Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Feel The Pricking Every Now And Then

Galaxy In Flames: Long Knives (VII)

Ancient Rylanor (copyright Games Workshop)
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

A conscience can prove a most troublesome thing, and not only to ourselves. For those who possess a conscience, who listen to it, and (almost as importantly) take pains to tend and mould their consciences so as to  form a coherent whole, it is only ever a matter of time before the dictates of our morality become inconvenient to someone else.

Naturally, nobody ever wants to come straight out and say: "Your conscience is making my life more difficult". Not when there are so many ways to disguise the statement. One of the most common masks it can wear is "Your conscience is interfering with what actually needs to be done". On the surface this might sound reasonable, a simple request to not let asking for a perfect galaxy get in the way with doing good in the galaxy we have.  There is an ancient proverb regarding how me must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and in many ways we cling to that idea still, in deed if not in word. We've fought alongside the Eldar. We've fought alongside the Tau. On occasion we have bribed Orks with guns and ammunition. We scream our defiance into the void, vowing to take not a single step backwards in the defence of mankind, but whole systems are abandoned to the xenos or the Warp if they are judged not important enough to sacrifice men or materiel for.

But these examples simply bring home the obvious truth; if we have learned to accept compromise and disdain the dictates of conscience, it is because we have been taught to do so by the powerful.  There is no-one who benefits more than those who control our lives from the suggestion that doing what we are told needs doing is more important than wondering whether what we've been told needs doing is worth doing at all. A major goal of any system of control is to keep those at the bottom too busy maintaining the system to question the system.

Jonah Aruken's comments to Titus Cassar inside the Dies Irae demonstrate this all too well.  Aruken is concerned that Cassar's search for metaphysical enlightenment will interfere with their task of murdering whomever they've been told to murder, despite the fact that Cassar's quest has already led to the saving of an innocent woman's life. A woman threatened, let's not forget, by a warrior recently inducted into the service of the same man Aruken wants to be able to follow with as few upsets as possible. Aruken might as well be howling "Throne, Cassar; don't make me have to think about whether I'm doing the right thing!". Cassar's search for answers saved Euphrati Keeler.  In a few hours time, Aruken's search for comforting certainty will kill hundreds of loyal Astartes, and Cassar.

Even Garviel Loken, who until now we have essentially held as the pinnacle of Astartes, is not immune. We confess that it's not obvious how he was to proceed after confronting Abaddon went so poorly, but even so it does not seem unreasonable to suggest that tabling the whole affair until after he has slaughtered those the high command he now knows to be rotten have instructed him to isn't the greatest of next steps. When he considers the fact that it now takes war for him to feel like his old self, he should consider what exactly that suggests. The people he is (haphazardly) investigating have placed him in a position where he is disinclined to think further on that investigation. He is too busy doing what Horus desires to have time to question why Horus desires it. True, he isn't guilty of attempting to drag others into that particular pit with him, but otherwise there is no obvious difference between his attitude and that of Aruken's. Having so recently warned Abaddon of the cost of compromising one's principles, we might have hoped Loken might have known better than to leave investigations aside whilst he cleansed himself in blood.

Thank the Emperor, then, for Saul Tarvitz, willing to give up his place in the Emperor's Children spear-tip in order to follow his concerns. Willing to lie to the reputedly lie-proof Ancient Rylanor for the chance to answer his suspicions. Willing to step back from what he was told until he could discern for himself what was true and what wasn't, defying the exercise of power until he determine exactly how that power was being applied.

And as a result, thousands of Astartes owed him their lives, at least for a little while. Certainly they owed him their opportunity to strike against those who had betrayed them so the higher-ups could have an easier route to power. The resulting sabotage to Horus' plans might even have sealed the rebellion's fate in its earliest hours. Even if no loyalist Astartes left Istvaan III alive, that is a legacy to be proud of.

It is wonderfully fitting that amongst the whole of his Legion, it was Tarvitz who came closest to perfection, and he did it by rejecting what he had been told perfection consisted of. Perfection is not, in the end, the enemy of the good. The enemy of the good is insisting to yourselves that there's no way to make things any better. It was true in Captain Tarvitz's time and it remains true now. We have fallen so very far in the last ten thousand years. Must we really spend our final years insisting we will fall more slowly if only we fall more cruelly?


------


What Is

You've mentioned before suspicions regarding Vipus. Have those fears been alleviated or intensified by this chapter?

Intensified. I even said when I reading the chapter: "They're building up Vipus' relationship with Loken to set up the inevitable back-stabbing."

(It's true, she did.)

All that stuff about the two of them being mates since childhood.

Childhood? That's not the Horus Heresy, that's the Burn Notice we watched this afternoon.

Was it? I keep getting things jumbled in my head.

Then thank God you weren't watching porn.

Anyway. Friends since training. The set-up is still there. And he's the one who suggests Loken joins him in the drop pod. Clearly he wants to have Loken near him at all times, which is suspicious given how out of favour Loken is. The only question is whether Vipus is deliberately betraying his friend, or if he's under the control of something.  Like a Warp Beast.  Or... when did Vipus get his new hand?

It was shot off on Sixty-Three Nineteen.

Yes, but when was it replaced?

Before Davin.

So that means there would have been time for-

Wait, you think he's being controlled by his evil hand? Like that '90s B movie monster that killed the Offspring? Or that hunk of burning legal manhood from Angel?

It's the future. They could have put something into the hand to control his brainwaves.

Surely not. Otherwise you'd do it to all the Astartes.

You can't cut off every Astartes hand in the galaxy, Ric; people will talk.

It doesn't have to be a severed hand, Fliss.  I'm quite sure any mind-control tech could be fashioned into any other body part.  You knock an initiate out to get their second heart or their poison glands or something, and whilst they're under you hook up one of these machines.  Job done.

It'll be some sort of alien tech, or maybe nicked from some planet they've crushed. Use your imagination.


It seems this squad-by-squad idea has been carried over to the Emperor's Children, too, and it's clear Eidolon and his cronies want nothing to do with the Istvaan Speartip.  Just what is going on?

It's clearly bad news.

I would have thought you'd consider a lack of Eidolon pretty good news. He's a dick, after all.

Yeah, but this reads like a set up. Like someone wants rid of everyone who's loyal to the Emperor.

So, what? Send down all the loyalists and let them get slaughtered by the Istvannians?

Yes. I don't know why the Death Eaters are going down too.

I think you mean the Death Guard and the World Eaters. We don't know what's happening in their fleets. It could be the exact same process. But if the plan is to get everyone massacred, why are you so sure Vipus is a traitor?  Didn't he get the memo about everyone being sent down there to die.

