Tacit Axiom

This is a resource thread for my ongoing Halo fanon setting, working-titled "Daybreak" (or the "Daybreak-verse"). My main stuff is focused on the post-war era, though technically the lore covers all of the Halo timeline. My most prominent work on the setting involves the post-Covenant and a lot of filling in of worldbuilding gaps in areas like slipspace travel and communication, administrative details, cultural variety, change across time, and more. Daybreak could be considered a "semi-alternate universe"; while I don't like to change things without a good reason, I do mercilessly "retcon" some details such as star locations for the sake of a more cohesive world, as well as implicitly ignoring other material that gets in the way of good worldbuilding, such as the apparent scale of the post-Covenant in Kilo-Five. That said, most of the stuff in canon can still thought of as having happened one way or the other, just not necessarily to the letter.

 

I'll be sharing my work as well as ideas and work in progress for review and discussion. This will serve as an aggregate post for the stuff I've done so far to make it easier to refer and return to it at any point. Also, a lot of the more obscure references I'll likely be making in my subsequent posts might be a bit hard to understand without the context of the following.

MAIN RESOURCES

  • Orion Arm star map: an overall map of the Orion Arm. Only features locations mentioned in canon.
  • Siakar Expanse: post-war astropolitical map with lore on locations, factions and the Covenant sphere in general. (Framing: ONI message)
  • Chikri-Merkaa Conflux (CMC): overview of my primary post-Covenant faction. (Framing: ONI message)

ASSORTED ART AND LORE

  • The Spires of Terpen: information on the CMC world Radiant Zenith and its capital city (Framing: post-Covenant historical document)
  • Turmoil on Resounding Contentment: history of a post-Schism conflict in the Siakar Expanse and the Selkie aquatic hovercraft (Framing: post-Covenant historical document) (collaboration with @Quirel)
  • Trouble Ahead: basics on the Jjaibii Shroud Nexus faction
  • Battlegroup Endymion: lore on a post-war UNSC battlegroup operating in the crossing regions between the UNSC and Covenant spheres

THE CHARTING OF THE THIRD QUARTER: WORK IN PROGRESS
----
halo
Quote 4 0
Tacit Axiom
[siakar_expanse_context_map_wip7_by_the_chronothaur-dcqee15]

Second work-in-progress update of my wider context map (see my initial notes here) with additional detail and some minor changes, including:
  • Cleanup and refining of various stuff
  • More crossing routes. All of them have only human names for the time being. (in general, the human names are in blue while the Covenant ones are in purple or pink)
  • More named subdomains + place names in general
  • Better border definition
  • Refined human sphere + more locations. Dark red represents glassed worlds, while green is for surviving ones (this is obviously very general).
  • Added outlying human or joint-occupation settlements (in dark blue); most of these would be either post-or late-war, and many would be unsanctioned, as hinted at in the Cole story in Evolutions.
It really is quite ridiculous how small human space actually is; or, rather, how big the galaxy around it is. Even on the map I've had to slightly enlarge the human sphere for visuals' sake; it would realistically be even smaller than that.

One thing I decided to add were more aberrations from the main "Primary Domain" format. I imagined these would occur especially in those regions that were long-established before the Covenant sphere was reorganized the better part of a millennium ago (more on that here). Some of the most powerful, wealthy, religiously significant, or otherwise exceptional territories were not subjected to the reform, or were treated as being in equal standing to Primary Domains though often much smaller and different in terms of governance; alternatively, new sub-domains could have sprung after the change was instated and newer administrations no longer cared as much about the standard set by their forebears.

One may note that on the mini-map, I've divided the Covenant sphere into four "quarters", which are more or less slices of the entire spiral arm. The more logical option would've been to use a radial sector system like humanity's, but that's why I didn't want to do it. I have this idea that the Covenant look at the galaxy in a fundamentally different way: whereas the UEG views Sol as the center of everything, the Covenant has no real center; sure, there is Sanghelios and the most ancient Sangheili colonies, where the Covenant's expansion would have begun, but their actual capital is mobile and it would be heretical to even suggest that the Covenant's center might be something other than High Charity. You can't redefine your astrography every time the holy city moves, but you can use a more decentralized system to divide space. (That said, I do think the old Sangheili core and the other colonies established during the Covenant's first millennium would still form a strong core for the Covenant empire.)

The regions where the Covenant have encroached on the Orion Complex tend to have gloomy or ominous names because as the center of Forerunner power, it would've born the brunt of the Flood war. Where arcane star-charts spoke of the fabled throne-realms of the ancients nestled in the grand embrace of shimmering clouds of natal stardust, the Covenant's scouts beheld only the terrible devastation wrought by the Parasite: entire systems ground to rubble, the detritus of prematurely detonated stars, and scores of planetary ecumenopolises rendered cold and dead. There would be some scattered treasure to reclaim, locked away in silver orbs of slow time or beyond impenetrable illusions and unnatural angles; but all too often explorers found only empty husks of once glittering star-citadels; planetary systems woven with intricate orbital tapestries of thousands of artificial worlds now hollow and lifeless, or haunted by fell machine-ghosts and the babble of morbid eulogies; geometries once elegant and refined twisted into nightmarish mockeries, their self-repair systems perverted by the Flood's multi-vector assaults, and data vaults either corrupted or unraveled by the Forerunners' own firebreak viruses. And there would be dangers; half-mad dregs of defensive sentinel networks; runaway nanotechnology or astroengineering machinery; degraded or corrupted remains of ancillas and lower-order automatons; traps and automated systems, not the least of which was the Jat-Krula's innermost and most ancient boundary, where many an explorer ship has fallen over the centuries.

The in-universe data drop is still oncoming.

@Quirel: since you're using some of my ideas anyway, if there's anything you'd like added or changed that could accommodate NAWW better, let me know.
halo
Quote 0 0
Quirel
Tacit Axiom wrote:
@Quirel: since you're using some of my ideas anyway, if there's anything you'd like added or changed that could accommodate NAWW better, let me know.

Well, you see how the Outer Interception Perimeter arcs through Human space?
And you see how you can draw a line from Sol to Harvest, and that line will pass by a region of what looks like uninhabited space?
I could place Stanislav K. Simonov's homeworld to within a few pixels on that map.

Ok, I see you've updated the map since yesterday. Interesting.

Do you have anything planned for the Querron Exalt or the Kancuten Mandates? 
The Parhelia is going to be trapped in UNSC territory (And territory formerly controlled by the UNSC) for a few years, but when it returns to the Covenant Empire, Quatch is going to settle in a territory known as the Shoal.

The Shoal is a region of turbulent slipspace, bordered by much larger and more populous primary domains. For hundreds of years, the Shoal was thought to be unnavigable, and so it was selected as a border between three very belligerent states. Problem is, it can be navigated, and it's got a number of odd slipspace lanes running through it that make it a wonderful route of invasion. So High Charity stepped back in, wrested control of the Shoal away from one of the domains, and founded a buffer state.

If you already have plans for those domains, I could move the Shoal deeper in Covenant territory. But really, The Kancuten Mandates would be perfect.
Quote 0 0
Quirel

Tacit Axiom wrote:
One may note that on the mini-map, I've divided the Covenant sphere into four "quarters", which are more or less slices of the entire spiral arm. The more logical option would've been to use a radial sector system like humanity's, but that's why I didn't want to do it. I have this idea that the Covenant look at the galaxy in a fundamentally different way: whereas the UEG views Sol as the center of everything, the Covenant has no real center; sure, there is Sanghelios and the most ancient Sangheili colonies, where the Covenant's expansion would have begun, but their actual capital is mobile and it would be heretical to even suggest that the Covenant's center might be something other than High Charity. You can't redefine your astrography every time the holy city moves, but you can use a more decentralized system to divide space. (That said, I do think the old Sangheili core and the other colonies established during the Covenant's first millennium would still form a strong core for the Covenant empire.)

It wasn't always so. In the earliest ages* of the Covenant empire, it was unthinkable that High Charity could be a center of political power. It was constructed as a mission into the greater galaxy, to boldly go where neither San Shyuum nor Sangheili had ever gone before. The Prophets were too busy tinkering with Forerunner archives and bickering over meaningless badges of scholarly prestige to govern anything. As for their Sangheili escorts, they answered to Sanghelios.

This only changed over time. A ruler without legitimacy has feet of clay, for he cannot command loyalty. High Charity slowly amassed legitimacy and loyalty because its leaders were the first and foremost pioneers into the investigation of the Forerunner Ecumune and its technology. When the theologians of High Charity announced that accumulated knowledge supported this line of dogma or that, their words held weight. Sometimes they pushed this too far, and dogma became more important than intellectual honesty. Those times would be wracked by doubt and revolution, before being corrected by reformation.

High Charity's mendicant nature also gave it an air of political impartiality, one which was carefully cultivated by the wiser Heirarchs. More than that, High Charity itself has a presence. I cannot tell you how many bloody civil wars have been brought to a halt by the spectacle of High Charity arriving in low orbit so that the Heirarchs can declare that the fighting is over.

By the end of the first five centuries, High Charity's ascent to the apex of political power in the Empire was complete. From there, its stare waxed and waned, but never fell. Sometimes High Charity and Sanghelios have marched in lockstep, and sometimes they have locked horns over matters of theology and power. Sometimes High Charity was at the forefront of expansion on the Covenant frontier, but some ages it wandered endlessly along the oldest of the Covenant worlds, affirming the faith. Even in the most contentious ages when anti-Heirarchs were elected to challenge the old, it was possession of High Charity that determined legitimacy.

Was High Charity the center of the Covenant Empire? Yes. How could it be any other way? Even when High Charity was very far away, the merest pauper of a peripheral world could feel its pull. All of the empire revolved around High Charity like the worlds and the moons about a star, and only Sanghelios and the Sunlit Worlds**, perhaps, could match its pull. And then there was the flow of tithes and pilgrims. Rivers of wealth beyond measure, students and petitioners without number, and armies of the faithful marched across the length and breadth of the Covenant Empire as High Charity wandered about, just as the tides wash across a garden world with a solitary moon.

I cannot put to words the psychic shock of High Charity's demise, or the devastation wrought when that river of faith and fortune was denied an outlet. Can you imagine how the markets were crushed under the glut of that wealth, or how those vast stores fed the engines of war? Can you imagine how the pilgrims must have fallen into despair, and turned their fury upon each other? How they were perfect recruits for armies and cults of the most vile nature?

High Charity is gone, and the universe shall never be the same again. The old calendar and all its ages are retired. I date year zero to the loss of that mendicant city, and this is year ten of a new Age of Abandonment.

*This is, of course, misleading. The division of Covenant history into ages and their classification according to type was not done until the publication of Dwod G'don's landmark treatise on the history of the Covenant Empire, which forever shaped how scholars view the subject. 

**The geographical center of the Covenant empire, and the very oldest worlds. These were the star systems from which Urs, Fied, and Joori can be seen with the naked eye, and very nearly marks the extent of Sangheili civilization at the time of the War of Beginnings. These systems have all been settled for well over 3,500 years. They are wealthy, and rich in political, cultural, and martial power.

Quote 1 0
Tacit Axiom
Quirel wrote:

Well, you see how the Outer Interception Perimeter arcs through Human space?
And you see how you can draw a line from Sol to Harvest, and that line will pass by a region of what looks like uninhabited space?
I could place Stanislav K. Simonov's homeworld to within a few pixels on that map.


Sure, that would work. I might fit it in when I finally get around to making a more in-depth map of the human sphere.

That said, I'm still not sure if Earth should be outside the perimeter. The Librarian mentions as much in the Halo 3 terminals, and it's the implication in Silentium, but then we know of Line Installations within the human sphere, or at least within human jump range. Of course, this is fairly justifiable if we assume there are multiple layers to the Line, with perhaps the innermost perimeter being the oldest one; the outer perimeter would've fallen long before the Lifeworkers' final voyages.

The specific reason why I had the perimeter run through Sector 3 is the idea of the Isbanola Sector (and a lot of the surviving post-war colonies) being located there as it was on the far side from Covenant space. In Last Light, Intrepid Eye's outpost responds to a distress call from a Line Installation just in the next system over, so if we want to have Gao, Venezia and the rest of that lot in Sector 3, that's where the Line would be. Catalog also made some suggestion to Harvest's Forerunner outpost being Line-related, so that's another data point that supports the perimeter arcing somewhere close by.

Of course, it's perfectly possible and even likely that the Line Installations aren't placed in a neatly straight line. There could be a kind of zigzagging pattern to them, like a bastion fort in three dimensions, or something even more irregular to fit higher-dimensional topology. The line is just a rough approximation.

Quirel wrote:

Ok, I see you've updated the map since yesterday. Interesting.


Yeah, that happens. There's still going to be a number of updates, like the addition of a few more real-world astronomical features, more worlds, and likely a few more changes depending on the ideas I might get.

Quirel wrote:

Do you have anything planned for the Querron Exalt or the Kancuten Mandates? 
The Parhelia is going to be trapped in UNSC territory (And territory formerly controlled by the UNSC) for a few years, but when it returns to the Covenant Empire, Quatch is going to settle in a territory known as the Shoal.

The Shoal is a region of turbulent slipspace, bordered by much larger and more populous primary domains. For hundreds of years, the Shoal was thought to be unnavigable, and so it was selected as a border between three very belligerent states. Problem is, it can be navigated, and it's got a number of odd slipspace lanes running through it that make it a wonderful route of invasion. So High Charity stepped back in, wrested control of the Shoal away from one of the domains, and founded a buffer state.

If you already have plans for those domains, I could move the Shoal deeper in Covenant territory. But really, The Kancuten Mandates would be perfect.


Perfectly doable. In general most of the map other than the Siakar Expanse and to some extent the Hades Gulf are very open-ended as far as I'm concerned; I have some data points for some of the other domains, like ideas for a few worlds, but nothing fixed so far. Basically everything outside the domains bordering Siakar - outside of the general shape of Covenant space in the region - were made up for this map.

Do you think the Shoal would be a region within the Kancuten Mandates, or do I just rename that domain the Shoal (which I can do; I'll just store that name for later use).

Since I'll also be adding a few key worlds to some of the domains, mostly to make it look like there's more going on, do you have any particular points of interests in mind that could be added?

Also, some notes I can think of:
  • The Kalosi Reach is one of the newer expansion regions and not very well-established. It was there, or rather in the outlying, thin borders, where the Minor Transgression departed for its fateful voyage to Harvest.
  • The Umbral Crest - or, rather, the Diocese of Blessed Edification - is fairly old, having been established nearly a thousand years ago when a remote expedition discovered Zhoist; this was an event celebrated with a new Age of Reclamation, as the vaults of the Ten Cities of Edification promised great advancements in travel, communications and weaponry, with many more to be unlocked and studied over later centuries.
    • I'm also trying to fit these discoveries into major changes in the Covenant's power structure and/or expansion trends - I'm thinking it might've been a big contribution to the consolidation of the Primary Domains as administrative units, enabling High Charity to both effectively communicate with faraway realms and project power there with faster ministerial fleets, thus ending a long period of civil wars and secessions.
    • Major reliquaries (complete with neighboring districts) are often their own sub-domains precisely so that High Charity (or, rather, any one of the political bodies there) can ensure more effective and direct control over them than, say, a Secondary Domain under the secular leadership of a capricious Sangheili lord.
    • Expansion in the Umbral Crest has been fairly slow because the region is notoriously difficult to navigate, with many less-than-optimal slipspace lanes, and the local authorities over the last 500 years have been conservative about faraway exploration as there was still so much to be learned in the Ten Cities.
  • Post-war, there is much unrest in the Umbral Crest and the Kalosi Reach, and the entire coreward side of the Third Quarter has been home to many battles between Sangheili and Jiralhanae factions due to the relative proximity of Doisac.
  • The Hezzaggor Verge is sparsely populated, comparatively speaking, and most of the activity there - along with the major routes - are centered on the anti-spinward borders.
  • Terms like "Primary Domain" are rarely seen outside of formal documentation, as they are largely administrative technicalities. However, people by and large still refer to most domains by their Covenant-era names even in the post-war era, given how established they are as regional designators. Some domains even retain degrees of political control over their territories, though usually power has devolved to smaller units.
  • The Pleiades Corridor may be the safest and most established route to Covenant space, but such concepts are relative. At it's best it's comparable to the Old West, or the Outer Planets Grab of the early to mid 22nd century. The UNSC only has a handful of rapid-response battlegroups operating in the entire region, while everyone else (from both sides of the gulf) is busy claiming real estate along the corridor and nearby systems. Somehow, this chaos has managed itself so far without major incidents, though turf wars between commercial entities are common.
  • The dark purple hatch pattern signifies Covenant fringe regions: areas under the influence of the Covenant meta-civilization where formal authorities held no direct influence. The border of the fringe is approximate at best, as no one truly knows how far such elements reach. Furthermore, given how diffuse Covenant space was even within its most populated domains, there were always scores of empty systems perfect for rogue elements off the beaten path.
  • The Qerkossian Shore is marked on the map because I've mentioned it a few times as the origin of the colonists who settled the primary worlds of the Chikri-Merkaa Strand. This was before the primary domains were a thing, and the political divisions were different then, but the name remains as an astrographic designation for that general area.
    • Old border regions like the Qerkossian Shore were actually settled a few centuries before the discovery of Y'Deio and the Kig-Yar, because of the Covenant's irregular expansion pattern. By the time the first Covenant ship stumbled on the Y'Deio system, Covenant space already surrounded it on many sides.
    • How much have you thought about the early history of the Kig-Yar? I have some lore drafted, such as the idea that they had been spacefaring for over 700 years before their discovery by the Covenant, but for various reasons never developed slipspace technology, instead having a fairly well-established presence across thousands of habitats in their home system (a large portion of the species finding themselves more at home living atop gravity wells rather than in them). One of my ideas (though not set in stone) is that they did experiment with slipspace several times, but incidents involving the atomization of several space habitats - along with interim "dark ages" of division and discord, perhaps sparked by runaway viruses - led to them never creating true interstellar travel on their own. In fact, it could've been those very experiments (or, possibly, simple radio communications) that attracted the Covenant to the Y'Deio system in the first place.
halo
Quote 1 0
Quirel
Tacit Axiom wrote:
That said, I'm still not sure if Earth should be outside the perimeter. The Librarian mentions as much in the Halo 3 terminals, and it's the implication in Silentium, but then we know of Line Installations within the human sphere, or at least within human jump range. Of course, this is fairly justifiable if we assume there are multiple layers to the Line, with perhaps the innermost perimeter being the oldest one; the outer perimeter would've fallen long before the Lifeworkers' final voyages.

The specific reason why I had the perimeter run through Sector 3 is the idea of the Isbanola Sector (and a lot of the surviving post-war colonies) being located there as it was on the far side from Covenant space. In Last Light, Intrepid Eye's outpost responds to a distress call from a Line Installation just in the next system over, so if we want to have Gao, Venezia and the rest of that lot in Sector 3, that's where the Line would be. Catalog also made some suggestion to Harvest's Forerunner outpost being Line-related, so that's another data point that supports the perimeter arcing somewhere close by.

Of course, it's perfectly possible and even likely that the Line Installations aren't placed in a neatly straight line. There could be a kind of zigzagging pattern to them, like a bastion fort in three dimensions, or something even more irregular to fit higher-dimensional topology. The line is just a rough approximation.

Got to admit, a three-dimensional bastion would be metal as fuck. And it would give a whole new meaning to the name "Star Fort".

Also, the perimeters should be thicker than the current lines indicate. The Forerunner would have built a defensive perimeter with mutually supporting strongholds and harborages and enough depth that the Flood can't break through by taking a handful of systems. And if the Flood do break through, they have to contend with reinforcements pouring in from all sides to close the gap, while the logistical centers and patrols in the systems beyond are capable of defending themselves. 

While the perimeter passes through Sector 3, the Forerunner defenses could have spanned through much of the UNSC's current territory. When the Flood breached the Outer Interception Perimeter elsewhere, everything was packed up and shipped to the Median Perimeter or abandoned in place. Which also explains why there's so much functional artefacts left in UNSC territory.

Tacit Axiom wrote:


Perfectly doable. In general most of the map other than the Siakar Expanse and to some extent the Hades Gulf are very open-ended as far as I'm concerned; I have some data points for some of the other domains, like ideas for a few worlds, but nothing fixed so far. Basically everything outside the domains bordering Siakar - outside of the general shape of Covenant space in the region - were made up for this map.

Do you think the Shoal would be a region within the Kancuten Mandates, or do I just rename that domain the Shoal (which I can do; I'll just store that name for later use).

The Shoal is the landscape, the Kancuten Mandates is the polity.

Tacit Axiom wrote:
Since I'll also be adding a few key worlds to some of the domains, mostly to make it look like there's more going on, do you have any particular points of interests in mind that could be added?

Not at the moment, no. I should organize my notes and get back to you.

Tacit Axiom wrote:
Also, some notes I can think of:
  • The Kalosi Reach is one of the newer expansion regions and not very well-established. It was there, or rather in the outlying, thin borders, where the Minor Transgression departed for its fateful voyage to Harvest.
  • The Umbral Crest - or, rather, the Diocese of Blessed Edification - is fairly old, having been established nearly a thousand years ago when a remote expedition discovered Zhoist; this was an event celebrated with a new Age of Reclamation, as the vaults of the Ten Cities of Edification promised great advancements in travel, communications and weaponry, with many more to be unlocked and studied over later centuries.
    • I'm also trying to fit these discoveries into major changes in the Covenant's power structure and/or expansion trends - I'm thinking it might've been a big contribution to the consolidation of the Primary Domains as administrative units, enabling High Charity to both effectively communicate with faraway realms and project power there with faster ministerial fleets, thus ending a long period of civil wars and secessions.
    • Major reliquaries (complete with neighboring districts) are often their own sub-domains precisely so that High Charity (or, rather, any one of the political bodies there) can ensure more effective and direct control over them than, say, a Secondary Domain under the secular leadership of a capricious Sangheili lord.
    • Expansion in the Umbral Crest has been fairly slow because the region is notoriously difficult to navigate, with many less-than-optimal slipspace lanes, and the local authorities over the last 500 years have been conservative about faraway exploration as there was still so much to be learned in the Ten Cities.


Tacit Axiom wrote:

  • Post-war, there is much unrest in the Umbral Crest and the Kalosi Reach, and the entire coreward side of the Third Quarter has been home to many battles between Sangheili and Jiralhanae factions due to the relative proximity of Doisac.
Later in Not All Who Wander, some travelers in the Kancuten Mandates will approach Quatch and ask him about returning to UNSC space. He feels their need to get there, but he will flatly refuse on the grounds that he barely made it through the gauntlet in the first place. 

This brings up the question of how big of a fight the Great Schism is, and how the Brutes are able to hold their own against the Elites. Maybe a lot of war material was transferred to the Brutes* over the course of the UNSC-Covenant War**, but how do they have the numbers to fight the more numerous Sangheili? Just how far from their home territory can the Brutes project martial power?

*I've thought of a source of off-the-book warships that Truth could have tapped to arm the Jiralhanae, but it's late and I need to wrap this up.
**We need a more succinct name.

Tacit Axiom wrote:

  • Old border regions like the Qerkossian Shore were actually settled a few centuries before the discovery of Y'Deio and the Kig-Yar, because of the Covenant's irregular expansion pattern. By the time the first Covenant ship stumbled on the Y'Deio system, Covenant space already surrounded it on many sides.
  • How much have you thought about the early history of the Kig-Yar? I have some lore drafted, such as the idea that they had been spacefaring for over 700 years before their discovery by the Covenant, but for various reasons never developed slipspace technology, instead having a fairly well-established presence across thousands of habitats in their home system (a large portion of the species finding themselves more at home living atop gravity wells rather than in them). One of my ideas (though not set in stone) is that they did experiment with slipspace several times, but incidents involving the atomization of several space habitats - along with interim "dark ages" of division and discord, perhaps sparked by runaway viruses - led to them never creating true interstellar travel on their own. In fact, it could've been those very experiments (or, possibly, simple radio communications) that attracted the Covenant to the Y'Deio system in the first place.

Yeah, I've given it some thought. 
  • Kig-Yar aren't universally secular. Religion used to be an integral part of society across Eayn, but after a plague and a war that ravaged the globe at the dawn of the industrial era, religion died out. It persists today in faith communes and some clans, but most Kig-Yar barely even observe the old traditions.
  • Around this same time, there was a global push for the professionalization of government called "Reconstructionism". Kig-Yar governance has historically taken the form of systems of patronage. Rich and influential patrons support their followers through patronage, and their followers reward them with their loyalty. This could be clan elders supporting their families, or senators fighting for their constituents' welfare, or political machines that gave out alms for votes. Since the Reconstructionists blamed this corrupt leadership for the wars and the devastation of the plague, they pushed for the establishment of central governments with professional bureaucracies to administer services like education and welfare.
  • Universal franchise is not the norm on Eayn. If you subsist on the government's patronage, you are a 'ward', and your ability to vote is limited. If you do not, you are a citizen.
  • Quatch and Taol were natives of the Dasim province. If Quatch was a ward, then he could only vote for his representative in Dasim's unicameral senate, as well as the alderman of his borough. Taol, who was born in a different town, could cast a vote for every municipal office, but was forbidden from running for those offices for five years after she quit taking the government's patronage. But if they were full citizens, they would be able to vote for and run for all municipal offices, their respective national offices, and both referendums and initiatives.
  • As a result, politics an Eayn are usually an impenetrable tangle of fights between citizens, wards, representatives, and bureaucrats.
  • Most of the colonists who left Eayn for the greater Y'Deio system were dissidents and malcontents looking to get as far away from that mess as Kig-Yarianly possible.
  • I was going to write "humanly possible", but it didn't feel right.
  • This factionalization between Eayn and her colonies, and between the asteroid colonies themselves, made it all but impossible to develop the industrial base needed to manufacture slipspace drives. The theoretical work behind the slipspace drive was finished fifty years before first contact, but it was as much of an academic curiosity for the Kig-Yar as a Dyson Sphere is to the UNSC.
  • One piece of technology the Kig-Yar did develop was a primitive form of the pinch fusion reactor, which uses shaped gravity wells to spark and sustain a fusion reaction. This is a very energy-efficient design, and the reactors (known as 'heaps') double as artificial gravity generators.
  • The heap that powers the industry of T'vao generates a gravity field stronger than the strength of gravity at Eayn's surface. The gradient is also steeper, which causes dramatic atmospheric shifts between the habitat levels. T'vaoans have genetically altered their germline to enhance their strength and agility, as well as to reduce the muscular atrophy from microgravity. That's why they're such zippy bastards.
Quote 1 0
Tacit Axiom
Version 0.3!

