The Realm of Chaos is the name given to that portion of the Immaterium where the Chaos Gods and their daemonic followers make their homes, if such a concept even has meaning within the formless extradimensional space that is the Empyrean. Beyond the boundaries of physical space, unrestricted by time or causality, there is a dimension incomprehensible to mortal minds. It lies on the other side of dreams and nightmares, infinite in scope but without form or structure. This realm is composed of the psychic energy of love and hate, fear and hope, ambition and despair, and yet it is uncaring, emotionless void.
The Realm of Chaos exists far outside imagination; an impossible abstraction made real only by metaphor and the roiling emotions of mortal minds. It is constantly reborn but has never changed, eternally shifting though endless in potential. No mundane sense can see, smell or hear it, and even the most powerful psykers cannot glean the Warp's true nature, lest they be driven insane.
It is a place where gods thrive in constant war, fighting over the raw stuff of Creation that birthed them. In this unknowable realm, titanic hosts clash, locked together in a conflict that is as old as the universe and can never be truly won. Vast armies rage and scream, each warrior formed only of the psychic energy of emotion, and each driven onwards by the whims of their dark creators.
Sometimes, this dread realm shatters its boundaries and spills into the territory of mortals in so-called realspace. Nightmares and terror are unleashed upon the worlds of men and aliens alike, as armies of slavering fiends and cavorting warriors pour forth alongside regiments of blood-red soldiers and batteries of brazen Warp-forged war machines. While the skies burn with magical fire and rivers of blood drown ravaged cities, the hosts of the Dark Gods slaughter and maim all in their path, feeding upon the souls of their victims. The Realm of Chaos has been made manifest, and there is no escape...
In the Warp, the psychic reflection of similar thoughts and emotions gather together like rivulets of water running down a cliff face. They form streams and eddies of anguish and desire, pools of hatred and torrents of pride. Since the dawn of time, these tides and waves of psychic energy have flowed unceasingly through the mirror realm of the Warp, and such is their power that they forced creatures made of the very stuff of dreams and nightmares.
Eventually, these instinctual, formless entities gained a rudimentary consciousness of their own. The Chaos Gods were born -- vast psychic presences composed of the fantasies and horrors of mortals. These are the Ruinous Powers, and each one is a reflection of the mortal passions that formed them. First amongst them is Khorne, the Lord of Battle, possessed of towering and immortal fury. Tzeentch, the bizarre and ever-changing Architect of Fate, weaves powerful sorceries to bind the future to his will, whilst great Nurgle, the Lord of Decay, labours endlessly to spread infection and pestilence. The last of their number is Slaanesh, the Dark Prince of Chaos, indulgent of every pleasure and excess, no matter how immoral or perverse.
As the intelligent species of the Milky Way Galaxy prospered and grew, so too did their hopes and dreams, their rage and wars, their love and hatred. This burgeoning flood of raw emotion fed the Chaos Gods and nurtured their power. Eventually, the gods reached back, into and through the dreams of mortals, eternally working to influence the physical realm and its myriad sentient races.
A Chaos God can only grow in power through the actions and thoughts of mortals. Those who worship a Chaos God, and behave in a way that feeds it, are rewarded with strange "gifts," extraordinary powers and potentially, immortality as a Daemon Prince. As the Chaos Gods battle in the Warp, so their mortal followers wage war in the material universe. The victors of the battles earn more power for their unworldy master, though the twisted plans of the Chaos Gods are such that often victory is not necessary; merely the acts of sacrifice and battle themselves. When devotees of Chaos die, their souls do not fade in the Warp and disappear like the spirits of others to some unknown and unknowable fate. Instead, their immortal energy is swallowed into the greatness of their gods, their souls sustained forever, bound to the eternal power of Chaos.
Realm of the Gods
Through the dreams and nightmares of mortals, the changing tides of the Warp are moulded into a fantastical landscape and populated with legendary beings. Timeless and ever-shifting, this psychic expanse is known as the Realm of Chaos, the Warp, the Immaterium or Warpspace, depending upon which facet of its existence one is seeking to comprehend. It is a dimension parallel to our own, a universe devoid of consistency and unbound by the physical laws which govern space and time. It is a random, unstructured panorama of pure psychic energy and unfocused consciousness. It is Chaos in its truest sense, unfettered by the limits of physics and undirected by intelligent purpose and will. Warpspace is Chaos, Chaos is Warpspace; the two are indivisible.
The Chaos Gods and their dominions are one, for both are formed of the same basic psychic Warp energy. As a Chaos God gathers energy, it expands in power, its corresponding influence upon the Warp around it broadens and its territory within the Realm of Chaos grows larger. No two visions of these divine realms are ever the same, but all are founded upon the same fundamental themes and feelings.
As extensions of the Dark Gods, the appearances of their domains are formed upon the same emotions that created their masters: Khorne's realm is founded on anger and bloodletting; Tzeentch's lands are scintillating constructs of pure and ever-shifting magic; Nurgle's territory is a haven of death and regeneration, and Slaanesh's dominion is a paradise of damning temptations and hedonistic pleasures.
Though realm and god are as one, the Chaos Gods each have a form that embodies their personalities and dwells at the heart of their territories. Surrounded by their attendant daemons, the Chaos Gods watch over their realms, seeking any disturbances in the pattern of the Warp that signal intrusion or opportunity.
