"One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody."
- Brother Quinrel, Missionarus Galaxia
Nurgle's love was humanity's bane. Those in suffering turned to the Plague Lord for relief and succor. Bloating with concern, necrotic arms embracing sore-covered flesh, pus-heavy lips kissing the pain away; Nurgle's love was boundless. Under the power of the Lord of Decay, death was nothing. The transience of life passed, and under Nurgle's paternal gaze, bloomed in to something greater. Souls taken in the Grandfather's name were well-cared for spirits. Let the Imperium's clergy preach their hopeless doctrines. Papa Nurgle was the most involved of any deity in the plight of mortals. He answered when no one else would.
Typhus was Nurgle's herald. In a galaxy bereft of the Emperor's fatherly protection, Typhus spread the epidemic of freedom unto the Imperium. Host of the Destroyer Hive, Typhus endured, unloved and unwelcomed by the people he freed of their mortal prisons. Typhus bore this fate. Grandfather Nurgle walked with him every step of the way. He did not require anyone else. He needed no other affection.
The planet was irrelevant. Its souls, however, were worthy of the Grandfather's affection and affliction. Typhus walked the breadth of the globe, sowing desolation that would blossom in to gratitude. On this pilgrimage in the Fly Lord's name Typhus came across the hovel.
The sky was overcast that day. Grey thunderheads, heavy with noxious rain, hung like a pall over the region. Behind Typhus lay a bog, its decay a lesser extent to what the planet was undergoing. He could feel the slithering of the Destroyer Hive inside his body. Sluicing along muscles and rattling the marrow of the warrior's bones, the plague came out of Typhus's cracked terminator plate as a swarm of black flies. Standing under a diseased oak tree, Typhus watched the swarm fly in and around the village, flitted through the inhabitants' doors and into unsuspecting homes.
Built at the edge of the stricken village, the hovel was contained in a small enclosure almost directly behind the forest of weeds and rotting trees from the swamp. A pathetic little vegetable patch grew near the mud-daubed house, offering diseased tomatoes and misshapen cucumbers now rotting in the sun. Nurgle's touch, like everywhere else, has come here. The creeping rot would soon take over and dominate.
A lone occupant was in the yard. The boy was perhaps six or seven years old. He could have been older, but malnourishment hadn't allowed for much growth. Typhus leaned against his Manreaper and watched the youngling. The boy plodded around the overgrown grass and mud, tossing a brass casing of a shell up in the air. He moved through the rotting vegetables without care, dirtied cotton trousers muddied at the hem. A woman shouted from within the house. Pots clanged. The bog beetles buzzed on and the sickened trees rattled like dry bones.
Catching the brass casing, the boy fell hard in the vegetable patch. Tomatoes burst, the overripe innards coating him in their fetid mess. Typhus noticed the boy was barefoot. Despite no attempt to conceal himself, the little boy still hadn't noticed the hulking Chaos Space Marine in terminator armour. Nurgle's chosen was content with this, as he had no wish to be disturbed. Closing his eyes, Typhus opened them again when his armour's spirit chimed a warning; his targeting reticule showed the little boy. The threat level was non-existent.
When Typhus raised his helm and met the stare in somber quiet, the child kept silent. Typhus kept expecting the child's face to crumple into an expression of disgust or horror, a wailing scream to issue forth. When the boy did neither, Typhus arrived at the conclusion he must be a mute. That perception was broken almost immediately.
"Hello," the little boy said.
When Typhus saw the child was not going to scream, he inclined his head slightly. "Hello," he replied in the oddity of the moment. His voice issued from his helmet's vox-speakers as a rheumatic growl.
The boy stood a little higher than three feet, with black hair hung in thin wisps framing a square-shaped face wasted from hunger. His lower lip was swollen and slightly bloody. Eyes so large they threatened to overtake the small guileless face regarded the marine. The boy spoke again. "Why are you hiding in the swamp?"
Typhus regarded him in silence, rather amused by the child's apparent lack of fear. Finding no harm in answering, he obliged with a reply. "It's quiet here."
