40k Lore: Luther of Caliban – The Traitor of Angels



Is Luther of Caliban really a traitor of the Dark Angels, or what is the Lion that was to blame for their fall from grace?

They say history is written by the victors, but is that what really happened to the Dark Angels Legion when their planet Caliban was destroyed?

Via our friends at Lexicanum:

Luther was the man who discovered the Primarch Lion El’Jonson on the world of Caliban.




El’Jonson’s mentor, saviour, and friend, Luther discovered a young Lion El’Jonson in the forests of Caliban. He raised the Lion as if he were his own child, even giving him his name. Before the discovery of the Lion, Luther was the foremost hero of his times on Caliban. He presented him to The Order, the force of feudal knights on the planet who helped raise him. Together, Luther and the Lion battled rival knights and the ferocious beasts of Caliban until the coming of the Emperor and the Great Crusade. In honor of his past with the Lion, Luther was made the second in command of the Dark Angels. But while the two were close friends, deep down Luther began to resent the Lion for the fame and glory he won the Order and Dark Angels.

While crusading with Lion El’Jonson against the Sarosh Xenos, he discovered a bomb aboard the ship which would kill the Lion. Initially his jealousy encouraged him to leave it onboard and let the Lion die, however his better nature kicked in and he disabled it, with the help of the Librarian Zahariel, saving the Lion’s life. However somehow the Lion discovered his hesitation, and the two had a falling out. Luther was ultimately left to manage affairs on Caliban while the Lion waged the Great Crusade. Luther had to deal with a rebellion by the disgruntled nobility of Caliban who had their peasant farmers and lands confiscated by the Imperium. A cabal of Chaos Sorcerers also infiltrated Caliban to bring further instability, and Luther was made aware of Caliban’s possible Warp-infestation. Luther became convinced that Caliban would be destroyed by the Emperor as soon as this was discovered and became paranoid that the Lion had deliberately kept this from him as a death sentence. His superstitions were furthered when he learned that a cult of Terrans were in the process of a daemonic ritual, which was narrowly stopped by Zahariel, a librarian who Luther had grown fond of.

These factors ultimately led to Luther betraying the Lion, rallying many of the Dark Angels on Caliban to his cause and killing any dissidents. After attempting to utilize the Chaos Cultists own powers to his benefit, Luther seceded from the Imperium, claiming the Lion had betrayed them by leaving them on Caliban while the Great Crusade continued. Luther took to reading the books of an order who studied the Warp. He put what he learned into practice – a notable example occurred when the Librarian Israfael attacked him with a bolt of lightning, and it simply dissipated. However Astelan, an original member of the Dark Angels who was transported several millennia into the present when the Warp Storm tore Caliban apart, claims that it was the Lion who betrayed the Dark Angels, not Luther. His claim is considered heresy by Interrogator-Chaplain Boreas, and Commander Azrael has Astelan placed in a cell near Luther.


Regardless of the truth, when the Lion returned to Caliban after the Horus Heresy, Luther attacked his fleet. The Lion and Luther engaged in single combat. In this battle Lion El’Jonson wounded Luther but could not bring himself to kill his oldest and dearest friend. Luther, however, was merciless and sent a sorcerous blast straight towards Lion El’Jonson which mortally wounded the Primarch. At that moment, realizing how far he had fallen, Luther began to weep for what he had done to his friend, and the Dark Angels captured him and held him prisoner on the Rock. At this point, the Gods of Chaos scattered Luther’s forces, theFallen, through the warp. The intense battle, however, had made the planet unstable, and Caliban was destroyed.

Luther remains chained within the most secure cell of The Rock, guarded by Watchers in the Dark and his existence known only to the Supreme Grand Master of the Dark Angels Chapter, Commander Azrael, and those who held the rank before him. He is often used as an oracle to find the other Fallen. Azrael, like his predecessors, has attempted to make Luther repent for his crimes ten millennia earlier – but, like his predecessors, he has failed to do so.

Luther only continues to rant and rave, claiming that Lion El’Jonson will come and absolve the Fallen, and that the day of the Lion’s return is close at hand.

