Bite-sized Backstory 35: Betrayal At Cybele (Destiny)
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