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They were dying, it was that simple. Oh, it was a slow enough process, but it was one they couldn’t afford to let continue. The asteroids that had been their homes for so long were now doomed, their resources sapped and now with the encroachment of the Mon’Keigs into the surrounding systems it was clear that even the slipping stasis they had been in would soon be shattered.
Farseer Sial’Hred sat on a large, pure-white pedestal of wraithbone, which pulsated with light as he searched for a future. A future for the Eldar of the Holit’ar fleet to thrive and grow in. However, what he sought was blocked from him in this time of greatest need, only small unimportant matters and vague hints to their outcomes as he cast the runestones again and again.
It hit him suddenly like a great solar flare, he could almost feel wind blasting by his ears as he was thrown towards some far off world. It was an azure sphere of oceans, and he saw a large ring of mountains on the continent he saw. It’s moon was black and compacted, running with streams of molten rock, almost as if it were bleeding.
Then everything shifted abruptly, and he saw dozens of large warships around the planet along with innumerable fighters, escorts, and cargo vessels. They were unlike any he’d seen, smooth and curved but lacking the grand sails of Eldar craft. Orbiting, moving to and fro in constant vigil, the Farseer wondered what this had to do with them...
He felt the force as the vision was jerked to another location, an unfamiliar one, one with cloudy skies lit red by fires below and filled with the bodies of the dead. Most of the bodies were clad in armor that covered them almost completely, hiding their faces and skin from view. The only difference were a few lacked helmets, revealing blue skin and gaunt faces screwed up with death-pain but the Farseer felt no pity for them. Another group of these alien soldiers came over the hill, their helmets glowing with a red light that he assumed allowed those within to sense the enemy in some way. Going down on their knees, they raised long rifles to the distance. Tracing their barrels he saw that they were targeting eldar warriors, armed with shuriken catapults which were also raised.
The Eldar shot first, however their catapults were unable to fire accurately, and between the hundreds of monomolecular discs only a few struck home. One of the aliens fell, the others shrugging off the hits as they bounced off their armor. However, they would likely get the same results with their weapons, so the Farseer thought as he watched. He was stunned when a torrent of blue spheres of plasma not only reach the Eldar warriors, but hit them accurately and powerfully. There was a sudden explosion from the Eldar position, and he saw strange shadows dissolving as they also fired blue death.
Another shift in the vision. Already shocked by the sight of the slaughter of Eldar warriors, he felt growing unease in this void. Then he saw something in the distance, a large figure. There was a low glow coming from half a dozen thrusters on it’s back, and it seemed to be completely metallic. In it’s right hand was a large blade, and on the other was a rifle that glowed with heat. It’s cubic head turned suddenly towards him, soon followed by the rest of it’s body. Streaking towards him with it’s sword brandished, silhouetted by the now bright thrusters. He had no time for contemplation as his eyes traveled back to it’s head. The only detail he could make out was a large, red, eye-like light that seemed to pierce him. As the monster raised it’s sword, he felt as if all of space around him cried in unison, a mighty chorus of united voices screaming one terrible phrase, “TAU’VA ”
The vision stopped so suddenly he wasn’t aware of it, until he realized the cry had stopped. Opening his eyes, he saw his runestones scattered before him haphazardly. His breathing was deep and labored, and he had to forcibly calm the storm of panic that had invaded his mind. Then he heard it, whispers of the warp reaching to him. Hard to understand at first, he concentrated on them, but he only managed to make out two words before they faded completely with the vision. One was a name, “Dal’tora”. The other was, quite simply, “Death”.
Part I- Contact
He was not in a good mood, and one could almost see it permeating off of his muscular frame. Though little more than above average for most races, for a Tau he was almost freakishly strong in body. Many whispered his strength in body was to make up for the lack of mind. He knew this, because his hearing was rather adept as well. But he’d grown used to the mockery, it didn’t bother him anymore.
