Narrated by Ky Farrier, asuras guardian of the River
‘Sweet water and light laughter’, as one of my prime friends once said to me. Perhaps we should use that greeting here on Oceanus, the sweet water river of the Upper Planes. Welcome to the River Oceanus, the watery wonder that’s as beautiful and mysterious as it is useful for planewalkers. It’s a dimensional river that flows not just across different realms, or planar layers, but in and out of entire planes of existence.
Many things on the planes have opposites, and Oceanus is no exception. Intrinsically linked — yet completely different from — the River Styx, the Oceanus is the only planar waterway that comes close to rivalling the corrupted Styx’s size. For sure, the Oceanus spans fewer planes than the Styx, but unlike That Other River it’s navigable along almost its whole length, and even better, the Oceanus won’t mess with your mind or your memories. You can drink from it without worrying about losing your marbles. It’s a real river cutter, with currents, rapids, waterfalls and all the usual watery dangers. But it’s also teeming with life. From freshwater fish to giant otters, and even intelligent creatures like the delphons, asrai, and balaena, the River Oceanus is a bustling waterway for floating and underwater folk alike.
The graybeards reckon that Oceanus starts in Elysium in the sea of Thalasia, before flowing through Belierin, Eronia and Amoria. It then crosses over into the Beastlands, where it flows through Krigala, Brux and Karasuthra. Next, it shifts its course to Arborea, starting in Olympus and finally ending up emptying into the second layer of Ossa. However, cutters who know the Oceanus well can find the shortcuts and tributaries which mean they don’t need to travel through all the layers in order. There is also chant of lesser-known tributaries which lead to Lunia’s Silver Sea, Ysgard (occasionally) and the Outlands. If they exist at all, they are much harder to find. And for some unknown reason, Oceanus seems to bypass Bytopia completely. I’ve shrugged my shoulders many a time at that one; legend has it the Bytopian powers want to make a cutter work to get to their plane, and having a river leading to their doorstep somehow takes all the hard work out of it…whatever, I say.
As you look like a savvy traveller, I’m sure you’ve already tumbled to this river being a handy mode of transport across the Upper Planes. Merchants, fishermen, and adventurers anchor their boats at various delightful outposts along its shores. You’ll see everything from small sailboats to humble rowboats, punts, rafts and gondolas plying its waters. But, and here’s the kicker, it’s not all smooth sailing. This river can throw you for a loop with its sudden rapids, cliffs, and narrow passages. You might find yourself portaging your boat and cargo more often than you’d like. Watch out for the rapids between Arborea and the Beastlands… seems the river’s bed is far from smooth on the transition between those two planes in particular; perhaps that’s because the flow in Arborea is that much more rapid and emotion-laden.
What’s it like crossing a planar boundary by river? Well, the River Oceanus is a dimensional enigma. It appears and disappears without rhyme or reason, and only those traveling within it are oblivious to these shifts. For everyone else on the shores, it’s a head-scratcher seeing sailors just vanish. One moment, they’re on one plane, and the next gone, all in a heartbeat. Crossing a planar boundary usually creates quite a lot of turbulence, but it takes a savvy sailor to spot the boundaries coming.
Travel on the Oceanus, assuming you’re being ferried by a cutter who knows her way around, or have a decent map or directions, usually takes less than a couple of weeks. But you’ll probably find yourself lingering here, for it’s a truly beautiful place to spend time. There’s many an adventuring sort who took to the Oceanus to get somewhere in a hurry, and forgot the urgency of his task in the serenity of it all.
So I’ve been patrolling my little section of the river in the Beastlands, aided by Ahn, my trusted giant Beastlander swan. It ain’t official in any way, but I’m a guardian of this stretch of the water, as it meanders through Krigalia’s sunshine. No, I don’t ferry bashers around on my swan, before you ask… that’s so crude. But if you pay me the price of a song or poem, I’ll glady point you on your way, or to some cutter who will act as a ferryman. That cutter prime Terris Mathesson is usually happy to help for the right jink, and there’s plenty of little settlements beside the mighty river where you can land a buy wholesome food. Or you could fish for it…no chance of being poisoned by fetid water on this pathway, berk!
So, if you’re up for an adventure that includes impossibly high waterfalls, serene lagoons, white water rapids, and lurking predators, hop on a boat and take a ride on the River Oceanus. Just remember, it’s not your ordinary river, and you’re in for a journey that laughs at the rules of reality. You should also try and avoid annoying the many residents of the river here. That’s not hard, and they’re usually a friendly bunch, but the delphons and balaena can be angered by thoughtless behaviour or deliberate pollution. Here in the Beastlands, the Dolphin Lord, Stork Lord and Kingfisher Lord all dwell in or on my patch of the river. They’re a charming lot, but can be hard to appease once their ire is raised. You’ve been warned…
Source: Jon Winter-Holt, mimir.net
The Steam Vents
Every so often, once per century at most, a solar aasimon falls. It’s a sad sight and many fall to evil, but the story of one who fell to neutrality and the story of a place beneath the River Oceanus are tied together inseparable so here I must explain one to explain the other. Lazerial was a chaotic good solar for several centuries when he was captured in the Beastlands (where he was exploring alternative views of chaos and good) by an yugoloth using ancient and arcane magic. He was carted back to Gehenna and his wings were nailed (with thick iron spikes) to a slab of rock.
