Subject: Operation LEVIATHAN (Phase Two)
Concerning our ongoing correspondence on the post-Covenant (Transmission 376377-1 in particular), I've had my staff hard at work on a wider context picture of the situation, and it's paying off. This file will mainly serve both as an amendment to the matters discussed, as well as open new avenues of discussion or concern for your review.About my earlier messages, I was never expecting you to read all 48 dossiers in full, but browsing through at least a handful is good for the sake of context. Besides, the files were in parts incomplete (something Voltaire attributed to a bug in the wavecom soft -- the drawbacks of early adoption, I suppose).
As for your troubles with the UEG board, politicians will be politicians, but I get the feeling you did manage to get through at least one bit. I ran the newsfeeds by Voltaire and he calculated a 36% decrease in blatant revanchist rhetoric over the past three weeks. You'll always have the usual suspects, even the ones who don't go as far as SS, but it's best for us all if they keep quiet -- and even better if they actually come to their senses. No matter what, it always surprises me just how little the masses in the ICs know what's really going on beyond the gulf, and with the JOZ situation and the "unofficial" integration going on, the last thing we need is blind demagoguery. Our experts still keep mulling over whether integration happens, but that's not even in question anymore -- the question is how it happens, and there aren't too many scenarios that give us a pleasant deal in it all. The "socio-cultural cross-contamination" our analysts talk about is frankly the least of our worries when we start thinking in the truly long term.When it comes to the big picture, I am reminded of something a Kig-Yar colleague of mine once said: "Scorn not those who would sharpen the same blade". (He probably got it from the Sangheili, though.)
Perhaps the most enlightening part of this transmission will be the attached map. Highly relevant to the previous CMC document in particular, it covers the outer reaches of the former Covenant's expansion sphere where it intersects with the buffer zone of the Hades Gulf, which terminates at our Orion-side borders.
As a caveat, the map is a flattened abstraction. Specific distances are omitted because the spatial topology is warped in the conversion to 2D, on top of the usual issue of some realspace distances being distorted in slipspace; there are multiple points of overlap that have been simplified for the sake of a markedly less confusing viewing experience. (I've attached a holo-file which shows the more accurate picture.)The map shows approximately two-thirds of the former Covenant sub-realm known as the Siakar Expanse; further regional subdivisions and territories, as designated by the Covenant, are annotated accordingly.
Our overall coverage of Covenant space is still patchy, not in the least because it seems no one in the Covenant ever knew the complete picture; all they themselves ever had were fragments, updated on a frequency of anywhere in between every month to every century, and larger maps collected from those fragments. Hence you could end up with situations where entire realms "disappeared" for a century or more because a ministry staffer forgot to check a box, or appeared out of nowhere because an ambitious clan leader spontaneously decided to extend his turf. As you can probably tell by now, the Covenant didn't do neat sectors or sub-sectors like us; that kind of thing tends to happen when your government is a byzantine network of bureaucratic departments, half of which are at each other's throats at any given time, trying to maintain some sort of control over a thousand feudal powers and sub-dependencies with their own interests. It's a small wonder we have a map even this accurate.
The map draws from our usual sources - what little we've managed to scrounge up over the last three decades, the 2554 Concord Symposium doc (an invaluable source on the Covenant sphere in general), a couple dozen xenoanthropologic publications and countless interviews. The academia are too fast to track for their own good, but are at times a better source of intel than our own agents (if we can get them to cooperate -- too bad they also tend to be the type that's the least fond of us). We've already reached the point where something we deem "classified information" is already common knowledge in not just universities, but the general population on many surviving Outer Colonies, to say nothing of the Joint-Occupation Zones. If there's one constant to interstellar travel, it's that spacers talk, and I think it tells more about skewed priorities in certain parts of the Naval Intelligence community that we're ourselves out of date on the very intel whose spread we're trying to control. Then again, trying to curtail the flow of information everyone will know sooner or later anyway could be called pointless, but I suppose some of us still harbor the mistaken belief that our resources and reach are infinite.
The Siakar Expanse is what the Covenant called a Primary Domain, the second-largest formal subdivision of space under the hegemony defined by their direct administrative relationship to High Charity. Like other such domains, it covers tens of thousands of stars, though only several hundred systems are settled or even fully surveyed. This is not unusual in the Covenant sphere: with their faster drives and superior understanding of slipstream transit nodes and eddies, the Covenant have been able to afford to be less frugal about distances, which is why their colonies tend to be more spread out than ours. You have areas of space many times the size of the entire human sphere with fewer colonies than our surviving ICs; for comparison, you could fit the entire pre-War human sphere on that map -- a map that, according to Voltaire's estimations, represents approximately 0.75% of the overall volume occupied by the Covenant meta-civilization, give or take. We can see a similar effect happening now with our Gulf settlements and so forth, thanks to the new CODEN-VIs, but the downside is that you'll most likely end up properly surveying all the stars in between after the fact -- and you never know what you may've missed.
