Destiny 2 has always had great lore. While the game’s main plot lines sometimes fall short, the stories and bits of worldbuilding we get from equipment are always fascinating. Tying this stuff to items players actually use feels like the opposite of Skyrim’s lore books, which exist almost solely to be text dumps for Tolkien-esque in-game history. In Destiny 2, lore creates connections between players and their favorite weapons and armor while also bringing the world’s characters to life. And in the current Season of Opulence, much of the new equipment on offer focuses on one character in particular — the Cabal Emperor Calus.
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Emperor Calus in Destiny 2
Players who’ve been with Destiny 2 since the beginning will be familiar with Calus’s story, but the quick version goes like this. My dude was the Emperor of a Rome-like civilization of space Battletoads. He loved to party, and believed that everyone in his empire should get to party too. He removed the aristocracy, freed slaves, and redistributed wealth. Some folks weren’t too happy about that, because they were awful. But he was too popular to execute, so they exiled him and turned the Cabal Empire into a militaristic, no-fun allowed conquering legion.
And Calus? His pleasure barge careened through space, eventually crossing over into a great void that Changed him. He saw the end of all things and decided that the only logical response was to party even harder. So he goes around space, disintegrating planets and turning them into wine like a boozy Galactus. Oh, and he becomes obsessed with the Guardians, whom he wishes to join his elite cadre of Shadows to assist in his mission.
As a goodwill gesture, Calus opens up his Menagerie and invites Guardians to brave it in order to claim his treasures. Some of those treasures are the Opulent armor sets, beautiful pieces adorned with jewels and gold trim befitting the Emperor’s decadence. And this is where things get wild.
Destiny 2 Opulent Armor Lore
Calus wants the Guardian to become his Shadow of Earth. And he has a whole mess of oracles working for him, churning out visions of the future in which his wishes come to pass. So what the lore for each of the Opulent armor pieces supposes is that the Guardian takes their place at Calus’s side and begins systematically killing off every other major character in the game.
There’s no clear order to how this all happens, so here’s one telling of how it could happen.
First, the Guardian and the other Shadows defeat the Vanguard. They request mercy and are denied. Ikora goes down fighting in a battle that permanently alters the orbit of Mars. Zavala, on the other hand, has a more quiet final day:
The Titan Zavala went to the Human known as Suraya Hawthorne and said, “Suraya Hawthorne, will you play a game of checkers with me?”
Suraya Hawthorne agreed, and so the two played twenty-seven games of checkers, and listened to the music of bagpipes and synthesizers, and dined upon Earth delicacies such as nuggets of chicken and the beer of roots.
“Titan Zavala,” said Suraya Hawthorne as Earth’s sun rose upon their latitude, “There will never again be a checkersmaster of your like.”
“No, Suraya,” said Titan Zavala. “You must become a greater checkersmaster than even me, if you are to lead the resistance.”
Cayde-6 is, of course, already dead. But at some point, a Cayde-7 shows up and pledges his allegiance to the Empire. The Guardian gets jealous and kills him right then and there.
Amanda Holliday suffers a similar fate. After she catches the Emperor’s eye by destroying the Leviathan and killing the Guardian, he dispatches his Shadow of Earth to bring her in. She kills the Guardian. A lot. She keeps killing them until she runs out of ammo, at which point the Guardian beseeches her to speak as friends once again. And then the Guardian kills her and brings the Emperor her body, because, again, they’re a jealous Shadow.
Petra Venj becomes Shadow of the Awoken, but the Guardian points out that the Awoken trace their lineage to Earth. And there can only be one Shadow per tribe, so the Emperor kills her. Eris Morn becomes the Shadow of the Hive.
The Guardian tears Failsafe’s personality out of the Exodus Black and puts each half into a different Exo body, then they kill each other.
Toland the Shattered? Osiris? Variks? Dead, dead, dead.
At some point, Uldren Sov is raised as a Guardian. After killing so many of the Emperor’s enemies, the Guardian requests permission to go after one of their own. They kill Sov, but spare his ghost, and continue killing him an untold number of times.
The Guardian invites the Drifter to dinner, and they feast for hours before the Guardian feeds the Drifter his own Ghost then kills him by shoving food down his throat.
After all this, the people of Earth despair, and the Shadow despairs with them. So the Emperor enjoins the Shadow to spread joy amongst their people. They visit Destiny 2’s grandma in chief, Eva Levante. And they fucking kill her:
So the Shadow went to Earth, to the master of ceremonies, and said, “Eva Levante, the days of the Dawning and Crimson Days, of Revelry and Festival of the Lost are over. From now on, it is your jubilant task to fete his Grandiose Majesty, the Father of Satisfaction.”
But Eva Levante refused, for she had no kindness or generosity in her heart. So the Shadow of Earth slew her and appointed Lord Shaxx the new master of ceremonies. And Lord Shaxx feted the emperor with a serene and gentle joy.
After all this, the Guardian kills their own Ghost, but not before the latter speaks for the first time in ages to say “I love you.” And then, with the End of the Universe upon them, the Guardian kneels before the Emperor, who slays them with tears in his eyes and faces the end with his Shadow’s body in his arms. It’s kind of beautiful, really.
The Fate of All Things
There’s one major caveat to all this lore: it’s essentially Tina Belcher-esque erotic friendfiction. Several of the entries have Calus’s scribes making notes: that Eris Morn’s dialogue is flat and unrealistic, that Exodus Black and Failsafe are in fact the same thing, and so on. So even putting aside the fact that these are merely predictions of possible futures, they’re written by people who are telling Calus what he wants to hear.
And of course, it would be an unheard-of tonal shift for Bungie to set the player up to murder all of their friends and allies. Sure, we had the option to side with the Drifter against the wishes of other Guardians last season, but helping out a morally-grey rogue is miles apart from systematically executing every character we’ve gotten to know over the past two years.
Can you imagine, though? Bungie is definitely setting up Calus and his visions to be critical to the next stage of Destiny 2, and maybe we’ll play a bigger part in them than we expect. But know this, Daddy Calus — no matter what happens, I’ll never hurt Eva Levante.