|Were it so easy.|
Thel 'Vadam (formerly known as Thel 'Vadamee), or often simply referred to as the Arbiter, is the deuteragonist of the Halo series, and the most prominent Sangheili shown during its canonical continuity.
Thel was born Thel 'Vadam, to the Vadam family, rulers of the powerful State of Vadam, on Sanghelios. He joined the Covenant military, earning him the right for the "ee" suffix, which is added to a Sangheili name upon joining the military. Soon after he gained the rank of Shipmaster, he earned the title of Kaidon through voting by the elders.
Thel's life as Kaidon was important for the Vadam Family, as he was tasked with continuing the reign of the powerful State of Vadam. Early in his rule, he was attacked by three Sangheili assassins, who were all wielding Energy Swords. He managed to kill all three without even being scratched. He then killed one of the Vadam elders, Koida 'Vadam, for the attempted assassination.
He was sent to Charybdis IX, with command over Retribution's Thunder, to participate in the Battle of Charybdis IX, whilst being overseen by the Prophet of Regret. He and several other Sangheili boarded the UNSC Do You Feel Lucky?, and attempted to get to the Navigation Database, but it had been purged before they were even aboard. He left and witnessed the destruction of the ship, before being called to the Infinite Sacrifice, where he met Regret in person. He was told of the humans wielding modified Covenant Weapons, and that they were most likely the Kig-yar's doing. He was then sent to the 23 Librae system, to track down the source of the weapon traders, along with the Jackal vessel, A Psalm Every Day.
As he arrived at 23 Librae, his ship came under attack, first by Jiralhanae and Kig-yar forces at The Rubble, then boarded by A Psalm Every Day's forces. He ordered the destruction of The Retribution's Thunder, which killed all the boarding Kig-yar. Thel, however, survived, and was captured by Kig-yar forces, along with most of the bridge crew. He and most of the bridge crew managed to escape, and hijack a Kig-yar shuttle, taking them to another Kig-yar vessel. They went to the surface of Metisette, and captured the leader of the Kig-yar, Reth.
After managing to escape the Unggoy army, Thel returned to the Kig-yar vessel, where they locked Reth up. He eventually escaped when a nervous Grunt still loyal to him switched off the energy barrier, and he fled into an escape pod. Thel then turned his eyes to The Rubble, as a large skirmish between UNSC forces and Kig-yar forces was taking place on the Infinite Spoils. He and his crew then boarded the Infinite Spoils, and came face to face with Jai-006, before fighting with him. The SPARTAN-II then fled out the ship with the other UNSC forces, but a shocked Thel and his crew stayed and commandeered the Infinite Spoils.
Thel managed to destroy most of The Rubble's Mass Drivers, but then was helpless when The Redoubt was destroyed, and the Exodus Project left the system. He decided the best thing to do was to wait for the Prophets of Truth and Regret to arrive, and report to them with his comrade, Zhar. Upon reporting his mission failure, Zhar attempted to slaughter the Prophets — believing them to be ordering his execution — but Thel activated his own Energy Sword and killed his former friend. This act prompted Truth to spare his life, and give him command over the Fleet of Particular Justice.
As the Supreme Commander of the Fleet, he led the victorious Covenant forces at the Battle of Reach. As the battle ended, Thel ordered all ships within his command to follow the fleeing UNSC Pillar of Autumn. Following the Autumn's course led them to Installation 04. Commanding the Seeker of Truth, he had his ships begin evacuating the ring upon the release of the Flood. The parasite even managed to capture a ship and infect a minor Prophet, the Minister of Etiology. The sudden wide-spread evacuation led to confusion as ships became infested. He was unable to prevent the destruction of the ring and was forced to abandon it. The abandonment saved his life, but also resulted in the capture of the newly arrived flagship; the Ascendant Justice, by John-117 and he was called before the High Council to answer for these failures.
The loss of the Forerunner relic that the Covenant held "holy" rendered the Council unmoved by his defense and 'Vadamee was stripped of his rank, title, name and honor, and branded a heretic for failure in safeguarding Halo. The Mark of Shame was branded upon his chest in front of many of the Covenant, and he was sentenced to death. He would "be hung by his entrails" and his corpse "paraded through the city" as an example to others. 
Upon being brought to the Prophet Hierarchs of Truth and Mercy, they intervened and offered to commute the sentence if he would become the new Arbiter. Understanding that becoming the Arbiter of the Covenant amounted to an indirect death sentence, but also seeking an opportunity to redeem himself, the Sangheili accepted the offer.