For 500 years yugoloths came every week and ripped the feathers from his wings and carved writing into his flesh, yet Lazerial (like any good celestial) endured this hardship knowing that good was on his side. Yet one thing he failed to grasp was that the yugoloths had a far greater plan. Sure, he suspected something more (in fact he thought they were using his feathers to study the nature of aasimon and how to stop them) but what he didn’t realise was that they were actually sowing the seeds of vengeance in his heart.
On the 500th year, when he was released, he travelled to Arborea and gathered a squadron of aasimon. He was hell bent on showing the yugoloths the power of good, even if it meant carting all of Gehenna off to the Upper Planes. Lazerial and his troops couldn’t find where he was tortured, the portal had long since faded. Instead he started spreading their chaotic good message of freedom across Gehenna. But yugoloth tortured made Lazerial think the only “freedom” they could have from their evil was join good or die. In other words his allowance of freedom for others died when he sought to free people from evil.
Other squadrons were called in and they scoured Gehenna until they found the one that had tortured Lazeriel. They brought the yugoloth to him. Lazeriel raised his bow in anger, carefully took aim with his arrow of slaying, then dropped to the ground weeping. Memories of each life who died by his hands in Gehenna surged through his mind, and as he spared the life of his torturer and steered his soul away from the way of evil, that region of Gehenna shifted to the upper planes. Lazeriel looked at his triumph with pride; good had finally won out. But then the River Oceanus shifted course, flooding his prize, and Lazeriel left for the Outlands. His soul was torn halfway between law and chaos, good and evil, not true neutral so much as a mixture of all conflicting to create a forced neutrality. His prize covered under feet of holy water, his good lost when 1,000 died due to his self righteous judgment of those already condemned. As for the yugoloth? No one is sure, though a myth says that the sight of the solar sparing him after so much rage allowed his heart to see the value of good. Then again, this like most planar myths is probably just screed.
That part of Gehenna still life under the Oceanus, bits and pieces of it are scattered along the river’s course from Elysium to Arborea. The steam vents are a unique underwater ecosystem in the deepest part of Oceanus, a place without light and all life depends on nutrients welled up by the steam. It’s said that there pale crabs and shrimp dwell, forests of worms wave in the currents, and fish lure in their prey with light. This is home of the angler fish lord in the Beastlands and mysterious aquatic celestials who travel like glowing lights beneath the waves.
Source: Joshua Jarvis
On the subject of the River Oceanus, Voilá will often tell the tale of Terris Mathesson (prime human ranger [he/him] / Sensate / CG). Terris specialises in ferrying bloods from plane to plane, realm to realm along the River. Next to the Marraenoloths of the lower planes, he is known to be the best mortal boatman known in the multiverse. He charges a reasonable fee for his services, and is always willing to tell a tale or two…
“River Oceanus is the best, cutter! Anyone who’s done the run from Elysium to Arborea knows the chant for sure. If you’ve done the run through those planes, you’re not just a cutter, you’re a Cutter. I mean after a run you can cut any water from Faerun to the Styx.
As far as I know, I’m the only one to have seen the Bore. No, I’m not talking about a bubber in Sigil who’ll talk your pointy ears off, the Bore is a phenomenon that happens on the River when an a layer, gate-town or realm slips into another outer plane adjacent to a plane where River Oceanus flows.
Me and a crew of Clueless from some world called Aerth were sailing from the Beastlands to Arborea. They were in a hurry to get outta the ‘Lands so they could shed the scales, feathers and fur they picked up in the wilds of the plane. Me? I like lookin’ like an otter for a while! Anyway, about an hour after we entered Arborea, I heard a soft roaring noise that just got louder and louder. I looked behind us and there was a wall of foaming, raging water as tall as a vrock (that’s about eight feet, berk)!
Well, I turned the raft around to catch the wave straight on, and we only swamped two bloods, who we rescued later. They were lucky though, ’cause that water was churning harder than Limbo soup. The wave just kept goin’ though, sweeping up everything in its path. We must’ve watched it for at least half an hour churning away from us, and it disappeared on the horizon.
Later, on a trip to Sigil, I learned that a town in Arborea’s first layer had slipped into the Outlands at about the same time the Bore caught us. My guess is that the upset in Arborea’s balance caused a surge between it an all it’s adjoining planes, which caused the surge on Oceanus. Just a guess though, as I’m no Guvner or anything.”
The Dark: The Bore is a phenomenon occurring on any body of water which flows between two outer planes. It has been reported on both the River Styx and Oceanus. Any time the character of an outer plane is upset by losing a gate- town, realm, or layer, a wave from four to fifteen (d12+3) feet in height is generated on the river at the border of the plane which lost its real estate. This wave moves away from the border of both planes, surging for 1d4 miles before losing its energy. This can cause water craft to capsize, towns to be flooded, and in the case of the Styx, possible memory loss of those touched by the waters.
