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Halo Tour Primer Circle 2A (CAUTION: SPOILERS!)
Posted By: Lion O CyborgDate: 1/5/20 3:43 a.m.

CIRCLE 2: FORMATION OF THE COVENANT AND BEGINNING OF THE HUMAN=COVENANT WAR

Arc 1: How the Covenant came to be

Welcome to Circle 2 of the Halo Tour Gaiden primer. In this entry, we will be covering how the Covenant came into existence post the firing of the Halo Array and how they and humanity met.

We will start with the first two species: The Sangheli and the San’Shyuum, the latter referenced in Circle 1.






Sangheli and San’Shyuum

Sangheli Ultras and Zealots

San’Shyuum

The Sangheli i.e. covenant Elites come from Sanghelios. They are shark like creatures with 4 sets of teeth on opposing jaws, like radulas. They are basically western depictions of Japanese samurai crossed with the religious fanaticism of the Catholic Church as depicted in both the media and as it was in human history (and may still be depending on your point of view, but your mileage may vary. I ain’t here to judge).

They learned about the Forerunners and worshipped them as gods, treating all of their tech as holy relics and artifacts. However, they did not approve of dismantling or studying the technology for any reason, even if it was to reverse engineer it for their own ends, seeing such as acts of blasphemy. The Pfhor these guys are not.

The San’Shyuum had completely forgotten about their past allegiance with the Jjaro much like how humans forgot how they used to be the Jjaro, unless you count hidden truths behind humanities religious myths told about in their texts; like the Great Flood & Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel, Ragnarok and the Duat.

Speaking of the Tower of Babel, the Old Testament belief that Jehovah splintered us into speaking other languages to prevent us collaborating was presumably the basis for the Didact devolving the Jjaro into both apes and multiple different subspecies of human, which evolved into our own likely thanks to interbreeding of certain subspecies with Neanderthals.

The Duat, while likely IRL (if it exists) being a border world between ours and other universes like Xen from Half Life, was probably the basis for the Domain going by how it’s effectively used the same way as the Domain in the Kane Chronicles books.

Anyway, back to the San’Shyuum, they had similar beliefs about the Forerunners to the Sangheli but unlike the Sangheli, they approved of and indeed did exploit Forerunner technology to better themselves. They believed there was no sin in searching for greater wisdom and, moreover, they were convinced such knowledge was required to follow in their Gods’ footsteps.

Unlike many examples of interactions between humans and our gods especially Old Testament myths about Jehovah as well as the Titans & Olympians who ruled over Greece, the Forerunners as seen by the San’Shyuum at least were more than willing to share. If the Sangheli shared this particular way of thinking at the beginning too, it isn’t clear.

This fundamental difference led to a holy war between to the 2 species.

Quote a passage from Halo: Contact Harvest.

“In terms of ships and soldiers, the Sangheli started the fight with a distinct numerical advantage. They were also better warriors-stronger, faster and more disciplined. In a straight up infantry clash, 1 Sangheli was worth at least 10 San’Shyuum. With most of the fighting taking place in space and ship-to-ship however, the San’Shyuum had their own advantage: a single, semi-operable Forerunner Dreadnaught that decimated the Sangheli with hit & run attacks.

For a very long time, the Sangheli took their knocks, ignoring the obvious fact that victory would require committing the sins of their enemy-desecrating their own relics and using them to improve their warships, arms and armour. Not surprisingly, millions of Sangheli had died before the proud and hide-bound species decided that abnegation was preferable to obliteration. With heavy hearts, their warrior priests began their work, eventually assembling a fleet capable of fighting the San’Shyuum and their Dreadnaught to a standstill.

As devastating as this decision was to most Sangheli, the wisest of their leaders knew they hadn’t sinned so much as finally come to terms with their desire for deeper understanding of the literal articles of their faith. And for their part, the San’Shyuum had to make their own painful admission: if there were other creatures as dangerous and dogged as the Sangheli in the galaxy, their chances of survival would be greatly increased if they allied with their enemy-had the Sangheli watch their backs while they went about their holy work.

Thus was the Covenant born. A union fraught with mutual suspicion but given a good chance of success by a clear division of labour codified in the Writ of Union, the treaty that officially ended the conflict. Now the Covenant’s most important piece of scripture, the Writ began:

So full of hate were our eyes

That none of us could see

Our war would yield countless dead

But never victory.

So let us cast our arms aside

And like discard our wrath,

Thou, in faith, will keep us safe

Whilst we find the Path.

