The Beholder War
Having repaired, somewhat, the political crisis in Ayodhya, the five former Agents of Mithila left their companions Black Fang and Nyx behind and returned to Videha somewhat at loose ends. Among their concerns was the continued presence of The Viloba, an arch-devil summoned into the Whorl by one of their own number. Also of concern was the beholder-wizard Sathish who, undoubtedly, still held a grudge.
- Saatvik, Cleric of Sarasvati, Graduate Student
- Xedris “Somabhakta” Thrannis, Cleric of Soma, Wizard, Scholar
- Vin, Itinerant Monk, Devotee of Lakshmi and Jyestha
- Panja, Druid Devotee of Kali
- Tavi Agarwal, Crime Lord
As they considered their options in the city they called home, an old contact, mentor, and friend “Alia” came to help them solve their conundrum. She confirmed and clarified that ALL beholders in the whorl are literal copies of Sathish, iterations of the same monstrous wizard, who somehow developed the ability to copy himself to maximize his research potential and his influence over the whorl. As spymaster of Mithila, Alia had files on the various known locations of copies of Sathish, and she suggested to her former agents that they might engage in Sathish's systematic extinction, including bending the talents of The Viloba into rooting him out of his most entrenched bastion, the Wizard’s College of Mithila.
The agents proceeded to do precisely this. The Viloba took very little convincing to wreak vengeance on the being who had kept her imprisoned for so many centuries, and in the guise of "Princess Draupadi, daughter of Rama" she began her efforts at city-wide social engineering while the agents proceeded to seek and destroy the iterations of Sathish.
The first copy they decided to slay was the the one thought to be near the Great Swamp studying the hags. He would occasionally hire mercenaries to capture specimens of hags and trolls and bring them to a secret location in the hills surrounding the swamp. Alia suspected he was curious as to how the goddess Ratri created them. After a good deal of debate on how to find his secret lair, the agents hit upon the plan of finding some of these former mercenaries to find where they delivered their specimens, and then engaging in a subterfuge where they would approach the Sathish in the Wizard's College through these former mercenaries claiming to have captured an unusually powerful hag specimen.
The success of this subterfuge, of course, required the agents to work with the hags of the Great Swamp, leaning on Saatvik's status as the one who freed their goddess. As uncomfortable as it made him, they met with the hags who wished to end Sathish's predation on their kind. A particularly powerful hag known as The Grandmother agreed to pretend to be their hostage.
They brought their "hostage" to a series of canyons and gullies where they ultimately found Sathish's secret laboratory, carved out of the hills with extremely proficient use of disintegration magic. Their ruse appeared to work insofar as Sathish believed them to be foolish mercenaries, but in mid monologue, the agents attacked. In the fray, Panja was slain, but so was Sathish, who was rendered unable to plane-shift to safety. The agents took Panja's ashes back to Videha to have him resurrected at the Temple of Sarasvati. While dead, Panja's conversation with the goddess Kali made an impression, and henceforth he began painting his body, bifurcating himself into gold and black halves.
They now knew that the various Sathish's don't share one mind, or the one they had just slain would have remembered them. Alia confirmed that according to her best knowledge, they CAN synch their minds, but it requires them to be in physical proximity, and many of the Sathish's have spent decades or even centuries separated in their own studies. The next Sathish they sought was thought to be somewhere on the Viridian Plateau in the Dundaka Forest. They took ship and sailed down the Great River to the Bright Sea, which abuts the cliffs of that plateau, and using the magic of flight, ascended into the overgrown crest of those cliffs.
They found themselves in the ruins of an ancient city. As they wandered, they noticed a complete lack of animal life aside from the occasional bird. Investigation yielded the knowledge that the city was cursed. To touch the ground with bare flesh was to die. They had only been spared accidental death by their footwear. Once more the ancient legacy of the godswar returned to haunt them.
As they sought to leave the cursed ruins, a strange fey being accosted them. She called herself Katia and it was clear that she was a denizen of the mysterious Feywild. Although she was obviously not entirely sane, the agents engaged in negotiation for secrets. Ultimately, in exchange for giving Katia the secret of Planetfall, Katia told them that Sathish could be found at "the World Tree" where he was engaged in various experiments on life, including the creation of the Gnomes some three centuries before. This came as some surprise to Tavi, the gnome member of the group, who had never given much thought to the origins of her race.
Vinihata, as a separate arrangement, traded to Katia a year and a day of his life in exchange for a favor she would owe him. She took him to the Feywild where he spent his year and a day while back in the ruins of Sailandra only a single night passed for his companions. In that time he experienced pleasures and horrors that nearly shattered him in the company of beings who could only live, and could never die. When he was returned to his companions the next morning, he was a different man.
