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.

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