The Void Lions: Introduction and History

Leonicine Inatrii Astartes by The Wargaming Artist

Introduction

There are some Space Marine chapters that are so defined by the peoples from which they were created and the world on which those peoples lived; that their true history began millennia before the chapters official founding. Tied intrinsically to the plight of the mortal half of their lineage, chapters such as these become the embodiment of their ancestors dream of survival and vengeance, their prayers to the Emperor made flesh. In some cases, these chapters become the sole reason for their peoples continued existence, whereas they would have otherwise been lost to the indifferent eyes of history and time. This is the story of the Leonicine Inatrii, the Void Lions; those tribal Adeptus Astartes who hailed from the Jungle Death World of Zulup IX and hunt the Great Devourer within the Emperor’s domain in eternal war because of it.

The Leonicine Inatrii or Void Lions in low gothic, are a fleet-based chapter of Adeptus Astartes whose history as a chapter spans as far back as the 37th Millennium, but whose peoples as a society have a history that spans even further back to the 33rd Millennium. With an enduring alliance to the Ordo Xenos Branch of the Inquisition, their history is heavily shrouded in secrecy. Though there may be many accounts of the chapter, it is here that you will find information on the true history of the chapter. 

To understand the chapter, you must first understand their history. To understand the long story of their history, you must first understand the peoples they were made from, world which birthed them, and the trials which shaped them. The story of the Void Lions Chapter, is to know the story of the Leonicine peoples.

Zulup IX

Pict of Zulup IX (M33) provided by Inquisitor Isaniel of the Ordo Astra

The Zulup Solar system had been discovered and designated during the latter years of the Great Crusade, by the Imperial Fists 333rd Expeditionary Fleet deep in the Eastern Fringes of Imperial Space. At the time, the system was deemed to be of little to no use to the Imperium of Man, its twelve planets barren and its ancient star unstable. It was suggested that the system be used as a training system for the Militia Imperialis, but it would never be used as such and the Expeditionary Fleet would move deeper into the Fringe to later discover the Lyntegis Gate system where the renowned Praetor Theictetus of Stone would make his last stand against the traitor forces during the Heresy.

The Zulup System would not surface again in imperial record until the late M33, in which Rogue Trader Leggi Nossis would come across it and make extensive records. In the nearly six thousand years between the time it was discovered and the time Rogue Trader Fleets chanced upon it, the Zulup Solar system had changed significantly.

The Zulup Star had expanded in the beginning death throes of supernova. Where the planet once had twelve planets, it now possessed ten- its two closest planets now completely engulfed by the old star. However, this change in magnitude caused the solar system’s thin habitable zone to encompass the world of Zulup IX. The once barren planet had become a high-gravity Jungle Death World in the time span of a few thousand years.

Zulup IX had become a world of unimaginable hostility. The surface of the planet was covered in complete jungle environment whose flora was of titanic proportions. Trees were as tall as mountains, and mountains even taller. Most of the plant life on the world was carnivorous and sentient. The planets biosphere was composed of diverse forms of incredible and terrifying megafauna, half of which were predatory. The weather on the planet was extreme, days and nights were longer than standard terran measurements. The world had become what Leggi had described as “a paradise comparable to the myths of old earth, in all its beauty and horror’.

Impossibly, there existed humans on the world surviving in this harsh environment. Dark skinned and tribal peoples who were the descendants of settlers who had arrived to the Zulup Solar system and settled on the planets of Zulup IX and Zulup X in M33. Evidence points to the peoples coming from the Sol system, though not from terra. Ship design and cartography found on the scattered wreckages indicated that many-if not all-of the settlers were the Azurite peoples from the orbital stations of Uranus, and were likely the survivors of the Unheard War.

The fleet that had arrived at Zulup was significantly reduced from its original size, with only a handful of transport vessels making it to the system. From what could be analyzed from the wreckages, the ships lacked the capability of warp travel and so the settlers had spent thousands of years heading further and further from the sol system. This incredible amount of time in the void likely contributed to the drastic reduction of the original fleet and depletion of resources likely influenced the peoples to finally settle in Zulup deep within the Eastern Fringes in a desperate attempt at survival.

The settlers landed on Zulup IX and X, breaking down their ships in order to make shelter on the worlds, but it would be this act that would spell their doom. Solar flares caused extreme changes in the environment on Zulup X, and with no way to escape the world, the population was annihilated, leaving the settlers on Zulup IX as the sole survivors among the people who had arrived at the system.

