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Halo Tour Primer Circle 1(CAUTION: MAJOR SPOILERS)
Posted By: Lion O CyborgDate: 1/4/20 3:00 p.m.

CIRCLE 1: THE FORERUNNER SAGA

Arc 1: Earliest Backstory and Halo Cryptum

In preparation for the Halo 1 SPV3 Tour Gaiden (for want of a better name for a Tour of Duty covering Halo or id Universe as opposed to Marathon Universe games), I have decided to write out detailed summaries of the Halo saga leading up to the point we begin Halo 1 so non Halo fans and/or any who haven’t read the books can get some context into what is going on when it comes to the Halo Tour Gaiden series, which began a few years ago with Viking Boy Billy’s nice coverage of Halo 1 PC. Viking Boy Billy intends to cover Halo 2 and I have wanted to do something similar to his Halo coverage but for the SPV3 mod, which is more of an actual, proper remake of Halo 1 than Halo Anniversary could ever be, which is rich considering SPV3 uses the exact same engine as vanilla but with “OpenSauce”(sic) to enable things the original game didn’t or couldn’t have, like Aleph One for Halo.

I will be largely referencing information both from my books and the Halo wiki when scouring the pages gets too tough or boring. Bear in mind this only will include books I actually own, namely the Forerunner Saga, Contact Harvest and the Fall of Reach. (The novelisation of Halo 1 and First Strike that bridges the gap between it and Halo 2 I do own, but they are irrelevant just now, as is Ghosts of Onyx and its sequels, the Kilo 5 Trilogy)

The backstory is slowly revealed over the course of both the games and the Forerunner Saga (read: trilogy) of books by Greg Bear, starting with Halo Cryptum. If I miss or forget anything, feel free to post it as a reply.

I must warn in advance that readers of the Tour Primer as well as the SPV3 Gaiden itself should not do so if they want to avoid spoilers as many things regarding backstory and such are full of them. It’s not unlike reading the Marathon Story Page before actually playing the games or in my case, reading everything about Pathways into Darkness and watching an LP of either the CD copy or OSX port before I could get an emulator to play it for myself (and later both my own physical Mac and the A1 port). This may include Marathon spoilers too, such as the trilogy and Eternal X so only continue reading if you do so with extreme caution.

Since the games have been out for 3 yonks, then if you aren’t fussed about those details and/or will never read the tie-in novels, that’s fine. Welcome aboard. Otherwise it may pay to read and/or play those first before reading my SPV3 coverage and the Primers so you are at least mostly in the loop and therefore safe from the more big reveals, but you’re still welcome aboard anyway.

With that in mind, let’s begin as far back as we can go: millions of years or so into the past.

Now, big spoiler warning for Eternal to start: (hoot, hoot! Put it on mute!)

The Jjaro and the Forerunners existed together in the Halo universe, but the former went unnamed as the franchise was effectively completely separate from Marathon since the earlier days.

It’s nowhere near out on the Story Page itself yet, but I call back to Marathon Eternal and Forrest describing the game’s ideas:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45mraZTYSds&list=PL1A86CAFBA7B7323E&index=41&t=0s!

Quote from me on the Eternal X Tour of Duty Chapter 4 Stage 3:

“I’ll be perfectly honest, I was a little pissed off when I found out that the Jjaro were just humans. That’s boring! I preferred it when the Jjaro were simply an alien race with better technology. When reading into it a little further, I found out that the Jjaro title used to refer to ancient humans and it now refers to any alien species that reaches their level and joins their collective in the Macroverse/Outside.

***

The Jjaro as they are now are essentially the personification of the same idea that forms the core of the Covenant religion in Halo: species who ascended to godhood even if they are not any of the God species. Gods of our own time who used to be humans like Tenjin, the Japanese god of knowledge and Dionysus, the Greek god of wine were likely Jjaro. The ancient Egyptians likely tried to recreate this with their pharaohs, presumably hoping to become Jjaro post death.”

