Update: I forgot to mention this, but Black Library have re-released False Gods for your reading pleasure, so you no longer have no excuse to not wade through the twenty-three posts Fliss and I generated on the second book in this series.
|Kharn, busy betraying (copyright Games Workshop)|
The final assault on the loyalist stronghold has begun, and the rebels are falling over each other in their haste to claim glory.
This, of course, is a problem.
Well, it isn't a problem for us. Indeed, whilst our species' weaknesses for cupidity and vainglory has resulted in a truly humiliating number of us swelling the ranks of Chaos, those same drives when untethered from obligation do not lend themselves towards disciplined soldiering. There is probably no more fundamental reason for why we are losing the Long War as slowly as we are. And here, in the dying moments of the war on Istvaan III, this tendency toward self-abnegation is everywhere.
There are three encounters we can base these observations around; the duels between first Loken and Kharn and then Tarvitz and Lucius, and the violent massacre perpetrated on the loyalist triage centre by Eidolon and his followers. Each of these encounters in their own way demonstrate the fundamental problem facing Chaos as an effective fighting force.
Consider Eidolon. Obviously his obscene delight in murdering the injured and helpless is disgusting, but that is not our point here. It is a profoundly sad fact that basic humanity can be so totally thrown aside in these circumstances, but a fact it remains, and always has. But even with the moral outrage set aside, spending critical time slaughtering the injured is just poor strategy. The most fundamental aspect of a surprise attack is speed. The most important targets need to be eliminated in the shortest amount of time possible. You don't waste time stopping to brutalised those too injured to fight. By definition, they are not an immediate concern. Leave a few guards to deal with any surprises, and then move along.
Instead, Eidolon allows Tarvitz time to rally his defenders and potentially further protract an already unacceptably lengthy campaign, simply so the Lord Commander can convince himself he's earning glory through the simple quantity of death he can dole out. The body count became more important than victory.
There was never any real chance of Loken beating Kharn of the World Eaters Legion in what we might, in loose terms, describe as a fair fight. One might be tempted to suggest he might have pulled out a win in the same way he did when he first faced Lucius in the practice cages, but the comparison is flawed. Loken won there by entering a contest with specific rules -or at least norms - and wilfully violating them to demonstrate the foolishness of relying on your opponent to following the same code you do. It was a worthy lesson, but it can hardly be considered to apply here. The World Eaters have no code, just an addiction to violence. Loken could not beat Kharn by doing something Kharn wouldn't expect, because Kharn has no principles blinding him to any subset of strategies. The basic Luna Wolves philosophy as described by Loken is to understand the enemy and do whatever it takes to win, but any degree of understanding the World Eaters makes clear that the way to beat them is to never under any circumstances find yourself in close combat with them.
And yet Loken survived the confrontation with what must have been one of the top five most prolific killers on Istvaan III. His escape seems like good fortune, and to some extent that's what it was. But that isn't the whole story. It never is. In this case Loken's good luck was only made possible by the mad dashing advance of the rebel forces, a pell-mell rush to get to grips with the enemy that ended up almost killing one of Angron's best troops in the scrabble for glory. We've already accepted that speed is critical in an attack like this, but speed needn't mean haste, and it certainly needn't mean failing to check your route of approach for friendlies. The speed with which the enemy could be slaughtered became more important than victory.
There's a certain delicious irony in Lucius' failure to kill Tarvitz stemming from precisely the kind of team-work Lucius had dismissed so thoroughly. Much as with Loken, though, we need to dig deeper. Lucius could have killed Tarvitz the moment the loyalist captain arrived. It took him only seconds to realise what had happened, of course, but for a swordsman of Lucius' skill, that's more than enough time to strike a killing blow. And yet he didn't. Why? Surely not for honour's sake; betraying one's brothers in arms before murdering them in a surprise attack rather renders questions of honour irrelevant, even for Astartes as deluded as the higher echelons of the Emperor's Children often seem to be. This was about gloating and a need to prove superiority. Even when Lucius had the chance to kill Tarvitz in honest combat he didn't bother, preferring to play with his food. Ultimately that failure to push the advantage saved Lucius' foe, and very nearly got him killed. Gloating over the enemy became more important than victory.
