What’s Going On In Destiny’s Story – 2016 Edition
At this time last year, the Destiny community was gearing up to confront the impending challenges of the Taken King’s arrival, and we delivered our first version of this article – a comprehensive guide to the Destiny narrative, fact-checked by the Bungie story team for accuracy, and built as an easy-to-navigate reference for players. Exactly a year later, we’re back with a new, improved, and revised version that reflects the latest narrative threads of the game, and also sets the stage for the launch of Destiny: Rise of Iron.
Like the original article, the information included throughout this article is drawn primarily from researching the game, as well as its connected Grimoire cards. And like last year, the full text of the article has been double-checked by Bungie for accuracy prior to publication. As such, we hope the following can provide a clear and authoritative understanding of the fiction, without the need to second guess what the developers intended. In a few instances, relevant fan theories are widespread enough that they are mentioned in the form of conjecture. Anything not confirmed by Bungie is clearly described as such in the text.
For readers who may have perused last year’s article, we’ve slotted in additions, clarifications, and newly revealed details throughout the guide, but also added entirely new pages and sections addressing topics such as the formation of the Iron Lords, the origin of the Hive, and the aftermath of the fall of Oryx.
Use the table of contents below (available on every page) to jump back and forth between topic areas of interest.
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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. But that’s recent history; long before that happened, the Traveler travels across the Cosmos for its own inscrutable purposes. While we don’t really know its motivations, we know of at least two major tasks it completes out there in the stars. First, it does its best to contain the forces of its ancient enemy, the Darkness, including a powerful and sentient race of Worms that lives in the depths of a gas giant planet called Fundament.
Wait a second. Worms?
Yep. Really evil, super-intelligent worms. We’ll get back to them later.
Fair enough. You said the Traveler was doing two things?
Indeed. In addition to confronting the Darkness, the Traveler visits a number of other places throughout the universe, and shares its knowledge and power with other races, including some alien races called the Ammonites and the Harmony. Eventually, the Traveler bestows its power on a noble and honor-bound species that calls itself the Eliksni. Unfortunately, a great calamity befalls the Eliksni, which they call the Whirlwind. It’s likely that this devastating event correlates to the coming of the Darkness, but we don’t know for sure, and Bungie has yet to confirm the connection. Regardless, the Traveler abandons the Eliksni, and the Whirlwind scatters the many mighty houses of that species across the stars, where they become what we call the Fallen – a nomadic race of pirates and scavengers.
So, the Traveler is wandering the universe like an intergalactic Santa Claus, and then moving on to the next species down the block?
Something like that.
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, which act as an ever-broadening infrastructure system for humanity’s golden age.
Thanks to the Traveler, humanity is also able to learn the secrets of matter encryption and decoding, leading to discoveries like engram encryption, as well as a remarkable nanotechnology called SIVA – a substance that can be directed to become any other form of matter. The discovery helps catapult humanity’s terraforming and planetary settlement.
This Golden Age is the high point of human civilization, and it lasts for several centuries.
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.
The fall of humanity’s golden age and civilization and the battle between the Traveler and the Darkness is collectively known as The Collapse.
Many humans at this time are 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.
Yep. That’s the Guardians. The Ghosts spread out across Earth and use the transformative power of Light to revive unique individuals to fight the good fight.
Wait a second, revive? As in, we were dead?
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.
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Next Page: The founding of humanity’s Last City, and the rise of the Iron Lords
Okay, Traveler fights Darkness, depressing Dark Age ensues, and Guardians rise from the dead. What’s next?
Even after the first Guardians arrive on the scene, things are pretty bad for a long time. Think about it; a bunch of former Humans, Exos, and Awoken are walking around with seemingly magical powers and the ability to come back from the dead. In all of history, what usually happens when a small group of people have way more power than everyone else?
I’m going to say bad stuff.
Bad stuff is right. Many of the earliest individuals revived by their Ghosts are anything but heroes. They’re more like warlords, setting up their own petty fiefdoms among the detritus of humanity’s ruin.
But not everyone in those early days is willing to put up with the tyranny of their fellows. A growing number of those revived and gifted with Light band together to stand up for a greater justice and fight the scattered and tyrannical warlords of humanity. These rising heroes call themselves the Iron Lords, and their ranks begin to swell. Eventually, there are hundreds of these Iron Lords, but we remember some of the first and greatest of these warriors, including Radegast, Jolder, Perun, Silimar, Felwinter, Saladin, Gheleon, Skorri, Timur, and Efrideet. These women and men are among the first to truly live as Guardians of humanity.