Not everyone.  Horus will need people who can testify later that everything was above board, for plausible deniability.

I suppose. If you wanted the Istvaananians to do all your killing for you, I guess you'd want people on the ground who can run interference, too; get people killed with bad intel, guiding them into ambushes, that kind of thing. Gods know someone needs to get betrayed soon. You don't name a section of your novel "Long Knives" because you've forgotten what a sword is called.


I don't think we've met a Dreadnought up until now, at least not to speak to. Is it clear to you what exactly he is?

I've no idea. I'm imagining a cross between C-3P0 and a Dalek.

That would be R2-D2, I think you're describing.  Dreadnoughts are rather bigger. And more dangerous, at least if you ignore the prequel trilogy.

Do they have wheels? I'm imagining wheels.

That's still Artoo.

Does he lean backwards and roll out of rooms when he's done?

You're just taking the piss now.   I believe we can declare Operation: Picture Dreadnought a complete failure.

So what does he look like?

(I show Fliss the picture at the top of this post)

I like my version better.

Of course you do. You're imagining a pimped-out R2 unit.  There's no way that's not better than anything conceivable.


How does "Long Knives" match up to "The Deceived" and "The Betrayer"?

I'm glad the remembrancers and Sindermann are in it a bit more at the start this time. I wonder if people complained they were in the first book too much, and they overcompensated for False Gods.   On the other hand, so far this book seems kind of light on getting into the character's heads.  The pace is odd, too.  There's an absence of details, which makes everything seem rushed, but then it's slowed down because not a lot is happening.

You had the battle between the Emperor's Children, the Death Guard, and the Warsinger with attendant mooks.  That's more than we got in the first part of False Gods, though in McNeill's defence by the time the first battle in Galaxy in Flames shows up McNeill was already onto his second section.

I'm enjoying all the extra Astartes legions and Primarchs.

Me too. I'd missed the Emperor's Children; I wished they'd been in False Gods more.

It does feel like they're building to something.  I guess a lot hangs on whether they can pull it off.


What do you think of this idea of pre-victory banquets? Should we arrange a vist to that all-you-can-eat Chinese place down the A45 each time you're getting ready to beat me at Talisman?

No, because then we'd both be super-obese.

Ooh! I hope I've got anti-dragonflame armour for that burn.

We could have victory cocktails.

Good idea. If we toast your victory before you achieve it, you might be too drunk to actually win.

Or you might be too drunk to care.

Either way.

Won't they all be too full to fight a battle?

I think this is the night before.  They don't literally finish coffee and mints and head for the drop pods.

Too hungover?

Astartes can't get drunk without a massive amount of effort.

What if they eat something cooked wrong and get the runs?

They're resistant to poisoning, they can't get the runs.  Though I like the image. Actually, "like the image" is probably an incredibly inaccurate way of putting it. "To all stations; invasion of Istvaan III cancelled due to dicky tummies caused by a dodgy consignment of Prandium oysters. Reports of toilet paper shortages are coming in throughout the fleet; Astartes are requested to deal with this problem by using imagination. CHILDREN OF THE EMPEROR! E-Do out!"

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Work In Progress

Galaxy In Flames: Long Knives (VI)

Fabius Bile (copyright DP at WH40kart)
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

It was in one of the earliest broadcasts our cell of rebels and malcontents produced that we discussed the nature of perfection, and argued that the pursuit of it is entirely laudable until our inability to ever truly reach it consumes the motives for seeking it in the first place. We must laud those who seek perfection, not punish those who fail.  Still less should we punish ourselves for our own failure in this regard. That way lies bitter madness, and ultimately the strange and horribly destructive idea that if we have failed to construct something perfectly, it would be better if it were torn to pieces and cast to the winds.

Such is the position the Emperor's Children are approaching as the Andronius orbits Istvaan Extremis. To hear Horus tell it, the Imperium has been imperfectly forged, built strongly and carefully not for the benefit of its citizens, but because the more satisfying this empire's form, the more glorious seemed its Emperor, and the easier his route to godhood would become.

The fact that this idea is patently false does not concern us here. We can learn nothing about the philosophies and practises which might doom ourselves to Chaos if we dismiss them as being based on inaccurate information.  What matters here isn't that Horus was lied to regarding the Emperor's goals, it is that upon believing that lie, the Emperor's Children immediately embraced policies of calamitous destruction and appalling carnage. They want from blindly following the word of the Emperor to blindly following the word of Horus, despite the fact that the approaches called for by the two men were completely at odds. One moment saving humanity from oppression was all that mattered; the next it was utterly irrelevant how humanity fared as long as there was a change at the top of the pyramid.

We've discussed this before, of course. When you conclude you're actions have been in error for some time, you can either believe you made a mistake, or that you were lied to. The latter is far easier to believe, and so far more commonly blamed. One advantage of this conclusion to those that embrace it is that it suggests one's methods were never a problem, it was simply the direction they were applied in that requires alteration.

These two ideas - anything short of perfection is best destroyed, and perfect warriors cannot make mistakes, they can merely be perfect for the wrong cause - combined into a dangerous toxin that swallowed up much of the III Legion. We have described before how the fear of failing to achieve perfection ultimately destroyed anything noble in Lord Commander Eidolon. For a battlefield commander like him, perfection was easy to comprehend and therefore easy to recognise as lacking. He should not have been making mistakes or missing opportunities in the field, and yet he was. What could that be but failure, and therefore a lack of perfection?

For an apothecary like Fabius Bile, however, the nature of perfection is far less clear-cut. A perfect commander never fails a mission, and never takes more casualties than success requires.  A perfect doctor, on the other hand, never loses a patient. In simpler times, that requires taking the fragile bodies nature gave us and attempting multiple miracles of prevention and cure to keep them running.  Since the creation of the Astartes, however, a second option has presented itself. Why spend so much time defending a poorly-built machine from the ravages of the universe, when we could simply make that machine work better?

This is already an apothecary's job, after all, to take the feeble frame of initiates and implant the correct genetic material in the optimum order. The idea that success comes not just through change but through direct physical change is built into a Legion's very DNA, metaphorically and literally. Where those in battle can simply say "I must improve my performance", Bile and his fellows must ask themselves what will prove more successful; a greater devotion to keeping the current Astartes alive, or the creation of a whole new Astartes who needs less looking after. To put it in the crudest terms, should we sharpen our knives the the furthest possible extent, or should we go looking for a bolt pistol?