Quote from Forrest on this forum from a few years ago:

“Well all the leaked info I remember is basically in the plot of Eternal now, though I had to add some extra to fill in the gaps that I didn’t know. But in an old, pre-Microsoft version of the Halo story, Master Chief was the player-character from Marathon, the Covenant were the remainder of the Pfhor empire after its sacking by the combined Human and S'pht'Kr fleets, the Forerunners were the Jjaro and, as in Eternal, they were human (though the exact mechanism of how a human spacefaring civilization existed prior to when we think human life evolved on Earth was not revealed to me, so the time-travel part of that plot point was made up by me for Eternal).

The rest of the details of Forerunner/Jjaro history and the plot of the game were, as far as I’m aware / can recall, the same, as was the nature of the Covenant/Pfhor having stolen most of their technology from the Forerunners/Jjaro.”

Technically the Jjaro are still in Halo but unlike Marathon they have nothing to do with the Forerunner species.

The humans we know as the Jjaro going by Halo’s definition of them rose to power around 150 000 BCE, which even I thought was pretty weird though it does make sense of the dark ages: we just lost everything that made humans Jjaro and couldn’t regain it, hence the gap in history.

And for the first time ever, Marathon or otherwise, this is what the Jjaro actually look like:

This is Lord of Admirals, Forthencho. He plays an important role in the Forerunner saga, existing as a genetic memory called a geas, implanted in the ancient human (non-Jjaro) who would become 343 Guilty Spark.

Anyway, the Jjaro made a pact with the San’Shyuum from planet Janjur Qom, which are a species we will also know very well from Halo 2 onward. The younger ones were considered by Forerunners to be attractive. Erm…no. As a species, they really aren’t.

Anyway, the Jjaro and these guys traded a lot and kept a presumably now extinct animal called a Pheru as a pet.

Forerunner-Precursor War

The Forerunners are anything but perfect, just a lot more advanced than any other species. They evolved on a planet called Ghibalb around 15,000000 BCE, being seeded there by presumed Elder Gods called Precursors. The latter started out as benevolent but unpredictable.

This is a Forerunner, namely a young Manipular Forerunner (youths who haven’t yet mutated themselves into a subspecies fitting their role, such as Warrior Servant, Lifeworker or Builder) called Bornsteller Makes Eternal Lasting.

And this is the Primordial, what may possibly be the closest we will ever see to a living Precursor:

Precursor technology can only be described as eldritch, not the least of which being neural physics which is based on the idea that the universe is alive, but not in a way conceivable to organic beings. All precursor buildings and other tech known about used this and it was completely invincible. Well, almost as it had only 1 weakness, which is why it isn’t around anymore. The most referred to in the books is a device called a star road or orbital bridge, using “unbending filaments” to literally link planets and star systems together; Pathways through and out of darkness? There was also their cosmic library called the Organon. The Forerunners knew about this and called it the Domain, but they did not know it was the Organon, until the Lifeshaper (lead Lifeworker) Forerunner named First Light Weaves Living Song AKA the Librarian was told about this by veteran Jjaro from the human-Forerunner war who were possessing bodies that had been infected by the Flood, when the firing of the array and it reaching them was only a matter of relativity i.e. by the time it was too late. The array disabled or destroyed the Organon/Domain completely as it was based on a Precursor mind (so I read anyway, but recent sources simply say it was normal Precursor technology).

Anyway, the Precursors believed in the “Mantle of Responsibly” which translates to “caretakers of the universe and everything in it.” The Jjaro were seeded by them just like the Forerunners but 10,000000 years before the main games, they chose to make humans/Jjaro the owners of this Mantle. Not sure why, given we’ve proven time and again that we cannot be trusted to care for our own planet’s life including ourselves, let alone that of alien worlds.

The Forerunners were upset about this and hunted the Precursors to practically extinction, chasing them out of the Milky Way and all the way to a planet somewhere in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Only the Primordial was left alive, buried on a nameless planetoid. A Jjaro researcher brought it to a world called Charum Hakkor and kept it in stasis in a Precursor city to study it.

