Know Your Lore: The loose ends of the Diablo story
Diablo 3 left some pretty big loose ends that aren’t getting tied up any time soon. Just off the top of my head, there’s the true nature of Dirgest, Liria, Zei and the other gods of the Xiansai pantheon. And there’s the final fate of Leah, and the repercussions of the destruction of the Worldstone. Can the Barbarians recover the loss of their purpose?
With the Worldstone gone and the return of the Nephalem, what happens to the balance between Heaven and Hell? There’s the fate of the Nephalem hero who stopped Diablo as well as Malthael. And finally, what happened to the Prime and Lesser Evils when Malthael shattered the Black Soulstone that contained all of their essences?
Now, the reason these are loose ends is because we have no idea what the answers are. But that doesn’t mean we can’t think about them. So let’s talk about Diablo 3 and the future. There will be spoilers for Diablo 3 and Reaper of Souls, if you haven’t played those already.
Dirgest, Zei, Liria and the Xiansai gods
This one’s fascinating to me because as presented, the Xiansai pantheon doesn’t fit into established Diablo canon. The Xiansai had 59 gods, but we only know of a few — there are the ones mentioned above, and Tong-Shi. Tong-Shi is the omnipresent father deity of the whole pantheon. He lacks omniscience, and thus seems to be portrayed as overwhelmed by his own followers. Dirgest himself seems almost certainly to be a demon of the Burning Hells, based on the nature of his servant Vekriss. But what of Zei, Liria, and the other 55 as yet unnamed gods of the Xiansai? There are a few possibilities.
First, they could be ancient and powerful Nephalem, much as Bul-Kathos and other ancient patrons of the Barbarians, or Fiacla-Géar is to the Druids of Scosglen. That would make them members of the Ancients, the first generation of Nephalem. They could also be of a later but still potent generation of the Nephalem. From before Inarius used the Worldstone to limit their power, perhaps having found a way to retreat from the influence of the stone in some fashion. Or, they could be related to the great dragon of balance Trag’Oul. The cosmic dragon mediator worshiped by the Priests of Rathma, as the means by which the Heavens and Hells can be kept in check and Sanctuary safeguarded from their Eternal Conflict. Exactly what Trag’Oul is and how it came to be has never been clearly stated.
Another possibility — one we see in other pantheons such as the Shaptev and Askari pantheons — is that some or even all of the Xiansai gods might be angels and demons. We’ve already speculated that based on his servitor, Dirgest could well be a demon. Who’s to say that others might not be masquerading as gods among the Xiansai divines as they do in other such groups?
But whatever the true nature of these beings, one thing is for certain. After the events of Reaper of Souls, Dirgest appears to be free. The fact that he was trapped in a gem, much like Diablo and the other Prime/Lesser Evils were, makes me more than a little suspicious. It definitely isn’t a good omen for Sanctuary.
A lament for Leah
It must be stated that Leah, despite her infernal parentage, was an utter innocent in terms of the forces of Heaven and Hell. She had made no pact or bargain with them, and even when standing next to her neither Tyrael nor his sword detected anything untoward about her. We watch her throughout the events of the game. At no point does she willfully commit to the forces of evil, or even commit an outright evil act. So when Diablo uses her as he does, it has to be said that she didn’t deserve it, not in the slightest.
We have no idea what became of Leah’s soul when Diablo usurped her body. Was she annihilated? Did she end up in the Hells? We get to destroy Adria, the architect of Leah’s fate — and that’s pretty satisfying — but we don’t get to discover what became of the girl who adventures by our side repeatedly throughout the game, and I think that’s a shame. I want to know what happened to her. If she’s in Hell, I want the Nephalem to kick in the door and go get her out. She deserved much better. We owe her.
The return of the Nephalem
In the past, the Nephalem were so mighty they walked the land like gods, and threatened Heaven and Hell alike. They terrified Inarius, their father, and tantalized Lillith who saw in them a weapon that could overthrow the Eternal Conflict. With the might of the Worldstone, the last remaining piece of primordial Anu, Inarius sealed away their power. He transformed the half angel, half demon Nephalem into mere humans. But now, the Worldstone is gone. The Eye of Anu has been shattered, and with it gone nothing prevents the Nephalem from once again regaining the heights of old.
How many Nephalem walk the land in Sanctuary now? We know of one — the mighty being that stood against the forces of evil and defeated Diablo. The one who battled death’s minions and stood against Malthael, casting him down as well. Is that Nephalem all that currently exists? Or have others begun to taste the power that is their birthright? How many Nephalem are there in Sanctuary, and how many will there be? Is this world on the cusp of change, as titanic beings of godlike power shake the very pillars of Heaven and send the sounds of doom forth into Hell?
We don’t know, of course. But we do know that just one Nephalem proved potent enough to defy fate, defeat the Prime Evil, and even balk Death itself.
The Prime Evil
The events of Diablo 3 see Diablo reborn, using the power of the Black Soulstone to essentially fuse all of the Greater and Lesser Evils together into a singular Prime Evil. But even so potent a being, the horrific heir of Tathemet, could not stand against the Nephalem who channeled both angel and demon power. In essence, Diablo was only half of the ancient singular being who made creation by destroying itself once divided, while the Nephalem could emulate both halves.
After the destruction of the Black Soulstone by Malthael, one question has been haunting me. Did Diablo escape the Soulstone as a singular being, a Prime Evil? As we saw in Act V of Diablo 3, the entire force of Heaven’s celestial armies could not stand against all seven Evils united in one body, yoked to one will. The only force in creation that could was the Nephalem. So if Diablo is still a singular being, it will take something on the order of the Nephalem to stand against it.
But if the Evils all escaped, if all seven are licking their wounds in the Burning Hells right now, then we’re simultaneously better and worse off. Better off because the Evils rarely manage to work together and unite all their force in one attack, giving Heaven the advantage. But worse because the Evils are very likely to see Sanctuary and its potential Nephalem as a great prize in the Eternal Conflict. Lilith won’t be the only demon to try and take advantage of the situation. And with Heaven in disarray following Malthael’s betrayal and destruction, there may be nothing to stop them.
Either way, one thing is clear — the defeat of Diablo in Diablo 3 and of Malthael in Reaper of Souls did precious little to save Sanctuary permanently. There are still a great many threats to the world of Sanctuary, and its survival, as the Eternal Conflict enters a new, unknown phase.
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