"This galaxy is all about push and shove. Someone pushes you? You push them back, harder. The winner is the one left standing at the end."
Not all legends are tales of heroics and valour. Some instead talk of grim tales soaked in the blood of fallen enemies, others of people thrust into terrible situations that learn through hardships to be more than they are. The tale of Tal ‘Zerex is all of these. To some he was a bloody handed slaughterer, a criminal and a villain. To others he was an inspiring presence, a hero and symbol of defiance. An outcast or a leader, an animal or a lost soul, a friend or a foe. Tal bears many labels, but through all the stories there exists a lonely warrior trying to seek a place in a harsh and unforgiving galaxy.
Born to a small colony keep on the edge world of Expectant Prospects, his life soon took a bad turn as his keep was destroyed in a brief clan feud. Seeking a more fulfilling existence he joined the Covenant military where he grew to become a skilled and respected warrior. Tal’s successful military career would eventually be cut short when he was heavily wounded during the Battle of Skopje. He was only saved through extensive cybernetic surgery, something which disgusted his kin and ostracized him from Sangheili society. Refusing orders to be moved to a support unit he was then thrown into prison. Not long after his incarceration Tal was released to serve as part of the infamous Black Lance, a covenant penal unit. Despite being sent on multiple missions that should have wiped them out Tal and his new unit were able to survive until the end of the war. During the Great Schism they were able to kill their commanding officer and escape to the Frontier as the war came to a close.
Together with his new friends Tal was able lead a successful mercenary career until internal betrayal lead to the death of the team. Tal survived but was sold into slavery, finding his way into the hands of Raa-Ursk. The Jackal would put Tal to use as a gladiator where he would serve for 10 years. During that time he rose to become one of the most talented pit fighters. Despite being a highly successful fighter Tal eventually lead a revolt and took back his freedom. However his unbalanced mental state caused him to drop into a deep psychotic rage and he was eventually imprisoned in Hellion V. During his imprisonment he would meet Gavin Dunn and escaped with him soon after. Following this he joined the crew of the Chancer V, binding himself in honor to protect its captain.
Hoping at last to have found some measure of peace Tal worked loyally by Captain Dunn and the other crew members of the Chancer. However his old ways soon came back to haunt him and at the Battle of New Cádiz he once again slipped back into his murderous blood rage. Knowing that if he didn't do something about his deteriorating mental state that his mind would quickly unravel again he sought a final cure for himself. Having tried conventional medicine before Tal instead stuck his faith in the ancient scripture of his people. He sought to follow the Pilgrimage of Talurak, the trails of an ancient Sangheili warrior with a similar blood thirsty nature to Tal. The trails were beyond difficult, even for one such as Tal, and combined with his rapid mental deterioration made his final grasp at keeping his sanity nearly a failed task. However, just as it seemed he had finally fallen to far, Tal finally managed to stand tall. Having chained the raging beast within him he rejoined his friends aboard the Chancer.
"And he started off as nothing, holding no honour to him name, but this bloody legend started here. A child born to nothing, to claim a legacy that would shake the stars."
―One of the first lines from the Sangheili Epic The Blood Reaver
Tal 'Zerex was born during the early years of the 2nd Age of Reclamation, the year 2525 on the human calendar, to the line of Zerex on the colony of Expectant Prospects. The Zerex keep was by no means well-known, it's main export being food grown on its acres of fertile ground. As such, young males of the keep diverted their time between helping to tend the farmland and learning the arts of combat, the instructors of the keep maintaining that working the land grew important characteristics in the young ones. From an early age, Tal was known to be an energetic and driven youngster and could often be found trying to keep up with the adults of the keep, in some cases trying to follow them into meetings he was forbidden to enter. Though his actions did sometimes end with punishment, his will to follow often impressed his elders.
As he grew older he became more reserved but no less spirited. His driven attitude also attracted the attention of Tak 'Zerex, a close uncle of Tal's who was a recently returned veteran of the Covenant military. Seeing in Tal the necessary skills that could, with the correct coaching, lead him to be a great warrior, he decided to personally mentor Tal in hopes of carrying on his own fading legacy. With his uncle's tutoring, Tal showed all the hallmarks of a great warrior, but his destiny would soon take a turn for the worse.
The Zerex keep had long been in dispute with a fellow keep, Ceran, over rights to mining in areas bordering the two keeps' lands. Zerex maintained that their ancestors had settled in various areas that bordered close to Ceran and thus the mines were theirs by right, but Ceran believed they should be allowed the mines if they tunnelled under Ceran territory. Arguments such as these were not uncommon on frontier Sangheili worlds as the size of one's land dictates how much the keep earns, which in turn allows them to survive, and such disputes rarely turn to open war. In the case of the Zerex and Ceran keeps, however, events soon turned hostile.
The Ceran keep launched a sudden and vicious attack against Zerex. A team of assassins scaled the walls and attacked from behind even as its host of warriors smashed the gates down and stormed into the main keep. Soon the Zerex keep was a charnel house as warrior fought warrior for their domination or survival. At the time of the attack, Tal was sleeping with the other children of the keep, this could also have been his end as a Ceran warrior had managed to gain entry to the rooms. Tal and the other younglings were saved by Tak and a group of trainers who had come to rally them against the invaders.
This would be Tal's first taste of combat, and when he reached the main courtyard he was shocked by what he saw. Hundreds of his keep lay dead or dying on the ground as even more fell around them. Before he knew what was happening, his group was suddenly attacked by three Ceran warriors. Trying to fight through their fear, the youngsters moved to help Tak and the trainers, but it was to no avail as more Ceran warriors moved in. His friends were quickly cut down around him and Tal was forced to fight against a much older warrior. Before the attacker could land a fatal blow, Tak leapt to his nephew's defence, but Tal's reprieve was short-lived as a second warrior appeared and beheaded his uncle where he stood.
In an instant Tal's mind seemed to stop working. Unable to comprehend that his uncle, one of his closest friend and family member, was dead. And then his mind returned to the fore and all the sudden hatred and frustration and grief he felt seemed to be focused on the warrior that had just killed his hunger. And so for the first time in his life Tal entered into what would become his legendary rage. Launching himself forward at the enemy warrior Tal tore into the Ceran warrior with a fury even the older warrior had a hard time matching.
Tal first beat at him with the train stick he was given, when that broke from repeated blows at the enemy warriors armour and weapons he reached for a rock and begun to strike him with that, when that was cast from his hand Tal powered into the older warrior with his own body. Taking the pair to the floor Tal brought his mandibles down to his oppoents neck and bit his throat out. With his enemy dying before him Tal's rage faded, exhausted he fainted on the spot.
The capital city of Expectant Prospects.
When he regained conscoiusness the place he had lived for his entire life had burned to the ground. Not knowing what to do with himself now that the central point of his life had been ripped away, he wandered to the nearby city-state of Sakel, all the while hating himself for his cowardice and fear. Knowing there was no way of avenging his keep with being killed in the process, Tal became a street urchin forced to eke out a solitary existence, ever cursing himself for his shortcomings.
