"I am the master. I am the one who controls this place and much of the city around it. I am the one to whom all bow. I am the vanquisher of worlds, the destroyer of dreams, the creator of nightmares. I am the pirate king, the renegade prince. I am all these things and more, for I am Asdrubael Vect, and all the warriors of the Black Heart are mine to command."
- — Asdrubael Vect introducing himself to one of his prisoners
The Kabal of the Black Heart is the most powerful Drukhari Kabal in Commorragh. The Kabal is ruled over by the absolute power in the city -- Asdrubael Vect himself. Living within lowering black spires at the heart of Commorragh, the Black Heart control many of the Webway routes that lead from the city and their pirate fleet is the largest of any Kabal. They maintain this position of dominance by exacting a tithe of slaves and souls taken by other Kabals using the entry points they control. In the past, Archons of other Kabals have risen to prominence and challenged Vect for control of the city. These Kabals no longer exist.
The Kabal of the Black Heart is the oldest and greatest of its kind. It is a vast and sprawling organisation, able to support numerous rival Archons within its hierarchical structure. Each Archon controls a separate faction within the Black Heart, and each vies fiercely with his rivals for the patronage of Supreme Overlord Vect. None brave outright murder, however, for only a fool would blunt one of Asdrubael Vect's favourite tools. So complete is his stranglehold upon Commorragh that none of these highly placed subordinate Archons dare challenge the Supreme Overlord's supremacy in anything but the most private dreams or fantasies. Even then, they do so with caution, for it is said that Vect knows well the scent of treachery, and reads the minds of lesser mortals like an open book.
This Kabal's military strength is virtually unassailable. Countless thousands of Kabalite Warriors, Commorrite mercenaries and lethal gunships stand ready to exterminate their foes at the slightest crook of Vect's corpse-white finger. A cast-iron bond with the Wych Cult of Strife puts yet more might at the Supreme Overlord's fingertips, providing him with the closest thing the Dark City has seen to genuine allies. This union -- alongside the impossibly intricate web of spies and informers that Vect has scattered through every stratum of Commorragh, the Kabal's standing compacts with multiple Haemonculus Covens, and secreted agents throughout the wider Aeldari race -- means the Kabal of the Black Heart holds more power than several of their largest rivals combined.
No action taken by or against the Kabal of the Black Heart is too small to elude Vect's notice, and with fractal genius he subtly influences every outcome. As such, when an Archon of the Black Heart launches a raid into realspace, they do so with the knowledge that Vect's personal spies have assessed the battle to come, and the Supreme Overlord will have prepared counter-measures for each possible eventuality. Every Warrior and Archon in the Kabal knows that they are under Vect's gaze, and that their slightest failings will incur his unquenchable fury. This is an exquisite motivator, and leads to vast soul harvests being carried out with flawless precision by the forces of the Black Heart.
Power at Any Cost
Asdrubael Vect began his days as a slave. Yet through pure guile and murderous ambition he eventually rose to become the leader of a militant organisation that dominates the Dark City to this day that he named the Kabal of the Black Heart. By the time Vect had established this powerbase, he had been recognised by the Trueborn aristocracy of the Drukhari as a genuine threat. The Kabal of the Black Heart was opposed at all turns by the most influential of High Commorragh's ancient noble houses -- Xelian, Kraillach and Yllithian. So it was that Vect -- ever the master of turning foe against foe to his own advantage -- concocted a plan to bring the fury of the Imperium of Man to bear against his many enemies.
So audacious was this scheme that, to the eyes of most, it would have seemed like a horrific gamble. His could not have been further from the truth. Every angle had been carefully considered, every necessary loyalty bought beyond any danger of doubt. Asdrubael Vect's plan to achieve ascendancy demonstrated that his mind was like some intricate and unstoppable clockwork machine -- by the time the plan had run its course, millions had been ground between its merciless gears. Vect, meanwhile, elevated himself to a position of total supremacy, borne to unimaginable heights upon an evergrowing mountain of cooling corpses.
