|This article or section is about something oldschool - and awesome.|
Make sure your rose-tinted glasses are on nice and tight, and prepare for a lovely walk down nostalgia lane.
"Where I fall, ten more shall take my place! And one hundred each of them! So strike me down! I am the harbinger!"
- – Ollanius Pius, an Imperial Guardsman (The First Guardsman), to the Warmaster and Primarch, Horus "supercharged motherfucking avatar of Chaos" Lupercal. Yes, you read that correctly.
Ollanius Pius embodies what it means to be a soldier of the Imperial Guard in this grimdark universe. He is THE most hardcore Guardsman ever and also the legendary saint of the Imperial Guard, because as legend goes, in the hopes of protecting the Emperor of Mankind, Ollanius Pius put himself directly in front of a walking demigod of battle. The fact that he did so without fainting, shitting himself in terror, or mewling like a wounded grox suggests that his testicles must have been forged from Mars-grade adamantium (or more likely, he had power balls. His testicles were of such might that they ignored armor saves in close combat and could themselves be used as weapons). Ollanius Pius is so manly that he makes Vance Motherfucking Stubbs, Commissar Yarrick, Gregor Eisenhorn, Ciaphas Cain, Kharn, Colonel "Iron Hand" Straken, Logan Grimnar, Merrick, Harker, Creed and Sly Marbo piss themselves in terror. Well, maybe not Sly Marbo but he still respects the shit out of him.
Naturally, like a bunch of awesome shit and virtually every piece of lore that has ever existed in Warhammer 40,000, Games Workshop retconned this story in several ways. Firstly his introduction is a bit of a retcon, since Ollanius wasn't in the original battle (read the Slaves to Darkness book) where the Emperor teleported to Horus' bunker (not flagship) and fought him there. Then when he was introduced, he was said to have originally sacrificed himself during Horus' assault on the Imperial Palace, placing himself between the Emperor and Horus (which would mean in that version Horus broke through), which makes sense, so they had to change it. The next story the Emperor fought Horus in Horus' command bunker again, teleporting in with Imperial Fists and Custodes, and while having a bunker on the ground makes it entirely possible that Pius was there (especially since the traitor legions were busy at the palace walls) it's fairly unlikely. Then they changed it again, this time having Emps board Horus' flagship, the Vengeful Spirit, along with a company of Imperial Fist terminators and Custodes, no Pius this time due to the fact that a Guardsmen would probably die the second they arrive there. At no point from here on out is Ollanius ever mentioned to have boarded the Vengeful Spirit, though the idea of a heroic sacrifice was kept, GW replaced Pius with a Spehss Mahreen Terminator, which wasn't that bad but then they retconned out the Terminator with an Adeptus Custodes, which is SIX KINDS OF LAME.
Fantasy Flight Games brought him back though (sort of, leaving his existence in current canon questionable at best), which is a great justice and if you trust them, he really is just the most badass Guardsman ever, though exactly what he did isn't too clear besides die for the Emperor. But, NOW, thanks to Dan Abnett, if GW ever returns Ollanius to his place at the Emperor's side, that's no big deal. He'll just be over 10,000 years old. Still a normal human, but just one that regenerates and has lived a long time. So...following the trend, there is a risk that he will be added back in the universe as the one who made the chip in Horus's armor and not Sanguinius, and thus completely ruin the original story.
Other than the fact that he was man enough to stand up to Daddy's former favourite with nothing more than a flashlight and toilet paper armour, not much else is known about him, which probably means that he did even more heroic and manly shit during the Siege of Terra.
The entire point of the character is to demonstrate that true courage and inner strength can be found even among the weakest (by comparison) of individuals. (Also, see "Tank Man" ). Games Workshop, in their infinite wisdom, completely missed this point and proceeded to replace the brave and ordinary little soldier with a progressively bigger and stronger superhero with every reveal/retcon (although, see below for a different take on his perepetuality and it's implications in his final act of heroism.) This, in a way, makes Horus' fall to Chaos seem less and less despicable; the original story of a superhuman so remorselessly killing an ordinary human could be seen in a similar light as a grown man killing a child. It is probably a near certainty that the next retcon will trade up the Custode for one of the missing Primarchs (such as the glorious and magnificent Ollanius Partridge) or a fucking omnipresent Imperial Knight. Further updates will likely add the Terminator, the Custode, the second missing Primarch and an Imperial Titan for good measure, all at the same time.
