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The Ussans are a faction founded by Ussa 'Xellus in response to the Sangheili signing the Writ of Union with the San'Shyuum to form the Covenant in 852 BCE. The clan lived on Shield World 0673, known to them as the Refuge or the Ussan Refuge, in the Ussan system.
Upon the colony's settling, the Ussans had a population of slightly over 400. By 2552, their numbers had risen to 3,210. In its later days the Ussan colony was affected by a disease known as the Blood Sickness, caused by a malfunction in their protein synthesizers. They were rediscovered by a Covenant separatist resupply ship, Journey's Sustenance, in 2553.
Origins and establishment
With the ratification of the Writ of Union and formation of the Covenant in 852 BCE, the Sangheili and San'Shyuum were united. While many Sangheili were willing to accept the Covenant religion and become the protectors of the San'Shyuum, Kaidon Ussa 'Xellus saw the unification as a craven surrender by his own species to the San'Shyuum. Opposed to accepting the Covenant and its ideals, Ussa publicly announced his dissent towards the empire and warned the citizens of Xellus to not trust the San'Shyuum. In 851 BCE, the Covenant sent attack fighters to the state, and Xellus keep and many of the state's citizens were bombarded by the crafts. Ussa and several hundred of the state's residents, along with several allied clans, fled Xellus and retreated to the isolated Nwari region at Sanghelios' southern pole. Using his clan's funds, Ussa purchased several vehicles and hid them in a nearby dormant volcano to support his rebellion. In order to recruit more allies for his insurgency, Ussa and his wife Sooln traveled to the mining colony of Creck. Meanwhile, the Covenant's Sangheili treaty commission had sent out assassins and spies to track 'Xellus.
After several failed recruitment sessions at the Creck mines, Ussa and Sooln met the elderly 'Crecka. He claimed to know the location of a Forerunner world, Shield World 0673, that Ussa and his followers could use as a place of refuge. Although they were reluctant to trust him, they eventually had 'Crecka take them to the shield world, aboard Ussa's personal ship. Upon discovering the world and confirming its habitability, the group returned to Nwari. Returning to his followers' encampment, Ussa announced his intentions of relocating to a place of refuge. While the group prepared to pack up their supplies, Ussa was attacked by a Covenant spy that had hidden among his own followers. Before the spy could harm the kaidon, he was disarmed by Ernicka the Scar-Maker—Ussa's second-in-command. A mob of ten furious Sangheili converged on the spy and killed him, before Ussa could give out the order to interrogate the traitor. The Sangheili soon finished packing up and left for the shield world. Meanwhile, the treaty commission learned that their spy had been killed. Three San'Shyuum ministers met with the commission, and the commissioners assured them that they would track down the rebels. However, one of the ministers—the Prophet of Inner Conviction—feared that Ussa 'Xellus had a grand and inscrutable scheme behind his actions.
Colonization of the Refuge
Upon arrival, the rebels started to establish a colony and their new home on the shield world, now called the "Refuge". Additionally, these Sangheili had begun to refer to themselves as "Ussans", a reference to their leader. A rough triumvirate of leaders was formed between Ussa, Sooln, and Ernicka. Enduring Bias, the monitor of the shield world, chose to aid the Ussans and worked closely with the Ussan leadership, Sooln in particular. Several Sangheili were tasked with exploring the shield world and its functions; they intended to use the technologies found on the world to continue hiding from the Covenant, until the Ussans were able to combat the empire. Others were assigned to study the native fauna and to use analyzing technology to determine if the animals were safe for consumption. Meanwhile, Salus 'Crolon had begun to distrust Ussa. He openly expressed his doubts about Ussa's decision to relocate and his leadership capabilities to other Sangheili, especially to Tersa 'Gunok. 'Crolon formed a companionship with the like-minded 'Drem, and the two began to plot against Ussa. At this time, Enduring Bias revealed the Refuge's Disassembler process to Ussa and Sooln; the shield world was capable of breaking apart and imitating an apparent self-destructing explosion, while remaining habitable. Not wishing to spread fear throughout the colony, Ussa decided to not inform his followers of the process.
