Magnum Opus' Muse Arcane

Magnum Opus Herself

The Soul Cage

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Karlia the Seven-Mouthed, High Priestess of Brihaspati

"Resurrection? Why yes, I can perform the ceremony, provided the poor dead sod converts to our faith. Where did the body die? In Sigil? Oh.

"You see, there's a problem there. I'm not sure I fully understand why, but I was told in a dream that it was the Lady's Will. A year ago a group of cutters brought their dead friend here to Nectar of Life on Mount Celestia. They told me the poor berk died in Sigil, of a lightning bolt through the chest. Right painful, it looked.

"Anyway, one of the party was a paladin of Brihaspati, like yourself, so I agreed to perform the ceremony. I cast the spell, with Brihaspati's blessings, and the battered corpse was healed. However, it did not return to life.

"It was not that the ceremony had failed; for the body was restored and ready for the spirit to return. It was more that the spirit could not return. For some reason it was trapped in that barmy birdcage, Sigil.

"I did what I could for the cutters, for they were very upset. I gave them a scroll with the prayer inscribed upon it, and bade them to return to Sigil and perform the ceremony there. Perhaps, I reasoned, the spirit would be able to find its body from there. I never heard from them again, thus I suppose it may have been successful.

"As for you bashers, I give the same advice. I can heal this corpse, but its soul will remain trapped in Cage. Ah, but I cannot give you a scroll with the prayer upon it. I used the last one for that other sod, and don't have any more. My apologies."

A Brief Treatise On the Magical Nature of Sigil the Cage

[Excerpt from Chapter 32 of a much longer text penned by Malakon Hordrick of the Fraternity of Order]

The Lady of Pain has isolated the Cage utterly from planar magic and conduits. No means save Her portals can be used to gain egress to the city, and the portals are created and destroyed by Her and Her alone (at least since the Shattering of Aoskar's Temple).

It is further my belief that the torus shape of Sigil is due to the confluence of magical energies caused by the city's location at the top of the Spire of the Outlands. The negated magic of the Outlands is funnelled up through the spire, and the Lady uses this energy to seal and support the city.

The effect of the sealing is well-known by planewalkers: to enter the Cage, they must locate a portal, and use the correct key. Then, and only then, does a temporary gate open between the Cage and the Multiverse outside. It is only possible to leave the Cage in a similar manner, although there is some speculation into the consequence of jumping off the ring of Sigil. As I postulated in Chapter 27, Subsection 41.8, this would have one of three consequences:

  • One: A fall of infinite duration down the Spire. Note that this is in the magic-dead area of the Outlands, so no spells of flight or teleportation would function. This ensures a grizzly death at the foot of the Spire when eternity is over.
  • Two: A random 'bounce' effect where a body is flung into another plane entirely. This would likewise be highly dangerous, as the destination, and thus the precautions necessary for travelling there, will be unknown.
  • Three: A trip to the Lady's Mazes. She seems to conjure these magical labyrinths up at a whim; so could it not be possible Sigil itself is imprisoned in a maze of Her own (or, more sinister, someone elses') devising?

    I do not know which of these it true, nor do I have any intention of experimenting myself. However, this postulation brings interesting conclusions. Portals are the only feasible method of access to or from the Cage. What then of beings unable to operate portals? Obviously they are trapped in the city.

    Consider this for a moment:

    For the duration of any existing records, the Dustmen have been charged by the Lady with dealing with the Cage's dead. It has been suggested that the Dead are the oldest faction of all. The faction's headquarters is the Mortuary; which has countless portals to most known planes. They send the bodies of the dead to the plane which matches their beliefs in life. Why would the Lady consider this important? Why not just dump bodies in the Ditch or off into the Void? None of the Powers would know of these operations, since they cannot see into the Cage, and depriving them of petitioners would weaken them.

    It is my belief that if cadavers of those who die in the Cage are not disposed of in the correct manner, their spirits will linger in the Cage, trapped forever. I imply by this that unless the corpse leaves Sigil through a portal, allowing the spirit to 'follow' if you will, then the spirit is forever denied a chance to become a petitioner.

