Covenant Holy City of High Charity, 9th Age of Reclamation, Solar Cycle 3404

The massive construct dominated space near the massive gas giant, Threshold, swirling around it where thousands of tiny dots, seemingly miniscule in their size. But they weren't dots, instead they were ships, each of varying size with the largest being essentially a mobile fortress in it of themselves; however even the thirty kilometer long monsters paled in comparison to the construct they were guarding.

They had a purpose of guarding the most important place in all of the Covenant Empire, a massive mushroom shaped construction made of thick rock, nanolaminates, and other materials. An object which glittered in the warm light of Soell. It was the capital of the Covenant Empire, a massive FTL capable space station known as High Charity.

But the actions of these ships and indeed High Charity's actions itself didn't much pertain to the Chieftain of the Jiralhanae, Tarturus as he strode purposely towards the center chamber where the High Hierarch of Truth waited for him. As he did so, he kept a wary eye on the Protectors of the High Council, their shimmering red-orange helmets and armor gleamed in the dim light of the chamber.

Tarturus was even by Jiralhanae standards absolutely enormous at a towering three meters, his grey hide seemingly bulged with muscles as he advanced, his face was frame by silver-white hair and fur with his mane in what he had heard humans, the vile creatures, call a 'Mohawk', his beady crimson eyes blazed with savage yet cunning intelligence.

Yet despite being quite close to the High Hierarch, he had to follow proper etiquette while in the presence of the Protectors, thus his mighty hammer, the Fist of Rikut had to be left outside, along with his heavy pistols and their ammunition, had to be left outside this chamber. Thus unarmed he waited just beyond the threshold of the door, albeit he did so with his arms crossed.

The High Hierarch nodded and said in a gravelly voice "Protectors, leave us."

"Are you sure High Hierarch? He's a Brute." the Supreme Protector Zola 'Mugramee said, spitting the human name out for his race as if it tasted foul.

"I am sure Supreme Protector 'Mugramee, leave us."

There was a clang as the Supreme Protector crossed one of his arms across his chest. "As you wish High Hierarch." he relented and then barked a command.

Tartarus waited as the Sangheili Protectors, some three hundred total, the guard for the High Hierarch began to file out of the chamber, their armor working silently as they marched. They shot glares at Tartarus as they left, he could sense their wonder at why such a being as himself could have a private audience with the noble High Hierarch and their contempt at the fact that he was allowed to have a private audience. He could also tell that the notion he was allowed to even speak privately with their Charge was driving the Guardians of the Hierarchs to madness. Particularly since their charge was none other than the High Hierarch of Truth, the greatest source of truth and knowledge in the entirety of the vast Covenant Empire. He didn't really care however, he returned their glare with an iron cold stare as he towered over them, Truth had let him in on his plan to replace the Sangheili with the Jiralhanae and this long war against the humans had finally given them the opportunity to do so.

He thus savored their hatred and anger towards him, savored it in fact like fresh Kig-Yar or maybe fresh human flesh seared to the point that it was falling off the bone as he rolled it around in his jaws. He enjoyed it so thoroughly, yes. He could also sense their quiet shame and their subtle feeling that they felt that they were not being considered worthy in the eyes of their ancestors.

After all, wasn't it them, the Sangheili, the beings who formed the iron will and heart of the Covenant Empire and had for centuries commanded the Fleets and Armies of the Covenant Empire that had allowed Halo, one of the sacred rings, to be destroyed by all things, a mere human?

Yes, your time is coming Sangheili. Your slow inevitable slide has been occurring ever since we joined the Covenant Empire and it has only been hastened thanks to the crusade against the humans. If they weren't all heretics who only deserve to be burned to glass, I would thank them for accelerating you being undone by the Jiralhanae Clans, undone by me, the Chieftain of the Jiralhanae, yes.

He let a quiet chuckle escape his lips, the low baritone rumble carrying across the room. It caused one of the Protectors to pause and level him a sharp, steely glare, as if he might squash the High Hierarch of Truth into nothing but a pulp with his Gravity Hammer even though he didn't have it. Indeed, he already knew that the Protector in question was imagining running him through with his pike and savoring that image.