Ussa's cautiousness ultimately backfired when Enduring Bias absent-mindedly revealed this information to Tersa. The monitor continued to inadvertently incriminate Ussa in a conversation with 'Crolon and 'Drem when Bias noted that he would accept the presence of a San'Shyuum on the shield world, but only if they had brought a Huragok to repair him. Despite Tersa's attempts at ending the misconceptions, the two older Sangheili jumped to a conclusion: the minor repairs that Sooln had administered upon the monitor led to Bias sharing the Ussan leadership's opinions. Thus, 'Crolon and 'Drem believed that Ussa was conspiring with the San'Shyuum, and the duo began to plot a rebellion against Ussa. Some time later, Tersa and Lnur 'Mol spotted 'Crolon and 'Drem attempting to recruit two Sangheili into their rebellion. When 'Crolon and 'Drem realized that they had been seen, they approached Ussa and attempted to convince him that the younger two Sangheili were plotting against the kaidon. Ultimately, Ernicka and Ussa had all individuals involved in the conspiracy brought before them. During the trial, Enduring Bias provided surveillance footage of 'Crolon and 'Drem plotting against Ussa. Ernicka killed the latter when he attempted to escape, and arrested 'Crolon. With the conspiracy over, Ussa dismissed the others to consult with Bias about the shield world's capabilities.
Shortly after his arrest, 'Crolon managed to escape his prison cell and killed the guard. Although Ussa, Sooln, and Bias attempted to stop him, the traitor fled the system aboard Clan's Blade. Fearing that 'Crolon might give the shield world's coordinates to the Covenant, Ussa prepared the Ussans for war. Ussa's predictions came true when Clan's Blade was intercepted by Covenant ships. Although the Covenant gained the world's coordinates from the vessel's records, 'Crolon was kept alive in hopes of using him to bargain with the Ussans in the inevitable conflict that would ensure. Due to his failure to kill 'Xellus during a battle during the San'Shyuum-Sangheili War, the Prophet of Inner Conviction was tasked by the Hierarchs with quelling the Ussan rebellion. The Prophet of Inner Conviction quickly assembled a fleet and departed for the Ussan system.
With the arrival of the fleet, Ussa contemplated activating the Disassembler process, but decided to speak with the Covenant first, hoping to possibly negotiate a deal. Wishing to do the same, Inner Conviction sent a transmission to the Refuge—from the carrier Pledge of Holiness—that was picked up by Enduring Bias. Bias presented the transmission to Ussa, allowing the two to see and hear each other. The Prophet of Inner Conviction offered to allow the Ussans to live free on Sanghelios, if Ussa and Sooln turned themselves in to face trial and capital punishment. Ussa feared that his people would still be persecuted for their rebellion; he instead offered to hand over Forerunner relics to the Covenant each solar cycle if the fleet withdrew. Inner Conviction knew the Covenant would not agree—as it would seem that the empire was weak if they compromised with a small insurgent group—and insisted that he surrendered for the sake of the Ussans. Again, Ussa declined and told Enduring Bias to end the transmission. In response, the Covenant military invaded the shield world. Ussa sent one final transmission to the Prophet of Inner Conviction: he warned the San'Shyuum that he was about to destroy the shield world and suggested for the Covenant to extract their warriors off the world. Trusting Ussa, Inner Conviction heeded the advice and evacuated all Covenant soldiers. As the Covenant fleet retreated to the shield world's orbit, Ussa and Bias activated the Disassembler process.
The shield world was seemingly destroyed, along with all of its inhabitants. In truth, Ussa and his people survived aboard large freight movers. Though Inner Conviction spotted the freighters within the debris of the Refuge, he chose to ignore as he knew Ussa would not present a threat to the Covenant. When the Covenant fleet left the system, Enduring Bias set the fragmented habitats within the Ussan system's asteroid belt. The Ussans continued to populate the habitable sections of the Refuge, and Ussa pledged to one day have his descendants take back Sanghelios.
Over the course of the following centuries, the Ussans continued to inhabit the Refuge. Shortly before Ussa's death, a rogue comet struck the Primary Section of the Refuge and Enduring Bias was deactivated in the incident. Overtime, the state of the Refuge began to deteriorate. The Ussans' nutrition systems in the colony had begun to falter and some life-support systems were beginning to fail. Some of the colony's protein synthesizers began to malfunction, which caused some Ussans to become infected with Blood Sickness, a disease that caused violence or hallucinations in those that it afflicted. Some Sangheili believed that an apocalypse was inevitable. 'Insa 'Greftus, a Blood Sick Sangheili, believed that the "Forgotten Gods" channeled themselves physically through him and they wanted the Sangheili to depart the Refuge. These gods had allegedly told 'Greftus the location of Sanghelios, and they wanted the Sangheili to use the colony's ancient starships to return to the planet. 'Greftus initiated a rebellion in Section Five of the Refuge, and he established the "Way of 'Greftus" and the 'Greftus Faction. Kaidon N'Zursa 'Xellus claimed that 'Greftus' ramblings were the result of his Blood Sickness and sent guards for 'Greftus. The rebel was ejected out of the Refuge via airlock into space for his "Failure of Clan Integrity". All Ussans in the Refuge witnessed 'Greftus' death.
