To Chance with Hell (Planescape)
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The Guildhall Ward
“Well you’ve paid your jink, and show you the Guildhall Ward I shall. The name itself says as much as most cutters can, and in many ways it’s not too different from me home, the Market Ward. But power I tell you, it’s creeping into the ward from the gutters on up.
“Eh? Me? Well I’ve got my own opinions on the ward certainly. The way I see it, things’ll be coming full circle eventually, and influence is fleeing the factions like cranium rats in an astral storm and piling up high with the guilds. Of course, I’m the head of one of them, so me views a bit slanted you might say.
“But a good bunch of people the ward has, and I like to think I know most of them. So don’t be surprised if I happen to nod and wave to half of them as we start this little walk.” – Kylie the Tout
The Guildhall Ward, in its storied past was once, in the years before the Great Upheaval, the center of real power in Sigil. Then, before the Lady reduced the number of factions to fiftenn from the hundreds of squabbling, competing ones before, the real powers in Sigil were the talented groupings of workers and craftsmen of the Guildhall Ward. By pooling their numbers and power, they could out maneuver the ever-fighting factions. But the consolidation of the factions after the Great Upheaval saw to the decline and eventual end to the guilds grip on Sigil, and indeed many of them ceased to exist in time as the factions took control of more and more of the Cage’s institutions.
Since the fall of the factions as organized or official powers within Sigil, it would appear that the guilds have been making a resurgence in importance and visibility. Most of the guild houses lay in a rough circle around the center of the ward, clustered near to the Great Gymnasium. Among other examples, both the Escort and Touts Guild and the Builders Fellowship lie at opposite ends of Turtle Lane. Downwards some five blocks from the Gymnasium stands the Council of Innkeepers on Shallowglass Lane, while the Order of Master Clerks and Scribes sits nestled at the end of Dancer’s Court.
Surrounding the Great Gymnasium, the blocks immediately near to the former faction hall of the Ciphers lays the Gymnasium District. Most of the members of the Transcendent Order still live here within walking distance of the Gymnasium which most of them still visit on a daily basis. Most of the businesses in the area tend to provide whatever is needed by those visiting the Gymnasium, including a number of smaller bathhouses, saunas, and gyms for those wishing a quieter, less frequented place than the former faction hall. In addition, many of the ward’s guilds already exist or are rapidly establishing both a presence and organized guildhall within the district.
Great Gymnasium – Situated roughly in the center of the Guildhall Ward, the Great Gymnasium did, and still does, function primarily as what its name implies. The calm beauty of the Great Gymnasium in many ways rivals or exceeds the laurels given to the glory of other buildings of the ward, and indeed the city. The gymnasium’s entire outer façade, and much of the inner structure, is built of a unique and evocative black marble laced throughout with veins of gold and rose colored minerals. While before the Faction War the Great Gymnasium was also the home of the Transcendent Order, it was and still is a place where most any basher can go to improve their body by a great variety of physical activities.
The structure is composed of a grand front portico that rises up to front the central tower of the gymnasium. The first level extends to both sides of the tower and back, while the second floor comprises the tower and a top layer to the front of the left and right wings. The third and least frequented floor is that which comprises the top of the tower.
Dominating one of the exterior walls of the Great Gymnasium is a gigantic painted mural, gifted without any request for it nearly six years prior by a member of the Xaositects. Called simply the Painter, the tiefling up and decided to paint the wall one day, following her winds of whimsy. In the end, she created one of the most moving and beautiful paintings in all of Sigil. Abstract in nature, and as varied as the whims of the Painter herself, two different bloods can look at it and claim to see a different pattern within its chaotic – or perhaps simply complex – depths. Regardless of what one claims to see within it, it is evocative to most all that look upon it, and the Ciphers were not in the least ungracious to the Xaositect who took it upon herself to gift it to them for naught.
The first floor is dominated by the exercise field used for various martial arts and combat skills. The center of the field also sports three pools, one hot, one warm, and one cold. Beyond the field is an inner portico used for musical and other public artistic demonstrations and lectures. Past the portico are a number of separated rooms for music, dancing, sculpting, and other artistic endeavors as well as sealed and warded rooms for spellslingers to practice their arts without harming themselves or others in the process. Those who frequented the old building still come for much the same, and aside from some of the faction high-ups wandering and giving token words to those training or practicing (especially Rhys, who rarely says a word, but then usually something profound), the former members of the Transcendent Order hold no more sway over the place than any others.
