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What are, or were, the Forerunners?
You never fight one. You never speak to one. You never even see one. Yet the alien race most important to the story of Halo is not the Covenant or the Flood... it's the Forerunners.
The Covenant worships them. The Flood was discovered and temporarily contained by them. The Halo rings themselves, as well as almost every other building or structure in the games, were built by them. The Forerunners' influence and history is everywhere. So why did we finish Halo 3 feeling like they were still a complete mystery?
Our best guess: Two clues shed light on this missing race. The first is a snippet of dialogue during the final level of the game. Guilty Spark tells Master Chief, "You may be Forerunner, but this ring is mine!" He can't be referring to Master Chief alone, because he named both the Chief and Miranda Keyes "Reclaimers" in Halo and Halo 2. Are humans the descendants of Forerunners?
That's one theory, but the second clue complicates matters. Scattered throughout the third game are hidden terminals, containing messages between a Forerunner known as the Librarian and his lover, the Didact. The conversation mentions the Forerunners discovering mankind on Earth and a subsequent desire to save us from the activation of the Halos.
Humans, then, are the chosen heirs of the Forerunners, not their direct children. Or at least that's what we're going with for now... the whole subject is still extremely murky.