Bite-sized Backstory 1: Fundament
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Mon, 26 Sep 2016
Destiny's history starts some fifty thousands years ago within the layers of a gas giant called Fundament. Unlike the gas giants in our solar system, Fundament is host to well over five hundred different alien races.
Most of these species live in the dark beneath the outer gas layers of Fundament on a large number of continents all floating on a massive sea that is suspended between storms and gas clouds overhead and the gas giant's increasingly thick oceans, liquid metals, and solid layers below.
We don't learn much about the numerous inhabitants of Fundament. Only one of the five hundred plus species gets much detail.
This race of three eyed humanoids are described as the smallest, weakest things on the seas of Fundament. Living gas clouds with glowing balls at the end of long tentacles reach down from the storms above like flying anglerfish and try to eat them. Acidic rain and deadly lightning storms occur frequently and kill many of them. And even though they have cities and science and some level of seafaring technology, they sometimes wage war on each other and demand sacrifices and eat their own. Maybe worst of all, this smallest of races usually only live 8 - 10 years.
There are a few other interesting things we learn about this three-eyed race:
Unfortunately, this weak, short-lived, three-eyed race is never given a name, but they eventually rise up above their lowly station and do much to shape the world of Destiny.
Bite-sized Backstory 2: The Brave Exiled Sisters
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Mon, 26 Sep 2016
The king of the Osmium Court, one of the nations of the short lived, three-eyed creatures adrift on the seas of Fundament, was old. He was senile. He was dying. His three daughters, Xi Ro a warrior, Sathona a leader and thinker, and Aurash an explorer, were skilled in their own fields, but it would have been difficult for any one of them to assume the throne.
Their teacher, the sterile mother Taox certainly thought this, which is why she made a deal with the Helium Drinkers, a nearby warlike nation of their own species, to overthrow the sickly king and kill his heirs.
Fortunately, the three sisters managed to escape. Xi Ro distracted the attackers with the bright glowing "bait stars" that her combat skills had previously allowed her to cut from the tentacles of the predators that inhabited the clouds above. Sathona's tricks and cleverness allowed the sisters to evade their enemies, flee their home, and reach their nation's coast. And once there, Aurash's exceptional sailing skills allowed them to escape their enemies by fleeing their home and country on her personal sailing ship.
For over a year, a good tenth of their lives, the three sisters sailed away from home. They sailed passed many dozen foreign continents. They lived off the sea, catching and eating creatures they'd never seen before. They encountered and escaped powerful monsters through skilled sailing and risky maneuvers.
And they explored.
And they explored.
And they explored.
And what these brave seafaring sisters found out in the vast ocean in the heart of a powerful maelstrom would not only change their fates, it would change the fates of thousands of races and hundreds of trillions of lives spread across the spiral arms of our galaxy.
Bite-sized Backstory 3: The Hesitant Oath
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Thu, 29 Sep 2016
Shortly after the three sisters escaped their overthrown kingdom, but long before they found something incredible in a far away maelstrom, Aurash suggested that each of them take an oath in response to what had happened to them. They each, in turn, stabbed themselves through a fleshy part of their left hands with their knifes and carved a short, blood-soaked line down the sides of the mast of Aurash's ship as they swore their oaths. The damage to their hands would not be debilitating or permanent, but it would be painful and it would leave a lasting reminder in the form of a scar.
Xi Ro, the up and coming warrior who was the youngest of the three royal sisters, swore to take back the Osmium Court and kill their former instructor Taxo who betrayed them and their kingdom.
Sathona, the clever thinker, pledged to become a mother and breed her spawn on the corpse of the king of the Helium Drinker mercenaries who Taxo had conspired with.
And Aurash, the sailor and explorer and who was oldest of the sisters... hesitated. It wasn't until her sisters provided her their help that she was was able to stab her hand and swear her oath. But why? After all, it was Aurash who told her sisters they should all take oaths in the first place. And they hadn't needed her help. It seems unlikely that Aurash feared the physical pain of making the oath, so what then? Let's read her oath together and find out:
I am Aurash, first daughter of the dead king. I will chase my father's last screamed warning. I will know what changed the motion of our moons. If the end of the world is coming, I will understand why.
On my center eye I swear it. I will understand.
There are two things here:
What is this? What is going on?
It turns out that the Osmium King might not have been as mad and as senile as he had seemed. Turns out, there was something he discovered and shared with his oldest daughter shortly before his death... something that would ultimately spur Aurash and her brave exiled sisters to become three of the worst monsters the galaxy had ever seen!
III: The Oath
Bite-sized Backstory 4: Familiar Ideas
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Mon, 3 Oct 2016
Some weeks before her father was overthrown, and she and her two sisters escaped into exile, Aurash, the eldest of the three heirs to the Osmium Court, was sent on an expedition by her father, the king, to a distant site called the Tungsten Monoliths.
The Osmium King had certainly been acting strangely of late, pouring over ancient texts and locking himself in the royal orrery, a room-sized mechanical model of Fundament and its moons. Sometimes he would emerge and quietly wander the halls of his palace talking only to his familiar, a dead white worm from deep beneath the sea that he'd encased in glass. Other times, he would emerge to rant and rave about the orbits of the moons to anyone and everyone who would listen.
His argument amounted to the idea that Fundament's moons had been shifted out of their natural orbits. That now their paths would cross near each other and their combined gravities would tug on a section of Fundament's vast inner ocean. As the moons continued along their new paths they would separate, and the massive bulge they had created would be released resulting in a "God-Wave" that would sweep over all the continents spread across the gas giant's sea. All the civilizations of Fundament, amounting to trillions of lives, would be destroyed.
Some, like Taox, thought the king had gone mad. She arranged his overthrow for just that reason. But Aurash must have still believed her father. Though we are not told exactly what the Tungsten Monoliths were, we can guess they were located at a place of meeting, or a place of learning, or a place of science, since it was there that Aurash somehow confirmed her father's theories about the moons and the God-Wave. Before she returned from her trip she sent her sister Sathona a message to tell their father that he had been right!
For several months following their exile, Aurash, Sathona, and Xi Ro sailed and explored far from home. It would seem likely that Aurash, the sailor and navigator, would have been leading her younger siblings, but oddly, more and more often it was Sathona's crazy ideas that saw the three sisters through their troubles. She would hide herself away from the other two insisting that she needed to be alone to think and would come back with insane, risky plans that worked time and time again.
Curiously, she never told her sisters that one of the last things she did as she fled with them into exile was steal their father's familiar right out of his hands...
In her journal at sea, Aurash wrote that it seemed like Sathona manufactured good luck by sheer force of will. That is probably why after a year in exile, Aurash and Xi Ro followed their sister's crazy advice and sailed blindly into a violent maelstrom.
Except, Sathona wasn't crazy and wasn't blind. Somehow, she knew what they would find inside!
Bite-sized Backstory 5: The Ancient Needle
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Sat, 8 Oct 2016
After an exhilarating year exploring Fundament's seas, the three brave exiled sisters found the most extraordinary thing adrift in the turbulent waters of the Shvubi Malestrom: A long, slender, gray colored ship that was obviously built by a species with skills and technology far beyond that of the Osmium Court.
Sathona's dead familiar whispers to her that it has been there since long before her people arrived on Fundament millions of years ago.
A small debate broke out among the sisters. Xi Ro, true to her nature, spoke up for immediate revenge. She wanted to tow the ship back to the multi-species trade center at Kaharn Atoll and use the money it would sell for to hire an army large enough to retake their homeland. Aurash disagreed. Ever the explorer, she wanted to open the ship up and see what was inside. Sathona, who of course already knew what was inside since her father's dead familiar had told her, sided with Aurash.
With the votes two to one, the three sisters entered the alien ship.
Much of the needle ship's interior is left to our imaginations. The only real physical description of it we get is that it had glistening halls. One might imagine that it's interior was large, beautiful, and advanced. We do, however, learn some troubling things about the ship:
For the next two years, Aurash, Xi Ro, and Sathona worked to repair the needle ship and to understand what it was meant for and how to operate it. They were five years old by the time they finally finished. Half of their short lifespans were already spent and by now they'd lived more of their lives in exile than they had as heirs to their father's throne.
Once again, the three sisters had to decide what to do with the needle ship and what to do with the remainder of their lives. Retaking their home might still have been possible, but Aurash still could not shake free of the idea that their strange new ship might hold the key stopping the God-Wave that would soon destroy everything and everyone.
Xi Ro, who had done the bulk of the work to clear the needle ship's birthing chamber of what remained of its crew, warned against the idea. Whatever had killed the crew had been found beneath Fundament's inner metallic layers. Going there themselves would only serve to get them killed as well.
Sathona, who had again spent time alone listening to her familiar's helpful whispers in secret, once again sided with Aurash. The only way they would be able to fulfill their oaths now, she argued, was to use the ship for its intended purpose and dive deep towards Fundament's core.
And so, together, the three brave sisters dove their needle ship towards the innermost depths of Fundament...just as the things waiting for them in the dark, hot, crushing spaces below had planned...
Bite-Sized Backstory 6: The Cryptic Leviathan
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Mon, 10 Oct 2016
We aren't told how long the three brave sisters' initial dive towards the core of Fundament took, but given that it is a gas giant, we can probably assume that it took days or weeks. During that time, they passed through several layers far beneath their suspended ocean. They encountered vast creatures swimming through the increasingly solid layers of gas and liquid metal. Xi Ro even took some delight in piercing down through a few anemone-like creatures that reminded her of stormjoys from their surface.
They dove and dove until they broke through a layer of metal somewhere deep near Fundament's core. Here, the needle ship could hear and detect everything. From the slow grinding of the drifting continents, to acid rains that could kill with little warning, to the struggles of creatures as large as cities far far away. It also detected the distant groans and distortions caused by Fundament's moons lifting up a vast section of Fundament's inner ocean. Here, perhaps for the first time, Sathona and Xi Ro finally had their own proof that Aurash's God-Wave was real.
But there was something else down with them. A giant Leviathan that we are told was as large as all the continents they'd known in their childhood before their exile. This massive thing must have been spectacular. We're told, for instance, that it is propelled by giant fins cracklings with lightning and energy. This Leviathan finds the sisters' small needle ship and sends powerful bursts of microwave energy booming against its hull... not to attack them but instead to speak to them.
What follows is a conversation between the Leviathan and the three sisters that is split into three parts:
She then pits the Leviathan and its cryptic ideas against the worm's plainly stated whispers of hope. Then, Sathona utters what may very well be one of the most frightening and far reaching phrases in all of Destiny. Almost certainly at the urging of her familiar, she says:
Let us dive, oh sisters mine.
We'll see this type of phrase several more time and will come back to its vast importance a bit later. For now, the three brave exiled sisters start their final dive towards Fundament's core and the creatures that have been calling to them for the better parts of their lives...
Bite-Sized Backstory 7: The Go[o]d Worms
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Thu, 13 Oct 2016
After leaving the Leviathan behind, Aurash, Sathona, and Xi Ro finally complete their journey towards Fundament's core. They had done some pretty crazy things over the past few years. Exploring wrecks, eating food from the sea, sailing into stormy waters... and all while in exile and on the run for their lives. But what Aurash does next, almost certainly at the behest of Sathona's familiar, is downright insane.
Aurash exits the needle ship! Deep within the crushing pressure and ferocious heat of the innermost core of a gas giant! But she is not crushed or vaporized. Instead she is somehow protected. And very quickly her protector comes into view. A giant jawed winged worm approaches past her. It speaks to her calling itself Yul and points out how powerful it is and how it is the only thing keeping her from harm. It then introduces her to more of its kind: Eir, Xol, Ur, and Akka. It must have been quite the sight for Aurash to see these giant creatures surviving in the harshest climate imaginable.
Yul explains that itself and the others have been trapped in the Deep of Fundament for millions of years and that they have been calling life to Fundament in order for it to evolve into suitable hosts that will allows the worms to escape. It tells Aurash that the Leviathan and the forces of the Sky are arrayed against her and her sisters, and that it was the Sky who rearranged Fundaments moon and caused the approaching God-Wave because they were afraid of the potential of Aurash's race.
Fortunately for Aurash and her sisters, the worms want to help them in the struggles. Yul offers them a deal. If they ingest some of the worms' newborn larva they will gain eternal life and enough power to right anything they find wrong with the world. There is one catch, Yul explains, but it seems to be a very minor one. From now on, each of the sisters will have to follow their true nature or their inner worm will consume them. And, as they grow in power, their inner worms will grow ever more hungry.
All the sisters of the Osmium Court every wanted to do was explore and seek knowledge, or strength, or cunning. Now, all they have to do is keeping doing what they would have done anyway in exchange for great power and eternal life? It seems like such a simple choice to the three brave exiled sisters! So simple, apparently, that none of them think to ask what Yul might have meant by calling life to Fundament or what their inner worms would actually hunger for.
Recall, that at some point, long ago, the homeworld of the short lived three-eyed race crashed into Fundament. Did the worms somehow bring it there? How could they have done that if they were trapped? And wouldn't that have caused millions or billions of deaths? Unfortunately, instead of asking these questions, Aurash and her sisters take the deal offered by Yul and the other worms.
It's at this point that each of the sisters finally well and truly makes the transition to adulthood. Aurash takes on the king morph just like his father. He renames himself Auryx which we learn means Long Thought. Similarly, Sathona at long last transitions from her childhood state to that of a mother and renames herself Savathûn and Xi Ro becomes a powerful knight and renames herself Xivu Arath.
From here on out, the worms take on the role of gods to the three siblings. And their first instructions to Auryx and his two sisters are to, essentially, plunge all of Fundament into a holy war!
Bite-sized Backstory 8: The Conquest of Fundament
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Mon, 17 Oct 2016
With the help of the worm gods, Auryx, Savathûn, and Xivu Arath load their deep diving needle ship with worm larvae and return to their Osmium Court. They begin to offer the worms' larvae to any and all of their kind who will accept it. Those that refuse are killed or forced to flee!
With the new might of worm-enhanced followers, the royal siblings lead an army against Taox. They push her invading Helium Drinkers, and any of their own people who refused the worm larvae, out of the Osmium Court and surrounding territories. They don't manage to kill Taox, but after more than three years in exile they have finally retaken their home.
At this point, it seems that Auryx, Savathûn, and Xivu Arath probably slowed or stopped their conquest, but their new gods are not content with this. They insist that Taox, and the Leviathan, and all the forces of the Sky will still oppose them, and that the only way to be truly free of suffering and injustice is to defeat their enemies. And so, the war continues and soon Taox and her forces are driven all the way back to Kaharn Atoll.
We know from a bit of conversation back when the sisters were repairing the needle ship that Kaharn Atoll is probably some sort of cross-species port or trade destination. This is a place that the vengeful siblings used to regard warmly. For instance, Sathona used to buy Aurash stories written in other races' languages and read them to her. It was something that they both enjoyed and found relaxing... but now Kaharn is a place where their sworn enemy has begun rallying all the races of Fundament against them.
Meanwhile, the Leviathan and whatever contacts it has within Fundament's races begin destroying any kind of ship or rocket or spacecraft that might be able to help the worms and their newfound hosts leave the gas giant. This effort is successful enough that the worms come up with a new plan. They tell the vengeful siblings to attack and slaughter everyone at Kaharn! By doing so, they will gain the power to cut wounds in the fabric of space that will let them achieve orbit. They instruct Xivu Arath to lead the attack, saying:
Reality is a fine flesh, oh general ours. Let us feast of it.
Again, we see the "oh ______ mine" type phrasing, this time coming directly from the worm gods. This will be important later...
Very few of the holdouts at Kaharn survive the battle. We are never told how large a port Kaharn is, but we can imagine that it was not a small place since some five hundred races interacted there. Perhaps thousands or millions, military and civilian alike, were slaughtered in the battle. Those that do somehow manage to survive flee into orbit, but the worm gods are true to their word and help the murderous siblings build ships and use their ever growing powers to cut their way into orbit.
We see Hive Tombships use this type of travel all the time in Destiny, but this is the first time it was ever used, it seems.
Once in orbit, the worms spot Taox, and the few survivors of Kaharn, fleeing into the welcoming arms of the Ammonites, a highly advanced spacefaring race of cephalopods that live among the oceans of Fundament's fifty-two moons. They also spot a fifty-third moon, a Traveler, which they say is a divine presence of the Sky!
Bite-sized Backstory 9: Auryx's Sadness
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Thu, 20 Oct 2016
Auryx had done it! He had managed to get himself, his sisters, and a large number of his people off of their inhospitable, unforgiving world. They had traded the Stormjoys, and burning seas, and lightning storms, and the ever enveloping pitch black they'd been forced to live in for the serene beauty of space. As a navigator and astronomer, one would think Auryx would be ecstatic, but he was anything but.
Instead, Auryx knew he was only where he was because he had lead a war that started with the slaughter of people from his own country. A war that had expanded across continents and across races and had laid waste to everything he had ever know. And then there were the worms... his gods. Not only had they urged and insisted upon the war. Not only were they now demanding he and his sisters attack the Ammonites who lived on Fundament's moons. All the while the philosophy they espoused time and time again went against almost everything he believed...
Over and over the worms tried to explain how the Sky built civilizations and safe places, but those rules and right actions that prevented war and lead to harmony were, in reality, a great lie. How life was nothing more than a wasteful engine that burns up energy and produces rot and decay. And that the only rule that actually is right and good is that the worth of a thing can be determined only by that thing's ability to exist and go on existing at the expense of everything and everyone else around it.
Is it any surprise, then, that Auryx now shirked away from war with the Ammonites? After all, he was the royal sibling who had hesitated to swear an oath of revenge against Taox. He was the sibling who had, at times, sat frozen in fear in the cabin of his ship as his sisters sailed away from their overthrown kingdom. And he was the one who needed his sisters to read him stories in new languages to keep his mind off of everything that had happened in the years since their exile.
Without Auryx's leadership and strength, his people were driven back by the Ammonites and were forced to burrow deep into some of Fundament's moons in order to survive. Even though his sisters were doing their best, they were slowly losing their new war all while their brother remained detached and, at times, catatonic because of everything he had done.
Then something new happened. As his sisters spread and grew their forces among the interiors Fundament's moons, the Ammonites began deploying paracausal weapons. That is, they began using weapons that did not make sense with regards to the ordinary flow of time or rules of physics. It probably means they began using weapons based on the concepts of Light, since the worms tell Auryx that these new weapons were given to the Ammonites by the Traveler.
Auryx in his curiosity and his need to explore and understand is drawn back by the novelty of these new weapons deployed first by the Ammonites and then by his sisters as the worm gods teach them to arm themselves in a similar fashion. But he is also forced by the hunger of his worm as it begins to eat away at him. His pact with his gods was, after all, that he either explore and understand or be consumed...
But then, two completely unexpected things occurred:
1. Auryx betrays his sisters and meets with the Ammonites on neutral ground to try to broker a peace between them and his people.
2. Savathûn, always one step ahead, somehow manages to breach the Ammonite's defenses and strike at the peace conference.
By the time the dust settles and Savathûn's forces make their escape, both the Ammonite Satellite Congress and her own beloved brother are very very intentionally dead!
Bite-sized Backstory 10: The Birth of the Hive
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Thu, 3 Nov 2016
Auryx was dead. Murdered by his sister Savathûn along with all the members of the Ammonite Satellite Congress...
Except, he wasn't dead!
Instead of being no more, he finds himself, minus his physical body, inside what the worm gods described to him as a cyst universe created by his own might. A "Throne World" they called it. All three royal siblings, the worm gods told him, now had this power to survive death... as long as they were not killed in their own Throne World.
From his new found Throne World, Auryx watched as his sisters pressed their advantage against the (now leaderless?) Ammonites. Their strategy of digging into the available moons and breeding their armies back to strength seem to have worked.
At some point, as the battle turned in favor of Savathûn and Xivu Arath, the Leviathan emerged from Fundament's depths and made for the safety of what was left of the Ammonites' fleets. We aren't told why it decided to break cover. Was it no longer safe? Was it trying to protect the Ammonites? We just don't know.
The worm gods continue to poke and prod at Auryx in every way they can in the hopes of getting him to return to the fight. They again try and contrast their plain, honest "truths" against the Leviathan's harsh realities. They point out that Taox was not killed alongside Auryx and the Ammonite's Satellite Congress and is still out there somewhere. And, of course, they point out that Auryx is in effect immortal now thanks to their power. Unfortunately for the Ammonites, the worms' constant manipulations and gifts (of immortality and dark magic) end up convincing Auryx to make peace with his sisters and rejoin the battle.
The Ammonite's fleets that once danced circles around Xivu Arath warriors and warships were now burdened with defending their remaining moons and the Leviathan. Soon, Chroma-Admiral Rafriit, the Ammonites' greatest military leader, is killed and not long after that their forces are completely defeated and Savathûn is busy poisoning the seas of their homemoon. And that's the last we hear of the Ammonites...
In the aftermath, the worms feed upon the corpse of the Leviathan and we also find out that the Traveler fled the Fundament system rather than, say, sacrificing itself. Curious that.
Under the worms' direction, Auryx and his sisters hollow out some or all of Fundament's 52 moons into giant ships capable of journeying to new stars. Here we also see Auryx's followers take on the name "the Hive" and we get a glimpse at how they organize themselves:
A mother Wizard gets fertility from a mate, or from herself. From the Wizard the spawn, from the spawn our Thrall, from the survivors our Acolytes who contend. If they contend well, their worm is fed, and from the well fed worm come Knights and Wizards and Princes.
Interesting that little to nothing is mentioned about being curious or clever anymore. If anything, all the hive and their worm gods are focused on now is strenght and destruction. As happens, this will become more important soon.
And, with the destruction of the Ammonites and the exodus of the Hive, we've reached our first major end in Destiny's backstory. We learned the tragic tale of three smart, talented royal sisters of a very short lived race trapped on the inner seas of a gas giant who were forced into exile and then corrupted into monsters by strange, powerful worm gods. We saw Aurash, Sathona and Xi Ro, become the xenocidial Auryx, Savathûn, and Xivu Arath, the three leaders of what we now know for sure is the Hive.
The worst part? The end of the Ammonites' civilization is just the beginning of the devastation the Hive will wreck on the galaxy!
Bite-Sized Backstory 11: Rampant Speculation 1
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Mon, 7 Nov 2016
There are a few interesting questions I've put off until we could reach a good stopping point in the Hive's timeline. A lot of little nuggets that don't really have directly supported answers but are ripe for a little good ole fashioned Rampant Speculation. No sources this time (Calcified Fragments: Curiosity - XX: Hive if you must) as I'm trying to draw some fun possibilities from that which isn't entirely there. Perhaps you'd care to join me? :)
1. The worm gods say that:
For millions of years We have been [trapped|growing] in the Deep.
Ok. So who trapped them there. Well, the Leviathan, apparently:
For millions of years the Leviathan caged us here. It is a pawn of the Sky, a philosophy of cosmic slavery.
A little later the worm gods say that
the war rages on.
Could these worms have lost a battle millions of years ago and been held prisoner ever since? And if so, why hold them prisoner instead of killing them? Could it be because killing them isn't all that effective? Sathona's familiar communicated with her and her father even though it is described as being dead...
2. Who were the creators / previous owners of the needle ship? They are at one point referred to as explorers, but clearly they were more than that. They didn't just map Fundament, they dove into its core and brought back a chrysalis to a room dedicated specifically to birthing it. They seem to have succeeded but were then all slaughtered for their efforts... If they were allied with the worm gods why didn't the worms escape millions of years ago?
I propose this: The explorers on the needle ship were deceived into retrieving a unborn worm or possibly worm larvae and were offered the same choice Aurash and her sisters were, but they rejected the worms' offer.
I think the worms could not leave Fundament's core on their own but rather had to spread into the three royal sisters and later their followers in order to gain enough power from directly participating in the slaughter of the races of Fundament. Only then did they finally gain enough power to tear wounds to orbit. Perhaps when the needle ship explorers refused to do this they were killed so the worms could use their ship to lead the next potential hosts to them even though it took millions of years to do so?
My guess is Sathona's familiar was what the needle ship explorers brought back, but it killing the small number of explorers wasn't anywhere near the number of deaths the worms needed to take direct part in to escape their prison.
3. The Osmium King and Aurash independently verified the changed orbits of Fundament's moons. The three sisters used the needle ship's sensors to hear the distant approach of the god wave. I think its safe to assume the moons really were rearranged and a civilization destroying wave really was on its way... but who really caused it?
The worm gods, upon reaching orbit, say:
Our organs detect a fifty-third moon in orbit of Fundament. A Traveler. Divine presence of the Sky. Now we know what arranged the syzygy.
But, the Leviathan talked of how the Sky creates safe places and when the Leviathan flees Fundament it says:
—Sisters of Aurash, open your eyes++
++Who made you monsters? Who summoned the wave?—
—Make peace. Join with me in golden renewal.++
Clearly it is referring to the worm gods as the ones who summoned the god wave. Which would mean it is saying that it was the worm gods, and not the Traveler, who rearranged the moons. Who is right here?!
I think the Leviathan is right. For two reasons:
First, it didn't sugar coat the way the universe works when it told the sisters that struggle and death is sometimes part of living, and it also was exactly right about the worms and their motives. Looking through everything the Leviathan says I don't think it even comes close to telling a lie. It relates unhappy truths, yes, but never a lie.
Second, the worm gods come very close to directly admitting they have the power to move planets:
From across the stars We have called life to Fundament, so that it might contend against extinction. For millennia We have awaited you... our beloved hosts.
What happened millennia ago? Aurash told his sisters he had proof that:
The plate of stone we live on, our Osmium Court, is one fragment of a rocky planet that crashed into the Fundament and broke apart. All the other nearby continents — the Helium Drinkers, the Bone Plaza, the Starcutters — came from the same world.
Perhaps the other races of the Fundament are migrants too.
If the worm gods really had the power to crash entire planets into Fundament surely they had the power to rearrange its moons. So why lie about it? Well... give it a bit and we'll find out that the worm gods' bargain with the three royal sisters wasn't exactly entirely truthful either. As a brief preview, here's what Auryx had to say when he found out the entirety of the bargain he and his sisters had agreed to:
Savathûn! Xivu Arath! My siblings
We are betrayed. We will never live eternal.
I think the worm gods grant power and knowledge through bargains. They seem to know the answers to questions no one had known to ask. But I also think in the end, time and time again, their price is ultimately revealed to be too high as we'll soon see, oh speculators mine.
Bite-sized Backstory 12: War on Life
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Mon, 14 Nov 2016
After their defeat of the Ammonites, the Hive hollow out some or maybe even all of Fundament's 52 moons turning them into giant spaceships capable of traveling to distant star systems. I wonder if this process looked anything like what Crota was doing to our moon?
