Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Fathers And Sons

Horus Rising: Brotherhood In Spiderland (VII)

Primarch Sanguinius
(copyright unknown)
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

It has been said by some that each of the twenty Primarchs embody a singular facet of the almighty Emperor's whole.  Perhaps this is indeed true. What cannot be true, of course, is that they represent the whole of the Emperor - not unless those long-since forgotten leaders of the II and XI Legions were far more expansive in their natures than the eighteen recorded in Imperial history. What the Primarchs represent are aspects of the Emperor as warrior. Angron's brawling, Russ' howling relentlessness, Guilliman and Fulgrim with their dedication to perfection in strategic thought and tactical acumen respectively; each one embodies superhuman prowess in a given approach to war. Even Magnus' dabbling in sorcery and Lorgar's obsession with religious propaganda are simply about expanding the methods through which galactic war can be waged.

Only Sanguinius breaks from this pattern. Only Sanguinius exemplifies the Emperor as something else. Like all the Primarchs, he is a warrior, yes.  But he is also something else.

He is a diplomat.

The very word "diplomat" is one that is cursed here in the Forty-First Millennium. To talk when one can fight is seen as weakness, or even cowardice. If we can get what we want without compromise, the ideologues insist, then compromise can never be necessary; talk can never be anything but a waste of time.  We have explained the foolishness of this insistence before, of course. In a galaxy in the grips of total, endless war, and an Imperium at less than half the size it boasted as the Great Crusade neared its end, the relevant metric should not be what we can get with the minimum of outside contact, but what we can get with the minimum of cost.

Too little is recorded of Sanguinius' words and thoughts to know how completely he would understand or agree with our position. What is known is that, alone of the Primarchs, his tendency was always to listen and empathise with his brothers, rather than insist and posture.  Where his brothers would simply state their opinion and their position whilst ignoring or belittling - or even hoping for - dissenters, Sanguinius would absorb the arguments of each and attempt to stake out common ground. That is not to imply Sanguinius gave falsely flattering counsel, it is simply that he valued offering the truth in the form where it might be most easily recognised.  Not for nothing did Horus call him his conscience.

We see all this in his deft handling of the potential schism between Horus and Fulgrim, working to repair the rift before it had even really begun to form. That Eidolon was clearly in the wrong was not the point, nor is the fact that a vendetta between the Luna Wolves and the Emperor's Children might, as things turned out, actually have been of some help to the Emperor and his loyal sons.

No, what matters is that Sanguinius saw that two of his brothers might soon become estranged from each other, and in the wake of his own tragic losses, chose to dedicate his attentions to helping his family.

Indeed, one wonders what Sanguinius might have been able to accomplish had he been by the Warmaster's side for longer (note, for instance, that Horus only began to ruminate - or at least speak openly - about his failures on Sixty-Three Nineteen and Murder after discussing them with Sanguinius).  His insights into the way Horus' brothers viewed his ascension could have been most helpful. More importantly, one suspects he might have been able to point out to Horus what should have been clear all along: the Emperor hadn't made Horus Warmaster so that he could abandon his children.  He made Horus Warmaster to make his favourite son more like himself than anyone else had ever been.

We return once more to the central tragedy from which the blood-drenched horrors of the Horus Heresy was born: how could Horus not see his father's actions were, far from a betrayal, a mirror of his own? Sanguinius puts his finger on this when he gently reminds Horus of their father's wish the Luna Wolves be renamed the Sons of Horus. The Emperor was anything but unaware of the potential dangers of leaving the Crusade, and specifically took steps to ensure Horus could fill the void in every way possible.

It was Horus who refused that honour, because he preferred to focus on the loss of his father and not how that loss could best be dealt with.  This focus on how the new order affected him and not his father led to blind-spots that in other circumstances would be comical. How else could a man so intelligent as Horus state he would never have accepted the role of Warmaster had it meant giving up fighting directly in the Crusade and never stop to consider for a moment how unbearable the Emperor must have found his own removal from the field? How could he object to the idea of being held unique above all others and not intuit the impossibility of his Father's position?

How could he rally so completely when Sanguinius joined him to fight mankind's foes in the crucible of combat and still come out thinking that the Emperor's self-imposed exile on Terra was a problem for Horus?