The settlers of Zulup IX had attempted to build a civilization on the world, but the planet itself and its primal nature refused to be tamed. Only two generations after the settlers had landed, a cataclysmic natural disaster which would come to be known as the “Ring of Fire” would occur. In this event, all the active volcanoes on the world erupted at the same time. Not only did this nearly cause an extinction on the planets biosphere as the volcanoes billowed ash and debris into the atmosphere, but it also effectively isolated the settler groups which had-by that time-spread across its surface, for nearly a decade.

Any attempt at true civilization was abandoned after this, and any unifying identity amongst the settlers was abandoned with it. It was after this first Ring of Fire that the settlers ceased to be who they were, forgetting it entirely, and became the various techno-primitive tribes of Zulup IX which warred with each other for territory and resources.

The Tribe of the White Lion

Rogue Trader Leggi Nossis was the first Rogue Trader to explore Zulup IX in the latter years of M33. She and her retinue made extensive observations not only of the world but of its peoples as well. Landing on the surface of the world proved too perilous, especially during the day, and so many of the observations were made using servoskulls and other such recording devices which were deployed onto the surface and floated through the jungle, collecting data. The worlds high gravity strained even the counteractive processes of grav-suits, making it difficult to move with much haste, something that was fatal on the planet.

Techno-primitive weaponry of the Leonicine peoples, M33, by Liam Hammond

The various tribes of Zulup IX had spread across the surface of the world, establishing their own kingdoms in the jungle. Smaller tribes were nomadic and moved from space to space surviving off what they could. The Tribes would war with each other only occasionally, over disputes of territory and access to resources. Many times, a conflict between groups would de-escalate after a series of posturing towards one another and one group retreating, but when war was initiated, it was quick and merciless with all groups involved quickly leaving the area out of the practical wisdom that the worlds predators would be attracted to the sound of conflict and the smell of blood.

Of all the tribes on Zulup IX, one tribe saw itself at the top of the hierarchy. They were called the Vesslyn’at ( Pronounced “Va-sill-eh-nat”) in their language- a broken offshoot of gothic- which meant “The People of the White Lion”. The Vesslyn’at were the largest and most aggressive of the Zulupian Tribes, who possessed a vast tri-part territory near an inactive range of volcanoes that they referred to as Se’lin ( Pronounced “See-Lin”). The tribe itself was divided into three large clans which rotated throughout the Tribes territories seasonally. Each clan was led by a Clan Elder, and the King of the Tribe would reside amongst one of them for a season before spending time with the next. Each clan would do its part to extend the boundaries of their territory before leaving at the end of the season, and after doing this for hundreds of years, the Tribe owned an immense volume of territory on the Jungle Death World. They were bold but isolationist, not interacting with the other tribes on any positive sitting. Many nomadic tribes who wandered into their territory, ignoring the blood red banners and markings on the trees, would be killed without hesitation.

They were a totemic peoples like most of the tribes on Zulup IX, taking the name of one of the worlds megafauna. Their totem animal was the “Vessly” (Pronounced: Vess-ill) or the “Zulupian White Lion” as it was called by Leggi, a large pale feline predator that hunted the jungles of the world in large prides. The creature became the center of the tribes’ rituals, identity and even warfare, and was focal in its rite of passage into adulthood in which the young males would have to hunt and kill a White Lion to be acknowledged as men. This was an extremely difficult task, but it seemed to be the way the tribe weeded out the weak from their numbers. Unlike the other tribes of the world who focused on survival through scavenging, the Tribe of the White Lion were beast slayers, actively hunting the Megafauna of the planet instead of stealing their carcasses from the predators who made the kill.

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Zulupian White Lion, Alpha Male. Size Comparison to average Zulupian Male height 5’5 by (Liam Hammond Art)

The records of Leggi Nossis on the world of Zulup IX would become among the most valuable to the Ordo Xenos Branch of the Inquisition, not only because of the depths at which she studied the world and its people, but because the records provided a foundation of understanding the zulupian peoples as they were before things began to change drastically. These changes-recorded by other Rogue Traders who thought themselves to be correcting the error in observations made by those before them when chancing upon the system discover Zulup in the 34th and 35th Millennium- would be what would bring the Imperium back to Zulup in the form of the Inquisition.

The Star Plague

The records that Leggi Nossis first made were extensive, however, in many parts they were extremely vague and missing information. Not only this, but her reports could have easily been looked over, as she categorized the information in the Imperial Archives as being of little to no importance to the greater Imperium at large. It would appear that the Rogue Trader attempted to dissuade attention from the Zulup system and Zulup IX. Unfortunately, this had the opposite effect for the other Rogue Traders who had access to the information. Her vagueness attracted them to the world, and between M33 and M35, a handful of Rogue Traders made their way to Zulup IX.