The Formless Wastes
The Warp has no physical dimensions and the Realm of Chaos is without limits or true geography. The areas of influence controlled by the Chaos Gods form their realms and the rest of this roiling landscape is often referred to simply as the Formless Wastes, the Land of Lost Souls or the Chaos Abyss.
Much of the Formless Wastes is random, constantly churning and reforming: rivers of tar flow through petrified woodlands under crimson skies; great stairways lead into the heavens and join themselves from below in an ever-lasting loop, castles made of bones and fortresses of ichor stand amidst copses of limbs, and the departed spirits of titanic god-machines slump in graveyard heaps. Every dream and nightmare, every lunatic vision and deranged fancy, finds its home in the Formless Wastes.
The Formless Wastes are home to the Furies -- daemons created by indecision and random chance. They are heralded by disembodied voices, lacking anything but the most rudimentary awareness and instinct. Greater Daemons and Daemon Princes grown powerful enough to instill a small measure of control over their surroundings also create their abodes in the Formless Wastes -- each of these small islands of structure is a petty domain in comparison to the vast realms of the Chaos Gods within the Realm of Chaos, but each embodies the whimsy of its creator, a small shrine or temple to a niche of belief.
The Chaos Gods are not alone in Warpspace. They have created servants from their own essences -- the creatures that mortals have named daemons based on their ancient legends and religious mythologies -- who are not so closely bound to the Warp. Daemons are entities of a somewhat different nature to their masters, and are the most numerous of the creatures to be found in the Empyrean.
A daemon is "born" when a Chaos God expends a portion of its own power to create a separate being. This psychic power binds a collection of senses, thoughts and purposes together, creating a personality and consciousness that can move within the Warp. The Chaos God can reclaim the independence it has given to its daemon children at any time, thus ensuring their loyalty. It is only though the loss of this power that a daemon can truly be destroyed, its mind dissolving into the whirls and currents of Warpspace.
Daemons have no physical presence within the Warp. The Realm of Chaos is anathema to the laws of physics and the starships that navigate its depths do so by taking a skin or bubble of "reality" with them in the form of their Gellar Fields when they enter using their Warp-Drive. Instead of possessing a true physical form, daemons project a form conjured from raw psychic energy that is essentially a lesser interpretation of their master's fundamental nature. Hence, the bizarre and inhuman appearances projected by daemons indicate their presence, status and allegiance to a Chaos God.
Though it may appear to be made of normal matter when it materialises in realspace, a daemon's form is no more physical than it is in the Realm of Chaos. In fact, they are beings of pure Warp energy given shape and depth. When manifested in the material universe, daemons have particular invulnerabilities and weaknesses, as well as many strange powers derived from their Warp-born nature as psychic beings. Slaying a daemon's physical projection does not kill it, but only severs its presence in reality; its true essence in the Warp remains unharmed.
When a daemon is "killed" in the material universe, it is banished back to the Warp. If not simply re-absorbed by its creator, it must remain there to regain its strength that it eventually might manifest itself again. Legend has it that a daemon banished in this way cannot return for a thousand Terran years and a day, though it is of course impossible to prove such a belief through study, and the concept of time itself is meaningless within the Warp.
The slight to a "slain" daemon's pride is considerable, however, and the daemon is forced to endure the mockery of its fellows until it can return to corporeal form and avenge itself. The most powerful daemons will call upon any servants and tributary Lesser Daemons to help them achieve their revenge. If it has many allies, it may also request their aid, though all daemons are cautious in doing so. Such favours must inevitably be returned, and no daemon welcomes the dominion of another creature, be it mortal or daemonic.
The Great Game
The Realm of Chaos is not merely the home of the Dark Gods; it is also their battlefield, the arena for the Great Game of supremacy over Creation. The Chaos Gods are constantly at war with one another, vying for power amid the immaterial planes. Despite their myriad differences, the great Gods of Chaos have the same goal: total domination of the universe. Such absolute power cannot be shared -- especially amongst the divine.
With the ebb and flow of psychic energy within the Warp, the power of a Chaos God expands and contracts, and his realm will shift accordingly. For long periods, one god may dominate the others, fed by its own success, leeching its foes' energy for its own growth. Ultimately, the other gods will ally against the dominant force and through combined efforts reduce him in power, until another of their number rises to prominence. This pattern is played out again and again through eternity. No Chaos God can ever truly be victorious, for without the Great Game, the Warp would become a still, unmoving emptiness, as it was before the birth of sentient life in the universe.
When the gods war, the Immaterium trembles and Warp Storms rage across the galaxy. Within the Realm of Chaos, hordes of daemons are sent forth to do their masters' biddings, and the lands of the gods strain and heave at each other in physical assault. Possessed of personality and intelligence, the daemons of a Chaos God aspire to draw favour from their master, and often launch their own attacks into the domains of rival daemons. The armies of the Chaos Gods pour from one territory to another, and each reflects their master's nature.
Khorne's daemons advanced as a great legion accompanied by blaring horns; beneath brazen banners, the whips of roaring monstrosities urge on rank upon rank of bloodthirsty footsoldiers. With raw anger and violence, the legions of Khorne cut a swathe though enemy territory, the blood spilt by their attacks polluting the realm of the enemy, turning it into Khorne's wasteland.
