We’ve covered some interesting topics recently, wouldn’t you agree? Forerunner architecture, the ever-present ambiguities of the connection between humans and Forerunners, the San’Shyuum and their potential role in the Reclaimer Saga’s future…
There’s a common theme in all of these posts.
I have no end of things to talk about when it comes to Forerunners, their era is my absolute favourite part of the Halo universe and the fiction that surrounds them is just… well, inexplicably marvellous. But today, I want to focus on one particular Forerunner who we all know whose influence spans millennia.The Librarian, otherwise known as First-Light-Weaves-Living-Song. Wife of the Didact, one of only four Lifeshapers in history, mastermind behind the Conservation Measure, mother of twelve (all-deceased) children, and ‘surrogate-mother’ of sorts to humanity.
She’s been behind a lot, thanks to the geas she’s imprinted humanity with. Plans within plans within plans – from our time as an ancient space-faring civilisation, to our regressed devolved state at the end of the Human-Forerunner war, to the modern era in Bungie’s original trilogy and now 343’s Reclaimer Saga. We know what Librarian’s endgame is, for humanity to inherit the Mantle of Responsibility. If you’re unsure as to what that means or what the Mantle is, read this: I’ve got you covered.
I want to look at a few things today, see if I can answer a couple of questions.
What exactly is the nature of Librarian’s interest in humanity, and what specific details of her plan can we pin down before it was plunged into jeopardy by the firing of the Halos?
I think you may end up with a bit of a different perception of the Librarian by the end of this…First off then, what is the reason for Librarian’s interest in humanity above all? After all, Librarian was said by Catalog to have favoured one hundred and twenty-three other technologically capable species across three million worlds. And yet, time and time again, the Librarian fought for the preservation of humanity. For the preservation of human culture and language, because she believed that it was through these means, through humanity’s natural discourse and evolution, that the alleged cure to the Flood would be found – but that is another topic for another day.
Librarian’s motivations run much deeper than that.
“Despite my husband’s triumph over these broken wretches, I felt like weeping, remembering fallen friends, colleagues… family. But not for them alone would I weep. These pitiful humans, wounded and fallen, were also my children. So the Rule of the Mantle instructs.”
She feels personal responsibility for our species, that much is clear. The first fifty pages or so of Silentium is dedicated to examining the Librarian’s history, what it is that she’s been up to in the last ten thousand years prior to the firing of the Halos. We hear her first-hand account of the horrors she saw ancient humanity subjected to as the Old Council twisted the idea of humans being preserved by using the Composer to extract the minds of these humans and place them within their devolved forms.The Librarian, having assumed the role of Lifeshaper, was given charge of these humans and helped them grow.
“I gave them all my geas, my mark of instruction, utility and pride. I wished to be remembered. My own existence seemed so frail, after what we had done. When I worked with the humans, studying their genetics and personalities, I could almost forget the larger conflicts that loomed.”
This is the kicker.
The Librarian’s fatal flaw was vanity. She has to feel that what she’s done is worth something, that her efforts will be remembered. We see this further in one of her final internal monologues of Silentium.
“Who will use this portal? Who will live to return here? And what will they think of this machine that I’ve buried? Those I have fought for, for so long. Those who, it is clear to me now, ultimately will and must inherit the Mantle. I can only hope that they will survive and upon returning, that they will find this portal and use it to travel to the Ark—in order that they might discover their rightful place in this galaxy, and the great responsibility they have finally inherited. They are the last of my children. They must reclaim their birthright.”
Humanity is a vanity project.
The Librarian is undeniably vain, it’s brought up several times in Silentium by both herself and the Ur-Didact. She wanted, needed, to make her mark on the galaxy known, so the geas she imposed on humanity had them perceive her as the ideal female in their heads whenever they thought of her. I’ve discussed the implications of this based on the differences of her appearance in my examination of Reclaimer in Halo 4. The Ur-Didact talks about this as well, even implying that she’s done it to other species so she may manipulate them in the future.
She sees humanity as her children, the last of her children. After losing all of her own sons and daughters in the Human-Forerunner war, and then pouring so much time and effort into the devolved humans who had been mistreated by the Builders, she felt that it all had to be worth something to her.She knows when she’s on Earth that she’s going to die, having purposefully stranded herself there. She begs the IsoDidact to fire the rings and let it all be over so that she’ll die with the certainty that her legacy will continue in the way that she has designed. She says that they are the last of her children, the last hope she has of having the impact she desires on the galaxy.
