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- "They are fierce indeed these Kroot, and savage. I look upon them and tremble at their ferocity. I can only hope that when the enemy sees them they tremble as I do."
- — Por'Vre'Tau'Cho - Water Caste Envoy to Sy'l'Kell prior to the ambush of the 17th Brimlock Dragons
The Kroot are a species of savage humanoids who are a member species of the Tau Empire who evolved from avian creatures. Kroot are tall aliens (a good half-meter taller than most humans), their avian ancestry giving them a bird-like beak and long quills protruding from their heads like hair. Smaller quills, possibly the evolutionary remnants of feathers, can be found scattered over their bodies.
A unique feature of the Kroot is that they evolve by selecting traits of their defeated foes to absorb by eating them. Due to this, the many Kroot warbands across the galaxy often look radically different. Kroot leaders are known as Shapers; they are generally the Kroot with the best ability for recognizing desirable traits in defeated foes and tell his Kindred (the word for a Kroot clan) what to eat to suit the task at hand. For instance, a Shaper who wants his Kroot to gain muscle mass will take on campaigns against Orks to acquire the right DNA, while extensive feeding on flying predators will allow the Kroot to grow wings. This eating of their foes ties in with the religious beliefs of the Kroot: they believe that when a warrior of any race dies, his warrior spirit should be kept, and the only way to do this is by eating his flesh. The Kroot practice this in their "burial" customs, in which the body of the deceased is consumed by the kindred.
Kroot who prey extensively on a particular species will begin to take the characteristics of that creature. In sentient species such as Orks and Humans, they may also take on cultural aspects of that race as well. Kroot who have fed on Dark Eldar, for example, soon begin to show signs of the cunning and intense cruelty the Dark Eldar are known for.
In the case of animals, this sometimes leads to evolutionary dead ends. A Kindred will find itself locked into an animalistic and unintelligent form, unable to evolve themselves any more. Species such as Tyranids who also absorb the DNA of their prey are particularly dangerous for Kroot to prey upon, as they may acquire too many undesirable Tyranid characteristics. The ecology of the Kroot home world of Pech includes many species of animal that are partially Kroot, the results of a kindred's evolutionary missteps. The Kroot use these related creatures as laborers, pack animals, and even as weapons. The most common examples are the canine Kroot Hounds, the lumbering and powerful ape-like Krootox, the dromaeosaurid Knarloc riding beast, and the massive dinosaur-like Great Knarlocs. Another creature of note is the Kroothawk, an animal held sacred by the Kroot, possibly because it may be their evolutionary ancestor. There are other Kroot sub-species that are considered outcasts in Kroot society and are killed by Kroot if found.
In order to gather genetic material from all over the galaxy, the Kroot offer themselves as mercenaries, and sell their services to anyone willing to pay them. They travel the galaxy taking limited contracts from both major and minor races (most of which are too small to be included in the game), and are regularly employed by the Tau. While the contract with the Tau is supposed to be an exclusive one, the Kroot regularly send out their warspheres to continue their mercenary trade amongst the wider cosmos.
Fortuitous Union with the Kroot
At the close of the first period of expansion, an exploration fleet out of Dal'yth picked up long-ranged scans of Ork ships firing on Kroot Warspheres. The previously unencountered Kroot were defending their enclave on the planet of Krath, although they were hopelessly outnumbered. Intending only to observe, the Tau were drawn into the battle as both the Air Caste Admiral and Fire Caste Commander could not bear to watch the honourless Orks bludgeon their way to victory. Quickly deploying their superior fleet, the Tau destroyed the ramshackle greenskin ships. Too late, however, they realised that this was merely the vanguard of a mighty invasion force that was closing on them in an encircling pattern.
