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Oracle
Associated with
Heroes Phantom Assassin minimap icon.png Phantom Assassin
Dark Seer minimap icon.png Dark Seer
Factions Pallid Sybils
Cymurri
The Satrap
Places Great Seat of Cymurri
Ivory Incubarium
Zealot's Range
Characters Graven King
Items Aeon Disk
Cosmetics Manifold Paradox
Texts Graventome
▶️ The odds are with us. Or are they?
Oracle's words go either way

Out of chaos and causality, Nerif the Oracle emerges from another universe to take part in the battle of the Ancients. Nothing shall be set in stone, for even destiny is no longer certain when he bends fate and causality to ineffable ends that can benefit or harm any side.

Biography[]

Oracle minimap icon.png Nerif, the Oracle
Ascendants to the Great Seat of Cymurri had for ages imported their Oracles exclusively from the Ivory Incubarium, high in the hollow peaks of the Zealot's Range, with a downpayment made at the time of the embryo's conception and the balance surrendered on delivery of a mature, well-trained prophet to the Gate of the Graven King.

Raised by same Pallid Sybils who bred and birthed them, all sanctioned Oracles were anchored by their physical form to the world we most of us share; meanwhile, their souls roamed far afield, barely bound by the airiest astral umbilicus. From such cosmic roamings the prophets would return, speaking words of fire with tongues of flesh. Their mystic utterances were analyzed by the Cymurri Advisors, who found in them visions of the future, diplomatic advice, all the supernatural ammunition the line of Graven Kings needed to secure victory in every campaign, whether in the court or on the battlefield. Thus it went for generations, the Graventome's pages filling with the names of triumphant kings and the new domains they had acquired. So it went, that is, until the particular Oracle named Nerif arrived to serve the very last of the stone-helmed kings.

From the first, Nerif's prophecies were unusual. They seemed not merely to portend the future, but to shape it. The weird soothsayer croaked out advice no one had requested, and suddenly the Cymurri found themselves immersed in conflicts with newfound enemies. The Advisors, sensing a threat to their power, were quick to pin these unwelcome developments on the latest Oracle. They demanded his removal, petitioning the Sybils to reclaim their defective prophet and replace him with a worthy substitute. But Nerif described an ominous dream of the Incubarium's destruction, and within hours came news of the ancient school's destruction in a catastrophic avalanche. Fearing the same fate as the Pallid Sybils, the Advisors withdrew to their counsel chambers, suddenly anxious to avoid the Oracle's notice.

The Graven King, however, was a creature of great practicality. He doubted the commitment of his overprudent Advisors. An Oracle of such rarity, he reasoned, ought be used as a weapon to enlarge his domain. He therefore demoted his timid counselors and stationed Nerif at his side. With only a blunt understanding of Nerif's talent, he boldly stated the outcomes he desired, and coaxed Nerif into uttering his wishes as prophecy.

At first, all was well. The Last Graven King boasted that by adopting Fate's pet, he had made a plaything of Fate itself. He should have taken it as a warning then when, on the eve of his invasion of the Unsated Satrap's realm, he attempted to coerce a prediction of certain victory from his Oracle, only to hear Nerif quietly mutter, "It could go either way." No firmer statement could he force from Nerif's lips. Still, the King was confident in his army. The Satrapy was landlocked, poorly armed, and shut off from all possible allies. He took "It could go either way" to indicate that with tactical might on his side, there was little risk in his plan.

Of course, we now know that he should have taken the sayer's words more literally. Even with careful study of the Annotated Annals of If, what happened on the field before the Unsated Satrap's palace is almost impossible to visualize. It appears that in the midst of the carnage, the battle began to bifurcate. At each pivotal moment, reality calved and broke into bits. Soldiers who staggered and fell in battle also stood sure-footed, forging onward to fight. Their minds also split; the warriors found themselves both dead and alive, existent and non-existent. Victory and defeat were partitioned, so that each separate outcome was experienced in simultaneity by both armies. The universe became a hall of mirrors, with all the mirrors endlessly shattering.

The immediate effect on both parties was insanity. Unable to comprehend the state of being both triumphant and defeated, the Graven King's mind dispersed into motes of madness. The naive Satrap fared no better. The opposing paired realities continued to split and split again, echoing into infinite histories, all of them populated by a bewildered populace that soon lost the ability to feed, clothe, defend, or reproduce itself in the traditional manner.

