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A map of the Realm of Chaos; note the positions and distances between the places on this map are only allegorical; distance and time have no meaning in the Immaterium.

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 an 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 daemonic 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 Humanity 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...

Dark Gods

In the Immaterium, the psychic reflection of similar thoughts and emotions from sentient beings in realspace 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 into being creatures made of the very stuff of dreams and nightmares.

Eventually, these instinctual, formless entities gained a rudimentary self-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 Blood God, 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 species.

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 mutational "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 other mortals to some unknown and unknowable fate. Instead, their immortal psychic energy is swallowed into the greatness of their gods, their souls sustained forever, bound to the eternal power of Chaos.

Realm of the Gods

The forces of the Astra Militarum seek to repel a daemonic incursion from the Realm of Chaos.

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 Empyrean," "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. The Warp is Chaos, Chaos is the Warp; 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 from the thinking beings of reality, 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, the Blood God's Domain, is founded on anger and bloodletting; Tzeentch's lands, the Realm of the Sorcerer, are scintillating constructs of pure and ever-shifting psychic magic; Nurgle's territory, the Land of the Plaguelord, is a haven of death, decay and regeneration, and Slaanesh's dominion, the Dark Prince's Realm, 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.

Formless Wastes

A Chaos Fury in search of prey in 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 of Creation, 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.

Chaos Daemons

The Daemons of Chaos in all their hideous forms.

The Chaos Gods are not alone in Warpspace. They have created servants from their own essences -- the entities 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 separate 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 back 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 divine master's own 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 as punishment for its failure, 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 solar 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 forces of Khorne face the hosts of Slaanesh in one of the endless battles of 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 their realm will shift accordingly. For long periods, one god may dominate the others, fed by its own success, leeching its foes' psychic energy for its own growth.

Ultimately, the other gods will ally against the dominant force and through combined efforts reduce it 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 advance 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 Blood 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, the Scintillating Legions, 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 the attacks of the Plague Legions, 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 daemonic armies of Slaanesh, the Legions of Excess, 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 major Ruinous Powers work as one for a while under the banner of Chaos Undivided, and the galaxy trembles before their combined might.

For Humanity, 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 endless conflict in the Realm of Chaos; particularly promising Black Crusades, for example, or the extermination or birth of a new intelligent starfaring species.

Such interest in mortal affairs is fleeting, and treaties and armistices 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.

Blood God's Domain

"I saw constant battle. Man fought Daemon. Lightning fought volcano. Geysers of molten brass fought lakes of steaming blood. There was no respite, no peace. That which emerged victorious was immediately set upon by another foe even more terrible. It was blood, spraying and jetting, and skulls adding to a throne that pierced the red skies. It was endless screams of rage and fury made incarnate. It was... glorious."

— Desark Slet, vision-geist of the Encrusted Blade

The Blood God's Domain, also called the Realm of Brass and Blood, the kingdom of Khorne in the Realm of Chaos.

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 species 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 World Eaters Chaos Space Marines.

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 single solar day pass without committing an act of bloody-handed slaughter inevitably incur the Blood God's displeasure.

Though the Daemon-filled battlefields of the Blood God's Domain, Khorne's home in the Realm of Chaos, are many, and each is vast beyond reckoning, there is more to this blasted, crimson wasteland than just blood-soaked plains populated with warring Daemons. Violence and despair are constant travelling companions for any unfortunate soul cursed to briefly wander there.

Each foreboding hellscape leads to another, more grim than the last. At the heart of it all, Khorne watches from its Skull Throne, surveying its lands and pitting its forces against any convenient foe, be they fellow Daemons or foolhardy invaders who seek to wage a doomed war on the Lord of Battle.

The Blood God's Domain is a realm unlike any other. Storms rage perpetually across crimson skies, sending gale-force blasts seemingly composed of pure rage whipping across the plains and mountains. These angry winds tear into the land itself and rip up great chunks of stone and blood-drenched earth, tossing them violently back down hundreds of leagues away in explosions of raw destruction.

The land, for its part, fights back against the brutal assault of the heavens. Earthquakes send gouts of molten brass skyward, burning up the storm clouds, temporarily ending their rage until the winds re-gather to begin their assaults anew. New mountains erupt from flat land in an instant, some thrusting into the sky like gigantic living swords, others acting as shields against the advance of the storms.

Rivers of boiling blood criss-cross the hellish landscape, dividing the realm into territories over which rival Bloodthirsters wage war. The blood-flows are not content to allow the conquered lands to rest idle. From deep below the ground, new rivers strike through the surface, splitting the lands as easily as an axe opens the bloated gut of a lazy bureaucrat.

Each crimson flow sucks down all that once occupied the space, including any daemonic legions that might have been marching there. As with its war against the sky, the land retaliates, pushing the banks of the rivers to close in upon themselves. The brass-spewing volcanoes send liquid metal into the rivers, evaporating the blood within and sealing the wounds with burning fury.

Each piece of the realm of battle constantly fights to obliterate the others. Each acts like a living servant of Khorne, wanting to prove to the master of the land that it is the most worthy of the god's rewards.

A visitor to this nightmare realm would surely be driven mad, knowing that every rock, every breeze, and every drop of what should be water is an enemy, looking to kill him with just as much purpose, desire, and violence as the multitudinous Daemons of the Blood God inhabiting the land. To witness the carnage of the realm of Khorne is to know that conflict is a living, breathing thing and not just a curse that troubles the worlds of men, machines, and aliens. It is to know an eternal truth and, thus, to know despair.