As if doubting his response, the child tilted his head up to glance at the oak tree towering above him. Then, curiously, glanced around to see what the appeal to the little niche was. Worms crawled in the muck as a large dung beetle trekked over one of Typhus's armoured boots. Behind in the marshlands, carrion birds croaked to each other.
Typhus asked his own question. "Why couldn't you see me before?"
The boy squinted before rubbing one of his eyes. Typhus noticed a thin white film over the child's irises, translucent and suggestive of cataracts. "I can't see too well," he offered remorsefully. "Wait, I'll be back. I need to get tea. Mommy told me you can't talk without having tea."
Typhus watched him run back to the hovel, and the mother's muffled shouting burst with harsh clarity as the door opened, drowning out the croaking ravens. The boy returned a moment later with two paper cups and a banged up watering can. He put down the watering can before settling in the muddied grass in front of Typhus. Then he offered the Death Guard a paper cup.
Not knowing what else to do, not knowing whether he should leave or stay, Typhus took the proffered item. The boy stood up to pour the 'tea', clutching the watering can with two skinny arms. Once Typhus's cup was full, the boy seated himself and poured his own. Typhus stared into his cup, minuscule in his colossal gauntlet. It was full of swamp water, plague-kissed by Papa Nurgle. With his gifted sight, Typhus saw the infections swimming in the murky liquid, the virus coating the sides of the cup. Waiting with infinite patience to latch barbed hooks in to their unaware victims.
The boy reverently lifted his paper cup and took a careful sip, wincing as a stream of water ran over the bloodied and swollen flesh of his lip. Already the hooks were jabbing into weak flesh, spores settling inside spongy lungs, spider-webbing though blood vessels.
"Do you like the river water?" Typhus inquired.
"It's okay," the boy said. "But one day I'm gonna move to the fancy hive city where the water comes from pipes. I don't have to go to fetch the water."
His reply did not surprise Typhus, considering the boy lived in the poorer caste district of this world. But the child's earnestness was something peculiar, even for a battered poor boy well aware of his own poverty. Perhaps it was the shifting bronze emblems on his armour, or the fearsome helm with its single horn, even the Manreaper scythe that made the boy refrain from asking why Typhus hadn't touched his tea. Perhaps he felt someone like the Chaos Space Marine was offended by this wretched offering to begin with.
It was an unusual moment, tranquil beneath the shade of rotting foliage. After a few minutes of silence, Typhus realised the child's presence did not reduce the richness of the fetid air or obscure the blight on the land. Somewhat pleased by the boy's quiet character, as it reminded him of himself, Typhus spoke. "Did your mother do that to you?"
The boy glanced up, touching his lip with thin fingers when he found Typhus staring at the blood. "My mommy hits me sometimes," he admitted without resentment.
"Are you miserable because of that?" The question was almost scathing.
Hesitating, as if contemplating the question, the boy replied, "No… mommy doesn't like it when I cry. She hits me more." His tone was resolute.
Typhus regarded the child in silence before gazing off in the distance. The air was filled with the breath of Nurgle, an opaque mist rising from the ground. "You should leave here. Perhaps you will find a better place to dwell."
As Typhus expected, the boy said nothing. Was he too cowardly to flee or oddly content with his pitiful lot? With nothing else to measure his life against, did the child believe it could only become worse? The Chaos Space Marine did not expect the boy to comprehend, being as young as he was. It was a merciless truth Typhus had discovered in life. Humans craved acceptance no matter their situation; Typhus scorned the notion. People had been fearful of his appearance and abilities in an older age; time hadn't diminished it. Typhus did not need their recognition, for Nurgle always walked with him.
Content with the boy's silence, Typhus endured with his own. A few minutes later, when the child finally spoke, his voice was small enough to get lost amongst the cawing of the carrion birds. "Are you sad, sir?"
