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Plague of Madness

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Plague of Madness
POMArt.jpg
Grey Knights battle the Daemons of Chaos during the Plague of Madness]
Date 941.M41
Location Decimalus System
Outcome Imperial victory
Combatants
Imperium Chaos
Commanders
Supreme Grand Master Kaldor Draigo
Brother-Captain Arvann Stern
Inquisitor Saffor Sengir (KIA)
Canoness Lunaria(KIA)
Lord of Change Ix'thar'ganix
Great Unclean One Lurgon
Strength
3 Grey Knights Brotherhoods
Order of the Vermilion Hand
Daemonic warband
Losses/Survivors
High All Daemons banished back to the Warp

The Plague of Madness refers to a major Daemonic incursion against the Imperium in 941.M41.[1]

Overview

Inquisitor Saffor Sengir of the Ordo Malleus had spent her life seeking out the secrets of the Lord of Change Ix’thar’ganix. After learning of the Daemon’s power of foresight, Sengir slowly descended into obsession, convinced she could steal this power for the Imperium. For decades the Inquisitor scoured the galaxy for cursed objects and profane artifacts linked to the Lord of Change. Eventually, in the drifting hulk of an alien vessel, she found the bones of the Whisperer: a long-dead xenos creature once possessed by Ix’thar’ganix. With these remains she hoped to summon the Daemon, and bind it to her will. From beyond the veil Ix’thar’ganix regarded Sengir with a mixture of contempt and amusement. All this the Lord of Change had long ago foreseen, centuries before the Inquisitor had been born and long before it had possessed the Whisperer – known of it, and prepared a trap for this mortal that thought to usurp its power.[1]

In the guise of Nurgle, Ix’thar’ganix had lured the Greater Daemon Lurgon to the Inquisitor, promising him a way into the mortal realm so that he might spread the gifts of his pestilent god. With complex spells and sorceries, the Lord of Change separated the threads of fate connecting him to the bones of the Whisperer and tangled them around Lurgon. When Sengir uttered the final word that would draw Ix’thar’ganix forth, Lurgon was instead hauled into reality, the wards erected to trap Ix’thar’ganix burning and breaking against this unfamiliar and powerful Daemon. Sengir’s will, though formidable, buckled under the psychic might of Lurgon, and the Great Unclean One oozed into her soul, possessing her completely. As the candles died and darkness descended Sengir dropped to her knees laughing hysterically, while her acolytes fell to ground with pus leaking from their ears and eyes.[1]

Yet Lurgon was still imprisoned within the flesh of the Inquisitor, as Sengir’s will was enough to contain the Daemon. In his rage, Lurgon conjured a virulent contagion upon his host, though this too had been tainted by Ix’thar’ganix’s magics. Instead of boils, lesions and seeping wounds, the mixing of Nurgle and Tzeentchian Warp sorcery brought forth a plague of madness, the putrescent energies of the Plague God mingling with the trickery of the Changer of Ways. Within the hour, the Inquisitor’s ship, the Pilgrim, was overrun with lunatics, men clawing at their faces, eating their own skin or jettisoning themselves into the cold vacuum of space. When, months later, the Pilgrim drifted into the Administratum hubsystem of Decimalus, only Lurgon, wearing Sengir’s skin, and a handful of the Inquisitor’s now-insane acolytes remained. Using the Inquisitor’s ciphers Lurgon voxed Decimalus Prime for aid. Within a week the plague of madness infected every world in the system. Within a month the Administratum Lords of Decimalus were under the thrall of Lurgon and the rotting fingers of the Daemon were felt in the gubernatorial hierarchies of a dozen worlds.[1]

