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And they're the good guys, who could guess?

Once upon a time (in the future) the mindflayers were being titanic douchebags. Is anyone surprised? You? Well, go screw yourself, that's just how they roll.

Anyway, this particular time, they were using mindcontrolled humanoid slaves to work the wheels of their titanic, universe-spanning empire. These slaves were either the first race ever to come into being, or heavily mutated humans, depending on which version of the fluff you read.

Well, after centuries of being used as free labor/breeding stock, one of them, Zerthimon, was working like the perpetually miserable mindcontrolled slave that he was in the massive fields of brainless dead where the mindflayers dumped corpses that had been used for breeding, to make fertilizer. While working, he happened upon one corpse that had been killed by the sword sticking out of its head rather than something out of Alien. He pulled it out, and he eventually worked out that it had killed the guy.

This was nothing less than a religious experience for their entire race, which sounds stupid until one considers that every one of them had been in slavery for so long that the very idea of non-illithid-related death was foreign and unimaginable. The idea that steel is stronger than flesh became the Scripture of Steel, and the path to freedom.

He used it as a farming tool for a while, reinventing the very concepts of toolmaking and weaponry in the process. His master, Arlathii Twice-Deceased, seeing Zerthimon's driven attitude, promptly accused him of several crimes he did not commit in an effort to find out if Zerthimon was a little less mindcontrolled than his brethren.

Zerthimon, rather than doing the brave but stupid thing a la a certain other grimdark futuristic setting, did the smart thing and endured torture, pain, and the humiliation of thanking his captor for the punishment, all in the name of a future rebellion. In which Arlathii Twice-Deceased was promptly killed for the third and final time as the first casualty.

Decades passed as Zerthimon trained rebels to resist and utilize psionic powers and forge weapons, preparing for an uprising. He came into contact with Gith, a trained soldier who used her psychic powers to overcome her -4 Str. He was also probably in love with her, as he gave her all sorts of magic swords, if you know what I mean.

And I think you know what I mean.

I mean his penis.

Anyway, their combined rebellions ripped up the mindflayers' shit something fierce, and before they knew it, they were sitting victorious on the Blasted Plains. Then, shit got real. Gith wanted to embark on an endless campaign, exterminating all mindflayers across all planes of existence and conquering every other race in all universes to serve as their slaves, slaking her endless lust for war, preventing anyone from ever being their masters again, and allowing her to do a decent impression of the Empra and/or Grommash Hellscream.

Zerthimon then spoke the words that split their race into his followers and hers, the Pronouncement of Two Skies:

"Fuck that shit."

Half of them sided with him, half with Gith, and they promptly fought out a second battle between the two right then and there. It ended when Gith killed him with the sword he had made for her, though no one really knows who won or what else happened during or after the battle, except that Gith named Zerthimon's followers githzerai, after their master, and hers the githyanki, after her.

The githzerai fled to Limbo, where they keep huge chunks of it stable by sheer force of will. Nowadays, they usually act as either monks or Zerths, a sort of githzerai-specific fighter-mage.

Gith, heartbroken, left her people in the Astral Plane and wandered the planes for a bit, "seeking for allies," before striking an alliance with Tiamat's red dragon head, if you know what I mean.

And I think you know......

Did I already do that joke? Shit. Anyway, she's supposedly still there, her second-in-command, Vlaakith, (who brokered the deal, and may or may not simply have fed her master to the dragon and conspired to lie to her people), is now in charge of her endless war of conquest, and most githyanki can summon a red dragon if they're in a pinch.

Gith also apparently lost her original sword, which ended up being used by, in order, an idealistic rebel priest of Myrkul who challenged the will of the Gods to free his lover (and failing), a warlock who tried to kill the personification of the dark side of magic (and failing), and a poor hapless swamp villager....who ended up doing better than both previous wielders and achieving what they both set out to do. Takes all sorts.

So. Githzerai = hyperlawful monk or fighter-mage psionic types that breed PCs more often than their cousins. Githyanki = Ur-Quan from Star Control, or for those who don't play vidya gaems, a mixture of the three most annoying prick archetypes.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Races
Player's Handbook 1: Dragonborn - Dwarf - Eladrin - Elf
Half-Elf - Halfling - Human - Tiefling
Player's Handbook 2: Deva - Gnome - Goliath - Half-Orc - Shifter
Player's Handbook 3: Githzerai - Minotaur - Shardmind - Wilden
Monster Manual 1: Bugbear - Doppelganger - Githyanki
Goblin - Hobgoblin - Kobold - Orc
Monster Manual 2: Bullywug - Duergar - Kenku
Dragon Magazine: Gnoll - Shadar-Kai
Heroes of Shadow: Revenant - Shade - Vryloka
Heroes of the Feywild Hamadryad - Pixie - Satyr
Eberron's Player's Guide: Changeling - Kalashtar - Warforged
The Manual of the Planes: Bladeling
Dark Sun Campaign Setting: Mul - Thri-kreen
Forgotten Realms Player's Guide: Drow - Genasi