Of course, taking the latter option meant acting against the Emperor's wishes, but that alone can't be enough to render a course of action unacceptable.  We have already argued too often that the Emperor's hypocritical ban upon the use of psychic powers and the investigation of the Warp rippled out into multiple disasters. We can either accept genetic manipulation as an approach, or we must reject it. We cannot claim it is moral and wise only when the Emperor does it.

So if Bile's experiments are not unacceptable simply by their very existence, what approach can we take to criticise them? Certainly not their strange results.  It is only long centuries of familiarity that makes an Astartes who can scream loud enough to shatter bone seem stranger and less defensible than one that can spit venom to blind their foes. Nor should we make our judgements based on aesthetic considerations. For every human culture repulsed by a man with the eyes of a fly, there is another who finds the red-eyed, black-skinned Salamanders or the hyper-pale Raven Guard or the mechancially augmented Iron Hands difficult to accept, or perhaps just thinks the quartered red and yellow of the Howling Griffons looks absolutely ridiculous.

No, the actual insurmountable problems lie elsewhere. The first is obvious, as we have considered something very similar before. Just as it is a mistake to define perfection as simply being the most efficient vector of murder possible, it is desperately short-sighted to suggest perfection comes only in a difficulty in being killed.  Just as with a facility for violence, endurance and resistance to injury are greatly valued amongst soldiers, but nothing in mankind's journey from one side of the galaxy to the other has proven more difficult to eradicate than the Terran cockleroche, and to date no Imperial force has seen fit to utilise them as shock troops. Perfection, to the extent we can even conceive of it, requires balance, of which obsession is always the enemy.

Even were the approach not flawed in theory, there are clear objections to the new regime Eidolon and Bile would usher in. One of these is the recruitment process.  The two Emperor's Chidren would both doubtless protest that alteration is a completely voluntary, but this holds only if one takes a deliberately and absurdly narrow definition of "voluntary" that somehow includes superior officers offering the procedure as a prerequisite for achieving positions those same senior officers have spend decades insisting are the only true measure of success. "Undergo this surgery or you cannot be promoted" is some distance from a suggestion absent of pressure. It is of course somewhere between profoundly implausible and obviously impossible that the Emperor and his recruiters don't apply pressure of their own when seeking out new initiates, but there the pressure can be exclusively positive; "Come with us and become a warrior more powerful than you can imagine".  It is an open question how much this distinction matters, admittedly, considering the martial societies from which the best recruits come will also be those for which the desire to become a better warrior is the most strongly pushed upon the young by their culture. That's arguably a second-order concern, however, and if nothing else, refusing to become an Astartes doesn't get you assigned to a dangerous assault that ends with your own cruisers trying to bomb you to pieces.

The second problem is perhaps more severe, or at least the differences are more obvious; there's no sense here that Bile has any interest in proceeding carefully or methodically. Volunteers simply go to sleep and wake up with new abilities, if they're lucky. If they wake up at all - Bile is entirely open about his high failure rate, and what he means by "failure" isn't something we're prepared to consider in depth. The impression given is that Astartes fall into chemically-induced comas and wake up with strange new body parts, if they wake up at all. It is a set-up very much more reminiscent of a Ork Painboy's charnel house than the laboratories of the Himalazian Mountains. And with all the resources of Ancient Terra and years to perfect his approach, the Emperor was still unable to create twenty Primarchs without the mistakes that plague the Blood Angels and their successors, the Black Dragons Chapter, and which have caused irregularities in the Space Wolves and - according to rumour - the Dark Angels too. Bile has not the time, the resources, or the inclination to repeat so impressive (if, of course, imperfect) a feat. He can simply attempt trial and error - with the emphasis heavily on error - and hope for the best.

Once again, we see the central cause of so many Legion's fall to Chaos. It is not that their goals are despicable - not obviously, not yet.  It is the route that is chosen to those goals. Horus wanted to replace the Emperor, and believed the fastest way to do so was to massacre billions of innocent people to tilt the balance in his favour. For the sake of a chance at a quicker war, no amount of unnecessary death was too great. So it is here with Eidolon, Bile and Fulgrim himself; for the sake of a chance at quicker results in a quest to upgrade the Astartes template, no amount of horrific experiments, grave-robbing and splicing of humans with alien monsters was too great. Humanity not only became something not worth protecting if it got in the way it became something to be actively thrown aside if it proved a hindrance.

Horus forgot he was, ultimately, still human. Bile actively tried to remove the humanity from as many of his comrades as possible. One sought power, the other perfection, and in the process both were only too happy to toss aside what motivated their desires in the first place.

Thus did the quest for perfection end amongst the screams and bloodstains of a mad butcher's abattoir. Thus did the Emperor's Children persuade themselves they had found one more rung to climb towards perfection, without realising they were falling all the while. You cannot reach perfection, you can merely approach it, and everything is risked on the bet that you will recognise the point at which you have come the closest.

Not everyone in the Legion failed to see this, of course. Some men understood and accepted their imperfection; they tried to minimise it, but they knew it for the constant companion of us all it was.  Those were the men who passed the test as Tarvitz had, and their reward, such as it was, is arriving soon. It is almost time we made the drop toward the Choral City.

First, however, we must observe preparations. Preparations, and a banquet.


------


What Is

Any thoughts on Fabius Bile's Vault of Horrors?  Who could have imagined a man with that name would be up to no good?

You mean the laboratory?

Yes.

Not to be confused with the lavatory.

Well either way shit's going down. HEYO!

What's the point of the place, then? What are they doing? Are they thinking about head swaps?
Maybe.

Given the Primarchs are from that lab, it seems strange Tarvitz is so surprised a place like this exists.

I think the basic suggestion is that it's only OK when the Emperor does it.

It didn't seem like that big of a deal. Just looked like spare parts and enhancements.

Enhancements? There's a severed head in their with fly eyes! The eyes of a fly!

Those could be improvements.

No they couldn't. Fly eyes are shit.

You're just saying that because they freak you out.

No I'm not, this is the voice of science. They can't see for shit.

They can see further around though, can't they? That's helpful.

Fine. You could make an Astartes that couldn't see for shit, but couldn't see for shit slightly further to each side. And to do that they'd have to be the size of footballs, which would not only be massive targets but ruin those nice snazzy helmets they like to wear.

You're just making all this up.  They could be magic Warp fly eyes. They might be able to see into people's minds.

You could say that about anything, though. "These ix magic Warp aardvark rectum. It farts rainbows."

Why would a-

I DO NOT KNOW WHY AN ASTARTES WOULD NEED TO FART RAINBOWS DO NOT ASK ME.

