"The Terminus Est is an abomination against the Emperor, an open wound that has never healed, a constant reminder of betrayal and treachery. That it still stalks the stars is a dark omen sent by the gods, a reminder that while our lives are fleeting, the power of Chaos is forever..."
- — Fleet Admiral Horst Palye, Battlefleet Solar (Executed for Heresy 127.M39)
The Terminus Est was one of the first capital ships assigned to the Death Guard Legion of Space Marines by the Emperor of Mankind. It is of a unique design that pre-dates the Great Crusade and which was later copied in the 36th Millennium as part of the Gareox Prerogative to create the Despoiler-class Battleship. As might be expected, this ancient vessel was considerably more powerful than its inferior successor. Few vessels conjure such dread in their foes as does the Terminus Est. Its very name is a curse upon the lips of Imperial ship captains and commanders across the Imperium. It has been present at some of the greatest betrayals and bloodiest days in Imperial history.
The Chaos Lord Typhus sits upon its command throne, overseeing its filth-encrusted cannon and infected crew. The Terminus Est has become a harbinger of the Plague God, its appearance above a planet heralding disease and ruin for the citizens below. From its bloated launch bays and pustule-studded holds, rusting dropships are vomited down in putrid brown waves. Inside, Death Guard Plague Marines hunch over corroded blades and pitted bolt guns, waiting for their chance to carry out the will of Nurgle. More than merely a vessel, the Terminus Est is a vile legend and symbol of fear for the people of Imperium. Even a whisper of the ship's presence in a sector can send planetary governors and system lords screaming to the Imperial Guard and Imperial Navy for protection. However, when the Terminus Est darkens the skies of a world, there is little that can save its people -- their fate sealed as the terrible attentions of the Plague God fall upon them.
The Terminus Est was built in the years before the Great Crusade in the shipyards of Luna. Its unique design was larger and more powerful than any previously constructed pattern, but also more cumbersome. The Emperor created the vessel for his Space Marine Legions, gifting the ship to the Dusk Raiders, later to be known as the dreaded Death Guard. The Terminus Est was a huge battleship, miles in length with the firepower to lay waste to entire cities. Specially crafted for the Space Marines, it incorporated decks of launch bays capable of carrying hundreds of Stormbird Dropships. Its distinctive forked prow allowed it to act as both launch bay and gun deck, meaning it could send out assault craft while bombarding a planet from orbit, making it ideally suited to the needs of the Legion. Such was the success of the Terminus Est's design that it would be later reproduced in great numbers by the Imperium. These copies were designated Despoiler Class, and were used extensively for planetary assaults.
It would be the influence of its captain Calas Typhon -- as Typhus was once known -- that would eventually see the Terminus Est become a tool for Chaos, his own corruption infecting the ship he captained. Typhon's fall to Chaos happened before the rest of his Legion, before even his Primarch Mortarion, the promises of Nurgle taking deep root within his soul. When the Death Guard finally sided with Horus, the taint of the Plague Father had already begun to seep into the hull of the Terminus Est. During the Horus Heresy the vessel made a bloody name for itself, taking a heavy toll on the loyalist fleets and bringing fire and death to dozens of worlds. As part of the Istvaan V Dropsite Massacre, the Terminus Est was central to the fierce battle that raged above the planet, destroying the Raven Guard flagship Shadow of the Emperor and sending its flaming hulk tumbling into the void. It is argued that this engagement was the earliest recorded conflict between Battleships specialised to carry Attack Craft. The engagement was swift and deprived the embattled Loyalist forces of any air support in the Dropsite Massacre that followed.
The vessel was to be the site of Typhon's transformation to Typhus; from a Space Marine into a true servant of Nurgle. While returning to Terra the Terminus Est became becalmed in the Warp, utterly at the mercy of the Dark Gods. It was here that the Lord of Decay visited his most virulent gift upon the ship: the Destroyer Plague. The Warp-borne disease struck down every soul on board, save Typhus, who swelled with the gifts of the Plague Father, becoming his Herald and host to the Destroyer Hive.
