There are some aspects and parts of the 40k universe that don’t make sense to me, something I’m sure we can all agree with, and my tactic to such things has always been to try and make myself understand them. Not as a shameless apologist for a determinedly dark universe based on a tabletop game – I twist things until they make sense for me.
For example, I never used to like the World Eaters. I found them boring, one-dimensional. They are now one of my favourite Legions. Possibly even the. The Iron Hands have also made little sense to me, replacing their superhuman bodies with machines, until I delved deeper and saw their obsession with purging weakness(and ties to the machine cult) fostered by their Primarch and only deepened by his tragic defeat. A wound so deep they could only escape it by replacing their hearts... Now there’s a powerful theme.
And I have a lot of questions for the Emperor of Mankind. He made a lot of mistakes, some of them astonishingly short-sighted, over the course of the Great Crusade, culminating in the Heresy. The novelisations have (wisely) avoided trying to get into the head of a creature that truly could be mistaken for a god, but this does mean lots of these mistakes, these questions, go unexplained and unanswered. After all, who would dare to question the Emperor? Who would call the old man out?
Only one name truly springs to mind. Perhaps his closest advisors, Malcador, might have had some input, but there was only moment I think when the Emperor could have been questioned by a man who knew precisely what his mistakes had been, what they had cost and had the chutzpah and, indeed, malice to say so. The man is, of course, Horus. Horus, who lost his own sense of purpose as chaos overtook him, his rebellion turning into a darker battle, not for the mere mantle of Emperor, but for the fate of Imperium and even the galaxy itself. He’s pretty interesting too, considering just how far he fell from grace.
In writing this, though, I feel I am committing a terrible, taboo act. I’ve never seen or read any takes on the battle of Horus’ flagship so it feels rather wrong of me to do so. I suppose, in time, we’ll see it when the novels reach Terra for the final battle, but this is about my twist of events. They work for me, my take on things. I don’t care for long descriptions of a fight that is, probably, beyond mortal description. I only care, really about what a father says to his prodigal son. What one tyrant says to another. So... This is a stripped-down, mostly dialogue, version of those final moments for you all to tear to pieces.
“I will not.”
“Stand aside! We have lost a brother already. ”
“His blood is as much on your hands as Fulgrim’s, brother. Do you balk at killing one of us, I wonder? Or do you fear that I might kill you? I loved you, Horus. Perhaps more than any of us. How could you do this? Father tells me you were tainted by the forces of madness, and I did not truly understand what he meant until I saw the forces you lead now. Monsters and daemons. How could you fall so far? Were you pushed, I wonder? The treachery of Lorgar, his Chaplains whispering their honeyed lies into your ears? Some vile font of darkness out there in the stars?”
“I saw the truth, Sanguinius. Perhaps I can share it with you. Father lied! He never told us what was out there waiting for us. The terrors and the glories. He will hold the Imperium and more than that, mankind itself, back with his lies and his hypocrisies.”
“I have seen what you call glorious, brother. Seen the dead piled high, seen innocents butchered in their millions.”
“How does anything I have done differ from the Great Crusade? We have all bathed in the blood of innocents, for him! We are monsters because that is what he wanted us to be.”
“You made brother kill brother. Ambushed them, fought without a shred of honour. I can see the profanity in you, brother, the madness and the unholiness in your eyes. I have seen my Legion, my own sons, decimated. Seen the galaxy burn. And yet I cannot bring myself to damn you. To believe that you are truly beyond redemption. Look at what you have done! See the horror, I beg you!”
“And I beg that you look past it and see what lies beneath it all! The primordial, fundamental truth of the universe. Chaos is innate, part and parcel of the natural order, born of our own hearts. To deny it is to deny who we are, what we are, and what we could be. I have been offered immortality, you understand, and a chance to become something even greater than our father ever was or could be. I can lead mankind to the next state of existence. The Emperor will only hold us back, unwilling and afraid to let us to grow beyond him. Of all of us, his lost sons, I once thought you were the greatest. I can show you the truth. Rip it from father’s mouth, even. I will free mankind from the chains he has forged. Please. Stand aside.”
“I will not stand aside, nor stand down. I serve father until the end. I will give my life for him if that is what must be done. This day, one of us dies.”
“So be it, then.”
