The Void Lions: Geneflaws of the Leonicines

Void Lion by Artist Potorochin

Living on the world of Zulup IX for thousands of years had shaped the humans that settled on the world in drastic ways, both physically and mentally. Though these kinds of thing usually happen over millions of years, the changes that the original settlers experienced occured only over a few thousand years, much to the perplexity of the Inquisition.

The appearance of the settlers changed rather quickly. The High Gravity environment of the world made it so that Zulupians were on average slightly shorter, but wider and more strongly built than populations on most other worlds. Their skin color significantly darkened due to the powerful rays of the systems Star, to the point where Zulupians developed a dark brown complexion that was passed down through the generations.

So isolated and territorial were the tribes of Zulup that they began to express different physical traits independent of the other groups. In the case of the Tribe of the White Lions, they developed yellow eyes and the ability to grow white patches of hair. These characteristics likely supported the Leonicine belief that they themselves were part-lion, however it was discovered in the notes of Leggi that the tribe has a myth explaining the origin of those traits being from before they as a peoples had them.

According to the notes of Leggi Nossis, there were other tribes on the world in M33, such as the Mossi, who has red eyes and six fingers and a smaller wandering tribe known as the Hal-xep who were tall and had pale skin. However, being that by the time the Inquisition arrived in the system the other tribes had succumbed to the star plague, there was no to determine the accuracy of these accounts. It is unknown when or how these changes began, but there is a tale amongst the White Lions that told of the tribes coming together to hunt “A blue fish that turned into a blue bird”. Once eaten, the peoples on the world changed drastically different from one another. According to the myth, when the White Lion tribe ate the fish, they became the people of the white lion and when the Mossi ate the blue fish, they became maneaters.

The myth pointed out in its beginning that the tribe that would eventually become the leonicines, killed and ate a dying white lion before eating the blue fish. Following this implication, the tribes somehow “became” whatever they ate before they ate the blue fish, hence why the Leonicines developed yellow eyes, which were similar to those of the Zulupian White Lion. It also implies why the Vessynat and the Mossi were such strong enemies because it can be assumed that the Mossi ate their own and their mutations reflected that after eating the blue fish.

It is unknown what the ” Blue Fish”  creature was, but it is clear from the mythologies that if it was based on an actual creature and not a metaphor of some sort, it was the source of the changes that occured in the population. The settlers on the world didn’t just physically adapt to the world, they rapidly evolved over the span of under a few thousand years. It is concluded amongst the Conclave that whatever the creature was, it was not of this reality- but being that there is no way of knowing, it is kept under highest secrecy and kept within the realm of myth.

Another aspect of the Zulupian people- that was not fully understood until the Inquisition attempted to create a chapter of Space Marines from the population- was just how far this evolution had progressed.

Leggi Nossis did record the high population of Ogryn amongst the tribes of Zulup. It was assumed that they were originally a separate group of their own that integrated into the tribes for survival after the ring of fire occured. However this was not the case. When Zulup IX was reclaimed by the Imperium and the Zulupian Planetray defence was formed, it was quickly discovered that one in every 300 Zulupians was born an Ogryn. Because only ogryn could give birth to ogryn, the shocking discovery was made that the Zulupians had evolved in such a way, that they themselves were Proto-Ogryn Abhumans. Further shocking still, they did have a small percentage of Zulupian white Lion in their DNA.

It was the decision of the Fringe Conclave that the Zulupian people be classified as their own kind of Abhuman. The name “Leonicine” was made, itself a transliteration of the zulupian name that they had given themselves, meaning ” People of the White Lion” or simply “The White Lions”.

The combination of genetic differences, and aggression, led not only to the Leonicines not being infiltrated by the star plague, but their survival as a peoples.

However, there were drawbacks to the Zulupian heritage and the primary issues were classified as “ The Curse of Zulup” and ” The Void Within“.

