Destiny 2: The Witch Queen | Who Is Savathûn? A Lore Refresher
The name Savathûn is everywhere, both inside Destiny 2 and out of it. Following Bungie's The Witch Queen expansion reveal back in August (Hive Guardians, what?!) and Season of the Lost bringing the Destiny 2 community to the best place it has been since launch, there is a lot of lore Guardians are catching up on. It's no exaggeration to say that Savathûn has been a driving force of the events of Destiny fiction for years, acting as the trigger or catalyst for many of our Guardian's most involved strikes, raids, and other missions. Because of that, some may need a little refresher on the lore surrounding the central character of the upcoming expansion. With so many returning and new players, here is the biggest deep dive you'll find on who the Witch Queen truly is.
Who is Savathûn?
Savathûn didn't always go by this name. The Witch Queen, before she came to power, was originally called Sathona. Her siblings joined her in a search for a new future for the Hive, a species known for their incredibly short lifespans on a planet called Fundament, a world that's very existence poses an extreme danger to those that visit it. Millions of years before her birth, the Hive homeworld crashed into Fundament, a crash that resulted in a formation of continents, one being the Osmium Court. Sathona's father ruled Osmium, and she was the middle child to her older sister Xi Ro and her younger sister Aurash. Sathona was meant to become a Mother, a title meant to describe a proto-Hive being able to procreate and lengthen their short lives by eating the "Mother-jelly" when they reach adulthood. She was on track to become a Mother herself to buy herself time to find true meaning in life, and what she got instead was an eternity of intrigue, power, and a fragile empire built on lies.
Making a deal with the proverbial devil
The birth of the Hive, the curse of the Worm Gods, and the rise of Savathûn and her siblings.
When Sathona's father reached the age of ten in Fundament years, he stumbled upon a dead Worm just outside his court and instantly became enthralled with it. Eventually, he began prophesizing a disaster that would wipe out life as they knew it. Aurash took her father's warning seriously, while Taox, the siblings' tutor, brushed his ravings off as just a softening of the king's mind due to "old age." While Taox had faith in Sathona's intellect, she did not see any of the three siblings as worthy rulers following the king's demise. Declaring the three sisters not fit to take over for the king, the tutor sent a message out to a rival kingdom known as the Helium Court and offered to assassinate the entire royal bloodline if Taox could become their regent. The problem was, the Helium army couldn't quite get the job done, failing to take out the three hive sisters, causing Sathona to steal her father's Worm to escape with her remaining family. Sathona, already on the path to become a Mother, promised to take all of the power that comes with that title, alongside her siblings, to punish those that slew her father and that of her father's kingdom.
The three siblings sailed the dangerously toxic waters of Fundament aboard Aurash's ship, and it was during that year abroad that she began to hear from her father's Worm much in the way he did. It urged her to take specific action to save herself and her sisters, which eventually led them to another vessel called the Needle. The previous passengers of this particular ship were killed when an egg aboard hatched a deadly foe, but the three hive sisters could claim it for their own. Now that the ship was theirs, it was time to decide on a destination. Xi Ro wanted to travel to the Kaharn Atoll, a location that housed a gathering of Fundament citizens, to procure resources to take out the Helium Court. Aurash wanted to repair the ship, a suggestion that - when prompted by the Worm - Sathona agreed to.
It took the siblings a few years to repair the Needle, but time was not on their side when a species has a short lifespan like the Hive. That was when Aurash posed a dangerous plan, one that would see the ship dive into the very depths of Fundament to its core. Despite Xi Ro's warnings, the Worm urged Sathona to agree, which led the three to travel to the very center of this world, and it was there that they realized the danger of the Syzygy, the prophecy their father wanted them about, was real and that everything was already set up for this planet to fall. Luckily for them, or unluckily, depending on how you look at it, they encountered ancient beings once thought to be a myth: the Leviathan. The Leviathan offered the three sisters a warning to turn back, lest they accidentally unleash an irreversible danger upon the world. That was where the choice was given: do they side with the Light, which promised a thriving society and hope? Or Darkness, which promised only death and the art of conquering. At the Worm's behest, the trio ignored the Leviathan's warnings and continued to the depths of Fundament. At its core, the siblings found the Worm Gods, and uncovered an offer of survival and vengeance through them.
