The Tragedy of Perturabo

Perturabo was always meant for greater things. Like many of his brothers, the Emperor had great plans for his taciturn son that far out stripped the crude living Perturabo would find himself locked in to following the scattering of the Primarchs and his eventual reuniting with his father.

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Perturabo was a Primarch like any other and so possessed a remarkable mind and tremendous physical strength. But unlike his brothers, when Perturabo found himself alone on his adopted homeworld of Olympia he didn’t seek to dominate his environment like Manus, overthrow a despot like Mortarion or unite a world like Johnson, he simply sought to understand it.

Even when Perturabo was brought before the Tyrant of Lochos and other humans he paid them little interest and certainly bore them no love or trust. This wasn’t because Perturabo was incapable of such emotions – as most assumed – but because Perturabo was a remarkably complex soul to whom words were of little interest, and the lasting deeds of a man gave his true measure. However, for all his distance he also abhorred the loss of life, waiting until he was reunited with his father to oust the Tyrant of Lochos in a bloodless revolution.

He was an artisan of superlative skill, fascinated with architecture and how it interacted with the world much in the same way as his brother in Ultramar. Such was his ability that he could turn this creative flair to any form of manufacture, including the fortresses he built for the Tyrant.

As Perturabo took command of his legion he suddenly found himself responsible for the tens of thousands of lives. A responsibility he’d never had any interest in. Although natural leadership was locked within his living cells he lacked the charisma of Horus or the turn of phrase of Guilliman. Perturabo found himself conflicted. Charged with leadership despite no interest in doing so yet possessed by a powerful need to preserve life. He was an artist and artisan, forever pre-occupied with the creation of great works yet charged with destruction. He also discovered that, like his brothers, he had tremendous potential to undo the great works of other civilisations through the strength of his legion and his innate knowledge of construction.

It was inevitable really that his Iron Warriors would become siege masters, learning all they could from their distant and unloving father. Indeed they mimicked him in all things, as did all the legions with their Primarchs. However his Iron Warriors misunderstood austerity and independence with a crushing sense of displacement. Perturabo simply didn’t possess the ability to care for his sons beyond a keeper of livestock caring for his flock. He simply couldn’t draw his mind from far grander ideals.

The result, as the decades wore on and the Iron Warriors reputation as siege breakers preceded them they were flung into the absolute worst fighting the Crusade had to offer. At first Perturabo and his legion bore this duty with the misperceived indifference when in fact Perturabo was being driven ever deeper into himself, isolating him from his brothers and gradually leaving himself open to manipulation by anyone shrewd enough to realise that Perturabo was never destined for the fore front of war but to lead the sternguard, raising great monuments in the name of the Emperor.

Denied the driving force of his soul to create it was little wonder that he and Dorn developed a resentment of one another. Perturabo was jealous of who he perceived to be a favoured son. In reality Perturabo’s own stoic and indomitable character was the reason he was so pigeon-holed. Equally, Dorn misunderstood the plain, relentless and seemingly callous approach to war. In fact it was nothing more than Perturabo trying to get the job done as quickly and as painlessly as possible. All in the hope that he could return to the calling of his heart at the Crusade’s conclusion.

The burden of a poet’s heart forged into the body of a killer was terrible for Perturabo to bear and often was ill-suited to cope with it, his frustrations manifesting themselves in explosive fits of rage that his legion and enemies alike felt the brunt of. Like an artist forced to work in a mine, he was gradually being starved of creativity and his soul began to whither. And as he wandered into darkness his legion weren’t far behind, their tactics becoming every more brutal, culminating with the genocide on Olympia. The condemnation the Iron Warriors received from the Imperium was the final straw. It’s entirely possible that had the Heresy not broken out the Iron Warriors would have seceded anyway.

By the time the Horus Heresy was on the verge of breaking, Perturabo was embittered and all but ostracised from his father and brothers, with no other voice than Horus’ promising a life free from the festering misery of the siege line. Of course it’s entirely possible that Horus engineered this isolation to make Perturabo easier to manipulate into breaking his bonds of fealty.

