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What’s Going On In Destiny’s Story, Anyway?

by Matt Miller on Aug 24, 2015 at 10:10 AM

Destiny has taken a lot of well-deserved heat for its approach to storytelling, but after our recent cover story visit to Bungie and extensive hands-on time with The Taken King, it’s clear that the studio is moving towards a far more robust narrative experience in future releases. Knowing that existing story elements are about to become a bigger focus, and with only weeks before the new installment, we’re here to break down what we know about Destiny’s fiction – no grimoire cards required.

The following details are drawn from multiple sources, including in-game flavor text and conversations, grimoire card text, and conversations directly with Bungie developers. For newcomers to Destiny who plan to jump in with a level 25 character on September 15, the following is organized as a reference guide, in case understanding the fictional backdrop of the game is important to you. Simply click on the page you’re interested in learning about.

For longtime fans who may already be familiar with some of this information, we've aimed here for a clear summation of Destiny’s established backstory and lore. We’ve made a point to fact-check our entire story directly with Bungie prior to publication; as such, we hope this can be an accurate and authoritative glimpse into the existing narrative. Anything not confirmed by Bungie is clearly described as such in the text. 

I want to know more about...

...The Traveler, The Darkness, and where the Guardians came from »

...the Last City, the founding of the Crucible, and the Battle of Twilight Gap »

...the Guardians’ disastrous assault against the Hive on the Moon »

...the Vex, the Cabal, and the Vault of Glass »

...the Awoken, and the Reef Wars »

...what happened in the Destiny base game. »

...The Dark Below and House of Wolves »

...what else I’m missing. Tell me about Dredgen Yor, the Ahamkara, and Osiris »

Next Page: The beginnings of the Destiny story

What’s the deal with the big floating sphere?

That’s the Traveler, a sentient and ultra-powerful being that helped guide humanity into a Golden Age of prosperity and technological advancement. Before that happens, however, the Traveler visits a number of other places and worlds, including the home of a noble species that called itself the Eliksni. Unfortunately, a great calamity befalls the Eliksni, which they call the Whirlwind. It’s likely this devastating event correlates to the coming of the Darkness, an ancient enemy of the Traveler, but we don’t know for sure, and Bungie has yet to confirm the connection. Regardless, the Traveler abandons the Eliksni, and the Whirldwind scatters the many noble houses of that species across the stars, where they become what we call the Fallen.

Much later, in what we know as the late 21st century, the Traveler arrives in our solar system, and eventually settles on Mars. We send a mission to Mars to investigate this odd floating globe. Three astronauts (perhaps not coincidentally, the same size as a standard fireteam) are the first to make contact with the Traveler, and they witness this powerful entity cause rain to fall on the once-barren planet. 

In the following decades, the Traveler shares much of its knowledge with humanity, teaching us to terraform planets and extend our own lifespans. We even learn enough to establish a top secret project that results in artificial beings called Exos, a species with consciousness and true intelligence. Bungie has told us that the further specifics of the Exo origin story are yet to be revealed, but are on the way in the future. Humanity also builds an interconnected network of artificially intelligent Warmind satellites, engineered to deter potential alien threats.

This Golden Age is the high point of human civilization.

Something bad is about to happen, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, the Traveler’s enemy, the Darkness, eventually follows the Traveler to our solar system, and wipes out much of our burgeoning planetary civilization. One of the artificially intelligent warminds, called Rasputin, detects the Darkness’ impending arrival, and rather than be utterly destroyed, shuts itself down in the hopes of being awoken later, as it computes there is no way to successfully combat the current threat.

In a heroic last stand that defies its previous encounters with the Darkness, the Traveler fights back rather than abandoning humanity. It expends its own enigmatic internal energy, called Light, to push away the Darkness. 

Many humans at this time were already fleeing Earth into space, and in the titanic conflict between Light and Darkness, they are transformed into the Awoken, a distinct species, many of whom eventually settle in the Asteroid Belt called the Reef. As is the case with the Exo player race, Bungie has told us that the mystery around the Awoken origin will eventually be clarified; plans are in place to unwrap that tale in some future installment of the game.

Through its sacrifice, the Traveler manages to drive off the Darkness, but in so doing, the Traveler is left nearly inert and mostly powerless. Our great golden age has collapsed, and most of humanity is wiped out.

