The True Vanguard were a militant Sangheili political group that emerged in the Blooding Years directly after the Human-Covenant War. Formed from the ashes of a mercenary group following a devastating defeat, the faction gained prominence as a notable supremacist organisation that encouraged Sangheili dominance in the galaxy and sought to create a new empire to surpass the one that had fallen just a few years before.
While they could not match the military strength of the Swords of Sanghelios or even some of the larger Covenant remnant factions, the True Vanguards were considered a genuine threat due to their ideology of promoting a resurgence in their kind's warrior culture. Growing from a relatively small organisation into a veritable army over the course of just a few years, they were greatly reviled by most factions for their unswerving militancy and brutal methods. In spite of their extreme xenophobia and relatively small numbers, the True Vanguard managed to survive as a lingering threat for many years.
Before the formation of the True Vanguard there existed a group known as the Outrider's Legion, a small, if effective group of Sangheili mercenaries lead by a powerful warrior known as The Outrider. Having come into being in the final year of the Human-Covenant War, the group had started out as little more than brigands hounding colonies on the fringes of Sangheili space before they came into contact with Jul 'Mdama's Covenant faction in 2553. Selling their services as a dependable group willing to undertake any mission, they infamously led merciless assaults on non-compliant colony worlds and struck fear into the hearts of those they fought against. However, the lack of new recruits prompted one of the group's warriors, Dorenn 'Tenon, to gain support in a similar manner to Mdama's group - through religion.
By making out the Outrider as a holy figure and head of a new sect of Forerunner worship, Tenon was able to preach a modified version of the Covenant's old religion to his followers that appealed to a highly militarised form of life. This new sect saw themselves as inheritors of the Forerunner's legacy, and that only the most worthy race would deserve the ascension to godhood that the Great Journey would bring. The Outrider and many of the higher-ranking members of their Legion did not actually believe in this, but saw it as a useful tool for bringing loyal warriors into the fold.
In June of 2554, their Legion was drawn into a trap set by Felo 'Ranak, a feared member of the Swords of Sanghelios. As their forces moved in to destroy a crippled battlecruiser, the Swords detonated explosives that doomed several of their ships and moved in to annihilate the survivors. While the Outrider was cut off and led a desperate boarding action against the enemy flagship, Dorenn 'Tenon fled the system in a CRS-class light cruiser with only a few hundred loyal warriors at his side. Realising that the Outrider had almost certainly perished after a week of no contact, Tenon declared their fallen leader a martyr and took command of the organisation, vowing revenge on the Swords of Sanghelios and most of all their leader, Arbiter Thel 'Vadam.
Rise to Power
"For too long have we stood by and watched our kind stripped of power and dignity by our foes. We have seen it with the Prophets, we have seen it with the humans, and we now see it from this so-called Arbiter and his 'Swords of Sanghelios'. They spit on our culture - Sangheili culture - and seek only personal power. Not us. We are the True Vanguard, the ones who will lead our kind towards salvation! Not through half-hearted diplomacy or cowardice, but through strength! The Forerunners left this galaxy so only the strongest could claim their legacy, and it is we as proud Sangheili who will take it!"
―Dorenn 'Tenon, speaking to an assembly of True Vanguard warriors
It was then that their organisation was reborn as the 'True Vanguard', named for their belief that they would lead the Sangheili towards the Great Journey instead of the Arbiter, whom they regarded as a heretical traitor. Instead of leading large-scale attacks, they began to stockpile weaponry and moved their combat doctrine more towards surgical strikes and assassinations while the leadership attempted to establish itself as a slightly more legitimate group by openly communicating with well-known Sangheili leaders across their colony worlds. Most refused, seeing the Vanguard as little more than an extremist group, though several more traditionalist clans pledged support to them.
