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Having finished their exploration of the ground floor, it was time to clear the upper floor of the apartment building.
THE APARTMENT HOUSE
This innocuous apartment house is in northern Oldtown off of Crossing Street. A few days ago, cultists sneaked into the building and killed or captured all the tenants to experiment upon them with a terrible new mutating poison they have developed.
The cults have worked together to create a terrible poison that mutates its victim in a prolonged misery that lasts for weeks or even months until the victim dies. For a time, the victim’s mind becomes so pliable he or she becomes a slave of the cult(s) before finally dying. This magical poison is called Askara. Its mutated victims are called Venom-Shaped Thralls.
When victims are injected with Askara, they weaken until they collapse. Within twelve hours, their bodies secrete a dark, syrupy substance that covers them and then hardens, forming a black, spherical cocoon. Within another twenty-four hours, the victim emerges from the cocoon, mutated into a hideous amalgam of an insect-like creature and his former self.
The characters investigated the building and encountered not only the venom-shaped thralls and chaos priests but other unique challenges as well. On the map are references to nests, cocoons, and violet slime.
Discarded cocoons of dark, hardened material are scattered throughout the apartment building. One often finds these used cocoons in corners, attached to the walls. Each one is about seven feet across, although they are all broken open. The “shells” of these remnants measure about ten inches thick. As a result of the Askara poison’s magical effects, after a Venom-Shaped Thrall comes out of its cocoon, the cocoon becomes a nest for some spontaneously-generated insects. These terrible, chaos-spawned creatures are red and black butterflies and carry a powerful sting.
Cocoons are like nests, but they still have a mutating thrall inside. The cocoon is made of dark, hardened material but is only one inch thick. Askara victims in mid-transformation removed from their cocoons prematurely must make a Constitution saving throw (DC 17). Success means they live, and the process slowly reverses over the next twenty-four hours, during which time the victims remain comatose. Failing the save means they die.
When a new Venom-Shaped Thrall comes out of its cocoon, some disgusting purple muck spills out of the cocoon as well. This slime is a colony organism not unlike green slime. Violet slime moves extraordinarily slowly (about one foot per hour) and positions itself on the ceilings of the apartment building so it can drop down on living creatures. Every patch marked on the map on the next page is on the ceiling. Characters in the area of the patch (usually about ten feet square) must dive out of the way to avoid getting some of the slime on themselves. The violet slime was an unpredicted side effect of the Askara process and poses a threat to characters and cultists alike.
A wide portico once offered an outdoor gathering area for tenants. Now it is empty. The door is not locked, but a patch of violet slime hangs immediately above it. The open room beyond the door was a common area for all residents to share. It contains simple furnishings such as tables, chairs, and a few divans. A nest lies in the northwest corner.
2. Thrall Guardians
Once a one-room apartment, this ground floor room east of the entrance chamber is now a shambles, with all its furnishings destroyed. Two Venom-Shaped Thralls were here. Their cult masters charged them with defending the building if intruders should enter.
3. Injection Room
In this former sitting room down the hall from the building’s entrance chamber, the cultists injected their victims with Askara poison. They cleared the room of furnishings except for a large wooden table covered in a stained white cloth. Three vials of Askara were found on the table, as well as a large syringe and five empty vials.
Two dretches working for the cultists were squatting on the ground near the far eastern end of this chamber, a very small kitchen area. They were supposed to be guarding the prisoners in Area 4, but they seemed more interested in banging pots and pans and eating garbage. They attacked anyone they saw other than those wearing one of the well-known chaos symbols. One had the key to Area 4 around its neck.
The wooden door to this room was locked. The only people who were in this apartment house when the cultists struck and remain alive and untransformed now wait here for the chaos cultists to do with them as they will. Each was a plain commoner; four are human and one is a half-elf. They were frightened and hungry, but not wounded. Once freed, they made it out of the house and into the city on their own.
