A Sangheili warrior of legendary status, Stel 'Vadam, also known by his title as the Silver Talon for his prosthetic robotic arm, first rose to prominence during the Human-Covenant War, having lived throughout many of its toughest battles. Stel is also the younger brother of Thel 'Vadam, the last Arbiter of the Covenant, so Stel's staggering military prowess is heredity and talent.
Stel has appeared in a number of stories and mainly appears in the Against All Odds universe, in which he serves as uncle and mentor to Autel 'Vadam, training him personally before the latter became enrolled in the military. Stel is still in his prime during the post-war period, serving as Supreme Commander and later becoming the commander of the entire Sangheili fleet as Imperial Admiral.
Born in 2517, Stel's childhood was rather rocky. Despite both being close brothers, he and Thel had a rivalry as children, and the latter, being the older brother, was treated more fairly and was the favored child of the two. Stel however, was often berated and even shunned for a unique condition he was born with: a rare case of what seems to be the Sangheili equivalent of heterochromia, a differentiation of eye colors. In this case, Stel had a right blue eye and a left green eye, while most Sangheili had an amber color.
This often earned him the ire of others, and Stel himself became somewhat resentful of his abnormal status. Coupled with the jealousy of his brother getting the spotlight, the younger brother was often very anti-social and found one way to get away from the resentment that people had been giving him: joining the Covenant onslaught. He began his military training in the late 2520's and graduated as a Minor Domo in 2535, where he was sent alongside his Covenant comrades to Jericho VII.
"You never forget your first day in the maelstrom of battle. The rattling of firearms. The sound of blood spilling. Explosions, and bright lights. The stench of death around you."
―Stel, in one of his more melancholic moods.
During the Battle of Jericho VII, the young Sangheili warrior exhibited his obvious recklessness and eagerness to go into battle and prove his worth to his brother when he returned. Stel was assigned with several other Sangheili to act as the air support, as Banshee pilots. Exhibiting his exemplary training, the youngster proved himself to be quite the adept pilot, removing squads of Marines at a time when using the Banshee's main cannon.
Under orders of the Prophet of Candor, they were led into battle by an Arbiter and were led to multiple places around the planet, in a staggeringly long three-day stalemate ensued against the UNSC and Covenant forces. Although Blue Team had cut right through the Covenant forces and Red Team detonated a HAVOC Nuke, Stel was one of the few remaining Banshee pilots who made it out of blast range and into space, towards the Covenant Fleet, who of which the UNSC had also been fighting in the last few days. While he had several Prowlers on his tail, he managed to evade his pursuers and land safely in the hangars of one of the battle cruisers, and witnessed the destruction of the enemy fleet and the glassing of Jericho, with what few Covenant forces left.
Despite heavy ground casualties, the battle resulted in an essentially Pyrrhic victory for the Covenant. Years later, Stel would find himself at the Massacre of Troy. Given Troy's thorough extermination and total butchering of civilian population, the Covenant steamrolled the UNSC forces and Stel was promoted to the rank of Major Domo.
"The events of that day seeded doubts in my mind. Perhaps, the humans wern't as heretical and blasphemous as we thought. What if we were wrong to commit what was essentially organized genocide? The Great Schism proved myself correct."
―'Vadam reflecting on the Battle of Kholo.
The powerful and now respected younger 'Vadam brother was present at the world of Kholo when they ordered the attack. Stel led his first squad in this time, leading a small group of Minor Domos and Unggoy subordinates. They arrived with the scout vessels and decimated the mining ships that were in orbit - boarding and attacking a small Colonial Administrative Authority vessel that was converted into an ordinance ship during the battle. Next, Covenant ground forces were deployed to slice through any UNSC forces that could give their ships in orbit trouble. This resulted in Stel and several other squads targeting an airbase which housed much of the UNSC's aerial vehicles, raising to the ground as soon as they could. Human resistance was strong, but futile. The UNSC started to evacuate whatever civilians they could and sneak them past the Covenant fleet and beyond, towards safety.
However, things were about to get interesting. A small group of SPARTAN-II and SPARTAN-III supersoldiers were present, helping evacuate the civilians while they were present. Within an almost-collapsing building and either side with no weapons, Stel came to blows with a white and blue, heavily-armored SPARTAN-II. As Stel bested him, however, he could had the choice to kill the "Demon", but the floor underneath the SPARTAN-II's feet collapsed, leaving him trapped under rubble. Assuming him defeated, Stel refused to waste any more time and left.
However, the UNSC forces were scattered and almost completely annihilated. Stel, the rest of his squad and the entourage of the Covenant regrouped with the main fleet, watching Kholo burn until the surface was nothing but glass. The Covenant symbol for 'Faith' was carved into the planet, as a sign of the aliens' dominance over the human race at the time. Stel's leadership skills having surfaced, he was promoted to Ultra Domo.
