- “Creatures of the Covenant, the path is broad, and we shall walk it side by side.”
The Covenant Empire, also referred to simply as the Covenant, were a theocratic hegemony made up of multiple alien species that maintained control over a large portion of the Orion Arm in the Milky Way galaxy. The Covenant was a political, military, and religious affiliation, originally a mutual alliance between the San'Shyuum and Sangheili following a brutal conflict between the two warring races. Its expansion to include at least six other races united in the worship of the Forerunners and the Halo Array soon began after the original formation.
The Covenant waged a genocidal campaign against humanity until they were formally defeated due to many factors - the most crucial of which was an internal conflict that broke the Covenant in two, forcing out the entire Sangheili species and splintering them into separatist groups.
Whilst the Covenant ended either during the Flood infestation of High Charity or during the Battle of the Citadel, new splinter groups that continue the efforts of the former Covenant were created after the conclusion of the war. Some of the separatist Sangheili sought to recreate the Covenant entirely under Sangheili rule, free of the Hierarch's influence. A splinter faction of Sangheili known as Jul 'Mdama's Covenant was created by Jul 'Mdama; this terrorist group is deemed hostile to Humanity, breaking the truce formed with the Sangheili Fleet of Retribution at the end of the war.
The species that make up the hegemony known as the Covenant come from different parts of the galaxy and take all kinds of physical forms. The Covenant is organised into a caste system with their religious leaders - the San'Shyuum or Prophets - at the top of the hierarchical pyramid.
The Covenant society is a single hegemonic culture. It is a culture that practices imperial geopolitical dominance through implied means of power as opposed to direct military force. There are three Covenant castes that make up the unity: the Religious caste, the Warrior caste, and the Worker caste.
The two ruling species of the Covenant are the San'Shyuum and the Sangheili; though the San'Shyuum are generally believed to be "the voice of the Gods." The Covenant have ten echelons of government, the highest echelon being the Covenant High Council, who are responsible for holding legislative, executive, and judiciary powers. Composed of 200 members of Sangheili and San'Shyuum, the High Council is ruled by the three San'Shyuum Hierarchs. These Hierarchs are the highest political and religious authority in the Covenant. For each new Age, three new Hierarchs are appointed; in order for them to usher in a new age and assume power, they must receive a blessing from the Oracle of High Charity. This Oracle is a Forerunner Artificial intelligence found within the Dreadnought which sits at the centre of the capital. Until the events that led to the war against Humanity, the Oracle had not spoken for over a millennium, so the ascension of the Hierarchs is steeped with political bribes, blackmail, and manipulation of the San'Shyuum Philologist.
The High Council consists of San'Shyuum Councilors and Sangheili Councilors, who are extremely important to the Covenant society. They share the central theocratic and decision-making body of the Covenant. In addition to the High Council, there are three other Councils: the Council of Concordance, the Council of Deed and Doctrine and the Council of Masters. Below that numerous Ministries exist within the Covenant government, each of which fulfills a single but important role within the Governmental body of the Covenant.
In truth, however, the San'Shyuum and Sangheili have an uneasy coexistence, and political infighting is very common behind the scenes.
Religion and Culture
- Main article: Covenant religion
The Covenant culture and religion is based solely on the worship and reverence of the Forerunners. Long ago, the San'Shyuum managed to decipher portions of data stored on terminals aboard a Forerunner dreadnought. Thanks to the Forerunners' robust translation systems, they misunderstood the many subtle meanings of Forerunner glyph's. The San'Shyuum incorrectly interpreted the activation of the Halo Array as a means of transcendence - a process they came to call the Great Journey. They did not understand that this activation had been designed to kill the Flood - or more precisely - to kill the Flood's food, creating a galactic genocide. They simply thought that the Forerunners had disappeared and left other species of the galaxy to their fates. Because of this, the Covenant often search and recover their artifacts and often have to turn to war to achieve their ends. In Covenant society, personal vendettas are not tolerated, although many conflicts in the Covenant's past have been sparked by vendettas.
The Covenant uses commerce itself as a form of economy. As the Covenant's cohesion is grounded in their beliefs of working for and sharing Forerunner technology, every member of the Covenant is given a form of employment - a service to fulfill in exchange for goods and necessities. In the Covenant's culture, service for salvation is the moral motivation for the entire population. Despite this, there is discrimination within the Covenant, due to their hegemonic thinking. The lesser species are treated as second-hand citizens with absolutely no political or representative voice or power.
The Covenant are always eager to add new species to their faith, so long as they pledge allegiance to the San'Shyuum as their supreme leaders and the Great Journey as their religion. Enlisted races are in all essence enslaved by the Covenant, forced to live a completely different way of life and - if unlucky enough - have their entire culture and history erased. The races of the Covenant are held together by a common belief - the slave races are driven by the religion which they have been forced to accept. Most races are only kept for their varying skills to be exploited, rather than to be a part of a flourishing empire.
