|Rogal Dorn (copyright Games Workshop)|
Those amongst you with even the most passing familiarity with Imperial history will know that following the events of the Horus Heresy, the Imperial Army and the Legiones Astartes were divided up by the Lords of Terra and by Roboute Gulliman, respectively. The justification for this unprecedented alteration to the structure of the Imperium's armed forces - first put into place by the Emperor himself - was to ensure no single commander could ever again marshal the sheer volume of forces Horus threw into battle against his former comrades.
Whether such a precaution was wise or necessary is beyond our humble organisation of renegade scriveners and honourable naysmiths to determine. That said, it is difficult to imagine that having employed such steps a decade earlier would have proved any real block to Horus' ambitions.
Consider the first briefing Captain Loken attended following being raised into the Mournival. For a simple soldier committing to carrying out his orders faithfully and promptly, it must have been baffling to see so many illustrious personages of the Imperium showing each other so little respect. The fleet commander mistrusts the Astartes. The Astartes look askance at the Imperial Army. The Mechanicum seems to hold more or less everyone in contempt.
Horus' advantage was never in the sheer quantity of manpower and materiel the Emperor granted him as Warmaster. It was the skill with which those assets he did not control directly he was able to manipulate. Given the role the primarchs were created for, it's hardly a surprise history has focused upon their prodiguous strength and speed, and their phenomenal tactical gifts, but in the final analysis what made Horus the logical choice for Warmaster - and which eventually spelled doom for the Imperium as it was originally conceived - was his preternatural gifts of charm and persuasion. For all that primarchs such as Angron and Perturabo wasted such gifts in favour of bloodthirst and petulance, respectively, the martial prowess of the Emperor's sons was never their most dangerous quality to anyone not standing directly before them.
Consider: Horus was able to persuade fully six other primarchs to rebel alongside him (seven if one chooses to include Fulgrim, though the mechanism of his downfall was already close to completion by the time the Warmaster became involved). Would replacing those six legions with hundreds of Astartes chapters prevented him from the machinations by which he caused one half of the Imperium to fold itself over and strike at the other? Or would there simply be more targets for him to work his will upon?
The Imperium is safe from another galaxy-spanning civil war not because no single person now commands more than a few thousand Astartes. It is because no primarch remains alive and in a position of authority within the civilisation of man. With the death of Rogal Dorn (who, amongst more actions in the defence of mankind than we can ever hope to chronicle, was responsible for the inclusion of Garviel Loken into the Mournival) and the disappearance of Vulkan, the Imperium found itself bereft of its most tireless and stalwart defenders. It also found itself free for the first time from the possibility that the Heresy could ever repeat itself.
There are still those who believe that Roboute Guilliman's corpse is repairing itself within its stasis field on Macragge. That Vulkan and Corax, Leman Russ, the Lion and the Khan, all will one day return to the Imperium. To save it from its darkest hour. To rally the desperate, bone-tired defenders of humanity for one final stand against the tide of xenos, heretic and daemon.
But what if this happens and they argue as to how the defense be enacted? The most terrifying thought a man can have is not that we are alone in the void, with no-one to come to our aid. It is that this might be the best of all possible fates.
Exclusively revealed: Horus has a brother. In fact, he has a minimum of ten. We've talked quite a bit about what the Astartes are and how they come about. What are your thoughts on the nature and origins of the primarchs?
We're back to the God question. It specifically says the Emperor is a god, and the primarchs are demigods. The Emperor might be a DNA crazy person.
I might need a bit more than that.
Well, like that film Splice. The Emperor could be a combination of a man and a unicorn and a troll.
Yes, that is exactly the plot of the film Splice.
That was Splice, wasn't it? With that girl who had all that extra DNA bits?
Yes, it was. It's the inclusion of the unicorn I'm having problems with. And the troll, unless you're being rude about Rodney from Stargate: Atlantis.
Well, whatever. I just chose things at random. Actually, unicorns probably wouldn't work, would it? Too innocent. It'd never splice.
That's right. Haven't you heard that Loverboy song? "Unicorn and troll DNA just won't splice!"