'Vadamee's first combat assignment as the Arbiter was to stop the Heretic uprising based in a Forerunner Gas Mine in the atmosphere of Threshold. The Prophet had expected that he would die in the mission and so this was part of his sentence. He was assisted by Rtas 'Vadumee, Special Operations Elites, and Special Operations Grunts. The operation was even more complicated by the unexpected escape of the Flood from the facility. During the chaos that followed, the Heretic leader Sesa 'Refumee sealed himself in a protected zone of the station, to protect himself from the storm. The Arbiter drove the Heretics out by cutting the cables from which the facility hung from a larger structure, causing the gas mine to fall. After he had severed the cables, he chased the heretic leader in a Banshee to another part of the station. After crashing his Banshee, the Arbiter fought his way through massive amounts of Flood and a few surviving Heretics toward the station's hangar. Before Sesa 'Refumee could escape in a Seraph, the Arbiter assassinated him, but not before the Heretic Leader called the Great Journey "a lie". The Arbiter was confused to discover that the Heretics had been aided by an Oracle, the monitor 343 Guilty Spark.
With the uprising suppressed, the Brute Chieftain Tartarus extracted the Arbiter and used the Fist of Rukt to get the Oracle. His actions, which involved throwing the Oracle into the Phantom recklessly, angered the Arbiter enough for him to remind the Chieftain who he was dealing with. With Tartarus, he left the gas mine via Phantom, as High Charity and the fleet were leaving Threshold's system.
The High Prophets were unhappy with the fact that he escaped alive from the gas mine and thus, 'Vadamee was sent to the "Quarantine Zone" on Installation 05 to retrieve the "Sacred Icon" which was needed to activate Delta Halo. Before the mission, the Arbiter witnessed the replacement of the Elite Honor Guards with Brute Honor Guards. Fighting his way through the Sentinel Wall (with a few surviving Grunts and Jackals) to deactivate the Library's shield, he was forced to make his way on foot to the Library, though he was aided by the remaining Spec Ops forces of Rtas 'Vadumee again. Eventually reaching a Gondola, he and the commandos made their way to the library with relative safety, though they were forced to relentlessly fend off Flood, controlled-armor resistance, and Forerunner constructs. The commandos chose not to accompany 'Vadamee to the "Icon," instead protecting their Gondola, believing it to be their only way of escape despite the fact that Tartarus' Phantom was still present at the time.
The Arbiter proceeded into the Library, encountering the remains of a battle between UNSC Marines, Sentinels and Flood Combat Forms, and witnessed Commander Miranda Keyes and Sergeant Johnson retrieving the Index. Using his armor's active camouflage, he approached Johnson and Keyes. He knocked Johnson unconscious, and disarmed Keyes and rendered her unconscious before Tartarus and his Brutes joined combat. After the initial scrap, Tartarus captured Keyes by using the Fist of Rukt to levitate her body, and claimed the Index for himself. Following the orders of the Hierarchs, he sent 'Vadamee into the chasm with a shock wave from the Fist of Rukt, expecting the fall to kill the Sangheili. But before doing so, Tartarus informed the Arbiter about the attempted genocide of the Elites taking place throughout the Covenant empire.
Instead of being killed by the fall, as expected, the Arbiter was captured in mid-air by the Gravemind, the central intelligence of the Flood, and brought to its underground lair. It was here that the Arbiter met the Master Chief, who had also been captured/saved by the Gravemind. The Gravemind tried to convince 'Vadamee that the Halos were weapons of destruction, not transcendence, which even John-117 supported, saying the High Prophets were "making a big mistake". Though 'Vadamee was still in doubt, he was slowly beginning to believe. In order to "show the truth" to 'Vadamee, the Gravemind teleported him to the Control Room, while the Chief was sent to High Charity, in order to stop the Index from activating Halo.
Discovering the consequences of the Prophets' betrayal of the Elites and the slaughtering of his species by the Brutes, the Arbiter joined forces with a band of Special Operations Commandos, Minors, Majors, and a Zealot, as well as a small number of Mgalekgolo and Grunts, to raze a Brute encampment. Eventually, he met Rtas 'Vadumee yet again, joining forces to reach a Scarab. Near the Scarab, the Arbiter and his forces managed to save a group of captured Councilors, and a group of UNSC Marines, including Sergeant Johnson.
Johnson made a shaky truce with the Arbiter in order to prevent Tartarus from activating Halo. Given they share a common enemy, they both agreed that Tartarus had to be stopped. With Johnson driving a captured Scarab and the Arbiter covering him from enemy Wraiths, Spectres, and Banshees from the air. They successfully reached the Control Room of Installation 05.
