Feature Article

Destiny 2 Witch Queen Story Explained: The Witness, Savathun's Plans, And What It All Means

A lot happens in the story campaign of Destiny 2's latest expansion, The Witch Queen, setting up the game's next chapter. Here's everything that happened, what the deal is with the Witness, and what's coming next.

Warning: This article is all spoilers. None of it is not spoilers. Don't read this until you've finished playing through The Witch Queen's story.

The Witch Queen represents a culmination of story threads that developer Bungie has been weaving through Destiny 2 for years, especially since the launch of its last expansion, Beyond Light. A whole lot happens in the story campaign of the latest expansion, as players explore the throne world of the Hive god of cunning, Savathun, trying to uncover how she gained access to the incredible space magic powers that make Guardians nearly immortal killing machines and the machinations of the entity known as The Witness. The story comes with a lot of twists and turns that require you to understand some deep cuts of Destiny lore, and also sets up a whole bunch more questions for the future.

If you're not immersed in Destiny 2's story, history, and background lore, though, you might have been a little lost--even though the game does a pretty good job of keeping everything fairly casual. There's a lot going on in this story with some deep implications for all the characters involved; The Witch Queen shakes up the status quo pretty significantly and sets up the game's next chapter. Below, we're breaking down everything that happened in The Witch Queen's story campaign, from the fate of Savathun to the questions surrounding the Witness.

Savathun, the Darkness, and the Hive worms

Savathun was told of a world-ending cataclysm coming to Fundament by spooky whispers from this dead maggot, the
Savathun was told of a world-ending cataclysm coming to Fundament by spooky whispers from this dead maggot, the "worm familiar."

First, there's a little background you need to understand about the Hive to see how Savathun's story has unfolded. Eons before the start of the game, the Hive were a species known colloquially as the krill, living on continents of a gas giant called Fundament with more than 500 sentient alien species. The krill were short-lived and found themselves prey for just about everything else, despite having developed a complex society. Back then, Savathun was known as Sathona, and she and her sisters, Aurash (who would become Oryx) and Xi Ro (who would become Xivu Arath) were the heirs to their father, a krill called the Osmium King.

As the Osmium King pushed into old age for the krill, he started raving about a coming apocalypse: the alignment of all 52 of Fundament's moons, the gravity of which would draw the oceans of Fundament in one direction until the alignment dissipated. When the gravity abated, the water would drop back into place, creating a massive tidal wave that would annihilate all life on the planet. The Osmium King's ravings led to a member of his court to betray him, working with another nearby nation to assassinate him. Sathona and her sisters fled, but Sathona left with something of her father's: a strange dead worm he'd found and kept with him always.

This "worm familiar" was the one who'd warned the Osmium King about the end of the world; despite the worm being dead, he could still hear it talking to him. The worm familiar continued to whisper warnings to Sathona and guided her and her sisters into the oceans of Fundament, where they discovered five huge worm gods--like Xol, the Hive worm god players fought and killed during Destiny 2's Warmind expansion. Sathona and her sisters made a pact with the gods, who promised them the power to survive the coming cataclysm. To get that power, the sisters would take worm larvae into their bodies and feed them through death and conquest forever. The pact with the worm gods turned the krill into the Hive, giving them incredible power and turning them into a force that would conquer every form of life they came across for millennia.

During the last year, Savathun has turned against the worms and the Darkness power they worship, and has been trying to break her pact with them. Breaking that pact is what unfolded in the Season of the Lost. If the Hive stop feeding their worms through constant death and conquest, the worms will consume them, so Savathun's plan through the last year was to create a situation in which she could have her worm removed. That happened in the Season of the Lost, when Mara Sov helped Savathun, all the while enacting the secret plan to kill Savathun once the worm was gone and she became vulnerable.

We find out in The Witch Queen that actually, Mara's plan worked. Savathun escaped the Dreaming City in the Season of the Lost, but she was actually grievously wounded by Mara. Savathun made it to the Last City, where she spoke to the Traveler, and then died. Right then, however, Savathun was discovered by a Ghost called Immaru, and resurrected as a Guardian--just like humans have been.

