Mendicant Bias – The Thirteenth Child

“One thought for all eternity,” said Mendicant Bias. His tone sounded almost wistful. Now the lights were fading, flickering, going dark. “Atonement.”

The tomb turned as black as night. The machine’s final words spread across the false desert and echoed moments later from the false mountains. Bornstellar, Riser, Trial, Chant, and all the rest watched silently as the rest of Mendicant Bias, locked in eternal exile, was covered by sand. [Halo: Rebirth, The Trial of Mendicant Bias]

With the eight year wait for Halo Wars 2 now approaching eight days, heralding the long-awaited, long-theorised return to the Lesser Ark, I felt it was time to return to a bit of theorycrafting regarding a character who has been at the heart of some of the Halo universe’s biggest mysteries and galaxy-defining events.

The so-called “bastard child” of the Didact and the Master Builder, the thirteenth child of the former, whose true name is spoken but never heard. It begs a question for us to ponder that we might unknowingly have the answer to…

Who and what is Mendicant Bias?mult181To preface this topic: this is based on a theory that I have previously collaborated on with the founder of the Halo Archive and long-time friend, who shares his name with the ancilla in question (if you have a peek at the end, you’ll see me referenced). You can read his version of the theory here. My goal here is to present some of my own arguments and interpretations on the matter, and, as such, will be using similar quotes and materials in what I hope will be a bit of a cleaner format.

I am also going to preface this further by telling you my conclusion right now, so that you’ll follow through the analysis of the quotes we go through with this particular lens.

The minds that make up the Contender-class ancilla Mendicant Bias are based on the essence of Forthencho and many other humans who fought the Flood and were Composed at Charum Hakkor.

Yeah…

While the seeds of this theory were sown in my mind back when Primordium released back in 2012, it wasn’t until 2015 when Frank O’Connor left this comment on NeoGAF that it truly began to flower.

“MB wasn’t built with human technology although he may not have been exactly alien either.” [Stinkles, NeoGAF – March 20th 2015]

Y’know when suddenly an idea just… clicks? I was rereading the Forerunner Saga at the time, working my way through Cryptum, and suddenly I was looking at this character through a wholly different lens with this statement in mind.charum-hakkorLet’s reflect on some context, shall we?

As the Human-Forerunner war drew to a close, all action converged on Charum Hakkor. This world was the political centre of the human-San’Shyuum alliance, chosen – the Didact tells us – so that their empire could be close to one of the greatest collections of Precursor artefacts and structures in the galaxy. Humanity held the heretical belief that they, not the Forerunners, were the true inheritors of the Mantle and sought to expand away from Forerunner control. They also believed that Charum Hakkor had been a ‘hubworld’ for the Precursors, built with esoteric neural physics technology many millions of years ago.

Forthencho, the Lord of Admirals, was the commander of the fleets present at Charum Hakkor – a brilliant strategist who the Didact would come to admire as his greatest adversary. Despite being outnumbered, despite having inferior technology, despite having his back against the wall against the overwhelming numbers of the Didact’s fleets, Forthencho managed to hold the line at Charum Hakkor for three years.

The stalemate was broken by the betrayal of the San’Shyuum, who the Forerunners formulated a secret deal with – punishing them with a military quarantine in their home system rather than subjecting them to the same horrors of de-evolution that was imposed on humanity.

Strategies were discussed amongst the remaining human leaders, some even suggesting that they should draw out the Flood and set them upon the Forerunners so that they’d all go down together. The Lord of Admirals himself recognised this as lunacy, the Flood was not something he would let loose against even his greatest enemy, and instead he chose to surrender.

With defeat now certain, the remaining humans stripped themselves of their uniforms so the Forerunners couldn’t identify anyone by their ranks. The survivors – the wounded, the captured, and the dying – were gathered in the Citadel, laid out in rows, and their ugly fate.

