Walk the wasteland long enough and anyone will gather a few scars. Gecko bites, laser burns, scorpion stings. The little scars make for nice talk at parties, but some scars are so deep, so big that they end up defining a person for the rest of their lives. You see a man burned head-to-toe and he keeps on walking, or someone with their face torn off who refuses to lie down and die – That’s a person who has more important things to do than tell you their story over a bottle of nuka cola.
When Caesar and his Legion came upon the Hoover Dam in 2277, he knew that it was his destiny to march his army across the Colorado river just as the first Caesar had crossed another river two thousand years before. Unlike the original Caesar, this new Caesar found himself facing a foe that would not yield at the mere sight of an approaching army. The New California Republic was just as determined to hold that dam as the Legion was to take it.
When the battle came, Caesar’s legate made several mistakes in the command of his forces. A combination of overzealousness and righteousness made the Legion an easy victim for a trap laid by the NCR, and the resulting debacle put an end to the Legion’s march West. Now they wait on the far bank of the Colorado river, rebuilding their army with fresh slaves taken from the fiercest tribes East of the dam, looking for a way to send the NCR running in earnest terror.
The man who led them to their catastrophic defeat had been Caesar’s first General. At the time he went by the title Malpais Legate, but he was once known as Joshua Graham, one of Caesar’s oldest friends. Like all men, Caesar feared the unknown, and placed his trust in the people he knew best. Malpais Legate might have been the person best qualified to lead the assault and simply fell victim to a cunning ploy by the NCR commanders. Or maybe Caesar was unable to see the limits in his old friend’s abilities, and should have led the charge himself. Either way, Malpais was punished for his failure in the worst way the Legion could find. Burned alive and thrown into the Grand Canyon. Even if Graham managed to survive, he’d be disfigured and in agony for the rest of his life.
The next time that the Legion sets out to take that damn, they’ll need a new Legate in command of their army. They’ll need someone who can stir genuine fear in the hearts of the NCR troops. and they already have the perfect candidate. Joshua Graham ended his career with defeat and disfigurement, but his replacement joined the Legion through the same path.
Radiation, mutation, cybernetics, these can all create monsters, but the one they call The Monster of the East is just a man. He was not created by science, but by rage. Like all those who were assimilated into the Legion, he once went by another name, although that name is lost to history. He was the greatest warrior of the Hidebark tribe to the East. His brute strength and massive size put him on the path of the warrior at a young age and by the time he was an adult he had become the most feared man in his tribe. He was their defender, and the neighboring tribes learned to avoid Hidebark territory.
When the Legion first arrived, they quickly discovered that any soldier who entered Hidebark lands would be slaughtered by a giant swordsman who left behind a trail of bodies cleaved by a massive blade. The Legion named this unseen terror “Lanius” the Latin word for butcher.
There are very few tales of the Hidebarks that do not center around Lanius. A clan of savages whose only remarkable feat is that they survived for two hundred years after the bombs fell. As Lanius grew to manhood, the tribe in turn grew to depend on him too much. With such a terrifying champion to fight their battles for them, the Hidebarks became soft and weak over time. Their chieftains needed neither wisdom, nor might to flourish, so long as Lanius was there to protect them.
When the Legion arrived looking for new tribes to enslave, the chieftain of the Hidebarks feared that this was a threat even Lanius could not defeat, and the tribesmen chose to surrender to Caesar, rather than face death in battle.
It was a weakling’s gamble that gained them nothing. Although Caesar accepted their surrender, Lanius considered it a betrayal that the leaders of his tribe would prefer the many deaths of a coward over a single valiant moment on the battlefield. He killed them himself as the Legion watched.
Although Lanius was capable of bringing down sixteen men single-handedly, he barely survived. His strength impressed Caesar, and he was offered a place of honor in the Legion. With his respect for his own tribe gone, he accepted on the condition that he be allowed to exterminate the remaining warriors of the Hidebarks.
