The world of Diablo is quite extensive, and the lore around it amounts to a great deal. It's not (yet) on the scale of Tolkien's works, but few game series have had the opportunity to have not one but eight books set in it's fictional universe, and Blizzard's cinematics are not only renowned for their high quality, but also for the memorable moments they create and the powerful visions of their worlds they reveal. All evidence seems to suggest that this tradition has been carried over to Starcraft II in full force, and we can only assume the same will be true for Diablo III.
But in the old days, before the massive cinematics and in-game cut-scenes of Warcraft III, how did Blizzard tell their stories? Well I'm sure you all remember the tomes scattered about the dungeons of Diablo I. A simple yet very effective way of conveying details of the story to the player. We shall have a look at the various tomes of Diablo I, what they told of the story, but most importantly, if their information provided is still accurate. Because Diablo, whether you like it or not, has gone through a lot of changes from the release of the first game to the last chapter of the Sin War novels, The Veiled Prophet. Retconning does happen, and things can change.
- First things first: What tomes?
- Horadric Tomes
- Lazarus' Tomes
- Demonic Tomes
- Final Words
First things first: What tomes?
For those of you who never played Diablo I (and the few who did but have a bad memory), during the game the player would come across several books (similar to the Moldy Tome in Diablo II). These books would, upon reading them, provide snippets of information about the game and the war between Heaven and Hell. Four of them were started a quest and included nothing really interesting, but nine books were there purely to tell a story to the player.
These nine tomes could then be divided into three separate categories:
- Three were written by the Horadrim, and told of the capture of the Prime Evils.
- Three were written by Arch Bishop Lazarus and praised Diablo.
- Three were of an unknown author with considerable knowledge of Hell.
The Horadric Tomes
The Great Conflict
The Wages of Sin are WarTake heed and bear witness to the truths that lie herein, for they are the last legacy of the Horadrim. There is a war that rages on even now, beyond the fields that we know - between the Utopian Kingdoms of the High Heavens and the Chaotic Pits of the Burning Hells. This war is known as the Great Conflict, and it has raged and burned longer than any of the stars in the sky. Neither side ever gains sway for long as the forces of Light and Darkness constantly vie for control over all creation.
There is a slight change here. The Sin War technically refers to the initial conflict that befell Sanctuary (the entirety of those events is laid out in the Sin War novels). Other than that, the passage is still canon.Take heed and bear witness to the truths that lie herein, for they are the last legacy of the Horadrim. When the eternal conflict between the High Heavens and the Burning Hells falls upon mortal soil, it is called the Sin War. Angels and Demons walk amongst humanity in disguise, fighting in secret, away from the prying eyes of mortals. Some daring, powerful mortals have even allied themselves with either side, and helped to dictate the course of the Sin War.
Tale of the Horadrim
This text is mysterious. While the text in itself remains canonical, it is clearly revealed in the first paragraph that the Horadrim were unaware of why the Three were in fact on Sanctuary to begin with. In another book further down, The Binding of the Three, it is clarified that the Three were overthrown by the Lesser Evils.Take heed and bear witness to the truths that lie herein, for they are the last legacy of the Horadrim. Nearly three hundred years ago, it came to be known that the three Prime Evils of the Burning Hells had mysteriously come to our world. The Three Brothers ravaged the lands of the East for decades, while humanity was left trembling in their wake. Our order - the Horadrim - was founded by a group of secretive Magi to hunt down and capture the three Evils once and for all.
The original Horadrim captured two of the Three within powerful artifacts known as Soulstones and buried them deep beneath the desolate Eastern sands. The third Evil escaped capture and fled to the West with many of the Horadrim in pursuit. The third Evil - known as Diablo, the Lord of Terror - was eventually captured, his essence set in a Soulstone and buried within this Labyrinth.
Be warned that the Soulstone must be kept from discovery by those not of the Faith. If Diablo were to be released, he would seek a body that would be easily controlled as he would be very weak - perhaps that of an old man or a child.
However in Diablo II when Deckard Cain gives the quest Sisters to the Slaugher to the player, he reveals that:
"Ancient Horadric texts record that Andariel and the other Lesser Evils once overthrew the three Prime Evils -- Diablo, Mephisto and Baal -- banishing them from Hell to our world."
At first glance, it would seem as if this is crystal clear: the book in Diablo I must have been written by a Horadrim mage, and that is how Deckard Cain knows of it. But what one must remember is that Cain is only just barely a Horadrim; the order fell apart before he was born, and the only reason he carries the title is because his ancestor was a Horadrim, and since the order no longer exists, there's no one to stop him from using the title. Clearly Cain managed to retrieve the book "The Binding of the Three" from Tristram, but it is not clear whether he actually knows who wrote it, or just assumed it was a Horadrim mage becasue he found it in their old fortress.
The Realms Beyond
All praises to Diablo - Lord of Terror and survivor of the Dark Exile. When he awakened from his long slumber, my Lord and master spoke to me of secrets that few mortals know. He told me the kingdoms of the High Heavens and the pits of the Burning Hells engage in an eternal war. He revealed the powers that have brought this discord to the realms of man. My master has named the battle for this world and all who exist here the Sin War.