The Old Council consisted largely of Builders, corrupt individuals who were driven by wealth and power for their rate (stripping many of the cultures, traditions, rituals, and political influence from other rates, such as the Miners) and desired nothing less than the utter extermination of these human survivors.

It was the Librarian who persuaded them that the humans should be spared, that they held the key to a cure against the Flood – as it was believed at the time that humanity had indeed discovered a means to circumvent the spread of the parasite.

In the final years of the war, the Flood mysteriously seemed to retreat when it was clear from the Forerunners’ projections that they could have overcome the galaxy in a mere matter of centuries. The Librarian sensed a greater game at play, she was herself uncertain as to whether a Flood cure actually existed – but after seeing the humans at Charum Hakkor, having previously been in-favour of wiping them out, she played any card she could that would circumvent genocide.composersHumanity’s preservation, however, would not come without consequences from the Old Council. A number of bizarrely horrific twists were imposed on the Librarian’s plan. After the Lifeworkers had examined the human survivors, they were commanded to extract their essences with the Composers for further torturous interrogation.

What we brought for Lord of Admirals and his last warriors were the Composers. These large, ugly machines had originally been designed by Builders in a failed attempt to attain immunity against the Flood. Composers broadcast high-energy fields of entangled sympathies to gather victim mentalities – essences – and then translated them into machine data.

[…] The hundreds of thousands of humans still alive on Charum Hakkor were handed over to Lifeworkers to be studied, probed, analysed molecule by molecule, thought by thought, down to their very cells – and then subjected to the wide-ranging, rippling fields of Composers.

After the Composers had done their work, draining these last survivors, these exhausted and dying warriors, of their memories and patterns, their remains were reduced to scattered atoms. [Halo: Silentium, loc 442 (Kindle edition)]

Though they had shed their uniforms, the Didact was not impeded in his search for Forthencho, the Lord of Admirals. He found the defeated commander before his Composition and confided in his adversary, the killer of his and the Librarian’s twelve children, his fears for the great challenges that the Forerunners faced.

And this is what he said.

“My finest opponent, the Mantle accepts all who live fiercely, who defend their young, who build and struggle and grow, and even those who dominate – as humans have dominated, cruelly and without wisdom.

But to all of us there is a time like this, when the Domain seeks to confirm our essences, and for you, that time is now. Know this, relentless enemy, killer of our children, Lord of Admirals: soon we will face the enemy you have faced and defeated. I can see that challenge coming to the Forerunners, and so do many others…

And we are afraid.

That is why you, and many thousands of your people who may contain knowledge of how humans defended themselves against the Flood, will not pass cleanly and forever, as I would wish for a fellow warrior, but will be extracted and steeped down into the genetic code of many new humans.

This is not my wish nor my will. It arises from the skill and the will of my life-mate, my wife, the Librarian, who sees much farther than I do down the twining streams of Living Time.

So this additional indignity will be inflicted upon you. It means, I believe, that humans will not end here, but may rise again – fight again. Humans are always warriors. But what and whom they will fight, I do not know. For I fear the time of the Forerunners is drawing to a close. In this, the Librarian and I find agreement. Take satisfaction, warrior, in that possibility.” [Halo: Primordium, page 234-5 (Kindle edition)]

Forthencho’s reaction is less than enthusiastic at this, which will draw an important parallel later…

It gave me no satisfaction. If I were to rise again, fight again, I wished only to once more match myself against the Didact! [Primordium, p. 235]

Though the Forerunners hadn’t quite grasped how to properly use the Composer, they were still masters of mid transfer techniques – something that was embedded in their culture, as evidenced from their mutation processes which is done on an individual scale. Thus, these Composed essences had two fates: hidden within the devolved humans, and copied so they could be placed within mechanical storage to be cycled through interrogation.

The Librarian refers to this as a “library of enslaved ghosts”.four261

The Council and the Builders then put another, even stranger twist on my hopes to preserve human cultural patterns. As the humans devolved, the Composer-gathered personalities and memories of their fellows at Charum Hakkor would be holographically stored within their changing flesh. Not active, but dormant – thus avoiding the consequences of Composer decay.

