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This article is about the Covenant capital city. For other uses of "High Charity", see High Charity (disambiguation).
High Charity, often referred to as the Holy City, was the Covenant's mobile capital city and center of government, and was effectively the collective's united homeworld. It was a massive space station, home to billions of individuals from each of the Covenant's member species. Because it served as the Covenant's most significant religious center and capital, High Charity was considered to be of utmost importance and sanctity to the Covenant. It was widely believed that true adherents to the Covenant religion should visit it at least once in one's lifetime, although few of the Covenant could afford to do so. Home to the Hierarchs and the High Council, the city was full of San'Shyuum and Sangheili High Councilors, who functioned as the general leadership of the entire alien hegemony. Throughout the history of the empire, High Charity "gorged on the wealth of hundreds of worlds."
Design and construction
High Charity was a massive mushroom-shaped structure, roughly 348 kilometers in diameter. It was partially constructed from an enormous chunk of rock that had been blasted away from Janjur Qom by the Forerunner Dreadnought. The rest of the superstructure was built around it. Inside the hollow dome of the station was a massive multi-leveled city, and within the foundation rock, which served as a structural support, was a honeycomb structural pattern of hangar bays and weapons platforms. The dome itself was overlaid with a strident energy shield known as "Plaon's Gaze". This shield was powered by minerals extracted from the titular moon Plaon that orbited Janjur Qom. Surrounding the open nave at the dome's crest was the high seat of the Prophets known as the "Fount of Light". The dome itself was called the Skin of the First Worlds and was made of dirt from the homeworld of every member species in the Covenant as a symbolic statement of unity and common purpose among the various Covenant members.
An "artificial star" at the peak of the dome simulated natural sunlight within the city, and its glow would periodically dim and intensify to simulate day and night cycles. A typical day on High Charity was roughly comparable to 265 units, or one cycle (equivalent to 265 Earth hours). The interior artificial environment on the station was Earth-like, with a generated gravity of 0.95 G, a nitrogen-oxygen-argon atmosphere of 1.03 atmospheres and a temperature range of 10 °C to 24 °C (50 °F to 75 °F). The "stalk" beneath the dome was a mass of some 8,930 semi-rigid umbilical docking tethers.
The station received the majority of its power from the Forerunner Dreadnought, the ship at the center of the city. The city was completely powered by the engines of the decommissioned Forerunner vessel. The Dreadnought's engines were powerful enough to run the city on a fraction of their potential output. However, the station also possessed a set of backup auxiliary reactors that were capable of generating enough power for slipspace travel. Known as the Founts, these paled in comparison from power from the Dreadnought's engines. For propulsion, the station was pushed along by the Wings of Malygus, while the Sefom Invictus allowed it to enter and exit slipspace. Both of these systems are Forerunner artifacts of some form.
The Golden City
In the internal hub of High Charity lay an extremely large capital city with a population of just over 23,800,000 San'Shyuum citizens and 7.7 billion Covenant Menials, known as the Golden City. Many of these were permanent residents, with billions of individuals who were born here dying without setting foot on other worlds. At the center sat the Forerunner Dreadnought, embedded within the city after the formation of the Covenant as a symbol of conviction and peace between the Sangheili and the San'Shyuum.
The city itself contained many locations sacred to the Covenant such as the High Council Chamber, the Sanctum of the Hierarchs and the Mausoleum of the Arbiter. As a construct, High Charity shared some similarities with Unyielding Hierophant, a repair and refit station, though it also served as a mobile command post. Unlike many small Covenant vessels and their UNSC counterparts, High Charity contained many courtyards and other non-essential spaces which gave the station a terrestrial feel. The interior of High Charity was filled with the Covenant's unique architecture, of a lighter tone than their naval vessels. All of the structures within the city floated above a methane-rich field in which the millions of High Charity's Unggoy dwelled. The massive towers around the dome were gigantic spires of volcanic rock from the city's base, interwoven with metal supports and covered with decorative alloy. They were used by the San'Shyuum as offices and private residences. Further in the bedrock of the planetoid were subterranean warrens, which served as living quarters for the Sangheili and were nearly airtight and self-sufficient.
