The Vellurith, or the Game Undying, was a sacred game of manipulation played among beholders on Toril, partially as an act of veneration for the Great Mother. The game was played by accomplishing certain goals, all of which promoted the aims of the Great Mother. Winning the Vellurith required that a single beholder accomplish five of these goals, but the relative difficulty of each task was so great that no beholder was known to have pulled off more than a single goal.
Every goal of the Vellurith advanced the agenda of the Great Mother in some way, some more subtly than others, and they mostly revolved around influencing human societies. The sole judge of success in the Vellurith was the Great Mother herself, who signaled approval or displeasure but never gave any guidance to participants. The Vellurith encouraged subtle manipulation over direct action, and confrontation between players was discouraged as it was seen as resorting to the methods of "lesser races".
The nine initial goals of the Vellurith were as follows:
- Slay a deity.
- Obliterate a city in a manner precluding its rebuilding.
- Topple a ruling dynasty and then restore them.
- Create a new sentient, intelligent race.
- Locate the remains of the lost beholder Xarlcaun and recover its Hive Mother egg.
- Find the Blind Beholder and free it from illithid captivity in the Underdark.
- Reopen the Gate of Eyes linking Faerûn to the Realm of a Million Eyes.
- Convince the ruler of a sizeable Faerûnian realm to make beholder worship the state religion for no less than six years in total (not necessarily continuously).
- Divert the attention and focus of Larloch and the Elder Rune cabal of liches away from beholderkind, preferably away from Faerûn altogether, or convince them that beholders are worth protecting from the machinations of deities such as Gzemnid or Shar.
Accomplishing the fourth goal by creating a new intelligent race could lead to further goals being spawned.
- If the created race flourished on the surface of Toril and in the upper reaches of the Underdark, and worshiped beholders, the following goal was added:
- Conquer a sizeable human realm and openly rule it as a beholder for two summers or more.
- If one of the characteristics of the created race was a hatred of either illithids or dragons, the following goal was added:
- Destroy the mind flayer realm of Dkloeldran in the Underdark, and kill every single one of its inhabitants.
- If the created race was capable of crossbreeding with beholders to create new forms of beholderkin, the following goal was added:
- Rule the surface of an entire Torilian continent for no less than two years, and ensure no adult or older dragons that are not directly enslaved exist on the continent. Cooperation between beholders was permissible to achieve this rather ambitious goal.
Beholders believed that participating in the Vellurith would yield them substantial rewards from the Great Mother that could help them "rise to the next upliftedness". At least one of the few beholders who managed to accomplish a Vellurith goal received a magical boon from the beholder goddess.
The legendary beholder Xroon offered an additional reward for completing the Vellurith. Having reached the end of its lifespan and succeeding in being reborn in a new body, Xroon offered its ithrim—an egg-like object containing living magic that would allow a beholder to achieve a similar rebirth—to any beholder who won the Vellurith.
On Toril, beholders were known to engage in the Vellurith since at least the 1100s DR, with over twenty elder beholders having participated and survived over the centuries. Despite centuries of trying, only two elder eye tyrants had accomplished one goal each. In the Year of the Mace, 1307 DR, Alarkanamace succeeded in permanently destroying a human city—Sulasspryn in the Moonsea region. It achieved this by subtly manipulating duergar miners into mining beneath the city, compelling them to lure purple worms ever closer to the surface to bore their tunnels. The elder eye also tricked the dwarven watermaster Burdurin Longhammer into believing he had found ancient schematics detailing a subterranean river diversion—in reality just an area carved out and magically aged by Alarkanamace to further weaken the structural integrity of the area beneath Sulasspryn. Finally, the beholder saturated the limestone rock separating the duergar mines from the city above, then spread rumors of rich gem deposits beneath the city to encourage its citizens to start digging. The end result was utterly fatal—Sulasspryn collapsed into a sinkhole, killing thousands of citizens. The city was never rebuilt, in part because of the resulting instability of the area, but also because Sulasspryn became known as a place of death. Sages attributed the destruction of Sulasspryn to a drow revenge plot against the city's founder, Sulass Drowsbane, and so Alarkanamace's subtle manipulation of the situation must be said to have been a resounding success.[note 1]
The other accomplished goal was attributed to the elder eye Xithallowthlan, who manipulated the political situation in Tethyr to both cause and end the Tethyrian Interregnum. In the Year of the Bright Blade, 1347 DR, Xithallowthlan indirectly caused the fire that killed King Alemander IV and his family. During the Reclamation Wars, the beholder covertly aided Zaranda Star on numerous occasions, helping her win the war and ascend to the Tethyrian throne in the Year of the Gauntlet, 1369 DR. Since Zaranda's husband, King Haedrak Rhindaun III, was the last surviving prince of the previous royal family, this meant Xithallowthlan had succeeded in toppling and restoring a human dynasty.[note 2] The elder beholder received a boon from the Great Mother in recognition of its accomplishment: eyes with magic-sensing and truesight capabilities appeared all over its body.