The Void Glaive

On the other side of the galaxy, in the Citadel of Titan, the Prognosticars felt the disturbance on Decimalus like an ever-widening tear in reality. Upon their warnings, Kaldor Draigo summoned the Grand Masters and laid out his plan for quelling the incursion, under the stony gaze of Janus’ statue. With no time to gather the entire Chapter, Draigo ordered every Grey Knight on Titan to arms. Some of the Grand Masters questioned the wisdom of such a strategy, concerned that Titan had never been left so undefended. In the end it was Grand Master Valdar Aurikon, head of the Grey Knights Librarius, who swayed the council. Aurikon had examined the prophecies of the Prognosticars and the auguries of the Emperor’s Tarot, which suggested that behind the more obvious source of this plague lurked an ancient foe. The Grand Master believed this enemy was the Lord of Change Ix’thar’ganix, a Daemon that had long eluded the Chapter. Aurikon had also uncovered in the divination's Inquisitor Sengir’s connection to the plague, and the secret of the Whisperer’s bones. Together the Grand Masters agreed that a chance to destroy the Daemon could not be ignored. The 3rd, 5th and 8th Brotherhoods departed Titan, leaving only a handful of Purifiers to watch over the Chambers of Purity and a perilously small number of Grey Knights to man its defences.[1]

The Grey Knights Strike Cruisers cut a path through the Immaterium, crossing fifty thousand light years in the span of a few days as their Warp drives were pushed beyond recognised tolerances. As the vessels slipped out of the Warp above Decimalus, they immediately came under assault. The night above the planet erupted into vivid flashes and flares as its orbital defence platforms unleashed a storm of macro cannon fire and torpedo salvos. Infested with warring Tzeentch and Nurgle Daemons, many possessing the ragged remains of madmen, the orbital platforms had been fighting a protracted war against each other until the arrival of the Grey Knights. Draigo reacted immediately to ensure the orbital batteries were silenced, selecting Brother-Captain Stern and the 3rd Brotherhood to accomplish the task. While Draigo and the other brotherhoods engaged the defences in their Strike Cruisers, Stern led his battle-brothers against the Void Glaive, Decimalus’ lynchpin orbital fortress.[1]

In a flare of cold light the Grey Knight Terminators appeared on the command deck of the Glaive, back to back and ready to receive the charge of their foe. From the command pits and augur platforms dozens of Daemon-haunted eyes locked on them, ragged lips sliding back over broken teeth as the possessed lurched toward this new enemy. With orders to keep the Glaive operational if at all possible, Stern commanded his men to lower their storm bolters lest they damage any critical systems. With oaths to the Emperor upon their lips the battle-brothers hefted their force halberds and waded into the foe. Six more Grey Knight Terminator Squads teleported into mission-critical areas of the Glaive, ripping into the Daemons and the possessed crewmen. Soon the blood-spattered corridors and filth-encrusted chambers of the void-fortress echoed to the meaty sounds of blades in flesh and daemonic howls of rage and pain.[1]

From his throne room in the Administratum Nexus Spire on the surface of Decimalus, Lurgon watched the carnage on pict recorders through Sengir’s eyes. Drooling pus in anticipation of the Grey Knights’ coming, the Daemon Prince cast his gaze onto the bones mounted on the chamber wall, and considered that his revenge against Ix’thar’ganix was almost at hand. However, for the moment, Lurgon would have to content himself with killing Grey Knights, and so called out into the Warp, summoning his legions to the fray. Stern surveyed the carnage he had wrought, body parts covering almost every inch of the deck. He cast his gaze across the data-conclaves and dormant servitors, reminding his brothers it was Draigo’s wish to see the fortress utilized to aid the Grey Knights.[1]

