It's been a while (a year in fact) but the Cosmology series will finally be finished. This time we will deal with the heavy subject of the Worldstone: where it comes from, what it does and what impact its destruction at the end of the Lord of Destruction (LoD) will have on the world of Sanctuary.
As a reminder there will be plenty of spoilers from the Sin War novels here, so if you've yet to read the books but still wish to do so, you should stop reading now.
Unlike the previous installments, citations will be placed at the bottom of the post for a more fluid reading experience.
What is it and what does it do?
Originally it had one purpose only: to hide Sanctuary from outsiders, specifically Heaven and Hell, in order for the angelic and demonic deserters to remain safe. Four important changes were made to it over the course of it's life however:
- Inarius bound it to himself, preventing anyone but him to draw on its power. This secured his dominance of Sanctuary.3
- Inarius changed the resonance of the stone, which started to diminish the powers of the nephalem.4
- Lilith made an alteration to its resonance after her return to Sanctuary from the void, which allowed the nephalem to once again grow in power.5
- Uldyssian made a change to the core of the Worldstone which allowed the powers of the edyrem to grow faster than before.6
Important point: It is often argued, here and in other places, that Uldyssian tied the Worldstone to himself when he changed its structure. This does not appear to be the case. It is still possible that he did so, but there's no clear reference made to it anywhere.
Not all of these effects remained after the end of the Sin War however. Inarius' tie to the Worldstone is broken by Uldyssian7 and the spell that Lilith cast, is most likely dispelled or overridden with the core change that Uldyssian made. The same seems likely in regards to the dminishing efffect Inarius placed on it.
Two powers were not specifically stated to have been altered, however: the hiding power that allowed Sanctuary to remain undetected, and the change Uldyssian made that increased the growth of nephalem powers. These will be dealt with below.
How does it hide Sanctuary?
We all know the following as "fact": the worldstone protects Sanctuary from Heaven and Hell, and now that it is gone Hell is sure to invade! It's maintained in the games, and every Blizzcon at some panel there's a developer mentioning it. However, there are some serious problem with this theory, as I will show. First, we must look at how the Worldstone actually provides protection.
This is exactly how it is portrayed to work in the books. The Worldstone is consistently described as having been made in order to hide Sanctuary.8,9 Both Inarius and Hell are furthermore concerned that if they move too fast, in essence use too much magic, they run the risk of exposing Sanctuary to Heaven10. This very neatly explains why Hell hasn't invaded Sanctuary in full force, and why Inarius simply hasn't stamped out Hell. Doing either would require so much power that Heaven would undoubtedly discover Sanctuary as a side-effect. For this reason, Diablo doesn't even show himself in full force, as that mere act might alert Heaven of Sanctuary.11 Inarius has similarly contained his powers all these years so that Heaven would not find him.12
Thus the Triune was created to slowly turn mankind towards Hell, and the Cathedral of Light shortly thereafter to counter their efforts. This also helps explain why there are so many morlu in the first two books and relatively few demons. Summoning an army of demons would surely cause Sanctuary to be more visible to Heaven, as would Diablo in his full form, but an army of morlu are just dead humans. Raising them from the dead requires no direct interaction with Hell. It does require some magical energies to raise them from the dead, but this is probably on a magnitude far smaller than what is required to summon an army of demons.
What does this tell us? This tells us that the effect the Worldstone provides is the camouflage cover in the soldier analogy, and in itself, the cover is near perfect. However, heavy use of magical energies or the mere presence of angels and demons in the world makes Sanctuary "move," thus making it noticeable to those outside of it.
How does it increase the power of the edyrem?
As stated above, Uldyssian made a change to the Worldstone with the intent of increasing the power of the edyrem, or rather to make their powers grow faster. While it's never actually made clear how that works, it is clearly shown throughout the final book that the powers of the edyrem begin to take control of them, fueling their emotions and refusing to subdue once arisen.22 Uldyssian does remark near the end of the Veiled Prophet that their powers have grown too fast, and that they weren't ready for them yet.13
In the final chapter, when the "Reset" as I like to call it has been performed, where all the inhabitants of Sanctuary have their memories of recent events removed, all magical powers are also absent in the previously powerful Serenthia and Achilios. It seems impossible that Heaven and Hell would be responsible for this; if they can remove the powers of the edyrem so easily, what use are they as weapons?
Perhaps their powers didn't disappear. Since they've all lost their memories, it could be they still possess them, but simply no longer remember how to use them. Since the gift had to be awakened within the edyrem before they can use them, whatever powers they had would not transfer to the next generation of humans, and so the powers would be lost, and humanity would be free to develop at a slow pace again.
Was it stolen?
There is an obscure sentence where Tyrael says that the Worldstone was stolen.14 He does not say from who, yet it seems unlikely he could mean anyone but Heaven.
In another passage, Trag'Oul says that the "essence of creation" was stolen, and that he was contained in it. As the world was shaped by the angels and demons, so too did he evolve.15
These two references are highly confusing. No other mentions are made in regards to whether Inarius and/or Lilith stole something in order to forge Sanctuary. But if the Worldstone, or whatever was used to shape it, was stolen, then than could mean that Heaven or Hell should be capable of figuring out how to change it, which could explain how the edyrem lost their powers after the Reset.
