It's a question that pops up time to time.
What's the story behind the Vizjerei?
I'm not talking about the clan of Diablo III players. I'm talking about the Vizjerei mage clan in Diablo lore.
I had the opportunity to connect with Leonard Boyarsky, the lead world designer of Diablo III.
Regarding the Vizjerei, I was told that "they’re all over the world and still the most powerful mage clan, but they have never regained the level of power they had during and before the Mage Clan Wars."
To understand the Vizjerei, you have to go back several millennia. The original Vizjerei were simple humans who lived as hunter-gatherers in the forests of Kehjistan, a region most players know today that includes the city of Caldeum. However, the simple times ceased to exist when individuals able to interact with the natural energies of the land learned to harness arcane magic. These individuals eventually grouped together and settled down. Three "mage clans" were founded. The Ennead, the Ammuit, and eventually the largest and strongest of them all, the Vizjerei.
Time passed and civilization grew, resulting in the evolution of magic and technology. The Vizjerei feasted on knowledge, constantly adding new entries and teachings to their vast libraries, an infamous one being the Ancient Repositories. While much of the Vizjerei knowledge encompassed the natural elements, many began to expand the boundaries and experimented with demonic magic. Because demonic magic was so destructive and powerful, many Vizjerei mages were keen on harnessing such power to further their own interests. The Vizjerei were wise enough to ponder how exactly such power should be handled.
Dating two millennia before present-day Sanctuary, two Vizjerei brothers, Bartuc and Horazon, grew corrupted. Horazon in particular began using the clan's wealth of knowledge to summon demons to serve him by bending and breaking the demons' will. In contrast, Bartuc sympathized with the demons and thought that an alliance with them could grant more power. During all this time, mankind had no idea darker times were approaching Sanctuary as an event as old as time was about to resurface.
The Eternal Conflict. The ancient war between the High Heavens and the Burning Hells. When the war was brought to Sanctuary well over a thousand years before Bartuc and Horazon's time, it became known as the Great Conflict of the Sin War. While most humans were unable to witness or even fathom the conflict, some were. These mortals sided with one side or the other and turned their names into legends. Eventually the Sin War ended with the angels and demons reaching a truce, to never manipulate the mortals of Sanctuary, allowing man to freely choose their fates. The conditions include that demons must never be summoned to Sanctuary and that the rogue angel Inarius was to be thrown into the depths of Hell to be tortured for eternity.
In the years that followed the Sin War, stories of angels and demons became religious banter and the populace began devoting more attention to magic (this became known as the Age of Magic). However, Horazon continued to experiment with the demons he summoned, breaking the millennia-old decree and sparking the beginning of the Mage Clan Wars, as mage clans attempted to stop the demonic summoning. During this time, Bartuc succumbed to darkness and sided with the forces of Hell.
Horazon eventually fought to reclaim his brother, and the fighting escalated to encompass more than just the Vizjerei. In the war effort, the Vizjerei converted members of some Teganze umbaru tribes (a race of jungle people that includes Diablo III's witch doctor) of the Torajan Jungles into goatmen. It was a tragic time that eventually ended with the umbaru clans obtaining control over their brethren by rebelling, capturing one Vizjerei sorcerer, and transforming the rest of their people into goatmen.
As the Mage Clan Wars continued, Bartuc became a bloodthirsty madman, killing his own brethren alongside the demons. The divide between the brothers also divided the Vizjerei clan. One side grew increasingly corrupted by demonic influence, much like Bartuc was. The other side resisted and acted on Horazon's warnings, as Horazon himself realized that should the war drag on any longer, nothing would be left of civilization, even if the Vizjerei won. Eventually Horazon and Bartuc faced off in the grand city of Viz-jun. The cataclysmic battle destroyed the city and cost hundreds of thousands of lives. The brothers by then realized that they were under demonic influence all this time and were basically puppets for their demonic hosts. Bartuc ended up decapitated with Horazon the victor and the Mage Clan Wars over.
Afterward, Horazon had the Priests of Rathma (more familiarly known as the necromancers of Diablo II) help seal Bartuc's corpse away. Horazon himself retired to the Arcane Sanctuary, an alternate dimension conjured by his own power. The status of Horazon is unknown to this day.
In the years following the Mage Clan Wars, in order to prevent such a calamity from occurring again, the Vizjerei swore off demonic magic and went back to their roots, researching and practicing elemental magic. They also founded and set up the Viz-Jaq'taar, or "Mage Slayers" (also known as the assassins of Diablo II). These assassins are ordered to police the remaining mage clans and prevent any rogue mage from practicing demonic magic.
In the next millennia, the Age of Magic was replaced by the Age of Faith, dominated by the Church of Zakarum. During this time, mages were spread across the land, most studying and practicing the arts in isolation as laws were passed that forbade the use of magic. Years continued to go by until the Zakarum faith also ended up succumbing to demonic corruption in the events of the original Diablo game.
The wizard of Diablo III, Li-Ming, was a student of Isendra, the sorceress from Diablo II. While Isendra tutored the wizard, they were closely monitored by Valthek, high councilor of the Vizjerei and master of the mage clans of the Yshari Sanctum, as well as the Viz-Jaq'taar. When Li-Ming was caught snooping around the Ancient Repositories, Valthek took her under his own wings. During this time, Isendra was assassinated by the Viz-Jaq'taar after losing control of her spells. When the wizard discovered the unnatural state of her old teacher's body, she rebelled against Valthek and journeyed to New Tristram, prompting the start of Diablo III. After Li-Ming left, Valthek sent an assassin from the Viz-Jaq'taar to follow her, fearing the wizard would be a catalyst for calamity, much like what happened during the Mage Clan Wars.
What became of this assassin is unknown. Leonard mentioned to me via e-mail, "We obliquely reference an individual who may or may not be an assassin in the wizard short story on our website, but that’s all we’re prepared to say at the moment..." Hmm!
However, the fear of a mortal becoming too powerful is a sentiment shared by Tyrael, who closed off the end of Act V with the words, "Within her beats a mortal heart, which will one day be tempted to corruption. On that day, will she have the strength to resist? Or will she be our doom?"
As mentioned, remnants of the Vizjerei could be found scattered throughout Sanctuary in the likes of Valthek and the other mages of the Yshari Sanctum. Hired mages can be found in Westmarch aiding Lord Wynton. Other than that, the clan remains hidden in the shadows, feuding and in political conflict with the Zakarum, despite both sides at one point victimized by demonic corruption.
So that's the long twisted backstory of Diablo's Vizjerei clan. It's pretty fascinating and tragic. What I would like to see is if there is any redemption in the coming installments of Diablo lore, whether it's by future novels or standalone games and their expansions.
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