    Where then do these spirits reside? Obviously that the streets of the Cage are not over-run with ghosts, spirits and undead. Again, three conclusions:

    Firstly, most of the corpses of Sigil's dead are gathered by the Collectors are disposed of properly. Secondly, lost spirits do not assume the form of undead, and thirdly, that there must be some other means of escape for these souls, be it sinister or otherwise.

[At this point in Chapter 32, Hordrick begins to discuss the nature of Undeath and how a vampire or mummy would go about establishing links to the Negative or Positive Material Plane in the Cage. The rest of the chapter has been omitted.]

Fell, the Dabus who Is Not

[Translated from rebus by Milori, who issues the following disclaimer: 'Due to the complex nature of this interview, it's quite possible that my translations are not perfect. I disavow myself of any misfortune that might befall any who takes these words too literally']

"The Dabus live in warrens beneath the streets of the Cage. Every basher knows this. What they don't know is what else is down there. There are sewer tunnels, but they are not like those of other cities. Sigil's underground is riddled with portals to other planes. Sewage ends up in the Elemental planes of Water and Ooze, or the Realm of Jubilex in the Abyss. Minauros [Try drawing that as a rebus! - Milori] in Baator takes it's share of waste too. The ooze portals in the Hive are different. They are a result of the Elemental Planes trying to impose their rigid Four-bias upon the Three-ness of the Outer Planes. You did not ask about that, however.

"There are other hidden portals too. There are portals to Air down there too, and in the skies around the Cage. This is why the air is not thin here. By design or fault (who can tell) there are also portals to Smoke, Ash, Steam, Vacuum and Dust. This is why the weather in the Cage is as it is. Storms often blow in through portals to Lightning, but they can also escape this way, too. The City of Doors is lit by occasional connections to the Radiance planes. The skies would be much brighter, were it not for the mists.

"Under the streets there are similarly portals to Fire and Magma. They keep the Cage warm enough for us Dabus to live here, and power the Furnaces. Ice, Salt and Mineral portals are mined deep below the warrens, in the very bowels of the Cage. And Sigil itself? Why, the Cage is built upon foundations which lead to the plane of Earth.

"There, as you requested. The tattoo of Sigil Below is finished. No, it will not wash away, berk! What is it you ask me now? Of the Soul Cage? Cutter, I am busy. Look, there is a queue of bashers wanting tattoos. You had better go now."

[Milori notes that the dabus was perhaps a little too confident in giving his spiel, like it was rehearsed or scripted. Could he be peeling leatherheaded cutters for jink? Or could he really be giving true dark? Or perhaps the image that the lecture paints looks good as a tattoo; it certainly seems popular enough. Whatever the truth of that matter, Fell spoke no more of the Soul Cage than to deny he knew anything of it.]

Turpental, a Blood Tout Speaks (for a Price)

"I don't see why I should have to tell you any of this. It won't do you any good. No, I don't care about jink. Well, not that much. And I'm not afraid of your threats. Looks like the deal is off...What's that you've got there? Jink? Ahhh! Now you're talking...

"So, you want me to tell you about the Misty Cage? Well, I shouldn't be telling you any of this, berk, but since you've made me such a good offer I will. It's like an ethereal plane, parallel to Sigil. Yeah, the chant is the Lady of Pain created it, and yeah, there are portals to get there. No, I'm not going to tell you where they are, or the keys. That'll cost ya treble.

"When the Dabus tear something down or build something up, where d'ya think they get the material from? Oh sure, some of it comes through portals from out-of-town. But explain this: remember the Hourglass Validorum bar off Tintibulus Alley? The one that disappeared the night after the owner erected a statue of the Lady in the drinking pit? Yes? Well, see that book shop over there? That's the same building, 'cept it only appeared there ten days ago. And it's moved from the Lower Ward to the Clerk's Ward, right? So it was gone for a year, and then it reappears again somewhere else. Don't you find that a little...strange?

