Name: Zireid 'Jar Takhai.
Planet of origin: Sangheilios
Rank: Imperial Admiral
Current status: Unknown, presumed KIA.
Born into the small Takh family, Zireid was in love with the thrill of combat at a very young age. Sangheili females were never discouraged from fighting. They had to know how to defend themselves should their home come under attack. Zireid, on the other hand, was never content with the meagre training her sisters received.
She actively fought with and alongside her blood brothers during their training. The clan elders protested at first but her male siblings understood her better than they did. She was a warrior, just like them, and a strong one too. They were proud to have a sister fighter in their bloodline.
When Zireid was finally allowed to use her first practice sword, the elders told her and her brothers how much of an honour it would be to one day wield the noble Energy Sword; but more importantly, it was honour itself that gave a warrior purpose and direction.
Zireid took these words to heart. While the rest of her species worshipped the Forerunners, she worshipped honour above all else.
When the war with the humans broke out, her brothers were eager to sign up and prove their worth as warriors. Zireid was left behind, but this didn't bother her too much. She resumed her training and spent years refining her skill with the blade.
When word reached her home that her brothers were killed in combat, almost everyone was devastated. The elders were afraid there would be no male leader to uphold the family name. Zireid, on the other hand, took the news a different way. She believed her brothers were blessed to have found opponents strong enough to defeat them. This meant there were worthy adversaries out there, beyond Sangheilios, and she was eager to face them.
She redoubled her training and, more importantly, her studies. She drank in the knowledge of Sangheili politics to further her agenda.
Once her skill with the blade had reached a certain level, she was rewarded with the "ai" suffix in her name, given only to masters of the sword. When word spread about her prominence with the blade, Sangheili from all over came to her home in hopes that she would bear their offspring. Surely there would be a greater chance of passing along what they believed to be the swordsman gene if both parents had the skill.
Zireid was counting on this, but she had conditions. The suitors were to challenge her in single combat and, if she deemed them worthy, then she would have their child. Also, since Sangheili males were never allowed to know the identity of their fathers, her children would remain under her roof and carry her name. The fathers and their families would also pledge their allegiance to her clan.
If the terms were accepted, she drew her blade and her opponent would draw his. She had never lost a battle, but there were times when the fights ended in very close draws.
What she sought for in the fathers of her children wasn't skill with a blade, but honour. If her challengers accepted the outcome of the battle with dignity and showed her respect, then she would find them worthy, even to those she had defeated easily. If her challengers raged over the fact they couldn't defeat a female and treated her discourteously, then she would send them away or have them killed, depending on how honourless their bloodlines were.
As her influence and the number of her children grew, Zireid was able to gain enough power to join the Covenant military, despite the biases of her people.
When she had touched down on a human colony under siege for the first time, her enemies were not the strong warriors she imagined them to be. They were small, weak and their technology was primitive by the Covenant standards. Regardless, she fought and killed each solder she encountered.
When she saw human civilians running away or hiding wherever they could, she let them live. There was no glory to gain by killing the defenceless. She enforced that notion on the Unggoy and Kig-yar she was assigned. They didn't mind too much and they satisfied themselves with taking knickknacks and souvenirs from human homes. Whenever a Marine killed a member of her lance, she was honour bound to hunt down and avenge her fallen ally.
When her rank increased and she was assigned to fight alongside her fellow Sangheili, she began to question the views of her brothers.
During a campaign on a different human colony, she watched her brothers slaughter humans whether they were solders or not. She demanded to know where was the honour to gain by killing the weak and defenceless.
They told her that the honour was in serving the Prophets' will. Humanity was an unclean scourge that had to be eliminated from the galaxy. They were filth that stood in the way of the Path and had to be removed.
Zireid couldn't believe what she was hearing and she accused her brothers of compromising their integrity as warriors for the sake of religious belief. This created conflict among them as her words sank in. Her superior then told her that compromises were necessary for the Great Journey.
From that point on, she chose to fight alone.
During a campaign on another planet, she was tasked with locating a rallying point for the humans. Expecting a great battle, she used active camouflage to keep herself hidden as she tracked her prey. When Zireid found their camp among a series of ruined buildings, she saw a single squad of Marines standing guard. She revealed herself, activated her Energy Sword and sprang into battle.
