"The Old Ones created the Eldar and the Orks to retain a balance in the universe after their passing. But as the Orks continue to expand uncontrollably whilst the Eldar Empire collapsed, that very balance is being threatened."

Inquisitor Amelda Eisenhorn, Ordo Hereticus.

Shas'ui Gialia looked through his scope and watched the green tide. The Orks were approaching from the distance, so many of them that they could be mistaken for a forest growing out of nowhere in the middle of the dessert. The intelligence had reported the incoming of twelve million Greenskins. Not for a moment had Gialia thought it was a mere exaggeration.

The stability and unity it once stood for was evaporating for the Tau Empire recently, especially after Farsight's betrayal. For so long they had looked down upon the Imperium as backward and unkempt compared to what they had achieved, a few ill designed tanks and poorly armed guardsman, until a few centuries back when the human started a reform which ended with flying colors, making the empire realise the full might that could be brought against them. The humans were a formidable foe now, much unlike before. In a bloody final push, they had captured T'ros, the mining world that used to be the cemetery of their ascendants. The Second Damocle Gulf Crusade was also a success, undoing everything the Tau had so arduously managed during the Third Sphere.

And just to complicate the situation, there came the Orks. Usually, fighting these brainless creatures was simple, a few scattered warbands. But now, under the charismatic leadership of Warboss Dakastinz, the Waaagh! had turned out to be the largest one the Tau Empire had ever encountered. With an army of over ten billions plus an armada of Kroozers and Hulks, the Orks had swept though the sector like a swarm of locusts, and laid waste upon three Sept worlds in quick succession.

They were here, on Fio'la, gateway to the very homeworld of the Tau Empire. Should it fall, the Orks would be nigh unstoppable. Seeing the scale of the invasion, Gialia doubted their chances.

The first wave on attackers came in just before noon. Leading the lines, as always, were the cannon-fodder, Gretchins. Small, spindly creatures who immediately died in droves to the guns of the Tau. None of them made it as far as two hundred meters from the firing line.

Then, came the Sluggas and Shootas. The main bulk of the each body they moved ever-closer.

Then, came the Nobz and Flash Gitz. The largest Orks with the best equipment. If it weren't for the cover he would have lost men to the guns stolen and remade by the Meks.

Then, came the trukks and looted tanks. Ramshackle vehicles, but enough firepower to rival a hammerhead.

And finally, came the Gargant. The Ork gods given form of steel and iron.

The warcry from thousands upon thousands of Ork throat could be heard from miles away, shaking the heart of anyone who did.


The defensive line which stretched out more than twenty miles through the badland punished the Greenskins, each squad knowing what was at risk if they failed. Battlesuits and Hammerheads skimmed elegantly, spraying volleys of plasma that reduced the foe to nothingness as them came. Fire Warriors and Pathfinders dismounted from the Devilfish troop-carriers and rushed into position with commendable speed, laying down hails suppression fire. No sooner were the columns of vehicle disgorged than ranks of heavily armed Battlesuits marched behind them.

Kroot warriors bolstered the defense by throwing themselves against the foe in their thousands, heedless of their very life. Despite being auxiliaries, they fought with ferocity in the name of the Greater Good.

The battle was hard-fought and no quarters were being given. For the Greater Good, the Tau were pulling out everything in their arsenal. For the Greater Good, they would not falter their duty to the Empire and the people on this day. For the Greater good, they would not fall.

Gialia was charged with defense of Fort Dolen, a makeshift garrison that had been set up hastily two days ago. It was poorly constructed by Tau standards, the lack of Earth Caste labors who were needed at other areas, being little more than a building with its walls lined up with bolt-holes and supported by thick sandbags. Under his command were forty Fire Warriors of Omega Kau-ui, a division of Morning Light Coalition, two Broadside Battlesuits and additional fire from six automatic turrets. Gialia knew all his men well. They were brave souls and strong believers in the Ethereal doctrines, ready to give their life for the great cause.

"Deny them," he ordered unnecessarily. "They must not break through or all will be lost. The people of Fio'la are counting on us. Do not leave them wanting."

