|1938 Hours, November 3rd, 2552
CCS-Class battlecruiser, Undying Faith
This was the end. Over a thousand years of alliance and brotherhood fractured in a single moment.
Shipmaster Felo 'Ranakee stood on the bridge of his CCS-Class battlecruiser, Undying Faith, and listened as he was told of the destruction of everything he had fought for. There was a meeting of Shipmasters being held at this very moment, being presided over by the esteemed Imperial Admiral Xytan 'Jar Wattinree, who was rallying the Sangheili in this dark hour. Ranakee's ship had been refuelling and resupplying, and was out of the loop in terms of the political situation. Following the destruction of the human world, Reach, the fleet had broken up somewhat.
"...and so, my brothers, it is crucial that we unite against the treacherous Prophets, and their Jiralhanae lapdogs, if we are to continue our very existence!"
The bridge's COM winked off. The crew, who had sat in stunned silence as they were told of the massacre of the council and the position of the Sangheili being usurped so quickly, turned to Felo. He was their shipmaster, and they would follow him no matter what. Behind him stood his two most trusted lieutenants and blood-brothers, Sur and Rol. Neither said a word, though Felo could tell that they both wanted to take action. What Sur lacked in subtlety and manners, he made up for in sheer violence and loyalty. Rol, on the other hand, was much more pragmatic and intelligent than his brother. Still, they too looked to him for guidance.
"What we have heard is...troublesome. The fact that our Covenant has been rent asunder has come as a shock, especially in these trying times. However, I feel that, as the Admiral stated, we need to fight for our survival. The task ahead is simple: Kill our enemies before they kill us."
This caused an uproar amongst the assembled command staff. While some nodded and shouted their agreement, several jumped up.
"The holy Prophets would never do such a thing!"
This only provoked two more dissenters to rise and bark their anger at the Shipmaster, who stood in silence, his face betraying no reaction to this inexcusable outburst. "You are unfit to command this vessel!" shouted another. Sur growled, a hiss of energy as he ignited his twin crimson blades, representing his position in the Special Forces.
"Silence, whelp!" He advanced slowly as the five dissenters drew their own swords. It would soon turn into a bloodbath if Sur got any closer. At a time like this, they could not avoid a schism aboard the ship while his people were massacred by traitors elsewhere. Felo spoke, his voice barely above a whisper, yet heard by all.
"Sur, get back."
Felo leapt from his command station, over his brother as he moved away, and landed on the floor, rolling as he did so. A blade of blue energy sliced through the skull of the first. The others had no chance. He was a living maelstrom as those who had dared defy their Shipmaster were hacked to pieces. It was over in seconds. None of their blades had struck his, let alone even touch his golden armour. Striding back to the command centre, his authority made clear, Felo spoke over the ship's intercom.
"To my brothers, we have been betrayed. What I am about to say may sound like heresy, but hear me out. The council has been killed. Murdered, by the Jiralhanae, on the orders of the Hierarchs themselves. The Imperial Admiral himself has ordered us to fight back against these traitors, those who have fractured our Covenant. As your Shipmaster, I order you to capture the prophet that we have aboard, no matter the cost."
He clicked the intercom off. Hopefully, the rest of his crew would not be so blind as to betray him. Mentioning Wattinree would help a great deal; there would be few Sangheili who had not heard of his great exploits. Nevertheless, Felo would have to hunt down the rat that resided on his ship for answers. After they had stopped to refuel, the Prophet of Piety had boarded, along with a contingent of Jiralhanae. While this had merely seemed unusual at the time, now their purpose was crystal clear: They would have killed him and his crew before taking the ship for themselves. The mere thought of such a despicable act made him furious.
"Bring up the cameras heading toward the hangar!"
After a few seconds, images of the Faith's hangar bay and surrounding corridors popped up. It didn't take long to find the prophet, moving along on his chair surrounded by a dozen brutes. The hangar itself was a battleground, Felo's crew fighting a desperate battle against the traitors, who were clearing a path towards Piety's personal shuttle. Felo turned away and stalked towards the door, closely followed by Sur and Rol, the former's crimson blade still lit, as he had not yet drawn blood. He would not be allowed to get off this ship. As the three ran, several more of their allies came into view, heavily armoured SpecOps soldiers of Sur's personal lance. Felo slowed, keeping his hands on the activation pad of his sword, just in case. The leader stepped forward.
"Shipmaster, the Brutes began attacking moments before your broadcast. Is it true then? Have we been betrayed?"
"Yes, Major. Do you remain loyal to the Sangheili?"
"Of course. The crimes committed here are unforgivable."
"Good. Gather everyone you can and get to the hangar, once it is secure we shall discuss our future from there."
"Of course, Shipmaster!" The Major sped away, followed by his lance. It was good to have such loyal soldiers still remaining. The utter confusion that seemed to be affecting many could be fatal if not combated swiftly. After so many centuries under the Prophet's rule, freedom would not come easily. Stalking toward the hangar doors, Felo could hear the sound of Spiker fire. Motioning to Rol, who had his carbine raised, the Shipmaster ignited his sword in one hand and drew his plasma rifle, creeping forward. Behind them, Sur held both his blades high, ready for battle as always. The door chimed and slid open.
Felo had been in this situation a dozen times before. He and his brothers had practiced this particular manoeuvre extensively in their keep. Humans had a habit of sitting behind doors with as many guns pointed towards it as possible. While they had never used it against brutes, he was fairly confident that it would be successful. Before the hangar door had opened fully, he had rolled forward, and fired a few rifle shots in the general direction of the enemy before jumping sideways. Rol had darted to the right and took cover behind a pile of crates. He was a proficient swordsman, but seemed to dislike fighting in close quarters.
