- "Buboes, phlegm, blood and guts! Boils, bogeys, rot and pus! Blisters, fevers, weeping sores! From your wounds the fester pours."
- —The Chant of Nurgle.
Nurgle, also known as the Plague Lord, the Lord of Pestilence, the Fly Lord, and the Urfather is the Chaos God of Disease, Decay, Destruction, and Death by Rebirth. He is the eldest of the four Chaos Gods and is the most directly involved with the plight of mortals, particularly Humans who suffer so acutely from a fear of death. Indeed, Nurgle is undoubtedly the oldest of the Chaos Gods, for the process of death and decay is as old as Life itself. When the first forms of life had lived upon the universe, they've lived and then would inevitably die, and from this death came the primordial Nurgle.[1f][2a][2c]
On one side of his nature, Nurgle is unexpectedly also the personification of Rebirth. After all, decay is simply one part of the cycle of life, without which no new life could grow. In the same way, Nurgle also personifies Perseverance and Survival. While those who wish to spread decay and corruption are certainly amongst his followers, there are also those who wish to endure, to become tough enough to handle the difficulties and opportunities presented by an uncaring world. Many of those affected by Nurgle's poxes usually turn to him in order to escape the pain caused by sickness and disease, and while the other three Gods of Chaos have little care for their followers, it is Nurgle who places an uncommon love, admiration, and faith upon those that would follow his blighted footsteps.[1f][2a][2c]
Out of all the Dark Gods, Nurgle is perhaps the least worshipped amongst the tribes of the North. Nurgle's worship is only done when plagues and disease are prevalent amongst their people, for to do so otherwise would simply bring the same diseases upon their lands. In this dire state, the Northmen tribes would often appease Nurgle by offerings of gifts or sacrifices so that they would spare them from his diseases. Those that embrace these "gifts" are given unbelievable constitution against all disease and against even mortal weapons. Only the most powerful weapons or the most lethal of wounds can ever have a chance to bring a Follower of Nurgle down for good, and even to get close to such followers would often bring death to the aggressor himself.[1f][2a][2c]
- "“The Lord of Flies will eat your eyes,
- When last your breath gives out.
- And if you cry before you die,
- He’ll kill you with the gout!”"
- —Children’s Rhyme of Ostland.[2d]
The one thing that binds all mortals, from the crude tribesmen of the Northern Wastes to the refined aristocrats of Altdorf Imperial court, is that every one of them is subject to illness, gradual atrophy, and eventual death. They are bound to a world where nothing is permanent – in future aeons, even the great Fauschlag, upon which Middenheim is built, will be worn away to dust. Most civilised folk hide from this fact by finding solace among immortal deities in stone temples that emphasise the illusion of eternal permanence. However, there are some who fully embrace their mortal condition and offer their souls to the Chaos god who embodies this mouldering state: Nurgle, Lord of Decay.[4a]
Nurgle’s worshippers can be said to be the most joyous of mortals, but it is the insane glee of those who have resigned themselves to damnation. Nurgle is depicted as an immense monster whose scabrous flab is the hue of decomposing flesh. His paunch, swollen with corpse-gas, spills stinking organs, and a legion of daemonic mites play among his entrails and suckle the discharge streaming from his sores. Fat flies hum around his antlered head. His blubbery, pustulated face wears an amiable smile of contentment. His sacred number is seven, and his symbol incorporates a triangle of three circles representing the unending cycle of birth, suffering, and death. Mythology represents the Lord of Decay dwelling within a dilapidated fortress-mansion located in the Realm of Chaos, the infernal abode of the Ruinous Powers that exists beyond mortal concepts of time and physical matter.[4a]
Within the crumbling walls of his workshop, beneath a mildewed ceiling sagging with damp, Nurgle toils before a steaming cauldron. He beams with excitement as he mixes strains of pox and fever to create a poisonous stew of pestilence, for although every known disease infects his monstrous body, he is obsessed with creating new ailments. When he is satisfied by his efforts, he pours the concoction into the grate below, and chortles with happiness as he watches the nauseating plagues rain down upon the world. He is most generous in bequeathing his diseases to mortals, all of whom he regards with great affection, and he ensures that rich and poor alike share the rotten fruits of his labour. Nurgle is not a god of destruction – he cherishes all life. The spluttering of the newborn babe is as dear to him as the slithering of the maggot hatched in its gut. It is simply unfortunate that the most prevalent forms of life – the unseen worms, viruses, and bacteria – are so inimical to all the others.[4a]
- "See the withered crops, the wasted cattle, the people stricken with the Seven Plagues! Trust not the quackeries of the leech-doctors, but take up the hammer of Sigmar and let us martyr our stinking corpses for the glory of the Empire!"