However, in the Visions Of Heresy Novel, the humble Imperial Guardsman is back with his heroic act of sacrifice, though it is not stated whether his name was Ollanius Pius. Probably because there was no need to, since everyone already knew his name in the fandom.
He also has a relic in the latest 6th Edition Astra Militarum/Imperial Guard codex, with the fluff saying he martyred himself against Horus and is the epitome of Imperial Sainthood, as does a similar relic in the 8th Edition Astra Militarum Codex. The Dark Heresy Blood of Martyrs splat mentions him there, saying the story of Pius is apocryphal (bringing up that other organizations have their own version of the tale) but still frequently told and he is widely venerated among Guardsmen as an exemplar of what a faithful Guardsman should be. So the Imperial Guard apparently canonically believes the original version of the tale, whether or not that's what actually happened. And at this point, nobody knows what actually happened and never will because GeeDubs refuses to enforce any kind of consistency in its own fluff (see below).
Also known as "Why the Black Library should not be allowed to write or sell anything".
In Dan Abnett's Horus Heresy novel "Know No Fear" Ollanius Pius' lore has changed dramatically. In the book he is named "Ollanius Perrson" (or "Oll" to his friends) and is part of a small group of immortal humans spread throughout the galaxy called Perpetuals. John Grammaticus (who is alive and well) claimed that out of the entire Ultramarine empire (which at the time consisted of a staggering 500 planets) there are only three Perpetuals (the total amount in the Imperium is unknown, but almost certainly not much higher). Pius estimates his date of birth at some point around 15,000 BC (by contrast, the Emperor claims he was born in roughly 8,000 BC- which would make Pius no less than 7,000 years older than the Emperor. It would also make him older than agriculture), and is the same "breed" as Grammaticus and possibly the Emperor. At first this sounds like GW is missing the point again, but besides his extreme age and the whole immortality thing he seems to just be a normal human with normal human strength (coupled with the fact that, by all indications, he hasn't died once so far). Which, when compared to the psychic gestalt übermensch that is the Emperor, is kind of important; Ollanius is more representative of every strength (and weakness) of Mankind than the Emperor EVER was.
The Eternal Infantryman
In the days of ancient Terra he was one of the Argonauts who adventured with Jason on the Argo to get the Golden Fleece and later he learned how to fight with a bayonet whilst fighting for the French in the trenches at Verdun during World War I. (Note that "Ole Persson" is the obvious pun, but in idiomatic French, "Olivier Personne" means "Oliver Nobody," which has interesting implications in and of itself.) Interestingly, Ollanius seems to be a sort of "eternal soldier" (he is also confirmed as having fought in the armies of Napoleon and Saddam Hussein), but always is depicted as being a part of the "poor bloody Infantry", in direct opposition to another perpetual, big E himself, who is spoken of as having taken on the roles of various august and well known historical personages, or at least being close to positions of power throughout history. There is also an implication that Ollanius always or at least usually fought on the losing side, which is also an interesting extension to this parallel. This makes him a sort of representative of the eternal ordinary everyman; unlike almost every other perpetual, he doesn't have superpowers (except the neat trick of not dying), and lives ordinary lives, again and again (as the Emperor says to him in the exchange quoted above.) This is more in line with the original spirit of the "legend of Ollanius Pius," and is a counter-argument to the more common view that he is becoming an OP Mary Sue instead of a representative of ordinary human strength and courage, the ultimate manifestation of which is seen in his actions aboard the Vengeful Spirit.
We sometimes see glimpses of his soldiering past. In Unmarked, another Abnett work (a short story in the anthology Mark of Calth), he travels through time to various battles he fought in while evading the daemon prince M'kar. In Angel Exterminatus, where an Iron Warriors Trident Warsmith Kroeger has a flashback (sort of, the memories were the memories of other people) and relives the near-death of "Carl", a German soldier at the hands of one "Olivier Perrson." Carl thought Ol was very rude because he interrupted Carl's dinner. Yes, poor Carl's dinner. Oll happened upon Carl eating . . . Carl's own commander. Oh yeah, Carl was a closet cannibal. Still, Carl thought it was a bit of an overreaction by an overly Pius asshole to stab Carl in the gut. Carl was only saved from a certain death when the crush of the battle forces Oll out of the trench.