His warriors responded exuberantly, louder than even a roar from a Greater Knarloc. It made Gialia almost cry.

Hundreds Orks were coming, but the sloppy sand dunes slowed them down, forcing them to clamber at some points. Dozens were gunned down easily. If victory could be decided by the number of loss, then the Tau would have won at the first minute of the engagement. Resilient the Orks might be, they were not impervious to pulse rifles. But they were far from hopeless, however. Even though their accuracy was as lacking as it should be, most of the shots going wild and exploding few meters from their intended targets, a number of lucky hits made it. Soreas fell on his face as a bolt round the size of a fist punched through his chest. A Shas'la whose name Gialia didn't remember took a shot to the stomach. The round erupted violently, as Shas'ui remembered in the briefing that Orks' rounds weren't solid, but filled with whatever the Ork's thought would do the most damage, splattering viscera on everyone next to the luckless warrior, Gialia included. None of the Fire Warriors seemed hesitant or disheartened.

"No fear," Gialia cried. "Let all the fallen be revered for they have served the Greater Good ."

Ahead, the battle raged on. The Hammerheads of the Iron Slayer Kavaal were making a good account of themselves, downing a large number of Ork ramshackle vehicles and causing their formation to break into disarray. The Gargants lumbered forward, crushing any Ork not fast or smart enough to get out of the way under its immense weight, its guns pouring death into friends and foe alike. Then again, there was no such thing as "friendly-fire" in Orks' dictionary (if they had one). The salvo left two Hammerhead ablaze and a third one was ultimately run over by the thousands of tons of metal while trying to escape. Return volleys shook off pieces of crude armour from the Gargant before a flurry of guide missiles from six Sky Rays fell upon its wounds like carrion insects and the gigantic war machine was destroyed.

No sooner had the Tau brought down the first Gargant than the second appeared, followed by the third. After that, the battle become one-sided. No matter how much effort the Tau were pouring on this, they just couldn't stand against a foe outnumbering them ten-to-one. The scale was impossible.

Another Shas'la next to Gialia died. His name was Dauria. So far, their position held. The sand slopes beneath them were already littered with scorched Ork bodies, and there was no telling how this was going to end. Suddenly, Gialia registered a peculiar smell in the air. An experience fighter, he knew exactly what it mean.

"They're coming!" Gialia had just enough time to give the warning when a portal appeared out of nowhere and hanging in midair. Electricity danced along the edge before dashing towards his squad, hitting one Fire Warrior and killing him instantly. The Tau barely registered its presence before it disappeared, leaving a Weird Boy, backed up by a mob of twenty Slugga Boyz.

Guns were turned and swords were unsheathed. Although the blades were more ceremonial than practical, representing unity amongst the Tau and the fact they were driven by a common cause, they were as deadly as like any others, but barely a match for the crude knives and axes the Orks were carrying. While others would break for their life or head for a new and safer position, The Tau stood their ground valiantly, shot point-blank, downing a few of their assailants, but at least a dozen of them were lost in the bloody melee. Gialia knew it was only a matter of time before the Tau's lack of hand-to-hand combat capacity became a weakness that could be exploited by the opponents.

Another Weird Boy joined the fray but exploded the moment it materialized. All the boyz it transport were dead, so were the three Tau being caught within the blast radius. From the campaign on Medusa V, the Tau knew the existence of the Warp, an alternative universe which they, unlike all other races, normally could not interact. Such knowledge was, however, too unstable, even pernicious to be untilised properly and research into it was eventually put down. The luckless Weird Boy just gave an example why.

The Battlesuits continued firing at the charging Orks over the slopes. Both Railgun and Missile Launchers were unfit to be used in such close range. A trukk was hit by a hammerhead, making it careen right into another. Both ramshackle vehicles slowed to a halt, plumes of smoke pouring from their hulls. None of their occupants were getting out.

