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  • Daniel James

Destiny 2 Fills in The Speaker's Past and Present

The Speaker | Destiny 2

It’s 2014, and you’ve first started playing Destiny. You’ve entered a staggeringly large world and are just beginning to grasp your place within it. You bounce between venders, each of whom outfit you with new gear, and drop unhelpful exposition. “Can someone tell me what’s going on,” you wonder?

Finally, you’re instructed to visit “The Speaker,” the defacto leader of Humanity. You ascend a flight of stairs to his study, perched beneath a massive, astronomical machine. It’s a series of metal structures, whirling around an etheric sphere. And a man cloaked in white mutters to himself, noting the movements of the machine. This is The Speaker.

He greets you eagerly with a speech. You’re the last hope of humanity, he says. Through a long expository skimming of the game’s backstory, he gives you new questions, ones only you can answer, and it’s here he sends you into the story of Destiny. You grind through the story. Days or months later, you defeat the Heart in the center of the Black Garden, saving the Traveler. You return to the tower, cloaked in majestic new armor and a fiercer step to your stride, but weary of the long war, and the tedious grind.

The Speaker meets you. He gives you a pat on the back and a bag full of quarters, but he has no answers for you. In fact, he pretty much forgets about you entirely. It’s the last time you’ll ever talk to him.

The Speaker is a mysterious character. Despite being the leader of humanity, we know very little about him. His face is perpetually covered and his role in the Tower is vaguely explained. In the late game—as well as The Taken King and Rise of Iron events—he plays no part, even as humanity wages outright war for its existence and stomachs invasions of Earth itself. He sits, withdrawn from us all, in his own, smaller tower. The RPG mechanics behind faction ranks and quests involve all the important vendors of the Tower, yet The Speaker is excluded from these as well. The Speaker is, by all appearances, wholly uninvolved in our struggles.

Rather than regarding him with mystery, though, most players view him as untrustworthy. They doubt his intentions. Dead Orbit, led by Jarach Alal, openly disagrees with his allegiance to The Traveler. New Monarchy is openly hostile, advocating that The Speaker be removed from power, the Consensus be dissolved, and an elected Monarch lead humanity. Imperator Hideo admits to the player character that they actively monitor The Speaker, their headquarters just opposite his study, hinting that they suspect something amiss and are ever ready to take over his role.

Player theories about the Speaker also skew negative. Many suspect him to be an agent of the Darkness. Even more believe that The Traveler may have a hidden agenda that The Speaker keeps from us. In a world where humanity faces perpetual threats from unknown places, our leader’s reticence is a reasonable cause for concern. It’s essential that, going forward in the series, we learn more about his purpose.

But in the opening events of Destiny 2, the Speaker is nowhere to be found. The City is being bombarded, the streets are filled with Cabal troops and the Guardian player rushes to the Speaker’s quarters to save him. The Speaker’s tower has completely collapsed, destroyed by the Cabal shelling. You run onwards, to fight the invaders on the streets, blindly into the war to come.

Speaker's Tower, Destroyed | Gamespot

Gamestop | Youtube

The future of the Speaker concerns us greatly. The Traveler is under attack, the Cabal have physically seized it with an evil apparatus and our powers have been drained from us. Our ability to defend ourselves is derived from the Light, yet our knowledge of the Light is concentrated in this singular, silent individual. With the Speaker gone, we’ve lost our greatest source of knowledge of power. The Cabal question our fitness as Guardians of The Light, and we have no answers. When we wanted them, he was silent and when we need them, he’s gone.

Now would be a good time to question The Speaker himself. It’s heartening, then, that Destiny 2’s cinematic trailer gives us clues to his history and his purpose. It follows Zavala, awoken by his Ghost, post-Collapse. He rises to greet a desolate world, stumbles toward the sky-hung Traveler and finds a woodland settlement beneath. Finding his way through the throngs of displaced, ragged humans, he encounters a gathering in the center. We see a group, sitting by a fire, and we—the player—recognize familiar faces, enraptured by the speeches of a cloaked figure, arms upraised in passion. And by his mask, we recognize him: The Speaker.

The trailer is short, succinct, but goes out of its way in showing this brief scene. In fact, this shot serves as a starting point for the rest of the trailer. From the point forward, Zavala is now a part of the group that becomes the Vanguard. The trailer moves suddenly to an intense, nighttime battle sequence in the Last City, with Shaxx, Zavala, Cayde facing off against The Fallen. It then shifts, through a hard-fought battle into the future they created, in victory. The air is brighter, the sky is clear and humans are working. Zavala brushes sweat from his brow, pushing blocks of stone against each other. We see The Wall, nearly constructed, protecting the Last City from the decayed, infested world.

Bungie narrates the creation of the Vanguard, the safeguarding of The Last City and the institutionalization of Guardians. We see the creation of the state of affairs into which the first game drops us. And at the center of this alliance, The Speaker.

Without a doubt, the Speaker is a source of strength. He has a profound understanding of The Light that even the most experienced Guardians are barely grasping. The new trailer compounds his role among us. He’s one of, if not the primary, center around which humanity recovered. At our weakest, men and women flocked to him, and with inspiration, aspired to Guardianship—and the defense of mankind. While we must nevertheless question our source of strength, we must also allow him his benefit of his legacy.

Interesting theory: Since we’ve never seen The Speaker’s face, and he disappears as The Traveler comes under attack, is it possible that The Speaker is a manifestation of The Traveler? Or even Shin Malphur, the only recorded Guardian to be born with The Light?

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