The Covenant Political Situation-in detail

This one is going to be a doozy. I'm analyzing the covenant political situation-it is deep and complex, and has much to do with their history. I'm also thinking about the Covenant forces we might meet on Earth, the Creation of the Arbiter, and the reason for the Brute-Elite civil war.

First off, the Halo 3 trailer. The banshees have no pilots visible. This might be because putting in the pilots would be either unnecessary or very revealing. What if the banshees are piloted by Elites as they typically are? We might be fighting Grunts, Elites and Hunters on Earth, and that plot revelation would be good enough to keep the Banshee pilots' identities a secret.

Look at Truth's escape from High Charity, his jump into slipspace. Elite and Brute vessels are still blowing up each other with aplomb. When we next see Truth's vessel, it is at Earth, where human and covenant vessels are already fighting. The bridge of the Cairo is a mess, which means that boarders must have come in and been beaten back.(A starship weapon would have destroyed the bridge or at least left it uninhabitable)That battle has been going on for some time now.

Either the Forerunner vessel was much slower than the other covenant vessels (Unlikely) or the covenant vessels at Earth came from elsewhere. Think about it. The fleet at High Charity may have been the largest covenant fleet ever seen, but it would have been wrecked by terrible infighting. The command officers and almost all the crew would be dead at the end of the fighting, given that Elites, Grunts and Hunters put together would be about equal to Brutes, Jackals and Drones. Those ships dominated by Brutes or Elites are shooting each other, blowing each other up, and the blasting has been going on since the beginning of the level "Gravemind". Even if the remainder of the fleet chose to follow Truth to Earth, they would be in no condition to engage the MACs and the remaining human vessels, those that weren't destroyed by Regret's armada or had left for Delta Halo.

What do we know of the covenant empire? Earth had over 800 colony worlds before the covenant turned up and started glassing them, and Earth's colonial empire is described as "fledgeling". Joe Staten, in an interview with the HSP, stressed the size and power of the covenant empire yet again. The covenant must have thousands of worlds to draw resources and troops from. There must be substantial fleets still left. Even if there were five thousand vessels at High Charity, the sheer size and power of the covenant empire means that there must be just as many starships elsewhere. In the novel First Strike, Truth dismisses the loss of five hundred vessels as "Insignificant". There are a lot of warships still left, more than enough to overwhelm the MAC shield and invade earth.

The Conversations booklet shows that Truth was fostering hatred amongst both races even before Reach fell. Why? Simple. The Brutes were a part of the Covenant, as the Murals show, but they were a lower race, nowhere comparable to the elites. The elites, on the other hand, had been sitting high and mighty since before the covenant was formed, and, Arbiters and Rebellions aside, what did they have to do? Nothing. Their position in the Covenant system was taken for granted. They went about in their Prophet-praising zealotry, and looked down upon everyone else.

Then came the Covenant-Human war. A lot of elites don't understand the cause of the war(They probably weren't told anything more than routine generalizations-defiling sacred sites, stealing relics, so on). The once-proud race was shocked at how humans had mastered the Art of War, and how they were using superior tactics to defeat them despite the equipment disparity. Human ground forces fought bravely and brilliantly, holding their own against the covenant forces, and fighting in space against impossible odds. Elites are a warrior race; they go by honor and combat skill, both of which humans had in plenty. Those elite commanders who knew humans well enough began to wonder why they weren't given the chance to join the covenant; why they had to be slaughtered like this.

Truth knew the elite mentality all too well. The Hall of Murals seems to indicate that the majority of Elite-led combat took place early in the Covenant's history, and that the Elites didn't have much to do until humans came along. The Elites revere their Arbiters as demigods instead of studying their strategies and methods. A zealous and skilled warrior can't have tamed the Hunters or put down the Grunt Rebellion on his own, he must have been a master of strategy to do so. To worship Masters of Strategy instead of their methods means a fall of the Elite miliary culture, and that is why they are so impressed by the humans and their tactical expertise, having forgotten their own after being handed their position on a platter for so long.

To stem the decay of Elite culture, Truth played the Brutes against them. Having the Brutes favored over the Elites meant that their centuries-long standing in the Covenant Caste system was being threatened for the first time, and the only way to deal with the threat would be to indulge in even greater zealotry, curb any Heretical ideas about respect for the human vermin, and go on glassing planets and blasting starships.

