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12th Black Crusade

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Targetdrone.gif This article is about the the 12th Black Crusade, also known as the Gothic War. For other uses of Gothic War, see Gothic War (disambiguation).
Black Crusades of Abaddon the Despoiler 1st - 2nd - 3rd - 4th - 5th - 6th - 7th - 8th - 9th - 10th - 11th - 12th - 13th
Gothic War/12th Black Crusade
The Battle of Schindlegeist
Conflict Long War
Date 142–160.M41[8b]
Location Gothic Sector
Outcome Imperial Victory
Forces of Chaos Imperium of Man
Pirate Fleets
Abaddon the Despoiler
Malefica Arkham(KIA)[8b]
Baal-Hierophant Lokkis Vanama(KIA)[14c]
Heinrich Bale
Admiral Cornelius von Ravensburg
Admiral Spire[5]
Admiral Aurelion[5]
Fabricator Cambrius[5]
Captain Tiberius Solarian[5]
Marshal Jamahl Byzantane
Inquisitor Thadus Valconet Horst
Prince Eldrathain Voidstinger (from 145.M41)[5]
Craftmistress Lileathon (from 150.M41)[14c]
Various Pirate Lords
Prince Eldrathain Voidstinger (early conflict)[5]
Kaptin KrashKrooz(KIA)[5]
See order of battle See order of battle Human Pirates
Ork Freebooterz
Aeldari Corsairs[1m][5]
Heavy Heavy Unknown

The Twelfth Black Crusade, alternatively known as the Gothic War or Gothic Sector War,[13a] was a vast campaign launched by Abaddon the Despoiler which engulfed the Gothic Sector. It consisted of hundreds of planetary invasions and naval battles and only ended when Abaddon was forced to retreat to the immaterium with the arrival of Imperial reinforcements. It saw the destruction of several planets and four of the six Blackstone Fortresses as well as the deaths of billions of Imperial citizens.[4]

"At the time of the twelfth,
All things will be decided".


The Twelfth Black Crusade was part of Ezekyle Abaddon's plan to gradually weaken the Imperium, known as the Crimson Path. Before the conflict, he ordered his cabal of socrerers led by Zaraphiston to locate powerful artefacts to enact his strategy. Using Divination, Zaraphiston was able to direct Abaddon to Moriana, who informed to Warmaster of the locations of the Hand of Darkness and Eye of Night[4] as well as the means neccessary to seize the Blackstone Fortresses of the Gothic Sector.[5]

Build-up to War

Early in 139.M41, the Imperial Navy scout frigate Ascendance received a garbled plea for help from the Arx station's elderly Astropath. The attackers were unknown and when reinforcements arrived four months later, there was no sign of those responsible. The Imperial Guardsmen stationed on the planet had been wiped out and their bodies had been horribly mutilated. The Inquisition sent one of its agents, the experienced Inquisitor Horst, to Arx to investigate the matter, but there was little evidence left for him to sift uncover.[1a] Around this time, another Imperial patrol encountered a large Heretic fleet in the Naxos system, providing further proof that the forces of Chaos were organizing for something.[5]

Just a little over a year after the Arx Raid, several patrols made a grisly discovery in the Athena Sector. A number of Imperial merchant starships and warships were discovered to be drifiting through the void uncontrolled. Upon being boarded, it was learned that the crews of all these ships were dead, their stinking, disease-ridden corpses strewn along the corridors, some still at their stations. A rumour had spread among the vessels of the Imperial Navy in the Segmentum that the attacks were being carried out by an ancient Chaos warship called the Plagueclaw, a vessel whose diseased followers were dedicated body and soul to Nurgle. Inquisitor Thadus Valconet Horst became convinced that the Forces of Chaos were planning to unite in a new Black Crusade against the Imperium. The watchposts around the Cadian Gate were put on high alert and Imperial Navy warships from all over the Segmentum Obscurus were ordered to defend the space around Cadia. Gradually, scattered reports of unusual activity and sightings of Chaos vessels became more commonplace.[1a]

Meanwhile, rebellions erupted in the Gothic Sector, distracting the Imperials while Abaddon began to enact his plan.[5] He proceeded to launch two massive raids targeting the remote worlds of Purgatory and Ornsworld, overrunning the local defenders, killing millions, and capturing the coveted Hand of Darkness and Eye of Night.[4] Around 140.M41, Abaddon began to move his fleets, including a massive warship dubbed the "Planet Killer" through the Arx Gap out of the Eye of Terror.[8b]

