Today Admirals, we delve into the masters of warp travel; the indispensable Navigators and their mysterious lord – the Paternova.
Navigators (Homo navigo) are responsible for guiding Imperial ships through the Warp. They are both a sub-species of humanity as well an organization (known as the Navis Nobilite), comprised of the various Navigator Families.
Navigators are a very particular form of human mutant, possessing the navigator gene, which gives them the unique ability to navigate through Warp space. This ability makes them absolutely necessary to the Imperium‘s continued survival.
All Navigators have a third eye, commonly called the Warp Eye, on their foreheads, which allows them to perceive the psychic light of the Astronomican, enabling them to fully use their powers in guiding ships through the currents of the Warp. Their ability to sense the tides of the Warp is considered psychic, although Navigators never possess any psychic abilities beyond the powers their Warp eye affords them.
Navigators possess natural life spans as long as four hundred years. As they increase in age, their abilities increase in power, and their physical appearance changes: the white and iris of the eye gradually disappears, leaving only a hardened black orb. Because most humans fear and mistrust mutants and psykers, navigators are kept safely cloistered from society.
Navigators are a sub-species of humanity. Besides the third eye, some Navigators are virtually indistinguishable from normal humans; others possess such extreme deviations that their appearance is utterly alien.
Mutation or deformity is common among Navigators, although the deviations exhibited are limited to specific traits common among Navigators. Navigators tend to be tall and spindly, sometimes with pale and almost translucent skin. Other common traits include scaly skin, extremely large eyes which may lack the iris, and ill-defined facial features. Hands and feet can be ridiculously large, and are often webbed. Commonly Navigators are completely hairless. Except in the most extreme cases, a Navigator would not possess all these traits. Those born with extreme mutations might be hidden away or even killed at birth.
The Warp Eye
Navigators gain a variety of powers from their Third Eye, but by far the most vital one is the ability to steer spacecraft through the Warp. The Warp Eye allows the Navigators to see the currents of the Warp, and using the psychic beacon of the Astronomican as a guide, they are able to direct the ship through the dangerous environment, allowing Imperial ships to make far longer and accurate jumps than otherwise possible. They are the only ones, man or machine, with the ability to do this. Because of this unique talent they collectively hold a vital and powerful position within the Imperium.
Of course, the unique ability of the Navigators has its limits also. Outside the range of the guiding light of the Astronomican the Navigators are far more limited in their ability to guide a ship through the Warp. During the Macharian Crusade the grand conquest almost ground to a halt as the sight of the Navigators failed, when they could sense only darkness around them. Furthermore, there are places the Navigators avoid at almost every cost. Navigators will shun the Eye of Terror for thousands of light years around it rather than risk a minor deviation in course which might take them into its boundaries. Most Navigators have personal experience of close encounters with Chaos near the Eye of Terror, and many more can recall the names of others who traveled too close to the Eye in a foolish attempt to cut days from their journey time only to vanish forever.
The eye has other powers too, although these are employed far more rarely and are the subject of some mystique. These powers develop with the Navigator’s experience of the Warp, so that they are most developed of all in the Heirs Apparent. Navigators are very reluctant to talk about their powers, and it may well be that only the Paternova, leader of all Navigators, understands the full potential of a Navigator’s abilities.
Not least of the Warp eye’s powers is its deadly ability; anyone meeting the Warp eye’s gaze will be agonisingly killed; mainly due to this Navigators keep their third eye covered with a bandanna or something similar, causing many people to doubt that the “third eye” even exists.
The Navigator sub-species is so ancient their exact origins have been forgotten. What is known is that their origins go back to the Dark Age of Technology in roughly M22, to a time of genetic experimentation when many kinds of mutants were engineered to fulfill roles envisaged by their creators.
The unique powers of the Navigators are passed down through each generation. The navigator gene itself can only be preserved by intermarriage – it is lost when a Navigator breeds with an ordinary human. This factor has led to the development of the closely-related Navigator families.
Symbol of the Navis Nobilitae
The Paternova is the leader, and most powerful, of all the Navigators. The Paternova lives in the Palace of the Navigators, in the centre of the Navigator’s Quarter on holy Terra. From the moment he is installed, the Paternova never leaves this palace. The staff, soldiery and other retainers of the palace are all drawn from the Paternova’s own House, and are replaced with each new Paternova. The chief among his servants is the Paternoval Envoy, who often becomes one of the High Lords of Terra, representing the Navis Nobilite on the Senatorum Imperialis. If anybody were to know the secrets of the Navigators’ origins, it would be the Paternova.
The chief role of the Paternova is his ability to somehow control, or amplify, the ‘warp sense’ of the other Navigators. This is a direct result of the extreme mutations they suffer during their ascension from one of the the Heirs Apparent. For this reason the Paternova is sometimes described as the guiding father whose powers transcend the warp itself. The importance of this link is demonstrated during the rare interludes between the reign of a Paternova and his replacement. During these times, all Navigators other than the Heirs Apparent suffer a considerable reduction in their ability to navigate the Warp. Were this state of affairs continue for long, much of the Imperium would collapse into anarchy, as ships would be unable to quickly traverse the warp, with many being lost completely.
The Paternova can often live for a thousand years. When he does die, his successor is chosen from among the waiting Heirs Apparent, the most powerful Navigators of the Great Families. From the moment of his death, all the existing Heirs Apparent undergo dramatic change. They grow larger and stronger, and the mutations that characterise all Navigators become even more pronounced. They gain the ability to survive underwater, in poisonous environments and even in the hard vacuum of space. Their natural aggression is increased, and they are drawn into combat with each other. As each Heir Apparent is killed, those who survive change even more, until only one remains alive. It is this vastly changed and extremely powerful individual who becomes the new Paternova.
As soon as the new Paternova is installed, the Navigators’ powers are restored, though not all are restored to the same degree. Those Navigators belonging to the same House as the Paternova find their abilities enhanced, as though their blood tie enabled the Paternova to transmit his powers more effectively. Navigators belonging to the House of the old Paternova lose this benefit, and many Navigators suddenly find their powers greatly diminished. The reasons for this are unknown.
During the Horus Heresy, the Paternova was so threatened by the Dark Glass and Golden Throne projects (as they threatened to render the Navigators obsolete) that he dispatched agents to destroy at least the former.