Who Are The Tau?The Tau Empire is a rapidly expandingalien stellar empire situated within theImperium of Mans Ultima Segmentum,near the Eastern Fringes of the MilkyWay Galaxy. The Tau Empire wasfounded by the Tau caste called theEthereals, who lead the Tau Empire inthe name of the philosophy they havenamed the Greater Good. Severalintelligent alien races (the Kroot, Vespid,Nicassar, Demiurg and even somehumans who have turned their backs onthe Imperium known as the Guevesa)have allied themselves with the Tau. TheTau Empire borders the Imperium ofMan, and lies within the reach of theAstronomican. It has suffered manyraids from the Orks, and also seems tolie in the path of several Tyranid splinterfleets of Hive Fleet Kraken.
Tau Empire Member Races – The Tau. The Tau are a young, humanoid and technologically-advanced intelligent race native to the Eastern Fringes of the Milky Way Galaxy who are fighting to expand their interstellar empire and a philosophical concept they call the Greater Good. The Tau claim to be a peaceful race when possible, asking if others will join their cause voluntarily instead of fighting. However, if their peaceful overtures are refused, the Tau may well decide to conquer a planet and add it to their growing interstellar empire for the greater good, searing the flesh from the bones of anyone who stands against their benign expansions. Tau society is divided into a number of castes, each responsible for managing a specific aspect of their society. The Taus central motivating ideal is that everyone in their empire regardless of their species will work for the collective betterment of everyone else, an almost mystical philosophy they call the Greater Good.
Tau Empire Member Races – The Kroot The Kroot are a species of savage humanoids who are a member species of the Tau Empire who evolved from avian creatures. Kroot are tall aliens (a good half-meter taller than most humans), their avian ancestry giving them a bird-like beak and long quills protruding from their heads like hair. Smaller quills, possibly the evolutionary remnants of feathers, can be found scattered over their bodies. A unique feature of the Kroot is that they evolve by selecting traits of their defeated foes to absorb by eating them. Due to this, the many Kroot warbands across the galaxy often look radically different. Kroot leaders are known as Shapers; they are generally the Kroot with the best ability for recognizing desirable traits in defeated foes and tell his Kindred (the word for a Kroot clan) what to eat to suit the task at hand. For instance, a Shaper who wants his Kroot to gain muscle mass will take on campaigns against Orks to acquire the right DNA, while extensive feeding on flying predators will allow the Kroot to grow wings. This eating of their foes ties in with the religious beliefs of the Kroot: they believe that when a warrior of any race dies, his warrior spirit should be kept, and the only way to do this is by eating his flesh. The Kroot practice this in their "burial" customs, in which the body of the deceased is consumed by the kindred.
Tau Empire Member Races - Terrans (Guevesa) The Tau Empire hosts a growing population of humans, known in the Tau Lexicon as Guevesa, who were once a part of the Imperium of Man. Ranging from ideological defectors who hate the brutality and corruption of the Imperial government to captured Imperial Guardsmen and their children who have known no other life than that among the Tau, they have been fully incorporated into the Empire. While the humans from recently conquered worlds are often bitter, they do often have Tau supporters among them from the start, and the number of these Tau sympathisers only grows larger as they realise the manifest economic benefits that the advanced technology of the Tau Empire can provide. For the most part, the Guevesa humans are content and treated well, and are even allowed to continue the worship of the God-Emperor, though the Tau Water Caste moves subtly to discourage this religion and replace it with the Greater Good. There have also been reports that the Tau have begun to take a tougher line against some human colony worlds, sterilising their populations so that the human population will die out and leave the worlds open for full Tau colonisation. This policy was known to have been carried out following the Tau conquest of the desert mining world of Taros. Whether this represents a new Tau policy towards all humans or just a Tau desire to reserve the resources of their conquests for their own people, these actions will not be tolerated by the Imperium of Man.
The Greater GoodThe Greater Good, or Tauva (literally the "Good Greater" in the Tau Lexicon language), is thefounding religio-philosophical principle of modern Tau society which holds that all sentient beingsshould strive to ensure the greatest good for the greatest number of beings in the galaxy. TheTauva is based on the Tau caste system and is designed to allow for the advancement of the entireTau society towards a more successful, prosperous and peaceful existence in the future withoutmuch of the violent conflict that marked earlier Tau history. The Greater Good was first introducedto the Tau during the Montau ("Death Age"), the long period of civil war fought between thedifferent Tau cities and clans on their homeworld of Tau before the formation of the unified TauEmpire under the guidance of the Ethereal caste. It was during this time that the first Etherealscame to the other Tau and united the Tau tribes with the philosophy of the Greater Good. Thisconcept involves the pursuit of perfect societal harmony and combines the particular strengths ofeach Tau caste to counter the many weaknesses and divisions their culture once possessed. Withinonly a few years after the Ethereals first revealed themselves, Tau culture was dominated by thepursuit of the Greater Good and the Tau Empire began its long march towards the development ofadvanced, starfaring technology. The philosophy of the Greater Good now guides the Tau in theirattempts to conquer the rest of the galaxy and unite all the intellignt races in pursuit of the GreaterGood. The philosophy forces the Tau to both desire to expand their empire for the Greater Good,and to absorb other intelligent races and their cultures into their own, which could ultimately havedisastrous effects upon their ability to actually keep their newborn interstellar empire united. Theideal of the Greater Good appeals to some of the other intelligent races of the galaxy, and strandedunits of the Imperial Guard are said to have surrendered themselves to the Tau and now live in theTau Empire, where humans are known as the Guevesa. Such people are considered traitors andheretics by the Imperium of Man. During any conflict against other intelligent species, TauCommanders often urge the enemy leaders to stop resisting the Tau Empire since they will beallowed to retain their own individual faiths and philosophical beliefs as long as they arecompatible with the Greater Good.