Covenant records -- ones we have access to, anyway -- indicate Siakar's colonization began in earnest around 1,200 years ago, and though some colonies in the region date further back than that, they weren't the result of concerted efforts on part of the Covenant administration (the CMC's Glorious Proclamation being one such example). Most of the key population centers in the region were established during the subsequent three centuries of fairly intensive colonization, though many more have appeared since albeit at a slower pace.
To place the map in the wider context of Covenant space, Siakar Expanse is adjacent to the following Primary Domains (now defunct as political units for the most part): Hezzaggor Verge to the map's "northeast", Jartuub Salient to the east (i.e. anti-spinward), the Ashen Hallows to the southeast, the Iabuzen Thickets to the south and southwest, and the Sea of Whispers to the spinward west, where the Covenant's borders already begin to thin out. Most of this is still remote by Covenant standards; their real centers are almost two kilolights anti-spinward.
One may note that the region shown on the map is remarkably, even frighteningly, close to our colonial sphere, especially keeping in mind Covenant transit speeds. More specifically, the region closest by would be the Theian Crescent, located within some of the southern outer subvolumes of FLEETCOM Sectors 1 and 4 -- which are connected to the fringes of the region through just a few transit node junctions across the Hades Gulf. Those areas are mostly glasslands now, but there are a few intact colonies including ones established post-war (not all of them officially sanctioned, but we have more pressing worries at the moment than chasing after every Outer eager to plant their flag on a new dirtball).
We can only speculate that the only reason the Covenant didn't find us sooner, or on this side of our sphere to begin with, is that their expansion in the Siakar region slowed down nearly a millennium ago and since then, their hazy frontier, the buffer zone between what they regarded as 'civilized' and 'uncivilized' space, kept pushing outward only in small increments rather than the leaps made in the earlier centuries. The reasons for this are manifold, and I won't be going into all of them. One is the vastness of space; another was the complexity of the Covenant's expansion and colonization processes. A giant such as them moves sluggishly, and since just shy of a millennium ago, their leadership focused the hegemony's concerted expansion efforts in other directions -- due in part to the nav hazards and inefficient, knotted slipspace lanes they started to encounter in the area. This didn't, of course, preclude expansion by smaller units within the empire, or outward expeditions -- such as the unpleasantness at Harvest that started all this.
Covenant colonization favored an "island model" whereby they first charted and established an efficient spacelane to a system, then spread out to nearby systems around that hub -- usually both a center of commerce and military power -- to set up secondary colonies as well as to launch artifact-hunting missions. The hub systems, usually located in systems nearest to major slipspace transit nodes, can often be much further apart than the secondary colonies, and serve as important junctions of interstellar travel. The Covenant's civilian drives usually aren't on the same level as the ones on their capital ships, so this matters a great deal even now. Over time, explorers and prospectors would gradually map out the systems around each hub until they ran into the next "island", and so on; however, colonies were rarely established far outside major routes, and most incursions into those regions were motivated by the search for Forerunner relics. This sort of colonization wasn't always the policy, but it goes a long way toward explaining the clustered nature of their territories. Some, though not nearly all, of the borders of the polities emerging in the post-war era also roughly follow the lines of the old "islands", as proximity also tends to bring with it historical and some cultural relation.
The Covenant's official communications network was organized along similar lines, with localized networks being connected to High Charity via a central high-power comms hub in each Primary Domain and accessible only to the higher levels of the local political and military administration. This system was complemented by a vast array of secondary means of communication, including ship-to-ship information-transfer protocols among Ministry fleets, merchant organizations and commercial guilds, military and/or religious orders, and finally individual spacers. Although high-end FTL communicators were exclusive to governmental authorities, at least in theory, less effective and often localized means were produced commercially, and it was such systems that formed the backbone of day-to-day communications networks across planets, stellar systems and proximate star clusters.
Around 100-200 locations that would otherwise be on the map are absent - either for reasons of clarity and focus, or because of gaps in our knowledge. Most of the locations shown appear to be sites of some importance, as well as other points of interest; even so, the map doesn't show everything. The Elites can be canny even now and they don't trust us with things like most of their strategic sites, such as centers of production, only revealing the locations of key sites we could find out otherwise anyway. Can't say I blame them for not wanting to show all their cards, even in spite of the sheer power disparity between us and them. Other than that, the majority of barren or otherwise insignificant systems obviously aren't labeled unless there's something of interest there, though one would guess plenty of the mining operations and the like have been left out.
