Welcome back to the Isu Codices. Since last time, we delved into the base game of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla in an in-depth discussion about the lore implications of certain elements of the plot, mostly revolving around the modern day and Isu-based concepts. We can go back into some remaining ideas, but first, let’s wrap up our look at the prequel miniseries by Dark Horse Comics.
Warning: This issue contains images that are very violent, much like how the game that comes afterwards has included decapitations and dismemberment in gameplay. Furthermore, there is grotesque imagery described in certain elements, particularly of the medical sort.
Secondary Warning: This analysis contains spoilers for the primary story arc of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla itself.
While the first of these concepts is in fact new to the franchise, the others are technically not, though we have not spoken about them in depth yet. As such, it seems best to put them under “New Concepts” unless we are to gather newer information after this explanation.
The Seventh Solution
We already went over Aita’s Sages in our very first installment of the Isu Codices, but Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla has shown us a new, different method of reincarnation for the Isu, as nine of them took new form in human beings during the ninth century CE, nearly all of whom are of the Norse and Danes.
The process is not entirely clear on account of being viewed through the filter of Eivor’s imagination for the most part, but it involves a supply of genetic material to Juno (for example, Odin’s eye) that was used to make use of a serum stolen from Jupiter and Minerva. Said serum was then injected into a location on the side of the Isu’s neck while they were hooked into a chair around a section of the Yggdrasil supercomputer, which seemingly supplied their genetic material to a collection of infants suspended in liquid above them. Judging from a letter Alcuin of York (identified as “Alcuin of Eoforic” in-game) wrote to Charlamagne, there is the possibility that this solution allows them to reincarnate “once only and never again,” unlike those that are “continually reborn” in the case of those identified as Sages.
As shown across the story of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, those of the seventh solution seem to have bizarre, nearly supernatural powers, especially where the passage between life and death is concerned. In the series, there is often a “loading screen” that consists of an endless expanse of darkness and lighter smoke or mist, where players can test some of their abilities while waiting. Even as it shows up in post-assassination cutscenes, it never amounts to more than a hallucination and is never commented on or used in any way. In the case of Eivor, it was actually utilized as a means to communicate with Odin’s consciousness or use odd powers involving his staff Gungnir, and in at least one case, one of the victims actually saw the location and was horrified not to go to the realm of Valhalla, only to be told it is Niflheim, realm for the faithless. Such concepts were never seen before, and may be the result of instituting a nexus in space-time much like a Crystal Ball (to be explained if it comes up in the comics later)… or may just be a stylistic choice. The implications could go either way, or to something else entirely.
Those who are of the seventh solution have a distinctive blue mark on the side of their neck in the shape of a tree, reminiscent of the branches of Yggdrasil in myth. As such, various reincarnations can be identified through the Valhalla storyline across various media. Several of the Isu and their reincarnations are known as of the release of “Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla: Song of Glory” #3. Odin returned as Eivor Varinsdottir, Tyr came back as Sigurd Styrbjornson, Thor became Halfdan Ragnarsson, Heimdall emerged as Rig Reidarasson (of the Rigsogur saga), and Freyja took form as the seeress Svala (mother of fellow seeress Valka). Though not part of Odin’s plan either as the Havi himself or one of his seven followers, Loki broke into the Yggdrasil chamber soon after the eight Æsir and Vanir left the chamber to face their fate in the Toba catastrophe, and eventually came into a new form as Basim Ibn Ishaq as part of his long plan with Aletheia (also known as Angrboda) for reincarnation and vengeance against Odin for harming their son Fenrir. Faravid, loyal warrior of Halfdan, also has the mark, but his specified Isu is uncertain, as is the one of that which was shown in the most recently released comic issue.Continued below
As of December 2020, the identity of Odin’s seventh follower’s reincarnation, as well as the identities of two of the Isu reincarnated (in the cases of Faravid and the newly revealed Gull) are still unknown. Although certain evidence in the concluding issue of ‘Song of Glory’ imply that the most recently revealed Sage may be the reincarnation of Idun, goddess of youth and guardian of the Apples of Idun, even that is little more than conjecture at present.
