Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Cradle Of The Best And Of The Worst

Galaxy In Flames: Brothers (II)

Loyalist Emperor's Children during the war on Istvaan III
(copyright unknown)
Welcome, citizens, to the Truth.

Who could have predicted just a few short years ago, before Istvaan and Aureus, before Xenobia and Murder, that Captain Saul Tarvitz would rise to the position of leading elements of at least three companies spread over two Legions? Even the fact that he leads them against those he once called brothers and whom no-one could ever conceive of being less than absolutely loyal could be considered all that much more surprising.

But then, it had to be Saul, and not just because of the well-known Emperor's Children tendency towards insufferable arrogance and haughty superiority meant a Luna Wolf attempting to lead them could never work as well as the other way around. Tarvitz is the best of his Legion, and the best of the Astartes on the surface of Istvaan III. Where Torgaddon brings jokes, Tarvitz brings total focus. Where Loken would stand and see his force annihilated for the sake of pride, Tarvitz has hie eye on the long game.  Just as important, whilst it's hardly surprising neither realised it, both Torgaddon and Loken were compromised by their inclusion in the Mournival. The further up the ladder, the more power you possess to effect change, but the harder it is to see what changes are needed. The people you can pressure are the same people you know too well to want to apply pressure to. Ultimately that's why Loken responded to proof of a Chaos cult on the Vengeful Spirit was to try persuasion on Abaddon, whilst Tarvitz in short order lied to Rylanor, investigated the gun-decks of the Andronius, and stole a Thunderhawk in an attempt to thwart the Warmaster's plan.

Indeed, the very worst that can be said here is that having just witnessed the previously unthinkable rebellion of large numbers of Astartes, Tarvitz should have been more alert to the possibility of new mutiny breaking forth from the ranks.  There is some small truth to this, perhaps, but in fact it would be more sensible to praise Tarvitz for not allowing the loyalist forces - working far more coherently across three Legions than their attackers, remember - to not slide into paralysing mutual suspicion.

There is an ancient story of a bird that was common throughout northern Terra until it was brought low by the worst excesses of the second Chem Wars. This bird, the coleus, was famed for its obsession with bright, shiny objects, which they would steal and hoard whenever possible. After observing this bird for generations, the biologis experts of the time discovered the feathered creatures could be divided into two camps.  One sort stole anything it judged "unclaimed", but never ransacked the nests of their fellows when seeking fresh loot.  The second sort was only too happy to steal from their cousins whenever the opportunity presented itself.

What struck the learned men of the time as interesting was the behaviour of these two groups.  The first were trusting creatures, happy to leave other coleus birds near their nest whilst they searched for further trinkets. The second group were consumed by paranoia, unable to resume their foraging if another coleus bird was in the immediate vicinity, forcing them to surrender opportunities for new acquisitions whilst they engaged in exhaustive policing of the areas around their homes. They may have been stolen from less often, but it was the other group who got to have all the fun.

Whilst Tarvitz worked on cohesion and morale in some of the most desperate circumstances imaginable, those who followed the Warmaster were lapsing into the same desperate, paranoid panic of the coleus bird, only with the added dangers of having weapons close at hand.  The act of rebelling against their once most deeply-held beliefs has cast them all adrift to greater or lesser extents. Over time, this problem will only grow, and no Legion currently in the Istvaan system demonstrates this more clearly than does the Emperor's Children.  The act they have framed as throwing off the yoke of the oppressor in order to save the galaxy has immediately collapsed into an obsession with their own positions; guarding prestige and glory like trinkets in the nest. Fulgrim has reached such levels of disinterest and petulance that the master he swore himself to just months before is already forced to resort to flattery in order to gain obedience. Eidolon's obsession with proving himself superior leads him to strike a deal with a man who has already murdered many of his loyal troops, and who he has branded a traitor.

(Which in itself is hilarious, of course. Eidolon dares call someone a "traitor twice over" because they choose to join a rebellion you helped initiate later than you did? Clearly the Emperor's Children are well-versed in political double-think; it takes a special kind of mind to conclude that treachery consists of obeying the orders of the person you swore to obey the orders of).

The result is a Legion that not so much proves itself superior or inferior to the Sons of Horus as surrounds it on both sides.  With so much of the birth of the Heresy - along with essentially all human history - pouring from the intersection of pride and power, it's perhaps not surprising the III Legion ended up eclipsing the more pragmatic brawlers of the XI. Perhaps that explains the difficulty in telling the story of the Luna Wolves final days and their last stand without the Emperor's Children gradually squeezing Horus' sons from their own story. Heroes that are more heroic, and villains that are more villainous.

We should cover them in more detail, really.  But then there's the Eisenstein to consider.  And whilst Luna Wolves remain alive on Istvaan III, we should continue to focus upon them, as hard as that seems to be becoming. For the sake of form, if nothing else, we must continue to the final confrontation of the fractured Mournival.

First, though, some more Emperor's Children. Obviously.


What Is

Lots on the Emperor's Children again this time.  Does it seem odd that the focus has shifted so far from Horus' Legion? Or does widening the focus help make things more epic?

It doesn't seem odd at all.  We've been skipping around for the whole trilogy.

But it doesn't matter so much earlier on, we're talking about the finale here.

They need somewhere to go after this, though; this could all be set-up.

