N18 Escher Lore- Sheemprah, Death Maidens, et-al

cardyfreak

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A thread to discuss the expanding Escher lore. Topics touched on elsewhere include Escher believing the Emperor is a female, and just how do Escher get away with reanimating corpses? Are they really dead, or just mostly dead?

When you live in the hive, how much news from the outside universe makes its way down to the hive gangs? Do the inquisition know or even care what the teeming billions of a hive really think, so long as it’s not chaos or xenos corrupted, and production quotas are kept?
 

Petitioner's City

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Yeah it features in Terminal: Overkill.

From Terminal:Overkill

We had a pretty easy low-hive Escher gang childhood. We crawled into holes, hung swings from the iron girders, hid in the bamboo thickets of sump grass. We threw scraps for the guard krocs to fight over, built dens in the dome walls, and on special days we waded through the black-talcum of the Dust Sea and collected ashclam shells from the shore. We did all the usual kid stuff, asked her all the kinds of questions that kids usually ask.
Why do people die?
Because they’re weak.
Who is the God-Empress?
She is the All-Mother.
Why do other kids go to teachhall?
Because they’re unlucky.
How was I made?
Tubes.
Why didn’t the God-Empress build the hive with more windows?

However, both God-Emperor and God-Empress feature in the earlier Wanted: Dead, for different Escher characters, which enables us to view a complexity of cults within the Escher house:

Breen was face down, arms limp by her sides, knees tucked underneath her so it might have looked like she’d fallen asleep while praying to the crude drawing of the God-Emperor on her wall, had a fair amount of her head not now been decorating said wall and part of the floor.

‘Boss?’ she hollered as soon as the door had swung shut behind her. ‘You here?’
‘Jay?’ Thank the God-Empress, it was Elena’s voice, sharp as a knife. Jarene hurried into the main chamber, where the rest of the Wild Cats were lounging on overstuffed recliners upholstered with the hides of exotic xenos predators from off-world. Elena’s takedown of the Delaque gang the Whispering Knives and the resulting elimination of the spy network they’d been running had been looked upon kindly – if circumspectly – by the Escher matriarchs, and a few luxury status symbols had been quietly passed the Wild Cats’ way for a short while thereafter.

Ultimately it's probably best to not make categorical statements about the house (or any house); as House of Chains shows, there is room for endless variety. Id argue the characters in Wanted Dead are underhivers who aspires to be culturally Escher, but possibly most of the protagonist gang are not biologically or ethnically Escher, which I find fascinating - that the house (or a house) encompasses all sorts of people. Which rather matches House of Chains' broadening of what "Goliath" could encompass.
 
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Unslain

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Okay, I must have missed a lot more fiction than I realised! I've not read any of the kal jericho stuff since the days of inferno & warhammer monthly but thought I'd read everything else the black library has put out covering Necromunda over the years.

If you can recall any particular stories to recommend, @AgeOfSlaanesh (or anyone else who's reading) then I'd appreciate it. Otherwise I'll start looking to work through my way through the Vault - which will solve my issue of what to read next too!

[EDIT] Thanks @Petitioner's City . I'd missed Terminal: Overkill entirely and will clearly need to read Wanted Dead afresh!
 
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@Unslain I have only read Underhive, the Jericho Omnibus, and Terminal Overkill. The Jericho Omnibus in my opinion are great definitely worth a read, but there isn't much Escher involved. I am currently reading Road to Redemption and unfortunately it is honestly one of the worst books I have read. But that is just my opinion. Hope this helps mate.
 
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Do the inquisition know or even care what the teeming billions of a hive really think, so long as it’s not chaos or xenos corrupted, and production quotas are kept?

This is something that is interesting and Id like to know more about also. I suppose the Inquisition would only get involved if there was a real danger of an entire hire falling to chaos. It would be good to have a narrative reason to include an Inquisitor in a campaign.
 

Gunkaiser

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As to the whole Empress thing: I think it was in the first Eisenhorn novel where it was stated that local versions of the Imperial cult were allowed given they didn't stray too far. It was thought that this made it easier to integrate new worlds into the Imperium. Think what Catholicism did vis a vis syncretism, only a lot more liberally. Given that, an Empress doesn't seem too radical.
 

Petitioner's City

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As to the whole Empress thing: I think it was in the first Eisenhorn novel where it was stated that local versions of the Imperial cult were allowed given they didn't stray too far. It was thought that this made it easier to integrate new worlds into the Imperium. Think what Catholicism did vis a vis syncretism, only a lot more liberally. Given that, an Empress doesn't seem too radical.

I would be a bit cheeky and reference myself from earlier; good to see the same thoughts @Gunkaiser :)

Foremost in a universe where it's fine to worship the emperor as a sun, or worship the sun as representative of the emperor (for example in Xenos), it's probably not heresy at all to view the emperor as female.

To read otherwise is just to apply a view of something that draws on current and past christian debates, in particular. I think it's always a mistake to take these patriarchal worldviews of the past and present and apply them onto a fictional world which is so very much bigger. Yes it is one which draws on various (especially medieval and early modern) Christian historical situations and popular perceptions of it, but the imperium cannot be read as the same nor read through the assumptions we have from past and contemporary christianity.

Of course across millions of world's, from large to small, across millenia, there will have been billions of refractions of what the emperor was - with many declaring these divergences heretical. But - to draw on realworld religion, or rather the anthropology of real religions - no religion is static, and each changes across time, space and society, often quite dramatically. It's probably how the imperial cult is (or cults are) so successful - changing and slipping into new guises for each place, becoming new reflections on and versions of the imperial narrative.