It's made clear at the end of the chapter that Horus is a savvy politician, and has strong reasons for what he does and says when conducting briefings. Given that, why do you think he started things off with a nervous architect?
He's making a point. He sees a time beyond the war, and he wants everyone to know that. Also, to know that he's got no problem with the idea that humans can be the equals or even superiors of Astartes and Primarchs, at least in some respects.
That, or he's sneaking things into the plans for the new city, and reckons people won't pay as much attention to things whilst the architect is in charge rather than him directly. Statues of himself, and things. I've changed my mind about where this is going. By which I mean I've bothered reading the title of the book. It's quite a big clue, really.
The conversation between the Mournival and First Captain Sigismund over drinks is aimed at people who already know the story. Some of it is interesting for how on the money it is, and some of it is interesting for how far from ther mark it proves. As someone who doesn't know which is which, did you pick up any implications as the Astartes spar with each other?
It'd be a very boring series if Garviel turns out to be right. It's not even in human nature for him to be right. There'll always be some humans - namely narcissists and psychopaths - who'll rise to the top and cause trouble. They'll always want to oppress someone. Like gingers.
I'm glad you had the chance to get that in there. Ginger power!
They had a ginger pride parade in Edinburgh the other day. So, you know, it's a thing.
Yeah, but Edinburgh? Not exactly enemy territory, is it?
Apparently one fifth of all the world's gingers live in Scotland.
I knew there was a reason I keep going back there.
This is probably a difficult question to be objective about, given how much Dorn seems to have reinforced your idea of who Loken is, but what do you think of Dorn and his Imperial Fists, as compared to Horus and the Luna Wolves?
It just felt like typical banter between different regiments. Which is definitely quite a human thing to do. And Dorn is probably being a bit polite since he's not in overall command here, so his actual personality is a bit hard to determine. He's maybe just as good at some other job as Horus is at conquering. Is he like the Kingsguard for the Emperor? So that would mean when the civil war starts he stays loyal to the Emperor. Or he stabs him in the back.
So you've decided that Dorn will either stay loyal, or not stay loyal.
Yes. Horus is definitely going to turn against the Emperor. Actually, Dorn probably will stay loyal, because he's close to the Emperor, and all the other brothers will turn against him. He'll have to be like Shiva.
The Hindu God with multiple arms. He'll need eight arms.
Because he has ten brothers. And, er, two legs.
Yes, that is how combat works. That's why octopuses rule the sea. And why we had so much trouble with those millepedes on holiday.
They were dead!
They were half dead. That's still enough to take on five hundred ants, apparently.
Also, do the Astartes take people's essences so they can be reborn? "Gene seed", is it? So it's a bit like Splice again. But not with a unicorn or a troll. It's with a horse.
I just... what?
Because Melisandre (Mersadie Oliton) said Loken had an equine head. And equerry means something to do with horses, doesn't it?
There was an awful lot of factions and rivalries touched on in this chapter. The Mechanicum don't like bowing to Horus. The fleet commander doesn't seem to care much for Astartes. At least two of Horus' brother primarchs are outraged he was chosen over them to be Warmaster. Loken has sworn to defend his lord from enemies both from without and from within. Where should he start looking first?
At Horus himself.
What Will Be
If and when the Vengeful Spirit and its fleet move on, where do you think they're headed? To help out the Blood Angels, or to check out the possibility of an intelligent and possibly alien civilisation?
This is my Fighting Fantasy question, by the way.
You know. "If you want to go left, turn to 221". We could do the Fighting Fantasy books after the Horus Heresy.
I think they'll head after the Blood Angels. That seems to be the way things were heading. But then why mention the Sagittary stars? Maybe the Luna Wolves go and help the Blood Angels, and while they do that, the colonists will go over to the Sagittarius stars and all get eaten by aliens. Like in that film where all the colonists get eaten by aliens*. Or was that Stargate?
* This is honestly what she said. It's not quite as bad as the time a friend of mine asked me if I'd seen that film about a robot that was also a policeman, but it's close.