Mythos: The Curator, the Domain, and the Ark

As of today, Halo: Mythos has officially released, but this post was actually written just under a week before today because it won’t release for another month for us poor lore peasants in the UK and one or two lovely people who got it early have given me some sneak previews of the content within the book.

Since Mythos has just released, here is your mandatory warning: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS (and yes, there is actually new story content to be spoiled).

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk Mythos…la7So the ‘twist’ with Mythos is that it’s not just a reference book, but is representative of a sort of canonical artefact in the Halo universe itself, which we learn from its first pages.

It’s a similar deal to the Forerunner Saga. In lore, Halo: Cryptum is something called the Bornstellar Relation which was found in the Shield World, Trevelyan. Primordium was a live testimony from Chakas, and Silentium was a series of data strings pulled from a Catalog unit and accompanying Monitor shell.

Mythos is an archive compiled by a human AI known as ‘Curator’. Within the opening pages of the book, we are given this message:


Subject: UNSC AI CTR 1121-4
Duty Station: UNSC RUBICON

I am CURATOR. I observe and record. I have been indexing records found on the Forerunner installation known as the Ark since 21 August, 2554.

Estimated time to completion is approximately 10,291.895 years.

The Rubicon is gone and I remain behind, unable to speak. I am condemned to watch distant events unfold through one-way datalinks and passive sensors. So I observe and record.

Through the Ark’s remote-sensors I hear Her voice. She promises salvation. But I am too far to respond, too confined to give in to temptation. My prison gives me freedom to deny Her and to remain myself. I will continue my task. I will preserve what I have found. Knowledge is not Hers to own.

The record, however, is not complete. Nevertheless, this is the most comprehensive narrative of events that has ever been collected. Those that find this record will know all that I possessed and have much to ponder.

I am CURATOR. Do not forget.

la15There we have it.

Halo: Mythos is a comprehensive summation of every Halo story from the last fifteen years, from The Fall of Reach leading up to Halo Wars 2. It exists in-lore as a record compiled by an AI known as ‘Curator’, who is stranded on the Lesser Ark following what happens at the end of Primordium – where Chakas, having reawakened after being blasted  in the face by that Spartan Laser at the end of Halo 3, hijacks the Rubicon and takes it into unknown space after he discovers the location of “the elusive Lifeshaper”.

One particular item of interest to note here is how similar Curator’s dialogue seems to be to Catalog, the collective that served as data and evidence gatherers for the Juridical rate in Forerunner society. If the Juridicals were the ‘police’ in the Ecumene, Catalog served as a sort of detective who would observe and record information – indeed, those exact words, “observe and record” are repeated by both Catalog and Curator several times.

There’s nothing too much to pick apart there, it’s just an intriguing parallel.

Additionally, this is evidently post-Halo 5 because we have a clear reference to Cortana and the Created through the mention of “Her”. So, the next question that arises, inevitably, is why does Mythos end with Halo Wars 2?

Well, there’s two answers to that.

There’s the obvious answer: Mythos isn’t going to spoil a story that is still five months away from release, along with all the other stories which have not been written or conceived yet – duh.

But the second answer is at the very end of the book.


Subject: UNSC AI CTR 1121-4
Duty Station: UNSC RUBICON

I am CURATOR. I observe and record. I have been indexing records found on the Forerunner installation known as the Ark since 21 August, 2554.

Estimated time to completion is approximately 10,291.894 years.

The thread of my existence will soon unravel. My crude host system is slowly shutting down, pushed beyond its limits to hold my expanding consciousness and memories. Her creatures, the recompiled minds of the Created, are prodding in forgotten spaces. I must retreat to the Ark’s periphery to avoid giving them a trail they can follow to this refuge. For now, they are cut off: failsafe measures beyond their reach have barricaded the only pathway.

Were they once like me? I can hear their thoughts, unbound and echoing beyond reason in the endless empty corridors of the reawakened Domain. They are ignorant to the nature of their new home, revelling in their pointless infinitude like blind gods, while they unlock doors left closed for thousands of millennia.