Khorne's Rage

At the outermost edge of the Blood God's Domain there lies a ring of volcanoes that scholars of the profane have come to call "Khorne's Rage." Reaching hundreds of kilometres into the air, they belch their thick black smoke and molten brass skyward, creating an impenetrable border that can neither be seen through nor navigated.

Darkness and ash hang there, lit ominously from beneath by gouts of flame that incinerate the loose debris along the sides of the volcanoes. Within the ash clouds, blood storms roil. Red lightning dances across the clouds as thunder cracks and rolls, like the snap of a Bloodthirster's whip followed by the sound of the hooves of a thousand charging Juggernauts.

These peaks stand as a bastion against invaders, their toxic ash and scorching brass flows enough to deter all but the most determined of forces. Those who are arrogant, or foolish, enough to make the attempt to cross the torturous border are met with more than barriers of heat and jagged rock. The very rock and brass of Khorne's Rage itself rises up to crush the attackers. Pieces of the rock break away from the side of the mountains, molten brass flowing into them in a hellish semblance of life blood. Daemons of stone and liquid metal take form, born of rage and defiance.

With mindless fury and unadulterated violence, they bludgeon and scorch their foes. Once their grim task is complete, they fall back into lifeless piles, waiting for the call to reform and defend the borders of their master's realm.

Daemon Forges

At the base of the volcanoes are the forges of the lesser furnace Daemons. In these sweltering workshops, weapons of war are crafted. All manner of axes, swords, hammers, and armour are created to supply the Blood God's eternal wars. Here, too, the components of Khorne's Daemon Engines are made.

Assembly of these huge constructs of war is conducted elsewhere, but the cogs, blades, housings, and armaments all have their beginning here, at the foot of Khorne's Rage. It is a dangerous place to reside, even by the standards of the rest of the realm. At any moment a volcano could erupt, flooding the forge with molten brass. It is of no concern to Khorne if a few Daemons are incinerated in such mishaps; others rise from the Blood Pits to take their place, and the forges continue.

Despite the risks, the furnace Daemons are able to take advantage of the dangers of Khorne's Rage. Across the plains of battle, it is almost exclusively Khorne's own minions that do battle and perish. At the fringes of the realm, however, other warriors die agonising, terrible, bloody deaths.

Using tools of fiendish design and rites that even the most depraved Chaos Sorcerers would dare not undertake, the masters of the hell-forges enslave the souls of those mortals who would dare invade the Blood God's realm and fuse them with the anvils of Khorne. The tormented screams of those thus eternally imprisoned blend with the ringing and clanging of each falling hammer that strikes the forge. When white-hot metal is placed on the anvil and pounded into form, the bound soul feels the scorching heat.

Thus, as each new weapon or piece of armour is crafted in the Daemon Forges, it is born to the sounds of Khorne's enemies suffering the god's everlasting wrath.

Blood Pits

Warp energy, the raw stuff of Chaos, constantly swirls across the realms of all of the greater Chaos Gods. Its currents and eddies shift and meander seemingly at random, causing mutation within the very land itself and everyone and everything they touch. In most cases, this power does not linger in any one place for long.

There are, however, locations throughout the Blood God's treacherous domain where the power of the Warp collects and stirs. When this happens, great craters are often gouged into the blasted plains. None can say if it takes moments or millennia for these pits to form, for time is meaningless within the Realm of Chaos.

Eventually, the Warp Storms break apart, sometimes seeping into the very pits they created. When this happens, Khorne commands his minions to intensify their efforts to harvest blood from the mortal world, using the most violent, destructive, and devastating methods they can possibly bring to bear. The souls that perish in such a campaign give their blood to a special, dark cause. Their crimson essence is collected in the pit, where it is mixed with molten brass and a measure of Khorne's own murderous bile. The resultant lake is a new Blood Pit.

It is from the Blood Pits that new Daemons of Khorne arise. Bloodletters, furnace Daemons, and many lesser fiends steadily emerge from the Warp-and-bile-infused blood, ready to do their master's bidding. The soldiers that vomit forth from that pit will be charged from the day of their creation until the day they fail their master in combat with claiming more blood to refill their pit. Eventually a pit goes dry, but without fail, soon after it does a new storm begins to brew, restarting the cycle of bloodshed.

Rivers of Blood

Dividing one region of Khorne's realm from another like jagged crimson scars on the scorched land are the rivers of blood. These kilometres-wide flows are filled with the blood of those who have fallen in service to Khorne, be they victims or followers. Nearly all blood that is shed on the god's behalf on the mortal plane finds its way to these sanguine canals. The blood itself is hot to the point of boiling.

Steam made of vaporised blood hangs in the air all along the length of the rivers, creating a palpable red cast to the regions through which they run. Gigantic bubbles rise to the surface, carrying with them occasional remains of something that was unfortunate enough to have fallen into the river.

As the bubbles burst, globules of steaming, hot blood launch hundreds of feet into the air, coming back to the ground and landing on the shores in splatter patterns that often resemble the spray of an opened artery.

Lake of Slaughter

Thousands of blood rivers cut through the land and end up emptying over a bleak precipice kilometres high, plunging downward in waterfalls of gore. The lake that forms at the base of the wall is larger than any ocean in the mortal realm and populated with creatures that cannot be.

Leviathans of brass and bone swim through the lake, devouring all as they pass. Soaring above the lake, Bloodthirsters fight with dragons of pure, solid blood. Those that stray too close to the surface of the lake risk being snatched out of the air by the very lake itself, so hungry is it for carnage.

