The Pride of the Emperor was a Gloriana-class Battleship that served as the flagship of Fulgrim, the Primarch of the Emperor's Children Legion during at least part of the Great Crusade in the late 30th and early 31st Millennia. This flagship led the flotilla of the Emperor's Children warships which comprised the IIIrd Legion's 28th Expeditionary Fleet. Out of all the vessels within the 28th Expedition, the Pride of the Emperor was the most magnificent, its armoured length inlaid with gold and armoured plates the colour of rich wine. It would orbit newly discovered worlds like a regal flagship of some ancient king, surrounded by an entourage of Escorts, Battleships, transports, supply vessels and Imperial Army mass conveyers. The shipwrights of Jupiter had laid its keel almost one hundred and sixty years standard years before the start of the Horus Heresy, approximately 40 years after the beginning of the Great Crusade. The design and creation of the Pride of the Emperor had been overseen by the Fabricator-General of Mars himself. Every component of the great warship had been crafted by hand to unimaginably exacting specifications. The construction process had taken twice as long as any other Imperial vessel of comparable displacement, but such was only to be expected for the flagship of the Primarch of the IIIrd Legion, who like his Astartes sought perfection in all things.
Near the beginning of the Horus Heresy, the Pride of the Emperor had already started to feel the effects of the corrupted Legion it housed. The ship was never silent, the echoes of screams drifted from one end of the ship to the other in a constant choir of debauched indulgences. The majority of these screams were of pain, but many were of delight. As time passed, telling the difference between the two became more difficult. Almost every hallway was filled with lights and music, and everywhere one turned the signs of corruption became more evident. Fleshy tributes of excruciation became a common sight and the beauty the ship was once host to quickly morphed into an image of horrific debauchery.
A notable feature within the Pride of the Emperor was the Triumphal Way, a wide processional corridor forged of pale walls of cool marble and towering onyx columns, their surfaces inlaid with gold lettering that spoke of battles won and glories gained during the Great Crusade. The Pride of the Emperor was to be Fulgrim's legacy to the future, and its walls bore the history of the Imperium carved into its very bones. Statues of the IIIrd Legion's heroes lined the processional way and gilt-framed artworks commissioned from the Expedition's Remembrancers brought some much needed colour to the cold space. As an individual made his way down the long corridor, he would pass Emperor's Children Space Marines armed with golden pilum spears at regular intervals. Though they stood as immobile as the statues, the fierce potential for violence that beat within the breast of every Astartes warrior was evident in each of them.
By the end of the Horus Heresy, the Triumphal Way had been corrupted like the rest of the warship. The shining splendour had been replaced by a deep darkness. All sound within the great corridor was now unnaturally muted. The once-glorious sculptures had been replaced with hideous depictions of mutant abominations. The artwork displayed obscene acts which had been rendered in pigments derived from unclean fluids. These, in turn, had sprouted thick mats of mould. Black liquid oozed from the cracked walls and the marble deck was shattered, its cracks filled with filth and bronze-tinted scrap.
The Triumphal Way ended at the great Phoenix Gate, a towering bronze portal that depicted the Emperor of Mankind symbolically presenting Fulgrim with the Imperial Aquila or eagle. The Aquila was the Emperor’s own heraldric symbol, and he had commanded that Fulgrim’s Legion alone bear it upon their armour, as a mark of the regard in which they were held. The honour done to the Emperor’s Children by this act was immeasurable. As Emperor's Children warriors looked upon the gate, they would feel fierce pride swell within their breasts. More guards stood before the Phoenix Gate, armed with long spears. As the warriors passed through the gate they would then enter into the Heliopolis.
After the Heresy, the Phoenix gate was defiled. Profane symbols were cut over the gate, figures behind the Emperor and Fulgrim reworked into cavorting, lewd things of unnatural origin. The head of the Emperor had been removed and replaced with a mess of bones lashed together with black sinew. Fulgrim's face was now a moving mask of silver which shifted almost imperceptibly through a range of expressions, all of which were hateful variations on sneering arrogance. His body turned into a multi-limbed and serpentine creature.
