The Golden Throne is a massive cybernetic life support mechanism utilising ancient advanced biomechanical technology that possesses the ability to amplify psychic abilities. The Throne was modified by the Mechanicum under the direction of the Emperor of Mankind following the end of the Horus Heresy during the Battle of Terra and now sustains His mortally crippled body's life functions. Even as the Emperor's slowly rotting physical form sits inert within the Golden Throne, His mind remains fully active in the Warp, directing the beacon of the Astronomican that makes interstellar Warp travel possible in the Imperium of Man and combating the enemies of humanity within the Immaterium.
The Golden Throne is located on Terra, deep within the continent-spanning complex of the Imperial Palace, specifically in the area of the Asian continent where the Himalazian (Himalayan) Mountains once towered. The Golden Throne is located in a deep subterranean chamber at the heart of the Imperial Palace, the so-called Sanctum Imperialis, built under what was once Mount Everest. It is a huge, baroque cybernetic life support system that maintains the life functions of the nearly-comatose body of the Emperor following His mortal wounding at the end of the Horus Heresy. As the 41st Millennium drew to a close in 999.M41 during what many pessimistic Imperial historians have begun to call the Imperium's Time of Ending, the Adepts of the Adeptus Mechanicus discovered to their horror that the Golden Throne's mechanisms were slowly failing and that they lacked the knowledge to repair its arcane technology. Unless something is done, the Golden Throne's life support systems will eventually malfunction and the Emperor of Mankind will die, surrendering His spirit to the Warp and throwing all of Mankind into darkness once more -- or setting the stage for humanity's final salvation.
The core of the device that would become the Golden Throne, whose exact origin during the Dark Age of Technology is currently unknown, was discovered by the Emperor sometime in the 30th Millennium during the Unification Wars on Terra, buried deep under a huge and inhospitable desert on the continent of Asia. This was in the time before the construction of the Imperial Palace complex in the Himalazian (Himalayan) Mountains, although the exact date is also currently unknown. The original use that the Emperor found for the Golden Throne (or of the core device that the Throne was later constructed around) was that it could serve as a Webway portal based on Terra. Prior to the outbreak of the Horus Heresy, and over a period of several centuries, the Emperor directed tens of thousands of Mechanicum Tech-priests into modifying the Throne so it could be put into use as the nexus of his secret Webway Project. This project was intended to open up the Eldar Webway to Mankind by establishing a portal into its galaxy-spanning network from Terra. This would provide a means of instantaneous interstellar travel between the worlds of the newborn Imperium of Man, making navigation through the dangers of the Warp unnecessary and literally connecting all the branches of Mankind instantaneously, creating a truly unified human race as never before in history. The Emperor believed that this level of unity would be necessary if humanity was truly to thrive and prosper in such a dangerous universe.
Seeds of Heresy
Slightly over two standard centuries into the Great Crusade, the Emperor of Mankind decided to leave the direct leadership of military affairs to His sons, the Primarchs, and returned to Terra to oversee the construction of an administrative apparatus that could fairly govern the new interstellar Imperium He had created. He also personally took up work on the Golden Throne in earnest. The whole project was placed under the utmost secrecy, and even the Primarchs had no idea of what exactly the Emperor was doing in the seclusion of His laboratoria deep beneath the Imperial Palace. This secrecy would personally wound many of the Primarchs and create a grievance that would later be exploited by the Ruinous Powers of Chaos.
Malcador the Sigillite, the Emperor's most trusted advisor, was named as the Regent of Terra and the First Lord of the governing Council of Terra who would lead it in the Emperor's absence. The Fabricator-General of the Mechanicum, Chief Custodian of the Legio Custodes Constantin Valdor and the leaders of the astropaths and administrative divisions of the Imperium were appointed to the Council of Terra. Having established the new governing body of the Imperium, the Emperor then retreated to His private subterranean vaults beneath the Imperial Palace to initiate his new secret project. But while the Emperor was locked away in His subterranean factories, political dissension began to foment.