The cruel flash of sheet lightning in the thunder clouds brightened his cataract eyes. Typhus lowered his gaze to the boy, who plucked at the dry grass and did not look up, placing the withered strands in a pile. His fingernails were black with soil. Typhus breathed, taking in the mix of natural decay and burnt copse. He thought of where he was and how he felt. Nurgle's blessings were blooming across the planet. In squirming piles of maggots feasting on corpses to the phlegmatic cough of an old man, Nurgle's joy grew. The Destroyer Hive touched all life and ended it, each silenced heartbeat echoing in Typhus's body.
"I am satisfied," he finally murmured. The primeval Astartes doubted the child even knew what that meant, but the tone he spoke with had been enough. He raised his filmy eyes, lips slightly parted, the lower lip hanging with the weight of the bloody lump. The child was easily the most dismal looking mortal Typhus had ever seen.
"Will you come back?" he asked.
"No," Typhus answered calmly. Then, as though considering, "Would you like me to?"
He smiled, and Nurgle's emissary saw that one of his teeth was missing. "You're a nice warrior," he blurted, then covered his mouth as if humiliated by his transparent starvation for a kind word and gaze. "I can," he said suddenly with his hesitant voice. "I can… tell you a story the schola told me next time you come. It will be interesting, I promise."
Typhus knew little about benevolence, but he was the quintessence of tolerance. He tolerated those from all walks of life, and he saw no harm in accepting this little ragamuffin when apparently no one else would. Was this his way of offering an incentive for him to visit? Typhus saw no harm in obliging. He would be returning this way eventually, enacting Nurgle's final kindness on the blessed.
"Very well," Typhus said, and watched with detached amusement as the small face lit up.
Sadness, a lesser emotion, was a sign of need. A winking, weak light signalling a need of help. Sounds of grief, tears and wails forged these beacons. Whether these melancholy calls for help were answered depended on the actions of others. Acceptance, love, and comfort were provided by companions, friends. If these alarms were never raised, no help came to call and no comfort came to stem the sadness. In a galaxy driven mad with grief, a cacophony of shrill alarms remained unanswered.
The tears would eventually fade. The unanswered wails would sooner or later weep themselves into silence. Only a person and their misery would be left, with no direction, swallowed by the void and eventually consumed by hungry daemons. One could never depend on others, because sometimes others refused to come.
Typhus could not recall the last time he wept. The man could recall foggy memories, separated by the gulf of centuries, but he was not sure they were accurate. After the Emperor turned against the Death Guard, and Mortarion turned his back against his own sons, the Legion had become stranded in the becalmed Warp. And in that growing void of despair and sadness, Nurgle came. He answered Typhus's calls.
Nurgle was his only friend, his only family.
Typhus had no other salvation.
The weather reflected Nurgle's toxic mood the next time Typhus came. Swarms of mosquitoes, sucking the blood from unfortunate victims and filling their veins with poison, buzzed in the humid air. Clouds hung low in the sky, threatening more poison rain. The ravens and crows croaked a ghoulish lullaby to the feverish tossing in their cots. In the boggy swamp behind the village the first of the plague victims had been dumped, their remains decomposing in the water.
Typhus emerged soundlessly from the festering quagmire, finding the brass shell casing lying next to the decomposing vegetable patch. The joints of his terminator plate creaking, the Chaos Space Marine waited and took his time absorbing the changes in his surroundings. From the hovel came the smell of cooking, an acrid scent. Behind the sound of clattering pots was the sound of incessant flies buzzing. An anguished cry came from the distance as someone found another corpse in their home. His surroundings lulled Typhus to a peaceful state. When the boy arrived, he felt the youth hesitate.
"Were you sleeping?" He was wearing the same ragged clothing as last time. The bruised lip had almost healed.
"I was in thought," Typhus answered.
"Sometimes I think, too." The boy laid out the watering can and cups with care.
Typhus was amused by the precociousness. "What would a child have to think about?" His churlish voice was distorted by the vox-speakers, sounding harsher than intended.
The boy considered, looking thoughtfully at a fallen leaf from the sickened oak tree. "I think about my schola work, and my chores, and food. A lot of the time about food. And when I grow up. I want to be a doctor when I grow up."