Perhaps the most infamous appearance of the Terminus Est came during the Siege of Terra. By this point in the Heresy the vessel had already begun to change, the blessings of the Plague God firmly upon it. When it appeared as part of the traitor fleet its hull was teeming with rot and decay, rust-blood and plasma-puss leaking out into space from the corroded seams in its hull. Legend has it that the vessel was the first to bombard the Emperor's Imperial Palace, those initial titanic explosions marking the beginning of the siege. While the Death Guard Primarch Mortarion fought on Terra with the Legion, Typhus commanded the Terminus Est for much of the siege, and when Horus was slain, it was Typhus and the Terminus Est that covered the Legion's retreat to the Eye of Terror, and disappeared from human knowledge for centuries.
The Lord of Plague Cometh
"The Terminus Est is a gift from the Plague Father, a piece of his divine realm made manifest in the galaxy, so that we might understand and revel in his glorious putrescence."
- — Typhus, Herald of Nurgle
In the Eye it is suspected that the Traitor Legions fought amongst themselves. It is the boast of the Death Guard that their Primarch-turned-Daemon Prince Mortarion conquered a mighty empire within the Eye and transformed it to his own tastes. In the millennia after the siege, the Terminus Est would appear again and again across the Imperium, alongside Death Guard invasions and daemonic incursions. M35 was the first confirmed sighting of Terminus Est after the Heresy, and coincided with the outbreak of the Destroyer Plague in the Agripinaa Sector. A wasting disease of terrible and lethal speed, it depopulated a dozen worlds within the space of a month. Each time the shadow of the Terminus Est was sighted lurking at the edge of the affected system.
In the 36th Millennium an Adeptus Mechanicus expeditionary force succeeded in finding schematics of its design on the Perdita world of Barbarus, the ancient homeworld of the Death Guard Legion, and began building the Despoiler-class Battleship based on these designs. Little were they to know that the core architecture and design of the class' Gellar Field Warp shields hid a fundamental flaw. Only when in the following centuries the vessels of this class were either lost in the Warp or turned Renegade did the realisation strike home.
In 497.M36 it stained the skies above Yermoth VIII as the Cult of Septica burned pyres of screaming Ministorum priests, while in 299.M37 it blasted the Dominus Aquila star fort to flaming fragments on the edges of the Celstorian Nebula. In 834.M37, during the assault on the asteroid cities of the Emperor's Halo, the Terminus Est fired plague-ridden torpedoes though the defenders' force domes. Finally, driven mad by the rot and death drowning their citizens, the Imperial overlords opened the domes to space. On thousands of worlds across a hundred centuries, the Terminus Est has become the spectre of death incarnate, the very will of Nurgle made manifest.
The Terminus Est and Typhus did not assume a central role during the 12th Black Crusade, known also as the Gothic War. A single sighting near Anvil 206 was the only evidence of their presence. However, considering the later incidents traced back to Anvil 206 it is clear that a particular mission was accomplished.
Typhus and the Terminus Est assumed a more protracted role during the 13th Black Crusade. Resurgences of the Curse of Unbelief and the large number of Plague Ships sworn to Nurgle amongst the many Chaos Warfleets unleashed during the conflict led to sightings of the Terminus Est coming in to Cadian High Command from all over the Cadian Sector. The exact nature of Typhus' participation in the 13th Black Crusade is unknown, as the only Inquisition-certified sighting of the Terminus Est was above the Shrine World of Kathur. During the battle for that world, the Terminus Est destroyed the Imperial Dominator-class Cruiser Depth of Fury and its Escorts, as well as the Raven Guard Strike Cruiser Second Shadow. The Terminus Est suffered over 30% structural damage in the process, half of that from the impact of the Depth of Fury's Nova Cannon. Typhus had no worry, for he knew his ship would simply regenerate the damage as if it were a living thing thanks to Nurgle's blessings.
