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Destiny 2 players spent weeks grinding to end the Dreaming City's curse, but may have made things worse

(Image credit: Bungie)

It took Clan Redeem just under 19 hours to become the first fireteam in the world to complete the Last Wish raid. When they did, a message was broadcast all Destiny 2 players: "A team of six Guardians entered the heart of the Dreaming City and slew Riven of a Thousand Voices. They had no way of knowing that was exactly what Riven wanted…" And with that, the curse had been unleashed.

The curse placed upon the Dreaming City was modeled upon the recursive timeloop computations of the Vex and made real through the power of a Taken Ahamkara feeding upon the unified wish of six elite Guardians.

act|choose|react, Truth to Power

For over a year now, the Dreaming City destination has been afflicted by this curse. The Taken invade the city, the Guardians charge the Blind Well and, on the third week—when the curse is at its strongest—kill the Hive wizard Dûl Incaru, triggering a time loop and resetting the curse back to its weakest state. The curse has played out this way every three weeks for over a year—the Awoken who live there forced to repeat the same actions over and over again, all while knowing that there's nothing they can do to change things.

This loop gave a natural rhythm to Destiny's second year, but failed to offer any conclusion, which didn't stop players looking for one. It's that search to end the curse that led to a player called, wonderfully, bagel4k playing hundreds of hours of Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, all thanks to a single line tucked away in a lore book which, by its own admission, is full of lies.

Truth to 999 Power

(Image credit: Bungie)

In the lore book Truth to Power—which players can slowly unlock, chapter by chapter, once every three weeks when the curse is at its strongest—players are given an instruction that appears to signal the method to ending the Dreaming City's curse. During a description of a waking hallucination in the chapter act|choose|react, the player receives a letter which reads: "Achieve Light Level 999 and defeat Dûl Incaru in a one-person fireteam to unlock the true ending of the Dreaming City".

Lore Glossary

(Image credit: Bungie)

Oryx: The Taken King, brother of Savathûn. Dead. You killed him.
Savathûn: Witch-Queen of the Hive, big fan of lies and cunning. A problem yet to be solved.
Dûl Incaru: Daughter of Savathûn. Is killed every three weeks.
Riven: A wish-granting dragon. Dead, but by design. Destiny's lore is wild.
Mara Sorv: Queen of the Awoken. Briefly dead. It's complicated.
The Awoken: Human colonists that declared neutrality in the war against Darkness and Light. Now they're blue. It's complicated.
Eris Morn: Three-eyed Guardian who was part of doomed mission to kill Crota, Oryx's son, on the moon. Big fan of The Cure. 

When Truth to Power was released during Forsaken, players were unable to reach power level 999. With Shadowkeep, though, they can—it just takes a very, very long time. This season, Destiny 2's max level is 960, and even then only by earning gear from rare 'pinnacle' sources. But Shadowkeep also introduces a new seasonal artifact that lets you boost your power above the cap infinitely—provided you're prepared to grind out the necessary XP.

That made 999 theoretically achievable. The problem is that each new level requires more XP than the last. Based on his season rank of 1122, to earn the +46 power bonus he needed to reach 999, bagel4k had to grind 111,500,000 XP. Bear in mind that a typical bounty might only aware a few thousand XP, and it's clear that is a lot of bounties, even accounting for XP gain boosters such as a ghost shell with the Guilding Light perk.

According to the automated chat message bagel4k added to his Twitch channel to save answering the same question ad nauseam, his process involved picking up Moon bounties, completing them in a Lost Sector, and then repeating the process. Over and over, day and night.

Even then, reaching 999 power was only the first step of the quest. Next, bagel4k had to kill Dûl Incaru in a one-person fireteam—meaning completing a solo run of the Shattered Throne dungeon. Fortunately, with Shadowkeep, Bungie separated the Shattered Throne from the Dreaming City loop, meaning players no longer have to wait until the curse is at its strongest to enter the dungeon. Nevertheless, bagel4k was unfamiliar with the Shattered Throne.

