The Plague Lord, Plaguefather, Lord of Decay, Fly Lord and, to his followers, Papa Nurgle, is the God of disease, decay, despair, life and death. Nurgle’s power waxes and wanes with the tides of his contagions and the strength of the despair he inspires across reality, thus scholars consider Nurgle to be the third most powerful of his brothers. Whenever progress gives way to stagnation, or life gives way to death and life anew, one can find the followers of the Plaguefather who celebrate the corruption and sickness they wallow in. Indeed, the devotees of Nurgle are as jubilant as their patron which stands at great odds with their appearances; these followers are often covered in buboes and weeping sores, their rotten and distended bellies draped with their revealed intestines, which themselves are filled with capering Nurglings, tiny and joyful daemons that look like the God himself in miniature. Despite resembling rotten corpses, the children of Nurgle consider themselves deeply blessed, and with joyous hearts desire to spread their gifts to all across the Galaxy and the Mortal Realms. When the warriors of Nurgle march to war, it is under the droning clouds of billions of flies and heralded by the dolorous tolling of their bells.
All of the Chaos Gods, being entities of pure madness and potential have no real concrete form and instead mould themselves to the collective idea of what they should look like instead, but Nurgle has bucked this trend during his existence. To some he appears not as the plagued but the plague bringer, an old and wizened man in tattered robes who staggers about his home on a cane; his most common appearance is much like his Great Unclean Ones only larger, a corpulent mound of rotting flesh, a wide and loving smile upon his face and his head adorned with antlers. Also unlike his brethren, we have a first hand account of a Chaos God’s appearance, provided from the Age of Sigmar book Hallowed Knights Plague Garden:
“Through the ragged shroud of smoke, Gardus saw what lay below the Inevitable Citadel, at the heart of Nurgle’s garden. Almost immediately, he closed his eyes and turned away, unable to bear it. It was impossible to describe. Impossible to comprehend. To his eyes, it was a wallowing swamp of black stars and dying worlds, of rotting galaxies alive with immense, writhing shapes as large as nebulas. Cosmic maggots, gnawing at the roots of infinity. Galactic plagues, eating away at the very flesh of existence, reducing all that was to leprous ruin in their unending hunger. It was a dark mirror of Azyr, corrupted, reduced, strangled. All glory vanished, all hope quashed. A thunder of screams echoed upwards, driving him back. A million million voices, raised up in anguish and despair. Forever crying out for that which would never come. Down below, something began to crawl out of the black heart of that cancerous infinity. It was no shape, and all shapes. Fat and thin, a plume of smoke, a puddle of oil, spreading ever upwards. There were eyes in the smoke, as round as cold, dead suns, and teeth that stretched in a grin as wide as the horizon. Fingers like comets clutched at the void, as the Lord of All Things stirred from his manse, and began the long, arduous climb to his garden. Moons crumbled beneath that impossible bulk, and stars were snuffed out”
The realm of the Plaguefather is called the Garden of Nurgle, a foetid mire of flooded forest, rotting trees and giant fungi groves. The very air is the first peril any traveller must overcome, as it is filled with every disease ever known to man, and many more they have yet to encounter. The garden itself is filled with all manner of daemonic creatures, though most numerous are the Plague Flies used by Nurgle’s champions as airborne mounts, and Plague Toads which the God himself finds great amusement in crushing when he falls into a sour mood. At the heart of this diseased flora is the Manse of Nurgle, and life everything else in this realm it is a rotten thing, its wooden walls sag with moisture and mould, and vile insects infest the many cracks and crevices found within. Deep within this decrepit house Nurgle himself toils away at a cauldron, devising new and terrifying infections to gift unto reality, while about him cavort countless Nurglings who dance and sing with mad delight.
Being the manifestation of despair and entropy, Nurgle is diametrically opposed to Tzeentch, who thrives on hope and never-ending change. In the Mortal Realms of Age of Sigmar, Nurgle holds a strange relationship with the newest member of the pantheon, the Great Horned Rat. They both share dominion over plagues, disease and despair; but where Nurgle shows his followers genuine, if warped, love and a desire to seed new and increasingly fecund life, the Great Horned Rat seeks only ruin and destruction for everything and everyone that is not Skaven. Indeed, the only reason the forces of Nurgle and the devotees of Clan Pestilence are known to ally with one another is because both sides are immune to the viruses and contagions both sides use to wage war.
Papa Nurgle’s Favourite Children
One could hardly ask for a parent to choose a favoured child, but there are those among the Plaguefather’s faithful that have truly devoted themselves to the spreading of disease and despair across reality, their names forever cursed by those who have survived them.
Mortarion – Thrown to the world of Barbarus as a babe, Mortarion was raised by one of the necromancer-kings of this world until he rebelled to free the people, but his vengeance was denied him by the Emperor of Mankind and this act was left to fester into bitterness in Mortarion’s heart. After siding with the traitor Horus, Mortarion’s legion, the Death Guard, were left at the mercy of the warp on their way to Terra, and it was here that Nurgle visited them with all of his gifts. The Death Guard and Mortarion emerged from the warp radically changed, but these new Plague Fleets arrived to late to aid the traitors conquer Terra, and were forced to flee alongside them to the Eye of Terror. Ten-thousand years later Mortarion has returned to the material world, seeking to corrupt the realm of his brother Roboute Guilliman and offer them up to Nurgle as a glorious prize.
Typhus – Once Calas Typhon, Typhus is the lord of the 1st Plague Company, Herald of Nurgle, and host to the Destroyer Hive. Wherever Typhus’ ship, the Terminus Est, is sighted, death is sure to follow and even that is no escape. Those who die to Typhus’ contagions born of the warp rise again as the shambling undead, Plague Zombies, who carry the viruses to new victims and continue to ravage entire systems long after Typhus has moved on to shower new worlds with Nurgle’s gifts.
Horticulus Slimux – A Plaguebearer of Nurgle who stands in high regard among the daemons of Nurgle, and has even been granted the title of Gardener. Some believe that Horticulus may even be the first of the Plaguebearers, a potential patient zero of the dreaded disease Nurgle’s Rot. Atop his pet snail Mulch, Horticulus has begun leading raids upon the realm of Ghyran, for Nurgle greatly desires the lady of that realm: the Everqueen Alarielle.
Rotigus – A Great Unclean One known as the Rainfather and the Generous One, Rotigus is more attuned to the generosity and fecundity of his father than his sibling daemons, and this has earned him a strange reputation as a fertility god among many mortal civilisations. Those who pray to Rotigus quickly learn the error of their ways though. Once infertile cattle now give birth to monstrous offspring, draughts are replaced with never ending rains that flood the land. Food overspills and soils in his presence and the magic downpour known as Nurgle’s Deluge surrounds him at all times.
So why serve Nurgle?
Because you want to serve a Chaos God that loves you just the way you are, and because you want to share that love with everyone else. The diseases that Nurgle blesses his followers with offer them incredible durability. They feel no pain, and weapons that may fell even the largest of foes do little to slow the steady march of Nurgle’s warriors. The diseased cohorts are as inexorable as death itself, and once they reach their enemy there shall be a slaughter of rusted blades and pathogens. Canny enemies may try to use that slowness against you, but the Nurgle also offers powerful magics that can bolster his forces and drown his enemies in disease. Nurgle does believe in sharing the love after all.
Join us next time as we continue to delve into the depths of madness and unravel the histories of the Ruinous Powers.
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