Typhus inwardly chuckled. "There is hardly any money in that profession. A thankless task, the doctor's butcher bill."
"But," the boy looked confused. "They live in the hive city which means they make money. Rich people live in big houses. The hive city is a large place. So doctors that live there must make a lot of money." Typhus glanced at the dilapidated cottage behind the boy. Anything could be considered a large house if someone was living in such a miserable dwelling. Typhus held no desire to understand the motivation to live in the hive city, so he remained silent.
"The bodies in the swamp," the boy continued. "They lived a few houses away. They died a few nights ago. Mommy went through their houses and took their things. She says the dead don't need what the living deserve."
"Did you know them?" Typhus focused his attention on the topic.
"Not really. Most people here don't talk with each other. Or help even if the priest says we need to help our neighbours." A brief moment of silence followed, broken by the mother's shouting inside the hovel. Typhus noticed the shadowed look that overtook the boy's features, and it was with resentment that the child lowered his eyes to the grass.
"Mommy has no fun," he mumbled after a moment. "That's why she's mad. She only has fun when she hits me. Look," he said, gesturing to his left calf. Tugging at his pants leg, the boy exposed a livid bruise below his kneecap. The bruised flesh was an ugly mixture of glistening blue and deep purple. A long, livid scratch traced down his scrawny leg from the knee, now scabbing.
Typhus almost felt compelled to show the scar obtained from once being impaled on a Custodian's lance, but desisted, letting the boy show his badges of war. With every scar showed the child had a story to go with it. He was gifted with an overactive imagination, embellishing tales with fantastic details of spotted dragons and flying turtles. He got to the story he promised Typhus since his last visit. For half an hour the Death Guard listened to him talk about the witch doctor trying to exorcise the demons in his village.
The corrupted Astartes sense of amusement changed once the boy exhausted his repertoire of stories, and suddenly declared, with contented surety—
"Mommy says I'm going to die." Typhus looked intently at the sickly child, aware he was no longer spinning tales, attentive that the divulging of a big secret had changed things. When Typhus said nothing, he continued. "Mommy tells me I'm sick, that I eat too much food..." He trailed off, looking almost thoughtful. "I think mommy wants to kill me when she hits me."
Before that moment, Typhus never considered such profound words could come from a mere child. But the solemn way with which it was stated altered his view entirely.
"I get scared," he murmured, looking at his bare feet. "I'm scared of dying."
"Why don't you run?" Typhus asked, staring at him fixedly.
You can only depend on yourself.
The boy shook his head, speaking in a voice no higher than a murmur. "No one's gonna take care of me." Typhus left the conversation at that. The boy did not ask him to come back, not directly. The hopeful look in his filmy eyes said it all.
There was poetic justice, Typhus found, in the agony of his victims.
People were inherently selfish, scrabbling like rats over each other, willing to do whatever it took to live. There was a lack of attachment to their fellow man, no desire to lessen the suffering of others, a critical lack of empathy. It was fitting that Nurgle embraced these heartless souls to school them about the true meaning of care and devotion.
When Typhus cut the fly-thick air with his Manreaper scythe, he smiled behind his horned helmet. Those who fell under the poisoned blade were embraced in flabby, scabby skin, Nurgle enveloping those souls beyond the veil. Their bodies would decompose like the animals and plants littered elsewhere, but their souls would enrich the Grandfather's power. Their selfishness replaced with altruism. Bringing the Fly Lord's message with them, planting kisses against open wounds, enticing carrion flies and the growth of bacteria, catalyzing the breakdown of flesh and bone, love would spread.
Not the blazing passion of Slaanesh but the deep devotion of one always there when a shoulder was needed, a hand to lift a great burden. Typhus regarded the corpse at his feet as the flies began to accumulate, burrowing behind eyes. What had once been a pitiful, ego-driven mortal would now become much more. The corpse, like the soul, was in transition from one plane to the next.
Be welcomed in the Grandfather's embrace.