Pieces of Eden
While we have seen various Isu artifacts over the course of the comic run, we have never really explained what exactly the artifacts “of Eden” actually are. These remnants of technology, called the Pieces of Eden, are left over from the Isu Era, and take the form of a variety of different items, their most basic usage often self-evident from their construction alone, especially those that appear to be weapons. Such construction is intentional, as it makes using them far easier for future generations, and many of them have become famous artifacts across civilization, either in myth or confirmed history. Most if not all of them were formed from the nearly indestructible metal and fuel source “adamant,” which is known as “adamantine” in 5th century BCE Greece, and as “pathorica” by 21st century Abstergo Industries. Many of these items were invented and built by Hephaestus, who even was building them long before the birth of Juno (showing how the Isu pantheons are not as clear-cut as one may assume).
Much of the “powers” of these items can be attributed to scientific principles, such as quantum mechanics or holograms, or in some cases to nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. However, others seem to be more in the range of magic, especially in how Isu themselves use them or utilize seemingly healing or otherwise physically harmless items to harmful ends. Taking a term from the analysis of the Staff of Hermes Trismegistus in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, they seem to be utilizing what is known as the “Wireless Energy Lattice,” drawing forth energy and transmuting it into more dangerous forms such as electricity.
Some of these artifacts follow set themes of “[item] of Eden,” including the Shrouds, the Apples, the Swords, the Staves, the Spears, and the Rings, or otherwise are present in large amounts such as the Crystal Balls and Crystal Skulls. Each of these seem to have the same basic capabilities, albeit with some differences in how they are each used.
There are even pieces known as “Fragments of Eden” that are truly just smaller pieces broken off from larger Pieces, using some of the same capabilities on a smaller scale, but those are not present here, and so will not be discussed unless they come up in another story in one way or another.
One of the key things to know about the Pieces of Eden is that not everyone can use them, and not everyone is susceptible to their influence. Due to a neurotransmitter in humankind that is not found in the Isu, those with more Isu DNA are more resistant to their technology’s corruptive or manipulative influences, and also more capable of using their more “supernatural” abilities, to the point that it is possible to find out how much Isu genetics a person has by how much of the powers they are able to use (though not with any degree of specificity).
Much of what is known about the Pieces of Eden comes not only from the video games and comics, but also from the website “Project Legacy,” which dealt with many of the stories and how they “really” happened.
Apples of Eden
Beyond any other Piece of Eden, the Apples of Eden have been the most represented in all of Assassin’s Creed media, taking the form of a small, golden ball with arcane symbols along its surface. Starting with the original game that introduced the very concept of Pieces of Eden, they have been present in eight of the twelve console video game releases, as well as appearing in the live action film and three comic series.
The term “Apple” comes from the way it has been a replacement for various “apples” in mythology. In Abrahamic mythology, one of them was the Apple of Knowledge that gave intelligence to Adam and Eve, while another (or perhaps the same one) is suggested to be the reason for why Cain slew Abel. In Classical Greco-Roman mythology, one of them is seen as the Apple of Discord that started the Trojan War due to the machinations of Paris of Troy, another served as the apples dropped in the path of Atalanta that tricked her into allowing Kyros of Zarax (also known as Hippomenes) to win a race against her, and they were also the apples in the Garden of the Hesperides Herakles needed to recover as one of his twelve labors. Most importantly for the story of ‘Song of Glory,’ the Apples of Eden are identified with the Apples of Idun, the fruit that granted youth and immortality to the Æsir gods so long as they ate it.Continued below
The most prominent use of the Apples of Eden is that they can manipulate the minds of people, overriding their thoughts to serve the will of the user, and the Apples can even influence someone when no-one is using it into using the Apple in the first place, either through a direct hallucination or by “communicating” with people to show them the schematics necessary to make the technology and transferring knowledge about the manufacturing of the shown devices. While those with Isu genetics are immune to the mind-controlling elements of the Apple due to lacking the neurotransmitter (see above under “Pieces of Eden”), the desire for knowledge can make them a temptation to even the most strong-willed.