However, the change in Elite mentality happens at the very heart of the Covenant, and the Arbiter and his companions do listen to reason and go against the Great Journey in the belief that the Prophets don't know everything. Tartarus and the Brutes refuse to listen to reason because they've been led to beleive that the Elites question the Prophets, that they're disloyal. Consider the Brutes' unprecedented rise in power. In return for this rise in power, something they hadn't even dreamt of, they would be unquestionably loyal. Their gratitude to the Prophets far outweighs any reasoning by an Elite.

The Creation of the Arbiter is yet another one of Truth's political gimmicks. Truth is the master of Balance of Power (BoP) He's set up the Elites and Brutes against each other close to the point where civil war can break out, but not far above the point that they can be reconciled and kept together peacefully.

If the Gold Elite had been tortured and killed by the Brutes and dragged around by his entrails like the Prophets suggested, it would be the nadir of the Elites' reputation. Knowing the flaring tensions between Brutes and Elites, a jeering Brute could taunt an ashamed Elite into losing all self-control and striking him. Such an incident could become the flashpoint of an all-out, uncontrollable civil war that would do no good to the Prophets. Truth knows the time isn't up for insurrection, so he lets the Elites salvage their pride by creating the Arbiter. Tartarus and his Brutes are very surprised by the decision, but they won't ever question the Prophets the way the Elites now do.

When news spread that the Arbiter had failed in his mission to recover the Sacred Icon on Delta Halo, and Tartarus had succeeded instead, the increased tensions led to civil war in and around High Charity. The Elite Council was murdered. Elite and Brute controlled vessels started blasting each other, as seen at the beginning of Gravemind. Grunts and Jackals rioted outside the Prophets' chambers. All the madness and violence was steadily increasing, and Master Chief's surprise arrival would have hardly changed a thing. All the chaos would only help Truth, Mercy and Tartarus leave, along with the remaining members of the Council. Truth rushed off to Earth in the Forerunner vessel, Tartarus to activate Delta Halo. The other starships were too busy blasting each other to take notice of the escaping Prophet. All very good for Truth.

The fleets at Earth must have been in Slipspace or in battle during the time the insurrection at High Charity broke out. As a result, they wouldn't have known about what happened, and would concentrate on destroying Earth's defenses and occupying the planet.

Comments

[quote=UrsusArctos]This one is going to be a doozy. I'm analyzing the covenant political situation-it is deep and complex, and has much to do with their history. I'm also thinking about the Covenant forces we might meet on Earth, the Creation of the Arbiter, and the reason for the Brute-Elite civil war.

First off, the Halo 3 trailer. The banshees have no pilots visible. This might be because putting in the pilots would be either unnecessary or very revealing. What if the banshees are piloted by Elites as they typically are? We might be fighting Grunts, Elites and Hunters on Earth, and that plot revelation would be good enough to keep the Banshee pilots' identities a secret. [/quote]

That is one possibility. It's also possible that the pilots are an as-yet unseen species that Bungie wants to keep secret, or that since the pilots were not actually needed in that sequence, they were left out. I seem to remember some AI-controlled Banshees in Halo didn't actually have pilots, but perhaps not. In any case, if Bungie wants to script Banshee flyovers without pilots, it might mean a lot or nothing at all, difficult to say. Bungie did say they designed the trailer to have a minimal effort on their development work (unlike some previous trailers) so it may just have been easier to leave them out, whoever they are.

[quote=UrsusArctos]Look at Truth's escape from High Charity, his jump into slipspace. Elite and Brute vessels are still blowing up each other with aplomb. When we next see Truth's vessel, it is at Earth, where human and covenant vessels are already fighting. The bridge of the Cairo is a mess, which means that boarders must have come in and been beaten back. (A starship weapon would have destroyed the bridge or at least left it uninhabitable)That battle has been going on for some time now.[/quote]

I'm not sure I follow. Where are you seeing the bridge of the Cairo? We hear Lord Hood's voice in the cutscene that follows High Charity, but I don't recall seeing where he is.

