River Styx
River Styx

River Styx

Who do you Trust?

Chant from the Boatsman

Lady’s Grace, cutter, or whatever they say in Sigil these days. They call me “The Boatsman”, on account of my skiff. What do I call me? The same, cutter. I don’t remember me real name.

See, when you ply the Styx like I do, a blood expects to get a mouthful of the fetid water every now and again. Even us kytons are affected by the memory-wiping properties of Styx water, and let me tell you I’ve forgotten my past life more times than I care to remember. Or than I can remember!

A marraenoloth boatman of the River Styx

How do I even know this? Well, I do what many canny explorers of these parts do; I keep detailed diaries of who I am carved into slate, in this pack here. Sure, it’s heavy and weighs down the raft, but paper’s no good…the Styx eats it like acid. So should I get a dunking, I reel in the pack (which I keep tethered to my leg with one of my loose chains) and have a good old read while I recover.

Anyway, you can imagine the hazards involved with travelling the Styx. If you must hire a boatsman (and I hasten to add you really should!) you’ve got two choices: ‘loth, or not’loth. I’d recommend avoiding the marraenoloths like the plague itself, because one false move and they’ll sell you and your families into slavery as soon as spit. Having said that, the alternative ain’t much better…most mortal boatsmen have woefully inferior knowledge of the Styx’s infinite waterways, and far less sailing skill. So who do you trust? Why, what about me, cutter!

Enough of the trumpet blowing, I’m no archon. You want to know how much it’ll cost, how long it’ll take, and how safe it’ll be? The answer to all three is It Depends. First, on the skill of your boatsman; the better they are at their job, the quicker it’ll be to travel the Styx. The better pilots know the shortcuts from the Abyss to Baator missing out the planes in between. That saves days, believe me. And the less river you travel, the less likely you are to be ambushed. Days and lives.

Having said that, though, some unscrupulous pilots’ve been known to lead a basher into an ambush – usually the ones they think have more jink than they’re letting on, or ones who’re rude to the pilot. It’s usually the last that ever seen of ’em too…

Average travel times are two to seven days, though it can take very much longer to wind your way up one of the tributaries. Marraenoloths usually take one to three days, it’s just their personalities make it seem much longer.

The more dangerous a location, the more it’ll cost, naturally. And the more secret a location, the higher the garnish’ll be too. The worst boatsmen will ferry bashers short distances on the Styx from 20 jinx a head. You gets for what you pays for. I charge from 100 gold a person, cutter, anywhere up into the thousands. Some charge more still. And I prefer payment in gemstones, thank you. You have no idea how hard it is to navigate the gorges to Nessus or the rapids of Gehenna laiden down with a sack of coins, my friend.

If you’re needing a guide on the Styx, be sure to ask for me. I’ve never betrayed anyone who didn’t deserve it, and that’s the truth….

Source: Jon Winter-Holt, mimir.net

A tributary of the Styx flowing through a Blood War battlefield

The Three Yugoloths

Being a Lower Planar fable

Once upon a time, on a now lost backwater of the Styx, there were two marraenoloths. One of them had his station due to power, the second due to his father being an ultroloth, the third due to cunning. Three marraenoloths, hey where did that sneaky third one come from?

One day, a party of baatezu came across the river and realised they needed to cross it to get to the Blood War battlefield they’d been sent to. Sensibly, the first baatezu (a barbazu) said to the powerful ‘loth who had conveniently just appeared, “Take me up your river now, and be glad I don’t rip you apart.”

Now, the ‘loth being a proud and strong one, didn’t take kindly to the insult. He spat at the barbazu and hit him with an energy bolt. No sooner was this done than the barbazu and his war party ripped through the ‘loth and smashed up his boat.

The barbazu, now furious, went to the second ‘loth, who had mysteriously just appeared and said, “Take me up your river now, and be glad I don’t rip you apart, like your friend.”

Now, the ‘loth being the ward of an ultroloth, was also proud and decided he wouldn’t take the insult. He said to the barbazu, “Ask me nicely or I won’t take you anywhere. My father is an ultroloth and will crush you.”

