To Chance with Hell (Planescape)
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While not a ward or really a place known in any great detail to the vast majority of the citizens of Sigil, the networks of passages, tunnels, and caverns beneath the streets of the Cage are unique enough to warrant their own description.
UnderSigil is not a homogenous network of passages and tunnels, and indeed many of the known and suspected networks do not connect with one another. Many of the excavated passages are examples of vastly different points in Sigil’s history. Some of the tunnels appear to be from recent centuries, such as the caverns underneath the neighborhood of Gurincraag in the Lower Ward. Other passages that have been found are from the largely unrecorded, mist shrouded past of the City of Doors, such as the unmapped labyrinth beneath the Palace of the Jester in The Lady’s Ward.
Various parts of UnderSigil open up into all of the wards of the city, though precious little of the network is mapped in any detail. Many of the tunnels quarried out in Sigil’s past have simply been forgotten as the years have passed and their creators passed away into dust and ink on forgotten and unread books. In fact, most of these formerly unknown vaults and passages have been found quite by accident by others digging in basements or deeper vaults beneath established buildings. [I suspect that less than 20% of the expanse of UnderSigil is publicly known. And I stress publicly known. Some within the Cage know far more than others on this matter. – The Editor]
The Twelve Factols Inn within The [[Lady’s Ward]] is known to connect by tunnels into portions of the Realm Below, and the Dustmen also have excavated catacombs beneath portions of the Hive, especially under the Grey District near the Mortuary. These tunnels have added to the network of passages, and in places they have blundered into even older and deeper warrens under the feet of Sigil’s residents.
The tunnels dug down into the great ring of Sigil are excavated through a rocky material which is present nowhere else in the multiverse. Sigil-rock, as it’s called, makes up the base upon which the City of Doors is built atop the Infinite Spire. Thing is, no graybeard can really tell you just what it is. The material defies identification, and any dwarf, mason, or earth genasi can take one look at it and dismiss any idea that it’s natural rock of any kind. Sigil-rock is hard and difficult to chip by tool or shape by magic, similar to granite in its natural state. However, any of the rock that is separated from the ring of the city begins to rapidly grow brittle and crumble to dust in a short period. This is why the base of Sigil has never been mined for building material, requiring that such foundations be imported from across the planes.
None know just how thick or deep the ring of Sigil is. Some graybeards believe that one could burrow down and reach the outer side of the ring, falling out much as is the case with a berk jumping over the wall in Suicide Alley. None have ever achieved the task, and it may in fact be impossible. Perhaps if one keeps digging they simply pass unknown through a portal, or maybe the ring adjusts size to accommodate the tunneling within it. Nothing is impossible, and it’s known that Sigil has shrunk or expanded in size at times in the past, presumably at the will of Her Serenity.
Because of the uncommon, and unnatural, qualities of Sigil-rock, the few known attempted settlements by earth genasi within the Realm Below have all failed. None of them lasted more than a year or two before the residents moved aboveground to escape an environment that they claimed had “not the spirit of true stone”. If even those with the essence of stone and rock flowing through their veins felt uncomfortable within the depths below Sigil’s streets, it casts a dim view upon the nature of the substance that the City of Doors supports itself upon.