In the meantime, Horus had set about his new duties as the Warmaster of the Imperium, commander-in-chief of all its military forces and master of the Great Crusade, with relish. But secretly the Warmaster was dismayed that the Emperor would no longer be fighting at the side of His Astartes. The Primarchs were appalled at the news of the formation of the Council of Terra. The Emperor's staunchest followers felt they had been let down by their father. They were insulted that they had not been consulted on the formation of this new ruling body and that they had not been offered seats on the Council of Terra. Some of the more egotistical Primarchs were especially outraged. They felt that the Emperor had turned His back on them and given power to petty mortal administrators and the sycophantic Adepts of Mars.
Corruption of Horus
Following the Triumph of Ullanor, the newly-appointed Warmaster Horus joined his XVI Legion, the Sons of Horus, on the moon of Davin. The Legion had some ties to the primitive warrior-societies of Davin from their previous conquest of the world decades before and it was at the request of the Davinite priests that the moon had been targeted. Cleansing the moon of its plague-worshipping cultists was a simple task for the Legion, but Horus was felled by an assassin's blade, the Kinebrach Anathame, wielded by the Nurgle-corrupted former Imperial Planetary Governor of Davin, Eugen Temba. The wound festered and the medical experts of his Legion proved unable to treat him. Horus was soon close to death. In desperation, Horus' Apothecaries enlisted the help of the Davinites. Horus was treated by a Davinite sect. He was carried into the Temple of the Serpent Lodge as a dying man and emerged some solar days later apparently cured and bursting with energy. None know what profane rites to the Dark Gods were performed to save him. Horus commanded that all his senior officers be inducted into the warrior lodges which had proliferated secretly through the XVI Legion in the decades following its initial conquest of Davin. Within a short time the entirety of Horus' Legion had joined those secret societies. In the solar months follwoing his miraculous recovery, Horus extended the warrior lodge system to other Space Marine Legions under his command with the blessing of those Primarchs who would later ally themselves to his cause. So it was that the seed of Heresy was first planted in the heart of the Emperor's greatest champion and within some of the most powerful military forces in the galaxy.
Horus had listened to the blandishments of the Ruinous Powers of Chaos and made his pact with them while he lay unconscious within the Temple of the Serpent Lodge. He would deliver to them the Emperor and they would give him the galaxy in return. It was a simple bargain and one that made sense to Horus. Humanity was under dire threat from the daemons of the Warp, though few recognised the danger. If the Emperor knew, He seemed to ignore the threat. After his sojourn on Davin, Horus was a changed man. The Warmaster drew to him those Primarchs he could trust the most. He met with each in turn and corrupted them to his cause and the service of the Dark Gods. After he had secured the loyalty of nearly four full Legions of Space Marines, he hoped to draw more forces into his web of deceit.
Destruction of the Imperial Webway Project
After many long months, Malcador and the Imperial Fists Legion's Primarch Rogal Dorn were finally granted an audience with the Master of Mankind. The order to appear before the Emperor had been timely, coming as it did just as news had reached Terra of the disaster of the Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan V. The Emperor finally explained to His loyal servants about the existence of the Imperial Webway Project. This new human-controlled extension into the Webway would recreate the vast network of Warp Portals that had once bound together the ancient interstellar empires of the Old Ones and the Eldar and would allow Mankind to advance at a more rapid rate, scientifically and economically, than at any other time in its history.
A human-dominated Webway would also truly unite the Imperium, preventing Mankind from ever again being divided by time and great distance as during the Age of Strife. However, the Warp Gate the Emperor had constructed and the short section of Webway passage beyond required constant maintenance lest they fall into ruin. At first this demanded only a small portion of the Emperor's psychic might and so He was able to command His armies and do all that was expected of Him as Emperor. But the hideous monstrosities that ruled the Warp -- the self-proclaimed Gods of Chaos -- had ever been His foes, and now conspired to subvert the Emperor's goals as they had since the day He had launched the Great Crusade. To this end they had tempted the naive Magnus the Red to warn Him of the very plot they had initiated, the betrayal of the Imperium by Horus. Magnus had sent his warning by means of powerful psychic sorcery and this broadcast had wreaked havoc upon the protective psychic shielding surrounding the Emperor's fragile Webway construct. The spell of Magnus not only allowed the foul denizens of the Warp entry to the section of the Webway the Emperor's secret army of Adepts and Tech-priests had by then conquered, it destroyed the delicate controls the Emperor had set in place. Now the Warp Gate he had constructed required virtually all of his psychic power and mental concentration to maintain lest it rip open a permanent doorway between Terra and the Warp, flooding the homeworld of Mankind with the daemonic legions of the Ruinous Powers.