The only definitive thing Bungie has said about the Covenant presence on Earth as evidenced in the trailer is that they have been in charge since the conclusion of events of Halo 2. Given that Regret brought only 15 ships, that Sarge in the Outskirts cutscene says the marines "blew up their raggedy-ass fleet" and Regret himself flees (or simply chooses to leave Earth) to Delta Halo, we may speculate that either fighting has been ongoing the whole time the Chief has gone, either with Covenant forces the UNSC had not previously repelled, or reinforcements, but it is also possible that there has been a lull in the fighting, and that nothing has been going on at Earth at least up until the moment Truth turns his attention there. When that is we do not know, but over the PA system in High Charity we hear him say it, so we know it's no later than that. At any time between when we see the Covenant armada warp in above Delta Halo near the end of "Regret" and that moment in "High Charity" when Truth mentions Earth, those ships, or a portion of them, may have been diverted to attack Earth.

In any case, it is still an open question as to what the species composition and allegiance of the Covenant forces attack Earth is, and I suspect that there is insufficient information (and rather intentionally so) for drawing a conclusion about it prior to actually seeing Halo 3, as Bungie can, I think, come up with plausible explanations for whichever approach they feel would be best to take, story-wise and gameplay-wise.

[quote=UrsusArctos]Either the Forerunner vessel was much slower than the other covenant vessels (Unlikely) or the covenant vessels at Earth came from elsewhere. Think about it. The fleet at High Charity may have been the largest covenant fleet ever seen, but it would have been wrecked by terrible infighting. The command officers and almost all the crew would be dead at the end of the fighting, given that Elites, Grunts and Hunters put together would be about equal to Brutes, Jackals and Drones. Those ships dominated by Brutes or Elites are shooting each other, blowing each other up, and the blasting has been going on since the beginning of the level "Gravemind". Even if the remainder of the fleet chose to follow Truth to Earth, they would be in no condition to engage the MACs and the remaining human vessels, those that weren't destroyed by Regret's armada or had left for Delta Halo.[/quote]

Or else the Covenant forces left earlier than Truth did, perhaps even before the Elites were betrayed and subsequently rebelled. It seems more than likely that Truth's information about Earth's importance in his "great journey" came from 343 Guilty Spark, so the order for Earth to be attacked might have been given at any time after Tartarus brings him to the hierarchs. If any portion of that fleet left beforehand, it might explain how it remained intact and able to fight.

We can, I think, be fairly confident that he had the information no earlier than that. That Regret's force was small seems to indicate that he, and by extension the Covenant, had no intentions to permanently occupy or perhaps even destroy Earth at that particular time, but rather were interested in something in particular. The most common speculation is that on Earth there was an artifact with a star chart reference on it that led to Delta Halo. It may simply have been on Earth already, or it may have been the ILB artifact. Although I am sure many fans will choose to believe the latter, if so we probably have to infer that someone in the human forces, I suppose someone in ONI, knows more about what is going on than UNSC and the Chief do, as otherwise it would be an incredible coincidence that the ILB artifact would be brought precisely to New Mombassa, where we know know another artifact to be.

It also seems likely that whatever the large artifact is (I assume it is the Ark referred to by 343GS, as most do) it was either not discovered by Regret during his brief incursion, or else he did not comprehend its significance at that time.

If the small artifact with the star chart reference was there, and was what led Regret to Delta Halo, and was the ILB artifact brought first to Boston and then to Africa after being carried by the Apocalypso, then it is either a mind-numbingly outrageous coincidence, or else it was deliberately brought to that point, which would seem to suggest that those who did so already knew of the Ark's existence.

It is also worth considering that it was not Tartarus' betrayal of the Arbiter that sparked the revolt, but rather the murder of the Elites on the council. I doubt this was an action taken impetuously. Tartarus' surprise at the Arbiter being left alone with the hierarchs seems to indicate that the entire story arc that comprises the Brutes' ascendance over the Elites, including the recommissioning of the guards, was planned in advance, and that Tartarus had knowledge of it. The necessity of murdering the Elites on the council may have been predictable, as would be the subsequent infighting. Truth on the PA system, for instance, seems quite calm; he sounds like someone who is seeing things according to plan, not like someone trying to cope with an unexpected situation. That, however, may be an overinterpretation-- it may simply be that he is capable of acting that way regardless of how well his plans are going.