When they arrived at the World Tree they could see why it was called that. An enormous tree seemed to grow around a font of magical energy. A village of unusual and utterly unique life-forms populated the tree, all resembling gnomes but clearly being different iterations on a theme. The agents were welcomed, and they pretended to be on a quest seeking Tavi's origins. The locals were happy to fill their ears with a creation myth that at no point mentioned a beholder.
The agents eventually realized that Sathish's laboratory was inside the tree itself, and that he had created this elaborate mythology around himself to ensure continued sources of experimental subjects. The agents infiltrated the tree where they discovered the source of the magical font. The tree was growing around and out of Hasti the Green, one of the Ten Great Dragons. The dragon's blood was being drawn by the tree's roots explaining its size and unusual properties. The dragon's blood also explained how Sathish was able to create the gnomes. A fight ensued, and once more the agents emerged victorious, having slain the version of Sathish beneath the tree. They teleported away leaving the village none-the-wiser, and leaving the dragon asleep.
They returned to Videha having slain two of their targets. They learned that the Viloba had been gaining agents and allies within the Wizard's College seeking to uproot The Blinded, the sect of wizards and acolytes who secretly venerated Sathish within that institution. They debated which Sathish to go after next. They knew of one in the distant duskward parts of the whorl, and they knew of the one they had fought previously, residing in his laboratory demi-plane. After being distracted with the wedding of two Mithilan citizens and assorted other matters, they finally gathered together to attempt to plane-shift to the demiplane laboratory to confront a version of Sathish they had already fought before.
This time, things did not go according to plan. It would seem that this particular Sathish kept track of his various copies and had discovered the agents' efforts. They arrived in the demiplane laboratory only to find themselves bathed in an antimagic field and confronted by the projected voice of their target who, aggrieved and angry, but still priding himself on his "intellectual" nature, demanded of the agents an explanation for why they were systematically butchering him and destroying centuries of priceless research.
The agents looked at each other blankly for a moment. They didn't have a good reason. Sathish explained that they had always been the aggressors, coming into his laboratory, trying to steal his Risen Son soul, freeing his Viloba specimen, and when he had captured Xedris in an attempt to force recompense for the damage and harm they had caused him, they freed Xedris causing even more harm, and now they were destroying him piece by piece. What, he asked, had he ever done to them to warrant such systematic hatred? Somewhat embarrassed, the agents realized that their pogrom existed more or less entirely because Sathish looked like a monster, and Alia had asked them nicely.
Sathish scoffed at the mention of Alia. He revealed that he, Sathish, had created himself two centuries after the end of the godswar to answer the existential threat of the Risen Son and his army of undead, but that he had not done so alone. The sheer enormity of his physical, mental, and spiritual transformation was only possible with the aid of three goddessess. Parvati gave him the gift of "endless birth" (the ability to be "born" over and over, thus his copies). Sarasvati gave him the gift of "infinite capacity" (his enormous mind). Durga gave him "weapons" (his eyebeam weaponry). These goddessess had collaborated in his creation because the undead threatened to destroy all of civilization.
And what of those undead? The Risen Son obviously led them, but he was assisted by his three generals, all siblings, twins and a sister who had followed the Risen Son into becoming the first liches. The agents blinked. They knew of the twins, and had fought them, but they had never heard of the third, the sister. Sathish then revealed that Alia, the third demi-lich, had switched sides in the war, determining that the dead should not rule the living. She has lived in Mithila ever since.
Suddenly a number of little details made sense. Alia had always had a somewhat mysterious amount of magical power. She had opened a gate into Surya’s Prison itself near the very beginning of their association, something nobody should be able to do. She was perpetually cloaked in ostentatious illusion magic, and her role in Mithilan society was clearly well entrenched, including a personal relationship with King Janaka himself. This also explained her enmity for Sathish… a mutual hatred going back thousands of years.
They asked Sathish for his forgiveness, which he grudgingly granted only in the interests of preserving his other selves from butchery, and in exchange for certain concessions. They returned to Videha.
They sought out Alia who, realizing that they were no longer her pawns in this, acknowledged the truth of Sathish's words, although her own side of the story differed in minor details. She does consider him a dangerous threat to civilization. Once he served a valuable purpose, but his limitless existence risks overshadowing the accomplishments of ordinary mortals, something she claimed to be interested in preserving despite her own eternal existence. She claimed a similar motivation for King Janaka who, she revealed, was a Rakshasa, in fact was the very same Lankeshvar who had accompanied the agents to free Ratri and Ravana.
Having been illuminated and disillusioned, the agents decided to leave Alia and Sathish to their grudges and turn their attention to bigger problems, namely the ever-present question of planetfall.