King Kanai is an NPC (non-player character) in Diablo III. If you have ever taken one of your characters to obtain Kanai’s Cube, you have seen Kanai’s ghost appear and point at the Cube.
But, who was King Kanai? There’s plenty of lore about him in the Diablo III game, and some additional information about the inspiration for the character that is presented outside of the game.
Sescheron was seen by the Barbarians as more than just a city. To them, it was a living symbol of united Barbarian tribes. Its gates guarded the only path to Sanctuary’s most precious treasure, the Worldstone.
The Barbarians, who called themselves the Children of Bul-Kathos, were to defend the gates. Generations of Barbarians guarded and defended the gates. They believed the gates of Secheron would never fall.
The Ruins of Sescheron were added to Diablo III in July of 2015. There was a time when Sescheron was a Barbarian bustling city. By the time the player character can access it, the city lies in ruins.
What happened to this great city? Baal, the Lord of Destruction, sent an army of the Burning Hells to attack Sescheron. Baal is one of the three Prime Evils (the other two are Mephisto and Diablo).
As such, Baal likely had a very large army of demons to unleash upon the Barbarian city. He instructed them to tear the city apart.
The Ruins of Sescheron can be found by opening the Act III Adventure Mode map. Players should talk to Zoltun Kulle first. He is conveniently waiting in town for the player to do his bidding.
Zoltun Kulle: Yes, I live one more. I’m very hard to kill and really, you did a sloppy job. But, enough small talk. I need your help.
When Kanai’s Cube was first added to the game, many players had already killed Zoltun Kulle at least once.
Those who played through story mode killed him in order to progress through more of the story. Those who played through Adventure mode during a Season probably killed Zoltun Kulle in a Bounty.
Zoltun Kulle: An artifact lies on the ruins of Sescheron, guarded by the spirit of a might warrior who will only grant it to the “worthy”.
Zoltun Kulle: I think you’ll have a better chance of impressing this spirit than I. Aid me in this, and I’ll use the artifact to help you.
Zoltun Kulle has two journals that tell the player a little bit about the history of Kanai’s Cube.
Zoltun Kulle: The Cube was used by my Horadrim brothers in many of their most complex rituals. When its potential became clear, they began to fear its power, the fools. They hid it away, even from me, and created a less powerful implement, the Horadric Cube, which they used for many years.
Zoltun Kulle: I never stopped looking for Kanai’s Cube. Finally, I learned that they had entrusted it to a secret society of barbarians. The last of these, Kanai, died in Baal’s invasion of Sesecheron. His spirit guards it still, and he is unlikely to give it to me. But I know someone who can impress even the mighty Kanai.
The Ruins of Sescheron can be found in Act III.
The player learns more about what happened when Baal’s army invaded Sescheron through some journals that are found in Barbarian’s packs that are scattered throughout the ruins.
The journals were written by a NPC Barbarian named Skular. The player will eventually find Skular in a cage. Free him, and he will accompany you as you find and free three other Barbarians.
Skular: Baal has invaded Sescheron, but we will fight until we are no more. For we are all that stands between him and our sacred Mountain – and I swear by the blood of Bul-Kathos, hell will pay dearly for each of our deaths.
Skular: Chief Elder Kanai was the best of us. He could have been the next Immortal King. None of use have come close to bringing the tribes together since Worusk, but Kanai could have been the one to change that with is indomitable spirit. Though as strong as three warriors, his true strength lay in his compassion.
Skular: We showed Baal and his army what it meant to fight true warriors, but when Kanai was killed, it froze the spirits of our bloodied ranks. That was when the battle was lost, for he was truly our king.
Skular: Dren, the last of our seers, prophesied the darkness would soon pass. He was wrong. Mount Arreat exploded, and took our souls with it. Many of our dwindling number were lost that day to madness and worse. They are the Unclean.
Skular: The years wear on us all. Only a few still live, but we have made a good account of ourselves, killing all but the most vicious of the flesh eaters. To think they were once our kin…as long as even one of them still lives we are all shamed.
Put this all together, and you have a short story of the downfall of the Children of Bul-Kathos. Their people were once united, under a previous king named Worusk. But, after that, the various tribes became divided.