The Weird Boy, even though its face wore a permanent expression of anger like a choleric statue, was not happy even by Ork standard. With one swing of its staff, a wooded stick with a skull at the tip, an energy bolt flung directly at one of the Battlesuits. It blew apart, the pilot lacerated. Two Orks trying to take it down with axes also died. The automatic turrets stopped firing as power was cut.

Gialia dispatched a Greenskin with carefully placed shot to its head, splattering the content of its brain, which was as little as he had expected. The remaining Fire Warrior had gathered their wit and formed a firing line and were wasting the advancing Orks mercilessly. All the infiltrators but the Weird Boy had been taken down, but another problem was ahead. Without the suppressing fire from above, the Greenskin surged to the high ground almost unopposed.

Sections of the wall collapsed and Orks came in like blood gushing from a wound. Amongst them were the Shoota. Although their accuracy was no better than the rest of their kind, the sheer amount of firepower they had was more than enough. Several Fire Warriors went down. The armor they wore were substantial, but not invulnerable to explosive rounds. The salvo hit the Battlesuit like a tempest of metal, and the shield finally gave in. A wash of sparks, hissing black hydraulics and blood flowed from crackling wounds, and the Broadside fell to its knee, the light in its helmet dying along with its pilot.

Then, flashing azure energy hit the Weird Boy. It exploded like the other, bringing a dozen Orks and two Fire Warriors to the other side. A Devilfish came in, its turrets blazing with plasma fire, and the Orks were utterly flushed from the holes, leaving over fifty dead.

"Get on now," said the voice from a speaker. "Order is to retreat. Rendezvous position is Darumia."

"Roger that," replied Gialia. "Let's move, Shas'la. Our duty calls."

"How can we?" a Fire Warrior name Ran'ai retorted, the tone of frustration obvious in his voice. "The battle is right here. This is the moment of truth. After all of that and we're going to leave?"

Gialia sighed deeply. Addressing to all his troops, he said, "The Greater Good needs us elsewhere. Our job here is undone, but we must leave. I promise you glory where we are heading."

A tremendous explosion shook the ground. From the distant, Gialia saw a giant bell-shape cloud of smoke rising at the horizon where Montka Command base should have been. Gialia wondered if anyone survived.

"Have we lost?" asked a Shas'la name Da'lina.

"No," Gialia assured him. "As long as one of us still draws breath the enemy will pay. But lingering does not benefit the Greater Good. We have to go now."

His warriors nodded in agreement, some of them reluctant to do so. And with that, the skimmer fled the scene as soon as the last of the Fire Warriors had mounted. Only a fifteen of them survived.

That day was forever remembered by the Tau Empire as a day of tragedy, of sacrifice, and of mourning glory. The Massacre of Fio'la. More than 5000 vehicles and Battlesuits were lost, alongside almost a million infantry. Despite the fearsome tally they claimed, with no less than six millions kills, the Tau had lost the fight.

Of the twenty Kau'ui of the Morning Light Coalition, only five made it out and none. Alpha Kau'ui were all but wiped after a bloody crossfire. They outgunned the Shootas but lost the initiative as soon as the Flash Gitz arrived. All Fire Warriors and Pathfinders from Kappa and Mu Kau'ui die when their positions were obliterated by the Gargants. Some Kommandoz, by unknown means, managed to sneak up from behind and out-flanked Omicron Kau'ui who were charged with the defense of Fort Cate'lo. Even though they were defeated, the distraction and havoc they caused made the Tau unprepared when the real attack came. Omicron Kau'ui was slaughtered to a man.

Other Tau forces didn't fare better, and with over half of their forces dead or missing in action, defeat was inevitable. More than ten thousand Kroot perished in the fight. The Greater Knarloc made two Squiggoth fall before it was brought down. The Orks swarmed the beast like ants on a mantis.

The Orks' onslaught swept through everything. Malevolent. Savage. Relentless. Vile.

The Devilfish interior was damp and omnimous. The air was cool, though, which, for the very least, provided some comfort and relaxation. Fire Warriors dispatched their kits and began polishing their guns. None of them, Gialia included, had remorse about what had happened other than not being able to finish the job. To the Tau, war was science like any other: precise, empirical and a matter of cause and effect. It left no room for mundane notions of courage and honor, or sympathy and grief for the fallen.

