Of all the mysteries in Destiny's labyrinthine lore, the identity of the Nine is the most-discussed. Now, with the launch of Destiny 2's Trials of the Nine event, fans think they've finally worked it out.
Destiny 2's Trials sees the top-tier multiplayer event hosted by an Emissary of the Nine, who lives in a completely alien space . It is referred to simply as "Unknown Space", and the planets and moons indicate it is set well beyond our solar system.
This is, presumably, the realm where The Nine live - through an Interstellar-like portal in space. After one win in Trials you can explore a small portion of it - in a location known only as the Third Spire.
Now, beat a few more Trials matches to earn some of the mode's exclusive loot and you'll find big new clues to the Nine's identity.
Destiny has been referencing the Nine since its earliest days, most famously through travelling merchant Xûr, an Agent of the Nine, who turns up at weekends to sell exotic goods.
Stick around the tentacle-faced Xûr and he'll frequently mumble something about his masters the Nine - most famously that "my will is not my own". Whatever Xûr is, he's simply a puppet for the Nine themselves.
Delving into the game's Grimoire card lore, Bungie years ago teased fans with nine possibilities for what the Nine might be. The Grimoire card Ghost Fragment: Legends 2 lists nine possible legends for the Nine's true origins. Some of these suggestions are pretty outlandish - I've no idea how Bungie could ultimately reveal the Nine to be a "viral language of pure meaning". But other ideas are more plausible, notably the first, that they are human survivors, or the sixth, that they are actually Guardianless Ghosts. Here's the list in full:
- The Nine are survivors of the cis-Jovian colonies who made a compact with an alien force to ensure their own survival.
- The Nine are deep-orbit warminds who weathered the Collapse in hardened stealth platforms.
- The Nine are ancient leviathan intelligences from the seas of Europa or the hydrocarbon pits of Titan.
- The Nine arrived in a mysterious transmission from the direction of the Corona-Borealis supercluster.
- The Nine are the firstborn Awoken and their minds now race down the field lines of the Jupiter-Io flux tube.
- The Nine are Ghosts who pierced the Deep Black without a ship and meditated on the hissing silence of the heliopause.
- The Nine are the aspects of the Darkness, broken by the Traveler's rebuke, working to destroy us from within.
- The Nine is a viral language of pure meaning.
- The Nine are the shadows left by the annihilation of a transcendent shape, burned into the weft of what is.
Destiny's second DLC brought a few more clues to the Nine's motives - with hints in a couple of Grimoire cards that they had unleashed House of Wolves boss Skolas on purpose, perhaps to test the strength of Earth's Guardians.
Which brings us to Destiny 2, where the Nine now conduct the game's Trials activity, again to test humanity's strength after the Red Legion Cabal attack. Fans on the Destiny reddit have been analysing the new information it offers.
Survive Trials (I played a few games at the weekend and it is, as expected, quite difficult) and you'll be rewarded with tokens to redeem with the Nine's Emissary. Your rewards include snazzy new weapons, each with their own little bit of lore, as well as a legendary sniper rifle named The Long Walk with a detailed lore tab.
A Sudden Death, the Trials shotgun, includes a snippet of lore which hints at The Nine talking with the deep-orbit Warminds - one of the possible identities of the Nine, which seemingly counts that out.
Adjudicator, the Trians submachine gun, says that we sought The Nine "in the deep black" amid the "hissing silence" - a reference to another of the possible legends above.
The End, the Trials scout rifle, mentions how Guardians finally have "our attention" after the invasion of the Red Legion. Again, there's reference to this hardship being a trial - like The Nine are testing us for something.
Finally then there's The Long Walk, which it sounds like gives the whole game away.
The Long Walk's extended lore paragraph features a conversation between a female figure named ORIN and nine "sparks" of light. Each of these nine are referred to as "G-4", "G-5", "G-9" and so on. They speak of having once had "charges", or wards, which are now gone but that they are "still creatures of the Light, no different from the one you carry in your pocket".
The obvious conclusion is that The Nine are indeed Ghosts without Guardians.
"I need to know what you found out there," ORIN asks them. "At least give me the coordinates."
Fans suspect The Nine have been off looking for The Darkness - aka the pyramid ship race referenced again throughout Destiny 2. With knowledge of The Darkness' whereabouts - and perhaps forewarning it is now returning - it would make sense The Nine were trying to arm and test us.
Perhaps, all along, Xûr has been helping us out selling the Nine's wares to build up our Light and Power levels in readiness? It would be nice to think Bungie had this all worked out so far in advance.
As for ORIN? Some expect it to be the equally mysterious time-travelling Exo Stranger - the one who famously did not have time to explain why she did not have time to explain - who also seemed to have foreknowledge of future events. There's no suggestion of when The Long Walk's conversation was set, although as the Exo Stranger is able to travel through time the point is largely moot.
There's still a lot to learn about the Nine, but with The Darkness approaching and the Nine seemingly wrapped up in that tale, it makes sense we are finally discovering more about the enigmatic group. And yet there's still more to find out. Hopefully soon there will be time to explain.