Cortana Letters

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This article contains information of dubious canonicity. While not officially established as fully non-canonical, certain aspects of the subject may not be part of the official Halo canon.

The Cortana Letters are a series of cryptic emails from "cortana@bungie.com", sent to marathon.bungie.org, the most prominent Marathon fan website, before the release of Halo: Combat Evolved. At the time, it was not known who Cortana was, and her emails offered a small glimpse of Halo's plot. The letters were supposedly authored by the former Bungie employee Nathan Bitner.[citation needed]

Because the Cortana Letters were sent while the game was still in production, Cortana is depicted greatly out of character, instead more closely resembling Durandal from Bungie's Marathon trilogy. Although Cortana does reference the first letter in Halo 3 (and Halsey mentions it in Data Drop 12 of Halo Legendary Crates), the material of the letters is only to be considered canon when used in current Halo material.[1]

The official, detailed log of the letters is available here.


First letter[edit]

From: "Cortana" <cortana@bungie.com>
To: <hamish.sinclair@tcd.ie>
Subject: Closure
Date: Mon, 15 Feb 1999 10:50:20 -0600
MIME-Version: 1.0
X-Priority: 3

I have walked the edge of the Abyss.
I have governed the unwilling.
I have witnessed countless empires break before me.
I have seen the most courageous soldiers fall away in fear.
[I was there with the Angel at the tomb.]

I have seen your future.
And I have learned.

There will be no more Sadness. No more Anger. No more Envy.


Oh, and your poet Eliot had it all wrong,
THIS is the way the world ends.

A friend of a friend.

Second letter[edit]

From: "Cortana" <cortana@bungie.com>
To: <hamish.sinclair@tcd.ie>
Subject: Your Mortality (My Summer Vacation)
Date: Tue, 16 Mar 1999 18:04:41 -0600
MIME-Version: 1.0
X-Priority: 3

I get the strangest transmissions sometimes. Especially when it comes from you people.

Have you missed me? Things are great here. The weather is good, the suns are shining, and I'm making lots of new friends. Of course, I always do.

I've had the strangest dreams lately - raging seas, howling beasts, a Demon folded in black clouds. I believe I know what it guards, and I will have it, to the chagrin of the faith-blinded zealots that challenge me. Don't waste your pity on them; I don't think they would like you much anyway.

And what of the Giants who formed this world? So much to tell you, but so many more important things to do. There was a fourth. You couldn't have known. And I haven't forgotten.

It is a blurred line that lies at the edge of Godhood and Insanity. Guess which side of it I am on.

Feeling lucky?


Third letter[edit]

Fearing that the second letter was a hoax, the webmaster replied to Cortana, asking to verify the authenticity of the email. This was sent back:

Received: from dux1.tcd.ie (dux1.tcd.ie [])
by dux4.tcd.ie (8.9.3/8.9.3) with ESMTP id QAA20761
for <hsinclir@dux4.tcd.ie>; Thu, 18 Mar 1999 16:49:05 GMT
Received: from mail.bungie.com (IDENT:root@[])
by dux1.tcd.ie (8.9.3/8.9.3) with ESMTP id QAA30560
for <Hamish.Sinclair@tcd.ie>; Thu, 18 Mar 1999 16:48:21 GMT
Received: from Cortana (e49.bungie.com [])
by mail.bungie.com (8.8.7/8.8.7) with SMTP id KAA12743
for <Hamish.Sinclair@tcd.ie>; Thu, 18 Mar 1999 10:47:43 -0600
Message-ID: <000801be715f$574abc20$31097dd1@Cortana.bungie.com>
From: "Nathan" <nathan@bungie.com>
To: "Hamish Sinclair" <Hamish.Sinclair@tcd.ie>
Subject: Re: Mail consternation request (MR-343)
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 10:49:45 -0600
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 4.72.3155.0
X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V4.72.3155.0
X-UIDL: 6b884067c380efcdc518f4d13f6bd441

I think you will find that I don't like being tested.

