To Chance with Hell (Planescape)
Key Players in Sigil
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Key Players in Sigil
Commonly seen in most every part of Sigil, existing as the silent caretakers of the City of Doors and servants of the Lady of Pain are the dabus. The dabus appear as humanoids of average height, robed and nearly indistinguishable from one another, with two sets of horns, one ram and one goat, sprouting from their foreheads just below a shock of upstanding white hair. It is nearly impossible to tell one dabus from another, and due to their physical similarity it remains impossible to estimate the true number of dabus that inhabit the city.
The dabus act as the caretakers of Sigil, floating, rather than walking above the streets in small groups to repair the roads, trim razorvine back from buildings, and keep the streets clean of debris and detritus. Of late, the dabus have also taken upon themselves the duties of magistrates within the City Courts in order to restore unbiased justice to Sigil, untainted by the suspect work of the magistrates formerly of the Fraternity of Order.
This recent act has also appeared to diminish the number of dabus observed upon the streets of Sigil, and led to the formation of the Sanitation Guild to pick up the duties formerly held solely by the dabus themselves. This has led some graybeards within Sigil to postulate that there is a set number of Dabus in existence at any point in time. The answer remains dark.
Within Sigil, legend has always held that the dabus reside within hidden warrens deep beneath the city streets. However, none have ever observed the dabus entering these fabled retreats of theirs. At most, when dusk falls over the city the dabus have been seen floating down into openings to the Great Below, or simply turning corners and vanishing from the streets.
Perhaps the most defining, and the most perplexing, feature of the dabus is the peculiar manner of communication they possess. The dabus are mute, and while they can apparently listen to and understand any known method of communication, they possess neither audible nor telepathic modes of speech. Rather, the dabus project above their heads a string of illusory symbols and pictures that form words. The so-called dabus rebuses can be confusing and difficult to translate to those unfamiliar with their chosen method of speech, though the rebuses are always phrased to translate into the favored language of whomever the dabus are speaking to.
Those seeking aid in understanding the dabus might do well to purchase one of the many guidebooks to Rebus speech, commonly available across the city in bookshops or street vendors in the Market Ward. Most of the books are based off the groundbreaking work of the linguist Milori, a lilland who spends most of her time within Sigil speaking to newcomers and cataloging any language, or variant of a language, new to her. Based out of the Clerk’s Ward, her swansong, The Dabus-Common Phrasebook, also known by its alternate name, The Dark Revealed, can be purchased or her services bought for the same purpose. [Milori’s work is more reliable, if a bit more expensive, than most of the other books sold under similar names within Sigil. She’s quite a pleasant person to hold company with as well, though I understand the dabus nearly as well as she, and thus have only had occasion to speak with her a scant few times. – The Editor]
A dabus have never been observed outside of Sigil, and indeed it would seem that perhaps they are tied to the city in some way. When asked, the dabus have answered that they were born of Sigil itself. Whatever they mean by that, when asked who they serve, they respond back with a single rebus: that of the bladed head of the Lady of Pain. No other answer is appropriate, or forthcoming. Additionally, some graybeards have speculated that there may exist some link between the dabus, and the phirblas, denizens of their own ethereal demiplanes who bare distinct resemblances to the dabus in some of their modes of speech, society, and appearance. But the links are tenuous, and with no proof of this connection the idea has fallen out of acceptance by most scholars. Both races dismiss the idea as screed, for what its worth.
The dabus are utterly loyal to Her Serenity, and any harm or molestation of the dabus is taken as a threat to Sigil itself. Those guilty of this crime are, if not immediately, often sent to the mazes within a short period of time. On those rare occasions when a dabus has been killed, the murderer has been seen transfixed by the razor edged shadow of the Lady in full view of the public, flayed alive as punishment, their screams lasting minutes before death takes them. The loyalty of the dabus however holds but one known caveat. And that is Fell, the fallen Dabus, whose pitiable and enigmatic story is penned elsewhere within this volume.
The final role the dabus play within Sigil is that of spokesmen for the Lady. Any proclamation of the Lady’s will arrives through the dabus who in the past have appeared, one floating before Her, to serve as mouthpiece to their silent, enigmatic queen. The Lady, at most, points a sleeve in the direction of the intended target of Her message. The dabus then speaks with a rebus, headed typically by ‘It is the will of the Lady that…’
But even when not speaking on behalf of the Lady, the word of the dabus can be taken and accepted as truth. They will not lie, and they will answer questions posed to them. Even questions as simple as ‘Which way to the Great Bazaar?’ will be answered, though the dabus have their duties, and repeated questioning may reward the berk with a cold shoulder as they ignore him. Of course, some questions the dabus may simply refuse to answer, or their answer may simply come as an enigmatic symbol or phrase with no further explanation. When asking them, ‘What is the Lady?’ for example, they respond once more with only the haunting image of the bladed aspect of Her Serenity, and nothing more. For them, and perhaps for us all, there is no further answer to be had.
