Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Horus on the Throne: Eh... wat?!

Let's see if we can't get this 40K train back on its tracks... shall we?

A few weeks back a posted a bit of random fluffery which, without context, likely doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense.  I wanted to get it ‘down on paper’ so it wasn’t forever relegated to the idea dustbin… forgotten due to my ridiculously short attention span. Re-copied below for reference with (somewhat verbose) perspective after. TLDR crowd skip to the bottom for synopsis.

The Emperor is dead. Vanquished millennia ago. His physical form obliterated and his essence cast to the void. Brought low in the cyclopean final struggle with his tainted prodigal son.
Utterly broken, bonding his spirit to his wrecked form though sheer force of will, Horus unleashed a final nefarious gambit. So infused with unfathomable malevolent energies was Horus that the staunchest of Astartes was made to believe through warpcraft that the shattered form laying before them was that of their beloved Emperor. Tears in their eyes, the finest soldiers in the Imperium reverently carried the most heinous creature born of man back to Terra and dutifully followed his instructions in the building of the life-sustaining Golden Throne. So wracked with grief that never did they question the monstrous cost or motivation. And thus did Horus achieve ultimate, treacherous victory. Absolute and unquestioning worship as a living god by every soul in the vast Imperium of Man.
The Imperium crumbles upon itself. The darkness which festers at its core rots it from within. Unfortunate pawns, the mislead dutiful zealously guard and protect the very evil they are forsworn to destroy. Though it pains to bring harm to the virtuous; if enlightenment to the treacherous truth is not possible, the ignorant and the stubborn must be swept aside. Their immortal fate is not ours to decide.
Until the last, never shall rest come until the Golden Throne is torn asunder and the malignancy is ripped from the very heart of the Imperium.

First off; conscience-driven full disclosure in that the basic premise is not mine. Some time ago I stumbled across a well written short story, one which I can no longer locate, that sets up the concept. Reading that story was one of those “YES!” moments for me, and I ran with it because it meshes so well with the rest of my cheese… er, umm… ‘fluff’. Here’s the overview:

Commonly accepted accounts of the Heresy are relatively accurate, allowing for the passage of eons and random embellishment by transcribers, right up to the final conflict on the bridge of Horus’ battle barge. Horus however was not utterly destroyed by selfless sacrifice of the Emperor of Mankind. In fact, it is the inverse which is wholly accurate. It was Horus who bested and obliterated the Emperor; so swelled with nefarious energy and reinforced by Warp entities that he was neigh unstoppable. The enormous energy expenditure required to combat such an opponent left Horus drained as never before. In this debilitated state, Horus was momentarily vulnerable. The Emperor’s last great act of defiance (conceivably with the assistance of Sanguinus… though this possibility is in dispute as the timeline of Sanguinus’ demise, before or after the Emperor fell, is uncertain) was to lash out with all that was left in him, leaving Horus severely wounded… but far from impotent. Such was the force of Horus’ psychic rage in retaliation that the energy he directed completely annihilated the Emperor’s physical (and potentially, ethereal) form.

Knowing his life essence was slowly leaving him, and left with few options, Horus perpetrated the ultimate deception. The loyalist forces rushing to the aid of their Emperor found a broken, twisted, and unrecognizable form. Through strength of psychic will, Horus clouded their minds and left the faithful convinced he was in fact their beloved and ‘triumphant’ Emperor. Dutifully they conveyed the object of all their hatred back to Terra, and followed his instructions to the letter in the building of the ‘salvation of mankind’, the Golden Throne. Rumors exist that such was the intellect of Malcador the Sigilite he saw through the ruse, but was dispatched by Horus before an alarm could be raised. However, these accounts are anecdotal at best.

Thus did Horus achieve ultimate victory. Adored and sustained by Mankind’s countless billions, his very existence at the core of the Imperium sews discontent, malice, paranoia, fear, and uncertainty… slowly corrupting and crumbling the Imperium from within.


- Horus drops the Emperor like a bad habit

- Horus convinces the loyalists that he is the Golden Boy

- Loyalists build an infernal machine to Horus’ exacting specifications, and place him in it to be worshiped for all eternity

- Horus wins

I latched onto this premise for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my penchant to be drawn to the antihero archetype. With the above, the Void Spectres get to play both the good guy and bad guy role at the same time, without all that messy chaos complication. They know the ‘truth’ and ain’t havin’ none of it. No… we don’t really want to slaughter those Imperial Fists. Damn shame they have bought into the lie though… tough luck, that.

There are actually a number of background threads throughout canon 40K fluff which (both directly and indirectly) could support the Horus on the Golden Throne theory. Examples:

1) Horus deceived a significant portion of Astartes into betraying everything they hold dear, and consigned them to an eternity of misery and pain in pursuit of his cause. What better target for their never-ending enmity and loathing.  Of course they know the ‘truth’ about the current resident of the Throne, and every self respecting Chaos Space Marine has cried “Death to the False Emperor!

2) The Golden Throne consumes innumerable souls to sustain the ‘Emperor’. Not exactly benevolent, and even stretches the ‘needs of the many’ concept. Warp entities consume souls. Interesting parallel.

3) Since the internment, the Imperium has been in steady (and sometimes rapid) decline. It could be theorized that the pace of rot is greater even than could be explained by negligence or the absence of a ‘live’ Emperor. Fear, uncertainty, and paranoia are the norm. A vessel through which the Ruinous Powers could work directly, situated at the very heart of the Imperium? Convenient.

Am I saying this is the One Truth to Rule Them All? No. Pretty sure it isn't. But that’s not going to stop me. Dovetails nicely into The World As Dryw Sees It, and that’s really all that matters.



Ginge said...

A very interesting take, particularly the "Death to the false emperor" part - like the chaos marines are saying "He used us! We were better off with the emperor! Death to the false one!"

Unlikely to ever be cannon, but then the horus heresey series of novels has thrown up several surprises so far, you never can tell :oP

Dryw said...

The renegade Astartes aspect (as it pertains to this theory) is definitely intriguing. While they are by no means "nice guys", it does paint them in a slightly different light. It certainly explains the unrelenting hatred they have for the Imperium, and its possible they see the Imperium as wholly corrupted under Horus. Perhaps somewhere in their twisted minds they actually believe theirs is a righteous fight.

Dryw said...

By "renegade" above I mean full-on Chaos Marines.

CounterFett said...

I really like this thread of reasoning. It gives Chaos Space Marines sort of a tragic purpose, rather than being stereotypical 'pull the wings off of butterflies because we are evil' villains.

Dryw said...

Well said. I find I'm turned off by the evil-for-its-own-sake, mwahahaha types. They have their place, but more often than not they have no real depth.

In my opinion, the best villains are the ones who either feel justified in their evil deeds, or don't think of themselves as evil at all.

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