- Main article: Covenant military
Like other civilizations, the Covenant maintains a permanent armed forces branch used to enforce order, conduct atmospheric and space combat operations, and generally project the Covenant's power onto others. Formerly led by the Sangheili prior to the Covenant Civil War, the Loyalist branches are now led by the Jiralhanae. The military comprises the Covenant Navy, the Covenant Army and the Special Warfare Group containing the Special Operations Division (Spec-ops). The abilities of the various component races are often exploited by the military to help push forward the ever-growing war machine of the Covenant.
Humans are the only species known that have engaged in war against the Covenant and survived, unlike the Unggoy who almost immediately surrendered and joined the Covenant. The human's very existence is heresy to all Covenant branches, such as Insurrectionists modifying Plasma Rifles for utility and accuracy, seen in the riots of Charybdis IX. It has been questioned as to why humans were not allowed into the Covenant by several individuals, however it would be that humans were "survivors" of the Forerunner era which would cause the Covenant and its belief to collapse.
Many of the alien species conquered by the Covenant are conscripted into, or gradually become part of the alliance. However, during the first contact with the humans, the Oracle on board the Forerunner dreadnought revealed to Truth and Regret that Humans are Reclaimers, as shown by its luminary. Since the entire Covenant was based on the belief that the Forerunners had transcended, Truth and Regret knew if any of the other races found out what the Oracle told them, the Covenant would cease to exist.
- Main article: San'Shyuum
- “Who would doubt the Prophets? What have we foretold that has not come to pass?”— The Prophet of Truth
The highest caste, the San'Shyuum, or "Prophets" as Humans call them, lead the Covenant and exert complete control over all religious and political affairs. Though physically weak, Prophets wield power through absolute command of the Covenant and through scavenged Forerunner technology, leaving the task of conquest to the Sangheili and the other races. Their higher understanding of the Forerunners gives them great ego and religious influence over the Covenant. The High Prophets are addressed as "Hierarchs," "Noble Hierarchs," "Holy Ones," or "Exalted" by the other races of the Covenant.
- Main article: Sangheili
- “On the blood of our fathers, on the blood of our sons, we swore to uphold the Covenant!”— Rtas 'Vadumee before the Battle of the Gas Mine
The second highest caste; Sangheili, or Elites as Humans call them, served as the military leaders of the Covenant before the Great Schism in 2552. While Prophets often had the final say, it was the Sangheili who organized military campaigns and naval engagements. They maintain the military structure of the Covenant and ensured the Prophets' orders are followed, as well as their own. Sangheili consider the other client races to be below them in all ways. The Sangheili are the only known race permitted to build and operate starships within the Covenant, though the crews are almost always composed of a mix of races. Sangheili are separated into ranks based on skill and experience. To advance in rank, Sangheili must honorably earn such advancements on the battlefield. They were a major component of the Covenant and were the only caste able to maintain the military hierarchy as well as having a voice within the High Council before the Great Schism. An "ee" at the end of a Sangheili name, such as "'Zamamee or 'Vadumee," signifies that that Sangheili is a part or was part of the Covenant military, although, after the Great Schism most, if not all, Sangheili removed the "ee" from their names to show that they had left the Covenant.
- Main article: Jiralhanae
- “With my blessing, the Brutes now lead our fleets! They ask for your allegiance, and you shall give it!”— The Prophet of Truth
Jiralhanae, known to Humans as Brutes, are one of the newer species to the Covenant and are the only race that has obtained very close to equal status to that of one of the founding "clients" of the Covenant pact, the Sangheili. They have an incredible natural resilience to damage due to their tough hides, which easily make up for their lack of energy shields, and use a number of weapons and vehicles based upon their pre-Covenant technology. This technology, though primitive compared to other Covenant weapons, is nonetheless extremely lethal, with most Jiralhanae-developed weapons having blades attached to them. In addition to their standard form of combat, Jiralhanae will sometimes go "berserk" and try to kill anyone or anything in their path. This shows the aggressive nature of the Jiralhanae, and the little tolerance they have when they are cornered. Jiralhanae have their own ranks going up to War Chieftains who usually wield plasma cannons, fuel rod guns, or Chieftains who usually wield gravity hammers. The Jiralhanae always work in packs of 3-8 when possible. They took over the role as personal bodyguards of the Prophets and also now make up most of the Covenant military.
- Main article: Huragok
- “...They are some sort of biological supercomputers. Slaves, prisoners, I don't know, but they don't like the Covenant anymore than we do.”— Veronica Dare
Huragok, or Engineers, are actually an artificial species created by the Forerunners. They will only converse with the Prophets or individuals who learn their language. This indicates Engineers are very high in the caste system, however ONI believe them to be prisoners or slaves. The Huragok perform the physical labor of excavating, and gathering data on Forerunner artifacts. In military terms, they are generally a non-militant race. However, at times in the Human-Covenant war they have been placed on the battlefield either as repair workers or suicide bombers. They have also displayed neutrality and even some allegiance to humans such as Lighter Than Some helping the citizens of Harvest escape and another Engineer repairing Ascendant Justice's engines for John-117 and even a Needler for him to use in battle. Another example is one Huragok repairing and recovering the Human AI Superintendent and then assisting Captain Veronica Dare and Sergeant Major Avery Johnson in working out what the High Prophet of Truth was looking for in Africa. It was also revealed that they are equipped with a personal energy shield only when they are under duress. Additionally, these Huragok are also able to project an energy shield around its allies, or enhance shielding already present, if they are within its proximity.
