Canon Fodder: Vis-à-Vale
Halo: Outcasts is out in the wild, bringing an incredible new story from Troy Denning filled with a plethora of compelling lore elements—we'll be diving into one particular aspect of that in today’s issue, concerning Olympia Vale and her father’s connection to the SPARTAN-II program.
On top of that, we’ve got a new Armory Infinitum mini-story on the Arcane Sentinel Beam, and a round-up of some additional nuggets of Waypoint-bound lore.
Let’s get right into it...
OUTCASTS IS OUT!
Halo: Outcasts, the latest novel by acclaimed author Troy Denning, is now available!
The novel features the return of Arbiter Thel ‘Vadam and Spartan Olympia Vale, who find themselves in a race against time to seek out an alleged Guardian-killing weapon that could turn the tide against Cortana’s despotic rule.
Of course, you may want to sample a taste of the novel first, and we’ve got you covered there with three previews released over the last month.
Arbiter Thel ‘Vadam, Usze ‘Taham, N’tho ‘Sraom, and Kola ‘Baoth are halted by Cortana’s occupying armiger forces on Sanghelios.
The Arbiter returns to Vadam Keep where he is visited by a new character who is pivotal to the story of Outcasts—Oath Warden Crei ‘Ayomuu.
As an expedition to Netherop is prepared in the wake of news that it may hold a Guardian-killing weapon, Spartan Olympia Vale and Professor Keely Iyuska head to the independent world of Gao to recruit somebody who knows Netherop well—a former castoff who grew up while stranded on the so-called “world of death.”
There’s an array of interviews and discussions about Halo: Outcasts that you can tune into which provide some great insight into the story that is told in the book, the journeys that its characters go on, and aspects of how it came together.
Think of this stuff as lore of a different kind—the lore of process, which we are always discovering can be every bit as fascinating and terrifying as the fiction itself.
Kicking things off, our fourth episode of Spartan Chatter went live a few weeks ago where myself, Jeff Easterling, and Sam Nylen sat down to talk about the book (specifically around the released preview chapters, though we inevitably laid out some hints for other story elements). You can catch the recording of the episode on YouTube below.
Troy Denning has done some written interviews as well, which you should definitely check out:
“Fans should never be afraid to jump into a universe because it generates a lot of lore. That’s just a sign of its popularity—all those stories wouldn’t be out there if people didn’t enjoy what they’re seeing. More importantly, it’s not an assignment. There’s no rule that says you have to read it all, much less know it all.”
Troy talks about writing Thel ‘Vadam and Olympia Vale, the theme of “outcasts” in the book, and writing for established universes.
“I would say that the biggest influence on Outcasts—and perhaps even on Halo in general—is Greg Bear and his Forerunner Saga. Obviously, he’s influenced my previous novels, most notably Retribution. But it would be silly not to point out that his work in the Halo universe is the primary—perhaps even sole—influence on Outcasts. He added so much to Halo lore that I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say Halo wouldn’t be what it is today without his contributions.”
Troy details more about the process of how Halo: Outcasts came together, the influence his heart surgery had on the book, and explores his perspective on the Halo universe as being more hard science fiction than space opera.
There’s a lot of interesting stuff to digest here, and a certain aspect of the book around the character of Rosa Fuertes—formerly one of the castoffs from Netherop in Halo: Oblivion—was strongly informed by Troy’s open-heart surgery, which is a powerful lens through which to examine that part of the story.
LIFTING THE VALE
A key character and perspective in Halo: Outcasts is Spartan Olympia Vale, who we formally met in the 2015 novel Halo: Hunters in the Dark before fighting alongside (or, if in co-op, as) her in Halo 5: Guardians.
The resident Sangheili cultural and linguistic expert of Fireteam Osiris, Vale’s role took prominence in Halo 5 when we set foot on the vibrant shores of Sanghelios itself as the last holdouts of Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant prepared to make their final stand at the city of Sunaion.
At the end of Halo 5, while attempting to rescue Blue Team from the Cryptum that Cortana had trapped them within, the rogue AI directly taunts each member of Fireteam Osiris. Of Vale, we hear the following:
CORTANA: "Olympia Vale. The little genius girl who only wanted daddy to love her--"
VALE: "That's Spartan Vale. And if you're reading my psych eval, you know it takes more than my father to get to me."
This particular aspect of Vale’s backstory was left as a breadcrumb for fans to wonder about, and in Chapter 3 of Halo: Outcasts we finally lifted the lid on the dark truth behind this hinted history.