- —Rantings of Silas, Prophet of Doom.[4b]
Thousands of years ago, before the coming of Chaos, the god-like Old Ones governed the world and shaped it with powerful sorcery. This epoch is now forgotten, except in the most ancient and obscure myths of the high elves, or in faded inscriptions within the mysterious temple-cities of Lustria. The Old Ones dwelt in these temple-cities, guarded by Lizardmen and served by amphibious minions – the Slann – who shared their potent abilities. They created other servitor races, including the ancestors of elves, dwarfs, and men, though these races have no knowledge of this truth. This world was but an outpost of the Old Ones’ vast empire, and they travelled to other worlds via a stellar portal constructed at the northern pole. Beyond this gate existed a Chaotic ether inhabited by malevolent things, not quite real and not quite unreal, formed of extreme emotions and base concepts – wrath, lust, flux, and decay. They greatly desired to enter the realm of mortals and feast on the fears of the fragile creatures that dwelt there. For millennia, the Old Ones kept this peril at bay with runic wards, but one day their defences shattered, the gateway collapsed, and raw Chaos poured into reality. The explosion spat gobbets of condensed Chaos matter across the globe, and these meteorites mutated life wherever they landed.[4d]
A huge chunk of this warpstone was hurled into orbit to join the world’s original moon. The nascent race of mankind was corrupted, many twisted into vile beastmen. The tribes of the north were warped in mind and body and offered fealty to the Chaos gods in return for survival. The tribes of the south fled to the forests and caves for safety. No histories of this time exist among men, for all mankind was a race of savage brutes. The Old Ones vanished forever, leaving the remnants of the slann to organise the defence of their devastated cities against the daemonic hordes that invaded from the shattered gate. Xahutec was first to fall, swamped by the combined might of all four Ruinous Powers. However, the temple-city of Chaqua proved harder to destroy. No daemon could penetrate the magical shield raised by the slann of that city. Neither Khorne’s strength, Slaanesh’s guile, nor even Tzeentch’s magics could break the barrier. In the end, it was Nurgle’s concoctions that brought the defences down.[4d]
Bowelsteep, the Red Ague, and a thousand other poxes and pestilences infected the lizardmen defenders. They gradually sickened, their scales flaking from their bodies and their limbs wasting away until they were nothing but shivering carcasses of hide and bone. The magic of the slann could not save them from the Plague Lord’s diseases, and they too withered, croaking feebly as their flesh erupted with foul, cankerous lesions. The Lord of Decay, as a way of thanking them for humiliating his brothers and allowing him to claim the glory, bestowed upon them Nurgle's Rot, the most devastating of all his many handiworks. The fall of Chaqua was Nurgle’s greatest victory in the first Chaos wars and a taste of the power he would hold over mortals for millennia to come. Meanwhile, in Ulthuan, the high elves’ mastery of magic helped them weather the storm, and in the Old World, the dwarfs emerged unscathed from their mountains to battle the armies of Chaos. For decades these races fought at the edge of defeat until the high elves performed a ritual that sucked the howling winds of Chaos from the world.[4d]
Without this Chaotic power to sustain them, the daemonic legions weakened and were hurled back to their insane realm. However, the golden epoch of the Old Ones was gone forever, replaced by an era of conflict and strife where the Chaos gods plot to conquer the mortal lands. When Nurgle entered the world, he found it ripe with fecundity. He was irresistibly drawn to the rhythmic beat of life, but could not resist manipulating and twisting nature for his own amusement. In the ordered cosmos of the Old Ones, disease and suffering were virtually unknown. Slann, lizardmen, elves, and dwarfs – their first creations – are even today long-lived creatures, little affected by disease and the ravages of old age. However, mankind was created at the cusp of the disaster and was not only imperfectly formed but subject to the full corrupting power of Chaos. They were sorely affected not just by mutation but also by Nurgle’s meddling with the natural order of things. Legends among the Chaos tribes tell how a million new forms of life blossomed at the Plaguelord’s will – all the viruses, parasites, and venomous pests, both great and small, that bring misery and death to the mortal realm.[4d]
Relations to Rival Power
- "Every time we pull out a body from a house that’s been ravaged by the plague, we sense his presence. Whenever I find some blighter face down in the street covered in sores and we have to either haul him to the physician or the grave, I know that he’s there. Each time I hear rumours of the Green Pox making its way towards the city, I know that the Lord of Pestilence is laughing at us."
