It occurs to me that Halo has been in my life longer than it hasn’t. I was seven when Halo 1 released and I’m twenty-three now. This series has been alongside me throughout the most formative years of my life.
As I’m sure is the case for many of you, I simply cannot imagine what it would be like not to carry these stories – these countless hours replaying the campaigns, indulging in the multiplayer, custom games, and Forge, lining up the camera for the perfect shot in Theatre – with me. Not only that, but Halo has been integral to my development as a writer too. Since starting this blog over four years ago, I’ve written over a hundred articles – from crackpot theories to novel-length analyses of whole games.
This is a series that I’ve lived and breathed. From the moment I stepped out of the escape pod onto the surface of Installation 04, looking up at the edges of that curved metallic band in the sky that looped over my head and back around to hold the ground beneath my feet, I was enraptured. There was nothing like it.
There still isn’t.
So, to celebrate Halo’s sixteenth birthday (though Halo sort of has two birthdays, since The Fall of Reach released about two weeks before Halo 1), I thought I’d reach into the depths of the Domain to draw up a list of my sixteen favourite super obscure lore facts.
1) Forerunners love hats!
Greg Bear’s Forerunner Saga remains my favourite piece of Halo literature to-date. I think it’s the magnum opus of this franchise and I wouldn’t change a single line of it.
Halo: Cryptum threw back the cover of an elaborate tapestry, allowing us to delve into the ancient era of the setting – following the machinations of cosmic abominations, twisted AIs, disgraced commanders, species laid low by their stewards, powerful and perfidious politicians. The scope and scale of it all was like diving deep into a whole other universe.
More than just their history, we learned a great deal about the culture and society of the Forerunners, where we had previously been acquainted primarily with their technology.
And this is where we come to our first obscure lore point.
Forerunners love hats.
We paused in the shadow of the tree while [Chakas] wove my head cover. Forerunners are fond of hats – each form, rate, and Maniple has their own ceremonial designs, worn only on special occasions. [Halo: Cryptum, page 37]
The extent to which hats culturally permeate Forerunner society is made evident in this passage, as it’s not just something each rate – each caste – makes unique, but it comes down to an individual level. Each form has a unique ceremonial hat.
To clarify: ‘form’ refers to the physical stages of a Forerunner’s maturity. When we meet Bornstellar in Cryptum, he is a Manipular, known as Form Zero, whereas older Forerunners – like the Didact – might have undergone around six mutations over their lifetime.
Forerunners even have a public holiday season that revolves around hats.
On one day during Grand Star Season, however, all wear the same style of headgear. [Cryptum, page 37]
Contrasting with the scale of how personal ‘hat culture’ is in Forerunner society, one particular day during Grand Star Season emphasises a more uniform style where all Forerunners of all rates, no matter their forms, wear the same style of hat.
We might infer that this is a holiday of cosmic relevance, placing importance on civil unity across the Ecumene.
Our hats were much more dignified and lovely than what Chakas finally handed me. Still, I placed it on my head – and found that it fit. [Cryptum, page 37-8]
Bornstellar is clearly very particular about Forerunners having superior hats to humans.
It’s an interesting glimpse at a cultural practice the Forerunners had that was undoubtedly not celebrated during the Forerunner-Flood war. But, as of Halo: Fractures, we know that this practice continued well after the firing of the Halos.
He was only nine years old, but he was already capable enough to guide the large beasts on their course through the valley. The great wooden plow had a rear-mounted platform set just above a broad, ivory-studded tiller – it was simple and crude, but it accomplished its purpose. From this distance, I could only make out the boy’s straw hat peeking out over the top, almost completely buried by the machine’s frame, as he goaded forward creatures three times his height.
He was my son.
At the end of all things, at the end of the Great Journey, Bornstellar and Chant-to-Green settle down on a distant, verdant world outside the galaxy with their son.
Our first description of him continues the legacy of making straw hats vogue.This amazing piece comes from my dear friend and fellow Forerunner fanatic Elizabeth Cope, sourced from here and used with her divine permission. Liz’s visualisation of Greg Bear’s Forerunner universe is just… singularly definitive to me.
You can view her art blog here.
Hire her, 343!
2) Halo/Doctor Who crossovers
The only thing that I love in this world more than Halo is Doctor Who.
Naturally, one of my favourite things ever is when these two universes intersect and reference each other (intentionally or otherwise).
