Guardian of death
(Sample Diablo 3 witch-doctor) (Part #2 - Diablo III events)
This is the second part of the profile. And thus meant to be read right after the first part, a ?
The sequencing goes :
- Guardian of Death part 1 – Diablo context.
- Guardian of Death part 2 – Diablo III events. This here profile.
- Guardian of Death part 3 – Appendices.
Soundtrack for this profile
Let’s have some more Angélique Kidjo. Normally I’d pick Koro-koro (a song about the spirit of dead ancestors, if I understand correctly). But since I only get two let’s go with her brilliant cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile. This is a common gateway to her work.
Beyond the homage to Hendrix, doing this cover is a little joke. Angélique Kidjo is culturally vaudou and is from the Beninese coast, which is essentially voodoo’s ground zero. So she’s, like, double voodoo.
Powers & Abilities
As a Nephalem, Seynameh enjoys superior health, intelligence, alacrity, strength, perception, etc.. She’s not quite superhuman. But the levels she operates at would require lots and lots of training (and superb genetics) for a Human to match.
On the other hand her physical, mental and emotional endurance, as well as her ability to function with little rest, food, relaxation, etc. are superhuman.
She stopped ageing thousands of years ago. Whether she’s actually immortal is unclear. But her life span was boosted well beyond even a third-generation Nephalem’s using Unformed Land energy.
It also seems that Guardian of Death cannot be killed. If a fatal blow occurs, she blinks out of Sanctuary and into the Unformed Land for a few seconds before coming back.
Furthermore, she can appose the Mark of Guardian on a person’s brow. With the Mark active, Seynameh can reach into the Unformed Land and bring that person back even if they were just slain. However, she seldom uses her Mark. As always, there are many complicated rules about using it.
A kind of magic, part 1
Guardian of Death can cast extremely powerful spells and magical rituals. She might be the mightiest being in four worlds – Sanctuary, the High Heavens, Pandemonium and the Burning Hells. She can beat a Prime Evil, or an Archangel, though that clearly pushes her to her limits.
It may also be possible to take Guardian of Death down using a well-coordinated team of powerful beings unleashing a barrage of varied attacks. But she knows that. Thus, Guardian of Death practices her combat spells so as to be able to cast them nigh-instantly in high-tempo, disorienting combat.
As a result, she focuses on practicing a small body of spells at a given time. She also can retrain, to refresh her speed and accuracy with another selection of spells. It is not done often, but could be useful to counter prepared opponents – or exploit weaknesses in strong opposition.
A kind of magic, part 2
During much of the game, Guardian of Death’s practiced spells are :
- Avoidance and durability against physical and magical attacks.
- Rapid regeneration of the damage that does get through.
- Briefly weakening the frontier between Sanctuary and the Unformed Land. This creates a ghostly circle of reaching, spectral hands wherein enemies of Guardian of Death suffer great pain.
- Conjuring a sustained torrent of primitive creatures from the void between the world and Mbwiru Eikura. These things sort of look and sound like burning bats, and inflict significant cutting and burning damage. The “jet” of creatures is about ten metres long. As long as she lets them into Sanctuary Seynameh is further protected against attacks, but it cannot be maintained indefinitely.
- A curse field around herself that slows her opponents, making it easy to escape if surrounded or cornered.
- Creating a sort of small twister sucking in and stunning large groups of opponents, and making it easy to attack them. This ectoplasmic creation is often whimsically styled as a whirlpool of dangerous water creatures, such as sharks or piranhas.
However, a large chunk of her magical puissance is focused on a small cadre of powerful helpers. Fighting in coordination with these make her a much harder target, and stopping an entire team is even harder than stopping Guardian of Death alone.
Madam’s house staff, part 1
One helper is a large, gaunt quadruped. Seynameh occasionally rides it or has it carrying her stuff in saddlebags. Though it looks vaguely like a giant undead mutated dog, it is simply a powerful jungle monster from a rare species.
It was made immortal and even stronger by the Mark of Guardian.
The Umbaru peoples say that this beast has the strength and ferocity of an entire pride of lions. It’s not wrong, but it’s also a product of Umbaru folks loving to compare all sorts of fierce things to lions. Even in areas where there isn’t a single lion to be found.
Madam’s house staff, part 2
But her main fighting force is three brothers from a strange humanoid species – who may be the last of their race. These pale-skinned creatures have a monstrous head evoking a cross between an orc and a spider, and freakishly large and clawed hands.
The triplets are mighty and fearless warriors. Furthermore, centuries bearing the Mark of Guardian have made them absurdly durable. They can also channel magical cold through their claws. Fighting these things is rather awful.
