The Assassins are an ancient order originally founded by the Horadrim to hunt down and eliminate rogue mages within their own ranks. Employing secret disciplines to combat and resist the magical abilities of their elusive quarry, the Assassin’s bag of tricks includes traps and other infernal devices, martial arts, and powerful mental abilities. Common people know nothing of the Assassins, but they are widely feared and respected by all who employ the magic arts.
In the third century, two brothers rose to dominance from within the ranks of the Vizjerei clan of mages; their names were Horazon and Bartuc. Both were equally powerful and ambitious, and both were fascinated by the power one could obtain through the practice of Demonic Magics; however, the two differed in their views regarding how best to study demons. While Horazon viewed demons as a great source of power, he felt that in order to use that power best, you must harness a demon and bend him to your will. His brother, on the other hand, grew to sympathize with the demonic powers and felt (with no small influence from the demons) that the demonic forces were best understood by allying with the Hellish authorities so their secrets could be shared freely, and that is exactly what he did. Their diametrically opposed philosophies caused a great schism that split the ranks and tore the Vizjerei clan apart.
When at last their fierce rivalry culminated in inevitable violence, the combatants learned too late that they had both been played as pawns by the demonic host. The ensuing battle was so great it set the very firmament aflame, and when it was complete and the stillness of remorse was all that remained, Bartuc lay dead, Horazon had vanished into self-imposed exile, and the Vizjerei had learned a costly lesson. The small surviving group of sorcerers, the remnants of the once-great Vizjerei clan, resolved forevermore to spurn Demonic Magics and set about renewing their studies in the Elemental Magics. To further ensure that a similar tragedy could never happen again, they formed a secret order whose sole purpose was to police the mage clans, destroying corruption wherever they found it. This was the birth of the Viz-Jaq’taar, the Order of the Mage Slayers-otherwise known as the Assassins.
Knowing that such an order might itself be corrupted if exposed to the power of magic, the Vizjerei deemed it of the utmost importance that these Assassins maintain the purest, most focused minds. They should live in meditation and draw their power from within, not from external forces that could easily mask demonic interference. To this end, the Order would not employ the magic arts directly; rather, they would use ingenious devices and enchanted items to battle those possessing great magical powers. To further their campaign against demonic corruption, they concentrated on honing the natural martial abilities of their bodies, both physical and mental.
Because the Order remains veiled in secrecy, few people, even among the mages, know more than rumors about this mysterious organization. Their reputation has been one shrouded in ambiguity. Legends of their stalwart vigilance, and the widespread fear of their retribution, have kept many mages away from the temptations of corruption, so actual sightings have been rare. However, with the reemergence of the Three, and the subsequent increase in demonic manifestations in the world, the Order has shown a greater public presence of late.
Traits and Abilities
Assassins do not employ the magic arts directly; rather, they use enchanted items that mimic elemental powers, which can function autonomously. To further avoid potential corruption, they also focus on the natural abilities of the mortal body-powers of the mind and unarmed combat. The Assassins have trained extensively in the use of an exotic group of weapons: sets of metal blades and claws that strap onto the wrists. They have expertly incorporated the use of these weapons into their martial arts, and when wielding one in each hand, an Assassin can deliver a devastating double attack. Even the most novice of Assassins is a past master of infiltration, and no lock has been made that they cannot circumvent. Hence, an Assassin needs no key to open locked chests.
The Druids are a race of nomadic warrior-poet-kings. Driven from their homelands long ago by their Barbarian brothers, the Druid tribes live primarily in the northern forests. Using mystic secrets passed down through the generations, they summon the elements of fire and wind to do their bidding, and command the creatures of the forest to aid them in battle. Shifting from their human forms into that of wild beasts, gives them abilities far beyond those of other mortals.
In the ancient tome of the Druids, the Scéal Fada, it is written that Bul-Kathos, the great and ancient king of the Barbarian tribes, had a mysterious but trusted confidant, who was only referred to as Fiacla-Géar. This man is sometimes described as Bul-Kathos’s close friend, and at other times, he is referred to as his brother. Whatever the source of their relationship, their bond was strong, and together they shared the secrets of the ancients: of the mysteries below the peaks of Mt. Arreat, of the venerated task put to their people to protect those mysteries, and of the prophecies regarding the dark times ahead.
