Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Spectre Of The Past

False Gods: The House Of False Gods (I)

This green and pleasant land (copyright Oludi on Reddit)

Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

Dozens of millennia ago, it comforted humanity to imagine our own struggle against the dark corners of our minds was some kind of considered debate, a demon on one shoulder and an angel on the other, pulling our hearts between them. Superstitious nonsense, without doubt, but in Horus' case, the metaphor is somewhat less stretched, at least.   Magnus is perhaps a strange candidate for an angel when recruiting from a pool of people that includes Sanguinius, but Erebus is perfectly cast. Presumably the only reason he isn't a daemon already is a delay in the paperwork.

'Who are you?' is actually a terrible question, if you're expecting an answer. A cruel trick, really. It is easy to ask and almost impossible to answer, leaving the subject squirming to reply whilst their interrogator smiles unpleasantly, as though they could deal any better with the query were positions reversed.  The human mind simply does is not aware of itself in linguistic terms.  Our self-image is bound up in layers of emotion and fragments of ethereal awareness. Asking us to translate that into anything so fixed and limiting as High Gothic is profoundly ridiculous.

As a rhetorical device, though, it serves an obvious purpose. We need not name ourselves to reflect upon who we are.  And who we are, by and large, is obvious. We are the lies and mistakes of our own past jumbled together and poured into a glass we do our best not to peer into too closely.

Whatever ways Horus differs from mere humans like us, the manner by which his past shapes him follows essentially the same lines as for anyone else. This would seem to be what Magnus is counting on.  He travelled all this way through terrain that would happily swallow him so he could dress himself as a piece of Horus' past and beg him to remember who he was.

But it is also what Erebus is relying upon as well. He too has cloaked himself in a slice of Horus' past, indeed has spun entire false world into being aimed at reminding Horus of his heritage as a scion of Terra. It seems Horus' would-be saviour and would-be corrupter both see this is a battle which is to be begun upon the fields of the Warmaster's past. Fields that are rather more burned than those Erebus has surrounded Horus with, of course, and which are not really places for self-reflection, but never mind. The war for Horus' soul is about to begin, and the strangeness of the battlefield is the least of our concerns.

On one level this line of thought is rather imperceptive - of course Magnus and Erebus want to fight amongst the landmarks of Horus' past, how can you direct a man to where he should be going before you've discussed where he's been.  But that generalisation rather obscures the particulars here.  Magnus has to pitch his tent here. He has to base his arguments on Horus' history, because the future is looking so unappealing. The crusade stuttering to a stop; the sudden influx of bean-counters and filing clerks. The role Horus was created for is about to become irrelevant, and Magnus is desperate that Horus consider that inevitability as far away from Erebus' input as possible.

This brings home just how expertly timed the Word Bearers' schemes truly are.  They had to strike when the Great Crusade was close enough to its conclusion that Horus could see the finish line in sight, but not so close that a firm plan could be put in place for what was coming next.  By walking that tightrope, Erebus and Lorgar probably doomed Magnus' efforts from the very start. The playing field was simply too uneven. Magnus has to cherry-pick his way through his friend's past.  Erebus can do the same, but can claim the high ground offered by the present and the future, too.  Erebus is, alas, quite correct. Magnus is too late, because Erebus himself was so studiously on time.

In short, we could have called the result of this battle before it was ever fought.  But fought it was, and that's not something we intend to overlook.  Horus has been reminded of the iconography and sacrifices of his past, and of all our pasts.  It is time to cast his gaze to the future.


What Was

Nothing on this front once again, I'm afraid.  Obviously we're close to talking about the creation and scattering of the Primarchs, so that will be worth discussing in detail.  After that, though, it might be time to retire this section and just drag it out on rare occasions.

What Is

Is that the last we'll see of Erebus the Naughty?

Well, surely 'Erebus the Naughty', as he's now been named, is Sejanus?

No comment.  But will we see him outside that green and pleasant land?

Maybe this is what happens when the Warp takes you over.  You end up having your mind sent to this place.  Though that seems like an awful lot of effort, actually.  It depends on whether the priest thing revives him. I know he's had his throat slit, but he's an Astartes, he can walk it off. And why doesn't he have the wound anymore?

Magic Warpiness is probably the answer.

Are you doing wibbly wobbly timey-wimey shit?

McNeill is doing it, I'm simply reporting.

You hate that kind of thing normally.

It's different with the Warp.  It's been set up ahead of time as being a kind of magical realm.  Or somewhere your mind gets to hang out and have weird shit happen to it.

