Daemonology (Short Story)
Daemonology is short story written by Chris Wraight and part of the Horus Heresy series. It was released November 2014 and included in the Blades of the Traitor (Anthology). The short story was released on audio was part of the Blades of Traitor audio collection for "Audio Week," Advent 2015.
The story depicts the actions of Mortarion after his failed assault on Jaghatai Khan above the wreckage of Prospero during the Horus Heresy. Weakened and scared, Mortarion orders his Death Guard to the planet Terathalion in search of knowledge that would allow him to wage war on daemons and psykers. He destroys the world and captures a woman named Lermenta, but he learns that he must submit to the powers of the warp he hates so dearly if he is to gain the power to defeat them.
Intermingled throughout the story are memories from 70 years prior when Mortarion confronted Malcador the Sigillite regarding his forced extended stay on Terra. In the exchange, Mortarion reveals his hatred of sorcery and psykers, and the Sigillite tries to appease him by providing the primarch with knowledge of the planned Council of Nikaea.
Chagrined by his defeat at the hands of Jaghatai Khan, Mortarion abandons the pursuit of the White Scars and instead leads the Death Guard in a spiteful, punitive rampage across the systems of the Prosperine empire. World after world has fallen to this horrific onslaught, and yet the insular and secretive primarch seems preoccupied by some other, unspoken goal. Finally, on Terathalion, the truth of Mortarion’s sinister heritage will be exposed, and the future of the XIV Legion will be written...
Mortarion attempted to persuade the White Scars and Jaghatai Khan to join the forces of Horus during the Horus Heresy above the ruins of Prospero. The primarchs met on the surface of the planet, and the Khan was unable to communicate with his legionaries in space. The White Scars were divided in their allegiance to the Emperor and to Horus, and they did not know how to respond to the presence of a small Death Guard fleet that came upon them in orbit. Mortarion told the Khan that he should turn to Horus, but the Khan sneered that Horus would just be "a new emperor." They debated further, and the Khan pointed out that neither of them were suited for building an empire, which provoked Mortarion into combat. The Khan had speed but Mortarion was implacable, and their guards battled their opposites alongside their primarchs.[2a]
While fighting, a verbal debate on the nature of their roles in the universal matched their physical combat, and the Khan said he did not desire to rule while Mortarion admitted that he deserved it Mortarion stated further that he would have to kill the Khan, and that both sides were monsters but that Horus was a fighter and a fellow primarch. The Khan responded that they were all sons of the Emperor and of his blood, sharing in his power and form. Mortarion then threw the Khan off balance by mentioning the death of Ferrus Manus, but the Khan was able to regroup and continued into his battle. The stalemate in space was ended when the Khan's Chief Stormseer Targutai Yesugei and his ship the Sickle Moon made their appearance along with the Iron Hands' Hesiod. Together, they took on the Death Guard in a suicidal attack.[2b]
The fighting between the primarchs continued, with both becoming exhausted by the battle. When the Khan mentioned the power that the Emperor wielded and that none could stand against him, Mortarion argued that the Emperor was weakened by his own errors and that the Golden Throne was overwhelmed by nightmares, making it impossible for the Emperor to leave the palace. In response, the Khan was able to stab Mortarion and argue that the war would only destroy the universe and not grant any victory. The battle became more brutal, and before the Khan could deliver a final blow to kill Mortarion, Mortarion teleported away after notifying the Khan of the fight in space. The Khan was able to then breakthrough the barrier keeping him on Prospero and end the internal fight within his legion.[2c] Mortarion rallied his troops and withdrew from the battle while the White Scars harried them to the jump point. The Khan let them flee, leaving Mortarion was weakened and damaged as he went.[2d]
Mortarion, primarch of the Death Guard Legion, brings his forces to the library-world Terathalion in 007.M31. The planet was brought into compliance by the Thousand Sons over a hundred years before, and it was named after a jewel that was minded from equatorial mountains and used to adorn books. The Thousand Sons made regular visits to the planet in search of knowledge during the early days, but the visits became infrequent to non-existent by the time of the Horus Heresy. Even without the legionaries arriving, the inhabitants of the planet continued their studies. Rulers of the planet were surprised by the approach of the Death Guard and tried to contact the Endurance to no avail. This caused them to order the activation of the defense grid.
The Death Guard swiftly destroy the meagerly-defended world, taking the inhabitants by complete surprise. Orbital defenses were destroyed first before cities were laid to ruin, destroying the wealth of knowledge preserved on the planet. A few civilians were able to survive the initial attack, but Mortarion ordered legionaries to the planet's surface who quietly put to death all they could find. In the end, they destroyed a population that once ran in the billions. Soon after, Mortarion and his seven Deathshroud teleported to the ruins of the city Geryiadha, and the primarch ordered his guards on a search mission.
