|Chris Metzen, James Phinney|
|Samwise Didier, Chris Metzen, Glenn Rane|
Zeratul is one of the main characters in the StarCraft series. At six hundred and thirty-four years old (born in 1865) and holding the rank of prelate, Zeratul is a member of the Nerazim, better known as the dark templar, whose forebearers were exiled from the protoss homeworld of Aiur over a thousand years ago for refusing to submit to the Khala. A renowned psionic warrior and assassin, he is described by GameSpot as a "savior" and "willing scapegoat" for his people and ranked in their top ten heroes chart. During the later episodes he takes part in defeating the Overmind on Aiur and reuniting the dark templar with the rest of their people. He plays a more prominent role in the expansion Brood War, and is set to be one of the primary protagonists for the upcoming sequel StarCraft II. Zeratul was voiced by the deceased Jack Ritschel in StarCraft and StarCraft: Brood War, and by Fred Tatasciore in the sequel StarCraft II.
The character of Zeratul was created by Blizzard Entertainment's Chris Metzen, with concept art produced by other Blizzard artists such as Samwise Didier. He is depicted as a shadowy warrior whose powers are well respected by the game's plot, and capable of assassinating powerful opponents, having personally slain several zerg cerebrates and even the second Overmind. Zeratul once noted that he has "journeyed through the darkness between the most distant stars" and "beheld the births of negative-suns and borne witness to the entropy of entire realities", demonstrating his wealth and depth of experience which dwarf that of most of the other characters of Starcraft.
Chris Metzen mentioned that Ritschel passed away sometime during the development of the game, and thus Fred Tatasciore has taken over as the new voice actor. Tatasciore described Zeratul as an incredible character, a "Darth Vader" who invests so much in the survival of things, and one of the best characters he has ever played. GameSpot described all the characters in Blizzard's StarCraft as "three-dimensional, full of personality and complexity", and then continued to comment: "Yet even among this star-studded cast, it is Zeratul who stands out as the most noble of heroes, although he is shrouded in a cloak of mystery and aloofness".
A somewhat secretive and calculating character, Zeratul is nevertheless a venerable and wise leader who is honorable and loyal to his species. He would gladly risk anything to safeguard Aiur. During the Great War, Zeratul allied with the Khalai Tassadar, despite his hatred for the Protoss Conclave that once banished his forebearers. During the dire events leading up to the evacuation of Aiur, He also convinced the Khalai Protoss that his brethren, the dark templar, would be more welcoming of sheltering their estranged brethren in their lightless homeworld Shakuras in contrast to the consistently hostile attitudes of the Conclave towards his people. He knows that though he is scorned by the very same people who look to him for salvation, he is aware of what must be done to save the universe, and must still lead his people to salvation. He is also depicted as patient, tolerant and far-sighted: when Zeratul first met Tassadar, he refused to take offense even though he was attacked by the wary Protoss commander, even attempting to teach Tassadar the art of combat (while avoiding being struck). Eventually Zeratul overcame Tassadar's prejudice, beginning to heal the rifts between the Khalai and the Dark Templar. The two leaders (and Jim Raynor) came to an understanding, joining forces and hid from the Zerg. He often speaks in riddles, preferring that others come up with the answers to the questions he puts forward rather than answering them himself.
Described as "a dark warrior who champions the light", GameSpot drew an analogy of Zeratul as a Darth Vader who "fights on the side of the Rebels". He is usually depicted with a shroud over his face (although, like all Protoss, he has no mouth), and armed with the traditional weapon of the dark templar, a "warp blade" energy weapon which bears some resemblance to the lightsabers of Star Wars. Zeratul's eyes glow with different colors: green, red and yellow. In StarCraft II previews, his eyes have always been green.
Zeratul is also depicted as a dark and tragic character, having carried many terrible personal burdens. When he personally slew the Zerg cerebrate Zasz, Zeratul became temporarily linked with the Overmind. Zeratul came to know much about the Overmind's plans, but the Overmind gleaned the location of Aiur itself from Zeratul’s mind, and so the seeds of the planet's devastation were sown. Furthermore, Zeratul came to be depicted as a bitter nemesis of the Queen of Blades, Sarah Kerrigan. They share a history together, with Zeratul being manipulated and betrayed by her more than once as she destroyed the remaining Zerg cerebrates in order to secure her control over the Swarm after the Overmind's death, eventually culminating in him being forced to commit an act of dishonor by killing the Dark Templar matriarch Raszagal (she thanked him for it as she died, but he was still traumatized and guilt-ridden over it).
