This blog is one that was supposed to be completed as part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge in April. My intent was to use the challenge as a way to get started writing about Diablo III (and its “universe”). Unfortunately, I ended up working a lot in April, and did not finish the Challenge in the allotted period of time. Despite that, I intend to go ahead and write the blogs I had planned for it. The remaining blogs in the alphabet will be written on my own time frame.
S is for Souls. The Diablo III: Reaper of Souls expansion involves a “big bad”, Malthael, who is stealing the souls of the humans (or nephalem) that live on Sanctuary. It made me wonder…. where do souls in the Diablo III “universe” go when they leave the body?
It might be easiest to start with the angels. Each angel is the embodiment of a particular sound wave and specific beam of light that emanates from The Crystal Arch in the High Heavens. When everything is in harmony, there is a chance that a new angel will be born from the Crystal Arch. The angels are immortal and do not age.
They don’t actually have a physical “body”. At least, they don’t have a body like the humans or demons do. Instead, each angel’s armor, weapon, voice and other identifying aspects, are all “one piece”. Angels can, at times, appear to be very solid and physical. This is necessary in order for them to do things like fight against the demons in The Eternal Conflict. It would be a very short battle if the angels were entirely non corporeal!
The angels are unique in the Diablo “universe” because they are sentient, immortal, beings that don’t have the type of physical body that everything else does. It might be more correct to say that angels don’t have a soul – they are a soul.
Of course, in order for that concept to work, one would have to decide that an intertwined beam of light and wave of sound are equivalent to the souls in the humans/nephalem on Sanctuary. If not, then perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the angels don’t have souls at all. They simply are what they are. Angels can be vanquished in battle (or “killed”) but they don’t technically die. Instead, their individual sound wave and beam of light return to The Crystal Arch and becomes one with it again.
In short, if the angels in the Diablo “universe” have a soul (or are a soul) it travels in a circle. The sound beam and wave of light are in The Crystal Arch, then they become an individual angel, and then the sound wave and beam of light go back to The Crystal Arch.
So far, it is unclear what happens next. Does the sound wave and beam of light that made up one, particular, angel get “reincarnated”? Or, does that sound wave and beam of light eventually become a brand new angel?
The demons, on the other hand, have both a physical body and a soul. Demons are born in the Burning Hells. Many, (if not all of them) are immortal. Take, for example, the Morlu.
There is a place in the Burning Hells where these warrior demons fight against each other in a never ending cycle. (This is described somewhere in The Sin War trilogy). Each Morlu is bloodthirsty, vicious, and ready to maim and mutilate its brethren. They use their weapons to slice into each other’s skin, to chop off limbs and heads, and to spread blood everywhere. Then, it is like a “timer” goes off. The body of each individual Morlu reforms… and the battle starts all over again.
In game, players run into the Morlu somewhere in Act IV. They put up a good fight, but can be killed by the player’s character. The Morlu in this section of the game do not rise up after being slain. This probably has something to do with game mechanics. Or, maybe the Morlu have to be in that special place in the Burning Hells to have their bodies regenerate?
When a demon’s body is killed, the soul of the demon returns to the Burning Hells (to be born again into a new body). This is certainly true for the Prime Evils and Lesser Evils (but it’s unclear if their “minions” have that special ability).
One way to prevent that from happening is to trap the soul of the demon in a soulstone. It functions like a “demon soul prison”. If the demon’s soul is trapped in a soulstone, it cannot go back to the Burning Hells and … get a new body. It also cannot directly possess a human (or nephalem). There is much in the lore of Diablo that indicates that being trapped in a soulstone makes demons really irritated. So, they try and break out or trick some unwitting human to help them break out of it.
In other words, the path of a demon’s soul in the Diablo “universe” is not exactly a circular one. The soul goes into the demon’s body when it is born in the Burning Hells. There is a chance the body could be killed (in which case, the soul returns to the Burning Hells and gets another body). Or, a demon’s soul could end up trapped in a soulstone. Or, it could possess a human “host” for a while. Eventually, that mortal body is going to die, and then the demon’s soul will have to find some other body to inhabit.
