Everything in the setting of Warhammer 40,000 is bad. That – along with the political satire – has always been the point; this is a galaxy that is just a merry-go-round of diametrically opposed factions that take turns committing war crimes, blowing up planets, and generally enduring horrors from beyond the stars feasting on innocent humans. But the current state of the galaxy’s post-Dark Imperium novels, combined with the recent events of the Arks of Omen books for the Warhammer 40,000 table game, make it worse – in the most ridiculous, over-the-top, metallic way imaginable. Angron, the Emperor’s angriest son, is on the loose – and his most recent battle was so big and extensive that it wouldn’t be out of place in Dragon Ball Z.
Angron and the Emperor
In 40K, humanity is led by the Emperor of Mankind, an unnamed legend who actually walked among his people 10,000 years ago. However, to become the supreme warlord, he created about 20 perfect boys called the Primarches to serve as his sons and generals, each serving over their own legion of superhuman Space Marines – Roboute Guilliman and the Ultramarines, Sanguinius and the Blood Angels , and Lion El’Jonson and the Dark Angels, just to name a few.
Unfortunately, the Emperor was also an abusive bastard, and the evil, extradimensional powers of Chaos took advantage of the primarchs’ rough upbringing – first by scattering them across the universe, then by getting into their heads. Eventually, half of the Primarcchia split from the Imperium in a massive war called the Horus Heresy (which incidentally makes up most of the Black Library). Humanity technically won the ensuing civil war, but the Emperor is now a corpse on a golden throne, holding the lights on with his immense psychic power and will to live. Meanwhile, his sons – both loyal and treacherous – have scattered once again, some lost and others quite dead.
Angron, the primarch of the heretical World Eaters legion, has been elevated to a huge daemon by his patron, the chaos god Khorne. If you’re not sure who Khorne is or what he stands for, I’d point you to his remarkably straightforward motto: “Blood for the blood god, skulls for the skull throne.” Angron, once a gladiator with a head full of dark technology designed to torture him and drive him into eternal, maddening rage, is now a massive beast ripped straight from the cauldrons of Hell.
With the opening of the Cicatrix Maledictum – the Great Rift that split the Imperium in two and caused the realm of Chaos to move further and further into the galaxy – things were already pretty bad for the Imperium of Humanity. Now Angron has woken up and bravely asked the question: But what if I made it worse?
World eaters on the warpath
In 40K, traveling faster than light is extremely dangerous because ships have to go through the Warp for this. The Warp is where the Chaos Gods and their multitude of demons and eldritch horrors live, but since time and space have no meaning there, it’s also a great shortcut – much like building an underworld network in Minecraft. To let Imperium ships know where they’re going, they use the light from the Astronomicon, the massive psychic beacon powered by the Emperor himself. It is the north star of emptiness travel. In Arks of Omen: Angronwe learn what happens to other sources of light and comfort in the galaxy.
The Imperium Nihilus – the stretch of galaxy furthest from the Astronomicon and on the far side of the Cicatrix Maldictum – struggles to see the Astronomicon. However, another less powerful psychic lighthouse called the Choral Engine serves as a perfectly adequate replacement. The problem is that the Choral Engine made screeching dial-up noises that Angron didn’t like, so he decided to break it. Roboute Guilliman, the only surviving loyalist primarch and current acting head of the Imperium, sent a fleet that would otherwise reinforce the ongoing Indomitus crusade to stop him.
The last time Guilliman faced one of his treacherous brothers, the Emperor stepped in to deliver great power from the Warp. This time around, the Imperium isn’t so lucky. Angron makes his way through the battlefield, personally firing shots fired from the deck guns of Imperial warships and then tearing those ships apart. He kills so hard, with such gory gusto, that he summons his patron into space for a brief moment – long enough to unleash a single sword blow. It’s the pinnacle of it Arks of Omen: Angronand Khorne’s attack by Angron destroys the Choral Engine and the entire moon around it.
The Imperial fleet present was sturdy: hundreds of ships packed with billions of soldiers, including some of the Emperor’s best demon-slaying Gray Knights. The Imperial Navy led the expedition from its flagship, the Throne of Terra, augmented by additional armored allies such as the Sisters of Battle and loyalist Space Marines. But they still couldn’t stop Angron. Even worse, Khorne’s overwhelming attack landed them with something called the Murder-Curse.
The Murder-Curse, another example of Khorne’s unsubtle branding, caused the fleet to go berserk and attack each other in murderous fury. It didn’t corrupt everyone in the Quartus fleet, but the Imperium was so shaken by the effect that it disowned every ship and survivor. That means that every poor watchman who was lucky enough to survive the Murder-Curse is now a heretic through no fault of his own. oops!
Of course, this whole battle was set up by Abaddon the Despoiler, who commands the Chaos Space Marine legions, and the setting’s new demigod: Vashtorr the Arkifane. Vashtorr is a brand new Chaos demigod of ingenuity and curiosity introduced in Arks of Omen: Abaddon, but he wants a bigger slice of the pie – just like Khorne. As such, he devises a plot to use the Arks of Omen and Abaddon to collect the key for his ascension to godhood. He’s doing pretty well so far, and we’ll see more soon, as Vashtorr is the star of the third Arks of Omen book, titled Arken of Omen: Vashtorr.
The Arks of Omen event has had juicy lore and great narrative advancements, but the Imperium has been nothing but tenacious. The setting is perpetually a breath away from a full-blown apocalypse, with two more Arks of Omen books on the way, one of which has an unknown protagonist.
There are also rumors that we are heading towards the 10th edition of Warhammer 40K, and more lore will come to set the tone. For now, however, things seem particularly bleak – even for the notoriously grim darkness of this particular distant future.