You mean being on drugs?

Possibly, though that's not the ending to the trilogy I'd have chosen.

What is the strange vision of industrial death that lingers beneath the green and pleasant land Horus has found himself in?

I assume it's Davin.

Except that Davin is described as being fairly backward tech-wise.  I'll have to nix that idea.

Maybe it's the Emperor's house?

What makes you say that?

Well we know he's busy messing around with the Warp. Maybe he's already been taken over by it.

Interesting, but it's not clear why that would lead to Horus seeing it.

Maybe One-Eyed Malcolm is trying to show it to him.  Lift the veil, sort of thing.

Why is Magnus here pretending to be a wolf?  Wasn't he supposed to be trying to reach the Emperor?

I think this is maybe him dropping in on his way to talk to the Emperor.  What better way to demonstrate how awesome his magic powers are than to save the Emperor's favourite son? So here he is, trying to get Horus to remember who he is with a bit of subtle nudging.

You mean by being a wolf near a moon? Yes, very abstract.  Is that necessarily a good idea, though?

How d'you mean?

If Horus remembers who he is fully, then Erebus gets to play on all the stuff that's been pissing him off lately.

True, but without the full deck Horus might be in even more trouble. He still remembered his name, maybe he'd still remember Hastur in some way, and without remembering he was dead he might have been totally trusting, rather than at least a little suspicious.

How much of what "Hastur" is telling Horus should we be buying? 

I suppose the Warp has to have some weaknesses.  Otherwise why did it take them two thousand years to sort all this out?

Well, I have my own theories on that score.  But leaving that aside, are you saying there might be some truth to this "we live in the Warp and you're killing us" idea?

Maybe. Though if it is they might have messed up.  Horus is so proud and mighty he's likely to run straight in and start trying to kill these things now they've been weakened by the real universe.

Relying on Horus to lend a hand is certainly playing on long odds, it's true.

Maybe there's a war on in the Warp, and this is one side trying to recruit him?

How exactly does a woman couple with a diseased swine? You may provide diagrams as appropriate.

Is that how the zombie plague spread?

I don't think we can entirely put it down to pig fucking.

Well, that's how these things usually go.

Usually go?  How many stories are you aware of in which copulation with diseased farmyard animals brings about a deadly plague.

There was that episode of Angel where Cordelia was impregnated by a spider.

That doesn't mean pigs must have been involved elsewhere. There are so many animals in the world that not a single character in Angel slept with. Giraffes, ocelots, conger eels.

What about swine flu?

I give up. And you haven't answered the question.

Google it.

Under no circumstances am I Googling it.

Didn't they make women copulate with horses in the American West?


Anyway, aren't pigs supposed to enjoy sex?

With other pigs!  Even my most sex-obsessed friends would think twice about jumping the species barrier.

Perhaps they smeared her in pig-related sex-juices.

Nice. I was going to go with some kind of hyper-futuristic strap-on, but your idea is so much worse.

What Will Be

Where does the gateway lead?



Or into the Warp.

Which might not be much better.

Presumably Erebus is taking Horus to where he can get tempted.

What kind of tempting do you think he's got coming?

Maybe the Emperor?


Maybe the Emperor is a Warp creature.  That's why Malcom has come here on his way to see him.

It's probably a good job we remembered to buy tinfoil on Saturday.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Can't We All Just Get Along?

False Gods: Plague Moon (VII)

Davinite Priests. Would you trust them to heal your sick?
(Copyright Games Workshop)

Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

Loken's sudden realisation of how far the Davinites have strayed from humanity's flock presents us with a difficult problem.  How are we to maintain vigilance against the encroachment of Chaos without giving ourselves over to the most vile forms of guilt by association?

The hard realisation here is that Loken is can be completely correct about the dangers of the Davinites and completely wrong about the reasons he has reached that conclusion. All you need do to ensure you never fail to spot an enemy is to assume all are working against you. The problem is that this level of paranoia will make enemies everywhere anyway. The mathematical terms of relevance are sensitivity; the chance an actual enemy will be noticed by you, and specificity; the chance you will recognise a friend when you see one.  The kind of barefaced racism practised by Loken and his comrades ramps up the sensitivity, but as a result the specificity nosedives, with potential catastrophic results.  Just consider the calamities that followed Fulgrim's refusal to heed the dire warnings of the Eldar for a concrete example of the dangers of this narrow thinking.