The City Council
After the Faction War and the subsequent edict of the Lady of Pain declaring that the factions must relinquish their political power in its entirety, the citizens of the Cage were left with a sudden power vacuum and cessation of an actual organized body to undertake the day-to-day running of vital civil services. Thus was the Sigil Advisory Council established.
The Sigil Advisory Council is charged with the running of Sigil in the face of the absence of the factions, since the guilds of Sigil do not at present have the numbers or the popular support of the population for the task. The current nine-member council is elected on three-year terms, with the council chair elected for a four-year term herself. The chairman, or chairwoman as the current case may be, is elected from within the council itself rather than put to popular vote. Voting for the council is run and overseen by the City Courts, with the dabus serving as impartial vote counters, and a single vote is given to every property owner within Sigil, without regards to the amount or value of the property. This last stipulation prevents the stacking of votes by some of the more powerful and wealthy landowners in the Cage such as Zadara the Titan, Shemeska the Marauder, Timmon d’Arlen, and Jeremo the Natterer.
And so, while not truly representative of the city, those paying taxes upon their property are represented considering that by and large their gold supports the city hierarchy. As well, despite the council’s name, it has much more than an advisory role in the City of Doors. All of its declarations and rulings are backed by the City Courts, the agreement of the vast majority of the guilds, and by the City Guard if need be.
As of the Fifth Year of the Lady’s Edict, the nine-member council is currently composed of:
Rhys (Transcendent Order) – Council Chairwoman and former factol of the Transcendent Order. Rhys has been the main balancing force on the advisory council in the years following the Faction War, able to uncannily head off tension and most open conflict between members or groups within the city arguing for certain actions on the part of the council. She has been walking a fine line between her influence over the council and her influence within the former members of the Transcendent Order. For this matter, combined with her having been the sole surviving factol from the Faction War, many of the council members have both respect and unease regarding her. In meetings she often displays a calm aloofness and uncannily perfect timing to interject with points during public hearings before the collective council. Chairwoman Rhys is, more than any other council member, assured of re-election when the current term is over.
Cirily (Planarists) – An alarming and polarizing choice to sit upon the council, Cirily also serves as public spokeswoman and leader of the Planarists. This Sigil based sect would do nothing more than exclude Prime Material natives from Sigil, and then from the planes entirely. Her impromptu speeches nearly caused a riot on one occasion, and would have done so far more often if not for Rhys deftly heading her off by procedural means or simply matching her on a matter of will before the other councilwoman stood down. It is very likely that Cirily and Rhys will come to more than simply ideological blows against the other if Cirily is continually blunted in her aspirations on the Council as she has been so far, with some small, but notable exceptions.
Elahassa Merem of the Order of Master Clerks and Scribes (Fraternity of Order) – Councilwoman Merem has been a relatively quite and benign presence upon the council for most of her term, swaying towards the positions of Chairwoman Rhys as well as those of Councilwoman Cirily at times. Though she has been relatively fickle in her votes on the council, most think she is assured of re-election, mostly because the other members on the council feel that she is not tied down ideologically to any one of the other members. However, she has, on a number of occasions, quarreled with Councilman Hatchis, more for his views on the Clerk’s Ward, which in a way she exemplifies, than for his voting record.
Estavan (Fraternity of Order) – Sigil’s representative within the vast Planar Trade Consortium, his election was something of a surprise, even to himself. He has been largely quiet on the council, allying neither with any group nor with council member, which is unsurprising considering his own personal ambitions stretching outside of Sigil at the moment.
Gregory Holmin (Fraternity of Order) – The former Magistrate of the Bureau of Commerce within the Hall of Information under the Fraternity of Order, Holmin is respected among the business leaders of Sigil, but is also, uncharacteristically for a Guvner, something of a hothead and loose cannon at times. He has been a relatively independent voice on the council, with no allegiances to any other particular members except for perhaps Ustisha Cambris, and occasionally Estavan.