Many changes occurred on the planet. Because they thought themselves to be correcting the records of Leggi, each rogue traders account varied. However, it is through these accounts that the history of the Zulupian people is further understood, as well as the changes occurring on the planet, especially in regards to the Tribe of the White Lion. It is through these records that we have an idea of when the Zulupian White Lion was hunted into extinction on the world, or how the other tribes on the planets managed to survive.

As more rogue traders chanced upon the system and made observations, they noted changes in the behaviors of the Zulupian tribes. Aggression between them increased, previously held territories were abandoned and the surface of the planet became pocketed with holes and tunnels leading deep under the earth. The same tribe that was called ” the Tribe of the White Lion” by Rogue Trader Eggi Nossis in the latter half of M33, was called the ” Zulupian Predators” in M35 by the Rogue Trader Antilonius Grey, which had reportedly abandoned its territory and came to inhabit the Se’lin mountains at  the edge of their previous territory . In M33 they were an aggressive people whose conflicts centered around the brutal demands of survival on the world, but by M35 Antilonius has described that the tribe was actively hunting down the other tribes on the planet for matters of sport and rite of passage. These other tribes were reported by Antilonius to descend into the tunnels and caves that now covered the world, in order to combat the other tribes who had sought refuge from the “Predators” in the subterranean depths of the world.

It was the information provided by Antilonius Greys records that caught the eye of the Ordo Xenos branch of the Inquisition.

The Ordo Xenos Branch of the Inquisition is responsible for the monitoring, study and destruction of the xenos threats to humanity within the Imperium. At the time, a conclave of Inquisitors particularly interested in the Eastern Fringe and Xenos activity there called the Fringe Conclave- was growing in power and influence. During the late 34th millennium, the Inquisitors of the Fringe Conclave discovered a new Xenos species, one highly parasitic and adept at infiltration of the host species.  Somehow, the species would imbed itself into the countless scattered human civilizations in the Eastern Fringe without being detected. Through accelerated generations and human passing evolutions it would go unnoticed until most of the host species was xenos. They would eventually emerge to overthrow established organizational structures, and the worlds on which they were would go silent only to be discovered lifeless husks soon after. Whatever this species was, it had begun to snake a path through the Eastern Fringe world by world, system by system, leaving lifelessness behind. Imperial Fleets sent to investigate the area of space around these worlds were lost and never to be heard from again.

The changes recorded to be occurring on Zulup IX suggested that the alien species had arrived on the planet. According to all estimations at the time, The Zulup System was in the pathway of destruction of this Xenos species; though ahead of it. The black ships of the Ordo Xenos journeyed to the Zulup system with haste, hoping to be able to gather more information on the species in order to understand how to destroy it.

Upon arriving to the system, and doing an extensive observation of the planet Zulup IX, The Inquisitors of the Ordo Xenos found that their assumptions were correct. The mysterious Xenos species was on the planet and had been for quite some time. The xenos had made its way to the world via an asteroid that struck the planet. The tribes immediately surrounding the site were the first to succumb to its influence and it slowly spread across the planet. The infiltration of the world’s population had been extremely delayed. The same jungle environment which prevented the creation of actual civilization on Zulup IX, combined with the isolation of the Tribes from one another, significantly delayed the spread of the xenos across the world. 

By luck or will of the Emperor, the asteroid struck the planet near opposite of where the White Lion tribe’s territories were on the world. It is believed that they were able to observe the changes and abandon their territories on the ground, moving onto the relative safety of the Se’lin Mountains. By the time the Inquisition arrived to the system in the later M36, the White Lion tribe were the only human tribe left in the world, and they had been making war against the Xenos on the world through primitive means for millennia. Imperial Linguists were able to decipher the people’s language as a crude offshoot of Imperial Gothic, and found that the White Lions called the Xenos, the Bur’in ( pronounced Burr-in) or Star Plague, thinking that it was a sickness from the stars. In this simple understanding of what was occurring, they were not wrong.

Looking at Zulup IX from the void, it was a green gem slowly spinning in the darkness of space, but on its surface a tribe of isolated humans fought an increasing foe, and underneath its surface something malicious and xenos multiplied. The Ordo Xenos barred the Zulup system from any entry using armed void bourne monitors and weapon platforms, then turned their attention to the people of the White Lion. How had they survived so long without being infiltrated? The Inquisition spent nearly five decades understanding as much as possible about the Zulupian peoples and the xenos enemy, before deciding what their next course of action would be.

