Every week since Destiny 1 launched in 2014, players have been able to visit the mysterious tentacle-faced merchant Xûr, agent of the Nine. So popular was he, that whenever his stock refreshed players would drop everything to rush and see what he had brought (and games websites, blogs and YouTubers rushed to be the first to tell you about it).
For as long as people have visited Xûr, agent of the Nine, people have wondered about his paymasters. Who or what were the Nine? Were they friend or foe? Why were there nine of them? In the many years since, Destiny has answered other questions left hanging by its labyrinthine lore, but kept this group firmly in the shadows.
And so it's fitting, perhaps, players have finally been giving information on the Nine now with the launch of Destiny 2's shadowy-feeling Season of the Drifter. Fair warning, while the season launched yesterday, many of its various lore tabs are not officially unlocked in the game - fans have been piecing together what they've found in the game's files, and sharing their discoveries on r/destiny.
THERE MAY BE SPOILERS AHEAD:
Bungie has dropped a list of red herrings and outright misdirects along the way when talking about what the Nine may be - but a new lore tab fittingly titled "The Nine" appears to have finally lifted the lid - and it's even weirder than fans had thought.
The Nine are Darkness particle-based intelligences formed from the ripples of matter in spacetime as our Solar System's planets themselves were formed. (Pluto gets to be included in this count, even though it was demoted.) So yes, there are nine Nine because of the nine planets.
"In time loops did form. Great arcs of outbound dust collapsed back to their sources to create circuits of shadow. The thickening and thinning of these circuits were the first thoughts of the Nine. They dwelt in massive indifference, unborn primordial gods. There was no force among them except gravity; no structure except the distribution of mass. Their hearts were in the cores of worlds, but their farthest streams faded out into the turn of the galaxy."
Bungie's lore entry describes the Nine forming consciousnesses over time and realising their existences were attached to their planets. In order to survive themselves, they needed to protect the races which had begun living on the planets themselves. But they are uncorporeal - which is why you have characters such as Xûr, whose will has been bent to serve the Nine, acting for them.
"But life arose on the worlds at the heart of the Nine, tiny complicated motions of ecosystems and metabolisms and computations. That life left mass-shadows in the wind of the Nine, plucking at them like harp strings. From these trembles of structure the Nine learned to seed enormous resonating waves, thoughts vaster than worlds."
Their actions so far can still be deemed benevolent, even if they are responsible for acts such as releasing Skolas in Destiny 1's House of Wolves expansion, which they knew would reconcile the Guardians and Reef. However, they are still capable of self-interest at Earth's expense - such as hiding Ghaul's invasion fleet in the vanilla Destiny 2 campaign, to study how the Cabal might capture Light, and aiding in the creation of new Taken for The Drifter, in case they could fit in Darkness-infused bodies instead. The Nine are currently non-corporeal, but want to rid themselves of their bond to the solar system's planets for their own self-preservation if they can.
Fans are already considering what this might mean for the ongoing Destiny storyline. Will the Nine continue acting in defense of the solar system against the Pyramid Ships on the horizon? Or will the Pyramid Ships - widely expected to be a race of Darkness-created beings - try and ally themselves with the Nine instead? It feels like Bungie could take it either way.
Information on the Nine is still being picked over - there's a great r/Destiny thread here with all the Season of the Drifter lore uncovered so far. And in the above video, audio files from the season have also been uncovered. Around the 15:00 mark, you'll hear what sounds a lot like the Nine speaking for the first time. It only took five years!