With the release of The Taken King, Bungie showed us that they could deliver satisfying story-telling and character development. We got cutscenes! Cayde-6 and Eris Morn turned from sources of one-liners into mildly relatable individuals. And at last, with the Books of Sorrow, we were treated to the backstory we deserved.
And what lore it was! A cohesive narrative, chronicling the birth and rise of the Hive, the deaths of thousands of sentient species, the journey of the Traveler across the cosmos to the place where, at last, it came to rest: Earth. Along the way, we learned about Hive society, power structures, and the millennia-old battle between the Sky and the Deep – of which we appear to be but a small part.
Of course, as with all good storytelling, the Books of Sorrow raised as many questions as they answered. Now, as we look forward to the release of Rise of Iron and a new narrative to tide us over until the release of Destiny 2, let us take a moment to recap some of the greatest unsolved mysteries introduced in The Taken King.
Who knows when we’ll see answers, but if there’s one thing The Taken King did show us, it’s that Bungie has begun to put some thought and purpose into Destiny’s incredibly complex story. If nothing else, I hope that this quick recap inspires you to begin your own investigation into the depths of Destiny lore.
What are the Hive Worms?
Everyone has a theory: the worms are the Ahamkara. The worms aren’t the Ahamkara. The Ahamkara are working for the worms. The Ahamkara were the worms but aren’t anymore. You’ll find theory after theory, and the plain truth is that – so far – we don’t have enough information to do anything more than guess.
What we do know is that the Hive worms share the same speech patterns as the Ahamkara; the famous “Oh [noun] mine” phrasing that we’ve all come to know and love. We know that the word “Worm” (or wyrm) can refer to a dragon-like creature – such as an Ahamkara. And we know that, in the same way the Hive worms are parasites, Cayde-6 refers to the Ahamkara as “Parasitic reptilian critters” in his Treasure Island notes. That they are related in some way seems inarguable.
Furthermore, in talking with Oryx and his siblings, the worms declare themselves gods. But they also tell Oryx that they themselves draw power from the mysterious “Deep,” leaving us to wonder who or what, exactly, is in charge – and what the Deep, or Darkness, really is. It’s incredibly tantalizing stuff, and based on the popularity of the worms and the Ahamkara among devoted Destiny players, there is no doubt that we’ll learn more about both of these groups in the future.
Ah, Nokris, mentioned exactly once in the game. If the player scans the three statues before fighting Oryx at the end of Regicide, their Ghost will state that one of the statues is devoted to a Hive creature named “Nokris.” It then informs us that there is no information on this individual – anywhere. End of story. For some of us, this was uncomfortably close to the infamous Exo Stranger line, “I don’t even have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain.”
But the reality may be more interesting than rushed storytelling. The Books of Sorrow are nothing if not deliberate, and the lengths to which their secrets are tied into the exploration of the Dreadnought is in itself an argument that this particular non-sequitur has some meat behind it.
Several internet theorists have speculated that Nokris was a brother of Crota whom the Vex wiped from time and memory. It’s a compelling theory, but because there’s no real evidence, it remains just that: speculation.
Who or What is Eris Morn?
The Eris Morn worm theory – that Eris survived Crota’s Pits by ingesting or somehow fusing with a Hive worm, thereby gaining her three glowing eyes – has been around since shortly after the release of The Dark Below. In The Taken King, we’re treated to more veiled hints about what really happened to Eris.
There are whispers in her head, she tells us, and they grow silent after the death of Oryx. She pledges allegiance to a Queen of some sort. And, when the player gets caught inside Crota’s burial chamber during the story mission Lost Rites, Eris is somehow able to teleport us to safety. All of these revelations leave us, if possible, even more confused than we already were, and raise some unsettling questions.
Does Eris truly have a worm within her? Is that what is whispering to her, in the same way that Ahamkara-based exotic armor ‘whispers’ to Guardians? It seems very possible, and worm symbiosis is a compelling theory for how Eris Morn managed to survive the Hellmouth.
Which Queen is Eris working for? Is she referring to Queen Mara Sov, the once-presumed-dead sovereign of the reef? Or is she referring to Savathûn, Oryx’s sister, referred to as the Witch-Queen?
Verse 5:2 — strict proof eternal
Verse 5:2 — strict proof eternal
“I have a gift for you,” says Oryx.
Savathûn, Witch-Queen, looks at him with dry wariness. “Is it the sword logic I need to go into the Deep, and take your power for myself?”
Their echoes move among the war-moons, walking together on the hull of a two-thousand-year-old warship. Savathûn’s fleet has assembled here, in preparation for an assault on the Gift Mast. The Deep is headed that way, on the trail of its prey, and the Hive will be its vanguard.
“It’s a Vex I captured. Quria, Blade Transform. It made an attempt to puncture my throne. I thought you might enjoy studying it.” Oryx pauses, digesting — through the bond of lineage he can feel Crota killing, worlds and worlds away, and it tastes like sweet fat. “Quria contains a Vex attempt to simulate me. It might generate others — you, perhaps, or Xivu Arath. I’ve left it some will of its own, so it can surprise you.”
“I suppose it’ll blow up and kill me,” Savathûn grouses. “Or let the machines into my throne, where they’ll start turning everything into clocks and glass.”
“If it kills you, then you deserve to die.” Oryx says it with a quiet thrill, a happy thrill, because it is good to say the truth.
