Story:The Shape Of The Nightmare To Come 50k section02

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Section 02: The Situation in the East: The Tau Empire[edit]

The Eastern fringe. Ever a realm barely touched by Imperial influence, it was initially the least effected by the fall of the Imperium (No Petty Imperia ever formed from the ashes of Imperial rule in the Eastern Fringe). The area merely became marginally more anarchic and barbarous. However, the devastation of Hive Fleet Kraken, and later Hive Fleet Talos, ravaged the Fringe horrendously. Soon after, the New Devourer surged from the west, murdering thousands of worlds. A hundred dozen civilizations were wiped out, and when the various hordes of monsters left the Fringe was utterly fragmented. Countless worlds were left as nothing but bare rocks.

Of course, as with most genocides and disasters, history and life did not disappear. Some races, and even empires, managed to evade destruction either through guile, luck or sheer blood-mindedness. The largest of the surviving empires was the Tau Empire. In fact, because the Tau did not rely upon the 'deep' Warp for travel, the crippling warp storms throughout the galaxy did little to hamper them. With little opposition, the Tau embarked upon multiple expansions, on multiple fronts. Their optimism and hope seemed frankly surreal to the crippled, dying civilizations around them. However, this idealism and hope soon faded, just like everything else. Everywhere they tried to bring the Greater Good was dead. The Tau expanded into their inheritance. They were, however, inheriting a galaxy of ash. Ash and cold misery.

Sometime around M43, during the eighteenth and nineteenth sphere expansions, Tau policy began to subtly change. The Ethereals no longer recommended offering civilizations the chance to join the Greater Good. It was decided, at the Aun Council of 234. M43 (presided over by Aun'Va himself), that the other races of the galaxy were hopelessly barbarous. The other races allowed their worlds to die, they made war with each other, even when unity would be the best option in the wake of such an atrocity. In short, they must be forced into submission, and their people ruled over by the only beings capable of logical, spiritual thought: the Ethereals.

By 003. M44, a dozen decades into the hundredth sphere expansion, the Tau Empire stretched from the dead worlds of Ichar to the barren howling worlds of Alsanta. In total, it spanned roughly two dozen sectors, and comprised just over a thousand worlds. Perhaps 55% of these worlds were dead. And during the slow, agonizing process of terraforming (involving constant bombardment with bio-engineered algae and various Pechoid plant accelerants , which nonetheless took millennia to make worlds fully habitable) the Tau had become slightly more xenophobic. For instance, client races were forbidden from electing leaders of the various Sept systems and were confined to the poorest habitations upon worlds. This was the Tau Empire, and the Tau wanted everyone to understand this. The other races were inferior, as they had ruined paradise with their wars.

Communication was slow but frequent in this expanded Tau Empire. Without astropaths, they relied on the billions of communication drones and messenger boats which pulsed near constantly between Septs, only leaving the 'shallow' warp when delivering messages. As the Empire's borders advanced, so did its technology. Their ships became more heavily armed and protected than ever before. Limited cloning and genetic technology allowed greater medical care, with each Tau having access to multiple cloned blood samples, limbs, and even eyes. Drone technology gained greater and greater sophistication, and the first entirely drone-controlled battle computer was released in 103. M44. Pulse weaponry became more reliable and effective, and gunships and battlesuits of unprecedented quality were invented during this period. In the Segmentum Tempestus, the Tau were at the center of power.

Yet, for all its unity and promise, the Tau empire could not maintain a completely centralized Empire, despite their best efforts. Space was too vast, and their vessels too slow. Some Septs were barely visited by the central authorities, while others had vast Aun control set upon them. However, most continued to follow the Greater Good according to Aun'Va and the orthodox council of the Ethereals. There were, however, two major exceptions.

The Enclaves, Tau colonies cut off from the Empire by warp anomalies in late M41, became all the more isolated in the 42nd millennium as the anomaly became a raging warp storm. It was not until M43 that news of the Enclaves were heard, and they had changed markedly. Without the Ethereals, the Enclaves became a realm dominated by the Fire Caste. The Greater Good, as a concept, had been rejected by these Tau. Only grim resolve and a strong arm allowed survival in a hostile galaxy. The Caste system was virtually abolished, and inter-caste mingling was not outlawed. Only the Fire Caste, the new military elite, remained aloof of caste interbreeding. However, though not enforced, the caste system remained in spirit, as each caste intrinsically distrusted the other. Even more strangely, the Farsight Enclaves now operated under a sort of decentralized vassal system. Territories upon Enclave worlds were carved up between the new Caste-within-a-Caste, the Shas'Kasar. Each of these powerful warlords had acquired battlesuits, and each of these Kasar maintained their own little fiefdom. They maintained many Fire Caste soldiers as their vassals. Each of these fiefs sheltered other Caste members, on the assumption they would provide a tax to their lords, in exchange for protection. The Shas'Kasar, in turn owed allegiance to the Shas'O'Shovah'Kasar, the overall grand Kasar of the Enclaves. For many centuries this rank was held by Farsight himself. However, after his death this rank passed to his sons, and became, in effect, hereditary (Though through the centuries, the position of Grand Kasar has been disputed and the line of succession is a tangled web, far too complex to go into here). Upon the passing of a Grand Kasar, the ceremonial armour of Farsight is granted to them, and they are anointed Grand Kasar, by kissing the hilt of the Dawnblade, the symbol of Enclave liberty (A blade no longer drawn by Enclave Tau, but instead enshrined within Farsight's tomb upon the world of Fio-Mon'Tarra.