After several seconds, the Supreme Protector of the High Hierarch of Truth marched out of the room and the door slid silently shut. He uncrossed his arms and then walked across the chamber to where the High Hierarch waited in his throne before a large glass mural composed of pieces of glass from every single planet that had been purified in the Cleansing Crusade against the humans that was backlit by a soft warm glow. The most recent world to have a shard added had been Reach, but that planet had only been partially purified and even now fighting still raged in the system.

Once he approached, he knelt and said. "You have summoned me, Truth?" his low baritone voice would have rattled the mural if he spoke even just a little louder.

If he had used the High Hierarch's name so candidly in the presence of the Protectors, they would have at the very least shot him dead, more likely they would have activated their Halberds and Swords then sliced him to pieces. Even among his own kind it would have resulted in an absolute uproar and at the very least a duel to the death.

But the fact that he could speak so candidly in the presence of the most powerful creature in the galaxy, said a lot about their relationship. Yes, he savored the power that the ability to do so implied.

"Indeed, Tartarus. I have indeed summoned you here." The San'Shyuum said before making a motion with his hand. "Rise, there are no Protectors to worry about."

Tartarus rose to his full impressive height, the gravity throne that the San'Shyuum sat upon rose with the rising Chieftain of the Jiralhanae, assuring that the relatively diminutive creature could always look the massive Jiralhanae in the eyes. Which allowed the High Hierarch to never have to look up or down to a being it was speaking to.

"Tell me Tartarus, have the pilots that searched the human system of Eridanus been taken care of?" Truth asked.

Tartarus allowed a tight, dark grin to cross his features. "They have, there was a tragic hull breach in a briefing room when they were all gathered there, the damage pattern makes it look like a piece of human unexploded ordnance embedded in the hull suddenly decided to go off." he gave a dark chuckle. "Just as you ordered, it was quick and quiet, yes."

Truth bobbed his head. "Very good Tartarus, you are indeed a testament to your race's subtlety and cunning intellect." and the Jiralhanae allowed his fur to bristle with satisfaction, he knew deep down that the High Hierarch was playing to his ego, stroking it. But he knew that in order for Truth's plan to come to fruition that the High Hierarch needed him, since there were truth to his words. The San'Shyuum needed his intellect and subtly in order to succeed.

"Tell me Tartarus, how are the Clans fairing?" Truth asked in his same gravelly voice.

"They fare well, there have been no challenges to my title recently. Indeed, they hunger for battle and more action. But they're furious that the Sangheili led the charges or use them as expendable muscle, they want to be the ones leading the charge. Furthermore my efforts to unify the Clans have been successful, we're more willing to provide a unified front for when the time comes." Tartarus rumbled proudly, his efforts to unify the Clans had led to Dosaic being more stable than it ever had been and it would make it easier for the various Clans to make their decisions when the time came. His only concern were the Clans that often worked closely with the Sangheili.

"Very good, tell me have you seen the sensor readings from the debacle on the Unyielding Hierophant?" Truth said in response to those words.

Tartarus had to admit that he hadn't, but he had heard that it was bad. "I haven't, but I have heard rumors that it was nasty and that not even Lekegolo Warriors couldn't stop them."

"Quite so, reports indicate that there were five demons ." Truth said and Tartarus visibly tensed for even he feared the demons and while he hadn't seen them in action in person, he had read, admittedly sanitized reports, but even they were hard to read. "Your warriors guarded the sacred Temples that contained Forerunner technologies and even they failed, perhaps the responsibility and blame for the loss of the station and the entire fleet should fall onto the Jiralhanae, but even I know that wouldn't be right. For any human that can tear a Zealot apart in hand-to-hand combat is no normal human and its known that just five demons are nearly unstoppable.'' The High Hierarch finished.

Tartarus bristled. "My warriors and myself won't fail you again!" he boomed, causing the mural to rattle severely and Truth nodded.

"Quite so, however, while the loss of Halo has set our plans back. Everything else is proceeding as intended." There was a quiet sigh from the High Hierarch. "But the artifact on the human world of Sigma Octanus IV only showed the way to one of the Halo rings and the Sacred Light on the human world of Reach has been broken and all we have is fragments."

Tartarus sighed. "My warriors are good at many things, we are excellent trackers. However, artifacts have no scent for us to home in on. I hate to admit it but we would be stumbling across them just as much as the Zealots are." he loathed to admit it, but he knew this fact having been on artifact hunts before. It wasn't easy particularly if the humans had decided to set up near a Forerunner artifact.