Step forward Destiny 2 streamer Gladd—a member of the Clan Redeem fireteam that triggered the curse, and generally regarded as a PvE god in the game—who offered to coach bagel4k through the dungeon.

Despite some fairly unsympathetic backseat driving from Twitch chat, bagel4k got the job done on the second attempt. Dûl Incaru was dead at the hands of a 999 player and... nothing happened. There was no message, no reward, no reaction at all. The curse was still in place.

Somebody hadn't been entirely honest. 

Stretching the Truth

(Image credit: Bungie)

In terms of its framing, Truth to Power is a fascinating piece of writing—a rabbit hole of sci-fi concepts and nested perspectives that each call the other into question. First it is a message that claims to be from Eris Morn, which is revealed to be a deception by an AI called Medusa, who is revealed to be a simulation of Quria, Blade Transform, who simulates an encounter with Dûl Incaru, who delivers a message from her mother, the Witch-Queen Savathûn, sister of Oryx and one of the three original Hive. At the end, the writer, who claims once again to be Eris, says they made it all up out of embarrassment.

I'm going to refinance my entire existence. I'm going to move from an existential economy based on the accumulation of violence to an existential economy based on the accumulation of secrets and the tribute of failing-to-understand-me.

Thank you, Truth to Power

The most likely answer is the whole thing—each layer and every lie—is a game Savathûn is playing with the Guardian who killed her brother Oryx. She is the one who used Riven—the last of the wish-granting dragons that Destiny's fiction inexplicably has—to create the curse. As for the reason, a possible answer lies in the Truth to Power chapter Thank you, which describes her plan to transfer the source of her tribute—which the Hive feed to their god-worms in order to keep from being consumed from within—from murder to cunning.

The Dreaming City effectively functions as both. The practical effect of the time loop ensures an infinite battlefield—a war that builds and ends and resets again. But the curse itself is a mystery. It invites speculation. It invites players to attempt to reach 999 power in order to save the city.

Wherever a being should attempt to understand me and fail—has my cunning not defeated theirs? Wherever a falsehood is repeated about me, have I not displayed cunning? I shall gather tribute from every false prediction, misguided theory, fearful rumor, and ominous supposition which derives from the thought of me.

Thank you, Truth to Power

Of course, this passage is likely also a lie—or at least not the whole truth—but it does seem to match with the blog post Bungie released following bagel4k's run. Between the lines of their congratulatory prose is a message from Savathûn, which reads, in part, "I have set the snare and baited the trap. Is victory so easy, hero? I am the finality, the reward—I am the true ending."

The implication, simply, is that in attempting to solve the curse, players have actually empowered Savathûn by proving her cunning.

It may seem disappointing that Bungie's only response to the 999 power run was a blog post. And yes, likely it was because Bungie didn't expect players to reach 999 this season, or didn't think it would become a community event, or just decided the ongoing stories of Shadowkeep and the current Season of the Undying were more deserving of their time and resources.

But also, Savathûn's responding in the real world can be explained in the story too.

I came to find you, only you, because you're special. You're from somewhere real. And together we can burn our way back there. Can't we, o player mine?

Skull of Dire Ahamkara

There are hints—in the lore tabs of armour pieces made of the bones of the wish dragons—that suggest not only can they perceive a reality outside of the Destiny universe, but that they're actively interested in our Guardians as avatars of another world.

I'd consider this a fringe interpretation of Destiny's lore, mostly because it's very silly. But, if true, it does suggest that, thanks to Riven's involvement with the curse, Savathûn could also be drawing power from the players who debate her plans outside of the game. Like when you read about them here, for instance.

Or maybe it's all just lies, o reader mine.

Phil leads PC Gamer's UK team. He was previously the editor of the magazine, and thinks you should definitely subscribe to it. He enjoys RPGs and immersive sims, and can often be found reviewing Hitman games. He's largely responsible for the Tub Geralt thing, but still isn't sorry.