Rising waves on the surface take the shape of warriors and do battle, crashing violently into each other and falling back to the surface in a rain of scattered blood.

Brass Citadel

The Brass Citadel, home fortress of the Blood God

On the far shore of the Lake of Slaughter, the ground is littered with skulls, so many, in fact, that whatever foundation may lie beneath them cannot be touched. For kilometres these skulls stretch away from the shore, and in the distance there rises a great black wall. This is the outer wall of Khorne's Brass Citadel.

Upon the wall stand guardian Daemons, with eyes as sharp as their fangs and swords. They watch for any intruder, ready to defend their master to the last. Within the walls there are thousands of Flesh Hounds patrolling the skull-yard, sniffing out the blood scent of any who would dare attempt incursion.

In the skies, flying between the outer walls and the inner keep, elite Bloodthirsters listen for sounds of invasion on the wind. It is rare that any force musters the strength to assault the Brass Fortress, its guardians deterring all but the most foolish or daring of Khorne's rivals from even trying.

When the attempt is made, the might of the Blood God's personal host is brought to bear with a fury and rage that threatens to rip a hole between realms. While Khorne's brother Chaos Gods could gain much power should they defeat the Blood God in its fortress, the risk of counter-invasion is too great for such wars to be waged without dire cause. It is said that if Khorne itself should rouse from its throne and personally go to war against the other Dark Gods, its favoured blade would end them all in one mighty sweep, but that such an act would have calamitous results that not even Tzeentch could predict.

It is said that Khorne was once consumed by such rage that it took up its sword and smote the ground, splitting it asunder for eternity. This fell sword is known by many names including Warmaker and The End of All Things, and is capable of laying waste to entire worlds with a single blow. Because of this, an uneasy state of balance exists between the Ruinous Powers.

When Khorne does obliterate the invading armies of its brother gods, they do not exact retribution directly. When the threat is ended, neither does Khorne press the advantage, but rather turns back toward its inner sanctum and reclaims its place atop the Throne of Skulls. Thus is balance maintained in the eternal Great Game.

Throne of Skulls

An ancient depiction of Khorne upon his Skull Throne.

In the very centre of the Brass Citadel, beyond the Bastion Stair and the eight Iron Pillars, Khorne watches over all its minions from the god's seat on the Throne of Skulls. From there it commands its Blood Legions and mortal servants to bring war to the distant corners of the galaxy. Every victory it witnesses leaves it thirsting for more blood. With every defeat, Khorne takes the blood of a failed champion and adds it to the rivers of its realm.

Blood will be Khorne's; if the god must harvest it from its own minions, so be it. Surrounding the Throne of Skulls on all sides is a mound of skulls that holds Khorne aloft on its perch. Khornate Chaos Champions and fallen enemies alike contribute to the mass of bone. Could these skulls speak, some would tell tales from before the Long War against the Corpse Emperor of the Imperium, when the Primarch Angron had yet to swear his oath to the Blood God.

Others would speak of grave mistakes that caused their entire species to fall to the axes of legions of berserkers. The skulls closest to the god, those of its favoured Champions who have perished in service to their lord after hundreds of violent campaigns, would call out across eternity, once more bellowing their war cry: "Blood for the Blood God!"

Daemon-Killa

Tuska the Daemon-Killa is the name of the Ork Warlord who is the leader of an Ork WAAAGH! that currently battles eternally before the Brass Citadel, the heart of Khorne's domain in the Realm of Chaos in the Warp. The original Ork invaders of the Immaterium 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 Greenskin Warlord's vast horde was eventually slain to an Ork by the wrathful Daemon Prince and his minions, but the god's 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, Khorne's elite Bloodletter generals battle against the Daemon-Killa's undying Greenskin 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 has made sure of it.

Realm of the Sorcerer

"Created from the raw energy of the Warp, Tzeentch's Realm is one of constant flux and shifting structures hewn spontaneously from every material imaginable. There, the only constant is change. No mortal and few Daemons can visit the realm of the Raven God and survive with sanity intact."

Inquisitor Ghillian Kys, Ordo Malleus

The Crystal Labyrinth and the Impossible Fortress at its heart in the Realm of the Sorcerer, the ever-changing domain of Tzeentch in the Realm of Chaos.

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 mortals 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 heavy 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 Gods, 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 Humans and xenos alike.

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 Ruinous Powers, their Daemon servants and the shadow-selves of mortals that flicker in the Warp and that Humanity calls "souls."

If a mortal looks upon the most common of the Changer of Ways' manifestations, they would see that the skin of Tzeentch crawls with constantly changing faces, leering at and mocking onlookers. As the god 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.

Just as Tzeentch manifests and appears in many different guises, many of them fluid and shifting, so too, the domain of the Changer of Ways within the Realm of Chaos -- the Realm of the Sorcerer -- constantly adapts to its master's whims, desires, moods, and, of course, the demands of his Thousand and One Plots. Observers Human, xenos, and Daemon perceive and interpret this territory in a wide variety of ways.

In fact, some scholars and a few of the more coherent first-hand witnesses who have survived contact with Tzeentch's realm have suggested that neither mortal nor Daemon, save perhaps the most powerful Lords of Change, can grasp the true nature of Tzeentch's shifting realm. Most who visit the domain of the Great Mutator quickly go mad; those of exceptionally strong mind and strong will can perhaps interpret but one facet of the often crystalline landscape that, like Tzeentch himself, has an infinite number of faces.