Gialia's Devilfish didn't get far. After two hours of travel, they were in the middle of the dessert, hoping to see any sight of others who had managed to escape without success, when a rockit exploded on the vehicle's side armor. The impact jolted its occupants off their seats and threw them hard against each other.

"Brace for impact!" The warning was passed out just in time, and the Fire Warriors followed what they had been drilling on month's end in this kind of situation. They quickly grabbed hold to anything they can, preparing for the crash.

The anti-gravity vehicle slew to a halt, rocking on one side and toppled on a nose-drive onto the ground, bouncing a few times before finally stopping. The light died out along with the engine.

"Out!" Gialia ordered as his troops managed the door open. The pilots were dead and there was no point of calling them. If the crash hadn't killed them, electrocution from the broken cables would.

The Fire Warrior exited the blackened Devilfish only to find heavy salvoes meeting them. Three were gunned down before they could react. The Orks were a raiding party of approximately thirty troops, not many but well-armed compared tot the rest. They traveled on a crude trukk with a mounted twin-linked bolter on top, which accounted for one third the bullets fired. Gialia killed the gunner with deadly accuracy, but not even that would save him.

A Nob in Mega Armor came to view. It was a behemoth that loomed over all others like a small, angry mountain. Its scavenged storm-bolter on its left hand spat death into the ranks of Fire Warrior. Two fell down instantly, their armor ripped apart, and then a third. A fourth was too slow to get out of the way and vanished in a pink-red mist, lacerated by the gigantic claw.

Gialia's rifle ran dried, and he knew it was all over. Only him and another Shas'la were alive, and neither was in any position to fight back. Nevertheless, the Orks also stopped firing. They had the prey between their jaws now and they didn't want to kill it without playing first.

An Ork came up from behind and whacked the Shas'ui with a meaty fist. It let out a feral howl as Gialia fell to his knees, dazed and oozy now. The Shas'la took a savage elbow smack to the face that glanced his helmet. A kick to the torso. A punch to the chest. Clubbed by the butt of shoota. Gialia wished the man could die.

And he did, pulverized by a head-butt from the Mega Armor Nob. The other Greenskins laughed exuberantly.

"Not so tough now, aren't ya?"

"Hehehehehe. If ya can't put up a fight, what's good is ya?"

Two Orks hauled Gialia up and dragged him in front of their Nob. The Shas'ui dropped as soon as they let go.

"Let's see how diz one doz," said the Nob.

Gialia closed his eyes, waiting for the finally blow to come. He wished it would be swift and painless. A loud thuk of impact. To Gialia's surprise, he was intact. Have the Ork actually missed? he thought.

The Nob fell. The sound it made was akin to an entire building being demolished. It was dead. Gialia's heart missed a beat. What in this cosmos could have the power to kill such monstrous beast?

His question was answered when a lone silhouette in bright green emerged on the Ork's corpse but could not identify it due to his blurred vision. At first, he thought one of the boyz had decided it was high time he was put in charge, but the figure was too slim to be one of them. Gialia heard the humming sound of tooth-edged blade and saw the sight of blood being spilled. The battle was over in seconds. Not a single Orks were going to standing up, drowned in their own pools of blood.

Gialia looked up. What he saw was a tall warrior clad in leaf-green armor, although parts of it had been stained by Ork's blood. The warrior was as elegant as any Fire Caste, but in the opposite end of subtlety, sharper and angular, putting on a grace of the ancient. He was holding a chainsword in one hand a peculiar type of pistol in the other. Strange sigils were inscribed to his helmet and shoulder guard which Gialia realized they were all alien.

Gialia was an experience fighter. He knew exactly who his savior was: an Eldar.

"You seem to be injured," noted the warrior. His voice was soft and had excellent vibrant effect. "Hold on there."

Gialia tried to answer but his body suddenly went numb. The foul scent of blood from his wound was the last thing he detected before passing out. A slug round penetrated his armor just above the waist.