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""How is it that Kaanzar the Defiled described it in his tome of abomination? "The lands around the tower are rife with disease and corruption. It is a place where the very ground drips with pestilence and where the rocks spew filth across the earth and the trees weep decay. The very air is abomination, a reeking burning thing that chokes you with its loathsomeness. The plague clans of the Hung make their encampments around the tower, and the land is vile with them. They stalk the Wastes like human jackals, eager to infect any clean thing they see with their poxes. The creatures of the Plague God haunt the land in all their bilious shapes, lusting for healthy flesh to rend and defile. About the palace itself festers a great swamp, a place of muck and ruin where the ground is nothing more than oozing corruption that tries to suck you in its embrace. At its centre, there lies a great lake of putrescence and rising from the lake, like a sliver of steel in a rotting wound, the Tower of Skoroth stabs up into the leprous sky."
Ernst von Kammler.[1b]
Mark of Nurgle

Skoroth the Plague Lord, Scourge of the Wo and Aghols,[1f] favoured apostle of Neiglen, is a sorcerer that resides within the Chaos Wastes, his palace a sacrament and holy temple to Nurgle. More so, his palace is where the great treasures of his master are kept, safely out reach from the other Ruinous Powers. Locked away behind walls of corruption and disease, one of these treasures belonged to Tzeentch, having been robbed from the Changer's own holy vaults: the talon of his favoured servant, which bears the title of "Dark Master".[1a]

It is said that not in a thousand years could any mortal gather an army strong enough to storm the Plague Lord's palace. But, as Nurgle's power wanes, where many would fail, a few might steal away inside.[1a]

The Plague Lord himself is described as obese, a shrunken, skeletal head atop a bloated body. Rolls of fat engulfing his neck undulate and heave. Furry black flies crawl free from the corners of his mouth, and on his command they can be sent to deliver messages throughout his palace.[1g] Robes of leprous flesh clothe his obese bulk, his withered, almost skeletal face seeming impossibly small atop his bloated mass. Pockmark scars litter his flesh, forming hundreds of fly-runes, the sign of Nurgle. Worms sprout from the man's arms, like a growth of squirming hair, while fat ticks cling to his chest. His cracked, pallid lips pull back from a mouth black with disease and decay, his rotten smile spreading as other, smaller mouths open along his cheeks and neck.[1h]

If he is forced to travel, he does so atop a living palanquin, made from thousands of naked, writhing bodies now fused together by the foulest sorceries. Every slave's mouth moves in silent agony, displaying a jagged stump where a tongue had been torn from. The palanquin shambles, stumbles and slithers loathsomely. Where its shadow fell, blisters sprout, where its legion of rotting feet step, mould springs into vile life; and where its heaving exhalations touch, disease flourishes. Those who dare to look upon it weep tears of pus down their faces.[1g]

Miasma of Pestilence

To reach the Palace of the Plague Lord, one must travel the Chaos Wastes, deliberate their in search of the place, and then survive the Miasma of Pestilence. It is uncertain is said-miasma brings seekers to Skoroth's domain, or if it brings the domain to them. What is known is that the Miasma is deadly. Seen first as a swirling, pulsating vibrancy against the horizon. It skips across the landscape, not unlike a waterspout or cyclone when first observed. It grows and shrinks every instant, sometimes collapsing into almost nothing then swelling so that it stretches across the entire horizon. The light within it glows with putrescence, swirling and dancing in mesmerizing patterns that seem to decay the soul of those who look upon it. One can see snow rising from the earth, dancing in the storm's swirling eddies. As the snow spirals up into the clouds it begins to change, transforming into a dripping slime that infects the very sky with its corruption. The storm dances across the tundra in a maddening display of directionless uncertainty. Sometimes it will be leagues away, then suddenly skip forward thousands of yards in the blink of an eye. Once, it might pop so far that it is behind you, yet before anyone can breathe a sigh of relief, the Miasma skips again, roaring and raging only a few hundred yards away. At this point, one can hear voices in the wind, voices that call, whisper and curse. Concentrating, you can hear the words of a particular voice, but every time another voice will shout over the one you attend, trying to drown out the other voices with its own desperate cry.[1b]

