The Account of a Lifetime

March 14, 2009

The Golden Throne Trilogy

It’s been another wee while since I contributed here, mypologies.

Today was SABRE day. We had a good five-vs-five Dundee vs St Andrews game of apocalypse. It was a tremendous day, good fun with good partipants.

The St Andrews Detachment

Allegedly under the command of myself, Aun’el Bork’an Xis’or (orbit). The most senior ranked individual on our side would’ve been the two Shas’Os fielded by myself, one in the battlesuit and one leading the Armoured Interdiction Cadre. Supporting, however, was an Astartes captain of unknown chapter, their superb senior librarian, a Baneblade commander, dozens of sternguard and a duo of venerable dreadnoughts.

To quickly list our assets:

~40 Sternguard
~25 Terminators of various ability
7 Scouts
4 Leman Russ (1 Demolisher)
5 Hammerheads
1 Skyray
1 Baneblade
3 Devilfish
2 XV88 Broadsides
9 XV8 Crisis
Inquisitor Lord & Retinue
1 Astartes Captain
11 XV15 Stealthsuits
6 XV25 Stealthsuits
~35 Fire Warriors
30 Veteran Guardsmen
~10 Support Guardsmen
~20 Kroot
2 Venerable Dreadnoughts
~10 Thousand Sons
Chaos Lord/Sorcerory/thing1 Pirhana
1 Vindicare
1 Basilisk

We’d selected a few choice strategic assets too, namely Darkstar Warhead, Remote Sensor Drones (VERY handy), Recon, Orbital Bombardment and the game-saving Strategic Redployment.  Setup was relatively simple: A few Tau hammerheads from the other player’s Tau, all of the sternguard, the dreads, the scouts, some of the kroot, the chaosy lads and the Vindicare.

The Dundee Detachment
Another good selection of things. Easily their most senior was their choice to field a Chapter Master. Second to that, probably the princeps of the Warlord titan.

Yes, the Warlord titan.

The other stuff they fielded included…

Warlord Titan
~7 Dreadnoughts
1 entire Astartes Battle Company entrenched in bunkers
1 LandRaider
30 other Tactical marines
~20 Terminators
1 Chaplain
1 Librarian
1 Whirlwind
1 Vindicator

The Game Itself

The deployment for the Dundee lot was surprisingly efficient and quick (having bidden only five minutes against our fifteen). Their chief had matters well handled by swiftly deploying the Bunker strategic asset (with most of the Battle Company entrenched within), whilst the Titan was setup behind a well fortified objective-containing building and the dreadnought-lead spearhead on one flank (otherside of no-man’s land from our own array of Imperial armour!).

First turn saw the obliteration of the baneblade, a Russ or two and a ton of sterngard plus the inoculation of the Basilisk. The only things I’d deployed were my stealthsuits, with the Broadsides and HHs of the other Tau player playing a supporting role. My four support (armoured interdection, rapid response, farstrike and catachan [gue’vesa] ambush) formations plus Shas’o and would be lying in wait for their timely entrance. All our terminators were held off in reserve too, as were the remainder of the kroot and some more sternguard. Our Kroot and Vindicare had already infiltrated up near the essentially forgotten objective in their half, in the idyllic village sitting out at the back of their DZ.

On the second turn we saw the Dundee folks bring out a Space Marine flanking force (land raider plus lots of apparently tactical squads) which were able to penetrate right in beside our own bunker plus the onwards march of the dread-led ground assault force. The deep striking of their assault squads (and Chaplain) in to our idyllic village was somewhat of a disappointment, but nothing I thought we couldn’t handle. (We had three DFs of Fire Warriors on hand to deal with exactly that sort of thing, what could go wrong…!?)

Our second turn saw the hearty arrival of my Catachan Ambush force, sallying in right behind the Space Marine Ambush! Good stuff. We also brought on the DFs with FWs to ‘deal’ with the pesky assault marines. Foolish.

