Monday, December 22, 2014

LORE: The 13th Black Crusade

Do you remember when Eldrad died, or when Abaddon had obtained the mysterious object from the center of the Eye known as the Heart of Chaos? With the End Times shaking up the Fantasy world right now, I figured it would be worth pulling out this older article on the largest, most momentous event in 40k history that has now, never happened.

Since I started 40k in 2000 there have been 2 major events, Armageddon and the Black Crusade. Both were world wide campaigns that lasted an entire summer and whose outcomes were ultimately decided by the games played by hobbyists everywhere. The only difference between the 2 is only one of them still exists in 40k lore. For one reason or another Abaddon's greatest victory seems to have been retconned out of existence. Before I get into the politics of its real world situation lets take a look back at how the crusade unfolded.


At first there were only hints and whispers at what was to come. Space Hulks began spewing forth from the Warp into the Cadian Sector carrying with them the Plague of Unbelief. A deadly virus that killed all who contracted it and spread quickly through the fleet before making its way to many of the planets. These worlds quickly fell into anarchy and Chaos cults sprang up as those previously killed from the virus soon reanimated as Plague Zombies. These disparate populations were whipped into a fervor by a man claiming to be the Voice of the Emperor, an elusive figure who evaded all attempts at capture. All in all Chaos  

The Imperium was not blind to these ominous signs though and began massing it forces in preparation for the hammer blow they knew was going to be coming. Every Cadian regiment was called back to their home world for a muster on the Tyrok Fields. The Cadian high command recieved each regiment as it landed, and here the Volscani Cataphracts carved their name into history. In a single act of betrayal they opened fire on the Leviathan's of the Cadian high command knocking out their void shields before boarding them and slaughtering them to a man. The traitorous forces were defeated when Ursarkar E. Creed took command of the surviving Cadian forces and it was after this event that he was declared Lord Castellan. 

Total War 

Strike teams of Kasrkin were sent into the Eye of Terror to probe for clues to when the forces of Chaos would strike. They eventually became stranded on the demon world of Urthwart and as they looked up into the heavens they saw the dreaded Planet Killer approach just before it annihilated them. With the destruction of the world the massed forces of Chaos spewed forth from the Eye with two captured Blackstone Fortresses in tow. The Imperial armada was quick to try and intercept them but were outmatched and destroyed. Admiral Quarren escaped with the remnants of the Imperials but the way to Cadia was now open for Abaddon.

Typhus led his forces into the Agripinaa sector and nearly brought them to ruin were it not for the intervention of the Howling Griffons. The battles becoming a grueling ordeal of trench warfare in near inhospitable conditions. Meanwhile the Emperor's Children, Night Lords and Alpha Legion raided and pillaged across the other sectors. With the entire region embroiled in conflict Abaddon pushed straight for the Cadian system. The outer defenses of the system quickly collapsed and Chaos gained the foothold it needed, capturing the prison world of St. Josmane's Hope to bolster it's forces. Meanwhile the Iron Hand's home world of Medusa was invaded and the entirety of the Chapter was forced to defend it in the largest tank battle since Tallarn.

End Game

Abaddon unleashed a barrage on Cadia so powerful it shook its very foundations before drowning it's surface in endless tides of traitors. While the traitors besieged the surface the Imperial Navy broke the blockade surrounding many of the sectors bringing much needed reinforcements. Many of these reinforcements took the form of Space Marine Chapters. The Blood Angels assaulted the largest horde of World Eaters in living memory while the Space Wolves and Dark Angels teamed up to take on Typhus and the Death Guard. Just as things started to go the Imperium's way Erebus enacted a dark ritual sacrificing millions to engulf all of the sectors in warp storms virtually ending all interstellar traffic in the region. 

