Last weekend, at Salute 2012, I had the privilege ;of chatting with James Swallow and Sarah Cawkwell at length about the Horus Heresy series and, aside from being an absolutely storming book series, it’s incredibly important to understanding the game and all the fluff surrounding the events at the end of the 41st millennium.
There may be some spoilers for those that aren’t up to date with the Horus Heresy novels, but I’m going to try to refer to the overarching story rather than specific moments in the books.
The most important thing to understand that the Emperor is not the bastard most people assume him to be. His methods were often drastic but being an immortal he has quite literally seen it all and he was trying to create a galactic society free of the lure of Chaos. This not only took some considerable planning but harsh measures to ensure a society totally without religion or worship of any kind.
The fact that the ruinous powers scattered the Primarchs across the galaxy at the start of the Great Crusade goes to show the mountain he had to climb. The creation of Leman Russ and the Space Wolves as a fail safe points, rather strongly, towards the fact he always suspected something could go wrong. It also highlights the ;main failing of the Emperor. He didn’t trust his sons, or humanity for that matter. There are, no doubt, many reasons for this but I suspect it was as much to do with the fact that he could no longer vouch for their mental states or their physical development having travelled through the warp. But more than that he struggled to form a meaningful bond with the majority of his children. This is partly to do with the fact that each of the Primarchs were profoundly affected by their early experiences and families – especially Konrad Curze, Angron and Motarion – and the Emperor recognised that ignoring those events would be damaging to Primarchs that were, in many ways, still ;adolescents and now getting to grips with their new place in the universe. He had no choice but to press the Primarchs into service as soon as they were discovered as his armies needed generals.
Each of the Primarchs represented a different facet of the Emperor. Except for Leman Russ who stood apart ever the loyal and watchful hound and for Roboute Guilliman who, it is said, embodied the Emperor more completely than any of his other sons; even Horus. This rather suggests that the Emperor always intended for his sons to work closely together where their different personalities and strengths could be a boon to the Emperor, and themselves as they would each bring a unique perspective to a problem be it war or a matter of state. This plan was shattered when the Primarchs grew up in isolation from one another, and their father.
The sense of competition the Emperor instilled within the Primarchs seems quite at odds with a Primarch ‘council’ but this was as much to test their loyalty and mental resolve as it was to complete the Great Crusade and teach humanity the Imperial Truth. However this bred rivalry in minds designed to win at all costs and to excel in all things…combined witj an overriding urge to seek their father’s approval. An impossible task as he had bred his sons for no other purpose than to wage his wars approval was irrelevant. And only Guilliman and Dorn understood that – putting duty before paternal or fraternal love. Although, deep down, I suspect even they longed for their father’s approval. Dorn most of all, ever at the Emperor’s side, ever doing as he was bid but never getting the recognition Guilliman or Horus received.
Lorgar, on the other hand embraced the Emperor as his father practically forsaking Kor Phaeron. Lorgar, by the standards of his brothers was more monk than warrior. Coupled with his overwhelming adoration for his father it is little wonder that he, essentially, founded the Imperial Creed. The Emperor loved all his sons dearly but Lorgar, like a misguided teenager, refused to listen to reason when his father tried to show him the error of his ways. But because the Emperor didn’t/couldn’t trust his sons enough to tell Lorgar the whole truth surrounding the risks of his pious nature a rift started to form. Lorgar, like any emotionally confused teenager, turned to others for love and guidance.
When the Word Bearers fell upon the Ultramarines at Calth they did so with the savagrey of a brother betrayed for it was Lorgar that believed his brothers, especially Guilliman, to be the heretics. For Lorgar, it was as much about hurting the Emperor as it was trying to kill the brother that, to Lorgar, was too much like his father to ever share a bond of friendship with, ket alone one of brotherhood. But by this point Lorgar had found a new master and returned to the bosom of his adopted father. It is entirely reasonable that Kor Phaeron merely wanted his son back when he started down his path to damnation but it’s hard to know for sure. Needless to say, Lorgar found love in the arms of his adopted father and faith in Erebus’ teachings.
The Emperor recognised the rogue elements within each of his sons, – even Rogal Dorn and Roboute Guilliman had their flaws – and knew that alone each Primarch and his legion was vulnerable. Not only from the whispers of the Ruinous Powers but from their own worse nature, which was evident with Night Haunter, Peturabo, Angron and others and their excessive use of force or otherwise questionable tactics. Horus was the Emperor’s favoured son not because he was the best warrior or greatest tactician but because he shared the Emperor’s vision, ambition and charisma. It was those traits that the Emperor believed Horus would put to use in his role as Warmaster and, with it, unite his brothers.
Although it is interesting to note that the Emperor never intended for Horus to succeed him because the Emperor recognised other aspects of Horus’ personality that made him a liability in a theatre other than war. He was arrogant and egotistical, quick to anger and stubborn. All qualities often needed in a general but in a peace time leader usually spelled a despot.
The truth is that the Emperor’s Great Crusade was doomed the moment his sons were taken from him because he was not able to train and mould them to be the Primarchs the galaxy needed them to be. Or explain to them the threats that lurked beyond the mortal vail and the neccessity to keep that fact hidden from the populous.
Arguably the Wolves of Fenris would have been unleashed on Angron and his World Eaters or the Night Lords before the end of the Great Crusade had events not over taken the galaxy. However it is entirely possible they would have been set upon the sons of Horus too when Horus discovered it would be the Forgefather of Nocturne and not he that would take the Emperor’s place. Although based on Guilliman’s actions following the Heresy it has to be questioned if that would have been the wise choice after all.
It occurs to me that the Emperor knew that his dream of an Imperium free from Chaos was over the day his sons were taken from him but he pursued it all the same in the hope that his fears would not be realised or that when the betrayal came that the Imperium would be strong enough to endure.