Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A Vision Of The Future

False Gods: The House Of False Gods (II)

Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

"Prophecies are tricky creatures. They don't tell you everything." - Joffa Wotan, Merican poet, C4M.

It is a strange feeling, reading documents from so far in the past that capture your present and their future so perfectly. Knowing that the daemon lords of Chaos could view so perfectly the wheezing industrial rabid horrors of the Imperium long after the Emperor's fall. That when they chose Horus as their instrument of destruction, that they could see with perfect clarity what was to come.

In many ways, in fact, of all the consequences of this vision of the future, the effect it has on Horus might be among the very least important. Having been ignored by the architects of the Imperium, and by the people who surround him whilst he is raging about that first ignoring, let's ignore him ourselves for a while as well. If nothing else, we are strong proponents of the idea of petty revenge.  It has been said that such urges are best quashed through living well, but it has been quite some time since that was really an option.  We take comfort where we can.

Besides, so many new avenues of thought opened up in those moments on Davin - or in the Warp - that just capturing them in their crudest forms would stretch the limits of an Eldar Farseer. Fortunately for our mortal minds, much of what is brought to the surface from Erebus' link to the future can be summed up in a simple question: if the gods of Chaos knew the Heresy would fail, why put so much effort into starting it at all.

Immediately our language trips us up.  Firstly, what does it mean to say they "knew" what was coming? Is not the very nature of Chaos endless, random flux?  Why call the most devious of Chaos daemons "Lords of Change" if the future is proof from all alteration?

There are several responses to this, of course. If indeed the swirling, cackling mass of Tzeentch can study the future with perfect clarity, this need not be true of his children; any more than Horus could be said to be the equal of his father. Further, we know from our own lives that a change need not be a surprise to bring pleasure.  Perhaps Tzeentch does indeed know all that will transpire, and yet takes pleasure in shifting the pictures he knows he will see into as many shapes as possible.  Perhaps he takes no pleasure from this at all, and is simply compelled to the task for lack of alternative.

Whatever the truth, there is an undeniable poetry to the idea of Chaos using the horrifying consequences of a coming war to trick Horus into starting that war.  The advantage of knowing the full story is that you can dole out facts just so, twisting the truth in the process until it folds back in on itself. Just as with Magnus the Red - forced by the visions drip-fed to him by Chaos to commit the very crimes that would force him to join the very forces he wished to defeat - Chaos has ever relied upon us to be our own worst enemies. It is one more way in which the strange symbiotic relationship between mankind and the Warp takes shape.

This brings us to the second problem lurking in our phrasing, which is whether the Heresy actually was a failure for Chaos. Even approaching an answer to this is actually profoundly difficult, because it raises strategic concerns about an enemy we cannot even conceive of having a strategy. We see Khorne, Slaanesh and Nurgle as having nothing more than base, urgent desires. Tzeentch we credit with a somewhat greater capacity for long-term thinking, but even here it's need for constant betrayal and inversions make it hard to find any evidence of a coherent plan. Combine this with the fact that Chaos tactics are so horrifying and murderous as to command all our attention, and it is perhaps forgivable to fall into the trap of assuming any end to the wholesale destruction of the galaxy must represent a failure for our foes.

But might not a grox think the same thing, when we arrive in its enclosure to slaughter and devour its fellows? We allow no other fate to the brutes, after all; make no attempt at communication or mediation. We kill, and kill, and kill.

The analogy is an obvious one, of course - if Chaos exterminates all life in the galaxy, it will find itself without its favourite playthings. But there's a second level working here as well. We're not just the favourite toy, we're the favourite food (with the possible exception of the Eldar, but there are no longer enough of them to provide sufficent meals). As we've said, our relationship with Chaos is peveresly symbiotic. Our moods feed and even birth the creatures of the Empyrean. We provide the skulls for Khorne and the nervous systems for Nurgle.  In many ways we provide the only mechanism for truwe change in the Warp, rather than endless permutations of the same conflicts (perhaps Chaos actually wants to avoid new additions to their and alterations, but if that is true, they should call themselves something else). There could be no greater disaster for Chaos than for mankind to disappear overnight - one of the reasons the forces of the Warp despise the Tyranids as much as they do.

Like any symbiote, Chaos cannot survive the death of its host, at least not in any form it would consider acceptable.  Perhaps one day a species will rise to replace us as we have the Eldar, but so far the only plausible candidates are the brutish, unsubtle Orks and the psi-blind Tau, neither of which Chaos would accept as worthy alternatives (the return to dominance of the Necrons would be still worse). We are, for the forseeable future, the only game in town.

All of this makes it hard to believe that Chaos could ever be prepared to destroy us in one fell swoop.  Despite appearances, Chaos most certainly has a long-term goal: survival. Why gorge themselves on the death of a galaxy over a few decades, when they could spend millennia watching us spawn across half a galaxy whilst tearing at the other half?  If every inch of ground Chaos gains is flooded with human blood, what does it matter how quickly those inches are gained? Better to devour us slowly, bite by bite, putting off the end of the feast for as long as possible. Why else, indeed, did Chaos wait so long to strike against the newborn Imperium?  Why did the Warp become becalmed following the birth of Slaanesh, if not to restock the pens to compensate for all those new fang-filled mouths?

And one day, who knows, perhaps one day the Resurrectionists will be proved correct. and the Emperor will somehow be returned to us, to forge a new Imperium that can once more be gradually torn to pieces and devoured by Chaos. Thus can the cycle of destruction begin anew.

