The Covenant Empire, also referred to the Covenant was a religious hegemony made up of many alien species that controlled a large portion of the Orion Arm in the Milky Waygalaxy. They waged a genocidal campaign against Humanity until they were defeated due to many factors, the most crucial of which was an internal conflict. While the Covenant's leadership was either lost during the Floodinfection of High Charity or during the Battle of Installation 00, the Covenant continues to exist even after the conclusion of the war. In exactly what capacity it continues to operate in remains unknown.
In 938 BC The San'Shyuum Reformists entered a Sangheili-occupied system that led to first contact between the San'Shyuum and the Sangheili. The San'Shyuum, who came to Sangheilios in order to claim and study the rich abundance of Forerunner artifacts left behind, soon found themselves sharing different ideologies of how such relics should be treated, which quickly devolved into conflict between the San'Shyuum and the Sangheili.
The Sangheili believed that Forerunner relics were sacred and should not be touched, while the San'Shyuum Reformists believed that they should be studied and use them to make practical objects of their own design. The highly militarized and brutal Sangheili attacked the San 'Shyuum almost as soon as their differences became apparent, and a war between the two species raged for eighty six years.
At the start of the war, the Sangheili had a numerical advantage in terms of ships and soldiers, their strength and military tactics overwhelmed their enemy by a considerable factor. The San'Shyuum's knowledge, gleaned from years of travel and the capabilities of their Forerunner Dreadnought, however gave them the advantage in ship-to-ship combat, the most common type of combat witnessed during the war.
Eventually both species came to fear a very real threat: Annihilation. The Sangheili who feared it though the San'Shyuum's use of the Dreadnought; and the San'Shyuum who came to admit that if the Sangheili were this dangerous, there might be other sentient life far more threatening, making their chances of survival in the galaxy slim. The long and brutal war caused the Sangheili to violate their very beliefs, study and incorporate Forerunner technology into their own in order to avoid defeat — their incorporation of Forerunner technology eventually caused a stalemate in the war against the San'Shyuum, their Dreadnought however proved far too effective and forced the Sangheili to surrender.
In their warrior culture, the Sangheili have great respect for a worthy adversary, and after their surrender the San'Shyuum sought to seek a burgeoning Covenant of the two races, thus the term "Covenant", the alliance between the two species; was formed in 852 BC with the signing of the Writ of Union, the treaty that ended the conflict and brought about peace between the two.
The species that make up the confederation known as the Covenant come from different parts of the galaxy and take all kinds of physical forms. Organized into a caste system by their religious leaders the San'Shyuum, the different species of the Covenant have many divisions but there is one powerful force that unites them — their blind faith in the Great Journey.
The Covenant society is a single hegemonistic culture, It is a culture with a distinct caste based societal system which has a strong theocratic underpinning. There are three basic Covenant castes: The Religious caste; the Military or Warrior caste; and the Worker caste.
To the average Covenant citizen, the two ruling classes are the San'Shyuum and the Sangheili, though the San'Shyuum are generally believed to be "the voice of the gods."] The Covenant have ten echelons of government, the highest echelon being the Covenant High Council who are responsible for making all important decisions. It is made up of 200 members of Sangheili and San'Shyuum, and is ruled by the three San'Shyuum Hierarchs. These Hierarchs are the highest political and religious authority in the Covenant. For each new Age, three new Hierarchs are appointed; in order for them to usher in a new age and assume power, they must receive a blessing from the Oracle of High Charity. This Oracle is a Forerunner Artificial Intelligence found within the Dreadnought which sits at the center of the capital. Until the events that led to the war against Humanity, the Oracle had not spoken for over a millennia, so the ascension of the Hierarchs is steeped with political bribes, black mail and manipulation of the San'Shyuum Philologist.
The High Council consists of San'Shyuum Councilors and Sangheili Councilors, who are extremely important to the Covenant society. They share the central theocratic and decision-making body of the Covenant. In addition to the High Council, there are three other Councils: the Council of Concordance, the Council of Deed and Doctrine and the Council of Masters. Below that numerous Ministries exist within the Covenant government, each of which dictates a single, but important role within the Governmental body of the Covenant.
In truth however, the San'Shyuum and Sangheili have an uneasy coexistence, and political infighting is very common behind the scenes.