Tal spent the next few years of his life on those streets, stealing food from stalls in the markets and hiding from the eyes of Sakel's wardens. His bleak life forced Tal to learn many lessons, the foremost of which was that if he wanted anything done, he had to do it himself. There were very few other urchins on the streets that would help their own kind and so Tal would often get into fights with them if they encroached on his space. Soon the others learned to leave Tal be as the large youngster would often beat intruders to a bloody pulp before they could escape.
Despite in some way accepting his life, Tal was never happy living alone and longed for the days of his keep with his friends and his family. He became greatly depressed, seeing no goal in his life without his keep to guide him. But salvation would come to the despondent youth in the fiery heart of war.
"I am Tal of the Zerex Keep, here to earn back my lost keep's honour or die trying."
―Tal decides to join the Covenant military.
Tal's admission into the ranks of the Covenant Army wasn't planned but was much more spur of the moment. While scrounging in Sakel's spaceport for food or credits to steal, Tal noticed a group of Covenant shuttles landing and beginning to embark a group of adolescent sangheili around Tal's age. Although Tal had written off his chances to join the military because he had no keep to back him, in that moment he felt compelled to try, seeing a way to return honour to his keep's name and finally give himself a purpose.
Fortunately for Tal, the recruiter assigned to Sakel had been short of recruits from such a backwater, and accepted Tal after tampering with the Covenant's simple style of record-keeping. Tal was brought with the rest of the recruits to a training station know as the Strength and Virtues, where Tal would be trained to fight in the name of the Covenant Empire. Initially, he received a hostile reception from both his fellow recruits and the stations trainers. Word had apparently spread fast that Tal was without a keep to back him and as such he was heavily stigmatized for it. In response to the abuse he received Tal became much more introverted, rarely speaking to others and concentrating solely on completing his assigned tasks. Hidden beneath his focused exterior, however, boiled a rage that began to grow within him over his treatment, something that would soon come to a head.
During a training session, a group of recruits from the Sakel keep itself begun to pick on Tal, insulting him and his lost keep and forcing him back into a corner. Eventually one of the recruits hit Tal with his training rifle and his rage was finally released. Like a coiled spring, Tal launched himself at the leader of his attackers and struck him down with a flurry of blows before leaping on the other two. By the time the other trainers had pulled Tal off of the three recruits he'd caused extensive damage to all three of them. He was thrown into the stations brig and left for a night to impotently rage in his cell.
The next day on of the instructors, a warrior known as Karr 'Batonee, came to collect him. Karr commented that he was impressed with both Tal's fighting ability and his dedication to his keep's memory. Seeing someone who could accept him Tal confessed to Batonee that his rage wasn't because the recruits had insulted his keep, but the product of many years of self-hatred and regret. The older warrior seemed to sympathize and said that he would try to get the abuse Tal had received to end. For the first time in a while Tal felt at ease in the presence of another and promised he would train all the harder to impress Karr.
When Tal returned to his fellow recruits Tal found that his emotional outburst and display of combat prowess had caused some of the hostility to wear away. Although not all the recruits liked Tal, many had come to accept him. He was able to make friends and, for the first time since his keep had been destroyed, felt as though purpose had returned to his life. Over the next few years Tal, worked hard to prove himself as a warrior, his skill at arms providing a needed boost. While he accepted that he could never be a leader, he knew he had the potential to be a great fighter. All the while Karr watched over him, ensuring that Tal could reach his full ability. He was never benevolent and often pushed Tal harsher than most, but his harsh lessons would eventually pay off.
After years of training, Tal and the other recruits were finally accepted into the Covenant military. Before Tal left with the rest of his group to their new position, he sought out 'Batonee, thanking the older warrior and promising to live up to his expectations. Tal was then moved to the Dat'ara Warrior Creche in the Kay'nar Legion. Here he would serve for his entire military career, fighting in many important conflicts, including the Battle of Draco III, where Tal first displayed his combat prowess by engaging a human combat squad that was pinning his lance, the Battle of Sargasso, during which Tal's lance was instrumental in leading a charge at one of last human defensive positions on the planet, and the Battle of New Llanelli, where Tal's now unrivalled brutality allowed his team to fight into and destroy a critical human data point.
He would serve with the Covenant for five years, during which time he cemented his position as a highly skilled fighter. Many of his commanders noted that had he not suffered the loss of his keep, he might have been a truly great warrior. In truth however, as time passed, Tal cared less and less about winning back the honour of his keep, nor did he feel much for the Covenant's core tenets of salvation and divinity, not entirely believing in their religion at all. Instead he fought for the thrill of the fight and the brothers of the legion he had joined. Life for Tal had purpose again, his was one of warfare. And he felt no need to go back.
Tal's life would once again be drastically altered during the Battle of Skopje. Before the battle, rumours had been circulating that a few members of the Kay'Nar Legion had caught the attention of higher echelons within the Covenant, specifically the Special Operations division. Among those rumoured to be under their watch was Tal himself. Though he pretended to deflect any interest in the gossip, he couldn't deny the flare of pride he felt at the possibility.
With the knowledge that greater warriors than he could be watching the coming conflict, Tal ensured that he would give his all, and hopefully prove himself worthy. The siege started off fairly simply, with the humans putting up a spirited but ultimately futile defence as the Covenant assault force marched ever onward. Eventually, however, the Covenant's momentum faltered at one of the major human evacuation centres. A team of humans had barricaded themselves in and were even using captured plasma grenades to fend off the attackers. The knowledge that a group of humans had come into the possession of Covenant weaponry, and that they had a gall to use them, greatly angered the Covenant commander, a recently promoted warrior known as Akar 'Tullenee, who ordered Tal's lance to lead a charge against the humans.
The charged proved to be a massive mistake, as the human's position allowed them great fields of fire and many of the lance were brought down during the initial charge. Tal made it however, and prepared to join the last of his friends in the attack, but just as the last of the lance moved out from their cover, a well-placed plasma grenade stuck to their officer. The resulting explosion both vaporized the warriors closest to him and dazed the others, giving the humans time to throw one of their own fragmentation grenades at the shell-shocked Sangheili.
The resulting blast killed the rest of the lance, except for Tal. Instead, the force threw Tal back into a wall while the shrapnel pierced many parts of his body; tearing into the left side of his face and punching through parts of his chest as well as his legs and arms. Though knocked unconscious, the life support systems in Tal's suit and his willpower were all that kept him alive as he lay on the battlefield. He didn't wake up for the rest of the battle.
Eventually, the humans were evacuated and the orders were given to glass the planet in order to expunge the filth they had left behind. Luckily for Tal, he was found by a pack of Unggoy who were scavenging the field for anything that needed to be returned before the planet was cleansed. Notifying their Minor, Tal was taken back to the capital ship and given over to the Huragok for medical treatment.
The Huragok in charge of Tal's aid deemed that the only way to save his life was extensive cybernetic surgery. Over the course of two weeks, the Engineers worked to rebuild Tal's scarred and shattered body, replacing his broken bones with metallic components, resowing his torn musculature with nano-fibres, and many parts of his legs, arms and chest were completely remade with reinforced metal including the left side of his face.
