Again in Pizarro’s office Sioned is informed that he has another job for them. He apologizes that it took a few days for him to get it ready, but that he was waiting for the right ship-captain to pull into Tradegate’s port. He says an independent agent, the nephew of the PTC factor in the City of Brass has gone missing, one Karik Thorshammer. Karik was carrying a very sensitive letter that he’d rather not have fall into the wrong hands. He needs Sioned to go to Decktown, the last place Karik was seen. There she’ll need to find him, if he’s still alive, or at least find out what happened to him, and AT ALL COSTS retrieve that letter. It is critical that it not fall into the wrong hands, whose hands those would be he does not specify.
Sioned gets a description of Karik, a foppish fire-genasi. She also is given a map of the Riverweb, the place where Decktown is, and is told that captain Jin Kravikian will take her out of Tradegate. Pizarro says that Jin will deliver Sioned and a small sailing skiff to a mouth of the River Styx where she will meet a Ferryman who will take her and her men the rest of the way to the Riverweb. Jin pulls out as soon as the party is ready and sets sail, coasting around the northern coastline of The Land. After two days he heads to sea and catches a current of the Celestial Sea.
The current leads them to a gray and wasted land. Jin calls the land Oinos. The land is gray, the sky is leaden-gray, even the plants lining the nearby river-mouth are gray. In the distance can be heard the cries of battle, and over all lies the stench of rotting, diseased, flesh. Jin and some men tow the skiff to shore and await the Ferryman near the river. Jin warns everyone that they must not touch the River Styx, for it will steal their memories, and gods-forbid they should fall in or ingest some of it’s water for then they would be lost beyond any recovering.
As a thick fog rolls down the river, obscuring everything in sight, a low barge appears coming near shore from the mists. Aboard is a gaunt figure in black, it’s hands are skeletal, and beneath it’s hood can be seen a skull with red flames burning in it’s eye-sockets. The Ferryman Charyx has arrived.
Negotiating with Charyx Jin settles on a price for passage, four coins for each passenger. He counts out one copper, one silver, one gold, and one platinum coin for each of the three passengers; “The Girl”, “The Dead Man”, and “The Changeling,” as Charyx refers to them in a dead and dusty voice.
Holding a painter attached to the skiff the three board the barge, and Charyx poles it out into the river. For some hours they pole up the sluggish river. They pass by the Field of Nettles, a great battlefield covered in mounds of dead and rotting bodies, the bodies of demons and Baatezu that is. And once, between the mists, they glimpse a massive tower in the distance, a tower in the shape of a spinal column reaching into the sky. They see Charyx bow towards it, but no one hears him whisper “Honor to the Oinoloth, Master of Khin Oin.”
Finally the mists clear and they see they have come into a new world. A world of floating earthburgs, rivers of fire, smashing boulders of water, and a restless soup of mixed elements. In short, they behold The Plane Below, the elemental plane of chaos. The Styx flows through mid-air here, and merges with another river that flows onwards into a tangled web of rivers and streams. Here Charyx debarks them, Rook and Sioned have no problem crossing into their skiff from the barge. Sim nearly falls in as he overbalances and the Styx splashes up around the boat, a drop lands on his arm. He quickly brushes it off with a mage-hand, and nearly misses it as the droplet tries to dodge towards his hand, almost as if it was hungry to touch him.
Setting sail while Sioned paddles to keep place in the Styx, a nerve-wracking affair as the paddles raise far more splashing than they should and each splash seems eager (or hungry) to fly through the air towards the boat, the trio finally pull out of the Styx and onto a safer river. Using the strong winds in the area they swiftly pass over various rivers. But in the end fail to navigate the map correctly and find themselves across a 500 foot gap from The River’s Fangs, the place where Decktown is built.
Recalling tales of previous visitors to Chaos who spoke of shaping it Sim sets out to build a bridge of water between the river they are on and the River’s Fangs. It is slow going, and the chaos in the area is strong, requiring Sioned and Rook to work hard on stabilizing the water-bridge. To make things worse, halfway across a trio of Gnaw Demons fly up to attack the skiff. Though they knock Sioned unconscious briefly, leaving her bleeding body on the floor of the skiff, in the end they are driven off and the group makes it across the water-bridge to the River’s Fangs.
Approaching Decktown they look it over to see what they’re getting into. Decktown is build in and about a number of rocks jutting up from the river, some small, some massively huge. Between many of them are the wrecks of ships that failed to navigate the River’s Fangs successfully. Build atop those wrecks, on the rocks, and on floating platforms, are the buildings of Decktown.
Asking around for Karik they eventually find themselves in the Wrecked Wheel, a local tavern, questioning Silura. Silura is middle-aged gnomish woman who runs Decktown and knows a lot about who comes and goes. After some minor bribes are passed over she says that she recalls seeing Karik doing some business with Black Roj a week or so ago, and that no one has seen him since. The party then goes seeking Black Roj, an elven captain who pulls into Decktown regularly. They hear he frequents the Triple Sixes, a local gambling den.
