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The Lady of Pain is the fictional protector of the city of Sigil in the Planescape campaign setting of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. She is also known as Her Serenity, for the permanently vacant expression on her face, Her Dread Majesty, The Bladed Queen, or simply The Lady. She is only a lady insofar as she is characterized as female in her countenance. In the second edition AD&D Planescape setting, the Lady may as well have been male or sexless, or such a type that traditional gender classification is impossible. In the third edition rules for D&D, however, the Lady of Pain is listed as a lawful neutral female of an unknown race.
Description and historyEdit
A very powerful being, many of the hive dwellers consider the Lady of Pain to be a deity, but no one really worships her for fear of her wrath. No one knows how she came to be or what her true purpose is, but she helps in maintaining the balance within Sigil and throws defilers and denizens who anger her into one of her mazes. Often, she will only interfere when the very balance and stability of Sigil is threatened. While the Clueless may dismiss the Hivers' fear of her as superstition, the informed know that she is quite real and extremely deadly.
The Lady is sometimes seen as a floating, robed woman with a mantle of blades around her expressionless face. She does not concern herself with the laws of the city, and typically interferes only when something threatens the stability of Sigil itself.
The Lady is an entity of inscrutable motives, and often those who cross her path, even if accidentally, are flayed to death or teleported to one of her Mazes (an almost inescapable pocket universe). Rumor has it that even greater deities have fallen before the Lady, and she was able to kill the otherwise immortal Nameless One. The Shattered Temple in Sigil was a major temple of Aoskar, the god of portals, who wanted to get the city under his control. Once his meddling annoyed the Lady enough, she killed him with but a thought, shattering the grand temple and throwing his priests into the Mazes of her making. The ruined temple eventually became the headquarters of the Athar. The vast majority of Sigil's denizens dread her apparitions, and some even avoid mentioning her name aloud for fear of drawing her attention.
The Lady has the power to control each and every portal in Sigil, opening and barring them as she sees fit. Her apparent goal is to keep Sigil a safe haven for all planar travellers. The dabus, her servants, maintain the city, forever fixing and patching its streets. For all her power, she apparently refuses to be worshipped as a goddess, and anyone brave (or careless) enough to worship her has met a grisly demise in the shadow of her blades.
Planescape: Torment bestiary entryEdit
The Lady is a mystery. She's widely regarded to be the de facto ruler of Sigil, its protector and its victim. She is said to guard the doors of the Cage against the myriad schemes of the gods, to be the ultimate expression of balance in the multiverse, to be the prisoner of the City of Doors. There are thousands of stories about her - one even tells that she's actually six giant squirrels with a headdress, robe, and ring of levitation and illusions - but none of them can be answered. She is a true enigma, a puzzle with no solution.
If someone displeases her - by upsetting the balance of the city or worshipping her - the Lady may punish the offender. Her punishment ranges from the Mazes - a twisting, turning hell with a cleverly disguised exit - to the casting of her shadow across the transgressor, covering him with slashes and gouges from her sharp-edged shadow, leaving behind a pile of gore and viscera. Neither option is particularly attractive.
A theory that appears late in the computer game Planescape: Torment is that the Lady is a prisoner and that Sigil is her cage. This theory is plausible in that its coiner, Ravel Puzzlewell, who would refer to herself as "the solver of puzzles not needing solving", had a level of understanding about the mechanics of the planes incomprehensible by men. Unfortunately (or perhaps for that very reason), she was also insane; whether her insanity set in before or after being "mazed" by the Lady is unknown.
Additionally, the novel Pages of Pain (ISBN 0786906715) suggests that she may be the daughter of Poseidon from the Greek Pantheon of Arborea. However this is not made clear and even suggested that the memories of her early life released from an amphora may have been faked by the god himself in order to potentially sway the Protector of the Cage towards his way of thinking.
According to Die Vecna Die! she is a being of the same origin as The Serpent (representation of magic itself).
It must be noted that in the Planescape fandom the question of exactly who or what the Lady of Pain is and what motivates her is considered to be unanswerable, and is purposefully a mystery to add to the distinctive style of the campaign setting. It is left to each DM to decide which theory, if any, is true.
The chief inspiration for the character of the Lady of Pain is the 19th century poem Dolores (Notre-Dame des Sept Douleurs) (literally, Our Lady of Seven Sorrows), by English Decadent poet Algernon Charles Swinburne. The poem is written on the topic of a cruel and ruthless, sexualised but unapproachable, goddess figure, Dolores, Our Lady of Pain. Swinburne's Lady of Pain resembles her D&D successor in some ways. She is ancient, and has destroyed and outlived gods themselves (li. 353-368). Furthermore, with the D&D character she shares her absence of compassion, her moral neutrality, and the brutal indifference of her actions. She differentiates herself, however, in appearing decadent, where D&D's Lady of Pain is austere.
- Denning, Troy. Pages of Pain (TSR, 1997).