Silent, solitary figures, clad in robes of black, who dwell within the ashen wastes of the Deep Nether, guiding the souls of the dead to their final rest. These are the reapers. They fulfill the will of the Nether, ensuring that the order of death is maintained. All mortals fear them, for to die by the hand of a reaper is to never rise again.
Reapers and the Undead
Reapers cannot rightfully be defined as undead, although they share many common traits. For instance, reapers do not require sleep or sustenance, recoil from the energies of the Prime, and share the gaunt, skeletal, or even spectral appearance of undead.
However, there are several key differences. Reapers cannot be created by even the most potent mortal necromancy, and do not appear as formerly-living beings. This strongly suggests that they are natives of the Nether. Whether they are somehow spawned by the realm itself or created by some other being is unknown, but the distinction is clear: They are nether beings, not undead.
More importantly, reapers are often at odds with the undead. Many reapers have been known to slay undead they encounter, presumably in order to free the souls within. Exactly what their relationship is to the immortal Etejeril is a mystery, but, given this behavior, few scholars believe the Great Shade holds dominion over reapers.
Thankfully for mortals, reapers rarely venture out of the Deep Nether. When they do so, it is almost always for the purpose of shepherding some wayward soul that has managed to deny death. This may be a particularly stalwart soul that has weakened itself through repeated revival, an undead that has persisted in its unnatural state for too long, or merely a lost soul that has failed to find its way into the Deep Nether.
Exactly why reapers are driven to shepherd souls into the Deep Nether is unknown. It is clear that they are intelligent: They can speak, often use manufactured weapons, and have even been known to negotiate with recalcitrant mortals in lieu of fighting them. It is therefore possible that they are upholding some learned code or edict.
Such a code would suggest the existence of an underlying social order. However, there is little evidence to support such a claim. In truth, most reapers appear to be solitary creatures. Very rarely, groups of reapers might come together to shepherd particularly powerful or well-protected souls. Beyond that, they are not known to fraternize.
Based on this, scholars agree that reaper behavior must be based on some deep-seated drive or instinct to fulfill the natural order of death. This seems to go beyond any mere code of conduct, for indeed no reaper has ever been known to deviate from its purpose.
Myths about Reapers
Reapers are commonly believed to hunger for the souls of the living. This is patently false, as there has never been a single recorded instance of a reaper harming a soul that is ready to pass on. By all accounts, they act as shepherds who lead souls to their final rest, not predators out to hunt and devour souls as prey.
More generally, myths of this ken tend to paint reapers in a malicious light. Although understandable from the perspective of mortals, reapers seem to take no joy in their duties, and in fact have few emotions to speak of. It is fair to say, then, that such "evil" characterizations ascribed to reapers are either inaccurate or inappropriate.
Reapers are also frequently regarded as judges of the dead. Except for those who resist the natural order of death, reapers appear to be completely indiscriminate. They take the young and the old, the noble and the wicked, of every race and every creed when their time comes. Final judgment awaits at the uttermost end of the Deep Nether before the Gates of Judgment, but reapers themselves seem to care nothing for a person's actions in life.