A Cage Without a Key
The Lady's Ward
“The Lady’s Ward…what to say besides that I appreciate the name. Reflects well on me and my growing influence here in the Cage and the ward I spend the most of my time within. Oh don’t think me crass or presumptive at all, that’s simply the way of things. Everything falling into place, arranged where I dictate and when I dictate. The factions can keep their philosophies.
“But enough about me…well, as if you could ever say enough about me. But back to your question about The Lady’s Ward. Let me start with this: the intrigues of the Blood War and the constant shifts of power, allegiance and betrayal within my old haunts on Gehenna and Khin- Oin upon the Waste…they pale in comparison oftentimes to the web of treachery, selfishness and greed that permeates the hidden side of The Lady’s Ward.
“From the High Houses of the Golden Lords to the knights-of-the-post willing to sell out anyone to anyone in the back alleys and taverns of the ward, more moral filth and depredation goes on in a single day than in the bowels of the Lower Planes in an equal time. But I would know nothing of such things being but a wealthy landowner and chant broker of Sigil; nothing at all. I simply sell what falls to my ears and crosses my palms. Why sully myself in the muck when I can pluck the gold from the surface with a discrete, well-groomed hand?
[Here the fiend paused abruptly to admire her own reflection in a mirror held by one of her groomer-guards; preening and playing with the fur atop her head and her razorvine tiara for nearly twenty minutes before returning to the interview. – The Editor]
“The ward has its colorful share of inhabitants, for instance there’s that scheming and inept ogre mage who somehow managed to get himself elected to the council. I assure you he won’t make a second term. Then there’s that bitch of a titan. I needn’t mention her name either. Hiding in her mansion and trying to pull the same strings I pluck like a harpist. She plucks them with the hands of a day laborer, using her money like a sledgehammer when a deft and talented hand such as mine knows which notes to play to make a song and not a broken instrument.
“So step back and watch the game here in The Lady’s Ward, see how it extends over the entire Cage, with everyone playing their parts, and a few self-appointed directors competing for the role of the maestro. It is nothing if not amusing. Now talk with me some more and you might as well have a handbill for the latest performance."
-Shemeska the Marauder
The Lady’s Ward stands among the wards as the home of the rich and powerful, a shining beacon of purity and decency among the other wards but with an underside kept out of the public eye, which many a Hive dweller would pass by and complain of the stink. All in all, the ward combines the best and the worst of Sigil if a blood knows where to look.
When a tout speaks to a clueless, prime or planar, about the ward, know that they’re speaking of The Lady’s Ward, not the Lady’s Ward. There’s something of an implied ownership of the ward in name and in spirit to Her Serenity. And while some more delusional clueless have asked for directions in the ward to actually visit and hold audience with Her Serenity, the Lady doesn’t have such a place in the ward, or the entire city, rather those tools of Her power within Sigil reside in The Lady’s Ward. The established ruling order of the city, from the Sigil Advisory Council, to the Courts, Prison and Barracks, all reside within the Ward.
While the ward’s wide, immaculate streets tend to be paved with high quality stone, kept free of refuse and riffraff, it is hardly homogenous in any sense of the word. Several districts exist, some officially, others only by common convention among the residents. The Nobles District holds most of the high houses of the so-called Golden Lords of Sigil, those bloods holding a tremendous amount of wealth and many with more than their fair share of influence. The area around the Barracks, Prison, and City Courts, is known as the Triad District and has taken up a distinct flavor.
The Nobles District is so named for the prevalence of the richest of the rich of Sigil who call the district home: a concentration of jink and power to make a Power of wealth blink. The district itself is bounded more or less within the ranges of Portal Close, Harmonium Street, and Lords’ Row, give or take a block or two. Sitting on large tracts of land, the so-called High Houses of Sigil sprawl out within their fenced in compounds, separated from the grime and trudge of Sigil’s residents. In fact, some of the houses are so set apart that the residents could die within and it likely wouldn’t be discovered for years if they had already paid their guards and servants.