Lots of stuff died, essentially. My guardsmen managed to account for a fair portion of astartes, flamering, killing and generally maiming a large amount of them in a short space of time. Two tactical squads, some of an assault squad  and some bikes.

Third turn was heralded by the unleashment of most of the titan’s weapons at my guardsmen with the bulk of them being incinerated. Those who survived had an orbital bombardment land on ’em. The lone veteran who survived that proceeded to flee off the table.

The third turn saw the arrival of our terminators, making a brave attempt to harass the titan and split the enemy force (and to prevent them from utterly trampling their way across the board and our forces in the centre-point). Towards the end, I arranged my Crisis farstrike and my Armoured Interdiction force. the whole lot came on and didn’t do that much. The Titan pretty quickly put paid to most of my interdiction cadre (except the command tank, hooray!), but we’d done the damage needed. My Crisis suits proved pretty resilient, with the nearby terminators drawing most of the entrenched enemy fire , only losing a suit to a krak missile and then two wounds (between two teams) despite attracting the fire of a full tactical squad, the disturbingly close blast of a vindicator and a fully laden terminator formation!

Quite intense stuff, really. My six Crisis Suits, however, were the stars of the match for me. They managed to put three damage points onto the Warlord (thankfully having deep-striked close to the mission critical objective and being able to strike from within the void shields…), largely being the only ones on the field to deal significant damage to the beast.

Most underused of our forces were the strategic assets. But then, that was close to the ‘ultimate victory’…

The Xisor Stratagem

Well, I thought it was a good one. That is, after having distracted the opponents by making madcap strikes against the Titan (go crisis teams) fed a significant amount of units unfortunately into the guns of the titan we were afforded a crucial opening with which we could take advantage: The Battle Company had largely remained within the bunker complex. The modified rules were simply that any troops could seize objectives, and the Dundee team had a very solid force sat right on top of two of them (particularly my mission-critical one, which was used as the focal zone for the  Crisis suits…which was silly, actually, as I was never likely to be within 6″ of that objective with the suits…still, it’d have kept them close by, maybe it wasn’t that silly)

Anyway, the space marines allied to our force were in a very handy position. Which is to say: they were essentially in the open and not close to objectives. We needed ’em on objectives. I had my stealth’s move in to claim an objective which I was merely ‘hanging around’ waiting the enemy out as a bit of a deterrent. We used the Strategic Redeploy to shift a distracting Vindicare from his current position through to right on top of a highly neglected objective. We already had focused the majority of the power of our allied astartes on getting rid of some pesky terminators (and a chapter master!) out from one of our most resilient bunker (even a large portion of the titan’s arsenal failed to remove it). It took alot of focus, including the remains of my hammerheads, my shas’o, our remaining support-squad guardsmen etc, to completely rid us of the remaining nearby enemy astartes and then finally deliver the death-blow to the Chapter Master. It took alot of effort, but we did it. The third objective was ours.

The SR move allowed us to surround an objective with Astartes, but we were unable to capitalise it. This final objective really ought to have been ours! I rolled abysmally for the two firewarrior teams that had been sent to dispatch the assault marines, whilst my colleague similarly came within grasp of victory with his third fire warriors and devilfish, two crisis suits and the remaining stealthsuits. We should’ve been able to take them…but we didn’t. Poor rolling and astartes competence utterly foiled our cunning plans. Down to only four assault marines, facing off agaisnt dozens of ours in the locality, we were unable to shift them from the objective. Even the remaining four drones were insufficient to rid us of those four assault marines.

If we’d managed to kill those four, that fourth objective would have been ours and the game would’ve been a 4-2 victory for St Andrews!

3-3 Equally good!

So it was then that we drew, 3 objectives a piece. Our force was utterly mauled, and their chief had made the particularly overzealous use of his bunkers (keeping the battle company in them for ages), so they remained quite impressively endowed with units. But, in the end, it was for nout. We’d slaved away and my crisis suits had started tackling a titan. I’d say that’s a good result! I’m fond of the target-arrayed twin-fusion-blaster assault force of Crisis suits. I think I’ll look into using such a force more regularly!

