|This article, Ketesh, is currently under active construction.|
Located 440 lightyears from Sol, Ketesh is located in what is known as Devout Induction to Covenant stellar cartographers and 21 Tauri/Asterope to human astronomers. A small terrestrial world, Ketesh has had a relatively recent history of inhabitation, with two native species evolving sentience - and promptly being wiped out by Sangheili settlers. Their presence is an anomaly few are comfortable trying to solve, and the Sangheili of Ketesh would remain culturally unique until first contact with the Covenant in 2132. With a number of Forerunner relics under the surface, the planet has contributed much to the Covenant's understanding of the Labyrinth Array.
Ketesh is a roughly Mars-sized terrestrial planet orbiting 21 Tauri, known to the Kaaranese Sangheili as Sudark, in its planetary habitability zone. The planet is orbited by a number of small natural satellites, with Qu'vra being the largest of these, home to a small osmium mining complex.
- Main article: Kaaranese Sangheili
Exactly how long Ketesh has been a part of galactic affairs remains unknown. The unique nature of its ecosystem (see below) indicates that it was at least visited by an ancient species, but little else can be derived. The first evidence that the planet was inhabited appears approximately 100,000 years ago; the Forerunner dreadnought Conviction, a wreck located on the northern continent of Daaran. Apparently shot down during the Flood-Forerunner War, the ship may have been stopping off in the system to dock with the gas refinery based in a gas giant further out in the same system, possibly indicating that the system served as part of aresupply route for the Forerunners. After the activation of the Halo Array, there is no evidence of inhabitation for another 10,000 years.
Ketesh hasn't always been dominated by the Sangheili. Two native species, the Teltaqans and the Lagkter, evolved on the planet's northern continent, both from truly native sea creatures; the Lagkter seem to have been the best adapted to a terrestrial lifestyle, developing a nomadic tribal lifestyle in the central Dush'qun desert. The Teltaqans, on the other hand, were still amphibious sea traders, living on the southern coasts of the continent. Either may have eventually come to dominate the planet, rising to a level of technological sophistication, if not for the Sangheili's arrival.
The arrival of the Sangheili in approximately 90,000 C.E. is sudden, dramatic, and mysterious, marked by the sudden disappearance of evidence of the Teltaqans continued existence. Even Kaaranese scholars have little clue as to their origins, and their earliest legends on the First Exodus relate only that they fled their original home, and were guided to Ketesh. Why they were fleeing, how they travelled to the planet, and what or who guided them are mysteries that have seen much speculation by the Kaaranese scholarly community. Further complicating matters is the discovery by the UNSC of Middangeard, which turned out to have been the original home of the modern Kaaranese Sangheili, abandoned in approximately 250,000 C.E. This raises a number of questions; how did Sangheili reach Middangeard from Sanghelios when the rest of their species wouldn't develop slipspace travel until more than two hundred thousand years later; why did they abandon their planet after reaching a Tier Three Civilisation, long before the threat of the Flood eventuated; and how did they reach Ketesh?
In any case, the Sangheili's occupation of Ketesh's top rung has been total, seeing the annihilation of both rival species. While the Lagkter were certainly hardier than the Teltaqans, and managed to outlive them by fifty thousand years, they were still wiped out by the militaristic aggression that has ever been the hallmark of the Sangheili, leaving them as the only sentient species on the planet. While the eradication of potential rivals would normally lead to a swift cultural and technological rise, it seems to have ushered in a cycle of ascension and collapse; for the next forty thousand years, the Sangheili would largely remain a nomadic tribal culture. Occasionally, a city-state would rise to prominence, dominating the surrounding landscape and rapidly progressing through technological and cultural tiers, but would then suddenly and dramatically collapse. The causes of these collapsed have been varied; earthquakes, famines, floods, tsunami's, internecine conflict, and so on. The only civilisation to rise on Daaran and retain a measure of stability was the Keltash Empire, originating on the south-east Keltam peninsula and dominating the continent for nearly six hundred years until the eruption of Mount Keltam in 400 B.C.E. The initial eruption would destroy the peninsula, but the long-term effects would have an even more devastating effect on the rest of the continent - the fallout would usher in a "nuclear winter," rendering areas untouched by the eruption lifeless. By the end of it, the entire continent of Daaran was rendered barren, and the survivors were forced flee across the Straits of Wrath to the southern continent, marking its first settlement.
This seems to have broken the cycle, because over the next three thousand years Kaaran would flourish into a thriving continental community. Various rival nations would emerge, though the Morhekan Empire would continue to dominate the continent for a significant amount of time until the rise of the Mopadan Confederacy, the seccession of the Trinity of Light, and the establishment of the League of Unified Kaaran Nations, with would eventually become a world government. Bolstered by the discovery of various Forerunner artefacts, the Sangheili would begin to repopulate the northern continent, eventually discovering the Conviction, and managing to reverse engineer enough technology from it to achieve a Tier Four level, establishing several offworld settlements.
