Mantle’s End – What the Forerunners did AFTER Halo (and where they are now…)

“And those who made the rings? What happened to the Forerunners?”

One hundred thousand years ago, a great and terrible civilisation achieved technological dominance. They appointed themselves as the galaxy’s rulers, imposing a chastening peace over their protectorates for countless millennia.

This they did in the name of the Mantle. Their duty: to preserve diversity and serve as guardians of life in all its forms.

And then, one day, they vanished.

They were the Forerunners, and this is what they did next…The Forerunner story has always been my favourite part of Halo; from the moment I set foot on Installation 04 and saw the horizon curve up and over my head, meeting back at my feet, to forging pathways into darkness through its cavernous depths and rolling thunder across its vast earthen landscapes in ceramic-titanium armour… at the forefront of my mind was always this grand, epic mystery.

Scattered throughout the history of the Halo series is a breadcrumb trail of stories that lead us to ask many questions, and, occasionally, gives us answers as to what truly happened to the Forerunners after they fired the gun pointed at the head of the universe.

Did they survive?

Where did they go?

Are they still out there, somewhere?

That is to be our effort today: to piece together the quiet denouement of the Forerunners in the time that followed the firing of the Halo array and the reseeding of the galaxy.

Strap yourselves in, Spartans – we’ve got eleven years of franchise history to look back on…


A WHISPER IN THE STORM

Iris (2007)

We begin by journeying back to the summer of 2007, with the hype train for the release of Halo 3 reaching its apex due to some of the most sensational marketing the industry has ever known.

Microsoft’s marketing strategy was a five-phase assault of CG, in-game, and live action trailers; an online beta; developer documentaries; promotional partner activity with big-name brands – things that are common for gaming now, but at the time were the kind of thing one would expect of a blockbuster Hollywood film rather than a video game.

Halo 3 was everywhere, voraciously expanding into the mainstream landscape of popular culture to draw in new fans across the globe and become the Xbox 360’s killer-app.

But amidst all that was something a little more subtle, something niche – and it was my entry into the Halo online community…

An ‘alternate reality game’ known as Iris.

Following the conclusion of the Halo 3 beta (a purchase which included a copy of Realtime Worlds’ new game, Crackdown – how generous!), a user named AdjutantReflex appeared on bungie.net’s Halo 3 forum and began posting cryptic messages.

These were the beginnings of the Iris ARG, which Halopedia and HBO have compiled a solid record of (though many links are now defunct).

Iris was the brainchild of some very familiar names, as it was written by Bungie’s then-content manager Frank O’Connor, with community manager Brian Jarrard (aka Ske7ch) and artist Aaron LeMay also involved. The intention was to expand on the the ancient history of the Forerunners and the Flood to set up the Terminal story content in Halo 3.

“‘Iris’ is a spiral campaign designed to take gamers on an incredible journey through the Halo Universe […] Led by an ‘unknown’ hand, users will discover bits of previously unknown information about the Halos, the Flood, the Forerunners, and the true origins behind the Halo trilogy.”

It’s designed to give us more information on how the great conflict all began, as we build up to the climactic conclusion of the series on 26th September.

Bungie content chap Frank “Frankie” O’Connor has written most of the material, with help from community manager Brian Jarrard and artist Aaron LeMay. [Eurogamer, ‘MS explains Halo viral campaign’ (18/06/2007)]

Oh, we got “more information,” all right!The most notable parts of Iris were told in five ‘episodes’, as the community unlocked each server when they became available. The extracts that followed were framed through the lens of a Forerunner who had not only survived the firing of the Halos, but was watching over the events of Halo 2 and Halo 3.

Episode 1 begins with the transcript of a Forerunner identified as ‘D-com’ (the Didact – that is to say, the IsoDidact) as he fires the Halos from the Ark.

“There is no peace left. No place where the parasite cannot reach. You were right about it all. Let us hope the final measure is not too late.

It’s done. By my hands. The pyrrhic solution is ignited. All I have left is the quiet of space to lull me to sleep. I will dream of you.

I feel no peril. No pain. No remorse. Is that normal?” [Iris, Episode 1]

What follows is a transmission from a speaker whose identity is not revealed, but appears to be a Forerunner:

This is how it all begins.
Just in time to, once again, dance on the knife-edge of oblivion.
To relive what the Halos have hoped to destroy, and more.
For two enemies now stand, where before, there was only one.
With fate we escaped, and fate we may relive.
I almost convinced myself that no one was listening; that the waves of the past would roll through once again.
But a chance remains to change the universe anew.
Learn of our past.
Take these keys and dip from the wells of history.
Perhaps through others’ eyes, you may find how to save us all. [Iris, Episode 1]

Reference is made to reliving history, of having escaped this fate before, and that the key to defeating the Flood is to learn of “our” – the Forerunners’ – past, which makes it abundantly clear that this is a Forerunner speaking.

We can infer that they are speaking about the ‘present’ situation (in Halo 3) because the speaker says that “two enemies now stand, where before, there was only one,” which refers to both the Covenant and the Flood – the primary antagonists of the original trilogy. As a matter of fact, it seems like this entity has been watching over the galaxy for some time – owing to their statement that “I almost convinced myself that no one was listening.”

One might be tempted to say that the speaker is Mendicant Bias, but that does not appear to be the case because in Episode 2, 4, and 5, we get dialogue from Mendicant Bias which is identified with ‘MB’ at the start of the file name.

The speaker in Episode 1 and 3 is uniquely and singularly identified only as ‘Transmission 061607’ and ‘Transmission 072507’.To further reinforce this point, the transcript for Episode 3 reads:

The left hand holds darkness, the right hand holds light.
That is how the universe creates, and that is how we proceeded.
A soldier who would one day destroy his brother.
We were the thunder and the lightning, and when we were finished, the universe was alone, drifting in labor.
Did we succeed? Did we fail? We did both. Depending on who you serve.
After all, here we are, witness to the aftermath. [Iris, Episode 3]

Where much of Iris was written with some of the lyrical flourishes one comes to expect of Frank O’Connor’s prose, the form of the text coming across more like a poem and leaving much for the reader to interpret, the final line is light years away from leaving anything ambiguous.

“After all, here we are, witness to the aftermath.”

The Forerunners survived.

They survived and they’re still around… somewhere…

Iris doesn’t give us any more than that in terms of suggesting where the Forerunners went or what they’ve been up to; much of the rest of Iris is concerned with Mendicant Bias’ story as it leads into the Terminals of Halo 3, with him telling us to find him on the Ark – concluding with the lines:

I promise you the answers lie in the Ark
Find me there in the dark
For that is where I abide. [Iris, Episode 5]

And find him, we did.

Or, more accurately, he found us…


LIGHT FUSE, RUN AWAY

Halo 3 – Terminals (2007)

The end of September 2007 draws near, but, for all of us, time has ceased to be a concept worth acknowledging because Halo 3 has just released and ‘real life’ can take a back seat!

We’ve got a fight to (not) finish!

There are custom games to be played and carefully thought-out gametypes to be laboured over with 300% speed, low gravity, Spartan Lasers and Gravity Hammers!

There are achievements to be earned; skulls to find; armour to unlock; maps to be Forged and screenshots to be snapped to adorn your file share so you can impress somebody on the other side of the world, who, like you, religiously looks at each players’ in the pre-game lobby, only to curse the very heavens that they forgot to veto yet another match on Snowbound…

And once you take a break to turn the console off, it’s to go and catch up on the latest machinima releases that now sit in the back of your mind, while mulling over the perfect way to ask Bungie “can i haz recon?”

