- Doorway to Sigil
- Time and Direction
- Citizens of Sigil
- Keeping the Peace
Hey, Sigil's a long way from being a stinking pit - don't make the mistake of thinking it's not a grand and majestic place. It's far better than Malbolge or Khin-Oin on the Lower Planes, and it's got more life than the patrolled city-states of Arcadia. Sigil's filled with the life only a truly neutral haven can offer.
And that's just the point: Everybody comes to Sigil - the good and the evil, those warring and those at peace, the just and the cruel - everybody. Nobody forgets their loves or hatreds here, but for a few moments they barely manage to set them aside. A deva really might share a drink with a fiend, even if each is watching the other for signs of treachery. Nobody trusts their enemies, but all are forced to trust the laws of the Lady of Pain.
Maybe it's a lie though, that everyone comes to Sigil, because there's one important group that can't: the deific powers of the planes. There's something about Sigil that shuts them out, locks the doors, and keeps them away. Of course, the gods aren't used to having their powers denied, and that frustrates them to no end. Indeed, the mere fact that Sigil refuses their will makes them hunger for it all the more. Any Sensate'll confirm that desire is greatest for that which is denied.
That's why the powers' proxies and priests come to the City of Doors, instructed and eager to subvert Sigil's resistance from the inside. In the Cage's back alleys and shadowed dives, they play out the endless pairings of the kreigstanz, the undeclared war for the soul of Sigil. There's more players in this game than a sod can count, and the sides shift like quicksilver on glass. Today, the priests of Thor may throw in with the facto1 of the Godsmen to defeat the agents of Primus; tomorrow, those priests might find themselves hunted by the factols of the Godsmen and the Harmonium. The sides flow like slippery beads, one to another, as the balance changes ever so slightly.
It's never an open war, though, because the Lady'd never allow it. Rather, it's a dance where the soldiers are in civvies, the battlegrounds are unmarked, and the victorious never hold up their triumphs for all to see. So long as the battle is fought discreetly, it's tolerated. Let it get out of hand and the Lady has special punishments, reserved for those berks who draw her gaze.
Because there's a rough peace here, Sigil's the place to do all types of business. Need to meet with the enemy, but can't find safe ground? Need to swap hostages from the Blood War? Got a treasure too suspicious to sell on the open market? Need some information about the enemy? Come to Sigil! Just remember to always keep your back to the wall.
So that's it: Sigil the Wondrous, Sigil the Dangerous, Sigil the Impossible. It's a city where a cutter can be anything he wants, where he can find the answer to every need. All it takes is asking the right questions. Of course, a berks better off not asking if he can't deal with the answers, because sometimes what a sod wants to know ain't what he learns...
Sigil is in the Outlands - kind of. Sitting in the centre of the Outlands (at least as far as anything in the multiverse can be considered the centre of anything - when you have an infinite number of infinite places the concept of "centre" somewhat loses its meaning) is the Spire; an infinitely tall spire of rock atop a mountain. Curiously, the top of the Spire can be seen, but any berk that tries to climb it will find themselves climbing forever and never reaching the top - thus infinite. It's best not to think about it too much. Sigil sits atop the Spire, and can be seen from virtually anywhere in the Outlands, and is shaped as a torus resting upon it's side with the city itself built around the inside of the torus. Think of it as a giant tire with the city built on the inside, for that's the fact of it.
The only way into Sigil is via one of the many portals strewn about the multiverse. As mentioned, it is impossible to climb the spire for it is infinite in height; likewise, no sod can fly to it for the same reason. It is untouchable from the outside.
Despite the city's size, somehow it still always seems crowded. Tiny spaces that might become servants' rooms or pantries in another city are shops and homes in Sigil, where every square inch must house some of the infinite multitudes. Even the buildings crowd each other overhead, and some streets are cut off from the sky entirely, its dim light pinched out by the towering walls.
Although Sigil is ancient and every available surface is already occupied, new streets, boulevards, and courtyards are constantly created by the dabus masons, and new buildings set on top of old ones create crypts and catacombs aplenty. Since it's impossible to know every street and keep up with every change, cutters need to learn the patterns of Sigil's buildings, especially for those bashers who live on the dark side of the law. Even a footpad who's been in and out of the Court and the Prison can make a mistake. One dead-end alley is all it takes to get a cross-trading knight scragged by the Harmonium - or worse, scragged and then killed by those he's double-crossed.
The traditional blades and spiked fences of Sigil define its architecture for planars everywhere on the Great Ring. The blades of Sigil are added for looks as much as for protection against intruders, as they are part of the city's rich tradition of ornamental iron and stone. Primes notice the faces and gargoyles built over doors and into other structural locations for such decoration. Iron and stone are more common building materials than imported wood; after all, iron and stone can be created by magic. The iron and stone of the high-ups' cases, though, are certainly not conjured but imported through one of the gates. Blackstone from Gehenna, limestone from Mount Celestia, and marble from Arborea are all popular.
Walls vary, but the strongest are up to 9 feet thick. Spiral stairs are the most popular form; the spiral winds up clockwise, to give the advantage to a right-handed defender and hamper the swordplay of anyone going up. The roofs are generally made of dark gray slate tiles. Most of the ironwork in Sigil isn't just ornamental; it protects the houses it decorates. Doors and windows are tightly sealed and protected with iron bands and locks, and fanciful iron grillwork covers most windows (at least among the houses of the high-ups). Spikes on the flat surfaces of windowsills and the like prevent Sigil's great gray-and-black executioner's ravens from roosting.