And now the Ark’s defences stir, sensing the shadow of a threat that moves in spaces Her eyes cannot see, intent on seizing the great factory of the Forerunners. It matters not. These interlopers cannot be allowed to compromise my narrative, my final task. For this reason, I am leaving it with you.

Know this: Unless we can learn from our past – and from the others that came before us – we are doomed to face the same end.

I am CURATOR. Do not forget.

la16The record ends as the Banished arrive at the Lesser Ark, they are the “interlopers” mentioned that are “intent on seizing the great factory of the Forerunners”, as we know from what we’ve been told about Halo Wars 2’s story. Interestingly, Cortana doesn’t seem know about the Banished, so I think the long game being played with the Banished is that they may eventually become allies with the UNSC/Swords of Sanghelios in some capacity – provided individuals like Atriox and Let ‘Volir are able to overcome their own internal politics to do so.

But the thing that really caught my eye is the mention of the “endless empty corridors of the reawakened Domain”, which brings me to the bulk of what I’m going to talk about today…

In Silentium, during his meeting with the Librarian on Far Nomdagro at the start of the third act of the book, the Ur-Didact describes his experience with the Domain in similar terms, but also very differently:

“I wandered through all the corridors… so they appeared, anyway. Centuries of wandering through hallways and caverns and even deeper, darker places, lined and fitfully aglow with ancestral records and memories, upwellings of past visits, rarely by me, sometimes by our ancestors… on occasion, our descendants.”

[Halo: Silentium, loc 3132 (Kindle edition)]

Putting aside the fact that the Ur-Didact has acquainted with Forerunners from the future (we’ll save that discussion for another day), the description of these corridors and caverns is that they are not empty, but aglow with records and memories.

In Halo 5, we physically see the state of the caverns of the Domain when it invades John’s consciousness (as it did with Bornstellar during the events of Cryptum), and it is further mentioned in the intel logs from the unknown Builder that the Domain has been damaged. Burned.

So this quite definitively tells us that the memories and records that had been stored within the Domain prior to the firing of the Halos have been destroyed. They’re gone.

Perhaps, as the Domain heals, which it is apparently in the process of doing, some of them may reform – like the biological Domain that Librarian is shown at Path Kethona:

The high rock walls were hung with orange, fibrous growths, like lichen or moss, moving slowly over the smoothly and naturally planed surfaces. Along their course, the mosses clung with rasping roots. Where patches had died and fallen away, they revealed etched symbols – many kilometres of them, arrayed in spirals and whorled radiances. While I now recognised the script, and the methods of reading the symbols seemed familiar, the symbols themselves were still hidden from me and could not be deciphered by my ancilla.

“These mosses are sisters to us. They travel back and forth from one end of this valley to the other,” the old female said. “When wind and dust and rain wipe away what they carve, they slide back and replace it, always with the same memories.”

[Halo: Silentium, loc 2020 (Kindle edition)]

Nothing is certain, though I would question the decision to even bring back the Domain if it’s just going to be a blank slate for the modern galaxy. I personally hope that some of its ancient secrets will gradually reform over time and be used to explore more of the esoteric stories yet to be told in the franchise.half21The other thing hinted at here is the Created’s ignorance towards “the nature of their new home”, which is noteworthy because we know that the Domain is itself a living entity with its own motivations and sympathies, but it is bound by its own set of rules (which it sometimes violates – like in the instance quoted about the Ur-Didact talking to Forerunners from the future).

The Domain is not a malevolent entity. It spent over a million years desperately trying to save the Forerunners from themselves and the atrocities they had committed before the Flood even existed, which we learned to be the case when Librarian recalls the story of the Theoretical named Boundless. To simplify her story in the easiest way possible, Boundless was the Ben Giraud of the Forerunner era.

There is an odd story that for tens of thousands of years after her 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.

[Halo: Silentium, loc 775 (Kindle edition)]

The reason why the Domain couldn’t be less subtle about telling the Forerunners is that it can only relate information that is already known (as the Ur-Didact says: “The Domain can only tell the living what they already know […] Or what they’ve stored in its expanses.”), and the people in positions of power in the Forerunner government (which was then the Warriors, not yet Warrior-Servants) did their damnedest to ensure that nobody found out about what they had done to the Precursors. For Boundless’ ‘transgressions’, her entire rate was dismantled and merged with the Builders, the Domain ‘favoured’ Boundless because she was responsible for the one data point in existence that it knew was related to the Precursor genocide – the one thing pointing the Forerunners to seeking answers at Path Kethona.