That's an argument of pragmatism, of course. One even the legendarily blinkered Legions of the Astartes might be able to grasp.  For the rest of us, there are other considerations.  We can roughly divide them into two criteria - the problems with assuming a race that is too different from us is automatically hostile, and the problems with assuming that because the leaders of a race are hostile, the same must be true of all their people.

The first of these is so obvious a problem as to not require further comment, it is simply one more example of the Astartes belief that any problem brought about by their violence can be solved by more violence, and we have dissected that foolishness before.  The second is a little more seductive on the surface, but all the same, it cannot withstand our scrutiny.

We do, after all, have no problem recognising this when the Eldar offer comment on our own species with their characteristic arrogance.  It is not that brutal mendacity and a lust for violence are unheard of in mankind (nor even, if we're entirely honest, particularly uncommon). It is that the Eldar have consciously chosen the worst features of the worst of our race and applied them to us as a whole. If we can see the ridiculous and self-serving nature of that, how can we think it any different when we apply the same rhetorical trick?

We are not suggesting blind trust. If an Ork lumbers up to you and promises eternal friendship, healthy scepticism is obviously necessary.  But that is not the same as profound and automatic hostility. If humanity can birth The Emperor and Lord Solar Macharius and Lorgar and Torris Vaun, is it really impossible to imagine a cordial Ork or a humble Eldar?  Are we unique in our variance? Or - to fall into maths terms once more - is it simply that alien races have a mean so far from our own that the variance around that mean gets lost unless we consider it carefully enough?

It is hardly difficult to see that our position on this subject is somewhat rare in the 41st Millennium. Much of this is for the same reasons men have always believed those that differ from them are worthy of nothing but suspicion and dislike and - if at all possible - persecution, all that has changed being the definition of what it means to "differ" (once upon a time humans would separate themselves by the colour of their skin, if you can believe that, back before "different" came to mean eight foot tall or possessing horns). But in contemporary society it has grown new teeth in the name of keeping humanity free of the taint of Chaos.

Above and beyond the obvious, there are two aspects to Chaos that makes it so hideous a force.  First, it promotes the idea that failure is easy and redemption is impossible.  As with so many other issues that we have discussed before, this is a theory that benefits the most wealthy. If people cannot be redeemed, then justice needs no rehabilitation aspect; we can simply execute anyone guilty of the mildest transgressions and head out for our next banquet.  Second, it reinforces the suggestion that there is some link between physical dysmorphism and sinister intent.  Not only is this wretched and lazy thinking - only a psyker can tell whether someone is bad just by looking at them, and we're busy burning most of them in any case - but it's horribly hypocritical as well.  Kill the mutant; kill the mutant; kill the - actually these ones are quite useful, given them some fancy clothes; kill the mutant.

These are not trains of thought any one of us should be proud to entertain. Chaos has made us all worse people. But then every threat does, if we let it.  There is ultimately nothing mankind likes more than making itself miserable to make sure no-one else get the chance to do it.

Some of us end up more miserable than others, of course.  Maybe we should think about that a little more.


What Was

There's not much here to talk about in the past tense, other than the non-extermination of the Davinites, which mainly raises questions about delegation of responsibilities between the Luna Wolves and the Word Bearers.

What Is

That's the second part of False Gods finished.  How did it comport itself compared both to "The Betrayer" and to "Brotherhood in Spiderland"?

It's certainly a lot faster than the first part of the book, though that isn't saying much. It follows on a lot more easily than did "...Spiderland", too. In fairness, though, I have an issue with authors who have gaps between chapters or books, so I'm probably the wrong person to ask.  

Now you've read the second part, does the first part come across any better? Does it feel more like a ramp-up than just messing around.

Maybe, but what happened could have been done in a much shorter space of time.  The first part here felt a lot like Feast For Crows. There were advantages to the quiet, though.  Particularly with the remembrancers; I appreciate having a human viewpoint in there, though I think it could have been taken further.

Which are cooler: giant spider deathbeasts or rotting Cyclopean gibbermonsters?

The former.  They're more original than the zombies, which kind of overshadowed the swamp monster things.  I'm a bit over-zombied right now.

Zombie fatigue. Got it.  I shouldn't have asked this after this week's Walking Dead, really.

How wise do you think Garviel's strategy regarding Erebus is?  Is he right to not rush in and gather more intel instead?  Or might he be leaving things too late?

I think he's right to do it.  If he tries to cast shit about now, people will never believe him.  They'll just accuse him of jealousy, because how everyone loves Erebus in the lodge. They exploded just because Tarik doesn't think Horus should have been taken to a fane.