Three years after the Arx Raid, a massive Warp storm engulfed the Gothic Sector, cutting the ships of Battlefleet Gothic off from the rest of the Imperium. Whatever the fleets of the Gothic Sector were about to face, they would do so alone.[1b] At this point, Lord Admiral Cornelius von Ravensburg, commander of all Imperial Navy ships in the Gothic Sector, and a council of top-ranking commanders in the sector ordered a total mobilization. Every ship was pressed into service, the Astra Militarum was granted permission to enlist every available man and woman for military service, and the local Adeptus Mechanicus facilities reorganized their production to support the war effort.[5] Though only a few isolated Space Marine warships were located in the Gothic Sector by this time,[8a] Imperial Fists Captain Tiberius Solarian pledged on behalf of the Adeptus Astartes that the Space Marines would aid the Imperial Navy in any way they could.[5]

The Invasion Begins

Amid the disruption caused by the Warp Storms, in 143.M41 Chaos forces launched a massive attack on Imperial Naval bases across the Gothic Sector, ambushing Imperial warships as they sat in their docks.[1c][8b] The Imperial Navy was poorly prepared for this turn of events, and took heavy losses and many Orbital Stations fell to Chaos forces. However, the Chaos Forces did not achieve total success. At Orar Imperial forces, already on high alert from putting down a rebellion in the area, managed to avoid the initial torpedo salvos from Chaos warships and struck back, knocking out nearly all of the Chaos attackers.[1c] Chaos forces also experienced difficulties from Ork raiders in the area, who hid their ships in dense asteroids fields and ambushed nearby fleets at will.[1d]

The initial Chaos attack also struck at important Adeptus Mechanicus installations and Forge Worlds throughout the Gothic Sector, among them six bases that held powerful Blackstone Fortress orbital defense stations. It soon became apparent that these Fortresses were the primary target as a fleet of twenty Chaos warships overran the Rebo system and captured one of the Blackstone Fortresses after its power system had mysteriously shut down. More disaster struck for the Imperium at Savaven, a Cardinal World of the Ecclesiarchy. There, Abaddon unveiled his ultimate weapon: the Planet Killer. The warship took orbit over Saraven and with a blast of its powerful main weapons, blew the world to pieces, taking 14 billion Imperial citizens with it. The effect on Imperial morale was devastating.[1d] Inquisitor Horst, still investigating Chaos activities in the area, realized that Chaos forces had managed to power this ship with artifacts it had stolen in the Gothic Sector years before: the Hand of Darkness and Eye of Night.[1e]

On top of all these disasters, Lord Admiral von Ravensburg had to deal with even more problems. Aeldari Corsairs struck frequently at Imperial shipping from their hiding places in the Graildark Nebula. Unable to track the swift and elusive Aeldari ships back to their base, Ravensburg could do little and left it up to individual battlegroup commanders to figure out what to do. In addition to the Aeldari, Ravensburg was also faced with increased raiding by Ork and Human Pirates as well.[1e] Thus the Imperial Fleet was facing two enemies at once: Chaos and pirates of various races. Everywhere Imperial forces were on the defensive and losses were high as the situation in the Gothic Sector rapidly deteriorated for the Imperium of Man.[1e]

The War Continues

With the threat of Planet Killer looming over their heads, Sub-Sector after Sub-Sector surrendered to Chaos forces.[1e] Things soon got worse at a Adeptus Mechanicus facility orbiting the Lukitar, where Abaddons fleet managed to capture yet another Blackstone Fortress.[1f] By 144.M41 the entire Gothic Sector found it under attack, and Imperial ships fought desperately to hold back Chaos forces.[1g] Using the Planet Killer as a threat, Abaddon forced the planet Saviour to surrender and pledge its orbital docks to supply the Chaos fleets with new ships.[8b] He then moved on to Fularis II, home to yet another Blackstone, and destroyed its defenders, consisting of Battlegroup Merlin.[8b] Abaddon also revealed that he could link his captured Blackstones to unleash their ultimate weapon: linking their energies together and delivering a combined blast so powerful it stripped the world of all life. With Fularis II devastated, Abaddon acquired a third Blackstone Fortress.[1f]

The forces of Aeldari Corsair Prince Eldrathain and the Imperium agreed to an alliance during the war.

