"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
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 T'au 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 T'au 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 T'au 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 T'au 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 T'au to guide their ships by conventional means, and protects them from the perils that beset other species.
The downside of the 'au 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.
The T'au 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 T'au 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 T'au, 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 T'au had used a conventional Warp-Drive, the passage would have been impossible, assailed as it was by raging Warp Storms. But the T'au'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 T'au 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 T'au 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 T'au, 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 T'au and fought for many standard years, while others threw down their arms at the first contact with a Water Caste envoy.
The T'au'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 T'au 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 T'au'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 T'au Empire, and so it represented an impressive feat of voidsmanship for the T'au 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 T'au'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 T'au 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 T'au 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 T'au 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 T'au 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 T'au 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 T'au Empire itself.
Fortunately for the T'au, 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 T'au 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 T'au 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 T'au Empire, and is in many ways a semi-autonomous, self-sufficient colony.
When the undertaking was first mooted in the T'au Empire'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 of expansion 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 T'au 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 T'au would claim for their own, and in a single stroke uncounted billions of loyal servants would be brought within the unified T'au 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 Terran years of the undertaking went more or less entirely in the favour of the T'au, with the fleet well able to coerce those Human worlds that refused to join the T'au into doing so. Tsua'Malor was established as the Sept's principal world, and soon two dozen star systems had fallen under its control.
T'au 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 T'au'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 T'au, that next phase of expansion never occurred, for the Imperium discovered the Jericho-Maw Warp Gate at the heart of the Well of Night and launched the Achilus Crusade to expel the T'au from the Jericho Reach.
Imperial forces flooded through the gate in a vengeful storm, descending on the worlds claimed by the T'au 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 people before it could turn its full attentions towards the T'au.
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 core worlds of the T'au Empire. The newly constituted T'au force pushed forwards once more, plunging into the warzone the Imperium calls the Greyhell Front.
And then, Hive Fleet Dagon appeared. The T'au 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 T'au have benefited from the arrival of Hive Fleet Dagon, though their worlds are far from untouched.
T'au 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 T'au in order to defend his own worlds.
The T'au see this turn of events as a repeat of the final days of the Defence of the Damocles Gulf, in which an Imperial Crusade was forced to withdraw from its over-extended assault on the T'au Empire in order to commit every available resource to opposing Hive Fleet Behemoth.
The Achilus Crusade
"Such mindless hatred these humans hold that they must call a "Crusade" to protect themselves from imagined enemies. I did not choose to war with them, but if they so wish it, I shall deliver them to the emperor-god they so adore."
- —Shas'Ui Han'to Tamino, Veren Fire Warrior
The T'au Empire does not seek out war in the same way as the Imperium of Man, nor does it possess the mindless aggression of so many of the other xenos races encountered by the Achilus Crusade.
For the T'au, war is always a measured response to a situation, an exact application of force designed to yield the most advantageous outcome. If the T'au can complete their objectives without the need for conflict, then they will often choose this path, preserving the lives of their warriors and their resources.
When war is unavoidable, or is the most expedient way to expand or protect the empire, then the T'au will not shy away from it. Even though they did not seek it in the first place, like all their undertakings, T'au warfare is carefully considered and meticulously planned.
Unlike the blunt force that the Imperium applies to military engagements, or even the reckless hate and attrition tactics of such species as the Tyranids or Orks, the T'au will only fight where and when they need to, either to break a foe or destroy his command and logistic support. As every Fire Caste general knows, wars are not won by simply dying for what you believe in.
Within the confines of the Jericho Reach, the Velk'han Sept T'au are similar to the rest of their kin in their approach to war. The Mal'caor Shi, the commanding military of the Velk'han Sept, takes the precepts of careful planning and tactical warfare very seriously, perhaps even more so given their distance from the First Phase Worlds of the empire and consequently their reduced access to significant resupply or reinforcement.
Outnumbered many times over by the seemingly endless regiments of the Astra Militarum and the supporting crusade forces, the Mal'caor Shi fights a constant battle of attack and manoeuvre to preserve its forces in the field and across the Greyhell Front.
The arrival of elements of Hive Fleet Dagon has further complicated matters causing "spot fires" to spring up around the Sept and forcing them to divert cadres originally destined to oppose the Humans. The only small consolation is that the Tyranids seem to be tying up Imperial forces as well in their indiscriminate attacks.
Among the greater conflicts taking place between the T'au and the Imperium, the Mal'caor Shi is also aware of the Deathwatch's involvement in the sector. At first little distinction was made between the heavy Human shock troops known as the Adeptus Astartes and the Deathwatch's black-armoured Kill-teams.
Recently though, T'au strategists of the Sept have begun tracking their movements and observing their tactics as a separate entity, with the goal of developing tactics unique to dealing with them.