Mind you, Loken isn't really thinking diplomatically.  He should at least have filled in his own men.  Maybe think about organising an arrest?  Do Astartes do arrests?

Well, that's an interesting question, but I don't think it matters.  Loken has Torgaddon and one squad, against, what, five captains? Maybe four - I can't remember what Kibre is.

So they call down Sindermann.  He's an expert in explaining what the Emperor's intentions are.

In quiet rooms.  Down here, you're just asking for a dead Sindermann.

Then get ahold of the Titans.  Or maybe try to get through to Aximand. He seems the least convinced by all this.  He had to have Abaddon respond for him when Loken challenged him.

Might work. He seems the least convinced, though apparently he's coming around.

He might feel he's come too far to turn back, though.  Also, it's interesting Abaddon has so completely gone for this fane idea when he was so hostile to the Interex. I think he knows how hypocritical he's being as well, which is why he's trying to put the blame on Loken. I mean, at this point he's basically saying he doesn't think they can rely on the Emperor to save his son.

I'd note that the current law on this is pretty clear.  If a patient doesn't want a treatment, you can't give it to them just because they've passed out and can't object any more. Though of course it's complicated here because Horus hasn't specifically refused this procedure, we're just extrapolating, however sensibly.

You'd have to consult the family or his priest, I guess. Abaddon would claim to be the first.  The second might be Sindermann, but again I can't see that ending in much but the old man's death.

Compared to the rest of this chapter, Karkasy's new-found muse seems kind of incongruous.  But is there a link to what's going on elsewhere?

I think with Loken as Karkasy's sponsor, Karkasy's plan is liable to get him into trouble. 

My thing was that you've got a new organisation starting up, the artists are joining in; it's a pretty classical picture of a revolution.

Karkasy isn't joining in; he just wants a printing press.

I'm not saying he's sympathetic to the Lectitio Divinatus, I'm just saying he's signing up for similar levels of disobedience.

I think he's underestimating Loken, actually.  I think he'd be more open to radical ideas than Karkasy is giving him credit for. To say nothing of how Loken's going to need allies pretty badly very soon. It's hide to follow this train of thought too far until we know what he's written. It depends whether his friendship with Loken has worked against his horror over what the Mournival did.

What Will Be

What exactly is going to go on inside the Serpent Lodge?  Will we ever see Horus again, and if so, how will his experience have changed him?

Well, we know the Warp considers Horus to be their largest enemy. And it seemed to me that they wanted to get his approval before he could join them.

You mean when he confronted Temba.

Yes.  You have to volunteer yourself.  So I guess it comes down to whether his fear of death will overcome his belief in the Emperor.

You think Horus fears death?

Maybe. Who knows? He's probably never thought about it before. Though plenty of immortals wish for death, I suppose.

That's just literary convention, though. What with their being no actual immortals (except Christopher Lee, perhaps).

That's my point, though. There's no way to figure out which way it's going to go in there, because we have to base our thinking on the reactions of a type of person that doesn't actually exist.

But you're sticking with the idea Erebus has put Horus in there so as to get a job interview from the Warp?


Any ideas on the likely fallout over the Mournival effectively splitting in two? If Horus does manage to make it through the next nine days, will he even have a Legion to come back to?

I assume Loken is going to try to force the gate open. Horus can probably be easily persuaded that what the others have done is unacceptable. And I think Loken is in the stronger position even if he refuses to act - even if Vipus is a Lodge member. 

As is Torgaddon.

But he's already committed himself against them.  Actually, that's a good point.  Now it's clear Tarik isn't on board, does that mean they have to go get him back.

But how can they - or Loken - if the gates only open from the inside?

Do they? Do they really?

You think they should just give it a go?

Well he's not gonna be happy sitting around doing nothing.  Though he might get pulled up short by Abaddon calling him a traitor.  That just came out of nowhere.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Both Alike In Dignity

False Gods: Plague Moon (VI)

The Either and the Or, in happier times (copyright terraluna5)
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

Poor old Tybalt Marr.

Bereavement is, of course, never easy or pleasant, and rarely quiet. When deaths occur within a military unit, we presume fury and noise is a particular feature.  Even so, there is perhaps something more at work behind Marr's desolate rage, something that certainly cannot be explained away by Marr and Moy resembling each other so closely.  Yes, the tales of heresy make it clear that the two were as inseparable as brothers.  But why?

Well, one option presents itself rather readily, doesn't it?