Conflicts with lore from LoD
So far this unfortunately makes little sense. In Lord of Destruction, the Worldstone is depicted as erecting some sort of barrier around Sanctuary. As long as it stood, it prevented angels and demons from entering en masse, but as soon as it was destroyed, there was nothing holding Hell back. This is not how its portrayed in the novels. Not once is the Worldstone made out to do anything but hide Sanctuary.
In fact, the idea that the Worldstone would provide a barrier is directly disproved in the novels. During the final chapters of The Veiled Prophet, Sanctuary is truly invaded by both Heaven and Hell as angels and demons pour out over the world.16,17 There is nothing that stops them. In fact, the only thing that did hold Heaven back for a while was Trag'Oul.18 He in fact seems to have performed a function similar to what is usually ascribed to the Worldstone, for he managed to "shield Sanctuary from their sight" after Heaven had already learned of Sanctuary's existence, and only when his shield failed could the Heavenly Host invade Sanctuary proper.
What is even more interesting is that the Angiris Council and Mephisto form a pact between themselves. The pact is specifically made so that neither Heaven nor Hell shall interfere in the development of Sanctuary.19 This pact is not just a verbal contract, it also involves Mephisto leaving "his mark" on Sanctuary in order for the Angiris to accept it. Whatever that actually means is never made clear, but it's possible that it somehow forces Hell, or at least Mephisto, to abide by it.
There is also a pact made in regards to the Worldstone, but what that actually results in is never explained in the books.20
What will its destruction lead to?
At this point it seems safe enough to assume that the Worldstone, in and of itself, was not what prevented Hell from invading prior to the events of Diablo III. But is there a way to make all of this fit together without retconning out the events of LoD entirely?
When the Angiris and Mephisto convene they agree to form a pact regarding the Worldstone. Given that neither side is likely to trust the other, the pact would have to somehow force both sides into agreeing to it. If it lies within the powers of Heaven and Hell to erect some sort of barrier around Sanctuary, then that would seem a likely course of action for them to take.
Now the Worldstone is at face value just a big crystal, but it also permeates the entire world in some way.21 What better way to erect such a barrier than to do it through the Worldstone? The powerful artifact would maintain the barrier and make sure that neither Heaven nor Hell will be given the opportunity to invade Sanctuary. The final piece of the puzzle is the part about the Worldstone being stolen. The Worldstone has proven extremely hard to actually manipulate and change, but if it was taken from either Heaven or Hell, or combined using some magics from both, then it would seem reasonable that the task of altering it could be performed if both Heaven and Hell cooperated in doing so.
This allows us to fit it together with established LoD lore. Baal, when trying to corrupt it, would have been trying to alter whatever arrangement had been made there jointly with Heaven so that Hell would once again be granted full access. Tyrael destroyed it so that both forces would once again be able to invade should the need arise. This would mean that the reason Hell hasn't invaded has been because such a response would have garnered an immediate counter-response from Heaven, eventally leading to all humans perishing, something neither side wants. It's simply a stalemate. Such a stalemate doesn't seem likely to last for very long, becauase if it were then there would have been little reason for Mephisto to cement the earlier pact with his own blood. The stalemate is inherently unstable due to the nature of the war between Heaven and Hell, and that is why Hell begins to move during the events of Diablo III. The reason Hell hasn't invaded yet is thus that it was simply a matter of time.
Incidentally, this also ties in well with the banishment that the Three suffered from the Lesser Evils. The actual act of banishing them could not be seen as an attempt to invade, and depending on how the Worldstone pact was formulated it might have been that Heaven was prevented from doing anything about it. On the other hand, even if the magics used to banish the Three were indeed successful in circumventing the protection placed over Sanctuary, it would still have prevented a full invasion, thus leaving the Three alone on Sanctuary. Powerful yes, but not powerful enough to subdue an entire world on their own. What they could do however was to use their exile in order to get to the Worldstone. And the soulstones, shards of the Worldstone, could perhaps allow them to negate the barrier around Sanctuary.
One problem still remains. During Diablo II, it is specifically stated by Tyrael at the end of Act IV that Baal is searching for the Worldstone.23 This indicates that the Three had no prior knowledge of the Worldstone's location, which fits nicely with what is established in the Sin War. The Three are never made out to actually know where the Worldstone is located. However, if the Three did in fact not know where the Worldstone was when they were banished to Sanctuary, then it doesn't seem likely any pact regarding the Worldstone could have involved any tampering with it. How could it have been if Mephisto wasn't present? I think we can assume Mephisto would not be happy with closing any sort of deal regarding the Worldstone without knowing where it is and what it's capable of.
All in all, it's still a bit unclear on how exactly the Worldstone was relevant during the events of LoD. We will probably have to wait until the very end of Diablo III to find out unfortunately.
1: Scales of the Serpent, p. 186
Edited by PhrozenDragon, 30 May 2011 - 03:09 PM.
Added quotes to all references