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- "United, our will is greater than any other force. We shall inherit the stars, even if we must first cleanse them in blood."
- — Attributed to Commander Farsight
Shas'O Vior'la Shovah Kais Mont'yr, often shortened to O'Shovah, but better known as Commander Farsight -- the "Hero of Vior'la," "Protege of Puretide," "The Bane of Greenskins," and even "Renounced Traitor to the Greater Good" -- is the renegade Fire Caste Tau Commander alleged to still be leading the breakaway Tau colony worlds known as the Farsight Enclaves in the Segmentum Ultima. There is no figure in Tau history as divisive as Farsight, for he is the most famous warrior to hail from the Tau world of Vior'la, as well as a protégé of the legendary Commander Puretide. Farsight led the Tau Empire to reclaim space that had been invaded by the Imperium of Man, but when he went beyond the furthest reaches of Tau space and established his own independent Farsight Enclaves, the Ethereals denounced him as a traitor to the Greater Good. O'Shovah was a dynamic and strong-willed leader who had risen to fame during recent campaigns against the Orks, and the young Commander's tactical brilliance had already earned him the name of Commander "Farsight" -- for he was able to anticipate and exploit an enemy's course of action as if he already knew the foe's full battle plan. His Fire Caste forces are famed for their aggressiveness and spirit, and he maintains a strong martial tradition closely based on those practiced by his native Vior'la Sept.
Commander Farsight's first and greatest victories were won against the Orks amidst the oxide-deserts of Arkunasha, in what would become known as the Arkunasha War. When the Tau colony there was threatened by the Orks, he led his Fire Warriors in a masterful campaign that defeated armies numbering hundreds of times greater than his own loyal troops. Farsight's training, much of which was under the direction of Commander Puretide himself, had taught him to use the natural terrain against the foe, and the importance of a bold, decisive stroke to cripple his enemies. Though his training had shown him the value of long range firepower, he nevertheless partially denounced the normal Tau philosophy of using ranged combat to the exclusion of almost all else. In doing so, O'Shovah encouraged the aggressive spirit of the Fire Caste in his warriors, and they fought many bitter battles at close range before emerging triumphant. Using the immense canyons and gulleys criss-crossing the desert to maximum effect, O’Shovah set the Ork invaders to chase shadows, constantly boxing off and destroying isolated elements wherever they turned at bay. It was O'Shovah's tactical brilliance that earned him his famous title 'Farsight'. However, towards the end of the war, O’Shovah was in turn surrounded and besieged by massive numbers of Orks in the natural fortress of the Argap highlands. Despite even this, his Fire Warriors held the mountains for months until the last remnants of his forces were evacuated off-planet. By the wars end, some believed that O’Shovah was embittered by the bloodshed of the siege and blamed others for failing to break through the encirclement, instead allowing the Orks to batter themselves to a standstill against O’Shovah’s defences before being easily scattered the following year. There were thoughts in his mind that the Tau Empire had failed to support him effectively during the campaign, and this feeling was shared by a number of his - for want of a better word - acolytes; most notably an aggressive young Fire Warrior named Brightsword.
After the Arkunasha War, Farsight continued to battle against the Greenskins and helped defeat two more Ork WAAAGH!s, before being called upon to fight in the Damocles Gulf Crusade. Along with the forces of another of Puretide's pupils, Commander Shadowsun, Farsight's Hunter Cadres were instrumental in holding off the advance of Imperial forces on the prime Sept world of Dal'yth during the battles that raged back and forth across the Damocles Gulf. His attacking style left Imperial forces reeling, unsure where the next hammer blow would fall. Although victorious in eventually driving the forces of the Imperium from the face of Dal'yth, the Tau Empire was facing a time of great disconcertion.
The Tau, always so assured of the superiority of their cause and of their abilities, had been swept away from dozens of newly colonised planets and even suffered an attack on one of their Sept worlds. The Ethereals named this period the Nont'ka - the time of questioning. Realising that some were beginning to doubt their message of superiority, the Ethereals sought for a new hero to rekindle the spirit of expansion and to firmly re-establish the Tau's rightful destiny - the ultimate triumph of the Greater Good.
In the wake of their victory on Dal'yth, the Ethereal Council ordered vast reclamation attacks to reconquer their recently lost colonies. Many successful Commanders were considered to lead the spearhead, but in the end, it was Farsight's flawless battle record and his flair for dramatic victories that earned him a formal ceremony of recognition from the Ethereal High Council. Although he had some reservations about his choice, Aun'Va personally elected Commander O'Shovah to head the military aspects of the reclamation effort. The Water Caste's top propaganda efforts were put behind Commander Farsight's Coalition - perhaps the largest fleet of warships, ground troops and accompanying colony ships yet assembled by the Tau Empire. As was customary, several Ethereal Caste members were also part of the expedition.
However, there was no need for embellished accounts and initially Aun’Va's choice proved correct, for in the ensuing battles O'Shovah truly established his greatness. The bulk of Mankind's forces had been conscripted to fight a menace in another sector, the incursion of the Tyranid Hive Fleet Behemoth, and the Tau quickly re-established rule over planet after planet. Every planet marked for reconquest was quickly taken. With a skill bordering on prescience, Commander Farsight knew when to attack brashly and when to employ skillful manoeuvres and ambushes. The Imperium's remaining defenders stood no chance against the devastating close-ranged strikes and bold thrusts that were Commander Farsight's signature tactics. Not since the peak of Commander Puretide's triumphs had the Tau Empire been so united by the deeds of a single warrior, the Tau people cheered with news of each of his victories.
With but a single world left to recolonise, the Farsight Expedition, as it came to be known, ran into unexpected difficulties with Orks who had taken advantage of the Tau's war with the Imperium. With no opposing military power in the region to stop them, the Greenskin forces were free to expand their territorial raids, subjecting many of the nearby planets to the brutal whims of their cruel overlords in their probing at the shattered edges of the Tau Empire. In response, O'Shovah abandoned his recolonisation efforts to confront his age-old enemy of the Orks, directing his efforts and drawing his forces far from their assignments. What started as swift raids, to repel the greenskins they found probing the edge of their newly recaptured space, eventually turned into a decade long war across multiple star systems; war against a sizable conglomerate of Ork clans who travelled aboard crude asteroid bases. These battles raged far beyond the borders of the empire, yet Farsight was wholly absorbed by this new campaign. In time, O'Shovah's forces pushed into several Ork-held systems and destroyed their worlds, effectively terminating the immediate threat. Although having claimed many victories, Commander Farsight grew increasingly embittered – feeling that his Coalition was not receiving the continued support it deserved. The loyal warriors beneath him, a dedicated troop of acolytes, strongly agreed.
Back on the distant planet T'au, the Ethereal Council debated their next move, for many had grown wary of the strong-willed Commander, feeling a growing breach with their appointed leader that had nothing to do with the great distance between them. Even as Aun'Va came to the conclusion that the wayward Farsight must be relieved of command and recalled, a new disaster struck. It happened at the periphery of the Damocles Gulf during a battle on Arthas Moloch, a deserted artefact world save for strange monuments and ruined shrines of some long-forgotten culture. Unknown to the Tau, the world had already been purged by the Scythes of the Emperor Space Marines Chapter in M39, but in the ruins of a pre-human civilisation, the Tau forces engaged an unknown enemy and all of the Ethereal Caste leaders of Farsight's expedition were killed.
Undaunted, Farsight weathered the savage attacks of the unrelenting foe, pulling back in the hope of learning more about the fiends that had attacked them before launching a retaliation. Soon, however, the mysterious beings disappeared with the same suddenness with which they had arrived. With the world apparently cleansed, Commander Farsight pushed ever onwards, pursuing the Orks lest they make good their escape. He did so in strict disobedience of protocol, for without the guidance of any Ethereals, it is a Fire Caste Commander's duty to immediately report back to the High Council and await new orders.
Before long, the Farsight Expedition was well beyond the reach of even the most advanced communication relays and was no longer operating within the bounds of Tau Empire space. The Tau Empire sent many messages via the chain of communication beacons, accelerator relays on the ends of the system broadcasting their messages deep into the unknown space that the Farsight Expedition had disappeared into, but no response came back. It was possible that the vastness of space or some strange interference prevented the messages from reaching their recipient, but after many years with no reply, it was eventually deemed that the expedition was lost and assumed that their never-defeated Commander had, at long last, been vanquished - dying on a distant planet, far from the stars that lit the Tau Empire. All Castes on every Sept bowed their heads low when the loss of this revered and illustrious hero was broadcast across the Empire.
Yet Commander Farsight was not dead. Obstinately choosing to press on with his personal crusade rather than return to the bosom of his Empire, Farsight instead established a string of heavily fortified strongholds across the frontier space on the far side of the Damocles Gulf, a region long forbidden to the Tau. Even now, sporadic signals from long-range probes are received by the Ethereal High Council, which confirm the continued existence of a set of worlds now known as the Farsight Enclaves. There has even been evidence - unique signature signals from his personalised early-model XV8 Crisis Battlesuit and a few far-ranged visuals - that Farsight himself allegedly still lives to lead his Enclaves. This is itself, a great and confounding mystery, for it would mean that Farsight has lived for at least three centuries; considerably longer than the ordinary lifespan of any Tau save only the unknowable Ethereals. It may be that O'Shovah is extending his lifespan through some technological process or that a series of successors has taken up the mantle of Farsight. The truth lies in the Dawn Blade he wields. Regardless, to countenance the notion that Farsight has set up his own colonies is to accept that he has turned his back on the Empire and is fighting for what is presumably personal gain rather than the Greater Good. Since receiving this news, the Ethereal High Council has labelled O'Shovah a renegade, and has forbidden any communications with the rebels from the Tau Empire. Commander Farsight’s mysterious betrayal of the Greater Good still haunts the Tau Empire to this day.
A Warrior Born
O’Shovah was born upon the Tau Sept world of Vior’la, and his meteoric rise through the ranks of the Fire Caste began in the training domes of Mont’yr. Enrolled in the planet’s junior academies as soon as he could walk, like all members of the Fire Caste, he quickly established himself as a serious and dedicated aspirant with a voracious appetite for information. His peers were gifted too, but the young Shovah had a spark of brilliance that stood out from every other Tau of his generation. Within days, it became obvious to his tutors that they had more than a simple Fire Warrior on their hands. Even in his youth, Shovah was fiercely independent. Within his first tau’cyr of basic tutelage, and several ‘fact-finding’ raids into the enrolment centres of the Mont’yr training academies later, Shovah was accepted for training a full three years before standard enrolment was due. The young Vior’lan’s martial temperament was the subject of much discussion amongst the academy masters. His physical skills were well above average for his age, and he proved truly remarkable with his ability to retain tremendous amounts of data from each situation he encountered. His ability to use the knowledge he gained from every experience to assess and predict the actions of those around him was unnerving, and earned him the nickname Shoh, which means ‘inner light’ in the Tau tongue. Despite being several years younger than most other Tau in the battle dome, Shoh’s eidetic memory and fierce determination earned him a string of perfect scores in the academy’s simulations. His team’s casualty count was so low as to be unprecedented, and Shoh escaped being tagged by hostile sim-ghosts every time he entered a combat exercise, even in the infamous ‘Jungle of a Thousand Eyes’.
At the time of Shoh’s graduation to the Fire Caste, the legendary Commander Puretide was still making a point of personally initiating as many new recruits into the ranks as possible. The famous commander was on military business in Vior’la when Shoh’s generation of warriors were inducted, and to the great pleasure of Mont’yr’s warriors, he agreed to be present for the ceremony. Amidst much bowing and scraping, the Mont’yr academy’s tutors told Puretide of the student they called Shoh, the first warrior to have been enrolled into the academy at such a young age.
As Commander Puretide bestowed the rank of Shas’la upon the Tau prodigy, he asked Shoh how he could consistently second-guess even the most devious of traps and scenarios set by his tutors. The young Tau politely explained that he usually thought of what plans he would set in place if he were a tutor trying to test a team of students, and then worked to disable those plans as best he could. Meaningful glances were exchanged between the assembled dignitaries, but nothing more was said on the matter at the time. Two rotaa later, Shoh and his fellow novitiates were sent to their first war zone against the Arachen incursions of the Western Veil, whilst behind closed doors, Commander Puretide and his aides discussed the fact that Shoh’s military acumen and prowess were as promising as they had hoped.
The Road to Command
As was standard procedure, the young Tau served the first four years of his career as a member of a Fire Warrior team in a Hunter Cadre. Although he was posted to the fiercest war zones of each engagement, and that Shoh was always right on the front line, the young Tau proved more than capable during the Fire Caste’s ongoing purges of the Arachen race. En route to the war zone, Shoh memorised every fact the Water Caste had been able to glean in their dealings with the female Oestromystics of that many-legged race, and had thoroughly analysed the battle doctrine of the Arachen’s blade-legged male gender.
During the four years of war he spent as a Shas’la trooper, Shoh became known to every warrior in his Cadre. His ability to wield a Pulse Rifle at extreme close range saw him drive back several Arachen surprise attacks, and he was always quick to push home any advantage he could gain. He quickly earned the trust of his senior officer, Shas’ui Mon’oka, and later his respect. This turned to eternal gratitude at the Battle of the Great Web, where Shoh shot the Shas’ui free of a tangleclutch trap, saving him from the eggsacs of the Oestromystics and the horrific death that would otherwise have followed. By the end of his tenure as a Fire Warrior, it was Shoh’s ‘suggestions’ that formed the vast majority of his unit’s battle plans. A firm believer in the Greater Good, Shas’ui Mon’oka recommended his charges for their first Trial by Fire at the earliest opportunity. With the approval of their superior Cadre Fireblade, the young Tau warrior and his team were shipped back to Vior’la for potential promotion.
The Trial by Fire was a traumatic experience. A high level of adversity is the norm for the warrior caste’s coming-of-age tests, but there were those at the training academy that remembered Shoh’s inadvertent hand in the fall of their old colleagues, and wished to test him all the more harshly for it. Shoh was thrust into a pitch-black, live-fire war dome where he and his team were assailed by numerous nameless horrors that defied classification or understanding. Even Shoh’s quick wits were of limited use, and in the end, it was the fire in his soul that secured his fate. When a tentacled maw-thing came whirring down to chew his Shas’ui apart, Shoh threw himself headlong into its path, and was cut to ribbons in the process.
The Tau warrior died that day, and not for the last time. When Shoh was brought back from his simulacoma, his tutors informed him that only those of his team who had ‘died’ in the ordeal had passed their trials, and that his new rank was that of Shas’ui. When Shoh asked after those who did not pass their trial, however, his question was met only with stony silence. Though a hidden part of Shoh’s soul railed at this, his gladness at being alive and the fulfilment of his most fervent desire temporarily drowned out any more questions he had; for the rank of Shas’ui came the honour that Shoh had always dreamed of – the right to pilot a Tau Battlesuit.
After returning to the Western Veil to garner experience as a Fire Warrior Shas’ui, Shoh was quickly inducted into the armoured elite of the Tau armies. However, whilst analysing Drone-captured footage of his time as a Fire Warrior, Shoh’s Vior’lan masters had noted a marked affinity for close action in the young Tau’s tactics. The Fire Caste Tau Commanders who had monitored his progress wanted to teach Shoh the self-control and perspective of a support role. On the day the young prodigy reported for duty to Shas’ar’tol High Command, he was immediately assigned to the specialist pilots of the XV88 Broadside Battlesuit teams. It was under the auspices of the veteran rifleman Shas’vre Ob’lotai that Shoh learnt the basics of Battlesuit command, and in the process, a measure of restraint. At first, Shoh was privately crestfallen at his reassignment to the back ranks of the Arachen war, yet he knew the war effort was greater than his own personal desires. He applied every part of his exceptional mind to mastering the systems of his XV88 Broadside, drinking in specification data and after-action reports with every waking hour he spent outside the suit’s piloting matrix. Within a single training cycle, Shoh was getting more range and accuracy out of his Battlesuit’s Heavy Rail Rifle than Shas’vre Ob’lotai himself.
