|A Davinite (copyright Games Workshop)|
"Almost human". Such a small phrase for so expansive and complicated a concept. In a galaxy of such variation and extremes, and where the rules of biology must ultimately bow before those of environment, who can even say what it is to be human anymore?
From a philosophical standpoint, that question may be unanswerable. From a practical perspective, some combination of the Inquisition and the Administratum - with perhaps input from the Ecclesiarchy - must sit in judgement. What should interest us, however, is less the identity of those making the decisions, and rather the mechanism by which those decisions are made.
Consider the abhumans permitted to live amongst (or beside) us in the 41st Millennium. The Ogryns. The Ratlings. Even some of the less feral Beastmen. With the Squats we went so far as to recognise their independence (for all the good it did). What qualities lead these near-human variations to be judged worth sparing, or even integrating, and offers others no fate other than cold-hearted extermination?
It is not, after all, as though the Imperium is allergic to grand quests aimed at galactic-scale change. The unification of every human civilisation? The extermination of all sentient life that cannot trace its genetic roots to Terra? It can hardly be lack of will that sees these cousins of humanity remain comparatively unaffected by the Imperium's xenophobic zeal. In fact, the answer is in the end entirely mundane: practicality.
There is a strange obsession among those who would divide people into the "pure" and the "impure" to sub-divide the latter category to the maximum possible extent. On the surface, this seems strange. If one insists that only the pure are of any relevance - that it is there destiny not merely to rule all others, but to exterminate them - the specific make-up of the genetic have-nots should surely be of little interest.
Instead, cataloguing these undesirables takes up an utterly astonishing amount of time. Partially, no doubt, this is because each new division - and never has cruel bigotry been more pedantic and precise in form - reminds the self-appointed master race of their superiority. Beyond that, though, there lies an additional advantage: if the "others" differ in how far they lie from perfection, they can differ also in how much their superiors can hate them.
This realisation is critical to understanding how seekers of genetic "purity" operate. It is acceptable - not necessarily desirable, but acceptable - to find common cause with one group of lesser people, so long as it is done in the interests of destroying some even less acceptable group. Thus, Ogryns and Ratlings can be employed to aid the Imperial Guard in battling the alien. The Squat homeworlds can be left undamaged in an uneasy alliance, to provide a buffer zone against innumerable Ork empires and enclaves. These abhumans buy their lives anew each day with their devotion to persecuting the more obvious enemies of their parent race, or at least they do until they themselves come under direct threat (as did the Squats) at which point they are no longer our concern.
(The astropaths and navigators enjoy a similar position; they remain safe for as long as there is no other way to effectively hunt down and destroy other, less palatable mutants. This is a topic we shall consider in more detail when our thoughts turn to the Thousands Sons and the Council of Nikea.)
That this is a horribly cynical approach is obvious (though also beside the point; shamelessly using others being rather further down the list of sins than wholesale extermination of even the most benign alternative cultures). The dangers inherent in combining theological zealotry - even the negative image of theology pushed by the secularist iterators of ten thousand years ago - with the cold-blooded utilitarianism on display here should be likewise obvious. At least the truly uncompromising religious fanatics tend to burn out before they can cause too much trouble.
Or do they? The Word Bearers still blight the galaxy, after all, albeit only because they can rely on a rather more commonplace form of divine intervention than is available to others, and because the cynical abuse of people for whom they have nought but contempt is what their creed explicitly teaches in any case. Which brings us to this question: just what was it about the Davinites that led to their being spared sixty years before the Horus Heresy began? It was the Luna Wolves who finished the job of pacification, true, but the Word Bearers took upon themselves the job of spreading the Imperial creed across the moon. Perhaps they were left the decision as to what to do with these almost-humans. Why? What use did they see in the Davinites?
Is it possible that six decades before Erebus stole the anathame, wheels were already in motion? Did the Word Bearers learn from their despised former Emperor the value of making use of a people to their own ends? In just how many ways did the Great Crusade pave the road to its own sundering?
Well, it hardly matters now. However that road was built, we are almost at its end. We are on Davin now, surrounded by the the people Horus spared three score years earlier. An act of generosity with which we find no fault - there would always have been other Davins, other places tainted by Chaos where Erebus could have sprung his terrible trap - but which radiates a horrible and vicious irony. A civil war made inevitable by centuries of unremitting conflict and the utter rejection of mercy is about to be sparked by the after-effects of an act of generosity and peace.
Because the Davinites are about to betray the man who spared them. In the final analysis, they may not be so different from humans after all...
So apparently sixty years - or eleven planets - ago, the Word Bearers were all about driving around newly-conquered worlds talking about how awesome the Emperor is. What can have changed? Is it just Erebus who's signed up to the cause of clandestine evil, or have his colleagues got themselves membership cards too?
How is that a past question?
I mention the past!
I see. I can't imagine Erebus is acting on his own. I'll stick with my previous answer. Presumably, Erebus nicked the sword to kill either Horus or the Emperor. Either it's Horus, for not doing well enough in following the Emperor's vision, or they want to kill the Emperor himself. Maybe they think he's no longer living up to his own rhetoric, or that he was lying all along.
