Rhulk, Disciple of the Witness
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Rhulk, Disciple of the Witness is the first of the Disciples: extraordinarily powerful Darkness-wielding entities who collectively follow and do the bidding of The Witness. Hailing from the planet Lubrae, he played a prominent role in the creation of the Hive by subjugating the Worms into servitude of the Witness and then facilitating their production in Savathûn's Throne World, all while keeping tabs on the Witch Queen herself from his own Pyramid.
After Savathûn's rebirth in the Light, he was imprisoned within his own Pyramid by a curse of Light placed by the Witch Queen. However, Rhulk would retaliate by bringing the Scorn into her throne world and subsequently taking command of them. He is the final boss of the Vow of the Disciple Raid, where he ultimately met his demise at the hands of Guardians.
Rhulk was born to his father Rhelik and mother Vrhuna on the planet Lubrae, a civilization that had been blessed by the Traveler but fell into a military dictatorship after it left. Rhulk lived with his clan of Wanderers in the Wildlands outside of the sole city on the planet that was controlled by The Regime. The Wanderer clans were subject to frequent dangers, including monstrous wildlife that emerged under the Umbral Sun at night and the Stalkers sent by the Regime to hunt and kill the Wanderers who rejected the city's ways. When he was young, Rhulk witnessed his father kill Stalkers who threatened the clan with a brutality fueled by a bloodlust that Rhulk also felt. He confided in his father about their shared rage and was taught to hate the Regime by him, but when the rest of their clan began to shun Rhelik for his brutality he softened, much to Rhulk's disappointment. His father attempted to teach him patience by making Rhulk watch as other Wanderers were killed by a hunting party of Stalkers and holding him back when Rhulk attempted to intervene. Rhulk was enraged and confused by his father's inaction and believed he was betraying his principles and vows to bring down the Regime.
Although the clan only tried to help others in need of assistance and care for the land, the Stalkers continued to pursue them. During one battle several members of the clan were killed, including Fhent and one of Rhulk's clan-uncles. Rhulk fought back against the Stalkers and killed several of them, claiming their supplies and equipment as his own, including a Glaive and Sapphiric Converter. However, Rhelik was captured during the raid by the Stalkers and the rest of the clan, including Rhulk's mother Vrhuna, looked upon him with only concern and fear due to his brutality during the fight. Frustrated by what he perceived as their weakness, that night as the clan danced and sang in tribute to their survival and in honor of the dead, Rhulk ripped apart a pet Yhadt that belonged to some of the clan's children. The clan was horrified, and Rhulk felt powerful in that moment but feared that made him a monster.
A year later, Rhulk was forced to live as an exile from his clan due to his bloodlust being viewed as a liability. While the clan had not been attacked again since that night, Rhulk stalked the area around the artificial Abyss which separated the Wildlands from the Regime's city. He hunted the Stalkers with his new weapon and tools seeking any sign of his father in the hopes of rescuing him and bringing him back alive to the clan. He named his glaive Rheliksward in honor of his mission. Although he killed many Stalkers over that year, he found no sign of his father and felt lost without Rhelik's guidance. His search came to an end when he encountered Rhelik dressed in a Stalker's uniform and was captured by other Stalkers under his command. Infuriated at his father's defection to the Regime, Rhulk believed him to be a coward who sought only survival instead of sticking by his principles.
Rhulk was put on trial in the city for his alleged crimes against the Regime but was spared when Rhelik testified on his behalf and requested that he instead be made to serve as one of the city's Stalkers. This only served to further infuriate Rhulk as he wondered if his father truly cared about their clan and family or if he was only an opportunist who would do or say anything he needed to in order to survive. He swore to himself that he would ensure that Rhelik would die by his hand. However, despite his hatred for his father, Rhulk began to learn more about the city Lubreans and their philosophies. Although he found the government strict in its laws and with power concentrated in the hands of a few, the overcrowded city still had a higher standard of living and comfort than the Wanderers who faced terrible dangers aside from the Stalkers in the Wildlands. He found that the Regime was also honest in its intentions, unlike his father, and his bloodlust was encouraged amongst the Stalkers. They returned his glaive to Rhulk as well, which he renamed to Rheliksbane and took pleasure in how that unnerved his father.