As soon as the correct training programs had been observed, Ob’lotai’s Support Cadre was dispatched to the Veil with all haste. There, as his team blew apart one huge-bellied Oestromystic after another, Shoh earned himself a new epithet – the Young Executioner. Though only his mentor Ob’lotai picked up on it, the four years fighting at the rear of the Hunter Cadre’s efforts were the most trying times of Shoh’s life so far. To be armed and armoured in the height of offensive technology, and yet to have to rely on younger, more lightly-armoured warriors to fight in his stead – it was a kind of torture that Shoh never wanted to repeat.
Four years and one vertiginous Trial by Fire later, Shoh earned his wish. Because he had served long enough and with enough distinction to earn the rank of Shas’vre, he was entrusted the command of a cutting-edge XV8 Crisis Battlesuit. He was expected to master its weapon systems quickly, for Commander Dawnstone herself was about to lead the warriors of Vior’la in the final actions of the Veil War, and she needed the best troops the planet could provide at her side.
A period of exceptionally bloody battle soon unfolded across the Western Veil, scarring Shoh both physically and mentally. He lost most of his left leg to a skitterling swarm that got inside a damaged part of his Crisis armour, and saw many trusted comrades meet spectacularly visceral ends, their Battlesuits physically ripped apart by giant Arachen Grandfathers. However, Shoh’s agility and skill at the helm of the XV8 Battlesuit quickly became famous amongst Dawnstone’s command. He was promoted to Saz’nami, taking his place alongside one of his old tutors as a close protection officer for his Commander. Shoh repaid the faith placed in him tenfold during the engagement with the much feared Arachen Trinity at the heart of the war effort. Having unwound the maze-like logic patterns with which the Arachen made their nests, Shoh led his Commander to the silken heart of the Arachen cocoon-ship. There, he and Commander Dawnstone launched the Mont’ka strike that killed all three of the Trinity and expelled the Arachen from the Western Veil once and for all.
En-route back to Vior’la, tragedy struck. Whilst docked with the cocoon-ship, Commander Dawnstone’s flagship had been infested with Arachen skitterlings that poured out of the vents and conduits to swarm through its blue-lit corridors. Perhaps intended as a last spiteful gesture of defiance, the infestation fell upon the Fire Warrior command council whilst they were engaged in debate, catching them unarmed and dressed only in their fatigues. Shoh held the swarm back, using his body to block the doorway to the chamber as best he could whilst his Commander and her aides made their escape. Shoh stood firm, but the venom-tusks of the skitterlings piercing his skin again and again proved too much and his tortured frame shook its last.
Shoh awoke in a med-bay with the familiar surrounds of Battle Dome Mont’yr visible outside. Dawnstone herself was waiting by his bedside to inform him that the skitterling attack had in fact been a Trial by Fire – the whole event was a simulation. Just as she had hoped, Shoh had excelled in his role as bodyguard, even without his Battlesuit to rely on. In light of this success, he had been promoted to Shas’el – a commander-in-training. Better yet, Shoh had succeeded in his duties with such flying colours that the venerable Commander Puretide himself had agreed to train him in the arts of war.
Students of the Master
Shoh was transported to Daly’th Prime, where he made his way to the peak of Mount Kanji, seat of Puretide’s tutelage. With only his wits and tenacity to call upon, the journey up the sheer mountainside was a gruelling test by itself. Yet by using a system of improvised pulleys, and the dead weight of a Kanjian snow lynx he had killed with a makeshift slingshot, Shoh made the journey up the perilous face of the mountain, mile by painstaking mile.
Soon after he reached the topmost peak, Shoh found Commander Puretide deep in meditation. Seated in focused meditation in front of Puretide were two young Tau warriors – one who later introduced herself as Shaserra, a fellow aspirant to the command ranks of the Fire Caste, and the other a taciturn but gifted young warrior known as Kais. Through the hardships that were to follow, the three aspirants became as close as Ta’lissera bondmates – albeit ones engaged in a bitter rivalry for the approval of their elderly master. Each of Puretide’s students had a different style of war and a separate philosophy to go with it. Shoh’s simmering passion and desire to plunge into the fires of battle saw him gravitate towards the Mont’ka, or ‘killing blow’, strategies, whilst Shaserra was a careful and meticulous practitioner of the ‘patient hunter’, Kauyon. Kais, a withdrawn and strange individual, was unusual in that he sought mastery of the Monat’s way of war. His goal was to become the perfect lone warrior, an army of one that could triumph in any situation with only the materials to hand. Though Shoh regularly scored the highest in the training simulations, his peers were not far behind. The competition between them saw each strive for success just as hard as in any true war zone, and in the process, earn the respect of their fellow students.
Commander Puretide had long ago mastered every one of the Tau’s martial disciplines, and more besides. Over the years he honed his students’ abilities to near superhuman levels, all the while striving to make them appreciate the alternative strategies available to the wise. When each was asked to fight in the manner of one of their peers, they did well enough, but in truth, they were only going through the motions, purely to ensure their master’s approval. Each student had followed his or her own path, and was loath to stray far from it.
One by one, the Tau warriors left Puretide’s side, their studies as complete as time would afford. They took their new names and titles from the peak of Mount Kanji – Shas’O Shoh, Shas’O Shaserra, and Monat Shas’O Kais. Though they would go on to fight in different war zones across the Tau Empire, the three disciples of Puretide were all to make their mark on history.
The Arkunasha War
The Rust Planet
The planet of Arkunasha was settled during the Second Sphere Expansion. Despite the aridity of the oxide deserts that made up the world’s surface, the Tau had settled the red planet with a sizeable population. This they had achieved through the tireless work of the Earth Caste’s scientists and engineers. By their efforts, the Tau Empire had girded the planet with two necklace-like strings of bio-domes that ran around the most temperate latitudes, each a mirror distance from the equator. From orbit, the world appeared as a blood red globe adrift in the ocean of space, banded with two rows of bioluminescent lights that pulsed bluish white like the flanks of some deep-sea organism.
In their preliminary investigations, during the earliest expeditions to Arkunasha's surface, the Earth Caste had made a disturbing discovery. Whilst determining the source of the oxide deserts that covered the world, they found a great variance in the metallic composition and even origin of the various particulates. It was as if the world had been entirely covered in metal structures at some time in the distant past, which had long since been utterly ground to dust. Given the depth of the oxide residue, that ancient civilization must have included several artificial cities the size of mountain ranges. Theories abounded throughout the Earth Caste about the planet-wide catastrophe that had torn everything upon the planet’s surface apart. Though the Tau had no idea what might have caused Arkunasha’s spectacular death, or who the inhabitants might have been, they had taken their first glimpse of the world-destroying power of the Imperium of Mankind.
The Ork crusade of violence known as WAAAGH! Dok appeared in the vicinity of Arkunasha without warning or reason. One equinox, a strange solar storm erupted that appeared to make odd symbols in the sky. When it had subsided, the Earth Caste sighted something that defied all logic; the eastern void was now dotted with hundreds of energy signatures, every one of them heading on a collision course with Arkunasha. Weeks later, the planet was in the throes of a full-scale war. An Ork invasion of vast size had descended, slamming giant asteroid fortresses into the planet’s dunes. The crudeness of the Ork assault had been its saving grace. The Earth Caste’s firing solutions could depressurise or destroy a conventional fleet before it reached orbit, but there was nothing conventional about the Greenskin armada. Even the heavy Railcannons that bristled from the Tau bio-domes had proven next to useless against the porous balls of rock and junk hurtling in their direction. More and more Ork craft hurtled out of the sky and crunched into the dunes in a jaw-dropping planetfall the Tau took to calling the ghoro’kha, or death hail. Hunter and Defender Cadres were scrambled to each crash site, but greenskins seethed out of the impact crater around each fallen asteroid like water overflowing a boiling cauldron.
By the time Commander Shoh and his fleet reached Arkunasha’s orbit, the planet had been all but overrun. With the exception of a few highly mobile strike forces abroad in the desert, the Tau military presence planetside had been destroyed in a series of disastrously one-sided engagements. The rest of the populace was holed up in the transparent bio-domes that ringed the planet – though the Orks had destroyed most of the connecting structures in short order, they had not yet worked out a way to pierce the metres-thick carapaces of the habitats themselves. Each was an island in a sea of invaders, surrounded by barbaric hordes that hammered and hollered on the thick transplastics separating them from their prey. The Tau inside got a good chance to study their persecutors up close, but the habitats’ resources were dwindling, and their military forces were pitifully inadequate for the task of repelling the Orks. Without each bio-dome’s dew farms bringing in the regular water they relied upon, the life expectancy of Arkunasha’s people could be measured in weeks, at best.
After his counter invasion fleet made it to Arkunasha’s surface entirely unmolested, Commander Shoh was extensively briefed on the situation by the Tau trapped in Arkunasha’s bio-domes. The planet’s dust storms could be avoided with careful monitoring of the Earth Caste’s sub-orbital drone network, but according to the Air Caste’s aerial observations, there appeared to be even more of the violent alien warbands roaming the desert than in the first few weeks of the invasion. Stranger still, drone scans had confirmed something that the Ethereals had originally put down to fearful rumour-mongering – the individual Orks testing the defences of each bio-dome were slowly getting bigger. Thus far, the bestial aliens had resisted or ignored all attempts to communicate or broker terms, and the Water Caste were at a loss how to proceed. All the greenskinned beasts seemed to want to do was fight.
In his pre-battle meditations upon the subject, O’Shoh found that he could relate to that concept. In his heart, he relished the thought of once more risking his life in the name of the Greater Good. The spectacle of war called to him; the noise, the light – even the letting of blood. These reflections were his first step towards understanding the psyche of the Ork, and in achieving that understanding, turning the tide of the Arkunasha War. Though the Tau had engaged whole alien civilisations before and emerged triumphant, in almost all of those invasions, the Fire Caste had held the upper hand. This was one of the few times the Tau war machine would be tested in such desperately unfavourable conditions. Training simulations always included modules where the Tau were outnumbered by their enemies, sometimes as many as ten times over. Here, the foe teemed across the dunes in their billions. Orbital snapshots gained on entry into the atmosphere indicated that the Orks outnumbered the Fire Caste counter-invasion by nearly four hundred to one. When the Air caste’s final observations were relayed to the commander during his descent, he nodded in solemn acknowledgement. His contingent’s cadres would have to use the weapons of the mind rather than the gauntlet, he said – against the savage beast, such a strategy was inevitable. When asked to clarify his intent, O’Shoh drew one of the ornamental swords from the wall above and stabbed it through the arm of the command throne before snapping its blade in half. It was a metaphor that was to become famous amongst the Fire Caste in the ensuing months.
The Way of the Broken Sword
The initial engagements against the Orks were intended to re-establish supply routes and test the greenskins’ defences and capabilities in the meantime. Using Hunter Cadres skimming the surface of the world in Devilfish transports and flight-capable Battlesuits, he experimented with the enemy by killing enough Orks from long range to ensure their scattered mobs were on the brink of panic. Almost without exception, it was the largest Ork in each group that restored order. The simplicity of their military structure was such that it had at first been overlooked – in the Ork psyche, might made right, and nothing more. Another observation O’Shoh made was that whenever his troops struck the milling Ork armies and faded away, almost immediately, fighting would erupt even if no foe was left to engage. The Orks would take any excuse to attack each other. Leadership challenges, theft of property, even careless remarks would flare up into brawls. Recordings of this were taken and sent back to the mobile headquarters O’Shoh had established, a disc-shaped command centre that constantly prowled the dunes on a cushion of anti-gravitic energy.
Next came a year-long period known as the Great Thinning. Farsight ordered forward stealth contingents and Battlesuit teams to patrol the dunes, locating and destroying the largest Orks in each mob with pinpoint fire before disappearing without a trace. This inevitably sent the rest of the Orks into a frenzy of violence as they cast around for their persecutors before turning on each other. Blood would fly after each kill as the Orks fought over who was to take command, and the body count climbed steadily higher. As more and more monitor drones reported back to High Command, O’Shoh watched every recording with cold fascination. Before long, he had deciphered not only the crude system of glyphs the Orks used as a writing tool, but also the guttural Ork tongue. Soon, he was telling his aides what would happen next in each recorded event before it had unfolded. His officers joked that he must have seen the recordings already, but they knew full well that their commander had simply come to understand his foe well. His command staff were soon referring to him by a new moniker, Shovah, or ‘far-sighted’.
The knowledge gleaned from these intercepted messages slowly filtered into the Fire Caste’s military doctrine. Wherever the Ork glyphs for ‘Boss’, ‘Mek’ or ‘Dok’ appeared on an Ork vehicle, the Hunter Cadres would prioritise their destruction with concentrated Hammerhead fire and XV88 Broadside Battlesuit support, slowing Ork response times to a crawl. Though the Tau could not form the syllables of Ork speech, O’Shoh’s Earth Caste allies cut audio snippets of Orkish challenges and insults into the comms networks that the invaders had looted from fallen Tau; delivering the right Orkish insults at the right time, O’Shoh drove a wedge of dissent between every clan and tribe roaming the desert, sparking a series of minor wars in the process. Within a year, the greenskinned beast that had invaded Arkunasha was chewing on its own tail. O’Shoh’s tactics had distracted the Orks to such an extent that Tau forces were able to get food and water to the people trapped within the bio-domes and free the remains of the Arkunashan Fire Caste, further bolstering their ranks.
The Beast Rears to Strike
Though many of Tau central command quietly congratulated each other on a war well prosecuted, most of the Ork invaders yet lived. Throughout both the populous of Arkunasha and the counter-invasion force, the Tau now universally knew their leader as O’Shovah, or Commander Farsight. Despite this honour, he was not satisfied with their progress, and knew the fight was far from over. The more organized of the tribes had begun systematically looting the comms networks, guns and armour of the fallen Tau that lay scattered amongst the rust dunes. Wherever a burning hulk that had once been a Tau skimmer hung suspended above the desert on still-functioning repulsors, the Orks would extinguish the flames with buckets of rust-particulate and repurpose it, fitting it with smoke-spewing engines and solid shot weapons. Monitor drone recordings showed that the Ork caste known as Meks were having their slave races dig deep into the oxide dunes to unearth scrap metal. The Tau would never stoop to use this raw material, but the Orks found it useful in the extreme. As more and more Ork vehicles became armoured in, or even wholly constructed from, oxidised metal, the hordes blended with the desert itself with a form of accidental camouflage. Worse still, surprise attacks from Ork hordes were becoming more and more frequent. The Air Caste soon uncovered why: those veteran Orks that had been fighting upon Arkunasha since the first invasion had grown skin that was thick and gnarled enough to protect them from the abrasive effects of the rust storms. Each time these bands allowed a storm to overtake them, a handful of greenskins were snatched up and killed by the red tornadoes, but the rest marched in relative safety in the eye of the storm, protected from the Tau Hunter Cadres that roamed the desert. When the storm broke upon a Tau base, these wandering packs of elite Orks would appear from the swirling clouds with a vicious anger worthy of an enraged Knarloc.
Commander Farsight had expected the Orks to be resourceful, but he had not come to fully appreciate the advantages afforded by their uncanny physiology. The number of Orks on Arkunasha was actually increasing rather than being slowly whittled down. O’Shovah and his Ethereal masters were forced to consider the matter of Ork reproduction, a train of thought no civilised species should have to follow. Farsight’s most trusted Earth caste advisor, the young genius O’Vesa, believed that the Orks had a fungal component to their genetic make-up. He maintained that the spores that they continually shed were flourishing in the oxide deserts. If his theories were to be believed, every morning, the rust dunes, covered with a film of dew, would shiver and collapse to reveal a clutch of immature Dune Orks, low in tech-level but spoiling for a fight.
When word got out that the Orks’ numbers were actually increasing, it hit morale like a megaton bomb. The Ethereals present in the expedition insisted that it was impossible to channel more resources to Arkunasha; the Tau stationed there would have to overcome this foe on their own. Farsight was forced to abandon his program of assassinations and turn his attention to his own camp. Morale was on the brink of crumbling, and with it, any chance the Tau had of claiming back the planet.
The Triumph of the Spirit
- "Learn to shorten your reach! If your foe can come close enough to negate your striking power, all stratagem is lost, and when all stratagem is lost, the battle is lost."