Learn More of The Fallen Dark Angels

So what is your verdict on Luther: Traitor or Savior?

  • Syrenjester

    Wow didn’t know that bit of lore of the Dark Angels, interesting read. Makes them even more dark and mysterious. Thank you!

  • Old zogwort

    Just purge them all just to be sure.

    • LordKrungharr

      I try but those Ravenwing bikers are tough to catch

      • Old zogwort

        Bring in the virus bombs.

        • Deathwing

          What exactly are you going to virus bomb? The Dark Angels and their successors are all fleet based chapters

          • Severius_Tolluck

            virus bombs can be used on ships too.

    • WellSpokenMan

      Let me guess, are you perhaps a Black Templars player?
      Even if the inquisition leadership felt this way, the Unforgiven chapters are prepared for this contingency. They would not go down easily. Aside from the blow to morale, trying to eradicate what is essentially a Space Marine legion would weaken the empire beyond acceptable levels.

  • 6Cobra

    Is that a hot beverage by Luther’s left hand? I guess the usual nutrient packs and stimm injections don’t cut it for him, compared to a hot cup of joe.

    • Deathwing

      Remember he was too old to be made a full on space marine. Genetic and cybernetic augmentation made him as close as the emperors biologists and tech priests could get him, but a true astrates he could never be.
      Its actually another nail in the coffin for him. he was “yet again made inferior to the lion” by not being able to be elevated to full astrates

  • CynicMarine

    Luther must have been the traitor, not the Lion. How else would Luther have gone toe to toe with a primarch, other than fuelled by Chaos?

    • nurglitch

      Plot armour. It’s something the Emperor gave the Primarchs, but as mentioned in one of the Knight Errant stories, Luther has a healthy dose of it as well. But for the Lion Luther would have been a great man.

      • Muninwing

        every time someone discussed Star Wars Vs Star Trek, the trekkies invoke plot armor as the reason they would win. it has to be more rare than people use it as.

        • nurglitch

          The Trekkies aren’t wrong – it’s not a universe where people die randomly, and everything is usually resolved by pressing a few buttons and some invocation of technobabble to restore the status quo. Star Wars, by contrast, practically requires that someone’s father or father-figure dies, that protagonists and antagonists are on equal ground, and that the protagonist can lose.

          • Muninwing

            but the protagonist loses only to come back stronger, a la the hero’s journey.

            what’s more… it really matters who is the protagonist. just because riker is on an away-team doesn’t mean he’s in the moral right or that he’s the protagonist of that particular story.

            i think they are used to being able to technobabble a solution out of nothing so much that they assume characters will make an amazing discovery that saves the day at the end… whereas when you put two protagonists head-to-head, both have the ability to do so.

            example: Luke might discover that the force has the power to block the amped-up shield-penetrating transporters that the federation savants suddenly discover… or an Imperial physicist may discover that tuning the ion cannons to different spectra completely overload the Enterprise’s shields and cause the system to explode.

            if you give plot armor to one, you give it to both. else, jabba would have had his men shoot the mysterious stranger that showed up and tried to mind-control them.

          • nurglitch

            Well duh. Hence the term “plot armour.” They’ll make their saving throws as and when the particular plot demands it.

          • Muninwing

            yeah. but the hero always gets the plot armor. so what about when there are two heroes?

          • nurglitch

            Well, if they’re in conflict then you have a story.

    • Marky

      Depends, he was a psycher and was a bespoke construction by the empras finest ginetic fiddler types.

  • euansmith

    How does two blokes having a set to, cause a planet to fall apart?

    • DJ860

      It was the space battle between the fleets I believe.

    • Me

      I was wondering the same thing. I mean, yes these guys are powerful, but it is not like they are Superman and Darkseid duking it out. Then I read DJ860s answer and it made more sense.

      • euansmith

        Even so, how does that work?

        Rival Fleet Admirals, “The cowards are hiding behind the planet! Track their probable location and OPEN FIRE!!!”