Terris Mathesson: well known as a master captain of anything that can float, he has been plying the waters of River Oceanus for almost a decade since he found himself enchanted by the beauty of the Upper Planes. He is a lanky man six feet in height, with blonde hair tied back by a leather thong. He wears comfortable cotton and wool clothes that are warm and dry quickly. Known for his quick reactions but dull wit, he is nonetheless trusted by those who know him well. It is rumoured that Terris was once a lover of Erin Darkflame Montgomery, when he was her guide during a Sensate excursion on Oceanus. Neither Erin nor Terris speak of it, but Terris remains true to the Sensates.
The Dead Realm
Have you ever wondered, why the Aasimon, a powerful planar race, serve the gods as proxies? Why aren’t they a free race, like the Tanar’ri or Baatezu? Especially when they have among their numbers beings powerful enough to be deities themselves.
Perhaps the reason lies here, in the Dead Realm.
Character: Infinite sadness. Unknown memory tearing at your soul. Cries of the innocent, over the crimes committed in the name of good. Here lie the remains of a realm. A realm still here even after the destruction of its petitioners, god and his worshippers. How cam realm survive even after its creator god has been gone for millenniums? Memory. The memory of the innocent. The dead realm. A realm devoid of life. A land of memory carved in stone. The site of the greatest crime committed in the name of good.
Power: None. No god resides here anymore, and very little is known about the god who used to be here. All is known is that he uncovered some kind of truth, and that he was destroyed for that together for that together with his petitioners and worshippers. Such destruction was wrought, that he never even reached the Astral plane for the usual state of long decline most dead gods go through.
Description: A plain of green grass, a couple of rolling hills, and blue, cloudless blue skies for as far as the eye can see. This is a very special place, as it exists on all the upper planes of good that are touched by Oceanus, at the same time. Touching the river Oceanus on one side, and on the other — far reaching grassy planes for as far as anyone can see. You may reach this place on any upper plane. One may enter it in Arborea and leave in Arborea. Or enter in the Mount Celestia, and leave in Arcadia. It does not matter, for it will always be the same place. The same memory. The same crime.
On the waters of the Oceanus, at the edge of the realm, lies the town of Porto Memoriale. Three miles further into the realm, lies the wall of trees. This wall is a line of high trees, which seem to always wave in the wind, trying to hide what lies beyond it. Once you pass these trees you are confronted with a vast plain: Miles on miles of standing stones. Small standing boulders, most no taller than two and a half feet. It is said that these stones stand in memory of the lost petitioners of the Realm, although nothing lies beneath them – not a single shred of physical evidence remains to these lost souls. Further inwards, are a number of hills, on the top of which are groves. The hearts of those who approach these groves are filled with terrible dread and burning anguish. Most cannot bear this and are turn back in tears. No magical auras are emitted, but none can deny the powerful effect this place has.
Near the centre of the realm stands a great monolith. A huge square-shaped stone, which has words written on it in an unknown tongue, which none can decipher. Not even by magic. In this pillar, about a meter from the ground, is a deep crack out of which trickles the purest water. Very little pours out, but that which does, is perhaps the most potent holy water in existence. This water can lay undead to rest immediately upon touching them, and can send fiends back to their places of spawning. Also, it is said this holy water can cure any ailment. But few ever reach this far into the realm, and even less stay around long enough to collect the water (it takes 3 days to collect an amount equal to a litre).
Last, in the centre of the realm stands a great tree. Similar to Oak, but not so. It is huge, and obviously ancient. Its trunk splits into two great roots at the ground, and between these is a small pool of water, which I fed by an underground spring right under the tree. This tree was planted here long ago by Father Teharesh, soon after the event which took place here and which “killed” the realm.
Outside the wall of trees, one sees and endless sea of grass under bright-blue skies. A vision of beauty which stands in contrast to the terrible truth that is the realm.
Principle Towns and Settlements: Only two settlements lay in this realm, Porto Memoriale and the place known only as “The Monastery”. Porto Memorial is a small town, on the shores of the river Oceanus, which acts as a home and haven to all those of good not accepted by the “Greater Goods” of the Celestial realms. These include mainly fallen archons who never really left the paths of good. Planars of neutral or evil alignment who changed their ways and turned to good. All those who are looked down at, doubted and not accepted into the folds of the Upper-Planar societies.
Those outcasts, now practice the art of seafaring and reach all the upper planes in their travels and trade. It’s said that Porto Memoriale is nothing but a kip to spend the night at, because the fact is that the river Oceanus has become their home and realm. These seafarers have a special relationship with the river, and have a unique kinship with the herds of balaena which sometimes accompany their vessels during their travels.
The only other place where mortals reside is the Monastery. A building of gray, uninviting stone, where a few monks live and practice a strange… religion?
