Destiny Lore: What Does a World Without Light Look Like?
The Gameplay reveal of Destiny 2 will take place Live from Los Angeles on May 18, and a select group of media members and community members were invited to take part. On their invitations were these words:
“Welcome to a world without Light.”
In the Destiny teaser, we’re shown the premise of our characters’ plight: A Cabal Invasion of the Tower.
Here, Bungie has revealed the premise of the world of Destiny 2. The terms “Light” and “Dark” were thrown around in a vague and carefree fashion that frustrated players and ultimately detracted from the overall storytelling. They told a story and glued “Light” and “Dark” nameplates to the various elements. With this latest tease, Bungie tells us that the Light (and presumable the darkness) will have its own story. Great scifi requires great symbolism, and Destiny has that potential in spades.
With this in mind, and the weight of three years of lore beneath out feet, it’s due time to examine what Light and Dark mean to a Guardian. The vague explanation in vanilla Destiny tells us very little, and the follow up installments abandoned these concepts in favor of more grounded storytelling. A great reference, though, is the Grimoire.
Refer to the tale of Thorn. It tells a tale of sorrow, anger, pride and murder that we experienced via the gun’s unbalanced reign of terror in the late stages of Year 1. It was amidst the despair and anguish that consumed so many players that many of us turned to the grimoire. We learned the story of three Guardians: Dredgen Yor, Jaren Ward and Shin Malphur—in a story whose conclusion was unknown until the Age of Triumph.
TL;DR: A Hunter turns from the light, into sorrow, and the rose is consumed by thorns. Pride destroys the man, and another darker one takes his place.
Did that explain anything? No? I didn’t think so. All we need to know is that Guardians are fallible, Guardians can die and Guardians can be swayed—through fear, wrath, pride—into all kinds of evil. But that’s not all we want to know.
It’s at this intersection of Light and Dark, that Destiny’s grimoire tells the most interesting story in the entire game.
Even beyond the compelling characters within, the tale of Dredgen Yor gives us our best look at elements that the series entirely ignores: How do Guardians receive the Light? What does the dark do to us? How does death effect our relationship with Light and Dark?
Rezzyl Azir was a Guardian who fought back the Fallen invasion of Earth. During a battle, he intentionally allows himself to die—and as the Fallen gather to gloat over the body—revives himself to kill them. Azir shows abnormal comfort with his control over death, and pushes the boundaries of what the Light allows him to do.
He investigates the Moon, discovering the Hive—who, unbeknownst to humanity, have tunneled beneath the surface and thrived for centuries. He and his ghost encounter a “dark, ethereal woman in tattered ceremony and armored with ornate bone.” We now know that this was a Hive Wizard. In his curiosity, he mistakenly allows her to curse him. At this time, the Wizard was known as Xyor, the Betrothed.
“I am the coming storm. Soon your light will shatter and die.”
Despite his ghost’s recommendations, Azzir refuses to inform the Tower Vanguard of what he’s discovered—fully aware of their threat to humanity and the Light. His curiosity in the Darkness outweighs both his desire for self-preservation as an individual and a member of his race.
He later fights a horde of thrall, and, after depleting his auto rifle ammunition, uses it as a club, before relying on his hand cannon--Rose. In victory, having slain an enemy none of his peers had encountered, he took a pouch of their bones and fused it to Rose.
It wasn’t until later that he realized it had transformed his beautiful Rose weapon into a more hideously cruel one: Thorn, the first weapon of sorrow. When displaying the weapon to a commoner in an outpost, he ponders the reality of living nightmare, and true cruelty, before killing the civilian and his friends. In a separate confrontation with his Ghost, his motives and commitment to the light are interrogated, revealing that Rezzel Azzir is no more.
Dredgen Yor walks the Earth, wielding a jagged purpose: Thorn.
In later years, he’s idolized by a group known as the Shadows of Your, Guardians who use replicas of Thorn—indicating that the Thorn used by the player is, possibly, a replica, not the actual weapon. However, Azir is canonically dead by the time of the game’s events. The player recovers the weapon directly from Xyor, now The Unwed, so it may either be a new Thorn, a replica of Thorn, or the real Thorn—assuming Xyor recovered the weapon from the deceased Yor.