Long before the repercussions had played out, however, Cymurri's wary Advisors had seized Nerif, bound and gagged him, and launched him out of their universe at high speed on a dimensional barque, in the hopes of depositing him where he could do them no harm forever. It was, of course, too late for them. And may well be for us.


This strange alien being hails from another universe whose inhabitants have exiled him for reasons that are best left unknown, lest we be inflicted by the same fear that consumed his predecessors. For those willing to hear his backstory, prepare yourselves to hear the tale of the great foreseer whose prophecies may be certain, but his intentions are not.

Origins[]

For ages, those who inherited the Great Seat of Cymurri relied on the Oracles, imported to them exclusively from the ancient school of the Ivory Incubarium that was situated high in the hollow peaks of Zealot's Range. Despite this powerful, mystical advantage of having foresight at their side, such power comes at a mere monetary price. Downpayment was made by the time an Oracle's embryo develops, with the remaining balance paid on delivery of a mature, well-trained Oracle to the Gate of the Graven King.

In the Ivory Incubarium, the Oracles are bred and birthed from the Pallid Sybils, who raise and train them until they have come into their own. Using their physical forms as an anchor to the material plane, their souls roamed afar while still being bound by the faintest astral tether. Returning from their cosmic roamings, they would report back with mystic utterances that were analyzed by the Cymurri Advisors who found in them visions of the future and diplomatic advice. These prophecies were a powerful resource that the Graven King lineage used to secure victory in every campaign in the court or on the battlefield, filling the pages of the Graventome with the names of successful kings and the domains they have captured. This trend would persist until a certain Oracle named Nerif wrote the last page to signify the end of the stone-helmed kings.

At first, Nerif's prophecies were unusual. Most Oracles speak of what they see in the future, but Nerif spoke of the future as if he was shaping it with his words. He croaked out advice that no one requested, and suddenly the Cymurri found themselves in conflicts with new enemies. Sensing a threat to their power, the Cymurri blamed Nerif and demanded his removal. They appealed to the Sybils to replace their defective prophet with a worthy substitute. But Nerif portended an ominous dream of the Incubarium's destruction, and news of its destruction in an avalanche came a few hours later. Fearing that they may face the same fate as the Pallid Sybils and their school, the Cymurri Advisors retreated to their counsel chambers, away from the harbinger's notice.

But the incumbent Graven King was a practical and opportunistic person. Where his advisors saw bad tidings and the ability to realize them, the Graven King saw only the latter in this strange augur. An Oracle of such rarity, he reasoned, ought to be used as a weapon to enlarge his domain. Hence he demoted his advisors and stationed Nerif at his side. With a superficial understanding of his power, he persuaded Nerif to utter his wishes as prophecy.

Initially, all was going well. He boasted that by adopting Fate's pet, he had made a plaything out of Fate itself. He should've taken it as a warning when, on the eve of his invasion on the Unsated Satrap's realm, Nerif quietly muttered "It could go either way" when the Graven King coerced him to make a prediction of certain victory. The King could nor force anything else beyond that, but nevertheless he was confident in his army. The Satrapy was landlocked, poorly armed, and shut off from all possible allies. He thought his prophecy meant that with tactical might on his side, there was little risk in his plan.

Perhaps the Graven King should've taken the sayer's words more literally, but knowing what had happened after that, it wouldn't change anything. Even with careful study of the Annotated Annals of If, what happened on the field before the Satrap's palace was impossible to visualize. In the midst of the skirmish, Nerif had literally split reality, dividing the battle's every moment into two outcomes as they all played out. Soldiers who staggered and fell in battle also found themselves unmoved and able to fight, soldiering onward to battle. Even their minds were split into two as they all experienced the state of being both alive and dead, existent and nonexistent, triumphant and defeated.

The Graven King, the Unsated Satrap, and both of their forces could not comprehend a paradoxical situation and they all fell into insanity as the universe became a hall of mirrors that reflected each moment's alternate outcome, endlessly shattering into even more shards of reflection. The opposing but paired realities continued to split and split again, echoing into infinite continuums, all of them populated by a populace that soon lost the ability to feed, clothe, defend, or reproduce itself in the traditional manner.

But before the repercussions could even happen, the wary Cymurri Advisors had seized Nerif, tied him up and sealed his mouth, before placing him in a dimensional barque that was launched out of their universe at high speed, hoping that they could banish him to a place where he could not harm anyone forever. It was, of course, too late for them. And now that his barque has somehow brought him into our universe, it could very well be for us.