Each devolved human would in effect carry the memories of tens of thousands of their kind, preserved for future study and investigation – and passed along to their offspring.

Those same memories would also be transferred to machine storage and subjected to constant rote interrogation – creating a library of enslaved ghosts subjected to mechanised torment for thousands of years to come.

Thus, the Council believed, the secret to human resistance to the Flood would eventually be found. [Silentium, loc 471]

In the wake of these events, the question of how to prepare for the Flood’s impending return loomed over the Forerunner Ecumene’s political stage. We all know how this part of the story goes…

The Master Builder proposed the Halo array, arguing that this situation required extreme measures.

The Didact proposed the Shield Worlds (working in-concert with the star-hopping strategy he had employed against humanity), believing the Halos were a violation against the Mantle.

The Didact lost, was disgraced, and put into exile. The Warrior-Servant rate was dismantled, reformed under Faber’s control as Builder Seurity.

However, some time before this, the Didact and Master Builder were seemingly on more cooperative terms. According to Catalog, it was Faber, the Master Builder, who authorised the construction of the Didact’s flagship, Mantle’s Approach, without the Ecumene Council’s approval.

Query Answer: Promethean Command Warship, designation Mantle’s Approach.

Alert! Seed pattern not approved by Council authorities: provisional authorization given by Master Builder. [Catalog, 27/6/2014]

And it was with the Didact that the two of them conceived the most important piece of the puzzle in this great meandering game of revenge.

Now the green point brightened, crossed the centre of the amphitheatre, and hovered before the Master Builder, who looked puzzled. Almost immediately, his eyes grew large in alarm and he raised his hands as if in defence, before he brought his body and expression back under control. Yet his eyes continued to follow the moving point.

I wondered what could possibly cause the Master Builder such concern.

Our bastard child, his and mine. [Halo: Cryptum, page 299 (Kindle edition)]

Mendicant Bias.mendicant1Mendicant Bias is known well for being deployed against the Timeless One – the ancient, augmented Precursor discovered by Yprin Yprikushma and her fellow science group on a desolate moon at the edge of the galaxy. But Mendicant was initially conceived with a slightly different purpose with regards to the Didact’s plans for Flood defence.

Mendicant Bias. A Contender class, the first of its kind. It is as far above most ancillas as the metarch-level systems rise above our personal components.

The axes of five of the installations now pointed directly at the capital world. One by one, the reoriented Halos were growing slender spokes of hard light.

“What do you know about Mendicant Bias?” I asked the First Councillor.

“Designed to coordinate control of some of the installations,” he said. “Also given the power, in emergencies, to coordinate the entire galaxy’s response to attack.” [Cryptum, p. 307]

“In extremis, the Didact planned to put all Forerunner defences under the command of a metarch-level ancilla. That ancilla kept a primary extension on this installation, as on all Halos. But it was not allowed to assume command except in dire emergency. The Master Builder, however, found another use for it – unauthorised, as usual.

The Master Builder did not trust Lifeworkers. He ordered this ancilla, the supreme intellect on the installation, to take over the Captive’s interrogation. That questioning took forty-three years. [Primordium, p. 191]

Mendicant Bias was the beating heart of the Didact’s strategy to combat the Flood, the one who would coordinate the entire defence system from Shield World-to-Shield World, across fleet-to-fleet.

That is a lot of stock to throw into this one particular ancilla, however powerful it was.

Why? What made the Didact place his faith so strongly in Mendicant?

What is Mendicant?

Mendicant Bias is a Contender-class ancilla, a Metarch (the most advanced form of AI the Forerunners had). There were only ever five Metarchs allowed to be active at any given time and we know of three: Mendicant and Offensive Bias, and the Absolute Record’s Custodian (who was speculated to be Offensive, but that was never confirmed).