Tzeentch is perhaps the most devious of all the gods, for he will always create a weakness to exploit before attacking. Through plotting, innuendo and magic, Tzeentch frequently sets the other gods to war with each other. He waits patiently to see how these conflicts progress and when the time is right, his cackling minions and manipulative magisters sweep forwards upon a carpet of magic, striking at the weakest of the contenders. With magical blasts and warping power, the armies of Tzeentch quickly overcome all opposition and the newly claimed territory swiftly becomes part of Tzeentch's crystalline domain.
When Nurgle's minions are set free, they march forth to spread disease and decay. Sonorous chanting and the rusted clangs of a thousand bells herald their attacks, while the army advances under an impenetrable swarm of bloated carrion flies. Capering daemon-mites carpet the ground before the host, and the noxious poxes of the fleshy hulks that command them kill everything in their path, rendering all life down to mulch from which evil fungi and poisonous plants erupt.
Slaanesh attacks in a more insidious manner, as might be expected of the Prince of Pleasure. The first assaults are subtle, unnoticeable to the other gods. Inside the fabric of another god's realm, the tendrils of Slaanesh's power inveigle their way into root, bone and crystal, corrupting them from within. As the land itself becomes perverted to Slaanesh's power, it dulls the senses of the enemy's daemons, allowing the fast-moving armies of Slaanesh to strike swiftly and decisively.
From time to time there arises a being, place, object or event in the material universe that attracts the attention of all the Chaos Gods. So important is this new element, so desired or so dangerous, that all rivalry is temporarily put aside in order for Chaos to take advantage of this particular opportunity, or thwart the threat it presents. Then the four work as one for a while under the banner of Chaos Undivided, and the galaxy trembles before their combined might.
For Mankind, the most significant occasion of this type was the rise of the Emperor of Mankind in the late 30th Millennium. During this period, the Chaos Gods tried with all their might to bring about the Master of Mankind's downfall, culminating in their corruption of the Space Marine Primarchs and the terrible civil wars of the Horus Heresy in the early 31st Millennium. Other events have led to briefer cessations of the conflict in the Realm of Chaos: particularly promising Black Crusades, for example, or the extermination or birth of a new intelligent starfaring race.
Such interest in mortal affairs is fleeting, and treaties between the Chaos Gods do not last for long. As soon as their common objective is achieved, the gods begin to resume their Great Game. One god or another, or all four, oversteps the bounds of the previous alliance agreement and attempts to usurp his fellow gods. Once again the Realm of Chaos thunders to the march of daemonic legions, and their age-old feuds spill over into the domains of humanity.
Brass Citadel of Khorne
Khorne is the Blood God, Lord of Rage, Taker of Skulls. He is wrath incarnate, the embodiment of a never-ending lust to dominate and destroy. It is his sole desire to drown the galaxy in a tide of slaughter, to conquer and kill every living thing until there is nothing left but spilt blood and shattered bone.
The Blood God is commonly depicted as a broad and muscular humanoid who stands hundreds of Terran feet tall. He has the face of a savage, snarling dog, though his twisted features are all but hidden by a baroque helm decorated with the skulls of conqueror kings. Khorne's exaggerated physique is further distorted by heavy, overlapping plates of armour fashioned from brass and blackened iron. His every word is a growl of endless fury, and his roars of bloodlust echo across his realm.
Khorne broods from a throne of carved brass, atop a mountain of skulls. The macabre trophies are the fleshless heads of his champions, stacked alongside those of their defeated opponents. A hundred thousand species are represented, from human heads beyond counting to Tyranid skulls the size of hive city hab-blocks. The ever-growing pile of bloodstained bone reflects the material victories of his followers, feeding Khorne's glory but never quenching his thirst for blood and death.
At Khorne's side rests a great two-handed sword, a legendary blade capable of laying waste to the substance of worlds with a single blow. This fell weapon is known by various names to the different intelligent races of the galaxy, including Woebringer, Warmaker, and the End of All Things. It is said that when Khorne takes up his sword, a single sweep can cut through reality itself, allowing Khorne's daemonic legions to spill forth into the Materium.
The code of Khorne is simple: blood and more blood. His only temple is the battlefield, his sole sacrament the spilled blood of nations. Consciously or not, all warrior cultures pay him homage with their acts of murder and destruction, from the headhunting tribes of backwater Feral Worlds to the planet-conquering warbands of the Chaos Space Marines of the World Eaters Traitor Legion.
Every single life taken in anger increases the Blood God's power. He looks well upon those warriors who slay their friends and allies, for they prove their understanding of a greater truth -- Khorne cares not from whence the blood flows, only that it flows. Friends or enemies, all the dead are equal in the eyes of the Lord of Battle. Those Khornate devotees who let a day pass without committing an act of bloody-handed slaughter inevitably incur the Blood God's displeasure.
The dominion of Khorne is a monument to fury and violence. It is built upon foundations of murder and conflict and is home to every facet of battle. This blood-soaked realm echoes constantly with Khorne's bellows and the clash of weapons, the cracking of whips and the clarion calls of innumerable brass war horns.
At its centre, Khorne's cavernous chamber is lit by a great fire pit, where dark flames consume the souls of cowards who were cut down as they fled from battle. This haze-filled throne room sits in the central keep of the Brass Citadel, the castle of Khorne. Decorated with red-veined marble, the metal walls of the unholy fortress are broken by jagged outcrops, encrusted with blood and armoured with serrated spurs of bloodstained brass.
