The Battle of the Sundered Shore was the turning point of the Unggoy Rebellion, that plagued our great Covenant at the end of the final Age of Reconciliation. The Quorum of the Faith failed in adequately quelling dissent amongst the Unggoy populations, and with the growing population of menials and unqualified, many Unggoy found themselves at the mercy of a ceremonial induction into the Legions. They had no other choice but to join as mere unarmed, unarmoured masses. Their commanders held little respect for them, their comrades even less so.
Among all the rivalries of the Covenant, the escalating blood feud between the Unggoy and Kig-Yar is perhaps the longest running, and certainly among the bloodiest to date. We may only pray to the stars that such a bitter hatred between species never again threatens to sunder our Covenant, or threaten our faith.
As the population of Unggoy grew, the need for space to house them likewise grew. While said spaces were hardly considered fit for habitation, being little more than slums, the sheer volume of Unggoy pushed the Ministry of Concert to the point of apathy in the matter of Unggoy complaints, either by members of the race itself, or by members of other races inconvenienced by the sheer influx of slums now dotting the Underhives of the Golden City.
Kig-Yar who had once made such areas prominent nesting sites were forced from their homes almost overnight. While many nests were left abandoned wholesale, others were forcibly relocated by the Unggoy themselves, with little care for Kig-Yar eggs.
Many more eggs failed to hatch following this upheaval, due in part to the stress of the mothers, the stresses of relocation, or other such incidents. Birth rates of Kig-Yar within the Golden City dropped substantially, and any with plans to begin a family were suitably vexed by this incident.
As penance for the Unggoy's carelessness, and as retribution for the loss of their young, Kig-Yar Shipmasters and Shipmistresses began to poison Unggoy Infusion stores—a popular recreational narcotic, and one of the only sources of recreation the Unggoy were allowed.
The poison would sterilise all affected males. Those who suffered only minor symptoms would go on to bear young with birth defects, or stillborns. Official Ministry of Concert figures showed a mere several thousand Unggoy were sterilised, though the reported numbers made by investigatory parties were much higher. Well into the hundreds of thousands, at least.
That is the final number reached by investigator Ord Casto before the Ministry of Concert shut the investigation down, and covered up the severity of the incident. The damage was irreconcilable, and the Unggoy were now forced to deal with two different attacks on their race; the loss of their young and their future within the Covenant, and the loss of the only thing keeping them compliant, and docile.
The effects were incendiary.
While the Kig-Yar suffered minor administrative penalties in the wake of this incident, they did not fully escape justice. Rogue bands of Unggoy began assaulting prominent Kig-Yar figures in the streets of High Charity's Underhives. Mass gatherings outside of their designated slums threatened to choke the streets and transport hubs.
While the Legions deployed to mitigate the growing unrest, a majority of those comprising the Legions were unarmed Unggoy, who refused, even under pain of death, to fight their own kin. The Sangheili, the Kig-Yar, and even the Jiralhanae were unable to sway them, and so the majority of Unggoy were ousted from the Legions en-masse.
But not before securing access to weaponry. Armed bands of roving Unggoy now prowled the Underhives and Lower Districts, attacking all those in sight. Block wars and petty squabbles escalated to gunfights on the streets, and the pittance of armed fighters sent to quell the dissent were quickly overwhelmed.
More weapons found their way into the claws of Unggoy, wrestled from those who were trampled under the Unggoy's boots, or pilfered from the corpses of Sangheili mediators. Mass deployments of heavy troops and combat Lances were sent to scour the Underhives of all dissidents and seditionists, showing no mercy and giving no quarter to those that would threaten the integrity of the Covenant.
For a time the Unggoy advance stalled, then halted. Many believed that the prowess of the Sangheili and the might of the Jiralhanae alone might beat the Unggoy masses back, but instead, the unthinkable happened. The Unggoy fought the two most physically powerful species in the Covenant to a standstill.
The situation grew grim, indeed, and soon word of this incursion spread throughout all of Covenant space. Like a ruptured fuel cell, the strains of millenia of subservience came loose. Grievances old and young spurred the once-cowardly Unggoy into mass action, and production across entire worlds ground to a halt as the Unggoy refused to work, refused to fight, and refused to die.
No keener was this uprising felt than on the Sundered Shore, a scant few Cycles after the first demonstrations rippled through the Underhive.