Upon awakening, Tal saw for the first time what had been done to him. Shocked and angered by what had been grafted onto him, he attempted to strangle the floating alien with it's own tentacles and had to be restrained with a grav restrainer before finally being sedated. When he woke again Tal was greeted by his commander, Akar. Hoping for news that some of his compatriots had survived he instead received a stern order that he was being moved to a support unit in another legion, a place usually reserved for the Covenant's less desirable elements. Akar also hinted that it may be in Tal's best interests to finish what the humans had started.
Briefly stunned into silence Tal's anger over the events of the last few days caused him to lashed out at his former commander, damning him for what he had done to his friends and going so far as to insult his honour. In reply Akar condemned him as a failed warrior who had no place in the covenant. Enraged by his words Tal launched himself at Akar, intent on crushing him for what he had said. Neither opponent was prepared for what Tal's cybernetics had done to his physical skill and the disgraced warriors first blow was strong enough to crack Akar's helmet. Despite being stronger than Akar the sangheili commander proved to be equally skilled and soon received help. Tal was soon pinned by a grav restrainer and rendered unconscious.
The Black Lance
Warden Tharkis: "With all due respect noble prophet, these prisoners are but a mindless rabble. That they are sentenced to rot in these cells is a crueller blessing than simply ending their pointless lives"
Prophet of Regret: "Your short sightedness does you no benefits warden. Where you see a mindless rabble I see weapons that, with careful aim, can be much more effective in damnation than they could have been in the light of salvation"
―The Prophet of Regret forms the first 'Black Lance' of which Tal was a founding member.
Striking a commander, even without the verbal insult, would always lead to an execution in Sangehili society. Tal's execution, a public display no less, was to take place aboard High Charity itself in the next three weeks. Until that time Tal was thrown into a jail cell and left to himself until the time of his death arrived. However, Tal's life would be saved by an unexpected force.
A few days into his confinement Tal was visited by The Prophet of Regret, one of leaders of the covenant had descended into bowls of the station to see him. The Prophet didn't communicate with Tal he instead spoke with the warden of the jails, a Jiralhanae known as Tharkis. Tharkis was a grim figure who dealt with his position with uncomplicated effort, he detested the inmates he was forced to look after and made life a much worse hell than it often proved to be. Though equally hated by the inmate population, Warden Tharkis was praised by his superiors for his efficiency, regardless of inmate injuries or deaths.
Tal only caught parts of the conversation from outside his cell and the pair didn't stay for long. However, during his brief visit he spent a lot of time examining Tal through the shield. Despite the piercing gaze he was met by Tal matched it with an equal intensity, his nature refusing to let him back down. This display only seemed to please the hirarch who left in good spirits.
A few more days passed with little happening. Tal was rarely let out of his cell and spent much of his time pacing, his confinement was beginning to grate against his mind. He would soon be revealed of his prison cell when, three days later, the door was deactivated and three sangheili stood at the door. Ceasing the opportunity Tal left to freedom, only to be immediately immobilized and rendered unconscious.
Awaking once more Tal found himself in a darkened room, unknown shapes moving slowly around him. As he rose and begun to get his bearings a series of bright lights suddenly blasted on, illuminating the area around him. Blinking away the disorientation as quickly as he could Tal tried to asses the area. He was in a ships cargo hold, conspicuously bare of any kind of cargo. Instead he was surrounded by fourteen other figures, many of which were also looking around bewildered. They ranged a pair of Unggoy standing together a few meters from Tal and a much larger and heavily scared Mgalekgolo standing at the other end of the cargo bay.
Just as suddenly as the lights had come on a figured appeared on the walkway above them. It was a Jiralhanae in full armor and holding a viscous looking power mace, Tharkis. He proclaimed that their death sentences had been revoked in the favor of enforced servitude to the Covenant Empire. They were to be part of a new unit, a Black Lance, tasked with undertaking otherwise suicidal missions where otherwise much needed soldiers would be wasted.
Naturally many of the gathered criminals, Tal among them, were less than pleased with this and spat insults back at Thrakis, who calmly road out the curses and insults. As the words died down the Jiralhanae returned to his deceleration. He informed them that they had all been implanted with an explosive charge in their necks to ensure cooperation.
Tal's mood quickly darkened and he stepped forward to challenge Thrakis directly. In response his opponent brandished a detonator and dared Tal to take another step toward him. Before Tal could other criminal, a Kig-Yar, leapt forward at the Jiralhanae. Without a care the jailer activated the charge in the Kig-Yar's neck and in a second his body was absorbed by roiling plasma. A second later a selection of charred bones fell to the floor.
Despite wanting to finally fight something after all this time something in the back of Tal's mind told him to stand down, that dying here would be ultimately pointless. Stepping back with the rest of the gathered miscreants as Thrakis continued his speech. The warden informed them that they were already on the way to their first warzone and that their continued survival, alone and as a unit. Rested on this mission.
Before the jeering and curses begun again a large group of jailers appeared from the doors around the cargo bay carrying electro prods. Slowly the formed the criminals into a circle and forced them out of the room and toward their first fight. The legend of the Black Lance had begun.
The Great Schism
Betrayal and Capture
"Though the Blood Reaver had suffered much hardship, lost friends and fatih, his true test began here. In those dark pits a spark burst into life. A spark that would grow until it burned like a captured star"
―Another quote from The Blood Reaver epic
With the war concluded following the death of the last Prophet and the dissolution of the Covenant, Tal was left with no clear purpose. While he had hated the Covenant and the war it had fought, it had at least given him a clear goal and structure to his otherwise empty life. Without that, and lacking a home and family to return to, Tal became a wanderer. He hitched rides through the space ways, mainly with the various merchant ships that had begun the long process of rebuilding the galactic superpowers now that the fighting had ended.
In need of credits and a place to live, Tal travelled to Fell Justice, a fledgling Sangheili world that bordered the galactic frontier, hoping to find something to sustain himself. Unsurprisingly, Tal almost immediately turned to mercenary work, putting to use the combat skills he'd been perfecting for most of his life. Starting off with small jobs, Tal was able to build up a successful profile as a fearsome hired blade and bounty hunter.
Tal would carry on this lifestyle for the next few years. Unfortunately his career would be cut short when he accepted the wrong job. In 2555, he agreed to join a team of mercenaries and hired guns on a raid into a storage facility. Their employer said that the owners of the facility had taken something valuable, though he didn't disclose what. Seeing it as an easy job Tal and the others agreed.
The mission soon turned sour as treachery from the inside brought the team down. The last few of the mercenaries became trapped and encircled. Furious at the betrayal, Tal told the other mercenaries to make a run for their ship while Tal drew their foes' attention, in truth intending to chase down the traitor. In the ensuing fight, Tal tore through the hired guns that guarded the facility and cornered the traitor before exacting his revenge. However, the Sangheili had cornered himself and was soon incapacitated by the remaining guards.
