The Dustmen Faction Symbol
'Course, no Dustman would make such a claim himself. That'd resemble bragging, which a body might take as a sign of emotion. The Dead, known for their stoicism, can seem a boring lot. They seldom talk about anytbing except death, so they never bother to discuss the "birth" of their faction. It's not even fun to call one a "berk," because he won't bristle, won't take offense. A cutter gets depressed just thinking of this lot.
It's odd - the Dustmen never seem to get depressed themselves, at least most of 'em don't. While a body'd never call them "happy," the Dead appear kind of satisfied with things. Never cheery or sad, never angry or joyous, they exist in a weird equilibrium.
And that's the way it's always been, at least as far as scholars can tell from books about the faction's history. No one can recall when the Dustmen weren't around - though maybe the powers could, if a body'd care to ask 'em. The Dead have always gotten along pretty well with other folks and most other factions. It's hard for someone so boring to offend.
But it can happen, as it did some years ago, when Sensate high-up Karilla Mavasil wanted to taste death, the "ultimate experience." She went to the Mercykillers, who helped her along - but then the Dead wouldn't give her back. The whole thing would have started a war if the Dustmen had actually cared when the Sensates stole Karilla's body out of the Mortuary, the Dead's Sigil headquarters. 'Course, they might've said something if they'd known the Society planned to resurrect her. (Dustmen don't support intentional regression.) Instead, they quietly shook their heads, sighing. And Karilla eventually joined them anyway.
Most factions besides the Sensates ignore the Dustmen, as the Dead make few waves. (Lately, though, they seem interested in creating problems for the Godsmen in the Hall of Speakers.) A few factions even admire the morbid viewpoint of the Dead. The Bleakers and the Doomguard both like the Dustmen, for varied reasons. Members of the Doomguard also view death (though of a different sort) as the goal of the multiverse. The Bleakers well, they like the hopelessness of the Dead's cause.
The Dustmen can't claim to like any other factions, nor do they really dislike any. 'Course, names are more likely to have these emotions than high-ups. Still, even high-ranking faction members have been known to feel mild pity or amusement at the meaningless aclivities of other factions. If they could dislike other factions, their top choices would include the Sensates, Godsmen, and Signers, all of whom value the two great falsehoods of self and life. The Fated, Harmonium, and Anarchists also fail to find favor among the Dead, because they want too much, work too bard, and feel too strongly. Mercykillers prove less welcome as allies than a basher'd think: While they support death, they fail to acknowledge that they're already dead where they stand. Highup Dustmen disdain the Mercykillers' passion for justice and their penchant for speeding up the natural death process.
The Guvners, Indeps, and Ciphers all show potential, say the Dustmen, because they value learning. Eventually, they'll discover the truth and admit they're Dead too. The Athar and the Xaositects do tend toward hopelessness and grim attitudes but remain a bit too entused about their viewpoints for most Dustmenís comfort. If the Dead wanted to admire anyone, they'd pick the Bleakers and the Doomguard - the three factions form a neat little triad of fatality.
Don't go expecting lots of new plans for the future to crop up at the Mortuary. Change amoung the Dead happens only slowly. They retain their stability because they've looked to one leader for so long, and also due to their noncombative philosophy. As the saying goes, the sure things are death and taxes; while the Fated collect the latter, only the Dustmen have the dark on the former. Everybody either will die or can die, so everyone is a potential faction member.
Factol SkallVery little is known of the Dustmen factol. Skall usually spends most of the time at the faction's headquarters on the Negative Energy Plane. He almost never attends faction meetings in person - he seldom visits Sigil at all. Instead he uses an advanced form of project image that allows his image to cross planar boundaries. When Skall projects himself, and when he travels in person, he cloaks himself in illusion - usually several illusions, topped off with disguises generated by spells like alter self or polymorph self to fool those who can see through illusions.
Most Dustmen know Skall's walking the road to becoming one of the True Dead, but that he stays around out of a sense of duty. He feels compelled to enlighten as many berks as possible about the way of death, so they eventually might reach True Death. Meanwhile, he keeps striving to know everything but feel nothing. Those who harm or offend the factol tend to disappear - sometimes right away, sometimes a year or more after the fact. Did Skall arrange their advancement to the next stage of death, or was it simply their time? And who can predict whatíll offend a being virtually without emotion?
