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This is an event Codex rather than an army Codex: it gives the detailed background for a particular extended campaign, along with some new army lists for the opposing forces involved in that war. This particular volume covers Abaddon the Despoiler's Thirteenth Black Crusade in 999.M41. This campaign would later be revisited in Gathering Storm I: Fall of Cadia.
Like so many sector-wide conflicts, the Gothic war began slowly, with sporadic, and seemingly insignificant raids against smaller outposts (qv. The Arx Raid). Vessels stricken with disease were discovered adrift in the Athena Sector, along with sightings of the Chaos vessel Plagueclaw, and Astropaths began reporting unsettling disturbances in the Warp. Panic and anarchy became widespread as fanatical sects arose, believing that the Emperor, bless his holy name, was displeased with them. Hysteria spread throughout the sector and on many worlds order broke down completely. The Imperial Navy lost several ships to 'accidents' in space dock that were subsequently blamed on poor maintenance and faulty ammunition - a rather too convenient explanation for my tastes. Three years after the first raid at Arx, the forces of the Despoiler struck.
As the end of the forty-first millennium drew closer, the first signs that Abaddon's long-feared attack was imminent came in the form of numerous sightings of drifting vessels emerging from the Warp in the surrounding sectors. All were converging on the core systems of each sub sector and, while this number of space hulks was rare, it was not unheard of. System defence ships scrambled to intercept them and prevent them from reaching their systems' inhabited worlds. The vessels of the Adeptus Astartes boarded those they could, but numbers were limited. The Space Marines found them to be twisted and disease-ridden nightmares, encrusted with all manner of necrotic matter and toxic filth. Subsequently, every such vessel encountered was destroyed with torpedoes and bombardment cannons, but for some it was already too late.
With a synchronicity that could not have been coincidence, outbreaks of virulent sickness erupted among Imperial Navy crews within a day of a reported sighting of the dreaded Chaos vessel Plagueclaw in the outer reaches of the Urthwart system by Captain Roark of the Dauntless class cruiser Duke Lurstophan. As the sickness spread throughout the region's naval forces, and the number of ships fit for duty fell exponentially, even more hulks dropped from the Warp, converging on vital strategic worlds. Ships from neighbouring sub sectors rushed to destroy the hulks and a small, ad hoc fleet was assembled at Belis Corona under the command of Admiral Quarren. The fleet surged from port and began the hunt for the Plagueclaw, though they were to encounter something far, far worse. In the shadow of the Frenerax Dust Cloud, the fleet was ambushed by a force of Chaos warships led by the Terminus Est, flagship of the Herald of Nurgle, Typhus himself. The battle was short and bloody, with several Imperial ships crippled in the opening salvo of torpedoes, while others were overrun by vile, diseased creatures that vomited forth from loathsome boarding craft. Admiral Quarren recovered well and rallied his forces superbly, counterattacking and fighting his way clear of the trap. Typhus did not pursue and the majority of Quarren's fleet was able to limp back to port. The Battle of Frenerax had been a costly disaster, but there was worse to come.
During the return journey to Belis Corona, thousands of crewmen sickened and died and only with the help of system pilots was the fleet able to dock safely. But if the situation at Belis Corona was bad, it was worse elsewhere. Many of the plague hulks had slipped through the defensive net and the same contagion that had struck down the ships' crews was spreading like wildfire through many inhabited worlds in the Cadian and Agripinaa sectors as well as those of the Belis Corona sub sector. The Hive world of Subiaco Diablo proved to be an ideal breeding ground for the unknown plague and was quickly quarantined by officers from the Officio Medicae, but not before millions had already perished. Within a month, a dozen other worlds reported cases of the plague and panic spread as transit between neighbouring sectors was halted in an effort to stem further infection.