Along the outer wall on the inside of High Charity were several towers, each containing their own rooms and hallways. Two of these towers were referred to by Cortana as the Mid Tower and the Far Tower. Most of these towers were connected to the two surrounding towers by the Hanging Gardens and the Valleys of Tears, but the towers containing the High Council Chamber and the Mausoleum of the Arbiter were both notably only connected to the sections between them. Hanging far above the Mausoleum of the Arbiter was a part of the Sanctum of the Hierarchs, a large chamber decorated with shards of glass from worlds glassed by the Covenant. The districts located within the towers were collectively known as the Tower Districts, while the regions below them were referred to as the lower districts. The lower districts were home to most of High Charity's vast Unggoy population, as well the vast Assembly Forges where Covenant war matériel was produced. Populations of Kig-Yar and San'Shyuum were also native to the lower districts.
Grand Estates and Hive Vaults
Beyond High Charity's outer districts were floating city-stations that housed tens of millions of Covenant citizens according to their place in the rigid caste system.
The Unbreakable Spine was the long boom that trailed behind the holy city, where the Lances of the Faithful were mounted. It was here where the inner reaches of High Charity laid, which has been made inaccessible millennia ago.
Spires of Gifting
The Spires of Gifting is the collective name for hundreds of docking platforms and spires that received merchants, tithe-fleets, and emissaries from a thousand Covenant worlds. Essentials for the city-station, such as food, water, and workers were imported from outside sources from here, while manufactured goods, warships, and bureaucrats flowed away from the construct. There were at least two distinct ports that make up the Spires. The first is the bustling and ornately decorated Window of Valen, which serviced ships that had come from Sanghelios. The second are the dreaded Shadowport umbilicals that were used by infusion smugglers and heretical cultists.
Considered to be the largest and most capable manufacturing plants in all the Covenant, High Charity's Assembly Forges were a series of Forges and refineries that laboured to meet the demands of the Covenant's citizens, fleets, and armies.
High Charity was surrounded at all times by its own defense fleet, which consisted of hundreds of battleships, carriers and cruisers. Some of the biggest fleets in the entire Covenant armada defended the city, such as the Second Fleet of Homogeneous Clarity. It was also capable of refitting and housing thousands of vessels ranging in size from personal fliers to cruisers on its umbilical docks and within its internal hangar bays. Hidden within the station's founding bedrock were carefully shielded weapons platforms which boasted firepower unrivaled by even the largest Covenant battleships. High Charity itself was equipped with 32 superheavy plasma lances or equivalent, as well as 1900 plasma beam emitters or their equivalent. In addition, hundreds of weapon cores known as the Lances of the Faithful, salvaged from salvaged Forerunner god-machines over the centuries, were attached to the long boom which trailed the holy city. Energy shielding was provided by an as-yet uncategorized Sangheili artifact known as the Pavise of Urs.
In addition to its enormous defense fleet and impressive firepower, it was also guarded by a rapid detection network of slipspace probes. Anything larger than a millimeter in diameter that drifted too close was engaged and obliterated, including ships that failed to transmit the proper clearance codes within a millisecond of being hailed. The clearance codes that granted access to High Charity's space were also updated on an hourly basis.
Despite its considerable defenses, High Charity was unable to prevent the Flood from infiltrating its interior due to the Covenant civil war. The Flood-captured UNSC In Amber Clad made a precise slipspace jump into the interior of the station, bypassing the station's defenses.
Long before the formation of the Covenant, the San'Shyuum Schism between the Reformists and the Stoics ended when the Forerunner Dreadnought launched from the San'Shyuum homeworld, Janjur Qom. The ship's launch ripped a huge chunk of rock from the planet in the process, which was carried with the Dreadnought during its escape. This chunk would later form the foundation of High Charity.
The construction of High Charity began shortly after the alliance of the San'Shyuum and Sangheili with the ratification of the Writ of Union following the War of Beginnings. High Charity became the capital of the newborn Covenant; a physical representation of the alliance between the two species. While the holy city's construction was underway by 850 BCE in the First Age of Reconciliation, some sources date its construction to around 791 BCE in the human calendar. Led by Minister of the Hearth Laka Mowai and the First Assembled Choir of Builders, the builders of the city-station were collectively known as the Supernal Chorus. The Forerunner Dreadnought was stripped of all known weapons and permanently installed inside the center of High Charity, its engines providing power to the entire station. The station's construction lasted for over two centuries; the dome was not yet fully erected by the time of the Taming of the Lekgolo in 784 BCE. While the dome was under construction by both organic and robotic labor, the city was gradually settled, its atmosphere held in by forcefields. High Charity was formally commissioned in 648 BCE, coinciding with the San'Shyuum leadership's announcement to the Covenant that their original homeworld had been devastated by its star going supernova; thus the city-station also became the surrogate homeworld of the San'Shyuum.