Apparently, the core of the Golden Throne device survived the disaster, or was repaired following the catastrophe by the Mechanicum's Adepts, but the Emperor's Imperial Webway Project lay in uncompleted ruins, and before the project could be restarted, the Horus Heresy erupted and the Forces of Chaos laid siege to Terra itself.
War in the Webway
The war within the Webway soon went badly for the forces of the Emperor. Even though at first the army of the Legio Custodes and their supporters, the Silent Sisterhood, had managed to push back the daemonic invaders, they continued to take many casualties. The Imperial forces had never had the advantage of numbers and each death weakened them, whereas the daemons appeared to have a numberless horde at their disposal. Despite thousands of daemons and their allies having been destroyed or banished back into the Warp, there were always thousands more to take their place. As the battle within wore on, the daemons began to gain the advantage. Their assaults regularly reached deep into the Imperial defences -- more than once approaching dangerously close to the human-built conduit that led to the Warp Gate of the Golden Throne. On one occasion a mighty Bloodthirster, greatest of the daemons of Khorne, fought its way through the Imperial defenders to the gate itself, and only the last minute intervention of Sister Celia Harroda of the Sisters of Silence was able to stop the beast from crashing through the Warp Gate and into the dungeons of the Imperial Palace. Sister Celia confronted the huge daemon, her presence chilling the air around it and stifling its otherworldly power, and silently she dispatched the monster with swift strokes from her blade of frost. The effort utterly exhausted her and with the final, banishing stroke of her sword she collapsed upon the threshold between the Warp and Terra's realspace, never to breathe again. The death of Sister Celia was but one of many acts of brave sacrifice by the loyal warriors of the Emperor within the Terran extension of the Webway.
Eventually, after many long solar days of bloody battle, these deaths took their toll and the defenders were forced to draw back to within sight of the Golden Throne. Here they were bolstered by the psychic presence of the Emperor who appeared as a brightly burning star to those within the alien conduits. The Emepror drew on His vast reserves of psychic power and his star burned ever brighter; the daemons, unwilling to approach the shining nimbus, were held back. The star of the Emperor gave the defenders respite enough that many were able to cross through the portal and retreat into the Imperial Palace. At first, all of the Tech-priests and workers were evacuated and then, reluctantly, the Silent Sisterhood and the Custodian Guard withdrew from the battle and into the Palace dungeons. The gate would remain closed to the daemons for as long as the Emperor was able to power it from His arcane technological throne atop the golden portal. Only the mightiest of psykers had enough power to do this and even then most would be exhausted and fail in a short time. Only the Emperor had the might to keep the gate closed permanently and even for Him the effort grew harder as the daemonic forces gathered about Him. For as long as the daemon horde threatened to breach the portal, the Golden Throne would be His prison.
As Horus' forces began their final assault on the Sol System and the Battle of Terra began seven standard years after the Traitors had first turned upon the servants of the Emperor at Istvaan III, the Sigillite returned from his mission to recruit the foundation of the Inquisition. Only through the most artful of psychic subterfuge were Malcador and his new recruits able to pass unscathed through the battlelines and come unharmed and unseen before the Emperor within the inner sanctum of the Imperial Palace. Malcador had finally received the call and was now prepared to perform his final duty for the man he had followed for the greater part of his life.
Timing was crucial, for Horus knew that several more Loyalist Legions were en route to beleaguered Terra, and he wanted to finish affairs before they arrived. He could only do this by confronting the Emperor in person. This would force the Warmaster to act rashly, against the counsel of his closest advisors. The Emperor had to be ready to take advantage of this mistake. The Emperor then informed Malcador that the Sigillite had to take His place upon the psychic amplifier known as the Golden Throne while he moved to confront Horus. The Throne provided the psychic sheath necessary to protect the new, human-built sections of the Webway which had been intended to be the Emperor's final gift to humanity before the Horus Heresy had begun. The Emperor's original choice of His replacement on the artefact had been the Primarch Magnus the Red, but since Magnus and his Thousand Sons Space Marine Legion had sided with Horus and the Chaos God Tzeentch, Malcador was now His chosen successor and the only remaining human psyker with enough strength to carry out the duty.