What happens next?
The Last City gets founded. Humanity is scattered across Earth, and all our planetary colonies are presumed lost. Guardians continue to 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 aliens called the Fallen have pursued their Great Machine (the Traveler) across the stars, and once they find it on Earth, they prepare to attack. Remember, the Traveler once visited the Fallen, and then abandoned them? Turns out they want it back.
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. The Iron Lords’ mythical status is cemented through their deeds in that battle. Other legendary heroes also make a name for themselves; 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 face in the future.
Unfortunately, many of the Iron Lords won’t live to see what happens next.
Things didn’t turn out for these guys?
I’m afraid not. While the specifics of what happened are set to unfold through Rise of Iron’s storyline, we know that after having pushed back the warlords and holding off the Fallen at Six Fronts, the Iron Lords start looking for ways to help bring humanity back from the brink. Rumors of a lost technology called SIVA are too good to pass up. If the Iron Lords are like the Knights of the Round Table, then SIVA is like their Holy Grail. Unfortunately, something goes horribly wrong in their pursuit of SIVA, and hundreds of them are killed, including most of those heroes I mentioned.
Two of the Iron Lords survive; one is a young sniper named Efrideet, but we don’t know what happened to her.
The other survivor, Saladin Forge, resolves to set a lonely watch to make sure SIVA is never awoken again. And he establishes the Iron Banner tournament within the Crucible. He wants to honor his lost friends with its founding, but secretly, he also hopes to hone the light of newer Guardians, preparing them for the possibility that SIVA might emerge once more.
Whoa. This guy sounds pretty hardcore.
Yeah. He spends a lot of time alone on mountaintops, except for the company of a bunch of wolves.
So, how are things back on the homefront? Everything is going well with this new city?
No, left to its own devices, humanity once again causes some problems for itself.
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. 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, including an attempted coup by a faction called Corcordat. 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. Concordat is defeated and expelled from the Consensus, allowing another faction called Future War Cult to join. The groups that survive the Faction Wars (Dead Orbit, Future War Cult, and New Monarchy) pursue their goals in other, more subtle manners that don’t involve outright conflict.
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.
Defense of the city is entrusted to the veteran 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.
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Next Page: The twisted history of the Hive
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.
There’s this whole crazy backstory about them that unfolds across centuries prior to their arrival. You want to know about that?
In for a penny, in for a pound. If I wasn’t interested, I could just jump to the next page.
When you’re right, you’re right.
So, remember when I mentioned that many millennia ago, disciples of the Darkness called Worms were living on a distant gas giant planet?
How could I forget?
Right. Millions of years prior to the Traveler’s arrival in our solar system, this planet called Fundament is so massive that hundreds of species live on its floating continents and within its gaseous depths, including a race of beings whose entire planet crashed into Fundament, leaving them stranded there. Among this species, there’s a king who has three daughters. When the king falls ill, the royal family is betrayed by one of their inner circle – the daughters' tutor, named Taox. The king is killed, but the daughters escape into the gaseous seas of the planet. There, the three daughters are eventually lured to the deceitful and Darkness-infused Worms, and they are transformed into a new and powerful form, but one in which they allow themselves to be hosts to the parasitic Worms; they become the first of a new species called the Hive. They emerge with new names, and in one case, a new gender; Xivu Arath, Savathûn, and Auryx.
The three offspring of the King return to retake the throne. Their betrayer, Taox, flees the planet, and settles among one of the species visited by the Traveler – the Ammonites. Meanwhile, the siblings “gift” the power of the worms onto the rest of their species, and proceed to conquer the rest of Fundament.
Over the next several thousand years, the Hive spread out through the stars, destroying entire civilizations, including the Ammonites, the Harmony, the Qugu…
I think I get it. These guys are trouble.
Yes. Sorry, sometimes I get carried away. Suffice to say, the Hive are a virtually unstoppable force. The three siblings are still trying to hunt down their father’s betrayer, Taox, but even now, her whereabouts remain unknown. But they also kill in the name of their overriding philosophy, the Sword Logic.
This is getting weird.