The Monastery is very old. Said to have been established soon after the cataclysmic crime which befell this place. Here serve an order of Monks, composed of members of any race of good alignment. These monks, of the Order of the Sacred Memory, serve here to preserve some kind of knowledge or memory. Although whatever it is, they don‚t reveal even the slightest dark of it to any living beings. The sole exception to this is the entire race of Aasimon. One a year, a representative party of the entire Aasimon race are sent to the Monastery. It is unknown why they go there, what they learn or what they do. All is known is that this is connected to the foundations of their entire race. Somehow, the crime which took place here, which wiped out an entire realm-god and petitioners, is connected deeply to the Aasimon.
The head of the Order of the Sacred Memory, is the mysterious Father Gaxirius, a being of unknown race. He took his position a millennium ago after the latter head of the order and its founder, Father Teharesh-an Aasimon Solar, killed himself in anguish and guilt. Why did he do so? Also unknown. But if you were ever to see anguish on the face of an Aasimon, it was when you mentioned this Realm or Father Teharesh‚s fate to him.
The only clue to this lies in the words of Father Gaxirius to a group of pilgrims: “Father Teharesh was the greatest of his race, for he alone atoned for his race entire. Such weight of the… No! I shall not speak of it. The time has not come yet…” The Monastery is a place where pilgrims of all alignments of good sometimes go to for atonement. The monks here heal and care for anyone who comes.
Principle Non-Player-Characters: Salhon Yrkov (Planar / male githyanki / T15 / Revolutionary League / NG), captain of the “Retribution” is leader of the people of Porto Memoriale. Lord of the town? No. How can one be lord when one spends his most of his time on the waters of Oceanus? Salhon was born in the Astral, just another Githyanki. But he was lost in a raid into Limbo to attack the Githzerai. Salhon wandered for 7 years through Limbo and the Outlands, and his life and views of life changed around. He abandoned the ways of his race, and took to living and doing good.
But alas. When he tried to go to the upper planes, to live there among the good, he was turned away for his race and what he had been. Angry and bitter, he wandered aimlessly until he came upon the Dead Realm. Here he met Father Gaxirius, and others like him in Porto Memoriale. Salhon took to the Oceanus, and sails throughout the upper planes. Due to what he had suffered, and his joining the Revolutionary League, his views tend to make him tread dangerously upon the line between Merchant, and Buccaneer. He sometimes raids the shores of the Upper planes, when he hears of unjust acts committed by those who live there.
Father Gaxirius, is the mysterious head of the Order of the Sacred Memory. Always hooded, almost none have clearly seen his face. He is also the spiritual guide of Porto Memoriale, although they mostly come to him, as he spends most of his time wandering the Dead Realm, or praying in the Monastery. Interestingly, he has great knowledge of all things across the multiverse, and some speculate he perhaps had been a sage or a planar adventurer before he took his place in the Monastery. Besides having been leader of the Order for almost a thousand years, several pilgrims have commented that he has a hint of an accent common to Plague-Mort and the dwellers of the Abyss.
Services: At Porto Memoriale one may find transportation and supplies for nautical voyages, in addition to all the riches of merchantware from across the upper planes. It is possible to use the Realm as a place to shift planes at, as it exists in all upper planes simultaneously, but this is rarely done so.
Tales from the River: Of the Oceanus and its Birdlike Lords
“It wasn’t long ago, no it weren’t, that I had to take a trip to down the Oceanus, and I met a most curious bunch of people… the ardeidal. Following is my little adventure down the river with them; I thought I’d write her down in case anyone’d like to hear… it’s an interesting tale indeed, and the ardeidal are a right curious folk, if you plan on taking a trip on the river you’d best be knowin’ about them.
It all started out when I was in Quietude on Elysium that one day. I needed to get to Arborea… I’m a botanist by trade you see, and I was studying these interesting flowers found on Elysium, but my guild (The Order of the Planar Heartbeat… a group of planar biologists, botanists and chemists) summoned me to Arborea to have a look at a poisoning in one of their high up members. Now, this was all well and good, but there wasn’t a gate to Arborea (the Sensate’s Headquarters to be exact — I never could remember the name of the bloody place) anywhere for hundreds of miles, that is, any gates I knew of.
I sat on the banks of the Oceanus, staring out over its glistening, pure waters thinking that someone might die because I can’t be there, when I saw his raft drifting ashore. There was some powers-awful singing and a banjo to be heard coming from the skiff. Soon, it skidded across the rocks in the shallows, and he stepped off and dragged it into shore. He was an ardeidal, a guardinal that watches over the River Oceanus, especially in Elysium and Bytopia (the eladrin do a good job of it on their own in Arborea). The merriest, most carefree folks around, or so it’s said. As I was saying, he stepped off of the raft and dragged it ashore, and tied the structure to a big rock.
“That oughta do it,” he said, and with a whistle, he walked towards town. Knowing he was an ardeidal, and that the Oceanus does lead to Arborea, I decided to ask him how I’d go about taking her.
“Excuse me cutter, but…” I started.
“Now, now, ‘scuse me,” he began in a heavy accent, “me name’s Rasberry Phillip Phinn, most folks ’round here just call me Ras though,” he gave me a slap on the shoulder , “I never seen you ’round these parts, new to the river?”