They both agreed that, in order to fulfill their sacred trust, their people must devote themselves to nothing save that charge. However, they disagreed on exactly how the people could best do this. Bul-Kathos believed that only by bringing the tribes together and training them in strict martial discipline could the tribes faithfully concentrate on their goal for generations to come. Fiacla-Géar, on the other hand, believed that only through obtaining a spiritual oneness with the land they had sworn to protect could the people truly appreciate the importance of their role. Both agreed the other’s philosophy had merit, and so around the time Bul-Kathos united the tribes, Fiacla-Géar gathered together a small group consisting of the tribes’ greatest warrior-poets and shamans and mysteriously retreated into the forests surrounding the area known as Scosglen.
There he and his people created the first of the Druid Colleges, huge mortar-less stone towers, covered in vines and safely hidden beneath the leafy canopies of the dense forests. They have dwelt there ever since, forging a new way of life for themselves. They created a new culture and language, cutting themselves off from their Barbarian cousins and their ways, vowing not to return to the Steppes of Mt. Arreat until the time of the Uileloscadh Mór, the final battle between the men of the world and the demons of the Burning Hells.
Here, in preparation for the impending conflict, he taught his people the Caoi Dúlra, a way of thinking that holds harmony with the natural elements of the world, its plants and animals, as the heart of its most intrinsic beliefs, for they are the personification of the very world that the Druids have sworn to protect. Not only was Caoi Dúlra the basis for their system of values, but through its study and practice, the Druids learned to bond with the natural entities of Sanctuary.
This bonding was so absolute that eventually they discovered how to talk to the plants and animals, and these beings taught them all the secrets of the natural world. They taught them methods to call animals from far away, how to summon sentient plants from the earth, ways to change their own forms to share the strengths of their animal cousins, even, to a limited extent, techniques to control the weather.
At the Túr Dúlra, the greatest of the Druid Colleges, stands the magnificent oak Glór-an-Fháidha. This tree is the most revered source of the Druids guidance and teachings. Under its branches, for centuries, the Druids of Scosglen have been honing not only their powerful arsenal of natural magic, but also the martial skills they have retained from their Barbarian forefathers.
They have done this because they believe themselves to be the world’s last line of defense when the time of the great conflict comes, a time they believe is at hand. Lashing out in fury at the recent insurgence of denizens of the Burning Hells, and at the Leathdhiabhala, demonic corruptions of the very creatures they have vowed to defend, the Druids have, at last, emerged from their forests, marching toward their final stand against the minions of Chaos.
Traits and Abilities
The Druids shun the use of traditional magic, or Dubhdroiacht, as they call it. They instead practice a form of magic based in their close bond to nature. Through this intimate kinship with the world of Sanctuary, a Druid has the power to command fire, earth, and the winds. He is a friend to the animals of the wilds and can call upon them to aid in his struggle. He can also use his heightened rapport with the animals to change the shape of his own body, drawing on the strengths and abilities of his woodland companions to better serve their cause.
|I once believed. |
Others looked to me for strength, for my faith was a pillar in the house of the Elders. I once believed in something greater than myself; I believed that the faithful would be rewarded and the evil would be punished.
I believed the Prophecies of the Final Day to be mere superstitions—and that even if they had any credence at all, as our ancestors believed, the events they spoke of would never come to fruition in our time.
I was a fool.
The gods have not revealed their divine plan to me, nor have they blessed me with their countenance. But I am certain of one terrible fact—At long last, the prophecies have begun to fulfill themselves.
First, there was Tristam . . .
Diablo, the Lord of Terror, cast his shadow over the quiet hamlet and set his demonic minions loose across the countryside. A number of valiant heroes rose up to challenge Diablo’s wrath and hunted the demonlord into the bowels of the earth itself. Only by the grace of the Light did they vanquish Diablo’s mortal host and put and end to his nefarious schemes.
It seemed that the Lord of Terror had been defeated, and my heart took solace in this affirmation of my faith . . . but alas, the nightmare was only just beginning.