In the following year, an Aeldari corsair fleet under Prince Eldrathain Voidstinger was cornered by an armada of Ork pirates in the Graildark Nebula. Seeing no other option and somewhat impressed by the Imperials' resolve in their battles with the Chaos invaders, Eldrathain requested help from the Gothic Sector's Imperial high command. Regarding this as a chance to reduce both the Aeldari as well as Ork raiding, Admiral Spire helped the Aeldari. Afterwards, Eldrathain promised to talk with other Corsair Princes about reducing their anti-Imperial attacks. He also shared a vision of his farseer with Spire, according to which Imperial Navy Captain Elyas Okar had secretly been corrupted by Chaos. With permission by Ravensburg and Horst, Spire confronted Okar who had indeed turned to Chaos. The Imperial-Aeldari force proceeded to eliminate Okar's battlegroup. Having started to trust Spire to some extent, Eldrathain's fleet subsequently formed a full alliance with the Imperials who in turn agreed to help find spirit stones which had been lost in space after numerous battles between the Aeldari corsairs and Abaddon's fleets.[5] Despite the agreement, other Aeldari pirates continued their attacks.[1m][5]

In 146.M41, Abaddon attacked a massive, space-based Webway Gate in the Gothic Sector to isolate the local Aeldari. Honoring his deal with Eldrathain, Admiral Spire used a small Imperial Navy fleet to assist the beleaguered Xenos, and together they fended off the assault.[5] Abaddon consequently redirected his attention, using the Planet Killer to depopulate the Imperial world of Stranivar which had resisted a Chaos siege for two years.[8b] Meanwhile, the Imperium attempted to counter the growing threat of the Ork pirates. After a series of battles, Admiral Spire's fleet was able to locate the main Ork base -the massive Kolossus Space Hulk- in a astroid field in the Allas Novae region. The Imperial forces battled the Ork fleet until Kaptin KrashKrooz tried to use the superweapon of the Kolossus, only for it to malfunction and self-destruct. With the death of their main leader and elimination of their most important base, the Gothic Sector's Ork pirates greatly dimished in power.[5]

By 147.M41 the entire Lysades Sub-Sector was under Chaos control. However in the Cyclops Cluster, Ork pirates raided Chaos shipping to the point where it allowed the Imperium to gain some ground. But while the Imperial Navy struggled against the forces of Chaos, Fleet Admiral Mourndark made great headway against Aeldari corsairs and Human pirates at Barbarus Costa in the Attack on the Pirates' Haven. With the pirates there all but eliminated, the Imperial Navy was able to focus its full effort against Chaos once more.[1g] An Imperial patrol also encounters the Planet Killer at Corain VI, damaging the ship before being driven off. Corain VI is captured by Chaos troops who proceeded to exploit its mines to fuel the Planet Killer.[8b]

Abaddon also launched an assault on the Hive World of Corilia with fifty Chaos Terminators under the command of Vastakel Khyre. Teleporting directly into Patricius Hive, the capital of Corilia, the Black Legion Terminators massacred thousands of soldiers from the Planetary Defense Force who rushed to Patricius Hives defense. By the time the PDF troops finally reached the interior of the Hive they had discovered that not only were the Terminators gone and thousands of humans had been slain in their wake, but the Imperial Governor and his immediate advisers had vanished with them. What became of the Imperial Governor of Corilia has never been discovered.[2]

In 148.M41, Abaddon invaded Drakulu, enslaving its two million inhabitants. A large number are sacrificed to fuel Zaraphiston's magics, while the remainder is pressed into service on Chaos warships. Two years later, Zaraphiston predicted that the warp storms would soon end, making the Warmaster eager to strike before the Imperials are reinforced.[8b] Meanwhile, Farseer Kariadryl of the Craftworld An-Iolsus experienced a vision which ultimately led him to meet with Inquisitor Horst on Stabia. There, they concluded a tenative alliance.[14a][14b]

