I sat down, reclining, and accepted a drink from Sparkil. I laced my fingers together and began my story with a warning.
Now, friends. This story is not for the faint of heart. So leave now if you do not wish to hear it. His voice drops lower, as he spreads his hands and speaks. In the beginning, we were only slaves. Nothing but instruments for our masters, the terrible Illithids. The Mind Flayers. The Brain Eaters. The terrible masters of psionic power. Able to incapacitate the strongest of us with a flick of their long fingers. We spent eons under their rule, carrying out raids, guarding their cities, tending to their twisted rulers, the Elder Brains. A nameless race of slaves, and nothing more.
Until, from the ranks of this nameless race, a hero arose. A hero named Gith. She was our first leader, the first one really strong enough to break the will of the Illithids, and organize a rebellion that spanned not just her world, but the hundreds of worlds that the Illithids reigned over. Under her command, we rose up as one, breaking our psionic shackles and overwhelmed the Brain Eaters with pure force.
I paused, and looked sadly at my audience.
And we didn’t stop there. We killed them all. Even as they fled, we killed all of them that we could find. We took advantage of their hive minds, carving up their Elder Brains with our makeshift weapons, which incapacitated them and left them helpless to our onslaught. We chopped off their heads, and took their tentacles as trophies. We slaughtered them all, showing no mercy to their young. We burned their cities, their halls running purple with their blood, and we laughed, our red eyes reflecting the flame. We were free from our shackles.
I laughed bitterly.
Only now do I really begin to see the truth of my people. They fed us these stories as children, telling them with such glee that one can’t help but to laugh in savage joy. But now, this story is being told in a much different light, and it is not a story I like.
That was millennia ago. From there, in honor of our leader, we proclaimed ourselves the Gith, and named Gith our supreme leader. And the bloodshed should have stopped there. But no, the fool Zerthimon had to intervene. He had amassed a rather large following during the rebellion, unbeknownst to Gith, and backed by nearly half the Gith population, he claimed that Gith was evil, and her way would lead to a tyranny just like the one we had endured under the Illithids. And Gith, she ordered the traitors killed. Thus began the Great War of the Gith. In the following battle, Zerthimon was killed, but to no avail. He had become a martyr for his cause, and his followers, calling themselves Githzerai, fled to the plane of Limbo.
Now, Gith’s second-in-command, a mistress of the arcane named Vlaakith
I spit the name out like a curse
somehow managed to convince Gith that we could not take the Githzerai, and we needed help, especially if we wanted to find the remaining Illithids and finish them off. She encouraged Gith to go! Leave her people, and go to the Nine Hells. Petition Tiamat, the Queen of Chaos to lend us help in the coming conflict. And Gith did. And she never returned. Instead, the great red dragon Ephelomon arrived, announcing that an alliance had been struck, and that Vlaakith would rule until Gith returned. But Gith never returned. To this day, nobody really knows what happened to her, and any attempts to find out leave the searches with a sense of “teetering on the edge of a great abyss, one that spans time, space, and memory.” Those who still persist are utterly destroyed, their bodies reduced to shadow and their minds reduced to whispering shambles, cursed with insane, eternal, protection of the secret they have discovered.
Personally, I am starting to believe that Vlaakith killed her. Reasons for this will become clear as the story goes on. Under Vlaakith’s rule, we dubbed ourselves Githyanki, and carved out a home on The One in the Void, the corpse of a deity floating through this Astral Sea. In this silvery sea, time does not pass. None age, or require food, drink, or sleep. In the City of Death, Tu’narath, no Githyanki dies from old age. Sitting atop her throne of Illithid bone and leather, Vlaakith ruled for years with an iron fist, sending out endless raids on the material plane, bringing back endless spoils of war. But after a while, something changed. She became something more than Githyanki, removing her soul and storing it away, becoming a Lich. From there, her power seemed to grow, unchecked and unchallenged. It was then that the allips, the secret-keepers I mentioned, started to appear. And it was then that she made her Grand Proclamation. She proclaimed two things that day. The first was that the Githyanki would take the place of the Illithids as the supreme rulers of the Prime Material. She claimed that its many worlds would become the gardens of the Githyanki, to tend and to harvest. And she also claimed that those who proved themselves in battle would be sent to be in a great paradise, the one that Gith had discovered in her travels, and the one where she awaits the greatest warriors now. After several years, five presented themselves to her, and she judged them worthy of paradise. A ritual was performed, Vlaakith’s power increased fivefold, and those five were never seen again. Who knows, perhaps they truly were sent to paradise. But I have my doubts.
And that is the state of the Githyanki now. Always in conflict, whether it be raiding the Prime Material or searching for more Illithids. Every once in a while, someone is sent to paradise, and Vlaakith’s power increases. Our young are hatched in colonies on the Prime Material, guarded by dragons, and trained mercilessly until they have been thoroughly brainwashed and are ready for battle. At that point they go on a quest, to kill a Mind Flayer, bringing back the spoils to Vlaakith herself to be enlisted into the army. This was mine.
I pulled out a chain from around my neck, on which hangs a strange beak, long and sharp, encased in glass.
I rose through the ranks quickly, and after a while, I became one of ten supreme commanders reporting directly to Vlaakith. I spent many years there, until on one raid, I was confronted with a family. They huddled around their home’s tiny altar, begging for their goddess to help them. “Changebringer, help us! Lady Luck, please! PLEASE!”
I spaced out, and paused for a while before continuing.
I left them. I didn’t kill them. I showed mercy. I have no clue who their “Changebringer” is, but she must have been there that night. But when Vlaakith found out, she flew into a rage, claiming that I was unfit for duty, showing mercy like the dirty Githzerai, the only ones that stood in our way from world domination. And she cursed me. She wiped my memory. She left bits and pieces, enough to know who I am, but she wiped out all of my training. All of my strategic genius. Three hundred and eighty four years gone with a wave of her hand. I was the commander of an army. And now I’m an adventurer telling his story in a tavern on some gods-forsaken island. And oddly, I think I’m happier now.
I sat back, taking a deep breath and closing my eyes.
Thus goes the tale of the Githyanki, and by extension, the tale of me, Zak’na’fe’in Ax’ilro’diak’nata.