[siakar_expanse_context_map_wip8_by_the_chronothaur-dcqo37w]

A few notes:
  • Most of the world-names are just names at this point and subject to change.
  • A Covenant world can have multiple names, with important worlds such as regional fortresses usually having at least two: a "true name" and a "tribute name"; "Saepon'kal" doesn't literally translate to "Joyous Exultation", but the former is the true name (often based on archaic or dialectal vocabulary, or a corruption thereof) whereas the latter, the tribute name, is explicitly meaningful and changes alongside language to retain its meaning. Most Covenant worlds have merely a true name, though in some cases the name types can be indistinguishable (such as recently-colonized worlds, where linguistic drift or other factors have not yet altered the name's semantic content). The formal bestowal of a tribute name is a ceremony in its own right, and a source of much celebration.
  • The siakar is a kind of bird native to Nesarok, one of the Sunlit Worlds, and is now quite common across the Covenant sphere. The Primary Domain gets its name specifically from an ancient Nesaroki constellation that carried that bird's name, most of the stars of which were situated in or in the direction of the current Siakar Expanse.
A few points of interest:
  • Far Shore (遠岸) is one of the key hubs of the Pleiades Corridor. Having its beginnings in a secondary Covenant supply depot which quickly became a trading outpost after the war, the arid world now houses a rapidly-increasing number of settlements and port cities from different groups and interests from both sides of the Hades Gulf, and its orbit and surrounding space are littered with small stations and outposts each hoping to get their share of the business opportunities offered by the area - something that has not gone unnoticed by human corporations or ex-Covenant mercantile consortia operating within the Siakar Expanse and beyond. However, for every success story, there are a hundred dashed hopes and dreams, and those unfortunate enough to be counted among the latter now wander aimlessly across Far Shore and its immediate neighborhood, finding various odd jobs not always on the right side of the law. And though it is one of the best-patrolled regions of the Gulf, crime and general lawlessness still abound.
  • The Infinite Virtue Station is perhaps most remarkable for the ultimate irony of its name, so infamous is it as a den of scoundrels and debauchery. Deep in the past, it was the secret pet project of a megalomaniacal Hierarch who initially commissioned it as a mighty superweapon. However, progress was slow due to the project's secrecy, poor management and arguably unworkable design (it was suspected that the weapon could never have worked as intended anyway), and following the end of said Hierarch's term, the mostly empty husk of the weapon was forgotten for ages until it became a trading hub as the Covenant's reach expanded around it.
  • Deluge (formerly known as Jart) is a former Sangheili colony where planetary flooding initiated by an increase in stellar activity and the consequent glacial melting caused most of the inhabitants to abandon the world and its cities, which now lie in ruins. Now there is much trader activity (not always of the lawful kind) in the flooded cities, and many Kig-Yar in particular call the place home. The capital city in particular - which now carries the same name as the planet - is a nexus of activity, and a ramshackle of structures has been built on top of the foundations provided by the city. Some of the towers and domes remain partially above the water, and many bridges and pontoon-structures cross between the "islands" created by the partly submerged spires, complemented by the husks of scrapped ships of both the space- and seagoing kind.
  • Harhatri: an ominous, cold world with stygian cracks in the crust home to titanic Forerunner stone-mazes. Many legends surround the world, and even most pirates won't tread there out of superstitions that may have some basis in reality. The mazes, sometimes referenced as 'tombs', are rumored to have time-bending properties; madmen have claimed to have been trapped in the tombs until they were old and withered while only days passed in the outside world, while others have allegedly emerged from the depths of the world centuries since they entered despite having spent only hours inside. Reports of active defenses and traps, while unsubstantiated, further deter curious visitors. Centuries ago many thought Forerunner treasures lay deep in the planet's caverns, but most have since given up the search as nothing has been found there but peril and madness.
  • Lambent Gates: The star system of this key trade outpost and fortress world is home to the slipspace transit node opening up to a major sliplane known as the Drift of a Thousand Gales, which has historically granted the Querron Exalt its exceptional status, even following the secession of its contentious and nearly as powerful neighbors in the Umsami Primacy.
  • Jubilant Accord: This formerly minor fortress world was given its tribute name in celebration of the annexation of the Kig-Yar into the Covenant. This event also saw its elevation into a key strategic asset as the primary base world to oversee the Kig-Yar during and after their assimilation.

Quirel wrote:

Got to admit, a three-dimensional bastion would be metal as fuck. And it would give a whole new meaning to the name "Star Fort".

Also, the perimeters should be thicker than the current lines indicate. The Forerunner would have built a defensive perimeter with mutually supporting strongholds and harborages and enough depth that the Flood can't break through by taking a handful of systems. And if the Flood do break through, they have to contend with reinforcements pouring in from all sides to close the gap, while the logistical centers and patrols in the systems beyond are capable of defending themselves. 

While the perimeter passes through Sector 3, the Forerunner defenses could have spanned through much of the UNSC's current territory. When the Flood breached the Outer Interception Perimeter elsewhere, everything was packed up and shipped to the Median Perimeter or abandoned in place. Which also explains why there's so much functional artefacts left in UNSC territory.


  • The Utmost Perimeter, more unceremoniously referred to as the Jat-Krula Outer Interception Layer, was the most ambitious expansion of the Jat-Krula array ever devised. Unfortunately, it was also deemed megalomaniacal, wasteful and outdated even at the time of its creation; it never reached a point even close to complete coverage across its rim, and records indicate that the Builder consortium responsible was eventually sidelined when the Master Builder's Shield and Sword proposal won the favor of the Council. Even so, many completed installations of the perimeter remained active at the time of the Flood's final assault, with some being repurposed for on-site Flood research.
  • The Median Perimeter, colloquially known as the Golden Border, was the most robust layer of Jat-Krula, constructed following the Forerunners' most recent ascension into galactic preeminence. It was this layer that served as the Forerunners' most reliable bulwark during their final war with the Flood, though even it was eventually doomed to fail.
  • The Core Perimeter, also known as the Primeval Boundary, is the venerable, most ancient component layer of the Jat-Krula array. Some records indicate that oldest elements of the perimeter date back as far as 600,000 years. Though its foundations were antiquated, it served as the Forerunners' last line of defense as they huddled in their oldest worlds awaiting the oncoming tide.

Quirel wrote:

The Shoal is the landscape, the Kancuten Mandates is the polity.


Gotcha. Also, I have no idea who or what Kancuten is, or what those mandates entailed, so you're free to go nuts with that as well.

Quirel wrote:
This brings up the question of how big of a fight the Great Schism is, and how the Brutes are able to hold their own against the Elites. Maybe a lot of war material was transferred to the Brutes* over the course of the UNSC-Covenant War**, but how do they have the numbers to fight the more numerous Sangheili? Just how far from their home territory can the Brutes project martial power?


I've been tempted to move the Brutes' discovery to an earlier point in time in my fan timeline,* just to explain how they could build up a population that would have some realistic chance of challenging the Sangheili, but that seems like too big of a divergence from canon given there's so much lore centering on the Jiralhanae's recent assimilation.

However, one could come up with a few explanations, like a lot of Covenant hardware being transferred under Jiralhanae control in the final years and months of the war and Jiralhanae-led forces being relocated to strategically important systems by Truth, though I think the best explanation for the Jiralhanae being a credible threat is simply Sangheili infighting- particularly if Joyous Exultation was in that region and Admiral Whitcomb's NOVA bomb took out the major Sangheili leaders in the general neighborhood.

That said, I definitely don't think the Schism would be this grand, continuous interstellar war that would go on for years, but the Jiralhanae could certainly prove a nuisance in other ways; the Banished and their hit-and-run MO is one example, and I could definitely see Atriox being a key player in those regions, along with lesser factions of marauders and guerrillas.
____

*Same goes for the Grunts.


Quirel wrote:

Yeah, I've given it some thought.


Interesting. Some of the ideas are quite similar to my own, namely the pervasive factionalization and lack of strong government, but I haven't gone into that much detail on their political processes. On that note, I might as well just dump some of my writings here:

The Kig-Yar, as a general rule, rarely manifest large governmental units that are both powerful and stable in the long term; the hypothetical notion of a unified Kig-Yar state is considered by many to be an oxymoron. It is not that the Kig-Yar are too contentious to come together under a single banner; the species is not innately warlike, but rather centered on interests smaller and more focused than those megascale states would reasonably accommodate.

As well, formal authority or bureaucracy are generally not held in a very high regard; by and large, government is seen more as a necessary evil, sometimes a borderline afterthought, than a serious endeavor. As such, Kig-Yar societies are malleable, highly eclectic, and generally characterized by low state control (sometimes to the point of anarchy) and lack of centralized concentrations of power other than peer groups or corporate entities, which can often be analogous to small states (or, more often, micro-states with disparate privatized governmental functions) in their own right. Networks of accords, consortia, pacts, alliances and mutually-beneficial partnerships, often informal and flexible in nature, often take the place of supranational governing bodies.

Most Kig-Yar have their foremost loyalties to their family unit or peer group, whether that be their clutch, immediate or extended family, military unit, mercenary band or criminal syndicate; in many cases, extended families are run like classical human mafia organizations, with loyalty to any other authority coming second. Individuals who have fallen on hard times can typically rely on their family or peer group to keep them afloat, at least if the hardships are seen as not being of their own making.

The Kig-Yar are also remarkable in having experimented with, or practiced, almost every form of society and government imaginable in their thousands of habitats across the Y'Deio system and beyond. Democracies, demarchies, anarchies, oligarchies, aristocracies, holarchies, monarchies, tyrannies, theocracies, technocracies, and anarcho-syndicalist communes have all coexisted across innumerable settings.

Even in faraway concentrations of distributed Kig-Yar habitation, such as Skar-idir or the Otcarro Skerries, one is likely to find a microcosm of Kig-Yar governance everywhere; that is, a vast array of wildly varied governments contained in a highly loose, panarchic framework. Every habitat is its own micronation and largely do as they please as long as they avoid causing too much of a fuss; even then, conflicts tend to be low-key and resolved quickly through a complex web of societal processes that seems to almost self-correct itself back to the equilibrium of controlled chaos. Habitats and hab-clusters pick their representatives to the overall governing council of the colony, but these offices are largely token and/or symbolic, and are rarely even desirable posts outside of possible community kudos. When dealing with outsiders, such as nearby Sangheili lordships, however, such postings tend to hold significantly more weight, and consequently become more important to the colony at large.

Often Kig-Yar leaders and politicians give themselves impressive titles that belie the limited power they actually wield - kings and queens, princes, barons, and all manner of lords, ladies and mistresses; yet this is in most cases merely another brand of showiness, sometimes even an intentionally flippant act. Indeed, some of the most common and universal Kig-Yar humor stems from making light of stuffiness and pomposity, such as that of the higher castes of the Covenant, especially the Sangheili.

Whatever their exact system of government, Kig-Yar society - and, indeed, much of their history - is defined as a balancing act between two opposing forces: competition for prestige, kudos and profit, and a belief in distributive justice, specifically in regards to circumstances beyond one's control. Failure borne of incompetence or stupidity is given little sympathy, while failure for misfortune is expected to be compensated for (though drawing the line between these causes has often proven difficult). This is also seen as the government's paramount and defining role, and failing that, one's family or immediate peer community serves as one's final fallback point. As a byproduct of this ideal, the Kig-Yar have devised complex philosophical systems related to defining, determining, measuring or understanding luck and its influence, and much of their endeavors stem from such ideas. Even in autocracies ruled by monarchs or barons, said autarchs are wise to abide by the general rule of charity, or risk being ousted by an angry mob.

---

The Kig-Yar have always been sailors and wayfarers; first along Eayn's rivers and seas, then the skies, and finally the expanse of space. Their "golden age" of airships and -craft lasted decades and saw the rise of "sky-pirates" and a wide variety of other strange and colorful phenomena.* Perhaps predictably, it was competing corporate interests that first got the Kig-Yar out of Eayn's gravity well, even as the world did at that time experience the predictable trend of globalization that so often follows the information age.

While natively spacefaring for centuries prior to contact with the Covenant, the Kig-Yar never developed functioning slipspace travel on their own for several reasons. For one, their societal units were marked by impermanence and flux, especially after they colonized space, and they underwent at least two minor interregnums across their spacefaring era. There were advances and the occasional near-breakthrough in slipspace tech, but the atomization of an entire asteroid-colony as a result of a botched attempt at opening a rupture put others off from experiments for a good while. As well, as a highly sociable species, many communities saw no need for interstellar travel, as this would cut them off from the greater Kig-Yar metacivilization and the pleasant bustle of activity of the Y'Deio system.

In those times there were numerous ancient cultural-social factions of Kig-Yar, ranging from Eayn to T'vao and Chiirav, Kerak, Qibri, Nirit, Vitz and Tesev. Even now, centuries later, most Kig-Yar colonies and families can trace their origins to fewer than thirty initial points of origin, which formed their core cultural as well as biological and phenotypical paradigms.

The Covenant caught the Kig-Yar at a time of relative interregnum, nearly two centuries past the waning of their last age of apex development, such as it was. Because of their disparate governing structures (Eayn was divided amongst numerous nation-states, while most of their habs and colonies were essentially independent), the Kig-Yar never truly presented a unified front against the Covenant. Some states surrendered outright, while others resisted for decades.

The Kig-Yar's lack of a central government caused the Covenant invaders various difficulties. For one, negotiations with the Covenant proved challenging; when the hegemony asked for representatives to come forth and speak for the species, the Kig-Yar at large were mostly confused as such a notion seemed quite alien to them. The trouble wasn't their lack of a central government per se, it was that they found it difficult to wrap their heads around the concept of individuals identifying with something as broad and abstract as their species as a peer group in the first place.

Eventually, almost every Kig-Yar nation ended up sending ambassadors, but the Covenant quickly told them to cut the number down to a manageable level, or they would do the job for them - literally. Even long after a ceasefire had been agreed upon by the majority, scattered resistance continued because there was always some fringe group to be found who didn't agree with the general line. When pressured by their new overlords, the representatives of the Kig-Yar would merely execute their equivalent of a shrug and reiterate that they did not speak for the entire species, for how could they?

Many of the Kig-Yar's habs were also mobile, and since gaining access to slipspace travel (either sanctioned by the Covenant or otherwise) numerous habitats have gone interstellar. Some attempted to escape via relativistic travel during or after the war against the Covenant, though most were caught and/or destroyed. However, over the centuries, there have been cases of Kig-Yar habs going "rogue" or independent and heading off elsewhere; however, most of their mobile, interstellar habitats remain merely in Migrant status, endlessly traveling across the vast expanse of Covenant space as traders, smugglers and transports.

Though over a thousand years past its prime, the Y'Deio system is still one of the most inhabited stars in the known galaxy, with over 50 billion inhabitants scattered across innumerable outposts, stations, asteroids, planetoids, comets, minor worldlets and ships. Over the last two millennia, a statistically large portion of the Kig-Yar have come to prefer living atop gravity wells after extended space-dwelling in their home system and often in the Covenant as well, with colonization rights to garden worlds allocated primarily for the higher castes. As well, ships, asteroids and stations suit the transitory and restless lifestyles that characterize many of them. Consequently they are perhaps the best, or at least the most innovative and ingenious, in the Covenant at making use of asteroids, mainly in the context of converting them for habitation.

____
*Think Dieselpunk but with bird-aliens.

----

Technology and assorted notes:
  • As with many spacefaring civilizations, the Kig-Yar's level of technological advancement has waxed and waned with time, coupled with variance amongst their numerous disparate societies and cultures; due to the extents of this variety, Kig-Yar technology (or, rather, technology in the possession of a given group of Kig-Yar) can be positively schizophrenic at times in terms of advancement.
  • Even before contact with the Covenant, medical technology, cybernetics and genetic engineering flourished among the more advanced Kig-Yar nations, though few retain the level of the heights once reached by the very state of the art of the species.
    • Indeed, many of their several species subtypes are genetically engineered either for adaptation or aesthetics, but the best such technologies are now rare or available only to the select few due to their expense.
      • Furthermore, the T'vaoans are but one example of a number of wildly varied off-Eayn varieties of Kig-Yar, perhaps most commonly encountered outside their home sphere due to their fairly large population and military roles thanks to their robust physiques. Some of the other common varieties, albeit not one often seen outside the Covenant sphere, are the various strains of microgravity-adapted Kig-Yar, who never will nor are able to set foot in standard gravity, and are employed throughout the Covenant in EVA-specific roles, typically involving technical work.
  • Natively, the Kig-Yar largely used chemical-based projectile weapons, coilguns, lasers and nukes; particle weapons existed largely as a theoretical curiosity, and the Covenant's brand of plasma weapons were initially almost too strange for them to comprehend.
  • Native Kig-yar ship and vehicle designs are highly eclectic as is their overall nature, but their core designs are typically quite functional and angular. However, colorful paint, patterning and even more ostentatious decoration (depending on the captain's preferences) is commonly applied on ships to make them distinct; typically, in Kig-Yar aesthetics, more bling equals better. The collection of shiny or otherwise distinct objects to attract females was once part of the early Kig-Yar's mating rituals, and it is theorized that this was one contributor to the development of their intelligence, as males devised increasingly complex and creative ways to obtain and create personal ornamentation.
    • On that note, the Kig-Yar are highly discerning and observant creatures who both pay considerable attention to their surroundings and mentally process visual stimuli remarkably fast. They are also quick to make an assessment of an individual (especially another Kig-Yar) by various cues in their outward appearance alone - from posture to facial appearance to the various trinkets and objects they so often carry.
halo
Quote 1 0
Quirel
So much to write, so little time.

On retconning the Jiralhanae's arrival, I have an idea. This idea contradicts the lore, or at least it does that thing where it contorts itself to obey the letter of canon while violating the spirit of canon.
  • Jiralhanae were never native tier three species
  • Jiralhanae spread to dozens of star systems before the Covenant assimilated them.
  • The Covenant only recently discovered Dosiac.
  • The Covenant have been dealing with the Jiralhanae for centuries.
  • And it all ties into that "Barbarians at the gates of Rome" feel that Joe Statten was going for.
The Jiralhanae nuked themselves back into the pre-industrial age. Records are scarce, and they all contradict each other. What's known for sure is that the Jiralhanae had established a presence on their moon of at least three million, possibly using nuclear rockets to lift the bulk of that population free of Dosiac's considerable gravity well. But absent support from home, the moon colony was likely to suffer the same fate as their Dosiac-bound peers.

Salvation came in the form of accidental discovery by an alien race. An unknown time after the nuclear exchange, the Gryunjalla (Jiral for 'prospectors') passed through the system. They made contact with the moon colony and offered to sell the Jiralhanae a number of ore freighters and special equipment, in exchange for the right to examine mineral deposits on Dosiac's main satellite.

The Jiralhanae spread to nearby systems, colonizing garden worlds as well as barren planets. It would seem that some colonization effort must have been planned prior to the nuclear holocaust, because the Jiralhanae's population expanded too fast to have not been aided by embryo banks or some similar contingency. Too, there are plants and animals on these worlds that must have come from Dosiac, even though oral tradition maintains that the wandering Jiralhanae never returned to Dosiac's surface.

This nascent interstellar civilization fragmented, and the ore freighters became the pawns of warlords. So too did the colonies. Warlords fought for possession of each system, doing fierce battle with fleets of ramshackle warships but always retreating before serious damage could be done to the precious freighters. The colonies found that it was cheaper to pay tribute to whichever warlord controlled them that year than it was to fight for their independence. As for the Gryunjalla, they always bargained with the Jiralhanae to prospect this asteroid or that comet within the Jiralhanae's domain, and those bargains kept the ore freighters running. The Jiralhanae never developed the science, expertise, or the industry to repair the starships on their own.

First contact with the Covenant came in 2---. This was not as momentous as it could otherwise have been, because the Covenant was in a state of interregnum, and there was not much contact between High Charity and the far periphery. The new colonies in the Quarthen Threshold and the Sundered Horizons had pushed out beyond High Charity's influence, and so they were left to deal with the Jiralhanae menace themselves.

The Jiralhanae came as raiders. They also came as traders. They were mercenaries and cheap labor. Colonies played one warlord off another with bribes of arms and food and very old starships, and they hired the Jiralhanae to fight as proxies in their own wars.

It wasn't until one warlord plundered the Diocese of Ettretritan that the Jiralhanae came to the attention of the Covenant Empire as more than a curiosity from the border worlds, after which the Heirarchs organized a force to end the Jiralhanae threat for good. The warlords were all but wiped out. The ones who surrendered were striped of their warships, which convinced the rest to fight to the bloody end.

The colonies were taken one by one. Since the Covenant armada was beating the Jiralhanae warlords at their own game, the Covenant were effectively slotting themselves into the existing power structure, while the priests who descended to the colony worlds offered a better way of life. Is it any wonder that the colonies welcomed their new overlords with open arms?

The campaign ended with the annexation of Dosiac. While the Dosiac Brutes welcomed the Covenant for different reasons, they were not so pleased to see their long-lost starfaring cousins. They were, in fact, utterly incensed to see Jiralhanae living in relative comfort on garden worlds, while the Jiralhanae of Dosiac were left to rot in nuclear winter. The truth is, only the warlords with their ore freighters and their space industry could have returned to Dosiac. For their own reasons, they did not. These deep divisions between the Jiralhanae tribes could only be bridged by the ascent of Tartarus in the Covenant hierarchy, and perhaps not even then. Not for long.

As for the Gryunjalla, they destroyed their stations, pulled out of the sector ahead of the Covenant armada, and departed to parts unknown. Only one party ever met with the Covenant. The Gryunjalla ambassador was unfailingly polite and infuriatingly circumspect about their operations in the region. He only stayed long enough to secure the right for a 'very large mobile-colony' to pass through the region at some unspecified point in the future.

Further notes, including a rather amusing anecdote from the Kig-Yar's assimilation, will have to wait for tomorrow.
Quote 1 0
Tacit Axiom
Quirel wrote:
So much to write, so little time.

On retconning the Jiralhanae's arrival, I have an idea. This idea contradicts the lore, or at least it does that thing where it contorts itself to obey the letter of canon while violating the spirit of canon.

Jiralhanae were never native tier three species
Jiralhanae spread to dozens of star systems before the Covenant assimilated them.
The Covenant only recently discovered Dosiac.
The Covenant have been dealing with the Jiralhanae for centuries.
And it all ties into that "Barbarians at the gates of Rome" feel that Joe Statten was going for.

(snip)


Very nice. It's more creative than the Jiralhanae just becoming another starfaring culture on their own, and stays true to their overall portrayal as well as giving grounds to the Sangheili/Jiralhanae feud supposedly being "ancient" as it is characterized in Ghosts of Onyx. The Brutes would've been just another Fringe species until they started causing too much of a fuss and/or the Covenant's expansion front caught up with them.

The only issue that I could think of is what incentive the Gryunjalla would have to bargain with the Jiralhanae, especially giving out something as valuable as starships, when they could (supposedly) just take those resources without asking any questions? They were supposedly a peaceful and polite species, but would such a species, looking at the Jiralhanae, especially in a tribal state, think it a good idea to give such beings access to interstellar travel?

On a side note, the Gryunjalla are an interesting idea in their own right. I've had this idea for a while of a post-Array culture called the Jehioi, or the Wayfarers, who established outposts in some worlds of the Orion Arm some tens of thousands of years ago, yet all of those outposts have been long abandoned and have fallen to ruin. It's better that they're not the same, just to keep up a bit of mystery as well as the idea of a bigger galaxy out there, but the concept seems somewhat similar.

Overall, Covenant scripture was delicate regarding post-Array but pre-Covenant cultures. On one hand their existence could not be denied (though the Prophets attempted to downplay it) but they did seem to present something of a conundrum against dogma on Covenant exceptionalism. The apologist explanation, which stuck as the most common one, was to call them Children of the Long Dark, for they had not yet known the revelation that the San'Shyuum experienced of the Path to the Divine Beyond (though even the truth of this may have been debatable), just as the other active galactic civilizations didn't.
halo
Quote 1 0
Quirel

Well, selling the ore freighters to the Jiralhanae was an altruistic act, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call the Gryunjalla peaceful. They were enabling the warlords when it was entirely possible to withdraw their support and stop the fighting.


I have trouble nailing down the Gryunjalla’s motivation because I rather like the idea of them being enigmatically helpful strangers. Maybe they essentially gave the freighters away because the best way to save the Jiralhanae from extinction was to spread them across a bunch of planets? Maybe they are long-lived merchants, and they see the diaspora as a way to build up a customer base. Maybe they have an entirely different concept of possession than the other races in the galaxy, and they see uncompensated mining materials from the Jiralhanae’s sphere of influence as tantamount to theft. Ore freighters are a bit expensive to just hand over, but further exploitation of Jiralhanae resources can be paid for with cheap repairs.