- Akka - The Worm of Secrets
- Eir - The Keeper of Order
- Ur - The Ever-Hunger
- Xol - The Will of the Thousands
- Yul - The Honest Worm
With a promise of immortality and a safe escape from Fundament, the three siblings accepted the Gods' offer to take their larvae into them in order to spread their influence. With the offering, there was also a promise never to turn away from their true nature. For Xi Ro, she took the Knight and transformed into Xivu Arath, a name you're going to hear a lot in Season of the Lost. Aurash took the offering and chose a male form, becoming the King of the Hive known as Auryx (later to be known as Oryx, whom we defeated during Destiny 1's The Taken King expansion). Sathona took in the Mother and became Savathûn. The rest of history was written in blood.
Live to die, but dying to live
Doing whatever it takes to break the lifecycle of the Hive.
Savathûn, Auryx, and Xivu Arath dispersed through the universe, with Auryx taking to Fundament's moons to go after those that provided asylum to Taox, the Ammonites that allied with the Traveler of the Light. Where Auryx was initially going to speak with the Ammonites to negotiate, Savathun, urged by her Worm, killed him. Instead of dying, Auryx passed into an alternate dimension called the Ascendant Realm, where he created his own pocket universe, or Throne World, in which he held absolute power. When he returned to the living, Auryx changed. Gone was his love and respect for his siblings, instead choosing the path of Sword-Logic, aiming to kill his sisters and any who opposed him. Sword-Logic is the belief that power cannot be given, it must be taken, and to become the ultimate weapon, one must be the strongest weapon. Eventually, vengeance gainst Taox was exacted but the blood didn't stop there. War was a constant, with Auryx and his sisters killing one another and anything that stood in their path.
Eventually, Auryx realized that the Worm Gods used the siblings. Upon this revelation, he called a meeting with the two sisters in his Throne World, resulting in their offer of power. But by Sword-Logic, power cannot be offered, it must be taken. Therefore, Auryx killed his sisters to take on their power, using it to face off against Akka, the Worm of Secrets. By harnessing the power of Sword-Logic, he then killed Akka so that he could use the Deep power to create the Tablets of Ruin, effectively giving him the power to Take. That ability, as you may have guessed, led to the Taken. Once he fully became Oryx, the Taken King, he brought back to life his sister Xivu Arath as an "act of war" while Savathûn's resurrection was rooted in an "act of cunning." From there, a new way of ruling commenced, driving the Hive to kill any that opposed them, taking some of those conquered to feed their Worm while giving the rest of the offerings to their Superiors.
Thralls > Acolytes > Knights/Wizards > Ascendant Hive
The Ascendant Hive are those that can take control of entire legions, a power that is recognized and rewarded with the ability to traverse the Ascendant Realms. The cycle of violence and death fed into the Hive Gods' power, becoming a self-eating snake that has no end. That is, until Oryx's sisters began to conspire against him.
Following the Hive's control of the Deep, Oryx fell back into his own Throne World to commune with the deep, a move that Savathûn used to her advantage. Savathûn quickly went to her sister with a plan to trap Oryx within his Throne World so that the two could steal his Tablets of Ruin, effectively cutting off any access to his established tithe system detailed above. Unfortunately for Savathun and her sister, they could not trick Oryx, and he punished them by declaring a new war and cutting off Savathûn from her own tributes, weakening her and her Worm. But the defeat wasn't for nothing, because Savathûn discovered a daughter of her brother, a brilliant being by the name of Ir Anuk, following her deception of Oryx's other offspring by the name of Crota.
Savathûn tricked Crota into using his weapon, his Cleaver, to cut a pathway directly into his Throne World, which allowed a portal through which the Vex could come through. Leaving his Throne World vulnerable, Savathûn felt confident in her approaching victory, telling Xivu Arath that Oryx was vulnerable and how she could destroy him once and for all. Unfortunately for them, Oryx was prepared for this betrayal, and to circumvent it, he moved his Throne World to a safer location within a dreadnought made from the remains of Akka.
