Welcome to the Cage
Sigil’s a city overwhelmed, barnacled, and encrusted with buildings. With a 5-mile diameter and 20-mile circumference (as officially measured by the Harmonium; in actuality, the Lady can enlarge or shrink the city as she wills, at any time), Sigil’s huge, but it ain’t infinite. Sure, it’s big enough to hold new things for the oldest bloods, but the bizarre soon becomes mundane if a cutter sees it often enough. Even the view ain’t the usual; almost anyplace a cutter stands, if he looks up, he sees buildings. ’Course, smoke and distance obscure the view across the hollow center, creating a gray arc with a few lights.
Despite the city’s size, somehow it still always seems crowded. Tiny spaces that might become servants’ rooms or pantries in another city are shops and homes in Sigil, where every square inch must house some of the infinite multitudes. Even the buildings crowd each other overhead, and some streets are cut off from the sky entirely, its dim light pinched out by the towering walls.
Although Sigil is ancient and every available surface is already occupied, new streets, boulevards, and courtyards are constantly created by the dabus masons, and new buildings set on top of old ones create crypts and catacombs aplenty. Since it’s impossible to know every street and keep up with every change, cutters need to learn the patterns of Sigil’s buildings, especially for those bashers who live on the dark side of the law. Even a footpad who’s been in and out of the Court and the Prison can make a mistake. One dead-end alley is all it takes to get a cross-trading knight scragged by the Harmonium – or worse, scragged and then killed by those he’s doublecrossed.
The traditional blades and spiked fences of Sigil define its architecture for planars everywhere on the Great Ring. The blades of Sigil are added for looks as much as for protection against intruders, as they are part of the city’s rich tradition of ornamental iron and stone. Primes notice the faces and gargoyles built over doors and into other structural features like pillars and rainspouts, the most common locations for such decoration. Iron and stone are more common building materials than imported wood; after all, iron and stone can be created by magic. The iron and stone of the high-ups’ cases, though, are certainly not conjured but imported through one of the gates. Blackstone from Gehenna, limestone from Mount Celestia, and marble from Arborea are all popular.
Walls vary, but the strongest are up to 9 feet thick. Spiral stairs are the most popular form; the spiral winds up clockwise, to give the advantage to a right-handed defender and hamper the swordplay of anyone going up. The roofs are generally made of dark gray slate tiles. Most of the ironwork in Sigil isn’t just ornamental; it protects the houses it decorates. Doors and windows are tightly sealed and protected with iron bands and locks, and fanciful iron grillwork covers most windows (at least among the houses of the high-ups). Spikes on the flat surfaces of windowsills and the like prevent Sigil’s great gray-and-black executioner’s ravens from roosting. Sigil’s indigenous watchdogs, called Aoskian hounds, are two-headed creatures with a nasty temper. Besides a double bite, these snow-white or pale tan death dogs boast a tremendous bark (See “The Dark Sigil’s Wildlife,”) Knights of the post never tangle with Aoskian hounds if they can avoid them. Most are muzzled during the day and only allowed to roam by night. Their ghostly pale appearance and deadly quick reflexes have caused many a second-story man’s tumble into the street, and most have been thankful for the fall. After all, the Aoskian’s bark can stun a knight long enough for the watch to arrive.
Below the streets themselves lies a web of catacombs and crypts (mostly of important dabus, though the Dustmen also maintain a few large necropolis throughout the city), but no sewers. The oldest crypts have been there a thousand years, though bubbers often claim that there’re many deeper levels, which the dabus have sealed off. In the better portions of town, public fountains bubble and burble, their carved stone and molded iron spouts working day and night. The water is always pure, though sometimes very metallic tasting; most Cagers prefer ale, wine, or anything else purified by fermentation. The fountains take many shapes, from drab pillars whose single spigots are decorated with the seal of the carver or foundry, to the justly famous Singing Fountain whose pure tones come from the splash of water from higher metal basins into lower ones. A charismatic fortuneteller named Black Marian claims to hear the future of anyone who drinks from the fountain. Few take her up on it, though, for the Singing Fountain’s steadiest customers are the city’s gray-green pigeons and their feathers often float atop the waters. In addition to the public fountains, the city’s got a number of public wells. Where do the well waters come from? The chant is, most anywhere, from the Elemental Plane of Water to the Styx and Oceanus, to Ysgard’s Gates of the Moon, to Limbo. The best waters are said to be those drawn from wells sunk into the seas of Arborea and Mount Celestia. Streets’re all cobblestones in the richer districts and mud in the poorer. In both rich and poor districts, houses surround open interior courtyards hidden from the streets and accessible only through narrow alleys or covered passages through the surrounding buildings. Often these buildings’re protected against theft by large doors or portcullises that’re shut each night, making them into tiny strongholds in the midst of the city. In times of danger or riots the courtyard gates are often magically warded as well. For high-ups of The Lady’s Ward, the interior courtyard might serve as a garden, a family graveyard, or an open-air ballroom. In other places like the Farrier’s Court, guildmembers and craftsmen conduct their business in the courtyards. For tanners and dyers, this gets messy quickly. Those who like their privacy keep Aoskian hounds and grow razorvine in the courtyards; not everyone’s open space is meant to be a refuge from the streets.
Points of Interest