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Lieutenant Gais hit the vox-set, furious at the infernal device.
"Alyx damn you! This is Gais of the Evadian Taskforce! We're pinned down by these Tau and we need relief! Where the hell are your damned guns man!"
The reply was lost in the crackle and pop of the faulty vox. Gais hurled the machine over the wall, and it was blown apart before it hit the ground.
* * *
There were around three-hundred of them scattered around, and by the looks of things, none of them were having much luck.
Gatlan lowered his sniper rifle, and dropped down into the main room of the storage barn. The fine golden dust that covered most of the planet had started to blow in through the broken door, covering the polished white floor of the Tau building.
"Well, we're screwed."
Onyx gave a harsh laugh, and rolled his eyes.
"Do you Kakrians always give up so easily?"
"No," Galtan replied, "but I'm no idiot, Onyx. We try to fight, we get killed."
"...It's a good way to die."
"Trust me, getting shot isn't a great way to end it."
Onyx nodded, "It seems we are thrust into a world without honour."
The firing nearby stopped. There hadn't been much to begin with, just the occasional fusilade at anyone who tried to leave the building, or take a sniper shot from the east wall. Finally, a vox-augmented voice sounded over the complex.
"Gue'La! Your force is surrounded, and no aid is coming for you! To continue to fight would achieve nothing but your own destruction! Surrender, and you will not be harmed!"
Draco, the Praetorian, rose at the words. He was a giant of a man, donned in a fine suit of platemail, with a mighty sword slung over his back.
He stepped forward, opening the door and walking calmly out into the daylight. He looked around, and counted thirty enemy infantry, plus three giant constructs, reminding him of the Golem-Statues back home.
"Gue'La! Drop your weapon!"
Draco snarled, "An Evadian never relinquishes his sword! Not in life, nor death!"
With that, he twisted the blade free of its restraining harness, and took a battle stance.
Inside, Onyx looked at Draco, then back at the others of their group; Gatlan and a dosen Whiteshields they were leading. With a theatrical sigh, Onyx grabbed his Longbow and sword, leaving the Imperium-issued Lasgun behind.
The Evadians fell in around their Praetorian, swords ready. It was clear to all they would never survive if they attempted to attack.
A new Tau emerged, dressed in a wide, circular hat and flowing robes. They reminded Draco of the Vulcanian fur-wraps. The Tau walked slowly towards them, arms held apart to show he was unarmed.
"Greetings. I am Por'vre L'klas Kauyon, it is an honour to meet you."
The tau bowed. Draco stepped forward slightly, but remained upright.
"What do you want?" he asked bluntly.
Vre'Kauyon smiled slightly, "Our forces have fought against you, and seen you to be both brave and strong. We respect your prowess, and have no wish to kill warriors of such considerable fortitude."
"Indeed... so you would have us surrender instead!? Do you think us without honour!?"
"You misunderstand, I simply meant that we do not wish to continue fighting. I did not say we wished your surrender..."
Draco paused, "explain."
"You have fought bravely, but the Imperium has abandoned you here," Vre'Kauyon noted the series of mutterings that followed, "we are offering you a chance to make a new life for yourselves. We will give you this world, and the means to cultivate it, along with other tools and machinery. In return, all we ask is that you work towards the Greater Good of the Tau Empire, in whatever way you feel able."
Draco though about the Tau's offer for a few moments, "we will need to discuss this with our comrades."
"Of course. We will order a full cease-fire to accomodate this. Please contact us with your desicion, but I regret that we cannot wait for long..."
Draco nodded, and ordered runners to gather the regiment.
Three months after the indoctrination of the Gue'La known as the "Evadians", Vre'Kauyon stepped off the Orca that had ushered him back to the world, and admired the settlement.
It was built with simple elegance. Impressive, yet modest, unobtrusive, yet not out of place. In short, a perfect example of Earth Caste engineering.
It also seemed to be largely unusued.
Vre'Kauyon turned to his escort, and voiced his concerns.
"We know, Por'Vre. The Gue'La do not seem to appreciate our efforts to provide for them. They dwell in a ramshackle settlement one-point-three decs walk to the south. They do not like us to fly over their settlement, so we have respected their wishes."
"Then so shall I," Vre'Kauyon replied diplomatically. Inside, he cursed, knowing that the walk would be much more exercise than he had done in many Tau'cyr.
The trip took longer than expected. After two decs, The Water Caste envoy found himself on the edge of a village. The buildings were log-huts for the most part, although a few showed signs of superior carpentry. Nevertheless, the whole place had a rough, feral look.
Night had fallen during his walk, and Vre'Kauyon was eager to rest. He wandered towards the main building, where most of the noise seemed to come from. He opened the door, and was hit at once by a three-pronged assault of loud music, the heat of the great fire, and the smell of beer, meat and sweat.
Before his senses could recover, he was hauled into the hall, and to a circular table near the door.
