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13th Black Crusade

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Black Crusades of Abaddon the Despoiler 1st - 2nd - 3rd - 4th - 5th - 6th - 7th - 8th - 9th - 10th - 11th - 12th - 13th

Thirteen times shall the Traitor King go forth. In the End Times the iron fortress shall be cast down. Its walls breached and its Gate forced open. Those that dwell beyond shall spill through it. The air shall burn and the ground shall melt, The Daemon shall lie down with the machine, Brother shall slay brother with fire and sword. And the sky-wound shall pour its malice forth. The Eye shall stare unblinking at its prize, and the Traitor King shall cross the bridge of stars. He shall return to finish the Warmonger's red work, Upon holy soil shall the fate of man be decided.
The Liber Malefact[13b]

Thirteenth Black Crusade
Abaddon Black Crusade.jpg
Artwork depicting Abaddon the Despoiler and his legions spilling from the Eye of Terror on the 13th Black Crusade[1]
Date 999.M41
Location Segmentum Obscurus
Outcome Ongoing
Combatants
Imperium of Man Forces of Chaos
Commanders
Lord Castellan Ursarkar E. Creed
Admiral Quarren
Great Wolf Logan Grimnar
Abaddon the Despoiler
Typhus
Kossolax the Foresworn
Erebus
Ahriman
Lucius the Eternal
Tarraq Darkblood
Daemon Primarchs (Rumored)[13b]
Strength
See Imperial Order of Battle See Chaos Order of Battle
Losses/Survivors
Massive casualties Massive casualties



The 13th Black Crusade of Abaddon the Despoiler began in 999.M41, and resulted in the largest mobilisation of both Imperial and Chaotic forces seen since the Horus Heresy. Although Abaddon's forces were pressed back and he suffered grievous losses to his fleet, the losses to the Imperium were equally dire, and Abaddon gained a foothold in the Cadian Gate, something his twelve previous Black Crusades had failed to do.

Abaddon's strategy was based around the concept of The Crimson Path: by summoning enough Daemons to the surface of Cadia, he intended to overload the Pylons holding back the tides of the Warp on the planet. If he should succeed, the Eye of Terror will envelop Cadia and transform it into a hellish Daemon World, after which Abaddon intends to jump from planet to planet from the Segmentum Obscurus, until Terra itself is swallowed up into the Eye.[13a]

Contents

Prelude

As the end of M41 drew to a close, the first signs that Abaddon the Despoilers long-feared Thirteenth Black Crusade was imminent came in the form of numerous sightings of Space Hulks emerging from the Warp around the Cadian Sector. Though some were boarded by the Adeptus Astartes and others destroyed by orbital defenses, those that got by the Imperial blockade struck strategically important worlds and naval bases throughout the sector, crippling the region's naval forces. It was then that the dreaded Chaos vessel of Nurgle, Plagueclaw appeared in the outer reaches of the Urthwart system, further spreading pestilence wherever it went. Famed Imperial Admiral Quarren would launch a hunt for the vessel but soon encountered something far more terrible. Ambushed around the Frenerax Dust Cloud, Quarren discovered, to his horror, that the Chaos Fleet was led by the dreaded Terminus Est, flagship of Typhus of the Death Guard, Herald of Nurgle. Quarren's fleet barely managed to survive the trap and escape. The Battle of Frenerax had been a costly disaster, but there was worse to come.[1a]

Now operating with impunity, Typhus's Plague Fleet spread pestilence throughout the Sector and the Officio Medicae were helpless to stop it. As the epidemic spread, apocalyptic sects began appearing on worlds afflicted, preaching that the Emperor's wrath had descended upon them and was a punishment for their sins. In what became known as the Plague of Unbelief, Chaos spread throughout the sector as the fanatical sects rioted against Imperial authorities. To compound the Imperium's problems, Plague Zombies soon emerged from the bodies of those struck down by disease. The Hive World of Belis Corona in the Agripinaa Sector was particularly affected by both the Plague of Unbelief and an infestation of Plague Zombies, and by the time Typhus's Plague Fleet arrived in the system the world was completely unable to resist him.[1a]