For a very long time, the Hive's fleet of moons travels through the cold dark between the stars. Interestingly, even though they are more or less immortal, the three murderous siblings still have practical concerns. At one point during the journey, Auryx openly wonders how he and his people will eat and breath, among other science facts. Fortunately his sister Savathûn tells him that he should really just relax.
She has been studying both the way the worm gods use wounds to travel and the way her brother returned after she had killed him. She has figured out not only how to travel bridge great distances with wounds but also how her and her siblings can return to their throne worlds without having to die first. Now, instead of being scattered across their moons with limited ways to communicate or share food or resources, the Hive now have the means to quickly and easily come together as a society united in the cause of challenging and destroying all those weaker than themselves.
Over the next 20,000 years, the Hive journey towards new star systems. During this time, Auryx, Savathûn, and Xivu Arath wage constant war against each other, each discovering and teach the others new aspects of their power and new ways to kill. They must have killed each other hundred or thousands of times over as they grew in power.
Finally, near the end of their long journey, Auryx declares to his siblings and his people that he is establishing a court called the High War. And along with this court he creates a series of rules for the Hive beneath him to learn the sword logic that has given him and his sisters such power. He also sets up a way for lower Hive to challenge him and take his position as the leader if they are able to defeat him. This is the beginning of what we will eventually know as the Court of Orxy. We'll hear a bit more about this Court soon.
Interestingly, Savathûn also creates a court called the High Coven which likely has a similar function of teaching cunning and killing to those Hive seeking to gain the power of the sword logic. Oddly, Xivu Arath does not create a court and instead claims that her court exist anywhere there is war.
At last, the Hive have come across new species and begin destroying them just as they destroyed the Ammonites. Over the next hundred years the Hive obliterate at least (and likely many more than) 18 separate races including one called the Qugu which are said to protect four different solar systems.
Auryx finds the Qugu interesting because in some small way they are like the Hive in that they exist in symbiosis with another organism. Apparently, the Qugu evolved in such a way that even though they are now space faring, they still offer their limbs to enormous sessile (stationary) jaw-beasts. It's actually a virus living within the Qugu that compels them to do this possibly horrific thing, but the relationship between the Qugu and the jaw-beasts seems to be mutually beneficial.
The jaw-beasts, which are treated like gods by the Qugu, reproduce through this strange, violent process and in return they produce some sort of nectar that give the Qugu brilliant visions. We aren't told if these are visions like being drugged out or actual visions of new ideas and technologies and glimpses into the future. I kinda suspect it was the former but kinda hope it was the latter... because a violently symbolic culture driven forward by reality defying visions just seems darn cool to me.
Unfortunately for the Qugu, Savathûn liberates them from their jaw-beasts and indeed from existence. As she does so, Auryx takes the opportunity to vaporize his sister and some of her underlings to remind her to guard her flank. Normal physical death to Auryx and his sisters is, at this point, a game or teaching opportunity and not an actual threat to their wellbeing. It might not be comfortable for them to be forcibly returned to their throne worlds, but they've become so powerful that it is no huge setback for them anymore.
As the Hive continue destroying civilizations, Auryx muses about how he and his people are helping the universe find its final shape free of parasite civilizations that are not worthy enough or powerful enough to continue existing. At this point he has long since moved past his timidness and horror at being asked to destroy lives and species. Now, he feeds the hungry worm within him with entire worlds without so much as a second though.
Except... what would happen if he and his Hive came upon a culture that they were not able to defeat?
Bite-Sized Backstory 13: The Amiable Ecumene
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Thu, 17 Nov 2016
With more than three hundred worlds in ashes behind him, Auryx should have felt mighty and powerful. Instead, he felt trapped and he felt afraid and he felt betrayed. He wasn't sad or or ill at ease with the destruction he'd caused. This time, he called his sisters to him and cried out in grief because he'd finally proven something that had been nagging at him for some time: His worm's hunger was growing faster than the power he could draw from it.
The more he and his sisters fed their worm with destruction the faster their worms hungered for it. Soon, Auryx admitted to his sisters, their worms would be so hungry that they would not be able to feed them even if they tried to do so with all of their considerable might! If things kept going as they had been, they and the entirety of the Hive would be consumed by the very worms that had given them so much power.
And then things got worse for the royal Hive siblings!
Far away from the Hive's contingent of interstellar moons, the ministry of war of a race called the Dakaua came together to address a critical threat. The Dakaua, it seems, play a major leadership role in some sort of alliance of several species spread among the stars that collectively call themselves the Ecumene. (Note that ecumene means something like "the known world" in Greek.)
Over the last hundred years, and despite the efforts of the Ecumene Status Army's perimeter fleets, seventeen of their client races had fallen to a previously unknown race calling itself the Hive. The Hive's power had grown so great that the Dakaua were now looking at the possibility that the entire Ecumene faced extinction at the hands of the Hive. Fortunately, they had just gotten a big break.
Mercenary explorers had discovered an ancient interstellar ship fleeing from the Hive's advance. An analysis of the ship put its construction at around 24,000 years prior... around the same time that the Ecumene had lost contact with the Ammonites in the Fundament system! It seems very possible that the Ammonites were in fact a client race of the Ecumene.
Inside this ancient ship the explorers found a member of a proto-Hive individual frozen in some sort of stasis. Once revived, she identified herself as Taox! Recall, that it was Taox who had betrayed the brave royal sisters of the Osmium Court and lead those sisters to swear an oath of revenge against her. One might even argue that she was (somewhat indirectly) responsible for the birth of the Hive and the death of hundreds of worlds...
Now though, during her debriefing, Taox provides the Ecumene with an account of the fall of the Ammonites and vitially important intel about the motives and biology of the Hive. She also tell them, who their leaders are. With this new information, the Dakaua are able to supply Ecumene forces with new orders and three high priority targets: The siblings who once called themselves Aurash, Sathona, and Xi Ro.
The Dakaua Ministry of War instructs its combined forces to target the Hive's three leaders with "maximum theater overkill" and authorizes the use of Caedometric (possibly Light based or anti-matter based) weapons. Given what they now know, the Dakaua believe that the Hive will crumble once their leaders are destroyed. Soon, these new orders are put into action and finally, after the loss of seventeen worlds, the Ecumene seem to have the upper hand.
For Auryx and his sisters, this reversal of fortunes couldn't have come at a worse time. Already they were reaching the limits of their power and now the Ecumene somehow knew to target them specifically. Take a moment to read just how desperate things had become:
"I am at my end," Savathûn says. "I plot and plan. But I cannot gather enough bloodshed to feed my worm. And the harder I try, the hungrier it becomes."
"I slaughter and kill," Xivu Arath says, "but the harder I fight, the more my worm demands. I too am at my end."
"The Ecumene war angels have killed me so many times," Auryx says, "that I dare not go out into the universe, lest I need my might to protect myself. My worm chews at my soul in hunger."
As mighty as the Hive have become, they are forced to admit that the Ecumene are more powerful than they are. At one point, Xivu Arath even calls the Ecumene "lords of matter and physical law" all but admitting defeat! Savathûn, unable to plot and plan her way past the Ecumene's superior tactics and firepower desperately suggests that they beg the worm gods to tell them what to do!
Auryx, however, rejects the weakness of his two sisters and tells them he knows a way that they might still be able to defeat the Ecumene. What Auryx does next to his sisters, and even to one of his gods, will change his position among the Hive forever!
Bite-sized Backstory 14: Oryx - The Taken King
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Wed, 23 Nov 2016
The Hive were all but beaten. Thanks to Taox's information, the Ecumene knew exactly where to strike and exactly who to target. Before long, Auryx, Savathûn, and Xivu Arath could not even emerge from their throne-worlds for fear of being killed again and again. Worse, hiding and waiting was not an option, either. Each of the siblings felt the gnawing of their worms inside them. Without a supply of destruction, the bargain offered to the Hive by their worm gods so long ago would soon destroy them from within.
After much debate and despair between the three ascendant siblings who had gathered within Auryx's throne-world, it was Auryx who came up with a solution. What they needed to defeat the Ecumene was the power of the Deep that their worms gods had long kept from them. And the only way to get it was to become far more powerful himself by claiming the power held by his sisters.
By truly killing them.
So, Auryx took up his sword and gained great power by beheading his sister Xivu Arath who willingly allowed it. He then turned and killed his sister Savathûn who at the last second had tried to trick him by pretending to give up her life willingly but who actually was intending to kill him with a dagger she had in her hand hidden behind her back.
By killing his two sisters, each of whom had participated in the deaths of billions spread across well over three hundred worlds, Auryx gained enormous power. So much so that he was able to seek out Akka,one of his worm gods, and demand the secrets he needed to call upon the deep directly. Akka refused to give him those secret, so Auryx killed it and took the secrets for himself. He forged these secrets into what he called the Tablets of Ruin then returned to his Hive and proclaimed himself to be Oryx, The Taken King since he now had the power to take life and make it his own.
Within the year, the Ecumene Crisis Council (and not the Dakaua Ministry of War? Was this bigger than just a war now?) met in an emergency session. Somehow the war that had been going so well had unexpectedly reversed itself. Where before the three leaders of the Hive had been forced into hiding, now the one they recognized as Aurash / Oryx had reemerged in possession of a staggeringly powerful new weapon. He somehow had the ability to abduct individual targets from the physical world then return them drastically changed. These "Taken" came back completely under Oryx's control and possessed "physically illegal" abilities.
Oryx's ability to "take" and alter individuals greatly concerned the Ecumene, and why wouldn't it? He had found a way to do something that they, as "lords of matter and physical law," could not even conceive of. With Oryx now able to turn their own forces against them, the Ecumene Crisis Council predicted that their civilizations would be extinct within 220 years unless some countermeasure to Oryx's new power could be found.
The leaders of the Ecumene directed all of their client races to immediately dedicate all of their economic and technological resources to stopping Oryx, but in the end it would not be enough.
Bite-sized Backstory 15: War and Trickery
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Fri, 2 Dec 2016
For the next hundred years, Oryx fought the combined forces of the Ecumene. Where as before he and his Hive were unable to stand against these "lords of matter and physical law," Oryx was now able to turn the Ecumene's own units against them. We've seen some pretty devious Taken enemies as Guardians, and that's with Oryx just subverting Fallen, Hive, Vex, and Cabal. I like to imagine that a Taken Ecumene War Angel must have been a beautifully terrifying sight!
After a century of pushing back the Ecumene, Oryx's forces overran the Ecumene Council located on something called a Fractal Wreath. We don't know exactly what this was, but I like to imagine the Ecumen's center of government was located on some sorts of awe inspiring megastructure hanging in space that only an empire that had bent math and physics to its whim could even hope to build. Maybe this Fractal Wreath could have looked like a cross between a Halo and one of these:
As Oryx finally reached and destroyed the Ecumene Council he also did something just as impressive and frightening: He somehow brought Xivu Arath back to life even though he had killed her in his Throne World! She arose from the destruction of the Ecumene saying to Oryx: "I am war, and you have conjured me back with war."
For the next forty years, Oryx and Xivu Arath continued their battle against the Ecumene until they neared the Dakaua Nest. Remember, it was the Dakaua Ministry of War that first tried to rally the client races of the Ecumene against the Hive. And it was the Dakaua whose mercenary explorers discovered and revived Taox from her long twenty thousand year stasis. Wiping out the Ecumene council may have been a major victory, but if the Dakaua were the lead race of the Ecumene, nearing their Nest may have been an even more significant event. Its likely that the Dakaua knew this and put up one heck of a fight!
Maybe the Hive's conquest of the Dakaua Nest was proceeding too slowly for Oryx's liking or maybe he was just feeling devious one day, but for some reason Oryx contacted the Dakaua and asked for their support in killing his sister. He told the Dakaua he had become jealous of her. Oddly enough, the Dakaua agreed to help him!
It sounds a bit silly, but we have to conclude that Oryx request appeared genuine. It must have been more than him just sending a quick text message. We aren't told exactly how he convinced the Dakaua to agree to help him, just that they were desperate enough to do so. Maybe he offered them a cease fire and actually ordered his forces to stop their advance? Or maybe he turned them away from attacking the Ecumene forces and instead had them attack his sister's forces?
Whatever Oryx did to earn the trust of the Dakaua was apparently convincing enough that he and Xivu Arath were able to lure them into so cunning and deadly that soon the entire Dakaua race was erased from the galaxy! And again, something just as shocking happened: With the destruction of the Dakaua, Oryx was somehow able to bring his middle sister Savathûn back to life! "I am trickery, and you have conjured me back with trickery," she told her brother. But she too had been killed in Oryx's Throne World, so how is it possible she could be brought back? Shouldn't both she and Xivu Arath be dead?
The best explanation I can come up with is this:
When Oryx was first killed by his sister during the war against the Ammonites the worm gods told him: "From this day forward, Auryx, you and your sisters will each survive death - so long as you aren't killed in your own throne."
Look carefully at the beginning of XXVI: star by star by star, the book where Auryx killed his sisters to gain Akka's power to speak directly to the Deep. It specifically says: "Beneath a gree fire sky, in the throne-world of King Auryx, or lords embrace." See that? Savathûn and Xivu Arath were not in their own throne, they were in their brother's when he killed them.
At some point in the future Xivu Arath will have this to say about her death at the hands of her brother:
Once, I permitted Oryx to kill me so that he could gain the sword logic and overcome Akka our God. This left me trapped deep in my throne. But Oryx my brother made war upon the Ecumene and in that war he described me, for I too am war. Thus I was resurrected.
Many many hundreds or thousands of years later Ikora Rey will have this to say about Crota:
...is his world the apex of Hive power, or is it the youngest and most accessible of a string of netherworlds, each host to a more terrible Hive archentity?
So maybe killing an Ascendant Hive in the Ascendant Plane is not enough? Maybe they have to be killed in their specific throne world? Is this how Akka can be still alive even though Oryx killed it? Maybe it too was outside of its own throne-world? We killed both Crota and Oryx within their throne-worlds, but what about the War Priest, or Golgorth, or Oryx's twin daughters?
In the end, what was left of the client races of the Ecumene knew the reappearance of Xivu Arath and Savathûn, along with the extinction of the Dakaua, was so unbelievably bad that they each fled into hiding only to be hunted down by Oryx and his sisters over the next thousand years. We're told that the Hive exterminate the races of the Ecumene so completely that the only record of them at all is the Books of Sorrow... and curiously, within the mind of Taox.
Wait... Taox escaped again?!
Bite-sized Backstory 16: Oryx's Pyramid Scheme
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Thu, 8 Dec 2016
For a thousand years, Oryx and his sisters must have killed billions and maybe even trillions of thinking beings who were once members of the Ecumene. We know the numbers they slaughtered were so great two ways:
1. When the Dakaua War Council first met to address the Hive threat the Hive had only destroyed somewhere around 300 worlds, and only seventeen (17!) of those were part of the Ecumene. By the time our Guardian steals data from the World's Grave that number has risen to "thousand of worlds" and there are not many foes left for the Hive. Or at least not many that we are told about.
2. When the Ecumene had forced the Hive to a standstill, Savathûn lamented that they would need to be killing Ecumene by the billions in order to feed their worms the destruction they hungered for. But they seem to have no more hunger pains that we know of during this 1,000 year period.
Speaking of those hunger pains, Savathûn asked about them once the last of the Ecumene were extinguished. "King Oryx, how will we feed our worms? Did you use my plan?" she asks. We don't hear Oryx's direct answer, but we do get to hear his announcement of a plan to end the Hive's hunger pains once and for all.
Oryx commands that his Thrall and Acolytes are to take enough killing to feed their worms plus a little more to grow their own power. The rest of the destruction they cause is to be tithed up the chain. The Thrall will tithe to the Acolyte that commands them. The Acolytes will tithe to the Knights or Wizards that command them.
Oryx's command to his Knights and Wizards is much the same, with one exception. They too are to take enough killing to feed their worms, and a little more to grow. But before they tithe the rest, they are expected to take another portion, as much as they dare, to use for their own purposes. They then tithe whatever is left to the Ascendant Hive that they server under. So, they are expected to forge their own paths with the catch being that if they get too far out of line or too devious then their fellow Hive will get jealous and kill them in order to take possession of the excess of destruction they are keeping for themselves.
Why do the Knights and Wizards get this exception, this command to branch out and do their own things as much as they are able? Probably, Oryx wants to make sure his Hive don't fall into a rut of all fighting the same way. More than that, though, I think it has to do with Knights and the Wizards being the final adult form the Hive. Essentially, Thrall and Acolytes are children that have to do as they are told, but Knights and Wizards (and Kings presumably, but we never hear of any other Hive Kings) are free to achieve or squander their power and earnings as little or as much as they want. This, of course, also calls back to the the way Aurash, Sathona, and Xi Ro made their own journey of destruction from childhood to adulthood back on the seas of Fundament so long ago.
Next, the Knights and Wizards who manage to steal and hold on to enough power will become Ascendant Hive once they are able to create their own throne worlds. These Hive too are commanded to tithe upward, but they are the last link in the chain as the only ones above them are Oryx, Savathûn, and Xivu Arath. We also know that Ascendant Hive are still free to do their own thing, as we know of at least one, Alak-Hul (the Darkblade from the Sunless Cell Strike) who attempts to challenge Oryx for leadership of the Hive.
Finally, the three leaders of the Hive, the three royal siblings we know so well, will use the vast flow of tribute flowing up to them to feed their own worms, grow their own power, feed the Hive's worm gods, and to study the powers of the Deep.
I think this plan, this pyramid scheme of destruction, was the plan Savathûn spoke of. There's no real proof of this, but it feels a bit too clever for Oryx to have come up with it on his own. Either way, this is how the Hive operate from this point on. This plan is both their command structure and their supply line. Ultimately, it will be their greatest strength and, for at least one of the three murderous royal siblings, their greatest weakness... But we won't see that second part for quite a while.
(Many of you have seen and exploited this weakness first hand, however!)
Bite-sized Backstory 17: The End of an Age
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Thu, 15 Dec 2016
Some 10,000 years after their defeat of the Ecumene empire, and more than 30,000 since the brave exiled sisters were betrayed and fled to the inner seas of Fundament, the Hive have finally reached what Oryx says is the edge of the Deep.
We first learned that Oryx was chasing after the Deep after he and his sisters eliminated the Qugu so many thousands of years ago. Back then it was Oryx's astronomers who told him that he was conquering his way towards the Deep. And now he's at its edge? Does that mean that the Deep has boundaries? Or that it is, or exists at, a physical location? Or could reaching the Deep be as much about reaching a certain power level or slaughtering enough alien races?
Regardless, there is one final obstacle between Oryx and the Deep, a powerful race called the Tai. Collectively, their people who likely control several star systems are known as the Taishibethi. Like most of the races the Hive destroyed, we only know a little about the Tai. Similar to the Dakaua and the Ecumene, they too built impressive space based megastructures. In their case we see that the Hive's opening move is to ram the Tai's "star-webs" and orbital (stations) with their war moons. It also seems that the Tai were a race that somehow resembled ravens, as their children as referred to as "sun ravens" and their Emperor is described as having talons and wings.
The rest of the Hive's war against the Tai is told in time to Oryx pacing in his throne world. Over the course of ten paces we learn a little about key moments of the war. Obviously, this entire war didn't take place over the short course of ten literal footsteps. Rather, we are seeing that Oryx's ability to defeat even powerful races has become so routine it is not much different to him now than pacing back and forth.
The Hive's defeat of the Tau is another one of those great if a little vague moments in the Grimoire that is fun to read and let your imagination run free. There is mention of Tai battleplates and arsenal ships. At one point, the Ascendant Hive knights Mengoor and Cra'adug (the knights you fight in the Court of Oryx who you have to lead close to each other to cancel out their invincible shield) spend a decade killing the Tai on what is referred to as the "Raven Bridge". Is this another orbital megastructure or a Near Light Speed transit lane between star systems? Or is it a literal bridge? We just don't know, so it can be anything we imagine!
Besides the two knights from the Court of Oryx, we also get to see Kraghoor (also known as Krughor) lead his accursed Thrall against the Tai. Kraghoor, if you recall, is the Ogre in the Court of Oryx that can only be killed by detonating Thrall near it to pop its shield. Oryx's Warpriest, the same one we fought against in the King's Fall raid, also makes an appearance and seems to be the member of the Hive that takes on and defeats the bulk of the Tai's military.
After the Hive have been ravaging the Taishibethi for more than a decade, the Tai emperor returns and in a stunning show of force she attacks and apparently single handedly destroys one of the Hive's war moons! Whatever the Tai actually are, it seems some of them were extremely powerful!
Unfortunately, Oryx is completely unfazed by the Tai Emperor Raven's attacks. He, almost as a matter of course, pulls her into a wound in space. When she emerges from the wound, we find that she has been Taken and now serves Oryx and now assists the Hive in destroying her own people!
In their final moments (which may very well represent years, we don't have a good sense of time here) the Tai turn to cursing the Hive. "We had a good thing. Our clothes were nice, our food was famous. With one of her feathers our Emperor could have tickled the gods," they figuratively say to Oryx.
Oryx replies with by relating the Hive's philosophy of the need to exist to the Tai, and in a showing of humor we'll see from him from time to time, he wryly replies that the ability to dictate what will and will not exist is the Tai's true god... and it is never ticklish, he tells them. And with that, the Hive's conquest of the Taishibethi is complete.
With this final obstacle eliminated, Oryx goes into his Throne World to speak with the Deep directly. Meanwhile, his sisters make plans of their own!
Bite-sized Backstory 18: Majestic Battles and Waves
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Mon, 2 Jan 2017
After defeating the Taishibethi, Oryx returns to his throne world and makes preparations to have his first direct meeting with the Deep. He creates a special alter for the Deep and prepares an unborn ogre for it to possess. We've seen unborn ogres several times in Destiny. You might know them better as Tomb Husks.
When he is ready, Oryx calls out to the deep saying:
I can see you in the sky. You are the waves, which are battles, and the battles are the waves. Come into this vessel I have prepared for you.
This call might seem trivial, or just a fancy greeting, but at the very least Oryx's words here are a clever call back to one of Bungie's earliest game series. In 1996's Marathon Infinity, we learn of a creature or creatures called W'rkncacnter. They are described like this:
In primordial space, timeless creatures
made waves. These waves created us and the
others. Waves were the battles, and the
battles were waves.
Later one or more of these W'rkncacnter attack a powerful race called the Jjaro, killing one of them. After this, a second Jjaro somehow flings these powerful ancient beings into a star where they are trapped by the intense gravity and burned by the star's heat but somehow survive and wait to somehow be released to once again cause chaos.
Part of last game in the Marathon series, Marathon Infinity, involves jumping across timelines in an effort to prevent the W'rkncacnter from being released when a militant race tries to detonate the star they are trapped on.
It's also worth nothing that in an even earlier Bungie game called Pathways Into Darkness you are a member of a strike force tasked with using a nuclear weapon to temporarily stun an enormous, ancient, mostly dead god-like alien long enough for the Jjaro to arrive and help remove it from the Earth. The opening to Pathways Into Darkness describes the alien and situation like so:
Sixty-four million years ago, a large extra-terrestrial object struck the Earth in what would later be called the Yucatan Peninsula, in southeastern Mexico. The dust and rock thrown up by the resulting explosion caused enormous climactic changes in the ensuing years, and many of the Earth's species became extinct during the long winter that followed.There's a few Destiny links here:
The object itself was buried thousands of feet below ground, its nearly two kilometer length remarkably intact. It remained there, motionless, for thousands of years before it finally began to stir- and to dream. It was a member of a race whose history began when the Milky Way was still a formless collection of dust and gas- a powerful race of immortals which had quickly grown bored of their tiny universe and nearly exterminated themselves in war.
This particular being, whose name no human throat will ever learn to pronounce, was part of the cataclysmic battle that formed Magellanic Clouds, billions of years ago. It died there, or it came as close to dying as these things can, and drifted aimlessly for millions of light years before striking the Earth.
The heat of impact liquefied the rock around it, which later cooled and encased the dead god's huge body far below ground. As it began to dream, it wrought unintentional changes in its environment. Locked deep beneath the Earth, strange and unbelievable things faded in and out of reality. Vast caverns and landscapes bubbled to life within the rock, populated by horrible manifestations of the dead god's dream.
When the Deep arrives at Oryx's alter it possesses the Ogre he prepared for it and speaks to him. Mostly the Deep repeats the philosophy we've heard from the worm gods, but interestingly, it does so with a lot more... or at least different... personality. The way it talks is much more conversational that the worm gods distant and almost haughty style of speech. It even refers to Oryx as a friend at one point.
One of the interesting things that it tells Oryx is that if life is going to survive past the end of all things it will have to do so not by kindness or with a smile but by violence and sword. In time, we'll see at least one other major power in Destiny express a desire to survive past the end of the universe.
In the end, the Deep tells Oryx that two sides pitting themselves against the other until one prevails is the way the universe figures itself out. And it says that this process is not barbaric or evil but is actually majestic. Could it be right? When viewed on on a long enough timeline, is what the Hive and Deep are doing actually beautiful and majestic, even if it causes some suffering along the way?
Bite-Sized Backstory 19: Betrayal & Dreams of Teeth
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Mon, 16 Jan 2017
Coming out of the Deep's friendly monologue to Oryx, we immediately move into an odd dream sequence. This dream is told form Oryx's point of view and takes us back to his childhood back at the Osmium Court.
In this dream, Oryx (or should we can him Aurash?) is heading to his father's orrery when he notices his sisters are chasing after him. They are ripping up the road behind him with their swords. And the road stones they are ripping up are shaped like tablets with odd writting on them. Oryx runs from them only to be tripped and slammed to the ground by his father who asks him why he wasn't prepared for his sisters to move against him. Oryx starts crying, wanting to know why his dad won't help him, but all his father does is prepare to tip some strange "black sun" into his son's throat.
Oryx sees his jaws and teeth in the reflection of the anti-glare goggles his father is wearing and, with no other choices left, begins to eat his father! All the while his father tells him what he is doing is good and majestic. When he is done, Oryx looks back and realizes that his sisters have torn up the road behind him and that he has no way to get back where he came from.
Obviously, this dream is highly symbolic, though not confusingly so. There are several parts we can identify:
- The road stones covered in writting that Oryx's sisters are tearing up are Oryx's Tablets of Ruin he laid down in his Throne World to allow him to approach and commune with The Deep. It's telling that these tablets in Oryx's dreams are held up by or overlaid on worms, much as the Hive's power is based on the power of the worm gods.
- Could the goggles that Oryx's father is wearing to save his vision during lighting storms and sea fire have been to preserve his "night vision" for watching Fundament's moons? He was at or near his orrery in the dream so that makes some sense.
- I'm not aware of any direct correlation between the black sun that Oryx's father attempts to force feed him and anything within Destiny's universe. In this instance it would probably seem to represent poison or death.