The treaty was formalised with the decommissioning of the Forerunner Dreadnaught. The ancient vessel was stripped of all its weapons (or at least all the San’Shyuum knew it possessed) and permanently installed at the centre of high charity’s then, partially constructed dome.”
Halo: Contact Harvest, chapter 9.

God knows how that poem treaty flows in the Sangheli & San’Shyuum’s native languages it was written in as opposed to English. I guess Covenant built translator devices are that good.

High Charity is the mobile capital city of the Covenant, moving throughout space to spread their message and look for lost Forerunner tech.

The basic core of Covenant faith is that those who showed appropriate worship for the Forerunners and their creations would inevitably share a moment of transcendence: the Forerunners in more factual terms who did survive the firing of the array journeyed outside the known universe. In Covenant faith, they somehow got the facts mixed up as they fell into myth, interpreting the halo rings as not only destroying the Flood, but the mere firing turned the Forerunners into the Gods they worshipped. It was believed that proper faith would allow all, living or dead to follow them into godhood. You could say, escape would make them gods.

Promised godhood has broad appeal in all lifeforms and all were welcome to join the covenant so long as they accepted the San’Shyuum’s sole authority to investigate and distribute relics. Notice I said ALL species. 2 guesses as to who that is meant to include. Why the holy war with us that serves as the framework for the whole franchise then? Hold on, we’ll get to that.





Unngoy

The Unngoy are grunts. The wee ones. Known mostly for their iconic faces, pyramid armour thanks to their life support systems, humorous dialog that’s usually in English for some reason, even when other Covenant species do not speak English at the time (case in point, Halo 1) and the fact they breathe methane. Physically weak and happy to run away if things go badly, Unngoy usually have more confidence in groups and especially if they have a leader, usually a Sangheli/elite commander. They also stand and fight on their own if they get cornered.

Prior to the Halo rings firing, they had an industrial civilisation on their homeworld of Balaho, but their planet went the way ours will in the not too distant future: its biosphere collapsed from over-industrialisation and plummeted them to tribal societies. The books sometimes refer to Unngoy as living in swamps even richer in methane than other parts of the planet like ewoks except actually likable.

They hadn’t regained their former glory by the time they were indoctrinated into the covenant. Unngoy are effectively slaves: used as cannon fodder in the military and just about any bad task the other races can think of in civilian life. The Kig-Yar have bitter rivalries with them and there was even a conspiracy by them to render Unngoy extinct by sterilisation via poisoning recreational drugs they took in their meals.

This led to a pretty bad rebellion that was only stopped by an elite Arbiter. It also gave Unngoy slightly more respect than before though not as much as they needed. It was enough to have them treated as actual soldiers in the military instead of glorified suicide bombers though.

Kig-Yar

Species of alien birds from the planet Eayn, Kig-Yar come in 2 races: Jackals (above) from Eayn’s moons and Skirmishers (below) from Eayn itself. They are pirates through and through, having turned to space piracy after their earlier generations of plundering each other on Eayn’s seas.

When the Kig-Yar encountered the Covenant, their pirates proved useful in fighting back against them. The war ended with the species being accepted into the Order and allowed to continue their pirate’s lives, though now as privateers for the Covenant military. Like the grunts, jackals and skirmishers are lower ranking in the hierarchy but do hold a higher position. They always hold that over the grunts, never letting them forget for one day.

Mostly in combat you see jackal Kig-Yar carrying energy riot shields with 2 little holes they fire through. Skirmishers only really appear in Halo Reach, are tougher and opt not to use shields minus skateboard pad shaped ones you sometimes see on their arms. Jackal snipers never carry shields. They serve as an annoying cross between grunts and elites as their riot shields block all projectile attacks but are weak to plasma, unlike elites who instead have the same shields as Spartans, being who the technology for MJOLNIR armour was stolen from and it was in turn, repurposed from Forerunner combat skins (their name for military armour).






Jiralhanae

Jiralhanae are aptly nicknamed brutes after their carnivorous gorilla like appearances, terrible smells thanks to their reliance on pheromones and their savage behaviour. Their love of war lead them to fight among themselves back to a pre-industrial state. They had barely just rediscovered radio and rocket science when the Covenant came to their home planet of Doisac and whipped them into line.