She cut down the humans effortlessly and as she turned on the last Marine, he fired his Assault Rifle on her but her blade sliced through the weapon. The human dropped the rifle with one hand and pulled out a knife with the other but she cut through the primitive blade as well. She palm thrusted the solder into the wall. As he slid down, he grabbed his pistol and fired round after round at her but each bullet vanished as she blocked them with her Energy Sword. Moving closer to her adversary, she saw his other hand grab something from his belt and pull out a pin. She realized it was a grenade and dive rolled backward just as it exploded. The blade took a massive chunk out of her shield and if she hadn't dodged at the last second, she wasn't sure if she could have survived.
As her shield recharged, she stared at the corpse of her adversary for awhile before she engaged her active camouflage and resumed her mission. When she found the rallying point, she realized their intelligence was in error.
There was only wounded solders and frightened civilians. Medics, nurses and doctors were treating them as best they could with the limited supplies they had.
There was no fight to be had here. She turned back the way she came and found herself back at the site of the battle with the Marines. She looked down at the body of the solder who gave his life to protect them. It would be dishonourable if she didn't respect the sacrifice he made. She placed her hand on his head and vowed that his noble act will not be in vain.
She hoped that the lives she spared will recover from their wounds, grow stronger and become worthy adversaries.
Once she was taken off planet and back to one of the ships in orbit, she decided to gaze at the world through the holographic screens. Normally, she didn't look back on the planets the Covenant conquered. She usually returned to her quarters to meditate and discipline herself for the next battle. Now she wished to have one last look at the planet before they jumped to Slipspace.
Instead, she watched as her ship generated energy and shot a cleansing beam down to the surface. Other Covenant vessels in the fleet shot down beams as well. The glassing of a planet was something she had heard of but never seen with her own eyes. She was appalled as the orbital bombardment scorched the life on the planet. Anything that was down there had no chance of fighting back, including the lives she spared.
Is this what her species has come to? Where they truly warriors now or butchers for the Prophets?
She returned to her quarters and prayed to the Forerunners. She wasn't very religious but she did pray. On normal days, she thanked the gods for granting her the bravery and skill to become a strong female warrior and fight for the honour of her family. During the glassing, she asked the Forerunners if serving them was to act without honour.
If she was going to kill humans in large numbers, then she would do so when they could fight back. It took years but she was finally given her own ship. It was a simple frigate but she was content with it due to the lack of a cleansing beam on her vessel. She did not want to put herself in the position where she'd be obligated to glass a planet.
Zireid scored several naval victories, enough so that her ship was recalled to High Charity and join the fleets escorting the holy city to its destination: Halo.
Surely, this had to be a great honour, she told herself. Her crew members agreed and reminded her that the Great Journey was about to begin. When they arrived at the gas giant, Threshold, they found the sacred ring in pieces.
She heard that the one who destroyed it was a single Demon. She had heard rumours about the demons over the years. Most of the stories were exaggerated to the point of ridiculous but one thing they all had in common was that they were the most fearsome solders the humans had at their disposal. If one Demon could shatter the most holy relic in the Covenant religion, then the demons had to be the worthy opponents she had been searching for since she joined the war.
Aboard the bridge of her vessel, she was ordered to watch the viewing screens as they displayed the punishment of the Supreme Commander of the Fleet of Particular Justice, the one who failed to protect Halo.
She stared in fascination and fear as the Jiralhanae stripped him of his armour and branded him with the Mark of Shame. She did her best to hide it, but she was terrified. Thel 'Vadamee had it all: Honour, respect and power. With one colossal failure, they were all taken away from him.
She was afraid that despite her years of service and hard work, all of it could amount to nothing if she failed as well. She thought of her children and the gruesome fate that would await them if they had the stink of failure in their blood.
Not long after they arrived at the remains of Halo, her ship picked up a transmission from an Elite named Sesa 'Refumee. Everything he said was heresy. The Prophets were false and they would use the faith of their forefathers to bring ruin to them all.
Zireid's crew members were outraged by his accusations but his words got her thinking. The Prophets certainly didn't seem to appreciate the Sangheili code of honour. Was there a hint of truth in this Heretic Leader's broadcasts or was he only trying to cause trouble?
High Charity and its fleets eventually left the ruins of the sacred ring and found themselves at another Halo. Almost immediately after they arrived, word had reached them that the High Prophet of Regret was assassinated by the very Demon who destroyed the first gateway to the Great Journey.
