Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A Little Knowledge...

Horus Rising: The Deceived (X)

Warmaster Horus (copyright Games Workshop)
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

How many times? How many times has Horus knelt before one of his children, revealed the terrible truth of the Empyrean's reach, and demanded that the secret go no further?

And how many times has he done this whilst inwardly raging against his father's decision to keep secrets of his own?

The most sophisticated forms of propaganda do not pretend undesirable events never happen. That kind of total denial is too easily contradicted by experience.  The smarter tack is to allow that such things can happen, but only as an unconnected sequence of freak occurrences, under conditions so rare and extreme that they serve as exceptions to whatever rules the propagandist wishes internalised.  Above all else, the discrete events must never be allowed to resolve themselves into a trend.

So it is that Garviel Loken could fight the creatures of the Warp on Erridas, on Syrinx ,and at Tassilon, could see psykers swallowed whole by nightmares that gouged out their souls and coiled up in the resulting hole, and yet never so much as consider the possibility Jubal might have fallen prey to something similar. It is how the first Luna Wolves could stand beneath a sky bruised by the Eye of Terror's purple desecration, and never consider the Empyrean might contain mire within than mindless, flesh-hungry beasts.

In this, we should remember, they were ably assisted by their own boundless pride.  There are uncountable ways in which life in the forty-first millennium compares poorly with the Imperium of Loken's time.  Our technology fades and crumbles, our borders collapse in every direction, and we fight for our very existence against bio-engineered killers and mechanical horrors that put the megarachnids and the overseers to shame.  But in one respect we can claim progress: we have become far more suspicious of pride.  In itself pride may be no vice - indeed, to a point it might be considered virtuous, though no person alive can be trusted to stop short of that point - but in its pure state pride is unstable, all too easily transmuted to arrogance, and from there collapsing into envy, bitterness and rage.

This is the fate that befell Xavyer Jubal.  His pride in his martial prowess became an arrogant expectation of promotion, which became poisonous rancour when Nero Vipus was elevated above him.  Samus found a nest within that resentment, and quickly set about hollowing out enough of a once mighty and noble warrior to turn him to its own ends.

It was the pride of the Emperor that allowed the Astartes to take to the stars without the knowledge they needed to face the horrors lurking beyond our reality.  It was the pride of Garviel Loken that led him to insist so fervently in the non-existence of spirits that when faced with one he reacted too slowly to save seven of his fellow marines.  It was the pride of Jubal that murdered almost twenty Astartes and baseline humans purely for a fractional difference in rank.

But it was the pride of Horus that caused the greatest wrong.  It was the pride of Horus that told him he deserved to know more from his father than he had received.  Even as he confessed to having treated Loken and who knows how many before him in exactly the same way, he believed he was different. That every other act of concealing knowledge for which he was responsible was an isolated incident, rather than a trend the nascent Imperium was proving incapable of avoiding.

In the final analysis, the question Horus asked the universe was why he should be treated the way he treated others.  Why he shouldn't be considered different from every other example of super-human ability in the universe.  Why doing what he merely expected from everyone else wasn't worthy of unique treatment.

Pride turned to arrogance.  Loyalty turned to bitterness. An empire turned to flames and dust.

We have much to discuss before we reach that point, however.  Let us tell you of a world of feral  insanity. A world of scrambling bladed death. A world where the very trees were fashioned as enemies against us.

Let us tell you of Murder.


What Was

With part 1 of Horus Rising now finished, this seems like a good time to cast our minds back over what the book has offered us to this point.  I've asked Fliss to give me three words in response to each of the following words:


Dedicated, fair, complicated.


Distant, ambitious, brutal.


Twatty Twatty McTwatface.


Hardworking, single-minded, enigmatic.


Parasite, hallucination, disease.


Ruthless, semi-disciplined, fractured.

Great Crusade

Terrorist, religious, horrifying.


Speed, drive, weft.

What Is

I've asked this before, but with the first part of the book done, it's a sensible time to return to the question: who are the deceived?


You said that last time.