But to explore that further, we have to look a little farther back to the personal journal of Dr. Catherine Halsey—an exclusive book that was included with the limited and legendary editions of Halo: Reach.
Among the accompanying items within Halsey’s journal are some SPARTAN-II program candidate records, and one of peculiar interest is that of SPARTAN-095, Caleb Aagard.
Born on the Inner Colony world Luyten in 2511, Caleb was an exceptionally intelligent individual who was also known to be “very self-sufficient and introverted.” It is noted that neuroimaging of Caleb’s brain was conducted after a farming accident that left him with a head injury, where it was found to have resulted in a neural network accretion that is often associated with intuitive behavior.
Some labelled this “precognition,” but Halsey wrote: “I’ll believe in ‘trolls under the bridge’ before I subscribe to such pseudoscientific nonsense.”
However, when the time came for ONI to abduct the Spartan candidates, Caleb-095 was never found.
Caleb Aagard would go on to assume a new name—Caleb Vale—and worked as a technician on slipspace drives, though he would refuse to work on military vessels under the claim that he was a devoted pacifist. He would marry a woman named Nerina who served in UNSC signals intelligence, with whom he had a daughter: Olympia.
When Nerina Vale was promoted to the rank of captain and reassigned to High Command in Sydney, Caleb was unable to convince her to decline the assignment and they eventually decided to dissolve their marriage (on Olympia’s eleventh birthday, no less).
Nerina and Olympia boarded a diplomatic shuttle bound for Earth, but what was supposed to be a six-day journey for a crew of four ended up taking six months as the slipspace drive malfunctioned. During this time, Olympia listened to recordings of the Sangheili language and compared them to AI translations, some of which she would prove to be wrong. And so, her fascination with the Sangheili began. Of her father, Olympia suspected that he might have sabotaged the slipspace drive in a last-ditch effort to get them to return to Luyten, but Nerina scornfully dismissed this suggestion and led her to conclude it was a silly idea.
That was, until after the Covenant War, when new information came to light that put Olympia Vale’s heritage in a very different perspective. Her mother Nerina had sadly perished in the Battle of Earth during the Covenant assault on Sydney in 2552. Eventually, Olympia reached out to inform her father... only to find that the man she knew as Caleb Vale did not exist.
Using her ONI connections, Olympia learned “Caleb Vale” was a false identity assumed by one Caleb Aagard, who had been born the same year as her father on Luyten—the sole note on his record stating that he had refused conscription in 2517 before vanishing. This was a detail that Olympia found odd, as Aagard would have been just six years old at the time, his date of birth having been listed as May 16, 2511. As Olympia dug deeper to find answers that might explain this apparent discrepancy, she was advised by her superior to drop the investigation.
But the truth would not remain buried. Benjamin Giraud emerged as a rogue journalist who had himself stumbled onto similar discrepancies and misinformation while doing a propaganda piece for ONI on the Master Chief himself, discovering some dark truths about the SPARTAN-II program. And this was the final turn that confirmed Olympia’s suspicions: her father had indeed been Caleb Aagard.
Where Aagard is now, and even if he is still alive, remains unknown to Olympia Vale, let alone what he would make of his daughter having willingly become a Spartan.
But she does not yet feel she has earned this closure. Having been at the center of the Cortana Event as a member of Fireteam Osiris, Olympia Vale feels a great sense of responsibility and uncertainty over the role that they were ordered to play in arresting Blue Team. Did their involvement hinder Blue Team from finishing the fight against Cortana before it began, or would the rogue AI have simply escaped with them locked in a Cryptum for ten thousand years if Fireteam Osiris hadn’t pursued them to Genesis?
Without the other personalities of Fireteam Osiris to keep her more centered, Halo: Outcasts explores more of Vale’s thoughts and feelings around how recent galactic events have played out, and the role she must play—not just as a diplomatic liaison, but as a leader on a high-stakes mission with soldiers that are more experienced than she is.
To conclude this section, we're cracking open the Halo 5 concept art vault to drop a stunning new piece of Olympia Vale from Gabriel "Robogabo" Garza, Kenneth Scott, and John Wallin Liberto.
Oh, and if you would like to listen to an awesome fan reading of some of these contents from Dr. Halsey's journal, check out this video from Kat Peterson!
Our third of five Intel drops has arrived for Season 4 of Halo Infinite.
In this entry, we turn our attention to test trials undertaken for the Quantum Translocator. This saw some worrisome shenanigans ensue as UNSC personnel take their fledgling steps into utilizing Forerunner translocation technology on living beings rather than more rudimentary objects.