Once the storm is all around you, its winds will tear and rip at you, its power pulsating through your body. Flesh will feel as though on fire, as though every scrap of one's essence is being stripped away, rotting from your very bones. The mind is filled with a hissing cacophony of voices, all clamouring for room inside one's head. And as you scream against the maddening din, against the agony pulsing through your body, all at once the world is made silent again. For an instant, one might imagine the babbling assailing your mind to coalesce into a single shriek, then swiftly explode back into the ether like so many rats smoked from a ship's hold.[1b]

Only those blessed by Tzeentch or Nurgle can survive the Miasma without their flesh being twisted by the daemons of the wind, without their souls being consumed by the poxes of the storm. Such travelers are then met with the Domain of Skoroth.[1b]

Domain of Skoroth

Snow turns a stagnant green as the Miasma subsides, dripping from one's fingers like oozing scum. The landscape transformed from a bleak barren desolation of ice and wind to rolling hills and black canyons. Pools of putrid water steam up from the ground, spurting their corrupt essence into the air. Even the sky is changed, no longer a black veil of night but a leprous yellow, like a great tapestry of pus and urine. Amid the filth, even the blood-red sun seems to fade, its rays struggling to pierce the sickness that threatens to consume it.[1b]

Flocks of vultures circle in the heavens, and one's ears are filled with the buzzing of flies. The stench of rot is overwhelming, and it takes great effort to keep from disgorging the contents of one's belly into the green snow-scum that blankets the earth.[1b]

For days on end, one is forced to travel the diseased maze of low, mound-like hills. Great fat flies buzz about one's face, crawling across lips and scratching at eyes. The stench also intensifies, growing from the reek of spoiled fruit to the stink of a sewer, emboldening the flies as they suck the watery-eyed tears running down one's face. Disease claws at the body. Attempts to ward them off or cure them through magic only serve to draw the ire of something hidden from view, drawing it that much closer, whilst further weakening the wizard in the process. Once again, only those who bear the mark of Tzeentch seem resilient to the plagues, but such protection is not given to their cohorts, their march slowed to a crawl of coughing and spitting as fever ravages the warband.[1c]

Tiny things plop and slobber across the ground, cackling and giggling as they savour the sickness of mortals. Like living excrement, the grinning daemons slop along the earth, their bubbly cries tormenting intruders as much as their fever. Even if one were to strike them down, for every daemon slain, a dozen more would be drawn by the sound of battle.[1c]

Camps of the Plague Clans

Eventually, the dung-like hills reach an end, with most of the creeping daemons reluctant to leave the mounds and enter the stagnant plain that stretches beyond. The plain is littered with ruined piles of stone and timber, the outlines of walls and roofs nearly obliterated by the mould and slime that clings to them. Great twisted weeds, taller than trees, pepper the land and everywhere can be seen tendrils of smoke rising into the mouldering sky and the glow from cook-fires amid the rubble. These are the camps of the plague clans.[1c]

At the edge of the plain, one might have thought it vast enough, only to realize and appreciate the scale of the architecture buried beneath the moss and mould. Indeed, no man had reared such buildings. Men are but ants beside whatever had built these primordial ruins. Cyclopean blocks of stone bigger than longships rise from the muck, pile one atop the other in massive walls that sag sickly from their own ponderous weight. Great pillars wide enough that all of Vinnskor might fit perfectly upon their tops stab up from the slime, their marble surfaces pitted with decay and corrosion. Ceramic plates, the debris from collapsed roofs of the city were strewn throughout the scum-snow on the ground, every tile larger than a man. When Einarr Steelfist first gazed upon them, the Baerson considered "the oldest of the sagas, the tales of great giants who in the time before man had made war against the gods". He came to believe that surely these buildings could be nothing if not one of their mighty cities, brought low by the Plague God, its ancient power and glory sucked relentlessly down into the morass of Nurgle's corruption.[1c]

Pressing further into the ruins, one can find vile forms of life slithering through the slime. Flies the size of hawks crawl along the walls, sunning their wings in the crimson sun. Maggots bigger than serpents ooze across the path, blindly crawling across the land in search of carrion. A bloated slobbering thing the size of an ox but resembling a melted toad regards with gem-like eyes from the shadow of a fallen archway, though makes no move to molest.[1c]