Suddenly the deck bucked under Stern’s feet, throwing him to the ground. Momentarily dazed, he watched in horror as a huge mechanical claw tore through the bulkhead and ripped one of his brothers apart in a spray of blood. Climbing out of the rent plasteel a Soul Grinder hauled itself into the command chamber, part Daemon, part machine. Its massive mechanical legs filled the room while its sickly green flesh wept sheets of dark blood. Stern lunged forward, bringing up his blade as his brothers hacked at its limbs with their halberds. The monster seemed oblivious to the attacks as it loomed over Stern, smashing his blade aside with one enormous claw while pinning him to the ground with another. Under the unholy strength of the beast Stern was trapped, unable to bring his blade to bear. In desperation, Stern aimed his storm bolter at the command deck’s vista plates, voxing a warning to his brothers. As the armaglass exploded out into the void the Soul Grinder was pulled into space. For a moment Stern was dragged across the deck, the beast’s claw still clamped around him, and only the quick actions of his brothers saved him as they hauled him free. Standing in the now airless chamber, their suits of armour keeping them locked to the deck, the Grey Knights trained their weapons on the Daemon as it drifted away and blasted it apart with psycannon, bolter and psychic fire. As the last of its essence dissipated into the cold vacuum, Stern sent the word: the Glaive was theirs.[1]

In the Emperor's Name

With the orbital defences silenced, Kaldor Draigo led the 5th and 8th Brotherhoods down onto the surface of Decimalus Prime. The Chapter’s Librarians had pinpointed the heart of the psychic malaise in the Administratum Nexus Spire on the planet’s northern polar continent. Decimalus sat at the centre of five sectors, and was a hub for the Imperium’s control of the Quintor Sector Confluence, where a million souls ruled over countless billions. Orbital pict shadows had revealed that the surface of Decimalus – a vast, continuous city – had been overcome by the plague of madness. Fires burned out of control in the shattered remains of hab-towers while possessed citizens skirmished in the streets or constructed profane idols from dismembered body parts. Daemons stalked the few survivors who remained: men and women spared the madness only to suffer the horrors their erstwhile compatriots had created.[1]

The fluctuating Warp energies generated by Lurgon and the plague prevented Draigo from teleporting directly into the Nexus Spire, for the risk that his Terminators would become lost in the Immaterium or rematerialize within the walls of the fortress was too great. Instead, the Supreme Grand Master was drawn to a site close to the spire, where a pocket of Imperial resistance still held out. Through the garbled vox broadcasts spewed forth from the insane, the Grey Knights had detected a whisper-thin signal reciting hymns to the God-Emperor. In the ruined shell of a once-grand Imperial cathedral, an Adepta Sororitas preceptory fought on. TheOrder of the Vermilion Hand held the insane and daemonic at bay, laud hailers blaring the word of the Emperor at the foe.[1]

Canoness Lunaria and her sisters had endured for days against the plague of madness. The Sororitas’ faith had been the only thing keeping the madness from infecting the preceptory, as the vectors for the daemonic infection were lies and doubt. Even so, from close to a thousand Sisters fewer than two hundred now remained, and many were reduced to using their boltguns as bludgeons to preserve ammunition whilst holding back assaults from the infected populace. When Kaldor Draigo appeared with a hundred Grey Knights at his back in a blaze of golden light, Lunaria thanked the Emperor for their deliverance. In moments, the silver giants had cleared the walls of the cathedral, pushing the Daemon-things back into the shadow-haunted ruins. When the final crack of bolter fire died away Kaldor Draigo came to stand before the Canoness, saluting her with the Titansword in honour of her sisters’ valour. Lunaria took off her dented helm and looked up at the Supreme Grand Master, wiping sweatslick hair from her face. Both battle-brothers and sisters watched as the two exchanged quiet words, until Lunaria silently replaced her helm before ordering the Adepta Sororitas to prepare to advance into the ruins. Accepting that this would be their death, every Battle Sister uttered a prayer and formed up around their Canoness.[1]

With the area secure Draigo called in his support units, heavy landers and Stormraven Gunships arcing down from orbit over the broken city horizon. Land Raiders and Dreadnoughts cracked the ancient streets as they set down, while the two brotherhoods divided and set about their objectives. The Supreme Grand Master had formulated a plan that would not only vanquish Lurgon and end the plague of madness, but also bring Ix’thar’ganix out of the shadows. Draigo embarked upon the lead Land Raider Crusader, while the Battle Sisters mounted their own Rhinos, which had until now been employed as static gun emplacements. Together the 8th Brotherhood and the Adepta Sororitas rumbled out into the ruins, the remaining Grey Knights moving to strike targets around the spire.[1]