- Main article: Mgalekgolo
- “They're all scary and angry and they like to smash things...”— Bungie
Mgalekgolo, or Hunters as they are known by Humans, are thought to be giant monsters, but they are actually an assemblage of worm-like entities called "Lekgolo" that creates a large, armor plated form. In this form, they are known as "Mgalekgolo." They always fight and travel in pairs known as "Bond Brothers" which technically means that not all of the colonies of worms were able to fit within one set of armor, and are the strongest of the Covenant fighting units. They wield powerful assault cannons and a massive shield resistant to any small arms fire which may also be used as a melee weapon due to its sharp sides and the Mgalekgolo's great strength. They are usually used as weapons platforms, and are only deployed on the battlefield when in need of a heavy force - they are used more like heavy duty equipment than soldiers. Their political and religious motivations are completely unknown.
- Main article: Yanme'e
- “Drones aren't brave; they're just incapable of feeling fear.”— Bungie.net's description of Drones.
These flying insect-like creatures, also known as Drones or Buggers by Humans, served almost exclusively as engineers, but were then replaced by the Huragok. This created a hatred towards the new, peaceful engineers by the Yanme'e that sometimes resulted in violence. Afterwards, the Yanme'e were used as aerial combatants against the UNSC, who were inexperienced at fighting airborne infantry. In combat, their weapons of choice were the Needler, which creates a super-combine explosion if enough projectiles are fired into the same target, and the Plasma Pistol. Their ability to fight on the wing, and their usual deployment in large groups, made them an excellent strategic weapon against ground-based opponents.
- Main article: Kig-Yar
- “Jackals may be superior marksmen and they're very sneaky, but that doesn't make them excellent snipers — they’re a little too bloodthirsty for that.”— Anonymous UNSC Serviceman
Due to their superior senses, the Kig-Yar, or Jackals/Skirmishers as they are known by Humans, are the scouts and marksmen of the Covenant military, they are the second lowest Covenant caste. Due to their lack of physical durability, they carry a portable energy shield generator during combat. Kig-Yar are employed mainly as sharpshooters with their excellent vision and dexterity, and are also deployed to defend strategic areas. When a Kig-Yar is under fire, it will cover its head with its hands and trot away to another position from which to fire. The first Human contact with the Covenant was between Staff Sergeants Johnson and Byrne on a Human freighter as Kig-Yar pirates tried to board the ship. The Kig-Yar have very strong dislike of the Unggoy because they are always trying to assert their superiority over them in the caste system of the Covenant. Once they poisoned a recreational narcotic that the Unggoy use which nearly caused them to become infertile. This caused the Unggoy Rebellion.
- Main article: Unggoy
- “When in doubt, flee.”— Unggoy Philosophy
Hailing from Balaho, Unggoy, known as Grunts among Humans, are the most common and lowest-placed caste of the Covenant. The Unggoy were barely into their own Iron Age when the San'Shyuum discovered them. Classified as a "Tier 6" civilization by the Forerunner charts, the Unggoy were at a primitive point in their cultural development, the Unggoy had little choice but to accept entry into the Covenant hegemony, or otherwise risk extinction. After their incorporation into the Covenant their entire history was erased and they essentially became a slave race. Despite their notable cowardice and ineptitude, they are quite dangerous in large numbers, which was why an Arbiter was needed to quell the Unggoy Rebellion. They breathe methane and thus must wear a large tank on their back full of the methane to survive on other planets. Relations between the Unggoy and the Kig-Yar are strained in the best of times.
Creatures Inhabiting Covenant Worlds
- "Scrub grubs" are small creatures the equivalent of the rats found on Earth. They were first mentioned in Halo: Contact Harvest, while inhabiting a Kig-Yar ship.
- "Zap-Jellies" are sea creatures that live on the Unggoy home world, Balaho. They are possibly the equivalent to large jellyfish on Earth.
- "Thorn Beasts" are a food source for the Covenant, though only observed being eaten by Jiralhanae. The only reference to the Thorn Beasts is in Halo: Contact Harvest, when the Jiralhanae are first mentioned, and in Halo Wars, in at least one of the timeline periods. They were also included in the original Halo game being developed for Mac.
- "Mud wasps" are insects found on the Unggoy home world of Balaho.
- "Shade Crabs" are crustaceans found on the Unggoy home world of Balaho.
- "Helioskrills" are predators found on Sanghelios that imitate rocks to catch their prey.
- "Doarmirs" are furry animals found on Sanghelios, their pelts were used by early seafaring Sangheili as cloaks, the tradition is continued by modern Sangheili Shipmasters.
- "Colo" is a major livestock species raised by Sangheili, traded by Kig-Yar, and consumed as meat, similar to cattle.