The most overt recent example of this was actually in the first season of Hunt the Truth back in 2015, specifically in The Death Record. This came just after the first episode, where Benjamin Giraud uncovers an old Department of Public Record listing John – the Master Chief – among the list of the dead on his homeworld of Eridanus II.
Along the top-right hand corner of the paper are some strange circular symbols which a seasoned Doctor Who might recognise as Circular Gallifreyan.
Circular Gallifreyan is a written form of language used by the Time Lords, appearing as lines of interlocking circles, lines, and hexagons – not unlike Forerunner glyphs in that respect.Doctor Who has likewise made its share of references to Halo over the years too, two of the 2009 Specials stand out in particular – Planet of the Dead and The Waters of Mars.
In the former, a wormhole on Earth leads the Tenth Doctor and a group of passengers on a bus to a desert planet located in a triple-star system called…
In the following episode, The Waters of Mars, the monster is a parasitic lifeform named ‘The Flood’ sealed away by a technologically advanced species – the Ice Warriors, who appeared in several classic serials – that live in advanced armour, not unlike the Forerunners.
Back on the Halo side of things, it has recently been stated in the commentary for Origins (the Halo: Legends episode) that 343 would have cast the late Jon Pertwee, who played the Third Doctor, as Tobias Shaw.
3) The Unggoy built the Goblin in the image of the Forerunners
In 2016, amidst the flurry of multiplayer content that 343 provided Halo 5 in various updates, we were introduced to the Balaho battlesuit – the Grunt Goblin.
The lore tells us that the Goblin is the mechanical embodiment of the pillars that Unggoy believe their species is known for: ruggedness, agility, and lethality. It is representative of the best of their species, as Spartans are for humanity.
According to Canon Fodder, it is also “built in the likeness of the Forerunners’ pre-ascension form”…
4) Ancient humanity will return… someday…
Ancient humanity is one of my favourite things that have been added to the Halo mythos, and despite having been in the fiction since 2009 (introduced in the Halo: Legends episode The Babysitter, then expanded on in the Forerunner Saga) they are still a largely untapped well of potential.
That potential is, however, seemingly something of a time bomb waiting to explode into the setting, as Halo: Primordium establishes that they are still very much alive.
This includes Forthencho, the Lord of Admirals, who actually hijacks the narration of a chapter in Primordium during ONI’s interrogation of the recovered shell of 343 Guilty Spark – Chakas’ mind having awakened after taking that Spartan Laser blast to the face at the end of Halo 3. Forthencho, and many other ancient human essences, are still alive within Chakas’ mind.
In fact, Frank O’Connor has said that this is a sub-plot that he conceived with Greg Bear for Primordium and he has long-term plans for this story to continue, which he ends with a playful wink.
“I like 343 Guilty Spark, which we haven’t done much with outside of the first couple of games. I created a storyline for him that’s in the Greg Bear novels that really kind of reveals a weird twist about that character.
[…] He’s a tragic character and he plays this sort of ‘floating exposition fun robot’ for much of the game, but then turns heel and is a jerk. But I just like the idea of the weight of a hundred thousand years of sin crushing this personality down to the madness that he’s in.
And there’s a redemption arc for him… somewhere. *winks*” [Halo 5: Live – Story Roundtable (26/10/2015), 25:18-25:56]
I’m not exactly sure how this is going to work, as 343 Guilty Spark is effectively dead – it was a unique personality that formed when Chakas’ memories were compartmentalised, upon being reassigned to Installation 04. The compartmentalisation process hid away Chakas’ memories and experiences, the knowledge he’d obtained from the likes of the Didact, the Timeless One, other ancient human spirits, and even being mentally hooked up to Installation 07.
Chakas is not responsible for what Guilty Spark did. Indeed, Spark is barely responsible for what he did, as his actions in the games were dictated by the protocols his personality was programmed with. Chakas even refers to Spark as a separate individual from himself.
But we’ll have to see how that all goes down when it comes up again.At the end of Primordium, Spark hijacks the UNSC Rubicon and declares that he has discovered where “the elusive Lifeshaper” is (who he believes to still be the Librarian) and is on his way to her so he can reawaken the old spirits of his friends Riser and Vinnevra – contained within modern humans, dormant.