The T'au see no wisdom in holding ground simply for the sake of protecting a stretch of dirt or the battered ruins of a city or town. Instead T'au warfare is based around the concept of attack and manoeuvre, and often a T'au Hunter Cadre will completely retreat from an area if it means preserving their strength for a decisive counterattack later.
More than one Imperial commander has said that trying to bring a T'au to battle when he doesn't want to is like trying to grasp at smoke or chase shadows. This is largely due to the fact that the T'au always set up their defences, or plan their attacks, with solid tactical retreat plans in place.
Experienced Shas'O will often have multiple rally points, escape routes and contingency plans in place for their force. Thus if they find themselves in an untenable situation, they can order a calm and ordered withdrawal with quick-moving units like Crisis Battlesuits or infiltrated ones like Stealthsuits harassing the enemy and covering the retreat.
T'au armies are often completely mechanised, with ample Devilfish transports for the warriors, allowing them to outpace most enemies.
T'au Technological Superiority
While the Imperium boasts a practically limitless supply of troops to hurl into battle, the T'au's resources are far more modest. This, combined with the value they place on their own troops' lives (even their alien auxiliaries), means that the T'au will try to ensure their soldiers have the best armour, weapons and vehicles they can produce.
In addition, any given task will be performed by a machine (such as a Gun Drone) if possible, rather than place a T'au life at undue risk.
To this end, the T'au have developed an abundance of technology, many examples of which are among the most advanced forms encountered by the Imperium. Compared to the relatively poor equipment of the average Imperial Guardsman, each T'au has at his disposal advanced armour, potent infantry weapons and mechanised support.
T'au Fire Warriors are rarely encountered alone and on foot, and usually have their own dedicated armoured transport to protect them, as well as support from vehicles like Hammerhead or Sky Ray gunships and swarms of drones with a variety of weapon systems.
A greater ratio of technology to troops also means that even the lowliest Fire Warrior La'Rua can call in close air support or the aid of Crisis Battlesuit Teams.
The T'au make extensive use of alien auxiliaries such as Kroot and Vespid mercenaries, numerous minor xenos species and even the Humans called Gue'vesa. These auxiliary troops are vital to the Velk'han Sept's war effort in the Jericho Reach, as the T'au alone could not hope to hold the borders of their empire against the Imperial advance.
As often as not, Deathwatch Kill-teams deployed against the T'au will be facing their allies, and may never come into contact with the grey-skinned aliens at all. This becomes more prevalent for operations on the Imperial edges of the Greyhell Front, where the T'au employ large numbers of their auxiliaries as a buffer between their Sept and the Humans.
While most of the auxiliaries a Kill-team will encounter will be thoroughly indoctrinated into the philosophies of the Greater Good, some may not be so committed to the T'au cause.
This can be especially true among the Human regiments under T'au command or among some of the aliens indigenous to the Jericho Reach, which are simply fighting for their homeworlds and have little love of either the T'au Empire or the Imperium.
Notable Sept Worlds
- Ag'Ni - Originally seen by the T'au 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 T'au 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 "T'au 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 T'au 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 T'au 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 T'au 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 T'au 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 T'au who are referred to as the "Grey Kings." Every so often, the high king sends the most technologically adept of the population to the T'au living in orbit on void stations as a sort of tithe. The T'au 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 T'au as a perfect planet for colonisation. The initial diplomacy went well, but Jaya's Humans ultimately resisted the attempt at incorporation in the T'au Empire with war once they realised the T'au wished to annex their world. Six solar months after the outbreak of hostilities, the T'au had more or less subdued the Humans and integrated them as reluctant Gue'vesa allies. Solar decades later after more or less stable T'au 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 T'au were luckily able to "rec-code" them to prevent mental and genetic corruption.
- Justertii - Justertii is a barren world found within the portion of the Jericho Reach under T'au control. Lying in the otherwise starless depths trailing the Black Reef, Justertii represents an undiscovered enigma. Once an Aeldari "Maiden World" -- a planet seeded long ago by the Aeldari for future settlement -- Justertii is now a desolate waste studded with the blasted remains of Aeldari wraithbone structures. None can tell what fate befell the world and caused it to become a rogue far from whatever star must have birthed it. To date, both Imperial and T'au scouts have logged the existence of the world, yet it appears to be subject to some unfathomable process that causes it to vanish from the void and to reappear elsewhere.
- Krrk'tikit - Initially dismissed as a barren, featureless rock by T'au observers, the Vespid would beg to disagree. Upon traversing underground, the insectoid aliens discovered massive, crystal-filled caves. After this discovery, the T'au 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, Tsua'Malor 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 after 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. Zurcon weathered the the Jericho Reach's Age of Shadow mostly intact, but became a prime target of the T'au Empire's drive for conquest after its expansion into the Jericho Reach. Infiltration of the world's Human ruling class by Gue'vesa agents has succeeded and now the T'au 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
- Deathwatch: The Jericho Reach (RPG), pp. 98-99