Outside, hideous gargoyles leer from every parapet, ready to spew scalding streams of metal upon those foolish enough to besiege the fortress. The formidable moat of the Brass Citadel is filled not with water, but with the boiling blood of those who have lost their lives to war across the galaxy.
Beyond this moat lies league upon league of cracked and barren land littered with the splintered bones of those fallen in battle. Packs of slavering Flesh Hounds prowl these wastes for intruders, skirting along the edges of seas of blood, roving through mazes of bone and tracking down any interlopers. This blasted wasteland is spilt by a great crevasse, a canyon many Terran miles long and unfathomably deep.
It is said that in one of Khorne's particularly vehement rages, he took up his immense sword and smote the ground, splitting it asunder for eternity. Occasionally, the Canyon of Death erupts with a tide of hot blood. The flood of gore spills out over the plains and sweeps away the heaps of headless corpses and mountains of skeletal remains, surging forth as if the universe itself is bleeding from some hideous wound.
A chain of immense volcanoes, constantly smouldering, girdles the Blood God's domain. Khorne's roars of rage cause the ground to shudder, and each day the volcanoes spew out rivers of earthblood as hot as his anger. They hurl burning brass skulls onto the lands of the weak and disgorge murderous packs of Bloodthirsters that swoop down into the battles below.
On the inward slopes of these jagged, fire-tipped peaks sprawl the foundries of Khorne. It is said that within these dire forges labour the souls of warriors who died in their sleep, forever doomed to serve Khorne as slaves. Great smokestacks billow forth clouds of ruddy vapour that mix with the fumes of the volcanoes to choke the blood red skies with the industry of war. These grim edifices keep Khorne's armouries filled -- his numberless warriors armed and armoured by ceaseless toil.
Here too can be found the pens of the Juggernauts. Behind buckled and cracked walls thicker than any mortal fortification, the Juggernauts of Khorne are corralled. The titanic daemonic beasts constantly fight amongst themselves, butting heads and goring each other to establish dominance. Legends tell of daemons, and even mortal Champions of Khorne, who have dared the wrath of the Juggernauts to take one as mount for themselves. The smashed remains of these warriors are left smeared over the wall; only a few of the bravest and strongest succeed in riding from the great gates atop one of these murderous daemonic beasts.
On the outward slopes of the volcanoes are immense parapets and bastions. Carved from black granite, these tower miles into the sky, a daunting defence against any unwise enough to assail the kingdom of the Blood God. Great infernal cannons and skull-clad altars await Khorne's command to unleash the fires of battle in the realms of the other Chaos Gods. Mighty fortresses punctuate the brass battlements, each packed with Khorne's bloodthirsty legions. With a single growl from Khorne, these armies spill forth across the domains of the other gods to bring slaughter and battle. At Khorne's urgings, his endless tide of soldiers are whipped into a frenzy and will fall upon each other in their desire to spill blood if no other foe can be found.
For it is war -- constant, mindless bloodletting and destruction -- that is all Khorne cares for. He is heedless of who is victorious, just that they fight until they can fight no more. All that Khorne exists for, all that his entire being is bent towards, is the flow of blood from fresh wounds and the taking of skulls.
It is no accident that war has spread from side of the Imperium to the other, for over the aeons, Khorne has ensured that genocidal fury has coursed across the stars. The galaxy knows no peace, and Khorne has grown powerful indeed in recent millennia. Uncounted worlds resound with the clamour of battle, every scream and death rattle a small devotion to the glory of the Blood God. With each new dawn, ichor mingles with blood on a million battlefields, each massacre and cataclysm fresh meat for the Lord of Battle's table. Aeldari and human, daemon and Ork, Tyranid and T'au; all are gore-splattered playthings for the Blood God's personal gratification.
None embody this unsettling truth more than the hordes of Greenskins that fight within sight of the Fortress of Khorne in the Realm of Chaos. The original Ork invaders attracted the gaze of the Blood God when they plunged headlong into the Warp/realspace interface known as the Eye of Terror with the aid of many Weirdboyz in search of fresh carnage. Their dangerously unhinged Warlord Tuska, the self-styled "Daemon-Killa", had already made his mark upon the Eye by bringing battle to several Daemon Worlds devoted to Khorne's rivals.
The Ork Warlord proved unstoppable until his WAAAGH! crash-landed on a flesh planet belonging to a mighty Daemon Prince named the Blood Prince who stood high in the standing of Khorne. The Warboss' vast horde was eventually slain to an Ork by the wrathful Daemon Prince and his minions, but his joy in the murderous spectacle was such that Khorne himself ensured the Greenskin crusade rose once more on the very next dawn.
History repeated itself over and over again as the Orks fought tooth and nail, never once showing signs of surrender or despair. The Blood God was so impressed by their limitless battlelust that he took the Orks into his own domain. In the shadow of the Brass Citadel, his elite Bloodletter generals battle against the Daemon-Killa's undying horde on a daily basis.
Each cycle, great clouds of fungal spores are released by the dying Greenskins to take root and flourish in the bloodstained foothills of the Osseous Peaks. Yet more Orks are born, grow to maturity and charge into battle once more. Such endless cycles of bloodshed are most pleasing to the Blood God. After all, the one true constant in the galaxy is that of endless war -- Khorne himself had made sure of it.