Truth's head bobbed in agreement. "Indeed which is why we must have patience since we're hunting for the key to begin the Great Journey itself since there are other Halos to find. However, the humans have impeded our progress significantly."

"We shall smite them in holy fire and scrape what's left from our boots!" Tartarus thundered angrily, the fact that the humans had destroyed one of the sacred rings made his blood boil.

"Quite so, however there is another issue. One pertaining to High Hierarch Regret for he too may unwittingly impede our progress." Truth replied.

Tartarus paused, he wasn't sure how to react to that. "What do you mean Truth?" he asked.

"Regret is leading a spearhead deeper into human space, he claims to have found something that may very well allow the Great Journey to begin." Truth said with a grim smile.

That was news to Tartarus, then again out of the three High Hierarchs, it seemed that Regret had seen the most action against humans. Which was somewhat amusing in a dark twisted way. However, there was something that bugged Tartarus about it. "How many ships does he have and where is he going?"

"Fifteen ships, his personal flagship Solemn Penance, the Syfon Pattern Fast Assault Carrier Days of Jubilation, twelve Battlecruisers of varying Patterns, and one Reverence Pattern Grand Cruiser along with supporting Frigates and Corvettes." Truth's tone took on a dark inflection and he growled. "He doesn't know it, but he's not going to see the glory of the Forerunners laid out before him, but is instead going to find the human homeworld and extremely formidable defenses, I have only just now found about this."

"We should support High Hierarch Regret!" Tartarus replied fervently, the thought of a High Hierarch dying at the hands of the humans was impossible to believe and it simply couldn't happen.

"We will, once we've gathered our forces. The Fleet of Tranquil Composure is being scrambled to rush to Regret's aid, it's a mostly Jiralhanae fleet as you know. Moreover, Earth is a perfect place to put our plans into action, the Jiralhanae there and to an extent in Regret's fleet have orders to replace the Sangheili at the earliest convenience."

Tartarus grinned, the plan was finally being enacted, soon the Sangheili would fall by the wayside and be replaced by the Jiralhanae who would finally assume their rightful place as the iron will of the Covenant. But there was still one thing that remained.

"But I didn't summon you here in order to prattle. Indeed, the one who allowed Halo to be destroyed and the Cheran-Pattern Heavy Carrier Ascendant Justice to be captured is going to be tried in front of the entire High Council in a show trial." Truth said sharply.

"If he is guilty why is he being tried? Would it be easier to just execute him publicly for incompetence? I can just pound him into a bloody pulp with Fist of Rikut."

Truth's expression didn't change. "You have intellect and cunning Tartarus, but if we were to do that, we could be dealing with a rebellion on our hands from the civilian population. For the incompetent is none other than Supreme Commander Thel 'Vadamee."

Tartarus blinked, shocked. That was the one Sangheili that he wouldn't want to smash flat with his hammer. For he was a Fleet Master so daring and successful in fighting the vermin known as humanity that he had earned a fitting nickname from them, one that had made the Supreme Commander something of a darling among the propaganda circles and the population, The Destroyer. Indeed he was the Supreme Commander, when talking of him, you just had to say 'The Supreme Commander' and everyone knew who you were talking about. "How?" he asked, confused.

Truth sighed. "As much as I loath to admit it, Supreme Commander Vadamee was undone by several factors outside of his control. The Parasite which had previously only been discovered on a Forerunner Shield World was present on Halo, moreover the humans managed hit and run attacks on our positions, but most importantly there was a Demon-117, a being that the humans referred to as the Master Chief. In Supreme Commander Vadamee's own words, he didn't find out about the Demon's intent until he had rigged the reactors on the crashed human cruiser, a heavily modified one at that, to blow. By which point it was impossible for him to do anything at all. As for allowing Ascendant Justice to be captured, the verdict on that is going to be Not Guilty, primarily because the carrier dove into Threshold to try and escape the Cruisers hounding it, but after it dove too deep for it to climb back out, he ordered the pursuit to be broken off and even then his own Cruiser had to be helped out of Threshold's atmosphere by Rapturous Thunder. He didn't know it had jumped to slipspace, doing so inside the atmosphere of a gas giant is borderline suicidal at best and a good way to convert your ship into atomized bits at worst."