A fourth possibility exists in the form of Enduring Bias from John Shirley’s novel Broken Circle. There are some subtle implications that Enduring Bias is a repurposed, rehabilitated and compartmentalised fragment of Mendicant – but, like with the Custodian, we’ve got no confirmation of that.

Contenders are a unique kind of ancilla, formed of many ‘minds’ working in-concert with each other (whereas others are typically based on a single mind – with exceptions, such as Chakas), meaning that a Contender needs to actually have its consciousness housed across multiple vessels referred to in Halo 3’s Terminals as ‘core ships’.

Some alarm bells should be ringing here…

Where do these many ‘minds’ come from?

What makes them so special, particularly for the task of fighting the Flood, that the Didact is willing to stake the Ecumene’s entire defence strategy on this one ancilla?

Those ‘minds’ are the library of ancient human essences who fought the Flood.hart6The Forerunners believed that the humans had found a way to not just defeat, but cure the Flood. It makes no end of sense that human essences are what the Didact would use – would compile together, for the purpose of studying the Gravemind for its weaknesses in the hope that it would reveal that lost secret. Strategy and science combined, the Didact putting his faith in the memories of his greatest adversary in order to bring an end to the Flood.

Keep in mind that everything that happens in the Forerunner Saga is mirrored in twisted actions later. There’s that same sense of poetic justice for the Didact in using human essences to create Mendicant Bias which he has when he creates the Promethean Knights out of the Librarian’s renewed human populations on Omega Halo.

When the Master Builder shows up to quell the San’Shyuum uprising at Janjur Qom and captured the Didact, he interrogated him for the activation codes of the other Contenders.

“You refused to give Faber what he needed to activate all the Contender-class ancillas. You refused to give him the location of all your Shield Worlds.” [Cryptum, p. 339]

Keep in mind the timeline, too. The Didact has pretty much just awakened from his Cryptum about two-to-three weeks prior to being captured by the Master Builder, these are plans that were set in motion over a thousand years before this interrogation.

These Contenders were therefore made after the end of the Human-Forerunner war, but before the Didact’s relationship with the Master Builder turned sour, because the Didact had these codes before he went into exile in the Cryptum.

That really leaves one viable place and time he could have got those minds to create the Contenders… the humans who were Composed after the battle of Charum Hakkor.

The Contenders were all human minds that the Didact was planning to use to defeat the Flood. He believed that the humans had already achieved that, it’s not until the end of Primordium when the Timeless One completes its experiments with the Flood and determines that there was no immunity that the truth is revealed – the Flood simply chose not to infect the humans as part of a strategic feint in their larger game. Even the Timeless One didn’t know for sure, as it wasn’t part of the Flood’s neural network until the IsoDidact killed it.hft42But what further evidence is there to support this that we might draw upon?

Think back to the early portion of this post where I quoted the Didact’s speech to Forthencho in the Citadel of Charum Hakkor, just before he and the other humans are given over to the Composers.

Remember how Forthencho reacted?

It gave me no satisfaction. If I were to rise again, fight again, I wished only to once more match myself against the Didact! [Primordium, p. 235]

Throughout the events of Primordium, we are given some interesting tidbits about Mendicant Bias’ very personal motivations against the Didact and the Forerunners.

“He will play this game for as long as it amuses,” the Lord of Admirals said, “and for as long as he has a chance of causing Forerunners dismay and pain. He also wishes to attack the Didact personally.” [Primordium, p. 310]

Forthencho’s image wavered, then returned, larger and more solid-looking. “The machine does not hate Forerunners,” he continued. “But it knows they have been arrogant and need correction. And it takes an odd satisfaction in the prospect of having humans carry out that punishment.” [Primordium, p. 314]

But the intimacy of combat – of matching strategy against strategy, and more intimate yet, tactics against tactics – had provided Forthencho with an inner understanding of the Didact that likely only a few Forerunners possessed. For the depth of the human-Forerunner conflict had led up to, and over, the brink of near-extinction, which revealed a kind of animosity – a raw, vigorous, yet completely rational enmity – unlikely to be found among those of the same kind. At least, unlikely among those who are sane. [Primordium, p. 328]