Now, I was quite baffled at the site of this ardeidal. At first glance he looked fairly human, except for his extraordinary seven feet in height. But now that he’d gotten close enough to see, his guardinal nature was obvious. He had straggly blond hair under a straw cap, he wore a pair of huge pullovers with suspenders, and no shirt. The hat had previously covered up his long beak, and his not-wearing a shirt showed off the feathers on his arms and legs. His feet ended in the talons of a fishing bird…. not the big slashing feet of an acherai, just clawed bird feet.
“Well, speak up then,” he continued with a grin, “what’s your name frien’?”
“Oh, I’m sorry.. my name’s Emanuel Legis, I’m a botanist, and…”
He grabbed my hand and vigorously shook it with both of his, “Well, I do say I’m pleased to be of ‘quanance, ‘Manual Legis. What brings you to the river?”
“Well, I was just thinking. I need to get to Arborea in five days, but there’s no portals to the spot in Arborea I’m heading to ’round here. I was hoping I can somehow take the river.” I noticed how his friendly manner and dialect had already crept into my vocabulary, and how I said ”round’ rather than ‘around’. I was usually a rather proper person.
“Ahh! Ya’d like to ride the river than? I can take ya, yeppers I can! Just let me run to town for a bite to eat, and I’ll be back in a blink of a eye, you’ll love the river, yessir you shur will!”
And with that flurry of excitement, he ran to the town in an awkward bending of legs and tossing about of arms and feathers shedding in excitement… one could obviously see he was more competent on land simply by the way he waded so fluidly through the water on his docking.
He came back in a good ten minutes, with an old metal bucket with a bottle inside in one hand, and a loaf of bread in the other.
“All ya need on ‘e river is a crust o’ bread to eat your fish with. You can drink the river, and of coarse a bit o’ wine for special ‘casions,” and with a grin, he walked onto the raft, “Hop aboard mate.”
Cautiously, I walked through the reeds on the shore onto his wooden raft, I got aboard, and it rocked quite a bit. Just as I was about to fall in, he reached out an arm and with a grin, added, “Careful, she’s a bit tippy now an’ then”
“Right, thank for the help… I guess it’s obvious I’ve never ridden on the river before ‘eh?” I was rather embarrassed.
“Aww, think nothin’ of it. We’ll ‘ave ya up to speed by time the trip’s over.”
He reached for a long pole that was leaning against the makeshift sail, and pushed off of the shore. The boat seamed lighter all of a sudden, as we rushed into the current. He laughed a bit, and pulled the pole out of the water, it was covered in reeds.
“Nothin’ like the ol’ push off, ‘robably the most fun part of the trip. Looky here now, see these reeds?” I wasn’t paying much attention, I was very wet and not in much of a mood for his babble, but I acted interested.
“Yes, what about?”
“Well now, if ya bite them like so,” he bit into a reed, “they make a nice whistle that the ol’ song sharkies jump for joy when they hear. Watch.” He blew into the reed, which was now riddled with holes, and sure enough, a delphon downstream leapt out of the water. I was amazed, and this ardeidal had my interest again. They really were clever.
“Well, that’s a trick! How’s it work?”
“An in’eresting fact ’bout these weeds. They grow on the backs of Spiraloids, a shellfish that lives in the shallows. It’s a sym’iotic relationship you scientists call ‘er, the Songstems eat the bugs and germs off the shells, and the shells impart their power of control of the ol’ sharkies. Neat ‘eh?”
“Yes, wondrous! Why hasn’t anyone harvested this power before?”
“‘Cause it’s tricky business blowing the ol’ whistle. Give her a try.”
I blew and I blew, but nothing came out of the reed except a bit of water. I sputtered, “Why can’t I do it?”
“Well, if ya live on the River long ‘nough, ya’ll learn these tricks.”
“Right, right. Interesting stuff, that.”
“Just wait frien’, you ‘aven’t seen anythin’ yet.”
I took out my book, and scratched a few things down about the Spiraloid and the Songstems. I thought this’d be interesting stuff for the folks back at the laboratories to chat about.
I suppose I dosed off for a bit then, because when I woke up, Quietude was nowhere to be seen, and the sun was high in the sky, beating warmly down on us. My companion Rasberry Phillip Phinn was fast asleep himself, with a fishing pole in hand, his feet drifting in the water, his back slumped against the mast, and his hat pulled down over his eyes, so all I could see was his beak poking out. I took off my boots, and stepped across the deck, which was now quite hot from the beating sun. I shouted, and Rasberry jumped up out of his trance and looked around anxiously, and then saw me. A grin crossed his face, and he slumped back down.
“Ahh,” he chuckled, “I forgot about you for a sec, I got quite a scare, I thought I’d hooked the Kraken,” a big grin crossed his face, “Come, have a seat over here, and I’ll tell you a story ’bout another frien’ of mine who actually did hook a big fish… the mother of ’em all.”
I tiptoed quickly across the deck, and had a seat right next to him, he was almost two heads taller, even while seated. I dipped my feet into the water, which was moving at a rushing pace even though it felt like we were just crawling along, and looked up at him intently.