- —Attributed to Commander Farsight, 757.M41
Since his arrival at Arkunasha, Farsight had led a number of strike teams to the front line. His XV8 Crisis Battlesuit’s Plasma Rifle had claimed more of the Orks’ ruling caste than any other. The senior Water Caste envoy that accompanied his expedition, Por’O’Kais, had made a great play of Farsight’s victories. Positive propaganda was circulated throughout every bio-dome and mobile base, but still Tau spirits were sinking. In deep talks with Por’O’Kais, Commander Farsight came to the conclusion that one of the Ork race’s primary weapons was its warlike spirit. The Orks spent little to none of their energies on angst or paranoia, instead channelling everything they had into seeking and fighting battles. The greenskin armies would expend a great number of lives in pursuing the mobile Tau wherever they were sighted, even if it meant sustaining over ninety percent casualties in the process – yet that last ten percent would run roughshod over a Hunter Cadre if they caught them. Critically, the close-quarters ability of the Fire Caste was no match for the strength and brutality of the Ork hordes. As the war ground on and the progress graphs in Tau central command took an ever more downward trend, Farsight finished what was to be his definitive work on the greenskin mindset. The Book of the Beast, as O’Shovah called it, was circulated to every Cadre Fireblade, Battlesuit Shas’ui and Kroot Shaper left on the planet. The tactical acumen in its pages was astounding. It taught the Fire Caste how to think like an Ork, to understand their language, even to fight with the fury of an Ork in battle if necessary. Above all, it taught them that their Commander understood the enemy well, and that the Tau could still win.
The next few years saw a transformation in the Tau approach to the war for Arkunasha. No longer did the Fire Caste dance out of reach, engaging the greenskin menace at close quarters only when absolutely necessary. Instead, the Tau military machine reversed its tactics, driving teams of Fire Warriors and Battlesuits close to blast apart the Orks wherever Farsight’s dune-stalking Pathfinder teams uncovered them. When the Orks mounted one of their fearsome charges, the Tau would hold their ground at the ambush point, kneeling in the rust and laying down a fearsome network of supporting fire that overlapped whenever the Orks came close. Should any greenskin make it through the deadly lattice, they would be charging into a storm of blazing light from the Fire Caste’s time-delayed Photon Grenades. If necessary, the surviving greenskins would then be shot at point-blank range or even clubbed to death with the barrels of Pulse Rifles while they reeled from the photon blasts, unable to defend themselves from the vengeful Tau.
It was a dangerous tactic, perhaps needlessly so. Yet new life had been breathed into the Fire Caste fighting upon Arkunasha. Many of O’Shovah’s pupils took to the new tactic with particular zeal, the combatative Commander Brightsword most of all. Ambassador Por’O’Kais ensured that footage of Brightsword and his cadre overcoming an Ork charge at close quarters was seen far and wide. Up until that point, the Tau had done little more than defend their bio-domes. Now they were relishing the strategy of all-out attack. O’Shovah had put flame in the bellies of his warriors, and it was there to stay. All across the planet, battle broke out with a renewed fervour. In the maze-like canyon networks of the Arkunashan equator, O’Shovah lured columns of rust-plated Ork vehicles into ever narrower channels until, with a simple vehicle kill at each end of the armoured column, the Orks were trapped in place and slaughtered like herdbeasts in an abattoir. Scant miles away, nimble Piranhas led Ork Dakkajets and Deffkoptas on a merry dance through drone-mapped canyons until one by one, the clumsy Ork pilots collided
Farsight’s Kroot mercenaries feasted on a daily diet of Dune Ork flesh, adapting to the environment until their skin was tough enough to withstand even a red storm. They roamed the sands with their Knarloc packbeasts, stoically weathering the losses from rust tornados as they plunged into the tempests to ambush the Ork Nobs inside. The vicious greenskin scouts that ranged ahead of each tribe were spied upon and slain in their turn by optimised Stealth Teams, leaving the bulk of each Ork army wandering directionless under the harsh desert sun until they turned upon each other in frustration. Everywhere, the teachings of Farsight’s Book of the Beast took their toll. As the Hunter Cadres mastered its methods, O’Shovah led his armies against greenskin hordes that outnumbered them hundreds to one and emerged triumphant. Slowly but surely, the progress graphs in central command began to change.
Massacre at Ghoul’s Gorge
During this unprecedented period of success for the Tau upon Arkunasha, the people of the bio-domes were extracted and moved to the natural fortresses of the highlands, away from comforts of home but safe enough to survive whilst the war raged below. The Hunter Cadres continued to thin out and then eradicate the Ork armies milling across the dunes in a series of Mont’ka strikes that were pitilessly efficient. Then came an innovation from the Ork ranks that changed the face of the war once again. Though the Waaagh! had by now been reduced to less than a quarter of its former size, the deserts were still infested. Dune Orks pushed their way out of the red sands with every dawn, and the Doks at the head of the Waaagh! had an almost necromantic talent for stitching fallen warriors back together. The tenacity of the Ork army was incredible. Yet it was the Orks’ Earth caste equivalent, the individuals known as Meks, that robbed the Tau of their greatest strength.
Ghoul’s Gorge, named for the cannibalistic atrocity that had taken place there between two rival Kroot kindreds, was a vast open canyon that howled with fierce desert winds. Battle erupted when a vast horde of Orks sought to push through the gorge and fall upon the bio-domes beyond. In their midst was a giant drill-armed walker designed to breach the transplastic shells of the domes, as much a pagan idol as a weapon of war. Farsight had no inclination to see if it would work. He drove his teams in close, harrying the Ork column from above whilst they were still bottle-necked in the gorge. As plasma fire rained down, shimmering domes flickered into existence above each mob, lit by the energies cascading across their bubble-like surfaces. Even the drill-titan Stompa was protected by a force dome, the Heavy Rail Rifle rounds of Farsight’s Broadside teams simply disintegrated on impact. The ensuing battle was tortuous for Farsight’s Tau. They could not abandon their charges in the bio-domes, and yet their firepower was all but useless against the flashing bubble fields of the Orks. The impetuous young Commander Brightsword mounted a close-range Battlesuit attack on the rearmost Ork mob; he and his team quickly established that the only way to circumvent the bubble fields was to get inside them – placing the Tau just where the Orks wanted them to be.
So began the Massacre at Ghoul’s Gorge, the most disastrous battle yet to have taken place during the entire Arkunasha war. Every time the Tau penetrated a bubble field in order to strike at the greenskins within, the Orks would charge headlong into their foes, guns blazing. Close combats erupted along the length of the gorge as the cramped conditions the Tau had engineered for the battle prevented them from using hit-and-run tactics. Though Farsight himself used a daring vertical strike to immobilise the clanking, fat-bellied driller at the heart of the Ork horde, he was forced to order his Cadres to withdraw before their losses became untenable. The commander reluctantly retreated to his mobile headquarters to reconsider his strategy.
The Great Decree
In consultation with his Ethereal advisors, Farsight once more respectfully requested reinforcement from Vior’la. The war hung in the balance, he claimed; a determined assault on key Ork positions could see the course of the entire campaign end in favour of the Tau. There was a lengthy silence before the Ethereals replied that a Tau ship from Vior’la was indeed inbound. They would say no more on the matter. When a lone Orca dropship descended upon Arkunasha, Farsight and his closest advisors met it in person atop a massive natural plateau in the Argap Highlands. When the large ramp opened at the Orca’s fore, and the promised reinforcements stepped out – two ceremonial honour guards and a single Ethereal. Farsight did well to choke down the surprise and frustration that rose in his chest. A single Ethereal – their presence was good for morale, to be sure, but they could hardly be counted a concrete asset, and certainly not the auxiliary Hunter Cadres that O’Shovah had been hoping for. He turned to his own Ethereal advisors in dismay, but held his tongue. It was well that he did, for his actions were being monitored very closely indeed.
The newcomer introduced himself as Aun’Shi of Vior’la. He was a veteran of scores of battles – his many scars attested to that – and he carried himself with the surety of a warrior lord. The Ethereal calmly explained that over the next few years, the Fire Caste were to withdraw entirely from Arkunasha, taking as many of the planet’s colonists with them as they could. He would oversee the extraction personally. There would be no more attacks, no more killing blows – only defence. The plateau upon which they stood would be their fortress, and they would protect it with every iota of their being until every living Tau had left the planet. This they would do for the Greater Good, effective immediately. Farsight nodded curtly at the news and bowed low in obeisance. In a secret part of his soul, however, he felt a great disquiet stir. Nevertheless, a senior Ethereal had spoken. A simple commander could not hope to appreciate the full scale of the High Council’s plans.
Over the course of the next year, Farsight enacted the Ethereal council’s plans to the letter. Consolidating the civilian Tau into a series of hastily-constructed bio-domes atop the Argap Plateau, he defended the natural fortress with every weapon and strategy at his disposal. Though he lost thousands of good soldiers in the process, he further whittled down the numbers of the Waaagh! that had by now converged upon his position. In the process, he continued to attack their command structure, prioritising the deaths of mechanics, medics, and warrior-leaders until there were no more left amongst them. In their haste to make war, the Orks that had encircled the plateau relentlessly ground themselves into its defences until the valleys below were choked with corpses. Not one of them had the vision or perspective to retreat, and Farsight pitilessly exterminated any who broke through his cordons. Many of Commander Farsight’s pupils, Brightsword most strident amongst them, called for revenge for the fallen. They proposed a final push to exterminate the aliens once and for all before extraction. O’Shovah sombrely argued against this course of action. So it was that the Tau colonists were evacuated from Arkunasha, and the Fire Caste along with them.
The Fire Caste returned to Arkunasha the next year. With the exhaustive cartographic information harnessed by Farsight’s Warscaper Drones, and with the Book of the Beast to guide them, they made short work of the Orks left there. The Waaagh! had effectively already been broken at Argap Plateau, reduced to less than a hundredth of the size it had been when it first reached the planet’s red sands. The Tau’s Hunter Cadres cleansed and reclaimed the planet in the space of less than a year, reinstalling the colonists dome by dome as the Earth Caste brought the conurbations back to a functional state. Soon, the planet glittered like a jewel amongst the stars once more, but Commander Farsight was not there to witness it; his destiny lay elsewhere. The Tau had been assailed by a new foe – the Imperium of Man.
The Damocles Gulf Crusade
- "Faith is a powerful force indeed, it is true. We have our own faith – not in one of our number raised to godhood, but in a mutual destiny that cannot be denied."
- —Commander Farsight
The Tau’s first encounters with the Imperium were based on subtle infiltration, though when the masters of Humanity learned of their subversion, a storm of violence followed. The resultant war crossed the Damocles Gulf and broke upon the heartlands of the Tau Empire. Without the actions of Commander Farsight, the Sept worlds might well have been wiped out.
The Damocles Gulf
Situated coreward of the Tau Empire, the Damocles Gulf was a yawning stellar anomaly that had long spelled little more than confusion and death for the Tau. Unknown forces roiled within it like oceanic currents that could not be predicted or even monitored by conventional science. However, the Earth Caste’s invention of the ZFR Horizon Accelerator Engine allowed the Tau to circumvent the worst of the Gulf’s malevolent attentions. Within years of the ZFR engine’s invention, the Tau had successfully crossed the Damocles Gulf and begun to explore the cluster of worlds on the other side. Instead of conquering them with a costly series of wars, Ethereal Aun’Va masterminded a long and subtle campaign of integration. Though it took decades, the Tau inveigled themselves into the human civilisations that dwelt there. With trade, diplomacy and, above all, patience as their weapons, they effectively converted the human worlds into extensions of the Tau Empire without firing a single shot.
The interstellar behemoth that is the Imperium of Man is cumbersome indeed, but it is also mighty and vengeful beyond reason. Word eventually filtered back to the High Lords of Terra that the worlds they had controlled in the Timbra Sub-sector, on the Eastern Fringe, were no longer paying tithes and – worse still – that their Planetary Governors were in thrall to a xenos race. This they would not allow to go unpunished, and so the Imperium responded with slow but unstoppable force. The promising Damocles expansion ended in a series of harrowing wars that saw the Tau driven back from their newly acquired planets to the Sept worlds of the First Sphere. Even worse, the Imperial fleets had not been content merely to let the Tau flee. The cathedral-ships of the human military crossed the Damocles Gulf using some arcane science that defied description, opening portals in the fabric of space, and soon the warriors they carried were falling upon the heartlands of the alien civilisation that had dared encroach on their sovereign empire.
The first planetary target that the Imperium had identified was Dal’yth Sept, a prosperous and highly cultured system with its origins in the First Sphere Expansion. The defences of the outlying colony worlds of Hydass, Sy’l’kell and Viss’el collapsed, one after another. The Imperium’s ram-beaked starships blasted their way across Sept space, the battleships of the Space Marines at their fore. The sudden appearance of the Imperial fleet caught the Tau completely unprepared. Even though the Tau navy scrambled what ships it could from Dal’yth, Pray’en and Dal’yr, the throng of floating colossi in their midst outweighed them massively. A strange battle commenced as each fleet’s admirals took the measure of their foes and were left confounded. Against the sheer power of the largest Imperial battleships, even Manta missile destroyers, Custodian-class Battleships and Startide-class Interceptors were outclassed. In turn, the unparalleled mobility of the Tau craft allowed them to evade every Imperial gun and boarding torpedo that was pointed in their direction. Until the Tau armada could respond in force by scrambling battle-cruiser fleets from the Kor’vattra navy docks on the system’s edge, Dal’yth Sept was on its own.
A period of unprecedented mayhem and confusion erupted as the Imperial fleet fought its way through the orbital defences of Pra’yen and barged straight on to Dal’yth Sept, intending to make planetfall upon the Tau home worlds no matter the cost. Commander Farsight was briefed on the situation and told that his forces would join those of his old training rival O’Shaserra in repelling the Imperium from Dal’yth. O’Shovah swore he would either cleanse the planet of human scum or die in magnificence. There would be no retreat this time – only victory, or death.
Fire in the Skies
The Air Caste of Dal’yth knew their efforts would be pivotal in the war that was about to consume their planet. They meditated serenely as the Imperial fleet approached, but each pilot had a spark of anticipation in his heart. That spark was fanned into a flame by Commander Farsight’s historic speech at Zephyrpeak, an address that played to the Air Caste’s pride, patriotism and skill in equal measure. Under the direction of Farsight’s trusted Air Caste ally, Admiral Kor’O’Li’Mau’Teng, the pilots of the Sept worlds would counter-attack in force.
The Imperium descended upon Dal’yth with such murderous violence that the skies turned black with carbon within the first week of engagement. Grotesquely large drop ships painted in the drab olive tones of the Imperial Guard were first to descend. They approached Dal’yth in a two-stage vector that saw them first act as aircraft carriers then, after landing, as mechanised transports that deployed troops and tanks alike on a massive scale. The skies above Dal’yth’s hexodomes were soon buzzing and roaring with the engines of crude Imperial fighters and transports. War scarred the skies long before a single shot was fired on the purple-grassed plains below. With the Imperial forces committed, squadron after squadron of Barracudas, Razorsharks, Tiger Sharks and Sun Shark Bombers lifted out of the uppermost panels of hexodomes across the planet, linking their sensor suites into a lattice of supporting data. They met up in mid-air to form staggered picket lines, each supported by clouds of networked Drones that buzzed in their wake like obedient insects. Any enemy aircraft that was caught by their net would be shot down in short order.
The Air Caste’s sky-trawling tactics proved to be extremely effective against the crude craft of the Imperial Guard, but they were found wanting when the crenellated Strike Cruisers above sent their own squadrons into the fight. Huge warrior-craft emblazoned in bright heraldic colours triggered their afterburners to hurtle in an almost vertical approach, stub-winged escort craft to either side. Monitor Drone scans picked out the icons emblazoned on the flanks of each vehicle. These were Space Marine craft, their blunt hulls somehow reminiscent of flying fists and launched with much the same intent. The Space Marine gunship squadrons roared toward the Air Caste trawler-net with terrific speed, guns blasting as they came. Incredibly, the heavily-armoured steersmen of each craft seemed to be seeking out mid-air collisions, roaring at a tight downward angle straight into the ordered matrix of Tau fighter craft. The Air Caste pilots were forced to break formation, wheeling away in curling evasive manoeuvres. Farsight had to admit he was impressed; the directness and bravery of such a deployment vector was commendable. He decided to take his own insurgency force of Crisis teams to the site of this new attack.