Sigil's indigenous watchdogs, called Aoskian hounds, are two-headed creatures with a nasty temper. Besides a double bite, these snow-white or pale tan death dogs boast a tremendous bark. Knights of the post never tangle with Aoskian hounds if they can avoid them. Most are muzzled during the day and only allowed to roam by night. Their ghostly pale appearance and deadly quick reflexes have caused many a second-story man's tumble into the street, and most have been thankful for the fall. After all, the Aoskian's bark can stun a knight long enough for the watch to arrive.
Below the streets themselves lies a web of catacombs and crypts (mostly of important dabus, though the Dustmen also maintain a few large necropoli throughout the city), but no sewers. The oldest crypts have been there a thousand years, though bubbers often claim that there're many deeper levels, which the dabus have sealed off.
In the better portions of town, public fountains bubble and burble, their carved stone and molded iron spouts working day and night. The water is always pure, though sometimes very metallic tasting; most Cagers prefer ale, wine, or anything else purified by fermentation. The fountains take many shapes, from drab pillars whose single spigots are decorated with the seal of the carver or foundry, to the justly famous Singing Fountain whose pure tones come from the splash of water from higher metal basins into lower ones.
In addition to the public fountains, the city's got a number of public wells. Where do the well waters come from? The chant is, most anywhere, from the Elemental Plane of Water to the Styx and Oceanus, to Ysgard's Gates of the Moon, to Limbo. The best waters are said to be those drawn from wells sunk into the seas of Arborea and Mount Celestia.
Streets're all cobblestones in the richer districts and mud in the poorer. In both rich and poor districts, houses surround open interior courtyards hidden from the streets and accessible only through narrow alleys or covered passages through the surrounding buildings. Often these buildings're protected against theft by large doors or portcullises that're shut each night, making them into tiny strongholds in the midst of the city. In times of danger or riots the courtyard gates are often magically warded as well. For high-ups of The Lady's Ward, the interior courtyard might serve as a garden, a family graveyard, or an open-air ballroom. In other places like the Farrier's Court, guild members and craftsmen conduct their business in the courtyards. For tanners and dyers, this gets messy quickly. Those who like their privacy keep Aoskian hounds and grow razorvine in the courtyards; not everyone's open space is meant to be a refuge from the streets.
The bashers in Sigil base their timekeeping on hours relative to the peak hour of light. Peak is roughly equivalent to noon on a prime world; the six brightest hours in the City of Doors are the three hours before peak (B.P.) and the three hours after peak (A.P.). For the primes, this means 2 B.P. matches 1000 hours in military time, and 2 A.P. corresponds to 1400 hours. "Midnight" in Sigil is called antipeak. The six darkest hours come just before and after antipeak. Cutters should be aware that hours don't have names or numbers, just positions before and after peak and antipeak. This is clearest on the city's clocks, which all have twenty-four increments and are shaded from black at the bottom (antipeak, not that anyone can read the blessed clocks at that hour!) to white at the top (peak). The lack of numbers makes it easier for Sigil's many races to tell local time; trying to cram fiend, modron, and aasimon numerals together on the same clock face results in more confusion than sense. The Cage is eternal, so much so that no one knows the date of its creation or founding. The Lady surely was present, but whether she and Sigil came into being simultaneously or she preceded the city will never be revealed. Years are measured, then, from beginnings of factols' rules, most often according to those of the Fraternity of Order. (The current date is the 127th year of Factol Hashkar's reign.) Clueless visitors are often confused by this timekeeping system, but those who stay long enough soon realize that with the constant changes in Sigil it doesn't matter too much precisely how long ago something happened.
Sigil doesn't have a moon or stars, so things dependent on the moon, like some types of shapechanging, don't happen in Sigil. The Cage's without stars, of course, but there's still lights in the sky. Remember, the city's always overhead, so even in the darkest hours there'll be the sharp lights of far distant lanterns.
In the City of Doors, there is no east and west, no north and south. Directions are given in terms of wards and direction relative to the spire. Spikeward is up (to the Civic Festhall or the Armory, for instance), and Downward is down (the direction of the Market Ward). The peculiar directions of Radial and Chordwise also exist among surveyors and map making Guvners. These are simply ways to indicate two points that are directly opposite each other on the city's circle (Radial) or nearly so (Chordwise) - like the Great Gymnasium and the Great Foundry. To make any sense of this a basher has to remember that Sigil is a giant torus resting on it's side. Since a sod'll be standing on the inner side he could think of hisself standing a right angle to the ground; therefore down is toward the ground and spikeward is in the direction the spire points. So, from the point of view of an outside observer, spikeward is up, toward the sky, but clearly this is not the case for a berk in Sigil. In sigil "up" would be toward the centre of the torus. Most clueless get used to it all pretty quick.
"Down" is always the ground beneath a cutter's feet, no matter where he's standing in the Cage. Up is the other direction. It doesn't take much to realize that two bashers on opposite sides of the city could both look "up" at each other. Flying across the ring's perfectly possible, and so is falling. A berk always falls toward the section of Sigil closest to him, even if he was headed in another direction to start with. Although the shapes are different, the whole business is really no different than falling on any Prime world: A sod falls, he gets hurt.
Along with "up and down" is the question of "inside and outside". It's quite a question, too. Nobody's ever seen the outside of Sigil because there may not even be an "outside". The edges of the Cage are all solidly lined by buildings with no windows or doors on their backs. Of course, a cutter could get himself up on the roof to take a look. Those that've tried will tell a body, "There's nothing to see", and they really do mean "nothing" - not emptiness, not a vacuum, just nothing. That matches what flyers say lies beyond the city: nothingness.
