Sunday, 17 August 2014

Index Xenology: The Silent Wardens

Okay, this is mostly filler content, but it's filler content with some reason behind it. As readers might know, i've written a few backgrounds and army lore in the past for fan-made chapters, a couple of examples are on this blog. The ones specifically on here are mostly an attempt to show how things could go differently if Games Workshop cared or put some real effort into its more notably failed books. Well, something which occurred to me was the problems with their length.

Let's face it, most armies outside the space marines don't get all that much time devoted to their lore. Even the astartes' chapters (beyond the big names) themselves are often woefully underdeveloped, and will only get a page or two to explore their themes. As such, this is an example of how things could still work if they were given a brief article in White Dwarf or just a few hundred pages. It's much briefer than the others, but it contains enough information to build an army off of and has a few interesting hints of their methods to help draw in fans. Small suggestions which could allow people to build off of it and create their own interpretation somehow. Anyway, enjoy.

Name: 721st T’au “Silent Wardens” Hunter Cadre 
Leader (Shas’El): Ke’lshan Or’i Shi’ur
Garrison Location: The Zone of Silence
Favoured Enemy: Tyranids
Battle Cry: “Remember Sha'draig!”
Strength: 522 founding Fire Caste Warriors, unknown number of support personnel. 

History: For rulers of the Tau Empire, the decimation left in the wake of Hive Fleet Gorgon was a warning, the first telling of how nightmarish the galaxy they sought to conquer truly was. While the Damocles Gulf Crusade had proven the Imperium had pushed the Tau to the brink of defeat, the Tyranid invasion had been the stuff of the mont’au itself. They had faced a ravening army without number, a domineering hive mind incapable of negotiation, and an entity whose hunger was without end. With naught but barren husks of planets left in its wake, the Hive Fleet had eclipsed even the bloody Ork onslaught and left almost a tenth of the Empire in ruin. 

Even in victory, the Aun could ill afford to ignore the potential for such an enemy returning or how ill equipped the Fire Caste were to face them. To this end the Empire initiated several programs, the first being the deployment of the 721st among the worlds crawling with the remnants of Gorgon’s legions. Bolstered by veterans who had witnessed the heavy fighting against the Tyranids throughout the Ke’lshan Sept and the Empire’s trade partners, their task was simple: Hunt down the remaining Tyranid bio-forms left among the consumed planets, learn their weaknesses, and watch for the coming of a second Hive Fleet.

Deploying as small recon units across the dozen systems throughout the Zone of Silence, the 721st has maintained vigil for almost a decade. Striking and withdrawing among the decaying ecosystems of warrior broods across many worlds, their members share understanding of the Tyranids few Fire Warriors can match. With entirely new doctrines, tactics and methods developed from their combat telemetry and teachings, the cadre has proven invaluable to the Empire. Their very battle cry serves as a reminder that the Tyranids can be beaten; referencing the pyrrhic victory on Ke’lshan’s outlying colony and reminding its warriors to never allow such an atrocity to occur again.

Organisation: Structured in a very different manner to the Empire’s military caste, 721st is not drawn from a single Sept. While originally founded on T’au, its members have since been gathered from across the Empire. So best to benefit from their knowledge combating the Tyranids, squads of Fire Warriors are selectively sent on brief tours of duty within the Zone. After several successful combat operations against the aliens, these soldiers are then returned to their original cadres to pass on their knowledge and experience. As a result of these methods, the 721st is host to an abundance of Fire Warrior and Pathfinder teams at any given time, often supported by a small number of XV8 units. Heavier armour such as Hammerhead Gunships and XV88 battlesuits are meanwhile held in reserve, rarely being deployed beyond the direst situations.

Only a handful of true veterans remain permanently attached to the 721st, largely consisting of those who fought against Gorgon’s original incursions. This has presented a great problem for the unit as between old wounds and their race’s short lifespan; many are fast approaching the age where they will no longer be combat effective. Combined with Shi’ur’s unwillingness to accept others into his command group without significant experience fighting sizable Tyranid incursions, it’s unlikely the cadre will retain any veterans within the next six tau’cyr. Despite this, their lifelong experience is what has allowed the cadre to remain so effective, utilising unconventional tactics which often go completely against Fire Caste doctrine yet remain key to defeating swarms.

Despite its unusually large size no auxiliaries, even those as trusted as the vespid, can be found within the cadre. Instead aliens are largely held in reserve or tasked with supporting roles, guarding the space stations orbiting infested planets and serving as xenologists. The latter group in particular is noted to consist of a large number of Imperial defectors of major organisations, with Ordo Xenos personnel and Biologis experts tasked with mapping the evolution of the Tyranid genome.

Combat Doctrine: Often favouring the Mont’ka, the strike teams of the 721st are well versed in the Fire Caste’s way of war. Using their military’s legendary mobility, speed and tactical co-ordination, small teams led by a Shas’nel or Shas’vre are tasked with launching precision attacks to wipe out tyranid groups and retrieve newly evolved bio-forms for study. Such controlled short term operations are excellent for acclimatising fresh troops to fighting Tyranids, and testing the effectiveness of experimental weaponry against the hyper-evolved monstrosities.

Between deployments, the cadre’s network of orbital facilities are tasked with keeping track of swarm movements and ideal training situations. Along with this however, the crews maintain watch for specific bio-forms emerging among the swarms. The Great Devourer’s use of synapse creatures to control swarms is well documented, and allowing one to evolve on a world would mean turning an uncoordinated mass of predators into a directed swarm. Worse still, should an especially powerful creature come into being it could draw a second Hive Fleet towards the Empire.

This has occurred several times over the years, with the hard learned lessons of each onslaught only serving to strengthen the cadre’s resolve. During these times the full might of the 721st will be levelled against a world and the Tau will forego their usual tactics. Rather than the rapid strikes and blitzkrieg assaults their military is known for, the cadre instead adopts static defensive lines and concentrated firepower. While this completely opposes the Tau way of war, it has none the less proven to be undeniably effective at countering their swarm tactics.

Such speciality comes at a price however, and against other foes the 721st has been far less effective at combatting the other forces which prowl the Zone of Silence. Eldar and Ork pirates seeking to use the Tyranids as war beasts have both been fought, and each time the cadre has taken far heavier casualties than expected of such a decorated force. 

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