Tale of the Three
This quote is questionable. It is the only quote that actually names one of the Three as leader. Various quotes in the Sin War novels allude to the fact that Diablo is the strongest and foremost of them, but no single quote can prove it. For example, Astrogha, a servant of Diablo, refers to his master as the greatest. Lazarus, being a corrupted servant of Diablo, would obviously give his master the same reverance as Astrogha. More so probably, given Diablo's dominance over his mind. So while the quote shouldn't be taken literally, it is another small proof supporting the fact that Diablo does in fact seem to be the leader of the Three (for more thoughts on this, refer to The Cosmology of Diablo: Angels and Demons).Glory and approbation to Diablo, Lord of Terror and leader of the Three. My lord spoke to me of his two brothers, Mephisto and Baal, who were banished to this world long ago. My lord wishes to bide his time and harness his awesome power so that he may free his captive brothers from their tombs beneath the sands of the east. Once my lord releases his brothers, The Sin War will once again know the fury of the three.
The Black King
This is the only passage during which the title "Destroyer of Souls" is used for Diablo. Since it is capitalized it is clearly a title, but it has never been mentioned after this. Perhaps it is just the ravings of Lazarus, or perhaps there is some unknown connection that Diablo has to souls in general that we are unaware of.Hail and sacrifice to Diablo, Lord of Terror and Destroyer of Souls. When I awoke my master from his sleep, he attempted to posses a mortal's form. Diablo attempted to claim the body of King Leoric, but my master was too weak from his imprisonment. My lord required a simple and innocent anchor to this world, and so found the boy Albrecht perfect for the task. While the good King Leoric was left maddened by Diablo's unsuccessful possession, I kidnapped his son Albrecht and brought him before my master. I now await Diablo's call and pray that I will be rewarded when he at last emerges as the lord of this world.
I have chosen to label these tomes as demonic tomes, mostly because of the information they contain about the inner workings of Hell. It is unlikely anyone but a demon or perhaps a very powerful sorcerer could possess this information.
The Dark Exile
This is definitely canonical, though whether it is true or not is another matter. Izual holds a speech in Diablo II that casts some doubt as to whether it was truly a revolution or simply a very elaborate plan by the Prime Evils:So it came to be that there was a great revolution within the Burning Hells known as The Dark Exile. The Lesser Evils overthrew the Three Prime Evils and banished their spirit forms to the mortal realm. The demons Belial (the Lord of Lies) and Azmodan (the Lord of Sin) fought to claim rulership of Hell during the absence of the Three Brothers. All of Hell polarized between the factions of Belial and Azmodan while the forces of the High Heavens continually battered upon the very Gates of Hell.
"You see, it was I who told Diablo and his Brothers about the Soulstones and how to corrupt them. It was I who helped the Prime Evils mastermind their own exile to your world."
Still, the mere fact that a revolution did take place, whether real or faked, is not something just any mortal is capable of knowing. And it wouldn't have been a very good scheme if anyone knew the rebellion was a sham.
The Sin War
True, though the amount of angels is probably limited to mainly Tyrael and perhaps some lesser angels under his command. At least, no angel but Tyrael has ever been named to have helped the Horadrim.Many Demons travelled to the mortal realm in search of the Three Brothers. These Demons were followed to the mortal plane by Angels who hunted them throughout the vast cities of the East. The Angels allied themselves with a secretive order of mortal Magi named the Horadrim, who quickly became adept at hunting Demons. They also made many dark enemies in the underworlds.
The Binding of the Three
This clearly highlights that a Horadrim mage did not write this book. A Horadrim would not call his order cursed, and he would not refer to the Horadrim as "mortal". It suggests that a demon, or some other immortal being, has written this.So it came to be that the Three Prime Evils were banished in spirit form to the mortal realm and after sewing chaos across the East for decades, they were hunted down by the cursed Order of the mortal Horadrim. The Horadrim used artifacts called Soulstones to contain the essence of Mephisto, the Lord of Hatred and his brother Baal, the Lord of Destruction. The youngest brother - Diablo, the Lord of Terror - escaped to the west. Eventually the Horadrim captured Diablo within a Soulstone as well, and buried him under an ancient, forgotten Cathedral. There, the Lord of Terror sleeps and awaits the time of his rebirth. Know ye that he will seek a body of youth and power to possess - one that is innocent and easily controlled. He will then arise to free his Brothers and once more fan the flames of the Sin War...
What is also interesting about this book is that it is the only quote that mentions Diablo as the youngest brother. There are plenty of passages that mention Mephisto as the eldest, but only this one named Diablo as the youngest. It has consequently never been disproved either, so it seems entirely reasonable to assume that this holds true.
And this was supposed to be a short post... Regardless of that, most of this article, as well as some details about the quest tomes and where all tomes appear, can now be found in the wiki at Tomes (Diablo I).
And for those still waiting for the next cosmology installment, it is coming.