Fair enough.

So it didn't creep you out then?

Nope. It'll take more than that.

Any thoughts on Fabius himself?

He was quite quiet. I don't remember him doing much other than glaring.

And messing around with living muscle on a slab.  That's not right.

Isn't it? I'd have thought that'd be useful for a doctor charged with keeping wounded soldiers alive.

...Good point.


Leaving aside some of the more horrific aspects of Bile's work - who the hell would ever conclude fly eyes would be a useful thing to have? - is there anything to Eidolon's philosophy of the search for perfection above all else?

It's a big switch from shouting at Lucius for carrying that sword around two books ago.  Why the sudden change of heart?

Well, if Fulgrim really has ordered all this, it could just be Eidolon being a lickspittle as usual.

I notice he's lost his diplomatic powers from earlier.

I suspect he just doesn't care what he's saying to the lower ranks.

Yeah, but he didn't even notice when he insulted Tarvitz.

Again: does not give a damn.

It still all seems too fast. Even if Fulgrim does think he could do all this as well as his father, he's still doing it behind the emperor's back.  Which means they've gone from "aliens are hideous and unacceptable" to "we must be just like the awesome aliens" really, really fast.

True enough, though it's hard to draw too many conclusions given how little we've seen of the Emperor's Children post-Murder. None of this really gets us into the morals of all this, though.  Let's change tack.  Should we adapt ourselves with bits of animals in order to improve humanity?

Bits of animals like what? Magic aardvark rectums?

I was thinking more like gills.  I'd like gills.

Urgh.  Too fishy. Wouldn't you rather have a blow-hole?

I have two blow-holes. I call them my nostrils.

I'd like sharper teeth, or eyes that can zoom on in things. Or colour changing skin, that'd be cool. We should design our perfect animal. That can be our new blog. Begin the preparations immediately.

But...

BEGIN!


Loken's conversation with Abaddon clearly didn't work out all that well. But was it worth a go? Or has Loken just thrown away his only advantage?

He definitely went for the wrong person.  It should've been Aximand.  And I don't get why Abaddon is insisting Loken hasn't had his loyalty tested. He's had it tested, hasn't he? Tested and failed.

It's more that they've each chosen a different side of conflicting loyalties. That's the tragedy here, neither of them will admit the other made an entirely defensible choice when confronted with an impossible situation.

I note Abaddon isn't showing any concern about Erebus.  Which is ridiculous, considering he's the guy who got the Warmaster poisoned in the first place.

I guess Abaddon doesn't exactly know that.

Loken pretty much spelled it out for him.

Yeah, but Abaddon's clearly putting a lot of effort into not hearing that. I was definitely annoyed Loken didn't make it completely explicit, though.

Why is Abaddon calling Loken a thief? Surely it's not theft if you take a holy book.

Of course it's theft. What else could it be?

Spreading the word.

I think to spread the word you need to do more than just move the word to another room. That's like you saying you're going to spread jam on my toast and then stealing my toast. And my jam.

That's my jam!

In this hypothetical scenario, the jam is mine.


Still on Loken, how come he and Torgaddon keep getting the battle honours, with them so out of favour? And why has Horus decided to pick and choose specific squads instead of sending down companies like usual?

I presume they keep getting picked because Horus is hoping they'll get killed.

Is it just a hope? You don't think he's planning to pull a Hektor Varvaras on them?

I don't know.  They're a bit high profile to just shoot.  Both in their Legion and in others.

How do you mean?

Well, Loken got to chat to Dorn. And Torgaddon has been around forever, he's bound to have made an impression on a few Primarchs.

Fair enough.  What about the pick'n'mix squad idea?

Yeah, that's suspicious. It's obviously a bad military move because it makes it harder for people to trust someone has their backs.

So why do it?

My best guess is that since Loken's been so against his people joining the Lodge, this is the best way to get someone from the Lodge close to him. Someone who could smuggle something in or out. Or even take out Loken, if it becomes necessary.


What Will Be

The Lectitio Divininatus seems to be spinning its wheels a bit now the saint is safe.  Any thoughts on where this storyline is going. Or, for that matter, any interest?

What is it you want them to be doing?

I don't know. But I'm not the one who stuck them in the story.

They've not really done anything for ages; why complain now?

At least for a while they were growing, that's kind of a thing.

They're still growing now.

Are they? I can't tell if they're getting new recruits any faster than Maloghurst can kill them. So where is this all headed.

Well, either they become the rebellion against Horus-

Which would suck for them, since all the other Astartes hate them too.

-Or Horus will actually end up using them to gain support. "Look at what these shitty humans we didn't care about until now are getting up to!"

I hope Horus says it just like that, though in a deeper voice.


Now Loken has confessed his theft, how is Horus likely to respond?

Will he try to talk to him? I do think it's interesting that Horus hasn't said anything to Loken since they were on that planet.

I guess Abaddon has spun a fairly convincing tale about Loken being cool with Horus dying so long as no-one tried the local faith healer.

But Loken didn't get to make that choice anyway.

I don't think that would matter to Abaddon, or even Horus. All the First Captain has to say is "We took you somewhere to save your life and Loken was a total dick about it", and the job's done.  I imagine Abaddon was the very first person Horus spoke to in private after his recovery, and the very first thing Abaddon said was "I don't think we can still trust Torgaddon, and we definitely can't trust Loken".

I suppose being chums with Karkasy won't have helped there.  But getting back to the question, maybe we're seeing the results of the theft here; putting Loken and Torgaddon at the head of the spear-tip.

If that's true, then there must be more going on here than just hoping they get shot.  That seems way too hands-off for Horus.

Good point. OK, they smuggle the book down, they something horrible from it, and they frame Loken for it since he's been seen with the book. Sorted.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Primal Scream

Galaxy In Flames: Long Knives (V)

What the Astartes saw:
the Eye of Terror (copyright Games Workshop)
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

The visions of Chaos are a strange phenomenon. It always seems odd (and more than a little ironic) that a force so dedicated to overturning order should spend so much time offering visions of the future. Everything that Horus was shown in the Serpent Lodge on Davin has come to pass.  So too has much of what Loken glimpsed inside the fane of his Primarch, and we should not ignore the fact that there is still time for what remains unconfirmed to ultimately come to pass.

