Sunday, 10 July 2022

Trailing Corposant 9 – The Red-Eye

(Like Ahriman returning to the scene of the crime I am back on that crack. My solution to the Rubric? wait for it.. a second Rubric. Yes I am completely confident about this one also, skip to the end for the previous parts of this series).

That little voice in your head that says ‘no’.

Such a very small voice. A whisper, not enough to command or change you on its own, but perhaps enough to allow you to understand that a choice is being made, that you are making it, and that it could go another way.

Where would you be without that voice? What would have become of you? Probably each of you have met people who just didn’t have that voice at all and likely it wasn’t obvious at first that they didn’t have it.

But if it was stripped away from you, not just removed but annihilated, and you could never get it back, What then?

Magnus is unusual in the Heresy in that his story is not only over, but may have ended before we realised. I argue that ‘Magnus’ ended on Prospero and what persists beyond that is a kaleidoscope of memories and fragments of personality plotting and planning against one another, slowly coalescing into a new personality along a timetable arranged by a mad god.

It begins with high ambitions, information control, (or lies) ,and plans for a legion of psychic super-soldiers. Because if the Emperor of Mankind likes anything, he likes the idea of a legion of psychic super-soldiers. He has his little heart set on that.

But why?

What Was E-Money Planning?

Probably no form or kind of knowledge or technology was more important to control for the nascent Imperium than that of the Psyker. It was one of the few things the Mechanicum were outright banned from researching but research did go on, but only in the Imperial Household or under the Emperors more-direct control.

Early experiments with the First Legion included psychic elements and apparently didn’t go that well. The Astronomicon, the Webway project, the Ordo Sinister, the Silent Sisters, the Black Ships and soul-binding of Astropaths, all core imperial technologies and methodologies and all centred around control of psychic phenomena. As were  Primarch number 19 and the 19th legion.

The creation of the 19th Primarch in particular is a hell of a strange concept. Why create 20(.5) super-beings, all roughly equivalent in power, with some depth of specialisation but quite a lot of depth and inter-operability, some of whom had some psychic powers, though usually mono-use, and then for number 19 create not just a Psyker but a single hyperintelligent mega-powerful Psyker, a being not even slightly equivalent to its brothers in that respect, and not simply more psychically powerful but an order of magnitude more powerful. Likely the most powerful human-origin Psyker in the Galaxy other than you?

That’s a lot of eggs in one basket, or more precisely one giant fucking egg in a very frail basket. Why not divide up more psychic potential amongst the brothers so there is less risk if this single one goes nuts? (This is assuming E-Money has access to, basically a jar of pasteurised demon-juice and is doling it out piece by piece.)

It might be that mastering and controlling psychic power, and its possible negative effects, do not scale ‘normally’ i.e. a power 2 Psyker is twice as powerful as a Power 1, twice as hard to train and twice as dangerous if they freak out.

Perhaps power, ability and training capacity scale in such a way that if you are going to train a powerful psyker then you may as well train a super-powerful psyker as its going to be very hard either way. Perhaps the danger of a ‘loose’ psyker also scales in such a way that its more like a pin prick in a balloon rather than a puncture in a ships hull; you stand as much risk big as small so you may as well go for that very big egg.

Maybe making a super-powerful psyker will make them easier to find and communicate with if they get ‘lost’? 

All of this depends on what the Emperor was planning. There are three main strands of possibility but, E-money being E-Money none of these necessarily preclude the others. Each could be a possible fall-back position or deliberate provocation designed to nudge an enemy into a particular stance. One thing we know about E-Dawg and the Chaos Gods is that their plans are both massively parallel, and take place somewhat adjacent to time, so setup for a fallback to a failure can take place millennia before the failure itself is suspected.

The small-C Conservative Plan

Maybe you can take over the webway and move humanity inside and maybe you can’t but either way you will need a lighthouse and a league of demon fighters.

The Imperium of Man, having grown up around the Emperor, essentially needs a super-powered psychic at its centre. To guide the Astronimicon if nothing else and even inf things go well, to be Humanities ‘farseer’.

If you fuck up (as in fact happens), you will need someone to hold closed the hellgate now existing in the palace, maintain the Aegis, the psychic shield around the palace, plus guide the astronomicon. 
If things go well you will likely need someone to hold open and maintain the human webway, while also guiding the astronomicon (unlikely it would be totally shut down), and what else? We know about the webway, the astronomicon and the aegis but in a ‘functional’ Imperium there would probably be more roles that only a psychic powerhouse, a single individual, could fulfil.