'Vadam fought several Honor Guard Brutes before facing Tartarus, who was forcing Miranda Keyes to activate Installation 05. He was surprised to see the Arbiter still alive and there was a standoff between the two parties. The Arbiter asked 343 Guilty Spark, who was also present, what Halo's true purpose was. The Monitor replied that the Halos were built "to destroy all sentient life in the galaxy" so that the Flood would die of starvation. In addition, the ones who built the rings, the Forerunners, died upon firing the rings as planned, contradicting the belief of their "transcendence". This convinced the Arbiter of the truth that he had been repeatedly told. It was from that moment that 'Vadam's faith in the Great Journey had been shattered, his alliance with the humans absolute, and the treachery of the High Prophets fully realized.
With this revelation, the Arbiter tried to convince Tartarus to turn against the Prophets. Tartarus, however, blinded by his fanatical belief in the Great Journey, as well as his hatred for the Elites, ultimately chose to side with the Prophets. In the battle that followed, the Installation was activated and threatened to destroy all sentient life in the galaxy. The Arbiter, with the aid of Johnson and several Elites, slew Tartarus, allowing Miranda Keyes to stop the activation in time. The shutdown, however, activated a fail safe system: the rest of the Halos were set to standby mode, and could only be activated remotely from Installation 00. 'Vadamee then escaped the Flood infested installation with the surviving Humans and Elite forces.
After Tartarus's defeat on Delta Halo, 'Vadamee officially changed his name to "'Vadam", symbolizing his resignation from the Covenant, along with the rest of the Elites.
Upon arriving on Earth with Johnson, 'Vadam and several of his allies discovered the Master Chief, who had just "arrived" on Earth as well. When the Master Chief regained consciousness from his long fall, he attempted to kill 'Vadam with Johnson's M6 Series Magnum, but was stopped by Johnson, who explained to the Chief that the Arbiter and his kind have allied with Humanity. The Chief reluctantly backed down, though he did not trust the Arbiter. Likewise, 'Vadam clearly resented having to work with the "Demon" who had killed many of his fellow Elites. He nevertheless assisted the Master Chief through the jungles of New Mombasa, guiding him through the dense forest to the dam site where they were extracted. He then aided the Chief and the other UNSC forces during the defense of a UNSC base, Crow's Nest, from Covenant invaders.
After leaving the Master Chief on the last departing flight from Crow's Nest before the base is leveled, Thel 'Vadam (known to his human allies only by his standing as the Arbiter) rejoined him at the docks, shortly after the Chief cleared the road to Voi of Covenant Loyalists and began to destroy a section of the Covenant mechanized presence defending the area rimming the Forerunner artifact. The Arbiter assisted the Chief and surviving UNSC forces in destroying a crucial anti-aircraft battery, aiding them as they fought through Covenant occupied warehouses, eventually helping them destroy the emplacement, and opening a hole in the Covenant anti-air defenses to allow Lord Hood's naval forces to assault the Prophet of Truth's Dreadnought, which was docked and idle atop the Artifact.
The strike upon the Dreadnought did no visible damage, and was followed by the tumultuous activation of the Portal. An enormous, fiery sphere was triggered over the activated artifact, and formed a super portal which Truth and the Covenant fleet retreated through. 'Vadam roared in fury at the loss of their quarry. But before Lord Hood could consolidate the scattered and confused human resistance, a Flood-infested Covenant cruiser, which had broken through the Elite's quarantine fleet around High Charity, transitioned out of Slipspace nearby, crashing into the city and infesting an indiscriminately large portion of the African continent.
The Arbiter and Chief proceeded to cauterize the local area of the Flood infestation, battling their way to the cruiser with the purpose of catastrophically overloading the crashed ship's engines to level the entire city before the parasitic infestation grew beyond control. They were aided by a handful of Marines who were not claimed by the Flood, and eventually Sangheili Special Operations shock troops, led by the recently promoted Ship Master Rtas 'Vadum, and a battle group under his command. 'Vadam learned of the fall of High Charity from a Sangheili Major who was leading Spec-Ops soldiers to fight alongside the Chief. The Arbiter assisted the Chief in clearing a swath to the crashed cruiser, and the Chief infiltrated the cruiser alone. He managed to recover a holo-projector that contained a fragmented message of Cortana. Rtas 'Vadum's fleet glassed the infected parts of Africa to prevent the Flood from continuing their infestation.
