To Chance with Hell (Planescape)
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The Lower Ward
“Sadly enough, the Lower Ward has been slipping in stature in the recent years and decades. Now with the fall of the factions, especially with the Godsmen for the most part departing the city, the ward is liable to fall into lower import as well.
“For a ward once known as the Prime Ward, back during the days of the Incanterium and the Clueless Rebellion, and once one of the largest wards in Sigil, the Lower Ward has certainly fallen far from what it once was. Now it seems it will be slowly absorbed in part by either the Hive or the Lady’s Ward. The powers that be are seemingly eager to carve it apart like a roasted Quill at the dinner table, with all of them polishing their metaphorical knives in relish.
“But the future is never a certain thing, and the intrigues of Sigil are by far not a reliable topic for any diviner or sage, that is most definitely certain. What comes will come, and the workers, laborers, and shopkeepers of the ward will remain, regardless of the name and classification.” – The Editor
Great Foundry District
About twelve blocks from the Great Foundry sits one of the ward’s curiosities, a small magic shop known as the Friendly Fiend. Or rather, within the shop itself is the larger curiosity, the Friendly Fiend himself, [[A’kin the Arcanoloth]]. A’kin, both proprietor and owner, tends to be as large a draw at times as the contents of his shop itself.
The shop sells everything from barely magical baubles to animated objects of great value, as well as random items gathered from across the planes to be used as spell components or simply because they look neat upon a shelf collecting dust. A’kin seems to be able to get his claws on nearly anything a cutter inquires about given some time, and he always does so with a smile.
That’s what makes him an enigma; the fiend seems to be genuinely friendly with most anyone wandering through his shop. He’ll greet a customer, recognize them by name and face if they ever walk in a second time, and he’ll inevitably just give them some small trinket for stopping by if it strikes their fancy. His demeanor gets him customers just as much as his shop’s contents, but it also gets him a great number of rumors and suspicious glares. After all, when was the last time ANYONE met a friendly fiend? It’s all an act right? Well, maybe, and maybe not. None have ever in the centuries he’s been in Sigil seen him act like a typical Yugoloth, even so much as see him act surly on a bad day. He’s just always genuinely cheerful and talkative. It might just be a healthy way of spying on customers and their activities within the ward, or as some have suggested he may be an outcast of his own race for whatever reason, up to and even possibly including the fact that he may even be a risen fiend. A’kin doesn’t like to talk about his past, or the rumors about himself, and inevitably he just shrugs and soon enough the conversation is slid back to the health of the questioner and current happenings in their life.
One thing is known however: for whatever reason, he’s absolutely loathed by Sigil’s other resident arcanoloth, Shemeska the Marauder. She’s been known to fly into public fits if he’s mentioned in the same breath as her. Fallen out compatriots? Former or current lovers? Siblings? Some combination of the above? Who knows, since neither is talking. She scowls and raves, and he just smiles as he dusts his shelves and asks about his customers. [A’kin didn’t have anything much to say about the rumors that as always regard him, but he did manage to sell a number of animated dolls to his interviewer, and gave them a few Arcadian mints before sending the confused truth seeker on their way with a smile. – The Editor]
Moving on, just spireward of the Armory, but still a healthy number of blocks away, the neighborhoods grow seedier as the residents tend to be more worker than artisan, and more fiend than otherwise. Here, along Ironmonger Street, is the tavern and often riot in the making, the Styx Oarsman. Primarily a Tanar’ri bar, it also serves Yugoloths, but refuses to so much as let Baatezu through the heavily barred and guarded doors. The inn is the haunt of many a fiendish criminal, crosstrader, fence, and among the most famous of them is Rule-Of- Three. The wizened, one-eyed githzerai often finds his name associated, but never proven, with many a number of crimes and Tanar’ri plots in the ward and across the Cage. [Githzerai? He’s more a fiend than half the patrons of the Oarsman. And he’s not of the friendly variety, take my word. Though he gets things done if you don’t mind listening to, or otherwise talking to him in patterns of three. – The Editor]
The Great Foundry – The source of the ever present dusting of ash, soot, and smog that blankets the majority of the Lower Ward in its ever present yellow haze, the Great Foundry continues to belch forth the wastes of the forges and furnaces within. It and the district that surrounds it sits at the very center of the Lower Ward, with everything else clustered around and usually in some way relating to the production, sale, and distribution of its smokestack birthed fruits.