What we see of them, the Jiralhanae are deeply religious in the Covenant’s faith but lack the sense of honour the Sangheli have. They also use similar tech to humans in that regard for a couple of reasons. 1. They still hadn’t progressed that far technology wise on Doisac and 2. The elites did not trust them so they were restricted on what technology they were allowed to use. This meant if they were lucky enough to have their own ships; no weapons, most had to make do with their projectile guns, usually firing superheated spikes in lieu of human bullets as opposed to most Covenant species plasma weaponry and no gravity elevators.

They had the last laugh on the last one: Elites inspecting a brute ship in Contact Harvest made fun of how they had to use primitive mechanical lifts like us. (This was before humans were known to more Covenant than just the Kig-Yar) The Chieftain, Maccabeus smugly retorted that the lift was so bad, they were forced to remove it. Cue the elites struggling to climb the walls of ladders in the gravity lift shaft that had been installed in the mechanical elevator’s place.

Unlike brutes and many other species including us, Sangheli knees bend the opposite way. So while they could walk and run just fine, climbing ladders was hell for them as ladders rely on one’s knees bending their legs backwards, not forwards.

The only exception to Brutes not having plasma weapons prior to Halo 3 is that we see in Halo 2 and Halo 3 ODST that they do seem to be allowed the more powerful Brute Plasma Rifle which is much better than the normal blue one elites use. It fires faster and does more damage (though I can’t remember if the latter is only because of its faster firing rate) with the drawback being it overheats very quickly. In Halo 3 ODST, the Brute Plasma Rifle is simply a reskin of Halo 3’s normal one so it functions identically. Duel wielding 2 brute plasma rifles or even one brute one and one elite one makes you even more badass. Sadly you don’t get to duel wield at all in Halo 3 ODST.

I guess you could sort of count the maulers, which are brute shotguns that can be duel wielded like in Marathon 2 but unlike Marathon 2 are next to useless.



Brutes can use power armour with similar shields to elites, the difference being they never replenish once broken. Worryingly, they appear to not actually need it: Halo 2 shows that Jiralhanae without power armour are exceedingly tough as if they still had shields, hit like brick shithouses and go berserk whenever every other brute is dead: they throw away their weapons and batter the living shit out of you at the speed of sound while screaming like a loon.

They still go berserk in Halo 3, but it’s nowhere near as cool or interesting as Halo 2. They are only weaker in other games because it’s a gameplay nerf: Since they replace elites in Halo 3 and Halo 3 ODST, having them be as tough as they really are like in Halo 2 would be unfair.

As far as their faith goes, a good example is when Maccabeus’s pack blesses the meat in their feast. They all stand ram-rod stiff for a long time in a position like they are about to jump forward. Maccabeus had only a drip of sweat to worry about while the rest of the pack were sodden and trying to keep their posture.

When the food was served, delicious sounding oily dips at the ready and all, Maccabeus stepped with 1 foot into seven rings in a mosaic on the floor in turn, each ring made of a different mineral and with a simplified Forerunner glyph representing Covenant eras. The rings represented the Halo Array. The minerals started at obsidian and then went to iron, jade, amethyst and unknown others before settling on the unknown Forerunner metal you see in their buildings.

The ages were:

1. Abandonment: Ignorance and Fear.

2. Conflict: Rivalry and Bloodshed

3. Reconciliation: Humility and Brotherhood

4. Discovery: Wonder and Understanding

5. Conversion: Obedience and Freedom

6. Doubt: Faith and Patience

7. Reclamation: Journey and Salvation

The last one is especially important because its symbol appears often throughout the Halo universe, but not the way the Covenant write it.






Yanme’e

Yanme’e are the Halo version of the wasps. Also called drones or buggers (the latter after Ender’s Game I think?), they’re sentient insects with the hive minds and queens to match, despite their probable individual sentience, unlike the Ender Saga buggers who’s only fully sentient members are the hive queens. Drones follow the Covenant religion just because, seeing the San’Shyuum prophets (the religious leaders of the Covenant’s parliament council) as queens, like how if a dog was confirmed as fully sentient, it may still see the human it lives with as a pack leader, much like we know they do now.

Yanme’e don’t interact with other Covenant species a lot due to language barriers though they follow orders without question, having that as a holdover of their hive days on Palamok where they came from. They do interact with others to trade and work in the Covenant military and they make reasonable mechanics, though never as good as Forerunner Huragok. Most fights with drones come down to taking cover a lot and swearing because they’re pesky little buggers who are just as hard if not harder to kill in swarms than Marathon Eternal X’s wasps.