The precursors had a way to preserve themselves against death: degenerate themselves into desiccated, powdery sand and keep it in glass vials. Hmm…

The idea was that their “sands of time” would germinate when the time came and restore their old forms. However, this didn’t work properly as age and corruption damaged the sand, bringing cancerous illness to those who ingested it.

Some of the Forerunners or at maybe even all of them who went to the Magellanic Cloud were left behind and formed a Stone Age civilisation paradoxically based on neural physics that may still survive to this day, wanting to atone for their sin of essential deicide. They kept history via mosses that scratched the messages into stone canyon walls, and they used translator microbes like in Farscape.

As for the precursors in their powder form, they would return to the Milky Way eventually…

Jjaro-Flood War

Besides the Primordial, who was a Flood Gravemind that claimed to be the last precursor, the Jjaro found the precursor’s sand vials on automatic cargo ships that crashed near the edge of the galaxy. Testing the powder inside showed it to be safe but useless, though they and the San’Shyum’s Pheru pets seemed to like it. The sands appeared to encourage desirable traits in the pheru’s appearance and behaviour, likely therefore being used in breeding.

However, the sands of time showed their truer colors: the precursors were indeed still alive but sickly shadows of their former selves and thus, couldn’t reform their old bodies correctly. They did however, exploit the disease their powder form caused and could control it at will. They had been driven insane by the betrayal of their own creations and thus, vowed to only ever create things that would know just suffering, so they would not betray their makers again. They did however, still care about humanity and did not attack them for long. Not sure what “for long” means regarding when they return in the events of the actual games.

The precursors modified and merged with the pheru’s DNA to create the Flood’s base form next to the precursor sands: the Flood Super Cell. The pheru themselves started spouting brown, fleshy tentacles and began eating each other. Staying too close to them made the disease spread to the Jjaro and San’Shyum, spreading to all the Jjaro worlds. They were forced to retreat and raze any signs of infection, intruding into Forerunner space as they did so.

All the precursors’ minds were trapped together in their sand and any life it absorbed into itself, which is the very same hive mind as the Gravemind in the games. Not so much the Flood’s leader but the Flood’s personality. The primordial seems to be simply one of them, but likely even a facsimile of the precursors themselves built in their image to control the Flood.

The Jjaro seemed to be able to cure the Flood but it was a trick as the Flood simply chose to leave them alone after these attempts, creating the illusion of there being a cure. There’s not.

The Forerunners did not take kindly to humanity’s intrusion and went to war with them, to contain what they saw as overly aggressive savages, not knowing about the Flood. They won and the Promethean (elite of the Warrior Servants) Forerunner known as the Didact, full name Shadow of Sundered Star devolved humanity from Jjaro back to primitive tribes of humans and subspecies of such as well as actual monkeys like in the final season of 3rd Rock From The Sun. Jjaro they were no longer and have remained that way ever since.

The devolved humans and apes were put back on Earth and the flood just so happened to go after Forerunners next. Sundered Star decided to oppose the solution Forerunner Builders came up with for dealing with the Flood which was the Halo Array, in favour of Shield World Dyson Spheres similar to the Jjaro ones from Marathon but with less cataclysmic weapons of either Halos or Jjaro Dyson Spheres. The reason is that despite the hypocrisy of attacking humanity, he still believed complete extinction was a violation of the Mantle which was about protecting other species, not destroying them. The Didact was overruled so he went into stasis using a Cryptum, which is basically a sarcophagus like that used by a certain mummified Flood puppet on a stolen Forerunner dreadnaught.

This is what Shadow-of-Sundered-Star and First-Light-Weaves-Living-Song look like:

Halo Cryptum

Bornsteller Makes Eternal Lasting travels to Earth to find the Organon I mentioned earlier. A pair of humans named Chakkas and Morning Riser guide him to what he thinks is the burial site but turns out to be the Didact’s Cryptum.

