“So the choice was clear — the San’Shyuum would have to show themselves and take the galaxy by force.”
Halo: Divine Wind, Troy Denning’s latest novel, sets in motion several things that will have a significant impact on the future of the Halo universe.
From the impending return of the San’Shyuum, to potential connections with Showtime’s Halo TV series, and even the Ark’s ability to fire Halo rings… here’s everything Divine Wind establishes that will come to be important in the future.
THE SAN’SHYUUM WILL RETURN
Cunning, manipulative, and apparently once very sexy, the San’Shyuum have receded into the background of the Halo universe in recent years.
After the fall of High Charity in Halo 2 as it was consumed by the Flood and the Covenant’s civil war, then the defeat of the Prophet of Truth in Halo 3, we’ve not heard much post-war news about the Covenant’s former leaders — with the exception of a few individuals in Broken Circle, Shadow of Intent, and loot crate lore.
In Shadow of Intent, the 2015 novella by Joseph Staten which follows up on Shipmaster Rtas ‘Vadum’s story after Halo 3, we learn that a flotilla of San’Shyuum vessels did indeed escape High Charity and have departed to destinations unknown.
Rtas encountered a Prelate (a San’Shyuum supersoldier — try saying that five times faster!) known as Tem’Bhetek who had a personal vendetta against the Shipmaster, blaming him for the death of his family on High Charity.
Their journey, however, ended in reconciliation as Tem sacrificed himself to end the deadly schemes of his Machiavellian master, the Minister of Preparation, who planned to fire a miniaturised prototype Halo ring on Sanghelios.
Rtas then informed the Arbiter of his wish to find the San’Shyuum and learn who among the survivors are war criminals and who were innocent of the Prophets’ deceit.
His officers had since completed a more thorough study and uncovered evidence of a rendezvous of San’Shyuum vessels after the fall of High Charity. It had been a sizable flotilla, enough to carry thousands of San’Shyuum. Although the details were fragmentary at best, there were slipspace signatures to follow, trajectories to track — the beginnings of a long hunt, for someone with the spirit to undertake it. [Halo: Shadow of Intent, loc. 1284 (Kindle edition)]
That novella released six years ago. It’s been a hanging thread just waiting to be picked up on, and Divine Wind has done just that.
Denning’s latest novel introduces us to another Prelate known as Dhas Bhasvod, who we learn was the Prophet of Truth’s personal assassin.
Bhasvod references the San’Shyuum flotilla, knowing that it escaped High Charity, and reveals that they were bound for a Shield World known as ‘Cloister.’
He knew for certain that a flotilla of San’Shyuum had escaped the fall of High Charity, because he had been part of the group that concealed it in the confusion surrounding the Dreadnought’s departure. Whether it had survived the long journey that followed, he would never know — could never know.
Either the flotilla had made it to Cloister and the San’Shyuum were ready to remake the galaxy in their image, or it had been destroyed and the Sangheili deserved the ultimate reprisal. [Halo: Divine Wind, p. 111]
What does this mean? Well, it completely recontextualises our understanding of Halo 3!
The Prophet of Truth underwent something of a shift in characterisation from the calm and charismatic manipulator in Halo 2 to a gibberish-spewing zealot in Halo 3. Gone was the eerily soothing timbre of Michael Wincott’s voice, replaced by Terence Stamp who was clearly given very a different direction for the character’s voice.
For years, we have wondered about some strange contradictions surrounding Truth that emerged in Halo 3 regarding the culmination of the Great Journey.
“I opened the portal to this hallowed place, this shelter from Halo’s fire, in the hopes that more of our Covenant would follow us.” [Prophet of Truth – Halo 3, The Ark]
It seemed strange that Truth would reference the Ark as a shelter from Halo’s fire when the Covenant belief was that a “divine wind” would propel them to godhood.
In the event Truth’s plan succeeded and he fired the Halos, wiping out all life in the galaxy, there would be a very awkward moment where the Jiralhanae and other forces he brought with him would wonder why they were still in their mortal bodies and would no doubt realise they’d been lied to.
But now? Now we know that there was more to it.