The Covenant culture and religion is based solely on the worship and reverence of the Forerunners, long ago the San'Shyuum managed to read some of the data stored on terminals aboard the Forerunner Dreadnought, thanks to the Forerunners' robust translation systems they misunderstood the many subtle meanings of Forerunner glyphs. The San'Shyuum incorrectly interpret the activation of the Halo Array as a means of transcendence, a process they came to call the Great Journey. They did not understand that this activation had been designed to kill the Flood, specifically by triggering a galactic genocide. They simply thought that the Forerunners had disappeared and left other species of the galaxy to their fates. Because of this, the Covenant often search and recover their artifacts and often have to turn to war to achieve their ends. In Covenant society, personal vendettas are not tolerated, although many conflicts in the Covenant's past has been sparked by vendettas.
The Covenant use commerce as a form of economy, as the Covenant's cohesion is grounded in their beliefs of working for and sharing Forerunner technology, every member of the Covenant is given a form of employment, a service to fulfill in exchange for goods and necessities. In the Covenant's culture, service for salvation is the moral motivation for the entire population, despite this there is discrimination within the Covenant, due to their hegemonistic thinking. The lesser species are treated as second hand citizens with absolutely no political or representative voice or power.
The Covenant are always eager to add new species to their faith (with the exeption of humans), so long as they pledge allegiance to the San'Shyuum as their supreme leaders and the Great Journey as their religion. Client races are in all essence enslaved by the Covenant, forced to live a completely different way of life and, if unlucky enough, have their entire culture and history erased. The client races are held together by a common belief; the slave races are driven by the religion which they have been forced to accept. Most races are only kept for their varying skills to be exploited, rather than to be a part of a flourishing empire.
Like other civilizations, the Covenant maintains a permanent armed forces branch, used to enforce order, conduct atmospheric and space combat operations, and generally project the Covenant's power onto others. Formerly led by the Elites prior to the Covenant Civil War, the Loyalist branches are now led by the Brutes. The military comprises of the Covenant Navy, the Covenant Army and the Special Warfare Group containing the Special Operations Division (SpecOps). Combined with the unique abilities of the client races, help to push the ever-growing war machine of the Covenant.
Humans are the only species known that have started war against the Covenant and survived, unlike the Grunts (Unggoy) who almost immedietly surrendered and joined the Covenant. The human's very existance is heresy to all Covenant branches, such as Insurrectionists modifying Plasma Rifles for utility and accuracy, seen in the riots of Charybdis IX.
Many of the alien species conquered by the Covenant are conscripted into, or gradually become part of the alliance. However, during the first contact with the Humans, The Oracle on board the Forerunner Dreadnought revealed to Truth and Regret that Humans are Reclaimers, as shown by its luminary. Since the entire Covenant was based on the belief that the Forerunners had transcended, Truth and Regret knew if any of the other races found out what the Oracle told them, the Covenant would cease to exist.
The highest caste, the San'Shyuum, or "Prophets," as Humans call them, lead the Covenant and exert complete control over all religious and political affairs. Though physically weak, Prophets wield power through absolute command of the Covenant and through scavenged Forerunner technology, leaving the task of conquest to the Elites and the other races. Their higher understanding of the Forerunners gives them great ego and religious influence over the Covenant. The High Prophets are addressed as "Hierarchs", "Noble Hierarchs", "Holy Ones", or "Exalted" by the other races of the Covenant.
The second highest caste; Sangheili, or Elites as Humans call them, served as the military leaders of the Covenant before the Great Schism in 2552. While Prophets often had the final say, it was the Elites who organized military campaigns and naval engagements. They maintain the military structure of the Covenant and ensured the Prophets' orders are followed, as well as their own. Sangheili consider the other client races to be below them in all ways. The Sangheili are the only known race permitted to build and operate starships within the Covenant, though the crews are always composed of a mix of races. Sangheili are separated into ranks based on skill and experience. To advance in rank, Sangheili must honorably earn such advancements on the battlefield. They were a major component of the Covenant and were the only caste able to maintain the military hierarchy as well as having a voice within the High Council before the Great Schism. An "ee" at the end of an Elite name, such as "'Zamamee or 'Vadumee", signifies that that Elite is a part or was part of the Covenant military, although, after the Great Schism most, if not all, Elites removed the "ee" from their names to show that they had left the Covenant.