The young child would not give much back to the Immaterium when he died. The boy had barely taken anything in the first place. Typhus eyed his thin limbs and hollow cheeks as he poured water, keenly observing the way the boy's hands shook with the effort to maintain his grip. Lately, Typhus had started pouring the tea. At first it seemed foolish to perform such a servile task, but the help was welcome. The child seemed unable to lift the watering can any more.
Typhus was regaled with more fantastical tales. Not once, from their first meeting to now, did the child mention Typhus's appearance, though it could only be the first time he had ever seen an Angel of Death. From the putrid green of the terminator armour to the myriad rents in the ancient plate, the flies coalescing about the herald's shoulders to the Manreaper scythe held assuredly; the boy seemed convinced that nothing could compare to the sheer depravity of himself.
New injuries would appear with every visit, a distraction from his withering flesh and health. The boy became bolder in his words. "Can I show you to mommy?"
He lowered his eyes to his bare feet. Beads of sweat glistened on the pallid skin of his forehead. Typhus absorbed the sickness in the humid air and thrived, the soothing heat pressing red spots against his closed eyelids. Long, enduring silences encompassed most of the conversations, and what little talking they did consisted of the child's questions and Typhus answering.
"What's your name, sir? Everyone has a name."
"Why do you want to know my name?" Typhus's tone demanded silence.
For a long time the child said nothing. When he finally spoke, he almost sounded reticent. "I won't tell anyone. What do your friends call you, sir?"
Typhus said nothing. He kept his silence, staring at the village and watched the boil-ridden corpses being dragged from their homes by people half-dead themselves. The villagers' energy was sapped; none had room for tears. None could spare the time. In the boy's house, his mother screamed at a visitor. Or so the boy had said. Typhus did not pry further, nor did he particularly think about it.
"Am I your friend?"
His eyelids flickered slightly. The corner of his lip twitched, and he spoke a moment later. "I don't need friends." Hadn't others said those words in the days of long forgotten brotherhood, before their honour tarnished? Transferring the weight of Manreaper to his left hand, Typhus gave his empty cup back to the boy.
"Don't you feel lonely?"
"I have myself and my god…and that is all that matters."
"But don't you like people?"
"People do not like me. There is no reason for me to like them." He closed his eyes with a sense of finality to the issue.
"I like you."
Typhus opened his eyes and looked at the offered brass shell in an open, upturned hand.
It was exceptionally rare to find a person so pathetic and deprived of affection that they would turn to someone like him for comfort. When such things that constituted completion and happiness were lacking, all bigotry, deception, and shallow modes of judgement would disappear. To turn to Typhus, and to overlook his appearance, his behaviour, and his status, was a testament to humanity's most basic need.
Nurgle's love, Typhus realised, had bestowed upon him a sense of normalcy. He was normal in the eyes of the deprived. Perhaps he was even beautiful. He was content with himself, but the idea that someone needed Typhus elicited an elation seldom experienced elsewhere. Nurgle's messenger went to bask in the euphoria that came with knowing someone needed him there – wanted him there.
Was he becoming weak like a mortal? Counting on another to give him a sense of completion? "It's transitory," Typhus told himself. "The boy will die soon, anyway."
"What's your favourite colour, sir?"
Typhus considered the inane question, eyes drifting over the mute colours encroaching on his surroundings. The slate grey of the sky, the dry and faded brown of the grass, the oily black of the dying oak's bark. His mind turned to the off-white of squirming maggots, remembering a body in the swamp whose stomach had been a feast house to a mass. "I don't know," he answered after a while, truthfully.
Regarding the Chaos Space Marine in silence for a moment, the corners of the child's lips twitched. "I like green," came the decisive pronouncement. Typhus merely looked at the boy.
I slew three million people once, the Death Guard captain wanted to tell him. I drove them to madness with the Grandfather's touch, and the flames of their pyres scorched the heavens. I did it for my deity's adulation. Would you still want to be friends after hearing that?
He never needs to know.
I'm a Proditor Major across the weakling Imperium of Man. Even some of the Traitor Legions fear what I can do.
He does not need to know.
