoction does not meet with Nurgle's approval, he gulps down the contents of the cauldron, vomits it back into the pot and starts afresh.
While the Plaguefather is busy at his cauldron, Isha accepts her lot stoically, and fights back against the Plague God's evil in the same way she once fought against Khaine, whispering the cures to these new diseases into the universe so that mortals might know them and resist the hideous designs of Grandfather Nurgle.
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 repugnance. 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 at the mercy of her grotesque admirer. These Asuryani believe their legends to be absolute truth and even aspire to one day free their goddess from Nurgle's unctuous grasp.
So it was that when Lugganath was ravaged by the Brittle Coma, an army of its most gifted psykers cast their minds into the realm of Nurgle in pursuit of the truth of the myth of Isha's captivity, hoping to find their lost goddess and put a halt to their Craftworld's deadly malaise with her freedom. 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 message to the Spiritseers and lift Nurgle's curse from their homes.
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 chanelled 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 solar days, and swathes of Nurgle's Garden were blasted to ruin in the process. However, in the material dimension, the physical form 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 air 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 those who enter uninvited into the heartlands of Nurgle, for even the generosity of the Grandfather of Plagues has its limit.
- "So many wondrous joys! So many hopes and dreams! Oh, Plaguefather, your gifts are boundless! Still, I will make an accounting of them."
- — Pusmaw, Plaguebearer of Nurgle
The daemons of Nurgle are truly putrid in their appearance and sickening to look upon. Their flesh pulses with the feverheat of corruption, their innards push through lesions in their putrid skin and their bodies ooze with sticky slime.
Yet in contrast to their hideous appearance, Nurgle's daemons are cheerful, energetic beings that show a disturbingly friendly demeanour. They are jovial in their work and show great pride in their accomplishments, interpreting the groans of the afflicted as expressions of gratitude justly won by their efforts. The daemons of Nurgle include the following:
- Nurglings - Nurglings are tiny, mischievous daemons who are small facsimiles of Nurgle himself. These rotund imps normally appear in large numbers, forming swarms which accompany armies dedicated to Nurgle. Occasionally, very dedicated Chaos Champions of Nurgle will become infested with Nurglings, which will live in gaping wounds and orifices on the Champion's body; when the Champion comes under attack, these little monsters will help defend their "home".
- Plaguebearers - Plagubearers are rotting, wasted creatures of vaguely humanoid size and appearance, with a single burning eye. These vile Lesser Daemons form the rank and file of the Plague Father's pestilent legions. Flies continually buzz around them, therefore making them more difficult to fight. The many diseases carried by these daemons can be used to terrible effect during battle.
- Plague Drones - High-ranking Plaguebearers are known amongst the daemonic legions as Plague Drones; a title that conveys commendable humility. These overseers of Nurgle's realm ride into realspace mounted upon Rot Flies. From their lofty positions, the Plague Drones can properly tally the diseases running rife across the battlefield, as well as swiftly intervene should Nurgle's divine plans meet with heavily-armed resistance.
- Rot Flies - Rot Flies are colossal daemonic insects whose appearance is so repugnant that it scars the mind. These vile creatures are the most loathsome of Nurgle's creations. Only the forbidden tomes of the Eldar Black Library speak of the forbidden process by which these creatures are birthed, for they hatch in the sticky depths of Nurgle's gardens in the Realm of Chaos, where the visionary and the loon wander in their dreams.
- Beasts of Nurgle - Beasts of Nurgle are truly horrendous daemonic aberrations. They have the soft, sticky and mottled body of a pallid slug, webbed feet that flap uselessly, a face of writhing green tentacles, and a whiptail growth that bursts from its back and which wags constantly from side to side.
- Slime Hounds - Slime Hounds are foul creatures resembling a putrid, overgrown, mutated slug.
- Great Unclean Ones - Undoubtedly the foulest of the daemonic servants of the Ruinous Powers, each of these Greater Daemons are shaped in the fashion of Nurgle himself; massive, bloated disease carriers whose decaying flesh bulges with corpulent cancers. They usually carry a great rusted blade known as a Plague Sword into battle, said to be dipped in the foul pus and contagion that lies at the base of Nurgle's throne in the Warp. They are the most powerful of Nurgle's daemons and generally act as the leaders and father figures for the other daemons of the Plaguelord, epitomising Nurgle's joyful, paternal nature.