Baiting the Trap
The seeds of Vect's conflict were sown in the area known as the Desaderian Gulf. This region of Wilderness Space was well known amongst the starfarers of Segmentum Tempestus for the number of craft that had disappeared within its boundaries. Unbeknownst to the Imperium, there existed avast portal into a main artery of the webway within Desaderian space, shielded by holofields that made it appear nothing more than a shimmer in the starlight. The Dark Eldar fleets preyed upon the Imperium's shipping lanes from within this veiled rent in reality. Yet they did so only rarely in order to escape retribution; the missing ships were considered acceptable losses or else written off by the Imperium’s scribes as bureaucratic errors.
Vect’s first overt move was to increase the frequency of these piratical raids tenfold. He made it his Kabal’s priority to capture every warship and invade every human world within reach of the portal. He tore apart the Astra Militarum regiments garrisoning the planets of the Desaderian system, devastated their fortifications, and disappeared with his living bounty to the depths of the Dark City. Vect left nothing but ruin in his wake. The campaign saw the Kabal of the Black Heart grow rich in plunder, and though Vect’s detractors thought him a fool for antagonising the Imperium’s war engine, the raids continued apace.
Eventually, as Vect had known they would, the Imperium reacted to the disappearances in the Desaderian Gulf. The Strike Cruiser Forgehammer -- a warship of the Salamanders Chapter -- was close enough to investigate, and Brother Captain Phoecus ordered his ship deep into the Desaderian Gulf. Like predators stalking their kill, Vect’s Kabalite fleet shadowed the Forgehammer, encircling it undetected before striking in overwhelming force. After a short but extremely violent skirmish, the Forgehammer was wreathed in a crippling haywire field and towed back to the Dark City.
The furore that resulted from the capture of so many live Space Marines -- precious commodities for the arenas -- set the spires of High Commorragh aflame with intrigue. The noble houses could not be seen to permit the upstart Kabal to retain their prestigious prize. Before long Vect found his fleet dwarfed by the armada of Lord Xelian and the Forgehammer ‘confiscated’. The Salamanders ship, still sheathed in a crackling haywire field, was dragged back to the spires of High Commorragh and tethered to Lord Xelian's stronghold, ready for dissection. Yet the noble lord had underestimated the Space Marines trapped within. Though the Forgehammer’s comms were inoperable, Captain Phoecus' gifted Librarian, Brother Hestion, had sent a psychic call for aid as soon as the ship's systems had been disabled. Hestion was acting as a living beacon for the rest of his Chapter; a beacon that was nestled deep within the spire-clustered confines of High Commorragh.
The Enemy of My Enemy is My Blade
When Lord Xelian sent his warriors to bring the Space Marines to his torture chambers, they were met with far sterner resistance than he had anticipated. The Dark Eldar carved through the hull of the Strike Cruiser with ease, but overpowering the Space Marines proved a far greater challenge. The Forgehammer was a sizeable warship, its every crawlspace and corridor fortified against boarding actions. The Space Marines were on familiar territory, and they fought with utter, unshakeable determination. After sustaining significant losses, Xelian changed tack, returning the salvage rights of the vessel to the Kabal of the Black Heart. After all, the Space Marines could always be seized later, once Vect’s Kabal had born the brunt of their fury.
Vect, ready for this move, casually played a waiting game. He systematically fed the least trustworthy elements of his Kabal into the guns of the Space Marines, eliminating them while buying time for the Imperium to respond. On the sixteenth day of the siege, the skies above Commorragh yawned wide. The Salamanders Chapter had homed in on Brother Hestion’s psychic beacon. They found the Desaderian portal mysteriously unveiled, its guards slain and its controls locked out so that it could not close.
The fury of the Imperium thundered from the crackling jade Webway portal directly above Archon Xelian's personal spire. Through it came ships bearing the heraldry of not only the Salamanders but also the insignia of the Howling Griffons and the Silver Skulls. The spectacle of their vertical entrance was jawdropping, even for the jaded Commorrites in the streets below. Two dozen Strike Cruisers, each a bullish colossus of gothic architecture built for war, hammered through the wide-open portal into the skies above the Dark City with all guns blazing. At their heart was the Battle Barge Vulkan’s Wrath, an immense hulk of a ship with broadside batteries that could flatten whole cities. Its prow was a vast ram that ploughed straight into the spire where Lord Xelian stood and obliterated him utterly.