If we assume for a moment, however, that each of these events was planned in advance, then one might also assume that Truth would have had a contingency plan for maintaining control and a capacity to fight even during a civil conflict.

It may be that the only thing not planned for was that the location of the Ark and the homeworld of humanity would be one and the same. Had the Ark been on an uninhabited world, or a world outside the human sphere, no doubt his job would be easier. Still, what we see in the trailer seems to be outright Covenant dominance, so we can only assume that regardless of the state of Truth's fleet, humanity did not pose much resistance.

[quote=UrsusArctos]What do we know of the covenant empire? Earth had over 800 colony worlds before the covenant turned up and started glassing them, and Earth's colonial empire is described as "fledgeling". Joe Staten, in an interview with the HSP, stressed the size and power of the covenant empire yet again. The covenant must have thousands of worlds to draw resources and troops from. There must be substantial fleets still left. Even if there were five thousand vessels at High Charity, the sheer size and power of the covenant empire means that there must be just as many starships elsewhere. In the novel First Strike, Truth dismisses the loss of five hundred vessels as "Insignificant". There are a lot of warships still left, more than enough to overwhelm the MAC shield and invade earth.[/quote]

Yes, and that is also ample evidence for the speculation that there are other Covenant races as-yet unseen, who are perhaps either not involved in the civil conflict, or side with the Brutes and the Hierarchs against the Elites.

[quote=UrsusArctos]The Conversations booklet shows that Truth was fostering hatred amongst both races even before Reach fell. Why? Simple. The Brutes were a part of the Covenant, as the Murals show, but they were a lower race, nowhere comparable to the elites. The elites, on the other hand, had been sitting high and mighty since before the covenant was formed, and, Arbiters and Rebellions aside, what did they have to do? Nothing. Their position in the Covenant system was taken for granted. They went about in their Prophet-praising zealotry, and looked down upon everyone else.

Then came the Covenant-Human war. A lot of elites don't understand the cause of the war(They probably weren't told anything more than routine generalizations-defiling sacred sites, stealing relics, so on). The once-proud race was shocked at how humans had mastered the Art of War, and how they were using superior tactics to defeat them despite the equipment disparity. Human ground forces fought bravely and brilliantly, holding their own against the covenant forces, and fighting in space against impossible odds. Elites are a warrior race; they go by honor and combat skill, both of which humans had in plenty. Those elite commanders who knew humans well enough began to wonder why they weren't given the chance to join the covenant; why they had to be slaughtered like this.[/quote]

There is every indication that the Covenant's religion itself is based on the Elites' religion, and if so they have more in-depth knowledge of it than any other species. The Heretic suggests this when he says the Prophets have used the beliefs of the Elites' forefathers (sounds like Forerunners, doesn't it?) to blind them.

That some wondered about why humanity was not invited to join I think is nothing more than noticing a break in a pattern. The Covenant obviously subjugated many of its members, and the phrases used like "taming" and "rebellion" back this up. The Elites and Prophets themselves were at war before the Covenant was founded; indeed, one can look at the Covenant itself as less of a coherent culture and more of a prolonged cease-fire, forged for the benefits of the Prophets and at the ultimate expense of the Elites, if one believes the Heretic.

If anything, I think the Elites thought previously that the conflict with humans was like any other; they are probably confused as to why the inevitability of humanity's destruction is not avoided by assimilating them. That indicates nothing more nor less than the idea that the Prophets know or suspect humanity to have some significance that makes such inclusion impossible or inadvisable. That the Ark and Earth are coincident would be such significance, and is consistent with the idea that Regret came to Earth looking not for the Ark, but for the ILB star chart artifact to lead him to another Halo, and that Truth was later surprised to learn he'd be heading back there to reach the Ark.

I do think that forces us to accept that ONI knew of the existance of the artifact in Africa, though.

