Halo: Array - A Halo Novelisation

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"When you first saw Halo, were you blinded by its majesty?"

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Chapter One: The Heretic

Submitted: November 06, 2018

Reads: 410

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Submitted: November 06, 2018

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Chapter One
The Heretic

 

There were several Banshee support aircraft on patrol of the area. Their usual screams could not be heard in outer space. Instead, they glided through the dark vacuum like creatures of the deep. The sleek, rounded design of the Banshees was not unlike the very pilots who operated them. The Sangheili in their EVA harnesses lay flat on their stomachs controlling the aircraft from within a metallic, purple body, which had two poles outstretched on either side merging at the ends to form the small jet-like anti-gravity devices that propelled them forward. At the front, on the underside were twin plasma canons and a much heavier fuel-rod canon ready to demolish any enemies that might approach.

Of course, no enemies would be approaching any time soon. No one would be foolish enough to test the might of the Covenant’s holy city and its surrounding fleet. The city itself sat idle amongst the darkness; its enormous jellyfish-looking silhouette blocking the stars behind it. It was almost as ancient as the Covenant itself. Carved from a chunk of rock left over from the long lost homeworld of the Covenant’s religious leaders and built upon with various towers and outer shells; High Charity was the epitome of Covenant endeavour.

Surrounding High Charity was an enormous school of Covenant warships. Carriers, cruisers, corvettes and many more, they maintained the powerful yet elegant design of most Covenant architecture. However, neither High Charity not its incredible fleet were the most prominent feature in this system.

The great red gas giant named Threshold sat at over one hundred thousand kilometres in diameter with twelve natural satellites and two very peculiar unnatural satellites. At first glance they appeared to be two separate stripes of magma and rock hanging in orbit, not dissimilar from some other moons except for the overall shape. The supposed volcanoes on the surface were seemingly quite active.

These strips once belonged to a Fortress World. The impressive structure had, until recently, existed as a ring-shaped construction at ten thousand kilometres in diameter. The inward surface of the ring had consisted of oceans and continents capable of inhabiting life. That was no longer the case. The ring had shook itself. It had been blasted apart. Large chunks were now scattered across the Threshold system. The continents were no more. All that existed now was explosive material and molten machinery; completely uninhabitable.

This was a disaster. The one thing the Covenant sought after for thousands of years was now completely lost, and one Sangheili was responsible. That was, at least, how the various members Covenant viewed it.

Thel ‘Vadamee stood in the great open hall within the holy city contemplating his fate. The hall was built from rounded walls of silver, purples, indigo and magenta. These were typical colours of Covenant nanolaminate, a form a plating far more durable than anything humans could have ever put together. The ceiling stretched up high and on either side of the long hall were identical stands with seating. This was the High Council Chamber.

One stand was filled fellow Sangheili with their wide chests, narrow abdomens, toned arms and bent-back legs. Their thick eel-like necks bent forward into their long skulls and shark-like faces. The Sangheili were warriors, but unlike Thel, these ones had not seen battle for quite some time. Too long perhaps, Thel thought to himself.  Most Sangheili of the Covenant wore combat harnesses at all times. The armour of these politicians was a sacramental white with pointed, oversized headdresses. Thel’s harness was gold-coloured and more traditionally suited for combat.

The other stand consisted of San ‘Shyuum, high ranking Covenant priests and ministers. Due to age and regular use of their floating hover-chairs, the San ‘Shyuum sat hunched forward, their long necks protruded outward and their wattles dangling from their chins. Their large bulbous skulls and bulging eyes reminded Thel of the Goi fish back home on Sanghelios.

Thel’ Vadamee, the tall, dark-skinned Sangheili stood on a platform toward the front of the room. He ignored the stands of the High Council on either side. He knew they had great power. It was their voice that controlled the decisions of the Covenant, but far more important were the San ‘Shyuum that sat ahead of him. These three hierarchs consisted of the Prophets of Regret, Mercy and Truth.

The Prophet of Regret was the younger of the three, though now also considerably old. While each of the three High Prophets were worshipped by their subordinates, Regret had gone to considerable length to earn his respect for the Sangheili. He often ventured out to field locations to watch the Sangheili in practice, and despite not belonging to either a warrior or worker species, Regret was suspected to carry his own plasma pistol hidden within his gown. Unlike the other two Prophets, both Regret and his round hover-throne appeared blue-tinted and semi-transparent. He was not officially present in person. His form was presented via a three-dimensional display, a hologram.