Okay, so what’s the Darkness?

We don’t know. You can bet the answer to that question is pretty key to the long-term story of the Destiny universe.

Seems like this would all be pretty bad for humanity, right?

Yes, the few remnants of humanity fall into a new Dark Age, and we don’t know how long that lasts. 

How do we get out of that mess?

Well, the Traveler is mostly powerless, but not entirely. Even as it falls inert, it sends off tiny fragments of itself called Ghosts, with a mission to track down people of great strength, discipline, and intelligence that can be revived and made to protect humanity. 

That’s us!

Yep. That’s the guardians. The Ghosts spread out across Earth and use the transformative power of Light to bring special individuals back to fight the good fight. 

Wait a second, revive? As in, we were dead?

Exactly. 

So we’re like zombies? 

Well, not exactly. Guardians are infused with Light, life, and sentience. But some of our enemies don’t think about it that way. In one grimoire card, a Fallen even refers to us as “dead soldiers.” They think we’re the bad guys.

I want to know more about...

...The Traveler, The Darkness, and where the Guardians came from »

...the Last City, the founding of the Crucible, and the Battle of Twilight Gap »

...the Guardians’ disastrous assault against the Hive on the Moon »

...the Vex, the Cabal, and the Vault of Glass »

...the Awoken, and the Reef Wars »

...what happened in the Destiny base game. »

...The Dark Below and House of Wolves »

...what else I’m missing. Tell me about Dredgen Yor, the Ahamkara, and Osiris »

Next Page: The founding of humanity’s Last City, and the Crucible opens for business

Okay, Traveler fights Darkness, depressing Dark Age ensues, and Guardians rise from the dead. What’s next?

The Last City gets founded. Humanity is scattered across Earth, and all our planetary colonies are presumed lost. Guardians rise across the planet, and small, scattered pockets of surviving humans begin to search for the Traveler. Led by Guardians, these pilgrims seek a fabled refuge beneath the Traveler, and a community begins to form there. The burgeoning City is doing pretty well for itself, but it’s not long before trouble shows up. The Fallen have pursued their Great Machine (the Traveler) across the stars, and once they find it on Earth, they prepare to attack. 

Guardians hold the line in a big fight called the Battle of Six Fronts, so named because Guardians have to hold off six entries into the City. They succeed. Near-mythical warrior Guardians are remembered from this time, known as the Iron Lords; figures such as Felwinter, Jolder, Skorri, Timur, Radegast, and Gheleon might later have weapons named after them, but their legends are forged during Six Fronts. A famous Exo named Saint-14 insists on a crusade against the Fallen, and disappears into the wilderness, along with his amazing helmet, which is destined to be found by a lucky Guardian many years later.

After Six Fronts, the Guardians realize they need to train harder to protect this last bastion of their species, so they form a training regimen called the Crucible, in which they face off against one another in preparation for fighting the many alien threats they may one day face. 

And everything goes smoothly in setting up this new town from there on out?

No, that’s not really how it goes. 

A number of old and new factions begin to vie for control of the city, all with different ideologies about how to guide humanity back to greatness, and things start to get violent. Unsurprisingly, while the Guardians themselves remain chaotic and prone to their own agendas, they don’t have a lot of patience for humans fighting each other, and when events tip toward civil war, they step in. A new government is established, formed from a Consensus representing the people, the Vanguard representing the Guardians, and a mysterious figure called the Speaker (who somehow communes with the Traveler) helping to guide the Last City’s fate. The groups that survive the Faction Wars (Dead Orbit, Future War Cult, and New Monarchy) pursue their goals in other, more subtle manners.   

Meanwhile, Guardians increasingly divide themselves into distinct ideological groups, some of which had already begun to coalesce, but which now become stratified. Titans task themselves with the defense of the city, and build a massive wall to surround their new home. Nomadic Hunters explore the wilderness, and help to guide refugees to this growing community. An order of Guardians forms to better understand Light and the Traveler – these warrior-scholars are the Warlocks. The Guardians join together in one of the Towers that rise along the outskirts of the Last City, from which they stand sentinel over humanity.

The Fallen have given up on taking out the City by this point?

No, they’re still a big problem, and that problem comes to a head at the Battle of Twilight Gap, which in later years will become the site of many a Crucible match. By the time of the battle, the Fallen have united under a single leader, and they once again attack the city to retake the Traveler. Remember, the Traveler once visited the Fallen?