The Leonicines

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Etel-Mari, Queen of Leonicines M42 by Liam Hammond

It was decided by the Fringe Conclave early in the observation period, that the Zulupian people should be reincorporated back into the Imperium of Man. However, how this was to be accomplished was a sensitive matter. It was as much the Tribe of the White Lions culture and beliefs that made them formidable against the enemy as it was their advantage of living in the Se’lin Mountains. The years of observation after this decision was made was to understand as much about the Tribes way of life and practices, so as to be able to reintegrate the peoples in a way that allowed them to keep their culture but remain loyal to the Imperium of Man and its ideals.

It was during a particularly large battle between the Tribe of the White Lion and the Xenos enemy that the Deathwatch Ghost Shield descended onto the world. The Star Plague as the White Lion tribe had called them- had launched an all-out assault on the Se’lin mountains in an attempt to annihilate their enemy once and for all. By the time the black drop pods of the Deathwatch Crashed at the base of the Selin Mountains, the battle had already been a slaughter, with thousands of combatants on each side littering the jungle ground. Emerging from his drop pod, the Deathwatch captain located the King of the White Lion tribe, pointing his power sword at the elderly leader- then to the enemy, and roared “Bon’bur!” before unleashing his wrath upon the xenos, all of the squads following suit as they had been instructed to do by the Fringe Conclave. “Bon’bur”, the War Cry of the White Lion Tribe, which meant “Death to the Star Plague”.

A single statement was all that it took to acquire the loyalty of the White Lion Tribe, who fought with renewed vigor and ferocity at seeing the Astartes of the Deathwatch and hearing their warcry from them.

Through the combined effort, battle at Se’lin was won and the enemy retreated back into the subterranean lairs of the world. When the area was secure, representatives of the Ordo descended to the planet and met with the King of the Zulupians and their tribal elders. Such a personal approach to the reintegration process would have otherwise been unnecessary, but the Ordo had deemed it of great importance. It was here that the Imperium persuaded the Zulupians to join the Imperium of Man, by telling them they would give them better weapons and make them stronger so that they may be able to defeat the star plague across the stars. The Imperium would make them an army even larger than what they are, and some would even become Angels- which was the closest that the agents could get to communicating about the Astartes in a way that the peoples could understand. The discussion lasted a day, and by the end of it, the King of the Zulupians swore the loyalty of his people to the Imperium of Man, but warned that he would not live to see what would come to pass. He would announce this to his people, but he would also announce that was too old to lead his people into the future that the Imperium would provide, nor would most of their elders. Thus, a Rite of Might had to be conducted. This brutal tradition was one of the ways the tribe ensured only the strong became warriors of the Tribe, and it was through this tradition that the leadership of the Zulupian people would be passed on.

The Right of Might was conducted, and leadership was passed from the King of the White Lions, to his youngest son. It was in this way that the Zulupians joined the Imperium of Man. Nearly all of the tribes male youth were taken by the Ordo Xenos to be transformed into Astartes, while the adults were trained to the standards of the Imperial Guard.

It was here that much information about the Zulupian peoples was further acquired, some of which threatened the plans of the Ordo Xenos.

The environment of Zulup IX had not only shaped its people culturally , but had also drastically shaped them on a physiological level as well. On average, Zulupians were shorter and more strongly built than regular human beings due to the high gravity of the world, and this had been observed even in Leggi Gnossis notes. However, something that she had not elaborated on was the high population of Ogryn among the Zulupian people. At first it was theorized that the Ogryn were a separate group of humans that evolved due to the high gravity conditions of Zulup IX, and that they would be incorporated into the tribes of the world for reasons of protection and survival. However, an analysis of the Ogryn of the Tribe of the White Lion revealed something that shocked the Fringe Conclave, but which also explained several aspects of the Zulupians: The Zulupians and the ogryn had the same composition. It became clear as to how the Zulupians had survived so long on the world: The Zulupian people were abhumans.

The imperium had never met a human population in the middle of a species-wide transition from one family of humanity to another. It appeared that the Zulupians were in a transition into becoming a fully ogryn population and were currently proto-ogryn, with every 1 in 300 Zulupians born being an Ogryn.

If it had been any other Conclave of Inquisitors, Zulup IX would have been destroyed and its people annihilated. It was only due to the radical leaning of the Fringe Conclave that the project of reintegration into the Imperium of Man continued forward.

Being that the tribe of the white lions were the only non-xenos humans on the world, the Conclave decided to categorize the remaining Zulupians as their own kind of Abhuman variant, called “Leonicine”, which was a transliteration of the Tribes name into Gothic, meaning “ The Tribe of the White Lion” or simply “The White Lions”.

The Leonicines on the planet that had been trained in the standard of Astra Militarum had learned quickly how to master the new weapons given to them and it was not long before regiments of Leonicines had been raised to reclaim Zulup IX from the Xenos menace infesting their world. They were called the Zulupian Planetary Defence Force, and their first task was to rid Zulup IX of the Star Plague.

