The recent announcement of Diablo 3’s newest expansion, “Reaper of Souls” also brought with it the reveal of a new antagonist in the form of the archangel Malthael. But if you haven’t been following up with Diablo’s lore pre-D3, you may be asking yourself just who exactly is this guy and where did he come from? Well worry not! Because here’s pretty much everything you need to know…
[As this post will be discussing the upcoming expansion for Diablo 3, it contains SPOILERS for D3 as well as the previous games.]
The Angiris Council
Within the Heavens there exists a council of angels in charge of leading the war against the Burning Hells and the demons that live there. The council consists of 5 archangels;
- Imperius the Archangel of Valor
- Tyrael the Archangel of Justice
- Auriel the Archangel of Hope
- Itherael the Archangel of Fate
- Malthael the Archangel or Wisdom
For a better look at the Angiris Council in action, be sure to check out the short animated movie “Wrath“.
The Book of Cain has quit a bit to say about Malthael, foreshadowing his fall from grace and departure from the Council. He’s described as both intelligent and noble, while later becoming melancholy, evasive and frightening. To describe this duality, Cain offers this quote from the mortal sage Furisaj, who sought out wisdom for the entirety of his life:
“In all things there are two sides: motion and stillness, emptiness and fullness, light and dark.
Alone each side is incomplete, bit together they form the totality of existence. Only through embracing the oneness of all things can true wisdom be obtained.” – Book of Cain (pg. 51)
This quote perfectly describes Malthael’s nature, and explains how an archangel can be both a force of “good” and yet the aspect of death. Because as time went on, and the existence of mankind was discovered, Malthael’s demeanor darkened. The destruction of The Worldstone at the end of Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction seems to have been a breaking point for Malthael, as it was at this point that he took his leave from the High Heavens and began to wander the halls of the Pandemonium Fortress.
It should be noted that The Worldstone not only prevented direct angelic or demonic invasions, but it also acted as a dampener; sapping the potential power of mankind and preventing them from attaining their true might as full blown Nephalem (half demon/half angel). It is unlikely that these two events are unrelated…
The Prophecy of the End of Days
“. . . And, at the End of Days, Wisdom shall be lost
as Justice falls upon the world of men.
Valor shall turn to Wrath –
and all Hope will be swallowed by Despair.
Death, at last, shall spread its wings over all –
as Fate lies shattered forever.” – Book of Cain (pg. 6)
This prophecy is talked about a lot in Diablo 3; yet for all the “death” and darkness is portends to, we must consider that the final battle in Diablo 3 has nothing to do with it.
As of the ending of Diablo 3, the first four lines of the prophecy have happened. Malthael, “Wisdom”, became lost and left the Angiris Council. Tyrael, “Justice”, literally fell to the world of men and joined their ranks as a mortal. Imperius, “Valor”, gives in to his wrath and is powerless to stop Diablo from ravaging the High Heavens. And lastly, Auriel, “Hope”, is captured by Rakanoth, The Lord of Despair. (Although she is eventually freed by the Player as Rakanoth is defeated.)
Having seen all this, many might have assumed that the “death” the prophecy talks about is in reference to Diablo’s attack on the High Heavens. Or that the shattering of Fate refers to the fact that Itherael cannot see the destinies of the Nephalem (as their futures are entirely exempt from the bounds of fate).
Yet there is a far more dark possibility for this prophecy as well; that “Death”, Malthael, will rise up and spread his wings over the world, and that “Fate”, Itherael, will soon meet a grisly end. Judging by what we’ve seen of the coming expansion so far, I think it’s safe to say that this second possibility is actually the truth.
The Reaper of Souls
Now while our knowledge about the upcoming expansion is limited, we can actually glean quite a bit from what little we’ve seen in the opening cinematic…
The first and foremost is that Malthael has embraced the full aspect of “Death”. He no longer has the glowing tendrils of light for wings that his angelic kind typically has, and has instead embraced a cold an chilling aura of death and decay. He also possesses the power to control and twist souls, as we’ve seen him transform regular living people into undead creatures during gameplay expositions.
We also know from early concept art and gameplay that Malthael isn’t alone in his fall, he’s brought quite a few angels and demons along with him. He is no longer a force of good in the world… or is he?
During the cinamatic we see that Malthael cannot be harmed by Tyrael’s sword, El’druin. The Book of Cain has this to say about the sword…
“El’druin is, by all accounts, a unique weapon that can cut through any substance or foe in existence. There is, however, an exception: Some believe that the blade’s edge cannot pass through or harm any being of righteous intent.” – Book of Cain (pg. 45)
Interesting indeed. This would imply that, despite his apparent lack of regard for human lives and his change into the full blown aspect of Death, Malthael’s goal is a righteous one, not an evil one. It would seem clear that he must still be stopped, as his actions are clearly harmful. But perhaps his goal is one that the Players themselves may eventually have to take up as their own. Only time will tell…
So there it is ladies and gentlemen! The low-down on Malthael, Reaper of Souls and former Archangel of Wisdom. If you want to learn more about the lore of Diablo or Malthael himself, be sure to swing by the Diablo Wiki or, better yet, pick up The Book of Cain at your local book store.
I hope this has been an enlightening experience for all of you, and hope it’s either clarified your understanding of Diablo lore or ignited your interest in it! Either way, mission complete! If you have any questions or additional input, be sure to sound off in the comments below!