An “odd satisfaction” in having humans carry out the “punishment” of the Forerunners…

A wish to personally engage the Didact…

Seems strange for a machine intelligence, even with the Timeless One’s influence, no? In this very same book, we get several point-of-view segments from Forthencho where he affirms his desire to fight the Didact and only the Didact – his greatest enemy, who he has spent millennia obsessing over – going over old battle plans, tweaking ancient strategies. One of the most pointed descriptions of the Didact and Forthencho’s relationship, evidenced from the third quote above, is of the totally unique depth and form of ‘rational enmity’ that ran between them – totally beyond sanity.

The culmination of Primordium’s plot has Mendicant Bias raising the spirits of these ancient humans to assume command of Installation 07, so that they might use it to wreak their long-awaited vengeance against the Forerunners.

Mendicant feels “odd satisfaction” in humans carrying out the Forerunners’ punishment. It’s very specific wording, that. Why is it odd?

Because Mendicant is composed (heh) of those human minds who were themselves punished by the Forerunners.

Vinnevra’s geas in Primordium ends up being a trap, as the voice she is following is revealed to be Mendicant Bias’ leading them to the Palace of Pain. She even describes what it sounds like:

“…I know where my geas comes from,” she said. “It comes into my head like sunshine through the dark. It comes new and fresh when there is something important to tell me. And it is the voice of a child – a lost child, very young.”

“Why a child?”

“I don’t know, but it is young.”

“Male or female?”

“Both.” [Primordium, p. 276]

Librarian says in Silentium that she watched the human children at Charum Hakkor be subject to the Composer as well (and Josh Holmes has even stated that the Didact applied the essences of Composed children to the Promethean Knights too). It’s a recurring thematic motif in the Forerunner Saga, but in Primordium especially, this notion of childhood. Even the Timeless One, the Primordial, is referred to as “the Child”.

What did the machine master of the wheel intend for us? For I had little doubt that Riser was correct, that the green-eyed ancilla was behind all this.

Did that mean it was now allied with the Didact, or with the Librarian, the Lifeshaper herself?

Had the wheel been reclaimed by the Lady?

Something else was missing in my thoughts, something that made all these theories pointless. I seemed to have misplaced a memory about a child. There was a child… The child was in control… held sway over the green-eyed machine. We had been introduced!

But I could not remember its name, and I certainly could not remember its shape. [Primordium, p. 299]

Mendicant is consistently referred to as a ‘child’, hence why I named this post ‘The Thirteenth Child’ – as the Didact had twelve children with the Librarian and one that he refers to as his “bastard child” with Faber. The IsoDidact also refers to the Ur-Didact as Mendicant’s father, and Mendicant as his son in Silentium.charum-hakkor1And how about another point which comes up in two critical moments in the Forerunner Saga: Mendicant’s true name?

The Didact’s wisdom, silent until now, suddenly took control of my speech, my thoughts, and shunted me aside.

“Mendicant Bias,” I heard myself say. “Beggar after knowledge. That is the name I gave you when last we met. Do you recognise that name?”

“I recognise that name,” the sketchy green ancilla replied. Then the figure moved from the back of my thoughts and seemed to pass directly through my forehead – taking shape as a projected form directly in front of me.

“Do you recognise the one who named you?” The green image briefly flickered.

“You are not that one. No other knows that name.”

“Shall I guide you to further service?”

At this point, I had no idea who was speaking, or to what purpose.

“I require further input. The Domain is insufficient.”

“Liberate this armour and prepare a path. Do you know where the Master Builder resides?”

“The Master Builder gave me my final set of orders.”

“But I am the one who knows your chosen name, your true name, and who commanded your construction.”

“That is so.”

“Then I am your client and master. Release me.”