Many commentators suggest that the mortal mind can only perceive this world of Warp energy wrought into something resembling solid form through symbols or metaphors, images created by the mind of the iron-willed in an attempt to make sense of pure Chaos and constant change.

In fact, many commentators rely on paradoxical metaphors even to describe the process of perceiving Tzeentch's realm itself: sculpting with fog, describing a dream as it occurs, singing silently, painting with mist, and the like. The Great Ocean of the Warp is a sea of madness and insanity, and Tzeentch's realm is the concentrated essence of such things given form.

In spite of the constantly changing nature of the domain of the Architect of Fate and the limited capacity of the mortal mind to perceive and comprehend it, certain common views have emerged from the extant descriptions of Tzeentch's realm. Some observers claim that an enormous crystalline labyrinth dominates the landscape, sitting upon an iridescent plateau, a luminescent plane shimmering like a polished, mottled opal. Passages in this maze appear, dissolve, merge, split, and change direction seemingly at random.

Only the Lords of Change, Tzeentch's Greater Daemons, and those with the trenchant insights of the irrevocably mad can hope to understand the design of Tzeentch's deranged maze and to navigate its corridors. No Daemons are needed to act as sentinels in Tzeentch's realm; the labyrinth itself provides sufficient protection against anyone rash and foolhardy enough to attempt an assault on the Great Schemer.

Those who gaze into the crystalline substance that composes this maze may see more than light reflected and refracted in the fluctuating facets of the shining surfaces. They may catch glimpses of fears, miseries, and hopes made visually manifest; dreams and nightmares; histories real and imagined; potential futures; images of torment, ecstasy, and despair; and abstract thoughts made momentarily concrete as pictures in the crystals.

One visionary reported seeing various images of his children at different points in their lives, all of them moments of despair, sorrow, and desperation. Another recounted her experiences in Tzeentch's realm as one of exultation and ecstasy as she witnessed reflected representations of what she took to be her possible futures, each more joyful and successful than the last.

Yet another claimed to observe nightmare imagery in the mirrored surface of the labyrinth: Daemons rending flesh from friends and loved ones, the destruction of his home by dark sorcerers wielding Warpfire, and worst of all, the transformation of his own body into a tentacled, writhing mass. When this last traveller was finally able to tear his gaze away from the hellish visions, he discovered that solar days had passed and that his body had indeed changed into the hideous Chaos Spawn he had seen in his vision.

Imperial records show that all three of these individuals met with tragic ends: suicide, insanity, and execution at the hands of the Inquisition, respectively. In one sense, these survivors of Tzeentch's realm were fortunate, as it is rumoured that most who travel through the maze of the Raven God wander it eternally as miserable, insane shells of their former selves, forever tormented by ghastly visions, regrets over their mistakes and missed opportunities, and the hopes for a tomorrow that they will never realise.

While the passage of time in the Warp fluctuates and does not correspond to its regular, linear flow in the normal four-dimensional space-time of the Materium, the inconsistency of time's progression is even more pronounced in Tzeentch's realm.

As the anecdote above suggests, in what seems like a few solar minutes spent gazing into the depths of the crystals of Tzeentch's labyrinthine realm, solar days or even standard years can pass. Two individuals might enter Tzeentch's realm in the same instant in time; one might exit moments later and report that years had passed, whereas the other could spend centuries of real time in Tzeentch's realm but swear that he had been gone only minutes.

In addition, other peculiarities in individuals' subjective perceptions of time occur within Tzeentch's realm itself. A single footstep may seem to take solar hours to complete. What seems like a few seconds spent admiring the beautiful refraction of light on the crystalline structure of the maze can take Terran days.

Many visitors "momentarily" transfixed by some curiosity in Tzeentch's realm have died of dehydration or starvation. Others can spend years wandering the insane corridors of Tzeentch's maze without drinking, eating, or resting -- their metabolism apparently slowed by Chaos influences.

Legends tell of an entity known as the "Guardian of the Maze" that inhabits the Crystalline Labyrinth. Though its name implies that it serves as the protector of Tzeentch's realm, it is said to function more as a gatekeeper and observer. Rumours tell of a path through Tzeentch's realm that, in theory, anyone, mortal or Daemon, may follow to discover infinite knowledge.

To follow this path, the inquisitive pilgrim must travel through nine gates. These portals, three times the height of a man, appear as golden arches wreathed in the blue and pink Warpfire of Tzeentch. Such is the power of the Guardian of the Maze, or perhaps it is the bizarre temporal nature of Tzeentch's twisting realm itself, that the Guardian manifests as a giant disembodied mouth hovering above all nine gates simultaneously.

At each gate, the mouth ponderously speaks, asking those seekers of knowledge one of the nine hundred and ninety-nine Riddles of Tzaratxoth. Those who answer the riddles correctly may pass through the gates and continue along the path to ultimate enlightenment. Those who fail to answer correctly are doomed to wander the labyrinth for all eternity wracked with insanity and regret over the infinite knowledge that might have been theirs.

Legend tells of one being -- the only one in all history, who answered all nine of the questions correctly. Strangely, many versions of the story posit that this individual appeared in the guise of a young girl who was accompanied by a small black dog.

Factions within the Ordo Malleus wage vicious scholarly battles over the hidden significance of this tale, or if the tale actually happened, or was yet another metaphorical wisp of smoke from the Master of Lies.