- —Dieter of Middenheim, Street Sweeper.[2d]
In the legends of the Chaos tribes, Nurgle affects a garrulous air of overfriendliness towards his brother gods, but his benign nature masks his real opinions. Khorne’s reckless urge to destroy upsets him, for Nurgle has a patient and nurturing heart. Slaanesh’s indolent nature disgusts the Plague Lord, who is always feverishly busy in his workshop. However, he reserves most of his ire towards Tzeentch, who represents constant, fluid motion and instant change, whereas Nurgle delights in gradual maturity and the musty scent of stagnation. Tzeentch returns his disdain in full. When Nurgle’s chaotic garden intrudes into Tzeentch’s bordering realm, the minions of the Lord of Change sear the vegetation with magical fire. Plaguebearers shuffle forth to protect the garden, and what begins as a dispute over a few stray tendrils of scabrous ivy, escalates into a full-blown daemonic conflict that can last for centuries.[4b]
The myths of the northern tribes tell of an eternal game played by the four Ruinous Powers – Tzeentch, Khorne, Slaanesh, and Nurgle – each brother trying to dominate his siblings. Nurgle, obsessed with his ceaseless foetid experiments, seems to care little about the Great Game, and when he meets to parley with his brothers at the infernal Court of Covenant, he is always portrayed as a talkative buffoon. Yet his enthusiastic humour subtly undermines the plotting and politicking of the other Chaos gods – it drives Khorne to an unthinking fury, disturbs Tzeentch’s insidious train of thought, and distracts Slaanesh from his scheming. Meanwhile, Nurgle’s own intrigues spread slowly like a contagious fever.[4b]
The Great Game’s chessboard encompasses both reality and unreality. In the Realm of Chaos, daemonic armies loyal to each Ruinous Power clash in unending battle at the borders of their territories. Yet these wars come to naught, as each god is well defended within their home. Though the walls of Nurgle’s mansion look fit to collapse, they have never been breached; a vast garden, always vibrant in autumnal splendour, surrounds his fortress. The swampy ground sucks trespassers to their doom, and the overgrown plants form dense thickets of flesh-tearing thorns and venomous leaves. The air resonates with the drone of flies and is heavy with choking spores from slimy, misshaped fungi. Centipedes, slugs, and a thousand other poisonous pests infest the decomposing mulch. Nurgle’s leprous daemons stalk the garden, quick to necrotise the flesh of intruders with their plagueswords.[4b]
However, it is within the mortal world that the vital moves of the Great Game are played. In the Chaos Wastes, savage men worship Grandfather Nurgle as a deliverer from the very diseases he inflicts upon them, for he grants loyal followers freedom from the suffering of their afflictions. Some tribes and warbands dedicate themselves to the Lord of Decay, nurture and spread his plagues, and war against those who refuse to exalt him above other deities. The Ruinous Powers play out their game among the northern wastelands, soaking it crimson with carnage. Although Nurgle’s Chaos warriors and champions are not as bloodthirsty as those of Khorne, or as cunning or agile as those of Tzeentch and Slaanesh, they are highly resilient fighters – it is difficult to kill someone whose diseased flesh shrugs off pain.[4b]
And yet, the battles in the Chaos Wastes are just a prelude to the real focus of the Great Game. The Ruinous Powers expend most of their efforts trying to destroy the civilised realms. The Empire is their greatest prize, for it is the most populous, wealthiest, and most powerful nation. The Dark Gods vie for control over this land, implanting Chaos Cults to weaken the Empire from within and raiding the borders with their warbands. It is in this arena that Nurgle truly excels. Khorne’s appeal is confined to those maddened by bloodlust, Tzeentch draws those addicted to magic or who thrive on cunning and lies, and Slaanesh attracts degenerates. In contrast, all mortals eventually feel Nurgle’s presence. The Lord of Decay is a patient player, for it takes time to brew his plagues, but his influence gradually spreads throughout the world.[4b]