What did bother him was the fact that his failures were projected onto his troops as well. It filled him with a rage quelled only by the constant reminder that the Greater Good would prevail in the end. Not that the anger was currently being quelled, as one could tell. Unlike most Tau who wore long, loose robes when not in battle he choose a sleeveless vest and pants. Also unlike most Tau who didn’t carry weapons most of the time, he had a pistol on his left hip and a sword on his right.
The bridge was unusually quiet and tense, enough to make himself forget about the anger he’d felt about being awoken a mere hour after being relieved from duty. He walked up to the main control panels, a raised area overlooking the rest of the bridge where Kor’O Bel’Tier stood. He bowed his head in respect of the older, and taller Tau, “Kor’O. Forgive me for being blunt, but why for the Tau’va did you send for me?”
Chuckles came from the commander, his elegant uniform rippling with the movement. His hair was fading in his age, wrinkles marring the once-smooth skin. His large, dark eyes had lost none of their youthful fire though, a fire that matched the younger Shas beside him, “You are forgiven Shas’El. I called you because we have a situation developing, and I don’t like it.”
“Oh? And how does it pertain to me?”
Eyes narrowing, Bel’Tier said in a low voice, “Three small ships just appeared at the edge of our sensor range. They don’t match any Gue’la vessels we’ve seen, and they definitely aren’t Orks. You’ve experience with things we haven’t seen before...”
“You mean Tal’son, don’t you?” Mont’Ein asked with a low, threatening tone, “I’d prefer to avoid further ridicule for that if you don’t mind.”
“No young ‘Sel’yon’, I do not seek to ridicule you in any way. I was informed of your colorful history when your cadre’s Manta was assigned to my ship. Sel’yon, Phantom Hunter, I’ve never seen reason to doubt you in the time you’ve been on my ship, and I see no reason to believe you were lying then. However, you’ve been far out into the fringes with your Kroot warriors. Do you remember what you saw on Tal’son?”
The images came back, unbidden and unwanted. Rows of shambling skeletons, with blood red and black armor, carrying weapons that glowed sickly green. Their heads were white, and they were all identical, except for one. That one, carrying a staff of power and pointing outwards in a silent order to advance. But the green hell fire in it’s eyes as it looked at him... That’s what he remembered most, “Yes, I remember.”
“Are these similar in any way?”
On one of the overhead displays, a fuzzy image appeared. After several seconds the computer filled in the spaces, and showed a small ship with a strange, fin-like construct. Though alien, it was not the same at all, “No, this is something different.”
“Kor’O They’re approaching One of them is hailing the fleet.”
Suddenly, the main display on the front of the bridge shifted showing a pale-faced humanoid. Mont’Ein’s first thought was Gue’la, but no... This one was too, perfect. Long hair and lithe, sharp features it wasn’t Gue’la. Not to mention it had pointed ears, something he’d never heard of Gue’la having. This was something else, and he wasn’t sure if he liked the feeling he was getting in his stomach.
“Greetings Tau of A’ava,” he began, smiling a ruthless smile, “I know you can understand me. You live close enough to them to know the Mon’keig language. Forgive me for not addressing you in your tongue, but I feel one inferior language is enough burden for my mind...”
“Do you understand him Shas’El?”
“Yes, he’s speaking Gothic. It’s the language Gue’la use. Arrogant creature... He’s calling our language inferior...”
“You see, normally I wouldn’t even bother speaking to you, but it seems that you’ve made a mistake. The planet you call ‘A’ava’ is in fact Dal’tora, and it belongs to us. You’re understanding isn’t necessary, merely that you leave. Or die.”
“Is this wise, Farseer?”
“The future can not be seen, all of our attempts since have brought us back to the same vision. However, what can be concluded from this? Either the planet harbors some great destruction that will seek us out, and we should try to prevent it... Or it is a trap waiting for us to arrive.”
“Which do you believe?”