The Impossible Fortress

The Impossible Fortress that lies at the heart of the Realm of the Sorcerer.

Tzeentch's sanctum sanctorum, the Impossible Fortress, is said to lie at the centre of the crystalline maze, if indeed geographical descriptors such as "centre" apply with any accuracy to this inconstant realm. Some consider this as more akin to a central belief or conceit that might drive a series of thoughts than an actual location, as nothing of this area has physicality as mortals would comprehend it.

While this ætheric edifice is in constant flux, many have described it as a crystalline castle composed of the same sort of material as the labyrinth that surrounds it. Imbalanced spires spontaneously emerge from the ever-shifting foundation of the Impossible Fortress, as do towers of blue and pink flame and searing Warpfire.

Gates, doors, and portals slowly open, as if yawning with the ennui of ages, only to slam shut like mouths of terrible beasts and then disappear. Mortals shackled by the psychological manacles forged by a lifetime of habit and enculturation in the material realm cannot fathom the perverse design of Tzeentch's home.

Indeed, as the name of this fastness implies, even the most visionary and heretical designers of the material realm could not draft plans for the maddening architecture of the Impossible Fortress. Few Daemons, save the most powerful Lords of Change, can navigate its corridors, but as these creations are intelligent distillations of the madness that makes up Tzeentch's realm, they thrive all the same.

Deep inside the Impossible Fortress, according to some profane accounts, lies Tzeentch's fabled Hidden Library. This infinite collection of tomes, scrolls, and parchments of every kind contains every scrap of knowledge and thought ever recorded in Creation; stories written and unwritten; histories true and alternate; and accounts of futures potential, actual, and imagined.

Many of the volumes are so weighty with knowledge that they gain a sentience of a kind and spend centuries chattering to passersby, arguing with one another, rewriting themselves, and then reorganising their placement accordingly. Magical chains of Warpflame help to protect the books and bind them in place.

Horrors serve as grotesque librarians and work tirelessly to re-shelve the works, catalogue the collection, and maintain what passes for order in the Impossible Fortress, though as the concept itself is anathema to the Great Mutator, no mortal could possibly fathom such a design.

As with so many things associated with the Changer of Ways, few things are always as they seem. Although the Crystal Labyrinth, the Impossible Fortress, and the Hidden Library often appear (or at least are often perceived) as delineated above, by no means are these descriptions consistent with every narrative provided by those unfortunate mortal souls who have visited Tzeentch's domain.

Bock Sammaelle, dubbed the "Lunatic Scrivener of Hamclov Prime" by the hive city princes who acted as his patrons, claimed to have travelled to and returned from Tzeentch's realm in the early 41st Millennium. Sammaelle attested that he saw nothing but a bleak hill on which a single, leafless tree stood.

Daylasse Dial, the Heretic illuminator of Phalan 10 who was later executed for heresy, described Tzeentch's realm as a barren, desert landscape populated by deformed, headless humanoids that continually split and reformed into new bodies.

Land of the Plaguelord

"In this universe, all rots. In this universe, one must rot to survive."

— Excerpt from The Enlightenment of Korvede Kalthrax, Harbinger of Carrion

The Land of the Plaguelord, also called the Garden of Nurgle -- the pestilent domain of the Lord of Decay within the Realm of Chaos.

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 or destruction. Even the process of creation is but the precursor to later decay and dissolution. 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 psychic 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, decay and death, 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 willful and the strong.

As Nurgle's gifts multiply into 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 Humans and aliens. Yet his worshippers exist in numbers enough to ensure that 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.

In the Realm of Chaos, the home domain of Nurgle, the Land of the Plaguelord, often better known as the "Garden of Nurgle," is no ordinary garden. Perhaps it is not really a garden at all, but the mortal minds that contemplate the manifested will of the Plague Lord 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 Beasts of Nurgle 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 explode 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. They experience what needs to be experienced. Even the Daemons that tend the Garden of Nurgle 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 of Nurgle 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 they might find trees made of nothing but the flesh of Aeldari, constantly oozing the tears of a dying race. There they 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 of Nurgle, but any who encounter them will surely have their sanity tested and questioned, should they survive to share the tale.

The Land of the Plaguelord is an ever-changing realm, shifting according to the needs and whims of its master. Many areas exist only temporarily, taking shape to allow the Plague God 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.

The Land of the Plaguelord and one of its daemonic attendants.

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.

Mansion of the Plague Lord

The Lord of Decay and his foul experiments.

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, also called the Mansion of the Plague Lord, 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, they might find their 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, they might stumble upon the kitchens and larders of the Plague Lord'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 of Pleasure 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 Plague Lord 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 Plague Lord'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 Beasts of Nurgle. 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 Land of the Plaguelord, 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 of Nurgle 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 Plague Lord'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 his 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 Land of the Plaguelord 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.

Caged Maiden

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 scholars 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 fertility and 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 Plague Lord 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 Plague Lord is busy at his cauldron, Isha accepts her lot stoically, and fights back against the Lord of Decay'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.

Uninvited Guests

Very few mortal eyes have beheld the Land of the Plaguelord. 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 Land of the Plaguelord, for even the generosity of the Grandfather of Plagues has its limit.

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.

Dark Prince's Realm

"I prepared to enter his realm, expecting to encounter guardians who would seek to tear into me with talons and fangs. At the least I assumed I would find bastions to bar my progress. I found none. The land before me was open and pristine. Its fields shimmered like gold and its forests bore fruits of sapphires and emeralds. I took a step into this place and instantly knew I was lost just as surely as if I had been impaled on a debtor's spike."