And my point is setting up new stories when you should be tying up the one you're running is a bad idea.

I think you're overstating the problem.  There was plenty of Horus in there, and Loken and Torgaddon.  They've hardly disappeared.

Even so.

We're not going to agree on this. Ask a more sensible question. Like about Istvaan V.

What about Istvaan V?

What the hell is Istvaan V?  Do they just name everything Istvaan now?

It's the name of the star. The numbers are the planets in order of distance outward.  It's a common enough system.

Never heard of it.

Yes you have.  It's been in Star Trek; you've watched that. "THIS IS CETI ALPHA V!"

Don't shout at me!

I'm not shouting; I'm quoting loudly.

Don't do that either.

Why do you think Tarvitz has been given overall control of the loyalists, and not Torgaddon?

Is it because Tarvitz has more experience fighting with more than one Legion?

That's a good point, but every time we've seen Tarvitz fight with the Luna Wolves we've seen Torgaddon fighting with the Emperor's Children.

Torgaddon didn't come down and warn them all about the betrayal, though.

You can't base promotions on gratitude, though, surely? I mean, it worked in Sharpe, but whatever that show was, it wasn't a reliable blueprint for building a sustainable military structure.

Maybe Torgaddon is a bit rubbish?

How dare you!

Well, you know; always just following Abaddon around.

That's ridiculous.

Sorry, not Abaddon; I meant Loken.

Oh. Oh, then fine.

Before Loken joined the Mournival, though, he must have been following someone else around. What else was there to do?

Fight! Kill things! Defend the honour of the Imperium! The dude was in charge of hundreds of Astartes and got into the Mournival on the ground floor.  Don't you knock him!

Fine; what's your bright idea here?

The best I've got is that Luna Wolves are more likely to follow an Emperor's Child than the other way round. What with the III Legion being such intolerable smug prickgizzards and all.

Oh. Well that works, I suppose.

This is the first time we've come across Fulgrim in private, as oppose to seeing him give stirring speeches to his men.  What are your initial impressions?

Didn't think much of him. It's hard to have much respect for someone when they're so totally having their tail handed to them on a plate.

Head on a plate, Fliss. Having your tail served to you on a plate

Either way, it wasn't much of a performance.

I don't know. It takes guts to tell Horus to fuck off.

He sounded like a small child! "But I don't waaaanna!"

Maybe, but he's not whining to his Dad here, he's doing it to an indescribably dangerous super-being who's just announced his plans to murder any of his brothers who don't toe the line.

Just because you're pissed off doesn't mean you're brave.

I guess. I'll admit to being terribly amused at how Horus keeps being surprised when the people he's just persuaded to rebel turn out to be rebellious.

Why was Horus bigging Eidolon up so much? "Oh, they don't need you down on the surface". Seems like a dangerous thing to say.

I don't think so. Horus can take Fulgrim directly, I should think, and if Fulgrim takes his frustrations out on Eidolon, why would Horus care? Hell, you could sell tickets to that.

How much of Lucius' message to the loyalists can we actually believe? And how long is it going to be before he and Eidolon are trying to murder each other?

I barely believe a word of it. We already know Horus and Abaddon are on some top-secret mission, they're probably on Istvaan V already. Or maybe in the top-secret medical place of Mr Psycho-Doc.

You mean Chief Apothecary Fabius Bile of the Emperor's Children?

Yes. That bloke. I bet Abaddon and Li'l Horus are over there right now getting all sorts of weird stuff done.

Having their tonsils removed... AND REPLACED WITH GRENADES! And Lucius and Eidolon?

Half a chapter. No, a chapter and a half.

There's only two chapters left.

Half a chapter.  I'm not sure who'd win. Lucius has his new Warsinger powers, but then Eidolon has a counter for that, hasn't he?

True, lots of singy-shouty going on these days.

I've always assumed Lucius is the better fighter.

I'm almost certain he is, but Eidolon would have minions.

Maybe the minions hate him as well.  They might prefer a bit of Lucius for a bit.

So rebel Astartes decide to rebel to help a double rebel.  How many levels of treachery is that.

I don't know, Eidolon lost me at the "twice traitor" thing. He didn't betray anyone, and that's only because no-one invited him to.

I know. It's not fair. He turned traitor as quick as he should, I'm sure. You know, once he'd chopped the right dude's head off.

What Will Be

So let's pretend Lucius' message is at least partially true, that would mean a final showdown with Garviel and Tarik taking on Ezekyle and Little Horus.  How would that fight go down?  Who wins, who loses, and who ends up dead?

Hmm.  Well Abaddon I always thought had some underhanded way of staying alive.


Because the Mournival has lost like thirteen members over the years and he's always made it out.

True, but then so has Tarik.

Fair enough.  We still don't know if Vipus is a traitor. Viper Vipus, as I shall call him if he turns his cloak.

You think he might tip the balance?

Probably not. You've got to figure Loken and Torgaddon would hear him following them, right?

Yeah, I don't think stealth is the Astartes' greatest contribution to the history of war.

Really, though, I don't think there'll be any fight. Even if Abaddon and Aximand do come down, they'd just plant a bomb and run away.

They wouldn't fight fair?

The whole point of the Sons of the Horus is that they
don't fight fair.

Good point. You're remembering all sorts of things this week.

It does happen occasionally.

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