- Epidemius - Epidemius is Nurgle's chosen Tallyman, one of the seven Proctors of Pestilence and the cataloguer of all the Plague Lord's diseases. Epidemius' task is an unending one, and it generates a great deal of paperwork, so he rides a palanquin to share the burden -- and to more easily force a path through Nurgle's hordes. Two dozen Nurglings attend the Tallyman's every need, providing the parchment, operating the death's head abacus, excreting the ink for the quill pens and even defending Epidemius from harm should a foolish enemy venture too close.
- Vile Savants - The Vile Savants are horrific manifestations of the daemonic diseases that claimed mortal lives and appear as the putrescent remains of the flesh they wore. The Vile Savants are avatars of plague and destruction. They appear as figures wearing sealed containment suits that are slick with filth and beaded with moisture like sweat on fevered skin. Inside, there is nothing but putrefied liquid flesh and writhing vermin, held together by the sagging structure of the suit. The daemonic forces that motivate them drive their stumbling, boneless limbs on with macabre and implacable purpose. A palpable aura of utter horror and rotting miasma surrounds them, and to simply be unfortunate enough to witness these awful things is terrifying. Worse still is to hear their buzzing voices inside one's head or become the subjects of their experimentations in the death of flesh.
- Plague Swarm - A Plague Swarm is a daemonic force of mindless destruction that materialises in the corporeal universe as a rippling mass of locusts, beetles, flies, or other such creatures twisted into utterly horrific form and redolent with rot and decay. These hellish swarms move as one implacable and unholy mass, stripping flesh from victims as they pass, tainting and destroying everything they touch.
The Plague Legions
To those subjected to their loathsome assaults, the legions of Nurgle seem like an amorphous mass, but amidst the shambling anarchy there is purpose and design. Like the stages of the diseases they carry, each Plague Legion is part of an overarching cycle of fecundity and decay, and exists only to see Nurgle’s garden flourish and his gifts bestowed.
From the Garden of Nurgle lumber the Plague Legions, the dreaded armies of the Great Corrupter. When they go to war, be it in the Realm of Chaos or realspace, they bring the boundless generosity of their master and the products of his endless labours with them, and leave contagion, anguish and death in their wake.
All Plague Legions are Nurgle's creations, and so carry pestilence and propagate their master's foul will, yet each is associated with specific stages of the Fly Lord's cycle of decay and regeneration. The Fecundus Legions are tasked with the making of diseases; it is they that travel across reality and unreality to gather the raw ingredients that will be added to the cauldron of their foul god, and the worst ills suffered by the mortal races can be attributed to their diligence.
The Infecticus Legions are the harbingers of infection, the carriers of new diseases that lay the groundwork for the greater virulence to follow. The Pathogenus Legions are disease fully bloomed, sickness made manifest, the very height of contagion; they are equally capable in both attack or defence, and will be often be deployed to guard key sites within Nurgle's Garden or spearhead an assault.
The Epidemic Legions contain the most daemons, for they expand, proliferate, and regenerate; it is they that spread outwards, ensuring initial gains turn into rampaging outbreaks. The Rot Legions revel in decay, their festering powers and potent blessings able to break down anything; more than any other daemonic legion, their presence cultivates the ground for the Garden of Nurgle to spread.
The Morbidus Legions are the reapers, the tolltakers, and the bringers of death. The Necroticus Legions are the most resilient; they use hopelessness and despair as a weapon, and can absorb terrific punishments. And on it goes, each of the daemon legions of the Plague God specialising in some grotesque aspect of Nurgle's cycle of birth, decay, death and rebirth.
Each Plague Legion is led by a Great Unclean One, a Greater Daemon of Nurgle that acts as its general. They dote over their charges in the manner of a loving parent, cajoling each of their Plague Legion's seven Tallybands upon its appointed tasks. Ever eccentric, Nurgle encourages the same aberrations amongst the most powerful of his shepherds. These unusual traits go as far towards colouring the composition and tactics of the army they lead as does the daemon legion type itself.
Some Great Unclean Ones, for example, favour entirely airborne assaults, going to battle with clouds of Plague Drones that darken the skies and excel at aerial strikes. Others enjoy seeing their victims buried in slavering Beasts of Nurgle, or ground slowly into the dirt by wave after wave of mumbling Plaguebearers.