The Contract[]

A lone assassin closes in on a building perched between the walls of a valley. The dark figure leaps from ledge to ledge as she makes her way into the establishment. In accordance to her ever-changing list, she leaps over one unsuspecting guard, but doesn't spare the others as she walks through a massive door.

The intruder is revealed to be the Phantom Assassin, who has come to slay Nerif for the Veiled Ones. Nerif utters her forbidden name as he taunts her lack of perspective, much to the surprise of his would-be killer. He then tells her the many possibilities that he has seen of this encounter and concludes with the one thing that they all have in common: she has never known why she was sent here to begin with.

Mortred silences the soothsayer as she holds a dagger to his neck and assures him that she has a name to expunge from her list, which is all that she needs to know. Unmoved, Nerif tells her that she is missing something, evident in her refusal to kill him. Something is holding her back and gnawing at her—although her killings have shaped the world around her, she has never known the consequences beyond them and how they've shaped the world as well. Compelled, Mortred asks him about the truths that he could possibly tell her, and the soothsayer responds with a grin on his face.

"Everything...if you wish. But first, a favor."

Nerif turns to his back and reveals a projection of reality's many timelines. He explains that, rather than seeing the patterns of stars as mere shapes of animals or figures, he sees the starry constellations in the sky as a pattern of timelines. To him, these timelines are prophecies that presage his death should they result in it. Although he has died across many timelines, he has taken heed to the ones where his murderers have proven themselves to be the most lethal nemeses to him across time.

Before he could finish his explanation, Mortred makes it known that he wants these people dead. Having reached an understanding, Nerif materializes the Manifold Paradox in his hands and entrusts it to her so that she may be aided in her contract. She then curiously inspects the blade.[1]

Artifact[]

Nerif is not involved in any of the events of Artifact, but he is mentioned by Ish'Kafel. Hearing of the Oracle's precognition abilities, he seeks him out as a powerful ally or a foe worth testing his skills against.[2]

Dragon's Blood[]

Nerif is not involved in any of the events of Dragon's Blood. He makes a brief physical appearance at the very beginning of the first episode and continues to narrate the intro when he is offscreen. Here, he introduces the viewer to the origins of the Dota universe, the Chaos of the Infinite, the introduction of the Nemesis Stones, and Terrorblade's plan to remake creation.

Transcription

"In the beginning, there was only the Primordial Mind. From this mind sprang the whole of creation. The stars, the planets, life and death. But in time, the Mind was divided against itself. Two fragments, the Radiant and the Dire, thought and action, warred over creation with irreconcilable ferocity. The Chaos of the Infinite followed.

Kings, queens. Gods. Monsters. They all sought wisdom in the shattered Primordial Mind and power from its ineffable madness. But in his prison in Foulfell, the demon Terrorblade gazed into the chaos and found Truth. Terrorblade found the idea. Fuse thought and action. Remake creation in his own infernal image."

Personality and Mannerisms[]

Relationships[]

Acquaintances[]

In the Artifact timeline, the Dark Seer minimap icon.png Dark Seer has heard of this strange sayer, but has yet to meet him. Ish'Kafel heard of his claims that he had the ability to see every possibility, a gift that any practitioner of chance would covet. If this is true, then he must seek him out as a powerful ally, or at the very least a worthy foe worth testing his prediction skills against.

Allies[]

Although he has seen his death in the hands of the Phantom Assassin minimap icon.png Phantom Assassin across an ocean of possibilities, he has managed to sway Mortred to his side with answers that she may need to know. Striking a deal with his former assassin, Nerif has bound her to a contract, giving her a pair of reality cutting blades to help her fulfill it. Who knows what Nerif might repay her with in exchange for killing his nemeses...

Powers and Abilities[]

Foresight[]

All Oracles have the ability to see the future, and Nerif is no exception. To see the future, the soul of an Oracle must drift far beyond the material plane while still being bound to their physical form by their soul's tether, roaming far afield until they return. From there, the Oracle will report back with mystic utterances: "words of fire" spoken with "tongues of flesh". It appears that their mystic utterances are vague or something similar because they must be analyzed first in order to unlock the prophecies found in them.