Even Tartarus, as much as he loathed Sangheili, felt sorry for The Supreme Commander, to have such a career that would have likely been capped by laying waste to the human's home system and their homeworld, an assured promotion to Imperial Admiral maybe even Imperial Marshal would have followed. A series of unfortunate events that was beyond his control would end with his career in tatters and would likely end with him serving in a penal unit to be thrown at a particularly stubborn human fortification. "One of our greatest weapons against humanity will be deprived from us." he found himself whispering.

The San'Shyuum's head bobbed in response. "Indeed, which is why Them 'Vadamee will march a different path. He will be tried, he will be found not guilty of the capture of Ascendant Justice, he will be found guilty for allowing Halo to be destroyed, he will be punished, then he will be sent towards his destiny." Truth paused and then a horrible sneer came to his face. "Then when the time comes, he will die by your hand."

"By you command, Truth!" Tartarus rumbled deeply, so deeply the mural rattled again.

Supreme Commander Thel 'Vadamee knew he was doomed, the destruction of Halo would end his career. At best he would be stripped of his title and honors, his name removed from the Rolls of Honor with no possibility of being placed back on it, put into a Penal Legion or maybe put in charge of a Penal Battalion and then thrown into the meat grinder. He would be lucky to survive one campaign against the humans. At worse, he would be branded a heretic, branded with the Mark of Shame with him and his entire family names removed from the Rolls of Honor, thereby dooming them to remain in the ethers after The Great Journey had begun.

But he had already been cast in exile by his family and in the same conference he had found about the exile he had intended to announce self-imposed exile and had still done so. Thus he technically wasn't Thel Vadamee anymore, just Thel. However, that granted him solace because it meant that the High Hierarchs couldn't do much of anything to his family like removing them from the Rolls of Honor, when the Great Journey began. They would go on it and he would be left behind.

Not for the first time he cursed Demon-117, like all Demons their combat harnesses bore a number on their chestplate. But he wasn't one to rant about being bested, after all he had locked horns with the human Admiral Cole on a number of occasions and indeed wished he had a chance to meet the man before Psi Serepentis, where he had been killed. He knew what it was like to be bested.

Despite this, he couldn't stop the sense of shame that he felt. The destruction of Halo had been his fault and his fault alone. But before that trial he still had something that he could do, his legacy could still be preserved. Thus he waited in his private chamber on High Charity, waiting for his portege to arrive. In that time, he had already released the two Protectors from the duty of protecting him. Not that he had needed them, human naval intelligence had tried to kill him multiple times and he had bested the assassins each time. They had never sent a Demon after him which he praised the Gods for, since his rank had allowed him to see unsanitized combat footage of Demons in action. It was something that was frankly terrifying to see, a single human or a small team of humans literally butchering their way through hundreds of soldiers even as they fired their weapons, emptying entire power packs at them and not landing a single hit.

The door buzzed and Thel looked up. "Come in." he rumbled, the audio pickups in the room noted the words and with a chime the door opened.

Thel's portege, a tall Sangheili clad in the practical combat harness of a Zealot marched in. "You wanted to see me Supreme Commander?" asked Flotilla Master Mruga 'Charamee as he bowed.

"Indeed Fleet Master, you may rise. There is no use for ranks, since I probably won't have one soon. I have already been exiled by my family." Thel said stiffly.

Mruga dipped his head. "Are you sure Thel?" he whispered, surprised.

"The High Council will want someone's head and since Shipmaster Orna Fusilaee had been killed towards the end of the brief rampage that the human cruiser Pillar of Autumn had gone on through the Soell System and the noble Hierarch of Stewardship had been killed when Truth and Reconciliation had been destroyed. Thus the most obvious scapegoats have been denied to the High Council, thus that means the commander of all Covenant forces must bear the blame. That means me, not how I envisioned my career ending, but that's how it's ending." Thel answered, shaking his head.

"You don't deserve this!" Mruga exclaimed. "The High Council is throwing you, a Propaganda darling under the Wave Skimmer for something that wasn't your fault."

Thel tipped his head. "Indeed, which is why you are going to be my legacy. I've been shaping you for this promotion for awhile now, but due to the circumstances, I might as well give it to you before I am stripped of the ability to do so."

Mruga blinked. "You mean?" he asked shocked.

"I do, for I don't believe in promotions based on how many enemies you've slain, but on merit. Part of the reason that the Fleet of Particular Justice has become so feared among the humans is because her individual Squadron and Flotilla Masters were often promoted by me into their positions based on merit. It's something I learned that the humans did, which explains why they do so well against us in space and particularly on the ground." Thel said firmly.