Conflict on New Zaječar
In the Demons of Hope timeline, Stel 'Vadam is one of the Ultra Domo field officers who is present at the invasion of the colony of New Zaječar, which was an industrial high-point for the United Nations Space Command. Naturally, taking this planet would be stealing a valuable strategic asset. But what the Covenant didn't know was that the planet's upper hemisphere had been built over the top of a Forerunner city - now of which, completely deserted, and filled with all sorts of artifacts. This conflict takes place during the story Halo: Custodia.
Stel 'Vadam, given his exemplary performance during the Kholo conflict, was selected to be a prime asset for this particular campaign. In particular, he ran against a Spartan team, of which the SPARTAN-II he fought was the co-team leader. This time, Stel made sure they would have a rematch - busting Doug-103's visor and reducing his breastplate to disrepair. This delayed Centurion's race to the Forerunner city considerably.
Regarded by Stel as one of his most successful battles, Paris IV saw Covenant deployed and staging a siege on the capital of the colony. As no Field Masters were present at this time, Stel was the most senior Ultra and lead his group into battle quickly. Stel's first course of action was to quickly take the anti-aircraft batteries that were present on the perimeter of the city. He led two squads - one consisting of three Minor Domos and a Major at the head, the other with several Kig-yar snipers and a Minor Domo to lead them. The first squad destroyed the anti-aircraft battery to the west, while Stel went alone with the snipers backing him to the east.
Secondly, the Ultra decided flanked the power station and caused a city-wide blackout. Effectively leaving UNSC without any eyes, this decision would turn the following battle into Stel's favor. The blackout in the middle of an invasion caused them to start rolling out heavy armor, including Scorpion tanks and Warthogs with missile salvos. While the Warthogs were not too much of a fuss given the snipers, the Scorpions were a much different story.
"On the blood of our fathers. On the blood of our sons! Today, my friends! We achieve glory like no other, in honorable battle!"
―'Vadam's rousing speech, mid-battle.
Outnumbered by the armored column and many marines during this phase, Stel made perhaps one of the most suicidal decisions in his life. When the tanks were distracted by Covenant forces, 'Vadam latched on to the hull of one Scorpion, killed its gunner, gripped on to the barrel of the tank cannon and swiveled it towards one of the other tanks. The pilot, unaware of the intruder at the time, ended up firing into a friendly and destroying the vehicle. His incompetence would be paid for with his life, and tipped the siege in the Covenant's favor.
As a result, the capital city was taken under control. The only loose end in the way was the evacuation center, in which several marines had stolen plasma grenades. While they massacred the marines all except for one, the evacuation of civilians was a success. Never the less, the capital was taken, and soon Paris IV was fully assimilated by the Covenant.
"The spoils of war. Fumirole. Just another colony for snatching away from a, "dirty mammal species", right? No. Just look what happened to the cruiser. One. Just one soldier was all they needed."
―Stel feeling a bit melancholic.
It was during this time, the year of 2552, that things started taking the worst for the Covenant and all species involved, turning into an enormous ramification across all species involved once it had mutated into the Great Schism. However, this was not just a time of dire efforts, this would also be a time of great peril, but great emotion for Stel, radically changing the way he thought about not just his species, but the Covenant itself.
Before they went to battle, a brief ceremony for Stel's induction of the rank of Zealot Field Master was held, in which Stel took with great modesty. This was indeed one of the first signs of his changing personality. Once they were led into battle, Stel took to the ground fight with his fellow warriors, preferring to fight and or die with his men, not be gazing down on them from the cruiser. He fought through the already bombarded and desolate ruins of a Fumirole city, not far from the largest UNSC outpost on the planet. The battle of Fumirole had been raging for quite a while now, and it had been Stel's first proper field command experience.
This final skirmish on Fumirole did justice for Stel's deserving of the position, having not lost the squad attached to his command throughout the entire battle and having fought numerous human armymen as well as civilian militia who had personally taken arms against the invaders. It seems things had started going sour though, once SPARTANS - or known colloquially in the Covenant as "Demons" for their terrifying aptitude at combat - had started showing up, including NOBLE team. Even worse, previously unseen, brightly-colored armored figures similiar to SPARTANS except not had also entered the fray, with unparalleled acrobatic skills and hand-to-hand fighting previously unseen in ground operations. Stel decided to make a rather wise tactical maneuver to move inside a large building that had been partially destroyed, but not before a Scorpion tank spotted him and blew the construction to the ground, leveling the entire thing and almost killing him.