We don't get it either but a vision given to Ollanius by Grammaticus indicates that he'll be restored to his original status as the person who sacrifices his life to save the Emperor from Horus, so at least he's back. Of course, whether he actually dies when this happens given the Perpetuals' ability to resurrect themselves upon death is anyone's guess. The confrontation with Horus might be "true death" for him, though, as in Unmarked, he gets the distinct feeling that the current galactic clusterfuck is going to be the end for him. This might even make sense, given that he was killed by not only a primarch, but Horus supercharged by the energies of all four of the Ruinous Powers during an apocalyptic confrontation which outright killed another Primarch and put the most powerful being ever to emerge out of humanity in a near-death state. Get hit by what did that, you're probably not going to get up, and immortality won't help you if your soul is snuffed out by one of the most powerful material manifestations of Chaos ever.
If he did regenerate, he'd probably wake up on the Vengeful Spirit unless his body was moved-Perpetuals don't teleport when they die, they just heal and wake up. This might wind up being a far, far worse end than having his soul shredded (see over on the page for Perpetual where we say that they've drawn the short straw? Here's an example of why...) Needless to say, being trapped in the bowels of a chaos-infested warship would not be good for him (assuming he can even get off the bridge before Abby or one of his guards shoots him.)
Also in Unmarked, Ollanius briefly hooks up with John Grammaticus, another perpetual (although far more of a dick, and, unlike Oll, apparently turned into a perpetual by the Cabal rather than being born one) .. you know, the guy who is actually with the Cabal, going along with their "Alpharius gambit" to destroy humanity but wipe out Chaos, but who is at some point persuaded by Eldrad Uthan to turn rogue against the Cabal, since in a rare moment of non-dickery, Eldrad decided that wiping out humanity might not be the best idea, giving John the final push after long having some scruples about aiding in the genocide of his own race for, among others, arrogant space elves and a sentient floating ball of gas.
Befitting his epithet, he is, indeed, a pious man. He is, in fact, a believing "Catheric," which is apparently a bastardization of "Catholic." Exceedingly rare in the rabidly atheistic Imperium, although not unique in the Heresy Era: another badass
guardsman Imperial Army Geno 5-2 Chiliad hetman, Hurtado Bronzi in Legion, also by Dan Abnett, identifies himself as "Catheric by devotion.") He even wears a cross around his neck which conceivably could get him into trouble. Practicing the major aspects his faith (five of the seven sacraments require a priest) would be difficult, as what happened to the Pope and Church hierarchy we don't know (although it's probably pretty grimdark.) According to real-world Catholic belief, there is a Biblical guarantee for an "unbroken chain" of Popes and Papal authority (Matthew xvi, 18), so there would be theoretically a Pope somewhere, or on the way. The church in Graham McNeal's The Last Church wasn't Catholic, although it's sort of implied that it is a bastardized form of high-Church Christianity at least in aesthetic which drifted in it's beliefs over 30 millenia ... which isn't that surprising from the perspective of the sociology of religion. If it was really, however, the literal last church on Terra, and the real-world Catholic view is true, somewhere in some corner of the Imperium there is a man who is the Pope and the Church still exists (picking up sticks and moving probably would have been wise anyway.) Several sci-fi writers have speculated about this sort of thing: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller, considered a classic, has the Catholic church surviving several end-of-the-world techno-barbarian type scenarios, preserving civilization, and enduring over many millenia, eventually spreading beyond Earth.
Despite the Emperor hating religion, Ollanius was still doing the right thing by the tenants of his by-then-ancient faith explicitly says that soldiers should obey orders and people should respect their governments and leaders in general (cf. Romans xiv, 3ff., referring to the Emperor of the time ... plus ça change, no?), except of course if it involved breaking the precepts of his religion (this was a real dilemma for Roman soldiers up until the 4th century or so, because they had to worship the emperor) ... but this was not such a problem for Ollie, he was a faithful Imperial citizen and, while the Imperium forbade religiosity, it did not (at the time of the Horus Heresy, which is when we last hear of him) require him to worship other Gods or such, even though such beliefs were proscribed by the Imperium (which again, resembles certain periods in Church history.)