In a ‘successful’ webway project the 19th legion would be security guards, taking on demons that tried to break in and those that attempted to take over human worlds in realspace. they would fulfil the role the Grey Knights do now – but in a somewhat more expansionist manner, teaming up with the Sisters and the Ordo Sinister to conquer the webway and fight Demons when they burst into reality out in the galaxy.

The Insanely Maximalist Plan

Invade Hell.

Its implied but never directly stated that the Emperors ambition didn’t stop with the conquest of the webway, or with anything in the material world. He thinks the ultimate problem is the Chaos Gods themselves and there are inferences that a lot of his psychic diddling about it basically the beta-test for an invasion of Hell.

The Emperors To-Do List

Move Humanity to the Webway (psychic elements at least).
Kill nearly everything else.
Starve the gods.
Guide humanities psychic development.
Keep iterating and developing null tech like the Sisters and the Ordo Sinister, along with whatever the 19th were meant to be, all headed and protected by a creature of near unequalled might.
When the gods are weak enough and you have enough psychic super-soldiers, pop into the Courts of Chaos – through a hell gate (there seem to be several knocking about) and go to war against the gods, knocking them out one by one.
Having destroyed the Chaos Gods, re-make the psychic sub-structure of the Galaxy as something more sensible and less inimical to life.

The Galaxy-Brain Plan

Set up to fail.

Of course you stole the power to make these Primarchs and super-soldiers from the Gods themselves. And you know they will be looking to fuck you over. And you know that a super-genius psychic powerhouse is going to be VERY attractive to a certain blue bird god.

And while you educate Magnus yourself over broadband, and give him loads and loads of knowledge
You never tell him directly about the gods, or about where he comes from, or exactly how you made those super-soldiers (who in this case are over-baking quite consistently).

Then one day your pet sorcerer comes home with one less eye saying he “found” knowledge in the Warp about how to stabilise his Legion.

So, if you are the Emperor, you likely know or at least suspect exactly what happened.

Then later Nikea happens and you tell Magnus to not do the one thing you made him to do, and in fact taught him to do.

Plus you know a rebellion is coming, and in fact you have planned for it (apparently not that well).
You are, essentially, dangling Magnus over shark-infested waters, waiting to see what will happen. Much like you are with all of the Primarchs. You know Chaos will be coming for them with its mind-bending crackhead Truman-show shenanigans.

Are you waiting to see which sons rebel since you know some will, and you also know that ultimately all will be challenged, in some way, at some time?

Are you actually planning for some to be eaten by Chaos as part of an even more long-term strategy? One which goes far beyond the Heresy?

In their last meeting the Emperor offers Magnus service/imprisonment, and re-acceptance, so long as he sits in the chair and lights stuff up. Magnus is wavering and asks what will happen to his Legion. E-Dawg says “those guys are tits up in a ditch but I will get you a new one”.

Magnus freaks out and fucks the fuck off.

Was this the Emperor being an autistically insane bad father or was it the specific words that would drive away Magnus and seal him directly to the fate of the 19th forever?

Bad writing, bad character or swirling meta-scheme, as with all things Heresy, you decide. 

What is it to be trapped in that plan?

Magnus wasn’t just lied to and manipulated by Tzeetch, he was lied to and manipulated by his Dad to really quite an insane degree. Maybe he wouldn’t have listened even if he was told.

“Son we are flying over the gates to hell, yes I mean literal actual hell with demons and four fucking super-satans. Yes it’s really hell, I mean it.”

Maybe the Magnus we know would have been right off into the hellmouth regardless, but it really explains why he has such a complete mental breakdown after he breaks the Emperors Wards.

To count of the sheer amount of mind-breaking realisation he undergoes in that moment;

Precognition doesn’t work and can be blinded and manipulated.
He has opened a hellgate directly into the Throneroom.
By the way, Hell exists and its that place you visit on the regular.
Gods are real and they are evil.
They planned this.
Every thing he did  was planned by evil gods.
Including, and in fact especially, the parts where you thought you were really trying hard to do the right thing.
Your sons are all going to mutate and turn into walking teratomas and there is no way out of that.
You can die here or be bound to a psychic lighthouse basically as a kitchen towel trying to keep demons off the kitchen floor FOREVER.
There was never any deal where you gave up an eye, you outwitted no-one, it was and act and you are a fool.
Literally NOTHING you ever did or any ideal you thought he represented meant SHIT – your dad lied to you and used him and evil gods will destroy everything you ever valued, also your dickhead cosplay barbarian brother is coming to maybe kill maybe capture him.
Oh the future looks like this also;

Be fair, that’s a lot to take in. Can you blame him for having a complete nervous breakdown?