By far the largest structure in the Lower Ward, the Great Foundry was formerly the faction headquarters of the Believers of the Source as well as the source of most of Sigil’s indigenous metalwork and smithing. After the Faction War, the Believers of the Source, faced with their factol having been sent to the Mazes by the Lady, dissolved and many of them formed a new faction with members of the Sign of One called the [[Mind’s Eye]]. As such, they abandoned their former faction hall and for a time the forges grew cold and silent, the first such occurrence in centuries, by the reckoning of the residents of the Lower Ward. Eventually the Foundry auctioned off by the Sigil Advisory Council to pay off lingering debts of the faction to its former creditors and suppliers.Interestingly, the Foundry was bought for an undisclosed sum, possibly fronted by a third party, by a group of bladelings from the city of Zoronor in Acheron. The enigmatic cutters promptly claimed the Foundry, rekindled the forge flames, and set about the same work the Godsmen had previously performed. Things have seemingly returned to business as usual for the Lower Ward, if with a much altered face to it. The bladelings within the Foundry are rather insular, but their wares are at the least comparable to those that had produced by the Believers of the Source. Upon commission, the bladelings are willing to produce weapons and armor of the highest quality, each with a distinctive and alien quality in their engraved or forged designs.
The kips surrounding the foundry have suffered the majority of the pollution from the exhaust of the Foundry. The air quality is worse, and many of the residents here, excluding the fiends, inevitably suffer from respiratory problems due to living in such close proximity to the former Godsmen faction hall. The several month hiatus in the Foundry’s operation did momentarily improve the surrounding air quality, but only about as much as the periodic opening of portals to the Elemental Plane of Air tend to do anyways. [Or winds off the Spire, depending on who you ask, not that the process is frequent enough regardless of its origin. – The Editor] The recent rekindling of the forges by an incoming bladeling clan has once more belched smoke back into the skies over the ward, giving it its familiar perpetual twilight haze.
Shattered Temple District
At the edge of the Lower Ward, situated close to the Hive and adjacent to the Ditch, stands the Shattered Temple District, so named for the former faction hall of the Athar and former cathedral of Aoskar. Twice now it appears Her Serenity has disposed of the residents of the district, most recently the Athar, but also, uncounted centuries ago, the clergy of Aoskar and the power of portals himself in a mere seconds long massacre of screams and blades amid Her flickering shadow…
The obliteration of the temple of Aoskar and the surrounding blocks in all directions gave the district a reputation as cursed and haunted, blighted by Her Serenity. As such, the district, aside from the former Athar occupation, was never redeveloped in following centuries. However, along the circumference of the district’s edges a hearty number of boarding houses, inns, and shops sprung up to service the Lost and those seeking out the district for its resident faction or simply the legends surrounding it. These businesses yet survive, but time will tell if they can survive with the Athar banished from the Cage.
More activity has come to the district in the past year as Friar Muriov Garianis, of the Garianis family, has claimed the Shattered Temple grounds as his own and publicly stated his intent to demolish the structure and build a grand temple to his own power, Hades. [Much is likely to come of this. Truth be my word, conflict is coming to the ward. And to further educate my readers, a bit more on the history, past and present of the Shattered Temple – The Editor]
The Shattered Temple – Currently a flurry of activity in the ward surrounds the former Athar citadel known as the Shattered Temple, formerly the grand cathedral of the deity of planewalkers, portals, and opportunity known as Aoskar. After the mazing of Factol Terrance of the Athar, the majority of the Lost fled Sigil and now find themselves camped at the only other place of sanctuary in the multiverse from the wrath of the powers they railed against for so long: the base of the Spire in the Outlands. A few of the Athar remained, however, and work to inform their brethren in the Outlands of the events in Sigil as they attempt to regain control of their former headquarters in the City of Doors.
The Shattered Temple appears from the exterior as a broken and barely standing sanctuary of crumbling stone, ancient and fallen from the beauty it once held. Its stone arches and spires may once have reached up to the sky, but now reach up barely a few stories and end at broken or severed ends. Nevertheless, even in its state of apparent decay the place is still evocative of faded glory.
Within, the temple is anything but shattered, and multiple wardings support the exterior stone and grant it strength beyond what it may have possessed originally. The interior is splendid, if cramped, and the Athar utilized the former gallery and rectories as scribing chambers for producing the tracts and leaflets they used to attempt to undermine the faith of the inhabitants of the Cage in the powers they deemed false and unworthy of both worship and the title of divine.
Surrounding the Shattered Temple is a wasteland of abandoned buildings that appear much like the level of destruction present in the Slags further towards the Hive, across the Ditch that flows within sight of the Temple. Whatever force destroyed the surrounding blocks did so utterly, and as legend goes, did so in the space of seconds. The ruins have always been considered cursed or unhealthy and were mostly abandoned, much to the delight of the Athar who enjoyed the respite from their enemies among the faithful and their clergies within Sigil.
The layout of the temple is of a main sanctuary, ensconced with the crumbled listing buttresses at the center of four great terraces in the cardinal directions, and the old temple wings to the aft of the main entrance downwards from the sanctuary, each flanking left and right and used as refectory and scriptorium by the former faction.