To survive, the Enclaves abandoned the concept of refining their technology. Instead, they relied on trade between rival empires and between merchants and the like. Thus, the Enclaves became a melting pot of differing technologies, all utilized by the Kasar in order to survive. Though not as technologically advanced as their Tau neighbors, the Enclaves have large numbers of Fire Caste warriors and a willingness to use xenos equipment should the need arise. For instance, there are several occasions where Enclave troopers have been seen wielding Imperial lasguns and carapace armour, Daconial nano-crystalline armour, digital weapons or other such gear. These in conjunction with Tau technology in some strange hybridization of technology. So far, it has kept them relatively powerful and resistant to sporadic Tau Empire assaults.

The second subversive element came into being much later. By M43, the Empire was in full expansive operations. However, it took several centuries until the process of colonization and organisation of Water Caste administration could be fully implemented on every Sept world and system. One such neglected Sept colony was the To'Kaan Sept, located on the northern border of Tau expansion across the Fringe, and one of the most distant colonies in the Empire. Though a verdant world, it was colonized late on, as the Aun were only being able to spare a single exploration fleet to inhabit it. To bolster numbers in the colonial army, many Gue'Vesa auxiliary troops were utilized. To'Kaan was subdued by this combined force, though the battle was difficult, due to the fanatical resolve of the native warrior Hu'Sta, a human tribal culture that made excellent use of captured Tau equipment during the year-long invasion. Aun'Kais, the commanding ethereal on the expedition, was so impressed with the Hu'Sta's abilities that he offered them roles within the occupying Tau forces. Though the Tau Fire Caste were skeptical of these uncivilized warriors, the Gue'Vesa took to them very well, instructing them on the philosophies of the Greater Good and training them in the use of Tau equipment (even though the Hu'Sta had utilized much of the Tau equipment already, during the war). In turn, the Hu'Sta explained how they worshipped the Great White Serpent, and also taught the Gue'Vesa some of their ambush techniques and unique battle tactics.

As the colony became less and less visited by the Tau central authority, Aun'Kais became more and more reliant upon his various Gue'Vesa subjects to fend off threats to his colony. Though the expedition was well-staffed by Water, Earth and Air Caste, the Fire Caste sent had been a smaller number to begin with. The wars against the Hu'Sta depleted them further and over the centuries, the Fire Warriors became less and less viable as a fighting force as their numbers weren't being replaced as well as their Gue'Vesa-He'Sta allies could. The Gue'O of the He'Sta contingent, Baldan Rar, got closer to Aun'Kais than any other commander. The two often consulted one another upon tactics and strategies. Aun'Kais would often get advice from Baldan on how to keep the majority of the human population of the Sept colony appeased. As a result, Aun'Kais would entrust more and more duties to them. The Hu'Sta converted to the philosophy of the Greater Good rather well, incorporating their serpent god into the myriad meanings of it.

Upon the death of Aun'Kais, a dispute broke out among the remaining subordinate Ethereals. Several of them recommended themselves for the role of overall colonial leader. There was an important distinction between the two main groups that built up amongst the Ethereals. There were the Traditionalists, who argued that upon becoming supreme Sept Aun, the Fire Caste should be put in overall command of defense once more. The other group were the pro-Gue, who believed the Gue'Vesa had been doing a perfectly fine job of defending the realm. In the end, through honour duels, personal and public elections, and outright intrigue, the pro-Gue group got their wish, and Baldan remained overall military commander. Oddly for the Traditionalists, Baldan's supporters were not just from the Gue'Vesa and the general human population, but also from the majority of the Earth and Water Castes. The successor to the Aunship of the Sept fell to Aun'J'Karra. As it would transpire, this Ethereal was rather weak as a leader and was virtually a puppet for Baldan and his successors.

By the time more regular contact had been established by the Tau Empire with To'Kaan, in 335.M46, it was barely recognizable as a Tau Sept world. Humans and Tau were almost treated as equals, with the Tau filling in most non-military roles, while the militant 'Gue Caste' sat on the council of castes and fought at the front of most assaults, while the only Fire Caste remaining piloted the battlesuits (tailored as they were, for Tau alone). Chief Commander Moonheart of the Tau Empire forces, even requested permission to invade To'Kaan, and 'cleanse' it of its perceived subversion of the Greater Good. Aun'Va however, vetoed this plan, and decided to instead recognize the right of To'Kaan, nick-named the 'human colony', as being part of the Empire. This was mainly because the Hu'Sta had completely converted to the Greater Good, only their brutal tribal war clubs (wielded in battle by every Hu'Sta Gue'Vesa) remained of their old culture. The Gue'Vesa contingent were there to stay, and would eventually become a key ally to the Tau Empire in the long war against the Thexian Elite (Which will be documented at a later date).

The Shape of the Nightmare to Come: Section Navigation[edit]

  • The Shape of the Nightmare To Come: Section 02: The Situation in the East: The Tau Empire

Continued in Warhammer 60K: Age of Dusk