Warning: This article contains a huge amount of spoilers for Destiny 2's The Witch Queen and its raid, Vow of the Disciple. If you haven't played The Witch Queen's story campaign, the "Of Queens and Worms" questline, or the raid itself, you might want to do so before reading further. And if you're confused about The Witch Queen's story, read our explainer first.
Editor's note: With subsequent raid runs and a little more investigation, some elements of Vow of The Disciple have become a little clearer, so we've updated this article in a few places with some more details.
Vow of the Disciple isn't just about killing another huge monster. The Witch Queen's raid fundamentally rewrites a huge amount of Destiny 2's story, providing new context about Savathun, the Hive, and the Darkness. In fact, just about everything we thought we knew about the Hive gets rewritten thanks to what we learn in Vow of the Disciple. We also discover a new class of villains who are above the alien races we've been fighting for years, and face down a new villain called Rhulk. As it turns out, this guy has had a massive influence on the world of Destiny 2--despite the fact that we've never even heard of him before.
There's a huge amount of story scattered throughout Vow of the Disciple, but you'll have to seek it out to understand what's going on in the Sunken Pyramid, and why. Here's everything you need to know about the raid, its boss, the Hive, the worm gods, and Savathun's plans.
Who is Rhulk?
The first thing we need to talk about is Rhulk, the final boss of the raid. Rhulk is the First Disciple of the Witness, the intelligent force behind the Darkness we've been hearing about for quite a while now. We've gotten hints about the Disciples from Mara Sov in The Witch Queen, but we have almost no information about them. However, what we can glean so far is that they seem to be the Witness's lieutenants, the agents who carry out its will in the universe. Rhulk commands and controls a Pyramid, and we might find other Disciples in other ships.
Rhulk, however, is apparently the Witness's first-ever disciple. He's worked as an agent for the Witness for what seems like eons. We don't know all that much about what he's been up to in that time, but unlocking the Shattered Suns lore book gives us a look at Rhulk's background from before he was a raid boss.
Before becoming a Disciple, Rhulk lived on a planet called Lubrae, which had two suns: one a bright blue and the other, somehow dark, referred to as the "Umbral Sun." Life on Lubrae was deadly when either of the suns were at full brightness, it seems, but people who lived in the planet's major city, under its governmental regime, were safe and comfortable. They'd been uplifted by the Traveler, and used technology they created during their Golden Age to suck power directly out of the blue sun. The result was a city that was always illuminated and always protected. But while Lubrae received the Traveler's gifts, those gifts weren't applied equally to everyone, and some--the city dwellers and the Regime--became very powerful.
Those who weren't willing to live in the city were persecuted by the Regime; known as Wanderers, they were pacifist nomadic people hunted by the city's soldiers. Rhulk and his family were Wanderers, but while Rhulk wanted to fight these Stalkers who hunted the nomads, the rest of his people shunned him for his desire for violence and vengeance. His father, Rhelik, counseled against fighting back, but when their clan was attacked and his father taken by the Stalkers, Rhulk took up a Glaive--a weapon created by the people of Lubrae--and fought back. He was a powerful warrior and killed the Stalkers, but rather than show gratitude, the rest of his clan shunned him for his bloodlust and Rhulk was exiled.
From there, Rhulk began hunting Stalkers, trying to find his father, even though he believed him dead. He searched and hunted Stalkers for two years before finally finding his father--alive, but having joined the Regime. The hypocrisy of Rhelik turning against his ideals and joining those who had oppressed them caused Rhulk to hate his father, but rather than go down fighting, Rhulk, too, turned coat and joined the regime. The plan was that Rhulk would use the opportunity to get close to his father and kill him, along with the Regime's leaders. But Rhulk found that he liked the comfortable life in the city and the fact that he was accepted, even celebrated, for his skills and bloodlust.
