The Prefectia Campaign represented a great confrontation between the forces of the Imperium of Man and the Tau Empire in 999.M41 when the Tau sought to conquer the Fortress World of Prefectia as part of their Third Sphere Expansion. Prefectia was chosen as target of a Tau invasion because it was a sourche of rich geomagnetic energy that could be exploited and represented the gateway to the Dovar System, around whose star Dovaris orbited the Gilded Worlds that were rich in strategic minerals of paramount importance to the growth of the Tau war machine and necessary acquisitions if they were to continue to spread the Greater Good across the galaxy.
Despite a strong Imperial defence and the participation of the Adeptus Astartes, the Tau forces under the leadership of Commander Shadowsun deployed several tactical and technological innovations that took the Imperials by surprise and drove them off-world. Among the casualties was Corvin Severax, the Chapter Master of the Raven Guard Chapter, who was slain during the battle.
In the wake of the Imperial retreat, Prefectia was transformed into the Tau Sept of Vas'talos. The Tau Empire considered the capture of Prefectia to be their greatest military campaign to date, but for the Imperium it was only a minor defeat on the very periphery of the Emperor's domain. The loss of Prefectia prompted a massive Imperial counterattack on the Tau Sept of Mu'gulath Bay known as the Second Agrellan Campaign which marked the end of the Third Sphere Expansion.
Third Sphere Expansion
With the Ork invasion of the Great War of Confederation in 975.M41 defeated and a new hero risen during that conflict in the person of O'Shaserra, Commander Shadowsun, the Tau Ethereal Supreme Aun'Va knew the time was ripe to declare the Third Sphere Expansion in 997.M41 as the Imperials reckoned time. With more established Septs to draw resources from, this drive to expand the size of their realm was undertaken on a scale never before attempted by the Tau Empire.
As bold and dynamic as the previous Spheres of Expansion had been, they had been confined to the dense star clusters that surrounded the Empire's homeworld of T'au. The scope of such expansions was limited -- the Tau did not have the population needed to spread further, and they had not yet fully learned to harness the full power of alien auxiliaries like the Kroot to aid their cause. Technical constraints proved a barrier as well, for the Earth Caste have constantly been seeking ways to develop starcraft with faster engines to allow them to bridge the vast gulf of empty interstellar space between star systems.
Aun'Va knew that now was the time for the Tau to seize their destiny. The Great War of Confederation had served to put the Tau on a total war setting -- as the Ethereals pressed each caste for greater production and higher efficiency. The Ork invasion had proven a harsh training ground for the Fire Caste, but they had now replaced the casualties of the long, drawn-out campaign. Furthermore, many Fire Warriors and their Commanders had gained invaluable experience. They were now better trained than ever to coordinate their efforts with other Septs and with the Tau Navy. The amount of alien auxiliaries at hand for deployment to the Fire Caste was greatly increased, especially the availability of the Kroot.
In order to reach those more distant systems earmarked as desirable by advanced scouts, the vast armadas of Tau starcraft had been outfitted with the latest Earth Caste modifications. The ships' propulsion systems were upgraded so that when magnified by Impulse Reactors, the new ZFR Horizon Accelerator Engines could obtain faster speeds -- propelling Tau starcraft forwards at hitherto unthinkable velocities just shy of the speed of light itself. To further lessen the burden on those space-faring craft with the longest journeys, the Earth Caste had outfitted transport craft with large stasis chambers -- allowing Hunter Cadres or whole commands to shift to far distant battle zones Terran months or years away without actually aging a day in the process.
While all Septs sent ﬂeets to aid in the great expansion, the largest gathering of force was at the northern and western extremes of the Tau Empire. There, massed at the ports and orbital docks of Dal'yth, Sa'cea, and Vior'la, were huge flotillas. In addition to the fighting classes of starships, the Tau Navy also provided whole armadas of transports to carry armies, colonists, pre-fabricated domes, Tau Drone builders and all manner of equipment. This massive force was to be led personally by Commander Shadowsun -- the newly appointed highest-ranking Fire Caste officer. Their course was to cross the Damocles Gulf, travelling past the Gri-lok asteroid fields. Target destinations had been meticulously planned out -- all planets and moons desired for colonisation were well-marked on the fleet's holomaps. Those worlds that had indigenous populations had already had many preemptive visits by Water Caste traders and ambassadors in order to explore possibilities for a peaceful annexation.