Despite their preaching, the group did not attract widespread attention until December of 2554. One of their most zealous members, a veteran named Ukari 'Montor, was able to coordinate four bombings on the same day, targeting arms factories in Qikost that were supplying the Swords of Sanghelios and stealing numerous cargo crates before escaping. When enemy forces arrived in the area, they discovered the bodies of several officials strung up in a nearby building, with a message from Montor stating that they were traitors towards the Sangheili and that all who opposed the True Vanguard would meet the same fate. While groups such as Jul 'Mdama's faction and the infamous Servants of the Abiding Truth were well-known and rightly feared on Sanghelios, few had heard of the Vanguard and their sudden appearance unnerved many. A statement from Arbiter Thel 'Vadam shortly after assured his followers that the True Vanguard would be hunted down and wiped out like any other dissidents.
While the Swords of Sanghelios were certainly brutal in their reprisal towards the Vanguard and struck at supply lines, outposts and outspoken supporters of the group, its leadership kept well away from Sangheili-controlled space and operated primarily out of the lawless fringe areas that had been sparsely colonised by the Covenant in its heyday. Supreme Commander Dorenn 'Tenon ensured that every single member of the Vanguard were loyal towards their cause, disseminating propaganda and speeches almost constantly regarding Sangheili superiority and their destiny of ruling the galaxy. Infiltrators were dispatched in small groups to act as assassins and recruiters across numerous world, spreading the Vanguard's ideology even further. Their greatest victory came in February of 2555, when Ukari 'Montor led a heavily-armed strike team to capture a CCS-class Battlecruiser that had come in for repairs above the distant world Hesduros. While it belonged to Jul 'Mdama's faction and not the Swords of Sanghelios, the Vanguard reasoned that this group were little more than pirates due to allowing numerous Kig-Yar into their ranks and made off with the vessel before enemy reinforcements could intercept them. Renaming it as the Forlorn Messenger, Dorenn 'Tenon took the battlecruiser as the True Vanguard's flagship and base of operations.
Due to their relatively low numbers, the True Vanguard could not efficiently wage open warfare with their foes and instead began a protracted campaign of terrorism that stretched across numerous worlds. At the Supreme Commander's behest, they would also start to attack human targets with the intention of re-igniting a conflict within mankind and the Sangheili as a way of gaining more support. However, they could never gain much traction with this plan as aside from a few scattered bombings and targeted strikes against civilians, the humans possessed an excellent intelligence network that managed to downplay, cover up, or prevent the True Vanguard's terrorist attacks and minimise the damage caused by them. With Spartan-led retaliatory strikes causing a great deal of damage to the Vanguard's agents, the decision was made by the group's leaders to resurrect their original commanding officer in the form of a new, more fanatical Outrider. Dorenn 'Tenon chose a young, capable warrior named Lorok 'Suren to take up the mantle, outfitting him with near-identical weaponry and armour and concocting a story about his escape from the Swords of Sanghelios to tell to their troops.
While confident that this story about the Outrider's return had convinced his subordinates, Tenon ensured that his authority was not undermined and had Suren publicly thank him and pledge his support to the True Vanguard as a warrior and nothing more. Using the name and infamy that came with the Outrider moniker, he then had Suren and a large group of warriors set out to raid merchant ships across the frontier. Acting with extreme violence, they cut a bloody swathe through several trade routes, ensuring that any survivors knew that the Outrider had been the one responsible for every attack. Not only did this strike fear into the hearts of any who had previously heard of the infamous Sangheili, it made the True Vanguard's involvement with his force rather distant and set up the Outrider as a potential martyr once more. Lorok 'Suren proved to be even more savage than the original Outrider had been, which eventually prompted a surprising response from the Swords of Sanghelios themselves.
In March of 2555, a highly-secretive commando group known as the Shadows of Retribution would launch a series of raids against the new Outrider's supply bases on the frontier. Unlike the main body of the True Vanguard, the new Outrider often dealt with Kig-Yar pirates and even had a few crews working for him to steal or salvage cargo to sell on the black market. Working under Tenon's instructions, Lorok 'Suren kept them in line through fear and manipulated these groups into striking at SoS-aligned military targets as well. Eventually, the Shadows of Retribution would attack the supply base during one of the Outrider's visits and massacred the pirates there, forcing Suren to make a hasty retreat towards his Phantom. Moments before boarding, he and his bodyguards came under fire from a single Sangheili commando in green armour as they escaped. While Suren did not consider this a major issue and described his unusual attacker while reporting to the Supreme Commander, the True Vanguard's leader came to the horrible realisation that the original Outrider may not have been killed after all. Knowing the damage it would do to his reputation if news spread of this, the Vanguard directed its efforts towards wiping out the Shadows of Retribution.