“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 looks at her and for a moment, just a moment, he is nostalgic, he is sentimental. He thinks, imagine the years behind us, the things we’ve done. And yet being old doesn’t feel like a scar, does it? It hasn’t left me dull. I feel alive, alive with you, and every time I step back into this world from my throne I feel like I’m two years old again, at the bottom of the universe, looking up.
But he says, “Sister, it’s us. We’re the proof, we the Hive: if we last forever, we prove it, and if something more ruthless conquers us, then the proof is sealed.”
She looks back at him with eyes like hot needles. “I like that,” she says. “That’s elegant.” Although of course she has had this thought before.
Or, even more intriguingly – are Savathûn and Queen Mara Sov one and the same? There seems to be evidence for each theory, and very little explanation for just how Eris learned to transfer matter across spacetime.
One of the most popular fan-theories is that Mara Sov is Savathûn, and that she, Eris Morn, and Osiris orchestrated Oryx’s arrival in our solar system in order to bring about his end at the hands of the Guardians.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Eris Morn’s story is that she became a fleshed-out character in her own right. She went from concept character to bounty tracker to player favorite, and all signs point to her continued involvement in the labyrinthine machinations of Destiny’s storyline. If nothing else, let’s hope that we’re treated to more individuals of genuine interest when Rise of Iron releases.
Where are Savathûn and Xivu Arath? Taox?
Speaking of Hive Queens, the current whereabouts of both Savathûn and Xivu Arath are unknown. In Book XLVI: The Gift Mast, the sisters make their exits thus:
“Then sayeth Savathûn, “Siblings, listen, we must part ways a while, so that we may grow different.” She flies her war-moons into the black hole. Her throne becomes distant.
Sayeth Xivu Arath, “King Oryx, you take up too much space, your power constrains too many choices. I must go away from you.” She flies her war-moons away into the night. Her throne is barred shut.”
That’s the last that is heard of Oryx’s siblings. Similarly, all that the Books of Sorrow tell us of Taox is that she “Was not found.”
Verse 3:9 — Carved in Ruin
Verse 3:9 — Carved in Ruin
Oryx made war on the Ecumene for a hundred years. At the end of those hundred years he killed the Ecumene Council on the Fractal Wreath, and from their blood rose Xivu Arath, saying, “I am war, and you have conjured me back with war.”
Oryx was glad, for he loved Xivu Arath. The Ecumene wailed in grief.
Then Oryx and Xivu Arath made war on the Ecumene for forty years. At the end of those forty years Oryx said to the Dakaua Nest, listen, I am jealous of my sibling Xivu Arath, help me kill her. And in desperation they agreed.
But he drove the Dakaua Nest into a trap, and they were made extinct. From their ashes rose cunning Savathûn, saying, “I am trickery, and you have conjured me back with trickery.”
Oryx was glad, for he loved Savathûn. The Ecumene fled into the void.
Then they made war on the Ecumene for a thousand years, and exterminated them so wholly that nowhere except in this book are they remembered. This book and the mind of Taox, who was not found.
And Savathûn said, “King Oryx, how will we feed our worms? Did you use my plan?”
Oryx told the Hive: I am the Taken King, and here is my law.
You Thrall, each of you will claw and scream, and kill what you can. Take enough killing to feed your worm, and a little more to grow. Tithe the rest to the Acolyte who commands you.
You Acolytes, lead your Thrall in battle. Take enough killing to feed your worm, and a little more to grow, and take the tithe of the Thrall you lead. Then tithe the remainder to the Knight or Wizard who commands you. Thus you pay tribute.
You Knights and Wizards, lead your followers in battle. Take enough devastation to feed your worm, and a little more to grow, and take the tithe of your followers. Then take another portion, as much as you dare, and use it for your own purposes. But if it is too much, your peers will kill you and take it. Then tithe the remainder to the Ascendant you serve.
An Ascendant will be those among the Hive who gather enough tribute to enter the netherworld. They will pay a tithe to those above them.
And thus the tribute will flow, up the chain, so that Savathûn and Xivu Arath and myself will be fed by a great river of tribute, and we will use that excess to feed our gods, and to study the Deep. Thus all worms will be fed — as long as we continue our crusade.
This is my law. I carve it thus, in ruin. Aiat.
Oryx, now alone, is brought to his end within his Dreadnought, but these other powers are still out there somewhere. Unless, of course, you buy the Mara Savathûn theory. Regardless, there are a lot of potential adversaries that Destiny has yet to throw at us, all of which offer the promise of fascinating revelations to come.
What Have We Done?
Well, we’ve killed Oryx – mostly. Aside from that hungry little bit of him that lives on inside the Touch of Malice, of course. But disregarding all the other unanswered questions that The Taken King has raised, we’re left with a big problem: as Toland the Shattered tells us, killing Oryx has left the Hive throne (or at least this particular throne) empty. He asks the Guardian to fill it – and the Guardian refuses. Toland gets angry – “disastrous, bumbling squanderers,” he calls us. And that’s it. That’s the end. He leaves us with one takeaway:
This is a fantastic storytelling trope that leaves a great deal of room for more twists and turns, and one that I’ve written about in the past. If you’re inclined to read more about the Hive and their links to the mythical figure of the sacrificial king, I invite you to read this very in-depth Reddit post I once wrote on the subject.
Whether the “strongest one” will be Savathûn-turned-Mara-Sov, whether it will be Eris Morn or Xivu Arath or Toland himself or someone or something else entirely, we don’t know. We do know that we, the Guardians, seem to be bumbling through the narrative, sowing chaos, but that many agents in the game have hinted that we’re acting according to someone else’s plan. We are, as Eris Morn says in the final cinematic, “the key.”