"I reckon that's where these things go. It's like a giant storehouse where the Dabus shove things they don't need right now, so they can get 'em again later if they need 'em. And if the Lady wants to make a new maze, well, she's got lots of raw material there to do it with.

"Spirits of the dead? Well, I've not been there meself, but I'd be wary of believin' those Primer tales of ghosts and spookies. The Dead deal with all of that, don't they? I don't want to rattle their case, now. Unless you've got much more of that shiny jink, of course. No, I'd need much more than treble for that..."

Journey Into the Soul Cage

[From the journal of Magna Sier, psychic and factor of the Sign of One]

This day I saw fit to interview Aldebarr the Slorr, a raving barmy in the Bleaker's Madhouse. He used to be one of us, but lost his mind. The Bleakers claimed that he got Lost in the Cage but came back to his body. Of course, I was intrigued by this act of sheer willpower. Could he be the One whom Terwolfe has spoken of?
"The Soul Cage? No, no! Not that again! Please don't make me..."

It took me many minutes to will the man to stop screaming. When he ceased, he continued:

"I went there once, long ago. I used to be whole, but then they tore me apart. The stones there, they talk to you. In your mind. The place was all mist and shapes. They live deep underground, right under your beds. In your mind, I say!

"They spoke to me from their bones. Their faces, all around me. I screamed but they would not stop the pain. So much hurt there! They hate us, some of them. They envy us. They wish they were me, but some of them do not. They like it there. Why? We were just shapes to them, as they are to us. Spirits in your mind! We must release them, before they can escape."

He continued to tell me more of this place he called the Soul Cage. This is not something I have ever imagined or dreamed to be real. Does this mean it does not exist? I must investigate further.

He told me of many things, only some of which I understand. Using powers of the mind, I probed his madness. He believes what he says to be true, but it is certainly strange. From what I can make sense of, Aldebarr has seen a spirit plane connected to Sigil. The spirits of the Lost are trapped here when their bodies die, because our Serene Lady's portals open only to those bearing the correct keys. I can only assume this means the spirits cannot travel to the correct planes and become petitioners.

"They cry that they cannot go where they belong, and that they are afraid. I saw dark Things there, coming to take them. They were so scared of them. The misty place, it was full of ruins. Things destroyed, things lost to us mortals. Aaargh! They come for me! But it is not my time, they say. I am not ready for them. So they let me go..."

What can he mean? And who are the mysterious 'Things' Aldebarr mentioned so many times to me in our conversations? Could they be shadow fiends? Dabus? Or some other servant of the Lady of Pain? Do night hags wander this realm, or is the man simply a addle-coved barmy? But how to visit the place...

[The Journal of Magna Sier was never completed, for he vanished in his sleep the night after penning these lines. He has not been seen since.]

The Pages of Demise

[This cryptic passage was located among reams of funeral dirges of the celebrated Dustman bard Brother Expiral, written shortly before he committed suicide - for the third time]

It is with no emotions that I write this, for I believe I have surpassed this very mortal manner of thought. I know fully what I do but not what I will become, yet I embrace this next step of Death with the passion of a man who has learnt what it is to feel nothing.

I think I shall pass beyond this Cage of Beliefs and past it again to a place where the immortal souls dwell. It will be here yet not the same. I saw this the first and second time of my death in the Cage, yet each time I passed back into my body once more. They did not recognise me as one of themselves, and they were not willing to listen to the teachings of a man who believes he knows True Death.

They seemed split into three quarrelling factions, and perchance it was this violent struggle between them that bound them to their Soul Cage. I met some of them who wanted to remain in their Cage forever, for they were afraid of their judgment in the afterlives they thought were waiting for them. They did not listen to me when I told them they would feel none of the pain or torture they feared, and clung to their emotions in an attempt to cheat True Death. In this Soul Cage they said none of the Powers who claim lordship over their 'souls' could see and judge them, and only there did they feel safe. They hid their mortal remains from the Dustmen, so that we could not dispense their bodies to their true fates, and thus allow their souls to escape the Cage.