Well, everyone's deceived in some way.

Yes, but maybe you could be more specific?

God, it could be anyone.  Maybe it's the people who believe in Gods and demons.  Or it could be everyone below Horus, deceived into thinking there's no Gods or demons or magic pixies and the unicorns they've been spliced from. It could be Horus and/or the Emperor for believing themselves Gods.  It could be the iterators for thinking they're doing good.  Or the remembrancers for thinking what the superhumans above them are doing is good.  

Or for not calling aliens "aliens". That's pretty deceitful.

It's worth noting they call the aliens "xenos".  It's not like they call them "introvert blancmanges".

Do they say "xenos?" They only seem to refer to races by their specific names.  Are they worried about being racist? Mind you, they do wipe them all out.

Yes, I don't think the Great Crusade is overly concerned with political correctness.

At the risk of cliché - to say nothing of genre cross-pollination - I shall quote Obi Wan Kenobi: "You've taken your first steps into a larger world".  Any thoughts on Horus' exposition on the nature of the warp?

Like what?

Like what's inside the warp.

Are they inside the warp?  Or is it just a side-effect of using it? Like when people started fiddling around with radiation before they knew what would happen.  Or Bruce Banner.  What happened to him?
A gamma bomb.

Am I thinking of the right person?  He's got alliterative initials, which suggests he's a Stan Lee character.

Well remembered.

Or radioactive spiders.

I don't think anyone in the Marvel Universe intentionally irradiated spiders in the hopes of advancing mankind.

Or genetically modified sheep.  Am I sounding like a paranoid conspiracy theorist?

What do you think of Horus and Abaddon and their plans to hush up what happened to Xavyer Jubal?

It's not surprising, is it? They don't want the Astartes to appear weak, and this would show that they have a flaw, which isn't good for the ultimate fighting force.  And as they note, it's got both Loken and Sindermann questioning their beliefs, if it got out into the general populace you'd have riots and blood.

Is that an endorsement of their actions?

No, because I don't agree with anything they do.

But putting aside what's happened up until now.

Governments keep secrets when they judge they'll do more harm than good.  And if they're right about that, then I guess I agree with it.  That doesn't mean I think questioning a lack of God is sufficiently worrying to keep this under wraps. It's not like they're hiding an imminent nuclear strike knowledge of which would ruin everyone's last minutes on Earth.  I think.  Really, it's just a good job I'm not in power.

We know now where Mersadie Oliton has been -

Where she claims to have been.

- and that Loken doesn't seem to have any interest in confiding in her.  Does that put a damper on your shipping forecast?

No.  Loken has been reticient all along confiding in Mersadie.  I imagine he'll struggle for a litlle bit longer.  Like Mac in CSI: New York.

What? Oh, is that the guy played by Gary Evilface?

Yes. It took him a while to confide in his girlfriend that getting shot in the back means he's lost his memories.  I think it's more likely Loken will confide in Sindermann.  Or even Euphrati, since she was there.

What Will Be

We talked for a while last time about where you thought things were going, but the revelation that extra-dimensional creatures exist and have a tendency to possess people are probably the kind of thing to cause a paradigm shift in one's predictions.  Any updated thoughts on what will happen in part 2 of the novel?

Everyone seems to be coming back from the dead: Jubal, Karkasy. Clearly this will be a far-future version of The Walking Dead. I think Mersadie is going to get taken over by the things in the warp - because of her huge head - leading Loken to realise he loved her all along. Loken takes revenge by killing Horus and/or the Emperor. Abaddon and Torgaddon turn out to be genetically modified vampire shape-shifters. Malaghurst becomes ever more power hungry, and sets of on a quest for the One Ring. Or maybe starts sacrificing human virgins to the thingies in the Warp.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Horus Rising: The Deceived (IX)

Contents of possessed Space Marine may differ
from those shown (copyright Games Workshop).
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

Consequences are terrible things, and we would be better off without them. Not better people. But better off.