Despite the prohibition on religion, he seemed to live his faith reasonably openly and at best be regarded as a bit of an eccentric for it: again, not all that different from certain eras of the Roman history in the 2nd and 3rd centuries-it depended on who was on the imperial throne just how vigorously Christians were persecuted: sometimes it was an all-day buffet for lions and sometimes Christianity was looked at as at best a strange affectation certain people indulged in (perhaps not entirely unlike we look at new religious movements today.) In fact, Ancient Rome, very unlike the 30K Imperium, would've had no problem with Christians at all if they didn't refuse to worship the Emperor. You know, what Monarchia got glassed for. In the 40K Imperium, the Ecclesiarchy would've probably been pretty cool with Christianity if the Emperor was ultimately seen as God (which would make Sanguinius Jesus? Except for the resurrection part.) Which Christianity would not be cool with. So Ollanius being "Catheric" would be a problem for him either way. And probably at several other points in his life (maybe in the Iraqi army, for example. And one assumes at several points over the next 30,000 years or so.)
There is another fan theory that it refers to the "Cathars," a heretical religious sect that the IRL Inquisition IRL exterminatused in the 13th century. This is a clever play on words, but probably reads too much into it, but doesn't make any historical sense and doesn't really line up with the vague hints at "Cathericism" we get in the books.
A new character introduced in one of the newest Horus Heresy Books and the in-universe source of the legends about an Ollanius Pius, Ollanius Piers was an Imperial Army soldier who fought in the siege of Terra. He is a descendant of the immortal one.
While under attack against forces of the World Eaters, Piers as well as a few other soldiers and a historian went out of their way to raise up a banner of the Emperor before they were attacked by a World Eater Marine. Ollanius managed to stand against the Marine long enough that a member of the Sisters of Silence who's powers made her invisible could kill the marine. Afterwards, the historian decided to record Pier's story, making it grander by replacing the World Eaters marine with Horus himself, and the banner with the Emperor. They are just piling on the lame plot twists. Ollanius Piers would go on to die during the fall of the Eternity Wall spaceport, defending a banner of the Emperor from Angron himself.
WARNING: The following entry is so manly that reading it out loud may cause you to suddenly grow a beard. Girls, do not read this out loud. A fa/tg/uy's explanation of the original Ollanius:
LOOK AT THIS FUCKING GUARDSMAN.
He's spent months fighting a grueling war in which his enemies are demigods allied with daemons, and now he's found himself in the closest thing to Hell he's ever known. He probably wasn't even supposed to get teleported up to the arch-traitor's battle barge in the first place, and just ended up in the wrong place at the worst possible time.
Somehow he's survived horrors beyond comprehension to make his way to the very bridge of Horus' flagship. He saw a veritable angel call upon Horus to answer for his crimes, and he saw that angel die as messily as any guardsman. His Emperor - who he fervently believes is a god incarnate, even if he's not supposed to - lies mortally wounded, and Horus, perhaps, has taken a moment to gloat before he strikes the killing blow.
His armor is slightly more effective than tissue paper, his weapon slightly more powerful than a flashlight. A single electrified claw from Horus' weapon is bigger than his entire body. He stands before a being infused by the dark gods with incalculable power, that can and will obliterate his soul with no more effort than it would take him to swat a gnat. Nothing he can do could possibly make a difference.
He could run. He could turn his weapon on himself. He could give in to the insidious whispers that echo from the ship's corridors into his mind.
Ollanius Pius does the duty his Emperor requires of him. He dies standing and holds the FUCKING line.
A short poem about Ollanius Pius
The first time I hold my blood in my hands,
The first time I see a man with nothing.
Would be the first time I see my own lands,
Covered in heresy, death, and rotting.
My son stands over him corrupt and pale,
A guard Ollanius Pius stands free.
My fallen Horus lifts the deadly flail,
In one instant, the strength of man I see.
This mere man done what I was unable.
A tear flows from my eye and it is clear,
The tyrant's cold reign I must disable.
Briefly I know what it means to feel fear.
I leave the future to the strength of man,
For they alone do far more than I can.
Another poem regarding Ollanius
Somewhere in the universe a coin flip lands on its side.
Somewhere in the universe a drop of water saves a life.
Somewhere in the universe a pebble stops a landslide.
Maybe it is because someone believed hard enough.
Maybe it is because everything is secretly fair.
Maybe it is because the universe is a vast place.
Yesterday, I was very cold.
Yesterday, I was very hungry.
Yesterday, I wanted to run away.
Today, I am going to believe hard enough.
Today, a pebble will stop a landslide.
Today, I am not going anywhere.