In spite of their vast network of informants across Sangheili space, the True Vaguard were unable to track down their new foe. While Dorenn and his closest supporters were certain that the Shadows of Retribution were operating as part of the Swords of Sanghelios, none of their infiltrators could establish a proper link between them and Thel 'Vadam, which made it difficult to find their base of operations. Over the course of that year the Vanguard increased their attacks, mostly on lightly-defended military outposts and settlements that had refused to bow to their cause. It was around this time that they chose to start harassing human colonists that had moved too close to former Covenant territory, seeing their expansion as no different than a hostile invasion. In spite of these successes, the group found themselves constantly harassed by the Shadows, losing several supply bases and a number of their veterans to a series of pinpoint raids. It was not until early 2556 that they were finally able to capture a member of the Shadows, and after almost a week of excruciating torture had him reveal the location of their headquarters.
With rumours spreading through the ranks about the possibility of the current Outrider being an impostor, Dorenn had Blood Brother Ukrai 'Montor join Lorok 'Suren gather a large raiding party of their finest warriors for a mission to Khael'mothka. While the colony world was out on the frontier and its hardy population rarely got itself involved in outside matters, it had been the perfect place to conceal a military fortress. Seeking to wipe out the Shadows in a single night, Lorok made use of a number of Locust excavators to lay waste to the surrounding villages while he and Ukrai moved in to begin the slaughter. Though they had the element of surprise, Lorok was hesitant to lead from the front and his cautiousness allowed the remaining Shadows to regroup and put up a solid defence that turned a swift strike into a protracted siege.
While victory against the Shadows of Retribution seemed certain, the Vanguard was caught-off guard by the sudden arrival of a ORS-class heavy cruiser that quickly destroyed two of their light cruisers and scattered any more orbital resistance before deploying an attack force that quickly smashed the Vanguard's attack force outside the Shadows' fortress. Leading the attack was none other than Rora 'Marak, the Outrider, who maimed Ukrai in his initial assault before wiping out most of the surviving Vanguard force within hours. Though their surviving warriors managed to escape under Ukrai's command, Lorok 'Suren was captured in battle. Shortly afterwards, a public broadcast was made across Sangheili space in which Ranak and Fleet Master Felo 'Ranak of the Swords of Sanghelios derided Suren as the 'False Outrider' before executing him. Unable to retaliate and having taken heavy losses, the True Vanguard's brief underground war against the Shadows of Retribution came to a sudden end. Their surviving warriors were forced to flee into the frontier to recuperate and rebuild what they had left, still furiously plotting against the Swords of Sanghelios.
Decline and Resurgence
Following their humiliating defeat on Khael'mothka, the True Vanguard were forced into hiding as the Swords of Sanghelios pursued their fleeing forces across the frontier. Information extracted via torture from captured Vanguard members revealed the location of a number of their covert agents, and what ensued was several weeks of confusion as Dorenn 'Tenon tried to reorganise what remained of his supporters. While the Supreme Commander intended to use religious fervour to motivate his men into continuing their crusade against the Swords and their allies, but over half of his remaining men would leave over the next three months to join other sects. As their attacks fell to almost nothing across Sangheili space, many believed that the True Vanguard's power had truly been broken and the group's influenced waned.
Dorenn 'Tenon and the True Vanguard would split up into numerous cells over the next year, leaving only a skeleton crew to run the Forlorn Messenger as they stirred up resentment across several worlds. Targeting ex-Covenant soldiers and other disaffected Sangheili, their ranks would swell once more with new recruits who believed in their ideals of Sangheili supremacy. While Ukrai 'Montor handled these efforts, Dorenn would re-establish contact with Jul 'Mdama's Covenant, using his prior affiliation with the group to exchange information and contacts for much-needed equipment. This arrangement would eventually lead to the Vanguard joining up with 'Mdama's own fleet for a brief time, though there were many complaints by their more fanatical members.