- Main article: History of the Covenant
In 938 BC, the San'Shyuum Reformists entered a Sangheili-occupied system, which led to first contact between the San'Shyuum and the Sangheili. The San'Shyuum, who came to Sanghelios in order to claim and study the rich abundance of Forerunner artifacts left behind, soon found themselves sharing different ideologies of how such relics should be treated, which quickly developed into conflict between the San'Shyuum and the Sangheili.
The Sangheili believed that Forerunner relics were sacred and should not be touched, while the San'Shyuum Reformists believed that they should be studied and use them to make practical objects of their own design. The highly militarized and brutal Sangheili attacked the San'Shyuum almost as soon as their differences became apparent, and a war between the two species raged for eighty-six years.
At the start of the war, the Sangheili had a numerical advantage in terms of ships and soldiers, and their strength and military tactics overwhelmed their enemy by a considerable factor. The knowledge gleaned from years of travel and the capabilities of their Forerunner dreadnought, however, gave the San'Shyuum the advantage in ship-to-ship combat, the most common type of combat witnessed during the war.
Eventually, both species came to fear a very real threat: annihilation. The Sangheili who feared it through the San'Shyuum's use of the Dreadnought and the San'Shyuum who came to admit that if the Sangheili were this dangerous, there might be other sentient life far more threatening, making their chances of survival in the galaxy slim. The long and brutal war caused the Sangheili to violate their very beliefs, study and incorporate Forerunner technology into their own in order to avoid defeat — their incorporation of Forerunner technology eventually caused a stalemate in the war against the San'Shyuum, although their Dreadnought proved far too effective and forced the Sangheili to surrender.
In their warrior culture, the Sangheili have great respect for a worthy adversary and after their surrender the San'Shyuum sought to broker a Covenant between the two races, thus the term "Covenant." The alliance between the two species was formed in 852 BC with the signing of the Writ of Union, the treaty that ended the conflict and brought about peace between the two races.
The Covenant created their own means of connoting time, comprised of "Ages." The Covenant's history is broken up into multiple occurrences of seven types of Ages, each representing the predominant theme that occurred during those periods of time. These ages do not necessarily follow one another in order, nor are they equal in quantity. As an example, there were significantly more Ages of Conflict and Doubt than Reclamation. Each Age is further broken into what is called Cycles. A Cycle is the Covenant version of a day and it represents one artificial day on High Charity. A Cycle contains approximately 265 units, which if translated into human time is one hour of time on Earth.
After the first Age of Abandonment, the San'Shyuum and Sangheili were able to evolve into a space-faring race and establish High Charity to be their new capital. The root of the First Age of Conflict was the theological question of whether Forerunner technology should be revered or exploited. The conclusion of that conflict marks the First Age of Reconciliation, followed by the First Age of Conversion; this marked the beginning expansion of the Covenant by bringing the Lekgolo into the Covenant.
Every time a new race was assimulated into the empire, a new Age of Conversion took place. The Lekgolo were the first to be conquered by the Covenant, in an event known as the Taming of the Lekgolo around 784 BCE. The Kig-Yar was discovered was the next species to be assimulated by the Covenant, and although they initially resisted they eventually surrendered; possibly because of the Covenant's riches. Both the Yanme'e and the Unggoy were both forced into the empire and enslaved after the Kig-Yar. The Covenant recently discovered the primitive Jiralhanae in 2492, and quickly defeated them before absorbing them into the empire.
An important event in Covenant history is the 39th Age of Conflict, also known as the Unggoy Rebellion. The Unggoy revolted after a conflict with the Kig-Yar, igniting a short but bloody conflict. The revolt was put to an end when the Prophets appointed an Arbiter, who partially glassed the Unggoy homeworld of Balaho. Seeing this the Unggoy surrendered. Impressed by their fighting during the revolt, the Sangheili gave the Unggoy better armor and weapons, turning them into true infantry forces while still keeping them in the lower ranks.
In between these ages were what became known as the Ages of Doubt; these ages signified that no great discoveries were made, and members of the Covenant were grappling with internecine conflict. During the 23rd Age of Doubt, the Covenant encountered Humanity for the first time. This inevitable meeting would start a war that over time threw the entire foundation of the Covenant's religion and political alliance into a gradual state of disarray.
- “The First Age: Ignorance and Fear.
- The Second Age: Rivalry and Bloodshed.
- The Third Age: Humility and Brotherhood.
- The Fourth Age: Wonder and Understanding.
- The Fifth Age: Obedience and Freedom.
- The Sixth Age: Faith and Patience.
- The Seventh Age: Journey and Salvation.”— Maccabeus and the Jiralhanae of the Rapid Conversion.
- The Seventh Age: Journey and Salvation.”
- The Sixth Age: Faith and Patience.
- The Fifth Age: Obedience and Freedom.
- The Fourth Age: Wonder and Understanding.
- The Third Age: Humility and Brotherhood.
- The Second Age: Rivalry and Bloodshed.