Commorragh In Flames
Once their initial amazement had worn off, the Dark Eldar reacted swiftly. From nearby Port Shard came hundreds of exotic craft, each but a splinter next to the slab-like ships of the Imperium, but deadly nonetheless. Voidraven Bombers and Razorwing Jetfighters careened out of their towering hangars like bats pouring from a cave, descending in a great flock upon the Space Marine vessels. Even as the air-war erupted with pyrotechnic ferocity, each Strike Cruiser ejected a thunderous volley of Drop Pods. The tight-packed attack transports smashed down into the heart of the Kraillach Quarter, disgorging hundreds of Space Marines who were met by the stirring fury of the Dark City.
The fighting spread like wildfire, and High Commorragh burned as the warriors of House Kraillach engaged the Space Marines in brutal battle. Hellions and Reavers screamed through the skies above the combatants, while Mandrakes crawled from the shadows and Scourges plunged down from on high. Raiders packed with Wyches skimmed through the Space Marine ranks, disgorging agile warrior acrobats whose blades clashed and sparked against the revving Chainswords of their foes.
Leading this brutal counterattack came Lords Kraillach and Yllithian, burning with outrage at this sudden defilement of their realm. Lord Kraillach cut a red swathe through the Adeptus Astartes, his blade drinking blood with every blow. Yet his rampage was brought to an abrupt end when a straydark lance shot vaporised him where he stood. The patrician Lord Yllithian, meanwhile, found himself privileged to lead the charge alongside none other than Lelith Hesperax and her Wych Cult of Strife. The Space Marines were hurled into full retreat by this unstoppable assault. Yet Lord Yllithian’s appreciation of the spectacle was soured somewhat when Hesperax’s silvered blades burst through his chest, the ruins of his black heart skewered on their tips.
Though the battle raged on for many solar hours, the deaths of Lords Xelian, Kraillach and Yllithian marked the triumphant conclusion to Asdrubael Vect’s scheme. Their regeneration pacts went unfulfilled, for their remains were inexplicably dragged away into the shadows of Aelindrach by hissing Mandrakes. Though numerous, the Space Marines could not hope to defeat the entire Dark City roused to war. Yet after the mysterious collapse of the haywire field that imprisoned it, the Forgehammer made good its escape along with the bulk of the invading Space Marine forces. This, coupled with the devastation of High Commorragh, completed the humiliation of the old noble families. Their lords were dead beyond recovery, their strongholds reduced to nothing but flaming wreckage. Into the yawning power vacuum stepped Asdrubael Vect and his Kabal of the Black Heart. Eschewing all pretence at innocence, Vect ensured that word of his machinations became public. All would know that to stand in the way of Asdrubael Vect meant certain death, and in the centuries that followed his grasp on power would inexorably tighten.
- The Breaching (Unknown Date.M37) - Vect causes the hidden portals that link each satellite realm and port-city of the Webway to be revealed, forcing them open and building the Great Gates: huge edifices that are permanently guarded by Vect's elite Incubi and Kabalite Warrior garrisons. Over several millennia of civil war and violent strife, Commorragh expands into these once-autonomous regions until they become integral to the Dark City. Only the realm of Shaa-dom remains autonomous.
- Vect’s Gift (677.M36) - Asdrubael Vect tricks his would-be rival Archon Kelithresh into opening a casket that has ostensibly been presented as a tithe. Held precariously in the collapsing field of the casket is the unstable essence of a black hole. Kelithresh's entire realm is plunged into a howling, yawning vortex.
- The Blade of Vect (984.M37) - The sub-realm of Shaa-dom grows steadily in influence and power until Archon El’uriaq, the selfproclaimed Emperor of Shaa-dom, declares himself more worthy of rule than Asdrubael Vect. Vect publicly vows that all of Shaa-dom will feel the edge of his blade, much to the amusement of El'uriaq's famously well-funded and elite forces. Three days later, a Warp rift opens suddenly above the satellite realms and a burning Imperial Navy battleship thunders downward, plunging deep into the hidden city’s heart before its Warp drive detonates. The palace-fortress of El’uriaq is torn apart. The Warp rift allows Daemons to invade the city, and in a matter of a single week the devil-haunted realm of Shaa-dom is reduced to cinders. Vect is reported to have allowed himself a rare smile at the moment of its fall.
