Today we delve into Abaddon’s latest and most bloody Black Crusade – the Gothic War.
A Black Crusade is an incursion that is formed when the usually disparate forces of Chaos unite under a particularly strong Chaos Champion and go forth en masse to wage war against the Imperium of Man.
Following the devastating events of the Horus Heresy, the Imperium began the Great Scouring, a campaign to cast out all traitors who had sided with Chaos and drove them into the warp stormknown as the Eye of Terror. There, the followers of Chaos began to fight among each other for domination and territory and their vast armies eventually fractured.
Even so, the threat the exiles posed was far from gone. To this day they seek to overthrow the Imperium, launching separate raids and invasions against it. Once or twice within a millennium however, an exceptional Chaos Champion rises who is strong enough to bring his fellow warlords and their hosts under his sway. When this happens ancient rivalries are set aside and uneasy alliances are forged, clearing the way for what is called a Black Crusade.
The forces and fleets that gather for a Black Crusade are made up of all types of Chaos servants: the multitudinous hordes of the Lost and the Damned, ancient and towering Chaos Titans, the bizarre war machines of the Dark Mechanicum and the Daemons of the warp. Leading them into the realm of man are the vengeful warbands of the Chaos Space Marines.
When the crusade is launched, whole worlds fall prey to the rampaging hordes and the Dark Gods themselves divert their attention to the material realm, delighting in the sacrifices made in their names. Still, the nature of Chaos is fickle and unless it is repelled by the defenders, the crusade is bound to splinter into separate hosts and warbands who pursue their own ambitions.
11th Black Crusade – War in the Stars
At the outset of the Eleventh Black Crusade, Abaddon bound a Daemon of Tzeentch within his vessel, hoping to find a path through the Warp storms around the Eye of Terror. Tormented with impossible riddles and twisting falsehoods, the Daemon was driven completely insane, leading Abaddon thousands of light years off course. Writhing, the Daemon tore itself apart in a vortex of madness, bending time and space around the fleet. Abaddon’s ships were scattered across the void of the Materium. Undaunted by the failure of his daemonic navigator, the Warmaster loosed his Black Legion upon the nearest planet, the Cardinal World of Relorria.
Descending on Relorria, the Traitors encountered a rival for their prize , an Ork Waaagh! led by Murgor ‘Undred Teef. In a vicious and chaotic three-sided war, Daemons and Orks ripped each other apart in the burning ruins of Relorria’s vast Reflecting Towers. Abaddon used this chance encounter with the Orks to conduct experiments with Daemons and alien creatures, attempting to fuse the material and the immaterial together into some new manner of horror. Fascinated by the psychic link between the Orks and their instinctive use of Warp energy, the Warmaster took thousands of the xenos back with him to the Eye of Terror to continue his research. The Black Legion eventually retreated from Relorria, leaving the battered survivors of Humanity to destruction at the hands of the Orks.
12th Black Crusade – The Gothic War
The 12th Black Crusade, or Gothic War, was a vast campaign launched by Abaddon 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.
The Invasion Begins
Amid the disruption caused by the Warp Storms, in 143.M41 Chaos forces launched a massive surprise attack on Imperial Naval bases across the Gothic Sector, ambushing Imperial warships as they sat in their docks. 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. 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.
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 Fortressorbital 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: a massive warship simply dubbed 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. 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.
On top of all these disasters, Lord Admiral von Ravensburg, commander of all Imperial Navy ships in the Gothic Sector, had to deal with even more problems. Eldar Corsairs struck frequently at Imperial shipping from their hiding places in the Graildark Nebula. Unable to track the swift and elusive Eldar 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 Eldar, Ravensburg was also faced with increased raiding by Ork and Human Pirates as well. 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.
The War Continues
With the threat of planet killer looming over their heads, Sub-Sector after Sub-Sector surrendered to Chaos forces. Things soon got worse at a Adeptus Mechanicus facility orbiting the Lukitar, where Abaddons fleet managed to capture yet another Blackstone Fortress. At Fularis II, home to yet another Blackstone, Abaddon’s two Blackstones revealed 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.
By 144.M41 the entire Gothic Sector found it under attack, Imperial ships fought desperately to hold back Chaos forces. 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 Eldar 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.
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.
The Imperium Resurgent
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]Tearing into Chaos forces, the heretic Warmaster ordered his fleet to retreat but found himself under attack to the rear by an Eldar fleet which seemed to appear out of nowhere. Caught between the jaws of these two forces, the Chaos fleet was 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. 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.
However Imperial and Eldar forces were convinced that Abaddon would lead another attack on one of the remaining Blackstone Fortresses in Imperial hands. Thanks to Eldar scouts, they discovered that the Despoiler planned to capture the Blackstone orbiting Schindlegeist. Using ancient Eldar Webway technology, the bulk of the Imperial and Eldar 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
The Planet Killer was greatly feared by the Imperial Navy, and survived the conflict.