Zeratul is first introduced in the course of StarCraft Episode II, in which he uses a distraction caused by Tassadar to assassinate the cerebrate Zasz on Char, accidentally revealing the location of Aiur to the Overmind in the process. While on Char, he befriends Tassadar and Raynor, teaching Tassadar how to use dark templar powers in tandem with those of the Khala. Later in Episode III he and a group of dark templar accompany Tassadar back to Aiur to aid the Protoss, but are hunted by Aldaris and the Conclave as heretics. Despite this, he is able to free Tassadar from the captivity of the Conclave and supported by Fenix's forces, personally assassinates two key cerebrates in the Overmind's core defences. Zeratul then participates in the end battle of StarCraft that results in the death of the Overmind and Tassadar.
StarCraft: Brood War
Taking a larger role in Brood War, Zeratul and Aldaris form an uneasy truce, and together they lead the surviving Khalai Protoss to the dark templar homeworld of Shakuras. Pursued by the Zerg, the Khalai survivors find refuge among the Dark Templar, at which point Zeratul retakes his position as commander of their fleet. Dark Templar Matriarch Raszagal urges the player (commanding the Executor again), Artanis and Aldaris to collect two sacred crystals that can scour the Zerg from the planet. During this time, Kerrigan appears on the planet and requests an alliance. Although the Protoss are reluctant to believe her, they allow Kerrigan to accompany them. Aldaris, furious at this, remains behind. After it is realised that Zerg are also on Shakuras, Zeratul plans with his compatriots of Artanis, Raszagal and Aldaris to activate a Xel'Naga temple on the surface to destroy the infestation. Aided by Kerrigan, they are able to retrieve the crystals necessary for this and activate the temple, but not before Kerrigan's ulterior motives are revealed and Aldaris is killed.
In the final missions of Episode VI Kerrigan uses Raszagal to blackmail Zeratul into slaying the new Overmind on Char. The Zerg/Protoss "alliance" was successful, Zeratul personally slew the Overmind, then demanded the return of the Matriarch. However, Raszagal refused to return and was revealed to be under the mental control of Kerrigan. Zeratul retrieves the Dark Templar Matriarch and attempts to flee Char and return to Shakuras via dimensional recall, but was pursued by Kerrigan's forces. The Zerg eventually overran his forces, and realising that there was no escape and anguished by the realization that the damage to Raszagal's mind cannot be undone, Zeratul broke the stasis cell and killed the Matriach. With her dying thoughts, Raszagal made Zeratul the leader of her people, nonetheless Zeratul felt incredibly guilty and unfit to accept the leadership. Kerrigan, taken by surprise, allows Zeratul and his surviving forces to leave, but not before noting that she derived sadistic pleasure by allowing him to live with the guilt of killing his own Matriarch. In the following secret mission "Dark Origin", Zeratul stumbles across a genetic engineering facility while searching for Artanis and learns of a Protoss/Zerg hybrid being engineered by Samir Duran. Zeratul, troubled by this knowledge, went into self-imposed exile with only a handful of followers at his side and began wandering the galaxy searching for answers.
Four years after killing Raszagal, an experience that "scarred his soul", Zeratul journeyed through the stars in his spaceship, looking for clues to try to confirm the "cosmic event" that Samir Duran told him about and seeking to know what sort of being Duran is. He did find these clues and gained a vision of what was coming, of the Xel'Naga and their eventual return. He would also encounter his old enemy, the Queen of Blades, whilst exploring ruins in a dimly-lit world. Their history of enmity would take an unexpected turn, as he later discovered a revelation that in the face of a greater threat, the Queen of Blades had to be spared in spite of her evil deeds, and that little time remained to prepare for the coming catastrophe or all will be lost.
Zeratul appears in his own mini-campaign in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, focusing on the "greater threat". This includes a few missions in Wings of Liberty. Zeratul is also set to appear in the third and final Starcraft II product, as the main character of the Protoss campaign and episode titled "Legacy of the Void".
Zeratul was featured in the novel Queen of Blades, a novelization of Episode II which shows how he meets Tassadar and Raynor. He is also the main character of the bonus campaign Enslavers: Dark Vengeance, in which he works to counter the plans of the rogue dark templar Ulrezaj. He also made an appearance in "Twilight", the third edition of The Dark Templar Saga series, where he encountered and assisted an unlikely pair: Jake Ramsey, a terran archaeologist, carrying within his brain the mind of Zamara, a Protoss preserver. Pursued by multiple enemy forces, they traveled together for the settlement of Alys'aril on the moon Ehlna, where the preserver shared with Zeratul the location of a Xel'Naga temple with a live energy creature still inside.
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