The second group wanted to leave the Cage very much, for they falsely longed for the 'reward' of their afterlives. Yet they too lingered there, for unless their physical remains left the material Cage of Sigil, so too were their souls doomed to remain within the Soul Cage. I tried to teach them that to forget the emotional link with their bodies would negate the need for the body to travel with them, but they wailed that to give up hope was a worse fate than that which befell them at present.

The final group was in fact one lone spirit, composed of shining brightness and nebulous form. It told me that he was in fact one of the living, and that I was actually the dead one. At first I was amused by his rantings, though now I understand them all the more clearly. Could he be on the other side of the veil? Has the Lady discovered the Place of Life where we dead bloods go when we 'die'? Surely, if she has, then she knows the Source; the Truth: the Life! Is this why we see her only sometimes; that she hails from beyond the veil where the Living dwell? Then the Lady is our captor, our jail-keeper and our warden. Does she keep us here until it is time for us to return? And are the spirits in her Soul Cage those in the real, Living Sigil?

So again I return to speak with them, to reason with them, maybe to help them find the True Death they seek, or at least move along the ladder to that goal. And I seek the shining one, that he might answer more of my questions. I shall drink of hemlock until my body once again dies, and then my spirit can roam the Soul Cage unhindered.

I hope I have not been peeled.

[Brother Expiral indeed died after writing this, and this time his spirit did not return to his body. He has been interred in the Mortuary until further notice.]

Janos Volkrina, Indep spellsword and Knight of the Post, relates his journey into the Soul Cage (by Rich Gant)

"The Soul Cage? Quit rattlin', berk. I don't know what you're talkin' about. I don't care what you think you've heard, I ain't ever heard of it. Now pike off.

"Jink? Naw, berk, I don't want yer jink. I want ya to go away an' stop rattlin' yer bon-box. I ain't never heard of this Soul Cage, and yeo never have either. Not if yer smart.

[At this point, Janos peered about nervously, apparently looking for someone.]

"Good, they ain't around to hear ya rattlin' on like that. Who? The Dabus, that's who. They got their own darks, an' they don't want them gettin' out. No, I don't know if the Lady's involved or not, but the Dabus are. That's enough for me. An' since it's plain as the nose on a troll that ya ain't goin' away until I say somethin, an' since I ain't the murderin' kind, it's a good thing they ain't around to hear this.

"Yeah, I been there. The Soul Cage. Frey an' Freya strike me down if'n I ever go back, but I been there.

"What's it like? Grey, fulla shadow an' mist. No colours, almost like the Grey Waste. Only difference is that outsiders, livin' bloods like you an' me, still got colors. Everythin' else's just grey. Ya can't see far 'cause o' the mist, there's no sun or anythin' else to mark the passin' o' time, an' ya lose track o'which way you're goin' real quick like. Everythin's in ruins there, too. All fulla buildin's it is, an' none o' them intact. Some were broken when they got there, others...well, they get pulled apart for raw materials.

"Worse part is, there ain't any real sensation there. It ain't cold, it ain't hot, it ain't anythin' at all. Almost like it mutes the way things feel, the way the Waste mutes colors. Sound's real funny too. You can't tell where anythin' is just by listenin', because the sound comes in from all directions.

"Hmmm? Inhabitants? Yeah, people live there. Not just people, either. There's *things* there, too. Things like I ain't never seen before, nor heard tell of. Things like..."

[At this point, Janos starts and begins staring nervously at the shadows.
Finally he relaxes and continues.]

"Sorry about that, cutter. Thought I saw somethin' there. Don't like the shadows no more, not in the Cage anyway. I keep rememberin'...

"Yeah, inhabitants. Most o' 'em are dead folks, what didn't get out o' the Cage. They're trapped there, unable an' unwillin' to leave. Forgotten, too. Hells, I didn't even recognize 'em, an' I wrote a few o' 'em into the dead-book meself. Didn't even recognize 'em, an' I killed 'em. That's gotta be the worst, not even bein' remembered by yer own killer. Hardhead bastards deserved it, though. Tryin' to write up some o' me mates, just fer bein' Indeps...