Chosen by the Traveler

During the story, we find out that Savathun did not
During the story, we find out that Savathun did not "steal" the Light--she received it the same way human Guardians do, which they consider to be a gift from the Traveler.

Savathun's death and resurrection by a Ghost is a really big deal in the world of Destiny. First, up to now, only humans have ever been Guardians, whether they're Earthborn, Awoken, or Exos (which are robots with human minds). Second, it's generally believed that the people who are resurrected as Guardians--who are basically immortal superheroes--are "chosen" by the Travelever, through the Ghosts, which the Traveler created. It's a bit convoluted, but Ghosts wander around searching the solar system, sometimes for hundreds of years, to find the one (dead) person who is supposed to be their Guardian. You see this at the start of the New Light campaign when you first start playing Destiny 2: Your Ghost finds you after hundreds of years of searching, the one person he's supposed to be bonded with.

So based on this common understanding, Savathun was also chosenby the Traveler to wield the power of the Light. Guardians think that the Traveler chooses people for resurrection because of some inherent qualities or nobility; after all, if there wasn't something special about you, why wouldn't your Ghost just resurrect the first person it came across? But Savathun and the Hive are basically the worst people in the universe, having done nothing but war and genocide for millions or maybe billions of years. Savathun has been personally responsible for the deaths of a whole lot of people, including other Guardians and Ghosts. The Traveler choosing her creates a crisis of faith among people like Ikora and Zavala, the Vanguard leaders who believe in the inherent goodness of the Traveler.

We don't know what the Traveler was thinking or why it made this choice, though. We also don't know what it means that, in the final moments of The Witch Queen, the Traveler left Savathun's throne world and took Immaru, her Ghost, with it, but left Savathun's body behind. This does leave open a very large and particular door, however: If Immaru is still alive, he could resurrect Savathun once again. Ikora sends her spy agents, the Hidden, to collect Savathun's body specifically to keep that from happening--but as long as Immaru is alive, Savathun could be too.

That seems to suggest that the Traveler made a very deliberate choice to take Immaru out of harm's way. We don't know why.

Savathun's giant scheme

Savathun left a trail through her throne world for us to follow, helping her recover her memories after she became a Guardian.
Savathun left a trail through her throne world for us to follow, helping her recover her memories after she became a Guardian.

The plot of The Witch Queen sees the Guardians tearing through Savathun's throne world--a piece of another dimension she created using the power of the Darkness, and which gave her immortality through the power of her worm. The idea is that we're searching Savathun's throne world for information about her to discover how she got the Light, assuming that she must have managed to steal it.

Of course, as detailed above, Savathun didn't steal the Light; the Traveler chose to give it to her. So the memories we uncover aren't actually helping us solve the mystery. Instead, they serve to help Savathun remember who she was in her past life, allowing her to complete her plans.

This is a little confusing, but it's a piece of info that's based on how Guardians work. When a Ghost finds its person and resurrects them as a Guardian the first time, the resurrected person remembers nothing of their past life before they died. Though they have the same body, effectively, the Guardian is a new person. We saw this all last year with Crow, a Guardian who was the Awoken Prince Uldren Sov before he died. Crow and Uldren are similar, but Crow couldn't remember anything of his past life before he woke up as a Guardian the first time--and his personality differed in key ways from Uldren.

During the Season of the Lost, however, Savathun restored Uldren's memories to Crow, which gave the Guardian a crisis of identity. Savathun seemingly used Crow as a test case for her plan, to make sure it was possible to return the memories of a Guardian's past life to them. Since then, Crow has struggled with the revelation that he was Uldren, but we've seen in some lore that Crow has determined for himself that he's still Crow, and not some new version of Uldren. They have the same body and even the same memories, but they are still not the same man, which suggests that the resurrected Savathun may also differ from the Hive god who died.

A lot of actions Savathun took through the last year seem to have been her experimenting and testing ideas she would later use to become a Guardian herself.
A lot of actions Savathun took through the last year seem to have been her experimenting and testing ideas she would later use to become a Guardian herself.