Crystal Labyrinth of Tzeentch
Tzeentch is known by a hundred thousand titles across the galaxy, amongst them the Weaver of Destinies, the Great Conspirator, and the Architect of Fate. In his mind, he listens to the hopes of every sentient being from every planet in the universe. He watches over the plans of his playthings as they unfold into history, toying with fate and fortune; both for his own entertainment and to further his unfathomable schemes.
Tzeentch feeds upon the need and desire for change that is an essential part of all life in the universe. All men dream of prosperity, freedom and a better tomorrow. These dreams are not just the preserve of the impoverished or the powerless -- even Imperial Planetary Governors and Imperial Navy battlefleet admirals dream of further riches, or perhaps even an end to their responsibilities to the Emperor. All these dreams create a powerful impetus for change, and the ambitions of nations create a force that can challenge history. Tzeentch is the embodiment of that force within the Warp.
Tzeentch is not content to merely observe the fulfillment and disappointment brought by the passage of time. He has his own plans -- schemes that are so complex and closely woven that they touch the lives of every living thing, whether they realise it or not. The Chaos God's masterly comprehension of time, history and intrigue allows his ploys to intertwine seamlessly, forming a web of causality that spans the stars.
Tzeentch is aware of the visions and plans of all mortals in the galaxy. He takes great delight in the plotting and politicking of others and favours the cunning over the strong. When the inner voice in a man's head speaks, when the desperate whisper their prayers into the night, it is the Architect of Fate that listens. He perceives every event and intention, and from this information, his mighty mind can work out how each will influence the future. The intertwining latticework of probability, hope and change is Tzeentch's meat and drink -- without it he would eventually fade away.
Perhaps the Architect of Fate has plans to overthrow the other Chaos Powers, or to extend his dominion over all the mortal realms. Perhaps not even Tzeentch himself can say for sure. Whatever his ultimate goal, he seeks to achieve it by manipulating the individual lives of men and xenos alike. By offering the power of knowledge and sorcery, he can recruit influential Chaos warlords and magi to his cause, affecting the lives of many more at a single stroke. However, few of Tzeentch's plans are ever simple; some span aeons with their complexity, whilst many appear contradictory to others, or even against his own interests. Only Tzeentch can see the threads of potential futures weaving through time like tangled skeins of multicoloured cords; cords which themselves are made of decision, happenstance and fluke.
Tzeentch is the undisputed master of magic in the universe. Sorcery is one of the most potent agents of change, and those who use it are amongst the most ambitious and hungry for power. The raw psychic energy that empowers the psykers of the mortal realm is the actual fabric of the Realm of Chaos, the same fabric that makes up the Chaos Powers, their daemon servants and the shadow-selves of men that flicker in the Warp and that Mankind calls souls.
The use of psychic power, or magic as it can rightly be called, is held as the ultimate expression of faith among Tzeentch's followers, who have much to gain from his patronage. Though it will like as not cost them their immortal souls, they will at least have boundless power to show for it while they live; this is in stark contrast to the poor wretched psykers of the Imperium of Man, who are coralled by the Inquisition's Black Ships and brought to Terra where many of them feed the dying Emperor's boundless hunger for psychic energy.
In Tzeentch's eyes, mortal creatures are immeasurably steeped in ambiguity, yet they somehow wage their personal wars completely unaware of the countless contradictions in their souls. Tzeentch cannot help but dabble in the mortal realm; some amongst the Inquisition believe that the Great Conspirator is responsible for the exponential increases of psychic ability in the human race in recent millennia.
His own need to manipulate and control, and his desire to increase his own power in the Warp, mean Tzeentch is eternally playing the Great Game waged amongst his brother Chaos Gods. The Architect of Fate is not above sullying his clawed hands with the bloody business of war, though he much prefers to win his battles through guile and sorcery than brute force.
Consumed by his own ineffable thoughts, Tzeentch binds the galaxy in the weave of his complex schemes just as a spider binds a fly. Though his schemes can take Terran millennia to unfold, when they come to fruition, it is usually reality itself that pays the price. While one mortal lies to another, while envy and ambition survive among men and aliens, Tzeentch will work his magic as the puppet master of the universe, working towards the day when his final great work will be revealed.
The skin of Tzeentch crawls with constantly changing faces, leering at and mocking onlookers. As he speaks, these faces repeat his words with subtle but important differences, or provide a commentary that throws doubt upon his words. These lesser faces appear and disappear quickly, but the puckered visage of Tzeentch himself remains low down in his chest, so that head and body are one.
From above Tzeentch's burning eyes spring two sweeping horns, the spiralling extremities of which crackle with arcane fire. The firmament surrounding Tzeentch is heavy with magic; it weaves like liquid smoke about his head, forming subtle and interwoven patterns. Forms of places and people appear in the smoke as Tzeentch contemplate their fate. Those who appear there will inevitably find their minds, bodies or destinies mutating into strange new forms, for none can come to Tzeentch's attention and remain untouched.
Of all the outlandish landscapes to be found in the Realm of Chaos, Tzeentch's domain is the most bizarre and incomprehensible to mortals. His realm is woven from the raw fabric of magic. The Crystal Labyrinth, as it is known, sits upon an immense irridescent plateau, its presence felt across all of the daemonic realms. Shifting avenues made from crystals of every colour criss-cross Tzeentch's realm as it contorts through nine dimensions of space at once. Hidden pathways built from lies and schemes infiltrate the dominions of the other Chaos Gods, binding together the fractious Realm of Chaos the better to direct them to Tzeentch's will.
