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The Great Machine
- "The best voices never let themselves be heard at all. This lesson is worth teaching again and again. The choice is never mine. It is always yours."
- — The Traveler
The Traveler is a mysterious spherical paracausal entity associated with the Light. Massive in scale, it hangs motionless in the skies above the Last City built in its shadow. Once responsible for terraforming the worlds of the Sol System, it was rendered largely inactive during the Collapse, when its ancient enemy arrived and launched a devastating assault on human civilization.
The Traveler is an ancient and immensely powerful machine entity, the source of Ghosts and the Light-based powers of the Guardians. It is a source of Light, though not the only source in the universe. Its outer shell is made of lead, neutronium and "electroweak matter", the latter based on a fundamental force that hasn't existed since the dawn of time.
The interior workings of the Traveler remain a mystery. The Ghost Balthazar claimed that Ghosts originate within the Womb, a place inside the Traveler described as a "cosmos inside a bottle" or an "infinite space enclosed within a celestial egg", where trillions of star-like souls orbit each other in a complex weave. Another Ghost named Peach was dismissive of this description, contending that neither she nor Balthazar can remember the time within the Traveler.Fenchurch Everis claims to have been inside the Traveler, but no one has been able to confirm the veracity of his story.
The Traveler seems to be motivated by pure altruism; it has never wished to be worshipped as a god, nor has it made its presence known any more than necessary to cultivate a civilization. In the past, whenever its work was finished, it would simply leave without fanfare. It would seem then that its defense of humanity was an extraordinary act under dire circumstances.
The Ancient Past
The origins of the Traveler are unknown, although it is known to have existed for billions of years. In one of her messages to the Guardian through Sloane, Ahsa makes reference to "two halves of a whole, long divided," which in context seems to suggest that the Traveler and the Veil were once part of a single entity, or at least share a common origin.
As revealed by Ahsa, billions of years ago the Traveler lay dormant and half-buried on a desolate planet, where it was discovered by a humanoid species. It then awakened, either of its own accord or as a result of the species' actions, and proceeded to terraform the planet and bestow paracausal gifts to its discoverers, much as it would later do with many other species. This brought about a golden age for the species that lasted millions of years. The civilization worshipped the Traveler as a deity, calling it "The Gardener".
Although the Traveler brought the civilization great prosperity, it never made any attempt to communicate or impart wisdom or guidance. As a result, the society began to crave meaning, and sought to find something that would bring order and purpose to an otherwise open-ended existence. In their studies of the Traveler, they also came to view the Light as a fundamentally capricious and chaotic force, equally capable of bringing life or death with no ultimate justification for either.
At some point, the species discovered that the Traveler had a counterpart entity, located in a distant star system. They named this entity the Veil, and determined that it was a source of power that was the opposite of the Light, one linked to the mind and consciousness rather than the physical world: the Darkness. In studying the Darkness, they discovered that it held the means to guide the universe into a perfected, eternal form, a "Final Shape" that would last to the end of time and beyond. In this, they found the purpose they had sought for so long.
In order to achieve their goal, the civilization determined that they needed to bring the Traveler and the Veil into close proximity, strengthening their connection and in so doing granting them the ability to alter reality itself. They set out to locate and retrieve the Veil, and brought it back to their homeworld so that they could form a link between it and the Traveler.
However, the Traveler was apparently unwilling to allow this outcome, and responded by leaving the planet and fleeing into the distant reaches of space. Unwilling to abandon their quest, the civilization used the Darkness to bind their consciousnesses together, merging themselves into a single, unfathomably powerful entity: the Witness.
Empowered by the Darkness and commanding a fleet of pyramidal ships, the Witness left its world behind and began a crusade to find the Traveler and unite it with the Veil, and in doing so bring about the Final Shape.
Billions of years ago, the Traveler visited the Lubraeans and uplifted their civilization. However, it eventually left, and the Lubraean civilization gradually descended into a military dictatorship restricted to a single city, with those who rejected the regime wandering the wilderness as nomads.