"So you're saying." Mruga began.

Thel did his best impersonation of a smirk. "Indeed, that the paperwork went through recently. You have been granted all the rights and privileges of Fleet Master. You are to assume command of the Fleet of Particular Justice and report to its flagship, the Varric Pattern Heavy Cruiser Fearless Avenger in a half Solar Cycle, she's currently docked in Slip 94."

Mruga drew himself to his full height and Thel looked him over. "Thank you Supreme Commander. I will lead the Fleet of Particular Justice in your name and continue the campaign against humanity until the last one is dead." he said, saluting and Thel returned it.

Thel nodded. "Fight well my friend."

"May the Gods watch over you." Mruga replied before he walked out of the chamber. Leaving the Supreme Commander alone with his thoughts and self-reflection as he struggled to figure out what he could have done better during the battle on Halo. But just like the thousands of times previously he had thought about the situation and how it had developed, he just couldn't think of anything that would change the outcome.

It was irritating, there was no clear solution to the problem that had led to his fall from grace. He knew that if he had been onboard the human cruiser Pillar of Autumn personally to lead the defense against The Demon. But no matter how many times he thought about the question, the answer constantly eluded him.

"This Council finds Supreme Commander Thel 'Vadamee, not guilty in allowing the humans to capture Ascendant Justice due to a number of factors that he simply couldn't have accounted for." High Hierarch Truth said, his gravelly voice echoing through the High Council Chamber, the most important chamber in all of High Charity, sure there were other council chambers who had councils for more specific things, but this was the main governing council, the phrase High Council was all that was required.

Thel allowed himself to relax infinitesimally, but he knew what came next. His conviction for allowing Halo to be destroyed. But this was a show trial, they still needed to do everything according to procedure. "How many human ships were there?" Truth asked in his gravelly voice.

"Just one ship." Thel replied, resolutely. But he knew that quick, resolute, and above all correct answers weren't going to save him from conviction.

"One? Are you sure?" Truth asked in response.

"Yes, High Hierarch Truth, one ship. They called it the Pillar of Autumn." Thel replied firmly without fail.

High Hierarch Mercy growled out a demand. "Why was it not destroyed with the rest of their fleet?" the question caused the assembled San'Shyuum and Sangheili Councilors to begin to mutter, but the words that Thel could pick out indicated that this time, the assembled Councilors were not pleased with how this was going.

Thel paused for a moment to consider his words. "It fled with human forces covering its flight, as we set fire to their planet." he replied coolly and calmly as his mind flashed back to the flag bridge of Fearless Avenger.

"Supreme Commander! Human vessel breaking Reach's atmosphere, Medium, no Heavy Cruiser tonnage! She's making a break for it! Local ground forces are saying she's called the Pillar of Autumn!" Chief sensors called out.

"Show me!" Thel barked and one of the Holographic screens changed, revealing that unique Cruiser, she was a solid sixty meters longer than a standard human heavy cruiser but shorter than their battlecruisers. The ship was rapidly clawing its way free of Reach's gravity well, using the planet's own rotation to give her a speed boost as her crude fusion torches blazed with light as she rocketed away from the planet. The thing had been a thorn in their damn side all damn day. A Zanar Pattern Frigate didn't realize the plight that it was in until the human ship came over the planetary horizon and in a brief but violent exchange of fire reduced it to a gutted drifting hulk that were ensnared by Reach's gravity well, dooming it.

"She's headed out of the system at high velocity, estimate fifty-five gravitas!" The Ultra at sensors barked.

"Cut it off, nothing escapes this system!" Thel snarled.

"Incoming human forces, three ships of Heavy Cruiser tonnage, two of light carrier tonnage, one of supercarrier tonnage! The supercarrier has us painted!"

"Fire emergency thrusters! Battle group engage!"

Missiles and kinetic slugs leaped from the human warships, answered in kind by all manner of weapons fired by the Covenant ships. One of the cruisers had its shields blow then had its hull torn open by human missiles, bleeding air across a half dozen decks she returned fire.

"Take us through that formation! Engines maximum sprint speed! We need to win the race before those humans cut us off or she's going to get away!" The Flag Captain said and Fearless Avenger surged forwards, she could easily match the sprint speed of even human light cruisers.