“I have a new master. You are dangerous to my new master.”

“I know your true name. I can revoke your key and shut you down.” [Cryptum, p. 302]

This scene occurs during the Master Builder’s tribunal on Maethrillian during the third act of Cryptum, it is likewise mirrored in the third act of Primordium when the IsoDidact arrives at Installation 07 and makes his way to the Palace of Pain.

“Beggar after knowledge,” the voice said, swirling all around us. “Mendicant Bias. That is the name I gave you when last we met. Do you remember the moment of your inception? The moment I connected you to the Domain and you were ceded control of all Forerunner defences?”

All the images contained and controlled by the Cartographer darkened and collapsed into a now much-simplified ancilla.

“That name is no longer secret,” it said. “All Forerunners know it.”

“Do you recognise the one who named you?”

The green ancilla burned like acid, yet I could not turn away, could not cleanse myself of its corrosion.

“You are not that one,” it said. “The Master Builder gave me my final set of orders.”

“I am that one – and you are not truthful.” The acid quality of the green ancilla’s voice became so intense it felt as if my insides were being eaten away. “You take commands from other than a Forerunner,” the Didact’s voice said, “a clear violation of all your instructions. I am the one who knows your chosen name, your true name-“

“That name no longer has power!”

“Even so, I can revoke your inception, call out your key, and command you to stand down. Do you willingly pass control to me, your original master?”

“I do not! I have listened to the Domain. I fulfil the wishes of those who created us all. You do not, and have never done so.” [Primordium, p. 337]

mult110The theme of secret names is a highly pervasive quirk of characterisation throughout Cryptum and Primordium among human characters.

Humans in the Forerunner Saga have:

  • Family names
  • Personal names
  • Long names
  • Borrowing names
  • Secret names

The Florian finished the last rounded ball of fish-oil bread and made another remarkable face. So many expressive muscles. “Daowa-maad. We hunt, we grow, we live. Life is simple – we do.” He poked Chakas. “I begin to like this Forerunner. Tell him all of my names.”

Chakas took a deep breath.

“The hamanune sitting right next to you, whose breath smells of fish oil and stale bread, his family name is Day-Chaser. His personal name is Morning Riser. His long name is Day-Chaser Makes Paths Long-stretch Morning Riser. Long name for a short fellow. He likes to be called Riser. There. It is done.” [Cryptum, p. 33]

Then, in Primordium, we’re also introduced to ‘borrowing’ and ‘secret’ names.

“Where am I?” I asked clumsily, using the old words as best I could.

“Maybe you can tell us. What’s your name?”

“Chakas,” I said.

“I don’t know that name,” the girl said. “Is it a secret name?” [Primordium, p. 23]

“You know my name. Are you allowed to tell me yours?”

“My borrowing name, the name you can use, is Vinnevra. It was my mother’s name when she was a girl.”

“Vinnevra. Good. When will you tell me your true name?”

She looked away and scowled. Best not to ask. [Primordium, p. 42]

Indeed, this becomes a recurring theme throughout Primordium as there is some mystery as to what Vinnevra’s secret name actually is.

Amusingly, it’s actually implied to be Cortana.ladmiralsWithout getting side-tracked by that little nugget, the fact that Mendicant Bias’ true name is the key to how the Didact manages to ‘control’ him is rather significant.

Mendicant Bias has a personal wish to attack the Didact, and Forthencho’s dying thoughts in his final moments on Charum Hakkor were that he only wished to challenge the Didact.

Think on the purpose that both Mendicant Bias and Forthencho serve in the overall narrative of the Forerunner Saga. They are like the bookends to this story – it is Mendicant who had the first word going all the way back to Halo 2 and IRIS, and Forthencho who has the final word as the Halos are fired – when the Gravemind sends down his essence, along with other humans, to tell Librarian about the destruction of the Domain.

But, hang on a second.

How exactly did the Gravemind get hold of Forthencho’s essence?