What would you do? What could you do, when you know your every move, your every move, has already been plotted by evil extradimensional gods who have been playing you right up until this moment? And still are.

Prey animals play dead in these circumstances. It’s not a great tactic but tbh it may be the best you have got when you are already in the tigers mouth.

The Last Coherent Choice

Which is what Magnus does at this point. Sit in his room refusing to go out, too scared to answer emails or pick up the phone. It’s pretty sad but, again, what the fuck would you do? Every single thing he has tried to do up until this point was already accounted for and aided evil timeless extradimensional gods.

I have given Chaos a lot of shit for its, frankly often terrible schemes to corrupt Primarchs, but this time they really brought their A-Game. Feel like Tzeentch is the one competent member of the group tbh. Who else is turning up to the quarterly meeting? Maybe Nurgle but he never does anything.

I would also like to take a moment to remind everyone that to corrupt Magnus all it took was a reality-bending nightmare scheme with a Borgesian number of branching paths and all it too to turn Russ to the use of chaos was deleting the comma from an email.

The last coherent thing True-Magnus does is stumble out of his Pyramid and try to fight Russ, then on the way down to getting his back broken, sell his soul to keep his Legion and his people alive, before being shattered into a gazillion pieces. 

Bear in mind, it took the literally guillotine being on the way down the tracks for him to consciously and deliberately break.

Then, Fragments

Appropriately enough for Tzeentch. Little more than a field of playing pieces and a meta-personality slowly re-combining (through catastrophe and adventure), at a speed and in a manner more pleasing to Tzeentch.

Soul-surgery across eons of time…

Magnus in Publication Order

When we think of Magnus as a ‘Published Entity’ he makes a (slightly) more sense. The stories weave back and forth in time between M41, the Heresy and just post-Heresy. Still there is a pretty clear growth in the depth of his character, going from background supervillain in William Kings Space Wolf series from 2002 and culminating in the Emperors Throne room in ‘The Fury of Magnus’ in 2020

Early 2000’s - The Space Wolf/Ragnar Blackmane Series

Space Wolf, Grey Hunter – William King 2002, M41
Space Wolf, Wolfs Honour – Lee Lightner, 2008, M41

All about Ragnar Blackmane being just the best guy ever. Grey Hunter is about a Thousand Sons sorcerer trying to steal the Spear of Russ to being Magnus ‘back from the Immaterium’.

Magnus turns up at the end of ‘Wolfs Honour’, looming through a warp portal, intending to do some evil ritual on Fenris to destroy the Space Wolves and gets bonked in the face by the Spear of Russ.

(A spear which, in the tradition of Horus Heresy writing, will get more character development over the Heresy series than some living beings. At some point I should probably do a post of ‘Character Development of Weapons in the Horus Heresy).

2010- A Thousand Sons - Graham McNeill,  M31

A Major book for the 1k Sons which follows Ahriman on a journey which takes him all the way from watching his twin brother mutate in to a monstrosity under the influence of 19th legion gene seed, to Magnus arriving and ‘solving’ the Flesh-Change problem, to chilling with Magnus during the great crusade, Magnus discovering the webway, The Wolves being dicks, more tangles with the Space Wolves and finally the attack on Prospero and Magnus having his epic meltdown.

2011 - Prospero Burns, Dan Abnett, M31

Chunks of the same story but told from the Space Wolves perspective. Tldr; it took tzeentch doing quite a lot of intense trickery to fully turn the wolves, and the custodes, against the 19th legion

2011/2015 - War of the Fang, Chris Wraight, M32

Made up of ‘Battle of the Fang’,2011 and it prequel ‘The Hunt for Magnus 2015. Magnus is, once again, or actually for the first time..(?) attacking Fenris….

This time its in M32 in a (successful) attempt to stop the Space Wolves fixing their gene seed so they can become an Ultramarines-Style regional power to encircle the eye of terror. Magnus gets bonked by a Space Wolf and runs away but not before achieving the main aim of permanently retarding geneseed experimentation.

2012 to 2015 - Ahriman doing Time Loops, John French

Made up of Ahriman; Exile, John French 2012, Ahriman; Sorcerer, John French 2015 and  Ahriman Unchanged,  John French 2015.

The story of Ahriman post-Rubric, trying to recover from his crack addiction, hitting rock bottom, deciding to live and… getting right back on that crack.