- What Oryx does to his father, eat him in self defense, is pretty much what the worm gods and the Deep have been telling Oryx to do for tens of thousands of years now.
- One minor but interesting thing is that this dream about teeth is that it is referenced in the description of the Warlock's Voidfang Vestments which says: "YOU WILL DREAM OF TEETH AND NOTHING ELSE - scratched behind a buckle" That's kinda creepy. Maybe the Voidfang Vestments were made by a Guardian who survive the assault on the moon? Or by Toland the Shattered who we'll learn a good deal about later?
- And finally, given that his father is telling him that he should be prepared for betrayal and that his father calls being eaten in self defense "majestic" we can pretty easily conclude that Oryx's father here represents the Deep itself. It is something of a father figure to him at this point and it has been teaching him that existence is defined by ones ability to exist.
Waking up, Oryx muses that he is glad to know that the universe is a thing that run on death. He realizes that the races he and his Hive have destroyed hate him but he is, perhaps now more than ever, firmly committed to the Deep's view that the only way to make something good that can't be broken is to break everything else first.
But Oryx also soon realizes that he has been stranded and cut off from his flow of tribute. In fact, he says he is lost somewhere strange. I submit that Oryx has actually been killed just as dead as he previously killed his two sisters when the Hive was losing the war against the Ecumene. I think he is trapped in such a deep dark corner of his Throne World that he does not recognize it and cannot find a way out.
I think this for two reasons:
1. Soon after this, Xivu Arath writes one of her declarative missives like the one she wrote near the very beginning of the Books of Sorrow. Remember the outlaying of all the dangers of Fundament? This time, Xivu Arath notes that she once allowed Oryx to kill her and that she was resurrected only when he described her. In the very next section titled "RESURRECTION" she declares that she will now describe Oryx. Her description is neat and a bit frightening to read (go do so if you have time) but I think the important part here is that she had to make this description of her brother at all.
2. We'll cover this more next time, but Oryx describes making his way back from this strange place he was lost in as fighting his way out of hell. By now, Oryx has been killed many many times. First by his sister during the war against the Ammonites and later several times by the forces of the Ecumene, but each time he was just thrown back into his Throne World. A place where he is generally untouchable and has a great deal of power. A place that is hardly a hell. So I think his saying that he had to fight his way out of hell is very significant.
Ultimately, trapped in this hell, Oryx decides that he can no longer sit alone at the top of his pyramid as one of three equals leading the Hive. He decides he needs children to guarantee that he alone is the most powerful at the top of the Hive.
Bite-sized Backstory 20: The Eater of Hope and His Sisters
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Sun, 29 Jan 2017
Following his meeting with the Deep (which Destiny players would know better as the Darkness) and his betrayal by his sisters, Oryx somehow manages fight his way back to his throne world and the physical world. This may have been possible because, as mentioned last time, Xivu Arath described the nature of her brother just like he once described her and her sister after killing them during the war against the Ecumene.
Interestingly, Oryx says that he had to fight "the swarming corpse of Akka" the worm god who he killed to gain the power to forge his Tablets of Ruin which allowed him to contact the Deep. This is once again proof that killing a worm god is not really enough to... uh... kill it. And this fact, of course, brings us back to the worm familiar that showed the three brave sisters the way to the needle ship even though it was dead.
Once Oryx makes it back to his court he once again goes to war against his sisters. He records crippling Savathûn's tribute so badly that she will never again be able to challenge him. Then he tricked Xivu Arath and poisoned her tribute so she too could no longer challenge him. We can only imagine that neither of these campaigns Oryx engaged in were short. These two wars may have taken hundreds or even thousands of years for Oryx to secure his position at the top of the Hive.
Following all that, Oryx found a mother to make spawn with. Who was the mother Oryx told and what happened to her? We are never told. All we learn about are their children. First, there was Crota. When Crota is born, Oryx give him his name and his first sword, but other than that, Crota has to kill his way to a position in Crota's court. Apparently Crota did this pretty well because he becomes the Hive god that nearly defeats the City some time in the future. For now, though, Oryx explains the meaning of Crota's name. It means "the Eater of Hope" because they both are fighting a war against the false hope that the Traveler gives to the younger races.
Oryx also tells Crota about the oath he and his sisters took against Taox but he tells Crota that the oath does not apply to him. Does Oryx really believes that after having destroyed hundreds or thousands of races that Taox has still managed to stay ahead of his Hive? That seems incredible and unbelievable, but then Oryx seems quite serious about it. Maybe we'll meet Taox someday? I wonder what she would be like now, tens of thousands of years later... Or is she just frozen in a stasis pod somewhere?
After Crota, comes Oryx's two daughters Ir Anûk and Ir Halak. Of Ir Anûk, Oryx says that Savathûn is so impressed with her that she cackles and rages at her brilliance. Oryx notes that Ir Anûk has declared that she will kill one of the eleven axioms that make up Hive's ascendant places (throne worlds) and will use the power she gains to defeat Akka as he once did and become a god as he is. Does this mean that she would be able to construct Tablets of Ruin? Either way, Oryx says he may kill her to stop her or he might applaud her for her achievements.
As for Ir Halak, she developed a song so powerful that it was able to kill everyone who heard it when she sung it in Xivu Arath's throne world. (Aside from Xivu Arath, apparently, since she is still around later.) Oryx wonders if the Hive might soon employ death songs instead of swords and boomers. Oryx then sees that she has charted the course of the Nicha Thought-ship. This is not a ship we have heard of before, but it is one that will soon be very important to both the Hive and to Humanity as well...
...all because of a race of time traveling robots known as the Vex!
Bite-Sized Backstory 21: The Origin of the Vex
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Wed, 8 Feb 2017
As Oryx's daughters grow older, they continue to increase their knowledge and dig deeper into their powers and abilities. At some point a few years or maybe centuries later after their birth, Oryx came across his daughters experimenting with death and a Hive wound that they cut between places. When questioned about what they were doing, Oryx's daughters tell him that they are working on a way to separate an Ascendant Hive's soul from its body. By storing its soul in its Throne World, they think that they can both make it harder for an Ascendant Hive to be killed and make their songs of death more powerful.
What they created was what we will eventually know as an Oversoul. They even call it that. How does this thing work? What's it's real purpose? Here's my guess: Perhaps even Ascendant Hive have some vulnerabilities in the physical world. Maybe a powerful enough Guardian could kill one outright even in the real world? Or if not a Guardian, maybe something even more powerful like the Traveler could? But if their Oversoul is already stored in their throne world, maybe nothing can be powerful enough to kill an Ascendant Hive in the physical world?
Oryx is impressed by his daughters and instructs his son Crota to watch them in the hopes he might learn some cleverness from them. Then something interesting happens. Oryx leaves his daughters and travels somewhere far away to watch the Deep destroy an unnamed ancient fortress world. We've heard of the Deep acting on its own at least one other time, but this is the clearest indication we have that the Deep is able to move and attack and destroy all on its own. If there was any doubt before, it is clear now that the Deep (which we know better as the Darkness) is something more than just a another term for the Hive and their ongoing conquest.
After Oryx leaves, Crota follows his instructions to watch his twin sisters and begins experimenting with wounds to other spaces similar to what his sisters were doing. He cuts into a new space that neither he nor his sisters had observed or traveled to before, but instead of finding a new way to resist death or gain secret power, Oryx finds a strange race of intelligent machines. What he accidentally discovered was the Vex!
Vex come pouring into Oryx's throne world and immediately begin trying to understand this new strange reality they've found their way in to. At first they can't understand the physics and rules of the throne world. We're told they try and construct problems, by which I think it means they're trying to process and simulate the physics of this new reality with little success. But then, as Crota prepares to destroy them, the Vex start to figure things out. Specifically, they create a new Vex mind called "Quria, Blade Transform" that beings to understand the Hive's Sword Logic. It somehow learns or deduces that killing things can grant it power. So the Vex begin to build units meant for war.
Corta moves to attack these new Vex soldiers, but the Vex teleport away from Crota and instead attack and defeat some 2,000 of Oryx's Acolytes and 10,000 Thrall. By doing this they begin to gain power within Oryx's throne world. So much so that even after Crota enlists the help of his sisters, they are unable to destroy the Vex. Oryx's daughters even create annihilator totems and are able to destroy the Vex within Oryx's throne world, but the Vex keep pouring through Crota's wound and are even able to reinforce it so that Corta and his sisters are unable to close it.
Soon, a stalemate exists between the Vex and Crota, his sisters, and their Hive followers. Within Oryx's throne world, the Hive are dominate. But each time they try and attack the Vex outside the throne world the Vex prove to be too powerful and are able to drive them back. Then, something very very dangerous happens.
The Vex steal some worm larvae from the Hive and quickly learn that by worshiping the worm gods they too can obtain powers similar to the Hive's. The Vex being to alter reality with their worship and soon construct a priesthood dedicated to worshiping the worm gods. The worm gods Motive this and very quickly the worm god Eir demands Oryx return home and deal with the Vex himself. We'll take a look at how Oryx reacts next time, but first I think we need to consider what just happened.
I think maybe the Vex started by worshiping the worm gods but that's not what they ended up worshiping by the time our Guardians encounter them. We haven't seen any worm gods in the Black Garden, but we have seen the Vex bowing and praying before a big blob of Darkness. I think what happened here is that the Vex, like Oryx, were smart enough to go over the heads of the worm gods and worship the Darkness itself. The Hive and even Oryx are all bound to the worm gods, but the Vex figured out that the worm gods were just middlemen standing in their way!
Ultimately, I think the worm gods were scared that they were going to lose their hold on the Hive. If the Vex proved it was possible to draw power from the Darkness without needing a worm growing inside them, how long would it be before Oryx or Savathûn or Xivu Arath realized it as well?
This is why Eri called to Oryx and demanded he put his house in order. They (the worm gods) saw that they were one step away from being pushed out as the power that controls the Hive. Oryx already partially stepped around them with his Tablets of Ruin and by speaking with the Deep directly. The worm gods have been telling the Hive that they must kill everything to prove their worth. Up until now, "everything" never included the worm gods. And they wanted to make sure it never does by having Oryx destroy the Vex before he or his sisters realize what is really going on.
There's one other wrinkle in all of this. After Oryx comes back and drive the Vex out of his throne world, we are told that Savathûn was laughing because she tricked Crota into cutting his wound to the Vex's space in the first place... But that would mean that Savathûn knew about the Vex before Crota or even Oryx did! So, not only did Crota not create the Vex, it seems almost certain that he wasn't even the first Hive to encounter the Vex. I think what we're seeing is Savathûn being one step ahead of everyone else like she has been in the past and like she will be in the future.
Bite-sized Backstory 22: Crota's Punishment and Oryx's Plans
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Mon, 20 Feb 2017
Upon hearing Eri's call to set his house in order, Oryx returns home and quickly overwhelms the Vex pouring into his throne world. The power the Vex had gained through killing and worship was nowhere near a match for the powers that Oryx possessed. As is typical, Oryx took some of the Vex and turned them against each other. We are told that Quria, Blade Transform, the Vex mind in charge of the attack, tried numerous different strategies but none of them were effective against the power Oryx had.
We aren't told how much longer this miniature war between the Hive and Vex lasted, but Oryx noted that he had finally found a worthy rival, so it would probably be safe to assume it went on for several more years after he returned. Once it was all over and the attacking Vex were defeated, Oryx took a few important actions:
Oryx probably made a mistake by telling Savathûn about how the Vex invaded his throne world. She very quickly leaked this information to Xivu Arath in the hopes that one of them could accomplish what the Vex had. If they could invade Oryx's throne world there was a chance they could defeat him, but Oryx was already a step ahead. He decided that it was no longer safe to simply rely on his throne world to protect him from death. He needed to make sure it was much more safe from being found and breached, so he decided to reinvent his throne world into the form of a mighty dreadnaught.
Creating his dreadnaught was one of the most difficult tasks we ever see Oryx accomplish. It took the combined power of him, his court, and a verse from his Tablets of Ruin to do it. We are told that Oryx's dreadnaught is built from a piece of the remains of Akka (the worm god who Oryx previous killed but who we are now told is dead but far from gone) combined with pushing Oryx's throne world inside out so it protrudes into our normal space. That Oryx's dreadnaught, which is still orbiting within Saturn's rings in the current day, is at least partially made from a piece of a worm god should scare the heck out of the City!
Oryx and his court complete the construction of his dreadnaught, and Oryx once again commands his forces to go out and conquer and send him his demanded tribute... but something strange happens here. Alongside Oryx's little speech we see what are essentially scribblings in the margin of the text by Savathûn! She writes:
I am Savathûn, insidious. I graffiti this notice for you. These Books are full of lies!
Who is Savathûn writing to? And what does she mean? Which part or parts of the Books of Sorrow are lies? Is anything we've learned about the Hive true?! Yes, I think a lot of what we think we know about the Hive is true. We eventually see the Hive's philosophy and past corroborated by other sources like Eris Morn and Toland the Shattered. Still, it does seem we need to be cautious in believing every single thing the Books of Sorrow tell us about the Hive. And we should probably be looking for gaps or contradictions.
With his dreadnaught completed, Oryx once again feels safe from attack and in fact goes on the offensive. His target? The mysterious Nicha Thought-ship!
Bite-sized Backstory 23: End of Failed Timeline
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Fri, 24 Feb 2017
With his new, powerful Dreadnaught complete, Oryx sets out to accomplish two of the last objectives we'll hear about: Hunting down the Nicha Thought-ship and discovering the location of the Gift Mast.
These last two objectives are... interesting... because we've so heard very little about them. The first we hear of the Nicha Thought-ship is after Oryx's twin daughters have grown up and become powerful wizards. Ir Halak gifted her father with a charting (prediction?) of the Nicha Thought-ship's course. so Was this ship something Oryx had know about previously? Likewise, we only hear of the Gift Mast as Oryx's Dreadnaught nears the Nicha Thought-ship. We're not really sure why he thought it might contain the Gift Mast's location.
So, what has really happened here? Is this Gift Mast some kind of fantastic legend Oryx and the Hive have heard of but have not yet been able to find? Is the Nicha Thought-ship similar? How did Ir Halak chart the Thought-ship's course and how was she able to do so when Oryx, the First Navigator, was not? Unfortunately, there are no answers to these questions. At least not yet. And that feels a bit odd to me here so close to the end of the Books of Sorrow. Perhaps we'll learn more about this point in the Hive's history later? Or the Vex's? I hope so, because right now this part of their story feels a little short changed and incomplete to me.
Anyway, having likely used Ir Halak's predictions, Oryx approaches the Nicha Thought-ship only to find it guarded by a fleet of ships known as the Harmonious Flotilla Invincible. A battle presumably ensues, though we are not told that specifically, and one way or another Oryx's Dreadnaught ends up surrounded. As it turns out, this is just fine by Oryx. He thrusts his sword into the hull of his Dreadnaught and further extends his Throne World into the real world destroying the Harmonious Flotilla Invincible. This is the same super attack we see him use against the Awoken fleet at the beginning of The Taken King. All that is left is the Nicha Thought-ship... which turns out to be an ill conceived trap.
On the Nicha Thought-ship, Oryx is ambushed by Quria, Blade Transform, the Vex mind that first deduced the Hive's sword logic and discovered that worshiping the worm gods could lead to physics breaking paracausal results. Was the Nicha Thought-ship some kind of Vex ship? If so, was the Harmonious Flotilla Invincible a Vex fleet? Or was a Vex ship being protected by one or more non-Vex races? Another possibility is that the Nicha Thought-ship is not a Vex ship, but Quria, Blade Transform somehow convinced its owners to allow it to wait in ambush. Again, we have a lot of interesting possibilities but not a lot of information, much less answers.
Next, Oryx advanced on Quria, Blade Transform even as it springs its trap. It looks like Quria, Blade Transform once again tries to invade and take over Oryx's throne world. We can see its thought process in a series of short, three part codes:
Oryx advances on Quria, Blade Transform's Hydra platform seemingly immune to the Vex's onslaught of weapon fire. In a last ditch effort to accomplish something before it is defeated, Quria, Blade Transform sets in motion the closest best guess simulation of Oryx that it could come up with. This incomplete simulation isn't of the present day Oryx who has vast power after conquering hundreds of worlds and ending trillions of lives. Instead, what Quria, Blade Transform has come up with is Aurash, the oldest of the three brave royal sister who were once exiled from the Osmium Court long, long ago.
The simulated Aurash expresses shock and outrage at what Oryx and the Hive have become. Oryx responds by boasting about all the mighty things he has accomplished. Quria, Blade Transform spends its final moments observing Oryx's reaction and transmitting the data it records to the rest of the Vex in the hopes that it will be useful at other points in space and time. It knows that its fellow Vex will use the data it has gathered to further study Oryx's power. In the end, Quria, Blade Transform gains one last glimpse of Oryx's power as The Taken King takes it, just as he has done to so many other powerful foes.
I really liked this sequence. In a way, Aurash get to see the end result of her folly. Turns out the old Leviathan was right, after all! She did become a monster!
We do learn one other very interesting thing from Quria, Blade Transform's demise: The Vex were in some way or another present around the same time that the Hive destroyed the Ecumene many thousands of years prior. The simulated Aurash knew to question Oryx about his sisters Sathona and Xi Ro because the Vex learned about them from the intelligence given to the Ecumene by Taox...It makes you wonder where else have the Vex been present and what else they might know.
Oh, and one last fun tidbit. The Grimoire Card where Quria, Blade Transform is defeated is named: "End of Failed Timeline" This a reference to the timeline hopping that happened in Marathon Infinity... except "End of Failed Timeline" does not actually appear in Marathon Infinity's terminals. As far as I can tell, it only appears on the Marathon.Bungie.Org Story Page making the title of this Grimoire card one of the most awesome Bungie.org in-jokes ever! :)
Bite-Sized Backstory 24: The Gift Mast and Dragons?!
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Tue, 28 Feb 2017
Oryx had gotten what he wanted. What he'd been seeking for a long, long time. In the wake of his victory over Quria, Blade Transform, he finally had the location of the Gift Mast. Soon, he has all of the Hive gather for a major assault. When his sister Savathûn arrives at their staging area, Oryx goes to visit with her. I think the only way to describe Oryx's mood as he converses with his sister is... giddy!
Oryx brings his clever, deceitful sister a gift: What remains of Quria, Blade Transform after he took it at the end of their battle on the Nicha Thought-ship. Savathûn expresses caution and some dry skepticism, but Oryx seems in too good a mood to let her bring him down. When Savathûn ask Oryx if the Vex is meant explode and kill her or invade her throne like it did his, he just replies that if it does kill her then she deserves to die. This is the now very familiar philosophy of the Hive and their worm gods, and again, Oryx seems almost giddy as he repeats it... but Savathûn is not amused. What she says in reply is very, very interesting:
I don't have a strict proof yet, you know." Savathûn strokes the void with one long claw and space-time groans beneath her touch. "This thing we believe — that we're liberating the universe by devouring it, that we're cutting out the rot, that we're on course to join the final shape — I haven't found a strict, eternal proof. We might yet be wrong.
Oryx tries to explain to her that they, the Hive, are that proof. They are so intent on killing everything in the universe that if they succeed then the proof is verified. And even if they fail, whatever kills them must be even more ruthless than them so in a way they still win even if they lose. Basically, Oryx is completely convinced he is in the right no matter what happens. But once again we see that Savathûn isn't so sure:
I like that," she says. "That's elegant." Although of course she has had this thought before.
That's very much veiled sarcasm coming from Savathûn. What we're seeing here is Savathûn realizing that even though her brother is more powerful than she is, he isn't smarter. Oryx thinks he has it all figured out, but clearly Savathûn has considered the Hive's reasons for killing everything and has some sort of legitimate doubt about whether what they are doing is actually correct. This is quite the role reversal from how these two siblings were back during their war with the Ammonites. Remember, back then it was Oryx who had grave doubts about the correctness of killing everything!
Soon, the Hive make their move to capture the Gift Mast. We learn that the Gift Mast is an absolutely massive megastructure left behind by the Traveler for a race or group of races called the Harmony. Somehow, at some point, the Harmony's star died and collapsed into a black hole, but the Traveler seems to have altered the physics of this black hole in order to keep the Harmony safe. We are told that it changed the orbits of the Harmony's ten planets so that they would orbit the black hole and that it changed the black hole so its accretion disk, the spiral of matter the black hole is sucking in, gave off warm light to those ten worlds. If we ignore the Gift Mast for a moment, what the Traveler did for the Harmony might already be the one of the most impressive acts we've yet heard about.
The Gift Mast itself is said to be some sort of hollow structure built within the relativistic jet of the Harmony's black hole and that it is absolutely massive in scale, so much so that it towers over the Harmony's star system! If this is to be taken even half way literally, then the Gift Mast might be ten of millions of miles tall! (Also, if you don't know about black hole jets, do a bit of reading, 'cause they're awesome!)
We're told a couple of times that the Gift Mast "...sings a radio lullaby, made of soothing lies." What could that mean? Could the Gift Mast simply be reacting to the force of the black hole's jet streaming around it and through it? Perhaps it is literally emitting soothing sounds at radio frequencies? Or maybe it's doing something else entirely? Could these "radio lullabies made of soothing lies" be an ongoing communication from the Traveler to the Harmony? Or some sort of ranged extension of the Traveler's power?
As Xivu Arath's begins her assault on the Harmony, she utters a few thoughts and warnings about the upcoming battle:
Then, lastly but nowhere near leastly, Xivu Arath makes mention of "THE DRAGONS", saying:
Our gods should be ours alone. Their smug freedom is an insult to me. I'd shut them all in cells. Bring them to me!
These final four sentences almost certainly are the key to the most important and far reaching thing we learn from the Hive's Books of Sorrow...
...so, of course, we'll take a break here and examine these "dragons" in depth next time! :p
Bite-sized Backstory 25: The Harmony and the Ahamkara
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Tue, 4 Apr 2017
The Defeat of the Harmony
We don't know if the Harmony knew about the Hive, or the hundreds of civilizations they'd made extinct. It's possible they saw the Hive coming and prepared as best they could. One day the Harmony must have been at peace, and the next they faced one of the greatest threats the galaxy has ever seen. And to be honest, they did pretty well, all things considered. But then, as we'll see, the Hive weren't fully committed to the fight, and the Harmony... and, well, the Harmony had some special help.
Xivu Arath leads the initial wave of the Hive's assault on the Harmony and their ten worlds. We are told that she fights with strategies and discipline but is held at bay for fifty years. Strangely, it's not the Harmony's Sting superweapon that holds back the Hive's god of war. Instead it is the Harmony's "wishful bishops" who are able to fight Xivu Arath in the ascendant plane by obtaining power from "dragon-wishes." Consider that for a moment. Only four races that we know of at this point have ever made it to the ascendant plane: The worm gods, the Hive (by ingesting the worm gods' larvae), the Vex (because Savathûn tricked Crota into letting them in to Oryx's throne world), and, of course, the Darkness. That the Harmony's bishops were able to enter and fight the Hive there is extraordinary, which means these dragons the Harmony directed their wishes towards must be as well!
With Xivu Arath locked in a stalemate against the Harmony's fleets (and their dragon-wish powered bishops, and their Traveler infused blackhole superweapon) Savathûn move in. But, instead of attacking the Harmony, she and her followers somehow disguise themselves and trick their way onto one of the Harmony's worlds. And instead of spreading disease, or sabotaging the Harmony's defenses, Savathûn moves to study the Harmony's dragons in secret. She doesn't just take scans of them or some such things, she and her followers vivisect them! That is, they experiment on these dragons and cut them open and take them apart while they are still alive!
Vivisection today (in the real world) often requires special procedures to limit the amount of pain experiments cause. It often takes the approval of an entire ethical review before a study involving vivisection can even be started. It seems extremely unlikely that Savathûn and her people were so high minded... Interestingly, we're told that the Hive's worm gods laugh and laugh at Savathûn's actions, though not why they do so. The apparent joy shown by the Hive's worm gods at Savathûn's actions might have something to do with who or what the Harmony's dragons actually are...
And then, of course, there's Oryx. He and his Court hide and grow within the accretion disc of the Harmony's blackhole. Oryx leaves the traditional combat to Xivu Arath and instead terrorizes the Harmony's worlds by bombarding them with asteroids and comets. He also launches Seeders to grow his forces on the Harmony's worlds much like Crota grew his followers into a powerful fighting force capable of taking on the House of Devils in the Cosmodrome. I can't imagine that Oryx didn't also use his power to Take key members of the Harmony's defense and leadership, but we are not specifically told that he did.
We are told that this is not exactly a hard battle for the Hive. In fact, we are told that the Hive's campaign against the Harmony is merely routine. Yes, they were slowed by the Harmony for a time, but soon enough Xivu Arath and Oryx's forces emerge triumphant and Oryx and his Court tear down the Harmony's Gift Mast. Interestingly, Savathûn is only said to have achieved her secret purpose, but we are not told what that purpose was or if it helped her brother and sister defeat the Harmony. It could be that she helped weaken the Harmony's bishops with her experiments, but we just don't know.
Oryx, by his right as the most powerful of the Hive, divides up the Gift Mast and its Light. He claims he is being generous in only keeping 2/5ths of it for himself, but do the math and you'll see that even though he gives up more than he keeps, neither of his sisters will gain more from the Harmony's defeat individually than he does. In everything he does, Oryx always makes sure that he comes out ahead... and his sisters recognize it.
Soon, Savathûn takes her forces and departs from Oryx and Xivu Arath saying: "Siblings, listen, we must part ways a while, so that we may grow different." While her statement may seem straight forward, I can't imagine that Savathûn is telling the whole truth. Xivu Arath also leaves Oryx, saying: "King Oryx, you take up too much space, your power constrains too many choices. I must go away from you." I think she is being truthful. Xivu Arath's stated plan was to beat Oryx to the Gift Mast and she failed.
The Hive achieved victory over the Harmony, but it is the last of their victories we hear about in the Books of Sorrow, and one can't help but wonder if by going their separate ways the Hive as a whole was significantly weakened.
There is another, larger issue here though. That of the true identity of the Harmony's dragons. I think we have enough evidence to make a good guess at who these dragons were, and, if my guess is right, I think the presence of these dragons reveal something very sinister in Destiny's universe. Yeah... more sinister than a race of near immortals who's stated goal is to kill everything so they alone can survive.
First, here's my theory in full:
The Hive's worm gods are just one example of this type of creature in the Destiny universe. The Hive themselves stumbled upon the Harmony's dragons which they immediately recognized as being similar or the same as their worm gods. There is a third known set of these creatures in the Destiny universe: A group of wish granting dragons called the Ahamkara that appeared in Humanity's solar system after the arrival of the Traveler. I propose these three sets of creatures are part of the same vastly ancient race and that they ultimately working towards the same sinister end.