A Covenant vessel discovered the location of the human colony world Harvest . The ship Luminary detected thousands of Forerunner artifacts and an Oracle (ancilla) on the surface of the planet. The Kig-Yar planned to take some of the treasures for themselves before reporting their discovery to the Hierarchs. They raided human freighters but unfortunately the humans already had a strike team to counteract what they believed was a growing Insurrectionist group.
An Unggoy and his Huragok friend were able to escape and they informed the Minister of Fortitude and Vice Minister of Tranquility. The two utilized a Jiralhanae-controlled ship to help them capture the human planet. This starts the powerful alliance between the two species.
The Jiralhanae traveled to Harvest and their Luminary detected thousands of Forerunner artifacts as well. They landed two Spirit dropships to make contact with the humans. The two human A.I.'s attempted to peacefully communicate with the Jiralhanae. However the peace broke when an Unggoy opened fire on a Colonial Militiaman, beginning the Harvest Skirmish.
The two young Ministers sought out to talk with the long dormant ancilla that rested in the Forerunner dreadnought. The ancilla, 032 Mendicant Bias, explained to the two San'Shyuum that they have been misreading their findings. What the Kig-Yar detected on the Luminary weren't artifacts; they were actually detecting the humans on Harvest, which are actually called Reclaimers by the ancilla. Mendicant then attempted to power up the Dreadnought to find the humans and take them to the Ark where they will be able to fire the Halo array, an act which will destroy High Charity. The two San'Shyuum decided to keep all this a secret from the Covenant, realizing that living Forerunners will destroy the entire foundation of the Covenant. The Lekgolo which swarmed the Dreadnought disconnected it in order to prevent the ancilla from completing his tasks.
The Jiralhanae began to bombard Harvest with plasma in a process called "glassing." The two San'Shyuum overthrew the current Hierarchs and rose to power as the High Prophet of Truth and Regret. They declared a genocidal war on the humans to prevent any of the Covenant from ever discovering the humans' true place as the Forerunners' heirs and thus beginning the Human-Covenant war.
Using their superior numbers and technology, the Covenant overwhelmed the human UNSC in hundreds of engagements and glassed scores of human-controlled worlds from orbit. After about 28 years of horrific bloodshed, the Covenant had annihilated most of the humans' outer colonies and were preparing for a final offensive into the heart of UNSC-controlled space. Despite the humans' best efforts to keep the location of their home world a secret, both sides knew it was only a matter of time before the Covenant arrived at its doorstep.
In 2552, the Covenant found the human fortress world of Reach and began an immediate invasion. In one of the largest and bloodiest battles of the war, the humans threw everything they had into the planet's defense but were predictably overwhelmed by the sheer firepower and size of the Covenant offensive. It was during this battle that the majority of the human "Demons" (or Spartan-IIs) were killed. By the battle's end, the humans had lost most of their remaining warships and their most powerful military stronghold outside of earth.
This time, however, the human ship Pillar of Autumn managed to escape the onslaught. Supreme Commander Thel 'Vadamee ordered his ships to follow it into slipspace. The human ship led them to the location of Installation 04. The humans landed on the surface and the Covenant forces followed to kill them all before they could cause any damage to the ring. However, a Covenant archaeological team discovered something buried deep within the ruins of Halo's swamps— an ancient and insatiable parasite known as the Flood. The plague spread across the ring's surface with terrifying speed. The Forerunner Sentinels and an ancilla, 343 Guilty Spark, helped the Reclaimers (humans) complete their tasks into activating the Halo ring to stop the Flood from spreading to other parts of the galaxy. But the humans found out that activating the Halo would wipe out all sentient life in the galaxy, so instead they destroyed the ring.
The Supreme Commander was called before the High Council to answer for his failures. The loss of the Forerunner relic angered the council and that of the entire Covenant. 'Vadamee was stripped of his rank, title, name, and honor and branded a heretic. In front of the entire Covenant, he was given the Mark of Shame, and was then sentenced to be hung by his entrails and have his corpse be paraded through the city as an example to the others. The Prophet of Truth and Prophet of Regret intervened, however, and instead offered 'Vadamee the chance to become the new Arbiter.
During this time, the humans managed to destroy some 500 Covenant warships in a single massive explosion (Operation: First Strike). It was the single greatest and most devastating defeat the Covenant suffered during the entire War, and the effect it had on Covenant society, which had been told the humans were on the brink of collapse, was profound.
However, despite the staggering setbacks at Halo and at the Unyielding Heirophant, few individuals harbored any illusions about the war's final outcome. The Prophet of Regret learned the location of Earth as the location the Portal, leading to the Ark. However, Regret did not realize that Earth was actually the human home world. Consequently, he unknowingly led his small fleet into Earth's orbital defenses.
Regret's fleet was unable to fend off the human defenses so he escaped to the newly discovered Installation 05. Truth learned about Regret's attack and immediately sent a fleet of Jiralhanae controlled ships to reinforce the attack.
The UNSC followed Regret to Installation 05 and were able to corner him. Regret then called out for help and the entire Covenant City, High Charity, jumped to that location. However, they were too late; the Demon managed to pass by Covenant defenses and assassinated the prophet.