Outside of mind control, the Apple can allow a variety of seemingly supernatural abilities, with different ones used depending on the person and, apparently, which Apple is in use, to the point of essentially making what appear to be realistic, seemingly hard light illusions into being a transformation of thought into reality, up to and including these illusions or holograms being capable of hurting others or causing an energy blast on contact, paralyzing others, or even allowing for “teleportation” by turning the user invisible to allow an escape. Furthermore, they even appeared to be capable of reanimating the dead as they did with “cursed” pharaohs in the Valley of the Dead during 38 BCE, though that may have been a case of realistic holograms as well given the lack of any precedence or succeeding usage of outright reanimation. The Wireless Energy Lattice also appears capable of being used to project spherical balls of energy or blasts of that same power, both of which look similar to the blasts projected by Pythagoras in Atlantis in a non-canon battle during 422 BCE, and thus likely have a similar methodology behind them.
Those who have come into contact with the Apple’s power and have some Isu genetics may even have resistance or even total immunity to the physical control, outside of being directly attacked by hard light or the other energy projection, allowing them to disperse or otherwise resist attempts to paralyze them through familiarity with the power itself.
Apples are not only used by themselves. Certain Apples can imbue objects with illusory power or a blinding light, including a sword called the Eagle of Suger and the “Head of Saint Denis.” Still, this ability has only been seen with one Apple as of yet, the one used by 12th Century CE French abbot Suger and later recovered by Parisian Assassin Arno Dorian in 1794. On a similar note, Apples can be used in conjunction with other Pieces of Eden, most famously the combination with a Staff of Eden to accentuate its powers and open the way to an Isu Vault under the Sistine Chapel.
It is likely that, being a member of the Order of the Ancients, Kjotve sent his people to the temple in order to retrieve a Piece of Eden of some sort, but if it had been this type, it would be all the better for him, considering his obsession with control that would have been all the better served with a mind control device. However, it is unclear if he would have been able to make use of it, considering his connection to the Isu is unclear.
During the course of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Basim asks Fulke, a scholar of Isu artifacts, if she had found any sphere with strange markings on it, showing that he was aware of this kind of device, though he may have just as easily meant a Crystal Ball (again, to be discussed if it becomes relevant).
Shrouds of Eden
Shrouds of Eden are not nearly as prolific as Apples, only appearing in Assassin’s Creed II glyphs, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey’s simulations of Atlantis, and having a prominent role as the main Piece of Eden being hunted in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, with other uses either being merely mentioned (such as its usage in ‘Uprising’ or otherwise expanded upon in the Project Legacy website’s arcs.
Nonetheless, they are important in their own way. The Shrouds’ name is derived from the Shroud of Turin placed upon the body of Jesus of Nazareth following his death, with the implication of it being involved in his resurrection (an event that did not happen in Assassin’s Creed lore). Other Shrouds include one used by King David of Israel when he killed Goliath of the Philistines, Joseph’s coat of many colors, and the Golden Fleece found by Jason (of Argonaut fame).
According to Azaes, a son of Poseidon present around the fall of Atlantis, Shrouds are “nanotech matter regenerators.” They are, first and foremost, medical devices, capable of healing almost any wound short of death unless the Shroud itself is destroyed. Essentially, what a Shroud does once wrapped around a body is check its database of “blueprints” within the body for how it should run, and then repair said body by “accessing recovery centers” to accelerate healing processes, including reconstructing the body on a cellular level or even reversing decomposition. They have been used to heal stab wounds, gunshots (including to the head), and birth defects, but as shown in the case of Jesus and earlier with Marcus Junius Brutus, they can restore health to a body, but not restore cognitive function to a corpse, a regenerated body remaining functionally braindead until it is removed, at which point it returns to complete death. As shown in the case of the Phoenix Project, it can even construct a complete Isu body through application of Sage triple-helix DNA strands, though without a mind in the Grey to upload into said body, it would remain inert.