Blood and Faith

Now fully aware of the invaders, Lurgon summoned his hordes to destroy them. From every corner of the cursed city the servants of Nurgle stirred. Beasts and Plaguebearers, Nurglings and infected citizens – all shambled, slithered and staggered to the spire’s defence. In the lead Land Raider Draigo could see the air growing thick with bloatflies and the narrow streets gradually swelling with weeping, pustulent forms. He ordered the tank to drive through them, its weapons spitting death into the mob. The Land Raider’s machine spirit growled hungrily, and the vehicle continued without pause, crushing daemonic flesh into the ground and driving the beasts back. Glimpsed through alleyways as they flashed by, Draigo could see the Battle Sisters’ Rhinos ploughing through the Daemons on a parallel road. Adepta Sororitas clung onto the sides and roofs of their transports firing their bolters with pinpoint accuracy into the fray. From the horde a pus-spattered Herald pushed its way into view, flanked by seven massive Beasts of Nurgle. The Land Raider came to a sudden halt as it hit the Beasts, blessed steel fighting against profane rotting flesh. As the tank struggled to free itself, the Herald charged forward, driving a rusting blade into the hull. Armour that should have been proof against lascannons corroded and crumbled before the blade, and even as the assault ramp opened the tank’s engines detonated in a fiery cloud.[1]

Close to the ramp, Draigo was hurled clear by the explosion, coming crashing to the ground yards away. Grey Knights fought their way free of the wreck, but as each one climbed out he was borne down by scores of Daemons. Unsheathing the Titansword, Draigo got to his feet and began clearing a path to his brothers. Somewhere back on the road Draigo could hear the sound of bolter fire, but he had no time to look around, for Daemons were striking at him from all sides. Like flies on a corpse the ruins were alive with the children of Nurgle, thousands of Daemons arrayed against a dozen Grey Knights and their Supreme Grand Master.[1]

Undaunted, Draigo pressed on, destroying Daemons with blade, fist and psychic fire. A rusty blade hacked at the back of Draigo’s armour while rotting fingers clutched at his sword arm, the decaying face of a Plaguebearer coughed toxic phlegm inches from his face plate and swarms of Nurglings gnawed upon the seals of his armour. Inch by inch the Supreme Grand Master could feel himself drowning under a sea of daemonic filth, his brothers little more than specks of silver in a roiling vat of Warp-spawn. Then, the faintest strains of a hymn reached his ears. He mistook it first for a vox echo, but it grew in volume until Draigo could make out a chorus of voices raised in praise of the Emperor. A tempest of blessed bolter fire shredded the horde of Daemons, the cursed creatures falling back before the fury and faith of the Adepta Sororitas. Led by Canoness Lunaria, her armour torn and bloody, the surviving sisters charged into the ruin haloed by golden light as they used flamers and meltaguns at close range to push back the Daemons of Nurgle. As the horde shrank back in the face of this new onslaught, Draigo finally managed to hack a path to his brothers. However, the Battle Sisters had bought Draigo but a moment, and already the Warp-spawn massed to strike once more. Knowing that the true enemy lurked within the Nexus Spire, Draigo turned to Lunaria. The Canoness nodded her assent, understanding and accepting that her sisters would sell their lives to buy the Grey Knights a few moments more. Turning his back on the Adepta Sororitas as they made their last stand, Draigo pressed on toward the spire.[1]

