By the end of Halo 4, we can say that the story brought in three big game-changers for the status quo of the Halo universe. Now, you might have your own view on what those were with various nuances in perspective, but as far as I’m concerned, in a narrative sense, these three were:
1) Humanity’s post-war position with the introduction of the UNSC Infinity, this being the first time that humanity was “no longer on the back foot”, as Lasky puts it. Humanity have become the “giants” now, their position in the galaxy and their overall involvement in the galaxy’s politics has changed completely.
2) The debut of the Ur-Didact, Librarian, and the Prometheans in the games. This is what Halo 3 set the stage for, the first time we delved into the lore of Halo’s ancient era with such a great deal of depth. And Halo 4 concludes with the Composition of seven million humans who form the Promethean Knight army of the Ur-Didact, and later Jul ‘Mdama. I’m going to count the Janus Key as part of this as well.
3) The loss of Cortana. This hardly requires explanation!
So… going with this entirely arbitrary ‘rule of three’ I’ve decided to use for big things that will change the landscape of the Halo universe, what might Halo 5 bring to the table?Sorry everyone, I’m kind of cheating here…
We actually already know two out of the three game-changers in Halo 5, the third is what’s largely up for grabs. So we’ll run over the two known ones first and explore some of the lore behind them, as at least one of them is grounded in the esoteric marvel that is Greg Bear’s Forerunner Saga.
The Return of the Domain
“The Domain is open. Meridian is next. You only have three days. John, the Reclamation is about to begin.”
This came as huge shock to us lore fans when the Game Informer preview for Halo 5 came out and detailed scene acting as the trigger for the plot of the game, where John encounters the ghost of Cortana who delivers this warning and tells him to go to the Dagobah syst– er… Meridian!
For those who don’t know, or perhaps need refreshing, the Domain was thought to be destroyed when the Halos were fired. At the end of Silentium, the Great Gravemind sends down the essences of the Lord of Admirals and other ancient humans to deliver one final terrible message about the final great failure of the Forerunners.
“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 that so, Librarian?
The Gravemind no more understands the whole truth than we do. It is past all our understanding, from the greatest to the smallest. This reserve was wrapped in Precursor architecture, protected for many billions of years. Out there. Perhaps if there were enough time, we could find it. But when the Halos are fired, not only will sentient life across the galaxy vanish, but all that knowledge will vanish as well. The greatest treasure of all will be destroyed.”
Now the nature of how the Domain survived is unknown at this point, there are several ways it could have but we’ll have to wait for the game in order to understand fully. Suffice it to say however, the Domain’s presence in the modern Halo universe is a huge game-changer for the status quo of galactic society – whoever is allowed access to this will have in their possession the collective knowledge of one hundred billion years.
Likewise, when the Forerunners accessed the Domain, it was said that there were “no human threads” within it – that the Domain was incomplete. Now, there are two possibilities here – one, there truly is no information about humanity in the Domain and this will be our first exposure to it, or the Domain was simply blocking the Forerunners from accessing this information and it contains the record of all our history. Remember how the Lord of Admirals spoke of how much of our history was lost to a number of technological dark ages? Remember how he believed that our true home planet was not actually Earth?
To tell you the truth, we still don’t exactly know. In fact, there’s pretty much only two things we can say about the nature of the Domain in general with absolute certainty: that it’s an immense reserve of knowledge created by the Precursors as a record of “the joy of life’s interaction with the Cosmos”, and that it is sentient with its own biases, wants, and emotions.
The Domain spent over a million years trying to ‘save’ the Forerunners, something which is brought up in Silentium regarding the Theoretical named Boundless who got a bit too close to discovering the truth about the Forerunner (almost) genocide of the Precursors at Path Kethona.
“There is an odd story that for tens of thousands of years after [Boundless’] death, Haruspis kept finding her suppressed information floating to the fore in Domain studies. The Domain was favouring her, some claimed – but those tales are now considered legendary.”
But the Domain can only relate information that is already known, what has already been stored within it, which is why it needs people to actively investigate these matters of history. And everybody who ended up contributing to researching that terrible crime perpetrated against the Precursors ended up being killed by the Warriors (when they ruled the Ecumene) or the Builders. Because they knew the truth and they knew that their power would evaporate overnight.
The Domain was trying to save the Forerunners before the Flood even existed, and it failed because of the corruption that was inherent in Forerunner society. Humanity, indeed every race in the galaxy, now finds that history is circling back upon them – which is why the Domain will be the keystone to the Reclamation and the Mantle.
