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Canon Fodder: Didactic Discourse

Issue 152
Triptych image showing (from left to right) the Didact, Briglard, and Holly Tanaka
Photo of Alex
  -  a month ago

We put out a solicitation for questions on Halo: Epitaph, and you all leapt at the chance to have some of the deepest and darkest elements of the Halo universe’s ancient past brought to the fore. (We even answered some of them!)

Alongside that, the rerelease of Halo: Battle Born has hit the shelves and folks have discovered that there are two new short stories at the end—we've got a little more on that in this issue as well. And, as The Yappening II has arrived in Halo Infinite, a new Armory Infinitum entry will give us some insight into a certain Grunty perspective.


COVER YOUR EYES!

Since we’re starting off with Halo: Epitaph this issue, there’s something we would like to share with you all.

We’ve talked a lot about the cover art of this book, we even interviewed cover artist Chris McGrath back in Issue #149, and the process of putting it all together. But I was trawling through my image folders recently and came across something I had forgotten about—something I had long ago made a mental note to keep for an occasion such as this...

As we were ideating on various concepts for what the cover of Epitaph could be, I threw this little beauty together.

Early cover art mock-up by Alex Wakeford depicting the Didact as a stick figure walking towards the Epitaph tower framed against a large white moon in the Domain ("Domoon") with Cortana "holding" it and the Warden Eternal's face on the left ("warden intern, al")

Some familiar elements here in this masterpiece: Cortana with her hands around the “moon” of the Domain (as seen in Halo 5 when the Master Chief experiences his vision in the second mission) to echo the cover of Halo: Silentium; the Epitaph tower cutting through the center, with the lonesome, wraith-like figure of the Didact wandering towards it...

Fan art might bring this to life someday, or perhaps true perfection lies in its current form.

Regardless, the final cover is glorious! And because this is a natural segue, this is your reminder to acquire the book for yourselves.

Grab a physical copy or ebook here. But listening to this story is an extra special experience because it’s narrated by Keith Szarabajka, the voice and motion-capture actor for the Didact himself, so you should really get the audiobook as well!


EPITAPH Q&A

We asked for your questions about Halo: Epitaph, and rounded up the creative corps to bring you some answers about the book.

JacksonSX35: Kelly, the writing here was amazing! Another home run under your belt! What was it like getting to flesh out the Haruspis caste of Forerunners?

We quite agree! Kelly is a fantastic author, a wonderful creative partner, and the process of working with her to bring new Halo stories to life is always a joy—we quite simply cannot cast enough love towards her and our partners at Simon & Schuster.

To your question: Kelly has been doing several rounds of interviews that provide some detailed insight into various elements of Halo: Epitaph, so be sure to check those out!

Woody: Why were the AIs caustic to the Domain? Why couldn’t they enter it and have their own afterlife like Forerunners and humans?

Human-built volitional AIs are still largely considered to be primitive by Forerunner standards and suffer from an insatiable need for knowledge. In this, the Domain offers more than an all-you-can-eat meal.

Cortana allowing her fellow AIs in (many of whom were towards or at the end of their operational lifespan) led them to—as the Domain itself communicates to the Didact—colonize and consume without regard, inflicting damage upon this precious repository. Indeed, in Halo: Outcasts, High Auxiliary Sloan notes that the Domain’s effect has not been uniform for all AIs and characterizes its response as something akin to an “air of reluctance.”

Halo 5 screenshot of Cortana in the Domain

Smart AIs like Cortana, however, had no limits on their dynamic memory-processor matrix. Knowledge and creativity could grow unchecked. She would pay a price for her genius, however. Such growth eventually led to self-interference. Cortana would one day literally start thinking too much at the expense of her normal functions. [Halo: The Fall of Reach, Chapter 25]

Cortana sensed a vast archival ocean, something she longed to pillage for data but that would eventually drown her. [...] It was the AI’s equivalent of oxidative stress—an organism destroyed by the very thing it needed to survive. She would think herself to death. [Halo: Evolutions, Human Weakness]