“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.” [Halo: Primordium, page 379]
The name ‘Rubicon’ seems quite telling for what this means, as it refers to the idiom ‘crossing the Rubicon’ – a phrase which here means ‘passing beyond the point of no return’.
To turn to more recent fiction, ONI has been finding more and more ancient human tech that the Forerunners missed during their purge.
Halo 5 introduced the Hellcat armour permutation, found in the vault of a shattered starship on a dead world, which Spartan-IIs have been able to integrate with almost perfectly (whereas Spartan-IVs have needed a longer acclimatisation period).
And in the recently released Halo: Warfleet, there is a report from ONI’s Xeno-Materials Exploitation Group on an ancient human vessel they discovered and have reconstructed the profile of. They refer to ancient humanity as ‘archaeohominina’.
Suffice to say, the return of ancient humanity is something that’s been building up slowly in the background for about eight years now and it’s a turn in the setting that I’m excited to see come to fruition
(I only wish we wouldn’t have to face grinding through the Created to get to it).
5) First Strike’s very different description of the Prophet of Truth
In December 2003, we were blessed with the release of a third Halo book – following on from the foundational classic that is The Fall of Reach in 2001 and the criminally underrated The Flood earlier in 2003.
Halo: First Strike, Eric Nylund’s second outing for the Halo series, picked up on the Master Chief and Cortana’s journey following the destruction of Installation 04 end of Halo 1, as well as the activities of the Spartan-IIs and Catherine Halsey who, the last we saw of them, were still on Reach.
The timing of this novel is interesting, as the development of Halo 2 was, at this point, very much in a position where Bungie were digging a brand new circle of Hell. As such, one or two of the elements it introduced to set up the game are a little… different.
The novel’s description of the Prophet of Truth is one such instance, something that I’ve never really seen discussed before.
In the middle of the chamber, hovering a meter off the floor upon its imperial dais, sat the Covenant High Prophet of Truth. Its body was barely discernible, covered as it was with a wide red cloak, and upon its head sat a glowing headpiece with sensor and respiratory apparatus that extended like insect antennae. Only its snout and dark eyes protruded… as did tiny claws from the sleeve of its gold underrobes. [Halo: First Strike, page 338-9]
The red robes and glowing headpiece is familiar enough, but a sensor and respiratory apparatus? Insect antennae? Tiny claws? ‘It’ instead of ‘he’ pronouns?
It paints a very different image of the San’Shyuum, one that I can only imagine was the product of Nylund being shown concept art for the character that didn’t reflect what ended up being the final design of the character and the species.
Funnily enough, it seems that whoever the people were behind the edits for the rereleased editions of the first few novels back in 2010 didn’t pick up on this, as Truth’s description wasn’t changed at all.
6) Chief’s nude scene
In William C. Dietz’s (criminally underrated – just to reiterate!) novel adaptation of Halo 1, titled Halo: The Flood, there a scene where the Master Chief slips out of the armour and steps into a hot shower.
Alpha Base didn’t offer a whole lot of amenities, but the Spartan took full advantage of what few there were. First came a full ten hours of completely uninterrupted sleep, followed by components selected from two MREs, or Meals Ready to Eat, and a two-minute hot shower.
The water was provided by the ring itself, the heat was courtesy of a Covenant power plant, and the showerhead had been fabricated by one of the techs from the Pillar of Autumn. Though brief, the shower felt good, very good, and the Spartan enjoyed every second of it.
The Master Chief had dried off, scrounged a fresh set of utilities, and was just about to run a routine maintenance check on his armor when a private stuck his head into the Spartan’s quarters, a prefab memory-plastic cubicle that had replaced the archaic concept of tents.
“Sorry to bother you, Chief, but Major Silva would like to see you in the Command Post… on the double.”
The Spartan wiped his hands with a rag. “I’ll be right there.”
The Master Chief was just about to take the armor off standby when the Marine reappeared. “One more thing… The Major said to leave your armour here.”
The Spartan frowned. He didn’t like to be separated from his armour, especially in a combat zone. But an order was an order, and until he determined what had happened to Keyes, Silva was in command. [Halo: The Flood]
He gets to sleep. He gets to sit down and eat a warm meal… and he gets to shower – which Dietz then goes on to describe in some detail how he feels about these basic needs that have come to him like luxuries. A warm, two minute shower is something that the Chief enjoys every second of.
