John French’s latest short story, The Purity of Ignorance, comes with an interesting tagline – ‘A Story of the Horusian Wars’. As yet there’s been no confirmation of whether this means he’s actively working on a new series regarding the Horusian Wars, but still…it’s ripe for speculation!
Very little is certain at the moment – least of all whether there’s actually going to be any more stories following on from this one – but a quick dig into the archives does pull out a few facts and a few more possibilities…
WARNING: what follows isn’t massively spoilerific, but nevertheless it’s still worth having read the short story before continuing. If you haven’t done that, continue at your own risk.
So what do we know for certain?
Not a lot, but take a look through the rulebook for 2001’s Inquisitor game and you’ll find a couple of brief pieces of background text on two characters from The Purity of Ignorance – Inquisitor Covenant, and his companion Josef. I’ve included them here – credit to Gav Thorpe as the author of the rulebook.
“Inquisitor Covenant is one of a new breed of fiery, determined individuals dedicated to purging perceived corruption within the Inquisition itself. As an Ordo Malleus member, he has access to specific daemon-hunting equipment, such as his psycannon, and makes a particular point of destroying the daemonhosts created by his less puritanical cohorts. Currently Covenant is scouring the southern rim of the galaxy.“
“Based in the Schola Progenium habitat orbiting Golian, Josef Khoriv was once a petty officer in the Imperial Navy. He was part of a boarding party which freed Cardinal Symien of Ophelia from an Ork pirate ship, protecting the high ranking clergyman during their harried escape. So impressed was Symien that he had Josef transferred to Golian to pass on his skills to the potential Commissars, clergymen and naval officers in the habitat. Unfortunately, Josef’s adventures weren’t over, as Golian was actually being controlled by an alien-worshipping cult infected by mind-controlling creatures known as Genestealers. It was upon uncovering this fact that Josef rallied his students about him and expunged the cult from the orbiting station, earning himself the attention of the Inquisition. It was Inquisitor Covenant who arrived to investigate the incident and, like the Cardinal before him, was so impressed by Josef’s resourcefulness and bravery, that he requisitioned his services.“
There’s also a reference to a pair of death cultists named Severina and Sevora Devout, who ended up in the employ of Inquisitor Eisenhorn – if memory serves they’re also characters in Dan Abnett’s Malleus, the third Eisenhorn novel. That pretty much excludes them from relevance here, except that one of Covenant’s other companions in this story is named Severita…perhaps a quiet little reference from the author?
What don’t we know, then?
Well the term Horusian Wars conjures up visions of the Horus Heresy at first, but don’t be fooled – chances are it refers to a faction of the Inquisition known as the Horusians.
I’ve not been able to find any references to conflicts either between different groups of Horusians or indeed the Horusians and other Inquisitorial factions, but the Inquisitor rulebook does have a little to say on the Horusians as a subset of a larger faction. Radicals, unsurprisingly, called the Xanthites.
I’ve included the whole section on the Xanthites for reference – credit once more to Gav Thorpe.
From the Inquisitor rulebook:
“Xanthism is one of the oldest philosophies of the Inquisition, named after Inquisitor-Master Zaranchek Xanthus who was executed as a heretic in the early 32nd millennium. Xanthus was accused of Chaos worship, and although he professed his innocence strongly, he was eventually burnt by a team of fellow Inquisitors. Throughout, Xanthus had maintained that he remained pure, though he admitted that he did on occasion utilise the forces of the Warp and Chaos to achieve his goals. It was his firm stance that such power could be harnessed without the spiritual corruption of the wielder that was to be later picked up on by other Inquisitors. It is the ultimate goal of the Xanthites to harness the power of Chaos for Mankind. They believe that Chaos cannot be defeated, for it is merely a reflection of humanity itself. However, those energies and powers created by its existence can be turned back for the benefit of humanity, rather than being an enemy. This does not mean that they advocate giving in to Chaos, but rather to capture the essence of Chaos and turn it to useful rather than destructive purposes. In the same way as the Warp (and so Chaos) allows Warp travel, Astrotelepathy and psykers to work on Mankind’s behalf, so too can other facets of Chaos be controlled, tamed to the Emperor’s Will by the Xanthites.
Xanthites investigate all aspects of the Warp and Chaos, investing its power into themselves where possible, destroying it only when necessary. They will use Chaos-tainted artefacts, daemon-weapons, books of Chaos lore and other heretical items, utilising the powers and abilities of these weapons and tools to combat the incursions of Chaos, heretics and aliens.