The idea I like the most is that the Gryunjalla are long-lived and very formal, but the ones in Jiralhanae territory were blue-collar workers exploring the wilderness on a long-term contract. They didn’t have any plans for the Jiralhanae. They just gave the Jiralhanae the ore freighters because that seemed like the right thing to do at the time, and they kept contracting with the warlords because the spacebattles were massively entertaining. You know how slapstick comedy is very popular with Japanese audiences? The Gryunjalla are polite and reserved, but slumming with a ship full of barbaric warriors is a great way to unwind after a week of hard work.


They never planned it, but the Gryunjalla were in control the whole time. The warlords were completely dependent on them to keep their freighters-turned-warships afloat. If they ever crossed a line and killed a Gryunjalla worker, or bombarded a planet hard enough to wreck the ecosystem, the Gryunjalla could withdraw their support. In the meantime, they flew drones alongside raiding parties just to get better footage of the fighting.


This probably changed around the time that the Jiralhanae made first contact with the Covenant Periphery. By this time, the Gryunjalla were mostly through with the sector and ready to move on. They knew of the Covenant Empire through secondhand sources, but they were quite convinced that the job of making first contact was above their paygrade. And when the Jiralhanae got their hands on Covenant equipment and Covenant starships, the Gryunjalla’s control over the Jiralhanae weakened. Centuries later, when the Covenant armada steamrolled through Jiralhanae territory, the Gryunjalla presence was a shadow of what it once was, as was their relationship with the natives.


So, enigmatic space fae or lonely wildcatters looking for entertainment. Which sounds better?


Tacit Axiom wrote:

On a side note, the Gryunjalla are an interesting idea in their own right. I've had this idea for a while of a post-Array culture called the Jehioi, or the Wayfarers, who established outposts in some worlds of the Orion Arm some tens of thousands of years ago, yet all of those outposts have been long abandoned and have fallen to ruin. It's better that they're not the same, just to keep up a bit of mystery as well as the idea of a bigger galaxy out there, but the concept seems somewhat similar.

Overall, Covenant scripture was delicate regarding post-Array but pre-Covenant cultures. On one hand their existence could not be denied (though the Prophets attempted to downplay it) but they did seem to present something of a conundrum against dogma on Covenant exceptionalism. The apologist explanation, which stuck as the most common one, was to call them Children of the Long Dark, for they had not yet known the revelation that the San'Shyuum experienced of the Path to the Divine Beyond (though even the truth of this may have been debatable), just as the other active galactic civilizations didn't.


Agreed. I’m not sure the Gryunjalla fit the bill, but spacefaring civilizations that predate the Covenant add mystery to the universe and tie in well with that one statement from 343i Guilty Spark. I imagine that if you tune into the right communication band on a quiet night, you can still hear them. Either the echoes of ancient explorers, or whispers of a distant civilization.


The negotiations were a mess. Every day, more ambassadors from this habitat or that organization would arrive at the Wind From The Rising Sun and ask to be seated. And they all fought each other. A Kig-Yar who claimed to represent a consortium of agricultural habitats would be upstaged by ambassadors from individual habitats who insisted on speaking for themselves, even when they all agreed on policy. Individual corporations insisted on individual representation, which was a shock to the Covenant delegates who were used to dealing with guilds. The Covenant attempted to group the ambassadors into committees by region and class, but those committees would always grind to a halt and restart their work as the Kig-Yar insisted that a new group of ambassadors deserved a seat at the table.


It fell to the Ministry of the Uplifting Word to settle the negotiations and assimilate the Kig-Yar, and quite soon the Minister was at his wits end. There were already too many Kig-Yar ambassadors to handle, and he suspected that different factions were quietly influencing votes by stacking committees with their own supporters. Worse, his security detail quietly informed him that if even one in ten of the Kig-Yar ambassadors were trained soldiers, he and his retinue were hopelessly outnumbered.


And so, the Minister gave the Order of Duodecimation. All of the delegates were gatheree together and informed that they were to select one in twelve of themselves to stay, and the rest would be sent home. Should they be unable to decide, a Sangheili warrior would make the decision for them with a die and a sharp blade.


Nearly eleven-twelfths of the delegates were shipped off the Wind From The Rising Sun without much bloodshed, and the reduced committees were sent back to work. This solution worked for not much more than three days. One canny Kig-Yar conceived the idea of ‘freelance representation’, and offered to speak for unrepresented colonies if they paid him a reasonable fee. The idea took off like wildfire, and delegates soon requested more votes for representing more polities.


There was also, of course, the pirate problem. Ministry ships flitted about the Y’Deio system to attend to business, and they were ruthlessly preyed upon by pirates who hid in the thicket of asteroids about that pale star. The ships run by the Ministry were armed and could win a battle one-on-one, but the pirates had the advantage of numbers and dogged persistence. Though they rarely fought to the death, they were not easily fought off, and the sight of a Ministry ship doing battle with one pirate was sure to draw three more out of the thicket.


The Minister of the Uplifting Word was incensed, all the more so when the delegates insisted that the pirates weren’t working together. The pirates could not be traced, and few of the locals seemed ready to call them out. The pirates kept low if the Ministry vessels were accompanied by warships, but there simply weren’t enough warships to go around, and the Minister was loathe to tie down valuable warships with routine Ministry operations.


A year passed by with no solution, until a Kig-Yar named Jhak C’clees approached the Minister with a plan. Jhak was a typical Kig-Yar newsman, which is to say he was a freelance information broker with spies in a thousand habitats. He offered the Minister a package deal: For a fortune, he would bribe, buy out, or assassinate all of the pirates operating in Chu’ot’s anterior trojan. The Minister was skeptical, but played along. Jhak traveled to Eayn and invested the fortune over the course of a month*. To everyone’s surprise, pirate activity dropped precipitously, and the Ministry ships were able to visit the region in near safety.


Jhak returned to the Wind From The Rising Sun, and was greeted with acclaim. The Minister proclaimed him an exemplar of the Kig-Yar race, a man who could go out and get things done while everyone else squawked and fretted over trivialities. Could he bring peace to the entire Y’Deio system as he had done to the trojan region?


Jhak replied that he could, eventually. He needed time and a great deal of money to build up his spy network, and to take over other news organizations as well. And from there, a long, slow grind to shut the pirates down one by one. It would be the work of a lifetime, but he could get started at once.


He was given an even greater fortune, and returned to Eayn to begin his work. He invested it slowly and cautiously, sending daily reports to the Minister. And then one day, he disappeared off the face of the moon.


The pirate ships, which had been grounded because someone bought up the entire regional supply of a small but critical engine part, resumed activity with gusto once those parts flooded back onto the black market. The reports to the Minister were proved to be a very elaborate fiction, and neither Jhak nor the fortunes he’d invested were ever found.


To this day, Jhak C’clees is a folk hero in the Y’Deio system, and what he did with the stolen money is a topic of lively speculation


*Loosely speaking, Kig-Yar separate their calendar into months and years. A ‘month’ is the time it takes Eayn to orbit Chu’ot, and is shorter than a month of the Earth calendar. A ‘year’ is the time it takes Chu’ot to orbit Y’Deio.

Quote 1 0
Tacit Axiom
Quirel wrote:
So, enigmatic space fae or lonely wildcatters looking for entertainment. Which sounds better?


I kind of like how simple and straightforward the entertainment idea is, combined with the various other reasons you outlined. Keeping their motivations a complete mystery sounds a bit too handwave-y.

Also, what if cheap labor was part of the arrangement? Maybe the Gryunjalla are physically frail and/or simply found the physical aspects of mining work in oft-unpleasant conditions distasteful (one supposes a lot of it would've been automated anyway, but certain local conditions could've made extra labor a desirable option, etc). This could also work with your idea of building up a customer base in the long term; the Gryunjalla might be above outright enslaving less-developed species, but they'd certainly ensure the Jiralhanae remained receptive and pliable - as much as the species can be those things - when it came to their "benefactors".

Maybe the Gryunjalla employed the Jiralhanae as miners and security across their operations in Doisac's immediate neighborhood as well as the greater region of the Inner Corelight Reefs, and it was as a byproduct of this (somewhat one-sided) partnership that the Jiralhanae also gained access to limited star travel for their own use. They wouldn't be a full-fledged subject race, and the Gryunjalla prospecting teams would always make it look like the Jiralhanae were getting a decent deal in it all. And being used to the rough-and-tumble conditions such as they were, the Jiralhanae wouldn't really complain.

Still, these ships would've mostly been black boxes, with simple interfaces designed for Jiralhanae use essentially bolted on outdated vessels; additionally, there would be various safeguards and even remote control and/or self-destruct options. The freighters would have no weapons, though the Jiralhanae would strap various crude slug-throwers and bombs onto them which made any "space battles" they engaged in literal knife-fight affairs. FTL travel would be slow, perhaps even more so than pre-War human ships, and sublight thrust highly unimpressive; thus entirely separate "pockets" of Jiralhanae activity could have existed that never came into contact with one another as larger and faster Gryunjalla transports ferried different batches of Jiralhanae freighters about the local star clusters, only to be abandoned as they packed up their things and left.

I also quite like the idea of the Jiralhanae having spread out pretty far and wide in the local neighborhood over perhaps as long as a millennium or more, especially since I've placed Doisac in the coreward edges of the Orion Arm; there could still be stars there in those distant clusters that the Covenant missed and the Jiralhanae themselves never really knew about (as they didn't exactly keep unified records) where un-contacted colonies persist - perhaps mostly no longer starfaring, but still managing nonetheless. Finding such a sanctuary cluster would also have been a jackpot for Atriox as he and his forces took off to the far peripheries of the Covenant, which could also have helped make the Banished as much of a threat as they're touted to be.

-

The other idea I had was that the Gryunjalla were conducting some kind of long-term social experiment, with the responsible party perhaps being a group of maverick academics or is simply the way their civilization does things in general. But that doesn't seem as interesting as things simply happening on the spot as a product of circumstance.

Maybe those prospecting teams could've hand elements who looked at it as a fascinating study in sapient behavior, though. I get the sense the Gryunjalla were pretty disparate in general as far as their civilization went and the prospecting teams were more or less microcosmic offshoots of the greater civilization, perhaps operating out of large mobile habitats that endlessly circle the galaxy and meet to share news only on occasion; while communications would be highly limited as they would have little to no fixed infrastructure in place, which is all but required for any long-distance FTL communication.*

Maybe they could have also had humanity in their sights, but discovered us too late, when we were already reaching for other stars, and thought better of even trying to make contact.
_____

*Sending signals over wavespace is not only subject to the same non-euclidean vagaries as slipspace travel, but is also incredibly difficult over long distances. After a certain threshold, depending on the exact level of technology, the power requirements for a simple message begin to multiply at an exponential rate, which places a fixed limit on reasonably-sized FTL transmitters; commercial human comm buoy technology as of 2558 is technically capable of sending signals over up to 10-15 LY distances, depending on the hyperspatial topology of the volume in question, with the optimal operating range being at around 5 LY; this has prompted the construction of an extensive interstellar comm buoy network, which is still limited in its data usage allocation; hence said data use is partitioned across various fiercely competing commercial operators when UNSC transmissions are not being prioritized.

Covenant transmitters are better, but even they are subject to the same basic rules; a typical hub world will likely be equipped to contact its neighbors and perhaps one-third or -fourth of its Primary Domain, while only the domain capitals and a select few other powerful and/or significant worlds were capable of contacting High Charity directly regardless of its location (though even this was fairly recent, following the Coadunation and the formalizing of the primary domains some 600-700 years ago); otherwise signals had to be routed over the Covenant's vast network of buoys and relays, large portions of which have been disabled, reappropriated or destroyed following the Covenant's fracturing; this makes couriers the most reliable option for long-distance communications in the post-Schism era.

Quirel wrote:

Agreed. I’m not sure the Gryunjalla fit the bill, but spacefaring civilizations that predate the Covenant add mystery to the universe and tie in well with that one statement from 343i Guilty Spark. I imagine that if you tune into the right communication band on a quiet night, you can still hear them. Either the echoes of ancient explorers, or whispers of a distant civilization.



Yeah. As you expand an universe and reveal more about different aspects of it you still have to maintain those parts that are just out of sight - not the things it makes sense for us to know about, but the appropriate kinds of background mysteries that don't always need to be painstakingly laid out.

"Part of the attraction of the L.R. is, I think, due to the glimpses of a large history in the background: an attraction like that of viewing far off an unvisited island, or seeing the towers of a distant city gleaming in a sunlit mist. To go there is to destroy the magic, unless new unattainable vistas are again revealed. "
halo
Quote 1 0
Quirel
This page is getting pretty long. Sooner or later, one of us is going to have to compile a table of contents. =P

Tacit Axiom wrote:


I kind of like how simple and straightforward the entertainment idea is, combined with the various other reasons you outlined. Keeping their motivations a complete mystery sounds a bit too handwave-y.

Also, what if cheap labor was part of the arrangement? Maybe the Gryunjalla are physically frail and/or simply found the physical aspects of mining work in oft-unpleasant conditions distasteful (one supposes a lot of it would've been automated anyway, but certain local conditions could've made extra labor a desirable option, etc). This could also work with your idea of building up a customer base in the long term; the Gryunjalla might be above outright enslaving less-developed species, but they'd certainly ensure the Jiralhanae remained receptive and pliable - as much as the species can be those things - when it came to their "benefactors".

Maybe the Gryunjalla employed the Jiralhanae as miners and security across their operations in Doisac's immediate neighborhood as well as the greater region of the Inner Corelight Reefs, and it was as a byproduct of this (somewhat one-sided) partnership that the Jiralhanae also gained access to limited star travel for their own use. They wouldn't be a full-fledged subject race, and the Gryunjalla prospecting teams would always make it look like the Jiralhanae were getting a decent deal in it all. And being used to the rough-and-tumble conditions such as they were, the Jiralhanae wouldn't really complain.

The only change I would make is that the relationship wasn't quite so one-sided. The Gryunjalla abandoned the Jiralhanae on far-flung worlds, but they didn't think much of it. They are away from civilization on a long-term contract, and most of their species lives in roving asteroid habitats that cross paths once every few generations. Living one's days cut off from the majority of the rest of one's species was a way of life from them, and the only thing weird about leaving Jiralhanae tribes behind on habitable worlds was the Jiralhanae's insistence on living at the bottom of a gravity world.

As for the Jiralhanae, maybe some of them didn't volunteer to be left behind. Many did. Can you imagine a whole world for you and thousands of your family to own, to populate, to cultivate? To start all over, and make your own history? And all this could be had for the price of a few decades of labor at the most? To many Jiralhanae, the Gryunjalla's indifference was unfathomable generosity. Some of those abandoned colonies practically deified the Gryunjalla.

The admiration couldn't last forever, especially after the Gryunjalla fled from the Covenant's approach. But the Gryunjalla were largely remembered fondly by the Jiralhanae until Tartarus's meteoric rise in the Covenant hierarchy.

Tacit Axiom wrote:
Still, these ships would've mostly been black boxes, with simple interfaces designed for Jiralhanae use essentially bolted on outdated vessels; additionally, there would be various safeguards and even remote control and/or self-destruct options. The freighters would have no weapons, though the Jiralhanae would strap various crude slug-throwers and bombs onto them which made any "space battles" they engaged in literal knife-fight affairs. FTL travel would be slow, perhaps even more so than pre-War human ships, and sublight thrust highly unimpressive; thus entirely separate "pockets" of Jiralhanae activity could have existed that never came into contact with one another as larger and faster Gryunjalla transports ferried different batches of Jiralhanae freighters about the local star clusters, only to be abandoned as they packed up their things and left.

The ships sold to the Jiralhanae were cheap, but they weren't outdated. They were very much like the DCS light freighter, a very large and sturdy container connected to a small propulsion pod. The controls were simplified and de-automated for the customers, and the Jiralhanae provided their own life support and engineering subsystems. As individual warlords lost and regained and lost again the ability to manufacture microelectronic components, the old machines were often replaced with cruder subsystems. As for the propulsion, well, the freighters were designed to go slow. Who cared if it took years for a freighter to reach its destination? The Jiralhanae cared, and one of the devices they perfected before Dosiac's demise was an open-cycle nuclear thermal propulsion device. It is called the nuclear salt-water rocket.

Tacit Axiom wrote:
I also quite like the idea of the Jiralhanae having spread out pretty far and wide in the local neighborhood over perhaps as long as a millennium or more, especially since I've placed Doisac in the coreward edges of the Orion Arm; there could still be stars there in those distant clusters that the Covenant missed and the Jiralhanae themselves never really knew about (as they didn't exactly keep unified records) where un-contacted colonies persist - perhaps mostly no longer starfaring, but still managing nonetheless. Finding such a sanctuary cluster would also have been a jackpot for Atriox as he and his forces took off to the far peripheries of the Covenant, which could also have helped make the Banished as much of a threat as they're touted to be.

Oh, cool idea!

Tacit Axiom wrote:
The other idea I had was that the Gryunjalla were conducting some kind of long-term social experiment, with the responsible party perhaps being a group of maverick academics or is simply the way their civilization does things in general. But that doesn't seem as interesting as things simply happening on the spot as a product of circumstance.

Maybe those prospecting teams could've hand elements who looked at it as a fascinating study in sapient behavior, though. I get the sense the Gryunjalla were pretty disparate in general as far as their civilization went and the prospecting teams were more or less microcosmic offshoots of the greater civilization, perhaps operating out of large mobile habitats that endlessly circle the galaxy and meet to share news only on occasion; while communications would be highly limited as they would have little to no fixed infrastructure in place, which is all but required for any long-distance FTL communication.*

Yeah, I prefer the result to be one of happenstance rather than design. Maybe there was a psychologist among the Gryunjalla who pestered the Jiralhanae with stupid questions, but that's not exactly a survival trait. 

And the prospectors in Jiralhanae territory aren't really microcosmic of the greater Gryunjalla civilization. I imagined them more as oil rig workers or ice truckers, people who go far away from civilization to acquire the resources needed for that civilization to survive. Most of Gryunjalla civilization lives on mobile asteroid habitats that move from one system to another, with millions of civilians aboard. The prospectors ship back valuable resources, and map the rest for exploitation if their home-habitat should come that way.

Tacit Axiom wrote:
Maybe they could have also had humanity in their sights, but discovered us too late, when we were already reaching for other stars, and thought better of even trying to make contact.

You know that feeling, when you walk into a room that somebody else just left? That feeling when you go through an asteroid field and find that someone has picked it clean of transuranium deposits? Or when you find a fuel tank drifting through space that wasn't built from any standard aluminium alloys? Or when you salvage an old fuel station, and find toolmarks which indicate that someone took it apart, inspected the electronic components, and then put it all back together as neatly as they could?

To the UNSC, the Gryunjalla are creepy as Hell.

Tacit Axiom wrote:
*Sending signals over wavespace is not only subject to the same non-euclidean vagaries as slipspace travel, but is also incredibly difficult over long distances. After a certain threshold, depending on the exact level of technology, the power requirements for a simple message begin to multiply at an exponential rate, which places a fixed limit on reasonably-sized FTL transmitters; commercial human comm buoy technology as of 2558 is technically capable of sending signals over up to 10-15 LY distances, depending on the hyperspatial topology of the volume in question, with the optimal operating range being at around 5 LY; this has prompted the construction of an extensive interstellar comm buoy network, which is still limited in its data usage allocation; hence said data use is partitioned across various fiercely competing commercial operators when UNSC transmissions are not being prioritized.

Covenant transmitters are better, but even they are subject to the same basic rules; a typical hub world will likely be equipped to contact its neighbors and perhaps one-third or -fourth of its Primary Domain, while only the domain capitals and a select few other powerful and/or significant worlds were capable of contacting High Charity directly regardless of its location (though even this was fairly recent, following the Coadunation and the formalizing of the primary domains some 600-700 years ago); otherwise signals had to be routed over the Covenant's vast network of buoys and relays, large portions of which have been disabled, reappropriated or destroyed following the Covenant's fracturing; this makes couriers the most reliable option for long-distance communications in the post-Schism era.

All good. I can work with this.
Quote 1 0
Tacit Axiom
Quirel wrote:
This page is getting pretty long. Sooner or later, one of us is going to have to compile a table of contents. =P


A forum thread is definitely not the best way to organize stuff like this, and neither is DeviantArt for that matter. Since I'm not a fan of Wikia, I've been considering opening up a page on WorldAnvil as they apparently accept fanon settings as well. (I might also use it to test the platform if I'm ever going to use it for an original universe of mine). For now, I'll probably just have to update the opening post.

Quirel wrote:

The only change I would make is that the relationship wasn't quite so one-sided. The Gryunjalla abandoned the Jiralhanae on far-flung worlds, but they didn't think much of it. They are away from civilization on a long-term contract, and most of their species lives in roving asteroid habitats that cross paths once every few generations. Living one's days cut off from the majority of the rest of one's species was a way of life from them, and the only thing weird about leaving Jiralhanae tribes behind on habitable worlds was the Jiralhanae's insistence on living at the bottom of a gravity world.

As for the Jiralhanae, maybe some of them didn't volunteer to be left behind. Many did. Can you imagine a whole world for you and thousands of your family to own, to populate, to cultivate? To start all over, and make your own history? And all this could be had for the price of a few decades of labor at the most? To many Jiralhanae, the Gryunjalla's indifference was unfathomable generosity. Some of those abandoned colonies practically deified the Gryunjalla.

The admiration couldn't last forever, especially after the Gryunjalla fled from the Covenant's approach. But the Gryunjalla were largely remembered fondly by the Jiralhanae until Tartarus's meteoric rise in the Covenant hierarchy.


That makes sense.

It is a bit odd that, with so many off-system colonies, the Doisac-bound Jiralhanae would still become so prominent as to be regarded the species' "main" culture within the Covenant, but I suppose it does make a certain amount of sense if they remained the only group of the species (more or less) free of outsider interference prior to the Covenant's arrival, and - coupled with their hardier existence up until then - might feed an image of them as "pure" Jiralhanae among their own kind.

Quirel wrote:

The ships sold to the Jiralhanae were cheap, but they weren't outdated. They were very much like the DCS light freighter, a very large and sturdy container connected to a small propulsion pod. The controls were simplified and de-automated for the customers, and the Jiralhanae provided their own life support and engineering subsystems. As individual warlords lost and regained and lost again the ability to manufacture microelectronic components, the old machines were often replaced with cruder subsystems. As for the propulsion, well, the freighters were designed to go slow. Who cared if it took years for a freighter to reach its destination? The Jiralhanae cared, and one of the devices they perfected before Dosiac's demise was an open-cycle nuclear thermal propulsion device. It is called the nuclear salt-water rocket.


That works better, yeah.

Quirel wrote:

And the prospectors in Jiralhanae territory aren't really microcosmic of the greater Gryunjalla civilization. I imagined them more as oil rig workers or ice truckers, people who go far away from civilization to acquire the resources needed for that civilization to survive. Most of Gryunjalla civilization lives on mobile asteroid habitats that move from one system to another, with millions of civilians aboard. The prospectors ship back valuable resources, and map the rest for exploitation if their home-habitat should come that way.


I was mostly thinking of the idea of prospectors expected to be on their own for centuries needing to bring with them some of the essentials of civilization, like perhaps their families (assuming the Gryunjalla had such) and some basic amenities on the larger ships they operated out of.

But the idea works better if the Gryunjalla live for centuries, and in any case they are aliens. Besides, one assumes that individuals going on such missions wouldn't like crowds anyway.

Quirel wrote:

You know that feeling, when you walk into a room that somebody else just left? That feeling when you go through an asteroid field and find that someone has picked it clean of transuranium deposits? Or when you find a fuel tank drifting through space that wasn't built from any standard aluminium alloys? Or when you salvage an old fuel station, and find toolmarks which indicate that someone took it apart, inspected the electronic components, and then put it all back together as neatly as they could?

To the UNSC, the Gryunjalla are creepy as Hell.


It is speculated that they're also the origin of various urban legends of "gremlins" or "space fae" among spacers and frontiersmen, and random misfortunes or unexplained disappearances are often attributed to them. The little green men never went anywhere, they just became a bit more real.

This also gave me another idea: What if the Covenant weren't the first ones to loot Forerunner sites in the Orion Arm? What if many of the reliquaries in the Covenant's path of expansion had already been stripped clean of useful technologies, with only subtle hints that anyone else had been there after the Forerunners; in most cases navigation charts and data caches would have been purged as well, leaving the Covenant with very little to work with and thus providing further fodder for misunderstandings. And this - along with some vague tracks and out-of-place tools and equipment found in some Forerunner installations - are virtually the only evidence of this elusive looter civilization (or civilizations). So the question is; where are they now, and what did they do with all that technology?

Also, somewhat unrelated, but it's kind of ridiculous that the San'Shyuum Reformists apparently spent over 1,100 years on the Forerunner Dreadnought after fleeing their homeworld before they came across the Sangheili. Well, rather, it's a bit ridiculous that nothing of note apparently happened over that time; the Reformist faction apparently went largely unchanged between leaving Janjur Qom and meeting the Elites. With a Forerunner vessel at their disposal, the San'Shyuum would've had time to circumnavigate the galaxy several times over as well as establish any number of outposts or colonies. Either more stuff should've happened, or the time span of the Reformists' wanderings should be much shorter.

Quirel wrote:
All good. I can work with this.