After the UNSC and Separatist forces regrouped, they learned from Cortana's message that the Flood have taken control of High Charity and are on their way to Earth. However, the Gravemind is unaware of the Portal and states that on the other side is a solution to stop the Flood, without firing the remaining Halo rings. Because the Chief trusted Cortana, the Separatists dedicated all their forces to go through the Portal, arriving at the Ark. The Arbiter joined the Master Chief at the entrance of a local Cartographer facility to clear their way through the building to the Cartographer terminal. Once there, they learned Truth's perilous location, as well as an unfortunate defense he had conjured from the Ark itself. When the group was attacked after activating the Cartographer, the Arbiter joined the battle for the skies, instructing the Chief to follow 343 Guilty Spark to a location for extraction.
With routing of the Covenant Loyalist Fleet, Rtas 'Vadum's carrier positioned itself near the Ark's Citadel in preparation to deal a lethal blow to Truth's stronghold, where he planned to remotely activate the rings. The Arbiter led his fellow Sangheili forces in a three-pronged assault on the shield generators to lower the barrier around Truth and the Citadel, deactivating the generator from a console in the tower's spire. After Sergeant Major Johnson failed to deactivate the third generator because of Brute resistance, the Arbiter landed his forces at the third tower along with the Chief to deactivate the final generator and shut down the barrier.
As Rtas 'Vadum maneuvered over the citadel to glass Truth, High Charity exited Slipspace, crashing into the Ark. In its plummet to the surface, High Charity scattered a barrage of infection capsules which put 'Vadum's carrier out of commission and seeded the Ark with Flood. The Arbiter led his forces in conjunction with the Marines to clear the third tower of Flood, with the Chief's assistance. As a security measure, the Arbiter escorted a distressed 343 Guilty Spark to reconnoiter the damage inflicted to the Ark by the Flood, leaving his Sangheili with the Chief to push on to the Citadel.
After Thel entered the Citadel, joining the Chief at the bridge to the Citadel with a distraught 343 Guilty Spark, the Flood formed an alliance with them to reach Truth and abort the firing of the Halo Array. Fighting through the Loyalist forces standing between Truth and themselves, the Arbiter and the Master Chief succeed in reaching the same platform as the Prophet of Truth. The Arbiter approached Truth, who is now partially infected by the Flood. As the Gravemind speaks through Truth, informing him that he is deluded into thinking that he will become a god, 'Vadam warns the Flood mind to not infect the Prophet, allowing him to take revenge. After a brief conversation the Prophet of Truth makes a quick speech before witnessing the Master Chief deactivating the Halo Rings to his horror, and being executed by Thel's Energy Sword before Truth was fully infected by the Flood, taking his revenge for Truth's crimes and finally bringing him to justice. The Chief and Thel then faced the betrayal of the Flood's allegiance with the abortion of Halo's firing.
Fighting their way back the way they had come, the two witnessed the construction of a new Installation 04, and planned to activate it. The Arbiter, Johnson and Rtas 'Vadum evacuated all UNSC and Separatist forces from the Ark. The Arbiter, worried about the Chief (who went to High Charity alone to rescue Cortana) arrived after the Master Chief at High Charity's crash site, and used a Flamethrower he found to cover their escape upon finding the Chief had accomplished his objective.
The two then escape on a D77H-TCI Pelican Dropship from High Charity, crashing it into the newly-constructed Halo, meeting up with Sergeant Major Johnson and 343 Guilty Spark at the Control Room after fighting through numerous Flood forms. Reaching the Control Room, the Monitor turned on them upon realizing that activating the Ring would destroy it and damage the Ark, since it wasn't fully built, and he killed Johnson in the battle that ensued. The Arbiter was blasted out of the room, while the Master Chief battled and destroyed the Forerunner construct. The Master Chief activates Halo and retrieves Cortana as the ring begins to collapse, with both Cortana and Thel expressing sadness over Johnson's death. The two retrieved Johnson's Warthog, crossed newly-built Forerunner structures as they collapsed while being attacked by more Flood and the now-hostile Sentinels, and succeeded in reaching the Forward Unto Dawn and escaping the Ark and Halo just in time. Upon the ship, it tilted and sent a M808B Main Battle Tank hurtling towards Vadam, nearly hitting him. 'Vadam ran into an alcove, with the Scorpion narrowly missing him. Before running to the bridge, he and the Chief exchanged nods; this was the last time 'Vadam saw the Chief. Soon after, Cortana activated the ship, as 'Vadam made it to the bridge and took control.