Homosexuality within military units is scarcely an uncommon phenomenon. The bonds of camaraderie and shared peril can generate potent emotional bonds.  That doesn't have to include lust, of course, but assuming every battle-forged chain between brothers in arms remains entirely chaste is an act of almost pitiable naivete.

The most obvious objection to the idea that Marr and Moy were lovers is the implication that Astartes have no sex drive to speak of in any case; that it was excised by the Emperor when he fashioned them to be his soldiers.  Loken's inability to appreciate beauty in women notwithstanding, there are two reasons to find this suggestion unconvincing.  The first is practical: can even the Emperor remove the concept of physical lust from a mind whilst leaving platonic devotion and lust for glory and battle (and ale, in the case of Leman Russ and his sons) still intact?  But even if such a thing were possible, where would be the benefit?

What little impossible scraps and contradictory images remain to us from the ancient days before the Long Night tell tales of sexual relationships within a unit being not only not unheard of, but actively useful.  After all, all else being equal, the chance each man in a unit will turn in flee in battle is inversely proportional to how much he cares about the fate of those he leaves behind. It is easier to leave a stranger to die than a friend, and both are easier than abandoning your lover.  The oft-suggested notion that a unit will become a less effective fighting unit if it is bursting at the seams with horizontal love affairs (as oppose to vertical ones, which genuinely can cause problems) seems to be not only incorrect, but precisely the opposite of the truth.

So if the Emperor wanted to manipulate his creation's sexual dispositions, removing them totally would, if anything, be counter-productive. If forging the strongest, most tightly interwoven army in the known galaxy were his aim, it would be senseless to throw away the capacity for forming the strongest bond a person can make with another outside their family. Indeed, efforts on this score should have been bent towards making the Astartes hypersexual, not asexual.

And really, in the final analysis, what evidence do we have against the idea? Only that the long-scattered and painstakingly reassembled historical accounts of the Horus Heresy tell us that the Astartes could not appreciate the beauty of the female form.  When we look at the relationship between Tybalt Marr and Verulam Moy, what response could there be to that fact than "well, obviously"?


What Was

Nothing to talk about this week on the dogmas of the quiet past.  This chapter is all about setting up what's coming...

What Is

It's not often we see Abaddon and Aximand on opposite sides of anything.  Who has the right of it here?

Has anyone actually bothered to fill the Emperor in on what's been going on?

Not as far as I know.

So what is Abaddon claiming about?  Is he just expecting the Emperor to be... omnipscient?  Is that the word?

It is not. I think Abaddon would argue that if the Emperor hadn't abandoned them, he wouldn't need to be told about what's going on.

Please.  This is clearly about the Emperor giving more freedom to the Astartes.  They've proven themselves enough for some autonomy.  That frees up the Emperor for getting on with more important stuff.

But Abaddon doesn't know what that stuff is.

Because there are some things the Astartes aren't ready for yet.

So he's simultaneously bitching about having too much and too little responsibility?

Exactly.  Stop whining, Abaddon.

Whilst we're on the subject of Little Horus, do you think he's regretting signing up for the Warrior Lodge right about now?

No. Little Horus is a follower rather than a thinker.

Really?  I wonder how much of that him being taciturn and not saying what he thinks. He certainly seems pissed off about being railroaded here.

Not for long.  He soon decides that he's made the right choice.  Though of course if Aximand wasn't in the Lodge, Abaddon would have been the only memeber of the Mournival there, which probably wouldn't have been enough for the vote.  It was too much of a concern with just Torgaddon missing.

I thought that was about him being a Lodge Member in general, rather than the Mournival.

But there must be other Lodge members that have headed to the moon with Loken?

No. Yes! Nero Vipus. Good point.  Do you think all this justifies Loken's nervousness about the Lodge?

I don't think so.  They'd have found a way to get Horus to the locals one way or another.

I suppose. In fact, thinking about it, if Loken had been in the Lodge it would actually have made Erebus' job harder.

Meh. Erebus would have dealt with him one way or another.

Perhaps. It's an interesting "what if", though.

I don't see it ever happening. Loken just doesn't need the Lodge; he already instills in his subordinates the attitude the Lodge offers - frank discussions and sharing of opinions.

Continuing with my awesome segues, why has Maloghurst suddenly surfaced at the Warrior Lodge after all this time? Why involve them at all?

The only logical option is that they're doing this to cut Loken out.  Otherwise, surely Maloghurst would go the Mournival, wouldn't he?

He could have gone to the Mournival anyway, with Loken off-planet.

Speaking of which, couldn't they have just radioed Torgaddon to get his input?

