John French reveals even more about what motivates Ahriman in his quest for salvation in the second, and final, part of ‘Who is Ahriman?’. (Check out Part 1 here.)
Noble Ends and Dark Means
The thing about wanting to put things right, is that on the surface it seems very reasonable, praiseworthy even. Ahriman just wants to save his Legion, and undo his own mistakes. That is what makes him accumulate power and knowledge – not because he likes it, but because that power and knowledge is what he needs to achieve his goal. He is trying to defy the gods, break fate, and remake the reality of what has happened. That is going to take more than just a few rituals and a bit of wishing it so.
It’s not that he wants more power for its own sake, no, no, no, he wants it so that he can make things better. Then there is the point about Chaos. Ahriman does not worship Tzeentch, or any of the Chaos Gods, come to that. He sees what the forces of the Warp have done to the Thousand Sons, and tries to break its hold on them. He rejects the Dark Gods and all they stand for. He is following his own path in defiance of the daemonic powers that defy him. Look at all of that together, and it’s starting to look a lot like Ahriman is widely misunderstood. He is a tragic hero, laid low by vast and capricious forces, yet still defiant, still willing to fight for a better future.
Isn’t there something noble about that, something almost selflessly heroic?
That’s all true. It’s just not the whole truth.
Slave to Darkness
Ahriman thinks that he is forging his own path in waging a war against the Dark Gods and fate, but he is as much their slave as any champion who piles skulls in honour of Khorne. The Chaos Gods do not require worship to own a mortal’s soul, and in the case of Tzeentch, the contradiction of having one of its most favoured pawns believe that he is free must be delicious. The god of change, sorcery and conspiracy has his claws all the way into Ahriman. The fact that the sorcerer believes that he can harness the powers of Chaos without being corrupted, that he does not see his own limitations, and believes he has the intelligence and power to overcome any problem, is exactly what makes him Tzeentch’s champion, not his acknowledgment of the god as his master. Ahriman is driven to gather more and more knowledge and power, not realising that the more he gains the more his reach exceeds his grasp.
Finally, there is the question of evil. Ahriman is one of the most evil characters in the Warhammer 40,000 setting.
But, John, what about him trying to fix things, what about him being a rebel against greater powers, what about all of that?
Nope, still evil.
Ahriman is evil because he is willing to do anything to accomplish his goals. Those goals might be noble, but if you stand between him and them, you have no chance. He will reduce populations to dust, betray people, and use the worst aspects of the Warp if he needs to, and he won’t even think twice. Anyone’s suffering does not matter. Anyone else’s view or survival does not matter. If you need to suffer or die for something he needs, then that is just the way it’s got to be. It’s not that he enjoys it; it’s that he thinks that it is unimportant. It’s not gleeful, gloating evil, it’s the cold indifference of true evil.
And just to top it off, that goal is all a lie, and the end he seeks, while walking through ashes and atrocity, is not salvation, but deeper damnation.
Would you like to know even more about Ahriman? Check out these fantastic novels by John French himself:
Ahriman: Exile | Ahriman: Sorcerer | Ahriman: Unchained | Ahriman: Exodus
Or get them all together in the Ahriman Collection ebook.
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