Disclaimer: I don't own Halo.

Warning: Spoilers for Halo Reach.

On the bridge of the Covenant battlecruiser Blessing of Absolution, Shipmaster Amsul 'Rosangee watched as the battle on the planet below reached its inevitable conclusion. The enemy had put up a good fight here. There was no doubt about that. But in the end, it had all come down to a matter of numbers and time. The humans simply did not have enough of either. They never had. This battle - as costly as it had been for both sides - had been decided before it had begun.

At the moment, the Blessing of Absolution was hovering above the surface of the planet - Reach as it was called - awaiting for its orders to begin glassing operations. Most of the human forces had been destroyed or had retreated by now. All that remained was to mop up any stragglers, and then burn the world. One more human world destroyed. Another glorious victory for the Covenant.

'Rosangee's chest heaved with a sigh. Once, a victory like this would have made him proud. Now, he felt empty. Almost bitter. He didn't know why but lately he had grown tired of victory. Perhaps because the price was becoming increasingly high. Indeed, thousands of his fellow Sangheili had died in this battle alone. 'Rosangee shook his head and dismissed this suggestion. The Covenant who had fallen here would be forever remembered as martyrs and heroes of the Great Journey. To die in battle was the best death any Sangheili could hope for.

Looking deeper into himself, 'Rosangee sought out a more personal reason for his dissatisfaction. Perhaps he was just tired of his current post. In the early years of the war, before he had been a shipmaster, Amsul 'Rosangee had fought on the grounds of many, many worlds. He had personally slain hundreds of the enemy and received dozens of injuries, the scars of which he still bore with pride. Maybe he simply wanted to go back to being a true warrior again.

Again, 'Rosangee shook his head. Combat in space may have been less personal than on the ground, but it was no less fulfilling. The fight against the human fleet protecting this planet here had been the most thrilling battle 'Rosangee had fought during the course of the entire war. Battle was still as glorious as ever. So why had victory lost its appeal? What had made triumph so hollow?

The shipmaster's thoughts were interrupted by a beep from a nearby console. Distracted, 'Rosangee turned his chair around and looked at the console. One of his phantoms was calling for reinforcements. 'Rosangee clicked his mandibles skeptically. Reinforcements? Now? The humans had been all but defeated here. What sort of resistance left could possibly warrant the need to send more troops?

The answer came in the form of a live holographic recording relayed to the bridge from the phantom. Dozens of Sangheili and Unggoy lay dead on the ground, their bodies riddled with shrapnel and bullets. Standing amongst the corpses was a human clad almost entirely in plasma-scorched armor. 'Rosangee looked for more of the enemy, but to his astonishment he found no others.

Intrigued, 'Rosangee watched the lone human fire its primitive projectile weapon at a charging Sangheili warrior. The Sangheili's shields flared and then flickered out under a volley of bullets. A subsequent barrage punched through his armor and the Sangheili fell to the ground dead, his once pristine white armor now stained with purple blood. 'Rosangee saw another Sangheili attempt to strike the human from behind with an energy sword. Incredibly, the human turned and slammed its shoulder into its would-be-killer, knocking the Sangheili swordsman to the ground. The human then drew a small side arm and finished off its fallen opponent with two well placed shots to the head.

Most impressive, 'Rosangee mused.

He continued watching as four more Sangheili warriors charged across the holo-display, firing their weapons as they ran. The human stumbled backwards under a barrage of plasma, clearly in pain, but somehow managed to remain standing. 'Rosangee could only marvel at the human's resilience as it fired back at its attackers, killing two more Sangheili. At last, an Ultra broke through and knocked the armor-clad figure to the ground onto its back. The fourth Sangheili - a Zealot - drew an energy sword and moved in for the kill.

Thinking the battle was over, 'Rosangee prepared to deactivate the holo-display, but stopped when to his astonishment and disbelief, the human continued fighting. The defiant creature smashed its foot into the Ultra's groin, sending the Covenant warrior sprawling backwards in pain. At the same time, it lashed out with one arm and knocked the Zealot's blade out of his hand. The infuriated Ultra ignited an energy dagger and tried to attack again, only to receive a surprise blow to the face that rendered him unconscious.

Finally, the Zealot activated his own energy dagger and plunged it into the enemy's throat. 'Rosangee watched the human convulse and twitch on the ground for a few moments before succumbing to death.

A warrior's death.

When this war had first started, 'Rosangee had believed humans to be nothing but primitive and weak creatures. Nearly thirty years of battle, however, had taught him that humans were in fact warriors in their own right. What they lacked in technology, they made up for with resourcefulness and innovation. What they lacked in physical strength, they compensated with cunning and spirit. The spectacle 'Rosangee had witnessed on the holo-display was undeniable proof of this.

Amsul 'Rosangee sighed. These humans would have made fine allies. Much better allies than certain other members of the Covenant (namely the Kig-Yar and the Jiralhanae). Unfortunately, it was too late for that now. Even if the Prophets could be convinced to let the humans join the Covenant, it was unlikely the humans would ever agree. It was more likely that they would see such an offer as a sign of weakness on the Covenant's part. It would encourage them to fight even harder.

It was then that 'Rosangee finally realized the ultimate cause of his dissatisfaction. It was a simple, stark truth. A cold, bleak reality. This war had consumed him. It had consumed all the Sangheili. The entire Covenant. What had started out as a noble and holy crusade had devolved into a ravenous monster. A monster with an appetite that would only be satiated when every last human in the universe was dead. A monster that he was forced to serve every day.

Another console began beeping. 'Rosangee looked over and saw he had received orders to begin glassing the planet. He ordered his remaining ground forces to withdraw, then instructed his subordinates on the bridge to power up the ship's energy projectors. There was nothing else he could do.

Despite his realizations about himself and the monstrous nature of the war, he could not stop what had been in motion for so long. If the humans were allowed to live, they would undoubtedly rebuild themselves. They would become stronger than before. Possibly even stronger than the Covenant. Then they would take their revenge. They would burn 'Rosangee's world, just as he had burned their worlds. They would slaughter his family, just as he had slaughtered their families. That could not be allowed. For the sake of his children and his children's children, he must continue to oversee the destruction of his enemies whom he had come to respect.

Amsul 'Rosangee turned his attention back to the holo-display. The human's - the warrior's body still lay on the ground, surrounded by the corpses of those it had slain. Soon, its body would be ash along with everything else on the surface. 'Rosangee took one last look at the fallen human and then deactivated the holo-display. He then gave the order to begin glassing the planet.

The Blessing of Absolution poured searing fire from its belly, reducing everything it touched to glass. As Shipmaster Amsul 'Rosangee watched the world below burn, he could only wonder what his children would think of him when this was over. Would they be proud or ashamed of him?

In the depths of his heart, he sincerely hoped it would be the latter.