As Chaos swept through many Imperial worlds surrounding the Agripinaa, Cadian, and Belis Corona Sectors, cults preaching that the Imperium had forsaken the teachings of the Emperor grew in number. Imperial authorities, crippled by plague, could do little to stop the ensuing chaos and mob rule that these cults unleashed. Mysterious yet brutal raiders began to strike without warning throughout these sectors, annihilating small settlements and Agri Worlds. Meanwhile, Astropaths and the Emperor's Tarot consistently produced dire predictions. On Cadia itself, the worlds mysterious pylons erupted into life and vibrated intense psychic energy. The pylons appeared to be fighting to hold back the powers of the Warp that were pouring from the Eye of Terror at an unprecedented level but they were slowly destroying themselves in the process.[1b]

Between the anarchy, plague, and vicious raids spreading throughout the Agripinaa sector, the Imperial Navy's Battlefleet Agripinaa was forced to retreat back to its bases. Yet an even greater disaster was in the making on the Imperial world of Lelithar where a powerful figure arouse amongst the raving cults and fanatics, proclaiming himself the Voice of the Emperor. The Voice of the Emperor's cult spread throughout nearby worlds and he encouraged rebellion against Imperial rule. Soon, vicious battles between the Voice of the Emperor's cult and the faithful followers of the Ecclesiarchy erupted on the streets of worlds such as Bar-El, Yayor, Amistel, and Albitern. Attempts by the Officio Assassinorum to dispose of the Voice of the Emperor proved unsuccessful.[1b]

Betrayal on Cadia

Despite the deteriorating security situation and internal strife in the Imperial territories surrounding the Eye of Terror, Cadia remained a beacon of stability. But in order to counter the increasing frequency and scale of Chaos activity around the Cadian sector, the Cadian High Command issued an order that every regiment of the Cadian Shock Troops were to muster on Cadia itself. As a result, hundreds of extra landing fields were assembled at Kasr Tyrok fields in preparation for the reinforcements. Millions of men had already been assembled when the Volscani Cataphracts regiment, considered by many to be the most hardened fighters in the sector, landed on Cadia. In honor of the reputation of the Volscani regiment, the Cadian High Command itself gathered at Tyrok Fields to personally greet the arriving forces. However this would prove to be a disastrous decision for Cadia, as the Volscani soon revealed their true colours.[1b]

Exchanging their Cadian and Imperial banners for those of Chaos, the Volscani forces opened fire on the Cadian assembly on Tyrok Fields and annihilated most of the Cadian High Command in one fell swoop. Only a skillful counterattack by Lord Castellan Ursarkar E. Creed, who managed to take control of the reeling Cadian forces, prevented further calamity. Now installed as Governor of Cadia due to the murder of the previous holder of the position, Creed ordered the Cadian forces to dig in as he dispatched requests for aid throughout the whole of the Imperium. The Administratum and Space Marines heeded the call, mobilizing the sector with unprecedented scale and pace. After an engagement with a raiding party of Night Lords led by the vicious Tarraq Darkblood, a unit of highly trained Kasrkin were dispatched into the Eye of Terror directly on a reconnaissance mission, desperate to find some kind of indication of where the first blow of the inevitable Chaos invasion would land. The reconnaissance mission proved a disaster when the force became stranded on the Daemon World of Urthwart and was subsequently destroyed by the dreaded ship Planet Killer. As Urthwart collapsed into itself, a Chaos fleet of hundreds of warships, Space Hulks, and transports emerged from the depths of the Eye of Terror. Accompanying them were not only the Plagueclaw and Terminus Est but also two captured Blackstone Fortresses. Imperial Admiral Pulaski mustered whatever ships he could in the Ormantep system, ready to fight and die to give the defenders of Cadia whatever time they could to prepare themselves. Though the Imperial fleet fought bravely, it was annihilated by the massive Chaos armada. Quarren, however, managed to escape with what remained of his fleet, but in doing so had left the way clear for a splinter Chaos Fleet to ravage the Agripinaa Sector.[1c]

