The Cosmology of Diablo: Worlds

Three weeks ago I began to disseminate the inner workings of the Diablo Universe with a starting post about how the world was created. I advise you to read it, but here's the quick rundown of it:

  1. The Universe was at one point created
  2. - Sanctuary Sanctuary was not created by - Inarius Inarius and - Lilith Lilith in the absolute sense; the world existed prior to them, and they merely shaped it.
  3. There are other worlds like Sanctuary in the Universe, with guardians similar to - Trag'Oul Trag'Oul on them. Both - Heaven Heaven and - Hell Hell seem to be unaware of these worlds, or at the very least unaware of the guardians.
  4. The War between Heaven and Hell concerns more than just Sanctuary, perhaps all of the Universe.

This time, I will delve deeper into the specifics of each world, and how they function. Some of them you undoubtedly know of, such as the - Void Void and the - Abyss Abyss, while some are more unknown, such as reflection of sorts of Sanctuary, which appears briefly in - Sin War novels Sin War novels.

As before, this post will be heavy with spoilers from the Sin War novels. If you have not read them and do not wish to have it spoiled to you, I advise you not to read more.

Trag'Oul's Realm
The Dream World
The High Heavens and the Burning Hells
The Void
The Abyss
The Afterdeath
Next Time

First, we must establish what a world is exactly. It does not appear to be just as simple as planets floating around in space. Not entirely at least.

There are various mentions throughout the books about various planes of existence. It is not make specifically clear what separates one plane from another, but I think a plane is just one aspect of the same world. Sanctuary in this sense is a world, yet at least four different planes make it up. The mortal plane is the first, but Trag'Oul's realm, the "dream plane" (my own name for another plane mentioned) and the afterdeath also appear to be directly related to the mortal plane of Sanctuary which we normally see in the story.

The other places, such as Heaven and the Void, will need special mention.

Trag'Oul's Realm
Quote from name="The Veiled Prophet, page 167" »
There is no choice! he insisted. There is no choice! I must act! I must go to the mortal plane.
This is Trag'Oul speaking, when he tries to enter Sanctuary but is immediately stopped by the other guardians. It is here clearly shown that Sanctuary is part of the mortal plane.

At the same time, this quote also establishes that Trag'Oul's realm is not part of the same plane, and Trag'Oul definitely does not inhabit a planet. The following three quotes all describe Trag'Oul's realm.
Quote from name="The Scales of the Serpent, page 118" »
Darkness surrounded Mendeln, darkness that felt as if it went on forever. Uldyssian's brother
suspected that if he ran and ran as hard as he could for as long as possible, he would find no change in things. It would still be dark and empty. A part of him was unnerved by that...but another part was morbidly fascinated.

Quote from name="Birthright, page 275" »
The shrouded figure understood that it might mean waiting for what seemed days, weeks, or even years, but that did not matter. In the other place, that which was called Sanctuary, no time would pass at all.
Quote from name="Birthright, page 275" »
There was no sound, no wind. He felt solid ground beneath his booted feet, but knew that to be illusion. In this place, everything that existed was but the dreams of his teacher.
The teacher being Trag'Oul, and the man waiting being - Rathma Rathma. Clearly, wherever he is is quite distinct from a regular world such as Sanctuary.

Now, Trag'Oul is time and again throughout the books named to be the guardian of Sanctuary. Not just a guardian, but the guardian. It stands to reason then that the realm which Trag'Oul inhibits, which apparently exists at his wishing, it specifically tied to Sanctuary as well.

The Dream
Quote from name="The Veiled Prophet, page 250" »
Serenthia looked as if she slept, but she did not. Regardless of what Uldyssian had said, she could not merely leave things be. Achilios had been reckless, true, but Serenthia would not abandon him because of that trait. After all, he had always been reckless, but also extremely loyal. And so, while her body lay still, her mind went in search of the man she loved.
Quote from name="The Veiled Prophet, page 251" »
And then she saw the hole.

It was not truly physical but bordered between that and some plane of existence almost akin to that which she currently inhabited.

This is - Serenthia Serenthia talking. During this passage, she is currently appearing to sleep while letting her mind travel a shadow of Sanctuary in search of - Achilios Achilios. In this state, she is able to overview the landscape quickly, as if flying.

Both Trag'Oul's realm and this dream state that Serenthia is in are two distinct places, however they also both appear to be linked to Sanctuary. Serenthia is traveling a world that has the same landscape and geography as the waking world, which clearly links it to Sanctuary.