No sooner was this said than the barbazu and his war party ripped through the ‘loth and smashed up his boat.

The barbazu then went fuming up to the third ‘loth, wherever he just appeared from, fuming with anger and seeing red, and said, “Take me up your river now, and be glad I don’t rip you apart, like your friends.”

This ‘loth was a cunning one, and said: “As you wish.”

Without another word, he herded the war party into his boat, took their small fee, and from the shore pushed the boat right into a rock. The boat sank, and the baatezu drowned. The ‘loth smiled… he now controlled the river, and had a bit of coin, and without even breaking a sweat.

The moral: Do not count on your muscle, or on your allies, count on your cunning.

Source: Tom Bubul

A tributary of the Styx as it winds through the Gray Waste

Styx Flood Gates

Chant by Ja’arak, male githzerai psionicist and Indep sellsword

My mates and I were finishing up a job in Gehenna, and we had to meet a prospective client in Pandemonium, so we decided to try our luck on the Styx. Now, we didn’t have a lot of jink for a marraenoloth, but Tyrus, our warrior, had brought along a folding boat (I swear, that’s what he says it’s called!), and between my psionics and our mage Alana’s spells, we thought we could handle it. So, we hopped in and sailed off.

Now, after about a couple of hours, the Styx got real shallow, and we had to push our way forward with whatever we had – spears, staff, what have you – so as not to touch the water, but the boat was to heavy with us all in there, and we got stuck in the muck. I quickly scanned the surroundings, and it looked like we were on the Gray Wastes, where the Styx is supposed to flow in full force. Alana was preparing a water spell that would hopefully get us unstuck, when all of a sudden we hear this great rumbling from behind.

I turned to look, and, I don’t mind telling you, I nearly messed my sodding trousers at what I saw. This huge torrent of Styx-water was coming towards us. I quickly positioned the boat telekinetically so as we wouldn’t get submerged, and before I knew what was happening, we were moving again fast. I managed to anchor myself to boat and keep Alana from falling in, but Tyrus took a plunge before I could grab him. I tried mind-lifting him out, but I couldn’t see him through the fetid water. Just then, this skiff sails by with what looks like a small platoon of baatezu, and I swear, the marraenoloth boatman grinned evilly at me and seemed to say, “It’s new, cutter what do you think?” The skiff then quickly disappeared over the horizon. We then eventually got to Pandemonium without further incident.

Now, my theory on the whole thing is this: I think the yugoloths have installed flood gates at various points on the Styx so they can control who sails on it. Maybe they heard that rumour about the other fiends not be able to teleport anymore and decided to capitalise on it. If my theory is correct, the ‘loths will have an even tighter grip on the baatezu and tanar’ri.

Source: Matt Maybray

A New Abyssal Lord

Chant from Rathinayr Crovaxius, Tiefling Shadowmancer-Priest of Mask

Off in the shadows, within a booth of isolation there sits a man everyone seems to stray away from. Upon further inspection all that is left are eyes of deep abyssaline pitch, glimmering darker than the shadows surrounding him. You approach closer, knowing this be the man you were sent to find, and sit down he begins to speak. Ethereal soft tones escape his lips before just some of his hawkish features come into view, and you know immediately that he is a tiefling.

“You got the jink?” his voice rasps out, a gloved hand stretched out as you offer several gold coins. “That’s good berk… you know how things work in the Cage. So you came to here what ol’ Rath knows about the River Styx huh? Fine enough, but I hope you are not the one going down there, or else you will just end up in the dead book like man of the other berks.”

He pauses for but a moment then continues, “Well it was a few weeks back, and I was there looking for this plant, growing on the banks of the river Styx deep within the Abyss… about the 457th, or was that the 58th… then again it could have been the 777th for all I know. So I was looking upon the foliage for the Shadowroot, a nice plant for a component on this spell I was working on, but you needn’t know about that. Well the narrow valley I was in opened up into a large chasm, almost like if the top of Mount Celestia was dug out from the black scorched land. A large citadel surrounded by a few waterfalls of the brackish water of the Styx was shown there surrounded by a modest berg.