It’s therefore rather poetically ironic that the Gravemind sends down her ‘children’ with the message that she has died for nothing. The Domain will be destroyed, and her husband will be condemned to 100,000 years of stewing in his own hatred, the plan she laid out for him to become humanity’s champion and teacher in tatters. More on that soon.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean any of this as a criticism of the Librarian in terms of how she’s written. Looking at it from this point of view adds a lot of depth to her character, and continues the trend of Forerunners screwing things up by making decisions for others – by interfering.
The sad truth of the matter is that humanity is a vanity project for a woman who simply didn’t want to die…So this leaves us with the question of what her plan actually was. What was the ideal order of events that would have occurred if all went according to plan? What was it exactly that ended up ruining that plan? How are these things tied together?
The first part of this is quite simple, as it’s made a rather large part of Halo 4’s story in both the campaign and Spartan Ops. The Ur-Didact was the key player on the board, as the Librarian sought to heal his mind of the Gravemind’s malediction. Upon being incapacitated at Requiem, Librarian placed the Ur-Didact within a Cryptum so that his mind could connect with the Domain, enable him to find himself again. Why? So that he would reawaken as he once was, a noble general and teacher who would guide humanity’s ascension to the role of guardians and help them to not succumb to the same errors that befell the Forerunners.
She left behind an imprint of herself who would give the Ur-Didact the Janus Key upon his reawakening.
“This was meant for my husband to help your people when his meditation was complete.”
And the ultimate goal was to get humanity to the Lesser Ark. Something very important is there for humanity, something which is absolutely essential to humanity’s future.
[Chant-to-Green] knows me well enough to see that I have a plan, but for the life of her, she cannot reason what it might be.
“There is another vessel on its way here as we speak,” I tell her. “Large enough to deploy assemblers and to create a portal. If I succeed, then those who are reseeded here will have a hope they should have been granted long ago. They will have access to our history. Our legacy. The Ark.”
If you know me, you know how much I’ve banged on about the Ark Theory for almost two years now…But the Librarian’s plans are left in tatters by the end of Silentium, as the Gravemind sends down the essences of Forthencho and many other ancient humans to tell her a truth not even the central mind of the Flood can fully comprehend. That the Domain is actually a living and conscious mind, that the mythical Organon has been under the Forerunners’ noses for the entire length of their history, that it contains the living wisdom of a hundred billion years, and that it will be destroyed when the Halos are fired.
This revelation is so utterly staggering that the Librarian attempts to tell the IsoDidact not to fire the Halos. But it’s too late. The pyrrhic solution had already been ignited, its effects yet to be felt on Earth.
Librarian dies with the knowledge of one final defeat – that they have just destroyed the most wonderful thing in creation (or did they), and that she has doomed her husband to 100,000 years of stewing in his own insanity.
The purpose of the Librarian’s plan is now effectively destroyed, but the pieces are all in place for it to be carried out anyway and lead to further chaos. How, you ask? Well, to answer this we’re going to have to look back at Halo 3 – at the final message from Mendicant Bias in the Terminals. I might add as a little side note that the significance of this message is not to be underestimated, there’s even an achievement in the Master Chief Collection for going out of your way to view this communique, as you have to play the final mission on Legendary to see it.
You don’t know the contortions I had to go through to follow you here, Reclaimer. I know what you’re here for. What position do I take? Will I follow one betrayal with another?
You’re going to say I’m making a habit of turning on my masters.
But the one that destroyed me long ago, in the upper atmosphere of a world far distant from here, was an implement far cruder than I. My weakness was capacity – unintentional though it was! – to choose the Flood. A mistake my makers would not soon forgive.
But I want something far different from you, Reclaimer.
And so here at the end of my life, I do once again betray a former master. The path ahead is fraught with peril. But I will do all I can to keep it stable – keep you safe. I’m not so foolish to think this will absolve me of my sins. One life hardly balances billions.
But I would have my masters know that I have changed.
And you shall be my example.
I don’t think the meaning of this can be made any clearer? As we know, from Halo: Rebirth, the epilogue of Silentium, Mendicant Bias was put on ‘trial’ by the IsoDidact after the Halos were fired and was entombed in the sands of the Lesser Ark to await a time when it might be sought out upon the Flood’s return where it will finally atone for its crimes.
However, a shard of Mendicant Bias was on the Keyship which ended up on the San’Shyuum homeworld Janjur Qom. During the centuries that followed, the San’Shyuum were ‘nudged’ to create plasma-based weaponry that could sear flesh – this I have talked about at-length in this post. Mendicant attempted to prematurely launch the Keyship from High Charity to take humanity to the Lesser Ark, but was shut down by the intervention of the Lekgolo worms.In Halo 3 however, Mendicant’s shard on the Keyship is reunited with its other half on the Ark which is what enables the construct to talk to John in the final Terminal.