The Labyrinth has no formal warriors defending its infinite reaches, for the battles fought here are of the mind. Its glittering corridors reflect not only light, but also hope, misery, dreams and nightmares. Its own interchanging causeways and passages are enough of a barrier to confound any intruder not blessed by Tzeentch's touch, mortal or daemonic. Woe betide the rival daemon who strays into its reaches, for such simple creatures never last for long.
The Crystal Labyrinth does not merely reflect but also distorts, pulling apart aspiration and purpose, turning it to insanity and despair. In its attempts to mirror Tzeentch's own convoluted scheming, the Crystal Labyrinth constantly moves and rearranges. Those brave souls lost within the maze's reaches will wander for eternity, their minds shattered and their dreams broken upon the wheel of their own failed ambition.
The faces that are reflected from the crystalline walls at such intruders are rarely their own. Everywhere, doppelgangers of those caught in the thrall of Tzeentch flicker and spark across the prismatic walls. In the inner reaches of the maze, a web of crystal corridors bursts into jagged shards as Ahriman, the great Heretic Astartes Sorcerer of the Thousand Sons, leads the warriors of his Traitor Legion to war -- only to be trapped once more by their own reflections.
A planar sheen buckles under the gaze of the Asuryani Farseers of Ulthwe before throwing back the image of a burning Craftworld. A Radical sect of Inquisitors binds a mirror-daemon to their will with a forbidden version of the Emperor's Tarot, little knowing that in doing so, they have bound their souls to its counterpart. These and a million other glimpses of reality flicker like flames in the wind, their energy making the labyrinth glow with possibility.
At the centre of the maze, hidden from those without the lunatic insight to find it, stands the Impossible Fortress. Twisted crystal spires and towers of blue and pink flame writhe and burst from the majestic fortress' core. These exist for only a heartbeat before they shimmer and disappear, only to be replaced by new and ever more maddening architecture. Gates, windows and beckoning doorways yawn like hungry mouths in a tornado of dislocated angles before shutting moments later.
The nature of the Warp is encapsulated within the Impossible Fortress, for physical space and time are useless concepts there. One might wander for weeks inside a chamber no larger than a thimble, or traverse leagues with a single hesitant step. Gravity shifts and changes, or disappears altogether. Light of every colour and of shades unknown in the real universe springs forth from the shifting walls to blind, disorient and enlighten.
For mortals, the ever-mutating citadel is utterly impenetrable. So locked in their physical ways, men are swiftly driven insane, while their bodies implode or are pulled apart by Tzeentch's meandering thoughts. Even rival gods cannot easily endure the twisted horror of the Impossible Fortress. Only the Lords of Change, the greatest of Tzeentch's daemons, can think their way through the secret paths to the inner sanctum of the fortress; the Hidden Library where the Great Conspirator concocts his eternal plots.
The Hidden Library is infinite in dimensions and constantly folds in upon itself under the weight of its own destiny. It contains every scrap of knowledge, every thought of every sentient creature across all of space and time. The books, parchments and scrolls that line its ever-folding walls are bound with chains of magical fire, row upon row, shelf upon shelf, stretching into the imponderable recesses of Tzeentch's lair. Countless Horrors, both Pink and Blue, creep and crawl here, tending the vast collection of the Hidden Library. The grimoires chatter to their keepers, trapping the Horrors in webs of deceit and scandal so that the daemons eventually fade into the substance of the predatory library itself.
Garden of Nurgle
Nurgle is the Great Lord of Decay and the Master of Plague and Pestilence. All things in the universe, 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, fearful 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 rupture 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 willful 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.
The domain of Nurgle in the Realm of Chaos is not a barren wasteland, but a macabre paradise, a near-infinite jungle of death and pestilence. Tended by the Lord of Decay, this unwholesome realm is home to every pox and affliction imaginable. Twisted, rotten boughs entangled with grasping vines cover the mouldering ground, entwining like broken fingers. Fungi, both plain and spectacular, break through the squelching mulch of the forest floor, puffing out clouds of choking spores.
The stems of half-daemonic plants wave of their own accord, unstirred by the foetid, insect-choked air. Their colours puncture the gloom; havens of cheeriness in a dismal woodland. Human-featured beetles slit 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 who 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 rotten 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 in the galaxy. 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 ladle on 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 in the Realm of Chaos. War follows, as Nurgle's eternal adversaries in the Great Game 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.
Very few mortal eyes have ever 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 Asuryani of that far-flung Craftworld have long told the story of the Caged Maiden, wherein Isha, the Aeldari goddess of fertility and healing, was imprisoned in Nurgle's mansion at the mercy of her grotesque admirer following the destruction of the other Aeldari gods by Slaanesh, as Nurgle sought to "save" her from the fate of her fellows.
The Aeldari believe that their mythology is an absolute truth and even aspire to one day free their beloved 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 Isha's myth, hoping to find their lost goddess and put a halt to their Craftworld's deadly malaise. They knew that 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 instructions for a cure to the Spiritseers and lift Nurgle's curse from their home.
At first, their astrally-projected forms appeared to be able to pass through the grasping foliage of Nurgle's garden with ease. Their Ghosthelms kept them as insubstantial as spirits and their rune-shielded minds cut through the dismal vegetation, for they were sharper than any corporeal blade. The Rot Flies of that realm buzzed loud in alarm, however, and whispered of the intruders into Nurgle's ear.