When it isn't drizzling brown water or swaddled in fog, Sigil can be a pretty pleasant place. The temperature tends to be cool (chilly when it's raining), and light breezes blow away the stagnant odor that normally hangs in the air. Still, no cutter ever comes to Sigil for the climate.
The Lower Ward's smoke and steam keep it marginally warmer and fouler than the other wards, at the price of burns from airborne ashes and embers. Leather is popular in the Lower Ward because it won't burn; even sedan chair owners often keep a special set of curtains for trips through the Lower Ward, both to prevent burns and to keep the smell out of the regular drapes. Of course, those dark cloaks help the knights fade into the shadows as well, and they don't show a stain from Sigil's brownish rainwater.
Most Cagers don't complain 'cause the weather in most of the Great Ring is worse. Besides, the air's too foul for a body to waste words crabbin' about it. Cagers who work outside often develop a constant hacking cough, and many die in the streets from consumption. Horses die young from the strain of breathing Sigil's smog - a beast of burden spitting its lungs onto one of Sigil's streets is a common-sight. It's a mystery why anyone bothers to smoke pipeweed or black tarweed cigars when they can just go down to the Great Foundry and inhale.
A few barmies and primes claim that the weather reflects the mood of the Lady of Pain, that her dismay is rain, her joy is sun (rare indeed), and her fury is snow or sleet. For a copper, they'll scry the heavens and predict a cutter's omens for the day. While this forecasting is an amusing conceit with which to nick a few coppers from the Clueless, most Cagers just snort at the thought that the Lady would be this maudlin.
Though the city has a population of more than a million, two-thirds of that are transient planars and primes. The core population of planars comprises humans, githzerai, bariaur, and tieflings, with a few prime elves, dwarves, and other obscure, Clueless races (one called gnomes, one called halfings - who can tell 'em apart, really?). Sigil's always ready for a fight, a hob, or a lark, and half its citizens are on their way to the wonders of the Great Ring, so adventurers are common as copper bits. Sigil is as close to home as a cutter gets on the planes.
In addition to the planars, most of the races native to the Great Ring come to Sigil for their own purposes, though few settle in the city. Fiends, aasimon, slaadi, and modrons are all present in large numbers, but few find Sigil pleasant enough to warrant staying for long. Its enforced neutrality makes them irritable; the fiends miss the bloodshed and can't bear the sight of their Blood War enemies walking freely down the street (drinkin' next to 'em's another matter entirely.) Aasimon and other celestials can't stomach the grime, the blood, the filth, the vulgar coarseness of it all. Kuriel, the deva of curiosity, is an exception, but there aren't many like him. Most of the sods get homesick, even though they're too proud to admit it.
The only people who call themselves Cagers with pride are the dabus, the faction members born and bred in the various headquarters, and a few families of planars who've settled in Sigil and made it their home. These hardcore Cagers look down on all other residents, though no one else seems to care. This lot views all other Cagers as intruders, and treats them accordingly. This attitude probably has much to do with the Cagers' reputation as arrogant snobs.
A few primes come to Sigil and want to stay, but many more are gate-orphans, those who've arrived but can't leave. They are sometimes called the Keyless or the Marooned. Their pathetic attempts to return to their sheltered lives on the Prime are a rich source of Cager humor, resulting in a long list of Keyless jokes such as
"Why did the Harmonium scrag the Keyless? To protect him from the menace of the streets." The Harmonium ain't known for its sense of humor.
Precious few petitioners live in Sigil; most who do serve neutrality or powers of travel. A few petitioners from the Outlands come to the Cage as well. Sigil serves as a neutral zone that somehow belongs to all realms of the Land. This means that Outlands petitioners aren't permanently destroyed if slain while within Sigil. Nevertheless, few petitioners care for the contrast between the paradise of their power's realm and the Cage, and they scurry home as soon as their orders permit.
Factotums are a step up from the lowest ranking (and most common) faction members, who are called namers. Factotums're more trusted and more useful to their faction than namers, so the factions actually pay them to carry out tasks for the factol. The factotums'd have a cutter believe this means lots of action, magecraft, and secret missions, hut most of the time, it means lots of shepherding guests around Sigil. This don't mean their lives are dull: In fact, a factotum's half tout, half street preacher. Most touts can't abide this encroachment on their business, and wage a constant propaganda war against the factotums. (Well. some of 'em, anyway.) According to the touts, the factotums're slaves to the factions they represent, and can't give a body an unbiased view of Sigil for love or money. Their real duty is to spy on high-ups visiting the Cage, and all the factotums see that important visitors to their factions get what they need, stay out of trouble, and don't see what they shouldn't. Sure, factotums'll guide a body around, but what they're really good for is guiding a body through the ins and outs of Sigil's politics.
A cutter can't pay a factotum to guide him around Sigil (not that he'd want to); factotums're assigned to those visitors that the factol deems need one. A body should avoid these poor bastards unless he needs to get into a faction headquarters; then, there's no choice.
Sigil's full of helpful people: They help themselves to wallets, hats, neglected mounts, and anything else not nailed down or locked up. Entire gangs of thieves devote themselves to stealing rich garments from clotheslines, or fishing for lace through windows, or throwing cargo and baggage from moving vehicles, or plucking valuable wigs from pompous advocates. But there are sharpers within the best houses as well. A blood won't let the cheerful smiles of servants fool him; they're taking home extra food and nipping at the bottles in the cellar. Everyone knows that servants and hirelings will take a little off the top for themselves, but no one objects.
