For the launch of The Witch Queen we've partnered with Bungie to create a series of guides and explainer videos. These are being made by some of the best known Destiny 2 content creators and experts, in this case lore master Myelin Games. For full disclosure anything published as part of this program will include this panel.
In Destiny 2’s next major expansion, we’re finally taking the fight to Savathûn, the Hive goddess of cunning. The Witch Queen is a battle that has been years in the making, but before forming a fireteam and entering her creepy 'throne world', it’s important to understand the threat she poses.
Those new to Destiny 2, or who’ve been on a break, may well be wondering why this cackling moth lady is so dangerous, given that us guardians have already killed a couple of gods. You also need to know that, narratively, the Witch Queen promises to be the most untrustworthy expansion to date, stuffed with all sorts of secrets and lies.
The best way to uncover the truth is to first understand the past, which is why I’m here to give you a lore primer. For the full experience, hit the video link above.
The origin of the Hive
To grasp Savathûn's motives, we need to go back to the beginning. The Hive we know today are very different from their original form. The Books of Sorrow—essentially a Hive biography—refer to them as the proto-Hive or Krill. This race was stranded on a planet called The Fundament, where multiple factions existed. Two main groups emerged, those loyal to the Helium Court and those loyal to the Osmium King. While the proto-Hive often fought with each other, they were also at the mercy of numerous predatory species and even the toxic planet itself.
The Krill were at the bottom of the food chain and suffered brutal, short lives. The Osmium King had three children (Aurash, Xi Ro and Sathona) who eventually transformed into the Hive Royalty we know today (Oryx, Xivu Arath and Savathûn). They're absolutely not the kind of family you want to have over for dinner.
A bargain with Worms
You may be thinking: "Savathûn sounds less like an existential threat, and more like someone who booked the wrong intergalactic AirBnB", which was true, until the Hive siblings encountered the Worms. The Krill's urgency to leave the planet was increased by the threat of a tidal wave, a cataclysmic event that would wipe out trillions. The Krill noted that it was the Traveler (yes, the same flying golf ball which gives the guardians their powers) that aimed to cause this calamity by aligning itself with the 52 moons of the Fundament.
Why would the Traveler wreak such destruction? Well, in the depths The Fundament's oceans lived Worm gods that had been imprisoned by agents of the Light. In order to escape, they needed to form a symbiotic pact with another species. If a tidal wave wiped out all potential hosts then the Worms would be trapped forever. From the Traveler's point of view, when it came to slaughtering all life on the planet, the ends justified the means. Which is an interesting reminder that the good/evil binary in Destiny isn’t quite as clear as it might initially seem, but also a reminder that we maybe shouldn't trust a book written by the Hive in the first place.
Anyway! To ensure the survival of their species, Oryx, Savathûn, and Xivu Arath took a ship to the depths of The Fundament's ocean and made a bargain with the Worm gods. Oryx agreed that all Krill would consume a worm larva in order to create a symbiotic pact between the races. And so the Krill became the Hive. (You can still see evidence of this ancient bargain today when you destroy a Hive and the larva is expelled.) In return, the Worms would provide the Hive with immortality and incredible power. There was, of course, a substantial catch: The worms needed to be constantly fed, otherwise they would consume their host.
There are two ways to feed a Worm. 1) Constant killing as a form of tribute. This method applies to all Hive—they must keep killing or perish. 2) Never disobey their nature. This method is specific to the Hive royalty. Essentially they must stay completely true to themselves, or die. So, Oryx must never stop exploring and discovering, Xivu Arath must constantly test her strength, and Savathûn must never abandon cunning.
That's why Savathûn is known as the sister of trickery. It is both her nature and her curse, because if she takes any other path she will be eaten by her Worm. After the bargain, Oryx and his sisters went on to conquer The Fundament, growing in power from all the killing, eventually enabling the Hive (and the Worm gods) to escape before the tidal wave hit. What the Hive did not initially grasp was that the Worms' hunger is endless. As they fed their Worms, the parasites became more powerful and hungrier, requiring an ever-greater tithe of death and destruction.
Why does Savathûn want to steal the light?
The simplest answer is that Savathûn wants to escape the never-ending cycle imposed by her Worm. Savathûn has employed numerous schemes in the past to keep her worm sated, but all have eventually proved inadequate. She has experimented with black holes, fed her worm with deception and trickery (rather than killing), and even placed a time loop on the Dreaming City, cursing the whole region to become a giant murder battery. Despite it all, her Worm wants more.
Which makes it all the more significant that in 'Exorcism', the final weekly mission of the current season, Savathûn has her worm removed by Mara Sov, the Awoken Queen. The cut scene ends with Savathûn having seemingly escaped, and the Worm now in Mara Sov's possession.
[Editor's note: Myelin's video was recorded just before Exorcism dropped, at which point Savathûn/Osiris was still trapped inside a crystal.]
We can presume that Savathûn wants to steal the Light to replace the powers of the Worm, thereby maintaining her strength and immortality. In the past, several Destiny villains have attempted to steal the light and failed, so what's her plan?
How will Savathûn ‘steal’ the light?
We can't yet say for sure, but we do know that she has been scheming ever since Season of the Hunt (Season 12). Around that time, Osiris lost his Ghost, Sagira, in a battle against Xivu Arath. His lightless body was found by Savathûn, who either possessed or impersonated him, locking the real Osiris in an unknown location. While masquerading as Osiris, here's a non-exhaustive list of what she got up to:
- Sowed dissent among the Vanguard and tried to get Zavala killed by the Cabal.
- Built a friendship with Crow, restored his pre-guardian memories, and used him to acquire a bunch of dead Ghosts from the Spider on the Tangled Shore.
- Reclaimed the Crown of Sorrow (a Hive device used for mind control).
- Spread a viral song around the City, the purpose of which remains unknown, but is bound to be even worse news than having Phil Collins stuck in your head.
We don't fully understand the significance of these deceptions. For example, restoring Crow’s memories drove him away from his sister, Mara Sov—but was that the goal, or does Savathûn plan to leverage her friendship with Crow to steal the light somehow? What we can say for certain is that something big is about to happen. Savathûn has set up the chess board and is about to make her play. When she gains the Light, she will have access to the same powers that Guardians do, and will be able to use it to modify her Throne World in unknown ways.
Uh, what is a throne world again?
The Hive were the first beings to establish throne worlds, although Mara Sov, Queen of the Awoken, was also able to create one with the assistance of Riven, a wish dragon. Exactly what's required to make a throne world isn't clear, but we do know that throne worlds can be molded by paracausal beings through sheer will and desire. The only way to truly defeat someone who has a throne world is to slay them within it.
Savathûn's throne world is unlike anything we have previously seen. It features an alabaster castle blessed by the Light, and a murky jungle containing a downed pyramid ship. A throne world is the representation of its owner's psyche, which is why Savathûn's represents the Hive rejecting the Darkness of their past and embracing the Light. Bear in mind, though, that nothing is as it seems. Savathûn hints at this when she says that her throne world is "indistinguishable from her own mind." Or in other words: Trust nothing.
What happens next?
In the Witch Queen campaign, Guardians will enter Savathûn's throne world, presumably in an attempt to permanently take her out. However, when it comes to the sister of trickery, it’s unlikely to be so simple. We can assume that her throne world has been modified by the Light, which may affect how it functions. Savathûn knows the importance of throne worlds, would she allow Guardians to enter so easily? Doesn't this whole thing feel a lot like a trap?
You are now armed with the history of the Hive. It’s almost time to enter Savathûn's throne world and discover the truth for yourself.