Just as the Seers of Lugganath sighted Grandfather Nurgle's manse in the distance, a great host of Plaguebearers rose up from the mud and began to chant in a droning monotone as they came forward. The Seers channelled their psychic energy into great blasts of cleansing blue fire, boiling away huge chunks of Nurgle's army and darting out of the clumsy reach of their foes, but ever more Plaguebearers emerged from the stinking slurry to block their path.
The psychic battle raged for solar days of subjective time, and swathes of Nurgle's garden were blasted to ruin in the process. However, in the material dimension, the physical forms of the trespassing Seers began to convulse and shake, succumbing to the very plague they had 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, who is in truth his immortal captive. Such is the fate of those who enter uninvited into the heartlands of Nurgle, for even the generosity of Grandfather Plague has its limits.
Pleasure Palace of Slaanesh
Slaanesh is the Lord of Pleasure, the Dark God dedicated to the pursuit of earthly gratification and the overthrow of all decent behaviour. He is the God of Obsession, the Master of Excess in All Things, from gluttony to lust to megalomania. Wherever mortals are ruled by their own unquenchable desires, the Dark Prince of Chaos is there in the shadows, whispering, tempting, and feasting on a banquet of souls.
Slaanesh was given life by the immorality and hubris of the ancient Aeldari Empire. As their empire reached its zenith, the Aeldari became lost in their own decadence, for they experience sensation and emotion to a far greater degree than any other intelligent species of the galaxy. The capabilities of their highly advanced technology meant that the Aeldari did not need to labour or wage war. Instead, they were able to dedicate their lives to whatever idle pursuits took their fancy.
Over several generations, this indolence came to rule and pervert their spirits. In the Immaterium, the collective psychic reflections of their indolence and hedonism caused a new Chaos Power to stir, beginning in the 25th Millennium of the Terran calendar. Created by one species' pure dedication to indulgence, the first motes of what would become Slaanesh began to coalesce.
The dormant Slaanesh fed upon the unchecked collective psyche of the Aeldari, drawing on their lusts and ambitions, their artistry and pursuit of excellence in all things. In turn, as Slaanesh grew, its nascent dreams trickled into the minds of the Aeldari and fuelled their desires, pushing them ever onwards towards their eventual doom. Eventually, the Aeldari civilisation devolved into little more than pleasure cults dedicated to every act of physical, mental and spiritual fulfillment. Blood stained the statuary of their plazas as crowds of drug-addled maniacs sated their violent desires in the streets of the Aeldari homeworlds.
On one particularly depraved night, the debauchery reached a terrible crescendo that tore out the heart of the Aeldari Empire and left it ravaged beyond recovery. The Fall of the Aeldari in the early 30th Millennium was signalled by the psychic birth-scream of Slaanesh, a tsunami of emotion that heralded the Prince of Pleasure arrival in the Realm of Chaos. The psychic implosion caused by Slaanesh's birth swallowed hundreds of worlds at the heart of the Aeldari Empire in what is now the Imperium of Man's Segmentum Obscurus, killing billions of Aeldari in a single instant and devouring a great section of the galaxy in the process. Such was its ferocity that it overwhelmed the barrier between the material and the immaterial, forming the massive, permanent Warp rift later named by men as the Eye of Terror.
Rampant and hungry, Slaanesh devoured the minds and souls of the Aeldari, and across the galaxy, that ancient race was almost wiped out. Only a relative few Aeldari survived Slaanesh's birth-feast. Most of the survivors that remain have become sworn enemies of the Dark Prince, and yet a few of them have formed isolated cabals that still behave as their ancestors did, perversely following the downward spiral of excess.
That is how events are viewed from the chronology of the material universe. In the Warp, things are different, for the Immaterium is not bound by linear four-dimensional time, and events do not occur in a strict sequence of cause and effect. As his rival gods reckon it, Slaanesh has always existed in the Warp, and yet has never existed at all.
Some say that is it impossible for mortals to look upon the divine face of Slaanesh without losing their soul to him, for all who see it become willing slaves to the whims of the Dark Prince, embracing his ways with wild abandon. The mere knowledge of Slaanesh's existence can cause a world to topple into corruption and hidden depravity.
Not even the agents of the Inquisition know for sure how far his influence spreads, for wherever the lust for power and temporal gain exists, the talons of Slaanesh dig deep. Despite their best efforts, it is almost certain that the Imperium is rotten to the core, just as the Aeldari Empire was before it. How long before it succumbs to a similar fate?
A Knight's Tale
Few gods welcome intruders to their empire, but there is one who loves to tempt visitors to his unnatural domain. This is Slaanesh, the Dark Prince of Chaos and the Lord of Pleasure. Those that dare enter his territory risk becoming trapped in its warped delights for eternity. The Dark Prince's realm is divided into six domains, arranged in concentric rings around his central Palace of Pleasure.
While they might be mistaken for paradises, nothing here is as it seems. Each region is not only a celebration of Slaanesh's desires, but also his chief defence. An intruder can only reach the Palace of Pleasure, in the very heart of Slaanesh's territory, by passing through all six of the circles -- an act of will beyond most souls, both mortal and daemonic. One amongst the mortal visitors to his realm still looms large in the memory of Slaanesh however -- a wandering knight of the Adeptus Astartes whose will was as strong as silvered adamantium.
