...he had SURRENDERED to Russ instead of simply waiting to die in despair?
Let’s say that instead of being crippled by indecision and despair over his failure to prevent Horus’ corruption, his accidental destruction of the Imperial Webway, and manipulation by Tzeench, Magnus instead humbled himself and channeled his despair into a fervent determination to prevent Chaos’ victory.
Revealing the scope of his failure to his advisors and captains, he would nevertheless stiffen their resolve and see them renew their allegiance to both him and the Emperor.
Against their protests, he would resolve to meet the incoming Wolves alone and unarmed to plead his case before Russ. It was imperative, he would tell them, that the forthcoming battle be averted at all costs for the destruction of one Legion or both would only feed the burgeoning machinations of the darker powers that have consumed Horus Lupercal.
And if he must humble himself and bare his throat to Russ to prevent this future from coming to pass, then he would do so. For his sons, for the Emperor, and for the Imperium.
Soon, scout ships from the incoming Wolves fleet would detect a lone unarmed shuttle approaching them and, most astonishing of all, identifying itself as Magnus the Red seeking to treat with his brother for parley.
Suspected a trick, Russ would order the craft be carefully surrounded by the fleet while demanding an reading of the situation from his Rune Priests who would confirm that the psychic presence aboard was so potent and distinct that it could only be who he claimed to be.
Resolving on a course of action, Russ’ Wolf Guard, Sisters of Silence, and the Emperor’s Custodians led by Constantin Valdor would teleport aboard the ship and surround the unarmed and unarmored Primarch before Russ himself appeared, his sword unsheathed and held at the ready.
‘Meeting the executioner’s axe willingly Magnus? I confess I didn’t expect you to choose honor over your own self righteousness, but I thank you for it just the same,’ said Russ as he raised his blade.
’Before you strike brother,’ Magnus whispered as Russ halted, ‘will you grant me one boon? Hear my story and then pronounce whatever judgment you see fit upon me.’
Russ sneered. ‘No Magnus, the time for your stories has long past.’ He leaned forward until he was almost level with Magnus. ‘You were warned.’ Russ hissed. ‘Even before your disciplining at Nikea, our father warned you where your curiosity would lead, I warned you.’ Russ stood and pointed his blade at Magnus, glaring. ‘I long suspected it would one day end like this, with my blade at your throat. Your arrogance brought you here Magnus, and your sanction has been a long time coming.’
’You were right.’ Magnus said quietly.
Magnus looked up into his brother’s eyes. ‘You were right,’ he repeated, ‘Father was right, and in my desire for knowledge I caused so much damage to our Father’s realm, to Humanity’s future, than I could have possibly imagined.’
Russ’ expression changed from bewilderment to contempt. ‘The martyr’s cross does not suit you Magnus. Now Lorgar...’ Russ chuckled slightly, ‘I’d expect this from that fanatic, but I expected more from you.’ Russ’ tone became mocking. ‘Was this your plan Magnus? To whimper like a whipped cur in hopes of ingratiating yourself to our father?’
‘Lorgar,’ Magnus smiled sadly, ‘if you only knew...’
Russ’ eyes narrowed and he glared at Valdor, but the Custodian’s expression remained unchanged. ‘What are you blathering about now Magnus? Speak plainly or I’ll cut off your head before you bore me to death.’
‘I have been sanctioned,’ Magnus said slowly, ‘but not by our father. By Horus.’
Russ’ eyes narrowed. ‘Is he not the Warmaster? He speaks with the Emperor’s authority and thru him the Emperor’s sanction of you was brought to me.’
’No, it hasn’t,’ said Magnus as he finally stood, ignoring the tensing of the surrounding warriors as he looked Russ in the eye. ‘Think about it Leman, think! Horus still grieves for our lost brothers perhaps more than any of us, he risked censure over it! And now he so casually orders the destruction of another without remorse? Does that sound like our brother, truly?’
Russ hesitated and looked pensive. Magnus turned to Valdor. ‘It’s all connected,’ Magnus said, spreading his arms wide. ‘The Webway,’ he saw Valdor tense, ‘my sanction, Lorgar...it was all PLANNED.’