The Prophet of Mercy was by far the oldest of the three. Believed to be half-blind now, he had pale skin and long, tattered, white eyelashes over his milky eyes. He had always been the most ceremonial of the hierarchs.

Truth, the central figure was the most imposing. His voice, while calm and collected, conveyed power and demanded obedience. There was often rumour about a power struggle between the High Prophets, particularly a rivalry between the Prophets of Truth and Regret. Upon observing the three in front of him, it was evident who the true leader was.

The three High Prophets sat even more hunched over than their cousins in the stands. Heavy gold ornaments sat upon their shoulders and stretched over their necks. Tall, narrow headpieces sat like crowns about their heads. While the San ‘Shyuum had initially seemed twisted and alien to Thel as a young Sangheili, he now witnessed charm and grace as they floated about their circular platform at the front end of the chamber.

It was the Ninth Age of Reclamation. Thel ‘Vadamee was the Supreme Commander of the greatest Covenant fleet in history, Particular Justice. He had been charged with locating and eliminating all human life in the galaxy. The human scum had purposely destroyed ancient relics left behind by the gods for the Covenant to reclaim. This act may very well have played a part in delaying the Great Journey itself. Thel had glassed human world after human world, until one day, while he was destroying one of the humans’ most noteworthy planets a human battlecruiser jumped away from the system.

It was not uncommon for human vessels to attempt jumps through slipstream space in order to escape the destruction of their planet, but ever since Thel had become Supreme Commander he exerted all efforts into ensuring no humans escaped the wrath of the Covenant as plasma rained down upon their planet and exterminated the vermin from the galaxy. The destruction of humanity was the will of the gods, and Thel ‘Vadamee was their instrument.

“There was only one ship,” Thel announced. His deep voice echoed around the hall.

“One? Are you sure?” replied the Prophet of Truth.

“Yes. They called it The Pillar of Autumn.” Thel supressed the contempt from his voice. He’d long since accepted that these dishonourable worms, the humans, had the audacity to name their ships, but this particular ship had proven to be the bane of him.

“Why was it not destroyed with the rest of their fleet?” croaked old Mercy.

“It fled as we set fire to their planet.” Thel paused. “But I followed with all the ships in my command.”

He was about to continue when Truth cut him off.

“When you first saw Halo, were you blinded by its majesty?”

What did the Prophet mean by that? Thel had never been one for word games. He had done his fair share of interpreting the elders on Sanghelios while growing up and had danced around taboo subjects in rare circumstances in the past, but he was a commander. He discussed battle strategies and gave direct instructions; no more.

“Blinded?” Thel asked.

“Paralised? Dumbstruck?” Truth elaborated.

“No.”

“And yet, the humans were able to evade your ships, land on the sacred ring and desecrate it with their filthy footsteps!” Regret exclaimed, his hologram shaking with rage.

Thel was worried. He needed to think carefully about his response. He knew the risk before entering the chamber, not that he had a choice, but the Prophets had always seen reason before. They had understood him, sided with him where necessary. Now, things were different.

If Thel ‘Vadamee failed this trial he would be executed. He had no doubt about that. He would be stripped of his honour. His family would be slaughtered, and his Keep on Sangheilios would be wiped clean of all Sangheili. His bloodline would end.

Thel thought back to the events that had unfolded almost sixteen Sanghelios days ago. His fleet had followed the Pillar of Autumn through the temporary hole it left in slipspace and arrived at Halo, the Sacred Ring and gateway to the path to becoming gods. Halo was a magnificent sight to behold. It’s outward side had been smooth and metallic overall with endless grooves and lights flashing from the distant machinery that made up its outer face. The inner surface of the ring was not at all dissimilar from the likes of Sanghelios or many other planets Thel had visited throughout his life. However Halo had appeared, Thel was not one to become blinded by such a thing.

Thel had had one goal in mind: To destroy the Pillar of Autumn and all its human crew before they could cause any harm to Halo. Due to the instructions specified by the Minister of Stewardship, a San ‘Shyuum assigned to Particular Justice to provide advice on religious decisions, Thel had kept his weapons-fire at a minimum so as to not accidentally damage the Sacred Ring. Because of this, the humans evaded Thel’s attack and landed on the ancient ringworld.