“Well without warning I was assaulted by fiends I could not even see and brought down into the burg. Escaping my captors I found a place to hide for some jink, well after conversing with an addle-coved fighter, trapped in the same predicament as I. Well he told me that this plane was ruled by a supposed solar fallen from the Seven Heavens… what screed that must be… going by the name of Xanado Deathbringer, or something like that, and the place he reigned was known as Bonethorne Keep with the surrounding berg of Bludswraith. Well I didn’t believe the barmy for a second until I saw this figure flying high in the sky. His form was like a solar, but surely a solar would not be this far down in the Abyss would he? I must be going as barmy as the fighter but….”, he trails off, his hand expectant, you produce more coins, he nods his satisfaction. He tucks away the jink before pulling out a feather carved from bone.

“This fell from the flying being… so the stories must be true… so a new Abyssal Lord is on the block near the River Styx… and some even say this boy can control the river like you or I can open a door. This be flam or not but I know the high ups within the Lower Planes and Higher Planes are watching their backs. For if someone can control it then who is to say he can not put a stop to the river all together?”

Source: Chet Reeder

Ilsensine, god of the mind flayers

Ilsensine and the Styx

Ilsensine, mind devouring god of illithids, and River Styx connection revealed!

The strange thing about the planes is that the more exceptions there are, the more the rules seem to reinforced; and the stronger the rules get, the more numerous their exceptions. So, where’s this ring going to take an intrepid planewalker? To the realm of Ilsensine, of course.

That’ll give most berks the pause. Ilsensine? Why Ilsensine? First of all, Ilsensine is the main deity worshipped by the mind flayers – who’re also called the illithid. This being is the embodiment of mind-flaying, of sucking out all the thoughts in a basher’s head and leaving him a mindless husk to wander around his realm like a zombie.  Where beliefs and thoughts are the things that matter most on the planes, the greatest threat in existence would have to be their utter obliteration.  Well, actually, Ilsensine doesn’t obliterate them per se, rather it absorbs them. Either way, it doesn’t do the sod getting mind-flayed much good to understand the semantics, after all, he’s on the wrong end of the pike regardless.

Now, connections on the planes are made by… belief (you guessed it!). It goes without saying that this is true. Groups of like-thinkers band into factions, Powers form alliances based on common ground (or so it’s said), burgs cluster to planes of similar alignment, and the flow of the River Styx follows certain beliefs like a moth to a flame.

Think about it, why doesn’t the Styx flow through the Upper Planes? Cause it’s whole purpose is to drain a sod’s memories, not inherently a good thing, least by most cutters’ interpretation. Thus, the Styx flows into places of evil. Hey, now, isn’t Ilsensine a Power of evil? What’s it doing in the Outlands? Well, that’s just another one of those planar conundrums that’ll get a body so twisted she won’t remember who she is anymore. Hey, it could be Ilsensine meant to do this…

But doesn’t it make perfect planar sense that the Styx would flow into Ilsensine’s realm, Caverns of Thought?  Ilsensine is an evil Power of mind-flaying, and the Styx is a foul river of memory stealing. Both are sides of the same coin, if not the same side entirely. Chances are, the Styx enters the realm through an interplanar portal from one of the nearby Lower Planes (eg. Pandemonium), and exists through a different one.

Course, none of this can be proven. Not many adventuring companies are too keen on sending their best bloods to go investigate Ilsensine in its home realm. Besides, Ilsensine keeps its secrets gripped tightly in its tentacles, so a body’d have to be tough enough to resist his mind-draining influence until he could find the River; there are few bloods with that strength of will. It may never be proven, but remember one thing:  If you believe, it may be true.        