We've discussed before the central self-defeating fact of Chaos; that you cannot construct an army from those who by their very nature chafe against authority and expect them to work towards the greater plan. A recruitment process so heavily geared toward exploiting arrogance and narcissism is bound to generate profound problems within the ranks. You cannot impose order with chaos as your starting point. Too many things end up becoming more important than victory. At this point the Warmaster can't even have his forces operate coherently. The World Eaters and the Emperor's Children are attacking more or less independently, Throne alone knows what the Death Guard are up to on the other side of the city, and the Sons are Horus seem to be barely taking the field.
Before the Heresy has spread even from its planet of origin, things are falling apart. The strangest truth in all of this might be that whilst humanity is forever its worst enemy, our second-worst enemy is its own worst enemy as well. Ultimately we may simply be in a race to see who can defeat themselves first.
Which is not to say, obviously, that there isn't plenty of fire crossing the space between our parallel paths downward. Which is as good a way as any of segueing into our main event.
It is time for the Mournival to convene, one final time.
There's not much to go through this week; we're basically all about the duels. Well, and a massacre. But here's a burning question: what was cooler, Loken versus Kharn or Tarvitz versus Lucius?
I'm not sure. I wasn't exactly a massive fan of either. Can't the good guys win without subterfuge?
Loken didn't win through subterfuge, that was blind luck.
But it still wasn't talent, was it?
I'm amazed the other Emperor's Children even went along with shooting Lucius. Don't they have rules about fighting the honourable way?
I'm not sure they do, I think Lucius' approach in the practice cages is pretty different to they actually make war. But more to the point, I suspect it all goes out the window when you see one of your brothers in arms has slaughtered a dozen or two of your best mates, and is standing in the middle of their bodies singing "Doo doo doo, doo doo doo, doing the evil dance!"
Dances can't be evil.
This one can. The dance... OF BLADES!
The dance isn't evil, it's the heart of the person who's dancing.
Incorrect. There is an evil dance, and also a good dance. I believe the latter is a samba of some kind.
Where was I? What was I talking about?
The potential alignment of dancing.
No, before that. Before you sidetracked me.
How on Earth can I possibly know which parts of your streams of consciousness represent sidetracks?
That was it. It's a bit unimpressive that if Loken or Tarvitz had been in fair fights, they both would have lost.
I suppose there's a point being made here that the loyalists are stronger for co-operation, whereas the rebels are all about themselves.
Yeah, you got Lucius, you got Eidolon (and I can't wait to see what Tarvitz had planned for that idiot). Even Horus just sits up there shouting orders these days.
Horus is the best example here. At the very start of the trilogy he saves Loken in combat, and now he's sitting on the Vengeful Spirit ordering people to kill him. It's all about every man for yourself and getting others to do your dirty work.
So did Lucius murder all those guys and then let Eidolon through?
I don't know which came first, but basically, yeah.
So how can Eidolon possibly leave someone that unpleasant alive in his force?
I don't think he can, but it makes sense to wait until after the loyalists are all dead. I was more surprised that he wasted so much time smashing up the wounded, rather than seeking out the higher-ups among the loyalists.
He just wants to kill as many people as possible, so he can show everybody. "Look at everybody who's dead because of me! La la la!"
Yeah. What's up with Kharn? Has someone done something to him Something to make Kharn... wrathful?
Bonus points for a Star Trek pun. That can't have been easy for you.
What's the Path of Eight?
The Eightfold Path. It's part of a recurring motif, but if it hasn't clicked yet I'll keep my mouth shut.
So has the Warp got to him?
Maybe. Or maybe he's got whatever Angron has inside him.
I thought he was just angry, was Angron. Angry Angron.
Well, he is, but the devices in his head stimulate that.
Yeah, but the description of how Kharn looked reminded me too much of Jubal. But then I thought Horus wanted to steer clear of the Warp until after Istvaan V?
The grinding endless bullshit on Istvaan III may have changed his mind. Or maybe Angron is just completely ignoring the Chief. He's been stuck behind his desk too long! Angron gets results, dammit! And just like that, we have a new hit detective series.