The Mortuary sits between Blackshade Lane and Ragpickers Square in a dismal part of the Hive. The whole area immediately around it feels somber and shadowy: perfect for the colorless Dustmen. The foreboding structure resembles a low, menacing dome, with cluster of windowless vaults jumbled around it. Spiky black buttresses radiate from its center. Though nearly 250 Dustmen can live there in reasonable comfort, the Mortuary normally houses only 50 to 200, making it one of the most sparsely populated faction headquarters offering housing at all. Many areas stand empty for hours at a time; however, the faction offices in a tower remain very busy during the day, and the sleeping Dead fill the dormitories at night.
The Mortuary holds quite a few portals - an important feature, since the Dustmen prepare corpses (through mummification, embalming, etc.) and dispatch them to cemeteries on other planes or send them to the Elemental Plane of Fire for cremation. Without the Dead, there'd be no room for the living in Sigil!
Bashers approaching the Mortuary for a funeral first spy an open-air monument or public memorial. For a fee, the Dustmen'll add the names of lost cutters to this Roll of the Dead. Folks have been filling the memorial with tiny carved names for centuries.
Passing through the front gate and climbing the main steps leads visitors to the Great Hall. Important guests or funeral parties are received here. (The bodies themselves are delivered through the lesser gate at the back of the building.) This spotless hall's reserved for ceremonial use only. Five Dustmen stand guard here all day (only two at night] and also act as guides for any visitors with business elsewhere in the building.
A basher won't get far without noticing the hordes of undead roaming the Mortuary. Free-willed undead such as wights, wraiths, and more powerful specimens usually avoid public areas. Lesser undead like skeletons and zombies serve the faction as laborers. Blame them for the antiseptic smell of the place - seems the Dead like things surprisingly clean. Yet no amount of scrubbing can remove the dusty smell age has lent the Mortuary, nor its underlying odor of decay.
Funeral groups pass from the Great Hall through a central chamber (reserved for Dustman gatherings) to view the departed in Memorial Hall or an antechamber. The party then moves into one of the half-dozen or so interment chambers ringing the perimeter of the main floor. A chill rises from the black flagstones of these dim, quiet rooms. Portals here lead to prominent prime worlds and to sites in the neutral Outer Planes: Arcadia, Mechanus Acheron, Limbo, Ysgard, and Pandemonium.
In addition to the guards in the Great Hall, six Dust men stand duty in a guard room near a Dustmen-only area on the main floor. A records room here stores information on interments and faction membership. It opens onto a library, whose hundreds of hooks and scrolls concern undead, philosophies of death, burial praciices, lists of grave sites, and necromantic magic. At the far end of the Mortuary (also accessible only to faction members) lie the kitchen, refectory, a common room, and Dusman dormitories. Right up stairs are more dormitories and common rooms.
The Dead perform most of their work in the central portion of the upper floor. In one room they receive, inventory, and sort corpses before sending them to the adjacent embalmer's chamber. Also nearby are two chambers where the Dead prepare bodies for burial. (One contains a portal from the Prison; the efficient Mercykillers send dead prisoners straight to the Mortuary.) Several special interment chambers on this level hold portals to the Upper and Lower Planes.
In one wing lies a council chamber, where the factors secretary conducts meetings. Dark paneling covers its walls, interrupted by a massive copper Dustman symbol.
Also in this wing waits the faction armory, which can equip some 100 Dead. (The faction can also equip members from its main armories in the Mortuary's catacombs, heavily guarded by undead. From there, a body can wander clear to the necropoli and crypts the Dead maintain beneath the Cage. The Mortuary's catacomhs also are said to hide countless portals, especially to the realms of the powers of death.)
Adjoining the armory is Secretary Trevant's office. This lavishly appointed chamber brings to mind a coffin - its polished wood is accented by brass fixtures and soft fabric drapes. During the day, Komosahl Trevant - Skall's appointment secretary and second-in-command - works here with two high-level bodyguards. Trevant handles daily business and Sigil matters, allowing Skall time for long-range planning and factol meetings.