The eldar’s face darkened, eyes looking back out to the stars, “I believe we are going to our doom.”
“Then why do we continue? The trip there is dangerous enough, we are risking everyone’s lives just to arrive at the system. And you believe we are doomed even if we do arrive... So why?”
“Why? Why indeed. Why do the stars shine, young one?”
“...Because, they are-“
“No no, you are incorrect already. The stars shine because they must. We move forward because we must, turning back is not an option for our race. To turn back is to turn towards the Fall, the death of everything we are. No, we continue forward because we must. This world, Dal’tora is in our future, for better or worse.”
“...So, our die is cast then?”
“Indeed, indeed it is.”
Part II - Negotiation
The ships maintained a low orbit, surrounded by Tau cruisers who swarmed about them at a respectful distance. It was a miracle that they hadn’t been obliterated already; After the initial threat the general censuses between the Air and Fire castes were to show them the might of the Tau Empire and the fate of all who stood against the Greater Good. Only the quick actions of Aun’O Hial’tah, the greatest of great Ethreals on A’ava had spared the alien ‘El’dar’.
Water caste delegates had been in constant communications with them ever since, a straight three days of talks that finally seemed to be getting results. However, the Fire caste of A’ava were all preparing for the worst. Shas’O Y’aes Shi’on was standing, looking out from the turret of her Hammerhead Command Variant Gunship. They were moving at a leisurely pace, the wind tossing her ponytail only slightly as she observed the other unit’s movements through her binoculars.
Reaching to her ear, she pressed the audio receiver closer to her ear and activated her own radio, “What is it?”
“You wished to know when the negotiations would start anew; They are about to. The transmission is being forwarded to your gunship as we speak.”
“Thank you, Tau’va.”
Turning off her communicator, she ducked down into the turret, pulling the hatch shut as she did, before carefully making her way to the main view screen just below her. Displayed was a digital read-out of the terrain and the relative location of all the gunships and transports under her command. With the pressing of a few buttons however, the transmission changed to show the same El’dar who had originally contacted them.
“Ah, Fio’O. I trust that our proposal was acceptable to your leaders?”
“To a point, yes Yuodol. However, we will not accept your presence on our world unless you agree to become apart of our Empire.”
“That is out of the question I’m afraid. We are a sovereign people, not a primitive race that you can simply force into servitude.”
“We do not ask you to become servants, merely to join the Tau in working towards the Greater Good, as equals,” The water caste negotiator told Yuodol, emphasizing ‘equals’.
The eldar representative seemed to contemplate the offer for a moment, before asking, “Besides residence on the planet, what else would this alliance offer us? What have you to barter with to keep us from simply taking what we want?”
“Residence, and access to our technology.”
“So we get to live on our home, and have our technology set back several thousand years. I must say, it’s an intriguing offer, but I’m afraid you’ll need a bit more to convince me.”
“Then what do you want from us?”
“We want our planet. If you wish to inhabit it as well, you’ll do so on our terms.”
“Forgive me for saying, but you are in no position to be dictating terms to us. You lack the power to back them up.”
“And forgive me for saying, but you haven’t even seen a fraction of what we can do. These talks are at an end. Goodbye.”
Out in space, the three finned ships came around from the dark side of the planet, basking the glow of A’ava’s sun. They shot off, as if catching some invisible wind. Before any orders could be issued, they had slipped between the cruisers that had been targeting them. Caught off guard, the ships were slow to turn, and before they could fire upon the eldar ships they had escaped their weapons’ range and showed no signs of slowing down.
Down on the planet, Shas’O Y’aes stared at the now-blank screen. She felt a chill running through her body. The negotiations had failed... Now the war would begin. And she wasn’t sure which would win.
“The scout ships have returned, they weren’t spotted.”
“Good, that’s very good. What did they find?”
“They were able to detect four separate webway portals, two of which would be large enough to allow Falcon tanks and Wraithlords through with little difficulty, but they will all need to be mended before they can be used.”