We have stated already that galactic civil war was all but inevitable, Chaos or not; the Imperium's nature and methods simply made it too difficult for it to stay at peace indefinitely.  Only two people had any hope of stopping the schism.  One was the Emperor himself. The other was Sanguinius. Greatest of the Primarchs. In some ways, greater even than his father. The Emperor, after all, should have seen what was coming.  Sanguinius is free from such blame. Indeed, if he had any fault at all in what transpired, it is that he could not be everywhere at once (something legend states he took every opportunity to correct during the Siege of the Emperor's Palace). That it was his final act which saved the Imperium was as inevitable as it was tragic. The man who would have done anything to avoid fighting with his family or his family fighting amongst itself went into battle one last time to do exactly that. To save what he could.  To save all that he was able to save.

We will never see his like again. Worse, Our Imperium would never allow itself to understand or tolerate his like even could it be forged anew.

That great tragedy, and every small tragedy that broke in its wake, remains far ahead of our tale, hovewer.  Our next port of call is the strange society of the interex, and the Warmaster's second attempt to find common ground with a long-lost human society. His first efforts came to naught because of the violent extremism of his opposite number.  The tale of what happens in the constellation of Sagittary is far more complicated, and far more tragic.


What Was

Were you impressed by the scale of the Ullanor celebrations? Or do you think the Mechanicum could have got away with just planing half a continent?

It seemed completely ridiculous. Why level an entire fucking planet? Thats just stupid.  A whole ecosystem destroyed so they could listen to the Emperor speak?  And heads every five yards? Horrible rotting putrid heads every five yards? Even in the Dark Ages they wouldn't go for anything so extreme.  Or is it designed gto be a new form of measurement?

Yes, from this day forth all distances were measured in gangrenous Ork bonces (GBO).

Also, if there were people all over the continent, how could they all hear the Emperor?

You can fit a lot of people into fairly small areas. I read somewhere the entire population of the world could fit on the Isle on Man, though absolutely none of them would thank you for it, and they wouldn't be allowed to bring along quite so many tanks.  But in any case, I'm sure they had video screens.

They didn't mention video screens.

Well I'm sure it's implicit. They didn't mention the toilets either.

Don't Astartes just... go into their armour?

I still think you'd have to empty it out from time to time. Like a vacuum cleaner, only much worse. Plus the Imperial Army would still need Portaloos.

What about hot-dog vendors? How come they aren't mentioned?  Someone must have been doling out snacks.

Hot dogs? In the Thirty-First Millennium?

Fine. Greenskin tentacles. "Get your greenskin tentacles here! Mustard or ketchup! Get them while they're freshly butchered in a pointless war!"

Greenskins don't have tentacles, darling. You're such a noob.

All I'm saying is, there was plenty of opportunity to flesh things out.

And all I'm saying is that discussing the tedious logistics of this once-in-a-universe celebration is possibly missing the point.

What Is 

Does Sanguinius live up to his reputation? For that matter, do you like him at all?

He seemed a bit of a non-entity. Though really he wasn't really in it for very long. I can see the charisma, though. It was smart of him to chat with Torgaddon and Tarvitz. It was interesting hearing his thoughts on the potential feud between Horus and Fulgrim, but it came out of nowhere a bit.

I'm sure Sanguinius is smart enough to see what's in the air.

Yeah, but there was no build-up. They've both got good points.

Anything else?

He had black hair.  You told me it was blond.

We can't be sure what he was. This is all "unreliable narrator" territory.

I'm wondering if the moment with Sanguinius recognising the helmet owner was a bit of theatre.  Does Sanguinius really know the armour markings of every one of his captains? Or does looking like it just suit his purpose and his reputation.

You're a deeply cynical person, you know that?

He wears a lot of bling, I notice. Does Horus wear that much bling?

He might do, actually. Cthonic bling might be very different to the Baal equivalent.

Oh, OK.

I'm surprised you don't want to talk about his wings.

Are they real wings?


Well how does that work? How come people love him so much when he exactly the sort of freak they usually want to stab to death?

Just one of those things.

Is that why they're called the Blood Angels? Because he's called Sanguinius and he's an angel?

I can't remember.  Chicken and egg.

I'd rather he was Angelus. Much cooler than Angel.

This is both off-topic and tremendously disturbing.  As per usual.