With his Battlesuit teams leaping out from graceful Manta missile destroyers and his ground forces transported en masse by the planet’s Magnorail networks, O’Shovah was able to react to the vertical incursions of the Space Marines with impressive speed. Targeting data acquired on the far side of the Damocles Gulf had shown the Imperial shock troops to be extremely heavily armoured, and so Farsight had taken the precaution of having every XV8 Crisis Battlesuit under his command equipped with dual Plasma Rifles. It proved to be the right decision. The mass reactive shells fired by the Space Marine squads deploying from each insertion pod were fierce indeed, but few penetrated the armoured shells of the Battlesuits that arced down out of the skies. Under Farsight’s strict instruction, whenever one Crisis Battlesuit was hit it would peel back to be replaced by a fully operational replacement. Wave by wave, the Crisis teams descended, their numbers such that, from a distance, they looked like a Vior’lan seedstorm floating to earth. Hundreds of Plasma Rifles spat bursts of burning fire down into the ranks of the Space Marines, melting through ceramite and searing through flesh to scorch the ground beneath. The Imperial warriors were not so much shot as cored, the sizzling holes in their torsos exposing innards to the air. Incredibly, many of the fallen Space Marines still fought on, firing powerful sidearms from the ground and shouting their defiance even as their vital fluids drained away. It was an amazing display of fortitude and determination in the face of devastating firepower, and it impressed Farsight deeply – as did the courage of the white-armoured medics administering to their fallen brothers. Yet courage would not be enough to save them. By the time the Fire Warrior Support Cadres had arrived, all that remained of the Space Marine insertion within Gel’bryn was smoking ruin.
The March on Gel’bryn
As all-out war unfolded in the skies above, the monstrous tracked transports of the Imperial Guard and the giant walkers that stomped in their vanguard simply ignored the best efforts of the Air Caste. Their crackling shields and thick hides were all but impenetrable to anything short of Railgun fire, and they knew it. The vast metal transports settled in great wallowing clouds of steam before unfurling their ramps like broad, flat tongues, disgorging regiment after regiment of soldiers from their gullets. Strike forces of Tau moved to intercept, but wherever they hove into view, the immense Imperial Titans that flanked each deployment ramp would unleash firepower so intense that the Hunter Cadres were forced to take evasive action of their own. The massive machines were demigods of battle; each was an avatar of destruction given form on a scale undreamt of, even by the most ambitious of the Earth caste’s Battlesuit designers. Here was Mankind’s warlike deity made manifest, just as the effigy-walkers of the primitive Orks represented their own belligerent gods. Under the protection of these god-machines, endless ranks of Imperial soldiery marched. Elsewhere, thousands of ponderous Imperial tanks churned the planet’s indigo grass into thick mud as they rumbled into attack formations. Farsight’s Hunter Cadres were ready to engage, but even the most veteran Fireblade was forced to admit that the sheer scale of the task was bewildering. In the space of a single day, the Imperium had bulldozed a series of beachheads onto Dal’yth with little more than faith and brute force. Despite sustaining heavy losses to long-range suppression fire, they were slowly converging on the capital hexodomes central to the planet’s eastern hab-states.
As night began to fall on the first day of the invasion, Commander Farsight called an emergency conclave of those commanders not yet involved in the battle. The Space Marines that had dared to assault the city of Gel’bryn directly had been neutralised, but the vast bulk of the Imperial armies were yet to engage. Their advance had been stalled by staggered missile strikes from the hills around Gel’bryn, and their outriders had been slain by optimised Stealth Teams, but the solid core remained. The battle for Dal’yth had only just begun.
As Commander Farsight was bringing his emergency conclave to a consensus of all-out attack, an athletic Tau female swept into the room. Her self-possession and cold beauty demanded attention as she strode to the command bridge with her head high. She moved in front of Farsight, blocking him from view as she calmly outlined her plan. The Fire Caste reserve would join her Hunter Cadres in a series of stealth attacks using the darkness and drawing the enemy to overextend themselves in pursuit. Only then would the true counter-attacks be launched. She issued specific orders to those commanders not belonging to Farsight’s Contingent, and one by one, they bowed their heads. When Commander Shadowsun strode back out, without a word to Farsight, a full half of the emergency conclave went with her. Farsight’s grip on his sword hilt tightened, but he held his peace. He recalled the words of Master Puretide, reminding himself that though he and his fellow commander were very different, they strove for the same goals.
Scant hours later, there came reports of a series of devastating attacks that had been made under cover of darkness. The tactics employed were O’Shaserra’s, no doubt; Commander Farsight would recognise them anywhere. The Imperium’s immense phalanxes were flailing blindly, lashing out in all directions as their outlying vehicles were destroyed one after another by point blank fusion fire. As soon as their primitive vision-sensors had been opened wide to scry the Dal’ythan night, O’Shaserra had released bursts of multi-spectral light that blinded her prey even more effectively than the pitch darkness of the plains. Confusion reigned around the perimeter of each Imperial column as carefully-placed tank killers hemmed in the great mass of each vehicle company. Spearheads of trundling battle tanks and super-heavy ordnance split off from the main mass wherever they could, blasting a path through the Magnorail tunnels that blocked them in order to pursue the signal ghosts of this new threat; in which they failed.
The war that unfolded over the next few months saw the differing styles of Puretide’s students writ large. Their strategies were painted in blood upon the canvas of Dal’yth’s battlefields. Wherever O’Shaserra’s infiltration and misdirection tactics blinded the military behemoth of the Imperial Guard, Space Marine strike forces raced to intercept, their rugged technology and genetically engineered strength overmatching the Stealth Teams and forcing them to withdraw. As soon as the Space Marines had committed themselves, O’Shovah and his Battlesuit spearheads would fall upon them from above, crippling their transports with XV88 Broadside Battlesuit fire and meeting the stranded survivors in a series of deadly close-quarter battles.
In the sky war above, Kor’O’Li’Mau’Teng’s Air Caste pilots took a heavy toll – even the Admiral himself joined the fight in his personalised Barracuda, hunting Space Marine gunships like a great golden raptor harrying a pack of corvids. A young progeny of the original Commander Brightsword excelled himself in a series of close quarter Battlesuit actions at the Battle of Var’isar Gate, even managing to stamp a skull masked warrior-leader into a broken mass of ceramite and pulped flesh in one assault. Farsight commissioned his ingenious Earth Caste ally O’Vesa to devise new weapons capable of dealing with the thickly-armoured tanks of the Imperium’s armies, and the scientist’s teams worked night and day, distributing them as and when they could via the messenger-warriors of the Air Caste. However, the Space Marines struck back hard, eventually assailing Gel’bryn city with an insertion pod assault so ferocious that it shattered the hexodome roof and blew out the atmosphere inside. Even Farsight had to pull back when the Imperials teleported their own warsuited warriors into the central plaza. Tau blood flowed through the streets, as armoured companies ringed the city, cutting off any escape from the Space Marines ravaging through the outer districts. It was a story repeated in five more cities before the war was over, for a company of Space Marines was committed to each conquest – every one a force that even the finest of Farsight’s Fire Caste cadres was hard-pressed to match.
Adapt and Destroy
- "The fully-armoured humans first, then the heraldic vehicles, then the common tanks. Then, and only then, may you engage the common infantry."
- —Commander Farsight’s firing protocol for the Battle for Via’Mesh’La Gate
The bitter war upon Dal’yth was characterised not by martial prowess alone, but by a hectic race for information. The two stellar empires fought not only to defeat their foes but to understand their weaknesses. The Imperium changed its tactics after the Battle of Via’mesh’la, where outgunned Imperial Guard regiments successfully charged a Tau gunline and, despite sustaining heavy casualties, won a bloody victory purely with bayonets and boots. Since that day, the Imperial invaders drove in to engage the Tau at close quarters wherever they could.
For his part, O’Shovah studied the Imperium’s forces relentlessly. He endlessly adapted stratagies, counterstrategies and target priorities, distributing Drone-borne guider programs to all of his commanders. The Imperium took its own tactical manual, the Codex Astartes, and applied its principles to whatever the Tau threw at them. The Hammers of Dorn Chapter were especially efficient at codifying Tau threats and responding in force, for they lived every word of the Codex and never deviated from its teachings, no matter the cost. Farsight took a great interest in the patterns that emerged during the Imperial war effort, making extensive notes and even refining prototype simulations as the war unfolded. He noted that the Imperial armies appeared to value armour above all else, and so he pioneered the deadly Sunforge pattern of Battlesuit armament as a counter. This allowed Crisis Teams to drop down from Manta destroyers onto their vehicular prey, cripple them at close range with blasts from their dual Fusion Blasters, and then boost off into the skies once more to be picked up by the Mantas on the return run. Meanwhile, O’Shaserra took her Stealth Cadres to the dark side of Dal’yth, constantly moving in rotation with the system’s sun so that every raid she performed was under cover of darkness. Farsight monitored her progress not through open communication, but by the trail of smoking wrecks she left in her wake.
Despite their best efforts, the forces Farsight and O’Shaserra had at their command could not be everywhere at once. The Imperium was a powerful foe indeed, and unlike the barbarous Ork race, it appeared to have a strategy worked out for every combat environment and tactic the Tau could engineer. In defiance of the Fire Caste’s spirited defence, the Imperium had gradually, but irresistibly, overtaken several of the planet’s cities, slaughtering any Tau within and fortifying the war-torn structures. The Ethereals in overall command of the war effort could not countenance such losses. Ever more extreme measures were taken to stall the Imperial advance whilst reinforcements were brought in from the other worlds in the Sept, and beyond, yet on the field of battle, far more drastic measures were being taken.
To Farsight’s quiet horror, experimental neurochip prototypes containing the recorded strategies of Commander Puretide were surgically installed in the minds of Cadre Fireblades and Battlesuit Tau Commanders, allowing them to function as military leaders that thought alike and could adapt to any situation. That was the theory, at least – though the so-called Swords of Puretide enjoyed great success against the rank and file, when the forces of the Imperium brought forth strange, gaunt psykers who reduced battlesuits to ruin with gestures of their wizened hands, the implanted leaders had none of their own previous learnings to draw upon and faltered badly; the confusion cost hundreds of lives as the minds of their leaders struggled to respond to this new threat.
As the war effort looked about to unravel, Kroot mercenaries were dispatched by the thousand through the Magnorail networks, rushed to wherever the Imperium forced a breach in the network of tunnels crisscrossing Dal’yth and spilling out like blood from an opened artery to fall upon the Imperial troops nearby. Zipping through the sky above them would come hundred-strong networks of Gun Drones, their Pulse Carbine fire taking a butcher’s toll as they hovered out of reach of shell and blade. In this way, the Imperial forces were pinned in place long enough for Farsight or O’Shaserra’s cadres to scramble to the breach and avenge the Kroot that had given their lives in the Empire’s defence.
Farsight took this tactic one step further at the Siege of Rala’tas, a dome city famous for its sculptures of living light. With the Tau’s most capable commanders engaged on the other side of the planet, an Imperial drop ship landed only a few miles from the city gates. Within hours, Rala’tas was surrounded by Imperial tanks, including several super-heavy squadrons powerful enough to blast breaches in the city walls. With the exception of the Kroot kindreds that made their homes in the dome’s sprawling arboreal districts, the city had only a small garrison of Fire Warriors to defend it – certainly nothing that could deal with over a thousand battle tanks. Shas’gra, a Cadre Fireblade in charge of the garrison, patched through an urgent message to Farsight, requesting help. O’Shovah could give him none, but said he would think on it. Less than a minute later, a reply reached Shas’gra and he spread the word to the Earth Caste artisans abroad in the city. Just as the Imperials breached the walls and began to barge their way into Rala’tas’ perimeter, the city went completely dark.
Suddenly, a massive electromagnetic pulse boomed outward as every one of the city’s light sculptures, fusion arrays and code generators hurled their potential energy in a devastating wave. The EMP tidal wave scrambled the cogitators of every Imperial tank and walker within a mile of the city walls, stopping them in their tracks. It was then that massed Kroot Carnivore squads poured out of every breach, bounding and leaping towards the foe. Kroot Hounds ran down those who tried to flee whilst Krootoxen ripped open the hatches and doors of the silenced tanks, allowing their ferocious kin to climb inside. The grisly feast that followed has never been broadcast on open Tau channels, though it is said that O’Shovah watched it several times.
Though the Imperium had taken a great toll, and half of Dal’yth had been abandoned or reduced to smoking rubble, their attacks were slowly losing momentum. The Tau used everything they had learnt in the war thus far to great effect, using the EMP tactics that saved Rala’tas to divide the Imperial armies into disparate chunks and then take them apart piece by piece. In the process, they had bought enough time for the other Sept worlds to contribute reinforcements. A steady stream of Fire Caste cadres made planetfall with every new day, and the Imperial Navy was forced to retreat in the face of overwhelming numbers. As for the Space Marines, their dogmatic adherence to certain set-piece strategies and tactics eventually became their undoing. In conjunction with O’Shaserra, Commander Farsight masterminded several large-scale assaults that saw his fellow commander draw the Space Marines into the open, only for O’Shovah to fall upon them with all the speed and fury he had become famous for. As the weeks ground on, the masters of the Imperial crusade were forced to admit that they had spread their forces too thin. Now that their supply lines had been established, the Tau had an almost limitless supply of war materiel, and astropathic messages transmitted across the Damocles Gulf spoke of a new alien threat assailing the Imperium. Regiment by regiment, company by company, the Imperial presence upon Dal’yth began to withdraw.
The Mercy of the Ethereals
Farsight and his acolytes were already preparing to encircle and destroy the retreating Imperial armies when a contingent of Water Caste diplomats made an official visit. A trio of Ethereals delivered the message that the Imperial troops were to be allowed to flee unhindered. A communiqué had been received from one Captain Sevalliac of the Hammers of Dorn, accepting the truce the Water caste had offered on the Tau Empire’s behalf. Though the Tau’s confidence in their own supremacy had been severely shaken, they had triumphed in the final reckoning and learned much about the Imperium. Not only did the Imperium withdraw its forces from Dal’yth Sept, but from Tau space altogether, retreating across the Damocles Gulf in as strange a manner as they had come. They left behind a swathe of broken and abandoned technology, every last piece of which was recovered by the Earth Caste and studied in painstaking detail. The vast majority of the Imperial war-tech was declared inferior and of no use to the Greater Good, though O’Vesa made some astonishing discoveries in the depths of his labs about the esoteric technologies used by the humans’ fleets.
As for the commanders dubbed the Swords of Puretide, all of the engrams that had been surgically inserted in Dal’yth’s warrior leaders were forcibly removed. These invasive procedures left those who had been operated upon as drooling and pliant simpletons, a sad loss to the Empire. Yet, as the Water Caste patiently explained, such was the sometimes painful cost of victory. When Aun’Va and his honour guard came to collect Farsight’s old team-mate, Commander Sha’vastos, for his scheduled engram removal, the veteran warrior was absent from his quarters. When questioned about his disappearance, O’Shovah mournfully informed them that Sha’vastos had in fact fallen in the last engagement of the war, and his body had been burnt to an unrecognizable crisp. Such was the cost of victory, explained O’Shovah, dipping his head in sorrow. Aun’Va met Farsight’s gaze for a long time before turning on his heel and heading back the way he came, his ceremonial escort trailing in his wake.
The Farsight Expedition
Hero of the Empire
The Tau Empire had faced off against an insanely strong opponent and emerged victorious, but the cost of that victory had been high indeed. Every one of the worlds settled on the other side of the Damocles Gulf had been left to the Imperium in the early stages of its crusade, and one of the prime Sept worlds of the Empire had been badly mauled. The notion of the Tau’s natural supremacy in the universe had been shaken to its core. In this time of doubt, Ethereal Master Aun'Va negotiated with Ethereal Supreme Aun’Wei, and a plan of reconquest, led by O’Shovah, was initiated.