With this new information, Rhulk began to reconsider the conflict between the Regime and Wanderers and realized that both sides' hands were stained with blood, not just the Regime's as his father had always taught him. Rhelik eventually confessed to Rhulk that he was not truly loyal to the Regime. Infuriated by his father's continued lies, the two fought, but Rhelik managed to escape from Rhulk and the City. Pursuing his father, Rhulk tracked him to their clan's last refuge in the Wildlands. He found it abandoned but with numerous important personal items and other supplies left behind. Surmising that the clan had fled quickly after his father's return, Rhulk believed that they would seek shelter near the Abyss.
Rhulk found his former clan hiding near the Abyss, with Rhelik seemingly planning on smuggling the surviving Wanderers into the city through nearby tunnels. Emerging from the forest to confront them, Rhulk noticed that many familiar faces were no longer amongst the clan, although his father, mother Vrhuna, and clan-mother Kheesa remained alive. His father claimed that they had been expecting Rhulk to join them, and the Stalker was torn between killing them and helping them find a new home. Rhelik and Vrhuna both apologized for their wrongs against Rhulk and expressed their love for him. Vrhuna apologized for exiling him, while Rhelik expressed his regret for indoctrinating him into hating the Regime and claimed that all he wanted now was for their clan to live in peace and safety. Rhulk believed he could see the honesty in his eyes and thought that perhaps that was the path to follow, allowing his parents to embrace and comfort him. However, they took that opportunity to shove Rhulk backward into the Abyss. As he fell, Rhulk cursed his naiveté and looked at the faces of his clan, which no longer held regret but only relief at Rhulk's presumed end.
Rhulk survived his fall into the depths of the Abyss, although he was badly wounded by the drop. Surprised by his own survival and by the fact the supposedly endless Abyss had a bottom, Rhulk took in his surroundings and found himself in a swampy ruin filled with darkness. He heard creatures approaching, but as they closed in on him Rhulk heard a voice declaring him unbroken. His wounds healed and he watched a being filled with dark luster approach, melting the encroaching beasts away with its very presence. The being declared that it saw Rhulk's own dark luster and the Lubraean questioned what the being was and how it granted him life. The being declared itself an opportunity and told Rhulk that he was to be and cause ruin. As the voice faded Rhulk saw its dark luster remain behind and noted how similar it was to that of the Umbral Sun. Rheliksbane, which had been sundered in his fall, was repaired as well by the being and enhanced with its energy. Glancing upward, Rhulk saw the Abyssal Bridge that connected the city to the Wildlands and knew his clan had likely made its way into the city by then. Taking with him the dark luster that remained, Rhulk used his glaive to begin climbing the walls of the Abyss back to the surface, determined that this time he would not show weakness and waver from his desires.
Upon reaching the city, Rhulk hunted down his clan and slaughtered them all, including his mother and father, whom he decapitated. He spared not even the children as the citizens of the city watched in horror of his butchery. The forces of the Regime were horrified by the slaughter in the streets of the city and imprisoned Rhulk, stripping him of his glaive and calling for his execution. However, the dark being assisted Rhulk once more in being freed of his chains and he recovered his glaive, now calling it Lubrae's Ruin, and set out to end his people entirely for their abandonment of him. To do so, he utilized the gifts of the Traveler against his people by harnessing the dark luster to reverse the mechanisms of a machine that drew energy from the Sapphiric Sun to power the city. Doing so destroyed the star and began cracking Lubrae apart. Rhulk was the last one alive, and as he stared into the Abyss he reflected in horror upon what he had done. Dropping the glaive and dark luster he had harnessed, Rhulk dropped himself into the now truly endless Abyss to finish the extinction of his species.