Some of the planets branded for absorption into the Tau Empire were worlds that belonged to the Imperium of Man. In these cases, Aun'Va's timing of the Third Sphere Expansion could not have been better. Water Caste agents and Gue'vesa -- human helpers who had sworn loyalty to the Tau and the Greater Good -- confirmed what the Earth Caste had already reported via intercepted Vox transmissions: due to wars elsewhere, the number of Imperial defenders at the borders of their territory was much reduced.
Some Imperial planets, those open to bribery or idealists that wished to escape the pressing yoke of servitude to an overbearing tyrant, lay down their arms at their first opportunity -- welcoming Water Caste ambassadors with pledges of cooperation. Most human worlds, however, rejected Tau overtures -- mistrusting all aliens or perhaps simply more frightened of the repercussions they would suffer at the hands of their own race. For those frontier worlds that resisted, Shadowsun and her armies swept down in a series of precision strikes. The human Planetary Defence Forces proved insufficient to even slow the Tau down, much less them hold off.
The northernmost sector past the Damocles Gulf was soon wholly in Tau hands, while to the galactic west, the sectors adjoining the Red Sun Systems were cleared of Hrud, Orks and rebel humans. Fleets of Water Caste Indigenous Inhabitants Liaison conclaves were deployed to begin their long integration process for those aliens that wished to seize upon the enlightenment that was being offered. The Earth Caste, eager to exploit their new domains, was already dropping producer domes upon recently-seized planets rich with resources. In order to keep the drive going outwards, the Tau needed to establish fuel sources closer to the front lines of expansion. Linked back to the Tau Empire by long chains of relay comms, the expansion had already claimed dozens of new worlds -- yet this was only the start.
Buoyed by her initial successes, Shadowsun rapidly led her armies deeper into Imperial territory. She seemed to be everywhere at once, driving her forces onwards. At the forefront of the offensive, the Fire Caste spearhead were already en route to their next targets before the consolidation forces that followed hard on their heels had fully landed on the newly conquered planet. Here, Shadowsun was using the old Commander Puretide maxim: "Follow up a victory by striking quickly, and you will win another."
As Shadowsun passed into the Imperium's interor she encountered ever greater resistance, and she saw that to overextend her forces would deplete the momentum of the attack. Instead of crashing headlong into well-defended planets, she split her fleets, scattering them to a dozen headings. Each began a devastating series of hit-and-run attacks against which the Imperium could mount no effective counter. At length, the Imperium settled into a static defence of a handful of their most key worlds. Shadowsun exploited this strategy too, for it allowed her to again marshal her forces together and launch a massive attack on the planet of her choosing. Her first target was the Hive World of Agrellan, a gateway planet to the Dovar System whose orbit safeguarded a rich cluster of Imperial worlds.
Transports of fresh Fire Caste warriors and many of the newest Tau weapon prototypes were rushed to this battlefront for what would surely be a pivotal conflict. Aun'Va himself came to inspire the Fire Caste, and upon seeing him, the Tau knew their victory was assured. At last, the largest class of Tau Battlesuit was unleashed, and under Shadowsun's inspired leadership, its use proved a resounding success; everywhere one strode, victory followed. Fittingly, it was this new XV104 Riptide Battlesuit that delivered the killing blow during the final engagement -- laying waste to the massive Imperial heavy tanks that had so long blocked the gates to the world's capital hive city. Although the Imperial defenders fought with their usual fatalistic grit, it was not long before the hive corridors ran with blood and only a few isolated pockets of resistance remained. The planet of Agrellan, renamed Mu'gulath Bay by the Tau after it was integrated as a new Sept World, belonged to the Tau after only a single solar day of combat and soon the whole star system would follow. As such, among the other worlds added to the Tau Empire during the Third Sphere Expansion, three full new Septs were created: Ksi'm'yen, Fi'rios, and Mu'gulath Bay itself.