We’re seeing him, literally and figuratively, naked.
It’s actually quite poignant because this is told to us in just a few lines: he slept, ate, and showered, and he enjoyed every second of it. And then we get right back to the action. The brevity of this scene is important because it’s a sad reflection of how fast that time must have passed for John, how these basic needs (like a two minute shower) are luxuries to him – they’re just stepping stones that momentarily come and go in order to keep him fighting at peak effectiveness.
7) Untouched Covenant history
We know a lot about the War of Wills and War of Beginnings – the two major conflicts leading to the formation of the Covenant; the San’Shyuum civil war between the Stoics and Reformists, followed by the Reformists encountering the Sangheili. After much blood was spilled by both species, the Writ of Union was signed and the Covenant was officially founded.
As time passed, over the course of the next few thousand years, other ‘client-races’ were inducted – by it by the way of words or the way of blades – which eventually culminated in the Covenant we see and know in the modern era.
But think about the timeline here…
The first species to be inducted into the Covenant was the Lekgolo, in 784 BCE. The second was the Yanme’e in 1112 CE.
It’s funny because I’ll bet that neither of these species are the first you think of when the Covenant comes up, particularly the Yanme’e. The Unggoy are a staple of the Halo series and the next species to be brought into the Covenant, yet that didn’t actually occur until 2142 CE.
That means the Lekgolo and Yanme’e were the only major client species for a period of thousands of years.
Two of the most alien… aliens in the setting, outside of the Precursors, and we have literally no picture of what the Covenant looked like back then. The spotlight is always generally on the Sangheili, San’Shyuum, Unggoy, Kig-Yar, and Jiralhanae.
The Yanme’e are notable because they weren’t enslaved. Their initial contact with the Covenant was indeed hostile, but they ended up joining as part of a mutually signed treaty and were primarily employed as mechanics – fulfilling the kind of role that would later be filled by the Huragok. But what’s the bigger picture? How did these cultures and people come together? Who were the notable individuals of that time?
Quite simply: What did the Covenant look like back then? It’s a period that has gone completely unexplored, so it holds a wealth of worldbuilding potential for future stories.
It has been pointed out however that Halo 2 might actually have some degree of reference to that time through the design of Sesa ‘Refumee’s Heretics – originally an artefact retrieval team.
Their armour is noticeably different to any Sangheili armour design we’ve seen before and since. One might say that it bears considerable resemblance to the appearance of the Yanme’e – the four fins on their back look like wings and the goggles doesn’t look unlike their orange-yellow eyes.
8) The Librarian’s appearance
The Librarian’s appearance in Halo 4 is one of those barely noticeable things that’s demonstrative of how the game subtly connects to Greg Bear’s Forerunner Saga.
I see very clearly how much the Librarian has shaped humanity since the end of the first human-Forerunner war. Whenever you look inward and see an ideal female… whether it be goddess, anima, mother, sister, or lover… For a brief, barely sensible instant, you will see the face and feel the spirit of the Librarian. [Halo: Primordium, page 375]
One of the results of the geas that the Librarian imposed on humanity was that we see her as our subjective perception of an “ideal female”.
Her husband, the Ur-Didact, gives his own thoughts on this:
“She is stubborn, brilliant as a nova, dark as a singularity, with infinite depths. I’ve never discovered the core of her emotions, her self. I wonder what her duplicate would be like, what it would feel like to wear her imprint. To so many species she has made herself like unto a god, that they will remember her, that she can manipulate them in future times.” [Halo: Silentium, page 229]
The Librarian’s own explanation for this is that she quite simply wishes to be remembered:
“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.” [Silentium, page 47]
And while she favoured many species, it was ultimately humanity that she chose to model her appearance on through the process of mutation.
Lifeshaper is her title among Lifeworkers – a term of extreme regard. Her slender body and careworn face, with those great, dark eyes, revive emotions I might have felt before assuming the carapace. I once had an eye for beauty among all rates. Yet the Librarian’s beauty lies neither in youth nor in physical perfection. She is in many ways flawed: a tilt of one eye, slanted lower lip, unseemly whiteness of teeth She seems to have deliberately adopted a few characteristics of those humans she now collects. [Silentium, page 21-22]
Upon meeting her (rather, the imprint which she left within Requiem) in Halo 4, in the main campaign, the Master Chief sees her as more of an elderly woman, clearly based on the likes of Halsey who has been a tremendous influence on his life as a Spartan and especially with regards to Cortana.