The endgame for the San’Shyuum was not divine transcendence in the way they’d convinced the Covenant client races, but an ascension purely for themselves.
After igniting the Halos and wiping out all life in the galaxy, the San’Shyuum would emerge from Cloister — safe from the effects of the rings within the Shield World — and “remake the galaxy in their image.”
That was how they intended to claim the Mantle of Responsibility (first alluded to in Frank O’Connor’s short story ‘Wages of Sin’ from 2009’s Halo: Evolutions), by wiping the board clean and claiming the galaxy for themselves.
That, you could say, is definitely a kind of godhood.
While we prevented the Prophet of Truth from successfully firing the rings in Halo 3, it seems the San’Shyuum have not given up on their master plan.
That was precious time he would not have available to recover the slipspace crystals stolen by the Banished, which meant it would be that much longer before he could open the portal to Cloister and warn Jom G’e’qth that their plan had failed.
With this citadel destroyed and the remainder still under construction, it was no longer possible to fire the Halo Array from the Ark — at least not until a new one was ready, and who knew how long that might take?
So the choice was clear — the San’Shyuum would have to show themselves and take the galaxy by force. And this time, the twisted lies and elaborate deceptions of the Covenant doctrine would not be enough to tip the scales. If the San’Shyuum hoped to prevail this time, they would need an indestructible will.
Which, fortunately, Dhas Bhasvod possessed. [Divine Wind, p. 343-4]
Dhas Bhasvod intends to unleash the San’Shyuum once more, this time as warriors rather than manipulative priests.
While their numbers have dwindled after the fall of High Charity, who knows what contingencies they had in-place and what kind of technology they’ve got access to within Cloister?
The Forerunners catalogued San’Shyuum genetics and reseeded them, after all. Those indexed samples may still exist on the Ark, or even within Cloister itself, meaning their species may yet be restored to its former glory.
What’s certain is that we haven’t seen the last of the San’Shyuum. Divine Wind has set them up to return in the future as deadly (and possibly sexy) foes once more.
When we see them again, it will undoubtedly be in combat.
HERESY OF THE CHOSEN
Throughout the Halo series, humanity’s status as Reclaimers — the true inheritors of the Mantle, guardianship over life in the galaxy — has been exploited by the Covenant.
Though the Covenant waged a war of total annihilation against humanity, some came to realise the irony that the foes they’d been ordered to exterminate were capable of interacting with Forerunner technology in a way that not even their Prophets could.
As we see in the games, human characters are often captured by the Covenant in order to activate Forerunner technology. To name just a few examples…
In Halo Wars, the Prophet of Regret ordered Ellen Anders to be captured so she could be used to activate the dormant Forerunner fleet within the Shield World.
In Halo 2, the Prophet of Truth ordered Miranda and Johnson to be captured. Tartarus later used Miranda to activate Installation 05.
In Halo 3, Johnson is captured (several times) and forced to activate the Ark in order to fire all the Halo rings.
In Halo 4, a trap is set by Jul ‘Mdama to teleport humans to his base on Requiem, using Henry Glassman to reactivate the Librarian’s chamber.
Naturally, after almost three decades of war, it surely must have occurred to somebody among the trillions that make up the Covenant’s vast interstellar empire that there’s more to humanity than the Prophets were letting on…
Among some of the great worldbuilding in Divine Wind, we learn that this was indeed the case.
The ‘Heresy of the Chosen,’ as it was known, became something of a problem within the Covenant. The Prophet of Truth solved that problem by deploying his personal assassin, Dhas Bhasvod.
“Some among us even began to question the Word of the Prophets. Of course, I could not let that stand. In twenty cycles, I culled as many apostates from our number as I had done for Truth concerning the Heresy of the Chosen.”
Veta had heard the Faithful use ‘the Heresy of the Chosen’ as a reference to the subversive belief that humans were the true successors to the Forerunners, which was why they so often showed an affinity for Forerunner technology that other species lacked.
Even the Keepers tolerated no one who adhered to its tenets, and she was surprised to hear the notion had actually existed within the greater Covenant. Though, clearly, anyone suspected of holding such a belief had paid the ultimate price. [Divine Wind, p. 114-5]
In the upcoming Halo TV series from Showtime, we will meet a young woman named Makee who was orphaned as a child and raised by members of the Covenant.