I think if someone had suggested that Erebus or Maloghurst would argue Lodge business is not to be broadcast over comms, but yeah; that'd be a crappy excuse.  The truth is probably that they don't want to give Torgaddon the chance to talk it over with Loken.

I suppose if Maloghurst went to the Mournival Erebus wouldn't have got a vote.

Except the Lodge rules require unanimity.  Though I think you're close; I'd say it's that if Maloghurst had discussed this just with Abaddon and Aximand they wouldn't have been able to browbeat Little Horus the way they clearly needed to.

Though he could have used the fact Aximand feels beholden to him, which I don't understand.

I think he's feeling beholden by proxy over Abaddon's careless whispers. Well, careless bellows.

How long has it been since the last chapter ended, anyway.  Horus must have taken a hell of nose-dive after telling his life story.  Or is this another lie?

You think Maloghurst is exaggerating the severity of Horus' condition?

Or Erebus has, and Maloghurst believe him. It's certainly suspicious that this decision is suddenly incredibly urgent the moment Torgaddon and Loken are off the ship. I think Erebus is panicking.  He knows the sword is about to be discovered.

But surely he knew that was coming? He didn't seem to have any kind of plan to recover the weapon.

Maybe he expected it to all be over by this point. Either Horus joins up with the Warp, or the sword kills him.

What Will Be

Will Loken be able to reveal the truth before Horus is given over to the Serpent Lodge? And will anyone believe him if he does?

Well, what is the truth?  I mean, he can reveal the weapon, but that's all.  This is why the timing of this chapter is a problem.  I don't know when Loken's found the sword compared to Horus being transported.  Or how long it will take Loken to get back to the fleet.  I mean, for dramatic effect I imagine he'll be just in time or just too late.  

I guess now that the other Astartes have embraced taking Horus to a place of sorcery they'll be more willing to believe this was done by a magic sword.

I meant whether they'll believe Erebus is behind this.

He hasn't got enough evidence to go against Erebus. The best he can do is argue there's clearly a traitor and suggest they contact the Emperor so he can get to the bottom of what's going on.

That's a good idea. I was thinking that if Loken just shows up with the sword no-one will care - they'll still want to get Horus to the Serpent Lodge -

Hate that name, by the way.

- I'd assumed, but -

Is it a Biblical reference?

- Probably, but my point is that the Lodge will want to heal Horus through the laying on of hands whether he was done in by a magic sword or a fairy bite.  Getting in the biggest guns available might be the only option available.

Where is Torgaddon likely to stand in all this? Right now he seems to be deferring to Loken, but the Lodge seemed pretty convinced he'd agree with Erebus' plan.

I'm not sure.  I mean, it could go either way.  I can see the logical arguments Loken would want to use, but I can't tell whether that would overwhelm Tarik's need to see the Warmaster healed.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

What Would Have Come After

False Gods: Plague Moon (V)

A narthecium. Not, for those wondering, a flower
(copyright unknown)

Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

It is perhaps fitting - one might almost say cliche - for Horus to finally gain clarity on what all believed was his deathbed.  With time to reflect, and with his impending death a clear and horrible underlining of  the downward spiral his career as the Warmaster had become, it seems for him that the pieces of the puzzle have finally fallen into place.

Which is no guarantee, alas, that he could see the picture clearly.

This is not to say that Horus was completely wrong in his summation of the Imperium's rotten heart - where better to diagnose an empire than from within the Apothecarion, after all.  It is not hard to argue that the sudden arrival of the Emperor's exaectors was a needless insult to the Legions, and the failure to recognise this was a serious mis-step.

That is an argument of presentation rather than timing, of course, but in considering the best moment to unleash the tax collectors, other concerns are shaken loose.  The most obvious alternative would have been for the Emperor to wait until the Crusade was finally over, when their rapacious demands for tribute could have been folded into the more general changing of the times; when a Primarch's anger would no longer have a war effort to hinder.

Whether or not that would be a wiser plan is debatable, but the answer to that question is of less interest than the fact that the discussion is based on a false premise.  Because would the end of the Crusade really mean the end of the Astartes' usefulness? Truly?  The Orks had been dealt many blows since the rise of the Emperor, but they had hardly been humbled.  No less so had the Eldar.  Innumerable alien species still stained the stars.

No.  The final forging of the Imperium could not possibly have meant the end of war.  What it might have meant was the end of glory.