Nurgle’s cults rot the Empire’s core, weakening the strength of the Emperor’s armies and the morale of his civilian subjects by disseminating disease. A single cough can lay low an Imperial general where feats of arms have failed. A sneeze can decimate an entire town. Where subtle measures fail, cultists can rip apart the veil between reality and the Realm of Chaos, summoning Nurgle’s daemons to lay waste with their contagions. As pestilence grips the world, Nurgle’s power eclipses that of his brother gods. However, while the Ruinous Powers compete against each other, they can never defeat the steadfast Empire individually. More than two hundred years ago, they buried their differences and almost succeeded in overrunning the Old World with their armies. Only the courage of Magnus the Pious and the blood of the brave men and dwarfs who fought under him thwarted the Dark Gods’ ambitions. Now the Empire enjoys a new golden age, but the Ruinous Powers have decided to set aside their game again, and have chosen a single champion to represent them all – Archaon, the Lord of the End Times. Having united the tribes of the Chaos Wastes, Archaon’s gaze now turns to the lands of the south, and his dreams are filled with blood and fire.[4b]
- "I had a lucky escape. Some handgunners came with a Priest of Sigmar to board up me front door. And when I asked them what they were up to, they said it was under the plague laws. Well, I had a bit of the sniffles, and me wife, Hilde, had been poorly for weeks. So the Priest says ‘Hans Braun, by Imperial decree, you are hereby ordered to stay...’ Well, ‘No!’ says I. ‘I’m Felix Braun. Hans Braun lives next door.’ Of course, I never saw my unfortunate neighbour again."
- —Hans Braun, Reiklander peasant.[4k]
Nurgle is the God of Pestilence and Disease, and so is it not surprising that all the sickness which inflicts the world is generally from him. Plague and pestilence have swept across the Old World in wave after wave since before the time of Sigmar. Whether an outbreak targets people, livestock, crops, or all three, it brings death and suffering and can have long-reaching impact upon the welfare and prosperity of the peoples of the continent. In the Empire, there are countless rumours of diseases crossing the Southern Sea on ships from Araby, arriving upon the northern shores in crippled plagueships, brought across the mountains by trade caravans, carried through the forests by beastmen, or erupting as if from out of nowhere within the great cities. The most famous and most severe outbreak was known as the Black Plague. It occurred several centuries ago. The plague destroyed entire towns and villages. So many people died that they were left unburied, or heaped in mass graves of plague victims.[4i]
It took hundreds of years for the Old World to recover, but the ramifications can be felt even today. The very words ‘Black Plague’ can bring fear. The skeletons of some ruined villages long claimed by the forests surely still remain undiscovered, where entire populations were stricken by the plague. Nowadays, cities are often the places where plague is feared the most. The filth and the crowds mysteriously seem to help diseases spread. Outbreaks occur sporadically, potentially decimating the population of a single city before disappearing. In 2300 IC, there were reports that the entire city of Mousillon in Bretonnia was virtually wiped out by an outbreak of the Red Pox. Some physicians fear it can only be a matter of time before something similar strikes an Imperial city. Because of the potential for utter catastrophe from even a single outbreak, much work has been done by some of the Empire’s finest minds, in an effort to prepare for the worst.[4i]
