|This article, Nerull, was written by Algrim Whitefang. Please do not edit or 'acquire' this fiction without the writer's permission.|
- "Know me and fear me. My hand is everywhere - there is no door I cannot pass, nor guardian who can withstand my touch. My embrace is for all and is patient as the grave. Death will always find you."
- — Nerull, Lord of Agony
Nerull, also known as Neros and Nekrus, is the Chaos God of Death, Atrophy and Pain. His domain encompasses death and all things of the grave, as well as the most basic and primal fear of dying. He is also a god of pain in all its forms. Worshipped by some as a god of ecstatic agony, in other quarters Nerull is revered as the god of torturers. Though he is considered a minor Chaos God, his power and influence is considerable, and at times, is said to even rival any one of the four major deities of the Chaos pantheon.
Within his realm, total annihilation is the fate of the majority of humanity upon death; and the afterlife is open only to those driven to nihilism by an over-indulgence in sensual experience and willful perversion. The 'saints' of this domain are beatified by the misery of fleeting pleasure and their total inability to find lasting satisfaction. The god of this realm is neither omniscient or omnipotent, but entirely malevolent; consciously moving to corrupt the natural functionings of existence.
Nerull..his name is whispered in hushed and fearful tones by mortals on backwater worlds, who isn't widely worshiped so much as dreaded. It is said that as long as death has existed, will exist, and will continue to exist, so too will Nerul. He is a primordial entity and the personification of pain and the cold death of the grave, who sparks unease and fear amongst mortals through every action or mere word. Known by many epithets - the Reaper of Souls, the Pain Bringer, Lord of Agony and the Bringer of Darkness - Nerull ensures that his name is always kept in the back of the minds of mortals and never misses an opportunity to remind the galaxy that he is waiting for them.
Little is known of Nerull's past, not even precisely when it was he lived, but what is known with any certainty is that he was once a necromancer that forged an alliance with two other mortal beings, Jergal and N'asr. Together, these three forged a pact of mutual aid and ambition: together they would conquer not just their world, but the heavens themselves, becoming gods unto themselves. This group, known as the Triumvirate of Death, soon became well-known to the Chaos God Nurgle - the Chaos God of Disease, Decay, Death and Destruction.
Surmounting every obstacle thrown their way, obtaining magical power and even, at one point, destroying one of the many minor, but more powerful, Chaos Gods, taking the fallen primordial deity's essence for themselves and dividing it up equally. With their ill-gotten power, Nerull became the Lord of Death and Pain, while Jerghal claimed dominion over murder and N'asr became a god of fear, hatred and tyranny. Unbeknownst to them, this was all Nurgle's doing. When the time came to confront the Plague God, Grandfather Nurgle tricked the Triumvirate into turning upon one another, each desiring the others' power. As it turned out, however, Nerull would not only have to contend with Jergal and N'asr, who became powerful gods in of themselves, but with Nurgle himself, who would become his most hated foe.
As the God of Death and Decay, Nurgle was the Chaos God most directly involved with the plights of mortals, particularly humans who suffered so acutely from a fear of death, perhaps the oldest fear of that species, or any other. With the ascension of Nerull, the younger god began to transgress into Nurgle's domain and realm of influence. The elder god would not countenance such a usurpation, and so, he formed an alliance with Tzeentch, the Changer of Ways, who wove a deceptively masterful plan to change the status-quo of the Great Game. The inherent nature of their unified cause weakened Nerull and, ultimately allowed them to overpower him. Together, the pair of elder gods cast down Nerull from his seat of power and his very influence was banished from the Warp by their combined might. With the defeat of the upstart god, the shift in power fundamentally changed the balance of Chaos itself, and thus the nature of the warp, allowing the now unchecked Chaos energies to overflow and spill ever more freely into the material realm. The ensuing mayhem wrought upon the galaxy would come to be known as the Age of Strife.
The Realm of Suffering
After his exile, Nerull's powerless presence clung to the primal fear of death hidden deep within the minds of mortal beings. Cast out of the Immaterium, Nerull's consciousness sought a new dominion to call his own. Eventually, he found himself beyond the eternal, frigid night of the intergalactic void beyond the foreboding region known as the Halo Stars - the name given to the ancient formation of star which encircles the outer edge of the Milky Way Galaxy. These stars were older than most could understand, beyond the known expanse of the material universe and beyond the reach of his enemies. Here, Nerull established his own pocket dominion - Kathulos, the Realm of Pain - a demiplane of Chaos where the Lord of Agony reigns supreme.
