Life Eaters and Rajaat


I just had a thought. One of the oldest questions with this setting is “Why did Rajaat bother with champions? He was practically omnipotent, why not just do it all by himself?” and one of the oldest answers to that is “Because he’s insane.”

Ignoring (for the moment) everything else, what if he weren’t “just” insane? What if there was rhyme and reason to what he was doing?

I suddenly remembered a graphic novel I read years and years ago called The Life Eaters by David Brin. Basically, during WW2, the nazis were systematically gassing people not just for the lulz or because they were crazy. It was all part of a necromantic ritual. All of the millions of people that they sacrificed, the life energy was collected and used to give “birth” to the Nordic pantheon of gods. And with a real-life Thor and Odin and all the rest on their side, the Nazis essentially conquer the world in short order (until other countries start discovering the secrets of this magic and start putting it to use, sacrificing millions and millions of their own citizens to make their own “gods”).


So we know when Rajaat escaped in the Prism Pentad he was basically turning the champions into mulch, practically unopposed. That’s a lot of power. It seemed like he was all set to do everything himself this time (with some lackeys like Tithian thrown in: remember he explicitly said he was going to grant Tithian’s wish and make him a champion). Even the sun turned blue again.

So my thought: what if, through some complicated scheme involving the nature of the champions’ power, and maybe the empowerment of their armies (like templars?), the cleansing wars were acting like one big, millennia-long sacrificial offering? And all the life energy from all the races and individuals being killed was being collected in a centralized place/item, all for the use (by Rajaat) to either remake reality into a facsimile of the Blue Age, or literally travel back in time and rewrite reality BACK THEN?

You have the unnatural Gray, which could be connected to this. Souls do not leave Athas, they get stuck in the Gray. This is canon, and—per other TSR-era materials—completely unnatural. You also have the Dark Lens, which wound up being the key to Rajaat’s escape from the Hollow (and ultimate defeat), and could be a repository/tool to access all that stored power.

If I recall correctly, in the Ashes of Athas adventure path, one of the possibilities was Dregoth literally sacrificing the ENTIRE race of Dray to—I think, this part is fuzzy—permanently seal Rajaat’s prison, making the dragon levies unnecessary. That’s precedence for something like this.


I like the speculation in RaFoaDK. In RaFoaDK, Hamanu speculates that Rajaat didn’t want to get his hands dirty with the work of cleansing, perhaps for a quasi spiritual reason.

I have never fully understood why the War-Bringer needed champions. His power was so much greater than ours. He could have cleansed Athas of every race in a single afternoon. For thirteen ages, I’ve examined this question. I have no good answer. The answer must lie with the halflings themselves.
Halflings destroyed their blue world, which Rajaat wished to recreate, and when it was gone—before they retreated into their tribal, forest lives—halflings created humanity. But which halflings?
Surely there was some dissent, some rebellion driven underground. Perhaps rebel halflings created Rajaat; perhaps he found them on his own. Whichever, Rajaat had halfling allies before he created the first champion, and he and his allies nurtured one another’s hatred of the green world Athas had become. Hatred made them all mad; madness made them devious, and because Rajaat was both mad and devious, he created champions to do the bloody work of cleansing Athas of the races he hated, while his own hands remained unsullied.
It isn’t a good explanation, but there can be no good explanation for why Rajaat did what he did.


Rise and Fall gets such a visceral response from people, and I think most just kind of dismiss it. But it really is—I feel—one of the best DS novels. LA really went out of her way to try and reconcile a lot of inconsistencies of the source material while using an unreliable narrator to provide a kind of choose-your-own spread with regard to what readers thought was true or false.

And yeah, I’m aware of Hamanu’s speculation about Rajaat in there. But it’s still a nagging question and “because he was crazy” just feels like a lazy answer.