The Tau Ethereal Caste The Ethereal Caste of the Tau, known as the Aun in the Tau Lexicon, are the ruling caste of Tau society and direct the other four castes in their pursuit of the Greater Good of the Tau race. They are the ultimate rulers of the Tau Empire, which is led by a council of the wisest Ethereals. The Ethereals guide the Tau race as a whole to work for the Greater Good of them all and their allied races in the Tau Empire. Their power over their fellow Tau is such that were an Ethereal to tell a Tau to die, the Tau would do so quickly and gladly. The Imperium of Man would give much to learn the secret of the Ethereals power to command their fellows. Ethereal Caste members are occasionally seen on the battlefield, however whether they are leading or observing is unclear. The Ethereals were first encountered by the Tau when the Tau were in an age of turmoil towards the end of the 37th Millennium. It was the Ethereals who ended the infighting between the Tau cities and tribes on ancient Tau and united them in pursuit of the Greater Good. It is always thought that the Ethereals control the other Castes by emitting certain pheromones. Not much is known about the Ethereals but what is known is that Ethereals are at the top of the command structure of the Tau Empire. It is for the Ethereals to decide who is worthy enough to be absorbed into the Tau Empire.
The Tau Fire Caste The Fire Caste are the military caste of the Tau Empire. The Tau of this caste are tall and have relatively stronger and more muscular frames than their counterparts in the other Tau castes. This comes from the Fire Castes origin on the plains of Tau, the Tau homeworld, where they were predators and warriors. Ranks within the Fire Caste are determined by a rite of passage known as a Trial by Fire, which can be anything from a gladiatorial combat to superior performance in a real battle. The first Trial by Fire can be undertaken after a Tau warrior of the Fire Caste has served for 4 Terran years of active combat duty. If the Shasla survives his first Trial by Fire, he is promoted to the rank of Shasui, or Veteran. For every consecutive four Terran years of service thereafter, the Fire Warrior undergoes another Trial by Fire. The higher ones rank within the Fire Caste, the more likely one is to be selected and trained to become a Tau Battlesuit pilot. Upon attaining the rank of Shaso, a member of the Fire Caste may be allowed to retire peacefully, although more often than not he or she will become an advisor to the Tau militarys high command, the Shasartol. Other than death, this is the only way to honourably leave active service in the Tau military caste.
The Tau Water Caste The Tau Water Caste is made up of merchants, diplomats, and administrators. They are responsible for maintaining effective interaction between the castes, as well as communicating with and supervising the integration of alien species into the Tau Empire. Members of the Water Caste tend to be taller and more slender than other Tau, and their features are softer and more expressive. Water caste Tau will frequently adopt mannerisms and cultural habits of the races they deal with, although this is often done to promote communication with other races. Water Caste members are bureaucrats, politicians, negotiators and administrators. They are the merchants and diplomats of the Tau Empire, moving in and around the other castes to ensure that Tau society functions smoothly, always in the service of the Greater Good. Water Caste members often accompany Tau expeditionary forces to negotiate safe conduct through alien star systems and smooth the passage of Tau merchants and colonists. Servants of the Imperium of Man should be aware that these Tau are exceptionally skilled at manipulating weak-willed individuals and every remark addressed to a member of the Water Caste must be carefully considered and phrased to prevent any sensitive information being divulged.
The Tau Earth Caste The Tau Earth Caste is primarily made up of farmers, laborers, and technicians; responsible for building the machines, cultivating the food, and erecting the dwellings that allow the Tau to survive. The Earth Caste also includes artisans, scientists, and engineers. The Tau of the Earth Caste are stouter of build than the normal Tau phenotype, and tend to have calloused hands and a pragmatic outlook on life.
The Tau Air Caste The Air Caste of the Tau traditionally functioned as messengers, but now fill the ranks of the Tau Navy (the Korvattra), working as pilots and starship crews. The Air Caste lives almost entirely off-world, and due to their constant exposure to zero and low-gravity environments have developed long, slender limbs, and hollow bones and so possess a skeletal and muscular structure of reduced strength. Prior to the unification of the Tau castes, during the time of the Montau, the Air Caste were said to possess membranous wings, allowing them to glide on warm air currents. The Tau use the titular prefix of "Kor" to designate someone of the Air Caste. They are amongst the least encountered of the Tau castes by outsiders, presumably because of their reduced muscle mass and duties within the merchant and military fleets of the Tau Empire, unlike the Water and Fire Castes members who more often operate outside of the borders of the empire. Tau pilots tend to be superior compared to their human counterparts because they have a better depth perception and higher acceleration-tolerance, but lack real combat experience compared to the best Imperial fighter-pilots.