The Early efforts at the reclamation of Zulup IX were prosecuted by the Zulupian Planetary Defence Force and the Deathwatch Ghost company. Armed like never before, the Leonicines were able to take the war to the enemy, suppressing enemy advancement on the surface of the world, and descending into the tunnels of the planet in order to eradicate them further. It so happened that soon after the Imperium arrived, the season of the Ring of Fire began on the world, its volcanoes once again erupting across its surface. However, the Zulupians knew how to survive in the conditions and used it to their advantage against the enemy.

The Leonicines were unrelenting in their war against the enemy, descending into the tunnels without fear and eradicating swathes of the Star Plague abominations beneath the surface of the world. Tunnels were made wider to allow for larger vehicles such as Chimeras, Sentinels and Hellhounds to descend. The casualties to the Leonicines were horrendous as well, but this did not bother the Leonicine forces who pushed on enthusiastically, even as corpses from both sides began to pile and block tunnels. The stench of death and decay, fuel and burnt flesh became the casual air in this hellish underground war. The series of battles that would compose of this war would be called the Hollow Earth Campaigns, and it would last for 7 decades.

The Lion Guards

Before the Fringe Conclave descended upon Zulup IX, it had already agreed that a Space Marine chapter would be made from the Zulupian peoples. They petitioned to the high Lords of Terra for the creation of an Adeptus Astartes chapter to “Protect and secure assets valuable to the Imperium of Man in the Eastern Fringe”. The petition was passed, and a chapters worth of Geneseed of Imperial Fists lineage was provided. However, the petition was passed before the Conclave understood the proto-abhuman composition of the Zulupian people. As the Leonicine Tribesmen battled for superiority over the enemy in the underground war for Zulup IX, the Conclave would begin the Geneseed Implantation process on the Zulupian youth taken after the Battle of Se’lin.

The first geneseed implantation cycle imbued five hundred Zulupian youth with Adeptus Astartes Geneseed. All five hundred youth, died from the procedure by the second phase; their bodies painfully warped and distorted soon after the Ossmodula began its functions in each recruit. The effects of this were fatal, and the initiates would soon die after the effects began. Among the number of those killed by the procedure, was the Son of the Zulupian King. The conclave had a problem on their hands, as the Creation of a Chapter of Space Marines was beginning to seem impossible. However, the solution would be provided by the Adeptus Mechanicus.

The Priesthood of the Machine offered the Fringe Concalve their assistance with the creation of a Space Marine chapter from the Leonicine people, but on one condition.

The pathway of destruction caused by this new xenos species through the Eastern Fringe followed a natural gravitational ‘stream’ of sorts into Imperial ruled space. Along this stream, natural debrees and Space Hulks- conglomerates of old vessels from the Imperium’s tumultuous past- drifted from deeper within the fringe, back into the Imperium of Man towards the sol system. The Zulup system existed near end of this phenomenom, which The Mechanicus called “Perditions Causeway”. The condition was that in return for helping to create the space marine chapter that the Fringe Conclave needed; the chapter that was to be created would be tasked with retrieving valuable information and technology from the Space Hulks that drifted down the causeway just outside of the Zulup Solar system. This would not be without benefit from the Conclave. The Chapter they wanted to make would be created to face this new, parasitic xenos species- but there was still so much that they did not know about the species due to a hidden aspect of their nefarious nature. Because the path of destruction followed the Path of Perditions Causeway, whatever that aspect was; the chapter that would be created would eventually face it. In this inevitable conflict, the Fringe Conclave would be able to see if their creations were true assets to the Imperium of Man.

The deal was agreed upon, and the Mechanicus provided the necessary resources to create the chapter in the form of Geneseed, sourced from the 21st Founding.

In was fortunate that there were thousands of Zulupian youth recruited, for there were thousands of mysterious geneseed available. In a test implantation trial of five hundred youth, four hundred and twenty seven survived to full Implantations- with the amount that did not survive being within acceptable parameters of organ rejection. This meant that the Geneseed provided by the mechanicus was a success. The implantations began for the rest of the youth with haste, and in 6 1/2  decades, a chapter of Adeptus Astartes had been created from the people of Zulup IX.

To keep the knowledge of Cursed Founding Geneseed being used to create Astartes from the High Lords, the Mechanicus would send percentages of the remaining pure Imperial Fists geneseed they had, to the High Lords of Terra when the chapter was demanded a Geneseed tithes.

The chapter created would be called the Leonicine Praestes or “ Lion Guards” chapter of Adeptus Astartes and they would be terrifying to behold.

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Lion Guards Astarte in Mk4 armor, color and Chapter heraldry by Artist Potorochin.