Cursing his brightly-colored armor's easy visibility, he retreated back towards the Covenant side of no-man's-land and commandeered a Ghost, which he used to escape to the cruiser and see the status of the battle. But this would prove to be an unfortunate decision, as the SPARTANS completed their objective: ...destroy the ship over the city by delivering a high-powered explosive to it. The entire cruiser was wreathed in flames and Stel just managed to make it off the ship in the nick of time.
With their battle command destroyed and the UNSC in victory, Stel traveled the wilds long and wide to make it back to the Covenant forces. Once he had reached the nearest city under the Covenant regime, he discovered he was one of the handful of survivors who had made it there, and the only one to report what had actually happened. Stel was just glad he was alive, and without mentioning it to anyone else, personally glad that he did not have to tangle with SPARTANS or these new assailants on the field.
"We were reaching a breaking point, here. This was their last bastion of defense. The last line. After this, both ourselves and them thought themselves all but annihilated. Little did either of us know. I received some of my worst scars from here...and received the machine I call my new left arm."
―Stel regarding Reach.
Escape from High Charity
Refuge on Earth
Battle for Installation 00
Against All Odds timeline continues here.
Demons of Hope timeline continues here.
A focused soldier and with an iron-forged will, Stel is quite reserved and disciplined, in contrast to his hot-blooded Spartan friend. Like all Sangheili, he was raised to become a honorable warrior, Stel however is a slight exception. For example, he is unwilling to let his reasoning be compromised, but he still holds a strong sense of honor. In his early years, he was cold, abrasive and mostly kept to himself, however, unlike many Sangheili who were jaded by grief over the merciless killings of humanity, Stel remained optimistic and instead opted to build a new future with the humans. Another infamous trait is his rather salicious personal life - as a swordsman, Stel is permitted to marry as many spouses as he wills, and as a result, he has had more than one "encounter".
As humanity and Sangheili alike began rebuilding their shattered worlds, Stel faced the incoming turmoil with a courageous force of will, honed with discipline. However, as soldier-like he may seem, he is also a rare Sangheili with a sense of dry humor. This was no more obvious than when talking to his brother Thel during a meeting with a Fallen representative, where he attracted the glares of several politicians after a joke. However, despite this, it appears that the constant jokes aside, that is in fact Stel hiding the guilt he has harbored previously, during the period in which his personality came into transit, from reclusive, cold and abrasive warrior into a soldier capable of laying foundation to the deeds heroes are known for.
On that note, Stel harbors a grudge towards politics and people associated with them. This grudge often earns him the disdain of others and Stel has been noted to trust his gut more than the commands of his superiors. Given Stel's tactical intuition, Stel was recognized for his achievements, sometimes on-par, with his brother. This is quite apparent when witnessing the master warrior in battle. However, he seems as if he never grew up at heart, more than once disobeying orders to trust his heart and his instinct. This has gotten him into trouble more than once, even if his feelings were right. This may, in the future, be used against him. Stel's preferred armaments appear to be automatic weaponry and anything that allows him to get close to engage his foes in melee combat. More often than not he has shown skill with human weapons as a result of the pseudo-guerrilla warfare he was involved in after the Sangheili were betrayed by the Covenant.
"Bet you it will be all the way over there by the time he is finished talking."
―Stel joking to his brother about the first sun rising during a very, very tedious meeting with several politicians, circa Vadam Legacies: The Fallen.
"I will not kill you out of spite, but because you are in between me and my objective."
―Stel taunting a Jiralhanae.
"The humans have a saying, Yull. "A leader should not ask his men to do anything that he is not willing to do himself," or something like that. I think that is a fallacy. Anyone can say they would be willing to do something, but a leader must first prove that he will do it."
One of the few Sangheili to use a prosthetic, in this case his left arm.
Stel never uses a formal tongue when speaking to close allies; examples of these are Doug-103 and Sona 'Demal.
He is highly sensitive about his eyes, often growling in hostility whenever someone mentions it, hinting at his past experiences where he was ostracized.
He wears a membrane to hide his prosthetic arm. Most of the time, his Heads-Up-Display (HUD) is hiding his heterochromatic eyes, and his membrane, cleverly hidden underneath his armor's pauldrons, is hiding his prosthetic arm. This is why most of the images don't show a heterochromatic Sangheili with a robotic arm.
Rather than trying to make the usual honor-craving, animalistic Sangheili warrior, Stel is a more or less deliberate attempt to aim for a more civilized and humanized take on the Sangheili race.
For all intents and purposes, Stel's antics in war-era Demons of Hope and Against All Odds during the Human-Covenant War remain similar but change depending on certain circumstances.
Stel 'Vadam - as Imperial Admiral - appeared as a guest in a comic strip from the deviantArt comic series Halo X.