The Golden Throne is a massive cybernetic life support mechanism utilizing ancient advanced biomechanical technology that possesses the ability to amplify psychic abilities. The Throne was modified by the Adeptus Mechanicus 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 active in the Warp, directing the beacon of the Astronomican that makes interstellar Warp travel possible in the Imperium 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 where the 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 what many pessimistic Imperial historians have begun to call the Imperium of Man's Time of Ending, the Adepts of the Mechanicus discovered to their horror that the Golden Throne's mechanisms were slowly failing and that they now lacked the knowledge of how to repair its technology. Unless something is done, the Golden Throne 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 in the 30th Millennium during the Unification Wars on Terra, buried deep under a huge and inhospitable desert in Asia. This was in the time before the building of the Imperial Palace, 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 Adeptus Mechanicus 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 network on 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.
Destruction of the Imperial Webway Project
Slightly over two 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 be exploited by the Ruinous Powers of Chaos.
After the Emperor returned to Terra, he left command of the Great Crusade in the hands of his favoured son the Warmaster Horus. Magnus the Red, the Primarch of the Thousand Sons Legion, and a potent sorcerer whose talent in the psychic arts was second only to the Emperor himself, foresaw the ultimate treachery of Horus. Magnus was the only person outside those already working on the Golden Throne who knew of the existence of the Eldar's Webway and its potential use for humanity. Wanting to warn the Emperor of what was to happen, Magnus psychically forced his way into the Webway network, and eventually found the Terran portal that was a part of the Golden Throne complex. Having had no knowledge of the Golden Throne's existence, or of the work being done by the Emperor and the Tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus on the Imperial Webway Project, he blindly forced his psychic presence into the complex. The resulting explosive force of his psychic entry destroyed the complicated and intricate work done on the Throne, killed thousands of Mechanicus Adepts, and exposed Terra and the Imperial Palace to the dangers of the Warp, as the psychic wards and the physical barrier provided by the Golden Throne's portal into the stretch of the Webway created by the Emperor were also destroyed. As a result, untold numbers of Void Predators and other more dangerous Warp entities were soon taking advantage of this breach in the Emperor's psychic defences to haunt the Webway's corridors, although whether they were able to navigate the Webway's labyrinth and assault Terra itself is presently unknown.
Apparently, the core of the Golden Throne device survived the disaster, or was repaired following the catastrophe by the Mechanicus, 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.
Following the Emperor's mortal wounding by the Warmaster Horus on his Battle Barge in orbit of Terra 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 the Primarch 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 Dark 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 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 and 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 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. It is seen by a very rare few of the Emperor's servants. In fact, the majority of the people who see the Throne are either about to be absorbed into the machine, or are the elite core of the Adeptus Custodes, the Emperor's Companions. They are bio-engineered warriors like the Space Marines, but to a much greater degree and are even more powerful than the average Astartes. As the Emperor's personal guards, they protect his revered but decaying body.
It was revealed in the days immediately after the end of the 13th Black Crusade in 999.M41 that the Golden Throne has developed technological failures beyond the current ability 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 predictions available in the Imperium's "Time of Ending," this event will either destroy or actually save the Imperium of Man, and the galaxy as a whole, from the inevitable destruction brought by Chaos.
- A Thousand Sons (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (5th Edition)
- White Dwarf 342 (UK) (July 2008)