Who is Lilith, and what role might the mother of the Nephalem play in Diablo 4?
In a way, Lilith is the reason behind everything we’ve seen in the Diablo universe, well before she was rebirthed in a hail of blood in the Diablo 4 trailer. The demoness, the daughter of Mephisto himself (and no, I have no idea how that works) was the one who found a grief-maddened Inarius and listened to his ranting against the Eternal Conflict. In those rants, she found something she could work with, because she was as tired of the Eternal Conflict as the angel was — but unlike him, she realized there was no way to end a war that cannot end itself.
She chose to find a new way.
So let us discuss Lilith, the mother of a new race. All humans on Sanctuary owe their very existence to her. She welcomed an angel to her bed, birthed a race with the potential to eclipse both demons and angels, and even in her banishment she was not idle.
The long, long war
We know little of the families of demons. We know that somehow, Mephisto has two offspring — Lucion, a formerly loyal and currently dead servant of his father, and Lilith, who one might describe as somewhat of a renegade. Called many names, the Queen of the Succubi spent much of her existence displeased with the order of things: her father, the war against the angels, the very nature of the Hells themselves.
Now, we shouldn’t mistake Lilith. She wasn’t good: she was still a demon, a daughter of one of the Greater Evils, as selfish and vile as you’d expect. The Lord of Hatred’s darling daughter simply felt that the Eternal Conflict was pointless and that her father and his ilk had no idea how to win. A war that couldn’t be won was a colossal waste of time. But she knew better than to let her father catch any word of her thoughts, as he and his siblings wouldn’t take well to any talk of dissent.
Inarius and the Queen of Succubi
If Lilith had never met Inarius or had simply chosen to end him when she had the chance, there would be no Sanctuary and no Nephalem and no humans. The Worldstone would still be in the Pandemonium Fortress, a colossal prize to be fought over forever. When she came upon the angel, he was weak from a battle with many demons, delirious and raving about the folly of the Eternal Conflict and how soul-sick he was at the idea of fighting a war that would never end. And in his words of the pointlessness of it all, Lilith, for the first time, met a being who agreed with her openly about the war.
It’s hard to say how genuine anything Lilith says or does really is. Was there real feeling between her and Inarius? Clearly both were exhausted at the notion of fighting forever and achieving nothing. And each soon brought more of their kind into a secret pact to find a place to retreat from the war and let it rage on without them. But in her own words, Lilith saw the theft of the Worldstone and the creation of Sanctuary as more than Inarius did. The angel sought escape — a refuge where he and those who agreed with him could simply avoid the endless, pointless war that defined all of existence.
But if Lilith’s own words are to be believed, she saw an opportunity.
Inarius and I stole the Worldstone, and now we have a group of renegades to follow us. I have created a new world where we can live in peace. A place of infinite possibilities. Inarius believes that escape is enough. In time, I will show him that even victory is possible. But first, I will give him children.
This implies that the Nephalem were anything but an accident.
Nephalem and the Mother’s fury
Lilith did not birth all the first generation of Nephalem, but we know for sure that Linarian, who would later be called Rathma and who would give rise to the Priests of Rathma (the Necromancers) was her and Inarius’ son, and the first of the Nephalem. Others, such as Bul-Kathos and Fiacla-Gear, would arise in time and it was immediately apparent that these offspring of angel and demon were inheritors of the power of both sides of their heritage — like primordial Anu who was good and evil, light and shadow, they contained in themselves a potential for power that eclipsed that of angels or demons.
Lilith was well pleased with them. But not all of the renegade angels and demons saw the Nephalem as a welcome addition to their hidden refuge — as the Nephalem spread out across Sanctuary to study the world of their birth, some of the renegades discussed ending their progeny before their growing power could draw the attention of the Heavens and Hells. And this would not do, for in Lilith’s eyes the Nephalem were the ultimate achievement and the means by which her plan to end the endless war could finally be executed.
So she executed all the renegades to make sure that her children would be safe. Perhaps she thought she could talk Inarius around, but when he discovered what she’d done he drew on the power of the Worldstone, which was supreme on Sanctuary. He defeated Lilith, but could not bring himself to destroy her — whether or not Lilith was sincere in her emotions for him, he cared too much for her to permanently destroy her. Instead, he banished her to the Void — an eternally dark, empty realm of pure nothingness.
The aftermath and the Sin War
Inarius also could not bring himself to wipe out the half-angel half-demon Nephalem, but he saw in them as great a threat as the other renegades did. He again used the Worldstone to alter the very nature of Sanctuary so that it would suppress the Nephalem’s power, causing these titanic beings to give birth to weaker and weaker offspring until the humans of Sanctuary were ultimately all that was left of them. He then retreated into a position of watchful solitude, seeking to avoid the notice of his former allies in Heaven or Lilith’s in Hell.
But Lilith was not trapped forever, and the Worldstone’s power over the Nephalem was not absolute. Perhaps because the Worldstone was also the Eye of Anu, a fragment left behind when Anu and Tathemet destroyed one another. Perhaps the power the Nephalem drew upon was that of primordial Anu itself, the being who existed before Anu and Tathemet. Perhaps the Worldstone slowly lost the ability to hold the power of the Nephalem at bay.
Lilith would over time escape the Void, and return to Sanctuary to watch over the first new Nephalem in many years: a simple farmer named Uldyssian ul-Diomed. She did so in secret, appearing to him as a noblewoman named Lylia. On their travels together, she framed him for multiple murders, and made him begin believing he had divine powers by challenging him to do things like stop a thunderstorm, using her own powers to actually do so. She also manipulated him into sharing her bed, and as the ruse was uncovered mocked him for it all.
Uldyssian eventually defeated Lilith, with the help of both the Nephalem and Inarius. Inarius once again sealed her away, reassuring Uldyssian that the loophole she slithered through last time was closed. However, as we saw in the show-stopping cinematic By Three They Come, this banishment didn’t last forever, either.
We don’t know yet what role she’ll play in Diablo 4, but Lilith has always been a master manipulator — and she’s always cared deeply about the welfare of her children.
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