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40K Lore: Lion El’ Jonson, Lord of the 1st

9 Minute Read
Dec 13 2016


Today we delve deep into the proud and unyielding master of the 1st Legion – the Dark Angels’ primarch – Lion El’ Jonson.

via our sitersite Lexicanum

Lion El’Jonson, also known as The Lion, is the Primarch of the Dark Angels. He was scattered along with the other Primarchs to the far corners of the galaxy. He finally came to rest on the world Caliban, a beautiful but blighted world tainted by Chaos due to its proximity to the Eye of Terror.


Jonson’s capsule landed in a remote area of Caliban, far from any human habitation. There are no records of how he survived or what he encountered in the jungle during his early years and any normal man would have died within minutes of being exposed to the planet. He lived for a decade in the jungle, alone and with no one to aid him. At the end of this decade he encountered his first humans.

Jonson was found by a group of warrior knights of The Order during one of their quests across the planet. While the knights prepared to kill Jonson, one of their number, a man named Luther, sensed something not immediately apparent about this seemingly wild man and prevented his fellow knights from attacking. Luther and the band brought Jonson back to their Fortress Monastery and named him ‘Lion El’Jonson’ which means The Lion, the Son of the Forest after the location and circumstances they found him in.

Jonson quickly grew up and adapted to the customs of the planet’s inhabitants, learning to speak at an extremely rapid speed, though he never would speak of his first ten years of life. Luther and Jonson formed a strong friendship which complimented each other’s abilities and skills. It was now that Jonson’s primary skills were discovered. He was a brilliant strategist and unstoppable once he decided on a course of action. Together, the two warriors rose through the ranks of the Order and spread the name of the Order through the quests they undertook together.

Crusade against the Great Beasts

When the Order’s ranks had swelled with new recruits, Jonson and Luther petitioned for a crusade against the terrible Beasts which lived within the forest. Luther used his oratory skills to convince many of the Grand Masters of other monasteries to join the Order in this quest and within a single decade the planet was free from the Great Beasts, the armies having been led by Jonson. In recognition of his achievements, Jonson was given the title Supreme Grand Master of the Order, which created jealousy within Luther.

Arrival of the Emperor

Eventually a unit of the Emperor‘s forward scouts arrived at Caliban. Jonson was immediately given command of the First Legion when the Emperor realised he had found a lost son. Luther and the other members of the Order who passed the Astartes‘ trials were formed into First Legion soldiers, either as fully fledged Astartes if they were young enough, or through genetic manipulation to increase their abilities if they were too old for the process. After the new Astartes were ready, Jonson publicly re-named the First Legion the Dark Angels after an old Caliban myth. Luther, too old to be a Space Marine, was the first to be genetically modified and became Jonson’s second in command, as he had been during the crusade. Jonson then left with the Emperor and the newly re-named Dark Angels.


Great Crusade

Shortly after their entry into the Great Crusade, and following the Sarosh Campaign, the Lion sent Luther and several hundred Dark Angels, mainly Calibanites, back to their homeworld. This was ostensibly to accelerate the recruitment of new Legionnaires, but Luther felt they had been exiled.


When Horus was appointed Warmaster by the Emperor, the reaction among the other Primarchs was mixed. Some supported the appointment out of affection for Horus, and others opposed it. The Lion and Leman Russ were, ironically, alike in their attitude, cynically accepting the appointment as the final sign of Horus’ status as their father’s favorite son.

Fifty years later, and following great success in recruiting, training, and equipping new Dark Angels, Luther and his lieutenants were faced by a widespread rebellion on Caliban. Following investigations on the part of the Librarian Zahariel, it was revealed that Caliban was plagued by a resurgence of monsters; and that the insurgency raised against them included former Knights of the Order who felt that the Lion had betrayed them.

At the center of the entire affair was a mysterious cabal of Terran sorcerers somehow linked to the emergence of warp-monsters and twisted undead corpses. Having learned of Horus’ rebellion against the Emperor, Luther declared the independence of Caliban and his opposition to Terra and the Lion alike.

The Lion and the Wolf

Few tales have been recorded regarding the Lion and the conduct of his Legion during the Great Crusade. One of them is that which is now known as the saga of “The Lion and the Wolf”.

Sometime during The Great Crusade, the Dark Angels and the Space Wolves assaulted a planet whose ruler had disrespected the Emperor by sacrificing thousands of priests to his patron Daemon. In addition to disrespecting the Emperor, the leader of the rebels had also insulted Leman Russ personally by naming him “The Emperor’s Lapdog”. In response, Leman Russ swore that he would cut the rebel leader’s head from his shoulders and demanded that he be allowed to make an immediate attack on the rebel’s headquarters. This impatient request was refused because The Lion had spent days gathering intelligence on the headquarters’ defenses and had planned a detailed assault of his own. The Dark Angel attack went forward with few casualties and Russ could only watch from the grounds as Lion El’Jonson killed the rebel leader high on the walls of the fortress. After the battle, Russ stormed into the halls of the headquarters to find El’Jonson and vent his frustrations. During the confrontation Leman Russ struck Lion El’Jonson a blow to his head and the two proceeded to wrestle for a day and night without victory for either combatant. When the two finally broke apart, Russ began to laugh – humored by the circumstances the two were fighting over. The Lion was not amused. Seeing the first blow of this quarrel as treacherous, El’Jonson struck Russ unconscious as he was laughing.