Cagers hate a stingy berk. The poor are more than willing to be loyal, hardworking servants for anyone with a little jink. Any high-up who refuses to hire servants is considered an antisocial miser who's probably up to no good. Cutters who can afford it should boost their standing among others by hiring at least a small retinue: a tout, a light boy, and perhaps a sedan chair when required. Displaying poverty is not a virtue. Displaying wealth - and sharing it - will make any cutter well loved, or at least well liked, by servants and neighbors.
Getting a simple message across town is no simple task in Sigil. A trip from one side to the other can take hours, even as much as a day in bad weather. Some have families, apprentices, servants, or namers to take the message, but those who don't - travelers, widows, slaadi - can always hire a courier. Professional couriers live by their reputations, so they're fairly reliable. The more powerful their customer, the more reliable they get. There's always the danger of cross-traders and impostors, but then, writing down anything truly important instead of delivering it face-to-face is dangerous, too.
All said, the best thing to do is not to go telling the dark of things to just anyone by writing it down and handing it to a stranger. That's why the so-called "silent couriers" are so highly regarded; they serve as receptacles for magic mouth spells that are triggered in the presence of the intended recipient. The sight of a courier suddenly sprouting a mouth on his chest, forehead, or elsewhere is enough to turn a weak stomach, but it ain't often seen in the inns and taverns - most of the ensorceled messengers deliver their information in private. Of course, all this magic and privacy costs a pile of jink, so silent couriers are an elite breed working for elite masters.
With so many hours of darkness and gloom, and the dabus no longer maintaining the ancient city streetlights, light boys are more than a common service: They're a necessity. Mostly children (rarely girls, who are often kept at home by protective parents) under the age of 12 or so, the light boys stick together for protection outside inns and in the larger squares, where they wait for customers. Though they hire out to anyone with ready coin, the light boys're especially adept at handling drunks. Though the bubbers blame them for stealing their cash, the truth's more likely that the bubbers just forgot how many rounds they drank.
Most light boys're street urchins just barely out of the gutter; somehow they've begged or borrowed a lantern staff, that is, a staff or wand enchanted with a continual light spell. The color of the staves identifies the light boys, for each staff shines with a subtly different shade from cold purple to rich orange to sickly green. An old legend says the light boys were first formed when one of their number knocked out a bubbed-up wizard in a dark alley and took the key to his tower, a tower full of prismatic magics. In the weeks thereafter, the light boys destroyed every magical light the dabus maintained (to create a demand for their services, the little scamps), using a wand of negation given to them by a lesser baatezu with a personal agenda. These days, the light boys aren't nearly so united as they once were. The urchins fight among themselves for the staves, so light boys are hardened to brawling and can prove helpful in a scrape. They have no leader, though the older boys can often persuade the others to obey them. The cleverest light boys become touts when they outgrow the staff. Light boys are useful for more than just light, since most of them know a particular neighborhood pretty well and can act as unofficial guides or touts.
Most light boys are human, but there's a smattering of enterprising young tieflings or bariaur. Though the majority of the light boys are simply hirelings with lanterns, some are young thieves who only pose as light boys, to lure the unsuspecting into a trap. These frauds (and a few dishonest souls amoung the regular light boys) are panderers, fences, or sneak-thieves willing to cut a purse, arrange an "accident", or recover stolen property for a reasonable finder's fee. Such cons bring the wrath of the Harmonium down on the light boys, but it never lasts long. The light boys simply take their staves and go home to their hovels. After the city's been plunged into darkness for a few hours, the Harmonium relents - mostly because the cover of darkness creates more problems than a few deceptive light boys ever could.
Sedan chairs are Sigil's taxi service. The city's bad air, narrow streets, and harsh cobblestones etch away horses' lungs and infect their hooves, so there aren't too many horses or other valuable mounts stabled in the city. Most things are carried on the backs of other people (human or otherwise), and this includes the high-ups who usually travel in carriages in other cities.
A cutter can arrange for a sedan chair at the Great Bazaar and most important buildings, like the Festhall. Each chair can seat two human-sized creatures, and all are draped with satin or velvet curtains that are kept drawn for privacy or against the chill. A small grillwork window gives the occupants a view forward. Most chairs are carried by four strong bearers, from bariaur to fiend to githzerai, though a few single-seated chairs are carried by just two. Sedan carriers won't go to the Hive or to the most dangerous sections of the Lower Ward.
Chairs are the easy way to travel and to show off wealth for the high-ups of the city, but their bearers don't tell a basher where he should or shouldn't go. Chairs are also for those who can't or won't walk (which are often the same folk as high-ups - why become a high-up if you've got to live like everyone else?).
Hiring a chair's like anything else: There's a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Bloods know it's proper to pay the head porter, not others. The bead porter always takes the position in front and on the left hand side of the sedan chair (where he can use his right shoulder and arm and has a clear view of the traffic ahead). It's an insult to pay any of the lesser ones - though not enough of an insult that they won't take a cutter's money. (They will give a cutter a swaying, bumpy ride, though.) A tip to the Clueless: Sedan chairs may be expensive, but they're a good way to escape pursuit when boxed in
To listen to their claims, touts are the miracle workers, the guides and lore masters of the city. Sure, they come up from the streets, from the smithies and the pubs, and they know their way through every ward and every major street and square. A tout worth his jink knows the password to every kip and case in town worth visiting, and knows how much garnish to give everyone, from the warehouse guard to the keeper of the keys of the Armory (though if a tout's been insulted by the body who hired him, a smart one'll skim a little extra jink for himself). But then, a blood never takes a tout entirely at his word.
Touts know people as well as places: Any tout worthy of the name can get a cutter an introduction at Fortune's Wheel (in The Lady's Ward) or a quick visit into the private halls of the Guvners, for the right price. He can arrange companionship, find difficult spell components, even arrange visits with prisoners (or those awaiting execution, if he's one of the best) - and negotiate a fair price for every service as well.