[quote=UrsusArctos]Truth knew the elite mentality all too well. The Hall of Murals seems to indicate that the majority of Elite-led combat took place early in the Covenant's history, and that the Elites didn't have much to do until humans came along. The Elites revere their Arbiters as demigods instead of studying their strategies and methods. A zealous and skilled warrior can't have tamed the Hunters or put down the Grunt Rebellion on his own, he must have been a master of strategy to do so. To worship Masters of Strategy instead of their methods means a fall of the Elite miliary culture, and that is why they are so impressed by the humans and their tactical expertise, having forgotten their own after being handed their position on a platter for so long.[/quote]

Is that all from Conversations? I haven't read mine lately but I don't remember arbiters being worshipped, per se. Certainly that doesn't seem consistent with Half-Jaw's treatment of him at all. Other units in the game treat him with respect, but not always. Even grunts will chastise the Arbiter for standing in one place too long, and that doesn't quite seem consistent with worship.

In addition, I don't think the Murals themselves establish the idea that the Elites are somehow less important than other species in Covenant combat since that time. Gameplay-wise, it certainly isn't true in Halo 1.

[quote=UrsusArctos]To stem the decay of Elite culture, Truth played the Brutes against them. Having the Brutes favored over the Elites meant that their centuries-long standing in the Covenant Caste system was being threatened for the first time, and the only way to deal with the threat would be to indulge in even greater zealotry, curb any Heretical ideas about respect for the human vermin, and go on glassing planets and blasting starships.[/quote]

I don't think there's any real basis for the establishment of Elite culture as in decay. I find it more likely that the Covenant between the Prophets and the Elites was, however long-lived it might have been, really a fragile cease-fire that was intended only to allow the Prophets time and resources to achieve their ultimate goal, ahd they had always intended to ultimately betray the Elites in any case.

That Elites may have quashed any qualms about the treatment of humanity due to a threat of rivalry from the Brutes may be true; however it is such an insignificant detail that I am not at all confident in its value as a predictor. It is probably sufficient to say that for, as yet reasons unknown, the Prophets supplanted the Elites with the Brutes. It is perhaps significant in this context that the Heretic himself was an Elite and not a Brute.

[quote=UrsusArctos]However, the change in Elite mentality happens at the very heart of the Covenant, and the Arbiter and his companions do listen to reason and go against the Great Journey in the belief that the Prophets don't know everything. Tartarus and the Brutes refuse to listen to reason because they've been led to beleive that the Elites question the Prophets, that they're disloyal. Consider the Brutes' unprecedented rise in power. In return for this rise in power, something they hadn't even dreamt of, they would be unquestionably loyal. Their gratitude to the Prophets far outweighs any reasoning by an Elite. [/quote]

I think you're inferring a change in mentality that we have yet to see established-- which I think is a weakness in the interaction between Halo 2's story and its gameplay. The Arbiter is never seen to discuss what he knows with Half-Jaw or anyone else. Half-Jaw is rebelling at the murder of the Elites on the council, ordered by the Prophets and carried out by the Brutes. As such, he is motivated to take revenge on the Brutes (and possibly the prohphets) and in the context of that goal is willing to attempt to stop whatever it is Tartarus is trying to do.

The Arbiter just says he has to get to the Control Room. He doesn't go into detail as to why. Stopping Tartarus from using the Index is first discussed only between Johnson and the Index. The discussion among Keyes, the Arbiter, Johnson and Guilty Spark includes no contribution from Half-Jaw. Whether the infighting amongst the Covenant species actually undermines the faith of the Elites (or any of the rebelling species) in the idea of the great journey itself is not at all clear. Perhaps that will be established during Halo 2. However I do think it is premature to think that there has been, at the end of Halo 2 itself, any real shift in Elite mentality on a large scale.

[quote=UrsusArctos]The Creation of the Arbiter is yet another one of Truth's political gimmicks. Truth is the master of Balance of Power (BoP) He's set up the Elites and Brutes against each other close to the point where civil war can break out, but not far above the point that they can be reconciled and kept together peacefully.[/quote]

No argument there. That may extend not only to the creation of this individual arbiter, but to the position itself.