Still, Rhulk harbored massive resentment for his father and aimed to kill him, but when finally confronted, Rhelik told him that he also planned to betray the Regime--joining the Stalkers was a scheme for the father, just like it was for the son. But Rhulk didn't believe him, or couldn't let go of his hate and anger. Rhelik escaped and Rhulk pursued him, eventually finding him with the rest of Rhulk's clan. Rhelik had developed a plan to get his Wanderer clan into the city through hidden tunnels, where they'd be protected. It seems that Rhulk still couldn't let go of his hateful feelings; he seemingly attacked his father but wound up falling into the Abyss, a huge crack in Lubrae created by the Regime to separate the city from the wilds where the Wanderers lived.
Despite the fall, Rhulk survived--thanks to the Witness. The Witness was quick to heal Rhulk and repair his Glaive, while also gifting him with some kind of Dark power. Rhulk then returned to the city and murdered his father and mother, as well as the rest of the clan. His rampage caused the Regime to turn against him, and Rhulk fought them, too, but was eventually imprisoned.
The Witness intervened again, helping him escape and find his Glaive. Infused with the power of Darkness, Rhulk used his Glaive to reverse the flow of solar energy the Regime used to power the city, and in so doing, destroyed Lubrae's blue sun, an act that annihilated life on the planet. The device that drew power from the sun, and which Rhulk reversed, appears to be "the Upended," which Rhulk refers to during the raid. Near as we can tell, that's the big cubic object filling with orange energy that he keeps in his Pyramid; more on that in a bit.
The last survivor of the planet, Rhulk fell into despair over what he'd done. The Witness forced him to revisit those memories, though, and in so doing, convinced Rhulk that what he'd done had helped him shed his weakness. Rhulk came to worship the Witness, becoming its Disciple and working to destroy what he saw as weakness in the universe, to help it move toward its "final shape."
The creation of the Hive
It seems that Rhulk was the Witness's answer to the Traveler's interference with civilizations. The Traveler uplifted species to fit its ideology, so to battle it, the Witness started doing the same with powerful individuals. It dispatched Rhulk to create an army for the Witness--what you might consider a race of dark Guardians.
Rhulk went to the planet of a race called the Ahslid, but he didn't make himself known there. Instead, he systematically and secretly killed members of the race, hiding his presence, over the course of years. His goal was to shape the Ahslid's ideology through fear and destruction, to force them to realize that survival is a matter of strength. He was hoping to create a race who worshiped the Witness's ideals, and for a while, it seemed as though he'd be successful.
Ultimately, though, Rhulk's attempt at building a Darkness army backfired. Driven by the Witness's ideology, the Ahslid wound up destroying each other in a nuclear war. Rhulk moved on; the Witness next sent it to Fundament, the home planet of the Krill. The Traveler had already arrived, uplifting civilizations that lived on Fundament's moons. Down on the surface, on continents floating in Fundament's oceans, were the Osmium Court and Sathona, Aurash, and Xi Ro--the Krill who would become the Hive gods Savathun, Oryx, and Xivu Arath.
We saw in The Witch Queen's story campaign that the Witness manipulated events on Fundament to create the Hive, and Rhulk was the agent carrying out the orders. Rhulk began by finding the worm gods living in Fundament's oceans and making a deal with them, which were trapped in the ocean by the Leviathan, a huge creature allied with the Traveler. Rhulk encountered the Leviathan as it dove into the ocean of Fundament and ripped a rib from its chest. This is a big deal--the Leviathan was ludicrously huge (Calus's Leviathan ship seems to be made from the body of one of these creatures, if not this one) and Rhulk wounded it (maybe fatally) with almost no effort at all.
With the Leviathan bested, Rhulk continued deeper, where he used the rib as proof of his power to the worms. He offered them the chance to live and spread, provided they served the Witness with their power. Despite the worms considering themselves gods, Rhulk struck fear in them with his own immense capabilities. They called him Subjugator, and agreed to the deal. It was Rhulk who set in motion the events that would lead to the worm familiar washing up on the shores of the Osmium Court. So the Hive were manipulated into fighting for the Darkness, but they're not the only victims--the worms were also coerced into doing the Witness's bidding, and seem to consider themselves prisoners of its will.
After fleeing the court following the assassination of their father, Sathona, Aurash, and Xi Ro used a ship they found to delve into the oceans, where they encountered the Leviathan. The Leviathan tried to convince the sisters not to trust the worms, but to no avail. It also tried to turn Rhulk away from the path of Darkness, but Rhulk demonstrated his incredible power by killing the creature. He kept one of its ribs, which you can see in the first area of the Sunken Pyramid, called Acquisitions.