Or, to put it another way…

It is no wonder, then, with all of this gloriously substantial content to experience, that the downright unreadable in-game Terminals faded into the background and weren’t part of the community consciousness beyond the dedicated lore fanbase that called the Bungie Universe forum a second home.

For those of us who persevered and delved into these obscure depths, we were rewarded with a story that echoes and resonates through the fiction to this day.

The question of what happened to the Forerunners after they fired the Halo array ends up having the same answer the Covenant arrived at.

They went on the Great Journey.The Great Journey is referenced in the seventh Terminal’s transcript, where the Didact sends his final message to the Librarian before preparing to fire the Halos from the Ark – which we saw occur in Iris.

“Mendicant Bias is trying to prevent us from firing the Array. He speeds back to the Ark, but he won’t succeed. Offensive Bias will stop him, and I will burn this stinking menace in your name.

And then?

I will begin our Great Journey without you, carrying this bitter record. Those who came after will know what we bought with this [false transcendence] – what you bought, and the price you paid.” [Halo 3, Terminal 7]

Note that throughout the Terminals in Halo 3, some text is bracketed (as you can see with “false transcendence” in the extract above) because, in-universe, this is being translated. It occasionally uses human idioms and expressions to approximate a phrase’s meaning.

‘Great Journey’ isn’t put in the oft-used translation brackets. It’s a literal, direct use of the term.

So the Great Journey was actually real, but it is yet another thing that the Covenant have misinterpreted. It is not a holy gateway to transcendence or some passage to godhood…

Rather, the Didact and the other survivors will carry the “bitter record” of this crime they’ve had to commit in order to save the galaxy, with the implication that they are going to specific place.

But where?

“The Mantle has not failed! I’ve already razed scores of worlds – sterilised systems, routed and [disintegrated] the parasite! We’re learning its tricks and strategies. We can halt this thing! And we can follow in Their footsteps!” [Halo 3, Terminal 2]

Follow in Their footsteps…

While not mentioned by-name in the game itself, the implication is that the Didact is referring to the Precursors – introduced in Halo 3’s Bestiarum as a Tier 0 species – and that the Great Journey was supposed to be something more spiritual when the day finally came for the Forerunners to pass on the Mantle.

This isn’t confirmed, however, so the Didact could well have been referring to following in the footsteps of something or somebody else.I, for one, liked to read “Their footsteps” with the context of the Forerunner Saga.

To my mind, the surviving Forerunners exiled themselves to Path Kethona, where their ancestors remained following their genocide of the Precursors over ten million years ago.

Path Kethona was sterilised by Omega Halo towards the end of Halo: Silentium, as it housed a nexus of Precursor star roads, which is why I find the image of the Forerunners going back to this place where everything began in order to rebuild it a fitting one.

The line about “carrying this bitter record,” the weight of their history, similarly manifested in Path Kethona as an ‘organic Domain’ – the enigmatic quantum information repository used by the Precursors and Forerunners as the soul and record of life’s interaction with the cosmos – when the old Forerunners exiled themselves there.

(That, however, does not appear to be what happened.)

Another thing to note is Mendicant Bias’ dialogue in the final Terminal, not just the act of him sending the Dawn to Requiem – the ‘Legendary Planet’, as it was known for many years – but the line:

“But I would have my masters know that I have changed.” [Halo 3, Terminal 7]

Mendicant Bias wished for the Forerunners to know that he has changed, that he has committed to his pursuit of atonement, and he speaks of them as if they are around now.

This bring us to our next piece of fiction…


TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION

Halo: Rebirth (2013)

It’s 2013, mere months after the release of the long-anticipated Halo 4 which has stormed its way to the top of my list of favourite Halo stories.

That period, spanning 2011 through 2013, with the slow build-up of the Terminals in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Greg Bear’s sublime Forerunner Saga, and those five weeks leading up to the game’s launch where I would practically sprint home after school on a Friday to catch the latest episode of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn

That remains one of my favourite periods in the history of the series.

In so many ways, Halo 4 brought the story that I had been building up in the back of my mind since setting foot on Installation 04… It was a confluence of a lot of ideas that I never expected to see actually come to fruition, wrapped in an emotionally mature narrative that dealt with mental illness in a way that profoundly meant a lot to me and many others.

With 2013 came the end of a great age, as the last piece of fiction before The Great Lore Drought of that year began was Halo: Silentium – the final chapter of the Forerunner Saga.

Silentium remains my favourite Halo novel, it added so much to the substance of the series (as its two predecessors did too), bringing the Forerunner story to a close as the Forerunner-Flood war is resolved with the greatest crime in history being committed to save the galaxy. From the beginning, we knew this is how it was all fated to end.

Questions were answered and plenty of new ones were raised, but it turned out that the final page of the book was, in fact, not the end of the story.

A number of chapters begin with Forerunner glyphs, which one could enter into the Terminal interface on Halo Waypoint. This would unlock an epilogue story divided into two parts: Rebirth and The Trial of Mendicant Bias.

Halopedia has a complete transcript here, but it has also been uploaded to YouTube:

This story is set immediately after the firing of the Halos, as Riser and the other humans who had been catalogued as part of the Conservation Measure are brought to the Ark for safekeeping until they can be returned to Earth.

Taking place over the span of about two years (seven seasons), it concludes with humans and Forerunners reconciling their differences and sharing a great feast to honour the passing of the Old Galaxy and to celebrate the birth of the new – the chance to start again, unburdened, for now, by the weight of the past.

And there’s also some awkward human-Forerunner dancing, as all the best stories have!

Bornstellar and Chant raised their cups high as well. Another Warrior-Servant, aide to Bornstellar, took a deep swig, then pursed his lips and violently spat out the bitter juice. Everyone laughed, then fell silent as they saw his foreboding scowl. The Warrior-Servant, at a glance from Bornstellar, wiped the juice from his lips, snorted an approximation of laughter and took a deep stage bow and everyone laughed again.

The tension was broken. Forerunners were gods no more. Just people like the rest of the k’hamanush.

The humans tried to bring them into their dances, teach them songs, and watched with humour as they awkwardly mimicked their smaller, lighter companions.

The festivities went on well into the night. The sun was just beginning to rotate back around the disc, a pale golden light touching the nearby hills. Most of the revelers, the mourners had already sunk down in sleep. Riser sat in the branches of a tree on the far end of the village watching the river lazily run sunward.

“Can I join you?” said a voice from below. It was Trial. Riser nodded and patted the branch. She climbed the tree, pulling herself up the branches with surprising grace for her size, and sat in the crook of Riser’s branch, dangling her long legs against the trunk. “You know,” she said, “Humans and Forerunners were always meant to be brothers, not to fight like we did.”

“Brothers fight too,” said Riser. [Halo: Rebirth]

Some time after the festivities, humanity was taken back to Earth. They were the first species to be returned home, a fact that always makes me giggle because I can just imagine the other Forerunners approaching Bornstellar and telling him that they like human company in small doses…

But too long spent around one-another will just lead to another war!

“We will do what we can with what we are given,” Riser said. “But what of you? Where will the Forerunners live?”

“I do not know,” Bornstellar said, “Not yet. All I know for certain is that we cannot return to these places. We have already meddled too much in the affairs of others.”

Riser grimaced. “Forerunners refusing to meddle? Is that a promise?”