Defense of the city is entrusted to a Titan named Lord Saladin, and along with his students, Zavala and Shaxx, they organize a tactical plan for withstanding the attack.  An immense, legendary battle ensues, in which many guardians become heroes for their deeds, and many more are destroyed outright. In fact, so many guardians are wiped out that a great weapon crafter gathers up the armor of those that didn’t survive and builds the Gjallarhorn rocket launchers from the metal remains. Regardless of their losses, the Guardians triumph at Twilight Gap, and the City is saved.

That rocket launcher is amazing.

Yes. It is.

I want to know more about...

...The Traveler, The Darkness, and where the Guardians came from »

...the Last City, the founding of the Crucible, and the Battle of Twilight Gap »

...the Guardians’ disastrous assault against the Hive on the Moon »

...the Vex, the Cabal, and the Vault of Glass »

...the Awoken, and the Reef Wars »

...what happened in the Destiny base game. »

...The Dark Below and House of Wolves »

...what else I’m missing. Tell me about Dredgen Yor, the Ahamkara, and Osiris »

Next Page: The Hive, and Eris Morn’s terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad trip to the moon

Any other big problems around this time?

As it turns out, the Fallen are not the only aliens encroaching on Earth. From the depths of space, a Darkness-infused species called the Hive arrive in our solar system. They worship a god-king named Oryx, who thankfully doesn’t come along on this initial incursion. Instead, Oryx sends his progeny, Crota, to lead the attack. Crota and his forces arrive, and overtake Earth’s unprotected moon. The Guardians get word of this, and in their hubris, they send a massive force of Guardians in a full frontal assault against the unknown threat. 

The venture is a disaster. Hundreds if not thousands of guardians are lost on the Moon, their Light devoured by Crota’s ravaging Horde. Crota’s forces dig down into the Moon’s surface, honeycombing it and cracking off a portion of the planetoid. For the time being, the Hive are an unstoppable threat, but at least they seem content to remain on the moon, and Crota appears to go dormant.

That seems like a pretty major loose end – the Guardians just hope for the best and abandon the moon?

Not everyone is so willing to forget about what happened on the moon. Among the survivors of the assault on Crota’s forces is an Exo Warlock named Eriana-3, and she is intent on revenge. Eriana-3 gathers a group of like-minded guardians for a more surreptitious assault on the moon, and among the Guardians who join up is a young hunter named Eris Morn.

Oh! She’s the angsty woman with the bleeding black eyes, right? Kind of crazy?

Eris Morn wasn’t always that way. Prior to her trip to the moon with Eriana-3 and the rest of her fireteam, she was much like any other Guardian. 

So, things do not go well on this little adventure?

That’s putting it mildly. First, the strike team tracks down an exiled and disgraced warlock named Toland, who had been banished for investigating the Darkness and the Hive with a little more fervor than the Vanguard would have liked. In addition to being the guy who knows more about the Hive than anyone else, he is also famous for wielding a deadly and dark pulse rifle called Bad Juju. 

With Toland in tow, the fireteam heads off to the Moon in an effort to bring down Crota. Toland’s research proves enough to get past at least some of the Hive defenses. Unfortunately, the raid team is no match for the combined might of Crota’s horde. The team is split up, and one by one they are destroyed, often in pretty horrific ways; one of them is strung up in a vice of bone, tortured, and has his light peeled away to feed unborn Hive. Toland is lost in the darkness, presumed dead, but somehow his journal isn’t destroyed, and that becomes one of the greatest sources of intelligence about the Hive. 

Only Eris Morn survives, but at a terrible cost to her own body and sanity, and even worse, her Ghost is destroyed. By becoming tainted by the Darkness, she is able to hide out in the caverns beneath the moon, waiting in the black for death to find her, or for some slim and distant hope of escape.

So, those guys wiped. 

Yep.

I want to know more about...

...The Traveler, The Darkness, and where the Guardians came from »

...the Last City, the founding of the Crucible, and the Battle of Twilight Gap »

...the Guardians’ disastrous assault against the Hive on the Moon »

...the Vex, the Cabal, and the Vault of Glass »

...the Awoken, and the Reef Wars »

...what happened in the Destiny base game. »

...The Dark Below and House of Wolves »

...what else I’m missing. Tell me about Dredgen Yor, the Ahamkara, and Osiris »

Next Page: The Vex fight the Cabal, and Guardians get lost in the Vault of Glass

Aren’t there some other bad guys we’re forgetting about?