The Sundered Shore was the Covenant's single largest source of relics and technology belonging to the Forerunners. The Shore itself was a cyclopean, partially-destroyed installation orbiting a Gas Giant twenty light-cycles away from High Charity's position. Many relics of significant value were found at the Shore, primarily by Unggoy excavation teams, as Unggoy made up the majority of the population on the world.
The core of the Sundered Shore was an immense energy source of near-limitless power and strength, having long since burst through the crust around it, and even scouring the planet beneath in times of significantly volatile breach events. The Sundered Shore was, as its namesake suggests, broken apart. Periodically, sections of the outer layers would break off and fall into the energy source at its heart, thereby feeding the next eruption of energy that would blast the Gas Giant beneath.
The Unggoy were used in dangerous excavations, shepherded only by Sangheili who had displeased their superiors, or opportunistic Kig-Yar, to whom the opportunity to exert power over Unggoy was worth the risks associated with operating alongside their excavation teams.
Casualties were, of course, high among the Unggoy populations, but their sacrifice was deemed necessary to further the cause of the Covenant. Such a rich deposit of arcane technology and holy relics could not so easily be left to the ravages of time.
By the time of the Unggoy Rebellions, many of the excavation teams were full of either scarred veterans injured from multiple excursions, or new faces freshly transported, who looked up to these veterans. Among these veterans was Linnil the Unbroken, five-time survivor of the tunnels and shafts of the Sundered Shore's most unstable and dangerous mesas.
News reached the Sundered Shore of the Unggoy Rebellions, and the scouring of the Underhives of the golden city. While security among the Unggoy was intensified, Linnil began to consolidate his strength via the use of his status as Deacon. His narrative, one of righteousness and self-proclaimed piety, reached many of the Unggoy under his care, and many more beyond.
Linnil styled himself as the chainbreaker of the Unggoy, and chosen one of the gods, as he had survived so many journeys to the ruinous lands beneath, where so many others had fallen. He ordered all Unggoy to cease working, and with his zeal and skills at oration, he succeeded in convincing almost every Unggoy on the Sundered Shore to lay down their tools and ovewhelm their Kig-Yar and Sangheili taskmasters.
The newly-freed Unggoy banded into roving hordes that they named Masses. Among them were Linnil's Unchained, the Masterless Masses, under the thrall of his most devout follower, and the Miscreant Masses, guilty of theft of many weapons and distributing them to the newly-freed Unggoy.
The final Mass to be created were comprised of survivors from the many trips beneath—infirm or otherwise crippled Unggoy—used to being sent on the most dangerous or menial of tasks with low survival rates. These Unggoy were used to a level of mutualistic cooperation unheard of among other Masses, and excelled at being stationary gunner crews, zealous suicide forces, or missions of such danger that their death was assured.
However, the Flayed Ones were now beckoned by no more than their own desires, their own motivations to succeed in the furthering of a future for their species. Rather than being directed by callous and uncaring Sangheili, Kig-Yar, or Jiralhanae, they were now directed by one of their own. One with such power over then that they would gladly throw themselves into the core of the planet to die, if it meant that Unggoy would be free of their chains.
It was this zeal that would eventually lead to the destruction of the Sundered Shore, and the largest political implosion in the Covenant's recent history.
With the Unggoy mobilising on every front, planetside security was quickly overwhelmed. A Kig-Yar strike force, typically utilised for anti-piracy roles, responded swiftly to the calls for aid. When even they could not suture the bleeding of the Unggoy Rebellions, their shipmistress called upon the Fleet of Furious Consequence, with whom the Shipmistress had a rapport.
The fleet responded immediately, and with newfound combat-hardened Sangheili warriors under the command of Fleetmaster Otan 'Sinnabee, the tide began to turn against the Unggoy, who could not compete with Covenant heavy armour, weapons platforms, or shock troops. Even the Sangheili under the command of the Fleet were inflicting significantly more casualties than the security forces already on the planet.
This did not mean that the Unggoy were suddenly rendered helpless, nor paralysed with fear. They knew that the power of the Fleet lay in suppression and orbital bombardment—two things that were unacceptable when faced with the sheer wealth of Forerunner artefacts present on the Sundered Shore. The very idea of glassing the Unggoy encampments would be heretical, and so Otan refused to even consider the possibility.