Quria, an enemy Guardians took down in Season of the Splicer, is a powerful entity that is a Vex Axis Mind Hydra, also known as the "Dreaming Mind." Oryx captured Quria and offered the scrambling Vex up to his sister Savathun as tribute, which led to a conversation about the siblings' current path. Savathûn, questioning the ways of Sword-Logic, appealed to Oryx asking for any sign that they were in the right in their conquest. He replied that the current state of the Hive was all the proof she needed that Sword-Logic is the end-all-be-all of truths. Eventually, the trio dispersed once more, with Savathûn taking her army into the black hole in which the Harmony lived, with Xivu Arath fleeing away from Oryx for her own freedom.
A plan of escape
Tricked by a Worm.
With the siblings separated, Savathun had time to reflect on her current state and ties to the Worm. Wanting to escape the reliance burdened on her with feeding the Worm, she began to think of ways to escape her self-made prison. The first step of her extraction was to increase the tributes made to her by the Hive. To slow down time, she placed trusted Ascendant Hive just outside of the black hole in which she resides. Hoping that the passage of time would be slowed, she thought to trick the Ascendant's Worm into thinking the tribute levels from lesser Hive have raised when no notable raise could actually be found. Again, her latest plan proved unsuccessful.
Instead of tricking the Worm, she made it hungrier, so she went back to her time theory to try a different angle. Instead of slowing time, she then attempted to utilize areas in the universe where time moved faster, allocating Hive to gather tributes in these locations rather than attempting to slow down their tithing rates. Tribute, as with knowledge, could only be garnered through violence in the realm of Sword-Logic, which led to her leading Crota to the Vex in Oryx's world before he captured Quria and gifted her to Savathûn. When in the black hole with Quria, she taught the Vex Mind how to logically use Hive magic to detect, understand, and ultimately solve problems. Savathûn and Quria then created a system in which their findings could be mutually understood, and that was when Savathûn felt she was approaching full readiness for her true plan. She kickstarted it all by recording a message she gave to a Thrall, which the lesser being could not understand, and encrypted it for a future ear to listen to. That future ear wouldn't hear the message until much later, when our Guardian finds it when traversing the Dreaming City.
The Taken King's defeat
When Oryx became no more, a new threat arose.
We, as Guardians, defeated Oryx during the Taken King expansion in the first Destiny game, following the destruction of his son Crota. Years later, a different breed of Hive infected the planet Titan, led by the Fury of Savathûn called Naktal, the Trusted of Savathûn called Vanbaluk, and the Binder of Savathûn called Kudazad. Unbeknownst to Guardians, the discovery of Hive artifacts was all part of Savathûn's plan to be summoned, though that plan eventually failed like many of her others.
When a Guardian team went missing during a mission into the New Pacific Arcology called Operation Caliban, they were transformed into Void Light crystals by the Hive. Savathûn's plan was to be summoned by these crystals, but we foiled her plans by destroying them and her song before the ritual could be completed.
Unfortunately for us, Savathûn is known for her cunning for a reason, and she had other plans in place. After numerous simulations of Oryx, she learned the power to Take, giving her access to Taken armies to do her bidding. Ir Arok, known as the Tongue of Quria, led Taken forces into Io to corrupt the Vex, but we once more disrupted those plans, though not without losses on our side once more. Also discovered during this time was that Grask (the final boss in the Lake of Shadows strike), a Cabal Red Legion commander, was transformed into a Taken, which would have been impossible while Oryx was alive. This was the first indicator that Savathûn had successfully learned to master the Taken, giving her yet another weapon at her disposal.
During the Warmind expansion, Guardians uncovered communication with Hive on Mars, sending messages to Savathûn, begging her to come back from the Deep to harness their power. These messages escalated following the destruction of the physical body of the Worm God Xol and its herald Nokris (the Supplicant of Savathûn, another Hive God). A new bond was formed with the last known Ahamkara: Riven.