The High Heavens and The Burning Hells
What exactly are these two realms? At first impression, one would like to say that they are worlds. They are clearly not tied only to Sanctuary, as planes seems to be. Regardless of which, I will assume that regardless of what their nature, they are identical in to each other in this aspect. If Heaven is a world and not a plane, then Hell is per definition as well.

First, there is appears to be evidence that they are worlds:
Quote from name="The Veiled Prophet, page 240" »
Sanctuary is longer shielded from their...sight! The Heavenly Host knows they were misled. Trag'Oul's grief at his failure was so very evident. The winged warriors are closing in on our world.
Quote from name="The Veiled Prophet, page 241" »
Tyrael could sense the others fast approaching, and the only question he had was why it had taken them so long. There was more to this place - this Sanctuary, as he now knew it to be called by the renegade - than appearances suggested. There was some force, some vast reservoir of power, that Inarius had come upon that might be the reason. Tyrael was still investigating that. Likely it was what had caused the delay of the host. In the long run, it would not matter.
What is made clear here is that it actually takes time to travel to Sanctuary from Heaven at least. This is crucial, because travel between planes appears to be instantaneous. Whenever Mendeln goes to see Trag'Oul, there is no delay. And Serenthia barely even seems to close her eyes before she can travel the dream world. If Heaven and Hell were planes in the sense I'm using the word, there should be no travel time. Yet there is.

However, there is a potential issue here some other issues that speak against it being as simple as that, and it comes from the previous passage.
Quote from name="The Veiled Prophet, page 251" »
And then she saw the hole.

It was not truly physical but bordered between that and some plane of existence almost akin to that which she currently inhabited.

This is exactly the same quote as above describing the dream plane. What is troubling is that the hole mentioned here borders to Hell. Seeing as Serenthia is at this point in what appears to be a reflection of the waking Sanctuary, what I previously called the Dream plane, and that Hell seems to share similarities to it, one can wonder if Hell isn't actually a plane after all.

Perhaps we simply do not know enough of Heaven and Hell to draw any conclusions though. Considering their names are plural, it's possible that Heaven and Hell stretch across many planets, or that they have a lot of different planes as well. The plane Serenthia sees is perhaps one of those planes.

The Void
Quote from name="The Veiled Prophet, page 235" »
Listen to me! demanded the dragon in a tone that cut off any further protest by the human. Look about you! See where you are!

Uldyssian's brother did just that - and only then registered that the blackness in which he floated was not the domain of Trag'Oul. This place radiated such emptiness that Mendeln suddenly clutched his arms tight around his body and wished fitfully for the relative cheer of the dragon's home.

Quote from name="The Veiled Prophet, page 1235" »
What is this place?

Trag'Oul's voice sounded fainter, as if he were farther away now. What could be called the remotest part of existence! A place so far from all else that to be trapped here is to be cursed forever.

Mention of the Void is scant, but it plays a large part in the story of the Sin War. In one part, quoted above, Mendeln is sent to the Void by Trag'Oul to find and rescue Rathma, who has been imprisoned there by Inarius.

"Where is the Void?" exactly is perhaps a question as hard to answer as "Where is the Universe?" would be. Perhaps, if my earlier assumption about worlds and planes is correct, it is a plane so far removed and tenuously connected to the rest of the Universe as anything can be and still exist. Or, it is some emptiness between planes.

Quote from name="The Veiled Prophet, page 235" »

The strain...the strain of reaching out all the way here growing worse. Mendeln ul-Diomed, you must act as the link between myself [Trag'Oul]...and Rathma...if we are to save him.

It also appears to be quite hard to reach. Trag'Oul has to strain himself to even touch the place, and the only other being we know of to send beings there is Inarius, who is very powerful.

The Abyss
Quote from "Tyrael" »
For his transgressions, Izual's spirit was bound within the form of a terrible creature which was summoned from the Abyss. His maddened spirit has resided within that tortured husk for many ages now.
Quote from name="Arreat Summit" »
Spawned from the very bowels of the skulking Stygian Beast who awakens only once every 1000 years to feed off the spawn of its own bile and pus, the Reziarfg is truly the most hideous and vile monster in all of the Three?s bestiary. It was once said that the Three did not always rule the darkness that beasts beyond thought swelled and slithered across the void. It is believed that some of these nightmares may still exist hidden deep with in the pitch of the abyss where even the darkness of the upper realms of hell seems like day. This is where Reziarfg lives.
These are the only two mentions I could find of the Abyss, and the second quote is from an April Fools! There is never a mention of the Abyss in the Sin War novels.

