Previously we took a look at the enigmatic Commander Farsight, this time let’s take a look at what we know about an even more mysterious figure; Cypher.
From the start we have been given very little information about the mysterious Cypher, indeed his very nature as a Fallen Dark Angel and enemy of the Imperium is something that has been at times cast in doubt. What little we have learned for certain about him makes it all but certain that he is one of the Fallen, and indeed he seems to hold a place of particular enmity for the various chapters of the Unforgiven, and it has been suggested that his mere presence seems to draw other Fallen to him. His appearance is unmistakable and perhaps suggestive, he is an Astartes warrior clad in an ancient mark of power armour, shrouded and hooded at all times, he bears two pistols of magnificent make and a great and ornamented sword at his back that he has never been seen to use in battle.
Of his origins we have recently learned some tantalizing facts, perhaps most notably that his “name” Cypher is not a name at all, but a title. The position of Lord Cypher was one of the most important officers in The Order, the Knightly organization once lead by Lion El’ Jonson and his companion Luthor. The office of Lord Cypher had the associated duties of maintaining the secrets and traditions of The Order, and as a gesture of symbolic import he relinquished his name and all records of it were abolished, from thence forth he would be known only by the title of Cypher. The origins of the last known Lord Cypher, the man who held that office at the time of the Heresy, are themselves shrouded in mystery. From what little can be learned he was once the newest and youngest member of the Knights of Lupus, among the last of the Calibanite Knightly Orders to yield to the Lion in his unification efforts. This order was itself unusual in that it sought to preserve the Great Beasts of Caliban, monstrous creatures that stalked the great forests of Caliban and against which the Knightly Orders were sworn to defend. The Knights of Lupus saw in the Lion’s purge of them the loss of the Knight’s purpose, and the loss of Caliban’s very identity, seeing in the Lion’s unification efforts not hope, but rather a threat to their very way of life and the abomination of one Knightly order waging all out war upon its fellows. How this young Knight survived the complete annihilation of his order as decreed by Jonson and Luthor, and how he was so quickly was made an Astartes and rose to so important a position in The Order is also unclear. One thing however does seem likely, that this Knight is in fact the same mysterious Cypher who continues to elude the Dark Angels and their Successors. He is described as a young Astartes, constantly shrouded in a hood and bearing two pistols of the most exquisite craftsmanship. What is more, he seemed by then to be perhaps the very closest counselor to the by then disgraced Luthor, and to be able to provide him with and extraordinary depth of knowledge in matters of the most obscure and shadowy nature.
Whatever his origins might be, it is clear that Cypher has not been idle during the Age of the Imperium, and he has been sighted in countless sectors in every Segmentum over the last 10,000 years. The precise nature and intention of his actions upon each appearance has varied, but have virtually always had disruptive effects on all around him. What is more, other Fallen invariably gather about him, though whether he calls them, or they are drawn inexplicably to him is unclear. His actions have not been limited to ones involving the Imperium, and on the dead world of Cthelmax an Explorator team and their guardians observed a fierce battle between mysterious dark armoured Astartes lead by a figure of preternatural skill wielding a pair of pistols and a group of Necrons lead by a being that matched the description of the Deceiver. The leader of the mysterious warriors was seen to stab the golden C’Tan with an unusual blade which its body seemingly absorbed before the battle was hidden from view by an inexplicable shroud of darkness, and both combatant parties vanished.
It also seems virtually certain that Cypher has on more than one occasion used the pseudonym or title of “the Voice of the Emperor.” In this guise he is invariably a potent demagogue and agitator, though it is interesting to note that he seems to avoid overtly and literally anti-imperial messages, rather he acts as a prophet of doom and calamity, stirring the populous to extremes of piety or heresy as was the case during the months leading up to the 13th Black Crusade. In another case he has used this moniker when acting as the ruler of entire empire of xenos in the Veiled Region. In this case the Voice was brought low by the combined efforts of the Black Templars and the Dark Angels who managed to capture the Voice himself, a warrior in the most ancient of black and unadorned power armour. He was brought aboard the strike cruiser Ophidium Gulf. However, they were forced to yield up their prisoner to the Dark Angels under threat of force, and the Ophidium Gulf never reached its next port, while the cell containing the prisoner was found to be empty when the Dark Angels returned to The Rock.
Many theories have been advanced about what Cypher’s goals might be, and tantalizing hints have been offered by the suggestion that his sightings have drawn ever closer to Holy Terra itself. Some believe that he bears the broken Lion Sword of the Dark Angels Primarch, and seeks to bear it before the Emperor himself and have it remade, earning forgiveness for the Fallen in an act of symbolic penance. Others believe that he in fact carries the Blade of Luthor, and seeks to slay the Emperor in a final act of vengeance for an age long past. Some believe that he has sought for thousands of years to destabilize the Imperium through his actions, others that he has in fact secretly manipulated events to avoid greater cataclysm by drawing the eye of the Empire to emergent threats.
Whatever his goals might be, to my mind one interesting connection might be made based on his origins, and his mysterious ability to move about and escape the most desperate of situations with little apparent problem. It has been said more than once that it seems as if he is being watched over and protected by some Power. While hardly a wholly original idea, I cannot help but draw the connection between this “power” and the mysterious Watchers in the Dark. The Watchers have demonstrated that they are very adept at spiriting away those they choose, right out from under the noses of some of the most potent individuals and organizations, and their manipulations have been described as accompanied by shadows or darkness as has at least one of Cyphers vanishing acts. Furthermore, in his escape from the destruction of the Knights of Lupus, the youth who would most likely become Cypher might well have been forced to wander in the wilds of Caliban’s north, where the Watchers had been encountered by others before. While merely circumstantial, these facts combine to paint a dim picture of Cypher. If indeed he is protected by the Watchers, then it seems to suggest that his goals are not in league with Chaos, as the Watchers have made their opposition to that force very clear.
Codex: Dark Angels
Codex: Black Templars
Codex: Eye of Terror
Descent of Angels
White Dwarf Magazine
What do you think old Cypher is up to? Do you know of any other interesting stories about his actions, or theories about his purpose? Personally, I suspect that we have only begun to scratch the surface of this character and that, far from simply clarifying him, the inevitable further revelations of the Horus Heresy series which have given us new information on him will contain many more twists and turns before (and if) we ever come to the truth about this character.
If you have a favorite corner of the 40k lore that would like to see featured, or just a lore question you think would interest the community, let me know, you can even PM me on the forum if you like. New ideas are always welcome.