Aun’Va’s decision for Farsight to lead the reconquest was not taken lightly, but when the matter was settled, it had the full power of the master behind it. The first few weeks saw O’Shovah elevated from the status of hero of the Arkunasha War and Damocles Gulf Crusade to that of vaunted saviour. With the persuasive arts of the Water Caste as his tools, Aun’Va began a propaganda campaign that saw O’Shovah’s military successes become oft-told legends. Statues to Farsight’s greatness were erected in every major battle dome, pod complex and naval harbour across the worlds of the First Sphere. Fire Warriors of every rank had images or holo-cuts of Farsight somewhere in their possession, sometimes even displayed alongside those of Aun’Wei and Aun’Va themselves. For O’Shovah, the attentions were bewildering and unwelcome. The commander was greeted with the hunter’s salute so many times each day that he feared he would wear out his arm joints before the crusade even started. Yet he bore it all stoically, understanding that the empire needed its heroes.
In the councils of the Ethereals, there were concerns that O’Shovah would not live up to the propaganda. The Damocles Gulf would not fall twice to the wiles of Tau diplomats; this time, the Fire Caste would have to lead the charge on every world. If Dal’yth was any indication of the Imperium’s threat, blood would be spilt in great measure, and these worlds had no little access to reinforcements. The final result of all the effort saw the mobilisation of greatest fleet the Tau Empire had yet seen. The sheer number of Tau battleships, navy vessels, escorts, colony ships, warspheres, gravpulse tugs, dropships and outrider patrols assembled for the coalition defied belief. Once the preparations were complete, Aun’Wei gave one of his final speeches and the fleet of the Great Reclamation was launched into the Damocles Gulf amongst grand celebration. Something in Farsight’s gut felt strange, but he was the model of a noble commander nonetheless. If the Empire needed a conqueror, a conqueror he would be.
The Codex Cracked
During the hours of the journey across the Gulf when he was not in stasis, Farsight gathered every action report and Drone capture snippet he could lay his hands on from the war for Dal’yth. With the help of Commander Brightsword and his old ally O’Vesa, O’Shovah gradually built up a comprehensive picture of Imperial war doctrine. Day and night, he pored over how the armies of Humanity acted and reacted in different situations and theatres of war; how they made planetfall, what it took to provoke them, and what it took to break them. There were elements of the Imperium’s armies, notably the Hammers of Dorn, whose adherence to a set methodology was almost fanatical. Such was the diligence and precision with which they observed their military doctrine that, in studying them, Commander Farsight was able to write down their tactical imperatives as a set of commandments. By the time his coalition had crossed the Damocles Gulf, O’Shovah had pieced together much of what he and his lieutenants referred to as the ‘human war schematic’, a code that he believed the Imperium’s troops observed at all times. In doing so, he learned a good deal about the blind spots in the Tau’s traditional military doctrine, and began to adjust his repertoire of strategies to compensate for these oversights.
As the Tau arrived once more on the far side of the Gulf, Farsight used his newfound knowledge about the Imperium to dramatic effect. With the bulk of the Imperial military in the sector pulled away to engage Hive Fleet Behemoth, Commander O’Shovah found himself waging a series of campaigns in which he held the advantage from the start. The Planetary Defence Forces left to garrison the worlds of the Timbra Sector, though over a hundred million strong on planets such as Vespertine and Matinsong, were lured into a series of ‘mock wars’ by vanguard Tau forces. Time after time, modest raids would lure out defenders hoping to secure a front only they considered relevant. Once they had committed themselves, the remainder of Farsight’s force would fall from the skies and deliver a killing blow of such efficacy it would have impressed Puretide himself. Over and over again, O’Shovah’s foresight paid off, and the Tau Empire rejoiced with every new conquest. Through a combination of military acumen, hard work and verve, Commander Farsight had lived up to the inflated claims the Ethereals had made in his name. World by world, battle by battle, the Damocles Gulf was brought back into the fold. The reconquests of the four principal worlds on the distant side of the Gulf were bloody in the extreme. Farsight’s incredible ability to second-guess his foes made for a string of impressive victories, but as the anarchy of battle rolled out across the sector, the Imperium dealt the ‘Farsight Expedition’, as it came to be known, a great many wounds of its own. By the time the fleet had reached the last system of the previously colonised region, there were fewer than half the original ships remaining. O’Shovah felt every loss keenly, not merely as a military setback, but as an emotional and spiritual wound. His Ethereal advisors had made it plain that there would be no more reinforcements, not this far from the Empire.
The Tau were not the only ones to have taken advantage of the Imperium’s armies being withdrawn however. By the time the Coalition arrived, the asteroid belt to the east of the enclaves was infested with Orks. The Tau fleet mounted a series of swift raids to repel the Ork raiders from their recaptured territory, each one successful and efficient. However, as space-capable Drones made their flyby scans, the horrible truth became clear; almost every asteroid large enough to hold them was teeming with Orks, and if the fleet’s readings were correct, the asteroid belt was but the tip of an empire that stretched all the way into the next star system. The Farsight Expedition was on the brink of total victory, but the Ork presence disturbed O’Shovah greatly. He meditated upon the new information for many hours, and upon returning to his ship’s command bridge, he gave an order that would shake the Tau Empire to its core. He announced that the destruction of the Orks was a higher priority than concluding the reconquest; he would expend every effort to exterminate them, targeting every planet they had infected, in this system and the next. It was the first time a Tau of any rank had disobeyed a direct order from the Ethereal Council. O’Shovah’s decision was an unthinkable breach of the chain of command. For the newly claimed Farsight Enclaves, it was only the beginning.
The Beast Ascendant
- "Each must find their own way. If those in our heartland had witnessed the savageries of the void as we they should know this. The hands of each of the great starfarers is turned against the other; none will join their strength together just to see their ancient enemies prosper. Neither should we."
- —Attributed to Commander Farsight, 765.M41
Strike Against the Menace
As the other castes of the Farsight Expedition began repopulating the Enclaves, O’Shovah’s fleet was readying for war. Leaving only a small garrison to defend the colonies, Farsight set out for the Vorac asteroid belt to clear it of Orks. His plan was for the Tau navy to use their superior range to pick the Orks apart without risking a single life. Though the concept was sound, Farsight’s plan soon faltered. Long-range scans betrayed an incredible truth – the asteroids were not hiding the Ork fleet, they actually were the Ork fleet. Gigantic clumps of debris had been sheathed with scrap metal and weapons, with crude engines the size of bio-domes attached at the rear. Farsight wasted no time cross-referencing the symbols carved into the asteroid ships with those of the Ork invasions that had plagued the Sept worlds in the past. Sure enough, these greenskins had been encountered many years before, preying upon the space lanes of Dal’yth. After a short war, the threat had been declared neutralised. Not nearly neutralised enough, Farsight realised; the Orks had evidently fled to the fringes of the Tau Empire, hoping to prey upon the newly established colonies, much as a savannah hunter seeks the youngest and most infirm prey.
Extremely vexed by this revelation, Farsight formulated a meticulous plan to exterminate all the Ork asteroid ships. With Admiral Kor’O’Li’Mau’Teng’s finest pilots at the tip of each spearhead, the Tau fell upon the clumsy Ork fleet with dizzying speed. Each asteroid could barely turn its guns toward the Tau before its engines were blown apart by the Air Caste. This spectacle was repeated for weeks, and Farsight’s progress could be followed by the string of burning lights he was stitching across the stars. The sheer number of the Ork bases was their only real defence, though the now-accepted tactic of killing the Ork leader and throwing his followers into anarchy was next to impossible to enact. Furthermore, whilst Farsight was methodically smashing base after base on the fringe of the Vorac Belt, hundreds of the furthest asteroid ships were accelerating towards the worlds of the next system.
Once most of the Ork asteroid ships had been destroyed or driven off, Farsight reported to his trio of ethereal advisors that the greenskin menace was greatly reduced and he could despatch a full half of the fleet to return to the Enclaves. They nodded sagely, but as Farsight was about to leave in triumph, they had something to reveal: Admiral Kor’O’Li’Mau’Teng had been killed by a hidden missile base whilst overseeing an extermination order. Farsight’s eyes narrowed for a moment, but he bowed low, asking for leave to go and meditate in his quarters. When he emerged, his resolve had hardened once more. The fleet would not be returning, not yet. The Orks would be pursued and every last one put to the torch.
Unbeknownst to O’Shovah, his strike into the Vorac Belt had initiated war against a foe who had not only fought against the Tau before, and survived, but who had come to understand the Fire Caste in turn. Grog Ironteef, Warchief of Alsanta, had learned the hard way that the Tau could out-range the Orks in space, so he planned to draw them away from the enclaves and engage them at close range on the most rugged and congested planets he could find, with plenty of cover and lots of hiding places from which to start what he thought of as ‘a proper fight’. The remaining asteroid ships of the Vorac Belt spread out into two fleets as they neared the Magi System on the fringes of the Damocles Gulf. Farsight’s armada monitored them as best they could. One cluster plunged towards the deserted world of Arthas Moloch, the other towards the Tau-held planet of Atari Vo. A large dagger-shaped asteroid flew at the heart of the latter fleet, and after meditating on the anomaly, Farsight concluded that a flagship shaped like a weapon would appeal to an Ork leader. He gave the order to head for Atari Vo, and his assumption was correct; the dagger asteroid was indeed his quarry’s flagship.
The Descent of Grog
Signalling the Tau who had settled on Atari Vo in the Second Sphere Expansion, Farsight prepared to make planetfall and join with the planet’s Fire Caste against the imminent Ork invasion. The Atarian Tau, and their Dal’ythan reinforcements, were still scrambling their own fleet to engage the asteroids when they received the chilling message from Farsight’s fleet: the asteroids would not be slowing upon entry. The Orks intended to smash them into the planet with as much force as possible. It was the same as at Arkunasha, only this time the target was a world of cities and gardens instead of a planet-sized desert.
At first, the Tau were confused by Farsight’s presence on this side of the Damocles Gulf and refuted his claim, but as the asteroids hurtled down, the truth became horribly clear. They slammed into the planet’s main continent, Vo’hai, each one snuffing out millions of lives with its impact. The dagger-shaped flagship at the heart of the fleet drove itself deep into the capital city, Tau’rota’sha, jewel of Atari Vo’s white-walled cities. It was reduced to a blasted crater in the space of a few seconds. The surviving Tau hoped that the Orks had died executing their insane tactics, but they were horribly disappointed. Protected by powerful shieldcores in each warship, the Orks seethed out of the wreckage in a storm of aggression. Wherever the Tau engaged them, the Orks returned fire with crackling energy beams and salvaged Tau weaponry. The volume of fire pouring out of the Ork ranks was unlike anything the Tau had encountered before, and the craters made by their planetfall provided cover enough to weather the firing solutions of the Fire caste.
Farsight’s armies docked in the planet’s skystations and joined the battle unfolding on the planet below, but it was soon clear that they were fighting a very different breed of Ork from the primitives they had encountered on Arkunasha. Hulking leaders in glyph-covered greatcoats unleashed blasts of blinding green fire from their multi-barrelled guns, each powerful enough to punch clean through a Battlesuit. Captured Hammerheads and Sky Rays lurched from the rocks, plasma fire splashing from their steel-fanged hulls as they ploughed into the ranks of their former owners. Whirring Ork Kopta-craft spat hails of fire, forcing the Tau into cover as yet more Orks spilled from the breach. At dozens of impact sites, the battle intensified again and again until Tau blood mingled with the blackish ooze of the Ork fallen amongst the rubble.
Salvation was finally delivered, not by the Fire Caste, but by their Air Caste brethren. Whole shoals of Barracudas and Tiger Sharks were dispatched, their advance preceded by waves of Piranhas mowing down mob after mob of skulking Orks with their Burst Cannons. The Manta missile destroyer Or’es Por’kauyon slaughtered those Orks nearest the wrecked dagger-ship with a storm of Heavy Railgun fire, and the Sun Shark bombers soaring down from low orbit washed the ruins clean with chains of plasma bombs. As yet more pilots joined the fight, the Orks fled into the ruins of their impact craters. With his foes on the run, Farsight pressed the advantage, leading a cadre of his own warriors over the lip of the dagger ship’s impact crater and falling upon the Orks below. Only then did the true cunning of Grog become clear.
Thousands of Orks spilled into the crater and fell upon Farsight’s force like the jaws of a vice. The Tau could not fire in every direction at once, and they were swamped within a few minutes of the trap being sprung. The last stand became a massacre as a hulking, ostentatiously-dressed Warboss flung himself into the fight. His mind churning with emotion, Farsight ordered his Battlesuit teams to boost out of the melee with their Jetpacks. They fired into the Orks below as they soared away, felling a great many with their parting gesture, but the fact remained they had charged headlong into a trap.
Those Tau who had escaped reconvened in the skystations, conceding the battle zones around each asteroid and laying plans for a planet-wide counter-attack. Humbled by his defeat at the crater, Farsight acted only as an advisor as the ensuing war unfolded. He risked his life over and over again to atone for leading so many to their deaths, but the stain on his honour remained. The planet’s military isolated and eventually destroyed the Ork invaders over the course of a difficult and costly campaign. When victory had been assured beyond all doubt, Farsight left Atari Vo, swearing not to make the same mistakes. Yet in his introspection, he had underestimated the cunning of Warchief Grog once more.
War in the Farsight Enclaves
When O’Shovah’s fleet emerged again from the Damocles Gulf, he was shocked to find the Farsight Enclaves in a state of full-scale war. Panic rising within him, Farsight ordered his fleet to close with Vior’los, most populous of the worlds, and long-range communications confirmed O’Shovah’s worst suspicions; those scattered asteroid ships that were not destroyed had fallen from the skies upon the vulnerable Enclave planets. Much like before, the asteroid ships had been used as weapons, the night skies now empty where the necklace of asteroids had glinted before. With the majority of their military on campaign, the garrisons defending each world were locked in a desperate battle for survival.
Farsight met with his commanders at the new Fire Caste headquarters, a giant disc-city hovering in relative safety above Vior’los’ ocean. The situation was much the same on the neighbouring worlds of Lub’grahl and Tinek’la; even the ocean world of Salash’hei was prowled by iron-hulled Ork battleships. The greenskins were running riot throughout the enclaves, and the Fire Caste had already made plans to withdraw the survivors into evacuation zones. His voice level and controlled, O’Shovah asked how they could have let events get to this point. They reported that the war had hung in the balance until a great Ork potentate appeared and united their armies. Since then, they had lost territory fast. The warlord Farsight had hunted all the way to Atari Vo had seemingly escaped, only to double back and strike at the vulnerable Enclave worlds whilst their commander was busy elsewhere.
Ordering his lieutenants to remain behind and fight on in his stead, Farsight strode quickly out of the Fire Caste’s high command, climbed into the command cradle of his XV8 Crisis Battlesuit, and took off toward the horizon. Months passed, and the war for the enclaves ground on. Though O’Shovah’s armies were led capably by his lieutenants, without their leader, it was all they could do to hold the seething hordes of Orks back from total victory. Murmurs of dissent, and even anger, began to spark in the corners of the Enclaves with O’Shovah’s disappearance
Meditation and Vengeance
Appalled by his own failings, Farsight resolved to think long on the events that had led him to this point. There was no victory in fighting a traditional war of mobility and patience; the Orks were on the brink of bringing the enclaves to total ruin, and were so intoxicated by the scent of imminent victory that even killing their warlord would not stop them. Farsight sought insight into how he could bring the planets themselves to their aid as he had done on Arkunasha. Yet this time, the scale of the war was much greater. In his search for wisdom, he skimmed low across the saline ocean of Vior’los and then plunged into the water, diving down to the darkness of the ocean bed. There, he settled into a trance, sitting cross-legged in the hero’s mantle for seven long cycles. Nightsharks and bulbous glowfish circled in the bubbles that bled up from oceanic fissures around him as he sought inspiration from the cold truths of water. Once his undersea meditations were complete, Farsight blasted from the ocean into the skies, the shadow of his Battlesuit flitting across the waves towards the great volcanos at the centre of Vior’los’ landmass. With his Battlesuit jets equalising against the winds around him, O’Shovah opened his suit’s command cradle above the peak of the dormant volcano O’res, closing his eyes and feeling the air rush around him until he had come to understand its secrets. Once his trance state had ended, he travelled again, plunging deep into a canyon at the heart of the mountain range. He ventured into the sulphurous tunnels that honeycombed the underside of the planet’s crust, and with poisonous fumes and trickles of lava snaking around him, he lay on his back and communed with the elements of earth, teaching himself to think like the slow-burning but impossibly strong anger of the planet’s core. Lastly, O’Shovah flew to the infernos that swept across the tinder-dry forests of Vior’los, ignited by the war that raged across its surface. He descended into the blazing sheets of flame, his Battlesuit’s hazard protocols flaring red as its outer layers heated up to critical levels. He could feel his flesh begin to burn, the smell of roasting meat slowly filling his command cradle. His skin started to sear from the tanned grey of a Vior’lan native to a rich, deep black, but he did not cry out. When O’Shovah finally left the wildfire, his Crisis Battlesuit flew across the skies like an ember in the night.