To his surprise, Tal awoke a day later, chained to a wall in the bowels of an unknown ship. Not long after he woke up and begun to fight against his restraints, a Kig-Yar approached his cell and introduced himself as Raa-Ursk, a well-known and feared Kig-Yar pirate warlord. He told Tal that he had plans for him, though he didn't say what they were. A few perplexing hours passed as Tal attempted to escape and then tried to work out where he was when he was suddenly released and led to an arena-like pit. As he waited there, crowds began to fill seats encircling the pit with all manner of races, from Human and Sangheili to Jiralhanae and Unggoy, and at the same time other prisoners begun to filter into the pis. Some were mercs Tal had met on his failed job, while others were strangers.
Tal engages in his first gladiatorial battle.
Eventually, a large Jiralhanae appeared above the stands and declared that, to live, the prisoners must all fight to the death. As the crowds begun to chant, the prisoners all began to square up with one another. All hell proceeded to break loose in a few seconds as the six captives leaped at one another. Tal, using his superior strength and furious battle skill, to overpower his opponents soon became lost in a battle frenzy, taking on each prisoner and beating them into the ground. As the last captive fell to the floor and the crowd began to cheer, Tal looked around at the pit. Before he could realize what had happened, the Jiralhanae that had ordered them to fight jumped down along with other members of the crowd and approached Tal.
Preparing to defend against them, the group told Tal that they weren't going to attack him. Instead, they welcomed him to what they called The Pits and as its newest gladiator. The group then led him out for the pit and into what looked like living quarters. They explained that the fight had gone through was actually a test to decide which of the captives would be allowed to live as a slave and gladiator of Raa-Ursk. They also explained that Tal was aboard Raa's ship, The Bloodied Profits.
Bewildered by the strange introduction and events that had just taken place, Tal was allowed to wait in his new cell. Having gone from being free to becoming a slave, Tal was confronted with all manner of emotions; fear, confusion and above all, anger. Before he had a chance to see if escape was possible, he was suddenly grabbed by a pair of guards and dragged away to an armoury. There he was fitted with a loose-fitting combat harness and was handed a metal longsword. Knowing that attempting to hack his way to freedom would only lead to his death, Tal struggled to fight down his new killing urge and followed his guards out.
They led him out to an entrance chamber before locking the door and leaving him. Once again confused Tal began to look around, only to be distracted by another door opening. Beyond was an arena, light by giant lights above and surrounded by packed rows of seats. Opposite him was another Sangheili, similarly armed and armoured. Deciding for now to just accept the situation, Tal charged his opponent, easily overpowering and beating him into the ground in a brief struggle. As he stood back from his beaten foe he heard the roar of the crowd as the judge called out his name. The noise and feeling of accomplishment sparked a feeling in Tal that he'd not felt before, a rush of pride at the sound of the crowd chanting his name.
Returned to his cell, Tal was stripped of his weapon and armour. Nevertheless, his victory in the arena had lit something with him; to him being here felt right.
Tal soon settled into the daily routine of life as a gladiator aboard The Bloodied Profits, which mainly consisted of eating, sleeping and training. Tal's natural combat abilities and building combat rage won him much respect early on with the other gladiators, though many of the older veterans still saw him as something of a young upstart. He was still able to make friends, which included another sangheili called Fer 'Makn, an ex-covenant soldier like Tal that Raa had captured not long before, he was possessed of an analytic mind which bled over into his combat style; Tal also befriended a trio of Unggoy called Kyap, Tyab and Zawa. The three were often both the butt of many jokes from the other gladiators and the first to start trouble, usually because of the combat drugs that were put in their tanks before a fight.
In the arena Tal was also making a good impression, his first few bouts proved to be highly successful with his augmentations giving him an advantage over most opponents, or at least putting him on their level. Even if he didn't win, the crowd still seemed to love his brutal combat tactics and the raw fury that powered him. As he fought more matches, he began developing a near-addiction to the rush of combat which only fuelled his battle fury.
Tal soon proved that his main skills lay in the use of swords, eventually settling into using a large Jiralhanae broadsword. Combined with his cybernetics Tal would wield his chose weapon with deadly skill as he rose through the ranks of the gladiators. Similarly, as Tal's scores in matches improved, his armour was upgraded to incorporate many sharpened edges and serrated blades which allowed him to strike an enemy multiple times with one swipe.
Raa was so impressed with the newest addition to his entourage of fighters that he was soon placing Tal in many of the higher profile leagues and tournaments. One of his first tournaments was The Blood Trials, a Jiralhanae-led event on the planet Tarkor. While not one of the most well-known gladiator events, it still drew an impressive crowd and was often the place that owners brought their newest investments to test them in more stringent environment than would be found in a regular league.
Tal's first contest was a simple duel against a Jiralhanae fighter called Descus. Descus was almost two years Tal's senior in terms of combat experience and many of the gambling circles on Tarkor had low odds for Tal's win. Descus also had a large following on the planet and in the Trials, so when Tal walked onto the fields, he was met with less than a warm welcome. In a sly move by Raa, the Jackal had done what he could to keep his gladiator's cybernetics hidden, meaning that no one in the crowd nor Descus knew that Tal's strength levels were about the same as his opponent. Tal used this to his advantage and Descus was soon on the floor, bleeding and broken.
Tal would go on to win The Blood Trials, casting aside all competition until he had risen to the top. Though he all but exhausted himself in his final battle, a fight with a Mgalekgolo that very nearly crushed the Sangheili gladiator to death, he was still able to come out with victory grasped. Tal returned to the pits of The Bloodied Profits as a hero and was gladly welcomed back by his fellow fighters. His display of skill in the arenas on Tarkor had even impressed many of the Profit’s veterans who had begun to respect the rising star in their midst.
One such veteran was a Jiralhanae known as Tyrus. Tyrus was considered the top gladiator in Raa's collection. A slave from a young age, he had grown up his whole life a gladiator, honing the fine art of ritualistic combat that was a part of his race's history. Many of the gladiators aboard the ship accepted him as their unofficial leader of an equally unofficial council within the pits. Following Tal's success in the Blood Trials, Tyrus extended a chance to join the council to Tal, citing that his well-liked status with the rank and file of the gladiators would be well used. Although appreciative of the offer, Tal declined, as he saw it he was on the ship to fight and not to engage in politics.
A Red Dawn
The next big tournament Tal would face was the famous Tarmaessenia Games. Held on Eayn itself, the homeworld of the Kig-yar, it was one of the largest events of its type and would serve as a jumping point for Tal's next step as a gladiator. The Games were as much a display of skill as they were about actually winning and featured many tests of strength and skill for a gladiator to overcome. Raa decided to use Tal as his main attraction for the games and booked him into over 20 competitions of the course of four weeks. These included:
Duels: Straight up combat against a similarly levelled opponent. At the start of the first week Tal easily flattened his foes, working them down before moving in for the final blow. As the weeks dragged on he was still able to win but the margins of victory would grow ever closer as the games come to a close. Many of his opponents were Jiralhanae or Sangheili, who now knew and had planned for Tal's enhancements.
Team and Group Duels: Same as the regular duel but with the addition of partners and more opponents. Once again Tal proved up to the challenge, though his ability to fight with gladiators he didn't know cost him more than a few matches when he attempted to take on whole enemy teams alone.
