- "The Imperium wields might without mercy and influence without temperance. Only by following the way of the Greater Good will they ever learn the error of their ways and know order, wisdom and unity."
- — Aun'O Tsualal
Velk'Han is a Sept of the Tau Empire in close proximity to the Jericho Reach. It is also one of the Septs furthest away from the Tau homeworld of T'au. As a result, its existence is considered by many to be a great credit to the prowess and tenacity of the Air Caste as it managed to not only reach, but also settle, such a far-off world. Unfortunately, for much the same reason, this Sept is a great source of anger for the Imperium of Man and is a key reason why the High Lords of Terra commissioned the start of the Achilus Crusade to retake the Jericho Reach.
The Tau Empire's expansion has been dictated by the constraints of the methods its starships use to cross the vast gulfs of space separating the stars. The Tau do not make use of Navigators in the sense that Humanity does, and neither do they utilise any of the esoteric or outright sorcerous methods that allow the other intelligent races of the galaxy to navigate the Warp. It has been posited by the Imperium's xenobiologists that the Tau have very little perception of the Warp, a fact that may serve to protect them against the predations of the denizens of the Empyrean but that also blinds them to the power it offers. In order to cross interstellar space, the Tau utilise a purely technological solution that allows their vessels to make short jumps, effectively "skimming" the surface of the Warp without immersing themselves in its seething depths. It appears that entering only the shallows of the Sea of Souls allows the Tau to guide their ships by conventional means, and protects them from the perils that beset other species. The downside of the Tau method of interstellar travel is that longer jumps are impossible, making it far slower than other methods of faster-than-light travel. To date, this has not been a major issue for the empire's expansion, because the stellar cluster which it occupies is so dense that each Sept is only a short jump away from the next.
They Tau discovered the secrets of interstellar travel through reverse-engineering the wreckage of an alien vessel discovered on a moon of their home planet. The Jericho Reach was discovered in a similar and equally serendipitous manner. On the world of Landfall at the very edge of the Tau Empire, Earth Caste explorers discovered an ancient tablet crafted by the hands of some long-fallen alien civilisation. Upon examination by the greatest minds amongst the Tau, the tablet was determined to represent a star chart, plotting a fast and safe route through the Warp to a distant region of space. The discovery was made all the more fortuitous by the fact that if the Tau had used a conventional Warp-Drive, the passage would have been impossible, assailed as it was by raging Warp Storms. But the Tau's gravitic-effect "skimming" drives allowed them to anchor themselves on the emanations of the distant Black Reef, and although the passage was not an easy one, most of the force sent to scout the passage made it through safely.
Armed with their knowledge of the passage between Landfall and the Black Reef, the Tau can move forces between the two regions far faster than would otherwise be possible. The alien star chart is perhaps one of the closest guarded secrets of the Velk'Han Sept, and Earth Caste explorers from the Sept are busily engaged seeking similar artefacts with which to fuel the dynamic expansion of their species into a new region. Small Tau expeditionary forces comb the Jericho Reach in search of such secrets, a fact that the Imperium has yet to become fully aware of.
Establishment of Velk'Han Sept
The Velk'Han Sept is comprised of a cluster of worlds that have fallen entirely to the forces of the Tau, their human populations turned from the Pax Imperium to the collectivist doctrine that is the Greater Good. Just how compliant the humans are in this process depends on the world in question, for some resisted the coming of the Tau and fought for many standard years, while others threw down their arms at the first contact with a Water Caste envoy. The Tau's effort to insinuate themselves within the Jericho Reach is an unusual one, for it marks a departure from their well-established patterns of expansion and conquest. The Tau Empire has thus far expanded its holdings in concerted, species-wide efforts, the forces of a number of Septs spreading outwards to bring a new "sphere" of space within the Tau's influence and establish still more Septs within it. The Velk'Han Sept was established outside of this pattern, representing not an empire-wide Crusade into surrounding space, but a single, concerted strike across the void towards a very specific, discrete region. The Jericho Reach is quite some distance from the dense stellar cluster in the Eastern Fringe occupied by the Tau Empire, and so it represented an impressive feat of voidsmanship for the Tau to even reach it, and a daring display of military skill to capture as many worlds as they did in such a short time.
