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Col. Tartleton
15-08-2010, 22:36
An Apology

“Would you, who I raised as my son, undo my works so close to their completion? Would you raze Terra? Pull down my palace stone by stone? Cull a hundred trillion men for my failings as a father? Would you slay me too and mount my head on a pike like some barbarous trophy?”

The voice carried through the room like the roar of thunder. A corona of witch fire arced around him like lightning before dissipating off into the walls of the chamber. Every surface of his golden armor resplendant with the ectoplasmic discharge. I flowed from him like water, it swept across the floor like the ripples from a pond and it rose in mist as it faded away.

“You shame me. Not in your betrayal as much as your arrogance. You thought you were my match? Did you not listen when I instructed you my son? You dishonor your father with childish insults. I had thought I had made a fearless man but all I see is a mewling infant wanting for a mother.”

“I’m not your son. You created me in your image and cast me aside like a worthless wretch out of your cowardice. You were afraid of us and you discarded us like scraps of paper into the fire. I was raised by others, people so long dead I cannot even recall their names! When you finally became satisfied with your recipe and formed the Astartes Legions you saw a use for us and tracked me down. I was still so young that I allowed your lies. I had always known I was different. Larger, faster, stronger, smarter then any man has a right to be. You told me everything I wanted to hear because your magics let you see inside my soul. You took advantage of my humanity. You perverted me into your perfect soldier. You even had the audacity to call me your favored son.”

Horus spat back in his face. Every man in the room averted their eyes from the radiance of the Emperor’s majesty. Horus alone stared into the fire. His jaw clenched, teeth bared by his sneering lip, eyes squinting like a man staring into the sun. His stomach churning with each syllable. Decades of doubts wrenched themselves free of his flesh tearing at his heart as they did. His secondary eyelids blinked away tears of frustration.

The voice filled the chamber again. “You were my favorite. I named you Warmaster. You were my successor. The only man I trusted to finish the work I had started. I confided in you things no one else could know.”

“None of that means a damn thing and you know it. What good does it matter if I’m to succeed you if you plan to outlive me? You’re the Immortal Emperor of Mankind are you not? Am I anything but merely a pawn in your great game? Mighty Horus shed his blood on a thousand worlds. Waded through seas of gore and entrails to raise up monuments to the King of Kings. Horus tore down civilizations and built them back up with his own hands. But Horus is dead now. Glory to the Emperor!” Horus mocked him.

“Who is like Horus? No one. I alone shared your hunger; your ambition. I alone had the appetite for it in my stomach, but even so an ulcer festered. I was wrong. We are nothing alike. You are no better then the ‘Dark Gods’ with whom I have made communion, and not without shame. Unlike you I possessed, for all my god like qualities, some squandered humanity. I started this war because I had been afraid that mere mortals might outshine me. I swore I would see the galaxy burn and the stars go out before I allowed my heroes to bow to beaurocrats and money counters. You didn’t bother to reserve us a spot in your great plan. You needed us to conquer the stars but you didn’t need us to rule over it. We would be killed off or left to rot. So I concluded I’d give my men the deaths we deserved.”

Horus paused for a moment. Unaware of the thoughts that brewed in the mind of the shining being that floated before him. He looked down at the body that lay between them. He had killed his own brother. It had been enough to rob him of any power chaos held within his body. His mind was clear now when he spoke to the Emperor. He choked upon the thought but his anger granted him at least a moment’s respite. He started again:

“You know better then I do that the only reason I lowered my shields is because I never wanted to be Emperor. Do I want to kill you? Yes, more then anything. But after that I too must die. All of us. Mankind does not need us or deserve us. We’re monsters, perversions of humanity. Yet I exist to protect mankind. I intend on honoring that pledge.”

“I realized that for all my vitriol and hate for mankind I am the only man who can save it. Unlike you there remains some human shard within my heart of stone. I laugh and I cry. I’ve sweated and I’ve bled for your dreams, not my own. Then I realized you have not. Even on blood soaked Ullanor. I never saw you laugh with others. Not even with your Custodes did you show an ounce of humanity. I did not see you weeping with us as we realized how many we had lost for the dream. No sweat wet your brow or blood drain from your body. I’ve never seen you eat or drink. I’ve known you for centuries and I ignored it. But you’re a horror. The very fuel of nightmares.”

"No matter what I would tell you, you would try and refute it regardless. You are stubborn. You know everything for a fact. Admirable. Misguided. Tragic. I expected your betrayal. I honestly did. Yet you surprise me with your claims as to why. I will admit you impress me." The Emperor had reduced his radiance and the stunned onlookers saw his face. It was old, with deep ridges carved into its granite face. The eyes shone like sapphires and he looked almost as though he was upon the verge of weeping.

“You were that king in that story you told me so many years ago. About the man who built a stairway to heaven. You were that man the ancient’s called ‘Morning Star.’ At every turn you’ve denounced your divinity, why, you almost killed Lorgar when you spoke to him the way you did. Yet for all your denials you dress the part. You calculate every mannerism to act the part. I’d dare to say you even look the part. What are you? You take the shape of a son of man but you are something older, something uglier, and fouler. You claim a woman bore you but I see through your lies. You’re as alien as those capricious Eldar. I’ve fought them, I know them. No other foe I’ve bested resembles them. Even the Changer of Ways struggles to match wits with them; with you!

“Early in the crusade, when we were still honest, when we still thought we could reason with the Xenos, I learned from them. I learned of their gods and their mysteries. I learned of their ‘Old Ones’ I learned of a great fall that shook them to their core. I learned of the Yngir. I learned of their proposed savior. The one they call Ynnead. Of that day that will never come for them. It was tragic.”

