If you want peace, prepare for war.
In regards to struggle or conflict, it can be argued that one of the most important weapons that one has is knowledge: of themselves as well as of their opponent. In regards to the enemy combatants we see in the Destiny universe, this sometimes is difficult, as we are presented often with incomplete or biased accounts of historical and current situations of not just those forces gathering against us, but often our own situation. This gap in knowledge often leads to confusion – both in game from the characters we interact with and out of game to those of us who work to piece together the information that we do have in hopes of completing at least some of the puzzle that is the story of Destiny.
This is why, when we do receive large amounts of detailed lore many of us are eager to tear it apart with a fine-toothed comb, digesting and re-digesting the information over and over again to more fully come to appreciate and understand this fantasy world. Such is the case of the Books of Sorrow – a series of informational pieces gathered throughout the Taken King DLC that offer an unprecedented look into the mindset of the religious zealotry of one of our darkest enemies, the Hive. It is here that we are also introduced to the story of these entities and learn, as they did millenia ago, the cost of binding oneself to the Logic of the Sword.
The information we gain also begs the question – how do you overcome an enemy who, by their very presence, makes war upon everything that is not themselves? Is peace possible when this is the contrasting darkness to one’s own light – or is this a relationship that is destined to be eternally at war with either side?
The Logic of the Sword & the Hive
The first thing most ask is “What is Sword Logic?”
To answer briefly, it is the idea that might is right, that existence is nothing more than an eternal war against itself. To dive into this in regards to the Hive, we see it as the logic of beings no longer bound by causal closure – creatures whose very will defeats axioms and laws. In a sense, this is the access point to paracausality for members of the Hive who become Ascendant. These are the lessons – the rituals and signs that small, causal minds perceive as magic – that unlock the ability to summon the powers of the Deep.
Oryx views the Sword Logic with stark simplicity – the proof of its validity is detailed as follows:
We’re the proof, we the Hive: if we last forever, we prove it, and if something more ruthless conquers us, then the proof is sealed.
– Books of Sorrow, Verse 5:2
Simple. Elegant. Brutally stark. This is the world the Hive live in – a world dominated by the law of might makes right. The only blade you can truly depend on is your own sword – there is no fireteam, no pack to support you…you live by proving your right to live within an eternal war – the war of existence.
This starkness and simplicity is visible in the embracing of total violence – and yet even the Hive find it difficult to accept. Oryx, in Taking his Knights, comments on this failure:
You fear death. Even as you visit nothingness on your foes, even as you gather tribute from your acolytes, you know that one day your strength will be outmatched. And your centuries of slaughter will end. So you practice your guard: you call up walls to protect you.
You betray the Sword Logic. You compromise the totality of your violence. Why protect your ground when you could take the enemy’s?
– The Taken Knight
Without the promise of immortality via Ascension, the mortal and causal members of the Hive understandably experience fear of death. Yet it is through the releasing of this natural aversion that they are able to overcome the mortal limitations and join the Ascended few in immortality among the Screaming Sea. By accepting death and rising above the mortal inclination to avert away from that darkness, they are able to embrace the powers of the Worm within and rise to a form of godhood.
Light-Bearers & the Power of the Traveler
Where the Hive operate on a egotistical sense of existence, the Light-Bearers known as Guardians seem to operate on the opposite side of the spectrum, dealing with problems with a more allocentric approach. That is to say, where the Hive place importance and the emphasis on the self and reliance on none, Guardians exist with the intent of protecting others and rely on the support of their fireteam to achieve their goals.
It should be also noted that not all Light-Bearers agree or hold to this paradigm. Unlike the Hive, which are fatally punished for not obeying their parasitic worms, Light-Bearers who deviate from protecting others seem to be able to choose which path they travel freely. There are plenty of examples of individuals who took a darker path: the Warlords of the Dark Age, Dredgen Yor, the Shadows of Yor from the current time, Toland the Shattered, and even (to a degree) Osiris. Where the Worm Gods enslaved the Hive, chaining them tightly via the Worm Pact, the Traveler granted its Light through the Ghosts with what appears to be almost no binding contract.