Sigil's a far cry from a lush wilderness, but it does have its share of wildlife, all brought in from elsewhere. Plant life's pretty slim, though. There used to be a city park, but it's mostly overrun by squatters. Besides, the landscaping for both devas and fiends just wasn't harmonizing at all. The only lasting contribution to the flora of Sigil is razorvine - not most berks' idea of a blessing. Razorvine's a hazard and a pretty nasty one at that, but since it can't get up and chase a sod around, it's easy for most to avoid. Razorvine's got no special powers or intelligence, it doesn't harbor evil thoughts, and it couldn't lure even the dimmest leatherhead into its leaves. About the only thing it does is grow, but it does that very well. Plain said, razorvine's the kudzu of the Outer Planes. It used to just grow on the Lower Planes, where it fit in, but over time it's spread into all sorts of places, like Sigil.
Razorvine got its name because that's what it is: a twining climber whose lush, glossy black leaves conceal blade-sharp stems. A cutter can't touch it with his bare hands without getting slashed. Once more, the razor edges are so fine, they'll slice through cloth and cheap leather, too. Properly cured leather or something like a chain mail mitt is the only safe way to pick the cursed weed. Anybody really wanting to grow the stuffs going to suffer for their folly at the least.
In practical terms, razorvine's harmless unless a berk's daft enough to step into it. Most folks aren't, so most of the time a sod gets cut because he falls or gets pushed into the weed.
Just reaching in with an unprotected hand or arm causes 2d3 points of damage. Falling into it full-body can inflict up to 3d6 points of damage. Quilted armor reduces the damage by 1 die. Leather armor reduces it by 2 dice and metal armor negates the damage altogether, but shields don't do a bit of good. Of course, all this has got to be applied with some common sense. A cutter can't claim he'll be unhurt when he grabs the vine bare-handed, just because he's wearing platemail.
Razorvine wouldn't be more than an oddity except for the fact that the cursed stuff grows so fast. It can easily spread a foot per day, and some bloods claim they've measured its spread at up to six feet in a single day! Furthermore, it seems to grow all over everything. It'll climb walls, encrust statues, choke other plants, even run along a clothesline that's been left up too long (usually slashing it in the process). About the only places it doesn't seem to grow are frozen wastes, burning deserts, and open water. Then again, it wouldn't surprise most bashers if there were versions for all those places, too - razor-seaweed, maybe.
The folks of Sigil, always able to turn misery into a virtue, have found some uses for the weed. If a cutter can plant and control the vines carefully - and many high-up men pay others to do this - razorvine makes for fine protection. Not many thieves are willing to climb a wall covered with razorvine. A lot of the faction headquarters are covered with the stuff, all to keep unwanted visitors out. Some of the folks hailing from the lower reaches grow a patch for its persuasive properties - a sort of talk-or-we'll-throw-you-into-the-vine-patch approach - and the threat's very effective. It's even rumored there's a few back-door gladiator games in the Hive, where combatants are pitted against in each other in a ring grown from razorvine. Two naked bodies fighting in a ring of that stuff guarantees that blood'll be drawn.
The main reason the weed hasn't overrun the city is the dabus. One of the main tasks of these creatures is cutting back the previous day's growth, which is then sold off in bundles to fuel the city's fires. This seems impractical given razorvine's nature, but another quirk of the vine is that it goes dull and brittle when it's cut. Dead razorvine's good for nothing but kindling. A sod can't carve it, weave it, or build with it. Of course, the Cilenei Brothers make heartwine from the weed in Curst, but that's a recipe no one else knows the dark of.
Sigil isn't anarchy, though, and there's a number of things that keep it from the brink. The dark of things in Sigil's pretty common knowledge to the natives, but the Clueless are just going to have to learn by keeping their eyes and ears open. Here's what keeps the order in the City of Doors: the Lady of Pain, her Mazes, and the dabus.
The ever-vigilant Harmonium keeps the peace - or the faction's idea of it - with foot patrols of two to four watchmen. Now, a Harmonium guardsman's view of things is that everyone one should obey orders, which are always lawful and generally good. Arguing or trying to explain one's self is a sign of defiance, which in itself is cause enough to get a berk arrested. It's no surprise that when the guardsmen see something they don't like, most all of the Cagers - not just the guilty - make themselves scarce.
This don't mean that the Harmonium is really respected - only feared. The Harmonium patrols're the strong arm of the Law, ever willing to enforce order on the unruly city. Most citizens think they're either self-important buffoons, always looking out for everyone else's business but their own, or dangerous meddlers, upsetting the carefully laid plans of their betters. The Harmonium guardsmen ain't fools, though, as anyone with eyes to see can tell. After all, even the bravest of them never ventures into the Hive.
These patrols use planar mancatchers, which look much like a prime version of the weapon but are engraved with mystic runes that prevent a githyanki, githzerai, or other plane-shifters from escaping. There's always at least one in any patrol.
The dabus are both servants and lords of Sigil. They're unique to the Cage, never found anywhere else in the planes. In other words, the dabus never leave Sigil. From this, bloods figure the dabus are actually living manifestations of the city, which makes sense since the beings maintain most of the infrastructure that makes the city work.
Most of the time the dabus are found repairing what's broken in Sigil. They keep the sewers and catacombs beneath the streets from crumbling, they cut back the razorvine when it grows too rampant, they patch the cobblestone streets, and they repair the crumbling facades of the city's buildings. To most, the dabus are nothing more than cryptic workmen.