“I see... I don’t believe we could get close enough to the planet to transport down enough forces to complete this task without being seen...”
Suddenly, one of the captains chuckled slightly. All turned towards him, and then a Farseer asked, “What is it, Yuodol?”
“It’s true, we wouldn’t be able to get enough forces on the ground to repair the portals safely. Not without our ships being spotted, and certainly not without our intentions being discovered. However, our luck has been good so far, has it not?”
“What do you mean?”
“We moved our fleet through the Warp, and we did it without attracting too much undue attention. Granted, it was a very short trip but all the same. I believe we chose the right path, the path of destiny.”
“So what do you propose then?”
“We’ll play with these ‘Tau’ for a while. Let us send several small ships, an ‘envoy’ of sorts to go and enter into talks with them about something. Demand they give us back our planet for one reason or another. That would allow us to get close enough to the planet to move our forces down to the portals, then we could slip away and wait for the portals to be mended and our troops to gather on the surface.”
“...And then what?”
Yuo’dol smirked, “Why, we attack.”
Part III - The Race
The track was a massive obstacle course snaking it’s way through the desert-outskirts of the city. And along the right side of the majority of it, were stands. These stands held row upon row of Tau, urging on their favorite Piranha pilot. The races had continued, despite the constant threat of attack. Many commanders of the Fire Caste had expressed the concern that having such activities was a dangerous waste, and that they should have been preparing for the upcoming battle. There was no way to tell the strength of the enemy force, nor if they would be able to make planet-fall. If they were, having such a group gathered together outside of the shelters was going to be disastrous.
The only difference was the substantial honor guard that had been placed around the main stadium. A stop-gap to help maintain order if quick evacuations had to be ordered. Even they couldn’t help but be distracted by the ongoing event every so often as well, such as that moment. Like a stampede of metal, twelve blurred silver and blue shapes streaked by, leaving only a huge cloud of dust and the roar of engines in their wake. Each was a long, narrow bodied craft that could sit two people, with a rectangular fusion blaster mounted in the nose. On either side of the craft, at the very front were two cubical anti-gravity engines that both pushed the vehicle away from the ground and pulled it forward at incredible speeds. Extending out from each engine was a specially designed wing, the tips made of the distinct saucer-heads of gun drones, their pulse carbines hanging below menacingly.
Shas’Ui Sal’Hen stood by one of the dark entrance hallways, a sentinel of the fire caste. A bored sentinel at that. Her armor and helmet were a dark, royal blue and the cloth uniform underneath was a lighter shade of gray. The massive shoulder-pad on her left shoulder was the same color of blue, but it bore the symbol of the Tau Empire in it’s center, a reminder that she served the Greater Good. She looked impressive enough, but in truth she would’ve much rather been preparing with the rest of her cadre than guarding the races. Oh, she had been an avid fan of the piranha races when she was younger, as all Tau of A’ava were. However, after she had been in battle, campaigning against the enemies of the Greater Good... She’d lost the wonder that she had associated with it at first. The speed lost it’s attraction, now she only cared about effectiveness. Looking on, she sighed as she remembered all of the friends who had piloted piranhas in service of the Tau’va... Piloting their own metal coffins as it were...
As she turned her head, scanning the stands through her helmet’s view screen, she saw something move. Turning back quickly, she just caught one of the honor guard disappear into the shadows of an entranceway to a storage area. One moment, he was there and the next... Perhaps it was a trick of the screen, or her imagination. Switching over to squad com, she asked, “Shas’la Ra’li? Respond. Shas’la, are you there? Does anyone know what happened to him?”
“Did he leave his post? Probably hungry,” one of the other firewarriors in the squad muttered, the boredom clear in his voice.
“No, he would’ve checked in. Everyone go on standby, I’m going to check it out.”