In the days before the final confrontation between the Emperor and Horus aboard his flagship the Vengeful Spirit during the Battle of Terra, the Emperor ordered Malcador to summon "..men of character, skill and determination" who would be tested and trained to become the elite group of investigators intended to root out treachery across the Imperium in the centuries to come to prevent any event like the Heresy from occurring again. The Emperor also told Malcador to prepare himself for the dreadful sacrifice that he would be called upon to make.
Ever loyal, the Sigillite was more than willing to sacrifice himself for his Emperor. But before he ascended to take his place upon the Throne, the Sigillite had one last duty to perform. He was accompanied by a group of twelve hooded attendants. In stern silence the Emperor surveyed the robed figures that Malcador had brought before Him, and He saw that His faithful servant had done well. Of the twelve, four were mortal lords and administrators of the Imperium possessed of an inquisitive nature and unyielding strength of mind. The other eight were Space Marines whose abilities were as peerless as their dedication to the Emperor. Some hailed from Legions that had abandoned the Emperor's light in favour of Horus' dark promises, but these Battle-Brothers had never lost their loyalty and had fought the Heresy from within. Fulsome in his approval of the selection, Malcador the Sigillite then ascended to the Golden Throne, replacing the Emperor who now stood before the edifice with his loyal captains Rogal Dorn and Sanguinius. Malcador could not speak, such was the concentration he had to bring to bear in order to control the tempestous forces at his call. The task of keeping the daemons out of the Imperial Palace had been daunting even for the Emperor, the mighty reincarnation of a thousand of the most powerful human psykers ever to live with millennia of experience to call upon. Though he was a powerful psyker in his own right, Malcador was still a mere human, his mental powers nothing compared to that of the Emperor, and this task proved overwhelming, consuming him body and soul in a matter of only solar hours.
The Emperor's Ascension
At the height of the Battle of Terra, Horus lowered the Void Shields of his flagship, the Vengeful Spirit, as a personal challenge to the Emperor. The Emperor of Mankind rose to the challenge, leading members of His elite personal guard, the Legio Custodes, the Primarchs Sanguinius and Rogal Dorn, and several companies of Imperial Fists and Blood Angels Veteran Space Marines in the assault and teleported aboard the Vengeful Spirit. Horus used his Chaotic powers to scatter the Emperor's force throughout the massive warship when they teleported up through the Warp. Each fought a series of battles against the elite Forces of Chaos aboard the corrupted starship, attempting to link up with their comrades and confront Horus. Eventually, after what seemed like an age of fighting, the attacks upon the Loyalist forces ceased and the ship was still. Rogal Dorn and the last few remaining Loyalist survivors rushed to the command centre, the great chamber within which the Emperor and Horus had fought, and despair overcame them.
When Rogal Dorn brought the mortally injured ruler of Mankind back to the Golden Throne after he had defeated Horus, Dorn found Malcador sitting wasted, psychic energy lashing across his shriveled body, tortured by the psychic bombardments of the collapsing Imperial Webway. He was almost dead when the Tech-priests made the exchange -- disengaging Malcador from the strange machine even as they moved to modify it to support the Emperor's crippled life functions indefinitely. As Malcador was removed from the device, the last flicker of life left him and the dust of his corpse blew across the stone floor. Yet Malcador managed to prove one final time his loyalty and love for the Emperor, for despite his ordeal and agony, he still managed to gather what remained of his wasted power, and willingly forsook it to feed the Emperor and allow his master to survive.