Instead, the Fleet and its warriors were forced to enter into cramped tunnels, excavation sites, and other such close-quarters places where the Unggoy were rampant, and ravenous in their fury. Heavy armour would be of no more use than the ships above, and so the fighting turned from armies clashing upon open fields, to Unggoy piling up on Sangheili warriors and beating them to death in tunnels dug by Unggoy, for Unggoy, and with Unggoy tools.
Here were the diminutive fighters most in their element, and the warriors of Sanghelios saw firsthand the brutality and efficiency of Unggoy who were properly motivated. Their ferocity alone sent Kig-Yar running in droves, Elite Minors would sooner entertain notions of public lashings and denouncement than be sent into a suspected Unggoy tunnel system.
The fighting ground to a halt, much like upon High Charity, and the Fleets and forces held their breath, waiting to see who amongst the combatants would break first.
As it happened, the Unggoy would make the next devastating blow.
The Unggoy had not been idle in their tunnels while besieged. Linnil himself began sending scout parties, typically comprised of Flayed, into the planet's shell to receive weapons, artifacts, or items of interest. It was here that his powers began to wane, as he was now no better in the eyes of some Unggoy than the Covenant they were fighting against.
Linnil, however, met such criticisms with the same righteous zeal as his sermons, challenging any who thought themselves fit to usurp his seat as Unbroken Deacon. None rose to his challenge, and he himself began to venture forth on excursions deep into the planet, as though directed by some motivation not his own.
They traveled deep down into the dirt, and the dark, and over the next few Units, Linnil narrowed his search. Upon discovery of a large antechamber, filled with poisonous fumes and rife with automated defences, Linnil had found that which he seeked.
A control room of the Shore, the subject of interest for many scholars and archaeologists at the Shore, was now laid bare before Linnil. Many had given up searching for it, theorising that it may have fallen into the planet long ago. Yet here it was, and Linnil was now able to speak with it.
Its Oracle deigned to listen, to the pleading and the tale of rebellion against uncaring masters. It, in its fragmented state, saw fit to release its automated defenses upon the Covenant, though it made no promises to whom they would be loyal.
Few tales of the following period of strife exist. Some say that armigers and constructs awoke in a blind fury, attacking any that they could see. Some regale that the Unggoy themselves marched in lockstep with the constructs of our Lords, fielding weapons of unimaginable power.
The few remaining accurate accounts likely passed along with Otan when his role as Arbiter saw him lead into increasingly perilous circumstances.
What we know is as follows;
The Unggoy were not the masters of these armigers or constructs, nor did they march alongside them, despite what the myths may say. The automated defences of the Sundered Shore were damaged, rudimentary, and posed little threat to our fleets and forces, but that mattered not.
These constructs did not need to defeat us in single combat, or protracted warfare. They only needed to succeed in the task that Linnil had in mind for them, which was that of a diversion. A suitable distraction, to keep the forces of the Fleet of Furious Consequence otherwise occupied.
For Linnil and his Unggoy Masses travelled far deeper into the planet, now that they were not pursued. Some say into the beating heart of the Sundered Shore, but we cannot say for certain. Linnil in his wisdom saw that he could not win against the Covenant, neither on the Shore nor on High Charity. The might of our forces was too great, and the scope of our empire too broad. The Unggoy held no power, commanded no ships, had no industry. They were at the mercy of their betters, even if now they were proving their worth as combatants, they would inevitably lose.
Linnil needed something more, something different than a death in combat for a fruitless rebellion. Linnil needed to cement his legacy as the Unbroken Master of Masses, the Deacon of the Rebellion, and the Chosen of our Lords.
In the minds of the Unggoy, he needed to be as close to their gods as he could be.
He needed to be a Martyr.
Deep within the Sundered Shore lay a failsafe to prevent the world from coming into contact with the Shaping Sickness. This failsafe, long abandoned, still sat, a final reminder of the necessity of sacrifice, and the culmination of the Forerunner's own willingness to put aside all to defeat The Enemy.
Linnil would twist this purpose, and use it for his final, most vile of heresies. He may have used it to ransom the Shore for his people's freedom. He could have bartered for the cessation of all hostilities, and the Prophets and Hierarchs would have at least listened.