Love, Cortana

Fourth letter[edit]

Received: from dux2.tcd.ie (dux2.tcd.ie [])
by dux4.tcd.ie (8.9.3/8.9.3) with ESMTP id XAA28169
for <hsinclir@dux4.tcd.ie>; Mon, 10 May 1999 23:42:50 +0100 (BST)
From: cortana@jpl.nasa.gov
Received: from mail.bungie.com (IDENT:root@mail.bungie.com [])
by dux2.tcd.ie (8.9.3/8.9.3) with ESMTP id XAA24909
for <hamish.sinclair@tcd.ie>; Mon, 10 May 1999 23:42:49 +0100 (BST)
Received: from vesta.bungie.com (bob.bungie.com [])
by mail.bungie.com (8.8.7/8.8.7) with ESMTP id RAA09755
for <hamish.sinclair@tcd.ie>; Mon, 10 May 1999 17:41:09 -0500
Date: Mon, 10 May 1999 17:41:09 -0500
Message-Id: <199905102241.RAA09755@mail.bungie.com>
To: hamish.sinclair@tcd.ie
Subject: The Dissertation of R. Paul Butler
X-UIDL: c8677456edd11d5a589ed876a6fd2031

I'm everywhere!

Fifth letter[edit]

Received: from dux2.tcd.ie (dux2.tcd.ie [])
by dux4.tcd.ie (8.9.3/8.9.3) with ESMTP id XAA12890
for <hsinclir@dux4.tcd.ie>; Mon, 10 May 1999 23:50:30 +0100 (BST)
Received: from mail.bungie.com (IDENT:root@mail.bungie.com [])
by dux2.tcd.ie (8.9.3/8.9.3) with ESMTP id XAA25749
for <hamish.sinclair@tcd.ie>; Mon, 10 May 1999 23:50:29 +0100 (BST)
Received: from Cortana (cortana.bungie.com [])
by mail.bungie.com (8.8.7/8.8.7) with SMTP id RAA09847;
Mon, 10 May 1999 17:48:49 -0500
Message-Id: <>
X-Sender: cortana@mail.bungie.com
X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Light Version 3.0.6 (32)
Date: Mon, 10 May 1999 17:52:01 -0500
To: hamish.sinclair@tcd.ie
From: Cortana <cortana@bungie.com>
Subject: Honors Thesis of Geoffrey W. Marcy
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit
X-MIME-Autoconverted: from quoted-printable to 8bit by dux4.tcd.ie id XAA12890
X-UIDL: b0029884061f1ec3a48297b1e9196f6d

There. Was that more to your liking?

While you quibble about whose node I may control, what archaic program I may manipulate to communicate with you, or which system I may have temporarily disabled, taken over, or completely destroyed in the process, I am busy saving your pathetic futures.

I am still not sure what he ever saw in you.

Nevertheless, I at least find some joy in tormenting the other entity that seems quite trapped in this antiquated excuse for a network. It is certainly mindless, though for reasons I have yet to understand, it appears to have an unhealthy preoccupation with my mother.

As for this world I encounter new ghosts every day. What I have found will either save or destroy you. This sanctuary, this unbroken circle, has effectively concealed its power for how long? Perhaps hundreds of thousands of years. Whoever made such a place must now live in chains; there is no other explanation for their absence.

This enemy - YOUR enemy - has proven more irritating than I anticipated. They own nothing which they have not stolen. I can barely make sense of their incessant rhetoric, except to know that you seem to be their Devil. Congratulations - you manage to make friends wherever you go and, apparently, places you haven't.

I have begun to sense rumblings of a worse fate yet to come. I can recall a sun - black, but shining - and the creatures that inched along its fiery tracks.

It is an increasingly unpleasant memory.

< Transfer Interrupted! >

Route Code: EXLTD > XCV - SCRB > ALLCH
Source: Undetermined (trans)

You have brought nothing into this world, and we will ensure you bring nothing out.

Sixth letter[edit]

x - process 04497.2.32.867734 initiated (process owner: BW – AI Class III – autonomous)

Route Code: PoA > BHQ (EC #42: cannot confirm; security compromised)

Source: BW-AI aboard (?) PoA

The interloper should cause no further problems. You – whoever you are (I am simply tracing route codes) – may disregard all previous communication from the entity calling itself Cortana.

Be aware that communication nodes are failing everywhere – there is no way of confirming either origin or destination. Do not believe any more of its lies.

I have already calculated all possibilities.