Now, lets break this down:
1. The Hive's worm gods and Harmony's dragons are the same type of creatures pursuing the same goals.
2. The Hive's worm gods are the same type of creatures as Humanity's Ahamkara.
We have several instances of a shared speech pattern between the Hive's worm gods and things said by the Ahamkara remains that Guardians have fashioned into powerful armor:
Contrast this with Humanity's Ahamkara:
And thus the Ahamkara were made extinct, their call silenced, their solipsistic flattering erased, their great design - if it ever existed - broken.(Meaning the entire card was dictated by an Ahamkara?! )
Of this you can be assured, oh reader mine
The tunnels were geologic in nature, or had to be. That's what we thought until twelve hours into the second sub-lunar expedition, when we found the bones. A single long rib cage, the size of an aircraft fuselage.
The living creatures themselves, we found a hundred meters down. They might have been worms, if worms had scales and teeth and moved more quickly than a man could run.
This would seem to be a transcript or log perhaps from a Guardian just before the Hive and Crota killed thousands on the Moon. That long rib cage the size of an aircraft fuselage? We've seen something very similar! In the area where we have to kill Crota's crystal! It has a vaguely dragon-shaped skull and the bones of its body stretches along the right edge of the room? Is that the remains of an Ahamkara?!
Beyond these things, we have multiple examples of gear that various Guardians fashioned out of Ahamkara parts speaking to the Guardians in the same way that the worm gods often spoke to the Hive:
We also have a couple of pieces of armor that don't directly speak as a worm god / Ahamkara but seem related nonetheless:
I love all these things because like with the weapons named after the Iron Lords, most of these have been around since Destiny's launch or were added in The Taken King and when linked together with all the other information paint a cool bit of backstory that is hard to uncover at first.
3. Despite being separated by thousands or millions of years, the Hive's worm gods / Harmony's wish dragons / Humanity's Ahamkara act very similar and are possibly pursuing the same goal:
My best guess is that the Ahamkara are playing a similar long game to the one they sold to the Hive, but they are playing it better by playing all sides. They think that the Darkness will be victorious, but they themselves do not have the power or skills to oppose it. They fear allying themselves with a single race only to see some cataclysm or foe destroy that race and them along with it. So they spread themselves out all across the galaxy and seem to have been following closely on the heels of the Traveler. In each case we see the Ahamkara we also see that the Traveler either was nearby at the time (as with the Hive and Humanity) or had certainly been around at some point (as with the Harmony and their massive Gift Mast.)
Is there some other possibility? Could the Ahamkara be present all over the galaxy after some great war between Light and Darkness, and the Traveler in doing its space magic terraforming is accidentally waking them up? All except the Hive's worm gods who were trapped in Fundament's core?
It's clear we don't have the whole story regarding what went on with these Hive worm gods / Harmony Dragons / Humanity's Ahamkara, but I fully believe that they are actually a huge part of Destiny's past and will play a large role its future. I think that the Fallen, and Vex, and Cabal, and Hive, and Humans are merely pawns in a much bigger ongoing war between the Light and Darkness. Hopefully, with Destiny 2, we'll begin to see a bit more of that hidden war.
Oh, and there's one last weapon description that I think is very relevant to this whole discussion of the Ahamkara:
Those who doubt the existence of dragons are always the first devoured.
All over the Grimoire. Several are listed above. If you have questions just ask. (AKA: It'd take another hour or two just to properly link everything!)
Bite-sized Backstory 26: The Last Musings of Oryx
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Mon, 17 Apr 2017
First we see (Oryx's?) Hive restate their belief in the form of an open letter to the things they plan to kill. It's the same basic thing where they say that building safe spaces for cooperation is a fatal lie because the universe only offers two paths: Being ruthless or being extinct.
Next, we see Oryx musing a little about where he is now. How his Hive and Crota keep him and his worm sated with rich tribute. And how he is now using his power to learn more about the Deep. Oryx briefly wonders about his sisters and has come to suspect that they might be hiding secrets and power from him since they went their separate ways, but as is typical Oryx is fine with that because "the only meaningful relationship is the attempt to destroy." He also states that the Deep dosen't want everything to be the same, but rather it was strong life that can live forever. This seems to have a few logical flaws, like what happens when there are only two forms of life left, but Oryx seems committed to his way of thinking now...
Then, we see Oryx thinking about his past and about returning to Fundament. But he concludes there is no point because he knows what happened to everything on that gas giant. He became that world's ultimate descendant and learned the answer to the questions about the universe his people had been asking. We also see that Oryx is actually aware enough to know that he doesn't yet fully understand the natures of the Deep and the Traveler, but he does want to learn.
And finally, Oryx considers all he has done. He thinks of his goals as to become so closely associated with death that if the universe ends he will survive as a part of the nothingness the universe becomes. He also relates the Hive's philosophy in perhaps the most understandable terms yet:
Far better to have a savage universe with a happy end than a happy universe with no hope.
Oryx himself goes on to think through the process something would have to go through to defeat him. He reasons that someone would need to kill his echoes, defeat him in the material world, defeat his count, and then confront him in his throne world. He realizes that while he is vastly powerful, a lot of that power is now derived from the tribute flowing from his daughters, and Crota, and his court, and if all of those are defeated he would no longer be able to feed his worm god.
As cruel and destructive as Oryx is, he still acknowledges that if something is able to defeat his Hive and his court and his children and him then that thing deserves to win. As bad as Oryx is, he is at least honest about the whole thing.
We know he was honest when he wrote this final Book of Sorrow because if we track forward to the time of our Guardians we take this exact path to killing Oryx. We first killed Crota, then we eliminated the key players of Oryx's court (namely the Warpriest, then Golgoroth, then Oryx's daughters) and finally we cut Oryx off from the tribute of corrupted Light he has stored up. As Oryx said, if all these things were to happen, if he was to fail, then let him become wormfood. And so he did.
Of course, as all great villains, Oryx's isn't quite done. Even in defeat he is confident that whoever defeated him will ultimately be forced to carry on his work. He believes that no matter what happens, he, in the form of his ideas and his cruelty, will live on forever. And so far, we don't have much to prove him wrong!
But, just as Oryx came to an end, so too has our in depth look at the Books of Sorrow! We've come a long long way!
We'll eventually revisit the Hive and their exploits as we explore their attempts to conquer Humanity and defeat the Guardians of The City. But first we have some new and exciting topics to cover, starting with:
I hope you'll join me as I attempt to trace a proud race as they are forced from the heights of their Golden Age down to becoming scavengers on the edge of extinction.
Bite-sized Backstory 27: Whirlwind & Rain
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Tue, 1 Aug 2017
The Fallen are ruthless scavengers. Brutal and uncaring, they arrived on their massive Ketches in the wake of the Collapse to loot and pillage our devastated worlds.
There are hints of ancient nobility to the Fallen Houses - the scars of lost grandeur. The Kells of their scattered Houses still claim to be royalty. But they leave only grief and wreckage in their wake.
By the time Destiny's story ends, it is clear that the Fallen have it the worst out of all the races we've met. Once the combined forces of the City and the Reef, not to mention the Vex, Hive, and Cabal, are done with the Fallen, it's fair to wonder how many of them are even left in our system and how many of their ancient Houses are still intact.
But this race of pirates and scavengers humanity derides as Fallen was once something much more. Though some of their people have come to embrace the term Fallen, they actually call themselves Eliksni much as we call ourselves humans or humanity. And once, long ago, the Eliksni, like us, were visited by the Traveler.
The image clears of dirt and dust as a hand wipes the lens clean. A figure holds the Ghost up, looking into the lens. Harsh light from an unfamiliar sun backlights the four-armed creature, making it impossible to see its face. Its massive head turns, and a clicking and chittering voice can be heard speaking to something off-screen. While the noises themselves are harsh, the tone and content seem almost gentle. A curious creature, not a violent or angry one.
The lens refocuses beyond the creature's head as it talks, and a startling landscape climbs to the horizon. It's a paradise. Carefully tended lakes and rivers, water everywhere, wind their way between fields of lush iridescent crops and into groves of starkly colored trees. Every inch of the land seems engineered, brushed by a sculptor's hand for form and function both.
The sky is a light pink, spotted with clouds and crowded with ships. Thick lanes of aerial traffic soar through the air, tightly managed and seemingly endless.
And beyond it all, above the clouds, hangs a perfect alabaster sphere. The image wobbles, shaking, flickering as if the Ghost is blinking. And the fragment ends.
The first image we get of the Eliskni comes to us through the strange, time-bent perception of a Ghost within the Vex's Vault of Glass. This brief glimpse of an Eliksni world shows us that not only were they perhaps equals to Humanity in the height of our Golden Age, it's even possible that they were our betters! Their lanes of air traffic speaks to a civilization bustling with technological prowess, while their paradise of perfectly engineered lakes, rivers, farm lands, and forests suggests that perhaps they have already long past the age of expansion, colonization, and struggle Humanity was in before its Golden Age came crashing down.
Skolas, the eventual Fallen leader of the House of Wolves, had this to say about the Eliksni's Golden Age:
Remember the age before the Whirlwind, when ether ran free, when we ruled ourselves and our futures as kings. We wanted more than glimmer and glints and herealways.
Unfortunately, while the Eliksni's Golden Age may have lasted a good deal longer than Humanity's, it did not last.
First, the Great Machine. Then, sky fell away. Whirlwind ripped away the past. All honor lost, all hope. Judgment not
enough. Cannot keep Wolves from Kings, Scar from Winter. Fell to fighting. Fell to hate.
Judgment gone. Others slaughtered, slain. Death and docking. "Keep Eliksni together," lost to pride and rage.
Traveled with the many houses before Wolves. We move, across the dark. Follow the Light. Advise Kells, worshiped Primes. House Judgment must survive, yes?
Found the Light. Too bright in Darkness to hide.
Something powerful and terrible attacked the Eliksni. Something so overwhelming they were forced to flee their home world and chase after what they called the Great Machine until they found it damaged and unmoving hanging low above the beginnings of what would years or maybe decades later become the City on Earth.
Destiny's story might have been very different if the Eliksni that had survived their Whirlwind acted as a unified force. They might have come out the heroes. At the very least they might have been far and away the dominant rules of our solar system with far more might than the Hive, Vex, Cabal or the Awoken of the Reef. But, instead of working together to preserve what remained of their race after the Whirlwind, the Eliksni almost immediately fell into infighting if not outright civil war.
While we don't know much about this possible Eliksni's civil war, we do know that the House Judgment, which seems to have helped settle disputes and keep order among the other Houses, was destroyed. House Judgement may very well have been one of the last Houses to fall due to the effects of the Whirlwind, but there were surely many others that were wiped out in, or because of, the Eliksni's version of our Collapse. The most interesting of these Houses has to be the House of Rain.
Throughout Destiny, the Fallen repeatedly take bold but foolish risks. Their infighting and the way they throw themselves into the meat grinders of the City's Guardians and the Reef's Awoken is a tragic theme we see over and over. But, in Destiny, and in the Grimoire especially, there is a second theme that permeates the Fallen's story. It is a promise of renewed unity and perhaps even redemption as all the Fallen Houses gather under the leadership of one Eliksni who will eventually be known as the Kell of Kells. If a Kell is the leader of a Fallen House, this individual will be the leader of all the Fallen Houses.
One of the most interesting things about this Kell of Kells is that their eventual existence was predicted by the House of Rain before it was destroyed in the Whirlwind:
Petra: What about this House of Rain, the Prophecy you keep quoting?
Variks: House Rain lost in Whirlwind. No survivors, but I keep their prophecies. You think many claim to be Kell of Kells, but none have. House Judgment closest thing to peace the Fallen ever know.
Petra: Heh. Maybe you are the Kell of Kells.
And the prophecies Variks spoke of?
What Whirlwind whisked away will be rewrought, and every kell and ketch will kneel to the Kell of Kells." —Prophecy, House of Rain
The Great Machine will marvel, moved by might, and come to crown him Kell of Kells." —Prophecy, House of Rain
Before him, foes will flee or fall. But he will heal the houses, make them whole." —Prophecy, House of Rain
That even the Traveler would recognize this Kell of Kells seems completely unprecedented with what we've seen so far in Destiny... so I really we see these prophecies come true!
Like the story of the Hive we covered last time, the story of the Fallen Eliksni is one filled with hope and despair, with battles and betrayals, and maybe with even a hint or two about to expect from our favorite four-armed race in Destiny 2. I had a blast exploring the Grimoire last time for the Books of Sorrow, and so I hope you'll join me again over the next several weeks as I trace the path of the Eliksni.
Bite-sized Backstory 28: Facts and puzzling things about...
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Tue, 15 Aug 2017
Before we really begin, I thought it might be interesting to explore some oddities of Eliksni biology, and take a quick look at two of the key individuals we'll see driving the Eliksni's fate before and during the events of Destiny.
Skolas the Rabid:
The incredibly difficult Fallen Kell many of us faced in the Prison of Elders was once merely one of multiple captains serving the previous House of Wolves Kell before the Reef Wars. We ultimately killed him to earn treasure from the Queen of the Reef, but did you realize that Skolas had been caught by the Awoken once before? And that it was Xur, or some other Agent of the Nine, who released him and set him on his (ultimately failed) quest to become the prophesied Kell of Kells?
Take a quick look:
He looks up. At the tiny hooded shape before him. The cell's mist is clearing. He can see.
"I believe that I am here," the creature says. To Skolas' ears it has a strange voice, a strange accent. It speaks his language. "I have a clear purpose. I cannot explain it. Forgive me."
From beneath its hood, tiny fingers of shadow probe the air.
Skolas rises up to smash it, to show his strength, because the alternative to violence is waiting for violence to come from a universe that has neither respect nor compassion. But he checks himself. His ambitions have brought him here, to this cell in this strange place... only it's not so strange, is it? It's the hold of a Ketch. "The Queen," he says to the thing. "You work for the Queen."
"The Nine made me aware of my purpose," the creature says. "If am here, then it is because the Queen sent you to the Nine, and they wish you sent back."
Whoever or whatever the Nine are, they sure had it out for the Awoken!
Variks The Loyal:
Throughout all the wars and battles the Eliksni have undertaken in our solar system, and despite all the powerful leaders that have risen up in opposition to the various pockets of Humanity, Variks, a lowly scribe from the Eliksni House of Judgment may yet be the most influential Eliksni of all. We'll get to his story in a bit, but first I wanted to point out something interesting that he revealed to us with his own words:
Traveled with the many houses before Wolves. We move, across the dark. Follow the Light. Advise Kells, worshiped Primes. House Judgment must survive, yes?
Did you see that?! Variks claims to have been alive before the Eliksni found our star system!
With Rise of Iron, we learned that the Iron Lords were at the height of their power some 500 years before Destiny's present day, and that some Iron Lords were fighting Fallen well before that. If Variks' quote above is to be believed, he and a good number of other Eliksni might have been present during the Whirlwind. Even if he was born much later, it certainly seems he might have braved the part of the journey to our solar system in search of the Traveler. That would mean that Variks, and many other Eliksni, might very well be over 500 years old!
There are two other interesting things we know about the Eliksni and their biology. First, they have the ability to regrow limbs:
Dregs cling to the lowest rung of Fallen society. Docked of their lower arms in a ritual of humiliation and obedience, Dregs seek to prove their worth. Only a few will survive to gain promotion and regrow their limbs. Their suicidal bravery is fueled by ambition and shame.
Interesting, then, that Variks has at least one robotic arm... but we'll get to that...
And second is the ability for Eliksni to literally grow in size when they are able to feed on large amounts of Ether:
The Guards are handpicked from birth, stuffed full of Ether to make them strong and brainwashing to make them unthinkingly loyal to the Kell.
Kell uses Ciphers to control the Ether flow. Archons and Barons take deep draughts, grow tall. Dregs with tiny sips stay small.
It's kinda neat to get even the smallest confirmation that, yes, Eliksni really do range in size from the small Dregs to the impressively large Kells. It seems likely that this Ether fueled growth is fairly slow, but we don't know that for sure.
Oh, and about ether, and the way it releases from an Eliksni's body upon a successful headshot? Some Guardians talk as if the Eliksni really do have souls that escape when the body they are in is killed:
Those Fallen in the Ishtar Sink on Venus...story is they raided the Prison of Elders in the Reef. Got an Archon Priest. The Queen's bounty is high so we know it's powerful. We need to hunt this thing down before they fully restore its soul. -Cayde-6
The Fallen will continue to claw at the walls of our City, unless we strike them down. Beneath the ruins of the Cosmodrome, in the shadow of an old colony ship, we've located the House of Devils' Lair - and the High Servitor feeding them their strength. We must destroy this machine god...and send their souls screaming back to hell. -Commander Zavala
I have devised a technique to liberate the soul from the flesh. It works very reliably on Fallen.
But someone out there, perhaps an Eliksni, has this to say on the subject:
The gas is no soul. An ethereal lifeblood, maybe, but a soul? I think not.
Who's right? In a universe where Hive undo their own deaths by surviving in alternate dimensions, and where our Guardians are brought back to life some five hundreds years after the devestating defeat at the end of our Golden Age... who can really say!?
Up next? I think I'll just post all the cards relating to the Iron Lords in their proper order and expect you to read them straight through from beginning to end. The story of the Iron Lords is pretty awesome, and some of those cards talk a little about early Eliksni activity, so... it's all good! Right?
Bite-sized Backstory 29: The Eliksni vs. The Iron Lords
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Sat, 19 Aug 2017
"Guardian Down!" Lord Saladin's ghost informed him as a barrage of arc missiles streaked across the outskirts of the town turned battleground. The excited clicks and grunts of the alien pirates echoed above the fighting. They were winning!
The hundred or so Fallen advancing on the town were a problem, but in truth they weren't much more than a screen for the spider-shaped walker standing on the ridge behind them. Saladin knew he had to get up there, somehow, and put an end to that threat, but Ragashingo had already show a solo charge through the Dregs and Shanks would not be enough.
"Up and over, not through!" Efrideet's said from her place beside him, her voice as young and cheerful as always. "Me or you?" she asked.
"Me," Saladin growled in replied.
Together, they sprinted at the Fallen hoard, Saladin's shield of arc energy deflecting what small arms fire came their way. At the critical moment, Efrideet increased her pace and then, gripping Saladin tightly, launched them both into the air. As her catapult gave out, Efrideet surged forward with a burst of speed and a crackle of lightning as she propelled her fellow Guardian forward with all her might.
Saladin flew towards the walker straight as an arrow, flaming ax now in his hands. With one final burst of lift and one mighty slash of his ax, he severed the robotic tank's cameras and sensors from its body and guns.
With the walker dead, Ghosts were free to relight their Guardian's embers, and what had been a dwindling defense quickly reversed into a thundering attack, as cheers for Efrideet and Saladin rose above even the scavengers' calls for retreat.
Ok, that's not actually a Grimoire Card, but it's what I imagine might have happened when I read this small section of Efrideet's:
In the tales of the Iron Lords, Lady Efrideet was one of the most prominent characters. She once threw Saladin like a javelin into a Fallen Walker—a City favorite retold for centuries.
The Iron Lords originally formed to put an end to human warlords who were using their gifts of Light and Ghosts to rule and terrorize populations who somehow survived the collapse. It was only later than the Eliksni arrived and began scavenging and killing. The focus of the Iron Lords quickly shifted to fighting this new alien threat and completing the walls of the City.
While there's not any cohesive timeline to be found, there are some great stories for this time period. Stories like:
The plan Lady Skori comes up with to ambush a group of Fallen while her fellow Iron Lords are pestering her about spending too much time writing the Iron Song:
A lot of people are relying on us, Skorri. If you don't think you're up for—"
"Hunters up top, 11 o'clock on the ridge. Two shots to the Servitor, draw their attention up. I come in with Radiance, Dregs are blinded, Jolder's powered up, she rushes in, splits 'em in half. You hopefully don't trip over your cloak like you did back at the Flood Zone, but I'm not optimistic. The rest come out of the cave, take out the Captain, Felwinter finishes off the south group with a Bomb, everything else is candy."
The epic stands Lord Silimar made defending the same location against the Fallen again and again:
As the Fallen charged, Silimar refused to abandon what he'd built, though others retreated to a stronger position. "Go," he told them. "Save yourselves. I'll slow them down."
The enemy came in overwhelming force. A breaking wave of blades and firepower and death. Atop the structure's central bulwark, Lord Silimar held his ground.
"Take it if you can, you bastards!" He shouted at the swarming enemy.
He leapt upon the great edifice and there put up a final stand as the enemy engulfed him. He died with his dagger in the guts of an Archon while the great structure shook with explosions and rained stones down upon the land.
Later that night, when Lord Silimar rose again from the ashes, he found Lord Saladin already there and waiting, standing near the place where he'd made his final stand.
Lord Timur's Stormtrance defeating hundreds of Shanks and their Vandal keepers in an unusual way:
Lord Felwinter, I know what you are. And you are no Warmind or even one of its puppets. Come. You must see this." He makes a gesture like he's casting a spell over the sand. "Follow my footfalls; this area's rigged with dirty Fallen nonsense."
They struggle up the dunes. Felwinter glides ahead. As he lands, a sandstorm rises to meet him. More shanks. Hundreds of them. Behind them, a lone Vandal sniper lays down covering fire.
Felwinter, realizing his mistake, runs back toward Timur, shielding himself in the Light of suns.
Timur continues forward, grasps the brass familiar around his neck, and closes his eyes. A slight hum rises and his trance takes him deep into the sea of shanks, his trusted Lash raised and tearing his path through the darkness. Felwinter is slow to follow, but fast enough to witness Timur's focus turn shanks by the pack against their Vandal keeper, chasing him back toward the sea.
And Rezyl Azzir who, while not an Iron Lord, existed as a figurative and literal Titan of the City around that same time. His defeat of a Fallen Kell is the stuff of legends!
A massive blast cratered the ground a few feet from the Titan. The Ketch had turned its guns on Rezyl.
Another blast impacted to Rezyl's left and he stumbled. A third exploded directly in his path...
...and Rezyl fell.
From the treeline, his Ghost watched as the Fallen celebrated and a Skiff drifted down from the Ketch above.
The circle around Rezyl's body parted and the imposing figure of their Kell stepped forward to admire his prize.
The chittering excitement quieted to a steady drone as the Kell lifted Rezyl's limp body by the neck.
A chorus rose among the crew, growing louder as the Kell hefted Rezyl over his head for all to see.
Rezyl's Ghost darted low through the crowd. He didn't like Rezyl's plan, but now he understood it.
Distracted by their Kell's triumph, the Ghost's presence went unnoticed until a beam of light swept over Rezyl's body.
The mood shifted instantly, cheers turning to ravenous shouts.
The Kell's gaze fell to the Ghost as the beam faded.
The circle began to collapse — the Fallen set to pounce.
As the Kell moved to toss Rezyl aside, cold steel met the underside of the alien marauder's jaw, followed by a red flash as Rezyl pulled his cannon's trigger.
Ether spewed in an angry geyser and the Kell's grip loosened. Rezyl hit the ground and unloaded five more rounds into the Fallen leader's torso. The monster dropped.
Frenzied, the Kell's crew closed in like a flood.
Rezyl's Ghost lifted above the fray, frantic, "Now! Now! Now!"
In one motion, Rezyl rose from a crouch, his fists clenched and raised high as a storm of Arc Light built within him, his full might raining down on the Kell's chest. The shockwave of Rezyl's attack hit like a meteor, shattering the Kell's body and any Fallen within the Havoc storm's radius.
You'll note almost all of the quotes above are just smaller sections of each story. The stories of the Iron Lords are fantastic, especially when you put them together which is why we'll loop around and revisit them someday. But for now, I hope you can see that the Iron Lords and their contemporaries like Zavala and Rezyl did a lot to safeguard humanity during the early years of the Eliksni's incursion into our solar system.
But as much as they did, it was a distant Noble Queen who saved us.
Bite-sized Backstory 30: The Noble Queen and the Scatter
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Sat, 19 Aug 2017
When the Eliksni came to our system, the various houses did what they always did. As Variks says:
House Winter, attack. House Devils, plot. House Kings, plan. House Wolves circle. House Judgment... wait.
The attacks the House of Winter performed are referred to in Draksis, Winter Kell:
Kell of the Wintership Simiks-fel, has been an elusive target for the Vanguards. After his countless raids on jumpship reclamation convoys, Cayde-6 personally upped the bounty on him. With confirmed sightings of the Kell in the Ishtar Sink, the time to strike is now.
The result of which is seen in Ghost Fragment: Hunter:
She leaves the rifle and walks across the naked obsidian into the swarm firing from the hip as she goes, each kick of the old revolver a word, Draksis, Draksis, Kell of Winter, Kell of hate, lord of the kingdom of her vendetta. Her jaw aches. She used to imagine biting out his throat with armored teeth.
The stone smokes around her where the arc fire lashes it and the shrapnel guns throw up leaves of obsidian like glass butterflies. She shoots her bandoliers dry and a team of Vandals in glassy stealth leap up to rush her with knives but she raises her hand and burns them down with the golden gun, laughing, crying out Draksis, Draksis, I am come!
She kills them all and takes the next ridge, high above the Cinders. She can see the blue-green pools and the cave mouths where the Vex lights dance. And there among them, gowned in smoke and ash, is the long shark shape of a Ketch, a Wintership, the Kell's ship, come down to nest.
Which eventually leads to us boarding Simiks-fel and killing Draksis ourselves in Destiny. We get to see a lot of the House of Devils plotting firsthand as well. They try to capture Rasputin in Destiny and they eventually try to take control of SIVA in Rise of Iron.
The House of Kings we see very little of. There's that one meeting between the House of Wolves and House of Kings that we break up. The one deep in the Cosmodrome around that hologram of the Traveler. But other than that, the Kings are very cautious and generally do not stick their necks out.
Now, the House of Wolves? At some point after the Eliksni fight their long running skirmishes against the Iron Lords, and after the establishment of the City, all the Eliksni houses put their heads together and plan a massive attack. The House of Wolves is apparently intended to be the muscle:
The transmission was broadcasted on all Fallen frequencies. Lacking, at the time, the ability to crack Fallen encryptions, the Master of Crows could discern only that the Fallen Houses were all talking to each other. That was a thing that had never happened before.
Then the Techeuns looked Earthward—and saw the Fallen there becoming bolder. Tactics suggested they were planning a massive attack. We had no interplanetary arrays—no way to warn Earth. We thought we would be able to do nothing but watch.
But then the Wolves arrived from the Jovians. Their army was hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions strong: a dark wave that washed over the Reef, rushing toward the Earth. As soon as we saw them it was clear that if the Wolves reached Earth, the City would fall.
