Our Intrepid Fire Caste Hero faces his greatest foe...
Some months after the reversal of the Ambush on Thunoth, Sun'Ka's renown and influence was at its peak. Contemporary leaders analysed his past actions in detail, young warriors sought entry into his cadre, and his peers made large of ties of fellowship to him (real or imagined). Sun'Ka's few critics did point out that the victories were largely against a certain class of foe, those susceptible to moving fire from his commandos, lightly armored enough to be dealt with by burst cannon, and no more physically powerful or skilled in close quarters combat than the Tau Fire Warriors themselves. Those who supported Sun'Ka refuted these claims, as of course, a skilled general applies his stratagems to those enemies he might cause the most impact to. Sun'Ka himself remained aloof from these debates. He knew his tactics were sound, and his methods of using close assault were effective in limited applications. He also knew that his greatest successes had a good deal to do with his personal luck and forceful personality.
What was coming next, no one had suspected. Unknown to the Tau, there had been survivors of the Brimlock Dragoon guardsmen who had engineered the Ambush at Thunoth, and they had requested aid from the Imperium against the cross border Tau. To Sun'Ka's misfortune, their request was answered. A strike team from the Salamanders chapter of the Adeptus Astartes, the vaunted Space Marines, were nearby in the Damocles Gulf, searching for lost relics of their chapter, and set course for the Tau garrison world. A strike force was scrambled and sprung upon the unsuspecting Tau.
Drop pods streaked from the sky, crashing into key points of the Tau ground defense in spectacular gouts of flame and dust. When the clouds cleared, the pods were already disgorging the Salamanders, crashing purposefully into the Tau all around them. The bulk of the Tau Hunter Cadres were overwhelmed by the relative superiority of the sudden assault, and pulled back from the installation, towards the safety of the bulk transports outside the garrison. The route, they found, was cut off by a squad of Salamander Terminators. Sun'ka was asked by the others to assault the Terminators, and either dislodge them, or keep them occupied until the bulk of the Tau force could be withdrawn past them. Knowing that this was the situation he had been fearing, Sun'Ka nevertheless drew up his troops in assault formation. In hindsight, the results were inevitable.
The Tau assault squads charged into the Terminators, carbines blazing, but the fearless Salamanders refused to be pinned into cover or move from their position. They simply stood resolute with Thunder Hammers and storm shields crackling, chain lightning crawling across their lightning claws. Knowing that the only way he could help the rest of the Tau on the planet was to sacrifice his squads against the terminators, Sun'Ka personally led his Fire Warriors into the Astartes. A vicious melee ensued, and though the Salamanders prevailed, it was costly, as well trained Tau assault commandos climbed over them, and Sun'Ka in his Crisis suit fired all around with fusion blaster and burst cannon.
Eventually, even Sun'Ka's brave commandos faltered, and Sun'Ka, injured withing his damaged XV8, covered their retreat personally, trading shots with Storm Bolter armed Terminators. When the Salamanders finally viewed their surroundings, they saw that the bulk of the Tau force had slipped past during the melee.
To Be Continued...