As the colony continued to deteriorate, N'Zursa 'Xellus suggested that all vital supplies should be moved to the Primary Section. However, section captains disagreed, citing that it left their sections vulnerable and discounted them. Following N'Zursa's death, his nephew—Bal'Tol 'Xellus—was titled kaidon. After the failure of the irrigation systems of the eco level resulted in the die-off of many vegetation, as well as the simultaneous breakdown of the protein synthesizer, a savage group of Sangheili led by a Blood Sick marauder had begun feeding upon other Ussans that they deemed inferior. Known as the Blue Mandibles, these Sangheili invaded parts of Section Two. Bal'Tol eventually led troops against the cannibals and slaughtered the faction.
In November of 2552, a Sangheili suffering from Blood Sickness, who identified himself as 'Kinsa, claimed to be sharing his body with the spirit of 'Insa 'Greftus. 'Kinsa had gained a following of delusional Sangheili suffering from Blood Sickness. Bal'Tol, C'tenz, and Tirk 'Surb, the head of Refuge Security, convened to discuss the situation and agreed that 'Kinsa and his followers must be executed or detained. Soon, Bal'Tol, C'tenz, Tirk, priest Tup 'Quk, and six heavily armed patrollers traveled to Section Five of the Refuge to arrest 'Kinsa and his followers. Bal'Tol offered the Blood Sick Sangheili a chance to live in isolation, until a cure for the disease could be found. A stand-off ensured as 'Kinsa refused to be apprehended. Suddenly, fifteen followers armed with mec-missilers ambushed Bal'Tol and his troops. As a firefight broke out, Bal'Tol called in for a contingent of patrollers. As the firefight raged on, Bal'Tol was wounded by a mec-missiler, and Tirk was mortally wounded after downing many hostiles. As the patroller contingent arrived, 'Kinsa and eight other Blood Sick survivors fled from the battle.
As Bal'Tol recovered from his wounds, 'Kinsa's followers took over Sections Two, Three, Four, and Five. Bal'Tol ordered the Ussan biological repairer Qerspa 'Tel to continue to search for a cure for Blood Sickness, however many of the medical supplies that were required were located in the Hall of Godminds in Section Five. The Ussans that inhabited the sections 'Kinsa controlled were subjected to harsh deprivation, poor air quality, martial law, reduced food rations, and forced worship of 'Kinsa and 'Greftus. In 2553, Bal'Tol soon came to realize that he would also need to retake Section Two in order to repair the failing repellent field generators throughout the Refuge. He had C'tenz organize a raiding party, although Bal'Tol reluctantly agreed to stay behind to prevent his own death during the mission. While Bal'Tol coordinated the mission in the Primary Section with Xelq 'Tylk, C'tenz led V'ornik 'Gred and Torren into Section Two. However, 'Kinsa's followers intercepted the borders at the airlock and a short engagement occurred that resulted in the death of Torren, the capture of C'tenz, and V'ornik being sent tumbling into space in a maintenance pod. Using a helmet recorder, 'Kinsa ordered Bal'Tol to surrender to him in exchange for C'tenz's freedom. Instead, Bal'Tol challenged him to a floatfight match in the Combat Section, ten warriors from each side to determine which faction would control the Refuge. 'Kinsa reluctantly accepted the offer.
Reconnecting with the universe
In 2553, following the outbreak of the Great Schism, the colony was found by the supply ship Journey's Sustenance. Amongst the crew was a Huragok named Sluggish Drifter and San'Shyuum Zo Resken, descendant of the Prophet of Inner Conviction who had chosen to leave the Ussans alone after the Refuge was disassembled. Sluggish Drifter was able to repair Enduring Bias who killed 'Kinsa and aided the Ussans in putting down his rebellion. Together, Enduring Bias and Sluggish Drifter discovered the source of the Blood Sickness and created a cure. Enduring Bias was able to reconnect the pieces of the Refuge, but there were not enough left to form a whole sphere, instead creating a circular structure similar to a Halo ring. The Ussans who wished to return to Sanghelios were allowed to do so though many remained on the Refuge.
