The nephalem are the first generation of humans on Sanctuary, also known as Sanctuary's Children in the Sin War novels. They are the direct offspring of the angels and demons who fled from the Eternal Conflict along with Inarius and Lilith, and through their heritage they have the potential to be even greater than both.
Contrary to popular usage, nephalem is spelled with a lower-case n, similar to how "human" is also spelled in lower-case.
The nephalem were created from the coupling of renegade demons and angels on Sanctuary. At first the nephalem didn't know much about either themselves or their own world, and so they split into many diverse groups with different philosophies that would become the foundations for many modern societies such as the barbarians, sorceresses, necromancers and druids. Their parents, the angels and demons, seem to have both loved them for their similarities and feared them for their differences, something which would come to ignite the spark that set off the Sin War.
The specific number of nephalem is not known, but Deckard Cain speculates that there likely thousands or even tens of thousands of ancients born. Since ancient is a term only used to the first generation nephalem, meaning those directly born of angels and demons, while nephalem is also used to refer to the nearest children of the ancients as well, there seems to have existed quite a few of them.
As the offspring of such powerful beings, they proved to also have the potential for great strength. This did not go unnoticed by their parents. While it seems some nephalem, such as Bul-Kathos, shared an emotional bond with their parents, the two most prominent did not. Lilith, foremost of the demon rebels, saw the nephalem as a potential weapon to be used against the High Heavens and the Burning Hells as a means to defeat both. Inarius on the other hand, foremost of the angels on Sanctuary and by far the strongest of all renegades, saw them as a threat to his rule and power and wanted to destroy them. Lilith correctly predicted that, if she killed all other renegades but herself and Inarius, he would not be able to destroy them for fear of living in an empty world. This led to the Purge, whereby Lilith singlehandedly slew all rebels but herself and Inarius. Thus the nephalem were saved, although Inarius banished her for her act, leaving only him and the nephalem on Sanctuary. Unable to kill them but fearful of their potential, he changed the Worldstone to supress the powers of newborn nephalem.
Some time later a struggle broke out between the nephalem, probably following the alteration Inarius made to the Woldstone. Some, such as Esu, wanted control of the Worldstone for themselves and sought to take it. Others however, among them Bul-Kathos, actively resisted this and something akin to a civil war broke out among the nephalem. The defenders eventually won, and Bul-Kathos along with several others swore never to let anyone access the Worldstone ever again. Its new guardians fell asleep after that, and some thousand years later when Uldyssian was the first to seek passage up the mountain again, all but Bul-Kathos had died.
During this warring between the nephalem, Inarius appears to be strangely absent. He never intervenes, and even had Esu and her allies won, it seems highly unlikely that they could have wrested control of the Worldstone from Inarius. It is never explained why this is.
The nephalem were few to begin with during the Sin War, although a few seemed to have been alive besides Rathma and Bul-Kathos. Even so, many years have passed since then up to the current time, and it is wholly unknown whether any nephalem survive in present times.
Powers and AbilitiesEdit
Besides being stated as having the potential to supercede their angelic and demonic parents, little is ever specified in terms of what that actually means. The only two nephalem described in any great detail are Rathma and Bul-Kathos. The former displays an ability to read people's sensations and to teleport across the world, as well as several spells, the latter incredible physical strength and resilience. Though Bul-Kathos impressive physical abilities are most likely due to his heritage, it is unclear which of Rathma's abilities stem from his or whether they come from his connection with Trag'Oul. If nephalem powers work in any way similar to how edyrem powers work, then it's likely that exact powers differ from individual to individual.
Nephalem have the ability to live for a long time, but it's not clear whether they are immortal. Rathma is likely one of the earliest born as well as most long-lived, and he shows no signs of aging such as deteriorating mental or physical prowess. Bul-Kathos is likely of a similar age to Rathma, and although he fell asleep and became one with the earth, he is still as strong as ever even though it took some time for him to remember how to talk properly upon awakening from his slumber.
Even so, almost all nephalem have disappeared, but there is no information available on how most of them died. Deckard Cain notes that most of them passed away before the beginning of the Sin War however, an event which itself took place 3,000 years before present times.
- Bul-Kathos: Ancient leader and deity of the barbarians.
- Esu: Founder of the Zann Esu clan, to which the Sorceress belongs.
- Helgrotha: A nephalem dead by the time of the Sin War.
- Philios: One of the deities of the amazons living on the Skovos Isles
- Rathma: First necromancer and the namesake of the Priests of Rathma, the necromancer order.
- Vasily: Brother of Bul-Kathos and the founder of the Druids.
- An unnamed nephalem who partakes in the battle between the edyrem and Inarius on the grasslands. She fights more fiercely than Serenthia and wields a black axe.
- Cain, Deckard., Book of Cain, page 62.
- Cain, Deckard., Book of Cain, page 63.
- Cain, Deckard., Book of Cain, page 64.
- Cain, Deckard., Book of Cain, page 67.
- Cain, Deckard., Book of Cain, page 69.
- Knaak, Richard A., Birthright, page 332 (back).