The droning of insects, the scurry of unclean life and the omnipresent cackling of the daemons create such a din that few become aware of the Hung warriors until they are almost on top of the vermin. Hearing the bubbling, slobbering voices of the Hung, travelers may stumble upon a wide expanse cleared of rubble and debris, forming an open plaza around the base of an enormous pillar, its sides dripping with yellow treacle. Around this circle is a large group of men and women, their bodies bloated with corruption, their jaundiced flesh split and oozing with pus and disease, their armour rotting on their bodies, their weapons rusting at their sides. They share a rough resemblance in the cast of their features, their faces broad with slender eyes and wiry hair. The Hung sing their prayers to the Plague God, asking him to perpetuate their suffering, to strengthen the sickness that flows through them so that it might stave off the hand of death. According to Ernst von Kammler, "the wretches will grovel and whine for hours", reasoning that people could go around them and they would never hear their passing. When Einarr Steelfist and his warband stumbled upon them, the Norscan saw one such rite, where a corpulent thing with the head of a slavering insect dressed in tattered green robes move within the circle, spraying the ground with its filth, making symbols in the slime with the water of its body. Then the vile shaman turned, facing a wooden stake that had been pounded into the earth. Lashed to the stake was a hulking man, his crimson armour standing stark against the pestilential hues of the Hung and the rotting landscape. Yet despite their bodies, the Hung can survive blows that would otherwise be fatal, endure wounds that would kill most men.[1c]

The Swamp

As if in defiance of the sludge of frost coating the ground, the air becomes humid and lush beyond the cyclopean ruins. Indeed, beyond the jumbled heaps of slime-coated stone stretches a vast, seething swamp. The reek of rot is stifling here, with every breath scratching at the lungs with its taint. Immense weeds rise into the sky on spindly stalks. Vines drip across the land, choking the ground beneath their decaying foulness. Streams of stagnant water fester and flow like sewage beneath the scabrous foliage, vermin flitting above its stench. Everywhere, the unclean life of a land remade into the pestilential image of Nurgle flourished. The swamp embodies the diseased whim of the Plague God, his mantra of decay without death, corruption without destruction. There is no time to pause upon the threshold of the swamp, especially if the Hung have discovered mortal trespassers. Yet, impossibly, upon turning to look back, no sign of the ruins remain, instead replaced by more swampland, the bog stretching as far as the eye can see. But the sound of Hung war drums and burbling shouts can still be heard, ghostly noises that come from nothing.[1d]

Like a living morass, the swamp tries to suck anything down into its liquid embrace. The ground gives beneath one's feet like porridge, defying every effort to make speed. Once more, tiny daemons harass travelers, hurling filth at them whenever they stop, giggling and grinning every time someone hurls curses back at them. The little nurglings dance across the bog, the ground refusing to drag their filthy forms into its own foulness. Hungs will throw bamboo spears as they slosh through the morass after intruders, the filthy muck on such weapons turning blood black as it bubbles in whatever wound they make.[1d]

Attempts at navigating the swamp is pointless, as everything exists at the whim of Nurgle. Even footprints repeat themselves, sometimes doing so ahead of the source without any visible cause. Only those that walk the swamp are not repeated, driving mortals mad with the inability to tell if one is going in circles, gaining ground, or, in a very real sense, moving at all. If one were to remove a bush to the left side of the path, they would instantly find the same bush removed from the earth to their right, behind, and before them. Only through magic can there be any escape from this illusory trap.[1d]

The Lake

The undergrowth of the swamp eventually breaks, the sickly weeds and grasping vines finally yielding before ground too foul even for their fecundity. Here, a diseased waste sprawls before a great depression in the marshy land, stretching for what looked to be a hundred leagues across, filled almost to the brim with filth that can only mockingly be described as water.[1d]

A thick green skin of scum floats atop the dead still lake, like a scab over a festering wound. Rising from the lake's centre, its foundations lost beneath the stagnant waters, rises a monstrously twisted tower. So thick is the slime that drips from its walls and battlements that none can discern what stone was used to build it. The Tower rears impossibly high from the lake, clutching at the sky like the crooked claw of a corpse, seeming to rise miles into the leprous sky, its topmost summit hidden behind the gibbous moons that hang overhead. Merely gazing upon it is enough to cause eyes to itch and bellies to sicken. A tangible aura of despair and decay exudes from the structure, sickening an already sickened landscape.[1d]

Nothing from the surrounding territory can be used to make a boat, the massive weeds and stalks that grow here too weak to support anything. Even if one should have a reliable boat, the moment anything disturbs the lake, there comes the risk of being noticed by Bubos, the dragon that waits beneath the water.[1d]