The more noted residents of the ward, those who can be called genuine Golden Lords and not just underground power brokers, include: Zadara the Titan, Jeremo the Natterer of the Ring- Givers, Wei Minh Lee the Proxy of Shou-Hsing and dealer in potions of longevity, High Priest of Puchan the self-titled Lord of Wealth, Duprak Jarneesh, and the planar arms merchant Spiral Hal’Oight. The wealthiest resident, however, is the Factol of the Fated, Lumin Rathbone.
Palace of the Jester – Situated near the Triad District, and forming the defining boundary between it and the Nobles District, sits the Palace of the Jester. The palace stands as the single largest structure in all of Sigil, its courtyards and the palace itself covering an area as large as any other three structures in the City of Doors combined. The alternate name for the Palace is the Court of Pain, and the entire sprawling structure serves as a neutral meeting ground for the intrigues and plotting of the various high houses and nobles from the district and even across Sigil.
Besides its immense size, the palace is likely the oldest surviving structure in all of Sigil as well. As far back as records go, the Palace of the Jester has been there in The Lady’s Ward, predating even the City Courts it lies adjacent from, and the Singing Fountain that separates the two edifices. The reason for the structure’s name, which it has always been called, has been lost to the passage of time, and even the purpose of the massive palace is forgotten. What is remarkable, however, is that the palace, for its size and grandeur, has sat for many years nearly vacant, with only the grounds surrounding the palace serving any real public function as a meeting ground for the prestigious and wealthy within cager high society. Inside the palace is mostly deserted, a confusing tangle of mazelike passages, chambers and galleries that fill the palace to the tips of its bladed spires and descend down to the ancient vaults and tunnels below street level. No known map of the interior exists, and so visitors are advised to limit the extent of their wanderings to the inhabited portions of the halls. The further down into the palace the stranger the architecture becomes. The lower levels appear as if they were designed by a genius or a madman. Passages dead end, stairwells ascend to ceilings, windows open up to blank walls far below ground level, and chambers may be sealed shut from all sides but one while a maze of hidden passages winds through it all, filled with the dust of centuries. Oddly enough, the dabus themselves seem leery about the palace, and those seen wandering its halls (having ascended from below?) are often described as acting…nervous…almost as if they’re being observed. One must wonder what could disturb the dabus so within their own city?
In recent history, the Palace of the Jester has been the residence of Jeremo the Natterer and the Ring-Givers. Jeremo has been called the Lady’s Jester, and speculation is abundant that the lord of the Palace of the Jester simply has taken the name out of irony for his home, and his own quixotic attitude. Others have suggested that the title is somehow linked to the palace itself, a hereditary moniker linked to whoever owns the palace. That in itself raises questions about the original purpose of the palace if that bit of dark holds true.
The district surrounding the Armory has always been a spot of contention among Lady’s Ward residents, some claiming passionately that the Armory and the neighborhoods surrounding it belong in the Lower Ward, while others have cried out with equal vehemence that it is, and always has been, part of The Lady’s Ward.
The contention arose in the past to the general appearance of the Armory with its smoke belching forges and razorvine encrusted lower portions, and to the seedy neighborhoods that arose around it. The Doomguard, in their philosophical disagreement with the Harmonium, and to a lesser extent the Mercykillers and Fraternity of Order, make life difficult around their faction headquarters for the Harmonium and their allies. Hence, the Harmonium patrol the district less and less, crime rises and knights of the post spring from the woodwork. This does not bode well for its status in the eyes of the Golden Lords and power brokers in The Lady’s Ward.
One of the more noteworthy locales in the district is the Golden Bariaur Inn. This inn at the very spireward end of the district, roughly three blocks from the shadow of the Armory, is a frequent and popular spot for celestials of all alignments, as well as for the occasional fiends from the Lower Ward who stop in to make trouble.