Though the Kaaranese Sangheili would colonise the various moons of Ketesh, as well as establishing colonies around the gas giant Prethaman to study and salvage the gas refinery there, Ketesh would remain the centre of Kaaranese culture and government. When contact was made with the Covenant in 2132, initial fears of invasion would strengthen the world government and bolster its native Navy - at the same time, the success of the Kaaranese to destroy a rogue plundering Kig-yar missionary ship, despite the superior technology employed by the Kig-yar raiders, worried the Sangheili, who feared that the natives would put up enough of a resistance to inflict devastating losses against any attempt at a ground invasion. Happily for both sides, neither worry eventuated, and Ketesh's acceptance into the Covenant has largely been smoothe and uneventful.
Pledging their loyalty to the terms of the Writ of Union, the Kaaranese Sangheili have largely enjoyed the same benefits as their Sanghelios brethren, and with the sudden influx of technology, Ketesh quickly became a major Covenant stronghold, seeing the establishment of the Morhekan Orbital Shipyards, a major Covenant naval supplier of warships. Prethaman has also contributed to its success; the presence of a Forerunner gas refinery, however damaged, brought Prophet interest due to the presence of relics of the "Ancient Ones", and a small research outpost was established by the Ministry of Tranquility near the site of the Conviction. For the most part, the outpost has simply confiscated and archived any relics that are turned up by the native Sangheili, and denied access to the crash site to "preserve" the ship from vandalism, a subject that the Kaaranese League has taken issue with for centuries. More importantly, the Prophets decreed that the Covenant religion was to be the standard faith on Ketesh; while most willingly converted, the Cult of Quenyathar was driven underground by Prophet persecution.
When the Great Schism erupted, Ketesh once again became a vital area. The refinery would become a vital resource for the Sangheili Fleet, and the Morhekan shipyards would be one of the few sources of new ships until its destruction by the Blood Covenant in 2559. Initially, there was significant support for the planet to remain neutral in the War of Vengeance, establishing itself as a separate entity from the Sangheili Armed Forces-united Sangheili faction. Only the urging of Qur'a 'Morhek, the Emperor of Morheka, and a number of other significant Kaaranese Sangheili with ties to the SAF saw the Kaaranese League elect to joint he SAF, though they would retain a good deal more autonomy than other SAF worlds. The planet would continue to play a large role in Sangheili affairs well into and after the War of Vengeance, becoming a major supplier of osmium and titanium, and using the gas refinery to refine weapons-grade and fuel-grade hydrogen, deuterium and tritium. The planet would also become a diplomatic point between the SAF and UNSC, with a small human research facility set up to help in the recovery of artefacts thought destroyed in the Schism, and the renewed study of the Conviction and other major relics.
Ketesh was once home to native extraterrestrial lifeforms, some of considerable sophistication; the Ketesh fossil record shows that indiginous lifeforms had developed along similar lines as ancient Terran life, with the convergent evolution of eyes, vertabrae, and limbs, with the first land animals appearing approximately 400 million years ago. Afterwards, the continents would play host to a stunning variety of lifeforms until a sudden and dramatic world event rendered the planet uninhabited - the fossil record simply ends approximately 100 million years ago, with an extended gap until 66 million years ago when lifeforms of a dramatically different nature begin to appear.
While the Forerunners are well known for seeding the galaxy with life, and reseeding the galaxy posthumously after the activation of the Halo Array, they may have been inspired by a much older civilisation that carried out a similar practice, at least on Ketesh. Distinctly Terran in nature, whatever species existed at the time managed to transplant a large variety of Terran flora and fauna onto the now dead planet, possibly terraforming it until it was habitable once again, approximately 66 million years ago, and from that point on the fossil record is filled with anomalous theropods, sauropods, ornithiscians, birds, mammals, and other life that existed on Earth at the time. It is likely that at least some native lifeforms continued to exist - the Teltaqans and Lagkter share no genetic markers with terran life whatsoever, and likely evolved from a common native ancestor - but today, Ketesh's ecosystem is dominated by Mesozoic-derived fauna and flora.
Even if this is accepted, there are still some anomalies - the Snark, a "native" creature that inhabits northern Daaran, is descended from Gorgonopsids that died out hundreds of millions of years before the Cretaceous; so too did the ancestors of the Bandersnatch. The two groups either persisted longer than even the Earth fossil record indicates, or were transplanted much earlier by another race before being rediscovered by the latter and moved to Ketesh. Whatever the case, it is clear that Earth has played a major part in the disemmenation of life throughout the galaxy, and especially on Ketesh.
- "The place is ful of paradoxes. A long-lost Sangheili civilisation; dinosaurs thriving on the north-western continent; and the remains of a Forerunner outpost far from anything of significance. Honestly, the entire planet is one big anomaly."
- "Ketesh is unusually rich in iridium and osmium, major components in Covenant shipbuilding. Either it was bombarded by asteroids rich in the materials millions of years ago, or it arrived by some other means."
- "It's a beautiful place - very like Earth, but with more conifers and grass isn't quite as prevalent. Even the northern continent has begun to recover, though its still a pale shadow of the rest of the planet."
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