Jiralhanae, known to Humans as Brutes, They are one of the newer species to the Covenant and are the only race that has obtained very close to equal status to that of one of the founding "clients" of the Covenant pact, the Sangheili. They have an incredible natural resilience to damage due to their tough hides, which easily make up for their lack of energy shields, and use a number of weapons and vehicles based upon their pre-Covenant technology. This technology, though primitive compared to other Covenant weapons, is nonetheless extremely lethal, with most Brute-developed weapons having blades attached to them. In addition to their standard form of combat, Brutes will sometimes go "berserk" and try to kill anyone or anything in their path. This shows the aggressive nature of the Brute, and the little tolerance they have when they are cornered. Brutes have their own ranks going up to War Chieftains who usually wield plasma cannons, fuel rod guns, or Chieftains who usually wieldgravity hammers. The Jiralhanae always work in packs of 3-8 when possible. They took over their role as personal bodyguards of the Prophets and also now make up most of the Covenant military.
Huragok, or Engineers are actually an artificial species created by the Forerunners. They will only converse with the Prophets or individuals who learn their language. This indicates Engineers are very high in the caste system, however ONI believe them to be prisoners or slaves. The Huragok perform the physical labor of excavating, and gathering data on Forerunner artifacts. In military terms, they are generally a non-militant race. However, at times in the Human-Covenant War they have been placed on the battlefield either as repair workers or suicide bombers. They have also displayed neutrality and even some allegiance to humans such as Lighter Than Some helping the citizens of Harvest escape and another Engineer repairing Ascendant Justice's engines for the Master Chief and even a Needler for him to use in battle. Another example is one Huragok repairing and recovering the Human AI Superintendent and then assisting Captain Veronica Dare and Sergeant Major Avery Junior Johnson in working out what the High Prophet of Truth was looking for in Africa.
Mgalekgolo, or Hunters as they are known by Humans, are thought to be giant monsters, but they are actually an assemblage of worm-like entities called "Lekgolo" that create a communal, armor plated form. In this form, they are known as "Mgalekgolo". They always fight and travel in pairs known as "Bond Brothers" which technically means that not all of the colonies of worms were able to fit within one set of armor, and are the strongest of the Covenant fighting units. They wield powerful assault cannons and a massive shield resistant to any small arms fire which may also be used as a melee weapon due to its sharp sides and the Hunters' great strength. They are usually used as weapons platforms, and are only deployed on the battlefield when in need of a heavy force - they are used more like heavy duty equipment than soldiers. Their political and religious motivations are completely unknown.
These flying, insect-like creatures, the Yanme'e or Drones or Buggers as they are known by Humans served almost exclusively as engineers, but were then replaced by the Huragok, after, they were used as aerial combatants against the UNSC, who are inexperienced at fighting airborne infantry. They became the second Covenant species with the ability of flight. In combat it seems that their weapons of choice are the needler, which can cause a good amount of damage if allowed, and the Plasma Pistol, which is weak, unless it is a charged shot, which can bring down your shields drastically. Their ability to fight on the wing makes them an excellent strategic weapon against ground-based opponents.
Due to their superior senses, the Kig-Yar, or Jackals/Skirmishers as they are known by Humans, are the scouts and marksmen of the Covenant military, they are the second lowest Covenant caste and are about 5'6" tall and due to their lack of physical durability, they carry a portable energy shield generator during combat. Jackals are employed mainly as sharpshooters with their excellent vision and dexterity, and are also deployed to defend strategic areas. When a Jackal is under fire, it will cover its head with its hands and trot away to another position from which to fire. The first Human contact was between Staff Sergeants Johnson and Byrne on a Human freighter as Jackal pirates tried to board the ship. They have very strong dislike of the Unggoy because they are always trying to assert their superiority over them in the caste system of the Covenant. Once they poisoned a recreational narcotic that the Unggoy use which nearly caused them to become infertile. This caused one of the Unggoy unrests.
Hailing from Balaho, Unggoy, known as Grunts among Humans, are the most common and lowest-placed caste of the Covenant. The Unggoy were barely into their own Iron Age when the San'Shyuum discovered them. Classified as a "Tier 6" civilization by the Forerunner charts, the Unggoy were at a primative point in their cultural development, the Unggoy had little choice but to accept entry into the Covenant hegemony, or otherwise risk extinction. After their incorporation into the Covenant their entire history was erased and they essentially became a slave race. Despite their notable cowardice and ineptitude, they are quite dangerous in large numbers, which was why an Arbiter was needed to quell the Grunt Rebellion. They breathe methane and thus must wear a large tank on their back full of the methane to survive on other planets. Relations between the Unggoy and the Kig-Yar are strained in the best of times.
==Creatures Inhabiting Covenant Worlds==
"Scrub Grubs" are small creatures the equivalent of the rats found on Earth. They were first mentioned in Halo: Contact Harvest, while inhabiting a Jackal ship.