The Rise of the Hive
Some time after visiting Lubrae, the Traveler visited the system of the gas giant planet Fundament, where it uplifted a species known as the Ammonite who lived on one of Fundament's 52 moons. Following this, it sought to uplift a primitive species known as the Krill that resided on a floating continent in Fundament's planet-wide ocean. However, the Witness sought to use the Krill for its own purposes, and by manipulating a young female Krill, Sathona, through her dead Worm familiar, it led her and her two sisters to find the Worm Gods imprisoned within the planet's core- an event which would lead to the Krill becoming the Hive. The Traveler subsequently fled Fundament's system, leaving the Ammonite to die at the hands of the Hive.
Riis and The Whirlwind
The Traveler visited the planet Riis at some point before coming to the Sol System, uplifting the Eliksni species. Unfortunately, as with every world visited by the Traveler, Riis was attacked by the Black Fleet, as well as possibly Oryx's Hive. As it had many times before, the Traveler fled, leaving the Eliksni at the mercy of the Black Fleet as their civilization was destroyed. This event became known in Eliksni history as the Whirlwind.
The Golden Age
- "Traveling. Moon X. Look, we need to stop even thinking of it as a satellite or a false moon. It's big, but it acts alive— this thing moves with purpose. It's a visitor. It's… a Traveler."
- — Evie Calumet
According to the poem Dreams of Alpha Lupi, during its journey between systems, it detected a "face" emerging from the Sun, later hearing a roar that contained something that it described as "a lucid melody". The Traveler felt joy, as it felt "the first hope in ages transform [it]," and it resolved to become strong enough to fight the Darkness. Although the meaning behind the poem is unclear, it appears the Traveler chose to visit Earth for a reason.
The Traveler first came to human attention when it appeared around Jupiter and terraformed two of its moons. Initially dubbed "Moon X", it quickly became the center of international attention. After finishing its work on Jupiter, it vanished for fourteen months, reappeared to terraform Mercury, vanished again for seven months, and then appeared again to terraform Venus. Questions about the identity of Moon X abounded, and cults worshiping it emerged, some of which fell into conflict. Other cults held demonstrations calling for the unification of Earth's governments.
When Moon X was detected approaching Mars, a mission to intercept it was hastily organized. Initially known as Project Catamaran, the effort was renamed Ares One on the day of launch. Four individuals were chosen to be apart of this historic mission: Jacob Hardy, the pilot and mission commander; Evie Calumet, a theoretical physicist who first discovered Moon X; Qiao, the navigator; and M. Mihaylova, an artificial intelligence specialist. While the team played a game of basketball and brainstormed ideas for the mission, Evie dubbed Moon X as the "Traveler" due it moving with a seeming purpose. By the time the ship landed on Mars, the Traveler had brought the first rain to the desert planet. It helped humanity expand across the solar system, teaching humans new technologies, helping them terraform planets and leading humanity into a Golden Age.
- "The knife had a million blades."
- — Dreams of Alpha Lupi
Some time later, the Black Fleet appeared in the Sol System, leading to the destruction of almost all human civilization in an event known as the Collapse. For the first time, the Traveler decided to stand and fight the Black Fleet, as it abandoned its work on Io and raced to rescue its "children", humanity.
The exact timeline of events during the Collapse remains unclear, but it is known that the Traveler made a final stand against the Black Fleet, incurring severe damage in the process. During the battle, it managed to project a beam of Light into the far reaches of the system to protect the Exodus Colony Ship Yang Liwei from the Black Fleet, resulting in the ship being swallowed by a kugelblitz generated from the conflict between Light and Darkness.
The Black Fleet subsequently withdrew after the Witness was tricked by Savathûn, the Witch Queen into calling off the attack, with Savathûn having killed the Disciple Nezarec and hidden the Veil, a mysterious paracausal entity evidently key to the Witness' plans, away on Neptune. After the battle was over, the Traveler remained floating a relatively short distance above the Earth's surface, seemingly dormant, having apparently been stripped of its senses and "flesh" and made blind, deaf and mute to the outside world. 
As humanity struggled to rebuild itself from these events, the crippled Traveler gifted its protection and powers to the recovering humans. Although the times after the war were difficult, humanity persevered and with the help of this celestial guardian, and the humans eventually began to re-explore their terrestrial and solar domain.