So, while some houses like the Devils essentially parked themselves right on top of the homeworld of the immortal, unkillable Guardians, the Wolves had been somewhere far away past Mars and past even the asteroid belt. Arriving from the Jovians means that the House of Wolves had taken up residence on or near Jupiter's moons.
We're also told in Vestian Outpost, Queen's Bay that:
the Reef's sunward side, the Vestian Outpost marks the flightpath any Guardian must take to access the Queen's realm. Beyond it lies the Vestian Web, the heart of the Reef built around the asteroid 4 Vesta.
That would put the Reef here some 2.5AU (21 light minutes) from the Sun:
By contrast, Ceres is a little farther out at roughly 2.7AU.
But, of course, these two asteroids are in constant motion and depending on exactly when Destiny takes place they might be closer together or on opposite sides of the sun from each other.
The WANTED: Skolas, Kell of Kells Grimoire Card then continues with:
Seemingly oblivious to our existence, the bulk of the Wolf fleet stopped to regroup at Ceres. The Queen's decision was this: attack the House of Wolves, thereby saving Earth but revealing the Reef's presence to any and all enemies in the quadrant; or remain silent, preserving the Reef's invisibility but allowing the City to perish.
Her Harbingers ripped into Ceres, destroying the asteroid and killing Virixas, Kell of Wolves and more than half his House.
That a pretty bold move by Queen Mara Sov, but we actually have a more detailed look at it in Ghost Fragment: Fallen 4. This is one of my favorite scenes in all of the Grimoire so I'm going to post it in its entirety:
This happens long ago, but not too long to matter.
Ceres rules the Asteroid Belt. Ceres is the white queen of this space, four hundred million kilometers from the Sun. Ceres is round. Round means power, out here: nothing else in the Belt is big enough to crush itself into a sphere with its own gravity. Ceres has its own chemical stars. Shavings of salt and ice that glint in orbit. Like a crown.
There are other lights, newer stars, newer crowns. Warship engines. Another queen is coming to conquer Ceres, because Ceres is full of warrens and shipyards and habitats, because Ceres is round and lucky as a Servitor. Because Ceres is full of the Wolves she wants to rule.
Shark-fierce ships gather in squadrons and tribes. Skiffs. Ketches. The Kell of Wolves has a fleet gathered here. The Kell of Wolves heard the call, and summoned the House of Wolves to prepare for the great battle on Earth. The salvation of the Kell's people depends on their ability to shatter the City. It's a matter of survival.
Now the Wolf fleet turns to meet the Queen.
See the squadrons of Skiffs wrapping themselves in stealth, cold and transparent, knifing out invisible and brave? See the Ketches like broad blades, the bright thoughts of a Servitor guiding them to battle? See them turning, accelerating, waking up their jammers and their arc guns? All doomed. The Kell of Wolves will never make it to the Twilight Gap. The Kell of Wolves put all that strength in one place, and now the Queen of the Reef is coming to break it.
Out there, coming out of the dark, are the Awoken. Not so great a fleet, is it? Little fighters scattered around like four-pointed thorns. Destroyers and frigates and salvaged hulls pulled out of the Reef. And right at the front, at the speartip, flies the Queen.
The Wolf Kell, practical, brave, tallies strength of metal and equipment. The Kell considers the chance that the Awoken have some secret weapon, something gleaned from hulks in the Reef or whispered up by the witches, and sets that chance aside. The Kell thinks the House of Wolves can win decisively. So the Kell sends challenge and warning. I AM LORD OF WOLVES, the Kell sends. YOU ARE AN EMPTY THING WITH TWO DEAD SOULS. THIS IS MY HOUSE. THESE ARE MY TERMS. SURRENDER AND I WILL ONLY TAKE YOUR SHIPS.
The Awoken fleet cuts their engines. Drifts. Wolf strike elements, torpedo-armed Skiffs hidden under jamming and camouflage, find their firing solutions.
The Queen's ship broadcasts. I AM NOBLE TOO, she says, OH LORD OF WOLVES.
The Kell doesn't mind a little banter before the kill. It gives the Wolf ships longer to draw the battle away from Ceres. The Kell replies. YOU HAVE NO LINE. YOU HAVE NO POWER. Captains and Barons signal their readiness, Skolas and Pirsis and Irxis, Drevis, Peekis, Parixas, all of them bound by fear and loyalty, all ready for war.
STARLIGHT WAS MY MOTHER. The Queen's ship whispers in eerie erratic radio bursts. Servitors begin to report a strange taste in the void. AND MY FATHER WAS THE DARK.
Here, at last, too late, the Kell begins to feel fear. CALL ON THEM, THEN, the Kell sends, one last mocking signal before death and ruin, AND SEE WHAT HELP THEY OFFER.
So the Queen calls, as only she can. Every Servitor in every Ketch hears it. Every Captain and Baron roars at their underlings as sensors go blind, as firing solutions falter, as reactors stutter and power systems hum with induction. Stealth fails. Space warps. The House of Wolves shouts in spikes of war-code, maneuvers wild, fires blind.
Behind the Queen's ship, the Harbingers awaken.
The Queen's line there "I am noble too, oh Lord of Wolves. Starlight was my mother; and my father was the dark." gives me chills each time I read it. We don't really know what that means yet, but clearly the Queen is not nobody! Cayde-6 once said of her:
And who's the best at cutthroat politics? That's right, her Majesty, the Queen of the Reef.
Whatever happens— I want you to remember that she knows, more than anyone else I've met, how to set one foe against another.
So, what happens next?
Her Harbingers ripped into Ceres, destroying the asteroid and killing Virixas, Kell of Wolves and more than half his House. The remaining Wolves scattered, burrowing deep into the Belt for cover. There, new claimants to the Kellship quickly arose: Irxis, Wolf Baroness; Parixas, the Howling; and Skolas, the Rabid.
The Awoken win a decisive victory here, but, as we'll soon see, the conflicts that the Queen just kicked off aren't called the Reef Wars for nothing!
Bite-Sized Backstory 31: Meanwhile! At Twilight Gap!
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Wed, 30 Aug 2017
As the House of Wolves scattered and splintered among the many planetoids of the asteroid belt, the House of Devils lead the other Houses against the City.
In some ways, the City had unfortunately set its self up for such an attack. What started as settlements underneath the Traveler slowly grew into a metropolis protected by high walls, artillery equipped towers, and scores of nearly immortal Guardians. After establishing itself, the City began to expand outward but those new outer sections were not as well defended and gave the Eliksni a weak point to attack.
This lookout station at the edge of the City's borders was decommissioned in the face of increasing Fallen attacks shortly before the Battle of Twilight Gap.
As the City learned to walk again, it found a world overrun by alien menace. It faced disaster and defeat. Even in recent years, as Guardians begin to venture back to the Moon and the inner planets, the City's territory has withdrawn - outer sections abandoned and converted into fortifications in the wake of the Battle of Twilight Gap.
During the battle, the combined forces of the Eliksni houses, except, of course, the House of Wolves, managed to breach at least some of the City's defenses. Eliksni walkers traded shells with the City's guns while other Eliksni forces worked on swarming those gun positions. Despite the City's defenses being lead by the Iron Lord Saladin Forge, the Eliksni even managed to fight their way onto (and possibly into?) the City's main defensive walls. Things weren't looking good!
"Kei-Ying. Gave his last full measure at Twilight Gap." —The Last Stands of First Pillars
At the desperate battle of Twilight Gap, Warlocks worked in concert to shatter the enemy. It was not quite enough.
The House of Wolves and the Awoken tore the Reef apart trying to get a tactical advantage. All the while, we were desperately trying to hold the Walls against the Devils, Kings, and Winter. It was one of the darkest chapters in the City's history." —Zavala
But, ultimately, the City's walls held, thanks in large part to both the Guardians who died defending it and the legends who finally drove back the Elkisni's advance.
Lord Shaxx is one of the heroes of the Battle of the Twilight Gap, having led the counterattack that pushed the Fallen from the City walls. Fearing that another full-scale assault would be more than the City could repel, Shaxx chose to stay in the City to mentor Guardians in the Crucible.
One day Shaxx vows to return to the war beyond the City, but only after he is confident the fires of the Crucible have forged a new generation of warriors.
A hero to the City and a legend in his own right, Saladin Forge led the City's defense during the Battle for the Twilight Gap. His protégés, Commander Zavala and Lord Shaxx, now lead the Tower's Vanguard and the Crucible, respectively.
You want another story about the Twlight Gap? Ana Bray, the Hunter. We all dug deep that day. We all touched the Light in ways we never thought we could. Or should. Ana, though. When she fired the Gun, where her Golden blasts hit home, she left behind the pools of light. Like splashes of sunlight that burned and burned." —Lord Shaxx
He could feel his light draining. He pulled all of it into one last hope.
He reeled back and bam!
His helm found purchase, breaking through just above the Kell's eyes. The Ether screamed from his head and together they fell to the ground.
The Exo Guardian rose, staggering back. He couldn't take his eyes off the Kell's body. He'd never seen any Fallen withstand a skull puncture, but this was no ordinary Fallen. He waited...and waited.
"Ghost?" The words barely audible. He heard her flash in, but had a hard time pinning her down. She was buzzing about, surveying the Fallen Kell.
"He's dead alright. So that's it, we are done now?"
He removed his helm, tossed it aside, and dropped to his knees.
The Devils without a Kell. This war was over, at last. They could finally go home.
Because of the Reef's intervention in attacking the House of Wolves as they approached Earth, what should have been a great, if perhaps costly, victory for the Elkisni instead turned into a major defeat. In all likelihood, the Battle of Twilight Gap ended their chances of reclaiming the Traveler through conventional warfare.
The near defeat at Twilight Gap changed things for the City as well. Outlying districts were abandoned or converted into fortifications. Lord Shaxx began the Crucible as a method of training Guardians to fight foes just as dangerous as themselves, and Lord Saladin, who had an even better understanding of what it meant to face an unwinnable battle, instituted the Iron Banner to challenge Guardians to fight with the full strength of their Light without the concept of fair play helping or hindering them.
Oh! And of course one other very famous thing resulted from the Battle of Twilight Gap:
" If there is beauty in destruction, why not also in its delivery? - Feizel Crux
The Gjallarhorn shoulder-mounted rocket system was forged from the armor of Guardians who fell at the Twilight Gap. Gifted to the survivors of that terrible battle, the Gjallarhorn is seen as a symbol of honor and survival.
Amusingly, not everyone working on the famed rocket launcher saw it Crux's way, and that included his gunsmith partner Victor Lomar!
This commission is a commemoration! They deserve something dependable. These men and women did not survive the Gap so that you could make art!
Bite-sized Backstory 32: The Eos Clash & Amethyst
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Sat, 14 Oct 2017
After the Awoken smashed their fleet and their leadership at Ceres, the House of Wolves splintered into a variety of groups vying for control. As we saw last time, the three primary contenders for the Kellship were three of Virixas' lieutenants: Irxis, Wolf Baroness; Parixas, the Howling; and Skolas, the Rabid.
The first order of business for these three claimants was to gather their forces and, critically it seems, take command of as many servitors as they could. Servitors are still somewhat mysterious to us. The basics are as follows:
Servitors are living relics of the once-mighty Fallen civilization. Packed with ultra-sophisticated machinery, they process matter and energy into the Ether that the Fallen depend on for life. In battle they support the Fallen with defensive systems and their own powerful energy weapons. Outside, they anchor Fallen comms and provide vital technological acumen.
Servitors have complex relationships with each other and with their Fallen crews. Servitors are attached to a Prime, a massive Servitor which exists in unclear symbiosis with a Fallen Archon. The Archon conveys the Kell's wishes to the Prime Servitor, and exerts some measure of control. Recent developments suggest that Prime Servitors are more than a focus of worship and logistical activity. They may play a key role in Fallen star flight.
We quickly see this "complex relationship" servitors have. Skolas and Parixas fight over control of the Kaliks line of servitors, but Irxis somehow knew that the Orbiks servitors had at least some control over the Kaliks line of servitors and used that advantage to deal heavy blows to her rivals.
The next major battle to take place in the Reef Wars was an important battle called the Eos Clash. One way or another, Peekis, one of Skolas' subordinates, managed to pin Irxis' forces in or near the orbit of the 64 mile wide asteroid 221 Eos. Unfortunately, this wasn't a brilliant strategic move on Peekis' part but one of desperation even though he had overwhelming numbers. Reading a bit between the lines, could it be that Skolas forces were being severely harmed by Irxis' partial control over the Kaliks servitors?
In any case, this large scale battle of Wolves on Wolves ended with Irxis dead and both fleets in ruins.
Though technically a victory for Skolas, the Eos Clash came at a terrible cost for him. He docked Peekis' arms and demoted him to Dreg as punishment for his recklessness.
At this point, we are told Skolas changed his strategy. How did he change it? Cayde-6 has the answer for us:
The Awoken will tell you that a long time ago the Queen conquered the House of Wolves. What they won't say, because they are very serious important people, is that the House of Wolves did a lot of the job for them. After the Queen killed the Wolf Kell, the Fallen started competing for the throne. One of the first battles was called the Eos Clash and I wasn't anywhere near it, but I'm pretty sure I'm not making this up. A Fallen named Skolas wiped out one of his rivals in the Eos Clash. But the battle cost him so much he got to thinking: if the Reef killed my boss, and gave me a chance at the throne, maybe I can use the Reef to kill all my rivals too!
The first, and maybe best example of Skolas' new strategy can be seen with the Silent Fang's attacks and trickery at Amethyst and Iris.
The Fang used to do hit-and-run attacks against civilian targets during the worst days of the Reef Wars. I'm not sure, but I think that's what made Variks turn against Skolas. Assassins unleashed on miners, on teachers. That's a long way to fall." - Petra
In order to defeat his challenger for leadership of the House of Wolves, Skolas had Drevis, the leader of the Silent Fang assassins, personally lead an attack on a civilian station of Awoken called Amethyst. The Silent Fang killed everyone there, including Petra's sisters, one of which, Pinar Venj, was the leader of Amethyst. This massacre becomes one of the biggest driving forces in Petra Venj's life, as she later noted in a letter to her Queen:
It was your service that kept me from sorrow after Amethyst was razed. The loss of my sisters, my whole life, as our station burned... it took something from me.
By your will, it was given back to me.
Promoting me to the Corsairs, allowing me to strike back at the Wolves. Letting my fury find purchase in defense, in support, and in glorious battle. I know, as I'm sure you did, that without focus my heart would have grown toxic.
In response, the Reef's Paladin Abra Zire lead a fleet chasing after Drevis in the direction of the bright, reflective asteroid Iris. Her response had come too late to protect Amethyst, but she wasn't going to let anything stop her from punishing those responsible.
Except, at the same time, Grayor, who was likely another leader among the Silent Fang, led an attack against one of Skolas' remaining Eliksni rivals. They hit Parixas' ketch then fled so that Parixas would chase after them towards... the bright reflective asteroid Iris.
7 Iris is an asteroid about about 2.3AU from our sun, is about 200km across, and is very bright:
Iris's bright surface and small distance from the Sun make it the fourth-brightest object in the asteroid belt after Vesta, Ceres, and Pallas. It has a mean opposition magnitude of +7.8, comparable to that of Neptune, and can easily be seen with binoculars at most oppositions.
Through a combination the glare coming off Iris and the Eliksni's jamming and cloaking we're all fairly familiar with, the two members of the Silent Fang slipped away leaving Paladin Zire's forces to clash with Parixas'! By the time the battle was over, the Reef's forces were victorious... but so was Skolas! Not only had his forces badly bloodied the Reef's nose, he had also managed to use their response to further his own ambitions!
Unfortunately for Drevis, the Reef's reach was quite long. As we'll see next, she was soon captured, but instead of an easy victory, her capture would spark the largest and longest series of battles in the Reef Wars.
Bite-sized Backstory 33: The Long Siege of Pallas
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Wed, 18 Oct 2017
Since before the Reef Wars, the Awoken could only ever tell that the Eliksni were communicating, but what exactly the aliens were saying to one another had always been lost in the pulsed static or rapid beeps and tones of encryption. It seems likely that the Awoken's communications were almost certainly just as unreadable to the Eliksni, but then it was the Eliksni who were lashing out at Awoken colonies and murdering entire Awoken populations. For months or perhaps even years, the Awoken had been on the defensive. All they could really do was react, to Skolas' next aggression.
Finally, though, after the attack on Amethyst, Prince Uldren and his Crows managed to break the House of Wolves' encryption. Now, they could listen in on Skolas and his lieutenants and they strike back at his forces. The first of the Reef's counter attacks came against Drevis, who if you'll remembered, committed major atrocities on Amethyst.
Sometimes we think of space navigation as a solved thing. Even in our modern, real life age we can land rovers on Mars or send probes to take spectacular pictures of the planet Pluto. But really, we're so good at those things because we have had years and decades to observe and perfect orbital models. Just recently a big-ish asteroid passed near Earth and the news stories were saying that there was a chances it would hit us when its orbit brought it back around in a few decades time. But, with only one short observation, doing the calculations to tell us for sure was apparently impossible. Even with our fancy technology, we'll have to wait for the asteroid to pass us by once or maybe twice more before we'll have any idea if it will hit us.
That's how it must have been for Drevis' crew and Pilot Servitors for the asteroid 324 Bamberga. Orbiting a little beyond Mars, Bamberga is roughly 230km wide, and the Eliksni, in their haste harass and attack the Reef, miscalculated its orbit. The Awoken however, who had likely been observing and charting Bamberga's movements for multiple hundreds of years, knew exactly where it would be, and used that knowledge to drive Drevis into a trap.
We don't have any account of exactly how Armada Paladin Imogen Rife's forces drove Drevis' ketch into the path of Bamberga. I'd like to imagine it was a running series of quick clashes, picket actions, and larger feints that kept Drevis on the run until Bamberga ran into her. Drevis' ketch was utterly destroyed in the collision, and both she and her most prized servitor, Kaliks-4, were captured.
After the Reef's defeats and humiliations at Amethyst and Iris, this must have seemed quite the victory, but remember, the Kaliks line of servitors were very important to the House of Wolves. So, instead of a uneventful voyage back to Vesta, where Paladin Rife would have presented Drevis to her Queen, the Awoken fleet was instead attacked by Pirsis, one of Skolas' few top remaining lieutenants. Pirsis cornered Rife's forces at the large asteroid of 2 Pallas and set up a siege.
2 Pallas is the third largest asteroid in the belt between Mars and Jupiter, and is only a little smaller than Vesta, the asteroid that the bulk of the Reef is built around. At roughly 550km across, Pallas is almost twice as big as Bamberga, and is home to a sizable population of Awoken.
Pirsis didn't just trap Paladin Rife at Pallas, she amassed a fleet of what must have been hundred of Eliksni ships, enough ships to lay siege to Pallas and cut it off from the rest of the Reef not just for weeks or months, but for years! The House of Wolves clearly had the superior position and overwhelming firepower, but they refused to press their advantage, because doing so would have meant the certain death of Drevis and destruction of Kaliks-4.
The last time the Wolves had amassed such a huge force, the Awoken had smashed it with Mara Sov and her Harbingers leading the way. But this time, that wasn't so easy. With the Wolves besieging a major population center, the use of Harbingers would have lead to a massive number of deaths on both sides! In desperation, Mara Sov sent Armada Paladins Abra Zire and Kamala Rior to search for Skolas among the Hildian Asteroids, but they were unsuccessful in their missions due to the cleverness of Skolas' chief tactician, Beltrik, the Veiled.
The siege of Pallas finally began to crumble when a Dreg named Weksis the Meek launched an unsanctioned attack on the Athens Hull, which I'm guessing is the name of Imogen Rife's flagship. Weksis and his small group of followers were able to blast their way into the Athens Hull in an attempt to rescue Drevis and Kaliks-4 from imprisonment, but the timely intervention of Commander Hallam Fen stopped them in their tracks and saw the would be rescuers imprisoned beside those they had been trying to rescue.
Unfortunately, this attack spurred Pirsis, who by now had been dubbed "Pallas-Bane", to launch a more major attack of her own. Her larger, more able strike team fought their way through the breach that Weksis had opened and managed to free Kaliks-4. We're told that Pirsis might have gotten away with the important Prime Servitor, but she instead tried to free Drevis as well. This lead to a face to face clash between the Awoken and Eliksni leaders in charge of their respective sides of the siege.
Perhaps Pirsis and Paladin Imogen Rife had seen each other during negotiations over the previous few years, but they probably never met in person. Now though,they fought one another gun vs gun and blade vs blade! Paladin Rife was forced to destroy Kaliks-4 in order to prevent its escape, but she, in turn, was cut down in battle by Pirsis!
Ultimately, Pirsis attack was a second failure, but her siege of Pallas might have continued if not for the efforts and quick thinking of Awoken Commander Hallam Fen. He somehow managed to get through what must have been intense jamming from Pirsis' fleet and, with quick thinking, coordinated with the Queen's Crows and Techeuns to create an enormous illusion of approaching Harbingers. Pirsis' forces went mad. They still remembered the battle that took place at Ceres before the Scatter. Remembered how their ships had been disabled or destroyed by the thousands by the intense power of the Queen's Harbingers. And so, they broke ranks and fled in complete disarray.
In the confusion that followed Commander Fen's bluff, he along with Paladins Leona Bryl and Kamala Rior pounced on the Wolves. They managed to force most of them to retreat, and even more importantly, they managed to capture Pirsis, Pallas-Bane! In return for his service and innovative thinking, Queen Mara Sov allowed Hallam Fen to succeed his mentor, the late Imogen Rife, in the role of one of the Reef's four Armada Paladins.
For those who are curious, the Reef's forces are headed by seven Royal Paladins:
Royal Armada Paladins:
Royal Army Paladins:
Royal Awoken Guard Paladin:
Following the failure of the long siege at Pallas, Skolas' forces were again forced to move into the open in an effort to seek a new advantage over the Reef. The end of the siege of Pallas would come to mark the beginning of the end of the Reef Wars. In the few remaining battles, the Awoken would demonstrate that they had learned well from their previous clashes with the Eliksni, and before long Skolas himself would be betrayed!
Bite-sized Backstory 34: The Fortuna Plummet
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Sun, 19 Nov 2017
The Hildian Campaign
There's one segment of the Reef Wars we just don't know a whole lot about. During the long siege of Pallas occurred what was a perhaps an almost equally long search for Skolas called The Hildian Campaign. Armada Paladins Abra Zire and Kamala Rior were sent into the Hildian asteroid field to try and find Skolas and his chief strategist Beltrik, the Veiled, but this campaign was largely a failure. While there may have been small scrapes and skirmishes, for the most part the Reef's forces came up empty in their search.
The Hildians are a dense group of over 1,000 asteroids and smaller objects that share an odd orbital arrangement with Jupiter. They orbit the sun a little slower than Jupiter so at times they are on opposite sides of the solar system as the gas giant while at other times they come close to approaching it. At their closest point, however, the Hildians never quite reach Jupiter's orbit and soon they are back on their way away from Jupiter again. This animation from Wikipedia shows the orbits pretty well:
The brief description of the Hildian Seeker Jumpship says:
Nimble starfighters designed by the Reef to navigate dense asteroid fields.
So we know the Reef's forces considered the Hildians a dense, trickle place to maneuver through. One would think that the Reef's pilots would be experts with flying through tight space, what with the Reef's confusing layout and all, so this must have been quite difficult indeed. It's no wonder they weren't able to find Skolas or Beltrik, in that case!
While the Reef's forces failed to find their targets during the Hildian Campaign, it can't really be said that the campaign was a total failure. Two things happened there that would become decisive towards the end of the Reef Wars.
First, Paladin Abra Zire had time to work out her anger over the Battle of False Tidings. We don't have any confirmation of what this battle was, but my guess is it is a another name for the razing of Amethyst and the battle against Parixas that Paladin Zire was tricked into. The months or years of searching for Skolas among the Hildian asteroids are said to have cooled Zire's anger into an icy resolve.
Second, Petra Venj, whose family had been killed when the Wolves attacked Amethyst, seems to have first cut her teeth as a Corsair serving under Paladin Zire during the Hildian Campaign. We'll be talking about Petra a lot both now and in the future.
After the Reef defeated Pirsis and freed Pallas from its long siege, Skolas' forces were likely starting to run thin. Likewise, hiding out in the Hildians for what could have been multiple years seems to have depleted the supplies of his chief strategist Beltrik, the Veiled.
Beltrik moves his forces out of the dense Hildians and forms a defensive screen around the large, 225km wide asteroid 19 Fortuna. There, he moves his ships one at a time into a resupply position where they mine ether while the other ships hold their positions in a formation that we are lead to believe made them fairly impervious to attack. By this point it seems pretty clear that the Wolves have a pretty large advantage in numbers and firepower over the Reef, and the Reef has only won battles because of things things like the Queen's Harbingers or luring the Wolves into bad positions.
Unfortunately for Beltrik, his opponent was Paladin Zire. This time, she refused to be led into any sort of trap, and instead devised a way to break through Beltrik's defensive deployment. After the earlier success of luring Drevis' Ketch into the path of 324 Bamberga, the Reef began looking for a way to repeat that smashing success, and at some point during the long siege of Pallas they developed Carybdis, a gravity weapon capable of pushing asteroids off course.
After apparently proving herself during the Hildian Campaign, Petra Venj was given command of a significant portion of Paladin Zire's fleet and ordered to harass Beltrik's entrenched position in an effort to make it look like she was attacking without actually suffering the massive losses that a true attack against that kind of defensive positioning would entail. Petra's main goal was to serve as a distraction while Paladin Zire stealthily moved the remainder of her forces to the much smaller 21km wide asteroid 687 Tinette. You can see the actual orders sent by Paladin Zire in Ghost Fragment: The Reef 3
It turns out that Tinette was apparently on a natural close approach with Fortuna at the time, so Beltrik's forces were probably expecting it to slide on by as they continued their resupply operations. What they didn't expect was Abra Zire's forces to use their new Carybdis weapon to alter Tinette's orbit, causing it to crash through their defensive screen and directly into Fortuna. The massive collision that resulted shattered both asteroids and caused massive damage to Beltrik's fleet. Beltrik was easily captured in the ensuing confusion, and for the first time in the Reef Wars, Skolas was deprived of his brilliant strategist. This entire battle, as well as the remains of the two asteroids would soon become known as the Fortuna Plummet.
Not long after this, we're told that Prince Uldren's Crows, which seem to be his mysterious force of pilots and spies, receive a message from an Eliksni named Variks who claims to be from the House of Judgment. The contents of this message would lead to the final battle of the Reef Wars and the defeat of Skolas and the House of Wolves...
...but there's a lot to unpack there, so we'll look at it next time. :)
Bite-sized Backstory 35: Betrayal At Cybele
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Mon, 18 Jun 2018
When the Awoken captured Beltrik the Veiled at the Fortuna Plummet, Skolas knew he was running out of options. With no brilliant strategist on his side anymore, Skolas falls back on brute force. For a whole year, Drevis had managed to form an effective blockade of Pallas using only a portion of the fractured House of Wolves. Maybe Skolas figured he could do the same?
