27 Sep 2011

Exploring ancient death…

During a discussion about the history of the Anargo Sector the subject of the C’tan and their Necron servants came up. The whole subject of these ancient star gods has always been a major controversy. At first the Necrons were nothing more but some ancient race that died out 65 million years ago and were attacking the Imperium after waking up. Now they are the servants of a group of aliens made from pure energy who love to eat stars and have been put into living metal shells. That in itself is not so much the problem, the problem lies in the fact that these aliens/gods (another debate) and their war against the Old Ones/Slann (another debate) and their servant races have been responsible for practically every event in the 40k universe. For some reason this really reminds me of how Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert managed to ruin the Dune universe laid out by Frank Herbert to such a level that their robot character Erasmus has been responsible for what the universe has become in the last 15 thousand years. Perhaps they were inspired by the C’tan!

Personally I have no real interest in dealing with this whole debate again or the other two I vaguely mentioned just now. I’m curious about their servants, those robotic creatures formerly known as the Necrontyr. The question came up if it would be possible for Necrons to have traces of their former memories and thus also of Necrontyr culture. I could simply answer that question by saying “yes”, but it wouldn’t offer anything more than just that. I assume that the Necrons are in a way the final expression of Necrontyr culture, so the Necrons who do have some sort of “independence” might simply remember that ancient culture, and while they may (or may not) have their own forms of cultural expression these could no longer be considered Necrontyr because they have become something totally different. Also note that those who still have that form of independence were those who gladly sacrificed their bodies to their C ‘tan masters and in all probability fully followed the C’tan belief that the universe belongs to them and all life has to be devoured/destroyed. The Necrontyr might have had a culture heavily based on death and dying due to their very short lifespans, the Necrons however have a different form of this “culture of death”, it would have a destructive character. Life’s purpose is to end or be subjugated to their star gods. Necrontyr’s “culture of death” would have been a very melancholic one while the Necron’s version would be downright morbid, for them there is no sadness in death for they are death incarnate.

We could only assume that the C’tan gave these figures their limited freedom because it has it’s advantages. Independent thought can be quite effective when fighting a war which goal it is to exterminate all lifeforms. Only problem that might arise here is the problem of too much independence meaning that the Necrons might even rebel against the C’tan masters. When looking at rebelling against the C’tan one will then also look at those Necrontyr who rebelled against the C’tan. If there were those who voluntarily submitted themselves to be sacrificed to the star gods, there have to be those who were forced into the metallic shells of the Necrons. So far GW has not be able (or willing) to provide us with such information which means we simply have to interpret this for ourselves. Did all the Necrontyr embrace the C’tan as their gods and rulers? I very much doubt that, I assume that the Necrontyr captured the C’tan purely to use them as a weapon in their war against the Old Ones and their servant races. However this plan backfired when the C’tan became self-aware. It was at this moment that some of the Necrontyr embraced these aliens as gods and masters while most of the Necrontyr would probably have feared or even tried to resist this. Those loyal to the C’tan managed to sacrifice their entire race to the star gods for personal immortality and power. So they became the Necron Lords and Immortals, the new elite under the new order of the star gods. The other Necrontyr were encased in their metallic shells and became their servants which in the wargame we only know as “Necron Warriors”.

While those loyal to the C’tan were rewarded immortality with this limited independence, most were turned into eternal prisoners, forever damned to remain in a shell. The essence in the shell (why does this remind me of philosophy behind Ghost in the Shell) remained fully awake while having no control of it’s body whatsoever. This of course could be seen as some sort of punishment against those who did not embrace the C’tan. The Necron trapped in it’s shell has been so for many millions of years, slowly losing it’s sanity, yearning more and more for peace…for death. So now we have three forms of a “culture of death”. One being the means of escaping death which were the Necrontyr with their short lived lives. Then there are the Necrontyr who have accepted immortality by being sacrificing themselves to the C’tan and finally there is the wish for death in the form of the Necron warrior being a prisoner in it’s own body.

Just some random thinking here, I am curious to explore the whole “freedom” of the Necron Lords and how much of their old selves is still inside of them. How much have they changed over the course of millions of years? Perhaps we need to look into existing cultures on Earth or other fiction in an attempt to create a fitting interpretation for these things…