Great Unclean Ones cycle through phases over the course of their immortal lifespans, assuming new mantles with each new legion they take command of; for example, they may lead an Epidemic Legion to spread diseases before moving on to command a Rot Legion in order to bask in such maladies. When the cycle nears its end, a Great Unclean One will scab over with necrotic patches, and in his state of advanced decay will lord over a Necroticus Legion. It is not long before his body will shed the rotting husk of its old skin to reveal the new blooms of fresh disease, and it is then he will once again lead a Fecundus Legion.
Beneath the Great Unclean One are the leaders of the Tallybands, either Daemon Princes or daemonic Heralds of Nurgle such as Poxbringers, Sloppity Bilepipers and Spoilpox Scriveners. Each receives a grandiloquent title of the general's invention, selected to match the bearer's skills, proclivities, or war tasks. Examples include the Lords of Fulsome Filth, the Almighty Bringer of Rancid Decay, or the Sloptoxic Master of Bubbling Buboes.
The Tallybands can vary in size, swelling to epidemic proportions as Nurgle's power waxes in the Realm of Chaos or contracting into small, elite warbands when it wanes. At its peak, however, a Tallyband is composed of seven packs of the Lesser Daemons known as Plaguebearers or Plague Drones. Depending upon the predilections of its leader, and the ebb and flow of the cycle, a Tallyband may also include Beasts of Nurgle or swarms of Nurglings, although such anarchic beasts rarely remain with the formation beyond the duration of a single battle.
- "Rejoice, children! Your Father brings you hope in your darkest hour. Let those who would accept his gifts come forth and receive the blessings of the Lord of Decay. Cast away your crutches and doubts. Put aside beliefs in a false master who fills your hearts with lies, sorrow, and regrets. Embrace instead the glorious gifts of rot and decay. Revel in the beauty of putrescence and be reborn a living symbol of perseverance."
- — The Daemon Prince Gal’furth, addressing the diseased inhabitants of the conquered city of Kulis VII
Nurgle the Plague Lord is the psychic manifestation of the most predominant collective fear of all sentient beings: the fear of death. Nurgle is the embodiment of disease, decay and the death these states ultimately bring to all living things. Most Nurglites rarely end up in the service of the Plague Lord willingly; for those who contract a deadly disease or are forced to face the reality of their own mortality, Nurgle offers a potential escape from the painful ravages of illness or an untimely death -- in return for an individual's soul and his eternal damnation.
Among all the major intelligent species of the galaxy, Mankind fears death and the onset of nonexistence the most, and it is humans who have always been the majority of the Plague Lord's servants. In return for their allegiance and service, Nurgle offers his worshippers complete immunity to all disease and pain -- by infecting them with every natural disease in existence and many that are unnatural extensions into realspace of the arcane power of Chaos.
Champions of Nurgle can become among the most powerful Chaos servants in the galaxy, though they will also be afflicted with some of the most all-encompassing, and disgusting, physical mutations that Chaos can bestow. Nurglites become swollen, walking bags of pus and putrescence, their very skin swelling and rotting from their bones even as they continuously leak organic fluids infected with every loathsome bacteria, virus, fungus and infectious agent that can be conjured by the imagination.
In return, Nurglites are completely immune to these diseases, or any disease, and their rotting bodies also become physically robust, capable of withstanding injuries and damage that would destroy even those enjoying the most robust health. At the same time, despite their seeming infirmity, those who have sworn their souls to Nurgle feel no pain; in fact, quite the opposite, for many Nurgleites report feeling a sense of power and almost narcotic-like well-being that is far more pleasurable than they felt before the mutations began.
The inspiration for Nurgle comes from the ancient Babylonian god Nergal. Portrayed in hymns and myths as a god of war and pestilence, Nergal seems to represent the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction, as high summer was the dead season in the Mesopotamian annual cycle.