"Zap-Jellies" are sea creatures that live on the Grunt home world, Balaho. They are possibly the equivalent to large jellyfish on Earth.
"Thorn Beasts" are a food source for the Covenant, though only observed being eaten by Brutes. The only reference to the Thorn Beasts is in Halo: Contact Harvest, when the Brutes are first mentioned, and in Halo Wars, in at least one of the timeline periods. They were also included in the original Halo game being developed for Mac.
"Mud Wasps" are insects found on the Grunt home world of Balaho.
"Shade Crabs" are crustaceans found on the Grunt home world of Balaho.
"Helioskrills" are predators found on Sangheilios that imitate rocks to catch their prey.
"Doarmirs" are furry animals found on Sangheilios, their pelts were used by early seafaring Sangheili as cloaks, the tradition is continued by modern Sangheili Shipmasters.
The Covenant created their own means of connoting time, comprised of "Ages." The Covenant's history is broken up into multiple occurrences of seven types of Age, each representing the predominant theme that occurred during those periods of time. These ages do not necessarily follow one another in order, nor are they equal in quantity. As an example, there were significantly more Ages of Conflict and Doubt than Reclamation. Each Age is further broken into what is called Cycles. A Cycle is the Covenant version of a day and it represents one artificial day on High Charity. A Cycle contains approximately 265 units, which if translated into human time is one hour of time on Earth.
After the first Age of Abandonment, the San'Shyuum and Sangheili were able to evolve into space-faring race. The root of the First Age of Conflict was the theological question of whether Forerunner technology should be revered or exploited. The conclusion of that conflict mark the First Age of Reconciliation, followed by the First Age of Conversation, this marked the beginning expansion of the Covenant by bringing the Lekgolo into the Covenant, through out these Ages new races were incorporated into the Covenant. In between these ages were what became known as the Ages of Doubt, these ages signified no great discoveries were made, and members of the Covenant grappling with internecine conflict.
During the 23rd Age of Doubt the Covenant encountered Humanity for the first time. This inevitable meeting would start a war that over time threw the entire foundation of the Covenant's religion and political alliance into a gradual state of disarray.
"The First Age: Ignorance and Fear.
The Second Age: Rivalry and Bloodshed.
The Third Age: Humility and Brotherhood.
The Fourth Age: Wonder and Understanding.
The Fifth Age: Obedience and Freedom.
The Sixth Age: Faith and Patience.
The Seventh Age: Journey and Salvation.''"
—Maccabeus and the Jiralhanae of the Rapid Conversion.
During the final years of the war against humanity the remaining Prophets, led by the High Prophet of Truth, used an opportunity to replace the Elites with Brutes as their protectors. However, this move effectively angers the Sangheili, who have been in such a position since the founding of the Covenant.
Truth gave command of the Covenant Fleets to the Jiralhanae, a position previously held by the Sangheili. Once there were enough and an ample amount of Jiralhanae in place, Truth secretly ordered the Jiralhanae to commit a mass genocide on the Sangheili. With this act disguised and incognito as a Brute insurrection, the Jiralhanae replaced the Sangheili within the society of the Covenant. The Sangheili revolted, enlisting the help of some of their following Mgalekgolo and Unggoy, birthing a destructive civil war within High Charity itself and on the surrounding Covenant fleet.
Early into the Great Schism, most of the Sangheili Councilors were assassinated by the Jiralhanae at the will of the Prophets, mainly the Prophet of Truth. When the Sangheili learned the truth about the Halos, it changed the war significantly and added Humanity into the struggle. Instead of a Great Journey, the Gravemind's revelation regarding the super weapon contradicted the entire Covenant's belief system.
Though the Prophet of Truth was eventually killed, and most of the Loyalist's known fleet was destroyed by the Sangheili fleet above the Ark, the Covenant still exists in some force, though in a weakened state, forced to rebuild after the war. Rtas 'Vadum expressed concern that the Sangheili homeworld, Sanghelios, may have still been endangered by the Covenant, and considering the sheer size of the former Covenant it is unlikely that the entirety of the Loyalists were present at Earth. Exactly who or what remains in charge of their political and military leadership is also unknown as the San'Shyuum population is only within the thousands and is near extinction. They have not been sighted by the Sangheili since 2553.
The devout and stubborn Jiralhanae continue their war with the Sangheili and fight amongst themselves, effectively battling their species towards extinction.