Over the course of the war for Agrellan, Captain Kor'sarro Khan of the White Scars Chapter swore a blood oath that he would personally take Shadowsun's head from her shoulders. His hunt was remorseless, turning the speed and aggression of the White Scars to the solitary goal of destroying the mastermind behind the Tau's war machine. Kor'sarro Khan met Shadowsun in battle several times, engaging her in person at Acacia Hive and taking battle to her personal cadre at Blackshale Ridge. Despite his best efforts, Shadowsun survived, excelling herself in both strategy and tactics and proving a worthy opponent even in close quarters combat. Over time, however, the White Scars inflicted such horrendous casualties upon the Tau leader's personal cadre that he cool demanour was replaced by simmering fury. Perhaps overconfident after securing victory upon Agrellan, she soon took the bait offered to her -- the Knight World of Voltoris. There, she walked into a trap set around House Terryn's ancestral fortress. In the resulting ambush, Kor'sarro Khan wounded Shadowsun grievously, coming within a hand's breadth of decapitating her with his sword. Once more, however, she escaped. The Khan's great oath had yet to be fulfilled, and upon Prefectia, he would pursue it more determinedly than ever.
Yet the commanders of the Imperial armies were infuriated that Agrellan had been taken at all, let alone in so short a time. After regrouping, the various dignitaries assigned to reclaim the lost Imperial worlds held a council of war. They agreed to stage a purposefully slow retreat towards the Feudal World of Voltoris, drawing Shadowsun's fleet after them into an area where she would be badly outmatched.
The Imperium laid a deadly ambush, using Voltoris' most defensible area -- the fortress of Furion Peak -- as its anchor. The Tau, so sure of their orbital recon scans, vastly underestimated their foes. Within the forests and gulleys of that proud mountain were Colonel "Iron Hand" Straken's Catachan Jungle Fighters, Shadow Captain Kayvaan Shrike's Raven Guard, and Kor'sarro Khan's White Scars, all hidden from sight by the psychic mists of the Stormseer Sudabeh.
When Shadowsun's army made planetfall at the foot of Furion Peak, the jaws of the Imperial trap closed. Being psychically inert, the Tau were baffled by the storm-magics of the White Scars Astartes, who then led the charge to engage their foes at close range. Power Fists, Chainswords and even Combat Knives took a heavy toll upon the beleaguered Tau. Shadowsun hunted down and slew Stormseer Sudabeh, causing his mist-spell to dissipate, but by then the gates of Furion Peak had yawned wide. Scores of Imperial Knights sallied forth, cannons blasting the Tau army until the forest road was a churned mess of craters. Many of Shadowsun's most trusted teams had to give their lives to secure her escape. She swore to honour their sacrifice by redoubling her efforts in the expansion of the Third Sphere.
Directly in the sights of Shadowsun's new offensive was the Dovar System. Around the star Dovaris orbited the Gilded Worlds, a star system impossibly rich in precious metals. Yet mountains of platinum and gold are as meaningless to the Greater Good as notions of individual wealth. The only resources precious to the Tau are those that can be turned to their empire's expansion -- such as energy sources that can drive the ever-evolving technology of their fleets.
The planet Prefectia was not only an ideal staging post from which to engineer the collapse of the entire Dovar System, it was also an untapped reservoir of geomagnetic energy. The Imperium, in its typically myopic fashion, had fashioned the world into a planet-sized fortress, for it stood between the xenos-haunted reaches of the Eastern Fringe and the Gilded Worlds. In their ignorance, they had harnessed but a fraction of Prefectia's potential and exhausted the planet's garrison the better to wage war upon Agrellan and Voltoris. This was a fact that offended and appalled the Earth Caste scientists who studied it; properly terraformed, Prefectia would become a dynamo that would boost the Tau's conquest of the Segmentum into overdrive.
So it was that Shadowsun's expeditionary force turned its attention to Prefectia, the united castes bringing ruin to the planet's bastion networks and munitions hives just as they had to Agrellan. The Imperial commanders, in many ways glad the Tau had pressed no further towards Dovaris, sent in their legions for a new phase of war.