5. The Hole
This room on the ground floor in the northwest corner of the building has a hole punched through the wooden floorboards from beneath. The opening reveals a shaft twenty-five feet deep, ending in the Sewers. A rope ladder hangs down through the hole.
This room in the northwest corner of the building’s second floor lies in shambles. A single Venom-Shaped Thrall waited here, resting. It had orders to attack and kill any intruders, and it did so—fighting to the death.
7. Weakened Floor
This room in the central portion of the building’s second floor looks like any other in the apartment house—which is to say, torn apart and strewn with debris. However, due to actions of the [[Venom-Shaped Thralls, the floor here is very weak and could collapse when more than one hundred pounds rests on it. And it did, right in the middle of a fight. Thankfully, Thorzin Oakwood didn’t take a tumble down into the area below, but the collapse is still there.
8. The Accident
Like most of the rooms here, this one in the southwest corner of the building’s second floor has been thoroughly torn apart, with furnishings tossed about, holes punched in the walls, and slime coating various surfaces. Not every application of Askara poison worked correctly. The process is still not perfected, and a fair number of victims died immediately or were transformed into random, bizarre creatures. The victim here became a blob of protoplasmic goo not unlike a Gibbering Mouther. The only difference is, unlike a standard gibbering mouther, this mutant lacked the ground manipulation ability. Instead, it was much stronger than normal.
9. Betrayer Priests
This room on the eastern side of the building’s second floor is a disheveled mess like all the rest. The two blood-spattered men encountered in here were breathing heavily as they stood over a corpse.
Priests: Audon and Uranik were priests of the Brothers of Venom—so-called “deep brothers,” they were full-time cultists, not clandestine members who lived double lives. They had just murdered the Ebon Hand priest Reggaloch Murchand after a fevered argument.
Audon was thin and almost seven feet tall, cclean shaven with a large nose and light brown hair. Uranik was rather stocky with thick bushy black eyebrows and hair.
The battle against these two cultists proved to be quite challenging, as both were skilled casters. Guardian of Faith and Flame Strike spells were quite effectively used against the heroes, but were not enough to take down the Fellowship of the Punnishers.
The cultist priests had some choice booty, as did the dead guy on the floor. He also has a note with large lettering that reads as follows:
I agree. The Brothers of Venom likely do plan violent treachery so they can be in sole control of the venom-shaped thralls. You should leave and find Malleck in the Ebon Hand Temple, to tell him what’s going on.
Nethwen Nagel spotted tracks leading off to the west, and they moved off upstream. Before the next junction, they found a newly-installed and securely locked iron door, faintly gleaming with an oily sheen to protect it from the water and filth of the sewers.
The lock wasn’t a deterrent for Yona Note though, and she easily opened the door. Unfortunately, she failed to detect the wire attached to the backside of the door, and as it swung open to reveal stairs leading down, a clanging of cowbells rang out from somewhere below.
The stairs open out into a huge empty chamber, also obviously recently constructed. The dark stones of the walls, floor, and ceiling are laid in strange patterns that catch the eye in a distracting, even disturbing manner that one can’t quite name. A huge banner hangs on the western wall.
The heroes began to move in to investigate when a pack of gnolls and a horrible, drooling beast came tearing around the corner to attack. Just as Aendir Meliamne and Thorzin Oakwood closed with the guard force, another guardian suddenly appeared in the opposite corner and closed to attack Chesh Briarthorn!
Mosquilius Kito slung a few spells that way to damage the pesky cleric who dared to attack our cleric, but then he dropped a fireball too just for good measure. Hilariously, he managed to completely kill a wizard we hadn’t even seen yet!
The guards put up a good fight, but were no match for the Punnishers.
End of Session.
GM Note: Sorry, I know there were a lot of details I left out. With the new year arrived and a lot of other time-consuming commitments now out of the way, I intend to spend a lot more focus on DMing and giving all of you as good a game as I can provide. And that means faster adventure log updates – like, within a few days after the game session – and paying a lot more attention to the little details that matter.
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