However, Rhulk once again did not perish by his fall into the Abyss. Instead, he awoke in a state of confusion as the dark being from before spoke to him. Rhulk despaired in his actions and lamented the destruction of Lubrae, torn between blaming himself and the dark being for driving him to his actions. He declared he had been loved and cared for, but the voice questioned who cared for him now. Rhulk answered that there were none left to do so. The voice asked if he still desired to be cared for, but Rhulk could only say he once did. Then the being questioned if he had returned that care, which Rhulk had no answer to. The being then began showing him visions from his past, including when he had first felt disappointment in his father for not fighting the Stalkers, and claimed that he had never been able to return them. Rhulk told the being it had its answer then, but it told him that the answer was not for it, but for Rhulk to embrace.
The being continued to question Rhulk about his past, and Rhulk told it of his parents and clan, whom he dismissed as traitors whom he should have known would betray him as well. As more scenes from his past played out before him, the being claimed it saw a child seeking validation while suffering great loss. It then asked about the shimmering orb that had visited his people, but Rhulk told it that had been long before his time and had left the Lubrae with a divided society in its wake. The being showed him an image of the Traveler, which Rhulk recognized as the shimmering orb from the stories, and he blamed it for providing hope but leaving behind power in the hands of those who desired it but lacked an understanding of what to do with the gifts given. The being forced Rhulk to see once more what he had done to those with that power, and he again lamented his destruction of Lubrae, but the being reassured him he had only done what was needed.
Rhulk was next shown when his clan became fearful of his brutality. The being accused his clan of being disrespectful of his power, while Rhulk thought them weak, although the being noted that he had protected them anyway. As they viewed the rituals around surviving attacks and remembering the dead, Rhulk claimed that loss meant little to the Wanderers due to how often clan members died. The being questioned if he was sure it was not just him who did not feel loss, causing Rhulk to lash out and claim the being did not know what it was talking about. As he watched his younger self rip apart the Yhadt, Rhulk wondered why the being was showing him all this. It claimed that having already experienced it he should have no issue seeing it once more before claiming that Rhulk had always known what he was. Rhulk declared he had known he was a monster then just as he knew it now, however, the being corrected him and claimed he was not a monster but a savior.
After viewing Rhulk being captured by the Regime and his father's betrayal, he was questioned by the being about why he blamed his father instead of the Regime. Rhulk explained that he thought the Regime brutal but honest in its goals in comparison is his lying and cowardly father. The being was fascinated by his answer and how honesty meant everything to Rhulk. It questioned why even then he would still follow the Regime that had killed so many Wanderers and enslaved him, but Rhulk corrected the entity and claimed that the Regime had freed him to be who he always wanted to be. As they grew closer to his family betraying him, Rhulk asked the entity to stop making him relive his past. The entity asked why he would not want to relive his greatest moments. Rhulk protested that great moments usually ended in triumph and not genocide before noting none of this mattered in the end. The being told him this was not the end and that Rhulk was undergoing a metamorphosis that required him to understand and cut away all the things that made him weak and leave behind only what was strong. It explained that it had recreated his world around them to see those weaknesses, like love and regret, and to understand that Rhulk needed now to look back with pride on what he had done as it had led him to them. Rhulk questioned at last what the entity was, and it answered that it was his salvation, his judgment, and soon his Witness.
They watched as Rhulk began his pursuit of his father and clan to the Abyss, and Rhulk reflected that his father had feared him and his bloodlust, which Rhulk decided was a weakness. As they reached his massacre of the clan, Rhulk protested and demanded not to be made to relive this moment. He denounced it all as madness and screamed in horror as he saw Lubrae once more destroyed by his hand. Reaching the end where he plunged into the Abyss, Rhulk was asked by the Witness what he felt now, devoid of family, the Regime, and Lubrae, held in the embrace of the Darkness. Opening his eyes, Rhulk crawled out of a black solution that had been holding him throughout this conversation. Before him, he picked up Lubrae's Ruin and the luster given to him by the Witness, who once more asked him what he felt, to which Rhulk responded "relief".
