- "Until I looked close, I thought his skin was roiling and writhing. Then I saw dozens of tiny Daemons burrowing through his flesh, gnawing on his bones and suckling upon his vile secretions. All this horror was belied by the beast's cultured voice, which welcomed me as a long-lost son even as I fell retching to my knees."
- —Liber Malefic.[1a]
The Great Unclean Ones, known also as Fly Masters, the Stench Lords, Nurgle's Plaguefathers or simply Plague Lords, are truly titanic Greater Daemons of Nurgle whose plague and diseases can put low entire armies and can endure the greatest and most horrific punishments that can fell even the mightiest of Daemonkind. Each is more or less a facsimile of Nurgle himself, both physically and in terms of their personality, Indeed, a Great Unclean One is sometimes referred to as Nurgle or Father Nurgle by his underlings, although of course each also has his own daemonic name. A Great Unclean One is invariably a gigantic figure bloated with decay, disease and all imaginable kinds of physical corruption.[1a]
The Daemon’s skin is a necrose and leathery surface covered with pockmarks, sores and other signs of loathsome infestation. His inner organs, rank with decay, spill through the ruptured skin and hang like rotting drapes about an immense girth. From these organs burst tiny pustulant creatures called Nurglings, which chew and suck upon the nauseous juices within. Such foulness echoes the fundamental truth of the universe: whilst there is life, there will be ruin and decay, even unto the end of all things. In perverse contrast to his horrific appearance, the Great Unclean One is neither morbid nor consumed with despair — if anything the opposite is true. Great Unclean Ones are exuberant in the pursuit of their enthusiasms.[1a]
Great Unclean Ones are invariably ebullient and obstreperous, full of a natural will to organise and achieve. Indeed, it is not uncommon for Great Unclean Ones to compete amongst themselves in the matter of spreading Nurgle’s plaguesome blessings across the world. Gregarious and curiously sentimental, Great Unclean Ones hold their followers dear and even refer to them as their ‘Children’. They take great patriarchal pride in the achievements of their fellow creatures, proclaiming vociferously the splendours of the poxes and sores evinced by those around them, and bellow with hearty laughter in response to the destruction wrought in Nurgle’s name.[1a]
The Great Unclean Ones, known also as the Plague Lords, the Decayed Ones, Fly Masters or Stench Lords are a massive terror that blends a horrific combination of sheer grotesqueness and rampant decay. They are sinister things, whose affection and corruption evoke shuddering madness from those who witness it. They have no shame, no sense of decency, revelling in the basest acts. Fat wormy fingers probe the depths of their dripping nostrils. They randomly spray their leavings in great clouds of such pestilential power that the faintest whiff kills. They engorge themselves on food and drinking, spilling their tainted meals out onto the ground through the rents and tears in their prodigious bulk. When not indulging their bestial appetites, they laugh and pinch, coddle and coo their mewling broods of Nurglings.[2a]
On the battlefield, the Great Unclean One waddles into the thickest of the fray, muttering such foul jokes that the souls of those who hear them shrivel. It joyously slaughters foes, chortling with disgusting mirth. It might snatch a fleeing warrior to stuff the unfortunate soul into its suppurating maw only to spray the mostly dissolved carcass in a stream of noxious vomit. In the bodies of its victims bloom the most unsightly monstrosities, and the Fly Master, always patient and endearing towards its spawn, will pause to aid in the birthing of some new unspeakable enemy or harvest the shoots of fungus and corruption from the twitching dead.[2a]
The signs of a Great Unclean One are visible to all, even to those that would deny such a thing could ever stain the world. The air grows heavy and humid, and the very winds seem to slow, laden as they are with the faintest hint of rot, blending the odours of a rotten tooth with the carcass of an animal left too long in the sun. In the folds of clothing, buried in the smallclothes beneath armour, in the crevices of the flesh, there is tickling movement as a new maggot is born. Swollen black flies seem to come from nowhere, first individually, then in great swarms.[2a]
As the Daemon draws closer, the infestation of flies and maggots spread. They infest everything, from food to water. Fruits and vegetables ripen on the vines with such speed, that they burst, spilling their seeds onto the ground in a syrupy mess of pale slime. Everything blooms and ripens to the perfect moment of harvesting only to collapse into foul-smelling rot and perversion. And then, the Great Unclean One appears. Its awfulness spreads throughout the land, causing lesions to appear on the flesh and existing cancers, warts, and buboes to grow. All that lives gives way to decay and rot, sagging on the vine. Clouds of flies blot out the sun, and the very air dies, filled with the stink of death. And the booming laughter and profane muttering drive those who hear it mad with despair.[2a]
The Greater Daemons of Nurgle are among the most horrific Daemons known to mortals. Beneath clouds of swarming fly souls, they are almost perfect replicas of Nurgle himself: bulbous figures bloated with corruption. Their sickly green skin is little more than a few smooth places between mountainous boils, cavernous wounds from which spill torrents of chunky pus, and fields of quivering blisters. It is a breeding ground for every pox and blight ever to torment the good people of the mortal world. Through the various rents of decayed and ruptured flesh, the internal organs are in full view, pumping corruption throughout its massive bodies, leaking filth and bile over its thick hide, painting it with fresh new contagions to tickle the flesh. And crawling and nuzzling and suckling and hiding on this grotesque thing are swarms of tiny Nurglings, whom the Fly Master sees as his brood. Truly, the Great Unclean Ones represent the inevitable decay and decline of all things.[2a]