I also imagine there would be various secondary means of communication - First Strike makes a reference to an automated system that shares messages between Covenant ships as they arrive in-system, though I imagine this would be exclusive to whatever organization those ships are part of - in this case likely the Ministry of Resolution (it also implies that FTL communication from the human sphere wasn't an entirely trivial matter to the Covenant if they had to use ships as couriers). Other users of such systems might include other ministries and religious orders, guilds, clans, and various other groups.

The Covenant might also have something like the UNSC's slipspace COM launchers, but those would probably only work on (relatively) short ranges. And obviously, it's easier to seize an automated probe than an armed courier ship, so it's likely they'd just use ships. Maybe major fleets, flagships and/or expeditionary ships had dedicated sub-vessels just for that - small craft built for little more than speed, meant to carry important messages (as well as the messenger and/or his escort) to the nearest secure communication hub or even High Charity itself, should the holy city be nearby.

----

Also, another question I'd like feedback on before I change it. In my Orion Arm map, I've placed Hesduros to the peripheries on the opposite side of the Covenant sphere from humanity. My rationale was that I didn't want to concentrate everything on the human side, with so many worlds already there for various reasons (mostly because Halo stories tend to involve humans in some way).

But do we still assume there's some kind of connection between Onyx and Hesduros? Even if the specifics of Jul's escape differ, even if he's never imprisoned in Onyx, and even if Emo Sangheili Kylo Ren never leads his posse into Onyx through the back door, if we keep the idea that Hesduros has Forerunner facilities somehow related to the Onyx installation, it is a little odd if it's many thousands of LYs away. Ideally it would be located as close as possible.

I guess the main question to consider is, where is Jul's main base of power in the grand scheme of things? With the increased focus on slipspace lanes and the logistics of interstellar travel and/or conflict, I guess one has to ask where most of Jul's operations are taking place in the Covenant sphere and just how big of a nuisance they are in human space.

That's the problem with a setting where you really have no idea where places are in relation to one another for the most part. I can just imagine how that would work in an Earth-bound story, or even one set in a fantasy world; everything just happens somewhere, and you never get any kind of signposts or geography, let alone a map, to indicate where that somewhere really is and how far it is from other places we know about, or how easy it is to get there - are there decent roads or maybe some mountains or rivers on the way, and so on.

----

Also, do you think the Diocese of Ettretritan would be anywhere on or near the map, or did you think of it as more of a core region? I just decided to expand the map a bit both downward and to the right, and the domains as well as astrography there are still very much open, so if there's any ideas or something that could fit your story better, I can take them.

Also, I'm trying to think of a good name for the minor expansion region beyond the Isbanola Sector. Most of it would essentially be a lawless frontier unsanctioned by the UNSC, tying to the idea of Sagittarius-side Innie colonies Nylund dropped in his Evolutions story. Given the theme Denning has got going on, I'm thinking of something Spanish, or maybe Italian, with a bit of a Western feel to it.

Speaking of names, I feel it would be totally fitting if the Covenant called their sphere of influence the Holy Ecumene.
halo
Quote 1 0
Quirel
Tacit Axiom wrote:


A forum thread is definitely not the best way to organize stuff like this, and neither is DeviantArt for that matter. Since I'm not a fan of Wikia, I've been considering opening up a page on WorldAnvil as they apparently accept fanon settings as well. (I might also use it to test the platform if I'm ever going to use it for an original universe of mine). For now, I'll probably just have to update the opening post.

I mostly use Scribner. It's a great program for organizing notes and drafts, but it doesn't have any functionality for sharing. World Anvil should do.

Tacit Axiom wrote:


That makes sense.

It is a bit odd that, with so many off-system colonies, the Doisac-bound Jiralhanae would still become so prominent as to be regarded the species' "main" culture within the Covenant, but I suppose it does make a certain amount of sense if they remained the only group of the species (more or less) free of outsider interference prior to the Covenant's arrival, and - coupled with their hardier existence up until then - might feed an image of them as "pure" Jiralhanae among their own kind.

Well, yeah, the Dosiac Brutes have credit as 'pure' Brutes, and that's backed up by their physique. They lived the hard life at the bottom of a heavy gravity well. They're stronger and a lot more robust than their off-world counterparts. 

There's still deep divisions within Jiralhanae society. Not just between Dosiac and her colonies, but between different tribes as well. The nuclear war on Dosiac was the catalyst that fused a lot of tribes together, so the tribes from Dosiac are more numerous and have more pull than the fractious colony tribes. Pan-speciesism, as a political movement, has very little historical success with the Jiralhanae. Only Tartarus and his meteoric rise in the Covenant heirarchy could have united the Jiralhanae.

The better standard of living that the Covenant brought caused a demographic problem with the Jiralhanae. Everyone was living longer, including the chieftains, and the suppression of tribal warfare and strife created fewer opportunities for new leaders to replace the old. Tartarus's murder of his uncle and seamless takeover of his pack was a watershed moment. Any other Brute who took high office with murder would have been condemned by an Ecclesiastical court, but Tartarus framed the murder as a necessary act to remove a faithless leader before he could jeopardize the mission. The Heirarchs needed a hero at the outset of the war against Humanity, so they pardoned and rewarded him 

When he wasn't fighting in the war against Humanity, Tartarus was leading a crusade through Brute territory. He called for a changing of the guard, and called for any chieftain who wasn't committed in heart and soul to the Covenant faith to step down or be cast down. The turnover rate among Jiralhanae leadership skyrocketed, and a new generation of chieftains arose in debt to Tartarus.

Ordinarily, Tartarus would have been roundly scorned, for he was an outsider messing in tribal politics. But he was a decorated war hero, blessed by the Heirarchs, and he was an unmatched duelist. And above all, he had a vision.

It was not right, he said, that the Jiralhanae should follow. They were leaders. It was in their nature to choose their destiny, and that had been robbed of them by meddling outsiders. First the Gryunjalla had found them, exploited them, and scattered them, then the Sangheili had played one tribe off another during the border wars. Had this not happened, he claimed, the Covenant would have had to accept the Jiralhanae as equals to the Sangheili.

His bastardized history and vague promises of something better captured the loyalty of many Jiralhanae, and he assembled a vast coalition of mutual alliances out of the tangled web of tribal politics. He would have been considered a risk by the Covenant if he were not a war hero, and if he was not so openly devoted to the Great Journey. He was clearly not looking to rebel against the Covenant. Indeed, he soon gained the name of "The Breaker", because he personally executed so many heretics and apostates. And he clearly wasn't looking to replace the Sangheili, because that was unthinkable.

But anyone who looked him in the eyes as he promised a better future for the unified Jiralhanae knew he was clearly thinking it.

Tacit Axiom wrote:


I was mostly thinking of the idea of prospectors expected to be on their own for centuries needing to bring with them some of the essentials of civilization, like perhaps their families (assuming the Gryunjalla had such) and some basic amenities on the larger ships they operated out of.

But the idea works better if the Gryunjalla live for centuries, and in any case they are aliens. Besides, one assumes that individuals going on such missions wouldn't like crowds anyway.

Right. And maybe workers cycled in and out of the region every few decades.

Tacit Axiom wrote:
This also gave me another idea: What if the Covenant weren't the first ones to loot Forerunner sites in the Orion Arm? What if many of the reliquaries in the Covenant's path of expansion had already been stripped clean of useful technologies, with only subtle hints that anyone else had been there after the Forerunners; in most cases navigation charts and data caches would have been purged as well, leaving the Covenant with very little to work with and thus providing further fodder for misunderstandings. And this - along with some vague tracks and out-of-place tools and equipment found in some Forerunner installations - are virtually the only evidence of this elusive looter civilization (or civilizations). So the question is; where are they now, and what did they do with all that technology?

Ooh, yeah, that is a good one. It's also a good explanation for why a discovery of one reliquary didn't lead to another, until the Covenant were spread out across this sector of the Milky Way.

Tacit Axiom wrote:
Also, somewhat unrelated, but it's kind of ridiculous that the San'Shyuum Reformists apparently spent over 1,100 years on the Forerunner Dreadnought after fleeing their homeworld before they came across the Sangheili. Well, rather, it's a bit ridiculous that nothing of note apparently happened over that time; the Reformist faction apparently went largely unchanged between leaving Janjur Qom and meeting the Elites. With a Forerunner vessel at their disposal, the San'Shyuum would've had time to circumnavigate the galaxy several times over as well as establish any number of outposts or colonies. Either more stuff should've happened, or the time span of the Reformists' wanderings should be much shorter.

I don't have any ideas, unless the Reformists set down somewhere to recover their population.
And they honestly could have circumnavigated the galaxy. Journeyed to the center, swam back out to the outer rim, searching the galaxy without a clue as to where to search. 

Tacit Axiom wrote:

I also imagine there would be various secondary means of communication - First Strike makes a reference to an automated system that shares messages between Covenant ships as they arrive in-system, though I imagine this would be exclusive to whatever organization those ships are part of - in this case likely the Ministry of Resolution (it also implies that FTL communication from the human sphere wasn't an entirely trivial matter to the Covenant if they had to use ships as couriers). Other users of such systems might include other ministries and religious orders, guilds, clans, and various other groups.

The Covenant might also have something like the UNSC's slipspace COM launchers, but those would probably only work on (relatively) short ranges. And obviously, it's easier to seize an automated probe than an armed courier ship, so it's likely they'd just use ships. Maybe major fleets, flagships and/or expeditionary ships had dedicated sub-vessels just for that - small craft built for little more than speed, meant to carry important messages (as well as the messenger and/or his escort) to the nearest secure communication hub or even High Charity itself, should the holy city be nearby.

I've had an idea for something similar for the UNSC, a little automated messenger craft that fits in the same bay as a Bumblebee lifepod. To send a message, the ship jumps into slipspace and almost immediately fires the messenger craft, which navigates to a point before dropping out of slipspace.

It's not as fast or accurate as a COMM Probe, and it is absolutely imperative that it be launched as close to entry as possible to minimize interference from eddy currents, but it works.

Tacit Axiom wrote:
Also, another question I'd like feedback on before I change it. In my Orion Arm map, I've placed Hesduros to the peripheries on the opposite side of the Covenant sphere from humanity. My rationale was that I didn't want to concentrate everything on the human side, with so many worlds already there for various reasons (mostly because Halo stories tend to involve humans in some way).

But do we still assume there's some kind of connection between Onyx and Hesduros? Even if the specifics of Jul's escape differ, even if he's never imprisoned in Onyx, and even if Emo Sangheili Kylo Ren never leads his posse into Onyx through the back door, if we keep the idea that Hesduros has Forerunner facilities somehow related to the Onyx installation, it is a little odd if it's many thousands of LYs away. Ideally it would be located as close as possible.

I guess the main question to consider is, where is Jul's main base of power in the grand scheme of things? With the increased focus on slipspace lanes and the logistics of interstellar travel and/or conflict, I guess one has to ask where most of Jul's operations are taking place in the Covenant sphere and just how big of a nuisance they are in human space.

Hesduros can safely be forgotten. The only thing that makes it relevant to the story is the teleporters that lead to Onyx. Since those teleporters are a particularly stupid plot point and the impetus for them existing doesn’t exist in my timeline, I elected to ignore them. Since those teleporters no longer exist, I guess you could place Hesduros wherever you like.


Onyx is big. It’s a fallout shelter the size of a Dyson shell, and it has a similarly large presence in the story. Do the Forerunner still live there, in isolation or imprisonment? How much useful technology can be gleaned from it? How do its production facilities compare to the Ark? I don’t know, and the re-emergence of Onyx would have such a huge impact on the Orion Arm that I would prefer to push it into the distant future.


So if Hesduros is written off and Onyx is shoved offstage for a later act, what to do with Jul ‘Mdama? Well, unlike the other two, I want to use Jul ‘Mdama. I think he has a ton of potential as a character. But how I plan to use him is heavily tied in to the status of post-war UNSC.


After the cease-fire with the Arbiter’s faction, the UNSC can’t secure its own territory, or what remains of it. The home fleet is smashed, and so is the infrastructure needed to rebuild it and support it. Some elements of the Navy survived by abandoning their post and fleeing the battle, and the UNSC lured  them back with promises of amnesty.


On the other hand, the UNSC has a lot less territory to control. After Reach fell, the Navy pulled back to the Sol system and some immediate colonies, and a lot of Inner Colonies were left to fend for themselves. The Covenant rushed through these colonies, invading some and bombing others from orbit. However, since the Covenant did not have time to glass these colonies, many of them survived with partially intact population and infrastructure. They’ll be a net drain on UNSC resources until initial reconstruction programs are finished, but that will only take a few years.


So with a shattered Navy on one hand and reduced territory on the other, the UNSC shouldn’t have too much trouble protecting one with the other. The problem is the warlords.


Ex-Covenant forces still prowl Human territory, and not all of them are friendly to the UNSC. The Voi portal and Installation 04 are flashpoints, with multiple groups vying for control. A coalition of Separatist factions control the wreckage of Alpha Halo, while the UNSC nominally controls the Voi portal with the blessing of the Arbiter and his allies. The Loyalist forces prowl through the graveyards of Human civilization, never quite strong enough to seize either site, but a threat nonetheless.


The UNSC isn’t threatened only by the Loyalists and the Brutes, but by Sangheili factions who still think they have a divine mandate to exterminate Humanity, and by Sangheili factions who want to turn Humanity into a client race like they’ve done with Yanme’e, Unggoy, Kig-Yar, and Lekgolo. The UNSC can’t defend multiple colonies at once, so they need to take their allies where they can. And just because a faction is friendly with the UNSC, doesn’t mean that they’re friendly with the Arbiter. It doesn’t even mean that they’re kind to Humanity. One warlord who pledges to defend a colony may see fit to conscript troops from that very colony. On the other hand, the UNSC was given two cruisers and a light carrier by one Sangheili fleetmaster,


There are other hotspots in the area, from Forerunner relics to leftovers from the war with the Covenant. Human territory is going to be restless for years, but UNSC HIGHCOM hopes that it will all die down soon enough as the Covenant meta-civilization turns in upon itself and deals with internal issues. The UNSC will recede into the fringes of Covenant society, where it can rebuild, re-arm, and remain independent.


That’s why they’ve kept a lid on the connection between Humans and Forerunner.


There’s rumors, sure, and rumors have circulated ever since the war began in earnest. But it’s kind of hard to test that theory since both known Halo installations are destroyed and the Voi portal is inoperative. The Arbiter knows, and he is the one who decided to keep it a secret in the first place. At first he feared that the Truth would be one shock too many for the Covenant, and now with 343 Guilty Spark gone, he has nobody to collaborate his testimony. And if he were to tell the truth, and many were to believe him, he knows what that would mean for Humanity. Annexation.


I have more, but I have to ask if you have anything planned for Jul 'Mdama?

Tacit Axiom wrote:
That's the problem with a setting where you really have no idea where places are in relation to one another for the most part. I can just imagine how that would work in an Earth-bound story, or even one set in a fantasy world; everything just happens somewhere, and you never get any kind of signposts or geography, let alone a map, to indicate where that somewhere really is and how far it is from other places we know about, or how easy it is to get there - are there decent roads or maybe some mountains or rivers on the way, and so on.

That's why so many fantasy novels open with maps.

Tacit Axiom wrote:
Also, do you think the Diocese of Ettretritan would be anywhere on or near the map, or did you think of it as more of a core region? I just decided to expand the map a bit both downward and to the right, and the domains as well as astrography there are still very much open, so if there's any ideas or something that could fit your story better, I can take them.

I figured that it would be toward Zhoist, maybe the south-western end of the Oarthen Threshold. Maybe it's on the road to that ancient colony, which is why the Covenant reacted so strongly.

Mostly, though, I just needed a name. I'm not even sure how much of that backstory will come up in NAWW.

Tacit Axiom wrote:
Also, I'm trying to think of a good name for the minor expansion region beyond the Isbanola Sector. Most of it would essentially be a lawless frontier unsanctioned by the UNSC, tying to the idea of Sagittarius-side Innie colonies Nylund dropped in his Evolutions story. Given the theme Denning has got going on, I'm thinking of something Spanish, or maybe Italian, with a bit of a Western feel to it.

I'll have to think on this.

Tacit Axiom wrote:
Speaking of names, I feel it would be totally fitting if the Covenant called their sphere of influence the Holy Ecumene.

Like the Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire?
Quote 1 0
Tacit Axiom
Quirel wrote:

I mostly use Scribner. It's a great program for organizing notes and drafts, but it doesn't have any functionality for sharing. World Anvil should do.


I actually have Scrivener and I've used it for some projects, though I have most of my notes in OneNote because of the overall ease of use and sync functionality. However, a lot of it is rough, scattered and stream-of-consciousness-y and would require some rewriting to work as an actual resource, which is why I'm also compiling a lot of it into these data drops I include with the maps.

Besides, most of it keeps developing as I go along - for example, I codified the concept of Primary and Secondary Domains as a thing only after I'd initially posted my Siakar map, and have been laying out much of the history and other relevant details for them since. And if there's something in newly-released canon that I particularly like or want to keep, like Zhoist or slipspace transit nodes in Silent Storm, I may adjust my stuff accordingly.

Hence I can somewhat see 343i's side when they say doesn't want to lock things down too much, but I think there's always a point where you just have to decide something's the way it is. Even if you get better ideas later on, it's often fairly easy to just incorporate them to the existing framework than just leave everything nebulous because you might get some unexpected stroke of genius at some indeterminate point in the future.

Quirel wrote:

Ooh, yeah, that is a good one. It's also a good explanation for why a discovery of one reliquary didn't lead to another, until the Covenant were spread out across this sector of the Milky Way.


Yeah, it is a bit weird how little the Covenant had seemingly discovered in the way of actually useful information: you'd think there would be yottabytes of data to set the record straight on most of the things the Covenant were wrong about even on the most mundane of Forerunner personal computers, and even accounting for mistranslation and dogmatism as well as Forerunner security measures and system degradation, 3400 years is a long time to find something that works. If all the Covenant found were scattered breadcrumbs, and only the occasional jackpot, it would explain a lot.

Well, to be fair, there's a few reasons why Forerunner data might be a bit hard to come by (as opposed to physical tech like weapons or engines). For one there's their well-known tendency for compartmentalization, though one assumes it couldn't encompass every single device, especially on the civilian side of things. Then there's possible deliberate data erasure, perhaps by something like the UNSC's viral data scavengers, to prevent its use by the Flood; and finally, the Flood's subversion of Forerunner data systems.

Quirel wrote:

I don't have any ideas, unless the Reformists set down somewhere to recover their population.
And they honestly could have circumnavigated the galaxy. Journeyed to the center, swam back out to the outer rim, searching the galaxy without a clue as to where to search.


Also, going around the galaxy in and of itself wouldn't necessarily do them much good, considering there'd still only be so many systems they'd be able to visit out of a hundred billion. It's the same issue as the Covenant's size and travel times: even if the Covenant's best ships might be able to travel to other spiral arms and return in a somewhat reasonable time frame, you'd still be spreading yourself very thin. Even with the territory I have the Covenant in control of, there will be tens of millions of stars deep within their sphere of influence that have never seen a visit by a Covenant ship; hence the Covenant didn't only expand outward, but also within its own existing territories as generations of colonies blossomed out from hub worlds along slipspace lanes.

Though I'd imagine the Dreadnought's data banks would have plenty of sites of interest for them to find, unless Mendicant Bias was actively controlling the information they got (and perhaps even much of the ship's other systems, which may've forced them to lower velocities than it would otherwise be capable of). That, and possible compartmentalization.

It could be that they hung out somewhere cozy for a few decades here and there, had their occasional schisms and wars, maybe dropped off some dissidents on this and that world on the far side of the galaxy, and whatnot. The time span would be fine if there was some indication that there was some history that happened there, even if that history isn't fleshed out in detail at the time.

Maybe the San'Shyuum took centuries to even figure out how to pilot the Dreadnought, and they spent a good amount of time trying to get out of Janjur Qom's system in the first place, and even then just coasted at relativistic speeds for a few decades (centuries in the outside universe) because they couldn't figure out how the slipspace drive worked.

Perhaps there was also a constant tug of war between them and MendyB, who'd be trying to advance some opaque agenda of his yet retaining limited control of the ship, and the Dreadnought's own ancilla, which was locked in some kind of stalemate with Mendicant's shard, and then the two degraded AI trying to play the San'Shyuum against the other.

All this meant the Reformists may have only experienced a couple of subjective centuries since leaving Janjur Qom, while over a millennium passed in the outside universe.

Quirel wrote:

I have more, but I have to ask if you have anything planned for Jul 'Mdama?


Not much; mostly I think of him as just another warlord causing other polities trouble with his unoriginal choice of faction name. His group is perhaps bigger than most such Covenants, maybe even the biggest, but I haven't thought of them as a key player in the side of the Covenant sphere I mostly deal with, not directly at least; within Siakar and its neighborhood, they would mostly operate through allies, spies and smaller proxy groups such as the Storm of Faith (which itself broke off from a larger warlord junta because they thought their leaders were becoming too soft) (also, the name originally started out as a better alternative for "Storm Covenant", but has in my lore become its own thing).

But yeah, were I to deal with Jul's Covenant I'd probably try to infuse them with a bit more character than "find angry snake man, kill humans". I think it might also be more interesting if he was from somewhere other than Sanghelios, simply because it's a bit statistically unlikely that in a vast interstellar empire, everyone important happens to be from one planet.

And Hesduros? It's just another Sangheili colony somewhere in the backwoods of Covenant territory. There are thousands like it, and it's in no way remarkable outside of perhaps as the site of some Jul's early alliances, after he was driven out of Sanghelios and the greater Crimson Realms.* It might also serve the function of being Jul's homeworld, but even that's not really necessary.

But, really, yeah. The canon version of Hesduros really is nothing more than a plot device.

--
*The collection of systems and worlds under the direct political and cultural influence of Sanghelios states, through feudal contracts and alliances some of which are more ancient than the Covenant. Most of these sites are located within the Sunlit Worlds, but the two are not synonymous, as many of the Sunlit Worlds have their own spheres of influence almost comparable to that of Urs. Affiliations and ties are complex in that old core, which is why various exceptions were made to the streamlined post-Coadunation domain structure in that region.

Ironically, many further-out colonies are more politically unified than the core worlds, or at least have a clearer hierarchic structure, as colonization and subsequent administration of hubs and fortresses necessitated strong leadership in the form of planetary or regional lords (the exact titles and responsibilities of which varied, from archkaidons and high kaidons to various local titles -- I've been trying to come up with a more detailed hierarchy of Sangheili nobility just to make them look more like a proper feudal society, and have entertained the idea of having "kaidon" being less of a distinct office and more of a general term analogous to "lord"). Meanwhile, the most powerful states on Sanghelios and some of the Sunlit Worlds are old and proud and while they did appoint representatives to domain councils, they also have more power individually than discrete states on many far-flung colonies.

Quirel wrote:

I figured that it would be toward Zhoist, maybe the south-western end of the Oarthen Threshold. Maybe it's on the road to that ancient colony, which is why the Covenant reacted so strongly.

Mostly, though, I just needed a name. I'm not even sure how much of that backstory will come up in NAWW.


Yeah, I just take note of details because I also drop names all the time without too much backstory (though there's usually some thought involved as to what fits where and so on) and then end up fleshing them out in unexpected situations. That's one reason I like to make these maps more comprehensive than they need to be at the time - because it forces me to think about the wider context which in turn can affect smaller-scale dynamics.

Quirel wrote:

Like the Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire?


Yeah. I already kind of think of the Covenant (especially in its more divided eras) as being in many ways an HRE in space. It does go well with the whole idea of a lesser successor state that is in no way connected to its namesake trying to reclaim the glory of an ancient empire (plus the whole clusterfuck of bureaucracy and feudalism). Also, "ecumene" has a nice religious ring to it that fits the Covenant even on its own. But one imagines they'd have plenty of names to call their version of the civilized galaxy, of which this would be merely one.
halo
Quote 0 0
Quirel
SHIT!

Meant to hit "Control+Tab", hit "Control+R" instead.
Quote 0 0
Quirel
So. Jul's Covenant.

I've got bigger plans for Jul 'Mdama than 343i ever dreamed of.

The base of Jul 'Mdama's character is that he was a follower of the Arbiter, but feared Humanity. The UNSC betrayed him, but he escaped and built up a coalition that would plague Earth and the Arbiter for a long time. I'm not going to change that base. Much.

When the Arbiter returned from the Ark, there was one coalition of fleetmasters protecting the portal at Voi, and another coalition overseeing the salvage of Alpha Halo. The Arbiter gave his blessing to both coalitions, formed up a convoy to return to Sanghelios, and left UNSC space for either the Pleiades Corridor or the Stygian Rill. He chose one fleetmaster out of that convoy and sent him to keep the Pleiades corridor open. That Fleetmaster was openly distrustful of Humanity, but loyal to the Arbiter, and so he stayed. His name was Jul 'Mdama.

The Pleiades Corridor soon turned into a wild west as various factions came in to settle its length, and then the UNSC arrived. Tensions rose as Jul realized that the UNSC's rapid-response battlegroups weren't going to take orders from him. Before things could come to a head, ONI arranged for Jul 'Mdama to be replaced. Remember what I said about the UNSC balancing one faction off another? Jul was the victim of that. ONI lured him out of position and arranged for his ambush by a faction that was friendly with the UNSC but on cold terms with the Arbiter.

Jul's small fleet was wrecked, and his sole surviving warship was rendered combat ineffective. Most of the warriors under his command that day perished, and he was disgraced in the eyes of the Arbiter's allies. To survive, he turned mercenary. He swallowed his pride and rented out his warrior's skills to whoever would pay for them. 