Sure, he was crazy. But he was crazy AND calculating, plus an unparalleled genius. I want to imagine a REASON behind it all, and one that incorporates the big unnaturals of the setting (the gray, the dark lens, the sun briefly turning blue, etc) and leaves you thinking “wow he was evil and insane, but that actually makes sense and would work” and then feeling crummy for realizing that you’re ever-so-slightly getting aboard the end(genocide)-justifies-the-means(planetary rebirth) bandwagon.


The appearance of Rajaat changed everything. When the haflings lost their blue world (and were on the brink of extinction), they were able to settle for, and accept, the new situation. But then Rajaat comes along, invents sorcery, and tells some halfings that he has the power to restore Athas to its former state as a blue water planet. Once Rajaat came along it became a zero sum circumstance - the halfings (adapted to life on the ocean Islands), or the rebirth races.

Is halfing survival morally wrong? I don’t think survival can ever be morally wrong. That said it isn’t morally wrong for the rebirth races to fight against it either.


This is a really interesting idea. It makes me wonder, would that mean Rajaat pre-cleansing wars would’ve lacked the godlike power he would display in the Pentad because there weren’t literally millions of sentient lives extinguished in the ritual yet? This would imply the champions were in fact required since Rajaat while likely well above his champions even back then still could not have performed the cleansing wars without the use of his champions and their armies.

I have to admit I rather like that idea. I have my own preferences for the Gray’s origins mind you, but the idea that Rajaat had basically a global ritual going on involving dragon magic certainly holds a great deal of appeal. Hell there could even be magical ley lines that intersect for the ritual where the life essence of the dead was drawn in and collected that are now forgotten with Rajaat’s imprisonment and simply appear as magical sites that empower defilers nowadays.


Going with this idea (and bearing in mind it’s like 1am here and I’m hopped up on muscle relaxers and hydrocodone . . . ), then before the wars Rajaat would have been insanely powerful. But truly honestly recreating the Blue Age would have involved a level of rewriting reality that would have been beyond his power.

So the plan is this: sacrifice untold millions of lives and harvest the energy. Use that energy to LITERALLY recreate the Blue Age and all that entails. This is a plan that will take centuries and millennia. Channel the power into the Pristine Tower, accessible from the Dark Lens.

To make the plan work, you’ll need collection units. These are the champions. As part of their nature, they passively absorb the death energy around them. Let’s take the explanation of templars that the champions could empower followers once Rajaat made them champions. Templars, also, will passively absorb death energy, channeling it into the PT.

Manufacture the cleansing wars for the sole purpose of creating an apparatus of death, to stockpile over millennia the energy needed for Rajaat to become godlike enough to rewrite reality to his whim.

The champions rebel, trapping rajaat. It works because of the surprise, taking him out when he didn’t have access to the dark lens and the vast stores of power.

Even with Rajaat imprisoned, the champions are STILL passively empowering the tower. For 2,000 years. Especially with Borys bringing the planet to the verge of death, that’s a LOT of empowerment.

Tithian frees Rajaat with the dark lens. Immediately, Rajaat has access to this untold energy. Although making him essentially omnipotent and he easily curb stomps the champions, he’s still acclimating to the new him, and his reality revisions (like the newly blue sun) are still tenuous. This also results in him getting blindsided by baby Rkard, which mostly reverts his revisions.

Side effects:

In making this ritual and linking it to the PT, Rajaat made use of a pre-existing network of life energy on the planet (ley lines). With the flood of death energy overwhelming this network, bordering planes became corrupted, creating the Gray, which unnaturally prevents all souls from leaving Athas, which in turn funnels the energy of those souls as they dissipate, right back into the PT.

Indeed, considering the probably nature of the PT (an artifact intended to access/funnel energy, most notably from the sun), you could even say that the massed energy from the wars was funneled into a pocket demiplane created for that purpose, and the tower/lens were merely conduits for Rajaat to access/direct the energy stored therein. That plane could either be the gray directly (making its creation by rajaat purposeful, even without understanding the planar ramifications thereof), or another plane like the Black, or really just a random demiplane made for that purpose.