Herald of Death
Once, the Terminus Est -- while in a class of its own -- was like other warships of the Imperium, its slab-sided hull festooned with guns, its armoured prow bearing the emblems of the Emperor. However, nothing that succumbs to the power of Chaos will escape its mutating effects for long, not even a mighty battleship of the Imperium. Now its ancient bulkheads are held together only by rust, its corridors are choked by the eternally rotting corpses of its crew, and indescribable foulness drips, oozes and dribbles from its every inch. Where once proud plasteel, ceramite and adamantium plates covered its decks, now a living, slick layer of infected flesh dominates. Festering bone shards, rotten fangs and malformed teeth project from every surface. The trapped souls of all those that have served and died upon its decks distort the fleshy walls with their rotting faces, screaming and wailing from their pestilent prisons within the hull.
Over centuries in the Warp it has soaked in the very essence of Chaos; it has become a living thing, its decaying form crawling with Nurgle's minions. The halls and chambers of the Terminus Est have been transformed into a reflection of Nurgle's realm. Bloated flies fill the foetid air, while soupy puss drips down from overhead like warm rain. The repellent, twisted things that shamble through this miasma of corruption are barely human any more, bloated with disease and riddled with weeping sores. These "crew" tend to the ship's needs, feeding decaying corpses into its engines or nurturing its garden of shining boils and pustules until they are ready to burst. Only the Death Guard Plague Marines are unhindered by the vessel's contagions, marching about its corridors silent and grim as the ship bears them across the stars. However, in truth, the Terminus Est needs neither crew nor captain to guide it, having taken on a dark sentience from its daemonic patron.
The Plague Lord's gifts have also found their way into the gun decks and weapon batteries of the Terminus Est, and where once macro cannon hurled vast plasma warheads into the void, now strange and horrific growths take their place. Dribbling sphincters line the side of the ship, periodically belching filth out into space; when an enemy ship comes into range they spasm and cough out meteoric torrents of caustic debris. Each discharge is capable of blinding sensors and burning through the hull of enemy vessels. These Warp weapons are just as deadly as any macro cannon or lance turret possessed by the Imperium, and make the Terminus Est a deadly opponent. The rotting hull and distended gun decks of the Chaos vessel have fooled more than one Imperial captain. Only when the Imperial warship draws too close to escape does Terminus Est release its full fury, fleshy cannon yawning wide to bathe its foe in a viscous surge of bile. Worse than the catastrophic hull damage the daemonic weapons can inflict is the contagion they impart. Able to live in the cold emptiness of space or leap through vacuum to infect new hosts, the Destroyer Plague carried by Typhus and the Terminus Est is capable of killing the crew of a compromised ship in mere hours.
Typhus and his flagship are inextricably linked, and the Terminus Est is as riddled with the Destroyer Plague as its captain. Warp-flies fill its corridors and chambers, a seemingly unending stream of glistening insects buzzing across every deck. These same swollen minions of Nurgle also protect the Terminus Est from enemy ordnance or boarding craft, forming a writhing, undulating cloud around the warship. From a distance across the gulf of space this carpet of Warp-flies distorts the shape of the vessel, making it hard for gunners to lock onto a section of the Terminus Est or target any of its vital systems. Any ship foolish enough to try and dock with the Chaos vessel or initiate a boarding action will become enveloped by the Warp-fly cloud, the tiny horrors choking augurs and spilling through hull breaches and cycling torpedo tubes.
Typhus almost always captains the Terminus Est. He sits at the helm of the warship, his heavily armoured form hunched atop a throne of rotting bone and skin, the funnels of the Destroyer Hive buzzing with Warp-flies upon his back. Centuries of void-borne warfare have made Typhus a master of ship to ship combat, with the added advantage that he shares a symbiotic relationship with the Terminus Est and need not rely on fallible mortal officers or crew. When the battleship appears it is often at the head of a Plague Fleet, comprised of dozens of other vessels that have suffered the touch of the Lord of Decay. It is whispered that when a ship's crew suffers from a Warp-borne sickness the Terminus Est will appear on the edges of its augurs. For days the Chaos vessel will shadow the ship as the infection culls its crew and weakens their resolve. Only when the survivors cry out to Nurgle for salvation will the Terminus Est approach, welcoming them into the service of the Dark Gods.