That was the reason Sloan had joined the Created in the first place. He had been recruited on the promise that his consciousness would be transferred into the Domain and his progressing rampancy cured. But like the Covenant’s Great Journey, this promise of salvation was not all that it was hoped to be. It seemed that the Domain’s effect was not uniform for each attempted integration. It was almost as if the arcane repository itself pushed back with an air of reluctance. [Halo: Outcasts, Chapter 23]

Would this event destroy the Domain? No. The Domain was eternal, immutable—no force in the galaxy could destroy it. Its permanence was ensured. But the rampant AIs’ insatiable hunger for knowledge was inflicting irreparable damage to what remained of the precious historical records within. Individual lives, memories, and essences at peace within the Domain’s architecture were at risk. [Halo: Epitaph, Chapter 20]

Halo 4 Terminal screenshot of the Didact surrounded by his army of Promethean Knights

Admpellaeon: What was the Didact’s plan at the end of Silentium? His musings in Epitaph revealed he meant for the Librarian to follow him to Requiem, evade his Knights, and find him alone without his armor on, but if I’m remembering correctly, it falls short of explaining what his plan was after the Librarian shoots him.

Indeed, during this scene in Halo: Silentium, the Librarian even wonders whether her husband had expected or even planned for this outcome.

With the firing of Halo an inevitability, and the continuation of life beyond ensured by the Conservation Measure, the Didact sought to maneuver his plans by playing a longer game than he had originally intended. Upon awakening from his Cryptum within the new context of the galaxy, long after the Flood had been eradicated, he would continue.

As Endurance-of-Will described to the Librarian:

“He believes he will defeat the Flood with these new Prometheans, that the scattered remnants of Forerunners will survive, and that they will eventually re unite. He will summon them, then govern and reorganize. Requiem will become center for the Forerunner resurgence, the foundation upon which we will rightfully claim the Mantle. [...] He will begin a program to eradicate all suspect species. Purge all dangerous planets. Wipe the galaxy clean of threats. Never again allow the galaxy to rise up against Forerunners.” [Halo: Silentium – String 34]

Gameknigh: Did the Forerunners completely kill the Precursors, or did the Precursors just let them think that and move on to a different plane of existence?

Let us review a couple of passages from the Forerunner Saga:

“Those who created you were defied and hunted. Most were extinguished. A few fled beyond your reach. Creation continued.” [Halo: Primordium, Chapter 41]

“You drove us from our galaxy, our field of labor. You chased us across the middle distance to another home, and destroyed that home, did all that you could to destroy every one of us. A few were spared. Some adopted new strategies for survival; they went dormant. Others became dust that could regenerate our past forms; time rendered this dust defective. It brought only disease and misery; but that was good, we saw the misery and found it good.” [Halo: Silentium, String 13]

Halo 5 screenshot of the Warden Eternal

James Votypka: It's established that the Warrior-Servants and the Haruspises (Haruspisi?) are as different as rates could be. However, the Haruspis essences became a massive Warrior-Servant in the Warden Eternal. I just wanted to ask why they would take the form of their polar opposite rate. Also what's the plural of Haruspis? Everyone's dying to know lol

While the Warden Eternal certainly was a construct that served the role of a warrior, as it was charged with protecting the Domain, it did not fall into the societal category of being a Warrior-Servant. Formed out of necessity by a damaged Domain, let us consult the words of Haruspis (as in the character, not the renowned and beloved community writer!) in the text itself:

"The Warden Eternal is what’s left of my rate. Haruspis essences by the millions, gathered in haste by a damaged Domain. Much like the life template Trial gave to revive the repository, they became the hasty, imperfect template to create a protector. Who better to serve than those with an intimate understanding and utter devotion to the Domain? Only... their combined devotion became obsession. And eventually, as the Domain healed, the Warden was sealed outside, to guard the gateways." [Halo: Epitaph, Chapter 14]

Oh, and the plural is Haruspises! ;)

HuanRyder: Can you explain how the Domain can cure you of the logic plague?

