Bite-sized Backstory 25: The Harmony and the Ahamkara (Destiny)
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.
- Xivu Arath clearly recognizes the dragons as the same type of creature as her gods. She is offended by their “smug freedom” and wants them captured and locked away in cells. “Our gods should be ours alone.” seems pretty clear cut.
- We soon see that these dragons were working with the Harmony against the Hive. The Harmony’s dragons somehow grant the Harmony the ability to fight the Hive on the ascendant plane. As mentioned, this is unprecedented and unique out of all the Hive’s wars in the Books of Sorrow.
- The Hive’s worm gods laugh and laugh at Savathûn dissecting the dragons in secret instead of freaking out and demanding the Hive take immediate action to destroy them as they did when the Vex invaded Oryx’s throne world. Perhaps this is because not even Oryx has managed to truly kill a worm god. He “killed” Akka to gain the secrets that allowed him to Take enemies, but we are later told that Akka is still somehow alive.
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:
- In V: Needle and Worm, Sathona’s worm familiar says “…listen closely, oh vengeance mine…”
- In VIII: Leviathan, Sathona, who has been listening to the whispers of her dead worm god familiar says: “Let us dive, oh sisters mine.”
- In XII: Out of the Deep, a worm god speaking to Xivu Arath as the royal sisters chase Taox across Fundament says: “Reality is a fine flesh, oh generals ours. Let us feast of it.”
- In the Kagoor card, Kagoor’s worm says: “…this is the shape of joy, oh ruler mine.”
Contrast this with Humanity’s Ahamkara:
- They appeared on Venus at some point after the Traveler arrived. The Ishtar Collective, including Maya Sundaresh who might be the Exo Stranger, originally traveled to Venus to study the Ahamkara. It was only later that they found the Vex ruins.
- After the collapse, the Ahamkara were somehow still around. They were sought out for power and knowledge and for answers to questions no one had known to ask. Guardians sought them driven by hope, or vengeance, or despair. But the price of this knowledge was somehow too great and The City decided to make the Ahamkara extinct. We aren’t told what the price was exactly, but kicking off a “Great Ahamkara Hunt” with the goal of making the creatures extinct must have meant the price was pretty darn high!
- In Ghost Fragment: Legends 3, we hear about the Great Ahamkara hunt. Except we get this disturbing bit at the end:
And thus the Ahamkara were made extinct, their call silenced, their solipsistic flattering erased, their great design - if it ever existed - broken.
Of this you can be assured, oh reader mine
(Meaning the entire card was dictated by an Ahamkara?! )
- In Ghost Fragment: Warlock, we see a Warlock telling the story of how he accidentally sent a female Hunter chasing after an Ahamkara but telling her that there was no way she’d be able to kill one. He was showing off and was sure he’d sent her to her death. Apparently Ahamkara are quite powerful?
More than that though, we see a chilling key phrase: He calls the Ahamkara “The dragon that made promises”! That is super huge! It links the Ahamkara which had previously been called “parasitic reptilian critters” to the concept of dragons and thus the Harmony and thus the Hive.
- Amusingly, if you were paying attention to the item descriptions, there is a Ahamkara Scale that is a hunter class item which has the description: “And that Warlock thought I couldn’t do it. Hah!” :)
- The Ahamkara are also mentioned in relation the Osiris in that one of his flaws or slights was chasing after Ahamkara lore. They are also clearly, if indirectly, mentioned in the card Ocean of Storms 2:
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:
- Claws of Ahamkara: “Look at all this life, oh bearer mine. There is so much left to burn.”
- Sealed Ahamkara Grasps: “Plating the Ahamkara bones in silver helps to quiet the auditory hallucinations… oh bearer mine.”
- Skull of Dire Ahamkara: “Reality is the finest flesh, oh bearer mine. And are you not… hungry?” (Almost word for word what the worm god said back on Fundament hundreds of thousands or millions of years before!)
- Young Ahamkara’s Spine “Give me your arm, oh bearer mine. Let me help you fill the world with teeth.”
We also have a couple of pieces of armor that don’t directly speak as a worm god / Ahamkara but seem related nonetheless:
- Voidfang Vestments: “YOU WILL DREAM OF TEETH AND NOTHING ELSE” (This relates to Oryx’s dream of himself and his father where he saw nothing but his teeth in the reflection of his father’s goggles.)
- Long Tomorrow 9G: “Some of ‘em survived. I know a fellow says he saw a wish dragon on Jupiter a ways back.” (Again, linking the Ahamkara to the ideas of dragons that grant wishes!)
- And most recently with the Age of Triumph we got the Knuckles of Eao: "Boons I grant you, oh bearer mine, but debts must be paid in time."
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:
- In all three cases, these creatures seem to put themselves in a position where they can make terrible, costly bargains in exchange for helping address other creatures’ desires for hope, vengeance, or despair. That is, they grant wishes, but at a very high cost.
- In the Hive’s case, their motives seem fairly clear. By having the Hive ingest their larvae, these worm gods grant the Hive near immortality and fantastic powers, but they also feed upon the destruction the Hive cause. And they don’t just feed, their hunger expands faster than the destruction they consume so that ultimately the Hive are forced to implement a massive pyramid scheme of tribute that flows upward.
- In the Harmony’s case, we don’t learn anything about what they traded to their dragons in exchange for the power to hold the entire Hive in a 150 year deadlock, but it does seem that the Harmony only turned to their dragons in a time of despair.
- In Humanity’s case, we are told directly that Guardians sought out the Ahamkara for the same reasons, but that the knowledge and power that the Ahamkara offered came at such high a price that The City eventually decided that they needed to be completely exterminated.
- It is an Ahamkara itself, it seems, that taunts at us over the results of The City’s “Great Ahamkara Hunt.” It seems to be suggesting that even being hunted down and killed by the Guardians did nothing to stop the Ahamkara’s grand design. This would be consistent with Oryx’s inability to kill Akka. Not only that, but we have evidence that at least one Ahamkara survived on Jupiter.
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!)