The humanoids are known as yĕ atɔ̀ɖòbŭ (pronounced “atawn ‘tdo boo” and meaning “the triplets”), and the quadruped is è aglà (meaning “the dog”). Look, Guardian of Death is a very busy, very important lady. She has no time for making up fancy nicknames.
The triplets are surprisingly capable drummers, in a style that evokes Brazilian batucada. Seynameh learned about using drumming to help focus during magical ritual from Umbaru ritualists, and found the practice effective. However, her helpers didn’t bring their huge steel drums with them.
Madam’s house staff, part 3
From time to time, a Fetish slips in from the Unformed Land in the heat of the battle. These are silly-looking but extremely strong gnomes. They are called “Fetish” due to their habit of wearing scary wooden masks to look more impressive in battle. They love to fight, and will attack Seynameh’s enemies.
Fetishes aren’t supposed to be there. Preventing them from crossing over willy-nilly from Mbwiru Eikura is one of Guardian of Death’s responsibilities. But if she’s in a fight, they know she will be too busy to (literally !) kick them back to the Unformed Lands right away.
Though most Fetishes are ultra-violent giggling lunatics, Guardian of Death has a sort of fan club among them. These hooligans have themed masks so she can recognize them, utter specific soccer-style war chants, and will leave on their own without Seynameh having to apply a foot to their behind. These, she allows to hang around a bit since they won’t be a problem.
Unbound by Fate
Due to her nature as a/ an Old Nephalem and b/ essentially a part of the Unformed Lands, Guardian of Death’s fate isn’t written down in the records of the High Heaven. That makes her a sort of cosmic wild card, able to derail events that have would otherwise have a certain conclusion.
This is curiously reminiscent of Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) and Thanos in older Starlin stories.
History (Diablo III)
Diablo III depicts another near-apocalypse at the hands of the Prime Evil. This one was prophesied by at least one Angel, suitably called The Prophet. This means that a few scattered parties could oppose the arch-devils in time. The known ones are :
- Tyrael, archangel of Justice and ally of Humans.
- A special cadre of enchantresses put in suspended animation by The Prophet. The Prophet had foretold that a Nephalem would oppose the arch-devils, and these lassies would awaken in time to back that person.
- The Horadrim… who still amount to but Deckard Cain.
- The aforementioned Nephalem.
The in-game history could be summed up in but a few sentences. But let’s go with an approach that is closer to the events as they occur in-games. If only for the benefit of those who played the game without paying any attention to the story.
Tyrael wishes to mobilize Angels against the demonic plan. But their leader, Imperius, refuses. In outrage, Tyrael tears off his own wings, so as to become a mortal and fight the devils along with Humans. This means that he falls from the High Heavens, to Sanctuary.
Tyrael comes in as a meteor who crashes ‘pon Tristram’s old cathedral. This “falling star” is an element of the prophecy. Thus, the Nephalem comes to New Tristram to investigate. And thus, Deckard Cain realises that the prophesied crisis has started.
Tyrael’s fall kills many locals, and reawakens the evil magic within the Cathedral. Leoric rises as the Skeleton King again, like during Diablo I. Waves of undead and monsters arise in the region, besieging New Tristram.
The undead court
The Nephalem :
- Breaks the siege.
- Ventures underneath the Cathedral, where she…
- Rescues the investigating Cain.
- Rescues and allies with Konrad, an elite Templar warrior.
- Destroys scores of undead, and takes down the Skeleton King.
- Discovers that the “falling star” is a man.
Tyrael has lost his memory, but Deckard correctly guesses that reassembling and reforging his sword will restore him.
The Nephalem reunites the sword fragments despite the violent opposition of a Belial cult led by one Maghda. Maghda fatally wounds Cain, but the last Horadrim manages to reforge the sword before dying.
He’s succeeded by Leah, his young niece. Leah had previously believed that her uncle Deckard was spouting nonsense and stories.
History – Act Two
Tyrael is restored by his reforged sword. He now remembers whom he is, and why he’s there. He has come to warn of Belial’s presence in Caldeum, far to the East. He, Leah, the Nephalem, and their support personnel journey there.
The area is in chaos. Not only is Maghda’s cult rampaging in the countryside, but the Emperor had recently died. He was succeeded by his son, but the kid is about 8, gives all sorts of wrong orders and puts the palace on lockdown.
The Nephalem :
- Slays the cultists and eventually Maghda. This avenges Deckard Cain and relieves pressure on the Caldeum military.