Plus, the image of the twin-fusion-blastered battlesuit is unshakeably cool!

But what’s this Golden Throne Trilogy about?

Well, I love my GW fiction. To bits. I’m quite excited about getting Kyme’s upcoming Salamander, and more so concerned with Heroes of the Space Marines which ought to contain a bundle of work from authors I particularly enjoy. Of late, however, I finished Tales of Heresy. I think often about the Imperial Webway.

My particular preference here is the most obvious overtone: that if  it were completed the Heresy might’ve been entirely avoidable! (That is: the Emperor’d be able to actually deal with the primarchs face-to-face once again, letting them come to visit him on Terra[but maybe not, actually…what if it only got worse as more ‘powers’ of the Throne were revealed…]).

For now, I wish GW would delve into this. Much like my hopes for the Battle for Isstvan V I really wish they’d get sensible about it and cover this enthralling aspect of the Heresy in depth. This is my ‘outlook’ for it.

Bk 1: The Throne of Terra

This deals with the introduction of our protagonists. Foremost is a prominent Imperial Scientist. A ‘noble’, if you will. A scientician of Terra, perhaps. Perhaps one of the ‘senior scientific’ advisers to the fledgling Unity Army, latterly a sidelined part of the academic coterie of Council of Terra. A specialist, perhaps? An odd but endearing character. Someone we could sympathise with. He’s intelligent, but lacking consideration. Ethically, he isn’t terribly fussy, but is disinclined towards personal violence. Conservative and a staunchly sensible chap in concordance to the Imperial Truth. He’s co-opted out of whatever lose-end humdrum activity, eager to be out on the crusade. He’s no Gaius Baltar, he’s genuinely bumbling and often accidentally offensive. A political liability in the ‘high aristrocracy’. Someone you’d not really want to take to a ball. He’s certainly not a genius, but is not stupid either. He one-hundred-percent isn’t psychic. Or a squat. Neither is he a pariah. In fact, he’s remarkably mundane. He knows little of psychic nonsense and views the Imperium with a degree of cynicism somewhat at odds with his otherwise strong patriotism.

We can introduce further characters, particularly his direct superiors who’ve steadily give him more compelling work to be dealing with.   He’s soon extracted from Coterie service and stuck into the Emperor’s dungeon.

The trouble is his ‘personal antagonist’ would take the form of a compellingly enjoyable Mechanicum project leader. Not exactly an overwhelmingly cool people person, but someone who, as nice as they are, are an very difficult to like. Interfering and obstreperous, perhaps. The decision is made to ‘include’ necessary friends. First and foremost is the largely incompetent/out-of-his-depth bureaucrat who’d been bizarrely included. No overwhelmingly redeeming twists here: a genuinely likable character, not perfect and possessed of an easily offended/sulky nature, but generally pleasant. Not perfect. This bureaucrat would be themselves struggling with the ‘dungeon laboratories’, but that’d be the gist of it.

The bulk of the first arc of the book is taken up with the steady change of pace for our protagonist. In the opening chapters we’d see jumps of times as his workload changes, punctuated with his own reasonably educated look at the Imperium. Opportunity for Dickensian despicable characters abound, especially in demonstrating the variation of the 31st millennium. Short and incidental interaction with traders, neighbours, coworkers, even casual/fleeting/passing love interest offer a quick way to summarise the almost-well-informed-but-not-quite outlook on the Imperium without recourse to endless exposition or ground-eye-view (e.g. Karkasy in the opening trilogy). Opportunity for inter-character expository debate does present itself, provided it can be well scripted and fairly compelling. (Pinning down inter-character interaction is key, with each ‘outlook’ not being too stereotyped, but sufficiently so to avoid the need for too much depth, yet one can also vary it up, a ‘hopeful curmuedgeon’, a ‘bubbly cynnic’ a ‘wise old chap’ who’s opinions, though well spoken and articulated, amount to little more than silly or ill-thought out drivel!)