“A promise,” Trial said.

“Truly this will be a different place,” Riser said.

“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.”

“I doubt even I will long enough to see that day,” said Riser.

“But it is good to think our young will rise to another challenge, as brothers should, making trouble, finding strength.”

Bornstellar felt this deeply, and even with his armor to protect him, the emotion was almost too much. “Hope,” was all he could say. Then they returned to the fish-ship and left the humans alone to find their way. [Rebirth]

With this bittersweet farewell, the future is left uncertain. While the guiding hand of the Librarian would certainly factor into several key developments in human history as we get closer to the ‘modern’ setting, everyone was left to find their own way in this (almost) invisibly post-apocalyptic galaxy.

Bornstellar hopes that, upon returning to the Ark, humanity will meet Forerunner descendants.

It seems a slim hope, but one that was actually confirmed in Silentium – as the Ur-Didact admits in a conversation with the Librarian regarding his sojourn with the Domain during his first exile:

“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.”

“Descendants?” I ask.

“The Domain keeps its secrets only with difficulty. It wants, it needs, to spread knowledge. It wants to tell us when we’re being foolish, but it can only replay the emotions and memories of those who came before. Still, rarely, it violates its own rules.”

“What about our descendants?” I persist.

“I felt their touch, their love. And yet, they were fading. The Domain is filled with sadness. A deep shadow has fallen over everything Forerunner.”

[Halo: Silentium, page 255-6]

The Domain violated its own rules, as it is sometimes known to do, to show the Ur-Didact the future – showing him that, in some way, the Forerunners do go on and survive.

This we know from Iris, where some vestige of the Forerunner watches over the galaxy in silence.

And that brings us to our next story…


INFINITE DEVIL MACHINE

Halo: FracturesPromises to Keep (2016)

We fast-forward three years to 2016, almost a year on from the release of Halo 5, where I was, truth be told, at my lowest point as a Halo fan…

It’s been a long ‘recovery’ process to find excitement about the overarching narrative when the story of the main entries has been so ludicrously derailed by Halo 5 dropping so many characters and plot points in favour of a story I am so vehemently opposed to. These were things that I – like many of you – had spent years getting invested in, eagerly awaiting the next major instalment to see how these things would affect the future of the series…

And then, well… you know the rest.

As we approached the first anniversary of Halo 5, a year of doom and gloom, we were treated to something of a follow-up to 2009’s Halo: Evolutions – an anthology novel, featuring short stories from lots of talented authors that I find compelling to reread to this day.

This was Halo: Fractures, which had some truly wonderful short stories from a range of talent both new and old to the series.

It’s a fantastic book that I highly recommend picking up if you haven’t, and there are two stories in it that deal with the aftermath of Rebirth and what the Forerunners got up to at the end of all things.

The first story is titled Promises to Keep, written by Christie Golden (renowned for novels she’s written for Star TrekStar WarsWorld of Warcraft, and Starcraft).

It follows the IsoDidact – now simply naming himself Bornstellar – and the other surviving Forerunners as they near the completion of the Conservation Measure (the Librarian’s plan to preserve and reseed life after the firing of the Halo array). It picks up over a century after the Rebirth epilogue, as the Forerunners prepare to deliver the final species, the San’Shyuum, back to their homeworld (Janjur Qom).

The deep shadow of grief hangs over these Forerunner survivors, who busy themselves with the Conservation Measure as their way of making what reparations they can.

Prior to the events of this story, Bornstellar and Chant-to-Green (the new Lifeshaper, appointed by the Librarian at the end of Silentium, who looked at her as a daughter) struck up a short-lived romance to cope with their shared grief over the Librarian’s death. They, however, mutually decide to find other ways of dealing with this loss.

For Bornstellar, this means replaying every memory of the time he and the Librarian shared together. He loses himself in the past…It is an oft-asked question by many in the community why the Forerunners seemingly didn’t reseed themselves, as they did the species they catalogued. Promises to Keep addresses this by telling us that they did indeed have this plan in-mind.

“Soon it will be time to reseed Forerunners,” Bornstellar now said.

The idea had been his, established early on. They had meddled enough, their misguided appropriation of the Mantle hurting more than it helped. Bornstellar’s had been the voice that had given the order to fire the Halo Array and kill all sentient life in the galaxy. Chant’s was the hand that helped to make it fruitful again.

“Do you know where yet?” she inquired.

He shook his head. All agreed on the general principle – that, when the reseeding had been completed, they would depart the galaxy forever – but there had been so much work right in front of them, immediate and vital, that their attention had been focused exclusively on that.

They still had a few years to decide, while they integrated the San’Shyuum, but it was now their next step, not some nebulous ideal.

“Away from here, is all I know. We all must be in agreement.” [Halo: FracturesPromises to Keep, page 86]

Even as they approached the completion of the Conservation Measure’s final stage, the future of the Forerunners remained largely uncertain. True to their desire to make what reparations they could, their attention was directed towards others rather than themselves (which some might say is miraculous for Forerunners).

The general idea was that they would reseed the Forerunners and leave the galaxy – but where they would do this (and, indeed, whether they followed through with this plan) remains unknown.

What is known, however, is that a hidden cache of Keyships was left on the Ark – ones that the Librarian didn’t destroy when she stranded herself on Earth.

While the Librarian had destroyed all active keyships, she had kept a hidden cache aboard the Ark. These few vessels now ferried the last handful of other specimens to their  homeworlds, and would return to the Ark when that task was done.

Then…

Then the Forerunners would leave the Ark and begin their own journey. [Promises to Keep, page 88]

This seemingly innocuous thread is one that has been picked up on in Halo Wars 2.

Colony – the two Mgalekgolo bond brothers directing the Lekgolo for the Banished – are searching for this shipyard on the Ark.

Though it cooperates with the Banished, Colony appears to have its own plans for the Ark. Most of its attention is currently focused on the activities near the resting place of the Forerunner keyships; missions undertaken outside the knowledge of other Banished leaders. [Canon Fodder – Leggo my Lekgolo, issue #98.1 (13/4/2017)]

Why Colony is interested in these Keyships and what they intend to do with them is, for the time being, unknown…One day, Bornstellar comes to realise that he has now replayed every single memory he has of the Librarian. Every moment that they shared at the end of this awful, horrifying war – the one sweet note in this sour, discordant symphony – has been relived…

That is, until Bornstellar remembers receiving a message that appeared to be from the Librarian as he prepared to fire the Halos.

Offensive Bias passes along more messages. Broken, fragmented, desperate – from individual ships, the survivors of decimated fleets, outposts finally able to send data, now that slipspace has resumed its mysterious liberation.

One purports to be from the Lifeshaper, but there is a high probability it is fake. After all, it is signed Librarian. She would not willingly use that name to sign a message, not to me. [Silentium, page 327]

This message was, in fact, real.

It contained the information that the Librarian (who would sign her messages to her husband with her true name: First-Light-Weaves-Living-Song) was given by the twisted essence of Forthencho, the Lord of Admirals, who was sent to Earth by the Gravemind to deliver the most devastating message of all…

The firing of the Halos would indeed defeat the Flood, for a time, but this would not just come at the cost of every sentient being in the galaxy.

No, the firing of the Halos would do something else as well.

It would destroy the Domain – the soul and record of life’s interaction with the cosmos, the combined knowledge and wisdom of one hundred billion years.

All of it.

Once Halo fired, it would be less, even, than dust and echoes.