Six members of Brakespur squad are dead, because no-one thought to correct them on the things they thought impossible. Soon enough half a galaxy would follow suit. We have been making this point for a little while now, but then it can hardly be overstated.
And yet.

Had Loken recognised the nightmare that that seeped into his friend's being, would he still have hauled Xavyer Jubal to safety after their desperate duel? Would the thought still have struck him, on however subconscious a level, that something might be done for his fallen friend? Or would he have seen nothing but a hell-birthed monster fit only to be cast into the pit it twisted above?

For had that been Loken's choice, two more remembrancers would have survived long enough to meet their end in a hail of bolter shells at Horus' command. On the other hand, Euphrati Keeler might never have encountered the necessary catalyst to become the being she ultimately did. Inspiration. Saint. Saviour of the Imperium.

The most simplistic message one could take from this would be that Loken's ignorance ironically saved the whole of the galaxy. This is an obvious point, true, but like many such clear and simple ideas, it cannot withstand close scrutiny. Had the Astartes Legions been offered the insights on the Empyrean they needed and deserved, the Heresy (which, you may remember, we concede was inevitable in some form) would have taken so different a path as to render Keeler's involvement almost certainly unnecessary.

It would be more illuminating to consider that this critical moment, where Jubal found himself suspended above nothing with only Loken to save him, was only possible because Horus saved Loken from a similar fate above the sun-swivel towers of High City. It was Horus' virtue that saved Loken, and Loken's virtue that first saved Jubal and then - thanks perhaps to his friendship with Mersadie Olition - allowed him to kill what remained of his friend in order to save a remembrancer he barely knew.

In saving Loken, Horus set about a chain of events that would go on to defeat a rebellion of which he had not yet conceived. The Sons of Horus's cupidity might have declared the beginnings of the Heresy, but the Luna Wolves' honour had sealed the rebels' doom before the first virus bomb had whistled down from the 63rd fleet.

This can only be an argument for trusting our protectors. Not for trusting them blindly, of course. The Warmaster's treachery most certainly taught us that lesson. But for believing we can trust them without blinding them to the truth. Ten thousand years on, and our Imperium insists more violently than ever that there must be no "why"; that every action, thought, sanction and execution be prescribed by rules and traditions utterly impervious to logical thought, rhetorical appeal, or emotional plea. Our overlords would have us believe that there exists no other way to cultivate order in a hostile galaxy. This is transparently and cruelly untrue. Without reason, justice is random, and randomness is chaos. One might as well argue great masterpieces can be placed on the canvas with kitchen knives and flaming torches.

In the name of stymieing Chaos, we have allowed chaos to run free, brutal and unpredictable and agonising. Punishment is certain, but the reasons for it are not. A galaxy of humans has shrunk its perceptions and its expectations to the point where all that matters is how one minimises the risk of betrayal. The fear of another Heresy has blinded us to the qualities of man that made Horus' treachery so unthinkable to begin with.

In this sense, the Warmaster was more successful than he ever knew. If the Imperium today were to encounter the Imperium of the Luna Wolves, we would crush it outright from fear and suspicion. Our purpose fell with Horus' loyalty. Our nobility died with Istvaan III. A lonely carrion god joins with ten thousand trillion souls on almost a million worlds as they pick at the wreckage of what we once had, and as they ape uncomprehendingly the motions of heroes we no longer dare to become.

When a new Long Night falls, let it be known that this is why. When the warp swallows us once more, remember those who could have grasped our arms and pulled us out of the darkness. For they are gone now, buried long ago, and Horus himself is only the start of the reason why.

The rest we must take upon ourselves.

What Was

This week, we're focussing on Loken's memories of the Crusade to date.

An alien species that will only fight in prescribed locations is an interesting idea.  What do you think of it, and of the Luna Wolves' response?
I think they were bastards. Also, I think there's a degree of fear there.  They knew that if they fought in the battle zones, they couldn't be certain of the outcome.

So you're saying they have a fear of failure?
Yeah. They're worried about potential losses, so they're using the excuse that the enemy isn't following their rules either. What rules would those even be?