Much like Apples, Shrouds have a mind of their own, and may not take kindly to being forced into a position of which they do not approve. If a user attempts to force a Shroud to function beyond what it intends, it is prone to potentially tear the user apart from the inside out, as happened with Niccolò Orsini Di Pitigliano in 1510 CE, who died from a combination of vomiting blood, inhuman contortion of muscles and snapped bones, and, by the end, asphyxiation and blindness in one eye.
As used by Crawford Starrick in 1868, the Shroud can provide other benefits of a more offensive nature. While wearing a Shroud, Starrick had enhanced strength to superhuman levels, enough to throw a grown human being across a large room, and was capable of projecting “nets” of seemingly electrical energy to slow attackers, likely through the aforementioned Wireless Energy Lattice. Due to the Shroud’s healing abilities, all wounds dealt to Starrick were near instantaneously healed until the Shroud itself was removed from his shoulders, at which point he was as mortal as any other man, the benefits immediately gone.
Intriguingly, the legend of one Shroud, the Golden Fleece (the prototype Shroud) served as an inspiration for the signature armor of Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad in his later years, though, aside from gleaning the concepts from his research of an Apple, the seemingly indestructible, yet light armor bore none of the same characteristics as the Shrouds themselves.
While it is an interesting Piece of Eden in the entire franchise overall, the role of a Shroud of Eden in ‘Song of Glory’ is merely a plot device to bring in Ammon. We do not see it in action at all and are only told of its importance in general terms that can only be truly gauged by those who are already aware of its significance.
This section will be used intermittently (or perhaps not much at all), but is for elements that could make their own comic series that are not addressed in the story itself up front.
On the subject of the Hidden Ones, there is one person who is not mentioned in the ‘Song of Glory’ miniseries, and we had not brought up in our analysis of the game’s lore before: Magister Vitus, the Roman Hidden One who had overseen and ordered the retreat from England shortly after the death of Emperor Honorius in 423 CE and departure of the Roman legions, to join the contingent of Hidden Ones in Cologne, Germany. There are notes written in various bureaus around England about the evacuation, along with an unmarked tomb that can be attributed to him through analyzing the code he used, located in Cent. In said coded message, he says, in Latin, “We gladly consume those who would subdue us – but I have failed”, indicating the end of his tragic tale. His armor, called the “Magister” set, is also able to be acquired by Eivor during the game itself, showing what he may have looked like.Continued below
Judging from his notes and final words, a miniseries could go over his disillusionment with how to handle the Roman British Brotherhood and his eventual lonely death, given how he eventually believed that he had weakened the Roman Empire in Britain by destroying “pillars” holding it up (not unlike how Jacob Frye caused disorder in London by indiscriminately killing Templars in charge over 1,400 years later).
Much like in the previous issue, there are multiple storylines more or less concurrent with one another. Rather than write them out in order, they will be written up in the order that makes the most narrative sense.
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla: Song of Glory #3
Following Gull’s betrayal, Bjarke Broadside asked for the location of the treasure promised to Kjotve, and Gull said it was at Heimdall’s dwelling, Himinbjörg, causing Bjarke to lash out in anger because they already were in Heimdall’s temple. Despite her injuries, Eivor tackled Bjarke away to save Gull from the physical abuse, regardless of her treachery, but was just called a fool by her target and thrown nearly entirely off of a nearby cliff in response before Bjarke looked to his fellow Norsemen and commanded them to start looking.
When Eivor returns, she went about fighting once more, killing Bjarke by surprise, then dueling the another of his troupe, Erland. During the battle, Eivor realized that Heimdall’s treasure trove was hidden behind a broken mural of his home in Asgard, and made her way in, forcing Erland back out and incidentally causing the floor near him to collapse, killing all of Kjotve’s remaining forces in the temple.