“There’re two things in life an ardeidal loves, not countin’ the ol’ river: fishin’, and talkin’. The best is when we all get together, and tell stories about fishin’. Now, one time we was all together, and ol’ Birch Samson (a right old ardeidal, he has me beat by some two hunderd years) tol’ us ’bout the time he hooked Ol’ Dell herself, the mother of all song sharks. Of coarse, he didn’t mean to, Ol’ Dell’s a good fish, like the rest of her kiddies, but anyhow, he ‘ooked her. Would ya like to ‘ear the tale, or jus’ have a look out at the river for a bit?”
I wanted to hear his story, I was becoming more and more intrigued by these ardeidal every moment. “Yes, yes, do tell, I’d love to hear her.”
“Well yippee doo, you’re in for a treat then. Now sit back and relax, and I’ll tell you the greates’ fishin’ tale as can ever be tol’.
“Birch Samson, like I said, is a very old Ardeidal. He’s so old, he’s been around since the river flowed the other way so to speak. Anyhow, Birchy was out fishin’ once, about this time o’ the year, and he fell asleep. He wakes up, and sure enough, all the bait and his hook were gone. He figures it got snagged, so he just strings up a new ‘ook and keeps a fishin’. Sure enough, it happened again… and he saw what it was…. a huge sharkie. An ancient prolly. So, he thinks he’s not supposed to fish for sharkies, cause we’re frien’s with them, but he does anyway. He sticks a Spiraloid on his hook, which was extra big, and happens to be irresistible to sharkies. So, he casts off, and shur enough, its huge dorsal appears on the water’s surface, floppin’ around like, and he’s reelin’ her in. So he gets her close to his boat, and she takes a big ol’ bite outta it! Right outta the stern! It’s startin’ to keel over so he runs to the other side to balance her, still holdin’ his pole with one han’, and the giant sharkie jumps right over his ship, smashin’ his mast off! So, now Birchy hadn’t any idea what to do, but he still isn’t lettin’ go o’ his rod… he gave it another jerk, and the ol’ sharkie he had hooked wheeled around for a third time. Then, he did his famous little pulling spinning reel in (no other ardeidal knows how to do her), and he cuts out one of her teeth, which is huge. It comes back across, now that she’s unhooked, and stops right by his boat, and pushes him to shore with a little grin. She even says to him Ol’ Dell was her name. Now, he claims she’s the legendary Ol’ Dell, mother of Song Sharkies, and that he caught her. Interesting eh?”
“Why yes, quite… is there an actual Ol’ Dell?”
“Why o’ coarse there is! She’s queen of the sharkies, she is! Birch claims he caught her, like I said, but I dunno. Maybe… interesting enough though. I like that story, it shows how we’re frien’s with the sharkies.”
“Right, it does show the camaraderie.”
With that, we trailed off, he went back to his fishing, and I to my drawing.
We continued on down the river, at a steady enough pace, when Ras woke up with a start.
“I’ve got a bite!” he exclaimed, jerking at his fishing pole, pulling in slack, whipping it around, and drawing it quickly back in, like an artist splattering paint about his canvas. He continued reeling and pulling, until with an unceremonious plop his rival landed on the raft.
“A right nice catch! Lookit ‘er, an Oceanid Rainbow, and nice size too! Thing ’bout Rainbows, they’re impossible to catch as they camouflage perfect like with the water on sunny days like this. A rarity, believe you me, she’ll make good eatin’, an’ it’ll be somethin’ to tell the others about, not even Birchy can catch a Rainbow with such ease as that,” he winked with that last statement.
It was a nice fish… and I didn’t know much about the sport. She was about a foot long, and rainbow coloured all over… I’d never seen a fish quite like it.
He suddenly lost interest in his catch and said, “Ya know, we’re rather close to the planar borders… you might wanna hang on to somethin’ if you ne’er travelled by the Oceanus. It might be a crazy ride.”
I didn’t see anything but miles and miles of Elysium ahead, so I started “I don’t see any…”
Suddenly the air grew a deep shade of purple, the colour the sky turns towards the end of sundown, or that early twilight of dawn. Imagine, if you can, all of the sites and sounds of Elysium shredded into zillions of tiny pieces, and then sprayed in your face. I closed my eyes at this, it felt like the entire plane was blowing its very existence at us, and it was passing right through me. I felt almost liquid for a moment, and suddenly, it stopped. I looked about, behind and ahead, but all that was now visible was long, infinite savannas with their scattered trees… we were in the Beastlands now, Krigala to be exact.
The constant, harsh noontide of Krigala was a big change from Elysium’s perfect weather… I’m a Cager, and my eyes are pretty well accustomed to the dim light of Sigil. This powerful sun was almost too much.
“Welcome to the Beastlands,” Ras chuckled, “She is a bit bright, ain’t she?” I noticed that he was taking his pole out of the water for the first time.
“Unnaturally bright. How do you Out-of-Towners stand it?” It was a rhetorical question… his grin and big straw hat answered the question for me.
“It’s a developed skill, a developed skill. I suppose you Sigilers just ain’t used to the sun, ahh well.”