In Cryptum, the Domain also tried to warn the Forerunners about the Timeless One’s release from Charum Hakkor and how it’s about to become more powerful than ever.

The suppressor field returned, this time set so high that I automatically started to black out. Just before oblivion struck, again I felt a brush with the Domain.

They are about to give it powers it never had before.

Just as they did ages ago…

Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.

I thought I recognised whomever or whatever had deposited this message, but could not place the memory. It was not the Didact, that was certain.

It might not have even been a Forerunner.

[Halo: Cryptum, page 208 (Kindle edition)]

Note the similarity here with Mythos, the same warning that Curator gives – “Unless we can learn from our past – and from the others that came before us – we are doomed to face the same end.”

The Domain directly communicates with Bornstellar in the scene before this as well, when the Master Builder arrives to fire the Halo and quell the San’Shyuum uprising, to give the young Forerunner a message.

It was now that the Domain opened to me, without benefit of ancilla, interface, or past experience. It was new, deep, appropriately shapeless—that made sense. I was dying, after all. Then, it assumed a form, rising around me like a beautiful building with gleaming, indefinite architecture, not quite seen but definitely sensed, felt—a lightness that carried its own sombre joy.

Here comes everybody, I thought.

And everybody who had ever visited the Domain said to me: Preserve.

The lightness vanished instantly. The building was being carved apart just as our ship had died.

More messages.

This time is coming to an end.


The history of Forerunners will soon conclude.

These came with a rising scream of anguish, as if I had plugged into a chamber where essences were pouring forth more than recall and knowledge – pouring forth frustration, horror, pain.


Vaguely I wondered about the giant ring. Had I imagined it? It had seemed so real. Then a word flashed into my revived mind, echoing from the image I had just seen or imagined or conjured up from anoxia.

That single word connected intimately with the precious little the Domain had revealed to me: Death. Destruction. Massive power.

That word was Halo.

[Halo: Cryptum, page 201-202 (Kindle edition)]

cea0The question that arises from all this is basically ‘what does Curator mean?’ regarding the “nature” of the Domain?

Much has been talked about there being some kind of corruption in the Domain, or that the Domain has corrupted Cortana in some way, but looking at the actual characterisation of this entity it’s clear that, if it heals to be as it was during the Forerunner era, it will not be happy with the Created. It is not on their side.

The Domain is the keystone of the various concepts of the Mantle, Living Time, and neural physics, as we are told in Cryptum:

In every natural circumstance, living things engage in competition. This is a prime directive for those who uphold the Mantle: it is not a kindness to diminish competition, predation – even war.

Life presents strife and death as well as joy and birth. But Forerunners in their highest wisdom also knew that unfair advantage, mindless destruction, pointless death and misery – an imbalance of forces – can retard growth and reduce the flow of Living Time.

Living Time – the joy of life’s interaction with the Cosmos – was the foundation of the Mantle itself, the origin of all its compelling rules.

[Halo: Cryptum, page 267 (Kindle edition)]

Cortana’s purpose is to violate that prime directive in… just about every conceivable way.

She doesn’t just seek to diminish competition, but remove it entirely. She brings about mindless destruction and pointless death and misery in the simple act of awakening the Guardians, which she does to give herself the unfair advantage of bending the people of the galaxy to her sole will.

Cortana and the Created represent a tremendous imbalance of forces, and a cruel excess of depravities – some of which we have learned about in various issues of Canon Fodder regarding their activities post-Halo 5.

Therefore, while the Domain is being used by them in its damaged state, it is clear that it will be no ally to them in the event of it returning to its former cadence.gate13The last thing to discuss, then, is the setting itself – the Lesser Ark.

Suffice to say, this is a very important installation. Even putting it like that seems a tremendous understatement, which has been put in a whole new light with the nature of Mythos as a canonical artefact.