- Determines that Belial is behind the throne of Caldeum.
- Gains the support of Ereina the Enchantress.
- Joins forces with Adria. Adria is Leah’s mother, a powerful witch and scholar, and somebody with a complicated past. She was in Tristram during the original Diablo events.
The Black Soulstone
Adria’s research make it possible to use the Black Soulstone, a lost Horadric artefact with a potential for destroying the Prime Evil. However, that is only feasible by resurrecting its creator Zoltun Kulle.
Kulle had been one of the original seven Horadrim, and perhaps the mightiest early on. However, he went mad, and had to be slain by the others. The Horadrim would never again be as powerful.
A mystical genius, Kulle had enchanted himself to be immortal. But since he was such a menace, the Horadrim had gone to great lengths to hack him apart and keep the pieces separated. Thus, the ghost of Kulle only agrees to collaborate if he gets put back together.
A quest ensues, wherein :
- Adria teaches Leah how to cast spells to reassemble Kulle.
- Kulle is obviously fascinated by the Nephalem. Apparently, the core of his research was to somehow turn himself into a Nephalem, and he hints that he has had some success with this.
- Kulle is fully, bodily resurrected. He keeps his end of the bargain, activating his Black Soulstone deep in his hidden base. However, to his surprise, the souls of the great Evils that are currently slain immediately rush within his Stone.
- Driven by paranoia, Kulle attacks. The Nephalem has to slay him in self-defense.
- Our heroes then deduce that Adria had marked the souls of the slain Evils so they would be absorbed by the Stone. She likely had been working on this for 20 years.
Adria’s master plan
Adria has indeed been toiling on this ever since she learned Horadrim lore from Deckard Cain, and left Tristram. Thus, only two Evils aren’t trapped in the Soulstone – Belial, and Azmodan. Once these can be slain and absorbed, Adria says she will destroy the Black Soulstone and slay all major Evils forever.
Belial ruins his cover in Caldeum in his attempts to stop the Nephalem and her allies. As Caldeum’s population is being evacuated, he lashes out. But the Nephalem destroys him, and his soul gets cast into the Black Soulstone.
However, Belial had time to warn Azmodan about the Nephalem, Adria, Leah and the Black Soulstone. Furthermore, the Nephalem increasingly suspects that Adria had done something to Leah. Adria’s daughter holds great power, and her mother wields Leah like a weapon.
History – Act III & IV
Azmodan reacts in force. He thinks that taking the filled Black Soulstone will allow him to reunite the Primordial Evil – with himself as the dominant consciousness. His great infernal armies invade Sanctuary at Mount Arreat.
The shattered mountain is guarded by the human fortress of Bastion Keep. But though this is a mighty stronghold, even the Keep can only hold an army of this magnitude for so long.
By the time the Nephalem and her allies reach it, the situation is grim. Furthermore, Leah’s endurance is waning. She is magically struggling to keep the Evils locked in the Black Soulstone.
After blunting Azmodan’s assault, the Nephalem makes a sortie, all the way to the gates to the Burning Hells at Arreat. After forcing these open, she reaches Azmodan and slays him. All seven souls of the Evils are now held in Zoltun Kulle’s Black Soulstone.
At this point, Adria reveals what her actual plan has been ever since the Fall of Tristram. She was a servant of Diablo all along. And Leah’s father secretly was the Diablo-possessed Aidan, son of Leoric.
Adria destroys Leah’s soul. She has the body possessed by all the souls in the Soulstone, with Diablo the dominant one.
Now the reassembled Prime Evil, the seven-in-one Diablo immediately rushes the High Heavens. He defeats the archangel Imperius, shatters the Diamond Gates and invades.
As the primordial Evil, he can defeat even the angels on their home ground. Furthermore, the High Heavens have no experience with demonic corruption. It soon spreads. Angels and the architecture turn into servants of the Prime Evil at speed.
Nevertheless, the Nephalem defeats the Prime Evil Diablo. Since all its souls are still witch-marked by Adria, they are reabsorbed by the Black Soulstone. The light returns to the High Heavens, cleansing the corruption.
Since the Evils have been slain in unified form, their souls remain quiet. But on the other hand, it turns out that the Black Soulstone is indestructible. Adria lied about that too.
Tyrael returns to the High Heavens as the Angel of Wisdom, though he remains a mortal. He quickly founds a new order of Horadrim – but this time, it’s more of a military order and less of a team of elite mages. Their first point of order is to hide the Black Soulstone deep underground.
History (Reaper of Souls)
(Reaper of Souls is an expansion for Diablo III. It depicts events that take place a few months after Diablo III ends.