The cults of Verena and Shallya have worked closely to this purpose, attempting to discover new cures and techniques. This is certainly an exciting time in Imperial history for progress in such research. All sorts of theories have been put forward on the nature of diseases, their cause, and how they are spread. The popular miasmatic theory proposes that many ailments are spread by bad smells. The Cult of Shallya tends to personify the source of all disease, naming the Dark God Nurgle as the force behind all contagion. Others disagree and say whatever Nurgle is, he only manipulates diseases that are already in existence. The debate on nature versus Nurgle rages on. Other theories say that disease is simply a weakness of the mind or spirit and that a positive attitude and a sense of morality will keep one safe. Others claim that diseases are a result of the alignment of the heavenly bodies and that astrologers should soon be able to predict any outbreak and perhaps even find cures. Some say all diseases are spread by ginger cats. What is generally accepted amongst the educated is that diseases might be passed from person to person by contact. This means that those suspected of being infected, or even of being in recent contact with a diseased person, might be shunned. They could be refused entry into towns, or perhaps beaten up or chased off. In some extreme cases, a diseased person and his family might even be boarded up in their home and left to die, either of the disease or of starvation.[4i]
Nurgle is viewed as a “loving” God by his worshippers, and he takes great interest in their activities and plots. Particularly favoured followers receive the worst of his diseases and plagues and often become twisted monstrosities from terrible mutations. Nurgle spreads disease through subterfuge, whispering to his followers to mingle with the masses whenever possible. He is not averse to warfare and sees it as an excellent vehicle for allowing new plagues to fester in the wake of terrible wounds, ruined crops, and tainted water. It is said he whispers in the ears of the wounded on the battlefield, offering them an eternal, if rotted, life if they give in to his call. Nurgle takes great pride in blessing healers and physicians, helping them to understand the true beauty of plague. He loves beauty and beautiful things, being attracted to such things first. He never wants to destroy, but rather to improve, to instruct, and to reveal the hidden wonders of disease. Of course, his nature tends to rot and decay those objects he fancies, but such effects are acceptable since Nurgle sees glistening decay as an enhancement to its natural beauty.[2e]
Nurgle’s primary symbol is three spheres stacked in a triangle shape, which scholars ascribe as being akin to pustules, buboes, or other symptoms of disease. The chosen of Nurgle often find this symbol growing on their festering skin. Other symbols include flies, tentacles, open maws, and disgusting chalices. His sacred colours are sickly greens, yellows, and browns. Followers don filthy, vomit-encrusted rags and tattered clothing in his colours, adorned with rotting limbs and bits of diseased flesh and skulls. They often carry soiled banners before them as they wander the Old World, looking to spread his blessings. Nurgle’s sacred animals are the fly, the maggot, and the carrion crow, though all creatures that feast on the decayed dead or spread virulent plague are favoured in his eyes. Animals that are on their last legs due to plague are often sacrificed to Nurgle and left to rot in the wells or food stores of the healthy.[2e]
Followers of Nurgle have few real strictures, other than to spread disease and despair throughout the world. His teachings are as follows:
- Seek out new corruptions as they are blessings and signs of Father Nurgle’s blessings.[2e]
- Instruct the world in the bounty of Nurgle’s love. Be not stingy with his gifts and share them wherever you can.[2e]
- Search for beauty in all things, and when found, celebrate it. And when beauty is found, perfect it by sharing the blessings of Nurgle.[2e]
- Pity those who follow the Lord of Change, for they know not the true meaning of exquisiteness. Never fail to bestow onto them the greatest of gifts, sharing with them the essence of your afflictions.[2e]
- "Its in your holy books or even written in the stars. They are inscribed on your very flesh. Each gangrenous wound, each itching boil, each suppurated abscess illuminates the majesty of the true master of the world."
