|The undead horde of Nurgle. Well, a few of them. A hordette.|
Copyright The Defenestrator over at DakkaDakka
Our story arrives at last at the first and greatest fulcrum point of the Horus Heresy. Horus Lupercal stand before the traitor Eugan Temba, and the duel that will change the galaxy is about to begin. The plotting of Erebus and the Word Bearers has finally borne fruit.
This, then, is our last real change to consider the plan itself. Because the events on the former forest moon of Davin generates no shortage of questions. It is a basic military premise that any plan should minimise the number of assumptions that need to be correct for the strategy to work. Over-reliance on intelligence can have disastrous consequences if your network makes an error or is compromised by the enemy. Picts can be faked. Elite troops can be dressed as raw recruits. A war not fought on the principle of maximising misinformation is not one which will be fought for long.
And if actual facts on the enemy are so hard to come by, and harder still to believe, how much more risky is it to base your plan on the assumed reactions of the enemy?
Yes, Erebus' plan to enrage Horus past the point of logical thinking worked out fine, but not every prediction was so obvious. Persuading a Primarch to launch an attack after informing him he had been insulted is one thing. Persuading him to continue the assault after coming into contact with a horrific alien force which can dissolve the face of an Astartes and boasts control of the dead is somewhat harder to do.
Indeed, why bother with that attack at all? Yes, you gain casualties amongst the Sons of Horus, but these are men you hope will join your cause along with their Primarch; their deaths are liable to work against you in the long term. Further, the effort expended upon battling the forces of Nurgle gives Horus' anger at Temba time to cool and be redirected, potentially resulting in the master tactician realising he is dangerously overextended, with his Titans all but blind, his supporting human troops immobilised, and his tanks at the bottom of a swamp. The absolute best case scenario is that Horus becomes still more angry, but this offers little extra advantage compared to the obvious risks.
Why not wait until Horus arrives at the Glory of Terra, his rage still terrible to behold, and ambush his rearguard once he has entered? Better still, why not have Horus meet Temba under ostensibly friendly circumstances, when the horrors of the Warp can chew through a small honour guard rather than take on four full companies?
The short answer here is probably obvious: neither an ambush inside Temba's flagship nor a fraudulent summit could provide the sheer weight of death offered by the Battle of Plague Swamp Moon. Chaos must have its blood and its souls.
But such hunger comes at a price. We have covered before the concept of chaos numbers; the idea that the tiniest deviations in cause and effect can accumulate and accelerate, until the results you perceive are utterly incompatible with the results you expected. Erebus' plan surely left itself open to attack by such concerns at the best of times, but with the terrible shambling monstrosities of Nurgle involved, it is almost impossible to credit that Horus managed to fall for the trap so totally. The very deviousness that ensured Erebus' scheming went unnoticed for so long (though really, Loken; did you learn nothing from Karkasy? What Erebus says means far less than why he says it) ultimately threatened to undo him.
This, we know, is simply the nature of Chaos. It is so many things at once that we could hardly fail to find paradoxical in the list. The depraved, incomprehensible minds of the Empyrean tend towards the tortuous in their planning (even the subtlety-vacuums of the Khornate rampage can require careful planning before the first chainaxe can taste flesh). It is not simply predilection (though frequently that may be the case), it is a necessary policy when you want to tear your enemies' apart from the inside, especially when for millennia your tastiest targets were the notoriously prescient and paranoid Eldar.
Whilst their goals require careful manoeuvring, however (to greater or lesser extents) their actual tools tend to rest at the unthinking end of the spectrum. Only Tzeentch can truly lay claim to minions with sufficient capacity for scheming to be of true use, and there matters can still go awry. Not because of a lack of complexity, but for a lack of co-ordination. Two sorcerers can spend decades plotting and achieve nothing but each other's negation. Put another way: any devote of Chaos you can trust to understand your plan is not one you can trust to obey it. Arrange for a Primarch to be ambushed inside a downed ship, and two hundred Plaguebearers show up and try to kill him on the way in. Assemble a coven of witches to turn your target against his brothers, and they slit your throat to power their spells.
In the final analysis, it might be this alone that can save us from the Warp. Just as mankind's greatest threat has ever been himself, humanity has far less chance of defeating the daemons of Chaos than the daemons do themselves. If the Horus Heresy has taught us nothing else, it is that the wall between saviour and destroyer is as thin as a single thought. Perhaps, ten thousand years after that wall was breached in one direction, something might pass through the other way?
Otherwise, what hope is there?
Aha! Another opportunity to cheat with this section. The Glory of Terra has been rusting on the surface for sixty years. How does that affect your thinking on Erebus' master plan?
I'm wondering if these guys sent a distress signal decades ago, and Erebus intercepted it. Figured they could use it for their plan. Maybe the message never actually got to Horus.
Perhaps, though I rather prefer the idea that the Luna Wolves did get the message, and then never thought it was important enough to follow up on. That'd feed into the major theme of arrogance and overstretching. The Imperium show up, knock over all your sandcastles, pronounce you lucky to under the Emperor's protection, then leave you to rot. That's really quite cool.
