The Mercykillers

The Mercykillers Faction Symbol
Ask a Mercykiller why he's joined a faction that's also called the Red Death and a berk'll get one answer: Justice is everything. It's absolute and perfect, but it's got to be correctly applied if it's to mean anything. The Mercykillers set out to do just that, reasoning that if someone (meaning them) does it right, then the multiverse will be cleansed of evil and thus be made perfect - the true culmination of this faction's work.
The Mercykillers are a bit on the newer side, as far as factions go. During the Great Upheaval, when the Lady of Pain passed down her mandate culling the number of factions, a lot of groups faced disbanding. Two groups, the Sons of Mercy and the Sodkillers, joined forces. The Sons of Mercy were a band of lawful good bloods who kneaded the laws of Sigil like dough, finding loopholes for criminals who were wrongfully accused or faced outlandish punishments. The Sodkillers, on the other hand, were strictly lawful evil. Little more than hired muscle, they offered to avenge perceived "wrongs" for the right amount of jink.
Neither faction was very large, and it was unlikely that either would survive the Lady's edict. So the two factols met secretly and hashed out a charter that merged their factions, combining elements of their respective beliefs. The charter as written up some 600 years ago - known as the Eight Tenets of Justice - is still in effect today for the Mercykillers.







THE EIGHT TENETS OF JUSTICE
  1. I will uphold Justice before all else, purging the multiverse of those who break the law.
  2. In all situations I shall weigh the rights and wrongs with a clear and impartial mind.
  3. I shall decide where Justice must fall under the law, and I will mete out that Justice with a firm and unyielding hand.
  4. I believe in the righteousness of my faction: we alone answer to the higher law of Justice.
  5. I will not pass judgment on good or evil, only on law-abiding and law-breaking, for therein lies wrongdoing.
  6. I will punish the guilty as the crime demands.
  7. I will be diligent in my pursuit of the guilty, and while so engaged I will remain innocent of any wrongdoing in the eyes of others.
  8. I will never release a lawbreaker until his sentence has been carried out.

The faction embraces these tenets wholeheartedly - some would say too much so. But the Red Death is committed to punishing any and all lawbreakers. As such, they form a perfect triumvirate with the Harmonium and the Guvners. The Hardheads make the arrests, the Guvners convict the criminals, and the Red Death metes out the punishment. Likewise, the Doomguard is sympathetic toward the Mercykillers, finding in the process of punishment - especially long periods of wasting incarceration - ultimate entropy. The Indeps, of course, think otherwise, but they generally just avoid the Red Death whenever possible. The faction has regular run-ins with members of the Signers, the Sensate, and the Anarchists, though rarely with the Fated. Alisohn Nilesia bas not hidden her growing involvement with Duke Darkwood from her people, and her faction is inclined to look favorably on the Takers as a result.