While all this drama is unfolding on Earth and the Moon, largely unbeknownst to humanity, another war is raging on their old colony planet of Mars. Out on the red planet, an industrialized war-machine of an alien civilization called the Cabal encounters an enigmatic race of artificial intelligence called the Vex, and the two alien forces descend into a long-term conflict. 

The Cabal’s arrival in our Solar System isn’t entirely understood, but from what’s been publicly seen of The Taken King, there’s reason to believe they’ve had some unfortunate encounters with Oryx and the Hive, and are simultaneously looking for refuge and for a way to fight back against the Hive’s god-king, but these points remain unconfirmed speculation, and we’re likely to learn more in The Taken King.

Meanwhile, the Vex are even more mysterious, as they arrive in our solar system, not necessarily from a different place, but from a different time. The hive-mind of the Vex exists across multiple time periods, and they consolidate their power in the present by manipulating both the past and the future. 

The reason for the Cabal/Vex war of attrition on Mars originates in the Cabal’s military strategy. As a species, the Cabal ransack and attempt to occupy anything that might have value to their empire, and while they don’t understand the Vex, they see Vex technology as a potential strategic advantage. In particular, at least some part of the conflict arises from the Vex possession of a fragment of the Darkness, which is hidden in a place called the Black Garden, a vast Vex sanctuary locked away on Mars in some forgotten corner of time.

If they can travel through time, these Vex seem like they would be a really big problem. What keeps them from taking over the whole solar system?

Well, that’s pretty much what they start doing. The Vex completely overtake Mercury and transform it into a stronghold world, and they start to do the same on Venus, setting up a massive Citadel and beginning to overtake the ruins of humanity’s abandoned colony there.

The Vex are contriving to conquer and infect reality across all time, hoping to carve themselves into the fabric of the universe. They create the Vault of Glass on Venus in an effort to unite their efforts in the past, present, and future. 

A few guardians become aware of the threat and head to Venus, but things don’t go so well. These guardians raid the Vault of Glass, but are effectively wiped from time and existence, as if they were never born. The only remnants of these lost heroes are scattered pieces of weapon and armor that hint that they were once real. Among these unfortunate Guardians is a Titan named Kabr and a Warlock named Praedyth, but there are presumably many others whose names have been utterly wiped away. Do any of them still exist? It remains to be seen.

I want to know more about...

...The Traveler, The Darkness, and where the Guardians came from »

...the Last City, the founding of the Crucible, and the Battle of Twilight Gap »

...the Guardians’ disastrous assault against the Hive on the Moon »

...the Vex, the Cabal, and the Vault of Glass »

...the Awoken, and the Reef Wars »

...what happened in the Destiny base game. »

...The Dark Below and House of Wolves »

...what else I’m missing. Tell me about Dredgen Yor, the Ahamkara, and Osiris »

Next Page: The Awoken and The Reef Wars

Didn’t you say a bunch of refugees left Earth and got transformed into something else?

Those are the Awoken. After being recreated as a new species, some of them return to Earth, but many continue out into the void of space, and create their own civilization out in the asteroid belt, centered on a large planetoid called 4 Vesta (it’s a real place – look it up!). They establish a matriarchal society, led by a Queen named Mara Sov. The queen is advised by her brother, a prickly fellow by the name of Uldren. 

And what are these Awoken up to during all the fighting going on back on Earth?

Well, the Awoken are famously xenophobic. But the Battle of Twilight Gap ends up inadvertently pulling them into the conflict. At that point, several of the Fallen noble houses have united to attack the Last City on Earth. The House of Wolves is the last to try and join, and they pass through the Asteroid Belt on the way to Earth. For reasons that remain her own, Queen Mara Sov attacks the House of Wolves, preventing them from reaching Earth – which is a good thing, as the Guardians would probably have lost the Battle of Twilight Gap if the House of Wolves had arrived. Out in the emptiness of space, the Awoken and Fallen Wolves fleets meet in battle.

Spaceship fights? Pew-pew?