Jul's leadership abilities were broken and reforged in this time. He was fighting for money and food, and he did not deny it for a second, but warriors followed him because he promised more than that. He praised them for their prowess, and he gave them a reason to keep fighting together. To his officers, the men from his lost fleet, he never stopped reminding them of their betrayal by their putative Human allies.

He became a thorn in the UNSC's side, and a persistent one at that. But then he pounced upon a juicy bit of intel and wrecked an ONI operation that was diverting salvage from Alpha Halo, and he became a threat that had to be dealt with.

During this raid, he discovered the connection between Humans and Forerunner. He learned that Humans have a unique ability to access Forerunner machines, perhaps because those machines were built for Humanity. Or perhaps because Humans are the descendants of the Forerunner. This fact terrified him so much that he never spoke of it to anybody, not for years.

Shortly after the raid, the UNSC Navy rounded upon him and would have destroyed him if he weren't saved by agents from the Isbanola Sector. They offered him a partnership, but he refused, packed up his forces, and fled down the Stygian Rill. When he reached the (Insert Primary Domain Here), he learned that his homeworld was occupied, and his clan had been driven from their homes. And he wasn't there to protect them, because he had loyally followed the Arbiter's orders and the UNSC betrayed him. He was a warrior with a small army and no home to return to.

"Sarcen, because of the Humans' treachery, a twelfth of my clan is alive, and but a twelfth of that number remain free. How then shall I repay the Humans?"

He turned around and headed for UNSC space. On his way, he built a coalition of fanatics and the self interested, and he curried favor with certain Kaidons.

Jul 'Mdama's Forsaken (Definitely need a better name, too close to "the Banished") was the first stage of the New Invasion, where warlords who had established their holdings in the Holy Ecumune turned to UNSC space and the wealth of Forerunner artefacts rumored to be hidden there. Especially the Voi portal. Everyone wanted their hands on the Voi portal and the Ark beyond it.

Jul 'Mdama, now the leader of a large coalition, was content to poke and prod at the UNSC while other factions wore it and the Arbiter's allies down. But not long after returning to UNSC space, he found a small Isbanola fleet pinned down by a UNSC-Sanghelios joint task force. He doesn't like Humans, and his sense of honor is frayed, but he's compelled to go in and rescue them. He finds this act of gratitude vindicated when one of the captains he rescues is the captain who saved him a few years ago.

She's useful, too useful to get rid of even though he knows she's using him. And a large part of his coalition is made of fanatics who want to exterminate Humanity, so he has to politick with them. And he realizes that this is the exact same situation that Earth was trapped in, and he hates it.
But he's just too damn good at it to stop.

After a few more years of cat-and-mouse with the UNSC, some crisis or another comes to a head, and Jul reveals Humanity's secret. He activates several secret alliances he'd established with other factions in UNSC space and storms the Solar system. The Home Fleet is smashed and forced to withdraw. The Arbiter's allies guarding the portal over Voi are driven off, which was made all the easier when they were sabotaged from within. Jul 'Mdama's coalition are now in control of Sol sector.

Fortunately, his interaction with the Isbanola captain and the crews of her ships softened Jul 'Mdama's stance towards Humanity. He's not interested in revenge, though he wouldn't mind reducing the population a bit. Particularly in the area around Sydney. But for years, he's been telling his close allies and confidants that this wasn't about revenge. It was about taking the Voi portal out of Human hands and securing it for the Sangheili race. And somehow, that became the truth.

After the fighting is over, Jul purges some of the hardliners from his ranks, and orders the rest to fall in line. Then he starts shipping the population of Sol out-system. The UNSC is completely unprepared to deal with the deluge of refugees, and many eventually relocate to the Pleiades corridor or the Holy Ecumune. This is sometime in 2580, and Humans won't return to the Sol system for decades.

In the opening of Not All Who Wander, I made an offhand reference to the Diaspora. That is the flight of Humanity from the area around Sol, and it is all Jul 'Mdama's doing.
Quote 1 0
Tacit Axiom
Version 0.4. Getting there. Still some places and details to be added and/or polished.
[siakar_expanse_context_map_wip13_by_the_chronothaur-dcsdz0s]

I have a lot of plans for the Hades Gulf, particularly the Pleiades Corridor, and I've been trying to build up the situation in that region. However, I might need a more focused map to lay the situation out in more detail.

(I do sometimes feel like I'm overindulging in Destiny-isms with names like "Temple of Thorns", "the Phantom Web" or "the Swarming Abyss". Then again, Halo canon does have "swarmlords" and "corpse-moons", so I guess I can have my fun.)

Quirel wrote:
So. Jul's Covenant.
(snip)


That's not something I've thought of, but I suppose it fits with my stuff considering I haven't really thought about the setting in that much detail beyond 2560. I mean, I have ideas for a few centuries going forward, but nothing too concrete or fixed. Once I've laid sufficient groundwork for the 2552-2560 era, I think I might move on to a secondary setting I have in mind in the 2610s or perhaps even a bit later. There's a lot of stuff in my fanon that is designed to set up the changing status quo in the future, and there's also a lot of ideas I have that will definitely work better when not constrained by the current endpoint of the canon timeline.

I do see human space splintering into various polities sooner or later, especially with non-UEG humans gaining access to Covenant drives and/or transportation, but that development will be even more dramatic if Earth gets taken. One thing I am keeping from canon is the way the UNSC simply has no ability to project power over all its colonies anymore, let alone colonies established by colonies. I just try to do it better than the New Colonial Alliance. You'd be much more likely to have multiple smaller alliances and factions - one in the Isbanola Sector, and so forth - that could just as easily be contentious with one another as the UNSC.

Your version of ONI balancing factions off one another is also quite similar to my ideas - they tried to do that, they just weren't able to do it in such a scale suggested by Traviss and 343i, and definitely not as far away as Sanghelios. Your idea sounds like a decent compromise where the core idea is incorporated, just in a context that makes more sense.

One issue with the idea may be the impact of H2-H3 being lessened if Earth is just going to get taken over later anyway by an alien warlord, but I suppose that depends on how you look at it. Canon has certainly had its share of post-war invasions anyway, and nothing can compete with the irrelevancy of HitD's Retrievers wrecking the Home Fleet only for it to amount to absolutely nothing. Still, it does run into that issue where the focus of the conflict loops back to humans, which is something I've been trying to avoid.

Another question I could maybe see is the reaction of the Arbiter and allied polities, and by extension their level of involvement with the UNSC at that point. I suppose the rules of realpolitik would still apply, and it's possible he was too tied up in his own turf to help, but I'm not sure if he'd be so callous as to leave Earth to its own devices after what he personally went through. It depends on the circumstances and what happened in the interim, though.

A key issue in canon is not knowing what the Arbiter really stands for. I mean, we don't need to know his tax policy, but it would be nice to get something more substantial than "For Sanghelios!"

My key takeaway from the Arbiter's character is that he's a reformer and a visionary. He hates the Covenant and what it stood for, and he hates himself for not having realized that sooner. However, he stands for something a bit more than Sanghelios. His vision is that of an Orion Arm united yet free of autocrats such as those of High Charity. Overall, he's against the idea of anyone wielding so much power as the Hierarchs and the High Council - which is ironic given that he may be the most powerful individual in the Orion Arm in the post-war era. Overall, I would see a lot of his conflict coming from his lofty aspirations meeting the unfortunate complexities of reality - yet without the implication that he's naive or stupid, which he really couldn't be to get that far.

He's also not afraid to speak out against Sangheili complacency and hypocrisy, or criticize the Sangheili's own culture and tradition, seeing them as inextricable from the Covenant and the history that forged it. This has made him more than a few enemies, but he's a bit too committed to hold his tongue at times.

So, a common rift even among his allies is that many of them would rather stick to the old ways in regards to things such as the caste system. Few Sangheili are interested in wiping out humanity, as that is a bit too stark of a reminder of the power the Prophets held over them. But more than a few would rather annex them as a client species; perhaps not as slaves, perhaps even just a notch below the Sangheili, but still as subjects. Due to his experiences, and deep personal guilt, the Arbiter hates this, and would gladly skewer such individuals on his blade were many of them not his friends, colleagues and valuable allies. So his entire rule - such as it is - is a vast balancing act.

But overall, humans aren't really that high up on the list of hot talking points in the Sangheili sphere; in general, I'd say we rate somewhere below the Kig-Yar in terms of relevance. Arguably even the Unggoy are a greater threat, since they demonstrably breed fast, are demonstrably tenacious and ferocious under the right conditions, and are even now all over the place despite their comparatively recent assimilation. In comparison, humans are fairly contained to their little corner of space and it'll be centuries before they can build up numbers similar to the former client species; our interstellar society is barely holding together by a thread and is likely to collapse into numerous subfactions in the immediate future, most of which will all but certainly merge with the greater Orion Arm metacivilization that is the post-Covenant over the following centuries.

In any event, much more relevant are subjects like tradition vs. moving forward, religion, the role of the existing subject species, trade and commerce, immediate practical concerns (e.g. "where our world will get food now that the regional authorities aren't there anymore to coordinate supply lines from the local agri-worlds"), power struggles between remaining domain authorities, and so on.

The importance of religious conflicts in particular can't really be understated in a society like the Covenant, which has never known any other truth than the Path. And it wouldn't just be about whether you revere the Forerunners or not or want to fire the Halos; there would a thousand regional schools, traditions and interpretations competing for attention. If something as radical as the idea that the Halos are not the only path to the Great Journey could be entirely mainstream in certain ages, or if cults like the Governors of Contrition could be tolerated, who knows what may have festered in more fringe contexts, or in secret? Besides that, there could be revival attempts of pre-Covenant Sangheili Forerunner worship, and even of more ancient Sangheili faiths, such as the worship of the sun gods of Sanghelios. The Arbiter has spoken out against Forerunner worship, sometimes loudly so, but also realizes he cannot alienate possible religious allies so long as they remain moderate (i.e. not actively pursuing galactic genocide).

Even then, the Arbiter cannot really enforce his policies across the entire Concord, especially the Outer Vigil polities. Even the core Crimson League* is divided on such issues, and the Arbiter sees fit not to impose particulars on those who agree with him on key points, at least not until the situation stabilizes further.

What the Arbiter also needs is a stronger supporting cast. It's very hard to relate to the SoS in any way when we only know of Thel, with Rtas as an occasional guest star as well as some randoms. We're told that they're ruled by some kind of council of kaidons, but it would be nice to see some of those kaidons for a change and hear what they think and what their role in the overall polity is.

____
*In my fanon, what is known in canon (and commonly among fans) as the Swords of Sanghelios is actually a multitude of polities and alliances. The Swords are Thel's martial order and the de facto governing body on Sanghelios. The Crimson League (also the Inner Concord) is a collection of worlds and polities in the Sangheili core, mostly centered on the Crimson Realms and a number of other Sunlit Worlds, named as such for the crimson so commonly found on their banners and heraldry. The Concord of the Forward Path, or the Concord, is the overall alliance of polities across what was once the Holy Ecumene, irrespective of their location, while the Outer Vigil refers to the peripheral elements of this league, especially in relation to outlying polities (i.e. the UNSC and other human factions).

--

On the note of ex-Covenant operations in the human sphere, I've been thinking of revising the recovery of Onyx into something that makes more sense. I'd like to keep the basis of it being a joint operation between the UNSC and the Arbiter's forces, as that's more interesting than the UNSC getting their hands on yet another Forerunner artifact for reasons, but provide a good reason as to why.

My basic idea is that a faction associated with the Arbiter (either during or after the fact) - was instrumental in making the sphere accessible again (whether that involves bringing it out of slipspace or not), as well as possibly dealing with whatever went on with the trillions of Sentinels there. The latter doesn't need to be a physical confrontation, but it has to be addressed somehow nonetheless - it could, for example, involve turning them off from within the sphere somehow that's not cheap and easy.

As for what happens to the Sentinels, they could get reabsorbed into the structure, or re-form the planetary shell around the sphere - imagine how creepy it would be to have to go through a shell of inert death-bots every time you enter the sphere.

Anyway, the Sangheili would be key in getting anyone in or out of the sphere, which would essentially leave the UNSC with no say on whether they get in or not. As opposed to first working on murder grain to genocide them and then inviting them over.

--

For the record, I do have an idea for an ONI contingency reprisal op, just one that's hopefully not as stupid as Traviss'. It's (slightly cheesily) called Operation RAGNAROK, and it was never implemented for a myriad of reasons, the most pressing of which being feasibility.

RAGNAROK would have been a multimodal shock-and-awe assault against key Covenant worlds followed by an immediate, decisive fleet action. The initial strike would involve largely AI-driven ships carrying both kinetic and nuclear payloads, along with debilitating electronic warfare agents and shock troop insertions targeted at alien base worlds and industrial centers.

The concept evolved from earlier projections of interstellar war between peer polities, particularly in the context of MAD scenarios in space. The idea was thrown around during the Insurrection, following the Carver Findings, and resurfaced during the Human-Covenant War as an ultimate vengeance weapon. RAGNAROK would be a final resort and a kind of all-or-nothing, "Hail Mary" situation.

In its most refined stage, Operation RAGNAROK would consist of mainly AI-drive ships carrying thousands of sub-vessels with slipspace drives of their own. The motherships, with their advanced drives (which did not exist at the time of the plan's creation), would cross the gulf to the Covenant sphere, and be synchronized to exit slipspace in waves in different parts of the Covenant's dominion. They would then let loose their sub-vessels, which in turn would bloom outward in the hundreds in local sectors. In star systems they would let loose their payloads of kinetic rods, scatter submunitions and nuclear weaponry: one of the only even remotely effective results of the RAGNAROK program was the NOVA bomb. Similarly, Ackerson's earlier, altogether too numerically optimistic projections for the SPARTAN-III program would have constituted a key component of the strike forces delivered during and before the main assault.

Saturation and shock and awe would be key; the entire assault would have to take place within days at most. In the wake of the initial attack would come the conventional UNSC fleets, to face any remaining resistance and mop up targets the drone ships missed. Even then it would be a long shot, but the plan would rely most on the shock and debilitating effect of the strikes to give the UNSC time to mount its offensive.

The prelude for the mission would involve long-term surveillance and reconnaissance of Covenant space by advanced prowler squadrons - which also did not and still do not exist in the numbers or crew capacity required for such an undertaking.

Eventually, the project was buried for numerous technical, logistical, informational, and finally political reasons. The most obvious obstacle was the UNSC's minimal knowledge of Covenant space. Even the maps provided by the Sangheili after the war were incomplete especially in terms of strategic targets and could not be fully counted on, and even a few key worlds missed would almost certainly mean a unified, zealous retaliation that humanity could never withstand. On top of that, the UNSC lacked the industrial capacity to even begin to construct such a vengeance fleet, as well as the technology required for such precise coordination on a vast, interstellar scale.

Quirel wrote:

Jul 'Mdama's Forsaken (Definitely need a better name, too close to "the Banished")


The Forsaken are also a group of Destiny villains. Anyway,

The Sworn Legion?
The Vanguard?
The Beholden Saviors/Watchers?
The Unyielding Pledge?
halo
Quote 1 0
Quirel

I love the new map version, and I love how the perimeters have left holes in Covenant territory. It's also cool how you've integrated Loftus's proposed map of UNSC territory. If you did that on the prior versions, I hadn't noticed.


Tacit Axiom wrote:
That's not something I've thought of, but I suppose it fits with my stuff considering I haven't really thought about the setting in that much detail beyond 2560. I mean, I have ideas for a few centuries going forward, but nothing too concrete or fixed. Once I've laid sufficient groundwork for the 2552-2560 era, I think I might move on to a secondary setting I have in mind in the 2610s or perhaps even a bit later. There's a lot of stuff in my fanon that is designed to set up the changing status quo in the future, and there's also a lot of ideas I have that will definitely work better when not constrained by the current endpoint of the canon timeline.

Still have a lot of work to do on the immediate post-war era, but I'm interested in hearing about this secondary setting you have in mind.


I don't have any firm plans for the status quo, except for what I outlined with Jul 'Mdama. The absolute endpoint that I have for that storyline is that, eventually, the portal to the Ark is re-opened, and the Ark is brought back online. That will eventually lead to a golden age as more portals are manufactured and installed throughout the Holy Ecumune. This removes the threat of the Halo array, as no one faction can bugger off to the Ark and wipe the galaxy clean. The Ark is also opened up to manufacturing other designs, and its production capabilities singlehandedly end the dark age that started by High Charity's fall.


Tacit Axiom wrote:
I do see human space splintering into various polities sooner or later, especially with non-UEG humans gaining access to Covenant drives and/or transportation, but that development will be even more dramatic if Earth gets taken. One thing I am keeping from canon is the way the UNSC simply has no ability to project power over all its colonies anymore, let alone colonies established by colonies. I just try to do it better than the New Colonial Alliance. You'd be much more likely to have multiple smaller alliances and factions - one in the Isbanola Sector, and so forth - that could just as easily be contentious with one another as the UNSC.


Your version of ONI balancing factions off one another is also quite similar to my ideas - they tried to do that, they just weren't able to do it in such a scale suggested by Traviss and 343i, and definitely not as far away as Sanghelios. Your idea sounds like a decent compromise where the core idea is incorporated, just in a context that makes more sense.

Hah. I never even saw the similarity. I guess I rejected the whole idea out of hand because it didn't make any sense, and then wandered back to it when I realized that the UNSC has to do something about all the warlords running around in its backyard.


On a somewhat similar thread, I have some ideas about technology and trade. The UNSC needs something to offer to those warlords, and to the Arbiter as well. And... well, do you remember what Cortana did to the Ascendant Justice's plasma torpedoes? She basically reconfigured them into hyper-lethal beam weapons. And it's as simple as a software patch!


So the UNSC's allies get a major upgrade to their offensive weaponry. In exchange, the UNSC asks them to patrol certain areas and participate in offensives against rival warlords. But the UNSC has to play it safe. Once they've upgraded a Shipmaster's weapons, they have to get as much out of the deal as they can, because there's not a lot else they can offer him. And if the warlord breaks away, how do they stop him from sharing the software patch with hostile factions?


They can't. The UNSC's best scientists can encrypt the software and harden the weapon controls against intrusion, but that just makes it slightly harder for a Huragok to learn and replicate the secret. ONI reckons that the secret will slip within the decade, either through espionage or betrayal.


The UNSC needs to find something else to offer to the Covenant within that timeframe. Very likely, it won't be any one thing, but rather a package of smaller benefits like medical technology or incremental shield upgrades.


Compounding this problem is that so much is lostech. When the Gettysburg returned to Earth, the captured Huragok were split up among the leading defense programs and critical industries. Since Huragok show up on a Luminary, these sites were almost universally bombed, glassed, or raided by ground troops. The UEG's industrial base was irreparably harmed in key areas.


-The main campus of the Colorado Springs Institute for Advanced Cognitive Research was all but destroyed, along with the UNSC's capability to assemble smart AI. One surviving engineer estimates that, after certain consumables are exhausted in the next few months, the UNSC will lose the ability to manufacture new smart AI entirely.

-Many key MJOLNIR production facilities were lost as well. Existing suits will have to be repaired with existing stocks of replacement parts, although some components can still be manufactured.

-The latest generation of slipspace engine was lost along with the orbital manufacturing facilities on Mars. A cost-benefit analysis suggests that it would be cheaper to buy slipspace engines off the Covenant rather than rebuild those lost factories. More likely, though, the UEG will declare that industry to be a keystone of national security, and prioritize reconstruction.

-Exabytes of data were lost during the bombardment of Earth and Mars, and more will be lost as damaged infrastructure fails. Crash programs are on to preserve databases and servers for eventual recovery, but there is just too much to process.

-There are ripple effects from the destruction and rebuilding that will be felt throughout Human civilization. A factory that manufactured MJOLNIR visors also produced aviation sensors for Pelicans and Longswords. Another factory produced a certain fusion reactor component which can be reproduced by well-equipped machine shops. For the foreseeable future, Humanity's machines are going to be an eclectic mix of new, old, salvaged, and hand-made components.


Tacit Axiom wrote:
One issue with the idea may be the impact of H2-H3 being lessened if Earth is just going to get taken over later anyway by an alien warlord, but I suppose that depends on how you look at it. Canon has certainly had its share of post-war invasions anyway, and nothing can compete with the irrelevancy of HitD's Retrievers wrecking the Home Fleet only for it to amount to absolutely nothing. Still, it does run into that issue where the focus of the conflict loops back to humans, which is something I've been trying to avoid.

I admit that is a danger. Hell, I grew sick of saving the world when Mass Effect 3 and Halo 4 made me do it twice in the same year.


Part of me just wants to see it done right. Again and again, the invasion of Earth is undermined by the fact that nothing of consequence happens. You’re right, HitD’s Retrievers are irrelevant. So was the first Battle of Earth, because 343i bent logic and established canon into a pretzel to evacuate the majority of the population and rebuild the planet in the span of four years. And the Didact’s assault was irrelevant because, well, who cares about New Pheonix? Who cares about the Prometheans?


If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the giants of science fiction, Niven, Pournelle, and Bear, it is this: When you destroy the world, go the whole nine yards. Don’t hit the reset button in the last chapter.


Additionally, I think both the Ark and Humanity’s connection with the Forerunner are unresolved issues, as far as the greater galaxy is concerned. The Ark is a factory as wide as Jupiter that uses an earth-sized planet for feedstock. It might still contain the keys to understanding Forerunner technology and manufacturing it on a large scale. It might also contain the history of the Forerunner Ecumune. If it is still functional, the Ark’s rediscovery may precipitate a change in the Orion Arm as radical as the industrial revolution or the information age.


Humanity’s connection to the Forerunner has all kinds of interesting and troublesome ramifications for the Covenant faith. It also presents a strategic threat to the Holy Ecumune, as Humans can activate Forerunner technology. What’s to stop Humanity, or a rogue faction, from bolting through the Voi portal and holding the galaxy hostage?


For the sake of settling these two issues, I think an invasion of Earth is warranted.


Tacit Axiom wrote:
Another question I could maybe see is the reaction of the Arbiter and allied polities, and by extension their level of involvement with the UNSC at that point. I suppose the rules of realpolitik would still apply, and it's possible he was too tied up in his own turf to help, but I'm not sure if he'd be so callous as to leave Earth to its own devices after what he personally went through. It depends on the circumstances and what happened in the interim, though.

I’m sure that the Arbiter would help Earth, but there’s a difference between willing and able. By the time the Arbiter can respond to Jul ‘Mdama’s assault, Jul’s coalition should be in control of Earth.

Anyhow, that's what I have right now. Will address the rest tomorrow.

Quote 1 0
Tacit Axiom
Quirel wrote:

I love the new map version, and I love how the perimeters have left holes in Covenant territory. It's also cool how you've integrated Loftus's proposed map of UNSC territory. If you did that on the prior versions, I hadn't noticed.



I've based the human sphere on Loftus' map for a while; it wasn't as explicit in the earliest versions, but the idea has been there for most of the project.

It's kind of odd how there seem to be these gaps in the sector map; maybe those are difficult-to-navigate regions or even line installation denial volumes. I doubt the map would realistically be that symmetrical, but I guess the CAA graphic designers wanted it to look neater.

Quirel wrote:

Still have a lot of work to do on the immediate post-war era, but I'm interested in hearing about this secondary setting you have in mind.

 

I don't have any firm plans for the status quo, except for what I outlined with Jul 'Mdama. The absolute endpoint that I have for that storyline is that, eventually, the portal to the Ark is re-opened, and the Ark is brought back online. That will eventually lead to a golden age as more portals are manufactured and installed throughout the Holy Ecumune. This removes the threat of the Halo array, as no one faction can bugger off to the Ark and wipe the galaxy clean. The Ark is also opened up to manufacturing other designs, and its production capabilities singlehandedly end the dark age that started by High Charity's fall.



I have some ideas for an eventual golden age (or at least a more stable age), but it's preceded by an about century-long interregnum. Involvement by an outsider civilization - the staunchly anti-Forerunner-anything Benefactors, which I once mentioned on Discord earlier - may mark a turning point in unifying the Orion Arm polities, but I'm still not sure whether (or how) to implement that plotline.

With outsider aliens there's always the risk of making them a "threat of the week", so their introduction would have to be meaningful; my idea for their entrance is that they show up and destroy a Halo (likely Installation 05), just like that, with a barrage of hyper-kinetics. No questions are asked, shots are fired both ways, and hence a war (or rather, a series of irregular hostilities with a particular caravan of affiliated Benefactor mobile colonies) begins. Eventually, the conflict kind of just whittles down due to differences in the Benefactors' own (highly loose) power structure as well as their relatively low numbers, and they slowly either leave for parts unknown or integrate into the Orion Arm metacivilization.

Also, the bulk of the Benefactors may or may not be composed of members of at least some of the Orion Arm species, just transplanted elsewhere in the galaxy by the Forerunners as a failsafe in case their reintroduction on their homeworlds failed. This serves to recontextualize many of the Orion cultures' place in the galaxy, as well as sidestepping the issue of having new aliens "just because". Also, it would be a somewhat neat nod to Bungie's early pre-Halo CE ideas of lost human colonies.

Even at the onset of the "golden age", humans or the other species wouldn't exactly be elevated anywhere near the Forerunners' level, things would just generally stabilize and the Orion Arm would become more or less predominated by one superstate -- an outgrowth of the Arbiter's Concord, allied polities, and the political remnants of the UEG. This doesn't of course mean it would be a perfect utopia and everyone would hold hands singing Kumbayah, just that most conflict would likely be more low-key; in a few more centuries the Orion Arm's superculture would likely morph into something not too unlike Mass Effect before the Reapers, except with most component polities being less overtly divided along species lines.