During the final months of the war against humanity, the High Prophet of Truth replaced the Sangheili as their protectors with their rivals, the Jiralhanae, claiming that Regret's assassination by the Demon proved that the Sangheili were incapable of protecting their leaders. However, this political maneuvering enraged the Sangheili, who claimed that their replacement as the Covenant's military leaders was in defiance of the Writ of Union.
Nevertheless, Truth gave command of the Covenant Fleets to the Jiralhanae and instructed them to exterminate the Sangheili. The Sangheili revolted, enlisting the help of some of their following Mgalekgolo and Unggoy, birthing a destructive civil war within High Charity itself and on the surrounding Covenant fleet. This event was known as the Great Schism.
Great Schism and Dissolution
Early into the Great Schism, most of the Sangheili Councilors were assassinated by the Jiralhanae at the will of the Prophets, mainly the Prophet of Truth. When the Sangheili learned that the Halos were not holy relics but were in fact super-weapons designed to eradicate all sentient life in the galaxy, they decided to ally with Humanity in the struggle against Truth.
As the battle for High Charity raged between the Jiralhanae and the Sangheili, the situation was thrown further into chaos when the city was invaded by the Flood. By the battle's end, High Charity, along with the Prophet of Mercy, had fallen to the parasite. The Jiralhanae had also suffered severe losses, and the Covenant had made a new and deadly enemy in the Sangheili. However, Truth believed he still had enough offensive power to defeat the humans and make it to the Ark to initiate the Great Journey.
During the Battle of Earth, the Covenant onslaught overwhelmed the human defenses (despite a ferocious resistance), but took appalling casualties in the process. By the time the portal was fully excavated and opened, Truth's exhausted fleet had been reduced to a few dozen ships in size due to relentless human counter-offensives.
The Covenant fleet was pursued through the portal and destroyed by a Human/Separatist force less than half its size (Battle of Installation 00). As the battle above the Ark raged, the Demon and the Arbiter led a combined Human/Sangheili strike force through what was left of the Covenant ground units protecting Truth. Just as the Prophet was about to fire the Array, the Demon stormed into his headquarters and annihilated his bodyguard. He then deactivated the firing process just as the Arbiter assassinated Truth.
Truth's death and the loss of his Loyalist fleet brought an end to the Covenant. After the Battle, the Arbiter signed a truce with the human "Shipmaster of Shipmasters" - Admiral Lord Hood - resulting in an uneasy peace for the first time in nearly thirty years.
While the Covenant was completely destroyed, a few remnants of Truth's former fleet remained aboard the Anodyne Spirit and somehow survived the incomplete firing of Installation 08 from inside the Forerunner keyship. The other remnants of the former Covenant scattered across the Orion Arm lacked proper leadership or direction, as well as the ongoing war between the Sangheili and the Jiralhanae, significantly reduced any threat they posed to Humanity and as of March, 2553, the Human-Covenant war officially came to an end.
Multiple Sangheili keeps resisted the peace talks and sought another campaign against humanity, for a variety of reasons, ranging from those who continued worshiping Forerunners and regarded humans as heretics, to those who feared that humanity might seek revenge for the atrocities committed during the war, once it had recovered.
Despite their ambitions, however, the Sangheili struggle to regain their footing due to a number of factors - including internal conflict and (human-funded) insurrection, the continued war against the Jiralhanae, the absence of a stable and unified government, and the lack of the Huragok's technological expertise. Meanwhile, the Jiralhanae also suffer from a crippling lack of proper political and military infrastructure as well as their ongoing war with many Sangheili keeps. The San'Shyuum, whose population has dwindled to a few thousand in number, teeter on the brink of extinction with most choosing to flee into sectors of the galaxy unknown to the Sangheili out for their blood. The other client species typically returned to their states before they were integrated into the Covenant, for example most Kig-Yar reverted to a pirate's life following the Great Schism.
For all intents and purposes, the Covenant has ceased to exist in any organized form, although many smaller factions, collectively known as Covenant remnants, have risen up in its stead. While some such factions abhor the Covenant like the Swords of Sanghelios, many more of these factions claim to be new Covenants, but in truth no single such successor exists.
The exact number of factions is unknown, but once, a Sangheili said "a hundred warlords claim they rule the Covenant, but each of them leads only a small faction". 
Covenant technology is repeatedly referred to as more imitative rather than innovative. Their technology is based largely on mimicry and reverse-engineering of the leftover Forerunner artifacts they have discovered. While Covenant technology is far more advanced than human technology, the Covenant seem to be ignorant of how precise or powerful their technology can actually be.
While Humans are inferior technologically, they are still capable of learning and often improving on new technology while Covenant advances are significantly slower. This is, perhaps, the Covenant's most serious disadvantage. Their technology is limited by this almost parasitic reliance on reversed-engineered Forerunner technology. In Covenant culture, there are religious laws set that prevent them from fully exploring what the Forerunners employed to create that technology.