Beast Fights: A common event that saw a gladiator pitted against one or more exotic, and highly dangerous, creatures from many different planets. Tal fought in many of these and faced a variety of alpha predators including; a Blood Dragon from Formuui, Cascandon's from Lorapt VI and a Terrvirgon from Kashar. Tal's natural predatory instincts served him well here, although the last fight with the Blood Dragon proved most challenging when it almost bit his arm off. Nevertheless Tal pulled through.
Wild Card Fights: Wild Card Fights meant that the fighters had to ready for anything before and during the fight as a straight up duel could soon be turned on its head with the inclusion of a pair of Karanak Hunters or the sudden disappearance of most of the floor. These fights often proved challenging as Tal was forced to change his combat skill to fit the new difficulties.
By the end of the four weeks, Tal was completely exhausted as he spent the last of his strength putting down the Blood Dragon. But there could be no rest for him as he was called upon the final day for an Exhibition Duel to show of Raa's superiority as a gladiatorial owner. Raa, knowing Tal was almost gone and that if he lost his reputation would be similarly tarnished, turned to another method to see Tal to victory. Before the fight Raa, subtly, injected Tal was a combat drug known as Red Dawn. A highly potent drug, it often inducted muscle growth and increased the subject's rage while dampening their feelings of pain, it was known to turn even an Unggoy in a volatile fighting machine.
The drug worked better than expected as Tal entered the fight, a five-way showdown between Tal, two Jiralhanae fighters, another Sangheili and one Mgalekgolo, and showed no sign of strain from the week's battling. The fight was bitter and Tal received his fair share of wounds, including many broken bones and large cuts. But once again he was able to pull through and in the end finished his last two opponents by crushing the last Jiralhanae fighter with the Mgalekgolo's corpse. Tal was hailed as the winner of the games, but it came with a price. One that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
Impressed with Tal's performance using Red Dawn in the Games, Raa begun regularly giving Tal the drug before his matches. While this meant that he became an absolute monster on the field, battering his enemies to the ground without stopping until they were bloody ribbons, it also meant that Tal quickly built up an addiction, and along with it, a growing temper. Off the field, he grew irritable and would snap at the slightest provocation.
As the use went on, Tal become more and more rage filled on the field while off it his pent up aggression often forced him to exile himself for fear of harming those around him. After a particularly bloody incident where Tal almost killed a new gladiator after two days without a fight Raa was forced to come up with a solution. The solution was decided that, after his fights, Tal would be locked up with a female slave to 'vent his rage'. As his addiction carried on and his rage grew worse, these sessions were often repeated, although Tal, now deep in his addiction, would often forget what he did.
Legend of the Blood Reaver
"And his opponent, the Butcher of the Sands, the Joretkhan, the Blood Reaver!"
―Tal enters onto the arena to the roar of a joyous crowd
As Tal reached his seventh year in service aboard The Bloodied Profits, it was clear that Tal had fought his way to the top ranks within the pits. Though still considered junior to many of the older fighters there was no doubting that, in terms of raw combat, few were his equal. Similarly, Raa had benefited greatly from Tal's rise to prominence as he began hosting large events in The Bloodied Profits itself. It was during one such event that Tal would begin a legend that would be past down for generations.
Tal would often be pitted against the visiting owners' strongest fighters and it in those fights that the legend of the Blood Reaver was born. Now deep in the throes his addiction to Red Dawn, he fought with a psychotic rage that eclipsed simple battle rage. He fought without fear or doubt, mercilessly assaulting his opponent till their last breath. His legend only grew when he begun 'executing' his foes.
This proved to be a huge favourite with the crowds as, once a match was finished, Raa could decide to allow Tal to finish the wounded gladiator off or let him be dragged off of the arena. Many times Raa ordered their death and here Tal wasn't found wanting. Many of his greatest kills include; snapping a Kig-yar's neck, breaking the back of a Jiralhanae fighter over his knee and decapitating a sangheili warrior. His greatest display of violence would come when, following a particularly brutal battle, Tal finished off his enemy by tearing off his helmet, clamping his mandibles around their neck and then tearing their throat out. This act would earn him his nickname, The Blood Reaver.
Legend of the Blood Reaver, a picture commissioned by Raa-Ursk of Tal. It would become a symbol of Tal's supremacy in the blood sports.
With Tal now his most prominent fighter, Raa decided that it was time to be rid of Tyrus; while older and more experienced than Tal, Raa decided that Tal would now serve better as his lead fighter and so ordered his two greatest warriors to fight for the top spot. Tal was shocked at the news, as he had never been asked to kill someone he knew, feeling as though those on-board The Bloodied Profits were the closest family he had. Tyrus banished such concerns from Tal. The older gladiator said he felt his time had come and that, in a way, it was right that Tal should kill him. He did also mention that he would still try and kill Tal regardless.
The fight quickly sold out as gladiator owners and fans of the sport came from all across the galaxy to watch two highly skilled and well known fighters engage in a brutal fight to the death.
As the battle was joined it was clear the fight would be a great spectacle as Tal's blood-soaked fury crashed against the immovability of the older fighter's implacable approach. The fight lasted for hours, each trading blows as the tide of the fight shifted. At one point Tal landed a blow that seemed to strike Tyrus to the ground, but the Jiralhanae suddenly shot up to push Tal back and deploy an attack of his own. But Tal was now deep in a rage he couldn't control and, as the battle carried on, it was clear that Tal could outlast his older adversary.
"Make it good."
―Tyrus' last words to Tal
After hours of fighting Tal was finally able to break Tyrus' guard, severing his right arm and in the process causing Tyrus to drop his war hammer. Quickly picking up the new weapon, Tal swung it into the Jiralhanae's gut, embedding it there. Tyrus was now on his knees, exhausted from the fight. The brute whispered his last words to Tal, and the sangheili then sliced his head from his shoulders. Picking it up he displayed the decapitated head to the screaming crowd while roaring back with his own shout. Tal was now the undisputed top fighter.
Once he had vented his pent-up rage, Tal returned to the pits below. While many mourned Tyrus' passing, they accepted that it would have happened regardless. Tal, for his part, didn't conceive it. He was now the alpha and that was all that mattered. He would carry on as the Profits top fighter for the next three years, during which time his legend would continue to grow. His fights would be bloodier, his rage would increase beyond what even Raa had expected.
However, during his moments of lucidity he begun to hate his confinement. He was now one of the most skilled and well-known gladiators in the blood sports, and as he won each fight he began to wonder if there was ever going to be a way out of his imprisonment.
In 2564, at the height of Tal's supremacy in the Pits, the veteran gladiator would come across the young human gladiator Ryuko Kawada. A relatively new face on the gladiatorial scene who Tal had heard of a few times in recent years. Out of curiosity he went to go and watch one of her matches, he found the girl to be lacking in skill but strong in spirit. Perhaps reminded of his own experiences as a new fighter or spurned by a deeper instinct Tal chose to seek the girl out and offer his training to her. At first she was uninterested in Tal's offer but Tal would persist, deriding her skills and trying to draw out the fighter within. Eventually she would relent and accept Tal's teachings. The two soon developed a deep bond, with Tal taking an almost fatherly stance with her. She in return teased him with such honorific's as 'Ser Tal' despite the later's distaste with its use. Under Tal's guidance Ryuko would flourish as a fighter, adding Tal's skills to her fighting style. By the end she was a far more skilled warrior than when she had arrived aboard the Profits.
