The plague claimed its first victim on a cold winter’s afternoon in December. A light dusting of snow had fallen earlier that afternoon, and most of the villagers of Nockham were at home, huddled around their respective grates and fire-places. The victim, Seth Mosdale, was frail and elderly. His doting wife Miranda had noticed Seth was unwell the moment he had awoken. Within a couple of hours yellowing pustules and boils had appeared on his parchment-thin skin, and by noon he had lapsed into a coma. Fearing the worst, Miranda had summoned the village physician, Dr Ambrose, but despite the good Doctor’s application of ointments and unguents, Seth succumbed late in the afternoon. Shortly thereafter, both the Doctor and Miranda found similar boils had infected them as well, and by nightfall both had joined Seth in eternal sleep.
  The plague spread rapidly, thanks in part to the well intentioned work of the good Dr. Ambrose who had continued dutifully on his rounds after visiting the Mosedale household. By eight that evening, more than twenty villagers were afflicted with obvious symptoms, and many more were complaining of sickness. By morning so many had succumbed that the Church of our Saviour, Sigmar, had to be requisitioned as an impromptu mortuary.
  The parish priest, Mikael the Pious, consulted with the Mayor. Desperately trying to remain calm the venerable pair of village elders were at a loss for a plan. The situation had become severe. It seemed the whole settlement had plague, and not just the people. Even allowing for the snow and the cold, vegetation was wilting and trees rotting. Milk was curdling as the cows were milked and the corn had blackened in the grain-stores. Even furniture within afflicted households seemed to develop worm and rot as fast as the plague was taking lives. Believing the cause might be witchcraft and realising that their hands had been forced, reluctantly the mayor and the elderly clergyman set off to take the short walk out of the village to the necromancer’s tower.
  The tower, shunned for years by the locals, loomed large in the stagnant fog. Steeling himself, the Priest knocked hard on the iron-bound oaken door, inwardly shuddering as his hand touched the cold bronze of the skull-shaped knocker. The sound of a large key turning in a lock was followed by the immensely solid door swinging inwards on squealing hinges, juddering across uneven flag-stones at it went, the whole scenario suggesting it had not been opened in millennia. The Necromancer, dressed in a robe embroidered with stars and strange astrological symbols with a hood that draped down and almost completely hid his face stood before them. Without uttering a word, the mage stood slightly to one side and with a sweep of his arm ushered them in. As the mayor crossed the threshold, his face brushing the gossamer thread of spiders webs that hung in the doorway, he felt a cold wetness run down his side from under his arm. The boil whose presence he had hidden from the priest and then desperately tried to ignore had burst.
  The solemn trio of the two elders and the mage sat facing each other on wood benches. The only light came from an iron candelabra suspended from a ceiling that was all in shadow. The few candles that were lit made everyone’s faces seem gaunt and pale, with the exception of the wizard whose face remained hidden throughout. The Priest thought he could detect a distant hum, possibly from below the ground, but it might just as easily been the blood pumping past his ears with the dread of the moment. The Mayor explained the village’s plight, pleading with the Necromancer to help, but the hooded figure just slowly shook his head. Azule had been a Necromancer for more than three centuries, and had long foreseen this day. Slowly rising to his feet, he briefly stepped out of the candle light into the gloom, returning shortly with a musty tome bound in a curious vellum that appeared to everyone present to have been freshly exhumed from a grave. The Priest had but fleeting seconds to absorb the tarnished letters that formed the title of the book before it fell open on the table before them. The title read Nurgle’s Carnivale. Pointing a bony finger with a long filth-encrusted black nail at the spread pages, the Necromancer traced an imaginary line underneath the words The Tallyman of Pestilence. Not being able to fully comprehend what he was being shown, Mikael leapt to his feet accusing the mage of blasphemy and witchcraft. The Mayor went to stand as well, but keeled over as his bod gave way to the sickness within, his head striking the edge of the table as he fell, upending it and catapulting the book into the darkness. Blood ran freely from the Mayors nose, ear and mouth, puddling on the cold stone floor and seeping down between the cracks between the flags. Almost at once the humming rose to a frightening crescendo along with an earthquake-like vibration. The dust of ages lifted like a cloud of insects from the stone floor, shimmering in the stuttering candle-light. The necromancer threw his hood back and dropped to his knees, thrusting his arms skywards as he did, the dim light on his bald head appearing to make the blasphemous tattoos inked there writhe and shimmer, his sleeves falling back revealing his emaciated arms and grotesque blackened fingers. Suddenly the flagstone floor erupted as a gigantic mechanical monstrosity threw itself up from the tunnels beneath the tower, the Priest’s scream and the candles extinguished together as the Soul Grinder swung its mighty corroded sword…
  From the edge of the newly diseased forest Epidemius scratched another mark on the slate he was carrying. Nurglings scurried around his feet, each hoping for a morsel from a plague victim. The Church doors, now completely rotted through, burst asunder as streams of Plague-Bearers spewed forth, joining those already free from the confines of the village houses. Strange beasts spawned from the festering remains of the milking herd joined with them and together they shambled towards the ruined tower. As the foetid group finally drew close, two Daemon Engines immerged from the rubble, ruined masonry cascading from them like scree tumbling down a craggy rock-face and bracketed between them was the Necromancer, born on black insect wings and revelling in his freshly-hatched guise; A Daemon Prince of Nurgle.

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