Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The Nurgle Policy

False Gods: Plague Moon (I)

In the ghastly green-yellow pus-tinged corner:
the Plaguebearers of Nurgle (copyright unknown)

Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

 "Blessed be Nurgh-leth" is, it seems, the  motto of the hour. But why?

The God of pestilence is quite unique amongst the four Chaos powers for a very simple reason: it is almost impossible to see why anyone would voluntarily sell themselves to him.

The lure of mystical power and sex are easy to understand. Yes, the gifts of Tzeentch are often more trouble than they are worth, and the route Slaanesh takes you down leads to a life mix of one percent unspeakable blood-drenched depravity to ninety-nine percent unbearable boredom, but this is neither obvious nor necessarily relevant when the initial choice is made.  The choice to dedicate oneself to Khorne is perhaps slightly harder to understand, but only slightly: who among us cannot comprehend the temptation in revenging yourself upon your enemies and the world by carving out your worth in blood and innards.  It is a bargain motivated by the need for reclamation (whether real or perceived), but it understandable nonetheless.

But how are we to comprehend the zealot of Nurgle? How can we process the desire to become bloated and hideous with violent disease? The lust for sex and power has followed our race throughout its entire existence, just as has the desire for the blood of our foes - a label, of course, which always seems to grow easier to apply with every drop spilled. With disease, our natural reaction is to go to great lengths to avoid infection. What could explain running deliberately into the putrid and pus-slicked arms of Papa Nurgle?

Well, actually, there is a potential answer, just not one that will be obvious, or even thinkable, to every one of us. For some in the Imperium, disease is something one can avoid thinking about for much of the time. Secure in mansions or the highest hive spires, where antibac is readily available, one might go years without succumbing to even the most minor virus, and the risk of death from disease lies far behind the perils of hunting accidents, political assassinations, or even alien invasion. For those rare few - who for all their dearth of numbers always seem to shout loudest across our galaxy - trading in lives of comfort for a nightmare of body-rupturing microscopic horrors must seem a remarkably poor choice.

Much as they try to forget it, thought, these people are not the only ones making up the Imperium.  For those toiling on the lower rungs of the society the Empire imposed upon us, and which now more closely resembles geological strata than it does an egalitarian melting pot, the burning question is not how might disease be avoided indefinitely, it is which disease is going to get to you first.  Hive factories pack their workers in like Gretchin in an Ork vanguard, for hours at a time, every day of the year. Even the laziest of infections can hardly fail to spread in so target-rich an environment. And with the average life of an Imperial citizen so cheap, it is rarely worth the cost of inoculating and treating diseases, compared to the price of throwing new workers in to replace those that have collapsed.

All of this is by way of making a simple point: disease is not an uncommon sight for those who will never encounter a veranda. There is a certain maudlin logic, then, in the decision to embrace the vicious microscopic assault of Nurgle's infections - it guarantees one will survive against any other epidemic imaginable.  In this way the plague becomes an obscene form of life insurance, paid out by your own body as a defence against ugly death. The devotee to Nurgle becomes like the nobleman of ancient times who drank a small amount of poison each day to ensure his safety from the assassin's wine goblet.

In short, it takes one who takes their health for granted to find the gifts of Nurgle utterly incomprehensible, just as it takes those who expect a long, pain-free life to fail to grasp the reasons others might sell their souls for added resistance to pain and injury.  We cannot fight Chaos among our own people until we understand why our people succumb to Chaos in the first place, and take steps to treat the problem at its source: a populace so downtrodden a lifetime of having one's own body consumed from the inside does not seem like the worst-case scenario.

None of which explains Eugan Temba, of course.  What could have persuaded him to sell his soul to so foul a master?  We may never know.  But as Horus approaches the Glory of Terra, the final result of that bargain will be revealed all too soon.


What Was

Nothing this week once more, alas.  Soon enough though we'll get back to the nature of the Primarchs, of course.

What Is

What the hell are these horned cyclops monsters? Or the zombies with eyes of green flame?



I wanted to be the first to say zombies about those things.

Then you should have started dating me in 2006.

Presumably they must come either from the fleet, or from whomever was already on the moon originally.

Well, the one who attacked Loken was wearing a uniform from the 63rd Fleet.

Doesn't mean they're all from there.

Fair point.

Since this part is called Plague Moon, it isn't hard to work out what's happening.  It's a plague. Of zombies. (Puts on frighteningly good Albert Wesker voice) "Plague zombies."

That was remarkably accurate, especially since you're just doing an impression of my impression of him.

Him who? And are you saying I've been hanging around you too long?

No.  The evidence is saying that. I'm just pointing this out.