The Didact’s wife, Living Song/Librarian mentioned above needed him awake as the Forerunner-Flood war worsens.

The Forerunners’ ancilla (read: AI) Mendicant Bias -who they built to attack the Flood- is convinced to join the Flood’s side after being infected with a “logic plague” that is basically a computer virus form of the Flood. It turns him Rampant and he directly serves the Primordial, who had been freed from his stasis on Charom Hakkor when a Halo Ring was test fired there. It turns out that the high frequency neutrino radiation waves from the Halo rings’ main weapon is the only thing that can destroy devices and objects made using neural physics. Oops.

The Didact effectively kidnaps Bornsteller and the 2 humans and takes them on his personal little mission of gathering intel on what’s going on now. He needs Bornsteller to mutate in order for the latter to access the Domain so the Didact gives him his imprint for it, which changes Bornsteller into a copy of Sundered Star in all but personality, Even then, some of the Didact’s more positive similarities creep into Bornsteller’s own over time. To tell them apart, Bornsteller’s title is the Iso-Didact and Sundered Star is the Ur-Didact.

In the time before the start of the book, the Forerunners had made the Halo Array’s 12 rings on the Greater Ark, built a smaller Ark as well in case it was needed for extra Halos and there were even Shield Worlds built too. The Librarian required the rings feature habitats for the species she intended to save from the galactic genocide, like on a planet, effectively making them all miniature Niven Ringworlds but without the Sun Lasers.

The now 2 Didacts and 2 humans find a San’Shyuum quarantine world that is promptly wiped out by the Master Builder Forerunner by firing a Halo ring at it. The Master Builder, Faber kidnaps the Ur-Didact and abandons him on a derelict ship in Flood infested space, sends Bornsteller home to his family and exiles the humans on Installation 07, Zeta Halo. Bornsteller/Iso-Didact is eventually forced to flee the Forerunner Ecumene Capital City when the Flood and Mendicant Bias attack the city. He meets the Librarian, who considers him a fitting second husband she loves equally to Sundered Star, as they do not know yet that the original Didact is still alive.

Arc 2: Halo Primordium

Now trapped on Zeta Halo, Chakkas and Morning Riser make their way across the ring separate from each other for quite a while before meeting up around the ¾ point. Chakkas fell in with a tribe of primitive humans in a village, namely the Chieftain’s granddaughter Vinnevra, as well as old “Gamelpar” himself.

The Master Builder had been conducting research on humans and the Flood, trying to find the mythical cure that the humans as Jjaro thought they had found. The humans knew about one such research base that was now taken over by the Primordial Gravemind and called it the Palace of Pain. Vinnevra’s parents were taken there which is why her Gamelpar looks after her. I’ll keep it brief this time as it’s mostly just covering their journey, though highlights include them discovering:

-Abandoned cities

-Deep craters and ravines going down to the foundation material and possibly the ring’s skeleton

-A graveyard of a crashed Forerunner ship among now collapsed floating towers or even a ruined Forerunner city, 2 of which struggled vainly to recover their old shape from hard-light projectors, and shifting themselves and the towers in I imagine very creepy ways, going by the description in the book

-A sea that they sail on to a floating city, likely a fishing village but find a Proto-Gravemind locked in a cage inside one of the buildings so they quickly scarper.

After the sea, they pass through forests, mountains, a “Pattern buffering” centre inhabited by composed souls in monitor bodies as well as the last Sasquatch, meadows and a blighted desert before coming to some kind of monorail. It eventually takes them to a thrill ride like ferry and they end up in Mendicant Bias’s data centre in the Palace of Pain itself.

Now it happens that the ring was set to smash into a large planet to prevent the Flood on the ring from spreading. It appears in the sky as a star or moon with a wolf’s face. Bornsteller and Chakkas stop it from being destroyed though Chakkas gets mortally wounded in the escape as the Halo removes damaged bits of itself to dodge the planet.

