The Heartforce

Azure's picture

I heard you say something about Gith's reincarnation as Ar-Gish? Please, tell me more, brother. – An undercover secret police recruit in the Githyanki city of Githmir.

Come with us, brother. - The same recruit, to the same githwarrior, a few hours later.


The fall of Vlaakith was the most significant, traumatic event in githyanki society for many centuries. Most githyanki revered her and would have gladly given up their lives for her every whim. They also feared, respected, and obeyed her instruments, the various orders of the Knights of Vlaakith. To say that she was a tyrant, however, and that her knights were oppressive, would have bordered on understatement. Even during her reign, many githyanki harbored secret disloyal thoughts. Since the githyanki, as a society, are philosophically opposed to constantly policing the thoughts of their brothers, like the illithid do to their thralls, the 'traitors' among them survived so long as their loyalty was not outwardly suspect through their actions.

The ritual of 'retirement' was Vlaakith's way of both increasing her own power at the expense of her followers' life forces and removing potential threats to her rule. The most successful and influential leaders were chosen to come before their queen; inevitably it would be the last journey they ever made. This pattern was interrupted somewhat during the great Incursion. Vlaakith needed her most powerful and competent warriors for the battles on the primes. Thus when she was no more, she left behind many warriors who had become more powerful and more influential than githyanki had previously been allowed to become. Many of these commanders and generals quickly decided that Vlaakith's fall had ushered in a new era for the githyanki, and went about consolidating their own power. A brief period of looking inward followed, as leaders surrounded themselves with loyal cohorts and expelled or purged those whose loyalties were in question from their enclaves.

It might have continued like this, with many petty warlords eying each other with suspicion, but then the power blocs began to form. First the Cult of Tiamat began gaining followers from among the duthka'gith, and then the princesses of the Ascendancy stepped forward to contest for Vlaakith's fallen crown. Fearing both heresy and the return of the old tyrannical regime, the fractured Astral enclaves began talking to each other again. Rampant self-interest was replaced by enlightened self-interest. Many of the generals and governors-militant of the Astral decided to band together to oppose a return of the monarchy. They formed what has since become known as the Heartforce, and represent a new direction for the githyanki. For better, or for worse, has yet to be determined.

Behind the Ascendancy, which views all other power blocs as traitors to Vlaakith, the Heartforce is the second most intolerant of other blocs. The leaders of the Heartforce prefer order in their enclaves, and that means making every gith under them swear and adhere to a strict oath of loyalty. Most Heartforce enclaves have squads of uber-loyal enforcers, secret police moles, and other means to ferret out and eliminate potential discordant voices. Of course, since the Heartforce controls the major githyanki cities on the Astral, there are inevitably a wide range of opinions and political views within the population, so those enforcers are constantly busy. Especially forbidden is vocal support for either the Ascendancy or the Cult of Tiamat. Unifists and The True also find themselves constantly at odds with the authorities in the Heartforce's enclaves, since members of these blocs often find it difficult not to preach their philosophies to other githyanki. Squads from other power blocs are not totally forbidden from entering most enclaves, but their movements and contacts are strictly controlled, and they are expected to obey and serve the will of the local commanders for the duration of their stay.

The majority of color pools in the githyanki varsh'isk, prime world fortress-nurseries, have their Astral sides in the cities or major warband holdings. Thus since the githyankis' ability to plane-shift between the Astral and the primes has been disrupted, the Heartforce collectively controls over three-quarters of the remaining access points between the primes and the Astral. The legions of warriors trapped on the Incursion worlds had to swear fealty to the Heartforce's commanders in order to return home. Those that would not were forced to either become Apocalytes or find alternate routes. The term Heartforce comes partially from the fact that, by and large, the varsh caste that runs the varsh'isk has supported the Astral commanders' cause. As trainers and testers of aspiring githwarriors, the varsh caste stands at the very heart of githyanki society. Their tacit support is one of the main factors making the Heartforce arguably one of the most powerful power blocs of them all.

Certain warbands have joined the Heartforce en masse. While not every single member of these warbands has sworn allegiance to the Heartforce, by and large they are Heartforce supporters. More than with any other power bloc, the Heartforce is defined by the personalities of its leaders as much as the political views of the rank-and-file githyanki under them. The Heartforce is also more static than any of the others, with the notable exception of the Apocalytes. The influence of the Heartforce is centered in their Astral enclaves. They often send strike forces to the primes or other planes to accomplish specific missions, but their power is limited outside their forts and cities. Of course, within their enclaves the local commander’s power is great indeed.

The city of Githmir was always a trading hub where githyanki came in non-violent contact with other races. It continues to be very cosmopolitan. It is the most likely place for outsiders to meet githyanki and survive the encounter. Still, even here the githyanki do not discuss their internal politics with ‘barbarians’, so the merchants here are clueless concerning Vlaakith’s fall. Naturally, not many graith ever inquire after the Lich Queen in the first place, so the secret has thus far not been hard to keep. Githmir is ruled by the minions of the self-titled Emperor Zetch’r’r. Rumors link him with the now-disbanded Sha’sal-Khou. Whether or not these rumors are founded, the Reconciliation seems almost welcome here. There have even been githzerai (under heavily armed escort, of course) sighted in the streets from time to time. Emperor Zetch’r’r is one of the more influential Heartforce leaders, and his immediate reach includes holdings of the bands of Gold, Ivory, Platinum, Jade, and Turquoise. While none of these warbands is particularly massive individually, collectively they constitute a considerable force of arms, minds, and magic.