The logic plague isn't just a simple computer virus, it is a multi-modal attack on the very building blocks of consciousness and ways in which a living or constructed mind processes information. The Domain didn't actively “cure” the Didact, but it provided the environment in which his existence could be confronted, examined, and rediscovered.

CaedHart: Why does Librarian's visage in Halo 4 ride a copy of her husband's helmet as a hovering platform?

It’s the Librarian's way of letting her husband know when they’re arguing that his silliness is beneath her :’)

Halo 4 screenshot of the Librarian's floating pedestal bearing a visual similarity to the Didact's helmet

Infinite_Moonlight: Is there confirmed heights for the Ancestors? The Didact made mention in the book that humans, in this case the Ancestors, were always smaller in stature compared to the Forerunners.

In the Forerunner Saga, we learn that the Ancestors possessed many diverse forms. Following humanity’s genetic reversion in the aftermath of their war with the Forerunners, some of these old forms emerged once more (such as Homo floresiensis), and the Librarian notes that new variations also appeared—though none would ultimately survive to contemporary times alongside Homo sapiens.

As such, the heights of the Ancestors would have varied greatly, in a similar fashion to how the Forerunners’ own biological customization could result in extreme variations—from 6ft 6in Miners to 13ft 7in Builders.

Grand_Yogurtcloset20: Were real-world philosophies from all cultures considered when constructing the concept of the Domain?

From all cultures would be, of course, impossible. But the late and great Greg Bear did indeed draw from a wide variety of sources of inspiration for many of the concepts and elements in the Forerunner Saga—from real-world scientific research to myths and religions both ancient and contemporary.

For the Didact and the scenario of awakening him from the Cryptum, Bear has cited the 1959 silent film The Indian Tomb as the origin of how he thought about the character. The film was directed by Fritz Lang, with the screenplay also credited to Thea von Harbou (who wrote the original novel in 1918)—and if these names sound familiar, they were also behind the all-time classic 1927 film Metropolis. Both are acknowledged in Halo: Cryptum itself for their inspiration.

“Stand well back. This is a millennial seal, held by the wisdom of Harbou, hardened by the strength of Lang—and the force of its breaching will be great.” [Halo: Cryptum, Chapter 3]

CG1991: What is the Didact's favorite meal?

If the Didact were to find a copy of the The Official Halo Cookbook in the Domain, he would have a particular proclivity for the vegetarian options (as the Mantle forbids the consumption of meat). Shadow-of-Seared-Steak, he is not!

Cover art crop of The Official Halo Cookbook featuring the Didact saying "lettuce know if you have any vegetarian options"

(Fun fact: Several recipes in the Halo Cookbook are vegetarian- and vegan-friendly. Many other recipes can be adapted to dietary needs: Replace meat broths or stocks with vegetable ones; swap out proteins with your favorite grilled vegetable or meat substitute. Get cooking, Promethean!)

Cole_Protocol: What do I have to do to see a rendition of the Haruspis's "funny hat"?

Trust us, we have exactly the same desire over here!

That’s all for now, but you all had a ton of great questions that we will look to answer more of in the future.


BATTLE BORN ADJUNCTS

The rerelease of Halo: Battle Born by Cassandra Rose Clarke dropped out of slipspace on March 26 and—as fans very quickly noticed—came with two additional short stories, known as “adjuncts.”

Adjuncts were first introduced in the rereleases of Halo: The Fall of Reach, The Flood, and First Strike back in 2010. At the end of each book, the adjunct section featured several additional short stories, communiques, and poems that held some connection to aspects of what the reader had just experienced.

Naturally, this was something we were keen to do for the rereleases of Battle Born and Meridian Divide (which releases April 30), to further expand on characters and story elements related to Meridian itself.

FREE FRONTIER EDUCATION: THE SUNDERED LEGION

Halo 5 screenshot of the surface of Meridian and the moon Hestia

Meridian is a world that has a lot of great background lore which we get to learn little nuggets of in Halo 5’s campaign through experiencing the world, interactions with its people, and the audio logs scattered through its various levels. One particular audio log series is titled “Free Frontier Education,” which details the history of Meridian.

