Nurlge’s Lesson

Nurlge’s Lesson

Fiction Friday’s back! But I’m taking a break from Ghets to share a little parody piece I wrote for a friend. The story is set in the Warhammer 40K universe, and involves the Chaos Space Marines, villains that are so evil and insane that I always have a hard time figuring out their motivation.

I hope you enjoy!

Photo is from my friend’s Warhammer 40K army


It was a beautiful day in Nurlge, the god of death and decay,’s garden. The pox walkers were a bloom with fresh tumors. Great Unclean ones were releasing sweet miasmas of putrid death, while the little nurglings were playing between rotting corpses and splashing in the bile which ran like water in Nurgle’s realm.

The great chaos god himself was playing with his new prize possessions a series of massive bronze bells. He rang each bell building to a crashing crescendo. After he finished he turned to Isha, the Eldar goddess of healing who he totally did not kidnap and asked.

“What do you think babe?”

Isha was lounging in her rusting cage and examining a new series of boils on her palm. “What?” She asked absentmindedly.

“Did you like the bells?” Nurgle said gesturing at the giant church bells. “That was a little song I wrote for you called, ‘Only You can cure my heart.’”

“Oh” Isha said with a long sigh, healing and smoothing out her skin. “They were a little tinny”

“Right,” Nurgle said frowning. He turned to his loyal Tally Man. “Tell the boys in the bell workshop they need to step it up on the next batch.”

“Yes my Lord,” The Tally man said dryly, jotting down a note in the large book he kept chained to him. “I will tell the lunatic cultist in our employe that they need to be more precise in their work.”

Nurgle nodded, “Thanks, Tally Man I can always count you.”

The Tally Man ignored the obvious pun and kept writing. “If you don’t mind me asking my lord, why are we making bells?”

Nurgle looked down at the Tally Man, “Why wouldn’t we?”

“Well my Lord,” The Tally Man began, “It’s just that you’re the chaos god of death and pestilence, I’m afraid I don’t see how the bells factor in.”

“Exactly Tally Man!” Nurgle said, “Chaos God. We’re crazy and sporadic!” Nurgle flayed his arms about, “We can’t be doing the same thing all the time, we got a change it up every now and then, and bells are my new thing, whole army is going to get them.”

Nurgle lent in, “But if anyone in the Imperium asks, just tell them we’ve always been into bells, got it?”

The Tally Man sighed, “Of course my Lord.” He returned to his book. “I can think of nothing more chaotic and out of the ordinary than adding bells to our forces as we continue to spread death and disease like we have for the last ten thousand years straight with absolutely no deviation whatsoever.”

Nurgle laughed, causing a swarm of flies to escape out his throat. “Now you’re getting it Tally man.”

Satisfied, Nurge was about to return to his bells when he saw one of his little plague marine buddies come running up.

“My Lord, my lord!” The Plague marine shouted, as he came to a halt before nurgle, coughing and panting.

“Hey what is it sport?” Nurgle said crouching down so he could converse with the damned.

“It’s Mortarion my lord, he–” The Plague Marine started, before coughing loudly, a wet, smacking sound echoing in his helmet.

“What was that?” Nurgle asked confused.

Mor-baron pe” The Plague Marine tilted his head confused, “Mby phounge, mby phounge bas botton”

Nurgle scratched his head, “Tally Man, you get what he’s saying?”

The Tally Man stepped forward and examined the Plague Marine. “It appears his tongue has rotten off my Lord.”

Nurgle groaned, “Oh for the love of me! Can someone grow this a kid tentacle in there or something? I don’t understand him at all.”

“I will see to it my lord.” The Tally Man said, “But while I do so, I think it’s best if you go see Mortarion, he has been…’acting up’, as of late.”

Nurgle nodded, “Good thinking,” He turned to Isha “Sorry honeypoo, Papa Nurgs has to go check on the kids,”

“Yeah, sure, whatever” Isha said ignoring Nurgle while she returned to her favorite hobby: filing down her cage bars.

Nurgle trotted through his garden leaving a barren trail of rot and death in his wake and stopped at Mortarion’s room. The door was closed and locked. A sign that read “NO DADs” with a crude drawing of a scowling Emperor and Nurgle was hung on it.

Nurgle sighed. He used to think the Emperor was a bad father, but that was before he had a primarch of his own. Raising kids was tough.

Nurgle knocked on the door, “Hey champ, heard you might be feeling kind of down?”

A muffled voice shouted, “Go away!”

Nurgle crouched next to the door. “Hey buddy, I’ll do that if that’s what you want, but maybe it’ll feel good to talk about it, huh?”

“You don’t want to talk, you just want me to go out and lead a Black Crusade against the Imperium.” Mortarion shouted between sniffles.