"Battle Group Nebula, support the flagship in chasing this fleeing human cruiser." Thel ordered after looking to see which battle group wasn't fully engaged and the affirmative came back, Ascendant Justice, two heavy cruisers, a Super Destroyer, and a dozen battlecruisers along with their supporting elements rushed forth to the aid of Fearless Avenger which shuddered under the impact of multiple MAC rounds but her shields held firmly.

Supporting fire came in from the battle group and forced the humans to refocus their attempts on stopping Fearless Avenger from chasing the Pillar of Autumn. But the Fleet Master in-charge of Battle Group Nebula had a good eye and managed to just barely slip by the humans before they could assume proper blocking positions, losing both heavy cruisers in the process along with half of his light ships. But he forced the supercarrier back with major visible damage and smaller carriers destroyed along with crippling the human cruisers.

The Pillar of Autumn fired her aft chase batteries at Fearless Avenger, which shuddered in sympathy. "Standby energy projectors, blast that thing from existence!" The flag captain commanded but was countered by the weapons officer. "Spinal Energy Projectors were wrecked by those penetrations we took earlier in the battle."

"Fine! Prow chase plasma cannons engage! Navigation, we're going to pursue this thing into slipspace!" The flag captain ordered and Fearless Avenger rumbled as her forward plasma cannons spat electric blue fire.

"But I pursued with all the ships that weren't engaged elsewhere by the humans." Thel replied, remembering fondly the AARs that had come in, even without him directing the action personally. The Fleet of Particular Justice had managed a favorable kill ratio against the humans, something with how rapidly the humans had advanced technologically in terms of their shield tech was happening less and less.

He knew what came next in this trial and he thought back to when he had first seen Halo.

"By the Gods, it's one of the Sacred Rings!" The Flag Captain said in awe.

Thel looked upon Halo, he had to admit that it was huge. Making even High Charity look small and insignificant but even then. Halo was something that was simple, yet utterly titanic, majestic certainly, but not overly so. If anything, it was impressive and awe-inspiring. That this was what one of the Holy Rings were.

The glowing hologram of the High Hierarch of Regret asked in a soft voice. "Supreme Commander, when you first laid your eyes on Halo, were you blinded by its majesty?"

That made Thel pause. "Blinded?" he asked, confused by the wording of the question.

"Paralyzed, dumbstruck?" Regret asked, his voice still soft but carrying a weight that couldn't be ignored.

"No, noble High Hierarch Regret, I wasn't blinded, paralyzed, or dumbstruck by Halo's majesty." Thel replied firmly, his words carrying similar weight to Regret's but not the same amount of weight as the words of the Hierarch, bringing himself out of the flashback.

Regret's voice turned angry, the soft almost grandfatherly like tone completely vanishing. "Yet the humans were able to evade your ships, land upon the sacred ring, and desecrate it with their filthy footsteps." he snarled.

The Supreme Commander had to stop himself from snapping that the reason the humans were allowed to land at all was due to the noble Hierarch of Stewardship forebaying the use of anything heavier than plasma cannons. An order that not even he, a Supreme Commander could counter, which allowed the unique cruiser to go on a rampage, demolishing what remained of Battle Group Nebula's light ships. The Corvettes, Frigates, and scant few Destroyers that had remained couldn't stand up to the firepower that it had, destroying four battlecruisers before the boarders had managed to knock the ship's MAC gun offline, but the rest of the main battery along with its remaining secondary and tertiary batteries along with its missiles, had allowed the Harbinger Pattern Super Destroyer Blameless Conceit to be so badly damaged that she had to be scuttled and the mauling of another Battlecruiser before the human cruiser had begun her descent to the surface of Halo. Indeed, the vessel had looked like a decrypt one-off vessel that the humans had built, something that should have been effortlessly destroyed, yet the amount of kills it claimed in the Reach System and in the Soell System along with the amount of punishment it took suggested otherwise.

But he didn't snap, that only would have made things worse for both himself and his family. He had to shift gears, get things away from the humans and the fact that it had desecrated Halo. Something that was far worse than the humans or even the demons. He shuddered at the thought of the Parasite. "Noble Hierarchs," he began, hoping that his voice wasn't trembling. "Surely you understand that once the Parasite attacked-" he paused and looked around, the council was in an uproar at that the fact that he had seemingly focused on something other than the heretics; angrily shouted words were filling the chamber, he couldn't make out the exact words and yet he got the gist of what they were saying.