emilemil1 reminded me of a quote by Tyrael, the very last dialogue in Diablo II.
Quote from "Tyrael" »
Praise be to the Light! You have accomplished the impossible! Diablo and Mephisto have been banished back into the Black Abyss that spawned them and the corrupted Soulstones are no more. You've done well, hero. For now, you should rejoice.
What exactly can be extrapolated from this I do not know, since I cannot take the April Fools info as reliable without confirmation from Blizzard. That leaves what Tyrael says. He is probably one of the most reliable sources in this matter however, so this does hint at the Abyss, which is probably the same as the Black Abyss, is a spawning ground for demons. Perhaps it is an all-encompassing plane like the Void might be, or perhaps it is some galactic churning ground that constantly keeps Hell and Heaven filled with soldiers ready to battle each other.

Still, it's difficult to know if all demons come from there, or only some, or if the Abyss is specifically tied to Hell.

The Afterdeath
It has been speculated on what happens to humans after they die. There is the idea that dead people go to either Heaven or Hell, based on the observation of the tortured souls that the player can kill in Act IV in - Diablo II Diablo II. However, it seems to be a little more complex than that.
Quote from name="Scales of the Serpent, page 170" »
They have accepted you who hears them - the children of angels and demons slain so foully - accepted that you will keep Sanctuary from becoming either the fury of the Burning Hells or the oppressive order and worship of the High Heavens. They who were the first birthed in Sanctuary and are, because of that, still more of it than either Lilith or Inarius can understand, forever open the link between the phase of afterdeath and that of living?

"'Afterdeath'?" Mendeln repeated, but the glittering stars did not further explain that term and Mendeln finally understood that he should define it as best he could on his own.

Quote from name="The Veiled Prophet, page 143" »
For a thing like Achilios, though, Uldyssian's brother hoped that by actually reversing the animation spell, he would send the archer back to the afterdeath.
There are a few other passages mentioning the afterdeath, and all point to the same thing. Dead humans at least, including Nephalem, go to that place, whatever it is.

However, it is made clear that necromancers call being from the afterdeath. There is another quote which hints at something else as well:
Quote from name="Scales of the Serpent, page 265" »
"He [Achilios] is nowhere to be found," Rathma reported, more to Trag?Oul than to Mendeln.

You have gazed upon all planes?

"Naturally. I have also summoned him in a hundred manners, some of which put me at risk. It was necessary to do so, though the results were not as I wished."

The dragon was oddly silent for a time. Then, You realize, my friend, that there are few other paths?

Rathma nodded. "Yes, the most preferable one is that somehow he has passed on to that place from which even you could not summon him back. Certainly, it would be his reward for what he had so far

This then, is clearly not the afterdeath, since a - necromancer necromancer, and hence Trag'Oul, would be able to call him back from there. There is no other mention of this place, except that - Nephalem Nephalem do not go there. They are forever part of the afterdeath.

Curiously this quote also lends evidence to the idea that the afterdeath is also a plane, and going by my earlier proposition of planes being linked to Sanctuary, it makes sense even here. - Demons Demons are never raised from the, but plenty of humans are. Reasonably, only humans are accessible from the afterdeath, linking it to Sanctuary. Whatever happens to demons is unknown.

That being said, it is often stated, particularly in Diablo II, that humans meddling with demons often face miserable futures. Perhaps these humans are dragged to hell, purposefully by demons, to punish those who meddle in the affairs of the Three.

1. Worlds are made up of several planes.
2. Sanctuary is a world, with four known planes linked to it: the mortal plane, Trag'Oul's realm, the Dream plane, and the afterdeath.
3. - Heaven Heaven and - Hell Hell are most likely worlds as well, with their own sets of planes making them up.
4. The - Void Void is a place as far away from anything else as is possible. It's unknown what it is, but there's nothing there save for a few unlucky imprisoned souls. It might be a plane, or it might just be some emptiness between planes.
5. The - Abyss Abyss is still a mystery. Nothing conclusive is known about it.
6. Dead humans seem to first go to the - afterdeath afterdeath, and eventually fade to some other place beyond the reach of angels, demons and even Trag'Oul.

Next Time
Now that we've cleared the two more abstract topics in this series, I will focus on what most of you are probably more interested in. The next article will be about angels, demons and other divinities, in particular the more powerful of them all.


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