But if Chaos is so dedicated to heedless hedonism, violent overthrow, and the very concept of change itself (depending on which pantheon you're standing closest to), how can it comprehend the future with such accuracy? The most simple answer is that the time-dilation effects of the Empyrean makes watching the future no harder than observing the past. Which we don't doubt represents at least part of the answer.  Fundamentally, though, I think we have to look to ourselves.  How can it possibly be difficult to predict the future of mankind when we simply repeat the same actions, over and over?

If we are in the business of dissecting visions of the future, the barrage of imagery that hit Loken isn't actually any more  of what is to come than the spectacle of Lord Commander Eidolon and the rebel Warsinger atop the temple on Istvaan Extremis, screaming into each other's faces. That sad, violent spectacle illustrates the entire span of human history: two people rage at each other until one of them dies.

Throughout our time in the galaxy mankind's cardinal rule has always been that might makes right.  Oh, oftentimes we have pretended otherwise (and for all our lamentations for ages long past, we can at least give our current era this much: we don't put effort into hiding our credo of violence anymore) , but our protestations boil down to a simple sleight of hand; we tell ourselves that right makes might, and resolve to think no more on the subject, as though there were never any chance of the arrow pointing in the other direction.  Even the Great Crusade, the fastest explosion of human dominance ever known, and a campaign completely committed to reason and wisdom, boils down to one group of humans deciding all other humans must live like them, and shouting this revelation at full volume to every forgotten colony they stumble upon. And all of it justified, naturally, through the obvious sophistry that the Emperor's vision must be right, or else how has it become more successful. As though one disease is less unpleasant to suffer through than another simply because it spreads more effectively.

The point here isn't simply that mankind is a vicious and violent species.  It is that we defend our violence by screaming our rage at our enemies, so as to block out their own noise.  Their stories.  Their speech. We scream not just to give voice to the hate we need to build in ourselves to pick up our weapons, but to ensure we hear nothing from the enemy. In this way we can construct in our minds and in our culture an image of who and what our enemy is, without inconvenient facts breaking through and colouring the black and white images we prefer when shooting to kill.

Some wars are worth the fighting, obviously.  We don't even need to consider the Orks or the more rapacious iterations of Eldar to know that sometimes tyrants and oppressors need to be bled. The Age of Apostasy. The Reign of Blood. Man's bottomless reserves of inhumanity to man. But just as all wars are not created equal, nor are all war-cries. In those circumstances, a scream is not weaponised in the service of prolonging war, but as a rallying cry against oppression. Indeed, the difference between the two is simple to determine; we need think only whether the scream is needed because their voice had been smothered?

If this is so, all well and good. We will not set ourselves against you. Otherwise, we respectfully offer this suggestion. Just stop screaming, once in a while.  You might hear something you don't expect in the quiet.  Maybe that will be some revelation about those you assumed deserved to die. Or if that fails to move you, consider that it could be something else. It might just be the sound of Chaos creeping up on you, preparing to strike.


------


What Is

This is the first chapter of the book with some extended action scenes to keep adrenaholics happy.  How do Counter's descriptions of carnage strike you?

Well it was nice and gory, so it had that going for it. And there was a lot more about what the individual warriors were getting up to; a literal blow-by-blow.  That's been missing a bit in the other books.  But my problem here was that there just wasn't any description of the enemy before we got to the Warsinger.

Their armour got a mention.

Once. Just.  The rest of the time they could have been absolutely anybody.  Just faceless goons to be slaughtered to up the page count. There's no sense of challenge.

Fair enough. I confess I'm uneasy about battle scenes where no-one but the leaders actually matter in any sense. So how does Counter measure up against Abnett and McNeill?

If he'd included more about the people the Astartes were fighting, it would have been my favourite so far.  But it didn't, so it isn't.  The best fight so far is still against the Arachnids.

That's the benchmark, huh?

You disagree?

Not really. I still think the Megarachnids are a bit too reminiscent of Tyranids, but that's nothing you need to worry about. If my favourite isn't Murder, it's Xenobia. Those are the only two occasions so far that the Astartes don't seem to have just run over everything without feeling it.


Did any part of Loken's vision interest you? Were you able to make any sense out of it?

It mainly felt like a replay of the one Horus had.  Though I don't understand why it happened.  He didn't sacrifice anyone.

Maybe it's like the Playboy Channel. You have to pay for the movie but you get the trailers for free.

Playboy Channel?

I hear stories. Let's stay focused. There were a lot fewer gibbering daemons when we were in Horus' head.  Though that might be deliberate.

You mean someone's deliberately added them to Loken's vision?

Actually it's more likely someone edited them from Horus.

I guess.  Though Loken's already worried about daemons, so...

You think it's his subconscious?

Maybe. In part at least.

Actually, that would explain why Loken thought he saw Torgaddon. Maybe he was feeling guilty about forming this secret club with him then blowing him off to snoop around.

He might be worried about him.  Torgaddon's the only person in the Mournival and almost the only person full stop who hasn't already betrayed him.  Maybe he's worried the whole thing is a set-up.

That would be really interesting, actually.  It'd be nice for someone to not be what they seem; that hasn't really happened since Erebus. Torgaddon being rotten would be a great twist.

It wouldn't be a great twist. OK, I'll give you. A great twist would be Abaddon turning out to be the Emperor.

That would... what? How... what?

Yeah.  Didn't see it coming, did you?

No, for like seventeen different reasons. The Torgaddon twist at least has some non-zero chance of actually happening. I was actually disappointed when he turned out to not be real here.  How about you?

I've had too many cool twist ideas that haven't come to anything already. I don't have the energy for disappointment today.


What's up with Eidolon and all that screaming?

Doesn't he just have a microphone?

Tarvitz doesn't think so. He'd probably not be too shocked if the Emperor's Children tended to use sonic weapons. I mean, not that they ever would. Clearly.

Well we did learn Eidolon has been getting good at... that... thing. The talking thing. To people. What's the word.

You mean diplomacy. We shall pass without comment over your inability to remember the term.

So maybe when he learned that he also learned how to deal with loud people.

Right, but plenty of people learn that in this world, but they don't tend to approach it by screaming people's faces off.

Where's Eidolon been?

Who can say. Other than me, of course, and I won't.

Then he could have been at a secret voice school. Or he could be like Felix Castor (from the Mike Carey books everyone should read) and can upset supernatural things with music. Or even it might just be physics; using his voice perfectly to cancel out the Warsinger's.

All good theories. Well, all theories anyway.  Which reminds me:


Where do you stand on the Warsinger? Creepy and effective or rather silly?

I don't understand her tactics.

Which part?

Why did she let Eidolon get so close to her?  Why did she go all the way down to the ground?

She didn't.

Yes she did. After she knocked down the pyramid.

