"Let none doubt that the Tau Empire will bring unity to all -- let none doubt that now is our time. Forward, for the Greater Good!"
- – Aun'Va after retcons.
Aun'Va (full name Aun'o'T'au'Acaya'Va'Denta) is the Tau Ethereal Supreme and Master of the Undying Spirit, and occupies the position of maximum power within the Tau Empire. He's the face of the Tau for their people, and one of the most proactive individuals in the recent expansion of the Tau Empire, pushing for more and more Spheres of Expansion to continue the growth of their empire, despite the numerous problems that have appeared during his mandate. He's also notable for being retconned into a cartoonishly evil villain who hates humanity and outright demands for his underlings to kill themselves when they displease him (yes, seriously, just read Farsight: Crisis of Faith for the scene). He has recently died during the war for Mu'gulath Bay at the hands of an imperial assassin, and so the Ethereal High Council now uses holograms and fake broadcasts to make the Tau think he's still around.
Rise to power and service record
Aun'Va rose to the position of Ethereal Supreme when his predecessor, Aun'Wei, decided he was too old to continue and resigned and nominated the promising Aun'Va to the job. Since then, the ethereal has become a beacon for the Tau race, almost as a religious figure. This, alongside his figurine and official art representations, has granted him the nickname of Tau Pope in the minds of neckbeards. Seriously, we've never seen him standing still, he's always sitting in his floating chair, surrounded by his personal guard. However, you should not make the mistake of thinking of him as a lazy grandpa. He's been constantly in charge of the policies of the empire for decades now (and considering Tau's short lifespam, that's a lot), both negotiating and organizing Tau society and at the head of many military campaigns. He was the one in charge of the war against the xeno species known as the Noisome Reek, which would become one of the most successful campaigns of the Tau, though to be fair, the Reek are the punching bag of the area, so that's not difficult. Using his ability for speeches and Ethereal "coercion powers", Aun'Va sent the Tau Fire Caste into a bloody frenzy rage, catching their enemies completely off guard and guaranteeing the victory.
One of the most interesting things happening during his regime was the discovery of the Farsight Enclaves, with the legendary Commander Farsight at the head of this splinter of the Tau Empire. This discovery threatened to break the unity of the Fire Caste, the full military Tau army and the faith of the population into the Ethereal reign in general. Aun'Va was the one who had to deal with subverting this, twisting the previously untouchable memory of Farsight into a horrible traitor that doesn't deserve to be praised in any way. For this, he went about doing him damnatio memoriae, basically slowly erasing him from Tau historical records through multiple means: destroying his monuments, downplaying his victories or straight up deleting them from Tau records, isolating the Farsight Enclaves from any contact with the Empire... He was even in charge of convincing Commander Shadowsun that his brother-in-arms had defected and now was the biggest traitor ever, and since then Shadowsun usually accompanies Aun'Va to every of his campaigns. Though this wasn't fully able to delete him from the popular imagery of Tau society (and contacts with the Enclaves continue, though secretely and without the ethereal's permission or knowledge), he managed to effectively avoid a major fracture on the Tau Empire, possibly a civil war even.
The Third Sphere of Expansion
After fighting the Farsight Enclaves and the Great War of Confederation (a combined invasion of Tyranids and Orks that almost puts an end to the Tau Empire), the Tau Military was in a surprisingly good position: their armies were heavily experienced and quickly recovering, their war technology had advanced quite a lot to counter the tyranids and the ork WAAAGH, the Tau needed a boost of morale after all of those efforts and the orks and Hive Fleet Gorgon had weakened the defensive capabilities of many planets. Thus, Aun'Va decided to launch the Third Sphere of Expansion in 997.M41, with Commander Shadowsun and he himself at the front. The idea was to advance throughout the Damocles Gulf taking advantage of the weakness of their enemies, with the Imperium having to deal with many other threats elsewhere. Shadowsun's strategy of attacking with hit and run tactics and then swiftly concentrating her troops to deal a heavy blow was quite succesful, and it quickly seemed that a good chunk of the Damocles Gulf was now in Tau hands. Aun'Va was present during many of the sieges of the important planets in the area, to improve the morale of the Tau troops.