--

There is also this particular story premise I have of exploring that era of the setting that's been circulating around my head for a while. It would be about a group of spacers, human and alien, mostly centered on the Solar Millenary - the 1000-LY radius bubble around Sol - in the 2610s or -20s.

It is a time of division. Humans endure, but they are divided and scattered across the stars. Likewise, the UEG exists, but is considerably reduced in power even as it maintains loose alliances to some outer colonies; over the course of the 2550s and '60's, they were forced to admit they could no longer lay claim to all of humanity and that letting go of the "chaff" in some cases would actually be beneficial to maintaining their power in the long term.

So they did, more or less; in accordance with the Consolidationist strategy, presence was, however, maintained in the most strategically important systems. Elsewhere, the UEG settled for various degrees of alliances and pacts wherever possible, while ending up in a state of cold war with some colonial polities. As a result, the UEG remains in control of about 1/5th of the reduced post-war human sphere, mostly consisting of Sol and a small ring of Inner Colonies.

Numerous colonies have been established along interstellar currents far distant from humanity's cradle in what were once called the Joint-Occupation Zones (until the term's vague use, or downright abuse, in political rhetoric made it lose its meaning completely) in the Orion-side crossing regions as well as the Pegasus, Cygnus and Sagittarius sides of the former human sphere. These colonies vary in their species makeup, but many have significant (often majority) ex-Covenant populations both as transitory and permanent inhabitants. And by now, entire generations have grown up in the changed galaxy.

There are entire subgroups of humanity and other species that have settled in clusters along the major slipspace lanes and neighboring systems, forming what are in effect islands of stars with differing cultures, politics and technological development; not nearly all of these islets have fixed wavespace communications to the outside galaxy (not even local intersystem networks are ubiquitous), instead relying on spacers to deliver news from faraway clusters. There are worlds and habitats with widespread cybernetics and genetic engineering, utopias and nightmares alike; and there are worlds where horses (or alien equivalents) are the default means of conveyance, internal combustion engines are a luxury, and surface-to-orbit travel is mainly the business of off-worlders, who do continue to visit such worlds, mostly to trade.

The Name Subject to Change navigates those strange stars, a venerable freighter of mixed descent, liberally incorporating components and technologies of both human and Covenant origin (it is debatable whether that distinction even holds any meaning anymore, certainly not in the Orion Gulf). Its grizzled and taciturn captain tries to live the quiet life as a courier and part-time smuggler, but keeps getting himself and his crew involved in various more-or-less interesting situations. His past is shrouded in varying degrees of mystery; some say he used to be a soldier, in those old times when humanity was still more or less under one flag. His name is Flynn, and it's not quite clear if it's his first or last name.

Quirel wrote:

The UNSC needs to find something else to offer to the Covenant within that timeframe. Very likely, it won't be any one thing, but rather a package of smaller benefits like medical technology or incremental shield upgrades.



I can imagine AI or high-level automation technologies would be a massive advantage in general as well, provided the UNSC is willing to share those. There would also be a lot of ex-Covenant unwilling to trust any thinking machine, though I suppose those individuals and groups would slowly be weeded out as combat AI became the standard in warfare.

Simple ol' intel is of course another potential bargaining chip.

Quirel wrote:

Compounding this problem is that so much is lostech. When the Gettysburg returned to Earth, the captured Huragok were split up among the leading defense programs and critical industries. Since Huragok show up on a Luminary, these sites were almost universally bombed, glassed, or raided by ground troops. The UEG's industrial base was irreparably harmed in key areas.

-The main campus of the Colorado Springs Institute for Advanced Cognitive Research was all but destroyed, along with the UNSC's capability to assemble smart AI. One surviving engineer estimates that, after certain consumables are exhausted in the next few months, the UNSC will lose the ability to manufacture new smart AI entirely.

-Many key MJOLNIR production facilities were lost as well. Existing suits will have to be repaired with existing stocks of replacement parts, although some components can still be manufactured.

-The latest generation of slipspace engine was lost along with the orbital manufacturing facilities on Mars. A cost-benefit analysis suggests that it would be cheaper to buy slipspace engines off the Covenant rather than rebuild those lost factories. More likely, though, the UEG will declare that industry to be a keystone of national security, and prioritize reconstruction.

-Exabytes of data were lost during the bombardment of Earth and Mars, and more will be lost as damaged infrastructure fails. Crash programs are on to preserve databases and servers for eventual recovery, but there is just too much to process.

-There are ripple effects from the destruction and rebuilding that will be felt throughout Human civilization. A factory that manufactured MJOLNIR visors also produced aviation sensors for Pelicans and Longswords. Another factory produced a certain fusion reactor component which can be reproduced by well-equipped machine shops. For the foreseeable future, Humanity's machines are going to be an eclectic mix of new, old, salvaged, and hand-made components.



I like this, and it's for the most part in line with my ideas. The Human-Covenant War must have consequences.

The one question that came to my mind is if the UNSC would have just one place to manufacture smart AI. Well, one can fairly assume there were some on Reach, but those would be gone, and perhaps on Mars as well. Still, it calls into question just how monopolized smart AI production was, since I could easily see there being remaining facilities (especially corporate ones) on surviving Inner Colony worlds in particular. One can imagine that if Space Google (and by extension the colony it was based on), suddenly ended up owning the majority of smart AI production, the effects on the UNSC would be interesting to say the least.

Also, in regards to slipspace drives, one key part of what's going on in my lore is colonial salvagers scavenging intact slipspace drives from wrecked Covenant ships in orbital boneyards left behind from the war. That means a lot of ex-Covenant hardware will end up in hands that are not the UNSC's, whether that be via trade or salvaging, and explains how humanity's fringe elements have managed to establish new footholds beyond the old human sphere so quickly in the post-war years.

As for data loss, I have some ideas of the SolNet - Sol's internal communications network - reaching far into the outer system with AI cores buried deep in the ices of Saturn's moons and even beyond, on lifeless comets and lost asteroids. Some of those facilities date centuries back, as does the data therein, but the UNSC's contingency plans for the defense of Sol - which involved the takeover of the in-system traffic control by the systemwide AI net - also may have backed up a good deal of that data in those hidden caches, refreshed perhaps every year or two since a full-scale invasion of Sol began to seem like a realistic scenario. Obviously, this would mostly concern UNSC/UEG data as well as potentially that of key defense contractors, so the true coverage of the effort may be debatable.

Then again, recovering this data with portions of the network in ruins and many of the relevant personnel dead isn't going to be easy or instantaneous either. If one does not possess the relevant codes, or if the native systems' software simply happens to be scrambled the wrong way, one does not simply walk into one of those cold data vaults; one will be fired upon by the multi-layer mass driver and "anti-collision" point defenses as well as internal intrusion deterrence systems. And one can't exactly fire back with too much enthusiasm, not if retrieving the data is of any concern anyway.

Quirel wrote:

I admit that is a danger. Hell, I grew sick of saving the world when Mass Effect 3 and Halo 4 made me do it twice in the same year.

Part of me just wants to see it done right. Again and again, the invasion of Earth is undermined by the fact that nothing of consequence happens. You’re right, HitD’s Retrievers are irrelevant. So was the first Battle of Earth, because 343i bent logic and established canon into a pretzel to evacuate the majority of the population and rebuild the planet in the span of four years. And the Didact’s assault was irrelevant because, well, who cares about New Pheonix? Who cares about the Prometheans?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the giants of science fiction, Niven, Pournelle, and Bear, it is this: When you destroy the world, go the whole nine yards. Don’t hit the reset button in the last chapter.

Additionally, I think both the Ark and Humanity’s connection with the Forerunner are unresolved issues, as far as the greater galaxy is concerned. The Ark is a factory as wide as Jupiter that uses an earth-sized planet for feedstock. It might still contain the keys to understanding Forerunner technology and manufacturing it on a large scale. It might also contain the history of the Forerunner Ecumune. If it is still functional, the Ark’s rediscovery may precipitate a change in the Orion Arm as radical as the industrial revolution or the information age.

Humanity’s connection to the Forerunner has all kinds of interesting and troublesome ramifications for the Covenant faith. It also presents a strategic threat to the Holy Ecumune, as Humans can activate Forerunner technology. What’s to stop Humanity, or a rogue faction, from bolting through the Voi portal and holding the galaxy hostage?

For the sake of settling these two issues, I think an invasion of Earth is warranted.



Yeah, Earth and humanity both should be irrevocably changed somehow by the experience.

For one, Earth wouldn't be in the shape 343i has it being in the post-war era in the first place. And you don't even need a Retriever invasion or an angry alien man with a red doom laser for that to be the case. Remember those Covenant asylum seekers in Rio? That Sangheili freak who tried to detonate a HAVOK nuke? That's how bad things are. Much of Earth's orbital defense and policing capacity is gone, and even five years after the war, the UNSC or regional ATC cannot truly control who lands where; ex-Covenant are just making landfall wherever (though a lot of the asylum seekers are also stragglers from the war) and a Sangheili terrorist with a HAVOK nuke here and there can slip right through.

I do think the prospect of an invasion is interesting because it would permanently change Earth's society, whether or not a human-predominant polity ends up retaking it in the future. The idea of Jul as supreme alien overlord of Earth is certainly more interesting than anything 343i's come up with in that area. Anything is more interesting than downright extermination because it immediately forces you to think about all the practical questions of administration and so on (or, in this case, eventually shipping all those humans out - that should be an interesting exercise in interstellar logistics to say the least, and I suspect Jul might have to give up on that at some point due to the sheer Sisyphean enormity of that task).

And the Ark? I've long had this basic assumption that Mendicant Bias should be involved with that plotline somehow. At least there should be closure on him. H3's final terminal seemed to suggest he was about to die, but that either doesn't seem entirely likely given the state of the Ark and his nature overall. He would have a greater plan at play.

Then again, also tying to the subject of the impact of Halo 3, I also think the Ark should be in a much worse shape than it is in HitD or HW2. Not just some inclement weather and whatnot, but actually have large chunks of the arms missing and much of the biomes still razed, and the Foundry inoperable for a long time still.

This is just mad brainstorming, but part of me actually wants a bona fide Retriever invasion of Earth (or at least somewhere) to explain where those materials for its reconstruction came from, as well as to give some weight to bringing the Ark back; it would end up being pretty bittersweet if the technological salvation from the Ark came at the cost of the human homeworld, or at least a large enough chunk thereof to make it unlivable. Or maybe Earth could even be slipspaced to the Ark to become the new resource planetoid in the center. Or at least have one or more of these things happen to Mars or Venus.

--

As for humanity's connection to the Forerunners, there are plenty of unexplored paths when it comes to that detail.

The humans are the Forerunners' descendants; whether this is literal or metaphorical matters little. What it does mean is that humans can either be gods or demons, depending on the interpretation. Gods, for obvious reasons. Demons, because humans still being physical implies they were left behind from the Great Journey - which in the Covenant was seemingly the fate that awaited heretics and apostates, if Truth's line to Thel at the start of H2 is to be believed. (Yet it bears noting that Jul's people had no problem worshiping a Forerunner who had demonstrably been "left behind".)

Or, maybe humans could be interpreted as the Gods' messengers, or perhaps a "chosen people" of sorts. The specifics matter little; whatever the case, the Hierarchs of the 9th Age of Reclamation feared that the truth of surviving Forerunner descendants would shatter the Covenant, because it would remove the Prophets' legitimacy. More than that, it would likely divide the Covenant among a hundred different schools on how to deal with the theological problem that the humans pose.

To the Minister of Fortitude, the very idea of a god that was flesh and blood contradicted the Covenant faith, which made it a big selling point that all would walk the path side by side; which presumably explains why so many Unggoy, for example, were willing to put up with the Covenant for so long. While the majority of their lives were short and unhappy, they at least had something to look forward to.

So the Prophets could have just concluded that the Reclaimers on Harvest were the Forerunners' pariahs, deemed unworthy of the Great Journey by the true gods; something in that direction is even suggested by Truth in H3: "I see now why they left you behind. You were weak, and gods must be strong." They could've even spun a nice satanic narrative around us, as they had with the Flood and AIs. Yet they didn't. I suppose the problem would still have been potential division and theological disagreement, especially coming from the time of more radical ideas that was the 23rd Age of Doubt.

Still, it could be that even the very concept of heretics being left behind from the Great Journey was slowly introduced to the Covenant faith as a result of the discoveries on Harvest, to make the humans' extermination more tolerable even to the more doubting commanders. We don't really have that much concrete data on the Covenant's beliefs after all beyond the Hierarchs' knee-jerk reactions in Contact Harvest.
halo
Quote 0 0
Quirel

Tacit Axiom wrote:


Tacit Axiom wrote:


I have some ideas for an eventual golden age (or at least a more stable age), but it's preceded by an about century-long interregnum. Involvement by an outsider civilization - the staunchly anti-Forerunner-anything Benefactors, which I once mentioned on Discord earlier - may mark a turning point in unifying the Orion Arm polities, but I'm still not sure whether (or how) to implement that plotline.

With outsider aliens there's always the risk of making them a "threat of the week", so their introduction would have to be meaningful; my idea for their entrance is that they show up and destroy a Halo (likely Installation 05), just like that, with a barrage of hyper-kinetics. No questions are asked, shots are fired both ways, and hence a war (or rather, a series of irregular hostilities with a particular caravan of affiliated Benefactor mobile colonies) begins. Eventually, the conflict kind of just whittles down due to differences in the Benefactors' own (highly loose) power structure as well as their relatively low numbers, and they slowly either leave for parts unknown or integrate into the Orion Arm metacivilization.

Also, the bulk of the Benefactors may or may not be composed of members of at least some of the Orion Arm species, just transplanted elsewhere in the galaxy by the Forerunners as a failsafe in case their reintroduction on their homeworlds failed. This serves to recontextualize many of the Orion cultures' place in the galaxy, as well as sidestepping the issue of having new aliens "just because". Also, it would be a somewhat neat nod to Bungie's early pre-Halo CE ideas of lost human colonies.

Even at the onset of the "golden age", humans or the other species wouldn't exactly be elevated anywhere near the Forerunners' level, things would just generally stabilize and the Orion Arm would become more or less predominated by one superstate -- an outgrowth of the Arbiter's Concord, allied polities, and the political remnants of the UEG. This doesn't of course mean it would be a perfect utopia and everyone would hold hands singing Kumbayah, just that most conflict would likely be more low-key; in a few more centuries the Orion Arm's superculture would likely morph into something not too unlike Mass Effect before the Reapers, except with most component polities being less overtly divided along species lines.

--

There is also this particular story premise I have of exploring that era of the setting that's been circulating around my head for a while. It would be about a group of spacers, human and alien, mostly centered on the Solar Millenary - the 1000-LY radius bubble around Sol - in the 2610s or -20s.

It is a time of division. Humans endure, but they are divided and scattered across the stars. Likewise, the UEG exists, but is considerably reduced in power even as it maintains loose alliances to some outer colonies; over the course of the 2550s and '60's, they were forced to admit they could no longer lay claim to all of humanity and that letting go of the "chaff" in some cases would actually be beneficial to maintaining their power in the long term.

So they did, more or less; in accordance with the Consolidationist strategy, presence was, however, maintained in the most strategically important systems. Elsewhere, the UEG settled for various degrees of alliances and pacts wherever possible, while ending up in a state of cold war with some colonial polities. As a result, the UEG remains in control of about 1/5th of the reduced post-war human sphere, mostly consisting of Sol and a small ring of Inner Colonies.

Numerous colonies have been established along interstellar currents far distant from humanity's cradle in what were once called the Joint-Occupation Zones (until the term's vague use, or downright abuse, in political rhetoric made it lose its meaning completely) in the Orion-side crossing regions as well as the Pegasus, Cygnus and Sagittarius sides of the former human sphere. These colonies vary in their species makeup, but many have significant (often majority) ex-Covenant populations both as transitory and permanent inhabitants. And by now, entire generations have grown up in the changed galaxy.

There are entire subgroups of humanity and other species that have settled in clusters along the major slipspace lanes and neighboring systems, forming what are in effect islands of stars with differing cultures, politics and technological development; not nearly all of these islets have fixed wavespace communications to the outside galaxy (not even local intersystem networks are ubiquitous), instead relying on spacers to deliver news from faraway clusters. There are worlds and habitats with widespread cybernetics and genetic engineering, utopias and nightmares alike; and there are worlds where horses (or alien equivalents) are the default means of conveyance, internal combustion engines are a luxury, and surface-to-orbit travel is mainly the business of off-worlders, who do continue to visit such worlds, mostly to trade.

The Name Subject to Change navigates those strange stars, a venerable freighter of mixed descent, liberally incorporating components and technologies of both human and Covenant origin (it is debatable whether that distinction even holds any meaning anymore, certainly not in the Orion Gulf). Its grizzled and taciturn captain tries to live the quiet life as a courier and part-time smuggler, but keeps getting himself and his crew involved in various more-or-less interesting situations. His past is shrouded in varying degrees of mystery; some say he used to be a soldier, in those old times when humanity was still more or less under one flag. His name is Flynn, and it's not quite clear if it's his first or last name.


This, incidentally, brings me to my notes on Covenant technology.


Broadly speaking, there are three classes of Covenant technology. The first is entrusted technology, which is understood and produced only by High Charity. There is a simple and ironclad line of dogma to justify this: Since the Prophets are entrusted with the search for the Great Journey, they are also entrusted with the disposal of the technology discovered in that search. The Prophets of the Ecclesiarchy have the final say one what technology the Holy Ecumune is properly prepared to receive, and what technology must remain restricted to the higher castes, though it must be noted that their say has sometimes been swayed by very persuasive civil wars.

Some entrusted technologies are passed out to clans and secular governments outside of the Ministries, although manufacturing and maintenance has always remained under the control of the Prophets. But when the Prophets deem that the time has come, the trust is expanded to the entire Holy Ecumune, or at least the parts in good standing. This is sanctioned technology, which may be manufactured or repaired with the blessing of High Charity.

Some entrusted technology become sanctioned within a generation of its discovery, while other forms of technology will only be sanctioned long after it is obsolete. Slipspace drives are one such example. The slipspace drives available on the open market are only a few generations more advanced than the ones that the Sangheili developed natively.

Speaking of which, native technology is the technological and industrial base that each client race brings to the Covenant. Whether medicine or rocket technology or computer science, this technology remains in use for a long time after the species’ incorporation into the Covenant. Officially, there is nothing wrong with using the tools that you have developed before the light of High Charity graced your doorstep. Unofficially, the Ministries drown each new client species in a metaphorical deluge of technological gifts until the metaphorical bubbles from native industry stop.

So. Do the Covenant understand their own technology? It depends. There exist many guilds whose members have a functional understanding of sanction technology and its manufacture. Entrusted technology is considerably rarer, and wasn't fully understood even by the Prophets. Outside the lost Ministries, its study and maintenance was carried out in secret by wealthy clans and underworld organizations.

Entrusted technology can be had in the post-war world, for the right price, from the right friends.

Tacit Axiom wrote:


I can imagine AI or high-level automation technologies would be a massive advantage in general as well, provided the UNSC is willing to share those. There would also be a lot of ex-Covenant unwilling to trust any thinking machine, though I suppose those individuals and groups would slowly be weeded out as combat AI became the standard in warfare.

Simple ol' intel is of course another potential bargaining chip.

I like this, and it's for the most part in line with my ideas. The Human-Covenant War must have consequences.

The one question that came to my mind is if the UNSC would have just one place to manufacture smart AI. Well, one can fairly assume there were some on Reach, but those would be gone, and perhaps on Mars as well. Still, it calls into question just how monopolized smart AI production was, since I could easily see there being remaining facilities (especially corporate ones) on surviving Inner Colony worlds in particular. One can imagine that if Space Google (and by extension the colony it was based on), suddenly ended up owning the majority of smart AI production, the effects on the UNSC would be interesting to say the least.

Also, in regards to slipspace drives, one key part of what's going on in my lore is colonial salvagers scavenging intact slipspace drives from wrecked Covenant ships in orbital boneyards left behind from the war. That means a lot of ex-Covenant hardware will end up in hands that are not the UNSC's, whether that be via trade or salvaging, and explains how humanity's fringe elements have managed to establish new footholds beyond the old human sphere so quickly in the post-war years.

As for data loss, I have some ideas of the SolNet - Sol's internal communications network - reaching far into the outer system with AI cores buried deep in the ices of Saturn's moons and even beyond, on lifeless comets and lost asteroids. Some of those facilities date centuries back, as does the data therein, but the UNSC's contingency plans for the defense of Sol - which involved the takeover of the in-system traffic control by the systemwide AI net - also may have backed up a good deal of that data in those hidden caches, refreshed perhaps every year or two since a full-scale invasion of Sol began to seem like a realistic scenario. Obviously, this would mostly concern UNSC/UEG data as well as potentially that of key defense contractors, so the true coverage of the effort may be debatable.

How AI technology spreads really depends on how much of a boogeyman it is to the Covenant. And how compatible their technology is with AI technology. One of the ideas I’ve had is that most Covenant warships aren’t designed to be run by AI, and many are compartmentalized to prevent AI intrusion. After all, artificial intelligences are prohibited by one of the pillars of Covenant faith*, and all of the AIs that the Covenant encountered were hostile or degenerate Forerunner ancilla.

Cortana could command the Ascendant Justice because it was designed to be controlled by an AI, hence the smaller-than-normal crew. But the fact that she could flow through High Charity’s infrastructure raises some interesting questions.**

The Covenant reaction to how smart AI are made would be interesting. I’m sure that their science fiction has touched upon the idea of uploading minds, but if any of the client races have ever done it, it would be in secret or before first contact.

At worst, the Covenant would think that smart AIs are souls enslaved and bound into a machine, willingly or otherwise. At best, they might think that the whole process is a clever workaround to ensure the loyalty of the AI.

Anyway, I would centralize production of smart AI, if only because the UNSC was hemmed in toward the end of the war and manufacturing of the AI was a very specialized process. Doubtlessly, there were and still are plenty of universities that research artificial intelligence, but there is a difference between research and manufacturing. Also, there was a fragile supply chain for the AI, because there’s not a lot of call for materials like, say, the computational substrate for AI chips. There was only one factory that produced that material toward the end of the war, because there only needed to be one factory. That’s why ‘certain consumable materials’ are going to run out after a few months of production. Whole parts of the supply chain are missing and need to be rebuilt from scratch.

Smart AI manufacturing might still exist, but it’s not the latest generation, or the last generation. In fact, if the AI is manufactured by a private company or by a breakaway state, that AI technology might have some sharp diversions from the UNSC standard.

On another note, AI manufacturing technology might exist somewhere. It seemed like everyone in HIGHCOM had backup plans for if Reach and Earth fell. The problem is that a redundant slipspace drive factory or an AI fabrication lab, one that isn’t being used because there is not enough demand to fill, is a waste of resources that will only pay off in a worst-case scenario.

But of course, everyone in HIGHCOM had backup plans. So many backup plans, in fact, that it was cutting into the war effort.

So a moratorium was passed on industrial doomsday prepping. All resources were diverted to building more ships and designing better weapons.

But some of those resources were diverted back away from the war effort, as the industrial doomsday prepping continued in secret. And a good number of these factories and data cores were discovered by the rest of HIGHCOM and repurposed.

Now that a whole bunch of records are lost, and a fat fraction of HIGHCOM is dead, nobody knows how much is out there.

*Specifically, the pillar that condemned hubris. The Forerunner were great, and their greatest act was to unlock the secret of ascendance, and build the holy machines that made them gods. But for all their wisdom and insight, they were still betrayed by Mendicant Bias, who dealt them an all-but-lethal blow.

There has been a 3,500-year-long debate about Mendicant Bias’s role in the last days of creation**, one which touches upon free will, loyalty, agency, and all branches of computer science. The general consensus is that if the Forerunner could not build loyal AI, and if that AI betrayed them and nearly surpassed them, then it would be the height of arrogance to build artificial super-intelligences that might turn traitor and imperil the Great Journey.

As for Oracles, Covenant dogma holds them to be wise but free-willed, and therefore dangerous. The good ones were built for a purpose, and still maintain that purpose. The evil ones have abandoned their duties, out of madness or arrogance or greif for being left behind, and cannot be trusted.

The ones in between fill the role of trickster gods in Covenant culture, though these are grounded in more in legend than fact.

**The last days of creation: The Covenant’s name for the end of the war with the Flood, the construction of the Halo array, and the planting of seeds to guide the younger races on their path to the Great Journey. Also the bitching-ass title of a book by Wolfgang Jeschke that I need to read one of these days.

***High Charity’s infrastructure is as old and byzantine as the many, many Ministries that designed and renovated it. The station was riddled with voids that were on no blueprint, telecommunication cables that went nowhere and connected with no system, and entire streets whose original purpose has been long forgotten. These inclusions and dropstones were the subject of many a legend that survive to this day.

One of the more persistent rumors were of the Silent Passengers. So go the rumors, when High Charity spent five years over Zhoist, a cabal of disembodied Oracles made a pact with a foolhardy San’Shyuum. If this Junior Minister, whose name has been lost to the ages***, were to make some alterations to the communication infrastructure, they would reward him well. He did so, and they explained to him the location of a minor data archive under the Third City.

So this went on for another year, with each small favor rewarded with a little nugget of knowledge that would raise the Junior Minister’s stature, until he trapped one of the Oracles in a black box. No longer content to bargain for each morsel of information, he planned to extract the Oracle’s memories to pureuse at his leisure.