Harys Hatchis (Free League) – Another unusual pick for the council, Hatchis has been a popular choice, especially among the smaller property owners and businesses of Sigil. Second only to Jeena Ealy in popularity as a standard council member, he has used his position to advocate a number of reductions on the legislative red tape within the Clerk’s Ward, as well as many of the restrictions placed upon merchants within the Market Ward during the pre-Faction War period. He has also been openly uneasy about the public positions of Councilwoman Cirily.
Jeena Ealy (Society of Sensation) – The elderly councilwoman has more popular support than any but Chairwoman Rhys, and for good reason. For decades now, since her adventuring career with her late husband left her rich and drunk upon the sensations of the planes, Jeena has lived in the Clerk’s Ward as a philanthropist and author. Her greatest work, Of Darkest Sigil, exposed to many the truly inhuman conditions within the Hive, and the need to do something about them as a matter of conscience. Her influence in aiding Sigil’s less privileged has been marked since her election. Due to age, it is uncertain if she will pursue a second term after her first ends in a year’s time. She has been adamantly against the positions advocated by Councilwoman Cirily, and has voted time and time again for every piece of legislation put forward by Council Chairwoman Rhys.
Ustisha Cambris of the Builders’ Fellowship (Fated) – Ustisha has the support of many of the guilds, and along with councilwoman Merem, is responsible for all of the established guilds, and most of the new guilds, falling behind the council in public support. He has been deftly wielding his current position on the council to lower the city tariffs levied against the importation of building materials within Sigil, and has fallen into agreement heavily with Councilman Estavan on this matter.
Utadas Tensar (Fraternity of Order) – Considered one of the most honest men in Sigil, he has for years run the most respected and sought after employment service in all of Sigil from his office within the Clerk’s Ward. His honesty and propensity for finding equally honest and skilled labor has given him a good name within the business community and thus a spot upon the council. He has however, indicated that he is likely to step down after his current term.
The City Guard
The Sigil City Guard is a relatively new organization that in many ways has yet to mature. Until they reach that point, they cannot hope to equal the level of service to the city that was provided by the combined forces of the Mercykillers and the Harmonium in the days of the factions.
While official and sponsored by the Sigil Advisory Council, more often than not the Guard find themselves outmatched by the semi-official Minder’s Guild and the unofficial but tolerated Sons of Mercy. The latter two groups have a habit of apprehending lawbreakers and turning them in to the City Guard for incarceration and trial before the actual City Guard have managed to catch the particular lawbreakers themselves.
At current, the City Guard has numbers approaching around three hundred, roughly the same as a medium-sized guild. However, the guards are paid for their loyalty, and are little more than civilized mercenaries earning a pittance for their labors. It’s very likely that the Guard may well be a ripe target for the ideologies of either the Sodkillers or the Sons of Mercy, and eventually may fall under some manner of control by one group or the other.
The City Guard is currently based out of the Barracks, with eventual plans to possibly expand out to the Prison and split their numbers between the two strongholds. Currently the Guard is lead by Watch captain Danthis Highmoon, who is currently trying to recruit more soldiers as well as train those he has for the varied activities of patrolling, riot control, and prison duties.
Most citizens of the Cage have an overall favorable opinion of the Guard, though many long for the days of the Harmonium’s order, if not their heavy-handed methods and ideology. The Guard is trusted by most however for an even application of the law, with neither the enjoyment of force nor the starry eyed idealism that the Sodkillers and Sons of Mercy are known for, respectively.
The Guard is still attempting to define itself though, but it appears that Chairwoman Rhys has influenced Watch captain Highmoon considerably into an evenhanded upholding of the law, striking a functional and ideological balance between the Sons of Mercy and the Sodkillers as best he can impress it upon his charges. [Ever the Cipher and still listening to her Cadence. Rhys hasn’t much changed. – The Editor]
The Sons of Mercy
With the sundering of the Red Death during the Faction War, Arwyl Swanson and many of the good-aligned members of the Mercykillers reformed the Sons of Mercy. Still small, but now officially a faction as they once were before the Great Upheaval, the Sons of Mercy with their white regalia and symbols have become something of a common sight in parts of Sigil.
Within the Lady’s Ward and spreading outwards from there, the Sons of Mercy have gained the reputation as proud and honest bashers, but at times ineffective and naively idealistic. The latter, and widespread, impression has led to a number of public plays and common jokes to which they are the punch line. The Sons for their own part do their best to ignore this and continue on their genuinely noble task, even if as yet their activity can at best be termed unsanctioned and at worst vigilantism.