Speaking of “pattern buffering” as above, the Forerunners could, with scanners such as a massive one called the Composer, convert wetware programs (sentient minds) to digital format then cut and paste them into mechanical bodies or even just leave them as simple AI units. This is a leftover from the Jjaro’s plight in Marathon where this was used to escape being killed by the W’rkncacnter and its personified nightmares. Sure enough in Halo, this was used as an early measure to escape the Flood infection, though I guess it was abandoned thanks to the Composer’s scans corrupting easily and of course, the logic plague. Not sure if the monitors and AI versions of Promethean Forerunners (advanced Warrior Servants like the Didact) are special in regard to the Flood’s logic plague, but the series seems to treat them as if they are immune as far as I remember.

Chakkas is then made into the monitor 343 Guilty Spark. There is also mention at some point of Offensive Bias, but I can’t remember in what book. This ancilla was made to counteract Mendicant Bias and perhaps was safeguarded from the logic plague better.

Arc 3: Halo Silentium

This book is told a different way to the other two. Cryptum and Primordium were narrated first person by the Iso-Didact and Chakkas respectively, the latter being framed as the UNSC finding a backup of 343 Guilty Spark’s mind and requesting him to reveal information on the Forerunners.

Now, it follows the reports of a cyborg Forerunner Juridical called Catalog, actually one individual of many who shares that title, connected via a S’pht like hive mind. Catalog serves as a framing device for Bornsteller/Iso-Didact, Sundered Star/Ur-Didact, Living Song/Librarian and maybe others to narrate sections of the novel.

The Librarian recounts how she and other lifeworkers decided to study the origin of the Flood by piloting the world’s first actual intergalactic ship to the Large Magellanic Cloud, which they called Path Kethona. They discover the neural physics based Forerunner colony and learn about what really happened to the Precursors (i.e their extinction by Forerunners) from the moss archives mentioned above.

Many species are being taken from their homeworlds and colonies in order to be indexed safely on the Greater ARK and later, the lesser ARK: giant flower shaped fortress worlds used to build the Halos. This is to prevent them from being infected by the Flood and also to stop them from dying when the Halo Array fires over the course of the book.

The Ur-Didact recounts how he woke in a “burn” -a Flood infested area of space- on a derelict ship. He, a couple of his old warrior servant buddies from past wars and another Catalog Forerunner barely go far after bringing the ship partially online when the Gravemind pilots a knotted ball of star roads (presumably shaped like the Dark Network from Digimon Adventure or the Devil’s Snare from Harry Potter) and draws them all into it. The Didact stays behind to allow the other Forerunners to escape, but he and Catalog are then captured by the Gravemind. The Gravemind then reveals everything about itself, the Flood, Precursors and their history with Forerunners to Sundered Star and he cracks. This ends up being the trigger for him becoming the antagonist we know him to be from Halo 4.

The Didact referred to in the Halo 3 terminals is not the real Didact, but the Iso-Didact Bornsteller Makes Eternal Lasting.

The Ur-Didact happens to be rescued by none other than Faber, the Master Builder who got him into that mess in the first place. He gets into a major tiff with the Librarian and Iso-Didact, informing her of his newfound insanity and how he will never let humans take their rightful place as holders of the mantle, counter to the other Forerunners who have finally agreed that is something that must be allowed to happen now.

On the Greater ARK, Omega Halo (Installation number unknown) is there in case the Flood attack, which they do. Sundered Star and Bornsteller have a bit of a power struggle over who should lead the remaining Forerunners. Faber warns that the Ur-Didact’s insanity is in part to him being used by the Gravemind as a pawn, without any actual infection taking place. He knows this because Sundered Star conveyed a message from the Gravemind himself, telling how the Master Builder’s family were all infected and absorbed into the Gravemind’s biomass.