The Dark Age
In its last breath, the Traveler created the Ghosts, to seek out those who can wield its light as a weapon. The Ghosts revived fallen warriors as Lightbearers, with the intent of protecting humanity when the Traveler no longer could. Unfortunately, many Lightbearers would choose to become Warlords, subjugating the survivors of the Collapse throughout the Dark Age, where humanity faced the threat of not only the Warlords and the hardships of survival, but also the threat of alien races such as the Fallen. Lightbearers with integrity would band together to stand up to the Warlords in groups such as the Iron Lords or the Pilgrim Guard. Over time, the Warlords would be beaten back.
The City Age
- "I wish for something to grow in my shadow."
- — Constellations
The remnants of humanity on Earth built the Last City beneath the resting place of the Traveler, where they were safe from the continuous onslaught of the various alien races and the now-declining Warlords. Over time, the people of the early City formed factions, dividing it and marking the beginning of the Faction Wars, which threatened to bring the City to its knees. It was during this time that a new generation of Lightbearers known as Guardians emerged, taking a stand to end the fighting to focus on the outside alien threats.
Eventually, a lone Guardian embarked on a quest that would help the Traveler slowly restore its power, first by stopping a Hive ritual in the Chamber of Night that was siphoning Light from the Traveler, and then destroying the heart of the Black Garden. After these events, the Traveler remained seemingly catatonic, showing no outward signs of activity.
- "In this dream, a horrible, brutal hand stretches toward you. But this is not the old enemy you know, it is something new."
- — Constellations
Two years after the Taken War, the Cabal Empire's Red Legion launched a major invasion of Earth headed by the leader of the empire, Dominus Ghaul. A devastating surprise attack on the Last City was launched, trapping the Traveler in a cage to siphon off its Light while separating it from the Guardian forces. Though trapped, the Traveler sent visions to the now Lightless Guardians to seek out one of its fragments in the European Dead Zone, whereby they could regain their powers. Dominus Ghaul attempted and failed to win the Traveler's approval to make him into a Guardian, and simply took the Light by force. When he gloated in front of the Traveler, the Traveler suddenly broke its cage and destroyed Ghaul, as well as slowly healing itself by drawing fragments back into itself. With the invasion ended and the city retaken, the Traveler was declared no longer dead but living once more.
Despite having awoken, the Traveler has still remained hovering above the Last City and has not taken any direct action. However, Benedict 99-40 claims that the Traveler has been busy.
A year after the Traveler woke, Ikora Rey revealed that the Traveler had been speaking to her and several other Guardians through visions since its awakening. Ikora then instructs Guardians to follow visions of light. Eventually, the visions lead the Guardians to Io, where the remnant light there grants them new abilities.
An Old Foe Returns
As the Guardians continued to protect the Last City and the Solar System from various threats, ranging from a looming Lunar Hive Fortress, a resurgent Vex invasion, scheming Psion Flayers looking to subvert time, to the Red Legion superweapon, The Almighty being turned into a kamikaze weapon directed towards the Last City, the Traveler's old enemy, the Darkness, slowly made its way towards the system. Though the Guardians soon gained a glimpse of the Darkness from their discovery of a Pyramid on Luna, the threat continued to ominously hang over them, especially as the Darkness made contact with The Guardian, addressing them not as their enemy nor their friend but as their "salvation".
In time, following the Almighty's destruction, a massive fleet of Pyramid vessels descended upon the Sol System, confirming the Vanguard's fears that the Traveler's counterpart has returned. However, as the Guardians work in deciphering what the Darkness wants, the Traveler continues to hang motionless over the Last City, even as the Pyramids touch down on various worlds. Even Zavala noted that the Traveler appeared to do nothing to combat its ancient enemy. Nonetheless, the Guardians continue to work diligently on figuring out the purposes in the messages the Darkness is sending while protecting their holdouts in the system.
As the Pyramids approached and consumed Io, Mars, Mercury and Titan, the Traveler, in an event which saw all fireteams return to the Last City to witness it, gathered light in order to repair the damage which had been caused by the events of the Red War.