Beyond the old temple wings, at the center of the ruins, lays the former grand sanctuary of Aoskar, now barren but for a crumbled husk that was once the great Tree of the Athar, the Bois Verdurous, and perhaps an object of their faith in something beyond the divine pretenders of the multiverse. After its apparent destruction in the heat of the Faction War it has withered away to its present state, though the entire area still glows with a diffuse but potent radiance of divine magic.
Surrounding the sanctuary are the libraries, offices, and chambers of the faction high-ups, including Factol Terrance himself. Flanking the sanctuary stand the Piebald Tower, Rust Tower, Glisten Tower, and the Fallen Tower, the origin of their names lost to the long stretch of years. It was here, between the Fallen and Glisten Towers, that the Athar possessed a portal that rumors suggest once went either to the Athar citadel in the Astral or actually opened upon the rocky godisle that is Aoskar’s remains, also drifting through the Silvery Void.
Finding the Shattered Temple abandoned by the Athar, Friar Muriov Garianis, a cleric of Hades, and Oridi Malefin, a cleric of death and current factol of the Dustmen, have made known their plans to raze the temple to the ground and rebuild in its place a grand temple to Hades. Most of the trappings of the Athar have been set aside or destroyed by Friar Garianis, all of it a heresy in his views, and he soon intends to begin the destruction of the temple if there is no intervention. The Athar faithful (as much as that term can be applied to them) have not taken this news lightly, and something of a war may be brewing in the ward as some of the more hotheaded and reactionary Athar make themselves and their terrific displeasure at this affront known.
Beneath the ruins of the temple, workers in the employ of the friar have discovered a network of catacombs and tunnels, some apparently used by the Athar and others perhaps dating back to the time of the original worship of Aoskar. Little information has petered out from the excavations, perhaps for fear of evoking the Lady’s wrath, attracting looters, or garnering further negative attention from the Lost.
[The planned destruction of the Shattered Temple has been put on hold it seems, perhaps either from threats of violence from the Lost, or perhaps following the reports of workers in the vaults beneath its sanctuary. It seems that they may have found something that the friar feels is important enough, or disturbing enough, to warrant a pause in his plans. Perhaps some relic from the time of Aoskar, or perhaps the roots of the Bois Verdurous grow deep, and still live beneath the flagstones of the temple. – The Editor]
Adjacent to the Shattered Temple District, running from roughly the Mortuary in the Hive to New Market and Gear Run in the Lower Ward, stands the Garianis District. Here the neighborhoods of workers and artisans fall less under the sway of Sigil’s official peacekeepers, both the Harmonium in the past and the current juxtaposition of the City Watch, Minders Guild and Sons of Mercy. The district is so named for the Garianis family that provides “protection and security” to its locals in exchange for donations and security money. Sigil’s establishment has long regarded the Garianis family as little better than common knights of the post seeking to establish themselves as true Golden Lords in the model of the crosstraders of the [[Lady’s Ward]]. Indeed the family has grown wealthy in the past decades, especially under the patronage of their elder statesman, the Friar Muriov Garianis, but it is unlikely they will succeed as far as their expectations fly.
In any case, criminal or not, the local population appears to genuinely appreciate them to the point of keeping them safe largely from Sigil’s business and crime authorities in the [[Lady’s Ward]]. The district, with its large number of prime immigrants, situated between other small racially distinct enclaves, prides itself on a more insular nature, with residents keeping to themselves, and keeping loyalty to the cutters that hold local power under the Garianis family banner.
Situated on the spireward end of the Lower Ward sits a small sheltered community of gnomes known locally as Little Bytopia. The gnomes are friendlier to outsiders and non-gnomes than the nearby dwarven community, but can still be peery at times. Regardless, the district produces a fine number of local handicrafts including clockwork devices, alchemical products, and a variety of Bytopian style wines and spirits. [The latter of these products likely accounts for the amiable relations between adjacent gnome and dwarf enclaves. – The Editor]
Adjacent to Little Bytopia, just downwards several blocks, stands the brilliantly painted, yellow-green tavern the Green Mill, situated amid an actual grove of trees in the dark heart of the Lower Ward. Attracting many planar elves and Eladrin from across the Cage, as well as Prime Material humans, elves, half-elves, and even some Ysgardian bariaurs, the inn is a nostalgic relief to its customers. Famous for live bardic music and its extravagant and gorgeous interior decorated to look and smell like a Prime Material forest, it is one of the ward’s more pleasant and unique spots. [Not that the fiends share the feelings on the place. – The Editor]
Several blocks away from Little Bytopia stands a similar sized community composed primarily of dwarves. The community is extremely close knit, more so than most in the Cage, and even dwarves must integrate themselves into the community on their own efforts before being fully accepted. The dull gray stone of the mostly one or two story kips seems to make the name of the district a gnome’s idea of a joke on the dwarves, for the name is loosely translated as “Dwarven Mountain”. [Faced with little room for further kips in the district, more immigration from the Outlands, and a few Prime worlds, the dwarves simply built down instead of out… – The Editor]
This Baatezu neighborhood, formerly situated between three portals to Baator, has seen itself shrink in recent years as two of its portals vanished during the Tempest of Doors. The population was also hit hard from the locals’ heavy involvement in the rioting and open street warfare against the Tanar’ri residents of the ward during that same period. But the squat still exists, if smaller, and is still rife with the local political intrigues of the resident Baatezu. As old rumors die hard, the chant in the local taverns yet claims the presence of one or more pit fiends in the bowels of the district. [Amazing how the fiends’ names change with each telling through the years. There can’t be that many pit fiends in Nessus, by the way the locals babble their screed. – The Editor]
Gear Street, or Gear Run, as the district is sometimes called, is a rather unique neighborhood of a large number, relatively speaking, of rogue modrons that have taken up residence within the Cage. Alongside the rogue modrons are the largest concentrated grouping of zenythri within Sigil as well. Like attracts like, and the two similarly minded groups have prospered in recent years.