As with so many other conflicts over the millennia, the planet-consuming struggle for Prefectia started with a single mission. A complex aerial ambush launched by the Raven Guard proved more than a match for the aircraft of the Tau. Many xenos craft were sent plummeting in flames towards the planet's surface, amongst them the personal Orca of honoured Ethereal Aun'Do.
As the Ethereal's transport veered through low atmosphere, Aun'Do was ejected safely, his life pod plummeting towards Prefectia's surface. Though the Air Caste pilots had been found wanting, they were not without ploys of their own. Many drone decoy pods were deployed alongside Aun'Do's life pod, each identical to the Ethereal's craft. The hunt was on -- either the Tau would recover their lost Ethereal in good time, and hence secure a vital boost to morale, or the Raven Guard would strike them a mortal blow.
Chapter Master Corvin Severax himself had issued orders to the strike force that sought Aun'Do; they were not only to locate the downed Tau leader, but capture rather than kill him. Over the course of the wars on either side of the Damocles Gulf, the Imperium had divined that the Tau's Ethereal Caste was of spiritual as well as political importance to their society. The interrogation and dissection of such a highly placed being could yield the secrets needed to scour the Tau from the galaxy forever. It had been Shadow Captain Solaq of the 5th Company whose Thunderhawk had sent Aun'Do planetside, and it was Solaq who was entrusted with his capture. Anticipating the trajectories of the scattering life pods as best he could, Solaq launched a series of interlocking strikes against the Tau who were scrambling to retrieve their downed leader. Despite leading many of these actions personally, Solaq found his rapier-swift attacks blunted by the stealth tactics of the Burning Dawn Infiltration Cadre. Though it pained the Shadow Captain to admit it, the Tau force's own leader, Shas'ui Starshroud, was every bit as adept at guerilla warfare as he. Through battle-scarred cities and ember-lit storm fronts, the two forces clashed again and again, each trying every stratagem, ambush and feint they could devise to outguess and outmanoeuvre the other.
The ash-strewn wilderness was streaked with the blood of Space Marine and Fire Caste warrior alike when Solaq finally ran his prey to ground. Yet the Tau had one last defence. As a volley of mass-reactive bolts streaked out towards the last of Aun'Do's bodyguard, a shimmering dome of force crackled into being around the Ethereal and detonated the missiles at a safe distance. Aun'Do and the Burning Dawn Infiltration Cadre fell back to a waiting Orca transport, leaving Captain Solaq seething with fury.
Intending to claim another swathe of Imperial space, Aun'Va's expeditionary force had forged a path towards the Gilded Worlds and invaded Prefectia in strength. In doing so, the Tau vanguard had crossed swords with the Adeptus Astartes. Commander Shadowsun quickly took charge, using the Imperials' belligerence against them in a series of classic Kauyon traps.
Though the initial clash upon Prefectia had grown intense, the battle for control of the surrounding worlds had barely begun. Bypassing Voltoris as they forged on through the Imperium, the Tau fleets took battle to Doth, Delinquence and Carradon, making inroads into Imperial territory so quickly that the Imperial Navy and the Astra Militarum found them nigh-impossible to stop.
As for Prefectia itself, reinforcements were already inbound. No fewer than eight Space Marine Chapters engaged in simultaneous planetstrikes that struck every major landmass within the same terrifying solar hour. The Raven Guard were foremost amongst them. In a remote briefing with Chapter Master Severax, Kayvaan Shrike was ordered to follow up the initial strikes of Shadow Force Solaq, hunting down Tau Commanders amongst Prefectia's electromine complexes. Using the fissure known as Ventur Scar to anchor their operation, Shrike's plan was to assess the Tau, wait for them to commit in force, then dive in to capitalise on the enemy's position. However, the Raven Guard, watching carefully, found not a single vulnerability to exploit -- their stealthcraft was matched step for step by that of Supreme Commander O'Shaserra.