Unlike previous Taken, Riven never lost her grip on who she was, or who she wanted to be. She still retained her goals and her history. Of her own free will, Riven heard Savathûn's offer of a new purpose under her leadership with the goal in mind of corrupting the entire Awoken race, launching a full-scale attack on the Reef by way of Uldren Sov and his Fallen Scorn. In the Forsaken DLC, Uldren Sov was being manipulated by Riven under the guise of his sister, Mara, who was presumed dead up until this point. Though Riven was able to open the portal to launch her invasion at Savathûn's behest, that opening also gave Guardians the perfect chance to strike her down. However, Riven didn't go down quietly, bequeathing one final spiteful act before her passing: a curse placed on the Dreaming City, forever changing the rules of Ascension.
While Riven's passing was unfortunate in the short term, Savathûn did anticipate this outcome and made it a part of her plan. With Riven's curse and following our destruction of Dul Incaru, the Dreaming City entered a time loop. The time-loop supported Savathun's previous plan to harness the power of time itself to escape the trappings of her Worm's hunger, effectively manipulating the flow of time in order to trick the Worm out of the full demands of tribute.
But Savathûn wasn't the only one that had an interest in the Taken and the Dreaming City. Her sister, Xivu Arath, also held a special desire to harness this power. While the pair worked together to achieve their goals against Oryx previously, the pair's paths would eventually diverge dangerously.
Eventually, Savathûn was faced with a new enemy found in Calus, the former Cabal Emporer. Within an attempt to find the Crown of Sorrow, Savathûn expertly laid a trap for the Cabal leader. The Crown of Sorrow was an Ascendant Hive relic that Savathun believed could properly mimic her now-dead brother's ability to control the will of others. At least, that's what she led Calus to believe. Unbeknownst to him, it was secretly a listening device that would allow Savathûn to spy on him, with Calus being none the wiser.
What Savathûn did not plan on, however, was Calus decreeing that Gahlran don the Crown instead to control the Hive, though this act drove Gahlran to the point of insanity, launching an event that Guardians (At Calus' command) could take on in-game, in an activity known as Leviathan's Menagerie.
Believed to have won, Calus retrieved the Crown with the help of Guardians and Savathûn's magic, which allowed the Witch Queen the ability to infect the minds of his Loyalists for her to torment him as a means of control.
Eventually, three Hive heretics called Azavath, Malkanth, and Akrazul aimed to rebel against the daughters of Crota. Malkanth's goal was to commence a ritual that would place the spirit of Akrazul into the body of Azavath due to Akrazul's crippled state. The Wizard's ritual did not go as planned, as Azkrazul's rage proved to be too much for Azavath's form, which eventually drove him to kill Malkanth and go after the Swarm; the brood of Hive under Crota's philosophy.
When Azavath's spirit began to leave her own body as part of the ritual gone awry, Savathûn urged her to become a Deathsinger, a special breed of Ultra Hive Wizard that has the gift of the fatal song: anyone that hears her song perishes. With Azavath now a Deathsinger, she eventually became known as Ir Airam and killed the remaining Akrazul and the champion of the Swarm called Zulmak.
Before Malkanth passed on, Savathûn discussed the nature of absolutes and godhood, claiming that nothing was impervious to defeat. Space, time? It can all be broken, and even gods could die, though what is true death? As we've seen, death doesn't necessarily mean the end, as the tale of Savathûn and her siblings evolves, and what she aimed to do is find all of the ways these "absolutes" can be broken so that she can control the seemingly uncontrollable.
Eventually, Savathûn, alongside the Daughters of Crota, crafted the Scarlet Keep, drawing Guardians to the Moon. What the Daughters did not know, however, is that Savathûn's help is always a double-edged sword. Savathun knew that the Guardians would take control of this area and destroy the Hidden Swarm; she simply used the Daughters to build the perfect bait with one simple goal in mind: wipe out the bloodline of Oryx, once and for all.
Savathûn, always scheming, eventually pursued a venture involving a Vex computational array on Io. Sending an army of Taken to corrupt the array in order to control it, the Vex went on the offensive, which caused a massive power spike that drew the attention of the Vanguard and our Guardian. Upon the discovery that the Vex and Taken were fighting one another, with the latter under the Envoy of Savathûn's control, called Baurisk. When Guardians arrived on the scene, they noted that the Blight found on Io was similar to that found in the Dreaming City, allowing the puzzle pieces of Savathûn's plan to start coming together slowly.