        Rival Fleet #2s, “But sire, that would involve shooting right through the planet?!”

        Rival Fleet Admirals, “That’s why they won’t be expecting it… cunning see..? OPEN FIRE!!!!”

        • Me

          True that… But then again, this is the same group of people who perform exterminatus on planets for misfiled paperwork. At least that what I read on the interwebz (BoLS specifically), and we all know that’s never wrong.

          Add to that the fact they have man-portable weapons that can rip apart the fabric of space, I would hate to see what they could do with the power of ships that make our biggest machines look like bite sized Twinkies.

        • Didn’t they pull that in the newest Captain Harlock movie?

        • Hedwerx
          • Red_Five_Standing_By

            Their artistic budget and talent has really skyrocketed since they released this video.

          • Hedwerx

            Yeah its a pretty good point though.

            ksss-shhhh “WE CAN’T BLOW UP THAT MOON TILL WE GET ROUND THAT PLANET” ksss-shhhh

            “But, my lord Vader, we have a weapon that blows up planets…”

            *Force choke*
            ksss–shhhh “ARE YOU CALLING ME AN IDIOT?” ksss-shhhh

          • Muninwing

            it was a gas giant… not really explode-able in that alderaan way, no telling what shooting it would do.

            probably wouldn’t get the intervening terrain out of line of sight.

          • Hedwerx

            Gas giants are basically a solid once you get deep enough. You could probably take out the moon with the resulting explosion. But I get your point. I had a argument once with an ex marine about why the rebels didn’t just conduct a black-ops on Jabbas palace to get Han back.

            It’s a kids film. It’s part of the plot. The end.

          • Muninwing

            great end reason there. the best there is.

            i always looked at it simply as “we want to shoot this. we don;t know what will happen if we shoot that before shooting this. we can wait a couple minutes because we don;t know they know how to blow us up”

            and then add in recharging time.

            but it’s not like SW ever remotely follows physics or (astronomy) anyway

        • Muninwing

          IIRC the planet was already unstable due to daemonic issues, the fleets were involved, and the Fallen-to-be were already convinced they were given a death sentence, so they were less than careful.

    • Deathwing

      When the Dark Angels legion fleet arrived in orbit over calaban after the heracy the the fallen used the planets defense grid to open fire on them. The lion was pissed.
      He ordered a full assault on the legions central HQ and the fleet systematically bombed the planets crust to oblivion. When the warp opened up and sucked all the fallen away the warp rift tore the rest of the planet apart.
      Only the fortress monastery/central HQ, which was heavily shielded survived as a giant asteroid. It is now The Rock. Fortress monastery of the dark angels chapter

      • WellSpokenMan

        Caliban wasn’t all that stable to begin with either. Due to the thinness of the barrier between reality and the warp, it was less like splitting apart a golf ball and more like cracking an egg.

      • euansmith

        Oh, that makes sense then; thanks.

    • petrow84

      Ever seen a Dragonball, or DB:Z episode? They destroy celestial entities for breakfast. It takes a whole season to prepare a single punch, though.

  • Syrenjester

    So someone might be LION to us about the whole situation…

    • DJ860

      This joke crosses the LION

      • Hedwerx

        I CAL-a-BAN on these kinds of puns..

  • DJ860

    I can’t help but feel that when elements of the Heresy cross with current 40k that’s the sweet spot. I chuffing love it when some of the mystery of 30k finds it’s way into the grimdark.

  • Secundum

    Well, with the release of the latest Dark Angels book….The DA seem to slide further and further into ‘only sided with the Emperor because he won’ territory.

    • Deathwing

      It is no secret that the lion was actively trying to build a consortium of his fellow primarchs to make his case to be the next warmaster after Horus was defeated. He wanted that promotion more I think than any of his other brothers that were also chaffed they didnt get picked (Dorn, Manus, Guilliman)

      • nurglitch

        Kind of hard not to think ill of him when the post of Warmaster was made so that whoever got it could be the pawn of the Chaos Gods in the Great Game. It’s a post nobody in their right mind, and well informed of the Emperor’s motives as revealed in the Outcast Dead, would want.