The White Scars showed little such restraint. Despatched immediately after Warp translation from Voltoris, the Chapter sent in as many warriors as it could. Kor'sarro Khan organised sweeping assaults across the planet, but took only his most trusted hunters on the quest to slay Commander Shadowsun. With him rode a Stormlance Battle Demi-company of the 3rd Company, elements of the 1st Company and a Speartip Strike. Each of the White Scars was anxious to strike a decisive blow before their Raven Guard allies emerged from their hideouts. At the mention of Shadowsun's name, the Khan's blood ran hot, and his mood became stormy and dark. The grudging respect he felt for her tenacity and skill had not dimmed his desire to claim her head. Yet he would rather it be his glorious blade Moonfang that took her life, not some soot-blackened knife or a bolt in the back. She was a formidable foe, and deserved the clean death he had sworn to exact. The 3rd Company had seen their brothers in the Raven Guard fight with astonishing skill and speed, but that did not mean the White Scars admired their way of war. To hide in the shadows, to watch and wait like assassins in the dark; these notions did not sit well with the Khan.
Having engaged her twice before, Kor'sarro Khan knew his foe Shadowsun well enough. He resolved not to strike straight at the city-sized command nexus to the southeast of the electromine complexes. The chances of her being in so obvious a locale were slim to none, and in his opinion, the location was almost certainly the bait for a trap. Instead, the Khan sought to strike the smaller forces she had deployed around the Southern Scars, hoping to drive his nemesis from hiding -- or bring such destruction to her people that she had no choice but to meet him in battle.
Within solar hours of making planetfall in the no man's land east of Atlassi Hive, the White Scars had identified three Tau outposts in their proximity, in addition to the command nexus. These outposts, each consisting of several walled hexagonal strongholds reminiscent of the castles of Voltoris, were standing vigil over the speedways that linked the hive cities of the Southern Scars. It amused the Khan to see the Tau adopting the use of defensive structures similar to those that had served Humanity since the days of its infancy; each stronghold had battlements and disc-like towers from which the Tau could rain fire upon any who sought to bypass them. A formidable tactic, to be sure, but one that the speed and ferocity of the White Scars had been honed for millennia to break wide open.
The Khan took the measure of his prey like a circling eagle. He despatched his ground forces from Thunderhawk landing sites, giving the Tau outposts a wide berth and attacking them from several directions at once. Yet the hexagonal fortifications too were traps, artifices of deceptive lethality laid as lures for the unwary.
After the costly lessons of Voltoris, Shadowsun had dwelt long upon the Imperials' propensity to fortify areas of ground they considered significant. By mirroring this tactic, she led her enemies to adopt the mindset of the siege, and hence fall into a set of interlocking Kauyon traps.
The White Scars split their attack en route to the battleground. They assaulted the individual strongholds simultaneously, intending to deny them any chance of mutual support. The Khan's instructions had been to jink through enemy fire with a zig-zagging "forked lightning" attack before gaining the walls and engaging each battlement's defenders at close quarters. But as the thrusting speartips of the White Scars' assaults drew closer, they found the structures themselves rising on cushions of antigravitic energy and hovering away from them. The mobile defences slowly gathered pace as the storm of fire from the battlements thickened; they were not large structures at all, but linked collections of Tidewall ramparts that broke apart and moved even as the White Scars charged.
The Tau's network of perfect geometric shapes unfolded. Battlements and towers furthest from the attackers divided and moved outward so their extended arms flanked the onrushing White Scars. Perturbed by this development, the Khan ordered his forces to split off, flanking the outstretched arms of the enemy fortifications in their turn. Tau Battlesuits that had been hidden behind each arm were quick to stymie their advance, and the main thrust of each attack found itself enveloped. In moments, the White Scars were trapped in a sleeting storm of plasma that reduced their rugged transports to smoking wrecks.
The Sons of the Great Khan
Like the spear hurled from a hunter's hand, the White Scars punch through the enemy's defences to pierce the heart and deliver a deathblow. For all their lethality and speed, however, the sons of Chogoris on Prefectia faced a challenge more deadly than any they had known before -- an entire world of traps set to ensnare, confuse and destroy.
Mounted upon their mechanical steeds, the White Scars roar into battle. The snarl of their bikes' engines is like the growling of hunting beasts, while the hammer of their Bolters rings the death knell for foes beyond number. Drawn from the nomadic horse-tribes of their homeworld, Chogoris, the White Scars are the finest bike-mounted warriors in all the Imperium. They use every iota of their skill as plains hunters to stalk and encircle their quarry before making a killing strike.