- —Confessions of the heretic, Adolphus Grimmer, before the Templars of Sigmar.[4e]
It is not the incessant warring between daemonic armies in the Realm of Chaos or even the epic clash of champions among the tribes of the Chaos Wastes that truly enthuses Nurgle, but the conflict against the unconquered nations of the mortal world. Of all the races, humans intrigue Nurgle the most. High Elves and Wood Elves perplex him, for they are long-lived and unblemished by age, and are blessed with a natural resistance against disease. Dwarfs infuriate him, for they are as resilient as stone. These races frustrate Nurgle’s efforts to contaminate them, and he deems them fit only for eradication. Humans, however, rot so very easily. The pitiful cries of afflicted men, women, and children fill him with love for this frail race – they are indeed worthy hosts for his contagions. He bestows his diseases to ruler and pauper alike, for all are equal in his eyes, and his plagues reduce all people to the same state – they become so desperate in their pain that they would cast away their worldly treasures and betray their loved ones for the slightest reprieve from their suffering.[4e]
Of all the human nations, one of the most fascinating to Nurgle is the Empire. Its cities teem with life ripe for contamination. It is to Nurgle’s eternal regret that the short-sighted souls of that nation have proscribed his worship. He rains down disease upon the folk and watches them struggle to survive like rats on a sinking ship. Their choice is simple – perish in excruciating agony or invoke the name of the Lord of Decay. Unfortunately, most people are blinkered by the lies of their priests, but a few enlightened souls call out his name, and he is quick to answer. If they prove their devotion, he grants them his sacred Mark and frees them from the physical tribulations of life in return for their souls.[4e]
Those who embrace Nurgle embrace their own doom but lose the fear of their inevitable demise even though, disfigured by disease and mutation, their own features cause dread among others. To win the Mark of Nurgle, they must please their god by infecting others with the diseases they carry. For this reason, they bear their afflictions with stoicism, in the belief that eventually, Grandfather Nurgle will deliver them from suffering. Followers of Nurgle often band together, and there are many Chaos cults of Nurgle within the Empire, meeting secretly in filthy places to praise their god and plot how to spread his pestilences. Some are well-established, recruiting new members from among the sick and desperate – those who yearn to cling to life by any means necessary. Others flourish only briefly before being eradicated by the diseases they foster – a sign to some cultists that they have failed Nurgle, but to others that they have pleased him, and he has taken their souls to his garden where they can serve forever as his minions of decay.[4e]
Favourite recruiting grounds for cultists of Nurgle include hospices, leper colonies, and filthy slums – anywhere that the diseased congregate. Influential cultists may even be able to sidle to the bed of a sick aristocrat and whisper promises of deliverance to their fevered patron behind the backs of his physicians. Of course, all cultists must act surreptitiously, for the agents of the Emperor, of Sigmar, and the other gods of mankind are always on the alert to eliminate the followers of Chaos. Some cults of Nurgle mirror society’s social stratification, with the leadership reserved for those of noble birth. Some cults’ hierarchies are based instead on the extent of affliction, with the plagued poor lording it over less diseased high-born followers. Some cults only recruit from among the aristocracy, others from only street scum.[4e]
Many compete with each other, jealous for Nurgle’s favour, and may even undermine the plans of rival cults of Nurgle. Nurgle’s cults also operate in direct confrontation with those of the other Chaos gods, particularly those of Tzeentch, who Nurgle teaches his worshippers to despise. However much this petty infighting amuses Nurgle, his main obsession is to corrupt those loyal to the Empire and the Imperial gods. Should the Empire fall to anarchy, other nations will soon follow, and the Old World will be ripe for invasion by the Chaos hordes mustering in the north. To this end, the cults of Nurgle contaminate from within. When woodworm burrows into the oak beams that support the walls and roof of a proud mansion, the entire edifice will eventually collapse. Likewise, the cultists of the Plague Lord worm their way into Imperial society, spreading disease and thwarting those who try to stem infection and sickness.[4e]
Cultists who have influence in society, the bureaucrats and advisors, use subtle means to spread Nurgle’s gifts, such as ensuring that basic civic amenities – drains, sewers, and midden heaps – are neglected, causing rampant sickness amongst the population. Other cultists secretly infect water supplies or food stores, or simply wander among the crowded city streets passing their illnesses to everyone they meet. The armies and garrisons of the Empire are favourite targets, for disease can cripple a fighting force long before a battle is fought. A major obstacle to the efforts of a cultist of Nurgle is the repulsiveness of his ailments, which are difficult to hide, and many of the god’s most favoured servants develop mutations as a further reward for their loyalty. Although such cultists are proud of their bodily deformities, if they cannot hide them then they cannot operate within society, for their mutations will draw the attention of the witch hunters or a lynch mob of terrified peasants or townsfolk. Thus, many senior cultists of Nurgle are forced to hide themselves away, and use newly initiated members less afflicted by decay to perform tasks among the public.[4e]
- Plague Knights - The elite of Nurgle's mounted warriors.