— From the heretical tome The Confessions of Cardinal Wogalta

A willing petitioner approaches Slaanesh's looming Palace of Pleasure.

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 extreme amoral hedonism caused a new Chaos God 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's 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 Humanity 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 --the Drukhari -- 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, a fact which drives the Inquisition's paranoia and willingness to sacrifice so many civilians at even the slightest hint of corruption.

Slaanesh is unique among its brother-gods. It does not try to keep others out of its home in the Realm of Chaos, the Dark Prince's Realm. It invites them in. Through a series of tests of the will, it defends its gleaming palace against assault.

Tales such as that of the Heretic Cardinal Wogalta recounted above describe this Palace of Slaanesh, also known as the Palace of Pleasure, as sitting at the centre of the Dark Prince's empire, surrounded by six other domains arranged in concentric rings. Each ring holds different temptations for those who wander through it, imploring them to succumb to the pleasures it offers. Temptation is a weapon just as powerful as a chainsword or bolter. Traps can be sprung to eliminate the weak and dim. The bodies of those who succumb to the myriad temptations of the Dark Prince's Realm are consumed by the land itself, or turned into statues that beautify the view for others.

The souls of these lost and damned unfortunates feed Slaanesh's insatiable hunger. It invites them in so that they might sustain the god and its realm. Those who pass early tests may catch Slaanesh's eye, giving it some amusement for a time as it watches them resist, only to inevitably lose themselves to one seduction or another. Those rare few who make it to the outer walls of the Palace of Pleasure may be graced by a visit from the Lord of Excess itself.

None have ever made it into the palace unless Slaanesh wished it, for all who have looked upon the god's perfection have fallen to their knees and given themselves over, mind, body, and soul, to its dark majesty.

Excess of Riches

The Ecclesiarchy use stories of wayward souls like the Heretic cardinal to try to warn their servants of the dangers of temptation, drawing from the crazed descriptions of the Dark Prince's domains and minions that are related in such tales. It matters not if these accounts have any basis in real experience or if they are purely mad ravings brought on by fever or drugs. Real or imagined, they are powerful tales for protecting the simple-minded from, among other things, dreams of wealth and the pleasures it can buy.

In the first of the rings of the Dark Prince's Realm, day turns to night and the golden hues are replaced by soft blue, the sky shimmers ceaselessly. The heavens are filled with diamonds that seem as if they could be plucked from their place in the sky if one could but reach just a little further. Indeed, many try to do just that, forgetting themselves as they do, not paying attention to their surroundings.

Higher and higher they reach, climbing trees made of pure gold, even leaping from the boughs, only to plummet back to the ground, fracturing skulls and rupturing organs when they crash. The end comes to them then, but it is a joyous one, for in their minds they see only handfuls of glittering jewels. It is a temporary joy, however. In exchange for a fleeting moment of false elation, they forfeit their immortal souls.

Scholars of the Ruinous Powers collate tales of the impossible realms of Pleasure and Pain, and often describe the first of Slaanesh's treacherous domains as confronting visitors with a spectacle of riches beyond the wildest dreams of even the most avaricious merchants. They tell of trees, grass, and other plants made from living gold. Gentle breezes cause the grass to shimmer like the waters of an ocean under a noon sun. As the wind passes over the blades of grass and through the branches and leaves of the trees, it takes on a voice that beckons all to take as much as they want and more. The mountains that rise up on the horizon reflect a glorious warm light, letting all who see them know that they too are formed from gold.

Pathways through the fields are paved with cobblestones not of granite or shale, but of ruby and emerald. At the edges of the paths, loose gemstones and gold nuggets sit, waiting for anyone to pick them up and slip them in a pouch. There is always room for one more glittering stone, one more pebble of gold.

Wandering souls ensnared by this domain would do well to recall the legends that say that if those who lined their pockets with these treasures were able to take their eyes off the objects of their desire, they would note that not all they see was shining. Dull bits of bone and other remains are plentiful here as well. These are all that is left of those who filled their pockets, pouches, sleeves, and boots with so much gold that they collapsed under the weight of it. Unwilling or unable to let the riches go, they died where they fell, smiles on their faces despite their impending ends.

Excess of Sustenance

Mad ravings from those who claim to have seen into the beyond say that if an intruder is able to pass through the ring of golden fields without succumbing to greed, he is next confronted with a lake so vast, its shorelines fade to nothing in the distance. The only other land to be seen is a smattering of pale islands, connected to each other by a network of bridges.

The finest wine serves as water in this lake but no cups wait to be filled. The bouquet of the wine is strong, pleasant, and enticing. Words from fiery sermons begin to fade in the face of such serenity. Most visitors take very little time before they give up on the idea of cups and fall to their knees to drink directly from the lake. Heads swimming with delightful intoxication, many continue to drink until they slip into the waters and sink below the surface, never to be seen again.

Those who are able to lift their heads from the wine cast their gaze more closely on the islands and see them for what they are -- hunched giants holding aloft great tables heaped with extravagant feasts. Exotic fruits, rich breads, and meats of every kind are present. Swimming to these islands is perilous, and many whose senses have become wine-addled sink beneath the waves, joining the countless others who have slipped beneath the carmine liquid. For the ones that make it, the reward is astonishing.