The simple tragedy of Perturabo was that he was a dreamer and a shaper. He was equally cursed and blessed with profound understanding of the working of all things and the ability to make and destroy. Necessity forced him into being something he was never meant to be and was left to wrestle with his resentments and self perceived inadequacies. From the moment he was cast through the heavens Perturabo was trapped on a path of betrayal, isolation and bitterness.

The Tragedy of Ferrus Manus

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When Ferrus Manus awoke to find himself alone amidst the wilds of Medusa he, as one would expect from a child, was scared and confused. However, unlike a normal child, he was scared and confused because he assumed that he was there because he was weak. Unlike many of his brothers, Ferrus did not seek out human contact but instead set about testing himself against the very worst creators Medusa had to offer. Only once he had bested the Great Silver Wyrm, in the process encasing his arms in living metal, did he seek out humanity and set about teaching them engineering and other secrets of technology.

At every turn he set out to assert his superiority. The living metal of his arms made him a warrior without equal and an artisan of extraordinary feats of engineering. Yet for all his efforts Ferrus Manus was never able to create anything of beauty and warmth. He ruled through fear of an unparalleled temper and his creations were cold functional things despite their sophisticated design. Even when the Emperor came to Medusa, Ferrus Manus challenged his authority.

As Manus took his place amongst his brothers he suddenly found himself but one of a flock of luminous beings. Many far more luminous than he. Horus was charismatic, Guilliman wise, Vulkan compassionate, and Dorn an architect without peer. All he had achieved turned to ash and Manus resolved to push him and his newly named legion to the limits to prove their mettle and supreme worth to the Emperor.

It was this crushing sense of inadequacy that would drive him to deliberately restrict the combat doctrine and units available to the Iron Hands to make them stronger, hardier warriors to prove that they were better than any other Legiones Astartes. He also allowed his sons to believe that flesh was weak, allowing a cult of personality to form around himself and his metal arms, the legion seeking to augment themselves at every turn. Unaugmented Legionaires were treated with mistrust within their ranks, it being seen as a slight against the Primarch. The sadistic truth of his actions wouldn’t be realised until after his passing in the Neimerel Scrolls in which he detailed his loathing for his metal arms and the horror with which he beheld the self-mutilation of his sons. The bitter and sad fact was that Manus’ loathing of flesh – particularly that of mortals – was actually the misdirected loathing of his contaminated body.

But he remained silent because Manus was, for all intents and purposes, a psychopath. He was utterly self obsessed, born of a staggering sense of inadequacy and self loathing that led to fury and abuse towards his sons. Failure of ill news was met with tantrums and violence. The successes of his brothers only further fuelled his rage, pushing his sons even harder even at the cost of their lives. Questioning his orders lead to scorn and derision because deep down Manus didn’t trust his instincts. He only new explosive violence that came from fighting the malignant influence of the living metal of his arms.

The only peace he could find, it seemed, was in the company of Fulgrim, the Primarch of the Emperor’s Children. On the surface this pairing seemed an unlikely one but Manus enjoyed Fulgrim’s beatific countenance and poets heart, it salved his tortured soul and helped him channel his energies in forging weapons of sublime beauty and devastating power. But even in these Manus took no pleasure beyond the weapon he crafted for Fulgrim. The hammer Fulgrim forged for him proved to be a psychological anchor for the troubled Primarch often wielding it as much to focus the humanity at his heart rather than channel the cold fury in his arms.

The true tragedy is Ferrus Manus is that he was always on a path to destruction. The rivalry and resentment he haboured for his brothers pushed him to seek out the worst of the fighting. To conquer the unvanquished foe. To prove his worth above all others. It’s entirely possible that when he heard of Horus’ elevation to warmaster his isolation was sealed, every kindness and gesture of fraternity would be met with hostility and derision, hiding the abject sense of failure and irrelevance that lay at his core.

As the years wore on Manus felt his control over the living metal of his arms slipping, pushing him further and further down a dark path that only Fulgrim or the crucible of war could salve. Manus was as doomed to an eternity of bloodshed as Angron unless he could win the battle of wills that he fought every single day against the constant and indelible symbol of his first and greatest failure. It remains to be seen if the Emperor was aware of Manus’ struggle. If he did he gave no indication which only further deepened his sense of isolation and his brothers mistook his profound and enduring depression as moodiness and ill cholor.