High Hierarch Mercy hit a button on his gravity throne and a loud banging noise joined the fracas as he thundered, his voice amplified by the voice enhancer in his gravity throne. "There will be order in this Council."

Thel had to admit that it was something seeing the Council who a moment ago had all been clamoring for his head began to calm down, but it fell silent immediately as a third gravity throne moved up. The hologram of Regret and Mercy's gravity throne moved aside, revealing the judge and jury of this trial, the High Hierarch of Truth, he had his hand raised and once the clamor died away completely he lowered it. "You were right, Supreme Commander, to focus your forces on the Parasite, but Demon-117, this 'Master Chief'..." his gravelly voice trailed off.

Thel had to restrain a sigh, all he did was speak in a heartbroken tone as he remembered seeing the blazing flash from the Pillar of Autumn's reactors detonating as it ripped the gaping wound in Halo and caused it to disintegrate due to its own rotation. "By the time I learned of Demon-117's intent, there was nothing I could do." his tone utterly heartrending with the final four words he spoke.

There was another uproar, but this time only the San'Shyuum Councilors were calling for his head, he heard more than one cry of "He's a traitor!" from them. The Sangheili Councilors were muttering in rapid-fire conversion that wasn't as harsh as the words from the San'Shyuum, those words caused him to wince whenever he heard one of them cry "Traitor."

Nearby that damn War Chieftain, Tartarus, began chuckling in a dark way, his deep chortle seemed to add music to the symphony of voices that was echoing through the chamber. Thel knew he had one last gambit to play, but he wanted to wait until the very end. But he knew already that his final gambit would just end in failure and that this show trial was rapidly nearing its close. He held back the urge to sigh or lash out angrily. A realization struck him when he saw Mercy whispering to Truth, damnation, the conviction was coming and Truth held up a hand to silence him.

Then Truth addressed him directly in that same gravelly voice. "Supreme Commander Thel 'Vadamee, you are one of our most treasured instruments in the Cleansing Crusade, one so effective that the vermin even gave you the title of 'The Destroyer'. You have led your fleet with honor and distinction, earning victory after victory as you drove the humans deeper and deeper into their own fledging empire, burning their worlds to glass wherever you found them. However, your inability to safeguard Halo…" he paused "was a colossal failure."

The words slammed into Thel like an orbital strike involving plasma torpedoes, it rocked him to his core and the sad fact was that it was true. He had failed massively to defend Halo, he had been outsmarted by only a few hundred humans. The creatures had used subterfuge and cunning to almost constantly outwit his forces. It was something that he couldn't help but admit was true.

A new voice, cold and shrill called out. "Nay!" Everyone in the chamber turned to face the speaker, Thel recognized him as the Hierarch of Objection. "It was….. hersey!" the words hit Thel like a speeding grav train and it took everything he had to not recoil in shock from being called a Heretic.

If the mention of the Parasite and the Demon had brought the chamber shimmer, that comment had brought it to a boil. San'Shyuum and Sangheili councillors alike had stood up and were now shouting at the top of their lungs, they were arguing, cursing, and calling. In that moment Thel knew that the charade of the show trial was over, they were no longer judging him, but they were now discussing punishment.

He played his last card with as much defiance as he could manage as he took a step towards the dias and declared with as much force and intent as he could manage. "I will continue my campaign against the humans!" It sent rippling, deep chortles through the Sangheili Councilors and caused the San'Shyuum Councilors to shut up and resulted in several of them even sitting back down.

But as he expected, High Hierarch Truth was unamused. "No." he responded immediately, the words of the Supreme Commander not even drawing a flinch from him. His gravelly voice was as always calm and even, but the amount of power it carried caused the defiant Sangheili to stop in its tracks. "You will not." he then gave a slight flick of his hands as a faint but audible groan swept through the Sangheili Councilors.

Tartarus barked a command and two of his underlings marched forward to grab him. That caused a fire to erupt in Thel's breast he wouldn't allow himself to be handled by two Brutes while he could still walk and thus as he reached for him, he gave a whole body shake and turned to glare, giving a threatening growl that promised pain if he touched him, the Brute froze in place and the sound caused the other to back off.

