Ad Astra Per Arcana
The First Captain
The First Captain (also known as the Captain of Captains, the Great Captain, or by other titles) is one of the major quasi-religious figures of the Liberation of the gith peoples, but of all the gith races, is normally only held in high regard by the Gith pirates themselves. The pirates of Gith are not well-known for keeping detailed historical records, so there is considerable variation in the oft-repeated tales about the original Gith captain — including his name. A storyteller typically gives him one of four given names, and historians believe that one of those names was actually his real name, the other three being those of his closest followers.
Stories of the First Captain agree that He was originally a personal-thrall of a rich and powerful merchant illithid of the Possessor Creed. The First Captain was awakened from his slavery when his master sent him on a simple errand and he instead ended up having a conversation with the Liberator Herself. The First Captain eventually slew his master himself and, for many years afterward, carried the illithid’s head with him wherever he traveled, often using it as a prominent shipboard decoration.
The First Captain is said to be the first of the Forerunners to figure out how to fly spelljamming vessels himself, without need of the foul Masters. Historical opinion differs on whether he was a Gish, Giph, rogue-mage, or rogue-psion, since the tales often differ when they describe his own abilities. They do describe him as multifaceted, and consistently depict him wielding a sword and dirk. Once he figured out how to spelljam, he taught others, and recruited a huge number of thralls of the Illithid Navy.
Unfortunately for the First Captain, and indeed for many others, he was well-known by another famous Forerunner of that period: Vilquar.
The First Captain and many of his recruited spelljamming sailors were forced to flee deep into wildspace for many years as a result of Vilquar’s betrayal. Vilquar’s eye rested heavily on the First Captain in particular, and he and his followers fought a series of battles across dozens of crystal spheres, commandeering or destroying illithid ships whenever they could. Vilquar’s betrayal is depicted as the source of the diaspora of what would later become the pirates of Gith, eventually resulting in a far less centralized People than the githyanki. During the period of the Liberation, the First Captain appears many times (sometimes, even, in old githyanki and githzerai stories) to give aid to the followers of either Gith or Zerthimon, and he is always harried by powerful illithid forces.
When the Two Skies were declared, the First Captain was in a distant crystal sphere; the same was true when Gith descended into Baator. The latter in particular sent him into a rage; he is known to have accused both Zerthimon and Vlaakith I of betraying the Liberator. (Small surprise that many, though not all, texts relating to the First Captain are proscribed.) He vehemently refused the assertion that Vlaakith was Gith’s chosen successor, a fact that did not make him popular with orthodox Githyanki.
Tales also differ when it comes to what eventually became of the First Captain. The oldest Elder Brains on ancient illithid worlds often claim that he finally fell to Vilquar’s eye, many years after Vilquar himself had been consumed. Many pirates of Gith believe that he lived an unusually long lifespan (500 years or so), having found some means to prolong his life, before dying either valiantly in battle against the illithid, or peacefully in his sleep (an unusual end for a gith hero) of old age.
As far as the First Captain’s personality is concerned, he is commonly portrayed as a sort of idealized Gith pirate — fierce, clever, flamboyant, opportunistic, and materialistic. He was a rogue and a rake. He liked his liquor (some would call him a drunkard), as well as indulging occasionally in other recreational substances of that ancient period. While tales of unrequited love are relatively uncommon among gith peoples, the pirates of Gith regularly describe him as being much enamored of the Liberator, though she consistently turned down his advances. To the embarrassment of both githyanki and githzerai, some of the older accounts of the First Captain strongly suggest that Zerthimon may have had something to do with the Liberator’s rejection of the original Gith pirate. (In particular there is an account of a vicious knife-fight between the first githzerai and the First Captain, which the Liberator put a stop to, in which both men were wounded. A few stories specifically claim that the blade Zerthimon used was the same one he had found on the Fields of Husks.) He dueled with other Forerunners over various matters on multiple occasions.
It is a common Gith pirate belief that, not only will the First Captain someday return, he already has on several occasions! Specifically, at times when the pirates have a particularly strong need of him, he reincarnates (usually as a particularly charismatic Captain of Captains) to lead the people. Said stories claim that the First Captain wishes to someday unite all of his scattered pirates under a single banner. The Gith pirates also believe that Vilquar himself has reincarnated more than once, and that the soul of the First Captain cannot rest until he has thoroughly avenged himself on Vilquar, united the pirates of Gith, and made his peace (one way or another) with both Zerthimon and the Liberator.
Original accounts of the First Captain’s life are nearly impossible to find, mostly known today by having been quoted or paraphrased in later historical sources. The original sources are said to have contained an incredible wealth of information about early spelljamming technology, the spelljamming races of that ancient time, and even the locations of Penumbra and other ancient illithid-held worlds.
Where the Captain is concerned, modern pirates don’t usually bother with the same degree of ritual that the githyanki may devote toward Gith and Vlaakith, but pirates will very often offer toasts in his name, especially when celebrating a victory, finding a great deal of treasure, or starting a voyage. Interestingly, many Astral sailors among the githyanki will invoke the First Captain occasionally, a heretical practice that the knights have never been able to entirely eliminate.
By Zimrazim, Originally published on Planewalker.com Reprinted by permission