The Ur-Didact, locked in his Cryptum within Requiem, would not be healed by the Domain, as the Librarian had intended. He would instead face one hundred thousand years of silence. He would be left to stew in his trauma and madness for all that time.

To wipe out the present with the Halos was burden enough, but to burn the Domain was to effectively wipe out the past as well.

But a chance remained to set things right…

“The legendary Organon – the great Precursor artifact that you once sought with such sharp desire… my love, it has been with us all along. The Organon holds the Domain – and firing the Halo Array will destroy it.

[…] It is for those who come that I fear. The humans – the Reclaimers – will need the Domain one day. I cannot – I will not – die without hope that there is some way to repair it. If there is, I believe that information will be found at Maethrillian. We understand the keeping of secrets, we Forerunners, and next to the knowledge of the Flood, this would have been the greatest secret of all.

[…] I charged the two of you with reseeding the sentient species I have tended most of my life. I must exact another promise. You must return to our capital, if anything remains of it. Find a way to reactivate the Domain. […] Find it. Promise me! Or I fear that all we have done to try to fix that which we have ruined will crumble to dust.” [Promises to Keep, page 90-91]

A chance yet remained to save the future.As with the Conservation Measure, this effort to restore the Domain was done to ensure that those who would come next – humanity – would help them assume the Mantle and carry out their responsibilities (in theory).

The Forerunners had another reason for returning to Maethrillian, their former capital, as well.

While they planned to depart the galaxy when all was said and done, they only had a single ship truly capable of extragalactic travel – Audacity, which was constructed millennia ago for the Librarian’s expedition to Path Kethona in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

“We need the slipstream crystals and the ships that can use them if we are to have any hope of truly leaving the galaxy behind. We can search for a way to repair the Domain while we are there.” [Promises to Keep, page 92]

Those of you who have read this story know how it goes.

Those of you who have not…

The slipstream crystals are recovered without issue, they find that there are enough to fuel ten thousand ships for a hundred thousand years, but elect only to take a few dozen. They leave the rest for those who would one day be guided to discover them, and, in 2552, one would believe that they came very close to accomplishing this.

Rho ‘Barutamee was the Supreme Commander of the Fleet of Valiant Prudence, and shipmaster of Long Night of Solace – a name you may recognise as the supercarrier that Noble Six and Jorge-052 take down in Halo: Reach.

‘Barutamee’s personal pursuit was to find Maethrillian, a discovery that, had he been successful, would lead him not just to the slipstream crystals but to a much darker and more dangerous place that Bornstellar and his compatriots once set foot in…

The Mysterium.

Kept secret from all but the most senior members of the Ecumene Council, the Mysterium was home to thousands of treasures that the Forerunners had appropriated over their long history.

“Some were simply beautiful. Art for art’s sake. Others were… trophies. Still others were unique scientific curiosities. All secreted in the Mysterium, in the heart of the capital, all untouched, preserved simply for the having of them, of collecting, of adding to the glory of all it meant to be a Forerunner.” [Promises to Keep, page 95]

Once, [Bornstellar] had attended a farewell feast for one of the races they had reseeded, and had unwisely eaten far more than he should have. Now, he felt as if his eyes were being fed past their ability to digest what they beheld.

Row after row of beautiful, terrifying, or incomprehensible objects stretched away into the darkness; images of beings and creatures and symbols that were utterly unfamiliar to either him or any memories the Didact had possessed. What fantastical technology lay here, gathering dust? What solutions to problems simply sat, unimagined, for thousands upon thousands of years? In his youth, Bornstellar had been enthralled by the idea of treasure. Here, now surrounded by it, he could only gape at how limited his mind had been. [Promises to Keep, page 115]

It was here that the Forerunners found what they were looking for, the thing that the Lord of Admirals spoke of to the Librarian as the Halo rings’ fire engulfed the galaxy. Something connected to the Domain, a reserve that was once wrapped in Precursor architecture, discovered on a distant and remote world in the Milky Way.

This was a ‘knowledge engine’, the Precursors’ version of an artificial intelligence – though it was to an AI what a Keyship was to a wooden raft.

This knowledge engine, which called itself Abaddon, was taken back to the Mysterium and the entire structure of Maethrillian was constructed around it. The device was sealed in a Deadbolt, which was used to securely lock away Precursor technology. Only the First Councilor of the Ecumene would possess the key to unlock it.

In this time, it helped those early Forerunners to understand the Domain. Rumours began to spread as the years went by, leading the Ecumene Council to suppress information about this entity and beginning the legend of the ‘Organon’. This may sound familiar, for it was first mentioned in Halo: Cryptum as a mythical, sought-after treasure that could reactivate all Precursor constructs in the galaxy.

It was this pursuit of the Organon – a journey for truth – that began Bornstellar’s journey, leading him to discover the Didact’s Cryptum on Earth…

And it was this pursuit of the Organon – a journey for reconciliation – that ended it.Abaddon had been twisted by the firing of the Halos, just as the Precursors were when they allowed the Forerunners to commit genocide against them. Where it once served the role of protector, Abaddon sought to gain revenge by putting the surviving Forerunners on trial for crimes against the Mantle and destroying what was left of them.

Just as all seemed lost, with Abaddon moving in for the kill; Bornstellar realised his love for Chant-to-Green (not for her similarities to the Librarian, but her unique differences – for how she lived and what it meant), but feared that their mission had failed.

It is at this moment that Growth-Through-Trial-and-Change, a Lifeworker (formerly a Builder), previously featured in Rebirth, managed to use the Deadbolt key to interface with Abaddon and begin the restoration process of the Domain – sacrificing herself in the process.

Trial is absorbed into the device, which Bornstellar and Chant later speculate to mean that she’s become the new ‘template’ for the Domain, as they both heard her voice in their head saying the same thing.

“All is well.”

As we know from Halo 5 (given that this story was intended to retroactively explain what the game did not), the gambit was successful – this transdimensional consciousness beyond all understanding was rebooted, like a computer…

Yeah…

One hundred thousand years later, the Domain would return and be accessed, though not by its intended custodians. And while it retains its capacity to exercise control over a vast network of Forerunner technology, it still appears to be barren – devoid of the ancestral memories, knowledge, and essences that once kept it aglow with wisdom.

Upon returning to the Ark, the Forerunner known as Splendid-Dist-of-Ancient-Suns, the First Councilor of the Ecumene (who possessed the Deadbolt key), is broken by his experience of Maethrillian…

Where the other Forerunners moved ahead in pursuit of the device to restore the Domain, Splendid Dust stayed behind to face Abaddon’s judgement and found that he could not bear the weight of the Forerunners’ arrogance and failure. And so, he decided to make a sacrifice of his own in order to preserve the future and help the Reclaimers who will one day come to the Ark.

Splended Dust believed that the humans would need an interpreter, someone to help them understand the Ark and its history – serving the humans as Abaddon once had the Forerunners.

“Splendid Dust, you cannot be serious,” [Chant] said.

“I am. The… Abaddon… We did that to it.”

“No. Mendicant Bias did that, not us,” Bornstellar said.

“But we made Mendicant Bias!” His voice broke. “Our technology! Forerunner technology! We didn’t listen to him when he attempted to ask for help – we were blind to what the Gravemind was doing to him. We failed Mendicant Bias. And we failed Abaddon. It gave us the Domain. For eons, it had only ever been helpful to us. And we… I do not want to let the humans down as well. Therefore, I will stay behind. In the only way I can, I will stay. And I will wait for the Reclaimers to come.”

