Many words have been used to describe the Balar Slavers: pirates, raiders, heretics, slave merchants.
Each description holds some truth. Slavers are the largest and most dangerous criminal enterprise in the Corvus Cluster. They have brought misery, anguish, and death to untold millions over the centuries.
A loose confederation of pirate captains and their warbands, Slavers typically work independently of one another. As such, they rarely strike at well-populated planets but launch small-scale raids on isolated, lightly populated worlds—or attack isolated ships on the outskirts of planetary systems.
There is no formal hierarchy to the Slavers. Individual pirate captains rule their ships and crews with absolute authority, with the power of life and death over anyone under their command.
It is believed that the highest rank among the Slavers are known as “commodores,” who accept tribute from individual captains in return for protection and logistical support. While a captain may command a single ship—or a handful—commodores boast the loose loyalty of dozens of captains.
It is rumored that a Pirate Council, composed of various pirate lords, occasionally meet to discuss the larger strategic position of the Slavers, but that has never been proven. Still, on occasion, an extremely charismatic or powerful pirate lord has recruited hundreds of pirate ships under his or her command for specific campaigns—rare attacks that have led to untold suffering.
The majority of Slaver ships are converted merchant vessels armed with weaponry stolen from lost wrecks or scavenged from the periphery of ongoing naval battles, often under the eyes of Imperial ship commanders who are too busy fighting to interfere.
A handful of military vessels have been seized over the centuries. The infamous pirate captain, Konrad Vunogar, commands an ancient Iconoclast-class destroyer named The Swift Death and continues to plague the coreward fringes of the Corvus Cluster.
The personal armor and weaponry of individual pirates vary with their status. A lowly crewman typically will be armed with a simple lasgun, with a few thin steel plates rivetted to his tunic as a clumsy form of armor.
A wealth pirate captain, however, may be equipped with military-grade armor and weaponry, purchased illegally or scavenged from his victims.
The Balar Slavers originated on Balar, a frigid, mineral-poor planet far from the major shipping lanes of the Sector.
Long forgotten by Imperial authorities, the planet was ruled by a ruthless aristocracy that held the populace in enforced servitude. Population decline threatened the aristocrats’ life of luxury, and to replenish the workforce, raiding ships were sent out to procure new laborers from other isolated worlds.
In time, the capture—and sale—of slaves proved more profitable than the decrepit manufacturing and mining operations on the planet’s surface, and the lords of Balar expanded their role in the slave trade.
Greed knows no bounds, however, and the slavers’ attacks on their neighbors eventually drew the ire of Imperial authorities.
The Exodus (484.M40)—The aristocrats who rule Balar are usurped when Imperial authorities arrive to restore law and order. Escaping in a small fleet of vessels, the most powerful members of the nobility coalesce into an informal ruling counsel that evolves into the Slavers.
Although Imperial rule is restored on Balar, it is widely believed that the Slavers maintain strong ties with their home world and, thanks to numerous bribes, have an “understanding” with the planet’s still-corrupt leadership. Although slavery is now illegal, many of planet’s poorest citizens are still slaves in all but name.
The Tragedy of Korhal (519.M40)—This backwater agricultural world is subjected to an attack by 20,000 Slavers, the single largest military action ever organized by this criminal organization. With little defensive capability, the planet’s 100,000 citizens, mostly agricultural workers, are quickly enslaved. For the next century, the Slavers rule the planet as a feudal society of slaves and masters.
Nightmare of Optera (564.M40)—Forming a loathsome partnership with the Dark Eldar, the Slavers join a planetwide raid of the Imperial world of Optera. In a single night, the nightmares of the world’s citizens come to life as xeno murderers engage in an orgy of death, torture, and mutilation. More than 200,000 Imperial citizens die, and another 200,000 disappear as prisoners. The Slavers reportedly account for 20,000 of those taken captive.
The Salvation of Korhal (643.M41)—A rare lull in xeno invasions and world rebellions eases the demands on Imperial military forces, and the Adeptus Administratum convinces the Imperial Navy and Astra Militarum to mount a military response to the Slavers’ seizure of Korhal.
The Imperium’s attack meets no opposition. When a naval task force arrives in the system, long-range sensors reveal an exodus of ships from the backwater planet. The 138th Brimlock Dragoons land to find tens of thousands of half-starved slaves and a world whose infrastructure has been looted or destroyed.
A sizable contingent of Administratum personnel are required to govern the pitiful survivors. Despite the restoration of Imperial rule, however, the planet’s isolation ensures that it is plagued by repeated Slaver raids over the years.
The Shrine World Massacre (683.M41)—Slavers raid an isolated island on the shrine world of Basinlinopolis. More than 200 Slavers make landfall, where they massacre the island’s priests and scholars and take captive nearly 500 men and women.
What the Slavers don’t know is that an abbey of the Order of the Bloody Rose, an Orders Militant of the Adepta Sororitas, resides on a nearby island. Before the raiders make their escape, a Sororitas attack force arrives. Seraphim descend from the sky to seize the Slaver’s landing craft. Cut off from escape, the Slavers retreat into a nearby cathedral with their captives as hostages.
Ignoring offers to negotiate for the hostages’ release, the Sisters of Battle launch an attack on the cathedral with bolters and flamers. No quarter is given. The Slavers are slaughtered, although before their deaths they execute their prisoners in an act of spite.
The Hargon Campaign (697.M41)—A surge in Slaver raiding finally provokes the ire of Davros Hargon, Master of the Court and senior arbitrator for the Adeptus Arbites in the Corvus Cluster.
Hargon launches a campaign of annihilation against the Slavers, recruiting the resources of the Imperial Navy, Inquisition, and other Imperial organizations. Dozens of Slaver warbands are tracked down and given the Emperor’s justice, and nearly 100 pirate ships are destroyed in the Void. The Slavers’ organization is nearly shattered.
The campaign ends, however, soon after Hargon is assassinated by a jokaero death spider.
The Lost Pilgrimage (715.M41)—A vast pilgrimage ship, The Emperor’s Light, leaves the Shrine World of Sanctia. The size of a grand cruiser, this thrice-blessed vessel is tasked with delivering 40,000 pilgrims to Holy Terra.
For a decade, The Emperor’s Light crosses the Segmentum Ultima, visiting planets to pick up pilgrims chosen by the local Ecclesiarchy. Along the way, agents of the Slavers infiltrate the ship, posing as both pilgrims and replacement crew members.
While in orbit above the planet Brimlock, these agents seize the vessel’s engine room and bridge, just as two dozen Slaver ships attack. Boarding through outer hatches opened for them by their agents within, the Slavers quickly bolster the saboteurs’ ranks and ensure the ship’s capture.
By the time Imperial authorities can react, the Slavers take the ship out of orbit and race to the outer edge of the system, where they escape into the Warp.
The Emperor’s Light is never seen again, although a handful of the ship’s passengers are rescued years later from various Slaver outposts and ships where they toiled as slaves.
Rescue on Talaara (734.M41)—On the world of Talaara, Rogue Trader Adeon Drake stumbles upon a plot by Slavers to ship hundreds of kidnapped women off the planet and sell them to a criminal syndicate that owns pleasure houses across the sector.
Incensed by the Slavers’ plan, and with little regard to the risks, Drake intercedes. With 50 crewmen, armed with laspistols and chainswords, Drake boards the Slavers’ ship to rescue the women. All the women are saved and returned to their families. None of the Slavers survive.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog that documents our adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.