Unfortunately, before she could grab the Apple of Eden that was hidden there, it was retrieved by Gull, who denied that name or the life of a slave while removing her metal collar, showing the Yggdrasil marking on her neck that identified her as a “seventh solution” Sage. Judging from how she manages to use the Apple to paralyze Eivor momentarily through commanding her to “stop,” and seems associated with the device, it seems highly likely that she is a Sage of Idun (or whatever the right terminology is for the seventh solution), guardian of the Apples of Idun that are identified with the Apples of Eden themselves. The fact that she seems to know exactly how to use this “fruit from Idun’s orchard” lends all the more credence to the idea.
Due to the age of the temple and the pressure of various people during the fight, the wooden floor of the temple began to collapse, snapping Gull from her reverie as she lost her footing and her grip on the Apple, as well as allowing Eivor to move. Despite Gull’s talk of the world not being what it seems (and other similar phrasing’s common of Sages far before their time), Eivor tried to get her away from the collapsing platform, as well as to grab the Apple as her prize for her clan. However, it was readily apparent that there was only time to save either the Apple (which had fallen far below) or her clan (by rushing back to Stavanger), and so Gull forced her to choose: glory at the risk of all else, or grasping her destiny by saving her people. Considering neither Gull nor any Apple of Eden shows up in the base game of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, but Styrbjorn and Dag do, her answer, unstated in that scene, was frankly quite clear.
Back at Stavanger, the Adger forces of Kjotve the Rich (confirmed to be the very same individual as Kjotve the Cruel), assailed the area, with King Styrbjorn Olafsson being dragged away from the battlefield. However, as the invaders put Stavanger to the torch as part of their raid, the jarl rose to his feet to fight back (seemingly completely ignoring his arrow-based injuries in the process), and voiced Eivor’s fault for this attack.
Despite his best efforts, Styrbjorn remained on the defensive during the attack against Kjotve’s champion Viggo, and Tora died in the process of trying to save him (unsurprising, considering she is the only named character of the Raven Clan in the comic who is not present in the main game). It is only due to Eivor’s timely arrival, decapitating Viggo and thus scattering the Adger forces, that they managed to turn the tide and force the raiders out of their lands, with Dag being the only one seen to actually ask where she had been in her time away that led to such carnage. In return, Eivor only says that she was making “the only choice [she] could,” and that she had chosen Stavanger.Continued below
At Dniester Pass in Bulgar (around modern-day Ukraine), it seemed that while wounded, Knud was not dead, though Sigurd Styrbjornson remained focused on fighting Ammon. However, despite his faith in the crucible steel of his sword, Sigurd found it to be sliced through the metal from the hilt by the Hidden Blade, followed by a stab into his abdomen with the same Hidden One signature weapon. With Sigurd shocked and wounded, Ammon ran off to try and find his target while leaving the Norsemen behind to die.
As it turned out, Ammon was after one of the Shrouds of Eden, seemingly one beyond the two already known (and destroyed by 2018). Sigurd caught up with Ammon shortly thereafter, having taken Knud’s fallen axe after the man had died of his wounds. Engaging Ammon in battle once more, he killed the Hidden One and severed his arm, taking the Hidden Blade for himself and leaving behind the Shroud, not realizing its worth far outstripped any one weapon in his era.
Some time later in Constantinople, a Hidden One approached someone who appeared to be his Mentor, Basim Ibn Ishaq. Despite Ammon being unsuccessful in reclaiming the Shroud in Ukraine, they had news of a Norse warrior who had killed him, one with a particular mark on the side of his neck. Basim was excited by this news, and made plans to see this Norseman, believing him to be who he had been searching for, events that led directly into the plot of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla itself.
Check back next month, when we’ll be going over the conclusion of the “Assassin’s Creed: Bloodstone” duology!