Like humans, Covenant ships can enter slipstream space and travel faster than light. However, the Covenant equivalent of the Shaw-Fujikawa Engine is far more efficient and reliable. Covenant vessels do not suffer the "temporal fluidity" of the slipstream to such a degree as Human vessels. As a result, Covenant battle groups are much more efficient when acting as a coordinated group, and can strike more quickly and decisively.
Covenant starships use Repulsor engines for propulsion in space, rather than traditional reaction drives used by the UNSC. Covenant drive systems seem to be propelled by an unusual combination of gravity "waves" and some form of highly reactive plasma displacement, but the actual means and method of propulsion is currently beyond human understanding.
Only three Covenant Associated Intelligences have ever been encountered. One was a rampant AI stationed aboard the Ascendant Justice, which was ultimately destroyed by Cortana. Another, the Seeker, was sent to infiltrate UNSC systems in an attempt to learn the location of Earth. Finally, 343 Guilty Spark encountered an associated intelligence on board the Truth and Reconciliation during the Battle of Installation 04. However, Cortana's copy references several A.I.'s being present in the Unyielding Hierophant system when the Spartans infiltrated the base.
Covenant architecture is known for its curved, organic and sophisticated-looking style, likely for the aesthetic tastes of the higher-ranked castes. Constructed of distinctive purple or white metal, these colors are the main focus of Covenant design and distributed throughout their starships, and weapons. The metal they use is unknown to the UNSC but is very strong and resilient.
Most of the Covenant arsenal is plasma-based Directed Energy Weapons, however the Covenant are known to utilize pulse lasers, particle beam weapons, as well as antimatter and even chemical crystal-based weapons.
Plasma weapons are more rugged and far more effective than laser based weapons. They use a power cell to provide power to the internal components- most importantly a high energy current at the muzzle end of the weapon- to complete the cycling, ignition and release operation of the weapon. Plasma weapons use Hydrogen Fluoride as a source of fuel- this fuel is flash boiled and contained within a magnetic field until it turns from a cool liquid to superheated ionized gas.
Covenant plasma weapons are effective but crude for their technology. As such, they are prone to overheating, a weakness among the weapon class. Weapon designs compensate for this, although they render weapons inoperable as the excess heat is dissipated. Once the energy of the plasma weapon is depleted, it must be recharged, or discarded.
The Covenant are also known to employ ammunition based weapons, the most common of these being crystal based weapons. These weapons appear to use some type of chemical that reacts to environments and forms a hard razor sharp crystal that when fired, homes in on organic material and detonates when either embedded into an object or travels too far away from the weapon itself. These types of weapons are very dangerous because of their homing ability- one of the few "fire and forget" armaments on an infantry-portable level. With the introduction of the Jiralhanae as a major military caste within the Covenant, their weapons have found limited to widespread use. Jiralhanae weaponry typically fires crude metal spikes in place of plasma. They also make use of explosive projectile weapons, similar to grenade launchers. Often, these weapons are outfitted with some form of sharp blade, spike or other implement as a sort of bayonet analog. On the whole, they are more primitive, brutal weapons than other Covenant counterparts - fitting, considering the nature of their creators.
The Covenant are also known to employ melee weapons in addition to their already fearsome arsenal. The most well known, the energy sword, is used solely by the Sangheili. Creating a solid blade of superheated plasma, it has both ceremonial and martial value to the Sangheili warriors, and its possession is closely monitored. Secondly is the Jiralhanae Gravity Hammer, which seems to be the cultural analog to the sword. But rather than using a blade of plasma, it can generate a gravitational field, doing tremendous damage to anything in a close radius.
Covenant vehicles use advanced anti-gravity technology for propulsion, and are well armored and well armed. Often faster than their UNSC counterparts, Covenant vehicles are more stable over uneven terrain as the anti-gravity help keep them upright. All Covenant vehicles are made from a purple or dark blue type of metal, said to be much more advanced than any alloy known to Humans, and all Covenant vehicles are nicknamed after some kind of supernatural entity by the UNSC, except for Scarabs and Locusts. Recently, Jiralhanae vehicles and technology have been incorporated into the Covenant's arsenal. Though more primitive, they serve the Jiralhanae' need for power. Jiralhanae vehicles are not named after spiritual entities, and rather than being a series of Covenant vehicles are regarded as native Jiralhanae technology.
Although rare in usage, medical equipment does exist in the Covenant. An automated surgery suite is, as the name states, an automated medical room found on Covenant capital ships. Besides this, the Magnetic Splint is another piece of Covenant medical equipment. The splint, when attached, makes that particular part of the body immobile.
Oth Sonin system|Loyalist
- Palamok (Yanme'e Homeworld)
Y'Deio System (HD 69830)|Loyalist
Worlds in Unknown Systems
- K7-49 - shipyard
- Decided Heart- Sangheili Base planet
- Weeping Shadows of Sorrow- Penitentiary world
- Heian - A world with a significant logistics base
- Oth Lodon - A gas giant near the Jiralhanae home system
- Hesdorus - Remote Sangheili colony
- Karava - A remote Sangheili colony in disputed territory
- Janjur Qom - San'Shyuum homeworld
- Ealen IV - A world that produces industrial-grade plasma.