Blade met talon and mace struck wing. Sanguinius was a master duellist and warrior, recognised even among the Primarchs for his martial skills, but Horus was more than even his brothers now. He was the centre of a swirling nexus of chaotic energies that could hardly be contained even by his hulking physical form. His eyes were little more than black pools that reflected the warp itself.
Though Sanguinius fought with all his might, the sheer power of his brother’s mind and his dark patrons crushed down on him before the mace stove in his skull and the talon ripped through his chest.
The Angel fell at his feet, wings broken, perfect eyes ringed with tears as they stared out into the darkness.
“How well you named your Legion, brother. Prophesy always was your strong suit.”
Radiance filled the darkness of the room, obscuring the unholy marking scrawled across the walls, as the Emperor of Mankind stepped towards his son.
“Father. I see you have found me. No more Astartes or Custodes to hide behind. Not even the son you failed to save. Come. Let us end this, now.”
The two fought like gods, with a skill and strength that defied imaging. They moved faster than the eye could follow, striking and riposting a thousand times in each moment, battling on every level; in body, in mind, in soul. Physically, mentally and spiritually. The air around them boiled with psychic energies, the very hull groaning, unable to withstand the raw power that emanated from their speed-blurred bodies.
Throughout it all, their eyes remained locked. Words echoed and resonated through the corridors of the ship even while their lips remained still.
You blame me for this civil war, father. Lay the deaths, the disruption of your perfectly ordered empire at my feet, but in truth the responsibility lies entirely with you. With your mistakes.
No, Horus. It is you, always you. Consumed by ambition and ego, you allowed yourself to become corrupted. I am not speaking to my son any longer, am I? I see their power, their malignant wills inside you. My son is dead.
The son whose ego you fostered, who you favoured above all others, rewarded until there were no more rewards to give... Is there any wonder his ambition did not end there? Ambition and ignorance are a dangerous mix, father. You never thought to tell us about Chaos, did you? Never warned us of what waited out there in the dark. I should be thanking you - perhaps if you had told us we would have resisted the glories, seeing only the blasphemy you see. Clung to your rigid, self-denying ways. Never to grow into something more.
Look at yourself, Horus. Look at what you have grown into. You started this war hoping merely to replace me, discontent with my retreat from the frontlines. Blinded by vanity, true, but now? Now you would see the galaxy burn. If you were to slay me, could you hold the Imperium I forged together? Your masters care little for unity. It would be a new Dark Age, a new Age of Strife which mankind might never escape from.
Freedom, father, from you. Your narrow-minded little empire, an empire built on conquest and destruction and lies upon lies. You would slaughter countless billions for your utopia, for the sin of freedom, of disagreeing.
How else might any utopia be achieved? Their deaths were for the same reason as my lies; to protect you, to protect mankind. I wanted my people to look to the stars, to look to the future with hope and rationalism, to turn away from the old faiths and superstition! Could they do that if I told them that hell was real, that all the daemons and spirits were waiting for them in the stars beyond and also within the darkness of their own hearts? Mankind was not ready yet.
You thought that ignorance is strength, then. In the empire you founded on rational thought, progressivism and science. Once I believed you were pinnacle of all mankind, father, but all of the flaws and hypocrisy of mankind are magnified in you too. You called your empire the Imperium of Man, but in truth it was the Imperium of one man.
I have lived longer than any of you, seen humankind rise from the dirt into the void, seen the darkest ages of the universe when all hope for mankind seemed lost, hopeless. Should I have stood idly by and allow humanity to tear itself apart? Should I have taught them the true nature of reality without preparing them first, insyead of waiting until they would be able to truly comprehend and resist it? I am superior and mankind was on the verge of dying. I forged my Imperium to save mankind and to allow it to grow into something greater. Utopia was not the true goal. Evolution was.
It is true you are older, stronger and more powerful than any other human. You thought this gave you to right to rule over us, to force us to evolve in a manner of your choosing. Would we ever be ready, I wonder? Would we ever be allowed to evolve into something greater than you? Would the Emperor ever let his subjects off his leash?
I did. I trusted you to continue my Crusade without me. That was a mistake I will admit to.
You are superior. This does not mean you are right. I am superior to the mass of humanity as well. Am I right, then, father?
Each had been struck a thousand times, armour cracked open, weeping blood and light both pure and pestilential. The black mace and golden fist snapped bones, the bloody talon and glowing blade tore through muscle and tendon. They held their bodies together with the power of their minds, now, the very walls around them glowing with heat.