The Chikri-Merkaa Conflux is our best-documented polity in that region, and as such we have the best charts on them as well. We're making limited diplomatic headway with a number of independent worlds as well, and unaffiliated spacers have been a promising source of intel on the Skarr Girdle and the rest of the Qleshan Twilight sub-zone. The Golden Compact remains reluctant to share anything, but the Jjaibii Shroud Nexus has been patching up a lot of gaps for us in the area around the Tirn Flux Zone in exchange for trade pacts.
Beyond the Hades Gulf, the naming is entirely Covenant; descriptors are translated where they serve the presentation, but alien proper names are mostly kept intact. The names follow our usual format; i.e. they are a mix of alien proper nouns and English translations, though mostly the former. As a general rule, sites our documentation has previously referenced by the translated English names are also referred to as such in the map. This does create confusion and is far from ideal, but it's not going to change until we coin established translations for the rest (in cases where translations are possible -- many of the Covenant names refer to concepts we have no names for, or derive from words and names in older dialects, etc). In addition, from what we can gather, most of their regional divisions are based on historical and/or political factors, as well as features in higher-dimensional topology, commonly where it affects accessibility (or lack thereof) via slipspace. As our system of dividing space is radically different, perfectly corresponding terminology is not always possible or even desirable. While we have human names for many of the locations that are based on astronomy as opposed to Covenant political or social divisions, they would not serve the context well and are omitted from the main 2-D presentation.
In the following, some additional data is provided for key polities, groups and locations for context:
Concord of the Forward Path: a league of dozens of ex-Covenant polities - from planetary to systemwide to interstellar - united by the Singular Bond, a treaty instated by Arbiter Thel 'Vadam and the Swords of Sanghelios. While many Concord factions closer to the Sangheili core systems are heavily interwoven with the Swords of Sanghelios proper, most of the allied polities in bordering regions such as Siakar are more loosely affiliated and mostly subscribe to a handful of key policies mandated by the Singular Bond. This complex of peripheral allies, which serves the Swords' interests across the outer reaches of ex-Covenant space, is usually referred to as the Outer Vigil.
Chikri-Merkaa Conflux: secular and localized alliance of worlds and habitats largely concerned with trade and mutual security. Interestingly, elements within the government appear to pursue further connectivity and socio-cultural reforms among the member states, though any serious headway is slow due to their distributed nature as well as their loose governing structure. THREAT ASSESSMENT: An Outer Vigil member, the CMC is a formal ally to the UEG, and the most active polity in joint activity in the Siakar Expanse.
Golden Compact: association of feudal lordships governed by a circle of kaidons native to the Hur-Sanak and Hur-Utnai, a pair of fortress worlds that have historically served as the center of governance and military power in this part of the Siakar Expanse. This included the permanent presence of a San'Shyuum official, the Archimandrite Nohk Romna, who was ousted from power in the Great Schism. While perhaps the CMC's closest local ally, the Compact is more militarized and retains stronger vestiges of the Covenant's caste system. THREAT ASSESSMENT: While the Golden Compact's prevailing attitudes toward the UEG are not altogether amiable, their government also considers us a grudging ally - something that is also mandated by their Outer Vigil status.
Jjaibii Shroud Nexus: mercantile league with a moderately powerful, militarized fleet. While the group encompasses several dozen worlds, they bear a closer resemblance to a commercial pact wherein member worlds trade economic independence for common protection, as opposed to being a truly unified polity. THREAT ASSESSMENT: The Nexus has no discernible ideological or religious goals, and elements of the group have engaged in trade with UEG-governed worlds. Unfortunately, their mercenary nature also makes them a potential enabler for hostile factions, and elements of the group are suspected to have engaged in trade with a handful of such groups despite being formally bound by the Singular Bond treaty. Due to this suspect activity, the Nexus remains under surveillance, though there's only so much we can do in the ex-Covenant sphere with assets being prioritized to keep an eye on the actively hostile groups.