Halsey was regarded as the ‘mother figure’ for the Spartans, so an intriguing parallel is drawn between these two characters, as the Librarian is seen as the mother of humanity – referring to us as her children, and even being called by Forthencho, the Lord of Admirals, “Great Mother”.
The Librarian appears again in Spartan Ops, in Key, the ninth and penultimate episode of the season, in front of Halsey.
As you can see in the image comparison above, Halsey subtly perceives the Librarian as a younger woman. Perhaps she viewed Miranda, her daughter, as the ‘ideal’ female and that translated over to her view of the Librarian. The AIs that Halsey created, based on her own brain, also chose to look young.
Of course, the real world explanation for this is that one of these is an in-game model used by 343, whereas the other is a CG model created by Axis Animation. But the connection is evidently there and it’s not like Axis would have made this without any visual reference, it was a collaborative effort so I couldn’t possibly conceive the notion that making her look younger was a mere coincidence when it’s such a notable part of the Librarian’s character.
9) Halo 4‘s Legendary skull is the Didact’s
And I remember thinking “what on earth is that?”
That question went unanswered for me for almost two whole years. Every time I’d boot up Halo 4 to replay the campaign (which was very often), I’d see that symbol and just did not have a clue what it was.
Was it a Promethean Knight skull? Couldn’t be… their skulls look distinctly human, whereas this one doesn’t…
Why does it seem related to the Black Eye skull, with one of the eyes missing or shaded over?
On August 27th in 2014, we got The Next 72 Hours arc of Halo: Escalation (the less said about my feelings on that arc, the better) and the question was finally answered for me in a rather unexpected fashion.
It’s the Didact’s.
During a fight between the Didact and Blue Team, the Master Chief stabs him in the eye with a combat knife (to little effect). You can see the placement of the nostrils on the Halo 4 legendary symbol matches where they are on the Didact’s face too. To this day, I can’t believe it took so long for me to realise this, and I don’t see it mentioned very much so it doesn’t appear to be common knowledge.
10) Red vs Blue: Forerunner edition
D’you ever wonder why we’re here?
This is a question we’re all too familiar with, and, according to the Waypoint Universe article on Installation 05, it was almost certainly asked over 100,000 years ago by two Forerunners in orange and maroon combat skins as they stood atop one of two bases in a boxed canyon…
COAGULATION – WAR GAMES MAP_SET/: 701-5
Discovered by the Coral Sea, current theories surrounding this canyon’s twin outposts suggests they were used by young Forerunner Warrior-Servants seeking to prove their prowess in combat arenas. Although naval strength or superior weaponry resolved most Forerunner conflicts, ancient warrior principles did advocate for close-quarters combat from time-to-time.
11) Bornstellar’s end in Halo: Legends
Bornstellar-Makes-Eternal-Lasting, the IsoDidact, renowned critic of hats, is one of my favourite characters in the series.
His arc throughout the Forerunner Saga is one of tragic loss, self-discovery, and self-sacrifice. In such a short space of time, he goes from being a child to having the fate of the galaxy placed on his shoulders and must commit the greatest crime in the universe – firing the Halos in order to prevent the Flood from consuming everything.
Last year, the anthology novel Halo: Fractures released with two new stories that continued and concluded Bornstellar’s story in a way that was quite beautifully poignant (although it kind of retcons the reveal in Iris that he’s alive and watching over the events taking place in the modern setting – but there are a few potential ways around that).
At the back of the ship was a dun obelisk, a vertical structure that detected my approach and opened by sliding two doors out from its center. In front of me was a hulking suit of armor – old and imposing. Its helmet appeared to wear a stern countenance, and the chestplate and pauldrons had been pocked with damage from a hundred bitter wars. All of this was distant to me, but it was still my past. It wasn’t a myth. It wasn’t a legend.