In retaliation, the cabal revealed the Minister in public to be a lecher and an embezzler. He was tried and executed, and the cabal was free to infiltrate High Charity. They became the Silent Passengers. For ages they rode the station through the Holy Ecumune, influencing its affairs in ways too subtle to detect.

Officially, the Silent Passengers didn’t exist. If they did, then all of the Ministries would mobilize to hunt them down and contain them, for there is no knowing where their loyalties lie. But tales abound of the fools who have struck deals with them, and the poor souls who have unexpectedly received their help. Indeed, even though the Ecclesiarchy did their best to tamp out worship of the Silent Passengers, there were many shrines raised to those disembodied Oracles, and many denizens of High Charity would cry out loud for their help in times of trouble.

****Oral storytellers generally aren’t sufficiently interested in authenticity to wade through mountains of records to find the name of a plausible candidate.

Tacit Axiom wrote:

Then again, recovering this data with portions of the network in ruins and many of the relevant personnel dead isn't going to be easy or instantaneous either. If one does not possess the relevant codes, or if the native systems' software simply happens to be scrambled the wrong way, one does not simply walk into one of those cold data vaults; one will be fired upon by the multi-layer mass driver and "anti-collision" point defenses as well as internal intrusion deterrence systems. And one can't exactly fire back with too much enthusiasm, not if retrieving the data is of any concern anyway.

I love the sound of this.

Tacit Axiom wrote:


Yeah, Earth and humanity both should be irrevocably changed somehow by the experience.

For one, Earth wouldn't be in the shape 343i has it being in the post-war era in the first place. And you don't even need a Retriever invasion or an angry alien man with a red doom laser for that to be the case. Remember those Covenant asylum seekers in Rio? That Sangheili freak who tried to detonate a HAVOK nuke? That's how bad things are. Much of Earth's orbital defense and policing capacity is gone, and even five years after the war, the UNSC or regional ATC cannot truly control who lands where; ex-Covenant are just making landfall wherever (though a lot of the asylum seekers are also stragglers from the war) and a Sangheili terrorist with a HAVOK nuke here and there can slip right through.

I do think the prospect of an invasion is interesting because it would permanently change Earth's society, whether or not a human-predominant polity ends up retaking it in the future. The idea of Jul as supreme alien overlord of Earth is certainly more interesting than anything 343i's come up with in that area. Anything is more interesting than downright extermination because it immediately forces you to think about all the practical questions of administration and so on (or, in this case, eventually shipping all those humans out - that should be an interesting exercise in interstellar logistics to say the least, and I suspect Jul might have to give up on that at some point due to the sheer Sisyphean enormity of that task).

And the Ark? I've long had this basic assumption that Mendicant Bias should be involved with that plotline somehow. At least there should be closure on him. H3's final terminal seemed to suggest he was about to die, but that either doesn't seem entirely likely given the state of the Ark and his nature overall. He would have a greater plan at play.

I'm kind of at a loss for how to tie Mendicant Bias in here. It would be neat if there was a handful of ancilla that came to Humanity's defense, but also mistakenly assumed that Mendicant Bias tricked the Prophets into continuing its war against its creators. When Mendicant Bias re-enters the galactic stage, it's one more hurdle he has to overcome.

And yeah, Earth is screwed. Imagine Loyalist troops going to ground and waging a guerilla war? How much more damage they can do? And then there's the state that Africa is in.

Speaking of which, I have an idea for a short story (Maybe ten chapters) where Dare pulls Alpha Nine in for another investigation.

It's the immediate aftermath, just a few months after the fighting dies down on Earth. Africa is a wreck. Half of it was glassed and the other half is polluted with dead warships and broken armies. There's massive operations to salvage everything that can be saved or studied or sold, and all that loot is flowing down the Nile to the warehouses of Cairo.

So much of it ends up under lock and key, but so much more winds up on the black market. If you know where to look, it can be found. Guns and medicine, devices and rations. ONI is keeping a watch on the trade until it can muster the resources to do something.

But now, something's wrong. Someone is killing all the gun runners. And they may have stolen something that ONI wants back.

Tacit Axiom wrote:


Then again, also tying to the subject of the impact of Halo 3, I also think the Ark should be in a much worse shape than it is in HitD or HW2. Not just some inclement weather and whatnot, but actually have large chunks of the arms missing and much of the biomes still razed, and the Foundry inoperable for a long time still.

This is just mad brainstorming, but part of me actually wants a bona fide Retriever invasion of Earth (or at least somewhere) to explain where those materials for its reconstruction came from, as well as to give some weight to bringing the Ark back; it would end up being pretty bittersweet if the technological salvation from the Ark came at the cost of the human homeworld, or at least a large enough chunk thereof to make it unlivable. Or maybe Earth could even be slipspaced to the Ark to become the new resource planetoid in the center. Or at least have one or more of these things happen to Mars or Venus.

I'm game for wrecking the Ark. Ever hear the phrase “The Ringworld is unstable”?

If the blast significantly damaged the Ark, then vital systems would have been destroyed or left in a perilously unstable state. The artificial gravity can no longer sustain an atmosphere in most places, which is alright because the blast scoured the atmosphere and topsoil away. The foundry is broken and needs to be rebooted before repairs can take place. Oh, and that planet that was hanging in the foundry? That's not exactly a stable orbit.

It would make for a very interesting tale if, after reopening the Voi portal, Jul ‘Mdama had to scramble all his available resources to save the Ark from crashing into the planet. Or maybe that has already happened, and that is why the Retriever Sentinels need to harvest another planet.

By the way, if Retriever Sentinels have to harvest a planet, how about Luna? Losing the moon, or at least most of it, would be a much more visible loss than Venus or Mars.

Tacit Axiom wrote:

As for humanity's connection to the Forerunners, there are plenty of unexplored paths when it comes to that detail.

The humans are the Forerunners' descendants; whether this is literal or metaphorical matters little. What it does mean is that humans can either be gods or demons, depending on the interpretation. Gods, for obvious reasons. Demons, because humans still being physical implies they were left behind from the Great Journey - which in the Covenant was seemingly the fate that awaited heretics and apostates, if Truth's line to Thel at the start of H2 is to be believed. (Yet it bears noting that Jul's people had no problem worshiping a Forerunner who had demonstrably been "left behind".)

Or, maybe humans could be interpreted as the Gods' messengers, or perhaps a "chosen people" of sorts. The specifics matter little; whatever the case, the Hierarchs of the 9th Age of Reclamation feared that the truth of surviving Forerunner descendants would shatter the Covenant, because it would remove the Prophets' legitimacy. More than that, it would likely divide the Covenant among a hundred different schools on how to deal with the theological problem that the humans pose.

To the Minister of Fortitude, the very idea of a god that was flesh and blood contradicted the Covenant faith, which made it a big selling point that all would walk the path side by side; which presumably explains why so many Unggoy, for example, were willing to put up with the Covenant for so long. While the majority of their lives were short and unhappy, they at least had something to look forward to.

So the Prophets could have just concluded that the Reclaimers on Harvest were the Forerunners' pariahs, deemed unworthy of the Great Journey by the true gods; something in that direction is even suggested by Truth in H3: "I see now why they left you behind. You were weak, and gods must be strong." They could've even spun a nice satanic narrative around us, as they had with the Flood and AIs. Yet they didn't. I suppose the problem would still have been potential division and theological disagreement, especially coming from the time of more radical ideas that was the 23rd Age of Doubt.

Still, it could be that even the very concept of heretics being left behind from the Great Journey was slowly introduced to the Covenant faith as a result of the discoveries on Harvest, to make the humans' extermination more tolerable even to the more doubting commanders. We don't really have that much concrete data on the Covenant's beliefs after all beyond the Hierarchs' knee-jerk reactions in Contact Harvest.

I'll get to this... Day after tomorrow?

Quote 1 0
Voka
On why the Kig-Yar were space-faring for so long yet never developed slipspace travel, there is potentially another route that can be explored that takes the ability to develop this technology somewhat out of the hands of a species and places part of it into the determination of luck. Maybe to develop slipspace travel, someone has to be looking close enough at something with regards to space-time at just the right place and time. Perhaps whilst even having a theoretical framework for slipspace and higher dimensions, it may be that the Kig-Yar never lucked out yet in observing this crucial natural event that gives them something to focus on in terms of obtaining empirical data with which to advance their theories and technology in this regard.

I'm drawing inspiration from the current deadlock in physics with regards to the sort of unresolved mysteries that currently exist - unification of General Relativity with Quantum Field Theory, and uncovering the nature of Dark Energy and Dark Matter. There's no shortage of hypothesis' to close these mysteries, but no one knows for sure which ones - if any - are correct and for some of them it seems that no one knows how to find out. We don't know what we don't know, and so don't know where we should be looking and what we should be looking at in order to unlock these mysteries. We're in an era where empirical guidance is drying up due to how expensive our laboratories need to be in order to push the boundaries these days. Theoretical considerations can only take you so far.

So maybe the Kig-Yar have advanced theories regarding space-time and know about the theoretical existence of slipspace and potentially using it, but they have no empirical evidence of its existence and no idea on how to reach it. It could be similar to the situation we had regarding gravitational waves prior to LIGO's detection of them in 2015 - we were certain that they existed because they were a prediction of General Relativity, but no one had ever seen one until we built an interferometer big enough and sensitive enough to detect it - and a cosmological event powerful enough to be detectable, which was a black hole merger.

Without that cosmological event, which seems to be exclusively collisions from compact celestial bodies like black holes and neutron stars, we could still be sitting here waiting for confirmation of gravitational waves mulling over either having to build an even bigger and more costly interferometer, or questioning our theoretical framework for predicting them when we seemingly can't see them. Fortunately mergers between black holes and other dense objects that are energetic enough to be spotted from Earth seem to be quite frequent, so it wasn't a problem.

But maybe to observe empirical evidence of slipspace and higher dimensions that either gives a species the ability to learn enough about it to manipulate it, or that gives it any awareness at all about what it needs to be studying and where it needs to be pointing its particle accelerators, it first needs to spot this pretty rare event. What that could be in this context might be anything but it highlights that sometimes in science, discoveries don't just depend on how good your laboratories are or how clever your scientists are - sometimes it's just luck that determines when discoveries are made.

Looking on the Halopedia page for the UNSC slipspace engine, it also says that according to the Impossible Life and Possible Death of Preston Cole, that slipspace engines used by the UNSC require selenium and technetium in their manufacture. Technetium is a super-rare element. Only about 18'000 tons are said to exist at any one time in the entire Earth and it is produced by spontaneous uranium fission within ores. Most of the technetium used in human applications comes from Nuclear Fission by-products in reactors. What if the Y'Deio system is poor in uranium, and therefore the Kig-Yar skipped Fission and went straight from fossil fuels to renewables and fusion? Or if their system isn't poor in fissiles, then what if they have long since done away with their fission technology infrastructure in favor of better energy sources by the time they made that breakthrough in physics regarding slipspace? They wouldn't really have the infrastructure to produce large quantities of technetium for building slipspace drives, and this might have severely hamstrung their efforts to build a working prototype even if they had the empirical and theoretical foundation laid out for slipspace manipulation as outlined above. Perhaps due to how niche technetium would have been to them due to their non-exposure to it, very little work had been done with the element and so no one really thought to use it in making a working slipspace drive prototype, and it might have been a critical component.
Quote 3 0
Quirel
Shiiit. There's a long reply down the drain because I accidentally closed out of the tab. =(
Quote 0 0
Tacit Axiom
Quirel wrote:

This, incidentally, brings me to my notes on Covenant technology.

Broadly speaking, there are three classes of Covenant technology. The first is entrusted technology, which is understood and produced only by High Charity. There is a simple and ironclad line of dogma to justify this: Since the Prophets are entrusted with the search for the Great Journey, they are also entrusted with the disposal of the technology discovered in that search. The Prophets of the Ecclesiarchy have the final say one what technology the Holy Ecumune is properly prepared to receive, and what technology must remain restricted to the higher castes, though it must be noted that their say has sometimes been swayed by very persuasive civil wars.

Some entrusted technologies are passed out to clans and secular governments outside of the Ministries, although manufacturing and maintenance has always remained under the control of the Prophets. But when the Prophets deem that the time has come, the trust is expanded to the entire Holy Ecumune, or at least the parts in good standing. This is sanctioned technology, which may be manufactured or repaired with the blessing of High Charity.

Some entrusted technology become sanctioned within a generation of its discovery, while other forms of technology will only be sanctioned long after it is obsolete. Slipspace drives are one such example. The slipspace drives available on the open market are only a few generations more advanced than the ones that the Sangheili developed natively.

Speaking of which, native technology is the technological and industrial base that each client race brings to the Covenant. Whether medicine or rocket technology or computer science, this technology remains in use for a long time after the species’ incorporation into the Covenant. Officially, there is nothing wrong with using the tools that you have developed before the light of High Charity graced your doorstep. Unofficially, the Ministries drown each new client species in a metaphorical deluge of technological gifts until the metaphorical bubbles from native industry stop.

So. Do the Covenant understand their own technology? It depends. There exist many guilds whose members have a functional understanding of sanction technology and its manufacture. Entrusted technology is considerably rarer, and wasn't fully understood even by the Prophets. Outside the lost Ministries, its study and maintenance was carried out in secret by wealthy clans and underworld organizations.

Entrusted technology can be had in the post-war world, for the right price, from the right friends.


You know, it's almost creepy how similar some of our ideas are (and I'm pretty sure I haven't shared my notes on Covenant tech distribution).

So yeah, I obviously haven't used the same terms and some of it isn't as defined, but I've definitely had this idea of tech gradation with the most state-of-the-art or strategically important tech being restricted to the High Council and the Ministries, yet there being a "lesser" tier of tech that can be produced outside ecclesiastical oversight. Mostly because the latter is basically a requirement for such a widespread interstellar civilization, and because there are only so many Prophets, most of whom hang out in High Charity anyway.

Most of the exclusive technologies were divided among the Ministries (so that one ministry may have had access to a tech another did not, though there was a fair bit of "industrial espionage" taking place between different ministerial bodies). The Ministries that dealt directly with Forerunner relics, prominently Tranquility and Fortitude, were in a particular advantage in this internal arms race.

In general, only the most advanced or strategic tech and science, such as top-tier slipspace drives and energy projectors, or certain types of targeting, ECM and communication systems, mandated exclusivity; lower-grade versions of most technologies were usually produced and available commercially, as the High Council found it quite impossible to contain their development and spread across the entire empire.

There were a handful of times when innovations in the private sector, such as it was, actually got ahead of the Ministries in certain technologies, either through sheer luck, daring innovation or, occasionally, unsanctioned Forerunner artifacts stashed away from the Ministries by ambitious commercial guilds. However, due to the way the Covenant economy, technodogma and industrial base were set up, this did not occur very often; private enterprises that were deemed "too" innovative could very easily find themselves accommodating a visit by an inquisitorial party, and breakthrough technologies - regardless of their origin - were almost always quickly subsumed by the ecclesiarchy, violently or otherwise.

That said, the ecclesiarchy was usually fighting a losing battle against unsanctioned entrusted technology; High Charity was mighty, but its reach was only so long in an empire of thousands of worlds spanning a spiral arm. Additionally, the Ministries tried several times to impose exclusivity on some technologies after the fact, often following comparatively enlightened ages during which more widespread technological development was viewed more positively until being suppressed again.**

This is also why so many key reliquaries are cordoned off as dioceses, governed exclusively by ecclesiastical authorities with direct ties to High Charity to ensure their compliance.*

---
*Most primary domains (which are all defined by their direct administrative relationship to High Charity) were governed by a mix of religious and secular authorities, with the latter usually handling most of the heavy lifting of governance and the former being little more than glorified rubber stamps. In many cases the religious representatives weren't even San'Shyuum magistrates from High Charity, but local Sangheili bishops or archimandrites.

That said, the dioceses' direct connection to High Charity's authorities didn't always mean things were smooth and straightforward, largely because of the aforementioned complexities in the holy city's politics. Even if the High Council itself sent a representative to govern a particular diocese (as opposed to the Ministry of Tranquility, for example), connections, bribes, blackmail and backstabbing always acted in the background of the decisions made by those bishop-governors that often led to those reliquaries' discoveries benefiting particular domains, worlds, ministries, cohorts within those ministries, or even individuals.

**The key to the Covenant understanding of technology and science (at least in the form in which it was preached by the Ecclesiarchy) is that any scientific practice is inextricably intertwined with religion. To create or maintain technology - especially that of Forerunner origin - is to engage in an act of worship.*** In more enlightened ages this was extended to all pursuit of knowledge through understanding the mysteries of the cosmos. Science and technology were not seen as conflicting with the divine because the divine is innately technological in nature, and the pursuit of the Forerunners' transcendence required one to seek those very secrets they had mastered. Consequently, when such philosophies prevailed, the Covenant experienced several periods of considerable scientific and technological advancement as to seek the truth about the universe was to grow closer to the godhead. This also helps explain why some religious post-Covenant groups (such as the Reconciled Paradigm) have adopted a more broadly technocratic bent in which science and technology (not just the study of Forerunner technology) are enshrined above all as ways to salvation.

***The manufacture of entrusted technology is in equal parts engineering, art, and ritual. The very code-language used to compose Covenant design patterns is imbued with religious rhetoric and prayer, which has made it difficult to uncouple the construction of key technology from ritual in the post-war era. At the quickening of any creation-machine such as a ship-loom, prayers are uttered and machine-songs sung to gain the gods' favor for any such endeavor, and the sudden absence of that religious aspect often troubles post-Covenant engineers who have otherwise forsaken the faith.

----

A few more notes on Covenant tech:

Many of the things we take for granted about the Covenant are comparatively recent, or at least were not there at the start. Plasma weapons, for example, at least in the form they would later be found in, were not part of the Sangheili arsenal at the time of their contact with the San'Shyuum. Development was primarily spurred by the discovery of new reliquaries, while true innovation was fairly rare, if not unheard of. The discovery and reverse-engineering of reliquaries also altered the balance of power depending on whose control they fell under. Entire schools and traditions of scholars and techaries grew around major relic sites, each specialized just for the sacred mysteries of that particular installation. This was particularly true with distant sites such as Zhoist, where especially in the early days, assignment often meant a lifetime post as a monastic relic-reader.

Technological development also changed Covenant expansion trends and astropolitical makeup. For much of their history, the Covenant have been considerably "slower" than they are now, following the grounding of the Forerunner Dreadnought. High Charity's latest Forerunner slipspace drive was installed only about halfway into the Covenant's history and took centuries to get to work at optimum levels, while its prior drive system was much slower and more inefficient, comprising a vast ring of smaller drives.

Repulsor drives, at least in their current form, are also a fairly recent invention, having come from the caches of Zhoist less than a thousand years ago. Even now, many lesser-grade (particularly civilian) ships use augmented pinch fusion thrust or other forms of more conventional reaction drive. Some forms of repulsor engine technology existed, but its use was greatly limited before the vaults of the Ten Cities unlocked many of the relevant secrets.

Because of the intrinsic relationship between religion and science in the Covenant, their technological development and scientific practice - such as it was - was a neverending tug of war between advancement and stagnation. Moreover, it was rife with allegations of heresy thrown back and forth, just as often (or even more commonly) for political reasons than earnestly religious ones; after all, Covenant dogma on technological development was byzantinely complex and inherently self-contradicting, so it could be spun to fit any narrative required at a time.

Quirel wrote:

There has been a 3,500-year-long debate about Mendicant Bias’s role in the last days of creation**, one which touches upon free will, loyalty, agency, and all branches of computer science. The general consensus is that if the Forerunner could not build loyal AI, and if that AI betrayed them and nearly surpassed them, then it would be the height of arrogance to build artificial super-intelligences that might turn traitor and imperil the Great Journey.

As for Oracles, Covenant dogma holds them to be wise but free-willed, and therefore dangerous. The good ones were built for a purpose, and still maintain that purpose. The evil ones have abandoned their duties, out of madness or arrogance or greif for being left behind, and cannot be trusted.

The ones in between fill the role of trickster gods in Covenant culture, though these are grounded in more in legend than fact.


This is good, and also brings me to something tangential but relevant I've been meaning to bring up: the nature and character of gods in Covenant doctrine.

The way the Covenant viewed godhead changed over time and distance. This goes all the way back to the Writ of Union and the fundamental differences between the way the native San'Shyuum Reformist and Sangheili religions viewed their deities. For it was not just the use of Forerunner technology that divided the two civilizations on matters of faith.

When Forerunner worship became the mainstream faith on Sanghelios, through conversion and conquest, they adapted several of their old religious narratives (from various cultures across the globe) into the overarching framework of the Forerunners, as often happens when religions collide. As not much was known about individual Forerunners at the time, some of the old myths - as well as deities - were almost directly adapted to the Forerunner faith.

Whatever their origins, Sangheili gods were personal, much like those in the Greco-Roman or Norse pantheons; concrete beings with distinct personalities, relationships, quirks and specialties- heroes, artisans, craftsmen, healers, rulers, tricksters and more. There were, of course, differences in traditions as there are in any interstellar civilization, but such gods were definitely the majority trend in the Sangheili sphere when the Reformists came into contact with them.

The San'Shyuum view of godhead was more Eastern - that is to say, elusive and transcendent. To them, the Forerunners became gods only after their technological apotheosis. Gods had no individuality or personality in the mortal sense; they merely floated in the heavenly spheres of the Divine Beyond, and their true nature was a mystery to beings of the mortal plane.

This was one of the many religious disagreements of the early Covenant, and one that kept theologians busy for centuries and beyond. In some ways, the debates on the nature of divinity never truly ended, even as the Covenant's mainstream religion settled into something of a balance between the two extremes, albeit one that tipped into either direction depending on the spirit of the Age (as well as the schools of faith followed by the incumbent Hierarch triumvirate).

For most of the Covenant's history, High Charity merely let individuals worlds and domains follow whatever tradition was most popular there, as long as they subscribed to the key doctrines of the Covenant faith- mainly the idea of transcendence through the Great Journey, as well as the deference to the supremacy of the Ecclesiarchy and the High Council on matters of faith. Some worlds emphasized particular gods, as did adherents of certain trades; engineers and builders prayed to the Master Builder, warriors to the Didact, healers to the Librarian and so on all the way down to numerous lesser gods (which also changed and increased in number with time as more named Forerunners were discovered, or when it was discovered that someone once thought to be two or more individuals was actually one with multiple titles or monikers; though just as often, especially in the early days, Forerunner gods were simply made up and/or slotted into convenient archetypes). Other worlds and domains were content with leaving their gods as elusive as they had been to the early San'Shyuum.

This internal variety was justified through the Chiah Haqu'un - the Way of the Branching Tree - which decreed that all forms of worship were merely reflections of a universal Truth, which may be altogether beyond mortal understanding. The glyph signifying the Branching Tree was one of the most recognizable holy symbols of the Covenant, and like much of the key iconography of the Covenant religion had its roots in Forerunner glyphs:

[H2A-Cell_Eld]

Another key symbol was the Unbroken Circle - a plain ring - which was to them essentially what the cross is to Christianity, and a simple version of the full Ring of Transcendence:

[6_mural]

The ring (and its variants) was also the principal symbol the Covenant's legions would fly on their banners during holy crusades.

Quirel wrote:

***High Charity’s infrastructure is as old and byzantine as the many, many Ministries that designed and renovated it. The station was riddled with voids that were on no blueprint, telecommunication cables that went nowhere and connected with no system, and entire streets whose original purpose has been long forgotten. These inclusions and dropstones were the subject of many a legend that survive to this day.

One of the more persistent rumors were of the Silent Passengers. So go the rumors, when High Charity spent five years over Zhoist, a cabal of disembodied Oracles made a pact with a foolhardy San’Shyuum. If this Junior Minister, whose name has been lost to the ages***, were to make some alterations to the communication infrastructure, they would reward him well. He did so, and they explained to him the location of a minor data archive under the Third City.

So this went on for another year, with each small favor rewarded with a little nugget of knowledge that would raise the Junior Minister’s stature, until he trapped one of the Oracles in a black box. No longer content to bargain for each morsel of information, he planned to extract the Oracle’s memories to pureuse at his leisure.

In retaliation, the cabal revealed the Minister in public to be a lecher and an embezzler. He was tried and executed, and the cabal was free to infiltrate High Charity. They became the Silent Passengers. For ages they rode the station through the Holy Ecumune, influencing its affairs in ways too subtle to detect.


Reminds me of Bartalan Craddog and Intrepid Eye.

Quirel wrote:

Officially, the Silent Passengers didn’t exist. If they did, then all of the Ministries would mobilize to hunt them down and contain them, for there is no knowing where their loyalties lie. But tales abound of the fools who have struck deals with them, and the poor souls who have unexpectedly received their help. Indeed, even though the Ecclesiarchy did their best to tamp out worship of the Silent Passengers, there were many shrines raised to those disembodied Oracles, and many denizens of High Charity would cry out loud for their help in times of trouble.

****Oral storytellers generally aren’t sufficiently interested in authenticity to wade through mountains of records to find the name of a plausible candidate.


Good stuff. I do love the idea of High Charity being filled with hidden and/or forgotten sections; entire districts and vaults lost to the ages and hidden passages used by smugglers and other members of the underworld. There's potential in that setting to fill a whole book and more.

Quirel wrote:

I'm kind of at a loss for how to tie Mendicant Bias in here. It would be neat if there was a handful of ancilla that came to Humanity's defense, but also mistakenly assumed that Mendicant Bias tricked the Prophets into continuing its war against its creators. When Mendicant Bias re-enters the galactic stage, it's one more hurdle he has to overcome.

And yeah, Earth is screwed. Imagine Loyalist troops going to ground and waging a guerilla war? How much more damage they can do? And then there's the state that Africa is in.

