[Original short story]
Roots of the Infection: A History of Hexfleet Virules
I. A Betrayal Within:
Scattered Imperial records say that, several hundred years ago, a relatively young and small Space Marine chapter near the Eastern Fringe struggled to survive, carrying out out its operations almost entirely without Imperial support. Atypically, the chapterâs Chief Librarian had always served in a dual capacity as the Chapter Master of the entire order. This tradition may well have explained the chapterâs near-isolation, as the Ultramarines and other more orthodox Imperial groups near the Eastern Fringe have long frowned on such a major deviation from the Codex Astartes. Placing a Chief Librarian in uncontested command of an entire chapter may frequently expose a figure more needed for foresight and counsel to the dangers of daemonic possession or the corrupting touch of the Warp. This chapterâs sorry tale would go on to prove that such fears are well-founded.
Although the vast majority of detailsâeven the name of the chapter itselfâhave long been purged from Imperial records by the order of the Inquisition, surviving primary andn secondary sources indicate that the chapterâs last Chapter Master was an unusually gifted psyker known as Virilian. While Virilian was said to have possessed martial prowess and tactical acumen that were average at best by the extraordinarily high standards of a Space Marine Chapter Master, both his ability to directly channel the powers of the Warp as well as his gifts of divination were among the highest levels ever recorded in the chapterâs history. While one tale found in the memoirs of a long-dead Rogue Trader hints that Virilianâs ability to foretell the future spiked shortly following the capture of an Eldar Farseer, no other evidence exists to corroborate this a dark accusation.
What is known is that Virilian would eventually go on to commit an unprecedented act of heresy so grave that any discussion of the event itself was outlawed on pain of death throughout much of Imperial space. Whether he saw glimpses in the strands of time that his dying chapter was doomed to extinction or whether he simply acted out of pure self-interest, Virilian the Librarian ultimately made a choice unimaginable to the self-sacrificing and noble character of most Adeptus Astartes Chapter Masters.
After issuing an order for the recall of every surviving Space Marine in his chapter currently out on operations, Virilian waited until the last member of his order returned before announcing an immediate gathering of every single battle brother in the fortress-monasteryâs hallowed and enormous chapel. This chapter summit included the collection and delivery of all crucial chapter assets. The chapterâs Chaplains and Apothecaries were forced to gather every sacred relic and the entirety of the Gene Seed bank, transporting everything to the nave of the chapel hall. While this new pronouncement generated confusion and among the ranks, Space Marines are trained from the start to obey their masters. Many of the chapterâs higher echelons suspected that the gathering of chapter members and property signaled a decision to relocate the ill-fated chapter to a different system.
Although only one person alive today can say for sure what truly happened next, the event that ultimately occurred inside the chapterâs chapel injured or killed Imperial astropaths and psykers across a vast swath of systems located in adjacent regions. Those strong enough to have survived the bursting of blood vessels or sudden eruptions of pestilence babbled with mad ravings of a noxious betrayal on a scale rarely seen since the dark days of the Horus Heresy.
In the most sanctified chambers of his order, Virilian called out to Father Nurgle and offered up his chapter root and branch. Planes of reality overlapped in a violent wave and the dutiful Astartes soon found themselves trapped in place within the deepest bogs of Nurgleâs Garden. Chapter Librarians are also keepers of collected lore and wisdom, and Virilian was well-versed in the mighty favors the deities of Chaos bestowed on space marines willing to forfeit their souls. Whereas Typhus had once elevated himself by damning his entire chapter, Virilian surpassed even this abominable ceiling of betrayal by offering unto Nurgle the live sacrifice of every member and every piece of Geneseed of his chapter save his own. In a sense Virilian died that day as well, for from among the collapsing and fetid ruins of the fortress-monetary strode Virules, newfound favorite of Nurgle.
II. The Sorcererâs Apprentice:
In return for the most unimaginable of acts, Virules demanded the most unimaginable of prices. For his allegiance, the former Librarian gained the Mark of his new master and the chaos-infused blossoming of all his former physical and psychic gifts. For the feeding his entire chapterâs Geneseed to the Great Lord of Decay, Virules insisted on another gift just as great: personal and eternal dominion over a Great Unclean OneThe Garden of Nurgle roiled in turmoil when their patron answered with gurgling mirth.