Uun and the Ahslid
Reborn as the First Disciple, Rhulk was the Witness' embodiment of wrath; bringing destruction through fire and glaive and leading Pyramids of the Black Fleet to wipe the races uplifted by the Traveler and then using the Upended to burn all traces of their passing. After eons of supplication, however, Rhulk would find himself bereft of purpose and fulfillment in his duty, until the Witness endowed him with the task of subjugating a mighty race into their servitude: that being of the Ahslid into their service. The Witness stated to Rhulk that this opportunity would test his worth in enlightening the Ahslid with the same lessons of irreverence the latter learned from his master, to bring the insectoid race to the service of the Witness. However, Rhulk is tasked to do so without revealing his presence to the Ahsild. Feeling castrated of his favor, Rhulk took the Witness' message to heart and changed his warmongering approach to one of unseen guidance and outreaching subterfuge.
At first, Rhulk stalked the race of Ahslid for fourteen solar years and offered every warrior he met opportunity to prove their worth, only for them to cower in fear and be bled at the tip of his glaive. The disciple would eventually comprehend his master's commandment as a lesson in insight and his own folly of spilling their blood blindly by himself. Instead, the disciple would cull key members of the race in secret and his violence begat fear and paranoia amongst the Ahslid, creating a generation of their kin that would closely follow Rhulk's philosophies.
In the span of years, the Lubrean fosters this new generation by acting as their unseen guide; presenting opportunity to families lacking it and inducing suffering to those unsullied of it. Amongst the new brood was the youngest foundling Rhulk named Uun, whom the disciple took a particular interest in after their first kill. The Subjugator, seeing himself in the young Ahslid, would uncharacteristically spare him of ostracization from his peers and leave him to grow as a warrior. This experience would cause Rhulk to question the Witness' hand in shaping his own destiny.
Over time, the Ahslid became a race now divided between themselves and gripped by paranoia wary of the disciple's machinations. Now uplifted by Rhulk's guidance and teachings, they build weapons of massive destruction that could destroy their world. Only Uun, now cast in doubt of himself, remains disappointed by Rhulk as the latter casts him from his succor and into obscurity. At the same time, Rhulk had withheld teaching the insectoid race of irrelevance: the same lesson he himself learned from Lubrae's destruction. Rhulk is left to brood over his inability to teach the Ahslid the most challenging lesson he knew, and thus finds himself unworthy of emulating his idol.
Rhulk ultimately failed in his task, underestimating the Ahslid's capability for destruction which drove them to wipe out all life on their world in atomic fire. Only Uun, whom he once shunned of weakness, would be left tenaciously alive to face the disciple as both his greatest failure and biggest pride. The Ahslid's attempt to challenge Rhulk were ultimately futile, which left Uun prostrating on the floor near death and begging for his name. In a moment of weakness, Rhulk whispers his name to the dying Uun moments before his passing. Despite having failed his task of uplifting the Ahslid, Rhulk would only appreciate his master's lesson.
Serving as the Witness' herald, Rhulk sought the paracausal powers of the Worms as pawns for their plans to bring about the Final Shape, which the Worm Gods were imprisoned far beneath the seas of Fundament. He swam deep into the depths of the oceans, where he was met with the Leviathan acting as the warden of their prison. Despite its warnings to the disciple to turn from Darkness, Rhulk defiantly rebukes the creature before he grievously injures it by removing one of its enormous ribs within a millisecond. Rhulk held the Leviathan's rib in one hand and pushed aside its maimed body with the other, proclaiming that he "rise" instead of "drown" with the Deep. The wounded Leviathan could not bare to look into Rhulk's gaze as its stared into the depths below. Instead, the disciple places the rib beneath the beast's skull and raised it level to meet his before addressing it directly: proclaiming that the Worms it kept beneath belonged to neither it nor the Traveler, but to his Witness only. Rhulk then proceeds to drop the discarded rib into the Worm Gods' dwelling with force, uplifting the sediment of the seabed into a dense cloud from which he emerged before his captive audience.