The Traveler later called out to the Crow, sending him dreams of flying over the European Dead Zone and other areas he had previously visited. When the Guardian went to investigate the locations featured in these dreams, they discovered paracausal feathers at each site. Later, the Crow and the Guardian went to a region of the EDZ featured in these dreams, and were led by a spectral hawk made of Light to a previously-undiscovered shard of the Traveler. On top of the shard lay an effigy of the Hand Cannon Hawkmoon, crafted out of the material of the Traveler's outer shell.
During the events of The Witch Queen, The Guardian discovers that the Traveler, seemingly intentionally, chose to grant the Light to Savathûn, the Witch Queen and her Lucent Brood for an unknown purpose. Through usage of the Relic on Mars, it is learned that The Witness tricked the Hive into becoming its servants to avoid them being uplifted by the Traveler itself, like what occurred with many other civilizations. As a method of protecting the Traveler from destruction, the Light-bearing Savathûn attempted a ritual to bring the Traveler into her throne world, after which she would seal off entry for all beings. Despite succeeding in drawing the Traveler in, Savathûn is defeated at her own game and the spell is broken, causing the Traveler to return to the Last City's sky. Whether it truly wished to be brought to the throne world, wishing for the Hive to supplant the Humans, Exo, and Awoken as its Guardians, and if it even purposely chose the Hive, is still unknown.
At some point during these events, the Disciple of the Witness Rhulk had the Scorn under his command bring him a Ghost for study. His efforts were thwarted by the Traveler, who took direct control of the Ghost and rebuked Rhulk before causing the Ghost to explode.
Nowhere Left to Run
Despite the disturbing revelations of the Traveler gifting the Hive the Light, it still remained within the Last City as the Guardians prepare for the Witness's return and prevent a Second Collapse from happening. Though the Guardians gained allies in the form of the Imperial Cabal and the Eliksni House of Light, battled resurgent enemies such as Calus becoming a Disciple of the Witness and Eramis breaking free of her Stasis cocoon, the Traveler's old foe drew closer. Lately, the Guardians worked to restore the Warmind Rasputin so he can regain control over the Warsat Network before Eramis and Xivu Arath's Wrathborn, forced to work alongside the likes of Clovis Bray I, who would later be relieved to possess the delusion that only he was worthy of being humanity's savior as he originally intended to have Rasputin destroy and then replace the Traveler. Following this, Clovis was cast out but Eramis nonetheless gained access to Rasputin's protocol to attack the Traveler, ABHORRENT IMPERATIVE, in the event that the Traveler ever intended to leave Earth.
Racing to stop Eramis, the Guardians boarded Seraph Station, the command hub of the Network, and though they succeeded in uploading Rasputin into the station, Eramis managed to activate his protocol for the Warsats to attack the Traveler. At this point, the Last City became active as the Traveler began to drift away from Earth, causing uncertainty to spread amongst its denizens. Believing that the Great Machine is abandoning another civilization to save itself, Eramis gave the Warsats the order to fire. However, Rasputin succeeded in activating his AURORA SACRIFICE self-destruct protocol, destroying the entire Warsat Network along with himself, saving the Traveler, who remained still within Earth's outer orbit instead of leaving entirely. Confused and enraged on why the Traveler isn't fleeing, The Witness answered its servant, stating that the Traveler simply has no place left to run, as it had arrived in the Sol System with The Black Fleet and a vessel containing his latest Disciple. Zavala however, believes that the Traveler is actually taking a stand against it's old foe.
After the loss of the Warsat Network, the Witness and its Black Fleet moved on the Traveler. Alongside the Vanguard fleet, the Traveler attempted to defend itself by firing a beam of Light at the Witness' Pyramid, causing paracausal flora to sprout over the Pyramid's surface, but this did not hinder the Witness as it left its Pyramid behind and floated out through empty space to meet the Traveler directly, effortlessly destroying any enemy vessel that attempted to stop it. Eight other Pyramids took up a formation around the Traveler resembling an eight-pointed star. The Witness attempted to open a gateway using the Traveler, but was denied before seeing a vision of Neptune where the means it needed to create its gateway, The Veil, was located, sending its Disciple, Calus and his Shadow Legion, to acquire it.
Despite the efforts of the Guardian, Osiris and the Cloud Striders in slaying Calus, The Witness nonetheless won in acquiring The Veil, allowing it to establish a connection with the Traveler and open a gateway by inscribing a triangle on the surface of the Traveler. This opened a triangular portal, which absorbed several Pyramids before The Witness entered, leaving the Vanguard and their allies confused and dismayed.