Reconciled Paradigm: a "micro-Covenant" consisting of several dozen worlds united by a reformed religious creed, albeit with several major adjustments to fit the revelations as to the nature of the Halos. This renewed faith, spun off from a longstanding local sect of the original Covenant religion, focuses on spiritual improvement (and eventual transcendence) through technology and science, albeit outside the constricting dogma and institutional limitations of the Covenant. THREAT ASSESSMENT: While reconnaissance into the Paradigm's internal dynamics is still ongoing, they appear to lack an interest in the UEG or humanity, being more concerned with not only the reformation and reconciliation of their own faith, but also the consolidation of their power within local space due to internal ideological differences and various rival groups in the region. Despite their ideological differences, the Reconciled recently joined the Singular Bond pact, making them a fringe component of the Outer Vigil and thus an ally by proxy to the UEG. Trade agreements are also upheld to a number of nearby polities, such as the CMC and the Golden Compact.
Skarr Girdle: loose, secular association of roughly two dozen systems mainly inhabited by Kig-Yar, Unggoy, Jiralhanae and Yanme'e. THREAT ASSESSMENT: While disorganized and lacking much commonality outside of loose trade and security pacts, the Skarr Girdle is home to several radical elements sympathetic to the Keepers of the One Freedom, the Conflagrant Host, the Guardians of the Consecrated Chalice, as well as various micro-factions. The governing bodies that comprise the Girdle are passive on a strategic scale, though they seem to have engaged in multiple border skirmishes with various outlying independent worlds; they are also largely ineffective at policing criminal elements within their borders. Due to their disorganized nature as well as their frequent local conflicts, the Girdle itself is unlikely to attempt any serious incursions as far as human territory.
Yzen Bulwark: unremarkable coalition of Sangheili-governed worlds who challenged the rule of the Golden Compact in its formative months, largely for historical reasons. THREAT ASSESSMENT: the Bulwark presents no discernible threat to the UEG. Their quarrel is with nearby Sangheili worlds as well as the Sangheili middle-core systems, an ideological and/or territorial conflict somewhat comparable to our Insurrection (but evidently much more ancient and complex). Most recently, several worlds in the region have experienced debilitating famines after being cut off from agricultural worlds that used to supply them - a relatively common problem for smaller factions with no allies in the ex-Covenant sphere.
Keepers of the One Freedom: a religious terrorist-militant warlord coalition comprising an extensive network of cells in both human and Covenant-held space, led by Jiralhanae "dokabs". THREAT ASSESSMENT: The Keepers are notable, albeit not altogether unique, among post-Covenant groups thanks to their acceptance of humans into their ranks- a reversion to the Covenant's pre-9th Age of Reclamation doctrine of assimilation rather than extermination. Unfortunately, this does not make them tolerant of the UEG, which they, indeed, consider an "infidel" regime along with virtually every other polity that does not subscribe to the Keepers' particular brand of Forerunner worship. Due to their presence in the Outer Colonies, they are considered one of the more acute threats the UNSC at the moment.
Sons of Heaven: a religious militant polity, somewhat comparable to the Keepers of the One Freedom albeit with a Sangheili leadership, different doctrinal bent and more entrenched presence on Covenant worlds in this part of ex-Covenant space. THREAT ASSESSMENT: while most of their hostile activity is centered on the Siakar Expanse and the secular and/or religiously unorthodox ex-Covenant polities there, the Sons have declared themselves an enemy of the Unified Earth Government. While they are evidently willing to accept human converts (c.f. the Keepers), they have conducted incursions into the fringes of the human sphere and give no quarter toward those who refuse to submit to their rule.
Storm of Faith: a highly mobile religious terrorist group born out of a break-off cell of the Sons of Heaven; the source of the clique's disagreement appears to have been the Storm's dissatisfaction with the Sons' relative leniency in a number of religious minutiae. As a result, the two groups have a great deal of bad blood between them, and have come to blows several times. Recently, the Storm has attempted to deepen their ties to the Covenant group led by Jul 'Mdama, and have received more impressive equipment and other resources as a result. THREAT ASSESSMENT: While still mainly an issue to nearby ex-Covenant polities, the Storm of Faith also seemingly subscribes to the former Covenant's dogma regarding humans. With their mobility and ferocious hit-and-run tactics, the Storm should be considered a threat to outlying Orion-side human worlds.
The Eternal Covenant: an unremarkable polity in the grand scheme of things, the Eternal Covenant is one of many small and largely localized factions to attempt to reform the Covenant under the leadership of a handful of local Sangheili warlords. THREAT ASSESSMENT: While it seized most of its current territory with an initial, aggressive expansion phase, the Eternal Covenant appears to have lost its initial momentum and has grown passive over the past two years, even on a local scale. Due to recurring skirmishes with other factions within the Ikket'hai Bloc, a lack of significant alliances, as well as a domino effect resulting from the near-breakdown of supply chains to their worlds, it is suspected that both their resources and general morale have either run out or are at the risk of doing so in the immediate future, making them extremely unlikely to present a threat to the UEG.