Speaking of which, I have an idea for a short story (Maybe ten chapters) where Dare pulls Alpha Nine in for another investigation.

It's the immediate aftermath, just a few months after the fighting dies down on Earth. Africa is a wreck. Half of it was glassed and the other half is polluted with dead warships and broken armies. There's massive operations to salvage everything that can be saved or studied or sold, and all that loot is flowing down the Nile to the warehouses of Cairo.

So much of it ends up under lock and key, but so much more winds up on the black market. If you know where to look, it can be found. Guns and medicine, devices and rations. ONI is keeping a watch on the trade until it can muster the resources to do something.

But now, something's wrong. Someone is killing all the gun runners. And they may have stolen something that ONI wants back.


Yeah, even though I think Hood was using his notorious powers of exaggeration when he said half of Africa was glassed, it's not going to be in a good shape. All those Covenant stragglers, all those Yanme'e hives on top of all the war profiteers and other opportunists flocking to the region and it's going to be close to a Mad Max-ian wasteland.

Quirel wrote:

I'm game for wrecking the Ark. Ever hear the phrase “The Ringworld is unstable”?

If the blast significantly damaged the Ark, then vital systems would have been destroyed or left in a perilously unstable state. The artificial gravity can no longer sustain an atmosphere in most places, which is alright because the blast scoured the atmosphere and topsoil away. The foundry is broken and needs to be rebooted before repairs can take place. Oh, and that planet that was hanging in the foundry? That's not exactly a stable orbit.

It would make for a very interesting tale if, after reopening the Voi portal, Jul ‘Mdama had to scramble all his available resources to save the Ark from crashing into the planet. Or maybe that has already happened, and that is why the Retriever Sentinels need to harvest another planet.

By the way, if Retriever Sentinels have to harvest a planet, how about Luna? Losing the moon, or at least most of it, would be a much more visible loss than Venus or Mars.


Or the Retrievers may have just have disassembled the entire resource planet or at least most of it at this point just to repair the Ark - even then, it's going to take time to terraform and repopulate all those biomes.

You're right, Luna would make most sense - it's close enough not to make the resource retrieval trips too much of a hassle, and would alter Earth's skies dramatically - though there might be some interesting long-term domino effects on Earth's climate, ecology and geology.

Quirel wrote:
Shiiit. There's a long reply down the drain because I accidentally closed out of the tab. =(


Damn, that's a shame. Have you tried typing out posts in an external window or app? I personally use OneNote to write almost any posts that are longer than 2-3 paragraphs and that comes in pretty handy, though I imagine something like Google Docs or Word would work almost as well.
halo
Quote 1 0
Quirel
Voka wrote:
On why the Kig-Yar were space-faring for so long yet never developed slipspace travel, there is potentially another route that can be explored that takes the ability to develop this technology somewhat out of the hands of a species and places part of it into the determination of luck. Maybe to develop slipspace travel, someone has to be looking close enough at something with regards to space-time at just the right place and time. Perhaps whilst even having a theoretical framework for slipspace and higher dimensions, it may be that the Kig-Yar never lucked out yet in observing this crucial natural event that gives them something to focus on in terms of obtaining empirical data with which to advance their theories and technology in this regard.

I'm drawing inspiration from the current deadlock in physics with regards to the sort of unresolved mysteries that currently exist - unification of General Relativity with Quantum Field Theory, and uncovering the nature of Dark Energy and Dark Matter. There's no shortage of hypothesis' to close these mysteries, but no one knows for sure which ones - if any - are correct and for some of them it seems that no one knows how to find out. We don't know what we don't know, and so don't know where we should be looking and what we should be looking at in order to unlock these mysteries. We're in an era where empirical guidance is drying up due to how expensive our laboratories need to be in order to push the boundaries these days. Theoretical considerations can only take you so far.

So maybe the Kig-Yar have advanced theories regarding space-time and know about the theoretical existence of slipspace and potentially using it, but they have no empirical evidence of its existence and no idea on how to reach it. It could be similar to the situation we had regarding gravitational waves prior to LIGO's detection of them in 2015 - we were certain that they existed because they were a prediction of General Relativity, but no one had ever seen one until we built an interferometer big enough and sensitive enough to detect it - and a cosmological event powerful enough to be detectable, which was a black hole merger.

Without that cosmological event, which seems to be exclusively collisions from compact celestial bodies like black holes and neutron stars, we could still be sitting here waiting for confirmation of gravitational waves mulling over either having to build an even bigger and more costly interferometer, or questioning our theoretical framework for predicting them when we seemingly can't see them. Fortunately mergers between black holes and other dense objects that are energetic enough to be spotted from Earth seem to be quite frequent, so it wasn't a problem.

But maybe to observe empirical evidence of slipspace and higher dimensions that either gives a species the ability to learn enough about it to manipulate it, or that gives it any awareness at all about what it needs to be studying and where it needs to be pointing its particle accelerators, it first needs to spot this pretty rare event. What that could be in this context might be anything but it highlights that sometimes in science, discoveries don't just depend on how good your laboratories are or how clever your scientists are - sometimes it's just luck that determines when discoveries are made.

Looking on the Halopedia page for the UNSC slipspace engine, it also says that according to the Impossible Life and Possible Death of Preston Cole, that slipspace engines used by the UNSC require selenium and technetium in their manufacture. Technetium is a super-rare element. Only about 18'000 tons are said to exist at any one time in the entire Earth and it is produced by spontaneous uranium fission within ores. Most of the technetium used in human applications comes from Nuclear Fission by-products in reactors. What if the Y'Deio system is poor in uranium, and therefore the Kig-Yar skipped Fission and went straight from fossil fuels to renewables and fusion? Or if their system isn't poor in fissiles, then what if they have long since done away with their fission technology infrastructure in favor of better energy sources by the time they made that breakthrough in physics regarding slipspace? They wouldn't really have the infrastructure to produce large quantities of technetium for building slipspace drives, and this might have severely hamstrung their efforts to build a working prototype even if they had the empirical and theoretical foundation laid out for slipspace manipulation as outlined above. Perhaps due to how niche technetium would have been to them due to their non-exposure to it, very little work had been done with the element and so no one really thought to use it in making a working slipspace drive prototype, and it might have been a critical component.


Either way works. Fissiles could be artificially scarce in the Y’Deio system, or the Kig-Yar might have developed fusion reactors sooner and never built the infrastructure to process fissile materials.

I was thinking that one of Humanity’s earliest indications that they weren’t alone in the Milky Way was the paucity of heavy metals in certain star systems. In some systems, especially toward the center of the Orion Complex, the only place to find heavy metals is volcanic upwellings and the occasional interstellar capture. Y’Deio could easily be one of these systems.

Alternatively, maybe the Jackals really did discover fusion power. My idea for their early colonization efforts requires them to have developed crude but effective pinch fusion reactors.

I like the latter explanation, because it’s a rather unusual explanation for divergent technological development. “It wasn’t economical for Kig-Yar to produce enough technetium to produce a Slipspace drive” is an interesting constraint on their technology.

Tacit Axiom wrote:


You know, it's almost creepy how similar some of our ideas are (and I'm pretty sure I haven't shared my notes on Covenant tech distribution).

It is, but I think there’s a rational explanation this time around.

For starters, you’ve already mentioned in Discord conversations that some technology is deliberately restricted, such as Slipspace drives and communicators. This fits in nicely with the established fact that the Covenant Empire is a technocracy.
At the same time, we’ve both run into the problem that even though the Covenant aren’t supposed to understand their technology, there aren’t enough Prophets and Huragok around to repair everything. So there has to be a level of technology that Covenant civilians can maintain. Even if they don’t understand the principles that underlie that technology. You don’t need to be a physicist to repair a microwave oven.

Oh yeah, and we’re both traumatized by the idea that the Covenant can’t even build barns without building plans shipped from High Charity, and we want to establish as much distance from that stupid plot point as possible. =)

Tacit Axiom wrote:


So yeah, I obviously haven't used the same terms and some of it isn't as defined, but I've definitely had this idea of tech gradation with the most state-of-the-art or strategically important tech being restricted to the High Council and the Ministries, yet there being a "lesser" tier of tech that can be produced outside ecclesiastical oversight. Mostly because the latter is basically a requirement for such a widespread interstellar civilization, and because there are only so many Prophets, most of whom hang out in High Charity anyway.

Most of the exclusive technologies were divided among the Ministries (so that one ministry may have had access to a tech another did not, though there was a fair bit of "industrial espionage" taking place between different ministerial bodies). The Ministries that dealt directly with Forerunner relics, prominently Tranquility and Fortitude, were in a particular advantage in this internal arms race.

In general, only the most advanced or strategic tech and science, such as top-tier slipspace drives and energy projectors, or certain types of targeting, ECM and communication systems, mandated exclusivity; lower-grade versions of most technologies were usually produced and available commercially, as the High Council found it quite impossible to contain their development and spread across the entire empire.

There were a handful of times when innovations in the private sector, such as it was, actually got ahead of the Ministries in certain technologies, either through sheer luck, daring innovation or, occasionally, unsanctioned Forerunner artifacts stashed away from the Ministries by ambitious commercial guilds. However, due to the way the Covenant economy, technodogma and industrial base were set up, this did not occur very often; private enterprises that were deemed "too" innovative could very easily find themselves accommodating a visit by an inquisitorial party, and breakthrough technologies - regardless of their origin - were almost always quickly subsumed by the ecclesiarchy, violently or otherwise.

That said, the ecclesiarchy was usually fighting a losing battle against unsanctioned entrusted technology; High Charity was mighty, but its reach was only so long in an empire of thousands of worlds spanning a spiral arm. Additionally, the Ministries tried several times to impose exclusivity on some technologies after the fact, after perhaps more enlightened ages during which more widespread technological development was viewed more positively until being suppressed again.

This is also why so many key reliquaries are cordoned off as dioceses, governed exclusively by ecclesiastical authorities with direct ties to High Charity to ensure their compliance.*

If anything, I disagree. I think the Ecclesiarchy would have an easier time keeping a lid on entrusted technology than you might think.

The Ecclesiarchy has certain institutional advantages, like the fact that new scientists are trained in academies, and information flows somewhat freely from one scientist to the next, from one generation to the next, and sometimes even from one ministry from the next. Because independent researchers have to work in secret, they have a harder time building up as much knowledge or resources as High Charity. In fact, they often have trouble passing their knowledge down. Criminal organizations and state-sanctioned research cabals rarely share information with each other.

The Ecclesiarchy has the Assembly Forges and hundreds of thousands of specialized tools and material fabricators that have been found or designed over the centuries, almost all of which were locked away in High Charity. Independent organizations can build factories or even mobile stations, but it’s hard to reproduce entrusted technology without the high-end materials made by High Charity, and particle accelerators the size of a small moon are hard to build under the radar.

Finally, there’s a robust tradition of designing machines to be as hard to reverse-engineer as possible. The UNSC knows it as “Fabrication Rights Management”, and the Prophets have been doing it for dozens of centuries. They have tools that can create an encrypted one-off operating system, or a special material whose properties are integral to the operation of a device. Independent researchers need a deep pool of expertise to catch up with High Charity, and all that progress is destroyed the moment that they are discovered and purged.

This way of doing things is far from ideal. More than once, an entrusted technology has become lost to the ages because a senior researcher died and nobody could decrypt his notes. Without those notes, without a fundamental understanding of the technology manufactured in the assembly forges, iterative improvement is impossible. And High Charity’s research community is so fragmented and poorly organized, a search through the archives of old research notes is often as productive as new research into newly discovered artefacts.

Meanwhile, a criminal underworld of researchers exists, state-sponsored or otherwise. Tools have left High Charity by hook or by crook, and there is a steady trade in advanced software. For the right price, you can buy diagnostic tools or software suites that will decrypt an operating system if you give it enough time. Likewise, there are materials like black glass or variable sand, harvested deep within the Orion complex, that can meet or exceed the performance of materials made in the assembly forges. There are few scientists who can catch up, or even exceed the works of the Ecclesiarchy, and these scientists are invariably the intellectual peers of Dr. Catherine Halsey.

But what of scientists who are neither Prophets nor criminals? They exist, although independent research into Forerunner technology has always been heavily monitored.

Tacit Axiom wrote:
---
*Most primary domains (which are all defined by their direct administrative relationship to High Charity) were governed by a mix of religious and secular authorities, with the latter usually handling most of the heavy lifting of governance and the former being little more than glorified rubber stamps on certain issues. In many cases the religious representatives weren't even San'Shyuum magistrates from High Charity, but local Sangheili bishops or archimandrites.

That said, compliance to High Charity didn't always mean things were smooth and straightforward, largely because of the aforementioned complexities in High Charity's own politics. Even if the High Council itself sent a representative to govern a particular diocese (as opposed to the Ministry of Tranquility, for example), connections, bribes, blackmail and backstabbing always acted in the background of the decisions made by those bishop-governors that often led to those reliquaries benefiting particular domains, worlds, ministries, cohorts within those ministries, or even individuals.

Alternative: Since the Covenant is largely a theocracy, it can be very hard to tell the difference between secular and religious governments. The church can collect tithes, loan money, record births and deaths, and provide assistance both grand and trivial. The church, after all, has access to the resources of the Ministries of High Charity and the clerical institutions of the primary domain. Some planetary governments have gone so far as to offload the majority of their bureaucracy on the church, from civil courts to building regulations.

In most places, the church wielded a mixture of soft and hard power. Some types of governments, such as Sangheili clan-holdings, are very resistant to outside interference. But republics and ochlocracies are susceptible if the church can influence public opinion.

If the churches did not hold real power, then nobody but the clergy would care about the leadership and conduct of the church. But since the church held very real power, the conflict over the use of that power could be very bloody indeed, and outsiders sent in to govern a diocese often found themselves in over their heads.

Tacit Axiom wrote:
Because of the intrinsic relationship between religion and science in the Covenant, their technological development and scientific practice - such as it was - was a neverending tug of war between advancement and stagnation. Moreover, it was rife with allegations of heresy thrown back and forth, just as often (or even more commonly) for political reasons than earnestly religious ones; after all, Covenant dogma on technological development was byzantinely complex and inherently self-contradicting, so it could be spun to fit any narrative required at a time.

The following is copied and updated from a conversation with Dovahkiin from Spacebattles:
The Covenant didn't have to be formed. The peace talks could have failed, and one race would exterminate the other, if the destruction wasn't completely mutual. Or the Prophets could have fled into the galaxy, and perhaps when they meet the Sangheili again, there would be peace. But probably not.

A union between the two races is not the only option, but it is the moral one. But what kind of union? How do they co-exist? How can the old grievances be laid to rest? Can the religion of the Prophets and the religions of the Elites be reconciled with each other, or exist side by side?

The peace talks were large, with thousands of participants. Sangheili scholars, warriors, captains of industry and speakers for great nations were present to argue the case, and so were a smaller number of Prophets. The disparity was great, but could not have been any other way. The whole of the Sangheili population was greater in number and divided into many factions. The Prophets were fewer and mostly united in allegiance. This did not work in the Prophet's favor, for they soon learned that playing one Elite faction off another quickly united them all against the Prophets. Furthermore, the more control that the senior Prophets exerted over their juniors, the more rebellious those youngsters became. The elder's claim to legitimacy had been weakened to the breaking point by the war.

As the negotiations raged on, small groups coalesced around a foundation of mutual respect, and then united with each other over common philosophical principles. These seventy delegates, the First Saints of the Covenant and Accords, hammered out a compromise. More than a compromise, it was a path forward, a vision.

The Sangheili had been defeated in the War of Beginnings. Though they fought the Prophets to a standstill, the Sangheili had to betray their deeply held beliefs about the sancticity of Forerunner artefacts. They broke apart the immortal engines and built weapons to break the Prophets. Even though it worked, even though it was necessary, the shame was felt by all. For peace to endure, the Prophets must suffer defeat in kind. And so, the Prophets took a hammer and chisel to their own religion and cut away whatever was not fit to remain.

The religion of the Prophets at that time was the faith of a doomsday cult with the refinement of a few centuries. Their simple, greedy faith drove their ancestors to hide within the Keyship, and then to take off and doom the rest of their race to environmental collapse. That first generation left behind all of the histories and philosophy developed by seven thousand years of San Shyuum civilization, and so their children had to start from scratch. Their teachings were full of self-aggrandizing superstition meant to distort and justify what they had done. Power struggles among the leadership produced decrees and bylaws meant to consolidate or subvert power, such that none of the commoners could obey one without violating another. They thought themselves to be nascent gods in a universe full of creatures barely capable of reason. It is no wonder that they went to war with the Sangheili.

At this point, you are probably wondering why I'm investing so much thought into a fictional religion and background material. The reason is that the Covenant faith and the societies it spawned is going to be very important to Not All Who Wander. At some point, I am going to introduce a Covenant cleric who will have to work alongside Human characters. The conflicts with them and the search for truth are going to be big parts of her character. The other reason is that Broken Circle really did piss me off that much.

Led by the prophet Cor Laih'dhu, the First Saints reviewed the doctrines of the San Shyuum with a critical eye. Within a month, they published a call for reform and a return to scripture based upon hard evidence. The old guard resisted, of course, but they were pressed by reformers on one side and skeptical Sangheili clergy on the other, who demanded proof for this teaching and that. Where did the Prophets get the idea that the three Heirarchs had dominion over all Forerunner artefacts? Where did the Prophets learn that all life was seeded by the Forerunner, but San Shyuum alone were shaped by them?

Working from archeological references and data mined from Forerunner Artefacts, the First Saints settled on three broad facts: that the Forerunner civilization struggled for a long time against internal corruption and decay as well as a great external foe, that a way to transcend the physical world and live as gods was found and undertaken by the Forerunner, and that this path is still open for others to walk.

This was revolutionary. This destroyed more of the Prophet religion than even the reformers were willing to part with, but it left a strong philosophical foundation for a religion. More importantly, it was the point where the belief in the Great Journey turned from an insular religion to an evangelical one that could last for over 3,500 years. I can't understate how important this is to the existence of the Covenant. Religion either spreads by conversion or by the sword, or it doesn't spread at all. Conversion by the sword isn't possible at this point. The whole notion is fucking idiotic. The Sangheili just fought the Prophets to a standstill, and the only reason they haven't wiped out the Prophets is the keyship. If the Prophets converted the Sangheili by the sword and then parked the keyship and dismantled the weapons, they would be dead within the week. Oh, look, I'm ranting about Broken Circle again.

Anyway, the belief in the Great Journey has to spread by evangelism. I think it won over the Sangheili because the evidence for that Great Journey, as fragmented as it was, existed in the Keyship. There was a record of what the Halo Array does, a technical brief that the San Shyuum honestly misinterpreted as a description of transcendence into the divine beyond. The Sangheili could review this evidence for themselves, check its authenticity, and see that it was genuine. Furthermore, many of the Sangheili religions already upheld the Forerunner as creator-gods. They could be pantheistic, or essentially monotheistic, and they often had other trappings like asceticism or ancestor worship, but the Forerunner were always present. Doubt had slowly built up over the centuries as the Sangheili spread from Sanghelios and found more artefacts, but no sign of an extant Forerunner civilization. If they were gods, where did they go? Now the Sangheili had an answer.

Tacit Axiom wrote:

This is good, and also brings me to something tangential but relevant I've been meaning to bring up: the nature and character of gods in Covenant doctrine.

The way the Covenant viewed godhead changed over time and distance. This goes all the way back to the Writ of Union and the fundamental differences between the way the native San'Shyuum Reformist and Sangheili religions viewed their deities. For it was not just the use of Forerunner technology that divided the two civilizations on matters of faith.

When Forerunner worship became the mainstream faith on Sanghelios, through conversion and conquest, they adapted several of their old religious narratives (from various cultures across the globe) into the overarching framework of the Forerunners, as often happens when religions collide. As not much was known about individual Forerunners at the time, some of the old myths - as well as deities - were almost directly adapted to the Forerunner faith.

Whatever their origins, Sangheili gods were personal, much like those in the Greco-Roman or Norse pantheons; concrete beings with distinct personalities, relationships, quirks and specialties- heroes, artisans, craftsmen, healers, rulers, tricksters and more. There were, of course, differences in traditions as there are in any interstellar civilization, but such gods were definitely the majority trend in the Sangheili sphere when the Reformists came into contact with them.

The San'Shyuum view of godhead was more Eastern - that is to say, elusive and transcendent. To them, the Forerunners became gods only after their technological apotheosis. Gods had no individuality or personality in the mortal sense; they merely floated in the heavenly spheres of the Divine Beyond, and their true nature was a mystery to beings of the mortal plane.

This was one of the many religious disagreements of the early Covenant, and one that kept theologians busy for centuries and beyond. In some ways, the debates on the nature of divinity never truly ended, even as the Covenant's mainstream religion settled into something of a balance between the two extremes, albeit one that tipped into either direction depending on the spirit of the Age (as well as the schools of faith followed by the incumbent Hierarch triumvirate).

For most of the Covenant's history, High Charity merely let individuals worlds and domains follow whatever tradition was most popular there, as long as they subscribed to the key doctrines of the Covenant faith- mainly the idea of transcendence through the Great Journey, as well as the deference to the supremacy of the Ecclesiarchy and the High Council on matters of faith. Some worlds emphasized particular gods, as did adherents of certain trades; engineers and builders prayed to the Master Builder, warriors to the Didact, healers to the Librarian and so on all the way down to numerous lesser gods (which also changed and increased in number with time as more named Forerunners were discovered, or when it was discovered that someone once thought to be two or more individuals was actually one with multiple titles or monikers; though just as often, especially in the early days, Forerunner gods were simply made up to fit existing archetypes). Other worlds and domains were content with leaving their gods as elusive as they had been to the early San'Shyuum.

Now here is where our similarities get creepy.
Do you think the Sangheili worship of the Forerunner began before or after they became interstellar? The former makes more sense, but that would require Forerunner artefacts to be left on Sangheilios.

Tacit Axiom wrote:

This internal variety was justified through the Chiah Haqu'un - the Way of the Branching Tree - which decreed that all forms of worship were merely reflections of a universal Truth, which may be altogether beyond mortal understanding. The glyph signifying the Branching Tree was one of the most recognizable holy symbols of the Covenant, and like much of the key iconography of the Covenant religion had its roots in Forerunner glyphs:


Another key symbol was the Unbroken Circle - a plain ring - which was to them essentially what the cross is to Christianity, and a simple version of the full Ring of Transcendence:

The ring (and its variants) was also the principal symbol the Covenant's legions would fly on their banners during holy crusades.

At one point in time, The Way of the Branching Tree was represented, quite literally, by a glyph of a tree. This was a simple and almost universal way to explain the concept, but it fell out of favor almost overnight as the 17th Age of Doubt ended and the 24th Age of Conflict began. This was when the Cult of the Last Icon was born.

The Last Icon is a simple glyph of a tree hovering above the ground, and is born from a koan popularized by a disgraced minister who was almost as reviled as the Prophet of Truth in his day. “Can a tree uproot itself? It cannot. And yet it must.” Since the Covenant Empire was deeply corrupt and incapable of reforming, he called for the violent overthrow of the Ecclesiarchy and the founding of a new society free from the ills of the old.

The Covenant Empire may be corrupt, but the cure is worse than the disease. Cults of the Last Icon, especially the ones inspired by the minister’s seventh and final book, tend to make the cultural revolution or the Khmer Rouge look warm and friendly.

Tacit Axiom wrote:
Reminds me of Bartalan Craddog and Intrepid Eye.

Huh. Now that you mention it, it does. I was thinking of the goose that laid the golden egg, and the archetype of making deals with the devil.


Tacit Axiom wrote:

Or the Retrievers may have just have disassembled the entire resource planet or at least most of it at this point just to repair the Ark - even then, it's going to take time to terraform and repopulate all those biomes.

You're right, Luna would make most sense - it's close enough not to make the resource retrieval trips too much of a hassle, and would alter Earth's skies dramatically - though there might be some interesting long-term domino effects on Earth's climate, ecology and geology.

The greatest loss to the universe will be the fact that Luna produced some of the most beautiful lunar eclipses in the known galaxy. This is because the apparent diameter of Earth’s moon is almost exactly the same as the apparent diameter of the Sun, when seen from Earth’s surface. So depending on where the Moon is in its orbit, it can totally block out the sun. Or at the point of totality, there will be a ring of fire. With a pair of very good glasses, you can see the sun’s coronas, and stars that would otherwise be blotted out by the sun’s glare.

Eclipses aren’t unique to us, and the eclipses of other words have their own delights, but I’ll daresay that the lunar eclipses of Earth are among the finest sights that the Orion Arm has to offer.

Oh, yeah, and I imagine that there’ll be knock-on effects with the environment. There’s animals that evolved to hunt and navigate by moonlight. What happens to them now?

Now, if you want a really powerful image, imagine if the Retriever Sentinels gang up and move the moon into a geosynchronous orbit so that it’s just a straightforward de-orbiting burn to drop a chunk of the moon into the Voi Portal.

From the ground, Luna will appear ten times as large, because it’s been moved so much nearer. The moon will only ever be visible from one hemisphere. It’s phases will change by the hour, and every day will feature both a lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse.

Tacit Axiom wrote:
Damn, that's a shame. Have you tried typing out posts in an external window or app? I personally use OneNote to write almost any posts that are longer than 2-3 paragraphs and that comes in pretty handy, though I imagine something like Google Docs or Word would work almost as well.

Eh, I usually work these out in a google doc, but I was in a hurry and tragically overconfident yesterday. I’ve reconstructed most of my reply to Voka, and I’ll work on typing up the notes on the development of the Covenant religion.
Quote 1 0