For 10,000 years, Imperials cursed the name of Abaddon the Despoiler, a warrior of Chaos so reviled that Imperials despise him nearly as much as Horus himself. Of the 13 Black Crusades, nearly all dealt a major blow against the Imperium of Man (even if he hasn’t yet laid siege to Terra in his role as Warmaster) and even the demon princes off the warp understand that Abaddon the Despoiler is favored by the dark gods.
But he hasn’t yet become a demon prince, a blessing (damnation?) given to champions of chaos who have accomplished much less than he has. In fact during the Iron Warriors’ siege of Hydra Cordatus, described in Storm of Iron by Graham McNeill, it was Abaddon who promised the reward of ascension to The Warsmith if he succeeded in capturing the world’s supply of gene seeds.
There are two favored fan theories as to why Abaddon has never ascended to demonhood. One faction of fans believes he never actually earned it the way others have, either because he refuses to worship the gods or because of he never completed his conquest of the Imperium (the Failaddon Theory) The other faction believes he doesn’t want it.
In Black Legion by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Iskandar Khaylon (lord vigilator of the Black Legion) grieves the history of Abbadon’s failures. Though the Chaos Gods placed Abbadon at the head of their unholy hosts, seeing the potential of greatness in Horus’ heir, they never blessed The Despoiler with victory because he never bent his knee to The Pantheon.
But Khaylon gives reason to doubt his own idea in the opening few sentences of the novel when he describes his brothers’ differing ideas on the nature and motivations of the gods. His belief that the gods hate them, and Abbadon in particular, are just more theories.
But Khaylon was closer to Abbadon and knew him well enough to describe his nature. Abbadon fights not for the gods and cares nothing for their great game; he fights for himself.
Soul Hunter, also by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, gives a counter-argument to the Failaddon theory while also confirming that Abbadon does not bow to the gods. When Talos, the Soul Hunter of The Night Lords, accuses Abbadon of failing, Abbadon replies “Are you a member of my inner circle, that you know what my military objectives were?”
Despite what the warriors of chaos might have expected, they simply could not destroy an empire with the size and power of The Imperium in one massive crusade. At least not after the loss of Horus and the descent of the legions to infighting.
But during the 1st Black Crusade, Abbadon recovered the demon sword Drach’nyen and showed all the legions that he was truly the heir of Horus. During the 2nd Black Crusade, more like a Black Skirmish or a Black Sneak attack, Abbadon destroyed a ship yard and dozens of imperial cruisers and retreated before the Imperial counter attack. During the 3rd Black Crusade, Abbadon sent a demon prince on a frontal attack against the Cadian Gate, distracting Imperial defenses while Abbadon himself invaded Gerstahl and destroyed the remains of an Imperial saint.
Even during campaigns that clearly did not go the way Abbadon planned, such as the 11th Black Crusade in which he was tricked into fighting an Ork Waagh!, Abbadon still came away with consolation prizes, such as hulls full of ork slaves, corpses and fodder for experimentation.
But even so, there’s only so much gods can be expected to do for someone who refuses to worship them. In Black Legion, Abbadon even describes the chaos gods as his “allies,” not his lords.
No Means No-addon
Another theory fans have put forth states that Abbadon could have become a demon prince already, if he’d wanted to. There are several reasons why he might not want to, all related to the limitations of a demonic form.
For one thing, demons have difficulty existing outside of The Warp or The Eye of Terror. Being creatures of thought with no body, they must conjure bodies of pure psychic energy when they materialize in real space, or possess a host. Without some method of maintaining this energy, they cannot survive in real space for long.
A demonic body would also make Abaddon vulnerable to demonic weaknesses. In some novels, mortals can command demons to return to the warp merely by knowing their name, and there are few within the chaotic legions or the defenders of the Imperium who wouldn’t guess the name of Abaddon if they had to face a terrifying demon prince.
Abaddon the Despoiler has one goal and one goal only: to rip the head off The Corpse Emperor and crush it under his boot like a rotten pumpkin. With that ultimate goal in mind, even the reward of eternal life and power as the greatest demon prince of chaos undivided is no more than a distraction.