“Yes, it is rather dark up there… it’s easier on the eyes if you ask me.” I have eye trouble, I’m as blind as a bat without my specs… bright light causes bad glares. “Anyhow, didja get sick of fishing?” I wasn’t in the mood to fight with a guardinal while on his boat over whether Sigil had better lighting than the Beastlands or not.
“Ahh, no. Tough thing about the Beastlands is that if you fish, alot of times you might get in trouble. A Warden Beast or even the Fish Lord might get mad…. so we respect them and don’t if it’s for sport. Ardeidal can go quite a while without food ya know… so fishin’ is usually just for the fun of it. Besides, there’s other things to do here that’re just as fun.”
“Like what for example?”
“Well, you for example, could prolly have a very merry time drawin’ pi’tures of those li’nes there…. you don’t fin’ them in Sigil, no sirree.” He pointed out across the plateau, and sure enough, there was a pride of lions out sunning themselves.
“An’ me, well, I love everything ’bout the river, but if we run into any ‘gaters, that’s always exciting.” He gave me that big, carefree grin of his from under the shadow of his hat, “Yessir, ‘gaters’s are crazed sometimes.”
I almost shuddered at the thought of alligators biting at my feet, but I decided to forget about it. I decided to draw those lions, like Ras suggested… and then I fell asleep in the hot, constant sun of Krigala.
I woke with a start, as the raft was lurching a little. Ras was standing with the pole, we were in knee deep water…
“‘Gaters?” My voice cracked a bit.
He laughed, “Hardly, we just ran aground… the water’s a bit low… and an elephan’ just crashed through… I had to do a little detour.”
Sure enough, there were elephant tracks in the grass… I sighed with relief.
“Not too much time left here on the Beastlands, you slep’ through it mostly… but that happens with folks new to the river. We’re gettin’ close to ‘Borea, get your things together, it’s almost time for the last leg of the trip… see the boundary comin’ up there?”
“No, but if you say so…”
With that, our short stay on the Beastlands came to an end, and we lurched into that liquid space between, emerging on Arborea for the last few miles of our trip.
The savannas we rode across for the past few hours disappeared quickly in the rush of space and time that brought us out in the cool breeze and rapids of the Oceanus on Arborea. Rasberry Phillip Phinn worked at his steering rod like the master that he was, we dodged rock after rock, and the raft escaped the crazy rapids it entered Arborea in without any damage at all. Ras paddled us into the calm again. The Mount loomed in the distance, but closer lied the Guilded Hall in its shadow, no more than 20 or 30 miles away… as we drifted closer, another raft pulled into view.
Ras cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled to this other raft, “Hullo!”
The reply was long coming, but the boat slowed up quite a bit. After a few minutes, someone shouted back, “Hullo!”
We drifted closer and closer, until we came to another raft like ours, but one much larger. This was a cargo carrier, or a ship for a big crew. It turned out to be the former, piloted by a bralani (of the eladrin race) with a few coures flying about in it’s vicinity.
“‘Ello, what’s yore name frien’?” said the bralani to the ardeidal.
“I’m Rasberry Phillip Phinn, but most folks call me Ras. This here is ‘Manual Legis… pleasure to meet ya…”
“How rude of me, the name’s Seamus Dunn. So, what brings ya to ‘Borea?”
“Him,” he pointed to me. “He’s gotta get to the Guilded Hall right quick, somebody ate somethin’ sour and ‘Manual here is a doctor and a botanist and has to divine a cure, so I says to him ‘Sure, I’ll be glad to take ya down there’. I figures I can pick up a bottle of spirits while I’m hear too… best wine on the river, here in ‘Borea. So, whatcha got in the crates?”
“Ahh, just a bit of produce. Nothing to exciting, you know.” He lifted the cloth covering off of a huge crate of strawberries, as big and red as I’ve ever seen. “Ya like to come aboard for a bit, we’ll have a bite to eat?”
I grinned hungrily at the idea, and Ras picked up on it, “Sure… I ‘spose your boat runs a bit faster in these waters anyway. Go ahead ‘Manual, climb aboard then.” He more or less picked me up and handed me to this Seamus, and then stepped across himself. He tied his raft up to the back of this bralani’s, and then joined us at the helm. “There, she shouldn’t cause to much drag, and even so, we’ll still get there faster.”
Ras was right… we were ripping through the water. I let my bare feet dangle off the side, and I listened to Ras and Seamus talk while I nibbled on a strawberry bigger than my fist.
“Perfect weather for a ride on the river, eh? I haven’t gone boating in sun like this in ages.”
Ras replied, “Ya, ’tis lovely weather. Matter o’ fact, back on Elysium yesterday, I caught me an Oceanid Rainbow… and you know how tough that is.”
The bralani visibly perked up, “Really? I’ve never seen one before, do you have it with you? It should still be alive if it’s only been a day out of the water, right?”
“Yeppers, she’s sittin’ in a basket full o’ water right now, didn’ want her to die, or the other boys wouldn’ believe me. Want me to go get ‘er?” Ras was beaming with the pride of his catch.
“Yes, sure, I’d love to see her!” Seamus said, and with that, Ras bounded to his boat, grabbed the basket with the fish, and brought it back over. “Oooh, look at her shine… I’ve never seen one before. You couldn’t have been luckier if you caught Old Dell.”