The White Scars do not simply mount headlong charges against the odds; though they might appear tribal and barbaric to outsiders, every Space Marine in the White Scars Chapter possesses a deep-rooted pragmatism and a predator's cunning. When they strike, the White Scars are like the storm, their speed that of the howling wind, their strength that of the skyshattering thunderbolt. Yet they always strive to ensure that the enemy have been scouted, their strength gauged and their measure taken before battle begins.
It was a strike force centred around the warriors of the White Scars' 3rd Company that came to make war upon Prefectia. These huntsmen had already had ample opportunity to learn the strengths and weaknesses of their prey. Led by the noble Kor'sarro Khan, this Great Hunt comprised warriors who had fought in several major engagements around the Damocles Gulf. When Commander Shadowsun led her mighty coalition against the hives of Agrellan, the Khan and his warriors had been there, fighting up until the very last moment against the invading xenos. Following that crushing defeat, the Imperium turned the tables upon O'Shaserra and caught her forces in a trap upon Voltoris: there too had fought the Khan and his men.
Prefectia would the be the third world upon which Kor'sarro's hunt had battled the Tau, and the third upon which his vow to take the head of the xenos commander would be tested. Though the White Scars won a decisive victory upon Voltoris, Kor'sarro Khan still had a warrior oath to fulfil. This fact did not sit well with the fiery-tempered White Scar, and he would not allow Shadowsun to slip through his fingers again.
Another concern chafed at the White Scars as they deployed onto the dust-choked surface of Prefectia. Far away, across the vast gulfs of space, their homeworld faced attack from an overwhelming force of Chaos Renegades as the 13th Black Crusade of Abaddon the Despoiler unfolded. Word had reached the Khan's fellow captains of this fight for survival, and many of the White Scars were desperate to discharge their oaths of duty in the Damocles war zone so that they might make haste back to Chogoris. They wished to lend their strength to the defence of their homeworld, or to avenge their brothers should the unthinkable have come to pass.
Thus, all of the White Scars' frustration and anger was directed at the Tau upon Prefectia, and especially against their leader, Commander Shadowsun. Here was a foe who had lived far beyond her deserving span, despite the best efforts of the Khan and his warriors. In doing so, she kept them from thee defence of their homeworld, trapping them in a faraway war for much longer than any could have believed possible. The prey's stubborn tenacity and evasive cunning had goaded the White Scars to new heights of fury, and so they rode out from their first engagement on Prefectia with a righteous fire burning in their breasts. They would run their prey to ground at last, and return her head to Chogoris in triumph.
Lightning speed and punishing strength characterised the White Scars army that fought on Prefectia. Under the command of the mighty Kor'sarro Khan himself, this Scarblade Strike Force consisted primarily of warriors from the proud and noble 3rd Company. At their side fought supporting elements of the 1st and 10th Companies, while aerial support was lent from the Chapter's Armoury. The Khan's force, built to hunt dangerous prey, was skilled at running a foe to ground and striking hard and fast when the quarry was cornered. Being warriors of the Adeptus Astartes, the Khan's strike force could swiftly tum their hands to whatever task was required; in battles such as Paragus Canyon or the fight for the Andrachon Line during the Battle of Agrellan, they had fought defensive actions with all the determination and tenacity expected of the Emperor's finest. However, these warriors were huntsmen through and through, and their greatest skill lay in the swift and deadly pursuit of the foe.
At the core of this Great Hunt stood a Stormlance Battle Demi-company, made up of 3rd Company Battle-Brothers who had fought beneath the Khan's banner on countless worlds beyond the Damocles Gulf. Seasoned veterans of battling the Tau, every warrior amongst them knew to expect cunning, evasion and overwhelming enemy firepower. Yet they stood undaunted, more determined than ever before to strike down the xenos menace that bedevilled this part of the Emperor's realm. At their head stood Chaplain Jaikhos, a clenched fist of a warrior who, rumour had it, had never shown doubt or uncertainty. Normally sparing with his words, Jaikhos became a bellowing terror in battle, an inspirational firebrand whose transformation was so complete that many amongst the 3rd Company claimed the spirits of war possessed the Chaplain at such times. Beneath Jaikhos' command were three Tactical Squads, proudly displaying the iconography of the White Scars Chapter and the 3rd Company. Each squad rode to war in a Rhino APC to ensure their ability to keep pace with the Khan's rapid way of war, and each bore deadly weaponry, in the form of Bolters and Flamers, with which to hunt their prey.