The Heliopolis was the personal council chamber of the Primarch Fulgrim aboard his flagship. The beauty and majesty of it had the power to render those who laid eyes upon it speechless with its towering walls of pale stone and rank upon rank of marble statues on golden plinths that supported the vast domed room. Intricate mosaics, too high to make out the details, filled the coffers of the dome and long, silk banners of purple and gold hung between fluted pilasters of green marble.
Lustrous beams of starlight shone down from the centre of the dome, reflecting dazzlingly from the black terrazzo floor of the Heliopolis. Marble and quartz chips laid into the mortar and ground to a polished sheen turned the floor into a glittering, dark mirror that shone like the heavens beyond. Dust motes danced in the brightness, and the smoky aroma of scented oils filled the air. Rows of marble benches ran around the circumference of the chamber, rising in stepped tiers towards the walls in serried ranks, enough to seat 2,000 men, though barely a quarter of that number were present at most of the IIIrd Legion's councils of war. A chair of polished black marble sat in the centre of the pillar of starlight and it was from there that Fulgrim heard the petitions of his warriors and granted audiences. If the Primarch had not yet graced an assemblage with his arrival, the empty chair was a potent presence in the chamber. Officers drawn from all the military arms of the 28th Expedition would be seated in the marble benches. Senior officers would take their place on the bench nearest the floor. Casting one's eyes around the chamber, an individual would see silver and scarlet liveried officers of the Imperial Army filling the lower tiers of the Heliopolis, their closeness to the floor indicative of their higher ranks.
The Heliopolis was also used as a gathering place for the Brotherhood of the Phoenix, a clandestine warrior lodge that existed within the IIIrd Legion that consisted of select officers of the Emperor's Children and was conducted under the guidance of their Primarch. The Brotherhood of the Phoenix met by firelight in the Heliopolis, taking their seats around a wide, circular table placed at the centre of the dark floor. Reflected light from the ceiling would bathe the table in light and crackling orange flames burned in a brazier set into the surface of the table’s centre. The high-backed chairs of black wood were equally spaced around the table, half of them occupied by cloaked warriors of the Emperor’s Children. Though the circular table was, in theory, supposed to do away with rank and position, there was no doubting who the master of one of the Brotherhood's gatherings was. Other Legions might have a more informal setting for their warrior lodges, but the Emperor’s Children thrived on tradition and ritual, for in repetition came perfection. The assembled warriors would stand and bow their heads as the Primarch of the Emperor’s Children took his place at the table. As always, Lord Commanders Eidolon and Vespasian would flank the Primarch, their armour similarly wreathed in cloaks of feathers. Each carried a staff topped with a small brazier of black iron that burned with a red flame.
During the events of the Horus Heresy the Heliopolis was defaced much like the legion that used it. The walls of the once magnificent place were splashed with paint and blood, the banners that once hung proudly around the room were torn and burnt, and the once lavish depictions of the first heroes of unity and the legion had changed. Now they represented old Laer gods, clandestine things whose heads were bowed or turned to the side as though keeping a delicious secret. The seats of the Heliopolis above the Primarch's throne were demolished, for no one would sit higher than Fulgrim.
Another notable feature of the Pride of the Emperor was the lord of the Emperor’s Children’s private staterooms. Fulgrim’s chambers were the envy of Terra’s master of antiquities; every wall hung with elegantly framed pictures of vibrant alien landscapes or extraordinary picts of the Astartes and mortals of the Great Crusade. Antechambers filled with marble busts and the spoils of war radiated from the central stateroom, and everywhere the eye fell, it alighted on a work of unimaginable artistic beauty. Only the far end of the room was bare of ornamentation, the space filled with part carved blocks of marble, and easels of unfinished artwork.
The Pride of the Emperor was justifiably famous for its vast repository of knowledge as well. The Archive Chambers of the Pride of the Emperor were spread over three long decks, the gilded shelves stacked high with texts from Old Earth. The manuscripts of this magnificent collection had been painstakingly collated by the 28th Expedition’s archivist, a meticulous man by the name of Evander Tobias, whose sanctum was located in the vaulted nave of the upper archive decks. The marble columned stacks stretched out as far as the eye could see. A reverential hush filled the wide aisles with a solemnity befitting such a vast repository of knowledge. Tall pillars of green marble marched into the distance, and the shelves of dark wood bowed under the weight of scrolls, books and data crystals that filled the spaces between them.