- Plague Ogres - Ogres that have been consumed by Nurgle's Rot.
- Putrid Blightkings - A brotherhood of Plague Champions.
Cults of Nurgle
Where subtle means of corruption are ineffective, some cults prefer direct action. Although Nurgle is not as powerful a sorcerer as Tzeentch (a source of great jealousy to the Plague Lord), he does possess great mastery over the Winds of Magic and imparts his abilities to his most deserving followers. Those who dabble in the sorcery of the Lord of Decay can inflict disease and pestilence by magical means, and do so to blight and cripple their enemies, as well as to reward their followers with fresh ailments. Some cult leaders delve into rare grimoires, possession of which earns the death penalty in the Empire, and learn rituals to raise magical squalls that can spread deadly plagues far and wide. Many folk blame such warlocks and witches when crops fail, famine strikes the land, or when epidemics ravage entire regions, leaving rotting corpses in their wake. Cultists who have mastered the arcane rituals of their god might also try to invoke Nurgle’s daemonic minions from the Realm of Chaos. Daemon summoning is a risky practise, for uncontrolled daemons are wont to destroy their summoners. Ceremonies are long and complicated, and successful rituals are few and far between but devastating in the extreme.[4f]
It was a cult of Nurgle, the Order of the Septic Claw, which caused an infamous catastrophe in Altdorf way back in 924. The Crumbling Ague swept through the city, causing great loss of life, but the cult discovered that the priests of Shallya were close to finding a cure. They performed the necessary rites and caused an unending swarm of nurglings to pour from the cauldron in the centre of their infernal circle. The tiny daemons killed thousands of citizens and piled on top of the temple of Shallya, which collapsed under their weight, crushing the priests inside and destroying all hope of a remedy. The nurgling infestation disappeared as quickly as it had come. Nothing is known of the fate of the cultists. Were it not for the ministrations of the priesthood of Shallya, physicians, barber-surgeons, and other healers, the Empire would have fallen to Nurgle’s plagues long ago.[4f]
The followers of Nurgle despise these meddlers and hatch plots to disrupt their work or even to murder them. For almost every disease Nurgle concocts, somehow these mere mortals discover a cure. In popular folklore, the goddess of mercy, Shallya, is Nurgle’s arch-enemy, thwarting his every move. The greatest coup a cult of Nurgle can achieve is to corrupt a doctor of medicine, folk-healer, or priest of Shallya, for through them the Plague Lord would be able to wreak great havoc. Nurgle’s bitterest enemies in the Empire are the witch hunters of Sigmar who stop at nothing to eradicate all Chaos worship. Almost incorruptible, their willingness to destroy the innocent to reach the guilty makes them dangerous foes.[4f]
Most cults of Nurgle go to ground at the mere hint of an investigation by witch hunters, yet these diligent servants of Sigmar can often sniff out even the most cautious Chaos cult, and will condemn its members to torture, a swift trial, and consignment to a blazing pyre. The followers of Nurgle have few allies, for none but the most insane would want to expose themselves willingly to their contagions. However, among the highest echelons of Nurgle’s cults, there are a few who have dealings with the secretive ratmen known as Skaven. An urban myth to most citizens of the Empire (the wily skaven cultivate such ignorance among the Empire folk), the ratmen reveal themselves to few humans.[4f]