She didn't knock down the pyramid. She just picked up bits of it and chucked it around.

Well that wasn't very clear.

Actually, destroying the temple is probably a good idea. You could just float above everything peeling Astartes to your heart's content.

They still have guns though.

For all the good they did. Though I'm not clear why a sword would work any better.

I think you have to distract her. Which makes the temple collapse an even better plan. Stay up there where no-one can bother you, and you can rip apart Astartes to your heart's content. Or drop huge pieces of masonry on them, just to switch things up.

Wouldn't it be easier just to make everyone so depressed they just kill themselves.

She's not Leonard Cohen.

Or so angry they kill each other.

She's not ...er... Anti Nowhere League.

Who?

Not sure. They seemed awfully angry in that So What? song. Under no circumstances Google that. Anyway, we seem to have gotten entirely off the subject.  Did you like her, was the question.

She's... an interesting concept.

That all?

I'm trying not be negative. I get told off when I'm too negative.


What Will Be
  
What's going to go down when Horus learns his latest reading material has been swiped?

He will sing to it and it will fly back to him.

Because what? How? What?

Singing is very much the theme of this chapter.

Actually it's the ridiculous volume of making war and how you can weaponise that, but your idea is profoundly silly either way.

Charming. Maybe Horus unleashes his daemon thingies on Loken.

You think he'll know who did it?

He might have an intuitive connection with it.

That's possible.

Will Horus really mind all that much?  Does he still need the book.

Presumably.  It's a pretty incriminating thing to leave lying around if you don't need to.

But he has Erebus.

Erebus doesn't have the whole book on him.  You can't fit a whole book on your head.

He's got the whole of the rest of his body.  It's always saying how big Astartes bodies are.

I don't care if every square centimetre of his body is covered in text with his cock reserved for a bookmark, you can't fit an entire grimoire of unspeakable evil onto one slightly gigantic man.

So maybe Horus will think Erebus has stolen it to make himself indispensable.

Now there's a theory I can get behind.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Best Case Scenario

Galaxy In Flames: Long Knives (IV)

Horus in his new togs (copyright Games Workshop)
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

With Angron placated and recruited, and the attack on Istvaan III just days away, Horus could now confidently rely on the Primarchs of four Legions other than his own. With Magnus neutralised, Russ and Sanginius distracted, Guilliman about to be humbled at Calth, and Ferrus Manus soon to join his cause, the Warmaster could count on six full Legions against an absolute maximum of nine in any position to stand against him, with the Mechanicum of Mars also on his side.  It was time for Erebus to make good on his word.  It was time to parlay with the Warp.

It would be almost entirely redundant to point out how Horus once more demonstrates his contempt for the idea of actually safeguarding the people he claims he wishes to liberate.  Not just in the callous murder of Ing Mae Sing which underlines the point - apparently he's decided humans are better off with him in charge unless they happen to work for him in any capacity - it's his total failure to react to the fact that Erebus and Lorgar have employed this murderous form of communication before. Who can say how many people thought themselves safe under the watchful gaze of the Word Bearers Primarch before they were put to death to fuel a coup d'├ętat?

As we've said, though, this is a song we have sung before. Let's talk about the other facet of Horus his diplomatic overtures with Chaos highlights: his desperate need to believe everything is going to work out exactly as planned.

It is with no exaggeration that we can state that until we before we began the exacting and horribly dangerous task of piecing together just what took place in the earliest days of the Horus Heresy, it would never have occurred to us that any man would trust a disembodied voice that proclaimed itself "Lord of Shadows". An intelligence that proudly proclaims allegiance to gods that fight their wars wielding decay and rot.  A force whose very term for itself and its fellows is one denoting an inability to be brought under control, and which reveals in its very first negotiation to have blinded Horus' own forces for their own purposes.

The idea that such a force can be considered a steadfast ally would be laughable if that mistake had not cost so many lives over the last ten thousand years. And whilst Horus surely saw not a long-lasting friendship but rather a temporary arrangement to be nullified as soon as was expedient, the underlying assumptions remain a problem. Chaos might be able to deliver what it promises.  It might choose to dedicate enough of its resources to fulfil its side of the bargain.  It might be possible for Horus to disentangle himself from his new allies easily and bloodlessly. But there's plenty of reasons both general and particular to consider those dubious propositions, and no particular reason to believe them other than the word of a known liar.

But then lies have never needed to be particularly believable when it comes to war.  They need only be useful.  They need only be tempting. They need do no more than confirm the warmonger was right all along; that their victory is inevitable, and will be quick, and will be total.  It's not just the forging of ties with Chaos that betrays Horus here.  Look at the list of assumptions with which we started this broadcast.  What if Sanguinius isn't delayed for as long as Horus thinks?  What if the surprise attack against Ultramar goes wrong? What if Russ and Magnus avoid all-out war, or are sufficiently unbloodied when word of Horus' treachery reaches them that they can reach accord?  What if Mortarion has second thoughts? What if Fulgrim cannot persuade Ferrus Manus and he alerts the Emperor? Can Night Haunter and Peturabo be relied upon to join the rebellion? Can anyone ever say with certainty which way Alpharius will jump?

None of this should be taken as an argument for inaction. Some wars need to be fought, and those conflicts cannot wait for a guarantee of victory.  We are not suggesting hyperbolic prudence. We are however pointing out the horrors that can result when a prideful lack of prudence combines with a willingness to see war as a process that almost exclusively requires the sacrifice of others (and with beings as godlike as the Primarchs, it is almost axiomatic that such is the way they must view warfare, at least if they are being honest). The end result is inevitably to throw other people and other people's children into the meat-grinder on the off chance that everything will work out the way you are hoping. The theoretical possibility of a path to victory is recast as a wide, straight road terminating just over the next hill.

The road is never wide.  It is never straight.  And from the very beginning, it can be paved only with skulls and ribcages. Knowing Khorne always wins is just another way of saying everyone else always loses. Only the degrees differ. The best case scenario is that not all that many of your own people die in agony in the pursuit of a goal from which they will gain little benefit. A Warmaster should understand that.  If their responsibilities are to mean anything, they must include knowing which wars can be won, and which wars are worth the fighting. Worth the sacrifice of others. Worth the death of others.

Here, at long last, we learn that Horus was right all along. He was never worthy to be who he became.

------


What Is

Is Horus making a terrible mistake here?  How much trust can you put in something that refers to itself as "Lord of Shadows"?

Indeed. How can you generate shadows if you've brought darkness?

What?

He said they'd brought darkness to the Warp.