Each bite is better than the finest meal they have ever experienced. Each morsel is a decadent delight for the tongue. Faster and faster the wayward consume the food. The voracious eater forces handful after handful down their throat. In their blind need to consume, they do not notice that some of the meat comes from carcasses with an all-too-familiar form.

Even if they were to somehow stop forcing food into their own stomach long enough to recognise the fate that awaits them, they could not stop. Given completely over to gluttonous indulgence, the mortal only stops eating when their body fails and they finally collapse into the feast, awaiting the next hungry diner.

Excess of Bodily Delights

There is perhaps no easier way to corrupt a mortal than to appeal to their carnal instincts. Entire Imperial libraries are filled with tales of lurid corruption on one side and manuals with instructions for fighting it on the other. In his heart, a Preacher knows that his congregation is most likely to fall because of the indulgences of lascivious desire than from any other temptation.

The Dark Prince surely knows this as well, and it is why the legends say it fills the third ring of its domain in the Realm of Chaos with visions, scents, and experiences that overload the mind and body of anyone who makes it this far. Rich fields of pleasingly textured grasses fill this ring, lit with teasing, golden hues. Soft tents made of spun dream-threads reflect visions gleaned from the deep subconscious of those who gaze upon them, forming sinuous corridors so narrow that a traveller cannot help but brush up against them and feel their cloying embrace. From one vista to the next, visitors travel through a series of decadent tableaus, each more twisted and inviting than the one before it.

The crude flesh dens of the underhives or the elegant shadowed parlours of the hive spires cannot present anything close to what the Lord of Endless Delights offers. Daemon and mortal bodies entwine until they become one. Forms so beautiful they are difficult to look at lie couchant, beckoning. Resisting is all but impossible.

The sights and sounds of the offered pleasures are sufficient to enthrall most who see and hear them. The assault on the senses does not end with these things, though. The air hangs heavy with an intoxicating musk so rich and pervasive that it penetrates the flesh of all who pass through it, quickening the heart and opening the senses further than thought possible.

Thus stimulated, flesh becomes hyper-sensitive to even the most gentle breath of air or tender caress. Scents waft from braziers in which smoulder the embers of an incense that triggers memories of amorous encounters of the past. A mortal in this state is easy prey for the purveyors of delights that surround them. Closing in on their now-willing victims, Daemonettes offer comforts with softly voluptuous flesh, kisses from razor-fanged mouths, and embraces from piercing claws.

Excess of Adoration

Within the ranks of the militaries of every starfaring species, talk of glory is common. Troops are motivated to achieve more than they believe they can by speeches from commanders who exhort the ranks onward to glorious victory. When battles are won, the returning heroes are held high and showered with praise and adoration.

This effect on the hero can be profound. More is possible, he thinks. More can be achieved. More glory can be his. Insidiously, this can also lead to fears of letting it all slip away, of failure and derision. In these thoughts, a path to Slaanesh is laid at the feet of the hero. This path is not restricted to the military. Leaders of government, churches, and cults all seek approval as well. Even fathers want their children to look up to them. The path described in the Heretic cardinal's confession is crowded with wayward souls -- a path that leads to the fourth circle of the Dark Prince's Realm.

For each visitor here, the experience is unique, though there are commonalities for many. Massed throngs may greet a soldier, cheering his name and erecting statues in his honour. Planetary governors may see themselves establishing such complete order that they gain control of an entire star system. Whatever the scenario presented to him, the victim of these visions finds it incredibly difficult to pull themselves out of the pleasant dream.

Unlike the dreams experienced when a person sleeps, these illusions do nothing to seem impossible. A soldier has seen others elevated and has been trained for acts of glory. Histories are filled with tales of governors who have carved out greater realms among the stars. These and more offer solidity to the visions encountered, drawing the dreamer farther and farther into illusionary depths.

Only self-doubt gnaws at some, and these are the ones who break free. When they do, the dream shatters, revealing, if only for an instant, a vast plain of black soot. Upon it heaps of bones are buried beneath the bodies of millions of others, standing and lying in the burned ashes, still trapped in their individual delusions. The unsettling image flashes by in an instant and the traveller is confronted by the traps of the next circle.

Excess of Achievement

When the Corpse-god of the Imperium created the Space Marines, legend has that He faced the difficult task of engineering a warrior that was eager to serve Him through great deeds of heroism and by achieving the impossible in His name. At the same time, these soldiers needed to be humble enough to realise that victory earned in the name of the Emperor is not personal, that they are simply weapons to be wielded in His hands, unquestioning and obedient.

As is known to those who have studied those ancient times, He failed. Legions rebelled, led by prideful primarchs who questioned the Emperor's plans and thought they could do better. All the while, the the Prince of Chaos whispered encouragement in their ears, as it does to all visitors to the fifth circle of its domain, if the blasphemous tales are to be believed.

What appears to be a grand forest, with dense clusters of majestic trees that house secluded glades is, of course, a trap. The sound baffling effect of the trees puts the mind in an introspective position. The long walk gives it time to wander. The glades are inviting and serene. In the centre of each glade is a perfectly still pool that invites the traveller to sit and reflect upon their thoughts. As they stare into the pool, they recall their accomplishments and dwell on what more they could achieve. Sitting there lost in thought, the undergrowth of the glade begins to creep in on them. Thorny branches reach toward them. Strangling vines descend from the trees and gently coil around their neck.