The god of the skaven, the mysterious Horned Rat, shares Nurgle’s ideals and would see the entire Old World laid low by pestilence. Sometimes the skaven make an alliance with the servants of the Lord of Decay, manipulating his followers to further their own schemes. An unwary cult leader who allies with these creatures is likely to meet a grisly death when he is no longer of any use to them. Usually, however, skaven avoid contact with the cults of Nurgle, knowing that they may be seen as rivals, not allies, and only interfere when the cults’ ambitions obstruct their own. As to how Nurgle regards the children of the Horned Rat, nobody knows, as there are no tales or legends where the two come into contact. No doubt the skaven excite within him a desire to witness the symptoms that his newest concoctions have on their verminous physiology.[4f]
Daemons of Nurgle
The Daemons of Nurgle are truly putrid in their appearance and sickening to look upon. Their flesh pulses with the feverheat of corruption, their innards push through lesions in their putrid skin and their bodies ooze with sticky slime. Yet in contrast to their hideous appearance, Nurgle's Daemons are cheerful, energetic beings that show a disturbingly friendly demeanour. They are jovial in their work and show great pride in their accomplishments, interpreting the groans of the afflicted as expressions of gratitude justly won by their efforts. The Daemons of Nurgle include the following:
- Nurglings - Nurglings are tiny, mischievous Daemons who are small facsimiles of Nurgle himself. These rotund imps normally appear in large numbers, forming swarms which accompany armies dedicated to Nurgle. Occasionally, very dedicated Chaos Champions of Nurgle will become infested with Nurglings, which will live in gaping wounds and orifices on the Champion's body; when the Champion comes under attack, these little monsters will help defend their "home".
- Plaguebearers - Plagubearers are rotting, wasted creatures of vaguely humanoid size and appearance, with a single burning eye. These vile Lesser Daemons form the rank and file of the Plague Father's pestilent legions. Flies continually buzz around them, therefore making them more difficult to fight. The many diseases carried by these Daemons can be used to terrible effect during battle.
- Plague Drones - High-ranking Plaguebearers are known amongst the Daemonic legions as Plague Drones; a title that conveys commendable humility. These overseers of Nurgle's realm ride into realspace mounted upon Rot Flies. From their lofty positions, the Plague Drones can properly tally the diseases running rife across the battlefield, as well as swiftly intervene should Nurgle's divine plans meet with heavily-armed resistance.
- Rot Flies - Rot Flies are colossal Daemonic insects whose appearance is so repugnant that it scars the mind. These vile creatures are the most loathsome of Nurgle's creations. They hatch in the sticky depths of Nurgle's gardens in the Realm of Chaos, where the visionary and the loon wander in their dreams.
- Beasts of Nurgle - Beasts of Nurgle are truly horrendous Daemonic aberrations. They have the soft, sticky and mottled body of a pallid slug, webbed feet that flap uselessly, a face of writhing green tentacles, and a whiptail growth that bursts from its back and which wags constantly from side to side.
- Plague Toads - Plague Toads are horrid pustulent squatting creatures that somewhat resemble Squigs and infest sewers during Daemonic invasions. Their wide maws can swallow a human whole.
- Great Unclean Ones - Undoubtedly the foulest of the Daemonic servants of the Ruinous Powers, each of these Greater Daemons are shaped in the fashion of Nurgle himself; massive, bloated disease carriers whose decaying flesh bulges with corpulent cancers. They usually carry a great rusted blade known as a Plague Sword into battle, said to be dipped in the foul pus and contagion that lies at the base of Nurgle's throne in the Realm of Chaos. They are the most powerful of Nurgle's Daemons and generally act as the leaders and father figures for the other Daemons of the Plaguelord, epitomising Nurgle's joyful, paternal nature.
- 1: Warhammer Armies: Warriors of Chaos (8th edition)
- 2: Tome of Corruption (2th edition Fantasy Roleplay)
- 3: Liber Chaotica (Volume I)
- 4: Liber Infectis (3rd Edition Fantasy Roleplay)