Destiny 2's next content season, the Season of the Chosen, is here. Thanks to a trailer for the new season, we got a sense of a new threat facing the solar system in the form of a Cabal force and its new empress, Caiatl.
This is Caiatl's first appearance in the game, and if you haven't been following the ins and outs of Destiny 2 lore, you might be a little confused. After all, this will be our third major Cabal villain since the release of Destiny 2 back in 2017, and they're all related to some internal political struggle in the Cabal Empire that you wouldn't know about if you hadn't read various lore entries. Caiatl is new to the game, but her name has been floating around for a while and her presence could have some big implications for past characters and where the Cabal enemy faction is headed next in the story.
Caiatl is the Cabal empress, but she hasn't been in our solar system this whole time--instead, she was back at the Cabal homeworld. She has ties to the characters we've seen so far in Destiny 2, though. Caiatl is the daughter of Calus, the exiled Cabal emperor who spent the last few years hanging around in Nessus's orbit in his giant spaceship, the Leviathan. She was also an ally of Ghaul, the Cabal leader who deposed Calus and took over his reign. If you missed out on Destiny 2's vanilla campaign, the Red War, you should know that players walloped Ghaul, and the Traveler woke up and literally annihilated him.
Wait, Why Is Caiatl Empress And Not Calus?
To understand Caiatl's whole deal, it helps to know a bit about the Cabal. They're a generally militaristic society with an Ancient Roman theme, and for a while, they were the dominant military force in the galaxy. Then Calus took power in a populist uprising, pushing out the military leadership. Calus's whole deal was, basically, that everyone should relax and live luxuriously, and the Cabal people really enjoyed that, even if it left the military extremely sour.
So Calus threw his attention at wine, plays, zoos, gladiator contests, and other fun things. All the while, the empire's military forces worried they were in trouble with a leader who didn't really care about conquering things. Even Calus's daughter grew to hate him because of his laissez-faire attitude, which she saw as weakness. Caiatl loved flying and joined the military as a pilot, and that took her to the outer reaches of the Cabal empire, where she apparently saw a bunch of threats she was worried her dad wasn't equipped to handle.
When Ghaul started planning to overthrow Calus, Caiatl helped. They deposed Calus in an event called the Midnight Coup, but Calus was way too popular among the regular folk for the conspirators to execute him. Instead, they stuck him on the Leviathan and sent him out to wander the universe. And he did, for centuries.
Eventually, the Cabal invaded our solar system, and in Destiny 1, they got wrecked pretty savagely by two main forces: Guardians, the players; and the Hive, led by Oryx, the Taken King. Oryx used his power to "take" people (basically, to reshape them into some kind of dark creature and totally subsume their will) against the Cabal, so they rallied against him and attacked his ship, the Dreadnaught. They also sent a distress signal to the Cabal empire--and that's what caused Ghaul to invade at the beginning of Destiny 2.
So after Ghaul died, Caiatl named herself empress. Ghaul's troops, the Red Legion, are scattered around the solar system, but Caiatl is reuniting them. She also encouraged them to capture Calus, but they never managed to do so. When the Darkness and its fleet of pyramid ships showed up at the end of the Season of Arrivals, Calus seemingly bailed from the solar system as well--conveniently right before the arrival of his daughter, who hates him, and a huge batch of Cabal reinforcements.
Why Is Caiatl Here Now?
That's a good question since Ghaul has been dead for three whole years. The lore suggests things have changed recently back at the Cabal's home; a conversation between Vanguard leaders Zavala and Ikora Rey and the Reef's acting regent, Petra Venj, notes that the Cabal are suffering from some kind of frightening disease that seems to have its origin in the Hive.
Last season, the Season of the Hunt, was all about the Hive god of war, Xivu Arath, using a new power to corrupt various other aliens and turn them into "Wrathborn," an army that served her. That sounds a lot like a Hive disease and could be what's affecting the Cabal. Also in play is Savathun, another Hive god, who has been hanging around in Destiny 2 since the beginning, executing secret plans and schemes. The lore conversation mentioned above, which comes from the Wild Hunt armor from the Season of the Hunt, suggests the Hive are using the Dreaming City's Blind Well as a way to send the disease back to Cabal space. That also implies that Caiatl's arrival could be an aspect of one of Savathun's nebulous, evil machinations that we don't yet understand.
In any event, it seems Caiatl is here to fight the Hive and try to help her people back home. That tracks with the trailer Bungie released for the Season of the Chosen, when Caiatl will show up--she tries to create a treaty with the Vanguard to form an alliance against other threats like the Darkness. Zavala doesn't go for it, so we'll be at odds with Caiatl to some degree, but it doesn't seem to be another all-out war like when Ghaul arrived.
And the fact Caiatl offered a treaty at all suggests she needs the Guardians just as badly as she thinks we might need her. Fighting the Hive isn't easy, as the Cabal have repeatedly learned. So Caiatl is taking a page from her father's book: Calus enlisted the help of Guardians in the Leviathan raid lairs Eater of Worlds and Spire of Stars, and again in the Crown of Sorrows raid and the Season of Opulence. Caiatl seems to be thinking with the same imagination as her father (she even says in a lore entry that, while she despised all his frivolities, she appreciates the out-of-the-box thinking she picked up from watching so many plays and hearing so many stories).
The trailer for the Season of the Chosen paints Caiatl as a villain, but it seems like she's potentially a deeper character than that, and we haven't seen everything there is to see about the Cabal's plans. This whole season has a theme of "champions" about it (as in two opposing forces sending their best fighters to battle, rather than going into open warfare), which sounds like Guardians are facing off against Caiatl's forces in small honor battles rather than full-scale warfare. It might be that Caiatl really does want an alliance and is trying to work with Guardians but has to save face and project strength. So she's putting up her champions to fight against Guardians in Battlegrounds, this season's new activity, as much to test our mettle as to determine who gets to be in charge of the solar system. Testing players' mettle and then employing their help was exactly the same play that Calus made, after all.
There might also be more going on here than we're yet aware of. The trailer for the Season of the Chosen ends with a brief flash of a Scorn enemy and a Cabal ship drifting through space. There's some lore in the Season of the Hunt that mentions a rumor that Calus was dispatching his forces to capture Scorn--so perhaps we haven't seen the end of his influence on the situation after all.
Of course, it's pretty early to speculate, and we might find that we've stepped into another war with the Cabal in the Season of the Chosen--whether we wanted to or not. But with Calus gone, Caiatl is the only big Cabal character still around, so it would make sense that she's here to stay for a while. And like her dad, there might be more to her than just another large alien for us to shoot.
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