Nurgle felt his forehead, this again? “I just think you have all this potential and I’m worried you’re wasting it spending your time here in the Eye of Terror. The other chaos primarchs and their legions are out taking worlds and converting cultists to their gods.”

“That’s all you care about!” Mortarion shouted back, “Converts and corruption!”

“Oh Morty,” Nurgle said concerned, “You know that’s not true. I also care about death and pelistence, and you.”

“Then why did you give me fly wings?” Mortarion said, “All the other primarchs get cool raven wings or bat wings. I look like a dweeb.”

“Who called you a dweeb?” Nurgle said getting upset “Was it Angron? I’ll go over to Khorne’s place right now. That red faced bully has had it coming for a long time.”

“That’s not the point dad!” Mortarion said.

Nurgle took a deep breath, calming himself. “You’re right, you’re right. Now what’s so wrong with fly wings? Flies are our thing! You know with the rot and death and all that? I even got Plague bearers riding them. The fly wings mark you as my chosen, lean into the theme a little, son.”

“Oh yeah Dad? what about the bells? How did they fit into your ‘theme’” Mortarion spit back.

Nurgle groaned, “What does everyone have against the bells?”

“They’re stupid. Your whole crusade against the Imperium is stupid!” Mortarion said

“Hey now, watch it” Nurgle said pointing a finger at Mortarion’s door. “I brought you into this Eye of Terror turning you into an undying, zombie space marine and I can take you out!”

“Whatever, it’s not like you’re my real dad.” Mortarion said with a huff.

Nurgle bit his lip. He wasn’t the chaos god of anger, he needed to relax, “You’re right Morty, I’m not your real Dad. The emperor made you because…I’m not really sure, but he wanted you to lead, be a little version of himself. I don’t want that Morty, I just want you to be happy.” Nurgle lent closer to the door and said calmly, “Now what has really got you down? I know it’s not the fly wings.”

There was a pause, followed by some more sniffling. “I just don’t know what the point is Dad. I’ve been doing this for ten thousand years, the Imperium is never going to fall. Every time I win I eventually have to release a virus bomb and retreat. I just feel so numb, like what’s the point?”

Nurgle nodded, “That’s a tough one, son.” He scratched his chin. “But you know, I get it. I’m the god of death, of entropy. Everything ends, that’s just the way it is. Even the Death Guard will eventually die…and not come back as zombie space marines. The war we’re fighting, the Imperium, it will all end at some point.”

“But just because something ends, doesn’t mean it isn’t precious. I might celebrate the death of things, but even I know their real value is in the moment. Let go of the weight of ten thousand years Morty, even a primarch can’t bear that legacy. Besides its not ten thousand years of defeat to me, it’s ten thousand years of experiences, of joy and pain…mostly pain, of comradery and love…kind of. It’s the journey that makes the trip worth it, not the destination. You have to find what you enjoy about this undead life and live it.”

Mortarion didn’t say anything for a long while. “But Dad, what about you, what about all of this? The garden, the marines, the war, don’t you want to win?”

Nurgle gave a soft chuckle. “Son, didn’t you hear me? Everything dies, well maybe not the necorn or eldar? It’s confusing, but most everything dies. So I’ve already won! Hell, you and the Death Guard could stay in the garden for the next ten thousand years and I’d still be coming out on top. The other chaos gods would be dong the killing for me, or the Imperium would, they kill a lot of people on their own–they’re actually not that great either.”

“But the reason I give you sanctuary here is because I believe in you Morty. I only want what’s best for you. I just think maybe killing the Imperium will give you closure.” Nurgle smirked, “And hey, I even here Guilliman’s back, don’t you hate him? Wouldn’t fighting him be fun?”

Mortarion thought about it. “I guess I could try hating him.”

“That’s the spirit!” Nurgle said, “Now why don’t you come out here and give your Papa Nurgle a big old hug.”

“Okay!” Mortarion said.

The Primarch’s door unlocked and Mortarion embraced his chaos god, knowing that he was a wiser and richer space marine for listening to his dad (who was the embodiment of death, and renewal, but mostly death, and renewal only in a reanimator, zombie sense of the word.)

The End.

What Life (the movie) Teaches you about Writing

What Life (the movie) Teaches you about Writing

My roommate and I watched Life last night. We’re geeks and sci-fi fans and like to watch bad movies with a few drinks. It’s fun to make up your own plots. Our version of Life involved shoving in as many Alien references as possible. Jake Gyllenhaal was definitely an android the real question was whether he was a kindly Bishop or murderous Ash? We also naturally assumed that Calvin was the Jason Voorhees of his species. It was fun, but after the movie ended we kept on talking about it and I noticed that we got increasingly frustrated and wondered why?