The Beliefs of the Lion Men

Leonicines did not live long lives. At first it was believed to be because they lived violent, aggressive war filled lives, but after understanding the Leonicine beliefs and worldview, it was found that due to the fact that they had such beliefs that they lived such short lives, and the source of these beliefs was in part, due to the Curse of Zulup.

The Zulupians were a polytheistic peoples. They believed in multiple gods but actively worshipped only one – which they called “Uthin’ek” and meant ” The Half-Living“. Uthin’ek was the god of Humanity and Death to the Zulupians. It was thought that that half of Uthin’ek resided on the physical plane but the other half resided in the ‘afterworld’ where he fought against the other gods which were called ” The Gods of Life“. The Gods of Life were the enemies of humanity ,and fed off of the human desire to live. According to Zulupian mythology, death was the fate of humanity and the Will of Uthin’ek. After death, it was believed that those worthy would fight at Uthin’ek’s side against the Gods of life in a never-ending battle for the fate of the universe. Uthin’ek called all his people to him to fight at his side from the afterworld, and the only way that his people could prove that they were worthy to do so, was through war. Uthin’ek was the God of War as well as Death, for it was through war that his peoples could prove their strength before joining him in the afterworld. These beliefs formed a group of people who were extremely aggressive and warlike. In typical fashion with isolated groups of humanity throughout he Imperium of man, the Leonicines likely viewed themselves as humanity and their enemy tribes as the minions of the Gods of Life against whom war was not only a necessity for survival, but the will of Uthin’ek himself, and being that the other tribes likely held similar beliefs; it fueled the fire of conflict between the various tribes of Zulup for generations.

Zulupians were fearless warriors who were enthusiatic about war and held onto no particular desire to live for longer than necessary, seeing life as little more than a training ground for the war in the afterlife. However, there was another aspect to this enthusiasm towards death: it was believed that if one fought and died valiantly in war, they would be reunited with their loved ones in the afterlife and fight alongside Uthin’ek together. Consequently, they who lived too long were punished by Uthin’ek for their cowardice.

So deeply ingrained were these beliefs, that mourning didnt exist amongst the Zulupians. Death was actually celebrated and regarded casually.

These beliefs were such a large part of the peoples identity, that the Fringe Conclave knew they could not outright force the peoples to accept the Imperial Cult as it was. There existed strong parallels between the Imperial Cult and the Zulupian belief system and so the Inquisition used those beliefs to their advantage in order to gain the peoples cooperation.

It was during the particularly large war between the Leonicines and the Star Plagued tribes of Zulup that the Imperium descended from the clouds in the form of the Black Armoured Astartes of the Deathwatch Ghost Shield. Ordered not to speak a single word when they made planet fall, Deathwatch Captain Hriss- originally of the Space Wolves chapter- pointed his sword to the stunned Leonicine warriors and roared a single Zulupian phrase ” Bon’bur!” Which meant ‘Death to the Star Plague‘ before his marines opened fire on the xenos infected enemy, blasting them apart with their bolt weaponry.

One phrase and a display of might towards a common enemy was all that it took to manipulate the peoples belief system in such a way, that the Imperium of Man was able to include itself into its narrative seamlessly- or so it was believed. It was discovered deep in the caves of Se’lin, a depiction of ebon giants standing amongst the Leonicine tribesmen, that were carbon dated well before the Inquisitions arrival. Somehow, the Leonicines knew they would come.

After this battle, as the young men of the tribe were taken to the Deathwatch star fortress “Black Castle” above Zulup IX to be transformed into Astartes, old leonicine warriors were seen for the first time. The older warriors were physically warped in the most horrendous ways to the point that it became immediately clear that there was a correspondence between long life and physical distortion among the Zulupians. The Conclave was told by the other Leonicines that the elders were suffering from ” The Curse “.