Savathun's overall plan to get rid of her worm was also to try to gain the Light, and it seems she discovered through a number of investigations and experiments that the only real way to get that power was from the Traveler itself. She also knew that that meant dying, and that Guardians forget their past lives when they're resurrected. It wouldn't really make sense to go through all this trouble if Savathun wouldn't still be Savathun when she was resurrected, though, so she created an elaborate plan to trick the Guardians into helping her.

By searching Savathun's throne world for important objects and using something called the Altar of Reflection in her throne world, we were able to uncover Savathun's memories in an attempt to find out how she stole the Light. What we were actually doing, though, was helping to restore Savathun's memories. Our investigation was all part of her plan, and we helped the Witch Queen restore her own identity once she became a Guardian.

This means that Savathun foresaw the entire situation and engineered this memory plan long before she was found out as Osiris and captured in the crystal in the Dreaming City during the Season of the Lost. Not only did Savathun work with her Lucent Hive underlings to set up the situation, but she also must have made some kind of deal with Immaru, her eventual Ghost. In both cases, the memory-less Savathun would need help from people who knew the plan in order to execute it.

Capturing the Traveler

Savathun hoped to bring the Traveler into her throne world and keep it there, preventing it from escaping.
Savathun hoped to bring the Traveler into her throne world and keep it there, preventing it from escaping.

Savathun didn't just want to become a Guardian, however. She also wanted to keep the Traveler for herself, potentially becoming the ultimate power in the universe. Her goal was to bring the Traveler into her throne world--apparently by persuading the huge robot god, or tricking it--and then seal it there so that the Traveler couldn't leave.

That would have the effect of giving Savathun control over the Traveler, while also cutting off everyone else from its power, effectively giving Savathun the Light and no one else. That would also mean no more human Guardians, giving Savathun the opportunity to take over the solar system and become nearly unbeatable.

Savathun has been an enemy of humanity for hundreds of years, so the Vanguard saw this as a major threat. We don't know if we can trust her, but Savathun claimed this plan would allow her to protect the Traveler from the Darkness, the power that is constantly trying to destroy the Traveler. It's only a matter of time before the war between the Traveler and the Darkness kicks off in earnest, which could effectively mean the end of the world. The last time that happened, it created the Collapse, an apocalypse that killed billions in the solar system and devastated all of civilization. Guardians are fighting to stop the Darkness from creating a second Collapse, and Savathun claimed that by bringing the Traveler into her throne world, she would have been able to protect it from the Darkness.

This sounds a little fishy, but it is definitely possible. As Ikora points out, the Traveler went from world to world for eons, uplifting civilizations with its power. Each time, though, the Darkness eventually showed up, and the Traveler would flee, leaving those civilizations to fend for themselves. It seems that, much more often than not, the people helped by the Traveler would then be wiped out. That's what happened to the Eliksni, the alien faction otherwise known as the Fallen. The Traveler visited them and then fled when the going got tough, and Eliksni civilization was destroyed. Only a small number of Eliksni who escaped the system on ships survived, and they pursued the Traveler, following it to our solar system.

So Savathun might have been trying to capture the Traveler and might have planned to keep the Light for herself. Then again, maybe she just intended to lock the Traveler up so that it couldn't leave once again. This is another big point of contention in human civilization. A lot of people see the Traveler as a benevolent god and believe that when the Darkness showed up the last time, triggering the Collapse, the Traveler sacrificed itself to stop the Darkness and save humanity. Its last act was to create the Ghosts, who then created Guardians, as a means to continue protecting life in the solar system. To believe the Traveler would bail on humanity and needed to be locked up to prevent that is to believe the benevolent god isn't so benevolent.

But then, if the Traveler is benevolent, why did it give its blessing to Savathun? Heartbreaking: The worst person you know just made a great point.

Savathun betrayed

The worm gods told Savathun they would help her and her sisters survive the cataclysm of Fundament, but this was a trick to keep the Hive away from the Traveler and the Light.
The worm gods told Savathun they would help her and her sisters survive the cataclysm of Fundament, but this was a trick to keep the Hive away from the Traveler and the Light.

So now we know how Savathun enacted her plans, how she got the Light, and what she was trying to do in the final moments of the campaign of The Witch Queen. What about those memories of the worms?