"Well, that's neither here nor there. The dead are trapped there. Not all o' the dead, just the ones what never got their corpses hauled outa the Cage when they died. Trapped, consigned to an eternity o' waitin' an' hopin' someone remembers 'em an' helps 'em escape. "Course, not all o' 'em wanna escape. Some o' 'em like it there, or at least they like it there more than they like the idea o' where they're goin' if they get out.

"The ones that don't wanna leave went an' banded together in a Faction, callin' themselves the Order. They wear masks to hide who they were, an' are like the Hardheads an' the Mercykillers put together. They don't wanna leave, an' they don't want anyone else leavin' either. Figure they're worried that if anyone gets out, somebody'll come in an' collect 'em. So they hunt down an' stop anyone tryin' to leave.

"How'd I get out, if there's a Faction tryin' to stop bodys from leavin'? Ain't tellin', anymore'n I'm tellin' how to get in. The Dabus'r everywhere, an' I don't want more trouble than I've already got from 'em.

"Course, there's other groups there. Some o' our Factions have banded together there for protection, an' because they've got somethin in common with each other. Then there's a group opposed to the Order, call 'emselves the Seekers. They're tryin' to find a way to escape, go on to their afterlives an their rewards, or even just go somewhere else. The Order hates them with a passion, an' the Seekers hate them back. If you ever find yerself there, look for them.

"The Order ain't the worst, though. There's the Takers. Naw, not the Fated. Soul Takers, or Soul Collectors they get called. I don't know what they are, an' neither did anyone I talked to. They live in the shadows of the Soul Cage, just waitin' an' lurkin'. Death attracts them, or what would be death if the dead in the Soul Cage could really die. They come outta the shadows an' engulf the poor sod, an' he ain't never seen again. I can't even describe 'em. They're just shadows, but they're the most 'orrible things I've ever laid eyes on, like holes in the universe, leadin' who knows where. I ain't shamed to say they terrified me, an' they'd do likewise or worse to you if you ever saw one. Can't stand the shadows in the Cage no more. I keep thinkin' I see them movin' now, an' then I look to see if they're there, gettin ready to come for me. Ain't happened yet, but that's small comfort...

"There's probably more I could tell ya, but I ain't gonna. I've said too much as it is, an' there's a Dabus over there now. See? That one. The one lookin' at us. They know I know about the Soul Cage, an' they probably know you do too, now. Be careful, 'cause they'll be watchin' you now, too."

[I haven't spoken with Janos since this interview, although I do know that he has recently left Sigil on unstated business. Ordinarily, I would dismiss his tale as the paranoid rantings of a barmy destined for the Gatehouse, but I cannot. Those who know or have employed him in the past speak of his reliability and honesty, excepting only those areas in which honesty is a liability in his chosen profession. This is not my only reason for taking his tale seriously, however.

Since the time he related his tale to me, I have begun to notice things myself. Occasionally, the shadows do seem to move of their own accord, and I suffer an inexplicable sense of foreboding at those times. I try to convince myself that it is my imagination, triggered by Janos' tale, but his claims of the Collectors and the fear in his eyes return at those times and my efforts seem hollow.

What is more, the Dabus do seem to follow me now. Although they are a constant presence in Sigil, I see them about me more often now. Perhaps it is merely Janos' obsession with them, rubbing off on me. Perhaps. I only pray that is so, and that recording Janos' tale has not atracted their attention to me as well. Even now I can see one across the street, watching. Merely watching.]