This was Horus' mistake, to confuse a lack of duty he considered fit for himself for a lack of duty entirely. In his defence, though, it was not his fault alone.  The concept of the Crusade's end representing something utterly final was common amongst the Astartes - witness Loken's discussion of the matter with Sigismund - and the idea that defending an Empire rather than forging it was somehow unworthy of the Astartes no less common. It is no coincidence that Dorn, the Primarch who had most embraced the importance of the defensive position, felt no desire to abandon his Emperor, whilst Peturabo, who had endlessly chafed at his unwanted role as builder of fortifications, joined Horus' rebellion so eagerly.

Which is just another way of saying that, as always, the Primarchs are the problem.

It is fitting, and in no way surprising, that Horus recognises this in part, but is struck horribly blind right at the point where his insight would help him understand his own weaknesses.

He understands the central paradox of the Primarchs far better than does the Emperor, certainly.  We have discussed before Torgaddon's argument regarding the Emperor's outlawing of the Warrior Lodges (the only obvious point of contention between the Astartes and their creator up until Ullanor), that the Emperor had erred in this one thing because he could not conceive of having a brother. But if he cannot conceive of brotherhood, he can no less conceive of the idea of superiority. He bred the Primarchs to share his ambition - Horus most of all - but he simply could not conceive of how that ambition might chafe under the orders of another.  Frankly, it is a miracle any Primarch took so long to rebel openly.

Some of which the Warmaster recognised, of course. As has been the case so often in the past, however, he saw only how it related to others, and how it represented the failings of the Emperor, and not what it reflected about himself.  He recognised the curse of ambition in his fellows, and how it had made so many of them truculent and unreliable.  But it never occurred to him that he might suffer from the same affliction, directing unwarranted blame towards his father in the same way many of his brothers directed it towards him. He insisted upon seeing the differences between himself and his father and brothers, and not the similarities.  Somehow he could simultaneously curse Guilliman for his petulance and splutter with rage over his "abandonment" by his father.

In the end, ambition overtook everything.  Nothing was more important to Horus at the last than that he received sufficient glory, and that the glory received sufficient comment from his peers. The second most powerful being in the galaxy went to what all thought would be his grave cursing the fact he did not receive more.  In that moment of unbearable solipsism, a monster was born.

All that was left was to nurse it to health.


What Was

There's a lot of Primarch lore alluded to in this chapter.  Another brother of Horus' gets name-checked - hello, Night Haunter! - and the squabbling between them returns to the fore.  Probably the biggest revelation, though, is that the Primarchs were scattered through the galaxy as children and only later recovered by the Emperor. Does that help explain/clarify anything?  Does it provide any clues as to where things are going?

I suppose a lot of men like to spread their wild oats.

True. That's more commonly in the pursuit in varied screwing than it is maintaining sufficient geographical distance amongst one's children, of course.

Maybe he was worried if the Primarchs met as kids they'd kill each other.

Makes sense, I suppose.

I didn't entirely understand all of this, just so you know. If Horus is the first Primarch the Emperor found, why doesn't he have the First Legion?

A fair question.

And who is this Night Haunter? Why is he so scary.

I shouldn't really say, I don't think.

Then I shall assume he's a vampire.

A vampire who's also Astartes? Are you mad?

They already have a magician.

Good point.

What Is

We get ourselves a small slice of Astartes medical drama here.  You've watched E.R., and you work in a hospital.  How do Apothecary Vaddon's efforts measure up?

I've never actually seen emergency surgery, I should mention.  Just the blood on the surgeons afterwards.

That's still more than me.  They keep me hidden away from anything that could exacerbate my extreme cowardice.

The Astartes doctor seemed oddly flustered, but given the importance of his patient, that's hardly surprising. I did wonder; if this organism is spread throughout his body, how come he's managed to heal the wound in his chest?

That was healing before he was hit with the anathame.

Yeah, but it's still healing. Should that be happening?

I dunno. Can you heal when suffering from hypoxia?  Do platelets need oxygen? I'm rapidly running out of medical knowledge. I should have paid more attention to that show when we were kids with those dudes in spaceships flying through the body. Like Innerspace, only it wasn't funny, and it tried to teach me stuff. And not stuff useful stuff, like never trust Robert Picardo in a wig.

I noticed there were no nurses in there.  They ran that damn hospital in E.R.

Maybe if they'd had nurses, Horus would be healed by now.  And possibly found love.  Or is that sexist?

You didn't say they were female nurses.

Good point.  Let's assume that Horus is gay, if only because of how many people that will annoy.

Also; what the hell is a narthecium?  Isn't that a type of flower?