The Supreme Commander turned away from High Hierarch Truth and started walking away, between the impassive stares of the Protectors. He understood the dismal in Truth's words and knew what it meant. "Soon the Great Journey shall begin," the San'Shyuum spoke quietly, the words were powerful. "But when it does, the weight of your hersey shall stay your feet…." the words echoed in Thel's mind as he stalked out of the chamber and down the corridor to his fate. "And you shall be left behind."

9th Age of Reclamation, onboard Solemn Penance

The High Hierarch of Regret shifted his gravity throne away from the Quantum Entanglement Device that had allowed him to take part in Supreme Commander Thel's trial. He truly, honestly did feel regret that he was going to be stripped of his title and honors, had been cast into exile by his family, and was going to have his name more than likely removed from the Roll of Honors. It wasn't how that career was supposed to have ended, not in the slightest, it should have ended with Thel Vadamee being one of the few to hold the rank of Imperial Marshal, the highest rank in the Covenant Navy and it would for all intents and purposes have given him the same level of power as a minor Hierarch.

"That's about how I expected that to go." a deep voice said from behind him and Regret turned to look at his Supreme Protector, a battle-scarred Sangheili that was missing one of his mandibles named Kela 'Ravamee.

"Such a shame, I was hoping to convince Truth for a slightly more lenient judgement. According to reports, events on Halo had snow-balled out of control within hours of the discovery of the Parasite. Though the destruction of Halo causes me great sadness, having seen the Parasite in action with my own eyes, I can't help but wonder just how much of a catastrophe was averted by the destruction of Halo and Infinite Succor." Regret said, memories of a different battle some two decades ago coming to mind. Of a now destroyed 'Shield World' named Etran Harborage, a battle that had consumed an Arbiter. None of the Protectors that he had brought with him to that accursed place had survived, indeed had it not been for Kela, he probably wouldn't have survived either.

"Nothing good, that's for sure. Though I am surprised you didn't leverage the bravery and courage that the humans showed there to try and not completely exterminate them as a species." Kela said, shaking his head.

"I wish I could leverage that, but before I could, High Hierarch Truth ordered all records of what occurred on that world sealed." Regret said, shaking his head as Solemn Penance rumbled ever-so-slightly.

"I see, but it sadly makes sense. If knowledge of the Parasite got out there would have been a mass panic." Kela replied and Regret was forced to accept that fact, once again Truth had been correct in sealing those records over his objections and forbaying him from speaking about it.

"True, very true." Regret admitted.

Kela brightened. "I will admit High Hierarch though, Solemn Penance is simply a marvel, she's absolutely incredible."

That was something that the Supreme Protector was correct on Solemn Penance by Covenant standards was a very new Capital Ship, particularly one of her scale, having been in service for only a few Solar Cycles. But she was also big, measuring some 41,545-steps from the tip of her bow to her rounded stern and was loaded with some of the most accurate representations of Forerunner equipment ever devised by the Huragok. She had been commissioned by Regret personally after his encounter with the Parasite on that accursed Shield World.

"She is indeed impressive, costing me essentially a small fortune of Gekzes. However, I think that she was worth every single one, nothing in the Covenant Navy for her tonnage, can match her speed, maneuverability, shield strength, armor, or firepower." Regret said.

Truthfully, Regret was eager, he had a small fleet and they were heading to a small planet that the Forerunners called Erde-Tyrene where he would find an installation that would lead them to an installation where upon activation it could take him to the Ark. A place where he could finally begin the Great Journey and speed the Covenant towards glorious salvation and he would be remembered forever as the one who found the means to begin the Great Journey.

What's more if there were humans on Erde-Tyrene, something that he doubted and had informed his Flotilla Masters, Squadron Masters, and Shipmasters as such. Then he had more than enough firepower to sweep whatever puny resistance that humanity could muster in front of him and drive on towards his objective after doing a systematic extermination. For humanity were insects that couldn't hope to match the power of the Covenant Navy despite what the Supreme Commander had been saying and his activation of the Reserves. If anything, he actually wanted to engage the humans above Erde-Tyrene so he could put Solemn Penance through a trial-by-fire.

The only thing that concerned him was the larger than normal ratio of Jiralhanae in comparison to Sangheili warriors among his ground forces. He didn't know why High Hierarch Truth had these forces assigned to his ships when he had assembled them as per usual. It made his Sangheili uneasy and thus it uneased him as well.