But they're not in the Warp right now.

But he's from the Warp.  You can't have shadows in darkness; that's basic physics.

You might be taking his title a tad literally.

It's clear Horus is hedging his bets here, waiting to see how well things go on the planet before he commits.  Actually, given his comments on forging his men into a sword, I wonder whether he has some plan for turning the regular folks into Legions and Primarchs.

So who got the better of the deal?

Well, I'm assuming Horus has a plan that Erebus isn't aware of.  That whole section came across as a trap for Erebus and Lorgar, right up until Horus killed Ing Mae Sing.

And now she is dead?

I don't know.  It's a hell of a thing to ask your astropath. Do I mean astropath?

Yes.

Good. I couldn't remember if it was that or astrolabe.

Well first of all, that's a completely different thing, and second of all, I'm somewhat dubious about your use of the word "ask".

Well, if this is a trap, Horus might have discussed it ahead of time.

Assuming it isn't, though, is Horus using Chaos, or is Chaos using him?

Well, Chaos is turning the Emperor's own son against him.  Talk about getting your revenge.  The only question is: is it sufficiently cold?


Poor old Ing Mae Sing.  Did her death get to you?  Can  you remember who she was?

I definitely remember her, but yeah, if you want someone's death to have meaning you've got to build them up more than she was. Has she even done anything since that fight with the demon?

That preempts my next question, actually, which is whether you can remember anything she's actually done.

There was the fight.

Yes...

And she warned Sindermann.

That was this chapter; I can't accept that as an answer.

Then... no, I got nothing. I note though that she's the second female character to die, out of four. And one of those was a bitch.

Is the gender balance bothering you?

Only because I'm speaking to you.

'Tis true, my ultra-progressive politics are infecting this entire blog. These "where are all the women at" comments might end up pissing off even more people than that time I suggested Moy and Marr were busy boning each other in-between planet-strikes.


A lot was made in the last book about how Horus does have some fairly solid reasons for wanting to strike out against the Emperor.  At what point do you think Horus' approach clearly crossed the line into actively evil?  Or do you not think that's actually happened?

Well he's killing people. How much more evil can you get?

It depends on his reasons.

I suppose you could say that Sing woman was a dissenter, and even a traitor, for sending out that message. So maybe executing her would be justifiable.  Varvaras was kind of a dissenter in wartime too, and Karkasy. I don't see how you can apply that to Petronella, though.

Yeah, that was just expediency. Horus went proper Littlefinger there.  So is that when he crossed the line.

I think it was before that.  Remember that bloke who came up to the spaceship and Horus shot him for no reason?

Yeah.

That. Or even earlier, when he sent someone to attack Magnus Magnusson.

That's interesting, when you think that was all of a chapter or two after he first chose to be humanity's brand new super-shiny saviour.  Is it surprising how quickly  he went from wanting to save humanity from the Emperor to having dissenters shot to working up some hoodoo in his flagship?

I don't know.  Is there a great divide between a Warmaster and a war mongerer? Or a great general?

Probably not, but does that get us anywhere with Horus?

Maybe. If you combine that sort of mentality with a traumatic event like Horus suffered, isn't this exactly what you'd expect?

What, creeping around like a drunk student in the first act of a horror movie?

Maybe. All we've ever known about Horus' position on the subject was that the Emperor was against it, therefore he was.  Who knows what he'd decide was a good idea once he rebelled?


Any thoughts on the Second Miracle of Saint Euphrati?  Was Aruken right that they weren't really needed in the first place?

Are we sure it's Euphrati?  She never does anything without Sindermann being there, and it was him who brought that demon in to the ship in the first place. Maybe he got rid of it too.  All those months of reading up on magic might have given him some innate ability.

That's a nice theory, but what about the burning eagle?

Does anyone other than Sindermann ever see that?

Erm... I'm not sure, actually.

Well there you go.

You think he's using it as a focus rather than her?

Either that or he's seeing things to help him rationalise his abilities. Plus how come she only wakes up when he arrives?

So Aruken was wrong about not being needed because Sindermann is the saint all along? I kind of like that as a narrative twist.  I'm less keen about the gender issues in having one of the only two female characters still alive seem to have psychic powers but them belonging to an old white guy all along.


We're four chapters into Galaxy in Flames now. How is this measuring up to Horus Rising and False Gods? Is there any obvious difference in prose or approach?

There's not as much character development here as before, though I said that about the last book too. 

I suppose though that there's no new characters added so far this time around.

Yeah, but we've learned nothing new about the characters we did have.  And we got to meet a new Primarch, and nothing really stood out about him. It does feel a bit quicker, though, I'll give it that.  The last book took forever to build, and I'm not even sure if it ever really got there at all.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Lords Of War

Galaxy In Flames: Long Knives (III)

Mortarion, copyright Gang Zang
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

Three Primarchs in one room. Representatives from almost a quarter of the Emperor's Legions. As a metaphor for the expanding reach of the Warmaster and the accelerating threat of the Heresy, it is pretty much perfect, if simplistic. It also demonstrates the fact that we are reaching the point where even the most precise deconstruction of the events from which the Heresy emerged will come up short in trying to track each contribution to the building storm. The earliest beats in our story are easy to identify: Lorgar's treachery, Erebus' theft, Fulgrim's temptation in the Laer temple. By the time our subjects have gathered in the Istvaan system, there are simply too many moving parts to identify and follow.  What started as discrete pebbles set tumbling down a mountainside has become a roaring avalanche, a single mass of infinite complexity and danger.

This is made harder by our lack of knowledge.  We know when Fulgrim first signed up to Horus' cause, but Angron is harder to place.  Was it before the assault on the Iron Citadel, or after? Did he give the order to execute Varvaras, or did Horus? Is Horus in fact headed for the Conqueror to win Angron to his cause?

But the mystery of Angron is nothing compared to that of Mortarion.  For the Primarch of the World Eaters, only the precise timing is unclear. The reasoning behind his decision could not be more obvious, to the point where we have questioned the Emperor's supposed ignorance on the issue. A obsessive commitment to butchery under all circumstances? It's faintly surprising the last scion of Nuceria didn't defect to the Orks. With Mortarion, though, we know almost nothing. When did he first chafe against the Emperor's will? When did he make his feelings known to Horus? At what point was the fatal decision made?