After doing our own version of Mystery Science Theater 3000 for a couple of years, we discovered that bad movies can broken down into three categories: boring, dumb or frustrating. Some can even be all three, (looking at you Suicide Squad). Dumb movies tend to be the most enjoyable, you understand what you’re getting into and you can just sit back and laugh. Boring are the worst, because boring. And frustrating are the most interesting, because they suggest maybe a good or at least decent movie was lurking just below the surface.

Life was probably never going to be a good movie, but it could have easily been a decent one. Life is a film you’ve seen before, part Gravity, but mostly parts Alien. The film is about a research team on the International Space Station that collect a satellite with Martian samples on it. One of those samples contains microscope life, which they name Calvin. Eventually Calvin grows big and starts murdering everyone and it’s a race to keep him from getting to earth, where one assumes he will slowly, but inevitably, murder every individual on the planet.

Life’s not boring, it’s well made, everyone puts in a solid performance. Like the best monster movies the humans are competent. The crew of the International space station feel like a bunch of smart engineers and scientists reacting as coolly as they can to everything going wrong. The premise of discovering alien life that is the best at killing us is so overplayed at this point that I doubt Life could have done anything interesting with it, but even cliched it could have been alright.

The problem with Life rests solely on the tentacles of it’s lead, Calvin. Calvin is a decently designed monster. He goes through some Alien style transformations and moves in appropriately creepy way. But he’s the Mary Sue of monsters. He’s the best at everything. He’s smarter, faster, stronger than the humans he’s attacking even when he’s just the size of a starfish. He’s nigh invincible, does just fine in the vacuum of space and immediately understands how to use tools and escape every trap the crew puts him in. And Calvin’s biggest flaw is that he breaks his own rules.

In his video take down of ‘The Death and Return of Superman’ Max Landis asks ‘how do you kill a vampire?’ The answer is whatever way the writer wants. You are the god of the fiction you create. If you decide vampires die from peanut allergies rather than stakes and garlic, you can do that. But if you then show one of your vampires enjoying a Payday without any problems, that can’t be a throw away scene. You need to explain the rule breaking, it needs to work with the rest of your world.

In Life rules for Calvin are stated just so that he can break them or ignore them entirely. The biologist who studied Calvin, before he went all Hannibal Lecter, is constantly saying things like ‘Calvin is carbon based so he burns’, and yet he’s immediately immune to fire. ‘Calvin can’t survive long in the vacuum of space’, he survives long enough to drown an astronaut and still scamper around the exterior of the ISS without any problem. ‘Calvin needs oxygen to breathe’, when they shut off the oxygen Calvin is never evidently hampered by this and goes about killing at least three people without missing a beat.

Calvin’ doesn’t hate people he needs kill us to survive’, maybe this one is true because he says ‘kill’ not ‘eat’. Early on we see Calvin consume a rat, like all of it, bones, organs, flesh. But when Calvin starts killing people he only east a little of their insides before running off to go kill someone else. Remember that astronaut that drowned? The biologist said Calvin knew what he was doing when he cracked the tubes in her suit. He doesn’t eat any of her.

Good monsters are powerful, but with rules and weakness that give their human victims a fighting chance. Vampires can fly, hypnotize people, are super fast and strong, but trap them in a peanut factory and their done for. The Xenomorphs from Aliens have acid blood, and razor sharp tails but go down with a plasma round to the face.

Rules are vitally important for monster stories, because these stories are like a game. The humans are on one team and the monster is on the other. The humans slowly discover the monster’s weakness and try to use that against it to either escape or trap the creature. While the monster is shown to be tough and clever by figuring out ways to escape the traps and hunt down the humans. It’s about an ebb and flow, slow escalation, the humans discover the rules and use them to their advantage thinking they’re safe, the monster then outsmarts the rules.

As the writer you can break your own rules, but that will make the audience feel like your cheating. The game is over, the humans aren’t playing against a monster they’re stuck at that stage in a video game where you’re supposed to lose the boss battle. You need to play your own game, think within in your own rules. You can introduce new rules and changes, but keep a consistency. A monster that overcomes every barrier isn’t scary, it’s boring and frustrating.

In Aliens there’s a scene were a set of auto turrets take out scores of the alien xenomporhs. The humans think they’re safe because they know the Xenomorph’s weakness to plasma rounds to the face. The Xenomorphs prove how clever they are, by crawling along the ceiling and under the floorboards to get at the humans. They followed the rules established for them and thought around them, making them all the more dangerous and keeping the tension going.

If the same scene happened in Life Calvin would have just discovered a sudden immunity to bullets. Sometimes to make a monster truly frightening you need to show it losing.