Factol Alisohn Nilesia

Alisohn Nilesia, the new factol of the Mercykillers, is quite mad and more than a little dangerous. Only 19 years old, the girl - part human and part something-more-fiendish - was born in the Prison she now commands, the daughter of a thief who died during childbirth. She grew up in the Prison under the care of a ward matron, learning the chapter and verse of every law in Sigil - as well as the Red Death's punisbment for each infraction. After the mysterious death of her surrogate mother, Nilesia tried to join the faction as a full-fledged member, but Facto1 Mallin stubbornly refused to allow an eight-year-old child to become a Mercykiller. Three years later, though, her persistence paid off - she was allowed to join the faction at the age of 11.
The child's convictions were preternaturally strong; nothing shook her beliefs. Detractors tried to have her expelled from the faction, but Nilesia merely smiled and bided her time. Before long, her excellent organizational skills acquired her the post of Justice Dispenser, where she wrote up the duties and orders for all the Mercykillers in the faction.
Interestingly, most of Nilesia's detractors were given assignments that cost them their lives. Those few left who'd bad-mouthed the child quickly learned to keep their concerns to themselves: a number of them accepted posts on Acheron for fear of her reprisals. These Mercykillers have watched from afar the girl's rise through the faction hierarchy. (Since Nilesia became factol, a mysterious illness has struck many of the exiles on Acheron, and the ranks of her original detractors are dwindling.)
Fortunately for the young factol, all the remaining members of the faction are staunchly devoted to her. In the eight years that she's served in the Mercykillers, Alisohn Nilesia's risen quickly to the rank of factol, watching the faction expand until its ranks in Sigil numbered approximately 25,000. And while a few members of the Red Death view her rapid climb with envy, most feel a sense of pride, believing they've helped mold this very accomplished woman. Fact is, many Merrykillers have developed a fanatical devotion to their new factol. Anywhere from 20 to 30 faction members accompany her at all times; all would gladly give their lives if Nilesia so requested it.
The intensely driven young woman is so obsessed with justice that she makes many other Mercykillers' devotion seem like a passing interest. Restless and high-strung, she sleeps perhaps 15 minutes out of every four hours. Her body's used to this relentless pace, and 10 of her closest Mercykillers have also adapted to this routine. When asked once why she slept so little, Nilesia replied coldly: "Justice doesn"t sleep. Why should I? Why should you?" The questioner disappeared shortly after that.
Nilesia's talents lie in organization and coordination. She devotes nearly 24 hours of every day to planning and implementing her schemes. In the two months since she became factol, she's approved the punishment of thousands of inmates at the Prison, the faction's headquarters. A body can't accuse her of too-hastily performing her duties, however. Nilesia reviews the file on each case, catching and clarifying any and all discrepancies. (A number of Guvners at the City Court and some record-keepers at the Hall of Records have begun to grumble at all the extra work Nilesia's causing, correcting their mistakes.) Only when she's properly satisfied that the prisoner before her is guilty and has been properly tried will Nilesia approve a punishment.

The Prison

The Prison
The Prison's located in The Lady's Ward, the richest and most powerful in all of Sigil. It's a forbidding (and foreboding) structure fully seven stories high. Unlike a lot of Sigil's architecture, there's nothing very graceful or soaring about its roofline. Systematically placed guard towers are the only enlivening feature of the roof. The effect's somewhat dampened by searchlights that sweep the area constantly, day and night. (The searchlights consist of translucent gems on which continual light spells have been cast, with the resultant glow magnified through treated glass.) Armed Mercykillers patrol the roofs walkways at all hours; they lead packs of Aoskian hounds that bay the moment they scent a prisoner outside his cell.
The walls are state-gray stones, completely regular and symmetrically placed. The structure's built on a ten-block square area of land, and from the outside it looks like a solid building. However, the Prison's actually built around an open square, where some of the prisoners are allowed to take exercise and others are forced to perform drills or work details. It's a bleak courtyard - treeless, sbrubless, grassless, and generally devoid of any possible aesthetic relief. All that's in the square is a single wide pathway cutting across the center; only Mercykillers are allowed to walk on the path. All inmates must walk on the dirt, which can be a lot trickier than it sounds when Sigil's brown, oily rains turn the yard into a greasy pit.
As grim and miserable as the square is, the interior of the Prison's worse. Save for a portion of the first floor that's devoted to business offices, the factol's quarters, and the like, the remainder of the prison ahovegronnd is entirely given over to cells. All seven floors surrounding the square contain cells that house anywhere from one to four prisoners at a time, depending on how fast the Guvners can try the sods. Each cell is a tiny area no more than 5 feet wide and 10 feet long, and perhaps only half have windows. ('Course, no one but a pixie could escape through these windows - and the pixies are held in a special cell just for them.) All told, the Prison can hold up to 24,000 inmates at a time.
Though the cells are bitter and terrible, there's still a place that's even worse: the underground portion of the Prison known as the Cellars. Down there are mess balls, bathing rooms, and work rooms - all grim places the inmates must visit daily. And down there are also the Sentencing Rooms, where death or torture is meted out. It's even said that the Cellars are filled with "forgotten" cells that house an additional 8,000 prisoners. Inmates live in terror of being called to the Cellars, because they never know if it's to mend some overalls or to have their fingers lopped off for shoplifting.
Factol Nilesia has instituted some new procedures garding sentencing, but the Mercykiller guards keep prisoners in the dark as much as possible. Nevertheless, word can't be entirely concealed in a place the size of the Prison. It's plain that a few lucky sods - a very few - have actually been set free. Others've been sent off to powers only know where. Few sods hope for the rumored pardons the factors passing out - hope only makes their suffering that much worse.
The Mercykillers have always carted of "special" prisoners to Petitioner's Square, a public place where jeering crowds can watch a berk get hung, beheaded or eaten. But most of the inmates met their deaths in the deepest, quietest corner of the cellars. By the time sods learned where the execution chamber was, they were already standing in line.
Now, though, Factol Nilesia's mandated that the inmates be put to death in the open square inside the Prison's four walls. During her first month in office, she had a tremendous gallows built in one corner of the square, directly above a heavily guarded pit said to lead to the Cellars. Deaders get dragged underground and sent through portals to a special area in the Mortuary that handles executed prisoners.
The daily hangings are mandatory viewing for prisoners. Each day, inmates from one floor of the Prison file out the square. Under heavy guard, they're forced to witness the hangings of fellow inmates whose crimes fall under the death punishment in the new sentencing procedures. Nilesia feels the example will help them avoid making similar mistakes in the future.