Decades after the Zulupian youth were taken from their tribe into space, the golden armored Lion Guards would descend from the sky aboard their machines of war to assist their peoples in the reclamation of Zulup IX. Combined, the Lion Guards chapter, and the Zulupian PDF scoured the world of Xenos presence in less than three years of constant fighting. Once reclaimed, Zulup IX became the homeworld of the Lion Guards chapter, their Fortress Monastery imbedded into the Se’lin Mountains.

With Zulup IX secured, the reclamation of the system as a whole began, orbital stations being placed, Zulupian PDF regiments being stationed on the other barren planets of the system, and the chapter fleet being generally reinforced. It was during this time that the conclave would learn of the Fate of those settlers who landed on Zulup X, and attention to the systems unstable star would become a priority. What was a secondary objective in the creation of the chapter, became the primary objective of the Chapter. The Lion Guards chapter became the wardens of Perditions Causeway and would board the space hulks that found themselves caught in the phenomena’s current, clearing them of any Xenos Life, retrieving data slates as well as other valuable information and technology to be given to the Adeptus Mechanicus, who in turn provided the chapter with resources through the Forgeworld of Triplex Phall.

The Lion Guards stood vigil over Perditions Causeway for over three thousand years. So deep into the Eastern Fringe was Zulup IX that they were nearly isolated from the main elements of the Imperium of Man, and the High Lords of Terra spoke through the Fringe Conclave. It was the tradition of the conclave that the Lord of the conclave would be they who would communicate most frequently with the chapter. As chapter masters were slain in conflict and Inquisitors succumbed to old age, the bond between the Conclave and the Chapter would have to be renewed again and again every time a new leader of either organizations was appointed. This would always be a cooperative occasion of acknowledgement, though each Lord Inquisitor of the Fringe Conclave was different. Some, interacted directly with the chapter, others only communicated through vox and holographic means or otherwise acolytes of the Ordo in service to the conclave. Regardless of the nature of the Lord Inquisitor of the Fringe Conclave, the organization always remained a distant and shadowy presence in the Zulup Solar system, watching the chapter, its leadership, its tactics, measuring its readiness for the unknown threat they knew would arrive eventually. They knew that the true, planet-devouring threat would eventually make its way along Perditions Causeway and when it arrived, they would be able to see if the chapter was as efficient as it was needed to be. However, the chapters effectiveness was in question, as it became apparent that the geneseed provided by the Mechanicus was useful, but not stable over long periods of time.

The War for Zulup

The attack was preceded by the loss of astropathic communication, and the death of scores of Navigators aboard the ships of all the fleets present. When the enemy made itself apparent, it was nothing that anyone present could have ever imagined. Titanic living ships with tendrils, bulbous eyes and thick plates of armor- like chitin that swam through the void of space like oceanic predators. The fleet of bioships was bigger than all of the fleets in the Zulup system combined, and it moved effortlessly through Perditions Causeway instead of being pulled by its mysterious current.

The Lion Guard Fleet immediately engaged the Xenos ships, knowing that it was their duty as wardens of the Causeway to not permit this threat to reach the Sol system. However, stopping the fleet of the Star Plague from continuing forward proved impossible except through by a singular means. The battle ships of the Leonicine Praestes fired upon the enemy fleet with broadside weaponry before retreating deeper into the Zulup system. As expected, the Bioships roused in pursuit, breaking from the tides of the causeway and following the Astartes ships. With this act, began the War for Zulup.

The Chapter had been accustomed to facing the Star Plague on the worlds of Zulup, but these organisms had only been the Vanguard organisms to a far more diverse and powerful species to which the Lion Guards had been unprepared to face. As the Biofleet engaged the Lion Guards Fleet, charging after them and rending Strike Cruisers apart with their beak like mouths as bombardment cannon unleashed the Emperors fury upon their carapace, the Star Plague deployed its troop swarms upon the planets of the Zulup Solar system. The skies swam with terrors unimaginable, descending from the sky like the dragons of myth. The hardened Regiments of the Zulupian Planetary Defence Force met this threat with might of their own, Lasguns firing without end with war cries upon their lips even as they were torn apart. World after world was lost to the foe as the Zulupian forces made a fighting retreat to Zulup IX.

 Seeing the devastation that the Star Plague was causing, and realizing that its  very presence affected vox communication capabilities, The Inquisitorial and Mechanicus Fleets retreated from the Zulup IX system, abandoning the Lion Guard Chapter and the Leonicine peoples.

