This review contains spoilers.
The Horus Heresy Chapbook contains two short stories; The Dark King and The Lightning Tower, by Graham McNeill and Dan Abnett respectively. It is a limited edition of 1500 copies.
The stories concern themselves with two Primarchs who have developed a bitter enmity; Rogal Dorn of the Imperial Fists and Konrad Curze of the Night Lords.
Part 1 - The Lightning Tower by Dan Abnett
The Lightning Tower finds Dorn fortifying the Imperial Palace in expectation of the traitor attack. He broods over the real reason why he is afraid of the traitorous primarchs. He is not afraid of the coming fight, but why the Primarchs have turned, and if he will agree with their decision. He fears the unknown.
Malcador the Sigillite tries to convince Dorn that ignorance will be his salvation and that it is better not to understand Chaos. Malcador shows Dorn some Tarot cards that were used by Curze. Dorn tells Malcador abot his clash with Curze in the Cheraut system, about how he rebuked Curze for going too far. Fulgrim of the Emperor's Children tells Dorn that Curze has been plagued by visions of a coming war, the Emperor's legacy overthrown, and the Astartes turning on each other. Dorn confronts Curze and is almost killed by him. Curze destroys his homeworld and takes his Night Lords off into the stars.
Malcador suggests that Dorn is really afraid of Curze because he is fear incarnate; he is afraid of the fear that sides with him, of the fact that Curze was right. Malcador makes a divination with the cards which confirms Curze's visions. One card is the Lightning Tower, which Malcador explains could mean knowledge or achievement through sacrifice, a flash of inspiration, a world destroyed leaving you with a greater gift.
The Emperor tells Dorn not to let fear get in the way. Dorn broods on the Lightning Tower card. If it means achievement obtained through sacrifice what will the sacrifice be?
This is an interesting story and the main reason is the light it sheds upon parts of the Horus Heresy not yet seen. The Imperial palace/fortress is impressively described (it is so large that parts of it have their own climates), and the investiary has plinths with statues of the Primarchs (the two from the missing legions have been removed). We also hear the Emperor's first spoken words in the whole Horus Heresy saga. Malcador also reveals a little of his character.
Rogal Dorn is the main character, though, and his troubled relationship with Konrad Curze forms the substance of the story. Dorn is already beginning to despair at the direction the Imperium is taking, at the damage he is inflicting upon the aesthetics of the palace as he turns it into a fortress, and what will come after the war. To this extent, he has already been affected by Curzes's terror tactics. Abnett creates a convincing bond between these two very different characters.
This is an excellent short story.
I'll review the Dark King in my next post.