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The Jiralhanae are known as 'Brutes' by the humans, and come from the planet Doisac. They have proven to be intelligent enough to achieve a space-faring status. This period did not take too long, as their warlike nature turned them to a huge Civil War. This mechanised war was between many Jiralhanae packs which led to a degradation into a pre-industrial state. When the Covenant Empire discovered Doisac and its inhabitants, the Jiralhanae had progressed towards industrial status. Having just rediscovered radio and rocketry, the Jiralhanae were no match for the Covenant Empire. Having been quickly defeated, the Jiralhanae were welcomed into the Covenant. They were elevated to interstaller status and were given the role as 'brute force' soldiers.
Jiralhanae are very muscular, tall ape-like creatures. The shortest Jiralhanae will still tower over a human, and weigh more than 5 times as much. They have thick, grey skin, and are covered with matted, black, tan, or brown fur-like hair and some have short, black, or brown coloured beards. Their strong physique have shown to be powerful enough to knock a Spartan out in a single blow. It is their raw strength and lack of an honour code that makes the Jiralhanae unpredictable. They will go 'berserk' when on the losing side of a battle, dropping their weapons and just running to their enemy. It was not until the Covenant Civil War that the Jiralhanae received 'proper' armour, in the form of Jiralhanae Power Armor. This power armour is capable of deflecting incoming projectiles and the use of equipment like Cloaking.
As stated, the Jiralhanae culture is mostly about war. There have been very few disagreements which haven't been settled physically. They take joy in vicious activity, and as such take their time with victims. They tend to devour the flesh of their victims, humans and Sangheili alike, but are not stated as being cannibals. One of the Jiralhanae escorting Thel 'Vadam stated: "He is seared just the way I like it". Jiralhanae see the flesh of a Thorn Beast as a delicacy and go to great lengths to acquire its meat.
Jiralhanae are not solidary creatures, but instead have a fierce pack culture; they are very close to their pack mates. They will mourn for their death, and will avenge them if their opponent is close-by. Each Jiralhanae pack is led by a Jiralhanae Chieftain who is wielding the ceremonial Gravity Hammer. This weapon is passed from one Chieftain to another, after the previous Chieftain dies. The Jiralhanae who is wielding the hammer is greatly respected by other Jiralhanae, but two Chieftains will not show the same respect to each other. The highest attainable rank for the Jiralhanae is the Chieftain of the Jiralhanae, the central political and military leader within the Jiralhanae contingent of the Covenant Empire. While any Jiralhanae Chieftain can have a Gravity Hammer, the Chieftain of the Jiralhanae will wield the only Fist of Rukt. The Fist of Rukt is regarded by the Jiralhanae as a holy and ceremonial object. One does not simply become Chieftain of the Jiralhanae, one can only attain that rank by single-handedly killing the current Chieftain. The last known Chieftain of the Jiralhanae was Tartarus, who killed his uncle Maccabeus. Maccabeus had been previously wounded in a fight, and Tartarus quickly killed him.
It is unlikely, given their combative and aggressive nature, that the Jiralhanae have a single cohesive government. Instead, Jiralhanae society can be viewed as an extension to the simply pack structure, but with a number of different levels:
- Alpha Tribes - seem to be the political body of the Jiralhanae, and are comprised of smaller Master Packs. Lead by Alpha Jiralhanae.
- Master Packs - more military oriented groups, Master-Packs are comprised of many smaller packs. Prior to contact with the Covenant, rival Master Packs reduced Jiralhanae society to a preindustrial level through warfare.
- Packs - range in size and importance, with less important packs made up largely of Unggoy or Kig-Yar forces and led by a low-ranked Jiralhanae, and more important packs led by War Chieftains and comprised of more experienced veteran Jiralhanae bodyguards.
Like any other intelligent sentient creature, the Jiralhanae have individual names. These names are assumed given to them by their parents. It is not until they have proven themselves that they receive their suffix, which denotes maturity or experience in battle. Before Tartarus had proven himself, he was simply known as Tartar. Which suffix is used, depends on the tribe, Tartar was given "–us", but Jiralhanae with the suffix "–um" are also known. This convention of adding a suffix is highly similar to the Sangheili custom of receiving the "-ee" suffix.
The Great Schism and the Sangheili-Jiralhanae war
The Great Schism was a huge point in the history of the Covenant Empire and the species involved in it. From the creation of the Covenant Empire to the Great Schism, the Sangheili had been the Honour Guards of the Covenant. Wherever a High Prophet was located, Honour Guards were always by their side. One Prophet was usually protected by multiple Honour Guards, and have been known to consist of 300 Honour Guards.
Only the most skilled of warriors were hand-picked for this duty, and were highly respected. The Sangheili saw it as a great disrespect when the High Prophets decided to remove the Sangheili and replace them with Jiralhanae. This Changing of the Guard was the final spark which ignited the conflicted which ended the Covenant Empire. After Thel 'Vadam, now Arbiter, had learned of the truth behind the Great Journey, he decided to side with the humans. All the Sangheili that followed Thel were later known as the Swords of Sanghelios, others would become form Covenant remnants.
After the Human-Covenant war had ended, the Swords of Sanghelios took control over the factions of the now-defunct Covenant. They settled each species on their home worlds and potential colonies in order to help ease the dissolution of the Covenant Empire. The Swords of Sanghelios attempted to help settle the Jiralhanae on resource-rich worlds to help give every part of their species an even playing field. However, since the Jiralhanae are "decades behind the other Covenant races technologically," they had to steal supplies because they did not have the ability to mine and use the resources they already possessed. Since the Jiralhanae had little communication within their kind, these attacks were highly disorganised.
Negotiating a peace
In 2558, both sides wanted to reach some sort of agreement. Since the Jiralhanae forces were distrustful of the Sangheili, they agreed on Thel 'Vadam's proposition to have humans mediate their discussion. The UNSC and Swords of Sanghelios realised that pacifying the Jiralhanae forces were in the best interest of everyone, so it was humanity's job to make that clear to the Jiralhanae.
In order to try and establish an agreement, the Swords of Sanghelios requested several high-ranking humans of the UNSC to sit in their discussions and mediate negotiations on the neutral planet of Ealen IV. On part of the humans, Fleet Admiral Terrence Hood and Captain Thomas Lasky were chosen as negotiators, the Sangheili were represented by Kaidon Thel 'Vadam and the Jiralhanae by the Elder Chieftain Lydus. They agreed also that each faction should have a strong military force, Spartans, Sangheili Commanders and Jiralhanae Captains alike.
The negotiations were attacked soon attacked by the Covenant Remnant, killing multiple Sangheili Commandos. The Jiralhanae Lydus assumed Thel 'Vadam was behind the attack, but Thel denied this accusation and started fighting the Remnant forces as well. Despite surviving the attack, no agreement between the parties was reached.