Somehow, Diablo’s terrible spirit survived and took root within the very hero who struck him down. Wearing the guise of the mysterious Wanderer, Diablo set out to free his brothers, Baal and Mephisto, from their imprisonment in the East.
Just as before, a new band of heroes arose to put a halt to Diablo’s dark quest. Though the Lord of Terror succeeded in freeing his brothers from bondage, their reunion would be short-lived. The mortal heroes managed to vanquish Mephisto and even hunted Diablo into the depths of Hell. Only Baal, the Lord of Destruction, was left unaccounted for.
Once again, it seemed that justice had been served. Blind as I was, I clung to the path of the righteous—believing that perhaps, finally, all was well . . . that the nightmare had given away to a dream of peace.
But the plague of evil persists, and I . . . grow weary.
For now, the nightmare has started once again.
Baal has resurfaced, and behind him marches the vast Army of Destruction. He has gathered a legion of demons that revel in mayhem and wanton chaos—and they are headed right towards us . . . right towards the holy mountain our ancestors swore to protect. It is obvious that Baal comes to assail Arreat, seeking the Heart of the World. And my faith, once unwavering, is now shaken to the very core.
The prophecies that spoke of this day have at last come true. Doom has come to our world.
As I have said, my brothers, I grow weary. I have no doubt that Evil exists. I have seen it with my own eyes; I have seen its cruelty. But is it not cruel for the gods to give hope, only to dash that hope again and again?
In my youth, I tried as best I could to prepare for such an event. It was, at one time, the very reason for my existence. But now that the moment is at hand, I feel old. I feel afraid. I feel that I have lost my strength.
I confess that my faith no longer guides my path. It is with a heavy heart that I take my leave of you, my brothers. I would say that I will pray for you, but I fear my prayers would fall on deaf ears.
May you someday find the truth, and may that truth finally give you freedom.
Yours in sorrow,
Diablo II: Lord of Destruction – History
|And a child will cradle Terror in his breast as the heart of man falls under the shadow. |
A Wanderer will pass through the ancient lands trailing chaos in his wake.
The Three Brothers will be reunited as the mortal world trembles before their might.
And so it was foretold that the Three, once reunited, would be shattered again!
And the last of them would set his sights on the holy mount. The warnings held that
their defeat would be illusory – that the final gambit had yet to be played . . .
* * *
And now at last the storm surges forth from the southlands, and the hand of Destruction
reaches out to undo the workings of the Ancients. The tides of Hell surge – ready to smash
Down upon the shores of the mortal world – to drown the guilty and the innocent alike.
– Excerpt from the Prophecies of the Final Day
Diablo II: Lord of Destruction – History
|3rd day of Montaht, Lauds |
My dearest Elora
It’s been ten long years since you were taken from Anya and me. In my mind’s eye, I still see your beautiful face and remember the happier days of our time together. It comforts me to write and think that, somehow, you are reading this yourself. It may not be long before I join you in the afterlife.
Our people’s time here in Haggorath is drawing to an end. Recently, our seer, Caldra has been afflicted with terrifying visions of our doom. Last night, the whole village awoke to her screams. When I reached Caldra’s cottage, our daughter, Anya, was already there comforting her. During the night, the seer’s raven hair had turned stark white . She was delirious when I entered the room, howling senselessly and tearing out her hair in bloody clumps.
It took us some time to calm her; but even then, she seemed only a shadow of her former self. She wouldn’t respond to any of us directly, instead staring into some unseen world beyond our own. the healer, Malah, came but her attempts to cure Cladra were futile. Our tortured seer was not sick of body. She had quite clearly gone mad.
Excerpt from the Journal of Elder Aust of Haggorath
4th day of Montaht, Sext
This morning as the dawn came the other Elders and I held a vigil over Caldra’s comatose form, praying to the Ancients for guidance. Then, just as suddenly as it begun her madness broke or so it seemed. She sat straight up in bed , thin strands of her once beautiful hair draping over her nightgown – her eyes seemed to glow with a feverish inner Light. By the Ancients, she looked older than any Elder there.
She gazed slowly around the room, looking at each of us in turn. With a slight, almost mocking smirk, she whispered in a ragged voice: “Baal comes . . . and destruction follows him like a storm.”