Some people have taken exception to this and I’m not really sure why, as it capitalises on something that makes complete sense for a group within the Covenant to do.
Frank O’Connor has further remarked upon the precedence this has in the lore, tying back to the previous examples given above:
“You’ll find out within minutes of being introduced to [Makee] and it’s a reason that already exists in canon that you almost certainly know a little about if you’ve played any games in the series.” [Frank O’Connor (‘Stinkles’), ResetEra (9/11/2019)]
The precedent is that humanity are Reclaimers, the chosen inheritors of the Forerunner legacy, and are able to interact with Forerunner technology.
A group of Covenant discovering and being clever enough to exploit this has always seemed an inevitable story to tell — and one that simply hasn’t been possible within the constraints of a traditional Halo campaign.
And so, that movement has been formalised within the canon now.
If you think that’s hard to believe, wait until you learn about the Governors of Contrition in Ghosts of Onyx — a radical sect that worshipped the Flood and were somehow tolerated in Covenant society…
THE ARK CANNOT FIRE HALOS… FOR NOW
Installation 00, the Lesser Ark, is the foundry of six of the seven Halos that make up the Neoteric Array — the final installations used by the Forerunners to cleanse the galaxy of life, starving the Flood.
While this installation serves many purposes, the main one we’ve been concerned with since 2004 is its ability to fire all the Halo rings at once.
As of Divine Wind, the Ark can’t do that any more. At least, for now.
Denning’s novel delves deeper into the how the Ark functions as the trigger for the Forerunners’ ultimate doomsday weapon. The Citadel we pursued the Prophet of Truth to in Halo 3 is known as a ‘Clarion facility,’ one of several on the Ark which house the communications array that tells the Halos to fire.
One of the consequences of what the Master Chief did at the end of Halo 3, firing the incomplete Installation 08 over the Ark, was that all but one of the Clarion facilities were destroyed as they are located a short distance from the edge of the Ark’s core.
“Citadel? You must be referring to the Clarion network. We have several facilities that house the supraluminal communications array — which one do you seek?”
“The nearest one,” Bhasvod said. “As long as we can activate the Halo Array from it.”
“A Reclaimer can control the weapons array from any of the Clarion facilities.” The submonitor’s voice remained impassive, but the glow of her ocular lens seemed a shade paler. Still, if she understood — or cared about — the implications of Bhasvod’s statement, it did not prevent her from answering. “However, there is only one functional Clarion site at this time. You are seeking Epsilon Clarion.” [Divine Wind, p. 156]
As the events of Divine Wind progress to their conclusion, Veta Lopis manages to get the UNSC Spirit of Fire to launch MAC rounds at Epsilon Clarion — the last remaining facility where the activation signal for the Halos can be sent.
All that remained of the citadel peak was a crater. It appeared the mountain had been vaporized down to the hard-light bridge level, but there was so much steam and smoke billowing out of the blast basin that he could not tell for certain. And above the devastation, he saw the distant flecks of hundreds of Aggressor sentinels aimlessly milling about inside the fumes. [Divine Wind, p. 336]
With this citadel destroyed and the remainder still under construction, it was no longer possible to fire the Halo Array from the Ark — at least not until a new one was ready, and who knew how long that might take? [Divine Wind, p. 344]
What this effectively means is that we won’t be getting any more stories with the set-up of ‘a group of alien fanatics head to the Ark to activate Halo,’ which I’m sure many will find welcome.
This does not, however, mean that the threat of the Halo rings is ended.
Halos can still be fired individually, and igniting one will still set off the others — they just can’t be fired all at once while the Clarion network is destroyed. As the Ark has no Monitor, it is unlikely that the network will be fully rebuilt any time soon.
Why has 343 done this? I think this development allows them to explore the Ark more thoroughly, it enables them to tell different kinds of stories that don’t have to amount to an extinction-level threat (of which it’s fair to say there has been a considerable amount of fatigue around).