The Tau's interest in a region so far from their own domains was one of the main factors that caused the High Lords of Terra to declare the Achilus Crusade. In the aftermath of the abortive Damocles Gulf Crusade, the Tau not only retook the worlds they had lost to the Imperium, but exploited the momentum of their counter-advance to take hold of many more human-owned star systems. Given the calamitous events that enfolded during the Battle of Macragge, few in the Imperium were overly concerned for the fate of a handful of frontier systems. Others, however, still brooded on the events of the Damocles Gulf Crusade, and were fearful of the Tau poisoning more sectors with their vile philosophies. It was these men, such as Confessor Gurney of the Ecclesiarchy, who warned of the perniciousness of the Tau and the danger of them being allowed to expand into worlds far beyond their empire. With the Jericho Reach accessible once more thanks to the opening of the Warp Gate, many great and powerful men swore that never again would the Tau or any other xenos species be allowed to pluck away human worlds while the Imperium's gaze was turned elsewhere. What happened in the aftermath of the Damocles Gulf Crusade would not be repeated, it was promised. The Tau would not only be swept from the newly accessible Jericho Reach, but driven back to their empire by a vengeful Imperial Crusade that would not stop until a new front had been opened up against the Tau Empire itself. Fortunately for the Tau, they were sufficiently established in their new Sept to resist the initial advances of the Achilus Crusade, and the other belligerents active in the region diverted the Imperium's attention away from committing overwhelming forces against the Sept. Now, the Tau are engaged in an effort to eject the Imperium from the Greyhell Front. When this occurs, millions of sympathisers on the worlds of the Canis Salient will rise up against their oppressors and the Tau will push the Imperium all the way back along the Salient and cast it into the depths of the Well of Night.
The Way of War
- "We make war because we must; they make war because they know no other existence."
- — Shas'O' M'yen
The Velk'Han Sept exists outside of the mainstream of the Tau Empire, and is in many ways a semi-autonomous, self-sufficient colony. When the undertaking was first mooted in the Tau's ruling Council of the Highest there was a degree of opposition to the venture, with the most senior of the Earth Caste arguing that maintaining and supporting a new Sept so far outside of the empire's conventional spheres would put a huge drain on resources and require significant assets to be diverted from other fronts. The debate was ultimately carried by a combination of Fire Caste belligerence and Water Caste ambition. The warrior caste argued that only by aggressive expansion into new regions of the galaxy would the human and other empires see both the might, and the right of the Tau way. The caste of envoys and traders saw the benefits of contact with so many worlds not ruled by the Imperium, declaring that this new region would be brought within the Greater Good for the benefit of all. What the Imperium had abandoned, the allied castes promised, the Tau would claim for their own, and in a stroke uncounted billions of loyal servants would be brought within the unified Tau Empire.
Despite the bold words, all knew that the establishment of the new Sept would be a bold undertaking, and once agreed, the Council of the Highest focused all of its attentions on the effort. A mighty war fleet was mustered, consisting of forces drawn from all of the existing Septs and all of the castes. This fleet was instructed to cross the void and establish a bridgehead on the coreward marches of the Jericho Reach, where it would consolidate and establish itself as a self-sufficient entity. While the other Septs would still contribute towards the ongoing war effort, the Velk'Han Sept was expected to be able to raise its own forces within as short a time as possible, so as not to place a drain on the Empire.
The first few standard years of the undertaking went more or less entirely in the favour of the Tau, with the fleet well able to coerce those human worlds that refused to join the Tau into doing so. Tsua'Malor was established as the Sept's principle world, and soon two-dozen star systems had fallen under its control. Tau expeditionary forces ranged far and wide, probing towards the heart of the Reach and bringing the truth of the Greater Good to ever more worlds. Even when outlying, newly-contacted worlds refused to join the empire, the Water Caste envoys worked hard to sow the seeds of the Tau's doctrine within the hearts and minds of the peoples of the Reach, ready to be reaped at some point in the future as the Sept expanded.
Sadly for the Tau, that next phase of expansion never occurred, for the Imperium discovered the Warp Gate at the heart of the Well of Night and launched the Achilus Crusade to expel the Tau from the Jericho Reach. Imperial forces flooded through the gate in a vengeful storm, descending on the worlds claimed by the Tau and those they had established relations with and purging any who had truck with the alien empire. In those first, desperate days the only thing that saved the Sept from complete collapse was the actions of the Imperium against the peoples of its former realm. Almost every human world the Crusade came upon refused to re-submit to the Emperor's rule, and the Imperium was forced to fight a war of reconquest against its own peoples before it could turn its full attentions towards the Tau.
Velk'Han used this brief period of respite to undertake a massive program of arms manufacture and recruitment, and was bolstered by additional forces despatched from the distant Tau Empire. The newly constituted Tau force pushed forwards once more, plunging into the warzone the Imperium calls the Greyhell Front. And then, Hive Fleet Dagon appeared. The Tau had only limited experience fighting the Tyranids, and were fortunate indeed to avoid the worst of the ravenous aliens' attentions. In the short term, the Tau have benefited from the arrival of Hive Fleet Dagon, though their worlds are far from untouched. Tau spies report that Tyranid forces are putting increasing pressure on the worlds of the Canis Salient, and soon Lord Commander Sebiascor Ebongrave, commander of the Imperial forces in that region, will be forced to withdraw forces committed against the Tau in order to defend his own worlds. The Tau see this turn of events as a repeat of the closing of the Defence of the Damocles Gulf, in which an Imperial Crusade was forced to withdraw from its over-extended assault on the Tau Empire in order to commit every available resource to opposing Hive Fleet Behemoth.