When a Flood fleet led by Mendicant Bias arrives, Sundered Star uses the composer on the Librarian’s remaining humans on Omega Halo, so he can use them as AI slaves in his new “cyborg” Promethean Knights alongside other Forerunners made into such AIs. He flees to the Shield World of Requiem but is chased by the Librarian. She stuns him and locks him in a Cryptum, probably intended for a second exile to let his mind recover. As Halo 4 proves, it sadly does not. This is because those in Cryptums tend to go to the Domain while they are “sleeping” and the domain was destroyed when the Halo Array fired, leaving the Ur-Didact alone in a mire of his own shattered psyche for 100,000 years. Unlike our God Solaris’s personified subconscious Mephiles, Sundered Star is less sympathetic. As of Halo 4, he looks like this:

Most of the 12 Halos were destroyed, leaving only Installation 07 and 6 new, smaller ones awaiting distribution from the lesser ARK, Installation 00. Guilty Spark is tasked with evacuating the surviving humans to the lesser ARK from the Greater ARK, who had gone unnoticed by Sundered Star and the Flood. Omega Halo is fired to destroy some of the attacking star roads and Flood infested ships but it and the Greater ARK are destroyed themselves.

At Installation 00, the remaining 6 of the now 7 Halo rings of the array are prepared to be distributed to key points in the galaxy, to ensure their pulses collide and cover the whole Milky Way. Before now, Chakkas as a Forerunner Monitor AI had still been going by his original name but now he actually gets his new one I had been using above. He and the Iso-Didact have a conversation that becomes really important if you’ve played Halo 1. I’m not revealing it now as it will come in due time, namely once I get to the last 3 levels of SPV3 (well, last 3 of the vanilla game anyway).

The Librarian lures the Flood to Earth to buy Bornsteller time to fire the array and constructs a portal to the lesser ARK under the desert in Africa where all of the humans we’d seen in the past novels were from. The portal is buried until the time is right for humans to reclaim what the Forerunners had lost, eventually being covered over further by the city of Mombasa, Kenya.

Flood infected corpses acting as vessels for Jjaro including Lord of Admirals Forthencho are sent by the Gravemind. They and the Flood have the last laugh as this is where the Organon and Domain being one and the same as I said above is revealed.

Specifically, the Precursors created the Domain/Organon in order to store all their knowledge from over 100 billion years, keeping it in Precursor built architecture, presumably with a Precursor consciousness, as I had read about somewhere:

“The Precursors lived in many shapes, flesh and spirit, primitive and advanced, spacefaring and locked to their worlds… Evolved over and over again, died away, were reborn, explored and seeded many galaxies…This I was told. I understand little.

We are your children, Librarian. But we are also their children. And what they learned across many billions of years they stored in this galaxy. We do not know where. The Gravemind tells us something impossible to understand-that most of what has been gathered comes from before there were stars. We do not believe in such a time, but the Mind insists…The life patterns and living wisdom of a hundred billion years.

They tell me the immense field projected by this reserve is known to Forerunners, was once accessed by them. Is this not so, Librarian?”
Forthencho, Jjaro Lord of Admirals in the Halo Universe, Halo Silentium pages 321 & 322.

Bornsteller fires the Halo Array as Offensive Bias prevents Mendicant Bias and his Flood controlled fleet from reaching the ARK, which is outside the galaxy and therefore the range of all the rings. The Librarian likely dies on Earth, watching Mount Kilimanjaro as the pulse hits the Sol system. 343 Guilty Spark meanwhile has been transferred to Alpha Halo, Installation 04 from Halo 1. His mind is compartmentalised, locking off portions of his memoires and he forgets his original life as a human.

Presumably when ONI access his backup in the framing of Halo Primordium, the restraints and partitions on his memory are either non-existent in the backup or have been removed, which is what allows the book to happen. Bornsteller does also survive, marrying another Forerunner, have a son and go on the “great journey” which I can only assume is to join the surviving Forerunner clan in Path Kethona. That is why the surviving Forerunners aren’t around anymore: they are beyond our reach.

That concludes Circle 1 of this Primer. Circle 2 will cover events related to alien species as well as the first encounter with the Covenant in the present day.

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