Due to many years of peace for the Covenant, the growing Unggoy population on High Charity forced many of the Kig-Yar to relocate their homes and nests. The relocation caused stress for female Kig-Yar that were going through their incubation cycles, and Kig-Yar infant mortality rose on High Charity and the birth rate declined. In response, radical Kig-Yar shipmasters poisoned the Unggoy infusion supply, leading to the sterilization of many male Unggoy. After the Ministry of Concert failed to act accordingly, the Unggoy revolted on High Charity. Eventually, the rebellion was put down when an Arbiter partially glassed Balaho. Prior to the Human-Covenant War in 2525, High Charity was almost destroyed when the Forerunner Dreadnought was powered up by Mendicant Bias, who was galvanized by the discovery of "Reclaimers" by the Covenant. Bias attempted to reach Harvest to transport the occupants to the Ark. It was inadvertently deactivated by a Lekgolo who were used by the Covenant to probe the Dreadnought's machinery; a worm short-circuited the ship during the launch sequence. In the aftermath of Operation: SILENT STORM, Fleetmaster Nizat 'Kvarosee was summoned to High Charity to explain himself where he noticed a massive fleet gathering to strike at humanity. During the discussion, the Hierarchs decide to relocate High Charity due to the possible danger of ONI finding it.
The Sacred Rings and the Great Journey
Upon the discovery of Installation 04 by the Covenant, High Charity was supposed to perform a slipspace jump to the ring along with its fleet, where the Hierarchs would activate the ring to send the Covenant on the Great Journey. The Fleet of Particular Justice, led by then Supreme Commander Thel 'Vadamee, had already made its way to the ring while chasing the Halcyon-class light cruiser UNSC Pillar of Autumn, but they were unaware of the Flood's presence on the installation, and did not expect interference from the UNSC. When High Charity and its fleet arrived at Threshold, they found that both Installation 04 and most of the Fleet of Particular Justice had been utterly destroyed.
After fleeing from Earth to Installation 05, the High Prophet of Regret sent the coordinates of the Halo ring to High Charity. The planetoid and its fleet arrived just in time to watch John-117 and a group of Marines assassinate Regret. It then held position over Installation 05 until hostilities erupted between the Sangheili and the Jiralhanae, as the Great Schism began in November 2552.
Fall of High Charity
At the same time, the Flood made their own entrance, using the captured UNSC In Amber Clad to perform a slipspace jump into the interior of High Charity, bypassing its exterior defenses. Once inside, the Flood used Pelican dropships to spread both combat and carrier forms around the city. The Flood ravaged the Jiralhanae and Sangheili forces, who were already embroiled in conflict. John-117 was unfortunately caught in the middle of the battle, but eventually managed to escape.
Eventually, High Charity's Dreadnought took off, with both the Prophet of Truth and John-117 inside, leaving Cortana behind to detonate the crashed In Amber Clad's reactors to destroy the city which in turn would destroy Installation 05 if Tartarus activated it. Remaining loyalist and separatist forces either evacuated from the city—likely to be destroyed by the Sangheili quarantine fleet—or were consumed by the Flood, as they overwhelmed all remaining opposition in the city. The Gravemind took complete control of the Sanctum of the Hierarchs, using the High Council Chamber itself as his "throne room". The Gravemind made drastic modifications to the former holy city in order to enable it to function without the Keyship that used to power it and to more effectively act as a carrier of the Flood parasite by altering and optimizing the native Covenant technology as well as applying its Precursor-derived knowledge.
Quarantine of High Charity
As High Charity and Installation 05 rapidly fell to the Flood, a massive battle between Sangheili- and Jiralhanae-held ships continued in the space around the city. The Sangheili eventually succeeded in driving away the Jiralhanae, or they possibly retreated on orders from Truth to assist in the conquest of Earth. However, this led to the fall of High Charity to the Flood under the command of the Gravemind, who planned to use the station as a mobile base. Through his capture of High Charity, he gained access to a significant number of ships. He sent one infected cruiser to Africa, with the intent of infesting all of Earth.
The Sangheili fleet formed a large perimeter and quarantined High Charity and Installation 05, attempting to prevent the Flood from infesting any other systems. Presumably all Flood ships—except for Indulgence of Conviction—were destroyed, according to a Sangheili Major that was deployed to assist the John-117 and incumbent Arbiter Thel 'Vadam. The pursuing Sangheili ships glassed parts of Africa to prevent further contamination.