Have I accidentally generated a more interesting story than the novel actually contains?
Yes, and not for the first time. If Black Library are listening, you should really let Fliss write a Heresy novel. It would have dwarves and dragons in it, and sell a billion copies.
Why is Erebus risking antagonising the Mournival at this late stage? Shouldn't be be shutting up at this point?
Is he trying to drive a wedge between Loken and Horus?
Maybe, but it's such a cack-handed way of doing it. Loken is so obviously right in his response, Erebus just looks like a pissy bitch.
It did seem clumsy for a Word Bearer? Shouldn't they be brilliant at words?
More like a Word Botcher, am I right?
(Interview pauses for two rounds of the Bodger and Badger theme song)
But even if Erebus seems to us like he's being ridiculous, it might still work on Horus. Erebus has been whispering in his ear so long, and Horus is so extremely paranoid, that it might still work.
No thanks to Erebus himself, though. I mean, there was basically two ways to screw up the plan to get Horus in the ship: launch a premature attack to demonstrate things are not what they seem, and be sufficiently gittish to the Sons of Horus that the Primarch notices. And Erebus does both.
Not that Horus pays any attention.
Yes. Thank God for authorial fiat, apparently.
Why do you think Horus banished Loken and Torgaddon? Was it to punish them, as Loken worries, or is something else going on?
I've been trying to figure out why Torgaddon got lumped in with Loken. Does it go back to the Interex? Torgaddon was kind of on Loken's side there.
I'm not sure he said much one way or the other, but I grant you that might have been enough to restrospectively sour his counsel after everything went south.
I wonder if it's because Torgaddon is too much of a thinker.
I don't think anyone would say that about him.
OK, more laid back than thoughtful. But still, I think he dwells on what people say. He might be too likely to follow Loken's lead, and so he gets left behind.
Now I think about it, actually, wasn't the guy Loken replaced supposed to be a thinker as well?
Is that why he ended up dead? Did someone sacrifice him to get rid of a less war-crazy member of the Mournival?
Who could have done that?
Abaddon? He seems to be the driving force right now.
Poor Verulam Moy is the first of the Luna Wolves/Sons of Horus with dialogue to die since Xavier Jubal. Does his death register?
No. He was being built up as someone to die. He was the token... is it red- or blue- shirt?
It's red-shirt; unless there's a shoot-out in sickbay.
He was obviously for the chop. He'd never said anything before and he's suddenly warning Horus about how dangerous things are.
Fair point. "Hi, I'm Captain Not-Previously-Seen-In-This-Battle, and I bring grim tid- oh I'm dead". Moy has been hanging around since the very start of the series. Can you tell me anything about him?
He's a file captain.
Anything from before this chapter?
That's not fair, though! He was always called one of the Either/Or before!
Good point. How cruel of me. What can you tell me about the Either/Or?
Horus seems convinced the horned cyclops monsters hail from the Warp. But what are they, and who or what is "Nurgh-Leth"?
I can't answer that question.
Because you showed me a picture of Nurgle Plagubearers last week!
Damn. I keep forgetting you can read.
Would Jubal have eventually turned into one of these dripping fiends if Loken hadn't killed him?
I thought it just meade people angry and unstable. How does this fit in with an aged decrepit ship and yellow slime monsters? The only link seems to be in how hard they are to kill. Is this a case of Horus knowing more than he lets on?
Maybe, though we know the Luna Wolves have fought warp monsters before.
Then why does no-one recognise them?
Especially since last time there was a whisper on the vox it turned out to be the same problem.
What Will Be
Horus versus Temba. Place your bets, please.
I didn't get that, right at the end. Horus has seen that the ship and maybe the whole moon has been taken over by these horrible diseased things from the Warp, and he's still calling him "betrayer"? If you've had your brain taken over by hideous monsters, it's a bit mean of people to say "Look at you, you big betrayer."
It is a little unfair. "Oi! Betrayer! Get that betrayal someplace else! Don't leave that betrayal on that coffee-table, Betrayer! I've just had it polished!"
I'm not convinced any of this is real in any case. There's kind of a hallucinory feel to it all.
How do you mean?
Well, there's all the flashing lights aboard the ship, vox devices suddenly not working-
- Monsters dissolving
Well, OK. We'll state for the record that if it is a drug trip, you saw it coming. With that understood, how do you see this fight going down.
I don't see them killing Horus off so soon in the series.
Absolutely. It's not like he's being played by Sean Bean. So are you suggesting Erebus' plan might be a bust?
Something will happen that makes Horus looks really bad. Whether that means his death or not, I don't know.
Yeah, being dead tends to reflect poorly on a warrior; I've noticed that.
Oh; also "Mark my words, Garviel Loken, everything acheived thus far in this Crusade will pale into insignificance compared I am yet to do." Sentence of doom right there.