Claw of the Plague God
The chaos marine fixed his baleful glare upon the puny human before him. His ancient armour was cracked and covered with a patina of rust and sickly damp festering patches that trickled yellow rivulets of infected pus, which caught in the ornate spikes and grooves of the armour where it dried and added to the grime. The heraldry of some long forgotten chapter upon his shoulder guard had been modified obscenely into designs that hurt the eyes and filled the stomach with crawling nausea. The stench of a thousand rotting corpses hissed forth from the rebreathers of the marines power armour, puffs of steam emitted in a gurgling gravely mud-like sound, and with each exhalation something green and clotted dripped from the winged vents that stretched out behind the traitor.
The guardsman ducked and hid behind a crate, dropped his spent lasgun and gibbered in fear a sound that made the traitor laugh. Fear was the tool of the dark gods. The booming laugh became a hacking cough then a wet gurgling rasp. The marine clutched at his helmet keeping his dripping bolt gun aimed at the crate and released the compression unit. With a hiss and a crack the helmet detached and he dropped it to the ground. On release a flood of mucus splashed out making a puddle in the ground in which obscene things twitched and squirmed. His pale dead white skin and completely black eyes provided a striking contrast to the red and yellow moving weals that decorated his cheeks, coming together to form a cluster of scabious mass around his ever bleeding mouth. Reaching to his belt he drew his knife and prepared to deal in fear. First the horror, then an offering...
The guard unit that had ambushed him had been work. The sole survivor was entertainment as well as a means to an end. An opportunity given to him by Nurgle the God of Plague... Waiting behind the crates they had held their position. A heavy bolter had dispatched one traitor, his now empty armour punched with a myriad of holes, which upon death had leaked vile matter that ate into the ferromite floor making a huge pool of iridescent green ooze as if the marine had no form when animated. The guardsmen had fixed bayonets and charged from their vantage point only discovering too late that to come too close to foes such as these was an error paid for with your very soul. The other marine was felled by a lucky shot from the guard sergeants bolt pistol. As the shouting guardsmen surrounded him closing in for the kill, the remaining marine had simply breathed. The spellcast of the breath of Nurgle. In dismay the guardsmen had to a man doubled over vomiting great pieces of their stomach and lung matter onto their polished jackboots. Then looking on in horror, screaming as their blood vessels burst with putrefaction, they had withered. Each had fallen to their knees and as great folds of rancid flesh had peeled from their bones and splashed around them, the traitor knew that Nurgle was pleased. The marine picked his way past nine puddles of biotic ooze with mottled skeletons still trying to live reaching out with clawed skeletal hands and trying to scream with no lungs or vocal cords. He smiled the toothless smile of a rotting skull and strode towards the one who had held back. The coward. The Pawn.
The guardsman pressed his back further to the crate as if willing his body to pass through it so he could hide in the metal canister. As the marine walked around to face him he looked up in terror and scrabbled to pick up his discarded lasgun, which the traitor kicked away with contempt. 'I have a task for you my pretty' he rasped as he picked the guardsman up by his neck and held him up to eye level, two feet off of the ground. The human’s eyes bulged with terror as the knobbed gauntlet dug into his throat and the marine held him close. The eyes of the marine were black pits with no pupil or iris and the rictus of the diseased face was that of a long dead corpse, streaming with vileness. Father Nurgle had indeed blessed the traitor.
'You are intelligent are you not? Holding back from the certain death of your fellows, thinking? Reasoning? I have a task for you my thinker. I wish you take a message to your command.' the human’s face was held mere inches from the marines. With each breath the guardsman vomited until his stomach was empty and only gagging retching came from the dishevelled mess. The traitor carelessly tossed him aside and he crashed through several of the wooden boxes.
'This hive presents a problem. We have not the forces to breach the defences; you have not the forces or the courage to leave your hive to drive us off. However if we were to retreat from this cursed world your hives defence lasers would destroy several of our ships. This is unacceptable. I wish you to go to your command with an offer of truce. If the truce is agreed to, we will leave in peace. Within 24 hours at the most.' The guardsman returned from the hell his frayed mind had lived in for the past minutes – could he possibly survive? And looked warily into the eyes of the marine.
'You came here to parley?'