Over the next few weeks, there came a series of dramatic turns in the tide of the war for the Farsight Enclaves. Above the crystal plains of Tinek’la, elegant Tau fighters had duelled for weeks with thousands of snubnosed Ork aircraft. Commander Farsight suddenly joined them out of nowhere, ordering every Air Caste pilot in the skies to override their consoles and release their propellant gases, forming a wall of volatile emissions shaped to his specific instructions. Then he ignited it with blasts from his Plasma Rifle. A great gale of flame roiled across the planet. As they burnt the last of their fuel to escape, the Tau aircraft were buoyed by the resultant thermals and rode the thunderhead of the titanic fireball whilst the clumsy Ork aircraft were consumed behind them. In the process, the surface was simultaneously scoured clean of both the greenskins and their corrupting spores.
On the watery world of Salash’hei, Commander Farsight dove once more to the bottom of the ocean and carefully planted the gifts he had requested from the Earth Caste. His old friend, O’Vesa, had not let him down; the dull thumps of the disc-shaped Seismic Fibrillator Nodes awoke the wrath of the world’s oceanic vents. Soon, the seas above were riven by such extreme tsunamis that the Ork battleships prowling its waters were all capsized. The razorwhales of the oceans ate well that night, but Farsight had already moved on.
The earthen landscape of Lub’grahl was next. The Earth Caste had built hundreds of oval living nodes upon the planet’s surface, each nestled safely between the planet’s towering spires of rock. The Orks roamed Lub’grahl in their billions, besieging every last node, and the Tau were beginning to starve. Farsight ordered the entire fleet of Tinek’la to enter extreme low orbit and mag-lift the nodes to safety. Then, O’Shovah dropped a clutch of O’Vesa’s Seismic Fibrillators into B’oghal, the Great Abyss. Before the hour was out, the planet shuddered in protest, and every one of the delicate rock spires collapsed, burying the Ork hordes in forty metres of solid rock. The mag-lifted living nodes were lowered back down to sit atop the world’s new crust; they were restored to full productivity within the week.
Lastly, Farsight’s returned to his adopted world of Vior’los, and his first act was to conduct a mass Ta’lissera bonding ritual, revitalising the frayed morale of his warriors. With the other Enclave worlds freed from invaders and the castes united behind him once more, O’Shovah enacted a mercilessly efficient military strategy that culled the Orks from one district after another. He then used powerful artificial firestorms to sterilise the environment. Very few indigenous species survived the extermination Farsight unleashed on the planet, but no Tau were lost to the flames.
As his chillingly effective methods burned the Orks from his enclaves, O’Shovah’s one concession to his own desires was the isolation of the Orks’ leader, Grog Ironteef. He finally located the warchief in the eye of a firestorm, attacking his own followers in an attempt to restore order. It is said that Farsight bested the beast in single combat, though none were there to witness it. All that remains of Grog is a sparkling globe filled with ash, the names of each of the enclave’s worlds engraved upon its surface. Though Farsight had won a series of great victories and restored himself as the hero of the newly-fortified colony worlds, the greenskin threat was still not ended. Where the Orks of the galaxy hear word of a good fight, their tribes and clans travel to the site purely to start the fighting all over again. The Farsight Enclaves would battle the Ork menace time and time again, most notably at Arthas Moloch.
The Molochite Tragedy
- "I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe – entire worlds in flames, chains of supernovas on the edge of nothingness, the great hole in space. I am changed, an outcast now…"
- —From the personal recordings of Commander Farsight
The Mysterious Assault
During Farsight’s pursuit of a fleet of Ork asteroid-ships to the world of Atari Vo, a number of the strange vessels had split off for distant Arthas Moloch. Sure enough, as O’Shovah’s expedition neared that ancient world, he picked up tell-tale signs of Ork infestation within the planet’s built-up zones. On closer inspection by Air Caste patrols, there was little to no activity upon the planet’s surface. The greenskins had either conquered the indigenous life forms already, or invaded a world that was already dead. On the bridge of his flagship, O’Shovah’s lips peeled back into a grim smile. The Orks would not lack for company much longer.
Arthas Moloch was the latest in a long string of worlds to feel Farsight’s wrath. Divided, and frequently leaderless, the greenskins were slowly but efficiently taken apart by O’Shovah’s Ork-killer Cadres. However, a strange phenomenon occurred at an eight pillared temple dubbed the Great Star Dais by the Air Caste; wherever an Ork fell to the dusty stone, a bizarre explosion of light spilled out. Farsight himself oversaw this part of the purge, and had killed dozens of the Orks with his own rifle. He watched in fascination as, eventually, a blazing disc of multi-coloured light began to form above the dais, the shadows of the milling Orks beneath it dancing with a life of their own. A sudden gout of energy poured out of the disc like blood bursting from a dying man’s lips. When its glow faded, the star-carved stone was covered with horned crimson aliens the like of which Farsight had never seen. The long-limbed figures cut into the Orks with swords so black they seemed to O’Shovah like holes in space, their unintelligible warcries forcing his Battlesuit’s audio cutout to engage. More gobbets of energy spilled out of the blazing disc, and dozens of bright pink figures cartwheeled and capered out from wherever they touched. Raising their comically long arms to the skies, they sent blazing streams of multi-coloured fire into the Tau observers above; flames that turned the prow of a passing Piranha into shards of kaleidoscopic glass, and flames that turned Tau to stone, to water, to statues of screaming bone.
Farsight ordered the retreat, commanding his forces to fall back into the skies as quickly as they could. O’Shovah himself was the only one to look back. As he gazed down into the crackling disc that whirled above the dais, the portal gazed back, though he knew that to be impossible, growing larger and larger until it filled his vision completely. It seemed to him that some titanic void, a rip in the fabric of reality of mind-boggling scale, had torn the heart out of the galaxy. Within it writhed a trillion terrible deaths, each calling out to him by name. In that moment, O’Shovah was changed forever. He had beheld a danger far greater than that posed by the races of Arachen, Orks or humans. This disc of light was a gateway to another dimension, and that dimension was desperate to break through. As blood began to trickle from the shio’he between his eyes, O’Shovah lost consciousness. His Battlesuit spiralled down to crash headlong into a cobwebbed tomb, its automated systems providing just enough intermittent support to prevent him lapsing into a coma.
The Battle of the Great Star Dais
When O’Shovah came to, he found that his unconscious form had been retrieved to the med-bay of his flagship. The situation on Arthas Moloch had gone critical, his advisors reported. Though there were Tau still planetside, they were preparing to evacuate. Drawn by the lure of battle, the Orks were rushing in their thousands to the site of the Great Star Dais. Fortunately, the Orks were throwing themselves into the fight with the mysterious red-skinned aliens that had appeared there, and driving themselves ever closer to extinction in the process.
Farsight countermanded the orders given in his absence. The Tau would not evacuate, he said; they had somehow caused this strange nightmare to awaken, and it was their duty to end it. The Ethereals attached to the council nodded their approval, insisting that they must personally monitor the new threat they had uncovered. Their instructions given, the Fire Caste girded itself to return to the Great Star Dais in force. Squadron after squadron of Orca dropships descended into the shattered amphitheatres and mausoleums ranged around Arthas Moloch’s great temple, as Mantas dropped Hunter Cadres into the Ork-infested necropoli of the hinterlands. A large detachment of Tau had been tasked with monitoring the strange creatures spilling from the rift, whilst two other major detachments eradicated the remaining Orks at as extreme a range as possible.
The seething melee that had started upon the Great Star Dais was heaving back and forth as more and more Orks joined the fight. As Farsight and the Ethereals that had been seconded to his expedition came within scanner range, a pair of massive red-winged creatures twice the size of Farsight’s Battlesuit burst out from the disc in a blaze of red light, hurtling through the skies directly towards them. Behind them came more winged beasts, some feathered in the manner of Vior’lan rocs, some with bat-like wings that drizzled gore on the combatants beneath. These airborne terrors split off into two groups that headed out into the wilderness. As they winged through the skies, they roared and shrieked in a language that O’Shovah could not even bear to hear, let alone translate. His Broadside teams were the first to open fire at the winged monstrosities swooping towards them. Heavy Rail Rifle fire slammed into the ornate brass armour of the leading monstrosity, tearing off a wing and sending it wheeling to the ground. Seeker Missiles and plasma bolts were added to the fusillade, and the second beast quickly diverted around an ancient temple, lost from sight.
Suddenly, a third winged creature burst through a crumbling façade to fall upon the Fire Warriors hiding behind it, the giant alien’s brass axe cutting several Tau in half with every swipe. The second of the giant beasts dropped down from above, its clawed feet kicking Farsight backwards into the ruins of an ancient statue. A shot from O’Shovah’s Plasma Rifle caught it under the chin, sending it reeling backwards for a moment before its curling whip lashed out and ripped an arm from his Crisis suit. The Battlesuit’s directional scans picked up a weapon-shape behind him; the sword clutched by the statue his fall had toppled. Farsight darted behind the statue’s rubble a split second before the beast’s axe smashed the marble figure to powder. The statue’s curved blade fell free. Rolling sideways, Farsight snatched the sword up in a smooth motion and swung it hard at the beast’s midsection. The creature easily evaded the blow, launching itself up into the air and bounding past his position. As Farsight pursued the beast, he saw it bring its axe down into a nearby fountain with an overhead blow of such power that O’Shovah could hear the sharp crack of the flagstones beneath. A moment before Farsight caught up with it, the beast bounded into the skies and swooped off into the distance.
Fighting the urge to continue his pursuit, Commander O’Shovah sent the command out for all remaining forces to rally at his position and re-establish a battle line. Many of his Fire Warriors were dead, slain by the capering beasts that had spilled from the portal, but his troops had died nobly, fighting to the last, and the battle was still raging. It was the gruesome sight that greeted him at the site of the beast’s last attack that made Farsight’s throat tighten in panic. Ethereal Aun’Los had been cut in two from crown to groin, gore spurting into the fountain around him as the limp halves of his frail body twitched their last. A great keening cry went up from the Tau establishing the battle line as the news of the Ethereal’s death spread through the ranks. Farsight fought to restore order, issuing a series of clipped commands to hastily reform teams into fighting strength as he sought to make sense of the jumbled and confused transmissions interrupting broadcasts across his comms web.
A great number of the brightly-coloured creatures had driven the second battle group back with their strange spectral flames, but for some reason, they gave a wide berth to one of the worn-down statues east of the Dais. The Tau took the opportunity to regroup under its shadow. Meanwhile, the Ethereal that had joined the third battle group, Aun’Diemn, had been gored to death in an attack by a giant vulture-like creature. Farsight’s warriors were in disarray, trapped with Orks on one side and the unidentified alien creatures on the other. The Fire Warriors were on the brink of panic, for the more they shot the creatures down, the more of them appeared – it was almost as if each kill caused two more beasts to replace those that fell.
Tapping into the visual feeds of the Battlesuits in the second group, Farsight examined their environment. In the cadre’s midst was a great robed statue, a strange hexagrammatic medallion brandished in its grip. Something struck Farsight as odd about that symbol; for one thing, when he looked at it, the pain that had flared in his head seemed to subside. Acting on instinct, Farsight ordered his warriors to retrieve the hexagram from the ancient statue and carry it forwards against the flame-beasts. A few tense seconds passed before the breathless report came that the multi-coloured aliens were falling back before it. Aun’Diemn’s leaderless cadre adopted the same tactic after finding a medallion of a similar nature at their own rally point.
It seemed as though it would take more esoteric means to defeat this new and inexplicable foe. Farsight took a moment to think on the words that Puretide had taught him upon the peak of Mount Kanji all those years ago: ‘To secure victory, the wise must adapt.’ Ordering all three battle groups to converge on his position, Farsight rearranged his battle plan in an instant. The Fire Warriors and their support teams would engage the Orks, forming a periphery around the Great Star Dais that could not be breached under any circumstances. The Crisis teams would alone engage these new foes at the crackling disc itself, and the hexagrammatic medallions would be brought to Farsight wherever they were found. Above all, he ordered, no blood must be spilt on the dais – if a Battlesuit pilot was hit, he must withdraw immediately.
Farsight’s warriors were perplexed by their orders, but they carried them out to the letter nonetheless. O’Shovah and his Battlesuit Cadre stormed the Great Star Dais as his Fire Warriors kept a defensive perimeter so that no more Orks could reach the fight. Flamer-armed Crisis Teams burned the remaining greenskins that still fought upon the Dais to a crisp, darting out of the reach of the crimson-skinned aliens whenever they came close. As clouds of fire washed across the ground, the blood that covered the flagstones dried and clotted to a crusted film. A howl of dismay sounded from the strange crimson-skinned creatures, reaffirming what Farsight had suspected; the beasts needed blood to survive. A warning echoed across the dais from the brave Monat who was the latest to claim the title of Commander Brightsword. He had spotted a trio of the massive, winged beasts plunging out of the skies. They each had their axes raised as they dove with reckless momentum straight for O’Shovah himself. Commander Farsight raised his captured blade high in salute before flicking it outward, and the hexagrammatic medallions that hung loosely around it sailed in a lazy arc towards the crackling disc in the centre of the dais. A moment before the winged beasts fell upon O’Shovah, the medallions passed into the blazing energies; a tremendous backblast boomed out of the portal, knocking every Fire Warrior and Crisis Battlesuit into the dust. As they gradually helped each other up out of the rubble, they saw that the skies were clear and every single one of the rift creatures had disappeared without a trace.
In the wake of the strange battle, Farsight and his warriors purged the ruins of the remaining greenskins. No victory shouts were heard; no warrior vows rang out. Instead of celebrating their double victory against the creatures infesting Arthas Moloch, the Tau returned to their fleet in silence. The last of the Ethereals had been found, headless, surrounded by his unconscious bodyguards. All three Ethereals were gone, leaving the Tau bereft of guidance. The Enclaves had lost all of their spiritual leaders in a single tragic battle. O’Shovah could not shake the feeling that this had been no accident; that some infeasible force had conspired against his people by killing the Ethereals. Though all of his training and formidable intellect railed against it, the visions he had seen in that crackling portal stayed with him night and day, infecting his thoughts with ever more dangerous conclusions; there was more to the universe than progress, unity, and destiny. Something lurked behind the material world; something foul, hungry, and immeasurably evil.
Upon the return of Farsight’s expedition, the tragedy that had unfolded on Arthas Moloch rippled throughout the Enclaves. Though the Tau had known doubt before, the death of all three of the expedition’s Ethereals cast billions of souls into confusion and angst. Word had spread of the strange entities that Farsight’s cadres had fought on the artefact world, but in the minds of the Tau citizenry, the ‘Molochites’ were a dangerous new race of aliens and little else. O’Shovah, for his part, held suspicions closer to the truth – that the grotesque creatures were not of the physical dimension at all. For there to be another reality that ran parallel to the material universe explained so many things; the rift-creatures appearing and disappearing in the blink of an eye on Arthas Moloch, the blazing storms of light that had spat out the human fleet during the Damocles Gulf Crusade, the strange deities of humans and Orks and the seemingly sentient rust-devils of Arkunasha. Furthermore, if it were possible to somehow travel in this alternate realm, an empire need not know the limitations of time or space. With the benefit of hindsight, it was clear that the expedition’s Ethereals already knew something of the existence of such things. Yet they had long hidden this truth from their people, choosing to keep them in obedient ignorance.
