CageRattlers
"The hand that rattles the Cage is the hand that rules the world..."
-- Cager proverb

MARCHOSIAS CHOU
Copyright 1999 by Scott Kelley, art by Chris Appelhans

( Planar / male aasimar [true form: neuter xiaochan] / LE )

[72 years before present]

SIGIL -- The latest chant in the Great Bazaar centres around Sigil's newest paper: the Blood's War Journal. Most of the buzz concerns the amazing speed with which the BWJ's reports hit the streets of the Cage. Last week, for example, the BWJ announced the commencement of another tedious Blood War confrontation at the Field of Nettles, barely hours after it started. Although this newsrag has littered the streets of the Cage for only a fortnight, the BWJ has proven extremely popular, particularly in the Lower and Hive Wards. This popularity seems to result not only from the quick reporting, but also the bold, sensationalistic style of culling (which, I might add, is full of gratuitous descriptions of violence that tend to excite the masses).
The founder of the Blood's War Journal, a cutter by the name of Marchosias Chou, says the paper heralds a new area of Blood War reporting. Chou, a odd-looking basher of unknown origins, might be best describe as a cross between an Arcane and a Babau. Although Chou ignored my probes into his ancestry (I use the pronoun he as a default as his gender was a mystery to me), he spoke enthusiastically and unabashedly to me about his new journal.
"Right now, news of the Blood War arrives days, or even weeks, after the battles have ended", Chou told me in his clipped and halting speech. "No longer. The dedication of my hand-picked cullers, and their portal hopping proficiency, will permit same day wartime reporting."
"As the tides of War ebb and flow, the Bloods War Journal will be there to track the shifting currents and expose the dark to canny cutters. Mercenaries, Guvners, dealers, bookies, and all who thrive on the Blood War, will get the chant before the next peak. We can't track every event in this vast conflict, but, on my word, cutters who read the BWJ will grasp the dark of the biggest conflicts before any other berks in the Cage."
Thus far, Chou's claims of speed have proven entirely accurate. Cagers have been rightly astonished at the rapidity of the reports which arrive, at latest, the following day. More than anything, the speed factor gives the BWJ a powerful edge over other rags like Life During Wartime, which report the identical news days later. However, as for grasping the dark of the conflicts, the prose in the BWJ needs to improve substantially before this is the case. The articles appear to have been scribbled by Acheronian Hobgoblins lying in some Gehennan trench while taking a break from a battle. None of the words contain more than two syllables, and the convoluted sentences leave even the smartest cutters clueless as a Prime.
The BWJ has made a huge splash in the Cage, and it has the potential to change the face of Blood War reporting for good. But, in my opinion, unless the Blood's War Journal sees an enormous improvement in quality, it will surely hit the blinds like many other Blood War newsrags in the past.

This article from the Tempus Sigilian marked the first and last time the name of Marchosias Chou ever appeared in print. Indeed, Chou might be better known to Cagers by the newsrags he is founder and owner of: The Blood's War Journal, and, more recently, S.I.G.I.S. (Sigil's Independent Global Information Service). Interestingly, all records of the article above were bobbed from the Guvners' libraries ages ago.

So where, you might ask, did I dig up this little gem? That's simple basher. This little piece of parchment was one of the last remaining possessions of the (in)famous Blood War culler, Daaras Intwood. I happened to find it glued to the first page, volume one of the diary that he kept throughout his seventy years of Blood War culling. As most Cagers who keep up with Blood War chant know, Intwood was a staple of the BWJ and one of the major reasons for its success.

When Chou originally hired Intwood all those years ago, the Tempus Sigilian's assessment was on the jink; the Blood's War Journal stank. Oh sure, it was fast! But the contents were pitiful and full of inaccuracies. Then, when the former Guvner scribe Intwood signed on to the rag, all that changed. The result of this was to make Marchosias Chou one of the wealthiest and most influential bloods in all the Cage.