What we learn for sure in the campaign is something Savathun herself seemingly suspected, according to the lore. The Traveler had come to Fundament and uplifted at least one of the other species on its moons. To contend with their adversary, the worm gods--seemingly being directly controlled by the Witness, the entity behind the Darkness--concocted a plan to get at least one of Fundament's species on its side.

The takeaway here is that the Osmium King and his daughters were tricked. The whispers the worm familiar told the King and Sathona were lies, which tricked the princesses into pledging themselves to the worms. The cataclysm they were afraid of was created by the Darkness in order to frighten them into making their pact with the worm gods, turning them into genocidal monsters out of the fear of death and extinction. The Hive went on to murder countless billions because of a lie that was told to them directly by their god.

Savathun's attempts to break the pact with the worms suggests she already suspected as much, since the deal the worms made turned out to be really bad for the Hive. Yes, Savathun, Oryx, and Xivu Arath became ridiculously powerful, but their worms always became hungrier and hungrier, no matter how much they fed them. That meant that they could never stop their war and conquest, lest they be consumed themselves. It was a monkey's paw kind of bargain, which is why Savathun wanted out of it.

Gaining the Light gave Savathun power without the massive drawbacks of the worms' constant threat to consume her.
Gaining the Light gave Savathun power without the massive drawbacks of the worms' constant threat to consume her.

So it's a little unclear why Savathun learning that she was lied to would be quite so impactful--she seemed to have figured it out already. What seems to be an important new piece of context is that the Witness was directly involved, as we can tell from the voice used during the scenes in the worm's memories and during the final cutscene. As for Savathun's reaction, it may well just be that, for all her scheming, she's still a resurrected Guardian who can't remember her past life or identity, so the knowledge may well hit extra hard without centuries to come to terms with it. When the Guardians gave her back her memories, they included her plans for the Traveler, but not the part where she'd been swindled into a billion years of genocide.

We also know that Savathun has been dealing with a lot of emotions lately, at least in the lore. Her time spent impersonating Osiris and in the company of humans has made her more human-like, it seems, and gave her more empathy than she's had in a while. Having her true nature laid bare, along with the fact that she'd been manipulated into becoming something so horrible, could therefore have a pretty big impact even if Savathun had previously been, uh, extremely evil.

Either way, the knowledge of the worms' betrayal was enough to cause Savathun to spiral a bit, giving you the opening you needed to finally defeat her at the end of The Witch Queen's campaign. As mentioned, however, while Savathun is dead, she may yet be resurrected. More than one character also mentions that, given all her other machinations, this could be part of one of her plans as well.

Meeting the Witness

The Witness seems to be the intelligence behind the Darkness, what Destiny 2 characters have been referring to as
The Witness seems to be the intelligence behind the Darkness, what Destiny 2 characters have been referring to as "the Entity" since Beyond Light.

Finally, we have one other major element: The Witness. This seems to be the name Destiny is giving to the intelligence that has been controlling the Darkness and the Black Fleet, those spooky pyramid ships that showed up in the solar system. The end of the campaign reveals a strange, white-faced person in a black robe, who has smoke for a head and resembles the robed statues that have appeared inside the pyramids, on Europa, and in the Black Garden. The Witness, it seems, is what we've been calling The Entity up to now. It's the force that hates the Traveler, that the Hive worshiped through the worms, and that caused the Collapse.

As mentioned, it's important new context is that the Witness seems to have been directly involved in the creation of the Hive, convinced the species to join its side as a direct answer to the Traveler, and did so with a persuasive lie. The Witness maintains that its view of the universe, which is basically that "survival of the fittest" is the natural order of things and only strength is worthy of survival, is the only correct view (the Traveler, for its part, apparently believes that life should be able to take many forms and flourish in different ways, rather than only through conquest and death). The fact that it lied to get the Hive to buy into its ideology calls that into question. After all, if survival of the fittest is the pure and correct reality of the universe, why would you have to lie about it?

The Witness seems pretty fed up with this whole situation and, it would appear, is preparing to, uh, assume direct control. It also sounds like it's pretty ready to just wipe out everything and everyone. We still don't know what its whole deal is, but the Witness seems to be the intelligence that's been doing everything related to the pyramids, including tempting us with various powerful weapons.