Without Imperial aid the Agripinna sector fell into ruin at Typhus' hands, he even turned the world of Ulthor into his own personal demon world outside of the eye. In a last ditch effort Eldrad Ulthuan led a strike force onto a Blackstone Fortress that was tearing apart the surface of Cadia. As he melded with the Fortress' heart he realized what a horrible mistake he had made as his soul was devoured by the Greater Demon of Slaanesh that now made it home. The surface of the planet was heavily contested and Imperial command had to abandon many of the Kasrs, or cities, and retreat to the opposite side of the world. Although Chaos had a firm control on many of the planets the Imperium now controlled the space lanes, leaving the area largely contested. 

It is rumored that Abaddon's chief sorceror travelled to the center of the Eye of Terror and obtained a near mythical object known as the Heart of Chaos for his master. What this object is and does no one knows, but it cannot be good. The Eldar succeeded in repelling Ahriman and the Thousand Sons from the webway and even recaptured several crone worlds. It is also reported that a craftworld that had been lost within the Eye since the fall has suddenly reappeared with its ghostly warriors. At some point during this whole ordeal the highly suspect Relictor's chapter was declared Excommunicate Traitoris and their space faring fortress monastery was assaulted by an Inquisitorial task force that spread the remnants of the chapter into the Eye. Even though the Tau were on the other side of the galaxy they took the opportunity while the Imperium was distracted to launch their Third Sphere of expansion which was the most successful gain by any faction.

 Aftermath and the Current State of 40k

The results of the Black Crusade campaign were somewhat controversial since it was promised that it would directly affect the future state of the lore. The issue was that it ended in a stalemate with Chaos holding the planets and the Imperium the space lanes. Despite this the results held for a few years with Games Workshop even publishing a background book on it.

This is an amazing book by the way.

Although now it seems that the entire event has been retconned out of existence. Every 6th edition book makes it seems as though the 13th Black Crusade is just about to start, a minute to midnight type situation. I personally feel like this is very disappointing since it was such an important and well done part of the lore. Games Workshop has not said for sure that it has been retconned but when Aaron Dembski-Bowden was asked about a possible 4th book in his Night Lords series he stated how it would be pretty hard since it ends right before the start of the Crusade and they are not allowed to write past that point.

The 6th Edition Chaos Marine Codex makes no mention of the crusade happening and again makes it appear that we are right on the brink. It even mentions how the Demon Primarchs are reported to be leading their legions again in preparation for the Crusade. Again this seems like a misstep to me as it has been inferred that the Primarchs had their shot and failed in the Heresy and now it is their children's turn in the form of Abaddon, Typhus, Kharn, Ahriman, etc. This seems like a much more interesting idea and the Primarchs are most likely just being talked about again due to the popularity of the Horus Heresy series. If reports are to be believed from the new Eldar codex Eldrad has also been revived with his sacrifice written out.

Despite their attempts to erase this event they have done a somewhat uneven job at it. In the novel Atlas Infernal about Inquisitor Czevak the events seem to take place after his imprisonment by Ahriman, which took place during the Crusade. There is also a rogue Relictor marine in it who makes mention of the disbanding of his chapter.

The Ciaphas Cain novels are another discrepancy as they are written as memoirs in the 42nd millenium after the end of the Black Crusade. Several of the stories take place during the Crusade as well. Creed is still the Lord Castellan in the current Imperial Guard codex and the Tau Third Sphere expansion is currently under way in their's. It seems as though GW is picking and choosing what elements they want to keep and what they want to do away with. It all leaves me a little confused as I don't know whether the Crusade is in the opening phases right now with the betrayal on the Tyrok fields and the Plague of Unbelief already having happened or if we are even before all of that. Is the Crusade's outcome predetermined? Have they merely turned the clock back with the intention of it playing out the exact same way or is it a whole new game. I would really like a definitive statement on this by GW to clear the air. I hope this is all just leading up to a repeat of the 13th Black Crusade but somehow I doubt it. I think their train of thought is all of the possible outcomes from it are more interesting then anything that could actually happen in a global campaign.

You can read a more detailed history of the Crusade on Lexicanum here.

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