The rule that says you can fight anywhere, I suppose.

But they didn't seem to make any attempt to explain that to them.  I suppose it's an interesting idea, though. Lots of cultures have places that you're not supposed to fight in, and I guess once you've decided war is the worst thing possible... Still, they were dicks. Maybe they just didn't like the implication that they were pretty much the worse people ever.
What was your reaction to the alien cavern system and its perfect relief map of Terra?
How do we know it's alien and not human?

From how old it was?

But maybe humans were out here long ago? Maybe the Emperor is lying about it all.

Why would he do that?

To keep them under his thumb!

How would faking the provenance of a map help with that, you paranoid nudnik.

I still don't think their Terra is the real Terra. It's all a tissue of lies.  Everything is lies.

Do you just mean this is fiction?
Do you ever look around this country and think "What we really need here are more people in giant hats"?
 It would make life more interesting. It would be difficult, though, wouldn't it? I mean, who makes them all? Do they have multiple hats?  Do they have to change them every day?  How many different designs do they have to come up with?

Maybe it's one hat for weekdays and one for Sunday best?

It'd all be Sunday best for a celebration, though.

True. When Horus left maybe they all went back to work in their giant bowler hats.

They don't seem very useful.  If you're going to go to the effort of making a giant hat, it should at least do something.

You're concerned that the giant festival hats are purely decorative?

No, but they should have some purpose.  Like, maybe a birdbath on top?

Maybe the planet had eight suns, and this is the only way to survive.  Giant Speedy Gonzales sombreros are standard issue to prevent skin cancer and spontaneous combustion.

Do children get smaller hats?

I'd imagine an eight foot hat isn't noticeably less dangerous than a slow moving car.  I presume you need a hat license.

I'm concerned about the materials needed. You'd need a lot of felt. Does that come from sheep? Are this the future of the Welsh?

(Please, no emails. She gets to make these jokes; her parents are Welsh.)
What Is
You mentioned last time you thought the attack on the insurgent stronghold was a bit impersonal and uninspiring.  Did you enjoy Loken and Samus trying to kill each other in their slippery-slope duel?
It was definitely more gory. It was better. Hard to follow, but that's probably deliberate because of the speed. I don't understand why they weren't quicker to bring him down given he's broken all those rules.  Why don't they carry tranq-guns. They should carry tranq-guns.

Easily said, though isn't it? Would you kill me if I suddenly murdered one of our friends.

You're not a trained killer with intimate knowledge of the army's working. If they didn't have tranqs, they should have cut his legs off.  No, his arms, even better, because that's how he was carrying his weapons.

That much I can't deny.

So chop off his arms, and you can replace them with mechanical ones if and when he's no longer crazy.
How convinced are you by Sindermann's diagnosis of Jubal; a pathogen interacting with enemy propaganda on Samus?
Well that was exactly what I said it was last time.  The fact that he was gloating makes me think it's some kind of parasite looking for escape.  It's going to come out of his stomach any minute. WHOOSH!

Yes, that's exactly how that would sound. Though it's not like I know, really. I'm basing this on Alien, which probably doesn't have the full force of medical veracity behind it.



Oh, and I told you Astartes would end up fighting each other! I want my accuracy recorded for posterity.

Yes, my love.
Any thoughts on Loken's decision to rescue Jubal rather than letting him fall?
If he has option to save him, he shouldn't have let him fall.   Loken might feel a bit guilty for having promoted Vippus (Vipus) over Jubal.  And he thought it was a possession, so maybe he hoped the iterators could do something about it.  There's lots of reasons not to let him fall.  Not least the fact that finding out how this happened is going to be much easier with Jubal's body.
What Will Be

What next for Euphrati Keeler?

I don't think she's dead. Loken will probably save her because of his relationship with Mercedes (Mersadie). But she's seen things she shouldn't have, so maybe the Astartes will claim she's like a stork, sent to spy.

A stork?