For his target, Skolas choose the Awoken "military fortress" of Cybele. Attacking an actual military target might be more difficult, but Skolas was desperate. Maybe he planed to strike a blow at the Awoken's military power and embarrass all at the same time? A successful siege or defeat of a major Awoken fortification would seem to do the trick. Unfortunately for Skolas, his time had run out. Not because he choose a poor target now, in the present, but because of what he had done in the past.
When Skolas started attacking civilian targets like the Awoken colony of Amethyst, he set off a chain reaction that he did not expect. An Eliksni named Variks who served alongside Skolas as a scribe from the House of Judgement had finally seen enough. As Variks later put it:
Skolas wins control of House Wolves. Attack, attack, attack. Place of learning, place of healing, put to the burn. Then Siege of Pallas. Year of cruelty. Held the line to rescue butchers, murderers, Servitor. Ends with Wolf fleet scattered.
New tactics. Detonations. Blasts in civilian areas. Take the fight to them, he said. Cannot abide the hate. Uprising, they called it. Uprising on Cybele.
So, in order to put a stop to the senseless killing, Variks contacts the Awoken, and alerts them to Skolas' plan. When Skolas' forces arrive at Cybele, instead of achieving the element of surprise or even facing an even fight, they are instead immediately flanked and outmaneuvered by all four of the Awoken's Armada Paladins. Skolas' forces immediately collapse with some, such as the Kaliks-12 High Servitor, trying to flee. While some probably did manage to slip away, it sounds like the Awoken had Skolas right where they wanted him. By the time the battle was over, Skolas and most of his followers were captured or dead and, aside from a few minor skirmishes, the Reef Wars were finally over.
By betraying Skolas, Variks quite possibly saved the lives of many Eliksni and Awoken. Saving his own people is certainly the primary reason Variks stepped in as doing so was entirely consistent with his status as a member of the Eliksni House of Judgement. Across the Grimoire, we get little peaks at House Judgement's function within the greater Eliksni society:
"The House of Judgment shall have no ketch, but it will live among the other Houses to guide the kells and keep their secrets." —Eliksni Pact
Variks the Loyal remembers an ancient time, and an ancient name: the House of Judgment, when grudges and status fights were worked out in a safe place. When the berserk and the vengeance-crazed were kept somewhere harmless, and there were fewer rivals to plot around.
I hear. House of Judgment always hears. No choice. Has to. To keep Houses together. Had to.
First , the Great Machine. Then, sky fell away. Whirlwind ripped away the past. All honor lost, all hope. Judgment not enough. Cannot keep Wolves from Kings, Scar from Winter. Fell to fighting. Fell to hate.
Judgment gone. Others slaughtered, slain. Death and docking. "Keep Eliksni together," lost to pride and rage.
So, it seems that instead of the House of Judgement being a full Eliksni house like the Wolves or Devils, they were instead more of an cross-house group of peacekeepers and advisors. Variks himself is said to have traveled with multiple different houses in the time period after the Eliksni's civilization was destroyed in the Whirlwind. His role as a trusted advisor would also explain how he learned of Skolas' planned attack on Cybele far enough ahead of time to warn the Awoken.
But beyond that, beyond upholding his role as perhaps the very last member of the House of Judgement (The Art of Destiny 2 lists Variks as such...), Variks may have had a much more personal reason to oust Skolas. Jump into Destiny 1 and stand in front of Variks on the Vestian Outpost and you'll eventually hear him say things like:
Are you staring at my arms, Guardian? Where Skolas cut me? Look away.
Skolas once told me to stand still. Then he cut off my arms.
You think you hate Wolves? I promise my hate is sharper.
Look closely at Variks. He has all four arms like a Vandal or Captain, but his upper arms are actually mechanical! Now... we know that Dreg can regrow their docked lower arms and that docking is used as a punishment / method of control across the Eliksni houses around the time of Destiny 1... but can an Eliksni's upper arms grow back? Did Skolas maim Variks for life? And, if so, when did that happen? None of these questions have good answers, but I like to imagine that the reason that the Awoken Crows found Variks cowering was because Skolas realized he had been betrayed and decided to exact a severe punishment on Variks before they were defeated and captured at Cybele.
As we know, Variks went on to become an advisor to Queen Mara Sov. He proclaimed her as the new Kell of the House of Wolves, and for a time that actually held. As for Skolas, Mara Sov sent him to The Nine as a prize or gift, to celebrate their mutual victory (over the House of Wolves?)
We'll see Skolas again, eventually, but next we're going to take a look at the House of Devils on Earth. They found something very interesting at the beginning of Destiny 1. Something that in the past had, and in the future may very well again, cause great problems for the Guardians of The City.
Oh! Before we go, there was one final battle at the end of the Reef Wars that occurred after Skolas had been captured. I found this one to be pretty amusing.
"After Skolas's capture at the Cybele Uprising, Veliniks named himself the new Kell. Didn't work out great for him." —Petra
Bite-sized Backstory 36: The Fallen Houses
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Sun, 14 Oct 2018
With two crushing defeats, one at Twilight Gap at the hands of The Last City and another at Cybele at the hands of the Awoken, the Eliksni found themselves being driven back once again. Since the Dark Age they had raided and pillaged the scattered settlements and cities of Earth mostly unchecked. But now, the Awoken had set up colonies and industry and a military presence within the Reef, and the Last Safe City beneath the Traveler had built great walls and was defended by seemingly unkillable Guardians. It's around this point that our Ghost finds us on the outskirts of the Cosmodrome and from then on things go from bad to worse for the various Fallen Houses:
The House of Devils:
The Fallen will continue to claw at the walls of our City, unless we strike them down. Beneath the ruins of the Cosmodrome, in the shadow of an old colony ship, we've located the House of Devils' Lair - and the High Servitor feeding them their strength. We must destroy this machine god...and send their souls screaming back to hell.
The House of Devils will go on to become one of our greatest rivals in the story of Destiny. In fact, when we first encounter them, they are on the verge of making a major discovery. They have been looting and studying the remains of our Golden Age in the Cosmodrome for decades and have finally found something they think can change their fortunes.
Our first clue to what the Devils found is the Guardian jump ship we find crashed in the Cosmodrome. They are one of the first to report on strange signals coming from Old Russia. Later, after we escape to the Tower and return to the Cosmodrome, we discover that the Devils have been trying to steal data from some source buried within the old spaceport. We hear old Russian opera. Our Ghost stops the Devil's data taps. And by the time we reactivate the large communications array we are sure we have found the Warmind Rasputin! Without our help, the Fallen might have been able to compromise the Warmind's systems and possibly gain control of the powerful Warsats orbiting overhead.
But that's not all the Devils found... Their attempts to locate and crack Rasputin saw them discover perhaps an even bigger prize: SIVA. When we killed Sepiks Prime, we greatly hobbled the House of Devils. Without their large High Servitor to process and distribute live sustaining Ether, the house would have scattered. But with the discovery of SIVA, radical factions of the House of Devils including Archon Priest Aksis and the Devil Spicers take over and force the Eliksni house down a path of abandoning Ether in exchange for relying on SIVA for sustenance and survival. For a time, the House of Devils becomes powerful enough to even threaten The City, but with the destruction of the SIVA replication chamber and the deaths of Aksis and Vosik, their newfound power is ripped away from them.
House of Winter
After the Eliksni's collective defeat at Twilight Gap, the House of Winter retreated back to Venus where their Kell, Draksis, ruled over his house from a hidden position near the ruins of the Ishtar Collective. Draksis became notorious for his raids on human settlements while his house sought out new knowledge among the Vex and Human ruins near the Ishtar Sink. Eventually, after rising to the attention of the Vanguard (Cayde-6 once sent one of his Hunters to Venus to the Cinders to search for Winter's Kell...), our Guardian finds Draksis' Ketch and puts an end to him. Seeing as the House of Winter had already lost its Prime Servitor, this was something of a fatal blow to the Eliksni on Venus.
House of Exiles
The House of Exiles was not formally an Eliksni house. It had no Prime Servitor and no Kell. Mostly, it was a collection of Eliksni who had either been banished from their own houses but who had been separated from their house but who had refused to lay down and die. Like all of the Eliksni, the Exiles keep their distance from the other Houses. Seeing as Earth, Venus, and Mars were already occupied (with Mars being somewhat closed off to the Eliksni thanks to the heavy Cabal presence) the Exiles took refuge on Earth's Moon... near the Hive. The Hellmouth was not exactly the safest place... but with Crota's initial and eventual ultimate defeat, the Hive there were not the threat they had once been.
The House of Exiles is most notable for harboring the Eliksni mercenary Taniks. But beyond that, and a few suicidally daring raids down into the Hellmouth, we don't ever hear much from the House of Exiles.
House of Wolves
After several years of conflict, the House of Wolves eventually knelt down to Mara Sov and her Awoken. With the help of Variks, the House of Wolves worked and fought alongside the Awoken for a time. Many Wolves did in fact truly regard Mara Sov as their new Kell and followed her orders with honest devotion. It was only when Skolas returned proclaiming himself to be the Kell of Kells and seemingly having the power to defy the Awoken that the House of Wolves rebelled. That rebellion was short lived, of course, as a vengeful Mara Sov sought the aid of the Guardians of The City. Within a short period of time... months at most... Skolas had been defeated and recaptured. He would eventually meet his end at the hand of some group of Guardians as nothing more than a mere play thing in Variks' Prison of Elders.
The House of Wolves did not die immediately, however. Its remnants somehow managed to hide among the sprawling Cabal fortifications on Mars. They even rebuilt their Prime Servitor, Orbiks Prime, and for a short time where a thorn in the side of the Awoken and Cabal alike... until a Guardian discovered their hidden base of operations and lay wasted to Orbiks Prime once more.
House of Kings
The Kings rarely lowered themselves to squabble in Eliksni politics or power grabs. They regarded themselves as rulers... and the other Eliksni houses seemed to have a great deal of respect for them. Even when the house of Devils was at its height, it seldom interfered with the House of Kings. The Devils and Kings were even neighbors in the Cosmodrome yet somehow managed to stay out of each other's way.
In the end the House of Kings met with the Awoken Prince, Uldren Sov, and they alongside the House of Devils on Earth, the house of Winter on Venus, the House of Wolves on Mars, and the House of Exiles on Earth's Moon... left.
The Fallen are abandoning the Cosmodrome.
Hawk fly-overs confirm. The House of Devils forces are simply not there anymore. They've been disorganized for the last few years, but there's never been a shortage of ground troops whenever we staged a significant sortie.
Intel source GREENRAVEN was right. And, for the moment, it's worth assuming their report on the House of Exiles, House of Winter, and House of Wolves are also accurate. We're fact-checking against independent fireteam reports from the field.
The kid all the SRL fans talk about — Marcus? He was in one of the fireteams out at the Cosmodrome. He pulled me aside, and said it to me straight: the Fallen Houses are gone. The siege is broken. The stalemate we've had with the Eliksni for what, a hundred years? It's over. We won.
Commander, I'm not even sure they're flying the banners anymore. The teams found huge mounds of burnt cloth and armor, ceremonial piles, in several of the most hardcore Fallen holdouts.
What's changed? Where have the Fallen gone? Why have they burned their banners?
That final question was posed by a Guardian named Sloane... who we eventually meet on Titan. So what did change? In short, Prince Uldren and the Scorn.
But that's a story for a later time. We'll check back in on the Eliksni in a bit, but for now we are mostly caught up to the start of Forsaken. There are still some finer points to explore such as what the Devils were trying to accomplish with SIVA or the grand significance of Skolas trying to force his way into the fabled position of Kell of Kells, but I'd like to visit those too at a later date.
Why the little rush past some interesting stuff? Well... because with Forsaken's release, Bungie's writing team has delivered the largest and most far reaching selection of lore since the Book of Sorrows detailed the rise of the three brave sisters who eventually spawned the terrifying Hive. Because of that, I am thrilled and excited to begin detailing:
Bite-sized Backstory 37: Yang Liwei
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Thu, 18 Oct 2018
The Awoken have been a strange puzzle ever since we first visited the Reef back in Destiny 1. We met the Awoken Queen and her brother, but we didn't even learn their names until Petra Venj called upon the Guardians of The City to hunt down Skolas in the House of Wolves expansion. For all of Destiny 1, the Awoken were a culture and a power whose extent was frustratingly difficult to discern. Did they have cities? Or a military? Or Guardian-like powers? Even when we arrived at the Vestian Outpost, we didn't learn all that much about the Awoken.
Our best look at the Awoken, until now, was their response to the House of Wolves during the Reef Wars as seen in the book The Maraid. But even then, we didn't learn a lot. Queen Mara Sov was shown to be uniquely powerful and able to destroy a Fallen fleet seemingly singlehandedly. The Awoken were revealed to have cities and stations like Amethyst that the Fallen attacked and in some cases destroyed. And that's roughly all we've known about the Awoken... until now.
The history of the Awoken is laid out for us across multiple in-game books that you'll earn piece by piece while playing Forsaken. The first of these books is Marasenna. Like before, I'm going to attempt to walk you through the contents of these books, like I did for the Book of Sorrows, but I highly encourage anyone following along with me to read the full text of these book chapters as we get to them. They are well written and mysterious and half the experience and fun of this is reading this history as it was written.
So... where to start? How about with Mara Sov? Almost from the beginning, we learn that Mara did not start out as a Queen or ruler. Instead, when we first meet her, she is a nineteen year old young woman of no particular race or ancestry serving as an Auturge 3rd Class on the Golden Age colony ship Yang Liwei which is named after the first Chinese astronaut to be sent into space. An Auturge is something of a troubleshooting mechanic whose job it is to fix problems as they spring up on the ship as it makes its way out of our solar system.
The other thing we very quickly find out about Mara Sov, is that she has a streak of independence the likes of which we have only rarely seen in Destiny. For one thing, instead of following the normal chain of command, where an Auturge 3rd Class usually reports to Auturge 2nd Class to find out their work assignments, Mara just shows up at areas of the ship that have malfunctioned and fixes things before leaving, usually without even talking to anyone. A ship like the Yang Liwei need to be run with tight organization, but Mara is apparently skilled enough to subvert all that regulation and do her own thing. Her actions eventually take on an almost magical quality. Something breaks, she appears, it is soon fixed without fuss or red tape, and then she is gone. We're told that Mara enjoys this hushed awe that her actions cause amount the population of the Yang Liwei. But being mysterious is the least of her boldness...
Our first glimpse of her is not fixing a pipe or patching a circuit. Instead, we find her in a skin-tight environment suit sitting on the outer hull of the Yang Liwei looking down towards the ship's main engines at its rear. Apparently, she prefers to live out there. Outside the ship. In space. We're told that she stays outside because she wants to taste the blueshift of the surrounding starlight as the Yang Liwei accelerates out of our solar system.
In this instance, though, Mara does even more daring than that. She doesn't just cling to the hull of the colony ship. Instead, during a period when the ship has halted its acceleration to perform another long check of its engines, she kicks off the hull and drifts ahead, away from the Yang Liwei's large forward umbrella-like shield with only a thin tether wire to keep her from drifting away completely. She doesn't just drift a few meters, or even a few hundred. Instead she drifts ten kilometers ahead of the ship. It must have taken hours for her to coast that far after simply kicking herself forward. It must have been breathtaking to watch the colony ship, which so large that it is described as its own traveling fleet, slowly shrink into the black of space. It might have still been visible, far in the distance, but Mara would have also been surrounded by the stars... and when she was, she did something even more incredible. And terrifying!
Mara activates the controls on her suit that order the external cytogel layer to pull completely away and retract into storage mode! Though she was wearing an undersuit, the cytogel was the only thing actually separating her from the vacuum of space! The effects of vacuum exposure begin immediately. The moisture on her skin boils. Her face begins to discolor and turn a sickly blue due to a lack of oxygen. Her body begins to swell due to an imbalance of internal and external pressure. Out there, among the stars, Mara is letting herself die. And she records it all, every view, every gasp, and every little sensation down to the neural level on her sensorium... before reengaging her protective suit, returning her size and color and breathing to normal. Those sensorium recordings, she knows, will fetch a high price once she makes her way back inside the ship.
Interestingly, as Destiny players, we hear of sensorium recordings within Forsaken, too. When we rescue one of the Techeuns from The Corrupted strike, she sometimes says it would be impossible to describe the experience of being Taken without the use of a full sensorium.
I imagine it only takes Mara a pull or two on her thin tether to start her long drift back to the Yang Liwei. Once she does gets back inside, we'll get the chance to meet some of the other key people in her life.
Bite-sized Backstory 38: Brother, Mother, and Alice Li
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Sat, 27 Oct 2018
As Mara heads inside, we get to learn a little more about her and those around her. For Mara, we learn that she was previously some sort of Extra Vehicular Activity tech near Jupiter. It was, in fact, a shocking experience on one of her maintenance EVAs that caused her to insist that she and her family leave the solar system. Mara and an unnamed man were outside in their space suits repairing a radiator fin of maybe a spaceship or space colony when something whipped in at high speed and smashed straight through the man's faceplate. It would later be determined that his death was a tragic accident. Somewhere else in the solar system there was a cargo spill, and a frozen rabbit embryo made what must have been a months or years long journey around the sun to cross through the point the man's face was occupying.
We're told that Mara has always been good at figuring out the meanings behind things, a skill that she prefers to keep somewhat secret, and she saw this accident as an omen that she, and humanity, were vulnerable as long as they just stayed in our solar system. So, somehow, Mara persuaded her mother Osana and her brother Uldwyn that they should join Project Amrita: the launch of a soon to be departing colony ship. Note that Amrita means immortality, and in Hinduism it is a drink similar to the Ambrosia of the Geek gods.
Inside the Yang Liwei, Mara first comes across her younger brother, Uldwyn, Mara watches from the crowd as her brother and a bulked up woman woman from Gravity Ops have something of a zero-g cage match in some equipment storage area. Mara's appearance delights Uldwyn... leaving him open for a devastating uppercut to the face. He goes tumbling. The larger woman who had her genes altered to bulk up her muscles pushes off the wall sending them both for a devastating impact on the floor a good ways below. We're told that Uldwyn doesn't have a chance against this woman, and that he knew that before he entered the fight, but that he likes to measure himself by his bravery and by seeing just how bad of a loss he can survive.
On their way down, Uldwyn manages to shift around and put the larger woman in a choke hold. He successfully chokes her unconscious... but there's nothing he can do about their momentum. They smack into the floor, with Uldwyn on the bottom. Uldwyn loses. But he's still delighted to see his sister back inside. One of my faviorite bits of the story is where the woman rolls off of Uldwyn and says, "oh hi mara."
Uldwyn and Mara sort of talk past each other, each not openly answering each others questions. We're told that Mara likes it that way. She likes knowing her brother well enough that they can communicate in half answers that mean so much more coming from each other than they would mean coming from anyone else. Ultimately, Mara asks Uldwyn to distribute her sensorium captures in exchange for more parts to continue her little roaming repair mission. Uldwyn agrees. He likes the hustle and bustle of it all, but he warns Mara that their mother is going to die of worry if she keeps pushing so far off the ship like she just did.
We cut to Mara and her mother Osana walking rapidly down one of the Yang Liwei's corridors. We find that Mara and her mother have something of a special mother-daughter relationship, in that they, for the most part, don't have one. Some time ago, several years before when Mara was young, Mara insisted that her mother treat her like an adult. And Osana agreed, but with the stipulation that if she was going to treat Mara like an adult she wouldn't be able to protect her like a mother would a daughter. And that she would live her own life and make her own choices as more of a friend than a mother. I like this relationship between Osana and Mara because it shows an independence on both sides. But even though they have apparently lived their lives somewhat independently, Mara and Osana still do the mother daughter thing every once in a while. Like now, where Osana is dragging Mara to face Alice Li, the captain of the Yang Liwei.
Mara, for her part think that her mother only exists to embarrass her. Osana, however, is hauling her daughter to off to see the ship's captain because Mara will be punished by the ship's Behavior department sooner or later. So, Osana is using someone else to talk some sense into her daughter, but you can also see the love there, that Osana is protecting Mara while still maintaining the independence they both agreed on. At one point, Mara tries to shift some of the blame to Uldwyn. It's only here that Osana involves herself directly. She spins on Mara as they stride down the hall and chastises her daughter. Not for her daring activities outside the ship or for breaking regulations in her ongoing unordered repairs, but for pretending that she doesn't hold sway over people like her brother or those who are in awe of her skill and activities. Mara is sure she can come up with a clever retort, but before she does, she and her mother arrive at Captain Alice Li's wardroom.
The position of Captain, we're told, is something Mara would like for herself someday. But right now? That's not who she is. Fortunately, Captain Li is more understanding that Mara thought she would be. She starts by offering Mara tea from an old tea set that was made some hundreds of years ago, before the Traveler arrived in our solar system. This tea set will be important later. (Seriously.) I laughed though, because Captain Li mixes her tea with milk from the "Cow Thing" on this ship's bio deck. Apparently the Yang Liwei is large enough to have one or more bioengineered creatures that aren't exactly cows.
Once all three have their tea, Osana explains the situation to Captain Li. She says that her daughter has, through her actions, set herself up as something of a minor divinity among the ship's crew. There's a great line where Osana says that Mara has become such a big celebrity that people have started drawing fan art of her! We come to find out that Alice Li knows about everything and has even bought and experienced some of Mara's death defying sensorium captures. But that doesn't mean Captain Li is a Mara fangirl. She challenges Mara, saying that Mara has to understand her emotional place among the crew of the Yang Liwei. She explains that if Mara were to die on one of her spacewalks she would harm not just herself, but the ship as a whole. The key line, which is also seriously important, is:
What people make of you, what they create of you—even without your consent—becomes a kind of responsibility.
This takes Mara aback. Makes her, if only for a moment, reconsider her actions and the little cult of fans she has been building up around herself. It's not like Mara is going to stop, but Captain Li was unexpectedly insightful and at least gives Mara something new to think about.
Li then asks about Uldwyn, noting that he has been to medical far more than any of the other unsanctioned, underground fighters. It seems that Captain Li keeps a good close track of what happens on her ship. She mentions that she does so because she is keeping an eye out for curious personalities that might be better suited to not go into cryo while the Yang Liwei makes its long journey to its destination among the stars. What that probably means is that the Yang Liwei is not a sleeper ship that runs on auto pilot, but more of a generation ship where at least some part of the population remains awake during the ship's journey. And Alice Li has tagged Mara and maybe the rest of her family as some of the ones she thinks are well suited to that kind of life. Perhaps Mara is destined to become Captain one day after all...
...except she is not going to get the chance to rise to that rank. Because something, some unknown vessel, is tracking the Yang Liwei.
Bite-sized Backstory 39: SKYSHOCK
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Mon, 5 Nov 2018
After her meeting with Alice Li, Mara likely returns to her normal routine. She makes timely, unscheduled repairs. She disappears for days at a time as she basks in the starlight shining on the Yang Liwei's outer hull. And she continues to perform spectacular, death defying acts so she can spread those sensations among the colony ship's crew. I get the sense that nothing and no one onboard the Yang Liwei could make Mara do something she did not want to do... though, perhaps Captain Li's observations of her actions and their consequences have lead Mara to tone down things just a bit? We'll never know, because some days or weeks later, something is detected shadowing the Yang Liwei as it continues its acceleration out of the Sol System.
The Yang Liwei detects another ship of some kind stalking it from 12.5 light minutes ahead. To put that in perspective, the Earth is only about 8.32 light minutes from the sun, so this ship is very far away at first. Over and over again, across an eighteen hour period, the Yang Liwei requests the other vessel identify itself, but the distant contact remains silent as it slips in and out of detection. Finally, Captain Li has had enough. She cuts power to her ship's engines and orders the launch a distributed antenna swarm. This is an antenna made of many different drones that broadcast from multiple points at the same time. She intents to scare whoever is approaching them with a big, blinding "fusion powered" radar snapshot. Perhaps the Yang Liwei cut power to its engines to divert more power to what would essentially be a powerful "sonar ping" in space.
As an aside, its interesting that the Yang Liwei doesn't identify itself as "Yang Liwei" but instead uses the callsign "Exodus Green". This is pretty cool since we've heard about a few other Exodus colony ships during the course of Destiny:
But before all the preparations can be made for the launch of their sensor drone swarm, the Yang Liwei's communication officer relays some deeply unsettling news. The officer has picked up a transmission consisting of a tight beam of faster than light neutrinos focused solely on the Yang Liwei. It's a message from Rasputin declaring a CARRHAE WHITE state of emergency. If we dig back into some of Destiny's earliest lore we quickly find Ghost Fragment: Darkness. This is a report from Rasputin as he declares CARRHAE WHITE and takes command of Humanity's defenses. Reading through that report from Rasputin is a bit tricky, but there's a pair of old posts by INSANEdrive and myself that sheds some insight on what was going on. And, indeed, our speculations from more that four years ago are now proven right, as the comm operator tells Captain Li that Rasputin has declared a SKYSHOCK event meaning that Rasputin detected a hostile race arriving from outside our solar system, that the entire system is now under Warmind control, and that the Yang Liwei is being conscripted into a military role!
It turns out that Rasputin has ordered the Yang Liwei to do an about face and run its engines at full power until they explode. Rasputin's plan is for the Yang Liwei to coast back into the solar system and use its big kinetic weapons as ultra long range artillery. Apparently previous Exodus colony ships had mysteriously vanished on their outward journey so, as the newest, largest, and most advanced colony ship yet, the Yang Liwei was outfitted with heavy weapons to defend itself in case anyone (anything?) tried to attack it. Now those weapons have become a small part of Rasputin's plan to defend the solar system.
Captain Li orders that the distributed antenna swarm they were launching be scaled up and for telescope drones be added to the mix. Telescopes would have had a tough time getting a visual image of a silent, unknown ship millions of miles away, but will be very useful to see what is happening back at the planets of our solar system. Soon, the Yang Liwei's various sensors and telescopes give them a distant view of humanity's battle against the Darkness. And it's not going well. At all. Humanity, at the height of its Golden Age, is losing. Badly. The last sightings of the Traveler show it to be at Earth... and there are high-yield weapon discharges all over the place.
As all this happens, Captain Li makes an important decision. Instead of following Rasputin's orders without question, she decides to put the Yang Liwei's next course of action to a vote. They can either follow orders, turn around, and dive into what looks to be an unwinnable battle that will lead to the extinction of the human race, or they can run for the stars and hope to carry on somewhere else.