Then things went from bad to worse.
The Changing of the Guard had begun. The loyal and devout protectors of the Prophets were being replaced by Brutes. It wasn't just the Elite Honour Guards who were being usurped. All Sangheili aboard three fleets escorting High Charity were to be replaced by the Jiralhanae as well.
Zireid was beyond furious when her ship's new crew had boarded. She confronted the Brute command crew when they entered her bridge and she demanded to know the reason for this trespass.
The Brutes snickered and told her that it was a direct order from the High Prophet of Truth. They didn't question it, they were simply grateful for his blessing.
Talking slowly, Zireid told them that she had served the Covenant honourably for years. Was that to account for anything? They shook their heads and told her no. She and her crew were going to be assigned other duties but the ship was no longer hers.
Zireid reached for her sword and was about to slaughter the usurpers when she received a blow to the back of her head. It was her second-in-command who knocked her out. She regained consciousness in brief moments, this gave her enough time to learn that her crew members were afraid of the Prophets' wrath, of being left behind on the Great Journey.
The Brutes chuckled and pulled out Spikers to kill her but her crew told them not to harm her. They would take her away. The new Shipmaster didn't care in the slightest what happened to his predecessor. He simply wanted her off of his ship.
When she fully regained consciousness, she found herself on a shuttle headed for Sangheilios. Zireid wished she hadn't woken up. She should have been killed for disobeying the orders of a Hierarch. Her crew thought they were being merciful; but instead, they condemned her to a fate worse than death.
She was being sent home in disgrace and forced to live with her shame. Everything she had worked for was gone. The gods only know what this could mean for her family. She was a blight on her bloodline.
If she still had her sword, she would brand her arms with the Mark of Disobedience. The lines would be criss-crossed along the length of her arms so that all could see them and know her for what she is.
After losing all hope, the door to her quarters opened and she found her own navigation officer on the other side, telling his Shipmistress to come to the shuttle's cockpit. She reluctantly followed him and noticed her astrogation officer at the ship's controls. They had volunteered to bring her home.
They activated the shuttle's comm systems and showed her transmissions from High Charity and Delta Halo. The Sangheili Councillors were being slaughtered. Elite and Brute ships were engaging each other in space. The Jiralhanae were clearly attempting to eliminate their Sangheili rivals once and for all.
Zireid orders the shuttle to be brought out of Slipspace, turn around and return to the fleets so they may aid their brothers.
However, before they had arrived, they pick up another broadcast. This time, it's from the Arbiter. Zireid was shocked to find out this was Thel 'Vadamee, the former Supreme Commander who received the Mark of Shame. The Arbiter reveals to everyone who would listen that the Prophets had betrayed and lied to them all. He had proof from an Oracle that the Great Journey was a lie and that Halo was meant to be used as a weapon against the Flood, designed to wipe out all life in the galaxy. Not only that, but the Jiralhanae's attack was done with the Prophets' blessing.
The two officers aboard her shuttle roared in outrage at this revelation. Zireid, on the other hand, was silent. Something inside her had snapped. Rage was building up as her gaze fell on her brothers. They had betrayed her for nothing. These dishonourable cowards let the Brutes take away her ship out of religious fear. A fear that was groundless.
She grabbed a Plasma Rifle from the thigh of her astrogation officer, brought it up to his upper jaw and fired a burst that melted the top of his head. Her navigation officer was caught off guard by her attack. She aimed her weapon at him and fired until his shield was depleted. Shock and guilt made him weak and he was too slow to bring his own weapon up. Zireid easily disarmed him and knocked her former brother to the floor. He stared up at her in terror when he saw the hatred in her eyes.
She spread her mandibles and roared before sinking her teeth into his flesh and tearing him apart.
When her work was done, she looked up at the shuttle's controls with gore and dishonourable blood dripping from her mandibles. She stopped the ship and turned it around once again, bringing it back on its original course. She wanted nothing more to do with the Covenant. They could all die for all she cared. She was going home.
After arriving on Sangheilios and returning to her clan's estate, they were in near panic after hearing about the Great Schism. Initially, they wanted her council but when they saw her, her family quickly realized this was a different Zireid 'Takhai than the one they knew. She barely spoke to them and the hatred never left her eyes.