In contrast however, situated between Cobbles Lane and Doomguard Walk, next to the Park of the Infernal and the Divine stands the silver bladed, black stone, Temple of the Abyss. Typically festooned with the previous nights sacrificial victims, the temple is only tolerated by many of the ward simply because of the number of nobles who’ve done business therein. It has a reputation of solving problems one way or another.
Armory – Home of the Doomguard, the Armory is one of the most out-of-place buildings in The Lady’s Ward. A perpetual cloud of black hovers over the building, supposedly housing portals to the Plane of Negative Energy. Rumor has it the building houses a dozen or so Spheres of Annihilation – incredibly dangerous artifacts of significant power.
The Armory is ‘graced’ with a massive bas-relief symbol of their faction upon the front exterior of the structure, four sprawling iron latticework flying buttresses, and encrusted along the lower levels with razorvine. Four towers, each strangely free of crawling razorvine, flanked the corners of the building, each corresponding to the four negative touched Quasielemental Planes. From here, the Doomguard sells weapons created within the massive forges located inside, along with siege engines if the buyer has the jink for it.
The Triad District, so named for the confluence of the three seats of law and order in Sigil, namely the City Courts, the City Barracks, and the Prison; sits as the central district of The Lady’s Ward, sandwiched between the Nobles District and Armory District.
This district has always, and for the most part, continues to be the most sterile and homogenized of the districts in The Lady’s Ward. Sometimes referred to as having the houses of law rather than the houses of gold in the ward, it is more the seat of official government within Sigil rather than the seat of oftentimes more influential cutters from the Noble’s District. With the possible exception of the area immediately around the City Courts, most of the businesses are orderly, calm, and devoid of the chaos one might expect in the other wards, with the sometimes volatile mixing of races and philosophies. There are, however, some notable exceptions if a blood knows where to look.
One of the largest draws of the nobles and hoi polloi of The Lady’s Ward, as well as every knight of the post and crosstrader in Sigil is the Fortune’s Wheel inn, tavern, and gambling hall situated at the crook of Dossy street in the center of the Triad District.
The Fortune’s Wheel is comprised of several related establishments such as the Dragon Bar, the Dicing Cup, the Bear-Baiting room, and the Fortune’s Wheel as well as a small inn above the gambling houses named the Azure Iris Inn. Night in and night out, the tavern is home to those seeking their fortune at the tables, seeking someone else’s fortune at the same tables, to spend money with little regards to winning or losing, and more often than not to engage in the petty and often treacherous plotting of the Lady’s Ward. The gambling hall, for this reason and this reason alone, is one of the principal haunts of the so-called King of the Crosstrade, Shemeska the Marauder.
Also nestled along Dossy Street, spireward of the Prison, is the Twelve Factols, an underground restaurant and tavern, that while not nearly as exclusive and a place of intrigue as the Fortune’s Wheel, has its own draw in its history and its rumored connection to both UnderSigil and the Dabus warrens.
Another leg of the triad of law and order within The Lady’s Ward, the Courts have always in the past and now in the present served to determine guilt and innocence of those sods found to have broken one of the laws of Sigil. The Courts themselves do not make the laws of Sigil, but they do interpret them and determine guilt or innocence under those laws and pass sentence. From there the Mercykillers, the Red Death at the Prison and Tower of the Wyrm, carry out the sentence. The Fraternity of Order, the faction which calls the City Courts both their place of business and faction headquarters, designs the laws they operate under in the courts.
The Courts sit in the center of the ward, downward from the Singing Fountain and the Palace of the Jester. The typical sterile, clean, and – to some extent – rigid environment of The Lady’s Ward might indeed take its cue from the Courts, which after all uphold the laws of The Lady’s Ward that actually restricted the building codes and architecture for new buildings to a defined set of terms. However, that stereotypical environment has never really held true around the courts themselves. The paragons of law within Sigil are surrounded in the immediate neighborhood, to say nothing of the courtyards surrounding the Palace of the Jester, by numerous businesses that serve those who work for the courts directly or indirectly, and those hawking their wares and services to those going before the courts and the families of those same. Taverns and bub halls abound as well as morticians and undertakers, scribes, and most importantly, advocates to plead the case of the accused before the courts.