Recorded from the ranting of a street preacher in the Lower Ward, shortly before his death at the hands of the Lady of Pain herself (by Rich Gant)

"...true! It is true! The Lord of the Portals is not dead, but imprisoned! You believe a lie! Aoskar is not dead, but imprisoned by the Usurper! He did not die at the hands of the Lady of Pain, for she cannot slay a Power! She could only imprison him, bind him, strip his power from him and hide him away! She could not destroy him, for she has no power over the Powers, save what she steals from you who serve her through your fear! She could not destroy him, for she needs him still! Without Aoskar, Lord of Portals, she could not allow entry or exit from Sigil, for he IS Sigil!

"Even now, Aoskar awaits us! He is not dead, but a captive of the Lady of Pain, and he awaits our faith so that he may be free! His body floats not in the Astral, but is imprisoned elsewhere! I know, for I have seen! I have seen! Glory be unto the Lord of the Portals, I HAVE SEEN! He has SHOWN unto me, his most wretched and unworthy of servants, the prison into which the Usurper has cast him! I have seen the place of his imprisonment, through the glory and power of Aoskar, praise be unto him!

"He is imprisoned, I say unto you! His prison is not among the Planes as we know them! No, he is not imprisoned within the Inner Planes, no within the Outer Planes, nor among the spheres of the Prime Planes! He is not imprisoned there for no prison of the Planes may hold him, for he is Aoskar, Lord of the Portals and his is the freedom to travel when and where he desires! No! His prison is elsewhere! It is a mockery of this city, a mockery of Sigil, a cruel and bitter mockery of his once and future throne! He lies sleeping and imprisoned in a realm of mists and destruction, of ruin and decay! He lies, trapped and sleeping, awaiting our faith to free him, in a mockery of his throne which the servants of the Lady of Pain use as a dumping ground! In her arrogance and pride, the foul Usurper, the Lady of Pain, has cast Aoskar into a pit of filth and destruction, to mock he who is the true and rightful ruler of this city!

"I know, for I have seen it! The glory of Aoskar came upon me, and I beheld the place of his imprisonment! I saw him, upon a throne of rubble, served and ministered unto by the souls of the forgotten dead of Sigil! Aoskar was there, I tell you! And the dead were with him, serving him until the time comes that Aoskar awakens and bursts forth from the prison the Usurper has placed him in! The dead were there, left there by the whim of the Lady of Pain, trapped there by her fear that the souls of the dead will reveal the truth and that the faith of men will strengthen and awaken him once more! They are there! I know, for I have seen them in their thousands and their tens of thousands by the gift and power of Aoskar!

"Repent! Repent of your evildoings! Repent of your betrayal of the true and mighty Lord of Sigil! Repent, and serve the Usurper no more! Strengthen her not with your fear! Strengthen her not through your worship of her, for you do worship her through your obedience unto her laws, call your actions what you will! Repent! The mighty arm of Aoskar is extended still unto you, but he will not be merciful unto you forever! Repent! For his time is not yet, but comes soon, and those who are not faithful unto him at his coming shall be judged and swept into the Spaces Between for all eternity! Repent...

"Hah! You show your face at last! Do you dare slay a true servant of the Lord of the Portals? You shall not, for I am armoured and strengthened in Aoskar! Stand thou back, Usurper, Lady of Pain! I fear thee not, and I abjure thee in the name of the true Lord of Sigil! In the name of Aoskar, I command thee to withdraw thy presence, and let thy shadow fall no more upon the body of the faithful! Begone, and trouble-"

[The recording does not end here, but continues in agonised screaming for several minutes before it does.]

Does the Soul Cage even exist? Many screed-sellers would have you believe it does, but as yet there's no hard evidence. Is it a remnant of a long-dead Sigil, or the final resting place of dabus spirits? Perhaps. Or maybe it's a prison, the real Cage, trapping the spirits of the Lady's enemies for eternity under her watchful gaze. Whatever the truth might be, most observers who've bothered looking into the theory all agree on one thing: There's definitely something odd out there...

As for what that something might be, alas, I cannot prove a word.

 Magnum Opus

Thanks to Rich Gant, whose interpretation of my original article was most enlightening...
I shall revise this article presently. Any suggestions for additions will be gratefully received.

 Consult the Mimir Again