The second level was previously filled with a number of meditation chambers, including one taking up most of the floor called the Shared Meditation Chamber, and a few additional training rooms for use of faction members only. Now open to the public, old members and new bashers seeking some calm from the bustle of Sigil and their own lives frequent the chambers for quiet contemplation.
The Cadence of the Planes Chamber, a mysterious room once open only to highly placed Ciphers, is located at the apex of the Gymnasium’s tower and now sits open to the public. Be that as it may, few besides those Ciphers and those seeking them for training in the philosophy of the Transcendent Order frequently arrive to utilize the room. It’s not advertised in the least by the new operators of the Gymnasium, seemingly out of respect for the former owners, as a rush of berks seeking it out for their own ignorant curiosity would defeat the purpose of the chamber. The chamber itself functions as a total sensory deprivation chamber. Inside, the light is extinguished, temperature is held constant and cool, and slight, regulated air movements within keep the atmosphere pleasant and calm. The Ciphers used some manner of magic to produce a constant levitation field within, allowing a single user of the chamber to sit floating and undisturbed from everything but their own heartbeat and thoughts. Or isolated from thoughts, as the Ciphers might say. Indeed some non-Ciphers who have entered the chamber claim that not only does the Cadence Chamber seal off the user from sight and sounds outside the room, but also isolates them from stray thoughts detectable by psionic individuals. Others say they have sensed a dulling of magic within the chamber. Not quite an actual antimagic field, but something removing the influence of any spells outside the chamber from being expressed within.
The Ciphers themselves claim to be able to use the Cadence of the Planes Chamber to remove the sounds, influence, and distractions of the multiverse to let them listen to the Cadence of the Planes. By listening to the heartbeat of the Cadence in time with their own inner rhythm, they can act in harmony with the multiverse, knowing what to do at any given instant. The Cadence chamber still stands, and while many dismiss the metaphysical philosophy of the Ciphers, clearly there’s something to the Cadence or the chamber itself. After all, that same something apparently told former Factol Rhys to simply leave Sigil in order to avoid the the Faction War. [Makes a cutter think… but then again, that’s just what the Ciphers say holds you back. – The Editor]
Along Ritman Street, also termed Long Lane by some touts, lays a small conclave of elves, the one elven racial conclave within the city. The same touts have come to jokingly refer to the squat as the “Forest”. The community remains small, largely because most elves can’t stand the air and odd nature of the city’s geography. Little exists to distinguish the area from the other neighborhoods of the city, save the population of elves, though in the recent years they have taken to planting, without much success, a large number of trees to surround the area.
Yet another of Sigil’s racial enclaves is Ghundarhavel, the bariaur term for “home without grass”. The area and its residents are remarkably cool to non-bariaur, and in response to their less than welcoming attitude, the area has gained a second name from the ward’s touts: “Hoof Park”. The area has little draw for those of other races, since most of the shops and inns cater to the tastes specifically of their bariaur clients, and thus the food, spirits and even clothing offered is either unpalatable or unfeasible for others.
This squat of halflings in the Guildhall Ward, run by the Cipher halfling Talun Underfoot, surrounds an artificial burrow at its center. The burrow, built by Talun himself within several tons of soil imported from some Prime world, serves as a nostalgic draw to the local halflings. The area is known for its wide variety of restaurants including a nearby kip known as the Cutter’s Vineyard. The name for the restaurant comes from a clever play upon words; the inn sits as the center building within a cluster of vacant and razorvine choked kips. Diners eat upon the terraced roof overlooking the expanse of Curly-Top, surrounded by the wild growing, as well as pruned and trimmed razorvine along the actual terraces of the Vineyard itself.
Git’Riban / Githariban
The githyanki squat of Git’Riban, or Githariban, sits sheltered away within the Guildhall Ward. Most of the residents keep to themselves, and even when venturing out they tend to travel in self-segregated groups. This exaggerated cloistering of the githyanki of the district is likely due to the relative proximity of the githzerai squat of Darkwell Court, or even rumors that the entire community consists of rogue githyanki from the Astral in dereliction of their duties or having forsworn the Lich-Queen. [As the githyanki are typically neither stupid, nor suicidal, I find it unlikely the squat forswore their queen. I find it more likely, given that the community’s numbers have changed little over the years, that it may exist as nothing more than a grand scheme to draw in and eliminate true rogue githyanki. Alas, I cannot prove this with any certainty. As well, the recently reported death of the Lich-Queen Vlaakith may foreshadow coming changes to the community. – The Editor]