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Warhammer Chaos Symbols

May or may not be related to the Carnival of Nurgle.

No one knows from whence it came, the dreaded Carnival of Chaos. Some have rumoured that it was once a gypsy caravan from the east of the Empire, wandering folk that brought their colourful fare from village to village entertaining the poor rural folk of the Empire with their lavish shows and stage plays. If this past is the truth then what it has become in the present is far more sinister and deadly. Still it wanders the rural backwaters of the Empire, in a colourful cavalcade of wagons, its folk dressed in the colourful finery of travelling players, bringing sonnet and song to excitable villagers and peasants.[1a]

Upon reaching a new settlement, these outlandish showmen erect their stage and entertain the poor rural folk with songs and plays of the dark days of the Empire. Tales such as: ‘The Emperor’s True Face’, ‘Orfeo and Pustulate’, ‘Papa Noigul’s Festering Children’ and ‘A Midsummer Nightmare’ wow the enraptured throng.[1a]

Strongmen perform feats of incredible prowess to the adoration of the crowd, whilst players in garish, grinning masks juggle balls, knives and flaming brands. As the crowd’s numbers increase, a fool in bright jester’s garb with an inflated pig’s bladder on a stick leaps from one enthralled watcher to the next joking and cackling, poking and prodding.[1a]

It is only when the show reaches its blasphemous climax, as the sun begins to set, that the truth of the Carnival of Chaos is revealed in all its putrid, festering glory. For these are no mere wandering thespians and entertainers. When the players perform their final act, known as the ‘Dance of Death’, the enchantments covering their true visages slowly slip away revealing them to their blissfully ignorant audience for they are cavorting, cyclopean daemons with rotting flesh hanging from yellowing bones. What were originally considered intricately decorated masks and cleverly applied make-up is soon revealed as the players’ true horribly mutated faces, covered in pustules and pox-ridden lesions. As the villagers’ expressions turn from those of elation to abject terror at the sight of these horrific visions the slaughter begins. By now most of the folk who made up the cheering audience would have already succumbed to the virulent diseases spread by these malevolent players. The insidious Carnival Master, accompanied by his cackling fool, rounds up those unfortunate women and children that remain alive, taking a finger from each of his new brides, exclaiming “You’re my wife now!”.[1a]

The survivors are then led away to an unknown fate and the village is left deserted, its inhabitants and livestock killed by innumerable diseases and plague.[1a]

The Carnival of Chaos is the sick joke of the Great Lord of Decay, the Chaos god known as Nurgle. Thrice cursed Nurgle is also known as the unspeakable Master of Plague and Pestilence and the players in the Carnival are his corrupt followers and worshippers. They are those who have sold their souls for a twisted form of immortality through embracing death, destruction and decay – learning to love Nurgle’s many and varied gifts. It is not known how many Carnivals of Chaos there are or if the handful of reports from the lips of petrified witnesses all refer to the same warband.[1a]

The leader of the Carnival of Chaos is known as the Carnival Master and is reputed to be a sorcerer of great power, wielding the unclean magic of his lord to cause suffering and death through disease and decay. Through dark ritual and sacrifice, the Carnival Master summons forth the cackling, decaying Daemons of his patron god to take part in the twisted masquerade. His mortal followers carefully nurture their newly acquired diseases, blessings of their gregarious deity and vie for power and advancement under his watchful gaze. The most blessed of these twisted, insane creatures are those known as the Tainted Ones. These are often the right-hand ‘men’ of the Carnival Master and their bodies are wracked with a multitude of foul diseases and mutation. The Carnival of Chaos is justly hunted by the many bands of zealous Witch Hunters that traverse the lands but always seems to be just one step ahead of the Sigmarites and continues to follow its merry path, bringing the blessings of Nurgle to all.[1a]