However, some berks discover another side of their duties, because the dabus also work as agents of the Lady of Pain. Sometimes they appear to punish those knights who've gotten too forward in their plans, and sometimes they arrive in force to put down riots, but they're not concerned with normal crime. It's the factions that are left to deal with the thieves and murderers in Sigil. The dabus only show up when there's a threat to their Lady, and that's usually a sign that another one of the Mazes is about to appear.
The Mazes are the grandest of all Sigil's punishments, and the Lady of Pain saves them for the worst threats to her power. They're a part and yet not a part of the city, and no sane basher wants to go there. The Mazes are the Lady's special birdcages for the would be power mongers of Sigil.
The Mazes are just that: mazes. There's a difference between them and some of the more confused sections of the Cage, of course, or they'd not be much of a punishment. For starters, they aren't exactly part of Sigil. When the Lady creates a new part of the Mazes, a small piece of the city - an alley or a courtyard, for example - copies itself and becomes a tiny little demiplane. A portal of her making then carries the copy into the heart of the Deep Ethereal. There, it grows into an endless twisting maze that's got no beginning or end. It just doubles hack forever on itself. (Actually, the Guvners insist that the Mazes are still part of Sigil, even though they're in the Ethereal, so even their location is a mind-maze.)
A sod sentenced to the Mazes never knows it until it's too late. Sometimes they form around him just as he's passing through some particularly deserted part of the city; he turns a corner and the next intersection's not the way he remembers it, and by that time it's too late. Those that figure the Lady's after them - the ambitious and the cunning - try clever ways to avoid her traps. Some of them never leave their palaces so they never enter a blind alley, and others only travel with groups so they're never caught alone, but it never works. A basher walks down an empty hall in his house, only to discover a maze of rooms that didn't exist before. And sooner or later a berk turns his back to his friends, and when he looks back they're all gone. The Mazes'll always get a sod, no matter how careful he is.
Just spitting her rivals into the Deep Ethereal's not enough for the Lady of Pain, either. Each little chunk of the Mazes that's kicked out is sealed one way from planar travel - things can get in with a spell, but things can't get back out. For instance, food and water always appear so the prisoner won't starve. But worst of all, those in the Mazes know there's a way out, as the Lady of Pain always leaves a single portal back to Sigil hidden somewhere. Maybe it's so the dabus can check on things if needed, and maybe it's just to torture the sod who's trapped there. Of course, since that portal's there, it's not impossible to escape the Mazes - hard, yes, but not impossible. Maybe a berk gets lucky and finds the portal. Maybe his friends have got the jink to mount a rescue. After all, they only have to find where the portal opens in Sigil or else track down the demiplane in the Deep Ethereal. How hard can that be?
The Lady of Pain
The Lady, Her Serenity, the most high-up of all of Sigil's bloods, is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. The Lady's not a woman and she's not human - nobody's quite sure what she is. The best guess is she's a power, probably a greater power, but there is also a theory that she's a reformed Tanar'ri Lord, if such a thing is even possible. Whatever else she is, she's the Lady of Pain, and given that, most other facts are extraneous.
For the most part the Lady (as she's called) keeps distant from the squalid hurly-burly of the Cage. She doesn't have a house, a palace, or a temple. Nobody worships her, and with good reason: those that say prayers to her name get found with their skins flayed off - a big discouragement to others.
Sometimes she's seen drifting through the streets, the edge of her gown just brushing over the cobblestones. Those who try interfering with her erupt in horrid gashes at just the touch of her gaze. Wise bloods find business elsewhere on those rare times she passes down the way. Eventually, her image fades and she vanishes into nothingness. Natives of Sigil view her with fearful awe, as she's the uncaring protector of their home.
She never speaks, yet her will is plain to the dabus without a sound. What is the meaning of Our Lady's dread silence? No one knows. Her servitors, the dabus, don't utter a sound either, but their images speak for them. The strange symbiosis between the dabus and the Lady has been commented on by more than one graybeard, but few are willing to go the next step and suggest that perhaps the Lady is one of the dabus, perhaps their queen, or even their (whisper it) goddess. There's no evidence for it, yet it seems plausible.
The Lady of Pain has been the ruler of Sigil as long as living and written memory tells us. Tales of only a few events of her long life have survived the passing of years, and those events are all tied to the city that cages her. The full details of the secret history and intrigues of the Lady are best left unexplored; her compassion for her chroniclers has never been very profound. Her destruction of her enemies has always been swift and merciless.
The Lady has a very long history of defending herself and her city, using the mazes as the ultimate defense. But Our Lady has not always bad access to the mazes, for she once cast pretenders to the Throne of Blades into Agathion, the third layer of Pandemonium. As recounted in the oldest known legend of the Lady, 10,000 years ago Shekelor - then the greatest mage in the city of Sigil - sought to increase his already formidable power. The tale tells that like many others, he wanted to seize the Lady's throne, but unlike others, he was cautious and wary, for many had failed before him. He sought an almost successful usurper entrapped in Pandemonium, but in the end the plane's dangers destroyed him, and he died burning from within before a crowd in the City Courts. What's most interesting about the tale is how it hints that the Lady hasn't always had the power to create Mazes, which in turn implies that the power could be taken away from her. How that might be done, though, is darker than the bottom of the Abyss.
The most recent troublemakers in Sigil were members of the faction called the Expansionists, who were destroyed when their leader was cast out into one of the Lady's Mazes. Vartus Timlin was the factol of the Expansionists, and his great influence was made even more so by a powerful sword called Lightbringer. However, when he began speaking openly of seizing power, deposing the Lady of Pain, and making himself the Cage's center of control, both he and his blade were cast into one of the Mazes.