However, the Imperium quickly mounted a counteroffensive, way sooner than the Tau High Command thought it would come. However, Shadowsun had a contingency plan for this, and managed to concentrate the efforts of many of the Space marine Chapters sent to the war in a relatively unimportant area of space. Thanks to this ruse, the rest of the Tau forces managed to conquer hundreds of imperial planets, doubling their size of their empire, while also managing to troll Cato Sicarius. To celebrate this, the Ethereals decided to broadcast their victories to everyone that could receive the message, both pissing off the imperial forces to an absurd point of rage, and make some minor xenos species shit their pants, having heard of Humanity's RAGE when scorned. This was unnoticed by the Tau, though, so drunk they were at their current rate of victories.
During this, a massive imperial counterattack was organized, alongside an order for the officio Assassinorum to hunt down and kill the leaders of the Tau main force. Aun'Va was, at the time, coming back to the front after one of his speeches, and was stuck on the planet of Agrellan, now called Mu'gulath Bay. An Execution Force consisting of a Callidus, Eversor, Vindicare and Culexus assassin was dispatched to the planet. As a distraction, an Imperial task force was sent there as well to occupy the Tau forces on the planet. Lucky for them, they managed to isolate the Tau forces by trapping them under a bunker, and then the assassin Execution Force attacked. And whereas the Callidus, the Eversor and the Vindicare were stopped by Aun'Va's personal guard, the blank abilities of the Culexus assassin meant that he went undetected through the Tau lines, allowing them to kill the ethereal's guard and, in a moment of sweet revenge for Mankind, butcher the ethereal in a horrifying way, while the Tau pope tried to run in terror from the monster that hunted him. This also means the first death of a named character in decades. After that was over, the Imperium decided to put the icing on the cake and throw an Exterminatus bomb on the planet, leaving no doubt on the Ethereal's death. Then again, why bother with the assassins if you're just going to blow up the planet anyway?
The death of Aun'Va was devastating for the Tau's war efforts. The death of an Ethereal usually means massive losses of morale, so just imagine what the death of the main ethereal could do. The Third Sphere of Expansion ground to a halt, and many planets begun falling back into Imperial hands. Shadowsun could do little after the Ethereal's death, and she was busy preparing her troops against Farsight anyway, so the campaign was considered over. In theory it counts as a tau victory because they have more planets now than when they started, but the Tau Empire is on shaky ground now.
The aftermath of Aun'Va's death
With the murder of the leader of all Tau, the Ethereal High Council decided to hide this to the population by creating multiple holograms and fake transmissions to fake his survival to the public, aided by an AI based on a backed-up copy of Aun'Va's mind made before his death. There's an argument to be had whether that was a good decision or not (just imagine one hologram malfunctioning during a speech, imagine the chaos that could bring), but then again, just "retiring and replacing him" could bring suspicions, especially after the most succesful military campaign the Tau have had in a while.
There's also the problem of the Ethereals' poor leadership choices and decisions after Aun'Va's death. Very soon after the end of the 3rd Sphere of Expansion they declared a 4th one... and it was inmediately stopped by the opening of the Great Rift. After receiving the news that a portion of it managed to survive its unscheduled trip through the Warp, the ethereals inmediately organized another sphere of expansion to link up with it... only to run straight into Mortarion's Death Guard, with very predictable results. Considering the current dangers that the galaxy presents after the Cicatrix Maledictum's birth, the lack of knowledge of Chaos (and more specifically, what it is and how to prevent it) can put in danger the survival of taukind, not to mention that the Death Guard's forces are still threatening the existance of the Tau after losing against Roboute Guilliman in the Plague Wars, their plans to invade T'au itself through the warp rift made by the Fourth Sphere's exit from the Warp, and the possible corruption of the Fourth Sphere itself. And that's not counting the Tyranid threat still around, more and more necron tombs waking up around Tau territory, Ultramar ready to fight again after their Spiritual Liege came back to life and Farsight still around threatening to break Tau society.
Whether or not the Tau Empire can survive without Aun'Va's leadership is a matter of
plot armour the strength and confidence of the Tau in the Greater Good. But really, the blueberries finally got the assraping they've been begging for since their introduction to the setting. Worse, the AI duplicate of Aun'Va lacks the uncanny charisma possessed by the real one, which has led to at least one major military official questioning "his" orders. It may be only a matter of time before the truth of Aun'Va's death leaks out, which can only have catastrophic consequences.
|Heroes of the Greater Good|
|Ethereals:||Aun'Shi - Aun'Va|
|Fire Caste:|| Commander Farsight - Commander Puretide |
Commander Shadowsun - El'Myamoto
|Dawn of War:||Shas'O Or'es'Ka - Shas'O Kais|