Totally. Over the course of a series of titanic outer space battles, the Queen leads her Awoken against the House of Wolves in what comes to be called the Reef Wars. After the Awoken destroy the Kell (the leader) of the House of Wolves, the Fallen house descends into its own civil war. A devious Fallen by the name of Skolas finally claims leadership. 

Amidst all this, a number of Awoken and Fallen make names for themselves, but one of the most important is a woman named Petra Venj. She rises up from being a soldier in the Awoken army to one of the Queen’s lieutenants, striking numerous victories for her people. In her eagerness to wipe out the Fallen, at one point she calls in an airstrike on some Fallen, not realizing that several of Earth’s Guardians would also be hit and killed, along with their Ghosts. The mistake causes serious tensions between the Awoken and the Guardians on Earth. As penance, Petra is made emissary to the Tower, a role she detests.

A whole slew of battles unfold during the Reef Wars, with one side trying to outmaneuver the other, but things come to a head when one of the Fallen betrays his own kind. Variks is the last surviving member of House Judgment, and in the name of choosing the winning side and keeping his house alive, he betrays Skolas to the Queen. The Awoken capture Skolas, and place him into confinement within the Prison of Elders. As the victor, Queen Mara Sov is granted leadership of the Fallen House of Wolves. 

She’s in charge of the Awoken and a bunch of the Fallen?

Well, for a little while, anyway. Things are going to get a little more complicated for the Queen in a little bit.

I want to know more about...

...The Traveler, The Darkness, and where the Guardians came from »

...the Last City, the founding of the Crucible, and the Battle of Twilight Gap »

...the Guardians’ disastrous assault against the Hive on the Moon »

...the Vex, the Cabal, and the Vault of Glass »

...the Awoken, and the Reef Wars »

...what happened in the Destiny base game. »

...The Dark Below and House of Wolves »

...what else I’m missing. Tell me about Dredgen Yor, the Ahamkara, and Osiris »

Next Page: The legendary guardian (that’s you!) comes on stage, as we delve into the events depicted in Destiny’s initial release

That’s enough backstory. If I’m jumping directly into The Taken King and boosting up to level 25, what did I miss? How does my guardian affect all this crazy interplanetary warfare?

That story starts, oddly enough, with a figure that most fans agree is a time traveler from either the future or the past – a mysterious Exo woman who we only know as the Stranger, though it’s worth noting that Bungie has stopped short of confirming her time traveling nature. 

Uh-oh. Time travel. That’s a complicated place to start.

It really isn’t that complicated.

I don’t believe you.

Fine. Can I keep going?

Please. 

Whether she’s from a different time or not, the Stranger shows up looking for a Guardian to help her thwart the plans of the Vex. She seems to be looking specifically for you, as she shows up right after you’re brought back from the dead, and she secretly follows your subsequent adventures. 

That’s because I’m awesome.

I’ll take your word for it. Anyway, your ghost finds your remains in the ruins of the Russian Cosmodrome, an abandoned launch facility where colony ships once departed Earth during the Golden Age. You fight your way past some Fallen, your Ghost fixes up a small, run-down spaceship, and you are able to fly to the Tower, where the bulk of the Guardians make their home.

I’m guessing there are some people there I should know about?

Indeed. The Guardians are led by a severe but disciplined Titan named Zavala, who trained under the former Vanguard leader, Saladin. Saladin now runs the intermittent Iron Banner tournaments. Saladin also mentored Lord Shaxx, who now governs the Crucible, but something happened at the Battle of Twilight Gap that strained the relationship between teacher and student.

Commander Zavala is one-third of the Vanguard council, which also includes a Hunter and Warlock. 

Cayde-6 succeeded his friend Andal Brask as the Hunter representative, after the latter was killed in battle with the Fallen. Cayde’s job working in the Vanguard infuriates him; he’d much prefer to be in the field, and seems to hold the post only to fulfill the losing end of a bet. 

Meanwhile, the Warlocks are led by Ikora Rey, a brilliant scholar and former Crucible champion. Uninterested in fame, she left the Tower and wandered the solar system with her Ghost for years, surviving getting shot down numerous times in enemy territory, and returning to tell the tale. Secretly, Ikora maintains a small group of trusted Guardians she calls the Hidden, which she uses to gather intel on enemy aliens. Few know that Eris Morn is part of the group. 