Mortarion remains one of the last true mysteries of the Horus Heresy. Eight other Primarchs turned to Chaos before or during the Heresy, and we know the motivations behind all of them. Horus and Fulgrim fill victim to pride, and Peturabo and Night Haunter to bitterness. Lorgar sought the love of the Chaos Gods, and Magnus their protection. Angron needed more leeway in who and what he could hack to pieces. Even the ever-mysterious Alpharius acted from identifiable motives, choosing a temporary ascendancy of evil over the agonising slow death the Imperium promised.

But Mortarion? Who can say. Scattered suggestions exist that he might have acted from a fear the Emperor had grown too powerful and tyrannical, but these second-hand reports strike us as more justifications after the fact than they do genuine explanation. We may well never know what precisely went on inside that pale, pocked head. And whilst some might argue that Mortarion's betrayal was inevitable from his form and temperament, we should avoid such lazy thinking. Whatever else Mortarion was, he spent centuries fighting for us. We are the poorer for his loss to Chaos, and we are the more endangered for being unable to see what flaw in ourselves Horus used to bring him to this pass.

Perhaps further clues might be found in a more detailed consideration of the Death Guard's final days as a unified loyalist force. Certainly that will be our focus once we finish charting the final moments of Captains Loken and Torgaddon on Istvaan III. For now, though, Mortarion must remain a mystery, his soul as hidden as his face.  We must move on to other enigmas.  The Chaos Gods themselves are about to speak.


------


What Is

Mortarion has arrived.  That's our seventh Primarch, for those counting.  How does he rank up amongst the ones you've seen so far?

He didn't seem to make the same impression as other Primarchs. On other people, I mean.

You mean Loken?

Yeah.  This didn't have the "oooh" moment you got with all the others, the sense that this is someone special.  Really the only thing you learned here is that he has huge things stuck in is head.

No he doesn't; that's Angron.

Oh.  In that case, all we learn is that he's not Angron.

Mortarion is the one with the breathing mask.

(Fliss looks confused and reaches for the book).

Yes, see? Only one paragraph on him. Seven lines.  He's bald, got a breathing thing, and bare armour. I'm sure the other Primarchs got much more on them than Montarion.

Mortarion. You can't even remember him when you're reading his first appearance.

And who's fault is that? Is he the first Primarch we meet in this book.

Yes.

Then I think we all know what's happened.

I guess playing Devil's advocate I could argue that the whole point of the Death Guard is that they're not at all interested in adornments or gilding. They don't even go in for painting armour.  Just a brass skull and the job's a good 'un.  So maybe Counter is describing them in spare tones because that's how they think of themselves.

Maybe. But you've got to give us something. I didn't pick up on the idea at all that they're anti-bling.

That's the problem with that approach, I guess.  If you're too minimalist about the minimalism people might miss the minimalism of the minimalists.


The use of scary recordings to build tension is a well-established horror trope. Are you intrigued by what's going on down on Isstvan III?

Yes.  Mainly because I'm wondering what the hell Horus is up to now.

How do you mean?

Well, is the recording even real? Is it really two years old?  Maybe Horus set this whole thing up as an excuse to go down there and kill this guy (Praal).  Could Mersadie Oliton have been helping him fake pictures. She probably knows how, and she was missing for an awful lot of the end of the last book.

But it wasn't Horus who found this recording; it was Mortarion.

It could still have been planted.

He says its two years old.

He guestimated that. It could all be faked.

Mortarion said it was just coincidence that his ship happened to drop out of the Warp and pick up the transmission.

And how suspicious is that?

It seems quite hard to arrange, though, doesn't it?

Why? They had to leave the Warp because they were in trouble. And Horus is bestest friends with the things in the Warp these days.

So you don't think what we saw was real.

Well, maybe. It did look like an attack by the things in the Warp.

So if it was, did it work in terms of creepiness? I know you weren't impressed by the last attack.

I think you need to work harder to freak me out. I've become quite immune to horror these days. Though reading this on a packed commuter train to Birmingham New Street probably didn't help.

No indeed. Not with that amount of true horror surrounding you.

(I shall by the way be testing Fliss' apparent resistance to horror come this year's Halloweenapalooza. Ten quid says she spends so much of the triple bill with her face in her panda pillow she'll taste the bamboo.)


Whilst we're on the subject of Horus' deceptions, what do you think Horus' plan here is?  

I can believe there's actually a Warp attack going on down there.  Is Horus hoping to grab some of the Warp energy? Is that something that can happen?  Is that how it works?

Maybe, though it's not clear to me how he would manage that without anyone noticing.

Who does he need to hide it from?

Loken and Torgaddon.

Two people.

Er, Vipus?

Who's been given the death signal.

What?

Torgaddon said Vipus was the only person other than Loken that Torgaddon can trust.  That means he'll be dead by the end of next chapter.  Or turn out to be a traitor.

I can't deny that the basic rules of drama require something to go wrong after such a statement.

Horus might be looking to get rid of Vipus. And Loken and Torgaddon too.  I'm just not sure how he's going to do it.


How come Abaddon and Eidolon have started getting on so well?

I don't know.  Who's been teaching Eidolon diplomacy?  Maybe Horus and/or Fulgrim beat it into him after Murder.  And Abaddon got into trouble over his lack of diplomacy with the interex.  Maybe they've bonded over that.  

Ah, the Brotherhood of Butthurt.  A powerful organisation, if a little paranoid.

Plus of course they need to start getting people onside. And Abaddon is probably treading carefully. He knows that he'd be in real trouble if word gets out that he let Horus be healed in the Serpent Lodge. I assume the other Primarchs would be interested in that little tit-bit?

Depends on the Primarch. Dorn would be pretty furious at least, I'd imagine. Any other thoughts on why the two of them are being so kissy-kissy?

I don't think they're having an affair, if that's what you're implying.

Too bad.  That's just the kind of twist this story needs to pep it up.

I wonder if Abaddon has suggested Eidolon murder Torgaddon? That way Eidolon gets revenge, and Abaddon gets plausible deniability.

How fiendish!

I'm accidentally improving the story again, aren't I?

I can say no more. My tears must speak for me.


What Will Be

Who's going to win the race, Sindermann or Maggard? Or are they going to show up together for maximum hi-jinks?

I figure Maggard the Haggard* will get there first, and the others will catch him in the act.  Then he'll try to kill him.

Who will try to kill whom?

The Titan guy. Guys. They'll try to shoot Maggard.

That doesn't sound like it will end well.

For whom?

For anyone not named Maggard.

Except the saint will wake up and save them. Obviously.

* I was going to cut this nickname out since Fliss literally uses it every time now.  But I figured I'd let one through. After all, so much hurried genetic manipulation to bulk him out to Astartes-esque levels is probably leaving him more than a little tired and scruffy.