Story:The Shape Of The Nightmare To Come 50k section24

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Section 24: Legends of the HermitEdit

Men, so it was once said, make their own monsters, as well as their own heroes. Whilst not strictly true in such a time as the Age of Strife, the human urge to mythologise the mysterious and the unbelievable is equally strong in this period. Stories are traded amongst the star farers, or between huddled families, hiding in the dark and cold, or through the countless millions of refugee camps across the galaxy, whispered through dry lips, into the ears of equally miserable or terrified people. Courts surrounding the affluent petty Imperators were no different, uneasy rumours and tales passed as a subtle undertone, throughout courtly proceedings.

One of the most prevalent of these legends and myths, is that of 'The Hermit', or ' the six hermits' or 'The Wandering one', depending upon which sector's stories you choose to listen to. Variations of this rumoured being crop up from the Segmentum Obscurus, all the way to the barter worlds of the far fringe, where human life is a mere commodity of various xenos overlords. Though these tales often differ greatly, the (in)famous hermit character seems to share several similarities. A large cowl or hood, obscuring his features, generally shabby clothes, piercing eyes, and often possessing miraculous, possibly warp-bound powers.

In the Segmentum Solar, the hermit is an almost sort of folk hero. On the planet of Chinaire, the hermit came to the rescue of the Cinairian, when their overlord, a Former Inquisitor calling himself Mauvais, began to terrorise and oppress them terribly. The hermit came, and within a few weeks, it was claimed, the entire planet was in revolt, as his oratory and word skills swayed the people against this false tyrant. The inquisitor sent an entire battalion of soldiers to murder the hermit, in his forest cave which he called home. The hermit, using skill and his insane strength and speed, destroyed the entire army. The survivors fled, screaming 'black beast! Black beast!', haunted by the hermit's form. At the height of the demonstrations, as the people united against Mauvais, and besieged his capital, the desperate Inquisitor unleashed his hardiest warriors: a twenty strong band of Marines Malevolent. The callous, evil marines, butchered hundreds in their fury, driving amongst the crowd like mad zealots.

Then came the hermit. Hidden by the bulging crowd, he had managed to sneak into the capital unnoticed. As the marines prepared their final assault, he lunged forth, snatching the thunder hammer from the leader of the Astartes, and dashing his head from his shoulders, before laying into the other marines. As the marines were battled back, the crowds grew in courage, and charged the gates as one, smashing them from their hinges, and flooding the capital. Mauvais was defeated, and the people cheered. However, the hermit was gone.

Another world in the Segmentum Solar was attacked by Despoiled regiments from the Western Chaos Imperium, who pulverised their capital, and demanded their surrender. However, a hermit had begun preaching a creed of salvation; of unification. Thus, the people rejected the devilish soldiers, who decided to punish the non-chaos Imperials directly. The bat-winged Apostle Grasis, the Underlord of Sector Champion Kailus of the Chaos Imperium, descended on his dreadful pinions, leading the evil cadians from the very front. However, when confronted, the people of the world were armed with fantastic weapons, fashioned by the hermit himself, and they held back the rampaging hordes. However, they could not vanquish Grasis, who merely laughed, as their flamers and hyper-cannons merely rippled across his demoniacally invincible flesh. He slew thousands personally, his scythe reaping a bloody toll amongst the people. Then, when home seemed to fail, the hermit emerged. The daemon and the hero wrestled, as the hermit battled the bat-like horror from tower to tower. At last, the hermit unleashed a heavy blast from his flamer. Grasis laughed again, as the flames rippled across him harmlessly. However, that was never the intended target. Instead, the hermit melted the adamantine structure above the devil's head. As the beast laughed, the hermit seized him in a hold, and forced the molten super-alloy down the monster's vile gullet. With a howl, the thing was banished, and the Despoiled, leaderless, chose to fight to the death. The hermit didn't disappoint, as he and the defenders overran and slew them all.

And so on, the stories go, across the entire segmentum Solar and Pacificus. We can infer several interesting points about this 'hermit, from these many tales. Overall, he is phenomenally strong, able to wrestle a daemon prince, and even tackle an adult Ambull in one of the legends of Innut. He also is claimed to be a giant, anywhere from ninety foot tall, to roughly seven foot. However, he generally seems to be nearing astartes height in most of these stories, and thus I feel confident in speculating that he is possibly some form of space marine renegade, whose deeds have been exaggerated, as all heroes are. In particular, this seems to be the modus operandi of the Salamander chapter. Since they shattered into nearly individual units after the Imperator fell, it is likely that perhaps these hermits, are squads of salamanders, claiming to be a single mighty figure. The frequent depictions of the hermit being a 'black beast' would seem to support this.

The mysterious figure of the hermit seems to alter radically in the legends of segmentum obscurus. In these legends, he is a sinister being, who moves unseen through society, murdering and mutilating wtches and psykers, seemingly at random. This makes this depiction particularly ambiguous. Sometimes the psykers in question are tyrannical puppet-masters, dominating their mortal minions, and the hermit there Is a liberator. Other times, however, he is merely shown to be a bizarre and crazy butcher, randomly murdering other-wise innocent psykers and witches, often dooming the planets in question. This hermit is not depicted as some giant, in fact often being depicted as a frail being by most accounts, but still seems to perform feats beyond a mortal, such as removing all the air in a room to evade Arbites, ripping a reaver titan in half (even if the reaver in question was damaged, as the story suggests, the power needed to destroy something that large must be phenomenal), or killing with a gesture. I would tend to suggest that perhaps a group of intensely puritanical Inquisitors, aided by significant resources, may be the source of the legend. One being surely couldn't be so powerful.

The Ultima segmentum has numerous hermit myths. In some he is armed, others unarmed. His cowl goes from deep blue or grey, through to bone white, or a deep blackened hue. His height fluctuates as much as his objectives. In the south, near to Grand Sicarium and the Ulfian Pain-Conglomerate, the hermit seems to be a master huntsmen, stalking wrong-doers with his hunting bow. These seem to merge eerily well with similar legends of Telion and his hooded company, and well could be a case of stories merging into an amalgam. The hermit being armed is often down to confusion on the part of the observers to events. How can a mortal tell the difference between a Reaper soul, a Watcher in the Dark, Fallen, or cowled warrior zealots? Especially during an intense fire fight? The northern hermit seems completely non-violent, healing the ill and dying, and preaching word of the 'third path', the path of moderation. He/she, has never been associated with any warmongering activities. The north eastern hermit legends tell of a different tale, a lithe woman, cowled in shimmering cowls of black silk, as a widow. She brings death to any who do not pray to the Emperor for his rebirth. Children are frightened by bed time tales of the widow-hermit, the cowled crone of the north.

Thus, we can see that, perhaps, there is no 'one' hermit, but perhaps several stories, overlapping and influencing each other, as the stories are re-told, over and over.

However, one thing upsets this theory. Almost unanimously, the tales have an element of destiny to them. No matter the local, no matter the local dialect or previous myths, each legend mentions 'the world-named-war', and how the hermit is travelling, slowly, towards this mythical place. How so many diverse cultures, many of which could not possibly contact each other, due to warp storms and lack of the astronomicon, came up with, word for word, the exact same phrase, over and over, suggests something disturbing. Especially in light of the events known to have occurred upon the planet of Armaggedon…

The Shape of the Nightmare to Come: Section NavigationEdit

  • The Shape of the Nightmare To Come: Section 24: Legends of the Hermit

Continued in Warhammer 60K: Age of Dusk