He did try and keep his drug habits and still boiling anger a secret from her, believing that it would drive her away. While he was able to maintain his composure most of the time he did slip at times, snapping at her or those around him. To his surprise his momentary lapses in lucidity never drove her away. Never the less after a month of training her masters to her back and left the Profits. Tal wouldn't see her again for many years.
10 years into his incarceration aboard the Profits, he was approached by his friend Fer. Fer had taken the chance to join the council when Tal declined and so was now seen as a voice of reason for the others. He explained that, before his death, Tyrus had ordered Fer and few others to begin trying to gather information on Raa, specifically following the recent disappearances of a group of promising gladiators that had joined a few years back.
Using various resources and methods Fer and his team had discovered that Raa was building plans to turn his gladiators into his own personal army, though for what purpose remained unclear. From what Fer had managed to find out Tal learned that Raa was using psycho-condition to turn the fighters into killing machines that he could use at will to butcher any in his path. Even Tal's drug addiction from years ago was another test, to see what effect Red Dawn had on combat effectiveness over an extended period.
Knowing that if they remained aboard the ship then they would all be trapped in Raa's servitude for the rest of their lives, Tal and the rest of the council notified the other gladiators and begun to plan out an escape.
Riot aboard The Bloodied Profits
"Never again shall we be slaves! Today brothers and sisters. We. Are Conquerors"
―Tal leads his fellow gladiators in rebellion
What would become known as The Riot Aboard The Bloodied Profits was a five day event that saw a mass break out of the gladiators held aboard the ship. In the weeks leading up to the riot the fighters begun probing the edges of their prison, searching for a way out and into the rest of the ship. Many points were located, mainly poorly secured air ducts that the smaller fighters could use to escape out. Luckily for the larger fights many of the guards in the pits had become resent full of Raa for the way he treated them and it was discovered that many were all to happy to let the gladiators free if it meant that they would also be allowed to leave the ship.
The only issue in the plan was that the Profit's was huge in size, one of the largest non-military ships in existence, and that meant fighting through Raa's forces would be a long and difficult fight. But each fighter knew that their freedom, which had often seemed so far away, was now within their grasp. If they did not fight, then they would be damned into Raa's service.
The riot started simply enough, there wasn't a sudden charge as the gates were opened. Instead the guards just opened the door and the gladiators walked out. Each of them knew the plan. Keep the element of surprise, head for the hanger and hold it so that everyone could escape. It didn't stay that simple for long, as the forces still loyal to Raa discovered that the gladiator pens were empty only an hour after they had left. As the alarm was sounded across the ship, loyal guards began swarming every corridor, searching for the missing fighters. They soon found them and that was when all chaos broke loose.
As the fighting began in earnest between the gladiators and guards seeking freedom and those still loyal to Raa, it soon devolved into complete chaos. Gladiators and guards scattered and were soon all over the ship, trying to find a way out. Tal, along with Fer and few other gladiators, stuck together over the five days, fighting together through the corridors and searching for a way out. Tal, knowing that the chances of escape were getting slimmer every day, suddenly came up with a new plan. Instead of escape he decided to head for Raa and end him once and for all. Those around him agreed and they set out for his sanctum.
As they fought further they faced increasing resistance, but with each fight they restocked on weapons and ammo and gained new ones as well. By the time they were close to the sanctum there were but five of them but now they were armed to the teeth. They charged the final door, quickly decimating the defenders, and then begun pounding the door down. Eventually Tal kicked the door in and stormed his captors chamber.
Seeing the creature that had imprisoned him for ten years brought out Tal's berserker rage and he charged the Kig-yar, tearing apart his retinue before descending on the pirate lord himself. Tal didn't hold back on his torture of Raa, he broke every limb and tore him apart till he was at the brink of death. As he beat the Kig-yar to his grave he had Fer broadcast it across the ship, letting all loyal to him see his demise. Tal eventually sealed Raa's fate, throwing his broken form out of an air lock to die in the silence of space. The feared Pirate Lord Raa-Ursk died alone in the cold vacuum of space.
With the death of their leader, the remaining loyal guards, mostly made up for mercenaries, gave up the fight. A few tried to establish themselves in his place but they were swiftly ended. With their freedom gained, the gladiators went their separate ways. And although it pained him, Tal chose to set out into the galaxy alone.
The Bloody Handed One
"I barely recall those days, it's like a red haze in my mind. Sometimes I remember, glimpsed in my sleeping moments. The faces, the bodies, all the people I tore apart on the whim of those no less ruthless than I. I was their executioner, in a way I was as much a slave to them as I was to Raa or the Covenant. They gave me purpose and that was all that matter to me"
―Tal reflects on his time as the Triad's most feared enforcer
Now free from a decade of enslavement Tal once again found himself alone and with no clear purpose to guide him. He soon returned to mercenary work for the myriad pirates, smugglers and other criminal elements that had sprung up in the post war lawless haven of the Frontier. He was able to use some of his old contacts and the popularity that he gained as a gladiator to rebuild his profile and soon plenty of high paying customers were offering him work.
During the early few months back as a mercenary he begun to receive most of his work from the Sangheili triad and crime family known as the Azakai. Lead by their ruthless yet respectful sangheili crime boss Nasar 'Tazet the Azakai maintained a large stake in the eastern quarter of the Frontier. They controlled everything from smuggling operations all the way up to the Kaidon's on some of the nearby sangheili colony worlds.
Initially the jobs were fairly simple, usually just hits on those who had stepped too far out of line or were proving more difficult than the triad was willing to accept. Tal didn't care though, he had a steady stream of money coming in and a job to keep him occupied. As he took more jobs his methods slowly begun to turn much more sadistic and brutal. Like his time in the pits he would show his targets no mercy and on more than one occasion would let his prey run for a bit before delivering the killing blow. Though not the usual practice for the triad, who prided themselves on being above the common rabble of criminal activity, Tal's viscous approach put fear into the hearts of the Azakia's enemies.
News of Tal's exploits would eventually reach Nasar's ears and he would invite the sangheili mercenary to come and see him. Tal obliged and met the crime boss. There Nasar revealed that recently the position of Drazhar, which means The Bloody Handed One, had been vacated. Leaving a space open in the triad. Nasar offered Tal the position, playing on Tal's pride as much as his killing spirit. Tal happily accepted.
As Drazhar Tal's job was to be the triads main enforcer, to strike fear into their enemies and in doing so ensure that their grip on their territory remained iron tight. Due to the work he had already done Tal easily fitted into the position and his first few missions soon set a brutal example as to what would happen should you cross the triad.