Now virtually defenseless, the worlds of the Agripinaa Sector were ravaged by the Plague Fleet of Typhus and his legions of Death Guard and Daemons of Nurgle. Only an intervention by the Howling Griffons Space Marine Chapter, Jouran Dragoons Imperial Guard, and Legio Astorum Titan Legion prevented the total collapse of Imperial rule in the sector. The Imperial forces, further reinforced by the Death Spectres Chapter, even managed to lay siege the world of Lelithar, the original world of the Voice of the Emperor which had since been captured by Typhus's forces and legions of crazed cultists. However, the bloody siege has cost the lives of millions and is grinding mercilessly towards an uncertain conclusion.[1c]

Meanwhile the Emperor's Children, led by Lucius the Eternal, butchered the world of Belisar while warbands of Night Lords moved onto Scarus Sector, spreading terror and fear to the Imperial Populace. Cells of Alpha Legion revealed themselves across Segmentum Obscurus, badly delaying Space Marine reinforcements in protracted struggles. In the wake of the Traitor Marines came terrifying hordes of Chaos: Traitor Marines, Mutants, Chaos Cultists, and Daemons as well as the Traitor Titan Legions of the Dark Mechanicum.[2a] Soon, every world within a thousand light years of the Eye of Terror became embroiled in conflict.[3]

While hordes of Chaos forces ravaged the surrounding sectors, the main Chaos Fleet of Abaddon the Despoiler and the World Eaters Chaos Lord Kossolax the Foresworn pushed towards Cadia itself. The Chaos fleet quickly overwhelmed the defenses on the world of Solar Mariatus, the outermost planet of the Cadian System. Here, traitor forces established a forward base of operations to launch attacks throughout the entire system. Capturing the prison world of St. Josmane's Hope, the Violators Chaos Space Marine warband managed to capture its millions of inmates and use them as slaves or conscript them into its armies. Admiral Quarren had done what he could, but the overwhelming Chaos Fleet could not be stopped and after three days of hard fighting, the majority of the Imperial Fleet in the Cadian System had either been crippled or destroyed. After overrunning Cadia's orbital bases, the planet finally stood defenseless and Abaddon's long awaited invasion of Cadia had finally begun.[1d]

The Battle of Medusa

Meanwhile, Abaddon launched a massive assault on Medusa, homeworld of the Iron Hands Space Marine Chapter. As the Iron Hands recruited strictly from Medusa, the Marines were forced to defend it above all else. All ten of the immense mobile Fortress-monastaries of the Chapter were mobilized along with the heavily armored Planetary Defense Forces of Medusa for the defense. Assaulted by armoured regiments of the Haradni 13th Traitor Guard, the ensuing armoured clash was one of the largest in the Imperium since the Battle of Tallarn during the Horus Heresy, with the Chaos forces fielding over ten thousand tanks. The ensuing battle raged for five days, with the Traitor forces gradually pushing towards the mobile fortresses of the Iron Hands. The Fortresses, each possessing the firepower of the mighty Ordinatus war machines of the Adeptus Mechanicus, decimated hundreds of tanks with each salvo.[12]

Using this support to finally break the Traitor lines, the Iron Hands were nonetheless outflanked by enemy armour, which began to pour fire into the vulnerable rear of their mobile fortresses. This forced the Iron Hands to launch a furious counter-attack led by Assault Squads, taking heavy casualties in the process but succeeding in stopping the traitor flanking maneuver and sending them into a disorderly retreat. The Iron Hands then used their Predator Annihilator tanks to decimate the retreating Traitor forces, securing Medusa at last.[12]

The Battle for the Cadian Gate

Space Marines and Chaos forces battle in the 13th Black Crusade

Meanwhile, Abaddon began his long-awaited invasion of Cadia with a fierce orbital bombardment, one so powerful it shook even the vaunted Cadian Shock Troopers. Along with the bombardment came legions of Chaos Space Marines, the Lost and the Damned, Daemons, and Titans, who flooded the fortress world of Cadia in unprecedented numbers.[2a] The Cadian forces fought bravely and stubbornly, however, and were aided by the legendary Thirteenth Company of the Space Wolves.[4]

Throughout all this, the Imperium received unexpected aid from xenos. The Eldar of Craftworld Ulthwe appeared to fight against the forces of Chaos, led personally by the Farseer Eldrad Ulthran. Intervening in the desperate battles between the Imperial Navy and Chaos, Eldar ships managed to often turn the tide, while on the world of Belis Corona, Eldar Black Guardians managed to relieve the besieged Imperial forces. Farseer Eldrad vanished after an attempt to capture a Blackstone Fortress.[3]

