Among other things, the events that had not yet happened when I wrote this installment have now happened. There was a reason I alluded to in this issue about why I never really lobbied or pursued an additional Diablo novel after Demonsbane. I did inquire – make no mistake, in 2001 I very much wanted to get onto the full book roster for the series as soon as possible. And, also, it was fun enough that if I was offered it today, I would snap it up in an instant.
Back in 2001 and 2002, though, the Diablo novels were new, and everything except Demonsbane had sold like gangbusters (Demonsbane sold poorly because it was an e-book – for the record, even today e-books occupy less than 1% of all book sales, and they took eight years to approach that). Pocket and Blizzard decided that they wanted to do another set of three books, but instead of stand-alones, they wanted to try a trilogy, and then they were going to wait and see what happened with those. This meant two things – the first was that for at least a good three years, there would be a single author covering the series (trilogies with volumes broken up between multiple authors tend to be bad ideas), and second, they needed an established author to cover it, who they knew could carry a trilogy.
That wasn’t me. To this day, I don’t think I could carry a trilogy – a book is as much of a journey for the author as it is for the reader, and I don’t like spending three of my own books in the same place. That may change one day, but for now, I write stand-alone books (and yes, I have two finished fantasy novels waiting for a publisher to pick them up, and yes, one of them is on an acquisition editor’s desk right now). Back in 2002 I couldn’t tell anybody about it – the official announcement hadn’t been made yet, so it was a secret I had to keep for the time being.
But, with the Diablo series essentially locked off for the next three, or even four years, and with Garwulf’s Corner spinning off into the EverQuest Companion book, I made my decision. It was time to move on. I left Diablo fiction behind me.
But, as I said, what a difference eight years makes. When this installment was originally published, it barely made a ripple – more people read Garwulf’s Corner than had ever read Demonsbane. With the publication of Diablo Archive, people became interested in the future adventures of Siggard, and in their own small and unofficial way, my outlines provided here joined the Diablo canon anyway.
I like that. Siggard deserved to have his story told.
Copyright 2002 Robert B. Marks, all rights reserved
Call it a need for closure, if you will.
You see, way back when, I wrote this little e-book titled Demonsbane. It inaugurated the Diablo fiction line, and went on to become a bestseller in its own right (which, for e-books, means it sold more than five hundred copies). The hero was this tragic character, a man named Siggard who had so much vitality that death literally could not touch him. Stab him, burn him, decapitate him, he would come back for more. The only way he would finally find some rest is if his soul found peace, which is about as likely as a computer showing up and asking for a convenience store in the Diablo world.
Siggard was a really interesting character. I had hoped to do much more with him in future books, but it didn’t end up that way. I can’t say what Pocket books is going to do after the third Diablo novel is out (my editor threatened to do nasty things involving Barney the Dinosaur to me if I told anybody), but I’ve been assured that, barring some major change in the author pool at Pocket Books, I’m not writing anything for the next set. So, rather than leave Siggard to linger in the back of my mind, I’ve decided to tell you all what was going to happen next to our intrepid hero.
Before I start, though, I have to stress one thing: the only thing in this that counts as official continuity is Demonsbane. Everything else is my own warped imagination at work in the Diablo world. Essentially, these are little outlines of stories I had hoped to tell, and may even get to someday, assuming that when I do have the opportunity to pitch them, Blizzard doesn’t have a heart attack from sheer terror...
So, we start at the end of Demonsbane. Siggard is standing in the ruins of Brennor, having just dispatched the Archdemon Assur (which, for those who missed the reference when reading the book, is the name of the home city of the Assyrians). The Archangel Tyrael, who has been showing up in disguise every now and then (it’s the Sin War, for crying out loud...the angels are supposed to be subtle...that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it), informs Siggard that his suspicions are correct; Siggard is one of a rare breed, who has so much vitality death cannot touch him. After an epilogue that has Siggard walking off into the sunset in search of the next battle, his sword Guthbreoht (forged by the legendary Velund the Smith) at his side, the e-book ends.
The next story was going to be another e-book. I had this wonderful idea that would play on some things I wanted to do to...er...with the Diablo world. After all, Tyrael went through all of Demonsbane cloaked, didn’t he? What if the angels held themselves in such secrecy that no mortal was ever allowed to see an angel uncloaked and live?
So, story number two, which I never did work out a title for, begins with a murder. This fellow is running through the streets of Kurast, being chased by some shadowy thing. Suddenly, the Archangel Tyrael corners him, uncloaked. The man has just enough time to say “You’re too late, they already know” before Tyrael kills him.
Flash over to a tavern in the east, where Siggard is drinking some mead. Tyrael steps over to him, and informs him that somehow, somebody has discovered the name of the Lord of Terror, meaning that one of the Prime Evils can now be summoned to the mortal realm. Siggard tracks down an evil wizard and confronts him in his tower, but he is too late. Diablo has been summoned. The Lord of Terror tempts Siggard with the idea of restoring his family (killed by Assur a few centuries past in Demonsbane), and suggests that the angels have been lying to mankind all along; the Sin War was never a conflict between good and evil. At the last minute Siggard resists the temptation, slays the evil wizard, and sends Diablo back to the Burning Hells. Tyrael appears and states that it is just the beginning, but Siggard will have nothing of it. The experience has shaken him to his core, and he needs some time alone. So, the story closes with our hero wandering northwards, hoping that the northmen/barbarians will be able to sooth his soul.