Within the 28th Expeditionary Fleet were a number of various support personnel that served the interests of recording and capturing important events of the Great Crusade for posterity. These were known as the Remembrancers, select civilians who were members of the Imperial Order of Remembrancers. The Order was comprised of the Imperium's greatest artists, writers, historians, poets and photographers, who had spread through the expeditionary fleets in their thousands to document the monumental achievements of the Great Crusade for posterity, though they had met varying degrees of welcome from the Space Marines. Precious few of the Legions appreciated their efforts, but Fulgrim had declared their presence to be a great boon and had granted them unprecedented access to his most intimate and guarded ceremonies.
La Fenice ("The Phoenix" in an ancient Terran language known as Italian) was the area of the great ship the Emperor’s Children had given over to the Remembrancers. It was a great theatre in the high decks of the vessel that served as a recreation space, eating hall, exhibition area and place of relaxation. Many of their ilk would take to spending their evening there, chatting, drinking and exchanging notes with fellow artistes. La Fenice fostered ideas, but it was also a hotbed of scandal and intrigue, for it was impossible to put so many people of an artistic persuasion in one place without generating operas worth of salacious gossip, some of it undoubtedly true, but some wildly inaccurate, slanderous and downright lunatic.
As the corruption of the Emperor's Children by the power of Slaanesh spread throughout the entire fleet, even the Remembrancers became more and more decadent and debased. La Fenice became a place of lewdness, where people who should have known better drank too much, ate too much and indulged their every sordid appetite without regard for the mores of civilised behaviour. Almost every Remembrancer who had not journeyed to the surface of the Laer homeworld ultimately departed the 28th Expedition. Those very few who remained behind and managed to somehow remain unaffected by the corruption around them were shocked and revolted by the theatre's appearance. The artwork and statuary took on an altogether more sinister aspect as the Primarch lent his vision to the final details of its renovation. Wild, orgiastic gatherings, like the debaucheries of the ancient Romanii Empire, were now a frequent occurrence.
Throughout the final days of the Great Crusade, just before the outbreak of the Horus Heresy, the famed composer Bequa Kynska of Terra had accompanied the Emperor's Children's 28th Expeditionary Fleet as a Remembrancer aboard Fulgrim's flagship. Kynska was a jaded and egotistical musician always in search of further sensations to create more exhilarating and all-encompassing music, which made her an easy target for Slaaneshi corruption. After Kynska accompanied many of the 28th Expedition's Remembrancers to the temple dedicated to Slaanesh on the xenos world of Laeran, she was touched by the Chaotic corruption of that foul place and slowly sought to create the ultimate orchestral piece that she believed could capture the wondrous sounds she had heard within the Laer temple. Her ultimate masterpiece was a symphony she named the Maraviglia and which she performed for Fulgrim and all the assembled Astartes of the Emperor's Children and their support personnel within La Fenice aboard the Pride of the Emperor. To recreate the sounds she had heard, Kynska created new musical instruments whose sonic powers could also be used for destruction when employed by an individual already corrupted by Slaanesh. As the Maraviglia began, the cacophony of sound unleashed by these instruments acted as a sorcerous ritual that opened a link between realspace and the Warp and allowed the power of Slaanesh to directly touch the audience. During the "performance" it was noted that the musical instruments were able to produce effects variously disorienting, stimulating and downright murderous.
Chaotic mutations ran rampant through the audience during the performance and Astartes and mortal humans alike were so overwhelmed by sensation and uncontrollable emotions that they unleashed an orgy of both sensual hedonism and the most base form of murder upon one another. Ultimately, the music summoned five Lesser Daemons of Slaanesh known as Daemonettes from the Warp who possessed the bodies of Kynska and several of her singers and joined in the slaughter. During this part of the concert, several Emperor's Children Astartes left their seats and took up the instruments to try and keep the Chaotic music playing and in the course of their untrained fumblings discovered that they could unleash waves of destructive sonic power filled with the strength of Chaos. These Astartes became the first "Noise Marines," who would eventually take to the field on Istvaan V wielding this strange, new weaponry as a new unit of the IIIrd Legion called the Kakophoni under the command of First Captain Julius Kaesoron. It was during this performance in La Fenice that the Emperor's Children finally gave themselves wholly, both body and soul, to the Prince of Pleasure as his most dedicated human servants.