Government and politics
The Ussans were ruled by a kaidon; the first kaidon was Ussa 'Xellus, the founder of the Ussans. Ussa ruled over his people along with his wife, Sooln, and his second-in-command, Ernicka the Scar-Maker. Together, the three formed a rough triumvirate of leaders. Though Ussa had absolute control of all Ussans, Ernicka was generally charged with security-related matters, while Sooln often dealt with matters in the technological and scientific fields. Though most Sangheili respected her, the Sangheili's patriarchal culture led to Sangheili becoming unwilling to fully trust a female in a leadership position. Regardless, Sooln's bond with Enduring Bias aided the Ussans in learning more about the Refuge, and Ussa had become adamant about deferring to Sooln for her scientific expertise.
In the event of a kaidon's absence, another high-ranking Sangheili could be given the "necklace of rank" and serve as the "acting kaidon" over the Refuge. Each section was governed by a captain.
Initially, the culture of the Ussans was identical to the rest of the Sangheili. Ussans retained that they had passed the "Great Torrent", which served as a symbol for commitment; there was no turning back once a Sangheili crossed the Great Torrent. Ussa reminded his people of the Great Torrent to infer that they should not have doubts about their decision to rebel against the Covenant. The Ussans honored individuals that were considered legendary; three-dimensional images and sculptures were constructed of these individuals and placed in the Hall of Godminds.
As a result of the Sangheili's patriarchal society, most males were unwilling to trust females with critical leadership matters. For example, despite her unique talents in the field of science, most individuals did not have full confidence in Sooln 'Xellus—although they were willing to respect her. At least one clan of the Ussans had females that have maintained a strong "protector-of-eggs" tradition, with females being unorthodoxly independent from the clan's males. The females in the clan believed that they could become strong warriors, but never discussed the topic with the males.
Religion and mythology
The Ussans worshipped the Forerunners, although they rejected the prospect of the Great Journey—which was the foundation of the Covenant religion. The Ussan religion was somewhat individualized; most Sangheili revered the Forerunners as gods and maintained "what is sacred can also be useful", while others upheld the archaic beliefs of their species and did not believe the Sangheili were worthy enough to even learn the meaning of Forerunner artifacts.
Some places in the Refuge were held in high reverence and were often a site where individuals traveled to pray to the gods. Each endowed with their own priests, these places included the Hall of Godminds, the Combat Section, and the Place of Blessed Passing. Some time following the death of Ussa 'Xellus, the Ussans came to believe that gods traveled to the Refuge to haunt the minds of the colony's residents. Unlike the Sangheili outside the Refuge who worshipped the Forerunners and the sacred artifacts that they had created, the Ussans worshipped numerous deities—several of which had originated from Sanghelios.
Lifestyle and customs
The glebos native to the Refuge were sometimes hunted for their skins, which was used in clothing. A product of the Refuge's Disassembler process, many small fragments from the shield world's old shell remained in orbit around the colony. Many shuttle pilots collected these pieces and sometimes bartered them, as keepsakes of the Forerunners.
Unlike other members of their species, Ussan Sangheili do know who their fathers are, presumably because they wanted to be sure who was descended from legendary figures such as Ussa 'Xellus and Ernicka the Scar-Maker and to possibly avoid inbreeding given their limited numbers.
One interesting aspect of the Ussan culture was the usage of Floatfighting as a combat sport. It served as a way exercise their thirst for combat and athletic competition without killing each other and to maintain their warrior culture and identity.
Ussans originally spoke Old Sangheili when they first arrived at the Refuge, much like the rest of their species. Over the years, however, their language developed differently, and by 2553, Sangheili from the rest of the galaxy could no longer understand them easily. However, influences from Old Sangheili are still noticeable.
Due to their isolation and the limited resources of the Refuge, the Ussans' technological capability had regressed considerably over their history; they barely had the means to travel among the disparate sections of the Refuge and used less sophisticated types of weapons than the Covenant, such as burnblades, rocket launchers, fire-wand launchers, and mec-missilers. Some of the patrollers were equipped with plasma pistols and plasma rifles, though they continued to deteriorate due to years of use without sufficient repairs. Floatfighters also used "quartermoon" blades, a successor of sorts to the ancient Sangheili curveblade. By 2552, most of the colony's medical supplies had been used up, and not enough was being created as the art had been partly lost. The elderly suffered due to this shortage, and infant mortality had risen.
The starships that the Ussans had originally used to travel to the shield world had been scavenged for parts for centuries after the colonization. The Ussans relied on protein synthesizers for nutrition. Repellent fields protected each section of the Refuge from rogue debris found throughout the Ussan system. However, by 2552, the fields were beginning to fail on some sections.
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