The essence of Forthencho that was extracted from Chakas on Installation 07 was put back in him when the IsoDidact used the Composer to save his life – he even interrupts and narrates the story at one point by taking over the recovered Monitor shell aboard the UNSC Rubicon…

The Gravemind itself certainly never infected Forthencho, or had any means we know of to recall his essence at will – as it is capable of doing with its other victims…

The answer, then.

Mendicant Bias was deactivated and disassembled after the destruction of the Capital system, to the extent that any Contender-class metarch can be eliminated from the systems it once controlled.

Its parts were spread throughout the ecumene for later study. But many of those regions where it was stored have been overwhelmed by the Flood, and the metarch’s fragments were apparently recovered, restored, reassembled – and reactivated by a Gravemind.

The Flood’s forces are marshalled by a twisted machine, the first victim of the logic plague – and a creation, in part, of the Ur-Didact.

Father to son, I tell myself. [Silentium, loc 3271]

There we have it.

(Also, remember the whole ‘child’ motif regarding that final line?)

The Gravemind was personally responsible for reconstructing Mendicant after the IsoDidact defeated him on Installation 07 – despite maintaining fragments on each of the original twelve Halo installations, Installation 07 was location of its main housing.

That’s what was disassembled and scattered across the Ecumene.

That’s what the Gravemind found and reassembled.

That is assuredly how it got Forthencho’s essence.mult179We return, once again, to the sands of the Ark…

“Ancilla 05-032 of the designation Mendicant Bias, you have colluded with the greatest enemy of the Mantle.”

A deep voice issued from the coffin and was amplified across the platform, echoing from the ship, the dock, the tomb, even now being given its final touches:

“Those who pass judgement should first judge themselves,” the voice now echoed off far bluffs and canyons. “Judge themselves, judge themselves…”

“A sin to fight a sin,” said Bornstellar, “a lesser evil to fight a greater one. That is the choice I was forced to make. You had no such excuse. You brought matters to this point.”

“Why was I spared, then?”

“You are brought here to be sentenced. You have not been immediately destroyed because you may yet be needed. Your intimate knowledge of the Flood makes you invaluable should they return, but we can never trust you, never again allow you any latitude. You will be entombed here. Your processes locked, frozen into a single thought for all eternity: absolution. Should you be needed, you will be reawakened. Should there be no need, you will be buried here until the end of Living Time.”

“Then I will serve as a monument to your sins. That is what you wish for.”

Bornstellar shook his head. “I wish only for the Mantle to be upheld.”

“I am penitent. I know that what I have done cannot be forgiven. I will accept my stasis with grace and await a time when I might redeem myself.”

“Aya, so shall it be,” said Bornstellar. [Halo: Rebirth, The Trial of Mendicant Bias]

Looking at Mendicant Bias through this lens, the tragedy only deepens…

Ancient humanity fought a war on two fronts against the Flood and the Forerunners, were upended by the latter and used by the former merely as leverage in the Precursors’ great game of revenge against the descendants of those who betrayed them. The tortured essences of those old warriors was torn from their bodies and implanted into a machine, only to be subverted by the Timeless One.

Entombed on the Ark, seeking atonement, a fragment managed to get aboard the Keyship bound for Janjur Qom. After reseeding the San’Shyuum, he intended to go to Earth and bring humanity to the Ark, as the Librarian wanted so that they might inherit the Mantle (of course, that would likewise be a pretty major mistake considering the inherent problems with the Mantle religion)…

Except that Keyship ended up crashing into Janjur Qom and the next thing you know a civil war had begun.re354Attempting to make the best of a bad situation, Mendicant tried instructing the San’Shyuum how to combat the Flood by teaching them to make plasma-based weaponry…

Except that same weaponry would end up being used to subjugate species across the galaxy over the course of several thousand years, culminating in a theocratic, genocidal war machine that waged a campaign of total extermination against humanity just when their ancient brothers were found amongst the stars once more.

