Know Your Lore: Imperius, the Archangel of Valor
Before the coming of the Nephalem, Imperius was the unquestioned greatest warrior in all creation. No demon, not even one of the Prime Evils, could best him on the battleground. When Heaven looked to be winning the Eternal Conflict it was always Imperius leading the Angels into the fray. When the Burning Hells would seem to gain the upper hand it was Imperius who led the counterattack. Imperius was and is Valor personified — bold, daring, fearless. Yet Imperius is the slave of his nature. Unlike a mortal being, he is helpless to restrain the fury for battle that dwells in the core of him.
The Hammer of Heaven
Like all Angels, Imperius was born from the Crystal Arch that lies at the heart of the High Heavens. This arch is said to be the spine of Anu, the primordial creator god who tore out his own imperfections and saw them rise as Tathemet. When Tathemet and Anu annihilated each other, the spine of the Diamond Warrior became the cornerstone of Heaven, the birthplace of all Angels.
Each Angel seems to embody a concept, to be that concept. For Imperius, that concept is valor. Valor is courage and bravery, yes, but the way it manifests in Imperius requires him to express this Valor in the fires of the Eternal Conflict. He seems most at home in battle, and while none of the Angels shy away from their role in the Eternal Conflict Imperius takes it to extremes.
During the long long war against the Demons, Imperius was closest to Tyrael, the Archangel of Justice. From his own words, he and Tyrael were battle companions, each owing the other his life. This bond would become strained over time. Even the Prime Evil Diablo commented on Imperius’ rage.
“Your rage makes you powerful. Yet you hide it from your brethren. Perhaps you fear them seeing you for what you truly are.”
Imperius replied that he fears nothing. But those accusations of fear enraged him, as he struck Diablo down for having dared to say he was afraid. When Tyrael said that Imperius refused to intervene in the mortal realm out of fear, Imperius actually assaulted his fellow Angel. If Imperius is not afraid of anything, why do accusations of fear fill him with such rage?
Perhaps it’s the nature of valor to seek to prove itself in battle and an accusation of cowardice or fear literally is a demand for proof. Such speculation cannot be proven, but it must be pointed out that whatever his faults, Imperius has never shirked his duty.
Imperius’ role in the engagement with Hell captured the demon lord Diablo, one of the three Prime Evils. The entire Angiris Council managed to storm Pandemonium and capture the Archfiend, seeking to imprison him. But Imperius’ rage at Diablo’s statement overwhelmed him, and caused Imperius to drive his spear Solarion into the demon. It killed him, and ultimately set him free. Both Angels and Demons cannot permanently die. When slain, their essences return to the font of their origin to be reborn. In the case of Angels, that origin is the Crystal Arch in the High Heavens. For Demons, it’s the corpse of Tathemet in the Hells.
Imperius has long struggled with his nature. He’s a warrior without peer who has dared to cast his spear into the very teeth of the hosts of Hell. But while Imperius is truly one of Heaven’s greatest, his same courage can lead to arrogance, impatience and recklessness. While he has fought hard across Pandemonium, he’s never won the Eternal Conflict. He’s a great warrior but perhaps not the greatest possible general. Especially without Malthael’s wisdom to guide him. Since the Worldstone disappeared and Malthael withdrew from many of his duties, the war has become an endless stalemate. Although in Imperius’ defense, it was that already. Just a different kind of stalemate.
The Sin War
We’ve covered the origins of the universe and the birth of Sanctuary before. Not all Angels and Demons were content to wage an endless war with no clear winner. Inarius, an Angel, and Lilith, a demon, saw that the forces of the High Heavens and Burning Hells were too evenly matched for victory to ever be possible. Together, they sought an out. An escape from endless war. And by seizing and controlling the Worldstone from Pandemonium Fortress, they could make a world where they could hide from it. Sanctuary, their sanctuary to be precise.
Eventually the Angels and Demons discovered this world and the half Angel, half Demon offspring of those that fled the war. Imperius was disgusted by what he called Demonspawn, and after the main confrontation with the forces of Hell had ended in yet another stalemate thanks to the actions of the Nephalem Uldyssian who reset the Worldstone at the cost of his own life, Imperius sought to destroy the ‘demonspawn’ as he viewed humanity.
The Angiris Council took up a vote. Imperius voted to destroy humankind. and Malthael abstained. Both Auriel and Itherael voted against purging Sanctuary of humans. Imperius was not concerned — he expected his old friend Tyrael to vote with him, and in the case of a tie the council would simply go about with their original plan and purge the world.
But Tyrael did not vote alongside Imperius, viewing wiping out humanity after the sacrifice of Uldyssian as unjust. And thus began the long schism between Imperius and Tyrael, as Justice and Valor found themselves at odds. Still, Imperius obeyed the will of the Council and did not seek to exterminate humankind at this time.
Next week, we’ll talk about Imperius’ role in the present — how he took part in the events leading up to Diablo’s attack on the High Heavens and Malthael’s war of death.
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