She tried to occupy herself with training or studying in the clan library, but her thoughts were always elsewhere.
Zireid used to believe her people were a strong, proud and honourable warrior race. Strong not only in body, but in will. Now, she realizes how foolish and naive she was. The Elites had allowed the San 'Shyuum to twist their minds and their concept of honour into a means that would only serve them. Her people became servants… No, pets. They were the pets of the Prophets. They did as they were told and grovelled for the approval of their masters.
Her distaste for her own species grew in the aftermath of the Great Schism. Many of the client races decided to leave Sangheilios, leaving the Elites to fend for themselves. She watched as her family and others struggled to get by. They didn't know how to farm, tinker with machinery or any other menial task they had taken for granted and let the other races do for them.
All they knew was how to fight, but for what? She had never questioned the purpose of combat before, but now as she watched her children train, she realized there was no true honour or glory to fight without a purpose.
Her species continued to seek out reasons to fight. They justifiably sought revenge against the Jiralhanae and the San 'Shyuum, but many wished to continue the war with the humans.
She had been there among the many gatherings and meetings around the planet and watched how disgraceful her people have become. Some wanted to eradicate the humans out of fear of them. Others wanted to continue fighting because the war was all they knew.
Such weak-willed cretins, she thought to herself. Letting fear and bias compel them to fight. Where was the honour in that?
That wasn't the end of her disappointments.
She had contacts among the many parties that were formed after the Covenant had shattered. Some of them had informed her that several Sangheili had become mercenaries. She felt sick to her stomach after hearing this news. Of all the things to fight for, they did so out of sheer greed? For money? How did her brothers not fall on their swords from the shame of it? They were now on the same level as the Kig-Yar.
She has also heard of splinter cells of the Covenant who are still in search of Forerunner artifacts, even if that means the destruction of human colonies. There were also factions on Sangheilios who declared war on the Arbiter for denouncing the Forerunners as gods.
Greed, power and false religion. Zireid felt ashamed to be Sangheili after seeing how far her brothers have fallen from grace, or whatever pedestal she had in her mind when she still believed there was honour in her race.
She had enough. Working quietly, she began to regain her power and authority.
Then something unexpected happened. The Prophet of Compassion, the Brute Army Commander and the Arbiter were able to bring a small part of the Covenant back together. Not for war, but for peace.
Afterwards, the Arbiter had shed his armour and took up the rank of Minor. Zireid understood that the mantle of Arbiter was essentially a death sentence, and to remove the mantle was the equivalent of starting his life anew, hence donning the blue armour.
She couldn't believe it at first. Thel 'Vadam proved his sense of honour and responsibility time and time again. Was there some hope left for her race?
She wanted to think so; but in her hearts, she knew this fragile peace wasn't going to last.
She silently recruited fanatics for what she had in mind. It was distasteful to her how easy it was to manipulate the Zealots. No wonder the San 'Shyuum had stayed in power for so long.
It wasn't long before she heard of Jul 'Mdama's activities. A planet with a living Forerunner inside. The thought of her brothers kneeling before another species was revolting, even one as revered as the Forerunners. Hadn't her kind learned anything from their slavery to the San 'Shyuum? Once again, they were willing to be the pets of some presumed higher power and let him dictate what is right and wrong, honour be damned.
When the Jiralhanae Alpha Male was killed, she was disappointed but not surprised when the Elites on the new council didn't try to reason with the outraged Brutes. They just fought their longtime rivals because they wanted to. It was the Great Schism all over again.
Her brothers couldn't be bothered to honour the peace Thel 'Vadam tried to create. That was the last straw. She was all but certain that her species was without honour, pride and nobility. Zireid began her endgame and announced that she was the new Imperial Admiral. Her followers didn't realize it, but she was going to drive her own race to extinction. If they wanted war and to die on the battlefield, then let them. They will die without purpose or honour.
But she wanted to speak with the former Arbiter and test his resolve. She wanted him to see the futility of his noble efforts.
In the chaos of this new schism, she tracked down 'Vadam's followers and learned they were going to find him. She had the Zealots follow their ship to wherever the former Arbiter might be with the orders of bringing him back alive.
Thel 'Vadam was the only hope left in her species. If Zireid was going to obliterate her own kind, she was at least going to give them a fighting chance.
It was the honourable thing to do.