In the attempt to create Adeptus Astartes from the Zulupians, along with their genome being a variant of baseline humanity, it was also discovered that all Zulupians were born with an aggressive form of widespread cancer, likely from the rays of radiation from the systems star, though that is a speculation. So long had the group had it that in became inherited at birth and only fatal after a certain age. At such time, their bodies began to warp as cells began to die and mutiply against natural function, causing agonizing pain and visible physical distortion until they died from the condition. So strong were the beliefs in the afterlife and Uthin’eks will to die in war that even elder warriors in their sickened and debilitated state limped or crawled into battle spear in hand to die in battle with Uthin’eks favor.It was in this that the Conclave saw the practical correspondance between the beliefs and actions of the Leonicines. Zulup IX itself was a Jungle Death World on which life was extremely difficult. Worlds such as these produced the best warriors because they were used to hard, short lives and even valued the quality of their lives as such. With the Leonicines, an extra motivation to dying in war was naturally provided: if they lived too long, they would suffer the fatal effects of the Curse of Zulup, the fatal cancer that they were all born with.

It was not difficult to indoctrinate the leonicines in the ways of the Imperial Cult. Leaning on the existing beliefs of the peoples, basic correspondences were made between the two. Uthin’ek was the Emperor. The Imperium of Man was humanity. The malignant powers of the warp were the Gods of Life and all those who served them were the enemies of humanity. Xenos were the monsters of the Gods of Life. Astartes were the angels of Uthin’ek. The Leonicines were the warriors of Uthin’ek.

The eccliesiary elements attached to the reincorporation efforts would remove the teachings of self-hate from the indoctrinations of the Leonicines- which would normally be a part of their preaching of the Imperial cult to abhumans- at the direction of the Fringe Conclave. Instead, they preached the importance of sacrifice and courage in war, which the Zulupians readily understood. However, they replaced the idea of self hatred, with the reality of “the Curse of Zulup”, saying that it was a punishment from Uthin’ek for lack of courage in battle. The Leonicines understood this as well.

During the reclamation of Zulup IX and the battles against the Star Plagued tribes that existed under the surface of the world, the Leonicine decended without hesitation, grinding futher and further to the point that their own dead bodies would block tunnel entrances and deny movement on either side, creating catacombs of death. These battles were known as the Hollow Earth Campaigns. During the reclamation of the Zulup System, the system had been attacked multiple times by orks forces. All were repelled by the tireless fighting by the Leonicines of the Zulupian Planetary Defence force despite the casualties amassed in the Leonicine force.

The Leonicines never tired. They never lost morale and fought with an iron zeal and enthusiasm which made them perfect- though short lived-warriors. However, the Adeptus Astartes that would be made from them, would be different all together.

Homo Sapiens Novus

The creation of an Adeptus Astartes chapter from the Leonicine peoples was particularly complicated due to their physiological deviancies from regular humanity. The first trial of 500 Leonicine youth all expired when they were imbued with Imperial Fists geneseed after the Ordos petition to create a chapter had been passed by the High Lords of Terra.

It was only through the help of the Adeptus Mechanicus that the Leonicines were able to be transformed into Astartes, and this help came in the form of Geneseed created during the 21st “Cursed Founding”.

The goal of the 21st Founding, also called the Homo Sapiens Novus Project was to improve upon the geneseed created by the Emperor in order to make newer, stronger space marines. Many of the original First Founding chapters geneseed had began to devolve over time, losing functions and amplifying gene-flaws already present in the marines. The Cursed Founding was considered to be a failure, as many of the Marines created from the Geneseed manufactured during it, expressed severe physical deviances in expression- some of which strained the tolerance of the High Lords and Inquisition.

The Cursed Founding occurred over the span of hundreds of years, and many geneseed projects were created during the time. Not all were made into chapters, but all were stored away for future use. One such collection of geneseed was the one used to create a Space Marine chapter from the Leonicines.

The geneseed used to create the Lion Guards chapter, was collected from a geneseed tithe of the Excoriators chapter, a second founding chapter of the Imperial Fists. The chapters geneseed was chosen for two flaws it exhibited, one a flaw that all Imperial Fists geneseed developed over time, and another flaw very specific to the Excoriators chapter.