Splendid Dust had been a politician, one used to interacting with others. It would be more difficult for him than most to adjust to centuries, perhaps millennia, utterly on his own.

“You will be completely alone,” Bornstellar warned.

“I accept that. I want to atone.”

Like Trial, and Chant. Like Mendicant Bias. Like me. Like everyone . . . except the Didact. Who am I to deny him the chance?

“Then you shall.”

Splendid Dust accepted the act of being composed with more dignity and grace than he had ever displayed hitherto.

Bornstellar wept and was unashamed. He thought of Guilty Spark, once a human known as Chakas. Once his friend.

Toward the end, Splendid Dust had been his friend too.

“I name you the protector and guardian of the Lesser Ark. You will keep it safe for the true inheritors of the Mantle. Any thoughtlessness, or cruelty, or arrogance is washed clean from you now. Yours is not – cannot be – a happy end. And thus I name you Tragic Solitude… for you shall be alone, and your noble sacrifice shall aid the Reclaimers… but in doing so, it shall break what is left of your heart.” [Promises to Keep, page 122-3]

And so, another loop closes. Tragic Solitude first appeared, unnamed, in Halo 3’s third Terminal, conversing with 343 Guilty Spark about a mysterious “archive” which is still intact.

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 [Librarians’] final —

04-343 (errant): The archive is intact?! Then our makers’ plan — [Halo 3, Terminal 3]

“Alexandria before the Fire” (translating into our relative terms the Great Library of Alexandria – our own historical example of an immense repository of knowledge which was lost) has been widely debated and discussed over the years. It seems to have been partially ‘solved’ by the narrative framing of Halo: Mythos, where the human AI known as Curator sifts through a repository of knowledge on the Ark that dates back to the time of the Precursors. Full processing would take a human AI over ten thousand years to complete.

A detailed breakdown and analysis of that story can be read in this article here – Mythos: The Curator, the Domain, and the Ark.

Tragic Solitude’s story likewise continues in Halo: Hunters in the Dark and the Phoenix Logs in Halo Wars 2, long after the Forerunners have left the Ark and gone, at last, on the Great Journey.

Having fulfilled their promise to the Librarian, completing the final stage of the Conservation Measure and restoring the Domain, their minds turn to what comes next for themselves.

As their plan stands, it is to reseed the Forerunners and depart the galaxy.

The reality, of course, is far more complicated and unknowable…


ETERNAL LASTING

Halo: FracturesEpilogue (2016)

At the very end of Halo: Fractures is a final untitled and uncredited story (which I shall be referring to simply as ‘the epilogue’). It opens with the narrator watching a young boy guide a herd of alien oxen through a valley while using a wooden plough to carve deep furrows of arable soil.

It is not immediately apparent who this narrator is, until this line…

From this distance, I could only make out the boy’s straw hat. [Halo: FracturesEpilogue, page 412]

Veterans of the Forerunner Saga will be all-too familiar with the young Bornstellar-Makes-Eternal-Lasting and his love of hats, following his snooty acceptance of the straw hat made for him by Chakas on their adventure through Djamonkin Crater.

This was where they discovered their part in a much larger story, leading them to find the Didact’s Cryptum and their role in releasing him from millennia of exile.

Centuries later, after the horrors of the Forerunner-Flood war and its aftermath, Bornstellar, Chant, and their nine year old son now live together on a new world in a new galaxy. Having eschewed their advanced technology (like the inhabitants of Seaward before them), they live a simpler life as farmers who tend the land of their new home.

After the child guides the oxen back to the stable, Chant arrives with a basket and blanket – on this night, they would dine under the light of the stars.

The child asks his father to tell him one of his old stories, memories of a now distant time that have still left deep scars. To Bornstellar and Chant, of course, these are not merely stories, but the reality they lived. It was real.

Asking what story he would like to hear, the child responds with one of my favourite lines in the series…

“Tell me about Halo.” [Epilogue, page 415]

This is one of those lines that feels like it’s stepping back for the first time after weaving together an intricate tapestry of worlds and people and history and laughter and tragedy – a brief moment of acknowledging the legacy of this franchise as it then approached its fifteenth birthday.

It would have been so easy to make this come off as a heavy-handed, “oh, how far we’ve come,” kind of line. This could have been so cheap, particularly following the aftermath of Halo 5.

What I think removes it from that is that no attention is really drawn to that line being anything more than a child asking his father to tell him a story. And, further to that, there’s no true joy behind the story Bornstellar tells him either.

Bornstellar relates the events of Halo: Primordium to his son in the form of a fairy tale, as the truth – about Halo, about the Timeless One, about everything – would have terrified the boy. He knows that he has to tell his son the full version some day, that the abstract, mythical nature of those events has to be pulled back one day.

For it was Bornstellar who began the Forerunner Saga by saying that the Forerunner story is one that has been told many times, idealised with each retelling, until it is scarcely recognisable. The tale must be told, and the telling must be true…Bornstellar recounts Mendicant Bias’ defeat at Installation 07.

“He was given a just punishment for his crimes. And the warrior reversed all of the evils the enemy had caused on the ringworld. He… tried to make everything right,” I said, choosing my words carefully. “Even if only for a time.” [Epilogue, page 416]

He’s not exactly lying – the outline of the story is true, that all happened – but there’s some heavy embellishment going on. We’ve seen through the eyes of these characters that there’s a reason for those embellishments.

The truth is simply that ugly. That awful to bear.

From our perspective as longtime fans, the line “Tell me about Halo,” reflects our own emotional investment in the series and is a celebration of a story well-told from the minds behind the Forerunner story. From an in-universe perspective, from Bornstellar’s, it’s a stark reminder of the trauma of what had to be done to win a tomorrow.

It’s a line that comes loaded with history, complex and tragic. That is what elevates it as a line that really earns its right to be meta.

After Chant and the boy fall asleep, Bornstellar carries them back to the house and finds that he cannot settle. Recounting this story has provoked him, the image of Halo returning to his mind compelling him to go… somewhere.

He set out hiking across the countryside, ascending a snowy mountain until he reached a hidden cleft where he finds Audacity – his ship.

And another loop closes. One that goes back to something we were shown in Halo: Legends, back in 2009, at the end of Origins I.

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 armour – 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 armour’s owner. My old name:

BORNSTELLAR-MAKES-ETERNAL-LASTING

We left our armour here in the ship – armour 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 recognised 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. [Epilogue, page 419-20]

And that, seemingly, is how the story ends…

The Great Journey was indeed what Halo 3’s Terminals told us it would be: the surviving Forerunners exiling themselves from the galaxy, living under the light of new stars.

Where Promises to Keep told us that the Forerunners had planned to reseed their kind after the Conservation Measure, Bornstellar’s narration here about “spreading our numbers out such that our species’ days would be fixed,” sounds more like an epitaph for their people.

Did the plan truly change to allow themselves to go extinct?

Or, perhaps, does the “us” that Bornstellar refers to simply not include these ‘new’, reseeded Forerunners – only the survivors of the Halo array?

And where did the other Forerunners go? We know that they recovered two other ships capable of extragalactic travel (Bravado and Impudence) from Maethrillian, so they were split into at least two groups and the fate they chose was shared between them. Did they, too, give up their armour and choose to die?

Who, then, is the Forerunner speaking in the present day in Iris? If not Bornstellar, could it be one of the other survivors? And what of the Forerunner descendants from after the firing of the Halos who spoke to the Didact in the Domain? Where are they now?