The history and identity of the clan has been erased by the Legion, and they are now known only as one of 86 tribes that were “United” by Caesar. A footnote in a scroll lying at the bottom of a chest in Caesar’s tent. The women of the Hidebarks have been scattered throughout the Legion as slaves, and the boys are now grown into soldiers of the Legion. The men of the Hidebark clan? Only one remains. Lanius, The Monster of the East.
Lanius has no love for the Legion. They employ deceit and trickery when assimilating new tribes, and Lanius is a man of very direct methods. He is loyal to Caesar himself though, and values the opportunity to prove his honor with each new tribe that he conquers in Caesar’s name. Since he joined the Legion, he has led them to victories against 19 other tribes, and the NCR would be fools to think that Lanius won’t lead the charge at the next battle for Hoover Damn.
Lanius wears a suit of armor crafted by the finest blacksmiths in Caesar’s army. It isn’t powered by a microfusion pack like the Brotherhood’s power armor. No, Lanius carries the full weight of that metal himself. No hydraulics, no gadgets, just a man fueled by a lust for battle.
He wields The Blade of the East. A few of the super mutants took to tearing the bumpers off pre-war cars, and hammering them into sword blades. That’s fine for a giant gray beast hopped up on Stealth Boy rad, but a man like Lanius needs a more refined weapon. The legion forged for him a massive sword with old-world craftsmanship that is every bit as devastating as modern tech – when in the right hands. Lanius can cut an armored Ranger in half with one blow, and knock a supermutant right off its feet. Legion frumentarii even claim that he can run it straight through a Brotherhood of Steel paladin in full power armor.
When Lanius killed the leaders of his tribe, his face was disfigured in the fight – or at least that’s what some in the Legion say. He never appears without his helmet, and his personal servants are all blind, so there’s no telling what the Legion is hiding behind the mask. That, of course, is Caesar’s goal – to make his new general an enigma. Something made all the more fearsome by the mere fact that it is unseen.
On very rare occasions, people will escape the Legion, and there are a few former members who have seen Lanius in person and are willing to speak of him openly. A former Frumentari named Ulysses will talk about Lanius to those who have earned the honor of conversing with him. Maybe he’s a little overly optimistic, but he thinks that The Monster of the East can be reasoned with. That the next battle between East and West could end with Lanius peacefully parting ways with the NCR’s envoy. An unlikely scenario unless the NCR can find a very persuasive representative.
Ulysses also met Joshua Graham. Against all odds, Graham was resilient enough to survive being set on fire and thrown into the Grand Canyon. After crawling out of the canyon, he traveled East to Utah and lived among the people of his homeland, New Canaan. They were a people of faith – still worshipped one of the Old World gods from before the war, and their ancestors kept that faith alive.
Among the New Canaanites he began the process of atoning for the atrocities he committed as Malpais Legate. They helped Graham recover from his injuries, and his sins were absolved in their eyes, although he would forever bear his burn scars. He might have been content to stay there for the rest of his life, living in peace but rumors of “The Burned Man” reached back to Caesar, and he couldn’t rest knowing that a potentially dangerous enemy was still kicking.
The New Canaanites were soon wiped out by a band of tribals called the White Legs. Ulysses had a hand in that, back when he was still working for the Legion. Neither man seems to hold a grudge over the incident, although it’s probably best to keep clear if they ever meet again.
The White Legs had been sent by the Legion to kill Graham, but that man has a fire burning inside him that just won’t go out. Again he survived, and The Burned Man now lives among the tribals in Zion Canyon. There tries to use his knowledge of war to bring peace among the tribes, a well-intended effort, but a reminder of his old life as a ruthless killer.
The Monster of the East and The Burned Man are alike in many ways. Myths that outshine the men beneath their masks. Both are forever scarred by their association with Caesar. Yet Graham has learned to wear his scars with humility, a constant reminder of the monster that he was, while Lanius is unable to see the monster that he has become. Until he does, he will remain a valuable tool for Caesar, and a force of destruction in the wasteland.
The Legion was built by men of ambition, but their origins were that of humility and service. It’s hard to believe the Legion’s founders had their start in an organization that works tirelessly to preserve light and knowledge in a world that is savage by nature.
But that- is a story for another day…