Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Nor The Battle To The Swift

False Gods: Crusade's End (II)

Fulgrim, Primarch of the III Legion
(copyright luffie on DeviantArt)
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

We arrive, at last, at a confession.

Above all, Horus' fall was brought on by pride. By a failure to understand himself within the context of the wider picture. It would be nice if we could avoid the same fate. Our aim is to inform you, citizens; that requires a certain unwillingness to stray beyond those subjects we can claim to expertise in, or - because our experiences can be fairly described as rather limited - at least a commitment to admitting when we find ourselves out of our depth.

Our confession, then, is that we cannot claim to be anywhere close to experts on the subject of warfare. For all we know,  Horus might be completely correct in his belief that the more the cruel a war is, the faster it is over. Certainly, there is folly in an abundance of mercy; tales of ancient Terra make reference to wars in which commanders were ransomed once captured, guaranteeing the struggle would begin all over again, with many more thousands of casualties suffered before the next time a major player was apprehended and the whole miserable business begun anew.

But is this proof that in warfare mercy is inversely proportional to speed? Or is it just that "mercy" here is too narrowly defined? After all, if your definition of mercy is to release nobles in exchange for gold and in so doing guarantees the death of thousands of less fortunate souls, then perhaps you are merely demonstrating a despicably myopic view, in which war is a game between a small group of important players, with everyone else involved shunted into irrelevance. The body count becomes beside the point; only those you judge sufficiently important end up mattering at all.

This is not, alas, a concern that we have set aside over the millennia. Indeed, in Horus we see what might be the apex of this attitude: it's far from clear there is anyone other than the Primarchs and the Emperor himself that Horus sees as anything other than pawns or cannon fodder.  Once you reach that point, words like "cruelty" lose almost all of their meaning.  All that matters is how quickly an objective can be claimed to allow you to move onto the next one.

This is what Horus truly means when he tells Fulgrim that the crueler a war is, the faster it will be over; that if you stop to consider the implications of your orders on others, you might not get what you want quite so quickly. It is worth noting here that it took the Emperor and eighteen full Legions over two centuries to forge the galaxy into an Empire he could plausibly believe would endure. Horus is looking to flip that Empire completely in the space of a few years with at best half those resources. The result is already clear from looking at the war for Aureus.  As Loken notes, the planet will rebel the first chance it gets, because as questionable as it is to invade someone's home in order to persuade them they're better off with you in charge, the heartless massacre of everyone in your way is a ceramite-clad guarantee that the people you have conquered will rise up the minute your attentions are elsewhere.

Not that Horus cares about that, of course, he has the STC machines which were all this war was ever about. Indeed, his total disregard for the concept of unification which once drove him is made obvious by his failure to consider that a culture so delighted by the prospect might give him access to the devices in any case. Even if they refuse to let him carry the machines away with him - which seems likely - a little diplomacy and subterfuge could have won Horus his prize with a minimum of casualties on either side.

The problem then isn't that for a war to be won quickly, it needs to be won in a storm of blood.  It is that, more so than ever, Horus cannot conceive of any method for gaining what he wants other than immediate and direct warfare.  His immediate goals consist of war on Aureus, then war on Istvaan III, and then war on Istvaan V.  And almost immediately this plan is thrown into uncertainty when the World Eaters - as they themselves pointed out - prove the wrong tool to open up the Iron Citadel, and the war bogs down into bloody siege. A cruel war, it turns out, is only faster if you win. If you don't, you're no better off than had you fought some other way, only now you have more casualties to replace and more enemies to look out for.

As we say, warfare is not something on which we can speak with authority.  But we can recognise a blinkered mind when we see it. Throughout these broadcasts we have made reference to the fundamental Astartes ability to recognise violence can be counter-productive, and here Horus offers us our strongest example yet. But as well as it being our strongest example, it is also the first point in our story at which the gathering Heresy faces its first setback. In many ways, it's actually a microcosm of what brings about Horus' ultimate defeat, in fact.  On Aureus, as on Istvaan III, or Tallarn, or a hundred other worlds, Horus is delayed because he bothers to consider no way to win his objectives other than through open warfare, and is then bogged down through totally underestimating his opponents when it turns out the most vicious and horrific methods of warfare imaginable do not necessarily lead to a speedy victory.

So does Horus, like the Emperor before him, sow the seeds of his own downfall.  There is a long way to travel between here and there, however, and many more characters to introduce in this sad, bloody tale.

It is time we meet with Angron.


What Is

Yay! The Emperor's Children return after twenty-two chapters over two books.  Any thoughts on Fulgrim? 

He doesn't seem to have the arrogance I thought he would.

Because of Eidolon? Maybe his gittishness is produced entirely from within himself. Plus, you know, arriving after being sent by your boss to figure out what's going on and immediately announcing you don't give a damn seems reasonably arrogant to me.

I don't understand why he's being described as being a perfect being.  I thought that was Sanguinius.

I guess whichever is more perfect is the one currently in the room.

They can't shut up about how pretty Horus is, either.