- Pandaimon Betrayed (799.M38) - The trans-dimensional satellite realm of Pandaimon declares independence from Commorragh, instantly triggering a great war between Archon Qu, Kabal of the Lords of the Iron Thorn, and the Kabal of the Black Heart. Qu is ready for Vect’s attack, but not for the treason of his own daughter, who reveals herself as one of Vect's many courtesans. Civil war rages for weeks but ultimately the realm of Pandaimon is delivered into Vect's hands.
- Fear the Shadows (462.M41) - The Kabal of the Black Heart strike at the Hive World of Lapradus, but are hurled back in disarray by the intervention of Titans from the Legio Castigatum. Mere days later, Princeps Gendath -- the author of Castigatum’s victory -- is murdered on his own bridge. He is hacked to shreds within his amniotic tank by hissing horrors that slither into being amid the thrashing soup. The murky shapes disappear as suddenly as they struck, leaving only a half-frozen mulch of blood and shattered armaglass in their wake.
- Just Beyond the Door (346.497.M41) - It is on this date that word reaches Asdrubael Vect of a disturbance at Khaine's Gate. Something has begun to pound slowly -- rhythmically -- impossibly -- on the other side. Vect stations five hundred Incubi to watch over the Gate chamber as a delaying measure. He pays exorbitant sums to ensure their discretion, while simultaneously ensuring all those Incubi hired hail from brotherhoods who have defied or hindered his machinations in the past. As further insurance, Vect deploys several of his more esoteric arcane weapons within the chamber itself, ingenious failsafes that include temporal flux-mines, the Seventh Shard, and a tri-prismic dimensional mirror keyed to hurl anything reflected in its surface into the heart of a sun.
- Fire and Blood (883.M41) - Drukahri from the Kabal of the Black Heart attack the garrison world of Kyobin. Despite the determination of Major Kamen’s Cadian shock troops, the raiders leave the planetary defences in smouldering ruin, massively destablising the Imperium’s presence in the Loki Sector and allowing the Crimson Slaughter’s Igrax Offensive to open up a dozen new battlefronts.
Notable Black Heart Kabalites
- Asdrubael Vect - Supreme Overlord Asdrubael Vect is the Archon of the Kabal of the Black Heart, the oldest and greatest of its kind. It was Vect who rose from his mundane life as a young warrior-slave to bring the old order of the Drukhari nobility crashing down and instituted the Kabalite system. So complete is Vect's stranglehold upon Commorragh that none of these highly-placed subordinate Archons dare challenge the Overlord’s supremacy in anything but the most private dreams or fantasies. Even then, they do so with caution, for it is said that Vect knows well the scent of treachery, and reads the minds of lesser mortals like an open book.
- Valossian Sythrac - Valossian Sythrac of the Black Heart is a rare individual indeed -- one of an ever-diminishing clique of Archons to have consistently retained Supreme Overlord Vect's favour. Vect long ago grew bored of Archons bearing news of the conquest of planets and star systems, for such mundane victories rarely last long in the grand scheme of things. Instead the Supreme Overlord rewards those with the wit to damage or topple entire galactic empires. Sythrac is such an individual -- his ongoing quest to assassinate each of the Imperium's most-vaunted heroes is a hot topic within Vect's courts. The practical applications of weakening the Imperium's command structure aside, Sythrac's tactic is to extinguish hope itself -- to rob the upstart humans of those that they hold dear, and deprive them of the will to fight against the encroaching darkness. Every Drukhari finds a perverse delight in reminding the lesser races of their place; Valossian Sythrac makes it his life's work.
- Codex: Drukhari (8th Edition), pg. 18
- Codex: Dark Eldar (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), "Three Ages of the Dark City"
- Codex: Dark Eldar (5th Edition), pp. 13-16
- Eldar & Dark Eldar (Collector's Guide), pg. 70
- The Torturer's Tale (Short Story) by Gav Thorpe
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (7th Edition), pg. 41
- White Dwarf 372 (UK), pp. 52-53
- Colours of the Kabals (Defunct Site)