Papa Nurgle is nothing if not generous with his followers, and for the sacrifice of Virulesâ charges, Nurgle sacrificed a child of his own in return. Among the truly noxious of Nurgleâs most powerful servants there was one that the Lord of Disease had personally raised to greatness since Nurglinghood, a rearing that took place before even the oldest memories of the ancient Eldar. This Great Unclean One had grown complacent in its favored status, thinking its noble ranking could be maintained in perpetuity without merit or service to Nurgle. With the foul deed offered up by Virules, Nurgle saw an opportunity to teach the whole of his servants that the favor of Chaos is a thing that must be constantly earned, not a gift to which one is entitled. Nurgle reached deep into the Garden, rousing the Greater Daemonâs gigantic mass from out a smug slumber within the former favoriteâs colossal green palace. Crafting hexed shackles of poisoned vines, Nurgle chained the great monster with colossal ethereal links. Hurling the bellowing beast across time and space, Papa Nurgle touched the mind of Virules and spoke the True Name the Great Unclean One had been given at his birth as a Nurgling.
Crossing a peasantâs field near his ruined fortress, Virules stooped in the hay to lift up a crooked, makeshift farmerâs scythe. Within this splintering and nearly broken instrument, Nurgle deposited the similarly broken presence of a spirit so foul the ground began to wither and decay below Virulesâ feet. The once-Librarian stripped the Greater Daemon of its ancient name, dooming the wretched entity to be known forever simply as The Shadow of Virules. From then on, Virules could draw on the power of the great daemon without restriction or barrier, channeling its huge reservoirs of power through the empowered scythe or through foul spells, or even by conjuring the physical manifestation of the daemonâs form into realspace.
Emboldened by his elevation to nearly demi-God levels, Virules traveled the stars alone for an indeterminate amount of time. What he sought or accomplished during this period remains unknown to any true and loyal servant of the Emperor. What is clear is that, at some point, Virules made contact with the roaming plague fleet led by Typhus.
Bolstered by The Shadowâs vivid and putrid presence, Virules strode to the command throne of the Terminus Est and formally requested that the Traveler take on the former loyalist as a sorcererâs apprentice. The Traveler would have been well within his rights to order his host to behead the intruder, or to slay the upstart himself. However, one who came bearing such clear and unprecedented favor from their mutual patron could not be so easily dispensed with or ignored by the gathered ranks of Death Guard. Whatâs more, experienced Chaos great warlords such as Typhus have long maintained and grown their influence by prioritizing opportunity and cunning over simple pride.
By adopting a powerful ally, Typhus saw an opportunity to more easily further his own myriad of schemes and acquisitions. Although uneasy at the thought of taking on a follower whose psychic potency so closely rivaledâand perhaps even surpassedâhis own, the Traveler ultimately saw little threat by the addition of a sorcerer who entered the ranks of the Death Guard without a single friend or ally to his name. Whereas the name of Typhus had been whispered with fear across the galaxy since ten thousand years, the young wizard of Nurgle possessed virtually no pacts or reputation among the legions of Chaos. The benefits clearly outweighed the risks. A dark pact was made, and Typhus agreed to adopt Virules into the plague fleetâs ranks of Nurgle sorcerers.
III. Rise of the Plaguelich:
The two sorcerers of Nurgle warred together for an unknown amount of time, causing untold destruction in their mutual quest for material power and infernal knowledge. Virules proved an apt apprentice, absorbing knowledge both sorcerous and tactical with an ease unmatched by any others in the Travelerâs inner circle. At first these lessons were received with gratitude, the corrupted Librarian almost delighting in the opportunity to demonstrate newly-mastered proficiencies before Typhus and his roaming host of Plague Marines. Many in the Death Guard grew jealous and spiteful and the upstartâs favored position and seemingly-endless talentâa festering resentment that Typhus carefully nurtured to keep his student isolated and in check. Eventually, however, the gratitude faded and the tone of the apprentice grew ever more insolent. A former chapter master and chief librarian had only so much left to learn, even from an ancient psyker and warlord such as Typhus.