The Imperium Resurgent

Main article: Battle of Gethsemane

Although the Chaos Fleet was larger then Imperial Navy forces in the Gothic Sector, Admiral Ravensburg knew that they were divided into smaller groups. Exploiting this weakness, Ravensburg hoped to bring the full weight of Battlefleet Gothics forces onto each Chaos Fleet, gradually pushing them out of the Sector. In 151.M41, Ravensburg saw his first real chance to put his plan into action when Imperial scouts spotted a Chaos Fleet moving to the Gethsemane System. With seventeen capital ships and twenty escorts under his personal command, Ravensburg engaged the Chaos forces there.[1h] After fierce combat, Chaos commander Lokkis Vanama ordered his fleet to retreat[1i][14c] but found himself under attack to the rear by an Aeldari fleet loyal to An-Iolsus, led by Craftmistress Lileathon,[14c] which seemed to appear out of nowhere.[1i] Caught between the jaws of the Imperial-Aeldari alliance, the Chaos fleet was completely annihilated and the Imperium scored its first great victory of the war. Fortune for the Imperium improved that same year when the Warpstorms which had plagued the Gothic Sector for nearly a decade finally abated, allowing neighboring Sectors to send assistance.[1i] Among these reinforcements were several Space Marine chapters such as the White Consuls, Exorcists, and Red Talons.[8a] Abaddon, furious at the prospect of defeat, led a vicious attack on the Tarantis System with his three Blackstone Fortresses in lead. Combining their power as he had before, Abaddon's Blackstones fired directly into the Systems star, causing it to go supernova and killing thousands of billions of Imperial citizens.[1i]

However Imperial and Aeldari forces were convinced that Abaddon would lead another attack on one of the remaining Blackstone Fortresses in Imperial hands. Thanks to Aeldari scouts, they discovered that the Despoiler planned to capture the Blackstone orbiting Schindlegeist.[1i] Unaware that his opponents had already been informed of his intentions, Abaddon passed command of the Planet Killer to Malefica Arkham to launch a diversionary attack on the Arimaspia system.[8b] Using ancient Aeldari Webway technology, the bulk of the Imperial and Aeldari fleet quickly arrived at the Schindlegeist system and organized an elaborate trap against approaching Chaos forces. Abaddon fell into this ambush and the Chaos forces found themselves outnumbered and caught by complete surprise. For three days, the two mighty fleets battled across the system but for all their ferocity the Chaos Fleet could not defeat the forces arrayed against them. Abaddon decided to use his trump card and deployed his Blackstones to destroy the Schindlegeist Systems star, just as he had at Tarantis. This plan was only foiled by the heroic actions of Captain Abridal, who led his Battleship into the converging beams and though he was incinerated in the process, the Blackstones energy flow was disrupted and it would take some time before they would be able to fire. Seeing that his weakened Blackstones were now at risk, Abaddon fled with two of his Blackstones in tow. Imperial forces closed in on the third, the attack led by two Strike Cruisers from the Angels of Redemption Space Marine chapter. Angels of Redemption Space Marines managed to board the third Blackstone but found no traces of crew or resistance on-board. Even more mysteriously, the Third Blackstone along with the others in the Gothic Sector all self-destructed, with how or why still remaining a mystery.[1i]

But the departure of Abaddon did not see a swift end to the Gothic War. Imperial and Aeldari forces pursued Chaos ships attempting to flee into the Eye of Terror, systematically destroying many of them. Some small bands of Chaos ships decided not to flee, making raids on isolated worlds or outposts and retreating when substantial Imperial forces arrived.[1j] Abandoned by his master, Malefica Arkham even decided to create his own empire using the Planet Killer. He conquered Gonnacrash and the Quinrox Sound Subsector, but moved his capital ship to Kharlos II in 154.M41. There, Arkham faced the Imperial Navy's battlegroup Omega, consisting of four Lunar Cruisers. Without any other vessels to support him, the Planet Killer was taken out by continuous torpedoing.[8b] In addition, some Aeldari corsairs continued their pirate attacks until the end of the war.[1m]

These actions lasted years before the remaining Chaos forces and other raiders were finally dealt with. With the Chaos grip on the Gothic sector broken, the Imperial Navy was able to focus its full attention once more to Human pirates in the region who had grown powerful admits the carnage, forcing the pirates and rebels from worlds where they had enslaved millions.[1j] In 160.M41,[8b] nearly twenty years after it had begun, the Gothic War was finally over.[1j]

The Gothic War was one of the great conflicts of the 41st Millennia. Recognizing the enormous Imperial effort and bravery, the High Lords of Terra ordered the construction of colossal monuments in their honor. Standing ten times the height of a man, these Monoliths were engraved with the name of every Imperial serviceman who served in the war, from Admiral von Ravensburg to the lowly merchant ship crewman.[1k]


Known battles


  • 20 years of war
  • Killed billions
  • Destroyed planets
  • 4/6 Blackstones destroyed, 2 stolen
  • Horst spent his days looking for the Blackstones

Order of Battle





See also