Though he dared not speak of it openly, subversive ideas had sprouted from the seed of bitterness in Farsight’s heart. Perhaps the castes would be better off seeking a natural harmony, thought O’Shovah, without the Ethereal caste moderating and controlling them at all times. Their actions in the past had bordered on despicable; their war crimes and cold-hearted politics had seemed necessary and wise at the time, but now, in retrospect, were exposed as deplorable. It was said that Master Aun’Va was able to convince any Tau he spoke to of the justice of his actions, no matter how drastic – was it possible that the Ethereals had been influencing the other castes through some means other than logic and loyalty? The more O’Shovah thought about it, the more he recalled incidents where Tau had acted with unnatural obedience in the presence of the Ethereals. Even the fundamental myth of Fio’taun, where the Ethereals appeared from the stars to broker peace between the warring castes over the course of a single night, spoke more of an external force acting upon Tau society than an internal resolution.
Heresies reeled through Farsight’s mind, taking him to the edge of panic. For him to reveal these terrible truths would shake the Tau Empire to its core. Worse still, in all likelihood, they would bring about the Mont’au, the time of horror, all over again. Yet the secrets were of such magnitude that putting them to the back of his mind and continuing to lead his people was impossible. With a sickening lurch of thought, Farsight realised that the most dangerous threat to the Tau Empire was himself. Leaving his Battlesuit behind for more devoted champions to use in his stead, O’Shovah fled into the searing wilderness of the Vior’los plains, exiling himself to a twilight existence of arid caves and dust with nothing but his own dark thoughts for company.
An Empire Mourns
The Tau of the core Sept worlds heard progressively less from the Farsight Expedition as the years wound on. Soon, the probes sent across the Damocles Gulf failed to reappear altogether. Commander Farsight, whose natural lifespan was long spent, was officially proclaimed dead. The entire Tau Empire mourned the passing of their mightiest hero and the end of his glorious quest to bring the light of the Greater Good to distant stars.
The truth was to come to light some decades later, when an outrider probe’s routine orbit led it past the Farsight Enclaves and back to the Sept worlds at the Empire’s core. Instead of being barren of Tau life, the colonies were flourishing. They had clearly found their own way in the galaxy, independent of the commands of the Ethereal council. Even their Sept colours and symbols had changed. Aun’Va was furious. The Ethereal’s white-hot anger at Farsight’s desertion cooled into a cold fury that was far more dangerous.
Since Aun’Wei’s passing, Master Aun’Va had become the Supreme Ethereal in his stead. He used every bit of his influence to destroy the hero he had created all those years ago. He informed the council of the probe’s findings, insisting that O’Shovah was a dangerous rebel, a rogue influence whose heresy should be condemned in the most public way possible. All images of Farsight were to be destroyed, all monuments to his glory reduced to rubble and all mention of him erased from history. The entire area of space on the far side of the Damocles Gulf was renamed the Forbidden Zone, off-limits even to the most senior of Tau. All across the Tau Empire, O’Shovah’s supporters were forced into hiding; those who spoke well of him were taken away for sessions of questioning, from which very few emerged. Only upon his home planet of Vior’la did a few images of Farsight still linger, for the Commander still had many supporters on that world. To destroy all sign of his presence would risk a dangerous backlash that Aun’Va, even in his anger, was wise enough to avoid. Instead, the Supreme Ethereal allowed a single statue to be left standing outside the battle dome of Mont’yr, repurposing it from a glorious monument to a grave reminder that without the guidance of the Ethereal Caste, even the finest mind could be turned from the light.
On the far side of the Damocles Gulf, the Farsight Enclaves continued to forge their worlds to better suit their own destinies. Yet with their leader missing for so many years, they too had begun to see O’Shovah as a distant memory. Generation after generation was born, lived briefly, and died out. Over a hundred years passed without sign. As time marched on without him, Commander Farsight became little more than a whispered myth.
The Coming of the Great Devourer
Arrival of the Swarm
As 997.M41 drew to a close, long-range reports of a strange galactic cloud reached the fringes of the Enclaves. It fit no recognised energy patterns until Commander Arra’kon, who had been a wise military leader to the Enclaves for many years, correlated it with recent data fed to him from his hidden allies in the core Septs. Silence fell over the Fire Caste high command when they saw what the anomalous readings represented – the tendrils of a Tyranid hive fleet heading right at them. The Tau had learned much from their two year war against Hive Fleet Gorgon earlier that century. The Tyranids were a foe like no other, able to adapt and spawn at an appalling rate. It was imperative that the splinter fleet snaking towards them be taken apart before it made planetfall on any of the Enclave worlds, or their swarms might spell death for every living thing dwelling there.
The Air Caste fleets from each of the Enclaves were mobilised to intercept the hive fleet, and led into space by Admiral Kor’O’Kai of Tinek’la. Learning from the mistakes made against Hive Fleet Gorgon, Kor’O’Kai’s fleets isolated and destroyed the leading elements of each bio-fleet, carving helical attack patterns around each tendril and reducing it to spattered ruin over the course of a punishing six-week space battle. In the end, the sheer number of the Tyranid ships proved insurmountable, even with the Air Caste’s masterful efforts. Three out of four of the bio-ship clusters were set upon and destroyed, but as the Air caste were fully engaged, the fourth cluster entered colony world space above Vior’los with relatively little opposition. As the skies grew sick with the Tyranids’ pre-invasion corruptions, and desert vegetation swelled and bloated, a hail of Mycetic Spores began to rain down from the splinter fleet above.
Longer-lived than any Fire Caste warrior before him, the hermit O’Shovah watched the skies turn purple-grey above his desert refuge. The cacti and creepers that had provided him with water grew, out of control, into horrible new shapes. Something was attacking his world, something that was changing the substance of his home to better suit its purposes. O’Shovah could only think of one reason why an invading entity would boost the amount of biological matter on a planet before it attacked, fattening it like a grox-calf intended for the feast. The invaders were coming to feed and he knew that his people needed him more than ever.
Amidst the terror and desperation that erupted across the enclaves, a note of joy rang out on Vior’los. An old dark-skinned warrior had walked into the Great Vior’los Museum claiming to be Farsight, the famous hero of old, and demanded his revered Battlesuit be returned to him, submitting to the required genetic tests with dignity and determination. Sure enough, O’Shovah had returned to them in the hour of their greatest need. The Fire Caste took great heart as a living legend emerged from the desert to guide them. They had soon redoubled their efforts to hold back the Tyranid swarms infesting the Vior’los plains.
Studying every scrap of information his commanders could supply about the Tyranid race, O’Shovah coordinated a new war effort that hinged upon aerial supremacy. A massed spearhead of eighty Crisis teams engaged every winged Tyranid they could find to the exclusion of all else, tearing them out of the skies with long-range missile fire whilst staying well away from the swarms below. Once they were sure of their aerial success, the Fire Warriors of Vior’los boarded the anti-grav docking pontoons that Farsight had requisitioned from the planet’s orbital stations and used them to skim across the seething plains. Wherever larger Tyranids were found, they were engaged and destroyed by volley after volley of Pulse Rifle fire from the anti-grav pontoons. In this manner, O’Shovah intended to break the Tyranids’ leadership structure in a worldwide killing blow strategy that destroyed the mind-links co-ordinating each brood into a coherent invasion force.
Over and over again, the Tyranid leader-beasts were hunted and destroyed by the pinpoint application of firepower, and over and over again, they were reinforced by fat-bodied Mycetic Spores that rained out of the skies. Thousands of citizens died every day as the insidious invaders probed at every defence and settlement, exploiting the least weakness to break through in a tide of chitinous bodies to slaughter those inside. Each time Farsight adapted his strategy, optimising military protocol to better slay the foe, the Tyranids would reinforce and adapt in turn. Though it burned him to admit it, O’Shovah’s plan to cut off the head of his monstrous foe was not working.
Calling an emergency council, Farsight convened with the greatest minds of the enclaves. His old friend, O’Vesa, was still clinging to life by virtue of a cocktail of age-regressive drugs of his own invention. He suggested that if the art of the killing blow was not working, then perhaps the patient hunter might be given a chance. Farsight’s brow wrinkled, but he gave the idea full consideration nonetheless. Their world was ripe for the plucking, on the brink of being devoured by the Tyranid hive fleet above. As horrifying a notion as it may seem, perhaps they should not try to prevent the attack. Instead, they would allow it to happen, and then strike back.
The very next night, Farsight and his seven most trusted commanders escorted O’Vesa to Vior’los’ Earth caste research facility, Fio’ro’tl, deep in the Valley of Dust. Given enough time, the ancient scientist believed that he and his colleagues could develop a countermeasure that could destroy the Tyranids before their final triumph. O’Shovah knew that this was their last chance. With his planet all but overrun, he gave the order for the rest of the Tau upon Vior’los to evacuate.
Before the week was out, there were only twelve Tau left on the entire planet – Farsight and his seven Battlesuit Commanders, O’Vesa, and three of Lub’grahl’s most capable Earth caste. Using samples of the xenos biomass gathered from the battlefield, the veteran scientists worked night and day to develop a biological countermeasure, their research facility guarded by six XV8 Crisis Battlesuits, an XV88 Broadside Battlesuit, and one of the few XV104 Riptide Battlesuits that had been ‘accidentally’ diverted to the Farsight Enclaves from the ships en route to the Mu’galath Bay campaign. Though O’Shovah had deliberately kept the facility’s defences as small as he dared in order to escape detection, on the eighth day, the swarms found them nonetheless. Thousands of scuttling weapon-beasts poured through the gullies and valleys from every direction, blade-limbed colossi stalking in their midst. Farsight relayed his greatest of respects to his honoured comrades and prepared to give his life to buy O’Vesa a few more precious seconds.
The battle that unfolded between the Battlesuit Commanders and the Tyranid swarms was the stuff of legend. Ob’lotai 9-0, the XV88 Broadside Battlesuit operated by the AI engram of Farsight’s old team leader, bullseyed dozens of Tyranid leader-beasts from his vantage point atop the research station. The seventh Commander Brightsword’s Fusion Blades blazed bright as they cut through the giant battering-ram monsters that assailed the gates, alien ichor evaporating into choking clouds around him as he felled one, boosted away, then slashed through another. Wise Commander Arra’kon moulded complex firing solutions to defend every new ingress, coordinating the Flamer blasts from Commander Sha’vastos and Commander Torchstar to consume the greatest number of the lesser weapon-beasts wherever they scuttled through the rocks. When a towering monstrosity killed Shas’O Varg’ha with a blast of bio-electricity, burning him to death inside his Riptide, Commander Bravestorm, long interred within his life-supporting battlesuit, charged underneath the Tyranid Bio-Titan’s midsection. Powering his ancient Onager Gauntlet to maximum, Bravestorm punched out its thorax in a gory salute to his fallen comrade. Meanwhile, Farsight duelled with the hissing leader-beast at the swarm’s heart, matching the Dawn Blade against the hive creature’s crystalline swords. Even O’Vesa was able to join the fight at the last, remotely accessing the interface of the fallen Riptide and bringing its weapon systems back online in order to deliver the deathblow to a squat-bodied broodbeast that was birthing lesser Tyranids straight into the facility’s corridors.
Suddenly, a great cloud of dust whirled up, obscuring the combatants as the Manta missile destroyer Or’es Por’kauyon hovered above them. O’Vesa signalled to Farsight that he had summoned the Air Caste’s finest to extract them; the deed inside the facility was as good as done. One by one, the Battlesuits boosted up into the air and boarded the Manta. Below them, the research facility was buried under leaping Tyranid bodies as the Tau made their escape. Of the brave Earth Caste scientists, only O’Vesa survived.
Over the course of the next few cycles, the world of Vior’los was stripped bare of every last shred of biomass. The ribbed mouthparts of the hive fleets had descended to feed, hungrily sucking up the rendered down gruel of their conquests from the many digestion pools below. Farsight and his commanders monitored the vile spectacle from high orbit. As the twin flames of grief and anger twisted in his gut, O’Shovah began to doubt the course they had chosen. When he cast a questioning glance across to O’Vesa, the wizened scientist just smiled and pointed back towards the bio-ships themselves. Farsight saw nothing at first, but soon, a black stain began to spread across the chitinous flanks of one of the Tyranid vessels. Within a matter of only a few moments, the affliction had spread to a second ship, followed swiftly by another and then another, until none were free of the malign tendrils. The bio-ships shuddered and writhed as the discolouration blossomed outwards to cover them entirely. One by one, the fleshy Tyranid vessels fell into themselves, rotting and falling away like a piece of fruit decomposing in a matter of seconds. Before the hour was out, the bio-ships had disintegrated entirely.
The countermeasures the Earth Caste had made, explained O’Vesa, had been a suite of self-replicating poisons. The necrotising agents had been on time-delayed release in order to ensure they were fully taken inside the Hive Fleet before activating. The vector of transmission had been the bodies of the Earth Caste scientists themselves; they had imbibed the poisons as their last act upon Vior’los. Once their bodies were broken down in the digestion pools, the bacterial codes they had locked within themselves infected the air itself. As O’Vesa had hoped, the Tyranids had even stripped most of Vior’los’ atmosphere away to fuel their further conquests. In doing so, they had doomed themselves to a swift and painful death.
A Hero Reborn
- "Vior’los once burned, to eradicate the spoor of the Ork. It was reborn, brought back to life with honest toil. Today our planet has died again, consumed by a new threat. Yet in the process the glutton-beasts have been consumed in their turn by the fires of our defiance. Let those same flames grow fierce in your hearts, my people. With them we shall bring light and warmth to the cold stars of a new horizon."
- —Commander Farsight
The last act of the Earth Caste scientists had moved Farsight on a deep level. Here was the true expression of the Greater Good; not in clever politicking or the waging of war, but in self-sacrifice, so that others might live better lives in their stead. Though he was used to the warriors of the Fire Caste laying down their lives in the name of the Tau Empire, to see such selflessness in another caste humbled him. The deaths of the scientists had ignited the flame of ambition in his heart once more.
O’Shovah strove to see Vior’los rebuilt and resettled, its three principal cities named for the Tau scientists that had given their lives so that the rest of the enclaves might live. The barren wastes and volcano ranges would be rebuilt as Tau cities that boasted many grand monuments. On Lub’grahl, the favoured planet of the Earth Caste, field after field of white, oval memorials were lain in the name of all those that had given their lives for the Greater Good. No longer would O’Shovah shy away from his destiny as a leader and a hero. The fight must go on.
O’Shovah’s journey from hero to rebel covers three centuries of warfare. Within that great span have been battles that changed the course of history for the Tau Empire, from the most glorious of victories to the deepest pits of recrimination. Though the history that follows is forbidden knowledge within the Sept worlds of the Empire’s core, the most fervent supporters of Farsight’s cause have it committed to memory. It will continue to be passed on long after his death.
- 771.M41 Battle Dome Mont’yr - The young prodigy Shoh is inducted into the training academies of Vior’la.
- 715-731.M41 Scourge of the Arachen - The war against the Arachen lingering in the Western Veil Nebula absorbs many of the Fire Caste’s new recruits. Over the course of sixteen years of battle, Shoh secures a string of promotions, though many of his teammates disappear without trace after each Trial by Fire.
- 731-733.M41 Enlightenment atop Mount Kanji - Shoh, Shassera and Kais study under Commander Puretide. Though the legendary warrior’s teachings allow them to see the truths of battle with clear eyes, the fires of their rivalry have only just been lit.
- 733-742.M41 Arkunasha War - O’Shoh’s first real command sees him reinforce the red oxide planet Arkunasha against the numberless hordes of the Ork Waaagh! Dok. On the cusp of total victory, he is forced to withdraw his forces from the Argap Plateau and return to the Sept worlds. It is during this conflict that he earns the moniker ‘Farsight’.