Also common within the Realm Below are the Sigil-unique events known as cagequakes. Similar to an earthquake, these far too frequent events may cause the collapse of poorly constructed tunnels. Rarely do these events occur in such a magnitude that they manifest upon the surface, and even more rarely do they cause any more than public distress, rattled window panes and a few cracked walls or foundations. But within the bowels of UnderSigil such events are frighteningly common and more intense. Falling rock and shifting passages are common, especially the deeper down a blood travels or the poorer the construction of the tunnel. [The very existence of cagequakes poses interesting questions about the nature of Sigil. And even more questions arise if one were to approach the issue with the supposition that none of the cagequakes were by chance, but rather by design. Nothing of Her Dread Majesty’s design is by fickle whim, nothing. – The Editor]
And it seems likely that to some extent, the tunnels and passages of the Realm Below do indeed subtly shift position or location over the years. Whether this is by the actions of cagequakes, or by some property of space within the ring of Sigil itself, the reason is unknown. [The mazes of elaborate, forgotten, and nigh incomprehensible tunnels deep under The Lady’s Ward are perhaps the most drastic examples of this property, and, from what my own eyes have observed, I am not certain that all of that labyrinth resides within Sigil. – The Editor]
Many of the passages of UnderSigil are infested with such vermin as cranium rats, which themselves appear to have burrowed out their own networks of tunnels, fitted to their own diminutive size. Other passages have been known to contain or belch out to the surface such beings as lesser fiends, vargouilles, and the occasional undead. More commonly those passages and vaults closer to the surface serve as shelter and refuge for criminals, many of them running from their punishment at the hands of the City Guard, the Sodkillers, or the Sons of Mercy. The addle-coved and barmy are in no small abundance within the Realm Below as well, with likely as many, or more, dwelling unheard beneath the streets than within the Gatehouse itself.
In fact, within the second level of the Realm Below, in passages branching out and away from those excavated by Sigil’s residents, there are many who call themselves Darkers, forgotten and unrecorded. Small isolated communities of these cutters exist, who for their own reasons have shuttered themselves away in the darkness and confined spaces of Sigil’s underground. These groups have their own rules, laws, and conventions, and aside from the barmy and the criminal, some have spoken of groups of Darkers who have taken up a taste for the flesh of mortal sods who blunder into the tunnels they occupy. And some rumors tell of even stranger creatures within the darkness that these mortal ghouls themselves flee from in terror at even the hint of. Some speak of filth encrusted, tentacled beings, and of warring kingdoms of cranium rats known as the Four Great Minds. [But of this, I cannot prove a word aside to say that that there are indeed massive numbers of cranium rats infesting the Realm Below, and that there is evidence to suggest at least two separate factions are at war with each other, especially in the regions burrowing down below the Slags. – The Editor]
One specific community calling itself the Dim Court exists in some of the shallower networks of tunnels beneath the Nobles District of The [[Lady’s Ward]]. This small community is a microcosm for life within the Realm Below. They have a unique social structure, even their own terminology for themselves within their group. For example, those Darkers who possess low light or darkvision are known, within the Dim Court, as Seers. These bloods guide the others and almost never go aboveground since their eyes are so valuable to the rest of the community since no light, magical or mundane, are ever sparked within the hall of the court.
The court takes its name from the inky blackness it resides in and the pit at the center plaza of the underground community. Used as a dumping ground for refuse and trash, as well as a punishment for crimes befitting death. None of the Darkers know just where it leads, or just how deep the Pit is. One might speculate it simply exits to a portal or to somewhere else within the depths, and attempts to judge the depth of the Pit have recorded over a half-mile of depth without reaching any material bottom. [But the ring of Sigil is only so deep is it not? An open question. – The Editor]
Perhaps the strangest, and one of the least supported rumors holds that deep beneath the Lower Ward lies the abandoned ruins of a Yugoloth citadel called the Temple of Darkness or the Temple of Eternal Darkness. The site was reportedly abandoned and destroyed by its occupants during the late stages of the Faction War, or destroyed by an outside agency during the same period of time. The area is still said to be cloaked in randomly failing shreds of deeper darkness spells, littered with broken black marble and the still smoking husk of a device known as the Nightmare Shaft. Of those who have announced their intentions to find the temple deep within UnderSigil those who have returned to the surface never found it. One of these groups however claim to have seen networks of elegant marble paved passages, emblazoned with runes of silver in a mix of Infernal and Abyssal. This last information is wholly unsubstantiated by any other reports, and the claimants either left Sigil shortly thereafter or fell heavily into their cups. But the stories do certainly suggest that at one point the ‘loths did have a higher presence within the depths of Sigil. The current state of that presence is unknown in the face of scant evidence one way or the other.