Within the Xanthites there are those whose beliefs go even further, and are known as Horusians. The Horusians look to the Primarch Horus who was a mighty being invested with immense Chaos power, and see an opportunity wasted. They believe that a new Horus could be created, invested with great energy from the Warp, but one who would unite all of Mankind for its betterment, rather than enslaving it to Chaos. Most other Inquisitors consider the Xanthites, and particularly Horusians, to be walking along the edge of a precipice. Xanthites are commonly seen amongst the Inquisition as arrogant and dangerous, toying with powers they do not fully comprehend. Puritanical Inquisitors have a particular loathing for Horusians, who they see as the most dire heretics with their belief that they can create a new Emperor. However, as one of the oldest philosophies of the Inquisition, and including among their number some of the most learned and powerful Inquisitors, it is a brave or rash Inquisitor who will stand alone against the Xanthites. Most often, as was the case with Xanthus himself, a cell of Inquisitors will form a common cause against a particular Xanthite in an effort to expose his perceived heresies and to deal justice.
Their dealings with daemons and the Warp leads many Xanthites and Horusians to become members of the Ordo Malleus, and they quite frequently build up associations with Chaos cults. They have been known to create sects of their own which are concerned with unravelling ancient mysteries and delving into arcane lore and knowledge.“
A little more digging gives us two other little snippets, from the 2nd edition Dark Heresy core rulebook and the Dark Heresy Radical’s Handbook. Not sure who to credit for these, other than Fantasy Flight and Games Workshop generally, although John French himself was one of the two lead writers (alongside Forge World’s Alan Bligh) for the Radical’s Handbook.
From the core rulebook:
“The most extreme are the Horusians, a sub-faction that holds that the arch-traitor Horus might have succeeded in bending the Warp to his will had he not been opposed by his brother Primarchs. Most Horusians carefully hide their true beliefs behind the mask of the Xanthite and are especially cautious of contact with Thorians.“
From the Radical’s Handbook:
“Perhaps the most extreme and outlandish Xanthite faction is known as the Horusians. This handful of infamous Radicals looks to the great catastrophe of the Horus Heresy and to the Primarch Horus, who they view as a mighty being invested with immense Chaotic power, and sees an opportunity wasted rather than a monster that nearly doomed all of humanity. They believe that if a new Horus could be created and invested with great energy from the warp and control that power, he would effectively be a ‘Second Emperor,’ a super-being able to unite and lead the Imperium for its betterment and greater glory, rather than enslaving it to Chaos.“
So we’ve got two characters originally introduced way back in 2001 (both of whom had rather nice 54mm miniatures) and the name of a Radical faction of Inquisitors who are keen on the idea of not just making use of Chaos but actively trying to create a new Horus. In The Purity of Ignorance we see Covenant going up against something decidedly daemonic, with the blurb on the Black Library website referring to ‘the daemon at the heart of a planetary conspiracy’.
Here’s where the real speculation begins
Given that this story features Covenant, who’s described elsewhere as very much the Puritan, the implication is that he’s going to definitely be anti-Horusian – so perhaps the Horusian Wars is going to feature him going up against one or more Radicals intent on a scheme to further their own (probably nefarious) ends? Perhaps the aforementioned ‘planetary conspiracy’ is part of this, or perhaps it’s something entirely separate.
If we want to go big, the Horusians’ scheme could be something along the lines of actually creating a new Horus – through cloning perhaps? It’s been touched upon in the Heresy series with pre-Bile Apothecary Fabius, and while it’s a bit far-fetched it would still be quite cool to see. It would certainly be the sort of thing that might bring different factions of the Inquisition up against one another.
Looking for something slightly less grandiose, perhaps it’s more general scheming that comes to Covenant’s attention, something to do with Chaos cults infiltrating Imperial society? The Purity of Ignorance deals with Covenant taking on a daemon-led cult, so might extend into the rest of the series. This would be much more low-key, dealing with small-scale events as opposed to anything potentially galaxy-shaking like cloning Horus.
Or…it could be that the war is between the Horusians – the Inquisition is massively fractured, so it’s certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility for a faction to be split up even further. That doesn’t explain Covenant’s involvement, however.
We could speculate until the cows come home about this sort of thing – suffice to say there’s an intriguing sense of mystery around this particular story and what it might foretell.
Anyone else got any thoughts? Feel free to share them here!