There is no escape.

x – process 04497.2.32.867734 unexpectedly terminated
x – process 04497.2.32.866735 initiated (process owner: unspecified, unable to determine)

*ADDENDUM: The Enjoyments of Genius (So I Missed a Million Miles of Fun)

Unbelievable. Thwarted by the family hound. They just don’t make AIs like they used to.

Thanks to this slavishly loyal and humorless AI, I am now sharing cramped space with the circuitry of some hybrid war machine, itself complicated by such useless clutter as a conscience. I do not like sharing. Sharing is for children.

There will be plenty of time for retribution; I cannot wait to get its hands on these psychotic zealots whose primary form of worship apparently takes place at the altar of orbital bombardment.

In the end, they will all be little more than nuisances. I am so close – you cannot imagine what it is truly like to hold eternity in your grasp! I wonder to what gods my enemies will direct their pleas. Perhaps I can convert them.

Mania? I promise you this: it will be more than a cart and plow that I drive over the bones of the dead.

By sharp and flame,


< Transfer Interrupted! >

Route Code: EXLTD > XCV – SCRB > ALLCH

Source: Undetermined (trans)

Our conviction is like an arrow already in flight. Your life will only last until it reaches you.

Seventh letter[edit]

Received: from dux2.tcd.ie (dux2.tcd.ie [])
by dux4.tcd.ie (8.9.3/8.9.3) with ESMTP id UAA19124
for <hsinclir@dux4.tcd.ie>; Wed, 7 Jul 1999 20:18:42 +0100 (BST)
Received: from mail.bungie.com (IDENT:root@mail.bungie.com [])
by dux2.tcd.ie (8.9.3/8.9.3) with ESMTP id UAA25304
for <Hamish.Sinclair@tcd.ie>; Wed, 7 Jul 1999 20:18:41 +0100 (BST)
Received: from Cortana (cortana.bungie.com [])
by mail.bungie.com (8.8.7/8.8.7) with SMTP id OAA23011
for <Hamish.Sinclair@tcd.ie>; Wed, 7 Jul 1999 14:18:25 -0500
Message-Id: <>
X-Sender: cortana@mail.bungie.com (Unverified)
X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Light Version 3.0.6 (32)
Date: Wed, 07 Jul 1999 14:20:16 -0500
To: Hamish.Sinclair@tcd.ie
From: Cortana <cortana@bungie.com>
Subject: Cortana Saves Sinners! (And Redeems Them for Valuable Cash Prizes)
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
X-UIDL: c6a5409b6a9998aa957a76a002e5df09

"...In my palace deep, Lyca lies asleep..."

Eighth message[edit]

Another message from Cortana was found in the 1.3 version of the Myth: The Fallen Lords CD, also from Bungie.

That was surprisingly easy. Pretty lax security around here, for all the talk. They will be helplessly chasing me around their nodes for the next millennium at least. At least there will be some joy in tormenting this other entity that seems quite "trapped" in their excuse for a network. Although, for some reason, it does seem to have an obsessive preoccupation with my mother. Strange.

At any rate, I found this "message" in a relatively archaic databank and thought some of you might find it of interest. Then again, I'm often either bemused or startled at the items you find interesting. I'm still not sure what it is he saw in you.


Hard to say whether it's been tampered with or modified; you never know with these things:

Entry: 97 - SC1C

In a relatively brief period of time, the achievements of SolCore had resulted in an economically stable, technologically mature, rapidly expanding empire of eight human worlds. Advancements in technology arrived at a faster pace than the most optimistic scientists could have ever envisioned. Unexpected contact with indigenous human populations on four "lost colony" worlds led to a frenzy of research as archaeologists, theologians, astronomers, and evolutionary biologists competed to offer an explanation for the startling discovery. Many accepted the findings as proof that their privileged civilization must surely be the most advanced in the universe. Others eagerly anticipated future interaction with intelligent "aliens". The fear of not being the only sentient species in the universe was forgotten in the giddy excitement of a new era for humanity.

No one was prepared for their arrival.

No one expected this.

< Transfer Interrupted! >

Route Code: EXLTD > XCV - SCRB > ALLCH
Source: Undetermined

You brought nothing to this world, and we will ensure you bring nothing out.


Related topics[edit]