The Tower is also home to a number of vendors, including a sarcastic shipwright named Amanda Holliday, a cantankerous gunsmith named Banshee-44, and a Cryptarch named Master Rahool. The Cryptarchs are a studious order that unlocks the patterns traced in a form of matter called engrams, transforming them into weapons, armor, and other items. 

Is it safe to assume that these folks order me off to certain death a few times?

That’s about right. Between them, the Vanguard mentors proceed to send you on various missions, each filled with more alien bad guys than the last. Over the course of several adventures, you learn that the Hive are making a move on Earth, and you wake up the long-sleeping Warmind called Rasputin, which if you recall, shut down back during the Collapse with the goal of reviving at a later date, which you have now enabled. Rasputin reestablishes contact with the Moon, Venus, and Mars.

Sounds like I just stirred up a lot of trouble.

You don’t know the half of it. Next, you head to the moon, and wake up the bulk of the Hive forces, and they emerge from their underground lairs. On the bright side, by opening up the passageways into the underground, you finally give poor Eris Morn a chance to escape, and she starts to make her way back to the Tower. You also manage to track down and return a broken shard of the Traveler, which the Hive are using to drain Light from the Traveler. 

Throughout all this, the Stranger is following you, and eventually makes contact, demanding you meet her on Venus. There, you encounter the Vex for the first time, and the Stranger makes it clear that the Vex are up to no good, and you’re going to have to stop them at their source – the Black Garden.

Does she tell me why she’s been following me in particular?

Well, she doesn’t have time to explain that, apparently, which is unfortunate, because that would answer an awful lot of questions everyone has about what’s going on. 

Unsurprisingly, Bungie hasn’t commented on the matter, but some players believe that after she speaks with you and sends you on your destined path, she teleports back into the future in order to meet up with a future version of you in a scene from a Destiny game that isn’t out yet.

Whoa. Seriously?

That’s the theory.

Crazy! Alright, what’s next?

In order to track down the Black Garden, you head to the Reef, because Queen Mara Sov of the Awoken is said to know more about the mythical Vex site. The Queen grants you entry into the Reef, and you learn that she has the Fallen House of Wolves under her heel. She agrees to help you and point your way towards the Black Garden, but only if you can bring her the eye of a Vex gate lord. 

What’s that?

It’s how the Vex open up gateways to travel through time. You proceed back to Venus, and get one of these eyes, and then return to the asteroid belt to acknowledge the Awoken Queen’s help, and glean the location of the Black Garden. She and her brother, Uldren, make it clear that you owe them as they impart the site on Mars where you need to go next. 

Even after all this work, the gate lord’s eye is depowered, and you head to Mars to reenergize it. 

Like plugging in a mobile phone?

Sort of, but only if your phone opens gateways to distant times and dimensions.

Fair enough. Who or what is on Mars?

If you recall, the Vex and Cabal were at war on Mars, so your arrival puts you in conflict with the militaristic forces of the Cabal for the first time, even as you continue to face off against the seemingly limitless forces of the Vex.

Then it’s off to save the universe from the Vex?

Yes, you use the gate lord’s eye to open up a portal to the Black Garden there on Mars. Within, you breach the Vex defenses and track down the fragment of the Darkness, and destroy it. 

Afterward, the Stranger shows up at the Tower, acknowledging your victory, but pointing out that terrible things are coming from out there in the Darkness. She gives you her rifle, which is explicitly described as having components that shouldn’t yet exist. 

Presuming you found some friends to play with during your adventures, your next stop is the Vault of Glass, where you manage to not get wiped out from ever existing. Instead, you destroy Atheon, an entity that stands as a conflux that unites past, present, and future. With Atheon’s elimination, you halt (or at least delay) the Vex plans to conquer time itself.  

I want to know more about...

...The Traveler, The Darkness, and where the Guardians came from »

...the Last City, the founding of the Crucible, and the Battle of Twilight Gap »

...the Guardians’ disastrous assault against the Hive on the Moon »

...the Vex, the Cabal, and the Vault of Glass »

...the Awoken, and the Reef Wars »

...what happened in the Destiny base game. »

...The Dark Below and House of Wolves »

...what else I’m missing. Tell me about Dredgen Yor, the Ahamkara, and Osiris »

Next Page: The events of The Dark Below and House of Wolves

Isn’t there still some horrible ancient evil slumbering on the Moon?