And what of the child – Bornstellar’s and Chant’s?

It seems a remarkably cruel fate to impose on anyone, let alone a child, that they must die on this world, utterly alone. Bornstellar and Chant may be happy with the end they’ve chosen, but they chose it for themselves – they have no right to impose that sentence on their child.

To me, this feels like as much of a beginning as an end to the Forerunner story.

The child represents something unique – the first Forerunner to be born without the privilege of the Mantle, without the baggage of history weighing down upon them, without some great destiny to achieve or some galaxy-ending catastrophe to get wrapped in.

Where Bornstellar, like so many other characters throughout the series, was robbed of his childhood, the end sum of this Great Journey is a young boy who has the right to choose his own path.

The child would live a happy life with his parents, but I think he would one day feel called to greater adventure. Perhaps some time after his father tells him the full story about Halo, he would assume the mantle of ‘becoming’ Bornstellar, taking Audacity and the armour on the ship, and go out to explore the universe. This, I think, would be the most interesting route to go, opening up a wealth of new stories to tell from a very different perspective, be they in the modern setting or a completely different period long before any of the stories and events we know.

What is clear is that the end of the Forerunner story, as it is purported to be, brought with it as many questions and loose ends as it did catharsis and resolution.

In fact, this next story makes it seem like we’re just getting started…


UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT

Halo 5: Guardians (2015)

Stepping back in time a little bit from the current progression of our narrative, Halo 5 had something of a tertiary sub-plot of Forerunner logs in its mission intel.

This story follows an unidentified Forerunner of the Builder rate who survived the firing of the Halos, but was not among those who weathered the storm on the Ark. He is seeking a place known as ‘Bastion’, only to find that it has moved from its original location and is missing.

The Builder’s search takes him on an odyssey from Sanghelios, to Genesis, to the shattered shores of the Domain itself through death by transferring his mind, his essence, to a Durance.

He witnesses Cortana (sigh…) infiltrate the Domain, assume the Mantle, ally with the Warden Eternal, and take control of the Guardians. Worse, she detected him within Genesis’ systems and began hunting him; in response, he left behind the fragmented messages we come across to warn the humans on the planet about her intentions – noting, specifically, that control over the Constructor network can be retaken from the Warden, which is used by Exuberant Witness to free Blue Team from the Cryptum.

As Cortana shifts her attention to sending the Guardians out into the galaxy to impose her totalitarian regime (ugh…), the Builder manages to access the Domain and discovers that Bastion – whatever it is – still exists.

Halopedia has a complete record of Halo 5’s mission intel which can be read here.

So, what is Bastion?

Halo 5 doesn’t exactly tell us, but gives us a few hints – such as the fact that moving it would require “an impossible act of reconciliation,” from which we can infer that it is a large construct and the fact that it has been moved would seem to imply that it’s inhabited.

More helpfully, cut dialogue from the game tells us that it is, in fact, a Shield World.

“Confirmation of dormancy. Guardians are stored and prepped for eventual Reclamation. I make my way now to Shield World 983. Designation: Bastion.” [Halo 5, cut Builder intel]

Now, the fact that this was cut from the game leaves its canonical status up in the air, which is useful to keep in-mind. When this narrative thread is picked up on, it may well turn out to be something altogether different.

But let’s roll with the idea that it is a Shield World for a moment, and that it is where a surviving population of Forerunners may exist…

Could we have possibly heard of this before?The transcript for each of Halo 3’s Terminals (upon redirecting to the second half of the message) changes depending on which difficulty they have selected. The final message from Mendicant Bias in the seventh Terminal, for instance, only appears on Legendary – on any other difficulty, it will show the Didact’s final message to the Librarian as the pyrrhic solution is ignited.

But the first message of Halo 3’s seventh Terminal comes from a completely different character – not one of the titans of the setting like the Didact, Librarian, Mendicant or Offensive Bias, or the Gravemind…

It’s a message from a child to their father.

[Father],

I hope this message finds you well and helps you understand my decision. Today I leave the only world I have ever called home, not for glory or [the anomalous desire to end another’s life[?]] as you have [indicted]; but to [travel the path of demons[?]] to spare the hands of [another Father’s son].

“Had we acted sooner; had we acted more decisively…”

Living in the past is a luxury none of us can afford. We must learn from it, but we cannot live there. It is impossible to plan for the [now]–the present is ever fleeting. [The future] is where we must live–[the future] is what we must plan for.

I do not look to trade my life in order to preserve our past, but to secure the future–and if not ours, then the future of some [culture] yet to come.

Isn’t sacrifice in the interest of others what you always spoke of as being so noble? Should I have allowed another to bloody his hands while I remained safe behind a [shield of privilege]?

You raised me better than that.

[Filial Devotion]

There are many ways one might interpret this, particularly given the abundance of translation brackets…

Of note is the passage at the end that refers to a “shield of privilege,” translated from an unfamiliar Forerunner term. To my mind, this might refer to one of two things: the Maginot Line, or a Shield World.

The Maginot Line (sometimes referred to as the ‘Maginot Sphere’, and, in Silentium, the ‘Jat-Krula protected boundary’) is spoken of often in Halo 3’s Terminals, a defensive measure meant to protect the core worlds of the Forerunner Ecumene. In the final years of the war, all systems outside the Jat-Krula boundary were left to fend for themselves. From this, we may infer that this is the “shield of privilege” that Filial is referring to and they decide to leave that behind in order to serve on the front lines of battle.

However, that information about systems outside Jat-Krula being abandoned came in Silentium, which released over half a decade after Halo 3. The slightest alteration of context could completely change the message’s meaning.We might instead take Filial’s message to refer to a Shield World that a group of Forerunners have taken refuge within. We might take it to be Bastion; if 343 were indeed to canonically establish Bastion as a Shield World, then, this may be where that story will loop back to.

There were, after all, hundreds of Shield Worlds. While Mendicant Bias betrayed their locations to the Gravemind (as the Didact created him with the intention of hooking him up to the Domain to coordinate his star-hopping strategy), it is likely that the Flood didn’t focus on capturing them as they have only been present at one of the four we know of – Etran Harborage from Halo Wars.

It is possible that a group of Forerunners did indeed take refuge within a Shield World to hide themselves away from the Forerunner-Flood war, similar to how the Ussans in Halo: Broken Circle did to escape the Covenant.

It is even arguable that that this Terminal’s message may not have even come from the Forerunner-Flood war…

Or, and this is quite a long shot, Filial Devotion (a name that means ‘dedication to one’s son or daughter’) is Bornstellar and Chant’s son after he has been told the truth.

Filial quotes their father, who said “Had we acted sooner; had we acted more decisively…” but there’s no indication as to whether this remorseful rumination was during the crisis of war, or long after as a survivor carrying the bitter record of their folly – as Bornstellar did.

None of these things are certain, they remain shrouded, for now, in ambiguity and exist as fuel for the imagination, as the story goes on.

But there is, however, one last source to cover.

And it may be the most important of all…


CROSSING THE RUBICON

Halo: Primordium (2012)

The second instalment of the Forerunner Saga may well be the most important, as it is the one part of the story that ONI doesn’t know.

Halo: Cryptum is told to ONI by a device recovered from Onyx known as the Bornstellar Relation; Silentium is a series of data strings pulled from a dead Catalog unit and a Monitor shell, also found within Onyx.

