The githzerai and githyanki, originally a single race known as "the forerunners," escaped enslavement by the plane-spanning illithids. The rebel leader Gith is responsible for the names of both the githzerai and githyanki. The game Neverwinter Nights 2 explains that Gith's sword was forged by Zerthimon. The sword was said to never stop until its foe lay dead, and, as other silver swords, it held the power to sever the astral chords of outsiders and aberrations, killing them instantly. Gith wished to lead the people in destroying all illithids and any other species she deemed would be a threat, but Zerthimon rose up and opposed her, believing that this evil would lead them to destruction. Civil war erupted, and when Zerthimon was killed by Gith his people fled to Limbo. There, they would learn to refine a sense of calm in the middle of Limbo's endless chaos.
The fate of Zerthimon
While many accounts say that Zerthimon was killed in the civil war, others (for example, The Plane Below) suggest he defeated Gith in single combat and spared her life before leading his people to their new home. Githzerai histories claim that Zerthimon led his people for many decades, training the first githzerai monks, before he mysteriously disappeared.
A popular tale has it that Zerthimon achieved enlightenment, transcending his mortality to become a being of pure mental energy. From this exalted state, he continues to subtly guide his people to follow him into a similar state of transcendence. Other sages insist that Zerthimon simply died as all mortals die.
A darker legend, deeply offensive to the githzerai, claims that Zerthimon became a lich in order to stave off his inevitable demise. Horrified by what he had done and afraid that, if discovered, his people would reject all his teachings, he fled to some forgotten place where he still wrestles with the evil of his unnatural state. From there he still attempts to guide his people, but in secret.
Zerthimon in other media
In the computer role-playing game Planescape: Torment, one of the potential party members, Dak'kon, is a githzerai follower of Zerthimon, and it is possible to learn the basic tenets of Zerthimon's teachings (referred to as the Unbroken Circle of Zerthimon) through conversations with him (which unlocks special wizard spells for the protagonist and the githzerai). According to Planescape: Torment, Zerthimon's teachings can be summarized as following.
- Strength lies in knowing oneself; those who do not know themselves are lost and open to the manipulations of others.
- A willingness to learn is a sign of strength.
- Endure. In enduring, grow strong.
- Learn to see the whole, or be blinded to the truth.
- Many in unison can accomplish more than many alone.
- Seek balance, or lose sight of your goal.
- Patience is a virtue.
- Focus and discipline are the key to strength; diversion is the key to weakness.
When in the Fortress of Regrets, talking to the Practical Incarnation reveals that he forged the Circle of Zerthimon owned by Dak'kon. As such the teachings contained within it may not be accurate. The Practical Incarnation says that they may be true, but he doesn't know. In the game Neverwinter Nights 2, the player meets a githzerai zerth named Zhjaeve that espouses a similar belief to that shown in Planescape: Torment. One commonality is the emphasis on "to know".
- LaFountain, J. Paul. Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1991.
- Marmell, Ari, Bruce R. Cordell, and Luke Johnson. The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2009.
- Schwalb, Robert J." "Tu'narath, City of Death." Dragon #377. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2009.
- Sims, Chris. "Playing Githzerai." Dragon #378. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2009.
- Varney, Allen, ed. Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1994.