- Apocalypse (Supplement), pp. 171-172
- Black Crusade: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 11-13, 215-216, 300, 355-357
- Black Crusade: The Tome of Decay (RPG), pp. 6-12, 18-20
- Codex: Chaos Daemons (8th Edition), pp. 18-21
- Codex: Chaos Daemons (6th Edition), pp. 14-15, 46-52, 61-65, 74, 78, 83, 91-92, 96-100
- Codex: Chaos Daemons (4th Edition), pp. 13, 30, 34, 38, 42, 48, 52, 59, 64, 69, 75-76, 78-85
- Codex Heretic Astartes - Death Guard (8th Edition), pg. 17
- Codex: Chaos Space Marine (6th Edition)
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (4th Edition)
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 2nd Codex)
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 1st Codex)
- Codex: Chaos (2nd Edition)
- Codex: Eye of Terror (3rd Edition), pp. 9, 17
- Dark Heresy: Creatures Anathema (RPG), pg. 124
- Dark Heresy: Daemon Hunter (RPG), pg. 92-93, 98
- Dark Heresy: Disciples of the Dark Gods (RPG), pp. 147-151
- Deathwatch: First Founding (RPG), pp. 84-85
- Horus Heresy: Visions of Death by Alan Merrett
- Imperial Armour Volume Seven - The Siege of Vraks - Part Three
- Index Astartes III, "The Lost and the Damned - The Death Guard Legion"
- Realm of Chaos: The Lost and the Damned
- Imperial Armour - The Horus Heresy - Book One: Betrayal, pp. 120-137
- Imperial Armour Volume Six - The Siege of Vraks, Part Two
- Imperial Armour Volume Seven - The Siege of Vraks, Part Three
- Liber Chaotica
- Liber Chaotica: Nurgle
- Realms of Chaos: The Lost and the Damned, pg. 176
- Rogue Trader: The Koronus Bestiary (RPG), pg. 118
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (6th Edition)
- White Dwarf 304 (UK), "The Enemy within – The Followers of Chaos Walk Among Us"
- White Dwarf 303 (US), "Crux Terminatus - Plague Marines", pp. 24-29
- White Dwarf 291 (US), "Plague Bearers: Death Guard Fiction" & "Tactica Death Guard"
- White Dwarf 282 (AUS), "Heroes and Villains of the 41st Millennium – Typhus, Herald of Nurgle"
- White Dwarf 274 (UK), "Index Malleus: Daemon of the Warp"
- White Dwarf 272 (UK), "Nurgle, the Lord of Decay"
- White Dwarf 264 (US), "Index Astartes (First Founding): The Lost and the Damned - The Death Guard Space Marine Legion", pp. 68-75
- White Dwarf 224 (UK), "Chaos Cultists"
- White Dwarf 218 (UK), "Realm of Chaos"
- White Dwarf 217 (UK), "Realm of Chaos Preview"
- White Dwarf 216 (UK), "Chaos Warriors"
- White Dwarf 207 (UK), "Great Unclean One"
- White Dwarf 205 (UK), "Veteran Chaos Space Marines"
- White Dwarf 204 (UK), "Plague Marines: Chaos Plague Marines of Nurgle", pp. 33-35
- White Dwarf 201 (UK), "Chaos Terminators"
- White Dwarf 200 (UK), "Chaos Dreadnoughts"
- White Dwarf 188 (UK), "Plague Engines of Nurgle"
- White Dwarf 182 (UK), "Plaguebearers, Daemonettes and Mounts of Slaanesh"
- White Dwarf 170 (UK), "Chaos Space Marines"
- White Dwarf 148 (UK), "Daemons and Daemonic Warmachines"
- White Dwarf 132 (UK), "Realm of Chaos, Pt. 2"
- White Dwarf 131 (UK), "Realm of Chaos, Pt. 1"
- White Dwarf 122 (UK), "Traitor Terminators, Pt. 2"
- White Dwarf 119 (UK), "Nurgle"
- White Dwarf 116 (UK), "Traitor Terminators, Pt. 1"
- White Dwarf 114 (UK), "Palaquins of Nurgle"
- White Dwarf 109 (UK), "Lords of Change and the Great Unclean Ones"
- White Dwarf 107 (UK), "The Lost and the Damned - Chaos Renegades"
- Flight of the Eisenstein (Novel) by James Swallow
- False Gods (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Blood of Asaheim (Novel) by Chris Wraight
- Cadian Blood (Novella), Aaron Dembski-Bowden
- Down Amongst the Dead Men (Novella) by Steve Lyons
- Hive of the Dead (Novella) by C.Z. Dunn
- The Unkindness of Ravens (Novella) by George Mann
- Treacheries of the Space Marines (Anthology), "Vox Dominus," (Short Story) by Anthony Reynolds
- Labyrinth of Sorrows (Audio Book) by George Mann
|Khorne • Nurgle • Slaanesh • Tzeentch|