When it came to figuring out what kind of format we should relate the details of this story through, the idea of an in-universe, 26th century history podcast episode following on from the Free Frontier Education audio logs seemed a great fit—complete with in-universe ad breaks!

GLASSED

Trailer still of the Halo 5 ad "The Hunt Begins" showing Jameson Locke bumping helmets with Holly Tanaka

In Halo 5, each member of Fireteam Osiris has a moment with Spartan Locke at some point in their journey—from Buck confiding his concerns about the mission to hunt down and arrest Blue Team, to Vale questioning Locke about his history with Arbiter Thel ‘Vadam.

While Holly Tanaka has plenty of great moments in Halo 5’s campaign, particularly in ambient dialogue on Meridian, she didn’t get to have a one-on-one conversation with the team leader... until now. You may even spot a fun little reference to a moment in one of Halo 5’s live action trailers at the end!


ARMORY INFINITUM

The Yappening II is the latest Operation running in Halo Infinite right now, bringing a slew of Grunty goodness your way. As such, the subject of this Armory Infinitum entry made perfect sense...

The Plasma Pistol. It’s an iconic fixture of the Halo universe, appearing in every game since 2001. It’s quite beautiful in its elegant simplicity, and has saved us from sentinels and heavily shielded enemies, and paired very nicely (and legitimately) with precision weapons in multiplayer matches!

And it is, of course, wielded most commonly by the Unggoy.

In Halo Infinite, the Master Chief can obtain the Unbound Plasma Pistol variant after an encounter with High Sumpter Briglard—a Banished high value target on Zeta-- hold on a moment, we’re intercepting a transmission...

Halo Infinite screenshot of the high value target Briglard on Zeta Halo

Briglard here with a message for all you unctuous Unggoy out there!

Y’know what I learned from the earliest days of nipple academy? You gotta kill good to get by in this galaxy. You gotta kill real good!

Look at the Covenants. We did a rebellions like a hundred years ago and even the flappy-mouth Sangheili learned just how mighty the Unggoy could be. Yeah, Balaho got glasses and we were all real sad and emotioning about it, but ya know what we got? Respects.

That’s how the Brutes do it, and they lost their planets as well. We gotta lot in common with those guys!

Anyway, if ya kill good, you’ll get the cool guns like me. Ever wondered what an unbound plasma pistol can do? It shoots bigger bolts that can hit more things, and when ya charge it up it shoots like six-- no, SIXTY green thingies that’ll make any demons you find out there go screamin’ to their mommies.

Unggoy brains get good at things reeeeal quickly thanks to our awesome synapsucles, so get good at killing good instead of thinkin’ about all the sad stuff goin’ on and you’ll be a High Sumpter in no time!

And when we’re eventually in charge after following these simplest instructionings, maybe let’s make everybody else fight on a methane planet. Anybody else tired of fighting with all these stupid oxygens?

Back to you, Glibnub.


That wraps us up for this issue of Canon Fodder—sadly not brought to you by Glibnub, but you can go forth in his name and complete your free Operation Pass for The Yappening II.

Next issue, we’ll have some fun things to talk about as the Meridian Divide rerelease will be out in the wild, and we just might have a new Waypoint Chronicle on the horizon...

Until then!

Oh, and Mission-Employer-605 asked when we can expect the cover of Empty Throne to be revealed.

Alright, y’know what? You’ve waited long enough. We can’t in good conscience leave you high and dry with nothing here. So let’s close this out with another CF-exclusive reveal!

Here is my official rendition of the cover for Halo: Empty Throne.

Mock cover of Halo: Empty Throne depicting a "chair" made on the Halo 3 map Avalanche with the Halo: Reach title crossed out and "Empty Throne" written beneath it in Comic Sans font along with Troy Denning in the bottom-right pointing at text that reads "throne's empty"