Hive lore tells us there were five worm gods the Hive served, but in Rhulk's story, we find out about a sixth--Xita, the worm mother. That's the huge worm god you see lying in the middle of the Sunken Pyramid during Vow of the Disciple. With the Leviathan dead, Rhulk took Xita back to the Pyramid to facilitate the worms' pact to create the Hive. As we see in the Birthplace of the Vile strike and in the raid, it was Rhulk who, using Pyramid tech and working for the Darkness, basically set up a factory to produce all the worm larvae the Hive needed for their entire race. Rhulk was the one who turned the Hive into a Darkness-worshiping force for genocide. He was the real power behind the worm gods.
The Hive ravaged Fundament and its moons, and then went on their billion-year tear through the universe, conquering and murdering all over. We don't know what Rhulk was up to during that time; he might have been staying in the shadows to more easily manipulate the Hive's progress. Eventually, though, the Witness became interested in Savathun, apparently even planning to potentially turn her into a Disciple as well. Rhulk was not happy about that possibility, feeling jealous of the possibility that the Witness could favor someone else. Still, the Witness also knew Savathun was a schemer, so it sent Rhulk to Savathun's Throne World in order to watch her; Fynch refers to it as "babysitting Savathun" in one of his dialogue lines. Rhulk did as he was told--the Sunken Pyramid in the Throne World and the Pyramid-tech cities built there are Rhulk's, as he's been hanging out with Savathun for who knows how long. But that also made Rhulk resentful, wondering if he was being punished for his failure with the Ahslid; he found the worms disgusting and the Hive mostly unworthy.
Of course, we know Savathun eventually got disillusioned with her deal with the Darkness. She's likely been planning to cut loose from the Darkness for a long time, but Rhulk would have been a big problem, hanging out right in her Throne World. Specifically, Rhulk had his Upended device to use as a threat to Savathun, it seems, giving him the capability to destroy the Throne World if she stepped out of line. It seems like this is the reason Savathun needed the Light: She had a huge, powerful Darkness monster sitting in what was basically her bedroom, and no way to deal with him.
When Savathun was resurrected by Immaru to become a Guardian, however, everything changed. Her Throne World, a reflection of Savathun's mind, physically rearranged itself, resculpted by Light power--Fynch says that mountains collapsed and cities fell and were replaced. When the Light flooded into the Throne World, suddenly, Savathun had the power to deal with Rhulk. She couldn't kill him, but she was able to imprison him within the Sunken Pyramid and contain him.
Rhulk is the reason the Scorn are all over the place in the Throne World. The world itself is covered in Light power, which should be enough to banish Darkness and its minions, such as the Scorn. But Rhulk and his Pyramid are kind of like a giant Darkness battery right in the middle of things. That power allows the Scorn into the Throne World and creates the sort of environmental war we see between Light and Darkness.
The cutscene after the raid's completion, then, suggests that Savathun's plan for bringing the Traveler into her throne world was at least in part about dealing with the First Disciple once and for all. Unfortunately, uh, we Guardians intervened. By killing Savathun, we stunted her power in the throne world, giving Rhulk an opportunity to rise up. That meant that someone else had to stop him.
What's happening in the raid
Vow of the Disciple takes Guardians into the Sunken Pyramid, seemingly by returning Rhulk's powerful crystal thing to him in order to open the door. That spinning Pyramid tech cylinder you see on the sled? That seems to be a source of power that appears all through the raid. After bringing it into the Pyramid, you later see it with the Caretaker, who is apparently powering it up or accessing it. In the final fight with Rhulk, it hovers over him and is apparently used to generate the giant forcefield that marks the first phase of that encounter. In fact, in the final moments of the raid, it appears that that object may even be his Glaive, Lubrae's Ruin. If that's the case (it's honestly hard to tell), then it seems that Savathun snagged this key component from the Sunken Pyramid--and specifically, the Upended--as part of imprisoning Rhulk within it, and in order to deal with him for good, you first have to give him the opportunity to regain his power.