- "Drinols" were creatures in the form of bosses that did not make it into the Halo games. They are thought to have been remade into the Flood's Tank Pure Form as there are many similarities between the two.
- "Stalkers" were a Covenant race that did not make it into Halo 2, seen in the Halo 2 Collector's Edition Disc. They were taken from original idea sketches of the Sangheili in the first Halo game and were supposed to be very wiry and skeletal, with massive amounts of teeth, similar to sharks.
- "Keelbugs" were only seen in the Halo 2 Collector's Edition Disc. Insectoid in nature, they were supposed to fly into the battlefield, cut dead bodies into sections, and fly off with them, which was a creative way of removing NPC corpses to free memory from the game. They seemed to be more like animals than a sentient race.
- "Alien Troopers" were seen in the Halo 2 Collector's Edition Disc. They are understood to be a deleted form of soldier that would complement the Sangheili in battle. The only known data on these Covenant are that they were supposed to carry its weapon under their bellies.
- "Special Purpose Snipers" were seen in the Halo 2 Collector's Edition Disc. Their arms were used like a tripod, so they could flip from side to side, without having to switch weapons. They would also be able to hang from trees. This concept appears to have been re-imagined in Halo 3, with Kig-Yar Snipers often being found in trees.
- "Sharquoi" were mentioned in the Halo 2 Collectors' Edition Conversations from the Universe booklet, detailing conversations among Human and Covenant individuals. Nothing seen in any Halo product outside of that mentioning can be called a Sharquoi with any certainty.
- In a Biblical reference, the Ark of the Covenant represented the will of God, in connection with the quote: "Your destruction is the will of the Gods...and we are their instrument!" This references the Covenant's belief that they carry through the will of their Gods, the Forerunners.
- 343 Guilty Spark often refers to the Covenant as "meddlers" due to their constant disregard for containment protocols, and the misinterpretation of Forerunner language and technology.
- Members of the UNSC armed forces will often refer to the Covenant member species as a whole as "bugs" or "Covies." This can be heard in the quotes "Covie scum." and "The only good bug is a dead bug."
- The latter quote is taken from Starship Troopers and Aliens.
- Early concepts of the Sangheili resemble the Xenomorphs from the film Aliens, as with many other things such as Pelicans and Sgt. Avery Johnson.
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 30
- Halo 3 - Epilogue - "But you did it. Truth and the Covenant. The Flood. It's Finished.", Cortana
- Halo Wars 2 GAMEPLAY - E3 2016 Interview (Interview with Kevin Grace) - "The Covenant are dead"
- Halo Waypoint: Covenant "Dissolution: 2552 CE"
- Halo 2 - level Gravemind
- Canon Fodder - "The resulting conflict would be called the Great Schism, and it would divide the Covenant into two, ultimately forcing the Sangheili out."
- Halo 3 - Assembly description
- Halo Waypoint: 'Canon Fodder' - Lore of the Rings - "Like the rest of the Sangheili, the surviving Councilors were not completely unified in their opinions on how to proceed following the Great Schism. While some did take up the Arbiter’s cause, many others had become enamored with the idea of bringing the Covenant empire under complete Sangheili rule, quickly scrambling to grab power wherever they could. Some of these eventually served under Jul ‘Mdama, while others consolidated small pockets of reclaimed Covenant assets under more independent factions."
- Halo: Glasslands, page 20
- YouTube: Live at E3 2016 - Halo Wars 2: Behind the Scenes
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 14
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 112
- bungie.net's Covenant Primer: The Best of the Bestiary
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 345
- Halo: Contact Harvest - page 271
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 119
- Halo: Contact Harvest - page 274
- Halo: The Flood - page 95
- Halo: Contact Harvest page 150
- Halo: Contact Harvest - page 146
- Halo 2 dialogue - Prophet of Regret
- Halo: Contact Harvest - page 51
- Halo: Contact Harvest - page 50
- Halo: Contact Harvest - page 278
- Halo: The Flood - page 5
- Sybex Halo PC Guide page 48
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 126
- Halo: Contact Harvest - page 55
- Halo 3: ODST Data Hive
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 142
- Sybex Halo PC strategy guide page 44
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 114
- Halo: Contact Harvest - page 147
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 31
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 30
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 115
- Halo: Contact Harvest - page 143
- Halo: Contact Harvest - page 196-197
- Halo: Shadow of Intent, Page ??
- Halo: Escalation - Issue 5
- Halo: The Fall of Reach - page 241 page 275 2010 reprint
- Halo: First Strike - page 87
- Halo Encyclopedia - page 224
- Halo: Ghosts of Onyx - page 331
- Halo: First Strike - page 170
- Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary - Terminal, The Truth and Reconciliation
- Halo: First Strike - page 320
- Halo: Contact Harvest - page 163
- Halo: Reach Type-31 "Needle" Rifle
- Halo: Contact Harvest, Page 310
- Governors of Contrition
- Writ of Union
- Mark of Shame
- Covenant religion
- True Sayings
- Ratification Parley