This strange dimension is an unholy and evil realm of limitless eternal pain that closely resembles the torture chambers of the material realm. Kathulos looks like the proverbial Hell of ancient legends, with neither stars nor sun shining overhead. Instead, this entire dimension is suffused with a bloodred light that never wavers or dims. This realm appears as a large cavernous area filled with increasingly sadistic and grotesque torture devices, from towering machines that house engines of brutality to tiny mechanisms designed to inflict agony beyond imagining. Hundreds of thousands of human souls are kept in these machines, giving Nerull gratification from the pain inflicted, and granting him limitless power from their suffering. It is said that the Lord of Pain delights in the music of the screams that ring out from it.
Cabal of Agony
- "Death is the end, the final conclusion to all life. The Lord of Agony allows the strongest to take what they will from the living, and to determine who will next be sent into his cold, cruel embrace. We are the masters of life and death, holding absolute power over lesser mortals, through our master. This is the gift he gives to us for furthering his work."
- — Hierarch Nezmajen, High Cleric of the Cabal of Agony
The Cabal of Agony is a dangerous and highly organised malefic cult whose origins and activities go back according to some sources, to the founding of the Imperium of Man and quite possibly beyond. This cult has been repeatedly smashed time and again over the centuries only to appear again some years or decades later. Membership, size, form, and power may vary, but it is always recognisable in its core beliefs and the object of its worship - Nerull, the Lord of Agony. The Nerullytes are tasked with ensuring the people of the Imperium both fear and respect death. They spread fear for their deity, saying that the proper way to spread the message of Nerull is to make everyone fear and dread the fate they cannot escape, that no matter where they run and where they hide, the Lord of Agony will find them. To aggrandize Nerull's power they often propagate rumours that merely touching one of his priests brings certain death. Though recognised by the Ordo Malleus as a near archetypical Chaos worshipping cult, they are often better resourced and more dangerous than most.
Those who worship Nerull, who wholly give themselves to his will, praise their malevolent god through dark rituals, honouring the Pain Bringer with living sacrifices and acts of torture to represent the nihilistic nature of the Lord of Agony. Nerull's clerics are all sadists (and most are also masochists) who prefer to give pain rather than actually kill. Sacrificial victims dedicated to Nerull often take days to die, for they are tortured to death - the more slowly the better. Like their malevolent god, Nerull's followers delight in the sounds of screams and tearing flesh, and because they try to prolong a victim's agony, many are skilled in the healing arts. In their spare time, the clerics devise new tortures and new torture devices.
Nerullytes often engage in self-flagellation, often in the morning when praying to their malign deity. They celebrate each season with the Rite of Pain and Agony, a ritual that involves followers dancing on glass, thorns, or barbed-wire while being whipped by higher-level Nerullytes. A smaller ritual occurring every twelve days involves followers passing their bodies through the flames of candles. During warfare, clerics of Nerull scourge their naked shoulders or tear their cheeks with their nails in order to evoke magic gifted from the Lord of Agony.
Nerull's worshipers are a morose, secretive lot, reticent to share their faith with those outside their cult. The Cabal takes great pains to keep its existence hidden from the outside world. It makes extensive use of go-betweens, ignorant hirelings, secret tongues, ciphers, and a rigidly enforced code of silence to maintain its cover. Behind this curtain, the cult's structure is strongly delineated, with its masters holding complete authority of life and death over its lesser members.
Temples to the Lord of Agony are hidden behind false facades. The clerics often maintain front businesses, such as bakeries, dairies, and curiosity shops, with the temples accessible through hidden doors. The temple's rooms are soundproofed to muffle the cries of pain. Although most of Nerull's clerics are compulsive about keeping their temples clean, it is usually impossible to keep a dribble of blood or a loose tooth from dropping to the floor at any given time. Altars are usually baroque monstrosities of spikes, spines, clamps, and chains.
Appealing to those who tend towards jaded excess or forbidden pleasure, Nerull's supplicants are often austere, driven and dangerous individuals who obey their god's teachings and feed his hungry demand for sacrifice and suffering. In the past, multiple groups worshipping the daemon have been in existence at the same time, either kept in ignorance of each other or set up as rivals to prove their worth, depending on their malevolent god's whim.
- "We are the angels macabre, the death that strikes from the shadows. We cut the life-cords of our foes even before they realise that death is upon them. We are the Grave Lords, and we will not be denied."
