ORIGINALLY POSTED ON MY TUMBLR, April 2015
Reposted without edits, save navigational issues.
Partner piece to First Strike review and analysis.
Remember last time on Arbiter Watch how some updated canon put to rest an old theory regarding the identity of the Arbiter? Well, this time around, some updated canon resurrects a theory long dormant. Welcome again to this companion series to my reading journals, where Thel ‘Vadam(ee) is everywhere if you just look hard enough.
Again, before the revelation of his name in The Cole Protocol, fans were scouring the books to locate hints of who this Arbiter might be. Did we meet him before Halo 2? If so, who is he? Where was he?
The first solid, indisputable mention that we ever get of him in-canon is at the end of First Strike. This book is Nylund’s first foray into the Covenant point of view, and he picks the absolute worst characters to do so. Not that those were bad choices; no, the tone works perfectly. It’s just that Tartarus and the Prophet of Truth are two of the most despicable characters in the Halo universe, and Tartarus gets to use his pet name for Thel ‘Vadam(ee) here:
“‘And what of the incompetent, High One? The one who lost the Ascendant Justice?’” (pp 408).
Initially people took this line and ran all the way back to the bridge of Ascendant Justice where the Master Chief enters into close combat with a Sangheili warrior with whom he is equally matched. Help comes from Johnson pouring a string of bullets into the alien’s side and they kick him out into an escape pod and jettison him from the ship – wounded but still alive.
Could this be the Arbiter? He lost the Ascendant Justice, certainly. However, that ship was not the flagship for the Fleet of Particular Justice. So it was probably that Thel allowed the ship to be lost not through direct combat but through faulty strategy. After all, why would the Fleet Master, Supreme Commander Thel ‘Vadamee be on board any ship other than the flagship?
Because the Minor Prophet is a major pain in the tusch.
“Fleet Master and security strike force prepare to personally board Ascendant Justice to physically remove the Prophet of leadership. … Fleet Master boards Ascendant Justice.” (The Flood Adjunct).
This is the last note made ever of characters going from one ship to the next. Previously in the transcript, there is mention of the Prophet going from this ship to that or the Fleet Master sending this force here. There is time to assume that Thel returned to his initial flagship in the passing of time, but in First Strike, Cortana picks up transmissions of commands from Ascendant Justice and Halo Waypoint itself lists that ship as Thel’s flagship. After all, I assume that the flagship status relies more on the the Fleet Master’s location, not necessarily the physical ship itself.
I think it’s meant to be abundantly clear that yes, Thel ‘Vadamee was on that ship when the Master Chief boarded. And since that Sangheili on the bridge is the only Covenant character to leave The Ascendant Justice alive, I think we’ve got an Arbiter sighting.
And we all know how much Thel loves hand-to-hand tussles with Spartans.
(For proof in Nylund’s writing style as to the Sangheili’s identity, check out the reading journal itself here.)