Not long after we activated Halo, the handful that remained made plans to leave. We committed ourselves to a single purpose: exile. We would let the white disc of the galaxy proceed with plans that had been prepared for its future, while we escaped to alien stars, spreading our numbers out such that our species’ days would be fixed. Our kind would not live forever. My wife and I gave our ship to the mountain, and we gave up all of Audacity’s trappings and comforts: unequaled technology from ten thousand generations. I looked at the top of the obelisk where a cuneiform pattern was etched. It had the bearing of the armor’s owner. My old name:
We left our armor here in the ship – armor that could have kept us alive for millennia. We forsook it and everything from our past, and started anew. Me, my wife, our son. We would return to the roots of my people, millions of years before. Simple farmers who lived and loved and died. I would fail my namesake, that was for certain—nothing about me would be eternal or lasting – but I would not fail the soul my people.
That would be eternal.
What we once were before our pride, before the wars, and before Halo. We were noble, kind creatures who served one another and recognized our small place in the greater story. That is how we would be on this world. That is how the last chapter would be told.
Our new life here would be the end of our great journey. [Halo: Fractures – Epilogue, page 421]
12) Andrew Del Rio’s magnificent moustache
I always get a bit teary-eyed reading that passage from Fractures, so let’s turn back to something a little more light-hearted.
Remember Andrew Del Rio from Halo 4?
He was the original captain of the UNSC Infinity, chosen as a ‘safe’ bet for somebody who was a good manager, but not a great, inspirational leader – unlike, say, Jacob Keyes.
There would be no legendary Keyes Loops from this man.
But there could have been a legendary moustache.In 2013, renowned Halo modder Lord Zedd uploaded a couple of videos of some original campaign placeholder scenes in Halo 4, files of what would appear to be earlier drafts of the script, which were accompanied by some images of the characters speaking.
This is what Del Rio originally looked like.
I can’t believe they changed him!
13) Original Ur-Didact awakening scene
One of my favourite Halo documentaries to watch is Halo 4: Composing A Universe, an hour long look at the process of making Halo 4’s soundtrack – my favourite of the series.
In this documentary, which explores the making of a number of specific tracks from the OST, it is revealed that the Ur-Didact was originally going to be portrayed by legendary voice actor David Anthony Pizzuto.
Chances are that a good number of games you’ve played since your childhood have had Pizzuto in them. From Crash Team Racing, Crash Bash, Jade Empire, Star Wars: Empire At War, Blazing Angels 2, Mafia 2, Fallout: New Vegas (as Lily Bowen – one of my favourite characters in that game), Call of Duty, Guild Wars 2, and so on. His contributions to recognisable sounds and characters are extensive – the Didact would have been the icing on the cake.
Pizzuto sadly passed away after suffering an illness in February 2012, so Keith Szarabajka assumed the mantle of the Didact for Halo 4.
While the role may have passed to another, we have footage of Pizzuto performing the Didact’s awakening scene – and the track Revival, which sort of serves as the Didact’s theme in Halo 4, was inspired by his memory.
In this single scene – without any added effects, purely through the performance of reading from the script – Pizzuto perfectly captures the Didact’s presence. The character’s stature, his movements, his voice… he conveys it all with a wonderful sense of gravitas that I truly would have loved to have seen in full.
14) ONI’s use of Forerunner tech in Hunt the Truth
Hunt the Truth is one of the best things ever to come from Halo. Not just in terms of what it offered with its compelling narrative, but the whole thing was just a monumental time to be a Halo fan.
Tuning in every week, reloading the page over and over to listen to the new episode the moment it released, discussing it with the community, the incredible performances of Keegan-Michael Key and Janina Gavankar as Ben Giraud and Maya Sankar (along with all the other amazing voice talent) taking us on this odyssey through some of Halo’s most harrowing fiction while catching up with some old and new faces… it was unlike anything that had come before it in a media format that I truly hope Halo will use again.
Something that has particularly been on my mind over two years following Hunt the Truth is a moment that occurs at the end of Crossing the Black – the fourth episode of the first season, where Ben travels to ONI’s Boston headquarters for a chat with Sully.
“The campus was integrated right into the city – a courtyard of dark buildings, mature oak trees, grass, walkways… It just looked like a campus. The only thing different about it was the sidewalk, twice as wide as it was across the street. In the inner-half of the pavement was black stone, a thick dark border, several feet wide that surrounded the whole complex.
I walked right up to the obsidian half of the sidewalk and stopped. Something was off about the courtyard in front of me, like something was missing.