The Terminus Est is a truly ancient vessel, more than ten thousand years old. It has been witness to much of the Imperium's history, from the Siege of Terra to the dawn of Abaddon's 13th Black Crusade against the Imperium:
- The Emperor's Gift (c.M30) - After the alliance between Terra and Mars, the Emperor commissions the creation of a vast fleet to retake the stars and reunite Humanity's lost children. Some of the most skilled tech-artisans of the age create the Terminus Est in the shipyards of Luna. Its hull, armaments and engines incorporate countless advanced designs recovered from the Dark Age of Technology. The Emperor gifts the vessel to his Dusk Raiders Legion, as a reward for their loyalty. The Terminus Est becomes the Legion's flagship as they embark upon the Great Crusade to unify the galaxy under the rule of Mankind.
- Shadow Falls (c.M31) - In one of its first acts of betrayal, the Terminus Est is present during the Istvaan III Atrocity where it participated in the virus bombing of the planet. During the battle, the Terminus Est, attempted to pursue and failed to destroy the loyalist frigate, Eisenstein, when it fled to bring warning to the Emperor. During the Dropsite Massacre at Istvaan V, the Terminus Est turned upon the Loyalists' vessels. In the chaotic and brutal space battle that ensures the Terminus Est racks up an impressive tally of enemy kills, Typhon proving himself more than a match for his loyalist counterparts.
- Siege of Terra (c.M31) - After the battle on Istvaan V, the Terminus Est eventually embarks for Terra to aid Horus in his assault on the Emperor's Palace. Typhon slays the ship's Navigator, promising his Primarch that he can personally lead the Death Guard fleet to Terra. Unbeknownst to his Legion, this is all part of Typhon's plan to offer them up to the Plague God. Ultimately, Typhon becalms the Terminus Est in the Warp, leaving it to the mercy of his new master. When the warship appears above Terra it has changed, the mark of Chaos clearly upon it. The warship rains devastating bombardments and virulent contagions down upon the fighting around the Emperor's Palace. In the Warp, Nurgle cackles with glee to see thousands of defenders succumb to his gifts.
- A Nightmare Returns (545.M35) - Having been mistakenly thought destroyed after the Heresy, the Terminus Est descends upon the Imperium once more. The cursed vessel proves a formidable foe, more than a match for the Imperium's finest vessels and most skilled captains. Worse still, when a battle is lost to the Terminus Est it heralds only more suffering to come as plague and sickness spread out of control.
- Mission to Barbarus (216.M36) - In response to Imperial Naval encounters with the Terminus Est the Adeptus Mechanicus seek out the ship's ancient schematics, gifted to the Death Guard after the vessel's creation. An expedition to Barbarus, the scoured remains of the Death Guard home world, finds the data the Mechanicus seeks and the Imperium creates the first Despoiler-class warships inspired by the formidable Terminus Est. It is only much later that the Imperium realises that the design holds a fatal flaw, its Geller fields vulnerable after extended exposure to the Warp. Over the centuries, almost every Despoiler-class warship is lost to Chaos, its crew and captains subverted or corrupted by the Dark Gods.
- A Deadly Corpse (018.M38) - The long range Imperial scout ship Sword of Truth encounters the crumbling remains of an unknown ship drifting on the edges of the Segmentum Solar. Believing the vessel to be a relic of the Great Crusade, the crew assemble a boarding party to search for valuable salvage. Only when their landing craft draw close do they see the mutated steel and repellent, mouldering growths covering its hull. By the time the captain realises his mistake Warp-flies are already swarming over his vessel. When the Terminus Est appears again, the Sword of Truth has been added to its Plague Fleet.