Like in Egypt.  Maybe they'll just remove her Remembrancer license.  Or the other option would be to elevate her, actually let her in on what happened and impress on her the importance of keeping quiet.  Meanwhile, the can use her picts to demonstrate how horrific the rebels were, to justify further war. They could even destroy the whole planet, then they can go play with the Blood Angels.  I think that's unlikely, though; they won't want this weakness exposed.

Of course, there may be anti-war elements who want their hands on Keeler's pictures as well, to try and derail the Luna Wolves.

What reactions can we expect from the other characters once they learn of what happened in Samus' fane?

Sindermann is going to have a lot of research ahead of him, which might make him question his faith. Loken is going to confide in Mercedes, and even admit he can feel fear. The rest of the Astartes are just going to carry on as normal. I don't know if Vippus will have to face questions or even charges over shooting Jubal.  I think it's going to be hushed up, though obviously the Mournival and Warmaster will have to know. The former will sweep it under the rug, dismissing any notions of superstition, and insist it was malfunctioning breathing equipment or something. Horus may be more sympathetic to Loken's questioning - though he has the safety and well-being of the entire Legion to consider, so there will be limits. 

I imagine that Horus and the Mournival will try to limit how many people know about it, though Jubal has helped with that by killing those remembrancers.  Given the backstory, I think they have enough trust in Sindermann that they'll leave him alone. They'll have to "quieten down" the original Imperial soldiers who heard Samus' whispering. They might end up wiped out in an accident they can blame on the other side, or just sent to the front on a suicide mission.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Sacred And Profane

Horus Rising: The Deceived (VIII)

Luna Wolves in action (copyright ilqar)
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

When last we broadcast, we discussed the arrogance at the heart of the Astartes Legions, and how that arrogance doomed the Great Crusade to failure long before Horus fell from grace. The transformation of humanity from a collection of living, breathing individuals to be protected into a theoretical construct to be won meant that the theoretical cost to civil war shrunk to almost nothing, and Horus himself bears no more blame for that than any other primarch.

But it is not the primarchs for whom the ultimate blame for this must lie. It is the Emperor himself. We have mentioned already the strange fact that the Astartes remained ignorant of the forces of Chaos for so long despite having been founded on a world from which the Eye of Terror could be seen.  This fact alone demonstrates that the Emperor's decision to keep his warriors ignorant of the perils of the Warp was an active decision requiring effort to maintain.  Not a lie of omission, in other words, but a purposeful campaign of misinformation.

The problems with this approach are obvious. It's not just the most immediate objection - by definition the Astartes cannot operate in theatres of war beyond the reach and interest of Chaos, which makes encounters ultimately inevitable (a fact which to this day remains the most plausible explanation for the destruction and expunging of the II and XI Legions).  It's the idea that the Astartes can be trusted to conquer the galaxy, but not to understand the galaxy.  That's a supremely dangerous mode of thinking. At worst it leaves them horribly exposed to manipulation - which, of course, is exactly what happened - but even at best it ensures the aims of the endeavour and the realities will drift further and further apart, as more and more discrete events that cannot be rationalised throw the vector of Imperial truth further and further from its intended direction.

The true degree to which the Emperor erred here we will discuss further when we bring you the truth about the fall of Prospero and Magnus the Red, but the effects of the mistake are already all too clear.  We see it in the final assault on the Sixty-Three Nineteen loyalists (and how quickly they found themselves renamed "insurgents") in the Whisperheads. Loken is so determined to seek rational explanations and lecture dying men on the pointlessness of their faith - that nothing can exist but what he already knows to exist - that the arrival of Samus utterly blindsides him.

This would be first time XVI Legion was unprepared to recognise the signs of impeding tragedy. A few months later, it would happen again, and the galaxy would burn as a result.


What Was

There's not really much new revealed in this chapter, and with the focus here being what's happened to Jubal and the nature of Samus, we'll skip this section this week.

What Is

Who is Samus?

Samus is everywhere.  Samus is the person standing right next to you.

I'm so glad you've been paying attention.