I tolerate your presence because I get an egocentric sense of fulfillment from being needed. Even if by a pathetic little weakling like yourself.
He, on no account, needs to know.
"I like green, too," Typhus said instead.
Kindness is conditional. Friendship is a form of reciprocity. All humans are selfish beings driven to achieve their goals no matter the cost. The human drive to be needed. Mortals are pathetic, willing to throw aside their convictions in the face of compromise.
It feels good to be one of them.
The planet was entering its final shuddering spasms. The plague had raced across the world like wildfire, consuming everything it touched. Mirroring the denizens' fevered deaths, the sun sunk low on the horizon, bathing the landscape in blood red hues. The swamp was drying up, from the bodies cast in it or the wasting of the world, Typhus could not tell. Nor did he want to.
It was time for him to leave. The realisation chilled him. When he told the boy he would not be returning, the youth's reaction was unexpected. Knocking over his cup of diseased river water when scrambling to his feet, the child's eyes grew wide and even more vacant. "You're leaving forever?"
Typhus was amused by his dramatics. "I'm not sure how long it will be, a year or a decade. I cannot say." His vagueness left much to be desired, and the youth stared at the Astartes imploringly for a long time, a tiny, wasted figure with adoring appeal in his somber gaze.
"You're not coming back?" he asked, voice frail and quavering for the first time since meeting the Chaos Space Marine.
"No," Typhus said honestly. "I will not." The truth was more brutal than any lie could ever be. It was a tense moment, and the air of discomfort seeped into his niche. The dried grass became sharp and the chill became bitter. Typhus wanted to leave.
"Are you…" the boy said thickly, suddenly on the verge of tears. "Are you still my friend?"
Typhus, a colossal monster of myth looming over the wasting child, gazed at him in silence.
"Don't go," he pleaded, voice cracking, hands clenching at the Herald of Nurgle's filthy tabard. The boy stood there and cried, looking like the most despondent and feeble creature Typhus had ever seen. A cold drop of water landed against the child's cheek. Typhus raised his armoured head. A drop of water landed on his eye lens, shattering into droplets and expelling a fragrant burst of toxin.
Humans are such weak, pathetic creatures. In the times he played at remembering, it felt good to be one of them, but not this time.
The rainfall sounded like scattered applause on the surrounding foliage, and leaves from the oak broke under the weight of the water, covering the floor in a brown, decaying carpet. Worms wriggled through the mass, exposed soft bodies easily pulped under the terminator plate. The boy's toes became submerged in mud, stark white against the darkness. Somehow, Typhus could distinguish between the rain and the tears on his face, yellow eyes fixed on that drained, world-weary visage.
He felt inexplicably sad, then, as he reached forward. Typhus hated himself for not knowing the reason to the sadness.
Typhus was not sure what he was distressed for. Pity for the sad creature before him? He doubted that. The sadness, he surmised, came from the shame of knowing that, even for a little while, he had obtained gratification by being accepted and needed by another human being. Nurgle was not as encompassing as Typhus had thought. The sadness came from knowing his musings had been right.
There was no pride in depending on others, needing others – especially when people were as depraved as they were. All he needed was Nurgle. That should have been enough from the beginning. Bowing his head, the Herald of Nurgle prayed for his master's forgiveness.
The pathetic slip of a child gradually relinquished his hold on Typhus's tabard, head bowing under the weight of the Astartes hand. Typhus was not familiar with kindness. He tolerated, and sometimes he empathized with others. Typhus was an abnormal comrade.
"Grandfather Nurgle watches and sees through the pain of a single soul," he told the child, voice mingling with the drumming rain. "When no one else comes to offer you succor, Nurgle will."
He removed his gauntleted hand from the child's head. When the boy glanced up, Typhus was gone.
The sky was muddied, a cesspool of red cloud interwoven with green threads. Leaves hung lifelessly on the bowed tree branches. The village was a seething plague pit, sodden huts infested with the diseased. In the streets bodies lay spread eagle, dead eyes taking in the hell above. The garden was nothing more than a refuse pile, untended and forgotten. Typhus had followed the scent of copper for miles, and it had brought him here. For a long time, he stood under the shade of the barren oak, knowing the boy's prediction of his mother had come true.