"Ah! It seems the blue-boy found our little home away from home!"
"It suits you," Vre'Kauyon replied on automatic, senses running overtime to take in everything around him. He wanted to sleep badly, but his training told him that tonight would make or break his relationship with these people. He had to put on a good show.
"Well then, we can't have you stuck out like a blueberry can we!? Kal! Beer and steak for my companion here!"
A young Gue'La brought the requested sustainence. Vre'Kauyon took the beer, smiling politely, and rose it as he had noticed others do. As anticipated, his companion clinked his own mug, and they downed their drinks in unison.
Vre'Kauyon regretted it instantly, and couldn't hide his disgust at the drink. This seemed to bring much humour to the Gue'La.
"What's wrong, Blue-boy? Bloodwater not your drink?"
"No! Definitely not!" Vre'Kauyon composed himself again, "what is in it?"
The man smiled, "oh you know... barley, hops, grox-blood..."
Vre'Kauyon fought the urge to vomit. Instead, he summoned all his courage, silently requesting aid from the Ethereals, and took another swig.
He winced at the taste, but tried to look strong, "It's growing on me."
Eventually, the Gue'La introduced himself as Meridioc. Like most of the Gue'La, he was tall and well-built. His eyes were emerald green, and his hair was the colour of seasoned oak, tied up in a topknot. Vre'Kauyon learned much from Meridioc that night, including his ability to drink dangerous quanitities of intoxicating, and probably poisonous liquids, his love of song, and his love of battle.
Vre'Kauyon did his best to fit in, content to leave his questioning until morning. He forced down the last of his drink, and was given two more. Whilst unpleasant, they were more palatable than the bloodwater, even if they did look unsafe to drink. As he finished his last drink, enjoying the odd puffy sensation behind his eyes, he listened to the Evadians sing... no, roar together. They sang a song about swords and fighting, then fighting for glory, then fighting and drinking... then an unusally slow song about courage and bravery, before finally settling on making as much noise as possible. The final song's meaning was totally lost on Vre'Kauyon, who fell into a drunken slumber. He briefly remembered a feeling of cool air on his face, then the warm caress of soft sheets, before true sleep claimed him.
Vre'Kauyon awoke. There was a brief moment of pleasant peace, before his head exploded.
He sat up, head throbbing, and tried to take stock.
...he was curled in a foetal position, naked and reeking of the foul Evadian drinks...
...he didn't remember undressing last night. In fact, he didn't rememberany of...
...by the Path, did Ireally say that about the beer!?
He groaned, and wriggled out of the sweat-soaked sheets. Meridioc swam into focus at the door.
The booming words smashed through the Tau's skull like stiletto blades.
Meridioc smiled, and spoke again more softly.
"You were sick in the night. Pretty badly, in fact. Your clothes are being washed."
Vre'Kauyon shook his head, wishing the throbbing would stop, "I'll need something to wear, I can't walk around like this... and have you never heard of privacy!?"
"Not very diplomatic of you to yell at me..."
The Tau gave a sobbing groan, "I think I'm dying..."
"It's called a hangover."
"Did I really say that about the beer?"
"By the Path..."
A young Gue'La male entered. He was no more than eleven Tau'cyr old, and was carrying a set of clothes that seemed to be made mostly of leather and tanned fur.
"These should fit you," Meridioc gave by way of explanation.
"If you don't mind... I'd like to go back to bed. I'm not-"
Meridioc waved away Vre'Kauyon's explanaiton, "no rush, friend. When you feel better, let me know. If you need anything, give Lessik here a yell."
With that, the two Gue'La left. Vre'Kauyon gave the clothes a brief glance, then turned back to bed, and fell back into a drunken slumber.
He awoke again to a strange feeling of clarity. He realised that the throbbing in his head had gone. He pushed himself up onto his elbows, and looked around the room.
It was a simple chamber, with wooden walls, ceiling and floor. A desk was pushed against the far wall, with a mirror upon it. A bowl of hot water had been placed there, not too long ago judging by the steam rising from it. Towels and some kind of fatty object, which Vre'Kauyon assumed to be soap, were also present. A large bottle was on the other end of the desk, with a glass cup. Thankfully, a jug of water was also available. Despite last night's events, Vre'Kauyon took a sip of the deep red liquid in the bottle. It was definately alcoholic, but lacking the potency of the other drinks. With time, he imagined he could grow fond of it.
He had washed, and was struggling into his new clothes, when Lessik returned. The boy stood politely at the door, watching the Water Caste dress.
Eventually, Vre'Kauyon gave in, "perhaps you can assist me. How does one fasten this exactly?"
The boy approached, and corrected the straps and buckles.
"Thankyou... but is this sword really necessary?"
Lessik nodded, "Sir Miridioc insisted. He said that it would help you fit in."
"Remind me to thank him when I next see him," Vre'Kauyon replied, without a trace of sarcasm in his voice.