The portal collapsed as the Forward Unto Dawn was transiting and the aft end of the ship, with John-117 and Cortana, was sheared off and failed to return to Earth. The bow section, containing 'Vadam, made it through and crashed into the sea, where he was rescued. 'Vadam was present at the dedication of the memorial to those lost during the War on March 3, 2553. After being thanked by the Admiral Lord Terrence Hood for "standing by him to the end" saying "It's hard to believe he's dead", 'Vadam responded, "Were it so easy". This line of text is also said during his first line in Halo 3, showing respect and similarity between a Spartan and the Arbiter, by how they are nearly impossible to kill. The Arbiter departed for Sanghelios aboard the Shadow of Intent as the ship master, with Rtas 'Vadum and the rest of the Elites who fought at the Ark.
Thel Vadam stands an intimidating 7 feet and 10 inches, also having, like all other Sangheili huge fingers, Thel struggles to put his hands around guns such as Magnums, or Plasma Pistols. In Halo 2, numerous small graphical and gameplay differences exist between the Arbiter and the Master Chief. When playing as the Arbiter, the Chief's flashlight is replaced by an Active Camouflage feature, exclusive to Halo 2; due to the antiquated armor of the Arbiter, the camouflage does not last forever -- it lasts for ten seconds on Easy and Normal difficulties, and five seconds on Heroic and Legendary difficulties. The Arbiter bleeds purple blood instead of red, and his Heads Up Display is sleeker. In Halo 2, the sound his shield makes when it is depleted is different from that of the Master Chief's. In Halo 3, he still has Active Camouflage, but it is only illustrated in the first cutscene of the game and to elude enemies -- it cannot be used when playing as the Arbiter. He has a flashlight on his left shoulder in Halo 3, which can be used by players in Co-op.
The Arbiter is very experienced at combat, as shown by his relatively extensive knowledge of every weapon and vehicle -- the Arbiter expressed a desire to understand human weapons even before his alliance with the UNSC. His most commonly used weapons are the Plasma Rifle, Energy Sword, and the Carbine. However, if the Arbiter character is being used in Co-Op Campaign, he can wield any weapon the player chooses -- the Plasma Rifle, Energy Sword, and Carbine would only be level start weapons. Also, in Halo 2, the Arbiter's HUD is a purple colour, rather than the Spartan blue; in Halo 3 it is teal and is presented in a more curved fashion than Player One's. Player Three and Four's HUDs are also more curved as they are Elites as well.
In Halo 3, the Arbiter is a very useful ally against the Flood when he has his Energy Sword out, but when fighting Covenant forces on his own on Heroic and Legendary, the NPC Arbiter tends to be knocked out fruequently, for long periods of time, especially on Legendary. This is mostly due to him leading suicidal charges with his Energy Sword even though the enemy is a great distance away from him. However, he is useful on Normal and Easy. Also note that when given a Missile Pod (using the support weapon glitch, or putting it by his unconscious body) the missiles will lock onto enemy NPCs.
The image that Bungie produced for Halo 2 was one featuring the Master Chief on Earth fighting the Covenant. Once the game was released, this was shown to be the case until the level, The Arbiter, when the player abruptly took the role of the Arbiter of the Covenant.
The change in the overall story line affected some fans' reactions to the game. Some fans considered the Master Chief the only character that should be played as and focused on. Other fans took it in as a new chapter in Bungie's story making.
The original title for the character was "the Dervish", a title from the Sufi sect of Islam, but was changed to avoid overt parallels with the Muslim world.
Prior to the release of Halo: The Cole Protocol, there was much speculation on the exact identity of the Arbiter before he was forced to accept the rank. Some believed him to be Orna 'Fulsamee, the shipmaster of a Covenant Destroyer in the Fleet of Particular Justice, pointing out his apparently considerable authority over the fleet and the fact that a Prophet traveled aboard his ship. Others insisted that the Special Operations Commando that the Master Chief wounded in hand-to-hand combat aboard the Ascendant Justice was the Arbiter, given that the Ascendant Justice was described as a Flagship. The fact that the Supreme Commander was shown in the Halo Graphic Novel to use the Flagship Seeker of Truth, and not the Ascendant Justice, didn't do anything to quell the speculation until the release of Tobias Buckwell's novel four years after the revelation of the character, which even then made only a single reference at the very end of the story to the fact that the Elite the plot had been following for the entire book had been promoted to Supreme Commander of the Fleet of Particular Justice.
Thel 'Vadam before the Mark of Shame and becoming the Arbiter.
'Vadam taunting his enemies to attack.
Thel 'Vadamee in his Supreme Commander cloak.
Shipmaster Rtas 'Vadum and Arbiter Thel 'Vadam.