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Warhammer 40K: Abaddon’s First Black Crusades

7 Minute Read
Jan 5 2023

Delve deep into Abaddon the Despoiler’s first attempts to overthrow the Imperium – the early Black Crusades.

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.

Black Crusade Overview

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 storm known 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.


1st Black Crusade

The First Black Crusade occurred around the year 781.M31 and was to be the first in a long line of attacks by the forces of Chaos from within the Eye of Terror.


The attack, like most others, was led by Abaddon the Despoiler at the head of various traitor Chaos Space Marine legions. Through alliance, threats and promises, Abaddon was able to muster the largest force of Traitor Legions seen since the Heresy and took the Imperium by surprise. Meanwhile, the Imperium at this time had yet to build the vast defences on Cadia and the naval port of Belis Corona, and the invasion stormed across thousands of worlds in a mighty push to force the Emperor to bow before the forces of Chaos. Worlds close to the Eye of Terror fell into mayhem and chaos as Legions descended from the sky and Daemons tore their way into reality. On the Agri-World of ValesiaZagthean the Broken led his warband in a orgy of violence and destruction. For his own dark pleasure, the warlord constructed a vast maze of thorns from the world’s blood-rose orchards, blinding his prisoners and loosing them within its twisting tunnels, before hunting them down at his leisure.

Not to be undone, Eralak and his company of Raptor‘s unleashed atrocities on the Hive cities of Melphia which included hanging millions of citizens from gigantic gallows. The invasion itself was more of a blunt sword action than a wickedly sharp blade, which most of the other Black Crusades would be. It seemed that little could stop the oncoming of Chaos as world after world was burnt. The only bastion that stood firm was the world of Cadia. On the world of Urthwart, Cadian forces aided by the Imperial Fists 4th and 5th Companies defended against a Chaos onslaught led by the first Defilers. After 4 days of vicious combat, the Chaos forces were forced to retreat. While the Imperial forces eventually managed to reclaim lost territory, scores of of their worlds were shattered and the Black Legion had done much to wash away the shame of their defeat in the Heresy and restore their failing morale.

While the forces of Chaos assaulted the galaxy, the Imperium sent forth its warriors, the Imperial GuardAdeptus Mechanicus and Space Marines (who had only recently split due to the Second Founding), who marched together and pushed Abaddon back. The distance which the Crusade penetrated the Imperium forced the Emperor to respond by building defences on Cadia and a vast naval port at Belis Corona.

During this Black Crusade, Abaddon led his forces to Uralan and then to the Tower of Silence where he laid claim to his great Daemon sword Drach’nyen. Abaddon was finally cornered by the elderly Sigismund, and the two engaged in a duel.


Drach’nyen was acquired by Abaddon during the 1st Black Crusade


2nd Black Crusade

The 2nd Black Crusade consisted primarily of a massive assault on the newly constructed bastion of Cadia in the year 597.M32. The attacks were no less powerful in numbers and strength, or in savage viciousness, but the Imperium had had time to prepare themselves for the oncoming attack. After the 1st Black Crusade, the Imperium had seen fit to build defences in the area of the Cadian Gate, primarily on Cadia itself, a fortress on Nemesis Tessera and a vast naval port at Belis Corona, all to provide a wall onto which the forces of Chaos would wash against and be stopped, to prevent them from threatening the heart of the Imperium ever again. The lessons from the 1st Black Crusade were well learnt, by both sides.

The invasion was again led by Abaddon the Despoiler, at the head of a vast army and armada, possibly even exceeding the numbers and power of the previous invasion. At Belis Corona Abaddon launched a diversionary attack while he and his Bringers of Despair landed on the system’s outermost moons. There the Warmaster invoked a ritual that cursed the moon that would awaken centuries later and unleash a mutagenic plague upon the defenders there. Meanwhile, Black Legion forces assault the Inquisitorial Fortress on Nemesis Tessera which freed several Daemons kept captive there.

Savage and brutal fighting broke out all over Cadia, especially around the walls of the various fortresses spread across the world. The siege lasted for five years of hell and grief for the defenders, while the attackers suffered from frustration at the impervious defences that lay against them.

Meanwhile, a Word Bearer fleet arrived and began assaulting Imperial Fleet assets in the region. Though they formed no formal alliance with Abaddon, the Word Bearers nonetheless boarded five Imperial Cruisers, unleashing Defilers onto each. The machines ripped their way through the ships before the Word Bearers packed them with explosives. The captured ships were then sent spiraling back into the Imperial armada.

After the forces of Chaos were stymied at Cadia, they began to spill out into the surrounding systems wherever they could. These attacks were masterfully stopped by the various other fortifications erected for just this occasion, instilling a new hope into the hearts of men. Abaddon was forced to retreat once more to the Eye of Terror where he would wait, rebuild his forces and plan his next attack.


Cadia, Abaddon’s primary target during the 2nd Black Crusade

3rd Black Crusade

The Third Black Crusade was one of the Thirteen Black Crusades waged by Abaddon the Despoiler against the Imperium, taking place in 909.M32.


During the Third Black Crusade, to distract the Imperium from his desecration of the Saint Gerstahl‘s tomb on the Shrine World of the same name, Abaddon launched an attack on Cadia. Here the Warmaster unleashed the Daemon Prince Tallomin, so-called ‘Prince of Princes’, against the Cadian Gate. Abaddon had convinced the creature that the blood of the Adeptus Astartes could grant him unheard-of strength and the power to crush his rivals within the Eye of Terror. In a brutal assault, Tallomin and his daemonic minions slew many millions of Imperial soldiers and lured no less than a dozen loyalist Space Marine Chapters to battle. In the end, the ferocious warriors of the Space Wolves finally drove the Daemon Prince into the Warp, but Abaddon had already achieved his aim, destroying the remains of Saint Gerstahl and forestalling any chance of his prophecy’s fulfillment.

Cadia, Abaddon’s diversion of the 3rd Black Crusade – masked his true target Saint Gerstahl.

4th Black Crusade

The 4th Black Crusade would prove to be highly costly to the Imperium, seeing the destruction of the Citadel of Kromarch and the loss of many lives. The attack began in 001.M34 and was led by Abaddon the Despoiler. Abaddon had learnt well from his last two Black Crusades and besieged the walls of Cadia while taking the bulk of his forces out into the wilds of the Segmentum Obscurus.

On his drive to Terra, Abaddon landed his forces on El’Phanor and this was where his attack would end. Abaddon led his forces personally against the defenders, his followers and warriors dropping all around him in the attack on the great citadel of the Kromarch, until the walls crumbled and his attack was pressed home thanks to his Daemon Sword Drach’nyen sundering the gates. Abaddon then gave his troops free reign over the city and no man, woman or child was free from the assaults of Chaos. This move doomed Abaddon however, as it gave the Imperial forces time to regroup and plan revenge on Chaos. The Imperial forces fell on the tide of Chaos and wiped it from the face of the planet, few escaping back to the Eye of Terror, signalling the end of the Black Crusade.

Yet Abaddon had many more Black Crusades in store for the Imperium.


Abaddon slew the Kromarch ruling over El’Phanor with Drach’nyen during the 4th Black Crusade

Learn More of the Black Crusades

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