You remembered! With the Vex seemingly defeated, the Hive Prince named Crota starts to make his move. Meanwhile, a much-changed Eris Morn returns to the Tower, ranting about the terrible things she has witnessed on the Moon. The Vanguard mentors initially don’t pay her much mind, but she convinces you of the threat posed by Crota’s impending invasion, and you set out to stop it.

How does that turn out?

Surprisingly, pretty well. You methodically take down all of Crota’s chief minions, including a screaming Hive witch named Omnigul, who may or may not be Crota’s consort. 

Gross.

Yeah. Anyway, in order to summon Crota into our dimension, the Hive are seeking to reunite his soul and body. So after wiping out most of his royal court, you descend deep into the moon and halt a ritual that would have awoken his soul, and instead you obliterate it. 

Hardcore.

Well, he does kind of deserve it. To add insult to injury, you then get together with several of your fellow guardians, enter Crota’s dark dimensional hide-out, and destroy his body. In fact, to do so, you take his own sword and hack him apart with it. In so doing, you not only prevent Crota’s return, but avenge the hundreds of guardians destroyed by Crota, including Eris’ murdered teammates, who failed where you succeeded. 

Hold on a second. Didn’t you say earlier that Crota has a dad?

That is most definitely a problem. Crota’s father is Oryx, the god-king of the Hive. Oryx gets word of what you did to his son, and he’s now coming to wipe you and everybody you’ve ever known out of existence. Not only does he have the Hive at his back, but he also has an entirely new army of beings called the Taken – tortured creatures pulled from this dimension into a dark netherworld, and then brought back to serve as soulless soldiers. 

And that’s pretty much what’s coming in The Taken King, right? Did anything else happen in the meantime?

Even as word makes its way back to Oryx about Crota’s destruction, a seemingly resolved threat rears its ugly head. After capturing the leader of the House of Wolves, the Awoken Queen makes a diplomatic gesture to a mysterious group further out in the solar system called the Nine – she gives them Skolas. That turns out to be a really bad move, as the Nine subsequently release Skolas, and he sets out to reclaim the House of Wolves. Displeased with having to serve an Awoken Queen, the Fallen Wolves betray her and join up with Skolas. The only Fallen to remain behind is Variks, who continues to play the odds of what he hopes will be the winning side. 

The Queen calls in her debt to you, and summons you to the Reef. There, her emissary, Petra Venj, tasks you with hunting down the traitorous Fallen.

Skolas is wily and clever, and concocts a daring plan to not only retake the House of Wolves, but reunite all the scattered Fallen houses. He contrives to use Vex time-altering technology to summon members of the House of Wolves from across time to create an unstoppable army in the present. You thwart his plan, and capture him alive to be returned once more to the Prison of Elders, with Variks as his warden. Afterwards, you’re given the chance to enter the Prison of Elders and finally destroy him.

Why doesn’t the Queen just have you kill him in the first place?

That’s unclear. The Queen is inscrutable sometimes. It’s possible that she wants Skolas to die in disgrace and embarrassment. But we also know that she’s very interested in studying the Guardians’ power up close, and that she hopes to subvert our loyalty to the Traveler. Finally, Variks at one point suggests that with the Nine scheming against her, she is just looking to clear out some room in the Prison. 

Regardless, it’s after your confrontation with Skolas that Oryx arrives in our solar system, and that brings us up to today.

I want to know more about...

...The Traveler, The Darkness, and where the Guardians came from »

...the Last City, the founding of the Crucible, and the Battle of Twilight Gap »

...the Guardians’ disastrous assault against the Hive on the Moon »

...the Vex, the Cabal, and the Vault of Glass »

...the Awoken, and the Reef Wars »

...what happened in the Destiny base game. »

...The Dark Below and House of Wolves »

...what else I’m missing. Tell me about Dredgen Yor, the Ahamkara, and Osiris »

Next Page: I am inexplicably hungry for more. What else am I missing?

Is that everything, or are you leaving stuff out?

Believe it or not, I’m leaving a bunch of stuff out, including a lot of detail about what happens in the Reef Wars, more about the origin of the City, all kinds of tidbits about individual pieces of weapons and armor, and an amusing little story about some human scientists on Venus who can’t figure out if they’re real or trapped in a Vex simulation of reality. But most of that is entirely ancillary to the actual narrative.