Do you think Sanguinius has persuaded Horus not to chew out Fulgrim over putting Eidolon in charge of three hundred Astartes? And do you think that was a good idea on Sanguinius' part to begin with?

I'm not sure, is the honest answer. The problem I have is that I don't know how Fulgrim would actually react to Horus calling Eidolon out as a smug shit, and how much of said shittiness was actually obvious to Horus. It seems like Horus could have a conversation with Sanguinius about something dumb a Blood Angel had done. I guess Fulgrim has a hotter temper? Or maybe Fulgrim isn't as supportive of the Warmaster as Horus thinks, and Sanguinius is worried about stirring up resentment?

I guess my question is whether it wouldn't be more sensible for the argument to actually take place? It's all very well smoothing ruffled feathers (no pun intended), but surely there comes a time when these issues have to be resolved?

Well, if the Emperor's Children keep acting the way they have, it's going to separate them even further from the pack.  How long before they stop listening to the Warmaster altogether. It depends whether Sanguinius is advising the conversation doesn't come up, or just that they have the discussion as calmly as possible. Something has to happen; Eidolon was damn close to mutiny, and you can't let that slide completely. And the Luna Wolves can't do it, or whatever Fulgrim's response was likely to be will get ten times worse.

What do you think of the idea of renaming the XVI Legion as "The Sons of Horus"?

Where does the name 'Luna Wolves' come from anyway?

I think the XVI Legion had their first major campaign on Luna. Why?

Because it depends entirely on what meaning the original name has for them as to how smart it is to rename them. It might cause more problems with the Emperor's Children for there to be another Legion with name based around a single hero.  Is the Emperor grooming Horus to replace him?

I wonder.

It would put a lot more pressure on Horus.  He's not just be the Warmaster, he'd be the guy who, if he screws up, has an entire Legion named after his unworthy hide. That might be why he didn't want to do it.  He might hope eventually someone else will take over from him.  Besides, would the rebranding even work?

How do you mean?

Well, everyone says the Luna Wolves are crass, backward yobs.  Would calling them 'The Sons of Horus' actually change that?

I can't imagine anyone in the Luna Wolves could care less about what people call them.

Yes, but if they then become crass, backward upstart yobs, it might cause a lot of problems.

We've made it to the end of the second part of Horus Rising. How did it hold up, both on its own terms and in comparison to "The Deceived".

It was certainly interesting to see the Astartes let loose on non-humans, and to see how the different Legions behave and interact. But then I suppose the first part of the book needed to show us how they differ from normal people.  It was clearly an introductory part.  All that stuff with remembrancers and iterators might have been a bit slow for your average adrenaline junkie, but I quite like it.  This was more the sort of thing I was expecting from the book.

And I still don't see why they had to kill off everything that wasn't human.

So does it work for you as a war story?  I know you prefer shields and swords to guns and, er, swords.

It seemed a little short on details.  The six month war was pretty sketchy - I don't even know if the Astartes are winning through skill or just getting lucky.  I want more blood and gore, is what I'm saying.

What Will Be

Who are the musical people in the giant spaceships, and what do they want?

Why is it Horus is the only one who thinks of this as music?

I have my own theory, but what do you think?

Is it because he was the only Primarch whose heard it?  Was it from his being multilingual?

Perhaps. If I were to guess, I'd say it never even occurred to Frome or Eidolon that the signals were worth listening to.

And the Mournival? They heard it and didn't catch it. Has Horus come across something like this before?

Not to my knowledge. But he's clearly exceptionally smart. And we know from what happened to Hastur Sejanus that Horus' first instinct when he encounters something new is to try and encounter it.

What would have happened if Horus had arrived at Murder before the Blood Angels? Do you think he'd have attacked as quickly?  Or would he have tried to understand the beacons first?

I think he might well have done.  But that's not the problem right now; the problem is that trio of gigantic starships bearing down on our heroes.

I think those ships belong to the people who created the megarachnids. What happens now is whether Murder was an experiment, a farm, or a guard post. Whoever they are, they could be pretty terrifying.  That question: "what have you done here".  That suggests something pretty important was going on, and they've come over from wherever they're from to demand answers.  I wonder how they knew the Astartes were there?  They seem pretty advanced; big ships, an ease of translating human language. Or maybe they've come across humans before...

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