The Third Severance: an outlying mixed-species polity borne of a conflict that occurred less than six months ago, we have woefully little intelligence on this one, or the Cleft region in general. What little we do have suggests the region is unstable and war-torn due to developments in the Schism, and whatever borders the often temporary groups there have remain in constant flux. THREAT ASSESSMENT: The Third Severance is unstable, but any conflict they are engaged in appears to be localized to the Cleft. However, little can be said at the moment of their wider ambitions, or stance toward humans or the UEG.
The Conflagrant Host: while our intelligence remains patchy, they appear to be a group of glorified pirates largely focused on raiding worlds in the fringes of the Siakar Expanse. THREAT ASSESSMENT: While no doubt hostile, the Conflagrant Host's activity so far has been confined largely to a 100-LY bubble in the Kelsac Periphery. It remains to be seen whether they will manage to establish themselves as a proper group or be eradicated or splintered like so many others like them.
The Guardians of the Consecrated Chalice: a relatively small band of ostensibly religious raiders and pirates under the leadership of a Kig-Yar shipmistress notably in possession of a Forerunner assembler apparatus -- the titular "chalice", which has enabled them access to various forms of exotic technology, making them formidable for their relatively small numbers. THREAT ASSESSMENT: The Guardians are largely confined to the Covenant sphere and the Kelsac Periphery in particular, but unconfirmed sightings of their vessels have been reported in the waystation systems of the Hades Gulf. Were they to expand their operations to human worlds, they would present a non-negligible threat due to their possession of Forerunner technology.
The Empyrean Dominion: Led by the Unggoy known as Huhnub the Blessed, the Empyrean Dominion is a motley assortment of several hundred space vehicles of wildly varying kind gathered around New High Charity, a centuries-old Favorable Winds-class cargo barge converted into a makeshift mobile habitat. THREAT ASSESSMENT: Despite their lofty religious trappings and the seemingly genuine vision of their founder and his immediate followers, most of them are little more than raiders and assorted low-lifes, and some governments actually pay them to keep them away from their system where they lack the ability (or willingness) to deter their approach with threats of force. So far, the Empyrean Dominion has kept to the Covenant sphere, and our intel suggests their current trajectory will take them on a curve through the outer regions back toward the ex-Covenant core systems. Were they to attempt crossing into the human sphere, they would become a major nuisance if not necessarily an outright threat.
Djyrn Ultimatum: according to our sources (mainly in the CMC), so far the Djyrn Ultimatum appears to be one in a line of several short-lived, unaffiliated military-governmental entities in the powder keg of the Ikket'hai Bloc. Their ideology or goals remain a mystery at the moment, pending further intelligence. THREAT ASSESSMENT: Their activity so far suggests that the 'Djyrn Ultimatum's influence is largely local, and that they may have reached the extent of the territory they can realistically hold, though some evidence suggests ambitions far more grandiose. Ships identified as theirs have been sighted as far as the Koor-Zaan Stream, but by and large they appear to be confined to the Covenant sphere.
Raruk Warpack: very little intelligence is available on this group at the moment beyond scattered mentions; however, they are assumed to be an assortment of pirates and raiders predominantly composed of Jiralhanae and organized according to their tribal hierarchy. THREAT ASSESSMENT: The Raruk Warpack appears to be highly localized, as the few mentions of them are centered on a single region less than fifty light-years in radius. It is unlikely that they present an immediate threat to UEG worlds or shipping lanes at this time, though further reconnaissance is ongoing.
The Divine Lights: a localized warlord clique of religious fanatics following a highly specific doctrine, evidently one at odds with the other religious groups operating in the region. Currently, they appear to be based in some of the minor colonies or uninhabited systems bordering the Sarsi Void, a nav hazard zone regarded by the Covenant as sacred. THREAT ASSESSMENT: What little we have suggests the Divine Lights can be considered a non-factor to the UEG. Any and all sightings or encounters with the group have been localized to the Gzibahr Strait and the outward regions of the Jjaibii Shroud, with the Golden Compact having engaged them several times near their shipping lanes.
Many of the less established factions or smaller militant groups are difficult to place on a map as they tend to keep on the move. Even if they establish bases, we have very little to no intel on their deployments that far out. Even most of the borders of the larger groups shown are approximate at best, and may not be up to date with the present situation.