Exactly what this outcome means for the Traveler remains unclear; the Guardians still have access to their Light-based abilities, but their Ghosts feel a sense of emptiness where the Traveler used to be. The Vanguard regards the Traveler as having been lost, but its physical form remains in orbit around Earth, with the giant triangular portal having stayed open after the Witness passed through.
Later during the Clash of the Hive Gods, Immaru claims that he can still sense the Traveler within his light but differently. He describes it as a sense of desperation, tension, and terror. He also claims that The Witness is doing something terrible to it, describing the Traveler as a god screaming for help. Whether his claims have any truth remains to be seen.
The Traveler's emission of Light appears to undergo cyclical fluctuations. These fluctuations are tracked by the Tower and reported over loudspeaker in the Tower North. Traveler status announcements include:
- "Traveler at 1 revolution per zenith."
- "Traveler approaching zenith."
- "Traveler entering zenith."
- "Traveler intensity at zenith."
- "Traveler exiting zenith."
- "Traveler declining 1 revolution per zenith."
- "Traveler entering declining phase."
- "Traveler entering retrograde phase."
- "Traveler entering equilibrium."
- "Traveler approaching theta state."
- "Traveler entering theta state."
- "Traveler in theta state."
- "Traveler exiting epicycle. Returning to main cycle."
- "Traveler at minimum valence. The Light persists."
The Traveler, captured by the Red Legion.
- The Traveler first appeared in another Bungie game, Halo 3: ODST, where a hidden poster made it appear innocuously like the Moon.
- The Traveler's size has changed over the course of development. Early concept art depicts a Traveler the size of a small moon orbiting Earth, while its finalized appearance in the game shows it hovering much closer to Earth's surface, within the atmosphere, and roughly the size of the Last City. According to a Reddit post made on /r/DestinytheGame, players were able to determine the Traveler's in-game size (as seen from the Tower and Bannerfall) as 1.2 kilometres in radius. Destiny 2 concept art (see gallery) revealed that the Traveler's diameter is seemingly fourteen kilometers.
- The terms "Retrograde", "Zenith", "Epicycle" "Theta State" and "Valence" are used in tracking the Traveler's Light output.
- "Retrograde", "Zenith", "Epicycle" are astronomical terms. In astronomy, the zenith is the point at which something appears directly overhead relative to an object or observer. Epicycle is a former astronomical term which was once used to describe the motions of other planets, relative to Earth, but has since been disproven; however, it still finds use in astrology. It was based on the old "geocentric" belief that the heavens and all objects within it travelled around the Earth. Observers would often note that the planets seemed to slow and change their trajectories in the course of their passage across the night sky, appearing to trace loops in their orbits relative to the stars behind them. This led to the concept of an epicycle: or a smaller rotation of a planet around a barycenter in the course of its larger rotation around the Earth itself. The period in which a planet appeared to slow and descend into a loop, just prior to appearing to move backwards, was known as the declining or descending phase. The period during which the planet traced the bottom half of the loop, appearing to move in the opposite direction from its orbital path is known as the retrograde phase. "Equilibrium" denotes the point at which the planet ceases to move backwards and begins to ascend out of the loop and into its normal orbital path once again, denoting the end of that particular epicycle. This particular astronomical theory was eventually proven to be an optical illusion after Copernicus introduced the then-radical notion that the Earth was not the center of existence & that all planetary bodies within the solar system, including Earth, revolved around the Sun. Johannes Kepler later proved that the so-called "epicycles" were the result of the Earth's orbital position relative to that of the planet being observed.
- The term "Theta State" refers to a Theta Rhythm, which is an oscillatory pattern of brainwave activity in electroencephalography (EEG). This rhythm occurs within the human brain's hippocampal and neocortical regions at between 4 Hz. and 7 Hz. In both regions, these signals have been associated with transitioning from a dream-state to wakefulness, as well as a state of deep meditation.
- In chemistry, the "Valence" of an element is a measure of its ability to bond with other atoms when it forms chemical compounds or molecules.