What do you think has Loken so suspicious?
He knows about the sword? No, he'd have gone to Horus with that. He recognises something in Erebus? Something like what happened to Jubal?
Possibly. It would explain why he doesn't think he can go entirely public. Only he, Sindermann, Vipus and Keeler saw the beast.
Which may be why Keeler has been invited to the meeting.
How well would you say McNeill is doing keeping the characters he's inherited from Abnett consistent?
It's tough to say, since something has so clearly happened to shake things up. We're not supposed to be seeing them in the same light. There must have been some event that happened on the journey over. Or maybe during the war council.
I think it must have been before the war council, though the structure of the chapter makes it hard to tell what's happening when. But certainly Loken already suspects Erebus before the meeting.
Yeah, but only just before, maybe. And it might not have been something happened, so much as Loken has had time to think and piece things together. Torgaddon seems pretty much the same.
Anyone else? I thought Abaddon was, well, unusually dickish this chapter. And it seems Loken has noticed that, at least in Mersadie's opinion. I didn't see how that followed from the last book.
I noticed that, but I'm waiting to see whether there's some confrontation that will explain the tension. It may be nothing more than the fact Horus kicked Abaddon out last time around and kept Loken with him. Maybe Abaddon is scared Loken is gunning for his position as First Captain.
What can have happened in the gap between the two novels to make Horus so obsessed with his legacy and how people view him?
He does seem different, doesn't he? But then we've never seen him just with Maloghurst. I wonder if he's stopped trusting the Mournival after Abaddon got so rebellious towards the end of the last book. He might have taken more on himself rather than delegating them to the Mournival. That might explain why he's so introspective. Though he's also clearly worried about dying. Was he in danger fighting the Interex?
Not really, I wouldn't have thought, though I suppose with so few men and weapons he was more in danger than at any other time since becoming the Warmaster. I guess the terrible cursed mega-weapons on Xenobia probably could've caused him some problems as well.
Perhaps the war with the interex made him think the Emperor has given him too inflexible and/or too difficult a job to do.
Is that why he's suddenly so obsessed with his legacy, rather than in measuring up to the Emperor?
I think they kind of go together, actually. He's come closer than usual to getting killed, so he's thinking back over what he's managed so far.
Is it interesting and/or fun to read about Karkasy's methods of seduction and how well they've worked in the past? Is that just redressing the balance after watching Euphrati lusting over Loken's glistening pecs?
It reminded me of Leonard in Big Bang Theory.
Always banging on at Penny to marry him.
Ah, but which is worse. Begging your sexual partner to get married, or begging someone who's clearly uninterested to fuck you?
Um... the second one.
Right. So Ignace Karkasy is worse than Leonard Hofstader. That's now been established. That's canon. Does it bother you that there's only three female characters in these books with more than the odd line or two, and one of them sparks off multiple paragraphs about Karkasy trying to screw every woman in the fleet.
This is pretty much standard for novels, unfortunately.
Is there anything so important you'd like to have it tattooed on your face?
Wait. Someone has things tattooed on their face?
Yes! Erebus. In fairness, no-one mentioned them in the last book, but Karkasy picked up on them straight away.
Maybe the Astartes are just used to face art.
Perhaps. It could just be a shopping list. "Bolt rounds", "lapping powder", "Anathame" underlined three times and then crossed out.
I'd like a fifty pound note on my forehead. No, that wouldn't actually work.
Everyone would be able to use it.
What? No-one would be able to use it, because it's stuck on your face!
Unless skin grafts cost forty-nine pounds or less. That way you could make a profit. Though you'd still be trying to pay for goods with a soggy note, one half of which is just blood and skin cells.
Fine. Then I'd like a tattoo of a prettier face.
Aw! You're lovely.
No, I mean scientifically speaking. Two dimensions isn't going to cut it; that's a cosmetic surgery job.
I asked this wondering if there was anything you might want to keep as a memory aid. Like in Memento?
I'm sure you've watched Memento. Have you ironically watched it and forgotten?
What's it about?
It's a film that goes backwards.
I do remember a film that goes backwards.
It doesn't matter. Imagine your on a ship, and a storm blows you out to sea. You wash up on a desert island with no possessions. Wouldn't you want something to read? Just to pass the time?
Why can't I write things in the sand?
Because you can't remember them!
So you're postulating a scenario in which I have exactly zero books but at least one mirror?
You could use the reflection of the surf?
After a storm? If I've got no books, I'm dedicating all my energy first to escape, and then to suicide. The point at which the latter kicks in will depend on how many snakes this island has.
This question may have been a mistake.
What about you? What do you want on your face? A return address?
And a fifty pound note. Postage is so expensive these days.
What Will Be
It's early days yet, obviously, but have the first two chapters given you any inkling as to what the Sons of Horus are going to come across on Davin?
Something that's going to split the Legion apart.