Though its mainly about Ahriman this series sets the tone and feel for the 1k Sons and Magnus post-Heresy and post-Rubric. Though it will still be five years till McNeil tells us what actually happened to Magnus in the Heresy.

I’m not sure if French is the first person to introduce the idea of ‘shards’ of Magnus but I think  this is where that concept came from. Scars by Chris Wraight has Jaghatai encounter a ghostly shard of Magnus and that was published in 2015.

The concept is this; when Russ broke Magnus, he broke Magnus, splintering him into a huge number of sub-personalities which were scattered across Magnus’ timeline, and hidden in various other places. These ‘shards’ range in strength and intensity from ghostlike visions to fully embodied beings who are sure they are the ‘real’ Magnus. Each shard is based around a different aspect, core memory or expression of Magnus’ personality.

Several of the inciting elements for the Ahriman series are different shards of Magnus trying to manipulate events so they can express whatever that shards core values are. The trilogy ends with a ritual hoovering up even more shards and combining them into a stronger meta-personality.

Its also explicitly stated that Ahriman is doing time loops throughout the series, entering and exiting the Eye of Terror at different points on his own timeline, encountering people for the first time who already know him well and visa versa. The same seems to be true of the Magnus-shards who are manipulating everything. 

When does this series take place? Fuck knows. Draw a big squiggly line around the millennia M31 to M41.

2016  - Wrath of Magnus Campaign Book, M41

About 16 years ago in the Ragnar Blackmane books Maggy was trying a mysterious ritual involving screwing over Fenris and the Space Wolves.

Well this time he actually pulls it off! Chaos mass-invades the Fenris system, collapsing world after world, arriving on Fenris itself and successfully (partially) demonising it. 


Not only that but in a neo-ruinstorm move, Maggy actually manages to crack the fucking galaxy baby! Imperium Nihilus is a thing now!

lets goooooooooo!

Plus he teleports the Planet of the Sorcerers to Prospero. 

ahh hahahah fuck you Russssss!

Then gets bonked by a Khornate Axe wielded by a Space Wolf and runs away because apparently there is only one way these things are allowed to end. This is the third time btw.

2017 Magnus the Red: Master of Prospero, M31

Picks up with whatever remains of Magnus having taken a beating and hanging about on the Planet of the Sorcerers basically fading away like McFly due to missing soul stuff. In order to set him up for the next novel he has to have a flashback to early heresy times when he was palling about with Pertuabo and encountered a Dr Who mystery on a planet which mysteriously survived the Age of Strife – definitely not via spooky methods at all.

2017 - The Crimson King, M31

Ahriman and the 1k Sons try to face up to how fucked they are and finding their Dad has magical Alzheimer’s and is also dying, they decide to put him back together using a magical fetch quest!
Its just repairing a soul! How wrong can it go? When many or even most of the pieces are missing or gone…

Say hello to eventual-supervillian Magnus; The Crimson King. The guy who will, in roughly 10,000 years and after quite a few acts of gradual coelesance like this one, go on to crack the Galaxy in half.

Even having repaired Dad, and even with his major good part still missing the main desire of the Crimson King is still to get it back. He knows his ‘little voice’ is gone and wants to be whole. His method could be argued with; he will join with Horus in laying siege to the Emperors Palace.

2017 to 2020 – Bit Parts in the Heresy

In two books by John French Magnus turns up for bit parts and, along with the Sons, in ‘Slaves to Darkness’ he turns up at the end to announce he is on team bad-guy while in ‘The Solar War’ the 1k sons are some of the more-useful elements in Horus’ army.

2020 - The Fury of Magnus, M31

Magnus infiltrates the Palace with a handful of his main guys, gets a lot of the Chaos wiped off him and has some very consequential meeting with Malcador and the Emperor which do not go well at all.

He meets Malcador and asks for the good part of his soul back. Malcador tells him it simply can’t be done. (This part has already been combined with the last loyal Thousand Son, transformed into the first master of the Grey Knights and shoved through a space hole to Titan, then Titan itself shoved out of existence for a bit.

Perhaps more upsettingly, Malcador outright tells Magnus that the source of most of his problems if himself and that even without his missing soul-bit he still has enough of a personality to make good choices. This may be technically true but is maybe the best way to phrase it, and considering the sheer level of fuckery Malcador and the Emperor have engaged in, not the best person to bring it up and Magnus snaps Malcadors neck. He then meets with the Emperor who offers him a spot on the chair and informs him that the 19th Legion is a bust and always was.