- 742.M41 Damocles Gulf Crusade - By using the cunning infiltration tactics masterminded by the Ethereal Aun’Va, the Tau colonise a great many human worlds on the far side of the Damocles Gulf. The resultant counter-invasion sees a vast battle group of Space Marines and Imperial Guard scour the Tau colonists from the Damocles Gulf and penetrate deep into the heart of the Tau Empire. The war philosophy of the Imperial savages is brutal and wasteful in the extreme, but undeniably effective. O’Shovah is reassigned to Dal’yth where, fighting alongside his comrade-in-fire O’Shassera, he engages the Imperium in a series of bitterly contested wars. Just as the Tau are ready to encircle and exterminate the trespassers, the Ethereal Caste orders a truce, and the Imperium’s armies are allowed to leave the Tau Empire unmolested. In the aftermath of the war, Aun’Va orders the Fire Caste heroes known as the Swords of Puretide to have their prototype Puretide engrams removed by lobotomy – though Farsight shields his friend Commander Sha’vastos from this fate.
- 745.M41 The Time of Questioning - After studying the Imperium and realising the Tau Empire had fought against the merest fraction of its might, Aun’Va decides that a morale boost is needed to drive the next phase of expansion. Meanwhile, to preserve Puretide’s teachings, he orders O’Shaserra and O’Kais to be placed in deep stasis until they are needed for the honour of command in future engagements.
- 745.M41 The Great Reclamation - Farsight works tirelessly to reconquer the worlds of the Damocles Gulf, and with the majority of Imperial forces occupied elsewhere, he succeeds magnificently and his legend is set in stone. O’Shovah is lauded as the greatest of heroes, and statues of him are raised across the Tau Empire. Crowds from every caste cheer with news of each of his victories, yet his requests for further reinforcements are met only with silence.
- 760.M41 The Farsight Expedition - The Farsight Expedition reclaims all of the worlds lost to the Imperium bar one. Just as battle plans are laid to reconquer the last world, Illuminas, Commander Farsight diverts his armies to repel the raids of a nearby Ork empire. What starts as series of isolated battles against infested Ork asteroids swiftly escalates into a costly war across a large battlefront. Instead of following the path allocated to him by the Ethereal Council, Farsight prosecutes his new war with great gusto, disobeying a direct order and shaking their faith in him in the process. Over time, Farsight becomes incensed at the continued lack of reinforcements and absence of new technologies, which he feels his expedition should be receiving. He begins to believe that the Tau Empire at large has abandoned him, and a seed of doubt grows within his warrior heart.
- 815.M41 Waaagh! Grog - While Farsight is away fighting Orks in the asteroid belt, Waaagh! Grog descends upon the Tau world of Atari Vo, as the warlord lands his meteor base right on top of the planet’s capital city. Grog is a resourceful leader, and meets the Tau firepower with every gun he can hire and as much looted weaponry as he can get his hands on. Farsight falls victim to his own ambition and stages an assault upon the Orks when they appear weak. In fact, the Ork forces were stronger than ever. The war escalates ever further, encompassing the span of a decade, until it consumes three of the Farsight Enclaves’ four Sept worlds. When O’Shovah returns to find his colonies in flames, he learns the truths of all the elements before launching a devastating counter-attack. He comes to understand the material world all the better for it, though the realm of the Ethereals still remains a mystery to him.
- 823.M41 The Way of the Short Blade - O’Shovah studies drone-scans of the veteran Ethereal Aun’Shi in combat. By connecting his neural network to the honeycombed outer layer of his Battlesuit, Farsight learns to truly feel through his ‘second skin’ and develops a style of close-range fighting that imitates the styles of Aun’Shi, but which can be performed in Battlesuits. Perfecting it against captured Orks that the Earth Caste have trapped for their own experiments, O’Shovah trains his closest acolytes until they learn to relish the art of close combat.
- 825.M41 The Molochite Tragedy - As Farsight continues his purges of the greenskin race, Orks are again discovered, this time upon Arthas Moloch, an artefact world on the fringes of the Damocles Gulf. The resultant bloodletting sets free a host of ectoplasmic nightmares that rampage through the Tau expedition, killing off the Ethereals at its heart before vanishing as swiftly as they arrived. During the battle against these unholy fiends, Farsight gets a glimpse through a Warp rift and sees a vision of the Eye of Terror. In the process, he realises the dire threat that looms over all sentient life – the ancient evils of Chaos. O’Shovah cannot believe that the Ethereals would keep their knowledge of such a terrible threat a secret, but the evidence seems clear. The revelations shake him to his core.
- 826.M41 The Farsight Enclaves - With the events of Arthas Moloch receding into painful memories, The Tau of the Farsight Enclaves wage their never-ending war against the Orks without the guidance of the Ethereals. A new era of violence is begun, yet the Farsight Enclaves continue to thrive.
- 832.M41 Through Independence, Enlightenment - O’Shovah’s meditations lead him to believe that the people of the Tau will never be free whilst the Ethereal caste exists. Fearing that his conclusions will do harm to the Greater Good, he disappears from active service and begins a new life as a hermit in the mountains of Vior’los.
- 834.M41 An Empire Mourns - Farsight is reported dead to the wider Tau Empire. Even though they dare not show it openly, the eldest generations of Tau feel a pang of loss that their childhood hero has finally passed into memory.
- 845.M41 Censure - Aun’Va receives word that Farsight lives yet, and that his Enclaves not only still exist, but have split away from the Tau Empire to form their own territories. Incensed beyond measure, the Ethereal Supreme excommunicates Farsight from the Greater Good. He orders all imagery of the rebel to be destroyed and any who speak his name to be taken away for extensive questioning, often never to be seen again.
- 975.M41 The Huntress Awakens - Aun’Va releases O’Shaserra from stasis and tells her of Farsight’s treachery and exile, setting her on a collision path with her ex-comrade.
- 997.M41 The Supreme Commander Speaks - During a speech that rallies the Tau Empire for the new phase Third Sphere Expansion, O’Shaserra destroys the statue of O’Shovah outside the Mont’yr Battle Dome with her Fusion Blasters. It is a symbolic gesture that none can ignore.
- 997.M41 Hidden Allies - An unexpected visitor arrives in the Farsight Enclaves; the Vision of Aun’Shi, a ship seemingly devoid of crew and earmarked for the imminent Third Sphere Expansion. After checking thoroughly for some sort of trap, the stasis holds are opened and a young Tau, Commander Torchstar, is found among the frozen passengers. She awakens and explains how some old friends and sympathizers still remain among the septs who illicitly arranged for the ship’s course to be altered before launch. Secreted away in the cargo is a sizable collection of some of the Tau’s newest, untested technological prototypes, including several XV104 Riptide Battlesuits and the blueprints and schematics for much more.
- 997.M41 The Jaws of the Kraken - The Tyranids of Hive Fleet Kraken penetrate the boundaries of the Farsight Enclaves. War is joined against the Tyranids on Vior’los, most populous of the Enclave Sept worlds. Commander Farsight comes out of exile in order to lead the defence, and sees that the Tau need heroes now more than ever before. Farsight’s favoured Mont’ka tactics prove largely ineffective against the Tyranid hordes – their leader figures are so common as to render the strategy moot. The Earth caste scientist O’Vesa persuades Farsight to try Kauyon, the strategy of the Patient Hunter, and Farsight reluctantly agrees. Whilst defending an Earth Caste research facility with seven of his most trusted commanders, Farsight buys O’Vesa enough time to develop a bio-toxin that kills the entire splinter fleet.
- 998.M41 The Revelation of Kauyon - In finally mastering the greater scope of Commander Puretide’s teachings, Commander Farsight acquires insight into the tactics of Commander Shadowsun and Aun’Va. He meditates long on the fact that the entire Damocles Gulf war was in fact one giant application of Kauyon, drawing the Imperium into Tau space and then hitting it hard whilst it was overstretched. O’Shovah learns a new respect for Aun’Va, though he knows that the truth of the Ethereal’s great plan must never be revealed to the populace.
The Eight are a specialist Tau Battlesuit command team consisting of Commander Farsight and seven of his closest advisors and top Tau Commanders. The Eight have become legend amongst the Tau in the Farsight Enclaves, for they are warriors beyond compare. Led by O’Shovah himself, each of the Battlesuit pilots in the unit is a veteran of dozens of battles. In the case of Commander Bravestorm and Farsight himself, they bring almost six hundred years of cumulative experience in the arts of war to an already potent assembly of warriors. Upon the rare times they are deployed together, they form a powerful fighting force on the battlefield capable of defeating a diverse range of foes; for they are a nigh-unstoppable team. The current members of The Eight include:
- Commander Farsight - The renegade Fire Caste Commander is Shas’o Vior’la Shovah Kais Mont’yr, often shortened to O’Shovah, and even better known as Commander Farsight. Over his unnaturally long life span, Farsight has been known by many other names as well, for he was the most exalted of all the protégés of the legendary Commander Puretide. He was also the ‘Hero of Vior’la,’ and ‘The Bane of Greenskins,’ and after he left the Empire, he became known as the ‘Great Traitor’ or ‘He who Renounced the Greater Good’. To the Tau of the Farsight Enclaves, he is their one true leader, a warrior who will take his people to their great destiny.
- Honour-Shas’vre O’Vesa - O’Vesa is not a shas’vre at all, but an old Earth caste colleague of Farsight, kept alive by microdrones of his own invention. Given that Commander Farsight is a die-hard Fire caste traditionalist, it speaks to the bond between the two that he allows any other caste the great honour of piloting a battlesuit, much less a powerful XV104 Riptide. Many AI suites that O’Vesa invented are integrated into the Riptide’s piloting array -- his technological genius offering him great aid in targeting and compensating for his lack of a lifetime’s worth of intense training and experience in battle.
- Commander Bravestorm - Commander Bravestorm was entombed in life support systems after sustaining critical injuries during the battle at Blackthunder Mesa on Dal’yth. Since that fateful day, the scorched and twisted Tau has been confined to a battlesuit, although his core support cocoon has been reinstalled into an XV8-02 Crisis ‘Iridium’ mantle. Despite his hardships, Bravestorm has lost neither his fervour for the Greater Good, nor his lightning quick mind. He fights with a battle prowess and bravado that few can equal, for he has passed beyond fear and courted death itself.
- Commander Brightsword - Few deliver a deathblow with such deadly efficiency as Commander Brightsword. With his pair of fusion blasters, Brightsword leads his Rapid Insertion Force from the front, and his war exploits have proven more than worthy. Many famous warriors have previously borne the same name, and its current bearer is mindful of the heritage that accompanies the honoured title. In battle, he always chooses the most powerful enemy target to annihilate first, and thus far, none have escaped his fusion blasts. He has destroyed the most hulking of war engines and monsters, and his aggressive attack style has been modelled upon the tactics of O’Shovah himself.
- Commander Sha’vastos - The first Tau to be fitted with a Puretide Engram Neurochip prototype known as a Sword of Puretide, Sha’vastos was saved from his subsequent lobotomisation by the intervention of Commander Farsight. His prototype neurochip suffered rapid degeneration after the battle however, so Farsight had the commander secreted away in stasis until he could find a cure. Many decades later, O’Vesa was able to recalibrate the neurochip and reawaken the old warrior so that he might fight and live once more. A tactical genius, Commander Sha’vastos leads his cadres to victory after victory, for he always seems to know the enemy’s battle plans even before setting foot on the battlefield.
- Shas’vre Ob’lotai 9-0 - Although it is not known outside of the Eight and their Earth caste attendants, the Broadside battlesuit Ob’lotai 9-0 is not piloted by flesh and blood. Instead, the Broadside is controlled by a late-generation mnemonic AI engram of the original Shas’vre Ob’lotai. Long ago, at the Fire caste training domes, it was Shas’vre Ob’lotai who first taught the piloting arts to the young warrior who would one day become Commander Farsight. Using multi-trackers and advanced scanfeeds, Ob’lotai 9-0 is a master at supplying the rest of the Eight with deadly accurate supporting fire.
- Commander Arrak’kon - Equipped with an XV8-05 Crisis ‘Enforcer’ battlesuit, and mounting an extensive suite of anti-infantry weapons, Commander Arra’kon can leave even the largest formations of enemy troops in ruins in an instant. Willingly leaving the larger targets to Commander Brightsword, Arra’kon instead seeks out masses of enemy foot soldiers. An analytical warrior, Arra’kon encourages the Eight to review and critique all of their past battles on holo-vid – for it is his constant goal to further hone his battle arts.
- Sub-Commander Torchstar - A defector from the Tau Empire, Sub-Commander Torchstar is the youngest and most impetuous of the Eight. Bearing twin flamers, the Vior’lan borders on reckless as she bounds headlong into battle.
When not operating as part of the Eight, Commander Farsight will typically be part of a command team consisting of up to seven XV8 Crisis Battlesuit bodyguards.
Farsight's name meaning in the Tau language, or Tau Lexicon, can be broken down thusly:
- Shas (member of the Fire Caste)
- 'O (Tau Commander, highest rank attainable within the Fire Caste)
- Vior'la (the Tau Sept where Farsight was born)
- Shovah ("Farsighted," the core concept of his name)
- Kais ("Skilful")
- Mont'yr (Blooded)
Commander Farsight pilots an early XV8 Crisis Battlesuit model that has been extensively modified and customised by his Earth Caste artisans and engineers over its lifetime. O’Shovah typically wears deep red in memory of the blood spilt by Arkunasha’s fallen heroes and in honour of his old home world, Vior’la. Many of the warriors from the Farsight Enclaves have also taken up this tradition. Farsight’s personal colours are also the inverse of the primary and secondary Sept colours of Vior’la, the Tau Sept he was born in. Commander Farsight's Battlesuit is most commonly equipped with the following weapon systems and wargear:
- Dawn Blade - The Dawn Blade was found by Commander Farsight in the ruins of a pre-human xenos civilisation on the Tau Artefact World of Arthas Moloch. It flickers with unknown energy when he swings it, and cuts a swathe easily through most types of enemies and even armoured vehicles. Unknown to Farsight, its blade is forged from chronophagic alloys which can absorb life force and add a slain foe's remaining natural lifespan to that of its owner. This is the secret of Farsight's remarkable longevity for a Tau, though he is unaware of this effect and would be appalled if he knew the truth of the weapon's origin.
- Plasma Rifle - A Plasma Rifle is a Tau Plasma Weapon that delivers pulses of searing energy and superheated matter that has been transmuted into a gaseous plasma state that carries an electrical charge. The plasma "bolts" fired by these weapons generate the destructive heat of a small sun; impacting with the fury of a supernova and scything through steel, flesh and bone as if they were nothing. Whilst Plasma Weapon technology is employed by many of the main spacefaring races of the 41st Millennium, the Tau favour a form of technology in their Plasma Rifles that exchanges some damage output for increased safety for the user by almost completely eliminating the risk of a catastrophic overheat of the weapon. Nevertheless, Tau Plasma Rifles are still extremely effective against targets such as heavy infantry, and are able to melt even Ceramite with ease. The Tau Plasma Rifle can be considered the equivalent of an Imperial Plasma Gun.
- Shield Generator - A Shield Generator is a Tau defensive technology that projects a cohesive energy field around its bearer, deflecting weapons fire and melee blows that would otherwise outright destroy the Battlesuit; whether they be shots from heavy ordnance or anti-tank weapons fire. Commander Farsight's Shield Generator bears the heraldry of the Farsight Enclaves upon its ablative shield.
- Hard-wired Target Lock - A Target Lock is a specialised target acquisition system that enables the user to engage different targets from the rest of the squad. As a hard-wired system, it is most likely a cybernetic system surgically implanted directly into the Battlesuit or Farsight's body.
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pp. 16, 29, 56-57
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition), pp. 10, 14, 21, 44-45
- Codex: Tau (3rd Edition), pp. 22, 50-51
- Farsight Enclaves, A Codex: Tau Empire Supplement (Digital Edition), pp. 1-505
- Xenology (Background Book)
- Kill Team (Novel) by Gav Thorpe
- War Zone Damocles: Mont'ka (Digital Edition), pp. 147-155
- Games Workshop Catalogue - Commander Farsight