Next to Trevantís office sits the factol's office. A desk dominates the room: a block of what looks like marble, with red veins running thrnugh it. They seem to pulse, as if blood were pumping through them. Shelves lining the walls hold rare art, potions, and scrolls, and conceal secret safes that hide rare treasures. Factol Skall spends much of the rest of his hours at the Dustmen's citadel on the Negative Energy Plane; a portal leads there from the eastern closet here. While the factol's absent, six ju-ju zombies guard the room. At night, after Trevant leaves, symbols of fear guard all the office's entrances. However, just because the secretary's gone, the room's dark, and the zombies are present, don't assume Skall's not here.
The top level of the Mortuary, the Overvault, features a huge chamber just beneath the structure's dome. From the narrow galleries along its perimeter, portals lead to the Elemental Planes. The factol's austere quarters on this level hold some of his personal goods. The room seems impervious to unwanted visitors, with its wizard locked door graced with a symbol of fear, its windows barred by walls of farce and warded with symbols of hopelessness, and its walls and floors constructed with special mortar to prevent the passage of phased or ethereal creatures. Further, the factolís glabrezu familiar usually stays in Skall's quarters.
A laboratory across the Overvault is reserved for Dead wizards. The Dustmen store normal alchemical equipment here, as well as spell components and potion ingredients. Curious bashers also will find a few wizards and a handful of ju-ju zonibie guards in the lab. A glowing doorway graces one stone wall of an Overvault guard room: a permanent portal to the Outlands town of Xaos. (On occasion, the Dustmen use this portal to smuggle people out of the city at the behest of the factol.) Six Dead on guard here make sure only faction members use the portal. Priests of the Dead visit a shrine next to this guard chamber for their devotions to gods of death and related subjects. An altar of black stone stands in the shrine's center, purple and black tapestries decorate the walls, and braziers smolder in the comers. Priests conduct rites regularly, day and night. The High Priestess of the Dustmen, Oridi Malefin, lingers here when not busy with various interments.
Dustmen consider graveyards, catacombs, and mausoleums places of refuge. The Dead enter such sites without fear of their undead guardians, who will attack any pursuers. Many faction members gather at taverns like the White Casket in the Lower Ward and the Speckled Rat, where they sign "the Contract" with sods desperate for jink: The Duskman pays a gold or two for ownership of the poor Cager's body - after the sod dies, of course.
Within the Ranks
What's a body to do among the Dead? Depends on a few things, like race, profession, and ethical inclination. Yet despite the differences among the faction's various alignments, classes, and races, Dustmen hang together. They all respect death and seek knowledge. Disputes in the faction seldom last long - 'cept for one.
See, some Dustmen hope for a return to Life. These so-called Hopeful agree with the Dead's primary philosophy: Everyone exists in a multiverse of death. The celebration of Life occurs only in a universe that bashers on this side of the fence can't find. The Hopeful, stuck on the wrong side, reach for the passionless state of True Death because just beyond it lies the reward: Life. Other Dead consider the Hopeful view foolish and see the group as just a quiet splinter sect. A return to Life might come in time. If not, who cares?
Most Dead are humans. Some factions say that's because only humans are gullible enough,to follow Dustman beliefs, but that doesn't explain the minority of nonhuman faction members from other short-lived species. Seems folks with short life spans tend to sympathize with the Dustman philosophy; they see death more than others do, so they feel closer to it.
Most other prime races seem too connected to life to consider the Dead philosophy. For instance, it's a rare thing to see a Dustman elf, since elves're a long lived and generally life loving bunch. A prime elf who joins the Dead has come to embrace death and considers his connection with nature and life a disadvantage, one that hinders him from moving forward to the next stage of existence.
The severe githzerai might seem naturals for the Dustmen, but they have a lot of passions to overcome, like their hatred for the githyanki. Tieflings and planar half-elves, both "misplaced people," often accept the way of the Dustmen. However, bariaur prove too carefree, outgoing, and happy for this faction. A bariaur has to get awfully depressed to even consider joining the Dead, and usually that depression keeps him out, as such an emotional tendency would make him unsuitable.
Many wizards, as scholarly, intellectual types, favor the introspection of the Dustmen. This quality also attracts clerics, though the ones who actually join have devoted themselves mainly to gods of death. Dustmen clerics all eventually hit the blinds, however: Religious devotion requires some amount of passion, yet progressing among the Dead means letting go of that passion. Clerics (like Oridi) slowly become less devoted to specific gods and more devout to Death as a force.