The cities of T’n’ekris and Xamvadi’m have always been rivals. It is an in-joke among the Apocalytes that the end-times must be upon the githyanki, for the leaders of T’n’ekris and Xamvadi’m are now working together. In actuality, the two cities are still very much rivals, though their leaders are indeed closer than anyone would have thought possible. Xamvadi’m is controlled by the bands of Marble and Moonstone, while T’n’ekris is populated mostly by githyanki from the bands of Basalt, Slate, and Obsidian.

Xamvadi’m is controlled by a trio of powerful female githyanki psions known as the Moonstone Viziers. At least one is a powerful clairvoyant. It is whispered that between them they can watch over every resident and every square inch of their city. Some say they occasionally browse the thoughts of the populace, searching out sources of sedition. Whether these rumors are true or not, those githwarriors who are picked up by the authorities in Xamvadi'm quite often return, if they return, “re-educated” and unfailingly loyal to the regime.

The leader of T’n’ekris is Chancellor Vor-Gaun J’kai. He is the elected representative of the local warbands, being formerly a Supreme Commander from the band of Basalt and an Overlord General of the Incursion. Here, the authorities’ methods are much less subtle than in Xamvadi’m. Githyanki suspected of disloyalty are usually publicly beaten, or taken away for a time to eventually be found dumped bloodied in the street.

Though not directly controlled by Vor-Gaun J’kai, Slab is a major enclave of the band of Basalt, and thus the Chancellor has some influence there. A major source of raw building material, Slab is a monstrous black rock several miles in diameter, and dozens of miles long. At one end is a huge fortress-city housing many of the band’s githwarriors. The local leader is Bor’shan of Basalt, a scarred veteran of many campaigns who has been known to kill disloyal githwarriors with his own hands. He has fought and won an uncounted number of duels since the fall of Vlaakith, and is personally responsible for decimating the Black Blades of Vlaakith, an order of knights tied to the bands of Basalt and Obsidian, one by one.

The Halls of Marble is a large and wealthy enclave. The Halls are ruled by the Masters of Marble, Master Gish K’kath and Master Warlock Shav N’tark. The Halls of Marble are known more for their mlar caste artisans than for armed warriors. Still, the band of Marble is one of the larger warbands, and though most of their githwarriors are more likely to be in Xamvadi’m, the Masters have a good deal of influence over the entire warband.

The Jade Tower is an enclave of moderate size. The band of Jade, however, has a reputation for extreme competence, from both its mages and psionicists. Moreover, the Jade Tower houses the band’s most elite units; shock troops and slayers of the most exalted reputation. The band of Jade has many members residing in Githmir, and though Zetch’r’r’s sphere of control has not as of yet engulfed the Jade Tower, it may only be a matter of time. So far, the supreme leader of the Jade Tower, Gish Magh-Shak’k, has kept the enclave independent from the Emperor’s rule, mostly because the two leaders personally dislike one another for reasons known only to themselves. As members of the same power bloc they often must work together, and are able to put aside their differences to do so. Still, the friction is palpable, and no one in their commands is fooled by their forced amicability.

The Bloodstone Tiers is a gigantic Ziggurat of an ancient god of a slain city. The corpse of the dead power has been almost completely mined out, except for a pool of divine matter in the form of the dead god’s tears in the central vault. The band of Bloodstone had several other smaller enclaves, but they have been abandoned in favor of the Tiers. Bloodstone was a band very active in the Incursion, and almost the entire band was trapped on the primes with Vlaakith’s fall. The band of Bloodstone is therefore almost entirely within the Apocalyte bloc. Those few githwarriors at the Tiers, however, are considered Heartforce. This is where the two blocs’ overlap is most obvious. Unlike the other major enclaves, the Bloodstone Tiers does not have a charismatic leader to be the public face of the Heartforce. Instead, they are governed by a war council with a revolving membership of commanding officers.

There are of course dozens of other enclaves of various sizes loyal to the Heartforce. For the most part they either come under the influence of the leaders already mentioned, or are too small or remote to be considered especially significant. Of course, there are also many Astral enclaves whose supreme leaders claim loyalty to the Ascendancy, The True, or another power bloc. Trade between the Heartforce’s enclaves and these others is often restricted, which decreases the influence and reach of non-Heartforce cities and forts, especially if they do not possess color pools or portals.

The Heartforce represents a new regime for the githyanki. Whether or not it has staying power is something only time will tell.

Bladedancer's picture
Joined: 2008-05-21
Excellent work once again

Excellent work once again Azure!

Zimrazim's picture
Joined: 2007-01-14
I like this article very

I like this article very much.  Laughing

A question, though.  Zetch'r'r presumably moved to Githmir (from Tu'narath) after the events of Lich-Queen's Beloved.  Perhaps Githmir had its own leadership before this point.  Did they invite him in?  Maybe there was infighting between different factions in Githmir, and one of the factions invited him?


BoGr Guide to Missile Combat:
1) Equip a bow or crossbow.
2) Roll a natural 1 on d20.
3) ?????
4) Profit!

Azure's picture
Joined: 2006-05-17
Well I wanted to put

Well I wanted to put Emperor Zetch'r'r in (without having read the article), and I figured Githmir would be a good place to put him, since it is the most likely place for non-githyanki parties to be.  That way, it increaces the possibilities for a wider range of parties.

As far as the politics of the situation in Gitmir, I haven't given it much thought ... yet ...

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