Kelsac Periphery: the hazy fringe of Covenant space in Siakar, where, over a roughly 200-300-light-year span, what they consider "civilized" worlds gradually thin out and uncharted space begins. During the Covenant's reign, many fringe elements such as pirates and anti-centralization dissidents called the area home; there were parts of the vast Covenant frontier where rogue worlds, systems or even entire interstellar groupings existed for decades or centuries effectively outside High Council authority, only to be re-assimilated as the Covenant's slow but inexorable expansion front reached them. Indeed, a notable number of the conflicts the Covenant experienced were focused on the re-integration of break-off elements such as these. During the war, the Covenant took significant steps to pacify the immediate region surrounding the sliplanes their expeditionary fleets used to assault the human sphere. Since the Covenant lacked formal maps of their far-flung frontiers for the most part, it is likely that there are dozens or more sites of activity in the Hades Gulf we don't know of.
Hades Gulf: a several-hundred-light-year buffer zone of mostly uninhabited space between the human and ex-Covenant spheres. The Gulf's status as a key crossing region was first discovered during the Covenant War based on AI-processed data on outlying Covenant colonies by means of siphoning Covenant data systems, deep-space probes, as well as outlying super-telescopes. At the time, it was flagged as one of two primary viable avenues for retaliatory strikes into Covenant territory (i.e. ones that did not rely on Covenant slipspace transit). In the post-war era, it has become one of the hotspots for new human colonies as well as Joint-Occupation Zone activity.
Chikri-Merkaa Strand: loosely defined as the region of stars between and in vicinity of the Chikri and Merkaa systems, of which the latter is purely a historical inclusion as that system has not had any major significance for hundreds of years since the civil conflict known as the First Discordance at Siakar. The Merkaa system's primary world, Jai Shua, was once a key center of culture and military power to rival the CMC's current capital world, Radiant Zenith, but they had the misfortune of having picked the wrong side in the war - eventually leading to the world's utter ruination. Now only sand-blasted ruins of past glory remain, and not many set foot on the world as it is rumored to be haunted.
Apex Firmament: a collection of several hundred stars neighboring the Chikri-Merkaa Strand, the so-called Firmament has historically been a key seat of governmental and military power in the Siakar Expanse - something that has enabled the current Golden Compact to establish itself as one of the key players in the region.
Jjaibii Shroud: a diffuse nebula home to several dozen colonies, staging areas and military depots, most of which were established by the Covenant during the war. While largely considered a remote backwater up until now, in the post-war era, the Jjaibii Shroud Nexus' consolidation of power in the spaceport known as the Rift, as well as the gradual opening up of trade to the human sphere, have made the area considerably more significant than before as a center of commerce. The Shroud's lack of well-established power structures, especially in the wake of the Great Schism, also made it easier for the Nexus to seize control of major infrastructure in the nebula.
Hark'azai Curtain: a grouping of stars that gets its name from a local supernova remnant, the Hark'azai Curtain was one of the Covenant's fleet attack routes during the war, alongside the Jjaibii Shroud. Considered a backwater by Covenant standards, it is an unstable region home to many small pirate bands and factions of variable repute. Despite this, access to the Gulfstream Route provided by the nearby Ouras Transit Node, as well as the secondary trade routes running to the Hezzaggor Verge make it moderately active.
Resrili-Lyhk Wastes & the Tirn Flux Zone: the Wastes get their name from the two dozen worlds there ravaged during and after the Great Schism. Now, they are politically unstable areas home to numerous unaffiliated worlds and unchecked pirate activity around shipping lanes, and the disruption of trade routes and the destruction of food production centers or supply convoys has led to enormous famines and the collapse of social order across entire worlds. Most recently, the Jjaibii Shroud Nexus has been making headway into pacifying several routes used by their trade convoys in the region, but it may be decades if not centuries before the region sees true stability.
Emerald Sea & the Koor-Zaan Stream: these regions are mixed in their makeup between several early colonies from prior to the early civil wars at Siakar, nearly a millennium ago, as well as more recent worlds colonized after many of the older worlds faded in their prominence due to the fallout of the conflicts and the redirection of trade routes. However, the area still houses many significant centers of trade, among them the Kig-Yar nestworld Cii'hith and the venerable colony of Jedrine, which, despite being long past its prime, still houses the major fringe trade port of the Kjuze Nexus.
Vantage of the Seven: in the 11th Age of Discovery, seven warlords established lookouts around stars in this region to serve as a new line of fortress worlds to supply and secure the Covenant's further outward expansion. This never came to pass, however, with the devastation of the First Discordance at Siakar. Most of the seven systems fell to decline, never to regain their former glory. During the Human-Covenant War, however, the ancient fortress of the Sentinel of the Far Distance in the Odleett system was refitted and repurposed to serve the war effort; furthermore, the Serpent's Eye trade port, which had arisen in the system in the intervening centuries, has now become a bustling waystation for trade with the increasing activity along the Pleiades Corridor.