At the tail-end of that, Mendicant made a final bid – at what he believed was the end of his life – to send the Master Chief to Requiem in order to awaken the Ur-Didact: the one who the Librarian chose to be humanity’s teacher, guide, and champion for inheriting the Mantle…

Except the Domain was burned by the firing of the Halos and the Didact awakened still afflicted by the Gravemind’s malediction that twisted his perspective into believing that the Mantle is to be taken by the strong rather than inherited by the worthy and that no-one will ever again rise up against the Forerunners.

The Didact once again sets out with the Composer to turn humanity into his weapons, and that is the perfect ‘twisted mirror’ solution to what he began with Mendicant Bias.

“The Composer would provide the Didact his solution and his revenge.” [Librarian, Halo 4 – Reclaimer]

cea31I’d like to finally conclude this piece with a quote from Greg Bear himself.

“I think the whole Halo story evolves out of conflict within a huge galactic family, which now includes us. And so this family controversy continues, which means your actions really do have consequences – you don’t know who you’re related to when you’re fighting them.” [Greg Bear, Sparkast #17]

Family is one of the three core themes in all of 343’s fiction (the other two being ‘duty’ – or ‘responsibility’, some notion of guardianship – and ‘home’). I can think of no character more befitting the idea of consequences in this ongoing controversy across Halo’s galactic family. Mendicant Bias has been tied to everyone at some point, to every major force that has hitherto risen up in the setting.

He’s like… the weird uncle who shows up at everybody’s party and everything just ends up revolving (by which I mean ‘exploding’) around him.

And now, with Halo Wars 2 on the horizon – the petals of the Lesser Ark once again coming into view – I don’t think it’s at all an unrealistic expectation to have that we may well be seeing the Didact’s bastard once again in the fiction to come. Not necessarily in Halo Wars 2 itself, but we have been told that stories are planned for the Lesser Ark beyond the game.

Time’ll tell if those “plans” are at all like the ones that befell certain other locations and characters, but that’s just something we’re going to have to wait and see.

For this, in Chakas’ words, is combat eternal. Enmity unslaked. History will circle back upon us; and where the Didact goes, his thirteenth child is sure to follow…

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About haruspis

Writer and aspiring teacher who cares and talks far too much about fictional universes.
This entry was posted in Analysis, Gaming, Literature, Theorycrafting and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Mendicant Bias – The Thirteenth Child

  1. Kiefer Levine says:

    You reread the Forerunner trilogy? Guh. I found Cryptum dry and Primordium desiccated. Silentium was fine, but I was annoyed that 343 made the UrDidact into a scheming murder villain for Halo 4, and so the book had to figure out some way to butcher a good character. But given what you’ve put forth here, might be I’ll have to reread it myself. Refresh, observe closely.

    This is a fascinating theory. Compelling, and for now I’ll take it as basically true. It makes me wonder about Mendicant Bias’s allegiances. The one in Halo 3, I mean, which sounds like it could be comprised of only some portion of the whole. Suppose the remainder awakened and learned that the Didact is imprisoned for killing humans. Is its atonement a confirmation of loyalty to the Forerunners, or just of opposition to the Flood? The former means a powerful ally for digi-Didact, the latter could mean a powerful enemy.

    As for Halo Wars 2, well… I wanna believe. I don’t know if I would wear anything but a frown upon learning that the Spirit of Fire was whisked away to the Ark by anything other than Mendicant Bias and his portal-tampering. But I no longer trust 343 Industries to use their own works, so I’m almost expecting to be disappointed by some silly explanation, like Cortana doing it or a random accident on Atriox’s part.

    • mich says:

      You seem to be down on 343 yet they are the reason we are able to enjoy this amount of speculation.

      • Kiefer Levine says:

        Both true facts. I am down on 343 Industries and they ARE they reason we are able to enjoy this amount of speculation.

  2. Pingback: We've Got Contacts Incoming! – Archive Beacon – February 24th, 2017 | Halo Archive

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