- — Dargus Mortane, Chaos Lord of the Grave Lords
The Grave Lords are a notorious Chaos Warband that has plagued the realm of Mankind for over ten millennia. In the modern era, the true origins of this notorious warband remain shrouded in mystery. They were, in fact, once members of the infamous Night Lords Legion's 23rd Chapter. Earning the dire moniker, the 'Gallow Walkers', the 23rd Chapter once fought to help reunite the disparate lost worlds of humanity and bring them into the unified Imperium of Man. Since their inception, they remained a unit apart from its fellow Legiones Astartes due to the unnatural aura of death that radiated from them like a shadow of the grave. Despite such misgivings, the 23rd Chapter quickly garnered a fearsome reputation as terror troops and retributors of the Emperor, even amongst a Legion of killers.
Led by their foreboding Chapter Master, Dargus Mortane, the Grave Lord, the 23rd Chapter was posted beyond the fringes of the Imperium, operating as an independent nomad-predation fleet that fought on the leading edge of the Expeditionary Fleets of the Great Crusade, taking the fight even into the lost worlds of the foreboding outer dark, known as the Halo Stars. What occurred during their time within this vast tract of unexplored wilderness space is unknown. However, when the Chapter returned to the Imperium proper, they had been irrevocably changed. They were no longer known as the Gallow Walkers, for they had become the personification of death itself - the 'Grave Lords'. Now they sally forth, promulgating their malevolent god's creed by spreading misery, pain and death to the living.
Cœnobites - Bringers of Pain
In Nerull's war on the living, a war some more astute mortal scholars have defined within the parameters of its goal of the restructuring of chaos; the very essence of flesh, toward a single uniformed whole, there are those who are conscripted to its cause. Many arrive in the Realm of Pain to find that they only qualify as fodder for the Lord of Agony's pleasure. But there is a second rank found in those brought through their own actions, into Kathulos' dark hallways.
In certain individuals, Nerull sees the potential for agents to carry his war further. These individuals are enlisted as soldiers in a Legion of the Damned, and know themselves as Cœnobites. Cœnobites are often individuals who, through their own twisted psyches and distorted perceptions have perceived themselves as separate, even above humanity. In their transformation to daemonhood, their perceptions are made real, as they are refashioned in chambers, the interiors of which the average damned soul is never privileged - or damned-enough to view. Once combined or "steeped" in the dankness of the Pain Giver, these individuals emerge from the creation chambers with powers and abilities seemingly manifested from attributes possessed prior to the individuals' arrival in Kathulos. It also appears that the more twisted, the more demented or guilt-ridden the "source material", the "better" or more insidious the finished Cœnobite.
These inhuman priests of pain are the living embodiment of their master's will. They serve as the guardians of their god's realm and executors of his will. As masters of torture methodology, it falls to Nerull's most faithful to carry out the most gruesome tortures imaginable against those damned souls sent to Kathulos to face their eternal torment - a task they perform with the utmost relish.
Cœnobites appear as tall humanoids, most possessing horrific mutilations - scars that cover every inch of their bodies - and body piercings, their flesh cosmetically punctured, sliced and infibulated, then dusted down with ash. These creatures wear tight fitting black leather clothing that often resembles the garments like those worn by a butcher or religious vestments. This clothing also serves to support their piercings and tools of torture. These fell daemonic servants manifest as devoted followers of a twisted form of hedonism with unorthodox definition of pleasure, whose form endorsed by the Cœnobites involve two distinct forms: the expansion of sensation to an extremely painful point of sensory overload, and enduring excruciating pain through incessant tortures that transcend traditional laws of physics. They exhibit no discernible morality or immorality, merely the unwavering devotion to their craft.
These fell denizens of Nerull's realm, the naturalised monstrosities that are far above their human victims in power, possess amoral personalities - neither demonstrably malicious or beneficent - displaying a depraved indifference or lack of empathy towards their victims. However, they are prone to the same "human" weaknesses as any typical mortal - they squabble, bicker and fight amongst themselves, jealous and covetous, vying for position. They are unable to fully grasp the fullness of their malevolent god's content. It seems that only one of their number fully can, and thereby secure a place closest to their god. It is through this position, held by the Chaos Lord Dargus Mortane, the leader of the infamous Chaos Warband, the Graven Lords, the "favorite son", that the word and judgements of the Lord of Agony are delivered.
Those who follow the Lord of Agony wear the Mark of Nerull, known as the Signum Cruciatus or 'Mark of Torment', to denote their loyalty to Nerull. This takes the form of a twisted, hooked cross with twelve points - twelve being the sacred number of Nerull - and is often carved prominently on a follower's body, usually the forehead or upper torso.