Lekgolo & Mgalekgolo

Lekgolo are a species of sentient, mineral eating (rockavore?) worms native to a planet called Te. They can burrow and consume raw metals and presumably metal rich rocks. As they are colonial animals, Lekgolo worms can band together like mould or yeast cells and Portuguese Men ‘O War if they need extra assemblages for their tasks. The Covenant who came to Te found a destroyed Forerunner space station that was now stripped clean of relics as the Lekgolo had eaten them all. Naturally this was seen as blasphemy and they waged a holy war against the worms.

Big mistake. One of the more advanced Lekgolo colonies is the Mgalekgolo, which is a bipedal creature composed of worms who are part of the same colonial hivemind. These guys we all know and simultaneously love & hate as hunters.

The Mgalekgolo thrashed the Covenant so hard, they required an Arbiter to tame them. It didn’t help that many Lekgolo colonies actually lived in Te’s Forerunner sites, so attacking them willy nilly would destroy the relics that were left. It was actually the Arbiter who fought in this war that suggested taming them and making them a new Covenant species instead. They did this by sparing the worms that preserved Forerunner sites and only killed those that destroyed them. Since they had hunters on their side though, the Covenant couldn’t really fight back so they threatened to glass Te to lava unless they surrendered. This worked.

The newly accepted Mgalekgolo were given their iconic armour and fuel rod cannons, then served as military shock troopers. The Lekgolo worms on their own could handle tunnelling through non-vital parts of the San’Shyuum’s Forerunner Dreadnaught to aid in exploring the ship in order to discover how it works. Others were used as pilots or at least copilots for certain models of Scarab mech i.e. the crap model from Halo 3 onward, while Sangheli piloted the superior Halo 2 scarab mechs.

If anyone has heard of the Fuel Rod Cannon, or the Frog as the Rampancy boys call it (after the fact its fuel rods are green and you use it to “frog blast people’s vent cores”), it will be the stronger Assault Cannon version used by the Mgalekgolo. Hunters are notorious for their weapons being unusable in any game except SPV3, until they finally got a canon use in Halo 5 (yay!)… as a random drop from a lootbox in multiplayer only. (boo!) The cannon works by firing a rod of radioactive green “incendiary gel” from a drum magazine like a rocket launcher, after charging up a blast. They can also be set to fire the gel as a beam instead though it isn’t as devastating as the fuel rod rockets.

The only time outside of the 2 instances above where you could use a fuel rod cannon was both the one on banshees and the handheld version used by grunts and sometimes elites. Even then the Halo 1 version could never be used either, unless you were playing multiplayer in the PC version of Halo 1 and MCC version of Halo Anniversary only. As soon as you killed a grunt with a fuel rod cannon in Halo 1, it would catch green fire and explode, which is much more of a problem than an elite’s energy sword simply going poof.

Mgalekgolo are always fought in pairs, as when they grow large enough, they reproduce via budding, creating a twin brother, both of them gaining their shoulder spikes. Bonded pairs are fiercely protective of each other like we would be our girlfriends and/or closest friends or siblings. Killing one bond brother enrages the other so much, he or she goes on a massive suicidal rampage against all enemies and it likely wins.

Death at this point is a mercy kill as the Mgalekgolo gets to join their bond brother in Starclan afterward. (other afterlives are available)



Mgalekgolo are effectively the Halo version of hunters from Marathon, even sharing the same name and a similar albeit now explosive weapon. The Lekgolo worms may have been inspired by the charging cables on unoccupied hunter armour in Marathon 1, as Shudaki theorised in his LP of the trilogy:

Unlike hunters from Marathon who are weak to fusion pistol shots regardless of game, Halo hunters are always as affected by plasma pistol shots as they are stinkbombs. Their armour is exactly the same alloy as Covenant ships themselves but with a more deep blue color instead of greyish purple. This means no weapon you have can damage it so you must rely on explosives from the rocket launcher and fuel rod cannons or get a sniping weapon like the sniper rifle or even just normal pistol if you’re playing Halo 1 (especially the Halo 1 pistol) and shoot them in the exposed Lekgolo worms in their chest, back and face. Their backs are the most vulnerable as they tilt their heads to protect their faces and they use giant metal snowboards as shields/melee weapons to cover their chests.