At the very end of the Forerunner empire, as the Flood made major inroads and both Builders and the revived class of Warrior-Servants prepared their last defenses, the Juridicals were given free access to all citizens and personnel throughout the ecumene.

Their mandate: to investigate the circumstances alluded to in the “Bornstellar Relation” (“Destruction of Orion Complex Capital World,” ONI File CR-537-21), but also to investigate the delicate question of human and Forerunner origins, and the fate of the Precursors, who allegedly created both species.

When the ship that collected, repaired, and debriefed Forerunner monitor 343 Guilty Spark is recovered, more of these issues will doubtless be illuminated. For the time being, some matters must remain obscure. [Silentium, page 11-12]

They know that the crew of the UNSC Rubicon (commissioned and dispatched to the Ark in December 2553) discovered the remains of 343 Guilty Spark, but not what happened afterwards.

As we learn in the book, the compartmentalised personality known as 343 Guilty Spark was destroyed after taking several Spartan Laser shots to the face at the end of Halo 3 – reawakening the memories of Chakas, the human who was a friend of Bornstellar and was Composed in order to save his life after saving Installation 07 from destruction.

Also within Chakas are the essences of the many ancient humans that were stored within humanity after they were devolved, including Forthencho – the Lord of Admirals, arch enemy of the Didact. They are all still ‘alive’.

By Frank O’Connor’s admission, this is the set-up for a larger story somewhere down the line.

“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]

As I have remarked on before, I’m not exactly sure how this notion of ‘redemption’ is going to work, given that 343 Guilty Spark is, for all intents and purposes, dead.

The compartmentalisation process buried Chakas’ memories and personality until it was reawakened at the end of Halo 3; Chakas is not responsible for what Spark did, and, arguably, Spark isn’t either, given that his responses were dictated by adherence to protocol. We’ll have to wait and see how this story goes…At the end of Primordium, Chakas hijacks the UNSC Rubicon and declares that he has discovered where “the elusive Lifeshaper” is (who he believes to still be the Librarian). He puts the crew to sleep and sets off to find 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 appropriate, as it refers to the idiom ‘crossing the Rubicon’ – a phrase which here means ‘passing beyond the point of no return.’ It is appropriate as it seems to not only herald a return of the Forerunners, but the long-dormant ghosts of ancient humanity as well.

There’s no telling who or what Chakas is going to find when he arrives at the location he believes “the elusive Lifeshaper” to be, particularly since Chant-to-Green, who inherited the title of Lifeshaper from the Librarian, now appears to be dead.

What can be said with some certainty, however, assuming that Mr O’Connor is as good as his word on this, is that this will be the keystone of a major story in the future.

And, with ONI discovering more ancient human technology in hidden corners of the galaxy, while the fractured remnants of the Forerunners stir once more in the shadows, this story may come sooner than we think…

Or, it could be another decade away.

We just don’t know… but I’m sure it’ll depend on how many more narrative detours the main story will have to endure between now and then. Suffice it to say, this is the turn-of-the-screw moment that I’m most looking forward to, and I’ve been waiting for over eleven years now!

Before we conclude, there is just one last source to mention.


I KNOW WHAT THE ALIENS LIKE

Halo Legendary Crate #2 – Battle for Earth (2016)

One of the ongoing releases in terms of Halo merchandise is the Halo Legendary Crate, with each one having a particular theme pertaining to an era, battle, game (etc) from some point in the series.

The second crate’s theme, released towards the end of 2016, was based on Halo 3: ODST, with the intel dealing with the game’s epilogue scene where Johnson commandeers Dare’s interrogation of Vergil – the Huragok (also known as Quick to Adjust) that Buck’s squad, Alpha-Nine, rescue and recover from the Covenant.

Johnson inquires about the Covenant, on what they’re digging up at Voi, but Vergil is reluctant to answer at first. Vergil knows that humanity have allied with the Sangheili and fears that the humans will tell them whatever information he gives, that the Sangheili will come for him and take them back to the Jiralhanae because the Huragok have a secret they know will not reflect well upon them.

They not only knew the truth about Halo, that it was a weapon that would kill all life in the galaxy, but they wanted the Covenant to succeed in firing it.

That way, and it seemed to be the only way, the Huragok would finally be free.

But there was another truth that Vergil knows, which ominously closes this intel piece…Vergil knows that the Forerunners are still out there.

And now ONI knows, which is likely why they were so intent on finding out as much about the Didact as they could during the Forerunner Saga, owing to his history with humanity.

The question still remains: what manner of ‘Forerunner’ is Vergil referring to?

Is Vergil aware of the reseeded Forerunners, if that plan did indeed come to pass? Or is it a different group of Forerunners, as I speculated earlier with regards to Bastion?

Or is Bastion where the Forerunners were reseeded, allowing them to rise once more from within a Shield World (if Bastion is indeed a Shield World)?

The latter idea would certainly enable them to grow and develop without any knowledge of the Forerunners who came before, as some of the most notable species in the Milky Way galaxy owe their development to the Forerunner technology that was practically littered over their worlds. And all it has done is cause conflict.

Was this how the Forerunners sought to keep their promise of non-interference?

Questions compound upon questions, but they remain a mystery – for now. One day, perhaps soon, we will explore the answers together.

But, for that, there’ll be another time…


HISTORY CIRCLING BACK UPON US

To bring this to a close, then, let’s sum up.

Iris was the origin point of a story spanning the last eleven years, introducing us to the past world of the Forerunners through the lens of a Forerunner whispering through the galaxy in the present.

Halo 3’s Terminals told us of the Great Journey, that it was, in fact, real – but is one of the many things that the Covenant misinterpreted. It was an exodus the surviving Forerunners committed to, following in the footsteps of something that had come before. It may have also been our first glimpse at things to come with Bastion.

Rebirth and Promises to Keep dealt with the immediate aftermath of the firing of the Halos and the journey of reconciliation the Forerunners underwent, righting what wrongs they could to make reparations for their actions. From seeing to the completion of the Conservation Measure to restoring the Domain, Bornstellar and his fellows prepare themselves for reseeding their species and the Great Journey to come.

Fractures’ epilogue rounds off Bornstellar and Chant’s story, having settled down in a new galaxy, living happily with their nine year old son. However, their old ship, Audacity, and armour lies in-wait, possibly for an adventurous young soul who yearns to see the stars.

What truly became of the other survivors and the plan to reseed the Forerunners is, for now, unknown.

Halo 5 introduced us to a Builder who survived the firing of the Halos and managed to gain access to the Domain, searching for Bastion – an installation (which may or may not be a Shield World) that, impossibly, appears to have disappeared. At the end of the game, it is discovered. Bastion still lives.

Halo: Primordium follows Chakas, who we previously knew as 343 Guilty Spark, who declares that combat against the Ur-Didact is eternal and that he knows where “the elusive Lifeshaper” is, whoever that may be now.

He hijacks the UNSC Rubicon, hoping that the Lifeshaper will coax the ancient spirits of Riser and Vinnevra – his old friends – back to life.

Finally, the second Halo Legendary Crate has Vergil, from Halo 3: ODST, confess during his interrogation that the Forerunners are still out there, somewhere…One hundred thousand years ago, a great and terrible civilisation achieved technological dominance. They appointed themselves as the galaxy’s rulers, imposing a chastening peace over their protectorates for countless millennia.

This they did in the name of the Mantle. Their duty: to preserve diversity and act as guardians of life in all its forms.

And then, one day, they vanished.

They were the Forerunners… and their story is far from over.