        • Hedwerx

          There should have been an extra primarch. Norman, 4′ tall, clad in shimmering bacofoil, leader of the calculator club legion. He shall be named Warmaster. Do your best gods of chaos. I don’t think he’ll be much of a threat.

          • nurglitch

            Which kind of misses the point is that the point of a patsy is that they look like they’re worth backing. I don’t think any other Primarch could have gained the trust of the disaffected Primarchs and the loyalists until he could successfully unleash his Heresy. The first two didn’t work out, after all.

          • Hedwerx

            TBH the Divine Emperor of Mankind is looking dumber and dumber the more I find out about the parts of the HH novels I’ve not read yet. What is it now, 3 loyal legions F’d in the A by this plan?

            The Thousand Sons forced into exile, Potentially the Alpha Legion because no-one knows if they were really loyal or not, and the Dark Angels smashed up, destined to spend the next 10,000 years screwing around off plan trying to cover their tracks and repent.

            The whole Imperium kicked to the kerb and decending into paranoia and religious extremism for 10,000 years. Because being honest about the nature of the universe was too much?

            30,000 years of humans managing to exist in the universe with minimal influence of the chaos gods, barring the blip when psykers emerge, then the Emperor comes along and everything turns to poo shortly afterwards…

            Why not have the backup of “hey guys crazy gods exist who might try and make you their own, and if any of you starts looking shakey, and I think you’re turning. I’ve got this nerve agent tuned to each legion of Astartes, don’t think I won’t release it. I killed off the Thunder Warriors, don’t think I’d think twice about wiping out 100,000 of you F’ers too. I can always make more.”

            It’s almost like he invited the human race to an interdimensional gangbang but told everyone it was a wine and cheese tasting party instead.

            Btw I’ve had a bottle of wine so I might be getting too emotionally involved with my posts.

          • Hedwerx

            Oh, and all the other legions that turned were F’ed in the A by this plan too.

          • Red_Five_Standing_By

            You are greatly underplaying the fact that humanity’s empire was obliterated by the emergence of psykers, the burning of whole worlds under demonic infestation and the fact that warp travel ceased to happen due to the warp storms created by the entity that would eventually become Slaanesh.

            The galaxy was a crappy place before the Emperor rose up.

            To be honest, the galaxy would have been just fine even with the heresy had Magnus not made a deal with Tzeench to give him the power to pierce through the man-made on ramp to the Eldar Webway. That act doomed the emperor to sitting atop the golden throne in perpetuity to prevent the daemons from invading Terra.

          • Muninwing

            one of the most powerful techno-barbarian rulers before Empy and his Thunders (a great band name btw) used psykers to solidify his power. there’s some really creepy snippets here and there about Kalagann…

          • nurglitch

            The Emperor was around long before Humanity went to the stars. There’s implications in the HH fluff that the Astartes were the result of a deal with the gods. After all, the central pillar of 40k fluff states that he is the Emperor by the will of the gods. The whole point was that he would serve humanity up to the gods on a platter, make a token resistance, and then sacrifice himself so that he was damned in Humanity’s place. Horus Rising, for example, goes so far as to have Horus quoting Christ at Calvary.

          • Hedwerx

            Yeah I know about the whole super shaman merging-rebirth thing. I guess this central pillar of the fluffs only been around since the HH books. As this is the first I’ve heard of it. I got as far as Fulgrim before I stopped. Partly because my local bookshop stopped stocking the new ones and partly because I guess I lost interest in the retcon of the week…

            / This guy knows what I’m talking about. / http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dc9bacf8ea44f8f07be89d25dbf6c9036d7aee9776bb19092b0e7cde45fc2c45.jpg

          • nurglitch

            The shaman-merging-rebirth thing is bullshiat, but I applaud your commitment to discussing topics you are unread in (i.e. modern 40k fluff).

          • Hedwerx

            So they’ve dropped that part too eh.. I guess you’re right, I’m now one of those old players who’s concept of the canon is no longer canon because half of it’s been changed to add in extra twists to pad out the books..