Venturing into the Pyramid, you travel through what is essentially a museum to Rhulk's exploits for the Witness. The Darkness is all about memory, reliving past glories and understanding past sins and pain, and the Sunken Pyramid is a monument to all that. It contains what seems like the full history of the Sol system's wars in Destiny and Destiny 2, the Leviathan's rib from when Rhulk attacked it, and murals he's created depicting his exploits and his relationship with the Witness. This is Rhulk's palace, where he hangs out and enjoys thinking about being a Darkness badass.
The big worm in the middle, Xita, is powering the Upended, that boxy thing in the center of the Pyramid, and it's in this location where we find Rhulk. Since this worm is responsible for all the larvae the Hive use to gain their power, my guess is that we could be seeing the Hive's "tithe" in action here. The Hive's power through the worms comes from constantly feeding them through murder and conquest, but the Hive gods like Savathun, Oryx, and Xivu Arath became extra powerful through tithing. Each member of the Hive kills, using that murder to feed its worm--but some of that murder energy gets passed up the chain of command, from thralls to acolytes, acolytes to knights, knights to wizards, and so on. So the Hive gods feed their worms and gain their power through their own actions, as well as the actions of the entire Hive race beneath them.
Seems like that's not the whole story, though. From the lore, we learn that Rhulk also wanted the worms' power for himself. What I'm guessing is that all the Darkness energy created by the Hive's conquest is transmitted through the worm larvae to Xita, and thus, to Rhulk and his Upended device. Throughout the raid, we see that big machine under Rhulk's boss arena charging with orange energy, and it's that same energy that later powers his forcefield. This could be the true nature of the Hive's existence, the pact with the worms, and the bargain the worms struck with the Subjugator. The Hive and their worms feed power to Rhulk.
We also find out through the Evidence Board and the items we see in the Pyramid that Rhulk hasn't been sitting around doing nothing. He's been experimenting with the worms and the Scorn. The Evidence Board related to the REVERSE-LURE mission to get the Exotic Glaive suggests that Rhulk was trying to find other creatures to bind with the worm larvae, especially once Savathun turned on him. The Caretaker boss you fight during the raid is a Scorn Abomination, and the Evidence Board mission speculates that the Caretaker might have been a successful version of this experiment--the Scorn bound and infused with the power of the worm larvae. That's why the Scorn have been running around the throne world, trying to gather Hive runes and use their rituals; with Rhulk, the Scorn are trying to gain the Hive's Darkness powers.
Through the course of the raid, Rhulk's dialogue goads us on, as if he's testing us. He asks whether we will drown in the Deep or rise from it, as if he's looking to recruit, similar to what Calus was like during the Leviathan raid. At the end, though, Rhulk reveals the truth--by wandering through the Pyramid, bringing that artifact back to him and switching things on, we've helped him to regain his strength and power his device. He intends to take over Savathun's Throne World using the Upended and cut it off from the Light, dooming everyone in it.
Finally, though, you kill Rhulk and seemingly sunder his Pyramid. That's a big deal, since it establishes that yes, Disciples of the Witness can be killed. These folks are powerful, but not unbeatable.
It also suggests some big potential changes for the Destiny 2 universe going forward. Killing Rhulk also apparently ends the worm mother Xita, as well. Putting a stop to Rhulk's worm larvae production operation seems like it should strike a big blow to the Witness, because this seemingly should put a stop to the creation of additional Hive for the likes of Xivu Arath. Whatever Hive forces are at the Witness's command right now should be all of them, and every time we kill Hive forces, their numbers permanently dwindle. We've also probably put an end to Rhulk's experiments with joining the worms and the Scorn, stopping that threat before it could get off the ground.
We don't know who else is out there, though. The nature of the power of the Black Fleet isn't clear, and some of what we think is going on with Rhulk is speculation. We still don't know much about what the Upended exactly is, how it exactly works, or what it might mean for the future, either. And overall, Savathun's plans still seem to be unfolding, even after her death. Who knows what's still waiting for us in the throne world or the Sunken Pyramid.
The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.