Despite their macabre appearance, the Decayed Ones have a cheerful disposition, favouring their pets and followers with almost fatherly attention. Between the rancid coos and the constant praises that stream from its seeping maw, its existence is maddening. Great Unclean Ones take great pride in the achievements of their fellow creatures, loudly celebrating each new affliction, new pox, and new sore with exuberance. When faced with the destruction wrought in Nurgle’s name, their booming laughter can be heard for miles. Such love of Nurgle and his children breeds a cheerful readiness to fight in his name, for the corpse-strewn battlefield is a fertile garden for new disease and pestilence. The Great Unclean One sweeps through war at the forefront of a tide of filth and decay, swinging its great flail and splashing all with droplets of corruption. The Decayed Ones butcher their way through armies with each swing of their mighty arms, as unstoppable as the inevitable march of decline.[2a]
The appearance of a Great Unclean One is more than sufficient to unman even the boldest hero. The air sours with the presence, filling it with a pestilential mist that causes the flesh to rebel, infesting all mortals with horrid illnesses that wreak havoc with the body and mind. With each new blast of flatulence, some new plague is born, each rumbling belch produces legions of virulent diseases, and those unfortunate to face these Daemons have little hope of living through the encounter.[2b]
The Great Unclean One contaminates the earth as much as it does the air. Wherever it goes, it leaves a trail of slippery slime that breeds Nurglings by the thousands. The grass brightens and grows until it can no longer bear the weight of its expanded form. The rocks dissolve, and the earth turns into a soupy morass of excrement and mud. What’s worse is that the trail of a Stench Lord remains for decades, polluting the earth and seeding the land with future calamities for the unwary. Though it is awful to behold and experience, it is far worse to fight. Its dripping hide corrodes the strongest steel, and plumes of acrid smoke and droplets of acidic excreta surround the Daemon as it wades into the thickest knots of its enemies. And through it all, it disgorges the contents of its vast and often-exposed gullet, spewing an unholy combination of entrails, partly digested flesh, wriggling maggots and its own vile excrement in a torrent that not only burns but afflicts its victims with the most virulent of all plagues to stalk the lands of men.[2b]
When a Great Unclean One addresses his blighted throng, he expostulates in a manner immediately reminiscent of the great leader he is, chivying and directing his decaying minions with a paternal indulgence at odds with his monstrous appearance. Just as this love of Nurgle’s creations brings the Great Unclean One immense joy, he is filled with rage when the petty-minded enemies of Chaos try to thwart Nurgle’s grand designs. Such wrath initially manifests as a thunderous and adjective-laden oratory, declaiming those who question Nurgle’s will, but swiftly descends into brutal, if still somewhat jovial, violence if the heretic isn’t to be cowed by words alone.[1a]
When roused to battle, a Great Unclean One is a truly horrifying entity. He bellows ribald joy across the battlefield in stentorian tones, brimming with the jollity of one fulfilling divine commandment, and pauses only to unleash his formidable sorceries against targets ripe for Nurgle’s blessings. Made ponderous by his colossal bulk, a Great Unclean One is slow to advance upon the enemy, but is all but unstoppable once he has reached his target. Any foe foolish enough to stray into his path swiftly discovers the immense strength concealed by the Greater Daemon’s corpulent form. Whether a Plague Lord batters his enemy with an iron sword dripping with virulent fluid or a plague-ridden flail matters little, for the result is the same - an indescribable mess of blood and bone, already teeming with Nurgle’s choicest festering pestilences.[1a]
Exalted Great Unclean Ones
There is intense rivalry amongst the Great Unclean Ones -- the Greater Daemons of Nurgle, for they all long for the attentions of their Plaguefather. To be noticed by the Lord of Decay, a Great Unclean One must surpass all others in the spreading of pestilent blessings. To be the rotten apple of all mighty Nurgle's eye, a Great Unclean One must become a walking pandemic, a manifestation of all that is corrupt. Yet even this task is not enough, for to truly gain the favour of the Master of the Garden of Blight, a Great Unclean One must accomplish his befouling goals whilst displaying the most ebullient of moods. After all, it is a joyful thing to bring forth a debilitating pox, for it is a beautiful thing well worth celebrating.
To those Great Unclean Ones that raise their levels of filth and disease to new heights, a special gift is bestowed. The divine blessing of Nurgle is made consummate with a draught of mouldering elixir from the Plaguefather's cauldron. Those who have so sipped, grow in size and stature, blossoming into what is known as an Exalted Great Unclean One. First amongst Nurgle's Daemons, these unholy creatures are so huge and bloated that their bulk seems to overflow with even more ponderous fleshy folds, all rank with disease -- they truly are the foulest of the foul.
Exalted Great Unclean Ones are rarely seen in the mortal realms, for their great mass requires a prodigious supply of magic to support them. When the Winds of Magic gust to hurricane force, then the Exalted Unclean Ones can again walk the world, bringing with them unimaginable pestilence, poisoning the air with their mere presence.
Infamous Great Unclean Ones
- Ku'gath Plaguefather - The greatest of Nurgle's Greater Daemons.
- 1: Warhammer Armies: Daemons of Chaos (8th Edition)
- 1a: pg. 44
- 2: Tome of Corruption (2nd Edition Fantasy Roleplay)
- 3: Storm of Magic (Supplement)