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Who is Gareth?by Hervé Musseau
1. Gareth = Benekander
So, first off, I'm a little biased toward this option. Anyway.
This is probably the simplest idea, which is well in line with WotI.
During WotI, Benekander acts more like a mortal than as an immortal. Which is not surprising, considering he didn't try for immortality, that just fell on him.
Plus, he even opposes the efforts of the various immortals. He never sides with any of them, or even makes himself or his efforts known to them, but acts as his conscience tells him, whatever the odds, whatever the opposition.
Now, what id the philosophy of Gareth? Be careful, it's not that the Immortals are fools that shouldn't be revered. It's that the mortals shouldn't become the pawns of the Immortals. I.e., that they are not stupid immature lots that can only be used as fodder by immortals in their plots, but that they can achieve great things by themselves. Gareth does not forbid mortals from following immortals. In fact, saying that would be stupid from him, as 1) Immortals fade away when not worshipped and he's an immortal 2) there would be an intrinsic loop in this because he's himself asking for worship. It is my opinion that the philosophy of Gareth is to say that Immortals were once mortals that through their deeds achieved a greater status (which is true); mortals should thus not fear them but look at them as models, things they should aspire to be, and that they can achieve only by being as strong and smart as the immortals were in life; that any mortal is capable of that if he tries to; that immortals thus have no reason to consider the mortals as pawns or fodder and remember that they too were once mortal. This seems pretty close to Benekander's attitude during WotI. During WotI, one of his main concerns is immortal interference. Also, he asks the PCs to watch for weird immortal interference, and battles it, especially Hel's Balthac false immortal.
Besides, Benekander is a new immortal, which didn't acquire his immortality through the standard sponsor path. That would explain why no other immortal knows who Gareth is. That would also explains why this new immortal can challenge the normal way of the immortals, just like Rad did.
What's his relationship with the NoS? It's obvious that Benekander has a deep interest in the artifact. Why doesn't Gareth? Maybe he is concentrating on his new philosophy first, either because it's more important or because he hopes once his philosophy becomes widespread the rest will follow naturally. Why didn't he start his philosophy in Glantri? Well, Sind is not that far. And Glantri has no immortal but Rad, so it is hard for a new immortal to start there. Sind is not far, there was an opportunity there, and he hoped that would spill in Darokin fast because it's an open-minded country (and it did). Benekander, a novice immortal, could so fast get so much following and set up so big plots into motion (though they're not really plots, as it would go against his philosophy)? Probably he gained quite a few levels during WotI, especially for his stroke at Hel. Maybe the Old One did give him more power. Maybe he got a surge from the repowering of the Nucleus when Rad was fused in it, as he's linked to it too. Maybe he doesn't need to be that high in level to do all he did, eg al-Kalim is also quite low level (though older) and yet has followers in Ylaruam, Darokin, Sind, the SC...
Why did Loki smile when others asked who Gareth was? Well, sometimes a smile is in fact a grin.
Why did Gareth say he has returned from the Vortex? If he is Benekander, it is a lie. So what? That statement was certainly not directed at the mortals in the first place since they don't know what the Vortex is. So this was clearly directed at the immortals (using mortals as relays). Well, Gareth's philosophy is intended to both mortals and immortals: the mortals should live by themselves, which means that the immortals should stop manipulating them. So he had to make himself heard by the immortals, and not just by stealing followers from them. That was definitely the purpose of this statement, to make the immortals ponder. As Gareth doesn't get in touch with other immortals, he had to deliver that message to mortals, so they could report it to their patrons. Maybe Benekander has discovered about the myth of the Vortex, probably he watched the Old One's intervention. So he's using this to cause the immortals to fear and listen to him. Even if they don't believe he isn't what he says, they will at least listen to him, and that's what really matters.
In conclusion, I would say that Gareth = Benekander is a plausible explanation which, though it has some questions unanswered, hasn't any flaw, and is in continuity with WotI.