[quote=UrsusArctos]If the Gold Elite had been tortured and killed by the Brutes and dragged around by his entrails like the Prophets suggested, it would be the nadir of the Elites' reputation. Knowing the flaring tensions between Brutes and Elites, a jeering Brute could taunt an ashamed Elite into losing all self-control and striking him. Such an incident could become the flashpoint of an all-out, uncontrollable civil war that would do no good to the Prophets. Truth knows the time isn't up for insurrection, so he lets the Elites salvage their pride by creating the Arbiter. Tartarus and his Brutes are very surprised by the decision, but they won't ever question the Prophets the way the Elites now do. [/quote]

Again, I think you've gone too far here. That his disgrace and torture draws a public crowd chanting "heretic" and the council orders his execution (if we believe the hierarchs) tells me that this is the going price for monumental failure. I doubt, as such, there is any reason for thinking it would affect the reputation of the Elites as a whole, or that other Elites did not think his execution proper. No moves are made openly against the Elites as a group until Regret is killed, and as I'm sure you are aware there are those (like myself) who believe that was engineered by Truth.

[quote=UrsusArctos]When news spread that the Arbiter had failed in his mission to recover the Sacred Icon on Delta Halo, and Tartarus had succeeded instead, the increased tensions led to civil war in and around High Charity. The Elite Council was murdered. Elite and Brute controlled vessels started blasting each other, as seen at the beginning of Gravemind. Grunts and Jackals rioted outside the Prophets' chambers. All the madness and violence was steadily increasing, and Master Chief's surprise arrival would have hardly changed a thing. All the chaos would only help Truth, Mercy and Tartarus leave, along with the remaining members of the Council. Truth rushed off to Earth in the Forerunner vessel, Tartarus to activate Delta Halo. The other starships were too busy blasting each other to take notice of the escaping Prophet. All very good for Truth.[/quote]

How do we know news has spread that the Arbiter failed? How do we even know it is public knowledge he was sent on the mission? When Truth announces that the icon has been found, he credits no one. And even by that time, there is infighting. I don't think we have any particular thing to point to that allows us to conclusively establish when the Elite councilors were murdered by the Brutes, except to say that by the beginning of Uprising it has occurred. It seems possible that it has happened as early as prior to the start of Gravemind and could be the cause of what looks like fighting outside the chamber while Truth is doing his broadcast.

However, that also looks like it might just be overzealous crowd control by the Brutes. The individual lives of Grunts do not seem to be held in much high esteem, and the fact that the camera operator inside the chamber is a grunt seems to indicate that full-blown interspecies fighting has not yet broken out, but may be threatening to.

All in all, though, I doubt Truth's departure would go unnoticed. High Charity may very well now be without power, which would certainly be noticed. If it is common knowledge that this ship can detach from High Charity, it seems it may very well be recognized, and its departure noted as a significant event. If it is not well known, then the ship would very likely be noted by both sides in the conflict as an unknown vessel and possibly a target for both sides. All the while, since Truth now knows his objective to be on Earth, which has humans on it, very likely if he has not already sent forces there he would be signalling his loyal forces to accompany him there to protect him, so as to avoid Regret's earlier embarrassment there.

[quote=UrsusArctos]The fleets at Earth must have been in Slipspace or in battle during the time the insurrection at High Charity broke out. As a result, they wouldn't have known about what happened, and would concentrate on destroying Earth's defenses and occupying the planet.
[/quote]

If Earth is being abandoned that is consistent. If they are in slipspace, though-- headed where? To Delta Halo? Or to some fallback position?

Could very well be true.


Rampant for over se7en years.

[quote=narcogen]
I'm not sure I follow. Where are you seeing the bridge of the Cairo? We hear Lord Hood's voice in the cutscene that follows High Charity, but I don't recall seeing where he is.


Rampant for over se7en years.[/quote]

[url=http://halocinema.bungie.org/halo2/31_finale_sm.mov]Watch this.[/url]

You can see the bridge of Cairo in ruins, with electricty sparking and arcing form workstations.

-MAZ

I know the scene, I'm just pointing out that we're assuming it is the Cairo since that's the last place we knew Hood to be. There's nothing in the image that demonstrates that to be the Cairo, as opposed to any other MAC station. The Cairo may have been destroyed by this time, with Hood forced to evacuate.

Of course, there's nothing to indicate that, either, but my point was not to derive more from what we're seeing than is really there.


Rampant for over se7en years.

Since its in geosyncronis orbit, could we compare the veiws out the back?

-MAZ