Wordlessly, he stepped in to the garden and walked to the front of the dilapidated hovel. The copper scent was strong inside the sickness-choked interior. It hung in the contaminated air, through the clay-like mixture that was the village's poor excuse of a road. Typhus continued to follow the scent until it brought him to the southern edge of the swamp, nearly a mile from the boy's house.
A half-starved woman knelt at the water's edge, filling a large sack with rocks. Near her lay the boy's fragile corpse. Typhus regarded the woman silently, sparing no glance at the child who still wore his cotton pants and lay motionless on the withered grass. The rocks weighed down the sack, and as the woman turned to grab her dead son, she caught sight of the Chaos Space Marine.
Wild eyes looked in his direction. Froth bubbled at bloodied, chewed lips. Typhus remained motionless. She looked crazed, a fevered brain powering a body refusing to die. After a few seconds, the woman scrambled away from the rocks, abandoning the sack and her son's body. She ran off in the direction of her dilapidated house.
Typhus watched her disappear in the distance. His gaze moved to the little boy on the riverside. He stepped closer, examining the mortal's wasted face and closed eyes. Death had claimed him scant hours before. Blood still oozed from the back of his head, where his mother must have delivered the fatal blow. He nudged the sack of rocks out of the way and crouched, lifting the boy's seemingly weightless body in his arms. The cool weight registered as nothing to the enhanced strength of the corrupt Astartes.
Casting one last glance around his colourless, dreary surroundings, the Death Guard closed his eyes and sank through the putrid landscape. He took the boy where the grave roses were in full bloom and swarms of black flies roved over spoiled fungi. Uncut, untamed grass brushed against Typhus as he emerged onto the prolific land. The scent of mildew and rot saturated the air. He carried the boy to a small, muddy knoll, setting him down near a patch of white molded clover. Sinking awkwardly to one knee in his battle armour, Typhus began to dig.
In Nurgle's Garden, the bloated sun warmed his back. In the creeping shadows and stale wind, the illusion of colour came over the child's pallid face, freckling luster to dull hair and drying the blood. Grime coated Typhus by the time he was done, but he hardly noticed. A corpse beetle hummed shrilly in the background as he placed the body in the hole; rot-moths drifted calmly over the grave as it was filled with loam.
Something resembling closure bore down on Typhus as he flattened the wet earth, running his fingers over the soil. There was no sorrow or grief at the loss of the boy who gave him water for the past three months. Only a deep and palpable relief.
The boy had been so young and insignificant. He had hardly taken anything from the galaxy that bore him. Affection, the meaning of true parental love, had been denied. But in death, the child would serve a higher purpose by enriching Nurgle's schisms. His body would be embraced by the twinning roots of the earth. The white maggots would strip away abused flesh and torn muscle. Enclosed in Nurgle's great arms, safe guarded in three interlocking rings, the boy would become a part of a whole. He would no longer suffer, nor be alone. His essence would meld with the Grandfather, comforted and comforting those forgotten.
Typhus cast his gaze to the bullet casing in his hand, closing his armoured fingers over the brass shell. He could not be a friend to the child in the end. A humanity that replaced assurance and love with hypocrisy and damnation was not a race worth saving. They trampled their own. Typhus wondered why he had fought under the banner of a false Emperor once, a ruler who claimed enlightenment for all his children. The Death Guard sneered at the bitter memory. Nurgle was the child's father now. Typhus had brought the boy to a better place, given a higher purpose to the short life. Body decomposing, the boy's soul would live on in the sanctity of Grandfather Nurgle's adoration.
Typhus breathed deeply. Nurgle's Garden waxed in power. Closing his eyes, the Astartes placed his hand against the defiled soil. The possibility of new life pushed wraithlike warmth against his rusted armour, seeped through the cracks in the ancient ceramite, blazing with potential.
Be welcomed in the Grandfather's embrace.