Later on, during the Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan V, Fulgrim would go on to face his former brother Ferrus Manus, the Primarch of the Iron Hands Legion. As Fulgrim raised his sword in preparation of delivering a deathblow to the Gorgon, he found that he did not possess the fortitude to deliver the killing blow. In an instant he saw what he had become and what a monstrous betrayal he had allowed himself to become party to. He knew in that eternal moment that he had made a terrible mistake in drawing the Daemon Sword from the Temple of the Laer, and he fought to release the damnable blade that had brought him so low.
His grip was locked onto the weapon and even as he recognised how far he had fallen, he knew that he had come too far to stop, the realisation coupled with the knowledge that everything he had striven for had been a lie. Fulgrim’s blade seemed to move with a life of its own even as he swung it under his own volition. Fulgrim tried desperately to pull the blow, but his muscles were no longer his own to control. The daemonic blade sliced through the genetically-enhanced flesh and bone of one of the Emperor's sons. The Iron Hands' Primarch fell to the ground, his head decapitated. Ferrus Manus was dead by his brother's own hand
Though Fulgrim had proved the victor, he discovered as he looked down at his battered brother's prostrate body that everything up until that moment had all been a lie. Fulgrim, as if awakened from a long sleep, was shocked by the death of Ferrus into thinking clearly about the situation for the first time since his expedition to Laeran, and he was horrified by what he had done and by the many betrayals that had led brother Astartes to slay one another. Overcome by his grief, he succumbed to a moment of weakness and foolishly agreed to the daemon's whispering suggestion that he could find release in oblivion. The Greater Daemon was then freed from the prison of the Laer sword and fully possessed Fulgrim's body, claiming it for its own, trapping the real Fulgrim's consciousness away within a psychic prison formed within his own mind but symbolically represented by a painting of the Primarch that stood in the place of honour in La Fenice.
This great portrait hung above the smashed wreckage of the proscenium. Even in the dying light, the portrait’s magnificence was palpable. A glorious golden frame held the canvas trapped within its embrace, and the wondrous perfection of the painting was truly breathtaking. Clad in his wondrous armour of purple and gold, Fulgrim was portrayed before the great gates of the Heliopolis, the heart of the flagship, the flaming wings of a great phoenix sweeping up behind him. The firelight of the legendary bird shone upon his armour, each polished plate seeming to shimmer with the heat of the fire, his hair a cascade of gold. The Primarch of the Emperor’s Children was lovingly portrayed in perfect detail, every nuance of his grandeur and the life that made Fulgrim such a vision of beauty captured in the exquisite brushwork. No finer figure of a warrior had ever existed or ever would again, and to even glimpse such a flawless example of the painter’s art was to know that wonder still existed in the galaxy. Even a person gazed at the eyes of the painting they would see the horror within the Primarch's eyes, a horror that had not been rendered by the skill of a mortal painter. Perfect, exquisite agony burned in the portrait's gaze, for the Greater Daemon had claimed the Primarch's mortal shell.
In time, Fulgrim would turn the tables on his daemonic captor and trick the entity into surrendering control of his body back to its rightful owner. Then the portrait in La Fenice would appear the same, but the burning gaze projecting outward in abject horror that elicited the pity of all who saw it would be that of the ageless being that had met its match in the Primarch of the IIIrd Legion.
Fulgrim would often launch from the decks of the Pride of the Emperor aboard the Firebird, a gunship he had personally designed and constructed in the armorium decks of his flagship. Its wings had a greater span than a Stormbird, curved in a graceful backward sweep, and its hooked prow gave it a fearsome war visage that struck terror into the hearts of the Primarch’s foes. In battle, the Firebird would soar like the most graceful of birds, its fiery wings leaving vortices of flaring plasma and gasses in its wake. Like a twisting comet trailing streamers of flame behind it, the assault craft seemed to glide easily through explosions and streaking lines of deadly gunfire.
- Fulgrim (Novel) by Graham McNeill, pp. 21-24, 27-28, 58, 61, 68, 104-105, 122-123, 141-142, 162, 320, 347, 358-366
- The Primarchs (Novel) by Christian Dunn, pp. 23-25, 55
- Dark Imperium (Novel) by Guy Haley