            Thank god it’s all just a load of made up Expulsion of Lucifer/Christ allegories and not something important.

      • Dennis J. Pechavar

        He wanted power yes but the books have actually been making the Lion loyal. Ambitious and cold blooded but loyal.

        • Muninwing

          in other words, he would have been a better warmaster.

          which he knew.

          which explains his perceived hesitations and other moments of less-than-absolute faith.

          the Emperor had a soft spot for his first-discovered son that none else could match. Horus was an excellent leader, but he was not the most capable.

        • Ben

          Like Stannis “The Mannis” Baratheon in SPAAAAACEEEE, then?

  • Morgrim

    I rather fancy the idea that both of them were technically on the same side but didn’t know it. Both being loyal and thinking that the other one was a traitor would have a sad sort of nobility. But given certain events I think there’s a reasonable chance both were leaning towards Chaos, was frightened of the other revealing this, panicked at the last minute, and then realised Horus had failed and sided with the victors.

    • Deathwing

      No, no Luthor definitely had no real ties of loyalty to the emperor and tried to bail on his duties both as custodian of the legions homeworld and as an imperial planetary govonor

      • Severius_Tolluck

        Well this is after several retcons and added fluff from the books. Originally thre was much more mystery. Infact the old chaos 3.5 codex and dark angels codices hinted at that the Fallen could be the ones who know the truth and are the true loyalists and chaos scattered them to keep the truth hidden. However older chaos codices before that the Fallen were simply traitors that fled the battle.

    • Muninwing

      see, i like it better the way it is presented. it’s the opposite of the Heresy — the son tries to eclipse the father.

      in the HH, the son is falsely led to those shortcuts that would give him strength, manipulated, and ultimately cannot do so.

      on Caliban, the son has taken the high road, does eclipse the father, and it is the father’s succumbing to the lower emotions of jealousy and pettiness that allows for him to be corrupted by others.

  • Deathwing

    If you haven’t read the short story about the sigilates agents visiting calaban and meeting Luthor and the Cypher during the heracy you should.

    • nurglitch


  • Severius_Tolluck

    Well funny thing is some of his paranoia at first was warranted until he himself started using chaos. In fact the planet honestly was warp infected. That was how all those Chimera were on the planet that they hunted for generations! Really that planet should of been destroyed long prior to that moment.

  • JP

    Cypher triple dog dared Luther to do it. With the pride of a space marine, Luther couldn’t turn chicken and back down.

  • WellSpokenMan

    The emperor is the ultimate cause for all of this. By withholding information about the existence of Chaos, he left his troops susceptible to their machinations. The Lion followed in his footsteps, refusing to confide in his one time mentor. The ultimate blame falls with Luther, but the Lion’s actions and secrecy set Luther and the Fallen up for failure.

    • nurglitch

      Yes, as pointed out in the Outcast Dead, sometimes you have to sacrifice pawns in order to win the Game.

  • landrain

    This is mostly true….


    .. we have since discovered that the 40k Rock and Dark Angels chapter were also present at the Caliban event due to a space-TIME-warp anomaly. (Ref. Legacy of Caliban series).


    The scattering of all the Fallen on the surfaces was not done by chaos but instead by a XENOS Warp entity that the Lion had captured. It got ” everyone ” to safety at order of SGM Azrael, when a warp rift was tearing the planet apart. The warp rift was to cause the spawning of a massive warp enity that was slumbering within the Caliban system… the warp rift was sealed by a self detonation of a rift cannon by a valiant Ravenwing pilot….

    NOW, please report to Master Asmodi for “debriefing” in room 43…

  • Jay Mort

    “And then The Lion went to the bathroom where The Lion sat on The Lion’s opulent throne and The Lion took a massive dump. Following The Lion’s battle with The Lion’s last meal, The Lion got up and went to The Lion’s couch where The Lion watched The Lion’s television.”
    WE GOT IT. You’re talking about El’Johnson. You don’t have to name drop that ridiculous epitaph every 5 words!