After the Battle for Earth, a message from Cortana notified John-117 that the Gravemind was speeding the infested High Charity toward Earth, and that the Portal at Voi led to the Ark. However, Cortana claimed that there was a solution to stopping the Flood on the Ark, one that did not require firing the remaining Halo rings.
On November 18, 2552, High Charity arrived in the Sol system and made a slipspace jump bound for the Ark near Mars at 1545 hours. The Gravemind was able to perform the jump under the city's own power rather than using the Portal at Voi due to the major modifications it had made and its knowledge of the esoteric techniques the Precursors once used. During the Battle of Installation 00 while the combined human and Sangheili forces were attempting to reach the Citadel, High Charity appeared, disgorging Flood dispersal pods—one of which pierced Rtas 'Vadum's CAS-class assault carrier Shadow of Intent—and crashed on the installation, having been weakened by the Gravemind's desperate ad hoc transit measure. Covered with Flood biomass and with the interior transformed into a Flood hive, High Charity was almost unrecognizable.
After stopping Truth from activating the rings, John-117 returned to the Flood-infested High Charity on a mission to retrieve Cortana. After successfully locating and retrieving her, he overloaded High Charity's backup reactor core and maneuvered back through High Charity to meet the Arbiter and reactivate a crashed Pelican dropship to escape the explosion. High Charity was almost completely destroyed in the resulting explosions, with only the outer structure remaining when Installation 08 was fired, its debris showering the inactive installation and the Ark below. The Gravemind managed to escape, and immediately began rebuilding itself on Installation 08.
Three days after the battle, with some of the Flood spores having survived the explosion of High Charity's reactor and the faulty firing of Installation 08, the Ark's monitor 000 Tragic Solitude had the ruined remains of the city sealed off with a containment shield and the Ark's Sentinels raze the perimeter and modify the refugia nearby so that no sentient life would survive in the vicinity, thus depriving the Flood of new host bodies were they ever to escape. Tragic Solitude also set a battalion of Sentinels on patrol around the perimeter, not only to keep the Flood contained, but to defend against any future outsiders who might try to enter the wreckage and thus unleash the Flood.
A mercenary organization known as the Banished were inadvertently responsible for a second Flood outbreak around the rubble of the destroyed High Charity. In early June 2559, after the loss of the Enduring Conviction in the Second Ark Conflict, the Jiralhanae brothers Pavium and Voridus were tasked to salvage the wrecks around High Charity for weapons to use in the conflict with the humans of the UNSC Spirit of Fire. The Banished leader Atriox, aware of the potential danger of the Flood having survived in the city, gave specific orders to only scout the shell and not to go inside lest surviving Flood be disturbed. However, Voridus, like many of the Banished, did not take the threat of the Flood seriously, believing it simply be another lie of the Prophets. Ignoring the warnings of both Atriox and his own brother Pavium, Voridus deactivated the Ark's Sentinel defense network and used a Banished Scarab to burn a hole in the containment shield around the former Covenant holy city. When Voridus' troops entered the wreckage to salvage it, they were ambushed by thousands of Flood infection forms lurking within High Charity which were then set loose upon the Ark. With the Sentinel defense network down, the Flood were left unhindered by the Ark's defense systems.
Pavium quickly assembled a force to rescue his brother, defending against overwhelming Flood forces before finally retreating to meet up with Voridus at a Banished drill site near a Forerunner archive that contained a control terminal for the Sentinel defense network. As the area was honeycombed with fissures filled with unstable explosive power, Pavium managed to use Banished Salvage Drills to start a chain reaction to burn away the majority of the Flood in the area, allowing Voridus to access the archive. Inside, despite heavy Flood resistance, Voridus and his troops managed to reactivate the Sentinel defense network which began to cleanse the Flood. However, by this time, the Flood had created a massive Proto-Gravemind in the area near High Charity that was in danger of becoming a full-fledged Gravemind while the threat from the Flood forced Atriox to pull back from positions he had established to fight the humans. Voridus, Pavium and Banished forces, with the help of the Ark's defenses, in particular a Retriever Sentinel, managed to kill the Proto-Gravemind before it could become a Gravemind.
With the Proto-Gravemind dead, the Flood threat was greatly diminished. Atriox ordered Pavium and Voridus to clean up their mess and the Banished joined a force of thousands of the Ark's Sentinels in containing the Flood outbreak and sealing off High Charity once more.
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