It’s important to note that Rajaat was NOT an expert on planar travel and clearly had a very rudimentary grasp or even gross misconceptions about it. Per the experiments in the future Dead Lands. However, Nibenay/Gallard at least knew enough about the subject to discover the Hollow, so it’s possible Rajaat could also have discovered a suitable extraplanar means to store the energy for his ritual.

Hell, the pocket plane to store all of that energy could have BEEN the Hollow. Imagine the irony there: Gallard traps Rajaat in a reality of nothingness he discovered. Except it wasn’t nothingness: it was a storage device/plane for enough energy to rewrite reality, made to keep said energy in an inert state. And they dumped Rajaat there for two thousand years, with a constant influx of additional energy.


Myron got iced, and nobody really knows why. Hamanu speculates it’s because he became addicted to harvesting troll lives, but that’s just his guess.

Going with this idea, maybe Myron realized there was more to the wars than Rajaat let on. Maybe he realized there was an underlying ritual to the wars, and with every troll death, there was energy being shunted into some energy network just beyond reality. Maybe he started “farming” trolls because he was conducting experiments into the nature of this. Maybe he figured out what Rajaat was doing with this network and ritual. Maybe he started being able to tap into this energy pool in a rudimentary way, which got Rajaat’s attention.


I guess one of the biggest side effects of this hypothetical ritual is that as long as any of the champions remain alive the ritual is continuing, and the energy is building up more and more and more. Eventually something’s gotta pop/give.

When Dregoth did his whole Godhead spell attempt, that would have seriously messed with the system, as well.

Maybe when the “dam bursts,” so to speak, Rajaat’s stored energy is unleashed, rewriting reality. Except with nobody to direct the rewrite, everything is rewritten into nothing.

Nibenay is supposedly researching time travel. He’s also the closest thing we have to a planar expert (considering he’s the one who created/found the Hollow), Dregoth’s epic planescape campaigns notwithstanding. Maybe he realized reality is royally screwed. And the only way to save it is to travel back in time and stop this ritual from getting set up in the first place. Or at least travel back in time and either completely supplant Rajaat at its inception, or learn from Myron how to access the stored energy and then return to the “present” and turn all of Athas into the total creepazoid harem perv dream he’s turned Nibenay into.


Often the simplest explanation is the right one. Over the years I’ve been heavily influenced by the message boards here and the old WotC ones, but one of the ideas I came up with for why Rajaat didn’t kill off everyone himself was simple. He couldn’t.

Rajaat spent thousands of years studying the Pristine Tower, working with it, understanding it… and being altered BY it. The Pristine Tower is an artifact of creation, not destruction. From creating a cure for the brown tide to creating the rebirth races, it doesn’t destroy. After thousands of years Rajaat found he COULDN’T kill the rebirth races.

His workaround was to create beings that could. Beings bound to him in such at way that they actually became an extension of him.

I’ve had the Champions getting additional power by killing their assigned race, that power was then used to fuel Rajaat’s power even more. They were also incapable of dealing with their assigned race, they had to kill them. That was one of the things Borys broke when he turned them into Sorcerer Kings. This could easily be fed into the Hallow or the epic ritual to do a world wide/solar system wide reality shift.


I would counter that the pristine tower isn’t an artifact of creation, but rather ALTERNATION. It CHANGES things, affecting probabilities. It CHANGED the brown tide into something inert. It CHANGED the rhulisti into the rebirth races. It CHANGES the victims of its mutagenic field.

Small quibble, but I think it’s a fundamentally important one.


Alter actually works even better then create. It would also explain why none of the Sorcerer Kings tried to seriously take over the Pristine Tower. If they figured out it altered him, what could it do to them…It could even have been something only a few of the SKs knew and kept fro Hammanu.

(Stuart Lynch) #12

That would also tie in with Dregoth Ascending - Big D knows what the Tower can do, wants to harness it to alter himself and probably figures any ongoing issues will be irrelevant once he achieves apotheosis.