The Dark Coil

From 1d4chan

The setting (if such a term applies) for the stories written by Black Library writer Peter Fehervari.

Wait... What?[edit]

The Dark Coil is a rather unusual setting/concept/sub-setting(?)/something which features in all the Warhammer novels and short stories of Peter Fehervari, not entirely unlike the sub-setting of 40k (the Sabbat Worlds, the Helican Sub-Sector) in which Dan Abnett's novels take place. Although they take place on a few common settings or involve a few overarching general organisations, there are few direct links between characters or the main plotlines of each story, and it often takes a little extra work to spot the connections. And given the horror/psychological themes of most of Fehervari's stories, attempting to figure it out can be tricky. Or skub. Or both.

A crucial conceit of the setting is the malleability of time and reality depending on individual perception, often aided by Chaos shenanigans. Whilst regular Lovecraftian Chaos stuff does still occur within the Coil, it's rarely as direct and clear-cut as most depictions in the fluff. The typical hallmarks of Chaotic corruption, like mentioning Nurgle or Khorne, or having easily recognizable types of daemon are rare if not nonexistent in his work. Fehervari uses the Tau to show a contrast to the Imperium, as their scientific-minded, less-zealous and xenophobic mindset provides us a great point from which to see how horrific and uncaring the Imperium really is, although he also manages to show a distinctly unique dark side to the Tau quite apart from the usual soft-Orwellian overtones they usually have.

Attempting to unpick the Coil is tricky because most characters are unreliable narrators, insane, delusional, capable of rewriting or traversing reality to make it refit their perceptions, deliberately hiding things from the reader, or all of the above. This said, there are a few linking factors that overlap in most of the stories.

Linking Threads[edit]

  • The Angels Resplendent/Angels Penitent - Originally two separate chapters that GW gave Fehervari permission to turn into different incarnations of the same chapter. The former were inspiring, humanistic craftsmen. The latter were Judge Dredd-calibre fun police. Both incarnations had their dark sides. The Resplendent thought getting their aspirants to walk through a Chaos-haunted forest (and situating their Fortress-Monastery near it) was a good idea. The Penitent abandoned most of their duties to the Imperium in favour of removing all the stains of their past, despite significant numbers of their chapter still doing forbidden artistic things on the down low.
  • Phaedra - Space Vietnam. No, not that one. This is more specifically Space Apocalypse Now. It's a hot, thoroughly miserable Death World in the Yuxa system that the Imperium and Tau use as a dumping ground for their broken and problematic troops and commanders, keeping them fighting in a contrived proxy war to avoid having to contest a wider area of space. People down there go crazy, if they aren't already. Ostensibly loyal regiments defect to the T'au, go renegade from Imperial Command, or become cannibals. It's all but stated the planet is extremely Chaos-tainted, with oddities such as coral temples made by forgotten civilizations around which no vegetation grows, characters being haunted by ghosts, and a tendency to drive any inhabitants but the native population (the Saathla) insane. If they don't get infected by the mutagenic fungus or poisoned by the local fauna, that is. The native human(?) population bears a resemblance to the Deep One hybrids from the work of H.P. Lovecraft. The planet also seems to have a tendency to throw certain people across time and space, only to dump them into another twist in the Coil.
    • The Yuxa system's only other (as far as we know) inhabited planet is a gas giant known as Scitalyss, which hosts a similarly miserable orbital hive known as "The Rat's Cradle".
  • Vytarn/Redemption-219 - A Shrine World. Originally an endless ocean, bad things happened there and it turned into an ocean of fire. Unknown to everyone who lives there, the planet is effectively a sewer grate for the Webway. It ends up being a magnet for cults of all stripes and creeds - at one point there are at least two competing Chaos cults, a genestealer cult, and numerous Imperial creeds all duking it out for supremacy.
  • Providence - A recent inductee into the Imperium from before the Dark Age of Technology. It was conquered in a religious crusade, initially made tricky by Providence's pro-science stance. Ironically enough, they start discovering Chaos juju after they join the Imperium. Uniquely for 40K, they are unambiguously based on the pre-20th century United States, with elements of the US Civil War thrown in. A core belief of its people is that of the "Thunderground" - a point of their lives where they face their greatest challenge that either changes them forever or ends them entirely - sometimes both at once. Other characters in the Coil face similar pivotal moments and such "Thundergrounds" have a propensity to overlap.
  • The Sunken Worlds - a system of seemingly oceanic worlds which have a tendency to spawn some of the most fanatical and cruel Imperial Guard regiments, including the Lethean Mariners and Iwuji Sharks.
  • "The Emperor Condemns!" - A common phrase throughout the Coil as well as an overarching belief. It was originally introduced by the Lethean Mariner regiments (imagine Waterworld crossed with Krieg with the fatalism spiced with religious fanaticism). Basically, they believe the Emperor is not the caretaker of humanity and is instead its punisher. The Angels Penitent take large parts of their inspiration from the creed and whilst the Undying Martyr who inspired them has possible links to the Lethean Creed, an ironclad link is not certain.
  • The Torn Prophet - The inspiration for several rather dark (which is saying something) creeds of the Imperial Faith. Similar to Christianity's Holy Trinity, the Prophet is seen as a septpartite being, with each aspect nominally personifying various virtues. Despite inspiring several orders, churches, and Sororitas Ordos, no one can accurately trace the Prophet's true origins, or even when they existed. Given the way the Coil works, they may never have existed in the first place. As with other beliefs in the Dark Coil, the teachings of the Prophet tend to get twisted into either macabre insanity or unwitting Chaos stuff. Or both. The Prophet may even be Fehervari himself.
  • Sarastus - A former hive world, now an abandoned urban wasteland. A perpetually dark world, many of its hives were kept under large domes, partly to keep them warm and partly to provide a semblance of light. At some point in its past something bad happened, and the domes were compromised, allowing the Night (note the capital letter) in. Along with a succession of strange occurrences, like the local equivalent of the Rapture but more depressing (random people died suddenly but their bodies didn't decay), and the civilised population all but died later. The feral remnants managed to survive later and the world became a favoured recruiting ground for the Night Lords.
  • Oblast - another Imperial world on the edge of T'au influence. It's an icy rock with its cities interconnected by huge Snowpiercer style trains and full of unhappy promethium miners and revolutionaries. The Alpha Legion, Inquisition, Tau, Chaos Cults, Angels Penitent AND Resplendent have all dipped their toes in here and SOMEHOW it's still the most "normal" a world in the Coil, by virtue of not having any reality-bending shenanigans.
  • Olber Vedas - The closest thing to a central character in the Dark Coil, and that is using the term extremely charitably. Whilst he's appeared only twice in person, his influence and actions have been felt in almost every twist of the Coil. It's implied that multiple iterations of him are trapped in the Coil and have cycled their actions repeatedly, sometimes as a hero, sometimes as a villain, in hope of either breaking free of the Coil, controlling it, or destroying it entirely.