Is it a hallucinogenic in the water?  They talked about the water a lot, and made a point of the Astartes walking around without their helmets on.  Maybe they've inhaled it.  That doesn't explain the vox chatter, but maybe that was a previous victim broadcasting.  The problem with that idea is that Euphrati is hallucinating Samus' voice. How would she get the idea that it was Samus?

All of this would explain why the locals are so keen on collecting the water from the Whisperheads.  They want that to spread the word of God around.

Kind of like Native Americans and peyote, in some sense?

I'm sure we did something similar, until the Christians got here and ruined all our fun.

Yeah, a lifetime of boring inactive mushrooms is all Jesus had to offer us. I could be off my tits on acid at a blood-soaked orgy right now. Hell of a way to spend breakfast, I tell you.

Actually, maybe Janus (Jubal) is using this as an opportunity to get back at Loken for passing him over for command.  "It wasn't me, it was Samus."

Reading this chapter again, I was struck by how Abnett seems to be running two genres at the same time.  The first, unsurprisingly, is the action set-piece of the Tenth Company Terminators assaulting the insurgent stronghold.  How much were you and are you grabbed by this kind of futuristic war action?

Well I do enjoy a good fight scene, but this wasn't all that brilliant. I've read better. But then it wasn't supposed to be much of a fight anyway, given how much the Terminators dramatically overpowered the other team. 

So did you prefer the earlier battle scenes, or were you too busy trying to figure out what was going on?

Yeah.  I think the problem here is that there's no focus on individuals. The Terminators are described as a group, there's no single perspective to latch onto other than Loken's.  It would have been good to see something of the insurgent's panic at their utterly unstoppable attackers.

I see what you mean. It'd be like seeing the whole of the Battle of Hoth from the perspective of General Veers.

If you say so.

The second genre this chapter plays with is horror.  The build-up to Samus will be familiar to anyone who's watched a few horror films: the suggestion a place is haunted, the whispers dismissed as pranks until that becomes impossible, and the final reveal of whatever is lurking in the dark.  How well did that work for you?

(Fliss pulls a face.  It is not the face Dan Abnett would want to be seeing right now.)

No. I just figured it for a battle tactic.

We talked a lot last week about the reasons the remembrancers have been allowed to the surface.  A the time, you mentioned Maloghurst, and we discussed whether he had his own agenda in letting them down to the surface. Here we find they've been set down miles from the action.  How does that feed into your thinking?

Well, I assume they'll be allowed to see the after-effects of the battle, but that's a problem because they won't see the context and the reasoning. They don't see the field of dead Imperial soldiers that the Astartes can show as reason for the assault.  Nor do they see how effective the Astartes in combat.

Plus, maybe the Astartes get bloodlust - or battle lust -

Wolverine's berserker rage?

- whatever. Maybe in battle they'd be unable to tell one human from the other whilst fighting.  Or someone else would get to them.  Lot of paperwork if you get all your remembrancers killed.  'Ealth and Safety gone mad.

A common theme of both previous chapters and our discussions has been whether the people on Sixty-Three Nineteen could just been left alone with their planet and their religion.  Has the fact the insurgents were apparently protecting fanes to the murderous Samus changed your mind?

No. They weren't hurting people.  They'd never been heard of before, so they obviously weren't causing a problem out in the universe.  And you're always going to get rural areas where religion takes a particular hold od people

Yes, let us not forget the Death Cults of Somerset.

I don't think Somerset is rural enough

Somerset: insufficiently rural. Got it.

Isn't Midsomer there?

Does that have death cults?  I would watch Bergerac fighting murderous cultists, I won't lie to you. Moving back on topic, though, what about the effect on their own planet? This weird system of hallucinogenic water and murderous lunatics, or whatever's going on?

All we know was they were collecting water and putting tokens in it.  There's no evidence of blood sacrifices, or feeding virgins to dragons. If you chuck money into a wishing well, do you deserve to die?  Or be told you're stupid?

There's a hell of a difference between those two responses, you realise.

"You're going to die, there is no afterlife, and you've wasted a penny. Idiot."