’Planned by WHO?’ Russ roared in exasperation. ‘The Warp,’ said Magnus simply. ‘Malefictum, CHAOS. There are malevolent powers within the Warp, intelligent and hungry, and they have set their sights on Humanity. You know of what I speak Russ.’
’This.’ Russ growled. ‘This is why you are being sanctioned Magnus. You stared too long and too eagerly into the Warp and I can only assume you’ve been driven mad by it to conceive of such a story as this!’
He stomped closer to Magnus until their faces were inches apart. ‘I am not some barbarian fool to be so easily deceived, BROTHER.’
’Horus has turned against the Emperor.’
Lightning fast, Russ’ fist whipped around and smashed Magnus from his feet. Warriors scrambled out of the way as the Thousand Son’s Primarch flew across the deck to crash unceremoniously to the floor. Before Magnus could respond, Russ leapt atop his prone brother and began pummeling him mercilessly.
’You DARE?!’ Russ roared as his fists crashed into his brother’s unprotected face. ‘You debase yourself and mew like some drunken cur, and now you DARE seek to accuse our honorable brother, our WARMASTER, of treachery?!’
Chest heaving with exertion, he slowly stood over his battered brother. ‘I made a mistake Magnus,’ he said coldy, ‘I expected some scrap of honor from you, but now I see you are only attempting to weasel your way out of punishment like the worm I always took you to be.’
Russ raised his blade for the killing blow. ‘Die now traitor.’
’Wait!’ Russ halted suddenly, turning in surprise as Valdor stepped forward. ‘Too much of what Magnus has said bears some semblance of truth.’
’Surely you jest, Russ growled, glaring at the Captain-General though he slowly lowered his blade. ‘Have you too been taken in by his wild stories, or have I gone mad too?’
’The Webway, the daemons...’ Valdor said quietly as if talking to himself, ‘too much of it seems coordinated. Even the Emperor intimated His concerns about a greater conspiracy at work here...’
He look at the bruised and bleeding Magnus slowly picking himself off the floor, then back at Russ. ‘The Emperor never sought the ultimate sanction on Magnus nor his Legion. The change in orders sat ill with me as being so out of character for your father, and now I see why.’
Russ looked aghast. ‘Then these stories by Magnus...of Horus...you tell me they ring true? Horus...the Warmaster has turned against my father? This is madness!’
’Not madness,’ croaked Magnus, slowly standing with a wince, ‘manipulation. Horus, for all his noble qualities, has always been a bit of a prideful soul and that’s exactly what these entities latched onto.’
’I watched it Russ,’ Magnus whispered in anguish, ‘I watched them twist him into a creature of hatred and jealousy that is now hellbent on taking the Imperium for his own, and I couldn’t stop it.’
He looked tearfully at the Captain-General. ‘That is why I broke the Edict and why I...the Emperor had to be warned, but like a fool I didn’t see the influence of these dark powers until it was too late.’
Russ stared wordlessly. Finally, he spoke. ‘Madness...’ he breathed.
’We must make haste for Terra. In that much I agree, the Emperor must be warned,’ said Valdor, turning to Russ. ‘And him?’ he glanced at Magnus whose eye was starting to swell. ‘He comes with us,’ said Valdor.
’You are right Magnus,’ Valdor growled, ‘the damage you’ve caused is beyond what you could possibly imagine and you will serve penance for it.’ Magnus nodded sadly. ‘However, a great threat now looms without, and as the Emperor’s chosen representative, I hereby countermand your sanction...for now.’
’And my sons?’ Magnus asked slowly. ‘They will accompany us to Terra and remain under the watch of the Wolves,’ said Valdor, glancing at Russ who nodded slowly.
’Whatever my crimes brother,’ Magnus said to Russ, ‘I will face judgement for them. And if the Emperor wills it, I will face your axe without complaint.’ He extended a hand to Russ. ‘You have my word.’
Looking down at his brother’s outstretched hand, Russ hesitated, and then gripped it tightly. ‘Let us hope it does not come to that...’