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40K Loremasters: The Lion, Primarch of the 1st Legion

8 Minute Read
Apr 11 2019

Today Loremasters, we look at one the most taciturn and uncompromising of heroes – Lion El’Johnson, Lost Master of the Dark Angels.

Lion El’Jonson, also known as The Lion and The First, 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. Lion El’Jonson was renowned for a level of strategic brilliance and martial prowess that was rivaled perhaps only by Horus, but was distrusted by his brother Primarchs for his secretive and taciturn nature.

Youth on Caliban

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. Luther used his oratory skills to convince many of the Grand Masters of other monasteries to join the Order in this quest against Caliban’s Great Beasts and within a single decade the planet was free from them, the armies having been led by Jonson.

The Emperor’s Arrival

Eventually a unit of the Emperor‘s forward scouts arrived at Caliban. Jonson was immediately given command of the First Legion when the Emperor realized 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. The new direction of Caliban did not sit well with many older knights of The Order, and they attempted to assassinate both Jonson and the Emperor but were foiled by the psychic Zahariel. With his powerbase secured and the new Astartes 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. Befitting his status as the first Primarch, Lion El’Jonson received the first Gloriana Class Battleship Invincible Reason.

Great Crusade

Lion El’Jonson gained notoriety for his leadership and combat capability in the Great Crusade, but was too secretive and stoic to be considered for the honour of WarmasterIndeed, the Lion himself admitted he had difficulty understanding the emotions of others.  Horus was instead appointed Warmaster by the Emperor, and 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.

The Horus Heresy

The Siege Engines

Jonson was campaigning in the Shield Worlds against 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. 

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).

War versus Curze

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 Crusadethey 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 known as Tuchulcha, that would allow him to coordinate entire fleets in a warp jump.

Due to the Ruinstorm erected by the Word Bearers, the Dark Angels found themselves unable to return to Terra as the Lion had intended. Eventually they locked onto the light of the Pharos and made their way to Ultramar, linking up with the Ultramarines and Blood Angels as well as their respective Primarchs, Roboute Guilliman and Sanguinius. The three Primarch’s were instrumental in the formation of Imperium Secundus, and Lion El’Jonson was made Lord Protector of this new Empire, a title similar to Warmaster. When Curze escaped the Invincible Reason and rampaged across Macragge, the Lion aided Guilliman in the unsuccessful attempt to defeat the renegade Primarch. However the entire battle had been a trap, and Curze brought down the chapel they were battling in, and escaped.

Later, the Lion was finally able to corner Curze and the two once again came to blows. After a vicious battle, the Lion was eventually victorious. The Lion questioned why Curze turned, to which Curze answered “why not?” and to say that there was a monster in his head he could not stop. Instead of killing Curze, the Lion pulled back, saying he could not kill him but then pummeled him again. The Lion then ripped off Curze’s backpack then brought him down upon his knee, breaking his spine and paralyzing him.


The March to Terra, Too Late

At some point before or during the Siege of Terra, the Astronomican went dark for the Dark Angels fleet. Fearing that Terra had fallen to Horus, The Lion became nihilistic and instead of moving towards Terra pledged himself to burning as much of the traitor’s territory as he could. Using the rationalization of attacking the traitor homeworlds in hopes of drawing reinforcements away from Terra to his troops, The Lion oversaw the destruction of Chemos and Barbarus. Without the Astronomican, the Lion relied on the Tuchulchafor guidance.

Eventually, 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.

Luther on Caliban

Treachery at 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 leveled 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 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 Lion’s Fate

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.

Learn More of the Dark Angels




~ One day, the Lion will awaken. What will he think of the Imperium he discovers?


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