Just as Typhus felt his patience coming an end and the great warlord finally saw no further use for his reckless charge, Virules fiendishly outraced his teacher to the pairâs inevitable mutual betrayal. As the Terminus Est and the rest of its fleet rode in the Warp, the command bridge instantly blared with unexpected warning sirens. Like rotten bark peeling from a great corrupted tree, a significant minority of ships suddenly splintered off-course and away from the bloated host. While comprised mostly of smaller troop carriers, this mutinous detachment contained several mid-level ships and even one of the Travelerâs most ancient and largest vessels. Just as the main fleetâs cannons could be brought to bear, Virules used drew on the The Shadowâs daemonic powers to momentarily rip open a Warp rift that directly emptied into a random location in realspace. The twice-betrayer and his new host instantly vanished into the unknown with the sickening sound of a popping boil.
Over the next several decades, putrid monuments erected on worlds throughout a vast spectrum of systems announced the new kingdom of Virules, the Plaguelich. While most within Typhusâ Death Guard had despised or looked down on the young sorcerer, a few enterprising captains and their Plague Marine sub-factions had sensed that new opportunities could be had in following a daring upstart with such clear talent and ambition. Among Sorcerers of Nurgle in particular, many were willing to hitch themselves to a rising star from which new spells and favors of Nurgle might spill forth like rotten fruit. It would emerge that these risk-takers had made a fortuitous gamble, for Virules had kept his greatest sorcerous invention a careful secret from his teacher.
The strongest and most recent plague devised by the Host of the Destroyer Hive, feared throughout both Imperial and Xenos space, was known as the Zombie Plague. A pestilence both incomprehensible and seemingly impossible to replicate, the Zombie Plague stood as blasphemous testament to the Travelerâs perennial status as Nurgleâs favorite mortal vessel of disease.
Unbeknownst to all, Virules had been able to tap into the vast and revolting knowledge possessed by his enslaved greater daemon so as to devise a way to reverse-engineer the Zombie Plague. By inserting his own ingredients into the strain and impregnating a small fragment of The Shadowâs vast psychic presence, Virules managed to birth a mutated strain he announced as the Hex Plague. As much spell as biological infection, carriers of the Hex Plague warped not only their physical bodies, but also the realspace around them.
All the ranks of the inchoate âHexfleet Virulesâ were enthusiastically infected with the new Hex Plague, causing the armies of the Plaguelich to warp the very ground upon which they strode. Beneath a Plague Marine in Virulesâ host, the earth rots, maggots spill forth, poisonous fungi erupt, and Nurglings emerge from putrid pools of slime. For those innocents who had not sworn allegiance to Nurgle prior to infection, the Hex Plague withered their mortal frames, sapping agility even while infusing unholy durability. Humans who are infected become psychically linked to the Plaguelich as the splinter shards of The Shadow replicated with the disease. Virules therefore not only gains a new followers with every planet infected, but also feels his psychic might swell as the essence of his bound slave is copied over and over again ad nauseum.
Bolstered by his newfound strength and status, Virules has recently taken the final step marking his rise as a true Chaos Warlord: forging new infernal alliances with outside factions and daemons. While news of the Hex Plague has brought numerous Obliterator Cults and daemonic engines of Nurgle to join the Plaguelichâs ranks, Virules has reached outside his own patron deity to strike a bargain with minor barons of Slaanesh. Although the details of the deal remain shrouded in mystery, as of late two Keeper of Secrets have begun accompanying Hexfleet Virules. This male and female pair of Keeper of Secrets have brought with them their own armies of lesser Daemonettes and Seekers. While the essence of Slaanesh makes them immune to the Hex Plagueâs effects, these daemons are inevitably infected as carriers of the disease. The Plaguelichâs infernal concoction is thus transmitted more quickly than ever through the rapid claws and hooves of the Hexfleetâs Slaaneshi allies. There are even rumors that Virules has managed to capture a weakened Lord of Change and the daemonâs small cohort of Horrors.
All the while, Typhus continues to search the galaxy in a quest to wreck vengeance on his former apprentice, making an apocalyptic clash between two great champions of Nurgle and their allies virtually inevitableâŠ
Edited by Lagrath, 14 December 2014 - 02:34 AM.