Alongside this mighty core of superhuman waniors stood the Battle-Brothers of Devastator Squad Sahak, who raced to the front line aboard their Razorback, Vicious Knife. This small band of expert marksmen brought their potent firepower to their brothers' aid, providing the Stormlance Battle Demicompany with tactical versatility and the much-needed ability to eliminate Tau Battlesuits and gunships from extreme range.
The final element of the demi-company, the Land Speeder, Pale Claw, was deftly piloted by a pair of Battle-Brothers who served as advance scouts for their formation and lent their craft's armaments to the fight.
The inclusion of a Storm Wing provided essential aerial support in a theatre of war with constantly shifting air superiority. Comprised of the Stormraven, Khan's Fury, and two Stormtalon escorts, Firebolt Unbound and Cloudsword, the gunships' speed and firepower allowed them to serve in roles as varied as aerial interdiction, ground attack, long-ranged reconnaissance and tank hunting. Here was the perfect instrument with which to strike a mortal blow against any exposed prey.
Finally, Kor'sarro's Speartip Strike formation provided the lightning-fast huntsmen for which his Chapter was famed. Consisting of Land Speeders, several bands of Battle-Brothers mounted upon Assault Bikes, and a detachment of Scout Bikers from the 10th Company, this force possessed sufficient speed and firepower to engage any foe. These warriors could outflank the enemy, encircle their forces, punch through battle lines or eliminate support elements, all the while supporting the resilience and firepower of the rest of the strike force.
The leader of this Great Hunt, Kor'sarro Khan himself, stood amongst the most lauded heroes of the Imperium. As direct and unyielding as a well-forged blade, the Khan is a warrior of violent determination with no time for the niceties of diplomacy or courtly manners. He is a master huntsman whose every thought is bent toward decapitating his oath-sworn prey. Whether mounted upon his famed Assault Bike, Moondrakkan, or hurtling into battle in the armoured hold of a Rhino or Stormraven gunship, the Khan runs his prey to ground with the unfailing tenacity of a born killer. When battle is inevitably joined, his revered blade, Moonfang, whistles out in a silver arc to claim the head of his prey with unerring lethality.
Yet the Khan's barbaric exterior hides a deep spirituality and strategic acumen that makes him a far deadlier opponent than he might at first seem, for he is also an inspiring leader and cunning tactician. Kor'sarro Khan personifies the tip of the hunter's spear, the hardened point of the blade, and his warriors follow him with a devotion bordering upon worship.
The Breaking of the Blades
In the macrostrategy of Kauyon, the Patient Hunter, none were more skilled than Commander Shadowsun -- just as there were no souls on the Eastern Fringe more proficient in lightning-fast attacks than Kor'sarro Khan. On Prefectia, these two extraordinary hunters' contrasting skills would be tested against each other once more.
O'Shaserra's traps had been long set, their resolutions rehearsed over and over. Wherever the Adeptus Astartes broke out of her kill-zones, cadres hidden in the canyons and fissures of Prefectia's crust sped in to intercept, closing the net once more. Hundreds of Space Marines died in these opening stages of the war, and a great many more were sorely wounded. Where the mobile defence networks closed upon their prey, the crossfire was so intense that they could hardly reposition without drifting over the pulse-blasted corpses of the fallen. For the moment, Shadowsun remained aloof, content to watch the carnage on her Drone-net relays with a faint smile on her lips.
The Khan, however, was an enemy of surpassing skill. The Huntmaster had led his Stormlance Battle Demi-company against the outposts west of Siphonid Complex, a long damlike structure of ruined habs and generatoriums. With the base being closest to the Tau command nexus hovering in the southeast, the Khan considered the site the most likely to receive swift reinforcement. Rather than assign one of his Sergeants to its destruction, he took that mission upon himself, hoping to find a challenge worthy of his blade in the process. He was not disappointed.