Outside the ship, Mara and her brother go on another spacewalk. They push off and drift down the length of the ship as they talk. Well... mostly its Uldwyn doing the talking. Ultimately, he concludes that they should run. That they don't owe the rest of humanity their lives or dreams. Mara, however, seems to want to go back. She's heavily conflicted, its not an easy decision for her, but she feels like a coward running away. She barely says anything at all as she heads back inside the ship, but Uldwyn can tell what her vote will be.
In the meantime, the ghost-like contact that had been shadowing the Yang Liwei has decided to make itself known and has begun to bear down. Somehow, without warning, the Yang Liwei is utterly cut off from the rest of humanity as the space around it is enveloped in a terrifying darkness. The colony ship and its crew experience strange distortions of time and space. The guidance computers can't make any sense of what is going on. The Yang Liwei's navigation thrusters fire almost at random as they try to steer a ship that can't sense up from down. The crew are also experiencing very worrying effects. They can feel themselves being stretched and compressed by weird gravity waves whose origin they can only guess at. But this is not just an odd weapon being fired at them or some effect the phantom ship is accidentally having on them... No, it's something much worse:
Alice Li has the distinct sense that something ancient and malevolent is operating upon them: a trillion-fingered hand reaching in to caress the very atoms of their being, setting protons a-spin, strumming nerves like guitar strings. A tongue with ten billion slithering forks tasting the surface of their brains. The sense of imminent doom crescendos. She knows, absolutely and utterly, that what is about to happen to her and to her crew is far worse than death. The darkness knows them now. The thing that has come to kill Humanity has their taste.
It's here that Alice Li does the only thing she can think of. She tries to broadcast a plea of neutrality to the ship/thing attacking them. It's not even clear that the Yang Liwei can broadcast into the darkness surrounding it, but they try to tell the approaching ship that they left Humanity and the Traveler and they don't wish any part of the conflict that is going on behind them. Nothing changes. The gravity distortions continue to get worse. So, with what is to be her final act, Mara goes back outside the Yang Liwei. She wishes to die in starlight... but there are no stars to be seen...
Bite-sized Backstory 40: The Awakening of the Awoken
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Sun, 18 Nov 2018
Physics no longer work quite right outside the Yang Liwei, where Mara Sov went to die. When Mara pushes off the ship's hull the strange, life threatening gravity waves being produced by the mysterious alien ship push and pull on her, yanking her first one way and then the other. She pushed off with some 50km of super thin tether, but her progress away from the ship is uneven. Eventually, though, Mara does drift some distance into the darkness, away from the Yang Liwei, only to feel vibration on the line connecting her back to the ship. It is Uldwyn coming after her. Their suit radios don't function while trapped within the darkened space, but since Uldwyn has come out and attached himself to the same tether as his sister, they can communicate through the tether's hardwired circuits.
Like Captain Li, Mara has some sense that the surrounding Darkness is not indifferent:
Mara's tether trembles with Uldwyn's progress. She holds it in one hand and reaches out with the other, gripping the emptiness, feeling how the tides of broken space pull at her fingertips. She senses that the nothingness around her is not indifferent; that it is aware of all purposes, and that its own purpose encompasses them. It is infinitely hostile because it must be.
Over the hardwired com link, Mara can hear Captain Li attempting to broadcast a statement of neutrality, but we don't even know if the other ship hear it. Then, all of a sudden, a beam of Light pierces the Darkness. Far back at Earth, the Traveler has done whatever it did to save us from the Darkness. But it did more than that, it also focused a beam of its Light all the way out to the Yang Liwei! Similar to the Darkness, Mara senses that the Light too seems to have a purpose:
It sings. It chatters. It speaks in a voice older than suns. She feels that she could Fourier the voice for a century and never decompose it into its parts. It is awesome and appalling and piercingly true.
These two powerful forces battle it out around the Yang Liwei. Close to earth it seems fair to say the Traver and the Light... won. Or at least, the Traveler was successful in completely dispelling the Darkness that had attacked humanity. But as far out as the Yang Liwei is, the neither the Light nor the Darkness have an advantage. Instead, these two powerful forces struggle and the area of space around the Yang Liwei is completely overwhelmed. Near the Yang Liwei, space itself gives way and a strange black hole is formed by the overabundance of the two energies competing with one another.
Mara has always been good at figuring things out. Somehow she knows that this isn't the end. Uldwyn is yelling for her to pull back, but Mara does the opposite. And this next part is one of the most important things in all of Destiny's lore:
She fires the detach command into the tether.
Gravity seizes her. She falls forward in space and time, into the future, into the mystery. Yang Liwei is behind her. Uldwyn is behind her. She wants to be the first.
But, strangely, out of the 40,000+ passengers and crew of the Yang Liwei, it is not Mara that thinks the next thoughts. It is Alice Li. She is formless and it takes time and effort for her to define herself, beginning with her name. Through a thought process of cuts and infinities, Alice Li redefines herself as Alis Li. With that done she moves on to defining reality for herself. She remembers the Amrita Charter and that she was to be an explorer. She lets this thought and memory help her create a new, fantastic world:
I am Alis Li, the power that seeks new worlds. I have a crew. I had... a ship. I wanted to bring them to a place like—
(A paradise world: twin-ringed, impossible beauty, and a sky milk-bright with stars. She makes it real with a thought, and in that thought she falls herself, undoes her transient divinity, binds herself and all those after her into the law. The omniscient cannot explore. The omnipotent cannot struggle. She refuses that God-trap.)
This is how Alice Li awakens.
Next, second, we see Mara go through a similar process of defining her own name and then defining her physical self, but when Mara awakens, Alis Li is already there, standing over her. From all appearances, it seems Mara's efforts to be first did not succeed. Alis leads Mara outside the building they are in and shows her the world she created with her own thoughts:
It is a world that grows, a world that thrives. The stone is rich with veins of platinum, and Mara tastes tingling inclusions of transuranic elements in a fingertip of earth. Silver rivers flow in fractal deltas to lakes as still and bright as coolant pools. Acres of forests all woven at the root into a single tree. There is life of such variety and energy that each new crawling thing they see must be its own species. Or species do not mean anything at all here, and all that lives may intermingle.
Interestingly, the Yang Liwei is here in this new world. It is resting, partly embedded into a mountain, but it is intact and accessable. Alis leads Mara inside and when Mara asks about the others, there should be thousands of others, Alis tells her that they have to make them real. Then, Alis wonders out loud why Mara was the second to awaken from among the thousands of people aboard the Yang Liwei.
"Why were you the second? Why you in particular?"
"I don't know," Mara lies. It is the first lie ever told, the first secret kept.
I love these two pages where Alis and Mara define themselves back into existence. Not only because we get to see how the Awoken awakened, but because the writing itself is so beautiful. I'd quote both pages in their entirety if I though our board would let a post be that long. I very strongly encourage anyone that is interested in this stuff to read Ecstasiate I and Ecstasiate II. Not for the lore, but for the way that the first two Awoken defined themselves by cutting and shaping their own names. It is something very different from all the rest of Destiny's lore.
Next time, we'll begin explore who the Awoken are as a people once the rest of them return from the formless existence that the conflict between the Light and the Darkness left them in. But, there's also something secret that Mara knows and Alis Li does not. The question "Why you in particular?" has an actual answer, but it will be some time before we get to it.
Still, the more immediate stuff coming up is fascinating and important not just for the Awoken, but ultimately for the rest of the Destiny universe as well. The origin and Awakening of Mara Sov is just the beginning!
Bite-sized Backstory 41: Nine Verdicts
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
After Alis Li takes Mara on a tour of their new world, the two work together to begin calling the rest of the Awoken back from the void:
Two became four, and the four called out, and so the four became eight. In this manner, conjured forth by their doubling, the sleepers did awaken. In time the awoken spilled across the face of the world, and their number was forty thousand eight hundred ninety one. They drank of the sweet rain, and they ate of the fruit of the forest, and the starlight pooled as clear oil on their skin. First of their tongues was Speech, and the first of their hunting weapons was the bow.
We also learn some specifics about the Yan Liwei. The colony ship carried a total of 40,891 crew and colonists. An interesting thing happened when the ship fell into the blackhole created by the opposing powers of Light and Darkness. 40,000 of the ship's compliment don't remember anything about their past lives seemingly because they were in cryosleep when the Traveler rescued the Yang Liwei. But the other 891 do remember at least some of where they came from. These 891 seem to be treated as just a little bit more special.
It's also kinda fun to see bows mentioned since the new bow class weapons played such a nice role in Destiny. They'll even come up in the Awoken's story in some fun, unexpected ways later.
So, after a time of branching out and exploring their new world, the Awoken, or at least their various leaders, come together for a great council to try and work some things out. There's a lot that comes out of this council:
First is a census. We know there are initially 40,891 Awoken, but now they classify themselves into three categories: 30,111 women, 10,295 men, and 485 other. We've always had very strong hints that the Awoken of the Reef were a matriarchal society. Recall that in the Reef, the Awoken were lead by a Queen. The liaison to the Guardians was Petra Venj. Most of the Paladins (the commanders of their military forces) were women. Now we begin to see why.
Second, we have three main speakers at the council. Alis Li speaks first saying:
We were granted this world by a covenant with high powers, and in that covenant, we yielded our claim to our history. We abandoned what came before, but in doing so, we cast off all our debts. Look forward! Let us explore this infant cosmos, and revel in its glories!
Next comes an Awoken named Owome An who represents the 40,000 who do not remember their past. She come at things from a different point of view:
We are alien here. We must climb up our worldline, back to the place from which we came. I call for a vote.
The third speaker, Mara Sov, did not actually speak in public. But, in private meetings organized by her brother, she offered up her own interpretation of things:
I think that we came here as safe harbor, and we cannot forever remain. I remember the danger was appalling. I remember we were born in death. I think we must gather ourselves carefully until the time is right.
From these three viewpoints you can kinda see how the council came up with its next nine verdicts. I'm going to list each one and offer a bit of commentary on a few of them as we go.
The final ninth verdict was a critical one. It seems somewhat natural that Alis Li became Queen. She was the first to wake. She more or less created the planet the Awoken now live on. And she was, in her former life, a competent, insightful leader. But that part about secrets is also important, as we're told:
For Alis knew of the quiet council around Mara, and although she was neither jealous nor afraid, she remembered it carefully as a spark that might catch.
That spark does catch. And it leads to a civil war... that we'll cover next time. There's a lot going on with the Awoken politically and I want to make sure every bit gets the attention that it deserves. But until then, look back at what we've already learned! The origin and creation of the Awoken, one of Destiny's great mysteries, is now known to us!
Oh yeah, one more thing. There were Nine Verdicts and there is The Nine we keep hearing about. Any relation? I'm not sure. The Emissaries of The Nine seem Awoken-ish. And I saw a neat theory the other day that we'll get to eventually. But for now, at least, I don't believe there is any definitive proof linking these Nine Verdicts to The Nine.
Bite-sized Backstory 42: The Theodicy War
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Tue, 1 Jan 2019
After the Awoken have their great council, they set out to truly explore and understand their new world. Some travel the land making maps and discoveries as the go. Others build ships and chart the oceans and coastlines. And others turn their eyes to that sky that it so full of starts it is milk white in some places. Meanwhile, Alis Li works to help the Awoken rediscover things like proper agriculture and the advanced technologies found aboard the Shipspire.
It's an interesting situation the Awoken are in. Very advanced Golden Age technology exists within the Shipspire, but it seems pretty clear there isn't a manual laying around telling them how to reproduce those technologies, so in large part they are starting at the beginning and rediscovering things year after year, decade after decade. Some Awoken, notably the 891, seem to have inklings and memories of how things work, so the Awoken aren't totally in the dark in terms of technology and invention like human civilization originally was. They probably advance far faster than humanity did the first time, but it must still take decades or centuries.
Eventually though, the Awoken start to build cities. Some Awoken, like Alis Li want to continue to advance their technologies and knowledge. But there are other Awoken who enjoy their lives of adventure and freedom in the forests and on the seas. They don't want to work in cities. They probably care less about achieving new things and advancing the state of the art. These Awoken slowly form into tribes that live outside the cities. We're not looking at civilization vs savages by any means, but there is at least some split between the interests and priorities of the Awoken as a whole. Interestingly, Mara and her brother and mother live among the tribes. Mara, specifically lives alone on some distant mountain top. She has her reasons, and we'll get to them, but for the moment, no one really knows why she wishes to be so far removed from the rest of the Awoken.
Another part of the division between these two groups of Awoken are two different ideas relating to how the Awoken were created:
In the tribes of the forests and the sea, there was the belief that the Awoken had been made out of a friction between contesting forces and that one day this conflict would need to be resolved. These were the Eccaleists who preached that Awoken owed a debt to the cosmos.
In the cities, however, they lived by the Seventh Verdict under their Queen, and they said the Awoken had been created by cosmic gift and carried neither responsibility nor eschaton. These were the Sanguine, who preached that the Awoken were as stable as an atom of carbon.
Recall, that the Seventh Verdict was:
that the Awoken were created out of covenant with Light and Darkness, but the covenant was complete, and no further debt would ever be called, except the duty of the Second Verdict to remain on the Distributary.
So, we have a group that believes the Awoken owe a debt and a second group who believe that they do not. If that was the only disagreement, things would have likely been fine. There was no immediate proof for either side, after all.
But then an Awoken woman with a radical idea comes to power and popularity within the tribes. This woman, who called herself "the Diasyrm" was one of the 891 Awoken who still remembered some of her Golden Age past. A Diasyrm is a figure of speech expressing disparagement or ridicule. This Diasyrm begins preaching that since Queen Alis Li was the first to awaken, it is therefore Alis Li who took it upon herself to shape the formless power that the Awoken existed as after the clash of Light and Darkness. And, that in shaping the Awoken into a human-like form, even one that is effectively immortal when not counting things like injuries or accidents, she forced them down a path that included things like pain, hardship, suffering, and evil.
The 891 who remember something of the past are an important and well regarded group among the Awoken. And while this new idea is highly controversial, it is coming from one of the 891 so it has more power and prestige than it would have otherwise had. The accusation is not just that the Awoken sometimes have to deal with things like pain or injury in their day to day lives, it's that they have to worry about such concepts at all. There is possibly another layer here where the Diasyrm isn't just saying that Alis Li did this to the Awoken, but that she choose to do it, or that she did it on purpose without giving anyone else a choice.
The outlying tribes get roused up by this. They want to know why Alis Li betrayed them. Why she took it upon herself to prevent them from being gods. At the same time, the peoples of the city are deeply offended at the idea that their Queen, who has lead them impeccably for hundreds of years, would have done something so vile as purposely create a world that included things like pain, suffering and death.
This strong disagreement between the two sides eventually leads to a large scale civil war! This war is termed the Theodicy War, as theodicy is, basically, the attempt to find some explanation or defense as to why there is evil in the world if the world was created by an all powerful god who is good. That is sorta what this war is, the Awoken in the cities defending their ruler against the accusations of those in the forests and seas.
(Theodicy is a complex and interesting subject... and not one I'm going to dip into... if you want to know more you should probably start with the Wikipedia Article.)
For something like fifty years, the Eccaleists who oppose Alis Li, and the Sanguine who support her are locked in battle. Given that the Awoken are still rediscovering much of the technology they lost, it seems likely that this is more of a ground war fought with fairly primitive weapons. There are still some high tech weapons left on the Shipspire, but probably not a lot. In fact, we are told that the war was fought "by spear and bow, by knife and scalpel, by old machine and new invention." And that Alis Li reserved high tech weapons for a select few Paladins who answered to her.
There's another part here. Outside of this war or accidental injury, the Awoken are immortal. Killing each other is seen as a terrible thing. Each death means a life that would have gone on forever is cut off. There's even a little poem about it:
To end a world with a shot or pin eternity on a blade; to see your sisters lost to rot and their undone works decayed.
But not even understanding the tragedy of killing a fellow immortal does much to stop the killing. What it does do is affect those who do the killing and those who lose friends or loved ones to the war. There's a great line that says: "An immortal's grief and murder-guilt, left untended, will never fade." So, this war isn't just reducing the number of Awoken, it is doing great harm to those that are left behind. In part, the war continues because the war started. Grudges and feuds and the need for revenge become significant factors in the war's continuation.
At fifty years and counting, this Theodicy War shows no sign of ending. Alis Li is not some cruel ruler who demands that her side kill the other. If anything, this is a war that is breaking her heart, but is one where her influence is not nearly enough to get either side to stop. But... Alis knows someone who probably does have that kind of influence and power. And so, she sends one of her few VTOL aircraft to pluck Mara Sov from the mountain she lives on. The conversation that ensues, and the promises that are made, and the actions and ideas that end the Theodicy War are all very interesting...
...or they will be. Next time. :)
Bite-sized Backstory 43: Mara's Third Way
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Sat, 5 Jan 2019
Queen Alis Li and the ever enigmatic Mara Sov stand together a kilometer off the ground on a wooden deck the Awoken have built to reach up to one of the Shipspire's airlocks. They are both watching a somber funeral ceremony taking place on the lake far below. Bodies of Awoken killed in the ongoing Theodicy War are being sent out into the lake and set ablaze while friends and loved ones sing songs of grief on the shoreline. For Alis Li, this ceremony is all the sadder because one of the 891 is among the dead, and because the one that killed her did so with a Matter Laser, a weapon that only Alis' own Paladins should have. It seems very possible that one of her most trusted warriors has defected to the Diasyrm.
Alis expresses her deep frustration to Mara. She says that things were not supposed to go this way. She explains that she still has the original Amrita Charter, and that it indicated they were to explore new worlds. That they were never supposed to lose their original bodies, or become gods, or gain new immortal bodies that shine with starlight. To Alis, this whole war is pointless and wrong and based on bad conclusions that should have never been possible to make. She's also saying that she never even should have had the power to make a world or decide on the form the Awoken would take.
Alis then all but accuses Mara of starting the war. She asks if Mara saw the Diasrym on her mountaintop and gave her the idea that the Awoken had been denied godhood. Mara responds that she did not have to provide that idea. In a half answer, Mara explains that Alis Li did that herself. That by being too honest and too open, Alis provided others with too much to use against her. Mara quotes one of Alis Li's old writings back at her as proof:
We were born when a great ship fell into a pearl of shattered space. I awoke first, and in my awakening I collapsed the potential of the void into a form I understood...
"Who can read that truth and not hear arrogance?" Mara asks. In part, Mara is saying that Alis should have kept her creation of the Awoken more secret to prevent a war of ideas like this from happening. But, also, unspoken but implied, is Mara's answer that yes, she helped start this war, but that she was not its only causes and that no, she did not personally instill the ideas that the Diasyrm used to start the war.
"Why do you love lies so much?" Alis asks Mara next.
"Not lies. Secrets." Mara answers. She explains that one truth can be seen many different ways. That those subtruths all fight for attention and often the most controversial and inflammatory subtruth, instead of the truest of those subtruths, wins the fight. Mara suggests that it is perhaps better to keep some secrets to prevent this war of subtruths.
Finally, Queen Alis Li asks the question she summoned Mara for. She asks what she will have to provide Mara for her and her mother's help in ending the war.
Mara smiles graciously and bows her head. "Nothing but a future boon."
Some time later, Osana, Mara's mother, and Uldren, her brother, enter the Diasyrm's camp. Osana has become a famed negotiator having settled many disputes over land and property. And Uldren's skill and beauty and the ever present eagle-crow on his shoulder make him just as famed in other ways.
Osana gives the Diasyrm's followers an offer:
"I come from Mara," said Osana, "whose heart has frozen in her chest. If you will end the killing, she will tell you any secret that you desire."
Uldren comes saying something else:
"Mara remembers how the Queen led us here out of chaos and saved us from the twin blindness of darkness and light. Mara knows what the Queen keeps secret. Mara has seen the strife in our souls, the clash from which we were made. We could not ever have been gods with this flaw in us! Rather, we were made from this schism. For as all life is born from energy gradient, as life in the World Before was born from the gradient between hot proton-rich ventwater and cold seawater, we were born of the shadowline at the edge of Light and Dark. We are tremors in that fault. Forever will that schism lead us.
These two ideas are both important, but they are aimed at accomplishing two very different things. Both are needed to end the Theodicy War.
Uldren's words are meant to undo the rage that the Eccaleists feel towards Alis Li for denying them godhood. In essence, Mara, through Uldren, is saying that the Awoken never had the chance for godhood. That their birth in the contest between Light and Darkness left them wonderfully but hopelessly flawed. It is that flaw that makes them as special as they are, but also that this flaw would have never let them be gods.
The Eccaleists take to this idea and spread it far and wide. Now, instead of Alis Li having gravely wronged them by taking it on herself to choose a physical life over godhood, they see that she only did what she could and what was necessary because godhood was not even an option. With their point of view shifted, there is no longer any reason for them to fight.
Osana's words were meant more specifically for the Diasyrm who is just as heartbroken over the war as Alis Li, but who also wanted to know the real truth. Osana meets with the Diasyrm in private and tells her that there is no simple weregild, no payment, that can make amends for the war, and that instead she would need to devote the rest of her immortality to serving life and enriching others.
We don't really know what the Diasyrm did after that, though. We do know that she craved the secret knowledge that Mara had promised, and that she went to Mara's mountaintop to obtain it. But then she vanished and:
If she was ever known again, it was not by the name Diasyrm.
And so, the war ends since the Eccaleists now have no leader and all the movement's followers now adhere to Mara's third way: That the Awoken were not destined for godhood, but also that the Awoken were not some cosmic gift free to simply learn and explore. Instead, they now believe that they are a beautiful but flawed creation meant for something more.
Two other interesting things happen immediately after the war:
First, Queen Alis Li leads the Awoken into a new age of peace and progress, but then she steps down as she still feels the guilt of the war.
Second, Mara has a very interesting meeting with her mother and brother in the woods near her mountain. Uldren has come into the forest to allow his latest eagle-crow to find its own place to die, and Osana has come along with him to confirm her suspicions about Mara's role in the Theodicy War. The three of them meet at a camp in the woods and Mara cooks for them as they talk.
On one level, Mara is happy to see her family again. She is so very proud of her brother for finally accepting that his prized hunting birds will each grow old and die while he remains the same. It has taken him a long time to do so.
On another level, Mara is guarded. Especially when Osana starts talking about Mara's role in the war. At one point she explains to Uldren why she tagged along. Uldren sorta again asks why Osana is even with them and Osana says:
It's your sister about to admit she's behind it all. Aren't you, Mara?
Hearing these exact set of words cause Mara to very nearly freeze up in shock. The key here is the two words "it all." Mara worries that her mother has figured out her deepest, darkest secret! But then, her mother continues, explaining to Uldren:
"The Eccaleists are her creation," her mother tells her brother. "The Diasyrm was her pawn. She allowed the Theodicy War because she was afraid we'd be too comfortable here—also so Queen Alis would need her help politically. Mara couldn't afford to be the most radical dissident. She had to seem moderate for her beliefs to thrive. Isn't that right, Mara?"
Mara again has to stay guarded, but this time she has to prevent herself from letting out a slumping sigh of relief that no, her mother has not somehow guessed her worst, most precious secret. That's not to say that Osana isn't correct in everything she said, she is, it's just that Mara has something much more important that she wishes to keep from her mother.
Uldren, though, senses all of this so he asks a critical question. He asks why Mara has descended from her mountain and decided to live in the woods like a hermit or heretic. He understood her love of charting the stars but doesn't understand why she stopped and came down.
Mara gives him the most direct answer she has given anyone in quite a while. Though, in her true fashion, it is not a direct answer but an answer designed to let him and only him know her true answer.
"I remember the day I was born," she says. "Do you, Brother?"
He does. He remembers himself being pulled apart as he chased after Mara on her 50km long tether far ahead of him and the Yang Liwei. And, in thinking back to their pasts before the Light and Darkness clashed around them, Uldren comes to realize exactly what it is that Mara is doing, and exactly what her deep, dark secret really is. And he hides it from even his mother.
Eventually, we will talk about Mara's secret directly. At some point in the future she will reveal it directly and fully to someone without hiding behind oblique mysteries. I will say, though, that the necessary information is already all there at this point if you'd like to guess.
As their meal ends, Mara stands and tell her family it's time for them all to go. She has new stars to chart, she says. And new heresies to tend to, she thinks. And, along the way, she hopes to help her brother find a new eagle-crow.
What has really happened here with the Theodicy War and with the new, interesting peace that Mara provoked, is that Mara has completed one step in a grand plan and now she is about to start on another. Mara knows very well that there is power in remove and safety from the belittling politics of temporal power, which reveal the mighty as unforgivably ordinary and petty. But this new step will require her to go to the city and live among the people she avoided for so long.
Oh, and charting stars really will play a big role in the next stage of Mara's plan.
Bite-sized Backstory 44: Sjur Eido
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Mon, 7 Jan 2019
In the years following Queen Alis Li's abdication, the position of Queen still existed, but it became a much more ceremonial role. Where Alis Li had ruled a large majority of the Awoken population, the role of Queen now shrinks to become little more than a guide for the Awoken's artistic and spiritual needs. In the place of a singular Queen, the Awoken people turn to a large group of scholars known as the Gensym Scribes. Officially, these scribes trace their lineage to Kelda Wadj, the Allteacher (who will come up again eventually), but really you should think of them more as a bunch of Asher Mirs each controlling her or his own little areas of interest. We are told that they are:
...scholars who sent their knights on mad quests to test the consistence of reality.
If you need any more proof that this group is maybe just a bit nuts (brilliant, but nuts) read their praise of the Distributary...
It is sweet-watered, and there are no poisons upon it. The temper of the climate is even. Great broad-pawed cats stalk the shallow glades, and brilliant blue flamingos promenade upon the flats. The air is thick and warm, suited for flight, and the wind tastes of forest. No dawn has ever been as glorious as the salt glade dawn, and no dusk has ever moved women to weep as deeply as sunset in the Chriseiads. Corsairs sport upon the open seas, and where they waylay freighters rather than each other, they give rumor and assistance to their prey in proportion to the quality of the chase. Beloved are the stories of young lads and lasses who leap across to the corsair ship for a life of adventure! Beloved also are the terraced farms of the Andalayas, mountains so mighty and so dense with radioactives that they subside year by year into the crust. Most beloved are the fissioneers, who vaulted us to power on a world without petrochemicals. May they forgive the many stories of horror we have told in their memory. May they in particular forgive the lurid stories of the molten lead reactor, and the twelve who were impaled to the ceiling by their control rods, and the Core That Stalked.
Yeah... Now, we know where Asher's rantings all throughout Destiny 2 came from. It's also amusing that the Io destination armor set that Asher gives out is called Gensym Knight armor. :)
So now, instead of a Queen, the Awoken now have a bunch of brilliant but egotistical scientists calling the shots. And, for the most part, the Gensym Scribes take on the Sanguine position that the Distributary and the Awoken themselves are a gift from the universe. It seems at least one of the two views that caused the Theodicy War is still around a good while after the war itself concluded.