The High Prophets had already heard the details of the events on many accounts. Would they see it as Thel’s fault that the humans broke through? It would not matter. That was not the information they were looking for.

“Noble Hierarchs,” Thel began, “Surely you understand that once the parasite attacked-”

His speech was cut off by an enormous uproar from the High Councillors.

“There will be order in this council!” shouted the Prophet of Mercy, slamming his frail hand onto his curved armrest.

Thel continued to flash back to the events that transpired on the Sacred Ring. He knew very well why he was not able to eliminate the humans once they’d landed on Halo. The ring had held a secret, one he did not understand. He had long known about the parasite, about the Flood, as did all the Covenant; but they were supposed to be extinct. Did the Forerunner perhaps leave some behind on Halo as a test for the Covenant, to prove that the Covenant were strong enough to become gods as well?

The Flood had laid buried beneath the ring’s surface, likely dormant since the time of Forerunner’s ascendance. When the Covenant and the humans arrived on the Sacred Ring, the parasite unleashed themselves upon their visitors. They scattered across Halo. Thel could still hear the screams of his warriors as they were twisted and tortured, falling to their new enemy only to stand back up again and attack their own kind. He could hear the growls of the monsters. They haunted him.

The Prophet of Truth spoke softly.

“You were right to focus your attention on the Flood, but this Demon, this ‘Master Chief’…”

“By the time I learned of the Demon’s intent,” Thel replied, “There was nothing I could do.”

Thel was filled with genuine sadness, not for his failures, but for the severe loss of the ring. He recalled the first time he had encountered a Demon, the ones the humans called Spartans. Usually the humans were much smaller and weaker than any Sangheili. This one, while still shorter than him, had been much taller than any other human. More astonishingly, it had been equal in strength to Thel himself. He remembered staring into his own reflection within the gold faceplate of this Demon. He saw no human face. The entire creature had been covered in thick metal armour, even the joints were hidden. He had wrestled as hard as he could to break the human, but the two had remained locked together, frozen, exercising all their strength but unable to harm one another. To hold one’s own against Thel ‘Vadamee was an impressive feat by Sangheili standards, but a human…

Over the years Thel commanded his fleet he had faced very few obstacles. The Demons were his greatest, so he vowed to crush every last one of them. There were never many of these Spartans to begin with, and the one seen later on Halo was believed to be the last of his kind. Thel dispatched countless warriors to eliminate it, but once the Flood were revealed, he all but forgot about the Demon who was now insignificant by comparison. The Flood did not allow time for the Covenant on Halo to concern themselves with the humans. This very thought, is what had proven Thel a fool.

The Demon destroyed Halo.

Returning his thoughts to the present, Thel scanned the room. Many of the San ‘Shyuum in the stands had risen to their feet in anger. They Sangheili Councillors murmured incomprehensible dialogue between one another.

The Prophet of Regret’s floating hologram whispered to Truth’s physical form beside him.

 “Noble Prophet of Truth, this has gone on long enough. Make an example of this bungler. The council demands it.”

Truth raised his hands above his head. The council fell silent in response as the Prophet glazed down at the Sangheili commander before him standing tall in his golden armour.

“You are one of our most treasured instruments,” Truth spoke, “Long have you lead your fleet with honour and distinction, but your inability to safeguard Halo was a colossal failure!”

“Nay! It was heresy!” yelled one of the younger San ‘Shyuum from the stand before being pulled down to his seat by a neighbouring elder.

 Thel gathered his strength.

“I will continue my campaign against the humans!” He exclaimed mightily.

“No,” Truth retorted, “You will not.”

Truth nodded to someone behind the Commander, and Thel felt three large shadows creeping toward his back. He smelled the putrid musk of their thick-hair-covered bodies behind him. Jiralhanae, Thel almost spat the word. How had the Prophets allowed such beasts into the High Council chamber? He heard a familiar bark. It was their Chieftain, Tartarus ordering commands.

Thel turned toward the approaching Jiralhanae guards about to take hold of his body. He puffed out his chest and arms, displaying a show of dominance he knew the Jiralhanae would comprehend. They saw the gesture and did not grab him. Still, Thel understood. His trial was over. He was to leave with the brutes. He turned around slowly and followed them toward the main exit.

“Soon the Great Journey shall begin,” Truth continued, “But when it does, the weight of your heresy will stay your feet, and you shall be left behind.”


© Copyright 2019 David Cameron. All rights reserved.

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