Especially so with the advocates, the Courts and the plaza surrounding it along with the public waiting halls just inside are abuzz with competing lawyers and other court servants to where it seems as if chaos might be reigning in the place of laws. A bit of unique irony in the heart of Sigil.
Within the Courts, besides the courtrooms of law themselves, a number of different former Guvner halls, record chambers and the law library of Sigil reside. Many of the Guvner records and books left with them, but the library itself is comprehensive in the extreme if a blood doesn’t mind sitting down and doing a bit of research. The answer to most any question is there in the stacks if one but has the patience to equal one of the Guvners who wrote most everything there.
Forming a rough triad of law and order along with the Prison and the City Courts, and a stone’s throw from the rebuilt Armory, the utilitarian hulk of the City Barracks stands in The Lady’s Ward. The stark, many would say ugly, structure sits as a great square of heavy gray stone situated between the Boulevard of the Fist and Harmonium Street.
The City Barracks is a constant and orderly place filled with the ubiquitous pounding of stiff, heavy boots on equally stiff and heavy stone. Four towers and four walls with a dull, slate tiled roof looking like some bland, apathetic artistic work of a petitioner of Hades, the lawful nature of the place tended to suck the more lively aspects from the blocks surrounding the building. The constant Harmonium patrols insured that the least infraction of Sigil’s laws around the faction headquarters is not overlooked, but rather made an example of.
The ground level of the Barracks comprises the public areas of the building as well as the massive central courtyard, itself used primarily for the training and drilling of Harmonium novitiates. The lower levels comprise auditoriums, classrooms, a mess hall for faction members, numerous training rooms, and the faction dormitories.
The second level of the Barracks hold the officers’ quarters as well as the factol’s office and the residence of their family. Many of the faction records herein, including the bulk of the arrest records dating back over two hundred years, are heavily guarded.
Comprising two distinct and once connected structures, the Prison proper and the nearby Tower of the Wyrm, the faction headquarters of the Mercykillers, stands just spireward of the intersection of Prison Row, Rotten Row, and Guvner’s Mile at Couriers’ Square.
Fully three times the size of the City Barracks, the Prison stands 3,000 feet on a side between each of the four corner towers, with a further four towers of smaller stature arranged within each exterior wall. The walls stand seven stories high, and while the building looks solid enough from the exterior, the interior of the Prison is mostly a single giant courtyard. The interior of featureless gray and brown dirt is marked only by the two walkways that hang above the pit and allow for watching of prisoners on exercise.
Beyond the main gate of the Prison, which faces Courtiers’ Square, are the chambers devoted to faction business, while the rest of the interior of the prison is composed mainly of cells for prisoners. As dreary and oppressive as the main aboveground bulk of the Prison may appear to inmates or even a passerby, similar to the City Barracks, the worst is mostly unseen and unknown by the public ‘till recent years. It seems that below street level, carved out of the stone of Sigil’s ring, is an underground level filled with solitary confinement cells for hardened prisoners as well as for random intimidation and psychological torture of simple inmates. The so-called Cellars, along with dining halls, laundry rooms, and other chambers for work detail for prisoners, were filled with the torture and sentencing chambers of the condemned and a poor sod had no way of knowing when on a daily basis he’d be descending to the Cellars for simple work detail, or to face the gallows.
Adjacent to the Prison and standing within Petitioners’ Square rises the Tower of the Wyrm. Inside, the tower is filled with prisoners that those in power wish to punish, as well as interrogation rooms and the tower’s namesake, the Wyrm, or Cage Serpent. The Wyrm is a specially bred wyvern, magically enhanced by the Mercykillers to produce venom that induces delirium in prisoners when extracting confessions.