The mother cult of House Escher is a local cult, in much the same way throughout human history syncretism has been central to realworld imperial religious spreads - a syncretism that in human history has melded impulses from different environments and encompasses ideas expressed in theology or theophany, visual culture, literary culture, music, architecture and "popular religion" or mass culture. I am sure many planets, cultures and so on have much more divergent, yet nevertheless orthodox or acceptably heterodox, representations of the Emperor than viewing them as expressly female ;)

Sorry for the long ramble, but I find it is something which occurs in many 40k-related debates around ideas of gender and/or sex in the setting, and wish it happened less.
 

Unslain

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This is something that is interesting and Id like to know more about also. I suppose the Inquisition would only get involved if there was a real danger of an entire hire falling to chaos. It would be good to have a narrative reason to include an Inquisitor in a campaign.

Chances are good that several inquisitors (potentially several dozen/hundred depending on what suits the purpose) have minor agents within the hives, as Necromunda is a major producer of military materiel and a big civilian trading hub. For the sake of astropathic access, those agents might well be limited to Spire inhabitants, arbites officers, agents of other imperial bodies and maybe senior enforcer officials. To have eyes in hive city would require a chain of contacts too pass news up and through the Wall.

Though that's not to say it isn't being done; Hive Primus alone (or possibly more the Palatine Cluster now that hives are more connected since N17) has faced multiple genestealer cult uprisings, so the Ordo Xenos will be making sweeps pretty often. I would envision agents again but an actual inquisitor might involve themselves once or twice in their careers (or more if they've stationed themselves on Necromunda permanently, to watch for genestealer signs - a former student of inquisitor Kryptmann perhaps).

The depths of the underhive are largely impractical to monitor or were in the '90s lore. With most gangs being actively aligned with the clan houses of hive city now though, an inquisitorial investigation of them could be more viable. But that would only happen if it were directly of consequence to an inquisitor's work.

I think the most likely cause for an inquisitor to be in the underhive is when they have chased a target down there. A whole campaign could be based around that pursuit, with the gangs taking sides as they are recruited. Particularly if there's an inquisitor on either side of the matter, everyone believes themselves to be doing the right thing. And you could even have more than two factions with enough players.

The cold trade in xenos tech would be another subject worthy of an inquisitor's attention (as happened in the Ravenor books), a chaos worshipping demagogue fled downhive, or perhaps a usurped ruler of a noble house that the inquisitor sees value in protecting (particularly for the Amalathian faction of inquisitors, always trying to maintain the status quo). One of the previous Helmawr rulers has hidden in the underhive in the past, before rising resurgent to reclaim their inheritance. And just maybe he had help.

As to the whole Empress thing: I think it was in the first Eisenhorn novel where it was stated that local versions of the Imperial cult were allowed given they didn't stray too far. It was thought that this made it easier to integrate new worlds into the Imperium. Think what Catholicism did vis a vis syncretism, only a lot more liberally. Given that, an Empress doesn't seem too radical.

Oh it's definitely not so radical as to cause problems with the ecclesiarchy proper; I imagine individual preaching male missionaries would get a very cold welcome among House Escher, and probably never learn of their divergence anyway. And those with true power would consider the issue beneath their notice (unless of course someone wants to tell a story/run a campaign with that sort of premise).

My curiosity was piqued because it wasn't something that I could recall encountering. I was also wondering if the lore of House Escher was moving away from a rivalry with Goliath toward Cawdor instead, whom I could see taking issue over what They on Terra kept in their armour.

The rivalry between Orlocks and Delaque seems to remain, though rarely mentioned, while Cawdor just had a general antipathy toward everyone else, and the Van Saar just seemed to be disliked by everyone else for being the wealthiest house. Now the latter can't make that claim, so it feels like they need something more and I thought mixing up the inter-house rivalries might be the writers' way forward.

[...]
Id argue the characters in Wanted Dead are underhivers who aspires to be culturally Escher, but possibly most of the protagonist gang are not biologically or ethnically Escher, which I find fascinating - that the house (or a house) encompasses all sorts of people. Which rather matches House of Chains' broadening of what "Goliath" could encompass.

The existence of the helot class beneath and outside of the clan houses is for me one of the major changes to the setting, and one I still can't decide whether I like or not. On the one hand it does explain where the apparently house-less hired scum and numerous characters in published fiction came from. But it also changes the feel of the Houses Ordinary from collectively forming the entirety of Primus' working population to something that strikes me more like the competing families of Shakespeare's Verona. Which to me feels reinforced by the houses' existence across the planet, where before the houses of Hive Primus, whichever side of the Wall they called home, where only found in their particular termite mound.
 

iggy23

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yeah, the Eschers in Terminal Overkill base their whole philosophy around the God Empress. I mean, they still totally buy into the Imperial cult, but no way the saviour of Humankind would be a man lol. That just doesn't compute to Eschers. Lots of passages refer to "her, sat on her golden throne" and such. Since it does appear in several Escher stories, I don't think GW would retcon it out - not to say they *wouldn't* - but more likely they wouldn't even mention it in House Of Blades unless it is absolutely important to a rule/system they are trying to introduce. Btw, I think Terminal Overkill is *the* Escher book.

(Heck, I think Terminal Overkill is *the* Underhive book. Like: to play the game, you need to have read (or at least skimmed) the Rulebook. But to make Underhives, terrain etc, you absolutely should have read (or at least skimmed) Terminal Overkill. You won't build an underhive the same after that, guaranteed. If you haven't read it, I recommend getting a 30 day free trial to Audible, and grabbing the audiobook version for free. 10/10)