Well, same principle. What we need is the three of them on one stage so we can host Mr Imperium.  You've met five Primarchs now; who would win.

Hard to say.  They're all so aloof. And most of them we've only seen through Loken's eyes.

Fair point, though without wishing to sound snippy I'm not sure this is the kind of series to overly concern itself with unreliable narrators. What Loken sees is pretty much what the author wants us to see.

There's still some filtering to be done, though. Except with Magnus the Blind, I suppose.  It wouldn't be fair for me to judge.

Let's talk about Lucius. Does him being horribly scarred make up for him beating Loken in the practice cages?

It's all the same.  He's still the same unbearable prick.  And he claims he's learned from the last time he fought Loken, but it's clear he hasn't learned the true lesson.

"Don't be a dick?"

"Expect the unexpected". And something about the Spanish Inquisition.

I don't think Monty Python has survived to the 31st Millennium.  Everyone seems far too humourless for the parrot sketch to have survived.  Except Torgaddon, I suppose, but then his joke structure is far too simplistic and repetitive for me to believe he's ever been exposed to actual comedy.

Horus cracks wise from time to time.

He's funnier when he's blowing people's brains out.

It's not hard to see why Regulus would want machines that can adapt to any circumstances and any enemy.  Why would Horus be prepared to give them up? And does this explain why he started this war?

Could they be used to create something that could counteract the magic sword?

That's a damn good question, actually.  Maybe it could at that.

Because you could see why Horus would be interested in that. Being stabbed once with that thing was probably enough.  Then as an added bonus they could create all kinds of cross-galactic death weapons.

Which makes it even more surprising Horus is willing to give them up.

Maybe he's not totally giving them up. Maybe the deal will be Regulus can have the machines in exchange for making stuff for Horus.  Regulus and his people would be the best placed to operate it for him in any case. Maybe he's got exclusivity too.  So all these new weapons roll off the line and only Horus and Regulus get to use them.

Any thoughts on Maggard, now known to be not just a bodyguard, but a sex slave? What's he liable to get up to in the Warrior Lodge?

Obviously he's going to report everything back to Petronella.  What I don't understand is what Horus gets out of the arrangement. He knows about the mnemo-quill; why risk it?

Unless... is Horus planning to use the mnemo-quill himself?  If no-one else knows about it in the Lodge, he's got the perfect spy. Maggard can't talk, he presumably can't write - since the whole point is he's not supposed to be able to communicate with anyone but Petronella - so no-one needs to worry about what they say around him.

That's a really nice theory.  What about all this concubine business.

It's a nice role reversal, I suppose. And a backhanded compliment in a way.

How so?

Well, Petronella seems to be the sort of snobbish person who'd look down on pretty much everyone on the ship. Screwing Maggard kind of suggests he's better than a lot of other men.  From her perspective, I mean.

It was more his perspective I was thinking about, really.

I guess we've just got to hope he enjoys the job.

Not all that likely.  He called her a " bitch" in the second page of the book, after all.  But then I suppose he wouldn't be the first person to simultaneously despise someone and want to have sex with them.

Absolutely. If he's really lucky she's even a masochist. That should lead to sufficient job satisfaction.

Oh dear. It would appear Magnus is in trouble.  Did he try to contact the Emperor after all, or is something else going on?  That Wolf of Fenris doesn't sound like a barrel of laughs, does it?

No it doesn't.  Is it related to the vampire hunter.

Vampire hunter?

No, not vampire hunter. Vampire.  The Primarch who sounds like a vampire.

... Night Haunter?


No comment.

Is there a link between the wolf of Fenris and Magnus pretending to be a wolf when he was talking to Horus?

Wasn't that just to remind Horus about himself?

Then why keep doing it after Horus' memory returned?

I guess he didn't want to reveal himself. It's hard to maintain plausible deniability sorcery-wise when you're wagging your tail in other people's dreams.

I haven't really answered the question, have I? Erm... maybe someone has been whispering in the Emperor's ear? I don't know.  Though it was interesting how serious Horus got when Magnus was mentioned.  Maybe Horus is Magnus.

Don't they show up at the same family functions?

I mean, maybe Magnus has possessed him.

I like it.  I don't understand it, but I like it.

I can't see any other reason why Horus would be concerned about Magnus.  That feels much more like the old Horus.

Maybe it wasn't concern over Magnus, so much as concern about what Magnus might have said.

I guess. It didn't read that way to me. Though I suppose whatever your brother does, you're still concerned about them.  They're still your brother, right?

Spoken like a woman who only has a sister.

What Will Be

What is the new mission Horus has in mind for the Warrior  Lodge?  And will Torgaddon, Qruze or Loken ever get to hear of it?

I presume Loken will hear about it soon enough, from Nero.  We haven't heard from him for a while, but nothing's been said about him not showing up any more.

I think he's been quietly dropped into the cracks.  I can't believe he was there for either of the last two meetings.

Clearly what Horus has planned is pretty treacherous.

Indeed.  Any specific thoughts?

Maybe he wants to use these machines to create a world in which he's God? You know, just to spite the Emperor.

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