Not all of the Eldar activity would aid the Imperium, however; many Crone Worlds around the Eye of Terror would come under attack from Chaos forces and immortal Phoenix Lords would lead Eldar defenses in the Belial IV System, attempting to destroy a dark cathedral erected by the Word Bearers.[4] The Eldar would also engage Ahriman of the Thousand Sons after the sorcerer managed to breach the Webway in a hunt for the mysterious Black Library.[4]

Elsewhere, Necron forces appeared in almost every warzone of the Thracian Primaris system of Scarus Sector, surprisingly only engaging Chaos forces. Not all xenos activity has been helpful however; the Dark Eldar took advantage of the anarchy and raided worlds of the Cadian Sector, even taking slaves on Medusa.[3] The Relictors and Dark Angels chapters were forced to leave the main war effort and fight off several Kabals of Dark Eldar in response.[4]

While the forces of Cadia managed to hold off the Chaos armies in a bloody stalemate, the Imperial Navy would receive reinforcements from Cypra Mundi and launch a counterattack to drive Abaddon's forces back into the Cadian Gate. Using these resources to his advantage, Admiral Quarren managed to defeat Chaos fleets many times the size of his own, allowing a flood of Imperial reinforcements to break the Chaos blockades of Cadia and the Scelus Sector. In the Belis Corona System, the entirety of Battlefleet Gothic would storm into the fray. The Imperial Navy was staking everything on this final, sector-wide retaliation; if it were to fail, the whole of Battlefleet Obscurus would be so weakened it would have no hope of repelling Abaddon's invasion.[5]

While the Imperial Navy reinforcements bolstered the defenses of Battlefleet Cadia, Abaddon would unveil the next step in his plan. The Word Bearers Legion, led by the Dark Apostle Erebus, would enact terrible rituals on the world they had captured, unleashing Warp Storms and hordes of Daemons across outlying sectors around the Eye of Terror such as Scelus and Caliban. Cut off from aid, these sectors were ravaged by the powers of Chaos. Imperial forces would not falter however, and a counterattack led by Creed and the White Scars Chapter was launched on and from Cadia, engaging Chaos forces throughout the sector in a surprise move of resolve.[6] After holding out for many long weeks of stubborn resistance, the defenders of the Cadian Gate received further aid when reinforcements from dozens of Space Marine Chapters finally began to arrive. Among them were the Blood Angels, who assaulted the largest horde of World Eaters encountered in living memory on the world of Kasr Partox and defeated the forces of Kossolax and a Bloodthirster on Agripinaa.[2b] Meanwhile, the Dark Angels under Supreme Grand Master Azrael and the Space Wolves under Great Wolf Logan Grimnar engaged the forces of Typhus on Macharia, Korolis, and Kasr Sonnen, managing to put aside their past differences and bitter rivalry.[8]

Further reinforcements across the theatre of war included the Black Templars and Imperial Fists. Lord Inquisitor Torquemada Coteaz would also appear in the waves of reinforcements, leading strike forces of Grey Knights against Daemons in the Agripinnaa Sector as well as on Kasr Holn and Xersia. The White Scars under Khajog Khan also arrived, forcing Abaddon to lift the sieges of three Cadian Kasrs before being entrapped and destroyed in a bloody fight to the end.[2c] With so many of the legendary Space Marines arriving, the Imperium was at long last able to see a real chance of turning back Abaddon's Thirteenth Black Crusade.[7][8]

However, the rituals of Erebus of the Word Bearers reached their peak shortly after the arrival of Space Marine reinforcements. Through the sacrifice of a million innocents, the entire region around the Eye of Terror was attacked by a Warp storm so intense that inter-system travel was rendered impossible and cutting the warzone off from further Imperial reinforcements. Taking advantage of this, Typhus would unleash the full strength of the Death Guard upon the Agripinaa Sector, which now was reduced to ruins.[9] The most chilling development for the Imperium however was the slow encroachment of the Planet Killer upon Cadia itself as the war entered its final stages.[8] The Imperium's problems were further compounded by xenos forces, even at this late stage in the war. A Tyranid splinter of Hive Fleet Leviathan began to encroach on Segmentum Obscurus and assault Belis Corona while warbands of Orks ravaged the Scarus Sector in what became known as the Green Krusade.[9]