Several beholders claimed to have killed the deity Ibrandul, though these claims were universally dismissed once it became known that Ibrandul had been killed by Shar during the Time of Troubles. Xyxikarph claimed to have caused the death of the duergar deity Laduguer in the Year of the Vindicated Warrior, 1383 DR by manipulating Moradin and secretly swapping his weapon for a thrice-cursed one, causing him to inadvertently kill Laduguer. Very few beholders believed this claim—indeed, Xyxikarph disappeared soon after, leaving its lair mysteriously empty save for a magical human voice announcing "The Great Mother is not pleased". Unbeknownst to all, this voice actually belonged to the human archwizard Elminster, who had a vested interest in the Vellurith.
- Alarkanamace, a sly and vigorous beholder and one of the few to actually accomplish a goal of the Vellurith through its indirect destruction of Sulasspryn.
- Aumrandor, an aggressive beholder known for wearing a shell of metal armor.
- Balathliyrix the Red, an unusually large individual who resided near Waterdeep.
- Claxlarlrath, a greedy beholder who wielded mercantile power as a weapon.
- Crouloodur, a sadist who enjoyed the suffering of "soft, stupid worms", otherwise known as humans.
- Drelrathrax, a polite individual who sought to build its own empire of human cattle.
- Elorlarrvrix, a soft-spoken but thoroughly insane beholder.
- Galaklath, a master manipulator who enjoyed spending time in sewers.
- Huelglorryx, who allied itself with the phaerimm.
- Ithkeirlauthlyx, who saw both human wizards and dragons as threats that needed to be dealt with.
- Jerethilxaur, a beholder specialized in commanding oozes and jellies.
- Lraulaur, who spied on all others but rarely took direct action.
- Kelkraummadar, a cruel beholder who delighted in the worship of lesser beings.
- Maerezmnid, who used mind-influencing spells to influence powerful merchants and nobles all over Faerûn.
- Moglorryx, a bloodthirsty beholder who enjoyed manipulating lesser creatures into fighting for its amusement.
- Mryllythrix, who enjoyed "training" human malcontents and helping them rise up against their oppressors.
- Nrantlor, a specialist at breeding and experimenting with monsters.
- Nylurace, a shrewd diplomat who tried to foster the loyalty of lesser creatures through displays of empathy and understanding.
- Orprurlryx, the White Eye, a terse and subtle beholder known for planning ahead.
- Rhalimxarlglas, a frequent traveler who was not above befriending lesser beings.
- Xithallowthlan, a prideful beholder who accomplished a Vellurith goal by toppling and then restoring the royal family of Tethyr.
- Xyxikarph, who drew the ire of the Great Mother by falsely claiming to have caused the death of Laduguer.
Rumors & Legends
The purpose of the Vellurith—subtly manipulating the world to promote the Great Mother's agenda—was remarkably similar to how the Chosen of Mystra worked to promote the aims of their deity. This was not a coincidence; unbeknownst to the beholders playing the Vellurith, some of the goals were written by the human archwizard and Chosen of Mystra Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun, while the possible goals spawned by accomplishing the fourth goal were authored by Elminster. The intent behind these human-authored goals was to frustrate and distract beholderkind with tasks that would ultimately lead to their ruin. This deception appeared to have the support of the Great Mother herself, possibly through an agreement with either Mystryl or Mystra. Elminster had no recollection of how or why this divine agreement was struck, and was convinced Mystra had removed his memories of the event. The Sage of Shadowdale speculated the goals written by Khelben were related to the Second Sundering somehow, and that Khelben might have been interested in being reborn into a new body.
- There was indeed a drow plot to destroy Sulasspryn via undermining the city, according to The Moonsea. It is unknown how Alarkanamace's duergar plot interfaced with the drow plot, if at all, but it does seem that the Great Mother gave the eye tyrant credit.
- The pre-Interregnum Lions' Dynasty and the post-war Rhindaun Dynasty are technically distinct, but apparently close enough for the Great Mother.
- Ed Greenwood (2014-08-27). The Vellurith, Part One. Forging the Realms. Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2016-06-14. Retrieved on 2017-08-27.
- Ed Greenwood (2014-09-03). The Vellurith, Part Two. Forging the Realms. Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2016-06-12. Retrieved on 2017-08-27.
- Carl Sargent (May 1992). Monster Mythology. (TSR, Inc), p. 61. ISBN 1-5607-6362-0.
- John Terra (January 1995). “Reference Guide”. In Allison Lassieur ed. The Moonsea (TSR, Inc.). ISBN 978-0786900923.
- Julia Martin, Eric L. Boyd (March 1996). Faiths & Avatars. (TSR, Inc.), p. 72. ISBN 978-0786903849.