The Tau arrived in the Tarsis system in early 10.008M42, finding the Imperial fleet absent, but space far from empty. The cat and mouse game between the three fleets developed in the coming days as the Tau fleet moved ever closer to Tarsis Major.
Jellicoe’s Imperial fleet, fearful of a reappearance of the damaged, but not vanquished Chaos fleet of Admiral Thok, merely shadowed the Tau after getting into position. Occasionally the Tau would send a flotilla of escorts to the rear, and each time the squadron of sword class frigates would flee, before returning to their picketing position to the rear of the Tau.
The Chaos fleet, outnumbered near the planet of Tarsis itself, and without the support of Thok’s massive battlegroup, knew the Tau posed a real threat. The Night Lord’s battlebarge was busy in high orbit, supporting the initial landings on the world, leaving just four Chaos cruisers and a marine strike cruiser to face a far larger Tau force. They decided to call in a favour.
In return for their help on Coronus the Orks had agreed to help the Chaos forces once, as payback. Lord Raziel called in his debt. As the Tau fleet approached an enormous and haphazard energy signature appeared ahead of them, in the shape of an Ork battleship, two cruisers and a host of smaller Ork craft. Further back the four Chaos cruisers lurked, near a rogue planet which orbited Tarsis’ sun in a highly eccentric manner.
The Orks attacked at once, leaving the Chaos cruisers behind. This was not to Lord Raziel’s dislike however as he intended the Orks to take the brunt of the Tau firepower, while he outlflanked the Tau with his Chaos cruisers.
However, the admiral of the Tau fleet, Swiftstar, aided by an enigmatic character acting on behalf of Shadowstrike, was not going to fall for this trick. After skilfully reforming his fleet, Swiftstar slowed, forming up into his defensive “box” formation. The Ork fleet, outnumbered, took terrible punishment and it wasn’t long before they were in real trouble. After dealing with the Orks with massed bomber waves from the Tau Custodian carrier, Swiftstar, despite casting a pessimistic view on the battle, was about to complete a rout.
With the Ork vessels burning and out of control, and with a single merchant class cruiser tying up the only Nigh Lord vessel present, the Tau formed into a crescent, presenting their massive forward firepower towards the now unsupported Chaos fleet. After seeing Defiance crippled and the cruiser Kraken explode, the Chaos admiral disengaged, signalling the Tau fleet had broken through with the loss of just one cruiser crippled.
Raziel, irritated, withdrew his battlebarge in the face of the Tau superiority, but reflected on mixed fortunes. Despite losing two cruisers out of action or destroyed, the Ork fleet had been reduced, and in his service. The Tau would be able to land, but Raziel believed that the delay in their arrival had allowed him to gain a vital foothold on Tarsis, and though the fighting was heavy, he was sure he could defeat the Tau, and the Imperium, on the ground.
Merchant class cruiser crippled
3 escorts destroyed
Cruiser Kraken exploded
Cruiser Defiance crippled
2 Ork Kroozers hulked
6 escorts destroyed