As the epidemic spread, apocalyptic sects began appearing on every world afflicted, preaching that the Emperor's wrath had descended upon them and was a punishment for their sins of wickedness and vice. Only the faithful would be spared the Curse of Unbelief and hordes of flagellating devotees filled the streets of every world around the Eye of Terror. The continued health of these fanatics gave their words the sheen of truth and millions flocked to hear their fiery rhetoric. The plague continued to spread, but it was on Subiaco Diablo that the true horror of the plague was finally revealed. To the shock and disgust of the planet's inhabitants, the mass graves deep in the ash plains heaved and split, the corpses of those who had perished in the plague climbing from the lime-encrusted ground. Soon millions of shambling corpses were advancing on the hive, clawing their way inside and attacking the weakened inhabitants.
Within months, plague zombies were climbing from their graves on scores of worlds throughout the Belis Corona and Agripinaa sectors, and Imperial forces were stretched to the limit in containing these abominations as well as mobs of flagellating zealots who burned medicae ward facilities to the ground in their misguided attempts to halt the plague. Paralysed by the sheer scale of the epidemic, the Naval forces in these regions were completely unprepared for the vast Chaos fleet that emerged at the edge of the Subiaco Diablo system and surged into Imperial space. The Herald of Nurgle, the Traveller, Typhus of the Death Guard had come to reap the harvest of his plague, and nothing stood ready to stop him.
As Ursarkar Creed fought on the bloody fields of Kasr Tyrok, the most trusted advisor to the Governor Secundus collapsed deep inside the fortress of Kasr Vazan, his body bloating and rotting in a manner all too familiar to the chirurgeons of the Cadian Sector. The Kasrkin reacted with admirable speed, but it was too late for the troopers of Kasr Vazan and within an hour, the entire fortress was declared Unclean and sealed forever.
As part of the constant vigil around the Eye of Terror, highly trained units of Kasrkin were pushed into the swirling maelstrom, desperate to find some indication of where the first blow would land. Astropathic divination pointed towards the blighted world of Urthwart, where a massive force was believed to be gathering. Urthwart was a world taken by Chaos, its population enslaved and sacrificed to the dark gods. The Kasrkin found nothing alive on Urthwart, merely death and hideous plague zombies infected with the Curse on Unbelief. But as the Kasrkin prepared to withdraw, frantic vox communication from their ships in orbit reported numerous vessels advancing on Urthwart from the Eye of Terror. The Kasrkin fell back to their dropships and attempted to return to their carriers, but it was already too late. The Imperial ships were either crippled or had been forced to disengage and make for Cadia. There was to be no escape and the Cadians were stranded on Urthwart as a massive vessel, larger than the most gargantuan capital ship approached them: the Planet Killer.
Oblivious to their fate, the Cadians could do nothing as the incomprehensible power of the Planet Killer was unleashed in a devastating lance of energy that bored through the planet's crust and sundered the very bedrock. The land split and the planet's core exploded, breaking Urthwart into spinning pieces of molten rock. The death of Urthwart echoed in the Warp, blowing out the encroaching warp storms, and every telepath within a thousand light years felt its death scream. As Urthwart collapsed in on iteself, a Chaos fleet of hundreds of warships and hulking transports surged from the depths of the Eye of Terror towards Cadia. The diseased Plagueclaw and Terminus Est, along with a massive flotilla of plague hulks, emerged in the Subiaco Diablo system and began heading deep into the pestilence-wracked sector. Alongside the Chaos fleet, and guarded by the Despoiler class battleships Merciless Death and Fortress of Agony, came two hideously altered Blackstone Fortresses. Where once they had served the Imperium as Naval bases, they now resembled twisted and mutated cathedrals, dedicated only to blood and death.
Naval patrols, forewarned by the surviving Astropaths on Belisar, fell back before the tide of corrupted vessels, desperately calling for aid from neighbouring sectors. The ban on transit between sectors was still in force and precious hours were wasted as Naval captains fought to overcome the bureaucracy of the Officio Medicae who attempted to prevent them from press-ganging their crews back into service. Those ships that could be mustered gathered in the Ormantep system under the command of Admiral Pulaski, ready to fight and die to give the defenders on Cadia whatever time they could buy with their lives. Unlike many other naval battles, there was no jockeying for advantaeous positions by the foes. The Chaos fleet obviously intended to batter its way through the Imperial Navy and the two fleets clashed in the shadow of the Ilthirium Belt, a mineral rich asteroid field plundered by the mining hulks of Ormantep.