Sur 'Ranakee. Second only to his older brother with a blade, but unparalleled in terms of brutality and violence. Even the brutes, who roared in anger and surprise at their sudden arrival, could not match his fury. Had Felo allowed Sur to fight on the bridge, he doubted that anyone would be still alive up there, loyal or not. The warrior's blades sliced through armour, fur, flesh and bone as the Prophet's guards turned their attention away from the few remaining Sangheili to meet this new threat. Felo advanced, gunning down the Jiralhanae who stood in his way before he caught sight of his prey's hover chair heading for a shuttle. Dodging a few spikes, he leapt forward and sprinted after the Prophet. A heavily armoured Chieftain, hammer in hand, growled and raised the weapon as he approached.
Dodging the cumbersome weapon as it slammed down was easy. It was what came next that took skill, and even some artistic talent. Felo sliced through the handle of the hammer and spun, ducking, to avoid the Chieftain's claws before attacking again. This time, he struck the back of his enemy's knees, bringing the brute to the ground. A lazy slash across the throat silenced the beast's screams. Felo barely had enough time to savour the takedown before a sizzling green bolt of energy passed by, missing him by inches. For one so weak and dependant on others, this worm certainly had fangs. A single blow threw the prophet from his throne and onto the hangar floor.
"What now, mighty Prophet? Will you declare me a heretic? What will you do now, without your Brutes to protect you!"
"Blasphemy!" cried the Prophet of Piety. "You dare strike me, traitor? I carry the power given by the Hierarchs themselves!"
Felo couldn't help but chuckle at this spirited, if meaningless defiance. He dragged the screaming prophet away from the shuttle, and turned him to face what appeared to be most of his crew. Over a hundred Sangheili, along with various lesser species, had gathered in the hangar. No one spoke a word. They were too shocked to speak. Felo turned to the Prophet.
"Tell us, then, why you have betrayed us! The Council, slaughtered, our ships attacked and the Covenant itself broken. Why?!"
The diminutive alien shook with terror, it's beady eyes darting around the room. "The Great Journey-"
"-Is a lie!" Felo roared. This brought the crowd into uproar. He would have to silence them again. Giving the whimpering prophet a final look of disgust, he grabbed it by the neck, and ignited his sword, impaling him instantly. The charred corpse fell to the floor, and silence filled the hangar once more. All eyes were on the Shipmaster. Right now, he had to bring order before he could obtain revenge.
"My brothers, our Covenant has broken. For untold centuries, the Prophets have been keeping us in check with this lie. Now their plot has been uncovered with this unforgivable irredeemable act. As you heard me earlier, the Imperial Admiral has called for action, which we have taken. High Charity is no more. This is, without a doubt, the end of the Age of Reclamation. I do not know what the future will bring, but survival is paramount. As your Shipmaster, I will lead you through this...Schism."
The assembled crew roared and cheered in agreement. He was their leader, and they would follow him to the bitter end. As he strode back towards the bridge, flanked by his two brothers, a great feeling of emptiness came over him, coupled with that of freedom. Things had seemed so much simpler when he had blindly followed orders. His thoughts began to turn back towards the war. Had their entire campaign against the humans been another lie?
"What of the humans, brother?" this had come from Rol at precisely the right moment.
Felo sighed. "Maybe... maybe this war was wrong. Perhaps we should ally with them against the Prophets and their Brute lapdogs."
This seemed to shock even his loyal kin. They stopped in their tracks. "What are you saying, brother?!" asked Sur, a look of complete shock over his face. "We have hunted them like vermin for so long, how can you say that the cause is not righteous?" This was typical of Sur. He had taken to fighting humans with a high amount of zeal, refusing promotions to ranks of command so that he would be allowed to remain on he field.
Rol added to Sur's argument. "You have burned their worlds, killed thousands, and survived a fight with one of their demons. You of all people should hate the humans for what they have done."
Hate was not what Felo felt. Only regret. He recalled, not long ago, when he had killed the old human leader on that wretched planet. He recalled how hard he had fought before being overcome, how he had spat defiance in Felo's face as he died. Then, the demon engaged him. Somehow, he had been bested by the red-armoured beast, wounded and disarmed. But not killed. The demon had named himself as a 'Spartan' and departed, carrying the old warrior's body. Felo had barely survived the battle, both ships under his command being destroyed by the humans. Had it not been for his recovery of the relic and the confirmed demise of two other Demons that day, he would have almost certainly been executed upon his return to High Charity.
"I feel nothing but remorse. There are some humans with honour, some that have fought bravely against us. We never gave them a chance to join our Covenant. We attacked with fire and sword, only to be defied time and time again. Keep your opinions to yourselves, brothers."
"Yes, Kaidon," replied Rol with a hint of disgust. This froze Felo in his tracks. His younger sibling was correct. Their current Kaidon, his uncle Ordam 'Ranakee, had been on the Sangheili council, and was likely dead. As the oldest living heir, Felo would become Kaidon by default. He had to get home to his keep. The prophets may have attacked the Sangheili homeworld in an attempt to wipe out their race. Though it was unlikely, he had to return. Reaching the bridge, he barked orders to his navigator to plot a course to Sangheilios at once. One of his crew called over.
"Shipmaster, Rtas 'Vadum of the Shadow of Intent has been gathering our forces above the second Halo ring. Shall we join him?"
"No. We have our priorities. Is it not 'Vadumee', crewman?"
"They are dropping all ties to the Covenant, Shipmaster, military names included."
This was odd, but not unexpected. The '-ee' suffix signified their servitude to a non-existent entity. "So be it," he said simply, and sat in his command chair. Felo 'Ranak, Kaidon and Shipmaster. Something about that sounded good. In spite of the betrayal, death and confusion, he would remain in control, in command. He had to.
"Take us home."