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?


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?


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.


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?


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.

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