Over time, the Imperial Fists Geneseed had devolved in such a way that two of its organs lost their functions, namely the Susane Membrane– which enabled Astartes to suspend themselves in temporary hibernation- and the Betchers Gland, which made it so that Astartes could weaponize poisons they ingested in the form of an acidic, corrosive saliva. The Imperial Fists geneseed had lost the ability to produce these organs functionally, and so the new geneseed was modified to be able to do so. Lastly, for the reasons of increasing the strength and durability of the marines made with this Geneseed, the geneseed had Ab Humanis genome added onto it of the Homo Sapiens Gigantus (Ogryn) variation. This new geneseed would produce Sons of Dorn which would be tougher, stronger and be without the geneseed de-evolutions of the Fists previous to them. However, this geneseed would never see active trials, for it was one of the projects created near the end of the Cursed Founding and was stored away before the discovery of the Inculaba.

The Mechanicus offered this store of Geneseed to the Fringe Conclave , calculating a high percentage of its success rate among the Leonicines, in return for the Chapters service in retrieving archaeotech aboard space hulks which drifted near the Zulup system via Perditions Causeway. The deal was made, and the Implantation trials began.

Inatrii Astartes

The Geneseed proved to be successful amongst the Leonicine peoples, able to transform them into Adeptus Astartes without difficulty. The Astartes of the Lion Guards chapter were larger, stronger and tougher than standard Astartes. These marines had functional Susane Membranes and Betchers glands, their reaction times were quick and there ability to work as a unit were exceptional. The Lion Guards were exemplars of an entirely new species of Adeptus Astartes. However, overtime they began to show signs of flaw.

After a period of over 150 years, a Lion Guards astartes physiology would begin to clash against itself. Organs would begin to fail, cells would multiply rapidly, bones would warp until the Astartes was physically distorted and eventually killed by the changes. It appeared that even after becoming Adeptus Astartes, the Leonicine people could not escape their mortal Curse of Zulup.

Not only this, but the Astartes of the Leonicine Praestes were extremely melancholy, lacking in the fatal enthusiasm of a Leonicine mortal. So powerful was this deep, unexplainably morose temperament that it would cause them to freeze or daze in the middle of conflicts. It is speculated that they inherited this flaw from the Excoriators chapter, and that it was their own, amplified version of Dorn’s Darkness. Because of this, the Lion Guards required more Chaplains than most other chapters. Considering that enough geneseed was provided to the chapter to create 5 chapters from one, the chapter was the size of a small legion and Chaplains were more numerous than even Captains.

The word Inatrii was used to designate the geneseed, which was a high gothic word for “Void Within” due to the powerful melancholy it imposed on the marines imbued with it. During the Campaigns of the Reclamation of Zulup, the mortal and Astartes Leonicine warriors worked closely together and this had a positive influence on the marines- but as time went on, and the Curse of Zulup began to manifest among the Astartes, the two groups had to be kept separate except in times of need when combined fighting was necessary. This separation made the Void Within even stronger among the Leonicine Astartes.

It was during this time that a set of beliefs were added into the Leonicine chapter cult that would explain the Void Within as the result of becoming an Astartes. By becoming Astartes, they had forfeited their right to fight by Uthin’ek’s side in the Afterlife. In the process of becoming one of his Angels of Death in life, they had given their souls to him and were now soulless. The inner darkness they felt was that of a body without its soul, it was of only being Half-Living, like Uthin’ek himself.

Leonicine Inatrii

The loss of the Zulup system was a devastating blow to the morale of the Lion Guards chapter. The shame and sadness of the event saw the entire chapter into the Void Within. It was only due to the leadership and reality of a Lion Guards captain named Marsaak Isaayah that the chapter was able to resurface stronger than before, pulling on many of the original leonicine tribal traditions in order to instill meaning and purpose within the chapter. He became the Chapter Master of the Lion Guards, and declared that the Lion Guards were no more. It was Marsak Isaayah who declared that they would be the Void Lions chapter henceforth, Void referring to their new home in the void of space as a chapter who would never claim a world or system for themselves again- and Void as an acceptance to their geneseed and the condition it imbued within them. It was after the loss of Zulup that the Leonicine Praestes became the Leonicine Inatrii.

Adeptus Astartes of the Void Lions Chapter are slightly taller, and more durable than standard Astartes. Void Lion facial features are generally crude and brutal, moreso than other astartes, and this derives from their proto-ogryn composition. Most Void Lions have heavy brow ridges with frontal bossing, strong jawlines and high prominent cheekbones.

Ronjah Ako by Orniris Terensi

Most Void Lions have a dark, earthy brown complexion inherited from the jungle Death World of Zulup IX and their Leonicine Bloodline. However some, have pitch-black skin, and rarely a Leonicine will be born with the pale white skin and soft yellow hair of Albinism. Void Lion Astartes sometimes have naturally white hair, either in parts of their hair or completely. All Void Lions have yellow irises which they have inherited from their Leonicine Bloodline, however their eyes developed the ability to reflect light in such a way that at times it appears as if the Void Lion Astartes eyes are glowing. Void Lions have remarkable senses of sight in the dark and smell, and they are able to detect tyranid genome infection in mortals in the same space as them. Void Lion teeth are imperfect in that they are wide spaced with gaps inbetween them and their canine teeth are pointed and prominent. The Visage of a Leonicine Inatrii typically makes mortals uncomfortable to say in the least.

Void Lion Astartes have hyperactive Susane Membranes and Betchers Glands. They are able to temporarily suspend themselves to such a degree that their vital signs are undetectable, and they are able to do this at will. Their Betchers Gland produces extremely acidic saliva to the point where in causes physical discomfort to their own mouths.

Void Lion Astartes are generally serious, melancholy Astartes who do not share the enthusiasm or passion of most other chapters. The only other emotion they express is incredible rage during battle, especially against the tyranids; toward whom they possess zealous hate. However, Void Lion astartes prefer to fight alongside humans more than they do other astartes and have been said to be particularly motivating and morale-boosting to human forces. Their melancholy is an effect of their geneseed and is managaeble for a time, but the older a Void Lion becomes, the harder it is not to succumb to the Void Within.

After 150 years, a Void Lion Astartes is susceptible to the fatal Curse of Zulup. The majority of Void Lions do not live long enough to experience this, but those that live to be 150 years are given a choice. Chapter law states that a marine may choose to experience the curse, or to become Primaris through the Rubicon Procedure. Some Void Lions willingly endure the curse, seeing it as a testiment to their bloodline and the will of the Emperor. There is a slight chance that one may survive the curse in a non-debilitating manner, just becoming larger and strongly built astartes, but the chances of such are slim and marines who survive the Curse of Zulup are few and far inbetwen. Nor would they be able to escape the Void Within.

Void Lions who become Primaris Marines only delay the inevitable in order to live a bit longer. However the effects of the Curse of Zulup for them are unpredictable and immediately fatal. Primaris Void Lions quite literally drop dead in the midsts of conflict due to their upgrade, In becoming Primaris, they succumb to the Void Within and fight without a sense of self preservation. The whites of Primaris Void Lion eyes also turn black when they cross the rubicon procedure, as if reflecting their internal state of being. Regular Astartes view the Primaris Void Lions with disgust at their cowardice, and refer to them as “The Afraid” and “The Fearful“.

Primaris Void Lion by Adrian Prado

Due to the cursed founding origin and nature of their geneseed, the Void Lions can only recruit from their own Leonicine peoples because the Inatrii geneseed is only compatible with them. Imbuing a Leonicine with any other geneseed will kill them, and imbuing a regular human with Inatrii geneseed will kill them. The Inatrii geneseed is exclusively for those of Leonicine Bloodline, and due to the Minotaur-Leonicine Conflict, it is no longer a secret from the High Lords of Terra or Roboute Guilliman. It is only due to their commitment to fighting the Tyranid Xenos Species are the Inatrii Astartes allowed to exist, but their existence does attract the negative eye of other Ordos of the Inquisition.

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