Covenant technology is repeatedly referred to as more imitative rather than innovative. Their technology is based largely on mimicry and reverse engineering of the leftover Forerunner artifacts they have discovered. While Covenant technology is far more advanced than human technology, the Covenant seem to be ignorant of how precise or powerful their technology can be.
While Humans are capable of learning and often improving on new technology, Covenant advances are significantly slower. This is, perhaps, the Covenant's most serious disadvantage. Their technology is limited by this almost parasitic reliance on reversed-engineered Forerunner technology. In Covenant culture there are religious taboos that prevent them from fully exploring what the Forerunners employed to create that technology.
Like Humans, Covenant ships can enter slipstream space and travel faster than light. However, the Covenant equivalent of the Shaw-Fujikawa Engine is far more efficient and reliable. Covenant vessels do not suffer the "temporal fluidity" of the slipstream to such a degree as Human vessels. As a result, Covenant battle groups are much more efficient when acting as a coordinated group, and can strike more quickly and decisively.
Covenant starships use Repulsor Engines for propulsion in space, rather than traditional reaction drives used by the UNSC. Covenant drive systems seem to be propelled by an unusual combination of gravity "waves" and some form of highly reactive plasma displacement, but the actual means and method of propulsion is currently beyond human understanding.
Only two Covenant A.I. have ever been encountered One was a rampant AI that was stationed aboard the Ascendant Justice and destroyed by Cortana, while the other was The Seeker, sent to infiltrate UNSC systems and alert the Covenant to the location of Earth. However, Cortana's copy references several A.I.'s being present in the Unyielding Hierophant system when the Spartans infiltrate the base.
Covenant architecture is known for its curved, organic and sophisticated looking style, likely for the aesthetic tastes of the higher-ranked castes. Constructed of distinctive purple or white metal, these colors are the main focus of Covenant design and distributed throughout their starships, , and weapons. The metal they use is unknown to the UNSC but is very strong and resilient.
Most of the Covenant arsenal is plasma-based Directed Energy Weapons, however the Covenant are known to utilize Pulse Lasers, Particle beam weapons and Antimatter and even chemical crystal-based weapons.
Plasma weapons are more rugged and far more effective than laser based weapons, they use a power cell to provide power to the internal components, most importantly a high energy current at the muzzle end of the weapon to complete the cycling, ignition and release operation of the weapon. Plasma weapons use Hydrogen Fluoride as a source of fuel, this fuel is flash boiled and contained within a magnetic field until it turns from a cool liquid to superheated ionized gas.
Covenant plasma weapons are effective but crude, their common weakness is that they are prone to overheating. Weapon designs compensate for this, although they render weapons inoperable as the excess heat is dissipated. Once the energy of the plasma weapon is depleted, it must be recharged, or discarded.
The Covenant are also known to employ ammunition based weapons, the most common of these is crystal based weapons. These weapons appear to use some type of chemical that reacts to environments and forms a hard razor sharp crystal[ that when fired, homes in on organic material and detonates when either embedded into an object or travels too far away from the weapon itself. These types of weapons are very dangerous, because of their homing ability. With the introduction of the Jiralhanae as a major military caste within the Covenant, their weapons have found limited to widespread use. Utilizing crude projectile-like metal spikes in place of plasma, explosive grenade-like launchers, and sharp blades. They are more primitive, yet brutal - fitting, considering the nature of their creators.
The Covenant are also known to employ melee weapons in addition to their already fearsome arsenal. The most well known, is the energy sword, used solely by the Sangheili. Creating a solid blade of superheated plasma, it has both ceremonial and martial value to the Sangheili warriors, and its possession is closely monitored. Secondly is the Gravity Hammer, used by Jiralhanae, which seems to be the cultural equivalent to the sword. But rather than using a blade of plasma, it can generate a gravitational field, doing devastating damage.
Covenant vehicles use advanced anti-gravity technology for propulsion, and are well armored and well armed. Though often faster than their UNSC counterparts, Covenant vehicles are more unstable over uneven terrain where the sudden changes affects its handling. All Covenant vehicles are made from a purple or dark blue type of metal, said to be much more advanced than any alloy known to Humans, and all Covenant vehicles are nicknamed after some kind of supernatural entity by the UNSC, except for Scarabs and Locusts. Recently, Brute vehicles and technology have been incorporated into the Covenant's arsenal. Though more primitive, they serve the Brutes' need for power. Brute vehicles are not named after spiritual entities, and rather than being a series of Covenant vehicles are regarded as native Jiralhanae technology.