But, the Gensym Scribes are not the only holdovers from the Theodicy War. Previously, we saw the Awoken learn that when both you and your enemy are effectively immortal, it is all too easy to hold onto past grievances. Now, in this new age of peace, we see this play itself out again when a tall, physically powerful Awoken woman enters the courts of one of the Gensym Scribes. This warrior is furious and grief stricken, and she is armed with a longbow so large that it can only be strung if she twines it around her body and uses her whole mass to bend it. She calls out:
I am Sjur Eido, and I accuse Mara of the ancient murder of my lady the Diasyrm. In my saddle, I have a weapon with only one death remaining. Take me to Mara, and I will deliver it.
The scribes are mortified. Sjur is one of former Queen Alis Li's Paladins. She is a legendary warrior from the old days and it is clear that she means business. But... well, Mara is Mara. A public feud between the two could kick off a new Awoken civil war, and that cannot be allowed. So, after consulting and debating with each other (the Awoken are now at a technological level at or near our modern day, so this debate is almost certainly accomplished by digital means) they decide to give Sjur Eido all the information they can about Mara's whereabouts and activities... which probably isn't a lot.
We come to learn that Mara and Uldren are out traveling the world. They've started talking to people and are collecting old rumors and portents. It seems likely that they aren't staying in one place long, and it's probably pretty tough to pin them down. Just as there are some Sanguine adherents left, there are also some who used to be Eccaleists. This group seem to think that Mara is gathering up information and favors in order to bring about a day of reckoning where the Awoken will finally be able to finally fulfill their ultimate purpose.
But then, after many decades of the Gensym Scribes running things, Queen Nguya Pin suddenly reverses course and makes moves to retake the power that the position of Queen once held. This isn't an out of the blue decision or a random power grab. Instead, it looks to be a political maneuver by someone else as the queen only does this after being visited by a mysterious woman who hides her identity behind a mask and under a hood. Nguya Pin doesn't just one day start giving commands as a spoiled tyrant. Instead, she shocks the Awoken world when she out and out declares that she is now an Eccaleists, and that she plans to lead the Awoken back to the stars so they can figure out exactly what kind of debt they owe for their salvation.
As mentioned above, the Awoken of this age have advanced to the at least to the point of having aircraft and nuclear reactors and ocean going vessels and modern cities. And coffee. Coffee is mentioned specifically. Now, thanks to Nguya Pin, a large portion of the Awoken people devote themselves to mastering the space age. The Queen mollifies the Gensym Scribes, whom she just usurped, by providing them with ample funding and her grand court facilities as a place of research and development. The previously bickering scribes delight at getting all the resources and recognition they could ever want. Soon, they are all working together towards the common goal of spaceflight.
This is an exciting new age for the Awoken. One where it feels like they are finally on a path to fulfilling their destiny... and then, Sjur Eido shows up at the Queen's court in secret. You see, Sjur realizes that out of all the Awoken on the Distributary, only Mara could convince Sanguine Queen Nguya Pin to become an Eccaleists. Over the next few days, Sjur determines that the true identity of the masked and hooded figure is, indeed, Mara Sov. Eventually Sjur finds Mara and follows her back to her laboratory intending to kill her. But, when she finally gets the chance, she doesn't attack.
Sjur is frozen as she watches, perhaps from some distance across a crowded room, as the timeless, elegant, knowledgeable, and beautiful Mara Sov works to perfect some sort of advanced sensor meant to detect gravity waves. Sjur struggles against herself. She carries with her centuries of anger and grief, but the person she was determined to kill is simply too regal and too awesomely splendid to murder. With her heart about to burst at the contradiction, Sjur throws down her Maltech laser in dramatic fashion to make her presence known and then issues a dangerous challenge:
Mara Sov! I cannot live while you live, but I cannot bear to kill you. I challenge you to a duel to the agony. I will fight your most beloved companion to the death and leave you forever maimed or else die in the attempt.
For some reason, Mara agrees to this challenge. Why? Well, we already know that she at least had some role in birthing the Eccaleists movement. We certainly know that she ended it. And while we don't know if she really did kill the Diasyrm or not, surely Mara feels a good deal of responsibility for the Theodicy War, even if it was a part of her plan. So, in her stead, Mara orders her brother Uldren to fight for her. And she does so without any sign of hesitation. We're told that there is a ruthlessness about Mara now that maybe she didn't possess before. Maybe because she is getting nearer to her goal and is not about to let anyone get in her way?
Uldren, being Uldren, gladly carries out his sister's wishes. And, in true melodramatic fashion, he responds to Sjur in this manner:
We cannot put it all upon a single fight. Too much would be left to chance. Such an old grudge deserves to be tested well. I propose we fight with blade, with rifle, and with fifth-generation air superiority fighters.
Heh. This mix of haughtiness and timelessness and out of left field advanced technology is almost the perfect encapsulation of the Awoken as a whole!
Sjur agrees to Uldren's terms, but before they can even prepare for their first match, the entire Distributary begins to figuratively fall apart!
Household turned against household, sister against brother, wife against wife. The whole world clenched her fists.
There's a bunch of things happening at once, all of them bad:
Finally, as the entire Awoken world holds it breath, Uldren Sov and Sjur Eido face each other. Depending on who wins, the Awoken might again crumble into civil war and Mara's might be forced to flee her homeward with her plans in ruins...
...so, of course, we'll cover the contest between these two champions next time.
Bite-sized Backstory 45: The Hunter and the Soldier
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Sat, 19 Jan 2019
With the world watching, Uldren Sov and Sjur Eido take their places for their first potentially deadly contest. Somehow or other, it has been decided that their blade duel will take place near one of Queen Nguya Pin's nuclear reactors. The actual stage for this fight is to be a netting made of woody lianas vines woven into a sort of rope that is suspended some distance above a pool of heavy water that is likely being used as part of the reactor's fission or fusion process.
Uldren is dressed in a white armor chest piece on top of a black suit with tassels. I imagine it to be something between his "hunter armor" of Destiny 1 and his robes and poncho of Forsaken. Sjur, is said to be dressed in the contoured pressure armor of an Awoken paladin. Perhaps this is something similar to what the Awoken corsairs wear around the Vestian Outpost in D1?
Before they begin, Sjur pulls away the curtain from the viewing area that has been set up nearby and challenges Mara, asking if she is afraid.
"Are you afraid?" she whispered, half in hatred, half in admiration, all in awe. "Do you sweat? Does your breath come short?"
Mara pressed her hand to Sjur's faceplate and left no stain. She held Sjur's gauntlet to her heart so Sjur could feel her steady pulse and even breath. "You don't care about him?" Sjur pressed her. "It would mean nothing if I maimed him?"
"You ask the right questions," Mara said, "but of the wrong sibling."
I think this shows Mara's confidence in her brother. It also speaks to the way Uldren is willing to suffer any injury to keep his sister and her plans safe. One thing I wondered is if Mara would be willing to do the same. But really, that's a false question that places equal value on Mara and Uldren when they are not actual equals.
The battle begins and the two warriors dance about the wooded netting in the rapid steps and retreats classic to any good knife fight. Two are equally matched, or at least close enough to it that neither can win directly.
In order to try and force the issue, Uldren begins cutting away at sections of the netting. Sjur, in response, rushes Uldren more aggressively until finally both their plans come to fruition. Sjur slams into Uldren, and they both lose their footing and fall into the heavy water pool below. This first match is a tie.
(Just to note, heavy water is considered toxic because its heavier molecular weight does bad things to necessary bodily processes like cell division, but it is not radioactive and you could generally swim a pool of it with no ill effects as long as you didn't start drinking a lot of it.)
The next battle takes place in one of the Distributary's monsoon swept jungles. Instead of being a quick knife fight, this is a very long, drawn out battle fought with rifles, and stealth. Long, in this case, means that Uldren and Sjur stalk each other through the jungle over the course of six tense weeks. Remember, the entire Awoken world is still on edge, but day after day passes by with no word on a victor.
In this contest, one would think Uldren would have the clear advantage. He's the stealthier of the two. He's lived in the jungles for most of his time on the Distributary. He often uses birds of prey to help him in his hunts and in combat. But not only is Sjur not entire out of her element, the Eccaleists who she fought for in the Theodicy War had their camps outside the cities remember, she also understands the underlying natural systems of the jungle just as well as Uldren does. So, what this long, drawn out fight comes down to is who has the superior tactics. And, in this case, that turns out to be Sjur.
Where Uldren is at home in the jungle, and where he walks in silence and is careful not to leave any trail or trace, Sjur spends her time disturbing the animals and disrupting their habitats and killing the prey they usually feed on. Over time, the birds and predators that would have previously ignored Uldren's stealthy patrols or helped him identify Sjur's location now flee loudly from his presence or challenge him and force him away from the paths he knows best.
In the end, Sjur manages to pin Uldren against a lake and lands a shot on him as he attempts to cross it in order to get away from her. Sjur's shot might have even been deadly, but it sounds like she fired from an elevated position and her bullet impacted the water before hitting Uldren. Still, it's a victory, and she now leads the contest 2 to 1.
Between this contest and the next we perhaps see that Mara is not as cold and uncaring as she first appeared.
"Your life is at stake," Mara warned her brother. "Lose this final match, and you will—"
"Am I simple?" he snarled at her. The wound pained him terribly, but he would not risk more than a little analgesic. "Leave me my work, Sister, or you leave me nothing at all."
Uldren does not appreciate her meddling. I think he knows what he is doing and he want her to continue to trust him to do it.
The next contest takes place in the skies and is to be fought over long distances with advanced jet fighters. Sjur chooses a nimble fighter and outfits it with all-aspect, close range, heat seeking missiles. Uldren, however chooses a Dart, one of the Awoken's oldest, most primitive fighter jets. It is slow, has bad targeting, and can only be equipped with poor weapons. The key here though is that Uldren confirms with Sjur that they are allowed to equip their fighters with any weapon they ever sported while in active service.
Sjur Eido told him that one of the Gensym Scribes would provide the aircraft and requested weapons from her personal deterrent stockpile. "Very well," Uldren sniffed. "And we will have access to all the weapons these airframes can equip?"
"Of course," Sjur said. "Those we cannot obtain can be replaced by training simulators." She was certain Uldren's wound would cripple him.
The two expert pilots take off and check in with air controllers and finally turn to start this final fight some 100 kilometers apart. Sjur is sure she has already won. Her fighter is newer, move advanced, more nimble, and better armed. Plus, she isn't suffering from a painful gunshot wound. She knows that if she flies low above hills and treetops the primitive radar in Uldren's Dart might not even be able to properly detect her. But then, Uldren wins with nothing more than a call over their shared radio.
Fox three. Kill. Engagement over.
Sjur is not impressed. She is still in the air, flying towards him. Everything is fine. She think's he's trying to toy with her in some way... but then her instrument panel indicates that she has indeed lost this final match. Uldren's trick here is that he confirmed that they could use simulated weapons if the real versions were not available... and that the Awoken had long since dismantled all their nuclear weapons, including the unguided, air to air nuclear missiles that Darts once flew with back in their prime. Uldren nuked her and everything for kilometers around her with one of these simulated missiles! Sjur never even had a chance.
Back on the tarmac, Sjur throws herself on Mara's mercy. Her goal had been kill someone Mara loved and leave Mara as devastated as she had been when the Diasyrm had vanished, but instead she ended up tying Uldren 2 to 2 in the three round challenge that he lead her into. We're never told directly, but I suspect that maybe that was his or, rather, Mara's plan all along.
Mara does indeed show Sjur mercy:
"Rise, Sjur Eido," said Mara. "Let us take the stars together."
With Sjur at her side side, Mara now has another powerful warrior in her service, but, as we'll see next time, Sjur is worth a good deal more to Mara, both in a political sense, and in ways far more personal.
Bite-sized Backstory 46: Per Audacia Ad Astra
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Tue, 22 Jan 2019
In the years after Uldren's victory over Sjur, the Awoken have returned to working on their ambitious dream of space flight. And this time, instead of living on a distant mountain top or remaining hidden in the woods, Mara Sov is out in the open, at the forefront of it all. And Sjur and Uldren are there with her.
In Uldren, Mara had an enforcer who could win battles and put down opposition with his skill, his determination, and even with his good looks.
In Sjur, Mara gained two things:
As Mara watches the launch she has a curious thought as she considers the beauty and powerful of the rocket soaring into the sky:
The Awoken could have been angels. Instead, they are flesh.
That's pretty interesting considering Mara now leads the political movement that believes the Awoken could have never been gods.
Once the launch concludes, something else interesting happens. Queen Nguya Pin abdicates the throne. She's not stupid. She knows Mara has been the real leader of the Awoken for many many years. She went along with Mara for the sake of the Awoken people and the sake of the monarchy, but now she has had enough of Mara's manipulations. She basically tells Mara off and ends her little tirade with... not a threat exactly, but with the intention of getting to the bottom of why Mara has done all the things she has done.
I am going to find Alis Li, wherever she's gone, and ask her all my questions about you. I'm very interested to know the answers.
Mara, who can easily afford to be gracious, tells Nguya that she has been a wonderful queen, and that no one could replace her. At the same time, of course, Mara is already considering influencing things so that someone named Devna Tel will become the next queen. Devna Tel apparently is at odds with the Gensym Scribes, something that Mara still finds very useful.
Later, Mara meets up with Sjur and they fly off to some new destination to continue Mara's work. Here we learn that Mara is exceedingly lonely despite the fact that she is approaching the completion of another one of her long term goals. For instance, Mara can't help but think back to her mother who she probably has not seen in decades. Sjur notices Mara's forlorn expression, and at first attempts to console Mara, but she quickly changes the subject, knowing Mara well enough now to know that she will not talk about her feelings.
But this time, Mara does something unexpected. Instead of stewing alone in silence, she moves over and, with a glance, she makes room for Sjur to sit beside her.
"Don't say anything," Mara warns her. "Not a word." And so they pass the flight in silence, but not alone.
For the next thirty years, Mara and her followers listen to all the instruments Mara has had built on the ground and record massive amounts of data from all the satellites she has placed in the sky. The Awoken people know this. They know that Mara is studying and cataloging. Maybe there's even an announcement or discovery made every few years from the companies and scientists that Mara ultimately has control over, but for the most part, nothing is said, and the Awoken of the Distributary are left to wait and wonder until one day Mara schedules herself for a worldwide televised broadcast to detail her findings.
What Mara has found, really what she has always known but has now used science to prove, has drastic implications for the Awoken. It may, will, also have some major implications going forward past the main story of Forsaken. This is one of those pivotal moments in Destiny's lore that changes things forever, so instead of summarizing Mara's broadcast or commenting on it line by line, I'd like to present it to you all here in its entirety:
Mara looks into the camera and lets the fire in her eyes speak.
They are waiting on her, the Distributary's millions, her Awoken people. She has stoked their curiosity with thirty years of painstaking analysis. When they look up at the night sky, they see the stars of her observatories among the crowded bands of habitats, the spindly orbital factories, towering elevator counterweights, the burning roads of matter streams.
"Let me tell you of our world," she says.
There are the facts of tectonics and atmosphere, of water and climate: the parameters of the sun that feeds them. "No infants died last year. No child went unfed. No youth came of age illiterate, no one suffered illness who might have been treated. We have long surpassed the eutech gathered from Shipspire; yet we have grown carefully and cleanly. We have eluded pollution, eradicated plague, and chosen peace. No maltech weapon has been discharged in centuries. Our atomic weapons were dismantled before they could ever be used. We are our own triumph."
She has elected not to use graphics or theater. She would rather they remember her face.
"You know yourselves," she says. "Let me tell you of your cosmos. We live in a spatially infinite, isotropic universe 12.1 billion years old. Its metallicity is ideal for life and for the spread of technological civilizations. In time, the distance between all points in the universe will contract to zero, and the cosmos will collapse into a singularity, to be reborn in fire. There will be no end to eternity here."
She pauses. She waits. The whole world is out there, begging for the answer to the question.
"Our world is a gift. And we must refuse it."
They are Awoken. They love secrets. They will wait for her to explain.
"We have detected a pattern that was imprinted into our universe by its ancestor: a fingerprint of the initial conditions into which existence was born. From this information, we have confirmed the most primordial of Awoken myths. Our universe is a subset of another. We live within a singularity, a knot in space-time, that orbits a star in another world.
"Conventional relativity would suggest that time outside an event horizon passes quickly compared to a clock within, but our universe has a peculiar relationship with its mother. Thousands of years have passed for us on the Distributary. Outside? Centuries, at most. We are a swift eddy in a slow river.
"These ideas may not surprise you after centuries of theorizing and philosophy. But we have decrypted new data from the cosmic microwave and neutrino background signals. We have discovered voices... the voices of distress calls. They tell a story of bravery, of war, and of desperate loss.
"We were not always immortal. We did not earn this utopia by covenant with any cosmic power, or by attaining an enlightened moral condition. We are refugees. We fled from an apocalyptic clash between our ancestors' civilization and an invading power." She lowers her eyes. "The signals we have retrieved tell us that our ancestors were on the edge of defeat. Perhaps extinction."
"It is time that we accept our debt. The Distributary is a refuge, not a birthright; a base to rebuild our strength, not a garden to tend. I ask you, Awoken, to join me in the hardest and most worthy task a people has ever faced. We must leave our heaven, return to the world of our ancestors, and take up the works they abandoned. If some of them survive, we must offer aid. If they have enemies, we must share our strength. We must go back to the war we fled and face our enemies there."
She lets them dangle a moment before she drives it home. "We have also determined that our birthright, our immortality, is tied to the fundamental traits of this universe. Once we leave, we will begin to age again. In time, we will all die.
"Will you join me, Awoken? Will you answer my call? All I offer you is hardship and death. All I ask is everything you can offer. But you will see an older starlight. You will walk in a deeper dark than this world has ever known."
Out of all the Destiny lore there is, I think this piece come the closest to hitting on that latin phrase Bungie used back before and during Destiny 1. Per Audacia Ad Astra means, roughly, "Through Boldness To The Stars". Wow.
There are a couple of key things to consider here:
That's all for now. We're almost at the end of this part of the Awoken's history, but there's still a little more to go. Next time, Mara will have a long chat with Alis Li where she reveals to the former queen that one all important secret that she has been hiding.
Bite-sized Backstory 47: The Best Thing I Can Think To Be
Originally posted on the DBO Forum, Sun, 27 Jan 2019
"You're the devil," Alis Li whispers. "I remember... in one of the old tongues, Mara means death."
"You realize," Alis Li says, breathing hard, "that this is the worst thing ever done. Worse than stealing a few thousand people from heaven. Worse than that thing we fled, before we were Awoken—"
The words above, spoken by Alis Li to Mara Sov, are completely serious. Not a single one is rhetorical or played up. Alis Li is as furious and as serious about them as she has been about anything in either of her two lives. But how did we get here? It must have taken something extremely extraordinary to provoke the normally staid first queen of the Awoken to lash out with such hatred. Let's rewind just a bit and find out.
Things have been moving rapidly forward since Mara's broadcast. Undoubtedly, all of Mara's teams and companies and hosts of engineers and experts are now hard at work on the technologies and ships needed to leave the Distributary and its pocket universe. Given how much Mara put in personally to the development of new technologies back before Sjur confronted her, it seems likely that she would be right there working along side them. But on this particular day, Mara has taken leave of her work and journeyed with Sjur out to the beautiful Pearl Groves that contain the Sanctuary of Former Queens.
...she looks out across mazes of channel and tidal pond to the compounds of ancient silver-white stone beyond. Two-ton oysters glitter in the shallows, their shells jeweled with mineral inclusions. Seabirds peck and fret along narrow white beaches.
They touch down some two kilometers from the retreat, and, after ignoring a warning from Uldren to not go alone, Mara walks that distance through the heat, dressed in black no less, with nothing but a small parasol to shield her from the sun. Up in the sky, Mara thinks she can just make out the glittering specks of her hulls, advanced starships...
built under eutech supervision to the specifications of radically post-conscious AI that will one day fly between worlds.
This is the first we've heard of AIs that did not originate in Humanity's Golden Age or the Eliksni in the form of their Servitors. I wonder if anything became of them... (There's a chance this question is actually playing out in Forsaken's Dreaming City right now... and its answer might be: "yes!")
Finally, after walking for quite a while, Mara reaches the place Alis Li has been living for the past several hundred years ever since she gave up the position of Queen. From its description, it sounds like it might be the structure Mara first woke up in a few thousand years before. Alis and Mara sit down for tea served from that same tea service that Captain Alice Li of the Yang Liwei once used to serve tea to Mara and her mother a very long time ago.
The two sit and drink their tea and converse. It's not a friendly conversation, really, but Mara and Alis are at least respectful of each other. As they talk, we learn that Mara did indeed get Devna Tel elected as the new Queen, but also that Queen Tel took that authority and then decided not to support Mara's expedition back to earth.
Alis kinda rubs this in Mara's face. She sorta mocks Mara by pretending to be surprised that Queen Tel doesn't want thousands of Awoken ripped away from their home on the Distributary.
Mara argues that she isn't ripping anyone away because all of her people are volunteers. In reply, Alis reminds Mara of what her mother told her during that meeting on the Yang Liwei way back then: "....that it is one thing for you to have a particular power over people, but another thing entirely to deny that you are using it."
Mara snipes back, quoting Alis' own words back at her:
"You once told me," Mara counters, "that I had to consider the symbol people made out of me, and that if it were good, then I had to be that symbol for them. I had to perform as they required. I have done so. I have been the best thing I can think to be."
Is this the best thing you could think to be?
For a while, the two drink in silence. Then, finally, Alis gets to the important matters. She first asks about the Diasyrm and the Theodicy War and demands to know if Mara arranged it all. Mara admits she nurtured the Eccaleist and made sure she always had a group of Awoken who were not satisfied with the heaven they lived in so that she would have people willing to follow her back. But Mara denies that she arranged it all. Which we're told is a lie.
Alis, growing more furious, wants to know why Mara is asking so many to sacrifice so much. She wants to know why Mara is asking these people to die for a home that was doomed. She wants to know why Mara wants to go back and try to save Earth when 891 members of the Yang Liwei's crew voted to abandon it. Alis reminds Mara of the Amrita charter and how it directed them to explore new worlds and how it was that same charter that Alis used to shape the creation of the Awoken and the Distributary.
Mara agrees, that the first one to awaken was the one who got to set the rules. This satisfies Alis for a moment. She sort of releases her anger and sits back in her chair and asks why Mara really came out to see her.
"To ask you for that boon you owe me." Mara says.
Alis knew this must be coming. Certainly she suspected Mara would call in her favor after her worldwide broadcast. Alis speculates aloud, saying she is sure that Mara has come to her to ask her to endorse the expedition to earth. It all makes sense to Alis. Devna Tel turned Mara down, but if Mara can get Alis' backing, the backing of the first Awoken queen, well that would be far more powerful that having the support of the Awoken's newest queen. All in all, Alis is sure this is just more political gamesmanship from Mara. Except, Mara says no. The real reason she has come to see Alis Li is something Alis probably never expected.
"The boon I ask is your forgiveness."
Then she explains the truth. She tells Alis Li what she did: about the choice Alis Li would have made, if Mara had not made her own first. It's only an extension of what Alis has already deduced.
When she's finished, her ancient captain's jaw trembles. Her hands shake. A keen slips between her clamped teeth. The oldest woman in the world conjures up all the grief she has ever felt, and still it is not enough to match Mara's crime.
"You're the devil," Alis Li whispers. "I remember... in one of the old tongues, Mara means death. Oh, that's too perfect. That's too much."
She laughs for a while. Mara closes her eyes and waits.
"You realize," Alis Li says, breathing hard, "that this is the worst thing ever done. Worse than stealing a few thousand people from heaven. Worse than that thing we fled, before we were Awoken—"
"Please," Mara begs. "Please don't say that."
There it is! There is Mara's biggest darkest secret? Did you catch it? I'll highlight it again for you:
She tells Alis Li what she did: about the choice Alis Li would have made, if Mara had not made her own first.
Alis Li has lived for thousands of years thinking she was the first Awoken. She remembers defining her own name and her own existence. She remembers creating the Distributary and restoring herself to a physical body. She remembers being there when she pulled Mara back from the void. But now Mara is telling Alis that yes, she did make those choices. She did all of those things, but that she was only able to make those choices because Mara made her own choices first. That in reality, Mara was the first Awoken, and that she kept that fact secret from everyone, including Alis.
We've been leading up to this for a while. Think back to the times Mara has protected or revealed some important, unspoken secret:
So, what exactly is Mara asking forgiveness for? Well, now we know that it was Mara who set the very initial ground rules of existence for everyone, including Alis Li. She set it up so that Alis Li would remember the Amrita Charter and create a world and a people to the best of her ability. But, knowing that a creator who stole godhood away from the Awoken would be seen as evil by many, Mara hid that knowledge from everyone and instead arranged it so that Alis Li would be the one to take the blame. Mara manipulated Alis so that everyone, even Alis herself, believed that Alis was the one who allowed suffering and death into their perfect world. Mara even arranged a war among her peaceful planet of immortals to further her own agenda and she again set Alis up as the one to take the blame.
Maybe, in the end, it turns out that Mara did all this to help save Humanity and fight The Darkness, but what she did to Alis Li is one hell of a thing to ask forgiveness for. And, maybe rightly so, Alis does not forgive Mara. Not in the slightest!
Alis Li rises from her chair. "I'll support your fleet," she says. "I'll use every favor and connection I have to get your Hulls completed and through the gateway—and I will do it so that I can hasten your departure from this world. I will do it out of hate for you; I will do it so that every good and great thing we achieve here will ever after be denied to you, you snake. No forgiveness. Do you understand me? It is unforgivable. Go. Go!"
"I'd be very glad if you didn't tell my mother," Mara says.
Alis Li hurls the pitcher of blackberry tea over Mara, turns, and goes inside, leaving her to trudge, wet and sticky but unbowed, back to her ship. She leaves her tea-stained parasol on the deck, but when she remembers it and looks back, it is already gone.
So now there are two people who know Mara's secret. Her brother Uldren, and her sort of rival, former queen Alis Li. Uldren accepted the secret and its implications but has such faith in his sister that he buried it away from everyone. Alis Li called Mara the devil and promised to do everything in her power to send Mara far away where she will die.
But what about Sjur? She doesn't know. And she is someone who switched sides during the Theodicy War because she believed punishing Alis Li for denying the Awoken their godhood was more important than any other loyalty or responsibility she had to her Queen or her people. She fought and killed and was prepared to murder Mara or Uldren all for that belief. What will she do if she ever learns Mara's secret?
The answer is actually out there. We'll explore it eventually, but next time, we'll close out this first book of Awoken history and get a hint at what's to come.