In any case, this opens up the opportunity for a further Legion-styled approach to the Heresy-era. Less complex spying (as good as it is), more interesting and insightful back-and-forth.

The second arc of the book lessens the ‘outside world contact’ as the protagonist is brought deeper into the Emperor’s laboratories, and study of the more intricate technologies. The idea of being inducted into the Machine Cult as a mere formality (e.g. to be permitted to be taught by certain lecturers, colloquium-contributors) could be a fine discussion point which hearkens back tot he opening arc’s style, but in which the personal trials of our protagonist become more intricate. The introduction of the Imperial Army regiments in the dungeon, pieces of the puzzle [such as massive forces of Mechanicum adepts being assembled, large psker enclaves, bizarre happenings and whatnot].

As this second-phase of the book progresses, as our character becomes more stretched and strained (and yet more deeply involved and invested in his colleagues…like ’em or loathe ’em [or both at the same time!], and especially when feeling neither) we have the ‘twist’ everyone is awaiting. The arrival of the Golden Throne. The Emperor announces he’s quitting the Crusade and retreating to Terra. The ranks around or protagonist swell, thousands of recruits new folks are being drawn in. Our character  is being overseen. Links to the likes of Faith and Fire, Mechanicum and so forth will be woven into the discussion. We can discuss items known of the era as this all happens. ‘Everything’s going on!’ would sum up this stage. Everything’s being…reshuffled. It’s a big thing, there’s plenty to talk about, plenty to happen. We ‘leave behind’ the initial arc of the book as the threads seeded there are slowly drawn together.

The third arc of the book. The Emperor himself is in the dungeons. Like some sort of programming unit, the engineers, scientists, adepts and so forth are all working on various bits. There’s Custodes everywhere, there’s Sisters of Silence. There’s whispers of troubles with the Night Lords. One poignant paraph will tell of Lorgar coming to Terra and presenting various ideas to the Emperor. Hearsay discussion and convincingly-written ‘gossiping’ (research: teen/’female’-pulp fiction!, lad’s mags, glossy magazine editorials etc) will slightly revisit the style of the earliest book arc.

As this third arc develops we’ve had it known that the project is loosely known as the Throne. Ideally this’ll be the case from all the way through. It won’t be ‘hidden’, but it’ll be the main character uncovering bits and pieces, knowing ‘winks’ to the reader and some generally compelling, some red-herrings. It’s expected the reader’ll piece it together, so a whodunnit style would be pointless. The trick, then is reader-service in writing a compelling cast of characters who’re dynamic and interesting in their interactions, and through which the reader will be able to piece together much of the speculative buildup to the Heres.

Side-discussion: Many folks feel some of the Heresy books have little to do with the Heresy. A major point of such a book as this is that it’d need to keep the reader sensing something around the corner. Lots of cynics having their say, lots of ‘rebels’ disappearing. Not too conspiracy laden, but the sort of things that a canny person would pick up on in the run up to something mad happening. They’d never guess specifically, but looking back the evidence would certainly fit. The fortification of Terra would play an important discussion point for the protagonists and chums in the later stages of the book.

This third arc subdivides, sortof, the protagonist and chums are all overwhelmed amongst the Throne project, still not really knowing what’s going on (though the reader will, and it ought not be laboured that the characters can’t figure it out, I’m sure the readers are clever enough to figure that out if written properly!). The ‘final’ part of the arc is the ‘big reveal’, the chums finally get to look at the Throne. The Webway. It’s all there. Exploration teams are dispatched. Readings have to be conducted inside the webway. Boundary-value problems, studies of discontinuities, links to hear and there. Massive excitement in the archaeology corps as abandoned cities are discovered. Mishaps abound. The time-skips lengthen and the encounters of our protagonist and chums all vary…some develop and settle into their work with gusto, some get more idle and lazy. Some do both! In any case, as we near the end of the book we’re faced with a Malekith-esque jump. Magnus’ message arrives. The edicts of Nikaea hadn’t been obeyed…madness, darkness horror ensues…