The last observations of the Conclave were that the enemies bioships had broken through a defensive blocade made by the Praestes war ships, heading towards the systems innermost planet, Zulup IX, in great numbers. It was, therefore, considered lost. Despite this, the operations occurring in the Zulup system were not fully known by the High Lords. A Space Marine chapter created using forbidden Mechanicus resources, fighting a Xenos species that was unknown by the Imperium of man, meant that truth of the systems loss would also have to be obscured.

The Ordo Xenos would inform the High Lords of Terra, that the Zulup system and all inhabitants were annihilated in a catastrophic natural disaster as its unstable star exploded in the final death throes of Supernova. All planets therein were stripped of all life and there were no survivors. The Leonicine Preastes were recorded to have been a lost chapter, and over the next decade, the Conclave would assure that the Leoncine Prasetes would not be listed amongst the chapters created during the Sentinel Founding except in the oldest and most inaccessible records.

Years later, an Inquisitorial Patrol fleet would journey back to the area where Zulup IX had been located, to discover that the entire system was gone, planets blasted into chunks of space rock and the skeletal wreckages of ships . As the fleet prepared to make its jump back to the main fleet, its commanding officers reported seeing a large and battered fleet of golden Astartes ships slowly making their way deeper into the Eastern Fringe along the old route to Perditions Causeway. Somehow, the Lion Guards Chapter had survived and were still serving the Imperium of Man.

The Void Lions

The Fringe Conclave returned to the Eastern Fringe and approached the battered fleet and the Lord Inquisitor had requested to meet with the leader of the remaining Lion Guards force. They were surprised to see that the chapter had completely reorganized itself and even possessed a new Chapter Master, Marsaak Isaayah. To look upon the marine was to confirm the Conclave’s deepest questions about the chapter, for he was an immense figure; far more so than any Astartes should be.

It is not known what was specifically said between the Astartes Lord and the Lord Inquisitor, but it is assumed that the regular reaffirmation of bonds between the two organizations occurred, as a strong alliance between the two was the result of what conversations were had. This alliance was marked by the Fringe Conclave gifting the remaining Leonicine forces a fleet of Universal Class Mass Conveyors and Armed Freighter ships on which the remaining Leonicine mortals could reside. As the separation of Leonicines was underway, the Ordo Xenos contemplated the future of the chapter. Due to the nature of the chapters genetic composition, gifting of the fleet of carrier ships was not simply an act of altruism, but necessity. Beyond those matters, the Fringe Conclave could not reasonably continue to arm the chapter without raising the suspicions of High Lords, as well as other Ordos and conclaves within the Inquisition. The chapter- which now called itself the Leonicine Inatrii or “Void Lions”- would have to present themselves before the High Lords of Terra to prove themselves as a loyalist fighting force for the Imperium of Man.

The state of the Imperium of man had changed much since  before the fall of Zulup. The Primarch Roboute Guilliman returned, to become Lord Commander of the Imperium. Imperial Space had been torn in two by the Cicatrix Malidictum, and the once unknown xenos species previously known as the Star Plague had become known throughout the galaxy under a different name- the Tyranids– and they had become a widespread threat. In this endarkening time, all loyalist fighting forces were needed to defend against the myriad of threats that humanity faced. When the Void Lions presented themselves as a loyalist fighting force, they needed to be tested.

Both the Fringe Conclave and Chapter Master Marsaak Isaayah knew, that if the Imperium were to know the truth of the chapters founding, its history as well as geneflaws, that the Void Lions Chapter would be destroyed. So, in protection of his chapter and his peoples, as well as to secure the future of his peoples, Marsaak chose to keep this information hidden. With the help of the Fringe Conclave, it worked for a time.

Three demands were placed on the Chapter Master of the Void Lions, Marsaak Isaayah in compliance with the Codex Astartes, which the chapters practices went against vehemently. First, the chapters numbers- which were over three thousand, would need to be reduced to the standard number of Adeptus Astartes in a chapter. The second demand was that the Chapters fleet was also reduced to standard Chapter size. These could be accomplished by dividing the chapter into three separate chapters, but Marsaak in his wisdom refused, instead asking for an opportunity to demonstrate his chapters abilities against the Tyranids. This led to the Void Lions Chapter spearheading the Decimation War alongside various penal regiments of the Imperial Guard against Hive Fleet Leviathan in the Segmentum Tempestus.  The Decimation War was won by the Imperium, however the Imperial  casualties were horrendous, with the complete Void Lion force sent to fight in the conflict being destroyed

 The casualties suffered in the Decimation war served a trifold purpose: to demonstrate the Void Lions commitment to fighting the tyranid xenos threat, to further secure the Leonicine peoples are part of the Imperium of Man, and to continue to hide the Chapter flaws. Of the nearly two thousand Void Lion Astartes that were committed to fighting the Decimation War, the majority of them were chapter veterans, nearing the onset of the chapters fatal genecurses. If the Void Lions fought alongside other imperial forces, these veterans would become liabilities and could- by succumbing to the curse infront of other forces- jeopardize the chapter. So, they were sent to give their lives for the future of their people, and their chapter. Though not a single Void Lion walked away from this conflict, they achieved that goal. In acknowledgement of the Void Lions sacrifice, the surviving Leonicine peoples were made into their own Imperial Guard regiment- called the Zulupian Predators Astra Militarum Regiment, named after the title given to the Leonicines by Antilonius Grey in M35.