So who is this odd-looking Chou anyway? In a early passage of his diaries, Intwood describes his first meeting with Chou:

"When I finally managed to bypass the leatherheads [Chou's Doomguard sentinels], I was visited by Chou in a small antechamber lit by a single torch. Now, I've met a lot of strange looking bashers in my time at the Courts, but this cutter was like no one I'd ever seen! He drifted into the cave like a wraith, nearly scaring the wits outta me. He stood just under five feet tall, and was whip-thin with skin so dark a blue that it was almost black. His arms were far too long for his body, and his three fingers on each hand were tipped with razor sharp nails that looked slicker than green steel. His head was hairless and oblong, and his eyes so black I couldn't tell if the sockets were full or empty. But, what was oddest about Chou wasn't the way he looked, but the way I reacted when he made his presence known to me. All the hair on my body stood on end, like a Hardhead saluting, and my lungs softly burned like I was inhaling Foundry smog. I knew right then that this was the job for me."
Marchosias Chou, natural form

SEE ALSO:

Cage Rattlers:--
Daaras Intwood, Maija Intwood, Kilhans, Magnum Opus, Zeines Pauch.
Uncaged: Faces of Sigil:--
Djhek'nlarr (p.24), Parakk the Ratcatcher (p.76), Rule-of-Three (p.84), Shemeshka the Marauder (p.96), the Us (p.106), Verden (p.108), Zadara the Titan (p.118).
Hellbound: The Blood War:--
The Maeldur is detailed in the adventure Squaring the Circle.
Planes of Conflict:--
Smol is detailed on the back of the Gehenna poster, and on p.34 of Liber Malevolentiae.

.

Although Intwood continued to interact with Chou over the next seventy years of his career, it wasn't until the last decade of his culling that Intwood learned the dark of Chou's ancestry and history. Marchosias Chou comes from a race of assassins borne in the fiery pits of Gehenna. According to the diaries of Intwood, these creatures were created by a powerful Yugoloth (most likely the infamous General of Gehenna) for the express purpose of putting offensive fiends, Tanar'ri and Baatezu, in the dead-book. Apparently, these beings also owe part of their existence to the power Sung Chiang, a fact that may help explain Chou's last name and the stealth by which these creatures operate. Together, the General and God of Thieves combined forces to create a short-lived, highly intelligent race with the stealth, power and ability to put fiends in the dead-book.

Wait a second, did Intwood say short-lived? Well, I'll get to that bit of dark in a millipeak, but first I have to slip you Intwood's juicy chant on how Chou found his way to the Cage. Back on Gehenna, the Great General apparently has a horde of little assassins just like Chou (the creatures are known as Xiaochans to petitioners of Sung Chiang) hidden away in some caverns on Krangath [Ed. note: Third layer of Gehenna]. From there, the General sends these bashers on little assignments to put irritating fiends in the dead-book.

In entry of Intwood's journal, during a visit to Sung Chiang's Palace in Gehenna, Intwood heard an astounding tale of one such assignment from some berk named Smol:

"One my third meeting with Smol, and after a whole cask of bub, he told me one sodding barmy tale of these enigmatic fiend-slayers [Xiaochans]. 'I heard the chant of this one slayer who became a legend among the Xiaochan,' Smol said, wiping greenish drool off his sunken chin. 'See this barmy sod apparently helped the Pit Fiend Bel lose a few Baatezu competitors loyal to the previous Lord of Avernus, just before his ascension to that post! May be a bunch o' screed, but my sources are damn canny bloods!' Needless to say, I can't verify this story, because Smol never uncovered his sources to me."

Could this have been Chou himself? Powers only know. But is sure seems true that Chou was assigned to carry on the most delicate of missions, his last being most delicate indeed: put Rule-of-Three in the dead-book. Why off Rule-of-Three? Don't be such a leatherhead, berk! Perhaps he talks too much, or he's peeled one too many an agent, or maybe even because he's rumoured to be against the Blood War. That'd be enough to torque any 'Loth off! At any rate, Chou found Rule-of-Three just fine (that's the easy part), but Chou made the fatal mistake of listening to the cross trader for just a little too long.

Soon Rule-of-Three had got Chou so addled, he couldn't think straight. After the meeting, Chou immediately abandoned his mission, and wandered aimlessly through the Cage for weeks. He even ended up doing a stint in the Bleakers' Nuthouse [Ed. note: the Gatehouse] which is where he came to three realisations: 1) He didn't want to be the Generals stooge any longer, 2) he'd better hide from the General's wrath, and 3) he was dying.

This brings us back to the short-lived part. See the General was no leatherhead. He made his creations solely dependent upon himself for their existence. They had to return to him each year to be granted his life-giving touch, or perish. Chou needed some answers fast, but he kept his assassin's cool and solved his problems one by one.