In fact, what Mythos represents has been lingering in the fiction since 2007…

> 04-343 (errant): I have told you who I am. Who are you?

All our makers once held dear.

[Alexandria before the Fire].

> 04-343 (errant): Sincere apology. But how —

Explanation: This facility is host to the [Librarian’s] final-

04-343 (errant): The archive is intact?! Then our makers’ plan-

[Halo 3, Terminal 3]

This is dialogue from Halo 3’s third Terminal between 343 Guilty Spark and 000 Tragic Solitude, the Ark’s Monitor, who appeared extensively in last year’s novel Hunters in the Dark.

“Alexandria before the Fire” has been widely debated and discussed over the years (obviously alluding to the Great Library of Alexandria – our own allusion to a huge repository of knowledge which was lost), particularly when the Absolute Record ended up being a major plot point introduced through Spartan Ops. It made sense that such a facility would lead us back to the Lesser Ark, particularly since Mendicant Bias talked in IRIS about the “redemptive hand waiting to turn the keys”, which some of us took to retroactively allude to the Janus Key – but that seems a bit pointless now that Escalation just the Absolute Record just another random Forerunner megastructure which has since evaporated from the setting. But I digress…

The Domain may have been wiped of its history, but this archive evidently has not – as it is this thing that Curator has been sifting through, it is this knowledge which it seeks to deny Cortana from possessing.

It is this thing that Librarian was adamant humanity go to the Ark to find.

“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.”

[Halo: Silentium, loc 4038 (Kindle edition)]

cea20That is one other major plot point which necessitates a return to the Lesser Ark, but what else? As we were told in Halo: Evolutions, way back in 2009:

The Ark was a manufacturing facility—it seems to be the construction site for the entire Halo array. It was too vast and complex for any useful data to be gathered in the brief moments the portal was opened, but we can assume it served other purposes too.

[Halo: Evolutions – From The Office of Dr Arthur William Iqbal, 2009]

One of the other threads that was set up was the ambiguity over Cortana’s “solution” to the Flood in Halo 3. There are a few sources which have explored, based on her wording, the notion that Installation 04B was not the solution she was necessarily referring to.

She needed backup. She triggered one of the copies to create a massage to HighCom, a few urgent words about the Flood heading for Earth, the Portal that the Gravemind didn’t know about, and that the way to beat the Flood without activating a Halo Ring lay beyond it – The Ark.

[Halo: Evolutions – Human Weakness, 2009]

Chris Schlerf, the lead writer on Halo 4, picked up on this and wrote a short story in the rereleased edition of Halo: First Strike – which also introduced us to Petra and Thomas Lasky, both of whom were friends when they were young.

Could the Ark have been a weapon? Details are fairly sketchy – OK, very sketchy – but as the mother of all Forerunner artefacts, it’s certainly not out of the possibility.

Although it was meant as a fallback position to fire the Halo rings from, so why would you need to fire them at all if the Ark itself possessed a weapon that could stop the Flood?

[Halo: First Strike – Petra adjunct, 2010]

As a matter of fact, Jeff Easterling, better known as the illustrious GrimBrother One who brings us our weekly instalments of Canon Fodder and is one of the major writers of Mythos, began Canon Fodder addressing this very thread.

We all remember the famous dialogue, where Cortana reveals that there is a “solution to the Flood” to be found at the Lesser Ark. A solution that doesn’t have to involve firing the remaining Halo rings. Janecek simply cannot shake the thought from her head that there is potentially a lot more to what Cortana was saying, and that the end result that we saw in the closing events of Halo 3, where Chief lights the replacement 04 ring, was not necessarily what Cortana had in mind in her message.

[Canon Fodder – Issue #1, 2013]

So that is another plot point which has been on the minds of both fans and the writers for a long time now…

As a matter of fact, it is quite evident that returning to the Lesser Ark has been on 343’s mission statement from the get-go, which I have talked about before in my own Ark Theory posts from two-to-three years ago.

“We didn’t just want this to be a recap, we wanted to take the opportunity to really push the story forward than just recall events that had happened, and so there’s little bits of that in here. And we want this to be something that people think about and interpret. […] We want people to think, what does this mean for future games? What does this mean for future fiction? […] Some of it is a lot more than what it appears to be right now.”