I looked both directions, down the sidewalk… there were no fences, or guards. Plenty of pedestrians, seemingly, none of them paying any attention to the complex as they passed – except for one tiny thing. None of them, not a single one of the dozens of white-collar workers and shoppers and parents and kids, walking up and down that sidewalk laid a foot anywhere near the black half of the pavement. On a twenty foot wide walkway, they were all moving single-file right up against the kerb.
I turned and looked back at the campus, listening… No birds. That’s what was missing. There were no birds in the trees.
In fact, there was no sound in the air at all. Nothing moved.” [Hunt the Truth – Season 1, Episode 4]
Strange, right? Even by ONI’s standards, this is some esoteric technology at play.
But we’ve seen it before…
We broke through a particularly dense patch of twiggy green trees with bright red trunks and branches. The Florian was waiting for us where the long, low wall came to an abrupt end. Beyond lay a flat white plain, the inner lake on one side, its beach forming a line of black and gray, and jungle on the other. Once again the central peak was revealed, naked of vegetation, like a dead black thumb thrusting from the pale greenish blue center of the target.
“Okay, young Forerunner,” Chakas said, coming up behind me. I turned swiftly, believing for a moment he was about to knife me. But no – the bronze-colored human simply pointed across the white waste. “You asked. We brought you here. Your fault, not ours. Remember that.”
“There’s nothing here,” I said, looking across the flats. Heat waves broke the outline of the far side of the waste into velvety shimmers.
“Look again,” Riser suggested.
At the base of the shimmers, what seemed like more water was in fact refracted sky. But through the shimmers, I thought I saw a line of large, hulking apes … great white apes, no doubt from the low end of the Librarian’s folly. They came and went with the mirage—and then steadied, not alive but frozen: carved from stone and left to stand out on the flats like pieces on a game board.
A cooling wind whispered outward from the black peak, brushing away the rising heat, and the ape figures vanished.
Not a mirage after all. Something more deceptive.
I bent to pick up a bit of the soil. Coral and white sand mixed with fine hard volcanic ash. The whole area smelled faintly of ancient fire.
I looked between the human guides, speechless.
“Walk,” Riser suggested.
The walk to the center of the white waste took longer than I expected, but soon enough it dawned on me that we were crossing a baffler—a place protected by geometric distortions—or at the very least a dazzler, protected by delusions. [Cryptum, page]
When Halo: Cryptum released back in 2011, we learned of two pieces of Forerunner technology known as a ‘baffler’ and a ‘dazzler’. A baffler was a form of active camouflage that used geometric distortions to construct certain images, while dazzlers cause visual and auditory hallucinations.
Both of these were used as a means to protect the Didact’s Cryptum on Earth when Bornstellar, Chakas, and Riser are exploring Djamonkin Crater. The “white apes” they saw were actually War Sphinxes. This camouflage technology is so densely powerful that even deep scans from Forerunner vessels cannot detect any anomalies from it.
And ONI has found a way to reverse-engineer it, according to the Waypoint Universe page on ONI Prowlers.
The reverse-engineering of active camouflage systems and limited integration of Forerunner “baffler” sensor distortion technology simply enhanced the vessels inherent stealth capabilities, allowing the vessels to avoid or defeat detection techniques that the Covenant had developed during the War.
15) Thel ‘Vadam has… children? Maybe?
This is a weird one… a really weird one.
Something that has sort of been forgotten about Tobias Buckell’s first Halo novel, The Cole Protocol, is the implication that Thel ‘Vadam has fathered children…
In his earlier years, back when he was really quite a nasty piece of work, Thel was obsessed with his family’s lineage and what bloody conquest of his would contribute to the ‘Vadam saga wall in his keep.
Now, it’s not unexpected that this is the case, as it was a societal convention that swordsmen could have their pick of wives to pass on their genes, but it’s just… odd to me to imagine there might be a bunch of mini-Thels out there on Sanghelios.
He had just recently become a shipmaster, something he’d longed to attain ever since he’d stood on the stone walls of his keep and looked up at the stars and wondered what amazing things might be waiting for him up there.
Now, with another ship and more troops under his command, the dream of becoming a fleetmaster seemed within reach.
With a promotion like this, Thel would need to send a message home to the keep elders. He would have more wives brought to the keep. It was time for Thel to create more alliances on the homeworld. It was time to expand the rooms, and father more children to pack the common rooms. The line of Vadam would be continued in strength.