(It is also highly advised that you read this particular entry in a heavy “New York” accent!)
Armory Infinitum returns once more to provide a brief exploration of a moment in time in which certain special weapons we find in Halo Infinite have been used.
The Arcane Sentinel Beam is a unique variant of the sentinels' directed energy weapon, which serves the primary function of cauterizing and eradicating hazardous biological material. In the campaign of Halo Infinite, this weapon is wielded by a high-value target: Thav ‘Sebarim.
“Kaidon ‘Sebarim,” a voice called, and a red-armored Sangheili enforcer approached. “I bring ill news.”
Thav ‘Sebarim, clad in the dark maroon armor that identified him as a Bloodstar, a special warfare unit that had been appropriated from the Covenant into the ranks of the Banished military schema, watched as a trio of Banshees passed overhead and disappeared into low white clouds on their scouting run.
In his hands, 'Sebarim carried a sentinel beam that had been found during one of his excursions to the ring’s substructures—the vast, metal underworld that lay below the natural edifice of the ring’s verdant surface. This directed energy weapon was much like the ones integrated into standard sentinel units, but the enforcer had been awed by the effectiveness of its use—how it so quickly disintegrated its targets, as if they had been totally cleansed from existence.
“What is the problem?” ‘Sebarim asked.
The enforcer straightened, decades of discipline from Covenant military service had long ago become second nature to him, though he allowed his eyes to wander to the group of half-a-dozen human captives held by 'Sebarim's Jiralhanae entourage.
“The Inspector informs me that the Redoubt of Sundering is full,” he spoke. “There is no more room for the spoils of today’s hunt.”
“Ah,” ‘Sebarim gestured to the enforcer to come closer. “We have been gluttonously spoiled with prisoners since Tremonius claimed their ruined frigate.”
The enforcer dipped his head in agreement. The attack on the UNSC Mortal Reverie had scattered the survivors to the winds, but the checkpoints and fortifications set up by the Banished had effectively transformed this area of the ring into the perfect hunting ground.
Humans were tenacious when faced with limited options. Some simply chose to hide and had to be flushed out from their cowardly retreat, others attempted to form larger groups to conduct attacks on various targets of value. The only other option that remained for them was to leap into the abyss at the sundered edge of the ring.
“What do you intend to do?” asked the enforcer.
“Release them, of course,” ‘Sebarim said, and the Bloodstar warrior’s grip on his weapon tightened.
If you visit Halo Waypoint—which, if you’re reading this, I assume you do!—you may have noticed that we have a new sub-category in the News section of the site, titled “Fiction.”
As the months have gone on following the release of Halo Infinite, we’ve been increasing the number of fiction-focused offerings here on Waypoint. And so, bundled under this category, you will find Canon Fodder, Intel drops, Waypoint Chronicles (and yes, more are on the way!), Story Shards, book previews, and so on.
We hope that this particular “bucket” of the site will make it a little easier for folks to find these offerings!
And speaking of making things easier for folks, something we released recently was an official guide to the Halo books.
In this evergreen blog, which will be updated with each new addition, you will find a complete listing of all the Halo books (of which there are thirty-six thus far) and links to our marvelous partners over at Simon & Schuster where you can purchase them.
This has been broken down into sections, reflecting what you will see when you open your new copy of Halo: Outcasts, with our official listing of the various trilogies, series 'n' sagas, stand-alone stories, and anthologies neatly arranged for your ease of reference.
The Tenrai III event is due to go live on September 19, just a few short weeks from now.
Since we started Story Shards with the recurring Entrenched event last year, there have been a lot of conversations in the community around whether we would do one for Tenrai, and we can formally confirm that we are indeed.
Tenrai boasts such a powerful aesthetic component that has really resonated with the community since its introduction back when Halo Infinite launched in 2021, and we wanted to take the extra time to deliver something that could properly reflect and honor that aspect of it to support the story we are looking to tell. This upcoming Story Shard will feature some bespoke art pieces that we think folks will really enjoy, we can’t wait to share it with you.
Stay tuned. Tenrai III will be here before you know it!
That wraps us up for this month’s issue. Next month, we’ll have a more in-depth discussion on Outcasts with a full community Q&A—something we wanted to give a little more time to settle as folks read the book and mull over its various revelations.
P.S. - If you would like a guide to understand the various characters and features of the cover art of Halo: Outcasts, I have compiled this helpful visual piece with the assistance of Troy Denning himself!