Another two Tau fleets set off from Tau space last week with the intentionof breaking through the Aurelis in a series of short warp "hops" toreinforce the Tau colonies of Cernunnos and Lucardium in the Aleph Sector.Each fleet was large, consisting of a Custodian and at least four frontline cruisers, either Protectors or Hero class vessels.
The first swung tothe galactic south, attempting the longest route to the Persues Deeps viathe Norsefire empire and around Protogonus, a journey of more than threemonths but one which circumvented much of the Imperial Forces.The second fleet attempted a direct breakthrough, around the Aurelis deepsand straight to Cernunnos. While only taking a month or so to traverse the journey would be fraught with danger, as the Tau ships would be jumping back into real space well inside Imperial territory, at one point comingless than a light year from Ciprex III.
The first fleet consisted mostly of new Tau vessels and only a couple ofthe older designs. Taking the long way round the fleet did not expect to encounter any Imperial resistence as it crossed the boundary of Tau spaceand entered the dark foreboding region known as the Aurelis Deeps.
However the predations of the chaotic Norsefire Empire were expected. They arrived on the fourth day.The Tau fleet dropped out of the warp in a system containing a Cepheid variable star which produced a prodigious amount of coronal mass ejections, solar flares and radiation bursts. These blinded sensors and made ordnance trips hazardous, the perfect environment for an ambush.
It was the flagship of the Tau fleet which first noticed the prowling hadesclass cruiser as it closed on the Tau position. Quickly the admiral of thefleet gave orders for the fleet to reform, and slowly the scattered elements of the Tau armada formed up into a unified whole.By contrast the chaos fleet came at the Tau peacemeal and were badly mauled, with no less than three capital ships succumbing to the massedrailgun and ion cannon fire in spectacular detonations. The rest of the chaos fleet was reduced to wreckage before the Tau, undamaged, once moremade the jump into the warp. The chaos battleship, ever at the edge of Tau sensor range, never gave battle.
The second Tau fleet heard via interstellar radio of their comrades' success against the chaos fleet, a success which would carve out a safepassage through the Aurelis Deeps for all Tau shipping with the addition ofWaystations to the area following the battle. However the Kor'Vattra Myonshi'Tal was a very different fleet, made up of older vessels and led by a venerable Explorer class battleship.
Their more direct route quickly saw them come into conflict with their most bitter foe, the Dark Angels chapter of the space marines.The dark Angels were thought to only have one of their fleets in the sector but this battle demonstrated otherwise!
The Tau fleet had kept together asthey exited the warp some twelve light years from Cerberex in the uninhabited system merely designated Aleph K5PP7A0*. The Dark Angels were waiting. The second fleet of the mighty Adeptus Arbites chapter fell upon the Tauwith ruthless efficiency, rendering many ships' weapons inert long before they were in range.
Once again radiation bursts interfered with communications and the battle was a confused and close quarters bludgeoning match as the two fleets closed to ridiculous distances. The two formations literally flew through each other, the marine Battlebarge missed the Heroclass Yel'di by less than three kilometres, less than the length of the ship.
The damage to the Tau fleet was considerable with over half their capital ships crippled or effectively out of action. However the marines paid a heavy price for this, losing more than nine escort class vessels and many space marine veterans, each hard to replace. With the marine fleet behind them and lacking the manoeuvrability or firepower to effectively continue the fight, the Tau disengaged as one behind the curtain of plasma which marked the scene of the battle.
The result was inconclusive. Although severely damaged every Tau capital ship survived and several days later made it successfully into dock at Cernunnos. The Dark Angels' plan to prevent the Tau from reaching their forward bases had failed.
*Aleph - subsector, K5 - spectral clas of star, P/B/M Singular, Binary ormultiple stars. P7, planets 7, A0 - alphabetical classification