Emphasis here on the word “appears” – as this is currently an unknown variable in the equation of what it means to be a Light-Bearer. We are aware of an agreement between the Guardian and the Ghost – seen through some of the information provided by Ghost in Destiny 1 during the Cayde’s Stash mission:
Before I found you I tried resurrecting him, but he preferred to sleep.
– Ghost Scan: Pod 10201
Yet, it appears currently that Light-Bearers don’t necessarily remember this agreement or anything about their previous life (as presented from the flavor text of the Seraph armor set from Destiny 1). This, of course, begs the question (as voiced by Osiris in Destiny 1) of where then do our personalities, skills, basic knowledge of things, and even habitual actions (as seen in Destiny 2 with Cayde-6 and Shinobu in their keeping of journals) come from? Are they remnants of the person the Light-Bearer was before…or are they aspects programmed in by Ghosts at the time of resurrection?
Light-Bearers & the Hive
Namely – are we still individuals or are we truly nothing more than an army of animated corpses bound in service to a power which we know nothing of? Because if the latter is the case…then the question of if we are able to achieve any semblance of peace within universe is answered in as brutal and simple a fashion as Oryx’s definition of the Logic of the Sword. If so, then the Light-Bearers and the Hive really are reflections of each other – but the Hive have the self-awareness of what they are while the Light-Bearers are blind to the reality in which they exist.
However, if the former is the case and we do retain at least a degree of our individuality – then there is hope for an overthrowing of the Hive’s dark logic. Yet it should also be acknowledged that such peace will, in the end, inevitably prove the Sword Logic to be true. Interestingly enough however, it will only serve to be true in the process of subverting it. In order to end the reign of the Logic of the Sword, the Light-Bearers must take up the blade – but once the gods have been struck down…they aren’t required to continue brandishing the weapon.
If one is capable of applying the necessary force without hesitation and with appropriate force, it can be – though the real question isn’t the application of the force, but what the victor does at the end of the battle. While it is necessary for the Guardians to take up the blade to combat those who follow the Logic of the Sword, this does not require them to continue using the weapon after they have ended the threat.
And that is, in the end, the alternative the Guardian presents to the Logic of the Sword – not in the underlying concept, but in the application of the theory. This is what we see at the conclusion of The Taken King’s raid, King’s Fall in the frustration of Toland:
Where are you going?
You were not supposed to touch the Light…It was barely Light anymore. But you took it. And when you took it, you did not keep it. You set it free.
You fools! … It’s not right! Who now shall be First Navigator, Lord of Shapes, harrowed god, Taken King? Not you! You might have been Kings and Queens of the Deep! But you have toppled Oryx and you have not replaced him!
There must be a strongest one. It is the architecture of these spaces.
Why are you leaving?
– King’s Fall
In the overthrowing of Oryx, the Guardian and their fireteam were required to enter into the twisted paradigm of the Hive and their Sword Logic. But at the end, when they stood victorious in the agon against the Taken King, instead of mounting the dais and taking their place upon the Osmium throne…the fireteam walks away. They use the Logic of the Sword to eliminate the threat that Oryx and his brood represent – but then go even further to unbalance the Hive way of life by refusing to continue the nightmare once they have reached the pinnacle of power. They release the Light, not in tithe to a worm or god, but simply because they can
And there isn’t anyone left on the battlefield to stop them. The Guardian and fireteam rose through the ranks of Oryx’s Court by its own laws – and then, using its own Logic, destroyed it from within. They partook in the twisted Logic of the Sword and shed the blood of the Hive ultimately to protect those who couldn’t defend themselves. This is what it means to be not just a Light-Bearer, but a Guardian.
In other words, Guardians: if you want peace….prepare for war.
Ut humiliter opinor,