Looking much like a section of one of the great gears of Mechanus stuck into Sigil, outsiders, especially those with a chaotic bent, simply don’t fit into the modrons’, well, clockwork community. Aside from the curiosity of the squat, a basher can find a number of obscure clockwork machines and inventions peddled by the modrons, as well as other tooled items crafted to any exact specificity he could require. Being near paragons of Law, the modrons set prices in fair range for their needs, and exactly to their needs, no more, no less. Cheating simply isn’t a lawful action to them; of course neither will a cutter find here the haggling ever present in the markets elsewhere in the ward and Cage at large.
The prime attraction within Gear Run however is the so-called Hands of Time, a piece of almost living clockwork complete with moving sections, gears, and pendulums. The modrons treat it half as a shop to outsiders to share the beauty of their clockwork devices and machines, and half as a temple to order, or to the plane of Mechanus itself. The shop is widely trafficked by lawful bloods of all variety as well, and oddly enough is run not by a modron, but by a prime human and former Guvner named Saddam Hasan Ibn Arvalas, who claims to hail from Toril. Any manner of construct can be obtained within, though his waiting list for potential customers is long indeed. [Ask him about his mentor Trobriand back on Toril. – The Editor]
The Temple of Pallid Doors – Somewhere in the back alleys of the Lower Ward there lays a small abandoned building, described by some who’ve seen it as a ruined, defaced temple. Thing is, none can seem to reliably find their way back there. It’s almost as if the kip moves around within the district, or even the ward itself, when it doesn’t want to be found. Mappers and portal seekers have walked around the ward for hours at a time without seeing anything reasonably similar to the site, or even the buildings it was said to have been found nestled between, usually at the end of a long blind alley. Most reports of the building have come from the drunk, barmy, or simply those lost among unfamiliar streets when the smog from the foundry gets too terribly thick to see very far.
The general description of these cutters details the building as being little more than a two-story tower or pagoda, the roof partially collapsed over time, and constructed from some unremarkable gray, whitewashed stone. A fine layer of ash usually coats the walls and floor inside the building and out into the alleyway. A symbol of sorts, possibly a holy symbol at one time, seems to have graced the lintel above the doorway, but has faded with time or due to purposeful defacement.
A sense of uneasy foreboding extends from the place, and animals are reportedly spooked and refuse to enter. Magical animals, such as familiars, share a similar feeling but at prodding of their masters have entered to no apparent ill effect. Inside, people report an empty sanctuary with stone pews and a simple stone block of an altar below the collapsed portion of the tower. Two empty rooms branch off from the sanctuary, neither showing sign of recent usage. Others have reported dead insects and vermin at the doorways, always facing outwards as if they died running from something, but there are never markings of violence on the insect husks and desiccated animals.
One story is that the temple contains a number of curious permanent portals including those to the layer of Oinos on the Gray Waste, the layer of Mungoth on Gehenna, and to the layer of Belarian on Elysium. But as portal seekers never seem to find the kip to even confirm it exists, this remains unproven, even as to where this dark or screed concerning the portals first originated. In fact, aside from similar curious, and possibly spurious stories about random Cagers and clueless stumbling across the ruined kip, no official records indicate that it does now or ever has existed at any point in Sigil’s history. Then again, Sigil’s history gets very hazy the further back one searches, and the temple may be both so incredibly old that it has been forgotten along with whatever was once worshipped there. Whatever its origins, the place doesn’t seem to not want to be found by those searching for it, and many have come to the conclusion it doesn’t exist at all. [Truth is oftentimes stranger than fiction. Mark my word it does exist. – The Editor]