Thus began an extended war, both in space and over several planets, later named the War in the Place of Union, for it marked the first time the Tau and Kroot fought side by side. So effective was the sudden alliance that they withstood the Orks long enough for reinforcements from Sa'cea to arrive, and ultimately triumphed over the greenskins. The Tau were so impressed with the Kroot's fighting prowess, they agreed to extend the alliance in order to liberate the remainder of the Kroot enclaves, who were also under Ork attack. For the next ten years, the Tau helped drive all sign of Orks from the Kroot worlds, eventually coming to their homeworld of Pech at the behest of the greatest of Kroot leaders, the legendary Anghkor Prok. There, at the sacred Oathstone, the Kroot leader swore allegiance to the Tau Empire and pledged his waniors to fight for the Greater Good (and regular payment). That pledge, and the cooperation between the two races, is still honoured today. The Kroot are, by far, the most common alien auxiliary force to serve in Tau armies. The Tau greatly value the military service of the Kroot, although they continue to hope that exposure to their own superior culture will eventually cure the Kroot of their cannibalistic tendencies.
TechnologyOutwardly, the Kroot seem to be a simple pre-industrial society, incapable of achieving (powered) flight, much less traveling through space. However, Tau observers on Pech have noted evidence that may point to an industrial base hidden on or even inside of some mountains. This may be explained by the Kroot feasting on the low-tech race that is the Orks. It's probable that the Kroot deliberately keep their general level of technology low, using it only for weapons and interstellar travel, in order to keep their species strong.
The Kroot's primary weapon is a rifle with design derived from the fighting staffs used by their ancestors. Originally a slug-thrower, the weapon was modified by the Tau to fire a charged particle similar to their own Pulse Rifles. However, the rifles are in fact used mainly in close combat, and to this end are fitted with blades on the stock and the end of the barrel. The Kroot also employ the Kroot Gun -- too big and unwieldy for one Kroot to handle -- mounted on the back of Krootox. Another Rifle the Kroot have is the Kroot Hunting Rifle which is more of a sniper rifle than the standard Kroot Rifle.
In addition to the Kroot Rifle that the Tau helped the Kroot construct, the Kroot themselves have other weapons that they have gathered while serving as mercenaries for other intelligent races or that they have scavenged from the battlefield. These weapons include Splinter Pistols, Bolt Pistols, Sluggas, Shuriken Pistols, Power Weapons, and various close combat weapons as well as their two handed cousins like the Splinter Rifle, Storm Bolter, Shoota, Shuriken Catapult, Flamer, Plasma Gun, and Melta Gun. Kroot may also have Imperial wargear which includes Frag Grenades, Krak Grenades, Melta Bombs, Auspex sensors, and even Ork totems.
The Kroot Shapers are the military and spiritual leaders of the Kroot. Shapers ensure the Kroot inherit only the good traits and that they do not reach an evolutionary dead end.
The Kroot Carnivores are the basic infantry for the Kroot they have the ability to absorb characteristc traits from the food or remains of any enemy the consume. It has been reported though that Kroot Carnivores can become tainted by Chaos by eating the flesh of Chaos worshippers.
Kroot hounds are an example of Kroot that have reached an evolutionary dead-end. These Kroot have evolved into a canine-like kroot.
Like the Kroot hound the Krootox is a evolutionary dead end. The Krootox is an ape-like type Kroot usually used to carry heavy burdens because of its immense strength. It has been noted by Tau on Pech that angry Krootox are something to be avoided. Krootox have a Kroot Gun mounted on their back which will lend some much needed heavy firepower to attached squads.
Great Knarlocs are similar in appearance to Krootox, except much bigger and faster, resembling nothing so much as a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Knarlocs are very difficult to control, and are goaded into combat by trained Kroot handlers. If the handlers are killed, Knarlocs may turn on their allies, even on other Kroot.
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pg. 12
- Codex: Tau Empire (4th Edition)
- Codex: Tau Empire (3rd Edition), pg. 29
- Xenology (Background Book), pp. 49-50
- Deathwatch: Mark of the Xenos (RPG)
- White Dwarf 263 (US), "Index Xenos: The Kroot"
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