Notable Worlds of the Velk'Han Sept
- Ag'Ni - Originally seen by the Tau Empire as a world perfectly suited to settlement, this was not to be the case. Ag'Ni is home to aggressive microbial life forms that are devoted to repelling any and all off-world presence, as was the case with the unfortunate Tau colonists. The Earth Caste has now devoted their technology and time to terraforming Ag'Ni for a chance at a more hospitable environment. In the meantime, Fire Caste commanders have used Ag'Ni as a testing ground for powerful experimental weapons.
- Amenophis IV
- Ea - Ea is a sort of "Tau Pleasure World" used by the Ethereal Caste as a place of meditation, retirement, and relaxation. The planet is composed of tiny islands fixed atop a vividly colored violet sea. When the Tau discovered that mankind had never set foot on this paradise, they quickly colonised it.
- Highlock IV - High gravity and plains of ice and snow have produced a hairy, large race of Abhumans not too dissimilar from the massive Ogryns. The population of Highlock IV have since been used by the Tau Fire Caste as skilled, dedicated shock troops known as the Highlock Freemen who are often used to break open entrenched enemy infantry formations.
- Innana - Desirable minerals and ores are beneath the surface of this coveted, human-settled world. Upon being encountered by the growing Tau Empire, the native humans were offered two choices: to serve as a labour force in their homeworld's new mines or be transferred off-world to other areas of the Velk'Han Sept. The humans agreed to leave Innana, and the planet's resources are being used by the Tau to repel the Imperial presence on the Greyhell Front.
- Iphigenia - Seven billion humans have made their home on Iphingenia, living in relatively advanced, Iron Age barbaric tribes. The tribes are somewhat feudal in structure, each led by a tribal king, who are in turn ruled by a High King. However, this High King pays fealty to the Tau who are referred to as the Grey Kings. Every so often, the High King sends the most technologically adept of the population to the Tau in orbit as a sort of tithe. The Tau reeducate them, and these humans are eventually assigned to Earth and Air Caste work teams.
- Jaya - Naturally abundant in resources, humans had colonised this planet many standard millennia ago forming a culturally and technologically advanced society. The "Jayans" had gone through the Jericho Reach's Age of Shadow with little incident, but their homeworld was seen by the Tau as a perfect planet for colonisation. The initial diplomacy went well, but Jaya's humans ultimately resisted the attempt at incorporation in the Tau Empire with war once they realised the Tau wished to annex their world. Six solar months after the outbreak of hostilities, the Tau had more or less subdued the humans and integrated them as reluctant Gue'vesa allies. Solar decades later after more or less stable Tau rule, Hive Fleet Dagon encroached upon the Velk'han Sept and made their way to Jaya. Infection by the Hive Fleet's Genestealer outriders among isolated pockets of humans did occur, but the Tau were luckily able to "rec-code" them to prevent mental and genetic corruption.
- Krrk'tikit - Initially dismissed as a barren, featureless rock by Tau observers, the Vespid would beg to disagree. Upon traversing underground, the insectoid aliens discovered massive, crystal-filled caves. After this discovery, the Tau were more or less happy to give this world to their allies. The Vespid proceeded to build massive hives beneath the featureless surface of the planet.
- Tsua'Malor - The capital world of the Velk'han Sept and a source of pride for the Earth Caste, this planet is the headquarters of the Mal'caor Shi. Originally Tsua'Malor was settled by humans, but the Earth Caste has since transformed it into a "shining example of civilisation and enlightenment."
- Va'Jiya - A Feral World covered in jungles, swamps, and dark forests, Va'Jiya has a peculiar ecosystem. Va'Jiya's plant life rapidly blooms and grows during the day, but quickly rots and deteriorates during nightfall. A human population present on the world long ago collapsed into tribal warfare in which the now-primitive tribes ceaselessly raid each other.
- Vallia - Vallia is an uninhabitable Death World sharing a peculiar ecosystem with its "sister planet" Va'Jiya. However, in the case of Vallia, every plant, animal, and microbial life form is connected by a massive, hostile gestalt intelligence utterly devoted to preventing alien, off-world colonisation.
- Zurcon - The humans who long ago settled the Civilised World of Zurcon were once held in high regard by the Imperium of Man. Zircon weathered the the Jericho Reach's Age of Shadow mostly intact, but became a prime target of the Tau Empire's drive for conquest after its expansion into the Jericho Reach. Infiltration of the world's ruling class by Gue'vesa agents has succeeded and now the Tau direct Zurcon's elite to unknowingly wage war against their former masters in the Achilus Crusade.
- Deathwatch: The Achilus Assault (RPG), pp. 16, 102, 107, 110, 112, 114-117