Within the Ranks

Factol Alisohn Nilesia
As is the case with Arwyl Swan's Son, the Mercykiller faction allows player characters to interpret the abstract concept of justice according to their personal ideals. Of course, this can lead to arguments between two Mercykillers, not to mention between a Mercykiller and another character - say, a thief who steals to feed the poor. But, as a lawful faction, the Red Death also offers strict regimentation to those who seek it. After all, sometimes the easiest way to live is just to do as youíre told and follow the rules - even blindly.
The pursuit of justice ain't easy. First and foremost, a player must realize that Mercykillers don't arrest or try a berk, no matter what he's accused of. It falls to the Harmonium to arrest lawbreakers, and to the Fraternity of Order to conduct trials for the accused. Only when a sod's been found guilty of a crime under the law may a Mercykiller carry out punishment.
In an adventuring party, that means a Mercykiller PC can't automatically punish a fighter for slaying an innocent peasant, or kill a thief for picking a noble's pocket. The Mercykiller's got to stay his hand until the "criminal" has been duly arrested, tried, and found guilty. 'Course, if the party has both a Hardhead and a Guvner, the Mercykiller might be able to convince them to hold a quick court. Failing that, the PC can only keep track of crimes that go unpunished, hoping to see justice done at the earliest possible opportunity.
The most profound conflict for a Mercykiller usually arises over the specific interpretation of justice. After all, what might seem wrong to one member of the Red Death may not seem so to another, especially when the two have different alignments.
Lawful Good Mercykillers, like Arwyl Swan's Son, often are less troubled by an escaped criminal than they are by a poor sod who's been wrongfully imprisoned or faces a staggeringly inappropriate punishment. Many Mercykillers. inspired by the high-up paladin's commitment, have liiewise chosen to seek out and correct examples of gross injustice.
But infighting only hinders the cause of justice, and the faction strives for internal harmony. They seek to rely on the letter of the law, not its spirit, as their mediator. Any sod who doesn't follow the law is a climinal and must be punished - thatís the official faction line. But when two Mercykillers butt heads - well, something's got to give.
Of course, being a Mercykiller requires more than a simple love of justice - no matter what his class, a Mercykiller must undertake a lengthy period of training and study if be wants to progress beyond the rank of namer. Those who do learn the law to an exacting degree - the factotums of the faction - are called Justices by the Red Death. They cany out the day-to-day functions of running the Prison and maintaining the faction's outposts on Acheron. The most devoted Mercykillers go on to become factors. And an elite few may even become Justiciars (a special kind of factor) and he assigned to track escaped criminals.
While theRed Death requires only that its members be lawful, only those who're lawful neutral may truly understand the final goal of justice above all else. Lawful evil and lawful good characters, if they properly play their alignments, allow the distracting factors of good and evil to cloud their judgment and search for justice.
Of course, some players may feel that their faction goals override their alignment ideals. But truly exciting role-playing can take place when a character tries to meld these two potentially conflicting attributes. A Mercykiller's got to find a compromise that satisfies his inner turmoil. Otherwise, he might end up in the Gatehouse with the other barmies who couldn't handle the strain of the multiverse.