Chant also has it that the Lady's hand is behind the destruction of the Shattered Temple (which now serves as the headquarters of the Athar, also called the Lost), because its worshipers began offering sacrifices to her as an aspect of Aoskar. Since none of those present at the destruction of the Temple survived, the story's pure conjecture at best, but it matches her present behavior.
Little else is known about the Lady's origins or history, but a few of her behaviors follow a pattern. The Lady never speaks. Some say that she just doesn't waste her time talking to those who aren't her equals - and any equals would be cast into a Maze. The statistical indexes and compilations of the Guvners have also established the fact that when the dabus are disturbed, the Lady's mind is troubled. How the dabus know, however, is a question that brings no useful answer from the mute dabus.
The Code of Conduct
So what's a blood got to do to avoid the Lady's attention? What are the laws of Sigil?
There aren't many.
Sigil' s a place where anyone and anything can happen, and a lot of it does. The Lady of Pain's not interested in the petty squabbles of day-to-day affairs. A murder here, a mugging there - that's not her concern because the Harmonium can take care of it. The Lady of Pain only takes action against threats to the security of Sigil, and that means her security. The things she won't tolerate include a berk trying to break open the portals so a power can enter, finding a way around her astral barrier, slaughtering the dabus, tearing the city down stone by stone, or inciting general rebellion against her rule. These aren't the deeds most bashers are likely to try, so most often the Lady just exists in her peaceful fierceness.
It is possible to get put in her deadbook for less than Sigil-shattering deeds, though. All a berk's got to do is make the folks of Sigil question the Lady's power. Too many killings or crimes'll make the folks of Sigil nervous and fearful, and they'll start wondering if she's got the means to protect them. Given that, it's no surprise that the dabus start looking real hard for the criminal. Lasting power comes from keeping the population happy.
It'd seem natural that the factions would always be threatening the Lady's power, too. After all, each one's got their own idea of just what's proper and right for Sigil, and these are ideas that don't always include the Lady of Pain at the top of things. Fact is, if they go too far she'll crack them like beetles. Now, the factols are wise enough to see that Sigil's a safe haven from their enemies, besides being the best way to get around, and no faction wants to get itself spun out of Sigil. Philosophers who foolishly challenge the Lady's power get Mazes all their own. Given the choice of not holding a given idea or winding up in the Mazes, it's easy to see why some philosophies have died off. The most often told tale's about the Communals, sods who held that everything belonged to everyone, including the Lady's share of the power. One day, everyone in the Communal headquarters (the City Provisioner's) vanished. The best guess is they were all trapped into one Maze in the Ethereal Plane. Pretty quick, no cutter admitted being a Communal, but it's said there's still a small colony of true believers out on the Astral somewhere. Given that example, it's no surprise the factions police their own.
Sometimes when a body's written into the dead-book in Sigil the entire town turns out to watch, 'cause when the Mercykillers decide it's time for an execution, the Cagers prepare to be entertained. The condemned are led out of the Prison into a tumbrel (a simple, two wheeled cart) and taken to the place of execution, called the Petitioners' Square. All along the way the crowds jeer the prisoners, pelt them with stones and - offal, and mock their crimes (and their stupidity forgetting caught).
Once the prisoners have been carted into the Square, the road out of town takes one of three main forms: by the noose, by the sword, or by the wyrm. Before the criminals are brought before the gallows or the block, they are always allowed a short speech, either to repent their crimes or to brag about them, or to curse their accusers or their executioner (ensuring a lingering and painful end). Provided the condemneds' speeches are entertaining and relatively short, the crowd is generally indulgent at this point. The festive atmosphere is highlighted by sales of meat pies and cheaply printed "life stories" of the accused (many of which are simply cobbled together from previous executions' unsold pamplets).
Death on the gallows has a hundred names: the Leafless Tree, the Rope, the Last Dance.... By and large, hanging is reserved for deserters, embezzlers, murderers, and escaped slaves. The noose is considered both quick and quite entertaining, for unless the neck snaps immediately the victim always struggles. Of course, the prisoner's expected to offer a garnish to the hangman to ensure a properly set rope: setting the knot at the side of the neck improves the chances of snapping the spine cleanly, whereas a knot at the back of the neck ensures that the hanged man will suffocate slowly, dancing all the while.
Execution by the blade is generally reserved for nobles and powerful faction members - high-ups guilty of crimes such as seeking to close a portal to the Outlands, failing to provide taxes to the city treasury, libeling the Lady, or such like. The executioner's swords are specially suited for the task: They have terrible balance and no point, only two sharp edges - a hit like an elongated cleaver. The two executioner's blades of Sigil are nicknamed Scythe and Raven, and endless debates rage among the Mercykillers as to which of the two cuts cleaner. Both are engraved with the same motto: "Justice reigns".
Death by the Wyrm is an extremely rare, lingering, spectacular demise. The occasion is almost always declared a public holiday, so that the entire town can turn out to watch. The roar of the Wyrm, the terror of the victim (usually bound to a post, blindfolded if the executioner is given a hit of garnish), the impassiveness of the Guvners - all these things make for a spectacle few Cagers want to miss. Enormous crowds turn out, and brawls over seats can turn into small riots. Since only traitors to the city (those who betray the trust placed in them, such as those who slay Dabus, those who reveal secret portals, or those who charge tolls or tariffs on the Lady's portals) are sentenced to death by the wyrm, the square is rarely treated to this show.
As with any entertainment, the crowds demand satisfaction from the executions rather quickly, and so after the prisoners' speeches, the whole matter is usually settled in fifteen minutes or less. The law also demands that the sentence be carried out swiftly; for death by the blade, if the executioner fails to put the deader in the book after three tries the criminal is pardoned and set free.