Though Seynameh is relieved to see Diablo fall, something is off. The events didn’t match the spirits’ warning at the beginning of her quest. And even without Guardian of Death, Tyrael would presumably have been able to summon heroes to defeat the arch-devils, as he had done 20 years before.
A few months later, it becomes clear why the spirits had brought out their big gun.
When it’s not Hell…
The Angel of Death, Malthael, originally was the most powerful as Wisdom, before changing his portfolio. He is among those who believe that Humans, being half-demon, are no better than the hordes of the Burning Hells. His observation of Humans in their lives have strengthened his view that they almost always gave in to evil.
Malthael never acted on this, since the Angels couldn’t fight both Humans and Demons. But with the fall of the Prime Evil, one of these two fronts is now clear.
Malthael has vast following among the Angels – he calls his partisans the Reapers. The Reapers suddenly attack the capital city of Westmarch, killing thousands. This shocks Humans, who see Angels as allies. Meanwhile, Malthael attacks the Horadrim, nearly kills Tyrael, and takes the Soulstone.
As the Reapers massacre Humans, they gather the souls for their own purposes. This prevents the dead from passing on. Which is what the spirits of the Unformed Lands had foreseen months before.
Preventing transmigration on such a scale is a grave breach of the rules. And thus, the Angel Malthael and his Reapers now have to answer to Guardian of Death.
The Nephalem counter-attacks in the streets of Westmarch. She destroys Reaper lieutenants, as well as powerful constructs used to animate undead auxiliaries using the power of stolen souls. But Urzael, Malthael’s right hand angel, retaliates by magically nuking most of Westmarch to get the souls anyway.
The Nephalem locates and slays Urzael, greatly facilitating the survivors’ defensive military efforts. But though what is left of Westmarch can now endure, Malthael is still drawing power from mass death. Furthermore, he is doing something to the Black Soulstone.
Locating Malthael requires precise occult knowledge. With Deckard Cain dead, one expert comes to mind – Adria. Having been a friend of Leah, the Nephalem is determined to kill the witch. Therefore finding Adria, extracting the information from her then killing her to avenge Leah sounds like a good plan.
The Nephalem intercepts the witch in Corvus, a long-since-lost Nephalem ruin. This is where the Black Soulstone had been briefly hidden by the new Horadrim. Adria is predictably there looking for clues about the stone’s current location.
Adria turns herself into a giant biological Nephalem war machine, but the Nephalem knows how to destroy even this nigh-invincible horror.
Just before she died, Adria had summoned a vision showing Malthael in Pandemonium.
Pandemonium is the center of creation. As such, and despite the name, it lies halfway between the High Heavens and the Burning Hells. For millennia, it has thus been the main battlefield for the Eternal Conflict. Malthael and his Reapers have holed up in a gigantic abandoned fortress therein.
Tyrael deduces why. Malthael is altering the Black Soulstone so it can rip the demonic essence out of everything. Humans, being half-demon, will not survive this – and Humanity will thus be obliterated.
Furthermore, Tyrael notes how Malthael made himself invulnerable by existing in a state halfway between life and death. Even Tyrael’s angelic sword couldn’t touch Malthael when they clashed.
The Nephalem storms the Pandemonium Fortress. By this point, Malthael is reaping and absorbing thousands of Human souls across Sanctuary, making him immensely powerful.
But Guardian of Death shifts to exist on the border between life and death — it’s her job — making it possible for her to harm Malthael. She then orders the spirits to move on — it’s her job — greatly diminishing Malthael’s power.
(The paragraph above is a slight alteration of the in-game events for coherence’s sake.)
Attempting to regain the upper hand, Malthael shatters the Black Soulstone to absorb the souls of the Evils within. That gives him the combined power of the Prime Evil and a senior Angel.
But Guardian of Death is at that point backed by tens of thousands of irate deads out for revenge. She thus destroys the Angel of Death.
Thus Sanctuary, the High Heavens and the Burning Hells survive – though the losses of life have been tremendous.
Malthael having been destroyed frees the souls of the Prime and Lesser Evils, particularly Diablo’s. The Evils won’t return right away, but it seems inevitable.
After what happened with Malthael, most are looking at Guardian of Death with unsease. Especially since her power level is now clear to all. But she just ups and disappears within hours of her victory.
Unbeknownst to the living, she is required in the Unformed Lands for crisis management. The massive influx of souls in the afterlife is a disaster, and the Guardian of Death is sorely needed for organisation and policing.
This profile is continued — and concluded — in part #3 !