The group works as an unofficial adjunct to the City Guard, and they seek most likely to ensconce themselves in the Prison as the wardens and caretakers of Sigil’s criminals. They feel that any job they do would be better than allowing the Sodkillers any chance to rise to the same office. [Many former victims of the Mercykillers would be quick to agree with them too. – The Editor]
During the disintegration of the Mercykillers during the waning hours of the Faction War, the Sodkillers split with the Sons of Mercy, existing as perhaps a darkly pragmatic reflection of their former compatriots. Having grown from initially a waxing sect, the Sodkillers exist now as a full-fledged faction. Since that time however, the faction is still wary of the Lady’s Edict, and as such, the Sodkillers exist as the driving force behind the Minder’s Guild. The guild, officially numbered among those of Sigil and recognized by the Sigil Advisory Council, operates out of the Clerk’s Ward as a private service of thugs, mercenaries, and bodyguards for hire. Staffed and run by the faction behind the scenes, there is little to separate the two except on paper.
They have a reputation as being ruthlessly pragmatic, rough, and at times evil. The use of force in whatever form and methods needed to enforce order, regardless of its moral aspect, is common. That, by itself, sums up the group’s creed nicely. The opinion of most tends to be that both the guild and the faction are honest, but only when paid for their service, and that they tend to enjoy the use of brutality more than to most cutters’ taste. Those on the receiving end of the guild or faction’s dispensations of justice to the highest bidder are likely to hold a much less sterling opinion.
Unlike the Sons of Mercy, the Sodkillers, fronted by a legitimate guild, possess a growing fraction of official power. The Sons of Mercy are still struggling to find official recognition of their efforts, but for the moment their harder nosed and more ruthless former compatriots hold the upper edge.
[[Nijul P’iuy]] is the current factol of the Sodkillers, surrounded by a small group of ex-Mercykillers who comprised Alisohn Nilesia’s personal guard. Under her leadership, and based out of the Tower of the Wyrm, adjacent to the Prison, the faction has grown rapidly to its current status. The formation of the Minder’s Guild has been her greatest triumph in her short time as factol, and she is unlikely to relinquish this current advantage over the Sons of Mercy, attempting instead to further use the guild to leverage the faction into the halls of power within Sigil. [Again, the line between faction and guild runs razor sharp, and so does the shadow of Her Serenity. The faction treads upon dangerous ground. – The Editor]
The Daughters of Light
The Daughters of Light is a small sect of paranoid bashers based inside a former butcher’s shop in the [[Clerk’s Ward]], upon Sandstone Row called The Filleted Fiend [And are we surprised that based solely on its name the butcher’s shop was set on fire no less than three times before the owner called it a loss and left town? – The Editor]
Following the Lady’s Edict, the sect seemed to bubble up out of nowhere, though in truth they have existed for some long years, serving to hinder the activity of the former Revolutionary League. But with the ending of faction power in Sigil they rose up, their purpose renewed and expanded, and claimed official backing, perhaps even by Her Serenity as they began to ruthlessly hunt down lingering faction activity within the Cage. The group seems to view everything around them through a lens of grand conspiracy by the factions. The tiefling on the corner hawking pickled eggs might be a former Athar member seeking to spread his creed of disbelief by writing messages upon the eggshells of his product for sale. Stranger claims by the Daughters of Light have been proclaimed publicly.
And in fact, the group may itself have been initially a front by the Anarchists themselves. But regardless of their past, the sect now seems to be seeing its ranks thin as the factions have either officially disbanded or moved out of Sigil entirely. This lessening of their presence and activity within Sigil has been seemingly abrupt of late. [One does not claim the backing of Her Serenity in vain… – The Editor] But, if you would suspect that they’ve all been mazed, or otherwise removed from the picture, you’d likely be wrong for, as the kreigstanz has changed, so too it seems have the Daughters of Light. Certain chant has the group simply shifting its focus out of Sigil, and out onto the planes to follow the factions.
It may be convenient to claim the Daughters of Light as suddenly gaining a hard and capable edge, and, like the Anarchists, attempting to infiltrate and negatively influence the factions, spread out onto the planes as many of them are. Certainly the infighting among the former Anarchists, coupled with the increasing friction between the Order of the Planes Militant and the Guardians and Sons of Mercy might indeed be an attractive target for influence from The Daughters. Or it might simply be more conspiratorial talk as barmy as anything the Daughters ever produced themselves.
[Be that as it may, the Daughters had and may still retain financial backing, and tentative, but unspoken support from both certain members of Sigil’s elite, and from other groups outside of Sigil with something to gain themselves from a lessening of faction influence, even the unofficial influence they might have had following the Lady’s edict. The who of this remains speculation at present, even on my part. – The Editor]