Most prisoners don't get this sort of pardon; their bodies are put on display in the square. Most are simply put on pikes, but a few of the worst offenders are always displayed in iron cages where the city's ravens peck at them until nothing is left.
Sigil's no different in that respect. The Cage has got its specialties, along with its secrets. Of course, Sigil's not like every other town out there, either. For one thing, it's got no natural resources, unless a sod counts razorvine. Nobody comes to Sigil for its minerals, lumber, or produce. All these things come from elsewhere. The city's constantly importing even the most basic commodities: meat, grain, vegetables, fruit, wood, iron, and stone. To do that, Sigil's got to have something to sell.
Not surprisingly, it's the portals that keep the Cage from starvation. Sure, a cutter's free to travel through them without the slightest bit of garnish, but those portals go everywhere, and that means everywhere passes through the City of Doors sooner or later. Sigil's the one place that reaches the entire
multiverse. Not only do bodies of all stripes pass through the streets - chasing business, pleasure, and adventure - but goods from everywhere go along for the ride. Looking for a job or a good time, or both? Looking for bronzewood from Oerth? Need firewine from Toril? Want the feathers of a phoenix? Sure a cutter could wander out on the Great Ring and beyond, but it's a lot easier to pass through Sigil first.
So, the first business in Sigil is putting up the travelers. In another world and time it might be called tourism, but here it's just accommodating the travelers - and what an assortment they are! It's not just a matter of having the best inn - a landlord's got to specialize. Is he going to run a kip that caters to humans or fiends? There's stable-inns for bariaur, fire-pits for efreet, the boisterous taverns favored by Arborean einheriar, and more. Everybody coming here expects to find the comforts of home, and smart landlords in Sigil ain't about to disappoint them.
All these folks lead to the second order of business in the Cage: trade. Everything from anywhere's got the potential to pass through Sigil, so it makes sense that there's merchants buying and selling it all right here. There's the Great Bazaar, where stallkeepers from a hundred worlds set up shop. There's backstreet merchants who'll get a blood anything - for the right jink. There’s respectable and shady, too, and a cutter's got to be careful of what he buys. After all, there's a lot of cross-trading knights out there, waiting to bob and peel with false goods any basher they can.
With all the merchants to serve the travelers, other folks have set up shop here, too. Wizards in particular find Sigil's a good place to practice their trade. A lot of swag that's interesting to them, magical and nonmagical, passes through the Cage. Then there's mercenaries of all stripes, who come because the merchants need bodyguards, bill collectors, and damn fools willing to risk their necks bringing hack a hordling's tusk. These folks breed more needs and services in turn, until the whole thing starts feeding on itself.
Sigil's got another unique property to offer folks from other planes besides its portals, and that's its location for making magic. Swords, armor, and the like that're made in Sigil lose fewer of their magical bonuses than things made on most other planes. A sword made here loses only one plus out on the Great Ring. Compare that to a perfect blade from Mechanus - on most other planes it'll lose at least two pluses. About the only other plane that's any better for making magic is the Astral, but that's overrun by githyanki...
Sigil does a fair trade in the forging and selling of magical items, but that doesn't mean there's magic shops on every corner, hawking rows of potions, scrolls, and blades. Instead, there's a fair number of "collectors" who'll have a small shelf of minor magic made by craftsmen in the city. A cutter should be warned, though, that prices are high - he'll usually spend no less than 5,000 gp for each basic plus of a weapon. That cutter best not hope to find anything really amazing either; weapons that good just don't get put up for sale.
When it comes to currency, Sigil's got a real "go for it" attitude. The merchants have worked hard to make it easy to spend jink. They'll accept standard coinage from most any place, so long as it's gold and silver. A gold coin from Toril's not much different from one of Oerth's gold pieces. Of course, differences in size, weight, and rarity are used as excuses to haggle ("It'll cost double. That jink's tiny, not a proper size at all."). Sigil's not about exact money-changing - any berk who wants that might as well go be a banker - so the type of coin folks use can just be treated as normal gold, silver, and copper pieces. Sure it may be minted in the likeness of hideous Juiblex, but gold is gold.
There's more than just the Great Bazaar in Sigil; a city this large can't rely on a single marketplace. Scattered throughout the Cage are places where a cutter can buy and sell all sorts of things.
All the markets are either day or night markets. Common day markets deal mostly in food and housewares, the stuff every sod needs for daily living. Of course, with a population like Sigil's, even the food gets strange. There's the regular meats, vegetables, and fruits that primes chew on, and then there's stuff to satisfy more exotic tastes. Slabs of quivering jellylike things that a sod doesn't really want to know about can be bought, and there's fruits gathered from poisonous jungles on the Prime Material Plane, heaps of rare rock to suit the palates of earth elementals, steaming cauldrons of molten slag for the wandering mephit - and that's just food; there's day markets for all sorts of other things, too. Some markets specialize in a single craft like goldwork or weaving. Others offer a wondrous variety of wares from other planes. Over in the Hive, a few shops are run by thieves. It's said a basher can go there and buy back anything that was stolen from him the night before, and at only a tenth of it's true value.
The night markets offer a different variety of goods. Gone are the pots, rugs, piles of fruit, and bolts of cloth. From the shadows appear all the sellers of entertainment and pleasure. Food stalls, jugglers, musicians, prophets, and bawds all offer their wares. Those shopping in the dark hours seek excitement, distraction, and solace, and the night markets - fascinating and deadly - are only too eager to please. A cutter's got to be careful so that his misfortunes don't become another body's pleasure.