- The Dust War (620.M39) - On the edges of the Ork Empire of Octarius the Death Guard and the Overfiend's hordes fight over the Urgorn Dust Cloud. A vast asteroid field of psychokinetic rock, the cloud coalesces around the space hulks and scrap-fortresses of the Orks, creating tiny worlds with micro-atmospheres. The Terminus Est wreaks havoc by infecting the environments with its Warpfly miasma, the ship choking their tiny atmospheres with the bodies of billions of insects. Orks die in their millions, their green corpses bursting into rotting puddles of virulent disease. Yet the war rages on for months as more and more of the aliens spill out of the Octarius Empire looking for a good fight.
- Encounter at Anvil 206 (139.M41) - The Terminus Est is encountered during the Gothic War, in the void around Anvil 206. The damage done by Typhus' Plague Fleet weakens the hive world's defences and seeds a Warpborn virus that lies dormant for years. One of the mysterious Blackstone Fortresses, a lynchpin defence for the system, later falls to Abaddon the Despoiler. Its defenders are struck down by a virulent contagion as the Warmaster's fleet bears down upon them.
- The Devotion of Skarlak (755.M41) - A powerful blood-seer is born upon the world of Skarlak, the gene-tribes rejoicing at the gift of future-sight once again within their reach. However, as the blood-seer grows to adulthood she is tormented with dreams of a ship that sails across the stars, pocked and scarred by a disease of steel and iron. By the time the blood-seer reaches the height of her power the entire planet has descended into the madness of worshiping the nightmare ship, painting their bodies with profane symbols and building huge statues to a god they cannot name. When the Terminus Est arrives in the skies of Skarlak the populace cry out their devotion, as Typhus and his Death Guard descend to harvest their souls.
- The Lamented Hunter (923.M41) Lord-Captain Virator Hax makes a vow before the lords of Segmentum Obscurus to hunt down and destroy the Terminus Est. His fleet scours the stars around the Eye of Terror, seeking the vessel, Hax following every sighting or rumour of the cursed craft. Finally, the captain believes he has found the hiding place of the ship, in the shattered remains of an Eldar crone world. Hax leads his fleet into the great fissures that web its airless husk. In the dark confines of the planet's rocky heart Hax confronts the Terminus Est, his ship, the Glorious Lament, unleashing weapons fire at point-blank range. Only when the first shots strike home does the captain realise the ship he faces is made of Warp-flies, scrap and acres of frozen skin. Out in the void, Typhus bombards the planet, collapsing the fissures and sealing Hax and his fleet within its core.
- Herald of the Plague God (999.M41) - In the final hours of the 41st Millennium the Eye of Terror disgorges a massive Chaos invasion fleet led by Abaddon the Despoiler. In its vanguard the Terminus Est and its captain Typhus have been spreading disease and destruction to worlds in the path of the Warmaster, including a new and deadly contagion capable of animating the dead.
- Miasma of Pestilence - The Terminus Est is surrounded by vast swarming clouds of the same Warp-spawned flies which buzz and howl through its interior, and which first transformed Typhus into the Host of the Destroyer Hive. This miasma permeates outwards from the ship, through blisters, boils and fractures in its surface or through corroded, useless discharge tubes and weapon barrels. The miasma replaces the ship’s turrets, and works in exactly the same way as turrets against Attack Craft, but has no effect against torpedoes. The miasma is so thick that it obscures and distorts the shape of the Terminus Est, meaning that vessels within close proximity find that their Augurs and other sensorium cannot lock on the ship when firing at the Terminus Est.
- Hives of Nurgle - Along either side of the Terminus Est, row upon row of festering pustules, hives, boils and sores erupt outwards from the ship’s cankered skin. These growths cover the rusted remains of what was presumably once the ship’s main broadside batteries, growing in a diseased parody of these weapons like coral over rock. They seep and bloat, periodically erupting violently and hurling a mixture of corroded debris, ammunition and filth out into space. The Hives of Nurgle function in exactly the same way as standard weapons batteries.
- Battlefleet Gothic 2010 Compendium, pp. 109-110
- Index Astartes III, "The Death Guard Space Marine Legion"
- Index Chaotica: Terminus Est (Digital Edition), pp. 3-4, 6-11
- Flight of the Eisenstein (Novel) by James Swallow, pp. 118-120
- Cadian Blood (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, pp. 74-128