Beliefs and Myths Among the Forces of the Imperium
Although our Lord Emperor, His will be done, denounced all false deities and showed Mankind the way to illumination - himself a beacon in that path - He, in His glorious wisdom, knew precisely how to shape the nature of Man, like a sculptor who knows his material and how to apply his chizel.
Thus did the Emperor understand that it is in Man's very nature to create totems from beasts, both real and myth. This, unlike any adoration of so-called "Gods", is a drive for our growth and betterment, the very antithesis of conformity and stagnation that come with relying on the omnipotence of a false god.
Long has Mankind admired and envied the beasts that share his world. The archives of Holy Terra show that, in every competitive environment, there are those that take for them the qualities - and even names - of specific creatures, striving to become and surpass them in their very nature. One of the most curious aspects of this practice is that it is not governed by a strict rule or ranking. See how the Space Wolves have taken the Fenrisian Wolves as their symbol and namesake, even though the deep-dwelling Kraken far surpass them in size, strength and threat. Take the Raven Guard, their totemic animal a fierce predator, for sure, yet in truth very little compared to the Leophar that inhabit the caves of the very same spires. Throughout Mankind's History, animals like the Eagle (blessed be the Emperor), the Wolf, the Raven, the Lion and many others have attained for themselves the statute of symbols, their significance going beyond the boundaries of biology.
Yet one totem exists whose power and evolution throughout human History merits its own discussion: the Dragon. Holy Terra has never birthed Dragons, as far as our oldest archives on biology show, and yet belief and mentions of Dragons have roots as ancient as any other beast, real or mythological. No doubt this was born from contact with the remains of animals long extinct when Humanity was still young, as were the Saurians, yet what is remarkable is that, even before proof of existence of reptilian giants (already a moment of amazement to our then primitive brains, for sure), human mind managed to escalate them into something more. There and then was born a myth that would be present in every era of our History, and in almost every civilization.
It should be of no wonder, then, that the symbolic might of the Dragon remains as strong as ever. Perhaps even stronger. For, you see, in time our exploration and conquest of new planets has allowed Manking to finally come face to face with what can only be described as Draconic creatures. The Salamanders of Nocturne are the most famous of such beasts, though not the first. On Kallua-Rungi the Magos Biologis discovered the Starnesuchus, giant aquatic reptiles able to glide long distances from one Ocean to another during the planet's Cycles of Evaporation. Many others could be named, including some, like the Mist Drakken of Laupstrum or the Irumus of Formong 44, which are the very image of the old myth of Holy Terra, both in its Western and Eastern depictions, respectively.
The latter specimen, precisely, will allow me to finish this section by showing the true strength of the Dragon Mythos. Formong 44 is as idyllic a world as one can wish for in this harsh Era and Universe. A temperate climate, diverse flora and relatively controllable fauna has allowed its human settlers to establish hab-zones worthy of our most unbridled pride. Unfortunately, Formong 44 sits on the very doorstep of a Dark Eldar Webway exit point and this, in turn, has meant that a planet that might've been unremarkable in terms of military forces has in turn been chosen by the White Scars (their hatred for the Dark Eldar burning as ever) as the birthplace of one of their successor Chapters, the Wyrms Eternal. This designation owes, of course, to the Chapter's continual resistance - and success - against the Dark Eldar, but also to Formong's most amazing natural feature, the Irumus.
Irumus are gargantuan reptiles that make their home beneath the sky-piercing mountains of the Northern Hemisphere (the area where the Wyrms Eternal have established their fortress). Their serpentine bodies - with four short but extremely strong legs - allow them to navigate both the underground tunnels and the jagged surfaces of the mountainous ranges at staggering speeds. They feed beneath the surface, preying on creatures as large - if not as fierce - as them, yet spend much of their time above, challenging each other in earth-shaking fights for territorial dominance. To human settlements they represent little danger, yet on those rare occasions when one climbs down from its rocky lair, destruction is assured and on a frightening scale, falling to the Astartes, most often than not, the destruction of the beast, whose bones, skin and meat are then taken to the Fortress-Monastery with all the reverence.
What's remarkable about the interaction between Astartes and the Irumus is that even the augmented minds of Space Marines managed to widen the scope of the Irumus' already amazing capabilities. Though the beasts possess no other weapons than fang, claw and size, their underground-dwelling nature, combined with the fiercely totemic nature of the White Scars, meant that the Wyrms Eternal symbol is a mix of the real animal and the Dragons Holy Terra, capable of flight and able to spew fire. Even now every single Marine (and Formonghian) attributes these abilities to the Irumus, with various accounts of flying leviathans and burned cities.
And so History repeats itself. Yet the Dragons endure.
Whew...a friend asked me to draw a symbol for a thread about Dragon-related Astartes - which I did, but added a bonus: a Samurai Marine (of the Wyrms Eternal). I know, it's not very samurai-ish, but lately I've been more adept at keeping design influences toned down. Maybe someday I'll draw the Chapter Master.
Hope you like this. Cheers, all.