“Eight months after the events of Halo 4, cataclysmic events are tearing apart solar systems across the galaxy. Human outer colonies are going dark. No one knows what’s going on or why it’s happening. 343 won’t go into details, but confirms that the massive Guardians are tied to these events.” [x]
Remember when Bornstellar describes Janjur Qom being decimated by small automated attack craft? How whole continents of the planet were being lifted up and then smashed back down to the planet? That was accomplished by the likes of Seekers which were no larger than about twenty meters.
Guardians are over 1.4 kilometres in size… Their power must be immense, it’s no wonder solar systems are apparently being torn apart.What’s even more interesting though is that Buck wonders whether the Master Chief is “on-board” the Guardian at Sunaion, as seen in the E3 demo from last month. We then see the Warden Eternal tell Locke that “the Master Chief is called”, so can we infer from this that the Promethean presence in the game isn’t necessarily hostile towards John and Blue Team?
There’s really not a lot to say here right now because we know so little of these constructs, other than the fact that they will play a huge role in fundamentally changing the Halo universe.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what role you think the Guardians will play in the narrative.
The Return of the Forerunners
“Know that all that lingered in me, the memories and emotions of old humanity, when I was still flesh, is also hidden deep within you. It slumbers, but it shapes, and it haunts your dreams and your hopes.
You and I are brothers in many ways… not least in that we faced the Didact before, and face him now, and perhaps ever after. This is combat eternal, enmity unslaked, unified by only one thing: our love for the elusive Lifeshaper. Without her, humans would have been extinguished many times over. Both I and the Didact love her to this day.
Some say she is dead, that she died on Earth. But that is demonstrably untrue. One of you almost certainly carries Vinnevra and Riser’s old spirits within. Only the Lifeshaper can find them and coax my friends back to life.
And after a hundred thousand years of exploration and study… I know where to find her.”
I don’t know about you, but when I watched the latest ViDoc, A Hero Reborn, the music at the end (from 11:00 to 11:55) really conjured up a particular scene in my imagination. It just really sounds like the kind of music track that would play during the final scene of the game before the credits roll, and it makes me think of an ending sort of like Mass Effect 2’s where Shepard is staring out into space as we cut to the Reapers awakening and bearing down upon the Milky Way.
Imagine that, but with the Forerunners finally returning from their Great Journey…
This is actually something I’ve had in my head since early 2012 when I watched this video on Youtube.
We’ve known since IRIS came out in 2007 that there were Forerunners who survived the firing of the Halos, and then the Halo 3 Terminals further reinforced that when the Great Journey is brought up. The final confirmation came in 2013 in the form of Halo: Rebirth, Greg Bear’s epilogue to the Forerunner Saga – you can either listen to it here, or read the transcript here.
At the end of Primordium, Chakas believes that he has found the Librarian – that she did not actually die on Earth. However, the ambiguity of this is established by Greg by having her only be referred to as “the elusive Lifeshaper”. We know from Silentium that the Librarian passed her title of Lifeshaper down to another Forerunner who the Librarian thought of almost as a daughter, named Chant-to-Green.
Chant survived the firing of the Halos with the IsoDidact and a group of Lifeworkers and Warrior-Servants on the Lesser Ark, she then spearheaded the final act of the Conservation Measure by reseeding the galaxy with the species they had catalogued, and then they disappeared with the rest of the survivors as they went on the Great Journey.
The UNSC Rubicon, the ship Chakas stole, has been missing since about 2554 – the ship has therefore been journeying for almost half a decade come Halo 5, so it’s only a matter of time before this strand of the story is picked up again, which is reinforced by how it was referenced a number of times in Hunters in the Dark.
This, I think, will be the third biggest game-changer of Halo 5 – and I reckon it’s what the game will end with. It’s what I’d do if I were telling this story. I think the third act of Halo 5 is going to be absolutely crazy, we’re heading towards the mid-point of the Reclaimer Saga now so there’s got to be some huge revelations on the horizon. The return of the Forerunners is a seed that has been sown for eight years now, it has taken root in the fiction since IRIS and I believe that now is the time that it will begin to flower.Those are just some of my predictions for what I think is going to happen, I’d love to hear what yours are.
We’re literally about three months away from finding out the truth, and we’ve still got a slew of awesome Halo fiction coming in the meantime with the continuation of the Absolute Record arc in Escalation, Saint’s Testimony, Last Light, Hunt the Truth season 2, and then we end the year with Joe Staten bringing about the return of our favourite Shipmaster.
This is perhaps the most exciting time to be a lore fan, we’re on the verge of the next great leap forward for the Halo universe and it’s gonna be a whopper!