What Will Be

With only two chapters left to go in the novel's first part, what do you think lies ahead for Loken, for Samus, and for the remembrancers?

I assume we're going to go back to "where is Mercedes (Mersadie). Presumably they'll have to kill Jubal and deal with the fallout of his rampage.  Will Loken start questioning what happened, or will his faith in science be strong enough for him to explain it away?  Maybe Euphrati will be the next to go crazy, since she can already hear Samus.  But she might not do it until she's back on the ship.  She might kill all the iterators, who are so obviously priests no matter what they say.  Then everyone will be lost and confused, and they might sod off home and leave the planet alone.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Descent Into Madness

Horus Rising: The Deceived (VII)

Astartes Stormbird, Ultramarines Chapter (copyright Games Workshop)
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

This is it.  The short, screaming dive from the Vengeful Spirit to the Whisperheads marks the boundary between two eras of the Luna Wolves' participation in the Great Crusade so different each side is almost unrecognisable from the other.  Once the landing gear on Garviel Loken's Stormbird sinks into the earth, everything changes.

The fact that the warriors of the Emperor would ultimately find themselves clashing with the intelligence of Chaos was, of course, inevitable.  It is far more surprising that it took as long as it did.  For more than two hundred years the Luna Wolves fought their way across the galaxy entirely unaware the forces spilling from the realm they saw as nothing but a way to shorten their campaign were anything more than vicious and mindless predators. A campaign launched from Terra, lest we forget, a planet from which the Eye of Terror is all too obvious. Did not one Astartes stare at that violet wound in the night sky and wonder whether it was something the nascent Imperium might want to check up on?

Much of the explanation for this inconsistency comes down to the Emperor, of course, but we shall discuss that particular problem in more detail next time. For now, we shall remain focused upon the front-line Astartes, and the remembrancers about to follow them to the surface.

Consider the timing of the decision to allow a half dozen civilians to accompany - albeit at some distance - the Tenth Company into battle.  Just days before, a fellow remembrancer was beaten almost to death on the surface of Sixty-Three Nineteen. The response by the Astartes is to say nothing to his colleagues, and then endanger six more remembrancers by bringing them into a war-zone.

Obviously, none of the remembrancers chosen to visit the planet were worried about the danger. That was their job, to charge heedlessly forwards until they meet an immovable object, most commonly death. It is the job of the Astartes to save people, even and most especially from themselves. Yes, Kyril Sindermann notes his concern for the remembrancers' safety, but he spends more time noting his concern that the remenbrancers will be unable to understand the true nature of the Astartes, red in tooth and claw.

And note Maloghurst's position: it is critical the Astartes be sufficiently well-documented. His interest begins and ends with how the remembrancers can benefit his Legion.  As an isolated example, that seems entirely reasonable - the equerry to Horus looking out for Horus' best interest.  Start to consider his position with that of Sindermann's, however, and the comments of Loken, and the utter disinterest with which Karkasy's fate has been greeted (for all that, yes, the man brought it entirely upon himself), and you begin to see a pattern - the Luna Wolves are interested in the remembrancers only insofar as they can benefit the Luna Wolves.

Again, these are human beings.  These are the people the Astartes Legions were created to protect.  And yet somehow, they have become beside the point. Not just the remembrancers, humanity in general is simply a yardstick by which the Legions measure each other.  This many human worlds reclaimed is impressive, that many is not.

We have argued before that the specifics of the Horus Heresy are irrelevant; that galactic civil war was always inevitable.  This is why. The entirety of the Great Crusade was based on an unsustainable model of humanity and Astartes wanting the exact same thing.  The very moment that changed, the instant that man concludes their worlds are safe enough already, it was inevitable that war would break out.  Loken was always wrong: Astartes need war, and in the absence of it, will create their own one.

Because for them, humanity is nothing but a concept.  Because from the Emperor to Xavyer Jubal, it was arrogance all the way down.


What Was

We got a scrap of detail about the "Unification Wars" this chapter, something to do with the Yndonesian Bloc and the Pan-Pacific Tribes. Has that given you anything else to go on regarding back-story?