Showing enough gold to get by the bouncer, the party spends an hour or so playing cards at the Triple Sixes, losing a trivial amount of gold. When they see Roj come in, accompanied by a dwarf, a halfing, and a half-orc, Sioned goes to join his table. Negotiations proceed over poker hands, which neither Roj nor Sioned do very well at, both losing money to a grotesquely obese human with a trio of thick-necks behind him and a pair of molls draped off him.
The negotations themselves go better. After playing for a bit, and hearing Black Roj talking about “ducks” in a manner which indicates he really means ships that he attacks and takes by force they figure him for a pirate, later inquiries will reveal he’s a member of the River Spiders. Initially tentative, the party soon turns the conversation to Karik. Roj allows as he knows something, but he wants payment for it, and he doesn’t accept gold. He says he’s most interested in “ducks”, and claims to be a afficianado of water-fowl. Sim recalls hearing of a planar dromond leaving Tradegate sometime ago that was bound for the City of Brass via Decktown, a dromond owned by a competing trader house, House Lyrian. Sim promptly sells out House Lyrian, telling Roj about a “duck that was flying south for the winter, and should be somewhere between here and the City of Brass soon.” In return Roj says that they want Charmian, “I last heard he was going to meet her for unspecified business.” Asked for a location he says they can find Charmian at her house, and he tells them where that is.
Approaching the edge of Decktown they find themselves turned away from the front door of the house they were told of. Diving into the water Rook swims around the rock the house is on to discover that there is a small floating dock with a rope-bridge leading up to a back door. Listening at it he hears voices arguing within, apparently someone thinks they should have just killed the people at the front door and should at least send a runner to inform Charmian about it. The party then sails their skiff around Decktown and up to the floating dock, Rook picks the lock, and opening the door quietly they gain surprise on their unsuspecting foes!
The fight is brutal. A gnoll pledged to die in Yeenoghu’s name, a half-orc skirmisher, and a knot of goblins defend Charmian’s safe-house. The gnoll does brutal damage to Rook, and then held up by Yeenoghu’s demonic powers refuses to die until he smites Rook again! Meanwhile the half-orc, after brutalizing Sioned with a vicious hit from his battle-axe charges Sim and with a massive pair of blows leaves him bleeding to death on the dock outside. Rook and Sioned just barely manage to kill the half-orc and get to Sim before he dies from blood-loss. (two failed death saves!!! Yay ME!!!!!)
Quickly searching the house while Rook watches the back and Sim watches the front Sioned finds Karik. He’s unconscious, and is dying of a fever from gangrene setting into his hand after Charmian chopped off a few fingers to send to his father in the City of Brass along with a ransom demand. She also finds the letter, opened, and a small stock of gold (200 pieces) and a magic suit of chainmail, Healer’s Armor +1. Before she can continue searching, but after pocketing a number of Charmian’s papers, the party is forced to flee as a force of gnolls and goblins charge towards the front door. Hiding in the bottom of their skiff only Sim reveals himself at the tiller as they pull away from the dock. He is not in his own shape, having taken the form of the half-orc who was in the safe-house after pushing it’s body into the river and seeing it vanish downstream.
Now desperate for a route out of Decktown and back to Tradegate Sioned sends Sim out to find one while she and Rook hide, with the unconscious and dying Karik. Sim takes the form of a generic half-elf and returns to the Broken Wheel to speak with Silura. Silura informs him, for the price of some drinks (and a good Diplomacy roll) that she knows of two easy ways there at the moment. She says there’s a planar dromond out of Tradegate that is docked at Decktown at the moment, and that after it travels to the City of Brass it should be returning to it’s home-port. Thinking of “ducks” Sim declines that route, and says he needs something quicker. “Then you’ll need to go bargain with Charmian,” Silura says. “She knows many gates, and though she charges a pretty platinum or six for those gates she’s likely to know one you could use to get to The Outlands.”
Keeping his half-elven face on Sim goes to Charmian’s house. He gets by the half-orc gate guards by saying he’s willing to pay Charmian’s price if she’ll do business with him, though the guard warns him that if he cheats her she’ll take her payment in a pound of flesh.
In the house he meets with Charmian, a hard-bitten female half-orc surrounded by followers as she does business. She agrees to deal with him, and he successfully keeps his poker-face on thus not raising her suspicions. For the price of 4 platinum she offers him a gate not far up the Riverweb that leads to a ruins just a few days up the Elbruin river from Tradegate. She warns him the gate-key is not cheap, a 50 gp blue agate, and also warns him that this portal while not a deep secret is one she doesn’t want spread around. She warns Sim that if he reveals it she’ll have him and all his friends hunted down and killed, and that she has diviner’s more than capable of finding him across the planes. (On later hearing this Sioned and Rook wish her luck in taking on Akalabeth, and smirk at the predicted results.)
Finally returning to Tradegate Pizarro thanks them and hands Karik off to the priest of Dianchect, Jerek, for healing. He inquires as to the gate Charmian sold them, but when told of her threats agrees to not press the issue, he has no desire to endanger a valuable resource like Sim or his companions. He does express his gratitude for their help by offering Sim a pair of magic boots, and promises that in a few days he hopes to have another mission for them all. Thus dismissed the three return to the House of Duncam, where they’ve been lodging, and spend a few days resting and recuperating from their journey.
Thus endeth the story.