She then sank back into the bed and with a shudder, breathed her last. By the gods, Elora, as long as I draw breath, I will never forget her terrible portent.
5th day of Montaht, Vespers
If Caldra’s prophetic words were not enough to move Qual-Kehk and his men to take up arms, then the black clouds of smoke rising in the south surely proved to be! We surmised that a great army was marching towards us. Led by none other than Baal the Lord of Destruction. Our worst fears were confirmed when we lost all contact with our capital, Sescheron.
I fear the worst, but I put my faith in Qual-Kehk. He’s always defended us against those who would attempt to assault sacred Mt. Arreat. It’s likely that Sescheron was taken by surprise; may the Ancients watch over them; but we, the sons of Harrogath, remain vigilant. The ancient barricades and watchtowers built for this day stand ready as they always have.
The old prophecies speak of a dark day when destruction will wash over us like a torrent of blood and fire, leaving nothing but the ashes of our people in its wake. As I look south towards the darkening skies, I know that day of doom was finally come.
7th day of Montaht, Matins
It seems that I am not the only one who cannot sleep. Qual-Kehk readies his men even now, as I ready myself. This morning, I shall propose that we perform one of the long-forbidden Druidic spells of warding. As Elders, we alone are capable of summoning such tremendous energies. Though the ward may drain us of vital magical reserves, if our land is to be saved we will do what we must.
Our people once considered the Druids brethren; but after the terrible Mage Wars, the druids were exiled to the harsh wilds beyond our homeland. Since then, our Elders have kept their fearsome Druidic powers a closely guarded secret.
The danger of unleashing such powers once again terrifies me. If done incorrectly, the warding spell could consume us all well before the arrival of Baal’s army. However, I have studied the rites, and I am confident that I can cast the warding correctly with the Council’s help. The ward will bar passage to any spawn of Hell; even Baal himself. I intend to place it around the entirety of Harrogath.
Casting the spell in this fashion requires that all seven Elders venture outside the protective walls of our city. The danger is great . . . We may all be killed. However, I see no alternative. I go now to take this matter before the assembled Council of Elders.
My meeting with the Elders was as trying as I suspected it would be. They vehemently disagreed with my plan. Nihlathak argued that there must be another way to stop Baal’s assault, but neither he nor the others could offer a real alternative. In time, five of the Elders came to see that my plan was hte only way. Regrettably, Qual-Kehk remained unconvinced.
Though Nihlathak reluctantly agreed to participate in the spell, he refused to help convince Qual-Kehk of my plan’s merit. I must admit I was intimidated by Nihlathak; even though I am older than he and of higher standing within the council.
When I pressed Qual-Kehk to support my plan, he bristled with anger. I cannot recall ever seeing him so upset; not even when his finest protege left in search of adventure, never to return. But I stood firm in my resolve and finally convinced him that this alone could ensure the safety of Harrogath. Even now, he readies his best men to guard us while we cast the Druid ward.
As I write this, I can hear the screams of the dying in the distance . . . calling to us . . . mocking us. But before I cast what may be my final spell . . . I must see our beloved Anya one last time.
Aust, Elder of Harrogath
Diablo II: Lord of Destruction – History
So spoke the Wanderer, mindful of hardships and of cruel slaughters.
Each dawn, I rise alone, mired in ancient sorrows. Wretched and deprived of my native land. I have had my mind bound with fetter. For many years, I lay hidden in the concealment of the earth, buried deep in stone. From there, I went, abject and winter-grieving, over the surface of the waves. I sought the prison of my noble kinsman. Sorrow is a cruel companion to one who can afford few friends, and the path of exile attends this mournful spirit.
And so this world, every day, is crumbling and falling. The rulers lie dead, deprived of reverly, bands of warriors lie fallen proud by the wall. War destroyed some, carried them away; a sorrowful man hid one deep within a grave. Thus the creator of men laid waste this dwelling-place, until the old works of giants stood vacant, without the noise of their inhabitants.
So said the Wanderer, set apart in secret meditations.
The kingdom of the earth is full of miseries, and the decree of the fats shall change the course of the heavens.
Inspired by The Wanderer (Anonymous).
from the Exeter Book, ca. 10th Century.