Think on this, though. There’s dark chant drifting round that the Styx never used to drain a berk’s memory, and it was about the same time that Ilsensine appeared that it did. Some cutters have put two and two together and reckon that the illithid-god dips its tentacles in the River, and its him that sucks all the memories from your head should you take a gulp. Anyway, that’s just one theory… do with it what you will…

Source: Aaron Infante-Lecy & Jon Winter-Holt

Bittersweet Memories

Ash Bloodvult (planar tiefling [he/him] / Bleak Cabal) lanns this chant

You want to know something about the Styx? Okay, I’ll tell you something about the Styx. But I gotta warn you I heard this bit of chant from one of the barmies when I was putting in time at the Gatehouse. See, this poor sod couldn’t seem to remember his name, his kip, or anything else for that matter. Just this theory of his, and that he kept babbling over and over again. Like if he hangs onto it, it’ll make everything okay. I’ve seen them do that when they’re just tumbling to the pointlessness of the multiverse. Damn painful to watch. Anyway, just a warning: This may be a big jink-drawing dark, or it may just be some addle-cove’s screed.

Okay, you’ve heard of “thought objects”? Right, neither had I. I had to ask this spell slinger friend of mine about them. Basically, he says they’re the memories of folk what got put in the dead book, that break off while their spirits float through the Astral on the way to petitioner-hood.

That’s why petitioners don’t remember anything about their life, I guess. Supposedly, these thought objects just float around in the Astral and no one can find them unless they know how to look and have some pretty specialised equipment for nabbing them.

What’s all this got to do with the Styx? Stop flapping your bone box, I’m getting to that. You want chant or babble? That’s what I thought, now stop rattling and let me finish. Most folks know that if you get dunked in the Styx, you lose all your memories, right? Well, this poor sod I heard it from apparently knew the “thought object” chant and put two and two together, so to speak. So he came up with this theory. Seems it’s his take that the River Styx captures “thought objects” from folk by contact, just like the Astral saps them away from folks what got lost. More to the point, he thinks that if a basher can somehow get to the bottom (if there is one) of the river without loosing herself, she could make one mountain of jink off capturing these things.

From what I could tell, the sodding berk tried it himself. Did it work? Well, a group of kind-hearted ‘walkers found him lying on the riverbank covered in slime, rattling on just like when they dropped him off with us. Maybe he did get hold of a “thought object.” Maybe it was his own theory. Maybe that’s just all that’s left of his mind after a dip in the Styx. Me, I wouldn’t go Styx-diving if there was a pile of jink as tall as the Spire down there. But if you really want to mess with this, go find some solid chant on these “thought objects.”

Now, since that’s all I know about that, I’ll be taking that jink you forked over and go rediscover the “meaning of life” in the bottom of a tankard or seven of bad ale: Cheap, empty, blurry, and cracked. Kind of like that poor sod’s head.

Source: Kathryn Wallace

Peace of Mind

Being a business in the Cage with links to the Styx

Izitri Adimov (planar bariaur [he/him] / class unknown / Bleak Cabal / N) has founded a new service to soothe the troubled mind. Working with the Bleakers he deals with lots of troubled minds, many of them barmy from their experiences on the planes. To help them Izitri founded a small store he calls “Peace of Mind” whose motto is ignorance is bliss. You see, Izitri sell bottled Styx water. Anyone who drinks it forgets their whole life. You may ask “What kind of addle-coved berk would want to do that?” but many who have been tortured by tanar’ri for years at a time or lost in Pandemonium and unable to have a grasp on sanity as long as their mind is affected by their experiences actually welcome the release. That is until after they pay him and they seek to rediscover who they once were.

Source: Joshua Jarvis

Most Useful Canonical Sources:

  • Dead Gods [2e] p85-87 (restoring memories lost to Styx), 8-9,65-66,70,75-76,115 (adventure visits or mentions Styx)
  • Dragon Magazine #300 [3e] p33-36 (Stats for Styx Dragon aka Shadowdrake, Death Drake, Darkwyrm)
  • Dragon Magazine #358 [3e] p64-69 (article on tips and tricks to survive the Styx; essential reading for any planewalker! Also includes a map of the Styx)
  • Fiendish Codex 1 [3e] p111 (useful River Styx info), 114 (Styx in Pazunia), 130-131 (Styx in Thanatos)
  • Fiendish Codex 2 [3e] p7-8, 35, 39 (Styx in Avernus), 34 (map of Baator layers), 54-56, 59 (Styx in Stygia), 75 (Styx in Nessus), 112 (amnizu Styx guardians) 139 (xerfilstyx baatezu)
  • Fires of Dis [2e] 25-26 (dangers of falling in), 28,30 (general mentions)     
  • Hellbound: the Dark of the War [2e] p10,14 (Styx history), 21 (Styx in defence of Baator), 23 (wastrilith), 35-37 (fiends using Styx for Blood War), 56-58 (battlegrounds on the Styx)
  • Manual of the Planes [3e] p86 (travelling the Styx), 97-98 (Styx in Pandemonium), 101 (Abyss), 104-105 (Carceri), 108 (Gray Waste),111, 113 (Gehenna), 115-116,121 (Baator), 124,126 (Acheron)
  • Planewalker’s Handbook [2e] p12,18,21,42-43 (how planar paths work),48,82, 126 (winged memory spell), 128 (touch of the Styx spell)

Other Useful Sources:

  • Forgotten Realms wiki (a great resource summarising the path of the Styx – info not duplicated here – and has the map from Dragon 358)

Other Canonical Source Background Reading:

  • Dragon Magazine #113 [2e] p11 (Entrance to Erebus from the Styx)
  • Faces of Evil [2e] p46 (wastrilith and the Styx) 69-70 (yugoloths and the Styx), 88 (shadow drake, Styx Dragon)
  • Dungeon #060 [2e] p42-43 (short portion of adventure Nemesis on the Styx and Krikon the marraenoloth)
  • Dungeon #148 [3e] p54,56,78 (short portion of adventure Savage Tide: Wells of Darkness on the Styx)
  • Dungeon #149 [3e] p41-44,52,58,67,75,83-85,95 (multiple portions of adventure Savage Tide: Enemies of my Enemy on the Styx)
  • Fiend Folio [3e] p59-61 (stats for xerfilstyx baatezu, protectors of the River Styx)
  • Great Modron March [2e] p101 (short portion of adventure near Styx)
  • Hellbound: Wargames [2e] p5,10 19,23,39-40,57,90,91,92-96 (adventuring on the Styx and the Sediment of Thought item)
  • In the Cage [2e] p11 (portal to Styx from Black Sail Tavern), 
  • Planescape Monstrous Compendium 1 [2e] p19 (amnizu), 112 (tieflings) 122 (hydroloth)
  • Planescape Monstrous Compendium 2 [2e] p92-93 (shadow drake, Styx dragon)
  • Monster Manual II [3e] p202-203 (hydroloth)
  • On Hallowed Ground [2e] p123 (realm of Hades)
  • Planes of Chaos: Book of Chaos [2e] – 7,14,22,24,29-30 (Styx in Thanatos), 83-84 (Styx in Pandesmos)
  • Planes of Law: Acheron [2e] p4 (Styx in Acheron)
  • Planes of Law: Baator [2e] p5-6 (Styx in Baator),14 (Avernus), 20 (Stygia), 22 (Styx powerless in Sheyruushk), 28-29 (adventure with memory-restoring flower)
  • Planes of Law: Player’s Guide [2e] p12 (styx in Wreychtmirk)
  • Planes of Conflict: Adventures in Conflict [2e] p5,31 (9,32)
  • Planes of Conflict: Liber Malevolente [2e] p5,8-9 (Styx in Carceri),14,26-27 (Styx in Gehenna),30 (marraenoloths), 33 (Teardrop Palace),44-46 (Styx in Gray Waste), 62 (Hades).
  • Planes of Conflict: Player’s Guide [2e] p4 (overview), 26 (Fo Ling Po)
  • Planescape Campaign Setting: DM’s Guide [2e] p43-45 (Styx intro),52,56,58 (mentions in lower planar entries)
  • Planescape Campaign Setting:Monstrous Supplement [2e] p31 (marraenoloth stats)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *