The Celestial Lions are a Space Marine Chapter created in the 38th millennium. They have a long and glorious history. Recently the Chapter has come into conflict with elements of the Inquisition, with terrible consequences.
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During the event known as the Khattarn Insurrection, five companies of the Celestial Lions were attached to Inquisitor Apollyon in order to crush the ongoing revolt on the main planet, Khattar. The orbital defences were nothing to the Space Marines and they quickly landed on the planet, with virtually no opposition. As the campaign progressed and the number of prisoners increased, it became evident that this was no mere minor rebellion. Apparently the priesthood of Khattar had been corrupted and had led the leaders of the planet into the arms of Slaanesh. Local renegade Imperial Guard and Planetary Defence Force regiments were quickly defeated and within three months the rebellion was crushed. The detachment of the Celestian Lion boarded into their ships and left for their fortress monastery.
As the ships left orbit, the Imperial Navy, under orders of Inquisitor Apollyon, bombarded the planet, and obliterated the entire population of the planet. This action horrified the Celestial Lions who proceeded to condemn the Inquisitor. Captain Saul had attempted to halt the bombardment, but could not counter-order an Inquisitor. From then on, the Celestial Lions were highly vocal against the Inquisition, believing it had been unnecessary to destroy the planet. They sent a series of very loud and public condemnations against the Inquisition in general. A delegation of senior Chapter officers left for Terra to further their cause, but the ship never arrived. It was blown wildly off course by a freak warp storm, far into Ork territory. The wreckage was eventually found two years later, although this was not enough to deter the Celestial Lions, which kept demanding an investigation into the events surrounding the destruction of Khattar.
With the outbreak of the Third War for Armageddon, the entire chapter of the Celestial Lions dispatched was deployed to defend Hive Volcanus. They suffered horrendous casualties within months of arriving. The intelligence they received was horribly inaccurate and often led them into ambushes where they were outnumbered and outgunned. On multiple occasions Thunderhawk deployments to Hive Volcanus were shot down by Imperial anti-air cannons, or by Imperial ships in orbit as Thunderhawks returned from the surface. Entire Chapter ships were lost as orders from High Command and High Marshal Helbrecht were received too late to prevent an ambush, or were completely corrupted to the point of leading Celestial Lion ships directly into Ork held space, seeking resupply from docking stations long since over-run. Ranking officials began to suspect this was intentional, a ploy to wipe out the entire chapter, but nothing could be proven.
One particularly devastating battle occurred when four entire companies were wiped out in the Mannheim Gap by the combined forces of Warlord Thogfang's Gargant mob and the Razor Speed Freeks. It was thought that Thogfang's Gargants were still under construction and the Celestial Lions hoped to take the orks by complete surprise. Unfortunately not only were the Gargants fully operational, they were waiting for the Celestial Lions, targeting the exact ridge where the Chapter had been ordered to launch their assault from. Undaunted by this apparent betrayal, the Celestial Lions fought bravely and for a time, thought they could win. The orks launched their trap and hundreds of buried tunnels opened behind the Lions position, swarming their rear with thousands upon thousands of orks. The last Captain, Vularakh, was eaten by Thogfang. Losses mounted and ended with a very well-coordinated attack on the Celestial Lions' base camp.
This particular battle lasted for three hours. Hundreds of Marines fell to the overwhelming Ork forces. Sniper fire rained down from the mountain sides, relentlessly targeting the Apothecaries. It should be noted that the sniper fire was not Ork in origin. Imperial issued longlas laser sniper rifles were used, burning holes straight through the helmet and eye-lenses of Chapter officers. Finally, a small company was able to break through the Ork lines and fight their way back to the Hive. Only ninety-six Marines survived and, to make matters worse, the last Apothecary was shot in the head within hours of arriving at the Hive; he was found slumped against his Rhino transport with a las burn straight through his temple. Their gene-seed lies unharvested on the surface of Armageddon and the remaining brothers have sworn to die alongside their fallen brothers, fighting to the last.
Seeking one last hope of redemption, then Pride Leader (Squad Sergeant) Ekene Dubaku asked Reclusiarch Grimaldus to preform last rights on their Chapter as the survivors would be returning to Mannheim to die alongside their brothers. Grimaldus refused and marshaled the remaining defenders of Hive Helsreach to march alongside the Celestial Lions. Grimaldus believed that if the honour of the Celestial Lions could be salvaged by destroying the ork base, then the remaining warriors would return to their homeworld and begin rebuilding. The resulting battle was massive with almost all of the remaining Celestial Lions dying. However, Pride Leader Dubaku was able to slay Warboss Thogfang with Grimaldus' help, avenging the loss of his Captain and Chapter. Only then did Grimaldus signal for Black Templar reinforcements and the knights of Dorn fought one last time on Armageddon. 
High Marshal Helbrecht forced Dubaku to take the oath of Chapter Master and granted him an ancient suit of armor still bearing the original heraldry of the Imperial Fist Legion. The few remaining Celestial Lions departed for their homeworld on the strike cruiser Blade of the Seventh son, a gift from the Templars, alongside a temporary detachment of Templars to help with the rebuilding of their Chapter.[3b]
- 1: Armageddon Website - Details of the Third War for Armageddon Worldwide Campaign
- 2: Index Astartes "Emperor's Shield" (White Dwarf 249 (UK))
- 3: Blood and Fire (Novella)