By the closing years of M41, Cadia still remained in Imperial hands. However the world stood alone and was under siege from vast Chaos forces, its moons reduced to barren wastelands and the Villklas and Andur defensive lines smashed. Indeed, Cadia itself looks to be on the verge of falling, and Abaddon's plan to extend the Eye of Terror's radius will begin.[13c] The Cadian High Command was forced to relocate to the far side of the planet as Imperial forces took up positions around Kasr Gallan, awaiting the final push by the Forces of Chaos. The other vital front in the war, the Agripinaa Sector, still remained in Imperial hands but was still under massive attack from Chaos forces and its populace risked starvation with the loss of Agri Worlds such as Yayor, Ulthor, and Dentor. The Imperial Navy sought to rectify this by fighting to hold space lanes around the Cadian Gate in actions that would have Admiral Quarren hailed a hero. The Dark Angels meanwhile continued to wage a spirited defense of the ruins of their ancient homeworld of Caliban, and were even rumored to have captured the elusive Voice of the Emperor.[10]

Rumors persist among Imperial sources that the Daemon Primarchs have returned at the helm of the Crusade to herald in the End Times.[13b]

Secondary Invasions

Although the majority of the 13th Black Crusade was fought near the Cadian Gate, the general chaos of the incursion allowed several splinter fleets to break off from the forces spilling from the Eye of Terror, and wreak havoc much farther afield.[11a]

One such splinter fleet, under the command of Warmaster Varan the Undefeatable, made for the planet Perlia, Varan having learned of the existence of the Shadowlight, an immensely powerful xenos artifact that could awaken the powers of latent psykers and, worse, could have triggered the expansion of the Eye of Terror that Abaddon sought. Varan came to the planet on the Despoiler's orders, having pledged to retrieve the artifact.[11b]

The artifact was being kept in a Mechanicus shrine under the joint control of the Mechanicus and the Ordo Xenos, but the planet as a whole was woefully undefended. However, at the center of the Imperial forces were the faculty of the Schola Progenium, which included battle-hardened veterans from the Imperial Navy, the Guard, the Celestians of the Adepta Sororitas, and, last but not least, the celebrated Hero of the Imperium, Commissar Ciaphas Cain. These veterans were able to muster the citizens of Perlia into a halfway competent PDF, and drilled their own students into a surprisingly effective fighting force, in conjunction with the Mechanicus and Inquisitorial soldiery at the shrine.[11c]

During the final defense of the shrine, Cain and his aide, Ferik Jurgen, defeated Varan in hand-to-hand combat, and his force was annihilated by the surprise appearance of a Necron scouting force. The Imperial forces were able to evacuate before the Necrons arrived.[11d] Although the Shadowlight was lost to the Necrons, Inquisitor Amberley Vail conceded that this was preferable to the disastrous consequences of allowing Abaddon to possess it.[11e]

Another splinter fleet, under the command of Urkrathos, Chosen of Abaddon, was dispatched to the Dark Mechanicus Forge World of Chaeronia[14a], to retrieve an ancient Castigator-class Titan, along with an army of lesser Titans, but these were destroyed first by a small strike group of the Grey Knights. Urkrathos razed most of the planet to the ground in fury, but was forced to withdraw empty-handed.[14b]

Forces Involved

Campaign Background

The Thirteenth Black Crusade was the background to the worldwide Warhammer 40,000 Eye of Terror Campaign, which resulted in a minor victory for the forces of Chaos and gave Abaddon a foothold in the Cadian Gate, though he suffered grievous losses to his fleet.

While the ground is largely controlled by the forces of Chaos, the skies above Cadia are almost entirely ruled by Admiral Quarren and the entire Battle Fleet Groups: Gothic and Solar and elements of several chapters of Space Marines, leaving the results open as the battle rages on. Having both space and air superiority gives a significant advantage to the Imperial forces, allowing the deployment of fresh troops and the bombardment of Abaddon's army.

Sources

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