- "You apes joined the Legion to die and I am going to take you where you can die!"
- —Staff Sergeant Drill to his legionnaires.
Lord Solar: "Why did you join the Legion, Guardsman?"
Legionnaire: "Sir! to forget, sir!"
Lord Solar: "Forget what, Guardsman?"
Legionnaire: "I don't know, sir! I've forgotten!"
The Legio Nemones is a formation of the Imperial Guard theoretically recruiting from the planets of the Leonidas sub-Sector Occident Prime but recieving volunteers from all over the Imperium. Men and women join the Legion to forget and be forgotten and to die in the service of the Emperor. It is a refuge for criminals and heretics desperate to atone but equally desperate to avoid Imperial justice, and traumatized individuals of various kinds who just want to forget.
This unusual military organzation was established in 831.M39 by Leonidas Severus Smyth, the then governor of the Leonidas sub-Sector in the wake of the Messenian Mutiny, a shameful episode during the four century long struggle of the Third Hell Crusade which sub-Sector Leonidas and its governors have yet to forget or forgive..
By the eighth century of the 39th millenia the military forces of Occident Prime Sector had been fighting Chaos incursions from the Hellgates for over three centuries and were close to exhaustion. The agri-planet of Messene was the designated headquarters of the Messenian Army Group comprising several hundred regiments from all over Occident Prime under the command of Lord General Novus Leonidianus Jons a cousin Governor Smyth. Casualties had been high and successes few for the last few decades of the seemingly endless campaign and trooper moral was dangerously low. The third assault on the Axona system cannot be called a complete failure as the seven moons of the outer gas giant were taken and the void station serving as the Chaos forces' main spaceport was destroyed. Unfortunately the inner worlds remained in enemy hands and the Imperial forces were repulsed with heavy losses. This reverse seems to have been the last straw for many guardsmen. Tens of thousands abandoned the forward positions on the moons returning to Messene on hijacked troop carriers. Units on Messene refused orders to embark for the Axona satellites. Commissars and officers were imprisoned or killed by their men or went over to the mutineers.
The mutineers issued a list of compaints and demands mostly concerning the quality of their high command and the strategies and tactics of same. Governor Smyth and Lord General Jons called upon the Adeptus Astartes of the Hell Warder Chapters to put down this rebellion against their authority. To their astonishment and anger Knight Commander Darion Kambujis, the Anvilar Battle-Brother in over-all command of the front, all but sided with the mutineers removing Lord General Jons from command replacing him with an Achaemenid general officer who entirely revamped the organization and strategy of the Messenian Army Group. General Oxaris granted a blanket pardon excepting the mutinous officers, other ringleaders and those men who had committed murder a total of nearly 30 thousand guardsmen who were handed over to the sub-Sector governor for punishment.
Governor Smyth's initial outrage had cooled somewhat after the revelations of his cousin's errors of omission and commission but as he observed if incompetence was justifiable grounds for rebellion the Imperium was doomed. The mutineers had to be punished but given the losses suffered by the Imperial forces the mass execution of tens of thousands of experienced soldiers would have been a terrible waste. banishment to penal regiments was the obvious solution but Smyth gave it a unique twist.
The names and records of the mutineers were purged and the men dosed with Lethe, a carefully designed psychogenic drug that caused focal retrograde memory loss; long term memory and self-identity was blocked but skills and short term memory remain accessible. These forgetting and forgotten men were then organized into six brigades and sent back into battle. The results were surprising; it seemed having no past and no future not only allowed the men to focus entirely on the military problem at hand but kept moral high. The penal brigades proved not only extraordinarily successful but to have a knack for survival in the most desperate circumstances. Clearly this was a potentially valuable resource.
The 20 thousand or so surviving guardsmen were reorganized into the Legio Nemones. At first primary recruitment was from the military courts or the Arbites but the early commanders, regular Guards officers, were surprised by a steady and growing stream of volunteers wanting to forget and be forgotten.
- "The galaxy is full of a thousand, million horrors that would drive even the bravest man mad. There are sorrows so deep that not even the coldest psychopaths could be left unbroken. There is despair so all consuming, that it could swallow the galaxy in its emptyness. No, I am not surprised by the existence of the Legio Nemones, I am surprised that there live people outside it."
- —Idria Salaman, Obsidian Blades 2nd Captain.