You dare? If I am flawed then so are you, a thousandfold more! Tainted, corrupted, driven insane by the very forces of madness and anarchy themselves! You who prey on weakness, who led an army of cowards and oathbreakers only to exchange them for an army of madmen.
Cowards? Harsh words. They are your sons. The sons you rejected, the disfavoured, who never knew the love of their father as I did. Peturabo, who was ignored and cast aside, who only sought your favour and your love. Alpharius, the last to be found, who barely knew the man he fought in the name and for the love of. Magnus, the scholar and sorcerer who you banned from discovery and magic. Did you think he could be able to accept that his entire life had been a waste? That his every effort had been met with his father’s displeasure?
I was trying to protect him! From this!
And you thought prohibition and dismissal the answer. A mistake you have repeated. Think of Lorgar, the preacher you forbade from preaching, rebuked and shamed before the galaxy. Were you truly surprised he sought a god who would accept his worship?
Could I allow him to continue, gripping so tightly to his superstitions and his insane wish to deify me? He, and the worlds he claimed in my name, betrayed the very founding principles of my empire; that mankind would have no need of gods, that we would grow beyond them. By holding onto his faith, by seeking illumination from without and never looking within he denied himself, and all of those he converted, any chance of doing so!
Then what of Curze and Angron? The sons who disgusted you. One who turned himself into your instrument of justice, of punishment, your final sanction only to be rejected because you, who would unite mankind by genocide, found his methodology distasteful? And then there is Angron. Of all your sons, he was your greatest mistake. He chose to die with his adopted brothers. Did you not understand his wish? Was it love of your son, or merely your hunger for another weapon, that made you rescue him and him alone? You travelled with your Custodes, with Astartes and men of the Imperial Army. You could have saved his army entire.
Would he have accepted my aid, had I offered it? And could I trust the son broken by the barbarism of his world, held back and anchored by what those savages had pressed into his skull? It was his honour that saved his life, prevented me from destroying him myself.
No. You wanted another general, another weapon for your crusade. We primarchs are nothing but weapons, those who showed signs of moving beyond you and your wars reprimanded and admonished. You called us sons, yet you trusted your ancient Sigilite, your politicians and your little toy guards more than you ever did us.
So you say, Warmaster, and so you validate. Will your reign not be built on blood and murder, then? One only need look down to see what you have wrought. A war that no longer serves any purpose. Brother slaying brother. That is the aim of your new masters. Somewhere, deep in you, you know this to be true. Perhaps a tiny core of my son –and I still call you this even now –remains and hears me. If you can loose the bonds of taint and madness in your soul, will you stand down? Things need not end in your death. I can spare you.
Even now? Would your subjects accept anything but my death? Certainly they would never trust or follow me again.
In that briefest of moments before the Emperor could reply, a young man stepped into the room. He was dwarfed, at least in body, by the giants before him. Blood ran freely from his nose and eyes from the howling energies that threatened to split his skull, and yet he stood his ground. Raised his rifle in shaking hands.
Horus broke eye contact, grounding psychic power cracking the hull itself, and turned his gaze to the man. He was flensed were he stood, but that single instant of distraction, that momentarily lapse in Horus’ defences, was all that the Emperor needed. A torrent of psychic force burned within the Warmaster, lighting his skeleton beneath his flesh, and the Emperor struck. Stabbed his son clean through.
Horus collapsed to the floor. The Emperor followed suit, finally allowing himself to succumb to his wounds. He fixed his gaze upon Horus once more. He could see the taint bleeding from his son; saw the darkness in his eyes replaced with tears. In his defeat, the forces of Chaos fled his body, abandoned their vessel. They screamed in defeat and laughed in triumph, leaving Horus alone with his thoughts for the first time since Davin, or perhaps even before then.
To his gestation on Terra all those centuries ago.
He held out his hand. Horus’ gaze flickered before returning to the eyes of his father. Gagging, he seemed to be trying to form his final words, too exhausted to speak even within his mind.
The Emperor placed his hand upon his son's cheek, blood mingling with tears, and Horus achieved his final aim.
As his vision faded into darkness, as his soul collapsed into the embrace of his wrathful gods, he spat in his father’s face.
Last edited by Eremite; 04-02-11 at 01:52 PM.