Stick with me for a second. This is important. The Sword Logic is the guiding philosophy for the Hive – a sort of metaphysical principle that justifies their horrific actions across the universe. As guided by the Worms, the Hive value killing as the greatest act, and the path to becoming stronger. Through killing, the Hive justify their purpose as the strongest entities, further honing the universe into a desired final shape. Those that are cut away are not strong enough to be a part of that ultimate nature of the universe, and by the Sword Logic, they deserved to be cut away.
Through this principle, the Hive are able to garner ever greater power for themselves, and even carve out their own personal dimensions, which they call Throne Worlds. Killing others also feeds the Darkness-infused Worms the Hive carry within themselves.
In fact, at their behest, Auryx eventually kills his own sisters, so that in turn he will gain the power to kill one of the most powerful of the parasitic worms, whereby he becomes the Hive’s ultimate god-king named Oryx. By following the philosophy of the Sword Logic, Oryx becomes the greatest of his own kind and gains the ability to “Take” other creatures, and subvert them to his will.
I’m afraid you’ve lost me.
Yeah, it’s pretty weird. The point is, Oryx follows this disturbing philosophy that elevates murder, death, and even genocide to a revered act. To put it another way and perhaps oversimplify, the Sword Logic is like survival of the fittest. If you are defeated, you were not strong enough, and your killer is providing you the gift of fulfilling your purpose as the weaker being. But for the Hive, even death is not necessarily the end, as they can retreat into their own internal dimensions – places built and maintained through the act of cutting and killing others.
That is screwed up.
Definitely. And what it makes it even more screwed up is that Oryx decides along the way that he needs to sire his own children, and share this delightful lifestyle with them. We get some new baddies out of that situation – his son, Crota, and his daughters, Ir Anûk and Ir Halak.
Oryx and his children continue to ravage their way across the universe for many thousands of years, fulfilling the Sword Logic wherever they go. Eventually, Oryx sends his son Crota to do what he has already done countless times – murder a whole civilization. This time, Crota is sent to Earth.
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Next Page: Arrival of the Hive, and Eris Morn’s terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad trip to the Moon
Let me get this straight. In addition to the crazy space pirates called the Fallen, Earth is also getting attacked by a bunch of death-worshipping aliens with worms inside of them?
That’s pretty much the gist of it.
As the god-king of the Hive, Oryx sends his progeny, Crota, and his forces, toward our solar system, with full confidence that his son will succeed as he always has before. Indeed, Crota quickly overtakes 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.
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Next Page: The Vex fight the Cabal, and Guardians get lost in the Vault of Glass
Aren’t there some other mean aliens 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 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.
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.
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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 new 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 become 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 bit more complicated for the Queen in a little bit.
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Next Page: The legendary Guardian (that’s you!) comes on stage, as we delve into the events depicted in Destiny’s initial release
Enough with the backstory. What happens once Destiny actually begins? How does my Guardian affect all this crazy interplanetary warfare?
That story starts, oddly enough, with a mysterious figure we only know as the Stranger, a female Exo who seems to have a lot more info about what’s going on than we do. Many fans strongly suspect she is a time traveler from either the future, the past, or possibly even multiple time continuums where any number of events might have happened or not, but Bungie has steadfastly refused to comment on the matter, so it’s all conjecture at this point.
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?
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 and Iron Lord named Saladin. 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.
There’s also a human outfitter named Eva Levante who maintains a shop in the Tower. In addition to helping Guardians customize their appearance, she is also the Tower’s biggest proponent for celebrating the Festival of the Lost – a popular event among the humans down in the city, in which survivors are encouraged to remember the dead.
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 encounter 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.
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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 one of their strongholds – 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.
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.
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, a Vex 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.
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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 wizard named Omnigul, who may or may not be Crota’s consort.
Seems like a pretty unconventional pairing.
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.
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 hideout, 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. Aren’t we forgetting all that stuff from before about Crota having 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.
Let me guess. We end up fighting those guys.
Well, yes, but before that happens, there are some additional problems a little closer to home.
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. 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. Afterward, 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 interested in studying the Guardians’ power up close, to better understand us. 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.
Things are looking pretty good for a while, right up until Crota’s father finishes his journey to our solar system.
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Next Page: Confronting the Taken King
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Oryx coming to Earth might not be the best thing for humanity.
Not if you like being alive. Oryx brings an entire fleet of Hive warships with him as he comes to avenge his son’s death. But this time, the Guardians get a little bit of help. Queen Mara Sov launches her entire Awoken space fleet to go out and meet the Hive head on. The two forces collide in a battle among the rings of Saturn. Apparently, the Queen has some sort of ingenious plan she’s going to enact by confronting this seemingly unstoppable, civilization-destroying space fleet.