The Dead attract few rogues or warriors, since these professions encourage flamboyance and emotion. The infrequent Dustman warrior, a guardian rather than a crusader, becomes a strong, implacable foe. Though the Dead thief loses the passion for stealing, he still can skulk with the best of 'em. The unusual Dustman bard - in demand at funerals - devotes himself to odes and dirges that honor death rather than celebrate life, and he analyzes music and lyric, instead of enjoying it.
Now, some claim druids donít "belong" in the Dustmen any more than bards, yet a surprising number of them do join. See, druids revere nature and see death as a natural progression from life. All life ends in death, right? Once a druid looks at thing-s this way, he's ready to accept all "life" as merely a stage of death.
Druids also lean toward Dustman views 'cause they don't get distracted working toward good or evil, law or chaos. This neutral position proves common amoung the Dustmen. Fact is, the longer a body stays in the Dead, the more his alignment shifts toward true neutral, and only neutral characters can achieve True Death. Chaotics may try and play Dead for a while, but any group whose philosophy centres on "we" (as in "we are all dead") can't attract chaotic folks long. Revering death ain't popular with good people, for that matter.
Still, a few Dustmen remain chaotic or good, or both. A chaotic Dead believes that each person must find a separate path to True Death. And, as thinking everyone is dead doesn't exactly exactly conflict with good, a good Dustman guides himself and others patiently along the path to the next stage of existence. The Dead's belief in an orderly pattern to the multiverse attracts many who favor law, but the group's apparent lack of respect for "life" attracts the evil. Well intentioned Dustmen want their neighbors to advance in death - but most folks believe it evil to hope for someone's demise. Go figue.
Dustmen MembershipMost Dustmen are just namers, folks who join the Dead by promising before witnesses to serve the faction and declaring their knowledge that they, like all in the multiverse, have left Life behind. They try to leave their passions behind as well, and succeed in valying degrees. However, the majority of 'em never approach True Death. Namers work as Collectors and Mortuary aides.
Those with promise (and of at least 4th level) become factotums, whom fellow Dustmen call Initiates. The lowest ranking factotums are Initiates of the Fifth Circle. They serve guard duty, perform missions on assignment, and escort visitors and funeral parties. For induction into the Fifth Circle, prospective factotums attend their own funerals, detaching themselves from worldly possessions and making peace with family and friends. Factotums who perform well go through a new initiation to gain the Fourth Circle, then presumably another to proceed straight from Fourth to First. The chant has little to say about these secret
ceremonies. The First Circle holds the factol and his factors, and cutters like Trevant advanced there directly from the Fourth Circle. So what ahout the Third and Second Circles? No one knows, not even other Initiates. (Except, presumably, those of the First Circle.) The chant around the Mortuary says the Thiid Circle consists of lesser free-willed undead, like ghasts, wights, and wraiths; liches, spectres, and vampires supposedly make up the Second. One thing's sure: No living basher can see through this dark.
Even namers reap the benefits of the Dead Truce, which prevents walking dead from harming Dustmen. All faction members also have only a 50% chance of resurrection survival. (A benefit or a drawback, depending on one's point of view). Factotum's who advance to the Fourth Circle learn a dangerous dark: The Dead Truce lets Dustmen command undead as neutral priests can. Initiates of the Fourth Circle gain the power of 1st-level priests for purposes of commanding undead and improve whenever they gain a level. Priests of this circle enjoy +4 bonuses on all attempts to command undead.
When on a faction mission, an Initiate from the Fourth or First Circles can request help from a group of undead (whose total Hit Dice equal no more than twice his own level). 'Course, the Initiate first must convince his superiors he needs the help, then successfully command undead and reward them for their service. The DM determines undead availability and pay scale, but characters canít attempt to muster undead allies from the faction more than once per adventure. Clever Dustmen don't abuse this pact of service or let it hit the chant - a lot of bashers would inflict their anger on the faction as a whole if they saw droves of undead marching the streets. Dustmen guilty of such abuse might find they've suddenly joined the walking dead themselves.