Ras winked at me, “Ya, I was just tellin’ ‘Manual ’bout Ol’ Dell. A frien’ of mine caught her by accident once, I should tell ya ’bout it sometime.”
“Definitely, I’m stopping at the Guilded Hall too… you can tell me there.”
“Right, will do. Hey, these are darn good ‘berries, where’d you pick ’em up from?”
“Most are from the hills on the other side of the Mount, some of ’em are from around Quietude on Elysium. Been there?”
“Why sure, matter o’ fact, that’s where we came from, isn’t that a coincidence. I guess it gives me a good enough reason to go on back then, eh?”
“Oh, definitely. I always liked Quietude… it’s a pity I don’t get there often, you know, duties on Arborea and whatnot. Ahh well, what’s that prime saying, ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’ or some such.”
“Barmy bunch, primes, always saying the darndest things.” Ras laughed after he saying this… something must’ve stuck him as funny.
The two of them went on with such small talk for about an hour, until we docked on the banks of a little tributary of the river outside of the Guilded Hall. I rushed inside, and Ras followed close at my heels.
“You came but a moment to late Master Legis, it seams it was just a bit of food poisoning. A bit of regurgitation, and she’s all better now. Sorry to have bothered you, but I must say, you did get here awfully fast.” This was the news of the situation the clerk in front told me.
“Well,” I said to Ras, “at least it was a fun trip, eh?”
“They call this ‘irony’ up there in Sigil don’t they?” we both had a hearty laugh, and he continued, “Yes, it was a lovely trip. You weren’t in the way much at all… we should do it again sometime, look me up next time you’re in Elysium. ‘Til then, I’m off to Quietude, I just need to pick up some o’ those ‘berries.”
He waved goodbye, and awkwardly did his half run back to Seamus’ boat. After helping him unload (and telling him Birch’s fish story), he cast off down the river, on his way back to Elysium.
Source: Tom Bubul
- Planes of Conflict: Liber Benevolentiae [2e] p6 (summary of Oceanus), 7 (wandering power Stillsong), 12 (water spells enhanced), 13 (Habbakuk), 16-17 (Oceanus on the Beastlands), 47-48, 50 (Oceanus on Elysium), 52 (Asuras’ bridge), 57 (Quietude), 58-59 (Release from Care), 60 (Precipice), 61-63 (Belierin and Rubicon)
- Dragon Magazine #351 [3e] p51 (Oceanus link to Ecstasy)
- Dragon Magazine #353 [3e] p45 (Ben-Hadar)
- Dragon Magazine 357 [3e] #57 (properties of the lakeleaf plant)
- Dungeon Magazine #144 [2e] p70 (Waters of Oceanus item)
- Faction War [2e] p26 (link to Sigil’s Ditch)
- Great Modern March [2e] p42 (modrons using the Oceanus for their march)
- Inner Planes [2e] p51 (gate to Elemental Water)
- In the Cage [2e] p 7 (wells in Sigil connect to Oceanus), 8 (and Sigil’s public baths), 10-11 (diagram of this), 49 (Oceanus cleans out Sigil’s Ditch)
- Manual of the Planes [3e] p77 (connection to Elemental Water), 86 (brief intro to Oceanus), 138-141 (Oceanus in Elysium), 143,146
- On Hallowed Ground [2e] p63 (Sumarian power Nanna-Sin sailing Oceanus)
- Planes of Chaos: Book of Chaos [2e] p7 (course of river), 40 (balaena), 50 (Ossa is the outflow of Oceanus), 107, 116 (Oceanus tentative connection to Gates of the Moon)
- Planes of Chaos: Monstrous Supplement [2e] p4-5 (asrai, water nymphs native to Oceanus)
- Planes of Conflict: Monstrous Supplement [2e] p6 (buraq), 8-9 (delphon)
- Planes of Conflict: Player’s Guide [2e] p4 (short summary), 6 (Oceanus on Kigali), 12 (Oceanus does not touch Bytopia), 20 (Oceanus on Elysium), 23 (Portico)
- Planes of Law: Mount Celestia [2e] p10 (secret route from Silver Sea to Oceanus)
- Planescape Campaign Setting: DM’s Guide [2e] p44 (short summary), 50 (Oceanus on Arborea), 53 (Beastlands), 57 (Elysium)
- Planescape Campaign Setting: Sigil and Beyond [2e] p40 (Glorium)
- Planescape Monstrous Compendium II [2e] p14-15 (balaena stats)
- Planewalker’s Handbook [2e] p12 (the path of the river), 16 (Oceanus in Arborea),21 (Elysium), 42-43 (Oceanus as a path)
- Player’s Primer to the Outlands [2e] p13 (link to Ecstasy)
- Something Wild [2e] p43,45,47,49 (Oceanus locations on Beastlands)
- Uncaged: Faces of Sigil [2e] p15 (Oceanus linked to Sigil’s Singing Fountain), 110 (birthplace of Pristine)
- Well of Worlds [2e] p116-119 (adventure set on Oceanus)