When the betrayal came Manus led the merest fraction of his Legion to Istvaan, determined to see the treachery for himself. It was as much about disproving his worst fear – that Fulgrim had become corrupted. If a being as perfect as Fulgrim could fall from grace what hope did he have? This was coupled with the betrayal, not against the Emperor but against him. Fulgrim was the only soul in the galaxy that understood him and even liked him. That Fulgrim should turn from grace was unforgivable to Manus and had he been victorious and slain Fulgrim there’s every chance that the despair that would have taken hold of him would have pushed him into the embrace of the Dark Powers.

It seems that Ferrus Manus was the doomed of the Emperor’s sons. The moment he landed on Medusa he was set on a path that would see him dead at the hands of one of his brothers, it would have just been a question of whose banner that brother rallied to. But tragedy over tragedy is that his passing left his sons pursuing a goal that he abhorred. Their continual augmentation in his name would be the final cut in a tortured soul as he was little more than an abusive father, lost in the shadow cast by his kin, justifying his choices. And with his passing the cycle continues and the Iron Hands embrace ever deeper an ill conceived truth until one day none of their humanity will remain and the legion will cease to exist, and Manus’ failure will be complete.

The Tragedy of Konrad Curze

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When Konrad Curze arrived on Nostramo he, unlike the majority of his brother Primarchs, was not adopted by a mortal family and raised learning about his world and eventually rising through the ranks to power and prowess through nobility and strength of arms.  Instead Curze found himself in a world in the grip of evil. Nobility was as rare as freedom and any strength of arms was displayed by the ruling classes lashing out at the weak and vulnerable.

Curze, as a child saw the very worst of humanity as the ruling classes gorged themselves and crime ran rife through the lower classes as the desperate became the dangerous. Curze responded to the base instincts hardwired into his being and began to deliver his own brand of justice upon those that would deliver fear and misery that had Nostramo in a stranglehold.With nothing more to guide his actions than the very violence he sought to stop and his natural ability for stealth – coupled with the physical prowess as a Primarch – Curze took a bloody toll. It’s well documented that Curze took control of the planet following a long and bloody campaign of terror on the wrong doers. By the time the Emperor arrived to whisk away the progenitor of the 8th Legion much of the damage to Curze’s psyche had been done but the extent of it was yet to be determined.

The simple truth is that Konrad Curze was telepathic. Profoundly so. But so much so that he could slip deeper into a man’s soul then one should ever venture. And each time he took with him a sliver of whatever he found there. As a result he understood the Emperor’s true purpose for his sons, knew of Horus’ darker side and Angron’s path to damnation. His strained relationship with his father and brothers and his disgust with the people of Nostramo was entirely down to this pervasive gift, although he went to extraordinary lengths to hide it. His ability to seek out evil on his adopted home world can only be the result of hearing the thoughts of his prey. Equally, his resentment towards the Emperor is because he, more than any of his brothers, understood the true relationship the Emperor intended for his sons.  There were warriors and leaders of men first his children a very distant second. And for one forced to look inside the dark souls of bad men and who had endured much he arguably needed his father’s support more than anyone but, like all his brothers, was pressed into service as part of the Great Crusade.

I suspect the Emperor knew of Curze’s power but not the extent of it. Perhaps the overwhelming emotions surging through Nostramo enhanced Curze’s abilities or developed them as a child far sooner than would have been planned. However, Curze’s brooding nature kept the Emperor at arms lengths and he never knew just how troubled his son really was.

All this made him incredibly isolated and paranoid, fearful that his secret would be discovered; more so after the Edict of Nikea. As a result he began to pass on self-sufficiency and the lessons in fear to his sons, all the while trying to hold back the thoughts of others and the darkest side of his own psyche that pushed harder and harder to be given voice. Eventually Curze would lose that battle of wills, the evils and excesses of those worlds the 8th Legion came into contact with driving him ever down a dark path.

Curze’s understanding of the human psyche drove him and his legions to embark on wars of terror on worlds. Curze’s abilities I suspect allowed him to hone his terror tactics to a cruel art form. However, for one such as psychically sensitive as Curze, for each debase act and bloody campaign of torture and mutilation it left an open,sucking, wound on his soul and in so doing drove him to become the very thing he went to war to stop. And with his home world once again in the grip of murderers and other scum his legion quickly filled with the very types of psyche that were slowly driving Curze insane.