One thing he chose not to reveal to his employers was his drug addiction, which had slowly been getting worse since he'd left the Profit's. Without Raa's specialised form of Red Dawn Tal had been forced to buy many different types of combat narcotics as well as learning how to make it himself. While the doses he would give himself were able to keep him placated it soon became clear to him that the drugs were starting to take their toll as each day he felt his self-control and sanity slip away.
Six months after he left the gladiator pits behind Tal's drug addiction finally stole the last of his sanity. Unable to control his anger Tal became little more than an sadistic slaughterer. When not on assignments he would be put into stasis for the slipspace trip, released at the other end and was simply released upon his targets. Lacking any kind of restraint Tal would mercilessly butcher anyone and anything in his way, tearing apart entire households to reach a single individual.
When not hunting down his targets he would often remain near Nasar, often remaining in the back of the room. Those that went to meet with the crime boss would always be treated to the sight of Tal stalking around, just in their line of sight. Many refereed to him as Nasar's attack dog, though whether he knew or even comprehended that is unknown. The only person that had any measure of control over Tal was Nasar himself, who Tal treated as a sort of alpha in the group. Never the less Tal's ferocity meant that the triad was more powerful than ever as few would dare question them when the threat of the new Darzhar always loomed around them.
Despite his usefulness to their cause Tal didn't have many proponents within the triad. Many of the higher ranking members derided him as little more than a savage, and such as a thing had no place in the triad. Many of the crime family also worried that Nasar could use Tal as his own personal assassin, perhaps even taking complete control of the Azakai. Their worries would soon increase following a particularly disturbing incident.
During one job he was tasked with eliminating a Kiadon and his wife who had abandoned their honoured agreement to the triad and in turn ruined the smuggling operations there. Tal would be dropped off onto the roof of the keep and from there he made his way directly to the Kiadon's sleeping chamber. The assault was short and bloody as Tal tore the pair of them to pieces in a matter of seconds. However Tal had not been fed before being sent down to kill them and so in his animalistic nature he begun to eat the pair of them. He was caught by a servant halfway through and although he quickly killed her before she could raise the alarm he was forced to flee, leaving two half eaten and mutilated bodies to rot in the bedroom.
It was after this that the others leaders of the Azakai decided to act.
The plan that the other leaders developed to deal with Tal was simple yet ingenious. The one thing that made Tal such an effective terror tool was his rage which made him both a ferocious enemy to face as well as an terrifying presence. The dissident crime bosses sent their agents to investigate and they soon returned with fruitful news. They had discovered Tal's drug addiction and by extension a clink in his defences.
Using this knowledge the other leaders begun to feed Tal false whispers. Surreptitiously and often while he was sleeping, they fed Tal's anger and began to direct it at one individual, Nasar himself. They spoke of his plans to depose of Tal and how he had out grown his usefulness. Slowly they turned Nasar's greatest warrior against him.
Eventually Tal's rage could be contained no longer and on one fateful day the bloody hand of the Azakai launched an assault on his own master. Charging from his quarters all the way to Nasar's with slowing he would have torn the crime boss in two had the other leaders not be prepared. As Tal bore down on his victim over a dozen hidden warriors revealed themselves. Before Tal could react they opened fire, each of their weapons designed to fire a chain that tethered to the raging sangheili. In just a few seconds Tal was pinned to the floor.
Shaken by the sudden assault Nasar took his other leaders aside to deliberate Tal's punishment. All the while Tal remained chained to the ground, raging against his confinement. Swiftly the crime boss and his family returned. Condemning Tal's actions he at first seemed to be preparing to kill him but then he stopped him. Opting on a new course he chose to imprison Tal, choosing to let Tal destroy himself from the inside rather than quickly end his suffering. Tal was soon sedated and placed in a stasis pod, before been taken to his new prison.
The Broken Legend
Tal was brought to Hellion V, an infamous and hellish prison on the Frontier. Well known for both the harshness of it's owners as much for the dangerous inmates it housed, Hellion V had a lethal reputation. Life on the prison was necessarily tough and in order to survive the prisoners were forced to delve deep into the asteroids that made up the prison in order to recover a special geode, should a prisoner fail to collect a geode within a week they are killed. As they would soon discover, throwing Tal into this volatile mix will prove to be difficult to say the least.
The moment he was unshackled and released into the inmates quarters he leapt forward in a rage filled murder frenzy, attempting to tear apart the closest prisoner. He was only stopped after he had killed eleven inmates and seven prison guards. This should have lead to his immediate execution, and some believe this may have been his intent. He was instead saved by an unlikely source, the Azakai had paid extra to ensure he was kept alive to ensure that his demise was as slow and painful as they wished.
Instead of being killed Tal was taken to the lower levels of the prison, known among the inmates as The Breakers, where the most difficult and unstable prisoners are taken. Here a prisoner is left in a small cell on their own, occasional food drops keep them from starving but other than that they are utterly alone. Many an inmate has spent time in The Breakers only to come out changed. Many whispered of strange happenings within the confines of the small cells but no one was to prove truth to the words.
Tal would awake in one of those cells and for the first time in years The Breakers would know sound. Roaring his anger at his imprisonment he pounded on the doors of his cell with all his rage born fury. He very nearly punched them off their hinges had he not be sedated again. When he woke a second time he was restrained by a pair of chains, which he broke in a matter of minutes to resume smashing against the door. Again he was sedated and when he woke a third time he has tied down by a pair of chains made of a similar metal to those used to make the covenants battleships, such chains were often used to hold down rampaging Mglekgolo's and where all the prison wardens had on hand to restrain the raging sangheili.
Even though he was now held back by the new chains Tal still strained against them, throwing all his might against them and unleashing a wordless outcry of rage. Eventually he would cease his straining to sleep, falling into unconsciousness from exhaustion, but he would always awaken to start again. His cry could sometimes be heard all the way up in the inmates cells, his howls penetrating the rock of the asteroid to reverberate around the station. As this carried on he earned the nickname Hellscreamer.
As time passed Tal's roars of rage turned to cries of anguish. Bereft of any kind of supplement for his drug addiction Tal begun to experience hellish withdrawal symptoms. His body was racked with pain, he was hit by bouts of hunger and then lost his appetite, he constantly switched between swelteringly hot and freezing cold. As he got worse his own mind turned against him. He begun to remember, just barely, all the terrible acts he had committed in his blood soaked frenzies; the gladiators he'd butchered, the female slaves he'd ravaged and the people he'd slaughtered in the Azakai's name. It was torture beyond anything he had ever experienced.
This would last for months as his body struggled to keep going, on some occasions Tal felt the strain on his body would be to much and the certainty of death became apparent to him. But he never did, even when the pain and anguish drove him mad he couldn't succumb to death. But when the pain finally abated and his mind slowly returned to him he felt only an empty hole in it's place.
While it hadn't killed him the toll of the withdrawal's as well as the memories of his actions had broken his spirit. Tal 'Zerex, The Blood Reaver himself, hung as nothing more than a broken monument to his own shattered glory.
