*Spoiler Alert* There are major spoilers in this article concerning the Halo storyline.
If you haven’t read part one of this series, I suggest that you do so here: but if you have, read on, friend!
When we last left off, I talked about the armor capabilities of the MJOLNIR armor, I told you about how the SPARTAN program began and why, and now we’re going to talk about the effect the Spartans had on events after their inception. I already explained that the Spartans were trained to fight off the insurrection of rebel forces; this was their primary goal. Today, I’ll talk mostly about the Covenant faction in the storyline. Last time, I covered the humans, now its the aliens’ turn; this will give you a better understanding as to the “who, what, when, where, why, and how”s of the Halo storyline.
The Spartans did pretty well concerning the insurrection for a while. They were highly trained, so they were able to take out important leaders of the insurrection, however, it was apparent that the war would still be a difficult one, as the insurrectionists were scattered everywhere. For that reason, the insurrection lasted 43 years; from 2494 to 2537. The Spartans entered the picture about halfway through the war, but they weren’t part of battling the insurrection for long because that’s when the Covenant showed up.
“Covenant” is the collective term used for the group of alien species that live and work together. (For simplicity sake, I’ll use the English versions of the species’ names; not their names in native tongues.) The Prophets started the Covenant by taking over the Elites and creating a sort of alliance/slavery pact with the Elites. The Elites would not be equal to the Prophets, but they would be protected and not treated like slaves, so it’s a middle ground. From there, the Prophets and Elites went around conquering other species, and every species conquered became a part of the Covenant, as became custom.
From left to right in he pictures below, the Prophets are the religious and political leaders. The Elites are next on the ladder; they’re trusted, respected by the Prophets, and have the highest level of freedom in the Covenant, as their name implies. The Brutes are further down the ladder; they are tough guys that look a bit like Chewbacca and apes when they aren’t wearing armor. They’re less trusted, but they are still loyal most of the time. On the second row, (and further down the ladder) are the Grunts and Jackals. Grunts do the gruntwork, are generally the “cannon fodder” and are the first to be killed, they work as servants to Elites and Prophets, and they’re at the bottom of the totem pole. Jackals look a bit like vultures or pterodactyls in the face, but they’re two-legged. They have a reputation for being very untrustworthy, and they like to steal things that interest them. They do a lot of trading with anybody willing to do so, and you can see how this is a loyalty issue for the Covenant.
These are the main Covenant species, although there are more. The Covenant’s system works well most of the time; the species live in harmony under the rules set by the Prophets. Here’s where things might get a bit tricky, so hold on and see if this makes sense. The Prophets believe in gods that they call the Forerunners. The Forerunners were ancient people who inhabited the galaxy hundreds of thousands of years ago. They were more technologically advanced than any species ever was, or is up to the point of the present day in Halo canon.
Then, one day, the Forerunners mysteriously vanished, leaving behind relics of their past. These are in the form of ships, buildings, cities, trinkets, and other items. The universe was plunged into a sort of “stone age” and species devolved. They had to start from the bottom up, and it took millenia to learn how to build spaceships again.
The Prophets regard the Forerunners as holy, but they don’t know the full story of the Forerunners, which I haven’t detailed for you here; that might come in a later post. If they knew more about the Forerunners, they would realize they aren’t gods to be worshipped. The problem is, the Forerunners are shrouded in mystery, and the Prophets mistakenly worship them. Their quest is to find these relics, and they use their Covenant species to find the relics. Most of the important spaceships in the Covenant fleet have a device called a Luminary onboard. The Luminary is basically a relic finder. When the Luminary gets close to a relic, it lets you know where to find it.
So, to recap: the Covenant is made of several conquered species and is headed by the Prophets. The Prohpets seek to find the holy relics of their religion, and they use the conquered species to help them find them in an intergalactic treasure hunt; the Luminaries are their “maps.”
So, the Covenant are searching and searching, and one ship comes across a world populated by humans. This world is called Harvest because it is an agricultural center; the farmlands produce crops that are transported to other planets. When the Covenant ship gets close to Harvest, the Luminary goes nuts. It’s showing pinpricks of light all over the planet, and those onboard are confused. Luminaries have been in use for a very long time, and one has never lied or malfunctioned concerning the location of a relic. How could it be, then, that Harvest contained millions?
Well, they went to investigate. Some Brutes and Grunts landed, and human troops met them at the landing site. This was done peacefully, and the humans tried to communicate. The problem was, there was absolutely no way to communicate with aliens; until this very moment, humans had never made contact with any aliens. The existence of another species was completely unknown to humans! Needless to say, the humans were nervous about this meeting with apelike creatures that were a couple feet taller (and considerably stronger) than them.
Not only were the humans scared, but the Grunts were as well. Grunts are very skittish; they are the first to flee in a battle, and they’re wimps, for the most part. A frightened Grunt accidentally fires off a shot, and a fight ensues. The Brutes and Grunts leave, report back to the Prophets about their skirmish, and the Prophets then declare a full-on war against the humans. They made the claim that the humans had defiled the sacred Forerunner relics with their presence, and they were prepared to begin a genocide; they would not envelop humans into their Covenant upon conquering them.
Well, around the same time war was declared, some high ranking Prophets realized something. The Luminaries were correct after all; there were millions of relics on the planet. The problem was, the humans were the relics. This confused the Prophets even more. They were flabbergasted! Were the humans descended Forerunners? Did they have some sort of significance? The Prophets soon found this out; the humans were tagged as “Reclaimers” by the Luminary, but they didn’t really understand the term. After a bit of trouble, the Prophets came to the conclusion that the humans were descendants of the Forerunners, or they were actually legitimate Forerunners.
There’s only one problem with that assumption. The Prophet’s religion stated that all Forerunners ascended during the Great Journey (this is the instant vanishing of Forerunners I referred to earlier). If the humans were in any relation to Forerunners, the Luminaries’ very clearly contradicted their religion! If the other Covenant species ever found out that they had been lied to all this time, they would revolt, mutiny, and begin a civil war. For that reason, the Prophets decided to let nobody know about this development; they instead continued to tell others that the humans were defiling relics and that they must be destroyed. This was a much better alternative, in their eyes, to letting their entire empire collapse.
And so, the Human-Covenant War began in 2525. But wait, the human insurrection lasted until 2537; how? After a while, humans realized they needed to band together to fight off the Covenant before going back to civil war, in a nutshell. There were still small factions of insurrectionists, but most of the problem had been solved so that the humans could focus on the bigger threat on humanity. The insurrection is a small poitn as compared to the importance of the Covenant threat, but I included it in this series because if it hadn’t been for the insurrection, the all important SPARTAN program would never have begun.
So, that’s it for today. Next time, I’ll try to actually get us into the events of the first game in the series. Yes, we’re still in prologue! I find it important to lay all this information out to you because it is not presented in the games. Finding out the reason for warring with the Covenant comes from a compilation of the dialogue in the game, the books, the movies, and other canon; that’s why I’m pulling it all together for you. After all, the purpose of this series is to explain the storyline so that it’s understandable, he motives are clear, but the really technical stuff and small details are omitted. So, now that you have some backstory, hopefully we can smash everything together and get to the meat of the storyline soon.
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Until Next Time