- Founding Document:
- Writ of Union
- High Charity
- 852 BCE
- 2552 CE
The Covenant is an alliance of alien species originally founded by the San’Shyuum (Prophets) and the Sangheili (Elites) in the hopes of securing more knowledge of their gods, the Forerunners. Over time, the Covenant have added several species which have acted as fully-integrated members within the empire. These include the Lekgolo (Hunters), the Yanme’e (Drones), the Kig-Yar (Jackals and Skirmishers), the Unggoy (Grunts), and the Jiralhanae (Brutes).
Central to the Covenant’s ultimate goal was the discovery of Halo, an array of incredible and ancient ringworlds which when activated was believed to be a means of divine sublimation. In reality, the Halo Array was eventually revealed to be a weapon of mass destruction. For long periods of time, the Covenant scoured the galaxy for Halo, finding many lost Forerunner installations and relics along the way. However, when they encountered humans they began finding cracks in their theological moorings. The discovery of humanity threatened the nature of the Covenant at such a foundational level that the San’Shyuum declared humanity a disease that must be cleansed, and embarked on an attempt to wipe out the species from the galaxy.
After the thirty-year Human-Covenant War, the Covenant underwent a massive schism, with many of its previous species returning back to their own worlds. Arbiter Thel ‘Vadam led a portion of the Sangheili in an effort to both rebuild a strong and united Sangheilios, as well as gain important allies. To further these efforts, these Sangheili have made a fragile ad hoc alliance with the humans and have gathered under the still-formative banner “Swords of Sangheilios.” However, the Arbiter’s sentiment was not felt across the entirety of his kind. Many Sangheili continued to regard the Forerunners as gods, and remained steadfast in their intention to follow in their footsteps to achieve apparent immortality. Others still felt an alliance with humanity was a fool’s gambit. They believed the Sangheili should stake a claim as the true inheritors of the Forerunner empire, elevating their race to a place of galactic supremacy without the San’Shyuum to stand in their way. Even further, many Sangheili regard ‘Vadam as a “false Arbiter”, and claim since he did not sacrifice himself in battle, he represents the ultimate heresy against both the Great Journey and Sangheilios itself. They attest that ‘Vadam is a coward that must be extinguished for the Sangheili to truly ascend. Without species-wide agreement, the aftermath of the Great Schism eventually led to civil war and the formation of a newly resurrected Covenant body.
This new Covenant remains a mystery even unto itself, as it has seen splinter groups led by fledgling and ambitious Sangheili warlords make desperate attempts to salvage a stake of the Covenant power and influence. But it has also seen attempts at reunification, most notably under the Sangheili warlord named Jul ‘Mdama, who was successful in entering the Forerunner shield world of Requiem. It was ‘Mdama’s forces that were given sanction by the Didact himself to carry out the destruction of humanity in an effort to help the Forerunners rise again. ‘Mdama’s inferred sovereignty quickly gained traction, earning him the title of the “Didact’s Hand.” With the ability to command – even if unstably so – the Didact’s own Promethean constructs, ‘Mdama has rekindled some of the devotion and beliefs of unification many thought lost with the Great Schism. Also not to be forgotten are the hushed murmurs of Jiralhanae clans gathering strength in hidden corners of the Orion Arm with unconfirmed intents to stake their own claim on the Covenant Empire. No matter what forms it might continue to take, the Covenant look to remain a viable threat for the foreseeable future.
Although the Covenant’s primary homeworld, the Holy City of High Charity, was enormous, fully mobile, and even capable of slipspace travel, the alliance utilized many sites as anchors of military, political, and utilitarian dominion. At the base, this included the worlds and colonies of each species it had subsumed, but it would also grow to include new worlds and even Forerunner installations. The Covenant, as an empire, dominated much of the galaxy, though they would generally leave a world untouched unless it offered particular treasures, whether practical or religious.
Apart from High Charity, the primary Covenant worlds were military bases created by the Sangheili, some of which include Saepon’kal (Joyous Exultation) and Malurok (Decided Heart). It is believed that Saepon’kal was destroyed during the Great Schism, while the status of Malurok is unknown. High Charity, after its fall to the Flood during the Great Schism, was crushed against the surface of the Ark during the final battle of the Human-Covenant War.
The Covenant was founded as a theocracy with the San’Shyuum at the head. The Sangheili maintained a subservient yet equal-standing role (as both shared in the founding of the alliance), exclusively governing the affairs of the military. The San’Shyuum dominated the political arena with a three-person triumvirate of High Prophets. Thought the High Council (which held several hundred individuals) included both San’Shyuum and Sangheili, giving each founding species some standing in the Covenant’s goals, the High Prophets ultimately dictated these ends.
The Covenant military was originally conceived as a means to establish dominance in the galaxy by way of force, but primarily at the goal of acquiring Forerunner technology and pressing forward toward the hope of divinity. The Covenant military was vast and its power and presence were easily the largest and most dominant single element of the alliance. This fact, combined with the Sangheili’s virtually complete control of the military, eventually led to friction and distrust by the San’Shyuum. Seeking to overthrow them, the triumvirate of San‘Shyuum hierarchs turned against the Sangheili, secretly armed and empowering the Jiralhanae (Brutes) to take control. This worked for but a short time, before forcing many of the Sangheili to ally with humans and bring an end to the Covenant as it was altogether. In the aftermath of the war, many Sangheili disagreed with the view that an alliance with the humans was beneficial. This fracture led to numerous civil wars on Sanghelios, but it also led to the formation of a new Covenant. This new Covenant is almost entirely military in nature and lacks the unified cohesion of its long-standing predecessor, though the might of well-equipped Sangheili can never be underestimated.
Language and Architecture
The official language of the Covenant is an advanced dialect of Sangheili. It is spoken by all species within the Covenant and for many has replaced their native language after the events of the war. The architecture of the Covenant, though some loose connections with the Sangheili, was predominantly San’Shyuum in nature and design. Even the military vehicles were based almost entirely on San’Shyuum structural aesthetics early on, informing much of the Sangheili’s designs in the years to follow.
Although several of the Covenant species had achieved some measure of technological advancement on their own, the alliance’s recovery and analysis of Forerunner machines had been the key to realizing the vast majority of technology they used. Much of their advancements were yielded from the Forerunner Dreadnought that the San’Shyuum had recovered from their own world, though countless Forerunner sites and relics provided substantial progress in the centuries before the Covenant’s collapse. These improvements included translight travel and communication, the manipulation of extremely high volumes of plasma energy through recycling detritus from sublight travel, the control and usage of hard light, short-range teleportation of matter, and the deft influence over gravity and repulsor-based technologies, among other things.