This turns fighting them into a less boring version of being a matador in a bullfight. I like to jump over their heads, turn in the air and scoped pistol shot them in the back in Halo 1, but it’s tricky to pull off without their boards catching your legs in midair, but worth it. Hunters also have no ranks unlike Marathon ones, on top of not being cyborg elites like Marathon fans from back in 2001 might first have thought. No major, Commander or Spec-ops hunters this time, which is good because persistent tracking fuel rod shots would be terrible, as opposed to the limited tracking they do have.





Huragok

Huragok are the Halo version of the S’pht, being artificial lifeforms made by the Forerunners designed to repair and maintain all buildings, machinery, computers and whatnot. They appear as large pink gasbags with vague resemblances to Flood carrier forms, but with cilia tentacles used for tinkering and beautiful, dolphin like heads. They speak with sign language but make cute dolphin and orca whale like sounds as well.

Huragok are known to humans as engineers because that’s what they work as, even after being conquered by the Covenant. It’s an open secret that the San’Shyuum use the Huragok to actually work with the Forerunner artifacts now, as they were originally designed for such a purpose. They don’t want to admit it because that would be heresy. Unlike the S’pht, the poor things never fight back even when they are killed or threatened, and were even equipped forcefully by Jiralhanae in Halo 3 ODST with suicide bomber vests that would kill them if all of their masters died, in order to prevent their capture.

Despite at first not recognising humans as the inheritors of the Mantle straight away when the Covenant finds them, they don’t like the Covenant any more than we do, which isn’t surprising as they are simply used as tools to exploit their makers’ creations when they weren’t for the Covenant to reclaim.

Besides their life goal of simply fixing things, engineers can provide weak energy shields even to beings that don’t have shield systems normally. They were cut from Halo 1 but their Halo 1 model might not have been final as it looked really ugly. It’s the same model used when they first appeared in the games via Halo Wars, except the latter was an even lower resolution.

Compare their cut Halo 1 model with their final design from Halo 3 ODST:






On a final note, I also recently learned that the Drinniol were going to be in Halo, going by the scrapped Alpha story Forrest used for Eternal. Excuse me, I mean Driniol, also known as Sharquoi. They even come with hideous butt teeth, which Marathon hulks never have.


https://halo.fandom.com/wiki/Sharquoi






High Charity

The Covenant’s capital city is described as looking like a jellyfish adrift in a midnight sea. It doesn’t: High Charity actually looks like the Space Colony ARK from Shadow the Hedgehog if it was made from an onion.




I guess that means you could call it the Space Colony ARK of The Covenant? ;)

The “Eclipse Cannon” is supposed to be a shaft of docking ports and umbilicals connected to the city so that larger ships don’t crowd around the inside. Later appearances of the city would try and make this more clear, such as Halo 3 and Halo 2: Anniversary. Not that much of High Charity’s actual shape can be seen in Halo 3 for very long before it crashes.

It’s made from a large asteroid and the centrepiece is the decommissioned Forerunner Keyship Dreadnaught that the San’Shyuum used. The asteroid of the inner dome of the city is so vast, that it’s hard to see from 1 end to the other, especially as there’s bluish green fog now and then. The keyship is especially interesting as despite shutting it down, they used the engines as an energy source for the city and that’s only at partial engine power.




We never get to see the inside of the city itself during the games. The only parts we get to look at are the towers around the rim under the dome, mostly used as the headquarters for the San’Shyuum ministries, with one of them being the Council parliament building and another holding not just the mausoleum of every Sangheli Arbiter, but also the San’Shyuum prophet Hierarchs’ inner sanctum which is where the 3 rulers lived. This tower also contained the main reactors for the city, presumably emergency power given that the Dreadnaught provided most of it.

This is also where I was introduced to the Iranian concept of hanging gardens, dating back to Babylon when it still existed. I’ve loved hanging gardens ever since, especially when they appear in platformers like Prince of Persia and Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. In Halo 2, you pass through 2 of those gardens which connect the main towers to each other. Both of them consist of the Valley of Tears which is a rocky dip in an artificial mountain with small ponds and waterfalls, and the part classed as the gardens themselves over a grav-lift “conveyor belt” bridge, which aren’t as engaging as other hanging gardens I’ve seen, mostly being plain grey and purple metal with ornamental streams in the middle with arch bridges over them.

You can tell which gardens you are in in these areas as the first valley of tears has no water, but its garden stream over the grav-bridge does, and the second is the opposite.

Now, enter the first encounter they had with humanity, ever since the San’Shyuum forgot their old allies in the Jjaro…

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