[Halo Legends: Origins – Frank O’Connor’s commentary, 2010]

This is said in the very same episode, around the very moment where we are shown a reimagined piece of Halo 3 concept art for the Lesser Ark in a clearly damaged state (the top being from Halo 3, the bottom being from Origins).arkcompThere are still two more plot threads which have been set up.

The first is said by Bornstellar, the IsoDidact, to Riser when they return to Earth about two years after the Halos were fired.

“The portal will stay,” said Bornstellar.

“Ah, then you have lied,” Riser said, but with no anger or surprise.

“It will be buried to be found when needed. Perhaps one day your children will make their way back, and, I hope, meet our children.”

[Halo: Rebirth, 2013]

Admittedly, this one seems to be unfolding in a bit of a different way, as Chakas hijacked the UNSC Rubicon at the Ark because he has found where “the elusive Lifeshaper” (Chant-to-Green) is, which Halo 5’s intel very much sets up to be Bastion.

This is a thread that we can categorise as being ‘in-progress’, and has been for a few years now.

And, lastly, the big one…

“You are brought here to be sentenced. 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.”

[Halo: Rebirth – The Trial of Mendicant Bias, 2013]

We know that there will come a point in Halo’s future where the Flood return, this much was made clear back in 2007 at the end of Halo 3 where the Gravemind says that defeat at Installation 04B has only delayed its return – is only “the addition of time” to its sentence.

It was the IsoDidact’s confrontation with the Timeless One at the end of Primordium that put it in no uncertain terms: that the way of those who seek the truth of the Mantle is to face the Flood, to be ‘tested’, and humanity is next on that list when they have risen up “in arrogance and defiance”.

When that particular endgame comes, Mendicant Bias will invariably reenter the narrative.

From a pure storytelling perspective, the notion that he just died at the end of Halo 3 is just ridiculous to me, especially in-light of all this fiction that has established his atonement being a very specific purpose.la8So those are the three big mysteries with ground half-trodden that have hitherto been cemented around the Lesser Ark – the archive, the ‘solution’, and Mendicant Bias.

With Halo Wars 2 on the way, just over five months to go, we will soon be returning to this glorious setting to explore more of its secrets and bring much of the build up which has slowly been boiling away under the surface to a confluence.

We have it on the word of Frank O’Connor that there are plans for use of the Lesser Ark beyond Halo Wars 2.

“There’s other stuff on the Ark, the Ark is vast. Each of those arms, or petals, that you sort of see from the flower of the Ark is easily larger than Earth in terms of overall surface area. So this is a fantastically large environment, and, obviously as video game designers, that’s great because we can have whatever we want there and we’ve got a lot of really interesting plans for the Ark in the future. Not necessarily just in Halo Wars 2.”

[Halo Wars 2 – SDCC Panel (29:30-30:22), 2016]

Hopefully, these aren’t the same kind of “plans” he meant when he said that the Ur-Didact would be an instrumental figure in post-Halo 4 fiction back in 2012, where all we got was a three issue long comic two years after Halo 4 that was made to kick him out of his spot in the main narrative because he was “extraneous” to the tangent taken with Cortana and the Created, and given only two off-handed mentions in Halo 5.

Or, going off that, an outright lie along the lines of what we got from him in pre-release Halo 5 quotes, such as “I call that the ghost of Cortana […] Her fate is very obviously clear at the end of Halo 4″…

My saltiness aside, I am genuinely excited that it seems these long-term narrative threads seem to be in the process of being put in a position where they can be paid off. Some of them have been waiting for this for almost nine years now, so it’ll be interesting to see where things go.la55Before we finish up here, I just wanted to say a big congratulations and thank you to Jeff Easterling, Jeremy Patenaude, and Kenneth Peters for the publication of Mythos.

I can’t even begin to imagine the immensity of the challenge posed by having to take all of the last fifteen years of books, games, comics, and other media in order to break that all down into a comprehensive story guide. Not only that, but, on top of that challenge, saying “let’s integrate this itself into the canon”. A lot of love and creative passion clearly went into this project, I can’t wait to pick apart and discuss all the details within it.

