The first of eight short stories making up The Call of Archaon, book four in Black Library’s Realmgate Wars series for Age of Sigmar, David Guymer’s Beneath the Black Thumb introduces Copsys Bule, Lord of Plagues. After years tending his garden in Nurgle’s name, he knows his work is looked on with favour by Grandfather Nurgle, and he keeps to his path despite the machinations of his allies. When the great ritual to open a realmgate is disrupted by forces of Light, however, he begins to hear the pull of another call.
There’s a delicious blend of disgusting Nurgle grossness and slightly daft Skaven intrigue here, told over a clever episodic structure that allows Guymer time to dwell on characters while still keeping the plot moving forward. Free of the need to explain new Khorne or Stormcast archetypes, this feels free to explore something fresh and interesting, and as a result is delightfully characterful. Guymer also keeps us guessing throughout – clearly something is going to rouse Bule to action, but exactly what and how is only gradually revealed. As a standalone story this is great fun, and as the first chapter in this particular narrative it’s a brilliant start.