Members of the Shadows of Yor rename themselves in a similar fashion. Members include Dredgen Bane and Dredgen Vale, previously ‘Teben Grey’ and ‘Zure Orsa.’ They claim he had no choice but to commit his misdeeds and that the tales of his betrayals are lies. These members, like Yor, push the boundaries of the Light, emulating him as far as they can, barring corruption of the Light. It’s a curious balance for us to encounter. Nowhere else in the lore can we find such explicit and detailed interaction with these concepts. The controversy of Yor’s actions, and the reactions to him further interrogate this balance, as we meet a new character:
Shin Malphur, whose calling to the Light is as unsettling and remarkable as Yor’s falling from it.
Shin Malphur was a refugee orphan, trained by the Hunter, Jaren Ward. Ward—the original wielder of The Last Word—recognized that Malphur carried the light. Under his tutelage, the orphan became a Guardian, and eventually hunted and killed Dredgen Yor. He remains the only known Guardian to have never died, and may be the the first Gunslinger. As a Guardian, he worked to take on the Shadows of Yor and their dangerous experiments in the Crucible, after the Vanguard refuses to intervene. Alternately, he’s allowed to kill Guardians at his own discretion, which no other character, including the player, are permited. He’s named the “renegade Guardian,” but is still considered an active and friendly operator, unlike other departed members.
Dredgen Yor, then consumed by the Darkness, allegedly destroyed his home settlement and killed Jaren Ward. He spared Malphur and Ward’s ghost, hoping to take Ward’s apprentice as his own and teach him the ways of the Darkness. Yor had furthermore murdered two guardians—Pahanin and Thalor—with Thorn, in the Crucible. It’s here that Dredgen Yor seems to have completely turned to the Darkness, not necessarily fulfilling an external desire or quest, but acting on his own volition.
In a world without light, as we’ll confront within Destiny 2, the true horror may be what Guardians are capable of in self-satisfaction, rather than coercion or weakness.
It’s impossible to guess at what his next move would have been. Was this self-gratifying wonton violence his initiation into a larger force? Or was it entirely the enacted will of a man, cleansed of the boundaries of the Light? It’s troubling to consider, but the Traveller’s Light is not a natural state for man: it raises fallen warriors from the dead, and is a guiding force to its own ends. A man, freed from this, may snap—or resort to his most base desires and curiosities. We’ll never know.
Shin Malphur took up The Last Word, hunted him down to Dwindler’s Ridge and killed him.
The most recent cards regarding Dredgen Yor and Shin Malphur were added during the Age of Triumph, just before the Destiny 2 trailer was released. Undoubtedly, this tale fits into Bungie’s plans for Destiny 2. Previous theories caused many to theorize that Dredgen Yor and Jaren Ward were the same gunslinger, but updated grimoire confirms that Azir became Yor—post curse.
Themes of a world without Light will radically change the gameplay and RPG elements, but within the story, we have character who predicate Guardians without Light and Guardians who act with the Darkness. All of these, Bungie aims to explore in Destiny 2.
This story is also notable as it’s the only example of Guardians killing each other for non-faction reasons, outside of war. It speaks to personal motivation, something Destiny characters mostly lacked. Most interestingly, Shin Malphur is the most notable Guardian in the game, likely more significant than even the player character. His relationship with the Light is something that sets him apart and his continued relationship with the Tower, while exploring the Sol system, tells us that we should expect him to play a significant role in this universe.
So what is Light?
All Light users are connected through the Traveler. Guardians can wield it as weapons. Ghosts are constructed via light. The Guardian usage of Light is separated into the three elemental subclasses. Note that despite being defined as a burn class, not all burn classes are of the light. For instance, Poison.
Degree of Light/mastery over it is defined by armor/weapons a guardians uses. It’s unknown if the gear itself imparts Light mastery or if Light mastery is simply represented by superior gear.
Light seems to be randomly allotted as not all humans have it and not all that have it are Guardians. For instance, during the 4 centuries of The Dark Age, warlords were effectively Light empowered individuals who used it to subjugate people and control swathes of territory, prior to the formation of the Iron Lords and eventual Guardians. Additionally, untrained humans with no gear can possess Light—eg: Shin Malphur. It should be noted, though, that he’s considered exceptional in that he’s the only Guardian to have never been resurrected from death before bonding with a ghost, indicating that he may be unique in his Light capabilities.