At the Ishtar Collective we are really excited for Destiny 2.
Most of my friends in the Destiny community are total lore nerds. But every now and then I’ll chat to someone that’s either new to Destiny and unsure where to start with the lore, or they’ve been playing Destiny for a while but never delved into the Grimoire, or they’re interested in Destiny 2 and want to know why the world of Destiny is the way that it is.
So this post is about all of the lore that you need to know prior to the launch of Destiny 2.
Disclaimer: I haven’t played Destiny 2 yet, so this post is based on what we expect so far!
Hundreds of years before the start of Destiny, the Traveler, a giant sphere with mysterious abilities, came to our solar system and ushered in a Golden Age.
The Traveler terraformed Mercury, Venus1, Mars and even the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Human lifespan tripled, and huge technological advances were made.
The power that the Traveler wielded, called ‘the Light’, has not been fully explained, but there are hints that in the Golden Age its nature was close to being understood.
During this Golden Age, humanity built huge colony ships and traveled between the planets. In order to defend its new colonies, mankind built powerful AIs, called Warminds, the most notable of which was the Earth Warmind, Rasputin.
Humanity also built a race of androids known as Exos — robots whose minds had been transferred from humans, and who served as soldiers or bodyguards. One such bodyguard was Cayde-6.
The Golden Age came to an abrupt end, and the exact nature of what happened is still unknown.
What we do know is that something referred to as 'the Darkness'2 attacked our system, defeating the Warminds and pushing the Traveler back to Earth.
Many refugees tried to flee Earth. Some succeeded and made it as far as the asteroid belt; some were trapped in ships on launchpads; and some were stuck on Earth when the Darkness arrived.
The Darkness quickly defeated most of our defenses, including all but one of the Warminds. Rasputin, the last Warmind remaining, calculated that defeat was near and decided to go into hibernation to protect itself. Humanity’s last line of defence was gone, and all hope seemed lost.
The Traveler made its last stand on Earth, releasing a burst of Light that succeeded in pushing back the Darkness.
The burst of Light had another consequence — the refugees in the asteroid belt, caught at the point the Light and the Darkness met, were transformed into something else, called 'the Awoken'.
The Darkness had been pushed back, but the Traveler was seriously damaged.
The Darkness and the Light
Following the Collapse, various alien races began to arrive in our solar system, each with differing motivations, but all of them intent on killing mankind.
The Traveler, crippled but not quite dead, performed one last act — it released the Ghosts, small robots, to search for people that would be able to wield the Light directly on behalf of the Traveler.
This was the start of what became known as Guardians3 — humans, awoken and exos, each resurrected by a Ghost and blessed with powerful abilities to help them fight the various forces attacking our system.
Each Guardian identified with one of the three classes: Titans, Warlocks and Hunters.
Over time refugees made their way to the dormant Traveler, huddling together for protection. The people that settled beneath the Traveler established a city, but they lived in an uneasy alliance — factions with conflicting ideologies began to form. The factions hired Guardians to act as enforcers, and wars between the factions were a common occurrence. Until the city was attacked.
The Fallen (also known as the Eliksni) were a civilization once blessed by the Traveler, but who now lived as scavengers. They wanted to destroy the city to reclaim the Traveler and bring about a new Golden Age for themselves.
United by a common enemy, the city came together, defeating the Fallen in the first great battle of the Last City, the Battle of Six Fronts.
The City Age
In the aftermath of its success against the Fallen, the Last City rallied and began to grow.
One individual, the Speaker, who had been present since the first days of the city, grew to prominence as a representative of the Traveler.
The factions gained representation via an alliance called the Consensus, where spokespeople for the three largest factions could advance their agendas.
And the Guardians organised themselves into the Vanguard, a military organisation headed by three individuals, one for each of the three classes.
Over the course of the City Age, the Vanguard cultivated the city's defenses, and won battles such as Twilight Gap, but they also suffered heavy casualties, such as their attempt to retake the Moon, during which Crota drained the Light from many Guardians, killing them permanently.
The original chapter of Destiny began here, in a solar system beset by various alien races, and where a number of operations by the Vanguard to reclaim our system had failed.
In space, the Awoken (those caught in the asteroid belt) formed a new space-faring civilization called the Reef, ruled by their queen, Mara Sov.
In this chapter of history, the Guardian (i.e. the player) and companions defeated a host of alien threats, starting with the Dark heart worshipped by the Vex in the Black Garden; followed by Crota, the Hive leader that had drained Guardians of their Light on the Moon; then Skolas, Kell of the Fallen House of Wolves; and Aksis, Archon of the House of Devils.
Most relevant to the story of Destiny 2, the Guardian fought and defeated Oryx, the Taken King, father of Crota and leader of the Hive.
The Cabal and the Dreadnaught
Throughout most of Destiny the Cabal were minor players. Locked in a constant battle with the Vex on Mars, they caused only an occasional nuisance to the Vanguard.
The reason for the Cabal’s ineffectiveness against Guardians was that, unlike other races such as the Hive, they were unable prevent Guardians from resurrecting, a fact discussed by Cabal high command:
The primary threat is the Guardians’ individual counter-attrition capability.
Guardians can be rebuilt after even total disintegrative trauma. This capability is provided by a small autonomous drone unit called a Dead Person [trans. unclear]. The Dead Person conceals itself during combat. It is not a viable target for direct fire. Saturation attack by artillery/heavy air/orbital fire may have good effect (although Guardians transmat frequently and refuse to assemble into large formations).
The capture of Hive leadership might yield vital strategic intelligence, including weapons or tactics capable of defeating Guardians permanently.
When Oryx, ruler of the Hive, learned through his son Crota of the location of the Traveler, he brought his fleet, including his enormous Dreadnaught, to our solar system. At Saturn’s rings the Awoken armada engaged Oryx in a massive space battle. Most of the Hive fleet was destroyed, but ultimately the Awoken were defeated, and Queen Mara Sov presumed dead.
Following this battle, the Vanguard started sending Guardians to the Dreadnaught to fight Oryx and his forces. At this point it was discovered that the Cabal had rammed Oryx’s dreadnaught with one of their warships, causing considerable damage but at great cost to the Cabal.
The Cabal commanders in our system had been ordered to assault the Dreadnaught.
As far as we know, the Cabal failed in their attempt to acquire 'anti-Guardian' weaponry from the Hive, Oryx proving too great a threat for the Cabal, but they did manage to send a detailed message to the heart of the Cabal empire.
The Guardians managed to put a stop to Oryx's assault on the system, and the Cabal were once again relegated to a minor threat.
Age of Triumph
After having defeated all of the forces of Darkness yet encountered, the Speaker declared the start of a new age — the Age of Triumph, a celebration of the victories of the Vanguard.
Which brings us to today. The Last City is at relative peace. The king of the Hive, Oryx, has been defeated. The Cabal leadership in the system have been eliminated. And on every planet the Fallen are disappearing.
Perhaps the Guardians have finally won?
There have been hints at what the Darkness is, the biggest being an entry from the Books of Sorrow in the Taken King expansion. ↩