Battle was joined and the horrendously outnumbered loyalist fleet fought in the grand tradition of the Imperial Navy, with courage, honour and steadfastness. A dozen vessels were crippled in the opening moments of the battle, either by wave after wave of torpedoes or constant attack runs of Doomfire bombers, but the rest of the fleet fought on. As both fleets intermingled and the battle became a desperate, close quarters engagement, with horrific damage being inflicted on both sides, a portion of the Chaos fleet split from the main battle and surged past the heavily engaged Navy towards the Agripinaa sector. For long hours the two fleets pounded one another, and all hope seemed lost when Admiral Pulaski's flagship, Honour and Duty, was destroyed in a catastrophic plasma drive explosion. The Imperial defenders had commended their souls to the Emperor when several Chaos warships that had assumed blocking positions suddenly exploded as the warships of Battlefleet Agripinaa caught the Chaos fleet off guard. Led by Admiral Quarren, the newly arrived Imperial reinforcements cleared a path for the beleaguered Navy to disengage from the battle and withdraw to Demios Binary.
Quarren had saved what remained of the fleet, but in doing so had left the way clear for the splinter fleet of Chaos vessels to breach the defences of the Agripinaa sector. With little or nothing to prevent the Chaos ships from entering each planet's orbit, the systems of the Agripinaa sector were wide open to attack by the diseased followers of the Plague God. Soon the worlds of this and the Belis Corona sub sector became nightmare visions of hell, mud, horror and war. On Amistel Majoris, cursed Plague Marines of Nurgle landed and decimated much of the local defence forces before the forces of the Drookian Fen Guard were able to effect planetfall and bolster the embattled defenders. Plague took many hundreds of lives and the once verdant fields of this prosperous world were reduced to desolate, corpse choked plains, with bodies piled ten deep in every crater. Colonel Pertaj orchestrated a masterful defence, devising a cunning series of trench systems to confound the foe and lead them into deadly fire traps. But the colonel never lived to see his defences in action as the plague struck him down before the first major engagement of the war. Space Marines from the Howling Griffons Chapter fought their way through the Chaos blockade, escorting the ships of the Legio Astorum, to man the defences as the first wave of attackers struck. Only the Space Marines, with their blessed power armour, and Titans could survive the toxin-ridden battlefields of this plague front and the normally lightning fast warfare practised by the warriors of the Adeptus Astartes bogged down into gruelling trench fighting. Both sides fed their forces into the meat grinder of battle, neither willing to surrender the world to the other.
On Lelithar, the originating world of the Voice, Imperial Guard soldiers of the Jouran Dragoons, together with Warlord Titans of the Legio Ignatum landed at Gorgosa and laid siege to the captured Imperial palace, said to be the operational headquarters of the Voice. The resultant siege decimated much of Lelithar's capital city and cost the lives of millions of people as the city's populace rose to fight the soldiers of the Imperial Guard. Supported by the Death Spectres Chapter, the siege continues to grind mercilessly towards an uncertain conclusion.
Plague swept across the face of every world and as many soldiers fell to disease as to the weapons of the enemy. In space, Admiral Quarren led the battered fleet in a fighting retreat back to Cadia and stationed it in a defensive posture in conjunction with the three Ramilies class star forts in orbit. The Chaos fleet advanced towards Cadia, stopping only to allow the Blackstone Fortresses to scour the Demios Binary to a barren rock. Lightning arcs of incandescent energies razed the planet's surface bare, killing millions of Imperial servants and destroying every structure in a matter of hours. Chaos vessels quickly overwhelmed the orbital defences of Solar Mariatus, the outermost planet of the Cadian system, and hundreds of dropships carrying traitor regiments of Volscani Cataphracts descended to the surface, attacking the mining outposts and capturing the valuable ore refineries from the defending units of the Cadian 23rd.