Yes; the Imperium's technological breakthroughs in horticulture are truly a sight to behold. There is no malady that can withstand a few good sniffs of a 31st Millennium chrysanthemum.

It seems the forces left on Davin's moon are starting to turn towards worshipping the Emperor, and the fleet is busy tearing itself to pieces as people try to out-doom each other.  Assuming Horus doesn't recover soon, which side is going to win, or are they all part and parcel of the same impulse?

It seems odd that the people on the planet are the ones to go religion crazy.

Because Keeler isn't there? Maybe. On the other hand, they're also the least likely to know there are two dozen people in the fleet who have boot-shaped holes in their faces, now.

I'm not sure which way it's going to go.  Ordinarily I'd assume the fleet will wipe out the new cult, but Maloghurst has to walk softly after the massacre, so maybe he'll let them get out of hand.

Let's talk about Horus' confessions. It's been implied before, but I don't think it's ever been so clearly laid out just how bickering and power-hungry some of the other Primarchs are.  What's going to happen when word gets out regarding Horus' condition?

That depends on Sanguinius.

How so?

I imagine he might not be thrilled to learn Horus is dishing the dirt on the Primarchs.

Really? He seems to be pretty much the only one to come out of this exclusive Hello interview looking good.

Yeah, but family loyalty, and so forth.  Besides, if the other Primarchs all decide this is the perfect time to grab the top spot, he might feel compelled to join in.


It might be the only way to keep Horus alive.

Right; lead the rebellion so you can dictate what happens to the losers. And what will the Emperor be doing whilst his children are doing their super-punching?

Will he even find out? He doesn't seem to give much of a damn about anything right now.

I think his forces tearing each other apart would probably pique his interest.

Assuming anyone can get a message to him. We already know how hard that is.

True. I doubt Magnus would be tempted to try his lunatic magic spell if he could just pick up the space-phone.

How close does Horus get with his diagnosis of what is going on with the Imperium, and how much sympathy do you have for him?

I can see where he's coming from, I guess.  But then surely this was the final goal all along?

I think the implication is that no-one really gave any thought to what came next.

Loken did.

And it really bothered everyone when he mentioned it.  Am I to take it then that your sympathy levels for Horus are low?

It's not like I don't get it.  Though wouldn't this be a problem for all the Primarchs, and not just him?

You think he's being a selfish, spoiled prick?  Or am I just inferring that because I think he's being a selfish, spoiled prick?  But yes, it's a problem for them all.  Except for Magnus, I suppose, he's got his top-secret sorceriness to be getting on with.

Is that why all the other Primarchs are starting to get rowdy?  Because they all know things are about to stop being so much fun?

It's possible. I think Horus' assumption a lot of them hate him because he's Warmaster and they're not is entirely plausible, but that might be bubbling away in there as well.

Part of what makes it hard to really get onboard with Horus is that I can't understand why he thinks there's nothing left to do.

Well, not nothing.  But maybe there's no glory in putting out brush-fires and patrolling the borders.

No, I mean; how can they possibly know that they've found all the human worlds?  There could be more all over the place, on the other side of alien empires and what-not. 

I guess they figure they've followed up on all the leads they've got.

But that's obviously not good enough, is it? If it was, they'd never have been surprised to meet the Interex.  Suck it up, Horus; get back to work.

Well, let's just see if he makes it through the night first, shall we?

What Will Be

Loken and Torgaddon have been given their Epic Quest.  Will they succeed?  What will happen if they don't?  And what is Erebus going to be getting up to in the meantime?

Does Vaddon actually think it'll help, or is it just something for the Mournival to do to keep them busy?

That's a good question.

Is it really an epic quest, anyway? They just have to pick something up from somewhere where they've already killed everyone.

I accept that, but in form it seems like an epic quest.

How can that be epic?

Well, you know.  It's very "find the wand of Feljimji or the ruler of Gabooboo will not last the night!". 

We haven't heard anything from Erebus for ages.  Or is he on the planet destroying the sword?

Makes sense.  If they find it he could be in trouble.

Only if they work out what it is. And then they still have to prove who took it. Unless Vivar saw something as she was headed down to the planet, and that's why her obviously stupid trip to the surface was put in the book.

And if they can't find it? Or it does no good?

Will it matter? Horus must be getting better. Otherwise how come he's well enough to talk?

Dramatic necessity, I guess.

Enough to get him through his entire bloody life story?

This is how drama works, Fliss! Well, melodrama.  Well, mediocre melodrama.