After the Witch Queen story ends, characters also mention other people we've never heard of related to the Witness: the Disciples. We have no idea who or what they are, and they seem to be separate from the various Darkness disciples we've heard of before, like the worms or the Hive.

Vanguard in tatters

Ikora is not in a great place mentally right now.
Ikora is not in a great place mentally right now.

There's more story in The Witch Queen, it seems, including stuff concerning Mara Sov, the Scorn, Xivu Arath, the worms, and Fynch. There's also the ongoing story of the Season of the Risen, in which the Vanguard tries to deal with Savathun's Lucent Brood out in the rest of the solar system. We'll be unlocking more of that over time, but the campaign itself has some major implications for various characters.

The big takeaway is that things are bad for the Vanguard, the military command of the Guardians. The Witch Queen focuses a lot on Ikora Rey, who spent the last year allowing her mentor Osiris to access all sorts of Vanguard secrets. We learned in the Season of the Lost, however, that Osiris was actually Savathun in disguise, and Ikora blames herself for what she gave Savathun. It turns out that the Traveler gave Savathun the Light, which means she didn't steal it, which kind of lets Ikora off the hook for being responsible for Savathun's power--but she's still pretty messed up by this whole situation. Ikora is filled with self-doubt, and while she steels herself during the end of the campaign to stop Savathun's plans, she's definitely struggling with her feelings of failure. With more threats looming, that could be a real problem.

Zavala, the Vanguard commander, similarly shaken by the events. This is a guy who believes in the Traveler with every ounce of his being, so Savathun's resurrection undermines the foundations of everything he believes. Zavala's biggest thing is being resolute in his convictions, and those convictions have just been seriously damaged.

There are also some lingering questions. Apart from the whole "who is the Witness and what is its deal," we still don't know much about the worms, which seem to be a major factor in the story after the end of the campaign. There's also the question of what will happen to the Lucent Brood without Savathun, and what happened to Immaru when the Traveler left the throne world. What's the deal with Mars? Did Savathun have other plans? How did Fynch and the other Ghosts find themselves convinced to help the Hive?

We have a year until another expansion hits Destiny 2, and with it, another major chapter in the story. If the seasons we've seen in the last couple years are anything to go by, though, there's a lot more to see and do in the throne world in the meantime, and we may yet see answers to some of these questions in the months to come.

Savathun's ongoing scheme

Savathun's plans are still unfolding, even after the story campaign for The Witch Queen is complete.
Savathun's plans are still unfolding, even after the story campaign for The Witch Queen is complete.

The story of The Witch Queen doesn't end with the campaign's conclusion. Additional quests take you through the throne world, where you learn some new things about Savathun. "Of Queens and Worms," for instance, revolves around Mara Sov interacting with Savathun's former worm--not the dead worm familiar you used to show Savathun memories at the end of the campaign, but the worm Mara removed from inside Savathun at the end of the Season of the Lost. You learn some key facts about Savathun from that quest, while also claiming the Exotic grenade launcher Parasite at its conclusion.

You can also further the investigation at the Altar of Reflection, where you can view more of Savathun's memories. This bit raises some interesting questions, however, because the memories you can uncover were left for you purposely by Savathun. She apparently anticipated her own death and left you clues to tell you more of her story.

Clearly, Savathun has more plans, even in death--and though Ikora said the Hidden would recover her body, Immaru is still out there. So it seems we haven't heard anything near the last of Savathun, and despite killing her (or believing we have killed her), she's still a character in this story. And she may well come back in the future, too.


philhornshaw

Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw has worked as a journalist for newspapers and websites for more than a decade and has covered video games, technology, and entertainment for nearly that long. A freelancer before he joined the GameSpot team as an editor out of Los Angeles, his work appeared at Playboy, IGN, Kotaku, Complex, Polygon, TheWrap, Digital Trends, The Escapist, GameFront, and The Huffington Post. Outside the realm of games, he's the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler's Guide to Time Travel and The Space Hero's Guide to Glory. If he's not writing about video games, he's probably doing a deep dive into game lore.

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