(It’s not clear if these terrible attempts at persuasion are just terrible attempts or actual deliberately bad attempts. Malcador in particular seems to be expecting to die here..)

Magnus not unreasonably is not down with this and fucks right off out of the Siege. If you want to see where he appears “next” its in, I thiiink, the Ahriman Trilogy? Or possibly ‘Battle of the Fang’ as they likely overlap.

And there we are. All Wrapped up.

The Crimson King as a ‘Real’ Person

If taken as an actual personality Magnus Post-Heresy is notable for his lack of ambition and interest  in anything other than fucking over the Space Wolves. From a publishing perspective we know that this is because the Demon Primarchs are background characters in the 40k verse up until the Heresy Series really kicks off.

But it also makes sense from a personal perspective. As a lessened, crippled and frustrated post-shattering version of himself, what purpose does the Crimson King actually have? He might resent the Emperor but he has no love for Chaos and doesn’t really give a shit about the Horus/Abaddon viewpoint of ‘this galaxy is ours actually’.

He is a servant of a God who does not (consciously) worship that God and in fact hates it. His dream of a better galaxy is gone. He can’t really be a coomer for chaos. What else is there to do but scheme, dick over the Space Wolves and slowly re-assemble whatever bits of himself he can find.

Amazingly he seems to have finally accomplished all this (in Wrath of Magnus, 2016) and having cracked open the galaxy, maybe he can finally chill feeling free and happy as the more-psychotic version of himself? After all the ‘Crimson King’ has lasted a lot longer than ‘Magnus the Red’ ever did. (Plus he could always invade Titan and swallow Janus’ corpse, you never know it might do something! Maybe ‘eat every Grey Knight’ could be a new goal?

Previous Instalments

Two - Horus
Three - Fulgrim
Four - The Lion
Five - The Alphas
Seven - The Mechanicum


  1. Pertuabo's a great name.

    Was brainstorming time war type stuff on discord the other day - a real mind bottler to even conceive of war in a situation where causality, or even just finality, doesn't apply.

    Suppose time travel's somewhat similar to precognition in that sense, except that the precognitive experience is "simulated"/modeled/predictive rather than actual - on that note, in these books are the chaos gods' and the emperor's precognition/general scheming different in some essential sense? E.g. does the emperor "win" sometimes because he's got some fundamental human-ness, or the chaos gods because they're psychically fundamental so their "win condition" is less complex? Or whatever else.

  2. Dammit. I don’t give a rip about Magnus or Ahriman or any of the Emperor’s Children and those Slaaneshi simps.

    Are there not any decent novels about the Death Guard, Moratarion, or Father Nurgle? Seriously. I’ve read Flight of the Eisenstein (decent enough for a “kick-off-the-Chaos-wars” short story padded out to novel length). But where’s the soap opera series for the DG?

    1. There is 'Lords of Silence' which so far as I know is the only good Death Guard novel

  3. Magnus and his boys are my favourites, I think because they were just trying to do the right thing and got screwed over by their father and brothers.

  4. This is a long post!

    Out of interest :
    What OTHER black library books do you like other than the Heresy series? Titanticus, the Emperor's gift, Storm of Iron, and the Mask of Vyle (actually very good short story) are ones I recommend.
    Have you ever wanted to write something for BL?
    Are you up to date on the siege of terra?
    Any 'best books' from the HH that you can recommend?

    Great blog as always. ty

    1. Double Eagle, The Riders of the Dead, the Shira Calpurnia series by Matthew Farrer, along with the Urdesh martry pair of books by Farrer. Josh Reynolds is interesting for AoS and his Fabius Bile trilogy. Aaron Dembski Bowdens Night Lords books. Peter Feherris Dark Coil books, the first three of John Frenches Ahriman series.

      I did once submit to BL a long time ago when they were having one of their open days but never heard back. Its unlikely t happen now for a variety of reasons.

      I *think* I am up to date on the Heresy. I haven't read 'Chthonias Reckoning' and some of the short stories but have read everything else.

    2. Completely agree on Double Eagle; the ending got me in the Feels. Titanicus is the same kind of structure as Double Eagle but with Titans. It was written before Double Eagle and I prefer it personally.

      Riders of the Dead also awesome. Love that one. If you like Dan Abnett try 'Brink' from 2000ad. It's INCREDIBLY an slow burn detective story, but really worth it. ty for reply.

  5. Oh, please do make that post about the weapons, some of them are quite interesting.