What about the humans on Sanctuary? I’m going to group the humans and the nephalem together in this blog. They are the descendants of both angels and demons. The noticeable difference between the humans and the nephalem is that the nephalem have “awakened” their special powers.
Humans/nephalem are born on Sanctuary. They each have a physical, mortal, body that can age, feel pain, hunger, and a bunch of emotions. Their bodies will, someday, die. However, their souls go… somewhere. This is the special thing about the humans/nephalem (ok one of the special things about them). There is no evidence in the Diablo games of the lore of its “universe” that the humans/nephalem reincarnate. Once their body dies, their soul leaves it. They don’t get a new body to start over with. At least some of the demons can move from one body to another. The angels might reincarnate from the Crystal Arch someday. Things don’t work that way for the humans/nephalem.
We know that the humans/nephalem do, in fact, have souls because that it exactly what Malthael is after. An expansion called “Reaper of Souls” wouldn’t work if there were no souls to reap. In game, players watch the souls get ripped out of the NPCs (non-player characters) by Malthael and his minions. What happens to these souls? As far as I can tell, Malthael uses them as fuel that gives him strength. To me, this indicates that human/nephalem souls are made of energy.
What about the rest of the human/nephalem souls? Where do they go after leaving the body? There is no official answer to that question. That being said, I think there is plenty of evidence that indicates that the souls of humans/nephalem remain on Sanctuary. They don’t end up in the High Heavens, or the Burning Hells, or anywhere else. They stay put.
The Witch Doctor would say that the souls (or “spirits”) are all around them. The spirits sing to the Witch Doctor, provide guidance, and are easy for him or her to connect with. If you are a Witch Doctor, souls don’t go anywhere. In short, the souls of the departed are still around, guiding the living. (Or, at least, the living who can see and hear them).
The Barbarian, on the other hand, has a slightly different idea. Play a Barbarian, and talk to Tyrael in the beginning parts of Act V. As soon as the Barbarian learns that Malthael is taking souls, he or she says: Our souls are meant to join with the world, not be eaten by death. Clearly, the Barbarian believes that souls remain in Sanctuary (or maybe become one with it).
Players see so many examples of souls who are still wandering around Sanctuary. Perhaps the first notable one is the Chancellor’s ghost (whom you must fight in order to obtain the crown). There are ghosts in the crypts and cemeteries that give players quests (or start events).
Groups of ghosts remain in specific locations, re-enacting a traumatic scene where someone died. (For example, the scene where Queen Asylla loses her head, and the scene where Leoric is slain before he becomes The Skeleton King). There are ghosts to kill as part of an Achievement, and ghosts who insist it wasn’t their time to die (seconds before they attack the player character). The shade of Zoltun Kulle is summoned. It follows the player around, giving cryptic (yet accurate) advice and laughing manically. It eventually gets put back into its body (for a little while). Ghosts (or “souls” or “spirits”) are all over the place on Sanctuary!
What about Tyrael? Now, that’s an interesting concept to ponder! Tyrael started out as an angel, and then chose to become mortal. This means he will age. He feels pain and a plethora of emotions that he hasn’t quite sorted out yet. Tyrael also gets sleepy and hungry (just like the humans/nephalem). Someday, he will die.
Where will his soul go? Nobody knows. It is clear that Tyrael has something that resembles the souls of the humans/nephalem. We see this in the cinematic that plays before Act V of the Diablo III: Reaper of Souls expansion. Malthael takes a “taste” of Tyrael’s soul… and basically spits it out. His soul is not the same as the souls of the humans/nephalem.
This could be due to the fact that the humans/nephalem are a mixture of both angels and demons. Tyrael once was an angel, never was a demon, and now is something undefined. His soul cannot return to The Crystal Arch, because it is no longer the pure sound wave and beam of light that makes up an angel. It also can’t end up in the Burning Hells due to the fact that Tyrael was never a demon and did not descend from them. It isn’t clear whether or not Tyrael’s soul would end up joining the “spirits” that haunt Sanctuary.