The mysterious and capricious Shas’O Shadowstrike launched a devastating assault on the Imperial lines after landing several more Hunter Cadres on the planet. There was nothing Lord Commander Lenord could do about the build up of forces, since the Tau fleet had total superiority in the Melberg system, so the Imperial Generals could only watch and await developments. Once again the Imperium was already on the defensive before the battle had been joined in earnest.
Shadowstrike used several ruses to disguise the main assault, attacking with small units towards the west coast and even launching limited diversionary air assaults east against Cornonian territory. In the end however the attack was preditable as the Hunter Cadres burst out of their salient near the Whettis border and struck out towards Narmala.
Within a few hours of the initial assault it became clear that Shadowstrike had changed the Tau strategy. Rather than attacking in a coherent fashion the Tau were delivering hammerblows to the Imperial lines before retreating. In some sectors there was no front line at all, with Imperial gnerals reporting Tau units in all directions. The confusion suddely put the Tau, with their advanced communications and fast moving equipment, at a massive advantage.
By the end of the firs day Lenord realised that his opponent had successfully cut a path between the armies of Taves, in Gwendel, and those of Cunningham in Whettis. Worse news was to follow. Most of the Librian 101st found itself surrounded as the 14th AVR collapsed on their eastern flank, losing much of their armoured vehicles.
Suddenly the focus shifted to a general withdrawal. Shadowstrike was concentrating not on territory and front lines, but on isolating Imperial units then annihilating them. This new tactic was devastating and the Imperium reeled at the ferocious assaults. Where the conditions were unfavourable, the Tau simpl melted away, refusing to give battle unless the odds were stacked in their favour.
The tactics achieved results as Army group North under Cunningham was forced to retreat into Whettis and Terris Kingdom. Meanwhile in the west General Taves and Jeffries narrowly managed to escape with their armies intact, abandonning Gwendel altogether and retreating to the border with Narmala. By the end of 2209.007M42 the Tau reached the northern coast, cutting the Imperial forces neatly in two. With one brilliant offensive the situation on Melberg had changed out of all recognition.