Chief Elder Kanai worked on reuniting the Barbarian tribes. He was making good progress. Some believed Kanai would become the next Immortal King. He was well respected, as strong as three warriors, and very compassionate. Chief Elder Kanai was a good leader, and was considered to be the true King of the Children of Bul-Kathos.
King Kanai was killed in battle when Baal’s army invaded. The result was devastation not only of Sescheron, but also of the Barbarian people. They lost a beloved leader, along with many of their warriors.
Even worse, they failed to protect the Worldstone. Generations of Barbarians believed that protecting the Worldstone was their sacred duty. Those who lived through the battle with Baal’s army were undoubtedly dealing with a lot of mental anguish over what happened.
A seer predicted that this dark time was going to change. Perhaps this helped some Barbarians to feel a bit hopeful. That hope died when Mount Arreat exploded.
Diablo Wiki has information about Mount Arreat. The part that is most relevant here is this:
…The Barbarian held that they were all tasked with defending Mount Arreat until death, at which point they were free to pass on. However, some bound their spirits to the mountain, so they could serve the mountain well after their physical forms had perished. The Barbarians buried their warriors upon the slopes of Arreat, and believed that those who were denied this would be doomed to have their spirits roam the land for eternity.
When Skular wrote that Mount Arreat exploded “and took our souls with it”, he literally meant the souls of the Barbarians who had been buried there. Baal’s army killed their beloved King, many of their people, and prevented the dead from being free to pass on. They could not rest, and had to wander the land forever.
The Ruins of Sescheron are a vivid symbol of the devastation that the Barbarians felt after experiencing so much tragedy.
Skular accompanies the player to the Elder Sanctum.
He sticks around long enough for the player to find Kanai’s Cube. If you know the lore of King Kanai, seeing his ghost point you to the Cube feels very significant.
Skular also goes with the player to The Immortal Throne. He tells the player: There was talk of Elder Kanai being the next Immortal King. He was revered by barbarians everywhere, as you well know.
I’m not sure if Skular says that exact sentence to every player class, or if this is reserved for those who are playing a Barbarian. It is possible that Skular figures you read all the journals he left laying around, and learned about King Kanai that way.
The path to the throne is lined with the ghosts of the Children of Bul-Kathos. They cannot pass on, so some decided to spend eternity honoring their beloved King Kanai.
The body of King Kanai is seated on the throne. He is wearing the armor he wore when he died, and his weapon is next to him.
Skular: We put Kanai on the throne after he died as a tribute to his greatness.
Skular: I wonder what would have happened if he had lived? Bah, there is no point.
King Kanai is not just a legend within the lore of Diablo. He is also a tribute to a real person named Kevin Kanai Griffith. On July 28, 2015, a post about Kanai’s Cube was posted on the Diablo website. From the post (which was written by Nevalistis):
…Kevin Kanai Griffith was a beloved member of the Blizzard family and a longtime Diablo fan. He joined Blizzard as an artist on the World of Warcraft team in 2005 and his work can be seen in the Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, and Mist of Pandaria expansions, as well as the World of Warcraft trading card game. As the Diablo III team came together, Kevin joined and made his mark on the original game, creating a plethora of diverse and moody environments that you’re certain to recognize.
Kevin continued producing gorgeous environments and Diablo holiday art throughout the launch and beyond the release of Reaper of Souls…
…Tragedy struck in February of 2012 when Kevin was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer known as Alveolar Soft Part Sarcoma (ASPS). Kevin kept his spirits high throughout the grueling treatment process and continued to work on Diablo III as much as he was able, pioneering environmental features such as the weather and night/day cycles experienced in Adventure Mode. Though he fought valiantly, we lost our coworker and dear friend on October 17, 2014. His spirit and legacy will always live on in the many games he’s touched, with his stunning art, as well as the hearts of every individual who had the honor of knowing him….
Every March, there is a special event in Diablo III called Udder Cowlamity. It is a homage to Kevin Kanai Griffith. The event happens in March because that is the month Kevin was born in.
To start the event, players must be in Adventure Mode. Go to the Immortal throne and head towards King Kanai’s body. He will awaken. His spirit will leave his body and open a red portal to Kanai’s Stomping Grounds.
King Kanai silently invites the player to join him. The goal is to kill every single Infernal Bovine on the map. King Kanai fights along with the player.
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