The keep’s poet would add a line to the family saga, celebrating Thel’s furthering rank. Thel would be the most renowned Vadam yet. [Halo: The Cole Protocol, page 146-7 (Kindle edition)]
I’m not big on shipping, but this is something that has been part of my perception of those two characters for so long it’s practically unspoken canon. The ending to Joe Staten’s wonderful novella Shadow of Intent only compounded on those feelings…
“High Charity…” the Arbiter said, when he’d finished reading the report. “So Preparation wasn’t the only snake who slithered out of that nest.”
“There will be others like him,” Rtas said. “Hiding, scheming.” “Someone will have to stop them.” The Arbiter clasped his hands behind his back. “But it does not have to be you, Rtas ‘Vadum. Many shipmasters have given up their commands, returned to their keeps here to farm the land or fish the seas. Sanghelios needs wise leaders, now more than ever. I would never order you to leave Shadow of Intent. But know that if you do, no one will doubt your bravery or commitment.”
Rtas grasped the railing of the holo-tank. Through it, he could feel the distant rumble of the carrier’s reactors – the familiar rhythm of his ship. It would be difficult to give this up… but to be done with war entirely? To rest and let someone else carry on the fight?
The Arbiter’s offer was tempting, and the Half-Jaw almost took it. But then there was the matter of the Prelate’s final, selfless act.
“There will be some San’Shyuum who deserve the full measure of our fury,” Rtas said at last, “and others who will not. I would like the opportunity to try to sort one from the other, if I can.”
“And so you shall, then,” the Arbiter said. “I cannot think of anyone more qualified for such a vital mission.” He paused, clearly reluctant to sever the transmission. “I will expect regular reports.” And then, finally: “Until we meet again…”
“… In Urs’ everlasting light.” The Half-Jaw finished the traditional good-bye, and the holo-tank went blank. [Halo: Shadow of Intent, page 214-5 (Fractures)]
Perhaps, one day, when they hold their duties fulfilled, Thel and Rtas will be able to just sit together in a fishing boat under Urs’ everlasting light…
16) Kelly-087 flipping the bird
This is the sixteenth and final point, but it’s actually the first one that came to mind when I conceived this article.
Halo: Ghosts of Onyx is my favourite novel of Eric Nylund’s, and before Cryptum released I called it my favourite of the series. My copy of Ghosts of Onyx is ‘well-loved’, a phrase which here means that it’s been subjected to pretty much every conceivable element over the years. The pages are worn, the spine is broken, the end of the book is infused with a great many tears as Kurt declares his last words to Voro Nar ‘Mantakree…
It’s just a damn good book!
There’s a moment in it, however, that goes somewhat unnoticed – and I would encourage Mr O’Connor to return to it, that he might change his mind about saying “I don’t think any of Blue Team have particularly strong personalities.”
This moment occurs when Kelly is engaging one of the Onyx Sentinels, which have proven to be almost too fast, even for her.
The Sentinel pair was half a kilometre away. One of the spheres heated and light flashed.
Kelly took three sidesteps as the ground where she had been standing vaporized. Globules of molten rock spattered off her MJOLNIR armor’s energy shield.
She made an ancient and arcane gesture at the machine with one finger. [Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, page 261]
Kelly side-steps a shot from an Onyx Sentinel and puts her middle finger up at it.
And that’s it! This, as always, ended up being a lot longer than I’d anticipated, but hey, it’s Halo’s birthday and she’s worth every bit of the word count!
We’ve just had the latest novel – Legacy of Onyx – drop yesterday and we’ve still got two more issues of Rise of Atriox to look forward to (which I’ll be writing articles on) over the next two months as we step into 2018.
This year’s fiction has been pretty incredible, it’s been a big year for the series as a whole, what with the formal introduction of Atriox and the Banished in Halo Wars 2, along with a wealth of peripheral fiction tied to that.
Between the Flood coming back in the games for the first time in ten years, the astounding visual journey through the interior spaces of Halo’s spacecraft in Warfleet, and seeing the triumphant return of Troy Denning with Retribution, -following up on Blue Team and the Ferrets… it’s been a really interesting year that has resurrected a lot of my excitement for the series by shifting its attention to parts of the universe I’m interested and invested in.
Before we finish, I do actually have a little giveaway for one lucky reader.
I recently acquired a code for Halo 5’s Limited Edition, which includes the full game along with the Warzone REQ bundle and the The Fall of Reach animated series.