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DiabloNov 4, 2021 4:00 pm CT

The origins of Diablo’s Necromancers, students of the Books of Kalan and Priests of Rathma

When talking about the history of Necromancers in Diablo, we have to talk about the Sin War. Yes, the Necromancers call themselves the Priests of Rathma, but as important as Rathma is to the Necromancers, the order was founded during the Sin War, and it wasn’t Rathma who founded it. It was, instead, Kalan — the name meaning “teacher” in the language spoken by Trag’Oul, the mysterious dragon of Balance that once showed Rathma the path towards that very ideal.

Kalan was born with another name, just as Rathma had been born Linarian. It was in that previous life that Kalan learned and witnessed events that shook the very path of Sanctuary, brought it into the sight of the forces of the Eternal conflict, and made Kalan’s life and his teaching a necessity.

The Necromancers ultimately know of the Balance and the arts of Necromancy because of Kalan, and they follow in his footsteps.

The Sin War and the rise of the Necromancers

To sum up the backstory: We know of the history of Sanctuary and the Nephalem, the birth of Linarian to Inarius and Lillith, how Lilith slew the Angels and Demons only to be banished by Inarius using the power of the Worldstone, and how Linarian became Rathma thanks to the teachings of Trag’Oul.

The Sin War was the conflict between Inarius and Lucian, Lilith’s sibling, and the culmination of Lilith’s ancient plan for the Nephalem as she managed to return from the place Inarius had banished her. During that conflict, Uldyssian ul-Diomed discovered the truth of his heritage: he was a Nephalem, like the Ancients of old who Inarius had so feared that he used the Worldstone to essentially reduce them over the generations into Humans.

But it wasn’t Uldyssian who founded the Priests of Rathma, either, although Rathma and Trag’Oul did help the young Nephalem along his path towards his destiny. Uldyssian’s fate was, ultimately, to die, but in so doing, to sacrifice himself to protect Sanctuary from the forces of Heaven and Hell alike. His sacrifice helped maintain the Balance, leading the Angiris Council to make a pact with the Evils to leave Sanctuary undisturbed. And it was Uldyssian’s brother Mendeln who, alone of all the mortal born beings on Sanctuary, was protected from the decision by the Angiris Council to erase all memories of Uldyssian and his sacrifice from the world.

With both Inarius and Lilith now gone from Sanctuary, and the Angels and Demons fully aware of it, Mendeln knew that his world would be defenseless against both forces with their knowledge of what had happened removed from them. While the Dark Exile played out and the three Brothers, Mephisto, Baal and Diablo, were captured in Soulstones by the Horadrim, another group was coming together to follow Mendeln’s teachings. Using the name given to him by Trag’Oul, Mendeln became Kalan and wrote The Books of Kalan, a history of the otherwise forgotten Sin War.

The guardians of the Balance

In the time between the Sin War and the present, the Necromancers of the Priests of Rathma remained a secluded and insular group, using the jungles of Kehjistan to remain uninvolved in the affairs of groups such as the Mage Clans of the Zann Esu, the Vizjerai, the Ennead and others. While many of the Mage Clans believe the Necromancers to be Sorcerers who cast spells of death, their power is from a far more primordial source, and the Necromancers do not seek to be involved in the transient ploys of power and dominance of groups such as the Vizjerai. Teachings from the Books of Kalan keep the Priests of Rathma aware of the scope of the Eternal Conflict, and it is a basic part of Necromancer training to seek Balance, for only in maintaining equilibrium between Heaven and Hell can Sanctuary be preserved.

Unlike other groups, the Necromancers are fully aware that the Angiris Council once voted on whether or not to destroy the world of Sanctuary. When Malthael attacked the world and threatened to destroy Humanity using the Black Soulstone, the Necromancers were one of the few groups who weren’t at all surprised: they remember the Cathedral of Light and Inarius, and know that Angels can be as deceptive and destructive as any Demon.

Guided by Trag’Oul and Rathma, Kalan taught his followers the lessons of Uldyssian’s life and death — how the Nephalem of Sanctuary and their Human descendants are seen as a resource and a threat, to be used or destroyed as the forces behind the endless war see fit. To a Necromancer, Malthael’s understanding of Death was limited, because as an Angel he didn’t feel it in his very being. Likewise, the reanimations of the creatures of Hell and their petty zombies and corpses are as nothing compared to the true mastery of Life and Death in the hands of a Priest of Rathma.

When the monstrous presence of Diablo strode the land in the form of the Dark Wanderer, a Necromancer named Xul left the swamps and jungles and made common cause with Deckard Cain and his other allies, and opposed the three Greater Evils and their plan for Sanctuary. While Xul and his allies were successful, they were too late to prevent the Worldstone from being corrupted by Baal, and its destruction by Tyrael brought about great changes to Sanctuary.

But the Priests of Rathma possessed unique knowledge of the Worldstone and its role in the creation of Sanctuary by Inarius — as Kalan had actually fought against Inarius himself during the Sin War, and so may well have known that Inarius had used the Worldstone to spiritually cripple the Nephalem and create Humanity.

Necromancers stand against both Hell and Heaven

Similarly, another powerful Necromancer left the subterranean lair of her order and strode out into the world, heading to Tristram to confront the power of the Fallen Star and learned of the coming of Belial and Azmodan. This Necromancer eventually stopped Diablo’s plans to become the Prime Evil and destroy the Heavens, and then opposed the forces of the fallen Archangel Malthael, who dared to call himself the Angel of Death. This Necromancer — who could use the power of a Nephalem as none of their order had been able to since the time of the Sin War and Kalan — helped end the Angel’s attack on Sanctuary.

Across Sanctuary, many distrust or seek to exploit the Necromancers, and it’s true that their connection to Rathma might yet lead them astray. But they have always sought to follow in Kalan’s footsteps, to maintain the Balance, protect Sanctuary from both Hell and Heaven, and keep themselves out of the petty squabbles of those who seek power for any sake save the Balance. It is Sanctuary itself that Necromancers seek to defend, and they will do so, using all of their power over Life and Death.

Originally published 8/21/2020

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