Mendicant says that it would have its makers know that it has changed, and that John will be the instrument through which this is accomplished. Now… some people seem to think that John just magically ended up at Requiem and that Mendicant Bias had nothing to do with this. How those people came to that conclusion is utterly beyond me because it’s clear that Mendicant is attempting to fulfil the Librarian’s plan.
Mendicant sends John to Requiem in order to awaken the Ur-Didact, not knowing that the Domain has been destroyed and as left the ancient Forerunner insane. Mendicant believes that it is fulfilling its purpose of atonement, the Janus Key will reveal the Absolute Record and humanity’s technological advancement will be kicked into gear, and the Ur-Didact will fulfil the purpose he was charged with.
There’s an undeniable parallel between Mendicant Bias and the Ur-Didact, both of whom were meant to be sought out by humanity. The Ur-Didact would be humanity’s teacher, guide, and general on the road to inheriting the Mantle. Mendicant Bias would be humanity’s key to finally defeating the Flood, due to Mendicant’s intimate knowledge of them.
“You have not been immediately destroyed because you may yet be needed. Your intimate knowledge of the Flood makes you invaluable should they return, but we can never trust you, never again allow you any latitude. You will be entombed here. Your processes locked, frozen into a single thought for all eternity: absolution. Should you be needed, you will be reawakened. Should there be no need, you will be buried here until the end of Living Time.”
Librarian’s plan was intricate, but it was unbalanced by putting all of her eggs in one basket – so to speak. Everything rested on the Ur-Didact’s reclamation of who he once was, and things are looking more hopeless than ever now that he has been transformed into a digital essence following the events of The Next 72 Hours in Halo: Escalation.
The final passage I want to bring up, just to solidify everything I’ve said, is a fragment of Mendicant Bias’ dialogue from IRIS. You can read the full transcripts of each episode here.
Failure is for those who don’t know the sound of darkness.
Those so blinded that they use all diverging paths.
And make no mistake, progress can blind you.
Just like now, pieces seem to be coming together – bit by bit, slice by surgical slice.
Then, all of a sudden – endless calm.
There was a lack of… a failure in judgement.
You must understand: not all life deserves a chance, even the artifice passing as my own.
Now there is a lesson to spend a millennium lingering upon, waiting for a redemptive hand to turn the keys.
Leading to this symbiotic relationship which benefits both our futures.
I will guide your movements, and you will lead me to atonement.
Pay particular attention to the last three lines.
A lesson to spend a millennium lingering upon.
Ownership of the Mantle and how it should not be held by a single species.
A redemptive hand to turn the keys.
A redemptive hand: The Ur-Didact, sent into meditative exile by the Librarian with the intention of the Domain healing his mind so he would emerge to champion humanity’s ascension to the Mantle – as I’ve previously mentioned.
The keys? The two halves of the Janus Key. Librarian left them behind on Requiem for the Ur-Didact to use to help humanity.
Leading to this symbiotic relationship which benefits both our futures.
Symbiotic relationship between Forerunners and humans – the IsoDidact’s parting words to Riser being that one day he hopes their children shall some day meet as the brothers they always should have been.
Benefits both our futures? Because…
I will guide your movements, and you will lead me to atonement.
Mendicant Bias will finally fulfil the duty that the IsoDidact gave him. The Ur-Didact and John would seek out Mendicant Bias at the Lesser Ark and work together to defeat the Flood upon their return – something the IsoDidact knew was inevitable from his discussion with the Timeless One at the end of Primordium. You begin to see how all the little pieces of this story fit together, how far back 343 has been reaching to tie up those untouched threads introduced way back in IRIS – Halo 3’s ARG. While Bungie certainly had no plans to actually tell this story, the seeds have long been sown and are now beginning to reveal just how deeply rooted they are in 343’s Reclaimer Saga.
Librarian’s plan hinged on the Ur-Didact, but that was one presumption too far on Librarian’s part as the sins of the Forerunners were brought to bear in the final moments of her life. Instead, more conflict has arisen from this than was ever intended. With the Janus Key now totally in Jul ‘Mdama’s hands, the balance of power in the Halo universe has shifted in a big way, and the only hope humanity has is that the answers found at the Absolute Record will be enough to unite this disparate groups before the storm finally hits.
This post ended up being much longer than I’d anticipated… I’ll end on the note that I would very much like to see a resolution to this which has the Ur-Didact fulfil the purpose he was charged with. The issue for him now is Jul more than anything. Jul is no religious zealot, the Didact was only ever a means to an end for him and he’s in a very powerful position right now – with the Ur-Didact a digital essence, Jul has about 6 million Prometheans at his disposal and the location of every piece of Forerunner technology in the galaxy.
Humanity, at this point, is screwed.