A Black Crusade is a military campaign unleashed upon the Milky Way Galaxy when the Forces of Chaos manage to unite under the leadership of a powerful Champion of Chaos. They then proceed to launch a massive offensive from their base within the great Warp rift called the Eye of Terror against the worlds of the Imperium of Man. The most devastating Black Crusades were led by the Warmaster of the Black Legion, Abaddon the Despoiler, the self-proclaimed heir of Horus, who has led multiple Black Crusades against the Imperium. The most recent of these campaigns was the 13th Black Crusade in 999.M41, the largest and most successful of them all.
The 1st Black Crusade occurred in the late 31st Millennium, five standard centuries after the end of the Horus Heresy. Utilizing the region of calm space around the Eye of Terror known as the Cadian Gate, Abaddon led the combined forces of the Chaos Space Marine Traitor Legions against scores of Imperial worlds, and was responsible for millions of deaths in the first week alone. Multiple worlds were lost before the Imperium could launch an effective counterassault, and although the Black Crusade was ultimately defeated, the Imperium was forced to heavily fortify the surrounding Cadian Sector, transforming Cadia itself into a Fortress World.
Over the course of the intervening ten thousand standard years, the Forces of Chaos have launched a further twelve Black Crusades. Millions of other attacks have been made on the worlds of the Cadian Gate by Daemon Princes and lesser Chaotic warlords, but the title of Black Crusade is reserved for the times when Abaddon or another powerful Chaotic leader is able to unite all of the Forces of Chaos located within the Eye of Terror in the pursuit of one goal -- the destruction of the Imperium of Man, the greatest bastion of Order in the galaxy.
The 41st Millennium saw two Black Crusades. The 12th Black Crusade, also known as the Gothic War, was Abaddon's attempt to capture the ancient Eldar artifacts called the Talismans of Vaul, but known to the Imperium as the six Blackstone Fortresses. The Eldar allied themselves with the Imperium to defeat the Chaos forces, and were successful, although Abaddon escaped with at least two of the Blackstone Fortresses.
The 13th Black Crusade began during the 999th year of the 41st Millennium, and resulted in the largest mobilisation of both Imperial and Chaotic forces seen since the Horus Heresy. In this campaign, at least one of the Blackstone Fortresses was destroyed by Necron raiders. The Necrons had targeted the ancient fortresses because they had originally been designed and constructed by the Old Ones to defeat the C'tan during the ancient War in Heaven millions of years ago between the C'tan's Necron servants and the Old Ones.
The 13th Black Crusade was also the background to Games Workshop's world-wide Eye of Terror Campaign in 2003, which resulted in a minor victory for the Forces of Chaos and gave Abaddon his long-sought foothold on Cadia, though he suffered devastating losses to his fleet to secure it. During the campaign, Admiral Quarren led an Imperial counter-attack allied with the Eldar that drove off Abaddon's Chaos-corrupted Blackstone Fortress which had been possessed by an avatar of the Chaos God Slaanesh. But Abaddon's foothold in the Cadia Gate remained intact, with fighting still ongoing on Cadia and the surrounding worlds as the 42nd Millennium dawns. In response, the Imperium has stripped the garrisons along its far Eastern Fringe to reinforce the Cadian Gate, which resulted in a full retreat of the Forces of Chaos from the Cadian Sector and produced the current stalemate. However, this weakening of Imperial defences hastened the onslaught of the Tyranid Hive Fleet Leviathan and the latest expansion of the Tau Empire until it was brought to a halt in the Zeist Campaign. At the present time Abaddon's forces remained bottled up on the surface of Cadia whilst the Imperial Navy's control of the Cadian Gate prevents the Forces of Chaos from expanding their toehold in Imperial space.
List of Black Crusades
- 1st Black Crusade (circa 781.M31) - Abaddon the Despoiler, the new Warmaster of Chaos Undivided, makes his first attempt to launch a new offensive against the Imperium of Man folowing the Horus Heresy and initiates the First Battle of Cadia.
- 2nd Black Crusade (597.M32) - The 2nd Black Crusade saw another failed assault by the Forces of Chaos from the Eye of Terror upon the defences of Cadia.
- 3rd Black Crusade (909.M32) - The 3rd Black Crusade was carried out by the great Chaotic force known as The Host of Tallomin. The Host was lead by the Daemon Prince Tallomin but the assault was crushed by Imperial forces lead by the Space Wolves Space Marines. Tallomin, known as the "Prince of Daemon Princes" was either slain or banished by the Astartes who confronted him, but his final fate remains unknown to the Imperium.
- 4th Black Crusade (circa 001.M34) - Abaddon's forces succeed at carrying out the destruction of the Citadel of Kromarch on the world of El'Phanor before the Forces of Chaos are crushed once more by the Imperium's stalwart defenders.