The Spire of Madness

The formidable defences of the Nexus made a direct assault impossible, so Draigo had dispatched the 5th Brotherhood to cripple the polar city’s power supply. Across the ruins battle-brothers had fought their way into Daemon-infested reactors and conduit junctions, obliterating them one by one and shutting down the massive lance turrets that stood sentinel around the Nexus. With the guns silenced the Grey Knights could focus on breaching the daemonic wards holding the fortress gate closed. In close formation, five squads of Grey Knight Terminators, flanked by a pair of Nemesis Dreadknights and led by Kaldor Draigo, climbed the vast ramp toward the Nexus gate. Psychic fire haloing their helms, the battle-brothers combined their might into a single silent pulse, directing it at their commander. As the focal point of the spell, Draigo channeled the psychic energies into a lance of blazing fire that incinerated everything it touched. Those Daemons before the gate that did not fall to the cannons and blades of the Dreadknights were washed away by the fire, vanishing in wet pops as their physical forms burst apart. Like the rotting chest cavity of a corpse the gates of the Nexus burst apart, disgorging a river of Nurglings and indescribable filth. Knee deep in the toxic tide the Dreadknights waded into the spire, their weapons burning hot as they cleared the way.[1]

The Grey Knights fought through the intestine-like tunnels and chambers of the spire, Lurgon hurling countless minions in their path for every step they took. Finally, Draigo stood before the gates to the throne room. It was here the Supreme Grand Master bade his brothers stay, despite their fierce protests. Draigo knew the only way to lure Ix’thar’ganix to battle was to present him with a foe too tempting to ignore. Alone, Kaldor Draigo entered the presence of Lurgon, his dispassionate stare meeting the bloodshot eyes of the Sengir host, her flesh distended horribly by the terrible thing living inside her. Draigo noted also the bones of the Whisperer, lying scattered about the chamber.[1]

Before either Daemon or Grey Knight could raise their blades the bones stirred where they lay, flickering Warp-magicks playing across them while the screeching laugher of Ix’thar’ganix echoed through the room. Vomiting forth grey maggots, the Sengir-host lurched toward the remains, Lurgon raging behind its eyes. Draigo stood his ground, waiting for the moment when the Tzeentchian Daemon would manifest, content to let the Nurgle Prince attempt to exact its vengeance. Carried upon an ethereal wind the bones were drawn together, taking on the Whisperer’s towering avian form. Lurgon tried to strike out at the bone-thing but, imprisoned within the Sengir-host, he was constrained by the weakness of the flesh he wore. Channeling his magic through the bones, Ix’thar’ganix lashed out at Lurgon, ancient daemonic talons tearing into the putrid flesh of the dead Inquisitor. Like a gutted fish the host fell to the ground, an unnatural tide of innards spilling across the floor.[1]

With Lurgon dealt with for now, the animated bones turned to Draigo, the shadow-shape of Ix’thar’ganix now forming around them. With a gesture, the Daemon cast a hex on the chamber door, sealing Draigo off from his brothers before finally fully manifesting and screeching out a challenge to the Supreme Grand Master. Draigo’s response was to trigger his teleport homer, Stern and thirty Grey Knight Terminators materialising from the Warp in an actinic flash. Now the Daemon’s screech turned to one of frustration and fury; it had not foreseen this. The mortal that led the warriors was a black shroud across its vision, his fate already claimed by another and somehow invisible to his own daemonic foresight. Ix’thar’ganix had little time to contemplate how he had been tricked as the Grey Knights charged. Abandoning the bones, the Lord of Change fled back into the Warp, but not before slicing through the psychic bonds holding Lurgon to the ruined Sengir-host.[1]

In a burst of flesh Lurgon crawled out of the Sengir-host, taking his full, terrible form. Draigo had no choice but to turn his attentions to the Nurgle Daemon, leading the attack with a punishing blow from the Titansword. Lurgon fought bitterly, shattering ceramite and bone with blows from his massive claws and drowning his foes in great gouts of decaying matter. However, he was no match for the power of Kaldor Draigo and Brother-Captain Stern combined. Uttering the words of banishing, Stern threw the Daemon back into the Warp and closed off its means of return. With the departure of Lurgon and Ix’thar’ganix the plague was broken. All across the planet and beyond ragged mortals woke up from the nightmare of insanity with no recollection of the preceding events. The bones of the Whisperer were carefully gathered up by the Grey Knights and carried back to Titan, Draigo vowing that the next time he crossed paths with the Lord of Change there would be no chance for escape.[1]

Sources