Mortarion achieves his goal by capturing a seemingly ordinary woman named Lermenta, a higher-ranking syndic of the administrative archival cadre. Before her discovery, she tried to sneak her way through the ruins to the industrial district hoping that the buildings would still be standing, but her flight took her directly into Mortarion's path where his psychic aura overwhelmed her. Back aboard his flagship and in his private chambers, Lermenta was shackled, and she was left to reflect on how the chamber represented a state of madness instead of the prestige appropriate to one of the primarchs. The floor was covered in concentric circles and runes, and runes were also draped from the ceiling. Mortarion stood near her for hours, watching the end of the planet before Lermenta challenged him on if the invasion was performed simply to find her.
Mortarion reveals that it was not the only reason; killing a planet, according to him, "purifies the soul." Mortarion continued by stating that he believed the Emperor's claim that there were no daemons, then he reveals that he knows Lermenta is one. Lermenta admits that she spent 25 years masquerading as a human librarian to get access to the planet's secrets. She then states that Magnus would be upset at the destruction of the knowledge, but Mortarion demands that neither Magnus nor any of the other primarchs are mentioned. He then expresses his disgust at her, and she in return praises him, but she realizes that his paranoia would prevent him from ever acknowledging praise. Then Mortarion expressed disgust that Lorgar was having his soldiers possessed and that Fulgrim was also taken over, deeming their actions hypocritical, before he revealed that the room was warded against sorcery.
The conversation changes, with Mortarion reflecting on the ancient Terran belief in one god described only through negative information then admits that Jaghatai Khan was correct when he said that Mortarion was alone among the heretics. Seeking to understand the nature of daemons so he can destroy them, Mortarion tortured Lermenta with primitive rituals, but she goaded him that it is his fate to become a powerful servant of the Warp-powers he so despises. This caused Mortarion to say that no one could claim him, and that he would be free of all corruption. He then explained that he believed the binds used on her were scientific reason and not magic, which caused Lermenta to take offense.
Lermenta eventually broke free of her bonds to show how limited Mortarion's knowledge was before proceeding to attack him in her true daemonic form, forcing him to repel her with invokingt he wards and channeling warp power through chanting after physical attacks would not work. Furious that he has been forced to use the powers he sought to destroy, Mortarion decided that he should at least learn to wield them properly and began taking grudging guidance from Lermenta. In the end, he reflected that the Sigillite was wrong to tell him that reliance on the warp and psychic powers could ever come to an end, and that he would have to become everything that he hated.
Throughout the story Mortarion has flashbacks to seventy years prior when he visited Terra before obtaining his legion to serve in the Great Crusade. When searching for his father, the primarch discovered the Infinity Gate under construction. The functionary Sefel alerted Malcador the Sigillite to Mortarion's presence, and the Sigillite arrived to question Mortarion as to why he was at the gate. Mortarion in return asked for the purpose oft the massive, 300 meter across octagonal gate, but the Sigillite requested that Mortarion leave the gate. Mortarion, in return, subtly threatened that one of the primarchs would eventually assault the Sigillite, including himself, before he was willing to be led away to the Sigillite's private chambers.
Once arriving there, Mortarion demanded to see the Emperor but the Sigillite stated that he did not know of the Emperor's location. Mortarion responded by saying that the Sigillite knows the information and even the Emperor's thoughts, but the Sigillite admitted that no one knew the Emperor's thoughts. Mortarion then challenged as to why he was being kept on Terra, and the Sigillite internally reflected on the damage that all of the primarchs of the Great Project were damaged but that Mortarion in particular had deep scars, both physical and mental, and he believed that the primarch could not be cured of the affliction. The Sigillite's response was that each primarch suffered and had different trails, but Mortarion could not believe that others suffered more than he. Instead, Mortarion challenged the concept of the Imperial Truth and accused the Sigillite of hypocrisy because he was a witch.
Mortarion then pushed further for information about the gate, and then accused the Emperor of having many projects that he soon after abandons. When the Sigillite asked that the primarch trust the Emperor, Mortarion lashed out and grabbed him by the neck, accusing him of witchery and expressed his disgust. Mortarion then released the Sigilitte and criticized him further, saying that he could not serve the Great Crusade while witches were used. The Sigillite recovered quickly, used to being threatened by the primarchs, and challenged Mortarion's threat before the Emperor's plans in a private chamber for the Council of Nikaea as part of a grander scheme for freeing humankind from dependence on the Warp.
The Sigilitte explained that it took a while to find a planet that would be appropriate and to negotiate with Mars for the chamber's creation, but that the Emperor always intended to remove psykers from the legions. What was holding them back was the need for psychic powers for travel, and if a way to avoid the warp was created then that would serve as a better alternative. However, as the Sigilitte explained, forces within and without the Imperium were working against this idea. Ultimately, the planet of Nikaea was used to explain that Mortarion would have a role there and that he was valuable to the Emperor in serving this goal as long as he led his legion in service of the Great Crusade. This provoked Mortarion's curiousity.
- 1 "Daemonology" Short Story
- 2 Scars (Novel)
- 3 Black Library Blades of the Traitor audio page Access: 12/22/15