Telke's Oblivion: over half a millennium ago, the explorer Mehar 'Telke led an expedition to this stellar group in hopes of charting a safe slipspace lane around the Kelsac Chasm, but his reach exceeded his grasp. He and his crew set out with great fanfare and celebration from the citadels of Jedrine, but nothing was heard from him since several cycles of reports. It was presumed that his ship was most likely lost in the vagaries of the Kelsac Chasm, the very anomaly he had attempted to circumnavigate. Other, more creative theories were offered as well- which, in turn, served as fodder for widespread spacer superstitions and rumors about the region.
Refuge of the Forsaken: this distant star cluster was so named because it long served as a safe haven for rogues who fled from the Jakuuro Sedition in the 19th Age of Doubt. Not all of the rebels were ever successfully hunted down by fleets of the Covenant, and it is suspected that their descendants still remain and may thrive in the shadows of those stars, or may have escaped yet further into unknown space. What is known, however, is that the region is now home to many micro-factions, though most of the few established worlds there are either independent or seemingly lawless. Either way, even the ex-Covenant know very little about the further-flung worlds there, and there have even been occasional unconfirmed sightings of strange species in the area.
Djahat Cyclone: deriving it name from Kig-Yar mythology, it is a dense star cluster most notably colonized by Kig-Yar, Yanme'e and various other "lesser" species of the former Covenant relatively recently, with not all of the colonies there being entirely sanctioned by the relevant ministries. Now, it serves as one of the disparate centers of commerce and power for the Skarr Girdle, along with worlds even further out in the Qleshan Twilight.
Ragheb's Sanctum: during the 16th Age of Conflict, the worlds of this stellar cluster, under the protection of Regional Lord Ragheb 'Saan, sheltered many refugees outbound from the wars at Iabuze. However, the base world of Sundered Hearts, the cluster's main center of power, has lost much of its luster in the past centuries and many of its ancient monuments were devastated in the Great Schism. Despite this, it has managed to keep its status as an important waystation for travelers along Siakar's secondary trade routes.
Jaht Desolation: a region of glassed or otherwise devastated worlds that marks old scars, dating back to conflicts hundreds of years ago. Now mostly pirates and low-lives call home those worlds and outposts that are still hospitable. However, the empty worlds - along with the hazard zone of the Broiling Deep - create a buffer zone between the Chikri-Merkaa Conflux and the more unstable systems of the Tirn Flux Zone.
The Ikket'hai Bloc: named after the local star cluster known to the Covenant as the Cascade of Ikket'hai (itself named after an ancient Sangheili constellation), the Bloc is an unstable collection of small polities - many of them on the sub-planetary scale - that exist in some semblance of a symbiotic relationship with one another, united by little more than a general hostility for their larger, better-connected neighbors. However, their bonds are weak and often severed as allegiances change, making the entire region rife with conflict.
TRADE ROUTES AND SLIPLANES:
- Pleiades Corridor: also known as the Gulfstream Trade Route in commercial circles in the post-war era, the Pleiades Corridor is a major slipspace lane between the human and ex-Covenant spheres, receiving its name from the conspicuous star cluster located in the vicinity of one of the route's major transit nodes. The route was originally charted by the Covenant during the war as a secondary channel of entry into the human sphere, with many supply facilities established in strategic systems along the way. Now, those same facilities mostly serve traders, migrants and other travelers journeying between the two civilizations' territories, and are, by and large, under the control of Concord-aligned groups. This makes the Corridor one of the most stable and secure sliplanes between the human and Covenant spheres, despite at least two other routes further coreward being shorter.
- The Gentle Trail: one of the primary slipspace superhighways in Siakar, running all the way from the Jjaibii Shroud to the dense stellar clusters of Iabuze and the outlying Sea of Whispers beyond, the Gentle Trail is named as such for the advantageous slipspace eddies therein as well as a robust support infrastructure, though many areas along the trail are no longer as safe for unwary travelers as they used to be during the Covenant's reign.