First, he found his hiding place through a cross trader named Djhek'nlarr who sold maps of the Lady's Mazes. Bartering a powerful magic item (one of the Generals?), Chou scragged a Maze map and made his way to the notorious Undercity. It was there that he contacted the entity that helped him solve the rest of his problems, a cutter known as the Us. Whatever this Us thing was, it found an ally in Chou and vice versa. Chou was a plane-savvy cutter who helped satisfy the Us's need for knowledge, and together they founded the Blood's War Journal, Chou's first step to the jink he needed to out of the dead-book.

But how to keep alive? Enter Verden, the Prolonger. On one occasion, the Us happened to touch the fleeting brain-waves of a sod Verden drained and it knew her for what she was. Then it was just a matter of applying a little pressure to this Verden, through some berk named Parakk the Ratcatcher, to entice her to spill the dark of prolonging to Chou. Her fear of exposure was so great, that she babbled the whole story to Chou. He rewarded her with his silence and some jink to help find a supplier or two. Well, the prolonging worked much better than anticipated; a single life-drain brought Chou a year of continued vitality. With his newly found jink, and powerful allies, getting one sod a year to sacrifice for the cause was no trouble at all.

Now Chou had it all: jink, power, and a new lease on his life. Over time, Chou's business netted him contacts all over the Cage, and, ultimately, a network of Blood War informants, bookies, mercenary companies and weapons dealers. Because he could get information on the Blood War quicker than any other cutters, all sorts of bashers would come to his people for the chant. You think everything Chou's cullers knew about the Blood War found its way into print? Not a chance, berk! Most of it was sold on the street to anyone to these same bookies and mercs, and even to fiends wanting a jump on the enemy.

Over his seventy years of culling, Intwood slowly uncovered the vastness of Chou's network, though initially he paid it little mind. This was the Cage after all, and other cullers like Shemeshka the Marauder had networks that dwarfed ol' Chou's. But, it was the final piece of the puzzle Intwood put together that really put the wind up him. Through his vast network, Chou was actually starting to alter the course of the Blood War for his own personal reasons! A bit of chant here, a bit of dark there and whole battles could shift direction, or invasions would take off into new areas. This was still a mere drop in the River Styx for the whole of the Blood War, but would it always be that way? Then, with the start of S.I.G.I.S., and the hiring of daring and militant (and some whisper anarchistic) cullers like the githzerai Zeines Pauch, Chou had moved on to influencing the Outlands and beyond, and that was just too much for Intwood.

Near the end of his life, Intwood suspected Chou's ultimate goal was to take revenge on the General of Gehenna somehow, or else to free his brethren from the General's control. (The last bit of dark that Intwood has in his journal, concerns something (or someone) called the Maeldur. Unfortunately, Intwood doesn't detail this much beyond some contact he discovered Chou had over it with the Baatezu). That was when Intwood left to cover the Invasion of the Outlands, ultimately winding up in the dead-book. By this point, you've probably asked yourself, "How does this berk know all this, and where did he get Intwood's journal anyway?" Well, berk, I know all this cause I'm the blood who found Intwood's body burning on a pyre in the Outlands, and sent his ashes back to the his sister, Maija Intwood. I'm sure she's better off not knowing about her brother's journal. After all, she makes a very fine culler for S.I.G.I.S. and we wouldn't want to ruin that, eh?

Editor's Note: Marchosias Chou may be encountered at various Art houses and Galleries (such as Magnum Opus' Musée Arcane) around the Cage. He typically wears the guise of an aasimar tradesman from Yeoman (a burg in Bytopia) named Kelson Anduhar. Both his story, and his disguise (very magically enhanced), are virtually flawless. He enjoys artwork, particular that of the tiefling artist Kilhans, and made friends with another art-lover, Zadara the Titan, after she outbid him for a record amount of jink over a Kilhans original. He may also be encountered at performances in the Civic Festhall, or in the Sensoriums where he explores the knowledge contained in the recorder stones. The only thing immediately obvious about Anduhar (Chou) is his quiet enthusiasm for out-of-town chant, particularly concerning the Blood War or various Gate-towns. 


Cage Rattlers
Consult the Mimir Again