Mercykiller Membership

A Mercykiller Guard
Cutters looking to join the Mercykillers face some pretty stiff restrictions. All members must he lawfully aligned, whether good, evil, or neutral. An applicant with any criminal taint in his past is usually tossed out into the street, with a warning never to return. For those who measure up, though, joining the Red Death is a simple matter. The faction holds enlistment days once per fortnight, and an applicant need only present himself at the Prison. The day's candidates gather in a room for a lengthy discussion of the Eight Tenets of Justice. At the end of the day, any berk who still wants to join must swear to each of the tenets. Doing so means he's henceforth considered a Mercykiller.
All members of the faction are taught how to detect lie (per the 4th-level priest spell) once per day to a single chosen question. Furthermore, every Mercykiller wizard automatically receives the 1st-level spell shocking grasp (the better to handle obstinate criminals) in addition to all other spells granted by the cutter's level or Intelligence. And a priest in the Red Death'll find himself able to use the 1st level spell command, regardless of his Wisdom, granted sphere(s), or other spells.
What's more, a Mercykiller's beliefs allow him to impose additional suffering on his foes. Twice a day, a character can tell the DM that heís dealing his next blow in the name of justice. Whether he's swinging a sword, casting a spell, or dislodging a rock from overhead, the damage rolled is doubled, including all bonuses. 'Course, this special power doesn't come without cost. Half of the extra damage caused is immediately subtracted from the PC's hit points. But a true Mercykillr gladly takes any and all pains in his quest for justice.
Another benefit is the faction's tendency to turn a blind eye to its own violations of the law - to a point. If a Mercykiller commits a crime while pursuing or punishing a known criminal, he'll consider himself innocent, of course. Justice takes precedence over all. On the other hand, if he commits a crime outside of his punishment of a felon, he's subject to the full weight of the law. (To date, not a single Mercykiller has ever refused such sentencing, even if the pronoucement is death.)
The faction's also developed a dark red liquid that intensifies a body's guilt; they call it the blood of justice. The stuffs said to be made of the blood of the great wyvern kept in the faction's Tower of the Wyrm. If the blood enters the target's body, whether he drinks the liquid or gets cut by a sword coated with it, on the next round the berk starts confessing to any and all crimes he's knowingly committed in the past 24 hours. If the target makes a successful saving throw vs. spell, the blood has no effect. One of the guard captains at the Prison, a hasher named Reggia Pylk controls the faction's supply of the blood of justice. A Mercykiller of at least 3rd level can request one vial per month from her; each vial contians three doses of the liquid.
Any Mercykiller factotum of 5th level or higher who shows an extreme aptitude for dispensing justice may be chosen by the factol to become a Justuciar. Only the most resolute and responsible Mercykillers are picked, for Justiciars are the bloodhounds of the multiverse, tracking down and bringing to justice heinous criminals who somehow slip through the wheels of law.
'Course, any Mercykiller - Justiciar or otherwise - who ever fails to uphold the faction's Eight Tenets of Justice must pay the music. First, the accused gets a short hearing before the factol. If he can't give a satisfactory explanation for having shirked his duty, he's given a choice: death by by beheading in the Guillotine Room, or abandonment in the cavernous Grotto beneath the Prison. Most Mercykillers so charged have chosen the quick and relatively painless death accorded by the guillotine. It's said those few who've chosen the Grotto found death by a much less pleasant means.