Upon finding the Worm Gods at the deepest trenches of the planet, Xita, the Nurturing Worm greets the Lubrean disciple only for him to disrespectfully scold her for taking him for a fool manipulatable by her psychic machinations. As he fully knew of the Worms' plight and hunger from eons of their imprisonment, Rhulk offers the Worm mother a trade: the survival of her children in exchange for their eternal servitude to the Witness. He also promises sustenance for them in the form of the primitive ancestors of the Krill on Fundament's surface, to be given new purpose as fodder for her spawn to feed upon. Rhulk could only snark as the Worm mother's submission for mercy; holding the rib out for her to grasp with her jaws as they both swam upward from their underwater prison, dragging Xita in tow towards the surface and into her new prison aboard his Pyramid. Rhulk would therefore became respectfully known as the Subjugator to the Worms for his indomitable might and strength.
With the Nuturing Worm kept in his grasp, it is revealed that Rhulk had his own selfish desire for the Worms' paracausal power to prove himself the Witness' equal. Instead he would spend eons constantly debating with his god over his attempts to reach above his intended station, much to his own sense of self-loathing and inadequacy. Over time, the Subjugator created a strain of miniature Worms by taking living segments of Xita in which they could be implanted into a host. He would set these so called "larvae" adrift on Fundament's ocean, knowing full well they would reach the shores of the Osmium Court.
Soon as Rhulk had planned, one of the Worm larvae reached its intended target: the King of the Osmium Court. The white larvae spoke to the king of a cataclysm that would result from a Syzygy of Fundament's fifty-two moons, though no such danger actually existed. However, his mind would prove to be too feeble for the whispers of the Witness and thus drove him to insanity and senility. From above, Rhulk and the Witness both had their gaze upon the Osmium Court's fall as they observed the escape of the king's surviving heirs: Aurash, Sathona, and Xi Ro. Knowing that the Traveler had hid amongst numerous moons of Fundament ready to claim the trio for the Light, the Witness choose to claim them first instead with Sathona being the most promising of the three. Feeding into her fear and pride, the Witness manipulates her desperation into seeking out the remaining Worm Gods down to the core of Fundament, which ultimately led to the creation of the Hive and the apotheosis of Savathûn and her siblings into godhood. Rhulk could only wince in envy at his master's suggestion that the future Witch Queen could one day stand alongside him as a fellow disciple.
Savathûn's Throne World
At some point, Rhulk was ordered to station his Pyramid in Savathûn's Throne World, assisting Savathûn, the Witch Queen in the production of Worms for her brood. Rhulk was displeased with this assignment, taking an immediate dislike to Savathûn and privately wondering whether he was being punished for his failure with the Ahslid.
After Savathûn's rebirth in the Light, Rhulk would be trapped within his Sunken Pyramid, blocked off from the rest of the realm thanks to her usage of the Wellspring. During his imprisonment, one of the Ghosts had drifted into the Pyramid and encountered Rhulk. After a while of talking with it, the Ghost would possessed by someone (presumably the Traveler) and destroyed it in an explosion of Light before Rhulk could to anything to it.
After Savathûn's defeat by the hands of The Guardian, who was attempting to free the Traveler, along with numerous raids on the Wellspring by both the Guardians and the Scorn, the spell that once trapped Rhulk would begin to fade. Eventually, the spell would break as the Guardians attempted to investigate the sunken Pyramid and were greeted by the Disciple, who invited the fireteam to enter. The Guardians were opposed by both Scorn and Taken forces marshalled by Rhulk, as they journeyed through the Pyramid, encountering Rhulk's vast collection of museum artifacts, including the rib he took from the Leviathan of Fundament, and The Caretaker, a Scorn Abomination Rhulk had empowered with technology from the Pyramid to grant it incredible power. After they reached him, he would see no use in them anymore and sought to eliminate them, resulting in a climactic battle. Though it was not an easy task, they would finally bring down and kill the Disciple, with Rhulk's last words asking the Witness for forgiveness.
As he died, Rhulk's body was contorted into what appeared to be a gnarled, leafless tree. The significance of this transformation is yet unknown.