- These terms are drawn from three different fields of science and the exact manner in which they apply to the Traveler's Light output is unclear at this time, save that they are used to indicate a repeating pattern.
- The Festival of the Lost features a mask of the Traveler that can be obtained by players, and which is worn by the Speaker for the duration of the event. The back of the mask is marked by the tricorn symbol worn by the Speaker and included in Destiny's logo.
- According to Fenchurch Everis, the inside of the Traveler "smells faintly of vanilla".
- The pre-Golden Age magazine depicting the Traveler shows it in a damaged state, although it only became damaged during the Collapse, as seen with the Destiny 1 intro and simulations of the past in the Infinite Forest, where it can be seen undamaged in the background.
List of Appearances
- Law of the Jungle (First appearance)
- Destiny 2
- Bungie (2020/11/10), Destiny 2: Beyond Light, Playstation 4, Mysterious Logbook: NOTE—Third Vision
- Bungie (2014/9/9), Destiny, PlayStation 4, Activision Blizzard, Grimoire: Ghost Fragment: The Traveler
- Bungie (2018/9/4), Destiny 2: Forsaken, Activision Blizzard - Lore: Ghost Stories: Difference of Opinion
- Bungie (2014/9/9), Destiny, PlayStation 4, Activision Blizzard, Grimoire: Ghost Fragment: The Traveler 2
- Bungie (2022/2/22), Destiny 2: The Witch Queen - Lore: Shattered Suns: Provoked
- Bungie (2015/9/15), Destiny: The Taken King Playstation 4, Activision Blizzard, Grimoire: XIV: 52 and One
- Bungie (2015/9/15), Destiny: The Taken King Playstation 4, Activision Blizzard, Grimoire: XLV: I'd shut them all in cells.
- Bungie (2015/9/15), Destiny: The Taken King Playstation 4, Activision Blizzard, Item Description: Doom of Chelchis
- Bungie (2014/9/9), Destiny, PlayStation 4, Activision Blizzard, Grimoire: Ghost Fragment: Earth
- Bungie (2018/8/5), Destiny 2: Warmind Playstation 4, Activision Blizzard, Hardy's Journey
- Bungie (2018/8/5), Destiny 2: Warmind Playstation 4, Activision Blizzard, Hardy's Calm
- Bungie (2018/8/5), Destiny 2: Warmind Playstation 4, Activision Blizzard, Qiao's Strides
- Bungie (2018/8/5), Destiny 2: Warmind Playstation 4, Activision Blizzard, Hardy's Orders
- Bungie (2018/8/5), Destiny 2: Warmind Playstation 4, Activision Blizzard, Hardy's Control
- Bungie (2018/8/5), Destiny 2: Warmind Playstation 4, Activision Blizzard, Qiao's Care
- Bungie (2014/9/9), Destiny, PlayStation 4, Activision Blizzard, Grimoire: Ghost Fragment: Human
- Bungie Destiny Story
- YouTube - Destiny: Official E3 Gameplay Experience Trailer
- Gameinformer: Jason Jones – The Destiny Interview
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- Bungie (2014/9/9), Destiny, PlayStation 4, Activision Blizzard, Grimoire: Ghost Fragment: The Traveler 3
- Game Informer January 2014, page 52
- Bungie (2014/6/12), Destiny: Alpha PlayStation 4, Activision Blizzard, Grimoire: Ghosts
- Gameinformer, What's Going On In Destiny's Story – 2016 Edition
- Bungie (2019/3/5), Destiny 2: Season of the Drifter, Playstation 4, Activision Blizzard, Lore: Ecdysis: War Hammer
- Bungie (2014/12/10), Destiny: The Taken King, Activision Blizzard, Grimoire: Rezyl Azzir - Before These Walls
- Bungie (2014/9/9), Destiny: Playstation 4, Activision Blizzard
- Polygon - Watch the first teaser for Destiny 2
- YouTube - Destiny 2 – "Rally the Troops" Worldwide Reveal Trailer
- Ben Hanson, How Bungie Teased Destiny In Halo 3: ODST (GameInformer, Jan. 9, 2014)
- reddit: We found the traveler's size! (using parallax on bannerfall) ("Used parallax and private matches to try to figure out the size of the traveler.")
- Destiny Tracker: Traveler Mask