The destruction of Nostramo by the Night Lord fleet was as much to cull the evil radiating of it in waves as anything else but the psychic bow wave would have torn Curze’s mind to shreds, the waves of pain, evil, hatred and fear mingling with his own sense of self loathing and tipping him over the edge. Soon his terror campaigns were as much about venting his own rage and pain as it was terrifying his opponents.

In the end Curze welcomed death at the hands of an assassin because he realised that, for all his father’s scheming, he understood the necessity for the deceit surrounding Gods and daemons and was designed to protect Imperial citizens. Although his bitterness was such that he still swore vengeance upon his father and the Imperium as a whole.

In the end the Emperor was never able to use Curze and his legion for what he’d always intended and Curze was too damaged by his early experience for his fate to be anything other than a grim one. And he knew it too.

The Tau and the Imperium

It occurred to me the other day that the Tau Empire is following a surprising parallel with the early Imperium of man.

No I’m not mad.

Anyone that’s read the Horus Heresy novels and/or the background in 6th Edition Warhammer 40,000 will know that the Imperium was supposed to be a place of enlightenment free of institutions that would divide it. During the Great Crusade the fleets would arrive at a system, give the inhabitants the opportunity to embrace the Imperium and accept the Imperial truth or face the consequences.

Am I mad or do the Tau, more of less, do the same thing? Obviously they’re a bit more huggy about the whole thing but that’s essentially what they’re doing. And when you consider that the Tau lack any real ranged warp travel but are an ever-growing Empire it begs the question what the Universe has in store for these grey skinned hippies.

Through my various shady sources I’ve found out that the Emperor had a plan for the Tau and instructed Guilliman to defend the embryonic civilisation from harm. The order got lost in the galactic postal service and has only recently come to light – in time for the 6th edition Tau & Space Marine codices funnily enough – hence why Space Marines and the Tau are bum chums.

It strikes me that the Tau, ironically, will be the saviours of humanity. According to the new fluff the Emperor is projecting a lovely cuddly duvet of protective psychic energy over the Imperium. Which I’m sure is fucking knackering. Not to mention gets in the way of the whole ascension thing.

The important details are that the Emperor was trying to create a society free of the lure of Chaos and Tau are impervious to the lure of Chaos which makes them the perfect choice to face the inevitable onslaught of Chaos. So the ideal situation would be to lace Tau units across the Imperium as well as give the Tau Astropaths and Telepaths to allow them to move more effectively across the galaxy responding to threats.

This, however, rather flies in the face of the Imperial mandate of manging all aliens in the face. As there’s no way that it would happen with the Imperium at war with itself. The Tau would also need some assurances. I suspect their protection from the rest of the galaxy would be a part of it, and I would trust Marneus Calgar to be greasing those particular wheels following the discovery of Guilliman’s missive to the rest of the Space Marine legions.

Perhaps humanities inability to trust in anything beyond what the High Lords tell them to, or the fact that the High Lords would never relinquish an ounce of power unless the Emperor himself rose from the Golden Throne, will mean that they will never use the Tau for what they were intended.  Instead maybe the Tau will become the inheritors of the galaxy. As humanity and the denizens of the warp burn themselves out in the great Second Heresy the warp will be becalmed and the Tau will be able to expand across known space.

Which brings us to two possible timelines. The first is that the Tau continue to expand, human worlds gladly embracing their new masters as salvation from the coming darkness until it reaches such a mass that the Tau can begin their own great crusade and claim the galaxy as their own. The second is the return of the Primarchs and the rebirth of the Emperor which would decree the Tau are brought into the fold. And, because the Emperor isn’t stupid, it would also completely hamstring any future expansion by the Tau.

Fighting alongside the Imperium would exhaust their military might to the point where, at best, the Tau will be reliant on the Imperium for protection whilst it recovers, or at worst, they are consigned to second class citizen status like Ratlings and Ogryns and kept as a military assest, mustered when the threat of Chaos or a Chaos cult looms. An extension, I suppose, of the Inquisition.

Musings on a Heresy

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.