Rotigus Rainfather waded through the lake of infected waters that, only three days before, had been a bone-dry plain. Stretching to the horizon was a vast patchwork tapestry of pitched battles, brawls, skirmishes and last stands fought between his blessed minions and the skeletal creatures of the Great Necromancer. Rotigus’ Plaguebearer attendants surrounded him, with tentacled Beasts splashing in the waters alongside.
The Rainfather glanced from under furrowed brows at the skies above. They were still grumbling like unquiet bowels. The dank green clouds of Nurgle’s Deluge veiled an evil, skull-like moon that had glowered down upon the invading daemons since the moment they had come through the Portal of Thorns.
Those grim clouds were mustering yet another squall to soak this desiccated land in fecund filth. The Innerlands of Shyish had not proved so barren they were immune to Rotigus’ magic, as that old dotard Horticulous Slimux had claimed. As far as Rotigus was concerned, his coming had heralded the salvation of this life-forsaken domain. So why were its denizens resisting him so?
Suddenly a clutch of skeletons burst from the water, their little claws grabbing at his blubbery hide. He swept them away with his gnarlrod, sending bones plopping and scattering everywhere. ‘You breakers of the great cycle,’ he rumbled. ‘Foul and wrong. But still you need a… urgh… burial of sorts, that the worms may grow fat.’
As if summoned by the words, a skeletal serpent burst from the water. It rose up high, giant skull dripping and bony jaws agape. An impressive specimen, thought Rotigus as he heaved up a river of bile from his guts. He vomited out a vast stream, the geyser of watery slurry hitting the bone serpent with unremitting force. The skeletal creature fought hard for a moment, then came apart altogether. ‘You’ll have… ghrurp… to try harder… brahrp… than that,’ dribbled Rotigus, swallowing a mouthful of clotted puke.
Rainwater swilled around Rotigus’ immense thighs as he made for the hill in the middle distance. It was one of the many cairns that marked the borders of Nagashizzar – Rotigus could clearly see that vast black citadel protruding from the horizon like a blackened, jagged nail. There were people up there on the border-cairn, and living ones to boot. He couldn’t wait to hear their screams of joy, their little faces twisted in animalistic gratitude as he showed them who had brought them a chance to live again.
‘Come on, you… blurgh… slubberdegullions,’ called out Rotigus to the army of Plaguebearers slouching through the waters behind him. ‘To the hill!’
As Rotigus grew close, the people on the crest of the rise lit torches with amethyst flame, transferred the fires to cloth-bound arrows and opened fire, the projectiles arcing through the air to plop and hiss around him. One struck him in the torso, eliciting a sizzle of burning fat and a flash of pain.
‘Ho!’ he rumbled, ‘is that any way to treat your saviour?’
Another two arrows shot in, slamming into his flabby gut. One landed right in his belly maw, crackling on his nether-tongue. ‘Right!’ shouted Rotigus, bristling with indignation as his gut spat out the steaming arrow. ‘You’re… baruugh… in for it now, my pretties!’
High on the hill, Rotigus could see a robed human – one of Nagashizzar’s cursed necromancers, by his ghastly aura and the wisps of amethyst light flying from his mouth as he cast his spells. A wedge of skeletal knights burst from the waters in response, their fleshless steeds screaming as they bore down upon Rotigus. The greater daemon swept aside their lances and barrelled through them like a battering ram through a wicker gate. He had to save the people up on the hill before the necromancer got them, too. Already he could see armoured skeletons clambering out of the barrow holes that gaped around the hill’s periphery.
‘Not this day,’ shouted Rotigus, yanking out a length of his lower intestine and hurling it like a giant, wet bolas at the necromancer atop the hill. The tube-like length of putrid gut sailed through the air to slam into the gaunt human with a satisfying splat. It coiled around his stunned form, crushing the life out of him.
Rotigus was at the base of the hill now, a pack of lolloping Beasts of Nurgle at his side. He stamped a wight into the dirt, the glowing balefires in its eyes snuffed out in an instant. Part of the hill fell away in a landslide, a usually pleasing sight for Rotigus – but not this time. Instead of unearthing writhing worms or corpse-eater termites, the crumbling cairn was lousy with animated skeletons.
Rotigus felt more flaming arrows pierce his blubbery hide as the barrow skeletons clawed and stabbed at his legs, gut, backside and spine. ‘What are you… hurggh… doing?’ he bellowed. ‘I have come to save you… haruggh… from dryness and sterility! Don’t you realise what these things are?’
As if in answer, the rain of arrows intensified. He saw two of his Beasts riddled with arrows, mewling pitifully as they discorporated in puffs of stinking, green-brown mist. Rotigus felt more blades and arrows dig into his hide, and a cold, hollowing sensation as the ichor-slop of his blood flowed away to join the floodwaters lapping at the base of the hill. ‘No!’ he roared, sweeping a dozen skeletal warriors away with one swing of his staff. ‘You cannot stop the Deluge!’
The Rainfather saw a clutch of human marksmen gain the crest of the hill, resting their crossbows on the shoulders of the skeleton shieldsmen that protected them from the Plaguebearers gaining the hill. The order to fire went up, and they levelled another volley even as a rain of flaming arrows struck Rotigus in the face and chest.
The last thing the Rainfather saw before he lost cohesion altogether was a baleful skull leering down from the pallid, fat moon, with the spires of Nagashizzar reaching up to clutch at it like a skeletal hand.