The third story was going to be a full-length novel, titled Angels of Darkness, Soldiers of Light. It opens around twenty years after the events in Demonsbane. Sarnakyle, Siggard’s companion in the e-book and later the wizard who turns the Vizjerei clans back to elemental magic, is asked to perform an exorcism. The exorcism goes poorly; one of the wizards is killed, but just before the demon is sent back to Hell, it tells Sarnakyle that great evils are coming. Sarnakyle is shaken, as it is impossible to tell what was a truth and what was a lie, and he leaves the Mage clans once again to seek the truth. He never returns, and his name becomes legend (as told in the epilogue of Demonsbane).
Flash forward about seven hundred years. Two of the Prime Evils have been captured in soul stones, and the final Prime Evil, Diablo, is about to be confronted by the Horadrim army led by Jared Cain. A massive battle ensues, where Diablo barely escapes with his rearguard. After seeing to their losses, the Horadrim begin to pursue.
Up in the barbarian lands, Siggard is living in peace amongst the Northmen. A sage comes to him and leads to him to a barrow, where the remains of Sarnakyle have lain buried for over six centuries. Siggard goes to the barrow, where a projection of Sarnakyle informs him of what the wizard was able to learn in his final wanderings, including a great secret that the angels will kill to protect. He leaves to contemplate this, but Tyrael appears before him and says that his services are once again needed to capture Diablo. Reluctantly, Siggard heads south.
In Westmarch, Jared Cain and his forces are pursuing Diablo and the remnants of his army. After the trail grows cold, the Horadrim are given shelter at the Monastery of the Sightless Eye, the home of a female order of healers and mystics. There, the Abbess informs Cain that there are rumblings of something evil to the north, and he takes a small group of Horadrim to investigate.
It turns out that what he has found is the rearguard of what is left of Diablo’s army. The Horadrim are ambushed, but at the last minute they are saved by Siggard, wielding Guthbreoht like a demon. Siggard explains who he is, and that he has seen the main force nearby. Cain gathers the rest of his army, and they find Diablo and fight a pitched battle. Once again Diablo escapes, but not before fighting Siggard. During the melee, Siggard discovers that Diablo’s sword has been enchanted with a glyph of unbinding, as the demonic blade shatters Guthbreoht. Siggard leaves the Horadrim, inconsolable.
After Cain and his army have left in pursuit of Diablo, Tyrael appears to Siggard. Siggard holds up the shards of Guthbreoht and says that he is finished. Tyrael reveals that the only other person he has ever known who had Siggard’s type of immortality was Velund the Smith, and sends Siggard off to find him. Siggard finds Velund on an island, where the smith agrees to remake Guthbreoht with even stronger enchantments. Guthbreoht is reforged and renamed, and Siggard goes off with his new sword to find the Horadrim.
As Guthbreoht is being reforged, Cain and the Horadrim come across the burnt out ruins of the Monastery of the Sightless Eye, which has been razed by Diablo. The Abbess, along with the handful of survivors, pledge themselves to become a military order, and join the Horadrim in their fight against the demonic forces. This time, the trail is fresh, and allows the Horadrim to pass Diablo’s army and fortify themselves ahead in the town of Tristram.
Siggard, guided by Tyrael, arrives at Tristram and rejoins the army. While they are waiting for Diablo to appear, he begins to fall for a local woman, who has lost her husband in a recent epidemic. And then, as the friendship begins to turn to a romance, Diablo appears.
To the horror of the defenders, Diablo has managed to reinforce his army. A brutal siege begins, where the Lord of Terror vows to destroy all of the Horadrim for the capture of his brothers. As the situation becomes desperate, Siggard and Cain lead a foray out during the night, where they capture Diablo in the soulstone. Without the power of Diablo to keep them in the mortal realm, the remainder of the demonic army vanishes.
As the leaders of the Horadrim celebrate the defeat of the last Prime Evil in the house of the mayor of Tristram, Tyrael appears, and Siggard states that the cost of the angels’ secret has been too high. Despite Tyrael’s warnings, Siggard reveals the truth: the angels and demons are of the same blood. In the distant past, some angels settled in Heaven while others settled in the Burnings Hells, fascinated by the chaos of the place. Those who settled in the Heavens became ethereal, creatures of the noblest aspects of their nature, while those who settled in Hell were overcome by the basest aspects of their nature, and were warped in both spirit and physical appearance by the place.
As soon as the secret is out, Tyrael uncloaks himself and uses his power to subdue the entire room. As the Archangel’s sword is raised to kill all who have heard the secret, Siggard manages to convince him that the Horadrim are necessary, and without them the Prime Evils will escape their prisons and reign unopposed. The Horadrim promise that the secret will remain within their order, and Siggard, feeling a bit unwell but not understanding why, goes to visit his new love.
On the way, Tyrael appears and tells him that his life is ebbing. Siggard has finally found love, which is the only thing that can bring peace to his tormented soul, and death can finally claim him. Siggard protests that he now has a reason to stay, but Tyrael points out that Siggard’s family has waited for him in the afterlife for seven centuries, and it is now time to join them. Siggard sees his wife and daughter again, and reaches out to them, breathing his last breath as he does.
Cain comes out to discover Siggard is dead, and Tyrael explains what has happened, instructing that the warrior should be buried like a hero, his sword with him, until the blade chooses a new master. Siggard is laid to rest in the old Tristram church, while the foundation stones for a new cathedral to house the soulstone containing Diablo are placed by the Horadrim and Sisters of the Sightless Eye.
And that is the end of the Siggard story arc. Perhaps one day I will be allowed to write it in full. But, at least for now, the story is told (and to the fanfic writers out there, no, I don’t want to see any renditions of the story arc...Siggard is my character, and I’d like to be the only one to write his stories).
Next installment: The Paradox of the Internet, in which the author looks at why the same network that revolutionized communication also increased the sheer paranoia in the world.