As they close their eyes and imagine themselves striking down legendary foes, conquering galaxy-spanning civilisations, or negotiating heavily favourable Warrants of Trade, the waters of the pool rise up and take the shape of whatever represents defeat for the dreamer. Sensing something is amiss, the ensnared visitor opens their eyes and is confronted by a vision of shame and defeat just before the branches and vines rip at their flesh and choke the air from their lungs. The sound of their final scream, stifled by a lack of air, is a delight to the Dark Prince.

An incredibly small number of travellers resist the temptation to dream and are spared the torment of confronting their failings. They rise, exhausted by their trials, and pass into the sixth and final circle that stands between them and the Palace of Pleasure.

Excess of Repose

Life in the 41st Millennium is hard, short, and brutal. For many, each day is a struggle to simply survive to the end of the day. Even species that do not suffer the oppressive yoke of Imperial rule are not without burdens. The Aeldari, for example, must ensure that their craftworlds are supplied and ready to repel invaders, all the while haunted by the knowledge of the terrible fate that can await them should their souls fall to She Who Thirsts.

Still, bodies need rest. Surely any wanderer who has made it to the last of Slaanesh's defensive rings must be weary, and especially deserving of repose, even if only for a moment. Upon emerging from the delightful torments of the previous five circles, anyone who could resist the seduction placed before them at this point would surely become legend. Awaiting the beleaguered traveller, say the whispers of those depraved wretches languishing in perfumed palaces and pleasure dens, is a vision of sublime peace.

All struggle is surely a thing of the past. All torment a distant memory. Here is a beach of softest sand, warmed by the rays of a golden sun. Gentle breezes push scattered clouds through a perfect azure sky. Music is carried on those same breezes, soothing the spirit. The ground itself rises up and caresses the body of the weary wanderer. Cherubs begin to remove armour plates and burdensome belongings.

Coalescing from the salted mists of the waves that break upon the shore, figures with placid features and soothing hands approach and rub tired muscles. The memories of an arduous journey fade into nothingness. Peace is the wanderer's at last.

It is peace eternal if the will is not strong enough to snap consciousness back to reality. Determination sends the placid apparitions screaming back to the seas. Resolve collects displaced armour and other possessions. Herculean effort forces the few strongest invaders to rise up and approach the final destination. The Palace of Slaanesh lies ahead, and surely any who could pass through the six trials is prepared for what awaits.

Palace of Pleasure

A determined warrior, Daemon or mortal, who survived the predations of the six circles of the Dark Prince's Realm and their inhabitants would naturally assume that the Palace of Pleasure, Slaanesh's residence and seat of power, would be defended with legions of Daemonettes and Fiends. Surely his Keepers of Secrets would confront any invader that made it to the Dark Prince's abode. Thick walls must surround the grounds and towers of his demesne.

Slaanesh has no need of such defences, however. Any invading force, from a lone Space Marine, to legions of Bloodletters, would find that the only guardians present would be statues of the finest alabaster and perfectly shaped trees. Confused as these warriors might be, nothing could prepare them for the presence of the master of the realm. As the invaders contemplate what they perceive as a lack of defence, the air stills.

Unseen choirs sing, and ears weep at the unholy harmonies. A god emerges from his palace. Striding confidently toward the awestruck invaders, the Dark Prince smiles. It is enough to completely disarm any who stand in its presence. They are lost, body and soul, and they care little of the fact. This, the tales say, is why there are no defensive walls or daemonic hordes around the Palace of Slaanesh. There is simply no need. Resistance in the face of perfection is not a possibility.

What becomes of those thus ensnared is beyond speculation and more the subject of fevered dreams. Not one soul has trod upon the grounds of the Palace of Pleasure and returned to tell the tale. Scholars of the obscene and decadent debate not only the fate of those who get this far, but even the very structure of the grounds and the palace itself.

There being no firsthand accounts, who can say for sure what form the citadel takes? Some say the palace is a single humble dwelling, making the appearance of the Prince of Pleasure even more grand in comparison. Other say it is the most opulent structure ever conceived, stretching for kilometres in every direction, including upward.

Most agree that it must be magnificent. A god of excess and perfection must have a domicile to match. If this is correct, then the spires of gold and marble surely ring an inner courtyard wherein statues of exquisite realism are placed. These statues might be the final form of those who succumbed to the disarming allure of Slaanesh. If so, then their faces would bear a countenance of absolute joy. These statues would capture forever the perfect moment of grace that one would surely feel in the presence of perfection.

It may be that the only inhabitant of the Palace of Pleasure is Slaanesh itself. Perhaps no Daemons of any kind are required to embellish its inner sanctum. Or it may be that the palace is filled with life, a den of iniquity where decadence unrivalled is played out eternally.

Regardless, it is the seat of power for the Lord of Pleasure, the Master of Painful Delights, the Prince of Obsession. It is home to Slaanesh.

Sources

  • Black Crusade: The Tome of Blood (RPG), pp. 4, 6-22, 24, 26, 28-29, 36, 43-46, 61-62, 64, 66, 86-89, 116-118
  • Black Crusade: The Tome of Decay (RPG), pp. 6-12, 18-20
  • Black Crusade: Tome of Excess (RPG), pp. 6-12, 19-20
  • Black Crusade: Tome of Fate (RPG)
  • Codex: Chaos Daemons (4th Edition), pp. 4-13
  • Codex: Chaos Daemons (6th Edition), pp. 6-17
  • Codex: Chaos Daemons (8th Edition), pg. 9
  • Codex: Orks (4th Edition), pg. 26
  • Warhammer Armies: Chaos Daemons (8th Edition), pg. 13 (Map)
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