- The Promised Passage: while its exact origins have been lost to time, it is traditional wisdom among the Sangheili of Glorious Proclamation that the Promised Passage was first navigated and charted by the refugee flotilla from the disaster-ravaged colony of Vaal Skettar over 1,500 years ago, before they finally settled on Glorious Proclamation; however, there are several competing claims among the various peoples of the region. Nevertheless, it remains one of the key trade routes to Siakar and the one most commonly used by those bound for the middle and inner core systems of the former Covenant. It was - and remains - popular among pilgrims traveling from deeper within the Covenant's former empire to the holy sites of the Siakar Expanse.
- Jahkuur Channel: a branch of the Gentle Trail originally charted as a shortcut to the then-newly colonized stars of the Jahkuur Annex, it now additionally serves those traveling to or from the Qleshan Twilight and the Saarkai Rim beyond.
- Brigands' Run: located in the peripheral regions of the former Covenant, the Brigands' Run was once a "secret" sliplane known only to the most seasoned smugglers and pirates, and was exceedingly efficient for circumventing local patrol fleets. It has been part of mainstream star charts for over a century, but retains its questionable reputation due to the large amounts of pirates and lawless settlements along the way, and only the best-defended spacers usually try to attempt to traverse it.
- Path of Perils: beginning as an unsanctioned "shortcut" route mainly serving the inhabitants of Ragheb's Sanctum and the Terbiin Strip, the Path of Perils was long regarded as a treacherous one to travel due to the nearby slipspace anomaly of the Udnurthi Gap, though nowadays the risks are alleviated by the near-ubiquity of accurate maps of the area.
ANOMALIES AND HAZARDS:
As far as we know, most of the hazard zones, outlined on the map in red, are slipspace anomalies, either naturally occurring or, more commonly, related to active Forerunner technology ranging from Line Installations to Sentinel networks. The Covenant typically regarded such zones as sacred areas which mortals - no matter how pious - had been barred from entering by the Forerunners. More specific intel is available on the following:
- The Kelsac Chasm is a relatively large "slow zone" which impedes normal slipspace travel. While such areas can be navigated, they tend to cause drive malfunctions and occasionally force ships out of slip at random. The use of a skilled navigator is nearly a requirement for a successful passage, and even then, most Covenant spacers avoid such zones. However, pirates and other fringe groups base their operations within secret routes in zones such as the Kelsac Chasm, making them notoriously difficult to hunt down by authorities unaware of said routes. It is presently unknown whether the Chasm is of natural or artificial origin, but its irregular nature suggests the former.
- The Thesyma Knot is a slipspace "logjam zone" of unknown extent. Most of the local transit nodes or jump points open up into treacherous higher-dimensional angles, often trapping unwary spacers on loops or seemingly nonsensical vectors within the Knot; a skilled navigator is often required to guide a ship out of the region.
- The Udnurthi Gap is an area of low stellar density that exhibits anomalous properties in the higher dimensions of slipspace. While not impassable, the Gap has a tendency of increasing strain on slipspace drives or heightening the temporal variance experienced by ships in-slip, causing most spacers to avoid it.
- The Broiling Deep largely resembles the Udnurthi Gap in its properties and effects.
- The Iirloht Vortex is a curious "slow zone" where the anomalous effects increase toward the center of the ring-shaped formation. This is suspected to be due to an active Forerunner installation of unknown nature, though no such installation has evidently been discovered in the area.
- The Eye of Lyhk is a relatively small logjam zone similar in its properties to the Thesyma Knot.
- The Sarsi Void, formerly known as the Sacred Void of Sarsi, is almost certainly a no-slip zone imposed by an active Line Installation. Any ships entering the area will be forced out of slipspace and destroyed. While no longer hallowed by most inhabitants of the neighboring Golden Compact, the area is nonetheless avoided for very practical reasons.
This is beyond anything I ever imagined, both in details and in quality. I can see so many stories in this map and its description.
I'm so happy I could cry... ok, I'm actually crying. Thank you so much for this.
In my own fanon version of Halo, the ONI launched a vast reconnaissance mission named OPERATION MAGELLAN and send a great number of its prowlers to try charting the covenant space. I try to imagine the face of the UNSC Security Counsel members when they received the first reports and realized how big their enemy is...
I could probably do that for free, considering it would only involve removing the faction borders and the conflict zone indicators, which would only take a few minutes (if there are no more drastic changes).
I'm still thinking I might update this map as well with more informative icons on worlds based on their importance (e.g. fortress worlds, major population/industrial centers, etc). I do have a kind of logic with the size of the dots but it could be clearer.
I also tried to use colors to identify pirates of lawless worlds, heretic secret forteresses, sacred worlds (with major forerunner relic), etc. But all of this was in a pre-schism era.
There is definitly something that can be done in that direction. I'm sure you can find a way to make something even more amazing.