Once it was clear that The Breaker's had don't their job Tal was returned to the upper cells. Upon his return after months of solitude he found the other inmates, even the strongest and most fearsome, feared him. He discovered that word of his past, as both a gladiator and an enforcer had spread throughout the prisoner. Compounded with the terrifying noises that had drifted up from the bowls of the prison Tal had gained a feared persona within just a few sort weeks. For the broken fighter that was all he wanted. They kept their distance, leaving Tal to his misery.
Gavin Dunn: "Your putting your faith in ancient scripture and beliefs to fix your head?"
Tal 'Zerex: "I have tried all conventional healing and it has done nothing but stall this end. Either this trail will finally bring my mind rest or give me the peace I have dreamed of for so long"
―Tal prepares to undertake the Pilgrimage of Talurak, the first Sangheili to take the tests since the ancient times of his people
"When he talks to me I don't know where to look. He towers right over me so I have to look up to talk to him but then I see all those pieces of metal grafted onto him. Even when I am high enough to look at him face to face I still don't know where to look, half his face is made of metal and the other half is so scared. I guess his eyes are easiest, even if it's just because they look more sad than scary"
Built by a life of near constant conflict Tal would grow into an extraordinarily fit and powerful specimen of his race. Even as a young child in his keep Tal was a head taller than any his age and by the time the covenant war ended he was considered one of the tallest in his legion. Combined with his height he was also incredibly broad, possessing a large amount of muscle mass. Following his cybernetics and later his extensive use of combat drugs would push his muscles beyond the sangheili norm. Putting both together Tal is one of the largest sangheili in the species, equalling many Jiralhaenae in both height and width.
Along with his imposing physic Tal's form is riddled with scars and other battle damage. Scars cover nearly every part of his body, from gunshot wounds to plasma scouring and more crude torture weapons, mapping his body with criss crossing lines and blotched marks. Along with his scars the rest of his body is covered in his cybernetics. The metal covers nearly 40% of his body and bares similar levels of damage in some areas. Despite the ruined state of his body Tal bears his wounds with pride, leaving them as a reminder of what he had survived through.
"I think it is time you learned that I am a lot bigger and more terrifying than you are"
―Tal describing himself
Having lived a life of constant violence and mortal danger, Tal has conditioned himself to constantly force himself to be the most dangerous individual in the room. Growing up as a street urchin, his brief career as a warrior and then the many years a penal warrior, mercenary and gladiator have taught Tal that if he wishes to stay alive then he has to be the one at the top of the heap. Despite this Tal doesn't seek power beyond martial skill and he see's himself more as a free soul than a potentially great leader of men. Never the less events in his life have often robbed him of his perceived optimism, especially following his decent into madness Tal has begun to perceive himself more as an animal. And a dangerous one at that. Moments of weakness can see him relapse into his old bloodthirsty nature and in these moments he can lose sight of who is friend and foe. Combined with his sometimes strained grip on reality can lead Tal to fear for those he holds dear, that he might one day snap completely, forever falling into the dark corner of his mind where there is only rage and hatred.
"You can call his tactics brutal and unrefined if you wish but couldn't be more wrong. On the surface he might seems like some mindless beast let off his leash but there is more to it than that. There's a predatory intelligence at work in there, a cunning that goes beyond simply tearing his foes to shreds. No, when you fight Tal you aren't fighting an animal. Your fighting a warrior who has spent his whole life perfecting the art of battle beyond what we would expect from our most highly skilled operatives. He is nothing less than a force of nature."
―A sangheili special forces officer studying Tal's battlefield abilities
A life time of brutal and unrelenting combat has honed Tal's combat skill to levels beyond some of Sangheilious's most proficient combatants. Whether stalking after a target, protecting one or simply going on the offensive Tal mixes a combat style of focused brutality and predatory cunning that few can truly understand. Having fought for his life on the streets of Sakel, battled on the front lines in the Human-Covenant War, worked as a mercenary and lived as a gladiator and enforcer Tal has a wealth of knowledge to draw on when he enters combat.
Following his horrific injuries on Skopje Tal's body was rebuilt with covenant cybernetics. While a rather untouched form of medical science the Huragok that saved Tal's life was well versed in it's use. In order to save Tal's life nearly 40% of his body was grafted with cybernetics while much of his muscle tissue and bones were similarly reinforced to take compensate for his increased weight. While this life saving procedure kept Tal alive it also ostracised from mainstream sangheili society, however it also pushed him beyond the sangheili physical norm.
The most glaring of his cybernetics are the visible ones, notable the left side of his face and chest, both arms and legs. The metal replacements are a dull grey that blends to a degree with his skin but have similar properties to other covenant metals. The metal is highly resistant to heat, even plasma damage, and gives Tal increased durability against most small arms weapon fire. His left two mandibles have their own metallic teeth allowing him to tear apart his food or bit someone's throat out.
Under his skin is where the true miracle of covenant medical science took place. To ensure that Tal's muscles could take the increased weight of all the metal that was being grafted onto him Tal's muscle and bone structure were reinforced with nano-fibres and strength enhancing chemicals. The result was a massive increase in physical strength and endurance, pushing Tal to the same level as a Jiralhanae in terms of strength. This increase in muscle mass also bulked Tal out considerably, to the point where he had too have his harness modified to fit him.
The end result, despite being hated by many within the covenant, was a sangheili warrior pushed beyond the limits of his kin. Some whisper that Tal's injuries and enhancements were a plan by the Prophets to create a new breed of super warrior to combat the daemons, while others think it was just a momentary spark of brilliance from the Huragok. Whatever the reason none can deny it made Tal 'Zerex a force beyond compare.
"I could feel it dripping off my hands, and all I could think about was how I wanted more"
―Tal's later reflections on his decent into blood and madness
"You and me are more alike than we would both like to admit"
Weapons and Equipment
Cult of The Blood Reaver
"Glory lies beyond the broken bodies of uncounted foes, challenge it to know true strength, to know the truest strength is to conquer all, and once the world lies broken at your feet, can the Blood Reaver judge you as one of his own"
―An oath passed around the cult
"Anyone can train to be a gladiator, to be the greatest you must have the heart of a champion."
"We will never be slaves! But today, we shall all be conquerors!"
―Tal to the gladiators aboard The Bloodied Profits
"I didn't ask to be blown up, carved apart and rebuild again. Like I was just some corpse for the Hurogok to play with. But my 'brothers' didn't see it that way. They said I was an abomination, a freak, an honour less waste of flesh. They said I should have died on that battlefield. But what in the hells do they know, perhaps they are the ones that should have died."
―Tal, circumstance unknown
"All my life I've been filled with this rage, so much anger and hate. But all along it's just been a cover for all the pain and misery my life's become. Perhaps that old cur was right, perhaps I should have just killed myself."
―After years of rage Tal finally reaches his breaking point.
Tal holds great animosity toward Stel 'Vadam due to the fact that he was allowed to achieve such a high rank despite having a prosthetic limb while Tal was cast out of society due to his cybernetics.
Behind the Scenes
Tal is currently Kestrl's longest character article despite not being what he would consider to be his main character. But then again he was also the first character Kestrl made.
↑A large four legged reptile found on sangheili worlds