While I think it’s very evident that the Hive’s deal with Worms was a bad one for them and most people are aware of it, I don’t think anyone has ever detailed why, so here goes.
The Sword Logic
Let’s begin with laying out the nature of the Sword Logic, most succinctly provided by Toland:
> Excerpt from Ghost Fragment: Darkness 3
“Everything is becoming more ruthless and in the end only the most ruthless will remain (LOOK UP AT THE SKY) and they will hunt the territories of the night and extinguish the first glint of competition before it can even understand what it faces or why it has transgressed.”
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Sword Logic is the principle espoused by the Deep/Darkness. It may in fact be
the Darkness itself. I think Oryx’s direct encounter with it makes a good case for that and it goes into the concept of Sword Logic in a bit more detail during that encounter.
> Excerpt from Books of Sorrow XXXII: Majestic. Majestic
“The world is not built on the laws they love. Not on friendship, but on mutual interest. Not on peace, but on victory by any means. The universe is run by extinction, by extermination, by gamma-ray bursts burning up a thousand garden worlds, by howling singularities eating up infant suns. And if life is to live, if anything is to survive through the end of all things, it will live not by the smile but by the sword, not in a soft place but in a hard hell, not in the rotting bog of artificial paradise but in the cold hard self-verifying truth of that one ultimate arbiter, the only judge, the power that is its own metric and its own source—existence, at any cost. Strip away the lies and truces and delaying tactics they call ‘civilization’ and this is what remains, this beautiful shape.”
Under the Sword Logic, “there can be only one.” The strongest will eradicate all others and become the Final Shape. By dedicating themselves to the extinction of all other forms of life, the Hive has embraced the Sword Logic, granting them numerous paracausal powers. They have even implemented it in their own society, i.e. Oryx always killing his sisters and vice versa, the tribute system. They managed to achieve their power by accepting a symbiosis with the Worms—but that symbiosis is actually an ultimately fatal parasitism.
The Proposal of the Worm Gods
When the three sisters encountered the Worm Gods, they made an offer:
> Excerpt from Books of Sorrow IX: The Bargain
“Take into your bodies our children, our newborn larvae. From them you shall obtain eternal life. From them you shall gain power over your own fragile flesh: the power to make of it as you will. And should you find an imperfection in the world, an injustice or an inconvenience — you will have the power to repair it. Let no mere law bind you.
We ask one thing in exchange, oh Princes.
You must obey your nature forever. In your immortality, Aurash, you may never cease to explore and inquire, for the sake of your children. In your immortality, Xi Ro, you may never cease to test your strength. In your immortality, Sathona, you may never abandon cunning.
If you do, your worm will consume you. And as your power grows, oh Princes, so will your worm’s appetite.”
The Hive take the Worms into themselves. The Worms need to be fed a near constant tithe of slaughter, however, if a member of the species doesn’t want to be consumed by their worm. The more powerful the worm, the more powerful the Hive member and the hungrier the worm. For a creature as powerful as Oryx, we’re not talking just serial killer levels of slaughter. We’re talking species-wide genocide across several star systems. We see just how hungry his Worm is because Oryx states Crota’s death has made a large dent in the tribute he can give to his worm:
> Excerpt from Oryx, The Taken King
“Where is Crota, your lord, your princely god, your godly prince?
Tell me no lies!
I feel his absence like a hole in my
Where once his tender tribute whetted burrowed mouths,
Now only hunger remains.”
That’s why he comes for us. Less paternal rage, more fear of existential threat. Not even a direct existential threat, but one that is capable of actions with ultimately lethal consequences to Oryx.
Should the Hive succeed in their quest to kill all other life, they are left in a bind. They will have no way to feed their worms except to begin slaughtering each other. Eventually they will run out of each other, though, and, well, “there will be only one”.
One with a hungry worm that it can no longer feed. That worm will devour its host, leaving it as the Final Shape. From there, we don’t really know.
If you look at the Worm Gods original offer, this consequence seems rather obvious. In the sister’s defense, more or less, they were emotionally compromised and thirsty for vengeance—which has not yet been fulfilled, by the way.
The deal taken at face value is a violation of the Sword Logic. Even conditional symbiosis is a violation of it. Only one being can be the Final Shape. There is no room for permanent cooperation. The deal was manipulation, pure and simple. The worms were not capable of pursuing their goal in their current state and manipulated the sisters into doing their dirty work. They’re using them. They’re destructive parasites.
By embracing the Sword Logic in the manner that they did, which doesn’t make any sense if they use the Sword Logic, the Hive doomed themselves. We see in the Books of Sorrow that Oryx has become aware of this and taken steps to personally circumvent the doom he has brought down upon himself and his people:
> Excerpt from Insight
“If I am defeated, I know that I will fall to something mighty. Something that craves might, something that loves what I love, which is the Deep, a principle and a power, the versatile, protean need to adapt and endure, to reach out and shape the universe entirely for that purpose, to mutate and redesign and test and iterate so that it can prevail, can seize existence and hold it, certain that this is everything, that there is nothing to life except living…
So I will prepare a book, which is a map to a weapon. And my vanquisher will read that book, seeking the weapon, and they will come to understand me, where I have been and where I was going. And then they will take up my weapon, and they will use it, they will use that weapon, which is all that I am…
They will become me and I will become them, each of us defeating the other, correcting the other, alloying ourselves into one omnipotent philosophy. Thus I will live forever.
I’ll make sure.”
The Darkness has been shown to be a being unto itself. Under its own principles, it must seek to be the Final Shape. Doesn’t that mean it will eradicate all its servants eventually? The Worms may have gotten a raw deal themselves.
Have Xivu Arath and Savathun reached the same conclusion? Xivu seems less aware than the other two, more bloody minded, but Savathun is the thinker.
What is the result of Oryx’s attempted circumvention? Of all ridiculous ideas, could he feel regrets over what he has turned his people into and what he has doomed them to? Guilt for what they have done? Or is he simply delighted to have succeeded?
Do any of the siblings care that the Worm Gods have not really helped them fulfill their oath, as promised, or have they completely lost sight of it at this point? Oryx makes mention of Taox in passing, but it’s not a concerned mention.
*Edited because the internet has decided to hate me today and doesn’t seem to be letting up.