Old Shatter Hands and his two Bodyguards, Shas'vres Yalko and Dyrmo, approached the Kroot encampment. The animal hide tents glowed and flickered with the fire of their hearths inside. Thoth's moon above was a bright blue low in the sky and the mountains surrounded the village and protected the site from the howling winds of Thoth.
Yalko commented to Dyrmo, "The savages certainly know how to pick a camp."
Soon their approach was greeted by two tall figures silhouetted by the warm glow of the village. Their towering bodies startled the three shorter Tau warriors. On foot and without their battlesuits, the three warriors felt vulnerable and smallish. The Kroot Elders had insisted that all Tau come to their camp as they were born and the Tau had reluctantly agreed. This evening, Old Shatter Hands carried with him a communion helm and his trusted sidearm.
"We come seeking a meeting with Kills-In-Water. May we enter the camp?" Old Shatter Hands stated confidently.
The Kroot Guards looked at each other. One of them chirped and rattled his beak, the other's quills shook slightly in response. Old Shatter thought it funny that, while the Kroot language consisted of thousands upon thousands of vocalizations, body language was still an important part of their communication.
"Of course, we bring gifts, my friends. Fio'la! "Old Shatter called back, " Show them the rifles."
A few orderlies hauled over two large crates and lay them in the dirt before the Kroot. One bent over to punch in a code and opened the crates. The crate revealed a large supply of ammunition and energy packs for Kroot Rifles; the other a set of rifles.
The Kroot Warriors inspected them but made no expression. The two each snatched up a few energy packs and let out a screech toward the camp. There was a sudden commotion and soon a gaggle of Kroot emerged from their tents and swarmed the crates. Old Shatter Hands, startled now, took a few steps back. The Kroot warriors groped the contents of the crates and let out howls of glee.
The two Kroot Guards then beckoned Old Shatter Hands and his bodyguards to follow. With the camp now stirred to life, a great cacophony of howls, whistles, chirps and screeches filled their ears. Tethered kroot-hounds snapped as the precession passed the many tents, some elaborately decorated with Kroot markings, others bare and plain. Racks of indistinguishable meats, hung out over fire to be smoked, disgusted the Tau. The smell was overpowering but Old Shatter Hands held his composure.
They were finally lead to the Elder's tent. It was larger than the others, lined with furs of various beasts. A great skull had been placed on a pole in front the entrance, painted with blue markings. One of the Kroot Warriors chirped then moved the furs aside and stuck his head through the doorway. He pulled his head out and gestured them to enter.
Old Shatter Hands walked forward and spoke "We, the Tau, are about to enter."
He stepped forward, pulled the furs aside and entered the warm glow of the tent. He looked about. In the center of the tent was pit that contained the low-burning fire. Smoke gently poured upwards from embers placed on a ceramic plate. Their scent was sweet and tinged with spices from other worlds.
Seated around the fire in a circle, were three elderly Kroot. They looked upon on the great Tau warrior from wrinkled faces and deep eyes. Their bodies were barely dressed and it donned on the Tau, how naked the Kroot looked. Their plumes had been painted white but were now held back, demonstrating their ease. As all three of the Tau warriors stepped in, one of the Kroot Leaders gestured them to take seats on the ground.
"We come to discuss a military action, " stated Old Shatter. "I have brought you a communion helm so that we may speak freely."
One quickly answered. "We do not need such things," he stated,"I have learnt your language as many Kroot have. I have been appointed to speaker and leader of this tribe."
Old Shatter Hands studied the old Kroot. His body was bare as the others but it had been painted in wavy blue designs.
"I understand, Chief Kills-In-Water, You have spoken well on behalf of your tribe. The communion helm might make my voice clearer in your ears, here, take it." Old Shatter Hands pushed the helm toward the Kroot Chief.
The Kroot recoiled slightly, "Little Big People always offer the mind-helm but we, Kroot, do not take it."
"Very well...The Little Big People have brought you all to this world as citizens and soldiers of the Empire. Under your leadership, the Kroot on Thoth have brought much honor to your nation. The great chiefs of the Tau know your name well and sing your praises across the Empire. You have always had my respect and I come to you on this evening to discuss a war-party."
The chief spoke. "The Warriors are hungry for the meat of new enemies. We have come to fight on this planet in exchange for hunting grounds, but we seek the strength from new enemies as well. The Kroot have fought along side your warriors on many battlefields, Old Shatter Hands. Many of them have died with you as their war-chief."
"Kills-In-Water, I hear you. We are forming a war-party and I am its war chief. The enemy has fortified a position on the foothills of the Aun-Gri mountains where the river Moch meets the plains. We intend to smash him from this position for the final killing blow. I need a great force of Kroot to disrupt their supply lines. My forces are strained. We have a great amount of cargo and technology. With our technology, one Tau is as strong as ten of the enemy. But we cannot be everywhere, will you join us?"
The Kroot Chief shook his plume and raised it.
Old Shatter Hands pressed on. "Go on a war-path through the mountains, along the ridges where the enemy cannot find you. They have set up three drop sites in the mountains to the east. Under the cover of the trees, their supply-lines are run without opposition. You'll be tasked with destroying the drop-sites and disrupting their lines while the main Warparty attacks their fortifications. We'll supply your Kroot with many rifles and supplies. Many enemy shall fall to your blades. Can I ask the great Warchief, Kills-In-Water, to lead this war-party?"
The old Kroot studied the Tau Warriors for a short while. The fires crackled and warmed his face. The two other Kroot Elders chirped quietly. One whistled a short song. Kills-In-Water listened but did not respond.
"Old Shatter Hands, I have heard what you have asked. I shall commune with the great spirit of Thoth before I give your answer. She holds many secrets which the Kroot do not yet know. Return in three days."