I'd always been thinking these people had left Earth for some reason, but now I'm thinking not.  Except the people on Sixty-Three Nineteen seem to be the original people as well. So it's confusing. These Astartes weirdos have reunited everyone else who went into space, but there's been some arguments about the Emperor. Did the Ydonesian Bloc not agree with him?  I'm really not getting this yet.

Is there anything to be said about the discovery that the Luna Wolves are the sixteenth Legion?

Didn't we already know that? Isn't that why the world is called Sixteen Ninety-Three?

No, it's Sixty-Three Nineteen. They're the sixty-third expedition, but the sixteenth Legion.

Oh. Then does that mean the Emperor had fifteen failed attempts before the Astartes worked? Or maybe not. Have the Imperial Guard (Imperial Fists) been given a number yet?

I don't think so.

And does that mean there's at least fifteen more Horus siblings?

What Is

What's happened to Mersadie Oliton?

I don't know. I thought she was going to be with Loken, but maybe not.  Maybe she's already on the ship, ready to go down. Maybe Loken has already diddled her to death. Maybe its connected to Karkasy?

I thought that was interesting, actually, that they haven't gone into much detail on that.

Why don't the other iterators know about Karkasy getting beat up?

I have another question: why respond to a remembrance getting the crap kicked out of him by sending more remembrancers into danger?

Well the Astartes want them all gone in any case.  Maloghurst seems to be the only one who wants them to stay. Probably because of what Euphrati has done for him, making him a hero across the fleet with her pictures.

Actually, I wonder if Maloghurst is deliberately attempting to turn people against the Crusade by showing them the truth about how horrible the war is.  Either because of what's happened to him, or to try and turn people against the Emperor, or Horus, or Loken, depending on how he does it.

Anyway, back to Mersadie.  Maybe she was a blood sacrifice in the Mournival ritual.  Or maybe they're deliberately keeping her away from Loken because they've figured out the effect she has on him.

What do you think about Maloghurst's insistence that the truth can never be wrong?

Depends on the truth, doesn't it? There's plenty of examples in history of people thinking that exact same thing, and releasing information so terrible people have risen up against it. We talked about this earlier. Why would he want to show people the horror of war?  Is he trying to show people the true cost of war, now that he's been horrifically injured?  Showing the generals who sit up on their horses-

Space horses?


I know you were going to say that.

We know that there's horses in the future because the Astartes have been spliced with horse DNA.

No they haven't!

It says Loken has a horse-like head.

And I say Eric Cantor has a head like a shoe-box, but it doesn't mean I think you could open his face and find a pair of Doc Martens.

Anyway, it'd show the generals what's really going on. Maybe Maloghurst is thinking along the same lines as Loken - what's the point of all this.  Bringing all of this to the attention of the big-wigs.

Or it could be a test to see what the remembrancers think of all this, to judge how the people on Terra would react to the truth.

What Will Be

Who is Samus, and what effect will he have on the story?

It could be anything. One of Horus' brothers. The Emperor. A god.  One of the Mournival.  Just some bloke trying to freak out the attackers, like Loken said.

Where did the idea of Horus' brother come from?

Well, they sound similar. Is Samus an Egyptian name?

Er... *checks*. Greek. Or Irish.

OK. So a classical reference, maybe.  But who knows?

As we've discussed, it's interesting that even after what happened to Ignace Karkasy, the decision has been made to allow a half dozen remembrancers access to the surface. Any thoughts on what might happen to them whilst they're on Sixty-Three Nineteen?

I don't imagine all of them are going to be returning.  I would imagine that whatserface - the imager - will, though.  Abnett has killed off named characters before, but they've been secondary with nothing special about them.  Will an imager be a problem for the Astartes? Maybe they want rid of her. Not everyone is necessarily happy about the effect her pictures had on Maloghurst and his reputation. 

Or maybe something will happen to whatserface but Loken will save her because she's friends with Mersadie.  Or maybe the iterator will keep an eye on her because he has such respect for her work.