I can probably do without most of that, but are there any other cool actual storylines I’m missing out on?

There are a few things, but I can’t believe you still want to know more. 

Hit me.

Alright, if you insist. One of the coolest storylines hidden away in the game’s grimoire cards is about this guardian named Dredgen Yor.

That name is awesome.

I know. Dredgen Yor, however, is not an awesome guy. Basically, he starts off with a different name that’s been forgotten, but under his lost name he is a mighty guardian that wields a hand cannon called Rose. He’s so intent on fighting back against the Darkness that he becomes utterly corrupted by it, and Rose becomes the much darker weapon called Thorn. He starts murdering other guardians as well as innocents. His old friend, Jaren Ward, hunts him down and duels him with the hand cannon called The Last Word, but Jaren is killed. Subsequently, Jaren’s protégé, a Hunter named Shin Malphur, takes up The Last Word, tracks Dredgen Yor, and they fight. Dredgen Yor is apparently killed. 

I would absolutely watch that outer space Western movie. 

Right? Another thing we haven’t talked about are the Ahamkara. We don’t know where they came from, but these were apparently massive dragon-like creatures that at one point lent their power and knowledge to the City, but at some terrible cost. Ultimately, the price was deemed too high, and the Ahamkara were hunted to presumed extinction. 

Space dragons?

Pretty much. Earlier, we talked about the Nine, and some fans think that the Nine might be in some way related to the Ahamkara, or that they’re one and the same, and that they’re out there somewhere near Jupiter, sending their agent Xûr to collect strange coins from the Guardians to fuel a growing hoard of treasure. But that’s all conjecture at this point.

Are we going to get more details about the Nine at some point?

Almost certainly.

What else you got?

I think the only other important character we haven’t talked about is Osiris, and he’s likely to be a central figure at some point, especially since Bungie has recently confirmed to us that Osiris is not dead.

 Isn’t Osiris the Ancient Egyptian god of the dead?

You clearly know your mythology. But Osiris is also a Warlock who became fascinated with the Vex. Osiris fought at the great Battle of Six Fronts, and subsequently rose to notoriety among the Guardians. However, he had a questioning nature, and began to spread dissension among the Guardians, asking questions about why the Traveler and its Ghosts had chosen the Guardians that they did for revival, and committing forbidden research into the Ahamkara and the Nine, among other perceived sins.

Much as Toland had become obsessed with the Hive, Osiris fixates on the Vex and their technology, and eventually disappears in pursuit of additional knowledge. The Speaker tries to track him down to no avail. Meanwhile, a cult arises around Osiris and his teachings, and they have at least one secret base called the Lighthouse, hidden away on Mercury. Osiris’ followers establish a tournament built to track down three-person fireteams of Guardians who never lose. Why does Osiris need such infallible warriors? Are Osiris and his Vex experiments tied to the Stranger in some way? Where, or when, is he? 

…What, are you looking at me? I don’t know! I thought you were answering these questions. 

Well, that’s about all I can tell you, except that I’m deeply grateful to a number of people for the insights that helped to guide this article. Several developers at Bungie endured me drilling them with questions on these topics, for which I’m very appreciative. And while the majority of the information above has been drawn directly from Destiny or its surrounding grimoire cards, too many fellow fans to count have organized and analyzed these stories through thoughtful online postings, which proved to be a great resource when trying to gather everything together. In particular, the members of the various Destiny subreddits, the Bungie forum-goers, and those that attend to the Destiny wiki deserve special thanks for their speculation and analysis.

I want to know more about...

...The Traveler, The Darkness, and where the Guardians came from »

...the Last City, the founding of the Crucible, and the Battle of Twilight Gap »

...the Guardians’ disastrous assault against the Hive on the Moon »

...the Vex, the Cabal, and the Vault of Glass »

...the Awoken, and the Reef Wars »

...what happened in the Destiny base game. »

...The Dark Below and House of Wolves »

...what else I’m missing. Tell me about Dredgen Yor, the Ahamkara, and Osiris »

We’ll plan to update this story in the coming months and years as Destiny’s story continues to expand. In the meantime, thanks for reading! For more of our month-long cover story blowout on Destiny: The Taken King, click on the banner below.