The third demand was the induction of Primaris Marines into the ranks of the Chapter. Of the three demands, this would be the most difficult for the chapter to navigate around. Marsaak Isaayah refused to have greyshield marines join his chapter, to don their colors and call themselves Inatrii, and so other means would have to be considered.

With the help of the Fringe Conclave, the effects of the Primaris organs on the Void Lion Astartes physiology were analyzed and understood. Based on the secret experimentations with the organs, It was finally determined that Primaris marines would be incorporated into the chapter via the rubicon procedure, in which Void Lion marines would be imbued with the primaris organs and ‘upgraded’.

Upon meeting all three requirements, The two Leonicine Organizations were acknowledged as loyalist fighting forces for the Imperium of Man.

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Void Lion in Terminator Armor by SrJalapenyo

The Death of a King

The Chapter Master of the Void Lions, Marsaak Isaayah began at once to structure the chapter so that it would be able to rapidly respond to multiple tyranid threats at once by dividing the chapter and fleet into three parts, called “Tribes”.  Then, through Rite of Might He chose the fiercest Lions from amongst the youngest of the chapters Astartes to serve each of these tribes as “Black-Maned”, or Captains. Each of these warriors were designated a vast swathe of Imperial space as their “Hunting Grounds” in which they would hunt the Star Plague, and under the command of each were a third of the chapters strength and resources.

The Void Lions would- and could- only recruit from its own Leonicine peoples who resides on a heavily protected collection of interconnected void-bourne stations and ships called Se’lin Secundus, in order to reinforce the chapter with new recruits.

Marsaak declared that among the Void Lions, only the chapters veterans would be eligible to become Primaris marines, and that it would always be a choice. For those first veterans that endured the Rubicon procedure to become Primaris, Marsaak made them his personal cadre of warriors, who at that time he called “The Blood-Pride”. Marsaak Isaayah himself would journey from fleet to fleet at will, accompanied by the Blood-Pride to fight with his tribesmen, but spent most of his time with the War Blades Tribe, who were responsible for engaging the tyranid threats within the Eastern Fringe, Hive Fleet Kraken- the chapters specific nemesis. Over time, the Void Lions Chapter would gain a fearsome reputation amongst the chapters of Adeptus Astartes and would come to be known as some of its most stalwart defenders, especially against the tyranid and genestealer cult menace.

Once these changes were in place, The Maned-King Marsaak Isaayah and his company of Inatrii Veterans who had undergone the rubicon procedure embarked upon a journey into the Segmentum Pacificus. Only those marines who embarked with him knew why he made that choice, and unfortunately it would be amongst his last.

Marsaak Isaayahs fleet found itself under the brutal attack of Necrons in that area of space. Though masters of void warfare, the Inatrii were overwhelmed and their small fleet was destroyed. Only a handful of the newly ascended Primaris Void Lions escaped the destruction, and the Chapter Master of the Void Lions; The King of Lions Marsaak Isaayah was killed.

All of the Leonicine peoples were distraught at the developement. So mighty a warrior was he that had led what remained of their peoples after the destruction of their home system and had survived the genecurse of the inatrii, only to be killed by an enemy that prevented his people from ever speaking about his death; it not being against the ancient nemesis of the Leonicines. It was a blow to the morale of the Chapter as well.

However those Primaris Veterans who had survived the assault, brought back the Chapter Masters final wishes. That instead of being led by a single Chapter Master, the Void Lions were now to be led by three- the three captains who by right had won the ritual combats and who already lead their own companies of marines. Each was to become a Maned-King and face of the Leonicine Inatrii. This could not be refused, and the three captains- Pharoa Duri of the War Blades Tribe, Kamna’vur of the Long Spears Tribe and Bo’hma of the Falling Axes Tribe- accepted the responsibility.

Currently, The Void Lions chapter has three Maned-Kings or Chapter Masters, and they continue to uphold the traditions and practices passed down to them by Isaayah in their eternal fight against the Tyranid Xenos species.

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Void Lion of the Long Spear Tribe by Adrian Prado

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