Malcador's final sacrifice allowed the Emperor to awake from His coma briefly and give His servants -- including the Primarchs Rogal Dorn and Jaghatai Khan, their final orders before being interned silently for the next 10,000 standard years within the modified life support systems of the Golden Throne:
"Poor, brave Malcador the Hero. He reserved a fragment of his strength for me. It gives me little time to pass final orders to you. If you do as I ask then I shall not wholly die, my spirit at least will survive. My injuries are severe, more so than I had hoped but less than I feared. My psychic powers will return to me in time but my body will never heal. I shall never walk amongst you again. I am now bound to this machine for all time. My faithful bodyguard and attendants know what is required. You must do as they request! Dorn and Jaghatai, you have much work to do. Though the head of the serpent has been destroyed its coils still choke the safety of Mankind. You and your loyal brothers must fight on. Cleanse the taint of treachery from our stars. Never again must we allow the Ruinous Powers of Chaos to have such a chance. Now all of you go! You know your duties. Execute them well. The universe has many horrors yet to throw at us. This is not the end of our struggle. This is just the beginning of our crusade to save Humanity. Be faithful! Be strong! Be vigilant!"
With this final proclamation, the Emperor spoke no more.
From the Golden Throne the Emperor would maintain the psychic beacon of the Astronomican as a replacement for the now-lost Imperial Webway project and do His best to shield Humanity from the worst terrors of the Immaterium. Through the sacrifice of Malcador, Mankind would live on, and its people would face the growing darkness of the Age of the Imperium that was about to dawn with a single chant upon their lips -- the Emperor protects.
Following the Emperor's mortal wounding by the Warmaster Horus at the end of the Horus Heresy, His ravaged body was placed within the Golden Throne, after further rapid modifications accomplished at the direction of Rogal Dorn in order to prevent his death. Acting as a complex life support machine, the Golden Throne now holds the dessicated and slowly decaying body of the Emperor in stasis, and preserves His mind and will, which originates and guides the psychic beacon that is the Astronomican within the Warp. He is also said to constantly struggle to keep the forces of the Ruinous Powers of Chaos at bay so that humanity can flourish even to the extent that it has in the galaxy. It is not known whether the Emperor's ability to protect individual human beings from the powers of Chaos is related to the destroyed Terran portal of the Webway or to the arcane device at the heart of the Golden Throne itself. It may instead be that like the Chaos Powers themselves, who were created and given form in the Warp through the collective psychic beliefs and fears of humanity and the other sentient races of the galaxy, humanity's collective faith in the Emperor has empowered His spirit within the Warp. It also allows this power to be drawn on by those people whose faith in the Master of Mankind as a divine being is unusually strong.
The Golden Throne is seen by a very rare few of the Emperor's servants. In fact, the majority of the people who see the Golden Throne are either about to have their life force absorbed into the machine's mechanisms, or are the elite core of the Adeptus Custodes, the Emperor's Companions and bodyguards. The Custodes are bio-engineered transhuman warriors like the Space Marines, but their bodies have been altered to a much greater extent and these warriors are even more powerful than the average Astartes. As the Emperor's personal guards, the Custodes protect His revered but decaying body. The Astronomican requires the sacrifice of large numbers of psykers daily for it to function, and also for the Emperor to be kept alive on the Throne. The Throne is maintained by members of the Adeptus Mechanicus, although as time passes the duty becomes increasingly difficult. By 989.M36, as the Eye of Terror and other Warp rifts visibly expanded, the Tech-priests that serviced the Golden Throne demanded an increase in the number of psykers needed to fuel the Empetor's growing appetite. The Black Ships increased in number and frequency of their harrowing voyages. According to some records, today four times the number of psykers are sacrificed daily to maintain optimal levels of power to the Golden Throne as were originally required in the days immediately after the Emperor's Ascension.
It was revealed in the time after the end of the 13th Black Crusade on 986.999.M41 that many mechanisms of the Golden Throne have developed technological failures beyond the current ability of the Tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus to repair. Because of this, it seems possible that the Emperor's body will die at some time in the near future. Depending on the many myths and fevered predictions that have come to dominate the Imperium's "Time of Ending," this unwelcome event will either destroy or actually save the Imperium of Man, and the galaxy as a whole, from the inevitable destruction brought by Chaos.
- Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1st Edition), pg. 135
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (6th Edition), "The Far Future," IX, pp. 134, 137-139, 158, 160, 165, 168-170, 225, 234, 403
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (5th Edition), pp. 101, 129
- The Horus Heresy: Collected Visions (Artbook), pp. 322-328, 350-351, 359, 367
- White Dwarf 342 (UK) (July 2008)
- A Thousand Sons (Novel) by Graham McNeill