Striding towards the dark hall way that led back into the city, she un-shouldered her pulse rifle, holding it ready at her waist. No one paid any mind to her, to absorbed in the race as once again the pack of piranhas rocketed by. She clicked the safety off, and felt the reassuring vibration of energy coils readying themselves to unleash plasma and the soft blue glow resonating from the end of the barrel.
Glancing into the shadows, using the plasma glow like a light, she asked, “Shas’la? Are you alright?”
Stepping forward, she felt her foot hit something. Looking down, she saw she was walking in a pool of blood. And Shas’la Ra’li’s head was right next to her, a large gash cut straight through the helmet. Suddenly, everything seemed to stop. All thoughts ceased, and only instinct remained. On pure reaction, she un-clipped a photon grenade from her belt and primed it for detonation. Starting to toss it, she felt her left arm give way. Looking down casually, she noticed that there was now a gash that had gone straight through her limb, only just missing the bone. Then the grenade, which had traveled far shorter down the hall than she had wanted, exploded in a blast of light and sound. Looking back, the after glow revealed to her a full twenty warriors.
Clad in tight, blue armor, they were taller than most gue’la she had seen. Perhaps that was because of their elongated helmets, stretching upwards in an exaggerated fashion. Each held a weapon about the size of her pulse rifle, but with no barrel apparent. Each was turned away, shielding their eyes from the blast.
Using her good arm, she raised the rifle as high as she could and began to spray wildly, the recoil too much to handle effectively with one arm. Turning while she did this, she didn’t even bother looking at the results of her attack, running back to the stands. Many had turned to see what was going on. All she could yell as she dove behind the first step of the stadium-like structure was, “Get down!”
Rolling, she only managed to stop herself four stands down. Looking back up, she watched with horror at the sight. A child, no more than 9 Tau’cyr stood looking towards the darkness. Then some kind of luminescent disk flew straight through his chest, blood splattering out from the wound. Hundreds, thousands more followed, cutting through his flesh and robe like paper. Bone, blood, and pieces of what once were organs and muscles fell apart in a splash of gore. Others fell, each sliced into hundreds of pieces trying to get away from the slaughter.
Crawling upwards, she ignored the mass of people running away, and instead grasped the tattered and gristly robe of the boy with her still-functioning hand, letting her rifle lay at her side for a moment. Deep within her a rage unlike any she had ever felt before was kindled. Hatred, pure and clear hatred writhed in her chest, a lust for blood, for vengeance. Vengeance for this unknown child, innocent to war but cut down all the same. Grasping another grenade, she activated it with some difficulty and tossed it over the step. A sharp sound of shouting, then an explosion rocked the stands. This had caught the aliens by surprise, they were expecting another flash grenade. A body flew overhead, torn and broken by the blast. Smirking in satisfaction, she made sure her rifle was set to short range setting, then raised herself over the edge of her cover.
Left arm forward, using her shoulder pad as a shield, she held the pulse rifle against it for support as she had been taught. Blue hellfire erupted from her weapon then, pulse after pulse of plasma firing into the darkness. She didn’t bother aiming, just swept her weapon back and forth, absorbing the recoil with her shoulder and yelling, “Tau’va!”
The strange disks of her attackers soared out to silence her, but many missed the small target she presented. However, she knew not to press her luck and dropped back down quickly. Glancing to her shoulder, she saw to her horror that one of the disks had lodged itself into the armor there. What it was, she couldn’t fathom, but it presented a great threat to her and the other members of the Fire Caste. She heard the distinct whir of the disk weapons being fired, alongside the familiar discharge of pulse fire.
The Eldar invasion had begun.
After a long hiatus, 'The Ruin of A'ava' is back, complete with part three. Hope it was worth the wait.
"My capacity for hard work is immense. It's my willingness to do said work that's lacking..."
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Shas'El A'ava Mont'Ein D'ran O'Kroot - Tau Fluff HERE
Well done, you present a clear story and a good cast of characters.
(><) This is Dead Bunny.
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