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- “This armor suits you, but it cannot hide that mark.”
- “Nothing ever will.”
The Mark of Shame is a brand (a tattoo-like mark that is made by burning the flesh) given to those who have either disgraced or turned away from the Covenant. It can be seen being branded on to Thel 'Vadam in a cutscene in Halo 2 and Halo 2: Anniversary before the level Cairo Station and is seen on his chest in the cutscene before the level The Arbiter. It can be used as a Multiplayer emblem. The Mark of Shame is permanently imprinted onto the bare chest of the being using a special branding iron. After being branded with it, the being is executed soon thereafter out of sheer humility, perhaps harnessing the last bit of honored dignity they can draw up.
The only known exception to the execution tradition was Thel 'Vadam, the Supreme Commander in charge of the protection of Installation 04. He became the Arbiter and was sent to eliminate Heresy promoted by Sesa 'Refumee on Threshold.
It also seems that the Arbiter's name means nothing, and is not mentioned due to the disgrace signified by the mark. Ironically, the Mark of Shame was supposed to bring him shame, but during the Great Schism, it actually became a symbol of his honor. Thel 'Vadam is the only known Covenant member known to be branded with the Mark of Shame. If closely observed, the Mark of Shame can be seen on the combat harnesses worn by Elites in Halo 3's Campaign. They may wear it out of deference and respect for their current Arbiter, as a symbol of honor in reversal of its meaning, or because they have turned away from the Covenant.
- The Mark of Shame is available as a Multiplayer emblem in Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST, but not in Halo: Reach.
- Despite appearing to be branded in the center of his chest, the Mark of Shame appears on the left of Thel 'Vadamee's chest in every other cutscene.
- When Thel 'Vadamee is branded with the Mark of Shame in the cutscene, the branding iron never touches his chest.
- The Heretic Skull's symbol is the Mark of Shame. This may have reference to the Heretic group of ex-covenant troops, who broke away from the Covenant, thus getting the Mark of Shame.