“I also learned of mankind. I learned of the Golden men. I learned of the Stone men. I learned of the Iron men. I wondered and I thought. Always privately about the implications. I knew you must be one of the Golden men. The shining brilliant ones who brought enlightenment. That fit clearly. I puzzled over the possibility you may have been among the Old Ones. The Eldar claimed to be as old as the great reptiles that once inhabited ancient Terra. I found this impossible. They were not, they couldn’t have been. But I realized in my time with them that they were not flesh and blood like man, but formed of crystal. “

“They hadn’t evolved, they’d been made, by your kind. Just like you made me. I know you built the webway. Even now your golden throne rests upon its foundations. Magnus told me. He told me about your attempts to restore it. He also told me of his own failings. How he had destroyed your works with his ignorance. I was going to kill him until he told me that. I spared him because he had aided my cause, and more I knew he would hardly be able to live with himself for it.”

“I learned also of the Yngir. Surely you’ll admit these monsters were your Iron men. The horrors that ten thousand years ago rebelled against you. I’m your third try. The Stone Men you knew for all their psychic wonders were dangerous. You proved right, their fall was so great that they will never recover. So you made men of metal. You tamed the ancient beings they call C’tan and you used their power to build a race that could not disobey or fall to the darkness. Yet you did not expect the simple minded C’tan to rebel while you fed them on souls. You were wrong. So you played your two races against one another and in the end your Stone Men won.”

“From the Mechanicus I learned how you bound the C’tan to their prisons and scattered their children across the galaxy, and you, for a while at least were content. Then the Eldar fell to the darkness that lurked in their heads just as you feared. So you made the primarchs of flesh and blood. Too well perhaps, so you grew wary of your creations and like the C’tan you bound us to prisons across the galaxy. Then you created your Astartes. Finally a race that could do the job for you.”

“So you sought us out, the 20 men who would lead your armies. You bred us to be loyal beyond all else and for a third time you have failed. There won’t be a fourth time. This is all going to end. No single man, or God can rule the galaxy. Fate won’t allow it. I have become that fate Ynnead. Your fools errand is over. I will kill you, or at the very least I will die and your plan will fail.” Horus finally finished. He was ready to die now.

“You are wrong boy, and I will accept no apology. I am not who you thought I am, that is correct. I am not who you think I am either. Its never mattered who I am. It was always about saving man from itself. Perhaps it was a hopeless mission, but it was the one I chose. I sought to bring light to the darkness. I took up this mantle of godhood to give man something to believe in. Perhaps I was wrong. Maybe I would have been wiser to kill man instead of protecting him. But I made the choices I did and now here we are. Your hands are as blood soaked as mine. If you are meant to kill me then let us die. I know you will give no quarter. You never have. Admirable. You certainly know I won’t. I’ve never felt wrong in taking a life that wanted to die. Like it or not you come as a child begging his father for mercy. That is what I will give you Horus. Nothing more.”

“For Right or wrong.” muttered Horus.

“That always was your philosophy wasn’t it?”

Son of Sanguinius
15-08-2010, 22:50
Fascinating work, Colonel.

From a literary perspective, I believe the explanations of Horus' new-found knowledge are unnecessary. Interesting, but they parch the tension that you so wonderfully saturated at the outset. If you leave them in there, consider giving the Emperor a line to break it up. I also think that Horus' consideration of the conflict about his role concerning humanity to be awkwardly worded.

From a fluff perspective, I find the Ynnead twist interesting. Most folks who associate the Emperor with the Old Ones and/or Eldar Gods tend to use Vaul.

In all, it is a very entertaining read and lends philosophical and emotional gravitas to 40k's most defining confrontation.

Col. Tartleton
15-08-2010, 22:57
I just figured that there are 3 remaining Old Ones (Khaine, Isha, and Cegorach) and that the Emperor must be the unaccounted one ie. Ynnead. The one who is supposed to save the Eldar in their time of greatest need. Plus the Golden throne seems strangely similar to the infinity circuits (my idea being that they will plug merge the infinity circuits with the throne and not only wake him up but make him Chaos God powerful, like they did Slaanesh. I'll probably go back and give the Emperor more to say.

I based Horus' "figuring it out" on the fact he had sort of found common themes during the crusade that kept coming up. He then figures out things and pieces it together during his time in the cave. I like the idea of his wounding and weakness that gives him a chance to think about things. Then either through Tzeentch, his own reason, or even some sort of deus ex machina of "the truth" comes to those conclusions.

Chem-Dog
16-08-2010, 01:58
I happened here by mistake by way of a miss-click, boy I'm glad I did, that was a thoroughly brilliant read.
20 odd years ago the Bill King Horus Vs Emperor short was the first piece of 40K fluff I ever read, I admit I wanted to find a crack in your version, I can't.
I can't say I'm all that well read on the Old-One side of 40K's backstory but this is an original and stunning new take on the Horus/Emperor legend that opens up a lot of interesting (if somewhat heretical) avenues of thought on the topic, good work indeed :D

Hellebore
16-08-2010, 02:07
Very nice Colonel. Just a little thing, but it should probably be audacity rather then tenacity at the end of the fourth paragraph.

Hellebore

Col. Tartleton
16-08-2010, 02:48
Yeah i did. Sorry if there are any typos still I tried to go over it but I wrote the entire thing today while watching million dollar baby (sad movie...) based on some thoughts I had last night about Horus and the big E.