Using Eyes of Savathûn to spy on the Pyramids that invaded Mars, Titan, and Mercury, Savathûn's will was to halt any communication between the Pyramids and Guardians. Nokris was able to delay the communications for a while before he was eventually slain.
The tables turned
Savathûn and her sister become adversaries.
Eventually, the Hive broods would turn on Savathûn, calling her a heretic for her work against the Darkness. As the Black Fleet took on Sol, Savathûn went into hiding, leaving her Court without protection or knowledge of where she was or her plans.
Taking the opportunity for what it was, Xivu Arath took this chance and combined the Hive in the Sol system with her power, allowing her to free her Wrathborn corruption. This was done with the Cryptoliths, Hive structures that corrupted those seen as foes in the Last City, turning them into willless champions bent on destruction. With this newly invigorated army, Xivu Arath then set her sights on Savathûn to take her down and assume control of her power.
While Xivu Arath embarked on her bid for control, Savathun was struck with a sudden moment of humanity, of longing and nostalgia. When we, the Guardian, and The Crow (formerly Uldren Sov) celebrated a victory at a humble bonfire, Savathûn was suddenly struck with a feeling of loss, reflecting back on her family, her long-dead father, her siblings, and the ruins of Fundament. Not to be confused with suddenly experiencing a change of heart, she eventually went back to her schemes of freeing herself from the Worm by becoming the most powerful of beings.
Caiatl, unlike her father, is not so easily manipulated.
Caiatl is the Cabal Emperess and daughter of the exiled Calus, an old interest of Savathûn's mentioned previously. Savathûn, following Ghaul's defeat during the Red War, began controlling Umun'arath's thoughts to keep the Evocate-General's obsession with the Hive focused in a way that benefited the Witch Queen. In her worship, she felt that harnessing the way of the Hive would be the key to keeping Cabal alive and safe, though Caiatl quickly struck her down when the General bade Calus' daughter to bow before the god of war (not that God of War). Umun'arath's death was a part of Savathûn's plan to summon her sister in order to distract her with another galactic system to conquer.
During Season of the Chosen, Savathûn's song could be heard amongst those in the City.
Eventually, we came to Season of the Splicer, the season that proceeded what's going on now with Season of the Lost. Season of the Splicer saw the Last City shrouded in an eternal night, causing both Ikora and Osiris to seek out the Fallen Kell of Light, Mintrax, for help. This season was exceptional due to its incredible storytelling and character development, particularly with Saint-14, but it was during this that Savathûn's long-scheming plans finally started to pay off.
With the Vex trapping the city in a simulation, Guardians went into the Vex network to find which Axis Mind was behind the sudden night. Unfortunately, the simulation evolved each week, making people on edge and impulsive. This caused many, including the Future War Cult, to rally against the Eliksni Fallen refugees. When Mithrax discovered that the Vex infiltration, the unease, and the betrayal all linked back to Savathûn's influence, a plan to take out Quaria was put in place. Little did we know at that time that Savathûn was closer than anyone thought, taking over Osiris' guise to monitor activity within the Vanguard and the City closely.
Who is Savathûn present-day?
Savathûn is cunning incarnate. She's wise, tricky, and intelligent far beyond what many can even comprehend. She has a gift for paying attention to the wants and desires of those around her, giving her the openings she needs in order to assume control over her enemies. This control is aided by Savathun's Song, a viral language that seeps into the minds of those around her in a bid for control.
Lord Shaxx, the now-dead Lakshmi-2, The Crow, The Drifter, and many more could all be heard humming her song before her eventual reveal in the current Season of the Lost. Now, we are working alongside her and Mara Sov to help free her from her Worm in order to get back the real Osiris from the clutches that bind. To learn more about the current season and Savathun's deal, check out our previous breakdown here. If you're a new or returning player, feel free to also mosey on over to our complete guide on how to jump back into the action.