Because ultimately, what is a cycle but an orbit? And what is an orbit but the act of falling forever?


What Is

The Emperor's shrine world is a very different place to anywhere we've been so far in the 31st Millennium. How are you enjoying your jaunt into the future?

Is it the future?

The hypothetical future, then.

But given we're in the future already...

But this is the future of the future you fool! Though I guess it's all relative.  This is the past to me. The past of the future.

What, the house?

No, the 31st Millennium. Where did the house come in?

You said "this".

I see. Maybe I should be using flashcards.

The thing is there's nothing here particularly impressive in terms of tech.  Nothing we haven't seen before. Robot men? Pssh. Been there.

What about tiny giggling angels? They can't be easy to slap together.

Yeah, but when you've got the Primarchs...

Maybe, but I think it's the oppressive Gothic gloom that pervades the world that we're supposed to be keying in on.

I don't think that really clicked.  It was more how busy and confusing it all was.

You're not concerned by an entire planet dedicated to the Emperor?

We already know these weird sects spring up all over the place.

Well, yes, but there's a hell of a gap between a cult and planetary coverage.  You wouldn't say the destruction of Earth was unsurprising because we know there's some pretty fucking crazy terrorists out there.

Assuming it is an entire planet.

Well, yes, this is all hypothetical, based on "Sejanus" telling the truth.

Even if he is, maybe this isn't the future.  Now we know that the Word Bearers used to set up huge religious organisations to the Emperor, maybe "Sejanus" has just taken him to one of those.  Something the Emperor and the other Astartes haven't found yet.  Maybe someplace like Davin, where Horus did the conquering and the Word Bearers showed up later.  Maybe that's why Horus isn't on the pedestals; no-one wanted to be reminded of him coming down and killing thousands of people.

Ah, but that brings me on to my next question: did you notice who else was missing?

Yes.  The Word Bearers guy isn't there.  Neither is Red Malcolm.

Anyone else?

The Primarch of the Emperor's Children? Regimus, I think.

Not even close. Anyone else?

I can't think of anyone.  Who'm I missing?

I don't blame you for forgetting, but Angron and Night Haunter at the very least have been mentioned pretty recently.

Isn't Night Haunter the one you don't want to be face to face with? Maybe he's just too damn ugly to be made into a statue.  No-one wants to worship an ugly god.

That's not even remotely true. Look at Ganesha.  Dudes a massive four-armed dude with an elephant for a head.

That doesn't make him ugly.  Just... differently bodied.

I don't want to offend anyone; I'm sure Ganesha is an awesome deity with many funky special powers, but the dude clearly isn't a looker. There's a reason why the Elephant Man didn't take his nickname as a compliment. But we're drifting off the point.

What is the point?

Whether you can think of any reason these Primarchs are missing.

Night Haunter is ugly. Malcolm has presumably been fired over his wizardy hobby. Fulgrim... maybe he's out of favour because his men slaughtered all those spiders and started off all those problems with the Interex.


Can I just point out how irritating Horus is being here. (Adopts whiniest voice) "Why, Father, why! Why have you forsaken me? WHY?" 

Yeah, it's pretty selfish of him to almost completely bypass the other missing Primarchs.

Not just that; he's spent like half a book talking about how he's messed everything up and he doesn't deserve to be Warmaster, and now he won't shut up about how he's not getting his due.

How close to the truth do you think  is"Sejanus'"  tale of the Emperor seeking godhood? And why is he showing all this to Horus?

I can imagine that a lot of it is true.  Look at Keeler and the other Emperor worshippers. I'm not sure it's all true. I still don't know if this is actually the future. Or, if it is, I wonder if "Sejanus" has swapped things around, and this is what will happen if Horus does act.

It would help if I could work out what action Horus is supposed to take. I don't get yet why "Sejanus" is so insistent on Horus being the crux point.  

He's the second most powerful person in the galaxy.

Is he?

Well, he's got the largest army.

For how long? What happens if the Emperor orders everyone back home?

Ask Abaddon.

Fine.  But what about everyone else? Horus has been making too many mistakes.

You might not find that opinion as widespread as you think.

You're on record as despising snakes and all snake-related issues.  How does Sindermann's dissection of their role in human cultures strike you?

The "Seytan" idea amused me.  Not the most imaginative of alterations. I accept they have a large role in plenty of religions - that can't really be denied.  At least they're usually evil though.

Assuming it's true, I thought it was interesting that "drakon" originally meant serpent. This book is educational as well as entertaining.

I guess some dragons can be quite serpentine. Personally I prefer the Welsh variety to those wyrm things.

Makes sense.

So does that mean St Patrick really drove out dragons.

No.  No he did not. No-one gets to horn in on our patron saint's dragon-killing antics. The Irish will have to content themselves with no snakes and plenty of booze.

What Will Be

Is there any way of avoiding the horrible vision of the future "Sejanus" has shown us?  Or is it even a genuine possibility?

Don't do whatever "Sejanus" says.

Good advice. Anything else?

Don't kill the Emperor.  That will just turn him into a martyr, which is just a stone's throw from godhood anyway.

So what should he do?

Wake up, and go talk to Loken. Unless... can he actually go back to the ship? Will the sword not come to life and start chasing him. Fwisshissshissh!

And that is..?

I'm trying to do the sound effects. It's not really working.

In your defence, recreating the sound of a flying alien deathblade is probably beyond the abilities of most people.

I can do it! FWISSHISSH!

That's just a louder version of the same sound.

(Whistles down an octave and pretends to explode).

Sure, let's go with that.

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