Here, the traitor forces established a forward base of operations from which to launch attacks throughout the system. St. Josmane's Hope fell soon after, the inmates of this military prison rising up against their gaolers as the first waves of the Violators renegade Space Marines attacked. Brutal, close-quarters fighting erupted all across the continent-sized prison and many of the guards kept a bullet for themselves rather than be taken by the frenzied inmates. Welcoming the traitor forces as liberators, the inmates were to be horrifyingly disabused of this notion as those allowed to live were instead taken as slaves for the Chaos fleet or conscripted into its armies. Enemy ships spread throughout the Cadian system, several being picked off by shadowy Eldar vessels that vanished as mysteriously as they arrived, but the bulk of the Chaos fleet advanced directly on Cadia.
Admiral Quarren had done what he could, but the overwhelming Chaos fleet could not be stopped and after three days of hard fighting, the majority of his ships had been either crippled or destroyed. Those vessels that could escape fled to the Forge world of Kantrael in an attempt to refit and rearm in time to make a difference, but there were precious few of them. A single Ramilies star fort fell to the invaders, the remaining two managing to overload their reactors and self-destruct before the enemy could consolidate their hold upon them. With the space around Cadia secured, orbital bombardments hammered the planet's surface and, one by one, the defence batteries were silenced. Hundreds of cargo hulks moved into orbit and disgorged swarms of landing craft that streaked through the planet's upper atmosphere.
The invasion of Cadia had begun.
Recorded Traitor Legiones Astartes
- Alpha Legion
- 20+ unconfirmed sightings - all sectors
- Black Legion
- Major presence - all sectors
- Death Guard
- Major presence - Sabiaco Diablo
- Emperor's Children
- Unconfirmed actions against Eldar reported
- Iron Warriors
- Suspected presence - Cadian system
- Night Lords
- Unconfirmed reports - all sectors
- Sons of Malice
- Active - Scelus sector
- Thousand Sons
- Active - Caliban and Prospero sectors
- 3 confirmed actions - Cadian sector
- Warp Ghosts
- Unconfirmed sighting - Agripinaa system
- World Eaters
- Significant involvement - all sectors
- Word Bearers
- Active - rear echelon sectors
Known Traitor Legio Titanicus
- Deaths Heads
- Major presence confirmed - Cadia
- Death Stalkers
- Unconfirmed involvement - Cadia
- Fire Masters
- Limited presence - Cadian sector
- Iron Skulls
- Major force sighted - Vorga Torq
- Legio Vulcanum I
- 4 unconfirmed assaults - Belisar and Kromat
- Legio Vulcanum II
- Suspected presence - Sabiaco Diablo
Major Traitor Guard Units
++Continued in File IO/57++
- 5th Columnus
- Presence confirmed - Belis Corona
- 666th Regiment of Foot
- Confirmed presence - Cadia
- Discilian Apostates
- Jenen Ironclads
- Major presence - Kromat system
- Sentrek Freemen
- 3 suspected sightings - Barisa system
- The Traitor 9th
- Significant presence Kantrael system
- Ubridius Light Infantry
- Major presence Cadian sector
- Volscani Cataphracts
- Active - Cadia
Estimated Mutant Hordes
++Continued in File DE/80++
- The Annointed of Aq'si
- 6 attacks confirmed - Belisar system
- The Shyis'slaa
- Linked to cult uprisings - Albitern system
- The Stigmatus Covenant
- Significant presence - Mackan system
- The Unsanctified
- Unconfirmed involvement - Bar-el system
Recorded Traitor Fleet Units
+Estimated Traitor Fleet Assets
+Battlefleets of Note
- Battle Fleets
- est. 38
- Blackstone Fortresses
- 'Wolf Pack' Squadrons
- est. 19
+Vessels of Note
- The Grand Fleet of the Despoiler
- 7 Battleships
- 13 heavy cruisers
- est. 23 cruiser squadrons
- est. 30 escort squadrons
- The Fleet of Kosolax the Foresworn
- 1 Battleship
- 3 cruiser squadrons
- 8 escort squadrons
- The Plague Fleet of Typhus, Herald of Nurgle
- Terminus Est
- 2 Battleships
- 3 heavy cruisers
- 5 cruiser squadrons
- est. 12 escort squadrons
++Continued in File WW/33++
- Unknown class
- Styx class heavy cruiser
- Planet Killer
- Undesignated class capital vessel
- Merciless Death
- Despoiler class battleship
- Fortress of Agony
- Despoiler class battleship
In the extensive colour section, there is a photograph on page 21 showing a squadron of Death Guard leading a Defiler dedicated to Nurgle. And on page 32, as one of the "Characters from the Eye of Terror Campaign", there is a photograph of a model of Typhus.