As for where their souls go to see the future, it can be speculated that they can see the future within the Astral Plane. According to Inai, the map of all time is found in the Astral Plane, which appears in the form of lines across the spiritual plane.[3]

Causality[]

Lorewise, Nerif is one of the most powerful Heroes in Dota 2's roster. Perhaps it would be wrong to call it a prophecy, because Nerif's words may actually come true in short notice. That is, if he wills it to be. When Nerif portends something, be it a detailed explanation or a vague sentence, it is bound to happen in reality. His prophecies destroyed the Ivory Incubarium just after he described a vision where it was crushed under an avalanche, and reality (on a local scale) endlessly split itself into an infinite multiverse when he just said "It could go either way" in response to the Graven King's demands.

Fate and causality are quite intertwined, so it's only natural for Nerif to be able to manipulate the latter. Even his prophecies can break causality to create a paradox of a specific event where both outcomes can occur at the same time, even if it's impossible like being existent and nonexistent at the same time. When Nerif split causality during the invasion of the Satrapy, the participants' minds were also split so that they could experience both outcomes as they happened at the same time.

Nerif's self-prophesied path has lead him into the sunken realms, and in the wake of his path, he has broken these deep sea civilizations. It is up to those who survived his presence to build their future from the remains of their destroyed home.[4]

Powers[]

Nerif's powers reflect his double-edged words: It could go either way. Each of his abilities can achieve two opposing outcomes, one that affects himself or his team, or one that affects his enemies. As the great foreseer would often say: "The odds are with us. Or are they?"

The astral orb that floats in his hands is a catalyst for Fortune's End. Channeling power into the orb, it shoots a bolt of raw energy that temporarily disrupts an enemy's connection to their own body. Basically, this power forces an astral projection on the opponent, which might be the reason why the enemy is stopped (in gameplay) since one cannot animate the body without a soul in it. The description for this ability also state that its energy is "scouring", which explains its ability to remove effects.

Using his powers over fate, Nerif decrees an unbreakable Fate's Edict on a chosen ally's destiny. The prophecy resounds: "A chosen ally shall briefly suffer no magics. Other kinds of suffering however..." Besides its absolute protection over magic, it would seem that this blessing comes at a price.

Purifying Flames allows Nerif to incinerate a target in the flames of prophecy, before causing them to regenerate health if they managed to survive the initial effect. Among the many possibilities where Mortred confronts the sayer, one of them had Nerif kill his assassin with this ability without healing her afterwards.

False Promise is what its name implies it is. Temporarily altering an ally's destiny, Nerif delays their fate as they undergo a state of indeterminacy, being oblivious but unaffected by any healing or harm until it wears off. The target's destiny is realized at the end of False Promise depending on what had happened to them during that state.

Friendships and rivalries[]

Allies meeting Oracle

  • ▶️ Dark Willow minimap icon.png r You and I could make a killing Oracle.
  • ▶️ Dark Willow minimap icon.png r Hey Oracle, I'm not going to die today, am I?
  • ▶️ Dawnbreaker minimap icon.png r My old masters tried to manipulate fate. It cost them.
  • ▶️ Ember Spirit minimap icon.png r What do you see, Oracle?
  • ▶️ Grimstroke minimap icon.png r Do you ever fall prey to a sudden reversal of inspiration, Oracle?
  • ▶️ Grimstroke minimap icon.png r Was my rise foreseen, Oracle? What would have become of her... of us... had I taken another path?
  • ▶️ Hoodwink minimap icon.png r I'm not interested in my future. Now's all I need.
  • ▶️ Mars minimap icon.png r That's not what an oracle looks like!
  • ▶️ Mars minimap icon.png r If you spoil the ending of this fight, I'll...Well, I'm sure you can work out the rest!
  • ▶️ ▶️ Monkey King minimap icon.png r Never tell me the odds.
  • ▶️ ▶️ Monkey King minimap icon.png r I can see the future, too, Oracle. It looks like victory.
  • ▶️ Pangolier minimap icon.png r Don't tell me how it turns out, Oracle. It's more fun to be surprised.
  • ▶️ Pangolier minimap icon.png r Tell me one thing, Oracle. On the day of my funeral... Will she weep for me?
  • ▶️ Snapfire minimap icon.png r Babble all you like, Oracle. Just don't ask for a nickel.
  • ▶️ Void Spirit minimap icon.png r I have not gleaned what comes beyond this battle, Oracle. Is your sight the same?
  • ▶️ Wraith King minimap icon.png r Oracle, you must have foreseen that your future lies with me.

Enemies killing Oracle

Others

References[]

  1. The Contract comic.
  2. Artifact Card: Foresight
  3. Void Spirit response: ▶️ The map of all of time unfolds before me...In lines that streak across the astral plane.
  4. Alluvion Prophecy description.
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