'Of course. Why would only the three of us venture this far into the outer service ducts? To make contact to proffer our terms of course. Will you take this message to your leaders?' The human nodded.
'Only this. We will withdraw this afternoon, at the hour of templis sexternus. Our ships will depart and if unmolested, depart forever. You can keep this dry hell you call home. Can you remember that?'
'w w w hat proof have the men of Vadermr Hive that you will keep to your word?'
The marine spun around and strode towards the cowering human.
'proof? the word of a marine is enough you stringy piece of meat. take my words to your leader now, or else my sparing you is a waste of my time!'
With a mighty backhand the marine sent the guardsman sprawling back down through the access tunnel. After a few seconds to remember where he was he scrambled to his feet and fled. The last sight he was able to remember clearly of all of his life, in the days to come was the now helmeted plague marine with his hand raised as if in farewell.
The traitor watched the guardsman scurry away. The mission had been a complete success. By this time tomorrow the guardsmen will have spoken to someone in authority. Probably not the high command but definitely an officer at the least. Then he would be sent back into the ranks, or into a hospital or some other crowded area. And within seven days he would be dead, consumed by a special slow acting virulent version of Nurgle's Rot, a gift father Nurgle had bestowed upon him. The marine had lived for millennia since Nurgle had first shown such approval - but he was a marine and blessed and had been ensconced in his living death for nearly five thousand years . A normal paltry human would shrivel and die within seven days, the first six of which he would show no sign of infection. And pass it on to every human who came within seven feet of him. And so after 3 months of fighting, the hive would finally fall - millions upon millions of diseased steaming corpses bursting open with vileness, falling upon each other in death as the hives spires and tunnels became clotted with filth and obscenity. Vladermr Hive would become a 5 kilometre tall shrine to Nurgle, for an exchange of two plague marines. The marine grinned beneath his helmet, and left through the access tunnels, his chuckle echoing that of his master.
The marine looked on and smiled. The hive city was shaped like a hand with all fingers and thumbs pointed upwards and the back of the hand resting on a table. Each spire thrust towards the imperium of the stars and the empire of man as if imploring, reaching.
Now to the marine’s mind, each finger was accusing. For all of his supposed power, the false emperor, the frail god of nothing had again failed to protect his own. From the vantage point afforded from the peak opposite the hive, the spectacle began. The base of the hive was pock marked and dotted with thousands of ventilation ducts. These had been the main focus of the plague marine army that had landed on this rock three months previously.
Stubborn and determined resistance had prevented entrance into the underhive where all manner of havoc could have been unleashed. The plague marines were stopped at the entrance time and time again but any sorties from the hive had been massacred. A true stand off had occurred. In the meantime, the hives planetary defence laser system had been repaired, the damaged done by the leprous hordes of cultists undone, the uprising that should have been timed perfectly with the chaos landing brutally put down. The defence lasers which now prevented the nurgle forces from departing...
And yet all the imperials false victories had availed them nothing. Two hundred million dead within seven days. And without a shot fired. For the loss of two marines, eleven marines in total since the sorcerer had chosen this world as a fitting sacrifice to father Nurgle. The marine looked on. The week previous he had led his champions into the hive from the access tunnel and all that had been seen had been good. The streets clogged with the diseased and dying those who had the strength to last more than a day in the final agonising period still twitching, shaking, spasming and screaming in the streets as the rot rampaged through their bodies. Now it had been ten days. and before the traitors black eyes something wonderful was beginning to happen.
The remains of the imperials had degraded completely. The access tunnels were at the bases of the hive. Like a vile parody of bleeding wounds the bodily fluids of two hundred million humans seeped out through the myriad of vent shafts as they pooled at the bottom of the hive like a festerous sea. The plague marines all stood enraptured as slowly the spires of the hive took on the appearance of a bleeding oozing hand tipped with metal talons
'Truly this place is blessed of Nurgle' rasped the marine his bleeding lips forming a black oozing rictus. His men looked on with him. 'From this day forth, we cast aside our Chapter name. From this day forth, we shall be called the Claws of Nurgle.
And this shall be the holiest of holy places'
The standing corpses of the Claws of Nurgle bowed down in front of their offering and for just a moment above the spires could be seen dimly, father Nurgle, smiling down upon them all…