The White Scars Captain had organised his attack well in advance. His demi-company roared from the lee of the Siphonid Complex to fall upon the grouped hexagon defensive networks of the Tau. At the same time, a Speartip Strike of bikers peeled off from the strike forces negotiating Vaegrus Scar's labyrinthine infrastructure, taking a sharp eastern course to fall upon the Tau site from the west. The Land Speeders of the Khan's Stormbringer Squadron blasted from the ash storm to the south, effortlessly carving over the crevasses that radiated from Thannur Spar.
The three-pronged attack closed on the Tau outpost with perfect timing. Bike-mounted hunters jinked through incoming Pulse Rifle fire, leaning in the saddle and using the solid weight of their machines as a shield. Even those knocked down by direct hits righted their bikes and rejoined the attack, for their Power Armour was proof against the small arms fire of the Tau atop the battlements. The Khan's demi-company attacked from upwind, firing the Smoke Launchers of their Rhinos and Razorbacks one after another to ensure a thick grey haze preceded their assault. The tactic proved invaluable -- without the swirling shroud, the hypervelocity Railguns atop the Tau's Tidewall Gunrig tower would have crippled the transports easily enough, stalling the Khan's advance and destroying the cohesion of his assault. Their deadly projectiles dented and even laid open the transports in places, but did not stop them. The Razorback Vicious Knife slewed to a halt, its side doors thrown open long enough for two Lascannon-armed Devastators to take their shots. Twin beams of intense light pierced the smoke, and the barrels of the Railgun atop the gun tower crashed down in flame to send Fire Warriors scurrying for safety.
The Shas'ui in command of the Tau Tidewall defence network made note of the terrain and the bikers' speed, and was still confident he had time to blunt and encircle the incoming assault. The missile fire of the XV8 Crisis Battlesuits supporting the main garrison sent many oncoming vehicles pin-wheeling into the ash drifts -- their intent was to cut the leading elements from each advancing column until their charges were neutralised completely. As the Tidewall Defence Network began to unfold, the firepower of the Tau garrison thickened with deadly effect, yet they had not taken into account the superior skill the White Scars possessed in navigating their steeds through wartorn battlefields. With a series of jinks, slides and low turns, the Astartes bikers pushed their vehicles to their maximum and hit the defences several moments sooner than the Tau had anticipated.
Even as the ranked Fire Warriors atop the battlements scrabbled for their Photon Grenades, the White Scars were upon them. Battlesuits boosted away, jets flaring, just as the Stormbringer Squadron flew out of the clouds behind them, missiles punching diagonally down to scatter the Crisis suits in disarray. Red-helmed Veterans roared out of the skies alongside the squadron's Stormtalon gunship, Bolt Pistols hammering deadly explosions into the jet packs of their Battlesuited prey. Their Chainswords were not far behind, whirring around to finish the job wherever their headlong charge sent Crisis suits sprawling.
The Tau gun-sites were soon under fierce attack, the jaws of each trap broken wide. Each rampart structure was hit by hissing Melta beams that forced breaches in its outer walls. Rhino personnel carriers followed close behind -- teams of Tactical Marines burst out from the side doors to shoulder through the wall breaches in cherry-red gobbets of molten alloy. The Tau Fire Warriors recovered quickly, pouring fire down into the Space Marines clambering up onto the ramparts. Here and there, the defenders sent a White Scar tumbling away, but with the Hunting Force stitching explosive bolts across the battlements, the garrison found it practically impossible to repel the attack. The Khan himself gained the walls, Moonfang swinging in bloody arcs as he roared his Chapter's battle cry. When Terminator-armoured Veterans teleported in to join their Captain atop the battlements, the butchery of the Tau garrison force began in earnest.
Traps and Snares
- War Zone Damocles - Kauyon (7th Edition), pp. 7 - 102
- Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pp. 17-19, 25, 29
- Codex: Tau Empire (7th Edition), pp. 8, 40-42