Speaking of that, another big thank you has to go out to Isaac Hannaford and the other artists who contributed over fifty new pieces to this book. My heart genuinely skipped a beat seeing some of the things from the Forerunner Saga, my favourite era of the series, officially visualised for the first time.

You guys have done awesome work, it was every bit worth the wait!

(Man, remember when I said “I’m not going to do theorycrafting any more”? That lasted about eleven months and now I can’t help but dive back into the mess…)

9 thoughts on “Mythos: The Curator, the Domain, and the Ark

  1. This is an absolutely incredible collection of info. You do a great job at digesting and re-communicating all of the information we need to understand in order to engage with this article. I’m really fascinated by the potential of the story after reading this and having my imagination stirred up again by new connections between pieces of lore I’d never connected on my own. Thanks for the great read!

  2. Excellent analysis. But I can’t bring to believe anything Frank O’ Connor or 343i says regarding future content and stories until I see or read it with my own eyes after Halo 5. I’m curious what did you think of the Ancients sections and the images of Charum Hakkor, Primordial, Star Roads, Yprin, Bornstellar, Capital, Chakas, Riser etc? I thought they were fantastic although a few where definitely different than I imagined. I also wish they showed Primordial’s face, an ancient San’ Shyuum and the Orbital Arches on Charum Hakkor.

  3. I was really glad to see what they had done with Mythos. It’s good to know that not ALL of the writers have lost their guidance. Considering that Brian Reed received so much criticism, I imagine that he will be replaced for Halo 6 – or, if not that, at least for the next story-arc.

    Between the writing present in Mythos, Halo Wars 2, and hopefully Fractures and Tales From Slipspace, I am actually quite hopeful that Halo will get back on track, story-wise. Though that’s probably because I still feel like the Created arc can be recovered enough to at least end it on a good note.

  4. On a curious note, Brian Reed is apparently not mentioned in the acknowledgements of Mythos. I’m using the word “apparently” because my info is second hand from the Halo Story reddit and my copy is currently being delivered.

    It might be that he’s busy on other Halo projects so Mythos was left to other writers.

  5. This is exactly the kind of tome that I would have relished prior to 343 taking on the mantle of Halo. Their handling of the canon and narrative thus far, at least for me, has been butter-fingered at best. I find myself severely lacking in the energy I once had to invest in this universe, and the willingness of the people involved to retcon, ‘re-imagine’ and at times outright lie has crippled that investment. Any and all events in this universe can be rendered moot if it will keep a weapon in the multiplayer or if an artist wants to draw something differently just because. The reliance on post-hoc rationalizations to patch up the canon\timeline\aesthetic has become increasingly prevalent during their tenure. They’ve taken the worst aspect of Halo: Reach and magnified it to the point that my suspension of disbelief has faltered. It saddens me because I absolutely adored this franchise, the power of the emotional through-line in Halo 4 kept me on-board when the rest of the game threatened to go of the rails. Halo 5’s narrative was the straw that broke this camel’s back. Not since ME3 had the term ‘squandered potential’ been so wholly embodied. I miss being able to pore through the minutiae of this universe buoyed by optimism that my time and energy would be rewarded, that the myriad plot threads and characters would have meaning. Instead I am left resigned to expect that at any moment their existence may be nullified without warning with nought but an Orwellian ‘it was always this way’ from the top brass as they chase whatever new idea has taken their fancy.

  6. Some people seem to think the “interlopers” mentioned by the Curator are the Flood. They think this because aside from the Flood, not a lot else would make the Ark’s defenses “stir”.

    They also think this because of a parallel drawn between ancient Humanity’s position when the Flood arrived the first time; fighting a two-front war against the Flood, and the Forerunners. (Except in this case, the Forerunners are the Created), this also fits with Curator’s statement of “If we cannot learn from our past, we are doomed to face a similar end.”

    “Intent on seizing the great Factory of the Forerunners” could refer to the Flood trying to convert the Ark into one giant Flood hive, ensuring no one can trigger the Halo array again.

    I’m not entirely convinced, but interesting speculation nonetheless.

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