The Space Wolves’ Primarch was carried from the chamber by his men, and when he had regained consciousness the Dark Angels had already left the planet to embark on another campaign. Russ swore he would avenge the slight to his honor, and to this day the two chapters fight honor duels in remembrance of this event. Some say these duels have brought mutual respect and a closer bond between the chapters. On other occasions, however, the rivalry between the two chapters has boiled into open hostility, fueled by mistrust and suspicion.

Horus Heresy

Jonson was campaigning in the Shield Worlds against the Gordian League when he received news of Horus‘s betrayal. The Lion knew that if Horus was to triumph in his rebellion he would eventually have to confront the Emperor at Terra, for as long as the Emperor remained safe in the confines of the Imperial Palace, Horus could never truly triumph and become the new master of mankind. The Lion decided to act in order to prevent Horus from being able to successfully assault the Imperial Palace. He led a small force to the forge world Diamat in order to secure several highly powerful siege weapons that Horus would need in order to assault Terra. Faced with superior odds, the Lion nonetheless succeeded in securing the siege weapons, and thus “performed a master stroke”: rather than confronting Horus directly, he had seemingly defeated the Warmaster with only a handful of troops.


Following his victory, the Lion met with Perturabo, who, along with other Legions, was on his way to join Ferrus Manus in confronting Horus at Isstvan V. Jonson, seeing the opportunity to become the new Warmaster following Horus’ seemingly inevitable defeat, traded the siege weapons to Perturabo in exchange for his support in his bid to become the new Warmaster. Tragically, Perturabo was in fact an ally of Horus, as revealed by his actions at Isstvan V. Immediately following the siege of Diamat and Perturabo acquiring the siege engines from Jonson, the Primarch of the Dark Angels returned to the Shield Worlds where the majority of his legion were operating with the intention of heading to Terra immediately (prior to the massacre at Isstvan V).

As part of Horus’ campaign to divert many of the remaining loyalist legions from Terra, the Night Lords were dispatched to the Eastern Fringes, where in the Thramas Crusade they rampaged across many loyalist worlds. During the genocide, Konrad Curze would invite the Lion to a meeting on the planet Tsagualsa. There, the Night Haunter would reveal a prophecy to the Lion, concerning the future of the Dark Angels. Eventually, the talks would degrade to a fight and the Lion would leave with a slashed throat and Curze with a sword in his back. The Lion would then go on to obtain a warp engine of unforeseen power, that would allow him to coordinate entire fleets in a warp jump. Using this engine, he would ambush the Night Lords and, for a second time, fight his brother Primarch. The Night Lords would leave severely injured, with Curze in a comatose state. The Lion would direct a second ambush on the regrouping Night Lords. There, Curze would reawaken and board the Invincible Reason with several of his troops. The battle would end with Curze fleeing to the lower decks and any surviving Night Lords, including the First Captain Sevatar, being taken prisoner. After dealing with the Night Lords, the Lion made course for Terra but arrived too late to influence the battle or prevent the Emperor from becoming interred on the Golden Throne.


The Lion battle Konrad Curze

Return to Caliban

Jonson, wracked with grief, returned to Caliban to reinforce his Dark Angels and recover in general. When the ships arrived in orbit, they were hit by a savage salvo of fire from the surface. The fleet pulled back and Jonson tried to find out what was happening. He learnt from a merchant ship that Luther had poisoned the minds of the Space Marine garrison on the world and taken control. It could only be seen by Jonson as the taint of Chaos. Jonson’s fury was let loose and the planet suffered. He ordered a systematic bombardment of the planet, destroying everything they could to rid the world of Chaos for all time.

The planet burned and the defences were whittled down to nothing. Jonson led his forces personally against the defenders who had taken refuge in the Order’s Fortress Monastery. Jonson found Luther and saw him to be completely corrupted, nothing of his old friend had survived. Luther had been elevated to a strength equal to Jonson by the Chaos Gods and the two met in a combat the likes of which would not be seen again. They levelled the monastery around them but the planet was also taking a heavy toll. The bombardment began to crack the surface of the planet, the Dark Angels in orbit unable to see the damage they were doing.

The Final Battle

The battle between Luther and Jonson was titanic, but ended with a psychic attack that mortally wounded Jonson. Luther then realised what he had done, as if a veil had been lifted from in front of his eyes. He fell to the floor, unwilling to fight any more, but it was too late for Jonson. The gods of Chaos realised they had lost again, and sent a massive warp storm to wrack the surface of the planet. It then broke apart under the strain, destroyed all but for the monastery of the Order which had been protected by vast force-fields. When the Dark Angels descended to the, now, asteroid, they searched the ruins and found Luther mumbling that Jonson had been taken by the Watchers in the Dark and would return one day and forgive him for his sins. The Dark Angels could not find any trace of their Primarch. The rest of the Dark Angels who had been converted by Luther were sucked into the warp and scattered around the galaxy, now named The Fallen.

The Fate of Jonson

The final secret known only to a very select few is that, buried even deeper within the Rock than Luther, Jonson lies sleeping, waiting with the Watchers in the Dark for the time when he will be needed again, to lead the Dark Angels in a new and greater crusade. Save the Watchers in the Dark, only the Emperor knows of this secret.

As of M41, Jonson is the only loyalist primarch definitively known to be alive.


Learn More of the Dark Angels



~What do you think will awaken The Lion?

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