Dorenn 'Tenon: "There are some who would see our ideals as contradictory or confusing, yet our warriors remain unquestioning."
Haku 'Monok: "Each Sangheili shall interpret things his own way and believe in his own righteousness. He will not dare question the faith of his brothers."
Dorenn 'Tenon: "And yet some will require reassurance that they are following the right path. What would we tell them of our cause?"
Haku 'Monok: "Whatever is convenient. Our beliefs are whatever you and I say they are."
―The True Vanguard's leaders discussing their ideology
As with many Sangheili factions post-war, the True Vanguard's beliefs retain some elements of the older Covenant religion while retaining their own distinct ideology. When they were first created, Supreme Commander 'Tenon's troops mostly followed the same Forerunner worship that the former Covenant had, albeit with a firm stance on Sangheili supremacy over all other races. While this system served to create loyal warriors for the cause, it was not until 2557 and the arrival of Haku 'Monok that their beliefs went from outright Forerunner worship to a complete re-interpretation of the Great Journey as a whole. As Monok was present on Requiem to witness the revival of the Ur-Didact and his subsequent defeat shortly after, he put forth the idea that the Sangheili were destined to inherit the Mantle of Responsibility. This only served to fuel their supremacist views further, as many within the Vanguard believed that this 'Mantle' involved an ascension to godhood that the Forerunners had come close, but failed to do with the Halo rings.
In truth, the religious ideals within the True Vanguard were as they had always been: A tool to gain supporters. Those within the faction's upper echelons, including the infamously zealous Blood Brothers, would seek to retain obedience at all times over everything else, sometimes intentionally being vague with their exact beliefs so that any major changes to the Vanguard's structure could not be questioned at length.
Due to most of the True Vanguard's forces coming from veterans of the Human-Covenant War, the group utilised a ranking system somewhat similar to that of the defunct Covenant military. Due to the group's refusal to use species such as Unggoy or Kig-Yar in combat roles, the Vanguard operated in small cadres in the field.
The rank of 'Blood Brother' would roughly equate to 'Zealot' in other Covenant factions, being comprised of only the most fanatically loyal of warriors. 'High Inquisitor', on the other hand, is a new role brought about after the discovery of Requiem to denote the group's religious leader, charged with ensuring complete faithfulness in their beliefs.
Ranks and type classes
Vanguard Minor Vanguard Major
Vanguard Ranger Vanguard Assassin
Shipmaster High Inquisitor Supreme Commander
Due to their status as a largely itinerant force, the True Vanguard possess no weapon manufacturing facilities and rely largely on weapons bought, stolen, or donated in the field. Due to the organisation's preference for raids and assassinations compared to drawn-out battles, the Vanguard is well-supplied with older Type-27 Beam Rifles for long-range combat. Their willingness to create a great deal of carnage in battle is reflected by the widespread usage Type-31 and Type-33 weapons among their ranks, used to create messy, explosive deaths for their foes. As with most Sangheili organisations, the True Vanguard's primary melee weapon is the Type-1 Energy Sword, though reports of members wielding Curveblades in battle have been reported.
The Vanguard also own a number of vehicles either stolen or salvaged in the field. In terms of ships, they lack the manpower to field a particularly large fleet, and so greatly value their single CCS-Class Battlecruiser, Forlorn Messenger. They also possess nine CRS-class light cruisers used for ferrying troops and raiding smaller settlements, as well as numerous smaller ships of civilian make for stealthy deployments. The Type-56 Lich is also their primary troop deployment craft due to its size, armament and ability to travel through Slipspace if close enough to another jumping vessel. On the ground the Type-46 Spectre is favoured for team deployments, and while rarely-used, the Vanguard keeps a number of older Type-30 Locusts for larger ground assaults due to their maneuverability over the better-armed Wraith tank.