Bk2: Beyond the Golden Throne

This is it. This is ‘a year later’. The battle has been raging. Our focus changes. The militaristic characters introduced as compelling sidelines and distant, supporting cast in the previous book take forefront position. Our protagonist takes a more supporting role, yet continues to play a pivotal part. Through the first plot of the second book, we see increasing deployments of the Sisters of Silence and the Custodes. The warzone laboratory is a bustling hell of a place. People snap. Tensions fray. Things like the Lecticio Divinatus which would feature in the former book are encountered. More terrifying of all…possessed astartes-like beasts appear. The Daemons, as they are, are terrible. The whole sequence of ‘Beyond the Golden Throne’ might take place only over a few days. We hear of filtering down of information; the dispatch of Russ, the complicity of Magnus, the trouble on Mars etc. The creeping madness not only the monsters in the Webway, but of of it all: the unfolding treachery across the Imperium. Word from the outside of the dungeons is low, but word getting out is even less. The core of the novel might focus on the suggested splits within the Sisters of Silence, the awesome battles in the Throne Room, us finally seeing the Emperor at work. The culmination of the book really is the ‘catch up’ with the Mechanicum and Fulgrim books. The realisation (for the protagonist) that war will come to Terra. We might hopefully find an excuse to have the protagonist (now a lay-adept with an impressive proficiency in the non-psyker side of psychic technology and science?) being ‘in the next room’ or ‘out of shot’ for the passage we saw in Collected Visions, (the actual moments of Beyond the Golden Throne) with Dorn and Malcador.

Then, the ultimate of the book, it has to be nothing more than the utter madness descending with the imminent arrival of the traitors. The book ends with the protagonist expecting utter madness for himself and chums, but they find themselves curiously protected and incubated from it all. Revelations might well abound as ‘after the fact’ notes. The idea of them ending up privvy to special information they shouldn’t actually know is feasible, IMO. The Emperor’s intent with the Nikaea edicts? That there are possessed Word Bearer’s coming through the Webway breach? That there’s something astoundingly deeper to the Golden Throne than just a Webway gate? The implications of the Golden Throne of Mars [linking to whatever Dalia was up to], discussion of other such projects and the results of those.

Character-wise, the development of arcs is crucial, but this is a fast paced. Book. If anything was ‘24,000′, this could well be it. Not always so rapidly quick and action packed, but a lot of story and development packed into a small time frame.

Bk3: Internment Eternal

This is it. This is Malcador taking up the throne. It sees (from a distance) what’s happening in the labs during the Seiege of Terra. Curiously protected. This book would serve well as a juxtaposition to the overwhelmingly action-packed Seiege of Terra books, and instead show a very different side of it. The death of Sanguinius, Horus, Malcador and almost the Emperor too might well be tied down in the first few chapters of the second arc! The second arc itself shows the almost immediate fraying of the Imperium. The retreat of the Imperium. Somehow our protaganist is then caught up.

Their knowledge, they and a few hundred others being the core survivors of the laboratories…useful. Our likeable bureacrat, for example, is finally, callously ‘ended’ with the return of Guilliman and the Lion to Terra. His being thrust into a position of authority is cut alarmingly short as Guilliman, the Lion, Vulkan, Dorn, Corax and the Khan swiftly reorganise in an effort to hold the Imperium together. Whilst we’re in ‘love’ with the characters, we see them repeatedly cut out of the picture. Not sidelined, but genuinely overshadowed. Swept up and away in the rapid reorganisation and house-cleaning.

Despite the bloodshed and devastation of the Heresy, and the gargantuan work laid out for the survivors, our protaganist and chums might well find themselves in cahoots with the likes of Promeus, Morianna, Garro (if he survives), Kendel (if she survives), Qruze (if…) etc. Implied ‘closeness’ (if not being actually involved with, rather used by) the early Inquisition, I think that’d be terrific.

But then, as mentioned in other blogs, I’m no author! If anyone felt that such vision had merit, I’m sure they’d be welcome to my support in pushing it through. I mean, it’s basically something I thought up on the spur of the moment!

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