Why are the Astartes still attacking?  It's clear something major has happened here.  Sure, the Astartes probably figure their genetic enhancements will help -

Didn't save the poor guy who got his face melted off, did it?

- But the army forces must be in real trouble.  And what happens if the plague gets into the Titans and the crew goes crazy?

They're sealed off, though.

Can't these things melt through armour?

This is a disturbing thought. What about the cyclops monsters? What's going on there.

I'm thinking to avoid thinking about those.  They set off my squeamishness about eyes.

But now you've had time to recover, any thoughts?

At the moment I'm figuring some kind of native alien force.

Why didn't the 63rd kill them off when they were last here?

Maybe Davin itself fell so quickly they didn't bother checking the whole system too closely.

This is the first action scene McNeill has served up.  Did it work for you, and how does it compare to the battles and duels in Horus Rising?

It feels more focused this time around, though it still feels a bit sketchy. I guess that's a function of how large the body count is - you can't give a breakdown of every opponent.  It certainly felt like a much harder fight than the ones on Murder, which was nice.  Really, though, I just miss my gore.

So to summarise: you'd like more gore, and less eyes?

Yes, and stop smiling when you say that.

I thought the rapid switching between viewpoints was nice; kept things going at a decent lick.

Except some of those jumps were to places where the fighting was in the background. Horus doesn't do much until the end of the chapter, and the Titans were literally worse than useless.

I think that's deliberate; evidence of how little Horus has thought through this assault.  He's damn lucky the Titans didn't just sink like the tanks apparently did. We know from Loken that the conditions had been surveyed, it should have been obvious that there was nothing the Titans could do but stand there and risk friendly fire.

It seemed fair enough that they opened fire, actually.  If you've not got a friendly code, it's reasonable to assume you're hostile.

But if they'd seen Petronella's ship, they would have recognised it as a civilian vessel.

So? You can still crash your ship into something valuable.

Fine. So the Battle for Plague Moon Swamp - or whatever - marks out of ten?  I mean the battle istelf, of course, my name for it is prosaic and obvious.

The battle's not over yet.

Fine. the beginining stages of the Battle for Plague Moon Swamp (best prog rock debut album ever) - marks out of ten.

Um... 7.5.

How disappointed are you that Petronella survived being shot down by a Titan?  And what was she thinking dropping into a war-zone?

Well, that's just her character, isn't it? She's probably convinced she can get some good pictures, or poems, or whatever the hell she does, if she goes down there, and figures she's so important that if she does get between the Astartes and the rebels everyone will stop fighting rather than risk her life.  She's clearly spent so long getting her own way that she can't process consequences.

Were you upset she survived, though? I was upset she survivedl. I mean, from a structural perspective it would make no sense to kill her off now, but I'd be prepared to swallow that in order to be rid of her.

Maybe this brush with death will be a turning point and she'll become less unbearable.  I did think it was strange Horus didn't shout at her more, but maybe he was too busy undermining her with Maggard the Haggard (I swear this is what she calls him - every damn time) after he sees how the poor guy is treated.

Actually, while on the subject it would have been good to see more of the battle from Petronella's view. She's probably never seen MtH fight for real before, and it'd be good to get a mortal's perspective on the way the Astartes fight.  It was all over a bit quick, there.

How 'bout that soul-severing blade? That'd be handy piece of kit, huh?

Yeah, that was interseting for two reasons.  Firstly the fact that the blade is unblemished after he's chopped up all those zombies makes me think there's something special about it, and it's going to be used in the near future for something important. Secondly, it's weird that someone from the Imperium is talking about weapons that can cut out your soul.  It sounds a bit too religious an idea, particularly for someone who comes from Terra.  I wonder where he get it from.

What Will Be

If Erebus and the Word Bearers are planning some sneaky double-cross here on the moon of Davin, why have they gotten involved in the battle in the swamp?

I guess because it puts them in the best position to do whatever it is they're planning on?

Something of a high price for positioning, though, isn't it?  At the very least some of Erebus' warriors have been wounded; more likely they've lost lives.

Maybe that was part of the plan, and he's getting rid of Word Bearers loyal to the Emperor. That, or he didn't realise he would come under attack.

I like that idea; Erebus just assumed he'd be fine and that these things are under his control, or at least his allies, but when he shows up he turns out to just be a hunk of meat like everybody else. Has there been any changes in the theories you put forward last week?

Not yet, no.  I'll wait to see how things pan out. The most I'll say is that the similarities between MtH's sword and the cursed sword Erebus stole has me thinking. Is he planning to use the sword to save the day and be feted a hero? So he can get close to the Emperor?

Maybe, though I think drawing the anathame and carving some cyclops might lead to a great deal of awkward questions.

I guess.

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