- 5th Black Crusade (723.M36) - Doombreed, an ancient Daemon Prince of Khorne whose existence precedes that of the Imperium itself, declares war on the Adeptus Astartes. The Warhawks and the Venerators Chapters of Space Marines are lost in the fighting.
- 6th Black Crusade (901.M36) - No information about this conflict is currently known in Imperial records.
- 7th Black Crusade (811.M37) - The 7th Black Crusade was a Black Crusade against the forces of the Imperium of Man led by the infamous Chaos Champion Abaddon the Despoiler and his Black Legion, launched out of the Eye of Terror in 811.M37. When the Blood Angels Space Marine Chapter battled against the Forces of Chaos at Midian, Abaddon singled them out with implacable fury. He led a band of Khornate Berserkers into the teeth of the Blood Angels' Devastator positions. Even the Blood Angels' own Assault troops could not dislodge the frenzied warband and recapture the bodies of their comrades. But there is an obscure reference to the Blood Angels being saved by an unidentified Space Marine Chapter of mysterious origin. Written within the The Canticle of Cassandria Lev - Vol. CVI, the eponymous Sainted Sisters' highly mythologised and oblique account of the wars of the 7th Black Crusade, is found mention of a "grey-clad" Space Marines Chapter who came from "The outer night" to aid the Imperium, and whose "Jagged maw did swallow the stars ... and whose ... black gaze did mirror the void of oblivion". In the course of the canticle this Chapter's ships set upon Abaddon's forces following the disastrous defeat and routing of the Blood Angels at Midian and attacked the pursuing forces as Saint Lev writes: "...fell upon the servants of the skulled-one with great fury from the darkness, unseen as the beast that lurks beneath the black waters, death for death, blood for blood...thus were the Sons of Sanguinius bought respite, and did turn back upon their pursuers and so were the damned traitors of the false gods driven unto their ruin." Images of these events can be found upon the walls of the Cemetery World of Hypasitis created to house the honoured dead of that war, depicted in repeated fresco and bar relief. Curiously, the faces of the intervening Space Marines depicted there are obscured with featureless disks of black obsidian. Given the largely unknown history of the star-faring Carcharodons Chapter, accounts of their activities can only be constructed from recorded historical incidents and fragmentary records that are believed to have involved the Carcharodons on balance of evidence. This notable engagement is listed by Imperial savants as a "[Special] Probable Encounter/Recorded Sighting" of this notorious and mysterious Space Marine Chapter.
- 8th Black Crusade (999.M37) - No information about this conflict is currently known in Imperial records.
- 9th Black Crusade (537.M38) - The 9th Black Crusade was a Black Crusade led by the infamous Chaos Champion Abaddon the Despoiler and his Black Legion, launched out of the Eye of Terror in 537.M38. During this time, the Lamenters Space Marine Chapter was recalled along with a number of other Crusading Chapters by the High Lords of Terra to help deal with the rising threat of incursions from the Eye of Terror. But the Lamenters' fell reputation for suffering bitter reversals and dark turns of fate worked against them during the Chaos attack on the Hive World of Corillia during this campaign. The superstition-bound Mortifactors Chapter refused to fight alongside the Lamenters, abandoning the planet rather than serve beside them. Unwilling to desert the Hive World's population, the Lamenters held out alone against the Black Legion's onslaught for six standard weeks, suffering horrendous losses until the Ultramarines and White Scars led a battle group that broke though the Chaos warfleet to relieve Corillia. Reduced to barely 200 surviving Battle-Brothers by their sacrifice, the Lamenters were deemed lost when their fleet disappeared in a Warp Storm soon afterwards, only to reappear more than a standard century later on the edge of the Segmentum Solar, having slowly battled their way back from the outer void.
- 10th Black Crusade (001.M39) - This Black Crusade is also known as the Conflict of Helica, during which the Iron Warriors Chaos Space Marines fought the Iron Hands on Medusa.
- 11th Black Crusade (301.M39) - No information about this conflict is currently known in Imperial records.
- 12th Black Crusade (139.M41) - Better known as the Gothic War, this Black Crusade was fought for control of the Gothic Sector in the Segmentum Obscurus between the Chaotic forces of Abaddon the Despoiler and the defenders of the Imperium.
- 13th Black Crusade (999.M41) - The greatest of the Champions of Chaos, Abaddon the Despoiler, launches an all-out attack of the forces of Chaos Undivided on Cadia. The Forces of Chaos succeed in gaining a foothold on the surface of Cadia, but become trapped there when their fleet is driven back into the Eye of Terror by the Imperial Navy. A bloody stalemate ensues within the Cadian Gate.
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition)
- Liber Chaotica: Khorne
- Codex: Eye of Terror (3rd Edition)
- Battlefleet Gothic: "The Galaxy"