“Walk among the footfalls of empty dust. Living where your kind’s bones make soil.
The next movement is set to begin…”

11 thoughts on “Mantle’s End – What the Forerunners did AFTER Halo (and where they are now…)

  1. Wow, that was comprehensive and really informative all-around! It’s been a while since I’ve read a lot of these works, so thanks for playing detective and putting all these pieces together in one awesome place, haruspis!

    Two questions, if you don’t mind.

    What is your process of writing blogs? I’ve been writing my own posts for a while and while first-year university English has helped me improve as a writer, do you conceive ideas as you do ‘close readings’ of Halo, or do you have a plan, and then act upon that?

    Second, what direction would you like to see 343i take the Forerunners into with Halo 6, or the future in general? And while I hate to re-open old wounds, how do you think such a direction would go into with the advent of the Created?

    1. I also reblogged your post, if that’s alright with you. My base is a bit smaller than yours, though. If you want me to take it down for whatever reason, I will happily do so.

    2. Haha, thank you! Comprehensive and informative is what I aim for, as this story is under the purview of a lot of obscure lore which I try to write about in an approachable way for those who are unfamiliar with this stuff.

      My process, honestly, is just sitting down and writing.

      More often than not, I’ll have an idea of a topic that I want to cover for an article and start writing down all the stuff in my head on my (Forerunner-themed) notepad. I generally have an idea of what sources (stuff like developer quotes) I need to use, so I do that next, which is the lengthier part because it tends to involve going over panels and interviews and ViDocs – all that good stuff. But that tends to be fuel for me, depending on the topic.

      I then go back to the game(s) to take the relevant screenshots if I haven’t already got them. After that, I sit down for a couple of hours with numerous cups of tea and just write as much as I can. That’s the key. Just write it. It probably won’t be any good at first, which has always been a stumbling block for me in the past, but you won’t do anything if those words aren’t on a page. My ‘plan’ is ultimately to just have a long list of things to write about, and then sit down and put those into a (hopefully) coherent narrative analysis.

      As for your second question… I honestly don’t know. I’ve put minimal thought into the Created, my mind is operating on the hope that the immensity of the backlash against them will mean that they’re shuffled out of the picture with relative haste. That may not be the case, but the extent of my thoughts on Halo 6 (which I am finding difficult to get excited for, I’d gladly take more side stories like Halo Wars 2) revolve around Sanghelios and the character dynamics that would be interesting to see explored. Chief and Halsey is the obvious example there, but Thel and Kelly is another that I’d be fascinated to see because she definitely seems to carry the most emotional baggage over Reach… I’ve not thought a whole lot about all the other stuff because it just really doesn’t interest me.

  2. A hefty, and very thorough collection of lore there, Haruspis!
    The chronology of the Rubicon’s journey is maybe a little messy, as they reportedly go to the Ark at the end of 2553, and arrive in August 2554. This is long before the Didact is awoken, but after the Swords of Sanghelios were formed. That may explain the reference in Primordium to a Halo/Shield Alliance linked to the political office. The alternative is that the interview of Chakas in Primordium is not being conducted by members of the Rubicon crew at all, but a later vessel finding the wreckage – unlikely, I know.
    I hope the Didact will turn up at Bastion down the line – that would restore the epilogue speech from Halo 4 to a proper place. And there’s still the mystery of the Assembly – and if they are linked to the Librarian, or to Cortana’s Created – perhaps a rival force?

  3. Great read. It’s good to see all the information put together in one place. That connection to the Halo 3 terminal entry was even new to me — that’s cool, to suppose that Filial Devotion is the son. I really hope to see the ancient Forerunner characters come to the fore in the games, sometime.

    On the topic of giving 343 Guilty Spark a redemption arc, I think we could get a read on O’Connor’s motivations from the commentary track for Halo Legends that he took part in. During the episode Prototype he describes Ghost’s motivations in a novel way — he acknowledges that Ghost is trying to redeem himself for failing his squad, but O’Connor says he doesn’t think Ghost did anything wrong. Says something about his storytelling style, doesn’t it? It’s not about reason, it’s about how one feels. Chakas Spark feels responsible for the actions of Guilty Spark, perhaps, even if we can excuse his behaviour and mind as being different.

    I think the quoted final monologue of Primordial, from Chakas Spark, is a sort of invitation from Greg Bear and 343 Industries. The way Chakas says the Librarian’s death is “demonstrably untrue” sounds like he’s saying the evidence is obvious. It might be that the Librarian’s survival is something we can piece together from what we know that Chakas Spark, as of 2554, knows. All I can guess is she went to Djamonkin Crater, built a ship, and scooted to Path Kethona or a Shield World before the firing. I’d be curious to know what you could piece together.

    1. Ooh, that is a fantastic point actually, regarding the redemption arc. If they do it from that angle, with Chakas feeling he needs to take responsibility for what Guilty Spark did, I’d be totally on board with that.

      I’m personally not convinced on the whole Librarian thing though. The final revelation in Silentium, where the spirit of Forthencho was sent to Earth to deliver the Gravemind’s final message to the Librarian about the Domain, occurred after the Halos had been fired – their effects just hadn’t reached Earth yet. I really like what they did in Halo 4 by having her ‘ghost’, an abstraction of her, trying to influence what’s going on through various proxies as her plan falls apart. For me, that’s a more interesting route to go than just having the Librarian herself be around because it enables some really great character development for characters around her.

      Saying that, many years ago (in 2010), I did write a fanfiction as part of a fan-made anthology where the Librarian survived on Earth by going into a slipspace field pod (the ones from Ghosts of Onyx, where the occupant is suspended in a compressed slipspace field and wouldn’t be affected by a nuclear detonation) and is revived in 2553…

  4. Great read for sure. Few things I’d love to see you cover
    – SanShy’uum planet of JunjuQom (sp?), why it has countless artifacts of Forerunner significance (including the Purifying Vision). These items not only stifled the development of the SanShy’uum, but it turn created the Covenant in living time.
    – Sanghelios, Sangheli homeworld, has countless Forerunner structures, which implies that it was a homeworld to Forerunners. This fact also is questioned how some of the corridors of the temples know of the Halo Array and where they are. (Kilo Five Trilogy)
    – This is an overarching theme that the Forerunners planted evidence of thier exsistance to other species, now here’s the kicker, except Humans. Planet Earth, yes, had the portal at Voi buried but that wouldn’t be discovered to long after Humans knew of the exsistance of the Forerunners. Humans had no idea about Forerunner prior to the discovery of Halo. Onyx, prior to the training of the Spartan 3, when discovered, was thought to hold secrets of ‘an extraterrestrial technological species’ in Zone 67. Nothing ever came of that because ONI pulled funding and abandoned it. Until the activation or discovery of I04.
    Why would Forerunners seed humanity first without giving them technological leaps like they did to other races? Some of the other races in the Covenant discovered thier way to the stars way before Humanity did.
    Sorry for the long post, I’d love to hear your input about this.
    Thanks

  5. Will you ever think to talk about Marathon? It’s a very interesting series and I’d love to read your thoughts on it.

    1. At some point, I would love to. I was very interested in the lore of those games, but had a problem… I couldn’t play them.

      They are, to this day, the only games that have ever given me motion sickness and so I couldn’t get into the series properly. I do intend to give it another shot someday, and maybe I’ll be inspired to write something about it because it does have some tremendously interesting lore, but I’ve got a significant hurdle to get over before I can do that lol.

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