Is this a good plan or a bad plan?
That’s not entirely clear. At first, it seems like things are going alright. The Queen’s brother, Uldren, leads the fleet’s fighters in strafing runs against the Hive. Meanwhile, Queen Mara deploys some sort of powerful weapon system called Harbingers, which she somehow summons herself through an as-yet unexplained power, and she uses these glowing balls of energy to smash through much of the Hive fleet. Unfortunately, when the Harbingers hit Oryx’s flagship, they seem to dissipate. In response, Oryx deploys his Dreadnaught’s main weapon – a devastating shockwave – and decimates almost the entirety of the Awoken fleet. The Queen appears to die in the attack aboard her ship. Her brother, Uldren, barely escapes, but his ship loses control, and he eventually crash-lands on Mars. Petra Venj is left to pick up the pieces in the aftermath.
Well, I think that answers my question, then. That was a bad plan.
It certainly seems that way, but it’s nonetheless remained a matter of great debate. Some have suggested that the harbingers that hit the Dreadnaught had a more complex purpose we don’t yet fully understand. Others believe that the Queen didn’t really die in the attack, and that somehow she may still return. And yet others have argued that the Queen’s actions in the battle, while devastating to her Awoken, were somehow prescient, and enabled the only path by which the Guardians might eventually be able to defeat Oryx. Of course, that’s all supposition at this point.
Well, however you justify it, losing your whole fleet in one battle sounds like a mistake.
You may be right. Regardless, the Queen’s sacrifice manages to hold Oryx and his Dreadnaught at Saturn, but he wastes no time in deploying his forces, and begins to gather more Taken troops.
You’ve used that word a few times. What’s going on there?
When Oryx captures his enemies, he enslaves their will to his own, and gives them a new shape in order to enact his goals. Taken soldiers look vaguely like the alien Fallen, Hive, Vex, or Cabal they once were, but they gain new abilities, while simultaneously lacking any sense of self-determination.
Sounds a little like a bad job I used to have. Oryx doesn’t ever do this to the Guardians?
Interesting question! No, for some reason, Oryx never “takes” any Guardians. Whether he chooses not to, or whether something about their Light prevents it, is unknown.
Okay, so Oryx is stranded out by Saturn. Why don’t we just leave him there?
Oryx begins to send out echoes of his own consciousness into the solar system, extending the reach of his Taken forces. The Guardian Vanguard sends you in to investigate a disturbance on one of Mars’ moons, Phobos. The normally disciplined Cabal forces are in total disarray. It turns out that their base is overrun, and you come face to face with the Taken and are forced to flee.
That doesn’t sound like me.
Orders are orders. Commander Zavala recalls you back to Earth, in order to plan on how to deal with this emerging threat. While Zavala, Ikora Rey, and Eris Morn try to concoct a plan, the brash Hunter named Cayde-6 brings you in on his own plan to infiltrate the Dreadnaught. After recovering a stealth drive from its hiding place, he has it attached to Eris’ ship, and has you fly it out to the Dreadnaught. The stealth options let you get close enough for your Ghost to transmat (teleport) you onto the ship, and establish a beachhead.
Now that’s more like it. Then I take out Oryx, right?
Not so fast. The ship turns out to be absolutely massive. In fact, in one place, you find that an entire Cabal cruiser has crashed into the Dreadnaught, and its collision point is just one small sub-section of the Dreadnaught’s bulk. You also find a gateway that might lead into Oryx’s inner sanctum, but it’s locked to anyone without the essence of a powerful ascendant Hive.
Eris guides you through a tortuous series of steps to gain access, which involves you returning to the place where you killed Crota, and stealing his essence, even as Crota’s sisters loom nearby, completing their brother’s death ritual.
I robbed his grave?
From a certain point of view.
From where I’m standing, it seems like I’m a grave robber.
Hmm. Well, with Crota’s essence, you’re finally able to breach the forbidden portal and confront Oryx, and in a feat of great bravery, you strike him down!
Yay! I win!
You may recall what I mentioned about the Hive and their Throne Worlds, and the way death isn’t necessarily the end. Oryx is basically a god – killing him in the real world isn’t enough. You have to take his true form out inside his own personal hell dimension.
I bet I can do that.