And, should the Flood return in force once more, it has also kneecapped our ability to repeat the Forerunners’ final pyrrhic measure.
Which brings us to…
THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES
Way back in 2016, following the announcement of Halo Wars 2, Frank O’Connor said this at an SDCC panel:
“Obviously, as video game designers, [the Ark’s size] is great because we can have whatever we want there. And we’ve got a lot of really interesting plans for the Ark in the future — not necessarily just in Halo Wars 2.” [Frank O’Connor, Halo Wars 2 SDCC 2016 panel (30:11)]
We’re half-a-decade on from that point and I think we’re starting to see some of those plans take shape.
As far back as 2013, I was adamant that the we would return to the Ark, as it’s something that was teased through the imagery of Halo Legends in 2009. That has since been fulfilled, but the likes of Hunters in the Dark and Halo Wars 2 were just the beginning.
Divine Wind paints a rather interesting picture of this setting and the future it may have in the years to come.
To some degree, pretty much every faction is present on the Ark right now.
The UNSC Spirit of Fire is a crew of beloved characters, possessing a mixture of old and new technology that ‘bridges’ the visual style of Halo’s first and second decade.
The Banished are the primary antagonistic force occupying the installation, led by Shipmaster Let ‘Volir now that Atriox has returned to the galaxy.
Remnants of the Covenant from Halo 3 are holed up inside the Anodyne Spirit, the Keyship that the Prophet of Truth used to open the portal on Earth. Though their forces are limited, they are led by the fearsome Prelate, Dhas Bhasvod.
High Charity’s wreckage is a quarantine zone on the installation. We already saw one outbreak during the ‘Awakening the Nightmare’ expansion of Halo Wars 2, which almost resulted in the formation of a new Gravemind. While that threat was ended, the Flood existing on the sanctuary from the Halos is a powder keg that will undoubtedly be set off once more.
And the Forerunners themselves are present by varying degrees. The setting itself is one of their grandest and most mysterious creations; Divine Wind establishes that executor constructs are present, and who knows what else has been left for humanity to discover?
Getting humanity to the Ark was a key part of the Librarian’s plan, a place where they will learn about the responsibility they have inherited and find the tools to tend the Domain. Indeed, we know that some of the original concepts explored for ‘Awakening the Nightmare’ involved the Prometheans being unleashed upon the UNSC Spirit of Fire. This is an idea that could potentially be revisited in the future.
343 have proven their proclivity for ‘playing the long game’ many times over — putting the pieces in place for future stories years in advance, even before they were the stewards of the Halo franchise.
We can therefore surmise that these have been very deliberate narrative manoeuvres to keep the doors open for a true ‘war in heaven’ at some point. An endgame, perhaps, for this era of the Halo timeline.
Time will tell, but for now that’s all we’ve got to cover. If you’ve come this far and haven’t picked up a copy of Divine Wind, it’s definitely got my recommendation — you’ll absolutely want to see this all play out for yourself!
Halo: Divine Wind released October 19th, 2021.
Written by Troy Denning, the cover art was made by Benjamin Carré, and the audiobook is narrated by Aida Reluzco.
October 2559. With the galaxy in the suffocating grip of a renegade artificial intelligence, another perilous threat has quietly emerged in the shadows: the Keepers of the One Freedom, a fanatical and merciless Covenant splinter group, has made its way beyond the borders of the galaxy to an ancient Forerunner installation known as the Ark.
Led by an infamous Brute named Castor, the Keepers intend to achieve what the Covenant, in all its might, failed to: activate Halo and take the last steps on the path of the Great Journey into transcendence…
But unknown to Castor and his new, unexpected ally on the Ark, there are traitors to the cause in their midst – namely the Ferrets, composed of Office of Naval Intelligence operative Veta Lopis and her young team of Spartan-IIIs, who have been infiltrating the Keepers to lay the groundwork for Castor’s assassination. But with ONI’s field operations now splintered and cut off by the Guardian threat, Veta’s original mission has suddenly and dramatically escalated in scope.
There’s simply no choice or fallback plan – either the Ferrets somehow stop the Keepers or the galaxy faces an extinction-level event…
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