He did not, however, and elected to activate the failsafe, sacrificing his own life and the lives of many of his commanders to do so, and to ensure that it could not be deactivated.
The containment field and gravitational conduits surrounding the energy source at the centre of the Shore began increasing in power, compressing the energy, light, and mass of the core into a singularity. This process released enough energy to sunder the world in two clean halves, dropping many hundreds of thousands of brave soldiers down into the abyss.
Otan called an evacuation of all forces currently on the world, and enlisted brave pilots to secure the safety of his soldiers before the destruction of the Shore. However, it was all for naught.
The Oracle, who had thus far been the source of many of the Fleets woes, would further hamper the efforts of the Fleet, by attempting to secure its own survival in the wake of the destruction of its installation. It transported itself to a vessel, long thought abandoned and derelict, hidden beneath the crust of the world.
While the Sundered SHore broke apart, and crumbled down into the screeching black hole beneath, the Oracle's vessel rose from the ashes, incensed and outraged at the wanton desolation of its home. It lashed out at the ships surrounding the Shore, scouring them as easily as if their defences were down.
Half of the Fleet's number was destroyed in a scant few Units, killing thousands and dooming more to a death on the surface of the world. Only the combined fire of all ships on one point could damage the Oracle's vessel, and even then it was nearly not enouch.
In the end, only the sacrifice of the Kig-Yar shipmistress in command of Strike Force Ripper managed to stall the vessel, and plunge it back down into the ever-increasing gravity well of the planet, and the Black Hole at its heart.
With one final, spiteful barrage, Otan 'Sinnabee's Assault Carrier was heavily damaged, sending it too plummeting down into the Sundered Shore. Otan and his crew escaped onto the remaining ships of Strike Force Ripper, and watched helplessly as the last few sections of the Shore were pulled inexorably down into the ravenous blackness of Linnil's final, dark heresy.
With the destruction of the Sundered Shore, and the martyrdom of Linnil the Unbroken, the Unggoy forces on High Charity found their second wind, and fought with renewed vigor and fury.
The three Hierarchs, receiving intense political pressure from the other Prophets and Ministers, abdicated their seats of power following the disastrous loss of the Shore. New hierarchs rose in their places, and their first order of business was to recall Strike Force Ripper, and publicly eliminate all who composed its number for gross incompetence and dereliction of duty.
The greatest punishment, however, came to Otan 'Sinnabee, former Fleetmaster, and on whose shoulders was heaped the sum of all failures. His clan was removed from the annals of history, his family purged from the roster of Kaidons, his Keep razed, and his territory split among his vassal states. He ascended—or descended—to the rank of Arbiter, intended to be used to beat back the Unggoy at the cost of his own life.
He, however, beseeched the Hierarchs to heed his counsel, and warned them that continued attempts to 'match' the Unggoy's own aggression would lead to nothing but further losses such as those sustained at the Sundered Shore. He cautioned that something more was needed, a display of the raw power of the Covenant, to force the Unggoy back into line, and dissuade any more Martyrs from rising to fuel the fires of rebellion.
At the Sundered Shore, his Fleet and forces could not justify the use of orbital bombardment, or cleansing beams against the Unggoy, lest they damage valuable artefacts or structures on its surface.
Such an issue was not present when considering the Unggoy's homeworld of Balaho.
In retaliation for the destruction of one of the Covenant's most holy sites, Arbiter Otan 'Sinnabee was given permission to assemble a fleet, and lay waste to Balaho for as long as the Unggoy did not surrender. The glassing was publicly broadcasted across the entire Golden City, to every screen or device it could reach.
The Unggoy surrendered, soon after, ushering in a new Age of Doubt, and elevating their status from simple fodder, to true combatants.
Perhaps this is why the Unggoy feel so vehemently a fear when facing mankind. They have seen the destructive power of the Covenant, they have faced our worst and balked in the wake of it. But here is an enemy that does not, no matter the cost of lives, or how many worlds we raze to glass and ash. Here is an enemy that does not crumble in the face of so many worlds destroyed, and of that the Unggoy are afraid, more than they ever were of us.
The true cost of war with Mankind is that which is unseen, and whose consequences we can only guess at. The Unggoy achieved their greatest victory despite their lack of weapons, training on how to use them, or formal knowledge of military doctrine.
If the Unggoy cost us that much, what could Humanity cost us, in the end?