For an in-depth description of the battle against Rhulk in the Vow of the Disciple raid, see Dominion
As a Raid boss, Rhulk requires multiple steps in order for the fireteam to even damage him, and can require multiple attempts of this cycle before being defeated. As the players first approach the Upended, Rhulk will appear out of a giant resonant crystal, barring their way and pushing them back with his resonant barrier. In this first section, he will start the battle by creating a large resonant crystal, which will inflict Pervading Darkness upon the Guardians. After it is destroyed, he will be invulnerable, and hover around the arena, summoning Scorn and Taken reinforcements, taunting the Guardians, as well as launching powerful blasts of force, which the players will have to exploit to eliminate his barrier. After the barrier is exhausted, Rhulk will move to the core of the Upended, starting the second phase.
In this phase, the Disciple will roam around the arena, and will use three attacks: a charge with his glaive, preceded by a wave telling the direction he'll go, a cross blast of force that will inflict Pervading Darkness, and a short ranged kick to punish players that stand too close. The fireteam will have to exploit the first two attacks to expose four weak spots on his shoulders and hips, without staying too close to him, while also minding the occasional Shadow Thralls that spawn on the platform. Once all four weak spots are destroyed, Rhulk will become vulnerable.
In this phase, the Disciple's body will blacken, he will pull out his glaive, and will assume a hunched position. He can now take damage, with his weak spots being his head and the four previous weak spots that had to be broken, but will continue to pursue the players, attacking and pushing them with his glaive, charging, and launching force beams, even in combination with one another. The Guardians should try to damage him as much as possible during this window. After a while, Rhulk will become invulnerable again, and kneel down for a few seconds, restoring his barrier and pushing off any Guardians still on his platform, possibly to their deaths. He will then return to the outside of the Upended, and the whole process must be repeated. If he reaches the last tenth or so of his health, he will not stop fighting, and instead will inexorably apply Pervading Darkness to the fireteam. The Guardians will have limited time to damage him before the darkness kills them all. Surpassing this last stand will exhaust Rhulk's options, and he will finally capitulate.
Personality and traits
Rhulk is completely devoted to the Witness and despises the Guardians for their usage of Darkness. He is egotistical and arrogant, thinking he is above all who oppose him and even taunts the Guardians while fighting them. It seems that while in the Pyramid, he befriended the worm familiars and the Worm God, being the one who would have to create the worms for Savathûn's Brood. He seems to like experimenting with the worm familiars as well, as in the Acquisition section of the raid, one can see frozen Scorn in containers with worms attached to them. However, these experiments most likely failed. Despite befriending the Worm Familiars, Rhulk seemed to have a low opinion of the Hive, disliking being effectively exiled to Savathûn's Throne World, with Fynch humorously comparing it to babysitting Savathûn, whom Rhulk distrusted greatly.
Even as a young warrior, Rhulk showed disturbing signs of bloodlust and callous brutality, which ultimately caused his own clan and family to fear him. As a Disciple, he was praised by the Witness for these qualities, as they better enabled him to follow the tenets of the Darkness. Most notably and uniquely, Rhulk values honesty immensely, to the point that it meant everything to him, both as a Lubraean and as a Disciple. So much so, in fact, that he could not understand why the military regime on Lubrae was able to be honest about their shortcomings and misdeeds, while his parents had to lie to him about their motivations and actions.
Despite his skills as a warrior, Rhulk appeared to lack the ability to strategically outwit his opponents or plan for future threats, as it was clear he valued only strength and not cunning. Though Rhulk fully expected Savathûn would betray the Witness somehow, and made it clear that if she made any wrong move, he would use the Upended to obliterate her throne world. However, when the betrayal came and Savathûn claimed the Light, not only was he caught flat-footed and trapped inside his own Pyramid, she even found a way to shut off the Upended, leaving Rhulk a completely powerless prisoner until she died. Furthermore, he couldn't foresee the Guardian Raid team using the energies of his own Pyramid against him, which ultimately led to his demise.
List of appearances