Getting some of your fellow Guardians together, you lead a strike force into Oryx’s Throne World. You take out his generals, defeat his daughters Ir Halak and Ir Anûk, and finally, you destroy Oryx.
Once and for all?
Hopefully? In the process of killing Oryx, you manage to put together a rifle called Touch of Malice. Some people think that Oryx’s soul still resides inside of the weapon.
What?! Why would I keep that?
Well, it pretty much has infinite ammo, as long as you don’t mind it draining your health.
Oh. I see. That’s pretty cool, I guess.
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Next Page: The Taken War
We killed Oryx, and saved Earth. What else is there to do?
The Hive and the Taken invasion force is still running around the solar system, so you have to deal with that. Not to mention that you need to deal with the fallout from all the other alien forces.
From here on out, you spend a lot of time hopscotching around the solar system, putting out fires. You subvert a plan by the Vex to revive the Black Garden. You prevent the remnants of the Fallen House of Wolves from stepping into the power vacuum left by the Cabal’s defeats on Mars.
On the Dreadnaught, you halt a Cabal force intent on blowing up the Dreadnaught, because the massive ship’s destruction would devastate the solar system.
In one particularly memorable situation, you track down a Hive named Alak-Hul, the Darkblade. Alak-Hul and his consort, Verok, once led a failed rebellion against Oryx. Oryx imprisoned the powerful knight in a chamber of darkness. Upon Oryx’s death, Eris sends you in to ensure that Alak-Hul isn’t able to take his former king’s place. But it’s also a mission of vengeance, as Alak-Hul was among the Hive who killed her friends on Earth’s moon. And while we kill Alak-Hul, we don’t know what happened to Verok.
That’s pretty cool. But poor Verok.
Yeah, I’m all broken up about it. That battle is part of a running theme; in the absence of Oryx, you and the Vanguard are trying to make sure a new leader doesn’t rise to threaten the system. In another battle, you prevent a Hive warrior named Malok from seizing Oryx’s throne and reuniting the Hive’s scattered forces.
During this time, we also get some follow-through on some old lingering story threads. For instance, through the course of another mission during this war against the Taken, you finally discover the fate of the lost warlock named Praedyth, whose name had been forgotten when the Vex erased his existence within the Vault of Glass.
And in what might be one of the most important but little talked about missions during this time frame, you track down some Cabal on the Dreadnaught and a mysterious outbound communication signal they are sending. You take out the Cabal forces, but not before the communique is sent to a distant corner of space, addressed to the Emperor of the Cabal.
Emperor? I don’t remember hearing about an emperor.
That’s true. The Cabal only sent one small portion of their army to our solar system. Somewhere out there, there’s a much larger and more dangerous enemy controlling this steamroller of an army, and now that enemy knows everything that has happened in our system.
I wonder if we’re ever going to get some follow through on that.
I wonder that, too.
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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, or at least appears to be.
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.
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 to the Guardians. Ultimately, the price was deemed too high, and the Ahamkara were hunted to presumed extinction.
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?
What else you got?
There’s a pretty sweet story about a Warlock and a Hunter who were the first Guardians to encounter the Cabal. Shortly after the Guardians figure out how to reactivate some of the old Golden Age jumpships, these two head out separately to Mars. By happenstance, they both converge on a mysterious signal, where they run into each other, and start arguing, and almost don’t see the Cabal until it is too late. When the aliens attack, the two Guardians fight back to back, ceaselessly reviving each other for a full day and night, until the enemy is defeated. And they’ve fought together ever since. Inspired by the cooperation between these two, and other Guardian pairs, the Vanguard establishes the Crimson Doubles event within the Crucible.
Aw. That’s kind of sweet. In a killing-hordes-of-aliens kind of way.
Well, the Guardians aren’t always killing bad guys.
Really. For a long time, Guardians would organize their own underground racing for their sparrows. More recently, the Vanguard approved the founding of an official Sparrow Racing League; just like the Crucible, it serves the dual goal of training Guardians but also entertaining the residents of the Last City. Shaxx sends out teams of Guardians along with specially trained squad called Redjacks, whose job it is to clear hostile areas for Crucible combat. In this case, they clear spaces for Sparrow racing. However, as any racer will tell you, they don’t do an especially good job of clearing the courses; a lot of alien troopers still manage to find their way onto the tracks.
Anyone else I should know about?
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 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, and also took the time to examine the article for accuracy prior to publication, 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.
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