The first circle the Astartes pushed though was richly appointed beyond the dream of kings. Mountains of stacked gold reached towards the rainbow mosaics of gemstones in the marble vaults high above, glittering ingots and diamonds beyond counting littered the ground. The knight marched past many a starveling wretch attempting to count the innumerable gold coins. Their sallow faces twisted with mounting greed until their piles toppled and, weeping, they had to start all over again.
At every corner and crossroads stood gilded statues, some of beautiful Slaanesh, others of daemons and mortals trapped in blissful ecstasy. The trails in the diamond dust underfoot betrayed the fact that the statues were once flesh and blood. The knight had left notions of material wealth long behind, and he strode on without touching so much as a single coin.
Crunching his way across a beach of golden teeth, the knight came to the shores of a vast lake of dark wine. The lake was dotted with pallid islands formed from the backs of giants, each linked by criss-crossing bridges. The backward hands of each giant held up a table that groaned under the weight of a lavish feast.
There, he saw mortal men gorging themselves on the banquet, wide-eyed and desperate in their hunger as others frantically tried to gulp down the lake itself. The bloated and the obese moaned in pain as they crammed ever more food into their wine-stained mouths. The knight pressed on, distaste twisting his features as he passed the grisly remains of those who had consumed so much that they had physically torn apart.
The Astartes wanderer made his way through fields of golden light and soft hay, were lissom maidens and beautiful youths flocked near-naked in the hallucinogenic musk of the lithe beasts that cavorted with them. The faces and fertile forms of the dancers were impossibly sensual, moulded to the perfect desire of the observer's heart. The knight held his breath and closed his eyes, for though mortal pleasures were forbidden to the Astartes of his order as they were to all Space Marines, part of him was still a man.
The crooning nymphs gathered around the knight, stroking his silvered Power Armour and whispering of the sweet, carnal pleasures they would give him, but he yielded not to his desires. The severed limbs and heads that lay underfoot spoke of the truth behind the honeyed lies. Eyes shut, he cut down the Daemonette seductresses around him one after another, letting revulsion guide his shining blade.
After fighting his way through the feminine contours of the foothills ahead, the knight emerged onto a balcony where he was greeted by roars of adulation and approval. An army of Space Marines so vast its number was beyond counting awaited before him on an endless plain, listening in fevered anticipation for his commands for conquest. Planetary Governors nodded in obsequious anticipation, and the High Lords of Terra themselves smiled up at him from smaller balconies of their own, motioning him to speak.
The knight recognised one of the Imperial rulers before him from his own mortal life, and stood before him, looking deep into the philosopher-king's eyes. Behind the mask of power and self-assurance, he saw eternal, nagging paranoia; gnawing suspicion and hidden doubts about his continued grip on rule that were acid to the soul. The knight shook his head sadly and walked away, untempted by the lure of temporal power.
Wearied by his ordeals, the wanderer strode on through a mesmerising woodland paradise, its maze of pathways thick with flowers and heavy with thorns. The gentle, fragrant breeze whispered to the knight of his past glories, reminding him of the executions he had performed in the Emperor's name. Mirrored pools reflected the knight as a shining saint of the Imperial Creed, his face serene but his sword bloodied as he artfully carved apart rank after rank of red-skinned daemons.
The superhuman warrior turned away, troubled. In the distance, he could make out tortured figures staring intently into mirror-pools of their own, each held immobile by the undergrowth as whispering thorns insinuated themselves into their flesh, held frozen by their own pride. The wanderer turned his mind to the humility of the simple cell he once called home in his order's fortress-monastery. As he did so, the path through the maze writhed and straightened out before him. So the knight trudged on.
A never-ending beach stretched away from the knight, heavenly choirs sung soothing lullabies as the perfumed sea lapped at the fortress walls of his mind. The wanderer's bones cried out for rest, even if only for a moment. The warmth of the golden sun above calmed his soul and the lapping tide began to erode his will. His tired eyes could barely stay open, but his vision was still clear enough to see the horrible truth. The bone-white sand was made from the remains of those who had rested there and fallen into a coma of blissful indolence and sloth. His resolve hardened, the knight strode on toward the shimmering purple palace in the distance.
It was there, beneath the elegant spires, that the wanderer finally came before almighty Slaanesh himself. Statuesque and divinely glamourous, the deity visited him in the form of a young man possessed of an androgynous beauty -- clean-limbed and fresh with the vigour of youth. The knight unsheathed his rune-etched sword and made to strike him down as the embodiment of corruption that he was.
To his horror, he found that he could not, for the god-prince was disarming in his innocence and utterly beguiling in his manner. For, in the end, even the purest flame can be extinguished by the tide. In that single moment of doubt, the Astartes knight was forever lost. He knelt, bowing his head at last, and a single touch of the being's glowing sceptre on each shoulder sealed his fate for eternity, another soul claimed by the Prince of Chaos.
- Codex: Chaos Daemons (8th Edition), pg. 9
- Codex: Chaos Daemons (6th Edition), pp. 6-17
- Codex: Chaos Daemons (4th Edition), pp. 4-13
- Codex: Orks (4th Edition), pg. 26
- Warhammer Fantasy Chaos Daemons Army Book (8th Edition), pg. 13 (Map)