Even bypassing the dragon, swarms of flesh-eating insects guard Skoroth's palace, waiting atop the lake's surface for any who attempt to pass.[1f]

The Cave

A secret path to the Palace can be found in the swamp, a cave system that can be used to evade Bubos as the dragon focuses on the entrance. The long tunnel stretches through dripping scum and ooze, human bones beyond number protruding from the slime. However, just inside the cave, a squatting daemon guards the entrance, caked in the muck that makes up its home. It appears as a cross between a toad and a slug, slobbering and drooling with hand-like tentacles and and eye-stalks oozing up from the shapeless trunk that makes up its head. Flabby webbed paws scrabble lazily at the muck whenever it shifts its monstrous bulk.[1e]

The daemon is quick to lose interest if would-be prey does not walk straight into its mouth. Those that seek to pass it must feed the beast, at which point its tentacles wrap around greasy bones as it slavers over with a wet, bubbling orifice. As the bubbling mucous touches bones, fragments of sinew and marrow dissolve as they're sucked back into the abomination's ghastly mouth. Putrid eyes on a crown of fleshy stalks spread from the top of the daemon's head to watch its mouth feed.[1e]

At the end of the tunnel, not far from the scum-covered waters of the lake, a small pile of boulders rise up from the muddy earth amid a tangle of reeds and weeds. These stones are all but invisible to an observer until one is nearly standing right on top of them. The gaping hole that worms its way through the rocks is even more hidden, a black fissure that stabs down into the dank earth beneath the swamp. Roots and brambles cover the opening, concealing it from the most careful of scrutiny.[1f]

The Tower

On closer inspection, the palatial tower's more grotesque features are made apparent. The polished bone that seems to form its walls, the iron spikes that pepper its battlements. The rotting meat that shudders on those spikes, even the most wasted tatters seeming to still cling to some kind of obscene life. A great balcony looks out over the diseased lake, the red, glistening mass looking more like raw muscle than stone or wood. It throbs with excitement as daemons fly across it, for a moment seeming as if it would sprout arms and rip them from the sky.[1f]

The balcony opens into a great hall, a chamber more colossal even than the ruins of the swamp, bringing to mind the Norscan tales of Sky-titans and their mighty strongholds, for surely no other race could have built with such enormity. But then one notes the leathery floor, the walls that wail and moan, the ceiling of dripping foulness, and one quickly realizes that no mortal had any part in the tower's design. Only daemons used living flesh to construct their castles. Indeed, the floor bleeds when scuffed, with what appear to be the festering stumps of fingers flying when kicked at. If assaulted, the floor will split open, a lattice of dismembered and decaying arms pressing against its attacker. The walls? Scrawny bodies fused by some vile magic, struggling to free themselves, begging in a hundred tongues for passersby to kill them. Worse is the fact that this gallery is large enough for even Bubos to enter, wings spread wide. Even should one escape into another hallway, Hung guardsmen with razor-edged javelins and bamboo spears pursue any and all intruders, their voices burbling with excitement.[1g]

In the festering depths of the palace, rotten arms grope at all who pass them; phlegm-filled voices begging for succor and mercy. The tower's maintenance is handled by three black-eyed grubs the size of oxen, coated in glistening slime. One sports a gigantic, crab-like claw which it uses to nip and tear at the living walls. It does this to cut down any dead bodies, shuffling aside as the husk crumbles to the floor. The second grub is a fat and swollen creature with a massive tail that it lifts over its slimy back. The tail begins to undulate, as though pushing something through its bloated length, and from a dripping orifice at its tip, a body is expelled. Before the wretch can wipe away the mucous that coats them, the first grub scurries forward. Dozens of arms latch onto the man, pulling him off the second grub's back and pressing him against the hole in the wall. Even as he screams, the grub begins to cement him in place, coating his arms and legs with a paste-like drool that slobbers from its mouth. These insects pay no attention to anything beyond their task.[1g]

Beyond the hallways, a corridor suddenly splits by a great trough that curls between its walls. The channel bisects the passage, sinking a few feet below the level of the floor. The passage continues on the other side, some twenty feet beyond, the walls beyond being lined with grimy nodules of stone rather than the whimpering bodies of plague-thralls. The trough, however, is filled with rancid meat. Grey chunks of indescribable filth bob about the churning waste, while thick clouds of flies buzz about it. The stew pulls anything that touches it down into its molten depths. The walls themselves are still very much alive, shuddering with pain and bleeding if stabbed or cut. Corrosive pus eventually drips in an effort to remove impeded materials, pouring the stuff down into the trench.[1g]