To represent the hordes of Plague Zombies unleashed during the Thirteenth Crusade, use Mutants with the Bloated Blessing of Nurgle. Zombies may not take any weapon upgrades or include a Boss. They are however, Fearless, and hence will automatically pass any Morale or Leadership test and cannot be Pinned. Because of their shambling gait, they will always move as if they are in difficult terrain.
|Warhammer Fantasy||Third Citadel Compendium; WFRP (1st ed); RoC: Slaves to Darkness; RoC: The Lost and the Damned; Beasts of Chaos; Blightwar; Malign Portents website|
|Man O' War||Plague Fleet|
|Mordheim||Empire in Flames|
|Warhammer 40,000||Warhammer 40,000 (1993); Codex: Chaos (1996); Codex: Chaos Space Marines (1999); Chapter Approved 2001; Codex: Chaos Space Marines (2002); Codex: Eye of Terror; Chapter Approved 2004; Imperial Armour 5; Codex: Chaos Space Marines (2007); Imperial Armour: Apocalypse (2007); Codex: Chaos Daemons (2008); Imperial Armour 6; Imperial Armour 7; Imperial Armour: Aeronautica; Codex: Chaos Space Marines (2012); Codex: Chaos Daemons (2013); Stronghold Assault; Codex: Imperial Knights (2014); Imperial Armour 13; Codex: Imperial Knights (2015); Codex: Chaos Daemons (2016); Codex: Traitor Legions; Warhammer 40,000 (2017); Dark Imperium; Index: Chaos; First Strike; Codex: Space Marines (2017); Codex: Chaos Space Marines (2017); Codex: Grey Knights (2017); Plague Brethren; Codex: Adeptus Mechanicus (2017); Codex: Chaos Daemons (2018)|
|Epic||Adeptus Titanicus; Space Marine (1st ed); Codex Titanicus; Renegades; Titan Legions; Epic 40,000|
|White Dwarf||Oct 1988 (#106); Dec 1988 (#108); Jan 1989 (#109); May 1989 (#113); Jun 1989 (#114); Nov 1989 (#119); Jan 1990 (#121); Feb 1990 (#122); Apr 1990 (#124); May 1990 (#125); Dec 1990 (#132); Jan 2002 (#265)|
|Citadel Journal||Jul 1994 (#4); Mar 1995 (#8); May 1995 (#9); Dec 1995 (#12); Sep 1996 (#17); Nov 1996 (#18); Aug 1997 (#21); Apr 1998 (#25); Jun 1998 (#26); Aug 1998 (#27); Oct 1998 (#28); May 1999 (#32); Jan 2002 (#48)|
|Battlefleet Gothic Magazine||Nov 2002 (#12); Aug 2003 (#16)|
|Black Library Novels|
|Warhammer 40,000||Ravenor Returned|
|Fantasy Flight Games|
|Dark Heresy||Shattered Hope; Dark Heresy (1st ed); Disciples of the Dark Gods; Creatures Anathema; Radical's Handbook; Daemon Hunter; Dark Heresy (2nd ed); Game Master's Kit (2nd ed); Forgotten Gods; Enemies Within; Enemies Beyond|
|Rogue Trader||Rogue Trader; Citadel of Skulls; Battlefleet Koronus; Koronus Bestiary; Navis Primer; Stars of Inequity|
|Deathwatch||Mark of the Xenos; Achilus Assault; First Founding; Jericho Reach; Rising Tempest|
|Black Crusade||Black Crusade; Game Master's Kit; Hand of Corruption; Tome of Fate; Tome of Blood; Tome of Excess; Tome of Decay|
|Only War||Enemies of the Imperium|