The party finds themselves in Samarthia — a ruined cityscape of metallic buildings covered in purple vines, and definitely nowhere in Athas. They begin studying their surroundings, and Serge notices several different tracks — a tailed creature, and a humanoid. The group follows the humanoid tracks into a ruined building, only to come upon a tall, gaunt creature — a githyanki. The gith is huddled in a corner, has no knowledge of who he is or where he is, and can’t remember anything. The party begins to grow worried that this might be the result of long-term exposure to Samarthia.
While investigating the gith, the party hearing something outside calling for it. They get their weapons ready, and Serge fires upon the beholder that shows itself. A battle ensues, the beholder seeming more annoyed than anything else and the party blasting it with spells, swords, and arrows. Finally, the beholder implodes. The gith has gone catatonic by now, so Mardukai decides to carry him with them.
The party then manages to come upon a great pool of water, an irrigation system for all of Samarthia where inside a shiny mithril dragon is doing the backstroke. He introduces himself as Leoben and tells the party he’s a sage, and once the party finds what they’re looking for, bring it to him and he’ll tell them how it works. The party is suspicious that he wants it for himself, but he insists he’s much happier sticking to the margins. Furthermore, he’ll also use his knowledge of the future to answer any one question from each of the members of the party, acting as an oracle on their behalf.
He also explains the secret history of Athas: There never have been any gods on Athas, and when the primordials tried to destroy the world, it was humans and other races that rose up to fight them. The most powerful were psionic adepts who grew to be worshipped as gods; two of them, Heironeous and Hextor, were brothers who shared Samarthia, but are not still there now, and these ascended psionics created divine power — if psionics are using every bit of your brain’s potential, then divine power is a different kind of psionics, drawing upon the power of other people’s belief in you. However, before the primordials were defeated, they did manage to taint the source of all arcane magic, creating defiling. Leoben also explains that the sorceror-kings are NOT the first defilers, nor particularly special in any way — Athas has been trapped in a cycle of violence, with defiler replacing defiler many times over the eons.
He also explains the current situation on Samarthia: The plane is a psionic demiplane created by Heironeous and Hextor, and it follows the rules that they’ve set up (even when such rules contradict with reality); that’s why the party is more powerful here, that’s why travel is different (to go where you want, simply decide where that is, and start walking), and that’s why the party doesn’t need to eat or drink while there, and why the time of day never changes. Heironeous’ remaining forces are the angels, who are personifications of abstract concepts (like battle, protection, etc.), living in their master’s former palace. Hextor’s forces are salamanders (orange-red reptile-men with fire powers), who rule over their azer (fire dwarf) foot soldiers; their master’s citadel crumbled millennia ago. There’s also a third party now: the Congress of Eyes, a group of beholders from a far-off place called the Far Realm, who have gith servants that they can reprogram with different skill sets and personalities. Thanks to the rules set by Heironeous and Hextor, nothing stays dead on Samarthia for long — presumably, this is how the angels, salamanders, and azers have been able to fight each other without end for eons.
He also makes some other statements:
- He muses that the Dragon of Tyr is a “self-made dragon” and a poseur.
- He comments that “one of them shouldn’t bother funding their IRA,” implying a party member will die.
- To get what they’re looking for in Samarthia, the party will “have to make a repugnant decision.”
- Leoben muses that Alanna is “running late to a family reunion.”
- Mardukai muses that he’d like to work with the Congress of Eyes, leading Leoben to say “That’s funny for reasons I can’t tell you yet.”
- Serge mentions fixing the primordial taint that allows defiling to exist, and Leoben mentions that they’re not ready yet. (DM: This refers to an epic-level story arc that I won’t get the time to implement, where the party would go to the Astral Sea and fix this taint, effectively ending defiling forever.)
- Even once they find what they’re looking for, Leoben advises that finding it will not be the end of their quest, but another beginning: A weapon that can harm the sorceror-kings will draw lots of attention, and many will want to steal their power or direct it for their own uses.