Carrion-hounds, creatures mixed with the features of dog and swine, cackle together as they swarm and mob intruders. The hyenas, however, are cowardly, and utilize hit and run tactics until their pack leader is slain, or the battle proves not in their favour.[1g]

Passing the trench, the dripping corridors of meat give way to halls of bone, disease-wracked skeletons clinging to one another in a riotous defiance of gravity and architecture. Insects peek from the pits of skulls, rats chew splinters of bone within decaying rib cages. The floor is a carpet of loam-like marrow that squelches beneath one's feet, bleeding a milky treacle as they are footsteps bruise it. Beyond this area, two great yawning pits open in the floor, stagnant vapours rising from their depths. These pits descend at an angle, a fleshy, tongue-like slop slithering from its lip into the gloom below. Entering the hot, cloying depths, stagnant air washes over all as the slimy, leathery slope becomes red, raw, and ribbed in its symmetry, as though a gigantic throat sucking everything down into its gullet. One's slide through the dank blackness ends in a wet, dripping collision with a reeking sheet of velvety flesh, its flexibility cushioning the impact, only to drop a man twenty-feet further, splashing them into a pool of sewage and offal.

Sloshing through the filth, able to see only a few feet before you in the shadowy stink that dominated the hole, the grainy bed beneath the sludge seems to crawl under one's boots, threatening to spill them face first into the muck with every step. Within the water, a great black thorn thicker than a spear and cruelly sharp stabs up to assault any interloper, with barbs projecting from its sides, dripping slime and excrement. Luminous venom drips from the tip of every spur. The thorn shoots down into the water only for a second to burst upwards elsewhere. Avoiding such a trap, there is an exit that leads deeper into the palace.[1g]

The walls throb and ooze all around, their festering meat made alive with maggots whilst the floors lay covered in mucous. From the walls, drooling mouths form, slopping open as they shambling, wailing things that could only mockingly be called human emerge with corroded weapons. Yet these plague-zombies are of little challenge to anyone that makes it this far into the palace.[1h]

Pillars of fused bone, alive with gnawing vermin. Shrieks and howls of the damned can be heard, whilst one's nose is assailed at every turn by the mephitic vapours blackening their lungs as one breathes them in. In their very bones, a trespasser can feel the throbbing vibrations that pulsed throughout the palace, the abominable life that infests every corner of the hideous structure. Further on, Skoroth can bring the meat of the ceiling to pulse and throb, peeling back with a wet sucking sound as it exposes thick ropes of coiled intestines so large that not even a mammoth could contain such enormity. The leprous organs quiver and swell, expanding til they flop from the ceiling, dangling into the corridor. These organs continue to swell, blocking the way back and forward, only to burst with as their swollen skin splits. Green, stinking juice sprays across the hall, steaming as it strikes the fleshy walls and the shivering floor.[1h]

Beyond this deadly hallway, a chamber of fused bone and reeking moss. Grotesque mouth-like doorways litter the room, rotten teeth forming the frame of each opening. Through one of these doorways rests a hall of rippling muscle, red and raw in the stagnant light that fills the palace. As one approaches, the muscles heave and pulse, the walls smashing together with wet, meaty slaps, the ceiling and floor rushing together in a crushing embrace. After a moment, the muscles-walls withdraw, quivering with anticipation. Another step, and they crash together again, the force of their impact shaking the entire corridor. Without divine intervention or magic, no mere mortal has the speed or agility to surge past the walls before they reacted and smacked together. Otherwise, the quivering maze of moving walls at last empties into a gargantuan hall, a jagged fissure that cuts its way through the palace.

Above the canyon of rotting flesh and dripping ooze, the sky festers with a stink of carrion that wafts down from the canyon's heights. Ears ring with the cawing of crows, bloated and black as they swirl about the upper reaches of the fissure, a great murder of carrion-eaters prowling the sky in search of more eyes to ease their hunger.[1h]

Pending...

Source

  • 1: Palace of the Plague Lord (novel) by C.L. Werner
    • 1a: Chapter 6
    • 1b: Chapter 13
    • 1c: Chapter 14
    • 1d: Chapter 15
    • 1e: Chapter 16
    • 1f: Chapter 17
    • 1g: Chapter 18
    • 1h: Chapter 19

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