Hierarchy

  • Carnival Master: These lead the diabolical Carnivals of Chaos. They are the chosen of Nurgle and wield sorcerous powers gifted to them by their pestilential god. The Master is a power-crazed individual that leads his coven of Daemonic entertainers throughout the backwaters of the Empire, tainting villages and settlements with disease. To the backward peasantry of the Empire’s rural settlements, the Master comes across as an exotic and charismatic showman bringing outlandish entertainment into their otherwise dreary lives. It is the Carnival Master’s cunning and clever enchantments that help to keep his minions one step ahead of the patrols of the many Witch Hunter bands that rove the land.[1b]
  • Brutes: These are a very specific type of mutant that have had their constitution bolstered by the unnatural vitality of the Lord of Decay. Nurgle’s foul attention has transformed what were once men into massive, statuesque creatures rippling with diseased muscles and a supernatural vigour. Brutes are immensely strong individuals and their part in the masquerade that is the Carnival of Chaos is as strongmen performing feats of strength to entertain the crowds. They are nearly always hooded in the nature of executioners for although their bodies appear outwardly strong and healthy, their faces are often riddled with disease and are half-decayed. In battle, they wield huge hammers and flails with reckless abandon, whirling them around their heads like children’s toys.[1b]
  • Tainted Ones: The Tainted Ones are those that are most blessed and favoured of Father Nurgle. They hold a position of great importance within the hierarchy of the Carnival. They are often heavily robed and protected by powerful enchantments, for beneath their robes are unspeakable horrors. The bodies of the Tainted Ones are so wracked with disease and mutation that it is unsafe for even the other mortal members of the warband to touch their bare skin. Ironically, they take the most prestigious role in the Carnival – the fool. The Tainted Ones leap and prance about the audience, dressed as jesters, when the Carnival is performing, laughing and joking with the gathered throng while infecting them with their multitude of horrendous maladies. These twisted creatures are exceptionally dangerous opponents in combat too, for it is said that they carry the dreaded and incurable Nurgle’s Rot.[1b]
  • Plague Bearers: Plague Bearers are daemons of the Chaos God Nurgle, also known as the Lord of Decay. They can be identified by their cyclopean faces and horrifically decayed bodies. Their entrails hang from tattered holes in their grey-green, poxridden flesh and the aura of death and decay surrounds them. They are sometimes known as the Tallymen of Plagues or Maggotkin and are highly revered by the mortal members of the warband. As with all Daemons they can never be killed or destroyed for good so long as the power of their god prevails. However, their presence in the mortal world is tenuous and can only be maintained for long periods by Dark Magic and sacrifice. In the Carnival, the Plague Bearers revel in their showy roles as stage actors and players, dressing in filth encrusted but ostentatious doublet and hose.[1c]
  • Nurglings: Nurglings are tiny Daemons of Nurgle and are viewed by other followers of the pus god as akin to his beloved children. They are like rotten boils with legs and razor sharp teeth, that pick and tear and infect their foes with filth-encrusted claws. Nurglings are generally more of a nuisance in a fight than any real threat but in sufficient numbers can overwhelm even the toughest of warriors. Nurglings are mischievous little bundles of filth and pus and take great delight in their part in the Carnival of Chaos, not only as musicians but also as fools and slapstick comedians. Nurglings often befriend the children of each village they visit, only revealing their foul identity to their terrified victims at the final stage of ‘Nurgle’s Great Play’.[1c][1d]
  • Brethren: Brethren are the crazed and devoted followers of Nurgle the Lord of Decay. They have totally embraced the philosophy of the great Lord of Decay and the path of damnation is the road that they have chosen. Most brethren are infected with foul diseases and some have even started to decay. Their faces are covered in warts and boils and other lesser gifts of their lord. In the Carnival, the Brethren take on all of the minor roles: stagehands, puppeteers, etc.[1d]
  • Plague Cart: The Plague Cart is the embodiment of Nurgle and the core of the Carnival of Chaos. Bedecked in the colourful, garish finery of the coaches of travelling players and thespians, the Cart easily draws the eyes of the dull and bland peasantry of the villages. However, the canvas is tattered and rotten, the frame splintered and bent, the metalwork pitted and rusted and the steeds rotted and dank. Few mortals have ever seen the interior of one of these most sinister of vehicles for it is only the Carnival Master and his Daemonic minions that are permitted entry. It is rumoured that these ramshackle wagons contain a pentagram daubed with dark runes of incredible potency that actually creates a portal to the realms of Chaos and the dwelling place of great Nurgle himself.[1d]

Source

  • 1: Mordheim: Empire in Flames
    • 1a: pg. 60
    • 1b: pg. 62
    • 1c: pg. 63
    • 1d: pg. 64

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